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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Chapter Ten ~

                                                                      Zoo time!!

    Here's the new chapter, revised and full length. Thanks for reading!!

Chapter Ten ~

    Jackson stayed by the children's sides all day. He laughed and played with them, showing Amy a side to him she hadn’t seen before.

    It was halfway through that long afternoon when she realized she'd fallen hard for the mysterious duke/sultan/crown prince, or whatever he was. To her, he was just a loving father, and a wonderful man. He had his downfalls like everyone else, but she couldn't help how she felt. Even though she'd tried to keep herself at arm's length, it had been to no avail.

    She shook her head to try to rid her brain of its musings.  "Okay kids, it's time for bed. Last one upstairs is a rotten egg."

    The two older children squealed in delight and ran for the steps. They tromped up the stairs with a total disregard for manners.
    Jackson raced up the steps, easily catching, and then over-taking, the two children. He scooped Angie up in his arms and hugged her tightly as they laughed together. He couldn't remember ever having so much fun. Victoria had been dry and boring, and snobby to boot. He immediately felt guilty for his less-than-gracious thought and threw a prayer up to God asking forgiveness for his rudeness and lack of love for his dead wife. He found it strange he’d even thought to do so. He shrugged and tossed Angie onto her bed after opening the door, passing another new guard who sat beside her doorway. He tickled her until she begged for mercy. "I love you Angela. Don't ever doubt that baby."

    "I know daddy. Amy calls me Angie. It makes me feel special." She confided shyly as she sat up and fixed her twisted pink shirt.

    "Do you want me to call you Angie, too?”

    "Yes, and daddy, thank you for bringing Amy here, I love her." She reached over and pecked him on the cheek, hugging him tightly for a second before letting him go.

    Jackson headed to Benji's room with tears in his eyes. He tried to swipe them away so Amy wouldn't see. His children were so precious, and he didn't spend enough time with them. He walked past the guard sitting beside Benji's door and into the room. He was already bathed and dressed in Cars pajamas. He was in bed, pretending to pay attention while Amy prayed with him. Happiness went through Jackson as he realized this woman was trying to teach his children about God. He hadn't given it a second thought, but he was glad she was. Again, he wondered why it was on his mind.

    He waited until the prayer was over before he cleared his throat, trying to push the tears of emotion out of his voice. "Amen, that was a good prayer Benji." He reached down and tucked his small son's feet in and hugged him tightly for a minute.

    "I've got to leave now, Amy."
    "I thought you weren’t leaving until tomorrow." Again, she over-stepped her bounds. She was just the nanny, not his girlfriend. He didn't have to tell her the specifics of his every move.

    "I was supposed to leave day after tomorrow, but I got called in for a special assignment. I trust you with my children. I know you'll guard them with your life. I've hired extra security, as I'm sure you already know. There will be a guard at your door tonight, too." He reached up and touched her face. She just barely felt the brush of his thumb on her cheek before he let his arm drop to his side. He turned and walked away without another word. A single tear slid down Amy's face as she headed to Angie's room. She reached up and swiped it away while asking God for wisdom in this situation.

    The night was a long one. She tossed, turned and could not go to sleep. She kept mulling over what was going on between her and Jackson Masters. She could still feel the spot he’d touched on her cheek. Her hand came up and touched it. She was sure would never feel the same again. She sighed and harrumphed. She turned over and punched her pillow impatiently.
    Down the hall in the laundry room, a silent figure peeked out the cracked door. His hate for this house, and the people who lived here, almost consumed him. It was all he could do not to rush out and kill them all now, but he stopped himself with the promise of soon. He soundlessly shut the door and slid back out the window where he'd entered, his bag of repelling equipment heavy on his back as he worked the rope to the bottom of the cliff behind the mansion. Tomorrow the beginning of his dreams would be realized. He would get the thumb drive and kill them all, including the housekeeper. She thought he would let her family live because she’d helped him, but she was wrong.  He laughed maniacally as his feet touched solid ground.
    Amy gave up on sleep and hopped out of bed. She went out on her deck and sat in a chair, automatically gazing toward the big, beautiful lights overhead. In the middle of the city you couldn't see the stars like this. She was definitely in love with this house. She was definitely in love with the children. She even loved the butler. He was a great guy, and if she ever got married she hoped her kids’ grandpa would be just like him. She tried to stop the next thought that jumped into her mind, to no avail. She definitely loved Jackson Masters. She'd tried not to care for him, but she'd lost the battle. His smile popped into her head and her heart tripped in her chest. She was so lost. She shook her head. Even the thought of his smiling face in her mind caused her heart to race. His green eyes were twinkling at her in amusement in her thoughts, and she banished the image immediately. She would not let her mind travel that dark road. She sinned enough without giving herself free reign to do whatever she wanted. She sighed deeply, prayed for forgiveness, and headed back to bed, finally tired enough to sleep.

As soon as her head hit the pillow, she was wide awake again. Her thoughts honed in on her brother this time. She missed him. She missed the times they’d had together as kids. They hadn’t been like most siblings, hating each other and fighting at every opportunity. They had been close. Scott had come to her rescue in high school several times. One of the preppy football players had decided he wanted to go out with her, but she hadn’t been interested. He and his group of bullies hadn’t liked her answer, and they’d cornered her in the cafeteria one day, threatening her with all kinds of bad things. And then out of nowhere, he’d materialized. He didn’t even go to high school anymore. He attended the local community college to be close to family.

Tears flowed down her cheeks at the lost family connection. She missed him so much. What had happened to him? Did drugs change a person so much? She prayed to God, “Dear Father, bring him back to me.”

She tossed once more, punching her pillow, wishing she could sleep. The baby was sleeping, and she needed to take the opportunity to sleep, too, but it wouldn’t come. Was she supposed to be praying for someone, or something? “Dear Father, lead me and guide me if I’m supposed to be praying for someone.”

For some reason, the housekeeper popped into her head. What was up with that? “Am I supposed to pray for her?” She talked out loud in the dark of her room, as was her usual habit when she was alone. She loved talking to God. It made her feel close to Him, and no one could take that away from her. A feeling came over her. She couldn’t describe it, really. She knew she was supposed to pray for the housekeeper, just not why. She began praying for her, not knowing specifics. “Please be with her. Lead her, guide her, and keep her safe, amen.”

