Bound By Her Shocking Secret by Abby Green


MIASFINGERSTIGHTENEDaround Daniel’s hand as they stood at the bottom of the steps leading up to the majestic entrance. He shot her a look. She gave an imperceptible nod to say she was ready, when she was anything but.

They walked up the steps that were overlaid with a red carpet. Mia was very aware of Daniel’s physicality next to her, oozing Alpha male energy. His bespoke classic black tuxedo fitted like a second skin, enhancing his lean strength. She’d been blisteringly aware of him in the back of the car beside her, and she was still breathless from the way he’d touched her and looked at her. From what he’d said.

‘He was the fool.’

It hadn’t meant anything. Not really. She had to get her desire and her rampant imagination under control. If he suspected she still wanted him she would literally have no dignity left.

People were turning to look at them. Eyes widened when they recognised who Daniel was. Then slid to her. Instinctively Mia lifted her chin. And then the paparazzi spotted them. But this time she was prepared, and she felt herself automatically slipping into work mode, so she could pretend this was just a photo shoot and counteract the intimidation she felt.

When they reached the entrance Daniel stopped. Mia looked up at him, hoping that he couldn’t see the effect he was having on her. And then, before she could say or do anything, he was sliding an arm around her waist and pulling her into him.

It all happened too quickly for her to put up her guard, especially when she still felt a little raw after his words and the way he’d looked at her in the car. She couldn’t fight the helpless temptation to go with the flow of her blood—which was towards Daniel. To get closer. With his free hand, he tipped up her chin. All she could see were those grey eyes.

The emotions he aroused were fading into the background to be replaced with pure physicality. She craved to have his mouth on hers with a hunger that blotted everything else out. All concerns. Without even being aware of it, her hand found and curled around the lapel of his jacket, as if to stop him pulling away.

It had been like this between them from that first day they’d met. Instant heat. An urgency.

And then Daniel’s mouth was on hers and a deep sigh moved through Mia. The past fell away. There was only this moment and the familiar firm contours of his mouth, enticing her to open up to him, to take the kiss deeper. She did it without thinking, acting instinctively. It was as if they’d kissed only yesterday, and also as if it had been a thousand years ago. Both achingly familiar and new again. His tongue touching hers lit a fuse that connected directly to the pulse of heat between her legs.

But then Daniel was pulling back, taking his mouth off hers. Mia heard the sound of people around her, the outside world slowly breaking through the heat haze in her brain. And with the sounds came the crash of reality.

Her eyes snapped open. Daniel was looking down at her with no discernible expression on his face.

The full impact of what she’d just allowed to happen—enthusiastically participated in—hit her like a body-blow.

Daniel’s arm was still around her waist. She pushed against his chest, when a moment ago she’d been pulling him closer.

‘What was that in aid of?’ Bit late for outrage now, jeered a voice in Mia’s head.

‘We’re meant to be reunited, remember? The object of this evening is to convince people that there’s really no story.’

Mia was aware of pops of light coming from the direction of the photographers. Self-consciousness crawled up her spine. Daniel had known what he was doing. He’d executed a perfectly clinical kiss for the cameras. And it was too late for her to act blasé.

She pulled away and Daniel’s arm slackened enough to let her step back. ‘Next time,’ she said, ‘do me the courtesy of asking first.’

She turned and stalked ahead of him into the building. Not even the sight of the grand marble staircase and the lavish Baroque-inspired interior could distract her from the fact that even if he’d asked her permission she still would have said yes.

Mia had been to plenty of glittering events before, but usually for work. Never like this, on someone’s arm. And not just someone. A man everyone recognised on sight.

Daniel took her arm and gently guided her up to another level where there was a private drinks reception before the performance started. After someone had taken her cape Daniel handed her a glass of champagne.

Mia was more interested in the hors d’oeuvres. She hadn’t had time to eat much while making sure that Lexi and Odile were going to be okay together. She tried to eat a concoction of caviar on the smallest piece of toast she’d ever seen, with as much grace as she could, but a steady stream of people were approaching Daniel, and he snaked an arm around her waist, pulling her into his side, effectively ruining her appetite for the evening.

One older, very well-preserved woman spoke to Daniel while barely glancing at Mia. She said, ‘She’s an American? You have a child with her? I hope this won’t damage the brand, Mr Devilliers.’

