Maria chuckled. “Well, not quite, I’ve yet to even meet Mr. Trentham or Meggie and the other children. I’m sure they’ll have some questions for me. I don’t want to make any assumptions that they’ll like me before I’m officially hired.”
“Well, I can honestly say that you’re by far the best candidate I interviewed, and Gabriel usually trusts my judgment when it comes to hiring nannies—you’re the third one I’ve vetted in four years. And the previous two nannies turned out fine even if they each had to leave for different reasons. So it really will be just a formality, don’t worry.
He’s actually leaving for the airport soon—he has business in Chicago for the next two days, unless everything is cancelled because of the storm.” Matt grimaced at the thought.
Maria relaxed a bit at Matt’s reassurance. “When do I meet with him then? Before he leaves I assume?”
“Yes, I’m to bring you to his study in just a few minutes—he’s finishing up a phone call right now. Would you like anything to drink or to freshen up, Maria?”
Maria nodded gratefully. “I’d love to freshen up a bit—I didn’t stop on the way here. And please, call me Ria—most people do.”
Matt’s smile suddenly froze on his face. He blinked and then the expression was gone. Maria wondered what could have caused that reaction.
“Ria, huh? That’s a lovely nickname. Let me show you to the powder room.”
As Maria walked away, Matt’s smile slid off his face. Ria, Ria! Could it be her? Nothing in the background check he’d run on Maria Berger would have turned up a one-night stand from the summer, of course. She definitely fit the description given to him by Gabriel, but of all the crazy coincidences, who would have thought she’d literally show up on his doorstep, and the timing couldn’t have been worse!
Matt winced when he thought about Olivia—if this was indeed the Ria that Gabriel had practically torn apart Boston searching for, they were all in for some interesting times. Matt’s eyes suddenly widened—Gabriel obviously had no idea of Maria’s previous occupation before she became a nanny—was there time to warn him…?
Even as he impulsively stepped in the direction of Gabriel’s office, he heard Maria’s footsteps approach. Too late, dammit. Oh well, Gabriel will just have to deal with it.
Matt grimaced quickly when he thought of Gabriel’s probable reaction and replaced it with a guileless smile as he turned back to Maria. He looked at her with a new appreciation, seeing her short, bright golden locks, bluer than blue eyes, her tall, slim, gently curved figure clad conservatively in a soft gray sweater set and a charcoal wool pencil skirt paired with dark tights and black ankle boots with a modest heel.
Despite the demure clothes, Maria was a knockout—if he wasn’t quite happily gay, he’d be tempted to make a play for her himself. But thinking of Gabriel’s foul temper after his unsuccessful attempts at locating the mysterious Ria, he hastily changed his mind. He valued his job—and his life—too much to even consider poaching on anything Gabriel considered his. And without a doubt, Gabriel considered Ria his.
As he looked at Maria’s lovely smiling face, he wondered how she’d feel about that.
MARIA NERVOUSLY PULLED AT HER cardigan as Matt knocked on the door. Butterflies had started fluttering in again on the short walk to Mr. Trentham’s home office. She knew it was normal to have nerves—she really wanted the job, after all—but it wasn’t so much the forthcoming interview as the speculative look on Matt’s face as she returned from the powder room before he quickly erased it that had her on edge.
Matt had been nothing but purely professional in their previous interactions, so she’d never thought he was personally interested in her. She hoped she was wrong, and she’d simply misread the appraising glance he’d given her—she would have never accepted this position if she thought there was an even a remote chance he’d be interested in her that way.
“Come in,” came the curt reply in a crisp, beautifully resonant voice, and the butterflies in her stomach suddenly started doing cartwheels and backflips. His voice was so familiar…
“Gabriel, Maria Berger has arrived,” Matt announced and Maria took a deep breath and stepped through the doorway, and immediately froze, her feet glued to the spot. Her heart was in her throat as she stared at the man rising from his imposing mahogany desk, his hand outstretched towards her.
‘Hello, Miss Berger, I’m Gabriel Trentham. I’m glad to finally meet you, Matt has been nothing but enthusi—“
The words suddenly stopped as she met the dark blue eyes of the man she’d spent the most unforgettable night of her life with. A man she’d never thought she’d ever see again.
“Ria?” he finally said in a hoarse voice, his skin pale beneath his tanned skin. Slowly, he stepped away from his desk, walking steadily towards her until he stopped, his body nearly brushing hers. She could only stare at him, utterly speechless, her mind still scrambling from shock as his hand came up and delicately touched her cheek, fingers trailing down to brush against her mouth. She trembled as heat flared at his touch, memories of that night careening through her, of his talented, elegant fingers learning every single inch of her body, of his mouth, that shockingly carnal mouth and sensual lips…
Maria stared, entranced, as that mouth came closer and closer and he gently tipped her chin up. Distantly, she heard Matt say, “Right, well, it looks like you two have lots to discuss so I’ll just leave you to get reacquainted and if anyone needs me I’ll be in my hopefully sound-proof office with my door securely shut, bye now!” And then a soft click as the door was firmly closed.
Her eyes fluttered shut at the first caress of his lips against hers and she gasped against his mouth as every nerve in her body tingled to life. With a groan, Gabriel deepened the kiss, his tongue demanding entrance to her mouth. She complied eagerly, parting her lips and stroking his tongue with her own as he swept in. Her hands came up to clutch his hair and she could feel his arms around her holding her close, his hands dropping to cup her bottom and lift her up so their groins aligned. She could feel him hard and throbbing directly against her mound and she squirmed, pleasure racing through her. She felt herself becoming wet, her panties getting damp.
