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Shay: Fake it till you make it! You got this!

Me: There’s not enough faking it in the world to help me make it through this.

Shay: $65k for a nannying position, Ellie. You can fake it that much. Promise.

Sigh. She wasn’t wrong.

When I had applied for the position, I’d received more details on the job, and needless to say, it would be the highest-paying nannying job I’d ever had. Susan had paid me thirty thousand dollars; this was more than doubled that.

I’d already daydreamed about how I’d spend that money, how I could send some to help out my father, the trips I’d take, the credit cards I’d pay off.

Now if only I could get through the next half-an-hour without running out the door.

I shut off my phone and went back to tapping my fingers against my much-too-exposed thigh. Gosh, is this room stuffy, or is it just me? No, the room was stuffy. None of the windows in the living room were open, which wasn’t shocking seeing how it was the beginning of January. Still, they could’ve turned down the heat a bit. How was anyone able to breathe in that space without any fresh air coming in? We were just inhaling and exhaling the same dirty air nonstop.

The waiting was the worst part. It felt like we were all just sitting in limbo. I couldn’t wait to be moved from the waiting room to the dining room for round one of the interview.

Round one.

Seriously, who had more than one round of interviews for a nannying position? We’d already had background checks done through the nanny agency. Why did I have to meet with one family member first, and then another after that?

I’d been nannying since I was eighteen, and I was certain that wasn’t the norm at all, even in Chicago.

Who exactly was the employer? Susan hadn’t mentioned a name, and when I’d emailed the address she’d given me, it had gone through to the employer’s assistant.

Was Beyoncé behind that door? Would I be taking Blue Ivy and the twins for afternoon walks while their parents ran the world?

It all seemed a bit odd to me, but whatever. For $65,ooo a year they could be as odd as they wished.

“Eleanor Gable?” a voice called out, and I looked up toward the sound.

My arm skyrocketed into the air and I hollered, “Present!”

Heads turned my way, and eyes glanced at my armpit.

Gross, Ellie. Put that away.

I lowered my arm and got to my feet. After clearing my throat, I said, “I’m Eleanor?” My tone almost made it sound like a question.

“Are you sure?” the woman asked, cocking an eyebrow.

“Yes, I’m sure. I am Eleanor.”

The woman looked at me and smiled. She was older, maybe in her late sixties, and even though I was being weird, she still looked hopeful. “Hi, I’m Claire. Please follow me back.”

I started in her direction while mentally beating myself up.

Did I honestly raise my hand and yell present?

What is wrong with me?

I shouldn’t have been allowed around other humans.

I fit in much better with fictional characters.

The dining room was just like the living room—massive. There were built-in cabinets that held stunning fine china, which the family probably never used outside of holidays. The table sat at least ten people, which made me think they hosted often. It had such a bohemian look to it, as if it had been carved right in their backyard and then set in their dining room. It was beautiful.

Bohemian dining room table was now on my bucket list.

“So,” Claire said, taking a seat as she stared at my resume, “it seems you have quite a bit of nannying experience. Plus, Susan spoke so highly of you.”

I sat beside her and inhaled deeply. “I do. I’ve been at it for a very long time. I nannied while I went to night school and got my degree in early childhood education, and then when I realized working in daycares wasn’t my cup of tea, I decided to stick to nannying.”

She nodded and wrote something down in her notebook.

What was she writing?

I hadn’t said anything interesting enough to be written down.

I shifted around in my seat, and I swore my butt cheeks were sticking to the chair.

If I made it out of this interview with a scrap of my dignity, I was going to buy myself a new skirt.

“And this is something you’re passionate about?” she asked. “Nannying?”

“Very much so. I’ve always had a passion for working with kids, even when I was a kid myself. I started babysitting when I was sixteen, and ever since then, I’ve known I wanted to be a part of shaping the lives of children. Plus, my mother was a nanny, so I guess it kind of runs in the family.”

That sounded good.

Write that down, Claire.

My foot kept tapping against the floor and I fiddled with my fingers.

“And before working for Susan, you nannied in Florida? Is that home base?”

