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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2005-05-04
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Harlem entrepreneur and fitness superstar Nona Simms worked hard to make Brickhouse one of the hottest gyms in the city -- her gift to the community that has always been home. Now corrupt city politics is coming uptown, and Nona's dream is slated for the wrecking ball, doomed to die so a new mall can live. Nona is a fighter, though, and she's gathering her friends around her for support against the special interests. But her cherished business partner, handsome Allen Wade, is growing distant, weighed down by a shattering secret that could destroy both their futures. Best girlfriend Leila has her own problems, suffering through the disintegration of her marriage to a New York Knicks superstar. And Nona's determined battle is pulling her deeper into a web of treachery, deceit, and scandal that stretches into the very highest circles of New York power. But help is on the horizon, even when things are looking hopeless, coming on strong from the last place Nona Simms ever expected ... and from the last man she ever expected to love.



Chapter One

The airplane continued its descent, and Nona leaned backin the seat, gripping the leather armrest. As the L-1011slowed, she opened her eyes and sighed, taking in whatwere the still regal edges of the New York skyline. The EmpireState Building, the Chrysler Building, and even thegaping hole where the twin towers of the World Trade Centerhad once stood welcomed her into the city. Despite thedeep pang that jolted through her as she fought back thememory of September 11, Nona found herself salutingLady Liberty as she caught a perfect aerial view of the famousmonument.

Home sweet home. Those were the first words shethought every time her returning plane's tires touched thetarmac. Today, though, she felt those words deeply. Fifteendays was the most time she had ever spent away fromhome while on business. She couldn't wait to lie on thesmoothness of her own silk sheets and sink her head intothe softness of her own feather pillows.

Her heartbeat matched the slowing of the plane's speeduntil it no longer raced. She spent what seemed like forever in airplanes; still she didn't like the takeoffs and landings.As the plane taxied toward the gate, Nona began returningthe papers on her lap to the leather folder she'd placed onthe empty seat beside her. She glanced through the appointmentsmarked on her upcoming week's schedule,which her assistant had faxed to her. She shook her head.The 168 hours in each week were not enough to accomplishall that was expected of her. But that didn't matter -- her todo-list would have to wait. She planned to put aside asmuch as she could for a few days to make room for hermost important priority -- her daughter.

The thought of Kelly made Nona smile. Still, her heartached with thoughts of her eleven-year-old and how shehadn't seen her in over two weeks.

The jetliner jerked as the plane came to a complete stopand before the "Fasten Seat Belt" sign clicked off, Nona wasstanding with her backpack slung across her shoulder.

"Ms. Simms, here's your jacket," the flight attendantsaid, handing Nona her ankle-length cashmere duster.

"Thank you." She beamed her practiced smile with herpicture-perfect teeth and stood at the door as the jetwaymoved toward the plane. She impatiently tapped the tips ofher Gucci pumps, waiting for the airplane's door to open.Nona wouldn't fly unless she could have seat 1B in firstclass. That way, she never spent a moment longer than shehad to in the confined space. When the door opened, Nonahurried through, and was greeted by Marco, who had aspecial pass to meet her in the terminal.

"Hey, Nona." Marco smiled as he reached for her carryon.

"It's so good to see you," she replied. "Now, show mejust how good you are and get me home to my baby."

Marco laughed. He'd been her bodyguard for the last fifteen months -- ever since the mass marketing of her lastvideo made it impossible for her to go out without beingmobbed. "The car is circling," Marco said. "By the time weget to baggage claim, you'll be able to go right to it."

Nona nodded her thanks, put on her sunglasses, andlowered her head. They walked quickly, past the shops inthe Delta Air Lines terminal. At five-feet-eleven, Nonastrutted like a model, and her arms swayed with the eleganceof a ballet dancer. With her short black hair slickedback, her chiseled facial features were even more prominent.Many had wondered why Nona Simms wasn't gracingthe runway for a top European designer. But even withher looks, modeling had never entered her mind. Nona wasall about business.

She had scheduled her arrival for the middle of the afternoon;still the terminal was filled with people, and in moments,Nona began to feel the stares. Then, a few minutesmore and the stares turned to shouts.

"There's Nona Simms."

"Hey, Nona. I love your books. Especially the last one."

"What's up, Nona? I have every one of your workouttapes."

She kept her head down, but could still see the glare froma flashing bulb. She hoped it was one of her fans rather thanthe paparazzi. She'd had enough of made-up tabloid stories.

Her bodyguard kept Nona at arm's length from her admirers,but Marco couldn't stop the swell of the crowd thatfollowed her. As they trotted down the escalator, thescreaming requests continued.

"Can I get a picture, Nona?"

"I just want your autograph."

"I just want to touch her," Nona heard someone say.

"Maybe some of her looks will rub off on me."

The people around her laughed, but Nona's eyes remainedlowered. She didn't want to be rude, but shecouldn't stop -- not today. She'd given herself to her supportersfor fifteen days. It was time to go home.

By the time they reached baggage claim, they were almostrunning."I'll go back for your bags."

"Let's just get you into the car, where it's safe," Marcoyelled above the crowd's cheers.

Nona took a deep breath as they swept through the automaticdoors into the chilled New York air. Just as theystepped outside, her black Cadillac Escalade with the licenseplate "BRCKHSE" veered to the curb. Marco openedthe rear door for her, and the automatic running boardhummed as it dropped.

"Excuse me, Ms. Simms. May I have your autograph?"

It was the gentle voice that made Nona turn. While therest of the crowd had remained inside, two young girls hadfollowed her. They couldn't have been more than twelve orthirteen. The one who spoke was tall, almost five-seven,with her head covered in hundreds of microbraids ...

Brickhouse. Copyright © by Rita Ewing. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Brickhouse by Rita Ewing
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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