Undressed: 1 (The Manhattanites), page 1
Book 1 in The Manhattanites series.
Milan’s notorious playboy, Prince Tittoni, seems to have everything—Lamborghinis, exotic women, palaces throughout Europe and business success. Ramping up his fabric company to go global with a new apparel brand, he ruthlessly stops supplying fabrics to the American client who inspired the collection. But once they meet, what’s he willing to give to get her in his bed?
Upper East Side designer Lex Easton has already endured her fair share of hard knocks. She’ll be damned if she’ll let an Italian stud muffin knock her down. So what if she named her favorite vibrator after him? With Fashion Week approaching, she’ll do whatever it takes to secure the fabrics she needs to make her clothing line an international success—even sleep with her rival.
Lex’s Louboutins are dug in deep to win this war. All’s fair in love and fashion!
Inside Scoop: Though the hero and heroine remain monogamous, their Prada-wearing friends indulge in a ménage a trois and other fashionable sexual fun and games.
A Romantica® contemporary erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave
To George, Pauline and Adam for always loving me as no one else can.
This novel wouldn’t be possible without the TLC from following people:
Brenda Novak, for taking me to my first RWA Nationals Conference and much, much more! You are the best BFF. Kate Hewitt, Massimo’s millionaire point of view wouldn’t be the same without you. Dee Davis, your writing classes at NYU got me going. JT Ellison for showing me “fashion” can be its own character.
The Ellora’s Cave family: Acquisition Editor Krishan Trotman for bringing Undressed and The Manhattanites to life. Art Director Syneca Featherstone, for the beautiful cover.
My peeps who championed this story from the beginning: Julie K., this book is as much yours as mine. Michele W., for being my magic. Marisa Corvisiero, at Corvisiero Literary Agency, for having my Aster. Manuel M., for the heroine’s day perspective. Courtney Howell and Courtney Parker for your grammar expertise. And my beta readers Edward, Nicole, Jenifer, Jackie, Sara, Shari, Shane, Kelly, JB, Hector and Lynn—here’s to us having our happy ending.
Are you ready for The Manhattanites? This star-studded cast is most aroused (wink) to share their stories with you. My idea for Undressed arrived during New York Fashion Week. I attended a show and thought—what if the fashion designer’s unique fabric was to no avail days prior to catwalk? And what if her supplier ceased fulfillment, to knock her line off?
I can tell you what The Manhattanites series lead diva Taddy Brill would say, “Holy Shiiit!” What about the heroine in Undressed, our fashion designer?
I coupled those what-ifs with a royal saga. Right then, the world watched Prince William marry Catherine Middleton. I reflected on the devotion his great-great-uncle, Edward, Duke of Windsor, shared for his Duchess, Wallis Simpson and wondered—would you give up your lifestyle for a once-in-a-lifetime love? And poof, my characters Prince Massimo Tittoni and Alexandra “Lex” Easton leaped into my creative prowess and, with anticipation, into your hearts. Enjoy.
Feels like Forever,
Cast of Characters: Major Players
Alexandra “Lex” Easton: (28) Suffers sexual frustration from working countless hours to build her fashion empire, Easton Essentials. She’s the late rock ‘n’ roll legend Eddie Easton’s feisty daughter.
Prince Massimo Tittoni: (34) A paparazzi magnet taking a hiatus from aggressive women. He’s King Umberto’s arrogant son, heir to the House of Tittoni dynasty and CEO of Girasoli Garment Company.
Tabitha “Taddy Brill” Adelaide Brillford: (28) An obsessive masturbator who is Lex’s lifelong friend. She’s a diva millionaire and dating “Big Daddy”.
Blake Morgan III: (28) A gay, gorgeous top who is estranged from his husband. He works at Brill, Inc and spearheads the Easton Essentials account as the brains behind Lex’s talents.
Viveca “Vive” Farnworth: (29) A female dominatrix who met Lex, Taddy and Blake in boarding school. Vive is the editor-in-chief of Debauchery magazine.
