Chapter 2


I hurried a little bit down the stairs, running a hand through my hair, and wondering why I had woken up this late. I hadn't intended to sleep in but I'd been exhausted after all the meetings I'd attended in the past few days. Apparently, my body had somehow gotten a hint that I didn't have to be in a meeting today until late in the evening.

I glanced down at my phone to check the time. Luckily if I hurried, I could still get Brian to school on time. My eyebrows pinched as I reminded myself I still hadn't gotten him a nanny. It was becoming to affect the both of us. Him being so lonely all the time and me cutting into my work hours to spend some time with him or do basic things like pick him up from school.

I put on the coffee maker and then poured his favorite cereal into a bowl.

I'd just had the first sip of my coffee when he practically flew down the stairs like I hadn't politely asked him not to on several occasions.

"Brian, what did I tell you about skipping the stairs?" I asked, my voice taking on a tone of displeasure. He took a seat at the dining table, dropping his bag pack on the empty seat beside him.

His lips lifted in a broad smile that pulled at my heart. "I don't know, dad" He replied, gazing at me and feigning forgetfulness. "What did you tell me?"

Stalking to the table, I lifted him and carried him on my shoulder, making a show of ruffling his hair. He hated it when anyone touched his hair. It didn't even matter who it was or how much he loved you. Never mess with his hair.

"Dad, stop!" He screamed between bouts of laughter. I didn't pay any attention to him. His tiny hands began beating on my back as he desperately tried and failed to act serious. When that didn't work, he faked loud exaggerated sobs. "I'm gonna be late!"

Rolling my eyes at his antics, I put him back down. I don't remember loving to go to school this much when I was a kid. Then again, Brian was super smart for his age and his classmates were in awe of his intelligence. He was basically the ring leader of his class in his own way.

He ran to the mirror to adjust his hair and then sat back down and began digging into his cereal. I leaned on the counter, crossing my legs at my ankle and watching him. It was a shame Hildie hadn't lived long enough to see him now. She would have been so proud.

We'd been dating since high school and had gotten married few weeks after realizing Hildie was pregnant. We both knew we were eventually going to end up getting married to each other but neither of us had thought it would be that early. It was true that we hadn't planned on having a baby, especially when we weren't married yet but after we found out there was no way we weren't going to go through with it.

We loved each other so much.

I picked up my coffee, staring at a random spot on the wall and trying to control the anger I seemed to always feel whenever my mind drifted to my late wife. Life hadn't been fair to us. We had been married for a few years only before she died in a car crash.

My gaze shifted to Brian. It broke my heart that he was growing up without his mother by his side. My sister tried to drop by the house sometimes along with my mom so he didn't feel the absence of a female presence but it just wasn't the same.

It's been seven years since Hildie passed and though my parents had encouraged me to move on, I didn't think I was ready yet. I was barely able to even notice when a woman was around me. Or at least I'd barely been able to notice.

Until a week ago.

I pushed myself away from the counter, seeing that Brian was already finished with his breakfast. We tidied up the table, put his lunch into his bag and then proceeded to leave the house. Brian was right after all.

He actually was late.


I hoped to drive in, drop Brian off at school and drive back out. His teacher had been making moves on me lately and I didn't know the best way to let her know that I wasn't interested in her. She'd made a point of inviting me for a one on one parent teacher meeting that I'd asked Janie to attend on my behalf.

Brian jumped down from the car the second I had his door open, not waiting for me to assist him. I gave him a displeased look but kept silent. He pushed the door shut and then hugged me.

"Bye, dad," He bade after I'd hugged him back. He was practically bouncing around on his feet with impatience and excitement. "See you later! I love you!"

I let out a chuckle when he sped inside the building. I'd never seen a kid so excited to be in school. At first I'd worried that it somehow meant he wasn't comfortable being at home with me. My mom had quickly put my fears to rest when I voiced them out to her, assuring me that Janie had been like that too when she was a kid.

He disappeared from my line of sight soon enough, taking a bend in the direction of his class. My entire body tensed when I noticed his teacher walking towards me.

"Mr. Grey," She called out to me. For a moment I considered walking away and acting like I didn't hear her but then I quickly decided against it. I didn't want to get used to avoiding her. She was Brian's teacher after all and she might actually have important information for me at some point.

"Miss Shepherd," I replied, acknowledging her. I gave her a small nod and then made a point of looking down at my wrist watch to trick her into thinking that I was in a hurry. "Is there a problem?"

