Abandoned by his wife and left to raise a child alone, Caleb Reed falls short of the ideal work-from-home dad. He needs a woman to help him, in every sense of the word. At the suggestion of a friend, Caleb agrees to hire Ariel Lauren on a trial basis.
As an orphan, Ariel has more issues than just how to make it on her own. Yes, she needs the money that Caleb offers her, but more than anything she finds she desires his love. One calamity after another befalls her and jeopardizes her new job and her chance at having a family. But through it all, Caleb is by her side, his gruff exterior threatening to melt in the face of their shared attraction. Will they decide to continue life alone or will the magic of Valentine's Day bring them together?
She should be here any moment. Mabel had said ten o’clock
and assured Caleb the lady was never late. Now here he sat, sipping
hot coffee and watching Joshua make snow angels in the yard. His
mind relaxed and drifted to his earlier conversation with Mabel.
“You need help with that boy.”
“I know I do. But not just anyone will work. Joshua is
“Yes, Caleb. I know all about his intelligence. And the lady I
have in mind is perfect for him. Besides, she needs you as much as
you need her.”
“Tell me about her. Why would she be willing to work for
Since Kelly, his wife, had left him almost six years ago, Mabel
a nosy friend from church, had been hounding him to find a
housekeeper for his home. ‘A woman’s touch, that’s what it’s
missing’—was her favorite thing to say. Her intentions good, Mabel
was an old biddy to some but like a second mother to others.
When Mabel mentioned Ariel to him, Caleb knew she had his
best interest at heart. She explained that Ariel worked with children
in the church nursery and that she was different. When he pushed
for more information, Mabel would only say it would be good for
Ariel to be around Joshua during his birthday.
Now he waited, in the freezing cold, on a woman he’d never
seen and knew nothing about. Caleb Reed, ex-fitness trainer, turned
writer was going to depend on a stranger to clean his home, cook
meals, and care for his child. All the things Kelly should have done.
But he wasn’t going down that road again.
Caleb sighed as depression threatened to hit again when
Joshua ran toward him with a huge grin. He fell into Caleb’s lap,
hugged him, and galloped off inside.
The door banged shut and Caleb heard a car pulling into the
driveway. Looking toward the driveway he realized, he’d formed
assumptions about Ariel based on Mabel’s descriptions and they’d
all been wrong. He’d thought she was sending him a little old lady,
or perhaps a Mary Poppins character. But his expectations hadn’t
been the girl stepping out of the small sedan.
First of all, Ariel looked to be around twenty-five and around
five foot seven in height with a slender frame. Light brown hair
cascaded down her back in soft waves. She wore jeans and a sweat
shirt that read, “Bona Fide Jesus Freak”. Her hands were stuffed in
her pockets, as she approached the porch. A smile spread evenly
across her face. When her sunglasses were removed, he saw a
sparkle of emerald green eyes.
Whistling low under his breath, he stood. Caleb was going to
have to have a talk with Mabel. Was she trying to find him a
housekeeper or a model? This young, wisp of a thing reminded him
of a rare specimen, a rose in a garden that begged for a passerby to
stop and smell it. With her beauty, the party scene was probably
more her thing. There was no way this girl was going to want to stay
at home and just play house.
Holding out her hand, she spoke, “Hello. My name is Ariel
Lauren. Mabel sent me.”
Caleb felt goose bumps tingle down his spine at the sound of
Ariel held an air of authority in her squared shoulders. She
gazed at him, with a smile on her lips. Confidence exuded from her
tone, but when Caleb looked deeper into the green depths of her
eyes, he thought he saw a hidden sadness.
A sudden urge to delve into her feelings and decipher what
had caused such a look on her youthful face overcame him, but
instead Caleb offered his hand in a formal greeting, enveloping her
small, soft hand in his larger one. “Hello. I’m Caleb Reed. It’s nice
to meet you. Mabel’s told me a lot about you.”
“It’s nice to meet you as well, Mr. Reed. I hope everything
Mabel said was good.”
“Of course it was. You know Mabel. Oh, please call me Caleb.
Mr. Reed makes me seem so old,” he answered, with a light hearted
“Okay,” she said, shyness overcoming her.
The feeling of camaraderie passed and silence descended.
Caleb was on the verge of talking, when she spoke again, “Mabel
told me you needed someone to help around the house and to watch
your son for a few months?”
“How much do you pay?”
Direct and to the point, that was good. “I’ve taken the liberty
of writing down a figure.” Caleb handed her a slip of paper. Ariel’s
eyes rounded as her jaw went slack. He wasn’t sure from her
reaction if she thought it was too little or too much. “Is there a
problem with the figure?”
“No, no problem,” she stuttered, still glancing down at the
numbers. “When can I start?” she said, stiffening her spine and
adjusting her purse on her shoulder.
“Well, I thought I might take a few days to check your
references, if you don’t mind.”
“No, of course not. I understand.”
“Do you have a resume?”
Judging from her frown, he figured the answer was no. “Yes.
Do you have a list of your previous places of employment? Is there
anyone who can vouch for you and your skills?”
Ariel’s head fell, her eyes facing downward. She looked
around at the neighborhood, her brows furrowed as lines of worry
appeared upon her face. After a few moments, she lifted her head
with renewed optimism and smiled. “I don’t have a resume
prepared. I’m sorry. I had the impression from Mabel this was more
of an informal position. But what about a trial run? I’ll work free for
a week. If you’re unsatisfied, then you can release me, no questions
Caleb’s first instinct was to flat out refuse her offer, but
something about her called to him. What was her story? There was
no denying it; there was a story. Mabel was a sneaky one, no doubt
about it. And she had a reason for recommending Ariel. Caleb hated
to admit it, but he was curious.
He found himself agreeing to her terms. He nodded. “One
“One week,” she agreed.