No Rules first chapter excerpt… and a new look…

THE RULES NEW COVERS

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Greetings from a sleety and snowy Cheshire.

It’s FREEZING!

Grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy the first chapter of NO RULES – and isn’t the new look for the series amazing?

NORULES

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

She looked a million dollars.

However, Chloe reckoned there was nothing worse than attending the glitzy party of the year—and wearing a fake happy face.

Nico Ferranti and his team at the five star Ludlow Hall Hotel and Spa sure knew how to throw a superb event. In this case, the engagement party for Chloe’s beloved half-sister Anastacia Morgan and her fiancé, Italian soccer star, Olivier Conti. All the guests were in high spirits and dressed to impress. The enormous Grand Ballroom with its vaulted ceiling was decorated for fun and frolics. In the center of each round table sat a complicated floral arrangement accessorized by gold and silver floating balloons. The fragrance of the waxy ivory freesia and jasmine display was incredible.

Unfortunately for Chloe the combination of the heady scent from the flowers and noise from the band had done nothing to ease her stress headache from hell. Her complicated updo hadn’t been a good idea either. Her hair—caught in a fancy clip, which glittered with glass jewels—dug like the claws into her skull.

What she wanted was a tranquil place to let her hair down, and take a painkiller washed down by a glass of cold water, in that order.

Even though she was worried sick, she’d never ruin everyone’s joy during Ana and Olivier’s Big Night.

She knew she’d only to ask the people who loved her and they would give her unconditional support, but tonight was not the time to rain on her sister’s parade.

The trouble was, she didn’t have a lot of time—four weeks to find money she didn’t have—and no matter how hard she tried, she could not come up with a solution.

Chloe was—according to her mother—bright and creative and smart.

Not that smart or she wouldn’t be hip deep in shit.

Her hands were shaking, so she clasped them over the clutch bag on her lap.

She was a good person.

She was kind and helped others.

And yet, by supposedly helping another, she’d been betrayed in the worst possible way.

Her mood plunged, teetering on the edge of what felt like a dark abyss.

Then she caught herself.

Chloe reckoned the time had come to toughen up, grow up, and stop relying on those who loved her to pick up the pieces of this hot mess.

There was no point in thinking life wasn’t fair.

She’d figure a way out, she had to.

She would fix this—once she worked out a plan.

Shame her bright and creative brain was a complete blank.

Across the table, her mother was deep in conversation with Olivier’s mother. By their excited hand movements and the way they’d put their heads together, she bet they were in the thick of preparing the wedding of the year. Chloe wondered if either had thought to speak to the prospective bride and groom, since the actual wedding date hadn’t been set. Both women might be on the wrong side of forty, but they made a sensational looking pair. Valentina Conti, dark and tall and slim, looked as if she’d just walked off the cover of Vogue Italia. And Maria Rucker, still a leggy blonde stunner, was a force of nature who lived for her family and the many good causes she supported.

Feeling as if someone was taking an axe to her head, Chloe rose from her seat.

The movement caught her mother’s attention.

Vivid blue eyes narrowed as she studied her daughter’s face. Chloe loved her mother to bits, but if she thought there was something wrong with one of her girls, the woman was like a heat seeking missile.

The last thing she needed right now was her mother on her case. A woman who, it had often been said by her father, had spooky powers when it came to sniffing out trouble. It was vital that she remain under her parent’s radar and keep a low profile, especially this evening.

Tanith, Chloe’s younger sister by twenty-two months, grabbed her wrist.

Blue, blue eyes studied her face. “You okay? You look awfully pale and you’ve been awfully quiet tonight, too. What’s the matter?”

“Headache.”

Since Chloe’s stress headaches were infrequent but nothing new, Tanith —always a sensitive soul—nodded. “It’s the combination of noise, scented candles and flowers. Need a pain pill?”

Chloe waggled the small clutch bag in her hand. “Got some. Be back in a minute.”

Her mother caught Tanith’s eye and lifted a smooth brow in query.

Her sister mouthed, headache, in response.

And as her mother turned to resume her conversation, Chloe made good her escape.

Phew, it was a good thing that recently her mother had been distracted by organizing tonight’s party, or she’d be right on top of why her eldest daughter had not been quite herself.

Ordinarily, Chloe loved a good party.

Normally, she’d be the first on the dance floor strutting her stuff with a hot guy, or two.

And since a large male contingent of Olivier’s footballer pals and social circle were in attendance this evening, most of them stag, there were certainly plenty of hot guys to choose from.

In truth, she wasn’t even tempted because there was nothing normal happening in her life at the moment. She was in deep doo-doo. Trapped. And, she’d no idea what the hell to do about it. The last thing her family needed was a firestorm of salacious publicity at the worst possible time—Anastacia’s engagement to one of the world’s biggest soccer stars—along with her father’s long held dream, his appointment as chairman of the national soccer association.

As she made her way to the rest rooms and a few minutes of peace and quiet, Chloe again wondered how she’d been so stupid to let herself be so effectively conned?

Then the couple of the night caught her attention on the dance floor. Her heart melted because she just had to smile at the way her Ana and Olivier were hip-to-hip and forehead-to-forehead to a slow number. Bless them. They were so wonderfully in love and unafraid to show it.

As for looking for love herself, well she was way too young for romance, never mind happy ever after. Naturally, she’d kept her opinion to herself, because who the hell was she to judge another? But in truth Chloe felt Ana might be too young to settle down, too. Then again and to be fair, Ana might be young in years, but she’d overcome difficult and dark times to thrive in her life and career. Unlike Chloe who’d been shielded, until recently, from the natural storms of the world by over-protective parents. Now, she had her own tiny flat in London and she relished her freedom. Freedom was precious. However, with freedom came personal responsibility for the choices a person might make. A single bad decision and now she was snared right in the middle of one of life’s hurricanes. Hell, the very last thing she wanted was marriage, or an intimate relationship with anyone.

But then, she was so happy to have found Ana. Someone she knew she could trust, someone to confide in. Nevertheless, this happy event tonight was neither the time nor the place to spread bad news.

Anxiety tied her belly in knots, made tension tighten like a vice over her shoulders and neck, while the jab of pain in her head made her wince.

Worry nibbled relentlessly on the edge of her mind.

Then she took herself firmly in hand before a wave of self pity threatened to overwhelm her.

Hang on a minute—

Was she going to go running to mummy and daddy and her big sister for help?

Was she hell!

Life wasn’t fair.

Truth was, some people were just toxic bastards.

What it boiled down to was that she was a compassionate person.

Was it her fault those very qualities had been used against her?

Nope.

So why did she feel she was in the wrong?

Maybe because she didn’t want to cause a shitstorm in the now calm sea of her parents’ lives. Her parents were good people. Salt of the earth. People who’d gone through years of heartbreak before they’d finally found and made contact with Ana. After the worry and heartache they’d been through, she refused to bring more trouble to their door.

