Today we get to peek into the Nanny and the Professor by Donna Fasano. First a little bio information while the coffee is brewing…
From Donna: Growing up the third child of five—yes, smack dab in the middle and the only girl to boot—I had no idea I would one day become a published author. My story-telling talents came to light when I conjured lively and elaborate tales of pure blarney (yes, I have a bit of Irish in my blood) for, first, my youngest brother, and years later, my children.
I sold my first manuscript in 1989, and since then have become a bestselling, award-winning author of over thirty novels and four audio books. I am known for my “smooth, polished” writing style and for creating “strong, complex” characters. Reviewers have used words like “poignant,” “richly textured,” “enticing,” and “absorbing.” The writing process can be extremely engrossing, so much so that I’ve missed appointments with dentists and doctors, lunches with friends and family. Luckily, the people in my life forgive me for this quirk.
Still happily married to my high school sweetheart, I am the mother of two grown sons who have flown the coop. My husband and I share our home with Roo, a spotted red and cream Australian cattle dog that looks (and acts) like a wild dingo. My spare time is spent reading, walking the countryside and beach, biking (that’s Schwinn, not Harley), or trying out new recipes from one of the many cookbooks I have collected over the years. Oh, and one night a week hubby and I nab some alone time from our busy schedules, enjoying a nice glass of wine and a movie—preferably a romantic comedy.
An excerpt from Nanny and the Professor
Cassie looked down at Joshua who was standing in the shallow end of the pool. This afternoon when she’d first thought of the idea to flaunt her swimming abilities, she’d enjoyed the prospect of making him look the fool. She’d actually thought he deserved it. But now she was rethinking the idea. He’d kept her on in the job, he’d admitted he’d been wrong about the list of restrictions, and he’d just shown her his distinctly compassionate side. Maybe it was silly of her, but she didn’t want to do anything that might damage this new and delicate understanding.
Granted, he intimidated her, and she had to admit she was a little afraid of him– well, afraid probably wasn’t the right word to use to describe her feelings. But she was fearful of his finding out her secret. However, they had actually exchanged a few words of civil conversation over dinner. She’d even sensed more than a modicum of respect in the words he’d directed at her. To jeopardize that by humiliating him would not be a good idea at this point.
She blinked at him. “Uh, Joshua, I really don’t need a swimming lesson. There’s something I need to show you.”
Curiosity etched tiny indentations on his brow, but he remained silent as she walked toward the other side of the pool.
The textured diving board felt rough under her feet when she stepped onto it. After walking the length of the board, she curled her toes over the end, bounced once, twice, bent her knees and lunged high into the air. It was a simple dive, but it was near perfect– her body entering the water with hardly a splash.
When she surfaced, she used a strong overhand stroke to swim the length of the pool. Nearing the far wall of the shallow end, she submerged herself and surfaced with her face tipped upward so her hair slicked back out of her eyes.
She wiped at the rivulets of water running down her face and gazed toward him for his reaction, her nerves taut as guitar strings.
When he didn’t speak right away, she explained, “When I told you that I was Red Cross certified in first aid, I should have gone on to tell you that they also certified me in swimming and water safety. In fact, I had a part-time job as a lifeguard for two summers right after I–” She stopped suddenly and blanched. She’d almost said, right after I quit high school. Thank heavens she’d caught herself just in time. She’d never made that mistake before. Ever. Those were words that remained locked up, vault tight, whenever she was around anyone who didn’t know. Joshua Kingston somehow had her feeling awfully loose-lipped. She continued, “Right after I turned sixteen.”
He stared at her a moment before quietly asking, “Why didn’t you just tell me?”
“I tried to. But you kept cutting me off.” She shrugged one shoulder and screwed up her face. “You were really angry with me when you arrived home.”
“But you were lying face-down in the water,” he said, his tone conveying his continuing confusion. “The boys were shouting that you were dead. You looked unconscious… in trouble…”
“They weren’t shouting that I was dead,” she told him with a tiny shake of her head. “I was showing Andy the dead man’s float.”
