Sample of Romancing Monica






Twenty-seven year old Monica Hall turned her lips down in a frown. She shook her head. “Look at him over there with that smug look on his face. I can't stand his behind.”

Monica's best friend, Faith, gave her girl a tiny smile. “Honey, I just don't understand what it is about Anthony that you can't stand.”

He rubs me all the wrong ways, Faith…and he thinks he's God's gift to women. To the world really.” Monica proceeded to look her bestie directly in the eye. “Do I really have to walk down the aisle beside him, girl?”

Faith nodded her head. “You're my maid of honor. He's my husband-to-be's best man…normally the best man and maid of honor walk down the aisle together. So my answer to your question is yes...yes you have to walk down the aisle beside him.”

By this time, Monica had a scowl on her beautiful face. “Why can't Raymond just get himself another best man? Why can't he do that, boo? That way I wouldn't have to walk down the aisle with that arrogant, pompous butthole.”

Faith had to try real hard to stop herself from smiling. She thought it was a little funny that her girl was actually serious with her request. “Anthony’s not that bad, Monica.”

A ‘Girl Please’ look made its way onto Monica’s face. “You’re just saying that because he’s about to become your brother-in-law. If he was just some random unknown guy on the street, you’d be thinking differently.”

Honey, if Anthony were just some random guy on the street, I wouldn’t even be talking to him. I wouldn’t even know him.”

Monica cut her eyes at her bestie. “You know what I mean, Faith.”

Faith reached over and grabbed Monica's forearm. “Come on, sit down. Let me give you a relaxing massage.”

Since her girl, Faith, was a licensed reflexologist, Monica didn't protest. I could use a relaxing massage just about now. Anthony Bullock's got my nerves frazzled.

Hey, ladies.” Anthony winked his eye at the two beautiful women. Then he fixed his gaze directly on Monica. “Being in the same room with me isn't stressing you out, is it, Monica? Making you need a relaxing massage?” Then he chuckled.

Monica fired a shot right back. “Are you this nice to all the women you know, Anthony...or do you just reserve this type of special treatment for me?”

He broadened his already wide smile. “Special women like yourself will always get special treatment from me, Moni.”

How many times do I have to tell you that the name’s Monica, not Moni?”

For the safety of everyone who was in the room that evening participating in her wedding rehearsal, Faith decided to intervene at that point. She looked her future brother-in-law in the eye. “I think the guys need help with those chairs over there, Anthony. You think you can be a sweetheart and go assist them?”

Ain't nothing remotely sweetheart-ish about that fool,” Monica whispered under her breath.

Anthony chuckled. He looked Monica in the eye again. “Too bad I can't read lips like you can, Monica. I'm sure I would've wanted to hear those sweet terms of endearment that you just whispered about me.” He winked his eye again. Then he turned around and went to help out with the chairs.

Faith shook her head. “The both of you seriously need to quit it, sweetiethis crazy back-and-forth banter that y’all got going on between you.”

A defensive look came on Monica's face. “I didn't do anything wrong, Faith. It was all Anthony.” She pressed her lips together in a line of disapproval. “Waltzing over here like he owns the world and everything in it, accusing me of being stressed out about him being here.”

Faith could've told her girl that Anthony was right about all of that. In other words, Monica had been stressed about him being there. That's why Faith had given her a massage. However she chose to keep her comment to herself. She figured it wouldn't make the situation any better. I'll just be glad when my wedding’s over with and my bestie and my new brother-in-law won’t have to see each other anymore.

Faith gave Monica's shoulders a final squeeze then stood up from the chair she'd been sitting on. She smiled. “They’ve got everything set up now. Let's go get this rehearsal started.”


* * *


Two Days Later:


Monica had a dreamy look in her eyes as she watched her best friend, Faith, and her new husband, Raymond, take their very first dance together as man and wife. Lord, I want the same thing for myself somedaya man who loves me and adores me as much as Raymond does Faith. She smiled. My girl is so, she’s so blessed. Then she frowned. Seeing that she didn't have a boyfriend or anything — not even anyone who she thought could possibly be a prospective boyfriend — she doubted if her getting married was gonna happen anytime soon.

She was suddenly yanked out of her thoughts by a deep, masculine voice behind her...right by her ear. “Everybody else is hitting the floor now, may I have this dance, Monica?”

Monica didn't say a word at all. She was too surprised by Anthony Bullock actually asking her to dance with him.

The man held out his hand towards her and flashed her a brilliant smile. As much as she wanted to give him some type of biting response, she couldn't. That's because the director of the local TV station was standing right beside her. Monica was a DJ and had her very own radio show in the evenings, but she'd recently put in an application for an intern-type news-casting position at WFNC News 6. She didn’t want a surly attitude to ruin her chances of winning the internship. Therefore, she gave Anthony a tiny smile and placed her hand into his. “Okay, let’s dance.”

Needless to say, Anthony was surprised that Monica had actually accepted his offer. He'd been expecting her to shut him down by firing off a biting statement. He liked his newest sister-in-law’s best friend — even though it seemed she didn’t care too much for him. There’s something about Monica Hall that just intrigues me. As he placed his arm around her waist and led her out to the dance floor, the song that began to drift from the speakers in the room was Etta James’ classic and original rendition of At Last.

