In "Smooth Operator", Meesha Covington almost loses her boyfriend, Detective Taylor Ross, during an undercover operation, and ends their engagement. Now she just wants a normal man working a normal 9-5 job. She believes she may have found that man when Attorney Lorenzo Cullins walks into her restaurant. But will the reappearance of her ex-boyfriend, Taylor Ross sudden throw a monkey wrench in her plans with Lorenzo?
She watched, fascinated by the way the five foot eleven inches tall, brown-skinned, medium built, well dressed man in a tailored suit moved with ease. He wasn’t part of the usual crowd that came into Belle’s. There was a confidence about him that set off her sexual meter. At the moment it was registering off the charts. He must have known she was looking—he turned, flashing her a smile. She felt warm from head to toe.
The place was busy. Every booth was occupied and there were no vacancies at the counter. Many of the customers who frequented Belle’s were regulars who enjoyed Soul Food. The atmosphere allowed them to unwind and enjoy a good meal with the family, with someone special, or by themselves if they preferred.
He always came in alone, always sat in her station, and always ordered the special. He didn’t speak but always left a generous tip. The most important thing she noticed was that he wasn’t wearing a wedding ring.
It had been two years since she’d been with a man, since her engagement had ended with Taylor Ross. Taylor was a Detective with the narcotics division of the local police department. It was always her worst fear that she’d receive a phone call, telling her that he had been shot or worse.
She remembered the day vividly. She was at her parents when she received the call that he was in the Intensive Care Unit. He’d been shot in the chest during an undercover drug investigation with a drug Kingpin, Chamber Lawson. The bullet narrowly missed his heart.
He’d been obsessed with bringing down Chamber Lawson, a major drug dealer in the southeast area of Washington, DC. The same neighborhood he was raised in. He’d been investigating a drug connection in the local high school where his younger brother, Juan, had been found dead from a drug overdose, several months earlier. The star of the basketball team, Juan had been accepted to a prestigious university on a basketball scholarship. His dream had been to play in the NBA.
She arrived at the Washington Hospital Center to find him fighting for his life. He looked helpless. The doctor didn’t believe he would make it through the night. Meesha and family members staged a prayer vigil by his bedside, day and night. A couple of days later, he opened his eyes. She’d almost lost him and never wanted to feel that type of fear again. Her peace of mind was short lived.
She placed the plate of food in front of the previous customer, making her way toward his table, when Angel, her best friend, and cashier stopped her. “Your boyfriend is here,” she mused.
During the day, Angel Barber worked at Belle’s. She left the diner and moonlighted at another restaurant several nights a week. She needed the extra money to open her own restaurant.
Meesha blushed. “He’s not my boyfriend.” She giggled. “Not yet.”
Angel returned the giggle. “Oh, come on. He only comes in to see you. He won’t sit in anyone’s station but yours. He has a crush on you.”
“Can I help it if he likes my service?”
Angel sucked her teeth. “Hmmm. I’m sure you would love to give him some service.” She rolled her neck. “Some uh, ‘special’ service.”
Meesha hit her on the arm. “Very special.” She hurried toward the stranger’s booth. The thought of Angel’s comment was still in the back of her mind. She stopped in front of him. The smell of his expensive cologne embraced her. She took a whiff. “Nice,” she said to herself.
“Good evening, welcome to Belle’s,” she said in her professional tone. He was studying the menu. He glanced up at her with romantic brown eyes. She found herself swimming in them. She swallowed the lump in her throat. “May I take your order?” she managed to get out. “Or will you have the special?”
“I’ll have the special.” He handed her back the menu. His eyes locked with hers. Her heart dropped in her stomach from the open stare. This time it was her who looked away.
“I’ll be right back with the special,” she replied, taking the menu. As she walked away, he said, “Can I have a glass of water, please?” "Of course. I’m sorry.” She could have kicked herself. The customers always received a complimentary glass of water. It was obvious his presence had her going in the worst way.
“Thank you, Meesha.”
She stopped in her tracks, a surprised look on her face. How does he know my name?
“Did I pronounce it properly?” he inquired, glancing at the nametag on her uniform. “It is Mee-sha?”
The way he enunciated her name in his southern drawl was a turn on. It didn’t take much, and she couldn’t help but wonder what his voice would sound like in the bedroom, during the throes of passion.
She beamed. “Yes, you pronounced it right. It’s Meesha.”
“Good. I didn’t want to mispronounce it.” He smiled a beautiful smile, exposing straight, white teeth. “Meesha is a beautiful name. Just like the lady.”
“Thank you. You know my name, I don’t know yours.”
“It’s Lorenzo. Lorenzo Cullins.” He extended a large hand.
She accepted his handshake. The touch of his long strong fingers on her skin her caused her to tingle inside. She hadn’t experienced anything so tantalizing since Taylor. “It’s nice to officially meet you, Lorenzo.”
“Same here. I’ve always wanted to introduce myself, but never got up the nerve.”
“You don’t look like the shy type.” She grinned from ear-to-ear. She couldn’t believe they were actually talking.
He shrugged. “Usually, I’m not. But, uh, there is something about you.” He tilted his head to one side, his gaze traveling up and down her five foot four inch petite frame. “I don’t know what it is, but it makes me nervous.”
“Believe me, sweetheart, I’m harmless. I don’t bite.” His remarks made her feel naughty; she couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to make nonstop love to him. “Unless you want me to.”
“I just bet you are.” He winked at her.