“Dead man,” he repeated slowly, contemplatively. “That’s what the boys were yelling.”
Cassie nodded. She could tell from the look on his face that he was going over the scene in his head.
“Dead man, dead man,” he repeated softly, almost to himself. Then Joshua looked at her and a small, sexy chuckle escaped from deep in his throat. “I didn’t take time to think about it. I only saw you there in the pool. But Andrew looked so scared.”
“That’s because he knew he wasn’t supposed to be in the pool.”
Now he laughed heartily.
Relief washed over her at the wonderful sound. She smiled, then she found herself laughing right along with him.
“I can’t believe this,” he said. “I ruined a perfectly good suit. Not to mention my shoes.”
She grimaced. “I know.”
He laughed again. “So… you can swim.”
“And there’s no need for a lesson,” he said.
She shook her head apologetically.
He heaved a sigh and it was clearly obvious he was helpless against the grin that continued to tug and tease the corners of his mouth. Finally he turned his gaze fully on her, his eyes flitting over her face– from eyes, to forehead, to cheeks, to lips, to chin, then back to her eyes.
“Oh, Cassie,” he said, his voice hardly a whisper. “We need to work on communicating, you and I.”
All she was able to do was nod slowly in agreement.
He looked off toward the horizon and then chuckled softly again, this time almost to himself. Then he turned to her. “There’s still plenty of light left,” he said. “Would you like to take a swim?”
She smiled, and with no hesitation, said, “I’d like that.”
They swam several leisurely laps back and forth across the length of the pool. Midway through the fourth, Cassie easily glided into a one-hundred-eighty-degree roll and began a graceful backstroke.
Swimming on her back afforded her the opportunity to watch Joshua in the water. He had good form. Strong arms. Wide, powerful shoulders. The clear, cool water sluiced over his muscled back as he effortlessly ploughed across the pool. He was into his fifth lap and he didn’t seem the least bit winded. She was impressed.
He touched the wall of the pool and stopped long enough to say, “Race you up and back.”
But before the words were even out of her mouth, she saw him swimming hell-bent for leather. Gulping in a lungful of air, Cassie pushed off from the wall with all her might. She skimmed underwater as far as she could before she surfaced and began pumping her arms. The exertion felt good, her strokes, strong and efficient, and she wasn’t surprised when she gained on him, then caught up to him.
She could hear his full inhalation when he turned his head and lifted his face from the water. A tremor of excitement coursed through her and she kicked her legs even harder. Inching past him, she reached the far wall scant seconds before he did. She curled into a ball, rolled over under water and pushed off for the return trip.
Cassie cut through the water, paddling hard. She knew victory was just a quarter lap away.
But when she lifted her head to inhale, she felt his fingers encircle her ankle. “Hey!” But her complaint was lost in her surprised laughter.
His mighty tug hadn’t brought her to a complete stop, but it slowed her to a crawl. Her momentum was gone. Joshua continued past her, popping up out of the water with his fingers clasping the wall.
“I won!” he shouted, jubilation evident in his tone.
In an effort to be a good sport, she finished the race. But as soon as she’d scrubbed the water from her face, she calmly informed him, “You cheated.”
“I cheated? What about you pushing off the wall?”
Her chin tipped up defiantly. “You didn’t stipulate that pushing off the wall was against the rules. Besides,” she added with a murmur, “the underdog must take every advantage.”
Immediately she realized her mistake.
All her life she’d seen herself as just that: the underdog. With no education to speak of, she’d had to use creative thinking to seek out new and better ways of getting the job done. She invariably felt inferior to the co-workers around her, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t do just as good or better a job than they. Her pride had always depended on it.
But now that she’d made the hasty statement, she hoped Joshua didn’t pick up on it and decide to question her.
“That is true,” he agreed with a great deal of pomp. “And you are the underdog. Seeing as how my biceps and back muscles are double the size of yours. I may have taken unfair advantage.”
The devilish gleam in his eye almost made her burst out laughing.
“Are you insinuating that just because you’re a man, you’re naturally the better, faster swimmer?” she asked. Then she boasted, “If you hadn’t cheated, I would have beaten you by a mile.”
