KERRI'S WAR (Volume 3 of The King Trilogy)

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Chapter 79

The Prince of Wales Hotel, Niagara on the Lake.

A stunningly beautiful five star hotel at the corner of King and Picton Streets, The Prince of Wales was one of the finest in the entire Niagara Region. Its rust and white brick exterior walls and cedar shake mansard roof line with dormer windows made it look like it had been transplanted from downtown Paris. Its false porch and pillars were festooned with hanging baskets containing thousands of local flowers of every color of the rainbow. It was a destination for tourists wishing to stay and enjoy the visual and gastronomic delights of the area.

Steve and Kerri, having finished a day of touring and shopping, showered and changed in their third story suite, then headed for the Churchill Lounge on the hotel’s main floor. Steve wore fresh khaki trousers, a white Polo shirt, and a navy blue blazer. Despite his protestations, Kerri had managed to convince him to wear a dark blue tie. Kerri wore a black satin ankle-length skirt and a white silk blouse. The two were seated at a well padded alcove for two, close to the fireplace. Everyone in the room turned and stared at Kerri, captivated by her amazing beauty. Hushed whispers were followed by pointing and progressively louder conversations as the patrons recognized her as The Iacardi Santa Claus.

Steve reached for Kerri’s hand and locked his hazel eyes on her. “I’ve never dated a celebrity. What should I do?”

Kerri smiled and winked. “Whatever your heart tells you to do.”

Steve stood and raised both of his hands, pleading for silence. “Hello, everyone. My name is Steve Monteith. I’m sure none of you know me, but obviously you know my date. Her name is Kerri King. She’s also known as The Iacardi Santa Claus. She is one of the most generous and compassionate women on the planet, and I’m fortunate enough to have her here with me tonight. I haven’t consulted with her on this, but I’m going to speculate that she’ll be delighted to talk to any and all of you and answer any questions you might have.” He paused, flashed his irresistible smile, and waved a warning finger. “Don’t even think about it. I need time to ask this amazing woman to be my wife,” he said, igniting an explosion of cheers, whistles and applause.

He again reached for Kerri’s hand and gently tugged, beckoning her to stand. When she did, he took her in his arms and kissed her with a passion she had never experienced. When the kiss ended, he reached into the breast pocket of his blazer and removed a ring. It was an eighteen carat yellow gold round with a one karat diamond solitaire, flanked by two smaller rubies, Kerri’s birthstone. He held it at eye level, then spoke, loud enough for everyone to hear. “This has been the happiest day of my life,” he said with a smile that never failed to melt Kerri’s heart. “I can’t believe I’m still alive, and the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen is here beside me... I love you, Kerri King, more than you could ever know. I would be honored if you would agree to be my wife,” he said, inducing an immediate and total silence. Everyone stared at Kerri, thrilled to experience the spectacle, and anxious to hear her response.

Kerri blushed, struggling to deal with her sudden exposure and Steve’s surprise proposal, delayed her response until someone in the crowd shouted, “Say yes!” A groundswell of similar shouts soon followed.

As Steve had done earlier, Kerri raised her hands, asking for silence. She then faced Steve and smiled. “I would be honored to be your wife,” she said aloud, certain that she had at long last found the love that had eluded her for so long, certain that it was real, certain it would last. She extended her left hand, allowing Steve to place the ring on her ring finger, then wrapped her arms around him and returned his passionate kiss, causing another eruption of cheers, whistles, applause, and numerous camera flashes.

Instead of the intimate privacy Steve had anticipated for his proposal, the alcove quickly became the focal point for everyone in the Churchill Lounge. The happy couple was besieged by well wishers and curiosity buffs, all anxious to congratulate them and interrogate Kerri. The session continued to grow in intensity until Steve raised his hands and formed a T. “Timeout,” he shouted as loud as he could. “Thank you all for your kindness. I wish we could stay longer, but we have to be at the Shaw Theatre at seven, so we have less than an hour for dinner. We really must leave now.” He reached for Kerri’s hand and led her to Escabèche, the hotel’s famous dining room.

The happy couple was warmly greeted at the dining room’s entrance by the maître d’hôtel. “Congratulations, Mister Monteith and Miss King. Dinner is on us. Our sommelier will see to it that you have a bottle of our finest champagne to assist your digestion. Please follow me,” he said, then led them to their table. They were treated to a dinner consisting of roast carrot and leak soup, Escabèche Caesar salad, and Northern Canadian elk, with creamed potatoes, sautéed mushrooms, and heirloom spinach. Even if there was enough time for desert, both would have declined. They were full and had thirty minutes to curtain time at the Shaw Festival Theater, one kilometer from the hotel. It was time to see Pygmalion.

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