Soft-spoken and shy Hannah Fisher is determined to make the man she's loved her entire life finally see her as a woman. With the help of a makeover and the convenient forced proximity of a tour bus, she vows to win her best friend Deacon's heart.
Former bad boy and current fiddle player Deacon Latrell has the world at his fingertips: a new gig with a famous band, plus his best friend on tour as his son's nanny. Life couldn't get much sweeter. Now if only he could stop imagining kissing the daylights out of his childhood BFF...
With one friend set on pushing the boundaries and the other afraid to rock the boat, one thing's for certain-their story would make one heck of a country song.
|Product dimensions:||5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Nanny Arrangement
A Country Blues Novel
By Rachel Harris, Stacy Abrams
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Rachel Harris
All rights reserved.
Packing made Hannah's head hurt. She'd never been very good at making decisions — well, other than ones involving triangular crayons, chicken nuggets, or fun-filled bubble wands — so when it came to choosing outfits for several days and an undecided variety of events, her anxiety level shot through the roof. What if it rained? What if the humidity level rose out of control? What if she woke up incredibly bloated and irritated and decided everything looked utterly horrid?
There were simply too many unknowns to consider.
However, as Hannah stared at not one but three empty suitcases splayed across her childhood bed and contemplated the surreal notion of traveling the continent with country music's hottest band for months on end, she decided she actually wasn't anxious. Nope. That emotion had sailed, and now, she was in a full-blown tizzy. The itinerary Blue's manager, Arabella Stone, had sent her included television appearances, stadium concerts, outdoor festivals, and even a ritzy bash at the Grand Ole Opry. How did she even begin to prepare for such a trip? Everything about it was so far out of her league, she couldn't even see the ballpark. Would people care what the band's nanny wore? More importantly, would Deacon?
That, of course, was the real dilemma ... hell, it was always the dilemma ... and the all too familiar chuckle of a certain fiddle player floating through her bedroom window did squat to ease the nerves hopping like trapped crickets in her stomach. Unfortunately, when it came to the undisputed, unrequited love of Hannah's life, very little ever did.
Biting her thumbnail, she glanced at the window. Now really wasn't the time for a break. She'd yet to make a dent in her lengthy to-do list, and those suitcases weren't going to fill themselves. Blue's itinerary had them meeting in Charlotte at five thirty in the morning, which meant battling with early commuter traffic coming in from Lake Norman. She had a million things to do and zero time to do it in. But in the end, heart won over logic. Hannah never claimed to be reasonable.
Quietly, as if they'd hear her below, she padded across the hardwood floor. With each soft footfall, she recalled a similar afternoon ten years ago — an afternoon that ended up changing her life.
Unlike that long-ago day, this window faced Hannah's backyard as opposed to the street, but after she pulled back the billowing gingham curtain, the view below made her heart beat every bit as wild as it had back then.
"Base!" A little boy with chocolate-brown spikes slapped a pudgy hand on the double swing. The same swing his daddy had helped Hannah's father build in high school. "Me the winner! Me the winner!"
Even from a floor above, Hannah could see amusement shining in Deacon's eyes. "Wow, I see that!" Swiping a hand across his mouth, he covered a smirk and shook his head. "How did you get to be so fast?"
Her favorite two-year-old giggled in pure toddler delight, and the smile that stretched his sweet face beamed with pride. "I not know!"
Max climbed up on the gently rocking swing, all soft elbows and rounded knees, and Deacon's broad shoulders shook with silent laughter. "Buddy, that was sure impressive ... but I'm not sure you understand how chase works. See, you were supposed to chase me."
Max huffed in exasperation. "I know dat."
The "no duh" was all but implied.
Hannah bit back a laugh as Max plopped his bottom onto the seat of the swing and wiggled until he found a comfortable spot. Then, from beneath enviable lashes, he gazed up at his father with hero-like affection. "Push, pwease?"
Tenderness flooded her best friend's face, and Hannah's belly bottomed out.
Her lovesick sigh? Completely involuntary.
The truth of the matter was Deacon Latrell did things to her. All he had to do was breathe and he affected her, but the unmistakable love that shined in his eyes whenever he looked at Max, or his sweet, happy smile whenever he was with her ... they were both her kryptonite.
Deacon sauntered behind the swing, covering the distance with his long-limbed grace. It really wasn't fair. Half the time Hannah tripped over her own two feet, yet Deacon made walking look like some sort of dance. His gait was loose and his steps fluid, disguising the weight he'd always carried on his shoulders. Then again, so much had changed in the last couple of years.
Some days it felt like they were picking back up exactly where they'd left off before she'd left for Paris, and others, it almost felt like they were strangers. While she'd been away, her best friend had formed this entirely new life without her. Joining Blue had changed him in many ways, and fatherhood had settled over him like a well-worn coat. Deacon now had a sense of confidence and purpose, and being a daddy to Max filled a hole that basketball, Hannah's constant encouragement, and even music never could.
For that, she supposed, she should thank Max's mother.
