See You Soon!

www-ccmackenzie-com

Yes, that will be me very soon!

I’m taking a break from the blog over the holidays to spend time with family and friends. H reckons I’ll also be writing because I never stop scribbling ideas and conversations in one of my hundreds of notebooks.

I want to wish each and every single one of you a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2017!

See you next year.

Hugs,

Christine X

Happy Monday, and here’s another slice of Ludlow life… I’m still yodelling to the Lonely Goatherd…

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Remember, to read how Nico and Bronte’s love began, you can grab it here, free:

Dressed down in black below the knee yoga pants, a matching skinny vest, and sneakers, Bronte is collecting Sophia from a play date with her BBF, Emily, and her Bacon Freeze puppy, Bubblegum………

“Hi, Grace. How are you today? Did they run you ragged, or did they behave themselves?” Bronte asks as Grace waves her through the door and leads her through her beautifully appointed home into a huge light and airy family kitchen space.

Wearing cropped blue jeans and an ivory short sleeved sweater, Grace has the same petite build and fair coloring as her daughter, creamy skin with a constellation of freckles, and wild chestnut curls. She grins, rolls her blue eyes. “Do you have time for a coffee?”

“Sure.” Bronte dumps her purse on one of the breakfast bar stools, and slides into another. Her eyes click to a Grace who is still grinning as she pours black coffee from the pot into two white china mugs. “What’s she done or said now?” she asks, referring to Sophia, and fearing the worst.

Eyes dancing, Grace hands Bronte a mug and slides into another stool to face Bronte over the brown speckled granite counter top. “Nothing naughty, which makes a delightful change. Although I did manage to stop them before they painted Bubblegum’s nails with purple polish. No. I had what I thought was a brainwave and introduced them to one of my favorite childhood movies. They’ve been watching The Sound Of Music. And replaying Julie Andrews singing, ‘The Hills Are Alive’ about twenty times. Don’t get me wrong. I adore Julie’s voice. But I’m finding myself singing along. Betcha I’ll have an earworm for days.” She takes a sip of her drink, and then her grin turns into a wide smile, her eyes still sparkling.

“Okay. Spit it out,” Bronte says.

“They’ve got the words down pat, but can’t quite hit the high notes, know what I mean?”

“Aww, bless their little hearts. I’m not seeing a downside to this, Grace.”

*And right on cue, from a room above, there comes the dulcet tones of introduction music as Dame Julie begins her song, and right along with her comes a yowling of two young voices determined to nail it. Whoa. Bronte’s emerald eyes go wide*

Grace tips back her head to study the high ceiling. “And there they go… again.”

They both burst out laughing. “Could be worse, Grace, it could be The Lonely Goatherd,” Bronte says, wiping her eyes. And of course that thought made them laugh even harder.

Grace shakes her head, laughter making her eyes all teary and her voice quaver. “Thing is, Bronte, and I’ll apologize right now because I just didn’t see this coming.”

Bronte puts her cup down, places her elbows on the work top and leans over to study a Grace who is weeping hard so hard with laughter, she’d needs to cross her legs. And of course, Bronte ends up weeping with her.

Grace grabs a couple sheets of kitchen roll, wipes streaming eyes, takes a deep breath and holds up her hands. “I’m sorry. Sorry… Okay. I’ve got a hold of myself. Okay…” She takes a huge inhale in, holds it for four counts, and then breathes out. Her eyes meet Bronte’s. “They came down here and demanded two clean white tea towels. When I asked them what for, they said…” Again Grace’s eyes swim as her face creases. She takes another deep inhale. “They’ve decided to dedicate their lives to Jesus. They wanna be nuns.”

Grace stuffs kitchen roll in her mouth as she weeps with laughter at Bronte’s stunned face. And then cries even harder when Bronte whispers, “Omigod.”

*Next morning at breakfast at The Dower House*

Dressed to impress, Nico Ferranti strolls into the kitchen looking like something off the cover of  Men’s Fashion magazine. With his hand protecting his silk tie from sticky little fingers, he dips his head to deliver a raspberry to the hot cheek of a delighted baby Eve sitting in her high chair and using her empty sip cup to beat the hell out of the plastic table. Tonio and Luca are wolfing down oatmeal and honey in a race to see who can finish first. No sign of Sophia… yet. Nico’s eyes light on a wife who is barefoot at the range preparing his poached eggs and bacon. She’s dressed in one his T-shirts and boy panties wiggling her cute little butt to Paulo Nuttini rocking the iPod. At the table the boys are now digging in to a mountain of toast and buttered crumpets. Since he cannot help himself, Nico shifts to slide his arms around Bronte’s slim waist for a cuddle, drop a kiss on her neck, and pat her ass. “Where,” he asks with his tongue firmly in his cheek. “Is the good sister Sophia.”

Bronte heaves a sigh, shakes her head. “The sister has kindly informed me that when she’s finished her morning prayers, she will join us for one slice of toast without jam or butter, and a cup of weak tea.”

Nico’s wide shoulder’s shake with laughter.

Tonio, face fierce, pipes up with, “Si. And she’s still wearing that stupid tea cloth on her head. She’s driving me nuts. Every time she sees Luca or me she says, ‘Bless you, my child.'”

Nico shakes his head as he pours himself a coffee from the pot, takes his seat at the head of the table. He flicks out a stiff white cotton napkin on his knee. When Bronte places his breakfast in front of him, he sends her a slow and sexy smile. “Grazie, cara. You are too good to me.”

Bronte drops a kiss on his freshly shaved cheek. “That’s because you smell delicious.”

“You buy my cologne.”

“Yep,” she agrees, as she places a fresh sip cup on Eve’s table and a plastic bowl of sliced banana so the baby can help herself. “If I’ve got to live with you, I get to decide how you smell. Wife’s rights.”

*The whole room goes quiet, even the baby’s eyes go big, as Sophia walks slowly into the room. She’s wearing a black dress from her dressing up box, black ankle socks, and black patent shoes with a strap. The tea cloth is pinned to her hair, and the palms of her hands are pressed together as if in prayer*

Dio mio,” Nico mutters under his breath, and digs into his breakfast.

Bronte can’t quite hold in the giggle before she clears her throat. “Good morning, sister. Would you like bacon?”

Sophia cannot resist bacon, ever. Temptation whispers loud in her mind, but she remembers the promise she and Emily made on the Holy Bible. “No thank you, mama. One slice of toast and tea, please.”

Luca, a piece of toast half way to his mouth, scowls at his twin. “You look stupid with that thing on your head.”

Sister Sophia narrows emerald eyes, purses her small pink mouth, then takes a breath. “There is no need for rudeness. I forgive you, my son.”

Tonio rolls his eyes, turns to his papa. “You’ve gotta do something. This cannot go on. She’s gonna drive us nuts.”

Nico nods, dabs his mouth with his napkin, and rests his gaze on a daughter he adores. “Sophia, bella. A little girl cannot be a nun. A convent will not accept you until you are eighteen.”

Sophia’s emerald eyes meet his. “Eighteen? Why?”

“Because when a woman decides to dedicate her life to God, she needs to have lived a normal life first.”

Sister Sophia’s shoulders droop, but she nods. “Okay. But can I go to a convent school for girls to see what it’s like?”

Nico’s heart soars with joy. There are no boys in a convent school, and he has just the place in mind, but before he can reply, his wife beats him to it.

“No,” Bronte says. “For a well rounded education it is important for you to socialize with boys and girls and learn to get along with both.”

“She has no problem with boys,” Tonio growls, and earns himself a dark look from his papa for his trouble.

Sister Sophia takes her own sweet time to think about it, then she nods, and pulls the tea towel from her head. “Okay. I’m still a little girl…”

“Yup,” Bronte says, slipping a plate of bacon and toast and a poached egg in front of her daughter. “And a little girl need a good diet of good food to grow into a fine woman. Dig in.”

*And peace descends upon The Dower House… until…*

“What’s the next film Emily’s mama has chosen for you?” Nico asks.

Sophia nibbles on crispy bacon, swallows. “The Goonies. It’s about buried treasure.”

Bronte grins in delight. “Aww, I love that movie.”

Nico rises to leave for another day at the office of Ferranti Enterprises, based at Ludlow Hall. “Si, just be prepared for her to start digging up the garden hunting for buried treasure.”

Luca turns big dark eyes filled to the brim with excitement on his papa. “We have buried treasure on our land?”

Ignoring his wife’s imploring gaze, Nico comes up with a dastardly plan to keep his children entertained for days. “Si. Of course. You did not know The Dower House has a box of treasure just waiting to be discovered?”

