IT’S MONDAY, ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE . . . Aaaaand she’s back . . .

Rosie

 

Greetings, my awesome readers,

I hope this finds you well after the weekend, and raring to go for the week ahead. It’s been a while since we heard from Rosie … She’s back …

***

Working alone, Rosie Ludlow is busy, busy, at Sweet Sensations running against a deadline to deliver a surprise order of four dozen cupcakes for an engagement party before five o’clock . . .

*The kitchen smells of toffee, chocolate, and vanilla icing. Even though the place is rocking to Ella Henderson praying by a river, baby Mila is sound asleep in her amazing top of the line stroller. White rubber clog tapping to the beat, Rosie’s wearing chef whites, her inky curls tied back beneath a cap and net. With her tongue caught firmly between her teeth, she uses quick flicks of the wrist to pipe tiny spears of white meringue icing to make a ball effect for the topping of the chocolate cupcakes. It takes a steady hand, precision and a good eye to place a red cherry made of icing with a fragile chocolate stalk on the top. Since they were fiddly little bastards, she’d made the cherries the day before. When Nico Ferranti strolls through the door looking for all the world as if he’s just walked off a photo shoot for GQ, she sends him a lightning grin, nods to the pot of coffee on the counter top*

“Coffee’s hot, big boy. Help yourself. Let me just finish up here.”

Nico pokes his head inside one of the eight boxes of white card, checks out the cupcakes. “Amazing. You are a clever girl, cara. But why are you working so late?”

“It’s a favor,” she says, her focus one hundred per cent on the job at hand. “And they’re paying me big bucks for this favor. Bronte offered to help, but Eve’s cutting another tooth and it’s not going well. Her little cheek is all swollen and hot. Poor baby.”

Making himself right at home, Nico helps himself to a cup from the cupboard, pours himself a coffee from the pot. “Si. The twins didn’t suffer as much as la mia bambina. We’ve had to resort to medication to bring down the inflammation.”

*Rosie finishes the final cupcake, lays the cherry on the top, and carefully places the work of art in a box. The box lids are all sitting waiting. By the time she’s placed gold and black Sweet Sensation stickers on each box and ties them with black satin bows, Nico’s grinning at her quick fingered expertize. She checks the huge clock on the wall, turns the music down. While Nico pours her a coffee, she pulls the net and cap from her head to reveal inky curls that fall in a tail between her shoulder blades. She accepts her coffee and closes her eyes as she takes a sip of the black stuff. Heaven*

“Thanks,” she says, leans her hip against the stainless steel counter top, and eyes him appreciatively from the top of his immaculately cut hair, the sharp threads (Italian of course) to his hand stitched shoes. “Are you coming or going from a meeting?”

“Coming,” he says in the deep Italian accent that always makes her mouth curve. Man, with Nico as her husband her pal Bronte has got herself a hunka-hunka burnin’ love. His next words wipe the smirk from her face. “I have been meaning to stop by and have a little chat with you.”

*Little chat? Uh oh. Rosie recognizes the signs, that sharp eyed look, the way his mouth has gone firm. Something’s up*

“Everything okay with Bronte? Things okay at home?”

Nico nods. “Everything is mostly fine. Except for Sophia . . .”

Rosie blinks and can’t help but grin widely. “What’s up with my favorite niece? Been cutting hair again? Putting toys down the toilet? Painting toenails that don’t belong to her?”

Nico’s mouth curves, but he shakes his head. “No. But she’s quoting statements from ‘Auntie Rosie’ almost every time she opens her mouth. And some of the statements, cara mia, are causing her mama and me a few bad moments.”

Not in the least bit fazed by the way he’s glowering at her, Rosie sends him a cheeky grin. “Yeah? That’s my girl. Inquisitive. Smart as a whip.”

Nico’s dark brows lift. “Si. But it seems she knows a little too much about certain things, like child birth, and . . . sex. She was happy to inform a car load of children including her BFF Emily, that according to auntie Rosie, Tonio, just like me, is gonna break hundreds of hearts with his love muscle . . .” Nico waits until a spluttering Rosie stops laughing to continue, “then she told the same audience that women, and I quote, are cursed each month and put their men through hell. Men, according to auntie Rosie, do not know they are living.”

Wiping her eyes on kitchen towel, Rosie takes a breath. “Omigod. The little monkey. She’s been listening to adult conversations again. What the hell is she like? You’ll need to break her of the habit, Nico.”

Nico blinks. “Si, but . . .”

Rosie shifts to top up their cups. “Thing is, Sophia is super bright. She can write everyone’s name. Her reading age is way ahead of her peers. She’s also overcurious and nosey. The trick for you and Bronte will be to channel that investigative trait within her into something positive. I’ve been thinking maybe horse riding to balance all that physical and emotional energy. Or ballet or gymnastics . . .”

Nico shudders at the thought. He cannot imagine what his daughter would be like if she was doing gymnastics. The conversation is not going Nico’s way. He’s here to ensure Rosie bites her tongue around his daughter. On the other hand, he can’t resist the complete lack of guile in Rosie’s dark chocolate Bambi eyes. Hell, he doesn’t want to upset a woman he adores. In truth, he doesn’t want Rosie to be anything other than Rosie, so he treads carefully and tries again, “I, we, feel Sophia is too young to understand certain things like how a woman has eggs in her ovaries . . .”

Rosie nods enthusiastically and jumps in with, “Exactly. You and Bronte are doing an amazing job with your children, but especially with Sophia. It is very important for adults to answer a child’s questions with the facts and total honesty. A penis is a penis and a vagina is a vagina. I simply do not understand why some adults, especially men, cannot be honest about procreation and how the human body works. And I’ll tell you something for nothing, Nico. Not telling a child the truth can set them up for an epic fail when they hit the hell that is puberty. It’s dangerous. Get Bronte to tell you the story of when our mothers were at school in the seventies. In their year was a girl of fifteen who’s first sexual experience with a boy, who just as clueless as her, ended up with her at A&E because of an infected navel. Apparently, the poor kids believed they had sex via the belly button. I am not joking. Our mothers drummed the facts of life into us as soon as we began asking questions.”

Dio mio. Nico knew his jaw was on the floor, knew there was perspiration beading on his top lip. “Si, but . . .”

*Baby Mila stirs, and her mama is at her side in an instant*

“Aw, did you have a good sleepy sloppy?” Rosie coos as she nuzzles the baby. She sniffs her diaper, makes a horrible face. “Phew. A diaper bomb.”

Nico can’t help but grin at how happy Rosie is since she married Alexander and became a mama. Today his mission has been as Rosie would say, ‘An Epic Fail.’ But he loves her. Perhaps he’ll just need to live with her Big Mouth because at the end of the day he wouldn’t change her for the world.

“I’ll leave you to it,” he says.

Rosie jiggles Mila, grabs the diaper bag hanging onto the stroller handle. “Drop in any time. Try not to worry about Sophia. If I were you I’d forget about a convent for her, too. The planet is made up of fifty per cent men, Nico. Better Sophia learns how to handle the suckers. When she grows up, that girl will have the world by the balls.”

And that, Nico decides as he strolls to his car, is exactly the problema. By the time Sophia Ferranti becomes a fully formed new adult, his hair will be white from worry and stress. As he drives towards home, he nods. He’ll handle anything his baby girls will throw at him because, at the end of the day, he’s Italian.

 

FINITO

 

Can’t fault Rosie’s own brand of logic.

Nico didn’t stand a chance!

The pre-order links for SEAN should be up in a couple of days (it was my birthday last week, so I got side-tracked by my wonderful family.)

Hugs

Christine X

It’s Monday, which means another peek behind the curtains of life with the Ferranti family. Grab a coffee, settle down, and enjoy . . .

Tentacles-

Happy Monday, my darlings,

Working hard and nearly at The End of SEAN.

Here’s the latest from the Ferranti Fam-lee . . .

Bronte is driving Nico’s Range Rover with Luca, Sophia and Emily in the back, and Tonio in the front. Luca, Sophia and Emily have been attending a birthday party, which means they’re checking out their party bags, all hyped up on sugar. And Tonio has had soccer practice, which means he’s a bit bruised and battered since he’s a fearless Ferranti.

*Emily and Sophia begin their own unique rendition of The Lonely Goatherd*

“Yodelaaaaaay-eeeeeeee, yodelaaaaaay-eeeeeee-eeeeeeee, yodelaaaaaaaaay-eeeeeeee,” shrieks Sophia with Emily right behind her.

All hot and bothered and tired, of girls, Luca squeezes his eyes shut and bangs the back of his head on the car seat. “Mamaaaaaaa, tell them to stop.”

“Okay, girls, no distractions while I’m driving please,” Bronte says. Out of the corner of her eye she spots Tonio making a horrible face. To be honest she can’t blame him, the singing is pretty horrible. “That’s enough now.”

*And silence once again reigns across the land*

“How come,” Emily begins in her soft little voice. Her fingers smooth the skirt of her pale pink party frock. “Boys can wear dresses? I’ve never seen a boy in a dress.”

Out the corner of her eye, Bronte sees Tonio’s eyes go wide. She clears her throat, guessing someone’s been talking to Emily about gender equality in schools, where boys were given permission to wear a dress if they so wished. “Well, yes they can,” she says. “Most boys don’t, but if they wanted to they could.”

Sophia’s watching the word go by. She shakes her head and pipes up, “I can’t imagine my papa in a dress.” She’s wearing her best party frock and it’s pink, too. “I mean papa’s got hairy legs, and muscles . . . and tentacles.”

*Oh. My. God. Bronte cannot imagine Nico in a dress either. And as for tentacles . . . Stifling a giggle, she drives the car through the winding country road. She spots Tonio biting down hard on his knuckles, his shoulders shaking with laughter*

“Boys have testicles,” Tonio correct Sophia.

Luca frowns. “So what have tentacles?”

“Octopus have tentacles,” Tonio says.

Little Emily shakes her head, her smooth brow creases. “I don’t think that’s right. My mummy says my daddy’s like an octopus. He’s all hands.”

Tonio turns to give a wide-eyed Bronte big eyes. Bronte clears her throat. “Remember Ursula in The Little Mermaid?” she asks, desperately trying to guide the conversation into safer waters. “She was part octopus.”

Sophia nods. “Uh huh. Ursula is half-witch. My auntie Rosie says Ursula’s bad to the bone.”

“My daddy says my mummy turns into a witch at the time of the month,” Emily pipes up.

Wide-eyed, Luca turns to Emily. “Is that the time of the full moon? My papa says mama goes nutso during a full moon. Witches fly over the moon at Halloween. Does your mummy have a broomstick?” he asks hopefully.

“Uh huh,” Emily says, shaking her head so hard her bright corkscrew curls dance. “My mummy says that she is not a witch and knows he really means she’s a bitch and he’s not fooling anybody and if my daddy keeps it up, she’s gonna nail his tentacles to the wall.”

*Oh. My. God. Bronte decides she needs to have an urgent chat with Emily’s mummy, Grace, and with Nico about his Big Mouth*

“Well,” Bronte says in a high cheery voice. “Another octopus is Pearl in Finding Nemo. I think Pearl is sooooooo cute.”

*When Emily beams and nods, Bronte heaves a relieved sigh that none of the kids could find a problem with Pearl. Until . . .*

Sophia turns to Emily. “The reason your mummy and my mama get cranky at the time of the full moon is because they are cursed. And because you and me are female, Emily, when we hit pubsinthecity we’re gonna be cursed too. My auntie Rosie says we are cursed because inside us we have eggs to make babies. When we don’t make a baby, once a month we have an egg and we have belly cramps and spots and horrible hair and we put the men in our life through merry hell.”

“Eww,” Luca says.

Sophia nods as Emily stares at her with big blue eyes. Sophia continues, “Auntie Rosie says men don’t know they are living.”

