It's Friday night and Bryon Jordan, an overworked African-American professional, is out of his element but looking hot. He's lounging at the bar of Sutra, a club thumping with bass-heavy music, dripping with beautiful women, and whose name alone implies sex appeal. After throwing back one too many drinks, Bryon finds himself in the arms of a stunning young stranger who unearths a side of him he'd long since laid to rest. The night is wild, passionate, and liberating but Bryon's personal hell begins the next morning.
Suffering the weight of his troubles, Bryon must struggle to save his reputation, his career, and his relationship with Kendall, the woman he intends to marry, all while facing crooked cops, public humiliation, possible jail time, and ruin.
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By Nakia D. Johnson
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2009 Nakia D. Johnson
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Chapter OneThe beat was infectious.
I'd lost my boy, Tony, three songs before, so I was flying solo. I slapped the remnants of the drink I'd been nursing down on the bar with a thud and a request for another. Swishing the rusty brown liquid around the glass, I pushed two bucks back toward the bartender and finagled my way to the edge of the dance floor, turning my body this way and that to maneuver through the thick, hot crowd. Thanks to my fourth drink of the night, I reveled in a warm, I-can-do-anything confidence evident in my self-assured swagger.
I was out of my element, but damn if I intended to broadcast it. My attire alone was a labor of love. I'd taken my time picking out an outfit that didn't scream, "Haven't Been to a Club in Ages!"-gray, flat-front gabardine slacks, Italian leather driving loafers (sans the socks), and a pale yellow, lightweight cashmere sweater, cherry-on-topped by the slightest splash of Gucci Rush for men. According to Ebony, my favorite fashionista/saleswoman at Bergdorf's, it was definitely an ensemble she'd lend an approving nod. "Mr. Jordan," she'd said, stepping back from the fitting room door to get more of an objective look, "impeccable. A definite winner."
Earlier in the day, with the lawyer in him turned up to eleven, Tony had persuaded me to hang out."For old times' sake," he had said, doing that thing-the corny pointing gesture with his index fingers-that over the years had become part of the Anthony J. Cummings esquire-at-your-service institution.
And like a sucker, I finally caved and agreed to go to Club Sutra, psyching myself into believing I could use a night of innocent fun after a hectic week of meetings, change orders, and RFPs.
I took my perch by one of many pillars adorned with carvings bearing Kama Sutra postures. In front of me, an unlikely looking couple, bathing in a sea of sultry bass and alcohol-induced bliss, kept the tempo like synchronized swimmers. The brother stood nearly eye level with me, so he had to be at least six-three and buffed, inflated, superhero-like buffed. His partner, a little sliver of a thing, could easily catch a black eye for calling Mini-Me a midget, but that didn't impede their flow. I had to stop myself from staring when he scooped her up, wrapped her legs around his waist, and engaged in a slow grind so deep, it would have made Dr. Ruth blush. I wondered if they were trying to mimic the statue that hung above my head.
I intended to keep my role as onlooker, my eventual goal to spy out Tony and tell him I'd soon be calling it a night. But despite my intentions, my eyes locked with those of a comely sister who appeared to be out for a night of fun with her girls. Before I could look away, she zoomed in on me as well and I became rapt in her gaze.
A reggae tune blasted from the speakers. The corners of her mouth turned up slowly and revealed the beginnings of a smile that quickly returned to a sexy pout that kept me transfixed. Gold bangles slid down her lithe wrists as she brought her arms up above her head, swaying seductively to the music. My id, in good, working order-sniffing out immediate gratification-parted the dance floor like the Red Sea and zoomed in. With her posse dancing around her in an arc shape, she held an invisible spotlight in the middle, turning, spinning, and undulating like a wave.
Arms up, hips gyrating, eyes smoldering into mine, she danced her way toward me, leaving her all-girl group to their own devices. Deftly, expertly, she moved in front of me, and like a trained puppy or one willed by some greater force, I found myself following along. At first, I moved slowly, almost timidly, still aware of the "cool" that I'd intended to maintain. But it wasn't long before sweat dripped from my brow, popped from my back, and penetrated the fine fibers of my sweater. I doubted Ebony from Bergdorf's would approve.
My Dancing Queen was a bronze beauty draped in a black, silk dress that hugged her curves like a Porsche ripping up the Autobahn. Gold stilettos cradled her lovely feet. She ran her hands across my chest. I shivered. I ran my hands down her back. She returned the favor. She faced me, and together, our bodies stirred the air rhythmically. My hands rested on the small of her back just above her ass. She surprised me and slid them lower. There my hands rested, happily mounted, cupping every ounce of her mean, round, womanly wonderfulness.
