Hello, my darlings!
It’s Friday and time for another slice of Ludlow life with our favourite family, The Ferranti’s…..
The Dower House – it’s two a.m. Nico’s cosy in his vast bed and all snuggled up to the love of his life. The Egyptian cotton sheets are crisp and smell lightly of lavender. His big body’s spooning and holding her close. Very close. With every deep inhale, his system seemed to absorb the scent of her hair, her skin, her very breath. Si, he cuddled to curve around her, and slid a heavy leg between hers, he was a very lucky man.
Right on cue his libido, tucked inside his Calvins, stirred.
His low moan was heartfelt.
Behave, he told his lurve muscle.
His body settled and he slid deeper into the land of nod.
The night was still and clear and freezing cold.
A half moon spilled silver light through a gap in the heavy curtains.
Nothing stirred, not even a mouse.
Everyone was asleep—or were they?
The sound of the fire alarm had Nico explode out of bed, into jeans and a sweater.
He shoved bare feet into running shoes.
And Bronte wasn’t far behind him.
Shoving her arms in a black cashmere sweater, her head popped out of the neckline.
“I smell smoke.”
Emerald eyes wide, she grabbed her phone and dialled the emergency services.
Then she lifted her chin and, like a she-wolf, sniffed the air.
“Do you smell smoke?”
Shouts from Tonio and Luca had Nico run into the hallway, and here the smell of smoke was strong.
Both in pj’s their dark curls sticking up on end, Luca clutched a yapping Jimmy Chew in his arms, and Tonio carried a howling baby Eve wrapped a thick blanket.
He handed her to Nico.
“Quick,” Nico said, his brain speeding through likely scenarios. “Remember the fire drill.” Two pale-faced little boys stared at him, as if mute, as he rubbed the toddler’s back. “We go to the guest bedroom, out the window, onto the roof of the laundry room. Mama is calling for help.” His head spun around, and his racing heart seemed to screech to a stop before knocking against his ribs. “Where are Sophia and Emily?”
“Their beds are empty.”
“Omigod,” Bronte said.
Nico turned to her and thrust a screaming Eve into her arms. “Get the boys out, and I’ll find them.”
Heart pistoning in his chest, he spun and headed for the stairs and the kitchen.
Smoke belched through the open kitchen door into the hallway and drifted up, up, the stairs and into the cavernous roof space.
When he skidded to a halt in the kitchen-living space, he saw a weeping Emily dressed in her Elsa from Frozen nightgown, tucked into a corner of the sofa, her little face sheet white.
And the perpetrator of the night’s drama, his seven year old daughter, eyes streaming and gasping for breath, was standing on a chair dragged next to the black granite worktop, and frantically waving a dish towel over the entrance to a stainless steel toaster oven which belched dark grey smoke.
Nico whistled low through his teeth, pulled the electric plug from the wall, slammed the door to the toaster oven shut and grabbed his daughter by the waist. On his way to the kitchen door, he scooped up an Emily crying for her mummy, and headed through the boot room.
As he opened the door to the driveway, he thanked God when he found the rest of his family intact and, by the look of them, scared to death and blue with cold.
The sound of a fire-engine and ambulance, blue lights flashing, roared up the road and into the driveway.
Two firemen grabbed a girl-child each and handed them to the paramedics who got them into the ambulance to check them over. Meanwhile, three other fire-crew prepared their hoses. The leader entered the house. He didn’t loiter. When he flung open a kitchen window and popped his head out, he yelled to the crew,
“Need a fire blanket. Toaster oven.”
Immediately, all tension left the men.
They began rolling up their hoses and chatted to Bronte.
“We’ll open all the windows to let the smoke out.”
Her brain reeling, Bronte nodded.
Clutching a sobbing baby girl to her breast, she was shaking so hard, her teeth rattled like castanets in her head. On trembling legs, she jogged to the ambulance, to find Emily wrapped in a blanket and Sophia being given oxygen and checked over by paramedic, Susan Henshaw. Bronte had gone to school with Susan, and she found her eyes stinging as she caught her eye.
“Never a dull moment with this one,” Susan said.
Bronte puffed out her cheeks. “Tell me about it.”
She studied her daughter’s white face and the way her breath wheezed in and out.
“We’ll take Sophia to A&E just to make one hundred per cent sure she’s okay. Smoke inhalation can be nasty.”