“God,” Tonio mutters, sliding down in his seat.

With a determined smile fixed on her face, Bronte steers the car into Emily’s driveway. She turns to the three children in the back seat and says, “And here we all are. Safe and well.”

*Minutes later, back at The Dower House, Nico Ferranti is waiting for his family, baby Eve tucked on his hip. And since the baby’s cutting teeth her little cheeks are apple red, and she’s wearing a white cotton bib. She’s gnawing heroically on a plastic ring filled with ice water*

“How was soccer practice?” Nico asks Tonio as the boy heaves his kit bag from the trunk.

Tonio turns to send him a slow smile. “I made the team.”

Nico and Tonio slap a high five. “Well done.”

Nico eyes the twins, notices Sophia giving him a head to toe appraisal of his bare feet, battered blue jeans and black thermal. “What?” he asks her.

She shakes her blonde head as she walks past him. “Papa, there’s no way you’d ever look good in a dress, it’s sooooo not your style. You’re Italian.”

A stunned Nico turns to a laughing Bronte to give her wide eyes. “Me? In a dress?”

Bronte stretches up on her tip toes to plant a kiss on his cheek. “It all began with tentacles and an Octopus….”

 

Finito

 

Writing final scenes for SEAN last night and I cried a river . . . and all y’all know that if I cry, you cry. I love this couple soooooo much, so many feels . . .

Before final edits, I’m placing SEAN on pre-order, the links are coming soon.

AND I have a huge surprise for you guys at the end of SEAN, with pre-orders for the surprise, too.

Stay tuned . . .

 

Christine X

Happy Monday, and here’s another slice of Ludlow life… I’m still yodelling to the Lonely Goatherd…

Ludlowlifebanner

Remember, to read how Nico and Bronte’s love began, you can grab it here, free:

Dressed down in black below the knee yoga pants, a matching skinny vest, and sneakers, Bronte is collecting Sophia from a play date with her BBF, Emily, and her Bacon Freeze puppy, Bubblegum………

“Hi, Grace. How are you today? Did they run you ragged, or did they behave themselves?” Bronte asks as Grace waves her through the door and leads her through her beautifully appointed home into a huge light and airy family kitchen space.

Wearing cropped blue jeans and an ivory short sleeved sweater, Grace has the same petite build and fair coloring as her daughter, creamy skin with a constellation of freckles, and wild chestnut curls. She grins, rolls her blue eyes. “Do you have time for a coffee?”

“Sure.” Bronte dumps her purse on one of the breakfast bar stools, and slides into another. Her eyes click to a Grace who is still grinning as she pours black coffee from the pot into two white china mugs. “What’s she done or said now?” she asks, referring to Sophia, and fearing the worst.

Eyes dancing, Grace hands Bronte a mug and slides into another stool to face Bronte over the brown speckled granite counter top. “Nothing naughty, which makes a delightful change. Although I did manage to stop them before they painted Bubblegum’s nails with purple polish. No. I had what I thought was a brainwave and introduced them to one of my favorite childhood movies. They’ve been watching The Sound Of Music. And replaying Julie Andrews singing, ‘The Hills Are Alive’ about twenty times. Don’t get me wrong. I adore Julie’s voice. But I’m finding myself singing along. Betcha I’ll have an earworm for days.” She takes a sip of her drink, and then her grin turns into a wide smile, her eyes still sparkling.

“Okay. Spit it out,” Bronte says.

“They’ve got the words down pat, but can’t quite hit the high notes, know what I mean?”

“Aww, bless their little hearts. I’m not seeing a downside to this, Grace.”

*And right on cue, from a room above, there comes the dulcet tones of introduction music as Dame Julie begins her song, and right along with her comes a yowling of two young voices determined to nail it. Whoa. Bronte’s emerald eyes go wide*

Grace tips back her head to study the high ceiling. “And there they go… again.”

They both burst out laughing. “Could be worse, Grace, it could be The Lonely Goatherd,” Bronte says, wiping her eyes. And of course that thought made them laugh even harder.

Grace shakes her head, laughter making her eyes all teary and her voice quaver. “Thing is, Bronte, and I’ll apologize right now because I just didn’t see this coming.”

Bronte puts her cup down, places her elbows on the work top and leans over to study a Grace who is weeping hard so hard with laughter, she’d needs to cross her legs. And of course, Bronte ends up weeping with her.

Grace grabs a couple sheets of kitchen roll, wipes streaming eyes, takes a deep breath and holds up her hands. “I’m sorry. Sorry… Okay. I’ve got a hold of myself. Okay…” She takes a huge inhale in, holds it for four counts, and then breathes out. Her eyes meet Bronte’s. “They came down here and demanded two clean white tea towels. When I asked them what for, they said…” Again Grace’s eyes swim as her face creases. She takes another deep inhale. “They’ve decided to dedicate their lives to Jesus. They wanna be nuns.”

Grace stuffs kitchen roll in her mouth as she weeps with laughter at Bronte’s stunned face. And then cries even harder when Bronte whispers, “Omigod.”

*Next morning at breakfast at The Dower House*

Dressed to impress, Nico Ferranti strolls into the kitchen looking like something off the cover of  Men’s Fashion magazine. With his hand protecting his silk tie from sticky little fingers, he dips his head to deliver a raspberry to the hot cheek of a delighted baby Eve sitting in her high chair and using her empty sip cup to beat the hell out of the plastic table. Tonio and Luca are wolfing down oatmeal and honey in a race to see who can finish first. No sign of Sophia… yet. Nico’s eyes light on a wife who is barefoot at the range preparing his poached eggs and bacon. She’s dressed in one his T-shirts and boy panties wiggling her cute little butt to Paulo Nuttini rocking the iPod. At the table the boys are now digging in to a mountain of toast and buttered crumpets. Since he cannot help himself, Nico shifts to slide his arms around Bronte’s slim waist for a cuddle, drop a kiss on her neck, and pat her ass. “Where,” he asks with his tongue firmly in his cheek. “Is the good sister Sophia.”

Bronte heaves a sigh, shakes her head. “The sister has kindly informed me that when she’s finished her morning prayers, she will join us for one slice of toast without jam or butter, and a cup of weak tea.”

Nico’s wide shoulder’s shake with laughter.

Tonio, face fierce, pipes up with, “Si. And she’s still wearing that stupid tea cloth on her head. She’s driving me nuts. Every time she sees Luca or me she says, ‘Bless you, my child.'”

Nico shakes his head as he pours himself a coffee from the pot, takes his seat at the head of the table. He flicks out a stiff white cotton napkin on his knee. When Bronte places his breakfast in front of him, he sends her a slow and sexy smile. “Grazie, cara. You are too good to me.”

Bronte drops a kiss on his freshly shaved cheek. “That’s because you smell delicious.”

“You buy my cologne.”

“Yep,” she agrees, as she places a fresh sip cup on Eve’s table and a plastic bowl of sliced banana so the baby can help herself. “If I’ve got to live with you, I get to decide how you smell. Wife’s rights.”

*The whole room goes quiet, even the baby’s eyes go big, as Sophia walks slowly into the room. She’s wearing a black dress from her dressing up box, black ankle socks, and black patent shoes with a strap. The tea cloth is pinned to her hair, and the palms of her hands are pressed together as if in prayer*

Dio mio,” Nico mutters under his breath, and digs into his breakfast.

Bronte can’t quite hold in the giggle before she clears her throat. “Good morning, sister. Would you like bacon?”

Sophia cannot resist bacon, ever. Temptation whispers loud in her mind, but she remembers the promise she and Emily made on the Holy Bible. “No thank you, mama. One slice of toast and tea, please.”

Luca, a piece of toast half way to his mouth, scowls at his twin. “You look stupid with that thing on your head.”

Sister Sophia narrows emerald eyes, purses her small pink mouth, then takes a breath. “There is no need for rudeness. I forgive you, my son.”

Tonio rolls his eyes, turns to his papa. “You’ve gotta do something. This cannot go on. She’s gonna drive us nuts.”

Nico nods, dabs his mouth with his napkin, and rests his gaze on a daughter he adores. “Sophia, bella. A little girl cannot be a nun. A convent will not accept you until you are eighteen.”

Sophia’s emerald eyes meet his. “Eighteen? Why?”

“Because when a woman decides to dedicate her life to God, she needs to have lived a normal life first.”

Sister Sophia’s shoulders droop, but she nods. “Okay. But can I go to a convent school for girls to see what it’s like?”

Nico’s heart soars with joy. There are no boys in a convent school, and he has just the place in mind, but before he can reply, his wife beats him to it.

“No,” Bronte says. “For a well rounded education it is important for you to socialize with boys and girls and learn to get along with both.”

“She has no problem with boys,” Tonio growls, and earns himself a dark look from his papa for his trouble.

Sister Sophia takes her own sweet time to think about it, then she nods, and pulls the tea towel from her head. “Okay. I’m still a little girl…”

“Yup,” Bronte says, slipping a plate of bacon and toast and a poached egg in front of her daughter. “And a little girl need a good diet of good food to grow into a fine woman. Dig in.”

*And peace descends upon The Dower House… until…*

“What’s the next film Emily’s mama has chosen for you?” Nico asks.

Sophia nibbles on crispy bacon, swallows. “The Goonies. It’s about buried treasure.”

Bronte grins in delight. “Aww, I love that movie.”

Nico rises to leave for another day at the office of Ferranti Enterprises, based at Ludlow Hall. “Si, just be prepared for her to start digging up the garden hunting for buried treasure.”

Luca turns big dark eyes filled to the brim with excitement on his papa. “We have buried treasure on our land?”

Ignoring his wife’s imploring gaze, Nico comes up with a dastardly plan to keep his children entertained for days. “Si. Of course. You did not know The Dower House has a box of treasure just waiting to be discovered?”

As a wide-eyed Luca shakes his head, whispers, “No.”

“Then today, even though I am busy, I will retrieve the treasure map from the safe at Ludlow Hall and bring it home with me tonight. But you must promise not to tell anyone about the map. It is a secret.”  And all the while his busy mind is coming up with a plan that will include Alexander and their PA, Julie, who will be only too happy to play their part.

As Bronte follows him to his car, she gives him the stink eye. “You are worse than they are. If they dig up my garden…”

After dumping his laptop on the passenger seat of his Range Rover, Nico grabs his wife for a hot kiss. Shifting to watch the way her eyes have gone all cloudy, he grins down into her face. Dio, he adores her. “Trust me, X will mark the spot around their play area. Nessun problema. But I’d like you to think about a convent for Sophia.”

Bronte grins as she adjusts the knot of his tie. “I don’t care if you are Italian. Not a chance, sunshine.”

 

FINITO

 

And here, for your listening pleasure, is Dame Julie singing one of her signature songs:

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE

My best pal, Linda, and me were six when we saw The Sound of Music and immediately dreamed of becoming nuns. For two weeks we wore a white tea towel on our heads and blessed every person we met, and drove our families mad. We never ended up in a convent, which is just as well. But we still remember every single word of every single song in The Sound of Music.

Those were the days, eh?

There was no catch a Pokémon in my day.

With love and hugs,

Christine X

IT’S ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE WITH NICO, OLIVIER CONTI, AND….. DRUM ROLL….. SOPHIA.

 

NICO'S BABYSITTING

Greetings, my lovelies,

It’s August 1st.

Where has the summer gone?

Time for another slice of life with the Ferranti family………..

All is quiet on a hot and sultry Saturday at The Dower House. Bronte and Anastacia Morgan, Italian soccer star Olivier Conti’s fiancée, are out having a girly day at the Ferranti Hotel and Spa, Ludlow Hall. Luca and Tonio are spending the weekend at a summer sport camp. Nico and Olivier are on daddy duty looking after baby Eve, and… Sophia.

