Raven's Cove, Book 1
Release Date:

Mar 5, 2024



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Marrying the Nanny


Dani Collins

When infant Storm is orphaned, nanny Emma Wright, on a work visa and still reeling from a painful divorce, yearns to adopt her but must relinquish Storm to her three adult half-brothers. They remind her of a pack of wolves—protective, but not prepared to care for a baby.  Alpha male Reid is especially aloof and intimidating.

Like his younger brothers, Reid Fraser left the Westcoast village of Raven’s Cove at eighteen and never looked back. Now a successful corporate consultant who rescues failing businesses—which is what this fly-in fishing resort has become, Reid must rally his brothers to save Storm’s inheritance, but he and his estranged brothers barely get along. They can’t deal with an infant, too. They need the nanny.

As Emma coaches Reid through midnight feedings and teething, they try to ignore the sexual pull between them. Then they learn Storm may have family who could take her from them. Reid proposes a marriage of convenience, but will it be enough to keep this fractured family together?

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Chapter One

Emma Wright was used to being ignored and preferred it, but it was hard to go unnoticed while escorting the aptly named “Storm.”

Storm exercised her healthy lungs, earning them hostile glares as they were shown through the litigious hallways of Who’s-It and What’s-His-Nuts. The receptionist left them in a small boardroom, giving an eyeroll that Emma caught through the window as the woman closed the door.

How dare the bellows of a fussy baby disturb the paralegals doing important probate work for dead people? Emma was only responsible for the survival of this tiny live human, but whatever.

With a grateful sigh, Emma let the nappy bag slide off her shoulder, then unstrapped Storm from the car seat clipped to the pram. She snuggled Storm against her shoulder, trying to placate her with the flannel of her blankie against her cheek. She used a soft voice and put a gentle bounce in her step, but Storm remained a knotted bundle of fury. Her little body quivered in rage, and each of her rasping wails could have stripped the paint off the walls.

Emma’s heart locked up with helplessness. Until Wilf and Tiffany’s departure five days ago, Storm had been cuter than a bug’s bum, alert and full of smiles, offering angelic blinks of her big blue eyes framed in downy blond lashes. She was getting the hang of sitting up and was quick to grab anything and shove it into her toothless mouth.

Anything but a dummy, of course. The fact she wouldn’t take a pacifier was proving highly inconvenient, especially now that things had taken such a dark turn. For both of them.

Emma paced anxiously to the window and rubbed Storm’s back, swaying her hips and promising everything would be okay.

Storm wouldn’t be lied to. She tangled a few of Emma’s stray hairs in her clenched fist, causing a sting that brought tears to Emma’s eyes.

“You’re right, you’re right,” Emma soothed, prying her hair loose and smoothing it back toward her ponytail. She lifted her gaze to the bleak day, so different from the fine blues and greens she would have seen back home.

It was the first of April. Her anniversary.

Or would have been.

That’s what you get for marrying on April Fool’s Day. Angry humiliation washed over her afresh, but Storm didn’t allow her to wallow in self-pity. She paused to catch her breath, lifting her head to give Emma a forsaken frown.

“I know, love.” Emma tightened her arms around her and whispered into her hair. “Do you see the plane? It’s taking off.”

Storm looked out the window for about one second, then drooped her head against Emma’s neck and began to sob again, heavy as a sack of wet laundry.

Emma didn’t blame her. Storm had lost her parents in one of those small planes two days ago. She wasn’t old enough to understand it, but Emma was certain that, deep down, Storm knew they weren’t coming back.

That’s why Emma was fine with holding this stone’s worth of wretchedness even though her arms ached and her ears rang.

Maybe she was even clinging to the baby for the same reason Storm clung so tightly to her. Trepidation had dug its claws into Emma’s vitals the moment she had heard the news. Now she’d been summoned out of Raven’s Cove. Where would she go if not back there with Storm?

Where would Storm go? A foster home?

Emma’s heart juddered as she searched the rain-washed streets, not encouraged by the sturdy brick façades, wrought-iron gates, and cheery hanging baskets struggling to push out early blooms. Storm belonged with her. Surely she could convince them of that, whoever “they” were.

