Trevor knew logically that he needed a nanny.
The idea of leaving his daughter in the hands of a complete stranger wasn’t something he wanted to consider, especially when he had been handling everything pretty well on his own. His mother, however, was extremely skeptical about his ability to continue looking after his daughter and disappear for days on end playing hockey. He almost drew the line when she demanded to sit in on the interviews to make sure that her granddaughter was being left in the right hands. He knew better of course because she was currently filling in for nanny duty when Trevor couldn’t be around, but he could still be put out. As if he would leave Gabrielle with just anybody.
“I have standards,” Trevor told her, leaning against the kitchen counter. “I’m not just going to pick the prettiest nanny, you know.”
His mother said nothing.
“Look,” Trevor said, pleading with her. “Do I really need some stranger looking after my kid?”
Donna gave him an unimpressed look and shut the refrigerator with more force than necessary. “I suppose your alternative is to look after her yourself?”
Trevor shifted under her gaze. That had been his plan, even if it wasn’t viable. He settled for, “You could do it?”
“Trevor Raines,” Donna started, and he knew he was in for some epic shit. “I have raised four children and I am not about to raise a fifth. Gabrielle is your responsibility and she will need a nanny.” She held up a hand to forestall anything Trevor might say. “Young man, this is not a negotiation.”
Young man? He was pretty sure he outlived that moniker a long time ago. Still, there was no moving his mother when she was in a mood. He would look for a nanny. He didn’t have to accept any of them, and he could always try and convince coach in the interim that having a baby in the locker room was totally acceptable.
“Fine,” he said when Donna continued to look at him, eyebrows raised and unimpressed with his silence. “Okay, we can look for a nanny.”
As soon as she had permission, his mother started to look for agencies. Trevor had a list of requirements; they would have to be licensed, had to be willing to sign an NDA, and would need to live in. He didn’t want just anyone looking after his daughter and he wanted to be sure that they wouldn’t share photos or information about her online. Talking to some of the guys on the team, he knew it wasn’t always easy to keep their children out of the spotlight, but they had significant others looking after their children. Trevor didn’t have that of his own making but protecting Gabrielle had become his highest priority.
When they chose an agency close to home, Trevor had the pick of all the highly recommended clients in Chicago. A lot of the applicants gave references that almost had Trevor believing they mocked them up themselves if the agency wasn’t so particular about their nannies. A few more had serious references behind them that had Trevor’s mother singing their praises, but as soon as they turned up on the doorstep for interviews, she changed her mind, Trevor didn’t get on with them, or Gabrielle point blank refused to meet them.
They had almost exhausted the list, the agency getting irritated with their refusals, and Trevor was re-considering his decision to even have a nanny.
Practice overran on the day he was due to meet one of the last applicants, sticking as close to the speed limit as he could on his way back to the apartment. If he actually found a nanny, he would definitely have to move. There was barely enough room for him and Gabrielle, let alone a live-in nanny.
Trevor called his mom, talking as soon as he heard it connect. “I’m on my way home now.”
“It’s all right, sweetheart,” Donna said, and Trevor could hear Gabrielle’s familiar voice in the background. “I can start without you.”
“Yeah, all right,” Trevor said reluctantly. It didn’t feel right to not be there, but he trusted his mom. If he turned up and didn’t like whoever was due, he could always refuse to hire them and knew his mother would stand by him. “I won’t be long.”
Pulling into the parking lot, he shut the gate behind him and barely remembered to lock up the car before jogging into the building. The security guard waved him up immediately, and Trevor entered the elevator, hitting the button for his floor without waiting to see if anyone wanted him to hold. He didn’t know why he was so desperate to get upstairs, given how little he wanted to hire someone full time, but he hadn’t seen his daughter for at least five hours and he could admit that he had missed her. Practice mornings were the hardest; he didn’t have time to see her before he had to leave the house, and always came home missing her.
His mother informed him that it would pass with time, everything was just so new, and Trevor understood that. He just wasn’t sure he wanted it to fade. He couldn’t imagine ever not missing her.