As a wide-eyed Luca shakes his head, whispers, “No.”

“Then today, even though I am busy, I will retrieve the treasure map from the safe at Ludlow Hall and bring it home with me tonight. But you must promise not to tell anyone about the map. It is a secret.”  And all the while his busy mind is coming up with a plan that will include Alexander and their PA, Julie, who will be only too happy to play their part.

As Bronte follows him to his car, she gives him the stink eye. “You are worse than they are. If they dig up my garden…”

After dumping his laptop on the passenger seat of his Range Rover, Nico grabs his wife for a hot kiss. Shifting to watch the way her eyes have gone all cloudy, he grins down into her face. Dio, he adores her. “Trust me, X will mark the spot around their play area. Nessun problema. But I’d like you to think about a convent for Sophia.”

Bronte grins as she adjusts the knot of his tie. “I don’t care if you are Italian. Not a chance, sunshine.”

 

FINITO

 

And here, for your listening pleasure, is Dame Julie singing one of her signature songs:

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE

My best pal, Linda, and me were six when we saw The Sound of Music and immediately dreamed of becoming nuns. For two weeks we wore a white tea towel on our heads and blessed every person we met, and drove our families mad. We never ended up in a convent, which is just as well. But we still remember every single word of every single song in The Sound of Music.

Those were the days, eh?

There was no catch a Pokémon in my day.

With love and hugs,

Christine X

TIME FOR ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE AND THE FERRANTI FAM-LEE.

 

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Hi, girlies,

Time for another slice of Ludlow life with the Ferrantis’.

On a baking hot day Bronte is in her car with a full load of groceries and four children.

*Why has she gone supermarket shopping with four children in tow? Why? What the hell was she thinking? The baby’s all hot and bothered and has expressed her feelings by vomiting on a gorgeous sun dress, and baby seat clipped into the passenger seat. The twins are squabbling viciously in the back, and Tonio is boogieing on down to something on his iPod. She’s already pulled over once to deal with the baby. Thank God for Tonio. Nothing ever fazed the boy. Without being asked he’d grabbed Eve’s diaper bag and tucked a stinky dress into a plastic bag, and handed Bronte baby wipes and then a sip cup of fresh water to rehydrate the child. She’s no idea what the hell Sophia and Luca are bickering about, and since there’s no pushy-shovey yet, she left them to it. The twins are all hot and bothered, too, a bit like herself. This whole sorry mess is all her own stupid fault. Her nanny is matron of honor at her best friend’s wedding. Rosie, bless her, offered to take all four Ferranti children while her harassed bestie did grocery shopping, but Luca has a mild cold and Bronte doesn’t want baby Mila to catch it. Why borrow trouble?

And Nico is in Rome for two days, on business, or so he says. Last night he’d called her from one of his clubs, all Ciao, baby, and ti ‘amo, cara mia. Yeah right, there was nothing wrong with her hearing, was there? Hadn’t she heard the low and sexy, “Nicolo, come dance with me?” Then there’d been a short pause on the line before ‘Nicolo’ blew his wife a kiss goodbye. She’d give him more than a kiss when he got back, more like a fat lip and a thick ear. And as for dancing, she’d give him dancing. Temper on a nice steady simmer, she doesn’t notice the beautiful day or the beautiful countryside as she drives home with the air con turned on to full.

Imagine dancing with some sexpot, and doing God knew what, in a nightclub, while his adoring wife runs his home, does his laundry, and looks after HIS four children. AND runs a successful business. Seriously, the broom stick up her ass is beginning to chafe.

As temper leaks away leaving her all weepy and desperately fed up, Bronte tells herself she trusts her husband implicitly and not be stupid. But she tries not to think about the woman who calls him, ‘Nicolo’, and what it meant or she’d be as sick as her baby girl.

“I hate your big fat mouth,” five year old Sophia declares.

“I hate your stupid skinny chicken legs,” her twin snarls.

“I hate your ugly, smelly guts.”

“I hate your stupid bimbo hair.”

*Bronte takes a very deep breath, and turns up the radio. Even Taylor Swift yowling about lost love is better than listening to what’s going on in the back seat*

When she reaches the gates of The Dower House, she stops the car. And just sits still while the invectives rage on in the back seat. Tonio pulls out his earphones, sends her a wary look via her rear view mirror. She turns off the radio. It takes a about twenty seconds for the twins to realize all is not well. After a final, harshly whispered, “And I hate your stinky breath.” Quiet reigns.

“Wanna know what I think?” Bronte says in a silky tone. “I think I’m going to sell two of my children to the gypsies camped in farmer Brown’s fields.”

*Cue a stunned silence. In the rear view mirror she sees Tonio bite down hard on his bottom lip. It’s not often she uses the selling them to the gypsies threat. It’s bad parenting, but at the moment Bronte Ferranti could not give a hot damn*

“Got nothing to say?” she asks. She spins around so she can face her twins. It hits her hard, and not for the first time, what an fascinating blend of herself and Nico they are. Her green eyes in Sophia’s face, Nico’s dark grey eyes in Luca’s. Her mouth in Luca’s, Nico’s in Sophia’s. Her coloring and build – poor child – gifted to Sophia, and Nico’s jet black hair to Luca. She pauses and raises her brows, notices the twins are pale, eyes too big in their little faces. “Do you want me to take you to the gypsies now, or should you go home to pack your belongings first? What do you think?”

“I think I don’t wanna live with the gypsies. I won’t like it there,” Sophia says, her emerald eyes swimming.

“They have lots of puppies and kittens,” Tonio says helpfully.

Luca juts out his chin. “I don’t care about stupid puppies or kittens. I’m not gonna live with the gypsies. I’m gonna live with Auntie Rosie and Uncle Alexander and baby Mila. And without HER,” he says jerking his thumb at his sister. “They won’t sell me to the gypsies because they LOVE me.”

A little voice, might be the voice of reason, is telling Bronte to wind the conversation down instead of up, but she ignores it. “Um, I dunno about that. A little boy like you could make big bucks with the gypsies.”

Now Sophia’s chin jerks as she watches her mama through slitty eyes. “You’re being horrible to us. You’ve been cranky all day. I’m gonna tell papa what you said about the gypsies. He’ll spank your bottom.”

*If only*

She stares hard at the twins, her voice firm and a tone that means business. “You both know better than to argue when I’m driving the car. And I have the baby with me. What would have happened if I’d been distracted by your bad behaviour and had an accident?”

Cue another silence, and Bronte let it go on, and on, until both twins dropped their chin on their chest. “Do I hear a sorry, mama?”

Typically, Luca nods first. “Sorry, mama.”

On the other hand, the stubborn Sophia takes a few seconds longer before she twisted her mouth, nodded. “Sorry, mama.”

Bronte starts the car, continues up the drive. “Well then, I think I’ll keep you both a little longer.”

*As she winds around to the parking space at the back of the house, Nico lifts his suitcase out of the trunk of his car. His smile is big and wide as he spots them. But the smile slides when he sees his wife’s stony face*

As the children barrel out of the car, Luca throws himself at his papa. “Mama’s going to sell us to the gypsies,” he says, then bursts into tears and buries his face in Nico’s belly.

Sophia, wearing a cute little white cotton sundress with sandals on her bare feet, marches past him. “You need to spank her bottom for scaring little children. Mama’s been a bad girl all day.”

Nico’s brows wing into his hairline as he hugs Luca and sends a ‘What happened?’ look to Tonio.

“Eve was sick in the car. The twins have been fighting all afternoon. I think the gypsy plan is a good idea,” Tonio says as he carries a heaving bag of groceries into the house.

“Go and help your brother,” Nico says, giving Luca a gentle pat on the bottom. He turns to his wife, takes the baby from her arms, catches a whiff of baby puke from her black curls. Bronte’s hefting a couple bags from the trunk. Chin high, she marches past him and into the house. Uh oh. Trouble. Can’t be anything he’s done. Can it?

*Three hours later and The Dower House is quiet. Nico’s just finished listening to Tonio read another chapter of Moby Dick. It’s hard going at times, but the boy is doing well. The twins and the baby are out for the count. He pours himself a glass of Chianti and a glass of white for her and goes in search of his wife, and finds her sitting outside on one of the swings watching the sun going down. Her hair’s tied back at the neck in a short tail, she’s wearing a skinny vest, tiny jean shorts showcasing long tanned legs stretched out before her. Her feet are bare, and he notices her toenails are painted deep pink. It’s clear she’s had a bad and tiring day. It’s also clear she’s still in a mood, which is something of a novelty because Bronte’s rarely moody. She simply doesn’t have it in her to hold onto a grudge for long*

He bends to kiss her flushed cheek, hands her the wine. Her eyes flick to his and hold. Now his own narrow as he recognizes something that looks like hurt and disappointment. “Enjoy dancing last night?” she says, takes a sip of wine, and not once do her eyes leave his.