She would stay in Canada if that’s what it took. Happily. In many ways, BC reminded her of home, especially here in Victoria with its stamp of English colonialism. The city was perched on the bottom of Vancouver Island, not unlike her hometown of Nelson on the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island.

She didn’t mind that she was in upside-down world here, where the sea was slate, not turquoise, and the trees were needle sharp instead of lush and frondy.

Where she had a baby and no husband instead of a husband and no baby.

For how long, though?

The door opened.

Emma turned and tried to find a weak smile for the middle-aged man who entered.

Storm stopped crying, tears on her cheeks, while she studied the new arrival. Not who she wanted. She dropped her head onto Emma’s shoulder hard enough for the tonk to reverberate through Emma’s collarbone.

“Oh, Storm.” Emma almost started crying herself. She rubbed her thumb on Storm’s brow where she thought they’d connected while Storm bellowed in fresh pain.

“Dennis Listle.” The man introduced himself with a pained smile. “Wilf’s lawyer.”

Emma knew that tense look. Control that baby.

What could she do? Storm had been forcibly weaned and wanted her mama. She had spent the morning being stuffed into boats and cars and planes, none of which she’d enjoyed, and could probably sense Emma’s distress. Now everything around her was different. Of course she was inconsolable. Emma was barely holding it together herself.

“Emma Wright. The au pair.” She switched Storm to her other arm so she could shake his hand.

“This is Harpreet Mahil,” Dennis said as a plump woman hurried in behind him, “with the Ministry of Children and Family Development.”

“We spoke on the phone.” Harpreet’s hand was warm and firm. She peeked at Storm’s squinched-up face and murmured something in Punjabi, crinkling her brow in rueful sympathy.

“She’s due for her nap. She should settle soon.” Emma hoped it wasn’t a lie.

“Poor thing. Thank you for bringing her.”

“Of course.” Emma had been both relieved and agonized when Harpreet had told her what to do. Bring Storm to Victoria. The will would be read in the presence of Storm’s brothers and Storm’s future decided.

I’ll keep her, Emma kept wanting to assert, but she probably wasn’t allowed to be in Canada now that her employer had died. Would she be paid her final wages? Not that she cared about the money, but if she didn’t have a job, she would have to use what was left in her savings to fly back to a place where she had no place.

Don’t make me give her up.

From the moment she had taken Storm into her arms ten weeks ago, she had felt an overwhelming surge of maternal love. Not what au pairs were supposed to feel, but Tiffany had been so harried and relieved at Emma’s arrival.

New mothers were overwhelmed, Emma knew that. Tiffany had had a lot on the go and had been a high-strung personality, eager to prove herself in a dozen different ways.

Emma related to that. She had been exactly as driven until she’d hit the proverbial wall and her life had shattered into a million pieces. Her priorities had simplified since then.

She had judged Tiffany for not having reached this same level of enlightenment, which wasn’t fair. Tiffany had shown a lot of love toward Storm and a lot of anxiety about leaving for Las Vegas. She hadn’t been a bad mother. She had simply taken for granted that she was one.

Be thankful you can have babies, Emma had wanted to tell her.

She had felt very defensive on Storm’s behalf, too, handed off to a nanny so her mother could work and elope. Emma had always felt like a bother to her own family, something more tolerated than loved. She had instinctively wanted to protect Storm’s nascent self-esteem. She couldn’t imagine giving her up now, especially when Storm had been orphaned. She’s mine. Let her be mine.

But Emma had to wait in a cold sweat for her fate to be decided along with this helpless baby’s.

Dennis and Harpreet had moved to the head of the table. Dennis offered water. Emma declined. She had a bladder the size of a thimble at the best of times. When she was nervous, it was worse.

She watched them pour ice water and sip. The only sound was Storm registering her unhappiness.

“Is she hungry?” Dennis asked, because clearly Emma was too thick to have tried that.

“She ate a little while ago. I think it’s the formula.”

