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Stacey Williams checked her watch for the tenth time. It was still a few minutes before the agreed-upon time, but still she scanned the crowd as passengers walked by. The international terminal at Kennedy Airport was crowded as people checked in for flights all over the world. She had the correct check-in line, she'd verified that before she'd begun her vigil, but she didn't have a ticket. Her new boss would have her ticket.
Watching for Luis Aldivista, she zeroed in on any men with children in attendance. She'd recognize the twin boys and their father after meeting with them yesterday. Still, she scanned each face. Would their regular nanny accompany them to the airport? Or was Luis arriving here expecting her to take charge immediately? Their meeting yesterday had been necessarily brief. Only after she'd left had she thought of questions.
There, a tall dark-haired man with two childrenand a woman carrying a baby right beside him. For a moment Stacey felt a pang of envy. She and her sister were all the family each had, but one day she'd love to fall in love, get married and have a family of her own with lots of children. She loved childrenit was why she did the job she did, but watching other people's children wasn't the same as raising some of her own.
She was jostled as the crowd grew. It was prime time for late afternoon departures and more and more people arrived by the moment. JFK International Airport was one of the country's busiest, and with the start of summer vacations she expected it would continue to be crowded for the next several weeks.
She checked her watch again and, looking up, she spotted the man holding two squirmy boys enter the terminal. A porter pushed a luggage cart behind them. It struck her again that Luis didn't fit her idea of a typical Spaniard. Instead of the dark hair she'd expected, this man had sandy brown hair. He was tall, and fit, but the strong jaw and tightly pressed lips also didn't fit her image of a fiery Latino. Somehow in the past she'd always pictured Spanish men as lovers, with soft words to whisper into a woman's ear and a delightful manner in making a woman feel special.
Luis looked nothing like her fantasies.
He looked around the terminal, spotted her and said something to the boys. They both looked up at him at the same time. She smiled at the twin expressions. When she'd met them yesterday she'd wondered how she'd ever tell them apart. They were identical in every wayexcept personality. Juan was much more outgoing than his brother Pablo.
She pulled her bag behind her as she approached them, her travel tote slung over one shoulder.
"Mr. Aldivista," she greeted him as she got closer.
He looked at her. "Right on time, I see."
She nodded and looked at the boys, smiling. Both clung to their father and studied her with wary eyes.
"Boys, say hello to Miss Williams."
"I don't want to go," one of the boys complained.
"I don't need a babysitter," the other protested, frowning at Stacey. His look mirrored that of his father. She knew they would be a handful. She'd seen evidence of that on their pre-trip interview yesterday, but she was up to the challenge. She hoped.
When she'd showed up for the interview, Luis Aldivista's first comment had been about her appearancetoo young to be a nanny for his boys. Even a temporary nanny for their trip to Spain. For a second she'd thought he'd refuse to hire her but, having left it so close to their departure date, there wasn't a lot he could do.
She'd explained again the credentials of all the nannies in the company. She herself had graduated from college with a degree in early childhood education, and then taken the course from the prestigious Miss Pritchards' School for Nannies. Which he already knew since Stephanie, their office manager, had provided references and credentials when he had visited the agency.
She should be used to people thinking she looked too young for the job, she heard it often enough. One of her friends had said she'd appreciate that youthful look when she was much older and the rest of their peer group looked like dried apples, but she wasn't there yet and it grew annoying.
Luis's lips tightened even more. "Stop that behavior," he told his boys. He glanced at Stacey. "I hope this trip isn't going to be a mistake. We're not even on the plane and they're already causing problems."
"Then let me take charge, that's what you hired me for," she said brightly, feeling the tension rise. She'd arrived home yesterday from another assignment and had scarcely had time to make the interview. Normally she liked to spend a bit more time with the children she'd be watching than just a brief ten-minute meeting, but Stacey was one of only two nannies in their agency who spoke Spanish. There wasn't much choice in the matter if she was to uphold the reputation of Vacation Nannies. Luis Aldivista wasn't the only one wondering if the trip was going to prove a mistake.
"Tell me your names again, please," she said to the twins.
"I'm Juan," the boy on the left said. Pointing to his twin, he continued, "He's Pablo."
"Are you looking forward to the plane ride?" she asked.
"I don't want to go."
"I don't want you here. I want Hannah," Juan said with a pout, then looked up at his father.
"Hannah isn't coming. We've been over this a hundred times. Stacey will be your temporary nanny while we are on vacation," Luis said with little patience. "Let's get going. The sooner we get through security, the sooner we'll be on our way."
Signaling the porter to follow, he led the way to the line for first-class check-in. Moments later all bags except his laptop and her tote had been whisked away.
Stacey didn't have much chance to talk with the boys with everything going on and she determined that while they waited at the departure gate she'd try to learn more about them and have them get to know her better. From the brief interview, she knew they could be a handful. But with their regular nanny at their side, they'd had a modicum of courtesy. Now they were just obstreperous boys uncertain about the changes ahead.
