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

Another slice of Ludlow life with Nico and the kids

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READ IT FREE HERE

Happy Monday, my lovelies,

After all the excitement of the weekend, here’s something to make you smile.

Another scene from the busy lives of the Ferranti family.

NICO AND THE KIDS IN THE CAR ON THE WAY TO THE DOWER HOUSE

*Nico and Tonio are in front, while Luca, Sophia and her best pal, Emily, are sitting in the back*
Easing the car around a tight bend, Nico shoots Tonio the side-eye, and grins. “You played well. I am proud of you.”
Tonio makes a face, gives a jerky shrug of a skinny shoulder. He spits on his palm and proceeds to clean grass stain, mud and blood from his skinned knee. “Si, but we lost by one goal.”
Si, but the team never gave up. You fought to the bitter end,” Nico says. He glances at Tonio’s sulky mouth, bites down hard on his bottom lip. He can’t bear the boy’s bitter disappointment. But such is life. “Why don’t we do a pit-stop for burgers?”
“Yay!” chorus Tonio and Luca.
“Mama doesn’t like us having burgers,” pipes up Sophia. She turns to look at a wide-eyed Emily. “Unless she makes them herself. And Luca is not allowed soda, he throws up everywhere. It’s totally gross.”
*Nico makes a face. How did he forget Ms. Big Ears with her big mouth was sitting in the back seat. Busted. Bronte’s gonna give him hell, but he can’t back out now and disappoint the boys*
“Mama won’t mind this one time,” he says.
“My mummy says fast food is full of complete crap. It gives you heart desees and cancer, and alls climbers,” Emily says.
*Nico racks his brain to work out what ‘alls climbers’ might be*
“Alzheimers,” Tonio says helpfully.
“Auntie Rosie says a Big Mac is the work of the devil,” Sophia says as she watches the world go by out the window.
*Since there was no good answer to that, the guys in the front keep schtum. Nico wonders why the hell he didn’t keep his mouth shut about burgers. All is peace and quiet, until….*
“My daddy,” Emily begins. “Says that mummies have a special zipper in their tummy and that’s how a baby is born.”
*Nico and Tonio go utterly still and stare unblinking at the road ahead with wide eyes*
“He lied,” Sophia says with the grim authority of a person who knows exactly what she’s talking about.
*Dio mio, is all Nico can think as his mind goes blank and a cold sweat breaks out on his top lip*
“The baby comes out a mama’s vajayjay,” Sophia says with a relentlessness that has Nico’s sweat turning to ice. “With my own eyes I saw pictures in a book in Auntie Rosie’s bedroom after Mila was born. They were totally gross. Lots of blood and poop. It was disgusting. I’m never ever in my whole life ever having a baby.”
*In the rear view mirror Nico sees Luca turn a pale shade of green. He swings the car into a handy rest stop and leaps out the door. He’s just in time to grab his son before Luca’s breakfast is tossed into the hedge. Without being asked Tonio climbs out of the front seat and into the back. Luca is better travelling in front, less likely to get carsick*
“Feeling better?” Nico asks, wiping his son’s white face with a hand wipe.
Luca nods. “I’m okay. It was just…” he shudders.
Si, capisco.” Nico understands exactly how the poor child feels.
*He pats Luca on the back and shoots a dark look to his daughter. A daughter who is sitting there like the Queen of all she surveys, as if butter wouldn’t melt. Meanwhile little Emily, a red headed fairy with wild corkscrew curls and a constellation of freckles anointing her pretty face, is all flushed cheeks and big blue eyes staring up at Tonio as if he’s a rock star. Dio mio. Nico wonders why he hasn’t gone straight home? He clicks the seat belt around Luca, hands him a plastic bag, just in case, and jogs around the bonnet to get into the drivers seat. As he pulls into the road he decides he needs a very stiff drink*
“Are you gonna get married one day, Tonio?” Emily whispers, hope a living, breathing, thing in her voice.
Before Tonio can respond, his sister does it for him. “Nah, he’s gonna be a world famous footballer, and date supermodels and film stars. My Auntie Rosie says if he’s anything like my papa he’s gonna break hundreds of hearts with his love muscle.”
*Cue a deadly silence. And Nico Ferranti swears to Sweet Baby Jesus and Bhudda and all God’s in the known Universe he is going to strangle Rosemary Margaret Ludlow with his own two hands*
Meanwhile Luca frowns, turns to his papa. “What’s a love muscle?”
“It’s a penis,” Sophia says, still clueless about the bombshell she’s dropped into her papa’s world as she stares out the window.
“My mummy says little girls are not supposed to talk about private parts. It’s naughty,” Emily says.
“Your mummy is quite right,” Nico growls from the front seat, desperately trying to catch his daughter’s eye in the rear view mirror. To no avail.
Sophia is still watching the world go by. “My Auntie Rosie says that talking the truth about sex to children is very important. I even know how a baby is put in a mummy’s tummy. In the book a picture shows……”
“SOPHIA FERRANTI,” Nico roars, his blood pressure threatening to give him a stroke, or a heart attack, or both. “One more word you will not be Elena’s flower girl.”
*Sophia’s head spins on her shoulders, her eyes, at last, meet her papa’s. The message is received and understood*
“But…” she begins, catches his eye again and closes her mouth.
*Silence*
Emily flutters her lashes at Tonio like a camel in a sandstorm. “Do you have a girlfriend?” she asks in a stage whisper.
Tonio sends her a grin that has poor Emily catch her breath. “Si. I am Italian.”
*Nico decides when he get’s home to his wife and baby girl, he’s gonna skip the wine and go straight for the hard stuff, Cognac*

Finito

This exact conversation actually happened between two six year olds in the back of my car when I’d picked them up from school – my son, Scott, takes Sophie’s role, and his best pal, Tom, is Emily. A few days earlier Scottie had found a copy of A Child Is Born and flicked through the pictures, stopped on one and said the immortal words, “This is totally gross.”….. Two days later his teacher asked me if I’d been giving him a talk about the birds and the bees. I said, ‘No. But that’d he’d found the book’ Then I asked, “What has he been saying? Are parents upset?” She shook her head. “Nope. He did a better job of it than I could.” Then she told me about a daddy who’d told his little girl about the baby zipper (his wife had had a c-section). We both agreed the zipper idea had not been a wise choice. Gotta love kids and their clueless daddy’s!

