Sex and the South Beach Chicas

southbeachbig.jpg SEX AND THE SOUTH BEACH CHICAS
Downtown Press
ISBN 1-4165-1488-0
Genre: Women’s Fiction
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What’s the What with the Chicas!

When Tori got lucky, she never imagined that her birthday fling would last longer than one night. But this papi chulo turns out to be “the one,” and they quickly decide to elope. . . .

Sylvia has one of the hottest careers in town reporting on Miami’s nightlife. But when Tori makes her shocking announcement over Monday-night mojitos with the girls, Sylvia decides it’s time for some bold moves of her own, especially when it comes to her career. . . .

Juli controls the kitchen at one of Miami’s hottest restaurants, where she concocts dishes that always wow the crowds. Suddenly, hiding behind an apron isn’t enough for her, and Juli’s looking to stir things up. Will she step out of the kitchen and into the spotlight?

With business booming at the restaurant she runs with Juli, Adriana doesn’t have time to even think about having a relationship. So why does her friend Riley look so irresistible? And why hasn’t she ever noticed before?

Join the girls for fun and amor in . . . SEX AND THE SOUTH BEACH CHICAS!

Excerpt

Chapter One
Las Amigas

Tori got lucky.

She was sure that was what her friends had wanted to happen six months earlier on the night of her thirtieth birthday, only they hadn’t really expected that it would.

Boring and predictable Victoria Rodriguez had thrown caution aside and indulged in a night of incredible — she wanted to say sex, only it had been more than that — with Gil. He totally lived up to her and her amigas’ requirements for the title of Extreme Boy Toy, or as he had playfully become known, Mr. Perfect Papi Chulo. His moves on the dance floor were nothing like Ricky Martin’s, but his moves in bed . . . Not to mention eyes as blue as the waters in Biscayne Bay and a lean sculpted body. But what really did her in was Gil’s scrumptious little boy grin that just made her want to eat him up when he used it and exposed the cutest damn dimple she’d ever seen.

So now, six months later, she was not only living in sin with Gil — albeit lusciously rewarding sin — she was considering spending the rest of her life with him.

And Gil, her Perfect Papi Chulo, appeared to feel the same way.

This usually meant a ring and an engagement and a shower and a rehearsal, complete with dinner, followed by a wedding with lots and lots of friends and family, only . . .

The Tori that had emerged after that big birthday night didn’t want to deal with all those conventions and the problems they usually wrought. She also had concerns about her family’s reaction to the news, since nothing she did ever seemed to please them. More than anything, she wanted to get her amigas’ impressions on what to do.

But she worried that her amigas, having just handled the defection of one of their high school friends to the bonds of holy matrimony, might not be ready for her revelation that she and Gil were thinking about making the big leap into marriage.

Lost in thought, Tori slowed her pace as she walked from Gil’s oceanfront condo on Collins, where she now lived, toward her friends’ restaurant on Ocean Drive. Since the condo lay just beyond the end of Lummus Park, the first block was relatively free of the tourists and party animals that crowded the central portion of the Art Deco district.

A strong ocean breeze blew across Lummus Park. A block away, he colorful pennants atop the Cardozo snapped with the breeze. A bit farther up, the oversized umbrellas protecting the alfresco dining area of another restaurant fluttered ominously. The breeze made it a little chilly for Tori. She slipped on her suit jacket as she passed by the mansion where Gianni Versace had once lived and died infamously. Before the black gates with the fanciful golden Versace emblems, fans and curiosity seekers posed for photos.

She stayed her course along the opposite sidewalk, where there was less activity. Normally she would have turned up Thirteenth Street to meet her friends at the Washington Avenue gym where they worked out on Monday nights. But tonight Adriana and Juliana had a meeting at their restaurant, which forced them to pass on the workout, but not their usual Monday night dinner afterward.

A dinner they were having at her friends’ restaurant because of their prior engagement. Not that she minded. A goddess of the kitchen, Juli could make day-old bread tasty. Her skills, combined with Adriana’s business savvy, had earned the nearly three-year-old restaurant its share of both local and national awards.

