Which means another slice of Ludlow Life!
Nico’s been summoned to his children’s school. He’s standing in the headmaster’s study. Seems there’s been trouble in the playground, with the twins.
His heart beating too fast, Nico juts out his chin. “Let me get this straight. A seven year old boy used his fists and his feet on my daughter?” he says, unaware he’s doing a perfect imitation of Michael Corleone’s voice in the Godfather. Mr Weatherby, the headmaster, goes sheet white. His Adam’s apple bobs once, twice.
He clears his throat. “Yes. Older boys, including Tonio, and staff were on the scene within moments. The boy concerned is suspended until a thorough investigation is completed.”
“What’s his name?” Nico growls.
Nico doesn’t blink. “Any relation to Jonathan Winthrop?”
Again, Mr. Weatherby clears his throat. “His eldest son.”
There’s a knock at the door and a very pale Miss Brown enters with her hand on Sophia’s shoulder, with Luca hot on their heels. Luca’s tie is loose. There’s a rip and blood smear on his shirt collar. But it’s the ink-black bruise on Sophia’s cheek and the fact she walks with a limp that has the blood roaring in Nico’s brain. He crouches down to gently cup his daughter’s sweet little face, to study over-bright emerald eyes in the search for a sign of concussion, and finds none. Her chin trembles, but she bites down hard on her bottom lip.
“Where does it hurt, cara mia?”
“My hip and my cheek.”
He scoops her up, and sits on a chair in front of the headmaster’s huge desk of polished oak. Holding her close, he turns to his Luca. “What happened?”
“I punched Rick in the face and kicked him in the goolies,” says his peace loving son.
Nico nods. “What started it?”
Luca’s chin lifts and his dark eyes go hard. “He called mama a f***ing whore. Scusami, papa.”
Miss Brown clears her throat.
Nico spares her a look that would melt steel. “He is only repeating the words he heard. My children are not exposed to such language.”
Sophia rests her head on her papa’s chest. “Rick is a bad, bad boy. I told him to say sorry and he hit me.”
Miss Brown steps forward, but Nico’s glare stops her in her tracks.
He stands with Sophia in his arms. “I will deal with this,” he says, and moves towards the door.
Mr. Weatherby and Miss Brown share a look of utter panic. She takes another step. “Mr. Ferranti, I—”
Nico’s glance makes her wince. “This is not the time to discuss why my children are not safe in your establishment. Bring Tonio to me immediately. We have had more than enough trouble from the Winthrop family in this school. We are leaving.”
Fifteen minutes later, Miss Brown enters the headmaster’s study.
“Richard Winthrop’s behaviour is escalating. We need to bring in the authorities, headmaster.”
Mr. Weatherby nods. “With Jonathan Winthrop as a father, the boy hasn’t had the best start in life. But, you’re right.”
She walks to the window to stare unseeing at the playing fields and the forest beyond. “What do you think Mr. Ferranti will do?”
“Something tells me Mr. Winthrop and his son won’t cause the Ferranti family any more trouble.”
Nico and Alexander leave the Winthrop estate where Annabel Winthrop and her ex-husband Jonathan have assured them there will be no repetition of the day’s events. Going forward their son will receive specialist counselling.
Alexander’s driving his Range Rover down the winding country road towards Ludlow Hall. He gives a stony faced Nico the side-eye. “I thought the creep was gonna piss his pants. And did you see his kid’s face? The boy’s gotta bad attitude. He’s nearly eight, big for his age and already a bully like his father.”
Nico nods. “Annabel has her hands full with her ex-husband and her sons. Bronte’s been in angry tears all afternoon. Not that she lets the children see her upset. She’s broken the habits of a lifetime and letting them have pizza on a school night. Oscar’s preparing four huge pies. Why don’t you and Rosie join us?”
“Sure. You know Rosie. She’s been talking to Bronte about enrolling the twins in martial arts. I don’t see the harm myself. When I explained the discipline is about avoiding conflict, you should’ve seen her face. She wants them taught the Vulcan mind meld.”
“Luca,” Nico says, as Alexander swings the car through the gates of Ludlow Hall, “is not aggressive, and yet he placed himself between Sophia and a boy twice his size.”
“He’s a Ferranti, Nico. He’d give his life for his sister.”
“Si,” Nico growls.
Alexander brings the car to halt in the car park next to Nico’s Range Rover. This evening Nico needed a witness to his discussion with a man who was a mortal enemy to Bronte. Alexander was more than happy to oblige his brother-in-law. “What if this isn’t the end of the matter?”
