Friday, October 21, 2016

Aim for the Heart - Chapter Seven

YEAH! It's time for another chapter!!

Tony didn’t know what entertained him more; Monica’s playful voice or the way her facial features would change to fit the characters in the story. But it didn’t matter. She fascinated him more than any woman he’d met before. And she was so very lovely.
As he and Michael were walking by the playroom, it was Tony who’d heard her story and wanted to see her. Thankfully, Michael didn’t object when Tony had suggested they peek in to see how the new nanny was handling things.
He would have loved to keep watching her…and grinning like an idiot, but for some reason, Michael decided to clear his throat. Tony grumbled under his breath. Now the magical spell she had put him under had disappeared. Mortification coated her expression as her cheeks turned red.
“Forgive us for interrupting,” Michael said as he folded his arms. “Please continue.”
“I…um, well, I…” Her throat jumped as if she’d just swallowed hard. “Did you need something?”
“Nothing at all. Tony and I were just passing by and heard your sweet story.”
“Papa?” Andrea asked. “Are you and Tony gonna stay?”
“No, my dear. We’ll leave. I just wanted to tell Monica that she’s doing a splendid job.” He gave her a nod, turned and walked out of the room.
Tony followed. Irritation flowed inside him and he wanted nothing more than to excuse himself from his employer and return to the playroom to finish hearing the story about the three bears. Although it was a classic fairytale, he’d never heard it quite as good as when Monica told the story.
“She is good, isn’t she, Tony?” Michael finally said after a few moments of silence.
“Yes.” Her image remained on his mind, keeping him smiling. She wore the plain dress she’d been wearing for her interview this morning, and her hair was wound in a tight coil at the back of her head. Yet, her face glowed with excitement and her eyes twinkled as she created the story for the young children.
Suddenly, Michael stopped and faced Tony. His eyes lit up with mischief as he put a finger to his mouth. “Let’s sneak back and finish listening to the story. I found her version of Goldilocks and the Three Bears quite enchanting.”
“Indeed, it was.” Tony nodded.
“This time, we’ll try not to let her know we’re there.”
Tony chuckled. Enthusiasm rushed through him once more. “That’s a wonderful idea!”
Once they arrived back at the door, Michael carefully turned the knob and opened the door.
“Somebody’s been sitting in my chair.” Monica’s gruffy voice barked out loudly, and then changed sweet and soft. “And somebody’s been sitting in my chair, the mamma bear said.” Her face turned pouty as she made a sad face for the baby bear. “Someone’s been sitting in my chair and…they broke it to pieces, the baby bear cried.”
The children laughed at her display again, which made Monica smile. Just as she opened her mouth to continue, Junior stepped forward. His eyebrows were creased and his face was flushed with anger.
“You may be able to fool them, but you can’t fool me!” He faced her with his hands bunched by his side.
Monica’s eyes lifted from the book and landed on the ten-year-old boy. Junior was full of rage, and yet, Tony could see the boy looked as if he was going to cry.
“What do you mean by that, Junior?” Monica asked calmly.
“I…I…don’t need a nanny! I won’t obey you. You can’t make me!”
Tony waited for Michael to enter the room and help out, but the big boss man didn’t. Instead, he remained quiet as he watched through the cracked door.
Monica paused briefly before smiling at the boy. “You are correct, Junior. You’re probably too old for a nanny.”
Junior kept his chin erect as he nodded once.
“So how about we make some kind of bargain?” Monica continued. “Instead of being your nanny, why don’t we just be friends? And you know what? You can be my helper, as well. I’ve never been a nanny before, so I’m going to need as much help as I can get.”
Junior stood stiff for a few more minutes, his stare never leaving Monica’s. Soon, his shoulders relaxed and he nodded. “I can do that. I can help you be a nanny. I know everything.”
Monica’s grin widened. “I’m sure you know plenty and could give me pointers on what nannies do.”
Andrea jumped up and grabbed hold of Monica’s arm. “I wanna be your helper, too.”
“No, Andrea. I don’t think I will need two helpers, but let me think about what you can do to help me in other ways. All right?”
The girl nodded. “Yes.”
“Read…read,” Shawn whined as he squirmed in Monica’s lap.
“All right. Let’s get back to the story. Now…where was I?”
Junior took two more steps closer to Monica. “You were at the part where the chairs were broken.”
Monica looked up at the boy and nodded. Her eyes danced with happiness. “You are right. I did leave off at that point, didn’t I?” Junior nodded vigorously. “You see,” she continued. “I do need a helper, and you, Mr. Zambino Junior, are a great helper.”