She turned over to her side, facing away from the door. Was the housekeeper in danger? If she was, what kind of danger was it? Amy drifted off to sleep with the questions heavy on her mind.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Chapter Nine of Amy's Escape ~



Chapter Nine  ~

    Amy woke up the next morning feeling groggy and hateful. The baby had been restless most of the night. She was sound asleep in her bed now and Amy was thankful. She'd had a rough night in her little-baby life. There would be no rest for Amy though, she had to get up and fix breakfast for the other two children.

    She jumped into the shower and rinsed off quickly. It lightened her mood somewhat, and she headed downstairs with a much lighter step than she’d started with.

 Chester was already in the kitchen, the smell of bacon wafting around him. He was wearing a red and white checkered apron, had a spatula in one hand, and a mixing bowl full of pancake batter in the other. He poured some onto the hot griddle as she entered the room. The sizzling smell of bacon made her stomach grumble.

    "Thank you Chester, you don't know what this means to me. Teenie was up most of the night, and to tell you the truth, I was dreading the cooking this morning." She walked over and filched a piece of bacon from the platter sitting on the counter.

    "I figured she'd be up most of the night, and I wanted to help, so I figured I could at least cook breakfast for you and the children."

    "It’s a good thought because this makes my bad mood disappear completely." She walked over and poured a cup of hot water and added a tea bag.

    "Glad I could help, Miss. Did you call Mr. Masters last night? He arrived home just an hour or so ago. He's in taking a shower."

    Amy stood there with her mouth hanging open in surprise. "I told him he didn't need to come home, though." She plopped down in a kitchen chair.

    "He was probably worried about the baby. He gets really upset anytime someone he loves gets sick." The butler explained as he walked over to the griddle and turned the pancakes.

    "Well I sure didn't mean for him to drop everything and come home."

    "I was finished with my business so I decided to take a red eye flight." Jackson said as he entered the kitchen. He walked over and snatched a piece of crispy bacon, much the same way Amy had just a couple minutes before.

    He looked good, but Amy could see something was bothering him. She couldn't put her finger on it, but she knew something wasn't right. His voice sounded more raspy than usual, and he seemed tense despite the fact he'd just taken a shower. "Is something wrong, Mr. Masters?" Chester's gaze flew to hers, and she realized he thought the same thing, but was surprised at her observation.

    "No, why do you ask?" He walked over to the alarm system and checked it, presumably making sure it was set.

    "I don't know, you just seem different, tense."

    "Not at all, how is Christina? Is she still running a fever?" He was trying to steer the conversation back to neutral ground, but she was having none of it.

    "Teenie is fine, Jackson. What's up with you?"

        He sat down at the table and began eating the huge stack of hotcakes Chester had put on his plate. He dabbed a piece of bacon in the syrup before popping it in his mouth. "Since you barely know me, it’s no surprise you’ve confused tiredness for something else.”

    "Sir, far be it from me to intrude where I'm not fit to tread, but the gal seems correct in my estimation, so you might just as well fess up to what's eating at you." There was a twinkle in the old man's eye Jackson hadn't detected there since he himself had been a young lad, but the worry lay just beyond it.

    "I can't tell you. I want both of you to promise me you won't go anywhere without the guards, and you won't answer the door unless you're expecting someone."

    "Okay Sir, that's it. Tell me what's going on right now." Chester demanded. "I know you're my boss, but enough is enough. I out-rank you by age, even if you're higher in station."

    "Yeah, what he said." She hadn't started eating yet, even though her plate was full of bacon and pancakes. She wanted an answer.

    "You must promise me first." He didn't sound at all like himself.

    "We promise." Chester said impatiently. "Now get on with it already.

    "I know both of you think I was away on business, and I was, just not the business you thought I was attending to."

     "I've been in an elite Special Forces group since my enlistment ten years ago."

    "Great Scot, what are you talking about son?" Chester screeched in astonishment.

    "You've got to be kidding me." Amy said in surprise. He didn’t seem the type, but then, that was probably a good thing.

    "You can't divulge this information you two, I mean it. It's a matter of life and death. No one must know."

    "I'm not going to tell anyone Jackson. I just don't understand why a man in your position would do something like that. It isn't like you need the money."

    "You're correct of course. It isn't about the money, because I don't get paid very much at all, at least compared to my company profits."

    "Then why on earth would you do this, Jackson?" Chester asked. His anguish was palpable and Amy knew immediately that Chester loved Jackson like a son. The thought touched her and she felt a small modicum of comfort.

    "I wanted to serve my country Chester. I want them to know how much I love it here. It's really hard to show that with my background." There was a vulnerability there she'd never seen before and her heart did a flip-flop, and then commenced to beat a wild tattoo.

    "Anyway, I completed my assignment yesterday, and when I returned to my room, someone had trashed it thoroughly. I believe they were looking for my thumb drive." He pulled a little black, oblong stick-looking object out of his pocket and laid it on the table.

    "What's on it?" Amy asked curiously.

    "It has a lot of classified information on it I can't let anyone know about, even you guys."

    “Why did you bring it here?" Chester asked. "It can only spell trouble for the family, especially seeing as how they've already thrashed your place looking for it."

    "I know that Chester. Don't you think I've already thought about it? I brought it here because the safe in my office is the only place where it will be safe."

    "What if they come here and try to find it, Jackson?" Amy asked, the first tendrils of real fear beginning to crawl up her spine.

    "I don't think they will Amy. If they do, you know what to do." He quickly shoved it back into his front pocket as Angie and Benji trailed sleepily into the kitchen and took their places at the table.

    Amy hadn't heard the baby yet and she was beginning to worry. She looked at Jackson, not really knowing what to think about all the information he'd given them. "I'm going to check on Teenie. She should've been awake by now." She scooted her chair back and hurried out of the room.

    She was halfway up the staircase when Jackson caught up with her. His hand on her arm caused her to jump, and she lost her footing. She began to tumble down the step but he caught her and held her close for just a little bit too long for her comfort. She gently pulled away and turned toward him.

    "Is something wrong?" Her heart contracted with worry because he'd followed her up the steps.

    "No, there's nothing wrong, I just wanted to know how you felt about what I told you."

    "It really isn't my place to have an opinion, Jack. I'm just the nanny." She felt betrayed, angry, and scared.

    "I think you know by now that you're more than just the nanny. I consider you a friend, and your opinion matters to me."

