A/N: First and foremost, credit must be given where due. The wonderful thepineandthestar published a fanfiction titled "The One I Always Hear." It's adorable; I recommend reading it. However, it's short and open-ended, so I jokingly commented that if she didn't write any more that I was going to steal it. Well, I received a comment one day from her basically saying "Go for it." So, thanks to her, I willingly dove into writing this story.
Secondly for my trusted followers who are anxiously awaiting my novel, Escaping the Tyrant, to come out on Kindle; bad news. It's not coming. Kindle, being the wonderful company it is, basically said I can't provide enough information to prove I have all publishing rights (which I actually do retain) to my novel because it's already available on amazon (via Createspace, which is an Amazon company!) Anyway, I have plans this month to get it up in other digital formats, so please be patient a little while longer. Thank you.
Adrien looked down at his four-year-old. He gave her a smile then picked her up and set her on his lap. "What is it, Emma?"
She hugged him tight in a way that got him to worry. "I don't like the new babysitter," she whispered.
His eyes shut as he sighed. If Adrien recalled correctly, they were on nanny number eight. Ever since the original nanny—the one he wouldn't dare belittle by assigning a number—had given her two-week's notice, he'd been desperately trying to find another nanny for Emma. His father had immediately given Nathalie the task of finding a suitable replacement, but no matter how qualified the nannies Nathalie had found were, Emma just didn't like any of them.
She was a picky child, a trait curtesy of her mother. But, if Adrien was being honest, he wasn't certain he liked any of the replacements, either.
"Why don't you like her?" Adrien asked, just as he did every time.
"She said I couldn't go in your office."
Well, that settled it: the nanny was out. If Adrien was working at home—which was less often than he would have liked nowadays—Emma was allowed to come visit him. That was their agreement. Emma understood that she couldn't come in all the time, but she wasn't not allowed in his office.
Emma turned her blue eyes up to him. "She scares me."
Adrien gave her a tight hug. "Then we'll try another nanny, okay?"
She fussed. "I don't want another nanny. I want you."
That always squeezed his heart like a vice. He didn't like not always being there for Emma, but he'd learned that he was only one man, not an army. He couldn't do everything alone. While there were days that he could manage balancing Emma and housework and regular work on his own, there were far more days that he couldn't. While housework was always the first to go, there were times that Emma had to come in under work.
And that was absolutely unacceptable to Adrien.
His best friend, Alya, had proven herself to be an amazing superhero by finding a good nanny for Emma, one who he'd employed for the past three years or so. But four months ago, she'd handed in her two-weeks, leaving Adrien once again juggling work, housework, and Emma.
He was so thankful that there had been a lull in his job so he could balance it all until he could find a replacement. Unfortunately, that lull didn't last long.
But then again, neither did any of the nannies he'd employed.
A glance at the clock told him that it was time for lunch. The nanny should be making Emma something very shortly, but a quick peek at his schedule said he was free for lunch. The pile of paperwork could wait. "How about we go out for lunch?"
She lit up at that. "Can we go to Mimi's?"
He grinned. "Okay. We can go to Mimi's."
"But we have to stop by Grandfather's, first. Okay?"
She nodded excitedly. "Okay."
Emma bounded off his lap in a heartbeat, running out of his office, blonde ponytail flying behind her and pink skirt bouncing with her stride. Adrien chuckled before following his little girl.
He walked from his office, only to see the nanny standing in wait for him. "I'm sorry, sir. I couldn't keep her out."
"I never said she had to stay out," Adrien said. "She's allowed in my office when I'm home."
The nanny looked confused at that. "But sir, you clearly told me that you needed to get work done today."
"If I didn't want Emma entering, I would have gone to my office," Adrien clarified in a dismissive way that he was certain mimicked his father to the letter. It almost disgusted him to copy the behavior he always found so irritating with his father, yet it also managed to be a point of pride when it came to dealing with employees. A job was a job; it was either done correctly or not. If one couldn't do the job correctly, especially when they were so highly credentialed, then they shouldn't have the position.
