All Ludlow Hall single title books available on Google Play books…

GOOGLE PLAY

 

Get it HERE: GOOGLE PLAY BOOKS

Greetings dear readers,

I’m working hard on final edits for NO RULES, working on OUR RULES and the next Ludlow Hall Romance!

The Ludlow Hall sneak peeks will return at the end of August, after the summer break, and I’m looking forward to getting back to ‘normal’.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer and chilling out.

Big hugs,

Christine X

Thank you so much for the book love, Break The Rules…

wwwbreaktherulesfightdirty

OUT NOW!     AMAZON    iBOOKS   NOOK

Greetings, dear readers,

A quick thank you for the amazing response to T.C. and Sean’s story. I’m thrilled you are thrilled!

“I loved this book. The people come right off the page and you can feel every emotion. I can tell I will be re-reading it over and over. I will be sharing this with everyone.xxx”  5*

“Yet again, another winner from one of my favourite authors. Love that we also get to re-visit characters from previous Ludlow Hall books. Can’t wait already for the next book in the series. CC Mackenzie Rocks.” 5*

“She’s done it yet again, satisfied me a little and left me wanting more
Now having to read the whole series yet again for the billionth time
Love love love this series.” 5*

“Another emotional read from C C, once again laughed and shed a tear, loved catching up with other Ludlow characters.”  5*

“Once again Cc hasn’t let us down. When having got anything to read will go back to read again five stars.”  5*

Coming very soon, NO RULES, and as soon as I have the pre-order links I’ll post them.

Big hugs and much love,

Christine X 

New Release – Break The Rules – is out now….

www.breaktherulesoutnow

GET IT HERE:  AMAZON USA     AMAZON UK    iBOOKS      NOOK

Greetings, my darlings,

I’m so thrilled to bring you the third book in the Ludlow Nights franchise. The adventures of Anastacia, Danni and T.C. continue with cameo appearances from the Ferranti family (and Sophia of course).

Here’s an exclusive sneak peek:

Sean Kennedy had a simple rule when it came to women—

if they were hard work—

he didn’t bother.

Why put himself through unnecessary hassle?

And then he met a blonde bombshell…

She is beautiful, and therefore to be wooed; She is woman, and therefore to be won.

 William Shakespeare

From the moment Sean Kennedy frisked T.C. he captivated her. The look in the bodyguard’s tawny eyes for her was too intense, insanely sexy and dominant. He was a powerful man who towered over everyone. And a man who believed he could have anything and anyone. Despite T.C.’s reservations, she had a night of passion with him. A night which brought the demons of her past into her present and her future.

Demons that have no intention of ever letting her go.

But Sean was a man prepared to fight dirty for the woman he wanted.

And a man who’d never lost a battle—yet.

CHAPTER ONE

“You have the luck of the Irish, alright. It is not every day a man saves two lives, is hit by a bus and survives to tell the tale.”

Propped up on pillows in his hospital bed, Sean Kennedy eyed the tall, blonde bombshell.

Theresa Catliff was a stunner all right and mouth-wateringly gorgeous. Today, she wore a floaty summer dress the color of her eyes, a vivid violet. She seemed to have an unending collection of floaty dresses. The way the fabric tightened against her superb breasts, he was sure they were designed to test a man. The dress had little shoestring straps. Little straps that might take a man mere seconds to untie. Her smooth skin had been kissed by the sun.

Sean closed his eyes, not only against the agony of his ribs, but the ache between his legs. He was assigned to protect the head of Ferranti Communications, Anastacia Morgan, fiancée of Italian soccer star, Olivier Conti. And in that role he’d saved Anastacia and her friend Danni. Hence the part where he’d been hit by a bus and was now lying in a hospital bed in Paris. Fortunately for him he hadn’t broken anything. But, he’d ended up with a concussion and banged up ribs.

Theresa, aka T.C., was one of Anastacia’s best pals and the bane of Sean’s existence.

For six days she’d taken on the role of his fake fiancée.

He’d been out of it when, in order to gain access to his room, she’d lied to the medical staff and told them she was his bride-to-be. On day one, she’d pitched up in his room with a silver “Get-Well-Soon” balloon and an enormous purple teddy bear. The bear’s maniacal grin had seriously freaked him out during a delirium caused by his bump on the head. Then she’d proceeded to have an argument with his doctor —in horribly bad French—about pain medication. She appeared to have the uncanny knack of being able to tell, simply by looking at him, he was in pain.

Although Sean didn’t believe in the existence of magic, he’d begun to wonder if she was a witch.

Six days later and the woman had his entire medical team eating out of her hand.

Seemed she’d taken to the role of a loving, caring fiancée like the proverbial duck to water.

As he opened his eyes and examined her flawless face, her dancing blue eyes held their usual challenge. He swore that when he was back on his feet, he’d kiss the very breath from that voluptuous body. “I thought you’d have gone home today with your little pals.”

In response to his cranky tone, her eyes narrowed in a long and very slow study of his face.

A study that saw too damn much.

“Didn’t take your pain meds again. Did you?”

Yup, definitely a witch.

“They make me feel as if I’m floating.”

“Better floating than being a bad tempered growly bastard. I pity the poor nursing staff around you, I really do.” She dropped a leather bag the size of a small town on a visitor chair, moved towards his bedside cabinet and opened the top drawer to rummage around his personal stuff. When the scent of her slid around his senses, warm woman, shampoo and summer, Sean closed his eyes to enjoy the moment. Christ, she smelled incredible. When she didn’t find what she was looking for, she turned to him, held out her hand and wiggled her fingers. “Gimme.”

Wincing, he slid his hand beneath his pillow, found two pills and told himself the only reason he was giving in without a fight was because the pain in his ribs hurt like hell.

He dropped the pills into her palm.

“Stop being such a man, Sean. Don’t you understand that if you don’t take these you won’t get enough rest to heal?”

He knew he’d received a head injury that may make a person feel as if they’re having out of body experiences, but he found it beyond weird that Theresa Catliff was acting as if she gave a hot damn about him. Before he’d been hit by a bus, she’d made it clear, to put it mildly, he was not her favorite person. The idea struck him that perhaps her daily visits to make sure he was alive was a gratitude thing. And didn’t that make him feel sick to the stomach, disappointed and downright pissed off?

“Why do you care?” he growled.

Her brows rose. “Hell if I know. If you carry on with the bad attitude, I won’t give you your present. Open up.” She poured a glass of water, popped the pills into his mouth and watched him wash them down.

