Authors: Desiree Holt
“Of course. He’s…Russ Jacobs.” Ivy cleared her throat. “Moving right along. He’s in a cast and on crutches. He can’t drive or otherwise get around very well.”
“And his requirements are what, again?”
“Grocery shopping, cooking, answering phone calls and mail, checking his e-mail. He does some philanthropic work, so he’ll get calls about that. He gets visitors so someone will need to manage those. Keep them to a minimum. Also he needs to make sure he uses his undamaged muscles. Just simple exercises. I figured with all your experience as a trainer you’d be perfect for this. And it will keep you in chocolate bars until you land another gig.”
“And why can’t he answer the phone himself?”
“Right now he’s not in much of a mood to talk to people, so someone needs to be his buffer.”
Erin couldn’t help being curious. “Why doesn’t he have someone from his business or corporation help him out? How come he asked your boss to help him?”
“I told you, they’re very close friends. And he’s a very private person. He doesn’t want people he works with to see him incapacitated.”
“Jeez, Ivy.” Erin carried her mug into the kitchen and popped another cup of tea in the single serving coffee machine. “People get hurt or have surgery all the time. What’s so friggin’ special about this guy he wants to hide away?”
“He doesn’t deal well with adversity. Anyway,” she rushed on, “if you just ignore his grumpiness, you’ll be fine. You may have to take him a couple of places—”
“Take him?” Erin interrupted. “A couple of places? Like where?”
“I don’t know. I’m just throwing it out there. In case.”
“Yeah, some throwing. Who takes care of his personal needs? Like showering with his cast and all.” She twisted her lips. “Not me, that’s for sure.”
“Someone will be coming in on a daily basis, usually in the morning, to help him with needs like that. However, he’s a very strong-willed person and he’s ticked off that he is in this position to begin with.”
Erin wrinkled her forehead. “Why do I have the feeling there’s something here you’re not telling me?”
Ivy widened her gaze. “Me? You wound me. Look. It could be a creampuff gig if you ignore his occasional temper tantrum. The pay is damn good, and you can still use your downtime to keep looking for another position.” She paused. “So will you do it?”
“When did you say he’s coming home?” Erin asked.
“Sunday. I said I’d babysit him that night, but you’ll need to get there very early Monday morning. Like I said, he’ll probably be a little grouchy, considering the circumstances, but things will even out. And if you have his coffee and juice ready, he might not be such a bear.”
“And I have to stay there, right?”
“Well, duh.” Ivy threw up her hands. “Of course.”
“How long did you say this job was for?” she asked.
“Oh, just a few weeks.” Ivy shrugged. “Once he’s on a walking cast we can make other arrangements.”
Erin chewed her bottom lip, thinking. She saw so many pitfalls to this whole thing. Living in a stranger’s house. Putting up with what might be adult temper tantrums. Being housekeeper, secretary, and maid, not to mention pseudo physical therapist. Still, she certainly could use the money.
“And you know him well enough to vouch for him?”
“Like I said, we’ve worked together on a number of projects. Besides, I wouldn’t toss you into a setup like this with just anyone. Honest.”
“And how much did you say I’m getting paid?” She was still shocked at the salary Ivy repeated to her. “I know there’s a catch here somewhere, but I’m just not seeing it.”
“This guy can afford it,” Ivy assured her. “He makes a disgusting amount of money. So? What do you think?”
Erin thought about it for a long moment, then blew out a long breath. “Okay. I’ll do it. You can tell him yes.”
“Ohmigod!” Ivy squealed with glee and threw her arms around Erin. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
“But if it turns out to be a disaster, I’m taking a hike.”
As Erin pulled up the long driveway, she noticed Ivy’s car parked at the curve by the front door. She punched the door opener Ivy had given her and drove into the garage. Two of the spaces were occupied by a silver gray SUV and a black sports car, so she pulled into the only empty one, the one closest to the entrance of the house, and got out.
“Oh, good, you’re here.” Ivy stood in the doorway, a bright smile on her face, obviously ready to make her getaway.
“I said I’d be here, right?” After opening her trunk, Erin pulled out the two suitcases she’d packed as well as her laptop case. She had no idea how this would work or how long she’d actually end up staying, so she’d tried to prepare for all eventualities. “Where do I put these?”
