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"Ms. Chamberlain? You're next. Second door on the left."
Reese got up from the chair and walked past the woman at the front desk to reach the hall. At ten o'clock in the morning, the East 59th Street Employment Agency in New York's east side was already packed with people needing a job. She'd asked around and had learned it was one of the most reputable agencies in the city. The place reminded her of her dentist's office filled with patients back home in Nebraska.
She had no idea what one wore for an interview to be a nanny. After changing outfits several times she'd opted for a yellow tailored, short-sleeved blouse and skirt, the kind she'd worn to the initial interview on Wednesday. This was her only callback in three days. If she didn't get hired today, she would have to fly home tomorrow, the last thing she wanted to do.
Her father owned a lumberyard and could always give her a job if she couldn't find anything that suited her, but it wouldn't pay her the kind of money she needed. Worse, she didn't relish the idea of seeing Jeremy again, but it would be inevitable because her ex-fiancé happened to work as a loan officer at the bank where her dad did business. Word would get around she was back.
"Come in, Ms. Chamberlain."
"Hello, again, Mr. Lloyd." He was the man who'd taken her initial application.
"Let me introduce you to Mrs. Tribe. She's the private secretary to a Mr. Nicholas Wainwright here in New York and has been looking for the right nanny for her employer. I'll leave you two alone for a few minutes."
The smart-looking brunette woman wearing a professional business suit was probably in her early fifties. "Please sit down. Reese, is it?"
The other woman cocked her head. "You have excellent references. From your application it's apparent you're a student and a scholar. Since you're single and have no experience taking care of other people's children, why did you apply to be a nanny?"
Reese could lie, but she had a feeling this woman would see right through her. "I need to earn as much money as possible this summer so I can stay in school until graduation. My academic scholarship doesn't cover housing and food. Even those of us born in fly-over-country have heard a nanny's job in New York can pay very well, so I thought I'd try for a position." Hopefully that explanation was frank enough for her.
"Taking care of children is exceptionally hard work. I know because I raised two of my own."
Reese smiled. "I've never been married, but I'm the oldest in the family of six children and did a lot of babysitting over the years. I was fourteen when my youngest sister was born. My mother had to stay in bed, so I helped with the baby. It was like playing house. My sister was adorable and I loved it. But," she said as she sighed, "that was twelve years ago. Still, taking care of children is like learning to tie your shoes, don't you think? Once you've figured it out, you never forget."
The other woman eyed her shrewdly while she nodded. "I agree."
"How many children do they have?" Please don't let the number be more than three. Although Reese wouldn't turn it down if the money was good enough.
"Mr. Wainwright is a widower with a ten-week-old baby boy named Jamie."
The news concerning the circumstances came as a sobering revelation to Reese. She'd assumed she might end up working for a couple with several children, that is if she were ever offered a job. "Then he's still grieving for his wife." She shook her head. "How sad for him and his little boy, who'll never know his mother."
Reese got a swelling in her throat just thinking of her own wonderful mom still remarkably young and vital, probably the same age as Mrs. Tribe.
"It's a tragic loss for both of them. Mr. Wainwright has arranged for a nanny who's been with another family to start working for him, but she can't come until September. Because you only wanted summer work, that's one of the reasons I was interested in your application."
One of the reasons? She'd aroused Reese's curiosity. "What were the others?"
"You didn't name an unrealistic salary. Finally, one of your professors at Wharton told me you've been on full academic scholarship there. Good for you. An opportunity like that only comes to a very elite group of graduate students. It means you're going to have a brilliant career in business one day."
To run her own brokerage firm was Reese's goal for the future. "That's my dream."
The dream that had torn her and Jeremy apart.
Jeremy had been fine about her finishing up her undergraduate work at the University of Nebraska, but the scholarship to Wharton had meant a big move to Pennsylvania. The insinuation that she was too ambitious led to the core of the problem eating at him. Jeremy hadn't wanted a future-executive for a wife. In return Reese realized she'd had a lucky escape from a future-controlling-husband. Their breakup had been painful at the time, but the hurt was going away. She didn't want him back. Therein lay the proof.
