Matthew is a widower, the father of two young children, a boy and a girl, and a full-time lawyer. When his wife died, he hired an Irish nanny to care for his kids, but Inga has gone back to Ireland to marry her fiancé. What’s a frustrated father to do?
Matthew Scofield walked through his front door and heard a babysitter’s ultimatum: “I’m sorry, but this is too much, Mr. Scofield. I’m not ever coming back.”
Matthew blinked and dropped his laptop case onto the foyer table. “Hang on, Brittany, let’s back up a minute. Did the kids give you a hard time?”
“I’m not upset with your kids.” Her voice trembled as she met his gaze. “Your kids are great; but you’re never home when you’re supposed to be. I had a date tonight, but I had to cancel because seven o’clock came and went and I couldn’t reach you.”
“I gave you my cell number.”
“And it went straight to voice mail every time I tried to call. Or maybe you were ignoring the phone, but it doesn’t matter. I’m done, so please don’t call me again.”
He drew a deep breath and searched for some sign of weakening in the teenager’s face, but the girl’s eyes were as hard as diamonds. Since when had eighteen-year-old girls become so determined?
He glanced past her and saw his children leaning against the wall, their faces downcast. They liked Brittany, and apparently they were old enough to realize that they kept losing babysitters because their father worked too much.
“I’m sorry.” He reached for his wallet, pulled out two fifties, and offered them to the girl. “Here—take this.”
She glanced at the bills. “If that’s a bribe, it won’t work. I’m not coming back.”
“It’s not a bribe; consider it payment for damages. I made you miss your date, so ask the guy for a rain check. Tell him dinner’s on me.”
A corner of the girl’s mouth twitched in annoyance, but she took the money and picked up the oversized purse she’d dropped in the foyer. “Thanks.”
“Before you go, do you know anyone else who might be interested in this job? I’m going to need someone the rest of the week.”
“None of my friends want full-time jobs,” Brittany said, moving toward the door. “I’m supposed to be earning money for college, but I’m not going to sacrifice my social life to do it. Not even for kids as cute as yours.”
She turned and gave his children a sympathetic smile. “Bye Roman, ’bye Emilia. Hope I see you around sometime.”
Matt closed and locked the door behind her, then rubbed the back of his neck. How was he supposed to explain this to his kids?
“Daddy?” Roman’s voice broke the silence. “Are we bad kids?”
Something in the boy’s voice tugged at Matt’s heart. “Bad?” He forced a smile. “No way. You’re the best kids in the universe.”
“Then why doesn’t anybody want to stay with us?”
Matt rarely found himself at a loss for words, but how could he explain that lawyers worked long hours and most babysitters didn’t want to stick around that long?
He pasted on another smile and knelt to his kids’ level. “Everybody loves you guys, but they have other things they have to do, that’s all. So hey—how’s about we order pasta for dinner? I think the Italian place will deliver if we say pretty-please.”
Roman thrust his hands into his pockets. “We’re not hungry,” he said, his tone unusually formal for a nine-year-old. “We ate mac-and-cheese with Brittany.”
“It was good,” Emilia echoed. “And Brittany was nice. Are we going to have a new babysitter tomorrow?”
Matt leaned against one of the foyer pillars and sighed in exhaustion. His life had never been easy, but his wife’s death and his nanny’s retirement had made his situation unbearably difficult. With a job that demanded an eighty-hour workweek, how was he supposed to be mother and father to two vulnerable kids?
“I don’t know what we’ll do tomorrow,” he finally said, standing. “But everything’s going to be fine. Since you’ve already eaten, I’ll eat in the kitchen, unless one of you wants to join me. If so, I could order a little extra—”
Roman tilted his head. “Are you working after dinner?”
Matt glanced at his laptop bag, bulging with a case file. If he didn’t start on it right away, he’d be reading all night. “Yes.” Reluctantly, he met his son’s gaze. “Sorry bout that, buddy.”
“Then no thanks.” Roman turned and moved toward the hallway that led to his bedroom. “I got stuff to do.”
“Me, too,” Emilia said, following her brother. “Lots of stuff.”
Matt bit the inside of his lip and watched them go. His bravado hadn’t fooled them. If he couldn’t find a sitter in the next few hours, tomorrow he’d have to ask his secretary to pick them up from school, bring them home, and watch them at the house. And while Mrs. Wilson never balked when it came to typing briefs or digging through ponderous files, he had a feeling she wouldn’t want to spend her afternoon driving through the carpool lane and watching the Disney channel with his offspring. She might agree to help him out for one day, but not for the rest of the week.
His amazing children deserved better than a reluctant caregiver. He had to find an answer, and soon.
Tomorrow: meet Janette