He is powerful, older and my boss, a lethal combination.
Job satisfaction has taken on a whole new meaning.
When I lied on my resume, I didn’t expect it to matter.
I mean any child would love me; I was born to be a nanny.
I applied for a position working for a woman, or so I thought.
But Julian Masters is definitely all man…the kind you dream of licking chocolate from.
The first day was bad.
The kids were the spawn of the devil and I spied through a window and caught him doing something obscene…. and equally fascinating.
The second day was worse, he caught me snooping in his bathroom cabinet in my skimpy pyjamas and all hell broke loose.
On the third day, I ran over him in a golf cart.
And by day four I had decided that I wanted that chocolate…all of it.
But intelligent, widowed Judges don’t fall for ditzy nannies.
1984 – 2013
Wife and beloved mother.
In God’s hands we trust.
Grief. The Grim Reaper of life.
Stealer of joy, hope and purpose.
Some days are bearable. Other days I can hardly breathe, and I suffocate in a world of regret where good reason has no sense.
I never know when those days will hit, only that when I wake, my chest feels constricted and I need to run. I need to be anywhere but here, dealing with this life.
Until you left.
The sound of a distant lawnmower brings me back to the present, and I glance over at the cemetery’s caretaker. He’s concentrating as he weaves between the tombstones, careful not to clip or damage one as he passes. It’s dusk, and the mist is rolling in for the night.
I come here often to think, to try and feel.
I can’t talk to anyone. I can’t express my true feelings.
I want to know why.
Why did you do this to us?
I clench my jaw as I stare at my late wife’s tombstone.
We could have had it all… but, we didn’t.
I lean down and brush the dust away from her name and rearrange the pink lilies that I have just placed in the vase. I touch her face on the small oval photo. She stares back at me, void of emotion.
Stepping back, I drop my hands in the pockets of my black overcoat.
I could stand here and stare at this headstone all day—sometimes I do—but I turn and walk to the car without looking back.
Sure, I have money and two kids that love me. I’m at the top of my professional field, working as a judge. I have all the tools to be happy, but I’m not.
I’m barely surviving; holding on by a thread.
Playing the façade to the world.
Half an hour later, I arrive at Madison’s—my therapist.
I always leave here relaxed.
I don’t have to talk, I don’t have to think, I don’t have to feel.
I walk through the front doors on autopilot.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Smith.” Hayley the receptionist smiles. “Your room is waiting, sir.”
“Thank you.” I frown, feeling like I need something more today. Something to take this edginess off.
“I’ll have someone extra today, Hayley.”
“Of course, sir. Who would you like?”
I frown and take a moment to get it right. “Hmm. Hannah.”
“So, Hannah and Belinda?”
“No problem, sir. Make yourself comfortable and they will be right up.”
I take the lift to the exclusive penthouse. Once there I make myself a scotch and stare out the smoke-glass window overlooking London.
I hear the door click behind me and I turn toward the sound.
Hannah and Belinda stand before me smiling.
Belinda has long, blonde hair, while Hannah is a brunette. There’s no denying they’re both young and beautiful.
“Hello, Mr. Smith,” they say in unison
I sip my scotch as my eyes drink them in.
“Where would you like us, sir?”
I unbuckle my belt. “On your knees.”
Customs is ridiculously slow, and a man has been pulled into the office up ahead. It all looks very suspicious from my position at the back of the line. “What do you think he did?” I whisper as I crane my neck to spy the commotion up ahead.
“I don’t know, something stupid, probably,” Emerson replies. We shuffle towards the desk as the line moves a little quicker.
We’ve just arrived in London to begin our year-long working holiday. I’m going to work for a judge as a nanny, while Emerson, my best friend, is working for an art auctioneer. I’m terrified, yet excited.
“I wish we had come a week earlier so we could have spent some time together,” Emerson says.
“Yeah, I know, but she needed me to start this week because she’s going away next week. I need to learn the kids’ routine.”
“Who leaves their kids alone for three days with a complete stranger?” Em frowns in disgust.
I shrug. “My new boss, apparently.”
“Well, at least I can come and stay with you next week. That’s a bonus.”
