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"Any minute now, Christopher," Charles assured his four-year-old son as the two of them stood in the curve of the bay window that looked out over the front yard and the street beyond. "And she's not really new, Christopher. She's just temporary, till Mrs. Butters gets back."
Christopher nodded, his carrot-red hair shining in the sun that streamed in from the bright July morning. He stood imitating his father, with his hands on his hips, both of them watching as an occasional car drove down Harvard Avenue at the sedate, residential speed of twenty-five miles an hour. But when a promising-looking minivan slowed down, then passed by without depositing their expected nanny, Christopher grew impatient.
"Did you say `any minute,' Dad? 'Cause Sarah's hair's all tangled and stickin' out, and Daniel's got oatmeal down his pants and all over his face and hands."
"Any minute," Charles repeated, more to reassure himself than Christopher, since their fill-in nanny was already fifteen minutes late. But sticky oatmeal down Daniel's pants and on various parts of his body didn't seem to be keeping him from enjoying watching The Lion King with Sarah in the family room just down the hall, so there was probably no rush. In fact, Daniel would probably squawk if Charles interrupted one of his favorite scenes in the movie to haul him off for a bath. And as for Sarah's hair, he'd probably do more harm than good if he took a brush to those fine, tangled curls of hers.
Still ... where was the nanny?
The temporary nanny service, Nanny on the Spot, had come highly recommended by his permanent nanny, Mrs. Butters, who had had to dash out of the house early that morning to catch a plane. Her father had died unexpectedly the day before, and Mrs. Butters was going to New Orleans to attend the funeral and be with family for a week. Charles had called the agency at seven o'clock, and was promised a nanny by nine.
If he didn't have a lecture to prepare for an important conference on Saturday, Charles would have simply taken the week off and handled his three small children on his own. Hadn't he done just that when Annette had died two years ago, leaving him with a month-old baby and two toddlers?
After the tragic accident that had instantly killed his wife, Charles had taken a three-month leave of absence from his position as Professor of Astronomy at Westminster College and devoted himself full-time to caring for his children and coping with his grief, and, with the support of friends and his sister, Lily, he'd somehow managed. But now he was back to teaching full-time-even agreeing to two classes this summer-and was up to his ears in research on a new invention. And then there was the lecture this Saturday....
Charles normally had a busy schedule, but he always made sure he had plenty of time to spend with the children. Recently, however, he'd probably taken on a few more projects than he should have. He was fully aware that having Mrs. Butters there to tend the children and take care of the household was what kept him afloat as a father.
Charles easily managed the basics of bathing, storytelling and roughhousing, but he didn't have a clue how to get Kool-Aid stains out of children's clothing, bake holiday-shaped sugar cookies with sprinkles, or comb Sarah's unruly brown hair into those neat little pigtails she wore. Nor did he have any idea what time the Teletubbies came on ... though he did know it was Daniel's favorite television program.
What if the nanny didn't show up at all?
Christopher made an exasperated sound by blowing air through pursed lips and tugged on Charles's pants pocket till he looked down. Peering up at his father from under thick brown eyelashes that were just like his mother's, he announced, "I don't think she's ever going to come."
The expression on Christopher's small face probably reflected his own, which Charles was sure showed his impatience and worry. Determined to lighten up, he smiled and ruffled Christopher's hair. "What is that thing Mrs. Butters always says? A watched pot never boils? We're being a couple of watch-pots, Christopher. So, let's quit looking out the window and watching for the nanny and see if we can lure Daniel away from The Lion King and into the tub. I might even try my hand at doing Sarah's pigtails. What do you think, kiddo?"
Christopher followed his father's long legs out of the room, his own short legs hurrying to keep up. "Well, you can try, Dad. But first tell me ... what's a watch-pot?"
Melissa glanced at the car clock. It was already nine-fifteen and she was still several blocks from Harvard Avenue! She'd been promised the first call-in job that morning and had known she'd be working, so she should have set her alarm. She knew darn well it took her at least a half an hour longer these days to get ready in the morning.
Being eight-and-a-half months pregnant in July was no picnic. Her feet and ankles used to swell only in the afternoon and evenings, but now every morning she woke up with swollen feet, which made it rather difficult to wedge them into shoes. And if she wore her athletic shoes, which were the most comfortable for her back and legs, there were shoelaces to tie. No one had ever warned her about the difficulty of tying shoes over the protuberance of a nearly full-term pregnant belly!
Melissa sighed and pushed an already damp wisp of hair out of her eyes. The air conditioning in the car was on the fritz, and it was going to be another scorcher. But the heatwave and everything else would be much easier to bear if only there was someone around to tie her shoes for her, or rub that achy spot in the small of her back after a long day, or run down to the deli when she got that insatiable urge for salt-and-vinegar potato chips or a big, fat kosher pickle.
Melissa shook her head and smiled wryly at herself in the rearview mirror. There she went again, wishing she had a partner in this parent thing. But what good would a partner be if he'd never wanted you to be pregnant in the first place, cheated on you, maxed out your joint credit cards, and expected to be waited on as if you were his slave and he was King of Siam? In other words, if he was anything like her ex-husband and the father of her unborn child. No, she didn't mind getting her own pickles, thank you very much. Divorcing Brad was the best thing she'd ever done for herself and her baby.
Excerpted from Professor & The Pregnant Nanny by Emily Dalton Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted September 21, 2010
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