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Extensive (A Single Dad Box Set) by Claire Adams (44)


Chapter Five

Noah

 

Even after five interviews with potential nanny candidates, I still woke Monday morning with no one to help me. It had been a surprise that people actually responded to my email on the weekend, but that was the type of loyalty I fostered within my company. I called each of the referrals first thing Sunday morning and spent the entire afternoon interviewing.

Since Gina had another year until preschool, there was nowhere else for her to go other than to work with me.

I woke extra early so that I could get myself ready and then pack her bag with as many things as I thought she’d need for the day. I knew I had too many snacks, but I wanted her to be comfortable in the new situation.

All night, I mulled over the two at the top of my candidate list. Allison, my secretary, had kept Gina in her office during the interviews. I wanted to be sure of a person before introducing them to my daughter. And none of them wowed me enough to warrant an introduction. I’d decided to take the night to think about it. 

My schedule was packed with meetings, as most Mondays were, so I wouldn’t be able to get to introduce the final applicants to Gina until Tuesday. I hoped that Gina would connect with at least one of them.

I woke Gina around six-thirty, and even though that was an hour earlier than she normally got up, she jumped out of her bed, ready for the day.

“Today’s work with Daddy!” she said, reaching up to me.

I embraced her, and she squeezed her little arms around my neck.

“Sorry you have to come to work with me, but you can bring whatever toys you want,” I said.

“I’m happy to work with Daddy.”

“You are?”

“Now I can see you all day!”

Her comment made me feel like the worst father ever. I wished I could spend more of my time with her, but being a single parent was incredibly difficult, especially since I carried the weight of all of my employees on my shoulders as well as my family.

But no matter how hard of a position I was in, I was adamant about making sure we had enough money to live comfortably. I wasn’t going to let Gina grow up the way I did.

“We don’t have time to eat at home, but I’m ordering breakfast for the company so we can eat there,” I said.

“Okay. I need to change first,” she said.

I’d padded our morning for this very instance. I worked through some emails on my phone while Gina picked out her most “professional” outfit. She chose a blue and white dress with her “fancy” white shoes.

When I breached the topic of a ponytail, she patted my hand.

“Today, I wear a bow,” she said and picked out a big pink bow for me to place in her hair.

I felt relieved that she trusted me with such a task. And after a few tries maneuvering the clip into her hair, I managed to do it. At least I didn’t rip her hair out of her head this time.

“High-five!” I said, and she slapped my hand with hers and let out an excited giggle. “Let’s go!”

 

I walked through the door of the building only ten minutes later than normal. Most of my employees had already picked through the breakfast I’d had the caterer set up in the lobby. But I’d ordered plenty for everyone. I allowed Gina to choose which items she wanted. By the time we made it down the buffet line, I had two full plates of food.

We went up the elevator this time, and on our way to my office she insisted on greeting every employee along the way, and Gina explained that she was working with me today.

Once I got her settled in her section of the office, I called Allison in to brief me on my day.

“Did you like any of the nannies?” Allison asked.

“I’d like to make an appointment with two of them tomorrow, as soon as you can schedule it.”

I handed her two resumes.

“You don’t seem thrilled about it?” Allison said, looking at the paperwork.

“I wanted to take my time with the process, but I need someone now. I’d hate to settle for anyone, though. At this rate, I’ll have to give Gina a job here since finding a nanny seems unlikely.”

“It’s only been a few days,” Allison said. “I can put an ad out on some job websites if you’d like?”

“Thank you, Allison. Let’s do that if the candidates tomorrow don’t work out.”

She jotted something down on her notepad and stood up. “Is that all?”

“For now,” I said.

“I’ll come in shortly to get you for your first meeting.”

“Thank you.”

After the door had closed behind Allison, I got up from my chair and sat down next to Gina. She had half of a croissant in her mouth while she concentrated on coloring one of the pages from one of the many coloring books on the shelves next to her table.

I took a scone from the plate and munched on it while watching her intently concentrating on the page.

“I love her purple shoes,” I said.

“Thank you,” she mumbled through the croissant.

Three sharp knocks sounded on my door.

“Come in,” I said. Had ten minutes already gone by so quickly?

“Someone is here to see you.” Allison poked her head into the room. 

I looked up to see a woman I’d never seen before walking into the office behind her. I stood up, my protective fatherly instinct flashing. “Great. Thanks.”

The woman tucked her long brown hair behind her ears and locked her hazel eyes with me. She tugged at the hem of her green sweater as I offered my hand to her.

“I’m Noah Stone.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Stone. My name is Jess. I’m here for the nanny position,” she said and offered her hand to me. I clasped it and shook.

“I’ll be out here if you need anything.” Allison gave me a slight wave and walked out.

“Did Allison schedule this interview for you?” I asked.

“No,” she said and smirked. “A friend of someone who works here told me about the job last night. I came by on a hunch and wanted to see if it was still available.” I couldn’t place her accent, but the more she spoke, the more I wanted her to keep talking.

She glanced at Gina, who was alert and interested in our visitor.