"Forgive me," Adrien said, his voice quiet. "But I believe this arrangement isn't going to work. I'll give you a good reference and good pay, as promised, but I don't believe you are best suited here."
Just as most of the women did, this one looked appalled.
Adrien couldn't blame her. With as many references and jobs that she had had, she was certainly "acceptable" enough, yet just as many of the other nannies of her status, most of them believed they knew better than he when it came to raising children.
Which might be the case, but he was stubborn enough to want to parent his child himself.
"Emma and I are heading out for lunch," Adrien said. "I would not blame you if you walked out now."
"Well," she said with an indignant huff, "I just might take you up on that offer."
With that, she turned and marched off in order to gather her things.
Good riddance, Adrien thought.
"Come on, Daddy!" Emma shouted. She was standing by the door with her shoes on, arms crossed, and wearing an impatient pout.
He grinned, all previous irritation fading away. "Coming."
Soon enough, the two were walking hand in hand down the street towards Gabriel's house. Normally, Father liked avoiding his office at the design house, preferring to work at home when he could. Hopefully, he'd be there today.
Adrien punched in the code for the gate access. When it opened, Emma let go of his hand to run to the front door. By the time Adrien caught up to her, the Gorilla had answered.
With a squeal, Emma wrapped her arms around the large man's waist. "Uncle Gorilla."
The usual stoic expression on the man's face melted to one of delight. He patted her head affectionately before waving hello to Adrien, who responded in kind.
"We're here to see Grandmother and Grandfather," Emma said.
With a chuckle at the mention of "Grandmother", he opened the door wide and pointed towards the office. With fresh excitement, Emma released him to run towards the indicated door.
"I still can't believe Nathalie puts up with being 'Grandmother'," Gorilla quietly commented.
Adrien couldn't either. It was doubly comical considering that Nathalie had nothing but a working relationship—at least, as far as Adrien knew of—with Adrien's father. According to Nathalie, playing the grandmother made Emma happy, so she'd bear that burden.
Considering how willingly she did it, it must not have been that big of a burden.
Adrien opened the door for Emma to reveal Nathalie sitting in her little office space.
Immediately, Nathalie's attention was on Emma as the girl ran towards her. With a warm smile, Nathalie bent over to give the girl a hug. "Emma. What a pleasant surprise." Over Emma's shoulder, Nathalie shot a smile towards Adrien.
"We're here to say hi before we head to lunch," Adrien said, but his tone indicated more.
Nathalie caught it. Still focused on Emma, she pulled the girl up onto her lap. "I'm sure you want to say hello to your grandfather, too."
Emma nodded eagerly.
"To do that, all I have to do is press this button," Nathalie pointed to a button on her intercom, "tell him 'hello', and he'll come out to meet you."
Emma nodded. She leaned forward on the desk so she could get closer to the speaker. When Nathalie pressed the button, Emma spoke with a bright smile. "Hello, Grandfather. It's me. Emma. Nathalie said all she had to do was press the button and I could talk to you."
Adrien could imagine his father's quiet laughter. It was an indescribable comfort that Father took such an interest in Emma, even if it stung that his own childhood wasn't quite as rosy.
A few second's later, the door behind Nathalie opened to reveal Gabriel.
"Grandfather!" Emma leapt off Nathalie's lap in order to give her grandfather a hug.
The distraction allowed Adrien to speak to Nathalie. "The new nanny didn't work out."
She sighed. "Adrien, that was nanny number ten."
Was it? He thought for certain it was eight. He hadn't gone through that many, had he? "She was trying to keep Emma from my office."
"Well, in that case, she had to go."
Adrien would forever be thankful that he and Nathalie usually seemed to be on the same page as him regarding the nannies. "So I'll need—"
Before he could finish, Nathalie opened the top drawer of her desk and pulled out a few sheets of paper. "Here."
Adrien blinked at it before taking the offered papers.
"And when you blow through those, I have more in waiting."
"Have I ever told you how amazing you are, Nathalie?"
She hummed knowingly.
"And now," Emma said, pulling Adrien's attention to the conversation she was having with Father. "Daddy and I are going to Mimi's."
"That sounds fun," Gabriel said, glancing up at Adrien before smiling back at Emma. "I hope you have a good lunch."