Until next week, my lovelies, be good. I’m desperately trying to catch-up on SEAN’s story, after the roller-coaster of the Referendum.

Christine X

Time for another slice of Ludlow Life

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CLICK HERE TO RECEIVE A FREE READ OF HOW THE WHOLE STORY BEGAN!

Apologies for being a little bit late with this post, it should have gone live last Friday, but I got caught up writing a story……

You guys are amazing. I’ve had readers here and on my Facebook asking for the ‘sneak peeks’ to be made into a book. *CC’s eyes grow big* Omigod. What the hell are all y’all like? I write these totally out of my head without editing etc. To turn them into a book will take lots of work and the scenes will change, too. So I’m not promising anything, but let’s see how we go. Thing is, that on Facebook and my blog I can’t write ‘real’ lurve scenes. I need to close the bedroom door. Anyhow, here’s the next slice of Ludlow life. (You guys kill me, seriously, you do. And I say that with love.)

 

BRONTE AND NICO IN THE FAMILY ROOM OF THE DOWER HOUSE.

 

 

*Dinner time. Family time. The gang’s all here, except for…  Nico strides through the door in his dark business suit looking for all the world like an ad for GQ. Immaculate. Sexy. Hot*

 

“Sorry I am late,” he says, and dumps his laptop bag on the couch, shrugs off his suit jacket, his silk tie, rolls up the sleeves of his pristine dress shirt. He walks to the sink to wash and dry his hands. Then he moves to the high-chair to kiss his baby girl, and a Sophia who yelps when he gently rubs his five-o’clock shadow on her soft cheek. Next he scrubs his knuckles on the top of a grinning Luca and Tonio’s dark curls. Last, but not least, he grabs Bronte in a big hug, pops a kiss on the tip of her nose. And misses the way her emerald eyes narrow as she takes a sniff of his neck, then a deep inhale. She sits back and studies him very hard as he takes his seat at the table.

*Bronte serves the food, her mouth a tight hard line. Nico chats to the kids*

“Had a good day?” he asks Tonio who is settling well into his new school.

Tonio nods as he digs into pasta with meatballs. He swallows. “Si. I have been picked for the football team. I’m playing on Saturday. Can you come?”

“Of course.” Nico lifts a wine bottle, pours himself a glass of Chianti from his own vineyards. “I wouldn’t miss it.”

“Can I come, too?” Luca pipes up.

Si,” his papa says and sends him a wink.

“I don’t wanna watch stupid football,” Sophia says as she nibbles on her pasta. “I’ll stay home with mama.”

Nico shrugs. “Nessun problema.” He turns to a silent Bronte, and frowns when he sees her set face, and cool green eyes. “That okay with you?”

“Fine,” she mutters.

*He blinks because he hasn’t been married to this woman for nearly seven years without understanding that when it comes to his wife ‘fine’ is a tricky word, especially in that particular tone. A tone that means, ‘I’m so far from fine I’m gonna poke your eye out with a white hot needle and fry your puny brain.’ OR ‘You’re so deep in excrement and don’t even know it.’ Nico receives the message loud and clear that it appears he’s in trouble. He racks his brain, discounting forgetting their wedding anniversary or her birthday (as if), and came up with… nada*

“You okay?” he asks, sends her a cautious smile, and receives a stony face in return.

She smiles, but it doesn’t reach her eyes as she looks around the table at their four offspring.

“Fine,” she says in a tone that brings a cold sweat out on Nico’s brow.

*Okay. She’s said ‘fine’ twice. This is bad. He’s forgotten something vital. Even the kids have gone quiet, picking up the you-are-a-dead-man vibe. Tonio gives Nico big what-the-hell-have-you-done eyes. Nico sends him an I-dunno shrug in response. The rest of the meal passes off without a knife being thrown or the world as Nico knows it coming to an end.  Two hours later the kids are bathed, brushed and in bed. Except for Tonio. He’s reading Nico a chapter from Moby Dick*

“Does the whale get him in the end?” Tonio asks Nico.

“Wait and see.”

“I bet it does,” Tonio says as he closes the book hands it to his papa. He cosies beneath the comforter, and Nico gives him a big hug and wishes him night-night.

*Still mulling over Bronte’s strange mood, Nico showers, changes into his favorite tatty jeans, soft long sleeved thermal, and in bare feet pads into the family kitchen to look for her, and have a clearing of the air. Whatever he’s done, he’ll fix it. Bronte’s sitting at the table with her laptop open. The hand holding a pencil tap, tap, taps the table in a rhythm that tells him she is not a happy bunny*

“Wine?” he asks her as he makes his way to the vast stainless steel American fridge.

“Not for me,” she says. The tone, icy, has his brows rise as he takes his own sweet time to study her face. Hmm. Someone has a stick up her ass. He pours himself another Chianti, all the while pondering on what it was he’s done that he doesn’t know he’s done. And comes up empty, except for the distinct flutter of irritation uncoiling in his gut.

