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Oil and Vinegar
Sun Apr 29, 2007 14:51

[ooc: Italicized text is spoken Italian.]

This was getting ridiculous, Ash decided. He sidestepped the latest wild swing, wondering when the punks were going to wise up, stop rushing him in single filem and pull out their weapons (gang members always had weapons) when a stranger strolled up, momentarily distracted Ash from what he was doing. The dark hair and olive skin identified him as a native of the country. So did his Italian, spoken with the timeless candor of one who is raised in the language. But the features sank into his subconcious with an intake of breath, momentarily robbing Ash of speach. The stranger was as beautiful as a da Vinci painting, his eyes held the same laughing secrets. Jeez...

The rapid retreat of his would-be assailants produced raised eyebrows, and the man’s name was filed away to be taken out and examined later. But Ash was grateful for the reprieve and just stood there, catching his breath until the stranger turned his considerable attention away from the thugs and back on himself.

“Do you need medical attention?”

Uh… only when he smiled like that. Ash felt his heart skip a beat.

“My apologies. I am Vittorio.”

He moved forward to accept the offered hand, his own fingers curling firmly around Vittorio’s own, if far too briefly. Long dark hair, skin as naturally tanned as his own, this was a man … Let’s just derail that train right there. Italians weren’t known for their sunny tolerance towards men of Ash’s ilk.

“Ash. And now, Ah don’t need medical assistance, but thanks for askin.” His own tones labeled him a southerner, that distinct drawl marked by the New Orleans locale, and far easier to understand then say, Georgia.

Up close and personal, it was easier to see the stamp of Caucasian ancestry in the surfer’s features. A wider jaw, eyes not as slanted as a full-bloods, unless they were narrowed in concentration. His skin tone was barely lighter than Vittorio’s own, but stood out against the light trunks in nice contrast.

His rescuer seemed taken aback with the accent, though recovered himself admirably and once again afforded him that charming smile. Ash decided to take advantage of it, stepping back to retrieve his board, just as a toddler streaked past towards the water. Without thinking, Ash dropped the board and whirled around to scoop the tyke up before he could run out and get himself caught in the undertow.

“Hey there, little man. How about we put on a lifejacket first?”

Before the kid could draw breath to throw a tantrum, a lovely young woman ran up and plucked him from Ash’s grasp. “James, you know you’re supposed to wait for me!” She turned ethereal brown eyes on him, and Ash was hard pressed not to doff his hat in her presence, even though he didn’t actually have one.

“You handled yourself well against those miscreants, sir. I’m Lucy and the brat you just saved is my son James.” Her smile was of the type his mother employed against himself and his father on a regular basis, all sunshine and flowers until it blinded you to everything else.

“Vittorio, why don’t you invite to him sit with us? We brought plenty of food.”

Ash opened his mouth to protest, but Lucy had already turned away and was heading back to where a man in his late thirties was sitting, his manner far too casual to be anything but fully alert. How did he know that? Well, son, when you were the son of a state senator, you got used to seeing men in black surrounding the pater familias at high-risk functions. And there was little to do but follow.

At least he wasn't the only one marginally uncomfortable with sharing a stranger's food; Vittorio seemed less than pleased. Settling his board far enough away from the picnic spread, Ash lowered himself to the sand with little wasted motion, and found himself barreled into by ...uh, the name escaped him at the mome-- James.


James just sat down and began flinging sand everywhere, especially towards the half-unpacked basket. The father, or so Ash was going to assume because the little boy bore no close resemblence to the Adonis in a suit that he was very quietly lusting after.

"I think perhaps we should just head home." The man glanced towards Ash almost apologetically, in a sort of 'look, I know my wife invited you but we are *really* careful about strange surfers around here' sort of way. Which was fine, unless he was reading more into the expression than he should be. Wouldn't be the first time, and definately not the last.

Lucy glanced to her ... husband, then Vittorio, and lastly Ash himself. "Well. Thank you again. Caleb's right, we should be getting back." Hands reached out to draw James away from his captive playmate, soon nestled against his mother's side.

Ash rose to his feet as well, scooping the board up along the way. "You have a nice day, ma'am." Caleb was awarded a nod, and Vittorio, he of the impressive physique, got a sunny smile and a very quick wink. Expelling a breath once he'd turned around, Ash headed back down the beach towards the public lockers. After the surfing and the mock fight, he wasn't to surprised to hear his stomach rumbling.

Food, glorious food.

After collecting his personal items and retreating to the hotel, Ash ordered room service and spent the better part of the evening watching the spot of beach viewable from his room. It beat going down into the crowd of tourists and locals currently prowling the streets below. Vittorio's image would not be denied a chance to prowl through his head in various activities, some perhaps a bit carnal than others.

