“Oh, yeah, I’m Little Miss Sunshine, let me tell you,” I state.
“He was really disappointed last night,” he tells me. “Normally someone tries to kill him, he doesn’t even blink—he expects it. But he was genuinely disappointed to find out you were just playing him.”
Narrowing my eyes, I ask, “Why are you telling me all this?”
Adrian glances at me a few times, then he says, “He went to an awful lot of trouble to make sure the woman who planned to assassinate him moved into his house. Not his smartest move, and Mateo is many things, but never stupid. Almost never. Occasionally, the right kind of woman comes along and throws a wrench in his gears.”
“He only met me last night,” I point out. “I mean, we had a nice date, but considering all that came after it? I can’t imagine much tenderness remains for either one of us.”
He shrugs, turning his attention back to the road. “Just telling you what I observed. Sometimes people just fit, you know?”
Indicating myself, I ask with no small amount of disbelief, “You think we might fit?”
“I guess we’ll see.”
After Adrian brings me back to the Morelli mansion, it’s time to start work. I’m feeling a lot better about my circumstances now that I’ve talked to Adrian. There are still some obvious down sides, but I’m committed to making the best of things.
The maid named Maria shows me around the massive home, explaining how they rotate cleaning schedules. Apparently I’m the third maid, but Elise might be leaving soon.
“Mateo wants you to work his wing, so you’ll be responsible for him. Nobody in this house can make a bed to save their life, so after he rises, if you’re not responsible for breakfast that day, you come up, you clean, you make his bed—make everything perfect for him. More important in his wing than the others. I wouldn’t have started you here, but…” Her gaze moves over my body, then she rolls her eyes and continues on.
“How do I know if I’m responsible for breakfast? How do I know what to make? And how much?”
“You can do breakfast with me tomorrow. I will show you.”
She goes on to explain we make breakfast and dinner every day except for Sunday—unless we’re specifically requested for some task, Sunday is our one day off every week.
“Yeah, he mentioned something about a Sunday dinner,” I remember.
“Someone still helps out on Sunday, keep dinner going while the women eat, but my daughter usually does it.”
That catches my interest. “Your daughter lives here with you, too? How old is she?”
“Cherie, 17. You will meet her.”
“You just have the one daughter then? Have you worked here long?”
Brusquely tossing a stack of white sheets on top of the utility cart she pushes, she says, “No, I have a husband and two grown sons back in Mexico.”
That surprises me. “Oh. Wow, that must be… very hard. Do you go visit them often?”
“No,” she says, turning to give me a look that feels lecturing, though I’m not sure what I’ve said to make her mad. “This isn’t as bad a place to work under the younger Mateo like it was with the older one, least not for me, since I’m an old woman. Might be different for you. This isn’t a job, you don’t get vacation. My husband sold me to Mateo’s father. I’ve been here 20 years. I’ll die here.” She shrugs. “No point feeling sorry for yourself.”
I can’t keep my jaw from falling open as she summarily dismisses me.
“Elise will be doing dinner tonight. You can help her.” Then, glancing at my jeans and gray T-shirt, clearly unimpressed, she adds, “Ask her to borrow a uniform first.”
I want to feed Lily lunch, but I don’t know how to do anything. By the time I even find the nanny, she’s already fed my daughter as well as Mateo’s.
“Momma!” Lily says, running over to hug me.
Mateo’s daughter remains in the floor with a mountain of Barbie dolls, but she has her father’s brown eyes, and they watch me hug Lily.
Once Lily’s done, she runs back over to continue playing. I follow her, crouching down in the floor and offering the Mateo’s little girl a warm smile. “I’m Meg, Lily’s mom.”
“I’m Isabella,” she tells me, still watching me with her intense little stare. “Me and Lily are just playing Barbies.”
“That’s very nice,” I say, grabbing one of the dolls and smoothing back its hair. “Lily really likes playing Barbies. How old are you?”
“Five. I’m gonna go to school soon,” she informs me, grabbing a Barbie doll with glasses. “This one’s the teacher. I was showing Lily about school.”
“Yeah,” Lily agrees, settling back into her spot and grabbing one of the smaller dolls. “These girls go to her school.”
“I’m glad to see you’re playing nice,” I tell Lily, gently rubbing her back.