Since the guys are off duty, today they haven’t bothered with a razor, and both wear below the knee khaki shorts and ratty T-shirts.

We join them, dear readers, snoozing on the L shaped couch in the family-living-kitchen space. Yup, my friends, the boys have taken their eyes off the ball. Oh dear, oh dear…..

Meanwhile, in Sophia’s world, also known as her bedroom…….

*Before she’d gone out with Anastacia, Sophia’s mama had brushed Sophia’s silver blonde hair back in a complicated plait arrangement threaded with pink satin ribbon. At the same time Anastacia (Sophia ADORES Anastacia) painted Sophia’s tiny toenails with five different shades from ruby red to a sparkling pale pink.

Now a beyond thrilled Sophia is kicking back in her bedroom where it’s nice and cool. She’s wearing her favorite pink cotton sun dress. She’s added a purple ostrich feather boa around her neck and painted her pink mouth bright lemon from her stash of kiddie make-up – a gift from her auntie Rosie. She and four of her favorite dolls are watching the final credits at The End of the movie, Frozen. When the song Let It Go begins, Sophia’s on her twinkling toes, her hairbrush is her microphone as she sings along at the top of her voice. Maybe one day she could be a pop star. Four smiling dolls watch her with wide-eyed unblinking blue eyes*

 

Dio mio,” Oliver murmurs and turns to lie flat on his back. Eyes closed, he yawns huge enough to crack his jaw, scratches his flat belly. “What the hell is that noise?”

Nico cranks open an eye. Listens to his daughter murdering Idina Menzel’s brilliant vocals, and joins Olivier in a yawn. It is true. Yawning is contagious. He and Olivier have been hard at it, with Anastacia cracking the organizational whip, since six thirty discussing the next marketing film Olivier is due to star in next week for the Ferranti Boutique Hotel campaign in Rome. “Ignore her. It is Sophia singing along to Frozen. It can go on for hours.” Like Olivier, he rolls onto his back and closes his eyes. Dio, the heat is oppressive, this must be the hottest day of the year so far. Through folding doors opened wide to the garden, he can hear the buzz of lazy bees rumbling from rose to rose. The silence, apart from Sophia, is golden. Heaven.

Meanwhile, back in Sophia’s world…..

*In bare feet, Sophia skips along the thick carpet running along the wide corridor outside her bedroom, and tip toes into baby Eve’s room next door to her mama and papa’s huge bedroom suite. The baby is sound asleep, the window shades drawn to keep out the heat. She’s is sooooooo cute with her black crazy curls and pink cheeks and tiny mouth. And she has the teeeeeeniest fingernails.

Pursing her lips, Sophia slides into the hallway, cocks her head to listen for any sign of life from her papa or uncle Olivier, and hears nothing. The football season is over for the summer, which means Olivier is spending ‘quality time’ with Anastacia. Sophia sidles into her mama and papa’s bedroom. The place smells faintly of her papa’s cologne and her mama’s shampoo and fresh flowers in the huge class vase on the serving table between his and her walk-in closets. Her little fingertips run along the velvet edge of a low backed couch. Her nails are unpainted because her mama might permit toe nails to be painted (on special occasions) but not fingernails because, ‘Sophia is too young.’ Hmmmmmmm. But like a moth to the proverbial flame (as auntie Rosie says) Sophia is enticed by the devil temptation to the open double doors of her mama’s walk-in closet. And, like a magnet, is drawn to her mama’s make-up area. Also known as (auntie Rosie says) ‘The cosmetic mother-lode.’

Sophia switches on the array of lights surrounding the huge mirror, and an entirely new world of wondrous opportunities opens up before her very eyes. Her eyes go wide at the vast array of make-up, brushes, pots, and all sorts of marvellous things (many unopened because her mama cannot be bothered, but her papa keeps supplying mama with lots and lots from the Spa) laid out before her. There are lipsticks, eye shadows, and a couple of little jewelled pots.

She reaches out a hand, her fingers just itching to explore the pretty pots, when the thought enters her mind she is NOT permitted to touch ANYTHING in her mama’s closet.

Battling two voices in her young mind, touch it versus don’t-you-dare, Sophia heaves a deep sigh as she chooses the latter.

But then, her emerald eyes linger on the bottles of nail polish. In particular a couple Anastacia had used on Sophia’s beautiful pink toenails.

The devil temptation whispers.

Between one heartbeat and the next, she’s got two bottles in her hand, and she’s back in her bedroom.

The four dolls on her bed seemed to beg, literally beg her, to paint their toes.

What was a responsible doll owner to do?*

Minutes later, and screwing the lid on the pink glitter nail polish, Sophia studies her hard work. Pink nail polish had dripped, just a little, on her favorite Frozen comforter, but it’ll probably come off in the wash. A couple of the doll’s plastic legs are streaked with drips she rubbed off with her thumb, but all in all it isn’t a bad effort. “It’s a bit like coloring in,” she says softly to her dolls. “I just need to keep inside the lines. And you’re looking good, girlies.” (As auntie Rosie would say.)

*On a roll, Sophia clutches the two sticky bottles of nail polish as she skips down the hall. She hesitates at the baby’s room. After all, little Eve has beautiful tiny fingernails. But what if the baby doesn’t stay still? Instead, she tip toes past the baby’s room and down the stairs and into the family room. She stops dead. Papa and uncle Olivier are sound asleep. Papa is snoring gently, even though he swears he never snores. Her gaze lights upon their bare feet. Nothing small about those hairy feet. But her eyes go wide as her little heart soars with a thrilled delight. Look at those bare feet. Look at all those toenails.

She skips over, places a bottle on the table, the top isn’t on properly and lands on the glass with a soft clink. For a moment she freezes as if she’s playing statues with Luca and Tonio. Unblinking eyes are glued to her papa’s face, but no one stirs. With her tongue caught between her teeth, Sophia picks up a bottle, gives it a shake, and gets to work.

Fifteen busy minutes later, both bottles are empty. Shame about the smeared drips on the floor, and the cotton tea cloth. They’ll wash off. But Sophia Ferranti is tickled pink with the two sets of beautiful pink toes. She managed to stay within the lines. Mostly. That’s ten toes for each man, that makes twenty because she can count all the way up to one hundred. Papa says she’s so clever one day she might become the President of the ‘Nighted States.

The sound of a car on the gravel driveway, has her skip to dump the empty bottles in the trash, and dance out to greet her mama and auntie Anastacia. Wait ’till they see what a good girl she’s been*

Anastacia, dressed in a linen sleeveless sheath the color of black coffee, in her usual sky high heels with her jet curls dancing down her back, bends down with arms wide open to greet a beaming Sophia. “Hey, baby girl. Did you miss me?”

“Yes! I watched Frozen two times… and…”

Anastacia spins Sophia in a wide circle making her squeal with glee.

Bronte grins at her daughter, emerald eyes running over her, and can’t see anything amiss. Makes a change. “Did you have a good time with papa and Olivier?” she asks.

Sophia shakes her blonde head. “They’ve been sleeping on the couch all day. And papa snores even if he says he doesn’t.”

Bronte rolls her eyes at a grinning Anastacia. “Might have known it. Is Eve still asleep.”

Sophia hop-skips behind her mama and Anastacia as they walk through the door, and takes time to admire Anastacia’s fabulous black curls that fall to her tiny waist. Sophia wishes God had given her hair that curls. Anastacia looks like a princess. A real one. “Yep,” she says to her mama. “She’s been good as gold.” (As auntie Rosie says.)

*They enter the family room and her mama and Anastacia stop dead*

Anastacia slaps a hand across her mouth as her blue eyes fill with mirth. “Lemme get my phone,” she whispers, digging into her purse. “I’ve gotta get a picture of this for posterity. Omigod.”

*Meanwhile, her mama’s emerald eyes go wide. Sophia’s little chest puffs out with pride. She’s done a good job. Her papa and uncle Olivier’s toenails are a dark pink and sparkly pink, one after the other*

*Bronte’s gaze turns slowly upon her daughter, and reads the beaming face and who the culprit is with no problem. No problem at all*

Bronte knows exactly who’s responsible for the mess on her coffee table, AND her floor. And those responsible were going to be very busy with nail polish remover. Honestly, MEN! She claps her hands and clears her throat, loud. Her husband cracks open an eye, sends her a slow, sexy smile. “Hey, cara mia. Have a good time?”

Bronte ignores the way Olivier is eyeing Anastacia, as if he could lick her from top to toe. And talking about toes… She sends her husband big eyes. “Not as much fun as you two have had. Check out your toenails.”

*The great thing is that Anastacia is still filming with her phone and catches the entire shock, awe, and roars of male laughter in real time. Nico grabs Sophia and turns her upside down, holding her by the ankles. His baby girl screams with laughter*

“You little diavolo!”

“Serves you right,” the daughter from hell says, her head at his feet. “You’re supposed to look after little children, not snore like a pig.”

*Later… much later… Sophia is in bed sound asleep after a busy day and dreaming about featuring in the starring role in Frozen… Her parents and Anastacia and Olivier are enjoying an after dinner drink in the garden as the sun goes down*

A grinning Olivier wiggles his toes. “I like it. I could start a new soccer trend.”

Anastacia digs a sharp elbow in his ribs. “You’ll have to wax the revolting black hairs on your toes.”

Nico’s feet are propped on a chair as he admires his daughter’s handiwork. He has hairy toes, too. “Waxing will hurt. Maybe another color. Aubergine, something like that would work.”

Sitting across the table, Bronte sips her white wine, shoots the men a hard stare. “I cannot rely on you two for one little thing, can I?”

Nico sends her a slow smile, and she knows exactly what’s coming. “Ah, bella mia. Did you see Sophia’s little face? She is so happy. My job as her papa is to make her happy. After all…”

“You are Italian,” they chorus.

Nico grins, shrugs. “Si.”

 

FINITO

Many moons ago, H was looking after my youngest daughter while I was out buying shoes for her big sister, and when we returned home we found my baby girl had raided my nail varnish. She was nearly three. She’d painted dark pink varnish on her eyelids, around her mouth, and on my bedroom carpet. All I can say is it was not pretty for H or for her. Not pretty at all. MEN!

If you haven’t read the story of how Anastacia and Olivier got together, here’s the blurb:

 

Ambitious, workaholic Anastacia Morgan runs Ferranti Communications

with a cool-head and an iron will. Her latest project is ensuring sports star Olivier Conti does what he’s told in a series of adverts. Olivier is impossible with a huge ego she’s more than able to handle. His smile may do wonderful things to her libido, but Ana is determined to succeed where other women fail and resist the gorgeous soccer star.

However, in this game there are no rules and Olivier’s never missed scoring a penalty, yet.

 

 

Here’s an excerpt:

 

Anastacia studied her PA’s hurriedly cobbled together file on the footballer. According to Nico, Olivier Conti’s good looks, charisma, work ethic and skills on and off the field were going to make working with him a breeze.

Yeah, right.

Easy for him to say.

Anastacia glared and glowered at the glossy ten-by-twelve publicity pic.

Almond shaped eyes the color of bitter chocolate twinkled into hers.

She sniffed.

He looked… charming.

Anastacia didn’t trust charming.

He also had an in-your-face confidence.

Anastacia didn’t trust a man who was over-confident.

His thick black hair had been styled. Not too much.

She loathed too much hair product on a man.

Good bone structure. Strong jaw. Smoothly curved mouth. Kissable. A straight nose, sharp black brows and a taut smooth skin combined to produce a face that women all over the world (according to the gushing blurb) dreamed about.

Anastacia’s PA, Linda, was a blood-hound when it came to digging up the juicy stuff in a client’s private life. So far she hadn’t found too much juice on Olivier. However, from the photographs and gossip pages it appeared he was fond of leggy blondes. A lot of leggy blondes, which was pretty representative of his type of breed.

