His Outback Nanny(7)

By: Annie Seaton

The crowd cleared slowly, and as it was almost their turn, Gwennie grabbed his arm. “Daddy, I think I’m going to throw up.”

He stood and put Ryan on the chair. “Kelsey, look after your brother.” He grabbed Gwennie’s hand and hurried across to the office window and interrupted the woman who was speaking on the phone. “Where’s the ladies restroom, please?”

She pointed to a half-open door next to the office that was marked Principal in gold letters. They hurried across the foyer, Gwennie’s hand over her mouth, and Ned pushed the door open. There was a corridor ahead with a photocopying room, a couple of small offices, a storeroom, and a restroom at the far end. The toilet door was open, and Gwennie pushed past him, ran up the hall, and shut the door.

All was quiet. Ned leaned against the door and sighed.

Gwennie put on such a tough front, but neither of the girls had got over Cath’s death.

Of course they hadn’t.

This morning was the first time Ned had mentioned her name for weeks. The grief counsellor had said to talk about Cath a lot to help the girls cope, but as the four years had passed, it had been too hard. Moving to the farm was a new start, and Ned was determined to make it work. If mentioning Cath naturally was going to help, he would do it. There were many changes to be made, and the meeting at the bank this afternoon was crucial to his success.

As Ned waited, a door opened along the corridor, and he glanced up. A woman in a red tailored suit stepped out and walked towards him. She was tall—almost as tall as he was, and he was a little more than six foot. Her fair hair was scraped back into a severe bun, and her face was pale, but her deep blue eyes held his as he stepped back to let her pass.

“Daddy, quick.” Gwennie’s cry was followed by the sound of her throwing up.

The tall woman stopped and frowned. “Do you need some help here?” she asked kindly.

Ned had been about to open the door and then paused when he remembered it was the restroom for the female staff. He looked at the woman, and his mouth dropped open.

Jemima? Jemima Smythe? Liam’s little sister?

“Jemima?” he asked hesitantly. “Are you the school principal?”

Piercing blue eyes stared back at him without recognition. “Yes, I’m Jemima, but I’m not the principal.”

“Can you go in and help Gwennie for me? Or at least check the coast is clear, and I can go in and look after her.”

“I’d be happy to.” She shot him a curious look as she pushed open the door. “Mr…?”

“McCormack. Ned McCormack. I was Liam’s friend at school.”

Her eyes widened, but she didn’t say anything before she went into the restroom and the door closed behind her. He put his ear to the door, trying to hear if Gwennie was okay, but all he could hear was Jemima’s soft voice.

He hadn’t caught up with Liam yet, but it looked like his baby sister was a teacher at the school they’d all attended when they were kids.

But Jemima wasn’t a child anymore. She’d always been a tall girl when she’d traipsed around behind Liam and him when they’d been in high school. But now, she’d certainly grown into those long legs. She was drop dead freakin’ beautiful.

The door opened, and Gwennie came out, wiping her hands on the side of her shorts. Her face was clean, and he looked over her head at Jemima.

“She’s fine now. Just nerves, I think. We’ve washed her face, and she said she’s okay.”

“Yep, I’m okay now, Daddy.”

“Thank you, Jemima, or should I say Miss Smythe, or is it Mrs. these days?” Ned didn’t want it to sound like he was fishing to see if she was single. “I mean, what do the children call you?”

“Jemima is fine,” she said as she looked nervously over her shoulder. “I’m in a bit of a hurry. Um, nice to see you, Ned.”

Ned watched as she hurried down the hall and disappeared through the door into the foyer. She moved elegantly, and her skirt and jacket moulded gorgeous curves.

He swallowed as Gwennie tugged at his hand. “Come on, Daddy. Let’s get this over with.”

By the time the girls were placed in their classes and had been given a buddy to take them to class, Gwennie looked a bit happier, and Ned put Ryan back into the car and headed for the grocery store.

“Come on, buddy. Let’s go get a milkshake.”

This would work. Ned loved his kids and wanted them to be happy. That was more important than anything, and this was the place to make sure it happened.

Chapter Four

After her interview at the school, Jemima couldn’t settle. She had her mobile phone in her pocket. Mrs. Sykes, the principal—what were the chances of a connection with the librarian, she wondered—had said that they would notify the successful applicant this afternoon, with a view to starting by the end of the week. But more than that, she couldn’t get Ned McCormack out of her mind.