My position is residential, so my accommodation is secure. However, poor Emerson will be living with two strangers. She’s freaking out over it.
“Yeah, but I’m sneaking you in,” I say. “I don’t want it to look like we’re partying or anything.”
I look around the airport. It’s busy, bustling, and I already feel so alive. Emerson and I are more than just young travellers.
Emerson is trying to find her purpose and I’m running from a destructive past, one that involves me being in love with an adultering prick.
I loved him. He just didn’t love me. Not enough, anyway.
If he had, he would have kept it in his pants, and I wouldn’t be at Heathrow Airport feeling like I’m about to throw up.
I look down at myself and smooth the wrinkles from my dress. “She’s picking me up. Do I look okay?”
Emerson looks me up and down, smiling broadly. “You look exactly how a twenty-five-year-old nanny from Australia should.”
I bite my bottom lip to stop myself from smiling stupidly. That was a good answer.
“So, what’s your boss’s name?” she asks.
I rustle around in my bag for my phone and scroll through the emails until I get to the one from the nanny agency. “Mrs. Julian Masters.”
Emerson nods. “And what’s her story again? I know you’ve told me before but I’ve forgotten.”
“She’s a Supreme Court judge, widowed five years ago.”
“What happened to the husband?”
“I don’t know, but apparently she’s quite wealthy.” I shrug. “Two kids, well behaved.”
“I hope so. I hope they like me.”
“They will.” We move forward in the line. “We are definitely going out at the weekend though, yes?”
“Yes.” I nod. “What are you going to do until then?”
Emerson shrugs. “Look around. I start work on Monday and it’s Thursday today.” She frowns as she watches me. “Are you sure you can go out on the weekends?”
“Yes,” I snap, exasperated. “I told you a thousand times, we’re going out on Saturday night.”
Emerson nods nervously. I think she may be more nervous than I am, but at least I’m acting brave. “Did you get your phone sorted?” I ask.
“No, not yet. I’ll find a phone shop tomorrow so I can call you.”
We are called to the front of the line, and finally, half an hour later, we walk into the arrival lounge of Heathrow International Airport.
“Do you see our names?” Emerson whispers as we both look around.
“Shit, no one is here to pick us up. Typical.” She begins to panic.
“Relax, they will be here,” I mutter.
“What do we do if no one turns up?”
I raise my eyebrow as I consider the possibility. “Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to lose my shit.”
Emerson looks over my shoulder. “Oh, look, there’s your name. She must have sent a driver.”
I turn to see a tall, broad man in a navy suit holding a sign with the name Brielle Johnston on it. I force a smile and wave meekly as I feel my anxiety rise like a tidal wave in my stomach.
He walks over and smiles at me. “Brielle?”
His voice is deep and commanding. “Yes, that’s me,” I breathe.
He holds out his hand to shake mine. “Julian Masters.”
My eyes widen.
He raises his eyebrows.
“Um, so, I’m… I’m Brielle,” I stammer as I push my hand out. “And this is my friend, Emerson, who I’m travelling with.” He takes my hand in his and my heart races.
A trace of a smile crosses his face before he covers it. “Nice to meet you.” He turns to Emerson and shakes her hand. “How do you do?”
My eyes flash to Emerson, who is clearly loving this shit. She grins brightly. “Hello.”
“I thought you were a woman,” I whisper.
His brows furrow. “Last time I checked I was all man.” His eyes hold mine.
Why did I just say that out loud? Oh my God, stop talking.
This is so awkward.
I want to go home. This is a bad idea.
“I’ll wait over here.” He gestures to the corner before marching off in that direction. My horrified eyes meet Emerson’s, and she giggles, so I punch her hard in the arm.
“Oh my fuck, he’s a fucking man,” I whisper angrily.
“I can see that.” She smirks, her eyes fixed on him.
“Excuse me, Mr. Masters?” I call after him.
He turns. “Yes.”
We both wither under his glare. “We… we are just going to use the bathroom,” I stammer nervously.
With one curt nod he gestures to the right. We look up and see the sign. I grab Emerson by the arm and drag her into the bathroom. “I’m not working with a stuffy old man!” I shriek as we burst through the door.
“It will be okay. How did this happen?”