    After Jackson's initial statement Amy's heart had taken off. It promptly plummeted to her feet in disappointment when she realized the 'more' he'd been speaking of was simple friendship. She sighed in self-disgust and said, "Thank you Jackson, I'm pleased you count me a friend."

    He knew why she was disappointed, and he felt guilty for lying to her, but it was for her own safety. There was no way he was going to endanger her even further because of his own selfish desires. After this was all over, he would tell her how he really felt, and maybe they could go out as a couple and not just as boss and employee. His own heart took a dip at his thoughts, and he pulled himself back to the conversation.

    "I meant what I said earlier. If someone comes to the door and you aren't expecting them, don't answer it, okay? I have to go back out for an assignment tomorrow, and I don't want to have to worry about my family."

    "Okay, I understand. You don't have to worry about us. I don't want any trouble, so I won't answer the door. The cable company is supposed to be coming to hook up a line in my room tomorrow afternoon, is that okay?"

    "That's fine, as long as you know they're coming. I'm gonna go in and see Teenie for a minute. Is that fine by you?" He asked unnecessarily. He could do whatever he chose to, it was his house.

    "Of course, she's your daughter.  I've got something I want to give you first, though." She went toward her room instead of the baby's. She used the keycard to get in and hurried to the table beside her bed. She opened the bottom drawer and pulled out a black leather-bound Bible and rushed back out to the sitting room where she'd left Jackson standing.

    She reached her arm out with the book in hand, and gestured for him to take it. He looked at it as if it were a poisonous asp about to strike. He gave her a quizzical look, and she laughed outright for the first time that day. "Take it Jackson, I bought it for you, it's got your name embossed on the front." She pulled his hand up and sat the Bible on his open palm.

    "You didn't have to do that, Amy."

    "You don't think it's too personal do you? I got one for Chester and Matilda, too."

 He finally smiled. “It isn’t too personal, just unexpected. No one's given me a Bible before. Thank you Amy, I'll treasure it forever."

    "I hope you read it. It'll do you good, Jack. Everyone needs God." She said as they headed down the hall toward Teenie's room. Just as they reached the door a long, loud wail could be heard reverberating on the walls of the room in front of them.

    "It looks like we were just in time." Amy unlocked the baby's door. To her credit, she didn't say a word about the guard sitting in the hallway just outside Teenie's room.

    Jackson rushed ahead of her and put the bible on an end table, grabbed the baby up as gently as he could, and hugged her to his chest. He put kisses all over Teenie’s red-dotted and splotched face. "How is Daddy's baby girl? Are you feeling better?" He used a baby-talk voice. The moment was precious, and she backed out of the room to allow him some privacy with his child.

    "I’m going to check the dryer. When I come back I'll change her. She can't have a bath because it'll cause the spots to spread faster."

    "Thanks Amy, you're a good nanny."

She slipped out of the bedroom and went to the laundry room at the end of the hall. She literally ran into the housekeeper. "Oh, I'm so sorry Matilda. I didn't expect you to be in here." Amy grabbed the stack of warm fluffy towels that threatened to hit the ground in the collision.

    "It's okay. I'm usually not here at this time, but I was bored, so I decided to do some laundry."

Chester had been cooking, which meant he didn't know the maid was even at the big house. She had a cottage on the back of the property. Amy knew Chester liked her, and decided to do a bit of match-making. "Chester's down in the kitchen making pancakes. Do you want some?"

    "Oh no Miss, I don't want Chester to know I'm here." She thought she saw fear in the woman's eyes, and couldn't help but wonder why.

    "Okay, if you say so." She couldn't wait to get back to the baby's room to report to Jackson what had transpired.

    The maid looked up into Amy's face and gave a fake smile that didn't reach her eyes. There was fear and anxiousness there, and she practically jogged back to Teenie's room to tell Jackson.

    "Jack..." Amy began as she pushed through the door into the baby's room. It was empty. She saw the clothes the baby had been wearing laying folded up on the crib mattress. He must’ve changed her and taken her down to the kitchen. She rushed down to tell him about the maid.

    She arrived back in the kitchen to total chaos. Angie was screeching, and Benji was laughing. Teenie was crying, and an exasperated Jackson was trying to console her by rocking her back-and-forth in a rocking motion. Amy burst out laughing. This was a great family. She decided not to say anything to the master of the house about the housekeeper. It was probably nothing, anyway.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chapter Eight ~

                    Good morning!! Make sure to pray for those on the east coast in Sandy's path!!

Chapter Eight ~

    Jackson Masters watched the house across the street intently. He saw three men wearing scarves across their faces bust through the door. He pulled his walkie-talkie up to his mouth and said urgently in a whisper. "Now, blow it now!"

    The explosion rocked the whole neighborhood. Plumes of dark smoke rose in the air and hung overhead like a big ominous cloud of doom.

    His assignment complete, Jackson Masters turned and walked out of the small village toward his hidden jeep.

    He was barely seated when the vibrating of his phone caught his attention. He pulled out quickly and sped down the road as he held the phone out to try to make out the caller. It was Amy. Something must be wrong. He jerked the car to the side of the road, using an old broken down truck as cover.

    He hit the answer button. "Hello? Is something wrong?" His voice sounded urgent and Amy regretted bothering him, but it was too late to worry about it now.

    "It's okay Jackson. I just called to tell you Teenie has the measles." She tried to convey her lack of worry in her tone.

    It didn’t work. "Are you serious? How on earth did she get the measles? Is she okay? Do I need to come home right now?" It was obvious he cared about his children and the knowledge made her breathe easier.

    "The doctor thinks she probably contracted them from you. You travel out of the country a lot. She's okay Jack, don't worry, I'm taking care of everything. No, you don't need to come back right now. She's has the fever part right now so she should break out in the next day or so. Once she starts spotting up all we'll need to worry about is the itching. I've got plenty of calamine, though. The doctor also gave me a prescription for an antibiotic for secondary infection. It really is under control." She used her best 'nanny' voice and smirked a little at the way it sounded.

    "Okay, thanks Amy. I really appreciate how kind you're being. I should be there with her, especially when she's so sick."

    "It's my job, besides; I’ve already grown to love them. You have a wonderful family and you should be proud. Well, I think I hear crying again, I'll call tomorrow and give you an update, goodnight." She ended the call and shoved the phone back in her front pocket and headed to the baby's room. She would set a cot up in Teenie’s room. There was no sense displacing her when it would be easier for her to sleep in the baby’s room.

