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After a long day of parent teacher interviews, first-grade teacher, Makayla Stevens is anxious to go home. Caught up in her thoughts, she runs smack dab into what feels like a wall of pure muscle. She looses her footing and falls flat on her back. The contents of her purse spill out on the slick hallway floor, feminine hygiene products and all. Anger grips her, but when she looks up at the stranger, her mouth falls open wordlessly. Staring down at her with a remorseful look on his face is none other than Kenyon Blake.
Kenyon doesn’t recognize her, but why would he? In high school, she’d been saddled with thick glasses, colored braces and a severe case of acne. And it didn’t matter how many times her grandmother pressed her hair, it still looked like she’d stuck both hands into an electrical socket. Kenyon had been the all-American boy. Teachers loved him, students emulated him and every girl on campus wanted him as her steady. Makayla never had any male friends, let alone a boyfriend, and as her weight climbed, she realized someone as popular and as charismatic as Kenyon Blake would never be interested in a girl like her.
But this man in the crisp suit and tie, bold swagger is not the same guy she went to high school with. Kenyon’s transformed from a cute teen to one fine-looking man. He’s extra tall, extra dark, and extra handsome. His sensuously wide mouth and mysterious brown eyes fuel his bad-boy look and the slightest tough of his hand sets Makayla’s body on fire. Life as she knows it will never be the same again because taming her desire and controlling her deep-rooted feelings for Kenyon-Lady-Killer Blake won’t be easy!
On Thursday, seven-fifteen came and went without any signs of Veronika Blake. Closing her appointment book, Makayla pushed back her chair and stood. God does answer prayer, she thought, allowing herself a small smile.
Makayla erased the board, straightened the desks, and put a stray yellow cap in the lost and found box. Returning to her desk, she contemplated whether or not to notify the school secretary that Mrs. Blake had missed her appointment. Nixing the idea before it took root, she cleared the clutter off her desk. Wanetta was a sweet woman, but she could out-talk a TV evangelist and after a long evening of parent teacher interviews, Makayla was anxious to go home.
Piling notebooks into the homework basket, she checked the time. It was almost eight o’clock. Way past quitting time. Makayla counted the math folders, then slipped them into her bag. She hated taking marking home, but the tests had been sitting on her desk since Monday and she had promised to give them back tomorrow.
Saturday can’t come fast enough, Makayla thought, slipping on her jacket. Her gaze fell across the stack of old newspapers piled up in the recycling bin. A smile tugged at her lips. Makayla’s very first article was appearing in the weekend edition of The Philadelphia Blaze and she couldn’t be more excited. A lot was riding on the piece. If readers responded favorably, she’d be one step closer to being a travel writer. One step closer to living her dream.
Swinging her purse over her shoulder, she bent down and picked up her tote bag and basket. She turned off the lights and closed the door behind her. In the empty hallway, the growls of her equally empty stomach echoed. A soggy tuna fish sandwich and a cup of raspberry yogurt had been her only meal of the day and she was so hungry, she felt lightheaded.
Fantasizing about a thick slice of lasagna and some garlic bread, she rounded the corner and slammed head first into what felt like a brick wall. Loose leaf papers and notebooks sailed into the air, the contents of her purse spilled unto the floor and her feet slipped out from underneath her.
“I’m sorry,” she heard a voice say. “I didn’t see you.”
Are you blind?
An arm curled around her waist. Allowing the stranger to help her to her feet, Makayla frantically brushed the dust off her pleated skirt. Straightening her sweater, she wondered why things like this always happened to her. Prone to getting flat tires, spilling food and knocking things over, she kept her cell phone charged, spare clothes in her trunk and an emergency credit card on hand.
“Are you all right?”
Do I look all right? Anger gained control of her mouth, but when she glanced up at the stranger, her lips parted wordlessly. Staring down at her, with an remorseful look on his face was none other than Kenyon Blake.
“Here, let me help you with your things.” He collected the sheets of paper littering the hallway, then proceeded to stack all twenty-two notebooks back into the plastic basket.
