The Ties that Bind(2)

By: Emilie Rose

“Or perhaps they were looking for an excuse to get rid of you because you weren’t good enough.”

The unjust allegation stole her breath. “I’ve received exemplary evaluations at every review and the salary increases to go with it.”

“And if I call the school to verify your story?”

Her hopes sank. He didn’t believe her. He wasn’t the first. And until someone did she’d never find a job that would pay enough to cover decent day care for Cody while she worked. Maybe if she could pick up more students to tutor and college papers to edit she could make ends meet…

Who are you trying to fool? That won’t be enough.

She fought the urge to fidget beneath his condemning stare. “If you call the school you will be told the parent in question said I picked on his son unmercifully after he—the father—refused my advances.”

“Did you make advances?”

She jerked in surprise. No one had asked that before. “Of course not. He’s married.”

“Married men have affairs.”

“Not with me they don’t.”

“Your resume states you graduated with honors from Vanderbilt. My assistant tells me that’s one of the best education programs in the country. How is it you can’t find a teaching position?”

This felt more like an interrogation than an interview. “Apparently, saying no to powerful, well-connected people has repercussions that carry far beyond the local job market.”

She suspected she’d been black-balled.

“You have no nanny experience.”

“No, sir, but I routinely handled twenty children at once, more when I worked the academy’s summer camp program, and I am a parent used to coping with bed, bath and meal times.”

He leaned back in his leather chair, steepling his fingers and pinning her with his unblinking gaze. She looked back hoping—praying—he’d see the truth and willingness to work hard in her eyes. The silent scrutiny stretched interminably until she was as uncomfortable as she’d been that day in the headmaster’s office when she’d been unjustly accused.

“For what it’s worth, I don’t believe your story.”

His words settled like a weight on her shoulders. Frustrated because she couldn’t prove her innocence, Anna could only stare hopelessly into that uncompromising face as hope left her like a soda going flat. Until the headmaster, her integrity had never been questioned. She’d always been the smart one, the levelheaded and trustworthy one who always got the job done. And now nobody believed her.

If she ever wanted to teach again she’d have to find a way to clear her name. But until then she had to feed and house her son.

“I wanted a more mature woman to look after the boy,” Hollister continued. “And you come with a liability in the form of another baby.”

“Cody is seventeen months old, only six months older than your son. They should be good company for each other and provide a little social interaction,” she insisted but when Hollister’s expression turned even more formidable she wished she’d kept her mouth shut.

“One noisy child in the house is bad enough. Two will be a disaster. I ought to show you the door. But Sarah swears you are the most qualified candidate, and I need a nanny today. You’re the only one available.”

Anna’s hopes started to rise then he stood and leaned forward on his fists, scaring her optimism right back into its hidey-hole. “But I will be watching you, Anna Aronson. One false move and no matter how desperate I am you and your carrot-top kid are out the door. Do I make myself clear?”

Her lungs emptied on a rush of relief and tears pricked the backs of her eyes, because even if he didn’t like or trust her, Hollister was giving her the job. “Yes, Mr. Hollister.”

“How long will it take you to pack and get back here?”

She quickly regrouped and calculated the travel time…and then the cost. Did she have enough cash in her wallet to cover cab fare to and from the station? Twice. Barely.

“It’s an hour’s train ride each way and I’ll need an hour to pack. We can be back in time for Graham’s dinner.”

“You don’t have a car?”

“No.” Not anymore. Public transportation wasn’t all that bad if you were careful about which times you traveled.

“I need you to assume your duties sooner. I’ll drive you.”

That meant being alone with him in her apartment. “But—”

“There is no but. Either you want the job or you don’t.”

“I do. But I, um…have a question.”

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