There seemed to be no one else in the club, no other thoughts in my mind. There was just this woman, her silky dress, her mouth, her ass, her beautiful feet, and the bass-heavy thump of a slick reggae beat.
She turned her back to me and swiveled her waist. Painting invisible figure eights in the atmosphere, she positioned herself on the hot spot that had been cool only a few songs before but was still my crotch.
Facing me again, she stood on her tiptoes and leaned up to my left ear. "You smell good," she hissed. "Good enough to eat."
I don't know what sparked it or how it logically took place, but those two sentences hit my sexual epicenter with the precision of a spinal tap. And as if on cue, I made my probing tongue very familiar with her pouty mouth.
Somehow, we had traded places with Sasquatch and Shorty. I was now part of a spectacle in the middle of the dance floor, an exhibitionist, ignorant to all the attention my companion and I were attracting. It didn't matter. The gawkers only spurred me on. She had no objections either. I kissed her more fervently. She probed me more urgently. Then, she pulled away.
"Come with me," she pleaded, taking my hand. I followed silently. At that point, I would have followed her into hell wearing gasoline-soaked drawers. I didn't care. She led me up a few steps into another room of the club. On the way, I spotted Tony, whose only communicado was a devilish smirk, followed by a nod. Wordlessly, I knew he was saying, Thatta boy. That's the old Bryon I know! Do your thing, brother. Then, without missing a beat, he was back to the business at hand: wooing a petite Kimora Lee Simmons look-alike who appeared to be talking nonstop.
The back room was lush and ruby colored. More kinky statuettes lined the walls. Her hand felt soft and warm in mine. She guided me into a corner and onto a stack of silky pillows and floor cushions hued in deep purples, reds, and oranges. In a hazy fog, we resumed right where we'd left off-groping, kissing, and exploring one another like nobody's business. When she took me in her mouth, I felt like I was in another universe, a place where nothing was what it seemed.
I closed my eyes and heard the thrash of her heart. Or was it mine? It didn't matter. At the moment, she was everything. If compared to cotton, she was the finest silk. If likened to roses, she was a graceful calla lily. If held next to Isaac Mizrahi's affordable clothing line for Target, this woman was an Issey Miyake one-of-a-kind couture. She played me like a violin, and together, we played a soul-stirring concerto.
When she pressed a condom into my palm, I opened my eyes and noticed the sheer curtains that had been drawn around us. I felt like an onlooker in a fantasy locked so deeply within me, I hadn't known I owned it. I tore the wrapper away effortlessly and she took it back from me, gliding it on as a low growl escaped my lips.
As I entered her, pushing the silk dress up around her torso, she exhaled. I kissed her again. She tasted both salty and sweet. And now, it was my turn to take the lead.
There, in our own piece of heaven, I orchestrated the music. She climaxed first-loudly, proudly, and beautifully before unleashing a primal groan. My hands around her waist, fingertips on the small of her back, I felt her shudder repeatedly. Not until then did I join her.
Spent, we fell back onto the cushions.
We still hadn't exchanged names.
Chapter TwoThings are never as they seem.
I'd written a paper titled "Appearance vs. Reality" in Sister McClarity's eleventh-grade AP English class that supported that fact in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. The theme had come up again early on in my career when my boss and mentor, a man whom I admired and respected, told me he'd be taking an indefinite leave of absence to check into a rehab facility. He seemed to have it all together, running multimillion dollar projects, spurring the staff on when morale got low, and encouraging me to dream bigger, but he was an alcoholic whose only solace could be found at the bottom of a vodka bottle. And now, most shockingly, I had managed to jump onto the disguise bandwagon too, showing that the stiff-collared, Bergdorf-shopping engineer I appeared to be on the exterior had been really camouflaged as an incognito freak.
I lie in bed with my hands folded behind my head, fingers interlaced, replaying the events of the previous night. Outside my window, high above the New York cityscape, the birds sang a sweet late-morning April tune, a stark contrast to the music that had led me into a session of floor aerobics with the Dancing Queen. Never in a million years did I think-forget it, I'd never even dreamt anything like that. It was a likely possibility maybe for someone else-Tony, for sure-but definitely not me. Certainly not these days.
Tony had always been the quintessential ladies' man and had upstaged me in that department for years. At St. Ann's, he'd played the lead in a storybook four-year high school fairytale replete with his choice of willing princesses. His squire at best, I was lucky to snatch up a leftover crumb. Despite it all though, there was one area in which the playing field leveled. I wasn't much of a looker back then, but in one arena, I always managed to outdo him, thanks to one particular attribute-I was smart. As a rawhide bullwhip.
