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Blue Teddy Bear

“You can’t be serious.” Shreya crossed her arms over her chest and glared at me as I tossed random articles of clothing into a suitcase.

“As a heart attack,” I replied, not bothering to fold the shirts I was piling on top of the two pairs of jeans I owned. “I know what I’m doing, Shrey.”

“Do you? Because I don’t think you have any idea what you’re getting yourself into,” she sighed, uncrossing her arms to scratch her head in frustration. “I get that you think this might be fun, and maybe it will be, but these are celebrity children you’re talking about. I mean, normal kids would be hard enough, but this is a whole other beast. I’m talking having to deal with the media attention and the paparazzi and the like.”

I rolled my eyes, sorting through the dresses in my closet to decide which ones I could live without. “They’re three year olds, not heads of state.”

“I’m aware,” she hardened her stare, not appreciating my blasé attitude about the entire situation. If only she knew how absolutely terrified I really was or how much I had no idea what I was doing. “But they’re the three year olds of a mega famous musician. I mean, hell, even old man Murray from down the street has heard of Jaxon Rigali, which means that he’s photographed and talked about constantly and even more so when he’s with his kids.”

“Okay, then, I’ll be sure to look my best as I’m playing with them in the sandbox,” I smiled innocently, pulling a few dresses off hangers and turning to toss them in the suitcase.

Shreya squeezed her eyes shut in frustration, and I could tell she had more to say, but I supposed she decided that I was an adult and could make my own decisions, so she exhaled softly and shook her head. “I’m assuming this world tour is going to make a stop in Seattle…are you gonna see Dad?”

Now that was a complicated question, considering our father hadn’t really been a father to us for the past decade. After our mother passed away from cancer when I was fifteen, he’d become a recluse. Shreya had left to go to college a few months later, which meant I’d navigated my late teen years entirely on my own. Once I’d graduated high school, I’d followed in Shreya’s footsteps and attended NYU, but even when I’d go back to Seattle for school breaks, I’d hardly see my father. I think I reminded him too much of my mother and seeing me just broke his heart all over again, so when I got no response after telling him I was spending spring break of my junior year at a friend’s lake house, I took it as my cue that he didn’t really care what I did and sort of never went back. Shreya tried harder. She would call on his birthday and Christmas and New Year’s, but I guess I figured that there was no use in fighting for someone who didn’t actually want to be a part of my life.

“I don’t know,” I whispered. Maybe when I got there, I would get up the nerve to see him, but right now that time was too far away to worry about. “Are you gonna be okay?”

The corners of her lips lifted into a small smile and she stepped forward, holding out her arms to pull me into a hug and squeezing me close, whispering after pressing a kiss to my temple. “I’m gonna miss you, baby sis.”

“Me too,” I replied, glad that, as usual, Shreya had the ability to wipe away my fears.

I had just finished triple checking that I had everything packed the next morning when I received a text from the driver Amy had sent saying he was waiting out front. Shreya had left for work an hour before, after holding me in an embrace so tight that I still felt a little sore and making me promise to call her every day, twice a day if necessary. I didn’t linger as I carried my bags towards the front door, knowing that looking back would only cause the tears in my eyes to well up.

To avoid turning into a sobbing mess as I arrived to my first day at work, I people watched as we drove towards the hotel, hopping out by the front entrance and making my way towards the trunk of the car to grab my bags, only to have the driver tell me to leave them, since they’d be heading towards the venue anyway. Sending him a quick nod, I wandered into the hotel lobby to see Amy standing at the reception desk.

Grinning widely, I skipped towards her and came to a stop at her side. “Good morning!”

“Morning,” she laughed softly, lifting her eyebrows in surprise as she looked up from the paper she had been reading over. “I’m checking out for everyone, so it’s taking a while. Do you wanna go up and make sure Jaxon’s ready to go? I’m gonna head to the venue once I’m done here to make sure everything’s getting set up properly I’ll text when I’m done.”

“Awesome,” I nodded, turning towards the elevators. “See you later.”

If I was being completely honest, I was a little freaked out at the thought of being alone with Jaxon. Though, I guess technically, we wouldn’t be alone since his kids would be there, but still, Amy wouldn’t be present to act as a buffer and the fact that during our last interaction, he had made it pretty clear that he wasn’t at all pleased with my presence meant that whatever happened next was going to be nowhere near happy.

I felt a sense of déjà vu as I knocked on the hotel room door for the second time in two days, finding myself more surprised this time, however, when it pulled open to reveal a tall man with magenta hair and pale green eyes who I recognized from the magazines as the band’s lead guitarist.

“You must be the nanny,” he stretched his lips into a friendly smile and opened the door a little wider, stepping aside to indicate that I should enter. “I’m Benji. Come on in.”

