I’m thrilled to bring you the 2016 sneak peeks in one book, all thirty of them.
I’m thrilled to bring you the 2016 sneak peeks in one book, all thirty of them.
Nico Ferranti’s study at The Dower House…
Since it’s after the family dinner, Nico was relaxing in his study—a glass of Chianti at his elbow—as he talked via Face time to Gregorio Ancelotti, Tonio’s uncle, in Italy.
“It sounds as if Tonio is doing well, Nico,” Gregorio said.
Nico nodded, studied the man on the screen.
Although Gregorio was in his late thirties, tall, slim and wide shouldered, his genes had decreed he had more grey hair than black. Bronte called him a silver fox, much to Tonio’s amusement. Like Nico, tonight the man wore a fitted T-shirt, black, and matching jeans.
“He enjoyed spending time with you at Christmas. Bronte says do not be a stranger. You are welcome any time to our home. You are la famiglia.” Not exactly offended, Bronte had wanted Gregorio to stay at The Dower House over the festive season. Instead he’d stayed in one of the Ludlow Hall’s stunning oak and stainless steel A frame cottages, perfectly happy to have his own space.
Gregorio’s dark eyes narrowed as his firm mouth curved in reluctant smile.
He spoke in his usual deeply accented drawl. “Grazie, Nico. I appreciate the invitation. However, an old bachelor like me can stomach only so much domestic bliss at any one time. You are a lucky man. The Ferranti household only serves to remind me of my—domestic failings.”
Nico had to laugh.
Domestic failings his ass.
Gregorio had his pick of women.
The man was rich, and according to Bronte hot.
Nico had heard a whisper that Gregorio had not spent some of his nights in his cottage alone during his Christmas visit.
None of his business, he reminded himself.
However, he decided that now might be the right time to make a point of an issue that was a cause for concern to his wife. “It is important to Bronte and I that Tonio spends time with what is left of his madre’s family.”
There was a silence as the two men regarded each other.
“Namely me,” Gregorio said, nodding slowly.
Gregorio was about to respond, when Nico noticed the door to his study slowly open.
He lifted his head, suspecting the intruder might be the dog, Jimmy Chew, who had a habit of bellying into a room like a ninja. But it wasn’t the dog, instead it was his baby daughter, Eve, who was motoring into the room at a fast crawl.
It seemed someone had escaped from her mama after her bath.
The baby was dressed in a pink sleep suit, her silky black curls dancing on her head.
When she started to pull herself up to her feet, using the heavy oak door as support, he noted little fingers were about to be caught in the door hinge.
Nico was on his feet and had her in his arms, a heartbeat away from disaster.
As he took his seat in front of his laptop, Gregorio leaned forward to study the scene.
His eyes, usually cynical, went all soft. “Ah, Eve, bella. She is a beautiful bambina, Nico.”
Since the baby was busy dropping kisses to his cheek and jaw, it took Nico a while to respond.
“She has found her feet. You should find yourself a good woman and settle down,” Nico advised, and laughed at the wide-eyed look of utter horror on Gregorio’s face.
“I am content and happy and safe just as I am, and so is my money.”
Before Nico could respond, Tonio flew into the room. “Aha. There you are,” he sang to an Eve whose response was to bury her face in her papa’s shoulder, her little arms wound tight around his neck.
“Ah, Tonio,” Nico said, his voice deep and his Italian accent deep. “Here’s Gregorio. Spend some time with him, while I put Eve to bed.”
He strolled out the room and left uncle and nephew to it.
Tonio slipped into the ergonomic chair, the black leather still warm, and gave his uncle Gregorio a shy wave. “Hi.”
Gregorio cleared his throat. “How are you? How is school?”
Tonio wondered why every single adult he knew was totally obsessed with school?
“I’ve received an A* in English and Math and science.”
Gregorio nodded, as if he’d expect nothing less.
“And I am captain of the soccer team,” Tonio added into a silence that had gone for, as far as he was concerned, far too long.
Again his uncle nodded, so Tonio decided to mix it up a little. “And I have two girlfriends.”
Aha, that got a ghost of a smile. “I think you may be a little young to dally with girls.”
Tonio made a mental note to look the word up.
