From the author of The Truth in Lies, Work With Me and Going Nowhere.
In between jobs, Felicity finds work as a nanny for the daughter of rule-orientated business tycoon, Dominic. But it isn’t long until they’re both bending all the rules…
Age Rating: 16+
Note: This story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.
Bending the Rules by Rebecca Burton is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
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From the author of The Truth in Lies, Work With Me and Going Nowhere.
In between jobs, Felicity finds work as a nanny for the daughter of rule-orientated business tycoon, Dominic. But it isn’t long until they're both bending all the rules…
Age Rating: 16+
Original Author: R. S. Burton
Note: This story is the author’s original version and does not have sound.
“Mom, I’m a PA. I’m not a nanny,” I grumbled. “I don’t know the first thing about kids.”
“Think of it this way, honey…you’re just a PA to a much smaller client.”
I rolled my eyes and picked up the job description. She had to be insane—this was nothing at all like a normal run-of-the-mill PA job.
“Mom, I didn’t work to entertain my last client.”
Mom’s eyes narrowed, and she walked passed me briskly, taking the bound folder from me.
“No, but if he had his way, that would have been what he wanted. Why do you think he restructured and sold the company? He realized he couldn’t get what he wanted from you.”
I frowned and shook my head. Was she really insinuating Mr. Jones, who was forty years my senior, wanted to sleep with me? He was sixty-four, for goodness’ sake.
“Honey, you’re a beautiful girl. You inherited your father’s height, his long legs, and you have my looks. I was Miss—”
“Rhode Island. Yes, Mom, I know.” I finished her sentence and walked into the kitchen, where she held out the job description.
“It’ll only be for three months, and you’ll really help me win the favor of Mr. Coran’s company if you get the job. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think you could do it.”
I glanced over the booklet. It was thorough right down to a timetable. A seven-year-old girl with a timetable?
She barely had a moment to breathe in between school and the after-school dance lessons.
With a sigh, I looked up at Mom and smiled. “Fine, I’ll go for the job. But only because you need to do business with Coran’s company.”
“That’s my girl.” Mom smiled back and walked over to the phone.
I placed the booklet down and promised myself that if I got the job, I’d let her have free time.
My entire childhood was so structured that at nine years old, when my dad died, I barely knew him. It was no way to live.
“I’d better call, I guess,” I said, rolling my eyes as Mom handed me the phone.
“Yes. He needs someone urgently. The last Nanny left suddenly.”
I dialed the number on the front cover of the booklet and waited for the call to connect.
Mom stood over me, watching me like an eagle. I didn’t blame her.
Getting this contract for her company meant becoming a partner—something she had been striving for since I was born—and she deserved it.
“Mr. Coran’s office, Cecily speaking. How can I help?” The girl on the other end of the phone answered.
She sounded cheerful, and for a moment, I was jealous of the fact she had a job doing the exact thing I had done since I graduated with my business degree.
“I would like to apply for the position to be the nanny of Mr. Coran’s daughter.”
The woman paused for a moment. “Putting you through to Mr. Coran… May I please have your name?”
“Felicity Taylor,” I murmured.
There was silence for about ten seconds, and then suddenly, the phone picked up. “Yes, Ms. Taylor, I understand you are interested in the Nanny position.”
“Well, have you had experience with children?”
“No, sir, but I am a quick learner, and I was a child once.” I closed my eyes and shook my head. Now was not the time for joking.
“Was that meant to be funny?” he replied, sounding less than amused.
“Look, I’m desperate. If you can come to my house at 6 p.m. tonight for an interview, I will consider you. But please try not to waste my time, Ms. Taylor.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Six o’clock, Ms. Taylor. Don’t be late.”
He hung up, and I looked up at Mom. She was frowning.
“Felicity! Your sass may pass with me, but you can’t expect the CEO of CoranCorp to be the same.”
“I know, Mom, sorry. He still gave me the interview though.”
I smiled and handed the phone over. “Yes, he did. But don’t hold your breath. He sounds incredibly hard to please.”
“Just try, honey.”
For Mom, I would try anything. She had single-handedly raised me for fifteen years. It hadn’t been easy, but she had persevered.
She deserved payoff for her hard work. She deserved to become a partner at Jean, Loader and Associates.
By the time 5:30 p.m. rolled around, I had dressed myself in normal office attire: a black pencil skirt, white shirt, and a crisp, ironed blazer.