His apartment was only one of three on the floor, and all occupied with athletes, yet another reason Trevor wanted to leave. He knew how loud and crazy it could get at times and he didn’t want to raise his daughter in that atmosphere.
“I’m home,” he said, as he swung the door open, dropping his gear bag in the hallway. His mother would yell later, but he could be forgiven under the circumstances.
“Daddy!” A familiar figure raced out of the living room, throwing herself at him as she entered the hallway. Trevor swept her up into his arms, kissing her face and grinning into her blond curls. She had definitely inherited his hair, even if everything else about her was mostly her mother.
“Hey, baby. Did you have a good day with Nana?”
“Yep,” Gabrielle said, popping the p. She wrapped her arms around his neck, kicking her legs back and forth either side of his waist. She was getting heavier these days, but he would shoulder the weight as much as he needed to. He’d missed so much of her early years, but he was determined to fix that. “You should come to meet Nick, Daddy.”
There had been a couple of guys apply for the job, and Trevor knew better than to judge a guy for wanting to look after children, but none of them had been the right kind of person to watch Gabrielle. Trevor was expecting the same kind of reaction this time, so when he made his way through to the living room, where his mother was perched on the couch, talking to a guy sitting on the floor, Trevor’s eyes widened.
More in touch with his sexuality than most hockey players, Trevor could admit to himself when he found someone attractive. He wasn’t about to publicly announce his sexuality, but he was secure enough to acknowledge his own feelings. The guy in front of the couch was definitely making him aware of his feelings at that moment. It was either the piercing brown eyes or the expression that said everything and everyone was beneath him. Trevor had always been weak for a guy who knew what he wanted and was cocky enough to think he could have it.
“Trevor Raines,” he said immediately, sticking out the hand not currently clutching Gabrielle to him.
The guy stood smoothly, rubbing his hands on his jeans and holding Trevor’s in a strong grip. “Nick Berchard.”
There was something about his accent, something about the way he spoke, a monotone, which sent a shiver down Trevor’s spine. It shouldn’t have been attractive; the combination between the expression and the tone should have had Trevor wanting to reject him immediately.
The silence between them was awkward for a moment, but Trevor’s mom broke it easily, clapping her hands together. “Nick asked to see Gabrielle immediately.”
She was looking at him as if this was somehow significant. Given how irritated she had been with everyone else they had interviewed, Trevor had a feeling that it was more so.
“Awesome,” Trevor said, feeling dumb.
“It’s been a while since someone was interested in Gabrielle and not the job itself,” Donna said smoothly.
Trevor understood and grinned at Gabrielle, who was playing with the chain around Trevor’s neck. “They either don’t read the packet that tells them how old Gabrielle is and are startled when they find out her age, or they try to talk to her like she’s a baby. There’s no happy medium.”
“My brother has a three-year-old,” Nick explained. Trevor had played with enough Canadians to place his accent immediately.
“You’re from Canada?”
Nick looked startled, but nodded, smiling in a way Trevor was sure he did every time he talked about New York. “Winnipeg.”
“Cold,” Trevor said, wrinkling his nose.
Nick looked mildly affronted for a beat before he schooled his expression, apparently remembering that this was an interview. Trevor was oddly disappointed, though he didn’t know why. “It’s all right.”
Trevor grinned, kissing the top of Gabrielle’s head and then bending to put her back on the floor. She immediately went back to her toys, that had somehow spread all through the living room despite Trevor tidying them up that morning.
“Do you live in Chicago?”
Nick stood awkwardly in the middle of the living room, so Trevor dropped onto the couch. Nick followed suit, taking the loveseat, and looking between Trevor and Donna slowly. “I’ve been here for three years.”
“You intend to stay here, then?” Trevor didn’t mean to press, but he didn’t want to hire someone who was only going to run back to Canada at a moment’s notice.
“If I can find a job,” Nick said slowly. It might have sounded pointed on anyone else, but Nick was staring at the floor, brow furrowed, and Trevor had made enough difficult admissions of his own to know that’s what it was.
“Here,” Donna said, cutting across Trevor’s interview. She handed him a few pieces of paper – Nick’s references and application.
