The Dark Side of Winter

Copyright  2018 CC MACKENZIE

Greetings dear readers,

It’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peek…

Friday lunchtime in the family kitchen at The Dower House with Bronte and Rosie, and babies Eve and Mila…

They’d spent a busy morning socialising the kids at Mums & Tots at Ludlow Hall.

“Luca told us just as we were finishing breakfast that he had a math test this morning. Plus, he hadn’t given us a permission slip to sign two days ago for a school trip today. Honestly, that child exists on this earth with his brain in neutral,” Bronte said.

“Aw, don’t be too hard on him. He told me his brain is too full for his head.”

Bronte rolled her eyes. “Yesterday, he wore one navy sock and one grey sock. We were in the car before I even noticed.”

Rosie laughed.

“And,” Bronte said, on a roll. “Last night at bedtime, I caught him sucking the toothpaste from the tube instead of brushing his teeth. Disgusting. He used to be such a good boy.”

Rosie, wearing skinny jeans and an oversized navy blue hoodie, made a third attempt to spoon feed Mila her favourite dish, home made macaroni cheese. Her daughter shook her head and turned her face, her chubby hand pushing away the plastic spoon.

“Aw, come on, baby girl.” Rosie coaxed. “You love macaroni cheese. Yum-yum.”

But Mila was having none of it.

And Bronte was having the same response from Eve.

“Odd,” she said, and took a sample herself. “It tastes fine.”

Dressed in black skinny jeans and a matching sweater, she sat back and studied the children sitting in their highchairs. “Do they look warm to you?”

Rosie placed the back of her hand on Mila’s cheek.

It was hot.

Through her socked feet, Bronte checked the under floor heating. It wasn’t over warm, just right.

“Maybe they got overheated at Mums & Tots?” Rosie suggested. She lifted a whimpering Mila out of the high chair.

Frowning, Bronte lifted Eve out of hers.

When the toddler tucked her head beneath her chin, Bronte made a face.

“A bath then a nap?”

Rosie nodded. “Sounds like a plan.”

By the time they had their daughters upstairs in the nursery and in a lukewarm bath and both were whimpering instead of having the time of their lives, their mother’s instinct had kicked in.

“Maybe they’ve caught a bug?” Rosie suggested as she wrapped Mila in a huge bath sheet of white cotton and set her on her lap, her big brown eyes filled with worry.

“Could be,” Bronte said, and rummaged around a drawer for a thermometer.

But, before she could use the device, Eve was sick.

And right on cue, Mila was sick, too.

Rosie’s eyes went like saucers as the sickness went on and on. “That’s projectile vomiting. Omigod. Norovirus.”


An hour later, and after a long chat with the nurse at their GP surgery, there was no doubt. The Dower House was in the grip of the dark side of winter—the winter vomiting bug.

“Who knew so much crud could come out of two small children. At least we had the common sense to keep them in the bathroom,” Rosie said.

By this time they themselves were stripped down to bra and panties.

“We’ll need to burn these clothes,” Bronte said as she tied black plastic bin bags containing their jeans etc.

“Dontcha think that’s a bit over the top?”

Bronte eyed her best friend. “Would you put these in your washing machine?”

Rosie made a face. “I see your point.”

“Get in the shower and use that medicated shampoo and soap. You have puke in your hair.”

Rosie didn’t need to be told twice.

Meanwhile, Bronte, armed with antiseptic spray and rubber gloves, sprayed their cell phones and dried them carefully with kitchen roll. Then she set about cleaning the bathroom, and all the while she had an ear open for any sound from the nursery. Their daughters were asleep in Eve’s cot, one at each end.

A squeaky clean Rosie wrapped a towel around her hair. “Now what?”

“While I’m in the shower, you clean the floor with this stuff. Then I’ll get us clean clothes.”

By the time they were dressed, Rosie, her damp hair tied in a messy top knot, admired herself in the mirror. Bronte had fabulous clothes, mostly black, but beggars couldn’t be choosers.


Meanwhile, Bronte’s head began to ache. She hadn’t been able to contact Nico on his cell, so she was on the phone to Ludlow Hall.

“Hi, it’s Bronte, can I speak to Nico, please?”

“I am sorry,” said a woman’s didactic voice she didn’t recognise. “Mr. Ferranti is in a meeting.”

Bronte frowned.

She’d rung Nico’s PA direct line. “Is Julie there?”

“I am sorry,” said the woman. “I am unable to give personal information over the phone.”

Bronte’s temper was slow to burn, but it was burning right now.

She took a very deep breath and tried again. “My name is Bronte Ferranti. I’m Nico’s wife. It’s urgent. Put me through to him, please.”