I take out my phone and scroll through the emails quickly. I knew it. “It says woman. I knew it said woman.”
“He’s not that old,” she calls out from her cubicle. “I would prefer to work for a man than a woman, to be honest.”
“You know what, Emerson? This is a shit idea. How the hell did I let you talk me into this?”
She smiles as she exits the cubicle and washes her hands. “It doesn’t matter. You’ll hardly see him anyway, and you’re not working weekends when he’s home.” She’s clearly trying to calm me. “Stop with the carry on.”
Stop the carry on.
Steam feels like it’s shooting from my ears. “I’m going to kill you. I’m going to fucking kill you.”
Emerson bites her lip to stifle her smile. “Listen, just stay with him until we find you something else. I will get my phone sorted tomorrow and we can start looking elsewhere for another job,” she reassures me. “At least someone picked you up. Nobody cares about me at all.”
I put my head into my hands as I try to calm my breathing. “This is a disaster, Em,” I whisper. Suddenly every fear I had about travelling is coming true. I feel completely out of my comfort zone.
“It’s going to be one week… tops.”
My scared eyes lift to hold hers, and I nod.
“Okay?” She smiles as she pulls me into a hug.
“Okay.” I glance back in the mirror, fix my hair, and straighten my dress. I’m completely rattled.
We walk back out and take our place next to Mr. Masters. He’s in his late thirties, immaculately dressed, and kind of attractive. His hair is dark with a sprinkle of grey.
“Did you have a good flight?” he asks as he looks down at me.
“Yes, thanks,” I push out. Oh, that sounded so forced. “Thank you for picking us up,” I add meekly.
He nods with no fuss.
Emerson smiles at the floor as she tries to hide her smile.
That bitch is loving this shit.
“Emerson?” a male voice calls. We all turn to see a blond man, and Emerson’s face falls. Ha! Now it’s my turn to laugh.
“Hello, I’m Mark.” He kisses her on the cheek and then turns to me. “You must be Brielle?”
“Yes.” I smile then turn to Mr. Masters. “And this is…” I pause because I don’t know how to introduce him.
“Julian Masters,” he finishes for me, adding in a strong handshake.
Emerson and I fake smile at each other.
Oh dear God, help me.
Emerson stands and talks with Mark and Mr. Masters, while I stand in uncomfortable silence.
“The car is this way.” He gestures to the right.
I nod nervously. Oh God, don’t leave me with him.
This is terrifying.
“Nice to meet you, Emerson and Mark.” He shakes their hands.
“Likewise. Please look after my friend,” Emerson whispers as her eyes flicker to mine.
Mr. Masters nods, smiles, and then pulls my luggage behind him as he walks to the car. Emerson pulls me into an embrace. “This is shit,” I whisper into her hair.
“It will be fine. He’s probably really nice.”
“He doesn’t look nice,” I whisper.
“Yeah, I agree. He looks like a tool,” Mark adds as he watches him disappear through the crowd.
Emerson throws her new friend a dirty look, and I smirk. I think her friend is more annoying than mine, but anyway… “Mark, look after my friend, please?”
He beats his chest like a gorilla. “Oh, I intend to.”
Emerson’s eyes meet mine. She subtly shakes her head and I bite my bottom lip to hide my smile. This guy is a dick. We both look over to see Mr. Masters looking back impatiently. “I better go,” I whisper.
“You have my apartment details if you need me?”
“I’ll probably turn up in an hour. Tell your roommates I’m coming in case I need a key.”
She laughs and waves me off, and I go to Mr. Masters. He sees me coming and then starts to walk again.
God, can he not even wait for me? So rude.
He walks out of the building into the VIP parking section. I follow him in complete silence.
Any notion that I was going to become friends with my new boss has been thrown out the window. I think he hates me already.
Just wait until he finds out that I lied on my resume and I have no fucking idea what I’m doing. Nerves flutter in my stomach at the thought.
We get to a large, swanky, black SUV, and he clicks it open to put my suitcase in the trunk. He opens the back door for me to get in. “Thank you.” I smile awkwardly as I slide into the seat. He wants me to sit in the back when the front seat is empty.
This man is odd.
