Bound By Her Shocking Secret by Abby Green


MIAHADNTJOINEDDaniel for dinner that first evening. She’d been in too much shock to find out that he was Mr Devilliers. Not just some suited executive. That he was the scion of one of the oldest and most established jewellery brands in the world. A billionaire. An entitled and privileged man. Practically aristocracy.

That alone had raised about a million red flags for Mia. She wasn’t in his league. Never would be. Never wanted to be. She’d been burnt badly before, by someone who had come from a rarefied privileged world, when for a moment she’d believed that she could be part of it too. She’d never forgiven herself for that weakness.

Daniel couldn’t know that part of her reluctance was not only because he came with the baggage he did—wealth, entitlement, et cetera—but also because she’d slept with precisely one man in her life. And that man had decimated her by winning her trust and then betraying her when she was at her most vulnerable.

But she hadn’t counted on Daniel’s single-minded determination to seduce her, and in spite of all those red flags he’d finally, fatally, worn her down.

He’d sent her flowers with a note.


I want you, on your terms.

I don’t play games.

Call me.


There had been something unexpectedly humbling about the fact that he was willing to let her dictate how the affair would play out, and when she’d told him that she didn’t want any part of his world he hadn’t balked.

Yet she’d dreaded the moment Daniel would realise how inexperienced she was—and, worse, that she really didn’t find sex all that exciting. She’d even told him, hoping it would put him off. But he’d only grown more determined. As if she’d laid down a challenge to prove to her that her inexperience didn’t matter and that she was a sexual, sensual woman.

Even now Mia’s blood grew hot just at the thought of that first night they’d slept together. The experience had altered her in a very fundamental way. He’d returned something to her that she hadn’t even been aware she’d missed. The knowledge that there was nothing wrong with her. That her previous bad experience had had nothing to do with her and everything to do with her first, very ungenerous lover.

Daniel had shown her how intoxicating it was to be with a man who didn’t let his ego get in the way. How it felt to be put first, before a man’s own pleasure...

They’d conducted their affair without attracting any attention. Under the radar. Low-key. And Mia had got the impression that Daniel found it somewhat...refreshing. Hanging out in her apartment... Eating in modest restaurants... She’d always refused any invitation to go beyond their little bubble, knowing that at all costs her self-preservation depended on not getting seduced into Daniel’s world.

But in the end keeping strict boundaries had done nothing to stop her from falling—

‘We’re here, Miss Forde.’

Mia blinked. The sleek car had come to a stop outside the Devilliers salon on Place Vendôme. It was quiet this evening. No glittering guests or flashes of light from the paparazzi. The party was well and truly over.

Mia sucked in a breath as the driver got out and came around to her door. Daniel had sent her a curt text earlier.

My driver will pick you up at seven and bring you to my apartment.

She’d been tempted to text back that she couldn’t come, but of course that would have been immature, and she did need to discuss Lexi with Daniel. After all, she’d set this chain of events into motion. And she should have probably done it a lot sooner.

All day, Daniel’s revelations about his family had buzzed in her head, making her want to know more.

The driver opened her door, cutting off her thoughts. She got out. The autumn air was chilly enough to herald the winter season just around the corner.

She’d dressed carefully, wanting to feel somewhat put-together in Daniel’s presence. She wore a rust-coloured soft jersey dress with a wide leather belt. High-heeled boots. Her leather jacket on top. She’d pulled her hair back into a rough bun, eschewed any jewellery.

Daniel had always found it highly amusing that Mia had zero interest in jewellery. And she’d never told him why. Never told him that her ex-boyfriend had given her a gift of a diamond necklace which she’d interpreted naively as evidence that he really loved her.

Until she’d discovered it was just cubic zirconia and that it had meant nothing at all. It had been an empty, cynical gesture and she’d fallen for it.

To the left of the salon there was a set of discreet doors. They opened now and a uniformed butler stepped out. ‘Ms Forde?’

Mia went over to him.

He said in perfect English, ‘Please allow me to show you up to the apartment.’