Mrs. Tribe sat back in her chair and studied Reese. "It was my dream, too, but I didn't get the kind of grades I saw on your transcripts. Another of your professors told me he sees a touch of genius in you. I liked hearing that about you."
Reese couldn't imagine which professor that was. "You've made my day."
"Likewise," she murmured, sounding surprised by her own thoughts. "Provided you feel good about the situation after seeing the baby and discussing Mr. Wainwright's expectations of you in that regard, I think you'll do fine for the position. Of course the final decision will be up to him."
Reese could hardly believe she'd gotten this far in the interview. "I don't know how to thank you, Mrs. Tribe. I promise I won't let him, or you, down. Do you have a picture of the baby?"
A frown marred her brow. "I don't, but you'll be meeting him and his father this afternoon. Where have you been staying since you left Philadelphia?"
"At the Chelsea Star Hotel on West 30th."
"You did say you were available immediately?"
"Yes!" The dormitory bed cost her fifty dollars a night. She couldn't afford to stay in New York after today.
"That's good. If he decides to go with my recommendation and names a fee that's satisfactory to you, then he'll want you to start today."
"What should I wear to the interview? Do I need some kind of uniform? This is completely new to me."
"To both of us," came her honest response. "Wear what you have on. If he has other suggestions, he'll tell you."
"Does he have a pet?"
"As far as I know he's never mentioned one. Are you allergic?"
"No. I just thought if he did, I could pick up some cat or doggie treats at the store. You know. To make friends right off?"
The woman smiled. "I like the way you think, Ms. Chamberlain."
"Of course the baby's going to be another story," Reese murmured. "After having his daddy's exclusive attention, it will take time to win him around."
Mrs. Tribe paused before speaking. "Actually, since his birth, he's been looked after by his maternal grandparents."
"Are they still living with Mr. Wainwright?"
"No. The Hirsts live in White Plains. An hour away in heavy traffic."
So did that mean he hadn't been with his son for the last couple of months? No that couldn't be right. Now that he was getting a nanny, they'd probably just left to go back home.
"I see. Does Jamie have paternal grandparents, too?"
"Yes. At the moment they're away on a trip," came the vague response.
Reese came from a large family. Both sets of grandparents were still alive and always around. She had seven aunts and uncles. Last count there were twenty-eight cousins. With her siblings, including the next oldest, Carrie, who was married and had two children under three, that brought the number to thirty-four. She wondered if her employer had any brothers and sisters or other family.
"You've been with Mr. Wainwright a long time. Is there anything of importance I should know ahead of time?"
"I'll remember that." Reese got to her feet. "I won't take any more of your time. Thank you for this opportunity, Mrs. Tribe."
"It's been my pleasure. A limo will be sent for you at one o'clock."
"I'll be waiting outside in front. Ohone more question. What does Mr. Wainwright do for a living?"
The other woman's eyebrows lifted. "Since you're at Wharton, I thought you might have already made the connection or I would have told you. He's the CEO at Sherborne-Wainwright & Co. on Broadway. Good luck."
"Thank you," Reese murmured in shock. He was that Wainwright?
It was one of the most prestigious brokerage firms in
New York, if not the top one with roots that went back a couple of hundred years. The revelation stunned her on many levels. Somehow she'd imagined the man who ran the whole thing to be in his late forties or early fifties. It usually took that long to rise to those heights.
Of course it wasn't impossible for him to have a new baby, but she was still surprised. Maybe it had been his second wife he'd lost and she'd been a young mother. No one was exempt from pain in this life.
Nick Wainwright stood at the side of the grave. In loving memory of Erica Woodward Hirst Wainwright.
Thirty-two years old was too young to die.
