My first stop is for nanny-appropriate PJs. In other words, the kind of PJs I’d typically wear at home anyway. The last thing I want to do is find myself tucking a restless kid back into bed while wearing a see-through negligee. I’m not used to this cold, so I choose all the flannel and fleece I can find.
In the women’s section, I grab a few pairs of jeans, yoga pants for housework, and some long-sleeved shirts along with a coat so I can return Teagan’s. I’m contemplating a new bathrobe when I catch a woman watching me. I turn and offer a smile. “Hello?”
The woman has dark hair and hard blue eyes, and when I smile at her, her nose crinkles like she smells something bad.
I look down at myself to make sure I don’t have an unzipped fly or toilet paper hanging off one of my shoes.
“Are you making yourself at home?”
I frown. “Excuse me?”
“I wouldn’t get too comfortable if I were you. You’re as disposable as any of his other women.” She shakes her head and mutters an insult before turning on her heel and disappearing into another aisle.
Did she just call me a tramp?
The encounter leaves a bad feeling in my stomach, and I hurry to finish the rest of my shopping. On my way to the register, I pass an endcap with crafts. Precut pieces of felt are supposed to be glued together to make a turkey. I throw one in the cart for Lilly and make my way to the checkout.
I have to stop thinking about the cold-eyed woman. She probably thought I was someone else. Anyway, it’s not like she said anything meaningful. I try to let it go, but the cashier seems to be staring at me too.
“You’re Dr. Jackson’s new nanny, right?”
“Is that a problem?” I flinch at my tone. Just because some stranger made me uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean I should take it out this poor girl.
She shakes her head. “Not at all. Between you and me, I’m just glad he has some help.” She reaches for my things as I add them to the belt.
I turn toward the door and realize the woman I spoke with by the bathrobes is leaving. “Did she say something to you about me?”
“Kyrstie was just running her mouth. I wouldn’t give it a second thought if I were you.”
I gape. “But I don’t even know her.”
The cashier shrugs. “I know you’re not from around here, so I’ll tell you this: don’t mind these other women. They’re just jealous because you’re where they want to be.”
She smirks like I just said something clever, but when I hold her gaze, waiting for an answer, she says, “Well, in his bed, of course.”
I shake my head. Is this what everyone thinks? First Lilly and now this woman? Kyrstie? I mentally tuck the name away. “I’m just the nanny.”
“Mmm-hmm.” She winks at me, as if we’re sharing some sort of secret. “Robin Gastonez saw you two cuddling up the other night at Jake’s bar. She said she didn’t need to be in that bathroom to know what was happening in there. Were you just the nanny then?” She chuckles and shakes her head.
Oh, crap. Does everyone in this town know what happened on Saturday night? Do they know he walked me back to my hotel? That he stayed for a while? If they know that, I’m sure everyone assumes we had sex. Heck, we probably would’ve if he hadn’t been called to work.
“That was nothing. I was having a bad day and he was being a friend. That’s all.” I hope my smile is more convincing than it feels, but I think I could be an Academy Award-winning actress and nothing I said would change the mind of this woman.
After I pay, I hurry out of the store and load the car with my purchases. I was going to explore Jackson Harbor today, but the last thirty minutes have made me feel exposed and cheap. I want to hide at Ethan’s house until it’s time to pick up Lilly. It’s a small town. Word spreads fast in small towns, and maybe people seeing us at the bar together on Saturday night got the gossip machine rolling. I’m sure it’ll fade in a day or two, but in the meantime, it’s all too familiar.
I try to stop thinking about it, but I hate the idea of anyone not liking me. I can’t help it. It’s in my nature. When I was growing up, my quality of life depended on my ability to make people like me. You can’t just outgrow something like that.
I tell myself it doesn’t matter. I tell myself my stay here is temporary. I tell myself that only I get to judge my actions—not some random woman at the local Walmart.