Unfortunately, I wasn't feeling Riptide as much as I wanted to but this particular idea has been in my head for almost a year now and I finally decided to sit down and write it. This first chapter just flew out of me and I'm eager to already start work on the second chapter. I hope you like it, too!
Chapter One. Screening Process.
"I'm going to have a very serious talk with Dan about our birth control after this."
Emily Campbell just smiles to herself at that comment and continues filling out the application form, her legs crossed and the clipboard balanced on her knee. Another child runs past them, screeching, and from beside her, her best friend, Haley, cringes and mutters to herself about how she desperately needs happy hour right now.
The noise doesn't bother Emily though. In fact, she hardly notices it as she pulls out her cell phone and sends her mom a quick text, asking if she knows her blood type.
"Why do they need to know that?" Haley asks with a slight frown, leaning into Emily's side so she can read over the application form as well.
"In case something happens while I'm out with one of the children," Emily assumes.
"So, they will literally suck the blood from you?" Haley's frown is in full force now and Emily rolls her eyes, pausing the pen for a moment to look at her.
"You didn't have to come here with me," she reminds her.
"No, no," Haley is quick to shake her head. "I'm here and I'm supporting you." At Emily's raised eyebrow, Haley purses her lips together as if trying to keep from smiling because they both know that that isn't what she's been doing at all for the past twenty minutes. "Now. I'm supporting you from this moment on."
Emily smiles a little, too, and once her phone dings with a new message, she writes down the answer her mom gives her in the appropriate box before moving onto the next question. She feels something bounce against her shoe and looking down, she sees that it's a blue plastic ball from the ball pit across the room. She picks it up just as a little boy with copper-colored curly hair, probably no older than four, slowly comes towards her, clearly shy.
"Here you go, sweetie," Emily smiles warmly at him and holds the ball out for him to take, which, after a few more slow steps, he reaches out and takes it from her, managing to give her a small smile before he turns and hurries away as if he's a startled rabbit in the woods, having been discovered by a human.
"You are so good with them," Haley comments from beside her.
Emily just shrugs. "We were all that age once," is all she says. Most of her friends, all of her friends, seem to be so terrified or disdainful towards children and it's something Emily has never understood. They're just kids. Not carriers of smallpox.
"Not me," Haley quips. "I came out of Deb like this."
And if Emily hasn't known Haley Hardy for the past twelve years, she probably would believe that. Haley has always seen older than she actually is. When they were kids, Haley was the first one to develop before the other girls; the first to have a boyfriend and wear high heels and the first to wear makeup every day and style her hair and even though they are best friends – and Emily is technically older than Haley (by two months) – Emily has always felt like Haley's little sister tagging along.
But Haley is nothing but loyal and despite how she may seem on the outside, she has always chosen her best friend over anything else in her life. In high school, when one of her boyfriends had casually asked why she hung around with Emily – who at the time, wasn't on the same social hierarchy level as the rest of them – Haley just smiled at him as a snake would do before spitting venom and told him to kindly go to hell. As Haley told her when Emily had asked, she had explained it simply. Boyfriends come and go but Haley and Emily are forever.
And Emily doesn't know what she would do without her. After high school, it was a surprise to absolutely no one when Haley – who had done some amateur modeling for local store ads – landed a modeling contract with an agency in New York and was walking the runways at Fashion Week within the year. There is a designer bikini company which has fallen in love with Haley and use her as their main model and it has made Haley's life one to envy.
Emily, on the other hand, graduated from high school and went straight on to college because that's what they do in the Campbell family. Emily's mom and dad have always taken education very seriously and after high school, college is just the next step – no ifs, ands or buts about it. Emily's dad, Patrick, was born in Ireland and immigrated here for school and studied to become a doctor and Emily's mom, Molly, the proud daughter of a family who could trace their lines back to the Mayflower, studied hard in law school and now sits as a judge in the Boston's juvenile courts.
She has two older brothers, Jimmy and Rob, and Jimmy has gone on to be an engineer for Delta where he designs engines for airplanes and Rob has a job with the US government – doing exactly what, not even his own family is too sure. He went to Harvard where he has always excelled at mathematics and the next thing any of them knew, men in black suits came to interview him for a job.