Footballers.

Men who were too young to deal with too much money and the pulling power that money brought them.

Men who were notoriously fickle when it came to commitment.

Men who walked away from their responsibilities.

Even if that responsibility was a child.

She’d avoided the sport and the people in it like the plague.

And she had a very good reason.

A reason which was no one’s business except her own.

Now she tossed the photograph on her desk, and spun her chair to stare broodingly out over the city.

She could smell it a mile away.

Trouble.

Olivier Conti was trouble with a capital T.

 

While Anastacia was nose deep in everything Olivier, the man himself was giving Nico Ferranti plenty of grief.

Olivier dragged his hands through short black hair. He was six foot two inches, tall for a footballer, and as lean and fast as a greyhound.

“Nico, I cannot believe that a casual conversation about an investment has led to this.”

Nico sent him a big grin. A grin that a killer whale might have been proud of.

“In five years, or less, you will be burned out. Finito. It is time you learned the hotel business.”

“I do not know what my agent is going to say about this. He knows I cannot act. I am not doing any of that modelling shit in my underwear, showing the world the size of my package, either.”

“You would probably need to fill out your package with a pair of socks.”

Nico’s droll response had Olivier wiggle dark brows and toss him an evil grin.

“I do not like to boast, but…”

Nico threw back his head and roared with laughter.

Once he’d found his equilibrium again, he shook his head.

“Your personal business has nothing to do with your agent. No one has asked you to strip. And, there will be no modelling your impressive package. It is small scenes in three cities, endorsing hotels in which you have invested a large sum of money.” Nico decided not to mention a certain bathroom scene, which was pencilled in for the Rome shoot. He’d let Anastacia deal with it.

Olivier swore, paced to the hotel suite’s floor to ceiling window and back again.

“This is not the same thing. I am not endorsing a watch or a car. This is acting, per amor di Dio! I am going to make an ass of myself.”

He might feel like one, but he wouldn’t look like one, Nico decided, as he sipped his espresso. He studied Olivier over the rim of the tiny cup.

The boy was tall, hard muscled, lean and wore clothes with a style and flair that was perfect for the Ferranti brand. Olivier’s tanned, chiselled face, the drop-your-panties-eyes, had women all over the world drooling, while his skill and sportsmanlike play on the soccer field had won over male fans of the beautiful game. Olivier was highly intelligent, easy-going, good-looking and charismatic. And Nico reckoned he’d be a natural in front of the camera.

Plus, the boy had good instincts. He was no fool.

“You will not make an ass of yourself,” Nico said in a reassuring tone. “And I can guarantee that I have the best person in the business who is going to see to it.”

Olivier looked less than impressed as he flopped into a chair and stretched out long legs clad in black designer jeans.

“I do not need a babysitter,” he growled.

The thought of Anastacia Morgan babysitting anyone flashed into Nico’s brain. Somehow, he couldn’t quite see it. But he ignored Olivier’s sulky comment and changed tack.

“What if you get injured again? What if this time there is no going back?”

Olivier sent him a black look of sheer disbelief.

But Nico knew how much Olivier had panicked last year when an injury had put him out of the game for three months.

“I am one hundred per cent fit.”

He was indeed.

And he was scoring goals.

Si. But how many footballers, the best, disappear into depression, and worse, after they have played their last game?”

“I am not my father…”

Si. I know this. But… it is never too early to plan for the future. You have a responsibility to your madre, your sorelle.”

“I have planned for the future and I understand my responsibilities to mia famiglia. I can go into coaching…”

Nico raised his hand to brush away that bright idea.

“It is always wise to spread our skill base. What good is a business degree if you do not use it?”

“So, instead of chilling out in a hot tub with hot women in Las Vegas, this summer I will be cooped up in hotel rooms?”

“Think of it as investing in your future,” Nico said in a cheery voice, tossing in a big smile for good measure. “Plus, having a work ethic instead of partying will set a good example to young players who look up to you. And it will be good for the image of the sport.”

Silence.

“I need to prepare for the game,” Olivier said as he stood. When he reached the door, he turned and beaned Nico with a dark look. “And if I end up flat on my face in this advertising campaign, I promise to tell Bronte about you and four showgirls in Vegas.”

Nico felt the blood drain from his face.

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Anyway, that happened long before I met my wife. I am a changed man.”

Olivier gave him a hard stare. “Si,” he said, sounding like his mentor. “Do not say I did not warn you.”

As the door closed behind Olivier, Nico tipped back his chair and finished his coffee.

Ah, he loved it when a plan came together.

 

 

new1 copy

 

BUY HERE

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Coming to The End game of SEAN and then it goes for editing. It’s reading good, girlies.

Hugs and blessings and peace to my favorite peeps.

Christine X

TIME FOR ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE AND THE FERRANTI FAM-LEE.

 

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Hi, girlies,

Time for another slice of Ludlow life with the Ferrantis’.

On a baking hot day Bronte is in her car with a full load of groceries and four children.

*Why has she gone supermarket shopping with four children in tow? Why? What the hell was she thinking? The baby’s all hot and bothered and has expressed her feelings by vomiting on a gorgeous sun dress, and baby seat clipped into the passenger seat. The twins are squabbling viciously in the back, and Tonio is boogieing on down to something on his iPod. She’s already pulled over once to deal with the baby. Thank God for Tonio. Nothing ever fazed the boy. Without being asked he’d grabbed Eve’s diaper bag and tucked a stinky dress into a plastic bag, and handed Bronte baby wipes and then a sip cup of fresh water to rehydrate the child. She’s no idea what the hell Sophia and Luca are bickering about, and since there’s no pushy-shovey yet, she left them to it. The twins are all hot and bothered, too, a bit like herself. This whole sorry mess is all her own stupid fault. Her nanny is matron of honor at her best friend’s wedding. Rosie, bless her, offered to take all four Ferranti children while her harassed bestie did grocery shopping, but Luca has a mild cold and Bronte doesn’t want baby Mila to catch it. Why borrow trouble?

And Nico is in Rome for two days, on business, or so he says. Last night he’d called her from one of his clubs, all Ciao, baby, and ti ‘amo, cara mia. Yeah right, there was nothing wrong with her hearing, was there? Hadn’t she heard the low and sexy, “Nicolo, come dance with me?” Then there’d been a short pause on the line before ‘Nicolo’ blew his wife a kiss goodbye. She’d give him more than a kiss when he got back, more like a fat lip and a thick ear. And as for dancing, she’d give him dancing. Temper on a nice steady simmer, she doesn’t notice the beautiful day or the beautiful countryside as she drives home with the air con turned on to full.

Imagine dancing with some sexpot, and doing God knew what, in a nightclub, while his adoring wife runs his home, does his laundry, and looks after HIS four children. AND runs a successful business. Seriously, the broom stick up her ass is beginning to chafe.

As temper leaks away leaving her all weepy and desperately fed up, Bronte tells herself she trusts her husband implicitly and not be stupid. But she tries not to think about the woman who calls him, ‘Nicolo’, and what it meant or she’d be as sick as her baby girl.

“I hate your big fat mouth,” five year old Sophia declares.

“I hate your stupid skinny chicken legs,” her twin snarls.

“I hate your ugly, smelly guts.”

“I hate your stupid bimbo hair.”

*Bronte takes a very deep breath, and turns up the radio. Even Taylor Swift yowling about lost love is better than listening to what’s going on in the back seat*

When she reaches the gates of The Dower House, she stops the car. And just sits still while the invectives rage on in the back seat. Tonio pulls out his earphones, sends her a wary look via her rear view mirror. She turns off the radio. It takes a about twenty seconds for the twins to realize all is not well. After a final, harshly whispered, “And I hate your stinky breath.” Quiet reigns.

“Wanna know what I think?” Bronte says in a silky tone. “I think I’m going to sell two of my children to the gypsies camped in farmer Brown’s fields.”

*Cue a stunned silence. In the rear view mirror she sees Tonio bite down hard on his bottom lip. It’s not often she uses the selling them to the gypsies threat. It’s bad parenting, but at the moment Bronte Ferranti could not give a hot damn*

“Got nothing to say?” she asks. She spins around so she can face her twins. It hits her hard, and not for the first time, what an fascinating blend of herself and Nico they are. Her green eyes in Sophia’s face, Nico’s dark grey eyes in Luca’s. Her mouth in Luca’s, Nico’s in Sophia’s. Her coloring and build – poor child – gifted to Sophia, and Nico’s jet black hair to Luca. She pauses and raises her brows, notices the twins are pale, eyes too big in their little faces. “Do you want me to take you to the gypsies now, or should you go home to pack your belongings first? What do you think?”

“I think I don’t wanna live with the gypsies. I won’t like it there,” Sophia says, her emerald eyes swimming.

“They have lots of puppies and kittens,” Tonio says helpfully.

Luca juts out his chin. “I don’t care about stupid puppies or kittens. I’m not gonna live with the gypsies. I’m gonna live with Auntie Rosie and Uncle Alexander and baby Mila. And without HER,” he says jerking his thumb at his sister. “They won’t sell me to the gypsies because they LOVE me.”

A little voice, might be the voice of reason, is telling Bronte to wind the conversation down instead of up, but she ignores it. “Um, I dunno about that. A little boy like you could make big bucks with the gypsies.”

Now Sophia’s chin jerks as she watches her mama through slitty eyes. “You’re being horrible to us. You’ve been cranky all day. I’m gonna tell papa what you said about the gypsies. He’ll spank your bottom.”

*If only*

She stares hard at the twins, her voice firm and a tone that means business. “You both know better than to argue when I’m driving the car. And I have the baby with me. What would have happened if I’d been distracted by your bad behaviour and had an accident?”

Cue another silence, and Bronte let it go on, and on, until both twins dropped their chin on their chest. “Do I hear a sorry, mama?”

Typically, Luca nods first. “Sorry, mama.”

On the other hand, the stubborn Sophia takes a few seconds longer before she twisted her mouth, nodded. “Sorry, mama.”

Bronte starts the car, continues up the drive. “Well then, I think I’ll keep you both a little longer.”

*As she winds around to the parking space at the back of the house, Nico lifts his suitcase out of the trunk of his car. His smile is big and wide as he spots them. But the smile slides when he sees his wife’s stony face*

As the children barrel out of the car, Luca throws himself at his papa. “Mama’s going to sell us to the gypsies,” he says, then bursts into tears and buries his face in Nico’s belly.

Sophia, wearing a cute little white cotton sundress with sandals on her bare feet, marches past him. “You need to spank her bottom for scaring little children. Mama’s been a bad girl all day.”

Nico’s brows wing into his hairline as he hugs Luca and sends a ‘What happened?’ look to Tonio.

“Eve was sick in the car. The twins have been fighting all afternoon. I think the gypsy plan is a good idea,” Tonio says as he carries a heaving bag of groceries into the house.

“Go and help your brother,” Nico says, giving Luca a gentle pat on the bottom. He turns to his wife, takes the baby from her arms, catches a whiff of baby puke from her black curls. Bronte’s hefting a couple bags from the trunk. Chin high, she marches past him and into the house. Uh oh. Trouble. Can’t be anything he’s done. Can it?

*Three hours later and The Dower House is quiet. Nico’s just finished listening to Tonio read another chapter of Moby Dick. It’s hard going at times, but the boy is doing well. The twins and the baby are out for the count. He pours himself a glass of Chianti and a glass of white for her and goes in search of his wife, and finds her sitting outside on one of the swings watching the sun going down. Her hair’s tied back at the neck in a short tail, she’s wearing a skinny vest, tiny jean shorts showcasing long tanned legs stretched out before her. Her feet are bare, and he notices her toenails are painted deep pink. It’s clear she’s had a bad and tiring day. It’s also clear she’s still in a mood, which is something of a novelty because Bronte’s rarely moody. She simply doesn’t have it in her to hold onto a grudge for long*

He bends to kiss her flushed cheek, hands her the wine. Her eyes flick to his and hold. Now his own narrow as he recognizes something that looks like hurt and disappointment. “Enjoy dancing last night?” she says, takes a sip of wine, and not once do her eyes leave his.