Ah, the light bulb switches on in his brain. “It was the wife of a business colleague. Harmless.”

Her eyes move to study the growing dusk. “I can’t remember the last time I danced. It was definitely before we had Eve.”

*Within a couple of heartbeats, their wine is set on a table, and she’s in his arms. Nico hums, ‘Shall We Dance’ and spins her around the garden until she’s breathless and laughing so hard her sides hurt*

As they move into a slow dance, more of a foot shuffle and hug, she nuzzles her face into his neck to simply take a breath and inhale the incredible scent of her man. And just like that her world steadies again. “I’m a terrible mother,” she says as guilt about the gypsies hits her hard.

“No. What you are is tired and a little out of sorts. What you need, we need, is a special place just for us. A place that’s not far away. A place you, we, can escape to when things get on top of us. A place where we won’t be disturbed when I spank you when you need it.”

Her gurgle of laughter has him shift to stare into her face. He gives her big eyes. “I am not joking. According to our daughter you have been a very naughty girl.”

“And where would this magical place be?”

“You know the new A frame cabin set high in the hills above Ludlow Hall? The place from where we can see The Dower House?” She nodded. “I had it built for you. You and me. Why don’t we visit it tomorrow afternoon and christen the super-king-sized bed?”

Emotions, too many to handle, rose up to block her throat. Dear heaven she adores this man.

“It’s mine?”

He drops a kiss on her stunned mouth. “Si. Somewhere you can chill, listen to music, work on a new cake design. Or simply read and relax. And it has a Jacuzzi.”

“Wow, how did you come up with such a great idea?”

When he sent her an are-you-kidding-me look, she had to laugh. “Cara mia, I am Italian.”

 

Finito

 

 

Until next week.

Remember, be good or I’ll sell you to the gypsies.

Hugs,

Christine X

 

My favorite bad boy becomes a man…

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Hi, guys!

A couple of my readers reached out to tell me they had no idea I had a romantic suspense out there in the digital book world. And that they loved it. DESERT ORCHID was released around the time my mother passed away, so I didn’t do a lot of promotion for it. This story has been a bit of a slow burn, but the reviews are stellar right across all the distributors so I thought I’d give peeps a gentle reminder.

What readers are saying –

‘Regarding the suspense aspect, there were enough twists and turns and heart-pounding scenes to keep me, a mystery writer, intrigued. There are hints at the end of more stories to come about these characters. I cannot wait!’

Kassandra Lamb, author of the Kate Huntington mysteries

‘In this book expect the unexpected it does everything you want, it makes you laugh, makes you cry and the steamy parts are all there. It is the total package. And while you think you make have already read a book similar, let me assure you, you have not!
I won’t repeat the jacket cover as what help is that,you already read that. The Heroine is no push over and she has a thing or two to teach her “rock star”.
If you love romance, laughter some intrigue and HEA then this is not a suggestion, its a must read. 🙂 The book is a total delight and I have read it three times already. Thank you C C Mackenzie’

Amazon reviewer

 

 

 

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AMAZON USA     AMAZON UK    iBOOKS  BARNES & NOBLE   KOBO

There are plenty of thrills and spills in this one, here’s the back page and a sneak peak:

BLURB:

Think ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ meets ‘Taken’

He doesn’t want a country. He doesn’t want a wife. He doesn’t want love. He wants to forget.

 A young Arabian Queen must marry a wild, wicked and wilful Prince to save her people from civil unrest and protect the wealth of her Kingdom.

Charisse never expected to find love with a darkly brooding man who looks and lives like a rock star.

Growing up as a member of royalty isn’t everything it’s proclaimed to be. Khalid El Haribe learned that heartbreaking lesson five years ago and isn’t interested in ruling a small desert kingdom or marriage but he cannot forget the debt he owes his family. Perhaps doing his duty will atone for past mistakes? Meeting the beautiful and feisty Charisse comes as a pleasant surprise…the attraction between them burns as hot as the desert.

But tragic events in Charisse’s past threaten to destroy her Kingdom and her life, too. Can their fragile love survive?

 

EXCERPT:

Unfolding the stiff pages of the letter written by the fragile hand of her late husband, Charisse El Haribe’s fingers shook with the emotion that squeezed her lungs, her throat, and stung her eyes.

She shivered even though the temperature outside the palace, under a relentless sun, scorched the land at a steady forty-two degrees. Asim’s passing had been a blessed release for the ravaged shell of his body. But she still found it hard to believe he was gone. Poor Asim, his had been a life filled with suffering. His heart condition had been congenital, which meant no heir for the kingdom of Onuur. And Asim had borne his infirmity with grace, with a highly developed sense of humour and with fortitude.

As was the custom in her adopted land, Asim had been buried within twenty-four hours of his death.

Now she wondered how she could possibly carry on her life without him? The phrase was a cliché, but it was nevertheless very true that Asim had been her rock. And it wasn’t overly dramatic to say he’d saved her life, her heart and even her soul from certain destruction.

Had it really been six short years since he’d brought her, a traumatised sixteen year old, to this fabulous white palace? The structure had been built with Asim’s needs in mind, two thousand feet above sea level on the top of a mountain where the air was cool and clear, and where clouds sprinted across a magnificent expanse of a sky so blue it hurt the eye.

The faint scent of Asim’s signature cologne clung to the thick papers and his presence returned to her in an instant. With a deep inhale, Charisse pressed the missive to her lips. The scent eased the unremitting agony in her heart. And an extraordinary sense of Asim standing at her shoulder overwhelmed her. Even as the feeling brought her comfort, she knew he would expect her to face an uncertain future with bravery, with dignity. After all that he had suffered, the way he had courageously coped with the personal insults of a body reduced to skin and bone, the memory gave her strength.

Asim used to say that she’d given him extra years of life and Charisse hoped he’d been right. He’d been like a beloved father to her, a teacher, and most important of all, a true and loyal friend. And she’d loved him deeply with all of her fractured heart.

Ever since Charisse had been handed the letter from her darling Asim, by a stern-faced Minister of the Interior, she’d had the distinct sensation of waiting for an axe to fall.

The two women who sat opposite stared at her with eyes filled with grief and concern.

With a snuffle and a deep sigh, Boris’s immense head rested on Charisse’s knee. Big hazel eyes locked on her face. They were filled with unconditional love and an intensity that had her press a kiss to his shaggy head of fur the colour of tarnished silver. Charisse raised her index finger. The dog moved with a reluctance that made her bite down hard on her lip to lie on the floor beside his brother Rufus. Her raised brow had Boris hide his face in his paws and heave another great breath from his massive chest. Her Irish Wolfhounds were suffering the loss of Amir, too. She’d take them out for a run later with Diablo. Her stallion needed to vent his excess energy, and it would do her good to escape from the palace for a little while.

Clearing her throat, Charisse blinked to clear her vision and read the letter aloud to her captive audience.

“My darling, Charisse,

I am sorry to leave you. Please find it in your heart to forgive me, but God has need of me in heaven.

You brought joy, laughter, companionship and love to a lonely old man. You opened my eyes and my heart to what is possible for our people and for the future of Onuur. Namely, the children.

It is crucial that you continue your work, Charisse. And you must resume your studies! I know – nag, nag, nag.”

Charisse smiled into the swimming eyes of her sister-in-law, Yasmin. And into the brown eyes, sharp with a ruthless intelligence, of Arabella Faulkner, her bodyguard and trusted friend. Then she took a deep steadying breath and continued,

“You cannot return to the land of your birth. HE now wears a cloak of respectability and has become too powerful. You know too much, and that is dangerous. As I await to leave this earth, my greatest fear is that HE will attempt to strike you down. To prevent such an event I have already set in motion plans to secure your future. Plans that even a man such as HE dare not defy.

I have named Prince Khalid El Haribe as my heir. You must marry him within six weeks.”

 

Stunned disbelief had Charisse blink once, twice.

Her heart rammed to an emergency stop then roared too loud in her ears. She shook her head in denial of what she held in her hands written in black ink by that fragile hand.

She read it twice, three times.

Why?

Why on earth would Asim do such a terrible thing to her, to Onuur?

Looking up, she read her incredulity mirrored in the shocked eyes of her companions.

The dogs whined, and she silenced them with the lift of her forefinger.