He leaned forward and went eye-to-eye with his uncle. “When did you have your first girlfriend?”
Gregorio blinked. “Unlike you, I was unfortunate enough to attend an all boys school, so it took some time for me to feel comfortable with the opposite sex. I think I was fourteen.”
“Was she pretty?”
The smile was swift, like a lightning strike, and then gone. “Si. But of course she was pretty.”
“Did you kiss her?”
His uncle’s inhale made Tonio grin. “I believe I did, eventually. I seem to remember it took me a long time to work up to it.”
“I kiss girls all the time,” Tonio informed him, his chest puffed out with pride.
Gregorio nodded, not looking in the least bit surprised. “I suppose a man is never too young to get into the swing of things.”
“Auntie Rosie says I must take my time choosing the best chocolate in the box and not gorge myself on too much sweetness or they will rot my teeth along with my respect for women.”
At these words of wisdom, Gregorio’s eyes grew round. “Did she? I am sure Auntie Rosie is a wise women, but I would take her recommendation with a large pinch of salt.”
Tonio nodded. “Si. Papa says I don’t want to catch germs, and I must treat girls as equals.”
Gregorio cleared his throat again. “Si. When a man is an expert in a subject, you must listen well to his advice.”
“When are you coming to visit with us?” Tonio asked the question burning in his belly. There was something about his Uncle Gregorio, the way he held himself apart from others, that bothered Tonio.
“I was about to suggest that you and the family come to visit with me here, at Lake Como. Would you like that?”
“Do you still have the jet ski?”
“Si. I purchased a Laser Pico sailing dingy for you and the twins to learn to sail.”
Tonio’s jaw dropped. “Wow! Grazie!”
When Nico entered, Tonio turned a beaming face to him.
“Papa, when can we visit with Uncle Gregorio?”
After he’d settled Tonio on his knee, Nico sent wide eyes to a grinning Gregorio on the screen.
“What is this?”
Before Gregorio could open his mouth, Tonio jumped in, “He’s bought a sailing dingy for us to learn to sail. Can we go, papa? Can we?”
Nico nodded. “Good idea, Gregorio. It is never too early for children to learn to respect water.”
“I thought during the May school break. Speak to Bronte. I will make the arrangements,” Gregorio said.
“Wow! I can’t wait to tell Luca and Sophia. Grazie, Uncle Gregorio!”
And with that Tonio raced from the room.
“You have made his day,” Nico drawled, more than delighted boy and man were bonding.
“Hmm. The boy is highly intelligent with lots of energy. Learning a new physical skill is smart. It will keep his mind occupied with wind speed and direction, current and buoyancy rather than concerned with kissing girls and the wisdom of Auntie Rosie.”
Nico had to laugh, and then groan. “Do not tell me.”
“Tonio needs exposure to our culture. I will invite your brother Gabriel and his family, too. The boy is wealthy. He will be a target for any unscrupulous huntress who will use beauty and sex to entrap him. Between us we will educate him in our ways and prepare him for the choppy waters of life ahead.”
Nico understood the underlying message loud and clear.
“Si. We are Italian.”
Oooooh, I see trouble ahead……
And I have news of the Sneak Peek book – LUDLOW HALL After HAPPY EVER AFTER:
It’s being formatted and the file will soon be available exclusively in my reader library CLICK HERE to join.
I’m busy working on Break The Rules and No Rules and a couple of secret projects, so stay tuned.
Is that picture cute, or is that picture cute? It’s the cover of all thirty sneak peeks from 2016 collected in one book titled LUDLOW HALL After Happy Ever After. The book is NOT for sale and will be placed in the exclusive reader library next week (it’s being proofed as I type) and is a full length compilation of around forty-nine thousand words. I will do another post when the file goes live in the library.
Editing the thirty sneak peeks has been an incredible journey – who’d have thought an author could forget whole scenes? I laughed so hard at times, and had a couple of teary moments, too. *sniff*
More Ludlow Hall sneak peeks are on the way for this year, too. So worry not.
I’m writing Break The Rules and No Rules together, but will release Break The Rules first and I’m having a great time with T.C. and the gang. The girl is trouble with a capital T.
