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"Are you telling me there's a nanny shortage?"
Ben Cavanaugh tried to keep his voice even but he knew his frustration level had risen in direct proportion to the number of days he and Olivia had been forced to manage without Mrs. Baker.
"That's exactly what I'm telling you, Mr. Cavanaugh," Mrs. Wallace, the director of Tender Care Childcare, said seriously. "We placed most of our nannies months ago, when school recessed for the summer. I'm just not sure if we can help you. When did you say you needed someone?"
Yesterday. That's when he needed someone. Ben exhaled a silent, steady breath. If he were a praying man, this probably would have been the time to appeal to God to intervene somehow. He didn't. Instead, he reluctantly moved to Plan B.
"Can you recommend another agency?" he asked, pinning the telephone between his ear and shoulder as he searched his desk for a pen. The only one he could locate had a bright pink pompom where there should have been an eraser. He tested it on a piece of paper and the ink came out: pink glitter suspended in clear goo. He definitely had to have a talk with his daughter about what constituted a proper writing tool!
"If you can give me a few more days, I'm sure we can help you," Mrs. Wallace said.
Ben hesitated. Tender Care was his first choice. Not only did it have a wonderful reputation in Chestnut Grove, it was also the agency that had given them the woman Olivia had affectionately dubbed Nanny Baker — a softspoken, older woman who had lived with them the past seven years. Olivia had been three months old when Nanny Baker moved in with them and over the years they'd grown extremely close. He couldn't imagine another woman taking Nanny Baker's place in Olivia's life...or her heart.
But the reality was he didn't have a few days. "Mrs. Wallace, I appreciate it, but..."
A soft but audible click broke into their conversation. Ben knew what was coming next. He had callwaiting on his phone, too. "Will you please hold for a moment, Mr. Cavanaugh?"
"No problem." He leaned back in his chair and while he waited he studied a photo of Nanny Baker and Olivia that he'd taken during an outing inWinchester Park. Olivia had made the frame herself from craft sticks, glitter — lots of glitter — and an equally generous amount of glue. The two of them were smiling for the camera but for the first time Ben noticed that Nanny Baker looked, well, tired.
Reluctantly, he had to acknowledge the fact that with each passing year it had become more difficult for Nanny to keep up with an active child, no matter how goodnatured. And Olivia was goodnatured, there was no doubt about it, but her body was as busy as her mind, and her tongue had both of them beaten for speed!
When Nanny Baker had told him that her only sister in Arizona was recovering from surgery and had asked her to move in with her, he'd assumed that it would be a temporary arrangement. He'd immediately started compiling a list of temporary replacements until Nanny had gently corrected him. She'd been considering retirement for several months and was looking forward to being close to family again. Not, she'd quickly assured him, that he and Olivia weren't like family to her, but she knew this was something she needed to do.
Which was why they were now nannyless. "Mr. Cavanaugh?" The director was back on the line, only now there was something new in her tone, a spark of excitement that hadn't been there before. "I was just on the telephone with Leah Paxson, one of our nannies. She was hired six months ago by a family in Richmond and she just found out the children's father has accepted a transfer to London that is effective immediately. She is returning to Chestnut Grove this afternoon and she, well, she's available, Mr. Cavanaugh. Isn't that wonderful news!"
Ben couldn't believe it. For a moment, he didn't know what to say. The thought chased through his mind that maybe God had intervened, but he shook it away. He knew better. "Did you hear me, Mr. Cavanaugh? I can set up an interview between you and Miss Paxson tomorrow."
"She's wellqualified?" Desperate circumstances or not, he wasn't going to hire just anyone to look after Olivia. He owed it to both his daughter and to the memory of his wife, Julia, to make sure that Olivia had the best of care while he was at work.
"The family asked Leah to accompany them to London," the director said. "I know they've been extremely happy with her. She's worked with our agency for five years now and I've never heard any negative comments about her. She's a natural with children."
A natural. She certainly sounded qualified. Silently, he went through his schedule for the next day and made a few adjustments.
"How does eleven o'clock tomorrow morning sound?" he asked. "I'd like her to come right to the house. My office is here and I think it would be good for her to see where she'll be living if she accepts the position."
"I'll call Miss Paxson back right away, Mr. Cavanaugh. Eleven o'clock tomorrow."
Ben hung up the phone, relief pouring through him. Mrs. Baker hadn't wanted to go to Arizona until they'd found a replacement for her, but Ben had insisted, confident that it would be a day or two at the most until Tender Care provided another nanny. He hadn't considered that a week after her departure, he'd still be waiting. And now it looked as if the wait might finally be over.
Seven years ago, he'd told Mrs. Wallace exactly what qualifications were necessary for the woman who would be Olivia's nanny. Nanny Baker had fulfilled every one — quiet, sedate and grandmotherly. Ben could only assume that Leah Paxson would be just like her.
Excerpted from Her Christmas Wish by Kathryn Springer Copyright © 2005 by Kathryn Springer. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted November 30, 2006
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