The Nanny Trap

By: Cat Schield

One

Sleek black limos were a common sight parked in front of St. Vincent’s, one of Manhattan’s premier private schools, and Bella McAndrews barely gave this one a thought as she knelt down on the sun-warmed sidewalk to say goodbye to her students. It was the last day of school; a procession of twelve kindergartners hugged her and then ran to waiting vehicles. She bumped her chin against their navy wool blazers, emblazoned with the St. Vincent’s crest, her chest tightening as each pair of arms squeezed her. The children were precious and unique and she’d enjoyed having every one in her class. By the time her final student approached, she could barely speak past the lump in her throat.

“This is for you.” The boy’s blue eyes were solemn as he handed her a pencil drawing. “So you won’t forget me.”

“As if I could do that.” Bella blinked away hot tears and glanced down at the self-portrait. What she held was no ordinary drawing by a six-year-old. Justin had shown talent early and his parents had given him private art lessons. Bella couldn’t help but wonder what her brothers and sisters could have accomplished if they’d been given all the opportunities afforded Justin by his wealthy parents.

“This is very nicely done, Justin.”

“Thank you.” A grin transformed his solemn expression. Before Bella could be glad that he was acting like a normal six-year-old for a change, he became a serious man-child once more. “I hope you have a nice summer,” he finished in formal tones.

“You, too.”

Pasting on a bright smile, she got to her feet. Inside, her mood reflected the gray sky above. She watched, her chest heavy, until he got into the back of a black Town Car. Most of her fellow teachers were as excited as their students as the end of the school year approached, but Bella wasn’t fond of partings. If she’d had her way, she’d keep her kindergartners forever. But that wasn’t how life worked. Her job was to guide their growth and prepare them for new challenges. As difficult as it was for her, she had to set them free. How else could they soar?

“Bella.”

The sound of her name cut through the excited chatter of children being released from their educational imprisonment. She stiffened, recognizing Blake Ford’s deep voice, even though she hadn’t heard it since late last summer. A rush of joy rooted her to the spot. Twenty feet away the heavy wood doors of St. Vincent’s offered her a place to hide. Common sense urged her to flee. He would be perceptive enough to figure out how miserable she’d been these past nine months and curious enough to wonder why.

Acting as if she hadn’t heard Blake, she pivoted toward the school. But before she could escape, she felt Blake’s long fingers on her left arm. Apprehension shivered along her nerve endings. The light hold prevented her flight and agitated her pulse. He’d had this effect on her from the start. Bracing herself against an unwelcome stab of delight, she turned in his direction.

His wide shoulders, encased in gray wool, blocked her view of the street and the long limo parked at the curb. She gathered a deep breath to steady herself and gulped in a heavy dose of Blake. He smelled of soap—the fresh, clean scent of a mountain stream. No fussy cologne for Blake Ford.

Enigmatic. Intense. Brooding. Blake had fascinated and frightened her at their first meeting at the fertility clinic. But the intuitiveness she’d inherited from Grandma Izzy, for whom she was named, had told her to hear him out on that occasion.

She’d come to New York City to be a surrogate for a couple who’d decided to give in vitro a try, but before she could meet with them, the wife’s best friend offered to carry their child.

Around the same time, Blake and Victoria had come to accept that a surrogate was the only move left for them. Thinking Bella would be a good fit with the power couple, the doctor at the clinic had arranged for Bella to meet Blake and his wife.

Over a cup of coffee, as Blake and Victoria had shared their deep sadness at their inability to conceive, Bella had decided Blake was more than just the successful, driven CEO of a large investment management firm. He was a man with a deep yearning for family.

“Blake, how nice to see you.” Her voice held a breathless edge. She dug her fingernails into her palm and told herself to get a grip. “What brings you to St. Vincent’s?”

His hand fell away. He had no need to keep a physical hold on her. His resolute gaze held her transfixed. “You.”

“Me?” Her stomach somersaulted. “I don’t understand.”

They’d not parted on the best of terms. He hadn’t understood why she wanted no future contact with his family and she had no intention of enlightening him, no matter how insistently he’d pressed her for an explanation. Where did she start?

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