The anger that brewed in her belly for days surfaced now.

An anger that turned hot and an anger that saved her from descending into a dark place.

How dare those sons-of-bitches spike her drink and strip her like that?

Through no fault of her own, she was a victim.

How dare they threaten to share naked pictures of her across social media, and then treat her to the silent treatment for days?

And how fucking dare they keep her in suspense like this?

Hadn’t she been brought up to deal face-on with the hard stuff life threw at a person?

Hell, hadn’t she been brought up to kick-ass and put up with no shit?

Feeling more determined, more in control, Chloe threw back her shoulders and lifted her chin. Her feet in high heels picked up speed as she headed for the exit and the reception hall beyond. She’d made her own mess and she’d damn well fix it.

Once she’d come up with a game plan…

Her anxious mind busy, Chloe slammed straight into a man-chest, rock hard, and dressed in a dark suit.

An expensive dark suit.

 

Strong hands clamped on Chloe’s bare shoulders to keep her steady.

The jolt of his touch rocked her system.

Her breath hitched with the shock of it.

The essence of him, male, mingled with an expensive cologne.

She took a deep breath, and his scent sank into her lungs, into her blood, and all at once he seemed familiar in a way Chloe found hard to comprehend.

Something in her mind seemed to click into place.

She swore she heard it.

How weird.

The sudden, convulsive shiver that ran over her body made her frown.

Mio dio. What part of no do you not understand?” he asked, his accent and the deep rumble of his voice seemed to vibrate down her spine.

Chloe was five seven in her bare feet, but even in heels she had to tilt her head back to stare up into cold dark eyes. “Understand?”

Not only tall, he was incredibly well built with broad strong shoulders. His inky hair was tied back from a lean face. Eyes of steel. He had a cute little dent in his chin, just like a movie star.

Her breath hitched as she simply gazed in awe at the physical perfection of male beauty.

Of course, she recognized him.

Like every other women with working ovaries, she knew the whole sorry story.

Serge Morretti, rich, gorgeous and often described as Sardinia’s hottest tourist attraction. He was the black sheep of his mighty family. An orphan who’d been brought up by a powerful uncle. And unquestionably the last man in the world she would have chosen to meet given her need to keep a very low profile.

Up close and personal, she treated herself to a thorough examination of that extraordinary face and saw things the camera missed. Things like the way his dark eyes danced. Things like he wore arrogance like a badge of honor. Then again, she supposed when Serge looked in the mirror each morning and saw that face looking back, how could he be anything but arrogant. A tabloid writer had called him a beautiful bastard, and for once the writer had not exaggerated.

The man was hot!

God, she felt hot and tingly all over.

His dark eyes narrowed as he studied the hectic flush rising from her neck and into her cheeks.

The way he stared at her like that, all intense and brooding, she wondered if he’d heard the odd little click, too.

After all, his hands still held her firmly in place.

“Please accept my apologies, beautiful girl.” Now his eyes sparkled with a sheer devilment that made her knees weak. “I presumed you were someone else.”

“Did you just call me a girl?” she snapped, to hide the weak knees.

Chloe Rucker, she reminded herself fiercely, didn’t do weak knees.

Ever.

He blinked.

Then his gaze took a slow and very thorough study of her from blonde head, over her dress of blue silk, to her nude heels and back again.

His mouth curved and his eyes twinkled into hers in a clear appreciation that told her he more than liked what he saw. “My apologies again. Woman, of course.”

Something in his tone made her doubt he meant a word of his apology.

However, she shifted beneath his hands. “Let me go and I’ll be on my way and you can go hide from a girl.”

The pad of his thumb rubbed gently over her collarbone and she seriously wished he’d stop it because the simple movement was doing strange things to her long dormant libido. A libido that sizzled in a way that seemed to mess with the wiring in her brain.

“I am not hiding. I am keeping out of trouble.”

He was?

Then that made two of them.

“With your reputation, I’d have thought that was an impossible task,” she told him frankly.

He blinked again.

His mouth twitched.

He smelled amazing.

Shame about the man-bun.

“Ah, you have heard the Morretti board is again baying for my blood? Their displeasure is covered in all the newspapers. Worry not. Except for an… um… unexpected distraction last night, this is me being a good boy.”

“Hmm,” Chloe said, beyond tempted, but determined not to respond to the playful smile dancing in his eyes and around the edges of his firm mouth. She adored the cute dent in his chin. “If this is you being good, I’d hate to see you being bad.”

“I am so well-behaved tonight, it is killing me. Particularly right at this moment. What is your name, bella?”

Chloe knew Serge Morretti thought of women as his own walking all-he-could-grab buffet. And wasn’t it a shame she wasn’t on the menu.

Her spine adopted the rigor mortis stiffness of a corpse, even as his big body shifted to almost touch hers in a way that had her heart miss a beat.

Almost against her will, her eyes moved from his mouth to dark eyes that captured hers.

She bet her life that if the rumors were even half true, Serge Morretti was a superb lover.

Then again, he was a man who’d had plenty of practice.

Shocked by the thought of sleeping with him, she took a step back, but he refused to let her go.

A mix of irritation with him, but more with herself by the way her whole body tingled with awareness, as if electrified from her scalp to her toes, had her tilt her chin. She didn’t do body tingling either.

“My name is none of your business. I’ll leave you to it, shall I? Let’s hope last night’s unexpected distraction doesn’t find you.”

He sighed, an exclusively male sound. “I can only hope they have moved on to someone who is a better marriage bet. You did not happen notice them, did you?”

Wow, them?

The guy had had more than one women in his bed?

Seriously?

She shook her head.

And had to bite down hard on her bottom lip to stop the grin at the hard-done-by look on his gorgeous face. This guy was outrageous, a real character, and funny. Except he was the last man any woman with a working brain cell would ever want to marry.

After years of hard study to attain her science degree, Chloe now embraced a heady freedom to do whatever she liked, when she liked. Plus, she had plenty of working brain cells. Plenty. “No. What do they look like?”

He thought hard for a beat, then his take-pity-on-me-puppy-dog eyes—which didn’t fool her for a single moment—met hers. “Deranged and demented?”

She had to laugh. “What are their names?”

“I am trying hard to forget.”

“You’re nothing but a man-slut,” she told him severely, her tone channelling her formidable mother.

Serge didn’t even blush. “One day, when I meet the right woman I will settle down.”

Her snort of female derision made his eyes again narrow with a male interest Chloe had seen many times before. Both her and Tanith took after their mother in looks. They were tall Nordic blondes who seemed to attract the wrong sort of attention from the type of men who regarded all blondes as air-heads. Although it had to be said that Tanith might be reluctant, but she was the official beauty of the family and she had the longest legs as well as a big brain, too. The lovely thing about her sister was she had absolutely no idea of the impact of her looks. In fact, Tanith could care less about fashion or shoes or makeup. All she cared about was writing the next chapter of her horror story. A book that would terrorize even Mr. King’s legion of hardened fans.

