Junior Duncan walked into the Waldorf Astoria looking handsome yet uncomfortable in his navy blue Brooks Brothers suit. His awkwardness was not apparent to most of the other hotel patrons. However, it was so obvious to his lovely, full-figured girlfriend, Sonya, that she made a mental note to herself to give him a very special treat in bed later that night for being such a trooper. You see, despite the fact that Junior and his family were as rich as anyone in the building, he was more comfortable in a pair of jeans or coveralls than he was in a suit. Still, today was the one-year anniversary of their first date, and he'd promised her a night out on the town, and he planned on living up to that promise.
The couple held hands as they walked through the lobby toward the Zagat-rated five-star Bull and Bear Steakhouse. There they were greeted by the maÃ®tre d', a dark-haired Frenchman who seemed to know Junior personally.
“Ah, good afternoon, Mr. Duncan. Your table is ready. Right this way.” He led them to a very private table in a corner, handing them menus once they were seated. Less than a minute later, a wine steward arrived with a very expensive bottle, which he opened and allowed Junior to taste.
Savoring the wine, Junior nodded his head like he'd seen his father LC Duncan do at fine restaurants like this one a hundred times before. The wine steward filled their glasses, and Junior lifted his, toasting, “To the prettiest woman I've ever met, and the most wonderful year of my life.”
Overwhelmed by the moment, Sonya blushed as she tapped her glass politely against his. This was like a dream come true for her, but what she didn't know was that Junior had much more in store for her.
“Excuse me, Madame.” The maÃ®tre d' interrupted their moment, laying a domed silver tray on the table. “I believe this is for you.”
“But I haven't ordered yet.” Looking up at the maÃ®tre d', she missed the look of pure satisfaction covering Junior's face.
“The gentleman has taken the liberty of ordering your first course.” He motioned to Junior, who nodded his approval. The maÃ®tre d' swiftly disappeared, leaving Sonya staring at the silver tray.
“Is there a Lexus with a bow parked outside for me? Are there keys under this thing?” Sonya asked, lifting her head to see Junior's smirk.
“You're never gonna know unless you take off the cover.”
She drummed her fingers over the lid nervously and then snatched it up, revealing a small jewelry box covered in rich leather that told her whatever was inside was expensive. Sonya's hands flew to her mouth and her eyes started to water. She looked from Junior to the box and then back to him.
“Oh my God. Is that what I think it is?” she murmured.
Junior picked up the box and dropped to one knee.
“Oh my God, this is really happening!” Sonya felt herself trembling. She knew she loved him and he loved her, but never in her wildest dreams had she expected him to propose.
“Yes, baby. It's really happening.” Junior opened the box, revealing a three-carat, heart-shaped diamond. “Sonya Brown, I've never loved anyone as much as I love you.”
They were so caught up in the moment that neither of them noticed the three large men wearing bow ties and old-man suits headed their way. The maÃ®tre d' tried to block the men from interrupting the couple, but a menacing look from the one in front was enough to not only silence the Frenchman, but send him scurrying off toward the kitchen.
“Will you marryâ”
“Excuse me,” the leader of the bow-tied group interrupted Junior in a very polite and proper tone. “Are you Junior Duncan?”
Junior looked up at the clean-shaven man with schoolboy glasses, quickly evaluating him and the two men who flanked him. They weren't cops; of that he was sure. There was no doubt in his mind, however, that all three were armed. Unfortunately, this was the rare occasion that Junior wasn't.
“Yeah, I'm Junior Duncan,” he replied, rising to his feet. He glanced over at Sonya, who was no longer focused on him, but on the men hell-bent on interrupting them. The uneasy look on her face really irritated him. This was supposed to be their most special moment, and these three clowns had come along and ruined it for his woman. He tried to comfort her with his eyes before staring down the five foot ten man in front of him.
He was expecting the man to at least look intimidated by his size, like most people, but neither the man nor his associates showed the slightest bit of concern. “Who are you?”
“Who I am is not important,” the man replied.
“Oh, no? Then why are you here?”
“I was sent to deliver a message.”
“A message from whom?” Junior asked, losing his patience.
The man looked past Junior, directly at Sonya, as he spoke. “A message from Brother Xavier.”
Sonya let out a loud sigh. Junior turned and saw the worry on her face. If this went on much longer these men were going to ruin his entire night, he thought.
He puffed out his chest. “I don't know a Brother Xavier. Now get lost so I can get back to my woman.”
The man continued, clearly not taking orders from Junior. “Well, you can be assured that Brother Xavier knows you.”
Junior didn't like the sound of that, but he tried to remain calm. He needed more information to assess this situation.
“So what's his message?” he asked gruffly.
“The message, Mr. Duncan, is for you to stop fornicating with his wife.” He delivered the words in a deep, strong voice. In fact, his speech was so intense that the noise level of the restaurant was reduced to a hum as patrons gave up pretending that they were not listening to the scene taking place in front of them.
Junior stiffened. “What did you say?”
“I said Brother Xavier wants you to stop fornicating with his wife.” This time he looked at Sonya as he reiterated his message.
“And what if I don't?” Junior asked, taking a step forward to force the man's attention back to him.
The man shook his head, as if he were disappointed in Junior's response. “Well, then I would get my personal affairs in order as soon as possible, because your time amongst the living is not going to be very long.”
On that note, all three men turned with military precision toward the door and exited the same way they'd entered. Junior's eyes landed on Sonya, who was shaking. This was definitely not the way either of them had expected this night to turn out, he thought as he looked down at the ring box still in his hand.