Anthony bent his head towards Monica's ear, he wasn’t shocked at all that he was actually enjoying the feeling of having her in his arms. He began humming the melody to the song. Then he said, “I'm surprised you said yes, Monica.”

Still keeping her cool, because the director of WFNC-TV was nearby Monica replied back, “I'm even more surprised that you asked me, Anthony. But I guess I really shouldn’t have been. After all, you’d chase anything in a skirt wouldn’t you?”

He couldn't help but chuckle. “I tend to think I’m more selective in my dating choices than that, Monica. I don't think just anything in a skirt would do.”

She let out a humph sound of disbelief in response to his little comment. Then she placed a funny little smirk on her beautiful face. “Oh, that’s right. You have to have the most gorgeous of the gorgeous women on your arm...right?”

Anthony knew exactly what she was talking about. Ever since bringing home the gold for the US Olympic running team two years earlier, beautiful female celebrities and super stars had been clamoring for a chance to be on his arm. He had to admit to himself that at first the attention had made him a little cocky. But after a while, women going out of their way to get with him because of his accomplishments had gotten old. In other words, Anthony had begun to yearn for having a female companion in his presence who wanted to be with him because of who he was, not for what he brought to the table.

He grinned again. “What if I told you I was dancing with the most gorgeous of the gorgeous women right now?”

Monica had honestly had enough of Anthony Bullock’s flirting. She stopped her dancing motion with him and stared him straight in the eye. “Dogs don’t give sincere compliments, Anthony Bullock. And when it comes to human-dogs, you’re one of the slickest ones I’ve had the displeasure of knowing.” She pulled her arms back away from him. “I think our little dance show is over with. Have a nice life.”

As he watched Monica's beautiful retreating back, Anthony frowned at the deep chuckle he heard behind him.

I guess Monica's not gonna be on the extensive list of women you've managed to slay in your twenty-nine years…huh, little bro?”

Anthony turned around, he was still wearing a slight scowl on his face. “Shouldn't you be over there dancing with your wife, Raymond?”

Raymond laughed again. “Wow, you’re a little bit testy aren’t you, Ant?” He patted him on the back. “Lighten up, little brother. I was just joking.”

Realizing that he’d responded a tad bit too harshly, Anthony gave his brother a tiny smile. “But really Ray, this is your wedding. Shouldn't you still be dancing with Faith?”

Oh, you just saw us out there having our first dance together—,” a dreamy look came onto his handsome face, “—me and my baby have a whole lifetime of dancing together.” Then he chuckled again. “Plus, she promised Reverend Carter a dance. He’s pushing ninety you know. Faith didn’t want to kept him or his wife out too late. She sent me to get her some punch while she gave him the twirl around the room that she’d promised him.”

Reverend James Carter had been a friend of the Bullock family ever since Anthony could remember. He finally gave his brother a smile. “It's a good thing Mrs. Carter doesn't mind.”

Grinning, Raymond nodded his head. “Of course she doesn't mind. Both the Carters look at Faith like she's their daughter...or rather their granddaughter.” Then he turned to his brother. “Now back to you and Monica, what gives with that situation?”

Oh, nothing at all, bro. Nothing at all.” He shrugged his shoulders. “I guess she just hates me.”

Raymond shook his head. “That’s too bad, bruh.” Then he chuckled again. “I guess she’s gonna end up being one of the women who’s just not gonna succumb to all that Bullock charm that you say you got going on for yourself.” With that being said, Raymond patted his younger sibling on the shoulder. “Well, bruh. I’m about to go back to enjoying this very special day with my exceptionally lovely wife.”

As he looked across the room and caught a glimpse of Monica dancing with his very unattached and good-looking cousin, Doug, Anthony couldn't stop another frown from appearing on his handsome face. For some reason — it was unknown to him — he’d been irritated by seeing Monica in another man's arms.

Suddenly feeling a light tap on his shoulder, he turned around to see who is trying to get his attention.

Dominique Holt gave her old schoolmate, Anthony, a sexy smile. “You don't mind giving a sista a dance do you Anthony Bullock?”

Dominique was a decent enough girl — even stunningly gorgeous — but Anthony had never quite felt her in the way that she’d always seemed to be feeling him. But being the charming type of brotha that he considered himself to be, he gave Dominique a wide smile, held out his hand and said, “Of course I don’t mind dancing with you. Let’s show them how it’s done.”

Glancing across the ballroom floor and catching a glimpse of Anthony hugged up dancing with a young Halle Berry look-alike caused Monica to frown for some reason.

Seeing the expression that had suddenly made its way onto his dance partner’s pretty face forced Doug to give Monica a questioning look and say, “What's wrong, Monica?” As soon as the words had come out of his mouth, he noticed the direction of her stare. Then he smiled. “Oh, you’re crushing on my cousin, Anthony, aren't you?”

Monica actually stopped dancing to respond to that one. “Boy, please. Ain't nobody crushing on your cousin.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Well, maybe little Miss Black Barbie over there is. But definitely not me. My moral standards are a little bit too high for doing something like that.”

Wow, she's in denial, Doug thought to himself. Or maybe she really doesn't realize that she likes him. Doug smiled. I think I'll try to help my cousin out. Who knows, maybe him and Monica are a match made in heaven.

Doug's eyes met Monica's. “Well what is it about Anthony that you don't like, Monica?”

