Undressed: 1 (The Manhattanites), page 21
Ottavia fell to the floor in dramatics. She acted as if she’d run the New York marathon and required a Gatorade Thirst Quencher.
Massimo shook Lex’s hands. “What the hell—is the matter with you?” He switched his focus and assisted Ottavia to stand. Staring blankly at Lex, uncertain whose side to take, he remarked, “People will take your photo. Get used to it.”
Speechless, Lex offered no response.
Ottavia snorted over to her friend in names not worth repeating, chastising her for not coming to her rescue. “Scilla’s on her own with blondie,” she finished. Trolling to the boys in the far corner, she slipped the camera from her crotch with apparent satisfaction.
The men hooted. One gave the other cash bills. They’d made a bet on who won.
Scilla waved them a goodnight with a middle finger.
Locks from Ottavia’s hair extensions were imbedded in Lex’s short nails. Delayed panic came over her when she pushed the elevator’s “call” button again. The lift remained stuck on the main floor. Damn this old building. Unable to make eye contact with Massimo, she didn’t understand her rage. Where did her anger come from? The fight didn’t register as real in her conscious. Humiliated, frustrated and upset with herself, she fought back the urge to cry.
Beep. The elevator doors opened.
Lex stepped inside the elevator. She pushed the button for the main floor. I can’t believe I did this. The doors closed and the lift rose.
She was convinced the culprit to her fury must be the photos and the threat they posed. They’d ruin her life and her brand. She’d spent close to two decades away from the cameras with the intent to own peace. It had been fun for a second to be touted as a princess in waiting in the tabloids Blake had showed her. TMZ’s “Reclusive Fashion Designer Knocked Up by Italian Playboy” article reminded her how fast media turns.
But tonight, sixty seconds ago, caught on film with her lover’s load dried on her face. Raccoon mascara eyes shot to hell with a bloody nose. The reporters will say came from snorting crystal meth.
The cherry on the sundae is—Scilla kissing her—a hideous thing. Fuck! The papers would read “Girls Gone Wild” for sure.
Massimo pulled Lex into his arms.
“I love you, bella. Take a deep breath,” he murmured in her ear.
“I can’t breathe.” Adrenaline flooded her body, catching up with her actions. Her palms and underarms sweated. She felt faint and nauseous and shaky. But she wouldn’t let her fear show to Massimo. It was over. All over
“Mio amore, let me look at you.” He attempted to assess the damage. When she broke eye contact in disgust, he replied, “Scusa, I put you in such a situation.” Massimo reached for her hand.
Her arms refused his touch and folded over her chest as she tried to catch her breath. “You’re sorry?” Lex scowled, expecting Massimo to do more. She didn’t know what, but something.
He knocked the elevator’s “stop” button as the rusty gears squealed to a halt. Grinding her shoulders against the wall, he said, “Listen, to me. I cannot lay a hand on those girls. The media would have a field day. We would lose everything.” His lips were dry as he licked them, figuring out what to say next.
“Right, nothing you could do.” Lex brushed him off. She didn’t see his way and looked the other direction to free herself from his lecture.
Grasping her tighter he brought his nose tip to hers and continued, “In life it is how you, Lex Easton, react to situations which makes the difference.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“You may be used to rock ‘n’ roll brawls—but I am not.” He stepped back and wiped his mouth.
“How rich, coming from you,” she quipped. Lex didn’t accept him judging her actions.
“Scusa for what happened. People try to get a photo or a rise from me often.” He paused with an uncertain expression on his face and finished with, “You are too reactive.”
Peals of laughter, shrill in mockery, erupted as she repeated, “Reactive?” She stuck her tits to his chest, reenacting the breast fight while pointing at the cut she felt on her face. Recounting the verbal abuse from whore this, and cunt that she’d endured seconds prior. “It’s called defending yourself and protecting who you care for. Tonight was a mistake.”
“Meaning?” he asked as his eyebrows rose. What action did she refer to? Lovemaking? Or the girls fight? “Again scusa this happened.” His eyes issued an apology in addition to the words spoken from his lips. He offered, “I do not know what else to say.”