Ah, the light bulb switches on in his brain. “It was the wife of a business colleague. Harmless.”

Her eyes move to study the growing dusk. “I can’t remember the last time I danced. It was definitely before we had Eve.”

*Within a couple of heartbeats, their wine is set on a table, and she’s in his arms. Nico hums, ‘Shall We Dance’ and spins her around the garden until she’s breathless and laughing so hard her sides hurt*

As they move into a slow dance, more of a foot shuffle and hug, she nuzzles her face into his neck to simply take a breath and inhale the incredible scent of her man. And just like that her world steadies again. “I’m a terrible mother,” she says as guilt about the gypsies hits her hard.

“No. What you are is tired and a little out of sorts. What you need, we need, is a special place just for us. A place that’s not far away. A place you, we, can escape to when things get on top of us. A place where we won’t be disturbed when I spank you when you need it.”

Her gurgle of laughter has him shift to stare into her face. He gives her big eyes. “I am not joking. According to our daughter you have been a very naughty girl.”

“And where would this magical place be?”

“You know the new A frame cabin set high in the hills above Ludlow Hall? The place from where we can see The Dower House?” She nodded. “I had it built for you. You and me. Why don’t we visit it tomorrow afternoon and christen the super-king-sized bed?”

Emotions, too many to handle, rose up to block her throat. Dear heaven she adores this man.

“It’s mine?”

He drops a kiss on her stunned mouth. “Si. Somewhere you can chill, listen to music, work on a new cake design. Or simply read and relax. And it has a Jacuzzi.”

“Wow, how did you come up with such a great idea?”

When he sent her an are-you-kidding-me look, she had to laugh. “Cara mia, I am Italian.”

 

Finito

 

 

Until next week.

Remember, be good or I’ll sell you to the gypsies.

Hugs,

Christine X

 

My favorite bad boy becomes a man…

DESERTORCHIDNEWFBBANNER

Hi, guys!

A couple of my readers reached out to tell me they had no idea I had a romantic suspense out there in the digital book world. And that they loved it. DESERT ORCHID was released around the time my mother passed away, so I didn’t do a lot of promotion for it. This story has been a bit of a slow burn, but the reviews are stellar right across all the distributors so I thought I’d give peeps a gentle reminder.

What readers are saying –

‘Regarding the suspense aspect, there were enough twists and turns and heart-pounding scenes to keep me, a mystery writer, intrigued. There are hints at the end of more stories to come about these characters. I cannot wait!’

Kassandra Lamb, author of the Kate Huntington mysteries

‘In this book expect the unexpected it does everything you want, it makes you laugh, makes you cry and the steamy parts are all there. It is the total package. And while you think you make have already read a book similar, let me assure you, you have not!
I won’t repeat the jacket cover as what help is that,you already read that. The Heroine is no push over and she has a thing or two to teach her “rock star”.
If you love romance, laughter some intrigue and HEA then this is not a suggestion, its a must read.:) The book is a total delight and I have read it three times already. Thank you C C Mackenzie’

Amazon reviewer

 

 

 

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AMAZON USA     AMAZON UK    iBOOKS  BARNES & NOBLE   KOBO

There are plenty of thrills and spills in this one, here’s the back page and a sneak peak:

BLURB:

Think ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ meets ‘Taken’

He doesn’t want a country. He doesn’t want a wife. He doesn’t want love. He wants to forget.

 A young Arabian Queen must marry a wild, wicked and wilful Prince to save her people from civil unrest and protect the wealth of her Kingdom.

Charisse never expected to find love with a darkly brooding man who looks and lives like a rock star.

Growing up as a member of royalty isn’t everything it’s proclaimed to be. Khalid El Haribe learned that heartbreaking lesson five years ago and isn’t interested in ruling a small desert kingdom or marriage but he cannot forget the debt he owes his family. Perhaps doing his duty will atone for past mistakes? Meeting the beautiful and feisty Charisse comes as a pleasant surprise…the attraction between them burns as hot as the desert.

But tragic events in Charisse’s past threaten to destroy her Kingdom and her life, too. Can their fragile love survive?

 

EXCERPT:

Unfolding the stiff pages of the letter written by the fragile hand of her late husband, Charisse El Haribe’s fingers shook with the emotion that squeezed her lungs, her throat, and stung her eyes.

She shivered even though the temperature outside the palace, under a relentless sun, scorched the land at a steady forty-two degrees. Asim’s passing had been a blessed release for the ravaged shell of his body. But she still found it hard to believe he was gone. Poor Asim, his had been a life filled with suffering. His heart condition had been congenital, which meant no heir for the kingdom of Onuur. And Asim had borne his infirmity with grace, with a highly developed sense of humour and with fortitude.

As was the custom in her adopted land, Asim had been buried within twenty-four hours of his death.

Now she wondered how she could possibly carry on her life without him? The phrase was a cliché, but it was nevertheless very true that Asim had been her rock. And it wasn’t overly dramatic to say he’d saved her life, her heart and even her soul from certain destruction.

Had it really been six short years since he’d brought her, a traumatised sixteen year old, to this fabulous white palace? The structure had been built with Asim’s needs in mind, two thousand feet above sea level on the top of a mountain where the air was cool and clear, and where clouds sprinted across a magnificent expanse of a sky so blue it hurt the eye.

The faint scent of Asim’s signature cologne clung to the thick papers and his presence returned to her in an instant. With a deep inhale, Charisse pressed the missive to her lips. The scent eased the unremitting agony in her heart. And an extraordinary sense of Asim standing at her shoulder overwhelmed her. Even as the feeling brought her comfort, she knew he would expect her to face an uncertain future with bravery, with dignity. After all that he had suffered, the way he had courageously coped with the personal insults of a body reduced to skin and bone, the memory gave her strength.

Asim used to say that she’d given him extra years of life and Charisse hoped he’d been right. He’d been like a beloved father to her, a teacher, and most important of all, a true and loyal friend. And she’d loved him deeply with all of her fractured heart.

Ever since Charisse had been handed the letter from her darling Asim, by a stern-faced Minister of the Interior, she’d had the distinct sensation of waiting for an axe to fall.

The two women who sat opposite stared at her with eyes filled with grief and concern.

With a snuffle and a deep sigh, Boris’s immense head rested on Charisse’s knee. Big hazel eyes locked on her face. They were filled with unconditional love and an intensity that had her press a kiss to his shaggy head of fur the colour of tarnished silver. Charisse raised her index finger. The dog moved with a reluctance that made her bite down hard on her lip to lie on the floor beside his brother Rufus. Her raised brow had Boris hide his face in his paws and heave another great breath from his massive chest. Her Irish Wolfhounds were suffering the loss of Amir, too. She’d take them out for a run later with Diablo. Her stallion needed to vent his excess energy, and it would do her good to escape from the palace for a little while.

Clearing her throat, Charisse blinked to clear her vision and read the letter aloud to her captive audience.

“My darling, Charisse,

I am sorry to leave you. Please find it in your heart to forgive me, but God has need of me in heaven.

You brought joy, laughter, companionship and love to a lonely old man. You opened my eyes and my heart to what is possible for our people and for the future of Onuur. Namely, the children.

It is crucial that you continue your work, Charisse. And you must resume your studies! I know – nag, nag, nag.”

Charisse smiled into the swimming eyes of her sister-in-law, Yasmin. And into the brown eyes, sharp with a ruthless intelligence, of Arabella Faulkner, her bodyguard and trusted friend. Then she took a deep steadying breath and continued,

“You cannot return to the land of your birth. HE now wears a cloak of respectability and has become too powerful. You know too much, and that is dangerous. As I await to leave this earth, my greatest fear is that HE will attempt to strike you down. To prevent such an event I have already set in motion plans to secure your future. Plans that even a man such as HE dare not defy.

I have named Prince Khalid El Haribe as my heir. You must marry him within six weeks.”

 

Stunned disbelief had Charisse blink once, twice.

Her heart rammed to an emergency stop then roared too loud in her ears. She shook her head in denial of what she held in her hands written in black ink by that fragile hand.

She read it twice, three times.

Why?

Why on earth would Asim do such a terrible thing to her, to Onuur?

Looking up, she read her incredulity mirrored in the shocked eyes of her companions.

The dogs whined, and she silenced them with the lift of her forefinger.

A deep frown creased her forehead as she continued more slowly,

 

“I know you will be confused, even dismayed, by my choice of a husband for you, child. But please permit me to explain. Yes, Khalid is flawed. Yes, he is a womaniser. Yes, he is wild, wilful and out of control. But Charisse, there is nothing and no one you cannot tame if you can find it in your heart to forgive him and open your clever mind to his potential. Believe me, he has potential to be a great man and a good husband.

Now I am gone the stability of the country and the region is at risk. Greedy eyes are turned to Onuur. They will surely inflame unrest and undo all the good work we have achieved. Bloodshed, pain and loss must surely follow for the people of this land, which is why I have chosen Khalid.

He will bring with him the security and the stability of the house of El Haribe. The King and his sons are powerful and will protect you and our Kingdom. The King is in agreement with my plan. Look upon him as your father. The Queen will come to love you, too, if you give her a chance.”

 

Charisse gasped and jumped to her feet, the correspondence fluttering to a floor of polished white marble.

Two giant heads snapped to attention as the dogs rose as one and their butts hit the floor.

“I will not!” she cried.

The wolfhounds’ eyes, the colour of jet, tracked her as she paced to the open balcony and back. Wearing a loose top and flowing pants of ivory silk, her soft leather ballet pumps made little sound.

With a fluid movement of her long and lean body, clothed in black military fatigues, Arabella picked up the pages from the floor.

She stood and held out the letter to Charisse.

“Read all of it, Your Highness. We can have a nervous breakdown, if we need to, after we have all the facts.’

Charisse took a steadying breath even as her pulse was hammering in her throat and her eyes stung.

Arabella was quite right.

Where was her self-control?

Having a temper tantrum like a child changed nothing.

She wanted to cry enough tears to fill an ocean.

But tears changed nothing.

With a single nod, she took the letter and sank to the edge of the chair.

The dogs didn’t relax and their black eyes, anxious and watchful, never left her face for a moment. She couldn’t help it, her hand shook as she cleared her throat.

 

“Should you find yourself unable to marry Khalid, the White Palace shall remain yours in perpetuity. On your death it will return to the State. A sum of (she gasped) has been placed in banks in Switzerland for your personal use.

There are conditions to the marriage:

Khalid must not take concubines or another wife whilst you live.

He must provide you with a child within one year of marriage.

Good God!

If the marriage is annulled, the child will remain with you.

So you see, Charisse, you have a choice to make. Get to know Khalid. Open your mind. Help him find joy in service to our people. And at all times remember you are a Queen, beloved by the people of Onuur.

I die a happy and contented man, my darling, and for that I thank you.

Have courage.

All my love, Asim.”

 

Eyes stinging and with a hot rock lodged in her throat, Charisse folded the letter with great care and placed it on the table.

She felt the eyes of her companions on her as she stood, shoulders back and head held high. Like an automaton she moved towards open vast doors and stepped onto a wide stone terrace, which soared high above the valley below. Her sumptuous apartments covered the entire top floor of the palace. Asim had spared no expense ensuring her comfort, providing rooms that were light and spacious with the added luxury of private balconies. There was her office, a state-of-the-art kitchen, gymnasium, a lap pool, and covered deck for lazy days.