But then something else occurred to her.

“Wait a minute. You had sex with two women and now you’re hiding from them?”

He stared hard at her as if he’d received a huge shock.

And then his lips twitched.

“And here I thought I had heard it all,” he muttered. “It pains me to have fallen so low in your regard on such a short acquaintance. No. I did not have sex with either woman. We talked. Or I should say, they talked. A lot. A girl and her mother.”

Fascinated in spite of herself by this tall tale, Chloe blinked. “A girl and her mother?”

Si. A young Russian girl and a woman named Countess Lucretia, who claims to be both her mother and descended from the house of Romanov.” He shrugged, looked thoughtful for a moment. “Although, I am pretty sure the girl was drunk at the time. And her mother, at the very least, is not quite right in her head.”

She opened her mouth to ask him how on earth he’d met such people, and caught the distinct twinkle in his eye.

Yeah, right.

He was spinning her line.

She bet the Countess and her daughter didn’t even exist.

Chloe raised a smooth brow. “Let me go.”

This time his smile went all lazy as his head dipped slowly towards hers.

Her breath caught because she just knew he was going to kiss her.

And the way her lips actually sizzled with anticipation, she just knew she was going to let him.

 

“Chloe!” A small hand clutched hers and gave it a hard tug. “Chloe! I need to go pee-pee.”

With a clear reluctance, Serge released her.

A reluctance that brought a wave of goose-bumps in the wake of the smooth glide of his hand from her bare shoulder to her wrist.

Chloe looked down to find six year old Sophia Ferranti in her best party dress, dancing a fast jig, her huge emerald eyes pleading. And since Sophia was one of Chloe’s favorite people, she didn’t hesitate to help her out.

Serge did not look at all happy at the interruption, but she reckoned it was probably just as well.

Wasn’t life strange?

She’d been saved from a bad boy’s kiss by a little girl desperate to spend a penny.

“Excuse us,” she said to an infamous man who was like catnip to the paparazzi and any woman with a pulse.

Eyes firmly focused on the way ahead, Chloe told herself she was not at all disappointed to have missed his kiss.

In fact, she reckoned she’d had a lucky escape.

And as she led the way to the rest rooms, she had no idea little Sophia looked over her shoulder to give Serge a fierce look and poked out her tongue at him for good measure.

It wasn’t until they were washing their hands in the beautifully appointed rest rooms that Sophia said, “I love your dress, Chloe. You look like a model.”

In the mirror, Chloe caught Sophia’s sparkling green eyes. “Why, thank you. I love your dress, too.”

In response, Sophia’s cheek dimple flashed like lightning. “Who was that man?”

Chloe re-applied nude lipstick to lips that still hummed with an anticipation that hadn’t been met. Meanwhile, her companion studied her every move like a little hawk. “No one important. I sort of bumped into him.”

Sophia leaned her elbows on the worktop, as if settling down for a chat with a girlfriend. “He likes you. I can tell.”

Chloe’s brows rose as she caught Sophia’s twinkling eyes in the mirror. “Can you indeed?”

The child nodded in the way of a person who knew what she was talking about.

“He’s a hand lingerer.”

Chloe blinked and turned to her. “A what?”

“It’s what my Auntie Rosie calls a man who leaves his hands on a woman for too long.”

Shaking her head at this fascinating snippet of information, Chloe studied intelligent eyes in a young head.

“Remind me, how old are you?”

Sophia’s dimple popped again. “I’m six, going on sixty.”

“More of Auntie Rosie’s wise words?”

“Yep.”

“Is Auntie Rosie here tonight?”

“Yep.”

Chloe held out her hand and realized her headache had miraculously disappeared. “Take me to Auntie Rosie. I can’t wait to meet her.”

“My papa says she’s a pistol.”

“I just bet she is.”

 

******

 

Don’t forget, you can grab NO RULES on pre-order now. It’s out next Friday!

Hugs,

Christine X

Time for another sneak peek…

emily's a hoot!

 

It’s Friday and it’s Ferranti time, and time, dear readers, to grab a coffee…

Bronte’s in the car on her way home from the school pick-up. In the car with her today are, Tonio, Luca, Emily and Sophia. She’s had a good and productive day with Rosie at The Dower House where they discussed and tried ideas for new mini-muffin recipes. When the kids return home they’re in for a treat. It’s the end of a busy week, the kids are bound to be tired. All is quiet in the car, until…

“My mummy says that because I brush my teeth until they’re squeaky clean, I’m a Good Christian,” Emily said. Bronte had to smile at the child’s high and soft voice. At this, Sophia stared hard at Emily—a look which made Emily shrug. “I am a good and kind person.”

“You are,” Sophia agreed. And Bronte wished some of Emily’s goodness and kindness would rub off on her best friend. Then Sophia held up a finger. “But, you don’t wannabe a doormat. You need to find a happy medium.”

Luca frowned at his twin. “What’s a happy medium?”

“How do I know?” Sophia said. “Everyone has their own happy medium.”

Luca folded his arms. “I don’t get it.”

Sophia sent him a bland look. “Well, we can’t say you’re a Good Christian can we? Because you don’t brush. You suck the toothpaste out of the tube.”

“Ew,” Emily said.

Luca’s face burned. “I don’t do that anymore,” he roared.

“Ew,” Emily said again, and added more fuel to the fire. “Your teeth will rot and go black in your head and fall our.”

Sophia nodded, her lips pursed in deep disapproval. “No girls will kiss you with bad breath.”

“I don’t have bad breath,” Luca roared again. And to prove it he heaved a big breath over the girls. When both slapped a hand over their nose and mouth, he glared and glowered. “I do NOT!”

“Jesus Christ,” Emily said in a stage whisper filled with awe and wonder, “Can see you.”

 

“Now, now,” Bronte said, staging an intervention before things got physical in the back seat. “Settle down while I’m driving.” And out of the corner of her eye, she caught Tonio’s head-shake and wide grin.

“Anyway,” Sophia said. “We have our own family chapel at Ludlow Hall. So Luca can go along and kneel in the phew and talk to Jesus and God and the Lords.”

“Pew,” Tonio corrected from the front seat.

“Whatever. And do not interrupt me please, Tonio.” Sophia instructed. “Luca can go along to our chapel and chat to the Holy Ghost and confess his many sins…”

Luca’s head swung around, his dark curls bounced, his eyes flashing. “I don’t have many sins. If you want to see a wicked girl, you just look in the mirror, Sophia Ferranti…”

Undeterred, his sister continued, “… And beg for forgiveness.”

“I think it’s really cool you have your own chapel,” Emily said in her soft breathy voice as she poured oil on troubled waters.

