Tempt MeBy: Carly Phillips
Bodyguard Bad Boys
The afternoon sun shone through the windows in the warm, cozy kitchen. Mia Atwood held Bailey Rhodes’ little fingertips in one hand and carefully painted the six-year-old’s nails, trying her best to keep the color off the child’s skin. “So tomorrow you start first grade. Are you ready?” she asked her small charge.
Bailey looked up at her with her father’s big brown eyes. “I’m ’cited. Lisa’s in my class but Callie isn’t.” She pouted as she reminded herself of that fact. “And Lisa said Josh Rockman is with us.” She wrinkled her small nose. “Eew. He’s gross so I hope he isn’t sitting near me, but his last name starts with an R, too. So maybe he is. He used to be at the table across from me in Ms. Diamond’s class,” the little chatterbox said.
Mia bit the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. “I’m sure Josh isn’t gross, Bailey.”
“He’s a boy,” Bailey said, drawing out the word with a negative tone, as if that fact explained everything.
Mia waved her hand over the polish, hoping to help it dry before Bailey was off to play and smudged Mia’s work. “All finished but can you sit for a few minutes so it dries?”
“Yeah.” Bailey held up her hands and grinned, a nearly toothless smile because she’d lost her front teeth and they’d only just begun to grow in. So. Cute. “Can I watch TV?” she asked.
“I have to get dinner ready, so I’ll put it on in the family room.” Mia gestured to the room across from the kitchen with a completely open view of the sofa and television from where Mia would prepare the evening meal.
“Wait. I’ll put some oil on your nails to help them set.” She applied the oil, then led Bailey to the sofa in the family room. “How about you keep your hands right here?” Mia placed them palms down on Bailey’s thighs, turned on her favorite show, and hoped it kept her occupied while the polish dried.
For the last three months, she’d been a live-in nanny for Bailey, hired by the child’s single father, Austin Rhodes. He lived in Connecticut, wanting his daughter to grow up in the suburbs, in a house with neighbors and a backyard in which to play. There was no Mrs. Rhodes in the picture. Her employer hadn’t explained except to say he had sole custody… and Mia hadn’t asked questions.
She had enough in her own work background he hadn’t pushed hard about when hiring her. Her last job hadn’t been a cakewalk. Her employer had been into shady dealings and she’d heard too much, learned things she’d had to report to the authorities and testify about at trial.
Austin had only cared that she’d stepped up and done the right thing in the courts, and he’d had no problem hiring her. He didn’t care about the details. Of course, she wasn’t stupid. He was a bodyguard with access to all sorts of information, so he’d probably found out the particulars on his own. As for the elusive one-time Mrs. Rhodes, Bailey never mentioned her mom, either, but when it came to Austin, Mia couldn’t help but wonder why any woman would let him go.
Not going there, she reminded herself before her thoughts could drift to the man who kept himself in shape courtesy of a downstairs gym and who had well-defined muscles and sexy tattoos. He also possessed a chiseled face with a strong chin and full lips, jet-black hair, longer on top, and a constant, sexy scruff of a beard. And before she let herself linger on him any longer—she was only human, after all—she pushed her wayward thoughts away.
He had no place in her mind. During her work as a nanny, she’d come into contact with men who thought she was available for extracurricular activities as well as child care, something that both offended and upset her. These men were married, for one thing, and she never wanted to be that cliché, the nanny who had an affair with her wealthy employer. Even if, in this case, he was single. Thank goodness Austin wasn’t one of those men. He’d always treated her with distant kindness and respect.
“Mia, I messed a nail,” Bailey called out, interrupting her thoughts long before Mia had even started prepping dinner.
She shook her head and laughed. “Come on over and I’ll fix it.”
Before Bailey could make her way back to the kitchen, the state-of-the-art alarm system beeped, alerting Mia to the fact that Austin—he insisted she call him by his first name or else he’d think she was talking about his father—was home.
He walked in through the garage side door as he did every evening he didn’t have an assignment that kept him out odd hours.
“Daddy!” Bailey squealed and ran to her father, who scooped her up before she could barrel into him.