The House Mate Page 14

“Oh, please, I don’t want to cause any trouble.” Addison held up her hands in front of her like she was trying to catch a soccer ball. “I just didn’t want you to think that I would be careless with Dylan’s safety like that. I’ll text you directly next time.”

I frowned. “I know better than to think you would be careless with anything. I jumped to conclusions out of fear.”

Again, the pounding silence filled my ears and my breath caught as I waited for Addison to say something else, to take the stillness and anticipation from the air.

“That’s very nice of you to say,” she said softly.

“I mean it. You’re a great nanny. Not a second has gone by when I regretted my choice in hiring you.”

Except, of course, all the times I wanted to bend you over the kitchen counter and make you scream my name.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one thinking of the exception either, because Addison asked, “Even with what you said the other night? About . . .” She cleared her throat. “If you hadn’t hired me? Did you mean that?”

“Of course I meant it. You’re smart and beautiful and nurturing. You’re . . .” I caught myself and stopped, noticing the glow in her eyes and the sudden tightening in my pants. Shit. “I meant it,” I finished.

“That means a lot to me too.” She swallowed. “Really. Not that it matters.”

“Why not?” I asked, struck by the rosiness of her cheeks. I wanted to run my finger along the curve of her jaw, to touch her skin to see if it was as warm as it looked.

“Because you did hire me. Obviously,” she said, softer still.

“Obviously.” I nodded.

A long pause passed between us as electricity snapped and spun in the air. I was inches from her, and all I had to say was that we shouldn’t let that stop us—that I wanted her no matter what.

But then a wail sounded from upstairs, and Addison shot to her feet.

“Dylan. She probably needs changing.” She rushed toward the stairs.

“Let me take care of it,” I said, but she shook her head.

“No, no. You eat. I’ve got it. Promise,” she said and disappeared up the stairs.

I glanced at my food, still sitting on the coffee table. The moment of heavy, hot tension was gone.

And frankly? I wasn’t sure if I was disappointed or relieved.

Chapter Ten

Addison

It was official. I’d gotten through my first week as Dylan’s nanny, and I’d only embarrassed myself marginally.

Okay, a lot.

Still, I could manage a little mortification if it let me keep this job for as long as possible. Dylan was an absolute dream, and the more time I spent with her, the more I fell head over heels in love. Whenever she smiled, I found myself smiling back, and when she laughed, my heart flipped over in my chest.

As for Max? Well, he’d been nice enough about my many snafus, and there was no doubt that our relationship was changing too. Unlike with Dylan, Max and I were capable of carrying on a conversation, and the general awkwardness of my first few days had gently begun to fade, giving way to more natural conversation. Over dinner a few days ago, he’d shared with me the story of his Army Ranger training. I’d asked him why he’d chosen the military, and he looked at me thoughtfully for a moment.

“It’s a family thing. My grandfather was in the Army, and my father was a Ranger too. He went the more traditional path, but when I left the military, I think he understood.”

“What do you mean?” I’d asked.

“Well, by the time my last tour was up, my father had retired here, and my whole family had settled down in this town. My dad always had a sort of knack for adventure, but I was always more drawn to stability. He wanted to go and jet set, and I wanted to build a life and a home.” Max shook his head. “Don’t get me wrong, my work as a Ranger was important, but what I do now, getting my hands dirty and building new things? That’s what I really love.”

I’d thought about that conversation for the rest of the night, wondering what exactly he meant by wanting stability and a home. If he hadn’t been with Dylan’s mother long, was it because she wasn’t the right woman or was it because he flitted from girl to girl? If he wanted a place to lay his head down at night, did that mean he was looking for commitment and love and all that?

I didn’t know, but I also couldn’t avoid the fact that it was none of my business either way.

But he was attracted to me . . .

Every day since he’d called me beautiful and told me that he wanted me, I couldn’t keep it from my mind. When I handed him his coffee in the morning, it was the first thing I wanted to say, almost like a child who wanted validation. I’d turn around and think, Do you still want me today? Do you still want to show me what it’s like to be a woman?

Every time, it made my cheeks heat and my palms sweat, but I couldn’t drive it out of my mind. And as if that weren’t enough to handle, I could tell his unspoken answer by the way he looked at me.

It was hard to describe, really. I’d had men look at me with interest before, but this was completely different. Sometimes, it was as though he could see me, all naked and raw in front of him, and other times it was as though he could see even further than that—into my soul.

I’d been on the point of saying it to him too. Like one night, when he’d put Dylan to sleep and I’d put on some brainless Netflix show just to have something to look at. It had been a long day and Dylan had been fussier than usual, but once Max sat down next to me and offered me a glass of wine, it was like my nerves were quelled and charged all at once.

“Who were you on the phone with?” he’d asked.

I blinked, remembering the phone call I’d taken while making dinner.

“Oh, my friend Lara. She wants to hang out this weekend.”

“You can invite her over, you know. This is your house too.”

I shook my head. “No, no, it’s fine. You and Dylan deserve some time alone without me in your hair.”

“You know, at first I thought you were talking to your mother.”

I laughed. “Lara would love that. Her greatest joy is bossing me around. No, my mom doesn’t pick up the phone much. She works for the CDC, and it keeps her pretty busy.”

“That’s gotta be tough, not hearing from her.” His eyes softened, and I blanched.

“It’s okay. I’ve got other things.” I looked at the TV, trying to focus on the show, but I knew his eyes were still on me, surveying me. I felt like he could read my mind, could feel my memories, and if I was honest, my hurt. With each conversation, I was feeling closer to him and more torn up inside about it.

But I couldn’t focus on all that. I had a good thing here, and I wasn’t about to blow it over a crush.

Why, oh why does it feel like so much more than a crush?

Some time away from Max was exactly what the doctor ordered so I could get my head on straight again. Lara would help me clear my head.

With a sigh, I looked around Dylan’s newly finished room. I’d painted a few stencils on the walls and set up all the new furniture. Beside her rocking chair was a record player with the Bob Dylan album hanging above it. Sometimes I’d play her a song in the middle of the day and rock her there. Other times, I sat in the chair and watched her paw through her brand-new toy chest. I had to admit, I’d done good with the room.

My hands on my hips, I nodded to myself and then headed down to the already bustling kitchen.

When I walked through the archway, I found Dylan in her high chair, halfway through demolishing her pile of pancake bits, and Max in a chair in front of her. He turned to face me, and his eyes sparked with something I couldn’t name.

Desire, maybe? I pushed the thought away.

“Dylan’s room is finally finished, and I’m going to head out.”

“Already? You can’t make us pancakes and then not have any yourself,” Max argued. “There’s still coffee too.”

“It’s okay. I’ve got an hour’s drive ahead of me, so I want to get on the road.”

“At least take some coffee with you in a thermos.” He motioned to the pot, but I shook my head.

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