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Four Degrees of Heat

Overview

The mercury is soaring, and it's the perfect time to dive into a pool of uninhibited sensuality. Take a break from the heat with this collection of steamy summertime encounters featuring four of today's most popular African-American women writers.
Going south for her summer break, a high school math teacher puts her assets to work as an exotic dancer in Maxed Out by Brenda L. Thomas. But when her secret double life follows her home to ...

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Four Degrees of Heat

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Overview

The mercury is soaring, and it's the perfect time to dive into a pool of uninhibited sensuality. Take a break from the heat with this collection of steamy summertime encounters featuring four of today's most popular African-American women writers.
Going south for her summer break, a high school math teacher puts her assets to work as an exotic dancer in Maxed Out by Brenda L. Thomas. But when her secret double life follows her home to Philadelphia, things swing wildly out of control as she tries to walk the line between sexy woman and sex object.
Worlds collide when a street-smart beauty scores with a multimillionaire during a summer that climaxes with the New York City blackout. Crystal Lacey Winslow captures the edgy thrills — and the dark side — of carnal pleasures in Sex, Sin & Brooklyn.
In Rochelle Alers' Summer Madness, a sexy brother with a mysterious past turns a pretty librarian's play-it-safe Hamptons vacation into a torrent of sensual delights. But can she trust him without knowing his whole story?
A jilted bride is on the Rebound in ReShonda Tate Billingsley's tale of passion in unexpected places. A Houston attorney goes solo on the Belize honeymoon she was supposed to share with her husband — and makes a sizzling connection with a handsome stranger in paradise.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Too hot fa T.V."

— Shannon Holmes

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743491457
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 7/20/2004
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

ReShonda Tate Billingsley is the #1 national bestselling author of numerous novels for adults, as well as the Good Girlz teen series. She recently won the NAACP Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Say Amen Again. She is also the author of the nonfiction book The Motherhood Diaries. Visit her website at ReShondaTateBillingsley.com.

Crystal Lacey Winslow is the author of the Essence bestsellers The Criss Cross and Life, Love & Loneliness, as well as a book of poetry, Up Close & Personal. Her upcoming novel, Sex, Sin & Brooklyn II, is the sequel to her short story in the Essence bestselling anthology Four Degrees of Heat. The founder of Melodrama Publishing, Crystal operates her bookstore, Melodrama Books & Things, in Queens, New York. Visit her website at www.melodramapublishing.com.

Brenda L. Thomas, a Philadelphia-based marketing professional, is the Essence bestselling author of three previous novels, Threesome: Where Seduction, Power & Basketball Collide; Fourplay: The Dance of Sexuality; and The Velvet Rope. She has also contributed short stories to the anthologies Four Degrees of Heat and Kiss the Year Goodbye. Visit her website at phillywriter.com.

Hailed by readers and booksellers alike as one of today's most popular African-American authors of women's fiction, Ms. Alers is a regular on bestsellers list, and has been a recipient of numerous awards, including the Vivian Stephens Award for Excellence in Romance Writing and a Zora Neale Hurston Literary Award. Visit her Web site www.rochellealers.com

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Read an Excerpt


Prologue
July

What the hell was I doing in this place? Bad enough they'd screwed up and chosen the right club on the wrong night. Or so they said. It was clearly not ladies' night. Now here I was in a backroads country club taking shots of Crown Royal whisky. I looked around at the club full of women. They were expecting to be entertained by a stage full of dancing men, but unfortunately there were only about ten men in the club, including the ones that worked there. I hadn't wanted to come in the first place; exotic dancers played out years ago. But this was the South, and I suppose everything came late down here.

This was certainly not how I'd planned to spend the first month of my summer vacation. My mother had summoned me from Philly to Charlotte, where she'd been taking care of my grandfather for the last three weeks while he recovered from hip replacement surgery.

