Miss lady, it looks to me you need a little juice in your life
Call me when that big ole house gets lonelified
And I'll teleport from here to there
You show me how it's supposed to be done
I'll make sure you have young fun
Pretty pink, baby blue
Why don't, why don't you teach me something new?
-"Pink & Blue" by Andre 3000
There was a Norse god standing at my front door when I opened it.
It took me a few seconds to truly register the size and scope of the man; he was so damned tall that he blotted out the sun from where it slanted through my neighbor's trees, projecting golden sunlight around the man in a weirdly Jesus-eque aura. My pupils contracted and I squinted into it, holding up one hand until the shadows gave me my sight back.
And it became all I could do to not gawk at him.
He was around 6'5'' with light brown hair and sunny blue eyes, and he had a body that Crossfit nuts would kill themselves for. Broad shoulders, a wide chest, sculpted abs, a proportionate waist, thick thighs, and long, lean legs. His hands had long, strong fingers, and one of them held a manila folder. He wore a pale yellow polo shirt and blue jeans and brown dress shoes with a navy suit jacket over them. His smile was just as bright as the sun behind him.
"Hello," he said brightly, offering his hand. "Thor Odinson."
I stood there, baffled, but politely shook the god-man's hand anyway. He had a nice, firm grip but didn't squeeze too hard. "Hi. Um, if you're looking for Becky's studio, it's next door."
He blinked at me. "Excuse me?"
"Sunset Photography," I clarified. "If you're one of her models, she's one house down."
"Oh, no," he said with a small chuckle. "I am here to see you."
Again, I blinked at him. "What for?"
His smile dimmed a bit. "Oh, dear. Pepper said she would call ahead and tell you. You're looking for a new nanny, right?"
"Yeah," I said, eyeing him. "Do you...know someone?"
"I am someone," he told me. "I'd like to interview for the position, please."
My jaw dropped before I could stop it. "You're a nanny?"
"Aye," he said.
At first, I wanted to laugh and turn his gorgeous ass right around and send him home. Who in their right mind would hire a GQ model like him and invite him into their house day and night? Especially a married woman. No husband could compete.
But I didn't have a husband.
"Look, I'm very flattered, but it's probably not the best idea," I told him, raking my hair back. "I mean, I just interviewed ten of them in a week and I still have to deliberate."
"I understand," he said gently. "It's a very intense process and you must take it seriously. However, I think I might be of great help to you if you were to give me a chance. Not even a whole interview. Just a few minutes of your time."
I chewed my lip. Damn him. He had come all this way and it was so hard to say no to someone so handsome. He could probably negotiate nuclear arms deals by simply smiling. In the end, I couldn't resist my polite upbringing. "Okay, come on in."
I stepped to one side and he brushed past me. Cologne followed in his wake; just enough to give me a small whiff, not to linger. Mm. He was definitely dangerous.
I led him into the den, which I had spent the last half hour cleaning after what I thought had been my final interview, since it soothed me somewhat to organize. Thor waited for me to sit before he sat, which was kind of cute, and he handed me the folder. I flipped it open and scanned his experience. He'd been working with an agency for a long time, about twelve years. "Just moved here?" I asked.
"Yes," he said brightly. "A little scary, but I like this city so far."
"Why did you move?"
"Better opportunities. I have had a few long stretches as a nanny with families over the years. It's always a bit heartbreaking to leave once the children are old enough to look after themselves, or their parents' careers change so that they have more time for the little ones. But I enjoy getting to meet new families each time. It's enriching. And fun, most of all."
I arched an eyebrow. He was one of the first men I'd ever met who considered babysitting and child-rearing to be fun. Even I had my doubts. "What were the ages of the children in the last two homes you've worked at?"
"The most recent was a two-year-old boy. Before that, there was a six month old girl."
I nodded. "Why did you move on?"
"The two year old and his family relocated. The six month year old's was a temporary assignment; her mother finished maternity leave and wanted to catch up on work. I was there for seven months."
"How much do you know about infant care?"
"I have all my certifications and I have a degree in childcare development. Two of my past assignments were with infants and toddlers, and my longest assignment was three years."
I smiled a bit. "I bet it was hard to say goodbye."
"Yes," he said softly, and a bit sadly. "It was indeed."
"Do you still keep in touch with the families?"
"Of course, as long as they feel comfortable."
I nodded again and perused the rest of his resume, and noted his references. "What interested you in childcare?"
"I have a younger brother. I always look back fondly on coming up together with him, and I wanted to do something that mattered to me, and to others. I felt this was the best way to go."
