Grace whirled around, searching for a doormat. Everyone hid a key beneath a doormat. But there was no mat. Most likely because it was safer for Anna in her chair that way. So where would they hide a key?
She gave up. “Okay, where is it?” she asked him. “Where do you hide the key for the stupid people who get locked out?”
“You got locked out?”
“No, I’m just asking for the stupid people.”
She took another peek in the window, and oh thank God, there he was, standing on the other side of the door, staring up at her with those big eyes. She pointed to the door.
Toby just looked at her.
Grace sighed. “He’s in the kitchen.”
“Go to the second planter from the porch,” Josh instructed. “Reach into the sprinkler valve box.”
Holding the phone in the crook of her neck, Grace smiled at Toby in what she hoped was a reassuring manner and again pointed to the door handle, gesturing for him to let her in.
Instead, he turned and walked out of the kitchen for parts unknown, his shoelace trailing on the floor, his little Star Wars undies sticking out of his jeans in a way that he’d probably spend the next fifteen years purposely trying to mimic.
“Toby!” she called. “Toby, don’t leave the kitchen. Toby?”
“Hurry, Grace,” Josh said in her ear.
She rushed to the second planter and at the sight there, she dropped her phone. There was a very large spiderweb guarding the valve box. Heart pounding, she scrambled to pick up her phone. “Sorry. You there?”
Nothing. She smacked her phone on her thigh and tried again. “Josh?”
“Yeah. Do you see the key? It’s in the metal hide-a-key.”
Yeah, she saw the metal hide-a-key. She also saw the spiderweb. The massive spiderweb. She toed it and a big, fat, hairy brown spider crawled with badass authority into her line of sight, giving her the evil eye. He was ready to rumble. Gulp. Not much truly terrified Grace. Well, aside from clowns and glass elevators. But spiders? Spiders topped her list, and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up.
“Yeah?” she whispered. Was it her imagination or was the spider giving her a “bring it” gesture with two of its spindly legs?
“There’s a pool out back,” Josh said. “You can’t get to it from the side yard where you are. Toby can swim, but…”
Oh, God. The image of Toby running outside and into the pool on his own was too awful to bear. She closed her eyes, plunged her hand into the sprinkler box while silently chanting “pleasedon’tbitemepleasedon’tbiteme,” and pulled out the hide-a-key.
Without getting bitten.
She ran to the back door and let herself in, racing through the kitchen, skidding to a halt in the living room, where Toby was standing on the couch, lightsaber once again in hand, whipping it around.
Grace nearly collapsed with relief. She’d handled millions of dollars of other people’s money without breaking a sweat, and yet at this, just one little boy and a puppy, she needed a nap. “Well, that was a fun fire drill.”
“Toby?” Josh asked in her ear.
“All in one piece.” She sank to the couch and put her head between her knees. “Your house is a little crazy, Dr. Scott.”
“You must feel right at home, then.”
She heard herself let out a weak laugh. “Hey, you’re the crazy one.” She fingered the money in her pocket. “You can’t go around paying people so much money for menial work. They’ll take advantage of you.”
“I’m not easy to take advantage of.”
Okay, so that was undoubtedly true, she thought. “But—”
“Did you lose Tank?”
Only for a minute… “No.”
“Did he shit in the house?”
“Then you’re worth every penny,” Josh assured her. “Listen, I’m sorry about Anna. I’ll get there as soon as I can.”
But nothing. He was gone. She lifted her head and found Toby standing there, a lock of dark hair falling across his forehead, lightsaber still in one hand, a squirming Tank in the other.
He really was pretty damn cute, she thought. This would be okay. She could totally do this for an hour. It’d be like the time she had to babysit the guys in payroll.
Toby wrinkled his nose like something was stinky, then hastily set Tank down.
The puppy was panting, and his stomach looked uncomfortably full. Uh-oh. “Tank,” she said, trying to get him outside.
Too late. Tank hunched over and horked up all the trash he’d eaten.
On her feet.
“Arf,” Tank said, looking like he felt all better.
“Arf,” Toby said.
There are four basic food groups: plain chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate.
One painfully long hour later, Grace was exhausted. This was nothing like babysitting the guys in payroll. First of all, Tank never stopped moving.
