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Nanny for the Neighbors: Chapter 2


For a moment, I’m frozen, my heart pounding in my chest. Then I jump into motion, scrambling out of my chair and lurching towards my mirror. God. I look like crap. There’s a hole in my t-shirt, my makeup is smudged, and my red curls are unbrushed and wild. I try to comb through them with my fingers, but they just stand up even more, frizzing around my pale face. Swearing under my breath, I cast around my room for a hair tie, finally spotting one under my desk. I launch myself at it like a batter sliding into home base and frantically tug my hair into a sloppy bun, then look around wildly for some clothes. A pile of clean laundry I haven’t bothered to put away is stacked next to my bed, and I grab a striped summer dress, shimmying into it as fast as possible.

In the hallway, there’s another half-hearted knock, and then a muffled curse. Shit. He’s about to leave. I grab my keys and throw myself at the front door, frantically unlocking it and yanking it open. Jack has already turned around, heading back down the corridor.

“Hi, sorry!” I call. “I thought I heard someone knocking. Did you want something?”

He spins back to face me, his face lighting up, and butterflies explode in my stomach.

Jack Insley is even more stunning than I remember. High cheekbones, square jaw, and electric-blue eyes shining at me from behind a pair of dark-rimmed glasses. His blonde hair is spiky from him running his fingers through it, and he’s wearing a pair of Converse with Pacman printed on the side. The whole effect is very geek chic.

He’s also shirtless.

Holy crap, his body is incredible. Tanned and muscled, with wide shoulders, strong arms, and a flat, washboard stomach. My eyes take in the shadows underneath his full pecs, then trail down the ridges of his lean abs, following the tight V of his hips as they disappear into his jeans…

“Bethany Ellis, right?” He asks, and I jerk back to reality, my gaze flying up to meet his. He’s smiling nervously. “I saw your flyers in the reception.”

It takes me a few seconds to remember what he’s talking about, then my heart sinks. He doesn’t remember my name; he’s just seen the leaflet I pinned to the noticeboard downstairs. In a final act of desperation, I posted my details on the bulletin board, just in case anyone in the building needed childcare.

Guess I’m the only one who’s been stalking from afar, then.

“It’s Beth,” I say breathlessly. “You’re Jack.”

“Yeah,” he grins. “Look, this is going to sound weird, but do you know how to stop babies crying?”

I blink, taken aback. “Uh. Yes?”

He sags in relief. “Oh, thank God, Seb said you would. D’you mind coming up to my flat for a second?”

“Um. Sure. Do you need—” I wave a hand at his bare chest. “Um. Something? I have some oversize t-shirts that might fit you…”

Why am I offering to cover him up? What’s wrong with me?

Jack looks down at himself, and his cheekbones colour. “Christ. Sorry. Forgot about that. I’ll grab a shirt upstairs.” He gives me a lopsided smile. “I know this looks like some kind of set-up, but I swear I’m not hitting on you. I really do need your help.”

Shame. “Sure,” I say immediately, nodding too hard. “Of course. Anything.”

Thank you.” As if he’s scared I’ll change my mind if he waits too long, he grabs my hand and tugs me out of my flat, leading me down the hallway. I stare at his strong fingers closed around my wrist.

“One day,” he mutters under his breath. “We’ve had her for one day, and I think we’re already losing it.” He pushes open the door to the stairway, jogging up the stairs.

I trail behind him. “You’ve had who one day?” I ask, puffing slightly. “A baby?”

He glances at me out of the corner of his eye, then pulls me out of the stairway and into the corridor of floor five. “I think it would be easier to just show you,” he says grimly, leading me down the hallway. We pull up outside a door identical to mine, with 5A engraved into the wood. Jack yanks it open. Immediately, I hear a high-pitched baby cry.

“I brought her!” Jack calls. The crying gets even louder.

“Thank God,” someone mutters. “I was about to scratch my ears out.”

Jack ushers me forward, and I step inside, looking around.

The first thing I notice is how much nicer his suite is. I have the cheapest room option: a tiny one-bedroom flat with flaky wallpaper and barely any windows. I’ve never been inside the building’s luxury apartments before, and this place is beautiful, all exposed brick and metal accents. One wall is entirely made of glass, looking out over the city. The room is full of bookshelves and armchairs, and there’s even a widescreen TV hanging off one wall, positioned opposite a long black leather sofa.

Two men are sitting on it: a golden-skinned guy with inky black hair, and a brunette in a suit. I recognise them instantly as Jack’s uber-hot roommates. Neither of them look up at me as I step forward, both staring stubbornly at something on the coffee table. I follow their gazes and finally see the source of all the noise.

There’s a baby sitting on the coffee table, tucked inside a grey plastic car seat. She’s small, probably five or six months, and dressed in a little pink onesie. And she’s shrieking at the top of her lungs.

Without even thinking, my feet cross the room towards her. Oh, she is gorgeous. Tan skin, thick black hair, and huge brown eyes with long lashes. Her cheeks are puffy with baby fat, and they’re all pink from screaming.

“Oh, hello, precious,” I whisper. “Can I touch her?”

