"You are just so . . . white," Jorge Valdez teased as Kiley McCann chewed her first bite of huevos rancheros con camarones--fried eggs on floury tortillas, with chiles and sauteed Pacific shrimp--definitely the most interesting thing she'd ever had for breakfast. It was so far afield from her usual Cream of Wheat or a toasted English muffin with jelly.
"I'm what?" Kiley managed to sputter through her mouthful of eggs.
"You should see your face," Jorge went on, grinning. "It's priceless. Like a little girl on Christmas morning who just got a pony."
"A little white girl," Kiley corrected, sipping some orange juice and digging in for another bite. She knew he was teasing her, and didn't really mind at all. "What can I tell you? It's the best thing I ever tasted."
Kiley sipped her coffee and looked around Bettina's Cafe, which, according to Jorge, was the best breakfast joint in all of Echo Park. This Los Angeles neighborhood was known for its high crime rate, gangs, and drive-by shootings. Espanol was the lingua franca, and Kiley was the only white person in the place.
Bettina's might as well have been ten thousand light-years from Kiley's birthplace of La Crosse, Wisconsin--home of the world's largest six-pack. Her father worked at the La Crosse Brewery and drank too much. Her mother was a waitress who was prone to panic attacks. The closest they'd ever come in their gustatory experience to what she was experiencing at the moment was the Taco Bell next to the La Crosse Wal-Mart.
"So, it's good, eh?" Jorge sat across from Kiley in one of Bettina's utilitarian orange plastic chairs. He was seventeen, just like Kiley. Skinny, of medium height with surprisingly broad shoulders, Jorge had very high cheekbones and amazing deep-set eyes the color of light just before dawn. They shone with intelligence and kindness. He had certainly been kind to Kiley, considering he barely knew her. In fact, she'd met him for the first time the night before.
Now she was living with him.
To make matters even more surreal, her maybe-in-the-process-of-becoming-boyfriend, Tom Chappelle, had been the one who dropped her off at Jorge's house. Tom had seemed to size Jorge up, as if Jorge could turn out to be a romantic rival. Or maybe that was all Kiley's imagination; the way she wanted things to be. Tom was a freaking model, for God's sake. A famous model. And she was plain old Kiley McCann from Wisconsin. Pretty much on a daily basis she asked herself why Tom was dating her. His former girlfriend, she knew, was a supermodel like him.
From the moment Kiley had met Tom at the Hotel Bel-Air, all she could think of was Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise, a movie from the eighties that she and her mother loved to rent and watch together. Brad Pitt in that movie was the sexiest guy on the planet. That was one of the few things upon which she and her mom agreed.
Tom's face and torso were currently gracing dozens of billboards all over Los Angeles, including a fifty-foot one directly above Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, where he wore nothing but Calvin Klein boxers and an "I want you" look on his chiseled face. Thousands--hundreds of thousands!--of Los Angelenas were currently lusting after the blond-haired billboard guy in the blue boxers. That makeup-free, not-exactly-skinny Kiley McCann from La Crosse, Wisconsin, was with him was bizarre. That Tom would consider any other guy competition was insane.
It has to be all in my imagination, Kiley decided.
Her eyes went to Jorge as she swallowed a bite of shrimp. He wasn't nearly in Tom's league in the looks department. Still, there was just something about this guy. A presence. A stillness in the midst of the chaotic restaurant. She could definitely see why girls would be attracted to him. Not her, of course.
"You're looking at me like you're about to eat me for breakfast," he commented.
Kiley blushed. "Oh, sorry. Lost in thought." She took another bite of huevos rancheros. "This is so good. Can we come back for lunch?"
She was gratified when he nodded. She looked around the restaurant. The place was small--no more than ten tables--and seemed even smaller because of how jammed it was. The digital Dos Equis clock read 10:30 a.m., but an overflow crowd was enjoying a late breakfast. There were lots of families and couples, their flirting and joking a loud Spanish counterpart to the salsa-format radio station piped through the sound system. As for the decor, Bettina's decorations were unlike any that Kiley had ever seen in an eating establishment: the walls were plastered with posters for soccer teams like Real Madrid, while twinkling Christmas lights hung at uneven intervals across the pale green walls.
Kiley had a sudden realization: she and Jorge were the only two people in the place speaking English. Jorge seemed to pick up on her thoughts.
"So you're a gringa." He shrugged and took a sip of horchata--a delicious cold rice-based drink he'd made Kiley taste. "They do let white people in here," he said with a straight face. "Then we beat the hell out of them and rob them."
Kiley gulped. With her auburn hair in a messy ponytail and her fresh-scrubbed face, no-name jeans, and a La Crosse High School T-shirt, she knew that she was conspicuous. As a girl, she was an easy mark. Not that she had anything for anyone to steal.
"Hey, I'm teasing you," Jorge said. "Don't worry so much."
"I wasn't," Kiley fibbed.
How she had come to this moment seemed dreamlike, since three weeks ago she had been an ordinary girl in ordinary La Crosse, Wisconsin.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Excerpted from The Nannies: Have to Have It by Melody Mayer. Copyright © 2006 by Melody Mayer. Excerpted by permission of Delacorte Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.