Park Avenue (Book Six in the Fifth Avenue Series) (5 page)

BOOK: Park Avenue (Book Six in the Fifth Avenue Series)
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CHAPTER FIVE

 

“What are you doing?”

Mario De Cicco, her strapping fiancé and the love of her
life, appeared in the doorway of her walk-in closet, where she was on her knees
going through the bags of clothes that surrounded her.
 
In his hand was an energy drink.
 
He was sweaty and obviously had been
working out, likely trying to shake off what had been a difficult morning.
 

His children, Sophia and Stefano, had boarded a plane earlier
to go back to school in Sicily, where their grandmother, aunts, uncles, cousins
and many of their friends lived.
 
She knew it was hard for him to let them go, but going to the school he
himself had attended was a family tradition.
 
He received a good education there and
the experience of living abroad was something he’d never forget.
 
He knew better than to stop that
tradition for his own children.

“Everything okay?” she asked.

“They’ll be fine.”

“We’ll visit in a couple months?”

“That’s the plan.”
 
He nodded at the bags of clothes.
 
“What are you doing?”

“Trying to figure out what will work for dinner with my
father and also for the Fondaras party.”

He looked around the crowded closet and chose his words
carefully.
 
“Nothing here is
appropriate?”

“Most of it’s for the hotel.
 
I’ll find something.”

“How about if I go with you tonight?
 
To the party, not to your father’s.”

She dug deep into one of the bags and pulled out a pair of
Spanx.
 
After what happened three
years ago at The Hotel Fifth and a year ago at the Four Seasons, his first
instinct was to protect her.
 
She
loved him for it, but at some point, she needed to stand on her own.
 
“You’ve had a rough day and this would
only make it worse.
 
You know how
these things are.
 
Kiss kiss, hug
hug, hurl hurl.
 
I’m only going
because I know how Anastassios operates.
 
The media will be there.
 
If
I’m lucky, they’ll ask about the hotel.
 
We open in a month.
 
I’ll
take all the free publicity I can get and that’s one place where I might get a
lot of it.”
 

She held up a dark red dress and tossed it aside.
 
She held up a shorter dark blue dress,
hesitated and then also tossed it aside.

“You’re going to have a stroke finding something to wear.”

“I just need that one dress....”

“Why don’t you let me help?”

“Says the man who’s practically nude.”
 

“I’m wearing a towel.”

She looked up at him.
 
Every part of him that should be bulging was happily obliging.
 
“Exactly.
 
And actually, I was going to ask you to
put something on.
 
That’s
distracting.”

“What’s distracting?”

She drew an imaginary circle around his muscled torso.
 
“All of that.
 
That right there.
 
That’s distracting.”

He motioned to the bedroom behind him.
 
“All of this can be had right over
there.”

She was about to say no, but the sight of him always did her
in.
 
After all they’d been through
together, he turned her on now than ever.
 
“What time is it?” she asked.

“Just after four.”

“Just after four?”
 
She stood up.
 
“Hell, it
doesn’t take me that long to get ready.
 
If it comes down to it, all I need is a little black dress or
something.
 
That would work for each
occasion.”

“It would.”

 
She felt charged
by the thought of being with him now.
 
If anything could make her cares go away, it was Mario’s moves in the
bedroom.
 
She pulled her shirt over
her head and snapped her finger against his energy drink as she walked past
him.
 
“Drink up, stud.
 
You’re going to need it.”

 
 

*
 
*
 
*

 
 

Two hours later, Leana rolled on top of him, her hair damp
and hanging in his face.
 
He kissed
one of her breasts and then pressed a finger against her nose.

“This is going to be interesting,” he said.

“What’s going to be interesting?”

“Watching your face in the next few seconds.”

“You can’t be serious.
 
What are you going to do to me now?
 
Haven’t you done everything?
 
There can’t be anything else.
 
You can’t
have
anything else.
 
Unless you’re hanging out with Sting,
it’s impossible.
 
And by the way,
that thing you did about fifteen minutes ago?
 
You need to remember that.”

“It’s not me,” he said.
 
“It’s the time.
 
Do you even
know what time it is, Leana?”

She whipped around and looked at the alarm clock on the table
beside them.
 
A jolt went through
her.
 
“It’s almost six o’clock!”

He patted her on the ass as she leaped off him and ran into
the bathroom.
 
He heard the shower
spring to life, the glass door clang shut and a bottle of some sort drop onto
the ceramic tile.
 

He cracked open the door.
 
“Need any help?”

“Is that even a question?
 
I don’t have anything to wear.”

“I can take care of that.”

“Mario, you do enough.”

“It’s not a big deal, Leana.”

“Maybe something from one of the bags,” she said.
 
“You know what looks best on me.
 
Something from one of the bags and a
pair of shoes.
 
Or maybe that little
black dress we talked about earlier.
 
Actually, that would work best.
 
