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Authors: Mary Jane Morgan

A Home for Haley

BOOK: A Home for Haley
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A HOME FOR HALEY

By Mary Jane Morgan

OTHER
CRYSTAL SPRINGS
HOMECOMING ROMANCES
BOOKS

Long
Road Home

Coming
Home

Home
at Last (available soon)

 

 

OTHER BOOKS BY MARY JANE
MORGAN

Dangerous
Moves

Shelby’s
Gift

 

www.maryjanemorganauthor.com
 

A HOME FOR HALEY

 

This book is a work of fiction. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely
coincidental. 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Mary Jane Morgan

All rights reserved

 

First Kindle Edition 2015

 

www.maryjanemorganauthor.com

 

Cover design by Mark Combs

(918) 510-8972

[email protected]

Thank you Gary Godwin for, once again,
being a beta reader for me.

 

A special thank you to Mark Combs for
another wonderful book cover! He not only designs great covers, he's extremely
easy to work with! You can reach Mark at:
[email protected]

 

I'd also like to thank Emrys Moreau for
not only designing my author page but for formatting/coding my books and being
my ‘go-to’ lady when I have questions—which is frequently! You can reach Emrys
at:
[email protected]

 

 

 

 

"Not knowing when the dawn will come

I open every door."

—Emily Dickinson

CHAPTER ONE

 

Haley Donahue snuggled her
nineteen-month old son close as a cool spring breeze skimmed over them.
Hurrying up the front porch steps of an old, two-story, red brick home, she
rang the doorbell.

After what seemed like an eternity,
the heavy green door opened. A tall, dark-haired man holding a little girl with
big, brown eyes just like his smiled at her, and she found herself responding
back with a bona fide smile of her own. It’d been a long time since she’d
smiled that easily. A good omen, she decided.

“I’m Ethan Richardson. You must be
Haley. And Ryan,” he added, looking down at Ryan’s face, which lay nestled on
her breast. “Hi there, young man.”

Ryan hid his face. Haley rubbed her
son’s back. “He just woke up, so he’s still pretty sleepy.”

Smiling, Ethan held a hand out to
her. “I’m glad you’re here.”

She took his hand and its warmth
felt solid and sure. “Nice to meet you,” she said, then quickly pulled her hand
free and ran her fingers through Ryan’s thick mop of blonde curls.

“Do you think he wants to play with
me?” the little girl asked.

Haley smiled at her. She was a
pretty little thing. “I’m sure he’d love that as soon as he wakes up a bit
more.”

“I’m Kayla,” the girl said,
wiggling out of her dad’s arms and tugging on Ryan’s foot. “Wake up, sleepy
head.”

Ryan kicked at her, but lifted his
head in obvious interest.

“Are you going to leave these poor
people out in the cold all day?” a female voice asked from somewhere behind
Ethan.

Haley tilted her head to the side
to see who had spoken, just as an older woman with a cane stepped into view.
She had the same big, dark eyes as the man and child.

“I’m Ethan’s mother, and I swear
I’ve trained him better. Come in, come in,” she said. “You must be chilled
standing out there. It might be spring, but that breeze sure doesn’t feel like
it.”

“Meet my mother, Dorothy
Richardson,” Ethan said, stepping aside and motioning Haley in.

She entered a large foyer with
beautifully shined, dark oak floors. A huge, mixed-flower arrangement adorned
an antique walnut table on the wall opposite the staircase. The sweet smell of
yellow roses and pink tulips scented the air. Baby’s breath and several other delicate
flowers Haley couldn’t name filled out the bouquet.

“Roses and tulips have always been
my two favorite flowers,” Haley said, “not only for their beauty but for their
wonderful fragrance.” She moved closer and pulled in a deep breath.

“My mother’s passion,” Ethan said,
leading the way into a large den.

Dorothy chuckled. “I’ve traded
passions in my old age.”

“You’re not old and I doubt you’ve
traded anything.” Ethan shot Haley a wry grin. “It’s really Mother who needs
watching. I just use Kayla as an excuse.”

“Like heck you do.” Dorothy rolled
her eyes at Haley. “I tried my best to teach him not to lie, but I guess it
didn’t sink in.” She slowly made her way into a large den off the foyer and
eased onto a hunter-green chair close to the fireplace. “Nobody needs to watch
over me,” she said. “It’s my knee that’s bad, not my brain. At least not
usually my brain. And please call me Dottie. All my friends do.”

“Thank you, Dottie.” Haley already
liked this woman. And Kayla, who had enticed Ryan to wiggle out of her arms to
play, seemed like a total sweetheart. She hoped Ethan was as kind and
warm-hearted as he seemed. She glanced at him and found him staring at her, a slight
smile tugging on his full mouth. “You have a nice family,” she said, lowering
her gaze as the all-too-familiar shyness she’d worked for years to overcome
swept through her.

