Inherited: One Child(8)

By: Day Leclaire

She nodded. “I thought you might.” Her brilliant smile transformed her appearance once again. “When would you like me to start?”

In the distance, a shriek of anger penetrated the walls. Jack released an exhausted sigh. “Is now too soon?”

“That depends.”

He regarded her warily. “On what?”

“Before I give you my answer, I’d like to get the opinion of one of the top businessmen in the country.” She slanted him a teasing glance. “Would this be a good time to ask for a raise?”

Nothing about the events of today were funny, and yet he found himself grinning, anyway. “I’m sorry to say that now would be an excellent time.” He waved her back toward the chair in front of his desk. “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable while we discuss an early-start bonus.”


Mary opened the door to Jack’s office and regarded him with sympathetic eyes. “Ms. Stefano has asked to see you,” his assistant informed him. “Sorry, boss.”

He checked his watch. His brand-new nanny-slash-prospective-wife-to-be had lasted all of thirty minutes. He’d hoped for longer, but he was a realistic man. Isabella had driven away the best of the best. What chance did someone with Annalise’s lack of experience stand?

“Does she have Isabella with her?”

“No. She requested that the babysitter stay. He’s keeping an eye on your niece for the moment.”

Jack sighed. “Send her in.”

Annalise appeared a moment later, entering with that loose, hip-swing stride he found so attractive. More curls had escaped the tidy knot, bubbling down her back and around her face in gay abandon. Her startling eyes, now a darker shade of honey-gold, were tarnished with concern.

“Mr. Mason—”

“Might as well make it Jack.”

She nodded impatiently. “This isn’t working, Jack.”

“I have to admit. You disappoint me.” He leaned back in his chair and drummed his fingers against the leather armrest. “You also win the prize for shortest nanny on record.”

She froze, blinking her long sooty lashes at him. “Shortest—” Her breath exploded in a short laugh. “No, you don’t understand. I’m not quitting. I’d like to get Isabella out of here. We need to work together one-on-one away from your office. If we’re going to establish a routine, we should do that right from the start.” She lifted an eyebrow. “Unless you intend for us to come in and disrupt your work every day?”

“Of course not.” He checked his watch and frowned. “I was planning to take you home at lunchtime.”

Annalise shook her head. “That won’t work. There’s too much going on here, too much excitement. It’s getting Isabella riled up. We should leave now, and then I need you to sit quietly with her for a time and explain who and what I am. It would help with the transition.”

Jack frowned. “You haven’t already done that?”

He caught her unexpected flash of temper before she reined it in. “You’re her uncle, which makes you the authority figure,” she explained. “Isabella needs you to organize her world and then set the boundaries for that world. At school—even at day care—children learn very quickly that the teacher is in charge of them and the classroom, but that the principal oversees the entire school and is the ultimate authority figure. If you’re putting me in charge—as the teacher—you, as the principal, have to be the one to explain the rules so she knows that you back me up and that she’ll be sent to the principal’s office if she doesn’t behave appropriately toward the teacher.”

“Fine. I can take care of that right now.”

Annalise shook her head. “There are too many distractions here. It’s better to do it in the setting where we’re going to spend most of our time.”

“I have a full schedule today.”

Her mouth took on a stubborn slant. “No, right now you have a family obligation that takes precedence over your full schedule.”

“Damn it.” He allowed himself an entire ten seconds to stew. “You’re right, of course. I don’t like that you’re right. But, Isabella comes first.”

She didn’t attempt to disguise her relief. “You have no idea how happy I am to hear you say that.”

“Go pack her up. Tell the sitter he can leave. I’m sure he’ll be only too happy to run for the nearest exit.” He lifted an eyebrow. “You sure you don’t want to join him?”

Stark emotion shifted through her gaze, rousing his curiosity. For some reason his niece had made quite an impact on Annalise. He’d seen that look in others when they’d seized on a project or an idea that touched them in some way. In just the short time since he’d hired his new nanny, she’d bonded with Isabella and would do whatever necessary to make certain the relationship worked.

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