“Are the clipped responses and cranky face your version of Chinese water torture?” he asks, not bothering to hide his annoyance.

Her response is to toss down the pencil, sit back in her chair and fold her arms, while her eyes bore holes into his. “When were you going to tell me Elena Rocas is back?”

*Elena Rocas was Jacob Del Garda’s ex-personal assistant. And Bronte is not a fan. Neither is he. Nico blinks once, stares into space for at least ten seconds. He shakes his head*

“I have no idea what you are talking about. I haven’t seen that woman since she was thrown out of my office.”

*Bronte rises, stalks to stand up close in his personal space. Her chin jerks in a way that makes his body hum, in a good way. She’s seriously pissed off with him, for something he most definitely has not done, and for some weird reason, it turns him on. Little devil*

“Then how come I can smell her on you? Only one person I know wears JOY and that’s Elena Rocas. AND her lipstick color is on the collar of your white shirt. Careless of her,” Bronte snarls.

*Nico again racks his brain. The only woman he’s had direct contact with today is a famous actress who’s a VIP guest at Ludlow Hall. She’s booked a three day break to use the Spa facilities. She’s beautiful, and not a day under seventy years of age. AND it appears his beloved wife is jealous. A frown creases his brow. Doesn’t Bronte know he’d never look at another woman? Haven’t they been down this road before? He rubs the sudden ache in his flat belly. Didn’t the love of his life trust him?*

To be continued………

Hehehe, do you really think I’d do that to you?

Would I?
Yes, I would.

But I won’t……

 

 

PART TWO

NEXT EVENING  at The Dower House

 

*Our favorite loved-up couple are not speaking to each other, much to the amusement of their children. Nico is home early from work. He’s showered, shaved and changed into his comfy jeans and another long sleeved thermal. His feet are bare*

“What did I do?” he asks Bronte as she clears the table. The kids are sitting in their chairs and watching them like big-eyed hawks, in a way that makes him send them an irritated frown. Isn’t it time they were in bed? Bronte lifts baby Eve from her high chair.

“Why should I have to explain why I’m upset with you?” she asks in a snippy voice. “The fact you appear not to understand WHY just proves to me you’re not even sorry for what you did.” She walks out with the baby.

*The kids eyes are glued to his face. Does anyone have THE first clue what is going on with her? No? Neither does Nico. Poor sod. He gives her a couple of hours to cool down. He sips a glass of Chianti and tries to work out what has just happened. Two things are clear: 1. Bronte is still mad with him. 2. He has no idea why she won’t let him explain himself about the lipstick on his collar. By the time he’d got to bed last night, she had her back to him and appeared sound asleep. Maybe he’d made a mistake not to wake her and clear the whole thing up? Sighing, he checks the locks on the doors, the windows, turns off the lights and heads for their bedroom*

“The perfume and lipstick on my collar belong to Evelyn Rice, the actress, she’s staying at The Hall for a few nights,” he says as he locks the bedroom door. Bronte is sitting on the top of the bed in jeans and T-shirt. Her arms are folded and she wears a face like a smacked ass.

“Well, why the hell didn’t you tell me last night? Why let me fume all bloody day for no reason?” she demands, her cheeks pink with what looks like embarrassment. Good, he can live with embarrassment.

“Because you deserve to suffer,” he says with steel running through his tone. She sends him big sorry green eyes.

“I’m not the same woman you fell in love with,” she says in a low voice filled to the brim with regret. “I’ve changed. These days I can’t do sex on demand. Hell, I can’t even find time to slap on make-up or style my hair… Now we’ve got the kids I can’t even sleep naked anymore and I WANT to sleep naked… I’m no longer ME. I’m a wife, a mother, a business woman, with no time for me.” She buries her face in her hands while Nico frowns as he watches her. “Oh, God. I’m such a selfish cow.”

*Nico moves to sit on the edge of their bed, sips his wine as he mulls over her words. It’s pretty clear all work and no play makes Bronte a grumpy girl. It’s also clear his wife needs a break. In one way she’s right. She does work too hard. In another way she’s dead wrong because she’s so beautiful she doesn’t need cosmetics. Plus, she’s a wonderful wife and mother, who apparently loves to sleep naked. Why did he not know this? He places his wine on the bedside table. He stands and studies the way she’s lying on her side, curled up in a ball like a little girl. At this moment she forcibly reminds him of Sophia. He bites back a grin at her little yip of surprise as he grabs her ankles and yanks her down the bed*

“What are you doing?” she gasps, and slaps at hands that are working fast unbuttoning her jeans to drag them off her ankles along with her panties. Her T-shirt comes next, and then her bra. Her hands clutch her girls. Her eyes go big as she watches him strip. “Are you crazy?”

Si. Crazy for you.” He slides into bed, pulls her against his hard length. “You are right. I like sleeping with you naked. Tomorrow we will burn all your sleepwear.” When her jaw drops, he roars with laughter. Then he kisses her soft mouth.

*One thing leads to another… (use your imaginations)….. Later, much later…*

“You don’t trust me,” he begins, determined to clear the air.

*Bronte’s sprawled on top of him, and Nico’s statement has her rest her weight on her elbows on his chest and stare down into his wonderful face. She realises he’s serious.*

“Of course I trust you. It’s the women I don’t trust. And I don’t care if she is seventy and wears JOY perfume and hot red lipstick, age is no barrier to lust.” She laughs as he rolls her beneath him.

“I am very pretty, no?” he says outrageously.

“Trust me, it’s not your face she’s interested in, pretty boy.” Her emerald eyes go wide. “It’s your big Italian salami.”