AND – the sixth Golddigger short story, GLORY, is available right now for pre-order in the store links above. GLORY is out on Good Friday 14th April. My editor and team love this one and especially the lovely Odin who is brought to his knees by Ms Morning Glory Haden.
The next Golddigger will be HEATHER out sometime in May.
I’ll keep you posted.
At The Dower House, in Ms Sophia Ferranti’s pink bedroom—
Dressed as fairy princesses in brand new frocks with yards of white tulle (made by auntie Janine) the girls are sitting cross-legged on huge faux fur white rug and practising plaits (taught by Bronte) on the long hair of their new Ayla dolls.
“I’m gonna marry Tonio,” Emily said, the tip of her tongue firmly gripped between her teeth as she tried to fix the hair-tie to the end of her doll’s wonky plait.
Sophia dropped her chin to stare over black plastic framed glasses (empty of glass) to study the stubborn expression on her best friend’s face. “It’ll never happen if you don’t stop giving him stupid googly eyes,” she said in a severe voice.
“Like this—” Sophia gave a bug-eyed and dropped-jaw demonstration that made Emily frown.
“Do I do that?”
“Yup. Pitiful,” Sophia said, channelling her Auntie Rosie.
Emily huffed a big sigh. “Trouble is, he’s sooooo pretty.”
Sophia cannot hide her shock. “Pretty? You can’t call a boy pretty.”
“Well, I don’t to his face. But I do in my head.” Emily picked up a small brush to stroke through her doll’s blonde hair. She divided the hair into three sections that weren’t quite even. “What should I do then if I can’t look at him or think he’s pretty and I want to marry him?”
Sophia gave her a wide eyed, how-the-hell-do-I-know, look. “I’m only six. Men are a mystery,” she said, again channelling her Auntie Rosie.
“But, you have two brothers, which is more than I do.”
Sophia reckoned that statement was very true and mulled over the worst of her brothers behaviour. “Well, they fart and burp a lot and they think it’s hilarious. And they smell bad if they don’t spend time in the bath or the shower with soap. Mama said they are disgusting little monsters. Papa just laughs and Auntie Rosie says, ‘that’s men for you.'”
Emily made a face of female displeasure. “Okay. Then who would know how I can get Tonio to marry me?”
Sophia grinned widely. “Auntie Rosie!”
Thirty minutes later, Rosie’s sitting, legs crossed, on the rug and sipping pretend hot chocolate, with cream and marshmallows, out of a tiny pink plastic cup.
“You rang, my children, and here I am. What can I do for you?”
Knowing that her mama was baby sitting Mila and Eve with Emily’s mummy, Grace, Sophia got straight to the point. “Emily wants to marry Tonio. I told her to quit with the googly eyes. She does this—” Her demo brought a flush of sheer mortification to her best friend’s freckled cheeks.
Brown eyes dancing, Rosie studied the girls. “Well, you’re both a bit young to think of marriage. But, you only have to look at Bronte and me as excellent role models.”
“How come?” Sophia asked.
Rosie leaned in to her niece and gave her big, big eyes. “‘Cos WE rock, that’s how come. Way back before we even thought of a relationship with a man, WE were financially independent—that’s a key step in getting the man you want. Never, ever look like you want to get married to the man you want to marry or he’ll run so fast, dust will rise behind him, like the yellow-livered coward he is.”
Rightly suspicious of this advice, Sophia gave her favourite Aunt narrow-eyes. “How does that work? Surely girls need to be clear about what we want. Papa’s always saying that men are not mind readers—” she stopped when her Auntie Rosie pointed two forefingers in her face.”
“Aha! That’s just a thing a man says when they Do Not Mean It. Listen up, buttercups, and listen well to the advice of one who has been there, done it, and got the man of her dreams. 1. Men are hunters. If we make the hunt too easy…” She turned to look at a wide-eyed Emily. “By giving them googly eyes and big sighs that tell them we think they are awesome—then they’ve won us without the hunt. This is not good juju to Karma and the Universe. 2. Do not look to men to make you happy, be happy with you first.”
“Emily’s already told Tonio, about twenty times, that she’s gonna marry him. Has she failed before she’s even a woman?” Sophia asked, desperately worried about her best friend’s future happiness.