Her full lips, painted a glossy red, twitched when he poked out his tongue to prove it.

Christ, now he was behaving like a three-year-old.

He closed his eyes and inhaled her scent.

Truth be told, he was too fucking exhausted to care or to fight with her.

When gentle fingertips brushed his hair back from his forehead, Sean’s eyes blinked wide open. He stared into hers and believed he caught a tender look in those baby blues that reminded him of his mother when he’d had mumps. The look was gone in an instant as if it had never been. Sean decided he was hallucinating because to compare the blonde bombshell with his sturdy but loving Irish mother was plain crazy.

However, the pain meds were kicking in.

He closed his eyes and took a careful deep breath to inflate his lungs, something his physio had told him was crucial to ward off bugs like pneumonia. His groan of agony was heartfelt.

It was pure shock, when her mouth whispered over his and it hit him with the force of a tsunami.

His heart pounded in his ears and his dick snapped to attention as if it was eighteen again.

He squeezed his eyes tight shut because there was no way a sissy cotton hospital gown and single blanket would hide his body’s betrayal.

“Oh, my good Lord,” the witch whispered.

Oh Lord, indeed, Sean thought viciously.

***

Ah, I cannot tell you the fun I’ve had with this couple and I hope you enjoy them, too.

I’m working on NO RULES and OUR RULES as well as this particular finale THE RULES.

There is no rest for the wicked!

Christine X

It’s Sneak Peek and time for a little kindness…

IT'S THE LUDLOW HALL SNEAK PEEK. BE KIND !

Bronte’s collected the twins and Emily from school.

As she eased her Range Rover around country bends heading for home, she glanced in the rear view mirror at her eldest daughter who’s sitting on her booster seat staring out of the window. When Sophia’s too quiet it usually means something’s up. Bronte didn’t have to wait long to find out.

“Our badges are sooooo cool,” Luca said to Emily.

Emily nodded, and checked out the badge pinned to her school blazer. “You have a blue one and mine’s pink.”

“What did you get a badge for?” Bronte asked.

“For kindness,” Luca piped up.

“That is cool. Who were you kind to?”

“Our friends voted for the kindest boy, that’s me, and the kindest girl, that’s Emily,” Luca said. “I sent Tom a get well card when he broke his leg. And Emily gave Susie a cuddle when she skinned her knee when she fell in the playground.”

Another glance in the rear view mirror and the look on Sophia’s face, as if she’d swallowed a wasp, told its own story.

Hmm.

“You okay, Sophia?”

Still facing the window, Sophia sent her mama a side-eye. “Fine.”

Emily stroked Sophia’s arm. “She’s upset because Miss Brown said we shouldn’t have best friends at school. That we should be inclusive and everyone is our friend.”

“She’s as dumb as a turnip,” Sophia said, channelling her Auntie Rosie. “I’ll never be friends with horrible people who are nasty. We need to stand up to bullies, not be friends with them.”

Well then, seemed that by asking a simple question, she’d opened up a whole can of worms. “We’ll talk about it when we get home.”

“Emily’s been my best friend since we were little babies. We’re sistas, just like you and Auntie Rosie. How would you feel if a dumb teacher told you not to be best friends with Auntie Rosie?”

“Calling a teacher names is disrespectful, Sophia. I won’t tolerate it. Modify your language please.”

Sophia heaved a deep sigh as she bored holes through the back of her mama’s head.

“Okay. Miss Brown is wrong. Being kind to bad people is silly because they do not deserve it.”

“We’ll talk about it when we get home,” Bronte repeated and breathed a sigh of relief as she drove the car through the gates of The Dower House.

When Sophia raced past her without offering her usual hug of welcome, Rosie’s dark brows winged into her hairline.

The Ferranti Bichon Frise, Jimmy Chew, was hot on Sophia’s heels.

Rosie turned to eye a pale-looking Emily and suspiciously quiet Luca.

“Okay. What’s up?”

“Me and Emily gotta kindness badge.”

Rosie crouched down to take a closer look. “Nice. What’s up with my favorite niece? She upset because she didn’t get a badge?”

Emily shook her head hard enough to have her curls bounce. “Uh-uh. Miss Brown told us we can’t have best friends in school. Everyone is our friend.”

Rosie made a face. “That’s just stu…” When Bronte looked to heaven, she added, “What I mean is, that of course everyone should be friends. However, in my honest opinion, there is also a place for best friends.”

“That’s what Sophia said. I will always be her bestest friend for ever and ever,” Emily said in her high girly voice.

Rosie stroked a gentle hand down the river of shiny copper curls. “You’re a glutton for punishment, aren’t you?”

Since the meaning of the statement went right over her head, Emily nodded. “I love Sophia.”

Rosie grinned at the determined tone.

“What’s not to love?”

“Since the pair of you are wearing kindness badges, go up and spread a little to someone who needs it. Dinner will be ready in two hours,” Bronte said.

Luca’s dark eyes lit up. “What are we having?”

“Home made pizza.”

He sent her a deeply suspicious look. “The one with stupid vegetables and little trees?”

“No broccoli.”

“Good,” he muttered, leading Emily towards the stairs. “I hate the little trees.”

Rosie had to laugh. “Him and his little trees. Why did you give me a dirty look?”

“Sophia was rude about Miss Brown in the car and I told her name calling is unacceptable.”

Rosie perched on a high stool at the counter top. “Yeah? What did she call her?”

Bronte slid her a black look. “As dumb as a turnip.”

“Can’t say I disagree.”

“Of course you don’t. Just wait until Mila’s six. You’ll change your tune then.”

“Nah. She takes after Alexander in nature, which is just as well. Can you imagine two of me living under the same roof? We’d kill each other.”

Frowning, Bronte filled the kettle and switched it on. “Sophia needs to respect her teacher. Miss Brown’s lovely.”

“Hmm. Respect needs to be earned. The kindness badge is a good idea though. Maybe expand it to include the community at large rather than inside the classroom.”

When a miserable looking Emily and Luca returned to the kitchen and slid into seats at the table, Rosie sent Bronte big eyes. “What’s the matter now?”

“She wants to be left alone,” Emily said.

Her blue sad eyes just broke Rosie’s heart. “She’s doing a Greta Garbo.”

Luca looked at Rosie. “Who’s Greta Garbo?”