His chuckle was deep and rumbly. “I know,” he told her. “Why do you think I had to resort to blatant cheating?”
Humor got the better of her, pinching one cheek into a grin. Finally, she just stopped fighting it and laughed outright.
“You are so bad. You know that, don’t you?” she asked.
“Mmm-hmm .” His eyes glinted wickedly.
Both of them stood in chest-deep water, balancing on the narrow ledge that circumvented the deep end of the pool. Cassie stretched out her foot and traced her toe as far as she could reach down the slope that led to the very bottom of the eight-foot depth. She clung to the side for support as she fought to control her wildly thumping heart. The man was too hot for words!
He waded closer and she felt the distinct urge to back up, but she held her ground.
“Cassie, Cassie, Cassie,” he whispered, and he reached out with a fingertip to capture a droplet of water clinging to her cheek.
His touch was electric, and a pleasant bewilderment saturated her as she tried to figure out this new and extremely intimate change in his mood.
He was damned intriguing. He had her feeling so many different emotions, and constantly kept her just a little off kilter. It was scary, yet at the same time exhilarating.
Now, as the warm tips of his fingers lingered on her cheek, a delicious warmth curled low in her abdomen. His touch was as velvety as the sun-warmed water that lapped at her breasts, that swelled slowly up and down her forearms.
“You have dominated my thoughts ever since you’ve come into my home.”
His quiet words were so astonishing that Cassie spoke without taking the time to think. “I have?” she asked.
“Mmm-hmm,” he murmured.
He moved so close his warm breath brushed across her wet skin.
“Joshua,” she said, her voice sounded very faint even to her own ears. “I don’t think this is a good idea.”
She blinked away the pool water that had gathered on her eyelashes. “You know.” And when the words to describe what was going on escaped her, she added, “This.”
He moved closer even though she hadn’t thought it was possible.
“Yes!” she whispered.
“What is this, Cassie?”
She could see his pulse throbbing just beneath the skin at the base of his throat. “I don’t know.”
“If you don’t know what it is,” he whispered, giving her a gentle smile, “how can you be sure it isn’t a good idea?”
Cassie knew there had to be at least half a dozen answers to that question, but for the life of her she couldn’t think of any of them. Her mind went completely blank.
“It just isn’t,” she said, her innate protective instinct refusing to allow her to totally surrender to the sensual mood encompassing them, no matter how loudly her body screamed at her to.
He’d been on her mind too; there was no denying it. Hadn’t she felt the urge to take a tiny tour of his bedroom? Hadn’t she had to literally shut out temptation by closing the door of his room? Hadn’t she thought and wondered and imagined? Yes, she’d spent too much time thinking about him.
He traced a finger along her cheekbone and then his delicate touch tickled the outer rim of her ear. Instinctively, she closed her eyes as a shiver of delight shimmied through her.
“I can’t explain it,” he said silkily. “But I am so attracted to you. I know what I’m feeling isn’t logical, but I simply can’t help myself.” He gently caught her earlobe between his index finger and thumb. “I’ve never wanted a woman the way I want you.”
Something about his confession didn’t seem right, but enveloped as she was in this luscious haze of sensuality he conjured, she couldn’t quite come up with a reason why.
“At first,” he continued, “I thought what I was feeling was purely physical. That age-old, man-woman sex appeal. I was quite certain that if I could only get the chance to kiss you senseless, then I’d exorcize you from my system.”
Bending his head toward hers, he planted the barest of kisses on the corner of her mouth. A liquid heat eddied inside her, languidly filling her to the brim with… something… something she didn’t dare put a name to.
“But as the weekend progressed,” he said huskily, “I realized that my thoughts of you were based on more than just the physical.”
She wanted to speak, but then he kissed her again, his lips scarcely touching the opposite corner of her mouth. The question she’d wanted to ask was gone, splintered into a dozen broken fragments in her passion-fogged brain.
He ran his fingers along her jaw and tipped up her chin so he could gaze into her face. His dark eyes were heavy-lidded now, and Cassie felt mesmerized by them and the intimate aura he conjured.
