|Название||The Nanny Proposal|
|Автор произведения||Joss Wood|
|Серия||Texas Cattleman's Club: The Impostor|
Which meant sex with Kasey should be the last thing on his mind.
Aaron swore and scrubbed his hands over his face. When he opened them again, Kasey was walking away from him. He ordered himself not to follow her—but, hot damn, those shorts did not cover her butt cheeks.
Coffee, Aaron thought. Coffee was the only thing that made sense right now. He slipped into Kasey’s tiny kitchen, thinking he was far too big for this dollhouse. His house was huge—eight thousand square feet and seven bedrooms—but as he’d told Jason, who’d sarcastically called his house “the Shack,” at six-three he was a big guy and he liked a lot of space.
A few minutes later Aaron saw Kasey standing in the doorway, wearing a pair of knee-length, cut-off denim shorts and a blue, white and red striped top. She was shoeless, her toes ending in slashes of hot pink. She’d brushed her hair, washed her face and, judging by the peppermint smell, brushed her teeth. Her face was still free of makeup, but she rarely wore much: her eyelashes were long and thick and her mouth a natural, deep pink. As always, she took his breath away.
“I need your help,” Aaron stated, trying to get his mind off the bed down her hall.
Kasey picked up her mug, sipped and lifted her finely arched, dark eyebrows. “Okay.” She glanced down at her clothes and grimaced. “Do we need to go to the office? Must I change?”
“Not necessary,” Aaron told her. “You’re fine as you are.”
Kasey waved her coffee cup in a silent gesture for him to continue.
Should he tell her? Was he doing the right thing? Aaron wrestled with his doubt. He didn’t trust anyone, not fully, but he needed Kasey’s help and that meant sharing classified information, something he wasn’t comfortable doing. He’d learned, the hard way, to keep his secrets, both business and personal, close to his chest.
“I’m trusting you not to repeat this, Kasey.”
She nodded and Aaron continued. “It’s a long, tangled story. You met Will at the ball. How much do you know about him?”
Kasey replied immediately, her business brain moving into high gear. “CEO of Spark Energy Solutions, a company with ties to oil, gas and solar. Recently passed away?”
“Yeah. A while ago, Will and Rich Lowell, his best friend, were in Mexico and they got caught up in a boating accident. Long story short, the boat exploded and we were told Rich died. Except that wasn’t what happened. Rich escaped the brunt of the blast and Will’s body was never recovered.”
Kasey waited for him to continue.
“This is where it gets odd... Rich presumed Will died in that blast and he returned to Royal—but he returned as Will. Acting as Will, Rich took over Will’s life and his business. Married my sister. Then, a few months back, Rich, still pretending to be Will, faked his own death... Following me so far?”
Kasey looked dazed. He didn’t blame her; it was a hell of a story. “Meanwhile, the real Will also did not perish in that boat explosion.”
“Seriously? So where was he while Rich was assuming his identity?”
“He was in Mexico, recovering from his injuries. He’s now back in town, laying low and quietly trying to unravel the mess.” Aaron released a breath. “My brother, Jason, is Will’s good friend and worked closely with him at Will’s energy company, SES.”
“Your brother didn’t notice the difference between the real and the fake Will?” Kasey asked, sounding skeptical.
“Remember that boating accident? Acting as Will, Rich claimed he’d been badly injured, that he’d needed reconstructive surgery to both his face and vocal chords. Jason took his words at face value. Will and Rich had the same coloring and build, and they looked a lot alike, so none of us ever thought, not for a minute, that Rich wasn’t who he said he was.”
Kasey looked puzzled. “Okay, but I still don’t understand how this relates to me doing a favor for you.”
“Getting there... As I said, Jason worked for Will and he’s gone missing. It’s been two months since anyone has spoken to, or seen, him.”
Sympathy crossed Kasey’s lovely face. “I’m so sorry, Aaron. That must be awful.”
That was one word for it. “My sister received a letter from him saying that he needed time away to recover from Will’s death. But that letter was fake—it definitely wasn’t his handwriting. Besides, no matter how upset Jason was, he would never abandon his little girl.”
Aaron heard the harsh note in his voice and tried to tone it down, to find his control. “He’s a devoted dad and he’d never neglect Savannah for this long. There have been emails, but on other trips Jason never connected with Savvie through emails—she’s too little—he always FaceTimed with her.” Aaron tossed his cold coffee into her sink and linked his hands around the back of his neck. “In short, Jason is officially missing, presumed kidnapped.” He forced the words out. “It’s possible that he’s dead.”
Kasey lifted her fist to her mouth, her eyes wide with shock mixed with horror. “God, Aaron.”
He imagined himself in her arms, soaking in her strength, leaning on her, emotionally, for a minute, maybe two. But that wasn’t what he allowed himself—he didn’t fall apart, he couldn’t. He had to be strong. For Jason. For Megan. For Savannah.
“Savvie is five, nearly six, and has been bouncing between Megan, my sister’s house and mine. I remember Jason naming me as her guardian after her mom died a year or so back but I never expected to have to take full responsibility for her.” First her mom, then her dad. No wonder Savannah looked and sounded shell-shocked. “I’m picking her up from my sister Megan’s soon, but, while I can handle the occasional sleepover or a weekend here and there, she’s going to be with me full-time.”
Well, here went nothing. “I need reinforcements and I was hoping that you would, um, lend me a hand with her.”
Kasey looked like he’d asked her to play with acid-covered playing cards. “Aaron, I’m your executive assistant, not a babysitter. You have an enormous disposable income, hire a nanny!”
A stranger in his house? No. Aaron folded his arms, prepared to argue. “On your résumé, you said that you spent a year in France as an au pair. And I’ll double your salary if you take on the extra workload.”
Kasey still looked doubtful.
“Yeah, I could hire a nanny but you’re young, warm, and I think she’d relate to you better. I just need to get through the next couple of weeks, someone to help me until she goes to school. Then I’ll make another plan,” Aaron added.
“What about your sister? Can’t she help you?”
Megan was trying to unravel her own messy life and while he knew that she could occasionally help out, she wasn’t available on a continual basis. “Megan has her own issues she’s dealing with.”
Aaron looked at Kasey, almost prepared to grovel. “I trust you, Kasey. I trust you with my business.” Okay, that was a small lie. He trusted her as much as he could and only with parts of his business.
“The hell of it is that I need you. So, will you help me?”
* * *
I need you...
Kasey was still trying to make sense of his words when her cell phone buzzed with an incoming call. Seeing Michelle’s name on her screen brought the usual wave of longing and disgust, regret and anger, so she did what she always did and let the call go to voice mail. She couldn’t deal with her former best friend right now. She wasn’t sure whether she ever could.
Kasey looked at Aaron, who dominated her small kitchen. She could see the worry in his deep green