Nasty as his bachelor skeletons were, she’d gunned for sex even though he’d warned her. Nevertheless, Lex pressed on and threw herself at Massimo. Lex never expected ecstasy to downfall and boomerang at warp speed so quick.
“Boy, am I glad you wore a condom before you fucked me.”
“I never fucked them.” His mouth dipped into a frown.
“No, Prince Massimo Tittoni, you didn’t—you made love.” Her soul required her to be in Manhattan and to pretend Milan never existed. She slammed her fist against the wall in frustration.
“You are the only woman I have ever made love to.” Bleakness flashed in his dark eyes as he tried to get her to keep her focus on what mattered. “I will ignore your words. You are upset and have every right to be.” He hit the “resume” button sending the elevator to the main floor in defeat.
Her heart beat in despair.
Massimo lifted a concerned hand to her cut and soothed, “Bella, let me—”
“Stop, don’t touch me.” She winced from the pain.
The doors opened to the main floor.
Lex found the guts to walk a foot ahead. She accepted Massimo’s sport jacket he’d offered her to cover her face.
They struggled their way through the paparazzi out to the limo and gave the impression nothing had happened.
She hid her shame, anger and confusion, but she was questioning her actions, wondering if Massimo was right when he declared she was too reactive. Lex didn’t agree. How could she be stupid enough to allow herself to fall for a playboy? Prince Massimo Tittoni didn’t differ much when compared to Eddie Easton. She sure as hell possessed no intent to become Birdie.
Over the years, Lex questioned why her mother stayed with her father. Why her mother turned a blind eye. More than ever, why she memorialized Eddie’s death after he killed himself. Tonight the answer to her Birdie and Eddie Easton mystery found her.
It was called love.
She wanted no part in it. Ever!
Massimo took Lex to the police station over on Via Carlo Poma and filed charges against Scilla and Ottavia. He didn’t recognize how severe the hit was until they were inside the detective’s office. The station’s florescent lights brought everything into focus. Her left cheek had been mauled and her right eye was nearly swollen shut. Her arms were scratched.
Owning tonight’s misfortune, he’d encouraged Lex to go out. He’d carried her to the dance floor, and he agreed to go downstairs. Scilla and Ottavia had goaded him—not Lex.
Lex refused to go the hospital and wouldn’t visit the Tittoni’s private physician. She argued it would cause media speculation. And the medical staff would sell the photos. He didn’t know where her crazy assumptions came from.
Afterward the limo drove them home. Lex remained silent on the ride, and mumbled a thank you when the driver opened her car door in the mansion’s driveway.
“I will run you a bath.” Massimo motioned toward the bathroom and helped her upstairs.
She nodded in agreement but no words came from her mouth.
He turned the hot water on and poured in bubble bath.
Lex’s focus remained on the tub. She didn’t make eye contact with him. It troubled Massimo, but he couldn’t push her.
“Let me help you.” He unzipped the dress. Covered in blood flecks, Jemma’s creation dropped
Lex’s legs trembled.
Aw, Lex, please stop shaking. He rubbed her calf muscles. Once she was naked, he scooped her up in his arms and lowered her inch by inch into the tub filled with water. Her green eyes troubled him as she stared at him. “Rocco picked up your Kiwi shampoo at the store today. May I wash your hair?”
Quiet, Lex nodded a yes and turned her back to him to lather her up.
Her blonde locks turned dark brown as he poured water over her. The all consuming love they’d made earlier in the night evaporated into an icy chill between them. He noted Lex’s body tensed in apprehension. Her turmoil radiated inside, she screamed from within, but voiced nothing. Massimo hoped it wasn’t directed at him but knew otherwise.
Lex had argued in the elevator that he’d failed her. Massimo replayed the fight in his mind over and over again. He tried to see what more he could’ve done. He’d regretted his words. “What the hell is the matter with you?” And, “People will take your photo. Get used to it.”
Squeezing a fruity dollop in his hands, he massaged her scalp and neck. The cheery scent was indifferent to the dark cloud cast above them. “I am sorry, Lex.” His touches to her body were his way to say everything would be okay.