Not that she had many of those.

Charisse gazed out, unseeing, over the mountain tops and into the sea, miles beyond.

Up here, the climate was never still, never quiet.

A brisk wind toyed with the long tail of her platinum hair, whipping it around her face. The salty tang of the sea mixed with the scent of jasmine and tea roses planted in huge terracotta pots. A cry from above had her look up and narrow her eyes. A single raptor circled, gliding in the updraft of a cloudless sky.

Dear heaven she missed Amir so much.

But why had he never discussed his plans for the future with her?

They’d agreed never to keep secrets.

The ache in her heart swelled into unbearable pain as her face crumpled.

Her delicate fists pounded the top of the balcony.

A sympathetic hand touched her shoulder.

“Why didn’t he talk to me about this? Why am I not given time to grieve?” Charisse turned into Yasmin’s wiry arms and sobbed into her neck.

As she would an infant, her sister-in-law rubbed her back in lazy circles.

Her voice, filled with sorrow, was the merest whisper, “Hush, child. It has always been thus for the rulers of this land.”

Yasmin’s hand, the skin paper thin and wrinkled with age, tipped up her chin. Dark eyes identical to Asim’s stared into hers and Charisse recognised grief and a hideous loss. Gentle fingertips wiped the tears from her cheeks. Yasmin had lost her favourite brother and here she was acting like a spoilt child. And shame for her selfish outburst smacked her too hard. Yasmin kissed one cheek and then the other. “He prepared you for this day. The men have buried him and the women will weep. Asim was revered in this land. Your Prince has large shoes to fill.”

Charisse couldn’t stop the sting of outrage.

My Prince?”

She whirled, blue eyes blazing as she paced back and forth.

Alert, the dogs took positions in the shade and sat on their haunches like sentinels, one either side of the ornate arched doorway. Not once did their eyes leave her face.

“He’s a tom-cat,” she spat the words. “A drunk. A waster.”

“That’s right, your Highness, tell it like it is,” Arabella drawled and added. “Apparently, his art sells for a small fortune.”

Temper won the war of attrition with grief, and surged through Charisse.

She spun to face her friend with wide eyes.

“Have you seen what he calls art? If I want a visual lesson in what the intimate body parts of the female form look like, I’ll refer to a gynaecological compendium for facts, not fiction.”

Arabella winced at the tone.

“To be fair his work in oils has gathered critical acclaim.”

Bullshit.

Charisse wasn’t having that.

“Yes, by men who need to be titillated by Khalid’s so called interpretation of a clitoris, labia and perineum.” Utter fury spiked through the top of her head as her eyes pinned Arabella’s and it took everything she had to stop her voice shaking, to articulate every syllable, “There are children living in this continent who do not know what it is like to live without the unparalleled burn of an empty belly, who cannot imagine a future further than their next meal.” She took a very deep breath. “While he, who’s never known anything but health, wealth and a fawning society, does nothing but piss away his opportunity to make a real difference to his people.

“Oh, they might not have the good fortune to be born within the hallowed borders of Dhuma or Quaram, but our people are nomads. We are all brothers and sisters and we who rule have a responsibility to the hungry, the sick and the vulnerable of this region.”

 

Having heard it all before, and more, Arabella nodded.

“I’m not defending him. But he’s not had an easy time of it…”

Charisse flicked a hand, rudely interrupting her bodyguard and friend.

She wasn’t having any of that, either.

“He needs to get over himself and grow a pair. Onuur needs a real man, not a dick-swinging fool who cannot go six hours without a drink or a woman or three.”

“Charisse!” Yasmin’s soft voice held a censure that had anger leak out of Charisse like a deflated balloon.

God, she felt physically ill at the mere thought of such a man touching her.

She couldn’t do it.

Arabella frowned now, and sat at a stone table in the shade, drumming her fingernails on the table top. “You know we can’t believe absolutely everything they print in the press? Much of it is bound to be exaggerated.”

Charisse let out an unladylike snort that had Yasmin send her a look of mild reproach.

“If it swims like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck.”

Charisse’s temperament was usually easygoing. But now her temper bubbled and brewed quite nicely. And her chin tilted.

“He is not fit to lick my feet. And in my bed?” She hissed out a breath of sheer temper. “Never. I’d rather sleep with a…”

The shrill ring of the telephone, the land line, brought an abrupt end to her rant.

Arabella paused, waiting for her Queen’s nod of assent before picking up the receiver.

“Hello?” The bodyguard listened with a deepening crease on her forehead as her dark brows met over her nose.

Now what? Charisse wondered.

Arabella’s dark eyes flicked to hers. “Yes, I will inform her Highness.”

Arabella replaced the receiver and opened her mouth to speak when the distant whop- whop-whop of helicopters brought their attention to the land to the north of Onuur, to Dhuma.

Charisse stepped into her apartments, covered herself with a white hijab and stalked out to observe the approach of three vast military helicopters.

Vultures, she fumed.

As a mere woman, even as a queen, she had no rights.

The El Haribe Princes and their father would rule her land, her people.

Men who were so called modernists.

If she had to marry one, why couldn’t it have been the elder brother?

At least Sarif appeared to have standards, morals.

Although from what she’d seen on the news and on the internet Sarif’s face appeared to be carved from stone, his dark eyes too hard. Plus, he had a reputation for being relentless, even ruthless, in achieving his goals.

Emotions gripped her throat as a tsunami of guilt for the anger she felt with her late husband washed over her.

“Oh, my darling, what on earth were you thinking?” she whispered.

Her eyes narrowed into slits as the helicopters thundered around the Palace in preparation to land.

The racket, the vibration under her feet, spooked the horses in the stables far below and even from here she could hear Diablo’s frantic screams. The magnificent black stallion was already edgy since he’d picked up her grief and her pain. She’d need to take him out later and give him his neck or he’d be impossible for the stable boys to handle.

 

Helicopters the colour of the desert descended kicking up mini tornadoes, sand devils, in their wake.

And the analogy was not lost on Charisse.

One of them carried the very devil himself.

A man so bent on his own pleasure, on his own self-destructive needs, he’d even turned his back on his country, his people and his own family.

She needed time. Time to think. Time to plan.

Determination filled her heart. “I am in seclusion. I will receive no one,” she said, her voice firm and the tone harsh. And she hardened her heart to Yasmin’s sigh of disappointment.

“They won’t like it,” Arabella warned her.

Charisse kept her burning gaze on the helicopters hidden now among huge clouds of dusty sand as they settled outside the palace walls. Her people were covering their eyes and mouths with cloth to protect themselves from the sting of swirling sand. Since they’d never seen a military helicopter up close and personal, some of the children were holding their ears and screaming with fright and shock.

Anger felt a hell of a lot better than guilt and Charisse gave it free rein now.

Stupid, ignorant, macho fools.

Did they not realise the damage they were inflicting on a people and animals unused to such arrogant behaviour.

How dare they arrive at her home in such a manner.

“I will come to them when I am ready. Not before.”

*Finito*

I hope you enjoy reading Charisse and Khalid’s rocky road through villainy, mistrust and a scorching lust, to true love, as much as I loved writing them.

Christine X

It’s (just after) Monday, and here’s more from the Ferranti Fam-lee.

Behind every great daughteris a truly amazing dadand his name is Nico Ferranti

 

 

Hi, guys!

I’m late with this week’s post due to travelling yesterday. A trip that was supposed to take about five hours took nearly nine thanks to an acid spill on the motorway (freeway) which ate up the tarmac. We were stuck in a ten mile tail back in one of the hottest days of the year. Not fun.

Here’s this week’s slice of life with the Ferranti Fam-lee!

BRONTE & NICO EATING A ROAST CHICKEN, WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS, DINNER WITH THE KIDS AT THE DOWER HOUSE.

*Luca, his little face a picture of complete misery, is pushing a piece of broccoli around his plate with a fork*

Dressed in below the knee jean shorts and an Incredible Hulk T-shirt, he says in a tone of utter disgust, “I hate this stuff.”

Sophia dressed in matching shorts and a Frozen T-shirt swings her bare legs beneath her chair, nods. “Me, too.” She spears a piece of chicken breast, nibbles delicately.

“I’m not eating it.” Luca’s mouth goes tight as he moves his full plate away.

*Bronte studies her youngest son’s stony face. He doesn’t look flushed. He doesn’t look pale. It’s not like him to make a fuss. He’s gone through a sudden growth spurt and is at least a head taller than his twin sister, so maybe he’s tired. He tends to leave food he doesn’t want, which is fine with her. But she frowns when Sophia, in a show of sisterly solidarity, pushes her full plate away, too. Little monkey*

Tonio, who by the amount of food he scoffs at meal times possesses hollow legs, cranes his neck to check out their plates. “Not want the chicken?”

Luca makes a horrible face, shoves his plate across the table to his brother. “Nope. It’s gross.”

*Bronte’s brows fly into her hairline. Excuse me? Since when has her freshly prepared, carefully balanced meals ever been regarded as gross? But before she can open her mouth, Nico steps into the breach*

“Do you have a headache? Are you sick?” he asks Luca.

Luca shakes his head. Big dark eyes meet his papa’s. “I don’t like these little trees. They taste gross, like soil. Why do I wanna eat soil?”

Nico sends Bronte big eyes to tell her he’ll deal with the sudden revolt in his family. He turns to his son. “We have carrots. You like carrots.”

Luca makes another horrible face. “I don’t like cooked carrots. I like raw carrots.”

“I like raw carrots, too,” Sophia says. She turns to Luca. “Maybe you’d like raw trees?”

“Yuk.”

“I do not mind the little trees,” Tonio says, spearing broccoli from Luca’s plate to his own, and then helping himself to chicken breast in gravy. “Mama makes the best food. Much better than school food. The priests used to say that we who have full plates and full bellies are blessed by Jesus. Around the world there are thousands of little childrens going to bed every day with empty bellies because of war… and stuff.”

Sophia’s green eyes went wide. “Little childrens go to bed with no dinner?”

Si.” Tonio broke a table rule by pointing his knife at his sister. “And without breakfast, and even lunch. Sometimes the little childrens have no food for days. Babies, too, have no milk.”

Now Luca’s bottom lip’s trembling, and his big dark eyes swim. “But… You’ve eaten all my dinner. Now I’m gonna go to bed with no dinner, just like the poor little childrens and babies who have no milk.”

Sophia’s bottom lip joins her brother’s in a show of sibling sympathy. “Me, too, just like the poor childrens.”

*Nico’s eyes go huge as he looks at a wife who’s biting down hard on her bottom lip. Dio mio. Just listen to them, a person might think that Nico Ferranti starves his childrens, er children. Tonio’s English is amazing, but sometimes he has trouble*

Nico claps his hands. “We have plenty of food for everyone in this house. There is lots of chicken for anyone who wants it.”

Luca’s big eyes find his papa’s. “But… but… what about the little children who have no food? Can’t we give them our food if we have too much?”

*By this time, Bronte’s hand is covering her mouth to hide her smile. Her baby boy has a good heart, big heart. A heart that is easily bruised*

“Yes,” Sophia cries. “Emily’s daddy says my papa’s a filthy rich typhoon. Papa will send lots of food to the hungry childrens, especially lots of roast chicken and gravy.” She turns big emerald eyes to a Nico who’s still trying to recover from the shock of being called a ‘filthy rich typhoon’. “Won’t you, papa?”

Nico sends his daughter a nod. “Si. Ferranti Enterprises supports many charities, including Save The Children.”

*All three of his kids gaze at him in awe and wonder. Actually, he and his team donate much needed blankets and clothes to the United Nations refugee camps currently based in Jordan and Turkey*

“What does Save The Children do?” Sophia asks.