In the first days after Wilf and Tiffany had left, Emma had presumed Storm was crying because she missed her mother. She took to the bottle with eagerness, so it wasn’t hunger. Emma’s one and only friend in Raven’s Cove, Sophie, a single mom, had suggested the formula could be upsetting her stomach.

“I’ll look for the kind for sensitive tummies while I’m here,” Emma said, acting as if her keeping Storm was a given.

If she knew Storm as well as she thought she did, Storm was working up to fill her nappy. After that historic event, she would drop into a hard sleep.

The pair shifted their attention past her and adopted a welcoming expression. The first of Wilf’s sons had arrived.

Wilf had been quite the philanderer. Tiffany had been wife number three and mother number four. Wilf had said to Emma of Tiffany, She must have been poking holes in the condoms because I didn’t want more kids. Or wives. They’re too expensive.

Wilf’s promiscuity had made him a little too much like her ex, but Emma had liked him anyway. He’d been full of stories both outrageous and self-deprecating and he’d been very tender with his daughter, which was the real test of character in her opinion.

He hadn’t talked much about his sons, though. She was curious to see if they had his personality along with his looks.

She was highly invested in judging them in general. One of these men would take his baby sister. She needed to know Storm would be in good hands, but she also needed to ingratiate herself so she could stay on as Storm’s caregiver.

She pasted a smile on her face for twenty-seven-year-old Trystan, Wilf’s youngest. Emma recognized him from his wilderness survival show. He wore black jeans and a snug black T-shirt over a well-honed physique. His straight black hair was in a ponytail, and his beard was an unshaven scruff, the way it often looked by the end of an episode, after he’d been in the bush a few weeks. His eyes were such a dark brown they might be black, but he met her gaze so briefly she couldn’t be sure.

Dennis greeted him, seeming star-struck as he invited Trystan to the end of the table. Maybe Trystan was being polite to the adults, not realizing he had bypassed his sister. Not everyone saw babies as people, she reminded herself, trying not to hate him.

Trystan was taller in person than he seemed on TV. Wilf had been a big man with a larger-than-life personality, and Trystan definitely had his father’s sparkle of stardom, but he seemed to withhold it as he shook hands with everyone.

“Emma is the nanny,” Dennis provided, forcing Trystan to look her way.

“G’day.” Emma tried to appear calm while Storm remained unceasing in her complaint that life was a dreadful trial not to be endured.

“Emma is willing to stay on to help whoever takes guardianship. That will need to be decided today,” Dennis said.

“Guardianship.” Trystan’s brows lifted, creasing furrows of astonishment across his forehead. “I thought we were reading the will and discussing the service.”

He shot his attention to Emma. His expression reminded her of the episode where he had whispered into the camera, Those howls are wolves. They’re getting closer.

He slammed a look at the baby, choked out a noise of disbelief, and moved to the window, turning his back on everyone, including his baby sister.

Emma reminded herself he had just lost his father, but, Really?

Another man came in. Logan. The middle one. His tan gave him away. He lived in Florida, where he designed yachts and, judging by his social media accounts, hung out on them with pro athletes and supermodels.

Logan’s height and build and profile were Wilf’s, same as Trystan’s, but where Trystan’s hair was long and black, Logan’s was cut into a rakish style, dark brown with glints of sun-bleached gold. He wore bone-colored trousers, a white shirt without a tie, and a linen jacket. His stubble was trimmed and sculpted to accentuate his painfully handsome features.

His blue gaze bounced into hers, briefly touched Storm’s persistent attempt to escape her own body, then flicked to his brother.


Trystan turned and folded his arms. “Logan.”

Logan waited one pulse beat as though expecting more. “How’s your mom?”

“Fine. Yours?”

“Fine.” Logan walked past Emma down the side of the table opposite from his brother.

It wasn’t animosity or hostility. It was more as if they were a pair of distant acquaintances meeting on the street who thought they had to acknowledge one another, but didn’t have anything to say. No hug of shared grief, no hint that they’d grown up together and were dealing with an end point to that childhood.

Dennis and Harpreet rose to shake hands with him. Logan revealed Wilf’s innate charm as he gave each of them a friendly smile.