I think the real question should be: What is there about Anthony for a girl like myself to like?” When Doug didn’t respond, Monica snickered. “Yeah...crickets huh? That’s because there’s nothing for a girl like myself to find attractive about a man like your cousin over there. He’s arrogant, pompous, full-of-himself, a womanizer—”

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait,” Doug interrupted her while wearing a grin on his handsome face. “I know Anthony might come off as being all those things in the media, but he’s really not that way in real life. He’s actually quite a stand-up kind of guy.” He winked. “We’re almost the same age. I’ve been knowing him since I was four or five. Plus, I’m a minister,” he chuckled. “I wouldn’t lie to you like that.”

Monica gave her dance partner another look of disbelief. “Yeah, I know you’re a man of the cloth and all, but you’re wrong about your cousin. I can smell womanizers a mile away. I’ve certainly run into my fair share of them during my time here on this Earth.”

It was at that moment that Doug realized there wasn’t gonna be anything much that he could say in his cousin Anthony’s defense. Some things have to be handled by you, Lord.

He flashed Monica a charming grin. “Let’s just finish our little dance...okay?”

Glad that he’d decided to drop the Anthony subject, she nodded her head. “Sure. Let’s go.”


* * *


Three Hours Later:


Monica didn’t think she’d ever done so much dancing in her entire life. She hadn’t even danced that much back in her hardcore clubbing days — her days before getting saved.

Her best friend’s two new sister-in-laws, Serenity and Jasmine, smiled at Monica as she came back over to the bridal dining table. Jasmine shook her head and said, “You gonna make me feel old, Monica. We’re only a few years apart in age, yet you out there cutting up that dance floor like that, making me feel eighty.”

Monica giggled. “Girl, trust me...I think that was my last little hoo-ha out there. My dogs are barking! You hear me, boo?”

Jasmine smiled. “Yeah...I hear you alright. I saw you out there dancing with that brother-in-law of mine...that was a surprise.”

Monica’s grin widened. Serenity’s husband, Jason, was known for his dancing skills. “Girl, you know nobody in Carolina can do the two-step like your husband Jason can.”

Jason’s wife, Serenity, shook her head at this point. “You know ain’t nobody talking about my Jason, Monica. Me and Jasmine are talking about you out there dancing with Anthony.” She waved her hand around the room. “I know all of us up in here were surprised to see that.”

The smile that she’d had on her face morphed into a frown. “Trust and believe...if the director from WFNC-TV hadn’t been standing there when Anthony asked me out on the floor, there wouldn’t have been no dancing between me and him. I had to play nice.”

Monica couldn’t help but wonder at that point why everyone seemed so concerned about her dancing with Anthony. She shook her head.

Serenity brought her eyebrows together in concern. “You okay, Monica?”

Monica gave her friend a tiny smile. “Yep. I’m fine. A little parched, though. I think I’m gonna get me another glass of that sparkling raspberry limeade. You’re gonna have to give me the recipe for that one,’s delish.”

Serenity basked in the compliment she’d just been paid. Being a professional chef, she’d helped her new sister-in-law with getting her wedding reception catered. The sparkling raspberry limeade had been mixed using Serenity’s very own recipe. “Okay, honey. I’ll email you the instructions and the recipe tomorrow.”

Ten minutes later, Monica noticed that a good number of the guests had already left the fancy pavilion. Consequently, she decided that it was time for her to call it quits for the evening as well. Since she'd left her car in the basement-level parking garage of the Madison Center, she made her way to the bank of elevators outside of the ballroom and pressed the down button. She had a serious elevator phobia, but she’d been fighting it lately. Just before the elevator doors could swish all the way closed, someone stuck their hand between the doors and asked, “Going down?” As the doors opened back up to allow the new passenger on board, a frown made its way onto Monica's face with a quickness.

Stepping into the elevator, Anthony smiled. Then he chuckled. “I’m starting to think that you save all your frowns especially for me...don't you, Monica?”

You honestly do think the whole world revolves around you, don't you, Anthony Bullock?”

Not letting his smile falter Anthony said, “No, I actually don’t. You're looking at me all wrong, Monica.”

She didn't even grace his reply with a response. She simply shook her head. Then out of nowhere, they both heard a loud crunching noise and the lights went off inside the elevator and the contraption came to a stop.

Monica’s heart lurched in her chest. She understood that they were only three stories up. However, getting caught in an elevator was one of her worst nightmares. In fact, she normally avoided the devices.

Anthony pulled his cell phone out of his tuxedo jacket. He pressed the button to turn it on so that the light from the device would illuminate the confined space they were in. Noticing the look of sheer terror on Monica's beautiful face he frowned.

It's probably just a temporary glitch in the power supply, Monica. The car will probably get back to moving in a few seconds.”

Her feelings of terror made her completely forget how much she disliked Anthony. She subconsciously inched closer over to the man. Feeling the fingers of dread curl themselves throughout her being, she began whispering under her breath a Scripture from second Timothy that she’d committed to memory. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and cowardice, but a spirit of power, love and self-control... For God has not given us a spirit of fear and cowardice, but a spirit of power, love and self-control.”

In the darkness of the elevator, Anthony groped his hand around until his fingers made contact with Monica’s. “Faith told me about how you were working on overcoming your fear of elevators.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze of encouragement. “We’re gonna be okay in here, Monica. We really are. You hear that buzzing sound don’t you?”