"I'm sorry I neglected you so much it led to our divorce, Erica. Before we separated, I never thought for one moment you might be pregnant with our child, or that you'd lose your life during the delivery. My heart grieves for our little boy who needs his mother. It was your dying wish I raise him, but I feared I wouldn't know how to be a good father to him. That's why I let your parents take care of him this long, but now I'm ready. I swear I'll do everything in my power to be a better father to him than I was a husband to you. If you're listening, I just wanted you to know I vow to keep that promise."
After putting fresh flowers against the headstone, Nick walked swiftly to the limo waiting for him in the distance. He hadn't been here since the funeral. The visit filled him with sorrow for what had gone wrong, but with the decision made to take Jamie home, it felt right to have come to her grave first.
This early in the morning there was only his chauffeur, Paul, to see his tall, dark lone figure get in the back wearing a pale blue summer suit and tie. As he closed the rear door his eyes flicked to the newest state-of-the-art infant car seat he'd had delivered. Before the morning was out, he'd be taking his ten-week-old boy back to the city with him.
"Let's head over to my in-laws."
His middle-aged driver nodded and started the car. Paul had worked for Nick's dad, back when Nick had been in his early teens. Now that his father was semi-retired and Nick had been put in as head of the firm, he'd inherited Paul. Over the years the two of them had become good friends.
Once they left the White Plains cemetery where members of the prominent Hirst family had been buried for the past one hundred and fifty years, he sat back rubbing his hand over his face. In a few minutes there was going to be a scene, but he'd been preparing himself for it.
Prior to the baby's birth, Nick hadn't lived with Erica over the nine months of her pregnancy. Her death had come as a tremendous shock to him. Though he'd allowed her parents to take the baby home from the hospital, he hadn't intended on it lasting for more than several weeks. In that amount of time he'd planned to find live-in help for the baby. Because of his guilt over the way their marriage had fallen apart, he'd let the situation go on too long.
When Nick had phoned the pediatrician in White Plains who'd been called in at the time of delivery, he'd informed Nick that if he hoped to bond with his son, he shouldn't wait any longer to parent him on a full-time basis.
The doctor gave Nick the name of Dr. Hebert Wells, a highly recommended pediatrician who had a clinic on New York's upper west side and could take over Jamie's care. Then he wished him luck.
Following that conversation, Nick had phoned his attorney and explained what he wanted to do. The other man had contacted the Hirsts' attorney to let them know Nick was ready to take over his responsibilities as a father and would be coming for Jamie to take him home.
Erica's parents had wanted Nick to wait until the nanny they'd lined up would be available. They wanted control over the way their only grandchilda future Hirst who would carry on the family traditionwould be raised. That meant having equal input over everything, the kind of children he associated with and where he would attend school from the beginning through college.
But Nick wasn't willing to wait any longer. Through their attorneys he promised to consult them on certain matters and bring Jamie to White Plains for visits, but deep down he knew nothing he said would reassure them. Time would have to take care of the problem.
Nick's family, who lived on Long Island, wanted control of their only grandchild, too. But they were at the family villa in Cannes with friends at the moment, confident Nick would do what had to be done to keep his in-laws pacified.
"Erica's parents seem willing to keep him for now," his mother exclaimed. "It would be better if you let Jamie stay with them for the next year anyway. You can go on visiting him when you have the time. It's the best arrangement under the circumstances."
Nick knew the script by heart. His own parents had already found another suitable woman for Nick to meet when he was ready. They saw nothing wrong in letting Erica's parents oversee Jamie's care, a sort of consolation prize to remove their guilt by association with the son who'd divorced "the catch of the season."
Their attitude came as no surprise to Nick. He'd been an only child, raised in virtual luxury by a whole staff of people other than his own parents. What they never understood was that it had been a lonely life, one that had caused him great pain. He didn't want that for Jamie. But deep down he felt nervous as hell.
Though Nick might have been the whiz kid who'd risen to the top of Sherborne-Wainwright, a two-hundred-year-old family investment brokerage, he didn't quite know what to do with Jamie. The world of a two-and-half-month-old baby was anathema to him.