As she strolled to their building, one of the Mediterranean Revival structures along Ocean Drive, the breeze shifted direction and blew at her back as if to hurry her along, but she took her time, enjoying the view of South Beach’s sizzle. Bronzed gods in muscle shirts and tourists in black socks and sandals. On the road beside her, car after car cruised along, from the latest luxury models to lovingly restored vehicles from the fifties and sixties. Their polished paints and gleaming chrome reflected the dazzling colors of the neon signs identifying the businesses along the street.

She ambled past the Clevelander Bar, Edison Hotel, and Larios to the heart of the Ocean Drive strip and her friends’ restaurant. As she crossed the street, she noticed they had lowered the vinyl windshields to protect the patrons on the outdoor dining veranda from the breeze.

When she neared the hostess’s podium, the young woman smiled in recognition and invited her to a table close to the windows along the veranda. “Juli and Adriana are almost done,” she advised.

Tori could see her friends at the back of the restaurant, seated at a table with a bunch of business suit types. Suits much like hers, she thought as she glanced down at her conservative Brooks Brothers ensemble. She’d had time to drop off her car, but not to change before coming over to the restaurant. A complicated case had gotten even more complicated at the last minute, so the later time on this Monday night had proved helpful.

She had just taken a seat when the group at the back of the room broke up. The suits headed out of the restaurant while Juli and Adriana came her way.

Adriana wore an absolutely gorgeous dark green suit that perfectly accented her curvaceous but slender physique. Her precisely trimmed auburn hair framed the clean oval of her face, emphasizing her hazel green eyes. As always, Adriana’s public face flawlessly represented the class and elegance of the restaurant and hotel.

Adriana was the brains of the business, while Juli’s amazing culinary creations were the heart of it. A heart that rarely ventured into public, and when it did, like tonight, often seemed drab and tasteless. Totally unlike the food Juli prepared.

They embraced and were about to sit when Sylvia arrived.

Sylvia made heads turn, in an eye-catching golden gown that delineated her every asset. Long blonde hair swung in a curtain to the middle of her back, its silky texture reflecting a hue of gold and paler blonde highlights. She appeared ready for a bigger adventure than tonight’s dinner — probably because she needed to cover a story at one of South Beach’s hot spots for the monthly magazine for which she worked as the After Dark and Gossip reporter.

Tori couldn’t help but glance at her own five-four, size six body, trying not to feel intimidated by her less than ample — but still perky — breasts and curves, which were . . .

She stopped herself right there. Gil seemed to have no problems with her body. On the contrary, he couldn’t keep his hands off her.

“Tori. Mother ship to Tori,” Adriana said and waved a hand in front of her face, ripping her from thoughts of Gil.

Tori shook her head. “Perdoname. Just thinking about — ”

“Not work. Not with that googly-eyed look you just had on your face,” Sylvia teased as she air-kissed all three of them and then slinked into the chair between Tori and Adriana.

Tori nodded but said nothing else, still a little anxious about giving her amigas the news that things between her and Gil were getting serious.

A waiter came by, sparing her from thinking about it further. He handed them menus and asked if they cared for drinks. As always, they ordered a round of ice cold mojitos and, after, deferred to Adriana and Juli’s choices about what to order.

When the mojitos arrived, Tori held up the glass. “To life, love, and always being amigas,” she said, much as she had said at every Monday night gathering for as long as she could remember.

As they toasted, a raucous crowd from the street distracted them.

In front of the restaurant, a large group of people clustered around a hot hip-hop artist who had recently opened a store on Washington for his new fashion line. If she hadn’t recognized him, the billboard bling would have tipped her off. His name glittered in silver and diamonds on a large chain around his neck.

“Another typical crazy night,” Adriana teased and shook her head.

“I’m surprised he hit this part of the Beach so early. I expect him at the party I’m covering later tonight,” Sylvia replied just as the waiter came by with appetizers.