“Have a seat.” Ethan motioned to a
brown leather couch, and then sat at the other end of it. “One of the things
that interested me about your resume was that you were a teacher.”

“Yes. I taught second grade before
Ryan was born. But I didn’t want to put my baby in day care, so after he was
born I decided to be a nanny until he was older.”

“I like the sound of that,” Dottie
said. “You’re just the kind of woman I’d like watching my granddaughter.”

“I love children,” Haley said,
taking the block that Ryan offered her.

“Are you a strict disciplinarian?”
Ethan asked, watching her intently.

“I guess that depends on what you
consider strict. I think if you handle children right, then you rarely need any
harsh discipline. I’m a firm believer in time outs though.”

He nodded. “Since this is a live-in
position, I assume you’re divorced.”

Haley’s mouth went dry. She knew
they’d get to this, but she still wasn’t prepared to answer. “No. My husband,
Dale, is in the air force. He’s in Afghanistan. He’s been there a while, and
I’m not sure when he’ll be back. That’s why I left the base and took a job as a
nanny here in Nashville. I decided the change would be good for Ryan and me.”
Especially
me
, she thought. It had been too hard watching the other wives reunite with
their husbands, while she waited and waited with no word.

Ethan seemed to weigh her words, which
made her nervous. “I was air force, too, but not a pilot.” He frowned. “They
keep extending our soldiers’ tours of duty. Not a good thing.”

“That’s not the case with Dale.”
Haley clamped her lips shut, wishing she’d kept quiet.

Ethan looked puzzled. “I don’t mean
to pry, but how long has he been in Afghanistan?”

“About a year and a half.” Haley
fought to keep her voice from wobbling.

Ethan’s brows shot up. “That’s the
longest tour of duty I’ve ever heard of.”

Haley sucked in a fortifying
breath. “Yes, it’s a long time,” she said evasively, not sure how much she
should tell a potential employer.

Ethan glanced at his mother, then
propped a booted foot on his jean-clad knee and returned his gaze to Haley.
“Will you still want to be a nanny when he returns, at least during the day and
early evening?”

She licked her dry lips. “I haven’t
thought that far ahead, but I’m a good worker and I love children.” She
couldn’t lie, but she knew that wasn’t the answer he wanted. The truth was, she
didn’t want to think ahead. She’d survived Dale being gone by taking one day at
a time.

Ethan rested a hand on his knee and
jiggled his foot. “I need to find someone who will be here for a while.”

“Right now I can’t promise how long
I will be here, but I really need and want this job.” God she hated to admit
that, but what else was she supposed to do?

He chewed his lower lip and studied
her. “You seem like a good fit, but stability is very important for Kayla.”

She nodded. “When my husband
returns, he will live at the base and I will return there. But I have no idea
when that will be.”

Ethan narrowed his gaze. “After a
year and a half, you’re probably right. There’s no telling when he will
return.”

Haley let out a pent-up breath and
glanced at the children, praying this man gave her the job. “It’s hard being a
single parent, as I’m sure you know.”

He shifted his gaze to his
daughter, who was busy stacking building blocks with Ryan. “Yes, I know,” he
finally answered.

Haley couldn’t imagine a nice, good
looking man like Ethan being divorced. Of course, first impressions could be
deceiving. Maybe he was a widow. “How long have you been a single parent?”

Ethan’s jaw tensed. “My wife walked
out on us about a year ago.”

Haley’s hand covered her heart as
her gaze shifted to his daughter. “Walked out?” she asked in a whisper.

He nodded. “Packed up and flew the
coop. Said she wasn’t cut out for…” He cleared his throat. “Let’s just say,
she’s gone.”

“I’m sorry,” Haley said, her heart
tightening with emotion.

“It’s been an adjustment. That’s
why the nanny I hire is so important.” He held her gaze. “So I guess you have
absolutely no idea when your husband might return.”

Haley felt her face grow hot. “No,”
she stammered. “I mean, I don’t know. I’ve been hoping to hear something.”

Ethan leaned forward. “I don’t mean
to make you uncomfortable, but I don’t want to have to hire someone else in a
few months. Stability is a top priority, as I’m sure you understand.” He seemed
to ponder things for a minute. “Love of children is another top priority,” he
added.

“I’ve always loved children. That’s
why I became a teacher.” Haley wished she could stop explaining things, but she
knew he wanted more information. She felt her eyes fill with tears and she
blinked rapidly to keep them at bay. “I don’t think Dale will be back any time
soon. I mean, the thing is . . .” She cleared her tight throat and prayed for
the best. “My husband is missing in action, and I don’t know how long they keep
prisoners of war,” she blurted out.

Concern showed in Ethan’s brown eyes.
“I’m sorry to hear that. How long has he been missing?”

