Code Name: Nanny
by Christina Skye
Summer wasn't frightened. Not exactly.
Anxious, maybe. Determined.
Okay, just a little frightened. Being around rich people always left her on edge, and these people were very rich.
She saw the house first, huge with gray stone walls and a broad wooden porch. An immaculate swath of grass sloped down to rugged boulders above a restless sea. As the taxi rounded the drive, Summer sat up straighter, feeling light-years away from the cement and sprawl of Philadelphia. She'd spent most of the last five years within fifteen miles of the Liberty Bell, but it was clear that Carmel was going to be a whole new planet.
The driver eyed her in the mirror. "Haven't seen you before."
Summer made a noncommittal sound, rolling down her window and nudging off one black high heel, which was pinching her toes badly.
"Got a nice family up there." The driver nodded up the cobblestone drive toward the big house. "Lookers, all of 'em. Even the little one, odd as she is."
Summer frowned at him. " 'Odd' how?"
"Guess you'll find out soon enough." His head swung around. "What are you, family, friend, or CNN bureau chief?"
"So you get a lot of reporters down here?"
"Buckets full all summer. Had that woman, Diane Sawyer, a few days back. Skinnier than she is on TV. Guess they all are." The driver's eyes narrowed. "Notice you didn't answer my question."
"That's right, I didn't." Summer looked away, mindful of the assignment that brought her here. Her carefully constructed story seemed almost real to her after the month of preparation she'd endured back in Philadelphia. The fact was, this was no vacation, and Summer was neither family nor friend. This was work with a capital W--FBI field work.
She'd had tough assignments before, but never so close to big money and Washington power politics, and the situation left her edgy.
Do the job, she told herself sternly. Forget about the nerves.
The driver pulled to a halt near a wall of bougainvillea flaming crimson against fieldstone walls. "Lotta people sniffing around lately. Brought up a bunch of Hol-ly-wood types last week." The man sniffed with disgust. "All Bel Air this and Ro-de-o Drive that." He stopped the taxi and twisted around to face Summer. "Outsiders. You can spot them a mile away."
Summer glanced at the meter and counted out the hefty fare, then added a fair tip. "Movie stars, you mean?"
"Those, too. Senator Winslow was here to meet them once or twice. Him, I'd recognize anywhere. A popular man with the ladies, and easy to see why, with that calm grin and the way he looks at you like he's really listening. Probably all a big act. The way I see it, most politicians are rats looking for a hole." He took the money Summer held out. "You don't look like you're from Hol-ly-wood though." As before, he tore the word into three disparaging syllables. "Don't sound much like one of those airheads from Washington, D.C., either. Too normal for a damned reporter." He studied her some more, putting some thought into it. "Odd thing is, I can't say what you look like."
Which is part of the reason I'm so good at my job, Summer thought. She opened her door and hefted her suitcase, which was full of navy suits and dark shoes just like the ones she was wearing. In her particular line of work, plain and inconspicuous were definite job assets.
She decided a little gossip wouldn't hurt her assignment. Bending close to the window, she nodded at the driver. "Sharp eyes."
"So what are you?"
Summer tucked her briefcase under her arm and smiled. "I'm the new nanny."
As she rolled her suitcase along the perfectly cut lawn, Summer scanned her base of operations for the next month. Her host, Cara O'Connor, wasn't on hand to greet her, but that had been expected since Cara was currently hard at work in San Francisco, where she was the city's youngest female assistant DA.
Summer quickly learned from a chatty housekeeper named Imelda that her two charges were upstairs finishing their homework over lemon bars and fruit drinks, awaiting her arrival. Praying she wouldn't be called to explain verb tenses or non-Euclidean geometry, Summer followed the housekeeper out to a Spanish-style guesthouse nearly hidden by towering oleander bushes. Imelda left so Summer could unpack and change before going to meet Cara O'Connor's two daughters.
Wiggling her feet, she kicked off her shoes and dropped her suitcase on the sofa, which was covered with fluffy pillows. Fresh roses filled the air with lush perfume. Summer trailed one finger along the wall of solid fieldstone that led to a six-foot fireplace.
Some digs. Not that she was going to get tied up in knots about it. No, she was going to treat the O'Connors like any other assignment.