“Speaking of expecting, didn’t Josie look nice yesterday?” Adriana said.

Josefina Maria de las Nieves Gonzalez — now Mrs. Josie Johnson — was the most recent of their high school friends to be wed.

“Expecting?” Tori blurted out as Adriana’s comment finally registered. “As in — ”

“She had to marry the guy,” Sylvia confirmed. “Josie’s been living with him for what?”

“Three years. You’d think she’d be beyond the guilt factor by now,” Juliana mused out loud, seemingly embarrassed by the discussion.

Adriana spooned up some garlicky shrimp and continued the conversation. “It must have been a massive dose of guilt for her to give in. Josie was always the most stubborn of us.”

“And one of the most independent,” Sylvia acknowledged as she finally helped herself to some of the appetizers.

Tori perused her friends as she took a sip from her mojito. She had never been one for bucking the status quo — her relationship with Gil was the biggest risk of her entire life. Before the night she had become Sinfully Sexy Tori with Gil, she had been Toe the Line Tori, always ready to do what everyone asked of her. But not anymore. Well, at least not as often.

Since she wanted to share her news, she decided to take another risk. “Maybe she wanted to. Maybe it was time.”

Both Sylvia and Adriana dropped their forks, which clattered against their plates. Aghast silence followed as all of her friends looked at her. They all knew that once a friend got married, things changed, and usually not for the better. But Tori couldn’t imagine not being friends with these women. They were as close as sisters.

“You know, the odds are that eventually we’re all going to end up married,” she said, but glanced at her drink and played with the condensation on its surface to avoid her friends’ inquisitive gazes.

“Are you trying to tell us something?” Tori heard a hint of anxiety in Adriana’s voice.

She avoided the question for the moment. “What do you think Josie’s parents said when she told them she was pregnant?”

Sylvia immediately launched into an Oscar-worthy interpretation of her Anglo mother, complete with a slow Southern drawl. “Dear Lawd. What were you thinking, honey pie? It’ll be Kmart Blue Light specials for you for the rest of your life.” Then she picked her fork back up and attacked her food with gusto.

Adriana wagged her finger at Sylvia. “Girl, you can’t even begin to imagine the guilt levels possible in a Cuban household. Mi abuelita Ofelia would grab her rosary beads, clutch them to her chest, and make sure she thumped loud enough to wake most of Calle Ocho,” she said, and then spooned food onto Juli’s plate, since up until now, her friend hadn’t taken a thing.

Even quiet Juliana had something to add. “And don’t forget that since our mamis somehow became clones of their mamis, they’d be sure to join in, wailing and complaining.” She clapped her hands together as if in prayer and rolled her eyes upward. “Dios mio. Que desgracia! Mi’jita, que estabas pensando?”

It struck a little too close to home, since Tori had barely survived such a scene during a family dinner, where she had been unable to give her family the news that she and Gil were getting serious. Her family had been too busy picking apart her life, and Toe the Line Tori — who hated confrontation — had decided not to create an even bigger problem.

As the waiter brought out the main courses, Tori gently eased into the discussion once more. “Marriage isn’t necessarily bad, you know.”

“Right. It’s more about making wiser choices and avoiding men like our papis,” Adriana confirmed, although Tori detected even more apprehension in her friend’s voice.

Sylvia dismissively waved her hand. “Darlin’ Adriana. Not that I’m all that keen on dads, but your poor papi is not so bad. He’s just been henpecked by your mama into trying to run your life.”

Adriana couldn’t deny it, so she playfully went along. “Mami needs some hobbies to take her mind off Papi and me. It’s worse now that she’s retired from helping Papi run the family business. Any suggestions, chicas?”

Sylvia threw her hands up with frustration, nearly knocking over one of the plates the waiter had been trying to serve. “If we knew, don’t you think we’d get our mothers off our backs?”

Tori nodded and as she looked around, realized all were in agreement with Sylvia’s observation. “We haven’t made much progress in dealing with our mamis, have we, amigas?”