Which finally prompted a cold shower and some vestiges of sleep before dawn crept over the horizon.

* * *

"Just a few more minutes, signore, and we'll be there."

The taxi driver captained his vehicle expertly through the winding countryside on the outskirts of Florence towards an address that had been phoned to the front desk about an hour before he left. Ash slumped further down in the backseat, idly watching the scenery go by. Ordinarily, his attention would have been catalouging flora and fauna for future landscapes, but seriously x-rated dreams had worn most of his creativity straight out of the window.

Why hadn't he found out where the Italian lived, at least? Assuredly, this Vittorio was going to remain an enigma long past the hour when Ash would board a plane and fly back to the States. However, he'd studied the other man's face for the few minutes of enjoyable company, and was quite sure that he'd be able to faithfully render that visage on canvas.

"Signore, we have arrived."

Ash glanced forward in time to see a pair of impressive gates swing open on a street lined with old trees. A residential area, very old and very wealthy. But he expected nothing less from his current client, not even to the request to personally bring the portrait. Hence the impromptu vacation. New marble and other tools nonewithstanding. When the cab emerged from the driveway about the length of a football field, Ash was afraid his jaw had clunked on the floor at his feet.

The palazzo was ... well, shit. It was something, dwarfing his father's home by a factor of five or six. An old villa, at least three centuries old to judge by the architecture, buildings sprawling away from the main structure in a lazy, but ordered fashion. It took him a few minutes to get out of the taxi, by which time the wrapped painting had been carefully removed from the trunk and rested just to the side of the main door. A few hundreds were handed over to the cabbie in appreciation of his driving skills, before Ash felt up to using the old-fashioned bell opposite the painting.

Once, twice...

The door opened to reveal a gentleman somewhere in his .. ok, so he could be anywhere from thirty-five to fifty-two. Handsome, held himself well, and bore a resemblance to Ash's client, despite the age difference.

"Mister Healey?" When given an affirmative nod, the man beckoned him inside, waiting patiently whilst the artist fetched his work. Ash found himself led through a dizzying tour of the estate, down several long corridors, and through two large rooms before he found himself in a small courtyard where an elderly gentleman was seated in a lounge chair, a lovely redhead at his side.

Ash stared at her for a moment, then decided that he had, indeed, captured the sensuality of his subject.

"Lord de Medici, my name is--"

"Elijah Healey. I took the liberty of obtaining a likeness when I commissioned the portrait." Despite advanced age, there was a core of steel behind his dark eyes, an aura that brought Ash's grandfather to mind. Ruthless. Interesting. "But call me Matteo. And unveil your work, please."

The redheaded beauty whispered something quietly to Matteo, who looked past the artist to the man who'd escorted him. "Pietro, will you have some lemonade and lunch brought out here?"

Pietro nodded and left, leaving the three alone on the patio. Ash carefully propped the painting against the small table and went to work removing each layer of wrapping paper, examined the back to make sure nothing had come loose between Livonia and Florence, and then slowly turned the canvas around to display his latest creation.

The likeness of portrait to subject was stunning, one almost expected the woman in the painting to rise from her seat and step into the real world. A modest dress, faintly scooped neckline, in royal blue to set off her incredible hair, and behind her the riot of flowers found in Ash's backyard; a blend of roses and gardinias, tulips and lilies, each designed to enhance the features of the woman in the foreground. The work of a living Master.

Matteo said nothing, merely took his time to view the finished work before turning his head to view the lady at his side.

"My love, this is for you." The astute expression on her face suggested his paramour had already guessed this, but the spark in her eyes assured Ash that she was pleased as well.

"You must paint Matteo, now. It's only fair." Her accent was New York City, if tempered a little by the country she resided in. "How much did he pay you?"

Ash felt a little uncomfortable, money wasn't all that important to him, outside of the places it allowed him to travel and the tools he needed for his projects. Matteo came to his rescue with a chuckle. "Moira, you do not need to know the price. If you want this man to paint me, so be it. I will arrange for your things to be delivered here and we will discuss other projects later. For now I wish to enjoy lunch with you and Mister Healey."

Apparently Matteo de Medici wasn't going to take no for an answer. So Ash found himself falling into polite chitchat with his client, conversing fluently in Italian until the quiet rattle of dishes pulled them out of a discussion about patronage of the arts in these modern days.

Pietro stood behind them, gesturing for several men to set plates down on folding trays. There was a smile on his face. "Be careful, Mister Healey. I think my father means to be your patron," he inclined his head towards Moira as well. But that wasn't what unsettled Ash, at least not right away.

Behind Pietro, holding a carafe of wine, and obviously having stood there as long as the other man, was Vittorio, looking like a roman God in brown Armani.

Ash suddenly felt like a bum in his pressed khaki pants and white shirt.

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