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By:Sawyer Bennett

I was utterly stunned when I got a call from his sister, Delaney, for an interview. I had posted my résumé and qualifications on a website for nanny services, knowing it would be a long shot because most of my experience came from helping my sister, Kelly, with her three kids, and other various babysitting jobs. But at this point, I needed work, so I was applying to every place I could think of.

“Now you seem to have nothing to say,” Zack growls, and my body jerks over the derision in his voice.

“Sorry,” I mutter. “Um…Delaney said you needed a live-in nanny for Ben. That the position would be full-time until he started school in the fall, and then part-time after that. She said I’d be responsible for his care when you weren’t here and that I’d have to do basic household chores and stuff.”

Zack nods at me, unfurls his arms from across his chest, and rubs his chin thoughtfully. “Delaney thinks you’re right for this job. I’m going to have to trust her on that.”

“I am,” I tell him earnestly. “I’ll take very good care of Ben.”

“You’d better,” he growls at me so menacingly, I take an involuntary step backward. “If you harm one hair on my child’s head, I will make you regret it. Do you understand?”

The scared country girl inside me wants to curl into the fetal position and just shrink away from the threat in his voice. But I’m not that young girl anymore. I’ve pulled myself out of crappy circumstances and made a new life for myself. I’ve worked hard over the years to build up my self-esteem, and I’m not about to let this man tear it down.

Squaring my shoulders at him, I give him a stern look. “I appreciate your protectiveness of Ben, and I’d feel the same way about my own child. I can assure you, you have nothing to worry about. But I have to insist that you treat me with some type of respect for the position I hold. At the very least, you don’t want to teach your son it’s okay to threaten and intimidate women, do you?”

Zack stares at me, his amber-colored eyes turning almost a dark brown. He blinks a few times and shakes his head. “Are you always this blunt?”

“I’m always this honest,” I clarify for him.

He stares at me for a moment more, and finally I see acceptance settle in. “Understood. Do you need help bringing your things in? I’ll show you the room you’ll be staying in.”

“Um…I don’t have them, as I had to take the bus here. I thought if it’s okay with you, I’ll move in tomorrow. I have a friend who can give me a ride.”

“You don’t have a car?” he asks curiously.

“Nope. Can’t afford one. It’s the bus for me.”

“You do realize you’ll have to take Ben places, and I most certainly don’t want him on the bus,” he says grimly.

“Delaney says you have two cars and that I could borrow one if you needed me to run errands or take Ben somewhere,” I tell him, and by the look on his face, I can tell this is news to him. “But there’s nothing wrong with riding the bus,” I add.

Zack looks like he wants to argue that point with me, but instead he says, “We’ll go get your stuff right now. I actually have an appointment tomorrow morning and I’ll need you to watch Ben, so I’d rather you get settled in today.”

“Okay,” I tell him. “Would you like me to go get Ben ready?”

“No,” he says curtly. “I’ll do it. You can just wait by the garage door through there.”

I turn to see he’s pointing at a door off the kitchen that leads into a laundry room with another door that I assume leads out to the garage. I turn back to nod at him, but he’s already gone.

“This is where you live?” Zack asks with surprise when I direct him into the driveway of my friend Mark’s house. “I thought Delaney said you were a student. I assumed you lived in a dorm or something.”

“I just graduated at the end of the winter semester a few weeks ago, and that unfortunately means they kick you out of the dorms,” I tell him as he pulls his black Range Rover to a stop. “I’ve been crashing on a friend’s couch since then.”

Zack’s head swivels to the side to look at me. “You said you were twenty-three. Aren’t you a little old to just be graduating?”

I shrug, snag my backpack from the floorboard, and grab the door handle. “I couldn’t afford to go straight through. Had to take a few semesters off to work and save up money for tuition.”

“Didn’t Delaney tell me you’re going back to school in the fall?” he asks hesitantly, almost as if he doesn’t trust the accuracy of that recollection.