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By:Sawyer Bennett

“Whatever. She’s weird.”

“She’s adorable,” she says with affection.

“Adorable isn’t a fucking qualification to be a nanny,” I hiss at her, my eyes cutting to the door to make sure I did indeed close it behind me. And adorable? Where is she getting that from?

Delaney’s voice is filled with condescension when she says, “What’s her last name?”

“Huh?” I ask stupidly.

“What is Kate’s last name?” she asks, enunciating each word carefully.

“Fuck if I know,” I growl at her, my mind going blank. I knew what it was two minutes ago, but it’s not coming to me now.

“And what’s her educational background?”

I’m silent, racking my brain for the information.

“And her work history?” she asks.

Again, silence from me.

“Oh, and how about her references…what did they have to say about her?”

“I don’t fucking know, okay?” I curse with frustration.

“Exactly,” she says firmly. “You didn’t listen to a damn thing I said about her the other day. So now you are just going to have to trust that I made the right decision for you. She is absolutely perfect for this job, and besides that…Ben liked her far better than the other applicants. She was amazing with him.”

“She’s weird,” I say lamely…futilely, I know.

“Get over it,” she sneers at me. “You’re out of time and you need someone immediately, since you start practice next week. I’ve been on your ass for weeks to get involved with this decision and you ignored me at every turn. So tough shit…she’s got the job and you’re going to give her a chance, you hear me?”

Damn…Sometimes I really can’t stand my older sister. I have the sudden urge to stick my tongue out at her over the phone, but deep down…I know she’s right. I’ve been checked out mentally since the accident and depended on her way too much to handle this shit. Now I’m stuck with it.

“Fine,” I grumble at her as I rub my fingers hard along my jaw. I had just decided to shave my beard off this morning and my face feels so…so…naked.

“Good,” she says, completely happy with herself. “Now, I’ve got to go. I love you.”

“Back at ya,” I mutter, and then hang up on her, knowing she’s wearing a self-satisfied grin on her face.

Shoving my phone into my back pocket, I exit my office and make my way back downstairs. When I reach the first floor, Kate is nowhere to be found.

For a split moment, relief swells through me as I’m thinking she got the message that I wasn’t comfortable with her and she left. But then I hear movement in the kitchen and I head toward the noise with dread.

When I round the corner, I find her standing at the griddle, casually flipping bacon, and with two new pancakes poured and sizzling to the side. Her head turns slightly to look at me and she pins me with a direct stare. “Thought I’d finish your breakfast for you. You look like a six-pancake type of guy. After I finish yours, I’ll do a Mickey Mouse pancake for Ben.”

My mouth sort of hangs open as I watch her nonchalantly cooking in my kitchen. She’s been in my house for all of five minutes at most, and she’s fucking cooking breakfast in my kitchen.

In Gina’s kitchen, rather. This was never my domain, as evidenced by the burn on my arm.

Anger wells inside me and I have the sudden and insane urge to pull her away from the task. I want to yell at her that this was Gina’s role, not hers, and it’s completely unfair that she’s standing in that position right now.

Instead, I hear the thumping of little feet as Ben comes bounding down the second staircase that leads from the other side of the second floor down into the kitchen.

“Is breakfast ready, Dad?” he asks as he rounds the island counter. His eyes are on me, but then he notices Kate. She turns to give him a smile and says, “Hey, buddy. Remember me?”

Ben’s eyes flare wide with recognition, and then he utterly flays my heart open when his lips pull back into a massive and deliriously happy grin.

“Kate,” he practically screams, and launches himself at her. His face presses into the side of her thigh and his little arms wrap tight around her legs. “Aunt Delaney said you’d be back.”

She immediately picks him up and steps three feet away from the hot griddle, efficiently reaching back to flip it off. “Whoa, little man. Can’t have you acting all crazy like that around the hot plate,” she scolds gently, then tickles his belly.

I stare stupidly at the two of them, completely taken with each other. She’s obviously a fucking natural with kids, clearly diligent in looking out for their safety, and calmly able to multitask. It reminds me so much of Gina and the calm surety with which she was just able to handle everything, a longing pain hits me deep in my chest.