A shiver ran through her. Nope, she wasn't going there. Krista had taken far too much from Hannah as it was. She wasn't about to let old memories steal today's joy, too.
Refocusing on her boys, Hannah watched Deacon nudge the swing higher, and a new memory took over — an afternoon when she'd been the one swinging, her best friend in the world standing behind her as he replaced their classmates' cruel taunts with inside jokes and silly banter. Stitching her back together with each strong push.
Back in those days, Deacon's golden-brown hair had been shaggier, more wild and rebellious like the boy. As the wind tousled it now, Hannah had to admit his current style was just as sexy. Long on top, cropped short on the sides, Deacon's hair shimmered in the late afternoon sun. Hannah's fingers itched to slide through the soft strands.
Trailing her gaze down farther, she felt a pull low in her stomach. A barely there beard showcased his sinful mouth, just enough scruff to tease her whenever he kissed her cheek. Well-worn denim hugged his long legs and narrow hips, and a plain white tee stretched across his muscular chest. Around his neck swung a lone dog tag, a graduation present Hannah had scrimped and saved to buy for him. There was so much to love about Deacon, but seeing that engraved Superman pendant, knowing that it symbolized how much their relationship meant to him, too, made Hannah fall for him even more.
A soft grunt came from behind her, and Hannah turned her back to the window.
"Returning from one trip," Mama remarked, toting a piled-high laundry basket, "packing for another. Guess I should be grateful to see you at all." She grinned as she plopped it onto the dresser. "Well, you and your frilly unmentionables. Can't say I've ever seen underwear that fancy before. Certainly brightened up my laundry room, I'll tell you that."
Almost afraid to look, Hannah peeked at the wicker basket. Sure enough, her more scandalous Parisian purchases sat on top of the heap, and an instant flush scorched her fair cheeks. She'd known she should've done her own laundry.
Fourteen months away equaled a lot of clothes. Along with her old wardrobe, she had the new things she'd bought for the plan. Hannah had fully intended to launder them all once she returned home, but after a stop to visit Deacon in Magnolia Springs ended in a surprising new job offer, things kept popping up. Between filling in at the church daycare, gathering supplies for the tour, and being mentally frazzled from "the mission," her mountain of laundry had slipped through the cracks. Finally, with no time left to procrastinate, she'd lugged it down this morning only to have Mama shoo her away, going on about proper fabric settings and service in love. To be honest, Hannah hadn't put up that much of a fight. Giving in had seemed a whole lot easier.
Now, she was paying for her laziness.
The lingerie in question had been an impulse purchase — an impulse that had then led to an epiphany. As an au pair, she'd had one day off a week to spend as she wished, and Hannah usually spent that time taking long walks around the city. About a month before her return to the States, she'd passed a lingerie boutique, and on a wild whim, decided to step inside.
Blush and jade. Satin and lace. Toile and mousseline ... the colors, styles, and textures had been overwhelming. Trying them on, well, that had been extraordinary. The silk had felt decadent against her skin, almost forbidden, and so unlike anything she'd ever worn before. Living an ocean away from everyone and everything she'd ever known, nursing a broken heart, it had been exactly what Hannah had needed.
Initially, she'd fled to Paris to get over Deacon, but more than that, she'd been fleeing the woman she'd sadly become. A woman who sat on the sidelines of her own life. For far too long, she'd allowed other people to dictate her happiness, and that realization, coupled with naughty lingerie and a few glasses of spectacular wine in an adorable bistro, had birthed her new mission. Hannah liked to call it, Operation Joie de Vivre ... or Operation Find My Happy.
Her mission was threefold.
First up, no more hiding. Hannah's bad habit of shying away from experiences simply because they made her nervous was over. Now, she would be bold. Adventurous. Outgoing. Anything from forming friendships to speaking her mind was fair game, with the number one rule being no more skulking in the shadows. Paris had awoken a desire to start truly living — and to stop putting her dreams on hold.
Secondly, Hannah wanted to find her place in the world. The tour with Blue was a perfect opportunity to explore a new option. So far, her contract lasted only through the national leg, with the idea that they'd extend her stay through the international section once she'd gotten past a short trial period — a test she intended to pass with flying colors.
At twenty-four, she was excited to settle into a career where she could make a real difference, and while she hoped to find that in this position, she was open to just about anything. Band nanny, au pair, or a preschool teacher, they all sounded wonderful. As long as she could make a real contribution, it would fit the bill.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly —
She was putting her heart on the line, once and for all.
Lingerie may've kicked off her mission, but it was the hope of Deacon that gave it life. Denying her feelings all these years hadn't changed them. Neither had leaving the country. The only thing that would, or so she'd decided, was pushing the boundaries of their friendship. Flirting (an activity with which Hannah had zero experience) and letting Deacon know she was ready for love were all part and parcel of her new plan to get her best friend to finally see her as a woman.