Thor paused and grinned. "My mother often jokes that it's why my shoulders are so broad; to support as many families as humanly possibly during my time on this earth."
I couldn't help it. I giggled. "That's corny."
"It is," he agreed. "But I like to use it to break the ice, so to speak."
"Have you ever turned down any assignments?"
"A couple here and there, if I felt I was not a good fit for a family."
I crossed my legs and leaned in a bit. "What do you feel is not a good fit?"
Thor fell silent, appearing to think it over for a while. "If there is trouble in a home, it's like fog creeping beneath the door. You feel a chill first, and then it seeps in and turns the whole house into an entirely different climate. I find that if there is tension between the parents, it is best not to become involved, even if I like the children. The fastest way to make things worse is to accidentally become an enemy or an ally with a couple."
He gestured to me. "I'm sure you of all people know this."
I cocked my head slightly. "How?"
"It must be that way with your husband."
I winced. "I, uh. I'm a single mom."
His eyes widened. Genuine sympathy flooded his expression. "My dear, I apologize. I did not mean to assume."
"It's okay," I told him. "It happens."
"I am sorry anyway," he said sincerely. "It was foolish of me."
I chuckled. "Do you always talk like that?"
I gave him a little teasing smile. "Like a Disney prince."
He visibly relaxed. "It is my way, I'm afraid."
"Right. Well, let's have a little test drive, so to speak. Come on." I led him upstairs to my daughter's room and opened the door as softly as possible. We crept across the carpet to her crib where she slumbered.
"This is Piper," I told him. "She's a light sleeper and a picky eater. She likes David Bowie songs as her lullabies and she never misses a chance to ralph onto my neck when I burp her."
Thor chuckled slightly. "She sounds charming."
As predicted, at the sound of Thor's rumbling voice, Piper squirmed and opened her eyes, staring at him in wonder.
Then she burst into tears.
She's friendly, in case you couldn't tell.
"Piper," I said in exasperation, reaching for her. "Oh, come on. You've met like ten people this week. You think you'd be better behaved by now."
She buried her face underneath my chin and babbled defiantly, gripping my collar. I bounced and rocked her gently until she calmed. "Piper, this is Thor. Can you say hi after you so rudely yelled at him?"
Piper gave him a cautious look with one eye and hid her face again. Thor laughed gently. "Hello, little one. Sorry I scared you."
This time, Piper wiped her cheeks and eyed him carefully. She glanced up at me and said, "Ba!"
"Yes, I know he's tall," I admonished, and Thor chuckled again. "But you're just going to have to get over it and try again."
She squirmed a bit, but then waved her fingers at him in the hello gesture I'd taught her. Thor beamed at the baby. "Excellent work, princess. I'm honored to meet you."
He gave her a formal bow. Piper burst into giggles. I almost did a double-take. She'd never done that before. Interesting.
"She is a beautiful child," Thor told me, and I could tell he meant it. Some of the other nannies had fawned and cooed, and Piper had pooped her pants while they held her in order to inform me that they were not acceptable. The real test would be how she handled Tall, Light, and Handsome.
"You say that now," I said mildly. "Wait until you're arm deep in yesterday's peas and carrots. She's a lethal child."
Thor winked. "Well, if it were easy, everyone would have kids."
He had a point. Piper apparently agreed. She belted out, "Ya!" and then stuck her arms out for him, making her "gimme" hand movements. Again, my eyebrows rose.
"Behave yourself," I told the baby, and then glanced at Thor. "Would you like to hold her?"
"Please," he said eagerly.
I handed Piper over. The child shrieked happily upon being lifted a whole foot higher than I could hold her and slammed her tiny fists against his collarbones. Thor, in turn, held her amazingly carefully in those big hands. He didn't coo or make faces. He just smiled at her and watched her fidget and make gurgling noises.
Most notably, she did not crap her diaper. Hmm...
"Da!" Piper proclaimed, glancing over at me. "Daaaaaaaaa!"
"He's not going to feed you," I told the baby seriously. "Don't be a suck up."
She turned back to him and poked him in the chest. "Da!"
"Oh, no, she is the queen of the castle," Thor replied. "I am but her knight. I cannot feed you, princess."
"Na!" Piper said with a pout, and then dropped her head onto his neck. She snuggled in the spot and stuck her hand in her mouth, slurping. I shook my head at her. She had a way with men that I would never understand.
"Okay, short stuff, I think that's enough." I nodded towards the crib. Thor gently placed her inside and she drifted off not too long afterward, drooling to her heart's content. So classy.
