A Mountain Haven Novel, Book 4
Accepting a nanny position seemed like a good way to escape my past. To prove I’d changed.
I never counted on Sam, my new boss. He’s trying to run his family’s contracting business and raise his daughter by himself. I want to ignore my attraction to him, but it’s impossible with us living in the same house. Maybe I haven’t come as far as I thought.
Until a midnight encounter changes everything. I discover he’s protective, caring, and his concern for me is the sexiest thing about him. But he’s also dangerous because he makes me think that anything’s possible. Even a future with him and Maggie.
Can I take a gamble with him and hope my past doesn’t catch up with the future I’m racing towards?
+ Excerpt +
Parking in the driveway of his nondescript suburban home, I smoothed a hand over my skirt, took a deep breath, and made my way to the front door.
I knocked, my heart thumping in my ears.
Heavy footsteps sounded on wood floors. Then the door opened. My gaze was immediately drawn to the little girl in the man’s arms. She tucked her head into her daddy’s neck as if she were shy, her blonde curls covering her face.
“Hey there,” I said with a smile.
She lifted her head tentatively.
“I’m Alice. It’s so nice to meet you.”
“She’s a little shy when she first meets someone.” Sam’s voice was deep, his bicep bulging from holding his daughter on his hip.
Too late, I realized I’d addressed the child before the man. “I’m sorry. I’m Alice Carmichael.”
“Elle’s sister,” he said, and it wasn’t a question.
“That’s right. We talked on the phone.”
He stepped back. “Come inside.”
I quickly scanned the foyer and what was visible in the living room. Toys were strewn across the rug, but it was homey. I drew on the manners my mother had instilled in me over the years. “You have a beautiful home.”
“Thank you.” Sam set his daughter down, and she immediately began playing with a dollhouse as she kept one wary eye on me.
I dropped to my knees on the floor next to her. “It’s so nice to meet you, Maggie.”
Sam sat on the couch, his legs spread, his elbows resting on his thighs. “I need someone who can start right away.”
“I’ve been watching my niece the last few years, and she starts school next week. So, I’m available to start then.” I kept my gaze on Maggie, watching her as she organized the furniture in the house and set up her dolls on a chaise.
Sam drew in a long breath, drawing my attention to him.
“I don’t have any formal experience. I haven’t nannied for anyone outside my family. If that’s not enough experience, I’ll understand.” It was hard to believe anyone would want to hire me when my résumé consisted solely of babysitting my niece.
I wanted to be honest with him. I didn’t want to give anyone a false idea of my abilities. I was done with pretending to be someone I wasn’t.
When he didn’t answer, I continued. “I don’t have any certifications, and I haven’t taken any college courses. My skills are all from on-the-job training.”
“I would think watching children is on-the-job training,” Sam said.
Relaxing slightly at his words, I asked Maggie, “Do you mind if I play?”
When she nodded eagerly, I picked up one of the dolls that looked less loved, figuring it wasn’t one of her favorites, and said in a high-pitched voice. “May I come over to play?”
Maggie covered her mouth and giggled.
It was lovely. I let the sound fill my chest.
Maggie moved her doll in front of mine. “Would you like tea?”
“I’d love some.” We played like that for a few minutes. I was aware that Sam was watching me. I wasn’t sure what was appropriate for an interview like this, but I figured he’d want to know if I was good with kids, and I was more comfortable playing with Maggie than facing him.
Finally, Sam cleared his throat. “I go to work early. I need to leave by six a.m. Most of the time, I’m home by four, but sometimes I might be late, depending on what’s going on at the job site.”
“Okay.” I was used to Gray’s long hours and Elle’s changing schedule. Other than making time for my art, I didn’t have any other commitments.
“Most of the other nannies didn’t like the schedule. I’d prefer to know before I hire you whether that will be a problem.”
“It won’t be. I don’t have anything else going on.” I preferred to work on my art in the evenings, so it might work out perfectly. “It would allow for me to spend time with my niece too.”
He nodded. “I don’t want to change nannies this frequently. I’d like consistency.”