She followed him into a black-and-white-tiled reception hall. A massive crystal chandelier dominated the almost cathedral-like space, and the biggest vase she’d ever seen sat on a polished round table, filled with exotic blooms that sent out a subtle and very expensive-smelling scent.

A grand marble staircase led upstairs, but the butler walked over to an elevator. The doors were open. Mia got in.

The lift ascended and Mia’s insides dropped like a stone. The thought of coming face to face with Daniel again was daunting, and she cursed herself. She should be more prepared. A man like Daniel Devilliers didn’t take prisoners.

The lift stopped and the doors opened onto another reception space. Light colours and a parquet floor gave it a classically elegant feel. The butler took her coat and Mia became aware that the soft jersey material of her dress suddenly felt very clingy. Especially around her breasts, belly, hips and bum.

But it was too late. A door was opening and Daniel appeared on the threshold, dressed in a three-piece suit.

He addressed the butler. ‘Thank you, Paul.’ And then Mia, eyes narrowed. ‘You didn’t bring Lexi.’

Mia shook her head. ‘No. It’s not a good idea to disrupt her routine. She goes down for the night around now.’

‘Who is taking care of her?’

After eighteen months of being solely responsible for her child, Mia chafed at the proprietorial tone in Daniel’s voice. ‘My friend Simone is babysitting again.’

‘The one who rang you in a panic when there was no need to panic?’

Mia smiled sweetly. ‘Yes, that’s the one.’

Daniel stood back. ‘Please, come in.’

She felt ridiculously nervous. Very aware of Daniel’s physicality and scent in an almost animalistic way. She held herself tensely as she walked past him into the apartment.

Daniel watched as Mia looked around the formal reception room, taking in the big abstract paintings on the walls—the only modernity in the otherwise classically designed space, which was dotted with antiques. It suddenly felt a little overdone with her here. As if she was highlighting its fussiness with her far more relaxed aesthetic.

He could smell her unique scent. Light and fresh. Citrussy but with a hint of musk and roses. And her body...tall and strong...curvier than was fashionable. It was probably the reason she’d never made it into the upper echelons of modelling—because she didn’t have the androgynous aesthetic that was required by most fashion houses.

The material of her dress clung to every dip and curve, reminding Daniel all too easily of how those curves had felt under his hands. Under his mouth. He cursed himself silently and diverted his mind from dangerous territory.

Mia had always been happy to achieve a certain level of success without hungering for more. Something that had fascinated Daniel who, ever since he was born, had felt a constant pressure to attain ever higher levels of success and wealth.

The couple of months he’d spent with Mia was the first time he could remember in his life when he’d taken his foot off the accelerator. It had been a revelation. And, perversely, once he hadn’t been working with such tunnel vision, he’d been able to see areas where the business could do with improvement.

‘Would you like a drink?’

He remembered his manners at the last moment. This woman had always had the ability to distract him.

‘A small glass of white wine would be nice, thank you.’

Daniel poured her drink and went over to hand it to her. A rogue devil inside him made sure their fingers touched. Zing. Wide, startled green eyes met his. Lust bit into Daniel’s gut. She still felt it too.

Mia snatched the glass and stepped back. Cheeks deep pink. Avoiding his eye.

Daniel went back to the drinks table and poured himself something stronger than wine. He gestured to a couch. ‘Please, make yourself comfortable.’

Mia looked at the furniture warily, as if it might be some kind of trap. But then she sat down, her movements effortlessly graceful. He remembered that she’d wanted to be a dancer, but a teenage knee injury had put a stop to those dreams.

He took a seat on the other side of a low coffee table. Before he could speak, she said, ‘I’m sorry for disrupting your party last night.’

‘Are you?’

An expression of guilt crossed her face. She’d never been good at hiding her feelings. That reminder caught at Daniel’s gut.

She said, ‘I know it was a big night for you and Devilliers, but it genuinely seemed my best opportunity to get to you.’

‘What if I hadn’t got divorced? How long would you have made me wait to learn that I have a daughter?’

