Attraction: the action or power of evoking interest in or liking for someone or something.
I watched as the two bodyguards took my luggage in their hands and started walking toward the narrow staircase. I let out a sigh, shrugging my shoulders. I followed their steps, observing everything.
Last night, they’d taken me to their waiting car, a fancy Mercedes, and we’d driven all night.
I must have looked like an exhausted wreck when I got out of the car at the crack of dawn and saw my new home.
“Holy moly…,” I whispered, looking at the property. I couldn’t keep my jaw from dropping. It took a minute to regain my senses. I felt like I was in a dream.
I was curious to know who I’d be working for.
They’d brought me to some strange place that seemed like a royal palace, but it wasn’t a royal palace, because the royal monarchy was in England, not here.
The two men who escorted me were like robots. Their bodies were stiff, and their expressions were neutral. They hadn’t spoken a word on the journey.
I had been bored to death. I’d mustered the courage to talk first, and just then, we’d reached the place.
It hit me immediately that this place looked like the palace kind of mansion from the movie Me Before You.
My train of thought was cut short as Iris stepped out of the car behind me.
“I hope you’re well rested, Ms. Gibson. Today, you will get acquainted with your new home,” Iris said.
I turned my gaze from the walls to Iris, who looked perfectly rested, of course.
“Good morning, Iris.”
She smiled a little. “I will escort you to your room, and after the house tour, you will be meeting Thea.”
My eyes widened at the mention of a house tour. I didn’t think I had enough energy for this whole mansion.
“Thea?” I questioned her.
“Thea. The girl you are going to take care of.”
The room they gave me was beautiful. I loved the bed, as the mattress was soft, and it was spacious enough for me to roll around. I would have my privacy here.
Iris showed me around, taking me to see the kitchen, Thea’s activity room, a dance room, an art room, a study, and a playroom.
Why so many rooms?
“Iris, now that you’ve shown me all of Thea’s rooms, why don’t you show me Thea?”
She raised her brow at my comment before smiling.
“Sure. She’s probably up from her nap.”
I gave her a tight smile. She took me to Thea’s room, which was opposite mine.
I entered the room with Iris, observing that the room that didn’t look like it belonged to a kid. Am I babysitting a teenage girl?
“Thea, meet your nanny.”
Hearing Iris’s clipped tone, I started looking around. I waited for the teenage girl to come out, but I didn’t see anyone.
Iris was looking down, and I lowered my gaze to see a cute little girl about seven or eight years old, hiding near her bed.
She shyly lifted her head to see me. I was amused, seeing her cheeks turning red from the attention she was getting. At least someone blushes because of me.
“Hey!” My voice was soft, and to make her comfortable, I waved my hand, smiling at the cute girl with semicurly hair.
She took three steps forward, waving her hand. “Hello.”
“Thea, brush your teeth while I talk with your nanny.”
Thea nodded her head adorably at Iris before running to what I figured was her bathroom.
“Ms. Gibson, I want you to remember a few things regarding Thea. Never ever ask her about her mother. Her father is very busy, so you won’t be seeing him. He never stays here, which is why we hired you to take care of Thea. Don’t leave this area of the house unless it’s very important. I don’t live here and will be on my way now that I’ve finished your orientation, but there are housekeepers who live on site. They will be available to help you if need someone.”
“Um, okay.” I was too busy trying to absorb her somewhat strange instructions to say much more.
Iris left the room, leaving me alone with this little girl who was still brushing her teeth. I felt weird about all this.
The room was plain…very plain for a seven-year-old girl. It seemed like the room of a middle-aged woman with no taste. It needed a major makeover.
I plopped down on the bed, thinking about the changes I was going to make to this room.
Hearing quiet steps, I turned toward the bathroom. Thea was standing near the door, looking at me with her big eyes.
“Come here, little lady.”
She padded over to me. She was wearing pajama pants and a T-shirt, which looked cute on her. Her hair was long for a seven-year-old.
I pulled her up and sat her on the bed beside me.
“I’m Thea. Your name is pretty. You are just like Princess Jasmine.”