“She was a famous Hollywood actress who gave up her career and told the world she wanted to be left alone. She’s dead.”

Luca glowered. “Sophia’s not dead.”

“This is true. Forget I mentioned it. I’ll go speak to her.”

 

As Rosie left, Luca turned pleading brown eyes on his mama.

“I’m starving. Can I have something that isn’t healthy?”

Bronte had to laugh. “You can have a glass of milk and a white chocolate chip mini muffin. How does that sound?”

“Yay!”

“How about you, Emily?”

The little girl shook her head. “Sophia’s sad.”

“Rosie will cheer her up. You can save your milk and muffin until she brings Sophia down, what do you say?”

Emily smiled. “Okay.”

Bronte decided that she was the sweetest child and most definitely deserved her kindness badge. “Why don’t I play the Ninja Turtles video for you and Luca?”

“Thank you, Bronte.”

“You’re very welcome, Emily.”

 

 

***

 

Rosie knocked Sophia’s bedroom door and entered to find her niece dressed in soft jeans and her favorite Elsa T-shirt. She was sprawled on cushions on her window seat with Jimmy Chew dozing on her lap.

“Hey, what’s with the long face. And how come you didn’t give me a hug?”

“Sorry.”

In response, Rosie scooped up Sophia and the dog.

She sat on the window seat with them on her lap and wrapped her arms around both.

“I love the view from here. We can see right over the fields and the river to Ludlow Hall.”

“I’m watching for papa’s car.”

“Emily said the no best friend rule has upset you.”

“I don’t understand how I can be a friend to bad people.”

“Bad how?”

“The girls who pull hair or nip and scratch and say nasty things.”

“Hmm. Thing is, over time, people can change.”

Sophia shifted to look up into Rosie’s face. “Did you have people you didn’t like at school?”

“Sure did. When I was seven I used to dislike Janine.”

Sophia’s eyes were like saucers. “But, I love auntie Janine. She decorated my bedroom and does really cool things for us.”

“Yeah. Like I said, people change. When she was younger, she was a spoilt brat.”

“Wow.”

“Yep. But once she got older and had Boo, she was a changed person.”

“Why did she change?”

“Well, she went through a hard time when she had the baby. She needed help to pay the bills and your mama and me gave her a job at Sweet Sensations.”

“You helped her even when you didn’t like her?”

Rosie wondered why she’d begun this conversation in the first place and decided to keep it simple. “Something like that. But, mostly I fell in love with Boo and realized the Janine I knew as a child and the grown-up were not the same person. Now Janine’s one of my best friends and I love her to bits. Maybe think about giving people a chance. See what happens.”

Sophia nodded. “‘Kay. But Emily will always be my best friend.”

The persistent stubborn streak within her niece made Rosie grin. “That’s cool. But maybe think about including a couple of the shy girls who find it hard to make friends in your circle. That would be a kind thing to do for them.”

“I didn’t think of it like that.”

“Of course you didn’t. You’re only six and I’m the adult who understands these things. Fancy milk and a chocolate chip mini muffin?”

As soon as she’d mentioned the word chocolate, Jimmy Chew leapt off Sophia’s knee and shot out the door.

Rosie looked at Sophia. “I swear that dog understands every single word we say.”

Sophia’s dimple popped. “He understands chocolate and cookie.”

As Rosie took her hand as they strolled out the door, she mused, “And I wonder why that is?”

“Auntie Rosie?”

“Yes, my child?”

“Did you get into trouble all the time when you were my age?”

“Do birds fly in the sky? Do fish swim in the sea? Of course I did.”

“Were you kind to people you didn’t like?”

Rosie could not lie. “No.”

Sophia nodded. “That’s what I thought.”

“I always say to forgive, but never forget.”

“And you always say don’t get angry, get even.”

“That, too.”

“Growing up is hard.”

“Sure is. But you’re lucky because you’ve got me and your Uncle Alexander and your mama and papa to guide you. Trust me, between us there is nothing we haven’t seen.”

Rosie and Sophie entered the kitchen to find Bronte busy preparing dinner, including the ingredients for a huge bowl of salad. Luca won’t be pleased.

When Sophia skipped over to the table to join Emily, Rosie winked at a smiling Bronte.

 

“What did you say to her?” Bronte asked out of the corner of her mouth.

Rosie’s hand hovered over a sliced red pepper. “Just gave her the benefit of my infinite wisdom and vast experience.”

“God.”

“She’s a bright girl. All she needed was time to work through her thoughts.”

“I don’t want to micro-manage her life.”

“I get that. On the other hand, it’s good to keep tabs on what’s going on. We’re all she has between her and the rest of the world.”

Bronte blinked. “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”

“Scary shit, isn’t it?”

“I’ve been wondering what sort of badge Miss Brown could give Sophia.”

Rosie munched on a pepper. “That’s dead easy. I am Italian.”

 

 

 

FINE

#bekind #kindness #amwriting #amediting

It’s Sneak Peek time… and an exclusive excerpt from Break The Rules…

SHE - SHAKESPEARE

This scene takes place at Ludlow Hall during Anastacia and Olivier’s engagement party. Nico and Sean are keeping an eye on proceedings….

 

“You look very serious, my friend. The ribs still hurting?” Nico Ferranti asked Sean.

“Nah, the ribs are almost back to normal.”

To conform to the dress code on their invitation to Anastacia’s engagement party to Olivier Conti, both wore black tux. They stood next to a huge potted fern with their back to the wall, in the grand ballroom at Ludlow Hall. Even though he wasn’t on duty, old habits died hard, Sean nursed a glass of water, while Nico held a glass of Chianti from one of his many vineyards.

The party was in full swing and the entire Ludlow Hall gang, including children, were out in force to show their love and support for the young couple.

“They look happy,” Sean said, referring to the guests of honor who were grooving on down to a dance hit.

Nico nodded. “Si. She is good for him. And he is good for her. It is a good match.”

Sean grinned. “That’s good. His mother is pleased, which is the main thing as far as Ana’s concerned. I know she was nervous.”

Nico eyes twinkled. “Si. Valentina Conti is a good woman and happy Ana cannot cook to save her life, which means she will continue to rule the kitchen, like all good Italian mamas.”

Sean couldn’t help but laugh because Anastacia’s lack of culinary skill was legendary.

As he continued to scan the room, he caught sight of a man he didn’t recognize talking to Ana’s half-sister, the beautiful Chloe Rucker.