“I’ll show you to your room.” Her friend’s voice was pitched very low. “Just follow me. And give me one of those suitcases.” She grabbed one from where Erin had set it down.
“Why are we whispering?”
Ivy smiled. “Don’t want to wake the sleeping dragon any sooner than we have to. Come on.”
“Am I dressed okay for this?” She asked the question anxiously. She had worn slacks and a casual but neat top and comfortable flats. The clothes in her suitcases were more of the same. She figured she’d covered all the bases for her job as nursemaid/waitress/personal assistant, or whatever it actually turned out to be.
“You’re fine. Just fine. Come on.”
From the huge foyer, Erin could see a living room and dining room straight ahead. She caught a tiny glimpse of the kitchen as well. Two hallways branched off from there. The house spoke of tasteful wealth, with its hardwood floors, soaring ceilings, and carefully selected furniture and art. Whoever this guy was, he obviously had good taste and the pocketbook to enjoy it.
“Your client’s master suite is to the right,” Ivy explained and pointed.
The door was just slightly ajar, but Erin couldn’t see much of anything. She gave her friend a long look. “I’m still not sure about this, you know.”
“You’ll be fine.” Ivy gave her a smile. “This will be a piece of cake.” She started down the other hallway. “Guest rooms are down here. This will at least give you some privacy.”
The room she led Erin to was decorated in shades of green and ivory. With its queen bed and its polished wood furniture, it could have served for either a man or a woman. Idly Erin wondered if her new boss—or whatever she was supposed to call him—had women sleep over in a room other than his. And who they might be.
But Ivy was urging her along.
“Just set your stuff down in here. You can put it away later.”
“Isn’t this a little far from this guy’s room?” Erin was beginning to develop an uncertain feeling about this again. “What if he needs me in the middle of the night or something? Can he get out of bed himself?”
“He has a walker that he can use to move in a small area.”
Erin wrinkled her forehead. “No crutches?”
“No. He has a wrist injury that make crutches not feasible.”
Okay, not good. Why hadn’t Ivy told her this before? “So he’s okay at night by himself?” she persisted.
“We set up a temporary intercom system just between the two rooms while he’s incapacitated. There’s a unit on his nightstand and one on yours that are hooked into the house system.”
“Oh, great.” Erin made a rude noise. “So he can buzz me any time he wants, right?”
“Yes, but that won’t happen. He gave me his word he wouldn’t be a demanding patient.”
“Yeah, right. I’ll bet he said anything he could just to get you to hire someone for him.”
Sympathy washed across Ivy’s face. “He’s doing his best, Erin. Truly.”
Erin looked at her friend with curiosity. “If this guy is so important to you, how come I’ve never heard about him before?”
“You don’t know everything about me, sweetie,” Ivy teased. “He and I go back a long way.” She handed Erin a large envelope. “Instructions for his care. Nothing fancy,” she added hastily. “Just the stuff we talked about, his meds, and that his leg needs to be kept elevated. I e-mailed you about everything else—visitors, phone calls, his mail, stuff like that.” Her eyes strayed to the watch on her wrist “So are we good here?”
“You told me someone comes in daily to help him shower and shave, right?” Erin wanted to make doubly sure of that.
“Yes, there is. I told you.” Ivy looked at her watch again. “In fact, home care should be here in about two hours. If we’re lucky, he’ll sleep until then.”
Erin chewed her bottom lip. “If we’re lucky. Okay. And if we’re not?”
“He can do basic things for himself,” Ivy explained. “He’s just—well, I told you, he’s pretty unhappy about the situation. And moving is very awkward for him.”
“And you want to throw me in the cage with this particular bear? I thought you were my friend.”
“I am,” Ivy told her in a confident tone. “I got you a high dollar job, didn’t I? Listen, the maid comes in twice a week. I filled the refrigerator and freezer with stuff for both of you for now, but you’ll need to shop. He’ll give you money for that. He eats practically anything so he’s easy to please.”
“Good, because I—”
“And don’t forget,” Ivy interrupted, “you’ll have to be on the lookout for unwanted guests and get rid of them.”
“Unwanted guests?” Erin repeated. “Don’t his friends have enough respect for him to leave him alone if that’s what he wants?”
Ivy lifted one shoulder and let it drop. “There are always people who don’t respect boundaries, especially with someone who has a lot of money.”