A deep frown creased her forehead as she continued more slowly,

 

“I know you will be confused, even dismayed, by my choice of a husband for you, child. But please permit me to explain. Yes, Khalid is flawed. Yes, he is a womaniser. Yes, he is wild, wilful and out of control. But Charisse, there is nothing and no one you cannot tame if you can find it in your heart to forgive him and open your clever mind to his potential. Believe me, he has potential to be a great man and a good husband.

Now I am gone the stability of the country and the region is at risk. Greedy eyes are turned to Onuur. They will surely inflame unrest and undo all the good work we have achieved. Bloodshed, pain and loss must surely follow for the people of this land, which is why I have chosen Khalid.

He will bring with him the security and the stability of the house of El Haribe. The King and his sons are powerful and will protect you and our Kingdom. The King is in agreement with my plan. Look upon him as your father. The Queen will come to love you, too, if you give her a chance.”

 

Charisse gasped and jumped to her feet, the correspondence fluttering to a floor of polished white marble.

Two giant heads snapped to attention as the dogs rose as one and their butts hit the floor.

“I will not!” she cried.

The wolfhounds’ eyes, the colour of jet, tracked her as she paced to the open balcony and back. Wearing a loose top and flowing pants of ivory silk, her soft leather ballet pumps made little sound.

With a fluid movement of her long and lean body, clothed in black military fatigues, Arabella picked up the pages from the floor.

She stood and held out the letter to Charisse.

“Read all of it, Your Highness. We can have a nervous breakdown, if we need to, after we have all the facts.’

Charisse took a steadying breath even as her pulse was hammering in her throat and her eyes stung.

Arabella was quite right.

Where was her self-control?

Having a temper tantrum like a child changed nothing.

She wanted to cry enough tears to fill an ocean.

But tears changed nothing.

With a single nod, she took the letter and sank to the edge of the chair.

The dogs didn’t relax and their black eyes, anxious and watchful, never left her face for a moment. She couldn’t help it, her hand shook as she cleared her throat.

 

“Should you find yourself unable to marry Khalid, the White Palace shall remain yours in perpetuity. On your death it will return to the State. A sum of (she gasped) has been placed in banks in Switzerland for your personal use.

There are conditions to the marriage:

Khalid must not take concubines or another wife whilst you live.

He must provide you with a child within one year of marriage.

Good God!

If the marriage is annulled, the child will remain with you.

So you see, Charisse, you have a choice to make. Get to know Khalid. Open your mind. Help him find joy in service to our people. And at all times remember you are a Queen, beloved by the people of Onuur.

I die a happy and contented man, my darling, and for that I thank you.

Have courage.

All my love, Asim.”

 

Eyes stinging and with a hot rock lodged in her throat, Charisse folded the letter with great care and placed it on the table.

She felt the eyes of her companions on her as she stood, shoulders back and head held high. Like an automaton she moved towards open vast doors and stepped onto a wide stone terrace, which soared high above the valley below. Her sumptuous apartments covered the entire top floor of the palace. Asim had spared no expense ensuring her comfort, providing rooms that were light and spacious with the added luxury of private balconies. There was her office, a state-of-the-art kitchen, gymnasium, a lap pool, and covered deck for lazy days.

Not that she had many of those.

Charisse gazed out, unseeing, over the mountain tops and into the sea, miles beyond.

Up here, the climate was never still, never quiet.

A brisk wind toyed with the long tail of her platinum hair, whipping it around her face. The salty tang of the sea mixed with the scent of jasmine and tea roses planted in huge terracotta pots. A cry from above had her look up and narrow her eyes. A single raptor circled, gliding in the updraft of a cloudless sky.

Dear heaven she missed Amir so much.

But why had he never discussed his plans for the future with her?

They’d agreed never to keep secrets.

The ache in her heart swelled into unbearable pain as her face crumpled.

Her delicate fists pounded the top of the balcony.

A sympathetic hand touched her shoulder.

“Why didn’t he talk to me about this? Why am I not given time to grieve?” Charisse turned into Yasmin’s wiry arms and sobbed into her neck.

As she would an infant, her sister-in-law rubbed her back in lazy circles.

Her voice, filled with sorrow, was the merest whisper, “Hush, child. It has always been thus for the rulers of this land.”

Yasmin’s hand, the skin paper thin and wrinkled with age, tipped up her chin. Dark eyes identical to Asim’s stared into hers and Charisse recognised grief and a hideous loss. Gentle fingertips wiped the tears from her cheeks. Yasmin had lost her favourite brother and here she was acting like a spoilt child. And shame for her selfish outburst smacked her too hard. Yasmin kissed one cheek and then the other. “He prepared you for this day. The men have buried him and the women will weep. Asim was revered in this land. Your Prince has large shoes to fill.”

Charisse couldn’t stop the sting of outrage.

My Prince?”

She whirled, blue eyes blazing as she paced back and forth.

Alert, the dogs took positions in the shade and sat on their haunches like sentinels, one either side of the ornate arched doorway. Not once did their eyes leave her face.

“He’s a tom-cat,” she spat the words. “A drunk. A waster.”

“That’s right, your Highness, tell it like it is,” Arabella drawled and added. “Apparently, his art sells for a small fortune.”

Temper won the war of attrition with grief, and surged through Charisse.

She spun to face her friend with wide eyes.

“Have you seen what he calls art? If I want a visual lesson in what the intimate body parts of the female form look like, I’ll refer to a gynaecological compendium for facts, not fiction.”

Arabella winced at the tone.

“To be fair his work in oils has gathered critical acclaim.”

Bullshit.

Charisse wasn’t having that.

“Yes, by men who need to be titillated by Khalid’s so called interpretation of a clitoris, labia and perineum.” Utter fury spiked through the top of her head as her eyes pinned Arabella’s and it took everything she had to stop her voice shaking, to articulate every syllable, “There are children living in this continent who do not know what it is like to live without the unparalleled burn of an empty belly, who cannot imagine a future further than their next meal.” She took a very deep breath. “While he, who’s never known anything but health, wealth and a fawning society, does nothing but piss away his opportunity to make a real difference to his people.

“Oh, they might not have the good fortune to be born within the hallowed borders of Dhuma or Quaram, but our people are nomads. We are all brothers and sisters and we who rule have a responsibility to the hungry, the sick and the vulnerable of this region.”

 

Having heard it all before, and more, Arabella nodded.

“I’m not defending him. But he’s not had an easy time of it…”

Charisse flicked a hand, rudely interrupting her bodyguard and friend.

She wasn’t having any of that, either.

“He needs to get over himself and grow a pair. Onuur needs a real man, not a dick-swinging fool who cannot go six hours without a drink or a woman or three.”

“Charisse!” Yasmin’s soft voice held a censure that had anger leak out of Charisse like a deflated balloon.

God, she felt physically ill at the mere thought of such a man touching her.

She couldn’t do it.

Arabella frowned now, and sat at a stone table in the shade, drumming her fingernails on the table top. “You know we can’t believe absolutely everything they print in the press? Much of it is bound to be exaggerated.”

Charisse let out an unladylike snort that had Yasmin send her a look of mild reproach.

“If it swims like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck.”

Charisse’s temperament was usually easygoing. But now her temper bubbled and brewed quite nicely. And her chin tilted.

“He is not fit to lick my feet. And in my bed?” She hissed out a breath of sheer temper. “Never. I’d rather sleep with a…”

The shrill ring of the telephone, the land line, brought an abrupt end to her rant.

Arabella paused, waiting for her Queen’s nod of assent before picking up the receiver.

“Hello?” The bodyguard listened with a deepening crease on her forehead as her dark brows met over her nose.

Now what? Charisse wondered.

Arabella’s dark eyes flicked to hers. “Yes, I will inform her Highness.”

Arabella replaced the receiver and opened her mouth to speak when the distant whop- whop-whop of helicopters brought their attention to the land to the north of Onuur, to Dhuma.

Charisse stepped into her apartments, covered herself with a white hijab and stalked out to observe the approach of three vast military helicopters.

Vultures, she fumed.

As a mere woman, even as a queen, she had no rights.

The El Haribe Princes and their father would rule her land, her people.

Men who were so called modernists.

If she had to marry one, why couldn’t it have been the elder brother?

At least Sarif appeared to have standards, morals.

Although from what she’d seen on the news and on the internet Sarif’s face appeared to be carved from stone, his dark eyes too hard. Plus, he had a reputation for being relentless, even ruthless, in achieving his goals.

Emotions gripped her throat as a tsunami of guilt for the anger she felt with her late husband washed over her.

“Oh, my darling, what on earth were you thinking?” she whispered.

Her eyes narrowed into slits as the helicopters thundered around the Palace in preparation to land.

