Hot Cakes, book two
Copyright Erin Nicholas,2020. All rights reserved
He could watch this woman eat cake all night.
That was a weird fetish he hadn’t been aware of until now, but he was totally okay with it. As fetishes went, this one seemed on the tamer end of the spectrum.
The curvy redhead put her third cake pop in her mouth. The mouth he was now going to have major fantasies about. She had full lips that matched the pink icing on the vanilla cake pops, and every time she ran her tongue over that bottom lip, his body tightened. And she was running her tongue over her lip a lot with all the cake eating she was doing.
She’d eaten the first two in a couple of bites each. But she’d just stuck the entire third cake pop in her mouth. The girl liked cake. Man, he loved people who were enthusiastically open about the things they enjoyed.
People should never apologize for loving what they loved. Especially if they were gorgeous redheads who loved putting balls in their mouths. He grinned. He was totally going to use that line. It was just the right amount of immature and dirty and playful that he appreciated.
He definitely knew there were times when lines like that were inappropriate. Knowing that wouldn’t keep him from using the line, of course, but he did know he couldn’t expect an equally playful, good-natured response from just everyone. That was why it was perfect. It was a great way to find out if he was talking to someone he could have fun with or not.
He definitely needed to talk to her.
He’d moved around the table so he was slightly behind her now, but he saw how she froze. Then she started chewing faster, then swallowed, wiped her mouth, and turned to face him.
He chuckled. “How’s the red velvet?” he asked. She had a few red-velvet crumbs on the front of her dress, the red pieces standing out against the teal fabric.
“Um.” She swallowed again. “Great. They’re all great.”
“I guess I’ll have to take your word for it. Since you took the last one,” Dax said, looking pointedly at the now empty tray with the tiny sign next to it that read RED VELVET.
She glanced down and knocked the sign over. “Sorry.”
“I don’t think you are. You ate two of the last three and have the third in your hand.” He gave her a grin.
She looked startled for a second. She probably hadn’t been expecting him to have been keeping track of her cake-pop consumption.
“Sorry is just the polite thing to say.” She swiped her thumb over her bottom lip. “I don’t mean it.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “I’m going to assume that means you’re not going to share the strawberry one you’re holding either. It’s the last one of those, too.”
She lifted the strawberry cake pop to her mouth and took a bite. “Nope.”
He definitely liked her. His let his mouth drop open in mock outrage. “Wow.”
“I know. I’m the worst. You should definitely go find someone else to talk to.”
There was absolutely no one else he wanted to talk to more than he wanted to talk to her. He also wanted to kiss her. But he’d wanted that even before he’d known she’d taste like red-velvet and strawberry cakes. He stepped forward.
She didn’t even blink.
He lifted a hand and picked a crumb of cake from the front of her dress. It wasn’t on her breast, exactly. It was just below the scooped neckline. It wasn’t like he was feeling her up. But it was safe to say he hadn’t missed the fact she had some very nice curves. Without them, those crumbs might not have gotten hung up during their fall to the floor.
He met her gaze as he lifted the cake crumb to his mouth. She watched as he licked the tip of his index finger.
“Mmm, the red velvet is good,” he said.
She looked down to where he’d touched her. But she didn’t slap him or shove him away. Her cheeks got a little pink. Then she stuffed the rest of the strawberry cake pop into her mouth, chewed, swallowed, and smiled. “They’re all very good.”
“Not the slightest bit apologetic?” he asked, incredibly amused and very drawn to her.
The strawberry cake pops were coated in white icing and she had a streak of it just to the side of her mouth.
He wanted to cover her in that icing.
He grinned. “Excellent. Never apologize for doing stuff that makes you feel good.”
Her eyes widened slightly and for just an instant, her gaze dropped to his mouth.
He definitely made a note of that.
“So I’m going to go,” she said, taking a half step away from the table.
“I’m Dax.” He needed to know who she was.
Appleby, Iowa, the town where his best friends—and business partners—had decided to buy a snack cake factory, was tiny. It wouldn’t take him long to find out who she was. But he wanted her to tell him. And give him her number. And agree to have dinner with him tomorrow. And eat cake pops in bed with him.
Not necessarily in that order. But giving him her name would be a great start.
“I’m… late,” she said.
She grabbed one of the vanilla cake pops and started to slip around him. Then she paused, turned back, grabbed a chocolate, then slipped around him.
“Do you work for Hot Cakes?” he asked, watching her go with a grin.
She turned back and met his eyes. But didn’t say anything.
For nearly thirty seconds.
She just… looked at him.
Finally, he asked, “Are you okay?”
She blinked, seeming to realize she’d been staring. She nodded. “Um, yes.”
She didn’t sound entirely convinced.
“You don’t need another cake pop, then?” he asked, eyeing the four she held. “If I go for one, I’m not going to lose a finger or hand?”
