Milllionaire Dad, Nanny Needed!

By: Susan Meier

Leading the way, Audra said, “I think we should leave Joshua with my mom this morning, drive to Marsha’s mom’s for the remainder of the baby things and then hit a furniture store.”

“For a crib?”

“And high chair. Changing table. Dressers. Toy box.” She grinned at him. Having always had to watch her pennies, even talking about spending somebody else’s money was fun. Especially when he had so much. “Then we can go to a department store and get a swing, play yard, baby tub.”

He rolled his eyes. “Nothing else?”

“I thought money was no object.”

“Money might not be an object, but time is. I had four important meetings scheduled for this morning.”

Audra opened the kitchen door and walked to the first of the three islands in the huge room. She set the stuffed animals on it. “If you don’t mind risking my taste in baby furniture, I could do those things for you. I already told our assistant, Julie, that I’d be out most of the morning.”

His dark eyes brightened with hope. “I wouldn’t care if you bought a purple crib.”

Audra laughed. “Actually you would. But I’m thinking more in the line of white furniture.” Familiar with the Manelli home, she added, “I’ll need a suite of rooms for Joshua and his nanny. The nanny’s room can probably stay furnished as it already is. The sitting room will probably be good as is, too. But one bedroom of the suite should be emptied so I can set up the nursery.”

“I think I have just the suite. Come with me.”

As Dominic walked Audra through three long corridors to the opulent entrance hall that led to the stairway, memories flooded her. Every time she’d been in this house, the carved wood banister of the wide circular stairway had been decorated with red velvet bows and twinkling white lights. A ten-foot fir dressed with silver stars and gold ornaments had always filled the foyer.

But as they ascended the stairs, the strongest of Audra’s memories were of scrambling around, opening doors, going into rooms typically off-limits to the guests, trying to find Dominic’s hiding place. She was twelve when she stopped attending the Manelli Christmas parties with her mom. That was the year she’d realized she wasn’t looking for Dominic to rat him out to his dad but because she liked him and she hated being a cliché. The cook’s daughter who swooned over the son of her mom’s wealthy employer? No way. She intended to be a success in her own right, find a man who would swoon over her, and be somebody herself.

If only she’d stuck to that plan.

At the top of the stairway, Dominic said, “This way,” pressing his hand at the small of her back to direct her down the hall to the right.

Audra smiled and nodded, but tingles of awareness formed on her back where his hand rested. Another woman might have been alarmed at the attraction, worried about picking up her crush right where she’d left off when she was twelve, but Audra knew she had no reason for concern. Only this time it wasn’t because she refused to be a cliché. Adult Audra was smart enough to stay away from Dominic because he was a playboy.

That much of his story her mother had told. Not by way of gossip, but through offhand comments. She’d refer to Dominic as flirty Dominic. Or say she had only the senior Manellis to cook for because Dominic was in Monaco or Vegas or with friends again. Or when forced to work a weekend, she’d frequently say that Dominic had charmed her into cooking for yet another party for his friends.

That was why Audra had been so surprised to see him in the driveway with a baby. Not because she hadn’t heard that he’d married or had a child, but because subconsciously she’d never expected him to settle down. Dominic might have taken over the serious job of running his family’s conglomerate, but a playboy leopard like that couldn’t change his lifestyle spots.

And she knew all about those spots. Her fiancé, a supposed “reformed” playboy, had left her at the altar. He’d humiliated her in front of her friends and family. And when he finally did call to explain, he’d blamed it all on her. She was too strong. He was afraid that if he tried to tell her that he didn’t want to marry her, she wouldn’t hear him out. She wouldn’t argue or discuss. She’d simply demand he be at the church. The only way he’d believed he could stop their wedding was to not show up.

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