“You’re wearing that?” Mom asked as I walked toward the door.
“It may be a job as a nanny, Mother, but the man is used to seeing businesswomen. Perhaps I’d do well to appeal to his business side considering I have no experience with actual children.”
“Mom, it’ll be fine. I’ll do my very best.”
I walked to the door and picked up my handbag.
“Good luck, Felicity!”
“Thanks, Mom,” I replied, wrapping my hand around the cool-to-the-touch silver doorknob. I walked out the door and across the wooden porch.
I’d lived on the ranch with Mom my entire life. After Dad died, I promised myself I’d always take care of her.
It was true I’d almost put my life on hold.
Graduating at the top of my class had earned me job offers from all over the country, but I chose to stay here.
If I got the job, it would be the first time I’d stayed away for longer than a week.
I got in my car and drove. The Coran mansion was down the road, on the outskirts of town.
I’d driven past it every day since I graduated high school.
My stomach swirled as I approached the driveway.
I had never really been a shy person, but the thought of being confronted by the billionaire mogul who was well-known for his icy personality was slightly daunting.
I turned in to the driveway and pressed the buzzer on the security gate.
“State your name, please.”
“Felicity Taylor,” I replied, speaking into the small gray box to my left.
“Very well, Ms. Taylor,” the man’s voice replied. It wasn’t Mr. Coran, but I was hardly surprised. With a house as big as this, he probably had a full staff roster.
The gate opened, and slowly I drove up the driveway. I parked next to another car and then walked the rest of the way up the path until I made it to the front door.
I knocked hard against the solid wood—so hard my knuckles ached slightly.
The door opened, and a short older man smiled at me.
“You must be Ms. Taylor. Please, come in. Mr. Coran is in the study—he won’t be long.” He took me by the elbow and guided me inside. “Please wait in the living room. Molly is in there.”
“Molly?” I repeated.
“Mr. Coran’s daughter… Please tell me you read the briefing?” he said sharply. “Mr. Coran is very particular.”
“I noticed.” I frowned as I walked into the living room. “Sorry. Of course I read the briefing.”
“Good. Well, I’ll leave you two to get acquainted.” He looked at Molly and narrowed his eyes. “Be nice, Molly Coran.”
“Ugh,” Molly replied, barely looking up.
“My name is Harvey, by the way, should you need anything.”
“Thank you, Harvey.”
Harvey left, and it was just Molly and me in the great big room. It was beautifully decorated, but it didn’t take much to notice that very few family pictures were a part of that.
“What are you doing, Molly?” I asked, attempting to break the ice. “Is that homework?”
Molly remained silent and ignored that I was even there. Suddenly, I regretted my decision not to read the booklet in more detail. Perhaps Molly was mute or similar.
“You smell like flowers,” she said in a confused voice.
Molly scoffed and looked back down at her paper. I lifted my bag up and pulled out the lotus flower candle I bought for Mom’s birthday.
Her birthday was a while away, and I could always go get another.
“Do you want to see something cool?”
“Yeah, like, pretty?”
“Okay,” she said slowly.
I placed the candle down and lit the match. I lowered the match into the center, and suddenly, the middle began to spit out light and sparks.
Molly giggled and jumped back.
The candle began to turn as the petals opened, and the candle sang “Happy Birthday.”
“It’s like magic!” Molly said in awe.
“It is. I’m glad you like it.”
Molly smiled and lifted her arm off her paper. She was drawing a picture of her and her dad. Sitting on a cloud was an angel.
“That’s my Mom. She’s beautiful.”
“She really is, Molly. That’s a beautiful picture.”
Molly grabbed a blue crayon and kept drawing. I watched in awe of this little girl, wondering how she had managed to go through so many nannies.
“Ms. Taylor.” Mr. Coran’s voice rang through the big room like an echo in a cave. “I’ll see you in my study now. Molly, please head up to your room and get ready for bed.”
Molly stopped drawing and looked over at the door. “Can Ms. Taylor say good night to me, Daddy?”
I looked over at Mr. Coran. His icy blue eyes were wide as he looked at me.
“Of course she can, honey. Off you go.”
I stood there for a moment, caught off-guard by his somehow inviting smile. He looked completely unlike the tower of a man I had seen in the business magazines.
