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Arlington Heights

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Arlington Heights follows the course of a gifted and beautiful black woman who overcomes the stigmata of a youth of mistakes to become one of the more powerful forces in New York's fashion and business scene. Arlington Cavanaugh has past her prime as a model and has committed her life to the building of the highly regarded fashion magazine, HEIGHTS. Through the novel she takes a journey that speaks not only to the incredible climb up the ladder of success, but also details all of the consequences of decisions ...
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Overview

Arlington Heights follows the course of a gifted and beautiful black woman who overcomes the stigmata of a youth of mistakes to become one of the more powerful forces in New York's fashion and business scene. Arlington Cavanaugh has past her prime as a model and has committed her life to the building of the highly regarded fashion magazine, HEIGHTS. Through the novel she takes a journey that speaks not only to the incredible climb up the ladder of success, but also details all of the consequences of decisions made along the way by a woman so focused on escape from her past that she nearly loses her soul.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781599830773
  • Publisher: Urban Books
  • Publication date: 7/1/2008
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Arlington Heights
By Erica Lewis
URBAN BOOKS Copyright © 2008 Erica Lewis
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59983-077-3



Chapter One "Hi, it's your mother. I just wanted to call and check on you. I haven't heard from you in about three weeks. I got the money you sent, but I'd rather hear your voice just to make sure my girl is all right. Please call me, OK? I love you, baby."

New York City has always been a hub of chaotic activity. Coursing with frenetic energy, it is a melting pot of ethnicities, cultures, professions, and socioeconomic power struggles that drive its feverish pace. Midtown Manhattan is the place an eclectic mix of enigmatic and intriguing people call home; Arlington Cavanaugh was no exception. The thirty-four-year-old, five-foot-ten-inch Louisiana native was once among the most sought-after supermodels in the world. She was still a flawless, bronze beauty with almond-shaped brown eyes, whose catlike glint graced the covers of magazines from Cosmo to Vogue; but it hadn't always been that way.

As a spindly adolescent growing up in the bayou, she seemed out of step with her environment-forever imagining faraway places. She made friends easily, with boys more so than girls, but she never quite felt as though she fit or belonged in a backwoods town like Winnfield. Movies and television nurtured her fantasies, and somewhere in the back of her mind lingered the thought that one day the cameras would be flashing for her. She was an avid reader of celebrity magazines. Every spare dime she socked away she would spend just to know what was happening in the lives of all the beautiful people in a world that allowed her to escape her own.

It wasn't as if she was deprived as a child. Both parents worked hard to see that she had what she wanted; but it wasn't enough. She wanted more than food on the table. She craved excitement. Her mother saw in her the same yearning that seemed to possess her father. Jimmy Lee Carver, who himself had had a brush with celebrity, knew all too well the desire to feed his wandering spirit.

"You still got yo' head buried in that magazine, Arliss?"

"Leave her alone, Mildred. Let the girl dream, it ain't gon' hurt nothin'."

"Jimmy Lee, she needs her education. Then she can dream all she wants."

"Books don't teach you all you need to know about life."

"Well, what kind of life will she have if she doesn't at least graduate high school? Them dreams ain't gonna pay no bills."

Arlington bristled at the memory. She knew that many of the comments her mother made about her were directly or indirectly aimed at her father. They'd had more than a few arguments about his need to stay at home on the weekends rather than chase his dreams, and his music, all over the south. She hated to hear them argue, but it fueled her determination to prove herself all the more.

Jimmy Lee was his little girl's biggest supporter. The one-time bass player for a blues band that rose through the ranks to open for the likes of B.B. King and Big Daddy Blue continually encouraged her to go further and reach higher than he was able to. His death due to complications from diabetes was hard for her, but she never forgot what he told her. "Don't let anything, or anyone, stand in your way."

Never in her wildest dreams did she ever imagine that her flights of fancy would bring her to such heights. She had become Dorothy, and this magnificent metropolis was her rainbow.

Stuck in traffic, sitting in a taxi on Lexington Avenue, Arlington tapped her French-tipped nails on the side of her designer handbag and sighed impatiently. Her mind replayed the telephone message from her mother; had it really been that long since they'd spoken? She'd used her hectic schedule as an excuse to avoid family ties and distance herself, but it wasn't her work that kept her from calling.

The cabbie glanced at her in the rearview mirror. "You look familiar. Are you somebody famous?"

She rolled her eyes and ignored the question. "Can't you go around or something? I've got someplace to be, and I'm late."

The grizzled driver scratched his scruffy beard and looked back at her. "I don't see any way around this mess."

"Is there an accident up ahead?"

"I don't know. I lost my clairvoyant abilities in a nasty playground accident when I was twelve." His sarcastic tone suggested he didn't care that she was in a hurry.

She glanced at her watch and wondered if she was close enough to get out and walk. New sling-back Jimmy Choos dictated that she stay put. Her cell phone rang. "Hello. Christine? I'm close. Are you already at the restaurant? OK, I'll be there as soon as I can."