Summer was about to start undressing when she heard a sound down the hall. Crossing the room quietly, she peered around a corner.
There was a naked man in her shower.
Six foot four inches of naked man, judging by the view she had from her location near the living room.
Summer took a sharp breath and forced herself to be calm. Granted, she had just staggered off two back-to-back flights and her eyes were burning with exhaustion, but that was definitely the outline of a male body behind the tall glass shower enclosure. She was pretty sure that ringing sound was water running, while that other sound, low and rumbling, was a dark male groan of satisfaction.
Her stomach clenched. Either there was a big mistake or this was another trick. She had suffered constant hazing on the job over the last months, from little things like papers taken off her desk to coffee spilled inside her locker. As the junior field officer, Summer had been prepared for a certain amount of hazing.
But this crossed the line.
She glared at the broad shoulders moving back and forth beneath a stream of hot water. No doubt this little surprise came courtesy of her fellow agents back in Philadelphia. With a few well-chosen questions, any one of them could have pinpointed her newest assignment.
Not all of them hated her, but most of them did, and words weren't going to change that. As Summer stood listening to the sound of the shower, something stabbed hard at the center of her chest. They wouldn't forget. They wanted payback, any way that would hurt her most.
Well, to hell with her pals back in Philadelphia and to hell with their crude tricks. Summer was staying right where she was. They weren't going to spook her.
Silently she checked the small desk near the sofa. A tan envelope lay on its side next to a painted Chinese vase. Across the middle of the envelope she saw her name written in small, elegant letters.
Her name. Her rooms. No mistakes there.
Exhausted and grimy from hours of travel, she stared at the cozy fruit basket on the lacquer dresser. The lush roses in crystal vases. No way was she leaving.
Summer set her briefcase down carefully on the thick rug. Her raincoat landed on a sleek leather ottoman nearby. Fighting her anger, she scanned the room again. There were no signs of someone living here--no dirty socks on the floor, no clean shirts hanging in the closet. The bed in the adjoining room was perfectly neat, with no dents in the pillows.
Beyond the living area, water continued to strike the glass walls of the shower. As Summer glared at her intruder, the towel hanging over the door slid free. Suddenly she had an unobstructed view of a narrow waist, sculpted thighs and a world-class naked body.
A little voice whispered a warning.
Punchy with fury, she ignored it. Squaring her shoulders, she sat down in a velvet chair at the entrance to the bathroom, where she had a full view of the sunny shower enclosure.
He was singing an old Beatles song--low and very off-key--when the water hissed off.
The shower door slid open.
Definitely a world-class body. The man had the sculpted shoulders of an athlete in superb condition and abs to bounce a dime off of. As he ran his hands over his face, drops of warm water clung to the dark hair on his chest, then slowly traveled lower.
An odd tingle shot through Summer's stomach. She hadn't planned to look, but she found herself looking anyway. There was no avoiding the fact that the man had excellent muscles.
Especially when he turned and saw her, his body locking hard.
"Don't tell me you're the maid." He had the hint of an accent, something smoky and rough that Summer couldn't trace.
"Guest," she countered flatly. "And unless you talk fast, you're spending the night as a guest of the local police, pal."
A smile played across his mouth. "Now you're terrifying me." The roughness was there again, but there wasn't a hint of anxiety in his cool smile or the slow way he scooped up his towel and tossed it over his shoulder, where it concealed nothing.
Obviously, modesty was a foreign concept to the man.
Summer prayed to six patron saints for the ability to stay cool under his unrelenting stare, but the prayers weren't working. Heat rose in her face and fingers of awareness nudged a dozen sensitive nerve centers. Probably the result of the industrial-strength Dramamine she'd taken on the plane, dulling her normal edge.
Or maybe it was the man's cocky smile as he draped the towel low around his waist.
She was an expert in the Weaver stance and shotgun recoil. She knew about bomb dogs, wire fraud, and chain of custody for criminal evidence. But no one at Quantico had taught her the proper procedure for a naked smart-ass when said naked smart-ass was standing in your shower whistling "Penny Lane."
"Get out," she said tightly. "Otherwise you're going to be kissing the floor, and trust me I won't make it nice."
His brow rose. "You know judo?"