Mom kept reassuring me that Charlotte had changed since the early eighties, which was the last time I'd been there. After being cooped up in a Philly classroom with teenagers all winter, I didn't think the trip to Charlotte would be so bad. To add to my southern social life, Mom dredged up a few of the old girlfriends I used to play with as a teenager during my summer visits. This would be great. I could bond with a bunch of fat, ill-dressed, gold-teeth sisters.

As I sat across the table from them, I had to admit they weren't all that bad. Rita, Darla, and my favorite, Country Girl, were far from what I expected. Country Girl was probably even better off than me. At twenty-six, she was married to a physician and the mother of three children.

When the strip club went dark and the stage lit up with red and green flashing lights, I turned my attention to the runway. For an hour we watched as women strutted up and down the catwalk, wrapping themselves around a slippery pole, supposedly dancing. We were sitting near the front of the stage, so they could hear us cackling about how bad they were. They especially heard me when I said, after seeing one of the men put a twenty in a dancer's G-string, "Oh, hell no. I can dance better than that. Shit, I'll make him give me fifty."

The big-butt dancer flared back, "You think so, huh? I dare you to bring your high yella ass up here."

Embarrassed, I was just about to apologize when Country Girl spoke up.

"You damn right she'll come up there. And I got twenty dollars to say she'll outdance your fat ass."

Wide-eyed, I looked at Country Girl and whispered, "What the hell are you talking about? I'm not going up there."

The stripper stopped dancing, posted her hands on both hips, and shouted over the loud music, "Well, then, she needs to shut the hell up."

I was willing to do so, but the others chimed in. "Yeah, go 'head Maxie, strut your stuff -- show them how you do it in the city."

I still wasn't about to go up on that dirty stage and dance for anybody. But then the other women in the club started betting the women at my table, and before I knew it there was almost five hundred dollars waiting for me if I went up onstage and danced. Since I'm a math teacher, it was easy for me to calculate the per-hour rate of five hundred dollars for five minutes of dancing.

I downed another shot of Crown and told myself, What the hell -- I'm down South, and I can do whatever I want.

Week One

I so wanted to leave my head on the pillow. How could a person's head hurt so badly? What the hell had I drunk? And better yet, where was I? I opened my eyes, peeking from under heavy lids. I wasn't in my apartment, that's for sure.

"Maxine, when are you going to get up? The phone has been ringing for you all morning."

Hiding from my mother's screeching voice, I closed my eyes and pulled the covers over my pounding head.

"You look like you could use some coffee."

I put my hand outside the sheet to reach for it.

"What time did you get in last night?"

My mouth was dry, and my voice cracked when I asked, "What time is it?"

"You must've had fun last night, you little hussy, 'cause look at you. You slept in your clothes."

Sure enough, I was still in my skirt, which had shifted up to my waist, and my tank top had twisted itself under my breasts.

I couldn't do coffee this morning. I needed something cold to put out the fire in my belly.

"Look, sleepyhead, it's almost noon, and I have to take your grandfather to the doctor, so we're heading out. I'll see you later this afternoon. But do me a favor and pluck those string beans in the sink for dinner tonight."

With Mother gone, I stripped off my clothes and went in search of something cold. In the refrigerator I found a can of Pepsi. I pressed it against my forehead and my temples, then downed the entire can. I needed one more thing. I searched through my suitcase. Buried under my toiletries was my pack of Newports.

By the time I'd showered and had some coffee, my head had begun to clear up. I'd just sat down at the table to pluck my mother's string beans when my cell phone rang.

"Hey, Maxie baby, I'm on my way. I should be there in about three hours. Did you get the room?"

It was Lynn, my boyfriend of eight months, who lived in the apartment above mine but was rarely there because he was a tractor-trailer driver. I'd met him about a month after he'd moved in. His mailbox had begun to overflow, and when he'd come home later that week, I'd introduced myself and given him his mail. That night, after we'd ordered Chinese, we wound up in bed together, and we'd been there ever since.

Lynn had planned to stop and see me in Charlotte while he was en route to drop a load in Nashville. We hadn't seen each other in two weeks, and after last night I'd totally forgotten about his visit.

