Nico Ferranti’s study at The Dower House…
Since it’s after the family dinner, Nico was relaxing in his study—a glass of Chianti at his elbow—as he talked via Face time to Gregorio Ancelotti, Tonio’s uncle, in Italy.
“It sounds as if Tonio is doing well, Nico,” Gregorio said.
Nico nodded, studied the man on the screen.
Although Gregorio was in his late thirties, tall, slim and wide shouldered, his genes had decreed he had more grey hair than black. Bronte called him a silver fox, much to Tonio’s amusement. Like Nico, tonight the man wore a fitted T-shirt, black, and matching jeans.
“He enjoyed spending time with you at Christmas. Bronte says do not be a stranger. You are welcome any time to our home. You are la famiglia.” Not exactly offended, Bronte had wanted Gregorio to stay at The Dower House over the festive season. Instead he’d stayed in one of the Ludlow Hall’s stunning oak and stainless steel A frame cottages, perfectly happy to have his own space.
Gregorio’s dark eyes narrowed as his firm mouth curved in reluctant smile.
He spoke in his usual deeply accented drawl. “Grazie, Nico. I appreciate the invitation. However, an old bachelor like me can stomach only so much domestic bliss at any one time. You are a lucky man. The Ferranti household only serves to remind me of my—domestic failings.”
Nico had to laugh.
Domestic failings his ass.
Gregorio had his pick of women.
The man was rich, and according to Bronte hot.
Nico had heard a whisper that Gregorio had not spent some of his nights in his cottage alone during his Christmas visit.
None of his business, he reminded himself.
However, he decided that now might be the right time to make a point of an issue that was a cause for concern to his wife. “It is important to Bronte and I that Tonio spends time with what is left of his madre’s family.”
There was a silence as the two men regarded each other.
“Namely me,” Gregorio said, nodding slowly.
Gregorio was about to respond, when Nico noticed the door to his study slowly open.
He lifted his head, suspecting the intruder might be the dog, Jimmy Chew, who had a habit of bellying into a room like a ninja. But it wasn’t the dog, instead it was his baby daughter, Eve, who was motoring into the room at a fast crawl.
It seemed someone had escaped from her mama after her bath.
The baby was dressed in a pink sleep suit, her silky black curls dancing on her head.
When she started to pull herself up to her feet, using the heavy oak door as support, he noted little fingers were about to be caught in the door hinge.
Nico was on his feet and had her in his arms, a heartbeat away from disaster.
As he took his seat in front of his laptop, Gregorio leaned forward to study the scene.
His eyes, usually cynical, went all soft. “Ah, Eve, bella. She is a beautiful bambina, Nico.”
Since the baby was busy dropping kisses to his cheek and jaw, it took Nico a while to respond.
“She has found her feet. You should find yourself a good woman and settle down,” Nico advised, and laughed at the wide-eyed look of utter horror on Gregorio’s face.
“I am content and happy and safe just as I am, and so is my money.”
Before Nico could respond, Tonio flew into the room. “Aha. There you are,” he sang to an Eve whose response was to bury her face in her papa’s shoulder, her little arms wound tight around his neck.
“Ah, Tonio,” Nico said, his voice deep and his Italian accent deep. “Here’s Gregorio. Spend some time with him, while I put Eve to bed.”
He strolled out the room and left uncle and nephew to it.
Tonio slipped into the ergonomic chair, the black leather still warm, and gave his uncle Gregorio a shy wave. “Hi.”
Gregorio cleared his throat. “How are you? How is school?”
Tonio wondered why every single adult he knew was totally obsessed with school?
“I’ve received an A* in English and Math and science.”
Gregorio nodded, as if he’d expect nothing less.
“And I am captain of the soccer team,” Tonio added into a silence that had gone for, as far as he was concerned, far too long.
Again his uncle nodded, so Tonio decided to mix it up a little. “And I have two girlfriends.”
Aha, that got a ghost of a smile. “I think you may be a little young to dally with girls.”
Tonio made a mental note to look the word up.
He leaned forward and went eye-to-eye with his uncle. “When did you have your first girlfriend?”
Gregorio blinked. “Unlike you, I was unfortunate enough to attend an all boys school, so it took some time for me to feel comfortable with the opposite sex. I think I was fourteen.”
“Was she pretty?”
The smile was swift, like a lightning strike, and then gone. “Si. But of course she was pretty.”
“Did you kiss her?”
His uncle’s inhale made Tonio grin. “I believe I did, eventually. I seem to remember it took me a long time to work up to it.”
“I kiss girls all the time,” Tonio informed him, his chest puffed out with pride.
Gregorio nodded, not looking in the least bit surprised. “I suppose a man is never too young to get into the swing of things.”
“Auntie Rosie says I must take my time choosing the best chocolate in the box and not gorge myself on too much sweetness or they will rot my teeth along with my respect for women.”
At these words of wisdom, Gregorio’s eyes grew round. “Did she? I am sure Auntie Rosie is a wise women, but I would take her recommendation with a large pinch of salt.”
Tonio nodded. “Si. Papa says I don’t want to catch germs, and I must treat girls as equals.”
Gregorio cleared his throat again. “Si. When a man is an expert in a subject, you must listen well to his advice.”
“When are you coming to visit with us?” Tonio asked the question burning in his belly. There was something about his Uncle Gregorio, the way he held himself apart from others, that bothered Tonio.
“I was about to suggest that you and the family come to visit with me here, at Lake Como. Would you like that?”
“Do you still have the jet ski?”
“Si. I purchased a Laser Pico sailing dingy for you and the twins to learn to sail.”
Tonio’s jaw dropped. “Wow! Grazie!”
When Nico entered, Tonio turned a beaming face to him.
“Papa, when can we visit with Uncle Gregorio?”
After he’d settled Tonio on his knee, Nico sent wide eyes to a grinning Gregorio on the screen.
“What is this?”
Before Gregorio could open his mouth, Tonio jumped in, “He’s bought a sailing dingy for us to learn to sail. Can we go, papa? Can we?”
Nico nodded. “Good idea, Gregorio. It is never too early for children to learn to respect water.”
“I thought during the May school break. Speak to Bronte. I will make the arrangements,” Gregorio said.
“Wow! I can’t wait to tell Luca and Sophia. Grazie, Uncle Gregorio!”
And with that Tonio raced from the room.
“You have made his day,” Nico drawled, more than delighted boy and man were bonding.
“Hmm. The boy is highly intelligent with lots of energy. Learning a new physical skill is smart. It will keep his mind occupied with wind speed and direction, current and buoyancy rather than concerned with kissing girls and the wisdom of Auntie Rosie.”
Nico had to laugh, and then groan. “Do not tell me.”
“Tonio needs exposure to our culture. I will invite your brother Gabriel and his family, too. The boy is wealthy. He will be a target for any unscrupulous huntress who will use beauty and sex to entrap him. Between us we will educate him in our ways and prepare him for the choppy waters of life ahead.”
Nico understood the underlying message loud and clear.
“Si. We are Italian.”
Oooooh, I see trouble ahead……
And I have news of the Sneak Peek book – LUDLOW HALL After HAPPY EVER AFTER:
It’s being formatted and the file will soon be available exclusively in my reader library CLICK HERE to join.
I’m busy working on Break The Rules and No Rules and a couple of secret projects, so stay tuned.