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Stress was rapidly taking control of her senses. Dominique could feel it in her muscles, in her bones, aching to the core. Never had she dreamed that living on her own, without a husband, without a family member to offer financial support and guidance, would be so difficult. As she sat at the kitchen table in her small two-bedroom apartment, surrounded by past due bills, the realization that there was no one to call for help hit her like a physical blow. But it was the way she had wanted it. Well ... almost. She hadn't wanted to lose her father in the process.
"But you're not going to think about that now," she said defiantly to herself. "You have other things to worry about."
Sighing heavily, she snatched up a sheet of paper, almost blank but for three names and corresponding phone numbers listed at the top, and flung herself back in the chair. She couldn't imagine hiring either of these women, but what choice did she have? The ad had run in the local paper for almost two weeks, and only they had responded and actually kept their interview appointments. Dominique had quickly gained a new respect for employers. She now understood the trials and aggravation they went through when deciding to hire a new employee. No wonder it took most people so long to find a new job, she had thought, time and again.
In her case of playing the role as the employer, it had now come down to the wire. She had only two choices; hire one of these women, or turn down the opportunity to make a hell of a lot more money than she was making now. Thoughts of being able to take her son to McDonalds more than once in a blue moon, pay her bills on time, andpurchase more of the things she and Kalvin desperately needed bounced around in her brain. If she didn't hire an evening babysitter today, she would be forced to turn down the promotion. Well, it wasn't a promotion, exactly. It was a move from the day to evening shift. But in a twenty-four hour bar, the customer and tip difference made the move seem like a promotion. Without making the move, she was certain to fall deeper and deeper in debt.
Her chest heaving again, she glared at the three names on the sheet of paper. There was Monica Finch; a strong headed girl right out of high school. Despite her gaudy appearance--piercings everywhere imaginable, long jet black hair, putrid blue lipstick, and a skirt so short her buttocks nearly showed when she walked--she had struck Dominique as a very sweet girl. But Kalvin hadn't liked her and if he wasn't comfortable with his new babysitter there was no way she would be comfortable leaving him each night.
Then there was Lucy Pringle. Talk about a real grouch! It had taken all but three minutes of Dominique's interview with the thirty-something woman to determine she was horrible with children. A woman who was harshly spoken, inconsiderate, and who possessed a temper fuse no longer than the size of a pen tip was way wrong for babysitting anyone's child, let alone Dominique's. She couldn't possibly hire her.
She scratched off Lucy's name, leaving only one candidate. The elderly woman, Elva Noble. Kalvin hadn't been terribly impressed by her but, out of the three, he had seemed to like her the best. Dominique found her to be a sweet old lady. She lived by herself, not too far from the apartment. She had raised four children of her own and now had twelve grandchildren. A Mrs. Doubtfire type woman had been Dominique's first thought. But the woman didn't move as well as the fictional TV star--probably because she wasn't possessed by Robin Williams--and that was what made Dominique uneasy about the whole idea of hiring her. Fear that the woman was just too old to handle a child Kalvin's age for extended periods of time. Kalvin was a good kid but he was a typical five-year-old, energetic and rambunctious. Yet, despite her concerns that the woman couldn't handle Kalvin, Mrs. Noble did seem to be her best bet.
"So we'll give her a shot." Dominique decided and rose from the table. She walked to the phone that hung on the kitchen wall, picked up the receiver and punched in the woman's telephone number. "And if she doesn't work out, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
"Hello," a masculine voice said just as she put the receiver to her ear.
"Umm ... hello. Could I speak with Mrs. Noble, please?" Dominique asked, a bit startled and confused. Not only had the phone never rung on her end of the line, but she could have sworn Elva Noble had said she lived alone. Who was this man answering her phone?
The voice on the other end of the line laughed, a quick burst of husky, deep baritone. "I think we've got our lines crossed."
"Oh, I'm sorry. I must have dialed the wrong number. Thank you."
"No, wait!" Dominique heard the voice say abruptly. Her hand froze mere inches from hanging up the phone.
Putting the receiver back to her ear, she huffed in aggravation. She was in no mood to carry on a conversation with some strange man. "Yes?"
"I was calling you at the same time you were dialing out," the voice quickly explained. "Talk about timing, huh?" He chuckled.
"Oh ... well, I guess so," Dominique stammered. Now she was really confused. She wanted to ask, "Who are you, you strange man, and why are you calling me?" Instead, she cleared her throat and, in the nicest tone she could muster, asked, "Can I help you?"
