“I gotta pee,” I tell my best friend Danny, who nods without taking his gaze off the flat-screen TV behind the bar, where a hockey game is in the last few minutes of the third period. And it looks like St. Louis is winning by a goal. Danny’s not going to be fun to be around if his precious Chicago Black Hawks don’t pull through.
I make my way through a throng of people, most of whom are as focused on the TVs as Danny—did I mention we’re in the playoffs?—until I reach the restrooms located in a far back corner of the bar. After taking care of business, I head back to my drink and my buddy, but I’m waylaid by an arm snaking around my waist.
“Hey, beautiful. Can you do us a favor?”
This Romeo with his paw on my person is good-looking, I guess. He has short, dark hair and a few days’ growth on his cheeks, and a dimple flashes when he grins at me like he doesn’t care that his hand is resting on my hip more intimately than a perfect stranger has a right. I feel the bulge of muscle under his designer golf shirt and note the watch on his slim wrist is Rolex.
I sure as hell can’t afford the labels he’s wearing, but it’s hard not to notice when you’re surrounded by it every day. And when you’re a nanny to the upper-echelon-with-kids, well, let’s just say that some of my charges will, on their sixteenth birthdays, drive far nicer vehicles than I ever will in my lifetime.
The guy seated across from him in the booth has dark hair, too, and wears glasses; Armani, I think. I’m not usually into eyewear, but they work for him.
“Probably not,” I say as I step out of his grip and he flexes his fingers, snagging my belt loop and pulling me back to him.
“Come on, it’s easy,” he says. His partner shakes his head and takes a swig of beer.
“What?” I ask, watching him through narrowed eyes and twisting out of his grasp again. The bar’s packed, so I could easily fade into the crowd at this point, but I’m the adventurous sort, so I stick around.
“I’m Garrett, and this is my brother, Painter.” He waves at Mr. Eyeglasses, who lifts his hand in greeting.
“Painter, like your parents pre-determined your profession?” I ask.
“That never gets old,” the brother says, looking at Garrett instead of me.
“It’s spelled with a Y,” Garrett explains to me.
I clear my throat. “Um, right. Sorry. Nice to meet you guys.”
“No sweat,” Paynter-with-a-Y says.
“So anyway, Paynt here thinks I’m not nearly as good at picking up the ladies as I am,” Garrett says.
“Actually, what I said was, you shouldn’t be,” his brother corrects him. “He sleeps around too damn much,” he explains for my benefit.
I bite my lip to keep from laughing. I’m guessing they’re drunk, or at least Garrett is.
“So tell me,” Garrett says, glancing up at me with puppy dog eyes that no doubt are at least partially to blame for the whole sleeping-around-too-damn-much issue. That muscle tone under his shirt certainly wouldn’t be a deterrent, either.
“I have a boyfriend,” I blurt. Danny’s not remotely my boyfriend—he’s more like my sibling, or maybe the perfect just friend to tag along when you want to hang out at a sports bar—but I need an out here. I know my own shortcomings when it comes to good-looking, older guys who smell like money. Best to put up that wall before this conversation goes any further.
“Too bad,” Garrett says. “But for the sake of argument, pretend you don’t. If I hit on you, would you go home with me?”
Before I decided to try to grow the hell up and get my life on track, the answer might have been yes, but for all the wrong reasons. Not anymore, though. I’m a new woman. A better woman.
“She’s hesitating.” Garrett stabs his finger at Paynter. “Told you. They can’t resist me.”
“You’re such an ass,” Paynter says.
“Nah, I’m living the dream. Just because you’re tied down to a goat and a hot executive doesn’t mean you gotta beat up on my perfectly satisfying lifestyle.”
A goat and a hot executive? I can’t decide if I want to stay and learn more or run away.
“I’m not sure I like you referring to Chloe as a ‘hot executive,’” his brother says.
Garrett lifts his bottle like he’s saluting me. “For the record, it isn’t what you’re thinking.”
“So it’s not something to do with a threesome between him, a woman in a pencil skirt, and an animal?” I ask.
Garrett roars with laughter while his brother shakes his head and mutters something about rumors and a game of telephone.
“I mean, hey, whatever floats your boat,” I add. “I’m not one to judge.” Like I have any right to.
Once he catches his breath, Garrett turns his focus to me again, and I’m momentarily drowning in gorgeous, glassy, blue eyes. Holy crap, they’re beautiful. I take back my “I guess” about this guy being good-looking. Those eyes are straight off a romance novel cover. Does he wear colored contacts?
“So, back to you, beautiful. What’s your name?”
“Erin,” I say before I remember that I’m a changed woman.
“She has a boyfriend, dumbass,” Paynter says.
“Score!” Garrett and Paynter both shout at the same time, and they—along with pretty much everyone else in the bar—leap out of their seats, high-fiving and clunking their beers together. I’m guessing the Black Hawks tied the game.
“Yes,” Garrett yells, and he sweeps me into a hug, one of those full-body embraces, where every inch of me is touching every inch of him. And it makes me tingle in places that are not supposed to feel that way about guys like him. He’s loaded, he screws around too much, and he’s way too confident. Not. My. Type.
“Boyfriend, remember?” I manage to choke out, my pitiful attempt to convince him to let me go despite my hands clinging to his beefy biceps.
