It’s Friday and it’s Ferranti time, and time, dear readers, to grab a coffee…
Bronte’s in the car on her way home from the school pick-up. In the car with her today are, Tonio, Luca, Emily and Sophia. She’s had a good and productive day with Rosie at The Dower House where they discussed and tried ideas for new mini-muffin recipes. When the kids return home they’re in for a treat. It’s the end of a busy week, the kids are bound to be tired. All is quiet in the car, until…
“My mummy says that because I brush my teeth until they’re squeaky clean, I’m a Good Christian,” Emily said. Bronte had to smile at the child’s high and soft voice. At this, Sophia stared hard at Emily—a look which made Emily shrug. “I am a good and kind person.”
“You are,” Sophia agreed. And Bronte wished some of Emily’s goodness and kindness would rub off on her best friend. Then Sophia held up a finger. “But, you don’t wannabe a doormat. You need to find a happy medium.”
Luca frowned at his twin. “What’s a happy medium?”
“How do I know?” Sophia said. “Everyone has their own happy medium.”
Luca folded his arms. “I don’t get it.”
Sophia sent him a bland look. “Well, we can’t say you’re a Good Christian can we? Because you don’t brush. You suck the toothpaste out of the tube.”
“Ew,” Emily said.
Luca’s face burned. “I don’t do that anymore,” he roared.
“Ew,” Emily said again, and added more fuel to the fire. “Your teeth will rot and go black in your head and fall our.”
Sophia nodded, her lips pursed in deep disapproval. “No girls will kiss you with bad breath.”
“I don’t have bad breath,” Luca roared again. And to prove it he heaved a big breath over the girls. When both slapped a hand over their nose and mouth, he glared and glowered. “I do NOT!”
“Jesus Christ,” Emily said in a stage whisper filled with awe and wonder, “Can see you.”
“Now, now,” Bronte said, staging an intervention before things got physical in the back seat. “Settle down while I’m driving.” And out of the corner of her eye, she caught Tonio’s head-shake and wide grin.
“Anyway,” Sophia said. “We have our own family chapel at Ludlow Hall. So Luca can go along and kneel in the phew and talk to Jesus and God and the Lords.”
“Pew,” Tonio corrected from the front seat.
“Whatever. And do not interrupt me please, Tonio.” Sophia instructed. “Luca can go along to our chapel and chat to the Holy Ghost and confess his many sins…”
Luca’s head swung around, his dark curls bounced, his eyes flashing. “I don’t have many sins. If you want to see a wicked girl, you just look in the mirror, Sophia Ferranti…”
Undeterred, his sister continued, “… And beg for forgiveness.”
“I think it’s really cool you have your own chapel,” Emily said in her soft breathy voice as she poured oil on troubled waters.
“It is,” Sophia agreed. “We have lots of bodies buried there.”
Emily’s eyes bugged in her head. “Really?”
Sophia nodded like a wise old owl. “Yup. Lots of old bones from the Ludlow family for hundreds of years.”
“Is it spooky?” Emily wanted to know, a constellation of freckles standing out against her pale skin.
Sophia thought about it. “I dunno. It doesn’t feel spooky.”
“The chapel has lots of ghosts,” Luca said. He pressed his fist to his chest. “I feel them in here. But papa said they’re friendly ghosts because they’re our family and they love us.”
Aw, Bronte smiled at that. How sweet was her husband?
Meanwhile, Emily’s eyes were like saucers. “Like Caspar? He’s a friendly ghost.”
Sophia made a snort of derision.
“Luca Ferranti, you’ve never seen a ghost, ever. If you did, you’d scream like a girl.”
“Would not!” her twin roared.
“Okay! That’s enough. I’m driving,” Bronte reminded the twins.
“Yeah, you don’t want mama to crash the car and then we die and end up ghosts, do we?” Luca hissed to the sister from hell.
A sister who made a horrible face and hissed right back, “Stoooooopid… boy!”
All was quiet.