Molly ran past me, stopping to hug her father along the way. I walked out of the room and followed him up a flight of stairs. He opened a door.
“After you, Ms. Taylor.”
I walked in and waited for him to walk around to his seat. “Please sit, Ms. Taylor.”
I nodded and sat down. Looking up, I noticed his warm smile was all but gone, and his eyes were almost dark.
“Sir, please call me Felicity,” I said, trying to lighten the mood.
“Ms. Taylor, if you are successful, you will be part of my staff. Aside from Harvey, they are all called by their surnames. You will be no different.”
Mr. Coran glanced over the resume I had brought with me. “You’re a business graduate?” he questioned. “Top two percent in your class. Have the mighty fallen?”
“I was a PA for Mr. Lewis at Glow until he retired. CoranCorp bought the company and absorbed the business. Effectively, you killed my job,” I replied.
“A PA for a small sales company? These results could have had you as my PA, for goodness’ sake,” he said unapologetically
“I took what was available, sir. I wanted to be close to my mother,” I said. “But none of that matters now. I am jobless, and you have a job vacancy.”
Mr. Coran put the resume down. “You’re overqualified and yet somehow unexperienced for the job I need you to perform.”
“With all due respect, sir, I believe you’re in a bit of a bind.”
Mr. Coran’s blue eyes flickered with surprise. “You’re feisty, aren’t you, Ms. Taylor?”
“Feisty and also in a bind, Mr. Coran.”
“I’m here as a favor to my mom. She works for Jean, Loader and Associates—she has since I was born—and they’ve promised her a partnership if she can gain favor with your company in the restructure they’re planning.”
“Ah, yes, she mentioned being able to solve my childcare issue if I could take her proposal seriously. Well, I hope you can live up to her high hopes then.” He smiled, but only just.
“You’re giving me the job?”
“Ms. Taylor, I’ve hired twenty Nannies since Molly’s mother…uh, left. Twenty. That’s a little over a month per nanny. Not one of them was able to get Molly to smile like you did in the first few minutes.”
“Perhaps, against my better judgment, I want to give you the benefit of the doubt.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“Just don’t burn my house down in order to gain favor with my daughter, okay?” He smiled, and this time, it was genuine.
I smiled back, surprised to find warmth in it. Mr. Coran had a sense of humor after all.
“Come. Molly wanted you to say good night. Best we do that. I will email through a timetable. You will need to move in tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow?” I croaked. So soon?
“Is that going to be a problem, Ms. Taylor?” He stopped at the door, his hand still over the knob.
I looked up and let my eyes glance over his steely face. “No, sir, not a problem.”
“Good, Ms. Taylor.”
We walked down the hallway until we reached a bedroom door. Mr. Coran knocked on the door.
“Molly, are you in bed?”
“Yes, Daddy. Come in.”
Mr. Coran opened the door. Molly’s room was everything a little girl could hope for. She had all the toys one could ever hope for, but almost all of it looked untouched.
She smiled up at me. “What is your name, Ms. Taylor?”
“Felicity, but you can call me Flick.”
Molly giggled as she made a flicking motion with her fingers. “Flick!” she repeated.
“Are you my nanny now?” Her eyes sparkled, and she smiled widely as she changed her glance toward her father.
“Yes, honey, Ms. Taylor is your nanny,” he replied.
“Daddy…her name is Felicity,” she insisted.
“Felicity is your nanny, Molly,” he mused.
I tried to ignore how nice it felt to hear my name on his lips. It had been a while since I’d heard a man say my name.
My last boss had only called me “dear.” On second thought, maybe Mom was right about him…
“Daddy’s name is Dominic,” Molly offered. “But no one ever calls him that.”
“All right, Molly, it’s time for bed. Ms. Taylor—”
“Felicity!” Molly interjected.
“Felicity will be moving in tomorrow. You’ll have all the time in the world together.”
“Okay, Daddy. Good night.” Mr. Coran kissed Molly on the cheek and stood up.
“Good night, Molly,” I said softly, but I was surprised by her sitting up and grabbing my hand, yanking me down for a hug.
“Good night, Flick!”
Mr. Coran and I walked out of the room. He closed the door behind him and looked at me.
“I will be at work when you arrive, so let me show you to your room now,” he said. His steely cover came back, and the almost warmth he had exhibited in the room disappeared.
