Read an Excerpt
September 1 @ 7:24 p.m. Mood: Excited
"Just a little over a month till my b-day."
Starr Lester replaced the cap on the pink-and-white glitter pen that she'd just used to draw an X on the calendar. October 2. She couldn't wait for her birthday. She'd given her parents her wish list weeks ago and expected that they would get everything on it.
With short, neatly trimmed nails painted in her favorite Cinnamon Sugar, Starr fingered the Tiffany diamond pendants she wore on thin gold chains around her neck. One was a star and the other spelled out Blessed.
Life as the daughter of Cole Lester, multiplatinum R&B-singer-turned-owner of TopStarr Records, was good—real good.
She had her own chauffeur-driven Bentley, free use of her daddy's black American Express card and a weekly allowance. She even had her own spacious suite in her parents' sprawling Bernardsville, New Jersey, mansion.
Her wing of the house included a spacious circular bedroom, a spa bathroom with a Jacuzzi tub, a river-rock shower stall and heated floors throughout. There was a screening room with its own fully stocked snack bar, a custom walk-in closet with shelves and organizers that resembled a small clothing boutique, her own private balcony with an outdoor fireplace and security cameras outside her door with an electronic keypad that only she and her parents had the combination to. Mostly, Starr loved, loved, loved that every square foot was designed to suit her tastes.
The suite had started out as a luxurious garden-themed nursery. Later it was decorated with her favorite cartoon characters and bright neon colors. And for her thirteenth birthday, her parents had brought in their decorator and given Starr carte blanche to make it her teen haven.
The entire suite had a classic, beautiful style with French country cream-colored painted furniture and pops of her favorite color—fuchsia. Everything—the linens, the floor-length silk curtains, the plush cream-colored carpet—was luxurious. The cathedral ceiling gave a feeling of spaciousness. She had every creature comfort at her fingertips, including a sixty-inch plasma TV that was mounted over a remote-controlled fireplace. The window seat and club chairs offered a comfy place to lounge with her friends.
And the comforts of being Starr went beyond her living quarters.
She had her own part-time personal assistant, a full-time maid and an on-call personal trainer. Then there were the celebrity godparents and the offspring of the rich and famous, who made up her circle of friends. She had anything and everything her heart desired.
Humph, there was no way Starr could really complain. Well, not most of the time anyway.
Her dark eyes shifted over to the intercom system on the corner of her desk. She rolled her eyes at the interruption. "Yes?" she said aloud, her voice husky and soft even at the young age of fourteen-going-on-fifteen-soon.
"Starr, come on down. Your father's home early and we're going to eat dinner together."
Shocker. Usually her dad was never home this early and most nights she ate dinner in the kitchen with Justine, the cook, or in the comfort and security of her bedroom suite.
"Coming, Mom," Starr replied as she plopped into the fuchsia leather Parsons chair in front of her desk. She caught a glimpse of herself in the makeup mirror attached to the corner of her desk. Giving in to a childish impulse, she playfully stuck out her tongue before smiling. Starr was the image of her father, and thankfully looking like him hadn't hurt her cute factor. She maintained her light caramel complexion with lots of spa treatments, drinking plenty of water and avoiding the number-one zit magnet—chocolate. She had high cheekbones and almond-shaped eyes that slanted upward. From her mother she got her hair and her perky mouth. But mostly she was the spitting image of her father, and she loved it big-time.
Starr leaned forward to study her face for any signs of impending acne—leaving makeup on overnight was a no-no. Satisfied with her smooth complexion, she ran her slender fingers through her newly styled asymmetrical Rihanna-look-alike cut and opened her new MacBook Air laptop.
She eyed her Kimora Lee Simmons Barbie doll perched atop her crystal jewelry box. She kept the doll on display, since she had another one that her father had had signed by the Fabulous One herself. That doll was stored inside a Plexiglas collector's case on top of her fireplace mantel. Starr loved, loved, loved Kimora and everything about her fabulous life. She'd never had the chance to meet her, but every week Starr hosted a viewing party for Kimora's reality show, Life in the Fab Lane. In fact, she was secretly a member of Kimora's fan club.