“It is,” Sophia agreed. “We have lots of bodies buried there.”

Emily’s eyes bugged in her head. “Really?”

Sophia nodded like a wise old owl. “Yup. Lots of old bones from the Ludlow family for hundreds of years.”

“Is it spooky?” Emily wanted to know, a constellation of freckles standing out against her pale skin.

Sophia thought about it. “I dunno. It doesn’t feel spooky.”

“The chapel has lots of ghosts,” Luca said. He pressed his fist to his chest. “I feel them in here. But papa said they’re friendly ghosts because they’re our family and they love us.”

Aw,  Bronte smiled at that. How sweet was her husband?

Meanwhile, Emily’s eyes were like saucers. “Like Caspar? He’s a friendly ghost.”

Sophia made a snort of derision.

“Luca Ferranti, you’ve never seen a ghost, ever. If you did, you’d scream like a girl.”

“Would not!” her twin roared.

“Would tooooooo!”

“Okay! That’s enough. I’m driving,” Bronte reminded the twins.

“Yeah, you don’t want mama to crash the car and then we die and end up ghosts, do we?” Luca hissed to the sister from hell.

A sister who made a horrible face and hissed right back, “Stoooooopid… boy!”

 

All was quiet.

Silence reigned supreme—until…

Bronte brought the car to a halt on the gravel driveway at the rear of The Dower House.

She turned to beam a lovely smile on her children.

“Here we are! Home safe and sound. Hands up who wants a hot chocolate with marshmallows?

Four hands shot into the air.

Bribed with sugar, it worked to keep the peace every single time.

The kids gathered their backpacks from the trunk and barrelled into house.

“Hey.” Rosie grabbed them in a group hug. “How are my favourite people in the whole wide world?”

Hanging up her lightweight duck down jacket and toeing off her sheepskin ankle boots, Bronte flashed her a wink. “They’re all going to take off their shoes and wash their hands, like Good Christians.”

 

As they trooped out the door and up the stairs, the twins still bickering, Rosie turned to Bronte. “What’s all that about?”

Bronte, organising ingredients for the promised hot chocolate took her time to respond,

“Do you find Ludlow Chapel spooky?”

Rosie blinked. “Ah, place of worship. Good Christian. Spooky—gotcha.” She thought about it. “It has a certain vibe, a sort of frisson in the atmosphere. But lots of really old places have that.”

At the huge stainless steel stove, Bronte held a wooden spoon and slowly stirred the milk, added coco powder.

“I go to the Chapel on birthdays and talk to mum and dad. I light the beeswax candles and stare at the candle light and let my mind go free. I swear I can feel them sitting right next to me.”

Rosie’s brown eyes filled and she moved around the granite worktop to give her best friend a big hug. “They’d have got a such a kick out of your brood. I miss them, too.”

“I believe they’re always with us.”

“Anything’s possible,” Rosie said.

The sound of footsteps on the stairs had Bronte shake her head and laugh. “All this talk of ghosts and family bones buried in the chapel has made me sentimental.”

 

“And here come the starving hoard,” Rosie said as the kids gathered around the table and eyed a large covered plate. She caught the pushey-shovey going on between the twins. “If you all sit quietly, you’ll receive your just reward. No fighting, please, Sophia and Luca.” Then, like a magician, she removed the plate cover and grinned at the collective ooh’s and ahh’s. “We have dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate, and… chocolate.”

Bronte laid a laden tray of white porcelain mugs filled to the brim with mini-marshmallows. “And here’s hot chocolate to go with all that chocolate.”

Emily beamed as she scooped up the sweet treat with her spoon. “This is the best muffin I’ve ever tasted. Thank you, Bronte.”

“You’re most welcome, Emily.”

“At breakfast this morning, papa was so tired,” Tonio told the room at large, “he yawned so wide his jaw cracked.”

Emily turned to him and her look of utter love and devotion made Bronte and Rosie look at each other and go, Aww.

“Coffee,” Emily said, her blue eyes twinkling. “He needed coffee. My daddy says a yawn is a silent scream for—coffee.”

When everyone laughed, a thrilled Emily turned to Bronte and Rosie.

“Wanna hear a joke?”

Rosie bit down hard on her bottom lip and nodded. “Hit me with it, Em.”

The little girl stared right into Rosie’s eyes and said, “Decaf.”

 

Once the laughter had died down, Bronte ran a hand over Emily’s red curls.

“You’re coming out of your shell, darling.”

Emily nodded. “My mummy said it’s because Sophia’s a good influence.”

Her mouth edged with chocolate, Sophia nodded and accepted the accolade as if it was her right. “I’m Italian.”

 

FINE
Like Bronte, I’m having a really productive week, writing wise.

I’m on a roll and working on the next Ludlow Hall story – Gregorio Ancelotti and the woman who only wants him for his body and refuses to commit. Guess who wins?

Plus, I’m more than half way through the first draft of Our Rules, and it’s clicking along at a pace, too. AND I’m working on a couple of Big Projects in the background.

Don’t forget No Rules is available on pre-order.

The story goes live everywhere next Friday – 26th January.

It’s when a story’s about to go live that the nerves kick in, a bit like stage-fright. Doesn’t matter how many books I write the anxiety never ends.

You guys make it all worthwhile!

Hugs,

Christine X

No Rules pre-order links available now… So thrilled…

NO RULES BANNEREXCERPT

iBooks     Amazon USA    Amazon UK   Amazon AUS   Kobo   Nook

Greetings from a very cold, windy and it-looks-like-snow, Cheshire.

At long last, I’m beyond thrilled to bring you NO RULES – which will release on Friday 26th January, 2018, but you can pre-order it right now.

I hope you enjoy Serge and Chloe’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it. To tell you the truth, I fell madly in love with Serge. He’s so funny. He’s a lover. He’s a fighter. He’s a man who, in spite of appearances, has a true sense of family and what it means. AND he drives Chloe absolutely mental. Hehehe. However, Chloe might be in trouble, but she is nobody’s fool and it doesn’t take her long to get his number.

There is, of course, the continuation of Olivier and Ana’s love story (with a surprise).  Danni and Olivier dig deep to keep their love alive. AND… T.C. and Sean bring a tear to the eye.

PLUS, this story has a starring role for Ms. Sophia Ferranti. She enlists the help of her papa to ensure the road to true love runs smoothly. Gotta love the Ferrantis!

Here’s the blurb:

A fake engagement?
A fake relationship?
A one-night stand turns into a deception of monumental proportions?

NO RULES ticks all the boxes.
Full of fun and laughter and scorching hot luv’in, this standalone sexy as sin romance set in the Ludlow Nights world, with a swoon worthy hero and feisty heroine, will make you laugh and cry out loud.

No more wild nights. No more wild women.