He’d found a forgotten stethoscope from somewhere and had dragged it around and around the living room. Around the couch, up and over the coffee table, until he’d inadvertently trapped the end on a chair leg and been caught up short. A sound like air leaking out of a balloon had come from his throat, and he’d fallen over, legs straight up in the air.
Grace had thought he’d killed himself and had gone running toward him, but before she’d gotten to him, he’d rebounded.
Good as new, he’d been chewing on her sandals five minutes later.
And five minutes after that, the wooden kitchen chairs.
And the wooden banister poles.
And someone’s forgotten hat…
She was considering giving him an electrical cord to chew on next when she heard the front door open. Josh stepped inside wearing a white doctor’s coat over his sexy office clothes, a stethoscope around his neck like a tie. He picked up Toby and flung him over his shoulder in a fireman’s hold, making the kid squeal with abandon.
Josh gave a tired smile at the sound and turned to Grace, Toby still hanging upside down behind him. “Anna?”
“Present,” Anna said, rolling in the front door. The driver of the pickup was with her. Twentysomething, with an insolent smile, he slouched against the doorjamb.
Josh nudged the guy back a step until Slacker Dude stood on the other side of the jamb. Josh then shut the door in his face.
“Josh!” Anna was horrified and pissed. “You can’t do that to Devon!”
“Later,” he said curtly.
Anna whirled in her chair and sped off down the hallway. Two seconds later, her bedroom door slammed hard enough to shake the windows.
Josh ignored this. “Thanks,” he said to Grace, who felt as rattled as the windows. Five-year-old boys, as it turned out, were aliens. They owned battery-operated hamster pets called Zhu Zhus that chirped and whistled and skittered randomly, terrifying pug puppies and temp babysitters alike.
Josh reached into his pocket and pulled out some cash.
“Oh no,” she said, backing away. “You don’t have to…”
“We didn’t negotiate for babysitting fees.”
He gave her a speculative gaze. “Is this one of those ‘I would have done it for a kiss’ deals?”
She laughed, even as her tummy quivered. “I just meant that this one’s on me.”
“No,” he said softly. “I owe you.”
The air between them did that snap-crackle-pop thing again, like static electricity on steroids, and Grace’s breath caught. “Okay,” she said, just as softly. “You owe me.”
Two days later, Grace entered the diner, still thinking about kisses, deals, and sexy doctors named Josh.
And oddly enough, her résumé. She supposed she could add dog walker to it. She’d done it four days in a row now with no mishaps, at least no major ones. She didn’t count Tank biting the mailman’s pant leg yesterday, because Tank didn’t actually break skin. Nor did she count Toby dumping his bottle of bubbles into the pool because, hey, she’d always wanted to see what would happen too. And the pool guy had come right out and fixed everything, so all was okay.
In fact, she could probably now add babysitter to her new and constantly changing résumé as well, since it went nicely with dogsitter, model, and floral delivery person.
Not that any of that went with being a banking investment specialist.
She did finally get calls for interviews. She had a Seattle appointment tomorrow morning. The Portland interview was the following day, early, and would be conducted by Skype. This worked out in her favor because this way she wouldn’t miss modeling for Lucille’s class. The budding artists were drawing feet this week, so Grace had no wardrobe worries, at least from her feet up.
She tried to imagine her mother or father modeling their bare feet, but couldn’t. Because they took life much more seriously than that. They were the real deal.
And Grace was a poser.
It wasn’t that she didn’t love Lucky Harbor. She did. It was just that what she could find here in the way of a career wasn’t…big enough. Important enough. She plopped into the back booth next to a waiting Mallory. Amy showed up two minutes later and dropped a shoe box onto the table. She untied her pink apron, tossed it aside, and sank into the booth, propping her feet up by Grace’s hip. “Off duty, thank God.”
“What’s with the shoe box?” Grace asked, nudging it curiously. “New boots or something?”
“Or something,” Amy said. “Somehow, I’m selling like crazy.” She was a sketch artist, and she’d found a niche for herself creating color pencil renditions of the local landscape. Lucille’s gallery was selling out of everything Amy created nearly as fast as she brought it in. “I can’t keep up.”