I hear it,” she whispered.

That’s the call signal to the building attendant. I pressed it a few seconds ago. Any minute now, the attendant is gonna call us on the emergency phone in here and ask if everything’s okay.”

As if on cue, the phone in the elevator began ringing.

With Monica by his side, Anthony picked up the device and began speaking to the woman on the other end of the line. Less than a minute later, he disconnected the call. “I don’t know how much of that you were able to overhear, but this particular elevator malfunctioned yesterday. They called the repairman out and he worked on it. They thought they had it fixed.”

Even with the small amount of light illuminating from his cell phone’s flashlight app, it was still impossible for her to make out the finer details of his facial features. However, she searched them out anyways. Having someone trapped in there with her — even though it was Anthony — lessened her anxiety a little. A knot of anxiety was still in her throat but she was able to shakily whisper, “How long before they free us?”

At that Anthony frowned. “She said yesterday it took a couple of hours to get it going again. She suspects that’ll be the case today as well.”

She knew she could deal with being trapped in there for a few more minutes, but hearing him say a few hours suddenly made her go into full panic mode. She couldn't stop herself from beginning to tremble. All types of irrational thoughts began to fly through her mind. “There's a fire in the building, Anthony! They're not gonna be able to get us out…we’re gonna die in here! Oh my God, the cables are gonna snap!” With her breathing quickening, Monica felt like the walls were closing in on them.

Anthony turned around a little so that his face was only inches away from Monica's. He held his cell phone’s flashlight up so that she could see him more clearly. “Monica, baby're imagining things...things that just aren’t gonna happen.” He palmed her cheek using his free hand. “Look at me.”

By this time, she’d closed her eyelids tightly. She was trying to somehow block her reality all the way out.

He tilted her chin up. He smiled. “Look at me, Monica. Look at me please.”

Despite his gentle requests, she refused to open her eyes. Realizing that he was fighting a losing battle on that front, Anthony decided to take another approach to the situation.

Monica, have you ever studied the book of Joshua?” She didn't say a word in reply so he continued speaking. “My favorite Scripture from that particular book is Joshua One and Nine. It says and I quote: Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

He gave her hand another gentle squeeze. “You have to believe in that Scripture, Monica. You're a woman of faith. The Lord is with us here in this elevator. He's not gonna let anything happen to us. He's done showed that to me as plain as day. Yes, we're gonna be in here for a little while. But then I'm going home to my nice warm bed and you're going home to yours. End of story. The Lord put that on my heart, so that's what's gonna happen.”

He paused for a moment to let his words sink in, then he continued speaking. “Like I just said, you're a woman of faith, Monica Hall. I just quoted Joshua One and Nine to you and I’m gonna quote it again. Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Somehow Anthony's words finally broke through the veil of anxiety and panic that was shrouding her mind. “The Lord is with us,” she finally whispered.

Yes, Monica…He is.” Anthony grinned. He was happy that his silent prayers had been answered and that God had blessed the beautiful woman standing before him with a breakthrough. “Now let's sit down and make ourselves comfortable.  I'm gonna tell you some stories from my childhood. You'll probably get some ideas from them to use on your radio show.” He chuckled at that point. “Anything's possible you know.”


* * *


Two and a Half Hours Later:


If anyone had told her earlier in the day that she was going to spend an enjoyable three hours with Anthony Bullock, Monica would've told that person that they were lying. But that's exactly what had happened that evening in that elevator.

Standing in the outside parking garage of the Madison Center breathing in sweet, fresh air, Anthony turned to Monica and smiled. “Thank you for being a very hospitable partner-in-crime while we were stuck in that elevator, Monica.”

She gave him a shy smile in return. “I should be the one thanking you, Anthony.” Her eyes met his. “Thank you for being so nice to me and helping me through my panic attack.” Now that everything was over with, she was a little embarrassed. “I'm not afraid of many things in this world. Unfortunately, elevators is one of them.”

He grinned right back. “You used to be afraid of elevators. Your fear is in your past now...remember? You had a rocky little start in there, but you handled the situation like the classy woman I hear every week on the Monica Hall Radio Show.”

She was surprised to hear him say what he’d just said. “You listen to my show, Anthony?”

He nodded his head. “Yep. I catch it most nights when I’m in town. You’re a funny woman, Monica and you have some interesting takes on things in life.” He smiled again. “Your show really is entertaining. It’s thought provoking a lot of times.”

Before getting stuck in the elevator with Anthony, Monica would've believed that he was just joking if Anthony had told her something like that. But now she could tell that his compliment had been genuine. It had been sincere.

Anthony let out a little chuckle. “You're thinking to yourself that I'm not as bad as you thought I was…aren’t you?”

Monica wasn't ashamed to admit the truth. “Yeah, something like that.” She depressed the button on her key to unlock her car door. She really wasn't surprised when Anthony reached over and opened the door for her — that's because all the Bullock brothers have good manners like that...all four of them.

See you around, Monica.”

She nodded her head, then cranked her engine. “Yeah. See you around, Anthony.”

As he watched the taillights of her BMW disappear into the night, Anthony had a smile on his dark brown handsome face. “I really do like that Monica. All in all, she’s a sweetheart...a real class act.”