The racket, the vibration under her feet, spooked the horses in the stables far below and even from here she could hear Diablo’s frantic screams. The magnificent black stallion was already edgy since he’d picked up her grief and her pain. She’d need to take him out later and give him his neck or he’d be impossible for the stable boys to handle.

 

Helicopters the colour of the desert descended kicking up mini tornadoes, sand devils, in their wake.

And the analogy was not lost on Charisse.

One of them carried the very devil himself.

A man so bent on his own pleasure, on his own self-destructive needs, he’d even turned his back on his country, his people and his own family.

She needed time. Time to think. Time to plan.

Determination filled her heart. “I am in seclusion. I will receive no one,” she said, her voice firm and the tone harsh. And she hardened her heart to Yasmin’s sigh of disappointment.

“They won’t like it,” Arabella warned her.

Charisse kept her burning gaze on the helicopters hidden now among huge clouds of dusty sand as they settled outside the palace walls. Her people were covering their eyes and mouths with cloth to protect themselves from the sting of swirling sand. Since they’d never seen a military helicopter up close and personal, some of the children were holding their ears and screaming with fright and shock.

Anger felt a hell of a lot better than guilt and Charisse gave it free rein now.

Stupid, ignorant, macho fools.

Did they not realise the damage they were inflicting on a people and animals unused to such arrogant behaviour.

How dare they arrive at her home in such a manner.

“I will come to them when I am ready. Not before.”

*Finito*

I hope you enjoy reading Charisse and Khalid’s rocky road through villainy, mistrust and a scorching lust, to true love, as much as I loved writing them.

Christine X

It’s Monday, which means another slice of Ludlow life…

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READ HOW BRONTE & NICO MET AND THEIR ROCKY ROAD TO HAPPINESS, FREE, HERE!

 

Bronte, Sophia, and Auntie Rosie descend on The Dower House weighed down bags from their shopping trip to find Nico and Alexander snoozing on the couch.

*Bronte dumps her bags on the kitchen table, and grins. Their men are sprawled on their back on the couch. A strong arm holds their daughters close. Rosie gives Bronte big eyes and mouths an, Aww! She tip-toes over to gently lift her daughter, and immediately Alexander’s eyes snap open. His smile is wide, and wicked*

“Hey,” he whispers. “Have a good time?”

“Yep,” Rosie whispers. “Put a nice big dent in the credit card. Don’t kill me.”

“Nah. Whatever you need, babe.”

Rosie bends down to plant a soft kiss on his mouth, shifts to nuzzle her daughter’s sooty curls. “She been good?”

“Not a peep,” he says, and presses gentle lips to Mila’s dark head.

*Nico watches Bronte through sleepy eyes, sends her a panty-melting smile*

“Have fun, cara mia?” he whispers.

“We did,” she whispers back, glances around the spotless kitchen room, nods approvingly. “Where are the boys?”

Nico blinks. “Um. Upstairs.”

*Sophia, dressed in navy below the knee cropped cotton leggings and a navy and white striped sleeveless smock dress, eyes her papa. In her white blonde hair a huge navy bow clings on for dear life*

Nico reaches out his hand to his eldest daughter who skips over to wind her arm around his neck and press a kiss his cheek. “Hi, papa,” Sophia says in a soft voice.

Dark grey eyes study her face. “Were you a good girl for mama and Rosie?”

She nods, leans into his shoulder, while her fingertip gently strokes baby Eve’s flushed cheek. “Uh huh. I had a milkshake and chicken kebabs and strawberry ice-cream,” she says in a stage whisper. “Aaaaaand new shoes.”

“Like mother like daughter,” Bronte says in a soft voice. “Want me to take the baby?”

Nico shakes his head. “Nah, she’s fine where she is.”

“Right then, I’d better go see what the boys are up to, they’re awfully quiet. Usually, they’re all over me to see what goodies I have for them.”

Nico shoots up, careful not to wake the baby, and thrusts her into Bronte’s arms. “I’ll go,” he says, hoping to God the boys have sorted the big mess in the bathroom.

“Actually,” Bronte murmurs, her brow creasing as she thoughtfully studies his face, the wide smile, the big eyes. “I need you to bring in the rest of the shopping.”

Nico blinks. “Nessen problema.”  He jogs out the door.

Bronte turns narrow eyes on her brother who is grinning like a fool. “Okay. Spill. What happened?”

Alexander hands Mila to her mama for a cuddle. “I’m saying nothing that might incriminate me,” he says.

Bronte turns to Sophia. “Go upstairs and tell your brothers to come down, now.”

*Happy to do her mama’s bidding, and wondering herself what’s been going on, Sophia skips out the room and runs up the stairs. She checks Tonio’s bedroom, then Luca’s, and comes up empty. Nada. Then cocks her head when she hears muttering from the family bathroom. She enters and stops dead. Her emerald eyes go wide and her mouth goes into a huge O shape*

 

“Omigod,” she says, and waves her hands in air filled with baby powder. Her twin is busy with a brush and pan to collect baby powder, and only making a bad situation worse. Powder was floating everywhere. Sodding wet bath towels litter the soaking floor.

“You’re not allowed to say God. That’s bad language,” a flushed Luca says, frowning ferociously at her. His normally glossy black curls are a hazy dark grey.

“But… but… this is a big mess. Mama’s gonna go nuts.”

“Not if you don’t tell her,” Tonio says in a tone that means business.

Sophia’s chin jerks both at the tone and the look on his face. “What happened?”

“Eve pooped. It was totally gross. We had to bath her,” Luca says, and elbows Tonio in the ribs.

Sophia’s smooth brow creases. “But… but…”

“Two plastic bags full of dirty diaper and wet wipes,” Tonio says, rubbing his rib.

“Eew,” Sophia says.

“Yep,” Luca says. “I had to stand outside the door in case I was sick. And papa had to stuff wet wipes sprayed with after shave up his nose.”

Tonio chokes with laughter and baby powder. He shakes a dry towel and more powder flies into the air. “Funniest thing, evah.”

*Sophia grins, but then takes a deep breath, eyes her brothers’ pitiful attempts to clean up. They were making it worse. The bath was filled with plastic toys, and an empty baby shampoo bottle*

“Sounds gross. Okay. We don’t want mama upset. Who’s gonna clean up this big mess?”

Tonio scratches his scalp, sends her a wide smile. “Maybe we can all muck in? If I use damp towels to mop up the powder from the counter top, maybe you and Luca can use dry towels from the cupboard to dry and polish the granite?”

*The kids set to work.*

“What did you buy me?” Tonio asks Sophia.

She sends him an angelic smile. “A surprise.”

Luca dances on the spot. “Do I have a surprise, too?”

“Of course,” Sophia says, rolls her eyes to heaven as if he’s the world’s stupidest brother. Then her gaze drops to the mess on the floor. “I don’t know how we’re gonna hide all these wet towels.”

“How hard can it be to use the washing machine?” Tonio asks as he shoves bath toys into a net bag to drip dry.

Sophia gives him big eyes. “We are not allowed to touch electrical equipment, she reminded him. “We’ll get into BIG trouble.”

“I can’t read too good yet,” a worried Luca says, white teeth chewing on his bottom lip.

“I can read,” Tonio says to a wary looking Sophia. “Grab the plastic laundry basket and we’ll take the towels to the laundry room. No one will know.”

“I dunno,” Sophia says, for once in her life listening to the little voice in her head saying this is not a good idea.

Tonio pats her on the head, something he knows full well bugs her. “Nessum problema,” he says, sounding just like papa. “How hard can it be?”

*Sophia jogs to the hall cupboard to grab clean towels, folds them just the way her mama likes. She stands back and studies the bathroom. A fine film of baby powder is again settling on the counter top. Can’t be helped. With a huff of breath she follows her brothers down the back stairs to the laundry room. Tonio opens the tall cupboard to study a variety of soap powders and liquids, all standing to attention like soldiers. He lifts the plastic bottle of liquid on the nearest shelf. The bottle that says, ‘One Squirt Is All You Need’. He piles the towels into the washer, closes the washer door and then opens the detergent drawer*

“According to the instructions this is where the soap goes,” he mutters, and frowns as he studies the manual.

*The manual also says to use the measuring cap. He hunts around and finds a spare plastic ball, measures out the liquid – adding a little extra just in case – pours it into the dispenser and closes the drawer. He turned the dial to Cotton/Whites. Easy. Then he presses ON. And just like magic water roars into the dispenser. All three Ferranti’s crouch down to watch water fill through the glass door. Tonio’s smiles, wide and relieved*

“What did I say? Nessum problema. When it’s finished, we put them in the dryer. Job done.”

