Chapter Five ~
The next morning Amy woke-up up early and headed to the family’s indoor pool to work off last night's dinner. It would be easy to forget about watching her health and weight in this lavish setting, so she would exercise self-discipline to keep in shape.
She used her key card to enter the swimming room and threw her towel down on the wooden bench, not paying attention to her surroundings. She remembered Jackson saying he did laps here in the morning, so she tamped down the guilty conscious and jumped into the pool and did two quick laps, her long, dark hair flowing out behind her, skimming the water like a bug. On her third round, she ran into something solid as a rock. She gasped, swallowing water. She sputtered and choked, coughing pool water out in spurts. Two strong hands grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her whole upper body out of the water. When the choking finally subsided she looked up, and her eyes clashed with stormy green ones.
"I didn't know you were going to be here." She had known, that's why she'd come to this particular pool in the first place. Conviction choked her as soon as the words spewed out.
"Didn't you now?" There was a glint of something she couldn't ascertain in his eyes. Maybe it was anger, or disgust? He let her go and she slid to the bottom of the pool, only her neck and head out of the water.
Amy stood there for a moment, embarrassment washing over her. “I did know."
"Amy, we’re both adults, and I know you feel what I feel. I never thought I would feel these feelings again, and to be quite honest, I really think it's too soon to be feeling them now. Even though I didn't love my wife in a romantic sense, I was faithful to my vows."
"I’m so sorry. I didn't mean to disrespect you. I don't normally act like this. This has taken me by surprise. I've never acted this way toward anyone, especially an employer. In fact, it's why I got thrown out in the street in the first place." He stood so close to her in the water she could feel his heat and she blushed.
"Where did you get thrown out?” He turned and pulled himself over the edge of the pool and onto the concrete. He picked up his towel and began to dry his dark hair, which didn’t help her situation. Her eyes were drawn to his movements like a moth to flame. She got out of the water too and began to dry her hair, all the while trying to avert her eyes from the dark, curly hair that matted his chest.
"My last employer harassed me sexually the whole time I worked for him. I hated it, but needed the job, I had nowhere else to go. He finally got tired of me turning him down and threw me out." She sat down on the wooden bench and continued to towel-dry her hair.
"Don't you have family or friends you could’ve gone to?" She almost laughed at the horrified look on his face. He slid absentmindedly down on the bench beside her, their previous uneasiness forgotten for the moment.
"I have a brother. He inherited my parents' house when they died, but he wouldn't let me stay with him. I begged, to no avail. He's a drug addict, and all his drug buddies stay with him. They sit around and play video games all day. As far as friends are concerned, I don't have any. I left home when I turned eighteen and began working as a nanny part-time until I earned my degree. I didn't have time for friendships." She was trying to keep the tremble of self-pity out of her voice, but it was difficult.
"Where were you staying when you applied for this job?"
"There's a motel downtown that only charges $300.00 a month. I know mostly druggies and call girls use it, but I had no choice. I used every bit of my savings, and even had to sell my car, but at least I wasn't out on the street like so many others. I was out there for three days when it first happened, but it seemed like a year. I figured I'd get another job as soon as I applied, but I was wrong. Those were the worst three days of my life, and I gained a new respect for those who have to endure it every day of theirs."
"That’s an awful story.”
"I know, but I only did it for three days, and I didn't really have to, I was just trying to save my money. That's before I realized how awful and scary it really is. There are so many people out there who don't have a choice, and I feel so sorry for them..." She trailed off as tears welled up in her big blue-gray eyes.
"Are there really that many homeless people in Utah?"
"Yes, there are literally thousands of people who have nowhere to go. My heart goes out to them because I know what it feels like. Lots of them have kids, too. I can't help wondering why the people who are able to help them don't do more. I mean, I realize that some of them are on the streets because of bad choices, but that isn't always the case, and it's those people I want to do something about."
There was no doubt in Jackson's mind she really felt for them. He decided right then and there to do something to help them. He was worth a few billion dollars and there was no reason not to give some of it up. He wouldn’t even miss it.