Suddenly his eyes were dark and focused. "You're the new nanny?"
"That's right. And you are?"
"Gabe Morgan--landscape and general contracting. The girls told me you weren't coming until later tonight. My shower's been acting up, so I thought I'd sneak over and clean up before you arrived."
As an apology, it stunk. As an explanation, it was passable--assuming that Summer believed him.
Which she didn't.
" 'The girls'?"
"The two O'Connor kids. Audra and Sophy. They told me when you were to arrive."
Summer smiled tightly. "As you can see, they were wrong."
"In that case, sorry for the intrusion. No reason for things to get off on the wrong foot because of it."
"I'd say it's a perfect reason."
He crossed his arms, and Summer worked hard not to stare at the fine display. There was a small scar near the top of his shoulder that curved down in a tight hook. From a gardening tool?
"The old nanny let the girls run wild. Clearly, you're going to be a lot stricter."
"I'm not getting paid to let them run wild, Mr. Morgan."
"Call me Gabe."
Why was he standing there holding a conversation in his towel, for heaven's sake? Why didn't the man just go? "I doubt I'll call you anything until you get some clothes on."
"Too bad." Once again the grin teased his lips. "Clothes can be damned overrated, ma'am."
"Not by me."
Gabe Morgan shook his head. "Things were just starting to get interesting, too." He gave a two-finger wave as he crossed the living room. "I'll talk to Audra and Sophy about this. I'm pretty sure it's their harebrained idea of a joke on the new nanny. Meanwhile, enjoy the shower, now that I got things all warmed up for you." He tightened his towel, opening the front door. "By the way, they're good kids, but you should tan their hides for this little stunt. It's a war out there, and the kids are winning, from what I hear."
"Thank you for the astute advice, Mr. Morgan. I assure you, I know how to do my job," Summer said stiffly.
"Glad to hear it. Let me know if you need any help."
Summer crossed her arms. "I won't." She'd studied enough books on the subject in the last three weeks to tackle anything that was thrown at her.
So she hoped.
The towel slid lower on his lean hips. Summer was pretty sure her mouth was hanging open. She might drool any second.
"Whatever you say. 'Night, Ms. Mulvaney."
She hadn't told him her name.
The door closed. Summer sank back in the velvet chair outside the shower, feeling steam brush her face like a warm caress. She tried to forget his body and his grin--and failed at both.
During her FBI career she'd had her share of aggravating assignments. Some of them had been high profile and some of them had put her squarely in the path of grievous bodily harm.
Something told her this one was going to take the cake.
Gabe Morgan felt like shit.
Leave it to Cara O'Connor's kids to set up something low-down and sneaky like this. Not that he minded being caught buck naked, but the new nanny had looked angry enough to char steak.
As soon as the door to his guesthouse had closed, Gabe tossed down his towel and prowled through his living room. The woman didn't even look like a nanny, for God's sake. Since Gabe had only met one other nanny in his life, he didn't have a lot to compare by, but he was pretty sure nannies were starched and prim, expert at holding hands, defusing temper tantrums, and hiding any real, honest thoughts.
Not Summer Mulvaney. Beneath that dark suit she looked strong and surprisingly well-conditioned. Besides that, there was her kick-ass attitude. The woman was cool and confident, with an intensity that had caught him by surprise. She didn't mince words and he was pretty sure she didn't take crap from anyone.
It was a trait Gabe Morgan had always admired, whether in men or women.
But something about Summer Mulvaney bothered him. She didn't come across as your average, garden-variety nanny or nurturer. Then again, maybe he was crazy. There was no denying that this job was starting to get to him.
Frowning, Gabe shoved away thoughts of the new nanny as he rustled through his bureau, tugged on clothes, and located three fresh surgical bandages. He'd tackle fifty sit-ups and twenty squats, then see if he could push himself any further.
After that, he'd wrap his knee and take a short break, then start all over again.
He was so used to seeing the scars on his body that they might as well have been invisible. Even the memories had begun to blur, their grim details fading into a gray-green blur of jungle sky and blue-green water.
Excerpted from Code Name: Nanny by Christina Skye.
Copyright © 2004 by Christina Skye. All rights reserved.
No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without
permission in writing from the publisher.