Nanny for the Mercenaries
Three Years Later
“We’re getting ready to land,” I said to Kaylee in the seat next to me. “You’re going to need to put your things away.”
Kaylee had her nose buried in her book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. She was near the end of the book, when a certain climactic event would occur, and I was afraid she would get interrupted as we deplaned.
“Did you sleep at all?” Jordy asked groggily in the seat behind her.
“A little,” she replied impatiently while not taking her eyes off the book. “I woke up early to keep reading.”
I chuckled, but kept my mouth shut. Kaylee hadn’t stopped reading since we got on the plane eight hours ago. She certainly hadn’t paused to get some sleep on the overnight flight, which meant she was going to pass out later today. But I wasn’t going to tattle on her.
“Get it out of your system now,” Archer said on the other side of the aisle. “Your grandmas and grandpas haven’t seen you in several years. It would be rude to spend the entire trip with your nose in the book.”
Kaylee made a dismissive noise and turned the page. I smiled privately. She was thirteen, and already showing the early signs of being a new creature altogether: a teenager. Jordy and Harrison would be able to handle her angsty years, I knew, but Archer would struggle with it.
The plane intercom crackled to life. “Good morning, this is Captain Andrews speaking. In just a few minutes we will begin our descent into London Heathrow…”
I quickly raised my window blind and pressed my face against the glass to watch the English countryside far below us. After Jordy and Archer retired from mercenary work, we hadn’t done a lot of traveling. They were happy to relax and stay at home in the United States as much as possible. We had still gone on vacations—or holidays, as Archer called them—around the country. The north rim of the Grand Canyon last year, and the Gulf Shore for a beach week the year before that. But we hadn’t gone anywhere international since the trip that started it all.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” Harrison said, leaning forward from his seat behind me to whisper in my ear. “England’s gloomy as hell. Nothing but clouds and rain.”
I turned around and stuck my tongue out at him. “I ought to start calling you Oscar, since you’re such a grouch.”
He gave me a mischievous smile in return; the kind of smile that told me he was going to make me pay for that later. In the best possible way. He always does.
The flight attendant came around and instructed us to put away our belongings. Kaylee tucked her backpack under the seat, but kept her book out in her lap while we landed, and then taxied to our gate. Only when the fasten-seatbelt sign turned off and everyone began standing did she sigh and put the book away.
As she stood up, I once again marveled at how big she was getting. Three years ago, she hardly came up to my waist—but now she was only a few inches shorter than me. I swear, she grew a few millimeters during the flight.
Archer put an arm around her and kissed her hair. For a few seconds, it was difficult to imagine that they weren’t related by blood. “Your grandparents are going to be so happy to see you.”
“Can I play Overwatch when we get there?”
“Later tonight,” he replied. “After visiting with everyone.”
She let out the most teenager-like groan I’d ever heard. Archer visibly clenched his jaw.
I smiled at him. Get used to it. The angst is just beginning.
“It’s so gloomy,” she said when we were in a car, confirming everything I had suspected. “You said England was nice, Dad.”
“It is nice. Sometimes. Is the weather perfect in Wilmington all the time?”
“It’s better than this,” she grumbled.
“I love England!” Jordy exclaimed happily. He kissed me on the cheek in the back seat.
“You’ve only been once,” Archer said dryly.
“And that was enough to know I love it,” Jordy replied. “Let’s go somewhere and get a nice mulled wine.”
“It’s September,” Archer said.
“Mulled wine is only served in the winter.”
“Stop being such a grouch,” Jordy said. “You’re starting to sound like Harrison.”
“Harrison is, on occasion, correct,” Archer said.
Harrison grunted in agreement.
“I bet if I ask for a mulled wine, they’ll make it for me.”
“You’ll be laughed out of every pub in England, but if you want to try, be my guest,” Archer said. “But first, we’re going to my parents’ house.”
Archer’s parents lived an hour outside of London, where the land was full of rolling hills and open countryside. It was nothing like North Carolina. Come to think of it, it was nothing like the other foreign places I had visited—Oslo, Istanbul, and Baku. It was comforting knowing I could speak the language here without hoping the locals knew English. It was also comforting knowing that a Czech sex trafficker wasn’t going to jump out from behind a building and try to kidnap me or my three men.