"Come up with a name for a new charity, and we'll get it started. I'll call my manager and get it setup when you're ready." He stood up to leave.
"What do you mean?" She wanted to be perfectly clear about his meaning before she got excited.
"I mean just what I said. Let's start a new charity to help house, clothe and feed the homeless. I'll put a few million into the pot to get it started, and then you can take donations. You'll have to take care of all the arrangements because I'll be busy for the next few weeks. I have to go to the Middle East to deal with some family issues. I'll lend you my manager to get it started, and maybe he can hire someone to help you. We'll just start it and see where it goes, okay?"
Her heart tripped in her chest and she gasped to take in air. "Thank you Mr. Masters, you’re the greatest boss ever." She rushed over and hugged him spontaneously. She realized her mistake as soon as her body touched his. She pulled away as if burned. "I'm so sorry." She backed away until her legs met the front of the wooden bench. She turned around, picked up her towel, and rushed out of the room.
Amy went straight to her room and climbed in the shower. The whole exchange between her and Jackson Masters had only lasted about thirty minutes. It seemed like hours. She went through the motions of taking a shower, all the while trying to banish those steamy green eyes from her memory. It wasn't easy, and she wasn't really victorious. She decided she would stay away from him as much as possible. That wouldn't be easy, either. For one thing, she lived in his house. For another, he seemed to work from home, which meant he would likely be here most of the time. She sighed deeply and got ready for the day. The children would be up soon.
She went to the main kitchen and cooked some oatmeal for the two older children and fixed a bottle for the baby. Her name was Christina, but Amy had already decided she would call her 'Teenie' because she was so tiny. Christina was a pretty name, but it seemed more suitable for an adult. She turned around to get a new nipple out of the drawer and ran smack dab into Chester. "Chester, how are you?"
"I'm quite fine miss, thank you for asking. How are you? Are you getting on well with the master of the house?"
Amy hesitated for a second, turning bright red. "Uh, yeah, we're getting along just fine. I think we'll end up clashing a bit over a few things, but other than that it should go pretty smoothly."
"That's awesome. I think you're just what he, I mean the children, needs."
"Listen, I wanted to thank you for everything you got when you went shopping for me. I've never seen so much stuff."
"Oh, it was nothing. Mr. Masters gave me his Visa card and told me to get everything you would need, and to spare no expense. The only things I didn't get were those of a...uh, more personal nature." He was a little red around the cheek area and Amy smiled at him to ease his embarrassment. "There's a gift card in your bureau drawer for any of those things you'll need."
"Thanks, I didn't know. Are you hungry Chester? There's plenty of oatmeal here, and I can throw some bread in the toaster."
"That’s extremely nice of you. I think I will have some. Thank you for asking. Ms. Strumkin never even thought to offer.
"Some people are like that. My parents brought me up to have manners, and to genuinely care about others." She ladled a healthy helping of oatmeal into the glass bowl she'd placed in front of him.
Angie came into the kitchen tugging little Benji behind her. His diaper was sagging dangerously low to the floor, pulling his pajamas with it. Amy looked at Angie and said, "Hop on up kiddo, and I'll get you some oats. You can eat while I change your little brother." She spooned some into the girl's bowl and swung the stinky little boy up into her arms like a pro.
Amy made quick work of changing the boy in the downstairs changing room and hurried back to the kitchen. She wanted to take the kids out to the play area today and watch how they interacted with each other. She wanted to know everything there was to know about them.
The children giggled their way through breakfast because Chester made cute faces at them. Amy liked him a lot. He was good grandpa material.
Halfway through the meal the baby's cries could be heard over the monitor and Amy rushed to grab her, change her, and bring her to the table for her bottle. She slurped and chugged noisily, finishing the whole eight ounce bottle with gusto.
After breakfast they went out to the play area, where they stayed until ten o'clock nap time. When Amy took them in for their rest period they didn't fuss at all. They laid down, even the obstinate Angie, who previously retorted she was four years old and didn't need a nap.
Amy was headed down the hall to her suite when Jackson stepped out of his office, right into her path. "Could you come in for a few minutes? I need to discuss something with you."
Amy automatically turned and walked into his office.