I stepped between my daughter and Jess. “Did you think to call before stopping at my office? I have a very busy day.”

My cold demeanor didn’t deter her. “I tried calling last night, but your answering service picked up. I can come by another time if you would like. Here’s my resume.” She reached into her bag.

“I like your bracelet,” Gina said, stepping around me and going over to Jess.

I started to lunge forward but held back. I was in a safe space, and this woman clearly was here to interview for a position to be around my daughter.

Jess looked at me before kneeling down next to Gina and offering her wrist. “It’s made of kangaroo leather. My mom got it for me when I was younger.”

“You talk funny,” Gina said.

I opened my mouth to say something, but Jess was first.

“I’m from Australia,” Jess said.

“Where’s that?”

“It’s in the deep south,” Jess said with a smile. “What’s your name?”

“Gina.”

“I love that name.”

“Really?” Gina asked.

“Yep. I’ve never met a Gina before.”

“Me neither!” Gina said. “Want to color with me?”

“If it’s okay with your dad?”

“Daddy can color too,” Gina said.

Gina pulled out a chair for Jess and I and then sat. She gave us each a coloring page and continued with hers.

Jess picked a blue crayon and rolled it around in her hands.

“I suppose I have a few minutes for an interview,” I said. Clearly, Gina liked Jess, which was a big priority for me. And I had to admit that I was charmed by Jess as well. Within seconds, she had my little girl’s full attention. That was hard to come by with anyone, including Layla.

“I’ve been watching children since I was sixteen. I have my degree in early childhood education. When I came over here, I got several short-term jobs before landing a long-term one with a lovely family. I was with them for two years until I was no longer needed. All of my certifications are current as well.”

“Color your clouds blue,” Gina said to Jess.

I almost corrected Gina for being so forceful, but I found myself enamored with the woman in front of me.

Jess started on her coloring page. “How old are you, Gina?”

“Three!” Gina said, holding out three fingers to Jess.

I cleared my throat. “I’m looking for long-term. And I need someone to start right away.”

Jess nodded. “I’m available.”

“I’ll need references from your previous employers.”

“I have all contact information listed on my resume.”

“That’s good,” I said.

“Can you tell me about your family?” she asked.

“It’s just Gina and me. I run this company and need full-time help with her.”

“What sort of things do you like to do, Gina?” Jess asked.

“I like the park.”

“I like the park too,” Jess said. “Especially the swings.”

“Me too!”

Jess looked up and smiled at me, a genuinely happy smile. I hoped that she felt the connection that I sensed between them. And if I had to be honest with myself, with me too. There was something about Jess that made me want to keep her in my presence. Was it her foreign charm? Or the fact that she made my daughter open up in less than five minutes of being with her?

Was this the nanny I’d been waiting for? She was young, probably early to mid-twenties. And the fact that she stuck with a family for two years was a bonus for me. I wasn’t sure how long I would need a nanny, but I knew two years would be the minimum.

My gut told me that this was the one, but I had to push my rational side to disagree, at least until I could clear my head. Normally, I wasn’t the type to make quick decisions like this, but I wanted to hire her before anyone else did.

Allison’s signature sharp rap on the door broke me from my thoughts.

“Come in,” I said.

Allison stepped into the room. Her eyes were wide as if she had a feeling I was going to reprimand her. My look had been enough. Next time, I wouldn’t be so forgiving.

“Yes?” I asked.

Allison looked at Jess then me. “I-It’s time for the meeting.”

I stood up from the child-sized chair and smoothed the wrinkles on my pants. “Thank you, Allison.”

She nodded and backed out of the room, leaving the door open.

Jess stood up from her chair. Her expression was remorseful. Had she thought she’d given a bad interview? Granted, it was shorter than I would have liked, but she’d given me everything I needed in that small amount of time.

“Well, thank you for your time,” Jess said. She opened her mouth to say something but quickly closed it. She crouched down next to Gina. “It was nice to meet you, Gina.”

Gina flung herself off her chair and into Jess’s arms. “Can you stay while Daddy has his meeting?”

Jess cleared her throat and glanced up at me.

“Honey,” I said to Gina. “Jess has to go.”

Gina frowned but didn’t protest.

“Thanks again,” Jess said. “I can show myself out.”

“Bye,” I said for lack of better words. Gina had the right idea. I wanted Jess to stay too. Appearing too eager wasn’t a smart move.

When Jess left, I closed the door behind her.

“I like her,” Gina said, grabbing another pastry. I’d have to have Allison remove those while I was in the meeting so Gina wouldn’t be hopped up on sugar all day.

I smiled. “Me too.”

“Can Jess be my nanny?” Gina asked.

“Do you want her to be your nanny?” I asked.

“Yes! She’s so pretty and nice, and she colored with me.”

I laughed. “Okay, honey. I’ll be right back.”

I threw open the door and stopped at Allison’s desk. “I’ll only be a minute.”

“I’ll get everyone together right now,” she said.

At least she could do that part of her job.

Jess was nearly at the elevator, so I picked up my pace to catch her before she exited the building.

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