Ending the call, she brushed her shoulder-length reddish-brown tresses behind her ears and pulled her sunglasses from the top of her head to cover her eyes and keep her expression to herself. Inching forward, they discovered that it was street construction that had caused the nearly fifteen-minute delay. Arlington glanced at the meter and fished out just enough cash to pay the fare when the taxi reached its destination. She handed it to the man and simultaneously threw open the door. "Keep the change," she spat. Stepping out onto the curb, she adjusted the collar on her blush-colored Armani suit and smoothed down her pencil skirt.

"Big tipper," the cabbie scoffed. "A whole fuckin' quarter. Now I can finally take my wife on that vacation she's been after me about."

She pretended not to hear him, slammed the door, and hurried inside the restaurant.

Chola was one of several Indian establishments on 58th Street, and it was one of Arlington's favorite places to eat. Welcomed by a soothing, honey-colored interior and mouthwatering aromas wafting from the buffet table, she quickly let go of the stressful cab ride. She was looking forward to her favorite cocktail and the chicken Tikka Masala.

Heads turned as she entered the main dining room to find her friend. She was easily recognizable and inwardly thrilled that she could still work a room.

"Christine, I'm sorry I'm late."

"You're fine, don't worry about it."

A waitress made her way over and took her drink order.

"Double Bombay martini, please."

"Yes, ma'am."

"You cut your hair," Arlington noted. "It's cute. I like it. It's very Linda Evangelista."

"Yes. I was way overdue for a new look," her companion replied, running her fingers through her pixie-cut auburn locks. Her attire was equally trendy. "I love those shoes."

"I got them at Lord & Taylor." Arlington stuck out her foot to show them off. "I'm still breaking them in."

Her drink arrived and she took a quick sip and immediately ordered another.

Christine laughed. "Are you trying to get drunk or something?"

"No. It's just been one of those days. Turning out a magazine is a lot harder than you can imagine."

"Is that all that's bothering you?"

"No. I started having that dream again. I woke up this morning at three o'clock scared to death. I got out of bed just to see if I had blood on my face. I couldn't go back to sleep."

"You still can't make out who it is?"

"No, all I see is a hand ... pulling at me."

"Maybe you should talk to somebody about it."

"A psychiatrist?"

"Or at least a credible therapist."

"No, thank you. I don't want anybody poking around in my head. There's no telling what they might find."

"Well, at least you can joke about it."

Arlington gently rubbed the side of her face and forced a smile. "Let's talk about something else."

"OK. How are things at the magazine?"

"Busy as ever."

"More specifically, have you come up with a way to deal with that little cash-flow problem?"

"I'm working it out. I have a meeting in a couple of days with someone who might help me turn things around."

"Who?"

"I don't want to say right now in case it doesn't work out."

"You know, Arlington, if you ever need a hand, I'm here for you."

"Christine, I appreciate it. But you bailed me out once before and I can't take any more money from you."

"You're not taking it, it's a gift."

"Thanks, but no."

"Then call it a loan. I just want to help."

"You know how you can really help me?"

"How?"

"By letting the magazine do a feature on you for the next edition."

"Anything but that," Christine scoffed. She took a sip of Chardonnay.

"It'll just be about how you've become this successful businesswoman. I promise not to bring up anything about your ex, or his family. Speaking of which, how is Ross?"

"He's fine. We had dinner together last week when I was in Los Angeles."

"Really?"

"It was just dinner, that's all. You know I was only there to see Isaac's new line."

"You don't have to justify anything to me. You've been divorced for over a year. If you wanted to get a little bit, who am I to judge?"

"It wasn't anything like that. Ross and I are just friends now."

"OK, whatever you say. You know, maybe I could get an exclusive with Ross. Do you think you could set that up for me?"

"Well, I said I would help you, so I'll ask him the next time I talk to him."

"Which is going to be when, exactly?"

"Don't start."

They ordered dinner.

"I've got everything set for the Vermuri launch next week. You are coming aren't you, Arlington?"

"If I can find a date."

"What about the guy from Esquire?"

Arlington rolled her eyes. "Pu-leeze. That was one of those you meet and hope he never calls again."

"What was wrong with him?"

"Do you want me to go through the alphabet, or would you care for the abridged version?"

"So, come alone. There'll be lots of eligible men to choose from."

"Rich?"

"Some are."

"Straight?"

"At least one or two of them will be."

They laughed again.

"You know, Arlington, maybe it's time for you to settle down and get married."

"I'm in no hurry to go down that road again. Besides, I've got too much going on with the magazine to devote myself wholeheartedly to a man. But a meaningful distraction might help me sleep better."

"I know exactly what you mean."

Arlington emptied her glass and signaled for their waitress. "So, what about you?"

"What about me?"

"Since Ross is not an option, is there anyone else?"

"Like you, I'm too busy for all of that. Besides, what do you think they make toys for?"

"A vibrator is no replacement for a big, stiff-"

The server approached. "May I get you something else?"

"Yes, please."

Christine tossed back the rest of her wine. "I'll have another one as well. On second thought, make it a vodka and tonic."

