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A Baby for the Boss(62)

By:Maureen Child

Besides, she’d learned her lesson when it came to attractive, eligible bosses. There would be no repeat of the mistake she’d made with Noah Heston, the divorced father of three who’d gone back to his ex-wife after enticing Hadley to fall in love with him.

Parking her SUV, Hadley headed for the front door and rang the bell. Inside a baby cried, and Hadley’s agitation rose. She knew very little about the situation she was walking into. Only that Liam Wade had a sudden and urgent need for someone to care for an infant.

A shadow darkened the stained glass inset in the double door. When Hadley’s pulse quickened, she suspected this was a mistake. For the last hour she’d been telling herself that Liam Wade was just like any other employer. Sure, the man was a world-class horseman and sexy as hell. Yes, she’d had a crush on him ten years ago, but so had most of the other teenage girls who barrel raced.

A decade had gone by. She was no longer a silly fangirl, but a mature, intelligent, professional nanny who knew the risks of getting emotionally wrapped up in her charges or their handsome fathers.

“Good morning, Mr. Wade.” She spoke crisply as the door began to open. “Royal Nannies sent me. My name is—”

“Hadley...” His bottle-green eyes scanned her face.

“Hadley Stratton.” Had he remembered her? No, of course not. “Stratton.” She cleared her throat and tried not to sound as if her heart was racing. Of course he knew who she was; obviously the agency had let him know who they were sending. “I’m Hadley Stratton.” She clamped her lips together and stopped repeating her name.

“You’re a nanny?” He executed a quick but thorough assessment of her and frowned.

“Well, yes.” Maybe he expected someone older. “I have my résumé and references if you’d like to look them over.” She reached into her tote and pulled out a file.

“No need.” He stepped back and gestured her inside. “Maggie’s in the living room.” He shut the door behind her and grimaced. “Just follow the noise.”

Hadley didn’t realize that she’d expected the baby’s mother to be ridiculously young, beautiful and disinterested in motherhood until she spied the woman holding the child. In her late forties, she was wearing jeans, a flannel shirt and sneakers, her disheveled dark hair in a messy bun.

“Hadley Stratton. Candace Tolliver, my housekeeper.” Liam cast a fond grin at the older woman. “Who is very glad you’ve come so quickly.”

Candace had the worn look of a first-time mother with a fussy baby. Even before the introductions were completed, she extended the baby toward Hadley. “I’ve fed her and changed her. She won’t stop crying.”

“What is her normal routine?” Hadley rocked and studied the tiny infant, wondering what had become of the child’s mother. Smaller than the average newborn by a few pounds. Was that due to her mother’s unhealthy nutritional habits while pregnant or something more serious?

“We don’t know.” Candace glanced toward Liam. “She only just arrived. Excuse me.” She exited the room as if there were something burning in the kitchen.

“These are her medical records.” Liam gestured toward a file on the coffee table. “Although she was premature, she checked out fine.”

“How premature?” She slipped her pinkie between the infant’s lips, hoping the little girl would try sucking and calm down. “Does she have a pacifier?”

Liam spoke up. “No.”

Hadley glanced at him. He’d set one hand on his hip. The other was buried in his thick hair. He needed a haircut, she noted absently before sweeping her gaze around the room in search of the normal clutter that came with a child. Other than a car seat and a plastic bag from the local drugstore, the elegant but comfortable room looked like it belonged in a decorating magazine. Pale gray walls, woodwork painted a clean white. The furniture had accents of dusty blue, lime green and cranberry, relieving the monochrome palette.

“Where are her things?”

“Things?” The rugged horseman looked completely lost.

“Diapers, a blanket, clothes? Are they in her room?”

“She doesn’t have a room.”

“Then where does she sleep?”

“We have yet to figure that out.”

Hadley marshaled her patience. Obviously there was a story here. “Perhaps you could tell me what’s going on? Starting with where her mother is.”

“She died a few days ago in a traffic accident.”

“Oh, I’m sorry for your loss.” Hadley’s heart clenched as she gazed down at the infant who had grown calmer as she sucked on Hadley’s finger. “The poor child never to know her mother.”