“I’m Storm’s social worker,” Harpreet said. “Emma is her au pair.”

Logan nodded briefly toward Emma, then pulled out a chair. He sat with a fluid movement, drew out his phone, and commenced with ignoring the room.

Emma blinked in astonishment. Seriously? This is your orphaned sister.

Although, to be fair, Emma was about ready to hand Storm to a passerby and ignore her, too. Why wouldn’t she quiet? She tried the pacifier again, and Storm spat the dummy. Literally.

Logan sent her a quizzical glance. “An au pair is a nanny, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” She tried a warm smile as she bent to retrieve the pacifier, encouraging him to engage.

Logan made a dismissive noise that was an indictment of her qualifications.

You try, she bit back saying.

Exasperated as she was, however, she would take the privilege of holding this cranky baby as long as she could. What if they gave Storm to a stranger? The thought had been torturing her every minute since she’d heard the terrible news.

Maybe the eldest brother—

Oh. Hello.

Reid Fraser entered and swept the room in a glance that seemed to gather the various threads of energy into an iron fist and squeeze. Everyone looked to him without him saying a word. Emma was conscious of catching her breath and holding it.

He wore a suit tailored to the same dynamic frame his brothers possessed. Despite the polish, his clean shave, and his scrupulously trimmed dark brown hair, his features were rugged and untamed. Imposing.

He didn’t look like a warm, paternal man. He looked like the rough-faced brick wall one battered themselves against to no avail. This was the hard-ass side of Wilf that Emma had only seen once, when Tiffany had said one of the laborers had made an off-color remark. Wilf had “had a word with him” and the guy hadn’t been seen since.

“Twenty minutes late, right on time,” Logan drawled, setting down his phone and making no mention of the fact he had arrived only moments ago himself.

“Reid.” Trystan moved from the window to take a chair at the table.

“Trys. Logan.”

This was a somber occasion, but their polite stiffness was downright peculiar.

Dennis walked around the table to greet Reid. The lawyer seemed extra obsequious as he shook Reid’s hand.

“George is running late. Harpreet is with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Emma is Storm’s nanny. Do you want to sit?” Dennis asked Emma with a perplexed crinkle in his brow.

“I’ll stand.” Emma smiled and took up a more aggressive sway and jiggle, sway and jiggle. Please stop, Storm. We’re making zero friends.

“Does she need to be here?” One corner of Reid’s mouth dug in with dismay.

Wow. She stopped swaying, dumbfounded.

“Perhaps you’d like to wait in the foyer?” Dennis asked brightly, then his smile dimmed with concern as he realized that would inflict Storm on the rest of his colleagues.

Reid took a step back, preparing to open the door for her. So freaking chivalrous.

Emma was a pleaser. She was patient to a fault. She too often stenciled Welcome on her chest and invited people to wipe their wellies.

But she had her limits. She had been in a state of panic and dread for two solid days. Her deepest fear, that she was the only person left who cared one solid damn about Storm, was proving true. Did he realize how callous he sounded?

“I would love to wait in the foyer.” Snatching up the nappy bag from the floor, she plopped it onto boardroom table, then offered Storm to Mr. Freaking Fancy Suit. “You’ll take her, I presume, seeing as she’s one of you?”

Reid’s hard stare nearly pinned back her ears, it was so loud with warning against challenging his authority.

She was blowing her chance to keep Storm, she knew that. Her heart shrank inside her chest, but she pushed back on him anyway. She held his death-ray glower while she stubbornly held out the bleating baby, daring him to reject his tiny, helpless sibling. To shuffle her off to some room where he wouldn’t have to suffer her.

“I think—” Harpreet started to say, but with impeccable timing, Storm’s little digestive tract kicked in.

The gurgle was loud enough to belong to a seasoned freight driver with a crook stomach. An olive-colored stain appeared on Storm’s onesie and a sickly perfume released into the air.

End of Excerpt

Marrying the Nanny is available in the following formats:

ISBN: 978-1-961544-33-8

March 5, 2024

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