Thor and I returned downstairs. "She has spirit, that one."
"Tell me about it."
"She gets it from you," he said, a playful smirk on his lips. "I can always tell which ones are going to be trouble."
I scowled at him. "Kids?"
"No," he said, and his blue eyes gleamed. "Mothers."
I scoffed as I opened the door for him. "You know nothing about me, Odinson."
"I am getting there," he insisted. "In fact, I shall guess your profession without you telling me. Ready?"
I crossed my arms and leaned against the doorjamb. "Shock me."
Thor swept his gaze over me, but it was non-sexual, only scrutinizing. "You are a chef."
I squinted at him. "Pepper told you."
"No," he said. "I got a glance at your kitchen. It is twice the size of the den, and it has gadgets in it that I have never seen before. It is also spotless."
He tugged my arm forward. "And you have flour stains beneath your biceps and armpits. I would say you just finished setting some dough to rise."
Thor Odinson was shockingly observant. He'd only passed by the kitchen, after all. Curiouser and curiouser. "Cute trick."
I nibbled my lower lip as he stepped out into the sunset. "One last question, but this one is off the record, if you don't mind."
"Not at all," he said. "What is it?"
I cleared my throat and didn't quite meet his gaze, again raking a hand through my hair. "Do you have a significant other?"
He studied me. Well, he wasn't shocked, so maybe it was a good thing. "Yes."
I almost sighed in relief. Thank God. "Good. I'll give you a call with my decision by Monday. Thanks for coming by. It was a pleasure."
I offered my hand again. He shook it just as gently as before and gave me another wink. "The pleasure was all mine, my queen."
Then Thor turned and strolled back to his Mustang, leaving me there blushing up a storm.
“I see you, villain.”
Pepper’s strawberry blonde eyebrows rose at my words when she walked into my restaurant for lunch. “Excuse me?”
I sent her a sarcastic look. “Really? You sent a British male model to be my nanny?”
Pepper frowned. “I did not. Thor is lovely.”
“Yes, he is lovely,” I said, still exasperated. “And he’s also a walking wet dream. You think I don’t know what you’re up to? Because I promise you I do.”
“I’m not up to anything,” Pepper protested. “He comes highly recommended. I’ve gotten glowing reviews from friends and associates and I honestly thought he’d be a good fit for you.”
She paused and then added, “And Piper.”
“See?” I said, glaring. “Admit it. You have ulterior motives, don’t you?”
She sighed. “Oh, please. You’re as rigid as an oak tree. You’d never hook up with your nanny. It would be unprofessional and would make things complicated with Piper. And isn’t he seeing someone anyway?”
“Yes.” Oops. My tone came out a little sharp and disappointed. Better watch that.
“Right, and you’d never help him cheat on someone, so I don’t see the problem.”
“Of course you don’t, married lady,” I said, rolling my eyes. “It’s like you go blind once you’re taken.”
“Whatever,” she sniffed. “And it’s not all about you. How did Piper react to him?”
I scowled. “That doesn’t count. Piper loves guys.”
“Come on,” she pressed. “Did Piper like him?”
“Yes,” I growled through my teeth finally.
“And did all of his references check out?”
“See?” She spread her hands. “Problem solved. Besides, you’re the one who told me you didn’t like any of the candidates from the agency.”
“I know,” I grumbled, crossing my arms.
“He’s educated, polite, and great with kids. Do you have a solid reason for not wanting to hire him?”
I worked my jaw for a moment. “No.”
Pepper’s eyes shone in victory. “Then I think you’ve got a phone call to make.”
She made shooing motions with her hands and then picked up her menu to peruse her choices. I stomped back behind the counter and grabbed my cell, muttering the whole way. She had a point. On paper, Thor was great. In person, he was flawless. I couldn’t move forward with any of the other nannies since Piper didn’t like them, and I didn’t have time to spend another week searching. He at least deserved a trial run.
I took a deep breath and dialed his number. It rang a few times and then he answered. “Good morning, milady. How are you?”
I couldn’t help but smile a bit. That accent worked wonders. Anyone else would sound so ridiculous calling a grown woman in 2019 “milady.” “I’m good, Thor. How are you?”
“Fantastic. So you have news for me, then?”
“Yes. I’d like to give it a go. Just a trial run. Can you start as soon as tomorrow morning?”
“I would be delighted,” he said cheerfully. “What time shall I come over?”
“Six o’clock. I need to be at the restaurant by seven on weekdays.”
“Perfect. Is there anything I need to bring with me?”
“Whatever you need so that you’re comfortable. We can discuss it when you arrive.”
