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Blueprint for Temptation

Written by Andrea Laurence

Chapter Eight

Gina tried to act as though this was any other trip at the park. She set the kids loose on the playground and carefully pointed the stroller in the right direction so the cameras would catch everything. Sitting on the bench, she pulled a book out of her purse to play the part of the distracted nanny.

In truth, she was anything but. She noticed the man reading a newspaper on a nearby bench. There were a couple of older men playing chess. Two moms she’d never seen before were chatting over late afternoon lattes. They were all FBI agents. Even then, she still felt anxious.

She couldn’t screw this up. It was hard enough knowing that Nash blamed her for it. If something really did happen to one of the twins, she could never forgive herself. And neither would Nash. She loved him too much to let him down. Being apart from him the last few days had made her feelings crystal-clear. It was a bittersweet realization, but it added fuel to her determination today.

Gina flipped the page of her book, trying to focus on the words in front of her, but her heart was pounding too fast. Ten agonizing minutes passed. She was starting to think that maybe the guy had changed his mind about it. Perhaps the whole place stank of Feds to someone who knew what to look for.

That’s when she heard shouting and a scuffle broke out to her left. Everyone in the park sprang into action. Before she could respond, the chess players snatched both the twins up from the swing set and carried them away from the fray. Roman leaped over a hedge and joined the other four agents as they tackled a man to the ground and pulled another man from a van parked a few feet away.

The wail of the children was all she cared about. Gina scrambled from the bench and ran to where the agents had them. She scooped the twins into her arms and soothed them. They were perfectly safe, just startled by the sudden chaos and the strangers all around them.

Within minutes, the men were cuffed and in the back of a patrol car. A moment later, Nash and Agent Sims arrived. Nash went straight to her, scooping up Phoebe and wrapping her tight in his arms.

Nash looked at Gina with emotion-filled eyes for a fleeting second before he turned away, making her chest ache with longing for him. Since she’d told him about the plot, he’d been very distant. Every discussion they’d had recently had been about their plan with Roman and Agent Sims. He hadn’t touched her. He obviously blamed Gina for all of this, and perhaps rightfully so. She’d brought this into his life without intending to.

She tried not to be hurt by his cold shoulder, to understand how he felt, but it was hard. Her heart broke a little every time he turned away. She wasn’t sure how she’d managed to fall for her boss so quickly, but she was lost. If they didn’t recover from this, she wasn’t sure what she would do. Gina just couldn’t go back to Geppetto’s and pretend that this had never happened.

“Let’s get the twins back to the apartment,” Roman said as he approached them. “They’ve apprehended the two men, so hopefully you can put this all behind you.”

They started back to the apartment, but Gina got the feeling that was easier said than done.

***

It took a few days for things to settle down. Most of the weekend involved a parade of FBI agents taking statements and providing updates on the case. The two men they’d arrested rolled on their boss pretty quickly and the man Gina had met with earlier was now in custody. It turned out her father didn’t even owe the man money, he was just taking advantage of her new situation with Nash.

It had been a week since the attempted kidnapping and the twins seemed fine. They didn’t understand what had happened, and for that, Nash was thankful. He seemed to be the one who’d left the incident with the most baggage. He didn’t know how to handle everything now that the immediate danger was over. For now, they’d stayed with the status quo while he tried to wrap his mind around the situation. Could he keep Gina on staff knowing this danger might always follow her around? Should he penalize her for something that was out of her control?

“What do you think I should do?” Nash asked Roman as they shared a drink in his office.

Roman sighed and swirled the Scotch in his glass. “It’s hard to say. Good nannies are hard to come by. No one is perfect. And frankly, a guy in your position is always going to be a target for thugs looking for a quick buck. Gina was just a convenient way to get to you.”

“So you’re saying it’s all my fault, not hers?”

Roman rolled his eyes. “I’m saying a wealthy public figure draws that kind of attention. Maybe the quick, brutal, public smackdown of this bunch will deter others. But I don’t think it was Gina’s fault, no. She did the right thing, telling you when it got serious. She followed the plan, did everything she could to ensure the kids’ safety... She can’t change who her father is any more than you or I can.”

Nash considered Roman’s point of view. That was the same thing he’d told himself when he’d hired her, and look where it got him. Was he being naive keeping Gina around? “So what would you do from here?”

“Get a top-notch security system and maybe some bodyguards,” Roman said without hesitation. “It’s hard to get past your doorman, but not impossible. When the twins are old enough to go to school, choose a private school that caters to high-profile students like the children of politicians or actors. They always have great security for the kids.”