The boy’s face turned red again, but not from anger this time. His expression practically beamed with pride. Tony couldn’t help but feel the same kind of joy, and his cheeks hurt from smiling so wide. His heart melted just a bit more for that lovely woman who had two sides to her personality. He couldn’t wait to figure her out now.
“Well, I’ll be a horse’s hind end,” Michael whispered as he continued to peek through the door. “All the other nannies had problems with Junior, but I think Monica is going to be the one who changes him. What do you think, Tony?”
Tony couldn’t take his eyes off her, liking what he saw. “I think you have yourself a real gem, Mr. Zambino.”
As the two men walked away from the play room again, not much was said as they made their way downstairs. Tony didn’t want to guess what was on his bosses’ mind, but he sincerely hoped it wasn’t the same thing that was on his mind.
There was something different about Monica Jewell. From the time he’d kissed her on the street, he realized she wasn’t what she seemed to be…what she wanted everyone to think she was. What he’d just learned by watching her tonight, made his heart sing. Yet, he didn’t know why he felt this way.
She had spirit, but not only that, she had a good soul. She was kind to those children, and she had the patience that they needed to learn. Monica would be the best thing those kids had seen in quite a while.
However, deep down inside him, Tony wondered how long it would last. How long would she stay as the Zambino’s nanny? Because she was unwed, it was only a matter of time before some man snatched her heart and took her away from this place. Yet, Tony didn’t want that to happen at all.
Knowing she wouldn’t be here for very long, he’d just have to make the most of the time they could spend together. Perhaps she could charm him just as she’d charmed the Zambino children. Although, the way he wanted to be charmed would be much more personal, and definitely more enjoyable.
Tony followed Michael into his study and closed the door behind them. As Zambino went to the liquor tray and poured himself a drink, Tony moved to one of the leather chairs and sat. Earlier this evening, his boss had asked to talk privately with him. Now Tony wondered what Michael wanted…and hoped he was going to talk about a promotion. However, Tony didn’t dare get too excited yet.
“I’ve been keeping my eyes on you lately and I’m impressed with what I see.” Michael carried his drink to his desk and sat behind the solid oak piece of furniture.
“Thank you, Mr. Zambino. It thrills me to hear you say that,” Tony replied honestly.
He tried his hardest to concentrate on Michael, but couldn’t forget the image of Monica with those kids. He couldn’t stop from smiling, either…and it had nothing to do with talking to his boss.
“You’ve been a great employee, Tony. My wife and mother are constantly singing your praises.” He reached across his desk and opened a long, square box and withdrew a cheroot. “Of course, I wonder if they are not enamored by your good looks. I know my two insipid sisters-in-law are in love with your rippling muscles.” He laughed harder before lighting the cheroot and taking a long puff out of it.
Tony chuckled. “I certainly hope you are wrong, Mr. Zambino, because I would hate to think I’m giving those poor misguided women an invitation when I’m not interested.”
Michael waved his hand in the air. “Don’t pay any attention to those two dimwits. They are both very young and extremely foolish, and my brothers know this, as well. I think the only reason they married these girls was because their families were well-to-do.”
Tony did not reply, just forced a laugh. Why would Michael’s brothers marry women who were foolish? It made no sense to him. Then again, maybe the brothers didn’t want their wives to be smarter than themselves.
“Tony,” Michael continued as he leaned back in his chair, “the reason I have called you in here is to let you know that I’m happy with your work. I know of your qualifications and they exceed far and above the duties of chauffeuring. If by chance, I have another position for you, would you accept it?”
Hope sprang to Tony’s chest, but he didn’t want to appear overly excited. “What sort of position are you suggesting, Mr. Zambino?”
“Well, first off, I think you can stop calling me Mr. Zambino and refer to me as Michael. And second, I think you will be able to use your talents serving me better working as one of my bodyguards. What do you say? Is that something that might interest you, if by chance, I had an opening?”
This was the very thing Tony wanted to hear. He’d been waiting for this break, hoping it would happen soon. “I have to admit, Michael, that driving for you isn’t as exciting as I would like, but as you’ve realized, my talents do go beyond those of just driving. I think I would be very satisfied working as one of your bodyguards.”
Michael nodded slowly, not taking his eyes off Tony. “You will, of course, remain as my chauffeur, because if you didn’t, I’d never hear the end of it from the women in this family, but as of tonight, your duties have been expanded. You can now consider yourself as one of my men.”
