He looked over at where Baylee crouched in the sandbox and meticulously built a castle. The playground was full of children accompanied by parents, babysitters, or nannies. Where did those nannies come from? he wondered. They all looked competent and normal. Which was the complete opposite of the five nannies he’d interviewed already.
The first one had been the kind Nick would’ve picked, Brian thought wryly. She’d been blonde, busty, and a complete airhead. Baylee had disliked her on sight. She was boring, unimaginative, and only wanted to see what it was like to be on tour.
The second one had been scary. Baylee had clutched Brian’s hand during the entire interview and stared at the ground. The woman was a stickler for rules, as she’d explained to Brian. She had specific bedtimes, lists of forbidden foods (all of Baylee’s favorites topped that list), and, by the end of the interview, Brian had been scared of her, too.
The third one had just turned eighteen and was too inexperienced, and the fourth had just gotten out of rehab for an alcohol problem. Brian had no problem with recovering alcoholics, except that he remembered their relapse statistics. AJ would’ve probably told him that it was a bad idea to hire her, too, so Brian had decided against her. The fifth nanny had despised being outdoors, getting dirty, and hadn’t been too fond of the fact that the interview was being held at a playground.
Exasperated and exhausted, Brian sat on the grass next to the sandbox and pulled out his cell phone. “What do you think, Baylee? Think we should try one more nanny?”
Baylee carefully poked holes into his castle walls to act as windows before he looked up. “I don’t know, Daddy. The other ones were weird.”
Brian chuckled. “I know, but we do need someone there to watch out for you and tutor you with all the first grade stuff.”
“Okay,” Baylee replied after several moments. “We can try again.”
Brian dialed up the agency for the sixth time that day and spoke to the woman in charge of employment again. “I know you’ve already sent me five potential nannies, but I wasn’t satisfied at all,” he explained. “I’m willing to try one last time.”
“Mr. Littrell, we really don’t have that many choices left. You have to understand how difficult it is to find a nanny who wouldn’t mind giving up her life to travel with you and your son.”
“I do understand, but if you could just send me one more,” Brian began.
There was a small sigh at the other end of the line. “All right. We hired a woman recently, who might just work. I’ll get her number for you.”
“Great!” Within minutes, Brian was dialing a Mackenzie Adams’ number. He really hoped this one worked out. Otherwise, he was out of luck. And time. He glanced at his watch as the phone rang at the other end. He had three hours before he had to head back out and catch up with the tour.
“Hello?” A woman’s voice answered.
Brian sighed. “Hi, is this Mackenzie Adams? I received your number from a nanny agency and was hoping to meet with you to discuss potential employment.”
“Oh, of course. Yes, this is Mackenzie.” On the other end, Mac did a little dance of joy. She’d known it was Brian the instant he’d spoken, and she couldn’t believe she was on the phone with a Backstreet Boy. “May I ask who this is?”
“Brian Littrell. Miss Adams, I’d really like to meet with you as soon as possible. Say, today?”
Mac’s jaw dropped. “Uh, well, sure! Yes, today works. What time?”
Brian checked his watch again. “Can you meet me in a half hour at Crescent Park in Beverly Hills?”
“Half an hour?” She couldn’t believe it.
“Yes. Is that a problem?”
Mac shook her head, even though Brian couldn’t see it. “No! I’ll be there. Thank you, Mr. Littrell. I’ll see you in a little while.”
“Great.” Brian ran a hand wearily through his hair. “We’re at the sandbox. You can’t miss it.”
“Okay! I’ll see you soon. ‘Bye!”
Brian hung up and shook his head. “If Mackenzie Adams doesn’t work out, Bay, I think we’re just going to have Nick be your nanny. It’s gotta be better than nothing, right?”
Baylee’s expression looked horrified, and Brian couldn’t help but laugh.
Mac pulled into the parking lot of Crescent Park almost twenty-five minutes later. She was sure she’d blown a couple red lights and broken several traffic laws, but she didn’t care. She was going to be on time for this extremely important appointment. Her career rested on it.
She strode through the park, searching for the sandbox and ignoring the butterflies in the pit of her stomach. Not having had the chance to change, she still wore grubby jeans and an old shirt. Her hair was pulled back in a messy bun. As relaxed as she looked, behind her glasses, her eyes were sharp. Finally, she spotted the sandbox and Brian next to it.
Tugging on her shirt a bit, she hesitantly approached Brian and noticed Baylee playing in the sandbox. What on earth was she thinking? she wondered suddenly. She’d never really babysat before, and yet she was going to jump into being a live-in nanny. She was either crazy or determined.
