Do you have an age preference for your nanny?
I scroll through the choices and click fifty-plus.
There’s a soft knock on my door. When I open my eyes, I expect to see my apartment in Jeffe—the buttery yellow on the walls, the sun slanting in across my beaten wooden dresser. Instead, I’m disoriented, unsure where I am for a few sleepy moments.
I’m in a big, soft bed, weighed down by a fluffy comforter, and the gray-blue walls around me aren’t familiar. It takes me a beat or two to click everything into place. Lilly. My new job. The most awkward first day ever. The sexy asshole.
I blink at the clock. It’s 3:49 a.m.
“Nic?” Ethan calls from the other side of the door.
I sit up in bed. “Come in.”
The door opens slowly, and Ethan takes a single step into my room. He’s dressed nicely in a shirt and tie and crisp black pants. “I just got called to the hospital. I’m sorry. I wanted to be here to help you with Lilly on your first day, but I doubt I’ll be back before you have to leave to get her to school.”
“It’s fine.” I clutch the blanket in my lap and resist the instinct to cover my sleep clothes. When I changed for bed last night, I chose the least slutty of my honeymoon attire, but the lacy cami and shorts are hardly appropriate. Can he see? God, am I hoping he can or can’t?
He called you an easy screw. It’s like my new mantra. If don’t-be-attracted-to-the-asshole mantras are a thing.
I force myself to keep my eyes on him. “That’s why I’m here, right?”
“Right.” His voice sounds rusty, like he just rolled out of bed too, though if I had to judge by his appearance alone, I’d guess he’d been up for hours. “You have the itinerary Mom gave you?”
I nod. “And the directions to the school and her emergency contacts. There’s nothing to worry about.”
“Mom’s still here, so she can help too, but I know she has some meetings today. If you have questions, you can get me on my cell. Leave a voicemail, and I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”
I nod. He doesn’t need to apologize. Honestly, I’m way less nervous about tackling my first morning with Lilly now that her father won’t be looking over my shoulder. I can care for children. I can follow a simple itinerary for her day and get through the items on the household to-do list. This is what I did for three different summers in Alabama. I’d even say I’m good at it. Though, to be fair, I’ve never found it particularly difficult. “Got it.” I mentally urge him out of the room. What is it about him seeing me in bed that feels so intimate?
He stays rooted to his spot. “Are you sleeping okay?” His gaze dips from my face and down to the bed, as if it might reveal the answer to his question.
“Just fine.” It’s almost true. I don’t know how long I lay here last night thinking of Ethan downstairs and replaying our front-porch introduction, remembering his hands on me. Getting my brain to shut off is always the hardest part, but once it did, I was out like a light.
“The bed’s okay?”
He doesn’t look convinced. “I’ll see you later, then?”
“Sure. Have a good day.” Awkward.
He backs out the door and pulls it shut as he goes.
Only when the door clicks closed do I let myself look down and see what Ethan just saw. Under my lacy cami, my nipples are at full attention. They, apparently, don’t care that he’s an asshole.
“We’re turning over a new leaf, you little hussies,” I whisper. “No more assholes.”
I slink down into my bed, pulling the comforter to my chin. At some point this week, I need to buy myself new pajamas. I’ll replace the skimpy lace negligees that scream “fuck me” with flannel neck-high full-length nightgowns that’ll get me a jumpstart on my life as an aspiring cat lady.
I squeeze my eyes shut—sleep first—but it’s too late. I’m way too wired to fall back asleep now.
I might as well get up and get a start on this day. I climb out of bed, grab my things, and head to the bathroom across the hall. The Little Mermaid smiles at me from the shower curtain, and my heart squeezes. I have seriously mixed emotions regarding Ethan Jackson. How can the jerk who sneered at me yesterday also be the doting father who decorated his daughter’s bathroom in a Disney theme? Then again, maybe his mother put this together for her. Or maybe his wife before she died?
I finish my shower, pull my wet hair back into a braid, and dress in jeans and a sweater—the other outfit Teagan let me borrow. Teagan’s bustier than me, so the sweater is a little baggy, but it beats running around in a sundress when it’s thirty degrees outside.