A RANCHER IN NEEDRodeo rider Wyatt Sawyer was used to handling bucking broncos, not babies! So when he became guardian of his five-month-old niece, Wyatt knew he needed to hire a nanny. He just never expected that nanny to be the lovely Grace Talmadge—who was easy on the eyes…and a terrible temptation to a commitment-wary cowboy's heart.Grace liked her life safe and secure, but living with her rugged boss and his bone-melting kisses was likely to get even the most sensible girl into trouble. She and Wyatt were complete opposites, yet Grace found herself falling for this wild cowboy. Could she take a chance and lasso the love of a lifetime?
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The Rancher, The Baby & The Nanny
By Sara Orwig
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2003 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneStallion Pass
"Oh, no!" Holding a baby in his arms, Wyatt Sawyer stood at the window of his Texas ranch home and watched a woman get out of her car. As she approached the house, his practiced gaze ran over her and he immediately scratched her off his list of possibilities for nanny. She looked like a child herself. Curly red hair was clipped behind her head with a few tendrils flying loose. Her lack of makeup and nondescript gray jumper and white blouse made her seem about sixteen.
"How many nannies will I have to interview for you?" he asked the sleeping baby and shifted her in his arms. He gazed at his five-month-old niece and warmth filled him.
"Megan, darlin', we'll find the right nanny. I'm going to take the best care of you I can." He held her up and kissed her forehead lightly, then returned his attention to the woman approaching the door.
Bright May sunshine splashed over her, revealing a fresh-scrubbed look that only added to her youthful appearance. Wyatt wished he could inquire about her age, because it was difficult to imagine she was a day over eighteen, tops. Wyatt's gaze ran over her again and dimly, he registered that she had long legs. He thought about two of the women he'd interviewed who were beauties.Both times, when they'd walked into the room, his heart had skipped a beat. Three minutes into the interview, he knew he could never leave Megan with either one of them.
He sighed. Why was it a monumental task to find good help? The pay he was offering was fabulous. But he knew the drawback - they'd have to live out on his ranch. Most women wouldn't accept a king's ransom to suffer such isolation. Those from ranching and farm backgrounds weren't any more interested than city women. Either that, or applicants were looking for a prospective husband, and Wyatt had no interest in matrimony.
The doorbell chimed, cutting into his thoughts, and he went to answer it. He swung open the door and stared down into wide, thickly lashed green eyes that stabbed through him with startling sharpness. For seconds they were locked in a silent stare, a strange experience for Wyatt. He blinked and studied her more closely. Faint freckles dotted her nose.
"Mr. Sawyer, I'm Grace Talmadge."
"Come in. Call me Wyatt," he said, feeling much older than his thirty-three years. How long would it take him to get rid of her? He had gotten the interviews down to twenty minutes per nanny, but this time he planned to give her ten. She couldn't possibly be over twenty-one.
"This is your little girl?" she asked.
"My niece, Megan. I'm her guardian."
Grace Talmadge looked at the sleeping baby in his arms. "She's a beautiful baby."
"Thanks, I think so. Come in," he repeated.
When Grace passed him, he caught the scent of lemons. Her soap? He closed the door and led the way down a wide hallway, his boot heels scraping the hardwood floor. He paused and motioned her ahead into the family room, following her.
She stood looking around as if she had never been in a room like it.
Wyatt glanced around the room, which he rarely gave much attention to. It was the one room in the house that had not been changed since his childhood, with its familiar paneling, mounted bobcat, heads of deer and antelope, all animals his father had killed. Also, shelves lined with books, bear rugs on the floor, the antique rifle over the mantel.
"You must be a hunter," she said, turning to frown at him.
"No, my father was the hunter. He liked to bring down wild, strong things," Wyatt said, knowing that after all these years he still couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice. "Have a seat, please," he said, crossing the room to sit in a rocker. He adjusted the baby in his arms and rocked slightly.
Grace Talmadge sat across from him in the dark-blue wing chair, her legs crossed primly at the ankles and her hands folded in her lap.
"So Miss Talmadge, have you any experience as a nanny?"
"No, I haven't," she replied. "I'm a bookkeeper for a San Antonio sign company. I've had my job for five years. The owner has decided to retire and he's closing his business, so I need to find another job."
Five years surprised him. Wyatt decided she must have gone to work straight out of high school. "Then why do you want to be a nanny? You realize it means living out here on my ranch?"
"Yes, I understood that from the ad."
"If you've never been a nanny, what are your qualifications for this job? Have you been around children a lot?" Wyatt leaned forward, about ready to escort her out of his house. She had no experience, which made him cross her off his list of possibles immediately.
"Actually, no, I haven't, but I think I can learn." Her voice was soft, soothing to listen to, but Wyatt's patience was frayed from too many interviews over the past few days.
He stood. "Thank you for driving out here. I know it's a long way, but I need someone with experience for this position."
She stood, too, and faced him. "Have you had a lot of experience as a father?" she asked, a faint smile revealing a dimple in her right cheek.
Startled, Wyatt focused more sharply on her. "No, I didn't have any choice in the matter, but I'm a blood -" He bit off his words, realizing what he had been about to say. Being a blood relative was no guarantee of love or care.
"At least give me a little chance here, please," she said.
"Why do you want this job if you have no experience? You might hate being a nanny."
She glanced at the baby in his arms. "Oh, no. I could never hate taking care of a little child."
"Are you familiar with children?"
"I have some young cousins I've been around a little, but they live in Oregon, so I don't see them often."
He was beginning to lose patience, but he was worn out with interviews. "You're not here looking for a husband, are you? Because I'm not a marrying man."
She laughed, revealing white even teeth, and her green eyes sparkled. "No! Hardly. I didn't even know you when I applied for this. I have a friend in Stallion Pass, so I've heard a little about you. I suspect you and I do not have anything even remotely in common."
He agreed with her on that one. "Sorry, but some women I've interviewed do have marriage in mind, and they've been more than plainspoken about it. So if you don't know anything about babies and you aren't interested in the possibilities of matrimony, why are you willing to live in isolation with only me and my niece? Why do you want this job?"
"I've been putting myself through college. I want to pay off my college loans. I have my degree now, but I want a master's in accounting. If I have this job, I can save money, and when your little girl is in preschool, I can take classes while she's away."
"You're talking years from now. She's a baby."
"Time flies, and by then I'll have money saved. Right now, I'm paying back those loans."
"So when you get an accounting degree, I lose my nanny?"
Excerpted from The Rancher, The Baby & The Nanny by Sara Orwig 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.
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