Furrowing my eyebrows in confusion, I obliged, stepping through the doorway and tightening my fingers around the strap of my purse. “Nice to meet you…am I at the right room?”

“Oh yeah,” he assured me as he closed the door and nodded towards the table which sat beside the kitchenette, where the twins were swinging their legs happily as they sat on fluffy cushions and popped blueberries into their mouths. “I’m just visiting. Jaxon’s in the shower.”

“Okay,” I nodded, breathing out slowly to calm my nerves and turning my attention to the children at the table, stretching my lips into a soft smile as I stepped towards them. “Hi Audra, hi Finn. Do you guys remember me from yesterday?”

Audra nodded as she stuffed another blueberry between her lips. “Divs!”

I let out a sigh of relief and grinned, glad that my first day on the job seemed to be going well so far and glanced back at Benji to find him staring at me with an amused smirk kinking his lips, which caused me to cross my arms over my chest defensively. “What?”

“You don’t have to be so nervous, you know,” he laughed, “They’re not gonna bite. Plus, they love pretty much everyone.”

“Good to know,” I muttered, still feeling a bit on edge about the entire situation. It was important that the twins liked me, seeing as they would be the people with whom I would be spending the majority of my time. It would really suck if they ended up hating my guts.

“I’m gonna peace out because I gotta finish packing. I promise, you’ll be fine.” he assured me with a quick nod when I parted my lips to protest and stepped towards the table to address his friend’s children. “I’ll see you guys later. Can I get a hug before I go?”

Their faces immediately lit up and they wriggled out of their chairs and onto the floor and Benji crouched down so he could easily envelop them in an embrace at the same time, turning his head to kiss their cheeks. “See you soon.”

“Bye Unca Benji!” Audra called out, a sentiment which Finn echoed as they squeezed their uncle tight and smacked kisses to his cheeks before he stood up straight, dropping a wink in their direction and turning to face me once more, pulling his phone from his pocket to check his messages.

“It was nice to meet you, Divya,” he returned his gaze to me. “I’ll see you at the venue. Tell Jaxon that Amy’s done with check out and is heading over there, so you guys need to get downstairs ASAP.”

“Will do, thanks,” I nodded, lifting a hand in a wave as he blew the twins a kiss and headed towards the door. I held my breath until he left before returning my attention to my charges, smiling softly as I crouched down in front of them. “Hey, you guys finished with your breakfast?”

Nodding, Finn held out a spare blueberry in my direction. “We eat booberries. You want?”

“Thank you,” I smiled softly as I took the fruit from him, popping it in my mouth as I set my purse down on the seat of the empty chair beside him and glanced around to see if there was any more packing to be done. “Did you guys pick up all your toys already?”

Audra nodded, but jutted out her lower lip in a pout that I was sure got her everything she wanted from her father and would undoubtedly work wonders on me. “I can’t find my bear-wy.”

“Your bear?” I repeated, my gaze sweeping the room again and not seeing any form of stuffed animal. Thinking that maybe it had gotten accidentally swept under a piece of furniture, I walked towards the couch and lowered myself to the floor, lying flat on my stomach as I peered underneath it and smiled triumphantly at the sight of the little blue bear squished against the floor.

“What are you doing?”

My high at successfully locating Audra’s teddy bear declined swiftly at the sound of a soft, accented voice coming from the other side of the couch. Feeling a bit foolish as I grabbed the bear and pushed myself back onto my heels and stood up straight, I was left a bit speechless at the sight of Jaxon standing shirtless with his arms crossed over his chest and one eyebrow quirked upwards, almost disappearing beneath the fringe of his still damp curls. A few spare water droplets trickling over his abdominal muscles and the fact that I could practically see the steam radiating from his skin further underlined his recent departure from the shower and I gulped and fought back a horrified blush when I had to tear my gaze away from his biceps and realized he was still waiting for a response.

Holding out the teddy bear towards him over the back of the couch, I replied softly. “Audra’s bear was stuck under the couch.”

He was cautious as he reached out to take it from me, giving me a small nod. “Thanks.”

There was about three seconds of awkward silence before Audra relieved the tension. “Bear-wy!”

Jaxon laughed as he turned to hand his daughter her stuffed animal, leaning down to press a kiss to the top of her head as she hugged it to her chest. “Here you go, sweetie.”

I was a bit caught off guard by how quickly he went from stony and dubious to warm and filled with adoration, but I decided not to waste his now wonderful mood. “Benji said Amy’s done with checkout, so we need to head out.”

I half expected him to immediately resume glaring at me, but the light in his eyes and the smile stretching his lips remained as he returned his gaze to me and nodded as he stepped towards the bedroom. “Alright. I packed all the kids’ stuff already, so let me just grab a shirt and we’ll be good to go.”

