“I’m not an easy screw. Don’t talk about me like that again.” I close the door before he can reply.
I’m an asshole.
This isn’t news to me. God knows Elena made sure to tell me repeatedly before she died, and I’ve worn the fucking label as a badge of honor since. It’s my own personal scarlet letter, except instead of punishment, it’s protection. It’s the wall I keep around me—around Lilly. I’d carry a sign if I could. Asshole. Stay away.
I’ve met too many women who want to step in and replace my wife. They think marrying a doctor would be great. I mean, nobody with money has real problems, right? It’s a fucking joke, but it doesn’t mean people don’t believe it. But Elena can’t be replaced, and Lilly doesn’t need a new mommy. I’ve been diligent to avoid women who don’t understand that. Sure, I had that misstep with Kyrstie—she said she was looking for the same thing I was but decided she wanted more and tried to strong-arm me into giving it to her. Otherwise, my scarlet letter A has served me fucking well.
Tonight, for the first time I can remember in so long, I don’t want to be an ass. I just want to take it back.
“I’m not an easy screw. Don’t talk about me like that again.”
Was it the look on Nic’s face or the way her words trembled as she spoke them? Or maybe it’s that I knew calling her easy was unfair the moment I said it. Hell, she probably skipped dinner tonight just so she didn’t have to be near me. The asshole.
I walk halfway down the basement stairs and stop to watch the girls. Lilly’s been dragging Nic around the house all night, and now they’re in the basement playing with Lilly’s kitchen set. Nic is sitting on the floor with her legs crossed under her as Lilly pretends to be her waitress and brings her plates full of toy food.
“How did you know lemon and hot dog sandwiches were my favorite?” Nic asks. She dips her head down to the plate and inhales deeply. “It smells so good.”
I’m not sure what I expected, but Nic is amazing with Lilly. She’s not just a competent caregiver—she clicks with my daughter. A lot of people talk down to kids or ask them questions to pretend to make conversation, but never listen to the child’s answer. Not Nic. She listens when Lilly talks. She treats Lilly like the most important person in the room.
Nic pretends to take a bite of the plastic hot dog and moans in appreciation. The sound zips through me, carrying with it a memory of my face between her legs, and goes straight to my cock.
Lilly giggles. “You don’t really like that, do you? You just mean pretend, right?”
“What? You don’t like hot dog and lemon sandwiches?” Nic asks.
Lilly throws her head back to laugh and then spots me on the stairs. “Daddy, come play with us. Nic is so funny.”
The smile falls from Nic’s face as she follows Lilly’s gaze and meets my eyes.
I tear my gaze from hers and smile at my daughter. “I need to make some calls. Are you two okay?”
“That means he’s going into his office and we can’t bother him,” Lilly says to Nic. “He has to do that sometimes because he’s a baby doctor.”
Nic studies her plate and toys with the plastic lemon. “We’re fine.”
I swallow hard. Asshole. “You can come get me if you need me, Lil.”
I head back upstairs and to my office at the front of the house, where I’ve already pulled up the website for a nanny service. I feel like such a dick for making my mom go through the whole nanny search only to replace her choice the moment she arrives.
Even then, I knew I should do it, but it was easier to let my mom take on that responsibility. I couldn’t think about bringing in a nanny because it meant thinking about Elena. But now I see my mistake.
The problem isn’t just what Nic and I did last night. I never would have hired her if I’d met her during the interview process. I’m too attracted to her, and even if we hadn’t already messed around, that attraction would have been a problem. And fuck, since I saw her underwear when I walked in on her unpacking, I’m never going to be able to look at her without thinking about anything but the lace beneath her clothes.
“You’re really a next-level creep when it comes to this girl, Jackson,” I mutter.
I sink into my chair, wake up the computer, and stare at my partially completed request form on the screen. Guilt rips through me. Lilly has already connected with Nic, and I’m going to send her away.
We’ll come up with an excuse. Lilly will understand. If anything, I should think of their connection as a reason to find Nic’s replacement sooner rather than later. I don’t want Lilly getting too attached to anyone.