He really wanted her to smile again, instead of the way she’d been looking at him as if she’d gotten lost in her thoughts. Thoughts that weren’t especially happy.
He wanted her to be happy. That was a strange instinct. He didn’t know this woman at all. He loved her curves, and her lips were going to star in some of his dreams, he was sure. He was newly addicted to cake pops because of her. But the urge to make sure she was actually, legitimately happy was a little out there.
Sure, in general, he liked hanging out with happy people. His friends were, for the most part, optimistic, driven, happy guys.
Dax worked hard to make their company—Fluke Inc.—an upbeat, positive, relaxed place to work. He also refused to do work that didn’t fulfill him.
But a lot of his… penchant for fun… was about proving to his father that you didn’t have to be an overbearing, micromanaging, superficial asshole to be successful. You could laugh and enjoy your work and make the world a better place and still make money. Lots of it. Dax and his friends had proven that repeatedly over the past nine years.
“Nope, you’re safe.” The redhead finally gave him a smile. But it was clearly forced.
She did, however, take a bite out of the chocolate cake pop she now held.
He picked one up. Also chocolate. “So do you work for Hot Cakes?” he repeated.
He really needed to know who she was. If this woman worked for his new company, Dax could easily see her again.
This party was step one in their plan to make Hot Cakes bigger and better than it had ever been. They’d had a huge town hall meeting where they’d introduced themselves to the employees and the town at large. They’d presented their new ideas, taken questions, and rolled out some new benefits programs. Then they’d given everyone cake and champagne.
Judging by the smiles and laughter—and the need to open the second case of champagne—it was going well. That, or everyone had just decided to drink their worries away. Either way, the guys were determined to make this work, and Dax’s specialty was making things better.
He’d never met a situation he couldn’t make more fun. Not that he knew anything about factory work, but they made cake. They literally dealt in sugar and chocolate and frosting. It was, if he did say so himself, a sweet gig.
Hot Cakes snack cakes were sold in grocery stores and convenience stores throughout the Midwest. There were very few people who hadn’t had a Peanut Butter Pinwheel or a Strawberry Swirl, or the original and best-known Butter Sticks, in their lives. Mass produced, individually packaged, available anywhere chips and beef jerky were sold, Hot Cakes was a multimillion-dollar business.
And he, Aiden, Cam, Grant, and Ollie were going to make it even better.
“I’m… a friend of Whitney’s,” his cake-pop goddess finally said.
Whitney was Whitney Lancaster, the granddaughter of the founders of Hot Cakes who had served as the vice president of marketing for the past nine years. She was thankfully staying on to work with the guys now that they’d taken over.
“Oh, Whitney’s great,” Dax said, finishing off the chocolate cake pop and reaching for another. Damn, these were amazing. He would have eaten four hundred brussels sprouts if it kept this woman here talking to him though. And that was saying something. He was incredibly grateful he didn’t have to prove his devotion via brussels sprouts.
Zoe, Aiden’s girlfriend, and the owner of the town bakery, Buttered Up, had made the cake pops for the event. Apparently, Buttered Up and Hot Cakes were longtime rivals. The grandmothers, Didi Lancaster and Letty McCaffery, who had started each business, had been best friends at one time. Until Didi allegedly stole the recipe from Letty that would go on to become the beginnings of Hot Cakes.
For over fifty years, the two women had hated each other, and the town’s loyalties had been divided. Now, with Aiden taking over Hot Cakes, and he and Zoe falling in love, things were starting to heal.
At least, that was the plan.
“Whitney is wonderful,” the cake-pop goddess nodded. “So… it was nice to meet you. I need to go.”
“You know if you don’t tell me your name I’m going to have to refer to you as Red,” he told her.
She rolled her eyes. “Real original.” She shook her head, her thick, wavy red hair swishing against her mid-back.
“Because of the red-velvet cake, of course,” he said. Though, damn, he loved her hair. It was a deep, rich medley of gold and auburn and copper and crimson. And that was pretty damned poetic for a video game designer who loved Ping-Pong and gummy bears.
She actually laughed. “Oh, of course.”
“Just one little crumb, and it’s all I can think about.” He wasn’t talking about the cake. She’d given him a few little crumbs of flirtation and humor, but he was already addicted.
“Zoe can totally hook you up with as much as you want,” she told him.
He didn’t want anything from Zoe.
Okay, not true. He suddenly fucking loved Zoe’s cake pops.
But everything else he needed in this moment, he needed from Red.
Yeah, that wasn’t original at all. He was going to have to come up with something else.
“You’re really not going to share that last one with me, are you?” he asked.
She glanced down. “Um…” She looked up at him. “No.”
“Not even if I say please?” He leaned in a little.
“There are maybe two things in the world that could get me to part with a red-velvet cake pop from Buttered Up,” she told him. “And hot millionaires with sexy smiles are not one of them.”
