Josh hadn’t been so innocent either. He had one big hand cupping her jaw, his thumb clearly stroking her skin in a way that seemed both tender and yet somehow outrageously sexy.
“Cozy,” Anna said dryly.
“It’s not what it looks like,” Grace said, giving her back the phone.
“No?” Anna asked, looking down at the screen again. “Because it looks like you’re kissing. You’re not kissing?”
“Okay, so we’re kissing, but that’s only because the day before he’d said he’d kiss me if I lost the dog and then…” Grace trailed off, unable to remember exactly how it was that she’d ended up with Josh’s mouth on hers.
On the Internet.
Anna arched a brow.
Grace sighed. “Well, this is embarrassing. We’re not…I mean, he and I aren’t—”
“Oh, no worries,” Anna said. “I know you’re not his girl toy. He wouldn’t have hired you if you were.”
“Yeah, Josh doesn’t bring his women home.”
Well ouch. “Okay, good.” Great. Because, hey, she’d already decided that the two of them weren’t going to do this. This being anything. So yeah, this was really great.
“Hang on,” Anna said. “I just want to share the link with everyone I know…” She hit a few keys, then smiled. “There. God, how I love it when he does something stupid. It’s so rare, you know? And then when he finally does it, he really does it right.” She unlocked the baby gate, freeing Tank just as a young boy came tearing into the kitchen. He was waving a lightsaber and making some sort of war cry as he ran circles around the kitchen table.
Tank took off right on his heels, barking so hard his back legs kept coming off the floor. Quite the feat, given that his belly swung so low.
The kid was wearing a Star Wars T-shirt. His jeans were streaked with dirt and low enough on his narrow little hips to reveal his underwear waistband, which was also Star Wars. His battered athletic shoes lit up with each step he made, and the right one was untied. He was maybe five, with dark hair that definitely hadn’t seen a brush that morning, and his melting, dark chocolate eyes matched Dr. Josh Scott’s. He stopped short at the sight of Grace, and Tank plowed into the back of his feet, then fell to his butt and gave out a little startled yelp.
“Toby,” Anna said. “You’re going to stay here with Grace. I’ll be back in an hour.”
“Wait…what?” Grace shook her head. “No, I’m just the dog babysitter.”
“Yeah?” Anna asked. “Are you babysitting the dog right now?”
“Well, yeah, but—” She broke off at Anna’s amused look and whirled around to find the puppy chewing on the kitchen table leg. Crap. “Hey,” she said. “No chewing on that.”
Tank kept chewing. Grace went over there and pried him loose but she was too late. He’d left deep gouges in the beautiful wood.
Anna tugged affectionately on a lock of Toby’s hair. “The dogsitter will make you an after-school snack. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do, Slugger.”
Grace was still shaking her head. A dog was one thing. But a kid? There was no counting the number of ways she could screw this one up. “Wait a minute.”
But Anna wasn’t waiting. She was actually at the door. “No worries, he’s easy. The regular nanny, Katy, ditched Toby today, so we picked him up from school, but I’ve got things to do, so…”
A horn sounded from out front. Grace looked out the window and saw a rusty pickup truck.
“Gotta go,” Anna said, and wheeled out.
“But…” But nothing. Anna was gone, gone, gone. And Grace had just been promoted to a job for which she had absolutely no qualifications. She looked at Toby.
Toby looked at her right back, solemn-faced, his dark eyes giving nothing away.
“Hi,” Grace said.
“Arf,” he said.
“Arf,” Tank said, dragging a running shoe that was bigger than himself. He’d already chewed a hole in the toe. Eyes bulging, tongue lolling out the side of his smashed-in face, Tank sat and panted proudly at the prize he offered her.
It was going to be a long hour. She liberated the shoe and searched her brain for some way to relate to a five-year-old kid holding a toy lightsaber. Who barked. “So are you a Jedi warrior?”
Toby swung the lightsaber wide. It lit up and went whoosh, vrrmm-whoosh.
Tank promptly went nuts, so naturally Toby swung again.
Toby hit a home run with a cup of juice that had been on the kitchen table, sending it flying through the air. Luckily the cup was plastic. Not so luckily, the juice was grape, and purple sticky liquid splattered like rain on the table, the floor, the counters, Grace, and both Tank and Toby. Even the ceiling took a hit.
Toby dropped the lightsaber as if it were a hot potato.