Nico arrived and took the baby, his face pale as he watched Sophia cough so hard, she struggled for breath. “They were making toast,” he muttered, the vision of of the way his daughter had tried to fight a fire kept flashing in his brain. Dio mio, things could have been a lot worse. “Rosie and Alexander are on their way to look after the kids.”
And just as he spoke, a black shiny Range Rover sped up the drive.
Before Alexander had switched off the engine, a wide-eyed Rosie, wearing leggings tucked inside ankle Uggs, and one of Alexander’s hoodies over her pj’s, was out the passenger door and racing towards the ambulance.
Susan poked her head out of the ambulance door and flashed Rosie a grin.
“Ah, I see the gang’s all here. Sophia’s inhaled a bit of smoke. Emily’s fine. A little shaken up, but her oxygen levels are good. We’re taking Sophia in, just to make sure she’s okay.”
Rosie puffed out a relieved breath.
“Okay. Gimme Emily.”
As Rosie carried Emily back into the house, the child wound her arms around her neck. “We were hungry and made toast.”
Rosie popped a kiss on her pale cheek. “Yeah, and nearly burned the house down.”
“We didn’t want to wake anyone. We wanted toast and peanut butter.”
When Rosie entered the kitchen-living space, the evidence spread around the worktop told its own story. Slices of wholemeal bread, toasted to a variety of degrees, were spread over the worktop. Clearly, the girls hadn’t had much luck in their endeavour. The toaster oven was buried in a fire blanket.
“Who’d have thought a toaster oven could cause this amount of mess?”
With his helmet tucked under his arm the fireman nodded.
“Everything electrical in a kitchen can be a hazard, especially in the hands of a child. On a positive note, it was clear they had a fire escape plan.” He jerked his chin. “There’s a fire extinguisher on the wall, but no way a child could use it. Everyone needs a fire blanket or an extinguisher in a kitchen. Preferably both, neither are expensive. And everyone in the house should be shown how to use them in case of an emergency.”
Rosie nodded and rocked a sleepy Emily.
“It’s certainly a wake-up call.”
Six hours later….
When Bronte and Nico, carrying Sophia, opened the door of the house and entered the kitchen, the reek of smoke still hung in the air.
His knots in his belly went tight at the thought of what might have been.
A hollow-eyed Rosie had Eve and baby Mila in their high chairs and was feeding them breakfast. The kids looked bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and none the worse for their evening excursion.
“Coffee’s ready,” she said.
Nico winked as he took his daughter upstairs.
Meanwhile, her best friend simply slumped into a chair and rested her blonde head on her folded arms.
Rosie poured her a cup of the black stuff, and then shifted to give her a shoulder rub.
“You’ve had a bad scare.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with that child,” Bronte whispered.
Rosie made a face. “My mother used to say the same thing about me.”
Bronte lifted her head. “You were bad.”
“To the bone.”
Bronte laughed, which had been Rosie’s plan all along. “God, do you remember the time we climbed onto the barn roof to see if we could touch the clouds?”
Rosie grinned at the memory. “Five years old and Stoooooopid.”
Bronte took a sip of her coffee, and stared unseeing through the glass sliding doors into the garden. “We’ve had a lucky escape.”
“What we’ve had is a wake-up call,” Rosie said and took a seat at the table. “I’ve already been online and ordered fire blankets for this kitchen and mine. Something a child could easily use if they found themselves confronting an emergency.”
Bronte reached out and took Rosie’s hand, and squeezed. “Thanks. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Rosie squeezed her back. “We’re family. We do what families do.”
Nico entered, and a made a face.
“It is going to take time to get rid of the smell of smoke.”
He took time to study his wife’s exhausted face, then picked her up and sat with her on his lap.
She rested her weary head on his strong shoulder.
“When Sophia and Emily have had a long nap, we will need to sit them down and have a serious talk about touching electrical appliances…. again,” he said, his voice deep and growly.
Bronte heaved out a sigh. “What’s the answer, punishment?”
“I think,” Nico said, rubbish his cheek on her head. “The fright they gave themselves, and us, may be punishment enough.”
“Can I just say one thing?” Rosie asked.
Nico nodded. “Anything.”
Rosie bit down hard on her bottom lip.
“Your toaster’s…. toast.”
Nothing like a little kitchen drama.
Don’t forget NO RULES is out today. We’re just waiting for the Google Play links and I’ll do an alert here and talk to you live right NOW on my Facebook author page! A new release is always a huge feeling of excitement tinged with hot white fear. It never gets any easier.
Love and hugs,