"We just stopped by to say hello before we headed out," Adrien said, holding up the sheet and using it to point to Nathalie.
Gabriel's head raised in understanding, but when it didn't lower to complete the nod, Adrien grew nervous. Gabriel glanced inside his office, and Adrien knew full well the meaning.
He headed towards the office as his father leaned down to smile at Emma. "I'm going to need to talk with your father. Why don't you talk to Grandmother?"
Adrien had to steal a glance at Nathalie. The only thing more comical than how readily Nathalie took on the name was how often Gabriel tossed it around. She always got this unreadable expression on her face when he did use it, but she never objected.
Of course, that might just be because she didn't want to test her boss.
"Ok," Emma said, innocently oblivious to the fact Grandmother was not actually Grandmother and her biological family found abundant amusement in that fact.
As soon as Emma found herself back up in Nathalie's lap, Gabriel shut the door to his office. "Do you want a seat?" his father asked.
"I'm not sure. Am I going to like what you're going to say?"
Unreadable as ever, Gabriel walked over to the desk to lean his hip against it. "Have you ever considered that Emma needs a mother?"
Adrien sighed. "Father," he started, rubbing at his eyes.
"It's a simple inquiry."
"No," Adrien said. "Just…no. I'm not interested."
His father hummed.
"What?" Adrien challenged. "There's nothing wrong with having a nanny for Emma."
"Adrien, I'm not condemning you having a nanny for Emma, especially considering that means she's kept out of some daycare. However, a nanny is not a partner for you."
That got Adrien to pause, speechless.
"I actually do care for you," his father said. "And I care for your will being. You are twenty-six years old and perfectly eligible."
"I'm also a divorced single-father," Adrien flatly countered. "Not quite the ' higher status' of a widow—"
"You cared for her," his father interrupted. "And you cared to fight for the marriage, no matter how rocky it was. She walked out on you."
Adrien managed to pull himself together though his father had managed to shock him further. "And here I would have thought that you would have blamed me for marrying her in the first place."
"Considering that I was just as much at fault in encouraging your union no matter my personal dislike for her character, I have no right."
Adrien had to admit that this version of his father, the one that actually took responsibility and wasn't as pushy, was very hard to get used to. Emma had somehow served as the catalyst in that change. It was as though one day, he brought that little week-old baby into his father's office and his father changed on the spot. No matter what had gone on his father's mind, Adrien was not going to complain. Not when their conversations since Emma was born consisted of them actually talking instead of shouting at each other or, worse, not talking at all.
"What I am saying," his father continued, "is that you should have the opportunity to find a woman who will actually be a good wife to you as well as serve as a mother for Emma. Heaven knows how good of a mother your lovely ex-wife would have made."
"She wouldn't have been too bad," Adrien said, uncertain if he truly meant it or not.
His father hummed in disagreement. "Maybe with you as the father, but I have the feeling Nathalie would have served as a better mother figure."
"Is that an insult to Nathalie?"
His father glared at him. "Let's be honest, Adrien. Your mother was the parent who parented, and I find that taking up that solo torch left a rather large black smudge on my accomplishments. And Nathalie, no matter how accomplished she is, likely only did slightly better than I."
Adrien was just going to bite his tongue and keep silent because he had no response to that.
"That being said," he continued, "I still hold a hope that Emma would have the opportunity to have a mother in her life, especially considering she will never know her own. Furthermore, I hope you will actually be able to have a woman who cared for you instead of your fame and fortune."
"As pleasant as that sounds, Father, I doubt I would meet—nevertheless, attract—many women who would fit the requirements."
Gabriel shrugged. "I suppose there is nothing I can force on you. You may be too young to say you aren't an eligible man, but you are too old for me to order you around like a child."
"You still do."
"Our work relationship does not count."
That pulled a chuckle from Adrien and a smirk from his father.
"Still," Gabriel continued, "I would think you know me well enough to know that I have high standards for you."
"Father," Adrien warned.
"Alya, for example—"
"Is just a friend," he interrupted, stopping his father before he remotely got started. "In fact, I'm fairly certain she's dating someone."
