“I … I don’t know. I hoped I would stay here.”

“You want an extension to your contract?” he asks this so matter-of-factly like he couldn’t care either way and, bloody hell, this actually hurts.

“If I could.”

“Don’t you think you might be better suited elsewhere? After all, that’s kind of your style. You stay for a year or two at the most, when the children are a certain age, and as they grow, you leave.”

I start coughing, my words literally catching in my throat. “What? No. No, I was with the last family for two years.”

“The children were younger.”

“So?” I walk toward him and lean against the desk to look him dead in the eye. “What’s going on? Are we extending my contract right now? It’s February.”

“Better to make plans in advance, isn’t it?” he says, and matches my gaze. That same energy is churning in those glacial blues and for the life of me I can’t understand what he’s thinking, what he’s doing. It sounds like … it sounds like he’s trying to soften a blow. Give me an easy way out.

My breath starts getting shorter, more shallow. I’m trying not to go into panic mode but it’s not working.

Fuck. He’s not trying to fire me, is he?

“What are you doing? You’re trying to get rid of me?” I shake my head, feeling anger and sorrow and horrible, horrible grief take hold of me. “That’s why you sent me away. You made other plans.”

He raises one brow at me, his mouth open, jaw tense. He sits back in his chair, continuing his quiet appraisal.

“Oh my god,” I cry out softly. “I am fired, aren’t I? You’re letting me go. You’ve found someone else.”

He cocks his head, squinting at me. “Does that bother you?”

My mouth drops open. “Bother me? What the hell is wrong with you?” He doesn’t say anything to that, just shuts his mouth into a thin line and swallows. “This is my job. I don’t … I can’t believe you’re doing this to me. That you’re firing me.”

The room begins to spin and I stand up straight, putting my head in my hands. This can’t be happening. Why is he doing this to me?

“Give me a reason why you want to stay,” he says softly.

I drop my hands and stare at him in open shock. “A reason? I’ll give you a million fucking reasons.”

He gets out of his chair and comes around his desk. “Tell me what they are.” He leans back against the desk, his intent gaze still searching.

I blink at him, my heart so loud in my ears that I can’t even think. I just let the words spill out in a frantic river. “Reasons? Reasons? The girls. Clara, Freja. I can’t leave them. I don’t want to leave them. They’re everything to me.”

“Is that all?”

“Is that all?” I repeat. “They’re your daughters and I’m their nanny. That should be more than enough. You know, I hated being away from them this last week. I missed them with all that I am. I didn’t even want to go, I just thought you were trying to get rid of me.” Tears tease my eyes and I shake my head, choked with disbelief. “Huh. I guess you were.”

His nostrils flare and his fingers tighten along the edges of the desk. “Is that it?”

What am I even hearing?

“I don’t understand.”

“You said reasons. You only named one.” He frowns, licking his lips. “What about me?”

“You?” I cry out softly.

“Am I one of your reasons for staying?”

I’m speechless, which is a good thing because I don’t want to say the wrong thing. I take in a hollow, shaking breath. “I have a great respect for you, sir.”

His mouth twitches into a sour smile. “Sir. You just called me sir. You haven’t called me that in a very long time. In your next job, I hope you remember your manners.”

Ow. Ow. The blows are harder and lower than I thought possible. This fills my lungs with pain.

I’m drowning with each breath.

I can barely speak. “Why are you doing this? Why would you try and get rid of me after everything I’ve done for you?”

“Done for me?” he asks quickly.

“Done for you. Done for the girls.”

“And you’ve done it all because you want to. Why?”

I’m ready to tear my fucking hair out. “Because I care about you! I care about them!”

I love them.

I love you.

Is that what he wants me to say?

Why?

Why?

“And?” he prods, eyes full of fire.

“I know I make you happy, even if you’ll never admit it.” I practically spit the words out, having kept them inside for far too long. “And I’ve never made anyone happy in my entire life. So, yeah. Maybe add that to one of my various reasons, if you have to know.”

“How do you know that you make me happy?”

Oh, seriously?

“What?”

