About Family Portrait, a Mannies Incorporated Novel
Author: Sean Michael
Word Count: 46200
Page Count (pdf): 169
Series: Mannies Incorporated
Date Published: January 22, 2019
Publisher: Sean Michael
Heat Rating: 3
File Types available: pdf, mobi, epub
Ashton Grumfeld is a photojournalist who has spent a lot of years embedded with the troops in Afghanistan, only coming home to visit his sister Amy and her family for a few days at Christmas every year. When Amy and her husband are killed in a freak boat accident, the guardianship of their four children falls to him.
Darren Swanson has been nanny to the Grumfeld’s children since just before nine year old Diana, the eldest, was born. When their parents die, he’s left on his own with four kids until their uncle can make it out of Afghanistan and get home. It takes almost two weeks before that happens, two weeks of having to deal with newly orphaned children all the while wondering what’s going to happen when Ashton finally arrives on the scene.
Will Ashton and Darren be able to make a new family as they figure out how they fit together in the children’s lives, and each other’s? Find out in Family Portrait.
Darren “Dee” Swanson put plates of grilled cheese sandwiches cut into stars and hearts down in front of Diana, Drew and Derek, then double-checked on baby Dillon. His little bit extra was still fast asleep in the day crib. Poor little thing just didn’t understand why everyone was upset, but he sure picked up on everyone’s emotions and had been miserable for days.
He wasn’t the only one, of course. Dee was just trying to hold it together for his other three charges, trying to make everything as normal as possible. If there was such a thing as normal when your parents died when a party boat caught fire and went down, all souls lost. The twins were still asking when Mommy and Daddy were coming home and his Lady Di was clinging to him twenty-four seven.
Annalisa, the housekeeper, caught him before he went back into the kitchen. “I’m done, Mr. Darren. I cleaned the big guest room for Mr. Uncle.”
“Thanks, Annalisa. Did the lawyer talk to you?” She needed to be paid.
“He did. He asked me to keep coming in until their uncle decides what to do with the house.”
“Okay, good. Thank you.” He ran his hands through his hair. God, he was tired. Exhausted. “Thank you.”
She gave him a hug and he hugged her right back. She’d been working for the Grumfelds almost as long as he had. They’d had a tea break together every Tuesday and Friday for the last eight years.
“Mr. Uncle is a good man. A very good man.” Annalisa had had the opportunity to meet the guy, at least, unlike Dee. “He’ll keep us on.”
“I hope so.” Those babies didn’t know Amy’s brother nearly at all, and with their parents gone, he was the only parental figure they knew.
“You’ll be okay, Mr. Darren. And so will those bambinos because they have you.”
“And you. Who else is going to sneak them cookies?”
She laughed softly and patted his back before going to gather her purse and her coat. She kissed each of the three older kids, one after another. “I love you all. Be good.”
“See you on Tuesday, Annalisa.” He hoped.
“You will.” She gave him a firm nod and headed out.
Di came to him, grabbed his hand. “Dee? Please don’t go.”
He sank down onto one knee and wrapped his arms around her. “I’m not going anywhere, sweet pea.” He prayed Amy’s brother wouldn’t make a liar out of him.
“Promise to God. I don’t want to live in a dirty tent in the desert.”
He blinked a few times, trying to parse that one out. “I promise I won’t let you live in a dirty tent in the desert. Why do you think that would happen?”
“That’s where he lives.”
“He? Oh. You mean your Uncle Ashton?” Amy’s brother was a photojournalist and spent a lot of time in the Middle East.
“Uh-huh. Him.” The way she said it sounded so grim, which was ridiculous. Amy and Simon had always spoken highly of her baby brother, who had a Pulitzer and an apparently a stunning talent.
“I’m sure he’s got a house somewhere, Lady. Or maybe you’re going to stay right here.”
“I don’t want to leave my school. Why did they die?” Di began to sob, clinging to him like a limpet.
The boys stared at them, eyes huge, on the verge of joining their sister. They’d been taking their cues from her for days. Days. God, he still couldn’t believe Simon and Amy were gone himself.
“Hey. Hey, you guys. What’s up?” An exhausted-looking, skinny, tanned, male carbon copy of Amy stood in the kitchen doorway.
This was clearly Amy’s brother. His Lady Di took a sobbing breath and managed to stop crying, though she continued to cling. The boys wiped their faces, just staring at the newcomer.
“Oh man. Hey. Ashton. Ashton Grumfeld. I’m the kids’ uncle.”
Like there was any question of that. This Ashton had the wild mass of blond curls, the bright blue eyes, the high cheekbones. Same as all four of his charges.