Harrison is still a mercenary, I reminded myself. He says he stays away from dangerous missions, but I’ll never know for sure. Although that wasn’t a relief, it was a reminder to enjoy every moment I had with him. With all of them. I was a lucky girl, much luckier than most.
We arrived at a sprawling home at the top of a hill, surrounded by green sheep pastures. There were six cars parked outside, which was my first sign of things to come.
“This is where you grew up?” I asked Archer as we got out of the car.
“I grew up in Stratford. Once I joined His Majesty’s Armed Forces, they sold that house and moved out here to the countryside.”
“More rooms,” Jordy said. “A lot more.”
There was a yelp of excitement by the front door, and a man and a woman came rushing out to the car. They hugged Archer first, then immediately turned to me.
“You must be her. The woman we’ve heard so much about! Patricia!”
“Please, call me Trish,” I said as they hugged and kissed me. “You must be Pierce and Cornelia?”
The two of them exchanged a look, and then laughed. “Not exactly,” the man said.
“This is Camilla,” Archer introduced, “and Hector.”
“Oh!” I said, mentally picturing the network of relationships I had studied before arriving. “Camilla, you’re in a triad with Pierce and Cornelia, Archer’s biological parents. And Hector is your… friend?”
Hector snickered and elbowed Camilla. “Quite good friend, I would hope!”
“I’m sure it’s all quite confusing,” said a new woman that was walking out of the house. “Oh, come here dear. Let us have a look at you.” She braced me by the shoulders and looked me up and down. “Oh, but you’re so beautiful! Archer never told us you were so beautiful.”
“I’ve shown you many photographs, mum,” Archer said dryly.
“I’m Cornelia,” she told me as she hugged me. “And the grey-haired sloth taking his time walking down the porch is my husband Pierce.”
“You’re Archer’s biological parents!” I said. “It’s so good to meet you finally!”
Cornelia tut-tutted me. “We don’t care about blood relation. Everyone here helped raise our boy as much as we did.”
“Good point,” I admitted, thinking of Kaylee and her relationship with her three fathers.
“Archibald, my boy,” Pierce called. “Good to see you’re keeping fit while no longer in the service.” No matter what Cornelia said, the man looked like a carbon-copy of Archer.
“I haven’t been in the service for a dozen years, dad,” he replied.
“You know what I mean! Since you stopped all that mercenary business. Good to see you’re all on the up-and-up now.”
Two new women came rushing outside. “Prince Harry is still a soldier of fortune!” They descended upon Harrison with emphatic hugs and a multitude of kisses on his cheeks.
“Prince Harry?” I asked.
“That’s Priscilla and Kate,” Jordy explained. “They think he looks like Prince Harry, King Charles’ second son.”
“So smooth!” one of the women said while rubbing her palm against Harrison’s cheek. “Now you really look like him.”
“I’m growing my beard out soon,” he grumbled, glancing at me for a moment. I flashed him an amused smile.
Kaylee had been reading her book in the car up to this point, but now it was too late to hide. Pierce threw open the door and dragged her out into a gauntlet of hugs, kisses, and well-wishes.
“What are you doing, hiding away?”
“Look how big you’ve gotten!”
“She’s turning into a beautiful young woman.”
“I was reading my book,” she said sheepishly. “I just finished it. Snape killed Dumbledore!”
“Oh, it’s about time you read the series!” Hector said.
Kaylee’s eyes widened. “You’ve read Harry Potter?”
“At least three times! That Snape thing was quite a twist. Wait until the next book though, and you’ll find…”
I cleared my throat. “Don’t spoil it for her!”
“Right, right, of course not.” He winked at Kaylee. “Suffice to say, you’ll love the ending.”
“Can I play Overwatch?” Kaylee asked.
Archer rounded on her. “We only just arrived, dearie.”
“Let her play her game!” Cornelia said. “We want to meet the new member of the family.”
All seven parents turned to face me at once. It was definitely intimidating. Much more difficult than when I met Jordy’s mom last year by herself.
