It’s time for another slice of Ludlow life with our favourite family……
The Dower House…
Dressed in skinny blue jeans, a cropped T-shirt that’s seen better days, Bronte pads into the family-kitchen living space on bare feet. She’s given Eve her last breast feed of the day. It won’t be long before her daughter is fully weaned, and the thought has a little pang of loss hit her heart. She’ll miss the intimacy and the connection. Her baby won’t be a baby for much longer. The kids are settled down for the night—at last. Sophia is out like a light after her horrible day. Looks as if her right eye is swelling and will be closed by the morning. Her brothers insist on having their bedroom doors open so they can hear her if she calls in the night or has a bad dream. Glancing at her husband, she reckons someone else needs a bit of love and attention. Sprawled on the couch wearing his favorite jeans white at the seams and a black long sleeved thermal, a stony faced Nico stares unseeing into the flames of a stainless-steel log burner. His long legs stretching out before him, his bare feet are long and narrow and sexy. Bronte’s mouth lifts. He’s a big sexy Italian beast and she loves him more each day. In the sexy beast’s hands, he’s nursing a wine goblet. His mouth is a thin, hard line. Bronte takes the seat next to him and curls up her legs and cosies into him. She reaches out for his glass, and takes a sip of the ruby liquid.
“You’re thinking bad thoughts,” she says and offers him the glass.
In response, he places the wine on the vast glass coffee table before taking her in his arms. Bronte closes her eyes to simply breathe in the heady scent of her man. A woodsy cologne, his shampoo, and an alpha male testosterone that feels like home. As much as she loves The Dower House and the life they have here in the old market town of Old Ludlow, in her heart she knows that wherever Nico goes is home to her and their growing family.
“I have had a call from Annabel’s papa,” Nico says, indicating his cell lying on the coffee table. Annabel’s father is a wealthy and influential businessman. Although he has a good reputation, Nico and Alexander tend to give him a wide berth.
“By the look on your face I take it it’s not good news.”
Nico heaves a deep sigh. “It’s not good news for his grandsons. Seems the social services have paid Annabel a visit. Both boys are to be placed on the ‘at risk’ list. Annabel’s papa seems to think we had something to do with it. I put his mind at rest. I’m thinking this might not be a bad thing for those children.”
“Jonathan has them every weekend,” Bronte says, and repeats the local gossip. “They run wild through the town, stealing candy and general mischief making. The man doesn’t have a clue about parenting or taking care of young children.”
“From what Alexander and I saw earlier this evening, he’s not taking care of himself either. I’d say it is either booze or an out of control recreational drug habit. Whatever, it is not bringing out the best in him. I said as much to his ex father-in-law. He is planning to stage some sort of intervention with Jonathan and his sons. His daughter is at her wit’s end.”
“She was a friend—once,” Bronte says. Her mind slips into the past, remembering the hurt and especially the public humiliation she suffered when Annabel and Jonathan had a torrid affair behind her back during the time she was grieving over the tragic loss of her parents. An affair which resulted in Annabel’s first pregnancy. The town had taken sides and the rift between the Winthrops and the Ludlows and Ferranti families had never healed. Seven years seems such a long time to hold a grudge. But, at the time of the betrayal, life for Bronte Ludlow had been tough going. Bronte had lost her parents, her home, her fiancé, and was at odds with Alexander over the shocking discovery that they had different fathers. And then the whirlwind of Nico Ferranti had entered her life, and look at them now! Parents to four wonderful children. The love and commitment they shared grew more each day. While poor Annabel limped from one domestic drama to another. She has an ex-husband with a sly, vicious tongue and a wandering eye. A man always on the look-out for the main chance to get something for nothing.
“Si. We cannot say she has not paid for her mistake. Perhaps it is time to offer her the hand of friendship. That is what good neighbours do, is it not?”
Not exactly thrilled with the idea, Bronte makes a face and heaves a big sigh. “I’ll speak to Janine and Rosie and run the idea to reach out to Annabel past them. If we do this, I’ll need their support. We were all a close-knit group once, when we were ten.”
Nico pulls her onto his lap to wrap her in his arms. “I am thinking of the children. If the adults cannot find a solution, what hope do they have? But let me clear, I will never under any circumstances be a friend to Jonathan Winthrop.”
Bronte reaches up to wind her arms around his neck. “Thank God for that. But I can tell by your face you have a plan for him.”
“Si. It is nothing for you to worry about,” he says in that deep growly tone her hormones love.
Nico dips his head to taste her mouth. At least that was the idea. Instead, it isn’t long before they’re naked on the couch, replete and relaxed. “My toes are tingling,” Bronte says. Her eyes shut, she adores the way his big hand sweeps lazy strokes down her spine. She smiles as his big body shakes with laughter.
“I can never get enough of you, cara mia.”
Bronte runs her nails gently over a dark nipple, feels him shudder. “Rosie says that when we’re in a care home and hobbling around with Zimmer frames we’ll still be snogging in corners.”
“She can talk,” Nico says severely. A squawk and grizzle from the baby monitor has both of them on their feet. They dress fast. He grins at Bronte’s flushed cheeks. “Ah, I remember the good old days when we walked about naked whenever we felt like it.”
“We need a break without the kids,” she says as they rush up the stairs. Nico heads off to check on Sophia, and Bronte enters the baby’s room. The heady smell of a dirty diaper has her dealing with the problem within minutes. After settling the baby, she searches for her husband and finds him leaning against the door frame of their eldest daughter’s bedroom. The door is wide open. As she approaches, Nico turns to place a finger on his lips, his grey eyes dancing.
As she studies the scene before her, Bronte lifts her hand to smother a laugh. Omigod. Tonio and Luca have dragged their duvets and pillows into Sophia’s room and are sleeping on the floor next to her bed. She tip-toes over the sleeping boys to study her daughter. Yep, the eye is swollen shut. The livid bruise on that velvet little cheek hurts Bronte’s heart. If the chance of letting bygones be bygones with Annabel and her sons prevents a repetition of today’s events, she’ll do it. The idea of offering the hand of friendship to Annabel may not go down well with Rosie and Janine, but they’ll support Bronte and the children through thick and thin—that’s what best friends do.
Tonio stirs, his eyes pop open as he watches them tip-toe out of the room hand in hand.
The boy lifts up on his elbows to crane his neck to check on Sophia. She’s out for the count, as is her twin sleeping on the floor next to him. Tonio settles to lie on his back and counts the tiny lights on a ceiling which replicates the milky way. Bronte and Rosie and Janine painted the ceilings in the twin’s bedroom. And when Tonio joined the family, the women did the same in his bedroom and gave him lights, too. The Ferranti children sleep beneath the stars.
Tonio smiles as his heavy eyes shut. He knows for sure they’ll have fresh cookies tomorrow because he can smell them from here.
It’s the smell of a safe haven.
It’s the smell of home.
It’s the smell of love.
We are mia la famiglia
We are Italian.
Not easy doing the ‘right’ thing, is it?
Working hard on the weekly short stories, the first one released at the end of this month, then I’m diving into the Ludlow world with Break The Rules. I LOVE my job!!!