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.