The Ties that Bind(7)

By: Emilie Rose

“Eight. And the boy does not look like me.”

The boy? Her eyebrows hiked at his phrasing and testy tone. “Sarah said Graham is eleven months old. He’s big for his age and really gets around well. When did he start walking?”

“I don’t know.”

How could he forget such a milestone? Or maybe he was being rude because he didn’t want to talk to her. She lapsed into silence, but that lasted less than five minutes before the uneasiness made her ask, “When is his birthday?”

“Next month.”

“Well, yes, I gathered that. If you want to have a party, I could help plan something.”

“That’s his mother’s job.”

“But…I thought that Graham’s mother might not be back by then.” She couldn’t imagine missing one of Cody’s birthdays.

“I am doing everything in my power to make sure she is.”

How sweet of him—even if it did mean Anna’s job ending sooner. “Well, anyway, if she can’t make it, I’ll help. Turning one is a pretty big deal. You could videotape it so she wouldn’t feel as if she were missing out.”

“There will be no party,” he snapped in a voice so low and adamant that it sounded more like an animal’s threatening growl than human speech.

The Hollister family’s dynamics were strange to say the least. The best she could do was figure out the parameters of her role, and to do that she’d need more than the scanty details Sarah Findley had provided.

“Which parts of the day would you like to spend with Graham?”

“None of them.”

Anna blinked in surprise. “You won’t be joining him for lunch or dinner or anything?”

“I need to work. Having him here has put me behind schedule.”

Need to work. Behind schedule. The words could have been straight from the chorus to the song of Anna’s life. She, her sister and her mother had eaten most of their meals alone even when her father had been in the house because he’d stayed locked in the library working. She couldn’t imagine having a child and not wanting to be a part of that child’s development.

She made a conscious effort to relax her jaw muscles. Clenching her teeth guaranteed she’d give herself a tension headache. “I see.”

He frowned harder at the disapproval she hadn’t quite managed to keep out of her voice. “Apparently Sarah didn’t explain the situation to you in a way you can understand. Graham is your responsibility until this job ends. The housekeeper will give you short breaks if absolutely necessary. I expect this to be a short-term position. You are being generously compensated for the overtime. I am on a tight deadline and don’t need interruptions.”

The hair on her nape prickled. His speech sounded awfully familiar, and for a moment she could have sworn her father had risen from the grave. “You’re saying you don’t want to spend any time with your son?”

He flinched. “No. Is there a reason for your inquisition, Ms. Aronson?” He bristled a “back off” warning.

“I’m trying to get a feel for Graham’s emotional state.”

“He’s a baby. All he cares about are food, sleep and a clean diaper. I hired you to be his nanny, not his shrink.”

“Being one pretty much requires being the other. Since babies can’t verbalize their needs—”

“Just keep the damned kids quiet and out of my way. That’s what you’re being paid to do. In fact, I’d rather not even know the three of you are in my house.”

Taken aback, she stared at him. She’d known the job sounded too good to be true. It looked as if she’d discovered the catch.

“Yessir.” For a moment she felt sorry for herself for finding a job that was going to evoke so many bad memories. But most of her sympathy pains were reserved for a little boy who would never understand why his daddy didn’t want to spend time with him.

Been there. Done that. And the pain…well, it wasn’t something you ever forgot.

Hollister steered his car into his driveway and her questions dried up. The tall iron gates crept open and he passed between the pillars. In the side mirror she watched heavy metal close, sealing off her escape route. Her heart raced faster and her palms dampened.

You’re being stupid, Anna. If you’d really thought he was a pervert you never would have taken the job.

But for a woman who loved horror stories and movies about things that went bump in the night the situation had all the makings of a gothic novel. Reclusive millionaire. Secluded mansion. Walled property. Cloudy coastline.

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