Publisher: Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group
Pub. Date: February 2005
Age Range: Young Adult
Series: The Romantic Comedies Ser.
[ Where to buy
Synopsis:Road trip! Lula Cruz has her last summer before college all mapped out. She's checking out of NYC and checking in to the sizzling hot "SoBe" scene with her best friend, Jeff.
When their day jobs get to be a drag, they spice things up by entering a local band contest. And spicy it is! Turns out that the hottie Lula keeps running into is also her band's toughest competition! Enrique might seem like the perfect guy, but as things heat up Lula has to wonder: Can she trust her biggest rival with her heart?
"What good is getting a sexy suit if you're going to wear the world's biggest T-shirt at all times?" Jeff asked as they left Ocean Drive and strolled along the beach's cement walkway a few days later.
"All right! All right!" Lula cried. Yanking off her oversize T-shirt, she scowled at Jeff. She turned in a circle, showing off the skimpy hot pink bikini. "There! Are you happy?"
"You look great. I'd be even happier if you'd lose the glasses," he replied.
"Can you tell me why you want to see me stumbling around the beach, half naked and nearly blind!" she grumbled.
"You don't have to be blind. You know you could wear your contacts," he countered. "You have them, so why don't you use them?"
"They make my eyes feel dry."
"They do not. You just never gave them a chance," he insisted. "Your eyes are awesome! Why do you want to hide them behind glasses?"
Lula suddenly sat down on a bench set back off the walkway. "Why are you picking on me today?" she asked.
"I'm not," he insisted with an edge of annoyance, but then he softened and sat down beside her. "Am I? I don't mean to. It's just that it seems as if you hide behind those big shirts and beach cover-ups and your glasses. And sometimes I think you even..." He stopped himself, deciding not to say what had been on the tip of his tongue.
"What?" she demanded.
"Well, maybe you hide behind me, too," he added.
"I do not!" she cried indignantly.
"Lula, you only dated two guys all through high school, and only for a few months each," he reminded her.
"They weren't any fun. I always had more fun hanging with you," she said.
"But we even went to the prom together."
"I had fun at the prom," she said. "I thought you did too."
"I did, but..." He sighed, seeming to run out of steam and not finding the words for what he wanted to express. "It was a fun night."
Three good-looking guys in their twenties were walking along the path toward them. Jeff waved, and they waved back. "That's Marc, Jon, and Ethan," he told her. "They share the apartment upstairs -- the big one next to Daisy."
"Yours?" she guessed.
"Totally," he answered. "Marc, the cute one with the long blond hair, is a costume designer for a gay theater group. Jon, the one who looks like Adam Sandler, is a psych student at University of Miami, and the last guy, Ethan, the skinny one, is writing a screenplay. Nice guys." He stood up and took a step toward them. "I'm going to go say hi. Come and meet them."
Lula stayed seated. "I'll be there in a minute. You go." Really, she would have loved to meet them. But she was thinking about what Jeff had just said: that she hid behind him. Maybe it was true, in a way. And what if he was feeling that he needed some space from her? People always assumed they were a couple, and that could be making it difficult for him to meet other guys, even if it was just as friends.
He took a step to leave but stopped. "You okay?" he asked.
"Yep. Catch you later." He still seemed hesitant about leaving, so she got up and, with a wave, sauntered off along the walkway just beyond the trees and benches. She passed two men who looked her over with long, lingering glances. She hurried away and, when they were no longer staring, put the T-shirt back on.
She spied Daisy at her smoothie stand, with its gleaming metal cart and cheerful yellow umbrella, and hurried toward her. It was great to see a friendly face when she was suddenly feeling so all alone.
"Oh, thank god you're here!" Daisy greeted her. "I am dying to go to the loo!"
Lula looked at her quizzically. "The loo?"
"The WC, the water closet! The little girls' room!" Daisy explained.
"Oh! Sure! Go!" Lula told her. "I'll watch the stand."
"Thanks," Daisy said. "I'm sure no one will come. It's been slow as snails all day. And if someone does come by, just say I'll be back."
"I can handle it," Lula assured her. How hard could it be to make a smoothie?