He slides into the front seat and eventually pulls out into the traffic. All I can do is clutch my handbag in my lap.
Should I say something? Try and make conversation?
What will I say?
“Do you live far from here?” I ask.
“Twenty minutes,” he replies, his tone clipped.
Oh…is that it? Okay, shut up now. He doesn’t want a conversation. For ten long minutes we sit in silence.
“You can drive this car when you have the children, or we have a small minivan. The choice is yours.”
“Oh, okay.” I pause for a moment. “Is this your car?”
“No.” He turns onto a street and into a driveway with huge sandstone gates. “I drive a Porsche,” he replies casually. “Oh.”
The driveway goes on and on and on. I look around at the perfectly kept grounds and rolling green hills. With every meter we pass, I feel my heart beat just that bit faster.
As if it isn’t bad enough that I can’t do the whole nanny thing… I really can’t do the rich thing. I have no idea what to do with polite company. I don’t even know what fork to use at dinner. I’ve got myself into a right mess here.
The house comes into focus and the blood drains from my face.
It’s not a house, not even close. It’s a mansion, white and sandstone with a castle kind of feel to it, with six garages to the left.
He pulls into the large circular driveway, stopping under the awning.
“Your house is beautiful,” I whisper.
He nods, as his eyes stay fixed out front. “We are fortunate.”
He gets out of the car and opens my door for me. I climb out as I grip my handbag with white-knuckle force. My eyes rise up to the luxurious building in front of me.
This is an insane amount of money.
He retrieves my suitcase and wheels it around to the side of the building. “Your entrance is around to the side,” he says. I follow him up a path until we get to a door, which he opens and lets me walk through. There is a foyer and a living area in front of me.
“The kitchen is this way.” He points to the kitchen. “And your bedroom is in the back left corner.”
I nod and walk past him, into the apartment.
He stands at the door but doesn’t come in. “The bathroom is to the right,” he continues.
Why isn’t he coming in here? “Okay, thanks,” I reply.
“Order any groceries you want on the family shopping order and…” He pauses, as if collecting his thoughts. “If there is anything else you need, please talk to me first.”
I frown. “First?”
He shrugs. “I don’t want to be told about a problem for the first time when reading a resignation letter.”
“Oh.” Did that happen before? “Of course,” I mutter.
“If you would like to come and meet the children…” He gestures to a hallway.
“Yes, please.” Oh God, here we go. I follow him out into a corridor with glass walls that looks out onto the main house, which is about four metres away. A garden sits between the two buildings creating an atrium, and I smile as I look up in wonder. There is a large window in the main house that looks into the kitchen. I can see beyond that into the living area from the corridor where a young girl and small boy are watching television together. We continue to the end of the glass corridor where there is a staircase with six steps leading up to the main house.
I blow out a breath, and I follow Mr. Masters up the stairs.
“Children, come and meet your new nanny.”
The little boy jumps down and rushes over to me, clearly excited, while the girl just looks up and rolls her eyes. I smile to myself, remembering what it’s like to be a typical teenager.
“Hello, I’m Samuel.” The little boy smiles as he wraps his arms around my legs. He has dark hair, is wearing glasses, and he’s so damn cute.
“Hello, Samuel.” I smile.
“This is Willow,” he introduces.
I smile at the teenage girl. “Hello.” She folds her arms across her chest defiantly. “Hi,” she grumbles.
Mr. Masters holds her gaze for a moment, saying so much with just one look.
Willow eventually holds her hand out for me to shake. “I’m Willow.”
I smile as my eyes flash up to Mr. Masters. He can keep her under control with just a simple glare.
Samuel runs back to the lounge, grabs something, and then comes straight back.
I see a flash.
What the hell?
He has a small instant Polaroid camera. He watches my face appear on the piece of paper in front of him before he looks back up at me. “You’re pretty.” He smiles. “I’m putting this on the fridge.” He carefully pins it to the fridge with a magnet.
Mr. Masters seems to become flustered for some reason. “Bedtime for you two,” he instructs and they both complain. He turns his attention back to me. “Your kitchen is stocked with groceries, and I’m sure you’re tired.”