His laugh peals through the room as he shakes his head. “My salami only salutes for you.”

Her snort of derision has the flat of his hand spank her bare ass cheek. “Ow, are you trying to tell me that when an attractive woman gives you eye – and yes, pal, I’ve seen them myself – it doesn’t give you a tingle?”

“No,” he says without a moment’s hesitation.

“Seriously?” she studies his face. “Not even a little twitch?”

“No.”

“Wow.”

Si. Only you. From the moment I saw you, you captured my heart… and my big Italian salami.” His mouth on hers stops her gurgle of laughter. He shifts to stare down into her face. Dio, he adores this woman. “From now on we sleep naked every night.”

“Is that so?”

Si, so,” he growls low in his throat.

“Even in winter?”

“Especially in winter.”

*She rubs her body against his, and sure enough his salami salutes*

“I love you so much, Nico,” she whispers.

Ti amo, cara mia.”

Finito

Until next time, my darlings, be good.

If you can’t be good, be careful.

If you can’t be careful, I’ll buy you a pram. (As my old gramma used to say.)

Christine X

Time for another slice of Ludlow Life

 

BLOGBANNERNICOSLICEOFLUDLOWLIFE

 

The Ferranti’s at home in The Dower House

 

 

*Sophia, in her pj’s, is sitting at the kitchen table drinking her bedtime milk. Swinging her bare feet, she eyes her papa who is nursing baby Eve through a milk induced coma*

“How come,” Sophia begins. “We have a dog-house, but we don’t have a dog? And how come you’re in the dog-house?”

*Nico sends her the side-eye*

“The dog-house is a turn of phrase. It means the person in the dog-house is in hot water.”

*Sophia gives him butter-wouldn’t-melt big eyes*

“Is mama still mad because Luca got sick?”

*Nico understands very well his little girl has played him today, plus his wife is not happy with him. Bronte never sulks or holds a grudge. However, she still hasn’t had her ‘little chat’ with him. The mere thought of it makes his belly jump, which is crazy. He’s the man of this house. Nico Ferranti rules this particular roost. Doesn’t he?*

“Luca is feeling much better,” Nico says. “Mama is reading him a story.”

“I want a Bacon Freeze,” Sophia says in a shrill tone which makes Nico’s eyes go slitty.

“No.”

*Sophia sucks her milk in the glass through a straw, reaches the bottom and keeps slurping, making a noise that would certainly bring down the wrath of her mama if she heard it. Yep, his baby girl is playing him. Nico decides to try logic*

“You know how busy mama is. She is looking after the baby, cooking and looking after you and Luca and Tonio. Plus, she looks after me and runs the house. And she runs Sweet Sensations. Mama needs lots of help. As her family it is our job to care for her and help her. At this time a puppy would add an extra burden.”

*When Sophia’s little brow creases as she thinks through his argument, Nico reckons he’s on a winner. Until…*

“Then you need to help mama more. Luca and me are little children. Tonio isn’t old enough to help her. I want a Bacon Freeze. You need to step up to the plot and do your bit.”

*Nico’s jaw doesn’t drop, but it’s a close thing. Where the hell had all this come from? If he wasn’t mistaken some of those words came directly from Rosie Ludlow’s mouth*

“Plate,” Nico mutters. “Step up to the plate.”

“Yes. Auntie Rosie’s always saying that us women juggle five things in life, while the men in this family focus on one. How hard is it for you to give me a puppy?”

*Seems his baby girl hasn’t outgrown her habit of listening in to adult conversations. At the moment Sophia sounded exactly like Rosie. Nico stood*

“Time for bed,” he says, leads the way to the staircase.

*Sophia’s bare feet stomps on the wooden stairs, but Nico refuses to rise to the bait. On one hand he has to admire his daughter. If she wants something badly enough, she never, ever, gives up. Cristo, if he could bottle her focus and strong will, and have his management team drink it, Ferranti Enterprises will be unstoppable. The downside is her ability to manoeuvre situations, and people, to her will. She is five years old, for God’s sake. What the hell is she going to be like when she’s twenty? The idea didn’t bear thinking about. She tags along behind him as he places the baby in her crib. He leads the way to Sophia’s bedroom, and stands by as she climbs into her princess bed complete with canopy. She snuggles beneath the comforter, her eyes bright on his. Nico knows the time has come for him to take control of the puppy situation. He sits on the edge of her bed, leans over to tuck a strand of silver hair behind her tiny ear*

“Mama and me have said time and again, no puppy, and no kitten. If you continue to ask then you cannot be a flower girl at Marc and Elena’s wedding.”

*Sophia’s emerald eyes swim with shock and hurt. It breaks his heart to see her distress, but Nico needs to take a hard-line with his child. He shakes his head*

“I mean it. No means no. I do not want the daughter I love upsetting her mama, and causing mischief by using my cell phone without my permission. If you do it again, no flower girl.”

*He’s happy to see the penny drop as heat scorches her cheeks. Sophia’s behaviour needs careful watching and careful handling*

“Sorry, papa,” she whispers.

“You need to start thinking about consequences. When an idea enters your head consider if what happens next will be worth it.” He kisses her hot cheek, stands to look down at her. “Ti amo, cara. Go to sleep.”

*He shuts Sophia’s bedroom door. The house is quiet. Nico pads on his bare feet to his bedroom, to find his wife sitting up against white pillows, fingers rattling over the keys on her laptop. He closes their bedroom door, locks it. The sound of the lock has Bronte peer at him over the top of her reading glasses. Dio, he loves the sexy librarian look. Arousal burns low in his belly. After all this time together, it doesn’t take her long to recognize the obvious signs of his desire. Instead of closing down her laptop, she continues to type*

“I won’t be long,” she says, not looking at him. “I’m sending out an invoice, which if it isn’t paid in five days, I’m talking to my lawyers.”