“I have no plans to leave.” I wasn’t from Telluride, but until I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, this job meant security, and I needed that.
“Elle said you were looking for an apartment. You’re welcome to stay in the guest room. That way you can sleep in and get up when Maggie does. She usually sleeps until about seven.”
I was thinking about getting an apartment, but after I looked at the rent prices in the area, it wasn’t possible. “That would be perfect, actually.”
I’d get out of Elle and Gray’s home and be on my own. Somewhat, anyway. It sounded like Sam wasn’t home often, and I could visit Amelia in the evenings.
“I’d prefer it if you weren’t out late. I go to bed early.”
I almost laughed at that. “I haven’t had much time to meet people since I moved here. I’ve been taking care of Amelia.”
I held his gaze, needing him to know I was responsible. Or at least as responsible as I’d ever been. I was trying to make up for my past.
“I’m not saying you can’t go out. You’re young.”
For the first time, I allowed myself to take him in. He was muscular. It was obvious he did something physical as part of his job. He couldn’t have been much older than twenty-seven or twenty-eight, so just a couple of years older than me.
“You don’t have anything to worry about. I’m boring.” It was funny to say that, because when I was a teenager, I was out all hours of the night, following Elle and the production crew around. She tried to shield me from the show, but I always found a way to be there. I wasn’t going to miss out on the excitement. Now, I wanted nothing to do with partying or going to a bar. I was done with that life.
I didn’t have any friends in Telluride, other than Elle’s. And I didn’t think they trusted me, not after what I’d done.
“Did you have any other questions?” I was happy to alleviate any of his concerns.
“Let me walk you to the door.”
My stomach dropped. He didn’t think I was right for the job. It was what I’d thought, but the reality hurt worse than I expected. “It was so nice to meet you, Ms. Maggie.”
“Will you come over to play again?”
“That’s up to your daddy,” I said, rising to my feet. I followed Sam to the door, dread pulling at me with each step I took.
“Thank you for coming by.”
I walked through the door and faced him. I knew I wasn’t good enough for a position like this. Parents wanted someone they could trust. Not someone with no résumé or education.
He rested a hand on the top of the frame, leaning slightly toward me. “If you could start on Monday, that would be great.”
“Are you saying I got the job?” The question was out of my mouth before I could retract it. I was just so surprised that he wanted to hire me. He’d wanted someone reliable, and despite how much I’d worked at it over the last few years, I wouldn’t exactly call past-Alice reliable.
He scrubbed a hand over his face. “Sorry, I got a little ahead of myself. I’d like to offer you the job.”
“I’d love to.” Pleasure flowed through me. I’d gotten my first real job.
“Can you start on Monday? I know it’s soon.”
I chewed my lip, wondering if it was okay to ask for a favor on my first day. “I’d like to see my niece, Amelia, off to her first day of school. Would it be okay if I brought Maggie?”
He nodded his head. “That’s not a problem.”
“I should have asked if we could have playdates with Amelia, too. Elle would be there, of course. I wouldn’t be watching both kids at the same time. That’s not what you’re hiring me to do.”
Sam gave me a measured look. “If you need to watch Amelia, I don’t mind. Just let me know.”
“You hired me to give all of my attention to Maggie.”
His brow furrowed. “It would be good for her to have friends. None of the other nannies took her on playdates.”
Nodding, I said, “I’ll clear it with you first, of course.”
Dropping his hand, he asked, “Would you want to move your things this weekend so that you’re settled?”
“That would be great.” I probably should have asked to see the room, but I was so nervous, I forgot.
“Just let me know when you’re coming by. I’ll have a key ready for you.”
“I appreciate it. I’m looking forward to working with you.” I held out my hand, and he looked at it for a second before taking it.
His hand was larger than mine, his skin rough, probably from working with them all day. The slight squeeze sent a jolt of tingles through my fingers and up my arm to my elbow.
I was aware he was an attractive man, but the charge from touching him was unnerving. I had no interest in dating, especially not the man who was now my boss.