Shrugging, Juliana pointed to the meals she and Adriana had chosen, encouraging them all to begin eating. “Por favor. Disfruten before it gets cold. As for our mamis, old habits are hard to change, sabes. But your mami hasn’t been so loca lately, has she, Tori?”

She thought about it as she ate the deliciously creamy and flavorful tamales. By most standards, her mami wasn’t so bad. Just exceptionally demanding. It hadn’t occurred to her just how demanding until her first year of college, when she had brought home a 3.96 GPA and her mother had muttered, “Well, if this is the best you can do . . .”

“She hasn’t been awful, but she also hasn’t let up about Saint Angelica and how I have no life,” she confessed, raising just some of the complaints her mami had noted during dinner the other day.

“So li’l sis is still golden for popping the first puppy?” Sylvia inquired, but Tori could see her friend’s mind was only partially on the conversation as her gaze tracked the passing of a rather handsome man toward a table at the side of the restaurant.

“Which makes zero sense,” Tori snapped. “All my life my family has pushed for me to make them proud, and here I am — successful and happy — and what do they say?”

“Be like your telenovela-watching, stay-at-home, making-babies hermanita,” Adriana responded, but shot an apologetic look at Juli and added, “No offense meant on the telenovela part, Juli.”

With a weak shrug that barely moved her oversized tunic top, Juli said, “Bueno. No offense taken.”

“You’d think bringing home a prospective Mr. Right would silence the mami inquisition,” Adriana wondered aloud and forked up a bit of roast pork from her plate.

Sylvia, often the cynic, said, “So I guess having a man is as useless as I thought.”

“Pero you can always use them for sex toys, verdad?” Juliana joined in, a strong flush of color on her cheeks because she didn’t discuss sex. Ever.

“Check you out, Juli! You’re finally chillin’.” Sylvia playfully nudged Tori in the ribs with her elbow.

“I’m not sure I can call Gil my little Latin sexbot,” Tori playfully responded.

“Puleez, Tor. Admit that Gil makes the earth quake,” Sylvia said, not about to let up. Sylvia never let up, Tori realized, and wondered if it was a leftover from her friend’s job or if it was because she needed the attention. Everything about Sylvia screamed, “Look at me!”

Even though Sylvia’s teasing had managed to bring a flush to her face, Tori would not spill about Gil. At least not right at that minute. She put her hand up and, with a small wave, tried to shut down her friend. “Too much information being requested.”

Sylvia shook her head. “After your big adventure, I thought you were done repressing your sexuality.”

“Vamos, Sylvita. It’s almost genetic, the repression,” Adriana replied in Tori’s defense.

“There’s nothing wrong with being free about sex,” Sylvia shot back as she took a pen and piece of paper out of her purse and wrote something down. She handed the paper to the waiter and had him deliver it to the handsome man she had noticed earlier, who sat alone at a table set for one.

“How about being free with sex?” Adriana teased as she noted Sylvia’s actions.

Juliana hesitated for a moment, rubbing her hands almost nervously along the edge of the table before she said, “Chicas, if we worry about sex all the time, we won’t ever be liberadas, verdad?”

That eased the tension that had crept into the conversation and brought chuckles from everyone.

“That’s right,” Tori admitted. She slipped an arm around Juliana’s shoulders and playfully shook her. “We don’t want any restraints in our lives.”

“But some restraints can be fun,” Sylvia advised and mimicked being bound, prompting raucous laughter before the conversation turned serious once again.

“We all agreed we were going to avoid controlling husbands,” Adriana reminded.

“And unreasonable demands from our mamis,” Juliana shyly piped in.

All three women turned to look at Tori, waiting. “And we all agreed to have fun doing whatever we’re doing. So what if I’m having fun with Gil? What if Gil is . . .” She hesitated, studied all her friends’ faces as she finished. “Mr. Right.”

No shock. Or surprise. Or anger. Or any of the emotions she had worried she might see. There was, however, concern.