Trevor flicked through the pages while Donna took over the questions – something about living in, food, and whether or not Nick was interested in the long-term or short-term. Everything about the application was customary, and the references were from a family in Detroit who were sorry to see him go.
“Why did you leave Detroit?”
Nick was startled by the question, interrupting his answer to one of Donna’s. “Sorry?”
“It says here the family was sorry to see you go. Why did you leave if you didn’t have a job to come to?” Trevor didn’t intend for his tone to be so harsh, but he was seeing a lot of warning signs about Nick running and he didn’t want that.
Nick didn’t look annoyed, just clasped his hands together, resting his forearms on his knees. “The couple was divorcing. They didn’t want to admit it on any official paperwork. I didn’t know they would put that on their reference.”
Nannies didn’t always get to see their references.
“Sorry,” Trevor said begrudgingly. “I didn’t mean to bring it up, but I want to make sure whoever I hire is here for the long term.”
“As I just told your mother,” Nick said slowly. “A long-term position would be best. I wouldn’t want a child to get attached to a nanny who was only going to leave in a few months. My concern would always be for your daughter, Mr. Raines.”
“Trevor,” Trevor said immediately. “Mr. Raines is my father.”
“I’m sure that’s not true,” Nick said, lips twitching into a smile. “Fairly sure most people call you Mr. Raines when they’re not cursing your stickhandling.”
Trevor was surprised into a laugh. He wasn’t naïve enough to think that people applying for the position wouldn’t do their research on him, but for someone to be comfortable enough to joke with him was refreshing. Not professional, perhaps, but Trevor hadn’t liked any of the professional ones so far.
“Sorry,” Nick said, flushing obviously. He rubbed at his forehead. “I’m not good with interviews.” Another pause. “And I probably shouldn’t have admitted that.”
“Relax,” Trevor said, waving a hand.
“You’re doing fine,” Donna agreed.
“I like you,” Gabrielle said as if her opinion was the most important.
In a way it was, and Trevor could see the relief on Nick’s face.
“All right,” Trevor said. “I’ll be moving by the end of the year, to Lincoln Park. Is that going to be a problem?”
Nick frowned. “I don’t know where that is, but I wouldn’t think so. I have a month to month lease on my apartment, so if you decide you want to hire me, I would be able to move in as soon as you needed me to.”
That was yet another bonus for Nick, but Trevor didn’t make any outward sign. He just climbed to his feet, giving Nick a bright smile. “Thanks for coming to the apartment. I wanna discuss things with my mom, but we’ll contact you as soon as we’ve made a decision.”
“Thank you,” Nick said, taking Trevor’s hand once again. He bent down, getting on Gabrielle’s level – and so few people were willing to do that – holding out his hand to her. Gabrielle looked delighted, grinning and taking Nick’s hand, shaking it vigorously.
“It was nice to meet you, Gabrielle.”
“And you, Mr. Nick.” Gabrielle jumped to her feet, wrapping an arm around Trevor’s leg, which made it awkward to walk to the door, but somehow, he managed.
Trevor’s mom opened the door, thanked Nick herself before sighing, picking up the abandoned gear bag and taking it down the hall. Trevor tried to keep from blushing, but from the amused tilt of Nick’s mouth, he wasn’t successful.
“Thanks again,” Trevor said, hopeful. He had a candidate that didn’t make him want to fling himself out of a window. “I’ll be in touch.”
“It was a pleasure,” Nick said, giving Gabrielle a wave. “Good luck finding someone to look after your little lady.”
Trevor watched Nick as he walked to the elevator, only ducking back inside the apartment when Gabrielle tugged on his pants, wondering why they were still standing in the hall.
“Let’s get some lunch,” Trevor said decisively, shutting the door and lifting Gabrielle quickly, tossing her in the air. She giggled, limbs flailing as Trevor caught her and tickled her gently. “What do you say?”
“Daddy,” Gabrielle shrieked, clinging to his arms.
Nick was right about one thing; Gabrielle was his little lady and whoever looked after her needed to recognize it.