Operation Prince Charming(4)

By: Phyllis Bourne



“Nooooo.” The little girl seated next to Samantha rolled her eyes skyward. “You leave it and ask for a new one.”

“That’s right, Tiffany,” Ali said, through the princess hand puppet.

Having already issued several gentle reminders to Samantha about talking with her mouth full, Ali moved on. The child stood out enough from the other girls, and she didn’t want to keep singling her out.

“Now, what do you do if there’s something on your plate you don’t like?”

A beaming Tiffany raised her hand, and Ali bobbed the plush puppet’s head. “Go ahead, Tiffany.”

“Is he Prince Charming?” the preschooler asked, pointing toward the door.

Ali’s gaze followed the little finger to the doorway, and she blinked in surprise.

If Prince Charming existed outside the pages of a storybook, surely the man at the door was the genuine article. His broad shoulders filled the door frame, and for a moment the sight of him made her forget to breathe.

No, she silently corrected.

On closer look, he bore only a passing resemblance to a hero in a children’s tale. His dark good looks held a provocative edge that brought to mind a black knight of an erotic, bedtime story only a grown woman could appreciate.

“Sorry to interrupt, but there wasn’t anyone at the receptionist’s desk.” His velvet-smooth voice sent a tingle through her.

“Miss Ali, is he my Prince Charming?” Tiffany asked again, more insistently.

No, he’s all mine.

The words leapt into Ali’s head out of nowhere, and she suddenly realized she was experiencing something she hadn’t felt since before her divorce.

Pure. Sexual. Attraction.

He was tall, the top of his head nearly touching the top of the door frame, with skin the color of iced mocha. Her eyes skimmed over his blue polo shirt, taking in the way it molded against his muscular chest and flat abs.

“Miss Ali?”

A tug at the hem of her dress roused Ali from her lust-induced stupor and reminded her she was supposed to be teaching manners to a roomful of girls riding a sugar cookie buzz.

She cleared her throat as if the gesture would simultaneously clear her head and looked down at Tiffany’s hopeful face.

“He’s not a prince, honey,” she said.

There was no such thing as Prince Charming, Ali thought. She’d learned that bitter lesson the hard way.

Tiffany’s pigtails bounced as she looked from her prince to Ali and back again. She gave Ali one last skeptical glance before rejoining the other girls.

This man was like a hot fudge sundae, Ali thought, preparing to address him. Sure, it looked delicious, but indulging meant moments of euphoria followed by regret.

She pulled the princess puppet off her hand and walked to the door. “How can I help you?”

“I have an appointment with Miss Spencer.”

Realization dawned on her. “Oh, you must be Detective Coleman. I’m sorry. I meant to call you this morning and reschedule,” she said. “My aunt was supposed to meet with you, but she had an emergency.”

A look of pure relief fell over his face, and his big body visibly relaxed. “Well, that’s that.” He shrugged. “Thanks anyway.”

Ali didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to deduce the hunk was making a break for it. Odds were if she let him leave now, he wouldn’t return. While there was nothing she’d like more than putting some distance between herself and the man who’d just reawakened her sex drive, the floundering school needed the generous check the Chanel-clad woman had given Aunt Rachel for his classes.

“Hold on a moment.” Ali glanced at the clock on the wall. “The children’s parents will be here to pick them up in a few minutes. Would you mind waiting in my office?”

Girlish shrieks erupted, and he ran past her. His big, surprisingly agile, body crossed the room in three long strides. Ali spun around to discover, in the few minutes she’d turned away, Samantha had used a chair to help scale an eight-foot bookcase and was now dangling from the top by one arm.

“I’m a mountain climber,” Samantha squealed.

Ali watched in horror as the little girl lost her grip and fell backward. “Oh my God!” she gasped, charging toward her.

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