Ha. He felt victorious in that moment. She’d called him hot and said his smile was sexy. She’d also called him a millionaire. That meant she knew who he was. Maybe not from his YouTube videos like his millions of adoring fans did. Those were mostly boys between the ages of ten and twenty-five who were crazy about Warriors of Easton, the video game he and his friends had developed in college and that had accidentally turned into the biggest online gaming phenomenon of the past decade. But she knew who he was, and she was still here flirting—kind of—with him.
“So what can hot millionaires with sexy smiles get you to do?” he asked. “Because I’m thinking that cake pop may not be the most interesting thing you can give me.” He really wanted her name and phone number.
Her eyes widened. She actually looked shocked. And maybe mildly amused. But mostly shocked.
“Are you seriously thinking I might give you a blow job?” she asked.
Dax’s eyes widened as well. They were now talking about blow jobs? How had that happened?
“Does that happen a lot?” she asked. “You just meet a woman, know her for like five minutes, and she ends up on her knees?”
He sucked in a quick breath that made him cough. Holy shit. “That is… damn… that’s not what I was thinking.”
Once in a while… okay, more often than he could even believe… he got blatant offers very quickly at Comic Con. The ladies—not all his fans were boys between ten and twenty-five—who played Warriors of Easton were also big admirers of the game’s creator.
Red rolled her eyes. “It’s a blow job. Guys think about those like twenty-seven times a day.”
He half laughed, half choked again. “Wow, who are you hanging out with?”
“You don’t think about blow jobs twenty-seven times a day?” she asked.
He actually thought about her question. He was sure he saw the corner of her mouth twitch as if she was fighting a smile.
“No,” he finally said, shaking his head. “Maybe fifteen. I mean, if we’re talking averages anyway.”
“Blow jobs, yes. But there’s all the sweet stuff I like to put in my mouth to think about too.”
It wasn’t a quip about her putting balls in her mouth, but it still checked all the boxes—a little dirty, kind of funny, would definitely reveal what kind of sense of humor she had.
He was rewarded for it when she lost the fight to not smile and grinned.
She held up the red-velvet cake pop toward him.
“Oh, I couldn’t.”
“Honestly, you have to now,” she said. “You have to add these to that list of things you like to put in your mouth. You’ll definitely be thinking about these tomorrow.”
She was rolling with it. Awesome. His grin huge, he took the cake pop from her. “Yeah, I’ve definitely got a couple of new things to add to those daydreams.”
She took a deep breath. “And now I need to go.”
He bit into the red-velvet cake pop then ran his tongue over his bottom lip.
She watched and his body heated.
“Still no name?” he asked.
Huh, that was very adamant. Now he really needed to figure out who she was.
“I don’t think it will be that hard to find out in Appleby,” he told her. “Gorgeous redhead with a big sweet tooth. It will probably take me two minutes.”
“You don’t need to know. Zoe can keep your mouth full of all the sweet stuff you could possibly want.”
“Yeah, I don’t think so,” he said, his voice a little husky and his gaze on her mouth. Aiden would kill him for thinking the things he was thinking right now if they were about Zoe.
But the redhead started to turn, then stopped again, quickly grabbed another cake pop, and then headed for the doors.
Grinning, he just watched her go. This time.
He was going to find her again.
Later, on his way out to his car, he saw a chocolate cake ball on one of the steps leading from the main doors to the sidewalk. He stopped and picked it up.
It had to be hers.
He smiled as he studied the little bite taken out of it.
Well, it wasn’t midnight, and this wasn’t a glass slipper, but he was feeling the urge to comb the town to find this girl.
He could probably even rent a white horse.
Move over, Prince Charming.
Of course, he didn’t need the ladies of the village “trying on” any cake pops. He’d recognize her immediately. He’d never mistake another woman for the redhead with the flashing blue eyes and the full lips he wanted to see curve into a sexy, mischievous smile almost as much as he wanted to taste them.
He really thought there was some mischief in her. He really thought he was the one who could bring it out.
He pulled his phone out and started to search for white horse rentals in the area. Then he sighed. Dammit, he could hear a voice in his head telling him he should probably start by asking Zoe who she was. That was a lot less fun, but it might be faster. And God forbid, more practical.
That voice definitely sounded like Grant’s. The bastard.
Still, Dax was grinning as he headed for his very impractical 1960 MGA Roadster in Old English White with black leather interior and classic silver wire wheels. It wasn’t a terrible replacement for a white horse.
He plopped his dark gray felt Frank Sinatra fedora on his head—the thing had seriously been worn by Frank in the movie The First Deadly Sin—and headed for his hotel.
Practical wasn’t his strong suit, it was true. But maybe the cake-pop goddess could use a little more impracticality in her life. In his experience, that was true for about 96 percent of the adult population in the United States.
He was just the guy to help.