You’ve read Alyssa’s side of the story in The The That Binds. Now it’s Daniel’s turn.
I thought I could stay away from her. I thought wrong.
What was I supposed to do when I found out that Charles Moriani’s last wish was for me to marry his only daughter? I owed the man everything – he taught me all I know and took on the role my late father was unable to fulfil, never asking for anything in return.
The choice was easy to make. Too easy, perhaps. I tried to make myself believe I married her for honourable reasons, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Alyssa was never meant to find out how I feel about her. She was never meant to end up in my bed. And she was definitely never meant to love me back.
The e-book version of Serendipity is only available on Amazon, so you can’t buy it from me. I’m not allowed to sell it myself, since I have an exclusive contract with Amazon for the e-book version of Serendipity. But as an Amazon Associate, I do earn from qualifying purchases, so buying through the button below is the best way to support me. All of my e-books are in Kindle Unlimited too 🙂
Read the first three chapters of Serendipity
I smile as I walk into DM Consultancy, the company my father and Charles Moriani built together. It’s their legacy, and one day it’ll be mine. Mine and Alyssa’s. I rejected half a dozen offers from other consultancy firms to return here, and I don’t regret it for a second. I doubt I ever will. I’m excited as I walk into Charles’s office. Too excited, clearly, because I walk right into someone.
“Ouch,” she says, rubbing her nose. I laugh and wrap my hands around her shoulders to keep her steady. “Still so clumsy, Alyssa,” I murmur. She looks up at me in surprise and smiles from ear to ear before throwing herself in my arms for a quick hug. She’s grown up a lot in the time I was gone. She was sixteen when I left for my MBA, so she must be eighteen now.
“You’re back,” she murmurs. I hug her back tightly and grin. Being back here feels like coming home. Charles walks up to us and claps me on the shoulder. “You’re back, son,” he says. I nod and Alyssa takes a step back to stand next to her father. The two couldn’t look more different. Charles looks perpetually grumpy while Alyssa looks perpetually cheerful. She has her mother’s looks and her father’s eyes. It’s the eyes that give away the relation.
“What are you even doing here?” I ask Alyssa. I expected to see her around the house now that I’m back, but I didn’t expect to see her at the office. Charles smiles proudly and throws his arm around her. “My baby is all grown up now, Dan. She’s going to intern while studying at Imperial. Before I know it she’ll be taking my job.”
Alyssa blushes and my heart oddly enough skips a beat. Alyssa has always been beautiful, but I’ve never seen her as more than a kid. As my younger brother’s best friend. She’s ten years younger than me, so why do I suddenly find her so stunning?
“Interning, huh. I definitely wasn’t doing that at eighteen,” I murmur. I can barely even remember my first year at uni. I definitely can’t remember Fresher’s week. Alyssa has always been very responsible, but interning so young? I wonder if Charles might be pushing her a bit too hard. He’s been pushing her to become CEO of DM consultancy since she was five. I kind of feel like she should be having fun instead of interning here. Alyssa smiles back at her dad and my heart does it again. It skips a beat. I look away and stare down at my shoes, suddenly feeling awkward.
“That reminds me,” Charles says, his face lighting up. He walks back to his desk and retrieves a rectangular gift wrapped package. Alyssa’s eyes light up at the sight of it and I look at it suspiciously. Charles hands it to me and I shake it in an attempt to assess what might be in it. “Go on, open it,” Charles urges. I frown and carefully unwrap the clumsily packaged gift. My heart races as I take out the new name plaque. It says Daniel Devereaux, CEO.
“I’m thinking that we can probably share this office, the way your dad and I did in the early days.”
I look up at Charles in disbelief and he smiles at me proudly. “You didn’t need the MBA, son. You were ready to become my co-CEO long before you decided you had to have one. Now that you’re back, you can finally start easing my workload. I’m old, son. I want to go to less meetings and play more golf.”
I laugh and shake my head. Charles Moriani is a devout workaholic. He enjoys what he does far more than he’d ever enjoy a round of golf. He’s taught me everything I know. When my father died three years ago, Charles took me under his wing. He continued training me like my father used to and groomed me to take over my father’s vacant seat as co-CEO. He pushed me as hard as I’m sure he’s going to push Alyssa. It’s thanks to him that I can assume my new role with confidence.
“I think it might actually be good if you train Alyssa the way I trained you. I’ll still supervise, but she’s been complaining that I’m too harsh on her. I think it might benefit you both if you train her. After all, you’ll be working together in the future anyway.”