Serge Morretti’s wild ride through life may have to come to an end, but less partying
means more time to devote to making more money, including winning over the octogenarians who run Morretti Enterprises. Seems if Serge wants to take his rightful place on the board—he needs a wife—and he’s got a grand plan. But when his world collides with a beautiful blonde at his best friend’s engagement party, where’s the harm in one more wild night?

Chloe Rucker’s coping with a few problems just now.
After her drink is spiked, compromising pictures of her are being held for ransom…and a wedding-obsessed family who are driving her crazy.
Her life may be a disaster, but she’s certain of one thing.
She isn’t impressed by silver tongued devils, especially one with dark laughing eyes. She certainly isn’t looking for a sexy fling with a notorious playboy, no matter how big a deal he thinks he is to the rest of womankind.
Chloe doesn’t do casual.
But maybe just this once…

Nico, Bronte and Sophia Ferranti, among others from the Ludlow cast, all make appearances in this standalone page turner.

 

***

Don’t forget to tune in this Friday for a Ludlow Hall Sneak Peek!

And I’m working on OUR RULES, Anders and Tanith’s story. Plus the next Ludlow Hall story, Gregorio Ancellotti’s rocky path to true love, bless him.

I’m also writing in a new genre, romantic comedy/suspense, with MIMI IN MANHATTAN, and a cast of characters that I adore, and so does my editorial team, which is always nice.

Behind the scenes, my admin team are working very hard on my CC MACKENZIE digital book store, and it’s coming along nicely.

Big hugs,

Christine X

It’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peek…

 

IT'S THE LUDLOW HALL SNEAK PEEK

 

Greetings and happy 2018!

Here’s the first Ludlow Hall short story of the year!

Enjoy!

It’s Friday evening and Nico and Tonio are in the Range Rover escorting Sophia, Emily and Luca home after their first week of the New Year back at school…

As he drove the car towards The Dower House, home, his wife and his baby girl, Nico wore a dark and brooding face. He’d had one of those days. A day where everything that could go wrong, had gone wrong. A busy and trouble filled day at Ludlow Hall. Six key members of staff were down with flu and needed to be isolated for ten days. He detested using agency staff, but needs must. Three Grand bedroom suites had been negatively impacted by a burst pipe in a toilet in the floor above. The leak hadn’t been detected in time to prevent one unholy mess. Three suites, three sets of floor to ceiling raw silk curtains, expensive handcrafted beds made of smooth oak, mattresses, and carpets—destroyed. And the smell… He didn’t want to even think of it. Their insurance company, in the first instance, hadn’t exactly been nimble footed in their response. Not until he’d lit a fire under their collective ass had they sent a couple of loss adjusters pretty damned fast. The full cost of redecoration, yada, yada, would be covered. And so it bloody well should. Didn’t the premiums cost him a small fortune? Thank goodness the Hall’s interior decorator, Janine, bless her heart, had already organised the professional clean-up, decorating team and suppliers to replace the soft and hard furnishings. Alexander had taken control of the bookings and managed to move two couples to upgraded cottages in the grounds, much to the thrilled delight of the clients. Ludlow Hall was always full to capacity, which was a testament to the hard work of his outstanding staff, but if something when wrong, like it surely had gone wrong this morning, then there was nothing worse than disappointing a client. Nothing worse.

“My mummy,” Emily’s breathy voice began from the back seat. Nico adored the child. She had fairy hair and a lovely little fairy face, and a kind and loving nature. Her parents were rightly proud of their little girl. “My mummy said that my daddy is now a beta male and that’s because he has completely lost his virginity.”

Cue a stunned silence.

Tonio, sitting in the passenger seat, gazed wide-eyed into the road ahead.

Nico’s belly plunged and his hands went clammy on the steering wheel.

Mio dio.

Sophia, staring drowsily out of the window into the darkening and freezing landscape, turned her head to frown at her best friend in the whole wide world. “That can’t be right. They must have lost their virginity years ago, or you wouldn’t be here.”

Emily thought for a while about the sensational logic of the statement.

“You might be right,” she said in her soft voice.

Sophia, still staring hard at her friend, voiced her opinion, “The word is virility.”

Nico prayed to heaven to let the girls stop the conversation right there.

Luca proved he was wide awake by asking, “What’s a beta male and what’s virility and how come he lost it?”

By this time, Tonio had slid down in the seat and was shaking with laughter.

Nico sent him a black look to cease and desist, but it only made the boy laugh harder.

“It means he’s gotta broken penis,” said Miss Sophia Ferranti, who, her father decided, knew far too bloody much about too bloody much.

“Ew,” said Luca, his dark eyes wide with horror. “Can he get it fixed?”

“It’s to do with getting old,” said Sophia, on a roll. She turned to Emily. “Your daddy has grey hair, hasn’t he?”

Emily nodded so hard her curls danced. “Yes. Although he’s lost most of his hair because of low flying aircraft.”

Tonio choked.

Even Nico had to bite down hard on his bottom lip to prevent a laugh at that one.

Meanwhile Sophia, looking at her friend as if she was beyond stupid, said, “That is ridicalus. Your daddy lost his hair because of hormones and his old bones. I heard my auntie Rosie and mama talking about the advance of science and a little blue pill for a man with a broken penis. It fixes it right away.”

Luca’s dark brows rose. “Well then, that’s a relief,” he said.

Nico cleared his throat and tried, without luck, to catch his daughter’s eye in the rear view mirror.

“My daddy was upset at losing his hair, but my mummy said she loves him anyway,” said Emily, loyal to the bone.

Sophia nodded and jerked her chin in the direction of the driver. “My papa is gonna be a hot silver fox,” she said.

The way Tonio crowed in the front seat had Sophia crane her neck to look at him.

“What’s so funny? Papa has five grey hairs. I counted them just the other day. Auntie Rosie said we shouldn’t mention it in case it’s a touchy subject for a hot silver fox. You’re not touchy, are you papa?”

And there he was thinking the day couldn’t get any worse.

He was a silver fox.

And any day now it looked as if he’d need Viagra for his old bones.

As Nico, heart heavy, swung the car through the gates of The Dower House, he shook his head.

“Not at all. Remind me to have a little chat with Auntie Rosie. For each grey hair on my head, I lay the blame for each and every one firmly at her door.”

“I love Auntie Rosie,” said Luca in a whiney and tired voice. “Don’t be mean to her.”

Sophia leaned over to pat him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. Mama said you will never, ever, need the little pill because you are filled to the brim with toblerone.”

Cue another stunned silence.

“Testosterone,” corrected Tonio, wiping tears of hilarity from his cheeks.

Nico, spirits lifted, brought the car to a halt.

 

It was a happy man who hugged his wife and kissed his baby girl on her flushed cheek.

Bronte wore black skinny jeans and a matching cashmere sweater. Her ash blonde hair was tied in a loose top knot on her head. She smelled amazing, and so did the house.