Faith, I'm real sorry that I couldn't pick up you and that fine-tailed husband of yours from the airport like I said I would.” Monica gave her bestie a quick once over and smiled. Then she continued speaking. “But you look good, girl. It seems like you and Raymond enjoyed yourselves.”

Thinking back over the two-week long honeymoon she'd just shared with her husband, Faith couldn't help but grin herself. She nodded her head. “Yeah, my honeymoon was everything, boo. I feel so blessed to have Raymond in my life. I'm also glad that Anthony was able to get us last minute hotel accommodations for our stay in Dubai.” She cheesed even harder. “You know, Dubai wasn't on our honeymoon travel itinerary, but I’ve always dreamed of going there — ever since I was a little girl. Anthony really came through for me on getting those last minute reservations. That was really nice of him.”

Monica still had how Anthony had helped her through the situation in the elevator on her mind. So she smiled right back and said, “Yeah, that was pretty decent of him wasn't it?”

Faith looked at her girl in disbelief. “Hold on, wait a minute. You’re saying something nice about Anthony Bullock?”

I didn't really say anything nice about him, Faith.” Monica shrugged her shoulders. “But maybe he's not as bad as I thought he was.”

A look of concern ran across Faith’s beautiful face. She reached across her kitchen table and felt Monica’s forehead using the back of her hand.

Monica pulled back and looked at her bestie like she was crazy. “Whatchu doing that for, Faith Bullock?”

You’re not attaching a cutting response to Anthony's name, so I'm pretty much sure you got a fever or something. I'm just trying to make sure my bestie isn't sick.”

Faith was amazed when a smile appeared on Monica's face. She was even more surprised when Monica asked, “Can a girl change her mind about a person, Faith?”

Holy mother of sweet baby Jesus. I know the world is about to end now.” Faith looked Monica directly in the eye. “You mean to tell me you don't hate Anthony's guts anymore?”

No. Like I said...I changed my mind about him. He's not as bad as I thought he was.”

Faith shook her head. Then she smiled, too. “You know you gonna have to spill the beans on that one, boo. Tell me exactly what potion you drank that’s got you thinking this way about Anthony. I'm gonna have to bottle up whatever it is and sell it. I'm gonna become a millionaire off of whatever that magic elixir was.”

Oh, there was absolutely no magic potion or hocus-pocus involved. I just came to realize that I'd misjudged him a little. Yeah, I still believe he's a little on the man-whorish side, but he's got a good heart.” Then she giggled. “A man-whore with a good heart…did you ever think there could be such a thing?”

Faith smiled right along with her girl. She was happy that apparently her bestie and her new brother-in-law were gonna get along. “I don’t know about that ‘man-whore-with-a-good-heart’ part of what you just said, but I didn’t think you’d ever have anything nice to say about Anthony. I’m glad God is gonna allow you two to tolerate one another. You know I practically consider you to be my family, Monica. It was gonna be hard seeing the two of you at each other’s throats.”

Then Faith pointed an accusatory finger at her best friend. “I know there's a story behind your sudden change of heart. I'm not letting you off the hook that easily, Monica Hall. So you might as well go ahead and spill it.”

Monica was sure she wasn't gonna hear the last of it until she clued Faith in on what had happened. She sighed and began sharing her elevator story.

By the time Monica had finished speaking, Faith had a wide beam on her face. “I'm so happy for you, Monica. That paralyzing fear that you had of elevators had you in bondage, girl. You missed out on that job in New York with Fox News last year because your position was gonna be on the 88th floor. God is good ain’t he? The Lord practically killed two birds with one stone — your fear of elevators and your dislike of Anthony.”

Monica couldn’t help but smile herself. “The Lord did do that didn't he, girl?”

Faith nodded her head. “Yep.” Then a mischievous gleam came into her eyes. “You know Anthony is just as fine as all the other Bullock men — and he's an eligible bachelor. Wouldn't it be nice if the two of you hit it off so well that you became an item and got married? Then we would be sisters for real, Monica.”

Monica shook her head with a quickness. “Boo, me and Anthony getting married ain't never happening. I might think he's a decent person now, but I still know he's a man-whore.” She pointed a well-manicured finger at her girl. “And you know I don’t mess with man-whores. That’s number one on my do-not-do list where men are concerned.”

Raymond told me that Anthony’s cut way back on his womanizing tendencies. In fact, he hasn’t been with anyone in about six months or so. Said he’s focusing on his relationship with God.”

Upon hearing that, Monica couldn’t help but let out an ironic little bark of laughter. “Uh, yeah right. He danced with every last unmarried sista at your wedding reception two weeks ago. I find it hard to believe that he’s not trying to get up into some woman’s panties.”

Boo, not to sound difficult or anything, but I seem to recall that you were out there on that dance floor cutting the rug with all the single men in attendance.” She pointed a finger right back at her girl. “And I know for a fact that you've been celibate for the last year and a half.”

At that point Faith sighed. “All I'm trying to say is that just because he was dancing and having a good time, that doesn't make him a man-whore.” Then she quickly added, “Now let's move on to a different subject before you reach across the table and try to strangle me.” Faith giggled. “Did you hear anything back from the news station?”

Two hours after she’d left Faith’s house, Monica still had their conversation on her mind — more specifically the part of their little discussion that had involved Anthony. She flopped down on her sofa and began absentmindedly thumbing through the fashion magazine in her hand.

