Fifteen-year-old Cynthia Lopez made a promise to her dying father: she will live with her two stepsisters, Ami and Lila, until she turns 25, at which point she'll inherit his large estate. Now, nine years later, twenty-four-year-old Cyn is counting down the days to that fateful birthday. At first, living with Ami and Lila had been fun, even exciting at times. Two of New York's hottest It-Girls, they know all the right people, own all the right things, and go to all the right parties. Sensible Cyn used to be content hiding in the shadows of her larger-than-life sisters. Now, Cyn is finally wising up and realizing that she is no longer stepsister to the stars--she is personal assistant/slave to the stars (or Las Diablas, as the Latin press likes to call them). And, when Prince Charming enters, Cyn must go head-to-head with her truly wicked stepsisters in order to win back her father's fortune, her perfect man, and, most importantly, her life.
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About the Author
Cuban-born BERTA PLANTAS has been writing romantic comedies since the mid-1990's, when her Latina heritage collided with her brought-up-on-Monty-Python-and-SNL sense of humor.
Cuban-born BERTA PLATAS is the author of several novels, including All of Me and Miami Heat. She has been writing romantic comedies since the mid-1990's, when her Latina heritage collided with her brought-up-on-Monty-Python-and-SNL sense of humor. She lives in Atlanta.
Read an Excerpt
Cynthia Lopez knew it would be a bad day when a shouting mob slammed her against the studio wall and thundered down the perforated metal stairs toward Times Square.
Pressed flat by the door she'd been about to open, she watched them go by.
A beefy lady grabbed her arm. "Don't go in there. That woman's insane."
Cyn didn't have to ask who "that woman" was.
Once the mob had fled, she let the security door swing shut, revealing the big golden swoosh of Rock 'n' Roll Television, RTV, America's favorite music video station.
Cheyenne Wims, RTV's receptionist, stood behind her polished wood desk, a gleeful smile on her pale Midwestern face. That would be sign of trouble number two, Cyn thought. Cheyenne was the grimmest receptionist in New York City, and she loved trouble. Today RTV was Trouble Central.
Cyn nodded at her little wave and entered the red reception room. Five steps in, the smell hit her.
"What is it?" Cyn stepped back and shielded her mouth and nose with her cupped hand. Her eyes started to water.
"Ami's tossing perfume. I'd say that one was patchouli and roses," Cheyenne said, laughing. She wiped her eyes with a tissue and sat down. "Oh, the look on your face." She brushed aside her carrot-colored bangs, straightened her headset, and returned to answering the phones.
Cyn heard her stepsister's banshee wails echoing in the hall. Ami Solas, unhappy? Nothing strange there. And as usual, it was up to Cyn to clean up her mess.
The crash of glass shattering against a hard surface–now that was new. The sound was followed by another wave of smell, not so intense this time. Either the bottle hadn't been as full, or her nose was going numb.
Cyn crept down the white-tiled hallway beyond the reception area. Bright posters for concerts and new music releases decorated the walls. As she passed the photo booth and the carousel horse, the hovering wail turned into a word.
Ami's yell was followed by a dainty cobalt blue bottle that shot out through the dressing room door and smashed into an Eminem poster on the opposite wall. An oily smear splashed out across the glass.
Cyn covered her nose to protect it from the latest smell. The floor at the base of the perfume-stained wall was strewn with shards of other unfortunate glass bottles. She recognized the fragments as Ramon's collection, some of them antiques. Ramon was probably hiding somewhere. Lucky him. It meant Cyn had to calm down the tigress.
"Ami? It's me, Cyn. Hold your fire." She didn't want a bottle embedded in her forehead.
When no fresh missiles were launched, she stepped carefully around the glass shards and oily puddles and into the dressing room. The smell was so overpowering that, like too much noise, the scents canceled each other out.
A coffee cup lid, a trace of foam still clinging to it, was the only evidence that a part-skim decaf grande latte had recently been placed, carefully, on the makeup counter of the studio dressing room.
The rest of it dripped from the long mirror that lined the room. The empty cup had landed on the speckled vinyl floor.