The stiffness in her upper body softened, and he heard her release a cry. His brave American didn’t tear up once at the club or the police station. He couldn’t see her face as she wiped her eyes, so he encouraged, “Let it out, bella.”
She kept her back to him and brought her knees up to her face. Lex hugged herself in the steamy water and sobbed.
“Per favore—talk to me.” Massimo scooped up water with a plastic cup and poured it over her back and neck. He waited for her to say something as he washed her over and over again.
“I’ll say something I’ll regret.” She reached over and pulled a small white washcloth from the wall.
Massimo glanced over her shoulder as she wiped her nose.
Blood stared back at them.
“I will wash your face when I finish with your hair.”
She dropped the towel in the water. The white bubbles turned crimson as it sank to the tub’s bottom.
“I love you, bella”
Lex chocked on her tears and said, “I love you too.” Her weeping grew louder and she garbled, “Scilla’s photos will hit the Internet and TV stations by morning—and the day after in print. Everything I built with Mom and Taddy is ruined.”
“Lex, you cannot talk like that.”
“I won’t recover from this scandal. I know it.”
He leaned forward into the tub and pulled her wet, naked body into his. “There is no scandal,” he reassured in her ear. “You did nothing wrong. It is uno photo.”
She turned, meeting his eyes. Something he’d never seen in Lex before came back at him—her fear. Lex held her soapy hand up to his cheek and exhaled. “I hope you’re right.” From the look on her face he knew she didn’t believe him.
“Easton will be fine and you will also.” He wiped her back and scrubbed her hands clean. Once finished, he scooped her up from the tub as the water hit the tiled floor. He wrapped her in a towel as they stood. Massimo carried her over to the counter and opened the medicine cabinet. Her nose wasn’t broken, but her right eye had bruised to a dark purple.
“Sorry I embarrassed you with the dress and my behavior tonight. I hoped we’d have fun. I’ve never—” She wiped her mouth.
He dried her tears. “Bella, you could never embarrass me.” Massimo didn’t want her to feel bad for anything. Tonight wasn’t her fault. “Where did you learn to fight?”
“Birdie, where else?” She rolled her one good eye.
He withdrew the antiseptic. “The lotion is going to sting. Chew on this.” He handed her a dry washcloth.
“You found a way to shut me up.” She joked and slipped the fabric between her teeth.
“Ready?” he asked, and she motioned yes. The second Lex bit down on the cloth, he began cleaning her cut. Micro bubbles traced the infection.
“Ahh!” Lex wept through the cotton. She grabbed his shoulders and wrapped herself around him.
When they were finished, Massimo dressed her in his pajamas. He rolled up the legs and arms cinching the drawstring tight around her.
“Woof, woof, woof.” Nicolo, Nino and Noe jumped on Lex. Excited to see her, the dogs almost knocked her over as she came into the bedroom.
Keeping his dogs in his suite, he put Lex to sleep in the guest room next to his bedroom. He lay beside her and spooned her body with his. Cupping his hands alongside her breasts, he buried his face in her nape and inhaled her sweet smell. He waited until she fell asleep before he closed his eyes. Massimo hoped nothing would come from tonight except a big misunderstanding. Lex spoke as she always did, with certainty that the photos would ruin her life. For the first time since he’d met Lex—he prayed to god she’d be wrong about this one thing.
* * * * *
Up at sunrise, he went to the Girasoli factory, leaving instructions for Rocco to let Lex sleep in as long as she needed. He hoped she’d stay the week but had promised him last night she’d leave today. When he called the police station to speak with the detective, they informed him Scilla and Ottavia had not been found. And since last night’s bar struggle was hearsay, it wasn’t on their priorities list. But the detective promised to bring them in for questioning as soon as they were located. Massimo figured the girls may head down to Capri.