    Jackson sat with his phone lying loosely in his hand, thinking about the call. He knew he should get out of the area as soon as possible, but a bad feeling gripped him, and he was rooted to the spot, momentarily unable to move. He was definitely glad he'd chosen so well in hiring a nanny. He shrugged off the feeling of foreboding and pulled out onto the road, heading to his hotel.

    He wondered what the beautiful and sweet nanny would think of him if she knew the truth. He wasn't just into security. He was a Special Forces soldier. Most of the people in the army didn't even know his unit existed. He and his team did the jobs the regular Army couldn't, or wouldn't. There were things the United States government couldn't do and be politically correct. That's when they sent in his team, Condor.

    Jackson got out of the army-looking jeep and put the key in the lock of the door. He hesitated, feeling like he was being watched. He ever so carefully turned around, scanned the parking lot, and everything around it. He didn't see anything. He shrugged to himself and went into the room. He threw the keys onto the table and turned on the light. His room was ransacked. Everything was turned out into the floor, and the mattress had even been cut and pulled apart. His hand went to the gun on his hip. He rushed through the room into the bathroom, but it was empty, too. His left hand dove into his left pocket and rested on the flash drive. That's what they’d been looking for. He hurriedly stuffed all his belongings into his duffel bag and left.

     He didn't discard the surgical gloves he was wearing until he entered the airport. He went into the men's restroom, went into a stall and pulled the gloves off, turning them inside out in the process. He wiped the gloves down to remove any fingerprints and stuffed the alcohol packet back into his pocket and threw the gloves in the trash. He used the same alcohol pad to wipe the edge of the door, stuffed it in his pocket and walked to the ticket counter.

    Thirty minutes later he was flying over the small country where he'd been, on his way home.
 He stomped his foot in anger. Jackson must have the thumb drive on him. The plan was ruined. “No matter, I’ll just follow him back to Salt lake city.”  The man left the hotel parking lot and went to the airport to catch a ride. This whole thing had gone awry, and it was all Jackson Masters’ fault. He would pay. He spent the whole ride lamenting and plotting what he would do to the man for daring to come between him and his plot. He had no idea what was at stake here. He didn’t see the big picture, but he would. He cackled loudly as he got out of his car, attracting questioning stares from several people heading the same direction. He smiled and waved at them, only slightly caring whether they bought his innocent demeanor. Soon it wouldn’t matter.

He exited the airport building and went out onto the tarmac where a plane was fueled and waiting for him. “It’s a good thing my men are obedient.” If anyone had been around, they would’ve given him looks, too. Only crazy men spoke to themselves, didn’t they? He cackled again. Many would think him crazy, but they wouldn’t matter either, because if his plan worked, they’d all be dead. He taxied down the runway and disappeared into the night sky.
Amy paced back and forth with Teenie as she screamed in misery. This was going to be a long night, but her main concern was for the baby. How did people get through it? Tears filled her eyes. She rocked the baby as she walked; trying to dispel the misery, but it was no use. She was inconsolable. Hopefully the medicine would kick in soon.

Chester came into the kitchen where she was pacing. “Hello, miss. I thought you might like some hot cocoa.”

“That would be great, Chester. Thanks for thinking of it. I feel so terrible for her suffering.” Amy was talking loud to be heard over the incessant crying.

To his credit, the butler seemed unperturbed. “It’s a bad situation, miss. Be thankful for modern medicine, though. Many people used to die from the measles, but very few do these days.”

“You’re right about that.” Teenie finally began to wind down and her cries became weaker, almost gone. “She’s almost asleep.” She whispered, trying not to wake the sick child.

“Don’t worry about whispering, miss. Once the medicine kicks in she won’t wake-up for a few hours.”

“I feel awful for being thankful for that, but I do. Not only does she need sleep, I do.”

“No need to feel guilt, miss. It’s obvious to anyone with a brain you love these kids. Mr. Masters couldn’t have chosen a better nanny.”

“Why thank you Chester.” Amy walked over and placed Teenie in a bassinet placed by the kitchen table. She pulled the covers up around her and pulled the bonnet up to keep the light out. “I do love them. I’m a little worried, though. Nannies aren’t supposed to become emotionally involved, and I never have before, at least not to this extent.”

“It’s hard not to be affected by innocent babes, miss. No one faults you.”

“I’m just a little freaked-out because I fell for these children so quickly. It isn’t that I didn’t care for my other charges, because I did, but not like this.”

“Maybe it’s because they don’t have a mother. Or maybe it’s because you’re attracted to their father.”

Amy stared at him in surprise. Was it that obvious? “Can you tell that easily?”

“Anyone with eyes, miss. Again, don’t feel guilty. It’s a natural response. He’s a handsome fellow, and he needs a caring woman in his life.”

“I don’t know if we should be talking about him like this.”

“There’s no harm, miss. You haven’t done anything inappropriate.”

“I don’t intend to, either. I have to quell these feelings.” Amy pulled the cup of hot cocoa Chester handed her over and warmed her hands.

“You can’t help who you care for.” Chester sat across from her, sipping his own cup of cocoa and smiling innocently.

“No, but I can suppress it.”

“We’ll see.”

Friday, October 26, 2012

It's Friday!! Here's Chapter Seven ~


Chapter Seven ~

    Amy went out to the play area to join Chester and the children. She could still feel the impression of that casual kiss. Her heart had finally slowed down, but her mind hadn't. Was it normal for him to go around kissing people? Somehow she doubted it. He didn't seem the type. He was a commanding presence with a seemingly stern attitude, wasn't he? That's the first impression she'd gotten, but maybe she was wrong.

    As Amy arrived Chester said, "Goodness child, I thought I was going to have to come rescue you. Was he overly harsh?" Apparently he believed she'd been getting a dressing down, but he couldn’t have been more wrong.

    "He didn't yell at me, Chester. He apologized for making me angry."

    "You can't be serious?” Chester said in surprise. A knowing look settled over his features.

    "Why are you looking at me like that?”

    "I think the master is sweet on you." He threw a glance toward the gate of the play area. It was almost as if he thought the 'master' might hear him.

    "I don't know Chester. He already told me it was too soon for anything of that nature."

    "Did he now?" The interest was clear in his voice.

Amy hastened to reassure him, "I think maybe I'm a bit sweet on him myself, but I don't believe he returns those feelings."