"Sure, it's all taken care of, but Mom wants us to have dinner with her. So can you come here first? You can park the truck on our lot."

"No problem, baby, as long as I can have you afterward."

I phoned the Westin in downtown Charlotte and reserved a room. Then I tried to reach Country Girl, but she wasn't around. I was desperate to find out what had happened at the club. All I could remember was getting up on that stage, closing my eyes, and dancing. I prayed that I hadn't taken off my clothes. Then I remembered the money. I found my skirt. Sure enough, stuffed in the back pocket was five hundred dollars.

Dinner came early in the South, so by four-thirty the food was done and we were waiting for Lynn to finish washing up so we could eat. I don't know what it was, but my mother's cooking changed when she was down South. It had a different taste -- a southern flavor. Maybe because everything was fresher. There were fluffy turnips, tender string beans, and the chicken was so fresh I was afraid there was a coop in the backyard.

"Ms. Tate, you really outdid yourself."

"Thanks, Lynn. You know Max can cook just as well if she puts her mind to it."

I knew what she was doing. Mother had a fear that I'd be single forever, so she was always dropping hints when Lynn was around.

"Lynn has tasted my cooking plenty of times, Mother."

By the time Mom had fed Lynn two servings of her peach cobbler and I'd packed him a bag of food to take on the road, I was ready to leave. That's when Country Girl came barreling through the screen door. But this certainly wasn't the time for her to recount last night's activities.

"Good evening, everybody."

I jumped right in. "Country Girl, this is my boyfriend, Lynn."

"Hey, Lynn. Welcome to Charlotte. Maxine, you look a little tired this evening."

"Just trying to get adjusted to the southern way of doing things," I said, ushering her out the door ahead of me and Lynn.

"Well, I just wanted to stop by and say hello. Max and Lynn, enjoy your visit."

I knew what kind of night Lynn and I would have. Sex with him was usually the same. About ten minutes of foreplay, and then he'd take me from the back before falling off into a deep sleep. I didn't complain because I knew he was usually tired from driving. But for once I'd like to see his face when he came.

In the eight months we'd been seeing each other, he'd only made me reach an orgasm twice. I wasn't even sure what he'd done, because everything was so new at the time.

I'd never told him because I didn't want to hurt his feelings or change the way he made love to me -- even without the orgasm he was able to satisfy me. I enjoyed being with Lynn, and all signs pointed to us having a future together. So there was plenty of time to discuss my sexual needs.

"Lynn, guess what I did last night."

"What, baby? Don't tell me. You been milking cows," he shouted from the hotel bathroom.

"It's not that bad. But seriously, we went to see some exotic dancers."

"I didn't know you were into that shit," he said, drying off as he came into the room. Lynn wasn't a tall guy, barely six foot. He was stocky and weighed well over two hundred pounds.

"I'm not, but I felt like I had to go out with them. But let me tell you the fun part." I wasn't even sure he was listening because he was busy cleaning his nails. "They were having a dance contest, and I won."

"C'mon, baby, stop playing. I know you can dance, but you didn't do no shit like that."

"Watch, let me show you."

Lynn sat on the side of the bed while I attempted to dance to whatever music was playing on the radio. I dropped my robe to the floor, and with my arms above my head, I shimmied around the room, rolling my hips to the beat. When he wouldn't stop laughing, I jumped on the bed and squeezed my breasts in his face.

"Maxine, you are a crazy woman. Looks like you're doing a bad imitation of Beyoncé to me," he said. In one swift move his strong arms lifted me onto his lap.

"Lynn, seriously, you don't think I could do it?"

"You can do whatever you want," he said, burying his face in the thick hair between my legs. His blanket, as he liked to call it.

I was enjoying the feel of his tongue, but he was ready, so he turned me over and mounted me doggy style. He rode me hard, pounding away, slapping me on the cheeks of my ass with one hand while holding onto my waist with the other. I backed myself into him, and that's when he released himself. He fell back on the bed, and after catching his breath, he pulled me under him. Within minutes he was snoring.

