Greetings from a cold and crisp UK!
It’s time for another Ludlow Hall sneak peek!
The family-kitchen-living space in The Dower House…
All relaxed and spread out on swanky velvet couches the color of lilacs in bloom and with their feet up on fat matching footstools, Bronte, Rosie and Emily’s mummy, Grace, are enjoying a coffee break, exquisite white chocolate chip cookies made by the Domestic Goddesss (Bronte)… and girly chat.
Dressed down in long yoga pants and a matching hoodie the color of blueberries, Rosie’s breast feeding baby Mila. “I really put my foot in it with Nico,” she says, still feeling bad about the upset with her niece.
Rocking Eve on her shoulder, who’s in a milk-induced coma, Bronte sends Rosie a sympathetic look. “We’re both at fault and need to remember Sophia’s super-bright for her age. You recovered well, though. My daughter believes she’s a warrior-woman…”
Grace grins. “Yep, without a magic sword like Xena. Emily told me all about it.”
Rosie shifts a slack-jawed Mila to rest her dark head on the terry towelling diaper over her shoulder, and gently rubs and pats her back. When a deep burp emerges and the baby’s eyes open, Rosie attaches her to the other breast, softly stroking a finger down her daughter’s satin cheek. The sound of her baby suckling makes her smile. “When she’s feeding, Alexander calls her Jaws.”
Dressed in skinny jeans and a black cashmere polo neck sweater, Grace laughs, even as her blue eyes go sad. “I’d have loved at least one more. But, it wasn’t to be.”
Bronte shifts to place Eve on the soft mattress of her travel cot-playpen. She places a thermal blanket over her sleeping daughter. After she hands Rosie a glass of water, and tops up Grace’s coffee from the pot, she turns to her friend. “Have you thought of adopting?”
Grace nods. “We’ve looked into it. But, the whole process is terribly complicated. And now Brian’s been made Managing Director, he’s globe-trotting more often these days. Next week, he’s travelling to China for three weeks. He doesn’t want me alone carrying the burden of integrating a baby or young child into our family.”
“Makes sense,” Rosie says.
Grace nods. “We’re so lucky to have Emily. I don’t get sad very often. But your beautiful babies do make me terribly broody.”
Bronte sits, lifts socked feet onto a stool and crosses her ankles. Today she’s wearing black leggings and an oversized black sweatshirt with Yummy Mummy printed on the front. Her ash blonde hair is tied in a messy top-knot. “It’s a funny old life, isn’t it? When I was engaged to Jonathan and learned I may never have children, I thought my whole life was over.”
Rosie tucks her breast in her bra, settles Mila on her shoulder to rub her back, and slants her best friend a look. “You had a lucky escape there.”
When the baby burps, Grace holds out her arms for a cuddle. “Gimme.” Rosie hands her daughter over to her friend. Then grins as she pops a kiss on her baby girl’s hot cheek. As far as she’s concerned, a child can’t receive too much love.
Cuddling the precious bundle, Grace makes herself comfy on the couch. Her smile is wide as she eyes Rosie and Bronte. “I never did hear the whole story. What happened?”
Rosie settles back on the couch. “Bronte was engaged to Jonathan for about year when she learned she had endometriosis, and may not have children. At first he was supportive, blah-blah-blah. They say bad news comes in threes. It was a horrible time. After her mum and dad were killed, we learned the whole estate was up to its ears in debt. To pay taxes, Alexander sold Ludlow Hall to Nico to build a Ferranti Hotel and Spa. Meanwhile, Jonathan was having a hot affair with Annabel and got her pregnant.
Grace’s jaw is on the floor. “No way,” she whispers, her eyes wide.
Rosie nods, makes a face. “Yes, way. Together, Bronte and I pooled all our monies, and set up Sweet Sensations. Then we worked like dogs for two years until we were in the black. Then Bronte met Nico, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
Grace turns to Bronte. “Even with endometriosis, you managed to have three children?”