Jemma Fereti: (34) A former Ford model and adventurous in the bedroom. She prefers her men in multiples. Jemma is the lead designer at Girasoli Garments.
Birdie Easton: (49) Lex’s alcoholic, prescription-pill-addicted mother recovering from sexual compulsive disorder. She’s a former Eighties playmate and heavy metal icon. She works at Easton Essentials.
Poppy White: (31) Hosts her own entertainment program, The Poppy White Show. She arrived onto the Manhattan social scene the same time as Lex, Taddy and Vive.
Rocco Cazzo: (26) Hunk du jour and makes no apologies about it. As the House of Tittoni’s estate manager, he loves wearing Prada and is having an affair with The Pope.
Paloma Tittoni: (35) Massimo’s estranged half sister. She owns Paloma Tittoni’s Gems of Distinction and is a jeweler to the Upper East Side’s elite.
Luigi Bova: (36) Jemma’s rich bisexual lover who operates the Girasoli Garment Company.
Easton Essentials: North America’s fastest growing luxury apparel brand for women seeking to contour their figures. Easton retails to all the premium department stores in the world.
Girasoli Garment Company: A one-hundred-year-old textile manufacturer and supplier to Easton. Slated to launch a signature brand, they remain Italy’s largest fine fabric mill.
Brill, Inc: A Fortune 500 company and New York’s eminent fashion, beauty public relations and branding firm, which co-created Easton Essentials.
Debauchery Magazine: Read by four million people weekly, covering all things salacious in the fashion, beauty and celebrity arena.
The Poppy White Show: An American-syndicated talk show produced and hosted by its namesake, Poppy White. It remains the highest-rated talk show in the world airing in over one hundred and fifty countries.
Isola di Girasoli: A Mediterranean island south from Sicily and east from Tunisia. Formerly the Republic of Girasoli, today it is united with Italy. It is one hundred twenty-five square miles accessible via boat or air. In the eighteenth century it was founded as a sunflower plantation and today it is a resort and casino vacation destination.
Milan: Home to such fashion superbrands as Prada, Armani and Dolce & Gabbana, Milan remains the world fashion capital. Its elite fashion district is the “quadrilatero della moda” and the city’s common area has a population of about 1.3 million. It is the headquarters for Girasoli Garment Company and the location for the House of Tittoni’s estate.
Manhattan: Where Undressed’s characters reside. Its population is about 1.5 million (excluding all areas off the island). It is the launch pad for such iconic fashion designers as Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Betsey Johnson, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs and countess others. It is the headquarters for Easton Essentials, Brill Inc, Debauchery magazine and The Poppy White Show.
For the Love of Fashion
Screw the Masi Salami Dildo Fantasy
“Massimo, answer the flippin’ phone—you royal pain in my ass!” Lex Easton vented out loud in her Manhattan showroom. Doing her best to keep raw emotions in check, she remained on hold, at his mercy, waiting to speak to the Italian stud muffin she’d nicknamed her beloved vibrator after.
Lex praised Prince Massimo Tittoni, famed CEO to the Girasoli Garment Company, by naming her sex toy after him. It was a
Unlike the prince, who’d been impossible to reach, her dildo, titled “The Masi’s Salami”, remained by and large amenable and on hand whenever needed. It featured the unique double A battery power to relieve her nervous tension during horrific moments such as this one.
Today’s call, one of many in recent weeks, shunted from the office manager to the purchasing coordinator to the legal department. At last, she’d spoken to the imperial’s Mediterranean summer estate’s ground manager, who claimed he’d see if the prince would take her call.
She realized her verge for doing more than losing her voice to his hold music was crossed. I’m ready for ya, Masi.
A deep voice with an Italian accent came on the line, interrupting Puccini’s La bohème opera “When I Go Along.” After thirty-plus calls, she knew Puccini’s classics by heart. Raised on heavy metal, Lex wasn’t a fan. “This is Prince Massimo Tittoni.”