When Massimo arrived at the Girasoli offices, Jemma opened the showroom and worked the Jemma couture line orders coming in. He went into his office to try to locate the leather manufacturer in Forte dei Marmi who’d fallen victim to Ottavia and Scilla. Maybe he’d be able to help the authorities locate them. Turning his computer on, one email flagged in red as urgent came from Brill, Inc. Why is Lex’s friend emailing me?
He opened it to read.
Dear Prince Massimo Tittoni,
I received your email address from the media relations director for the Capri Yacht Club where we are both members. I’m contacting you in regards to the media groundswell we’ve received overnight on our Easton Essentials account. Journalists released this fictitious disgrace ruining my St. Barth’s press trip and vacation. (Insert me spitting here.)
My devotion for Lex’s wellbeing goes untested. I am appalled at your behavior. Wait until you get a load of mine!!! Brill, Inc. is a silent partner with equity in Easton Essentials. Alongside Lex, we have worked ourselves to the bone to build her brand. You’ve destroyed her reputation and massacred her fashion empire.
I want restitution for your wrongdoings. After we wrap up New York Fashion Week, calculate the purchase orders and compare them to last year’s interest for Easton—Girasoli Garments will pay the difference. If unable to compensate, I will file in the Milan and New York City courts for lost revenue. When I’m finished mopping Ottavia and Scilla’s shit up, I will come for you. (Insert my evil eye here)
Until then, keep your spoiled ass away from the Big Apple and Lex. My executive assistant, Kiki, will be in touch with next steps.
Your NEW worst nightmare,
CEO, Brill, Inc.
Get fame, get glam, get Brill, Inc.
He didn’t understand what this Taddy Brill person ranted about in an email and how she knew the troublemakers’ names. He closed his email as his Internet browser came up and his eyes burned at the headline, “Like Mother, Like Daughter”.
Massimo clicked on the link. No, no, no. A woman frenching another woman with the caption, “Birdie Easton” underneath came up. A man credited in the picture as Mr. Slash stood behind her, massaging her breasts. In the article on the right side, last night’s picture with Lex and Scilla kissing her. Massimo stood behind her with his hands on her shoulders in an attempt to get Lex from harm’s way. But the photo gave the illusion he fondled Lex
From the way the camera caught Lex’s body in the sheer dress, to anyone who wasn’t at the party, she stood naked in the photo. The online magazine made matters worse by digitizing two black squares over her nipples. Massimo remembered her nipples weren’t visible through the dress. The tabloid had blacked her nipples out, alluding to readers that Lex had kissed topless. The glitter in the material on her dress created a sheen, which could be mistaken for sweat not fabric.
Another photo had been superimposed from Lex’s face on the left. It was her bloody nose with a caption about crystal meth usage, and then there was a third photo blown up even bigger, which showed her face with his sex on her cheek as well as a hickey from where he’d kissed her neck. Shit!
The article read as a smear from Birdie’s heyday in the eighties as Lucifer’s Mistress. It suggested Lex lived as a drug addict who fancied four ways at The Milan’s Art Auction. My poor bella.
Massimo clicked on more and more links. There was carnage about the Easton’s on every website. One image tripped every horrific story from years past. He grabbed the remote control and flipped the television on.
“Alexandra the Great has emerged from rock ‘n’ roll hiding and is horny in Milan,” blared a reporter from the TV.
He changed the station. A woman sat at an anchor desk and broadcast, “Known in the eighties as “Lucifer’s Mistress”, Birdie Easton suffered from oxycodone addiction and alcoholism. Left bankrupt when her husband killed himself, her daughter nursed her back to health. Join us in the next hour as we reveal this generation’s new party princess, Alexandra Easton, and how she’s tearing up Italy’s night scene with a vengeance.”
In disbelief, Massimo turned to the reputable network, certain they’d contact Milan authorities for a statement to speak the truth. He wondered why anyone hadn’t called Girasoli or Easton and asked for their rebuttal? The reporter broadcast, “We’re joined by Dr. Stuart Klein, a Harvard Medical graduate who will discuss Alexandra Easton’s drug addiction, her treatment options, and the help she needs to overcome her compulsive sexual addiction. Alexandra, if you’re watching, call us. We can help you.”