“Very well. You have a lovely day, my queen. Try not to work too hard.”
Again, I fought a dopey smile off of my mouth. Thor was too charming for his own good, and he probably knew it. “Thanks. You too.”
I hung up and shook my head. “And so it begins.”
The next morning, Thor arrived promptly at six o’clock on the dot. When I opened the door, he had a backpack over one shoulder, a small white paper bag, and a drink carrier with four things on it. He wore casual clothes this time: a leather jacket, a white V-neck t-shirt, light-wash jeans, and Chucks. He also wore that same sunny smile despite the early hour. “Good morning, milady.”
“Milord,” I drawled back, and he chuckled. “Come on in.”
I shut the door behind him and gestured to what he carried. “Breakfast?”
“Yes,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what you’d like, so I got both coffee and tea. There are croissants, muffins, and cheese Danishes.”
“Trying to butter me up, are you?”
“Can’t hurt my chances,” he admitted as he set them on the island counter.
“Shame on you for bribing your employer,” I fussed as I dug into the bag and withdrew a blueberry muffin. I fixed my coffee and showed him where the sugar and creamer were, and then took him on a grand tour of the house. He asked various questions related to how child-proofed everything was and then about emergency contacts and Piper’s Do’s and Don’ts. I still had some doubts about him, but the fact that he was so thorough helped calm me down a bit.
Once we finished the tour, I took him up to the little lady herself. Just as before, she was utterly delighted to see him again and immediately indicated for him to pick her up. He carried her around as I showed him her belongings and her learning materials. Piper babbled excitedly and climbed all over his shoulders until she eventually perched on them, holding on with two tiny fistfuls of his honey-blond hair. Thor didn’t mind it one bit, and I had to admit he looked great with a baby.
“I try to work a 7am to 3pm shift, but sometimes people call out and I get stuck working late,” I told him as I gathered my purse. “I’ll call if that happens. There is a credit card on the foyer that’s just for food and supplies, so if you get hungry or run out of something that Piper needs, feel free to use it; just write down how much it costs on the little pad next to it.”
“That is quite generous of you, thank you,” he said. “I can tell you are very particular about your kitchen. Would you mind if I cooked on occasion?”
That threw me for a loop. “Oh. No, not at all, as long as you clean up and put things back where they came from. Piper’s diet is stuck to the fridge if you want to make her something.”
He nodded. “Excellent. Anything else?”
“No, I think we’re good. I always have my phone on me, so don’t hesitate to call or text.”
“Again, much appreciated.” Thor opened the front door for me. “We’ll be just fine, right, princess?”
“Ba!” Piper said, throwing both arms up in emphasis. I shook my head. She really was such a flirt with men, honestly. It would be hell when she got older.
“Bye, baby boo,” I told Piper, kissing her forehead. “Try not to run him too ragged, will you?”
“Ba-ba!” she told me.
“Have a wonderful day, milady,” Thor said warmly. “We’ll be here when you get back.”
For a second, my breath caught. It was such a simple, friendly thing to say, and yet I wasn’t sure that I’d ever heard anyone say it to me before. Thor had probably said it without thinking, as if it were a normal thing for him, and it spoke volumes to his character. I’d never had any sort of stability before. I found myself both terrified and slightly relieved at the same time.
“Right,” I said, once I recovered. “Bye, guys.”
I stepped off the porch, still a bit shaken as I headed for my car. He was still in the doorway when I backed down the driveway and he looked completely at home as he waved goodbye.
The entire morning I caught myself checking my phone for texts or calls, but there were none. It was a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it could mean Thor knew what he was doing and there were no problems. On the other hand, maybe he’d stolen my child and ran off, never to be seen again, as the entire thing had been a façade and he was really a criminal mastermind who would raise my child to become a supervillain.
Or maybe I just have an overactive imagination.
Around ten o’clock, my nerves got the better of me and I called Thor. He picked up quickly. Thank God, since I was frazzled enough already. “Good morning, milady. How is work?”
“Work is fine,” I said, chewing the edge of my lip. “How’s Piper?”
“Energetic,” he said with a laugh. “We have already rough-housed a bit in the yard and gone through her alphabet lessons. She has eaten her breakfast and been changed. We are constructing a castle at the moment. Would you like to speak to her?”
Again, I forced a grin off my face. Damn him. He was adorable. “No, I’m fine. Thanks. Sorry, didn’t mean to bother you, but I just—”
“You are never a bother,” he assured me. “And it is perfectly natural to want to make sure I am treating your little one with the utmost care on my first day. Please don’t hesitate to ask me anything or check in as often as you like.”
