Gio directed us to a table, pulling out our chairs in the same grand, over-exaggerated fashion that he had greeted us. I was pretty sure that his actions would come off as cheesy when done by most men. But on Gio it was endearing and entertaining. He had a way of making a woman feel like she was on a pedestal within a minute of meeting him.
We sat for almost a half an hour eating delicious biscotti and sipping espresso. Gio filled us in on the city of Parma and the history of Bellissima. He told us funny stories about a dozen famous Italian singers he had recorded in the last few years. I was impressed at the level of celebrity that he worked with, but it was even more endearing that Gio did not seem impressed.
Eventually we made our way back into the studio and up to the second floor where we were introduced to the group that would be our recording team. I was relieved when everyone spoke English, even if it was with a heavy Italian accent. Over the next six hours we made dozens of recordings, many of the same sections over and over again. When our voices began to show signs of strain, Gio said it was enough for the day and that we had to save our voices for our performance that evening.
He made us both promise we would not speak until one hour before our show. I tried to protest, to let him know that we would be okay, but the moment I opened my voice to speak, he put a finger on my lips.
“You have a beautiful voice, bella. You listen to Gio. I take good care of my ladies. Yes?” He began to remove his finger from my lips, so I opened my mouth in an attempt to tell him okay, but his finger quickly returned.
“No voice, yes?”
I nodded agreement.
“There you go. Now you may go. You come back tomorrow and we finish. Your song will be almost as bellissima as the two angels that make the beautiful music. Yes?”
Sienna and I both smiled and were rewarded with kisses on both cheeks.
Sienna was the first to speak as we got into our waiting car. “So would you think I was crazy if I told you that Gio somehow turned me on?” She looked at me with a devilish grin.
I didn’t respond. I just smiled and shook my head, no.
“I think it’s the Italian accent. It’s sexy, don’t you think? I know he’s old enough to be my father but I’m thinking that just makes him experienced, not out of age range.”
I shrugged my shoulders and smiled.
“Are you kidding me? You really aren’t going to speak?”
I nodded my head as I grinned.
“You always were a goody-two-shoes.” Sienna thought for a minute before she continued. “Remember in Mr. Carlton’s class in fifth grade? We were supposed to read Artemis Fowl, that boring sci-fi crap book? But instead we decided to read Deenie by Judy Blume. We glued the cover of Artemis crap over the Deenie book and folded in all of the good pages. We even underlined the really dirty parts.”
I looked at Sienna and raised my eyebrows, waiting for her to continue. I was curious how our reading a book was going to be related to my being a goody-two-shoes for not speaking.
“Your book dropped out of your bag and the next day Mr. Carlton questioned us with a few of the other girls. He opened the damn book to one of the sections where Deenie was touching her “special place.” Sienna added air quotes around the words for emphasis.
“You know, looking back that’s probably why I have such a healthy sexual appetite. That Deenie bitch touched herself every night in that book.”
I looked over at Sienna, wide-eyed at her words, but she just ignored me and continued.
“Anyway, Mr. Carlton was grilling us to find out who was the dirty girl reading a book that had been banned from the library, and you broke down and cried and admitted it was yours. Then I got detention for a week too, because he said he knew if you were reading it that I was probably the one that had showed you the book to begin with!”
I looked over at my crazy best friend as she rambled, amused at her recollection.
“Always a damn goody-two-shoes.” Sienna shook her head and I rolled my eyes at her.
As we reached Milan, we had almost four hours to spare until the concert. Sienna told the driver to take us to a mall that she had seen nearby where our tour busses were parked. I wanted to object, preferring to go back to the bus and take a power nap, but since I still wasn’t speaking it was difficult to express my wishes with just squints and head nods. And I knew we were going shopping for me.
When the AVN Awards were announced, I had been embarrassed when I realized that my family and friends would know about Jack’s production business. I didn’t realize until after the damage was done that I had shown Jack that I was embarrassed of part of him. I later realized, with Sienna’s help, that my reaction was immature and insulting, but it was too late. No matter how many times I apologized to Jack, I couldn’t take away that I had made him feel badly.
