Guess what I’ve got for you today?
Welcome back to The Ludlow Hall Sneak Peek with Nico, Bronte & Co.
It’s a sunny autumn Saturday morning in The Dower House and Nico Ferranti, his feet bare, dressed in his favorite soft jeans, loose at the waist, and ratty T-shirt stretched tight across wide shoulders, is shaving. Thanks to a six hour delay at Rome airport, he’d arrived home late last night. Too late to kiss his children and baby good night. But not too late to kiss his sleepy wife awake—and of course one kiss led to another and then—his grin went slow and sexy as he lifted his chin to run his razor through white foam. Ah, he was a happy man. A lucky man. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted a movement at the bathroom door. Sophia, wearing her favourite Elsa nightgown and clutching her battered Raggedy Ann to her chest was watching him like a little hawk. His children knew better than to interrupt him when shaving, in case he sliced his face with the old fashioned but lethal blade. His daughter and her twin were nudging towards their seventh birthday and the thought make him shake his head at the way time flew too fast. He rinsed his face, and lifted a white fluffy towel, warm from the heated towel rail, to pat it dry. In the mirror, he caught a glimpse of a few white hairs around his temple. They didn’t worry him. Hadn’t Bronte said he was going to be a sexy white fox? Plus, he worked out regularly. His belly was still flat and hard. Earlier Bronte had explored his belly, and another hard part of his anatomy, and what she called his ‘awesome guns’. Hehe.
“Papa,” Sophia said. “You’re in big trouble.”
Nico blinked, and eyed her in the mirror.
She eyed him right back.
“Considering I’ve been in Rome for three days, I cannot imagine what sin I have committed when I wasn’t even here.”
“You missed Luca’s spelling competition.”
Nico sighed and crouched down to take her little face between his hands and drop a kiss to her nose. “Si. My flight was delayed. Even I cannot grow wings and fly.”
“I know that. But, he came second. It’s a big deal, papa.”
Nico smiled. “Second? Well done, Luca.”
Her face still serious, Sophia nodded, then bonked him on the head with Raggedy Ann.
“He was the youngest boy to reach the final and up against bright sparks,” she said.
“That’s what auntie Rosie called them.”
“Hmm. I can hear her say it myself.”
She nodded again and said seriously, “Uh huh, auntie Rosie said the word that tripped Luca up at the last damn hurdle was tricky.”
Nico bit down hard on his bottom lip. “What was it?”
“Liaise. He missed out the second i.”
Impressed, Nico studied her face and realized his twins were growing up fast. Maybe too fast. “That is tricky. Did you know how to spell it?”
“No. But I do now.”
He stood, took her hand and they headed for the kitchen for one of his wife’s Saturday breakfasts. “It is always the way with spelling,” he said. “We always remember the mistakes. English is not easy even for people for whom English is their first language.”
As they entered the kitchen/living/family room, the delicious aromas of pancakes cooking on the eight burner stove had Sophia race to take her seat beside her twin. At eighteen months, Eva, still wearing her pink pj’s edged with a frill at the waist and ankles was ensconced in her high chair, her fingers sliding over sliced banana in her pink plastic bowl. When she spotted her father, she forgot her banana, clapped her hands as her fat little legs pumped and she yelled in joy, “Papa!!”
“Good morning, neonata.” Nico took time to bend down for a cuddle and to blow raspberries on her neck, while her hands gripped his hair and pulled.
“Papa!” Luca crowed. “You have banana in your hair.”
“Si, your sister likes to make a mess,“ Nico said in his deep voice, as Luca tossed him a white cotton napkin.
He decided not to tell his son his Spiderman T-shirt was on inside out. Instead, he kissed Luca’s hot cheeks and scrubbed his knuckles over a grinning Tonio’s black curls. Then he headed for his wife who was busy preparing breakfast, admiring the way her tight butt, clad in dark jeans, wiggled to a rock song on the radio. From his position of his dog bed set in the corner of the room, their Bischon Frise, Jimmy Chew, kept an eagle eye on food preparation in case anything dropped to the floor. Nico gave in to temptation and wound his arms around Bronte’s slim waist. She had the figure of a girl. He hugged her tight while he nuzzled his favorite spot on her neck. “Good morning, bella. You smell amazing.”
When Bronte promptly used her spatula to slap his hand that had whipped a piece of crispy bacon from the pan, the Ferranti children howled with laughter.
“Try to pretend you’re civilized, sit at the table and wait until I’ve finished,” she told him.
Unoffended, he crunched the bacon and gave a solid pat to her butt.
Then he did as he was bid and headed to his spot at the head of the table.
When everyone was settled and digging in to a mountain of buckwheat pancakes, bacon, eggs, fresh juices for the kids, and coffee for the adults, Nico took time to simply enjoy the moment.
“I hear you did very well in the spelling competition. I am sorry I missed it,” he said to Luca.
Luca made a face. “I lost.”
“Luca’s really hot on English. I’m hot on Math,” Sophia said.
“I hate Math,” Luca said. “I just don’t get why we’ve gotta learn stupid stuff.”
“Math is not stupid,” Tonio piped up.
“Try not to speak with your mouth full, Tonio,” Bronte reminded him.
Tonio swallowed, shot her grin. “Sorry. But, it is sooooo good. I love your cooking.”