“Thanks, Thor. I’d better get back to work.”
“As should I.” I heard movement. “Say bye-bye to Mum, Piper.”
“Ba-baaaaaa!” Piper exclaimed. I couldn’t help but laugh. “Bye.”
I hung up, and felt immeasurably better. I further calmed after Thor took a few selfies with Piper and sent them to me. Apparently, he was just a giant goofball, as he made funny faces in each one rather than trying to look dignified. By the time my shift ended, I understood why he had such glowing recommendations. It was next to impossible not to like the man some way or other.
“I’m home!” I called out as I unlocked the front door. Footsteps. Thor appeared from the den with Piper in his arms. My daughter squealed and wriggled eagerly for me. I gave her a hug and several kisses on her fat cheeks until she’d had enough. I tried to be subtle about it, but I did glance around for evidence of chaos, but there was little to be had. The rug in the den had toys strewn about, but there were no spills or stains.
The most surprising thing was the smell.
I blinked at Thor. “Did you cook?”
“Yes,” Thor said, beaming at me. “I was unsure if you had eaten already. I didn’t know if chefs like to eat their own food while they work.”
“I try not to,” I admitted as I strode into the den. “That’s exactly how you gain fifty pounds in a month.”
I lifted the lid to the large silver pot on the stove. “Chicken noodle soup?”
“Yes,” he said, stooping to open the oven. “The rolls should be finishing up now.”
I resisted the very tempting urge to look at his ass and instead grabbed a spoon. I sampled a bit of the soup, and it was delicious.
“Wait,” I said as my palate identified different flavors in the soup. “You made this from scratch?”
“Aye,” Thor said, putting on an oven mitt and withdrawing the rolls. “I happen to prefer it over the canned soups. It’s cold out, so soup is always a good choice.”
Thank God he had a significant other. I’d almost proposed to him on the spot. I’d known and dated men who could cook, but a nanny who could cook was worth their weight in gold, for God’s sake. “Still bribing me, huh?”
Thor grinned and started brushing butter onto the rolls. “Well, I do like your home and your daughter. I’d like to stick around, so I must show off all my skills to convince milady to keep me.”
I peered up at him. “Did you take lessons to become this charming or is it just natural?”
He waggled his eyebrows. “Au naturel, my queen.”
I shook my head and handed him Piper. “I’m gonna go change. Be right back.”
I changed into comfortable house clothing, but not quite too comfortable. He was still a handsome man walking around my home. I went with a large t-shirt and jeans, no socks. Thank God I’d gotten a pedicure recently.
We ate lunch and he asked me about the restaurant. I’d had it up and running for the past six years, so I had a lot of its daily processes downpat, but there were always anomalies and difficulties. We had struggled a lot for the first three years, but by now we had regular customers and frequent visitors from out of town. He told me about some of the children he’d taken care of before and things he’d learned from them that helped out. I took a few mental notes since it was helpful to know as Piper continued to grow like a little excitable weed.
Before I knew it, we’d been talking two hours past when I had intended to send him home. I didn’t notice until I glanced at the window and saw the sun setting. “Oh, God, Thor, I’ve been keeping you too long. Off with you. Go home. I don’t need to take up anymore of your time.”
“Nonsense,” he said as he slid on his jacket. “I’ve enjoyed my time here.”
“Yes, well, I don’t need a surly significant other kicking my door down to demand you back,” I said wryly as I opened the door for him.
He shook his head at me. “I can tell you talk to strangers for a living. I have never heard the phrase ‘significant other’ so many times. I am straight, so you may simply call her my girlfriend.”
I blushed crimson upon being caught. “Right. Sorry. I try not to assume.”
“Noted and appreciated,” he said, raking a hand through his hair before shouldering his bookbag. Piper made protesting noises and threatened to cry as she noticed he was about to leave.
“Oh, don’t fuss, princess,” he said, tickling her side. “Your knight shall return in the morning. I promise.”
“Da!” Piper whined.
“I know, but I have to go. Be a good girl for your mum. She works hard to provide for you, you know.”
I rolled my eyes. “Suck up.”
“Maybe,” he said slyly. “Is it working?”
“No,” I sniffed.
“I guess I’ll just have to try harder then,” he said with a smirk. “My queen.”
“Go home, Odinson.”
He flashed me that million dollar smile again. “Good night, my ladies. See you in the morning.”
Thor headed for his car, and as I stood there and watched him drive off, I got the feeling Piper wasn’t the only one who had wanted him to stay.