Her family is an impressive one and a person might feel pressure to measure up to them all but Emily's never felt that. Her family might be intimidating but they are loving and close and when Emily expressed her wish to go to college to get her degree in education, there was no surprise or telling her that she could do so much better than just being a teacher. Being a teacher has always been the only thing Emily has ever wanted to be and she knows her mom and dad just want her happy.
But upon graduation, Emily quickly learned that wanting to be a teacher and actually finding work as one were two very different things. Growing up in a small town in a suburb of Boston, she first looked for a job in that school district or any place close. Emily has never felt the desire to go far from home and would have loved to find any teaching job nearby.
None were to be had though – not even with her family's connections.
And after months of applying to all sorts of positions and not getting any of them, Haley called from New York and suggested that Emily come and try her luck in the Big Apple, though she admitted outright that her motives were selfish. She missed her best friend and wanted her with her. And having no other prospects at the time, Emily had readily agreed.
Emily wasn't naïve though. If she couldn't find a teaching job in Massachusetts, she didn't expect to find one in New York City, where education can be downright cutthroat amongst parents. And sure enough, interviews were even more scarce to come by and just as Emily was considering going back to school to perhaps get another degree in addition with her education degree, Haley had suggested going down to the agency she had heard about from other people in her "world" and filling out an application to become a nanny.
"Being a nanny in New York is no joke," Haley had said once she told Emily, giving her a warning of sorts. "If you get in with a family from the upper side, it can be brutal. For one, you'd probably be doing all of the raising and teaching of the kid yourself without much help from the parents."
Emily has never considered being a nanny but she wants to work with children and as soon as Haley said teaching, she asked Haley for the name of the agency.
It's better than nothing, Emily has told herself before walking to the front desk and saying she was Emily Campbell and she had a two o'clock appointment. The slightly looked frazzled receptionist had handed her a clipboard and pen and pointed to a waiting area with chairs and couches before turning to answer the ringing phone.
The application is nearly eight pages long and Emily makes sure to take her time and answer every single question as thoroughly as possible.
"Em," Haley sighs as patiently as she can. "You don't need to put that down."
Emily looks at the box in which – under the question if she has had any experience with law enforcement – she has explained the speeding ticket she received when she was seventeen for going forty in a thirty zone.
"It asked for any experience with law enforcement," Emily says.
"Unless you were a cocaine mule for a Columbian drug cartel or picked up by the Vice squad from a street corner, they don't care," Haley says and deftly takes the clipboard and pen from her hands.
"Haley!" Emily is quick to try and take it back but Haley is easy to fend her off.
Under references, Haley begins putting down her own information.
"Haley, stop," Emily is still trying to take control once again of her application.
"It says non-personal references so you can't put any of your family down," Haley says, able to write with one hand while holding Emily off with the other. "You need one more. Who do you want to put down?"
Emily stops and sighs heavily. "I don't know."
If they allowed personal references, this obviously would be much easier. Coming from a traditional Irish family, she has plenty of aunts and uncles and cousins who would be quick to praise her to the high heavens but she knows that that's exactly why the application wants non-family.
"What about Mr. Taylor?" Haley suggests but Emily quickly shakes her head.
"That's not funny," she frowns at her best friend, who's smile is quick to drop.
"You're right," Haley says and handing her back the clipboard, she rubs a hand on Emily's back. "I'm sorry. That was a stupid thing to say."
Emily can't be mad at Haley – not that she's even mad at her for the comment – and she looks down at the clipboard, wondering who her second reference should be. She feels the same bump against her shoe and it's the same blue ball with the same copper-colored curly-haired boy slowly approaching. Emily gives him the same warm smile and she picks up the ball once more.
She thinks that the boy might be doing this on purpose because he's the only child playing in the office's lobby that afternoon - the other children that had been there having left just a few minutes ago - and that's amusing to her but if that's the case, she wonders why he's not hitting Haley's shoe. Even little kids have always seemed to be more interested in Haley if the two girls are together – even though Haley has the most rigid behavior around anyone beneath four feet tall and doesn't try to hide it and most kids are intuitive of that.
