Nanny Dearest

an excerpt



Chapter 1

"It is not polite to spit food at Daddy," Hunter Monroe said to his eighteen-month-old son, Chase. "Daddy is wearing Versace and this suit cost a fortune."

The baby giggled and cooed and slobbered spinach out of the corners of his mouth.

Hunter wiped the food away from the child's face with a napkin and then glanced up at the clock. Six thirty. Where the hell is the babysitter? The award ceremony would be starting in two hours and he needed to get there to help his cosmeticians turn actors into movie stars.

The babysitting agency had guaranteed him they'd have a sitter there by six. Chase's former nanny just up and got married, leaving him in a lurch and forcing him to put Chase in day care, which he absolutely hated. He'd promised himself after Rebecca deserted him that when he was awarded full custody of his son, Chase would want for nothing and have the best life he could afford to give him. He had a long list of nannies waiting to be interviewed, starting tomorrow.

The telephone rang. Hunter ducked another wet batch of spinach that flew out of Chase's mouth and reached for the phone. The person on the other line was his best friend, Adam Becall, agent to the stars.

"Where are you?" Adam asked.

"Still at home, waiting on the babysitter," Hunter replied. "The agency told me one would be here by six."

"I know the name of one who is available. Our kids are with their grandparents tonight so we didn't need a sitter. I'll give Terry a call for you."

"Sure, fine," Hunter said as he heard the bowl of creamed spinach hit the floor, followed by a row of giggles from the bemused Chase. "Can you send her over quickly? Chase is in rare form tonight. He just tossed a bowl of spinach to the floor."

"Smart kid," Adam replied. "Spinach sucks. I'll see you at the awards."

Hunter heard the click as Adam hung up, turned his attention back to his son and was rewarded with a loving smile and a pair of twin dimples. "You are going to be so grounded when you get to be a teen. I'm going to remember this."

Chase just giggled as Hunter stooped to clean up the mess. "Spinach is good for you. It's chock-full of vitamins and will give you muscles like Popeye." Listen to me. I sound like my father. Six years ago he would never have imagined this scenario taking place. His life with Chase's mother was filled with partying and drinking. Fatherhood had changed him for the better. He didn't regret seeking full custody of Chase. Rebecca never wanted the child. All she wanted to do was drink, and eventually partying caught up with her. She'd died tragically a couple of months ago when she misjudged a curve and lost control of her car. Her young life ended before it ever got the chance to mature. What a waste, he thought as he put away the cleaning supplies and washed his hands.

The doorbell rang a few minutes later after Hunter had cleaned Chase up and was about to lay him down for the night. "That must be one of the sitters." Hunter didn't care which one. He carried Chase back down the stairs with him. "Who is it?"

"Terry Rayburn."

Adam's friend. Hunter opened the door and found a young man standing on the other side.

"Mr. Becall sent me over. He said you needed a sitter."

Terry stood five feet seven, had a slender build, with dark black shoulder-length hair and baby blue eyes. He wore a pair of denim jeans, a blue T-shirt and carried a backpack.

"Ma-ma." Chase reached out to the young man with two chubby little hands.

"You're a guy."

Terry nodded. "The last time I checked. And this must be Chase. Aren't you a little cutie?"

Hunter looked the young man over. He seemed fairly decent, even though he could use a haircut. He had great skin and smelled like he'd just stepped out of a shower. "Come in." He stepped aside and allowed Terry to enter, then showed him to the living room.

"You have a nice home." Terry took the backpack off and put it on the floor next to his feet after he sat.

"I've never left Chase with a male sitter before."

"We'll get along fine," Terry assured him. "I brought along some books to read to him, and if reading fails I have a mixed tape of lullabies guaranteed to lull him to sleep."

"Have you babysat other kids besides Mr. Becall's?"

"Yes," Terry answered. "I've watched several." He pulled a folder out of his bag and handed his references to Hunter. Hunter, in turn, handed Chase to Terry since the kid had been reaching for him since he arrived at the door.

"Ma-ma," Chase said again.

It irked Hunter that his mischievous son would play games with a strange man. Granted the kid could be confused by all the silky black hair, full lips and creamy skin, but he didn't think so. Okay, no time to ogle. I have to get to the awards ceremony.

"Can you say Terry?"

"Ma-ma," Chase said quite clearly.

"Does his mother have black hair?" Terry asked, rocking Chase tenderly in his arms.

Hunter took his eyes off the references long enough to watch his son bonding with the handsome young man. "No, she had red hair. She died a couple of months ago."

"I'm sorry," Terry said, still rocking the child. "Losing someone you love must be hard on you."

"At first but I had to be strong for Chase."

"And he's such a beautiful child."

Hunter looked over again. Chase had drifted off to sleep cradled in Terry's arms.

"Looks like you won't be reading those books." He closed the folder. Terry had some impressive credentials, including certifications in child CPR and lifeguarding. "How old are you?"

"Twenty-three," Terry replied. "I'm in my final year in college where I'm majoring in child psychology and nutrition."