Something jagged entered Mia’s belly. If he hadn’t got divorced he would have been there with his wife last night. Petite and dark. As refined as him. Not that she’d looked them up. Much. Shame filled her at her weakness, her need to torture herself by looking them up on the internet.

She had to admit the truth. ‘I probably wouldn’t have come last night but, as I said, I would have tried to contact you somehow. I knew you had to know about Lexi, married or not.’

‘I should have known about her as soon as you knew you were still pregnant.’

Mia clutched the glass in her hands. ‘I found out the day of your wedding.’ She shut her mouth, aghast that she’d let that slip out. She stood up, feeling agitated now. ‘I told you—I wasn’t even sure I wouldn’t lose Lexi. What would have been the point of telling you and disrupting your marriage only for something to go wrong again? I felt I had good reason to say nothing. And then, when she was was seriously overwhelming. Holding down a job, becoming a mother...just getting through each day was a challenge.’

Daniel frowned. ‘You can’t blame me for not being there to help when you deliberately excluded me.’

Anger mixed with guilt surged inside Mia. ‘And you can’t blame me for feeling reluctant to tell you after what you said about losing the baby.’

Daniel’s face turned stony. ‘I told you... I had good reason not to want to create a family.’

Mia moved behind the seat, as if that might provide some protection from this conversation. When he didn’t elaborate, she said, ‘I think I deserve to know what you’re talking about. We have a child together.’

Daniel ran a hand through his hair, jaw clenching. He stood up too, and moved over to the window. The suit emphasised his broad back and slim waist. The long legs.

His reluctance to speak was palpable, but as if he knew she was right, he said eventually, ‘I grew up with privilege—extreme privilege. I would never deny that. But my parents were of the view that once we had that inherited privilege nothing else was required. Like love. Or caring. Or nurturing. We were just left...left to our own devices.’

‘You and your sister?’

Daniel turned around to face her. He nodded. His face was in shadow. She couldn’t read his expression. It was disconcerting.

Mia asked, ‘How old was your sister when she died?’

Daniel’s voice was clipped. ‘Six. I was nine.’

Mia’s heart twisted. ‘She was so young—how did she—?’

But Daniel cut her off. ‘It was a long time ago. The point is that we might not have been beaten, or abused in any tangible way, but what we—I witnessed was something unbelievably cruel and cold. Neglect is its own form of torture. I don’t have the tools to create a happy family, but I will not shirk my responsibility to Lexi.’

That assertion sent a prickle of foreboding down Mia’s spine, but the tone in Daniel’s voice was so bleak it caught in her chest.

She bit her lip before asking a little hesitantly, ‘Is that why your marriage broke up? Because your wife wanted children?’

He stepped out of the shadows and into the light. She was surprised to see a flicker of something at the edge of his mouth. ‘No, that’s not why we broke up. My ex-wife may well decide to have children in the future, but it wasn’t ever going to be part of our arrangement.’

Mia shook her head. ‘So why bother getting married in the first place, if it was going to end so soon?’

‘It was a business arrangement. We agreed to the length of our marriage from the very start.’

‘Oh.’ That didn’t mean that he hadn’t wanted his wife, that they hadn’t still enjoyed—

‘I can hear your thoughts from here, Mia.’ Daniel’s tone was dry.

She hated it that he still had that ability—it made her want to scowl.

He said, ‘Not that it’s any of your business, but my wife and I didn’t consummate the marriage.’

Mia hated the burst of relief in her solar plexus. ‘What do you mean?’

He arched a brow. ‘Do you really need an explanation?’

She blushed. ‘No, but...why?’

Daniel said, ‘Because she’s gay, and her family are ultra-conservative. She never would have received her inheritance if they’d found out. The marriage was purely to fulfil the agreement and throw up a smokescreen to distract her family. That’s why she leaked it to the papers. She was afraid that I would renege on the agreement. When we met, she explained her situation, and I agreed to marry her and then divorce her once she was sure she’d receive her inheritance.’

So he’d married her as a favour? Mia absorbed that. It was huge.

