"Buona sera," Ferrero greeted. "Welcome to the Italian Express. Strap yourself in for a bumpy ride."
The limo could have seated at least twelve, but only five others occupied the soft leather benches. Ferrero sat at the head of the limo, his back to the driver and the privacy window. Kelly sat to his very near right and Jawbreaker to his very near left. I had half-expected Jawbreaker's husband to be there. She always made him sound like such a perfect doting husband. He worked a lot, I knew, but I figured this could have been a vacation for him.
The other two occupants, Gavin and Elliot, knelt on the carpet in front of the bar, carefully picking up shards of glass.
"Good evening," I responded, choosing to ignore the tension and awkward glances all around me and whatever had resulted in a broken champagne flute. "How is everyone tonight?"
Though I was just making polite conversation, the question prompted Kelly to leave Ferrero's side, climb gingerly over the two men on the floor, and plop herself on the seat next to me.
"Oh my god, Lydia," she squealed. "Isn't this just the most exciting thing ever?"
She threw her arms around me in a strangle hold, squeezing until I finally patted her on the back in reciprocation.
"I mean, not only is this my first trip out of the country, my first time on a plane, but Milan? Milan? This is like my holy pilgrimage!" She could hardly keep her wiggling behind in the seat.
It was hard to believe she'd never flown before. Never been out of the country. Everything about Kelly screamed jetsetter sophistication. Dressed entirely in winter white, in her lightweight wool slacks and chunky knit cowl neck she looked like she belonged on a private Greek island.
Unlike the outfit Fiona had selected for me to wear.
Which Kelly suddenly noticed.
"You look amazing! Like you're ready to step onto the runway." Her grin faltered for a second before adding, "The fashion runway. Not the airport kind."
All eyes in the limo-even the driver's, since the partition was down-turned on me. A long, low whistle let me know that Elliot approved of my new look.
I had to fight the urge to tug at the ruffles of the pacific blue satin tank, wishing they covered just a little more than they revealed. Though I had to admit, the way the ruffles accented things that weren't there and the way the bright blue made my eyes glow more than made up for the amount of flesh showing.
It had taken a lot of convincing to get Fiona to let me wear pants instead of a miniskirt. In the end, the statistics about the friction of bare skin on emergency ramps won out. To save my legs from third degree burns she had consented to a pair of tight black skinny cords. They had just enough stretch to let me move freely and shaped my butt into a perfect curve.
And then there was the face.
Fi and Beth had taken almost two hours applying my make-up. Both were experienced with professional make-up application-Fiona from working with make-up artists at the model agency and Bethany from working with make-up artists from the lines of cosmetics she sold in her shop. So, two hours later I really did look like a model.
Of course the worst of it was they expected me to remember how to recreate the look.
I probably could, as long as I mastered the eyeliner. How Fiona lined the inside of my eyelids was still a mystery. But when I looked in the mirror and saw Brigitte Bardot looking back I had to admit that my past make-up skills had been lacking.
Bethany had even managed to spray and tease my limp, straight hair into a mass of voluminous, sexy waves.
A pair of cat-eyes and pouting lips later, I knew that the old Lydia-the one who used an all-in-one kit full of neutrals to the exclusion of all other make-up-was long gone, a lone brown M&M sitting out in the rain, melting away into oblivion.