He is real handsome,” she whispered under her breath. “Downright fine.” Then she shook her head. “But there's no way him and me could ever be a match made in heaven. No way at all. Faith is just gonna have to settle for us being sisters of the heart.” Then she sucked her teeth. Shoot...she better be glad I don’t have urges to punch him in that sexy-as-sin mouth of his anymore.


* * *


Two Days Later:


Monica looked across at her boss, Lawrence Washington, and frowned. “You want to do a holiday dating segment as part of my radio show?”

Lawrence nodded his head. “Yep, doll. About like some of those big radio stations in places like LA and New York are doing around this time of year.”

What big radio stations, Lawrence? I haven’t heard of any major radio stations doing no holiday love connection type schemes.”

Lawrence shook his slightly graying head. He smiled. “Don't really matter, Monica. The head honchos here at the radio station want the segment done, so you're gonna have to do it.”

Monica looked back down at the sheet of paper that her boss had handed to her. She had to fight to stop her slight frown from turning into an outright scowl. Then her eyes met Lawrence’s again. “This is a dating game, Mr. Washington. What would the head honchos here say about me doing it if I weren't single? What if I were married or engaged? Then what?”

I don’t have an answer to that. But since you’re not attached, I assume it’s not a problem.”

Monica shook her head again. “Is that all you wanted to speak to me about, Mr. Washington?”

Lawrence had known Monica wasn't gonna like the stunt that she was going to have to perform. Therefore he gave her a sympathetic little smile. He nodded his head. “Yeah, that about covers it, Monica. Remember, the Find a Christmas Sweetheart for Monica segment begins in two weeks. I know it's short notice, but you're a smart girl. I know you can handle it.”

Monica grumbled under her breath all the way along the short walk back to the recording studio section of the radio station building.

Uh-oh. Somebody’s done put a bee in your bonnet, Monica. Who done did my favorite radio DJ wrong? Lemme at ‘em. I’ll tear them to shreds.”

Monica couldn’t help but smile at her sound producer’s antics. JayQuan had his dukes up and everything. “I appreciate you being down for me like that, Jay. But I don’t think brute force is gonna make my situation any better.”

JayQuan put his fists down and began fiddling with the mic in front of him again, while all the time not losing eye contact with Monica. “Well at least tell me what's wrong.”

She handed him the paper that was in her hand and watched as he skimmed it over. Then she shook her head as he began laughing.

Hey, I thought you said you were on my side, JayQuan McMaster.”

I am, Monica. This is just too ridiculous. You're actually gonna do this?”

Boy, you know I ain't got no other choice. I like this cushy job that I have here at the radio station. I’m not ready to give it up just yet. But giving it up is exactly what’s gonna happen if I refuse to do this silly segment.”

JayQuan shrugged his shoulders. “Well at least you might just find yourself a holiday love out of this whole deal.”

She glanced over at the thirty-something with a look of disbelief written all over her face. “How about I let you do the segment instead. How ‘bout we have female callers ringing in competing to win a date with your behind for Christmas?”

Won’t work, Monica.” He chuckled. “You know I’m married. My Traniece will be up here cat-clawing and scratching some poor woman’s eyes out in a heartbeat.”

Monica shook her head. She’d met JayQuan’s wife before. “You know Traniece is a sweetheart, JayQuan. I know she’d be up here fussing, but she’s too much of a lady to be clawing anyone’s eyes out.” She finally smiled. “You’re a lucky guy to have a wife like her.”

With love for his woman shining in his eyes, JayQuan said, “Yeah. I know.” Then he smiled at Monica. “But enough about all that. Let’s get ready to get you on the air.”


* * *


Five Hours Later:


The one thing Monica disliked about her job as a radio host was the fact that her particular show aired from 8 o'clock in the evening until 12 o'clock midnight. Working such odd hours normally meant the rest of her life was out of sync with the rest of the world.

She frowned as she brought her car to a stop in the parking lot of her local 24 Hour Walmart Supercenter. It was the only grocery store close to her that was open around the clock. Unfortunately, this particular time of night was when she did the majority of her grocery shopping.

What I wouldn't give for a regular nine to five, she thought to herself as she glanced around the parking lot making sure her surroundings were safe. It wasn't that the grocery store was located in a bad part of town — it was actually snuggled in a middle-class part of the city — it was just that Monica believed a girl should always put her safety first. Growing up in the hood taught me that lesson well.

Deciding that everything was on the up and up, she finally took a deep breath and made her way into the mega market.

She had only been in the store ten minutes when a now familiar voice from somewhere behind her said, “Wow, you're putting real food in your basket...not that frozen dinner stuff. I'm gonna have to invite myself over to your place one day for a meal or two.”

Falling back on thoughts of her old relationship with him, Monica's first response was to turn around and scowl at Anthony. But she caught herself at the last second and flashed him a friendly smile instead.

Anthony, I don't get off of work most nights until twelve-thirty, that's my excuse for being here so late doing my grocery shopping.” She pointed towards his basket. “What's your excuse?”

He chuckled. “What if I told you that I was just looking for a reason to run into you?”

She knew that wasn't the case at all. Still smiling, she looked him straight into the eye and said, “I’d have to tell you that you’re off your rocker if that's what you did.”

