The Ties that Bind(3)

By: Emilie Rose



“What?” he snapped.

“Mrs. Findley wasn’t exactly clear on how long you’d need me. She said ‘until Graham’s mother returns from an overseas job,’ but she didn’t specify whether that involved weeks or months.”

“She didn’t provide the information because we don’t have it. This contract is open-ended. You’ll be paid monthly whether you work one day of the month or thirty, and you’ll be given an additional month’s severance pay when the job ends. If you have a problem with that then stop wasting my time.”

“No. No, sir. I—that will be fine.” Difficult to budget around, but better than nothing. And it explained why the salary offered was so ridiculously high.

“Then sign.” He shoved several pages and a pen toward her.

“May I read the contract first?”

“Read during the drive to your place.” He rose, came around the desk and loomed over her. She took an involuntary step back. He stood well over six feet and his shoulders stretched twice as broad as hers. A powerful man—not just financially. The same kind who had gotten her fired. “Let’s go. Sarah will watch your boy while we collect your belongings.”

Alarmed, Anna’s gaze shot to the window. She wasn’t really keen on leaving Cody with a stranger around so much water. Not only was the property riverfront, the large pool and bubbling hot tub would be an invitation to a little boy who loved to splash. But what choice did she have?

“Do you mind if I say goodbye to Cody and have a word with Mrs. Findley first?”

Her question seemed to irritate him. “Make it quick. I’ll get the car. Meet me out front. We’ll stop by the drug testing lab on the way to your place. I shouldn’t need to tell you that if the test comes back positive or if your references don’t check out you’ll be fired. No excuses. No severance pay.”

“Yessir. I understand. You have nothing to worry about. And thank you, Mr. Hollister, for giving me a chance.” She offered her hand. He ignored it. Feeling awkward, she let hers drop to her side.

“Don’t make me regret it.”

* * *

Anna unlocked her door, mentally contrasting her simple home with the luxurious perfectly decorated estate belonging to the man shadowing her like a hovering bird of prey. Her entire apartment would fit into the living room where Mrs. Findley had conducted the preliminary interview and shared the particulars of the position.

Except for Anna providing directions from the drug testing lab to her apartment, the ride over had been a silent one—and not a comfortable silence either. She had the distinct impression her new boss disapproved of her. And the contract had been confusing. Why would she need to sign a nondisclosure agreement? What went on in the Hollister household that anyone would want to know?

Hollister followed her in, his sharp green and gold flecked eyes taking in her sparse furnishings—a secondhand sofa and table lamp, a red plastic clothes basket holding Cody’s toys and a tiny kitchen table with two chairs and a high chair. She didn’t have much, but then she and Cody didn’t need much. Besides, having less furniture gave Cody more floor space to play.

“Just moving in?” her new boss asked.

“I’ve been here close to four years.”

“Redecorating?”

“No.” Many of the students she tutored lived in showcase homes like his, and like him, those families probably had no clue how the less fortunate lived. On the upside, not having a job meant her place was cleaner than it had ever been.

“You’re going for the minimalist look?”

“My ex took most of our furniture when he left,” she admitted reluctantly. Along with their car, and her trust and her belief in love.

“When was that?”

Inquisitive, wasn’t he? But he had a right to be cautious. She’d be living in his house with access to his valuables. She didn’t need her minor in art to recognize that any of his original paintings and sculptures would be valued at more than she’d made in a year teaching at the academy.

Just as she had a right, given her recent experience, to be a little leery of being isolated with a strange, wealthy, influential man. She’d learned the hard way that wealth often led to arrogance, and arrogance to a sense of entitlement. And entitlement led to an inability to accept “no” gracefully.

She deliberately left the door to the hall slightly ajar. “Todd moved out while I was in the hospital giving birth to our son.”

“Is that relevant to my job?”

“Yes.”

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