I fake a smile. Oh, I’m being dismissed. “Yes, of course.” I go to walk back down to my apartment, and then turn back to him. “What time do I start tomorrow?”
His eyes hold mine. “When you hear Samuel wake up.”
“Yes, of course.” My eyes search his as I wait for him to say something else, but it doesn’t come. “Goodnight then.” I smile awkwardly.
“Bye, Brielle.” Samuel smiles, and Willow ignores me, walking away and up the stairs.
I walk back down into my apartment and close the door behind me. Then I flop onto the bed and stare up at the ceiling.
What have I done?
It’s midnight and I’m thirsty, but I have looked everywhere and I still cannot find a glass. There’s no other option; I’m going to have to sneak up into the main house to find one. I’m wearing my silky white nightdress, but I’m sure they are all in bed.
Sneaking out into the darkened corridor, I can see into the lit-up house.
I suddenly catch sight of Mr. Masters sitting in the armchair reading a book. He has a glass of red wine in his hand. I stand in the dark, unable to tear my eyes away. There’s something about him that fascinates me but I don’t quite know what it is.
He stands abruptly, and I push myself back against the wall.
Can he see me here in the dark?
My eyes follow him as he walks into the kitchen. The only thing he’s wearing is his navy-blue boxer shorts. His dark hair has messy, loose waves on top. His chest is broad, his body is…
My heart begins to beat faster. What am I doing? I shouldn’t be standing here in the dark, watching him like a creep, but for some reason I can’t make myself look away.
He goes to stand by the kitchen counter, his back is to me as he pours himself another glass of red. He lifts it to his lips slowly and my eyes run over his body.
I push myself against the wall harder.
He walks over to the fridge and takes off the photo of me.
He leans his ass on the counter as he studies it.
What is he doing?
I feel like I can’t breathe.
He slowly puts his hand down the front of his boxer shorts, and then he seems to stroke himself a few times.
My eyes widen.
What the fuck?
He puts his glass of wine on the counter and turns the main light off, leaving only a lamp to light the room.
With my picture in his hand, he disappears up the hall.
What the hell was that?
I think Mr. Masters just went up to his bedroom to jerk off to my photo.
My eyes are closed, but I frown and try to ignore the noise.
I hear it again. Tap, tap.
What is that? I roll towards the door and I see it slowly begin to open.
My eyes widen, and I sit up quickly.
Mr. Masters comes into view. “I’m so sorry to bother you, Miss Brielle,” he whispers. He smells like he’s freshly showered, and he’s wearing an immaculate suit. “I’m looking for Samuel.” His gaze roams down to my breasts hanging loosely in my nightdress, and then he snaps his eyes back up to my face, as if he’s horrified at what he just did.
“Where is he?” I frown. “Is he missing?”
“There he is,” he whispers as he gestures to the lounger.
I look over to see Samuel curled up with his teddy in the diluted light of the room. My mouth falls open. “Oh no, what’s wrong?” I whisper. Did he need me and I slept through the whole thing?
“Nothing,” Mr. Masters murmurs as he picks Samuel up and rests his son’s head on his strong shoulder. “He’s a sleepwalker. Sorry to disturb you. I’ve got this now.” He leaves the room with his small son safely asleep in his arms. The door gently clicks closed behind them.
I lie back down and stare at the ceiling in the silence. That poor little boy. He came in here to see me and I didn’t even wake up. I was probably snoring, for fuck’s sake.
What if he was scared? Oh, I feel like shit now.
I blow out a deep breath, lift myself up to sit on the edge of the bed, and I put my head into my hands.
I need to up my game. If I’m in charge of looking after this kid, I can’t have him wandering around at night on his own.
Is he that lonely that he was looking for company from me—a complete stranger?
Unexplained sadness rolls over me, and I suddenly feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders. I look around my room for a moment as I think.
Eventually, I get up and go to the bathroom, and then walk to the window to pull the heavy drapes back. It’s just getting light, and a white mist hangs over the paddocks.
Something catches my eye and I look down to see Mr. Masters walking out to the garage.
Wearing a dark suit and carrying a briefcase, he disappears, and moments later I see his Porsche pull out and disappear up the driveway. I watch on as the garage door slowly closes behind him.
He’s gone to work for the day.