Sophia gives him a huge smile. “Wow. I can’t wait to learn to read good.”

“I don’t like reading,” Luca mutters as he follows his brother and sister out the utility room door and down the hall. They head in the direction of voices.

*Meanwhile, back in the family room*

“You changed her diaper? Seriously?” Bronte laughs as she pats Nico’s jaw. “Aww, my brave soldier. How did you manage? How bad was it?”

Nico winces at the memory. “Never seen anything like it, and I don’t want to see anything like it again. Tonio called it a runny tummy.”

Rosie can’t help but laugh as she strokes the black silky hair of her baby rooted to her breast, and greedily chugging down milk. “Well, what goes in has gotta come out.”

“He stuck wet wipes sprayed with after shave up his nose,” Tonio says as he strolls into the room with his siblings hot on his heels. He plonks himself on the couch, grins at Bronte. “The best thing I’ve seen, evah.”

Bronte’s smile is wide as she turns to a Nico whose ears are pink tipped. “Aww,” she says again. “I’ll put sleeping beauty down for her nap and then you guys can tell me all about it.” She strolls out the door.

Nico eyes the boys. “Did you clean up?”

They both nod, give him big eyes. “Si,” they say.

“Clean what up?” Rosie asks, placing Mila on her shoulder and rubbing her baby’s back. She’s immediately rewarded with a deep burp.

“They bathed Eve,” Sophia says. “Made a big mess in the bathroom. But we tidied it all up.”

Nico rubs his hands, his smile wide as he says to Alexander, “Wanna Peroni?”

“Sure.”

*Everything is all right and tight in Nico Ferranti’s world. His wife is happy. His children are happy. His brother-in-law is his best friend. His eyes linger for a moment on a Rosie feeding her baby and chatting to the boys, and he recalls he needs to find time to have a little chat with Rosie about Ms. Big Ears, aka Sophia. But that could wait. Life is good*

*Bronte’s high-pitched scream from the direction of the laundry room has everyone leap to their feet and race out the door*

Nico’s eyes bug out his head to find his wife shooting daggers at him as she stands ankle deep in white foam. “Madre de Dio,” he mutters.

Bronte shoots him a finger, her whole body trembling. “You’ll need more than God to help you, Nico Ferranti. How the hell could you use dish liquid in my washing machine? Are you crazy?”

Nico blinks until the light bulb flashes in his brain. Taking his time, he turns very slowly to stare at the three children lined up behind him, their eyes too big for their faces. “Porca miseria! (dammit) What happened?”

Tonio made a face, shrugged skinny shoulders. “Mi dispiace, papa.”

“Sorry?” Bronte yells, shifts, loses her balance and slides to land hard on her ass as even more foam floods through the utility room door and into the hallway. She slaps Nico’s helping hand away, wipes hair from her eyes and ends up with a lump of foam on top of her head. She tosses foam into his face. “I’ll give you sorry.”

*Tonio, trying hard not to laugh, steps into the mess to help her up and she lifts a handful of foam and tosses it over his head. And of course the twins got in on the act, too*

Rosie and Alexander and baby Mila are standing out of harms way, watching the Ferranti’s turn from humans into foamy blobs. “I just adore those crazy kids. Get your phone and take pics. Honestly, Bronte cannot leave this lot alone for five minutes.”

Alexander drops a kiss on the top of his baby’s head. “They are certifiably nuts.”

“Do you think we’ll be like them one day?”

Alexander snaps pics and then takes a video on his phone. “Nah, we’re normal. We’re not Italian.”

 

Finito

And so endeth another day in the life of the Ferranti fam-lee.

Am working hard on three projects.

#amwriting

Love and hugs,

Christine X

Another slice of Ludlow life with Nico and the kids

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Happy Monday, my lovelies,

After all the excitement of the weekend, here’s something to make you smile.

Another scene from the busy lives of the Ferranti family.

NICO AND THE KIDS IN THE CAR ON THE WAY TO THE DOWER HOUSE

*Nico and Tonio are in front, while Luca, Sophia and her best pal, Emily, are sitting in the back*
Easing the car around a tight bend, Nico shoots Tonio the side-eye, and grins. “You played well. I am proud of you.”
Tonio makes a face, gives a jerky shrug of a skinny shoulder. He spits on his palm and proceeds to clean grass stain, mud and blood from his skinned knee. “Si, but we lost by one goal.”
Si, but the team never gave up. You fought to the bitter end,” Nico says. He glances at Tonio’s sulky mouth, bites down hard on his bottom lip. He can’t bear the boy’s bitter disappointment. But such is life. “Why don’t we do a pit-stop for burgers?”
“Yay!” chorus Tonio and Luca.
“Mama doesn’t like us having burgers,” pipes up Sophia. She turns to look at a wide-eyed Emily. “Unless she makes them herself. And Luca is not allowed soda, he throws up everywhere. It’s totally gross.”
*Nico makes a face. How did he forget Ms. Big Ears with her big mouth was sitting in the back seat. Busted. Bronte’s gonna give him hell, but he can’t back out now and disappoint the boys*
“Mama won’t mind this one time,” he says.
“My mummy says fast food is full of complete crap. It gives you heart desees and cancer, and alls climbers,” Emily says.
*Nico racks his brain to work out what ‘alls climbers’ might be*
“Alzheimers,” Tonio says helpfully.
“Auntie Rosie says a Big Mac is the work of the devil,” Sophia says as she watches the world go by out the window.
*Since there was no good answer to that, the guys in the front keep schtum. Nico wonders why the hell he didn’t keep his mouth shut about burgers. All is peace and quiet, until….*
“My daddy,” Emily begins. “Says that mummies have a special zipper in their tummy and that’s how a baby is born.”
*Nico and Tonio go utterly still and stare unblinking at the road ahead with wide eyes*
“He lied,” Sophia says with the grim authority of a person who knows exactly what she’s talking about.
*Dio mio, is all Nico can think as his mind goes blank and a cold sweat breaks out on his top lip*
“The baby comes out a mama’s vajayjay,” Sophia says with a relentlessness that has Nico’s sweat turning to ice. “With my own eyes I saw pictures in a book in Auntie Rosie’s bedroom after Mila was born. They were totally gross. Lots of blood and poop. It was disgusting. I’m never ever in my whole life ever having a baby.”
*In the rear view mirror Nico sees Luca turn a pale shade of green. He swings the car into a handy rest stop and leaps out the door. He’s just in time to grab his son before Luca’s breakfast is tossed into the hedge. Without being asked Tonio climbs out of the front seat and into the back. Luca is better travelling in front, less likely to get carsick*
“Feeling better?” Nico asks, wiping his son’s white face with a hand wipe.
Luca nods. “I’m okay. It was just…” he shudders.
Si, capisco.” Nico understands exactly how the poor child feels.
*He pats Luca on the back and shoots a dark look to his daughter. A daughter who is sitting there like the Queen of all she surveys, as if butter wouldn’t melt. Meanwhile little Emily, a red headed fairy with wild corkscrew curls and a constellation of freckles anointing her pretty face, is all flushed cheeks and big blue eyes staring up at Tonio as if he’s a rock star. Dio mio. Nico wonders why he hasn’t gone straight home? He clicks the seat belt around Luca, hands him a plastic bag, just in case, and jogs around the bonnet to get into the drivers seat. As he pulls into the road he decides he needs a very stiff drink*
“Are you gonna get married one day, Tonio?” Emily whispers, hope a living, breathing, thing in her voice.
Before Tonio can respond, his sister does it for him. “Nah, he’s gonna be a world famous footballer, and date supermodels and film stars. My Auntie Rosie says if he’s anything like my papa he’s gonna break hundreds of hearts with his love muscle.”
*Cue a deadly silence. And Nico Ferranti swears to Sweet Baby Jesus and Bhudda and all God’s in the known Universe he is going to strangle Rosemary Margaret Ludlow with his own two hands*
Meanwhile Luca frowns, turns to his papa. “What’s a love muscle?”
“It’s a penis,” Sophia says, still clueless about the bombshell she’s dropped into her papa’s world as she stares out the window.
“My mummy says little girls are not supposed to talk about private parts. It’s naughty,” Emily says.
“Your mummy is quite right,” Nico growls from the front seat, desperately trying to catch his daughter’s eye in the rear view mirror. To no avail.
Sophia is still watching the world go by. “My Auntie Rosie says that talking the truth about sex to children is very important. I even know how a baby is put in a mummy’s tummy. In the book a picture shows……”
“SOPHIA FERRANTI,” Nico roars, his blood pressure threatening to give him a stroke, or a heart attack, or both. “One more word you will not be Elena’s flower girl.”
*Sophia’s head spins on her shoulders, her eyes, at last, meet her papa’s. The message is received and understood*
“But…” she begins, catches his eye again and closes her mouth.
*Silence*
Emily flutters her lashes at Tonio like a camel in a sandstorm. “Do you have a girlfriend?” she asks in a stage whisper.
Tonio sends her a grin that has poor Emily catch her breath. “Si. I am Italian.”
*Nico decides when he get’s home to his wife and baby girl, he’s gonna skip the wine and go straight for the hard stuff, Cognac*