Distance had given her perspective on that embarrassing night fourteen months ago. What had seemed romantic and inevitable to her, viewing things as she did through love-tinted glasses, had been just another night for Deacon. The lit candles she'd thought set the mood were purely practical in a storm. As for the kiss she'd felt certain was imminent, well, he'd found it a better time to talk about their friendship ... and how lucky Max was to have his "aunt" Hannah in his life.
Yeah, that part still made her wince.
It had taken a trip across an ocean to realize her mistake. In all her mooning, she'd never once given Deacon a chance to think of her differently. She never hinted at how she felt, much less told him straight out, and ran around town in shapeless tees and mom jeans — at twenty-two! No wonder he'd never fallen for her charms. She'd looked, sounded, and acted like his same old, familiar, safe childhood friend. Like a sexual nonentity.
That was why this job was so perfect. As Blue's nanny, she'd have ample time to show off the new Hannah. The older, better dressed, slightly more confident version. Soon, they'd be living together in a tiny house on wheels, breathing the same oxygen, with plenty of opportunities to flirt and push those boundaries. And if, after the tour was over, Deacon still didn't feel that way about her ... well, then that would suck. But at least she'd finally know. She'd no longer stay up late night after night wondering, what if.
"Oh, to be young again," Mama mused aloud, snapping Hannah's attention back to the present. "It does my heart good to see you living your life, off buying nonsense undies and traveling the world."
Walking over, she cupped Hannah's cheek with a weathered hand. "But I admit it makes me even happier knowing Deacon will be with you for this next adventure. The two of you are at your best whenever you're together. Besides, that boy always did look out for you."
Hannah sighed. That he had. Deacon had beat up bullies, slayed dragons, and wiped away her tears for years. It was why she called him her Superman. But all that protecting had also solidly cemented her place in their friendship — a girl not quite his equal.
"Well, he can retire the cape," she replied, stepping back from her mother's touch. "Living in Paris changed me, Mama. For the better. I'm not the same girl I used to be. Deacon doesn't have to save me anymore."
"Hmm." Her mother pursed her lips and considered her a moment. "The way I remember it," she said slowly, "you two saved each other."
She shifted her gaze to the ribbon board, and Hannah followed the motion, scanning the series of old photos secured on her wall. A thousand perfect moments hit her at once. Deacon saying hey the day that they'd met. Him holding her hand as they walked the halls his first day of school, staring down anyone who dared look at her wrong. His strong, sure voice in her ear whenever mean girls and asshats gained laughs at her expense. Him teaching her self-defense in the backyard, "just in case."
Strolling over to her favorite picture, Hannah smiled at what an unlikely pair they'd made back then. Deacon in an ill-fitting leather jacket, Hannah in her Pollyanna clothes, they'd both been total misfits, only in vastly different ways. No one had seen their friendship coming. Least of all her.
"No," Hannah said softly, tracing a finger over the intense look captured in Deacon's eyes. If she'd only known what a risk he'd taken inviting her to stay that first afternoon. "Deacon saved himself."
Gentle footsteps fell across the floor, and then Mama slid an arm around her waist. She hummed in agreement. "That boy always was a force of nature."
"Still is," she replied, resting her head on her mother's shoulder. "I used to pray that some of that bravery would rub off on me," she confided, chuckling at her own past ridiculousness. "Or soak in through osmosis."
Mama hummed again, a sound that conveyed disagreement. Her mother could have an entire conversation in hums. Hannah lifted her head, and she pinned her with a knowing look. "I reckon it did."
Stepping forward, she slipped the picture Hannah had traced from the ribbon board and then walked over to the bed, placing the old photo in an open suitcase. When Mama lifted her eyes again, they were glazed with moisture. "Your daddy and I are so proud of you, baby girl. Never, ever doubt how strong you are. How strong you've always been."
Matching tears welled in Hannah's eyes, and she dove forward, covering the distance between them and burying her face in her mother's neck. The scent of rosewater filled her head, comforting her, and as she realized it'd be months before she breathed it in again, she inhaled deep, already missing home.
Could Mama be right? Was she brave? If she were, Hannah certainly never felt like it. So many nights she'd spent lying out on the roof beside Deacon, wishing on falling stars that never came true ... or at least, so she'd thought. Now with her mother's words ringing in her ears, she realized that she had left the comfort of home to live abroad, and was now embarking on an adventure with an international music sensation. Furthermore, she had a plan to win over Deacon's heart and finally put herself out there.
What do you know? Maybe there was a bit of courage buried in her after all.
A muffled beep echoed up the stairs, followed by her daddy's voice calling out, "Sweetheart?"
Mama sniffled. Leaning back, she gently ran her fingers through Hannah's loosened curls and then hollered back, "Be right down, Bill!" loudly enough to wake the dead.
Grace and fire, that was Mama.
Hannah grinned, and her mother squeezed her hand. "Pot roast and mashed potatoes sound okay?"
Excerpted from The Nanny Arrangement by Rachel Harris, Stacy Abrams. Copyright © 2017 Rachel Harris. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.