SMOOTH OPERATOR

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Chapter7 

December 18, 1995 

Kojo drove into the Copeland's parking garage, pulling up to the valet. The attendant promptly opened the passenger door for Asia and ran around to the other side of the car. "Mr. Hammond, welcome back."

"Thank you, Brian. Take care of my baby," Kojo said, passing him the keys.

"With my life, sir. Enjoy the evening."

Kojo escorted Asia to an open elevator that led to the restaurant. "You're a real popular guy," she stated.

"I guess you could say that," Kojo said, pressing the button for the rooftop floor. "But not nearly as popular as my brother."

"Really? What does he do?" she asked.

"Pretty much anything he wants. They say he could be the world's greatest athlete."

"Wait. What's your brother's name?"

"Othello . . ."

"Othello Greene?" she interrupted excitedly. "That's your brother? Othello Greene?"

"Oh, you've heard of him," Kojo said, smiling. "Yeah, that's my little brother. We're not actually blood related, but we've been together since the crib."

"How could I have not heard of him? He's on the news every week. Every guy I know talks about how great he is, and all my girlfriends talk about how fine he is."

"Oh, you don't think he's fine?" Kojo asked humorously.

"He's a'right," she replied, laughing, knowing Kojo knew she thought he was.

The elevator doors opened and the lobby was full of patrons waiting to be seated. A hostess wove through the crowd to get them. "Mr. Hammond, we've been expecting you. Your table is ready." She grabbed two menus before leading them into the dining room. "If you would follow me."

"Nancy . . . How are you expecting me?" he asked, walking close behind her.

"Kojo, you know your momma called up here and told me you were coming. Lucky for you she did. It's about an hour wait for a table," she replied. "And she already placed an order. I'll have it ready when you're about to leave. Will this booth be ok?" she said, pointing to a softly lit cubbyhole recessed in the wall.

"Yes, this will be cool. You know y'all get on my nerves," he said, pulling off his jacket and sliding into the small private alcove. Soft music from a piano man was playing the old Dionne Warwick song 'A House Is Not a Home' in the background.

"You know we love you too," she replied, lighting the candle on the table and hanging their coats on a rack. "What would you like to drink, ma'am?"

"Can I get a cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows?" asked Asia.

"Yes, you may. What would you like, K?"

"Make it two, Nancy," he replied.

"Great. They'll be right out. Enjoy your evening."

As the sun descended in the large picture window, the city lights of Fairfax, Virginia, came to life, creating a spectacular view. The attraction between the two was undeniable. But both were in unchartered waters. Every move, every word, was calculated like two formidable boxers feeling each other out.

"I think it's nice that you and your mother are close," said Asia, thumbing through the menu, a small tuft of hair covering the left side of her face.

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