She settled for determined and walked right up to Brian. “Hi, you must be Brian.” She held out her hand. “I’m Mackenzie Adams.”
Brian stood and shook her hand. “Hi, Mackenzie. It’s nice to meet you.” She looks normal, he thought. And pretty in a smart way. Nick would be happy. Then, he turned to Baylee. “Come on over, Bay, and meet Miss Adams.”
Baylee let go of his shovels and pail and stood next to Brian, studying Mac. “Hi, Miss Adams. Do you like sandboxes?”
Mac blinked, surprised. “Uh, sure. I’ve always liked building castles at the beach, but yours is pretty cool, too.” She crouched until she was eye level with Baylee. “Call me Mac. My friends do.”
“Oh.” Now Baylee was surprised. The other nannies never talked to him, only to his dad. Maybe this one was going to work. “Okay, Mac. Do you like the beach?”
“Sure do. Don’t you?”
“Yeah!” Baylee nodded enthusiastically. “I love it! But we haven’t been in a long, long time. Not since…not since Mommy died,” he whispered, and his broken voice broke Mac’s tough heart.
She ruffled his hair. “That’s hard, Baylee. Maybe we could go sometime.”
“Okay!” Baylee nodded and looked up at his father. “Daddy, when we have a break, can we go to the beach with Mac?”
Brian frowned. He’d watched the easy interaction between his son and the potential nanny. Her clothing certainly indicated that she didn’t mind getting dirty, she didn’t seem too uptight, and Baylee seemed instantly comfortable with her.
“We’ll see, Bay. Why don’t we talk to Mac a little bit first?”
“Okay.” Baylee nodded and turned to Mac. “We have to make sure you’re a ‘sponsible person.”
Mac grinned. “No problem. What do you want to know?” she asked Brian.
He studied her once more before speaking. “Have you worked with children before?”
“Sure. When I was one.” She saw his brows fly up and grinned. “Don’t worry, I’ve had experience. I worked in a preschool to help pay for college.”
“Oh, okay.” Point for her, he thought. “Would you have any reservations about living with Baylee and myself for a period of six months while I tour the world with my group?”
Hell, no, she thought. I’d give my left kidney to do it! Out loud, she said, “Not really. Should I?”
“It’s a possibility.” Brian shrugged. “Aren’t you a little old to be a nanny?”
Mac’s brows lifted this time. “Excuse me?”
“No, no.” Brian shook his head, embarrassed that the question had slipped from his lips. “I’m not calling you old, Mac. I just assumed that, at this point in your life—and I’m assuming you’re in your late twenties?”
“I’ll be twenty-nine in November,” she muttered.
Brian nodded. “Okay, I just thought that, by twenty-nine, a woman who seems as competent and with it as you would have a solid place of work by now. Not nanny work.”
“I’m between jobs,” Mac replied with the first thing that came to mind.
“Fair enough.” Brian thought for a moment. This woman had experience, Baylee liked her, she seemed sane, and there was something honest about her. He couldn’t say that he didn’t like her either. “Can I be honest with you?”
Mac frowned. “Haven’t you already been honest?”
“Why do you want this job?” he asked. “Why would you want to spend six months of your life taking care of a five and a half year old while living in and out of tour buses and hotels?”
She considered his questions for a few moments before smiling. “I think it’ll be an adventure. I think working with Baylee in all those different environments will be unique and interesting. Don’t you think so, Baylee?”
Baylee’s eyes widened. She was actually asking him something? This nanny thought his opinion was important, which, to Baylee, meant she was a keeper. “Yeah. It’ll be lots of fun, Daddy! We’ll learn lots about all the different places in the world. Mac and me will have lots of adventures!”
Brian looked from Baylee’s smiling face to Mac. She had a half smile teasing her lips, and the expression in her eyes told him that she knew exactly what he was thinking. Well, he thought, nanny-wise, they could’ve done a lot worse.
“Can you start tomorrow?”
Mac waited until she was home and the door was shut behind her before she let out a shriek of joy. “Oh my god! Oh my god! I’m going on tour with the Backstreet Boys!” She jumped up and down a couple times before she stopped and smacked her forehead. “Jeez, Mackenzie. Could you be anymore unprofessional?”
It was ridiculous for a twenty-eight year old woman to act like a teenybopper, but she was ecstatic. Thrilled beyond belief. She was going to spend six months on the Backstreet tour taking care of Baylee, which meant she’d be in close contact with all of the Boys. Not to mention, she wouldn’t have to spend any money on concert tickets this time around.