What the hell?
His son was just found asleep on my lounger and he just plops him back into his own bed and leaves for the day. Who does that? Well, screw this, I’m going to go and check on him. He’s probably upstairs crying, scared out of his brain. Stupid men. Why don’t they have an inch of fucking empathy for anyone but themselves?
He’s eight, for Christ’s sake!
I walk up into the main house. The lamp is still on in the living room and I can smell the eggs that Mr. Masters cooked himself for breakfast. I look around, and then go up the grand staircase.
Honestly, what the hell have I got myself into here? I’m in some stupid rich twat’s house, worried about his child who he clearly doesn’t give a fuck about.
I storm up the stairs, taking two at a time. I get to the top and the change of scenery suddenly makes me feel nervous. It’s luxurious up here. The corridor is wide, and the cream carpet feels lush beneath my feet. A huge mirror hangs in the hall on the wall. I catch a glimpse of myself and cringe.
God, no wonder he was looking at my boobs. They are hanging out everywhere, and my hair is wild. I readjust my nightgown over my breasts and continue up the hall. I pass a living area that seems to be for the children, with big comfy loungers inside it. I pass a bedroom, and then I get to a door that is closed. I open it carefully and allow myself to peer in. Willow is fast asleep, still scowling, though. I smirk and slowly shut her door to continue down the hall. Eventually, I get to a door that is slightly ajar. I peer around it and see Samuel sound asleep, tucked in nice and tight. I walk into his room and sit on the side of the bed. He’s wearing bright blue and green dinosaur pyjamas, and his little glasses are on his side table, beside his lamp. I find myself smiling as I watch him. Unable to help it, I put my hand out and push the dark hair from his forehead. His bedroom is neat and tidy, filled with expensive furniture. It kind of looks like you would imagine a child’s bedroom being set out in a perfect family movie. Everything in this house is the absolute best of the best. Just how much money does Mr. Masters have? There’s a bookcase, a desk, a wingback chair in the corner, and a toy box. The window has a bench seat running underneath it, and there are a few books sitting in a pile on the cushion, as if Samuel reads there a lot. I glance over to the armchair in the corner to his school clothes all laid out for him. Everything is there, folded neatly, right down to his socks and shiny, polished shoes. His school bag is packed, too.
I stand and walk over to look at his things. Mr. Masters must do this before he goes to bed. What must it be like to bring children up alone?
My mind goes to his wife and how much she is missing out on. Samuel is so young. With one last look at Samuel, I creep out of the room and head back down the hall, until something catches my eye.
A light is on in the en-suite bathroom of the main bedroom.
That must be Mr. Master’s bedroom.
I look left and then right; nobody is awake. I wonder what his room is like, and I can’t stop myself from tiptoeing closer to inspect it.
The bed is clearly king-size, and the room is grand, decorated in all different shades of coffee, complimented with dark antique furniture. A huge, expensive, gold and magenta embroidered rug sits on the floor beneath the bed. The light in the wardrobe is on. I peer inside and see business shirts all lined up, neatly in a row. Super neatly, actually.
I’m going to have to make sure I keep my room tidy or he’ll think I’m a pig.
I smirk because I am one according to his standards of living.
I turn to see his bed has already been made, and my eyes linger over the velvet quilt and lush pillows there. Did he really touch himself in there last night as he thought of me, or am I completely delusional? I glance around for the photo of me, but I don’t see it. He must have taken it back downstairs.
An unexpected thrill runs through me. I may return the favour tonight in my own bed.
I walk into the bathroom. It’s all black, grey, and very modern. Once again, I notice that everything is very neat. There is a large mirror, and I can see that a slender cabinet sits behind it. I push the mirror and the door pops open. My eyes roam over the shelves. You can tell a lot about people by their bathroom cabinet.
Deodorant. Razors. Talcum powder.
I wonder how long ago his wife died. Does he have a new girlfriend?
It wouldn’t surprise me. He is kind of hot, in an old way. I see a bottle of aftershave and I pick it up, removing the lid before I lift it up to my nose.
Heaven in a bottle.
I inhale deeply again, and Mr. Master’s face suddenly appears in the mirror behind me.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he growls.