"Here you go," she tells the boy again with the same smile and he approaches her a little easier this time and smiles a little easier as well before he turns and scurries away.
"He's not even thanking you," Haley frowns.
"Stop," Emily tells her and then looks down to the application.
Exhaling a deep breath, she fills in the information of Mrs. Klein, her family's next door neighbor and who has known her since the day her parents brought her home from the hospital two days after her birth. Mrs. Klein will say nothing but good things about her in a skillful way that will make any grandmother proud.
The last few questions are about drugs and alcohol – which Emily has never done of either, not even beer which her family likes to tease her about – and she then takes a few minutes to look over the application to make sure that everything is filled out. And she leaves her answer in about the speeding ticket, not caring what Haley says.
"Ready?" Haley asks and Emily takes another deep breath.
"Ready," she confirms with a nod of her head.
They both stand up from the couch and walk back to the front desk.
"Here you go," Emily smiles warmly at the receptionist. She's making sure she's smiling the entire time she's in here. Her mom and dad have always told her that she has the kind of smile that makes a person want to smile in return and she is hoping that her smile is going to help her be remembered.
The receptionist flips through the pages to make sure everything is filled out before she leans over and hits a button on her phone before picking up the receiver.
"Your two o'clock, Emily Campbell, is ready for you," she tells the person on the other end. She then hangs up and hands Emily back the clipboard. "Take that with you and hand it to Clark. Second door on the right. Over there," she says and points down the hallway behind the front desk.
Emily feels her heart speeding up and her stomach is tightening almost so painfully, she wonders if she's on the brink of throwing up. But she looks to Haley and tries her best to keep her smile in place.
Haley wraps her arms around her in a tight hug. "I'll be right here, waiting for you when you're done," she promises her.
"Try not to kill any children in the meantime," Emily tells her. "That will make you the worst reference I could have down."
Haley laughs then. "I might be across the street at the coffee shop then."
And Emily doesn't know how Haley does it but she feels a little bit more relaxed as she turns and starts walking down the hallway to the second door on the right.
He really doesn't mean to but as he looks at the stack of applications in front of him, Brett Simon curses Clara Fisher in his head. He knows he shouldn't. The woman is sixty-five and she wants to go and spend more time with her daughter and grand-kids and who can blame the woman for that? But she's been Henry's nanny since the day the kid was born and her timing sucks.
The play-offs are just a couple of months away. His divorce is almost finalized. And he doesn't have the time to sit down and choose a new nanny for his son. And not only is he sitting here, cursing Clara which he really doesn't mean, he's also cursing his soon-to-be ex-wife, which he definitely does mean. Maybe if he hadn't married a woman who likes to sleep around with his teammates, he wouldn't be in this position and maybe he would trust her enough to let her have partial custody of Henry. But no way in hell is that ever going to happen.
His lawyer is one of the best in the city – that's what Brett has paid for – and the man made sure that full custody went to Brett instead of Vanessa Simon. Vanessa is allowed to see her son, twice a month but even those visits are meant to be supervised. Brett doesn't care if it seems cruel or cold. She was hardly a mom to their son anyway and he can't trust her as far as he can throw her so as far as Brett is concerned, this is the only way things are to be done.
And he has no reason to think that it couldn't work out. Clara's been a staple in their lives for the past three years and Brett just stupidly thought she always would be. But she wants to retire and enjoy whatever years she has left, caring for her grandchildren instead of someone else's and again, it's not like Brett can blame her.
It just makes things more complicated for him in a way he wasn't ready to see to.
"What about this one?" His agent, Grant Becker, holds up what seems like a random application from those on the table and holds it out for Brett to take.
"No," Brett immediately shakes his head once he looks at the picture of the woman, stapled to the front page, and reads over her name and moves it off to the side.
"And why not her?" Grant asks, not even trying to hide his impatience now.