She dashed up the stairs and pulled out a suitcase from the storage closet. Rushing into her bedroom, she threw open her closet and began yanking clothing out right and left. Brian had instructed her to meet up with the tour in Phoenix the following morning, which only left her thirteen hours to pack and draw up her game plan for her investigation.
She thought about her meeting with Brian and Baylee as she picked and chose clothes appropriate for travel. Baylee had been just as cute as all the pictures she’d ever seen of him, but he had the saddest eyes she’d seen on a five year old. The same sadness lingered in Brian’s eyes, even when he smiled. It must have been horrible to lose Leighanne, she thought, but, hopefully, while she did her investigating, she could help put a little more happiness in Baylee’s life.
Brian had definitely been exactly the way she’d imagined he would be these days. Serious, quiet, and kind of boring. She was definitely going to enjoy spending time with the other Boys. Especially AJ, she thought gleefully.
When she’d pretty much emptied her closet, she turned back to study her bed. All of her clothes were heaped on top of it and she shook her head at herself. “Organization is the key to success, Mac,” she muttered to herself and began folding clothes neatly to fit into the suitcase.
Halfway through, she remembered Jake and found her phone to call him.
“Jake!” Mac fought to hold back the squeal of excitement rather unsuccessfully. She hoped he thought her excitement was because of the case. “Guess what?”
“Mac?” He chuckled at the tone of her voice. “What’s up?”
The smile on her face hurt her cheeks, it was so wide. “I got the job! I’m going on tour and undercover!”
“What? As Littrell’s nanny? Whoa, that was fast!” Jake was amazed. She definitely didn’t waste time.
“Yeah, I know. I got a phone call from Brian a couple hours ago, I met with him and Baylee, and now I’m packing! I have a flight to catch to Phoenix in the morning.” Mac did a little dance as she talked and folded clothes simultaneously.
Jake shook his head on the other line. “Wow, you sound really excited. Want me to come over? We can celebrate the fact that you’re going to solve another case in no time.”
“Nah. It’s okay. I should probably get some sleep.” Or spend the night dancing to all Backstreet music, she thought. “Thanks for the offer, though.”
“Sure. I’ll drive you to the airport, then. How’s that?”
Mac started stowing things into her suitcase and remembered that she had to get her toiletries, too. “Okay, yeah. Thanks, Jake! I’ll see you at five tomorrow morning.”
Excited, she hung up and missed his indignant voice saying, “Five in the morning?! Mac, are you-”
Her toothbrush in one hand and a bottle of Listerine in the other, she danced from the bathroom to her suitcase and grinned to herself. This was going to be the best vacation ever.
It only took five minutes after Brian and Baylee had climbed aboard their tour bus for the nighttime trip from Vegas to Phoenix before there was a pounding on the door. Brian exchanged a mischievous look with Baylee as he headed down to open the door.
“Brian!” Nick hopped on the bus, grinning. “So, how was your trip? Did you find a new nanny? Is she hot?”
Baylee giggled as Brian just shook his head, resigned to Nick’s one track mind. “We had a nice trip, and, yes, we found a nanny.”
“And…?” Nick folded his arms on his chest and tapped his foot.
Brian suppressed the chuckle. “And what?”
“Ugh! Brian! Is she hot? What’s her name? What does she look like? Is she five-seven or what?” Nick demanded.
“Her name’s Mac,” Baylee piped up. “She’s really nice. She likes the beach, too, and we’re gonna go with her maybe when we have a break!”
Nick digested the information. “Mac? What kind of a name is Mac? Are you sure she’s a she?”
“Nick.” Brian groaned. “Can you use your upstairs brain for once? Mac is definitely a woman, but,” he paused as an idea occurred to him. “But I don’t think she’s your type at all. She’s older.”
“Older?” Nick’s eyes narrowed. “How much older? Twenty-nine, thirty?”
Brian’s eyes twinkled when they met Baylee’s past Nick. “Nope. More like fifty-ish. She’s very motherly. That’s why she’s going to be perfect.”
Nick’s jaw dropped, and he was speechless for several moments. “Are you out of your mind, Brian?! I asked, specifically asked, you to pick someone good. Picking a woman old enough to be my mom is not what I meant!”
“Sorry, Nick.” Brian shrugged. “That’s just how things worked out this time. Maybe next tour it’ll be better.”
“Yeah, sure,” Nick grumbled. “I gotta get back to my bus. I hope you both enjoy spending time with Grandma Mac.” Frowning, he stomped off the bus.
When Brian heard the door slam shut, he laughed, really laughed for the first time in months and months. Baylee liked hearing the now unfamiliar sound of his father’s laughter and joined in. They were definitely in for an interesting next few months.