Through the bad connection, Lex heard laughter and water splashing and laughing in the background. Her thoughts darkened. No wonder he’d been difficult to get in touch with. And how nice it must be to take an extended vacation. She hadn’t taken time off in years.
Closing her eyes, she put her free hand to her forehead. Focus. Except white spots glittering over her eyes suggested an oncoming migraine. Lex cleared her throat. “Thank you for taking my call, Your Majesty.” Inhaling a deep breath to help with the nausea, she nagged, “I’m sorry to interrupt your vacation, but I’m on a tight deadline and the fabrics I need to complete my upcoming fashion collection were supposed to have arrived in my Midtown warehouse over a month ago.”
He gave no response. Did she lose him already? “HELLO? Are you there?” Fashion gods, Halston, St. Laurent, Givenchy, watch over me.
“Sì, signorina.” His voice was low and seductive. “Please tell your boss, Signor Lex, we will not be shipping Easton the fabrics after all. We won’t be doing business with Easton going forward because—”
An echo made it impossible for her to hear what he said next.
Because why? And did he say Mr. Lex? The boss? She was the boss.
“Prince Massimo, you are speaking to Lex.” You buffoon—I’ve been buying fabric from you for two years.
A fresh burst of static crackled over the line.
“I’m the owner, Lex Easton.” Did he hear her? Maybe not—Damn this Verizon phone.
“Signorina, please tell Signor Easton I am on holiday for the month. I feel terrible we are unable to fill the order. Nevertheless the wheels are in motion. I will send a certified letter tomorrow in effect. Now if you will mi scusi, I am being rude to my guests.”
The phone squealed.
“No! Please! What do you mean you can’t fill the order? Why not? Whose wheels are in motion?” I ride the subway. I don’t own any wheels.
He’d hung up. Her entrepreneurial window for victory—slammed shut.
With the phone clutched to her chest and the black plastic cord wound around her fingers, Lex laid her head on the drafting table, succumbing to the headache dancing between her temples. Pain shot through her body as tears choked her.
“Rude to your guests,” she wailed and stomped her Christian Louboutin pumps under her chair. “What about being rude to me?” It was over for her. She’d be a laughingstock in the fashion community.
Lex predicted the grim newspaper headline, “Daughter to Late Rock ‘n’ Roll Legend Eddie Easton Closes Her Fashion Brand.” This evening’s news at eleven broadcasting, “Easton Essentials, American’s leading upscale apparel line, is unable to fulfill production and will not be showing at New York’s upcoming Fashion Week.”
Whatever sexual fantasy she’d dreamt for the prince flew out her twenty-first story window along with her fabric. Massimo’s selfish refusal to deliver on her brand’s signature identity—the unique material which completed her line’s success—made him repulsive.
Her office door creaked open.
“Honey, Lex, you in here? There are three calls on hold for you.”
She avoided eye contact with her mother. To Birdie Easton, Lex’s despair would be obvious. “Please take a message, Mom, or send them to voice mail.”
“Line two is the handsome Wall Street fella—who keeps asking you out. What shall I tell him?”
“Tell him I don’t have time.” Her love life would have to wait. It always did. I’ve already kissed my sex life bah bye too. Hell, no man had touched her here, there, or anywhere in weeks, months, years. She was overdue. Infuriating. Did abstinence cause migraines?
Her mother’s arms looped around her shoulders. “Honey, what’s wrong? Did you talk to the textile plant? Will they release the fabrics?”
Lex sat up and studied her mother’s weathered face. “Maybe,” she hedged. She couldn’t tell her the truth.
After caring for a drug addict husband while taming her own substance abuse demons, it was evident Birdie persevered, but at Lex’s expense. Her mother’s Malibu detox bills drained any savings Lex stashed. Birdie had been sober for two years—and counting.