Sean’s eyes narrowed. “Next to the entrance to the hallway to the restrooms, who’s the tall guy with the man-bun talking to Chloe?”

Nico turned. “Ah, that is Serge Morretti. He is a good friend of Olivier’s. And much too old and experienced for young Chloe.”

“He looks rich.”

“He is rich. Very rich. He is Sardinian.”

The dry tone had Sean glance at the expression on Nico’s face. “You say that as if it’s a problem.”

“It may be a problem if Serge decided to have Chloe. Olivier would never permit it.”

“Why?”

“Because like Ana, Chloe and Tanith are now part of Olivier’s famiglia. And he would never tolerate Serge anywhere near one of his sisters or sisters-in-law.”

“Bad news?”

Nico made a face. “Let us say that he is not kind to women.”

“A Prince amongst men?”

“He is damaged. As I said, he is not kind.”

When Serge put his hands on Chloe both men stiffened.

But then little Sophia Ferranti, looking gorgeous in a pale pink party dress made from yards of tulle, skipped into the picture.

The child tugged on Chloe’s hand and said something.

Looking displeased, Serge released Chloe and took a step back.

Chloe turned towards the restrooms with Sophia.

A Sophia who turned to toss a narrow-eyed look over her shoulder at Serge.

She made a horrible face and poked out her tongue.

The utter shock on the Sardinian’s face was priceless.

Sean and Nico’s roar of laughter had heads turn in their direction.

“Christ, that Sophia is something else.”

Nico wiped his eyes. “Si. She is special.”

“When she grows up, you’re going to have your hands full with her.”

“Perhaps. But, she will never bring shame on la famiglia.”

 

Sean’s gaze tracked across the room to another loved-up couple, Danni and Pascale.

He pointed with his chin. “They’ll be next.”

“Hmm. He is smitten with her.”

“Yeah. She’s a sweetheart and a kind and gentle soul.” Sean’s gaze landed on T.C. sitting at a round table. She laughed as she batted her eyes and flirted outrageously with a young man. “Unlike some people.” His eyes narrowed when he spotted she was drinking water instead of her usual white wine.

Nico’s black brow rose as he followed Sean’s gaze. “Ah, yes. Theresa. That one marches to the beat of her own drum,” he drawled, his Italian accent strong. “You sound angry, my friend.”

“She’s like an earworm in my head.”

Nico blinked.

“You know,” Sean continued. “A tune in your head, like an advertizing jingle that simply won’t stop.”

“Sounds… irritating.”

“She is irritating.”

Nico laughed. “She is very beautiful.”

Sean glowered. “What’s that got to do with anything? It’s what lies beneath the skin that matters.” Then he heaved a heavy sigh, feeling as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. “I will never understand that woman.”

“You are attracted to her. And she is attracted to you. When you are not looking at her, she is looking at you.”

Sean knew it.

He’d felt her eyes drilling into the back of his head all night, hadn’t he?

“We don’t seem to be following any rules, at least none I can work out.”

Nico rubbed his chin. “Perhaps it is time to start breaking the rules.”

“Nope. I’m a big believer in rules. I live by rules,” Sean said, happily forgetting that he’d broken T.C.’s one night only rule.

“Hmm. How is that working out for you?”

Sean turned to stare hard at a grinning Nico. “Point taken. She’s a pain in my ass.”

“Ah, true love. It is a wonderful thing.”

His belly tremble at the thought of true love had Sean scowl horribly at his friend.

“What’s love got to do with it? he demanded.

The tone of sheer outrage had Nico throw back his head and roar with laughter.

“Ask Tina Turner.”

“F*ck off,” Sean said.

 

T.C. wondered why the hell she’d asked Freddy Beaumont to dance with her.

The man had two left feet and even though they were down to a shuffle, he’d still managed to stomp on her toes, twice.

“Ouch.”

Freddy’s freckles stood out against his pale face. “Sorry, T.C. I hate dancing. You know I’m no good at it.”

Her attention elsewhere, T.C. nodded.

Out of the corner of her eye, she watched Sean Kennedy sending her the stink eye.

He’d been looking at her, just like that, all night.

Bastard.

She turned to bestow a wide smile upon Freddy.

He’d known her since she was ten, so his response to her glittering smile was not one she might have hoped for.

Instantly on guard, Freddy frowned. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Put your hand on my ass.”

His eyes, a pale grey, went like saucers. “What?”

“Don’t burst my eardrum. You heard me. Do it.”

“Uh huh. I don’t know what you’re up to, but, I’m not doing it.”

She stared up into his face and fluttered her lashes.

“Freddy,” she said in a low purr that would have had Danni and Ana roll their eyes. “I’m trying to send the right message to a guy who’s refusing to take the word no. Do it.”

Freddy kept a wary eye on her mood and clamped a big hand on her ass.

Out of the corner of her eye, T.C. watched Sean’s face.

He didn’t bat an eye.

Instead, his gaze clicked to the hand on her ass then lifted meet her eyes.

He mouthed. You are a bad, bad girl.

He moved towards them.

T.C. blinked.

Omigod.

What if Sean hit Freddy?

He wouldn’t hit Freddy, would he?

Sean tapped Freddy on the shoulder, while T.C. looked on with something like fear gripping her heart. Freddy was a gentle soul. When they’d been young, he’d had a problem standing up for himself. There was no way he’d be able to handle a big tall Irish man sixty pounds heavier.

Freddy turned and shocked T.C. to the core when he beamed. “Hi, Sean. How are the ribs?”

“Good, Fred. The new pain pills helped a lot, thanks.”

T.C. gaped at them. “You know each other?”

Freddy stared at her, blinked. “Of course. I treated him at the outpatient clinic.”

Which just went to show what a small bloody world it was, T.C. realized, putting two and two together to make four.

“Mind if I take over, Fred?” Sean asked.

It was insulting, T.C. fumed, the way Freddy just handed her over to Sean, as if she was a packet of… of… chips.

 

FINE

Ah, T.C. has met her match, methinks.

I’m working on Break The Rules and No Rules as I type.

Break The Rules will not go on pre-order, it will go immediately up for sale, so stay tuned.

Christine X

It’s Sneak Peek time at Ludlow Hall…

 

SNEAKPEEKMANTIME

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.

“You.”

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.”

Dally?

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:

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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.

Hugs,

Christine X

 

Inspiration and where it comes from…

Reader Question:  Christine, where do you get your ideas for your characters and stories from?