And they hadn’t slept together.

Mia hadn’t slept with anyone since Daniel—unsurprisingly. But she didn’t doubt that, in spite of his chaste marriage, he’d notched up several conquests, so her relief was a little misplaced. She’d be incredibly naive if she believed he’d been celibate all this time.

Not that any of his affairs had appeared in the media. He was too sophisticated for that, and the Devilliers brand certainly wouldn’t have stood for it.

‘So you are still modelling, then?’

Mia welcomed the distraction from imagining Daniel in bed with other women. ‘Yes, I’m back with my agent here in Paris. I did some pregnancy modelling in the South of France, until I became too big. After Lexi was born I worked part-time in a café, until I was in some kind of shape to try modelling again.’

Daniel’s eyes dipped to her body, and Mia cursed her choice of words. She felt self-conscious under that far too assessing gaze. After all, this was a man who was an expert at spotting imperfections in his jewels. Mia knew she was far from perfect, and that whatever had attracted him to her in the first place had burnt out long ago. She was very different now.

His gaze lifted again. ‘I should have been supporting you.’

She felt another dart of guilt. ‘We were okay. I had savings. We didn’t need much to live on. We had a nice apartment near the seafront.’

And yet the whole time she hadn’t been able to relax fully, conscious of Daniel in Paris, unaware that he was a father.

Mia took a sip of wine, hoping it might make her feel she was on more of an even keel. Daniel had always made her feel too aware of herself.

She said, ‘Look, I truly don’t expect anything from you, Daniel. I just wanted you to know...about Lexi. We can support ourselves.’

Mia chose not to think about what Daniel had said last night about Lexi being a Devilliers. She hoped he wouldn’t mention it again.

‘So...what? That’s it? I’ll just get to see my daughter growing up from a distance while you work to make ends meet?’ He shook his head, before answering himself. ‘That is not how this will go, Mia.’

Panic fluttered in Mia’s breast. ‘We really don’t need anything.’

Daniel emitted a harsh-sounding laugh. ‘If I didn’t already know you, I would think this is all an act. A ruse to extract as much as you can by feigning otherwise. But because I know you, and know how independent you are—to a fault—I know this isn’t a ruse.’

Daniel took a step closer to where Mia stood, an intense expression she’d never seen before on his face.

‘She’s my daughter.’

A daughter you never wanted.

It trembled on Mia’s tongue, but she stopped the words from falling out. That wasn’t fair either.

Feeling nervous, she said, ‘So what are you saying...? You want to be involved with Lexi? We can draw up some kind of custody arrangement, Daniel. I wouldn’t stop you trying to see your daughter or being involved in her life. That’s why I’m here.’

Daniel shook his head. ‘Not good enough, Mia. You’ve kept her from me since her birth. I know I said I never wanted a family, but that was before Lexi existed. She’s my daughter and she’s a Devilliers.’

Icicles pierced Mia’s heart. ‘So what are you saying?’

‘I’m telling you now that I won’t expect anything less than full access to my daughter, and the most expedient and practical way for that to happen is for us to marry.’

Daniel was surprised at how easily those words had tripped off his tongue. He hadn’t even consciously decided what the best solution was, but something about Mia’s proximity and the tangled emotions she was evoking, not to mention the memories, had prompted him to say what he had.

And now he found that he couldn’t even drum up much regret or even shock at his words. But he could see shock on Mia’s face. And fear. And—

Suddenly her face blanked. It was as if she was aware she was giving too much away and had learnt to hide behind a bland mask. It irritated Daniel intensely.

She was pale. She shook her head. ‘No way.’

Daniel was not used to being refused much—in fact this woman was the only one who had ever made him work for anything. He had a flashback to his feeling of triumph when she’d finally capitulated and agreed to go on a date with him. Not to mention the first time he’d slept with her. And every subsequent time. He’d never experienced chemistry like it. Before or since. He’d been desperate. Unable to get her out of his head. Consumed by wanting her. Insatiable.