Please,” one of the men says. “Just make her stop.”

I reach into the car seat and pick her up. It’s been over a year since I held a baby. She’s so soft and small in my arms I could cry. “Aw, honey. You don’t feel so happy, huh?” I rub my cheek against hers. “What’s up, sweetheart?”

She looks up at me, anguished, and covers her face with her tiny hands.

“I’m not sure she’ll tell you,” the dark-haired man drawls. “She’s not been very chatty so far.”

I turn to look at him, trying not to blush as I take him in. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a man ooze so much sex appeal. He’s lounging on the leather sofa, wearing jeans and a silk shirt that he hasn’t bothered to button up. His eyes and tousled hair are both shockingly black, and his fingers glint with stacked silver rings.

“Hello, neighbor,” he says softly, smiling. His voice is low and rich, like melting chocolate. “Glad to finally meet you. I’m Cyrus.” He flicks his head towards the suited man sitting next to him. “This is Sebastian.”

“Beth,” I squeak.

Cyrus’s smile gets wider. “Oh, I know who you are,” he murmurs, his eyes subtly dropping from my face to my hips.

Holy shit. Is he checking me out?

The baby wails again, and I clear my throat, looking back down at her. “It’s okay, sweetheart,” I whisper, stroking her arm. “What’s your name, huh?”

“Camilla,” Jack says, coming up behind me. Sadly, he’s now put on a t-shirt. The thin white cotton melts all over his hard chest, clinging to his biceps. “We’ve been calling her Cami.”

“Cami. That’s a very pretty name.” I kiss Cami’s cheek. “Very, very pretty. Just like you.”

She shakes her head, roaring furiously. I pat her butt, feeling her nappy. It’s a little too loose, but thankfully empty. “Your nappy seems fine. Are you hungry, honey?”

“We fed her ten minutes ago,” Jack says.

“Burped her?”

“She puked all over Jack’s back,” Cyrus says, watching me intently. “Of course, that might have just been a reaction to the shirt he was wearing. It was pretty nauseating.”

Cami shudders with tears, banging me with her tiny fists. My heart breaks. “Oh, baby. It’s okay, it’s okay. Shh. Shh.” I keep jogging her on my hip, cuddling her close and rubbing her back. “It’s okay.”

Slowly, her cries start to die down. I hug her, murmuring to her under my breath, until eventually they trail away into sad little sniffles. “There we go,” I say quietly. “It’s not so bad, is it? Everything’s okay.” I wipe her cheeks dry. She snuggles angrily into my chest, hiccuping. “She’s fine,” I tell the guys. “She just needed a cuddle.”

No one says anything. I look up. All three men are staring at me, their eyes wide.

I blink. “What?”

“She’s a witch,” Cyrus says faintly. “What the Hell. She’s been crying for about six hours straight. Are you saying all we had to do is pick her up?”

I frown. “Didn’t you try that? You just left her crying in a car seat?”

Jack looks uncomfortable. “She’s a baby,” he says. “We thought they just cry when they need food, or sleep, or a new nappy. But we tried all of that, and it didn’t work.”

“They’re not Tamagotchis,” I say reproachfully. “You don’t just feed them and clean their poop and then ignore them until they die.” Cami sputters, pouting, and I press a kiss to her hair. “Poor thing. Are all the horrible men ignoring you?” I glance down at the car seat on the table. It’s a convertible model, with a handle you can push up to use as a carrier. The padding inside looks cheap and thin. “She was probably crying because she was uncomfortable. Why was she in this?”

“That’s how she was given to us this morning,” Jack says, wringing his hands. “We tried to buy her some stuff, but we didn’t know where to start. We still don’t have a crib or anything.”

I look around the room again, picking up on the details I’ve missed. There are brand-new baby items strewn all over the place. Baby wipes. A pack of onesies. An unopened bag of dummies. A pot of formula is sitting by the sink in the kitchenette, the little plastic scoop laying on the counter next to it.

I soften a bit. Clearly, someone had an emergency and dumped the baby on the boys last-minute. It’s hardly their fault they’re unprepared. “Whoever stuck you guys on babysitting duty must have been desperate, huh?” I kiss Cami’s head. She paddles her little feet against my stomach, looking up at me with huge eyes. “Who was it? Sister? Friend of the family?”

Jack looks uncomfortable. “Not exactly.”

“No?” I jiggle Cami in my arms. “Where’s the mum?”

“She’s… out of the picture,” Cyrus says, after a moment.

“Oh. The dad, then? He really should’ve sent her with some nappies, at least.” I pat Cami’s little butt. “This one doesn’t even fit her right.” There are a few beats of silence, and I glance up at them. “Guys? The father?”

No one answers.

I frown. “I’m sorry, is that a hard question?”

Jack and Cyrus share a loaded look. Sebastian clenches his teeth, not meeting my eyes.

Dread trickles down my spine as I take in their guilty faces. Something is wrong. I straighten, my voice sharpening. “Whose child is this?”

Jack sighs, running a hand through his hair. “If we’re honest, Beth, we’re not entirely sure.”


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