Answer:  Mostly from real life. True. I remember when Reckless Nights In Rome was first published, a reader said that she couldn’t believe any girl would jump out of a window to avoid the blind date from hell and that she preferred REAL LIFE. Well, it DID actually happen to a close relative of mine, not once but twice. When I was told the whole sorry saga, and after I’d stopped laughing, I remember thinking that it would be a great hook for a story… and the rest, as they say, is history. And no, I’m not telling anyone her name.

Anyhow, to get back to the question where my ideas/inspiration comes from…

I write things I’ve been through, seen, understand, lost, loved, hurt, hated, endured, and I place all of those life experiences inside a world that does not exist but mirrors the real world. Does that make sense?

I use those experiences to build and create real characters readers want to root for and care about, even when they make the wrong choice to try to fix a problem (especially the guys) and end up in an even bigger mess. And along with mirroring real life my characters are fun, sometimes insane, and when they make me laugh out loud, I can be pretty certain they’ll make a reader laugh, too.

In the old days when I was submitting stories, I remember an editor telling me to tone down the laughs, the family with the kids and the dog. Hmm. I hope she’s read SEAN because you guys laughed out loud at all that.

Most of all, I write from the heart.

I write about family, whether created by non-blood friends (like Nico and Bronte who embrace many into their fold), or the vampyres who are battling the greatest evil to save our world. At the core of all my books is the bond of family.

Speaking of family, we’re on the road to wellness after pneumonia and getting better every day.

Big hugs,

Christine X

NEWS

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Once upon a time, the year was 2007, I started writing a futuristic urban fantasy. This was before I decided to write contemporary romance. I’ve been reading since I was four years old. And I read everything you can think of from paranormal thrillers to memoirs to noir, even now. I’ve loved reading romance since picking up my first Georgette Heyer story when I was fourteen. And I especially loved reading romances with everything— laughter, tears, brave and independent women with hot alpha males and how they fall from lust into love. The romance genre appeals to me because it can, and does, include everything from slapstick comedy, angst, mystery, thriller, suspense, sci-fi, history, dark erotica, gothic, and urban fantasy. As long as the story has authentic and valid emotional conflicts between two characters at its heart and finishes with a Happy Ever After or Happy For Now, a writer can pretty much do what they want.

At that time, with my kids almost grown, two careers behind me, one in international banking and the other in interior design, and a short stay in hospital (which was a huge wake-up call) I returned to my first and secret love—writing fiction. In my head I wanted to write stories that entertain a reader. One reader. Stories that made that reader happy. Even today, twenty four published books later, that reader sits front and centre of everything I write and everything I do.

The first Ludlow Hall story, Reckless Nights In Rome, was published in April 2012. But before that, let me tell you that from 2008 that story went through six or seven lives. Nico was actually Raphael. Bronte was Chloe. The premise and theme were totally different, too. It must have been revised and edited about twelve times. Can you tell I didn’t want to let it go? And it was never supposed to be a series of stand alone romances set in the Ludlow Hall world either. Now there are ten books in the franchise with more to come. And more of the offshoot series, Ludlow Nights, coming too. I’m also working on a Monroe Brothers trilogy linked to my romantic suspense story, Desert Orchid. There are more Golddigger short stories coming, but released monthly. And the sneak peek behind the scenes at Ludlow Hall.

Anyway, back to the futuristic urban fantasy; in 2009 I entered the beginning of the fantasy in a writing competition based in the United States and run by a lovely group of girls who called themselves the Romance Junkies. After months of competition which included the first thousand words and a three thousand word pivotal moment, my story came fifth and reader feedback was awesome. That book was Constantine and The Witch. The story was about a vampire and a witch and was set in our world in the near future, 2069. However, as I began writing Constantine – the vampire, and Azalea – the witch, it became clear that the flashbacks to what had happened to humanity in the past were too numerous and, for me, made the story choppy. Personally speaking, I loathe flashbacks in books and in movies. So I put the story aside to let it simmer in my brain. But on a regular basis I added reams and reams of notes about the future world after a catalogue of global catastrophes happen in our time, an Ebola virus mutating and becoming airborne, and gateways opening to a parallel universe allowing magic to leach into our reality and this world. I also included demons, a variety of witches, powerful vampire clans and, of course, humanity teetering on the edge of extinction. Fun, eh?

My first love is paranormal romance. In the genre, anything goes. Heroes can be as unPC as they like—of course they pay for it big time. *Evil laugh* And so in 2011 I began writing The Vampyre Legal Chronicles, stories based around the powerful family of global corporate lawyers, Gillespie Pattullo and Hindmarch, who just happen to be vampyres. The first four books were published from 2014-2016 and are based in the present day and detail the circumstances of unnatural events which lead to a global crisis, an Ebola pandemic, the virtual destruction of our world and how alternative realities open gateways that allow magic – good and bad – to enter our world. I wrote about an Ebola outbreak before the African Ebola catastrophe. I wrote about alternate realities before the Hadron Collider deep underground in Cern proved the theory. There is tried and tested scientific theory of the earth’s polarity moving from North to South causing birds to fall from the sky, mammals and millions of fish stranded upon our shores.  Make of that what you will.

The first four vampyre books introduce readers to the politics and intrigue and arcane rules that surround the vampyre world in order to keep it secret from humankind. Constantine is mentioned on a regular basis from book one through to book four, but readers don’t actually ‘meet’ him until the end of book four. Book five of The Vampyre Legal Chronicles, CONSTANTINE, jumps right into 2069 where the vampyres, humans and white magic do everything they can to live together and thrive against the ultimate evil. Book five will be released this year. Yes, it’s taken me six years to get to this point with the world and the tale. At the heart of the world are the vampyres with their romantic and non-romantic relationships including family, friends, enemies, because writing about people with the issues common to everyone (whether they’re a vampyre or a cop or a scientist or a hot Italian who owns Ludlow Hall) is what I love to do.

I’m not one of those authors who writes with a complicated coordinated plan. I use an outline as a sort of map but rarely follow it, preferring to see what’s going to happen next. And let me tell you my characters never fail to surprise me. For me I need to be excited and totally immersed in the story to make it work and something needs to tingle my creativity. Nine times out of ten it’s a problem. A character has a problem, comes up with an idea on how to fix it (always the wrong solution) and away I go. For example in Reckless Nights In Rome, Italian playboy and committed bachelor Nico’s problem is that he wants Bronte Ludlow’s house and land to complete his sale of Ludlow Hall and the owner is Not Interested. Doesn’t sound much of a problem does it? But Nico makes BIG mistakes in his approach to Bronte. She surely puts him through his paces before he attains his goal and they fall madly in love into the bargain. Nico, Bronte and Rosie pulled me right into their world and have kept me, and hundreds of thousands of readers, there ever since.