I nod and look at Alyssa. She’s looking at me with such hope and excitement that I can’t help but smile. It probably is better if I’m the one that trains her. If she’s only just started she hasn’t experienced the true horror that is her father’s training regime. To say that he’s a tough love kinda guy is an understatement. If I can keep Alyssa from going through that, I’ll gladly do it.
“You’ll need to hire an assistant,” Charles says. I nod and stare at my new name plaque some more. I knew it was coming. I just didn’t expect to be appointed on my very first day back.
“I’ve got someone in mind for that,” I murmur. I immediately think of Kate, my friend Carter’s sister. She’s talented and really clever, but she doesn’t have much work experience. She did her MBA with me to try and make up for that, but a position as an executive secretary might just give her the break she needs.
Charles frowns and looks worried for just a second before nodding. “Good. You sort that out then, lad.”
I nod and tip my head towards Alyssa. “Wanna come with me to a department meeting?” I ask, checking my watch. Alyssa nods, her eyes brimming with excitement, and I can’t help but chuckle. To be this excited for a department meeting… oh the good old days.
I walk out of Charles’s office and Alyssa follows me, her heels clicking against the stone floor. I glance down and frown.
“Since when did you start wearing those?” I ask. Alyssa was a tomboy growing up, but it looks like she’s outgrown that phase. She merely shrugs. “They’re pretty,” she tells me. I can’t help but silently agree. She’s wearing red bottomed heels that look surprisingly hot. I don’t have a thing for shoes in the slightest, but these are different somehow.
“All you need to do for the next couple of days is shadow me and takes notes of absolutely everything, okay? I’ll grill you on details every once in a while. I need you to understand everything that’s going on to the best of your ability. Don’t just repeat things verbatim, okay?”
Alyssa nods seriously, as though she already knows the drill. She probably does. I wouldn’t put it past her to have interned here her entire summer. And I definitely wouldn’t put it past Charles to let her.
I walk into the office to find Charles shouting at someone. I sigh inwardly and shake my head. I pity the fool that managed to get in his way. Charles has endless patience when it comes to explaining concepts, but he has a zero tolerance policy for mistakes. Errors have gotten more than one person fired and I’m pretty sure I’ll be signing a severance cheque later.
“How the hell could you miss such a monumental mistake? You put an extra fucking zero on that slide. At a client meeting. What kind of rookie error is that? Who the hell allowed you to work on client deliverables anyway?”
I sigh and check my meeting schedule for the day. It’s only ten and I’m already tired. I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to do some damage control with the client now and I really can’t be bothered with that.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”
I freeze. I know that voice. I look up to find Alyssa standing in front of her father. She’s trembling as he chews her out and my heart fucking drops. She looks fucking devastated. What the hell even happened? I didn’t ask her to work on a client presentation, so why the fuck is she being blamed for this? She hasn’t made a single mistake in the three months she’s been working with me, so how could this have happened?
I glance around the room to find Christian hiding behind his screen. He’s the one that was meant to make the presentation, and it’s obvious he pawned off his work on Alyssa. I walk up to Alyssa and put my hand on her shoulder in a show of support.
“What exactly is going on?”
Charles looks at me and grits his teeth. “Is this how you train her?” he shouts. His face is red and he glares at me. Just a couple of years ago I’d have been shaking in my boots, much like Alyssa is now. I tighten my grip on her shoulder and she leans into me subconsciously.
“I didn’t ask Alyssa to work on the client proposal. Either way, as an intern, she cannot be held responsible for this. If you want to blame anyone, blame me. You do not, however, get to speak to my trainee this way. Going forward I expect you to take it up with me directly if she makes a mistake. I am, after all, the person training her. Am I not?”
Charles looks at me through narrowed eyes and then looks at Alyssa. She takes another step closer to me and I wrap my arm around her shoulder fully.
“You’re lucky Daniel is standing up for you, Alyssa. If it were up to me you’d be out the door by now.”
I know he doesn’t mean that. He’s said similar words to me a thousand times, so I know he doesn’t mean a word. Alyssa doesn’t know that though. The way her body trembles makes my heart ache. Charles walks away and Alyssa stares at his closed office door, frozen. Eventually she snaps out of it and steps away from me. She rushes towards the bathrooms and I inhale deeply.
I follow her and lean against the wall while she disappears into the ladies room. I have no doubt that she’s crying her heart out and indeed, she emerges ten minutes later with red eyes.
She looks startled to find me standing here and looks up at me with wide eyes. I sigh and hand her my bathroom card.
“This gives you access to the executive bathroom,” I tell her. She takes the card from me with trembling hands and stares at it. “I know this is probably hard to believe, but he’s always acted the same way with me too. I know you probably can’t see it now, but his craziness does work. Clients do actually behave in the same irrational angry way far more often than you might think. You’ll get used to it soon enough, but it never gets easier. Feeling like you’ve let him down never gets easier, Alyssa.”