We walked down the hallway to the next room. He opened the door and turned the light on.
“I’ll have some new bed linen sent in before tomorrow.”
I walked into the room. It was obnoxiously big. The room was modern, with white walls and floors. It almost seemed clinical.
“You’re welcome to bring your own items in…but as you can see, I’ve furnished the room completely.”
“This will be fine,” I replied.
“Ms. Taylor, I must warn you, if you mess this up or hurt my daughter in any way, I will use my leverage to see you blackballed in the business world.”
I frowned and looked down at the perfect white carpet, troubled by the remark that was really just a thinly disguised threat. “Mr. Coran, the last thing I would want to do is hurt an innocent little girl.”
“Good answer, Ms. Taylor. I’ll see you out.”
Mr. Coran walked me to the front door. He stood there as I walked down the steps. My footing slipped on the last stair, and I fell forward onto the concrete path.
All too quickly, my head made contact with a hard surface, and as the world faded to black, a distressed voice called my name.
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When I came to, a hand was stroking my forehead, and I was leaning against someone’s legs. Disoriented, I tried to move and figure out what was going on.
“Felicity, you need to stay still,” Mr. Coran’s voice said softly. “You might have a concussion.”
“I’m Felicity now?” I mumbled.
“Until I know I haven’t caused you serious bodily harm, you are,” he replied. “My doctor is on his way.”
“I’m fine,” I replied, attempting to move again. “Besides, I did it, not you.”
“If you move, you’re fired.”
“You can’t do that!” I complained, sounding less like the grown woman I was and more like a toddler who was missing out on an ice cream cone.
“No contracts have been signed, Felicity.” He smiled. “And I always get my own way, so you should listen to me.”
I sighed and relaxed—well, as much as I could while I lay in the middle of the path with my head in his lap. He smiled down at me, his icy eyes sparkling under the path lamps.
“Are you always this clumsy?”
“Clumsy?” I choked. “Your stupid steps tripped me up!”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be investigating the steps, Felicity.”
“I don’t feel so good,” I whispered, suddenly feeling woozy. My eyes closed. They felt too heavy to keep open any longer.
“You need to stay awake, please.” His voice was worried. I tried to listen, but it was hard. I just wanted to sleep.
“When I was twelve, I thought that raisins grew on a raisin tree. I asked my parents to buy me a raisin tree for Christmas!” Mr. Coran exclaimed all of a sudden.
My eyes flickered opened, and my gaze caught his again.
“A raisin tree?” I knew he was trying to distract me, and it was working. I felt myself smile in amusement.
“Yes, my parents thought it was funny too.” He smiled, then his smile dropped.
“What did you get instead?” I whispered, curious.
“A vineyard,” he replied with a faded smile. “They liked to throw their money around.”
“The famous Coran wine collection,” I murmured. “Of course.”
Mr. Coran continued to talk to me until the doctor arrived. He almost seemed nice. His walls had fallen—at least while I was incapacitated.
After the doctor checked me over, he decided that I was indeed concussed.
“Can you walk, Miss?” the doctor said, pulling me to a standing position.
I used all of my energy to stay upright, but it wasn’t enough. Dizziness soon overcame me, and I fell backward, right into Mr. Coran’s arms.
“Come on, Felicity. Let’s get you upstairs,” he said as he picked me up. I allowed him to. After all, I was in no position to argue, not when I couldn’t even stand.
I rested my head against his chest. He smelled good, like a heady soft musk cologne.
It occurred to me as he carried me up the stairs that I had never been held like this by a man before. My romantic encounters had been bland and boring.
Not that this was any kind of romantic encounter, but just being close to a man was strange for me these days.
“This isn’t my room,” I mumbled as Mr. Coran walked into a dimly lit, exquisitely decorated deep blue room. He set me down on the largest bed I’d ever seen and ignored my observation.
“You’ll need to make sure she stays awake for a few hours. If she becomes disorientated or seems at all unwell, call me again, and I will meet you at the hospital,” the doctor said to Mr. Coran as they walked toward the door.
“I’m really feeling much better. I’m sure I could manage the drive home now,” I mumbled, attempting to stand.
Mr. Coran turned and eyeballed me. He pointed to the bed. “Sit. Now.”
I rolled my eyes and sat back down.
When he returned, he looked amused. “I’ve called your mother.”