It’s important for me to keep my writing fresh and new. Some readers love the Vampyre series, some don’t and prefer me to write contemporary romance grounded in the real world. When an author provides a mixture of genres, the downside is those who love one genre complain when another is published. That’s life. But I always take notice when I receive that tingle at the base of my spine. An author needs to follow their heart, go where the tingle takes them, and pray that readers come along for the ride.

Early last year I received a major tingle that gave me a character with a truly unique problem and an equally unique set of skills. And it’s taken me down a brand new path of suspense and intrigue. It’s a thrilling trilogy that is broad and wide and incredibly exciting and quite different to anything written in the market today. And that’s all I’m saying.

The Ludlow Hall stories will continue. As will the off shoot Ludlow Nights world. There are more vampyre stories—I’m really just getting started in that world because it Will Not Let Me Go. The vampyres have been a slow burn, but they’ve found their readers. It was a huge blessing to have three PNR books sitting high in the Amazon and iBook store paid charts in October/November 2016. I’ll continue to write fast paced romance with laughs and tears and hot guys like the Monroe brothers and the Kennedy brothers (I’ve already got the character problems and issues all lined up and ready to go). And best of all I have the tingle that is refusing to let me put it aside.

All I need now is to get better from the flu from hell which has laid all three of us who live in this house on our backs for almost eight weeks.

Christine X cctwitterhotromance

ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE WITH THE FERRANTI FAMILY… There are screams with tantrums and tiaras… no change there, then.

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Happy Monday, my lovelies!

This house has been hit by a winter cold bug. It’s not been pretty, but I struggle on. Brain fog hit my creativity for a few days. Soooo frustrating. But, I’m back with a vengeance. Here’s Bronte and Emily’s mom, Grace, having fun with the children from hell.

***

 

The Dower House…

Dressed down in yoga pants and sweaters, Bronte and Emily’s mom, Grace, are enjoying an afternoon coffee, while their daughters are playing ‘princesses’ in Sophia’s room. At least, that’s what they think their daughters are doing…

“How’s Jimmy Chew settling in?” Grace asks Bronte.

Bronte grins at a Grace who’s refusing to relinquish a snoozing baby Eve. The baby adores cuddles. “Now we’ve nipped in the bud Sophia feeding him human food, he’s doing well.”

Grace rolls blue eyes, shakes her head. “I don’t know what it is about men and kids, but they can’t seem to help feeding a puppy treats.”

“Actually, the boys have been great. Lucky for me, neither of them give me a moments worry, unlike my eldest daughter,” Bronte says, deadpan.

“She’s a determined girl,” Grace agrees.

Bronte makes a face. “She’s a chip off the old block, her father’s daughter.”

“Sophia’s incredibly good for Emily. Brings her out of her shell.”

“Hmm. Nico and I are praying Emily’s calm common sense rubs off on her.”

Grace drops a soft kiss on Eve’s inky curls. “You’ll have no problems with this one. She’s adorable.”

Bronte’s mouth curves and her emerald eyes go soft. “She’s an angel. More coffee?”

Meanwhile, upstairs in Sophia’s room…

Dressed in pale blue tulle and wearing a yellow feather boa around her neck, Emily sits cross-legged on Sophia’s princess coach bed. She drops a kiss on each head as she cuddles the two boneless pooches passed-out on her lap. “I like the pink tiara best,” she says to a Sophia whose bottom’s up as she rummages in her dressing up box for her special magic wand. “It goes with your pearl beads.”

Sophia emerges, clutching a plastic pink wand with a wonky silver star glued to the tip. She flicks the wand and then points it to the dogs. “Take two dogs and two frogs to bind them well, jim jam jog, abracadabra, we’ve got a magic spell…” She waves her wand around with a huge flourish. Nothing happens.

Emily shrugs, her big eyes anxiously fixed on the dogs. “Well, thank goodness that one didn’t work. I hate frogs,” she says in her high girly voice. She shifts on the bed. The movement disturbs Bubblegum and Jimmy Chew who stretch hugely. They cock their heads when they hear giggling from Tonio’s bedroom. The dogs leap to the floor and trot out the door.

“Hmm,” Sophia says as straightens the corners of the star on her wand. Her pink tiara sits at a crazy  angle on her ash blonde head. Her bedroom smells of cherry lollipops and cheap scent donated by Emily’s mama. When she hears more insane giggling from her brother’s bedroom room, she jerks her chin. “Tonio and Luca are up to something. Let’s go.”

The girls clomp in a pair of their mama’s high heels down the corridor to Tonio’s bedroom and arrive in time to see Jimmy Chew barking at something hidden behind Luca’s back.

“What are you doing?” Sophia asks her twin.

Luca gives her huge brown eyes. “Nuthin’. We’re doing nuthin’.”

Tonio clears his throat, grabs a Spiderman pillow from his bed and dumps it behind Luca’s back. “You cannot come in here without permission,” he says in a severe voice to the girls.

Sophia’s eyes narrow on two guilty faces and a Jimmy Chew who’s sniffing behind Luca’s back. “It’s my house. I can go where I like, when I like. What’s behind the pillow?”

“Nuthin’ to do with you, nosy knickers,” Luca says rudely.

When Bubblegum begins to growl and yap at Luca, Emily kicks of her heels and goes to rescue her dog who’s trying to dive beneath the pillow. When she sees what’s behind Luca, her little face goes pale and she slaps her hand over her mouth.

“What is it?” Sophia says. She kicks off her heels and joins her friend. Her face goes milk white…

 

Meanwhile, downstairs in the family room…

The sound of dog howls and ear piercing screams have Bronte and Grace on their feet to race up the stairs. They burst into Tonio’s room. The boys are pale and wide-eyed. Sophia and Emily clutch each other as they dance on the spot and scream at the top of their lungs. The dog’s growls have Bronte clapping her hands.

“What on earth is the matter?!” Bronte yells at the top of her voice.

A sobbing Emily is in her mother’s arms.

Sophia dances on the spot, her emerald eyes huge. “I did a spell, mama. A frog spell. And it’s come true,” she cries.