He shook his head. “Oh, I was just kidding about that.” He grinned again. “I'm not stalking you, Monica. I’d promised the church that I’d donate some items for their food drive. I'm just in here trying to make good on my word.” He pointed at his full shopping cart. “You see, I told Pastor McKinley that I’d have my donations to him by the morning.”

Monica couldn't help but laugh at that. “You like doing things last minute don’t you?”

He shook his head again. “Not really. I had to go out of town to speak at a symposium — I was doing a favor for a friend who couldn’t show up at the last minute. That kind of threw everything off for me.”

Okay, Anthony. I think I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. I believe you.”

He pointed towards her basket this time. “But seriously though, it looks like you’re about to throw down in somebody's kitchen. I hear you can cook pretty good. Can you hook a brotha up with a plate?”

The faintest hint of a smile touched her lips.”You have no shame in your game, do you Anthony Bullock? In here begging me for a plate like that.”

It had been a little over two weeks since the night he and Monica had gotten trapped in that elevator together. The beautiful girl  had been on his mind off and on during that whole time span. He'd be going about his business as usual and then bam, out of nowhere an image of Monica's pretty face would pop up in his mind's eye.

He flashed what he hoped was a charming smile. “Okay okay, point taken. How about you let me take you out to dinner then…you know, as payback for all those times I said something inappropriate or off-the-wall to you in the past. An apology of sorts.”

She was surprised by his request for a date. Part of her was thrilled about it, the other part was just plain suspicious. Unfortunately the suspicious part won out and she said, “Okay, Anthony Bullock. What gives with you wanting to take me out? Up until two weeks ago, we were at each other's throats. We were mortal enemies.”

He was quick with his response. “Oh, I was never at your throat, Monica. I always thought that you were a really likable person. A smart, independent, attractive black woman who had her head screwed on right.” He shrugged his shoulders and let out a little laugh. “However, I don't think you shared the same warm, positive feelings about me. I think you hated my guts.”

Hate is such a strong word. I wouldn't necessarily say that I hated you. I just had a strong dislike...a very strong dislike.”

He couldn't stop himself from chuckling at that one. “Okay, Monica. Now that we got that out of the way, how about that date?”

Monica shook her head. “I think I'm gonna have to pass, Anthony. But thank you just the same. On the flip side, now that you've decided to straighten up your act, I hear that all the single women down at Faith Tabernacle are chomping at the bit to get you to go out with them. You have a sea full of other beautiful fishes to try to reel in.” She gave him another tiny smile. “It’s late and I’m ready to get home. It was nice running into you this, I mean tonight...but I have to go ahead and get myself out of here. Goodnight, Anthony.”

Being an Olympic gold-medalist, he could tell when he was fighting a losing battle. Therefore, he returned her smile with one of his own. “Goodnight, Moni.” Then recalling how she’d said she hated the nickname, he quickly corrected himself. “I mean Monica. Goodnight, Monica.”

As Anthony watched her beautiful form disappear around the corner of the cereal aisle, he couldn’t help but think to himself: Lord, I wish she’d said yes to my dinner request. There’s something mighty special about Monica Hall. I really like her.

When she was out of Anthony's line of vision, Monica finally released the breath that she hadn't known she’d been holding. Lord, she thought to herself, there’s something about that man that keeps him on my mind. I almost said yes to going out with him. You and me both know that would’ve been crazy…right?

She shook her head. Now he got me in here in this store almost talking to myself. Pretty soon, I'm gonna think I really am going crazy. At that thought, she couldn't help but chuckle a little bit. The woman who’d just pushed her cart past her and given her a funny look brought Monica back to reality. Lord, I'm in the store laughing to myself now. Anthony Bullock has got me going crazy.

A half-hour later found Anthony sitting in his car waiting for Monica to come out of the Walmart. He’d gone directly to the checkout registers right after he and Monica had finished talking, so he’d been out there about twenty minutes. He had no intentions of approaching her anymore that night — he figured she’d had enough of him. He just wanted to make sure she made it safely into her car.

The gentleman in him wanted to get out of his vehicle and help her load her purchases into her late-model Beemer. But since he really did think she'd had enough of him for the night, he just watched her putting her bags into her trunk.

Everything was going along just fine — that is until the banged up Ford Taurus pulled up right beside the parking spot that Monica’s car was in and a guy stepped out and approached her.

Hey there sweet need any help with them bags?”

Monica looked at the hillbilly-looking White man with the dirty blonde mullet and shook her head. “No. I got this.”

The man — if you could even call him that — licked his lips and let his eyes rove over Monica's body from head to toe. “You a pretty little colored girl…you know that?” A greedy, wicked gleam came into the man's blue eyes. “A right pretty little thing.” Then he chuckled. “You got that round, tight rear-end on you just like a fella like myself likes.”

Monica instantly felt her caution radar go into overdrive mode. She straightened her back from putting her bags into her car. “Look, need to move on.”

Acting as if she’d said nothing at all, the man focused his beady blue eyes on Monica’s dark brown ones and said, “How much for a roll in my back seat.” He pointed at her car. “I know that’s how you paid for that fancy vehicle you driving. Shit, it probably ain’t even yours.” He chuckled. “Probably belongs to your rich White sugar daddy. I ain’t rich, but I’ll give you twenty bucks for a sample of that chocolate between your legs.”

This fool is out of his mind. That had been Monica’s first thought. When he wrapped his hand around her wrist like a steel vice, her second thought was: He’s dangerous.