Her lips widened, her smile a little too much for a simple question. "No, of course not. And please, call me Penelope." She shook her head, trying to come out as being natural. "I was a little worried when I saw your sister at the parent teacher meeting in place of you, that's all."

I tried as much as I could to look apologetic. "Yeah, something urgent came up and I couldn't make it." My heart skipped a bit, hoping she wasn't able to detect the irritation in my voice. Luckily she wasn't that emotionally attentive.

She took a step towards me, shortening the distance between us. Her voice reduced to a whisper and her gaze turned seductive. "I'm still willing to have the meeting if you are." The top button of her shirt had somehow managed to come undone within seconds of our talking.

I let my gaze drop down, I was a hot blooded male after all, briefly considering finally taking her up on what she was obviously offering. My brain instantly rejected the idea. I didn't want her on Brian's case should anything go wrong.

More than that, I wasn't even interested in her in that way. I had a feeling she could go completely naked in front of me and I would barely notice. I would have thought that to be a problem if I hadn't just recently found that I could still get impossibly turned on.

Shaking my head and bringing my voice to a note that sounded as non-indulgent as possible, I took a step back from her. "I don't think that would be necessary." I pinned her with my stare. "I trust that you kept my sister updated on everything she needed to know concerning Brian?"

She flushed, obviously seeing the rejection for what it was. Moving a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear, her attention drifted from mine to a blank spot behind me.

"Of course I did," She said in reply, meeting my gaze briefly. Her tone was professional now and I had a feeling she had finally gotten the hint.

Thank goodness.

"Great," I said and then walked myself back to my car. My mind drifted back to the woman from the coffee shop as I drove back home to catch some sleep. I hadn't even gotten her name. I'd been too surprised that after all these years I'd found myself almost as attracted to someone as I had been to Hildie.

If there was one thing I believed in though, it was fate. I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel, releasing a calm breath. I didn't regret not getting her name though. It was a bit weird, but I was certain our paths were going to cross again somehow.

I just hoped it was sooner rather than later.


I stared across the table at my secretary, waiting for an explanation. I was deeply confused as to why the receptionist who worked at the front desk of the hotel had suddenly decided to quit her job just five days to the hotel's annual anniversary gala. It was a huge event we organized every year to celebrate the establishment of the hotel and it's unmatched success over the years and a lot of celebrities were expected to be in attendance.

Her eyebrows creased and she went silent, a sure indication that she had no explanation to offer. I put Frankie in charge of employing staff because I trusted her judgement, and with good reason. Which was why I was very surprised that someone she had employed would be capable of behaving so absurdly. Especially since she seemed to have a type of relationship of some sort with almost everyone she let work for me.

I ran my hand down the length of my face, instantly getting worried. The event was in two days and we already had a lot of preparations to tidy without adding the lack of a receptionist to the mix. "What's the next step from here?" I questioned, knowing she must have already come up with a solution before coming to my office.

Her fingers lifted and she pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. Taking a step further she tried to assure me that she had everything under control. "I've already put up an ad because that seemed to be the fastest way to get someone who would replace her." Her voice was firm and steady. "I'll put everything else aside to conduct an interview online and hopefully by tomorrow, this problem will be solved."

She walked to the fridge at a corner in the room and poured out a glass of water, throwing a few ice cubes into it. Her heels made tapping noises as she rounded the corner and handed me the cup.

Shooting her a grateful smile, I accepted it and downed the water in one go. I tried to calm myself down, assuring myself that everything would iron itself out. The Enchanted Garden was a five star hotel. I was sure Frankie was going to find a receptionist despite the short notice in no time. It was her employing someone who had bad intentions that I was afraid of.

I handed the cup back to her, making sure she knew to take my next words seriously. "As much as you have to do this on such short notice, please be careful." I emphasized. She nodded and then turned to leave. "And try not to employ someone who would quit their job during the event."

I released a small laugh, hoping to take the sting put of my words. I needed her to know that this was very important. People from the media were going to be in attendance and I couldn't have the hotel plastered all over the news for the wrong reasons.

"Of course," Her voice had reduced to a whisper. I held myself back from trying to soothe her, knowing she was probably going to be a bit more careful if she thought I was angry and disappointed in her. Which I wasn't, of course but then I didn't want her to know that.

I was a dick. I knew that.

The door closed behind her as she exited my office and I let my head fall back to my chair. My phone rang out before I could even begin to sort out my thoughts. Bringing it to my ear, I felt my body relax at the soothing voice asking how I'd been from the other end of the line.

"Nice of you to finally call, mom."

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