“Oh, well, no. My father and I moved down there when I was a kid, just before my mother passed away, but a few years ago, I found my way back to Illinois. In my mind, this has always been home. This is where I belong.” I cleared my throat and tried to ignore my sweating.

Claire gave me the kindest smile. “You’re nervous.”

“Shockingly nervous.” I laughed, rubbing my hands together. “Sorry. I’m bad at this part, but I am good at my job. Actually, I’m great. It’s just the landing of the job that I struggle with. My nerves get in the way sometimes.”

“It’s fine. I hate interviews, too, but there’s no need for the nerves. I’m the easy one here. Round two is where things get rough. But, before we worry about that, I wanted to tell you more about the family. This is a bit of a different situation than what you’ve probably experienced in the past. There are two girls: Lorelai and Karla. Lorelai is five, and Karla is fourteen. The hours are a bit wacky, but mainly you are there early mornings to take the girls to school, you have middays off, then you pick up the girls and prepare dinner and put Lorelai to bed. We’re all still trying to find our footing after losing their mother, so at times things may seem intense.”

“Oh, I thought you were…?” I shook my head, a bit confused.

“The mother? Oh no. I’m their grandmother. Their mother was my daughter.”

The word was stung my ears. “Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Yes. She was my world. She was everyone’s world…” Claire paused for a moment and looked away. It was clear her heart was still breaking over the death of her daughter. I figured a heart always kept breaking when a parent had to say goodbye first.

Claire cleared her throat. “Anyway, their father works quite difficult hours, so over the past ten months it’s been my job to do the first round for hiring the nannies. I cut out the bad seeds first.”

“Nannies? As in there’s been more than one in the past ten months?”

“Six, to be exact,” she told me, which left me a bit stunned. “Like I said, it’s my job to hire the nannies, but my son-in-law finds a way to fire them pretty quickly. It’s going to take someone with a lot of heart to last in this position.”

“That’s one thing I have—a lot of heart.”

“Good, good. I’m glad to hear it. Susan told me that, too. She told me you were a bit awkward when put in situations like this but said it was worth overlooking.”

“Good ol’ Susan.” I nervously laughed.

“She’s a doll, that’s for sure. Back to the girls. A lot of the time the girls will need you to help them before and after school. Get them to school, to karate practice, and therapy appointments, make their meals—you know, the usual things. The position comes with room and board in the guesthouse if you are interested. It helps, seeing how you have to be over so early and sometimes you’re not heading home until nine or ten. The hours can run long due to the structure of their father’s work schedule. Sometimes, he’ll have business trips, and you will be paid overtime and bonuses for those times. Allison, his assistant, will notify you far in advance of said travels. If for some reason you’re unable to work those periods of time, a part-time nanny will be brought in to cover you. Also, when summer comes around, the hours will be reworked so you aren’t working day and night.”

“Oh, okay. That all sounds good to me.”

She smiled and nodded. Then, she leaned in a bit. “I just want to really make it clear, this position isn’t for the faint of heart. As I said before, within the last ten months, we have had six different nannies, which is why I’m wanting to stress how important it is to understand that this family is different than most. Everyone has changed a lot since the accident. Do you understand that there may be a bit of sensitivity involved with the job?”

“I do understand that, yes. I swear I can do this, Claire, and I know me saying that doesn’t matter at all because it’s just words, but I believe I am the right match for this position.”

“It matters,” she cut in. “I think it’s important, you believing you can do this.”

She asked me a few more basic questions and I relaxed a little, my nerves somewhat disappearing, but they came rushing back when she told me it was time for me to advance to round two of the interview process.

“Now, this is going to be a bit hard. Lately son-in-law is a hard man, and he won’t say much. You will feel as if you are being judged, but don’t let him break you. You need a tough skin to work for Greyson East. Otherwise, you won’t survive.”

My lips parted and I sat there, stunned.

Claire raised an eyebrow. “What is it, Eleanor?”

“I’m sorry, did you just say Greyson East?”

“Yes. Greyson East, the CEO of EastHouse Whiskey. I thought I mentioned that when you walked in.”

“No, you didn’t.” Oh, my God. The breeze from the window somehow stopped, the ticking clock on the wall seemed to pause, and a wave of nausea hit me.

“Are you alright?” she asked. “Do you know him or something?”