part one

Prologue

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 noble gesture indeed, one which took place prior to Massimo fucking up her textile order.

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.

, 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—”

Bebeee cacuuuse—

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.”

Rrrrerrkkkk

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.

Crap.

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.