"Is that the coffee I bought you this morning?"
Ami sat in front of the coffee cup lid, in the farthest of the three round white retro fiberglass chairs. She nodded, pushing the deep cup lid around with her right forefinger, pouting.
Her stepsister's sexy, pouty face was internationally famous, but her lush red lips and soulful eyes had no effect on Cyn. She thought about the five-block hike to the Starbucks this morning, and wondered whether she'd have to repeat it. She almost welcomed the errand–the mingled smells of spilled perfume and coffee were making her queasy.
"So what went wrong, Ami?"
"Ramon ruined my lipstick, mi favorito," she said through clenched teeth.
Cyn picked up the empty coffee cup and then took the cup lid from the counter, gingerly, as if her manic sister might attack her.
"Can you get me another one? I'm going on in fifteen minutes and I'm starving." Ami had traded the pout for a sucked-in starving look.
Cyn glanced at her watch. Fifteen minutes till air. She'd rinse out the cup, get a quick café con leche from the coffee shop downstairs, and pour it into the Starbucks cup. Ami would never know the difference. She never did.
She wondered if any of the departing mob had been their studio audience. That would be tragic, since they were usually kids who waited hours outside in the hopes that they'd be chosen.
Though they'd been a fast-moving blur, they'd seemed older, more like a guided tour.
"Ramon was doing my face, and then my lipstick melted on the radiator," Ami said. Her voice got higher as she spoke, a sign of imminent eruption. "My best lipstick."
Cyn backed away, alarmed.
"And then he said, you'll look just as nice in rose." Ami whined. "I hate rose."
Cyn didn't want to risk another blow up so close to air time. A veteran of her stepsister's tantrums, she knew just what to do.
She started to flip through the hangers on a rolling rack by the door where dozens of outfits sent by hot new designers waited to be tried on. It was a real coup for the up and coming to have their styles seen on Ami and Lila Solas, RTV's fabulous VJ divas.
Lila. Cyn's hand paused on a hanger. Where was she? As her stepsisters' personal assistant and unofficial keeper, she needed to know where both of them were at all times. Supposedly, it was so that she could help them, but really, everyone knew she kept them out of trouble. Or tried to.
Las Diablas, the Latin press called them. The she-devils.
Her mind blocked out her sister Ami's sustained screech, her signature noise. Sometimes it was high-pitched, a giddy sound that signaled extreme pleasure–at a particularly juicy quote from one of the hip-hop artists on her show; or sexy–low and growly. Right now it was pissed off and piercing.
If the headache-inducing screech was aimed at Ramon Suarez, their makeup guru, then it was pointless. Ramon was not here, and from the look of the makeup counter, he'd taken all the remaining breakables. Cyn had once seen him do it in six seconds, a swift and efficient evacuation made smooth by much practice. With no Ramon to vent on, Ami turned to Cyn.
"You let him go. He was right here and you let him walk out. Lo voy a matar. I'm going to kill that evil fag," Ami screamed. She stalked toward Cyn, stiff-legged, like a mad dog.
"He's ruined my interview," she hissed. "I needed that lipstick! And my clothes are not set out. Why haven't you set my clothes out, Cyn?" She threw her hairbrush like a throwing star in a kung fu movie.
Cyn dodged left and it bounced off the wall behind her. It was no use trying to tune out her volatile stepsister. Dangerous, too.
Quickly, she held out a hanger with a scrap of improbably embellished black leather suspended from two padded clips.
"You can wear this black leather mini with the ruffles and that stretchy olive tank you like so much," she said.
"A tank? Won't my arms look fat?" Ramon was forgotten as Ami looked into the mirror, skipping sideways to avoid the wide splash of milky coffee that spread from ceiling to counter, making most of the mirror useless. Her short blonde hair caught the makeup lights as she moved her head back and forth. Eyes glued to the sparkling effect, the invisible upper arm flab was forgotten.
Cyn used the distraction to pull the tank from the rolling rack behind the door. She grabbed a leopard-print scarf in tropical colors and held it against the tank.