“You have?” Oh, god, what did she say…?
“Yes. She wanted to come check on you, but I’ve assured her you’re okay.”
“Whose room is this?” I murmured, not wanting to fall asleep and find someone else trying to climb into bed with me.
“Mine, Felicity. As you will remember, your own bed is unmade. I have one of the maids sorting it, but for now, you can stay in here.”
Seriously? In his room? This man had me at a loss.
First, he was cold, calculating, and uncaring, and now, suddenly, he was doting and dutiful. What the heck was his deal?
“Mr. Coran…thank you for taking care of me,” I said softly, unable to put any of my thoughts into words.
“Dominic,” he replied.
“As we’re going to be in each other’s company for a few hours, Felicity, I think it’s probably best we put aside the formalities for now.”
I smiled and nodded, thankful for the loss of the formal title at least for the meantime.
At work was one thing, but inside a home, calling someone by such a formal name seemed so cold.
“Okay then, Dominic.”
He smiled at me and sat on the edge of the bed, his hand inches from mine, and for a moment, I wondered if he was going to touch me.
I was surprised to find myself intrigued by the possible connection.
But then he quickly moved away, ending the thoughts like a slamming door.
“Do you play cards, Felicity?” he questioned.
“I was in college studying business. As much as we like to believe sexism is diminishing, it isn’t. I had to prove myself, and I did it largely by joining in on poker nights.”
Alcohol-fueled, bet-driven poker nights, and after the first year, I stopped losing so much. It was a silly, immature way to gain respect, but it worked.
Dominic let out a small laugh. “Texas Hold’em?”
“Usually, but I’ll settle for basic if you want to play?”
Dominic stood up and walked over to his wardrobe. He returned with a deck of cards. Before he could sit down, there was a knock at the door.
“Yes?” Dominic called out, placing the deck on the bed.
“Mr. Coran, I have some food for Ms. Taylor.”
“Very well, Mrs. Sampson, bring it in,” Dominic said.
The door opened, and a short, portly, beautiful, happy woman strolled into the room.
She had long hair pulled high up in a bun and green eyes that peered into my soul as she placed the food down on the bedside table to my right.
She looked up at Dominic and nodded. “The bed is being made now, sir. I found some new linen.”
“Wonderful, Mrs. Sampson. You can head home once that is done.”
Mrs. Sampson nodded and smiled at both of us before she left the room.
“She doesn’t live here?” I whispered, looking at the feast on a tray beside me.
My stomach rumbled, but not in hunger. It looked amazing, but nerves had made my appetite disappear, and I wasn’t at all hungry.
“No. Only you and Harvey reside here. Everyone else commutes in the morning. I like the house to be somewhat empty now and again.”
He sat down and lifted the tray off the bedside table. “You need to eat. I’m gathering you didn’t before you came for the interview.” He placed it on my lap.
“No,” I replied, I picked up a fork and pushed a tomato around the plate. “I’m not sure I can eat.”
“Are you feeling nauseous? Dammit, I knew we should have gone to the hospital.” Pure panic crossed Dominic’s face, and before I could reply, he had his phone out of his pocket.
Frowning, I reached out. My hand brushed his arm. He moved back and dropped the phone.
“I’m just not hungry, that’s all.” I didn’t bother to tell him it was his disarming nature that was causing it. Dominic seemed to be the kind of guy who would enjoy knowing he had that effect on a person.
Dominic’s jaw clenched at my touch.
I pulled my arm back, but my gaze stayed locked with his. His eyes were a hypnotic blue, almost too cool and light to be real.
Against the contrast of his lightly tanned skin, he looked almost male model material. He was even blessed with that broody male frown, the one that hid a killer smile.
“Fine,” he replied, looking away.
He sat forward and took the tray, then began to deal the cards. We played for an hour before we finally gave up.
“You really did hone your craft,” he murmured sullenly after losing almost every hand.
“I wouldn’t call playing poker my craft, but thank you nonetheless,” I replied.
“I get the feeling you ran circles around the boys in college.”
“Academically, socially…in any way, really. They were probably jealous of you,” he murmured.
I shook my head. Academically, I had run circles around everyone, but I did it silently.
But I hadn’t been a social butterfly…ever. I didn’t take shit, and people in my class seemed to give a lot of it.