I was confused for a split second before it hit me. She was referring to the Disney character from Aladdin.
“Well, your name is pretty, too, and you have beautiful hair.” I patted her curls.
“I wish my hair looked like yours. How come your hair is red and mine is brown?”
I chuckled at her question. “People are born with different color hair. You got brown, and I got red. Some people even color their hair blue or purple or green.” I kept talking, asking her few questions and answering her questions, to make her feel comfortable with me.
“Hmm… You aren’t like those old nannies. They were bad to me.”
I frowned at her words. Had they treated her badly? “What did they do?”
“They never cared about me. All they did was complain to Iris, and then Iris would tell Papa, and he’d get angry with me.”
“Oh.” I didn’t know what to say to that, so I hugged her, hoping to put her at ease. “Are you hungry?”
She nodded her head.
“Let’s go and fill your belly. What do you want to eat?”
“Can you make strawberry pancakes with chocolate syrup? I ate them once a long time ago.”
She took my hand and wrapped her small fingers around it, making me smile at her innocence. I loved children, but I’d never gotten to spend time with them since I didn’t know anybody who had kids.
As I was making the pancakes, she started asking questions.
“Can I call you Flower?”
“Flower?” I looked up in confusion from the batter I was mixing.
“Your name is Jasmine. Jasmine is a flower. It’s my nickname for you.”
“Okay.” I chuckled at my new nickname.
“What’s your favorite color?” she asked me. This kid was interested in everything.
“Gray and black. Yours?”
She thought for a while. “I like all the colors except orange. What’s your favorite Disney movie?”
“Maleficent,” I replied. “What’s yours?”
“Beauty and the Beast.”
She questioned me about all my likes and dislikes, and told me all of hers in return. Very helpful, as I quickly got to know her likes and dislikes. It helped me feel closer to her, and I was hoping it was doing the same for her.
I already felt at ease with this little girl. I might actually enjoy staying here and taking care of her.
“Here you go,” I said, placing the pancakes down in front of her and handing her the chocolate syrup.
“Thank you,” she said, and picked up her fork.
Being not entirely sure if a seven-year-old could handle a knife, I’d cut the pancakes into small pieces for her.
I watched her as she started eating. I had my share of doubts about the situation, but I didn’t want to break my deal. The pay was good, and I already loved my room.
A lot of questions had started running through my mind after Iris’s instructions, though. Since Iris told me not to ask Thea about her mother, it might mean that Thea’s parents got divorced. Or Thea’s father might have had a one-night stand.
After seeing this palace, I concluded that Thea’s father, whoever he might be, was a very wealthy man. Even so, who would pay a million dollars for a stranger to take care of his daughter?
I looked around the kitchen. This whole place was mysterious, and so was Iris, with her silent goons, her middle-of-the night road trip, and her cryptic words. There was something about her that warned me to be careful.
I could tell that Thea’s father was a powerful man; the whole mansion had security guards and personal bodyguards patrolling the building and the grounds.
If Iris and this place were mysterious, then Thea’s father was the biggest question mark of all. Everything that had happened so far gave me quite an urge to know more about Thea’s father.
Why would he leave his daughter all alone in this big palace?
Why were there bodyguards in every chamber and hallway?
What did Thea’s father do? Was he a politician? Or was he a businessman? Or was he into something illegal?
I shook my head at the last thought; since I was stuck here, I might as well think positive.
Maybe her father was an old man who worked all his life and built this empire and unexpectedly had a baby late in life. But then wouldn’t he be more likely to have settled down in the mansion with her? I dismissed that theory, and my thoughts went in an entirely different direction.
Was he good-looking? Was he superhot? Businessmen in suits…usually very attractive.
I bit my lower lip as I imagined Thea’s father, tie loosened, jacket tossed aside…
For a moment, my thoughts drifted back to the magazine in my apartment, with Theodore Jefferson’s sexy face glaring up at me from the front cover.
I remembered the stylized TJ carved into the wall behind reception.
What could TJ stand for?
Could it be? Was I crazy for imagining it?
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