Sitting before Mr Caldwell I felt nervous. He made me nervous.
Gabriel Caldwell was an imposing figure, easily six feet tall and broad, and with his dark hair and eyes he certainly fitted tall, dark and handsome down to a tee. Unlike the archetypal tall, dark and handsome he was also cold, brusque and oozed a strange darkness I couldn’t name or identify.
“Miss Webber.” His voice caused me to straighten in the chair with a start. “If you could remain focused that would help.”
With a silent sigh and a mental note to concentrate on the matter in hand rather than my potential new boss’ good looks and personality short comings I offered a passive, “Sorry.”
He frowned. “Quite, if we could get on then.”
For the next hour I managed to remain focused and attentive to everything Mr Caldwell was saying until he got to his feet and gestured to the door. “Shall we go and meet her then? Assuming she approves we can finalise the details of your employment and I will show you to what will be your accommodation.”
The question and statement offered no opportunity for discussion or debate leaving me with very little option but to comply obediently. I followed him through the house, remaining on the ground floor, bypassing a lounge, dining room, and study until we reached a large, sunny conservatory where a woman in her fifties sat holding a book in one hand and a cup of something steaming in the other. Her gaze lifted as they entered the room and her face broke into a warm and genuine smile as she looked directly at Mr Caldwell then me over her glasses that were perched on the end of her nose.
“Hello, dear,” she said before looking back at the man beside her, “Gabriel, darling.”
“Sorry, this is my mother, Christine Caldwell. Mother, this is Miss Webber, Charlotte’s new nanny.”
Both Mrs Caldwell and I seemed to be taken aback by the announcement. He’d stressed several times during the interview that any appointment would be determined by his daughter and whether she took to me, liked me and now the job had been offered before she met me.
“Christine, please,” she offered along with an outstretched hand.
“Carrie,” I reciprocated with a warm smile to match the other woman’s as she accepted the hand I hoped was of friendship.
The lady had now put her book down on the sofa and her cup down on a nearby coffee table.
“Charlotte?” asked Gabriel.
“She got fed up of waiting, she’s in the garden.” she smiled before getting up to lead us into the room further.
The silence was broken by a little girl bounding in from the back garden, her braided brown hair bouncing as she ran.
“Daddy, can you push me on the swing now?” she asked as her father scooped up into his arms.
“Maybe later, or Grandma can. There’s someone I’d like you to meet. This is Carrie, Carrie this is Charlotte.”
I held my hand out towards the little girl, unsure whether that was an appropriate way to greet a little girl of three or not. The little girl stared up at me intently, her dark eyes seeming to stare through me until Charlotte’s lips curled slightly meaning an outstretched hand was clearly the way to go.
“Could you push me on the swing, Carrie, please?” the little girl asked and looking into her pleading eyes I wondered how anyone could ever say no to her.
Before she could say anything Mr Caldwell spoke. “Sweetie, Carrie can’t push you right now, but maybe another time. Miss Webber, let me show you the rest of the house.”
With a short nod from me Mr Caldwell reached forward, his fingers skimmed my elbow, an innocent touch that saw me pulling back as if I’d been scorched, a move he mirrored we were leaving the conservatory behind.
“Assuming you plan on accepting the job, Miss Webber, I’ll show you to your accommodation.” My new boss turned so abruptly I almost collided with him.
“Yes, of course, thank you,” I babbled, unsure entirely exactly what I was accepting.
I found myself almost walking to heel like an obedient dog as we made our way back through the house until we eventually found ourselves on the second floor of the property where I was shown to my room. Upon entering it I could see why Mr Caldwell, Gabriel had called it my accommodation because it really was so much more than a room. I was essentially entering a self-contained flat, my own place and space.
“Wow,” I said, almost speechless as I walked through the open plan lounge that also housed a small kitchen area.
“I’m glad you like it. There’s a bathroom and a bedroom over there,” he told me from his position still in the doorway where he pointed to two other doors.
“I just expected a bedroom,” I admitted.
“Well, everyone needs their own space and I’m sure you’ll have no desire to spend your spare time in mine, my mother’s or Charlotte’s company,” he said flatly causing a frown to crease my brow, but he was right. I didn’t know any of them and this was a job. These people were not my friends or family. “I can leave you for a while…”
“No, it’s fine…where is Charlotte’s room?”
“Downstairs, next to my room. She does have a nursery next door. When I decided to employ a live-in nanny my mother suggested that you might want to spend time up here during the day so the only other room on this floor is a nursery, just a small one.
“Thank you,” I said, unsure just what I was grateful for but my own confusion blurred as I wondered what his bedroom would look like.
A flush crept up my neck and face as I questioned why I should care what his room might look like. He was not my date, he was going to be my boss. He was older, a little, and he was also the scariest man I’d ever met and that was saying something because all men scared me.
“Miss Webber, shall we finish the tour?”
“Of course. Charlotte is a lovely little girl and very beautiful.”
“Thank you,” Gabriel said, freely and with acceptance. Possibly the first words he’d uttered that didn’t feel forced or pained. Love and adoration rolled off him in those two words and thoughts of his daughter who he clearly worshipped.
It was a week later when I boarded the train to make the journey back to the Caldwell’s house. The decision to apply for a job that would take me away from home had been an easy one, after all what was there to keep me at home? Nothing, that’s what.
As the train began to pull out of the station I allowed a ghost of a smile to curl my lips with thoughts of a new life, the start of one at least.
From that first meeting with Gabriel Caldwell seven days had passed. Seven days in which I’d packed up my life and left. When I’d waved goodbye to Charlotte and Christine, Mr Caldwell had not waved me off with them, but after leaving them I felt lighter, braver, optimistic and yet heavier, scared and pessimistic. When I’d applied for the job I was able to think of at least three reasons against it for every one for it, moreover, I could think of countless against me rather than in my favour but he, Gabriel, I smirked as I thought of him in such familial terms as his first name, but he had seen the pros of employing me rather than the cons. At the very least he had seen more pros than cons.
The countryside was passing by while I continued to think, but my thoughts now were all of my new boss, of Gabriel, the man rather than just my employer. He was undoubtedly handsome, rich and smart, but I was uninterested in those things as I considered him now. My focus was on the person, the father, the son, the lover, the husband, the widower.