Besides, that didn’t matter. Dominic was right: the mighty had fallen. I had peaked too early. I had opportunities coming out my ears after college, but the only local one was at Glow.
A small sales company. Mom had never said it, but she wanted me to stay close by, so I took the local job.
Then it all ended. I was unemployed.
“None of that matters now,” I replied. “I’m not exactly having what my graduating class would call a dream career.”
Dominic frowned and looked down at his bed. “I learned a long time ago that doing what other people want and expect me to do is a surefire way to make avoidable mistakes. Everything is a step closer to the life you want, Felicity.”
I smiled. He was right. Besides, it wasn’t like I cared what anyone from college thought. I’d tolerated most of them at best.
Even the poker nights were snobby affairs with wine, cheese, and upper-class chatter. It had been so boring.
I yawned suddenly. “I’m so tired,” I whispered as my eyes closed and struggled to reopen.
“How about a movie?” Dominic suggested.
“Really?” Watching a movie with my boss seemed kind of strange.
“Sure,” he replied. “I still need to keep you awake.”
Dominic leapt up and grabbed a remote from the drawers. With the press of a button, the end of his bed opened, and a flat-screen moved out of it. I let out an amused laugh and shook my head.
“What?” he asked defensively.
“You have a TV inside of your bed.”
“I’ve never used it before,” he replied, the hint of a laugh present in his voice. “I don’t watch much TV.”
The screen turned on, and Dominic put a movie channel on. Reservoir Dogs was just beginning.
“Why do you have a TV in your bed then?”
“In case my staff cause themselves brain injuries by falling down my stairs,” he teased.
“Touché, Dominic. All right, well, this movie is okay with me.”
Dominic and I watched the movie, and sometime before it finished, I guess I fell asleep because when I awoke, I was still in his bed. The sun was streaming through the windows, straight down onto my face.
I looked beside me, and he lay there. Over the covers, but nonetheless next to me.
The man who had been so cold when we first met had suddenly become calm and sweet and slept beside me.
“Morning, Felicity. Sorry, I must have fallen asleep. How are you feeling?” he said as his eyes flickered open and met mine.
How the hell did he still look like he could walk onto a set and still be photo-ready first thing in the morning?
I lifted the blanket up over my mouth and nodded. “Well, thanks. Um, I should probably go home…back to my mom’s and pack my things”
Dominic nodded. “Of course. Have some breakfast first though. You didn’t eat last night,” he reminded me with a brief smile.
“Very perceptive of you. All right, I’ll eat breakfast before I go.” I almost complained, but my stomach was rumbling, and this time, it was with hunger.
Dominic stood up and walked over to the door. He didn’t say anything else before leaving.
I got out of bed a few minutes later and walked out of the room. I was a little lost orienteering through the large hallways, but then, like a beautiful beacon of light, Molly bounded around a corner.
“Flick! Daddy said you hurt your head last night. Are you okay?” She sounded worried.
“I’m all right. A little lost though.”
“It’s okay, Flick, this place is too big. Daddy said it’s breakfast time. Come on.”
Molly took my hand and dragged me through the house, down a flight of stairs, and around too many corners to count. We reached the dining room, where Dominic sat already waiting.
He looked up and shot me a terse smile, far less warm than the last one.
“Ms. Taylor, please sit,” he said. His voice wasn’t as soft as it had been either. In fact, it was almost as though everything had returned to the cool, standoffish atmosphere we started on.
I sat down and looked across at Molly, who smiled and pointed to the lotus flower candle.
“I made Daddy let me leave it on the table as a centerpiece.”
“Mr. Coran, are you ready for breakfast?” Mrs. Sampson asked from behind me.
“Yes, we are. Thank you, Mrs. Sampson.”
Mrs. Sampson returned with bacon and eggs as well as enough bananas to make an entire jungle of monkeys happy. She filled a glass up with orange juice for me and tapped me on the shoulder.
“Eat up, Ms. Taylor. Young Molly will have run you off your feet by the end of the day.”
“You’ll start tomorrow, Ms. Taylor,” Dominic said without looking up. “I’ll take Molly to school today.”
“I’m really okay, sir…,” I tried to reply and let my gaze move back to Dominic.
“Ms. Taylor, you need to stop questioning and fighting me. I told you, you’ll start tomorrow. Okay?” He looked up, his eyes locked with mine, and I knew not to argue with him. I knew it was futile.