Sylvia finally spoke, shaking her head sadly as she did so. “I just hope it won’t turn into the Happily-Ever-After syndrome.”

“It won’t. I would never desert you,” Tori answered vehemently, hands raised in defense as she brushed off the suggestion.

Adriana laid her fork down as if her appetite had suddenly disappeared. “I guess we just never expected that your one night of fun would lead to something permanent.”

“I thought that’s what you wanted that night. For me to get lucky.”

“So, you’re really serious about Gil?” Juliana asked hesitantly and laid a hand on Adriana’s shoulder, almost as if she thought her friend needed comforting. Adriana possibly did. Of all of them, Tori and Adriana were the closest and this admission might worry her more.

“As in getting married serious?” Juli added for emphasis.

Instead of answering, Tori said, “I’m not sure how the family will handle it. Or how I will handle their reaction to Gil and me,” she admitted, needing her friends’ support more than anything.

Adriana nodded and perked up, seeming to throw off her earlier concern when she realized Tori was requesting her counsel. “You can’t worry about them.”

“They’ll probably want babies right away and — ”

“It’s your life. Girl, don’t let anyone force you to do something you don’t want,” Sylvia jumped in, emphasizing her point with a fork laden with a piece of fried ripe plantain.

Their reaction brought Tori a bit of calm, which gave her the strength to say, “I’m thinking of marrying Gil.”

Time seemed to spin in slow motion after her pronouncement. One by one, each friend reacted to the news.

A hesitant smile unfolded on Juliana’s face. Sylvia had a ghost of a frown on hers. Adriana was the hardest to read until she said uneasily, “That’s . . . wonderful, Tori. We couldn’t be happier. Right, chicas?”

Juliana and Sylvia stumbled over each other in their eagerness to reply.

“Girl, of course. Sí, como no.”

Despite their words, worry colored her friends’ voices. “I can see that you all think that if I marry Gil, I’ll escape to the suburbs of Kendall, bear a brood of kids, and forget that I was ever your friend.”

Reluctantly, Juliana admitted, “It’s happened to almost everyone.”

Adriana shrugged. “Except for Sarita. But who knew she would fall for a Ms. Right?”

Sylvia raised her hand. “I did. She made a play for me after a volleyball game one night.”

Tori grew astonished at that one. Sarita had been one of her best friends and she had never suspected. Sarita had come out of the closet and run away to Los Angeles after high school. “Why you?”

“She liked blondes,” Sylvia responded. She resumed eating and encouraged the others to do so as well.

For a moment it seemed as if things might just get back to normal. Especially when Adriana said, “Well, marriage isn’t a bad thing if it’s with the right man.”

Juliana nodded with some bravado. “Cierto. It just takes a lot of ranas before you get a prince like Tori did.”

Adriana forced a smile and motioned to Tori. “You’re nothing like Margarita and Esperanza. They married major mistakes, not like Gil at all. Now they’re back with Mami, along with their kids, and hearing on a daily basis how they screwed up.”

“Pobrecitas. Living with Mami the first time was hard enough,” Juliana commiserated.

Relief slowly blossomed within Tori. She had sensed they liked Gil, based on their reactions whenever she had brought him around. It seemed they could handle the relationship becoming more. “I really like Gil. Really like, as in I love Gil.”

“Ah, so he does make the earth quake,” Sylvia teased, and something made Tori want to shock Sylvia. She leaned close to Sylvia as if to share a secret, but spoke loud enough for all of them to hear. “We’ve really put that blindfold from my birthday night to good use. Just thinking about it makes my toes curl.”

Laughter erupted and Sylvia nudged her playfully. “Girl, should I be shocked that you’re really a vixen under that boring and uptight exterior? It’s kind of nice that you’re thinking this might be more than just living with him. Just living with guys . . . Call me old-fashioned, but that kind of arrangement only benefits them. When they’re done with you, hasta la vista, baby.”

