I have to confess—I’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.
Confession #1: I may have overhead that he was in search of a nanny. What can I say? My brother has a big mouth.
Confession #2: It’s possible I helped along the assumption that I had nanny experience. Hey, babysitting my nieces and nephew counts, right?
Confession #3: There’s a good chance I oversold my qualifications. But my Grandma Dori backed me up, so it’s not completely my fault.
And it worked. He hired me. Only for me to find out that he left the business.
I guess it’s on to Plan B.
When he accidentally overhears me singing, I expect nothing from him. Then he asks to work with me on a song for our town’s Founder’s Day Parade and it feels like a dream come true. Until...
Confession #4: I’ve fallen for him.
Book 6 in the Baileys Series Author: Piper Rayne
“Did he just pick his nose?” Sedona asks.
“Yep. Welcome to Rome’s life now.”
Dion pulls his finger from his nose and inspects the booger on the end. His mouth slowly opens.
“Phoenix, stop him.”
Dion sticks his finger into his mouth.
“Then I’d have to touch his finger,” I say.
“You cannot let our nephew eat boogers.”
Sedona is much like Savannah. I think they share a Pinterest page on organizational techniques.
“Can and did. If you want to stop him, get on a plane.”
My bitterness toward my twin sister living out her dream can be heard in my voice. I’ll admit, I am a little stubborn.
“How many times do I need to apologize for not making it to a two-year-old’s birthday?”
I can hear Sedona’s exasperation toward me in her voice.
Now I feel like a shitty sister for not jumping up and down because she’s about to graduate from college with the English degree she has always wanted.
As I’m about to respond, Grandma Dori puts her face in front of the iPad.
“Hi, Grandma,” Sedona greets her for the fifth time so far today, and we haven’t even had the cake yet.
“Technology.” Grandma Dori shakes her head. “You look tired, dear. Naps are great, but no more than fifteen minutes.” She wiggles her finger.
“Maybe it’s Jamison keeping her up at night?” I say.
Grandma Dori looks at me with her grey eyebrows raised.
“Stop it, Phoenix. It’s not, Gram. Don’t worry about that.”
Sedona’s quick to diffuse any rumors that she may not be a virgin. This family would be shocked to know she lost her virginity well before I ever lost mine.
I can picture their gasps and covered mouths—“not our perfect Sedona”—if they ever found out. But me?
I’m the black sheep, the bad pea in the pod, or whatever idiom one might use for the person who isn’t like the others in their family.
“Don’t let her fool you, Grandma. I heard her birthday gift from Jamison was a threesome.”
Sedona’s so loud, all the partygoers turn and look our way. They don’t ask for a reason why Sedona’s cheeks are pink with embarrassment. They’ll all assume I’m the cause.
In truth, I think Jamison got her a necklace with his picture inside a heart or something pathetically cliché.
“I’m kidding,” I say.
Grandma Dori smacks me on the back of the head. “What am I going to do with you?”
I shrug and pop another shrimp tart Rome prepared into my mouth.
“How’s the food?” Sedona asks after Grandma Dori heads over to talk to Juno.
“Awesome as usual.”
She groans. “All I have is a stale bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.”
“Why doesn’t Jamison bring you something?” I can’t even count to two before she’s making an excuse for him.
“He’s in Chicago.”
“Playing professional soccer.” She rolls her eyes and blows out a breath. “I should probably go. I have a final to study for.”
I roll my eyes.
“Cake time!” Rome yells, and Harley walks in with an elaborate dinosaur cake.
“Did you just buy one in every color of these things?” Denver asks Rome, touching the wrap contraption Rome has Phoebe in on his chest.
At only five months, she’s the spitting image of her older sister, Calista.
Dion jumps up and down and digs his fingers into the cake.
“Glad I’m not eating the cake,” Sedona says.
“There’s a whole other good side,” I say, eyeing the side Dion didn’t get his fingers into. I plan on devouring that chocolaty goodness to bury my depression over my lack of forward motion in my life.
“I miss Sweet Suga.” Sedona sighs, and I bet if I looked at the iPad screen, I’d see a bit of drool falling down her chin.