“I am sorry…”

Bronte’s voice was no more than a growl. “Listen, lady. You have exactly three seconds to put me through to my husband or I’ll come down there myself and tear your tonsils out of your throat.”

Rosie, spraying antiseptic on door knobs, sent her friend big eyes. “Oh, man. She’s really pissed you off.”

Seconds later there was a click.

Bronte stared at her cell phone is sheer disbelief. “She cut me off.”

Rosie removed latex gloves, dumped them in a black bin bag, and reached for her cell and pressed Alexander’s cell number. “She must be new.”

The phone went straight to voicemail. “Hey, daddy. Eve and Mila are sick, sick, sick with what looks like Norovirus. Bronte’s trying to get hold of Nico. Call us back.”


Ten minutes later and still no response, they checked on their daughters who were both out for the count. Bronte grabbed a baby monitor and they made their way down to the kitchen and began to clean it, too.

“If we can’t get hold of the guys, we need a plan to pick up the kids from school and keep them away from The Dower House,” Bronte said.

Meanwhile, Rosie prepared a pot of coffee.

“Phone Jan and see if Boo’s clear of the crud.”

Bronte called their friend.

Jan picked up at the first ring. “Is Boo sick?”

“Nope. She’s fine. What’s up?”

Bronte told her what had happened.

“Yuk. And it’s highly contagious. What can I do?”

“Any chance you could take the kids until this thing’s over. I can’t get hold of Nico or Alexander.”

“Hang on. Josh’s just walked through the door.”

Bronte heard Jan giving Josh the lowdown.

Then Josh’s deep voice rumbled in her ear. “I’ll pick up the kids from school. And I’ll swing past Ludlow Hall on the way there and let Nico know what’s happening. Okay?”

Bronte nodded. “Thanks, Joshua. I owe you a hug.”

“No probs.”

“Anything else we can do?” Jan asked.

“I just hope the kids don’t catch it. It would be horrific.”

“We’ll keep them here until it’s all clear. I’m happy to have them and Boo will go mental.”

Bronte closed her eyes tight, thinking of Luca and the nightmare of maths homework. “Oh, God. And they’ll have homework…”

“Josh loves all that stuff. He can handle maths and I’ll do spellings.”

“Thanks, Jan.”


Meanwhile, Rosie’s dark brows met as she thought. “You know, it’s really odd the guys haven’t called us.”

“Bad timing,” Bronte said, accepting her coffee. “They often hand Julie their cell phones if their in an important meeting. Wanna bet that new woman hasn’t passed on the message?”

“Wonder what’s happened to Julie?”


An hour later all was revealed when Nico and Alexander marched through the kitchen door.

“I am sorry, cara mia. I have a temporary PA. Julie’s children are down with this sickness virus. She cannot return until the family are all clear,” Nico said tossed his black cashmere coat onto the sofa. “How are the babies?”

“Still asleep,” Bronte said and walked into his arms.

“I will pack clothes for the kids and take them to Jan’s. Josh is taking them to MacDonalds.”

“Ugh,” Rosie said.

“They are beyond thrilled,” Alexander told her. “So, what’s happening? Are we staying here for the weekend?”

“We need to contain the virus,” Nico said. “Until the babies are well, we will work from here.”

Suddenly Bronte went a whiter shade of pale. “Oh, God.” She dashed for the stairs and made for the nursery and the bathroom. She just made it in time.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, Alexander eyed Rosie.

A very pale Rosie.

“You okay?”

She shook her head and raced for the stairs.


Nico and Alexander simply stared in horror at each other.

“We’re stuffed, aren’t we?” Alexander said.

Nico scrolled through his cell phone and pressed the screen. “I will phone Jan and tell her to make do with what the kids have to wear. They have their PE kits.”

“Poor things,” Jan said. “Tell Bronte not to worry, Nico. We’ll handle everything at this end.”

Grazie, Jan.”

Alexander stripped off his coat, suit jacket, silk tie, and slipped a couple of buttons at the neck and rolled up his shirt sleeves.

“So, what now?”

Nico moved to the wine rack and selected a bottle from one of his vineyards.

After he’d sniffed the cork, he poured two generous glasses.

“Now? We have a glass or two of Chianti. It will protect us against all ills.”

Alexander accepted a glass. “Seriously?”

Si. It is Italian.”

The End

Aww, nothing worse than the dark side of winter.

Stay tuned for the pre-order links of NO RULES!




2 thoughts on “THE DARK SIDE OF WINTER

  1. And, if Nico and Alexander get it, every woman knows what happens. Great story. I had this “thing” back in November. The Saturday night / Sunday morning after Thanksgiving here in the USA. It was horrible.

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