Finito

This exact conversation actually happened between two six year olds in the back of my car when I’d picked them up from school – my son, Scott, takes Sophie’s role, and his best pal, Tom, is Emily. A few days earlier Scottie had found a copy of A Child Is Born and flicked through the pictures, stopped on one and said the immortal words, “This is totally gross.”….. Two days later his teacher asked me if I’d been giving him a talk about the birds and the bees. I said, ‘No. But that’d he’d found the book’ Then I asked, “What has he been saying? Are parents upset?” She shook her head. “Nope. He did a better job of it than I could.” Then she told me about a daddy who’d told his little girl about the baby zipper (his wife had had a c-section). We both agreed the zipper idea had not been a wise choice. Gotta love kids and their clueless daddy’s!

Until next week, my lovelies, be good. I’m desperately trying to catch-up on SEAN’s story, after the roller-coaster of the Referendum.

Christine X

GRAB A SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE

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Hi guys,

In a few days I’m posting the cover reveal and excerpt of Ludlow Hall book ten (can you believe it?) of the next instalment of the series, SEAN. More information coming soon.

To keep you going, I’m gifting all y’all with a weekly exclusive peek into life at Ludlow Hall:

***

Nico and Josh all relaxed and kicking back in Nico’s office in Ludlow Hall…

“Jan wants to christen the new kitchen. It’s a nice night, why don’t you and Bronte bring the kids over. I’ll fire up the BBQ?”

Si, let me check with Bronte.”

*Nico picks up phone, dials The Dower House. Phone rings*

“Ferrantee fam-lee… Sophia speaking.”

*Nico smiles*

Ciao, Sophia.”

“Hi, daddy.”

*Nico takes a breath, opens mouth to speak.*

“Bye, daddy.”

*Sophia puts down phone. Nico rolls his eyes at Josh. Dials again.*

“Ferrantee res… res… res…”

“Residence,” Nico says.

“Hi, daddy.”

“Sophia, bella. Put mama on the phone.”

“Can’t.”

“Why not?”

“’cause she’s sick to the back teeth with the whole lot of us. And she wasn’t put on this earth to be a slave.”

*Nico sends a grinning Josh big eyes.*

“Go get mama.”

“‘kay.”

*Nico waits. And waits. He sucks his top lip between his teeth.*

“Hey, papa.”

“Tonio, put Bronte on the phone.”

*Silence.*

“Um. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

*Nico frowns.*

Perche?”

“Well…”

“Tonio?”

*Tonio heaves a deep sigh.*

“This morning Bronte had a short nap on the couch in the family room.”

Si, the bambino kept us up last night.”

“Well, Sophia got hold of the kitchen sheers, and…”

Si?”

“And cut off Bronte’s ponytail, and mama’s locked herself in her bathroom. She won’t come out.”

Dio mio. Where is Luca?”

“He’s sitting on the naughty step clutching mama’s hair. He won’t stop crying.”

*Nico feels like crying himself.*

“I am on way.”

*Nico tells Josh what’s happened. Josh grins.*

“Just another day in the life of the Ferranti family, eh?” Josh says.

Si. I could not make this stuff up, could I?”

*Finale*

Aaaaand in other news, I’m working on four projects. Two super-seeeeeekrit. But SEAN is coming soon. BREAK THE RULES (book three of the Ludlow Hall spin off – The Rules) is in production. And I’m writing the story of Ethan Monroe and Louise O’Brien (Coco’s story, Ludlow book 4) with more Monroe brothers coming in 2017 with their own Ludlow Hall Romance.

Two vampyres stories are in production with ADAM in final edits, and CONSTANTINE due for release this year, too. Which will make five books published in The Vampyre Legal Chronicles, with the last two released in 2017.

I might be quiet, but I’m busy!!

Stay tuned for an exclusive SEAN cover reveal (it’s gorgeous).

Much love,

Christine x

 

FROM THE LAND OF THE KAMA SUTRA CAME THIS……

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Greetings my lovelies,

This summer I took a break from the keyboard to take time to heal a heart broken by bereavement. The journey to wellness continues and with the help of a wonderful woman, Debra Holland MS PhD, I’m learning to understand and accept feelings that have at times overwhelmed me and paralysed my creativity.

But this is me all y’all are dealing with and nothing ever keeps this writer down for long. I’m hoping to finish HER RULES in a few days. The book’s in final revision/edits. I’ll give you guys the cover reveal and taster next week. As soon as the work has gone through formatting and proofing by the awesome Jennifer Lewis Oliver, I’m diving into A Daddy For Daisy. Do I hear a Yay? Writing Daisy’s story has been a challenge because I was right in the middle of a heavy scene in the book when my mother died. And to be honest every time I read it through I’m an emotional wreck. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy, so I plan to hunker down in my office with scented candles and boxes of tissues to get me through it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that we cannot avoid the hard stuff, ever. And as Debra says, ‘You can use the emotions and the journey in your writing to help others.’  Amen to that.

Right, on to the reason for the title of this post, which some of you are probably thinking is a tricky piece of click-bait. Not so!!! If all y’all are sitting comfortably, I shall begin……

A couple of nights ago my fingers were doing a happy dance across the keyboard writing a fun scene from HER RULES. (It’s a pure joy being back in my happy place.) H knocked the door and popped his head in to see if it was safe to enter (in spite of a big red sign saying KEEP OUT) *Eye-roll* He had a huge grin on his face, so I surmised whatever he had to say was good news.

“What’s up?” I asked.

He made himself nice and comfy in a sofa chair and the grin morphed into a toothy smile.

“You’ve gotta read this. It’s a pretty intense review for Reckless Nights In Rome in Amazon, India.”

Now with almost fourteen books published and six in the pipeline, I have a policy – set in stone – that after the first few reviews of a new release (just to make sure my readers are happy bunnies) I don’t read reviews. And neither does H, usually. His job is to keep a track of number crunching a variety of data feeds. But for some reason what was happening in India had caught his eye and the way he was laughing I feared the worst. My heart sank.

“Is it crap?”

He shook his head and now his blue eyes were dancing.

“Nope. Four stars. But you have got to read it. I’ve sent you the link.”

A little bit narked that I had to leave a good bit in my work in progress, I did as I was told and went into my emails and clicked on the link.

Whoa.

Those awesome readers in India sure do their homework when they leave a review. Not only did the reviewer analyse the character traits of the hero and heroine, but she’d researched me, too. Bloody hell. So then it was on to the story. I’m not going to copy and paste the whole thing here, but the part that caught my eye and had tickled H was this sentence:

“A woman’s orgasm has never been so well explained in any of the books I have read till now.”

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I blinked and read it again.

Seriously?

I did that?

Me?

“Gosh, that’s simply amazing,” I said feeling proud.

My man blinked like a camel in a sand storm.

“Er, I think I had a hand in your orgasmic education.”

This might be TMI for some of you, but once we realized what he said we haven’t laughed so hard for so long in months.

Gotta love him.

Please feel free to share with the world a piece of writing that hit the spot for you. Keep it clean. And it doesn’t need to be about intimacy. It can be about anything that touched you, in a good way.

Big Hugs,

Christine XX

READ THE REVIEW HERE

For those of you struggling (I’m sending you virtual hugs) to cope with the ravages of loss, grab The Essential Guide To Grief and Grieving by Debra Holland  MS PhD (who also writes a fabulous historical western romance series).

New Release – Ludlow Nights – His Rules

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iBOOKS    AMAZON   KOBO   BARNES AND NOBLE

Hi guys!

Where have you been? I hear all y’all ask. I’ve been writing and just to prove it, I’ve a new release out now. This book is the first of six in a new franchise, Ludlow Nights. All the stories are a fast-paced, hilarious and sexy. I had the best time writing Olivier and Anastacia’s story. The characters virtually leapt into my mind fully-formed – a rare and precious thing. The last time it happened was with Nico and Bronte. And we meet them again in these stories! I hope you enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

HIS RULES

“Though She Might Be But Little, She Is Fierce”….. Shakespeare

Ambitious, workaholic Anastacia Morgan runs Ferranti Communications with a cool-head and an iron will. Her latest project is ensuring sports star Olivier Conti does what he’s told in a series of adverts. Olivier is impossible with a huge ego she’s made up her mind to ignore. His smile may do wonderful things to her libido, but Ana is determined to succeed where other women fail and resist the gorgeous soccer star.