"See? Cute, but not precious. Very hot."
Ami grabbed the clothes, and for a second, Cyn's heart raced, thinking she was going to have to duck or get a clothes hanger in her eye. But Ami just twirled back to the mirror, tank and scarf held in front of her.
"It'll do. Get me that skirt. Apúrate, it's almost time to go on."
Cyn undid the clips on the hanger and passed the little skirt to Ami, who stripped quickly, as casual about her nudity as her twin sister Lila, the nonchalant nudity of women confident about their beauty. She quickly pulled on the tank and skirt.
"You look great," Cyn said sincerely. Ami was stop-in-the-street-and-stare beautiful. On the outside, anyway.
"You're right," she said. The olive-colored Diesel tank top brought a glow to her creamy, honey-colored skin, the sum of her Argentine ancestors–a mix of Spaniards, Germans, and Italians. The twins had inherited the best of all, unlike Cyn, who they reminded constantly looked exactly like her dark Cuban mother.
Ami adjusted the scarf. "Where's that idiot Ramon? I need my face done."
"I'll find him," Cyn said, and slipped quickly out of the narrow room and down the hall toward the soundstage. Ramon was leaning outside the green room's door, looking wiry and muscular, but small compared to the hulking guys around him. The big men, dressed in expensive clothes and lots of jewelry, were the musical guest's entourage. A little perfume tantrum didn't scare these guys.
"Out of harm's way, I see," Cyn said.
"More oxygen out here." He glanced around. "Barely."
The green room was the lounge where their celebrity guests waited to go on, which no doubt held the rest of the retinue, along with the deliciously hot rapper-du-jour, Little P, short for Little P.I.M.P. Apparently, Little P had lots of friends.
Ramon motioned toward the dressing room with his chin. "What does the Bitch Queen want now?"
"You," Cyn said. She tried to look through the crowd toward the soundstage. There really weren't a lot of guys, but they were huge. "Have you seen Lila?"
"She was here somewhere. Said something about a message Cheyenne never took."
"Uh oh. I took care of Ami for you. Just tell her she's fabulous and don't mention lipsticks."
"You talk as if I had a death wish," Ramon said. But he started off in the direction of the dressing room. "Did the tour group leave? They were so funny when Ami started to throw those bottles. Running and screaming with their arms in the air, and in those University of Michigan sweatshirts. They probably thought it was terroristas."
Cyn didn't think it was so funny. She'd find Lila, look in on their guest, then try to see if the tour group could be persuaded to come back in. They didn't need any bad press.
Although technically Cyn didn't work for RTV, over the last two years she'd taken on more and more duties around the studio. Cyn was okay with the added work. It made her days more fun and productive than just running errands and making restaurant reservations for her sisters. Being the VJs' personal assistant gave her entrée into the exciting music world they moved in, but it could be tedious.
"Thousands of people would kill to have my job," she recited. Her mantra. If she said it enough, maybe she'd believe it. Sometimes, like today, some of the words to her mantra dropped off until she just repeated "kill, kill, kill." It got her some odd looks.
The green room first. The hall was hard to navigate, and she pushed and excuse-me'd through the guys blocking the door to the room, which was neither green nor roomy.
She put her hand on the doorknob, and a huge, chocolate-colored hand covered hers. She looked up and up into a broad, scowling face, a hip-hop Darth Vader.
"You don't want to go in there, little girl." His voice was unexpectedly light for such a big guy.
Cyn hesitated, wondering what he was protecting. Drugs? They were a frequent enough occurrence in the green room. Alcohol, too, though at least alcohol was legal.
"Got to." She smiled. "My job is to keep the guests happy." And straight.
He smiled back. "Little P is plenty happy, believe me."
Uh oh. She stretched her grin a little wider. "In the words of another 'little girl'–I'm not that innocent. Step aside and let me do my job."
The knob turned under her hand, but he held it closed.
"I've got a job to do, too," he said.
She ignored him and kicked the door open, expecting to break up the party and temporarily confiscate the weed or blow. Little P wasn't going to be happy, but he'd be coherent.