Nash hesitated a moment before he asked, “And what about Gina?”

Roman eyed Nash curiously. “That’s a good question. If I thought she was just a nanny, I’d say replace her if it made you feel more comfortable.”

Nash didn’t like Roman’s knowing expression, and looked away to study his own drink. “And if she’s not just the nanny?” he asked.

“Nash, I’m a private investigator. I’ve seen the way you look at her, even as you’ve tried to keep your distance. There’s something there and you’re just torturing yourself by staying away. If Gina was any other woman from any other family and you felt the way you do about her, would you even have to ask me the question?”

Roman was right. Nash was letting her circumstances cloud his judgment. The bottom line was that he was in love with Gina. Admitting that to himself, without caveats, was a big step. He felt the pressure on his shoulders lift and he could take a breath for the first time in a week. A plan formulated in his mind as he finished off his drink and stood up.

“Where are you going?” Roman asked.

Nash smiled. “I’m going to the jeweler. And then, I’m going to fire the nanny.”

***

Gina had spent the last week focusing on entertaining the twins. There wasn’t a more dedicated nanny than she was after the incident, but she wasn’t sure if that would be enough in the end to make up for everything that had happened.

Life seemed to return to normal once the last cop left the apartment. At least, what she assumed was the new normal. Nash had not returned to his warm, loving self. He’d continued to avoid her. Gina supposed she should be content that he hadn’t fired her and thrown her out. But that might have been easier on her heart. She wouldn’t have to look at him and see the confused hurt in his eyes as he avoided her.

She was playing on the floor with Jude and his dinosaur collection when she heard a tap at the playroom door.

“Gina, can I talk to you for a minute?” Nash asked, poking his head in.

She was almost startled that he spoke directly to her. “Sure.” She got up off the floor and followed him into the living room. He seemed stiff and even more nervous than he had been recently. She tried not to anticipate what kind of unpleasant thoughts he had on his mind. Had the agency finally come up with a replacement for her?

“How was work today?” she asked, trying to stay calm.

“Fine,” he said, running his fingers through his black hair. “I, uh, I wanted to tell you that I...”

The more he hesitated, the worse Gina felt. “Just say it, Nash. I’m fired, right?”

His eyes grew wide in surprise. “What? No! I mean... I don’t want you to be the nanny anymore, but I’m not firing you.”

Gina couldn’t understand how that would work. “I don’t understand.”

“I’m screwing this all up.” He shook his head. “This last week, I’ve realized several things. The first is that the children don’t need a nanny. They need a mother. They need a family.”

She still wasn’t quite sure where he was going with this. He wasn’t firing her, but he didn’t want her to be the nanny. After the way he’d virtually turned his back on her, she didn’t know what other option there was. Did he expect her to feel guilty enough to quit?

“The kidnapping threw me for a loop,” he continued, “but you handled it all so well. Better than I did. I’m sorry about how I treated you. I didn’t want my feelings for you to cloud my judgment when the children’s safety was on the line.”

Gina’s attention zoomed in on what he’d said. She knew she loved Nash, even after everything that had happened, but she’d never let herself dream he could feel the same way. “You have feelings for me?”

“Yes. You make me crazy with wanting you and the only way I could keep a clear head was to keep my distance from you, Gina. I was so miserable when we were apart and I realized that I don’t want to keep you at arm’s length ever again.”

Reaching into his suit pocket, he pulled out a small velvet box, stealing her breath away. “I’ve tied myself in knots figuring out what to do, but all I know is that I love you. The kids love you. Even Daniel loves you,” he said with a nervous chuckle.

He opened the box to reveal an emerald-cut diamond. “I want to put Gina Abruzzo and her family’s problems in the past for good. Would you be my wife and become Gina Chamberlain from this day forward?”

Gina gasped and her hands flew to her mouth. This whole conversation had been an emotional roller coaster. She’d thought she was on the verge of being fired and now, Nash was offering her everything she’d ever wanted. Somehow, she was afraid to say yes and have the rug pulled out from under her. “Nash, are you sure? It doesn’t matter what my name is, I’m always going to be a mobster’s daughter.”

He nodded, taking her hand. “I know that. I also know that you’re going to be an architect’s wife and the twins’ mother. That’s far, far more important to me.”

A rush of emotions threatened to overwhelm her. He couldn’t have said anything more perfect. “Yes!” she said, throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him soundly on the lips. “Yes!”

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About the author

I have been devouring books since I learned to read at the age of thre...

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Andrea Laurence

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