"Did I hit a nerve, Christine? Don't you want to fall in love again?"

"Arlington, I don't even want to think about a man right now. Electra has got all my energy."

"Still, if the right man came along I would seriously have to consider.... What the hell am I talking about? I can't lose focus. The magazine is too important to me. But, maybe one day there will be room for the great love of my life."

"Not like Simon."

"Simon was a mistake and he was a lifetime ago."

"Do you remember when Evelyn found out you two got married? She had a cow."

"But you gotta admit she was good at spin-control."

"One of the best in the business."

"Well, you learned from it, and you're better off."

"My only mistake was marrying a man as self-absorbed as I was. It's like that Prince song ... it's the beautiful ones that always smash the pictures."

The waitress returned. "Courtesy of the gentleman at the back table."

Arlington turned around and spied a striking, bald, chocolate-brown man looking in her direction. She sized him up in a glimpse: white teeth and a neatly trimmed mustache and goatee. From what she could see of his torso, he appeared to work out because of the way his shirt clung to him. He raised his glass to her and smiled.

Christine smirked. "Well, looks like somebody has an admirer."

Arlington nodded and turned back to her. "Girl, please. That man is obviously gay."

"Now what would make you say something like that?"

"He's too perfect. And look at the man he's sitting with; he looks like he's wearing makeup. They're lovers, I'm telling you."

"Stop it. That man is not wearing makeup. Besides, we're here together; do you think people think we're lesbians? And if he's gay, why is he smiling at you?"

"Maybe he wants an autograph, or makeup tips. Trust me; it's the nineties. I know how to spot a gay man. You were involved with Ross for all those years; didn't you pick up anything? Besides, if he's not gay, maybe he's into white women. In which case, he's looking at you, not me. Those green eyes of yours can be quite mesmerizing."

"Does it make you feel better to assume a man is gay rather than be excited over the possibility of what his interest represents?"

"It's just a drink."

"I wasn't talking wedding bells. He could be that meaningful distraction that you said you wanted. Anyway, we're about to find out; he's headed this way."

The man stood and pulled at his pant legs to readjust the cream-colored linen fabric over his muscular thighs. He sauntered over to their table and cleared his throat. "Excuse me, ladies. I don't mean to interrupt."

He had the soulful voice of a late-night radio DJ, which caused Arlington to stir; she decided to suppress the sensation. "So, why don't you go back to your own table?"

"You know, I almost literally bumped into you last week at a coffee shop on Houston. You definitely caught my eye, even though you had your head buried in some magazine. Since I missed the chance to introduce myself the first time, I'd like to take the opportunity now."

Arlington looked at Christine, whose expression suggested she open up to the man. She didn't want to admit it, but his sensual cologne and baritone whisper sent a surge of electricity through her loins. She may not have noticed him in the coffee shop, but standing here now, he was hard to miss. Her shallow breathing gave her away as she sat eye level with his crotch.

"My eyes are up here, sweetheart," he teased.

Embarrassed, Arlington sucked in her cheeks and took a drink. "Thank you for the drinks, Mr. uh ..."

"Robert Alexander," he injected.

"Thank you, Mr. Alexander, but my friend and I are in the middle of dinner."

"The subtle and charming approach is totally lost on you, isn't it?"

"Excuse me?"

"Should I be more direct? Perhaps we could exchange numbers and grab coffee or something at another time."

"I don't think so."

"You're sure?"

"Yes, I am. Now, if you don't mind ..."

"Fine." The man smiled and nodded. "Sorry to have bothered you."

With that, he left the table.

"Well, at least we know he's not gay," Christine teased.

They finished their meals and continued to chat about the who's who of Christine's party guest list, but Arlington's mind was somewhere else. Robert Alexander had made an impression on her. She could still smell his essence and wondered what cologne he'd mixed it with. Six-foot ... six-foot-one, maybe; her mind drifted into a fantasy that made her nipples erect. At that moment, she regretted not exchanging numbers as he'd suggested. Shaking herself from her self-induced trance, she glanced over her shoulder to see if he was still there. He wasn't. She raised her hand to get the waitress's attention. "Bring me another martini ... fast."

Evelyn McAllister, then director of talent and development at the Electra Modeling Agency, gave Arlington the first break she ever had. The initial six months Arlington had been in the city were some of the roughest times in her life. The skill she'd acquired as a waitress while working at a diner in her hometown served her well and helped her land a job soon after she arrived. Her long, lean stature and confident gaze made her appear mature for her age. Taking a room at a boarding house in Brooklyn, she scraped by on minimum wage and inadequate tips, determined not to go back to Winnfield no matter how bad things got; and things did get bad. There were times when she couldn't even afford a decent pair of shoes, now she had more shoes than she would ever wear. The shabby boarding house she used to call home paled in comparison to her Second Avenue apartment in lower Manhattan, which she kept tidy with the help of a middle-aged Romanian housekeeper.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Arlington Heights by Erica Lewis Copyright © 2008 by Erica Lewis. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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