Vacation Nannies had been her idea. She and her sister had founded the small boutique agency five years ago. The idea was to match qualified nannies with families needing childcare for limited periods of timeusually when on vacation. Savannah had still been in college when they'd come up with the concept and had immediately added some business courses to help with starting the firm. After only a year in operation, they'd realized they had a goldmine and had expanded to include other qualified nannies. Two years later they had rented their current office space and hired Stephanie to coordinate everything. They now had a dozen nannies. Their reputation was sterling and they were daily getting more requests than they could handle.
She kept an eye on the boys, though they still held onto their father's hands. They were not charming sweet children like those of her last assignment. They complained. They contradicted each other with constant bickering, and they tugged constantly on their father's hand, as if trying to break away.
Once through security, Luis stopped out of the stream of passengers and looked at her. "I need to make a phone call to the office. Take charge, please, and I'll meet you all at the gate before we board."
Nothing like being dumped into the deep end of an assignment, she thought, nodding, reaching for the boys' hands. She was not going to let them roam free. She had a sudden vision of them running in two different directions and her trying to find them.
"I don't want to go with you," Juan said. Or was it Pablo? No, it was Juan. She needed a way to tell them apart.
"Your dad'll meet us before we get on the plane. Come along, let's find our gate."
"I don't want to go to Spain," Pablo said.
"I've never been. Have you?" she asked, trying to defuse the loaded statement.
He shook his head. "I want Hannah."
"Hannah's taking a short vacation herself," Stacey explained. The boys' regular nanny had refused to accompany them to Spain. Her excuse was a fear of flying, but Stacey was beginning to wonder if it was just to have a few weeks to herself after dealing with them all the time.
"She's our nanny, you're not."
"I want to go with her on vacation." Juan said.
"You're going to see your great-grandmother. Hannah's going to visit her family. I'll be flying with you and watch you while on vacation."
They both pouted and Stacey had to look away lest they see her smile. Twins were adorable as a rule and these two would probably prove the same once she got to know them better. If their manners improved a bit. If they got over not wanting to go.
She found their gate and sat down with the boys on either side to await their father's return. Despite his hesitancy yesterday, he'd had no trouble immediately giving her charge of his children. Wasn't he the slightest bit concerned how they'd all get along? Or was he the stereotypical workaholic, too caught up in the challenges of business to really pay attention to his sons?
Luis Aldivista listened as his head of sales brought him up to speed on the negotiations they were in the midst of. Several years ago he'd invented medical software that interfaced directly between doctors' offices and their affiliated hospitals. Gradually they'd begun selling to the east coast and into the midwest but now they were poised to expand into the western part of the country and Luis wanted to stay on top of things.
This was important. He wished he could have convinced his grandmother of that. But the invitation had been a nicely worded summons. Since he owed his grandmother a lot, he couldn't refuse. It would be the first time she'd asked him to return to Spain since the boys' birth, although she'd visited several times, so she knew the twins. But they'd never been to the place he would forever think of as home. Still, the timing sucked.
When he finished talking with Jerry, he had his secretary transfer him to his research and development team so he could get an update on the latest version of the software, due to be released in six weeks. Luis wanted daily updates.
He'd only left the office four hours ago. He checked his watch. Their flight would be departing soon and by the time they landed, New York would be fast asleep. This was his last chance to be in touch with the office for a while.
Once he'd hung up, he swung by a coffee kiosk and got a cup of coffee. He had work to do on the plane, and with the flight time such as it was, his circadian rhythm would be all messed up by the time he landed in Spain.
As he approached the waiting area for the flight, he quickly located his new temporary nanny and his sons. She was talking to them and for once the boys seemed to be behaving. They both sat in seats, watching her as she talked. At least they hadn't dashed off, trying to find him. Or trying to get home. He would have thought they'd love the opportunity to take a trip to Spain. If only his long-term nanny had accompanied them.
Stacey spotted him and smiled. He nodded in acknowledgment. He had to give her points for already controlling those hellion boys of his. He wished he knew her secret. Even Hannah had trouble with them, but for once it seemed they were not getting into mischief.
"Everything okay at your office?" she asked.
He shrugged. "This is not the best time to be taking a vacation. I'm needed here."
Although he was taking both his phone and his laptop and expected to work from his grandmother's home, making this very much a working holiday.
"But what a great opportunity for you and the boys. I think traveling is so educational," she said.
"They're a little young to be viewing the trip as educational. It would have suited me more to wait a few years."
Luis knew the company would be in good hands while he was gone. He paid high wages to keep the best in the business. His general manager was more than competent in running things. Still, it felt odd to be taking off at such a crucial timeand for three weeks. He hadn't taken a real vacation since selling that first version of the software to the doctors' consortium in Boston. It was actually pushing six years.
"Go now and again in a few years as well," she said with a smile.
Stacey turned her attention to Juan, who was complaining again. Luis knew his sonsthey'd get worse and worse until he'd have to send them to their rooms. Impossible now they were about to board a plane! He hoped they slept through the flight. How did other parents have perfectly behaved children when his acted like hellions most of the time?