Then all of them were gathering around and hugging me, commenting on how beautiful I was, and how Archer always did like blondes. I blushed as Ambrose told me that I was by far the prettiest girl Archer had dated. “And with a good head on your shoulders, I hear!” he added.
Harrison smiled evilly at me and put his arm around Kaylee. “Come on. Let’s go hide somewhere and play Overwatch. I’ll be your healer.”
“Okay!” She and Harrison fist-bumped each other.
“Don’t leave me!” I mouthed to him. His smirk widened, and then he and Kaylee were gone.
I allowed myself to be ushered into the house. Seven different parents tried carrying on a conversation with me at the same time. I accepted several offers of tea, and after taking a seat on the couch, I received four different cups of varying brews.
“Never imagined our boy would follow in our footsteps, so to speak,” Pierce said.
Priscilla and Kate nodded in unison. “We tried not to push the polyamory lifestyle on him. Told him to follow his heart wherever it took him.”
“I did, mum,” Archer protested.
“Never expected it for myself, either,” Jordy chimed in. “Hell, I haven’t even told my parents about the situation. I let them meet Trish alone, without bringing up Archer or Harrison.”
“Well? Cat got your tongue?” Camilla asked.
I frowned at her. “I’m sorry, I missed the question?”
“How do you like it?”
I sipped my tea to give myself a moment to think. “I don’t like it. I love it. Like Jordy, I never expected to be in this situation. I don’t think any girl expects it…”
“Although some dream it,” Cornelia said to Camilla, who playfully slapped at her leg.
“We’re really happy,” I said, taking Archer’s hand and squeezing it.
“That’s all that matters,” Kate said. “And from what we’ve heard, Kaylee adores you.”
“She started calling her mom a few months ago,” Jordy revealed with a boyish grin. “Never even prompted her to. She just started doing it!”
Kaylee’s seven grandparents all let out a chorus of coos.
“And what about you, dearie?” Cornelia asked. “Do you want to have children of your own?”
“That’s too personal of a question!” Pierce scolded.
“It is not!”
“She’s barely finished her tea and you’re asking if she wants to pop out her own spawn…”
“I was only making conversation!” Cornelia insisted.
I smiled politely. “I don’t mind! Yes, I definitely want children of my own. I’ve been so busy, though. I finished school last year, and started coding my own video game project. That should be done in the next few months, and then it goes into the alpha stage.” I shook my head. “But the guys have said they aren’t ready for another any time soon. Especially since Harrison is still doing mercenary work…”
“Actually,” Jordy said, “I think we’re ready.”
I gave a start. “Pardon?”
“When we last discussed it, we were not ready,” Archer chimed in. “But we’ve given it a lot of thought… and that has now changed.”
I snorted. “You two might be, but Harrison…”
“Actually,” Archer said, “it was Harrison’s idea. He wanted to tell you on this trip.”
I stared deeply into his eyes, waiting for him to say he was joking. But I saw that he was telling the truth. Both of them were.
“You want… you want to start a family with me?”
“We already have a family with you,” Jordy insisted. “We want to expand it.”
I felt a tear roll down my cheek, and I put down my tea and threw myself into Archer’s arms. After hugging him, I turned and embraced Jordy, who kissed me on the cheek.
“Ready when you are, Kettlebells,” he whispered. “We can make a whole family of little Kettlebells, if you want.”
“I don’t think I’m ever going to get sick of that nickname,” I said, kissing him on the lips.
“Oh, I love this part!” Ambrose exclaimed. “Trying is such good fun.”
“Unprotected sex all around,” Pierce said wistfully. “Remember that year, Cornelia?”
She beamed at her husband. “Like it was yesterday. We were at it like rabbits, two or three times a day.”
Archer let out a long sigh. “Can we please not discuss the details of this?”
Jordy laughed. “What’s the matter? Don’t like the thought of all of them having sex?”
“Our son is quite prudish sexually,” Cornelia told me.
I grinned and mustered enough courage to say, “Trust me, that isn’t true!”
The whole room roared with laughter. Archer’s cheeks turned three different shades of red, but then he was laughing too. Harrison walked by with his laptop and gave me a private little wink. A wink of promise. A wink for the future.
I love our little family, I thought. No matter how unconventional it is.