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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