Daisy rushed off, and Lula stepped behind the cart. She watched the people walking by, wondering what each of them did and why they'd come to South Beach. Everything was so different from New York City. Maybe she'd try to get over to the university soon and check out the --
"Excuse me." A voice pulled her out of her reverie.
Lula turned and froze.
It was him -- the amazing hottie they'd seen in the store!
"Could I get a Tropical Kiss?"
"Huh?" Lula said, too surprised by his unexpected appearance to think straight. Had he really said he wanted a kiss? She must be dreaming!
Lula felt something like lightning zap back and forth between them. The sensation lasted a second, but it felt so real, not at all like something she'd imagined.
"A Tropical Kiss," he repeated, pointing to the sign on the front of the cart. "A coconut-strawberry-kiwi-pineapple smoothie."
"Oh!" Lula said, laughing nervously. "I thought you said a tropical fish. I didn't hear you correctly."
Well, that was pretty lame of me, she thought. But she'd felt she had to say something to explain her dazed slowness to react. "You want a smoothie," she continued, desperately stalling until her brain could return from wherever it had disappeared to. "Sure. Sure thing."
God! He was gorgeous! Now that she saw him up close he was even more insanely handsome than she'd thought. His olive skin was perfectly tanned. He even smelled delicious, like coconut and almond sunscreen.
He took off his sunglasses and cleaned them on his white linen shirt. Looking up, he smiled at her. Just as they had when she first saw him, his whiter than white teeth glinted in the sun. Unbelievable brown eyes sparkled at her, and she noticed they were flecked with green and gold and rimmed with thick black lashes.
All at once she was glad she'd put her big T-shirt back on and, at the same time, wished she hadn't. At least she could take off her glasses and hope that Jeff was right about her eyes being amazing. So what if she couldn't see his face as well as before? It was a face she wasn't likely to forget.
"One Tropical Kiss coming up," she said, removing her glasses with what she hoped was a casual gesture, as if one always removed one's glasses before concocting a mixed beverage.
The trick now was seeing the ingredients inside the cart without her glasses. It shouldn't be too hard. Pineapple was yellow, strawberry was red, kiwi was green, and coconut was white. The frozen yogurt was cold. She could feel her way to it. She could manage this.
"Didn't I see you in a store a few days ago?" he asked.
Yes! she cheered inwardly. He'd remembered seeing her. He'd recalled her -- not Jeff. He was straight!
"You were looking at bathing suits," he reminded her.
"Oh yes, now I remember," she said, working hard to seem cool. She put the ingredients into the blender. "I was with a friend of mine." She hoped he'd picked up on the way she'd said friend. Not a boyfriend, just a friend.
"Oh, I didn't notice your friend," he said, "but I remember seeing you. Did you find anything you liked?"
Liked? Did he know how much she liked him? Was she that obvious? Then she realized what he'd meant. "Oh, you mean a bathing suit. Yes, I found one I liked."
She tossed all the ingredients into the blender and hit the button.
Smoothie goop instantly sprayed and splattered everywhere! She'd forgotten to put the top on before hitting the button!
Blindly, she pounded on the blender's controls as the two of them were pelted with cold, sticky smoothie. She hit it frantically but couldn't find the Off button.
The smoothie shot into her hair and on her T-shirt. And it was all over him. Even without her glasses, she could see that much!
"Gaw!" Daisy cried, running back toward them. "What's going on?"
"You're back! Great," Lula cried, wanting only to disappear. "Sorry about the mess."
Daisy punched the Off button, and the smoothie storm whirred to a halt. Daisy burst into peals of laughter.
"The two of you look such a fright!"
Mystery hottie stood there, his arms extended from his sides, dripping smoothie.
"Yeah, sorry about...it all," Lula apologized to him. There was no salvaging this disaster. She just had to get out of this mortifying scene instantly. "See ya!"
Avoiding the blurry shapes along the walkway, she ran toward the sidewalk. When she got there, she hurried back toward her apartment, leaving a trail of pink smoothie footprints on the sidewalk as she went.
Copyright © 2005 by Suzanne Weyn