Silence reigned supreme—until…
Bronte brought the car to a halt on the gravel driveway at the rear of The Dower House.
She turned to beam a lovely smile on her children.
“Here we are! Home safe and sound. Hands up who wants a hot chocolate with marshmallows?
Four hands shot into the air.
Bribed with sugar, it worked to keep the peace every single time.
The kids gathered their backpacks from the trunk and barrelled into house.
“Hey.” Rosie grabbed them in a group hug. “How are my favourite people in the whole wide world?”
Hanging up her lightweight duck down jacket and toeing off her sheepskin ankle boots, Bronte flashed her a wink. “They’re all going to take off their shoes and wash their hands, like Good Christians.”
As they trooped out the door and up the stairs, the twins still bickering, Rosie turned to Bronte. “What’s all that about?”
Bronte, organising ingredients for the promised hot chocolate took her time to respond,
“Do you find Ludlow Chapel spooky?”
Rosie blinked. “Ah, place of worship. Good Christian. Spooky—gotcha.” She thought about it. “It has a certain vibe, a sort of frisson in the atmosphere. But lots of really old places have that.”
At the huge stainless steel stove, Bronte held a wooden spoon and slowly stirred the milk, added coco powder.
“I go to the Chapel on birthdays and talk to mum and dad. I light the beeswax candles and stare at the candle light and let my mind go free. I swear I can feel them sitting right next to me.”
Rosie’s brown eyes filled and she moved around the granite worktop to give her best friend a big hug. “They’d have got a such a kick out of your brood. I miss them, too.”
“I believe they’re always with us.”
“Anything’s possible,” Rosie said.
The sound of footsteps on the stairs had Bronte shake her head and laugh. “All this talk of ghosts and family bones buried in the chapel has made me sentimental.”
“And here come the starving hoard,” Rosie said as the kids gathered around the table and eyed a large covered plate. She caught the pushey-shovey going on between the twins. “If you all sit quietly, you’ll receive your just reward. No fighting, please, Sophia and Luca.” Then, like a magician, she removed the plate cover and grinned at the collective ooh’s and ahh’s. “We have dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and… chocolate.”
Bronte laid a laden tray of white porcelain mugs filled to the brim with mini-marshmallows. “And here’s hot chocolate to go with all that chocolate.”
Emily beamed as she scooped up the sweet treat with her spoon. “This is the best muffin I’ve ever tasted. Thank you, Bronte.”
“You’re most welcome, Emily.”
“At breakfast this morning, papa was so tired,” Tonio told the room at large, “he yawned so wide his jaw cracked.”
Emily turned to him and her look of utter love and devotion made Bronte and Rosie look at each other and go, Aww.
“Coffee,” Emily said, her blue eyes twinkling. “He needed coffee. My daddy says a yawn is a silent scream for—coffee.”
When everyone laughed, a thrilled Emily turned to Bronte and Rosie.
“Wanna hear a joke?”
Rosie bit down hard on her bottom lip and nodded. “Hit me with it, Em.”
The little girl stared right into Rosie’s eyes and said, “Decaf.”
Once the laughter had died down, Bronte ran a hand over Emily’s red curls.
“You’re coming out of your shell, darling.”
Emily nodded. “My mummy said it’s because Sophia’s a good influence.”
Her mouth edged with chocolate, Sophia nodded and accepted the accolade as if it was her right. “I’m Italian.”
Like Bronte, I’m having a really productive week, writing wise.
I’m on a roll and working on the next Ludlow Hall story – Gregorio Ancelotti and the woman who only wants him for his body and refuses to commit. Guess who wins?
Plus, I’m more than half way through the first draft of Our Rules, and it’s clicking along at a pace, too. AND I’m working on a couple of Big Projects in the background.
Don’t forget No Rules is available on pre-order.
The story goes live everywhere next Friday – 26th January.
It’s when a story’s about to go live that the nerves kick in, a bit like stage-fright. Doesn’t matter how many books I write the anxiety never ends.
You guys make it all worthwhile!