Loving the Babysitter

By: Cassandra Dee

“Hi sweetheart,” I said cheerily. “I like your outfit. Were you playing princess upstairs?”

Violet drew back for a moment and I saw that her chubby face was streaked with tears and eyes red from crying.

“You okay honey?” I asked, more gently this time. “Did the evil witch come?”

She nodded silently, blue eyes looking up at me, slight smears of chocolate around her mouth. But that was okay, kids get dirty really easily and it could be fixed with a warm washcloth, no problem.

But there was something was different about Violet’s appearance, it wasn’t my imagination. Just like her dad, she looked exhausted, which was not okay for a five year-old. Kids get tired, sure, but they fall asleep right away and wake up completely refreshed, every day is a new day for them. So it worried me though I tried not to show it. Murmuring reassuringly, I said, “Vi, we’ll get you dinner, cleaned up and then ready for bed okay?”

But the little girl screamed then, kicking and jerking her legs violently against me.

“Oof!” the breath woofed out of my stomach, her patent shoes pounding painfully against my hips. “Ouch!”

And Mr. Parker stepped in then, bodily hauling his daughter off of me, clamping her tight against his big form.

“I’m sorry, we’ve been having a tough go of it recently, you know with Vivian moving out and all.”

I stopped in my tracks before catching myself and trying to look normal. Mrs. Parker had moved out? What? When? Why hadn’t my parents told me?

And Mr. Parker nodded again, eyes dark.

“Vivian moved out a couple months back,” he rasped, “and it’s been tough for Vi. She hasn’t been sleeping well, throwing tantrums left and right. So if you can manage her tonight, it’d be a miracle.”

I smiled tentatively.

“I’m sure we’ll be fine,” I said reassuringly even as my mind whirled. Oh my god, my poor little charge. Her mom left and now she was acting out? Heck, any child would do the same, even if Vivian Parker had barely been present in her daughter’s life. Most days, as far as I could tell, the woman hadn’t gotten up before noon and left most of Vi’s care to a nanny who did everything, feeding, bathing, playing with her own flesh and blood.

Speaking of which, where was the nanny? Mr. Parker, reading my mind, shook his head again.

“Mrs. Bee quit,” he ground out, shoulders tense as he hugged his daughter tight. “Vi got to be too much and Mrs. Bee was sixty, she couldn’t manage anymore. So she up and left and it’s just you and me, right kiddo?” he asked the little girl, who burrowed her blonde head into his shoulder, refusing to look up. “It’s just us and we’ll be okay right, kiddo?”

My eyebrows rose although I tried not to look surprised. Mr. Parker had been raising his daughter on his own for the past couple months? That was a tough one. Even though I’m not a parent myself, I’ve babysat a lot and it’s not an easy business. Tiny humans are demanding, always needing to eat, sleep, get their diaper changed, and the twenty-four hour supervision is exhausting. So Mr. Parker’s single dad status must have been tough, beyond tough actually. He was probably bone-tired, with a headache, a walking zombie.

And he shook his head with a weary sigh.

“Alright, I’m gonna hand her over to you now because I’ve got to get to the restaurant,” he rumbled, glancing at his wristwatch. “Shit, Alexandria’s gonna have my ass if I’m late,” he growled. “Here,” he said, making to pass his daughter to me. “Vi, it’s time for Daddy to go.”

But the little girl shrieked, clinging to him, linking her small arms tightly around the big man’s neck.

“Nooo!” she screamed. “Don’t go Daddy, don’t go!”

I tried to pull the little girl from her father although it was practically impossible, she was like a barnacle glued to him. Her little legs locked around the alpha’s waist and she burrowed her face in his shoulder again.

“Nooo!” she screamed repeatedly. “No no no!”

“Come on Vi,” I said gently, getting in close and putting my hand under her arms. “Come on, we’ll make something really good for dinner okay? Remember how much you like peanut butter oh-ohs? How about I make you some and we eat them together? Come on, it’ll be fun.”

And despite the fact that I should have been completely focused on my small charge, I couldn’t help but inhale Mr. Parker’s distinctive cologne close up. He smelled so good as I wrested his daughter from his grasp, the soft wool of his cashmere sweater brushing against me, that square jaw and piercing blue eyes just inches away from my face. I blushed hotly, body heating and growing melty inside, quivering a bit at his nearness. But I steeled myself and shook my head. Get with it girl, I scolded. You’re here to help with a heartbroken child, one who has no mom anymore, and instead you’re thinking about the dad? Don’t be so shallow.

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