Memories of his thick c*ck stretching her, plunging deep inside caused her p**sy to contract and she whimpered at the empty ache at her center, wanting desperately to feel him there again, filling her to overflowing. She tried to raise her legs so she could wrap them around his h*ps but her slim skirt frustrated her attempts. One of his hands left her bottom to fumble at the back button and zipper of her skirt, and she thought, oh, yes, eager to get rid of the layers separating them, and then, oh, no! as the reality of what they were doing intruded.
With a gasp, she tore her mouth away from his and pushed them apart, nearly stumbling as her knees weakened. She kept her hands against his chest when he tried to pull her back and she could feel his pounding heart and the warmth of his hard muscles beneath her hands. She took a deep breath to try to steady her own heaving chest and blurted out, “We can’t do this.”
Gabriel stared at her, his mouth wet from their kiss and hectic color along his cheekbones, his skin pulled taut over them with arousal. “Why not?”
“Because I’m going to be your daughter’s nanny! It’s so wrong on every level and besides,” she gasped as realization hit, “you’re engaged!”
A stab of something that felt very much like pain mixed with jealousy went through her at the thought of him belonging to another woman.
He blinked and then closed his eyes, running a hand through his hair, disordering its perfectly combed waves. He turned away from her and grasped the edge of his desk, his hands gripping it so tightly his knuckles showed white.
She stared at him, letting her eyes trace his body, clad in a well-cut, obviously hideously expensive navy pin-striped suit. He’d been wearing a similar suit but in fine black wool the night they met and he was even handsomer than she remembered, if that was even possible.
She and Sophie had gone to the hotel bar that first night after hitting some night clubs, hoping to find someone more suitable for Maria’s needs there, and she’d noticed him at the piano immediately, his strong, elegantly chiseled features concentrating only on the beautiful music that his incredibly skilled hands were producing. His dark hair was lightly grayed at his temples and swept ruthlessly off his face, and even sitting at the piano she could tell his body was strong and fit—there was no doubt he was a man in the prime of his maturity and made every single guy she’d met in her quest the past week seem like a boy. He was unquestionably way out of her league and she’d resisted when Sophie encouraged her to go up to him.
But she came back the next night, this time without Sophie in tow and dressed more like her normal self and not in clubbing attire, hoping only to see him again. She’d been happy to find him in the same lounge and content just to look at him and listen to him play.
She’d found him completely compelling, something in her responding to him even before they’d spoken a word with each other. It might have been the hint of sadness surrounding him, a solitary quality in him that she’d recognized in herself.
Whatever the reason, all she knew was that she’d never felt this kind of attraction before, an overwhelming physical hunger combined with a feeling of kinship, of connection.
She’d been surprised when other men had flirted with her that night, men she might have seriously considered another time, but all she’d felt was irritation that they’d pulled her attention away from the man at the piano.
It wasn’t until it seemed that he was done for the evening that the idea to approach him popped into her mind, and once it did, she knew there was no one else she wanted for her first time. The shock had been him accepting her clumsy advance. She still didn’t know why he’d said yes.
He finally turned to face her and Maria nearly took a step back at the fierce, forbidding anger on his face.
“Why did you sneak away in the morning?”
She flushed, remembering waking up nak*d in his arms, sore between her legs and in other intimate parts of her body and quietly scrambling around for her clothes, wanting only to leave before he woke up. “The night was over—I thought you’d want me gone before things got awkward after you woke up.”
He looked thunderous. “Are you telling me that you thought it was just a casual one-night stand?”
“Well, yes, isn’t that what it was?” Maria was confused—isn’t that what all men expected when a strange woman picked them up in a bar?
“So you gave your virginity to me and didn’t expect anything else?” Did he seem even more upset at her answer?
“No, of course not—I just wanted to sleep with you. Remember, I wasn’t even going to tell you it was my first time.” She tried to laugh to lighten the mood, but it came out sounding strained and false. “I may have been inexperienced, but even I know that orgasms, no matter how many or good, don’t equal a relationship.”
If anything, his expression got even darker at her quip.
“Why are you so upset? I would have thought I’d done exactly what you wanted.”
“Is it so hard to believe that I wanted to see you again after that night? I woke up, expecting to see you and couldn’t believe you’d just left—I was afraid something had happened to you! I spent weeks searching Boston for you.”
The thought that he wanted to see her again left Maria breathless.
“You did?” she squeaked. “I was staying with a friend until my job started—I left Boston for Connecticut just a few days later.” She didn’t tell him how much she regretted leaving him without some kind of note, but she woke up after that incredible night wanting him again, not just sexually but emotionally, and those feelings were so strong and overwhelming she didn’t know how to deal with them.
So she reacted the only way she could in her panicked state—she ran. The fact that he’d also wanted more after their night together left her reeling—with joy, because the night had been as meaningful to him as it had been to her, but with despair too, because it was all too late—he was now committed to another woman.
Maria felt her shoulders slump before she straightened them and lifted her chin. She looked directly at Gabriel and kept her voice steady as she said, “Obviously it’s impossible for me to work for you now. Thank you for the opportunity—I’m sorry that you’ll have to look for another nanny.”
Gabriel stiffened and narrowed his eyes at her. She wondered absently if he’d ever been in the military because he had the “displeased commanding officer talking to idiot junior officer” demeanor down pat.
“Another nanny? I don’t think that will be necessary.”