With reciprocal respect, Tony and I navigated school dances, term papers, dates, and standardized tests. I aided him with academics. He guided me with girls. By the time graduation rolled around, we'd placed first and second in our class and sported fine-as-wine dates at prom. Then, with slates cleaner than Cloroxed tighty-whities, we started college. New game. Newer rules.
Tony became fluent in legalese at John Jay while I tackled equations and engineering principles in the Leo Engineering Building of Manhattan College. By this time, with high school valedictorian under my belt, I was sure I'd mastered more than academia. I rocked a PhD in punanny.
We tore up New York City nightlife and hit every hot spot from Webster Hall to Club NV. We didn't discriminate. Like our own little chapter of the Rainbow Coalition, we welcomed all colors, kinds, and creeds with open arms. Whether you were a sexy sister, a lovely Latina, an alluring Asian, or a cookie-cut Caucasian, straight off a Greyhound from Smalltown, USA, our mack game didn't categorize. Every lady in the land was fit to hold court with Bryon Jordan and Tony Cummings-two clean-cut up-and-comers in a city teeming with thug-wannabes with little to offer above lame game and rotted-out dreams.
During those years of partying with Tony, I convinced myself that the glitzy lifestyle was what I needed. I hung tough, club-hopped hard, and did my best to prove my bravado, sometimes wearing it on my sleeve, but deep down, I felt like a fraud. I believed in the fast-lane lifestyle for a long time too, until the day someone had the guts to call me on it.
Her name was Angie, and I'll never forget the afternoon I met her, a real-life ballerina studying at the Juilliard School. I'd hopped off the #1 train at Lincoln Center and picked up a textbook from Barnes & Noble. To kill time, I took a seat by the Lincoln Center fountain before the short walk down to Fifty-ninth Street where I would hook up with Tony at John Jay, our usual rendezvous spot. I spotted her wild, sun-streaked curls half a block away and ran through a series of hackneyed pick-up lines in my mind, readying myself for her impending saunter. Wearing a white mini over leggings and an orange bodysuit, she approached. Before I could get a word in, she beat me to it.
"Hello will be sufficient," she said, coming my way.
"Excuse me?" I questioned. Lord have mercy. Sweet Southern drawl, I thought.
She paused in front of me, a matter-of-fact look taming her undomesticated features. "Just say hello. Save the game. Heard it all before."
"Don't know what you're talking about, but hello, beautiful," I smiled, playing stupid.
She cracked a brilliant, toothy smile and shook her head in resignation. "Hello to you too-?" she said, her question hanging in the air along with the city humidity.
"Bryon," I offered, probably too willingly.
"Thank you, Bryon, for the compliment, that is," she added before taking a seat beside me. She placed a large duffle bag down on the concrete and crossed one leg over her knee. I watched with increasing interest as she removed a shoe and began rubbing her right foot.
"Sorry, my feet are killing me. Devil was a downright bitch today."
"Devil?" I echoed.
"Yeah, devil. Ballet class with Professor Pilar, the devil in a blue tutu." We laughed, the crack about the tough-as-nails instructor chipping away the ice. It couldn't have come at a better time.
Angie's humor incited a two-hour exchange that passed faster than an underground ride on the Uptown A Express. While we talked, I commandeered foot-massaging duty-with great pleasure.
As taxicabs, pedestrians, and buses blurred by, we sat chatting like old buddies. Despite our novel relationship, Angie somehow deemed me a worthy sounding board that day, and I savored every second of it. And in spite of our rocky start, she allowed me to tickle her toes, ponder her personality, and pick her brain-all in the midst of a spirited tête-à-tête.
No topic was taboo. We debated about school. We sparred about sports. Men. Women. The challenges that each faced. We even got into a discussion about men in ballet. But no matter what Angie thought, I held steadfast to my belief that no man, no man, no matter how flexible, stretchable, or bendy he may be, had any business in a pair of ball-hugging tights. Packages-yes, the male type-were not designed to be restrained or exhibited in such a way. Period.
I also learned that Angie was twenty, a year younger than me. She had a three-year-old daughter back home in Houston whom her mom was raising while she pursued her lifelong dream at Julliard. Initially, I had expected to sit through a sad tale of unplanned pregnancy and the disappearing act of a teenage father, followed by hopeless desperation of mother and child, but Angie gave me none of that. She seemed unstoppable.
With three semesters between her and graduation, this beautiful ballerina was a stone's throw from her curtain closer. Where others like her may have been downtrodden or depressed, Angie was determined. She was feisty and, I had to admit, deeper than any woman I'd ever kicked game to. As she spoke, I looked into her eyes and something within me shifted. It scared the hell out of me. And it changed me forever.