"I'm simply pointing out the fact that she would meet the criteria I would set. There's nothing to be worried about."
Except for the fact his father was dabbling in his love life.
With the conversation finished, the two men exited the office to the sight of Emma on Nathalie's lap, helping "organize" paperwork.
Adrien decided to press his luck. "You know," he whispered, "it wouldn't hurt to give Emma an actual grandmother."
"Don't even think about it," his father flatly countered.
It wasn't long before Emma noticed her two favorite people had returned and ran over to them.
"Shall we head off to lunch, Emma?" Adrien asked.
She nodded, her blonde ponytail bouncing and her blue eyes sparkling. It hurt sometimes just how much Emma resembled her mother, but Adrien supposed that wasn't a bad thing.
Emma gave Grandfather one last hug then waved good-bye to Grandmother and Uncle Gorilla. Afterwards, she slipped her hand into Adrien's so they could head out.
"Let's see," Adrien said, making a show of thinking. "Let me try to guess what you're going to get."
Emma's smile brightened as a skip entered her step.
"Are you going to get…the egg salad."
She wrinkled her nose. "No, Daddy. I don't like that."
She's never had it, but Adrien knew that was just what children did. "Hmm…let's see. What about…the chicken sandwich."
Again, she shook her head. "Nope."
Adrien once again put on a show of thinking, enjoying the way his daughter thought she was so clever about what she wanted.
Three more "tries" later, Emma was giggling. "You'll never guess."
"You're right. I give up. What do you want?"
She grinned. "The onion soup."
He made another show of snapping his fingers and sighing. "I should have guessed." He knew, of course. She always got that, no matter how hot it was outside.
The closer they got to the quaint cafe, the stronger the warm smell of baking breads was. The hostess greeted them when they arrived. She took two menus and started leading them through the café.
Emma suddenly gasped. "Auntie Alya!"
Adrien looked up to see, lo and behold, Alya was working in the corner of the café, a sandwich on her right and laptop on her left. When she caught sight of Emma, the computer was closed. "Well, if it isn't my favorite niece."
Adrien let go of Emma's hand so she could bound over to Alya. Before she wrapped Emma in a hug, Alya waved Adrien over.
Adrien thanked the hostess before taking the two menus and walking over to Alya. "How are you, Alya? You look busy."
She dismissed that with a wave. "Nah. I'm just doing some personal stuff for my blog. No big deal. It wasn't any good, anyway."
He watched Emma situate herself beside Alya, who had moved all her stuff to accommodate the girl. "Are you sure, Alya? I don't want to intrude on your blog."
She gave him a "look". "I'm certain."
Adrien surrendered by putting his hands in the air.
"So," Alya said, looking down at Emma with a grin. "What brings you two out, today?"
"Daddy promised me lunch."
"Isn't that the nanny's job," Alay asked, glancing over at Adrien.
Emma frowned. "I don't like her," she said. "She's mean and wouldn't let me see daddy."
Alya shot a frown at Adrien. "Again?"
Adrien nodded then pulled out the folded pieces of paper from his pocket.
She snatched them from his hand, skimming over only the first paper before looking over her glasses at him. "You know, Adrien," she said, handing the papers back over. "As much as I'm glad Nathalie and Gabriel are helping you out, their method is failing you. This is, what? Number eleven?"
Alya rolled her eyes.
"Well, do you have a better idea?" Adrien challenged.
He remembered a second too late to never, ever challenge Alya. Ever.
"Do you want overly-credentialed?" she smugly asked. "Or someone I would hand my own child off to, say 'have fun', and not worry about for the rest of the day."
Adrien stared down Alya, who stared back at him with a winning gleam in her eye. Considering that Adrien had tried to hire said overly-credentialed nannies to no avail and Alya knew it, there was only one correct answer to her question.
Adrien pulled out his phone, opening up his contacts before handing it to Alya. "Names and numbers."
Alya took the phone with a smirk. "Oh, there's only one."
Adrien crossed his fingers. If there was only one, that meant there would only be one chance. For Emma's sake, he hoped beyond all hope this person worked out.