The beautiful scene before him reminded Hunter of the Madonna and child. "Let me show you to his room."

Hunter rose and Terry followed him up the stairs, still cradling the sleeping child as they made their way into Chase's room. Terry placed the baby into the crib and then crept back out with Hunter, who led him down the stairs and into the living room.

"Help yourself to anything you want in the refrigerator except the beer."

Terry chuckled. "I don't drink alcohol or beer."

Hunter smiled. "That's good to know. There are movies in the den and snacks in the cabinets."

"No thank you. I'll just sit down here and study. I can listen for Chase just in case he wakes up."

"You sound like a very responsible young man and you have flawless skin."

"Mr. Becall told me you were a cosmetician."

"May I?" Hunter asked, stepping toward Terry.

Terry nodded as Hunter examined his face.

"No makeup or zits. You're too gorgeous."

Terry blushed.

"What's your secret?"

"No snacks, plenty of water, moisturizer and plenty of rest."

"Someone like you could put me out of business," Hunter teased as he ran a finger down Terry's silky skin. "And you have beautiful straight teeth and a good build, too. Have you ever considered modeling?" Hunter moved away quickly as his body responded to Terry's cuteness.

"No," Terry replied once Hunter removed his hand. "School is enough for me at the moment."

"I'll be home around eleven."

"I'll be here," Terry said, walking him to the door.

"I left emergency numbers taped to the refrigerator."

"Relax," Terry said. "Everything is going to be fine."

Hunter grabbed his car keys and opened the door. "I'll see you when I return."

Terry smiled. "Have fun."

* * *

"You could have told me the sitter was a male," Hunter said to Adam as he worked on an actor's face. Pockmarks and moles were difficult to cover but Hunter was an expert and did his best to give the man the appearance of near perfect skin.

"Does being a male matter?" Adam asked as he observed Hunter working. "Terry is very good with kids and very responsible."

"That's not what I mean and you know it."

Adam chuckled. "Hey, the fact he's cute is just a little added incentive."

"For what?" Hunter asked.

"To get you out of the dating rut."

"I am not in a dating rut," Hunter said, both of them ignoring the fact that others were listening.

"Then can you explain why you showed up tonight to the awards presentation without a date?" Adam asked as he admired Hunter's work.

"That does not mean I'm in a rut. I'm just choosy about my peanut butter."

Both Adam and the actor chuckled.

"Anyway, I just have it in my head babysitters are supposed to be teenage girls."

"That's a very chauvinistic way of thinking," Adam replied. "It's almost as bad as saying a woman is a better parent than a man just because she can give birth."

Hunter frowned. He knew from experience that wasn't true.

"And besides, he can use the money. He was orphaned at an early age and he's been supporting himself financially with babysitting and other odd jobs until he graduates."

"Orphaned?" Hunter asked. "Poor kid."

He finished off the actor's makeup and sent him out to meet his public. Hunter wouldn't have to worry about Terry too much longer once he hired a full-time nanny for Chase. "Okay, I'll give him a shot for a while. He seems like a pretty nice young man, and Chase fell in love with him at first sight."

"The demon baby?"

Hunter wasn't offended by Adam's nickname for Chase. Adam was Chase's godfather and had been privy to several of the baby's award-winning tantrums, refusal of food and projectile vomiting. Chase's new teeth were starting to come in and Hunter wasn't looking forward to the experience. "Yeah, he just reached for Terry and said ‘mama.'"

"What?" Adam chuckled.

"You heard me. He called the kid ‘mama,' not once but about three times and kept reaching for him."

"Maybe it's the hair. My Becky thinks Terry looks like a pop-star." Becky was Adam's eight-year-old daughter. He laughed again. "I wouldn't worry about that if I were you. After all, he's just a baby."

"I think he's saying it to get a rise out of me," Hunter replied.

"Oh!" Adam said, clasping his hands against his face in mocked shock.

"Yes, you're right. I think we better finish up here and get out front to our seats." He put away his things, checked his appearance in the mirror and followed Adam out of the door.

* * *

Two hours later he arrived home to find Chase fast asleep and Terry still in the living room doing his homework.

"I hope he wasn't too much trouble."

"No, sir, he was great. Chase slept most of the time and only got up for a diaper change and then went back to sleep."

"Did he call you mama again?" Hunter eyed Terry up and down as he dug into his wallet to pay paid him.

"Yeah. I think his confusion of gender is kind of cute. He's going to die from embarrassment when he's fifteen and you tell his friends about it."

Hunter laughed. Terry had a great sense of humor. He walked him to the door. "Can I call on you again if I need a sitter?"

"Sure." Terry retrieved a business card from his bag and handing the card to Hunter. "It has my full name and cell phone number. I'm usually home most evenings."

"What about in the day?"

"Most days, too. I'm taking my last few classes online, but I occasionally leave my dorm room to eat."

Hunter didn't know if being housebound was a good thing or not. Kids his age should be going out every once and a while with their friends. The fact he still thought about Terry long after he'd gone plagued him. He was just a young man with beautiful skin and nice hair.