“Don’t be silly,” Bronte says.

But Grace’s eyes are like saucers when she clocks what Tonio lifts up his pillow. “Omigod! What on earth is that?”

Bronte shifts Tonio out of the way. Her jaw drops when she sees what he’s hiding. It’s an insect ‘house’ filled with leaves and twigs. “Tonio Ferranti! What on earth is that bug barn doing in my house?” She moves closer, and something inside the bug barn moves. It’s black. It’s huge. And it has long legs. A horrible shiver runs down her spine. “Is that… is that… a spider?”

 

Not many things give Bronte Ferranti the heebies, but a black spider the size of her fist is one of them.

Tonio heaves a huge sigh and shares a what’s-the-big-deal look with his brother. “Si. I am feeding the frog.”

Bronte clutches her chest. “FROG?!” she screeches at the top her voice.

A sound that makes the dogs bark even louder.

When a huge green toad moves in the bug barn, Grace shrieks at the top of her voice as she hugs a crying Emily and Sophia.

 

Meanwhile, Nico strolls into the kitchen-family room to find his baby daughter sleeping in her playpen with her blankie. His eyes go wide at the sound of yapping dogs, the high voices of his children, and his beloved bellowing at the top of her voice. He heads for the stairs.

As he pokes his head around the door of the room at the centre of all the fuss, Tonio’s bedroom, he takes in the scene. Dio mio. Seems Tonio has his bug barn in the house. Luca’s bottom lip is trembling. Grace clutches Sophia and Emily to her breast as if saving them from shark infested waters. Bronte’s hands are on her hips, her legs spread and she’s ringing a peal over Tonio’s head.

“Out! Out! OUT!” she cries. “And do not dare bring frogs or spiders or any living thing into this house.”

Tonio makes a face, but he carries the bug barn past a Bronte who takes a step back to give it a very wide berth. “It is only a little frog and one measly spider,” he mutters. Then he stops dead when he spots Nico. “Hey, papa.”

“What is going on?”

“It’s cold outside. We just want to help the frog,” Luca says as the boys troop past him and down the stairs.

Nico gives Bronte big eyes. “Frog?”

Bronte shivers dramatically. “Ugh. Don’t ask. What is it with boys and creepy crawlies?”

Nico flashes a white smile upon all the females in the room. “They are male. They are Italian!”

FINE

***

Many moons ago, when we lived in Nairobi, my son had a bug barn. We’d no idea he was keeping it in his bedroom. He was feeding a gecko bugs of every description. I’m not ashamed to say my screams were blood curdling and could be heard for miles.

Thank you so much for sharing the Golddigger love. This Friday we have the release of Golddigger short story number five, RUBY. And the girl is a pistol. I had the best time writing the story of two incredibly stubborn people. Falling in love can be crazy making and scary. Can Andre win the beautiful Ruby’s heart?

You can grab the story on pre-order on the links below.

ruby-banner

iBOOKS    AMAZON   NOOK   KOBO

Until Friday!

Hugs,

Christine X

ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE WITH THE FERRANTI’S…

 

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Happy Monday, my lovelies!

Apparently, we’re about to have a polar vortex impact us over the next few weeks. Oooooooooh. Ice and snow is on its way. Oh, my. And I don’t know about you guys, but I think the world needs love – lots and lots of love – and kindness. Here is my tiny contribution to more love and kindness. The Ferranti family at home. And Sophia’s being… Sophia.

Enjoy!

***

The Dower House…

In the family living-kitchen space, Bronte and Rosie are enjoying mummy time with their babies. Tucked up in her stroller, three month old Mila is in a milk induced coma. Bronte lays a heavy-eyed Eve in her playpen with her blankie.

“Camomile tea?” Bronte asks her best friend and sister-in-law.

Since it’s winter the girls are wearing their usual house uniform of skinny jeans, worn white at the seams, and cashmere sweaters. Rosie’s sweater is fire engine red and Bronte’s is black. Rosie’s Uggs lie abandoned on the floor. She tucks her legs beneath her on the couch and accepts a polka dot mug. “Cheers,” she says. “Can’t wait for my first cup of coffee once Mila’s weaned. Alexander reckons it’s the camomile tea that has her sleeping through the night.”

Bronte makes herself comfortable in a fat velvet chair the color of blueberries. She lifts her socked feet up on the matching footstool. “Cheers,” she says, sipping her tea. “Could be, plus the fact she’s simply adorable and so laid back she’s horizontal. Of course, I’m her auntie so I’m probably biased. Eve is such a good baby, too. Nico reckons it’s because of all the love and attention she receives from the kids.”

Rosie’s inky hair is tied in a messy knot of glossy curls on top of her head. She grins wickedly at her best friend, who looks simply amazing with her ash blonde hair skimming her shoulders. “Six and a half years ago, we were foot loose and fancy free. You thought you’d never marry, never mind have a child. Now look at you, Mrs Ferranti. All loved-up with Nico and mama to four children.”

Bronte’s emerald eyes dance. “You can talk. Your mother is in seventh heaven with her, hint-hint, first grandchild.” Her eyes go sad as she whispers, “I so wish my mum and dad had lived to see theirs.”

Rosie’s bright brown eyes dim a little in heartfelt sympathy. “I miss them, too. With Christmas around the corner, it’s always hard at this time of year.” Then she makes a face. “The mother from hell is already dropping hints about grandchild number two.”

Bronte laughs. “I love your mother. She has no filter between her brain and her mouth.”

Rosie rolls her eyes. “Yeah, she’s a laugh a minute. I told her Alexander won’t be up to making more babies until his love muscle heals. Even though she’s in Cyprus, her shriek of horror nearly broke my cell phone.”

Bronte bites down hard on her trembling bottom lip. “How is the brave little soldier?”

“It’s been two weeks and the love muscle is still healing. My mother told him to dip it in neat TCP. You should’ve seen his face. Stoopid man.”

Bronte grins. “How are you coping with no sex?”

Rosie gives her big, big eyes, and purrs, “Who says we’re having no sex? Dontcha know Alexander Ludlow is nothing if not inventive?”

Bronte holds up her hand in mock surrender. “Okay. Okay. I do not want to know what my brother gets up to in bed.”

Rosie pouts. “You started it.”

The noise of children and a barking dog has them crane their necks to look out floor to ceiling windows into the garden and the kiddie play area built of smooth oak.

