This weeks peek at a day in the lives of the Ferranti family is a day late. And never fear, the next Desert Orchid chapter will go live later today – and it’s a doozy!
Bronte, Tonio, Luca and Sophia are in the car on their way home…
Sofia Ferranti had to pee.
Nerves, and fear, plus the very rare Coke she’d had for being a good girl while her mamma had shopped in the supermarket all combined to fill her seven-year-old bladder to bursting.
Today had been one of the worst school days of her life.
Ms. Brown was not happy with her.
And man, was she in big trouble when her mama and papa found out?
She wriggled in her car seat and wished she was home.
Bronte reckoned her children were very quiet considering it was a Friday afternoon. In the rear view mirror she kept a weather eye on Sofia.
A Sofia who was staring out of the window as if she was watching her favourite movie, Frozen. And a Sophia who’d been unnaturally quiet during supermarket shopping. A miracle, because her daughter loathed supermarket shopping with a passion only matched by that of her papa.
“We are nearly home,” Bronte sang.
Tonio who sat in the front passenger seat of the car turned to look at her.
The boy was growing like a weed. They’d just purchased his second pair of school shoes within three months.
When Bronte caught his eye, he made a face as if to say, what’s the matter with them?
In response Bronte shrugged.
“Is Luca asleep?” Bronte asked Tonio.
Tonio craned his neck to suss out what was happening behind him.
He nodded. “He’s out for the count.”
Bronte again checked on Sofia in the mirror.
She frowned at how pale her daughter looked.
Maybe she was sickening for something?
Please God, not the flu.
So far, they’d managed to escape the virus.
“We’re nearly home,” Bronte said again.
She decided to give up.
No point in causing drama while she was driving the car.
By the time Sophia had raced to the bathroom to do her business, washed her hands, changed her school uniform for her favorite soft jeans and cozy sweater it was time for dinner.
Every Friday the family all ate together, that was the rule, if Papa got home in time.
Tonight Papa was running thirty minutes late.
And Sofia didn’t know whether to be happy or sad.
Thing was, she was in what her auntie Rosie would call – a hot mess.
Miss Brown, had given Sophia a sealed letter for her mamma and Papa.
A letter which she was sure described in glorious detail exactly what sin Sophia had committed today.
The thing was, Sofia didn’t want to give her mamma and Papa the letter.
She was in enough bother after setting the toaster oven on fire and causing chaos in the house last week.
But how was she to know that taking a baby book to school would have caused so much trouble?
The book was called A Child is Born.
And had the most amazing pictures of how a baby grew inside a mummy’s tummy.
The problems had started when Johnny Lacy had gagged when he saw the picture of a child being born.
And when Sophia had taken time to explain to him exactly how the child had ended up inside the mummy’s tummy in the first place, the Stoooooopid boy had thrown-up all over her best friend Emily’s new shoes. Which meant Miss Brown had not been happy with Sophia. She’d even confiscated book and refused to return it.
Sophia new perfectly well that her mamma and Papa would not have allowed her to take the book to school in the first place.
But she’d wanted to prove to Johnny Lacy that his explanation of how a baby got into a mummy’s tummy was wrong.
And now Johnny’s mummy was upset with Sophia too.
So today had turned into a complete nightmare for Sophia Ferranti.
Her best friend Emily had promised faithfully to say nothing to her mummy because she was a good pal of Sophia’s mama. And Tonio and Luca had promised to say nothing too. Now Sophia sat on the couch cuddling Jimmy Chew and felt that her dog was her only friend in the whole wide world.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Her mother asked for like the tenth time.
Actually, Sofia is feeling a bit sick in her stomach.
“I’m fine,” she whispered, and wished bedtime would hurry up and come.
Nico Ferranti was in a good mood.
He’d had a great day at Ludlow Hall.
It looked liked the flu virus from hell had finally burned itself through his staff.
And just to put a cherry on top of the cake, his PA Julie had returned to work.
And now he got to spend quality time with his family for the whole weekend.
In his plans were an early night and plenty of good loving with his wife.
Whistling a happy tune, he strolled through the back door The Dower House, and got hit right between the eyes with a scent sent from heaven—his wife’s famous Italian red sauce, featuring basil and oven roasted tomatoes and garlic bread warm from the oven.
His mouth watered.
And then he got all soppy when he spotted the fat glass of Chianti sitting on the worktop, just waiting for him.
His wife knew exactly how to look after him.
He was a lucky man.
To show his appreciation and love, he grabbed Bronte around the waist and kissed the breath from her.
He loved the little purr in her throat. He loved the way she ran her fingers through his black hair.
Her nails scratched his scalp.
“Wow,” she said, when they came up for air. “What did I do to deserve that?”
He grinned at the dazed expression on her face.
“You look after me. You look after everyone. And I love you.”
She stroked the back of her hand down his cheek, her emerald eyes filled with love for him.
Yes, Nico reckoned he was one lucky bastard.
During dinner, Bronte put the lack of conversation from Sophia down to tiredness. After all, the kids had had a busy week at school. However, the little niggle in her belly just refused to quit. Bronte decided that tomorrow was another day. A day where she’d spend time with Sophia and get to the bottom of what was bothering her.