“My children will be protected,” Nico says.
Two hours later, during an impromptu pizza party at The Dower House…
With the rest of the family, Rosie sits at the huge table in the kitchen-living-family space. Her feet are bare and she’s wearing skinny blue jeans and an oversized black sweatshirt with the logo, ‘I made a human, what’s your super power?’ Her inky hair’s caught in a messy top knot of glossy curls. She’s cuddling a very quiet Sophia and every other second she drops a soft kiss on the child’s sore cheek to make it better.
“Little s.h.i.t.,” she says, ignoring Tonio’s big eyes and Nico’s what-the-hell face.
“I can spell. I know what you just said,” Sophia says, accepting a sliver of pizza from the plate.
Rosie resolutely ignores her husband’s ‘she gotcha’ grin, and pops another kiss on top of ash blonde hair. “That’s because you’re an Einstein.”
“What’s an Einstein?’ Luca wants to know as he compares the size of his pizza slice with Tonio’s.
Rosie gives him big eyes. “It means she’s a genius.”
When Luca’s mouth opens, Tonio jumps in with, “It means she’s clever.”
Luca shrugs. “I’m not clever like Sophia.”
“Of course you are!” his auntie Rosie says in a tone that makes his cheeks pink. “You’re super-clever in a different way. You’re a thinker.”
Luca frowns as he rolls the words in his mind. “What do I think about?”
Alexander’s soft laugh has Rosie toss him a dark look. “Deep thoughts, like world peace. Or, if we’re talking about right this minute, you’re wondering if you can have a bigger slice of pizza than Tonio.”
“How did you know that?” Luca whispers, his eyes wide.
“She’s a witch,” Sophia says from her cozy spot on Rosie’s knee. “Uncle Alexander says it’s a kind of magic the way she can read minds and everything.”
“Maybe you could turn Richard Winthrop into a toad, or a donkey?” Tonio says, grinning wickedly at Rosie.
“I’ll have you know, young man, that I’m a good witch,” she says accepting the boy’s unspoken challenge and ignoring Bronte’s eye roll. “If I put a bad thought or deed out into the universe, it comes back to me times three.”
“It’s karma, baby. Karma,” Sophia says.
“See? The kid’s a superstar. She takes after me,” Rosie says and drops another soft kiss on a giggling Sophia’s cheek. Then she frowns and shifts to look at the child’s flushed cheeks. “You hot, baby?”
Bronte’s emerald eyes narrow on her daughter’s face. “Gotta headache?”
Sophia nods. “A little bit.”
After a dose of kiddy ibuprofen, she accepts another slice of pie and her eyes droop.
Nico scoops her up and takes her upstairs to bed, with Bronte, Luca and Tonio hot on his heels.
“They’re trying to hide it, but they’re all terribly upset,” Alexander says to his wife. He’s nursing a comatose Mila on his lap while sipping a small glass of Chianti from one of Nico’s Italian vineyards. “Seems we can’t escape the dark deeds of the past.”
“It’s the bloody Winthrops!” Rosie says in a tone that means business. “Every single one of them are twisted. What the hell Annabel was thinking to sleep with that creep Jonathan when he was engaged to Bronte, I don’t know. What I don’t get is the way they see this family as the enemy. What have we ever done to them? Bronte’s the victim in all this, and yet they’re always sniping at her and Nico and now the kids? What’d wrong with some people?”
“It is the result of being unable to deal with losing face and the lack of a working conscience,” Nico growls as he strolls into the room. Grey eyes hard, he helps himself to a glass of wine.
“Do you really think a little chat with that rat is gonna do the trick?” Rosie asks.
Nico sits. Stretching out long jean clad legs, he studies the blood red liquid in his glass.
“I will protect la mia famiglia.”
Alexander gaze meets Nico’s. “Yeah, but what does that mean exactly.”
“I am Italian.”
Oooooh. Someone’s gonna be swimming with the fishes.
I’m working hard to finish the first eight weekly Golddigger reads, first one out at the end of the month, 28th October. Book three, SUKKI, hit the top 50 in Amazon from the pre-orders. I have to admit the cover is awesome. Wait until you see RUBY, she’s a goddess. (RUBY’S pre-order links coming soon).
My cover designer is Gabrielle Prendergast of Cover Your Dreams and you can check 0ut her site HERE.