However, in this game there are no rules and Olivier’s never missed a penalty, yet.

*******

I’m beyond thrilled that iBooks have given me a special pre-order system for the Ludlow Nights series. Next up is HER RULES  and BREAK THE RULES and you can grab the books coming this year here:

 iBOOKS USA     iBOOKS UK 

Christine X

WHAT’S NEW PUSSYCAT?

Hello my darlings,

What on earth is this, I hear you cry? Well, along with working on five books – yes five – I’m almost finished the first story of a new venture called LUDLOW NIGHTS. This will be an Exclusive for a short time to my MAILING LIST  six part story. And the first part of the story is called His Rules.

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Ambitious, workaholic Anastacia Morgan runs Ferranti Communications with a cool-head and an iron will. Her latest project is ensuring sports star Olivier Conti does what he’s told in a series of adverts. Olivier is impossible with an huge ego she’s made up her mind to ignore. His smile may do wonderful things to her libido, but Ana is determined to succeed where other women fail and resist the gorgeous soccer star.

However, in this game there are no rules and Olivier’s never missed a penalty, yet.

EXCERPT:

“A footballer, Nico?” Anastacia shoved heavy curls the colour of jet over her shoulder, sat back in her butter-soft leather chair, and raised imperious black brows. “You cannot be serious?”

“I hope that is a rhetorical question,” Nico Ferranti returned mildly. His wife Bronte always said that good things came in small packages. Well, Anastacia Morgan was a size zero, five foot two inches in her size four bare feet, and a prime example of how good things did indeed come in a small package. She was dressed in an immaculately tailored business suit the colour of bone, personally designed for her. A suit that fit in all the right places. He knew for a fact Ana wore the fashion equivalent of stilts to boost her height. He also knew those stilts were even now discarded under her desk. At the moment she resembled a very angry angel. Nico wasn’t worried. He’d had plenty of experience of dealing with angry angels. He had two of them at home.

Now she was glaring at him over the reading glasses perched on her small nose.

She read the look on his face, uncompromising, and tossed down her silver pen in disgust. Her behaviour reminded Nico forcibly of his three year old daughter, Sophia, throwing a temper tantrum.

Dark eyebrows shot into her hairline.

“Can he speak in declarative sentences?” she wondered in a droll voice that made him raise his own brows.

“Tsk, tsk, Ana. Sarcasm is not a good look on you,” Nico told her in a very soft voice. A voice that made heat rise in her cheeks and told him his rebuke had been received loud and clear. “Just think of the nice fat fee you will make.”

The look Ana sent Nico was her own version of uncompromising.

She could stare down the Queen of England with that look, but not Nico Ferranti.

At thirty-six Nico was head of a global business that spanned hotels, and digital technology. A business he’d begun with a legacy from his paternal grandfather, brains and balls. Nico ran things his way, and everyone who worked for him knew it. Including the tiny angel who was showing her fangs and glaring at him out of navy blue eyes.

Four years ago he’d taken a big chance on Anastacia Morgan.

And he’d never regretted it.

One of Nico’s greatest skills was recognising raw talent in another. In Ana he’d seen a creative ambition, and a need for a financial freedom that matched his own. Ana was twenty-six and one of the top brand manager’s in the business. And since he knew that Anastacia Morgan cared as much for the Ferranti brand as he did, Nico had Ana on a very long leash.

Then Ana pulled out the big guns and gave him the death stare.

Nico waited.

After another minute had passed, Ana gave up.

“Okay. You’re the boss. But Nico… a footballer?” The last two words were said in a whine that made Nico bite down hard on his bottom lip. And Ana wasn’t finished, “What’s wrong with Tobias Aidin? He’s the next big thing. Dontcha watch prime-time TV? In less than six weeks he has over five hundred thousand followers on twitter. Not only does his voice make women’s toes curl, he can take direction and…” She stopped when Nico’s brows rose. He had to admire the way she took a breath and battled on. “Sportsmen, especially soccer stars, freeze, or take the piss when a camera’s rolling.”

Without comment, Nico focused on brushing a speck of dust from the sleeve of his immaculate grey suit.

“As you are aware, the new Boutique hotels specifically target young business executives and tourists who demand quality, cleanliness, and value for money. We need a well-known face and a name that resonates world-wide.”

I’ve never even heard of Olivier Conti,” Ana threw back.

“Every soccer fan in the world has heard of Olivier.”

She shrugged off his comment.

For a moment Nico wondered just who was the boss here.

“We’re selling a lifestyle here, Nico. Not flashy cars and even flashier women,” she said with a sneer that made him again bite down on his abused lip.

Little devil.

“Seven goals in the world cup in Brazil,” Nico went on relentlessly. “He’s the leading goal scorer in the Seria A.” He shook his head at her blank stare. “The Italian football league, for four consecutive seasons. Two of the top clubs in the Premier league are prepared to pay over one hundred million pounds for him.”

Ana narrowed her eyes until they were blue slits.

“How come you’ve got the skinny? Since when do you follow football?”

“Ana, cara mia,” Nico drawled. “Soccer is in my DNA. I am Italian.”

She couldn’t help but grin at the way his voice deepened, the way his accent grew stronger.

“Since he’s in such high demand, how the hell can we afford him?”

Nico unfolded his tall frame from the skinny chair.

“Let us just say the boy owes me a favour. Do not make plans for this evening. A car will pick you up at six-thirty. I have tickets for the game tonight. Milan against United.”

“Who?”

Nico gave the question and the cranky tone in which it was delivered, the attention it deserved, none.

He strolled towards the door.

“Hang on just a minute there, buster.”

Nico opened the door, turned to look at her over his shoulder, and almost burst out laughing at the unspeakable scowl on her face.

“Si?”

Ana sat back, and in an dazzling move that belonged to ballet, stretched up a long leg, pointed to a soft leather platform shoe with five inch heels. “These shoes and this suit are Victoria Beckham. How is this a good look for a football game? I’ll need time to go home, get changed into skinnies and a T-shirt that says, ‘Hump Me.’

“Nothing wrong with standing out from the crowd. The clothes and shoes are fine. If I were you, I would spend the next few hours boning up on the offside rule,” Nico advised before he closed the office door behind him.

With language that turned the air blue, Ana spun her chair around to stare unseeing over the city of London and Tower Bridge. Vast glass structures, tall buildings and clogged traffic, with a river running through it. In her past, she’d had other views of the city, but they’d been at street level. These days she gazed down upon the city from the fifteenth floor. And one day, Ana promised, she’d look down from the top floor.

One day.

Anastacia Morgan only looked forward, certainly not at the past. The past was behind her now, thank God.

Ana shoved back her hair. Hair that was too long, too curly, and it drove her nuts. However, her hair had become something of a trademark. It hung past her waist in glossy curls the colour of rich ripe chestnuts. A gleaming brown shot through with a rose gold that her friends told her was gorgeous.

Her friends also told her that her eyes were the darkest blue they’d ever seen. A couple of men had also said they felt they could drown in them.

At the moment Ana could care less about her hair or her eyes or her looks. All she cared about was the Ferranti brand, which encompassed the five star hotels, spas, and resorts world-wide. And now the new boutique hotels. Working for Nico Ferranti meant there was never a dull moment… but football? Her wide mouth was marred by the sneer on her full lips.

Then Ana remembered how much she owed Nico Ferranti. Four years ago, in the middle of the worst recession in living memory, she’d marched into Ferranti Enterprises with a marketing degree, a gut-searing desperation for a job and a smart mouth. And twenty pounds in her purse. Never look back, she reminded herself. Nico had taken a chance on her and she would never, ever forget it. Ana wanted only the best for the Ferranti brand. If that meant working with a football player, then she’d make damned sure the prima-donna (weren’t all footballers drama queens?) did the job.

Determined, she spun back to her desk.

Ana snatched up the phone, jabbed buttons.

“Linda, get me everything you can on Olivier Conti. Oh, and find me someone who can explain to me in words of one syllable the soccer off-side rule. No, I’m not being funny.”

*****

So that’s a tiny taster of part one! Want more? I need the promise of your first child, and chocolate and wine for a year!!  Kidding!! All y’all need to do is to subscribe to my mailing list either on the top right hand of the blog or on the link!

Easy peasy.

Big hugs,

Christine XX