*He heads for the shower, stripping off his T-shirt, unbuttoning his jeans*

“How much are you owed?”

“Five grand, which includes late payment penalties.”

*That was a lot of loss for a small business to carry*

“Do you need capital?”

“No,” she says in a sharp tone. “We’re solvent. But if this becomes a trend and more clients don’t pay on time then things may get tricky.”

“Did you take a deposit?”

“Yep. But it took two attempts before the funds cleared. Should have known this one would be trouble. Live and learn.”

*Nico enters the shower, flicks on the taps, and lifts his face to pounding water. He soaps up and lets his mind drift. Bronte didn’t like his interference in her day to day running of the business. But he was wondering if perhaps she had too much on her plate. Perhaps his daughter was right. Maybe it was time for him to cut back on his hours and be a more hands on husband and papa. He turns off the tap, steps out the shower and wraps a white towel around his waist, uses another to dry his hair. He enters their bedroom to find she’s switched off the laptop, and waiting for him. His belly trembles as she sits there, arms folded, with a look in her eyes that tells him she means business. He’s in trouble*

“Sophia’s behaviour needs channelling,” Bronte says.

*Nico drops the towels, slides into their big bed to lie on his side and gaze at the woman he loves beyond life*

Si,” he says, shooting her a smile. “I have been thinking the same thing myself.”

*Bronte jabs his pecs with a pointy finger*

“What possessed you to feed Luca soda and ice-cream? You know he can’t cope with a sugar high.”

*He takes her hand, kisses each finger. When her breath hitches, his mouth curves against her knuckles*

“We got carried away with the excitement of the game. Mi dispiace, cara. It will not happen again.”

*She slides down to lie on her side to face him, her emerald eyes serious. Seems he’s still not quite forgiven*

“What were you thinking not to include Sophia in your party? Can you imagine how hurt she must have felt seeing Tonio and Luca enjoying themselves with popcorn and treats, and having their papa’s undivided attention, while she was ignored? She lashed out against all of you. If you think about it, can you blame her?” Bronte asks in a soft voice.

*The truth of her logic hit Nico hard. The jolt, a mix of shame and guilt, has his brow crease. Dio mio, she is right. While he’d been bonding with the boys, he hadn’t thought of his daughter. Not once. He sits up in bed, runs a hand through damp hair. Perhaps he’d been too hard on a little girl who only wants something to love. Did that mean he isn’t giving her what she needs from him? His eyes found his wife’s and held*

“What can I do to make amends?” he asks, trusting her guidance.

*Bronte slides her hand over his shoulder to cup his neck and pull him close. The soft benediction of her mouth on his helps to heal a heavy heart*

“Spend more one on one time with her, and include her with the boys. And do not dare agree to a kitten or a puppy. Sophia Ferranti is not above emotional blackmail.”

*Nico grins. How the hell did he get so lucky to have such a woman in his life? A woman wise and loving to him and his children? He kisses her, loving the smell of her skin, the taste of her lips. And it doesn’t take long for the warmth of affection to turn hot. He rolls her to her back to cage her beneath him. Emerald eyes brimming with amusement and desire stare into his*

“Do you think you deserve to make love to me after your behaviour today?” she asks.

*He gives her big, big eyes as something hard and heavy, him, settles between her thighs*

Si, I am but an imperfect man. A man who loves and adores you. A man who needs his woman,” he growls.

*Bronte laughs and wraps long legs around his hips, tilting her pelvis to encourage him*

“I know this,” she says, her voice a low purr. She steals his line, “Because you are Italian.”

 

Finito

Next installment coming next week, and we see more from the force of nature that is Sophia Ferranti, and the rest of the family, in SEAN coming soon

Big hugs,

Christine X

 

Vampyre Legal Chronicles, ADAM, pre-order now

adam1 copy

 

 

iBOOKS   AMAZON  KOBO  NOOK

Hi guys!

I can’t believe book four of The Vampyre Legal Chronicles, ADAM, is out on June 28th 2016. I’ve had the best time writing Adam and Mhari’s story. They are an amazing couple who challenge each other every single step of the way on the path to true love.

Here’s the blurb:

This Book Stands Alone – No Cliffhanger

“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:

She’d have killed for a hot bath. A big, deep whirlpool of rose scented oil and foam, or failing that a man with good hands. Hands that knew how to give an exceptional shoulder and neck rub.

Mhari MacDonald passed the time fantasizing about both, while she waited for her boss, Professor Redford, to wind down. Bubbles up to her chin, her hair piled up as she lay her aching head on a soft cushion, and let all the cares of the world simply float away.

A wave of fatigue threatened to floor her, but Mhari kept her eyes straight ahead, and remained standing to attention in her nurses’ uniform; black rubber clogs, navy pants, and a navy blue cotton tunic edged with white piping which denoted her rank. The sleeves were short. Her skin felt tight and raw from the chemical scrub. Her pores reeked of disinfectant, too. She shivered. Jeez, the room was freezing. Seemed the people who ran the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh had cut back on heating for staff offices.

Mhari waited for the axe to fall.

She didn’t have long to wait.

Professor Redford, a tyrant at the best of times, tossed her pen on the desk.

She sat back in her chair, and peered at Mhari over the top of black framed reading glasses.