Sienna had devised a plan that she called “Operation Proud,” where I would show, not tell, Jack that I was not embarrassed about any part of who he was. Part of her plan entailed me buying a sexy dress for the AVN Awards in Milan and showing it to Jack when we met up in Italy, telling him that I bought it for the awards. It had sounded like a great plan at the time, but as we got closer to the awards date I thought it might be a stupid idea since Jack still hadn’t invited me to the ceremony, even though it was the weekend we were scheduled to be home for the tour’s planned hiatus.
By the time we made our way into the third dress store, I was pretty sure the salespeople thought I was a mute and Sienna was my insane caretaker. We entered the fourth store and the salesman came rushing to our side.
“Aren’t you Sydney and Sienna?” I was surprised to hear an American accent when the man spoke.
Sienna smiled at the waiting man, who looked oddly nervous. “Yes. Do we know you?”
“Oh. My. God. I just have to text Sal and tell him.” The young salesman whipped out his phone and began texting furiously.
“We have tickets to the show tonight. My boyfriend is a big Double Strife fan. Me, not so much.” The tall lanky young man crinkled up his nose to accentuate his statement. “But then I saw a video on YouTube from one of your recent concerts and I fell in love with you two!” He clapped his hands together and bounced up and down in a way that reminded me of a five year old looking at chocolate covered pretzels behind the glass when his mother tells him to pick one.
Sienna smiled, pleased at being recognized, and clearly amused by the young man’s reaction. “Well, it’s nice to meet you. You have great taste.” She winked.
The man lit up like a Christmas tree at her reaction. “I’m American too!” The statement came out as almost a squeal. “I came here last year for a study abroad program and met Sal. I never left.”
We both smiled at the gushing man. “Oh. My. God. Are you guys shopping for dresses? I can’t wait to dress you up! It will be like playing real life Barbie!”
Sienna and I both laughed. I couldn’t help but let a little bit of my voice escape through my laughter. A little breaking of the rules couldn’t hurt. “Syd is your Barbie today. She needs something sexy for a big night out.”
The excited salesman could hardly contain his excitement as he began running around the store collecting a pile of dresses as he went. Sienna and I also found a few we liked, and by the time we made our way back to the fitting room we had collected more than a dozen dresses for me to try on.
The first dress I tried on was pretty, but definitely not exciting. I walked out to find Sienna and the salesman had set up chairs in front of the dressing room as if they were waiting for a modeling session to begin.
“Pretty, but … I’m not sure,” Sienna debated aloud.
The salesman’s opinion was more certain. “Pretty but boring. Next.”
I tried on four more and had similar reactions. At least I agreed with their opinion. Pretty, nice, but not the statement I was looking for. Then I tried on a flaming red dress that startled even me as I looked at my reflection in the mirror. It was not anything that I would have picked out, way sexier than my usual taste, but it fit me like a glove and showed off my best assets.
I walked out of the fitting room and looked to my audience, who had been announcing their opinions freely, and waited. Both had wide eyes and mouths hanging open.
“Woman, I want to touch you all over looking at you with that dress on, and I like men!” the salesman exclaimed, jumping up from his chair.
“Holy shit, Syd, sexy can’t begin to describe it. That is the dress! I want to f**k you and I like men too!”
The two of them jumped around and giggled like they had known each other for years. Looking back at the mirror, even I had to agree that I looked good, but the dress was definitely more revealing than I was used to. The top was cut down almost to my belly button and strained in just the right places to fit over my cleavage. The waist of the dress was high and the slit started at an almost unseemly place and went straight down to the floor. It made my legs look a mile long and my br**sts look larger than they really were.
“No, Syd,” Sienna said, and I looked to her, confused.
“You’re getting the dress. Don’t start talking yourself out of it. You look hot and you know it. Jack is going to be torn with covering you up so no one else can see you and wanting to show you off to the world.”
I thought for a moment and smiled. Sienna was absolutely right about Jack, which made the decision easy to get the dress.