She looks at me wordlessly and closes her hand around the card I gave her. She’s clutching it so tightly than I’m worried she’ll hurt her own hand.
“I may or may not have had to hide in the bathroom on numerous occasions after receiving a verbal lashing from your dad. At least the executive bathroom is private. No other stalls. No one witnessing your mini breakdown. And there will be many. Even I might sometimes upset you. I hope I won’t, but I can’t be sure. Things do get a little tense around here every once in a while.”
Alyssa laughs and my unease settles just a little. “Did you really?” she asks. “Did you really hide out in the bathrooms too?”
I smile down at my shoes embarrassedly and nod. “Yeah. I respect the hell out of your dad, but he’s a fucking psycho.”
Alyssa bursts out laughing and puts the card away. “Thank you, Daniel,” she whispers. I smile at her and fall into step with her as we walk back to the office. I can see Charles pacing nervously and he pauses when he catches sight of Alyssa smiling. His relief is palpable and I bite down on my lip to hide my smile. If he’s going to feel this bad about it then why shout at her in the first place?
“Why don’t you write up this morning’s meeting minutes?” I ask Alyssa. She looks up at me and nods, her usual eagerness back on her face. I walk past her and pause at Christian’s cubicle. He looks up at me with dread.
“Conference room. Now.”
I walk away and he follows me reluctantly. He seems nervous and starts trembling as he sits down. I take the seat opposite him and cross my arms. I don’t even have to ask him what happened. He starts rambling nervously almost immediately.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Devereaux. She was so eager to help, so I let her. I didn’t know the quality of her work would be so poor. She seemed quite bright. Guess I was wrong.”
Wrong fucking words, buddy. “So you asked an intern to do your job for you and then didn’t even check for errors? You seemed quite bright. Guess I was wrong.”
He looks up at me with wide eyes and shakes his head. “No, Mr. Devereaux. She said she double checked, so I assumed everything was fine. Like I said, she seemed so eager to help. I thought I was doing her a favour. It was bad judgement on my part.”
I just about keep from rolling my eyes. “You thought you were doing her a favour by asking her to do a job I specifically assigned to you?”
He looks panicked and is no doubt coming up with yet more excuses. I sigh and check my watch. I have exactly seven more minutes before I need to be in my next meeting.
“You know the deal, right? You’re fired, buddy. We have a zero tolerance policy for basic errors at DM. Especially in the executive office. Since the task was assigned to you, the end responsibility lies with you.”
He jumps out of his seat and I rise too. I walk out before he can start begging to keep his job. If he’d just done his job, we wouldn’t be in this situation. If he’d done his job, Alyssa wouldn’t have cried her heart out the way she did.
I press my hand to the biometric scanner at Charles’s house and the front door swings open. The house smells amazing and my stomach grumbles immediately. When was the last time I ate? Did I even have lunch? I’ve been so busy all day that I genuinely can’t recall.
“Hey, you’re here,” Alyssa says, sticking her head out into the hallway. She’s got her long hair wrapped in a messy bun and she’s in comfy house clothes. Looks like she’s wearing nothing but a loose tee and some sleep shorts. My eyes automatically drop to her breasts. I can see a hint of her nipples through the fabric and my heart starts to race. I blink and look away. What the hell is wrong with me? I’ve known Alyssa all my life. Why am I suddenly attracted to her?
“Hungry?” she asks. My stomach grumbles again and she laughs. “That’s a yes, then. Come in.”
She disappears back into the kitchen and emerges minutes later with a large serving dish. I glance at the pasta she made longingly and she chuckles as I take a seat next to Charles.
“Alyssa and I started doing daddy-daughter dinner dates three times a week. We’re both working so much these days, and working together isn’t easy either. I kind of figured that having dinner a few times a week might help her not hate me. I’m not the easiest boss to have, and she has to live with me too. She’s already threatened to move out twice.”
I’m hit with an intense sense of longing but smile nonetheless. I’d give the world to work with my dad and to have dinner with him just one more time. Charles has done his best to treat me as his son, but it isn’t the same. It doesn’t make me miss my dad any less. If anything, it makes me miss him more.
Alyssa grabs a large serving spoon and proceeds to fill her father’s plate with pasta and salad, before moving her attention to me. I’m so startled that I don’t even have time to protest or to insist that I can do it myself.
I’ve gotten so used to the serving staff at home that Alyssa serving me instead makes me feel all flustered. How long has it been since I’ve had a meal that truly feels like a homemade one? One that isn’t made by a chef and served by staff.