“Would you mind if I conducted a little experiment?” he murmured.
“An experiment?” Her voice seemed thin and far off.
“Mmm-hmm. You see, I came up with a hypothesis.” One cheek muscle twitched with an appealing smile. “The one I told you about just now, that kissing you would expel you from my mind.” He chuckled with a throaty rumble. “I don’t believe it will work,” he admitted, “but I am a scientist. And proving and disproving theories is my life.”
She closed her eyes when his palm cupped her jaw.
“So, what do you say?” he whispered. “May I kiss you?”
She answered him with an almost imperceptible nod of her head. Then she softly added, “Please.”
His lips pressed to hers, velvety warm and moist. The firm, gentle pressure of his mouth sent currents jolting through her. She felt his tongue play lightly across her lips, not intruding or demanding, but testing, tasting.
Her muscles seemed to melt yet tense at the same time and she relaxed against his hard chest. His soft, springy hair brushed against the flesh left bare by her bathing suit. It tickled in a way she found delightful.
When his arms encircled her, she felt his palms slide across her still-damp back. She wanted to sigh contentedly, but her breathlessness made that impossible– the electric charge shooting through her did too. Once again Joshua was causing her emotions to go to war inside her.
He smelled of chlorine and the dark, musky aroma that was his cologne. She relaxed enough to inhale deeply and she reveled in his scent.
His lips and tongue became more ardent and she realized that he wanted more. She gladly parted her lips and her tongue met his in a slow, tentative dance of welcome.
Far in the back of her brain, she heard tiny whispers of objection echoing, prodding for her attention. But she shut them out; she completely ignored them. She wanted this kiss, this closeness, like she’d never wanted anything before.
But this man is your employer! This time the voice was louder, most insistent, forcing its way to the forefront of her brain.
She pulled back, ending the kiss abruptly. Staring at him wide-eyed, she made a halfhearted attempt to pull herself from his embrace.
“Joshua,” she protested.
“I knew it,” he said in a hoarse whisper, his gaze heavy and filled with desire. “My analysis of the data disproves the hypothesis.”
“It does?” Cassie couldn’t keep the question from slipping past her lips. The look in his eyes made her heart begin to race.
“Mmm-hmm. I’ve kissed you, yet you’re still up here.” He tapped his temple. “My thoughts are burning for you.” Then he added wryly, “As are other various parts of me.”
The unabashed insinuation shocked her and caused her sanity to snap into place like a rubber band, sharp and stinging. “Joshua,” she repeated, keeping her tone as level as possible. “I really think–”
He cut off her words by pressing two fingers against her lips. “Before you speak,” he said, “let me examine the data and form a conclusion. My thoughts of you this weekend had me feeling like a teenager. I wanted you and thought that a kiss would be sufficient. But now that I’ve completed the experiment, I’m left wanting more. Much more.”
She watched him rub at his chin and gaze off over her shoulder as he summed up their kiss. He really was analyzing the evidence. The romantic haze she’d been engulfed in cleared all of a sudden. She’d thought this “experiment” of his was quite intimate, but now she was left feeling like a lifeless utensil– a beaker or a petri dish. And she didn’t like it at all.
“Hey,” she called to him. And when she had his attention, she continued testily, “when you equated our kiss to an experiment, I thought you were being… romantic. But now I can see that you were serious, and I don’t mind telling you that this isn’t right. I’m not some laboratory specimen to be–”
“Oh, Cassie,” he interrupted. “I’m sorry I offended you. I didn’t mean to.”
The honest contrition exposed on his face and in his voice helped her to relax a little, but the insult she felt was evident in the firm line of her lips.
“I wanted to kiss you,” he said, “and disprove my hypothesis because I knew it was wrong. I knew what I felt for you was more than mere physiology.”
His last few words made her eyes go wide.
“I knew,” he went on, seeming not to notice her reaction, “because, I could see you were beautiful…”
He called you beautiful. The realization sank in immediately. The thought alone would have sent her heart reeling, but he’d actually said the words. Right to her face.