Bronte beamed. “You’re very welcome.”
Nico reckoned Tonio knew exactly how to charm and stay in Bronte’s good books.
He turned his attention back to Luca. “It was a great achievement to come second against a boy who is two years older than you. Well done. I am proud of you.”
Luca’s cheeks flushed. “I wanted to win.”
“Si. But again, we cannot win at everything in life. All we can do is give it our best shot and then try again.”
Luca nodded. “I’ll win next time.”
Silence prevailed, until…
“Mama and I have been thinking…” Nico said and waited until he had everyone’s attention. “How do you feel about a move to our villa in Italy and you attend school in Lake Como? Perhaps for a couple of years—to improve your Italian?”
Tonio blinked. “I would like it very much.”
Luca made a face. “I dunno. Do they have spelling competitions in Italy?”
“Si,” Luca beat Nico to it.
Bronte caught Nico’s eye and nudged her chin towards a very quiet Sophia who was pushing a piece of bacon around her plate with her fork.
Nico studied his eldest daughter’s body language, the hunched shoulders and dropped chin. Uh oh. “Sophia, bella?”
Sophia lifted her head and met his eye. “No.”
“You do not enjoy our house at Lake Como?”
“I love it. But, I don’t wanna live there forever.”
“It wouldn’t be forever,” Bronte said. “And you would see more of your cousins.”
Sophia made a face. “Yes. But, I’d miss Emily.”
Nico nodded. “Si. But, Emily can visit regularly and you can stay with her in the holidays, too.”
Sophia’s emerald eyes glittered with unshed tears as her chest rose and fell. Her bottom lip trembled. “She’s my best friend. I see her every day. And without me she would be lonely because she has no brothers or sisters. I like my school and my friends and my teacher. I don’t wanna go to Italy.”
Nico exchanged a look with Bronte. “We will think about it,” he said.
Sophia slid from her chair, grabbed Raggedy Ann from the floor and clutched her doll to her chest. The light of battle lit her emerald eyes. “No! I’m not going to Italy. You can’t make me.”
She ran from the room with Jimmy Chew hard on her heels. Child and dog thundered up the stairs, seconds later Sophia’s bedroom door banged.
“That went well,” Bronte muttered.
“If Sophia doesn’t wanna go to Italy, I don’t wanna go,” Luca said, his face fierce.
The twins might bicker, but when push came to shove they looked after each other.
Nico’s brows rose. “We are only thinking about it. No decision has been made.”
Tonio took a break from hoovering up his breakfast. He eyed Sophia’s full plate and stole her bacon. “There is no point in causing a big upset,” he said with a calm wisdom far beyond his years. “I love my football team. And my English is getting better. I am happy anywhere.”
“May I leave the table?” Luca asked his mother.
“Yes. Make sure you’ve done your Math homework by lunchtime. I don’t want a repeat of last Sunday evening’s multiplication drama,” she said severely.
Luca shot her a dark look, but he nodded as he left.
The way his feet dragged a person might think his mother was sending him down the mines to dig for coal.
“He hates Math,” Tonio stated the obvious. “I will help him.”
Nico reckoned the day Tonio had come into their lives had been a lucky day. The boy was kind, hard working, and easy going. “Grazie. When you are finished we will watch football this afternoon.”
Nico saw his wife eye their baby girl.
A baby girl who was holding her breath, her face red as she filled her diaper.
Bronte whipped the baby out of her chair and headed for the nursery and a spot of belated potty training.
“You two clear the table and tidy the kitchen.”
“I reckon we got the best job,” Nico said to Tonio as they worked as an efficient team to fill the dishwasher and wipe down the table and worktops.
“I do not think it is a good idea to make a big upheaval in the twins lives for no good reason,” Tonio said as he polished the glass table to a shine, then placed a goldfish bowl filled with fresh flowers in the middle, exactly as Bronte liked it. “Sophia would miss auntie Rosie, too. They are very close.”
By this stage, Nico wished he had kept his big mouth shut. “It was just an idea. As I said nothing is set in stone.” He eyed Tonio. “You would see more of your uncle Gregorio.”
“I can stay with him during the holidays, or perhaps he can visit with us at Christmas.”
Nico set the dishwasher programme before turning to him. “That is an excellent idea. I will ask him about his plans.”
Tonio moved to the huge velvet sofa set in front of a massive flat screened TV. He picked up the remote control and found the sports channel. “I think he is lonely.”
Nico settled himself in his favorite chair and placed his bare feet on the matching stool.
“He has been a bachelor for too long. He needs a wife.”
Tonio’s black brows rose. “From what I have seen he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Maybe he does not like women.”
Nico knew that Gregorio Ancelotti liked women well enough and enjoyed the company of plenty. However, it was hardly the conversation to have with a ten year old. “However, he is descended from a wealthy Italian family and can trace his ancestors back to the time of the Borgias. He needs to find the right one.”
“Women,” Tonio said. “Are hard work.”
Nico turned amazed eyes upon him. “Some are. But most are easy to live with if a man knows how to handle the woman he loves.”
“The way you handle Bronte?” Tonio said, his dark eyes twinkling with sheer mischief.
Nico shrugged, and sent him a shit-eating grin. “Si. I am Italian!”
*Part two of this story coming next week…..*
Big hugs, girlies!