Although Starr hadn't gone so far as to practice Kaballah or wear her hair hanging down to the middle of her back, she did meditate every morning, did yoga and vowed that just like Kimora, she would own the largest private collection of Louis Vuitton luggage and handbags. "One day," she promised herself aloud as she clicked her rhinestone-covered mouse.
The e-mail she'd sent her mom a few weeks back popped up on the screen. Her perfectly straight, bright-
white teeth bit down softly on her lip-gloss-covered mouth as her eyes scanned the screen.
RE: STARR'S TOP FIVE B-DAY WISHES
5. Donation in my name to a battered women's shelter or animal shelter or something like that (it's always good to give back, right?)
4. Rolex watch (diamonds are a girl's best friend)
3. Ralph Lauren crocodile Ricky bag (the hot pink one of course)
2. Louis Vuitton sac chien dog carrier (The Lesters always travel in style!!)
And a drumroll please for Starr's #1 b-day wish…
1. A cute little, harmless, easy to clean after, even easier to love Yorkie (uh, that's a Yorkshire terrier)
She wondered if they would finally cave and let her have a Yorkie. Her mother was allergic and her father complained that it would poop all over the house—both were irrelevant to Starr. Besides, she thought it was big-time gracious of her to cut the list down from ten to five—and that had been very, very hard to do. Her fifteenth birthday was major and it deserved to be celebrated in a major way. Right? Right.
Starr slipped her feet back into her favorite satin slippers—bright pink, of course—and rolled back in the chair. She knew this family dinner with Dad was big for her mom and being late was not an option with the one and only Sasha "HotMama" Lester. She had to admit to herself that she was big-time excited about it, too. She loved her dad just as much as he loved her. Most times she understood that being in the music business and his lifestyle kept him away from the family, with all the travel and late-night listening parties. That was all a part of his world, but it didn't stop her from missing him like crazy.
Starr heard her IM alert just as she crossed the plush carpet of her bedroom floor. She stared at her laptop and then quickly shifted her eyes toward the elevator outside her bedroom door. Hoping her mother wouldn't call her again on the intercom, Starr dashed across the room and clicked the mouse to open the instant message.
MARIMARI: STARR, U THERE? I NEED HELP…BIGTIME!!!!!
It was one of Starr's best friends, Marisol Rivera. Usually, she wasn't one of those girls who blew up over nothing just to get attention, so Starr knew if Marisol said it was big-time important—then it had to be.
Starr dropped back down into her chair.
Rule #1 for being a Pacesetter: always be there for advice and guidance, and always be available…when it's convenient.
UR#1STARR: I'M HERE. WHADDUP?
MARIMARI: HIT OR MISS?
An image of Marisol via her Webcam popped onto the screen. Starr's eyes went straight to Marisol's smooth bronze complexion. Her long jet-black curly hair framed her doe-shaped eyes, high cheekbones and perky, lip-gloss-covered mouth. She was Dominican, and except for her long silky black hair and her hard-to-miss accent, she looked African-American. No one could deny that Mari was pretty and had a slammin' size-8 body that Starr would kill for. Life as a size 4 was no fun.
Her eyes shifted down to scrutinize Marisol's outfit. The high-waist, dark-rinse jeans she wore with the suede charcoal-gray flats went perfectly with the bright pink-gray-and-white long-sleeved fitted tee. Several long gold chain necklaces and a pink Birkin bag made the seemingly ordinary outfit look simply extraordinary. It definitely suited Marisol's glamour-girl style.
Starr's fingers flew across the keyboard.
UR#1STARR: DEFINITELY A HIT. U GET A GOLD STARR, DIVA!!
UR#1STARR: SINCE THE OUTFIT IS SO CAS YOU COULD WEAR UR HAIR IN A SIDE PONYTAIL. MARIAH WORE HER HAIR LIKE THAT LAST WEEK AT OUR HOUSE.