“Thank you,” I whisper. She smiles at me and my stupid heart skips yet another beat.
“So you’re buying an apartment, huh?” Charles says. I nod at him as I take a bite of the food and try my best to hide my expression. The food looks amazing but it doesn’t taste quite right. Charles bites back a smile and shakes his head as I force myself to swallow down the pasta.
“Yeah,” I say. “I found one I really like, overlooking Hyde park.”
Charles nods thoughtfully. “Close to the office then. What area is it, Knightsbridge?”
I nod and he smiles approvingly. “Sounds great, son. I had a look at that Aston Martin you’ve been wanting to buy, as well. Not sure about the options you picked.”
Alyssa rolls her eyes and takes a bite of her food. Her eyes widen and she grimaces as she swallows the food down, and I can’t help but smile. She grabs a large amount of parmesan and throws it all over her own food and ours, though I doubt that’ll save the dish.
“God, stop it already. All this talk about buying apartments and cars. Next I know you two will make a cost-benefit analysis.”
Charles and I look at each other and nod at the same time. “Excellent idea,” I murmur, causing Alyssa to roll her eyes.
Dinner passes peacefully and I can’t remember the last time I had such a homely meal. I love my mother to bits, but she’s always worked so hard that we’ve never really done many family dinners. We’ve done even less of them since my father died.
I follow Charles to his office and the two of us finish up our paperwork while he advises me on client issues I’ve had. I’ve missed this. The MBA I did doesn’t hold a candle to one-on-one mentoring sessions with Charles.
He seems fidgety and nervous as he reads through the proposal I crafted, and I lean back in amusement. I know there’s nothing work with the proposal — it was a piece of cake. Instead he’s gearing up to ask me something. Something about Alyssa, no doubt.
“So, how is my little girl doing?” he asks eventually. The edges of my lips tip up and I try my best not to smile. Charles Moriani is the most fearless and ruthless businessman I know, but he’s a softie when it comes to his daughter.
“She’s doing great, Charles. She’s eighteen and she’s already handling the workload of a graduate staffer. Even more than that, actually, considering that she’s working in the Executive Office. I’m worried it’s too much, though. I’m worried her school work and working at DM on top of that is too much.”
Charles shakes his head. “No, not for Alyssa. This is a walk in the park for her. She’s amazing.”
I sigh and bite down on my lip. Nothing I say will convince him that the only reason she’s working so hard is because of all the pressure he puts on her. Alyssa has always been scared of letting her father down.
“Don’t you think you’re a bit tough on her, though? That incident last month with the small error on the client proposal, that was a bit much.”
Charles hesitates and looks away. “That’s how I taught you, Daniel. Look how great you turned out. I want Alyssa to learn in the same way — in the way I know works.”
I finish my cup of tea and nod respectfully. I don’t agree with him but it’s not my place to argue with him either. All I can do is shield Alyssa from his tough love training as best as I can.
I rise and grab my teacup. “Want a refill?” I ask. Charles nods and hands me his cup, seemingly lost in thought. I know he’s worried about pushing Alyssa away, and he should be.
I’m surprised to find Alyssa at the kitchen table with her laptop and notepad. She’s sipping a cup of tea of her own and looks up when I enter. I glance at my watch and frown.
“It’s eleven, Alyssa. Shouldn’t you be heading to bed sometime soon? You have classes tomorrow, don’t you?”
She nods and yawns. “I know, but I have an essay due soon and I just didn’t have enough time to finish it.”
I walk towards the kettle and refill it silently. “You know you don’t have to come in every single day, right? If you’re busy with classes then just reduce your working hours.”
She sighs and shakes her head, her long brown hair falling over her chest. “No, I couldn’t,” she murmurs.
I walk towards her and sit down next to her. Alyssa pushes her laptop towards me and looks up at me with her stunning hazel eyes. “What do you think?” she asks, hopeful. She’s totally giving me puppy eyes and I’m totally falling for it.
I read through her essay and highlight a few sections where she needs more references, and another few that aren’t quite clear enough. “Work on this,” I tell her, running her through my notes step by step.
She looks up at me with wide eyes, and I’ve never seen her look at me that way before. I’ve never seen her look so mesmerised. Or, well, I guess I’ve never seen her look that way at me. My cheeks heat up just slightly while my heart rate increases, and I push away from her.
“Thank you, Daniel,” she murmurs. I smile at her and shake my head. “It’s nothing, Alyssa. I’m always here if you need help. I’m serious about work too. If you want to work less hours, let me know. I’ll talk to your dad for you.”
She considers it for a second and then shakes her head. I sigh and bite back a smile. I already know that I’ve got another workaholic on my hands.