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Jenna Medina's stepfather, Leo, came through the door of their house singing a happy tune: "Sailing, sailing, over the ocean waves..." He kicked up his heels and did a little jig around the living room. For the finale, he jumped up on the couch and bowed deeply.
Jenna giggled. By now, she was used to Leo's silliness. A year ago, when her mom sprang it on her that they were getting married, his jokes and teasing had driven her crazy. But that was before Jenna knew him-and decided to give him a chance.
"I grow on you, kind of like mold," he'd teased her on the big wedding day in Las Vegas. "Please let me show you what a great papa I can be."
Leo had shown her, in more ways than one. He was always there for her when she needed to make a delivery for her cupcake club. He was there when she was sweating over her science final and needed someone to test her on the elements of the periodic table. He'd even convinced her mami to let her adopt Dulce, her Havanese puppy. Her own father had left her mom to raise five kids by herself, but Leo had assured Jenna that he would never leave. He had an enormous heart, and Jenna had grown to love him, as well as her new stepsister, Maggie, who stayed with them every other weekend.
Leo had found them all a bigger home so Jenna didn't have to share a bedroom with her two older sisters, Marisol and Gabby. Even if her room was small, she actually had some peace and quiet and privacy away from her maniac little brothers, Ricky and Manny. It was all hers-from the patchwork quilt her mami had sewn from Jenna's old baby blankets to the Oreo cookie pillow her BFF Kylie had given her, because like an Oreo, "she was a tough cookie outside and a softie inside." Having her own space was a dream come true. Now, she could cover her walls with pictures of her favorite Spanish telenovela stars and not worry that Gabby would draw mustaches on all of them!
Yet there was no denying her family was more loco than most. Especially when Leo called for a family meeting.
"What is it, mi amor?" Her mother, Betty, came racing out of the kitchen, still carrying a raw chicken in her hands. "Qué es la emergencia?"
"Mami, are we having arroz con pollo for dinner?" Ricky asked, tugging on her apron.
"No! I want pizza!" Manny protested. Jenna's five-year-old siblings never could seem to agree on anything.
Gabby skipped downstairs. Her hair was set in hot rollers. "Can we hurry it up? I'm meeting Marc at the mall."
Jenna rolled her eyes. All her sister thought about-and talked about-were boys!
Leo took a head count. "So, Maggie is at her mom's tonight, and I will have to call her with the good news. But where's Marisol?" No doubt Jenna's oldest sister had her nose in a book upstairs.
"I'll go get her," Jenna volunteered. She raced up the stairs and barged right into Marisol's bedroom, even though her door was shut.
"Hey!" Marisol yelled. "Do you ever knock?"
"Nope," Jenna said, shrugging. "Leo wants you downstairs-ahora!"
"I'm just finishing up," Marisol said, focusing on something on her laptop screen.
"Qué pasa?" Jenna asked, peering over Marisol's shoulder. She assumed her sister was working on yet another term paper that would earn her yet another A+.
"None of your business," Marisol replied, slamming the computer shut. "I'll be right down."
• • •
Once everyone was gathered, Leo cleared his throat. "Mi querida familia, the Medina-Winters clan," he began. Jenna tried to stifle a laugh but it was hard. Leo loved to speak in Spanish-although he wasn't very good at it. "As you all know, my boss, the fabuloso fashion designer Ralph Warren, has been looking for a unique venue to premiere his new resort collection."
Jenna did know. Leo took great pride in his vice president of marketing position and talked about it all the time. His passion for fashion was one of the things that had drawn him and Betty together. He had come into the tailor shop where she worked one day by chance and spotted her beautiful sewing. According to him, it was love at first stitch.
"Well, I've found it. And I am going to take all of you along with me on this trip," he continued. "If you guess where it is."
"Paris? Are we going to Paris?" Gabby asked excitedly.
"Good guess," Leo teased her, "but no cigar."
"London? Milan? New York?" Marisol picked up where Gabby left off, naming the rest of the fashion capitals of the world.
"No, no, and no." Leo shook his head. "You're not even warm-which is a hint." He winked at Jenna.
"Warm? So the location of your runway show is someplace warm?" she asked. "Like tropical warm?"
"Sí! Estás cerca," he teased. "You're close."
"A beach!" Ricky piped up. "I wanna build a giant sand castle."
"Think more surf, less sand," Leo hinted.
"Hawaii? Are we going to Hawaii?" Betty jumped in. "I've always wanted to see it."
"No, not Hawaii." Leo grinned mischievously. "I'll give you another hint: I'm sure this collection is going to make a big splash."
"Water!" Jenna exclaimed. "Is it the rain forest?"
"You're missing the boat." Leo winked. "Think harder."
While the rest of her family was completely baffled, Jenna suddenly remembered the sailor song Leo came in singing. "Sailing... Missing the boat... Wait, are we going on a cruise ship?" she guessed.
"Ding-ding-ding! Give that girl a prize!" Leo cheered. He handed her a brochure that read "Victory Cruises" and showed a photo of a giant white ship with seventeen decks. "Yes, we are all going on a seven-night cruise to the Bahamas over midwinter break from school!"