Tempt Me(4)

By: Carly Phillips

“Mia?” he asked.

“Yes?” She jerked her gaze away and looked to the floor, hoping he hadn’t caught her staring or thinking inappropriate thoughts.

“Can I talk to you outside?” he asked.

She nodded. “Sure.” She followed him through the double doors and they paused on the walkway on the side of the building where they’d exited. They walked toward their vehicles, which were parked side by side so he could go straight to work.

He paused by the SUV she used to drive Bailey around and do errands. “Is everything okay?” she asked.

He met her gaze, his chocolate gaze warm on hers. At that intense look, her nipples stood at attention, making her grateful for the sweater she wore that covered the evidence.

“I just wanted to thank you,” he began. “Not for doing your job, which I’m extremely pleased with, by the way, but for being there for Bailey on a whole different level.”

The compliment on her work made her happy. Mia loved children and she really didn’t have to try very hard in order to work at her job. Bailey, especially, made it easy. “She’s a special little girl.”

“Yes, well, I think so, obviously,” he said with a chuckle. “But most people would do the bare minimum required of them and I can tell you care about her. That’s worth everything to me. To know the person who’s with my child all day really puts thought and care into her feelings, not just her basic welfare and needs.”

He rubbed the back of his neck as he spoke, clearly uncomfortable with their serious conversation, but she appreciated him expressing the sentiments.

“Thank you. She’s a joy.”

Their gazes met again, locking for a moment in what felt like a heated caress, not just a casual glance. His gaze drifted to her lips before he cleared his throat and looked away.

This was one of those times where she wondered if he was thinking about her, because she was definitely lost in thought about him. Specifically about kissing those full lips, wondering if his kiss would be hard and demanding or whisper soft. Either would work for her.

“I need to get to work,” he said gruffly, breaking into her naughty thoughts.

Her cheeks burned as she dug for her keys in her purse.

“See you when you get home,” she murmured without looking his way.

She headed to the driver’s-side door, away from Austin, just as a group of women walked by, their voices carrying. “She’s not the only nanny here but she’s the youngest,” one of the women said in an indiscreet loud voice.

“And he’s pretty hot himself,” another said. “And single.”

“Think they’re having an affair?”

Mia cringed at their insinuation, especially given where her mind had been seconds before. Still, women could be nasty and this group was pretty gossipy and rude. Couldn’t she just have a job without being accused of screwing her boss?

Ignoring them, she climbed into the seat and slammed the door shut, closing herself inside before she could hear the conclusion the women drew. Especially since it probably matched her deepest, darkest hidden desire for Austin Rhodes.

* * *

Austin waited for Mia to pull the SUV out of the parking spot in the school parking lot and head home before doing the same, turning his car toward the highway. He drove to the Alpha Security office, his mind on his daughter’s first full day of elementary school. Kindergarten had been half day, and he hoped she was up to a complete seven hours in first grade, but he reassured himself that Bailey was his Energizer Bunny. She would rise to the challenge and even dance her way through it. He grinned at the thought. She always made him smile.

Yesterday’s assignment and his daughter’s need to have him around cemented the fact that he wanted to change up what he did for Alpha Security, and he had an appointment to talk to Dan this morning.

Before he could continue along that train of thought, his cell rang and his mother’s name popped up on the dashboard screen.

He answered the call on speaker as he drove. “Hey, Mom.”

“How did my baby do going into school today?” Sarah asked.

“Went in like a champ.” He smiled, proud of his kid. “Of course, it helped that Mia joined us,” he said, giving credit where it was due. “Unfortunately, Bailey had a little breakdown over the fact that her friends had their mothers bringing them into school, too.”

His mom sighed. “We knew you’d have to deal with that one day.”

“I did. But it was amazing how agreeing to let Mia join us changed her whole mood. She really likes her and Mia is amazing with Bailey. She’s patient and loving. It’s not just a job for her,” he said, basically repeating what he’d said to Mia a few minutes earlier.