Tony stood and stretched out his right hand to his boss. “Michael, I will not let you down. I promise.”
Michael rose to his feet and sealed their agreement with a shake of Tony’s hand. “Yes, I know I won’t be disappointed. I consider myself a good judge of character, and I will be very happy with you as one of my bodyguards.” He walked around the desk. “Come. Let’s join the other men in the game room for some cool, refreshing drinks. It’s a mighty hot night and we all need to unwind. Besides,” he led the way to the door, “the others are looking forward to working with you.”
“And I, them.”
The two men left the study and made their way down the hall. There was a different bounce to Tony’s step, but he still couldn’t appear over-eager for his new position. Things were working out well…just as he’d planned.
They passed the children’s room, and a different kind of excitement beat in his chest as he hoped to get another glimpse of Monica. Unfortunately, the door was closed. Although he couldn’t see her face, he heard the children singing. He concentrated harder and detected her voice as well. He couldn’t stop the chuckle bubbling up from his throat.
Michael looked at him with an arched eyebrow. “What’s so funny?”
“Don’t you hear that?” Tony motioned his head toward the playroom. “They are singing.”
Michael’s steps slowed as his gaze stayed on the closed door. “Well, that’s odd. My children haven’t sung for quite a while.” He smiled wide. “We certainly have found a good nanny.”
“Indeed, we have.” Tony loved hearing her voice. Memories from his childhood returned, and he recalled learning those playful songs when he was young.
“Well, well, well…” Michael snickered teasingly. “It looks as if you are taken with the new nanny just as much as my children are.”
Tony snapped his head around and stared at his employer. “Pardon me?”
Michael slapped a hand to Tony’s shoulder. “It’s only obvious. I know the look in a man’s eyes when he finds something very desirable.” He paused a moment before asking, “Of course, it makes me wonder what you see in her that I cannot?”
Worry grew inside Tony. He didn’t want Michael to know what he saw. Obviously, Monica was trying to hide her true beauty behind the drab clothing and hair style. Tony wouldn’t be the one to ruin her charade. “Who says I see anything in her at all?”
“I can tell by the way you look at her.” Michael grew quiet again as his gaze narrowed on Tony. “She’s a pretty girl. She’d be a knockout if she let her hair down, and wore a different style of dress, one more figure fitting.” He grinned. “Yes, that would make her a very desirable woman indeed. She has lovely eyes. Did you notice how they lit up her face as she read to the children?”
Deep down inside Tony boiled with anger, although there was no way he could show it. He wasn’t blind to all of Michael’s extra marital affairs, but for some reason the thought of Michael with Monica ate away at Tony’s insides. He didn’t want to see her turn out like some of the other nannies and servants.
“If you say so, Michael,” Tony replied, nonchalantly.
Michael shook his head. “Oh, Tony. Quit trying to pretend you don’t care. I can tell you do, but let me warn you. If Monica is as lovely behind all of that plainness as she is in my thoughts right now, the other men are going to discover this and they’ll soon be sniffing at her heels. You might as well get first claim on her, seeing how you are already interested.”
Taking a deep breath, Tony tried to calm himself before answering. He didn’t want his tone of voice to sound irritated. “Thank you for the warning. I’ll certainly think about it.”
“You do that.” Michael pointed up the hallway. “While you’re thinking about it, let’s join the others in the game room. I’m in the mood for a good game of pool.”
The more Tony thought about the dilemma that Michael’s interest had just brought out, the more he felt Monica would not be safe, especially if the others caught on to her true personality…the one Tony had seen outside of the restaurant that first night. She was a lovely creature, and she certainly had passion. He needed to protect her while she was here. Monica really had no idea what she entered into when she accepted the nanny position with the Zambino family.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Aim for the Heart - Chapter Six

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His lithe movements hypnotized her. A small wind from the east blew inside the opened buttons of his shirt, allowing her to see more of his chest, which looked to be just as robust as his arms.
Without her control, Monica’s gaze ran over his wide back, and when he turned, she took in his narrow hips and strong legs. When he bent, she couldn’t help but move the direction of her gaze to his buttocks.
Realizing where her inappropriate thoughts had taken her, she sucked in a quick breath and looked away. Ah, blast it all! Although he had not caught her gawking, her cheeks burned with embarrassment.