Shocked at what she was hearing, and incensed that Lexi might be subjected to any kind of judgement, Mia cut in, ‘Yes, I am American—and, yes we have a child. And I can assure you the Devilliers brand is quite safe.’

The woman looked at Mia as if she had two heads, and then she stalked off.

Mia looked at Daniel. ‘Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. Who was she?’

To Mia’s surprise, Daniel’s mouth quirked. ‘One of the longest-serving members of the board.’


‘Your French is impeccable, by the way.’

Mia shrugged, self-conscious. ‘I’ve had plenty of time to practise it over the last two years.’

Then she added tentatively, ‘She looked angry...will this cause problems for you?’

Daniel took a sip of champagne, and even that relatively innocent movement made a skewer of desire arrow right to Mia’s lower body.

‘No. It’s dinosaurs like her I’m trying to ease off the board. She and a few others are the only ones clinging onto the past. We have to move forward.’

At that point a melodic bell sounded to indicate that they needed to move into the theatre. Daniel took Mia’s hand and led her out of the function room and along a corridor and into a private box.

Mia gasped when the full majesty of the auditorium was laid out before her. Tiers of seats rose up around the stage in a circle. The furnishings were lavish and totally over the top. Baroque. Dramatic. The ceiling was adorned with lush frescoes.

The crowd—most of whom had taken their seats—were as glittering as their surroundings. The men handsome in their tuxedoes.

‘This is amazing,’ she breathed as she sat down, momentarily distracted from everything else.

For a while, when she’d been younger, she’d had dreams of becoming a dancer. A teacher had even helped her apply for a grant to get into advanced classes, and Mia had had visions of going to Juilliard in New York. But one day she’d damaged her knee, and her dreams of becoming a dancer had turned to dust. And then, as if conspiring against her, her body had started to develop, giving her curves that would never have been acceptable in a ballet dancer.

So being here now was making her feel nostalgic and wistful. She had a sudden vision of an older Lexi, being brought here with her father to see a ballet performance, and emotion gripped her before she could stop it, stinging her eyes.

She cursed herself and kept her head averted from Daniel. Ever since she’d given birth to Lexi her emotions had sat just under her skin, and the most innocent and benign of incidents or things could set her off. Not to mention the tumult of being back in Daniel’s orbit.

The lights went down and a hush fell over the crowd. Mia sat forward, her skin prickling with anticipation. Well, she told herself it was anticipation, and not because Daniel’s tall, powerful body, his long legs stretched out before him, was close enough to touch. Smell.

She let the performance distract her from the man beside her, knowing it would be an all too brief respite...

A week after the ballet performance Mia spotted the floppy ear of Lexi’s favourite bunny peeking out from under a couch and grabbed it. She looked around and saw the other detritus belonging to a small person. A cardigan shoved down between some cushions. A small shoe discarded by the door. And a sticky handprint on a glass coffee table.

She sighed. Already Lexi was treating this place like a small queen in her new domain, and even Mia had settled into the luxurious space far too easily. But she had to keep reminding herself that it was only temporary. And surely these transgressions into Daniel’s pristine space would make him realise that having them here wasn’t conducive to his newly acquired bachelor lifestyle?

That was if he was here to see them—which he wasn’t. After the night at the ballet, which had left Mia feeling very emotional, Daniel had told her the following morning that he had to go to New York for a few days.

She’d schooled her expression while inwardly relishing the thought of a reprieve, to take stock of everything that had happened without Daniel’s disturbing presence.

‘Don’t look so pleased,’ he’d said dryly.

‘What’s in New York?’ she’d asked.

‘Our North American head office. We’re having some discussions about a new campaign.’

‘When will you be back?’ Mia had asked nonchalantly.

‘Before the weekend.’

But it was Friday night now, and he was not back. He was still in Manhattan on business. Not that Mia had any jurisdiction over him, so she shouldn’t even be wondering about it, or feeling a disturbing pang of disappointment.

He’d called a couple of times during the week, mainly to ask about Lexi. He’d asked that Mia send him videos of Lexi every day and she had, feeling a very disturbing glow of warmth in her chest at his interest in his daughter.

During their conversation on Wednesday night he’d commented, ‘You were working today?’

Mia had immediately felt defensive. ‘Yes, it was a small job, booked in before...all this. Odile came with me and brought Lexi.’

