My mysterious stranger appears behind Jake. He’s wearing a black leather jacket and gloves, and his eyes darken when they take me in. There’s already a swarm of nervous butterflies occupying my belly, and the sight of him makes them do the cha-cha. He narrows his eyes at me. “Nic? What are you doing here?”
Jake straightens and presses a hand to his belly, taking a deep breath before turning to face his brother. “Nic is here because she’s the new nanny.” He turns back to me and points to my mysterious stranger. “Nic, this is Dr. Jackson, but you can call him Ethan.”
I can feel the blood draining from my face even as I watch the same happen to Ethan. Last night, he put his name and phone number on a piece of paper. And I was so proud of myself for throwing it away. If I’d read it, I could have avoided this. Or at least been prepared.
Jake chuckles and smacks Ethan on the back. “The good news is you already know you enjoy her company, am I right?” He holds his side and tries to breathe around his laughter. “I’ll leave you two alone.”
Please don’t. I stare at Jake’s retreating form, but he’s gone, and I’m standing here clutching my purse, staring at Dr. Ethan Jackson. The sexy stranger who gave me the hottest night of my life.
My new boss.
How did this happen?
All the heat in his eyes turns cold. Even though it sucks to have his anger directed at me, I think I prefer it to his completely blank expression. “You told me your name was Nic.”
“My nanny’s name is Veronica.”
I nod stupidly. “That’s right.”
He folds his arms. “Which is it? Veronica, or Nic?”
I’m speechless. It was one thing to plan to lie to a complete stranger, but lying to a man who touched me the way this man did last night feels unforgivable. “I’m sorry.” I shake my head. “I didn’t know. Maybe I should leave?”
“You’ve met!” someone chirps behind me.
I swing around to see Kathleen Jackson climbing the front steps. She’s in a long black peacoat and has a Burberry scarf wrapped around her neck. She’s smiling so brightly that I almost don’t recognize her as the woman who confessed she was ill and begged me to lie as a favor to her.
Her gaze bounces between me and Ethan. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah,” Ethan says. “Everything’s fine.”
Guilt ripples through me. I haven’t even started yet, and I feel like I’ve already let this woman down.
Since I walked away from her last night, I’ve done little but think about Nic. Her taste, the feel of her skin under mine, the sound of her moan when I slid my hand between her legs and parted her thighs.
I spent half my day trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to see her again. When that didn’t work, I proceeded to spend the next half trying to imagine a scenario in which I could taste her again. I was distracted with thoughts of showing up at her hotel room and kissing her before she could speak. I went to the gym and worked out hard, trying to shake the memory of her, and when that failed, I spent my shower with my dick in my hand and the memory of her taste on my tongue.
But nowhere in my grand scheming and daydreaming did I imagine her moving into my home. In none of the scenarios I cobbled together did I want her to get close to Lilly.
“Why are you two out here in the cold?” Mom asks. “It’s freezing. Get inside.”
I tear my eyes off Nic for the first time since I spotted her on my porch. Mom is beaming at Nic.
“I’m sorry I was late. Those ladies on the Friends of the Library Committee wouldn’t stop chattering about stuff that has nothing to do with the library. Those women, I swear they only do it for the gossip.” Mom waves a hand. “Anyway, I’m here now.”
“Good to see you, Mom.” I lean forward to hug her and kiss her cheek. I need to buy time. I need to think. If I send Nic away right now, it’ll mean Mom has to cancel her trip. It would also mean . . . sending Nic away.
Nic’s cheeks are bright pink. Is that embarrassment? Last night, I’d have confidently interpreted her expression as embarrassment, but now I’m questioning everything I think I know about her. Was her bullshit about not wanting my name all part of a game? Did she already know who I was? That’s the only explanation for how convenient this all feels.
“Come on.” Mom puts a hand on each of our backs. “Into the house, you two.”
Suddenly, I’m sixteen again and called into the kitchen after my mom found condoms in my bedroom. That day she sat me and Elena down and gave us the most straightforward sex-and-consequences talk any parent has ever given.