I have a few, and they’re already pressed.
 
I want to look professional.
 
Smart.
 
A little sexy for the party, but not too
sexy for my father, which would be weird.
 
I need to bring it.”

“What you need to do is calm down.
 
And don’t worry about it.
 
You’ll be bringing a lot of it.
 
I promise.”

When she finished showering and came out of the bathroom with
her hair in a towel, what she saw on the bed wasn’t a black dress or something
she purchased earlier.
 
Instead, he
chose her favorite pair of jeans, her favorite pair of Jimmy Choo’s and a white
Prada silk shirt, also her favorite.
 
She wore this exact outfit a week ago, when they went to the opening of
a new restaurant in the Village.
 

She looked up, aghast, and found him sitting across the room
with a glass of scotch in his hand.
 
There was no time for him to choose something else for her.
 
“What is this?” she asked.

“That’s what Leana Redman would wear.”

“But it’s not what I asked for.”

“Everything in those bags are what Celina Redman would
wear.
 
You’re not Celina
Redman.
 
You’re Leana Redman.
 
Remember her?
 
She’s twenty-nine, she’s beautiful, and
she has the sort of edge and style that can turn an outfit like that into something
no one forgets.
 
I suggest you wear
that.”

“Why are you doing this to me?
 
What will Dad, Fondaras and the rest of
them think?”

“Since when do you care what people think?”

“Since I’m opening a hotel in four weeks.”

“Look,” he said.
 
“Being in business doesn’t mean you lose your identity.
 
In fact, that’s when you claim your
identity.
 
You become the
brand.
 
They’ll see what I
see—a great-looking woman who doesn’t kiss ass and who has her own sense
of style.
 
They’ll see
you
.
 
And by seeing you in that outfit
tonight?
 
You’re going to get more
press than you imagined.”

She knew he was trying to help, but she was running out of
time.
 
It was 6:30.
 
She needed to hustle and find something
else to wear.
 

“I bought a few things to enhance the outfit.”

“Enhance it?”

He came over and opened the drawer to the bedside table.
 
Inside were four Tiffany boxes of
varying sizes.
 

“You’re concerned about the jeans.
 
I get it.
 
These should make you feel more
confident in them.”

It was difficult to surprise Leana Redman, but if anyone
could do it, it was Mario.
 
“What
are you up to?”

He handed her each box.
 
When she finished opening them all, she was speechless.
 
He bought her a massive diamond cocktail
ring set in platinum, a diamond bracelet that was five stones deep, diamond
earrings that were large, but not obnoxious, and a diamond necklace that was
designed to be obnoxious.
 
They
would cause necks to break when women turned to catch a glimpse of them.
 

If only because of her mother, Leana knew jewelry.
 
There was more than a million dollars of
it in front of her.
 
If worn
properly, what Mario had gifted her could turn something casual into something
that would make a statement.
 

“Mario,” she said.
 
“This is ridiculous.
 
I don’t
know what to say.”

“You just said plenty in bed a moment ago.”

“I don’t think those were words.”

“Just consider me a happy man.”

“Thank you.”

“If anyone can pull this off, it’s you.
 
And all of this is you—jeans and
diamonds and a bit of an attitude.
 
I knew what you were up against tonight, so I put some thought into
it.
 
Make me proud, cause a scene no
one will forget and you’ll get the press you need for your hotel.”

“You know, there’s still time.
 
Forget about what I said earlier.
 
Come to the party with me.”

“And stand you up with my Italian good looks?
 
I love you, Leana, but this is your
moment.
 
Tonight, I’ll take a back
seat.”

 
 

*
 
*
 
*

 
 

She had no time to do much of anything.
 
She blew out her hair with a dryer and
put a flat iron to it.
 
She put on
makeup, changed into her clothes and then looked down at the jewels that were
laid out on the bed.
 
They should
come with their own security team,
she thought.

She put them on and went to the mirror in her closet to
adjust them.
 
And when she did, his
vision became clear.
 

In no way, shape or form was she properly dressed for her
father or for the Fondaras crowd.
 
What Mario had given her was a game changer.
 
He knew that going against convention and
showing up looking like this would generate press as she leaned into the final
weeks of opening her hotel.
 
But
what if the press was negative and it backfired?
 
How would that affect the hotel?
 
Would it negatively affect it, or would
it only fuel interest in it?

Mario moved behind her.
 
“That’s what Leana Redman would wear.”

She wasn’t so sure.
 
Much of her life had been lived by taking risks, but now, with the
responsibilities of the hotel on her, she felt more conservative than
ever.
 
“Don’t take this the wrong
way,” she said.
 
“You don’t know how
much I appreciate what you’ve done.
 
But I know those people.
 
They’re going to rake me over the coals.”

“Who is?”

“Everyone on that yacht.”

BOOK: Park Avenue (Book Six in the Fifth Avenue Series)
5.23Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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