“How’s Jimmy Chew?” Rosie asks.

“A complete joy. Sophia’s his favorite human.”

“Hmm,” Rosie says, her eyes narrow as she watches her niece and nephews and the family’s Bichon Frise. “Bet I know why.”

Bronte follows her gaze. She goes utterly still. “That girl! She’s a little monkey.”

“Yup. Dunno where she gets her ruthless streak.”

“Her father,” Bronte says tartly. She shoves her feet into her ankle black Uggs, grabs her duck down jacket and heads out the door with Rosie hot on her heels.

Like her brothers, Sophia is dressed in jeans and a fleece beneath a hooded duck down jacket. On her blonde head sits a cream beanie with a huge fake fur pom-pom the color of ink. She sits on the swing with an open bag of chips in her hands.

“Sit!” she says to the wide-eyed pup bouncing at her feet.

Jimmy Chew’s butt instantly hits the ground.

Sophia gives Jimmy Chew a chip. “One for you. And one for me.”

Her twin’s face is fierce. “You’re not supposed to feed Jimmy Chew human food,” Luca says in a stern voice.

Si!” nine year old Tonio says. “Papa will punish you.”

Unrepentant, Sophia sends them a black look. “MY dog. My food. Piss off.”

“Mama says if you use that kind of language again in this house, you’ll get a smacked bottom,” Luca reminds her.

“And you can shut your big fat mouth, too,” a naughty Sophia says. She makes a horrible face. Then tosses her blonde plait over her shoulder.

“SOPHIA FERRANTI!” Bronte bellows in a tone that makes Miss Sophia’s green eyes go wide. She shoves the bag of chips in her pocket.

The angry tone of his mistress has Jimmy Chew make a high-speed beeline for the safe haven of Tonio who lifts him in his arms.

“You’re in big trouble,” Luca hisses to his twin under his breath.

“Poopie doo, girly hair,” the twin from hell says, referring to a very sensitive subject for her brother—his glossy curls. For good measure, she juts her chin.

Bronte and Rosie eye Sophia and the pup in Tonio’s arms. Bronte bends to sniff Jimmy Chew’s muzzle. Her chin’s bathed in puppy kisses.

“Cheese and onion chips,” she says. Turning to her daughter she holds out her hand palm up and wiggles her fingers. “Gimme.”

The unblinking battle of wills between mother and daughter is short and sweet. Mama wins. “Go to your room. No TV. No tablet. You may read. Papa will deal with you.”

Head held high, Sophia marches into the house.

Bronte turns to Tonio, shakes the packet. “How much did he eat?”

“Only a couple.”

“We TOLD her she’d get into trouble, but she ignores us, mama,” Luca says. “She keeps saying Jimmy Chew is HER dog. But he belongs to everyone.”

Bronte nods, her mind racing. The time has come for her daughter to learn a lesson, and she’s just the mama to do it. “Take him in, it’s too cold out here. Keep him in the family room in case he has an upset tummy.”

Luca’s face goes white. “Do you think she’s made him sick?”

“Well, we won’t know until we know, will we?” she says tartly. “One of you should have come and got me immediately. Jimmy Chew is EVERYONE’S responsibility. Papa will speak to you when he comes home.”

Rosie nibbles on her top lip as two miserable looking little boys trudge into the house with a wide-eyed, alert and perfectly fine little dog. “Omigod. Their faces. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Bronte turns to her. “That girl will be the death of me. When she’s wilful and naughty, my hand itches to spank her bottom. But, that wouldn’t work with her. Nope. We need to hit her where it hurts.”

“Where’s that?” asks a Rosie who was always up for learning a new parenting technique from the Ferranti’s.

“In the heart.”

 

Later, Nico, still dressed for work in one of his fancy suits, stands before his three children. In his arms is a bright and breezy Jimmy Chew. The kids are washed, teeth brushed and ready for bed. Between her brothers, her chin on her chest, sits his daughter. Even when she’s in the wrong her brother’s protect her.

“I am wondering,” he begins in a soft voice, “if we are the right family for a little dog who has already lost an owner. It seems we cannot look after him properly.”

Three heads lift, their faces white with shock. Sophia’s bottom lip trembles. “We love him, papa.”

Nico’s dark brows lift. “Do you? It does not look like it to me. There is a reason we do not give human food to dogs. Their digestive system does not deal well with sugar or fats. If you love him, Sophia, why would you want to make him sick?”

Her emerald eyes huge in her pale face, Sophia shakes her head. “But, I don’t want to make him sick. I just… just…”

“Just what?”

“I want him to love me,” she whispers as a fat tear tips over to run down her cheek.

“You think you can buy love? Do mama and I buy your love, Sophia?”

Eyes swimming, she shakes her head. “No, papa. You love me to the moon and stars and back again.”

Nico clears the huge lump in his throat. “Si.”

“So, what should we do with Jimmy Chew?” Bronte says from the doorway. In her arms is a drowsy baby Eve fresh from her bath. “I need to be able to trust my family to help me look after and care for him. Feeding him chips or cookies is not looking after him, is it?”

Three heads shake.

“I’m thinking that Jimmy Chew needs a family who will put his needs first and love him as he deserves to be loved. What do you think?”

Luca looks her right in the eye. “We love him, mama. We won’t ever let anyone give him human food. We promise!”

“Sophia?” Nico whispers.

His daughter takes a shaky breath. “I’m sorry. I promise never to feed him snacks or treats again.”

Nico nods. “Very well. There are doggie treats, but we do not use them to buy his love. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, papa,” three soft voices chorus.

“Okay. It is time for bed.”

All three troop past their parents and up the stairs. The sound of bedroom doors closing has Nico give Bronte big eyes. “Dio mio, that was harsh, cara mia. I feel like crying myself.”

“Don’t waste your sympathy on her. You didn’t hear her telling the boys to piss off and inform Luca he has girly hair.”

Nico’s dark brows lift as he nuzzles a delirious Jimmy Chew. “Little monkey.”

Bronte moves into his personal space. She lifts up on her tip-toes to give his five-o’clock shadow a kiss. “She’s headstrong. She’s ruthless when she wants something, like someone else I know.”

Handsome face serious, Nico nods. “Si. She is Italian.”

 

FINE

Naughty Sophia! I can’t help but love her anyway.

‘Til Friday, when The Golddigger short story, SUKKI, goes live, be good.

Hugs and love,

Christine X