Jonathan found her intriguing—and a host of other emotions he didn’t care to try to identify. He wondered if she knew how much she’d revealed about herself just now. She certainly wasn’t anything like her sister, which, from his standpoint, was a good thing.
Summer had been mind numbingly beautiful and little else. Great packaging that hid an abyss of nothingness. But Em—Emerald?—was a different story. For the last five minutes, he’d been watching a face that attested to a churning cauldron of emotions underneath. She reminded him of an old commercial for Bits & Bites. Something new with every handful.
Now that he looked a little closer, her relationship to Summer was obvious. Her hair was the same natural blonde, with about five different shades of gold. The only hairstylist that could achieve such an array of color was God himself. Her eyes were the same shape as Summer’s, only they were a deep, mysterious brown, where Summer’s had been blue.
She wasn’t classically beautiful like her sister. Everything about her was—long. But her longish face went with her long graceful neck, long hair, long lithe body, and long, long legs.
And while Summer had been a stylish dresser, Em—what was her name?—wasn’t.
She looked like hippy chick meets Goodwill. And—what was that expression his assistant used? Ah, yes. A granola head.
Bottom line, though, she wasn’t a taker like her sister had been. Her comment just now proved that. Amazing what you can reveal about yourself in just a few sentences.
Yes, she was the complete antithesis of Summer.
Jonathan was an excellent judge of character, and he was going to go with his gut on this one. And while there might be a touch of benevolence in his motives, his reasons for asking her to stay were largely selfish. He needed help looking after Alicia and hadn’t found anyone willing to stick around. Maybe Em’s seemingly desperate situation would be the leverage he needed. And it must be desperate indeed. His conscience had smote him when he’d seen her face pale at the news of her sister’s death. Watching her sway had brought to the fore instincts that only his little sister could engender.
Perhaps asking a young woman—as opposed to the granny type he’d been hoping to hire—to move in was a huge error in judgment on his part, but he buried the thought. After all, despite the way she kicked his pulse up, she was as far removed from his ideal woman as you could get.
Yes. This was a good idea.
“I’m sorry for implying you were. It’s just that lately, it seems like there’s always someone at the door, or on the phone, trying to sell you something, or asking you to give money.”
She just looked at him.
“As far as the offer goes? No, I don’t owe you anything, but I could use your help. And you need a place to stay. Maybe we can work something out that will satisfy both of us.”
Her eyes narrowed. Suspicious, wasn’t she? “You could use my help for what?”
Jonathan sighed and looked up the stairs. “I moved in here after my father died. I would have moved Alicia in with me, but she… well, she was uncomfortable with the idea.”
That was putting it mildly. When he’d asked her about moving into his condo with him, she’d had a meltdown of monumental proportions, but he didn’t think sharing that bit of info with Em… Emmaline?—not knowing her full name was going to drive him crazy—would be in his best interests.
“Our housekeeper has been here forever. She’s getting old, and she can’t keep up with Alicia and the house. I could use some help. I’ve been trying to find someone, but…”
Her jaw dropped. “Are you asking me to be her nanny or something? ‘Cause if you are, you can just forget it. I don’t know diddly about kids. I don’t even know if I like them that much.”
Jonathan raised his brows. “You seemed to know how to handle her a few minutes ago.”
“That was just common sense.”
“Come on. If she thought for a moment that you were really going to do anything to make her stop, she’d have stopped. I may not know much about kids, but I’m pretty sure they’re not stupid. They’ll get away with whatever you let them get away with. Have you ever disciplined her?”
He narrowed his eyes and clenched his fists. “If you’re about to suggest I use corporal punishment, you can leave right now.”
“Oh, get a grip, and then get over yourself. Who said spanking and discipline were synonymous? I’ll ask again, have you ever disciplined her?”
“Sure. I’ve sent her to her room before.”
Em rolled her eyes. “Uh huh. Where she’s playing with her toys right now? That’s tough punishment. No wonder she doesn’t listen to you.”
He ground his teeth together. She certainly didn’t have any problem sharing her opinions, did she? He should just hand her her bags and send her on her way, but he found her—invigorating. Not too many people had the nerve to argue with him.
“Let’s get back to the matter at hand, shall we? She’s starting senior kindergarten in a few weeks. She’ll be in school all day, Tuesday to Thursday. I’m here evenings and weekends. You need a place to stay. I need someone here with Alicia. There are two of us living in a house with seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms. I think we can squeeze you in.”
He watched as her eyes darted around. She looked out the front door—which still stood open. She seemed to be looking at the stairs. Maybe she was thinking of making a run for it. Then she turned and looked across the large foyer where they stood, then up the grand staircase to the second level.
When she looked back at him, she seemed to be chewing on the inside of her cheek.
“Would I have to stay with her every day until she starts school?”
Jonathan shook his head. “No. I’m working from home as much as I can. Mrs. Brickman watches her if I need to go out.”
He could tell she was tempted, but she still hesitated. Lucky for him, he had the perfect carrot to dangle in front of her nose.
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