He hadn’t become the billionaire CEO of a famous company by conceding to people. No, he made the rules, and people stuck by them.
I felt Mrs. Sampson’s hands lift from my shoulders.
“Sorry. Of course.”
“Good. Now, let’s eat.”
We ate in silence. There was no chatting between father and daughter, no happy banter.
It reminded me of my own father at the same age.Things had always been so…cold.
I looked over at Molly, who smiled at me and then sipped on her juice.
“Do you like school, Molly?” I asked with a smile.
I felt Dominic glare at me, and I could see in Molly’s eyes that talking at the table wasn’t something they did, but she smiled anyway and nodded.
“My teacher is called Mrs. Ravid, but I call her Rabbit because she is cute.”
“That’s very sweet!”
“Molly, are you finished?” Dominic asked, putting his knife and fork down.
“No, Daddy,” she replied. Her smile fell, and she looked at her father.
“Then you need to eat. Ms. Taylor, I’ll leave the contract on your bed when you return from collecting your things. Read it, please. I have certain rules, and you need to abide by them. All right?”
“Of course, sir,” I replied monotonously, aware I had just been reprimanded but unsure of why.
After breakfast, I left the house and drove back to the ranch. Mom was home, which surprised me.
“Oh, honey! Are you all right?” she said as she ran out the door and frisked my head, searching for visible bumps.
“Mom, I tripped and fell, no damage done. I promise.”
“Dominic Coran has a heart, huh? Who knew?” Mom smiled, looping her arm through mine.
“What do you mean, Mom?”
“He was very worried when he called me. Asked if you have any allergies to medications. He was thorough.”
“He’s my boss, Mom. He’d probably get in trouble if he didn’t make sure I was okay.”
“So you got the job then?” Mom beamed as she sat me down at the breakfast bar.
“Yes. I start tomorrow, but I need to return tonight.”
“Oh? So I don’t get one last night with you?” She frowned and walked over to the refrigerator. “I was going to make your favorite.”
“I can see if… I’m sure he…” I stopped. The fact was, I knew he wouldn’t be so accommodating—at least, not unless I suddenly had returning symptoms. “I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sure I will get a night off each week. We can have dinner then, okay?”
“Of course, honey. I’m very appreciative of this. You have no idea.” She smiled as she walked across the polished hardwood floor with an orange juice.
“Mom, after all you’ve done for me, this is the least I can do. Besides, Molly reminds me of myself.”
Mom smiled and tilted her head. “Of course she does.”
“Anyway, I’d better go pack some clothes.” I slid off the stool and walked into the kitchen. I pressed my lips to her head. “I love you, Mom.”
“I love you too, honey. I’m going to miss you.” Mom’s voice wavered, and she wrapped her arms around my waist.
“Me too, Mom.”
She let me go, and I walked slowly through the house I grew up in.
I hadn’t been away from the place for longer than a week, even during college. Leaving seemed almost unnatural. It wasn’t as big and flashy as the mansion, but it felt like home—my home.
Pictures of Mom and me filled the place like a storybook of the years we had shared. It was going to be difficult not having that warmth around me for three months.
I walked into my room and opened my closet. I pulled my barely used suitcases out and began to pile in clothes.
Once I had everything, I zipped it up and walked out of the room and back down to the kitchen, where Mom was still standing.
“I don’t need to be partner,” she sobbed. “I haven’t been alone in this house ever, and I don’t think I’m going to like it.”
I put the suitcase down and walked over to Mom. “You deserve to be partner, Mom, and you won’t really be alone. I’ll visit as often as I can. You’re only down the road after all.”
I wiped the tears from my Mothers eyes. “I’m going to go back now, but I’ll call tonight, okay?”
“All right, honey,” she said, holding back her sobs.
I walked back to my suitcase, and, holding back my own tears, I left the house and drove back to the mansion.
The gate opened without me needing to talk. Harvey must have seen me coming. I parked my car and hopped out.
Errant tears streaked my face. It was going to be hard staying here. I was so used to warmth, and aside from the fleeting moment last night, warmth seemed to be against Dominic’s rules.
Reluctance and fear set in as I pulled my suitcase up the steps and knocked on the door.
Harvey answered and ushered me in. I found my way to my bedroom and sat down on the freshly made bed.
There was no turning back now. I was here.
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