    "I've previously informed you that I've known him since he was born. He likes you miss, that's all there is to it. He may be trying to deny it, or even to hide it, but he does." There was certainty in his tone.

    "What do you think I should do about it? Do you think I should leave?" It was a harry situation, but she dreaded something that drastic because she really didn't have anywhere else to go. Besides, he was going to start a new charity with her.

    "Heavens no miss. There's no reason for you to leave." Benji ran up and gave the old man a hug before half-running, half-tripping back toward the slide.

    "But I don't want to cause anymore chaos for this family. They've been through so much already." What she said made sense, but she didn't really want to convince the butler she should leave.

    "That's exactly the reason you should stay, young lady. Most people wouldn't even think about the ramifications of their actions, but you do. I've seen it several times already, and you've only been here for a couple of days."

    "Thank you Chester, that means a lot. If there comes a time you think I should leave, make sure to tell me, okay? I want you to promise me."

    "I promise, miss. I don't think that time will ever come, but if it does, I'll be the first one to say so."

    They gathered the children up and took them back inside. The rest of the day passed quickly with Amy caring for the children.

    She was getting ready for bed when her phone rang. She answered, "This is Amy, what can I do for you?"

    "Hello. This is Jackson, as I'm sure you're well aware." He sounded cocky with his sexy English accent.

    Amy's heart sped up, and she tried her best to calm it before answering, "I am now that I've heard you're voice. I'm not a clairvoyant you know."

    He chuckled on the other end. "I'm just ringing to let you know I've ordered your car. They're going to bring it by in the morning. I'm leaving for the airport right now, and I wanted to tell you before I left."

    "Where are you going?" The question was out before she could keep it from slipping off her tongue. It really wasn't any of her business where he was going, other than for the benefit of the children. She only needed to know when he left and when he'd be returning.

    Another chuckle sped through the phone line and he retorted, "Why, are you going to miss me? Maybe you want to call me while I'm gone?"

    "No." She quickly denied the claim. She didn’t need him knowing she had a super-size crush on him. "If you're going to be gone I need to know where you are in case an emergency comes up."

    "You have my cell number, don't you Mamie?"

    Amy's face turned beet red and she was glad he couldn't see her at that moment. She did have his cell number, and he'd called her Mamie!

    "I do have your cell number. It just slipped my mind. When will you be back sir?" She tried to sound all business-like to get the conversation back on a formal footing.

    "I'll be back in a few days. After I return, I'll only be home for a couple of days before my trip to the Middle East. You remembered about that didn't you?"

    "Yes, I just didn't know when it would be." She answered quickly so she wouldn’t say something else stupid. She was mentally kicking herself over her wayward tongue.

    "Will you miss me, Amy?" There was a catch in his voice she hadn't heard before.

    "I'm just the nanny, not your girlfriend." He was just baiting her in order to tease her because she had a crush on him and he knew it. Her face flamed blood-red again.

    "Maybe someday. I'll call you in the morning."  He said hollowly, and hung the phone up before she had a chance to reply.

    Amy was confused. It sounded like he was disappointed in her answer, but that didn’t make sense, especially in light of the fact he’d told her point-blank it was too soon for a relationship between them. A sense of dread and foreboding fell over Amy, and she climbed into bed that night with depression as her companion.

    The next morning she got up late, which immediately put her in a bad mood. She’d tossed and turned most of the night. Sleep had evaded her until the early morning hours. She ran down to the kitchen and fixed some breakfast. She made bacon, egg, cheese biscuits and hash browns for the kids and some buttered toast and bacon for her. The two older children ate in silence, seeming to somehow know she wasn’t in a talkative mood. Halfway through the meal Teenie woke up screaming bloody murder. Great. All she needed was a sick baby to make her day go better.

    Two hours later Amy felt guilty about her earlier attitude. The baby was running a high fever and needed to go to the doctor. She was still crying and children’s acetaminophen had done nothing to break her fever. The two older children were unusually quiet as Amy paced back and forth with the baby. They both wore masks of worry and concern and her heart ached at their torment. They’d already lost their mother. If something happened to this baby they’d probably never recover. She wanted to take Angie’s mind off the worry because she seemed the most upset. “Could you go get me a cool wash cloth, honey?”

    The child ran to the bathroom and returned a couple of minutes later with a suitably cool washcloth. It was over a hundred degrees outside today, but inside the central air kept it cool as a cucumber, and the baby was trembling uncontrollably. She should probably bathe her in lukewarm water to bring the temperature down. The pacing hadn’t helped Teenie at all and her screams were heart-wrenching. Amy looked down at her and tears flooded her eyes as the love she felt threatened to overcome her. This little babe had taken her heart from the get-go. She knew the time for a lukewarm bath was long gone. She needed to get the baby to the doctor, and right now.

    She looked down at Angie again and said, “Do you want to help me get the diaper bag and stuff ready for our trip to the doctor’s office?”

    “Yes, what do I do?” She sounded so grown-up Amy had to smile.

    “Get the diaper bag out of cabinet beside the refrigerator. Get two bottles of milk and put them in the bag and bring it to me. Then I want you to go to your room and grab something to play with while we’re there. Could you get something for Benji, too?”

    “Yes, Mamie.” She hastened toward the kitchen. She was so eager to please, and again, Amy felt her heart turn over. She’d worked as a nanny for several different households, and never had the children grown on her so quickly, and grabbed her heart strings so easily. She supposed it was because these children didn’t have a mommy. Her natural instincts had kicked in, and they were in overdrive.

    The trip to the doctor’s office was hair-raising. It was difficult to concentrate on driving when a baby was screaming incessantly. “Angie honey, can you put Teenie’s pacifier back in her mouth for me?” She hated to keep leaning on the little girl, but she really didn’t have much choice, especially while she was driving.

    “I did, but she won’t take it Mamie. What should I do?”

 A small smile of amusement touched Amy’s lips for just a moment. The nickname had unfortunately stuck, and they were all calling her Mamie now, even Jackson.

    “I guess we just have to let her cry, sweet pea. Thank you for being such a big girl and helping me today. When Teenie gets better we’ll go to the store and I’ll let you pick out a toy to show you my appreciation.”

    “You don’t have to do that Mamie. I got lots of toys already. Maybe we can buy a toy for one of the homeless kids?” How did she know about the homeless kids?

