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?