MARIMARI: U R SO RIGHT, DIVA.
Marisol blew her a kiss just before her image disappeared from the laptop screen.
Starr sighed in disappointment. It was too bad their dress-up game was just that…a game. Pace Academy students were required to wear uniforms—really stupid-looking uniforms. The dress code consisted of a putrid-looking, pleated, tartan plaid skirt in blue and gray, a corny red cardigan or a blazer and a Peter Pan-collared, librarian-looking white blouse. No matter how much you tried to accessorize, the look spelled: D-E-A-T-H-2-S-T-Y-L-E.
Starr felt a little let down that Marisol hadn't asked her what her pretend first-day outfit was. Most likely because Marisol didn't think Starr needed any help, not because Mari didn't care.
She wished she could wear something from her secret stash—one drawer deep in her walk-in, mini-Kimora closet where she gave in to her hip-hop-wannabe desires— with its low-cut halters, skinny jeans and short denim skirts. No one in her family knew about the drawer because she kept it under lock and key, and she was the only one who knew where the key was hidden. She didn't even let her friends know she sometimes locked the door to her bedroom suite, pulled the ceiling-to-floor-length silk curtains closed and had a hip-hop video fashion show for her precious porcelain black doll collection. Her dad could be a little overprotective at times about what she wore. And he would never allow her to leave the house looking like she wanted to star in a video, which meant showing a little more skin and a curvier body.
Starr sighed. It was okay for him to have all those thong-wearing, strapless-dress sporting, big-booty women in his artists' videos, though. Wbateva.
She thought about checking in on her best friend Dionne, but she decided to pass. She really wanted to put in some quality time with her dad—especially with him leaving Friday for a weekend of partying at the MTV Video Music Awards. She was annoyed that her parents had nixed her own plans for a fabulous weekend in L.A. But that didn't mean that she was going to sulk.
Starr stepped into the elevator off her bedroom suite in the three-story mansion that the Lesters had called home for the past five years. In seconds she was descending from the second floor, stepping out into the great room on the first floor.
She looked out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the acres and acres of lawn. The family hardly ever used the room that ran the length of nearly half the mansion, with two large fireplaces at either end of the room. There were three separate seating areas, but the room flowed together seamlessly. Although Starr was accustomed to its grandeur, she knew the high ceilings and opulent decor took most visitors' breath away. The room was more about elegance and showcasing wealth than comfort. Even so, she'd always thought it odd that it was the only room in the mansion that didn't have a television in it. Moving quickly, she made her way down the long marble-floored hallway to the dining room.
She paused in the arched doorway and was surprised. The table was set for a formal meal. Large porcelain china serving bowls filled with food were laid across a runner down the center of the huge wooden table, but no one was in the room. Starr's hand automatically went to her pavé diamond pendant just as Mimi, their live-in maid, came bustling through the door that connected the dining room to the gourmet chef's kitchen.
"Where's everybody, Mimi?" Starr asked as she stepped into the room and watched the tall, thin black woman begin gathering bowls into her arms.
Mimi looked up and her eyes were instantly apologetic. Starr knew it before the words even came out of Mimi's mouth. "Your father got a last-minute invitation to a dinner party. Your mother went with him."
Starr didn't want Mimi's pity even if it was pathetic that her parents hadn't bothered to let her know they had other plans. She held her head high and hid the pain she felt in her chest. Sometimes her parents' absence—some might say neglect—really sucked, and most times it really hurt.
"The twins are in the kitchen eating with Justine and me. Come on and have dinner with us, too."
Just what she wanted: another night with her four-year-old twin brothers from hell, Malcolm and Martin, the cook and the maid. "I'm not really hungry," she said.
Before she could protest, Starr turned and hurried from the dining room. She didn't bother with the elevator and instead ran up the marble staircase—two steps at a time— to her suite. She barely made it into her room before she flung herself onto the center of the bed and buried her head.
She didn't want to eat.