By the time I got to the register I had the perfect pair of stilettos to go with the new dress. I was grateful that the prices were in Euro because I wasn’t exactly sure what the full purchase was going to cost me; otherwise, I probably would have given it a second thought.
“I traded two backstage passes for an employee discount,” said Sienna, smiling proudly as I handed over my credit card to pay the bill, which was, gratefully, less than I had expected, thanks to Sienna.
The salesman handed over the garment bag and smiled. “See you ladies tonight!”
After a quick stop at the lingerie store to pick up something pink and sexy for when I met Jack in Italy, we headed back to the tour busses.
The concert in Milan was incredible. We played at San Siro Stadium, which doubled as the premiere football stadium in all of Italy. The weather was warm and the night was beautiful and the acoustics in the outdoor stadium were amazing. Even though she was my best friend, I took a bit of a sadistic pleasure when my voice held all evening, but Sienna’s began to crack on the last song.
Although I was enjoying the tour, I couldn’t wait until our break in Rome. I was meeting up with Jack and we were going to have three and a half days of very needed time together. The days seemed to drag on the closer we got to the day I would finally see Jack.
Sienna made plans to go on a two day sightseeing tour of Rome, then we intended to meet up and see some sights together with Jack. Jack was keeping it a well guarded secret what we were doing for the first two days. I tortured him daily in an attempt to find out. But, in reality, I didn’t care what we did, as long as I was with Jack.
I had also secretly convinced Jack to invite Tyler to Rome, explaining about Sienna and her dry spell. Although he wasn’t convinced we should be playing matchmaker, he acquiesced and invited him for me. Sienna had no idea Tyler was coming, but I knew from how well they’d got along in Hawaii that she wouldn’t be upset.
Tyler and Sienna had gotten cozy during the week I’d met Jack in Hawaii. Neither one of them had been looking for anything serious and both seemed to have been content to just spend the week together having fun. Jack mentioned that Tyler had started to date someone when he went back home to California, but they had recently broken up, so the timing worked out perfectly.
We’d planned to meet at a Heston property in Rome and I was fidgeting in my seat as we pulled up to the hotel. A huge smile spread across my face as I saw Jack walk out and motion to the bellman that he would get the car door. He seemed to be as impatient waiting for us to arrive as I was to get to him.
The minute the door opened, I was out of the car and in Jack’s arms. He smiled at my reaction, and although he may not have sprang out of a car into my arms, he also didn’t let me out of his arms for a very long time. After a long and tight hug, I pulled my head back to look at my utterly delicious man and smiled as I watched his eyes go from my eyes to my mouth. Then he kissed me until my knees went weak.
Sienna finally broke in. “Nice to see you too, Jack.” Although my back was to her, I could hear the smile in her voice.
Jack nodded his head and smiled back at my best friend. “Sienna.”
Then I remembered about Tyler. I whispered to Jack. “Where is he?”
“Hotel lobby bar.”
I turned to Sienna and smiled devilishly. “I have a surprise for you.”
Sienna narrowed her eyes. “Loverboy’s spa has an Italian stallion who is going to give me a massage with a happy ending?”
Jack chuckled and shook his head.
“Better,” I retorted.
“Better than a happy ending? Don’t toy with me, Syd. You know it’s been a while.”
I looked to Jack. “Lead the way.”
Jack took my hand and told the bellman to bring our stuff into the lobby as he walked inside and led us to the bar.
I spied Tyler the minute we turned the corner and the lobby bar came into view. It took Sienna a minute longer because she didn’t know what she was looking for. Then she smiled as we approached Tyler, who was taking in Sienna as she walked toward him. “You are so right, this is better than a happy ending. I think I remember Tyler can give me multiple happy endings.”
Although we had fun catching up for an hour in the bar and having drinks, I could tell Jack was starting to lose his patience by the way he pulled me closer to his body. Eventually Jack stood and not-so-politely announced that we were leaving. Sienna laughed at his abruptness and it dawned on me for the first time that I seemed to surround myself with people who said whatever was on their minds, without filters.