“Tell me,” he says, pushing off the desk and standing right in front of me, gazing down from his height. “How do you know you make me happy?” His words are quieter now, rough and low and they make my stomach flip and my heart ache.

Hell. What do I have to lose at this point?

“Because,” I say, and my voice automatically drops to match his, my eyes focused on his chest, the slice of skin at his shirt collar. The electric storm in the room has moved between us, slowly intensifying with each breath, each heartbeat. Can he even feel it?

“Because what?” he murmurs, and his hand goes to my neck, pushing my hair back over my shoulder, and every pulse and cell in my body freezes from shock.

I blink, absolutely terrified at the power his touch has over me. The fact that my knees want to give way until I’m a puddle on the floor.

All because his fingertips are trailing gently along my neck, up my hair and back.

“Because what?” he says again. “Look at me.”

I obey. I raise my eyes from his shirt to the deep hollow of his neck, to his Adam’s apple, to that sharp jawline, ever so tense. Then his eyes. His eyes are telling me everything I’ve always wanted to hear.

“You do make me happy,” he whispers, and my heart explodes. His voice is ragged, his fingers pressing into my neck just a little more, hot and burning like stars shooting down my spine. “How do I make you feel?”

I should tell him. If he’s firing me, then nothing binds me to him anymore. I can say what I want without consequences.

But love requires that bravery I still don’t have.

His fingers disappear into my hair, making my eyes close, my breath fall from my mouth.

He leans in close, so close, his chest against mine, his forehead rests against my forehead, tip of his nose against my nose. As intimate as lovers, as intimate as we’ve ever been.

“How do I make you feel?” he says again, breathy and slow, his words making me ache. “Show me.”

Everything I’ve ever wanted is within an inch of my lips. All that I’ve dreamed about, all that I’ve rallied against. One inch that would change my life forever.

That one inch between his mouth and mine might as well be a million miles long.

And I am far too afraid to take that step and cross it.

He has all the cards here, all the power.

I won’t do it.

I glance up at him through my lashes. “Make me show you,” I whisper, grabbing the lapels of his suit jacket, pulling him into me. His erection presses into my hip, making me clench with want and need because of how he wants and needs me.

“I can do that,” he says gruffly.

His other hand goes to my cheek, grabbing my face, hot, wide palm against my already feverish skin.

His lips close the gap, crashing into mine.

It takes a moment for it all to sink in.

I’ve never craved something so badly only to get it in the end.

I almost don’t know what to do with it.

But that disappears a second later.

I know exactly what to do.

His lips are warm and soft, his kiss is hard.

It’s driven by pure lust and need.

By months and months of wanting and never getting.

And now I’m giving.

I make fists into his jacket as my body gives way to his, my mouth surrendering to his, his tongue rolling against mine in a feverish, driving pace.

I groan into his mouth, the taste of brandy on his lips, heat crashing over me and shooting between my thighs. My fists tighten as his grip grows harder, holding me in place as his kiss demands more and more of me, and right here, in his office, I give him more and more.

We’re both done fighting it.

We’re both finally surrendering to each other.

He makes a light fist in my hair and gives my strands a tug, making me whimper. I can’t get him closer.

With lips locked and tongues tangled, we move backward across his office until my back crashes against the wall and he presses into me, his dick so hard that I’m practically squirming.

“Oh god,” I cry out hoarsely, my hand going to the back of his head, feeling his silken hair as his mouth goes to my neck, biting and licking and sucking until my eyes roll back.

Is this really happening?

Is this really him, the man of my heart, the man I’ve dreamed of day in and day out?

Is it really his head my palm is cradling, is it his snide mouth sucking my skin between his teeth, is it really his cock that radiates heat into my hip?

“So this is how you feel,” he murmurs into my neck, pulling away enough to meet my eyes, his hands smoothing the hair off my face. My hands trail down his back, relishing the hard planes of muscles as I stare into his eyes, glazed and raw and real. “Because this is how I feel.” He’s breathing hard and so am I, and I bet his heart is beating as loudly as mine is.

I try to form words but I can’t. I already feel bereft without his mouth on mine and my hands grip his suit jacket, tugging, wishing I could rip it off.

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