Nico clears his throat, the last thing he wants is to worry his kids, but it seems they are ready to hear about those less fortunate than themselves. “Well, they make sure children have clean water to drink and that they have a safe place to sleep, and they make sure they have clothes and food.”

Luca’s eyes go huge. “They have no water? No bed to sleep in?”

“Sometimes,” Bronte jumps in. “There is a natural disaster, like a flood or an earthquake, and houses are damaged or crops destroyed, so help is sent from many people all over the world.”

Without asking to leave the table, Sophia slides out of her chair. She moves to kneel on her papa’s lap and goes nose to nose with Nico. “When I’m a big girl and I can read and write good and get all my sums right, can I work for Save The Childrens?”

Nico can hardly swallow the lump of pride in his throat. Dio mio, how lucky is he to have such children? He cups Sophia’s little face, kisses her forehead, her nose. Then shifts to look her in the eye. “Cara mia, if you work hard you can do whatever you want to do in the whole wide world. Do you know why?”

Sophia’s high ponytail of shiny silver bounces as she shakes her head. “Why?”

“Because you are Italian.”

 

Finito

 

Gotta love the kids.

Until next week, enjoy the summer and hold your childrens tight and give them a big hug from me.

Christine X

 

 

 

It’s Monday, which means another slice of Ludlow life…

BLOGBANNERNICOSLICEOFLUDLOWLIFE

READ HOW BRONTE & NICO MET AND THEIR ROCKY ROAD TO HAPPINESS, FREE, HERE!

 

Bronte, Sophia, and Auntie Rosie descend on The Dower House weighed down bags from their shopping trip to find Nico and Alexander snoozing on the couch.

*Bronte dumps her bags on the kitchen table, and grins. Their men are sprawled on their back on the couch. A strong arm holds their daughters close. Rosie gives Bronte big eyes and mouths an, Aww! She tip-toes over to gently lift her daughter, and immediately Alexander’s eyes snap open. His smile is wide, and wicked*

“Hey,” he whispers. “Have a good time?”

“Yep,” Rosie whispers. “Put a nice big dent in the credit card. Don’t kill me.”

“Nah. Whatever you need, babe.”

Rosie bends down to plant a soft kiss on his mouth, shifts to nuzzle her daughter’s sooty curls. “She been good?”

“Not a peep,” he says, and presses gentle lips to Mila’s dark head.

*Nico watches Bronte through sleepy eyes, sends her a panty-melting smile*

“Have fun, cara mia?” he whispers.

“We did,” she whispers back, glances around the spotless kitchen room, nods approvingly. “Where are the boys?”

Nico blinks. “Um. Upstairs.”

*Sophia, dressed in navy below the knee cropped cotton leggings and a navy and white striped sleeveless smock dress, eyes her papa. In her white blonde hair a huge navy bow clings on for dear life*

Nico reaches out his hand to his eldest daughter who skips over to wind her arm around his neck and press a kiss his cheek. “Hi, papa,” Sophia says in a soft voice.

Dark grey eyes study her face. “Were you a good girl for mama and Rosie?”

She nods, leans into his shoulder, while her fingertip gently strokes baby Eve’s flushed cheek. “Uh huh. I had a milkshake and chicken kebabs and strawberry ice-cream,” she says in a stage whisper. “Aaaaaand new shoes.”

“Like mother like daughter,” Bronte says in a soft voice. “Want me to take the baby?”

Nico shakes his head. “Nah, she’s fine where she is.”

“Right then, I’d better go see what the boys are up to, they’re awfully quiet. Usually, they’re all over me to see what goodies I have for them.”

Nico shoots up, careful not to wake the baby, and thrusts her into Bronte’s arms. “I’ll go,” he says, hoping to God the boys have sorted the big mess in the bathroom.

“Actually,” Bronte murmurs, her brow creasing as she thoughtfully studies his face, the wide smile, the big eyes. “I need you to bring in the rest of the shopping.”

Nico blinks. “Nessen problema.”  He jogs out the door.

Bronte turns narrow eyes on her brother who is grinning like a fool. “Okay. Spill. What happened?”

Alexander hands Mila to her mama for a cuddle. “I’m saying nothing that might incriminate me,” he says.

Bronte turns to Sophia. “Go upstairs and tell your brothers to come down, now.”

*Happy to do her mama’s bidding, and wondering herself what’s been going on, Sophia skips out the room and runs up the stairs. She checks Tonio’s bedroom, then Luca’s, and comes up empty. Nada. Then cocks her head when she hears muttering from the family bathroom. She enters and stops dead. Her emerald eyes go wide and her mouth goes into a huge O shape*

 

“Omigod,” she says, and waves her hands in air filled with baby powder. Her twin is busy with a brush and pan to collect baby powder, and only making a bad situation worse. Powder was floating everywhere. Sodding wet bath towels litter the soaking floor.

“You’re not allowed to say God. That’s bad language,” a flushed Luca says, frowning ferociously at her. His normally glossy black curls are a hazy dark grey.

“But… but… this is a big mess. Mama’s gonna go nuts.”

“Not if you don’t tell her,” Tonio says in a tone that means business.

Sophia’s chin jerks both at the tone and the look on his face. “What happened?”

“Eve pooped. It was totally gross. We had to bath her,” Luca says, and elbows Tonio in the ribs.

Sophia’s smooth brow creases. “But… but…”

“Two plastic bags full of dirty diaper and wet wipes,” Tonio says, rubbing his rib.

“Eew,” Sophia says.

“Yep,” Luca says. “I had to stand outside the door in case I was sick. And papa had to stuff wet wipes sprayed with after shave up his nose.”

Tonio chokes with laughter and baby powder. He shakes a dry towel and more powder flies into the air. “Funniest thing, evah.”

*Sophia grins, but then takes a deep breath, eyes her brothers’ pitiful attempts to clean up. They were making it worse. The bath was filled with plastic toys, and an empty baby shampoo bottle*

“Sounds gross. Okay. We don’t want mama upset. Who’s gonna clean up this big mess?”

Tonio scratches his scalp, sends her a wide smile. “Maybe we can all muck in? If I use damp towels to mop up the powder from the counter top, maybe you and Luca can use dry towels from the cupboard to dry and polish the granite?”

*The kids set to work.*

“What did you buy me?” Tonio asks Sophia.

She sends him an angelic smile. “A surprise.”

Luca dances on the spot. “Do I have a surprise, too?”

“Of course,” Sophia says, rolls her eyes to heaven as if he’s the world’s stupidest brother. Then her gaze drops to the mess on the floor. “I don’t know how we’re gonna hide all these wet towels.”

“How hard can it be to use the washing machine?” Tonio asks as he shoves bath toys into a net bag to drip dry.

Sophia gives him big eyes. “We are not allowed to touch electrical equipment, she reminded him. “We’ll get into BIG trouble.”

“I can’t read too good yet,” a worried Luca says, white teeth chewing on his bottom lip.

“I can read,” Tonio says to a wary looking Sophia. “Grab the plastic laundry basket and we’ll take the towels to the laundry room. No one will know.”

“I dunno,” Sophia says, for once in her life listening to the little voice in her head saying this is not a good idea.

Tonio pats her on the head, something he knows full well bugs her. “Nessum problema,” he says, sounding just like papa. “How hard can it be?”

*Sophia jogs to the hall cupboard to grab clean towels, folds them just the way her mama likes. She stands back and studies the bathroom. A fine film of baby powder is again settling on the counter top. Can’t be helped. With a huff of breath she follows her brothers down the back stairs to the laundry room. Tonio opens the tall cupboard to study a variety of soap powders and liquids, all standing to attention like soldiers. He lifts the plastic bottle of liquid on the nearest shelf. The bottle that says, ‘One Squirt Is All You Need’. He piles the towels into the washer, closes the washer door and then opens the detergent drawer*

“According to the instructions this is where the soap goes,” he mutters, and frowns as he studies the manual.

*The manual also says to use the measuring cap. He hunts around and finds a spare plastic ball, measures out the liquid – adding a little extra just in case – pours it into the dispenser and closes the drawer. He turned the dial to Cotton/Whites. Easy. Then he presses ON. And just like magic water roars into the dispenser. All three Ferranti’s crouch down to watch water fill through the glass door. Tonio’s smiles, wide and relieved*

“What did I say? Nessum problema. When it’s finished, we put them in the dryer. Job done.”

Sophia gives him a huge smile. “Wow. I can’t wait to learn to read good.”

“I don’t like reading,” Luca mutters as he follows his brother and sister out the utility room door and down the hall. They head in the direction of voices.

*Meanwhile, back in the family room*

“You changed her diaper? Seriously?” Bronte laughs as she pats Nico’s jaw. “Aww, my brave soldier. How did you manage? How bad was it?”

Nico winces at the memory. “Never seen anything like it, and I don’t want to see anything like it again. Tonio called it a runny tummy.”

Rosie can’t help but laugh as she strokes the black silky hair of her baby rooted to her breast, and greedily chugging down milk. “Well, what goes in has gotta come out.”

“He stuck wet wipes sprayed with after shave up his nose,” Tonio says as he strolls into the room with his siblings hot on his heels. He plonks himself on the couch, grins at Bronte. “The best thing I’ve seen, evah.”

Bronte’s smile is wide as she turns to a Nico whose ears are pink tipped. “Aww,” she says again. “I’ll put sleeping beauty down for her nap and then you guys can tell me all about it.” She strolls out the door.

Nico eyes the boys. “Did you clean up?”

They both nod, give him big eyes. “Si,” they say.

“Clean what up?” Rosie asks, placing Mila on her shoulder and rubbing her baby’s back. She’s immediately rewarded with a deep burp.

“They bathed Eve,” Sophia says. “Made a big mess in the bathroom. But we tidied it all up.”

Nico rubs his hands, his smile wide as he says to Alexander, “Wanna Peroni?”

“Sure.”

*Everything is all right and tight in Nico Ferranti’s world. His wife is happy. His children are happy. His brother-in-law is his best friend. His eyes linger for a moment on a Rosie feeding her baby and chatting to the boys, and he recalls he needs to find time to have a little chat with Rosie about Ms. Big Ears, aka Sophia. But that could wait. Life is good*

*Bronte’s high-pitched scream from the direction of the laundry room has everyone leap to their feet and race out the door*

Nico’s eyes bug out his head to find his wife shooting daggers at him as she stands ankle deep in white foam. “Madre de Dio,” he mutters.

Bronte shoots him a finger, her whole body trembling. “You’ll need more than God to help you, Nico Ferranti. How the hell could you use dish liquid in my washing machine? Are you crazy?”

Nico blinks until the light bulb flashes in his brain. Taking his time, he turns very slowly to stare at the three children lined up behind him, their eyes too big for their faces. “Porca miseria! (dammit) What happened?”

Tonio made a face, shrugged skinny shoulders. “Mi dispiace, papa.”

“Sorry?” Bronte yells, shifts, loses her balance and slides to land hard on her ass as even more foam floods through the utility room door and into the hallway. She slaps Nico’s helping hand away, wipes hair from her eyes and ends up with a lump of foam on top of her head. She tosses foam into his face. “I’ll give you sorry.”

*Tonio, trying hard not to laugh, steps into the mess to help her up and she lifts a handful of foam and tosses it over his head. And of course the twins got in on the act, too*

Rosie and Alexander and baby Mila are standing out of harms way, watching the Ferranti’s turn from humans into foamy blobs. “I just adore those crazy kids. Get your phone and take pics. Honestly, Bronte cannot leave this lot alone for five minutes.”

Alexander drops a kiss on the top of his baby’s head. “They are certifiably nuts.”

“Do you think we’ll be like them one day?”

Alexander snaps pics and then takes a video on his phone. “Nah, we’re normal. We’re not Italian.”

 

Finito

And so endeth another day in the life of the Ferranti fam-lee.

