The Ties that Bind(10)

By: Emilie Rose



“I’ll fix my own breakfast. Today and every day.” And the sooner he did so the sooner he could leave this unappetizing sight behind.

He yanked open the refrigerator and gathered the makings of a sandwich which he hastily slapped together—trying all the while to block out the annoyingly cheerful voice of the woman behind him yakking to the boys.

“Where do you keep Graham’s toys?”

Anna’s question made him pause mid-chipotle-mayo swipe. “Ask Sarah. She may have bought a few last week.”

Silence broken only by the boys’ babbling and banging on their trays filled the room.

“Graham is here…legally? Isn’t he?” Fear tinged her voice.

Pierce rested his fists on the counter. The last thing he needed was a hysterical woman calling the authorities. Not that he had anything to hide but officials poking around would only slow him down.

Still, Anna believing he’d kidnapped the kid when he’d had to force Kat to list his name on the child’s birth certificate just in case of emergencies like this one struck him as ironic. Not that he’d ever expected to be called into duty. Kat had assured him she had foolproof child care set up. She’d been wrong. But no child carrying his blood would end up in the system.

“I am the boy’s legal guardian until his mother returns. Sarah has the documentation if you must see it.”

“What happened to his previous sitter?”

“She dumped the kid on child services when his mother was… detained.”

He’d deliberately neglected to reveal Kat’s identity to keep those who might be more interested in Kat’s fame than her son’s welfare from applying for the job. There had been too many stories in the news lately of employees selling their celebrity employer’s secrets to make a quick buck. His and Kat’s relationship—however strained it might be—was private. News of it leaking wouldn’t help his company’s image, which in turn might undermine his goals for Hollister Ltd.

Concern puckered Anna’s brow. “Poor Graham. Could we swing by his mom’s place and pick up a few things?”

“Kat lives in Atlanta.”

“Oh. Too far then. Would you mind if we borrowed some things from the kitchen?”

His irritation reached boiling point. Pierce slapped the top on his sandwich. “I don’t care how you entertain the kid. Just do it. And leave me out of it.”

Her face blanched, making her freckles stand out. He experienced a sudden craving for cinnamon toast—the way his mother used to make it twenty-something years ago. He used to lick the granules off—

He shook his head to banish the thought. But damned if the nanny’s freckles didn’t look like cinnamon sprinkled on bread.

“Yessir.”

Feeling as if he’d kicked a kitten, he grabbed his plate and a bottle of water and retreated to his office. He’d hired her to deal with the trivial child-care issues. He didn’t need her or her sleepy, sexy—no, not sexy—morning eyes condemning him. The kid would be better off if Pierce kept his distance.

He turned on the television to drown out the noise coming from the kitchen and tried to concentrate on CNN while he ate. He had a team of people feeding him regular updates on Kat’s situation, but occasionally he heard news on TV before he received a report.

His turkey pastrami and imported Swiss cheese sandwich tasted like cardboard. An identical sandwich yesterday had been delicious. He’d better check the expiration dates on the meat and cheese.

More likely it was the nanny—and her incessant questions—killing his appetite. He pushed his half-eaten meal to the side of his desk, exhaled then cracked his knuckles, determined to have a productive, interruption-free day.

The sooner he chose the scholarship recipient the sooner he could get back to his real goal of doubling Hollister Ltd.’s net worth before the company’s fiftieth anniversary next year. And to do that he needed single-minded dedication and no distractions.

But first the scholarship. He reached into the mail crate filled with unread applications, grabbed one and swiveled his chair to face the three mesh bins on his sideboard. The rejected applications stack towered over the short “maybe” stack. The “yes” bin remained empty. It should only take a few moments to decide into which category the one in his hand would go.

Every year more people needed a hand up. He couldn’t afford to help them all, so he searched for the one with the most potential and ambition. The one who’d fought hardest against the greatest odds to achieve the most.

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