‘It wasn’t a criticism, Mia. I know you work.’

She’d relaxed marginally and said dryly, ‘Actually, my agent told me today that she’s never had so many calls asking about my availability. It would appear my stock has risen all of a sudden.’

‘You know you’re not under pressure to work, Mia,’ Daniel had responded. ‘You don’t have to worry about money.’

She’d tensed. ‘I support myself, Daniel. I always have and I always will. We don’t need—’

‘You’re the mother of my child,’ Daniel had cut in, and then muttered something under his breath about her being stubborn. ‘Lexi is now my responsibility too. You can work and save all you want, but you’re not her sole provider any more.’

Mia had bitten her lip. Of course she wouldn’t deprive her child of support from her father, but after that call she’d wondered how it would work—Lexi living a life of luxury with her papa and then coming back to a much more modest existence with her mother.

Now, feeling the onset of a headache, Mia was picking up Lexi’s discarded items when she heard her mobile phone ringing and plucked it out of the back pocket of her jeans.


She answered, her voice sounding unaccountably husky. ‘Hi.’

‘Hi,’ Daniel replied.

He sounded a little tired, and Mia had a mental image of him loosening his tie. Sitting back in a big chair. The skyline of Manhattan behind him. Because surely he must be in one of those sky-skimming buildings with a jaw-dropping view?

Mia perched on the edge of a couch. The apartment was dimly lit. It somehow felt more intimate to have Daniel’s voice in her ear through the phone than if he was here himself.

He said, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t make it back before the weekend.’

Something fluttered in Mia’s chest. She crushed it. ‘That’s okay. You don’t have to explain your movements, Daniel.’

There was a dry tone in his voice. ‘You’re not my roommate, Mia. You’re the mother of my daughter.’

Mia scowled into the phone.

Then Daniel said, ‘Actually, my plans have changed.’


‘Are your and Lexi’s passports up to date?’

As it happened, Mia had had to renew her passport recently, so she’d ordered Lexi’s first passport too.

‘Yes...’ she answered cautiously, with no idea where this was going.

‘Good. I have to fly to Costa Rica tomorrow for a week, to oversee a shoot. I’d like you and Lexi to join me. You’ll fly out tomorrow on a private plane. Odile is free to travel with you, to help take care of Lexi. I’ve already spoken to her to check.’

Mia’s mouth dropped open in shock, but before she could say anything or object Daniel spoke again.

‘To save us all some time, I’ll explain why it’s a good idea. With all of us being absent from Paris for a while, it’ll speed up the process of the press losing interest. By the time we return they’ll have moved on. We’ll be old news.’

Mia’s mouth closed. Then opened it again. ‘So by the time we return Lexi and I can return to our apartment?’

For a moment Daniel said nothing, and then, ‘It’ll certainly make it much more likely.’

She knew he was right. If they weren’t here, there was no story. She’d noticed paparazzi in the park these last few days, even though the security presence had kept them back. But she didn’t like exposing Lexi to their lenses. So any method of minimising that had to be a good thing.

She said, ‘Okay, then.’

Daniel was brisk. ‘Good. I’ll have my assistant come and help you pack in the morning. She’ll arrange transport to the airport, and anything else you might require for Lexi. Odile will meet you at the plane. See you in Costa Rica, Mia.’

Mia was tempted to change her mind at the last minute, but Daniel had terminated the connection.

Too late.

She wondered if she was completely delusional for thinking for a second that it was a good idea to go to a tropical paradise with the most disturbing man she’d ever met.

The following day, after a twelve-hour flight and then a shorter hop from San José to Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula, Mia and Lexi and Odile were in...paradise. That was the only way to describe it.

The air was warm, inviting Mia to melt and relax and forget all her worries and concerns. Like a siren call. The sun was setting over the Pacific Ocean in a glorious cascade of pinks and oranges and reds.

In front of where she stood, stupefied with awe, Mia could see people on a beach in the near distance, strolling, surfing... Dogs running alongside owners. Children playing. All against the backdrop of majestic surf. Behind them lay the lushest forest she’d ever seen. And in between these two things was this villa.

It was modern, but it sat in the tropical forest seamlessly. On several levels, it flowed down through the forest to a path which led to the beach, and it was truly breathtaking. Each level held a range of rooms, and at the top was a lounging/dining area, with an infinity pool that looked out over a canopy of trees to the ocean and the vast sky.