Am working hard on three projects.

#amwriting

Love and hugs,

Christine X

Anyone for another slice of Ludlow life?

 

BLOGBANNERNICOSLICEOFLUDLOWLIFE

 

READ HOW IT ALL BEGAN FREE HERE!

Happy Monday, my lovelies,

Time for another slice of life with the Ferranti fam-lee!

*Nico and the boyss are chilling at The Dower House babysitting baby Eve, while Bronte and Sophia and Auntie Rosie are having a ‘girly’ day*

“So.” Nico rubs his hands and gives Tonio wide eyes. “Soccer or rugby, what’s your poison?”

“Soccer,” Tonio yells and dashes to the closet, pulls out a couple of throws, races back and smoothes them over the new couch covered in a totally impractical velvet the color of pale lilac. And Bronte’s pride and joy.

Nico shoots him two finger pistols. “Good thinking, Batman. Now remember, no soda for Luca and no chocolate ice-cream. Mama left us snacks in the fridge. We’re responsible for the baby so we cannot have the TV too loud or we won’t hear the monitor when she wakes.”

“You should be Batman, papa. I’m Robin,” Tonio says with a logic his papa can get right behind.

Nico grins. “Si, and we will use paper plates and paper cups. Less mess. Sorted.”

*In short order, they organize their favorite space. Tonio lifts the remote, clicks the sports channel. They settle down, making sure their bare feet are not on the table. Nico never again wants to go through what happened last time when Bronte blow torched his ear. Luca pads into the room in bare feet wearing below the knee navy shorts and a white T-shirt proclaiming the words ‘I’m Italian, which means My Family Is Temperamental. Half Temper. Half Mental’. His right fist holds his blankie (a sure sign he’s tired), while his left hand tugs his ear (another sign he’s tired). Nico pats the couch, but instead of sitting next to his papa, Luca stops in front of him, eyeball to eyeball*

“Eve’s pooped in her diaper.”

*Five simple words that brings an icy fist to his papa’s heart, and a clutch of dread to his papa’s belly*

Nico blinks, remembers with a shudder the heavy diaper his daughter had filled not twenty minutes ago. “But, mama changed her just before she left. How can this happen?”

“She had a vaccination shot yesterday, sometimes they give her a runny tummy,” Tonio says helpfully.

*Dio mio, a runny tummy? The mere thought breaks Nico out in a cold sweat. He is a good father, he knows he is. But he’s never really managed to get over the gut churning ordeal of a dirty diaper. A wet diaper, no problemo. His sons are well aware of this, and both are watching him with wide eyes. He stands. He can do this. He is Italian. The boys are hot on his heels as he takes the stairs two at time and enters the nursery. The heady scent of bad news hits him hard. This, boys and girls, is not going to be pretty*

“Okay,” he says. His voice brings his baby girl’s head up, black glossy curls bouncing as she sits and then stands holding onto the bars of her cot. A stain, the color of mustard, oozes from the top of her leg onto her pink sleep suit. Dio mio. What he needs, Nico realizes, is a plan. He strides to the changing table, plucks a couple of wet wipes from the plastic container, rolls them into the size of a pencil, folds them in half and stuffs one in each nostril, much to the choking hilarity of his sons. He sends them slitty eyes. “Grab bottle of aftershave from my bathroom,” he orders a Luca who is swiping tears from his cheeks. Luca races off to do his bidding. Then he turns to a Tonio who is laughing so hard he’s clutching his belly. “We need a clean sleep suit and new diaper, plastic bags for the dirty diaper and plenty of wet wipes. Go, Robin, go.”

*Luca returns to hand his papa a bottle. Nico squirts aftershave on each nostril and inhales the scent through the wet wipes. He can do this. He lifts his excited baby girl from her cot and lies her on her back on the plastic changing mat, and carefully, very carefully begins to unsnap the poppers. The scene of utter carnage has a tiny whimper escape from his throat*

“Whoa,” Tonio says, shock a living, breathing, thing in his voice.

Si,” Nico squeaks, then clears his throat.

“Luca, you wait outside. Robin, I need at least five wet wipes, hold out the plastic bag and let’s do this thing.”

*Baby Eve’s dark brown eyes are riveted to her papa’s face. He takes his time to release first one chubby leg from her suit before going for the next*

“She’s a wriggler,” Tonio warns. “You need to hold her ankles high, and clean the top of her legs before you undo the diaper.”

*Good advice. Maybe Tonio would like the job? Nico’s tempted, but he refuses not to man-up in front of his son. He can do this. By the time he’s got Eve naked and clean with the contents of two full boxes of wet wipes, perspiration is beading his top lip.*

“She needs a bath,” Tonio says, tying the handles of two plastic bags.

The words bring Nico’s head up with a jerk. “Bath?”

Tonio gives him a funny look. “You bath the twins all the time.”

Si, but they are old enough not to drown. Eve is like an eel. She never sits still.”

Tonio rolls his eyes to heaven. “Luca and me will help. Nessun problema.”

*By the time Nico and the boys are finish bathing Eve, the bathroom looks like something out of a warzone with baby powder the weapon of choice for mass destruction. Sopping wet T-shirts cling to their skin. But they’re all happy and most importantly the baby’s cheeks are pink, her curls damp. Wrapped in a thick towel of white cotton, she tucks her face in her papa’s neck. Pleased with how they all work together as a team, Nico tells the boys to change into dry clothes, and takes his baby to her changing mat for a clean diaper, and makes short work of dressing her in a clean sleep suit*

“Hellooooooo, anybody home?” Alexander Ludlow yells from the bottom of the stairs. The boys whoop and holler and race down the stairs to welcome their favorite uncle.

*Nico strolls into the family room cuddling his daughter to find Alexander with baby Mila over his shoulder. He’s sitting on the couch with the boys watching soccer*

“Hear you had a pooh-bomb to deal with,” Alexander says with a wicked gleam in his eye.

Nico sits on the short end of the L shaped couch with a now unconscious Eve boneless in his arms. He drops a kiss on her hot cheek. “Si. She is teething and had a vaccination shot yesterday. It wasn’t pretty. I see you have your hands full.”

Alexander gently rubs his seven week old baby daughter’s back. “My princess is the best thing that ever happened to me. No one can tell you how you’ll feel when a man becomes a daddy, know what I mean?”

Si,” Nico agrees, feeling all lovely and warm inside. “Being a papa is the best thing in the world.”

Tonio’s snort of derision has both men eye him. “You say that now. But in a few years they’ll be like Sophia and Auntie Rosie, or worse. And then there will be… dan-daran-dan… boyfriends.”

*With something like horror on their pale faces, Nico Ferranti and Alexander Ludlow clutch their babies close to their manly chests*

Nessun problema,” Nico growls. “I am Italian. I have contacts in the Cosa Nostra. Our girls will be protected.”

Alexander turns to his best pal. “Never thought I’d live to see the day I’d say this, but can I have the Mafia’s number?”

 

Finito.

The things a man will do for family, eh?

I’ve had readers ask me to put the scenes in a book, and I’ve decided to use some of the sneak peeks in SEAN’s story, coming soon.

Until next week, be good.

Hugs,

Christine X

 

 

New Release – ADAM – Book four of The Vampyre Legal Chronicles is out today

ADANRELEASEDAY

iBOOKS    NOOK   AMAZON   KOBO

Hi guys,

For all you paranormal romance lovers out there, I’m thrilled to announce that Book four of The Vampyre Legal Chronicles, ADAM, is out today.

 

Here’s the blurb:

“We must not be defeated…”

Each night her dreams of him keep the nightmares of her visions at bay. All she sees is his face. All she hears his voice. And she foretells of his death.

Tonight, in a world gone mad, foreseer Mhari MacDonald will behold the man who is both light and dark, redemption and seduction.

He is Adam Gillespie – Vampyre Prince.

And he is hers.

Tonight, Mhari will meet the man doomed to be her mate…

 the man her love will destroy…

 

EXCERPT:

 

Mhari raced into the bedroom, and hauled open the closet door.

She pulled on thick black thermal leggings, a long-sleeved thermal beneath a warm sweater, thick socks, waterproof boots of soft rubber, all topped off by a thick duck down jacket the color of bleached bone. The jacket had a hood, but she crammed a beanie on her head and thrust thermal gloves into the pockets. She sped into the kitchen, grabbed a banana and a couple of apples, stuffed them inside her jacket. She didn’t need water. The Grampian Highlands in Scotland were covered in snow and had plenty of teeming burns.

Heart beating fast and her mind racing even faster, she sped across the sitting room to the open French doors to peer over the balcony to the ground three floors below.

She had no money, not even a credit card, but she didn’t care.

Far in the distance she recognized a couple of Munros, mountains over three thousand feet high. The trek home through deep snow might be tricky. But it wasn’t far, maybe fifteen miles, maybe less, and when she hit a main road she could do it. Once she was home, she’d never let Adam Gillespie anywhere near her.

Abruptly, the searing ache in her heart told her it didn’t want her to leave Adam.

And it was that single and incredibly foolish thought that hooked her leg over the balcony.

With her booted foot, she carefully shoved snow off the stone ledge.

Hanging onto the railing, she bounced a little to test her weight on the ledge. It didn’t budge, so she carefully shuffled to the left, and finally took a breath when her hands clutched metal.

The downpipe was sturdy.

The climb down had a couple of hairy moments that brought her heart into her mouth.

If she slipped the fall would surely kill her, or at the very least break a few bones.

The thought entered her mind that if Adam could see her, he’d go ballistic, but she didn’t want to think of him. Not now.

 

Her feet hit solid ground.

And she was off.

Her breath was sucking freezing particles of air into lungs that felt too tight. And all the while her ears strained to catch the first shout of alarm she fully expected to hear behind her. She ran. As she dug in to climb up, up, the steep hillside, it wasn’t long before her thigh muscles were burning.

Once, twice, three times, she tripped and fell flat on her face in the snow, hidden stems trapping her ankles and bruising her shins, her knees and elbows.

Scrambling to her feet again and again, Mhari literally threw herself into a thick forest of Scots pine trees.

Only once did she risk a look back, to catch her breath, to gaze at the castle far below.

Dear God, it looked stunningly beautiful, like something straight out of the Brothers Grimm, as it sat nestled in a glen on the edge of a wide loch, surrounded by mountains and hills. A dark winding tar macadam road going in the other direction had been cleared of snow. It was tempting to take the easy route home. But she knew Adam would have everyone looking for her, once he found her missing. She’d taken time to close the French doors behind her and now she was thankful for her quick thinking. He’d never consider she’d climbed out of the window, not until it was too late and she was long gone.

She hoped.

The thought of him and the way her mouth still throbbed, swollen, from his kiss had her tongue run over her bottom lip. Mhari could still taste him there. The scent of him, of man, seemed to cling to her skin. The ache in her chest, in the region of her heart, made her stiffen her resolve. Her heart still belonged to her. He might have stolen a part of it, but her heart wasn’t broken. And she was determined her heart was going to stay that way.

For a moment, she panicked, her clear footprints left in the snow would alert Adam and his Centuri to her escape route, but the thought had no more entered her head when thick flakes began to drift down from a leaden sky.

It seemed someone in the universe was looking after her.

She sent up a quick prayer of thanks.

Turning her back on the castle, and on the creature she felt sure had captured a tiny piece of her heart, Mhari’s ears listened to the stillness and the utter silence behind her, and heard nothing.

She was free.

 

End of Excerpt.

Please remember that all my books stand alone with no cliffhangers.

For exclusive content and more information about deliciously handsome vampyres and the women who bring them to their knees, you can sign-up for my Vampyre Legal Chronicles Newsletter HERE!

Next in the series will be book five, CONSTANTINE, due in February 2017.

Enjoy!

Much love,

Christine X