Nanny For Two: A Single Dad & Nanny Romance - New York Nanny Book 1
Updated: Apr 27, 2019
Author : Tani Hanes
Chapter - 1
Martha Cameron had never felt more like a mouse in her life. The elevator was full of tall women, legs that went on for miles, cheekbones like razors, clear, luminous, skin, with names like Magda and Sasha. They were carrying portfolios that no doubt held gorgeous photographs of themselves, beautifully lit, taken by a professional at great expense that showed them at their lovely best. They all smelled amazing, too, like the various lotions and potions that they used on their hair and bodies.
They all kind of looked alike to Martha. Not like sisters, exactly, but like they were all from the same tribe of women, almost gaunt, carelessly perfect in their lack of make-up, straight hair hanging between their shoulder blades as they sipped their matcha smoothies or whatever. They were utterly comfortable in their skins, completely immune to the reactions of the people around them to their glorious presence.
The doors opened on the forty-fifth floor, to the expensive hush of a wide reception desk. The logo for the company, the words EliteStar, with a star behind it, in emerald green, declared its presence behind the heads of the two receptionists, both of whom looked like they spent plenty of time in front of the camera as well.
The male receptionist looked up and spoke.
"Models straight to your left, through the double doors and take the seats along the wall, please." He looked at Martha, who remained in front of him as the other women followed his instructions and left.
Martha wondered if she should bother to feel insulted that he assumed she wasn't a model, then decided she didn't have the energy, not today, anyway.
"Martha Cameron?" she responded, as if she weren't quite sure what her name was. "I'm here to see Henry Gardener?"
"One moment, please, I'll see if he's available," the young man answered, pushing a button and listening. Martha could see him trying to figure out who she was, and what her business with Henry Gardener might be.
Mr. Gardener was a photographer at EliteStar Modeling Agency, one of their best and most sought-after. He was also one of the owners of the agency, and a Very Important Person. Martha looked and sounded like she was there to deliver lunch.
"He can see you right now," the receptionist said, his surprise evident. He looked at Martha again, taking her in from her brown hair to her pink blouse to her jeans, and on down to her tennis shoes, which she'd gotten from her big sister Kimmy because Kim had bought them in the wrong color and her daughter wouldn't wear them.
"Just go down this hall to your right, take the second right, and his door will be on your right," the man said. He even managed a smile, which was a thing of beauty. He was one of the best looking men Martha had ever seen in her life. And he was sitting behind the reception desk.
She followed his instructions, taking a moment to admire and enjoy the views of New York City that were visible through the large windows. From this side, she could see most of Midtown, and even a bit of the East River, sparkling off to her right.
She tapped on the door, heard a voice call, "Come in," and entered, wondering fleetingly if she should've dressed up a little. Well, it was too late now.
"Hello, good morning," she heard. She couldn't see the owner of the voice, however, and she looked around.
It was an office, but it obviously wasn't used as one very often. The desk and every other surface were covered with photographs, papers, magazines, and other accoutrements of the profession of photography, Martha assumed. There were cameras everywhere, and a few computers, even an actual drawing board, with pencils, which at least looked familiar to her.
Suddenly a figure rose from the floor behind the desk. "Sorry, sorry, just looking for something—I'm always dropping things," he said, coming around the desk to shake hands.
"I'm Henry Gardener," he said with a smile. "You must be Martha." He gestured to a chair. "Please, sit down."
Martha sat in the proffered chair, saying, "I know this is going to sound weird, right off the bat, but please call me Mouse? Only teachers call me Martha, and it always makes me feel like I'm in trouble." She smiled back at him.
He was thirty-five, she knew from having read about him before she came, though he seemed younger to her. He had black hair and blue eyes, a very nice combination, and was tall, though of course most people seemed tall to her. He was nodding now, and continuing to smile.
"Mouse? Family nickname?" he queried.