Meesha turned and headed toward the counter. She placed Lorenzo’s order with Jarvis and proceeded to wait on her other customers. Whenever she passed Lorenzo’s table their eyes would meet. Her heart did flip-flops.
“Will there be anything else?” she asked, when Lorenzo motioned for the bill. “What about dessert?” she suggested. Me? She had made progress with Lorenzo, she didn’t want to lose the good vibe they had going. She may not have been out on a date in over two years but she knew when a man was interested. He was interested. “We have apple pie. The best in the district.”
“Sounds delicious. I would love to take you up on the apple pie, but I have to get back to work.” He stood.
“Oh.” She was trying to hide the disappointment in her voice.
He smiled again. “Can I get a rain check?”
“Oh, and I like whip cream with my apple pie.” This time the smile was mischievous. Reaching inside his suit pocket, he pulled out a card. “Here’s my card.”
“I’d like that,” she said on a puff of breath. Taking his card, she jotted her number down on a napkin, and handed it to him.
“I better get going,” he said. “Running late. I’ll call you.” He softly touched her on the shoulder, offering her one last smile, and was out the door. She was on cloud nine. She glanced down at the card he’d given her. Lorenzo Cullins, Defense Attorney-At-Law
She hurried to the employee lounge where Angel was having lunch. She dropped in the chair next to her and bragged about Lorenzo being an attorney.
“A lawyer? Go on, gurl. Lawyers make good money.”
“I thought he was a drug dealer or something,” Angel quipped.
Meesha shot her a look. “Why?” She could feel herself getting upset. “Why, whenever a black man does well, does he have to be involved in some kind of criminal activity?”
“Because they usually are. Just be careful,” Angel warned. “Is he married?”
“I didn’t notice a wedding ring,” Meesha defended.
“That doesn’t mean anything these days,” Jarvis the Dishwasher chimed in. “I’ve been married five years. I don’t wear a ring.”
“Why not?” Meesha asked.
“A piece of jewelry doesn’t mean anything. A man or woman is going to do what they are going to do, regardless of it.”
“I agree. Sex is better when it’s forbidden,” Angel threw in.
“True. True,” Jarvis agreed, he added on his way out the door.
“You both are trifling.” Meesha giggled.
“Married or not, you need to get yourself some. You are long overdue. Probably got cobwebs.” She joined in Meesha’s laughter. “Do you still know how to do it?”
“Oh, you got jokes.”
“Not having sex in two years is the joke.”
Angel and Meesha had been friends since the twelfth grade. Most people couldn’t figure out how she and Angel became and remained friends. If there were any two people who were different, it was Meesha and Angel. From the time they met in algebra class they hit it off. It was their different personalities that attracted the other. Meesha was stable, calm, and cool, while Angel was wild and full of excitement. No adventure for her was off limits. To hear her speak of opening her own restaurant was a sign of maturity. At least Angel knew what she wanted to do with her life. Since her breakup with Taylor, she put her life on hold.
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The thought of Taylor put a smile on her face. He was an expert lover. She could still remember the feel of his hands stroking her body inside and out, hurtling her beyond the point of return; leaving his special brand of lovemaking in her heart forever. He’d been the first man that she shared her body with.
For months after the relationship ended, her body throbbed, craving the pleasures he had given her, remembering the sexual escapades they shared. To deal with those uncontrollable feelings, she spent all her time working at Belle’s. She hadn’t thought about being with another man until Lorenzo walked through the door.
Meesha bit on her bottom lip as she listened to Angel babble on about how good sex was after a long absence. Meesha wasn’t listening. All she could think about was seeing Lorenzo again.
Several hours later, she headed toward the exit. She breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a long day. She was looking forward to taking a long, hot bath.
****Meesha activated the lock to her apartment door and entered the living room. Decorated in tan, the room possessed a wall-to-wall black coated tubular entertainment center, consisting of a TV, DVD, VCR, and numerous CDs and VHS tapes. Custom design cherry furnishings added to the ensemble. Paintings of her favorite artist, Ernie Barnes, hung proudly over the sofa.
She strolled into the bedroom and placed her purse in the Francesca rocking chair. Picking up the remote control, she aimed and turned on the television. Flipping through the channels, she found an episode of The Cosby Show.
She undressed and headed into the bathroom to shower. Moments later, she turned off the shower and toweled dry. Reentering her bedroom, she began moisturizing every part of her body. When that was finished, she slipped into a two-piece short set. As she closed the chest drawer, her gaze was drawn to the photograph of her and Taylor, tucked safely at the bottom of her clothing. The picture was taken on a boat ride around the Baltimore Harbour, several months before he was shot. They shared a lot of great times together. She remembered many hot, steamy, and romantic nights they spent together at the apartment, sprawled out on the floor, making love. As good as those nights had been, they hadn’t been enough to save the relationship. She returned the photo to the drawer.
Deciding to watch television, she crawled into bed. She put it in her mind to relax. She stretched out, propping up pillows against the headboard to get comfortable. She wasn’t going to think about Lorenzo. She gazed at the television set, hoping to become hooked by the hilarious antics in the Cosby episode. The commercial break found her staring blankly at the TV. The soothing shower and laughter from the sitcom, hadn’t done anything to relieve the sexual tension she was feeling toward Lorenzo. The Cosby Show returned, snapping her from her fascination surrounding the man of her desire. With her hand poised inches from the power button, she turned the set off and settled down in bed.
Later that night, she tossed and turned, her mind repeating the conversation she shared with Lorenzo. Eventually, she dozed off to sleep, dreaming of Lorenzo.