"I hope so. I was calling about the ad in the paper," the voice said. It was a nice voice. Kind, gentle and soft, the sound of it caressed her ear like a physical touch. Sexy too. A man who possessed a voice like that would no doubt have to have the sexy features to go with it.
Dominique leaned her back against the kitchen wall, closed her eyes, a clear picture of a tall, dark and handsome man filling the darkness behind her lids. Or maybe he had blond hair. Sandy blond hair and a deep tan from hours spent at the beach.
"The one about the in-home babysitting job," he said after a long moment of silence and the man in her picture suddenly became one of curly, untamable red hair, impossibly thick coke bottle glasses, completely skin and bones with pants that barely reached his ankles.
She opened her eyes, sighed and walked to her chair at the kitchen table. The man was calling about the babysitting job. So much for her sexy theory. Sexy as hell men with drool-worthy bodies didn't babysit. Yet the voice was too decidedly masculine to belong to some high school nerd who couldn't get a date if his GPA depended on it. That could only mean...
"Oh, I get it," she said as she sat. "You're calling for your wife."
Again, the man chuckled. "Uh ... no."
"Girlfriend?" she guessed again. She was grasping at straws, but there had to be a reasonable explanation for his inquiry. The thought that he could be calling for himself was just too inconceivable.
There was a trace of amusement in his voice now and dammed if it didn't make him sound even sexier. The thought of continuing her little guessing game, if only to keep him talking for a while, was far too tempting. It had been a long time since she had felt an attraction for a man. And to feel that attraction, that warm fuzzy feeling in her stomach, that heat from her ear to her toes, simply from the sound of a voice ... Was it possible to fall in love with a voice?
"No and no." He paused as if waiting for her next guess before he said, "Running out of women, huh? I'm calling for myself. Is the job still open?"
Dominique propped her elbows on the table, rubbed her forehead with her free hand as her confusion deepened. Why would a man want to apply for a babysitting job? The concept was practically unheard of! No matter what the man looked like. Girls, women, old ladies ... yes, those were the people who babysat children. Men ... no!
And that told her all she needed to know. It was a waste of time. Despite the fact that his voice had piqued her curiosity as to his looks, meeting with him would be a complete waste of time ... time she no longer had to waste. Best case scenario, she would agree to meet this guy and he wouldn't even show up. Or he would show but be completely wrong for the job. Besides, did she really want a man taking care of her son? Hotheaded testosterone was the last thing she needed interrupting her boring, stress-filled life.
"That position has already been filled," she said, making her decision. She picked up her pencil and drew circles around Elva Noble's name on the sheet of paper. "I was attempting to call the woman I've decided to hire when our lines got crossed, as you put it."
"So you haven't contacted the woman yet?"
"Well..." She hesitated, the pencil stopping mid-circle. "No." Dammit! Open mouth, insert foot. She had eaten her foot so many times in her life, it was a wonder she still had two of them! Why was it she could never answer a simple question with a simple answer? If she had told him the position had been filled and left it at that, she could have hung up the phone and this crazed occurrence would be over with. She could have forgotten about the voice, about the way that voice resonated through her body with each word he spoke. Instead, she had to continue babbling.
"But there's no chance I could talk you into an interview before you do?"
Dominique guessed with a voice like that he could talk her into just about anything but she didn't dare tell him that.
"I would really like the job. I come from a big family and I love children. If you would at least talk--"
"I have to fill this position today," she spoke over him. "Preferably as soon as possible, Mr. Uh..." She faltered, suddenly realizing she had been on the phone with this stranger for nearly five minutes and had neglected to get his name.
"Joshua ... just call me Joshua."
"Well, Joshua, as I said, I have to fill this position today and my new hire will have to be ready to start tomorrow afternoon," she informed him, sure that her urgency in the matter would send him away if nothing else would.
"No problem. I can meet with you in an hour."
She hesitated. Oh, why did she have to be so kind-hearted? Granted, she wasn't all that excited over hiring Elva Noble or anyone else on her list. Dreading the final outcome of her decision was more like it. But did she really want to prolong her agony another hour just to talk to this dweeb? And he had to be a dweeb. Despite the voice that had her thinking of hard bodies and silk sheets, the man had to be a geek. He was too insistent about the job, too eager to be given the interview.
"Okay." The word spilled from her mouth before she had a chance to stop it. Why was she saying okay! Amazing how her big mouth could continue to get her in deeper, even with two feet shoved down her throat. Ugh, now she was really losing her mind. "But if you're not here in exactly one hour I'm calling Mrs. Noble. What was your name again?"
"Joshua ... Joshua Divine."
Yeah, I bet you are, she thought cynically, and jotted down his name. And I'm Cinderella.