I frowned. “And you said my plan was a crazy talk.”

Jamie grinned.

My heart went pitter-patter. Damn! That boyish, mischievous smile of his. It wasn’t the smile I remember. Since when did he become so hot?

Unexpectedly, Jamie reached across to grab my hand and held it tightly. “I don’t want you to go. Ever. Again.”

The steadfastness in his tone touched me deeply. I’d lived a pretty sheltered life with Sam, and I wasn’t used to people’s kindness. But I was grateful. Lucky even.

“Uhm, I think at some point you have to let me go. Otherwise, how are we going to get out of the car?” I joked, wagging our hands.

Jamie squeezed harder. Another mischievous smile blossomed on the corner of his lips.

I looked away quickly as I felt my cheek heat up.

This was absurd. Why did I find his smile so freaking attractive?

The apartment complex was named Charlene’s Garden in honor of the Codys’ mother. The two-story building had a redbrick façade and special red roof tiles. They were designed with a minimalist style in mind but looked pretty classy for the apartment’s price range. I thought to myself that if my housekeeping job didn’t pan out for some reason, I might ask Jamie if I could be put on the tenant list.

We stopped at the onsite office, and he introduced me to his staff, but only one person was in the office.

Jamie put his arm around my shoulders casually. “Hey, Lisa, this is my girl, Simone. Simone, this is the office manager, Lisa. We’ll probably see Greg, he’s my partner, and Carlos, he’s our foreman, out back. We’re working on the drainage pond today with the welder subcontractor.”

I was oblivious to Jamie’s insinuation until I realized that the office manager saw me in a different way. “Oh, I’m the Codys’ new housekeeper. I used to be their babysitter a long time ago.”

Lisa smiled, but it didn’t seem she really believed I was a housekeeper. Perhaps I wasn’t dressed like people in that trade. I caught Lisa secretly scrutinizing the Burberry blouse I wore and the custom-made Saville Row loafers on my feet.

Before I left New York, I sold most of the high-ticketed items in my wardrobe on an online auction site and put the money aside as emergency savings. Selling expensive clothes to buy cheap ones seemed silly to me, so I kept what was left.

“So you’re that Simone. I heard a lot about you from Jamie,” said Lisa. “Are you currently living with him?”

I thought I detected an air of jealously from the girl. Lisa was quite an attractive young woman in her mid-twenties. She was a redhead with healthy freckles on her face. She wore minimal makeup and her beauty shone naturally. I liked girls who didn’t paint their faces like a mask. I wondered if she and Jamie had a history.

I smiled graciously. “It’s a live-in position. I have to take care the three of them and keep the house running—just like old times.”

“Ah, that’s nice. I also heard you’re quite a cook.”

“A cook?” Jamie butted in. “Simone is the Julia Child of domestic goddesses. I haven’t had excellent home-cooked meals in a long time. I might have to get a gym membership sometime soon to burn off the calories. Her peach cobbler is to die for.”

“It’s been his favorite dessert since he was little,” I hurriedly added to neutralize Jamie’s gushing compliment. Men could be insensitive at times. There was nothing worse for a woman than being indirectly compared to her rival about her cooking.

Lisa smiled along with us. She couldn’t fool me, though. It was a fake smile, and her eyes told a different story.

That girl didn’t like me one bit.

“Shall we get going then?” I reminded Jamie. I was afraid that a prolonged stay would only make the situation more awkward. “I still have to do the grocery shopping and prepare for dinner.”

“Oh, sorry. I’m just gonna grab my keys.” Jamie went to his desk and rummaged for something in a drawer. “Got ‘em.” He closed it with his knee and jangled the keys. “I’m going to show Simone the finished units. Tell Greg I’m taking the spare keys,” he said to Lisa.

“Sure,” she said.

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