Sylvia’s comment added to Tori’s relief, as she was usually the most difficult of the group when it came to men. With reason, considering her dysfunctional family life. But when her friends settled back to finish their meals, Tori still kept the knowledge to herself about her upcoming engagement.

First she had to survive breaking the news to her family.

And maybe her friends would handle her upcoming marriage just fine. Maybe they would even be able to trust that the Happily-Ever-After syndrome would not happen to her. After all, they had been best friends forever.

She was not about to let anything interfere with that.

Reviews

  • “Couldn’t put it down — fun, sassy, sexy, and honest . . . ” Jennifer Green, USA Today Bestseller!
  • “Chocolate with a cayenne pepper kick!” Eloisa James, NYT Bestseller
  • “Read it. Love it. You’ll find yourself there too.” Shirley Hailstock, Bestselling author of THE SECRET
  • “You’ll laugh and cry and cheer on these fun, gutsy and very real friends! Caridad’s South Beach is so real I could smell the Cuban coffee. I wanted more!” Berta Platas, top Latina author of Cinderella Lopez, St. Martins Press, March 2006
  • RT BookClub: “With a tropical setting, many mojitos, a dash of intrigue and plenty of romance, this book is perfect for a day at the beach. . . Pineiro does a good job of giving each character a complete story arc. . . . Pineiro is ultimately successful in presenting a fresh and enjoyable picture of four completely different friends trying to balance their lives as modern women with the demands of their more traditional Latin families.”
  • FreshFiction.com: “Ms. Piñeiro’s SEX AND THE SOUTH BEACH CHICAS is a marvelous view into the woven threads of female friendship. Es muy bueno. It’s very good.”
  • ONCEUPONAROMANCE.NET: “Sex and the South Beach Chicas is anything but boring and there is certainly at least one character you will find yourself identifying with and cheering on as she deals with the hurdles life sends her. You will also find yourself entertained by the friends and scenarios caused by that friendship. . . I enjoyed the interaction between these four very different personalities. . . Of course, this can also lead to some pretty heated discussions or this wouldn’t be even close to reality. Caridad handles these interchanges very well – thoughtfully and yet quite real.”
  • Cataromance.com: “In this story about friendship, occupations, family and love, Caridad Pineiro convincingly portrays the lives of four Latina women whose camaraderie is tested by numerous issues. With Ms. Pineiro’s perceptive depiction of the everyday life of these vibrant women, readers get to see each of them face many life-changing events. SEX AND THE SOUTH BEACH CHICAS is a delightful story full of emotion and romance, which has a lively setting and dynamic characters.”
  • Chicklitromancewriters.com: “Sex and the South Beach Chicas was never boring, the underlying tension between characters kept me turning the pages until I had learned about each and every one of them. With a tropical setting, a touch of intrigue and plenty of romance, this book is perfect for an afternoon of light and fun reading. Sex and the South Beach Chicas is a fresh and lively story of four completely different friends trying to balance their lives as modern women with the demands of traditional Latin families.”
  • Wereallydig.com: “Following these vividly portrayed modern women from traditional Latin families as their priorities change and relationships evolve has been well worth an afternoon.”
  • Singletitles.com: “Caridad Pineiro has created an appealing story, complete with memorable characters and a fun Latin locale. There are frequent scenes where the dialogue between these women left me smiling from their spirited comments. . . .The chapters were written in a clever way, as they were mostly devoted to just one of the women, which let them thoroughly reveal their thoughts and reactions. SEX AND THE SOUTH BEACH CHICAS has enchanting characters whose emotional stories will draw readers into their lives.”
  • Romance Reviews Today: “Who says that beautiful and sophisticated women only live in New York? SEX AND THE SOUTH BEACH CHICAS creates a scenario of several weeks in the life of four outstanding Latina women. . . . These are women who will not be swallowed up by marriage or family expectations, and any happily-ever-afters must include not only men, but satisfying work, and friends as well. The touches of Latina culture in the story shows us “all-American” is more than just apple pie, it is mojitos as well!”

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