“You’re one of my best nurses, and now this? I will not accept it,” she said in a high-pitched nasally voice. Today the tone grated on Mhari’s nerves. Nerves shot to hell with the stress and strain of fighting a losing battle with an airborne Ebola virus that had spun out of control. Since Mhari reckoned she had nothing to say in response to the Professor’s statement, she kept her mouth shut.

The only sound in the room was the relentless tick, tick, tick, from the clock on the wall. Another endless moment of being considered by cold grey eyes over the top of those damn glasses, and Mhari MacDonald was barely holding on to patience with her fingernails.

After four weeks as a head triage nurse running a team working hard to contain a disease that scythed without mercy, man, woman and child, Mhari felt she’d learned a lot more than patience. She’d learned the bitter lesson no matter how much a person cared, no matter how much experience and dedication a person brought to bear, there were some battles dedicated medical care and science could not win.

The Ebola virus was one of them.

Mhari shifted from one sore foot to the other.

She’d covered three shifts, which meant thirty-six hours on her feet.

And two hundred and forty-one dead.

Her heart clenched.

In her mind her patient’s heartfelt pleas for help as they passed from life into death broke more than her heart.

She tried not to think of the number.

No human being should die as a number.

Three hours ago, she’d used a permanent marker to write the number on the forehead of a nine-month old baby boy.

Her mind flew back to the precise moment, to the reason why she was standing in front of her boss instead of lying face down on her bed.

 

Inside the sealed suit, which filtered air into her hazmat headgear, the suck and exhale of her breath had sounded too loud. Two days ago, she’d wept when she’d lifted the desperately ill little body from his dead mother’s arms. When he’d been conscious, Mhari’s face behind the clear plastic helmet had terrified the child. She’d rocked him, held him close as he’d taken his last breath. A child who was one of many in a ward over-filled with the dying. Inside the suit she couldn’t smell bodily fluids. But Mhari imagined she could. Blue plastic shoe covers stuck to human waste on the floor. The progression of the disease that was Ebola; flu like symptoms, headache, fatigue, fevers, and then an escalation into delirium with bleeding from eyes, nose and ears, as internal organs liquefied, which made the corpse and anything it touched incredibly infectious.

After pictures of the dead were taken, the bodies were burned.

In an attempt to speed up the process and control the spread of disease, the authorities had automated body disposal. Crematoriums with vast ovens burning twenty-four-seven had been built in the grounds of every hospital. The sweet smoke of death was a pale grey murk over every city in the land. There wasn’t time to read last rites, or say a prayer. Robots, prototypes made in Japan, lifted and placed the deceased onto a conveyor belt leading directly into the ovens. The dead were cremated with an efficiency not seen since the second world war.

When she’d used a black marker to write two hundred and forty-one on the child’s forehead, Mhari’s eyes had stung.

Her throat closed.

Her hands had been shaking uncontrollably as she’d taken pictures.

But when she’d handed the baby to a robot, that was when Mhari knew she couldn’t do this.

And something inside her cracked.

Broken.

Fractured.

 

Now standing in front of her boss, Mhari lifted hands that trembled from exhaustion, and rammed a loose hairpin into her throbbing scalp.

She welcomed the hurt.

The pain told her she was alive.

The pain told her she was one of the lucky few.

 

Professor Redford, head of infectious diseases at the Western General Hospital, was a martinet for tidiness and order. Hair was not permitted to touch the shoulders of her nurses. The woman herself was neat, and a stickler for the rules.

She reflected it was a pity Mhari was a regular breaker of said rules, disorganized and so far from neat, it wasn’t funny. Her hair was a case in point, and seemed to symbolize her lively personality. There were a variety of shades from a delicate ash blond to rich brown to a vivid red gold. It was long and heavy and hated confinement of any kind. A bit like Mhari herself, it was disobedient and obstinate, yet soft and appealing.

It had been the appeal of Mhari’s somewhat unconventional looks and personality that had prompted the Professor to hire her in the first place. That and her talent of dealing with difficult and complicated cases, plus the way she ran a team.

Professor Redford recognized a natural ability which had the potential to put her department on the map. With the male contingent on her team, Mhari’s face and body were undoubtedly a plus, too. Mhari just had to bat those thick lashes and junior doctor’s rushed to do her bidding. The Professor couldn’t really in all good conscience call Mhari beautiful, but she was spectacular. The girl’s features were sculpted and pointed and undeniably highborn. Fine brows curved over wide, lidded eyes that seemed too big for her narrow face, were a stunning pale violet.

“I refuse to lose you. You are one of the most valuable members of my team.”

In response, the girl’s hands were shaking as she unpinned her little badge of silver wings, a sign of her seniority, and laid it on the desk.

It appeared her nurse was stubborn, too.

Eyes fixed on Mhari’s, she picked up her letter of resignation and ripped it into shreds.

The Professor might be neck deep in a crisis, and have a hospital to run, but she was well aware Mhari had reached the end of her tether. However, she was not prepared to let one of her best nurses walk away when she knew the girl would live to regret it. What Mhari needed was a break. Fair enough. She’d give her one.

On the whole the Professor was pleased with Mhari’s enthusiasm, her intelligence and her energy, but she had a distressing habit of letting her mind drift at times. It gave a sort of other-worldly quality to her features. Plus, she’d soon discovered that in spite of appearances, Mhari had an unfortunate tendency to forget her place, and re-write the rules whenever it suited her. More than once she’d come upon Mhari giving spirited and unwarranted advice to a junior doctor too dazzled to question the girl’s apparently infinite wisdom. When Mhari was reminded of who was the boss here, her smile gave the distinct impression she was enjoying a private joke. Whatever her shortcomings, Professor Redford refused to lose her.