    “Wow Angie, that’s a really grown-up thing to do. You can still pick it out, though.”    They arrived at the doctor’s office in a flurry of screaming child amid other crying children. Soon after, real chaos ensued. It turned out the pediatrician believed Teenie had the measles. Amy thought they’d been eradicated, but they hadn’t. The doctor said babies who hadn’t had their shots yet could get measles, especially if they, or someone they were in contact with had traveled to Europe or Asia.

    “I thought babies couldn’t get their measles shots until around a year old.”

    Dr. Henson was quick to reassure her it was true. “Her father travels frequently, doesn’t he?”

    “Yes he does. He’s going to be really upset.” She would have to decide whether she would call him or not. The measles could be a serious illness, but it was also possible she would break out and it would be over. The fever was the worst part, and the baby already had one, so the spots should appear in a couple of days. Amy felt horrible because she’d thought the baby was teething. She’d had a runny nose for a couple of days, but no fever. Now she had a fever and a cough. Coupled with the runny nose and eyes, it was logical to suspect the measles, even if they weren't as prevalent as they used to be. Teenie's eyes were so red-rimmed and watery it made Amy’s eyes blur just to look at them. She felt so sorry for the sick, helpless baby who was too young to know what was wrong. She pulled her closer and gave her a warm hug. She was still crying, but had wound down to a small wail every few minutes. Soon she would be asleep with the medicine the doctor had given her. He'd been in a rush to get the fever down and end the baby's suffering. She was waiting for him to come back with some prescriptions, and then they could go home.

    The doctor returned a few minutes later and told her he'd called in a prescription for antibiotics. He also told her she could get the pain/fever reducer over the counter, but handed her a sample to use until she could make it to the store. He told her the antibiotics were for secondary infection because the baby's ears were red, and he didn't want to take any chances.

    "I don't think we need to admit her to the hospital just yet. She's cranky and running a fever, but her temp has gone down enough I'm confident she should handle it just fine. If she does start running a high fever that won't go down, call the emergency department and tell them you're bringing in a baby with the measles. That way they can get you back to a room as quickly as possible without risking infecting other children."

    "I'll do that Dr. Henson. I am so sorry I didn't realize she had the measles. It didn't even cross my mind. I hope none of the children out there get it."

    "We've already looked at the schedule and all the kids out there have already had their shots. I just hope all the parents have, too. We've got housekeeping out there spraying the whole room with disinfectant to make the people feel more at ease, but personally I think we're safe. The measles rarely ever occurs in the United States, and when it does, we usually catch it because most people have been immunized against it." He reassured her. "I want you to take Christina home and keep her there. The only reason you are to bring her out of the house is if she needs to go to the emergency room."

    Teenie had finally dropped-off into a drug-induced sleep. Her breath was even except for the gasps she was still experiencing from the prolonged crying. Amy already felt immensely reassured. "Thank you Dr. Henson. You've made this experience much easier to bear, for all of us." She strapped the sleeping baby into her car seat. The doctor left and Amy grabbed Benji's hand and told Angie to grab the hem of her shirt so she knew the girl was with her. They got in the car and headed home much more at ease than when they’d arrived.

     Benji and Angie both fell asleep as soon as the car started moving. Amy stopped at a fast food place and ordered everyone a meal. It had been a long day and it was the cook's day off. She wanted to spend her extra time napping so she would be wide awake and ready for when Teenie awakened and needed her. After the fast food stop she went through the drive thru at the drugstore. A short while later they were sitting around the table eating their meals. She'd pulled Chester into the kitchen with the promise of an unhealthy, but tasty, meal and they chatted quietly.

    "I wouldn't have dreamed the child was sick with the measles."

    "I know, I didn't even think of it. I thought the measles were gone from the U.S. I probably read about it in one of my schoolbooks, but it's been a few years and I must’ve forgotten. I thought she was teething, or had a virus."

    "Now don't you go blaming it on yourself child, it isn't your fault. It was just a fluke."

    "Will I get sick like Teenie?" Angie asked worriedly as she moved her French fry through a blob of ketchup on her plate.
    "Nope, you're going to be just fine. You and Benji have had all your shots." She smiled inwardly that Angie had automatically picked up the pet name she'd given to the baby.

    "That's good. I don't want you to see how I act like a baby when I'm sick." Angie said matter-of-factly as she licked at her ketchup-covered fingers.

    Amy laughed lightheartedly for the first time that day. "Everybody acts like a baby when they get sick."

    "Did you call Jackson?" Chester asked quietly.

    "No, I haven’t called him yet. I’m debating whether to call him at all. I would feel really intrusive if I called him and she got better." She was glad to have the chance to get Chester's opinion on the matter.

    "Oh Miss, you have to call him. He doesn't like to be bothered when he's away, except if it has to do with the children. If it has to do with them, you always call." He gave a small shudder. Amy assumed that was his version of the horror that would ensue if he wasn't informed. She would call as soon as she bathed the children and put them down for the night.

    "Thank you Chester. That helps a lot. I didn't know how he would react if I called and she got over it quick and in a hurry." The emotions of the day overtook her and she got up and gave Chester a hug. He sat straight as a pin for a second, then folded down and returned the hug. "It'll be okay Miss, you're a good nanny."

    She pulled away and sat back down. She dabbed her eyes with her napkin and said, "Thank you, Chester. It's been a long time since anyone has taken the time to interact with me."

    "Are you okay, Mamie?" Angie asked. There was concern on her small face, and even Benji had stopped eating and was looking at her intently.

    "Yes I'm fine guys. Thank you for caring. Are you two finished?" She used a falsely cheerful voice.

    "We're almost done Mamie." Benji said as he plopped another fry into his mouth.

    A few minutes later Amy took the kids upstairs and got them ready for bed. An uneasy feeling had settled over her as she tucked Angie in and kissed her forehead lightly. She turned the light out and pulled the door almost closed. She went to her room next door; all the while feeling like someone was watching her. She went in and changed into a pair of gray sweats and a t-shirt and headed back down the steps. Halfway down she remembered she didn't have the baby monitor. She went back to her room and grabbed the little pink and white walkie-talkie-looking contraption and shoved it deep into her pocket. She wanted to get outside and take a look at her new car. With all the day's excitement it had completely slipped her mind until she'd pulled into the driveway and seen it sitting there, all dressed up like a princess, with a huge white ribbon and a bright red bow spanned across the top.

