A year after his husband is killed in a hit and run, the only thing keeping Parker Adams going is his work and their son, Nate. When his regular sitter moves away, he hires a live in nanny to give Nate more stability. Due to a mix up with the envelopes, it isn't the young woman he was expecting. Opening the door and finding six feet six of Jake Walsh on the stoop fills Parker with panic. Not that Jake wasn't perfect for the job; he was. A little too perfect. Which is why Parker had purposely decided to give the job to the other candidate. During his interview, Jake Walsh had awoken feelings in Parker that he had thought were gone forever. How was he going to cope with the man under his roof twenty-four-seven?
Jake Walsh is a force of nature. Having worked at a day care until the tiny business folded, he's looking for something more secure, but doesn't expect to find it with his first interview. If he's honest, he didn't think he'd get it. Although he'd hit it off with Nate, Parker Adams was a whole different story. After the feeling they'd made an initial connection, Parker's demeanor had changed and Jake had been left with the impression he didn't have a chance-until the letter offering him the position dropped onto his doormat. Moving in with Parker and Nate seems like the perfect job, until he realises he's not only fallen in love with Nate, but Parker, too, and that it's nigh on impossible to compete with a ghost?
Nate looked out of his bedroom window again. He felt as though he was going to throw up, mainly because he knew Pop was going to be mad, and he would probably be grounded for the rest of his life. He grabbed his cell phone off his desk and quickly scrolled through his contacts for Marcus, not that it took very long since he only had three other numbers stored in the little phone book: Pop, Uncle Clay, and Grandma.
"Hey, what's up?" Marcus' voice sounded tinny as it bounced off towers and networks before it reached Nate's ear. "Has he killed you yet?"
"No," Nate snapped. "I'm scared. Jake's gonna be here any minute, and Pop's gonna figure it out!"
"Nathaniel," Marcus used his whole name with all the sarcastic confidence of a nearly-ten-year-old. "He's just gonna to think he put the letters in the wrong envelopes. He'll think he's the one who made the mistake. He's never gonna guess it was you."
"Us!" Nate insisted.
"Hey, I didn't do nothing," Marcus said, his tone innocent. "All I did was tell you how to steam open the envelope. You're the one who swapped the letters."
"What if he tries to make Jake leave?" Nate peeked through the chink in his curtains and searched the street yet again.
"Don't you know anything?"
"If he does, just cry like a baby," Marcus retorted. "Works every time."
"Nate!" Parker yelled up the stairs. "Come on, buddy! Your Cheerios are getting cold!" He stood in front of the ornate mirror hanging on the wall next to the front door and attempted to tie the navy silk tie looped around his neck. Sliding it beneath his collar, he had just managed to get the knot straight when the doorbell rang, making him jerk his hand to the side and nearly garrote himself. "Shit," he cursed beneath his breath and padded the few extra steps down the hall to answer it, throwing up a mental thanks to the patron Saint of Nannies that it was Melanie's first day. "Mel—" Parker froze. "You're not Melanie," he said lamely.
"Not last time I checked," Jake said with a smile.
Parker frowned, noticing the suitcase and huge sports bag at Jake's feet. "Um… what are you doing here?"
"Your letter said to start on the twenty-fourth," Jake replied, picking up his bag. He hesitated, a frown creasing his forehead. "It is the twenty-fourth today, isn't it?"
"Yes, yes, it is, but—" Parker didn't get to finish his sentence as Jake shoved the bag into his hands, then bent to pick up the suitcase.
"Great. For a minute I thought I'd got my dates mixed up." Jake grinned as he squeezed past Parker and peered down the hall. "Kitchen this way?"
"Yes, but—" Parker huffed in frustration as he turned to stare at Jake's retreating back. What the hell was going on? "Jake, wait." He nudged the door closed with his foot and followed Jake into the kitchen. The shock of finding Jake on his doorstep had begun to wear off, and his tone was firm as he slipped into lawyer mode. His gaze narrowed when he found Jake making himself at home and pouring himself a cup of coffee from the pot Parker had made earlier. "What are you doing here?"
"Reporting for duty." Jake put down the cup and the coffee pot then pulled out an envelope from his back pocket. "Like you told me to."
Parker dropped the bag onto the kitchen floor and took the envelope, his frown deepening as he read the letter he pulled from inside it. Shit! He'd offered Melanie the job. He'd narrowed it down to Jake and Melanie and sent a letter of apology to Jake and the two other contenders, then a letter to Melanie confirming he was offering her the job. What the fuck was Jake doing with Melanie's letter? He'd tried to be cool and addressed the letter itself to 'congratulations' instead of heading it up with Melanie's name. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. He must have accidentally put the confirmation letter in the envelope addressed to Jake. Shit! Holy shit! Double fucking shit!
"Parker? Is there something wrong?"
Jake's voice broke through his panicked haze and Parker looked up from the letter. He managed to get out, "Jake—" before a tornado loosely disguised as Nate flew into the kitchen and practically climbed Jake like a tree.
"Holy moley," Jake huffed, his strong arms coming around Nate to stop them both falling to the floor.
"Jake! I told Pop you were my favorite!" Nate yelled, hugging the big man fiercely. He wriggled out of Jake's arms and threw himself into Parker's, knocking the letter from his hands. "Thank you, thank you! Can Jake take me to the park after school? I promise I'll do my homework."
Parker's stomach sank into his shoes. Shit! How could he send Jake away now without letting Nate down—again? He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen Nate this excited. What was he going to say? That Jake couldn't stay because the thought of having him actually living under the same roof was making his belly fizz and tingle in a way that both filled him with anticipation and fear? Yeah, definitely the way to go, genius. Parker hugged Nate tightly and swallowed. What choice did he have? "Well," he said, "That's up to Jake, buddy, but it's okay with me—if it's okay with him." Nate planted an exuberant kiss on Parker's cheek and scrambled out of his arms to throw himself on the chair in front of his Cheerios.
"Sounds like a plan," Jake replied, smiling brightly. "When you've finished your cereal we can make our first trip to school. You ever ridden in a jeep?"
Parker watched Jake and Nate settle into aimless chatter as if they'd known each other forever. He tried his best to answer the smile Jake sent him over Nate's head with one of his own, hoping it didn't look as false as it felt. Giving Jake a brief nod, he walked back down the hall to straighten his tie in the hall mirror, staring at his reflection with a sense of foreboding. His cheeks were flushed, his eyes had darkened, and his pulse raced in his chest—and that was after ten minutes with the guy. This was never going to work. He sighed heavily and scrubbed his hand across his face. "I could really use some help about now, babe," he mumbled softly, not that he needed to ask, he knew exactly what Darren would say. He could see him now, blond head tilted, wicked gleam in his blue eyes at Parker's discomfort, his English accent thick with humor as he said something incredibly helpful along the lines of, "I'm going to enjoy this!"