The lower levels held bedrooms and a gym and media centre. Also a room that looked like an office. From all these rooms the ocean was visible through a lush tangle of forest. And from this lowest level there was a private path to the beach.

But even in spite of all these distractions the back of her neck prickled just before she heard Daniel say from behind them, ‘Sorry I wasn’t here when you arrived. The preparation meeting for the shoot ran over.’

Mia braced herself before turning around. Lexi was sleepy in her arms. She hadn’t slept much on the plane and now she was exhausted. But even bracing herself couldn’t prepare Mia for the sight of a far more relaxed Daniel.

He was wearing a dark blue short-sleeved polo-shirt and linen trousers. His skin looked darker already. Shades covered his eyes. He looked cool and unbelievably suave. And masculine. The musculature of his chest was all too evident under the thin material of his top.

Mia immediately felt creased and gritty, in her long broderie anglaise dress and cream blazer.

Odile greeted Daniel and reached for Lexi, saying to Mia, ‘I’ll take Lexi up to the house and get her fed and ready to put down.’

Mia wanted to object, but Lexi was perfectly happy to be transferred to her new best friend Odile, and Mia knew she needed to go down before she tipped over into extreme over-tiredness.

She handed Lexi over as Daniel said thank you to Odile, and then, as Odile and Lexi made their way back up to the main part of the house, he pushed his shades onto his head and said to her, ‘You met Gabriela?’

Mia nodded. ‘She greeted us when we arrived and showed us around. She seems very nice.’

Daniel came and stood beside her. Mia tried not to feel self-conscious under that cool grey gaze. ‘She is. She lives locally and her son maintains the property for me.’

Mia looked at him. ‘You own this? It’s not a rental?’

Daniel nodded. ‘It’s part of my portfolio, yes.’

Along with the family chateau outside Paris, and the apartment in New York, another in London, and undoubtedly more properties dotted around the world...

‘How was Lexi on the journey?’ Daniel asked.

Mia made a face. ‘Okay...not great. Fractious. Her ears were sore.’

Daniel frowned. ‘I never considered that.’

‘People don’t until they have children. That’s why there are so many screeching babies on planes.’

‘Will she be okay?’

Mia nodded. ‘She’ll be fine once she’s been fed and put down. I’ll go and make sure she’s okay. Odile is exhausted too. She should have the rest of the evening and tomorrow off.’

‘Of course. I have some calls to make, but I’ll be eating in about an hour if you want to join me?’

The warm breeze caressed Mia’s body. The sky was turning lavender now, and the smell of sea and sand and exotic blooms made the air fragrant. Night birds started their calls. And there was this man, as elemental as his surroundings in spite of the trappings of civilisation.

She could feel the pull to move closer, to have him envelop her in all that heat and steel. Transport her to an even more seductive paradise. It was dangerously romantic.

Mia stepped back before she made a fool of herself. She shook her head. ‘I’m quite tired myself, actually, I’ll just grab something and then go to sleep with Lexi.’

Daniel watched Mia go, her flowing dress doing little to hide her long bare legs. She moved gracefully, her tawny hair trailing down her back and over her shoulders. For someone who’d just got off a transatlantic flight with a small child, she looked pretty perfect. In fact, she fitted into this wild landscape very well, with her naturally sun-kissed skin.

Daniel felt something ease inside him at the knowledge that they were here. It was a subtle shift. A sense that he could relax.

That thought registered and he scowled at himself—at the notion that Mia and Lexi’s proximity was somehow beneficial for him.

Having Mia and Lexi here, far away from the French media and his conservative board—that was beneficial. As was the fact that he now had time to convince her of what he’d spent the last week realising was the only solution for them. The only solution he was prepared to accept.

Full commitment from Mia.

This wasn’t what he had ever planned for his life, but the reality of having a daughter had aroused emotions and protective instincts he’d buried a long time ago with his sister. He wanted more for Lexi. He wanted to be able to nurture her and protect her. He’d failed his sister and he vowed now that he would not fail his daughter.

And, more selfishly, he wanted Mia back in his bed. For good.