“And I had this tremendous urge to kiss you,” he continued. “Touch your skin… and smell your hair…. but I also wanted other things.”
He hesitated, and Cassie thought she’d die in the silence of the few seconds before he explained what he meant by other things.
“I wanted to know things,” he finally clarified. “Where you were born. Your favorite food. What your hobbies are.”
A delightful, numbing haze slowly fogged her brain, and she felt the overwhelming impulse to tell him anything and everything he wanted to know.
But this man is your employer! This time the silent voice of dissent was as loud as a blaring horn. She needed to put some space between herself and Joshua. She needed time to think. She barely knew the man. Yes, she needed precious time.
“Joshua, wait just a minute.” She moved backward a foot. “Now, I will admit that there’s some kind of… spark or something between us,” she said. “But common sense will tell you that it’s nothing more than physical attraction– an attraction that we really, really need to deny–”
“Oh, no,” he said, emphatically shaking his head. “Haven’t you heard what I’ve been saying? If it was a simple case of physical attraction alone, I wouldn’t feel this desire to know your favorite color, your favorite season. Or your shoe size, or what you like to read, or where you went to college, or if you like to walk in the woods or… or… how you met Aunt Mary.”
Her blood froze solid when he mentioned that dreaded ‘c’ word. College. A silent expletive shot through her thoughts. If this kept up, he’d find out the truth!
“Look,” she said, working hard to remain calm. “I work for you. You pay me money to care for your son. You weren’t even certain that you wanted me for the position. Don’t you remember? It is not– I repeat, not– a good idea for us to become involved in any kind of relationship except that between an employer and an employee.” As she spoke the two nouns, she pointed at him and then touched her own collarbone, as if he needed help figuring out who was who.
He scowled. “But you can’t stand there and deny the fact that we–”
“That’s exactly what I intend to do.” Cassie turned and swam away from him toward the steps that led out of the pool.
“But, Cassie,” he called.
When she reached the stairway, she turned back to face him. “I don’t mean to hurt your feelings. But I need this job.”
With that she climbed from the pool, snatched up her robe from where she’d tossed it on the chair and headed for the house on shaky legs.
Joshua watched Cassie stalk across the lawn and he scowled. She might deny what was between them–
The thought stopped short and he rubbed his fingers over his chin. She hadn’t really denied anything, he realized. In fact, she’d admitted what she felt– the physical attraction. He couldn’t help but grin, thinking that Cassie found him attractive. The mere thought of her saying so was a sensuous stroke to his ego.
No, she hadn’t denied what was between them. She had renounced it. Well, to hell with that. He wanted so badly to explore the charisma… or allure… or whatever it was that so strongly drew them together!
But Cassie clearly felt that because she worked for him, they couldn’t become personally involved. He did have to admit that it was an extremely logical notion on her part. A more personal relationship between them would have the potential of raising some problems for everyone concerned. He understood that, yet his brain continued to refuse to acknowledge it. Swiping his hand in a large arc under the cool water, he couldn’t quite figure out why his thinking process where Cassie was concerned continued to be confused and irrational.
He pushed the thought aside and directed his attention to more important matters–investigating the potent feelings he was experiencing.
As a scientist, he prided himself on being a linear-thinking man who devoted his life to identifying and solving mysteries with the use of scientific equations and systematic experiments. If given the time, he was confident he could figure out just how to categorize these emotions that were plaguing him.
Joshua swam slowly toward shallower water and realized there was another factor to be considered in this paradox– Cassie’s emotions. She’d admitted feeling something for him… a spark of physical attraction is what she’d called it.
His foot grazed the pool bottom and he stood. Shielding his eyes from the glare of the setting sun, he remembered the flash of fear in Cassie’s gaze just before she’d made her escape. Of course, she didn’t want anything to ruin this job and that was clearly understandable.
The best thing for everyone concerned would be to follow Cassie’s lead and deny his every desire where she was concerned.
He got out of the pool and picked up his towel, one final question echoing across his thoughts. Did he truly believe it was possible for him to live in the same house with Cassie and not surrender to the urges she provoked in him?
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