Bronte’s emerald eyes dance. “Yup. That man just has to look at me and I’m pregnant. Believe it, there’s no one more shocked than me.”
“Or me,” Rosie says. “Next thing I know they have the twins. And I think we can safely say life has never been the same.”
“Out of the worst of times came the best of times,” Grace whispers softly.
“Yes. Although I admit I didn’t make it easy for Nico,” Bronte confesses.
Grace grins. “So, how did you two meet?”
When Rosie bursts out laughing, Grace turns to her. “I sense a story.”
“And it’s a loooooong story,” Rosie says, her dark eyes dance with sheer wickedness. “Nico caught her climbing out the window of the ladies toilet to escape the blind date from hell. Of course, he thought she’d been stealing. He frog-marched her into Alexander’s office and emptied her bag on his desk.”
Bronte shakes her head. “Yup. And someone had put a box of fruit flavoured condoms—extra large—in my bag. Of course, Alexander and Nico thought the worst of me… it’s not that funny, Rosie.”
Her best friend can’t help but roar with laughter at the memory. “It was hilarious. The chemistry between them then was combustible. And it’s combustible now. And Nico laid it right on the line, told her he didn’t want a wife or a family. Oh, how the might have fallen.”
Grace’s smile is wide as she shakes her head. “How long did it take for him to ask you to marry him?”
“Six weeks,” Rosie says.
Grace’s eyes pop. “Wow!”
Bronte wrinkles her nose, stands up, and leans down to pick up her baby girl. She sniffs her padded bottom and makes a face. “Oops, someone needs changing.”
Grace studies a red-faced baby Mila. “I think someone else does, too.”
Rosie’s on her feet and reaching for her daughter. “Come on upstairs and see the mural Janine painted in Eve’s room. I want one for Mila.”
As the friends walk out of the room, all is quiet. Until up pop two little fairies from behind the couch. Their plastic tiaras set at an awkward on their head, Sophia and Emily gaze at each other with big eyes.
“Wow,” whispers Emily. “Your mummy was engaged to Richard Winthrop’s daddy?”
“I can’t believe it,” a pale-faced Sophia says.
“If they ever find out we heard their conversation, we’ll be in BIG trouble,” whispers Emily. Her mummy’s recent warning about listening into adult conversation clear in her mind.
Still in shock, Sophia nods. “We mustn’t ever tell anybody, EVER.”
Emily nods, offers her hand. “Shake on it.”
“We’ll do what Tonio and Luca do when they make a pact,” Sophia says, and spits on her palm.
Emily makes a face, but spits on her palm too. They clasp hands. “We’re sistas!” she says.
Sophia wipes her palm on the pink tulle of her fairy princess dress. “Want a juice? she asks, heading for the fridge with Emily hot on her heels.
By the time both perch on high stools next to the island worktop, sucking down a homemade strawberry smoothie, Emily’s eyes go wide. “What’s a blind date?”
Sophia shakes head and opens the lid of her mama’s special cookie tin. “Dunno. Whatever it was it was from hell.”
“Maybe we should ask Tonio,” Emily says, with hope sparking brightly in her blue eyes.
Sophia stares hard at her friend. “I think you’re in love with Tonio.”
Emily’s copper curls bounce as she frantically shakes her head. “Nope. I thought about marrying him. I’ve changed my mind.”
Since this was news to Sophia, she sits up straight as her brows wing into her hair. “What’s wrong with Tonio? All the girls love him.”
Emily nods. “Exactly! He’s too much for me to handle.”
After a quiet moment of reflection, Sophia nods, offers her pal an oatmeal and raisin cookie from the tin. Deep in thought, the girls nibble on a cookie.
“You could be right about that,” Sophia says. “After all, he is Italian.”
Ah, little girls with big ears and big mouths equals big trouble ahead.
The next Golddigger short story, GLORY, will be released at the end of January 2017 and then one per month.
This author is taking a short break over the festive period. However, the Ludlow Hall sneak peeks will still wing their way to you each Monday.