The House Mate Page 5

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“Okay, so I’ve looked over your résumé and everything seems in order. You have a long history of child care for someone so young.”

Her eyes softened. “I really like kids a lot. Always have. It’s one of those things, you know?”

“I guess it is.” I nodded. “So, this job would be a little different from summer camp and day care. It’s a full-time commitment, meaning that if Dylan gets up in the middle of the night—”

“I’m on the job,” she cut in with a bright smile. “My goal would be to make your life easier and ensure that you feel Dylan is happy and safe at all times. Does she often wake up in the middle of the night?”

I paused. Maybe?

“No. Not usually.” Hoping Addison didn’t notice my hesitation, I briskly continued. “I have a housekeeper who comes on Saturdays, and though I usually work out of the home, I’ll sometimes need you to take care of Dylan while I’m in my home office, and ensure that she doesn’t distract me.”

“Not a problem.” She tweaked Dylan’s nose, and the baby squealed with delight.

“Food and board are included, plus your salary, and you would be provided with a card for your grocery expenses and any necessities you might need for Dylan’s care.”

“Wow, you really thought of everything,” Addison said, and Dylan let out another shriek of glee.

I cleared my throat. “Do you have any questions for me?”

“Um, where would I be staying?”

“Right.” I got to my feet, and holding my breath, held out my hand for her. As she took it, allowing me to help her to her feet, I hoped to God she couldn’t feel the tense pounding of my pulse in my fingers. “I’ll show you.”

She bent over, and I looked away to avoid staring at the curve of her ass as she scooped Dylan into her arms.

Where would she stay? Where would I stay? I’d been around this woman for less than twenty minutes and I was already harder than a fucking baseball bat. Damn it all, if she was living with me, I’d have to sleep in a tent in the backyard just to keep myself away from her.

Although, at the rate I was going, I could just sleep in the tent in my pants.

I bit back a groan and tried to think. Maybe I could pretend to have impossible standards and tell her I was going to keep looking, or maybe . . .

I turned to find Dylan still giggling in Addison’s arms, her bright eyes shining as she studied the woman holding her, and everything else stopped. This choice wasn’t about me. It had to be about Dylan. About what Dylan needed, what she wanted.

And she clearly wanted Addison.

“This is Dylan’s room.” I opened the first door at the top of the stairs, but not enough for Addison to see that it was practically empty except for the diaper bag Dylan’s mother had left with me. Quickly, I moved to the next door and opened it. “This would be your room.”

It had been a guest room before, and it bore all the neutral, indistinct furniture and linens of a room without personality. I glanced at her over my shoulder, and she nodded.

“Wow, a king-sized bed. I’ve never had one of those.” She let out a low whistle.

“Then next door,” I said as I pointed, hating myself, “is mine.”

Which means only one wall will separate us at night.

I clenched my fist inside my pocket. “The door on the opposite wall is my office, and the door at the end of the hall is the guest bath, which you and Dylan will share.”

“Great.” She nodded. “And in terms of compensation?”

I breathed deep. I could cut in half the salary that I’d listed online. That might send her running for the hills. But then I glanced at Dylan again and remembered Addison’s sterling résumé.

“Ideally, I’d like to go with what’s listed in the ad you responded to. We can talk about more once you’ve gone through a trial period and we see how things are going.”

“That all sounds great.”

I told her about her health benefits and vacation time, and when I was done with my spiel, she gave me another enthusiastic nod.

“So, I guess there’s only one thing left,” I said.

This is all about Dylan, I reminded myself. Not you. Her.

I let my gaze sweep over Addison one last time. Maybe if I pretended she had something terribly wrong with her, it might make it easier.

“When can you start?” I asked.

“I got the job?” She grinned, snuggling Dylan a little closer to her. The baby snatched a lock of her hair and yanked it, but if Addison noticed, she didn’t show it.

“Absolutely. If you don’t mind, it would be great if you could start tomorrow. I know it’s short notice, but—”

“No, no, it’s fine. Completely fine.” She handed Dylan back to me. “This is going to be great. I’m so excited.”

“We are too.” I nodded. “So we’ll see you at eight tomorrow?”

“You’ve got it.”

Boy, did I ever. And bad.

With a few more parting words, she hustled out the door, and then I set Dylan in her high chair and got down to making us lunch.

“It’s going to be great, kiddo,” I muttered, giving Dylan a pep talk that was clearly meant for myself.

Tomorrow, everything was going to be easier. Once Addison was here, things would go back to being about as calm as before Dylan arrived.

Almost as if she’d read my mind, my tiny daughter let out a peal of maniacal laughter that sent a chill straight down my spine.

Famous last words.

Chapter Four

Addison

I let out a slow, calming breath and then forced myself to hold in my squeak of glee when I opened the door.

“Guess what?” I swung my arms wide, careful not to fling the bag of takeout in my hand across the room.

Lara turned around, midway through stirring whatever was in the skillet on the stove.

I frowned, my shoulders slumping. “I brought home dinner. I thought it was my night.”

Lara shrugged, shooting me a half smile. “Figured you’d be busy, so I made chicken marsala.”

I pushed the door closed behind me, practically trembling with excitement.

“But I’m guessing that’s not what you came in here all fired up to tell me?” Lara said.

I skirted around the couch, still pulled out from the night before, and set the bag of food on the counter. “No. It’s not.” The squeak I’d been holding in escaped, sounding like the air coming out of a balloon. “I got the job, and I start tomorrow!”

“Holy shit, yay! That was fast.” Lara’s eyes widened. “So, what do you think?”

“I think it’s perfect. The house is on the cutest little street.” I pressed my hand to my heart.

Maxwell Alexander lived in a well-kept two-story brick house tucked back on a deep lot filled with mature trees. It was a very pretty home . . . white brick with black shutters framing the windows, a big front porch, and a bright red front door.

“My favorite thing about it was the trees. It makes you feel safe, like you’re hidden away in the woods.” Then again, that could have been because symbolically, and maybe literally, I was all about hiding.

But not anymore. I wasn’t hiding at this job. There, with baby Dylan, I was going to be my authentic self. I was going to be completely and totally honest.

Except, of course, for one tiny little detail . . .

“All right, girl, relax. You’re just working there, you’re not getting buried there,” Lara said with a chuckle.

I rolled my eyes. “It’s just the perfect environment. And this little girl—oh my God, you should see her. She’s an absolute dream.”

“How can a one-year-old be a dream? They’re like screaming little poop machines,” Lara said with a shudder.

“She never cried. She came right to me, and she was a complete delight. I think it’s going to be perfect.”

I let out another long sigh, picturing the untidy living room. Before long, it was going to be cluttered with toys and books, and I would be there with Dylan, taking care of her and doing what I was always meant to do. And then in the evening, I’d make dinner, and Max would come home and . . .

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