In the morning I headed back to my grandfather's house. The rising Charlotte temperature made me glad my mother had finally been able to convince my grandfather to get central air. But it didn't matter to me because my body sought out the sun. My pale skin needed some sun in the worst way. My legs had been covered all winter with either stockings or pants, anything to keep the cold out. So I changed into a pair of shorts and a tank top and lay out in the sun for as long as my body could stand it.

Later in the week I headed over to Country Girl's house for her July Fourth cookout. She lived in a four-bedroom colonial spread over five acres. She had well over a hundred people there, everyone talking over loud music, playing cards, and chowing down on a pig that had just finished roasting. Had I not just had a visit from Lynn, I might've been tempted to hang out with one of those fine sexy country men who kept hanging on to me.

I'd already learned that the South was no place for a woman to act shy, so once they pulled out the corn liquor, it wasn't long before I found myself dancing in the soul train line along with everybody else. It was good old-fashioned fun.

"Max, you are something else," Country Girl said, shaking her head at me.

Out of breath, I answered, "What you talking about?"

"The way you was coming down that line, I can't believe you don't wanna go to the club again."

"That's not funny. You know you never told me what happened anyway."

"And I'm not, but I will tell you that we're going to Belinda's party tomorrow night."

"I don't remember anybody named Belinda."

"Of course you don't. She spent her summers in New York while you were down here. Y'all both were trying to escape from your environment," she said, mocking my family tradition of sending young children south in the summer to escape the city.

"I don't know. I didn't bring any party clothes."

"Then you better go buy some, because Belinda's parties only happen once a year. So look for me to pick yo ass up around nine-thirty."

Charlotte's SouthPark Mall made it all the more easy to pass time finding clothes for the party. I'd been teaching school for three years, but I was far from your usual boring schoolmarm. Shopping was my weakness and was probably what separated me from the other teachers at school, who usually wore jeans or, at the other extreme, clothes that too closely resembled pajamas. The advantage of teaching in the inner city is that the children keep me abreast of the current fashions.

We arrived at Belinda's around ten that night, and I'm glad I hadn't had any preconceived notions about her, because I would've been dead wrong. Her house was located at River Run Country Club, on the ninth hole of the golf course. I assumed she'd been lucky enough to marry a lawyer or doctor, or maybe her family had money.

There were cars parked along the street leading to her property, everything from customized Cadillacs to Benzes. When we walked through the front door into the brightly lit foyer, Country Girl pointed out Belinda. She stood in the lavishly furnished living room with her back to us. Belinda looked to be all of five foot five, as she stood on a pair of three-inch spiked heels. She was wearing a short, tight-fitting fuchsia dress and had bone-straight auburn hair that landed at her perfectly rounded ass.

When Belinda turned around, I immediately took notice of her satiny black blemish-free skin. As I watched her petite body walk toward us, I couldn't help but notice her full breasts swelling out of her dress. I had to admit, Belinda was hot.

"Hey, Belinda. What's up, girl?" Country Girl asked, hugging Belinda around her waist that wasn't.

"This party is what's up. Who's this, your citified girlfriend? The one you was telling me about?" she asked, her eyes roving over my body.

"Yes, this here is Maxine."

When she talked I noticed she had one shiny gold tooth on the side of her mouth.

"It's nice to meet you, Belinda. Thanks for -- "

Rather than let me finish, she tossed her hair around and said, "All I'm saying is, I heard you had skills to handle a crowd. You should hang out with me sometime."

I knew she was referring to my dancing at the club. Damn, I wished Country Girl didn't have such a big mouth.

"I was just having fun. You know, on my summer break." This sounded like a sufficient excuse.

"Like I said, you should hang out with me. Now, I gotta run. You know I'm the princess around here."

Belinda excused herself to visit with other guests. Everyone was clamoring to speak with her.