He took off his coat and suit jacket. Sniffing the air, he recognized the herby scent of beef and his favourite pasta dish.

How had he got so lucky to have such a wife, a family and a wonderful home?

“I heard about the leak. What a bummer,” Bronte said, and went, unresisting, into his arms.

“I am just relieved that I am filled with so much toblerone I won’t need Viagra.” He said and gazed down into her puzzled but laughing face. “How does it feel to be married to a hot silver fox?”

“Oh, Lord, I knew Sophia wouldn’t be able to keep her tongue in her head,” Bronte said. She ran her fingers through smooth hair black as ink. “A sprinkle only. Anyway, you’re too young to be a silver fox.”

He dropped a soft kiss on her soft mouth, and sighed. “Grazie. When that day comes, at least I will be an Italian silver fox.”

“You forgot the HOT bit.”

THE END

 

Aw, poor Nico. We all get days like that. And in book news, NO RULES is finished! Yay! Just a final read-through and then proofing and another read through and formatting and then it will go on pre-order. Once the date is fixed, I’ll give all y’all the links.

I’m already well into OUR RULES and the next Ludlow Hall story about Gregorio Ancelotti and his rocky road to true love. Lots to come!

Hugs,

Christine X

 

 

Christine’s book store, coming soon

CC 's Bookstore is coming soon!

 

Hello, my darlings,

So, what is this, I hear you ask?

I’ve been intrigued for some time by the recent advances in new technology that will allow me to sell  eBooks direct to readers and I’m  interested in trying it.  I do believe that authors selling books direct to readers is the wave of the future in publishing, and more authors will be doing it going forward.

Plus, my team and I have been wracking our brains for months to work out how to provide you with exclusive content and deals and steals for CC MACKENZIE  digital books.

However, in order for you to purchase new digital books, I need you to…

SIGN UP HERE   

Does that sound good to you?

The first book for sale will be the full compilation of my 2017 Ludlow Hall Sneak Peeks. I’ll keep you informed of what’s coming up, too.

AND, I’m in the process of writing new books/series which will be available first in my store. The first book will be Mimi in Manhattan, a fast paced romantic comedy that’s had my editor laughing so hard she cried. (Always a good sign). Mimi is coming in spring 2018.

I can’t tell you how excited we are to be working with the amazing teams at Shopify who take payment, and Book Funnel who send the book to your device of choice. Book Funnel’s customer service is amazing.

Any questions?

Christine X

Merry Christmas…

merrychristmasfbbanner2017

 

Greetings of the season, my lovelies!

Thank you so much for the continued messages of love and support in 2017, it means the world to my team and I.

We have the whole family here, my youngest daughter has just gone down with ‘flu. Bless her. She got it at Christmas last year, too. She’s gutted, but she’s getting plenty of TLC.

So from my family to you and yours, have a wonderful Christmas and may it be merry and bright.

The next Sneak Peek will be in 2018!

Love and hugs,

Christine X

It’s the Ludlow Hall Sneak Peek…

 

CCMACKENZIE.COM

Hello, dear readers!

It’s not only the first day of December, but it’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peek.

The Dower House… and six year old Sophia Ferranti is in her bedroom. Her mama had sent her up here for a time-out (with no TV or iPad, which sucked lemons) due to “Excessive rudeness and being nasty” to her twin brother, Luca…

The Bichon Frise nestled nice and cosy on her lap, Sophia gently brushed Jimmy Chew’s silky fur. Her heart hurt because nobody in her family loved her anymore. Was it her fault her brother was as dumb-as-a-turnip, as Auntie Rosie would say? Nope. Auntie Rosie also said that the trouble with Luca was that he was so laid back he was horizontal. Sophia wasn’t quite sure what that meant herself, all she knew was that Luca was lazy and cared for nothing more than playing with his stupid Lego. Lego got everywhere. The memory of her papa dancing a jig in his bare feet in the family room—and the way he cursed in Italian (he only ever said bad words in Italian)—made her snicker. Oh boy, Luca got into Big Trouble for that. Stupid boy.

As far as Sophia Ferranti was concerned, all boys were stupid, and smelly. However, she had to admit that right now her heart was broken into a thousand pieces, and nobody cared. A hot lump lodged in her throat, but she blinked fast to clear her vision because she refused to give the people who lived in this house the satisfaction of knowing she’d been cut-to-the-bone, as Auntie Rosie said.

She lifted her dog, and moved to sit on her chair in front of her dressing table. It was a pink dressing table, painted by Auntie Janine, and it matched the fabulous pink framed mirror, which had a crown painted in Gold at the top. Jimmy Chew yawned hugely, turned three times on her lap, and settled down for more pampering. Her fingers rummaging around a clear plastic box, she searched for the right hair-tie for the dog’s fur to keep it out of his eyes. Once she was happy with the effect, she grabbed a new fancy dog leash—blue with clear crystals—and clipped it on to his new matching collar. She couldn’t wait to take him out for a walk in town. Jimmy Chew was regularly walked in town to socialise him with other dogs and other humans who were strangers.

Out of the corner of her eyes, she spotted her bedroom door opening very, very slowly. In the mirror, Sophia watched it with interest. Then she scowled and glared when Luca’s dark head poked around the door. His grin made her hand itch to slap it from his stupid face. But, if she did that her mama might go to “Extreme measures”. To be honest, Sophia wasn’t sure what that meant, but didn’t want to chance-her-luck, as Auntie Rosie said.

Bravely ignoring the snarl on his sister’s face, Luca, wearing one navy ankle sock and dressed in knee length jean shorts and his favourite Spiderman T-shirt slid into the room. Since it didn’t look as if she’d molest him, he attempted a handstand. He’d been practising handstands for weeks, but had yet to find his balance. His papa said practice made perfect. “I’m gonna be Spiderman. I can climb up walls.”

His high yell as he tumbled to the floor had Jimmy Chew leap to the carpet and bark at him.

Sophia bounced around in her chair. “What are you doing? Why are you creeping into my room like that? And you’ve made Jimmy Chew piddle on my good rug. Go away, stoopid. GO AWAY!”

Luca listened to the blistering rhetoric in mournful silence. When she ceased to take a breath, he took his chance. “Mama sent me to fetch you.”

“Why? What have I done now?”

“Dunno.”

“You know nuthin'”

Luca lifted a shoulder, well used to his twin’s insults. She was full-of-hot-air, as his Auntie Rosie said, and he let it roll of him, like-water-off-a-duck’s-back—another of Auntie Rosie’s sayings. “Auntie Rosie’s arrived, and she has a surprise for her favourite niece.”

Sophia jumped as if she’d been shot. “What? A surprise for me?”

“That’s what she said.”

Up flew Sophia, she grabbed Jimmy Chew and dashed out the door.