Like a magnet to steel, her attention was pulled back to him. He straightened as he rinsed off the car. This time as she watched the way he moved, memories resurfaced of when she’d been in his arms a week ago. Not only were his arms strong, but his wide chest was rock solid against her bosom—and it contrasted greatly to his gently, seductive lips. At least once a day that memory had crept into her mind, even though she wished it would leave. Yet, how could she ever forget something so sweet that happened to her? How could she forget her first kiss?
The man she was ogling finally turned and noticed her staring down at him. She held her breath. It was too late to turn away now. Her cheeks still burned, but she convinced herself she need not panic. She could still act mature about this.
Straightening, she lifted a hand in a small wave of greeting. “Hello.”
Slowly, he lifted a hand in greeting as a smile tugged on his face. “Well, hello.”
His reply was deep and stirred something foreign in her chest. Either that or she had a bad case of indigestion.
But what should she say now? He looked at her with his cocky, know-it-all grin, and blast it all, he really was very handsome when he smiled. “The Zambino family has a lovely place here,” she managed to speak as she motioned her hand to the yard. “I was just admiring the surroundings.”
“Yes. This place is very nice. I’ll have to take you on a tour of the grounds sometime.” He stood, still holding the hose as the water splashed on the ground.
“Why do you have to take me on a tour?”
“Why not?” He shrugged.
Her heartbeat pounded just a little bit faster. “Well, I’ll have to think about it.”
“You do that.” He winked.
She stepped toward the door. “I’ll go back to what I was doing now. I’ll catch you later.”
He nodded. “Count on it, doll.”
She turned and rushed into the room, shutting the double doors behind her. Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, she placed her palms on her burning cheeks. He’d called her doll—the word men used when referring to an attractive woman. He couldn’t be thinking that about her. For certain, he needed glasses! Regardless, she thought their conversation had gone well…as well as could be expected for being caught ogling the handsome man.
Why did her heart insist on speeding up every time he was around? Why did he have to be so darn good looking? He was definitely the cat’s meow. But why, in Heaven’s name, did he have to be part of Zambino’s gangsters?
Because Tony was just that! And because he was a gangster, she had to hate him. She needed to hate him. There was no way she was going to get emotionally involved with someone on the wrong side of the law, and especially someone who worked for the man who killed her stepfather.

The moment was upon her, and Monica couldn’t believe how her body shook with nervousness. Following behind Mary, Monica wrung her hands against her middle. She breathed deeply and slowly, trying to calm herself. She must make a good impression on the children. If they didn’t like her, Mr. Zambino would dismiss her, she was sure.
When they walked into the play room, all six children stopped and looked her way. She held her breath, not daring to even move yet.
“Come children,” Mary said sweetly, motioning her hands for them to come closer. “I want you to meet your new nanny. Her name is Miss Jewell.”
Gradually, the children did as instructed and crept closer to their mother. Mary placed her hand on the tallest boy. “This is Michael Junior, but just call him Junior.” She grinned. “He’s ten years old.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Junior,” Monica said softly. Hard to believe, but he resembled his father perfectly—just a younger version, of course.
“And,” Mary continued, “this is Andrea. She is eight.”
“Hello, Miss Jewell,” the girl said.
Monica thought Andrea was a pretty little thing, with long black hair and blue eyes like her mother.
“And these two,” Mary patted the head of a boy and a girl who looked identical, “are my twins. This is Johnny, and this is Joanna. They are six.”
They looked like their father, too, Monica surmised. She’ll definitely have her hands full with these two.
“And this is Shawn.” Mary reached down and lifted a cute little boy who didn’t really resemble his parents yet, but definitely had the Zambino blood in him, nonetheless. “He is three years old.”
Mary pointed to a little one still in her playpen. “That is Samantha. She’s only eight months old.”
The baby had Michael’s eyes, unfortunately, but Monica wouldn’t hold it against the child. It wasn’t their fault that they had such a corrupt father.
“Right now,” Mary continued, “Samantha still has a wet nurse, so you won’t have to worry about her until she’s a little older.”
Monica smiled her best as she gazed at each one of them again. “I’m so very happy to meet you all. We will have lots of fun. I just know it.”
One-by-one, the children came up to her to get a better look. As they asked her questions, she answered sweetly, trying to help them see she wasn’t someone to fear. Junior, however, stood back and watched her with a critical eye. She was willing to bet that he had seen his share of nannies over the years and just figured Monica was just like the others.
She didn’t want to be like the others. However, she wasn’t going to be here for very long, and didn’t want to become too attached to them—or them to her.
