Park Avenue (Book Six in the Fifth Avenue Series) (7 page)

BOOK: Park Avenue (Book Six in the Fifth Avenue Series)
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But it was starting again.
 
Somehow, it was starting again.
 
The words had been chosen for ultimate
humiliation and degradation.
 
She
looked at them with a sense of foreboding and knew what was ahead of her.

“LEANA REDMAN IS A MURDERING CUNT!” the message said.

When
one of the television reporters stepped forward to ask her if it was true, all
she could do was hold Mario back and walk away with him in fear and disbelief.

 
 
 
 

CHAPTER SIX

 

When she and Mario were in the limousine, she called her
father, told him what happened and that she wouldn’t be able to make it.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“Sorry for what?
 
Have they removed the tarp?”

“I’m calling my crew next.”

“You should have called them first, so do it now and do it
fast.
 
The sooner it’s down, the
better.
 
You’ve got a lot on your
plate.
 
Call me when you’re ready
and we’ll reschedule.
 
But let’s do
it soon.
 
I need to talk to you
about Pepper.
 
You’ll get through
this.
 
Keep Mario close.”

She hung up, surprised by his concern and that he’d given her
even a trace of advice, which was unlike him.
 
She called her construction chief and
told him about the situation, which he knew about.
 
He informed her that the tarp already
was in the process of being replaced.
 
“We’re working as fast as we can,” he said.

“How did this happen, Harry?
 
Someone inside should be paying
attention to what’s happening outside.”

“I’ve got everyone on-hand working in the rooms,” he
said.
 
“Right now, a staff member is
stationed outside the building.
 
Someone will be there day and night until the hotel opens.
 
This will be fixed quickly.
 
Don’t let this get to you.”

“I won’t.”

But that was a lie.
 
Already it was eating away at her.
 
Tonight, she’d headline the local news, if not the national news, as
well as the news and gossip websites.
 
In tomorrow’s papers, her face and the portion of that message they
could print would be put in front of millions of people who either liked the
Redmans or hated them.
 
The story
would be picked up by radio and discussed at length on countless shows.
 
She was sick at the thought of it.
 
And she was scared to death of what that
message could mean for her and her family.

Tonight was supposed to be a night to reconnect on some level
with her father and a night to talk to the press about her new hotel.
 
Now what was it?

An opportunity.

It was Harold’s voice.
 
She ran a hand through her hair and considered the thought.
 
She should be in front of this story,
not behind it.
 
She should be
standing up to whoever did this to her, not shrinking away from them.
 
At this moment, looking weak was the
worst thing she could do.
 
The
Fondaras party was the perfect opportunity to face this head on.
 

She looked at her watch and then at Mario.

“You up for a party?” she asked.
 

 
 

*
 
*
 
*

 
 

Within thirty minutes, they were out of their apartment, back
in the limousine and off to the party.
 

Now, Mario wore a pair of jeans, Prada loafers and a pale
blue shirt that was open at the neck.
 
On his wrist was a massive nickel-plated watch that was nearly as bright
as the diamonds he gave Leana.
 
When
it caught the light, the effect was dazzling.
 

“You’re sure about this?” he said.

“I’m positive about this.”

“I’ve got to say, you’re doing the right thing.”

She squeezed his hand.

“But be ready.
 
The word is out.
 
They
already know what happened.
 
Once
they see you approaching the yacht, the press will swarm you.”

“Let them.
 
I’ve
got plenty to say.”

“What are you going to say to them, anyway?”

“You’ll see.”

 
 

*
 
*
 
*

 
 

The yacht was located in the North Cove Marina along the
Hudson.
 

In their brief moment of anonymity, Leana and Mario took in
the sheer size of Fondaras’ yacht and despite everything, couldn’t help but
marvel at it.
 
It was one hundred
eighty feet long and it glowed bright white in the waves of swirling lights
that shined upon it.

Other couples in formal wear passed them, but not without
looking back to frown at their attire.
 

The men seemed especially displeased with their
appearance.
 
The women, however,
drawn to Leana’s diamonds, couldn’t help their lingering gazes as they sized
her up before their lips parted as recognition struck.
 
Their eyes, once rooted to the diamonds,
flashed up to meet hers.
 
She smiled
in return before she heard her name shoot through the crowd and ignite the
ensuing melee.

The press was quick to react.
 

Leana steeled herself and continued to walk forward as they
rushed to gather their equipment and hurry over to her.
 

Mario put his hand on her back.
 
“Are you okay?”

“I’m perfect.”

“You’re weirdly calm.”

“It’s the diamonds.”

“The hell it is.”

“Get ready for the show.”

“Do you want me to stay here?”

“I think I’ll take them on by myself.”

He stepped aside with caution on his face.
 
“Have at them,” he said.

Within a matter of minutes, she once again found herself at
the center of a media frenzy.
 