Meanwhile, blissfully unaware of the Professor’s thoughts, Mhari did what she invariably did when her mind wasn’t busy. She let it drift back to the last vision she’d experienced and tried, uselessly as it turned out, to understand the meaning behind it.

Since she’d been a small child, flashes of scenes from the future had occupied her mind. Details of her visions came to her in spurts and starts, and out of time order. With her maternal gramma as teacher, she’d studied her gift, or curse, of foresight. At twenty-one she’d been left without family and virtually no money in the bank. However, she’d continued to work her way through her nursing degree, and supplemented her small income with a variety of odd jobs from a bottle tossing bartender in one of Edinburgh’s hot spots, to a professional dog-walker. She had an affinity with animals. Between her education and employment, Mhari had been left with few moments of free time. Even those had been set aside to work on her gift.

To Mhari, the gift of foresight was a vocation. Her entire life had been guided by a grandmother who, like her granddaughter, was fey. Her gramma used to say they’d been touched by an angel. Mhari didn’t know about that, but she’d had no time for attachments of a personal nature. She was twenty-three now, and people simply fascinated her, but there were very few with whom she could say she’d ever got close to. Her busy brain seemed to enjoy understanding and analyzing complex relationships, and yet her personal understanding of them came about exclusively second-hand. Her gift of foresight gave her work with the sick a quality of keen observation and a surprising depth of empathy, together with an emotional intelligence often lacking in a medical profession more concerned with ticking boxes and achieving unrealistic targets. For the greater part of her life, Mhari’s emotions had found their release in her vocation of caring for others and helping them cope with their pain, be it physical or psychological.

But putting herself last had taken a heavy toll.

The psychic energy needed to help souls cross over the bridge from life to death was depleted.

Mhari MacDonald’s emotional well was bone dry.

She needed to get away from the pain and grief she dealt with every second of every hour of every day.

The world as she knew it and the people in it, her friends and loved-ones, all gone.

There was nothing she could do about it or give hope and solace to those suffering.

This broke her heart, and lowered her spirit.

So she was following her intuition, her gut.

She’d already packed a car with her few personal possessions.

This evening she was planning to head north into the snowy-capped Grampian Highlands of Scotland, to find respite in the tiny bothy that had been in the MacDonald family for hundreds of years.

She was going to find her destiny… and, perhaps, the man who filled her dreams.

It was time.

“I’m sorry, Professor, but I need to go.”

When her boss nodded and smiled, Mhari blinked in surprise.

There was not a lot of love lost between them.

So when the Professor stood, picked up the silver Angel’s wings, walked around the desk and pinned it on Mhari’s lapel, the gesture of support was so unexpected it brought a sting to her eyes.

“Take a break. Let’s say a month or two. And then return to us rested and ready. Do not lose faith, child. A cure or treatment will be found.”

Not soon enough for baby number two hundred and forty-one, Mhari wanted to say.

Instead, she nodded.

“I can’t promise anything.”

The Professor smiled again, this time a curve of the lips that seemed to hold a secret.

A smile Mhari would remember.

Finito

To sign up for my Vampyre Legal Chronicles mailing list, CLICK HERE:

As a busy author, I’m working on The Vampyre Legal Chronicles, book five, CONSTANTINE, as well as a couple of other projects.

My next release will be SEAN, book ten, of The Ludlow Hall Romances (with plenty more to come). And a super-secret project released after SEAN, which I’m incredibly excited about and will share the details as soon as I am able.

 Hugs,

Christine X

LUDLOW HALL SNEAK PEEK – Football, and a Fairy…..

il_570xN.143535705

To buy this outfit for a Fairy you love, CLICK HERE

Hello, my darlings,

Time for another sneak peek at life in the Ferranti household (readers want more Nico and Bronte and the kids. I live only to serve.)

***

THE DOWER HOUSE, in the grounds of LUDLOW HALL:

 

Nico, Tonio and Luca are kicking back in jeans and T-shirts in the family kitchen-living space, watching their favourite soccer star playing in the Serie A in Italy. All the guys have their bare feet on the coffee table. Good job Bronte’s not home.

*Aaaaaaaaand he’s SCORED. As the crowd in the San Siro roar, Tonio is doing a bum boogie, while Nico and Luca are screaming their joy*

“Did you see the speed of the ball, papa? Olivier shot it into the right hand corner, and the goalie went left. Result!” Tonio sings.

*Nico, sucks a beer, nods*

Si, Olivier is on FIRE.”

*The boys grab a handful of popcorn from the huge bowl on the plate glass coffee table and suck on their sodas. Nico knows full well Bronte frowns on sugar laden drinks for the kids. To hell with it, today’s a special day. Plus, she’s not here. What she doesn’t know won’t kill her*

“Please may I have ice cream?” Luca asks, turning big dark eyes on his papa. Eyes that say he hasn’t had a treat for weeks. Nico scrubs knuckles on top of Luca’s inky curls, grins.

Si, mio figlio.” He turns to Tonio. “Get three bowls. We’ll all have some.”

*Tonio shoots to the freezer, pulls out a two pint tub of dark chocolate chip, proceeds to dump spoonfuls into bowls. While he’s at it he adds a dollop of black chocolate syrup from his mama’s baking stash. The guys dig in while cheering on Olivier Conti who’s shot has just shook the goalpost*

“This is THE best day,” Tonio says.

Nico grins, gives him a high five. “Si.”