    Chester met her at the door and followed her out. "I saw the car sitting here miss. It's a beauty. I've always preferred red." There was a hint of excitement in his tone and she smiled.

   "Did Mr. Masters get you a car, too?" She opened the driver’s door and got in.

    "Oh yes miss. He got me a black Cadillac. Of course, mine didn't have a bow wrapped across it." He snickered.

    Amy playfully slapped him on the arm. "What do you think that means?" She asked in her best psychiatrist-sounding tone before bursting out in a deep, belly-laugh.

    "Why, I think the fellow is sweet on you of course."

    "Oh, that surely can't be true, sir." Their tone was teasing, but Amy was beginning to think it true. The car was wonderful. It was candy apple red with black interior. It had every gadget imaginable and Amy didn't think she'd ever learn how to work them all. Her inspection was cut short by the sound of Teenie's renewed screams. It was time to give her some more medicine and a snuggly hug of love. Both employees jumped out of the car and went back inside. Amy headed toward Teenie, and Chester to whatever duties called him.

     They were both oblivious to the man taking pictures with a telephoto lens from across the property, high up in a tree.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Chapter Six ~
    "I don't mean to take you away from your free time, but there's something important I need to show you. I've never shown this to any of the other staff members except Chester, so you have to promise you’ll keep it to yourself." He grabbed his light gray jacket and shrugged it on. He touched her elbow and propelled her back out the door and into his upstairs study. She'd never been in there.

    He walked over to a huge picture of a waterfall in a forest. There were deer grazing on lush green grass in the foreground. He pulled on it and it opened to one side.  It was the classic way to hide a safe.

    "This is only one of the many safes in the house. It's my primary one, and there’s a secret about it I'm going to share with you because I'm planning on leaving for an unknown amount of time. I didn't share this with Ms. Strumkin because to be quite honest, I just didn't trust her." He crooked a finger at her, letting her know he wanted her closer.

She walked slowly past the dark cherry desk and matching leather chair and stopped beside him.

    "Okay, what do I need to see?"

    Jackson stepped aside to give her full view of the safe. It was a huge square box-looking thing with a shiny handle and a keypad. "You have to know the code to get into this safe, as well as have your fingerprint on its database or you're wasting your time, it won't open." He typed in a four-digit number and swiped his finger through the slot. It opened with a little beep and the button went briefly from green to blue.

Amy was a little confused as to why he'd thought it so important. She looked at him with confusion on her face and he said, "Patience young lady. Now watch closely. Jackson pushed a fifth number on the main keypad and the open and empty safe suddenly switched, and an unopened safe appeared. It also had a keypad, but no handle. Jackson quickly punched in a number and swiped his finger on its keypad, and it swung open. There was a stack of money and some important-looking papers sitting in the opening, and he picked them up and moved them to the desk. "Come here.”  

    She walked over and peered into the safe. She was shorter than he was, so she had to stand on tiptoes to see in. "What is it I'm looking at?"

    He touched a small bump in the crease of the safe and a button popped up, only it wasn't colored, just black like the rest of the safe. "This is a panic button. It's a direct line to the security company, and they’ll instantly notify the police. Once you push the button, it'll disappear into the bottom of the safe so the robbers don’t see it, but you have to act quickly. If anything ever happens, hit the crease and punch the panic button. There are four safes on this safety wheel, plus the primary safe. All of the safes on the wheel have a keypad and require a fifth number to switch them, and each fifth digit is different, just like the individual codes. If someone ever gets past the primary safe, hit the panic button. You can do it subtly and they won't know until the police show up. Do you understand what I'm saying? It's very important. The empty safe will more than likely make the robber angry. If he becomes dangerously aggressive, tell him there's another safe, but you have to activate it. Pull the next safe up and hit the button. Once you hit it, the police will come. Also, the number two safe has a gun in it, along with a huge stack of cash and some jewelry, and my personal favorite, a taser. Do you know how to shoot a gun?"

    "No, I've never even touched a real gun."

    "I'll teach you. I'm not trying to scare you. I have all kinds of security, but if anything ever happens, I want you to be able to defend my children, and yourself." His expression was serious and a shiver of fear went through her.

    "Is there something you're not telling me Jackson?"

    "No, but my real work is much more dangerous than you believe. That's why I have so much security, and why I chose to design security systems. There's more to my real job than you know, but it's all legal. Let’s finish this up; An experienced thug will keep you in one room. That cuts down on any possible access to help, that's why I put the panic button in the safe. It's the most likely point of entry for any serious thief."

    "If you're worried robbers or thieves will get angry because the safe is pretty much empty, why don't you put something in there that will appease them?"

    "I thought about it, but realistically, it wouldn't matter how much I put in there, they wouldn't be satisfied because I’m a very rich man. No amount of persuasion will convince them there isn't more."

    Amy shook her head in understanding. "I don't mean to change the subject, but how did it come about that you're a Duke and a Sultan at the same time?" He'd ignored her question before, but she believed she deserved, no needed, an answer. There was more going on here than he was telling her and she was beginning to suspect they were all in danger. If that was the case, then she needed to know, and that's all there was to it.

    "My mother was a Duchess. She was betrothed to some royal guy in the British hierarchy, but chose to have a clandestine affair with my father. He was in England at the time trying to forge a trade agreement that would work for both his tribe, and Great Britain. He isn't recognized as a true Sultan because he is also an illegitimate son, but he has his own small city outside of Oman he rules. Sometime in the fourteen hundreds the Portuguese explorers came over and some of them intermarried with the people. That’s supposedly how I got my green eyes."

"Wow, I just got your own little version of a history lesson.”

    "I was showing off.” His green eyes glinted and she gulped.

    "So what's your real job? If it causes so much danger, I would love know what it is." She pushed for the answer, she had a right to know.

    "If I tell you, I have to kill you." He had an unfathomable look this time, and she was starting to believe him, when he finally grinned.

    "Wow, just wow, you're a piece of work Mr. Masters. Come to think of it, where did your last name even come from?"

    "It was my mother's maiden name. She married when I was in my seventh year at school, but I kept her name because my stepfather wanted nothing to do with me, much less to adopt me." Amy detected the hurt little boy behind those words and her heart went out to him. She instinctively knew he wouldn't thank her, so she said nothing.

    "You’re not going to tell me what your real job is, are you?" She realized he wasn’t ready, but a part of her resented the secret. Her life was involved in whatever it was, too.