Rosie sent poor Emily an are-you-kidding-me face, but when the little girl teared-up, she pulled her on her lap for a cuddle. “It’s okay. We’ve all done daft stuff, especially me. All is not lost. Just promise me that from this moment on, no more googly eyes, no more telling him you’re gonna marry him or how wonderful he is. If you really, really want Tonio (personally speaking I think it’s better to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a man you can live with) then you need a Grand Plan.”
“Yeah,” Sophia agreed. “You gotta stop with the googly eyes.”
Emily stared at Rosie with big blue eyes, and clasped her little hands to her heaving bosom. “I KNOW I’m gonna marry Tonio,” she breathed and pressed a fist to her chest. “In here.”
Rosie took a deep inhale, nodded once. “Okay. But if I were you I’d take Sophia’s advice—never thought I’d ever say those words—and definitely stop the googly eyes.”
“And I kiss lots of boys,” Sophia said proudly.
Her Auntie Rosie turned to her. “So I’ve heard, and you need to stop kissing lots of boys.”
“I bet most of them have bad breath because their tooth brushing and flossing skills are not up to speed. And again, it means they haven’t had to fight for you. Kissing them first gives them all the power and it makes them think you’re ‘easy’ and that they are not special. Men always need to feel as if they are special. Give them a peck on the cheek ONLY if they deserve it.”
Sophia and Emily took time to think over advice which made no sense.
Emily turned to Rosie. “So, what should I do to make Tonio feel special?”
Rosie blinked. “Easy. Ignore him.”
“But, that would be rude,” Emily said.
“I don’t mean never speak to him ever again, and definitely respond politely if he asks you a question. What I mean is don’t volunteer information like you want to marry him. In fact, the best thing you can do the next time you see him is to say to Sophia that you’ve decided to become the next leader of the free world, which means no marriage and definitely no babies.”
“This is all soooooo confusing,” poor Emily said in a tone that made it clear she had absolutely no wish to be the leader of the free anything.
“Okay. Lemme give you an example— Tonio is surrounded by girls who flick their hair and give him googly eyes, correct?” When the little girls agreed, Rosie continued, “so, it is important that you, my beautiful Emily, stand out from the crowd. Remember what you and Sophia did two weeks before Christmas?”
It took a while, but Sophia caught on, kind of. “We wrapped presents for the little children who are poor. And papa put them in the big Ludlow Hall box of special Christmas presents.”
“Yup. And I saw the expression on Tonio’s face when you were tying the ribbon on the presents, Emily. He was impressed.”
Emily frowned. “But I didn’t do it to impress Tonio!”
Rose beamed in delight. “Of course you didn’t. You did it because you care about people less fortunate than yourself because YOU, my dear Emily, are the real deal. Men… I mean, boys, like girls who put others before themselves. It makes you very interesting compared to other girls who only care about what their hair looks like or stuff like that.”
Sophia turned to Emily and again gazed at her over her glasses. “What do you really want to do when you grow up? I want to work for Save The Childrens, and papa said I can do anything I want, if I work hard, because I am Italian.”
Rosie laughed. “You don’t need to be Italian, but I’m sure it helps. I always wanted to run my own business and make awesome wedding cakes. We had a lot of ups and downs, but your mama and I did it. And we did it all by ourselves and before we met your papa and I married Alexander.”
“I want to be a doctor,” Emily murmured after a while, then her blue eyes went anxious. “But, I don’t know if I’m clever enough. I hate sums.”
“I’ll help you,” Sophia said, immediately on-side to help her best friend realize her hopes and dreams.
“There you go,” Rosie said, utterly thrilled with both of them. “Teamwork. Be yourself with boys and not like the other girls. Talk about your hopes and dreams—except do NOT talk about marriage or babies—and don’t do anything you don’t want to do.”
Sophia leapt up to grab Rosie in a big hug. “Thank you, Auntie Rosie. No more kissing boys.”
Rosie hugged her back and headed for the door to spread the good news. “Then my work is done. I hear my daughter… Laters, my favourite girls.”
The girls settled back to work on their dolls, and continued in companionable silence until…
“Did you get everything she said?” Emily asked Sophia.
“Most of it. If you want to marry Tonio then you need to act as if you don’t want to marry him. Be polite, but not too nice to him.”