I turned to Country Girl, "I know you told everybody I went up on that damn stage."

"Maxine, chill out. Belinda's cool."

"She must be real cool, with a house like this. How old is she?" I asked, looking around Country Girl to try to see what was going on out back.

"She's twenty-two, and if you want to know, she's a professional dancer."

"Professional how? Alvin Ailey professional?"

Country Girl's rolling eyes told me she wasn't. "Now, you don't really think she could afford all this dancing around in a tutu."

"She's a stripper?" I asked, a little too loud.

"I wouldn't know what else she does, but a professional dancer is what she lists on her taxes."

"How would you know about her taxes?"

"Because I do them every year. Now, c'mon. Let's go outside."

When we reached the crowded pool area, I could hear a man over the sound system announcing that the fashion show was about to begin. On the deck of the pool stood what Country Girl confirmed was an actual pimp. Pretty Boy, as he was so inappropriately named, was dressed in a cobalt blue smoking jacket, matching silk pants, and slip-on alligator shoes. I must say, I was in a bit of a shock.

According to Country Girl, he lived in Vegas but was in town for a pimp convention, and Belinda's party culminated the event. I tried to question her further on whether Belinda was a prostitute, but she bypassed the issue by introducing me to her friends. Even though I'd sworn off drinking after the corn liquor, I stopped one of the barely dressed waitresses and ordered a glass of Chardonnay. I'd keep it light.

I stood at the bar and took in my surroundings. It was like something out of a Snoop Dogg video. Damn near all the men looked like pimps, with suits in every shade of the rainbow and accessories that were just as loud. Their jewelry consisted of heavy gold rings and diamond pinkies, and their necks were weighed down with chunky gold chains. I had no idea that pimping really was back in style.

I listened as Pretty Boy began introducing the scantily clad models as his hos. These women, some of them girls who looked to be as young as nineteen, were from all parts of the country.

On the veranda opposite the pool were three tables spread with food, everything from barbeque ribs to lobster tails. The DJ, who boasted of being from the dirty South, kept the dance floor jumping. Needless to say, by two o'clock I was drinking spiced ice teas and had allowed somebody's pimp to pull me onto the dance floor. I couldn't help notice, as did everyone else, when Belinda moved into the middle of the crowd. She'd changed into a body-hugging bright yellow catsuit that barely covered the cheeks of her ass. She danced with everybody, but I could see that dancing for her was an act of seduction. The way her body moved stirred something inside of even me.

By the end of the night I was curious to learn more about Belinda, and I had agreed to be a guest at one of her shows.

Copyright © 2004 by Brenda L. Thomas

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Table of Contents

Contents

Maxed Out

Brenda L. Thomas

Sex, Sin & Brooklyn

Crystal Lacey Winslow

Summer Madness

Rochelle Alers

Rebound

ReShonda Tate Billingsley

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 12 of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2005

    too much cussing

    I could barely get to chapter two of Sex, Sin & Brooklyn. I know people cuss but I had to stop reading this story because there were too many swear words than took away from the storyline. The difference between sex and romance is a huge step. But if you can't get to the point without making us as people look and sound bad how are we suppose to support one another. I dont think I wish to read anything written by this writer if she continues to write like this.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2012

    Steamy!

    This book has great stories! I wish there was a sequel to each one. Although they each have high sexual content, the plots are good.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2007

    A reviewer

    Love the 2nd story it was amazing! the 1st one was a little nasty but ok. and the last one was a little like u knew what was going to happen or whatever but overall it was good book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2005

    what was this????

    terribly unimpressed by this book i guess after reading zane novels these anthologies seem so corny

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 8, 2004

    Steamy!

    Awesome soft erotica! This book is one of my top 3 books ever. Funny, sexy, intoxicating, and breathtaking. Enjoy the ride!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted October 24, 2012

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    Posted December 27, 2009

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    Posted August 6, 2009

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    Posted February 8, 2011

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    Posted June 10, 2011

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