    "I really can't tell you, Amy. If I could, you'd be the first to know."

    "Does Chester know?" She persisted, even though she knew she should drop it.

    "Chester has been with me since I was a child. He came over here with me when I moved. He's more like a father than a butler."

    "I see how it is, but don’t worry, it’s all good.” She turned and stomped down the steps and into the kitchen. He was providing security for her and the children...but she was angry, and couldn't shake it. She slammed pots and pans, preparing to cook her anger away. She'd been doing that ever since she was a teenager, and it always seemed to help. But she would only have a short time to cook today, naptime would be over soon.

    The whole time she was throwing a pot of spaghetti together she kept stealing glances toward the doorway. He wasn't going to chase her, why should he? He wasn't the kind of man who catered to childish tantrums. 

    Chester came into the kitchen, sniffing appreciatively, with Angie and Benji in tow. "Is there no end to the talents of the young Amy Petersen?" He took a freshly changed Benji over to his high chair and gently sat him in it while guiding Angie to the table with his other hand.

    "I have all kinds of limitations; I'm just not about to show you my hand so quickly." She sat three plates on the table, and a rubber suction bowl on Benji's high chair tray.

    "I'd like to have a word with you after we share a meal miss, if that's suitable for you?"

    "Of course, we can go outside and let the children play while we chat."

    They were just digging into the spaghetti when Jackson strode purposefully into the kitchen. Chester actually gasped, and Angie looked up at her father as if seeing a ghost. Benji continued busily spreading spaghetti over the top of his tray, totally oblivious to the goings on around him. The baby began to cry at that moment, and Amy began to get up, but Chester said, "Sit miss, I'll get the baby."

    She gave him a look of irritation, to which he smiled as he practically ran out of the room.

    "I wish to have a word with you." He sounded as formal as Chester had. His eyes were filled with anger and she regretted that she was responsible. She wanted to apologize, but now wasn’t the time; not in front of the children.

    "Why does everybody want to talk to you?" Angie asked in exasperation. "Nobody ever wants to talk to me."

    "That isn't true." Amy quickly reassured her as she reached over and gave her a hug. "Sometimes grown-ups need to talk about things that little kids shouldn't have to be bothered with."

    He gave her an unfathomable look. "As soon as we're done eating, your time is mine. Chester can take the kids out to play while we finish our discussion."

    "Are you going to eat with us then?" She was secretly pleased. She knew it was silly to think the guy was just eating because she’d cooked the meal, but it gave her a good feeling nonetheless.

    "Yes, I love spaghetti; and I'm interested to know if you can cook as good as you do everything else." He smiled to let her know his anger had been short-lived. She knew he was still going to dress her down, but her heart fluttered at his words, anyway.

    Chester came into the kitchen carrying the baby in a bouncy seat. He sat her on the floor near where Amy was sitting and took his previous seat at the table.

    "Daddy, you never ate lunch with us before, is something wrong?" She'd apparently forgotten her outburst a few minutes before.

    "Nope, there’s nothing wrong. I smelled food, and I was hungry. Is it okay if I eat with you?" Amy felt her respect for him growing again. He’d taken an extra minute to reassure the little girl, rather than to censure her for questioning him.

    "It is rather odd, sir. I've known you since you were born, and I've never seen you come to the table at lunch time. To what do we owe the privilege?" He was actually smirking. He turned and gave Amy a speculative look, and then turned his gaze to Jackson.

    Jackson scowled at Chester before his hidden smile finally shone through. "I missed you Chester, is that so hard to believe?"

    Amy looked back and forth, from one to the other, during the whole exchange. She didn't have a clue as to what was going on, and doubted they'd share it with her.

    "I've been right here master, Sir." Chester said, still playing the game.

    Amy decided she'd ignore the two adult males in the room and pay attention to the kids. That's what she was here for, anyhow. "Benji, do you like the spaghetti, buddy?"

    "It's good Mamie."

    It was so cute that Amy said, "Aw......."

    "Her name's Amy, not Mamie you lame-brain." Angie said hatefully.

    "Young lady, that's enough of the name-calling. You tell your brother you're sorry.” Amy ordered.

    "I'm not sorry. He doesn't even know how to say your name. It's a pretty name, and he shouldn't mess it up." At that moment, she looked a lot like her dad, and Amy's anger all but evaporated.

    "He can call me Mamie if he wants, Angie. It’s a good thing when someone calls you a name that isn't mean. It's called an endearment, and I like it very much."

    "Can I call you Mamie too?" Jackson asked with a wicked smile.

    Amy rolled her eyes and gave him her sternest look. "No you cannot.”

    "See how you are?" He looked from Chester to Angie, trying to gain allies.

    The adults laughed and resumed eating their spaghetti. Time was getting away from them and they needed to get on with their day.

    When they finished, Chester got up and took the children with him. One brief look had passed between him and his employer, and Chester instantly knew what he wanted. Amy was envious. The only person she'd known long enough to have that kind of connection with was her brother, and he hated her.

When they were gone from the room, Jackson cleared his throat. "I'm sorry I made you angry. Let me assure you, it wasn’t my intention."

    "It’s me who should be apologizing. I don't know who I think I am. It's none of my business, and if you don't want to tell me, that's your prerogative."

    "Actually, it isn't because I don't want to tell you. For the first time in my life, I wouldn't mind telling someone, I just can't. I don't have that liberty, as of yet. I did place a call to my superiors to ask permission, and they told me no. The only way I would be allowed to tell you is if we were married." Her gaze flew to his face. He was waggling his eyebrows suggestively.

    "You're kidding again, aren't you?"

    "I was being honest about my job, at least the part where I can't tell you unless we’re married. I'm thinking it's a bit too soon for a proposal though, so I suppose we're at a stalemate. I can tell you I won't let anything happen to you. I have all kinds of security. I really just want you to concern yourself with taking care of the children, okay?"

Humiliation swept through her. He was doing his best to placate her and it wasn't even necessary, she was just the nanny, for Pete's sakes.

    "Okay, I'm sorry, Jackson."

    "It's already forgotten." He stood up and dropped a kiss on her cheek before striding out of the room just as quickly as he'd entered it.

    Amy stood there with her mouth hanging open for several minutes. She would shut it, think of what just happened, and it would pop right back open. The sound of the cook coming in finally enabled her to close her mouth and retreat, but all the while she was thinking, why did he kiss me?