Standing rigid with shock, Makayla watched as Kenyon retrieved the contents of her purse. When he picked up her tube of mascara, she scrambled to action. Scampering around like a busy hen, she grabbed the box of Clorets, her leopard-print change purse, and her car keys. Spotting two Playtex tampons by the heel of his shoes, Makayla prayed the earth would open up and swallow her whole.
Following her gaze, his full lips curved into a grin.
The heat of her humiliation quickly spread through her cheeks and down her neck. With as much composure as she could muster, she swiped the tampons off the floor and shoved them into her purse.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” he asked. “You don’t look so good.”
Makayla forgot how to speak. The pitter-patter of her heart and her shallow breathing filled the silence. Swallowing, she touched a hand to her chest. Is this what it feels like to have a heart attack? she wondered, patting her brow with the back of her hand. “I’m fine” came out of her mouth in a painful squeak.
Kenyon Blake was standing in front of her, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. Makayla knew she was staring, but so was he! The years had been kind to him. He had transformed from an adorable teen to one fine-looking man. Kenyon was extra tall. Extra dark. And extra handsome. The width of his shoulders suggested he was a man of great strength. His straight nose, sensuous mouth and smoldering brown eyes fuelled his bad-boy look. His skin was mahogany brown, smooth and clear. A single diamond stud clung to his right ear, and the chain around his neck held a cross at the end.
“You must be Ms. Stevens,” Kenyon said. “Sorry I’m late, but Terrance’s hockey practice ran long. I’m his-”
“Oh, of course,” she replied. “You’re here for the interview.” Makayla cringed at the sound of her high-pitched voice. What else would Kenyon be doing here if not for parent teacher interviews? Now that he clued her in, she could see the resemblance between father and son. They shared the same dark skin, high forehead, and blunt nose.
“I must admit, Ms. Stevens, you’re not what I expected.”
Same here. “I get that a lot,” she confessed. At a paltry five feet, two inches, Makayla was often mistaken for an older sister of one of her students.
Smoothing a hand over her hair, she wondered how her makeup was holding up. Her last three interviews had been back to back, which left little time to catch her breath, let alone freshen up. And the last thing Makayla had expected was to run smack dab into her old high school crush.
I hope he doesn’t recognize me, she prayed. But how could he? In high school, the chips had been stacked against her. Grossly overweight, she had been saddled with thick glasses, colored braces and a severe case of acne. And it didn’t matter how many times her grandmother pressed her hair, it still looked like she had stuck both hands in an electrical socket.
Kenyon had been the all-American boy. Teachers loved him, male students emulated him and every girl on campus wanted him as her steady. Makayla never had any male friends in high school, let alone a boyfriend, and as her weight climbed, she realized someone as popular and as charismatic as Kenyon Blake would never be interested in a girl like her.
vMakayla felt like she was going to melt. Not only was sweat trickling down her back, wisps of hair was sticking to the sides of her face. Drying her hands, she avoided his intense gaze. Get it together, girl! You’re acting like you’ve never been in the presence of a man!
“I don’t mean to hold you up, but Veronika will kill me if she finds out I missed the interview.”
I believe you, Makayla agreed silently. An image of Mrs. Blake flashed before her eyes and she shuddered. “How about we reschedule for one day next week?”
“Sorry, but I’m leaving for Fiji the day after tomorrow. I’m a freelance photographer so I take the jobs whenever they come. ”
“I guess I could stick around a little while longer,” Makayla said. She cleared her throat to conceal the loud rumbles coming from her stomach.
His cheeks dimpled when he smiled. “Why don’t we discuss Terrance’s progress over dinner? That is, unless you have someone waiting for you at home.”
“That’s not necessary. My classroom is just down the hall. Please, follow-”
“I know a nice place up the street. What do you say?”
“I don’t know…”
“The service is great, the food is fast and it’s quiet.”
“I really don’t mind staying here.”
“Well, I am hungry…” she said out loud.
“Then we can talk over dinner.”
Swayed by his smile, she nodded in response. His eyes were every bit as dark and mysterious as they had been in high school. Makayla didn’t think she could handle having dinner with Kenyon, but her curiosity got the best of her. She wanted to know if he had lived out his dream of playing in the NFL, if he still jogged five miles a day, but most importantly, she wanted to know how in the world he had ended up married to a woman like Veronika Blake.