The kick took the big guy by surprise, and the door popped open.
Cyn stared inside, open-mouthed.
The big bodyguard laughed out loud, either at the sight before them or at Cyn's reaction.
"Go, P!" he shouted.
She was pushed into the green room by the press of bodies behind her, all excited to see the show.
Lila was playing cowgirl to Little P's bucking bronco on the black leather sofa. They were naked, and neither seemed fazed by the intrusion.
Cyn backed out, pushing against the hooting crowd, and the bodyguard closed the door firmly and parked himself in front of it.
She looked up and offered him an embarrassed smile. "Thanks. You should have said something."
"I did." His grave eyes held a twinkle. "You okay? You look like you're going to throw up."
"I'm fine." She knew her sister loved sex, and lots of it, but she was at work. It would be all over the news tomorrow, unless Little P's retinue were all sworn to secrecy. She had to talk to David, the station manager. He needed to be warned. Of course, Ami had frightened off a whole tour group earlier. Not a good day for the Solas twins.
She suddenly remembered that Bruce Rock, the four o'clock guest, was due to show up soon. She'd have to find another place to park the longhaired head banger.
She hurried to the front office, past the photo booth, to the reception area, where a frowning Cheyenne, headset on, was fielding phone calls at her usual manic pace.
Cyn made a time-out hand signal and Cheyenne put the call on hold.
"Make it quick," she said. "Ami's stunt made the news. I'm getting lots of press calls."
Great. "Let me know the minute you have a Bruce Rock sighting." She glanced at her watch. Minutes to go.
"No prob. Did you find Lila?"
"She was here, just busy," Cyn said.
Cheyenne smirked. "Yeah, I can imagine how busy she was." She glanced at her watch and her eyes grew big. "Rock's cutting it close, isn't he?" She turned back to her phones.
No kidding, Cyn thought. She wondered if she could go back to the makeup room without having a hairbrush heaved at her head, and decided to risk it. Ami was probably dressed by now.
David Preston, the studio manager, came rushing down the hall. "Where the hell is the talent?"
"All over the place," Cyn said. "It's like herding cats, but they're all here."
"The kids are getting restless. Who's going to warm them up?"
Cyn stared. "You aren't expecting me to, are you? I'm not a standup comedian. Strictly backstage."
He grunted. "Where's Ami?"
"Having her makeup done."
His eyebrows went up. "This close to air time? Did we interrupt Ramon's nap, or what?"
Cyn shrugged. "Not his fault. Ami sort of got mad at something. They're okay now."
"Sort of mad at something," he laughed. "You kill me. Remember, I know how crazy your sisters are. And heads up, I just got off the phone with Jack."
"And? He's decided to come off the slopes and act like a CEO?" Jack Coville was the station's owner. Not that he was ever around.
"Not this century. No, he said someone would be coming here to look over the station, and we were to make a good impression on him. Can you do the exec bit again?"
Because they were a shoestring business with little staff, whenever they had important people come in everyone pretended that Cyn was the programming director. In truth, she did a lot of the interview scheduling and worked out the scheduling bugs with David, but the fact that she did all the work at the studio for no pay made her hate the pretense. It wasn't like she could refuse, since her sisters' high salaries were part of the reason that money was so tight.
Of course, since it was her favorite part of the job, she didn't complain. Running pointless errands and pampering the spoiled Solas twins was time-consuming and tedious. She didn't want to be their personal assistant, but she had to do something, and in order to do the studio's work, she had to be useful to her sisters.
"Okay, I'll do it," she said. "Who is this guy?"
"Who knows? I'll round up the Devil Divas."
Behind her, she heard the muted electronic chime of the front door opening.
"Please be Bruce Rock, and not Jack's visitor," she breathed.
No such luck. A short silver-haired man in a suit stood in the middle of the room, looking around as if he was at the zoo. Definitely not Bruce Rock.
The man's nose wrinkled, as if he smelled something bad. Which, of course, he did. The place reeked like a head shop.
Excerpted from "Cinderella Lopez"
Copyright © 2006 Berta Platas.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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