Apparently the trick to not being on the receiving end of Jaxon’s frostiness was to make sure his kids were always doing something cute, which I was pretty sure would be easy to do, seeing as they were freaking adorable.

True to his word, he returned a few moments later wearing a baseball tee with black sleeves and pulling a large suitcase behind him while carrying a duffel bag on each shoulder. Without asking, I stepped forward and pulled one of the bags off his shoulder in an attempt to help. His lips parted to protest, but he settled for narrowing his gaze and channeling his energy elsewhere.

“Alright, babes,” he smiled at his kids as they wiggled off their chairs, apparently knowing what it meant that he was holding luggage. “Ready to go?”

Nodding, they ran towards the door and I followed after, pulling it open so they could spill into the hallway. They immediately took off towards two figures walking towards the elevators from the other end of the hallway and I parted my lips to call out that they shouldn’t be talking to strangers only to realize that the people they were running towards weren’t strangers at all.

“Unca Trey! Unca Pete!”

The two men, both tall and blonde, grinned as they squatted down to receive hugs from the three year old bullets shooting towards them.

“Hiya, Audra,” the drummer greeted, hugging his niece and kissing her on the cheek as the lead vocalist did the same with Finn before they switched toddlers so the affection could be equally distributed.

“Unca Pete, can I pway your dwums?” Finn asked quietly, happy to allow the drummer to pick him up and hold him to his chest.

“Sure, buddy,” he grinned, glancing towards me as he stepped towards the elevators and pushed the call button, managing to hold the three year old and two sets of bags. “You must be Divya. I’m Peter.”

“Nice to meet you,” I called after him as he stepped through the doors as they slid open.

The sound of Audra’s voice trying to get her other uncle’s attention turned my head. “Unca Twey?”

The lead vocalist smiled softly at his niece, still crouched to her front. “Yes, cutie pie?”

“I gots to go potty.”

He pressed his lips together as he held in a laugh, his gaze shifting up to me in a cry for help.

“I can handle that,” I smiled reassuringly, reaching down to grab Audra’s hand.

“I got it.” Jaxon’s voice cut me off before I could make contact with the three year old’s hand.

Bewildered, I shook my head and nodded towards where Peter had just disappeared with Finn behind the elevator doors. “No worries, I can take her back into the room real quick if you need to head out.”

“I’m capable of taking my own daughter to the bathroom,” he replied sharply, dropping the duffel bag and suitcase onto the hallway floor next to me. My lips parted to stammer out a protest, but before words could actually escape, he had lifted Audra into his arms and was walking back towards the hotel room door.

“Is it just me or did it get a little chilly in here?”

I turned towards the voice speaking, deadpanning as I spoke to the lead singer with the piercing blue eyes and shiny silver nose ring. “So you felt it too?”

“It was hard not to,” he crinkled his nose apologetically, shoving his fingers into the front pockets of his black skinny jeans. “Don’t worry, though, I’m sure he’ll warm up to you.”

“Hopefully soon,” I sighed, playing with the ends of my floral patterned scarf. “Because how am I supposed to do my job if he won’t let me?”

He leaned forward on his toes, laughing lightly. “That’s a fair question. He’s just protective of them, though. We all are.”

“I get that,” I assured him, placing my hands on my hips. “I do. Hey, I’d probably be the same way if I had kids of my own. But I think a part of him resents me being here because he thinks it means he’s not a good enough father to take care of them on his own.”

The blonde’s eyebrows shot upwards and one side of his mouth lifted into a smirk. “What were you, a shrink in a past life?”

“No, but my mom was,” I chuckled, proud that I’d been able to analyze the situation just as she would have.

“Well, that explains it,” he grinned, removing one hand from his pocket to hold it out towards me. “I’m Trey, by the way.”

“Divya,” I slipped my hand against his and shook firmly, glad to have at least one person who seemed to be on my side. “Nice to meet you. Hopefully I’m still around tomorrow.”

He laughed, his eyes squinting adorably as he did, removing his hand from mine to tug his fingers through his already messy hair. “I think you’ll be alright. Don’t worry about Jaxon, he’s a huge softy, so he’ll warm up to you in no time. But if you tell him I said that, I’ll deny it completely.”

“Your secret’s safe with me,” I lifted one side of my mouth into a smile as I reached down to grab the bags, widening my grin when Trey pulled the suitcase to his side. “Thanks.”

Nodding, he flashed me a wide grin as he stepped towards the elevator to press the call button and as we waited for it to return to our floor, I hoped he was right about Jaxon warming up to me, because as of right now, it seemed as though my plan to be the world’s greatest nanny was falling apart at the seams and I really didn’t want taking this job to be the biggest mistake I ever made.

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