She felt panic settle into her soul as a quick glance around the parking lot showed that it was just empty cars out there. In her state of alarm, she’d forgotten about the tiny canister of pepper spray on her keyring. But she suddenly remembered it and wrapped her fingers around the cool metal. A firm believer in taking aim first and asking questions later, she pointed the bottle towards the man’s face and sprayed. Her heart sank in her chest when nothing came out.

The man began dragging her towards his car. There was no way in heaven or hell that she was getting into his vehicle. Her keys fell to the ground as she balled her free hand into a fist and punched him in the back of his head. She’d hit him pretty hard — so hard in fact that her knuckles ached — but she realized all her punch had done was made him angry.

The stench of foul breath hit her nostrils when the man hissed, “You’re gonna pay for that.”

When a brown fist much larger than hers connected with the man’s jaw and he crumpled to the ground — knocked out cold — Monica let out a breath in relief. She didn’t know who her brave rescuer was, but she sure thanked the Lord for sending him. She turned around to face her hero and was shocked to see Anthony Bullock standing there.

Monica’s eyes met Anthony’s. “Anthony,” she whispered in a shaky voice. “Thank you.”

When he’d first seen the man trying to force Monica into his car, Anthony had felt his heart dropping in his chest. His anger and his need to protect her had quickly propelled him out of his car and over to where she stood.

Instinctively, he placed his palm on her soft cheek and stared into her brown eyes. “Are you okay, Monica? Did he hurt you?”

Swallowing past the lump of fear that was still in her throat, Monica shook her head. “I'm okay, Anthony. I'm okay.”

Anthony was still feeling some type of way, but his voice was deceptively calm when he said, “Good. I’m calling the authorities. I’m sure you’re pressing charges. No telling how many women that butthole on the ground has taken advantage of.”

Monica stood there numbly as Anthony made his call to 9-1-1. She could tell from his side of the conversation that the dispatcher was sending squad cars right away.

Monica was usually a strong woman. But the gravity of the dire situation she’d just been in suddenly hit her hard and she couldn’t stop the flood of tears that were suddenly flowing from her eyes. Anthony completed his call and pulled Monica into his arms. It had been bad on him watching her being attacked, he couldn’t even imagine how she’d felt about all of it.

She stayed there crying on his shoulder for a good two minutes. When she finally pulled away, patrol cars were rushing up to the scene.

Using the pads of his thumbs, Anthony brushed the tears from her soft cheeks. “I know the officers are gonna need you to make a statement Monica. You think you might be up to that? I’ll stay with you, of course.” He gave her hand a gentle squeeze of encouragement and she nodded her head. She tried to give him a tiny smile, but her lips simply wouldn’t cooperate. She finally was able to say, “Yeah. I can do it.”


* * *


A Half Hour Later:


Fortunately for Monica, the officers had been able to take her statement right there in the parking lot. She hadn't had to go downtown to the precinct to file a report.

Officer Cherry looked at Anthony and frowned. “It's a good thing you were able to take ol’ boy down like you did, Mr. Bullock. He meets the description of a piece of trash that's been attacking and raping women for the last month on this side of town.”

Then the officer turned to Monica. “You are willing to come to court and testify against him if we need you aren’t you Ms. Hall?”

Monica quickly nodded her head. “Of course I am.”

The officer gave her a smile. “Good. And once again, I’m sorry you had to go through all of this. Hopefully we have the man we’ve been looking for and something positive — meaning getting that butthole off the streets — comes out of all of this.”

Anxious to get Monica to the safety of her home, Anthony turned to Officer Cherry and said, “Are you done with us, Officer?”

The man nodded his head. “Yep. You’re free to go.”

Anthony took Monica's arm and walked her back to her car. “I'm following you home and making sure you get safely inside. Don't even try to protest. It's not up for debate.”

After everything she's been through that night, Monica had had no intentions of protesting. She let Anthony tuck her into her car and close the door behind her. Approximately fifteen minutes later, they were pulling into the driveway of the newly-constructed two-story home that she'd worked hard to purchase only a year earlier.

They didn’t utter a word between them as Anthony collected her bags and took them into her house. Once all of her things were inside, he turned to her and said, “Is there someone you’d like to call to come stay with you tonight? You still look a little shaken up.”

Monica shook her head. She sighed. “It’s late — almost three in the morning. I don’t feel like bothering anybody.”

She just couldn’t understand why she couldn’t seem to get herself back together. She honestly felt like crying again.

Somehow sensing her emotional state, Anthony looked at her and frowned. “If you don’t mind getting me some blankets, I want to crash here on your sofa tonight.” He sighed. “I know we haven’t always gotten along, but you’re like family, Monica and you’re good people. I can tell that you’re still pretty shaken up — probably a little scared too. Lord knows I was rattled just witnessing what happened to you.” He shook his head, trying to get rid of the heavy shadow that had planted itself on his face. “I don’t want to leave you here by yourself tonight. I don’t want to leave you here all alone.”

She honestly didn’t want to be alone either. She knew she’d feel much safer with Anthony there in the house with her. As much as she didn’t want to lean on him for support, the security she knew she’d feel from having him there won out.

She nodded her head. “Okay, Anthony. I’ll bring you some blankets. And by the way, you’re in luck…the sofa is actually one of those convertible bed thingies. You should at least get a good night’s sleep.”