The following day, after Mia had woken and fed Lexi and dressed her, she explored a little. There was no sign of Daniel, which brought her a mixture of relief and something else she refused to call disappointment. Gabriela told her he had gone to work—to wherever they were setting up the shoot.

Odile had gone into the pretty little town of Santa Teresa to explore. While passing through it yesterday Mia had thought it looked charming, and rustic. Full of cafés and artisan shops. Very bohemian. But she was happy to stay around the house and take Lexi to the beach to paddle in the surf, which delighted her. It was a long time, if ever, since they’d been able to relax like this.

In the afternoon, when Lexi didn’t seem remotely inclined to go down for a nap, Mia dressed them both in swimwear and liberally applied a high-factor sunscreen.

To her surprise, when she’d explored more yesterday evening, she’d found the dressing room adjoining her very luxurious bedroom suite to be fully stocked with clothes. All in her size. When she’d mentioned it to Gabriela that morning the woman had told her that Daniel had instructed her to get a local boutique to deliver clothes for both her and Odile, and baby clothes for Lexi, in case they needed anything.

The fact that the clothes weren’t a permanent fixture made Mia feel somewhat off-centre. She wondered if Daniel had ever kitted the dressing room out for anyone else. Surely he’d come here with lovers? It would almost be a crime not to—the place was so romantic and full of earthy sensuality.

But Mia quickly diverted her mind from that line of thinking. She didn’t care if Daniel had been here with lovers. He could do what he liked with his properties.

She checked her reflection before they went out. She was wearing a one-piece swimsuit which had looked very conservative on the hanger, but it felt a lot more revealing now. One-shouldered, it had a cut-out above her hip, high-cut legs, and a top cut a little too low across her breasts for her liking.

But Lexi was grizzling now, and Daniel wasn’t even here, so Mia told herself she was being ridiculous, plonked hats on their heads and went to the pool.

When Daniel rounded the corner of the building to walk onto the decked area by the pool he stopped in his tracks and his blood ran cold.

All he saw was Lexi in the pool.

He couldn’t move. It was as if cement had been poured into his legs.

Helpless. Any minute now she was going to tip face-forward and—

‘Hi, we weren’t expecting to see you until later...’

Daniel’s stricken gaze finally took in more detail. They were in the shallow end of the pool, and Mia had Lexi securely under the arms, holding her as she pulled her forward and back through the water. Lexi was splashing and babbling in baby language.

Not about to drown.

Not like his sister.

Mia must have seen something on his face. She stopped moving and said, ‘Are you okay?’

Somehow Daniel managed to move forward, nearer the edge of the pool, but still at a distance. He hadn’t considered this scenario.

He didn’t answer Mia’s question directly. He wished they would come out of the water. ‘Shouldn’t she have armbands?’

Mia smiled. ‘She’s a water baby. She’s fine. I’m a qualified lifeguard, in any case.’

‘Still, it’s not safe. I should put something around the pool.’

Mia’s eyes opened wide. ‘It’s fine, honestly. She won’t ever be here unsupervised.’

She could be, though.

This was one of the reasons why he’d sworn never to have children. To avoid this crippling fear. That pool was a lethal accident waiting to happen—something Daniel never would have noticed before now, because to him it was merely an ornamental feature.

Mia said, ‘It’s probably time we came out now anyway. Lexi needs a wash and her dinner.’

She came up the steps out of the water with Lexi in her arms, and for the first time since he’d seen them in the pool the dread inside Daniel eased a little. The distraction of Mia in a swimsuit that clung like a second skin, leaving little to the imagination, helped too. Her hair was piled up on her head in a rough knot, showing off her spectacular bone structure and long neck. He seized on her beauty as something to cling to—something that brought him back from those awful tendrils of fear.

She came over to a lounger and wrapped Lexi in a voluminous towel, rubbing her briskly and making her laugh.

The sound finally broke Daniel out of his stasis.

He went and sat on the other lounger and Lexi stretched out her arms towards him.


Mia held on to her. ‘She’s all wet. She’ll ruin your—’

Something swelled in Daniel’s chest. Emotion and an instinct he couldn’t ignore, part possessive and part fear. He plucked Lexi out of Mia’s hands. ‘It’s fine.’

He’d held Lexi before, but he was surprised again at how solid she was. And trusting.

She immediately placed her hands on his face and declared, ‘Hair face!’