She continued, “Since they are the only supplier who manufactures what we need—I have to fly to Isola di Girasoli tomorrow to meet with the prince about the shipment.”
Yes, she’d go see him. Giving up wasn’t an option. Why should she allow Massimo to destroy her fashion company? Easton Essentials was the bloodline to her urban life. Designing fashion kept her going these past few years.
“Isola di Girasoli?” her mother repeated. “Why?”
“I need to speak to the prince face to face. I have no doubt I can persuade him.”
“But if he’s being difficult, why don’t we get legal involved?”
“There’s no time, Mom. We have the fashion show in ten days.” She tried to smile but couldn’t. “We’re desperate.” Ten days.
“Invite Vive and Taddy. I’m going too. We’ll shop, shop, shop.” Birdie attempted her onetime, overbearing tone she’d snorted up her nose and lost as an Eighties rock ‘n’ roll icon, many parties ago.
Shop—with what money? No inventory equals zero paycheck, Mother. “I’d love for you to come.” A white lie, but Lex attempted to sell it. “But you are needed here to finish the details on the fashion show. I’ll handle Girasoli.”
Her mother grew more worried than less and questioned, “On your own?”
Lex forced the impossible smile. “It’ll be fine. I’ll use whatever Amex points we have left to buy an airline ticket and rent a hotel room in town.” She realized they may be cash poor but were miles rich. “Then I’ll jet up to Milan for the industry event afterward. I promise to return with the fabrics.” Hoping she could keep her vow, Lex knew Isola di Girasoli was somewhere Mediterranean, perhaps off Sicily’s coast, but not much else.
The trip was daunting enough that she’d prefer companionship. She could’ve requested her two gal pals make the trip. Both remained devoted, even after she was left with zilch. Taddy Brill would’ve been her obvious choice. Except, Taddy’s PR firm was hosting a press trip in St. Barth’s and left strict instructions—not to be disturbed.
Backup bestie Vive Farnworth would’ve been her natural alternate. However, Vive gave new meaning to the term “high maintenance.” Her ever so demanding ways as Debauchery magazine’s editor in chief made a trip to the toilet a Vogue worthy affair. Lex didn’t have the energy.
Conscious she’d been fucked by the prince in a way she’d never imagined, she squeezed her mother’s hand and found her strength to carry on.
“I wish your father were alive,” her mother quavered.
“So do I.” Since his death, she’d longed for someone to lean on.
Holy Coco Chanel
Lex was almost there.
After ten hours, aboard two planes seated in economy and another four cramped in
“Signorina, hold onto your seat. We’re pulling in to the harbor,” shouted the boat’s driver.
The ship glided to the dock and a still calm replaced the rocking sensation as the engines shut down.
Azimut yachts packed the bay, sleek in design. Each vessel sported bronzed, statuesque passengers sunning on the decks—nude. Talk about perfection.
“Fuuuck!” yelled a toned, tan, fit woman perched on the largest ship’s sun lounge in the inlet. She grabbed the shiny brass railing with her left hand holding on for dear life.
Oh no. “HELP, somebody—get a doctor.” Lex shouted to the captain. “She’s having heat stroke.”
The captain laughed at Lex and ignored the woman.
“Fuck! Fuuck! Fuuuck!” Flipping her long black tresses from her face, the woman’s eyes didn’t say heart failure. Neither did the wide smile gracing her lips—or her panting tongue.
Lex realized there was no medical issue. Pupils dilated, red faced, heaving, she was exercising, cardio perhaps?
The woman squatted—up, then down, up, then down. But her movements weren’t Tai Chi, Yoga, or Zumba either.
“Sì, sì,” moaned a man popping his head up from underneath her. He buried his face in her breasts pulling down her metallic bikini top exposing her distended coffee hued nipples. He cupped them. He sucked them. He pinched them.
Lex appreciated the woman was a screamer, riding cock, on a cruiser in the open waters for everyone on Isola di Girasoli to enjoy. Happy to see someone’s gettin’ it.