“I don’t think we should worry about it. We’re only six. Let’s go get a cookie and milk.”
Meanwhile, in the family/kitchen/dining space, Rosie’s feeding baby Mila and chatting to Bronte and Grace when Nico and Tonio and Luca arrive home. By the amount of soil on the boys clothes and the skinned knees, they’ve been at soccer practice.
When Emily and Sophia enter and politely ask for a cookie and milk and are given permission, Tonio kicks off his soccer boots and places them in the mud room. He slumps into a chair at the kitchen table and turns to beam a big toothy smile at his sister and her best friend.
“While you’re at it, get me a glass of milk and a cookie, Emily,” he demanded.
Without saying a word, Emily pours one glass and takes it to her place at the table to sit next to a Sophia who’s watching the scene play out.
Emily took her time choosing a cookie from the plate before catching Tonio’s eye. “You didn’t say please, so you can get milk yourself.”
When Tonio blinked like a confused owl, Auntie Rosie bit down hard on her bottom lip to hide a smile.
“Manners, Tonio,” Nico said in his deep growly voice.
“And you didn’t wash your hands,” Bronte reminded the boy.
With a frown, Tonio slunk into the boot room to wash his hands. By the time he returned and had helped himself to a milk and a cookie, he studied Emily with interest as she nibbled on a cookie. “What did you two get up to today?” he asked.
Before Sophia could respond, Emily lifted her eyes to his and held. “We were talking about our future careers. I’m going to be a doctor.”
When Tonio’s eyes bugged out of his head, Sophia added, “And I’m going to work for Save The Childrens, and I’m gonna help Emily with her sums because we’re independent women.”
Since there wasn’t much Tonio could say in response to that statement, he said nothing, but watched his sister and her best friend, hand-in-hand, walk out of the room.
“Good lord,” Emily’s mummy, Grace, said to Rosie, “What on earth was all that about?”
With an eye on Nico and Tonio who were discussing the eyesight, or lack thereof, of the referee during soccer practice, Rosie popped a quick kiss on her daughter’s slippery black curls. “Just girl stuff. We can never begin too early to talk about girl stuff.”
“Emily’s growing up,” Bronte said. “I’m hoping it rubs off on Sophia.”
“She’s agreed to stop kissing boys,” Rosie told them.
Bronte stared at her with wide emerald eyes. “Wow. How did you get her to do that?”
“We had a discussion about self-respect and female independence.”
Grace blinked. “And here I thought they were up there busy practising how to braid hair.”
“That, too. They’re girls. They can think of more than one thing at a time.”
When Tonio cosied on the couch next to her to stroke a gentle finger down baby Mila’s hot cheek, Rosie eyed him. There was no doubt at all the boy was a true Ferranti male and a future breaker of hearts.
She nudged him with her elbow. “So, apart from being a future Ronaldo, what do you want to do when you grow up?”
Still stroking the baby, Tonio’s mouth curved. “I want to be James Bond.”
Rosie rolled her eyes. “Figures.”
Nico moved in to scrub his knuckles over the boy’s cropped hair. “An Italian James Bond.”
And so we are on to the beginning of the 2017 sneak peeks, with more to come from the girls!
By reader request, I’m working on the edits of a book of the entire 2016 sneak peeks (which are coming in at approx 50,000 words). The book will not be available for sale, but it will be exclusively available for readers in my ‘reader library’ H has set up HERE. I’ll let you know when the book’s in the reader library.
The reader library will have exclusive Ludlow Hall short stories for readers who love the series – I’m working on a Nico and Alexander short, before Nico met Bronte, and boys will be boys! So sign up to the reader library and check your spam filter so you don’t miss a story.
I’m also working on the final edit for the next Golddigger short story, GLORY (which is looking like it will be a longer read than forty minutes. I’m loving this couple so much I don’t want it to end.) I’ll give you the pre-order links as soon as I have them. I’m looking at 14th of April for this release.
And I’m also beavering away at Break The Rules, too.
I want to thank everyone who’s reached out to me about H. He had his hospital appointment cancelled at the last minute due to an emergency which had the Consultant’s entire clinic cancelled. But, he received another appointment this morning for Monday 27th March, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. He’s looking really well, which I feel is a good sign of nothing sinister going on. I hope.