Too polite, he decided. Despite the chewed-on fingernails and an undercurrent of some kind of emotional energy, Kathy Wind wasn’t afraid of him. God, he would sure love it if some of those quiet manners rubbed off on Stacy. His daughter had become completely wild since Helena’s death. And as for Dougie—the kid had completely stopped talking. All Trey wanted was to hear his son’s voice again. At this point, he wouldn’t even care if the boy used it to tell him to go to hell.
“How long have you worked as a nanny?” he asked her, moving behind his desk to shuffle through the meager pile of résumés the agency had sent him. “The agency hasn’t sent me your references.”
“No?” Kathy blinked at him. “Well, I’m…new. But I’ll…have them faxed to you.” She shifted in her seat. “Actually, Mr. Sutherland, I’ve got to be honest. I’m not from the agency. I heard about this position through an, um—” she cleared her throat “—an acquaintance. But I’ll see that you receive a full list of references later today. However…”
Trey watched her closely, aware that something still wasn’t quite kosher—as his college friends at NYU would have said—despite her honest admission.
She drew in a deep breath and steadily met his gaze. “I’m afraid you might find me slightly underqualified for this position. I’ve never actually been a nanny before.” She gave him the sweetest, most crookedly hopeful smile. “But everyone’s got to start somewhere, right?”
She was adorable. She warmed him in a way he couldn’t quite remember being warmed before. It wasn’t that he found her attractive. Not sexually attractive, that is. Sure, she had a great pair of legs, and her figure—at least what he could see beneath that incredibly non-feminine wool suit—was slender and rather well-proportioned and…Okay, so she was attractive. She was outrageously attractive, but in a fresh-faced, sweet little sister sort of way. Not that he’d ever had a little sister. But if he had, this warmth might be what he would feel toward her.
She was quietly pretty with a slightly round face, innocently free of makeup, that made her look closer to fifteen than twenty-five. Her features were even, almost delicate—small, straight nose, slightly pointed chin. Her mouth was full and friendly, but her eyes were what he liked the best—gray and wide with thick dark lashes. She played at being cool and remote, but she couldn’t hide the very appealing mix of intelligence, interest and innocence that lingered there.
And while Trey would have preferred hiring an experienced nanny, everyone did have to start somewhere.
“You’ll need a driver’s license,” he said. “Do you have one?”
“Of course.” Blink, blink. “Why?”
“You’ll be in charge of getting the kids to and from school,” he said. “They both attend a private school about four miles from here. And then there’ll be parties and things they’ll need rides for.” At least, he hoped there would be. Even though Stacy was in eighth grade this year, her social calendar remained rather empty. “And Stace has clarinet lessons several times a week.”
“So basically, you’d be hiring me as a chauffeur,” Kathy noted, one eyebrow elegantly lifted.
“No, believe me, there’s supervision involved,” Trey told her. “A lot of it, actually. You’d put in long days. You’d have the hours off that the kids are in school, but I’d need you available in the evenings. And during school vacations, I’d need you twenty-four/seven.”
She blinked at him again. “Twenty-four…?”
“Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week,” he explained. What rock had she been hiding under, that she hadn’t heard that expression before? “You’d be compensated for the overtime, of course.”
“Of course, but…” Her eyes were innocently wide. “When do you see them?”
“My time’s going to be really tight between now and the New Year,” he said as if that answered her question. He stood up abruptly. “Before we go any further, you need to meet them. Anastacia’s thirteen and Douglas is six. Neither of them are easy to get along with.” He forced a tight smile. “But that shouldn’t be surprising considering who their father is.”
She studied him seriously. “You seem all right to me.”
Yeah, well he wasn’t. “Their mother died three years ago and neither of them have adjusted very well.”
“That doesn’t seem like something any child would adjust to—at least not well.”
That was a good point, but Stacy and Doug’s lack of adjustment sometimes seemed off the map. Of course, Trey was a fine one to talk. He hadn’t adjusted particularly well to Helena’s death, either.
“Stacy’s pretty hostile,” he told Kathy. Understatement of the year. “Her grades are abysmal, she’s actually left home a few times—sometimes in the middle of the night. She hasn’t gotten far, not enough to call it running away, but still it’s…”
“Frightening,” she supplied the word. “I can imagine. You must have been terrified.”
“She needs…something that I don’t seem to be able to give her,” Trey said honestly. “And as for Doug…” He shook his head. His son had chosen a different way to escape the realities of life after his mother’s death. Trey gestured toward the door. “Now would probably be a good time for you to meet them—that is, if you’re still interested in the job.”
Kathy didn’t stand up. Not a good sign. She sighed. “Mr. Sutherland.”
“Trey,” he said. “Please. We don’t stand on ceremony in this house.”
“Trey.” She looked up at him. “Please would you mind sitting down for just a moment? You’re quite relentlessly tall and I’m afraid that what I have to say to you is an eye to eye sort of thing.”
Trey smiled. This woman was a riot. Only she hadn’t intended any of what she’d said to be funny. But since she was probably going to tell him she didn’t want the job, it no longer seemed very funny to him, either. He sat obediently in the chair next to hers, resigned to what she was about to say.
She turned slightly to face him. “As much as I’d love this position—and I truly would—I’m not sure I’m the right woman for the job,” she told him earnestly, her eyes so serious. “You see, I’m not looking for long-term employment, and it seems to me, sir, that you and Stacy and Doug would be best served by hiring a nanny who would be prepared to stay until the children are grown. It seems to me that they—and you—have had enough upheaval in your lives.”
This was too much. She wanted the job, but here she was, trying to talk him out of hiring her—for the sake of his children.
“I suppose it’s too much to hope I could change your mind,” he wondered aloud. “Talk you into staying on for, say, ten years?”
She smiled at that. She had the cutest dimples when she smiled. “Ten years of twenty-four/seven?” She shook her head. “No, thank you.”
“Are you sure this isn’t negotiable?” he asked. “We could rethink the twenty-four/seven thing or—”
“I’m flattered that you think so highly of me after only one brief meeting,” Kathy told him. “But, no, sir. It’s not negotiable. I’d like to hope that someday I’ll have a family of my own and…well…”