“Maybe I missed the part where I’m supposed to be a bodyguard, too. Should we go over that again?”
“No, no, it will be fine.”
“Ivy?” Erin followed her to the foyer. “What do I do first?” Erin stood there, hands outspread, palms up.
“Hit the coffee machine. You’ll need it and so will your patient. Oh, and here.” She pulled a file card from her pocket. “The combination to the alarm system.” She showed Erin the panel on the wall by the front door. “There’s one by the door from the garage, too. You have twenty seconds to shut it off before it starts screeching.”
“Wait, wait, wait!” Erin held up a hand.
“There’s a monitor in the kitchen for the security cameras.” Ivy rushed ahead as if Erin hadn’t even spoken. “Come on, I’ll show you.”
“Does the alarm system cover the whole lot? Everything outside. What—”
“No, unfortunately. Apparently, he only wanted to make sure if someone broke in through any of the doors the alarm would go off. Maybe you can convince him he needs to up the system.”
Erin paid careful attention as Ivy rushed through the instructions. Why was the woman in such a hurry? So what if she was a few minutes late for work? It wasn’t as if she was an hourly employee on the clock.
“Okay. We good?” her friend asked.
“Um, I guess, but—”
Ivy glanced at her watch again. “Oh, look at the time. I need to get going.” She opened the front door and blew a kiss at Erin. “I’ll check in with you later.”
Then she was gone, leaving Erin standing in the foyer in a puddle of uncertainty with the feeling that she’d made a big mistake.
Oh, well. At least she could get through today. She hoped.
The kitchen was a gourmet’s delight. On one of the granite countertops, she found a shiny one-cup brewer that looked like the largest one made. Next to it was a carousel of single serving cups. In the cupboard directly above it, she found coffee mugs, took two of them down, and brewed a cup for herself.
One step down from the kitchen was a large family room with an enormous flat screen television on one wall. Of course. Men and their toys. She carried her coffee over to the big picture window that looked out to a well-landscaped back yard. Whoever this guy was, he did indeed have plenty of money. No expense had been spared with anything. Would he be like many of the assholes she’d met at the hotels where she worked, who thought his money entitled him to treat everyone like shit? Or would she be lucky and he’d at least be a decent guy?
Well, at least she had a nice place to stay and a steady income for a while, providing she could stand the man. She still had no real idea what this job would entail, and Ivy had been less than forthcoming, a sure sign this was a bad mistake. But she was already committed and at least she’d stay for one day.
She stood at the window for a long time, thinking about her situation, sipping her coffee. She really hoped this worked out, because the salary would put her in a good place until she got another job. Maybe she could even start her own business as a personal trainer. She was about to make another cup of coffee for herself and sit down to review the information Ivy had given her when she heard a crash from the direction of the master bedroom. She nearly dropped her mug.
“Ivy?” The shout reverberated through the house.
Oh, hell. What a way to start the day.
She put her cup on the counter and hurried down the hall.
“Ivy?” The roar came again.
“Ivy has left already,” Erin said, pushing open the door to the master suite. “But I’m here. I’m—”
She stopped, shock freezing her in place.
Erin was sure her heart would stop beating. There, sitting on the edge of the bed in all his nearly naked glory, was Jake Russell. Her hot, hot one-night stand. The man she had literally pushed out of her life before he could do the same to her.
Oh. My. God.
Jake’s jaw dropped. “What the fuck?”
Erin finally unstuck her tongue from the roof of her mouth. “My words exactly. Holy crap!” She pointed a finger at him. “You’re not Russ Jacobs.”
He glared at her. “And you’re not Anne Hardy.”
They stared at each other for a long moment, and Erin realized now what people meant by a deafening silence.
“No wonder Ivy used false names.” She could hardly contain her anger. “She set this whole thing up for God knows whatever reason.”
“I’m going to kill her,” Jake said at last, clenching his one good fist. “I will absolutely fucking kill her.”
“Not if I get to her first,” Erin snapped. “I thought she was my friend.”
In a flash, everything from her night with Jake zipped through her mind, including the angry words they’d exchanged the next morning. Okay, so she’d prompted those words, but history had given her a damn good reason to do so. She knew all about football players, from high school jocks to the overpaid pros, including the one who’d ripped her heart out, stomped on it, and then run over it for good measure.