Once Mary left the room, the children opened up a little more. Johnny and Joanna were full of questions, and Andrea was more observant than she was inquisitive. When they discovered she had nieces and nephews, they wanted to know more. Monica received the impression that these children didn’t associate much with others their age.
One question led to another, and soon they were talking about the college Monica attended. She had some happy times in school, and she was thrilled to share with them her experiences.
“Papa told me I could go to college when I grow bigger.” Andrea’s wide blue eyes sparkled with excitement as she leaned against Monica, looking up at her.
“He did?” Monica asked as she sat on the closest chair to her. “How lovely. I’m sure you will love it there.”
Andrea nodded fast. “Papa gives me anything I want, and I want to go to college.”
Monica nodded without replying. Of course Michael spoiled his children. Why wouldn’t he? He gave them prizes and trinkets to show his love for them—without physically showing it. Inwardly, she boiled. Why did men think this was the way to love their children?
“Are you a mommy?” Joanna asked, changing the subject.
“No, I’m not.”
“Are you married?” Johnny asked.
Monica shook her head. “No.”
“Our last nanny wasn’t married, either, but she was going to have a baby. That’s why Papa had to get us another one,” Andrea explained.
Surprise struck Monica hard, but she held in her shock. She didn’t know what surprised her more—that the nanny was pregnant out of wedlock, or that the Zambino children knew about it. “How very interesting.”
Andrea scratched her head. “I saw her crying one night and she told me that she was going to have a baby. The next day I told Papa, and he made our nanny leave.”
“She deserved it!” Junior snapped from the corner of the room. His face reddened with anger as he glared at Monica.
It bothered her that the oldest boy would look at her accusingly. She’d give anything to know what he was thinking. Perhaps in time he’d open up to her and tell her more. Although she wished he’d tell her more now, she knew it wasn’t the time. She needed to let him know he could trust her first. “Was your other nanny young like I am?”
Andrea shook her head. “No. She was older.”
“She was ugly, too.” Joanna made a horrendous face, trying to get her point across.
Johnny pushed his sister aside. “She wasn’t ugly, Jo.” He threw his twin a glare before turning to look at Monica. He smiled, showing his two missing teeth. “But you are prettier.”
Monica tried not to laugh. Why would this boy think that of her when she was trying her hardest to look plain? “Thank you.” She clapped her hands, and looked from one child to the other. “So what things didn’t you like about your last nanny? I would like it if we could be friends. I don’t want to do anything that upsets you or makes you hate me.”
Right away, Andrea and the twins rattled off a list of things they didn’t like about the other lady. Junior and three-year-old Shawn were the only ones who stayed quiet.
“She made me wash my hands clean, even wash behind my ears!”
“I had to finish the puzzle before starting another.”
“She wouldn’t let me play in the sandbox at school because I came home dirty.”
“She complained about Shawn’s messy pants. He’s learning to go potty in the toilet, but sometimes he has accidents.”
“She yelled at us for talking too loud.”
“She made me eat my spinach. Yuck!”
While the three middle kids continued to name off the last nanny’s bad traits, Shawn walked over and picked up a book, then took it over to Monica. “Read story,” he asked, softly.
Monica smiled down at the shy little boy then picked him up and set him on her lap. She opened the book, and right away the others quieted and sat on the floor by her feet. Junior kept by himself over in his corner by the small bookcase. Every once in a while he looked at her and when he did, it was only to give her a disapproving glare.
She began the story in a cheerful voice. “Once upon a time there were three bears that lived in a cottage out in the middle of the forest. One morning, mamma bear made some porridge for breakfast and the three bears sat down to eat it. “This porridge is too hot, Papa bear exclaimed after taking a bite.” She made her voice gruffy and low. “So is mine, momma bear replied.” She quickly changed her voice sweet. “Mine is hot, too, said the baby bear.” Monica made her voice sound like a child’s.
The children giggled at her dramatics as they sat forward, ready to hear more of the story.
Monica continued to read. Relief flooded through her knowing she was able to entertain the children so easily. In fact, this was actually rather fun. She was so engrossed in her dramatic story, that she wasn’t aware that anyone else had come into the room. Not until someone cleared his throat.
Stopping in mid-sentence, she gasped and swung her head to the doorway. Mortification washed over her once again. Michael and his driver, Tony, stood just inside the doorway. Both men wore smiles, but Tony’s mouth stretched wider and he even had the nerve to wink at her. Curse his inconsiderate hide!

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