You see, Angie's story hit home. It echoed that of my own mother-a woman I consider the closest living being to a saint, and I'll tell you why. Mom Duke's maternal resume reads as follows: single mom who worked early shifts so she could pick my sister and me up from school before heading to night school herself. Super cook. Champion fixer-upper of boo-boos, bad dates, lousy days, and bruised egos. Selfless martyr who went without so we didn't have to. Winner who eventually obtained a degree, worked harder than anyone I know, and became a program director at a center that straightened out wayward teens. A-class all the way.
I lost myself in Angie's eyes that day because I found myself staring into my mother's, my grandmother's, and my great-grandmother's eyes, and I questioned myself. As I let my mind drift over all the names of women I'd toyed with and strung along like puppets, I examined what I thought was my manhood. But where I once felt power and might, I now felt nothing but shame. With most of them, it'd never escalated past shot-down attempts and short-lived thrills that eventually fizzled out like flat Pepsi, but there was almost one for every letter of the alphabet. Aileen. Betsy. Christina. Denise. I'd offered all these women a guise whose only purpose was to boost my own faltering esteem. Esa. Fiona. Gwendolyn. Hailey.
Excerpted from Uptempo by Nakia D. Johnson Copyright © 2009 by Nakia D. Johnson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is one of those books that you start and you just want to keep reading until it is finished. The pace is quick and a lot happens in a short span of time. You can sometimes predict what's going to happen when a character does or doesn't do something, but you still want to read it to see if what you thought would happen, actually happens. The writer sometimes explains things to the reader that don't need to be explained, but overall a very entertaining book.
True to life what a book,a must read for both female and male kept me guessing from page to page,hope it work's out with Kendall and Ephraim?Dr.Greene just knew he was going to end up with Kendall sly devil but I liked his style that's the way a man should treat a women on a first date especially since he already swepted her off her feet from the time they layed eyes on each other at the hospital and how he made Byron feel so insecure weak ass,reminded me of family and friends loved the character Tony aka player.LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! five stars
I thoroughly enjoyed Uptempo. The author has a great talent for using descriptive words. You get such a colorful description of the characters in a way that creates a personal relationship between the reader and the characters in the story. Ms Johnson has an uncanny ability to make the reader feel "right there" in the story. I am looking forward to reading more of her work.
I loved Uptempo! It was great, I enjoyed it very much. One day I read about 25 chapters because I couldn't put it down. I can't wait to read the next novel from Ms. Nakia D. Johnson! I would recommended it to anyone that's interested in a good read. I did not expect the ending, but it was great!
Uptempo is a smooth read, from beginning to end. The story unfolds in dramatic fashion and leaves the reader desperate for more with the turn of each page. Nakia Johnson weaves the perfect web of mystery and creates characters at each end of the spectrum; the almost-perfect guy who might have been at the wrong place at the wrong time; the supportive fiancee who might not know all there is to know about her bethrothed; the malicious detectives all too eager to make Byron the bad guy, and a plethora of others that adds flair to the story. All in all, the book is a definite add to the permanent collection and something I plan to read again, and again, and again...
Uptempo is a very, very good book. An entertaining combination of romance, suspense and some crime with a most unexpected end. A real page turner! Once you start reading, you can't stop. I hope there will be other books from this author.
I'm started to reading Uptempo and I find it hard to put down. It is a story that a lot people will be able to identify with. Reading this book really made me smile and sometimes laugh because I found myself and some of my friends in the story line. Real life situations and real life drama that plagues everyday people with a twist, a must read. P.S. I'm ready for the movie !!!
The debut novel Uptempo by Nakia Johnson is a must read. As a first time author Ms. Johnson captures the reader from the first page and doesn't release their attention until they close the book. Her ability to tell a story and make the reader feel every experience the characters go through. Ms. Johnson's skill at story-telling makes it hard to believe that this is her first novel, as she has a command of the English language that rivals her contemporaries. If you are looking for a winter book to keep you warm, then Uptempo is a must have for your library.
Uptempo was a very well written novel as it enriched my vocabulary as I read it. The author has a way with words. The author brought the characters to life and it was as if I knew them. The author held my attention throughout the book and with every page I was anxious to know what would happen next. I can't wait to see what this author has in store next. I see nothing but success and longivity in Nakia D. Johnson's writing career, as she could only get better with time. I wish you much success with Uptempo!!!!!
First I like to commend the author on her 1st and hopefully not her last book. I truly enjoyed the contents from beginning to end; trying to anticipate what would happen next. The story line, characters, and plots were so exciting and entertaining; everything required to maintain my interest. What a great story; a nice mixture of romance, suspense and murder mystery. Keep up the good work; will there be a continuation?
Enjoyed Uptempo from beginning to end. I loved it so much, I told by family and girlfriends they need to read this book.