Leeloo Brantley never dreamed she'd run into Nate Marshall, her long-time secret crush, after he graduated high school the year before. Yet there he is, standing in Festivities, her mom's party shop, a few days before Christmas with his brand new stepsister, four-year-old Anna. Nate tells Leeloo he's babysitting Anna while their parents honeymoon. Leeloo tells Nate he's not up for it, a fact proved when he calls her in desperation later that night begging for help.
Certain this is an early Christmas present straight from the elves, Leeloo eagerly agrees. And as the three of them begin to hang out under the decorated tree, Nate actually seems to see her with new eyes. Then a weather front brings scary thunderstorms no four-year-old can love. Though Nate assures Anna he'll keep her and Leeloo safe forever, Leeloo has to wonder if he really means it or is simply trying to soothe a beloved little sister who's afraid of thunder.
Nate sighed. "Thanks for saving me. That's twice now. I definitely owe you."
Didn't I just wish? "I'll remember you said that."
He gave me the oddest look and another of those grins. "Looking forward to it."
Flustered, I tried to think of something clever to say but never got the chance before a wail of dismay made every parent spring to attention. I quickly spotted the source, Anna, who'd spilled red punch on her pristine outfit.
"Oh man." Nate took an uncertain step in that direction.
I saved his ass again. "We'll take care of it." And, used to spills, Mom and I did, quickly wiping up and wiping down. Anna's leotard, though damp, was barely stained when we finished. I walked back to Nate. "Her clothes need to be washed ASAP."
"I'll make sure they are."
"So who's keeping her while the parents are in Branson?"
I got another one of those looks. "Me, of course. It's only for two nights."
My jaw dropped. "Dude, you're not up for this."
"I resent that."
I instantly regretted my thoughtless blurt. "Sorry. It's just that five-year-old—"
"Four. She's four."
Wow. Even worse. "Four-year-old girls can be very complicated."
"So can teenage girls," he said with a laugh, blowing me off. "But I somehow managed to date a few. Anna and I will be fine."
Did that mean he wasn't dating now? "Look, I babysit all the time, and I'm telling you from the bottom of the heart that if you have a problem with wiping her butt, you are not prepared for twenty-four-seven times two."
"And I'm telling you we'll be fine."
I gave up with reluctance and only because I thrust one of my brand new business cards at him. Giving him my cell number would've been a wildest dream come true if he'd actually asked for it. Unfortunately, he hadn't. "Promise you'll call me if things get crazy."
"They won't." He sounded so sure, but still pocketed the card.
I didn't argue further, instead returning to the party, which had begun to break up. Handing each pint-sized guest a shiny bag filled with goodies, I waved all of them out the door. As Nate and Anna left, he turned and gave me one last grin, mouthing, I've got this.
I couldn't help but grin back, as glad he wasn't pissed as I was certain he didn't have anything.