Luca had to grin as he strolled after her, his sister loved surprises, and if it cheered her up then he was happy. He knew in his heart that Sophia didn’t mean half of the things she said to him. She had too much energy and thought heavy thoughts, which was why she was a cranky-wee-monkey at times, as Auntie Rosie said. However, the sound of a high-pitched scream and a body falling down the stairs had him run. The sight of Sophia lying on the floor at the bottom of the wide staircase made him yell for his papa. However, it was the sight of blood pooling beneath her blonde head that had him faint dead away.

 

 

 

***

As long as she lived, Bronte Ferranti knew she would never, ever forget the sight of her baby girl lying on the floor as if she was dead. Jimmy Chew’s leash was tangled around her ankle. The dog was unhurt, but howling his little heart out. Face sheet white, Nico had been on his knees and running his hands very gently over Sophia. When Bronte saw that the child’s arm was clearly broken, she’d bitten into the knuckles at her mouth.  Nico’s hands had been shaking as he brushed white blonde hair aside to see how bad it was. Meanwhile, Rosie had a sobbing Luca on her knee as she called an ambulance. The ride in the ambulance, sirens and blue lights blazing, had been another kind of hell. Now, twenty four hours later, they were sitting by their daughter’s hospital bed, waiting for her to waken up.  Her left arm, from wrist to elbow had been set and fitted with a pale pink plaster. The sight of it made tears again sting in Bronte’s throat. She sniffed, and a strong arm came around her shoulders. Bronte turned her face into Nico’s shoulder.

“She is going to be fine, cara mia. All the X-rays and tests are all clear,” her husband said in his deep, rumbly voice. “The doctors are happy with her.”

“I know, but she looks so white.” When Sophia fluttered her eyelids, Bronte leaned over to take her uninjured hand. “Hey, baby girl. Mama and papa are here.”

“Head hurts,” Sophia whispered.

Nico rang for the nurse. “You fell down the stairs and hit your head. Good job it is a hard head because you are going to be fine.”

 

 

***

Two days later…

“When can I go home?” Sophia said, sitting up in her hospital bed, surrounded by toys, but tucked in her good arm was her favourite Raggedy Ann doll.

“Well, that’s nice, isn’t it?” Nurse Jean said, with a twinkle in her eye. She gently placed a thermometer in Sophia’s ear. “I thought we might keep you since you keep us so entertained.”

Sophia just grinned. “I do like you, but I don’t like hospital. It smells funny.”

“Well, if you want to be a doctor one day, you’ll have to get used to it,” Nurse Jean said as she marked up her chart. “We’ll see what the doctor says.”

A brisk knock at the door heralded the arrival of Auntie Rosie, Uncle Alexander, her mama and papa. After greeting the nurse, Nico gently took his daughters little face between his hands and studied her eyes and the huge bump on her head. A bump which had given her black eyes. “How is my best girl?”

“I want to go home.”

“She’s moaning,” Rosie said and moved to sit on a chair, “So she must be feeling better.”

Rosie rummaged in a huge bag of cream leather, and found her make-up bag. When she opened a compact mirror and rolled bright red lipstick on her lips, Sophia watched her with interest. Rosie made kissy noises. “Right, gimme the poorly arm.”

When Rosie very gently placed a kiss on the plaster, Sophia beamed. “Ooooh, a kiss makes my heart bigger.”

Bronte’s emerald eyes went all teary. “Aww, does it? Okay, Rosie, gimme the lippy.”

After her mama kissed the plaster, Sophia eyed her papa.

Nico swallowed.

Seriously?

His baby girl wanted him to wear lipstick and kiss her plaster?

When Alexander snorted a laugh, Nico turned to him. “I will if you will.”

Eyes dancing, Alexander shrugged. “No problem. I’m man enough.”

Nico, wearing lipstick for the first—and last—time in his life, kissed the plaster, all the while manfully ignoring the way his wife and Rosie were bent double with laughter. Then he turned to Alexander and offered him the lipstick. His best friend did his duty, and Nico reckoned it was all worth it to see how such a small thing thrilled his irrepressible Sophia and made her heart bigger.

When nurse Jean popped her head around the door to check out the noise of hilarity, her brows rose at the way two big, handsome men were clapping each other on the back. They rose even higher when she spotted they were wearing lipstick.

Sophia, her smile splitting her little face, held up her arm. “Look! Look what they did. They gave me kisses to make it better.”

“So they did.” She eyed Nico and Alexander. “Would you gentlemen like a tissue?”

Nico, his arm slung around Alexander’s shoulders, shook his head. “No problemo. I am Italian.”

 

 

FINE

Two sneak peeks this week… enjoy.

NICO+BRONTE - SNEAK PEEK

Hello lovely readers!

This week I have two sneak peeks instead of one…

Enjoy!

 

NO HANKY PANKY ON A THURSDAY!

It’s an early(ish) Friday morning at The Dower House….

Bronte lay in bed, snug as a bug in a rug. Was there anyone in the whole wide world who didn’t just love that special time between asleep and awake? She stretched out a bare foot to find a hot body. Seemed Nico was still in bed, which meant it was too early to get up. Her foot stroked his foot. And just like that he rolled over to wrap his big body around hers to spoon her. She wiggled her butt, and just like that he went rock hard. Oh my, she couldn’t help but grin because that was all it took, and after nearly eight years of marriage, how wonderful was that?

“You just purred like a contented kitten,” Nico growled in her ear.

His hands slid up and over her waist to cup and play with her breasts.

Her naked breasts.

She blinked, and opened her eyes.

Through the closed curtains, she saw a chink of daylight.

She blinked again, and her eyes went wide.

Omigod.

In a single leap, she was out of bed and raced to fling open the curtains to find frost on the grass and a frail sun filtering through low cloud.

She spun to face her husband. “What time is it?” she demanded.

Nico reached out to grab his cell from the bedside cabinet.

He groaned. “Dio, it is eight-thirty.”

Bronte screeched so loud he winced.

“Eight-thirty? It can’t be eight-thirty.” She made a move for the door and stopped dead. “Omigod. I’m naked. How the hell am I naked?” Then her eyes grew like saucers. She spun to the love of her life and beaned him with a dark look. “Did you make love to me last night?”

Settling himself comfortably against fat pillows, and enjoying the sight of his wife—naked—scrambling on the floor to find her thermal boy-short panties in black cotton and matching long sleeved top, Nico scratched his jaw. “Si. You had a bad dream. I gave you a hug.” He shrugged. “You know how it is with us.”

Her head popped through the top, and furious emerald eyes held his. “I know how it is with you!” She ran her hands through her blonde hair and tied it in a messy top knot with the hair-tie on her wrist, then she tugged on yoga pants, then rushed to her closet and thrust her bare feet into ankle Uggs. “Omigod, this is a disaster. I slept in because we had sex. On a Thursday. We never have sex on a Thursday. What the hell were you thinking?”