Once the children had teeth brushed, bathed and put to bed—after three rounds of story time of course, Nico and Bronte had time to themselves.
On the couch, he’d just taken her in his arms for a bit of heavy petting, when baby Eve’s tired cry came over the intercom.
Nico looked to Heaven. “Teething is hell,” he said to Bronte.
His wife stood, lifted her arms as if reaching for the sky, and yawned hugely.
“Her little cheeks are so hot. I’ll give her Calpol. That should sort it.”
Nico stretched out his long legs clad in loose black jeans, and wiggled his bare toes.
It looked as if his plan for an early night and romance may not happen.
Then he counted his many blessings, and shrugged.
He was a lucky man.
The voice of one of his blessings came from behind him.
Nico looked to heaven.
“Sophia, cara mia, what is the matter?”
He turned, and found his daughter looking pale.
She was dressed in brushed cotton pink frilly pyjamas with the picture of Elsa on the front.
A gift from auntie Rosie.
And in her arms she clutched her Raggedy Ann doll.
A sure sign that something was up.
He watched her as Sophia crept closer.
And it wasn’t until she stood right before him that she looked him dead in the eye and said, “Promise you won’t be a grumpy Papa?”
Nico leaned back and placed his hands behind his head.
He took plenty of time to study his daughter’s guilty face.
Maybe they were too soft with her?
Maybe she needed a firmer hand?
He rubbed the spot above his heart.
He couldn’t do it.
“On a scale of one to ten,” he said, “One being nothing too awful, what have you done this time?”
Her bare toes made little circles on the thick rug of ivory wool.
And she clutched Raggedy Ann even closer.
“It might be an eight? Maybe? I have a letter from Miss Brown to you and mamma in my schoolbag. And I don’t wanna give it to you.”
Nico’s brows rose into his hairline and he puffed out his cheeks.
“A letter from your teacher?”
Sophia nodded. “Yes.”
And now Sophia’s chin began to wobble and her eyes filled.
And in that moment, Nico knew he was toast.
No way could he harden his heart against tears.
He opened his arms and found his baby girl’s arms wound tight around his neck.
He let her cry.
Sometimes it was good to cry.
He didn’t want to think about the contents of the letter.
He couldn’t begin to imagine.
“What on earth is the matter?” Bronte said as she walked into the room.
Nico found his daughter holding him even tighter.
He made a face at his wife.
“Sophia has a letter for us from her teacher.”
“So what’s the problem?” Bronte asked.
“I don’t think it’s a friendly letter,” Nico said.
Bronte took a seat and tucked her legs beneath her butt.
“Hit me with it.”
By this time Sofia’s sobs were down to a snuffle.
“It’s in her school bag,” Nico said.
Bronte rose and padded to the boot room in her bare feet, and returned with Sophia’s schoolbag.
She sat down opened it and rummaged through the detritus until she found the letter.
For a long moment her eyes held his before she opened it and read the contents.
After reading it through twice, she bit down hard on her bottom lip and blinked frantically.
Nico heaved a heavy sigh.
He had a horrible feeling.
By this time Sofia was sitting on her Papa’s lap, her cheek tucked against his chest and with one eye on her mamma.
Her cheeks were hot.
Bronte shook her head
“Well, it seems Miss Brown wants to know if we’ve been teaching sex education to our kids recently. Because it seems Sophia has been very busy informing her classmates about the birds and bees and vivid descriptions of natural childbirth.”
Nico shifted to catch Sophia’s eye.
Sophia drew circles on his T-shirt with her fingertip and all the while her big emerald eyes held his.
“It was all in the baby book,” she said in a small voice.
“What baby book?” Her mama asked.
“A Child is Born.” Sophia told her.
Bronte’s eyes went wide.
“Good Lord, you took that book to school?”
Sophia nodded. “Johnny Lacy said that babies came from heaven. That the stork brought the baby and left it at the hospital for mummies and daddies to collect. I said he was a big fat liar. He pushed me and I pushed him back. So I took the book into school. Because he can’t argue with the photographs, can he? I told him not to spread fake news.”
No matter how hard Nico tried he couldn’t stop laughing.
His big body shook and he knew he daren’t meet his wife’s eyes.
Bronte meanwhile was reading the rest of the letter.
“Well, Miss Brown says that Sophia Ferranti did a better job than she could have done and that she will return the book the next time she sees me.”
Sophia blinked at her like a baby owl.
“You mean, I’m not in big trouble?”
Bronte leaned over and went nose-to-nose with her daughter.
“See what happens when you don’t give me a letter when you’re supposed to? You worried yourself for hours for nothing. All I am going to say is that you do not take any books from our library without asking permission. You okay with that?”
Sophia climbed off her Papa’s lap and went to receive a hug from her mamma.
A big hug.
Bronte lifted her and headed for the stairs.
“Say goodnight to Papa.”
Nico topped up his glass of Chianti, sat back and closed his eyes.
There was never, he reckoned, a dull moment at the Dower house.
And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Aw, no fake news for Sophia.
I’m busy writing Desert Captive, Our Rules, and have Gregorio Ancelotti’s story cooking on the back burner.