Cameras went off in rapid succession.
 
The night sky popped with lights.
 
People hurled questions at her.
 
Some asked her to turn this way, that
way, then forward again.
 
She
obliged but then held up a hand, which caused even more cameras to go off.
 
“Come on,” she said to the crowd.
 
“Give a murderer a break.”

There was a moment of stunned silence, but when she held out
her hand to check her nails, she knew she had them.
 
Some broke into laughter.

“Leana, what happened tonight?”

“Isn’t it obvious?
 
I think we’ve all learned tonight that I can be one ugly, murdering
runt.”
 
She shrugged.
 
“Or something like that.”

Again the cameras, in earnest.

She dropped her hand and became serious.
 
“Look,” she said.
 
“Tonight, we’re here to raise money for
charity, which is a lot more important than what happened to me earlier.
 
If you’d like, I’ll make a brief
statement and then join our host, Anastassios Fondaras, to help support this
event.”

“Would you be as detailed as possible, Leana?”

Leana looked over at the reporter who asked the question and
said, “Of course.
 
I was sucker
punched by a prank.
 
That’s all it
was.
 
Some of you know I have a new
hotel opening in a month on Park Avenue called The Park, which apparently has
made someone a little upset and angry with me.
 
Maybe it’s the owner of a neighboring
hotel.
 
Maybe they heard my hotel
kicks ass, because it does.
 
We can
talk about that later if you’d like.
 
At any point during the party, just ask me and we’ll talk.
 
But for now, who knows?
 
On the tarp that’s covering the
building, someone wrote in red spray paint that I’m a murdering...”
 

She stopped.
 
“You’ll need to fill in that last word for yourself.
 
I won’t say it because it’s offensive to
me and degrading to women.
 
Those
who are interested will be reading about it in tomorrow’s papers and hearing
more about it on tonight’s newscasts, so soon everyone will know what someone
thinks of me.
 
And I’m here to tell
you—I’ve never been more flattered.”

“What’s happening now?”

“The police are looking into who might have done it and I
have no doubt that they’ll succeed.
 
They’re the country’s best.
 
I also want to admit something.
 
I may be taking this in stride now because I’ve had time to process it
and dismiss it, but as you’ll see in the photographs and news footage that were
taken of me when I arrived at the scene, I wasn’t so cool then.
 
I’ve been called a lot of things, but
never that.
 
At least not in spray
paint across the front of a building.
 
They got to me and it will show in the images.
 
I took it hard and I regret it because I
gave them the reaction they wanted.”

She reached out for Mario’s hand and pulled him close.
 
“I’m only human.
 
What I’d like everyone to remember is
the big picture.
 
There are a lot
more important things to focus on in this world than someone taking a cheap
shot at me.
 
I’m fortunate.
 
I know that.
 
There are too many who have it far worse
than I do.
 
That’s why I’m here
tonight, to support this event.
 
But
since I knew some of you would be curious about my reaction, I just wanted to
say that I’m not taking any of this seriously and I hope that you won’t
either.
 
It is what it is and yes,
it sucks.
 
But frankly, whatever.”

Someone started to ask a question but Leana pressed on.
 
“Just one more thing.
 
I have a few dozen journalists in front
of me and I’m not about to miss an opportunity to ask a question like this because
you of all people will know the answer.”
 

She let a beat of silence pass.
 

“Where
on that ship can a girl get a drink?”

 
 
 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

As she and Mario moved past the last of the reporters, she
turned a final time to give them a shot with a different background, waved to
them and then put her arm around Mario as they moved into the yacht itself.

“You were brilliant,” he said.

“We’ll see.”

“I’m proud of you.”

She winked at him and then heard somebody to her right say,
“Look at them.
 
They must be from
California.
 
Who dresses like
that?
 
Jeans and heaps of fake
diamonds.
 
Anastassios should banish
them.”

Leana recognized the voice.

She stopped and faced Lady Alexa Ionesco of Spain.
 
Once, she had been great friends with
Leana’s parents before Elizabeth Redman was sent to jail for committing murder
and society had a falling out with the Redman family.
 

Leana never cared about the circles in which her parents and
sister once moved.
 
It was fake, not
her scene.
 
She only had
participated when she was called upon by George and Elizabeth to be at one of
their events because at a young age, that apparently was her duty.
 

Back then, she could give a rat’s ass what anyone thought of
her, especially someone like Ionesco, who probably got her title by opening up
her checkbook and saying, “How much?”
 
But now that she was going into business for herself, she knew
better.
 
She had to play the game.
 
She had to work hard to get
word-of-mouth going in her favor.
 
And right here is where she could do the most good for her hotel.
 

“Lady Ionesco,” Leana said.
 
“I thought I heard your voice.
 
How are you?
 
My God, it’s been years.”

BOOK: Park Avenue (Book Six in the Fifth Avenue Series)
10.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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