Tank scooped it up by the handle in his sharp puppy teeth and began running circles around the table again, both belly and lightsaber dragging on the ground, still lighting up, still making whooshing noises.
“It’s okay,” Grace said to a stricken-looking Toby, grabbing a roll of paper towels from the counter, swiping at the kid first. But the sticky clothes didn’t appear to bother him any because he stepped free and headed toward the fridge.
Tank dropped the lightsaber, redirecting his reign of terror to licking the floor.
“Toby?” Grace asked. “Where’s the trash?”
The boy made a vague gesture over his shoulder toward the back door and stuck his head into the fridge.
Grace went to wipe down the table and instead stared at the stack of twenties, underneath a grape-splotched sticky note that had Grace scrawled across it in bold print. She picked up the money and started counting. Twenty, forty, sixty, eighty…One hundred and sixty bucks. It took her a minute to figure it out—forty for yesterday, triple that for today.
It was ridiculous, of course, and yet…the things she could do with a hundred and sixty bucks. Staring at it longingly, she thought of her overloaded credit card, her student loans, and the weekly rent she had coming due at the B&B where she’d been living.
Not to mention the cleaning bill for getting grape juice out of today’s sundress. Shaking her head, she pocketed forty. Nothing for yesterday since she’d screwed up, and forty for today. Because she wouldn’t screw today up. Leaving the rest, she stepped out the back door with the sticky paper towels, which she dumped into the trash can. Now that she had a moment of privacy, she pulled out her cell phone and hit Josh’s number to fill him in.
He picked up, sounding harried. “Dr. Scott.”
Her brain stuttered at the sound of his low voice, the same low voice that had prompted her into a moment of insanity earlier. That kiss…“One hundred and sixty bucks?” she said in disbelief. “What exactly are you expecting for this hundred and sixty bucks?”
There was a beat of silence. She figured he was probably wondering who the crazy lady was, so she decided to clarify. “It’s Grace,” she said, trying for calm efficiency. She was used to calm efficiency, after all. Used to order. Used to things balancing.
Or she had been used to those things, back when she’d been gainfully employed, making something of herself, something very big and very important. Back way before she’d come to Lucky Harbor and taken on the first job she’d ever had that was completely over her head.
“You needed the money,” Josh said. “Right?”
“Well, yes,” she admitted reluctantly. “But a hundred and sixty dollars?”
“It’s what we agreed on, triple yesterday’s pay.”
“I didn’t mean to accept that. The kiss was my payment.” The crazy, wild kiss. The crazy, wild, wonderful kiss. She turned back to the door, which had shut behind her.
It was locked. Uh-oh.
“What?” he asked.
Had she said that out loud? “Nothing.” She peered into the window, thankful that the shades on it were open, but didn’t see Toby in the kitchen. “Well, nothing except your sister brought Toby home, and I’m watching him for her for an hour or so.”
There was another beat of silence while Josh processed this. Though he was a guy, and therefore a master at hiding his emotions, his thoughts weren’t all that hard to decode. Surprise and shock that somehow the same person who’d lost his dog yesterday was now in charge of his kid, and irritation at his sister. “Anna left you in charge of Toby?”
“I guess your nanny got sick, and Anna’s boyfriend picked Toby up from school.”
Nothing about that sentence seemed to bring him comfort. And it wasn’t even the worst bit of news she had to tell him. That honor belonged to the Facebook photo, which she decided he didn’t need to know about right now. Or ever. “It’s only for an hour,” she said, trying to make the best of the situation. “How much can happen in an hour?” She tried the door again. Still locked. She knocked.
Tank came tearing back into the kitchen, running more circles around the table with the lightsaber. But still no sign of Toby. She knocked again.
Tank stopped running in circles and panted at her. Then he turned his attention to the cabinet under the sink, where he started nosing around with what appeared to be a small trash container.
The container wobbled but didn’t tip.
Tank then sank his teeth into the plastic liner and tugged until the thing fell over, spilling trash across the kitchen floor. Crap. Grace looked around her. She was in the side yard, with two gates at either end—both locked. “I have to go,” she said.
“Don’t even think about it. What’s wrong?”
Oh, so many, many things. Tank was going to town on the trash, inhaling whatever he could get at. Toby was still nowhere in sight. That couldn’t be good. She knocked again, harder this time.
The puppy looked up from his mission of destroying the world and growled at her.