A Perfect Caress by Nana Prah
Tackling a person to the ground in order grab the last piece of cake would be wrong. Lanelle Murphy had trouble convincing herself of this little truth. Maybe not so much wrong as bad and kind of depressing. Unless it ended up being the best cake ever baked.
Her gaze never wandered from the prize while a suspected perpetrator remained in the periphery. At five feet eight inches, Lanelle increased her already long stride to eat up more of the ground at a faster rate.
Their hands landed on the clear plastic container holding the triple-layered moist chocolate cake covered with scrumptious, rich chocolate icing at the same time.
Since Lanelle's palm touched the container with his warm fingers wrapped around hers, it meant she'd gotten to it first. The cake belonged to her. The stranger's resigning breath pushed away any idea she may have had of elbowing him in the ribs before running toward the cashier and dropping money on the counter without stopping.
Lanelle tilted her head to the man without deigning to look at him. If she gave him her full attention, she'd do the kind thing and relinquish the treat. After receiving a disappointing update about a project close to her heart, she deserved it.
After almost two years of planning and fund-raising to build a new neonatal unit in the hospital, Lanelle felt like giving up. Dealing with the other members of the hospital board had proved tedious.
The problems creeping up with the construction set their timeline back and deepened the financial ditch. The funds they'd raised had run out faster than expected, and she couldn't understand how it had happened. They'd been meticulous in their calculations. After going through the books with her personal accountant this past week, they'd found nothing amiss.
Maybe she should've accepted her father's help when he'd offered it, but she figured it couldn't be difficult to construct a hospital wing. It wasn't like they were building a whole hospital from the ground up. It turned out that more went into it than she'd researched.
Lanelle had been trained by the best to ensure things happened the way they should, but this project was draining the life out of her.
She needed this cake. "Hi," she said instead of telling him to get his paw off her pastry.
"Hello. It looks like we both want the same piece of cake."
The deep rumble of his voice enticed her but wouldn't detract her. "Looks that way." Didn't this man know not to get between a woman and her chocolate? She turned her head to get a good look at the enemy. They stood so close she had to angle her head back in order to see his face.
Great. The guy who threatened her sanity turned out to be at least six-two. She could've picked a better day to wear her cutest pair of Tabitha Simmons ballerina flats.
More than his height caused her breath to hitch. His sienna-brown eyes, contrasting with skin almost as rich and dark as the cake, made for a gorgeous man.
"Would you be interested in the vanilla, by any chance?" His grin drew her attention to full lips covering a set of even white teeth, adding to the squishy feeling in her stomach.
"As tempting as it looks with those rainbow sprinkles, I'd prefer the chocolate." She'd finished playing nice with the handsome stranger sporting the cutest little Afro she'd seen in a while and pulled the cake toward her. "Since my hand is on the container, it means I reached it first, so technically it's mine."
"On a normal day I'd agree, but I need this cake."
She snorted. "Let me guess. You have PMS and you're about to take down anyone who gets in the way of getting your fix." Her frown melded into a grin at his burst of laughter.
"No. My niece is about to find out if she's still in remission from the cancer she beat last year. She asked me last night to pick her up a piece of chocolate cake from this cafeteria when I came to join the meeting after her MRI. She insisted no other would do."
Lanelle squinted in an attempt to assess if he'd given her a line. Detecting no guile in his expression, she released the box. He didn't let go of her hand.
Sliding her fingers out of his grasp, she crossed her arms over her chest. "I hope your niece is healthy."
"Thank you. I know she'll appreciate that I almost got beaten up for her cake." He held out his right hand. "I'm Dante Sanderson."
"I wouldn't have fought you. Maybe just taken you down," she mumbled as she placed her hand in his. She pulled it away at the bizarre sensation of tingles racing up her arm to her scalp.
She tucked her hand behind her, confused at her body's reaction.
He raised an eyebrow. "You think it's a possibility?"
Text Copyright © 2016 by Nana Prah. Cover Art Copyright © 2016 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited. Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A. Cover art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited. All rights reserved. ® and ™ are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.