It’s the Dower House with the Ferranti family…
Nico Ferranti walked into The Dower house wanting nothing more than a hot kiss from his wife, a glass of Chianti and a quiet thirty minutes. He’d had a jam-packed day. A guest who’d goosed the ass of a maid had taken up too much of his time and put him behind. Hence why he was late.
The chorus of three children, his children, wailing at the top of their lungs told him he wasn’t going to get his thirty minutes. Not yet.
It shamed him that for three seconds he seriously considered walking back out and letting Bronte deal with whatever incident had set them off. Taking the stairs, he reminded himself that he’d fathered all three—and enjoyed every second of it—he’d do his husbandly duty.
However, when he entered baby Eve’s nursery, he nearly turned tail.
The twins were balling their heads off. While his wife, looking furiously harassed, was dressing a squalling toddler who was fighting every inch of the way. His brows rose. His youngest daughter, usually, was so laid back she was horizontal. But now, Eve was having what appeared to be a major temper tantrum. He studied the evidence. The twins, and every surface was covered in a fine film of talcum powder. A couple of clean diapers were tossed on the floor along with a wet one.
Sophia, his eldest daughter, had one eye on her mother as she made a heroic attempt to squeeze out a tear. Meantime her twin, Luca, had tears streaming down his face. The boy had a very soft heart.
“Which one,” he asked the room at large, “tried to change her diaper?”
Dressed in a footless pink babygro Eve sobbed against Bronte’s neck.
A Bronte who beaned her eldest daughter with a dark look. “Guess.”
Nico turned his head, eyed his daughter who was dressed in a Beauty and The Beast nightgown. “Sophia, cara mia?”
“I was helping.”
He crouched to look her in the eye and smelled toothpaste, soap. “Bed,” was all he said.
Dressed in Ninja Turtles pj’s Luca’s bottom lip trembled as, head down, he slouched away. Sophia, made of sterner stuff, opened her mouth and closed it when he held up a finger.
With a sigh, an eye-flick to her mother, she turned and walked away.
Nico rose, took his now whimpering baby girl from his wife.
“I was talking on the phone to Rosie, and turned my back for a moment, just a moment. Eve was grumpy and I told Rosie I needed to change her. Then things were quiet. I should have known something was up. When I walked in Sophia had Eve naked on the changing mat on the floor…” she stopped, closed her eyes, bit down hard on her bottom lip. When she opened her eyes they swam.
“God, Nico. What if…”
He placed his sleeping daughter in her crib, turned down the light and led his wife from the room.
“We will both talk to them.”
Together, they brought the twins into their bedroom, sat them side by side on the couch.
He and Bronte sat on the heavy coffee table facing their twins.
“You must never,” Nico began in a tone that meant business and held up a finger when Sophia opened her mouth, closed it. “Ever lift Eve from her cot. If you had dropped her, she might have been badly hurt. When she cries, fetch mama.”
“We help mama with Eve,” Sophia muttered. And Luca nodded his head in solidarity.
“Si, and helping is a good thing. But you must never lift her from her cot. Promise me.”
Sophia’s emerald eyes filled, but she nodded and Luca nodded, too.
“And too much talcum powder is very dangerous,” Bronte added. “If Eve or you breathes it into your lungs it can cause a chest infection.” Or worse, she added in her mind.
“It wasn’t me who spilled it,” Sophia said, giving her twin a hairy eyeball.
Bronte fired up. “It doesn’t matter who spilled it. The point is that neither of you should have touched Eve or her diaper or talcum powder.”
It took twenty minutes to settle the twins.
Although beneath her comforter, Sophia turned her back to her mama. Little monkey. By the time Nico had changed into his favourite jeans and T-shirt, poured himself a glass of wine and Bronte placed their meal in the oven and set the timer, the pair of them were exhausted.
He opened his arms and his wife stepped into the hug. “God, Nico,” she drew in a deep breath, slowly exhaled.
Rubbing her back, he lay his cheek upon her blonde head and inhaled the wonderful scent of his woman.
“They would never hurt the baby.”
She lifted her head.
Her eyes flew to his. “I know that—”
She buried her face in his neck and closed her eyes.
Eventually, he felt her settle.
“I miss Tonio so much,” she said.
“Si. The house does not seem the same without him. But the summer school at Lake Como is good for him. Plus, he is bonding with Gregorio. We cannot keep him to ourselves.”
She moved out of his arms and into the kitchen to check the timer on the oven. “I know I’m being selfish. It is important he retain his heritage and culture. Apart from the fact I miss him desperately, Luca looks up to him and he’s a superb role model for a young boy. Plus, he keeps Sophia out of trouble. I truly think we’ve created a monster at times.”
Nico didn’t think now was a good time to mention that Sophia’s energy and intelligence needed channelling. The last thing he wanted tonight was a heated discussion with his wife about parenting. Over the years, he’d learned the hard way that timing was everything. He kept his mouth shut.
Bronte eyed him over her wine glass. “You look tired. Bad day?”
He nodded. “Si. Had an issue with housekeeping. One of the new maids had a guest lay his hands on her.”
Bronte’s eyes bugged. “Did he hurt her?”
Nico shook his head. “He goosed her ass. She punched him on the mouth. Blood was spilled. He wanted her sacked. Instead, he has been banned from all of my hotels.”
“Was he a regular guest?”
Nico nodded, made a face. “Unfortunately. On this trip he was without his wife and thought he would chance his luck with a young brunette.”
She looked to heaven. “How old was the maid?”
“How old was he?”
“He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.”
Nico had to laugh. “She is Susan and Andy Bradshaw’s youngest daughter gaining work experience.”
Bronte’s jaw dropped. “Omigod. The daughter of a senior police inspector.”
“Si. When I made the connection clear, our guest beat a hasty departure.”
“I just bet he did.”
“No wonder you look tired.”
Nico sat back on the couch and stretched out long legs. “Si. All I wanted was a kiss from my wife, a glass of wine and a few minutes of peace and quiet.”
Placing her glass on the worktop, she walked towards him.
Emerald eyes dancing, she took his glass, placed it on the coffee table, slid to straddle his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck.
“And you arrived to find chaos reigning.”
He slid his hands beneath her T-shirt to find warm skin as smooth as silk.
And no bra.
He wiggled his brows.
She rubbed her nose against his. “Is that a subliminal signal for a quickie on the couch?”
In a smooth move, he had her on her back and grinned down into her laughing face.
Dio, he adored her.
“What about dinner,” she asked breathlessly after a scorching kiss.
“I can multi-task. I am Italian.”
I’m working hard on Break The Rules and No Rules. Both stories are clicking along quite nicely.