The one thing I have that she doesn’t is that I get to eat cake from her favorite bakery.
“You’re still coming back after finals, right?” I ask.
The silence on her end makes me swivel the iPad to face me. It’s then that I see the hesitation in her eyes.
“Sedona.” I clench my jaw. I knew Jamison would make her change her plans when they got back together.
“Well, Jamison asked me to move in with him.”
Austin interrupts us. “Hey, girls, mind actually singing for your nephew’s birthday?”
I turn the iPad back toward everyone while anger festers inside me. My mumbled “Happy Birthday” song is drowned out by the rest of my siblings and guests. My eyes remain on Dion.
His smile is so big, you’d think all the characters from Paw Patrol were surrounding him.
I remember the day he was born. Harley’s text came through right after I finished a gig that paid me only twenty dollars because the bar was so empty.
She announced that she was in labor with Dion, and my phone blew up as I walked out of the dingy bar in Los Angeles that had treated me more like a glorified karaoke singer than a professional singer.
I sent the obligatory congratulations with a sad emoji that I wouldn’t be there. And I meant that text. I love my niece and nephew. If only for the fact that they make Rome’s life hell at times.
I mean, Calista and her whole “Baby Shark” obsession last year brought me weeks of happiness. But as my family seemed to be thriving here in Lake Starlight, my dream was on its deathbed back in LA.
The twenty dollars in my pocket wasn’t going to help me make rent. Savannah and Austin helped the first year, but after that, I was on my own.
Once the eviction notice landed on my door and my bank account went negative, I used the credit card they’d given me for emergencies to purchase a one-way ticket back home.
I live rent-free with Denver and Cleo at Savannah’s. I hop from job to job, each of my family members taking a chance on me when all I really want to do with my life is become a famous singer.
“Phoenix,” Sedona whispers, and I reluctantly turn the iPad back my way. “I’m coming home after I graduate. I promise.”
I nod. I miss my twin like crazy, but she’s not going to ruin her future because I lack one. “No, you’re not. You’re going to move in with Jamison.”
A small smile lands on her lips and she stares at me so hard, I wiggle in my chair. “You know it’s going to happen, right? One day, whether it’s tomorrow or five years from now.
“You’re meant to be a singer.”
The rest of my family has decided I tried and failed at a singing career, so their belief is that I need to fall in line with a boring job. Not Sedona though.
“Move in with us. New York needs singers too. I know you’re all about the pop star idols, but there are a lot of options here too.”
I chew on my fingernail. She’s been making the offer ever since I returned home, but it’s hard to put yourself out there again when the chance to fail outweighs the chance to succeed.
And I’m not going to mooch off my sister who hasn’t even graduated from college yet. I already feel bad enough mooching off my older, successful sister.
“Hey, Sedona. See you in two weeks!” Juno hands me my cake. “I’m going to book us a Broadway show.”
“Oh, okay!” Sedona says.
Only a few of us are going to New York for her graduation. And thanks to our moneybags brother-in-law, Wyatt, and his Whitmore status, we get to take a private plane there and back.
“Mean Girls is playing,” Sedona says.
Juno’s eyes light up. Great. Another expense I’ll need money for.
“Which side of the cake did this piece come from?” I ask.
Juno looks at me, her forehead wrinkled. “What does it matter?”
“I just need to know.”
“I don’t know. Are you allergic to the right side of the cake now?” Juno shakes her head at Sedona, who rolls her eyes.
“It’s gonna be so much fun.” Sedona names everything we can do and talks about how much she needs to have fun now that Jamison travels for soccer so much.
Then Denver’s conversation with Kingston becomes my focus as they move closer.
“Griffin Thorne, the music producer?” Denver says as if Kingston is an idiot for not knowing who he’s talking about. He kinda is. “Remember when my plane went down?”
Kingston nods, picking up his second piece of cake. Little does he know what surprises might be waiting for him in that layer of frosting.
“He’s moving up here. Just built a house, and he’s looking for a nanny. Anyone you went to school with still around who you think might be good?” Denver asks.