My phone vibrates in my back pocket, and Garrett finally releases me. I tug it out and glance at the screen. “Oh crap, this is my one night out all week, and now it’s getting cut short.”
“Why’s that?” Garrett asks, blatantly looking at my phone.
“The wife of the family I nanny for wants me to call her. Usually, that means they’ve had as much as they can take of their kids and they want me to rescue them.”
“You’re a nanny?” The intensity of his blue-eyed stare makes my insides squirm and wiggle like Jell-O. No, no, no. I don’t hook up with guys like him.
“Yeah. Real glamorous, I know. But it pays the bills and gives me a place to live.”
“I need a nanny.”
Oh shit. Not only is he hot—and screws around too much—but he’s married with kids. Not in a million years.
I wave the phone, which starts ringing. It’s Mrs. Danish. Guess she couldn’t wait for me to call her. “Already employed. Sorry.”
I turn away to answer the call. Maybe if she hears all the noise in the background, she’ll cut me a break and let me stay a little longer.
“Hi, Mrs. Danish. Sorry, I’m watching the Black Hawks. They just tied up the game, so it’s a little loud right now. I can call you back when I leave.”
“No, that’s quite all right. This won’t take long. You’re fired.”
“Huh?” I twist around so I’m facing Garrett and his brother, like that’ll somehow help me hear her better. Because surely she didn’t say what I think she said. Garrett’s watching me, his brow furrowed, but I’m too stunned to walk away from his obvious curiosity.
“I said, you’re fired. I’ll leave a check for this week’s pay and a substantial severance on the dresser in your room. I’d like you to be out by morning. Actually, tonight would be better.” Her husband is talking in the background, and she snaps at him to shut up.
“Why?” I finally manage to ask. This has been my best nanny gig to date. Mrs. Danish is normally a sweet woman with curly, dark hair and generous curves, while her husband has graying, thin hair and an even-keel disposition. Other than their overfull social calendars, working for them has been a breeze. And let’s be honest: The only person I hang with on the reg is Danny, so even the fact I tend to watch their kids every evening as well as day doesn’t bother me.
Mr. Danish says something again, and his wife’s voice is this low, stage whisper as she says, “It has come to our attention … that you have a history of, er, dallying with the husbands of your employers.”
“Who was that?” Garrett asks when I tap the screen of my phone to disconnect the call. I don’t answer right away, and he pushes an icy cold bottle of beer into my hand. “Here. You look like you need this.”
I lift it to my lips and chug, letting the carbonated, hoppy drink numb my senses. When I finally stop to catch my breath, I’ve drained more than half the bottle.
“Wow,” Paynter says.
“So, bad news?” Garrett asks.
I stare at my phone. “I just got fired.” I don’t know why I tell him. I don’t know him, and when I leave this bar, I’ll never see him again. I should make my way back to Danny, so I can cry on his shoulder. He’ll tell me I’m an idiot for continuing to try to stay gainfully employed in a profession that clearly doesn’t want me, and I’ll tell him I’ve vested too much of my life into this nanny gig and if I switch careers now, I’ll have to start at the bottom, and who the hell wants to do that after eight years of doing something they love?
“Why?” Garrett says.
“Er…” I can’t tell him why. There’s too much backstory, and besides, it isn’t true. Well, not entirely. I may be into older guys, but even I have my limits. Mr. Danish is nice, but he reminds me of my grandpa. A paunch and a propensity to blather on about insoles are definitely not turn-ons for me.
“So why’d they fire you?” Garrett asks again. I don’t have to answer. I could just walk away. And start updating my resume.
Instead, I say, “They, um, don’t need me anymore, I guess.”
“And they chose to call you on Friday night to tell you this? Are you getting two weeks’ notice? Did they find a replacement? This seems awfully abrupt, doesn’t it?”
“Why are you so concerned?” I knew I should have walked away. “Look, I need to get back to—”
“Because I need a nanny. I’ve been interviewing them for—how long?” Garrett looks at his brother, apparently waiting for an answer.
“At least a couple months. You’re damn lucky your brother works from home and thinks your daughter is cute as hell,” Paynter says.
“Right. So anyway, I’m curious. What should I be looking for in a nanny? Every one I’ve interviewed hasn’t felt right, y’know?”
“Actually, I do know. You definitely need to click with the person. And so does your child. You have just one?”
“Yeah, a daughter. She’s three. And Paynt’s right. She’s cute as hell.”
I smile. Of course she is.
“So you need someone who’s good with toddlers. Who will get down on the floor and play with them at their level, as well as teach them. Someone who will take her to the zoo and to see Sue, the most complete fossil of a T. rex ever found. At this age, they should get a healthy balance of fun and education to help prepare them for school in a couple years.”
He’s giving me this look, a combination of respect and maybe admiration, and I hope that’s not attraction, too, because this is definitely not going anywhere.
“Anyway, I need to get back to my, er, boyfriend—” I practically choke on the word because trying to picture Danny as my significant other makes me puke in my mouth a little. “So, um, good luck in your nanny search.”
I take another swig of beer and place the bottle on the table before walking away. Garrett calls out, “Wait,” but I ignore him. Given the reason I just got fired from yet another nanny gig, the last thing I need to do is consider offering up my services to a man with bedroom eyes and guns made for holding up a woman while he fucks her against the wall.