*Sophia the fairy, dressed in a skirt of pink and white netting, complete with wand and white ballet pumps on her feet, enters the family room. She stops dead. The volume of the huge flat screen TV is so loud her brothers and papa need to shout to be heard. The place smells of popcorn, beer, soda and chocolate ice-cream. Her brows rise as she takes in a scene of utter carnage. Popcorn flows over the glass table, the floor, AND her mama’s pride and joy, the new velvet couch the color of pale lilac. Luca’s mouth is ringed with chocolate ice cream, plus he’s slopped chocolate sauce on his favourite Spiderman T-shirt. AND there are empty bottles of Coke and beer on the table. Her pink lips pucker in feminine disgust. They haven’t used the coasters to protect the table either. Mama will not be pleased. Then her emerald eyes narrow when she clocks the abandoned ice-cream melting in the carton, and dripping spoon on the worktop near the sink. She takes a breath and marches to stand right in front of her papa*

“Papa!”

*Nico shifts to the right to wince at his team’s near miss. Sophia mirrors his move to go nose to nose with him. He places his hands on her waist and shifts her to the left. Tonio yells FOUL and something about the referee needing glasses. Sophia climbs onto her papa’s lap to face him, and bonks him on the head with her wand*

Nico finally pays attention. “Sophia, cara mia, what is it? We are watching the game.”

“Can I have a kitten?” Sophia asks, ignoring Tonio and Luca’s wide you-cannot-be-serious eyes.

“No,” Nico says without missing a beat.

*Sophia clamps her little hands on Nico’s cheeks and squeezes until his mouth resembles a goldfish and they’re eye-to-eye*

“Can I have a Bacon Freeze?”

Nico blinks. “You want bacon?”

*Sophia heaves a sigh that tells him he’s the stupidest papa in the whole wide world*

“No,” she says. “It’s a dog. A Bacon Freeze.”

*Tonio turns to look at her, frowns for a minute, and then nods*

“She means a Bichon Frise. Her best friend Emily has a new puppy.”

“No,” Nico says without missing another beat.

*If he’d been paying attention to the way the devil enters his baby girl’s vivid green eyes, he might have received a clue. But since he was roaring encouragement to Olivier in rapid Italian, Nico misses the warning signs of impending doom. His daughter climbs off his lap, snatches his cell phone from the table, and marches out of the family room*

“Mama,” Sophia says into the phone as she stomps up the stairs to her bedroom to turn four of her least favourite dolls into trolls with her magic wand. “When are you coming home?”

“Finished early, so I’m on my way,” Bronte says, using her hands-free kit in her car. “What’s up, buttercup?”

“Papa won’t let me have a kitten, or a Bacon Freeze.”

“Honey, we’ve talked about this. No pets at the moment. I have the baby and you guys and papa to look after. Pets, especially puppies and kittens need a lot of attention. Poor Emily isn’t as lucky as you. She doesn’t have brothers or sisters. Her mama bought her a pet so Emily won’t get lonely.”

*Sophia’s wand isn’t sprinkling fairy dust upon her dolls. They keep staring at her with lifeless, unblinking, eyes. And no one had shared the popcorn, or the soda, or the ice-cream with her either, had they? Nope. The boys in this house were greedy, disgusting pigs*

“Papa and Tonio and Luca have made a mess in the family room,” Sophia says tossing her father and brothers under the train without a blink.

“It’s football season. Olivier’s playing,” her mama says. Then a silence, which went on, and on. “Exactly how much of a mess are we talking about?”

“A BIG mess. Popcorn on the coffee table, the floor and the new couch. Luca’s spilled Coke and chocolate ice-cream…”

“Papa gave Luca chocolate ice-cream? Coke?” Bronte yells.

“Yep, and I haven’t had any popcorn, Coke, or ice-cream,” Sophia says, piling more fuel on the fire. She feels a lot better when her mama snarls in her ear.

“I’ll be home in two minutes, and then you and me will visit Emily and her puppy. How about that?”

Sophia does a happy dance. “Yay! Thank you, mama.”

*Sophia skips down the stairs and into the family room to find her papa and her brothers slumped on the couch, and the perfect picture of male misery. The opposition have scored three goals in ten minutes. The game’s in the final seconds of extra time, and things are not looking good for Roma. The sound of a car coming to a halt in the gravel drive, a door closing, and high heels click, click, clicking on sandstone slabs brings Nico’s head up like a wolf scenting imminent danger. He leaps to his bare feet. Tonio and Luca slap bare feet to the floor. Sophia slides her papa’s phone on the coffee table. Bronte stalks into the family room. Stops dead. Hands on her hips, she surveys the scene through slitty eyes*

She jabs a finger at her husband and sons. “You lot have exactly one hour to clean this mess while Sophia and I visit Emily and her puppy. And when we get back, Nico Ferranti, you’d better prepare yourself for little chat.”

*A beaming Sophia does a little spin in her fairy dress, waves her wand, and dances behind her mama out the door*

“I don’t feel well,” a green looking Luca says.

*Thinking of the new couch, Nico grabs him as his son spews what was chocolate ice-cream, Coke and popcorn all over what had this morning been a spotless floor. Bronte’s gonna kill him. Thirty minutes later, Luca was in bed hugging a plastic bucket, just in case. Tonio and Nico work as a team to clean the family room to his wife’s incredibly high standards*

“How can the best day turn into the worst day?” Tonio wants to know as he piles bowls into the dishwasher.

*Nico’s frantically rubbing stain remover on the couch, and praying to God it works*

“This is life,” he says, and sends Tonio a lightning grin. “We are Italian, we understand this.”

 

Finito

Ahh, all of the above brings back many happy(!) memories of H babysitting while I did grocery shopping when the girls were small. The tales I could tell…

Am busy with SEAN’s story, and my super-seeeeeekrit project.

Until next week……

Hugs,

Christine X