With an effort, he pushed the rogue memories down deep. That was the past. They were dealing with the present and the future, and Daniel was sure that the madness that had existed between them before would be well burnt out by now. It couldn’t still exist.

Yet your blood hums even now. And you can’t take your eyes off her.

He scowled.

Mia was taking a step back, shaking her head. ‘I am not marrying you, Daniel. It’s a ridiculous suggestion. I shouldn’t be surprised, though—the last thing the Devilliers brand will want is a child and an ex-lover hanging about on the margins. Much neater to marry and incorporate us into your world.’

‘And what about Lexi? Doesn’t she deserve to be part of her inheritance?’

Mia was agitated now, with colour in her cheeks. ‘I wouldn’t dream of denying her her inheritance. She can even have your name if she decides that she’d like that when she’s old enough. We don’t love each other, Daniel, and I know how you feel about having a family. So I won’t go along with a charade just to help keep your world neat and tidy. Lexi deserves more and I deserve more.’

Daniel snorted. ‘Since when did you turn into a romantic who wanted a perfect picket fence existence?’

Mia’s cheeks went pinker. ‘Maybe since I had a baby and my priorities changed. I’m under no illusions about what to expect from relationships, Daniel—believe me. But I want more for my daughter than to be a single parent with an absent father. At least she will know who you are and have some kind of relationship with you.’

She put down her glass and turned as if she was going to leave. With two steps Daniel put his hand on her arm, stopping her. He took his hand away, seriously afraid that he might haul her against his body and stop her speaking such nonsense by putting his mouth on hers.

‘So you’re telling me you’d marry someone else, but not the father of your child?’

‘In order to have a happy life and home environment for Lexi? Maybe.’

Mia’s head was spinning. Marriage. She wasn’t sure what she’d expected, but it hadn’t been that. To her eternal shame, her initial reaction when Daniel had said the word ‘marry’ had been a flutter of something very illicit deep inside. That part of herself that she’d packed in ice after his cruel words in the hospital that day. When he’d told her that losing their baby had been ‘for the best’.

It wasn’t much of a salve to know the reason why he’d believed that now. It only made her heart ache to learn about his less than idyllic childhood and losing his sister. Which was an indication that after only twenty-four hours in Daniel’s company she was seriously in danger of losing her footing all over again.

She needed space from Daniel. He was seeing too much. Saying too many ridiculous things.

She blurted out the first thing she could think of to put space between them. ‘I need to use the bathroom.’

Daniel pointed to a door at the other end of the vast room. ‘There’s a guest bathroom through that door.’

Mia walked towards the door, asking herself why she wasn’t just leaving.

Because you created this situation and you need to deal with it. For Lexi’s sake.

She found a plushly carpeted corridor on the other side of the door, and another door leading into an opulent bathroom. She shut herself inside, sucking in deep breaths to counteract the shock of Daniel’s suggestion of marriage. Although ‘suggestion’ was far too gentle a word. It had been an assertion. An expectation that she would just agree.

She forced the panic down and told herself that Daniel couldn’t force her to marry him. She’d never entertained any romantic notions of marriage after being brought up by a single parent, but her first boyfriend had exposed a weakness she’d denied to herself. A secret dream for a lifelong connection. Love. A family with two parents who loved and respected each other. She’d discovered she wanted more for her own children than a one-parent family, and that dream being unearthed had felt like a betrayal of her mother.

And then that dream had shattered at her feet anyway, when her ex-boyfriend had sneered at her, ‘Of course this was never going to go anywhere, Mia, you’re trailer trash.’

Any notion of marriage she had now was far more pragmatic, and she’d vowed that if it ever happened it would be with someone who she respected and trusted and who wouldn’t hurt her. Not intentionally, at least.

Daniel Devilliers was literally the last man she would marry. While of course Mia wanted Lexi to know her father, and have a relationship with him, she wasn’t going to allow it to happen in a sham marriage.

Mia had made a huge error of judgement once in her life, and had come close to another lapse with Daniel the last time. It wouldn’t happen again.