After Denver told me about Griffin Thorne’s nanny-seeking at Cleo’s birthday last week, I tried to find the agency he was using, but no one gives out client information.
Apparently, there’s some sort of privacy concern with stuff like that.
Using the few connections I still have from high school, I found the house he built, but after stalking it for four nights in a row, there was no sign of him.
“Are you listening to me?” Sedona asks.
Without asking Denver point-blank for Griffin’s number, I’ll never find a way to reach him.
And if I ask Denver, he’ll probably give Griffin a picture of me and say, “If you see this girl, call the police.” He’s so worried I’m going to embarrass him.
“I could be a nanny, right?” I ask Sedona.
“Do you like kids?”
I look at Dion with green frosting all around his face and his hands in his hair. I cringe. Harley approaches him with a wet nap, and he runs, smearing the frosting along the wall of their new house.
Maybe boys are more work.
Calista has her baby doll and is pushing her around in a stroller, constantly stopping to fix the blanket or feed her a bottle. She’s sweet.
Then she takes a pillow from the couch and shoves it under her shirt, patting her stomach as though she’s pregnant. The whole room laughs, and she cries.
Okay, this isn’t a good sign. I’m no good at keeping a kid clean or dealing with their emotional pitfalls. But sweet Phoebe is sleeping in her wrap, nuzzled into Rome’s chest. So content and quiet.
I could handle her.
“Yeah, sure. I like them enough,” I finally answer Sedona.
“They pick their noses and eat their boogers.
“They have meltdowns for no reason, and if you think that cute baby in Rome’s arms doesn’t wake up every night wanting to be changed, feed, or soothed, you’re wrong. It’s work.”
Sedona knows me the best out of everyone in this family, so I’m not too happy about her pinning my exact thoughts of the scenario in front of me.
And who knows, maybe Griffin Thorne’s kid is one of those gifted ones. He could be super smart and only want to play with his science kit in his room or something.
I could nanny a kid like that no problem.
Now I just have to figure out a way to bump into him.
“I know it’s work, but I’m out of options. Plus, did you hear what Denver said? Griffin Thorne, the big music producer, is looking for a nanny.”
Her face pales and she shakes her head. “Don’t do it. This is not going to turn out well.”
“How can I accidentally-on-purpose run into him?” I ignore her objection.
She’s used to it after twenty-two years. “Go somewhere kids hang out. Parks, ice cream shops, zoos.”
I love Sedona. “I’ll look creepy if I’m at the park by myself.”
“Hence the bad idea thing.”
“Okay, guys.” Rome claps, and everyone quiets down. “Harley and I are finally ready to go get married, but we need some amazing aunts and uncles to babysit for us while we’re away.
“Who’s up for some quality time with their nieces and nephew? It’ll be short since I have the restaurant, so a long weekend or five days, tops.”
“Don’t do it, Phoenix.” Sedona’s teeth look as if they’re wired shut as she speaks.
I raise my hand. “I’m in.”
Everyone looks at me as if they’re waiting for me to say I’m joking, then Rome looks around with a plea in his eyes for someone else to volunteer.
“Come on.” I stand. “I can handle three kids.”
“Maybe we can spread out the responsibility,” Holly says. “We have to work during the day, but Austin and I can do nights.”
“This is ridiculous,” I mumble.
“Phoenix, turn up the volume for me,” Sedona says. I put the volume to the highest it can go on the iPad. “Listen, guys, give Phoenix a shot. She deserves it, and her nieces and nephew love her.
“She’ll be fine.”
As if we choreographed it ahead of time, my sweet niece runs over to me and raises her arms to be picked up, which I do.
Harley looks at Rome, and he nods. “Okay, Phoenix, you’ll have days, but I’m telling you right now, you better answer the phone when I call, and I want pictures of my kids every day.”
I give Sedona a look of appreciation and she smiles back at me.
Obstacle one figured out. Now I have to run into Griffin Thorne so he can see what a perfect fit I’d be as a nanny. Which shouldn’t be too hard. Lake Starlight isn’t very big.
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