"I don't like her name," Brett shrugs and is aware that if Grant could kill him with his eyes, he would do that at this moment and it would usually be amusing to him. Brett loves to get under Grant's skin but right now, he just doesn't care.
It's not his fault he just wants the best nanny possible to look after his kid when he's at practice or at games and being one of the top defensemen on one of the top hockey teams in the league, his schedule is a busy one. He needs someone he can trust and more importantly, he needs someone that Henry will like. The kid is shy – almost painfully so – and Brett needs someone his son will be comfortable around.
It's his own fault. He knows that. He had never thought he'd ever get married. Maybe someday, when he was older and felt like maybe it would be time to settle down. His own parents got married when they were nineteen and are one of the rare people, Brett knows, that were lucky enough to find the right person for them at such a young age but Brett also knows that that doesn't happen to everyone.
But he got drafted into the NHL when he was twenty and Brett was introduced to the world of hockey groupies and he wasn't exactly looking for a wife in all of that. He was a young guy, making good money and playing the sport he had loved ever since he was three and put on his first pair of ice skates, and he was having fun.
When he was twenty-six, he met Vanessa, a bartender in a sports bar, and he was pretty sure she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. He was quick to fall for her and woo her and she definitely didn't have a problem with one of the most well-known hockey players in the country pursuing her. And she had no problem accepting the diamond engagement ring he presented to her or marrying him in a wedding ceremony with the pictures splashed across the entertainment magazines.
Looking back on it now, Brett wishes he could grab his twenty-six year old self and punch him in the nuts and tell him that Vanessa may be hot but that's all she is. She loves the money and the hockey life but she doesn't love you and you're not going to have some perfect marriage like your parents.
The only good thing to come out of his four years with Vanessa is Henry. If he had to do it all over again just to get Henry, Brett knows he would without any hesitation.
There is a knock on the closed door and Grant goes to answer it.
It's Janet, the head receptionist of the agency, and she's holding the hand of Henry, who smiles the instant he sees Brett and he breaks away from the woman to come running to him. And Brett grins and pushes himself away from the table so he can hoist the boy up in his lap; as if they've been separated for days instead of just less than two hours as Brett has been in the agency's conference room and Henry has been playing in the ball pit that the agency has set up in their lobby for the kids.
"What do you think of her?" Brett asks, holding up an application – the one of the woman whose name he didn't like, and Henry shakes his head. "See?" He then asks, looking to Grant with a grin, who just sighs heavily and goes to the door to slide past Janet out of the room.
"I'll get us something to drink," he says and leaves.
"This shouldn't be that hard," Brett says, more to himself but Henry hears and nods in agreement as if he has any idea how frustrating this process is.
"Here, Mr. Simon," Janet says, coming to the table with more applications in her arms. "Some of these are brand new and you'll be the first one to see them."
"Thanks," Brett mumbles, not meaning to be a rude dick but he's tired and he has a headache and all he wants is a woman who'd be able to take care of Henry for him when he's not able to himself.
"Daddy!" Henry suddenly exclaims, startling Brett to full attention. The boy has grabbed the application from the top of the pile and is holding it in front of Brett's face, practically shoving it into his nose. "This one!"
Brett takes the application and looks at it himself, his eyes scanning over the general information. She's young. Just twenty-two. And from Massachusetts. Emily Campbell.
He looks at her picture, seeing that she definitely looks young with long blonde hair, wide blue eyes and a bright, happy smile that makes him almost want to smile, too. It's a genuine smile, that's for sure, which makes her seem friendly enough but a woman has an ability to have a good smile and still be a lying leech.
"This one?" He then looks to Henry, wondering why the boy had picked her.
Henry just nods his head eagerly. "That one."
Brett looks at the application once more and then looks to Janet. He holds the application out for her to take. "I guess call to set up an interview," he says.
Janet smiles, taking the paper, leaving the room to probably go and tell Grant that is was over – at least until after the interview and it was back to the square one because this girl is only twenty-two and Brett can't imagine her having that much experience. But Henry has picked her himself and for now, that's good enough for Brett. He'll see how good enough it is after he gives this girl an interview.
Thank you very much for reading and please take a moment to review!