Daniel smiled. He nuzzled his face against her cheek, making her squirm and giggle. When he looked at Mia he was surprised to see an arrested look on her face. Their eyes met and the expression disappeared as if he’d imagined it. An electric spark zinged between them. Her cheeks went pink.

She reached for Lexi again and he let her take her—but not before their fingers touched.

The colour in her cheeks deepened and Mia said, ‘I should wash her off and prepare her dinner.’

She stood up, all long limbs and tantalising curves.

‘Join me for dinner this evening,’ Daniel said.

He could see her mouth open, could anticipate the refusal. But then she surprised him by saying, ‘Okay. I’ll join you once Lexi is down for the night.’

Mia looked at herself in the mirror. Her hair was curling wildly in the evening heat after her shower. Not much she could do about that. Anyway, it wasn’t as if this was a date. She was having dinner with the father of her child, and they would stick to topics concerning only their daughter.

She’d chosen to wear a long kaftan-like dress which couldn’t be remotely construed as sexy. But then, out of nowhere, an image popped into her head of Daniel with Lexi earlier, tickling her with his stubble, and suddenly Mia felt breathless.

She hated the tender part of her that it had affected. Seeing Lexi being held in his big hands. Protected. Safe. Already Lexi had experienced a more meaningful father-daughter relationship than Mia ever had.

Mia could also recall all too easily how Daniel’s gaze had lingered on her body, making her blisteringly aware of the clinging wet swimsuit.

But she’d imagined the heat in Daniel’s eyes. Must have. Projected her own desire on to him.

He didn’t want her any more.

She’d never forget the way he’d looked at her that day when she’d told him she was pregnant. The shock. Horror. And then panic. And then later in the hospital, in the aftermath of her miscarriage, with a cold remoteness that had scared her.

After checking Lexi, and the baby monitor to make sure it was on, Mia went up to the next level, where they would eat.

When she saw where Gabriela had set the table she cursed silently. It was out on the terrace. The sky was dusky and gently flickering candles illuminated the space and the table. The scent of exotic blooms filled the air. It was all too seductive.

Daniel was standing at the rail that curved around the terrace. He had his back to her and he was wearing a white shirt, sleeves rolled up, and dark trousers.

He turned around and the first thing Mia spotted was that his hair was damp and his jaw was clean-shaven. Need pierced her so acutely that she had to suck in a gasp.

Her hand tightened around the baby monitor.

He was holding a drink. ‘What can I get you?’

Mia knew alcohol was the last thing she needed, but she needed the edges of her desire for Daniel blurred a little. ‘A white wine, please.’

Daniel came back and handed her a cold glass.

Mia took a sip and relished the dry aromatic wine.

He lifted his glass, ‘Santé, Mia.’

She touched hers to his, avoiding his eyes like a coward. ‘Cheers.’

She moved over to where he’d been standing. The lights of fishermen’s boats were already visible, bobbing up and down in the sea. Presumably they were out because it was a calm evening.

She sensed Daniel coming to stand beside her. The little hairs stood up on her arms. ‘It’s so beautiful here,’ she said.

‘Yes, it is.’

‘You must use it a lot. I would. I don’t think I’d ever leave.’

‘Actually... I don’t use it as much as I’d like. I haven’t been here now for a couple of years.’

Mia glanced at him. He’d put his back to the view and was leaning against the rail. Her mouth was open as she absorbed that nugget of information but she rapidly closed it.

Daniel’s mouth quirked. ‘I can practically hear your brain whirring. What are you thinking?’

A very timely discreet cough sounded from behind them, and Mia was relieved not to have to try and hide how much she wanted to know if he’d ever brought lovers here.

Gabriela had served up their starter—a deliciously light crab salad. Mia sat down and eyed the food with appreciation. But any hope that Daniel might not pursue the line of conversation turned to dust when he said, after a few minutes, ‘You were going to say something, about me not coming here?’

Mia cursed him. She wiped at her mouth with a napkin and took a sip of wine. Then she forced herself to look him in the eye. ‘It’s so beautiful here—and private. I just thought that if you and your wife weren’t...weren’t sleeping together, it would be the perfect place to bring lovers.’

‘Are you asking me if I took lovers during my marriage, Mia?’

Damn him, he was enjoying this.

She smiled sweetly. ‘Never mind. It’s none of my business.’