Martha nodded. "I'm the youngest of nine very loud kids," she explained. "I used to be called 'Martha Mouse' or 'Marty Mouse,’ then it just got shortened to 'Mouse' around the time I started school, because I was so quiet, and moved from room to room so quietly." She gave a little laugh. "I don't know if they realize how loud they are, you know? I mean, eight normal people could make a lot of noise, and my siblings are anything but normal, I think. Throw in the fact that most of them have now reproduced, and well, you can imagine." She sat back, wondering if she'd said too much, revealed too much about herself on too short notice. Maybe it was uncouth?
But no, he was still smiling, nodding, like he understood. "Well, it sounds like you have a lot of experience with young children, then."
Martha nodded again. "I grew up watching my nieces and nephews, so yeah, you could say that. And Professor Tanaka said your son is really, um, quiet?"
The man nodded. "Yes. My wife died two years ago, and since then it's just been Leo and me." He pulled out his phone, scrolled through some photographs, and showed one to Martha. "This is Leo. He just turned four last week."
Martha saw a boy with vivid blue eyes and an untidy mop of blond hair. Even though it was just a picture, she could see apprehension in the small face, nervous worry about something. He was a cute boy, a pretty child, but definitely a kid with deep thoughts.
"I've gone the route of hiring professionals, you know, older people, usually women, with initials after their names, all kinds of credentials in early childhood development, education, all that, but nothing's really worked."
"Is something wrong with him?" Martha asked. "Organically, I mean." Again, she wondered after speaking if she'd asked the wrong thing, or at least asked it the wrong way.
He looked at her. "I like that you asked straight out, if I may say," he responded, running a hand through his black hair. "Some people are worried about using words like 'wrong,' you know?" He shook his head. "No, nothing's wrong with him, he's just not happy. He's very tense all the time, sad, nervous." He looked out the window, at the vista of lower Manhattan. "None of the other nannies were—" he paused while he tried to find the right words. "I never got the feeling that they liked Leo," he finally said, his frustration evident. "And certainly Leo didn't care for them, at all. So I was talking to Terry Tanaka, and she said she had a student who was looking for a live-in summer job." He turned back to Martha. "And here you are."
"Are you looking for someone to provide something professional, Mr. Gardener?" Martha inquired. "I have to ask, because, in all honesty, that's not me. I'm an English major who has a lot of brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews, that's all."
"First, please call me Henry," he said. "I'm surely not that much older than you, am I?" He sat on the edge of his crowded desk. "Second, like I said, I've gone the other route, with the pros, and it hasn't mattered. Leo starts pre-school in the fall, so he basically needs a summer to relax and grow, come out of his shell a little and learn to enjoy life, you know?" He gave Martha a hopeful look.
She nodded. "Could this be related to your wife, Mr.—Henry?" she asked. She was getting a little less hesitant about broaching these topics, since he seemed open to discussing them.
"Josie?" He considered. "I don't think so. She was a photographer, like me, English. From England, I mean." He blinked a couple of times, rubbing his hands on his denim-clad thighs. "She died in childbirth when Leo was two, I don't think he really remembers her."
"I'm sorry I brought it up," Martha said.
He waved a hand at her. "Please, it's okay," he assured her. "If it relates to Leo, it needs to be discussed."
He looked at her. "So?" he asked.
She swallowed. "What?" she finally asked, embarrassed.
"Does this sound like something you'd be interested in? It would be all day, every day, during the week, maybe some evenings or weekends now and then, but I'd ask you well in advance for something like that." At her look, he continued. "I know. Most photographers, especially in fashion, keep crazy hours and travel and all that, but I cut way back on all of that because of Leo after Josie's death."
Martha sat. The truth was that this was not even a question for her. She was being turned out of her dorm next week, and her summer housing had fallen through. She didn't want to go home for the summer. And she certainly needed a job. This took care of both those things, very comfortably, in one fell swoop, so to speak.
"Yes, I think that, as long as Leo likes me, everything will work out fine," she replied.
Henry grinned at her. "What a great way to put it, Martha. Mouse, I mean," he corrected himself. "Usually people say it the other way, you know, if they like Leo," he explained.
"So I guess the next step is for you to come to the house and meet him," Henry said.
"Okay," Martha agreed.
They decided that she'd come for lunch the following day.
Martha rode the elevator down with another bunch of tall, tall women, and wondered if their time had been as fruitful and rewarding as hers.