Haley swallowed back more tears,
dismayed that she couldn’t hold herself together for this interview. “A little
over a year.”

”Oh, you poor girl.” Dottie’s eyes
held motherly sympathy, and it was all Haley could do not to break down and
cry. Dottie glanced at Ryan, sitting beside Kayla on the floor and playing
contentedly. “He’s never seen his little boy?” she asked softly.

“Only on Skype when Ryan was a
baby.” Haley fought for composure and watched Ryan through a haze of unshed
tears as he stacked another block on top of the pile. She could hardly stand to
think about Dale not knowing their precious son. It was one of the worst things
about this terrible nightmare. After seeing his son on Skype a handful of
times, Dale had disappeared, and her world had gone dark except for the rays of
sunshine Ryan brought into her life.

“Do you have family nearby?” Ethan
asked.

She shook her head. “My parents are
in California. Mom wants me to move there, but when Dale comes home he’ll come
to Tennessee, and I want to be close. The air force has my phone number.
Besides, I don’t want to leave Tennessee. Nashville is a much better place to
raise my son than California. And far less expensive,” she added, thinking it was
also far enough away that her father would not have any influence on Ryan.

Ethan set both feet on the ground
and leaned forward. “I’d like to hire you, but I need you to be around for a
while. It’s obvious Kayla and Ryan like each other, and that you’d be good with
my daughter. The other women I’ve interviewed have been totally unsuitable. I
want someone warm and personable like yourself. Several of the women I’ve
interviewed didn’t even like children. Plus Mom’s disliked every one of them.
She’d have driven them all away in no time, even if I’d been inclined to hire
one.”

“Which he hasn’t,” Dottie chimed
in. She scooted a block closer to Ryan with the end of her cane. Ryan picked it
up and stacked it on the top of the ever-growing pile. When it started to sway,
Kayla helped him steady the blocks, then grinned at Haley.

“You’re a good helper, aren’t you?”
Haley asked, smiling at the sweet face that watched her.

“I can tell you have a good heart,”
Ethan said. “And you’re honest. I appreciate that.”

Be that as it may, Haley wished
she’d been quick enough to somehow skirt the truth about her husband without
actually lying.

“Look, Daddy. Look what Ryan did,”
Kayla exclaimed as the little boy balanced yet another block on top of the
tower.

“He loves building.” Haley smiled
at her son and he grinned, clapping his hands.

“Kayla’s already taken your son
under her wing.” Ethan rubbed a hand over his chin. Dottie looked at him
imploringly, and Haley could tell he was torn and trying to make up his mind.
She forced herself not to fidget, but she wasn’t sure what she would do if this
didn’t work out. There were very few nanny positions open.

“The thing is,” Ethan said,
spreading his hands out as if in surrender, “you need us and we need you.” He
watched the children and smiled. Haley held her breath. “And I really like that
you’re certified in CPR. Do you think you could put up with this bunch?” he
finally asked.

She nodded vigorously. “Oh yes.”

“Good. When can you start? The
sooner the better as far as I’m concerned.”

“Maybe the poor girl would like to
see where she’ll be living before she jumps smack into the middle of our happy,
little family,” Dottie said.

“That would be nice, but I already
know I want to work here,” Haley said. Ryan shoved over the stack of blocks he
and Kayla had built and shrieked with delight.

“Is there a room for Ryan?” Haley
asked over the ruckus.

“Yes, adjoining yours. Let’s go
take a look.” Dottie stood, leaning heavily on her cane for a moment. “I have a
feeling you and I will get along famously.”

Haley smiled. It was easy to do
around this family, and it had been way too long since she had done much
smiling. “I have the same feeling.”

“Me, too,” Ethan said dryly.
“Scares the hell out of me.”

“If I can’t cuss, you can’t
either,” Dottie said.

“But you
do
cuss, Mother.”

She waved her cane at him. “You can
out-cuss me any day of the year.”

Ethan shot Haley a wry grin. “I had
a good teacher.”

Haley figured that was true. She
stood and took Ryan’s hand. “I’d love to see my room.”

“Follow me.” Dottie led the way,
Kayla bouncing along beside her grandmother, and Ethan walking with her and
Ryan. Haley felt sure this would be a great place to work. And long-term if
that’s what she ended up needing, which please God she hoped she didn’t. She couldn’t
have asked for a better job. She and Ryan would be in a stable, safe place
until Dale returned. For the first time in well over a year, her heart didn’t
feel quite so heavy.

 

****

 

Ethan watched from the bedroom door
as Haley set a cream-colored porcelain vase with dried roses on top of the
practical walnut dresser he had refinished for this room. She let out an
obvious sigh of contentment and gazed out the second-story window. The morning
sun cast a glow over long blonde hair that lay softly on her shoulders.

BOOK: A Home for Haley
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