Nico thought about that statement, scratched his flat belly and realized she was quite right about no sex on a Thursday. His brows met. How on earth had it come to this?

“Now I’m late and the kids are late for school. Omigod, the kids are NEVER late for school. We’ll probably receive a warning letter from the headmaster. My whole day is ruined. I have a routine. You know I have a routine.” She headed for the door and turned to him. “WHY the hell did you touch me?”

“You had a bad dream, don’t you remember?”

Her hand on the door knob, she thought about it. “I had a weird dream. Really weird.”

“You can tell me all about it later,” he said, and slid the screen on his cell phone to call his office. His wife was not the only person who was late. On the other hand, he wasn’t panicking over nothing.

He called his PA, Julie, and then had a word with Alexander Ludlow. An Alexander who laughed out loud at the fact that his best friend and business partner had, for the first time in his life, slept in. Alexander also imparted a vital piece of information that made Nico grin like a fool.

“Omigod! Nico—I can’t find the kids!!!!”

The sound of his wife racing down the stairs had him ease himself out of bed to grab his Calvins, tossed on the floor before he’d got down to business with Bronte in the middle of the night. He wandered into the en-suite bathroom to do his business, brushed his teeth and then dressed in sweat pants and one of the ratty T-shirts he loved.

When he strolled into the kitchen/family/living space, he found Bronte slumped over a kitchen table that looked as if a starving hoard had laid waste to the larder. She was reading a note, and appeared utterly bewildered. “Can you believe this? Tonio realized we’d slept in. The kids got dressed, got their own breakfast, and then called Rosie and Alexander. My brother took them to school and Rosie has Eve for the day and has organized the pastry chefs at Sweet Sensations to take over my work for the day.”

Since Nico knew all this already, he said nothing and began loading the dishwasher with dirty dishes, cutlery, and empty glasses. With an efficiency that impressed his stunned wife, he switched on the kettle and then cleared the empty cereal packets, orange juice and milk cartons from the table. By the time he’d wiped the table clean and placed a cup of coffee in front of her, she still looked a little shell-shocked.

“Did you check Tonio’s maths homework?” she demanded.

Kicking back in his chair and enjoying his first coffee of the day, he thought about it for a minute, then shook his head.

She groaned. “Neither did I. And who made sure Luca wore clean socks, and helped him tie his shoelaces? Tell me that!”

Nico, dark eyes twinkling, eyed his wife’s pissy face. “He probably did them himself, his technique is improving.”

She groaned again. “God, knowing him, he’s probably wearing yesterday’s underpants.”

“It will not do him any harm, cara,” he said, the melody of Italy a deep rumble in his chest.

Her emerald eyes fired. “Do not turn the Italian charm on me, Nico Ferranti. How the hell can this have happened?”

Again he shrugged. “We have busy lives. We were obviously tired after a disturbed night. Alexander has everything in hand at Ludlow Hall, therefore my attendance is not needed. You and I, cara mia, are going to play hookey today.”

Her eyes narrowed. “Are we indeed? And who disturbed my sleep, that’s what I want to know.”

“You woke me, remember? What was your dream?”

She settled back in her chair, and eyed him over her coffee cup. “It was weird. Really weird.”

When she flushed scarlett, he grew intrigued, because that was a guilty face if ever he saw one. “Hmm. A dirty dream?”

“Actually, I dreamed of a lover… and he, well…”

He had to laugh. “Ah, what did I do to you?”

She cleared her throat. “Actually, it wasn’t you.”

Nico inhaled his coffee.

By the time he’d caught his breath and wiped streaming eyes, the love of his life was watching him with an extremely wicked glint in her eye.

“Very funny,” he said.

Her brows rose. “Wow, arrogant much? It wasn’t you.”

He sat up straight.

Appalled, he growled, “Who is he?”

She blinked at the spark in his eyes and clear aggression in his tone. “Who the hell do I know? It was a dream.”

“A person does not dream of someone she has not met.”

She bit her lip as, clearly fascinated with his reaction, she studied his face. “You’re being totally ridiculous. You know that, don’t you?”

“All I know is that my wife had dream sex with another man. You have cheated on me.”

For a split second her jaw dropped, and then she roared with laughter so hard, she had to hug herself. “Oh, God. I cannot wait to tell Rosie…”

He made a face, and refilled his cup from the pot. “I have never dreamed of any woman except you since we met,” he said in a brusque tone.

Her jaw dropped. “Phooey, you big liar!”

His chin lifted. “This is true. I dream of only one woman, and that is you. It has been this way since I met you.”

She rested her elbows on the table, her chin on the palms of her hands, and studied him with great interest. “Really?”

“Really.”

“Aww, how lovely.”

Si. I am both loyal and faithful, even in my dreams.”

She bit down hard on her bottom lip, but her eyes danced with mirth. “I’m sorry I cheated on you with dream sex with a perfect stranger.”

“What did he look like?”

She shook her head. “I have no idea. I was in the throes of passion…”

“Ah, that was why you were whimpering in your sleep.”

“Was I?”

He shot her a dark look. “You were, loudly, as I recall.”

“All I remember was his…”

Nico’s brows flew into his hairline. “His?—”

Again she bit down hard on her bottom lip. “Love muscle,” she whispered, and couldn’t quite stifle a giggle.

Silence.

For an endless moment, he considered her lovely face. A face all flushed with embarrassment and a laughter that melted his heart. Then a thought occurred to him.

“If you cannot remember what he looked like, but how he FELT inside you made you whimper, it is clear to me you were dreaming of me. Who else makes you whimper, tell me that?”

Studying the ceiling as she thought about it, his wife eventually gave a nod. “You could be right.”

He smiled, most relieved to have jumped that hurdle. “And who,” he asked in a good-humoured tone, “made you call my name three times in the middle of the night? That would be me, cara mia.”

“Three times?”

He shrugged. “Si. I heard you cry, Nico, Nico, Nico, at the pivotal moment. I counted.”

She placed her empty coffee cup on the glass topped table with a distinct click. “THREE TIMES?”

Now what had upset her about that?

He was a gentleman.

A gentleman always made sure the lady comes first.

“I take my husbandly duties seriously,” he drawled, absolutely thrilled at the way her eyes were shot with molten heat and her smooth cheeks flushed.

“No wonder I was exhausted this morning! You’re insatiable!”

“When it comes to you, cara mia, I can never get enough.”

“Okay. So what are we going to do today?”

His response was to get to his feet, move around the table, scoop her up in his arms and head for the stairs.

“Guess.”

She folded her arms and stared straight ahead as he marched up the stairs and into their bedroom. He kicked the door shut.

When he tossed her on their bed, she scrambled to her knees. “We are not spending the whole day in bed,” she informed him in a tone that meant business.

But, as Nico stripped to his skin, he caught the way her eyes went all hazy with that mix of lust and love he adored so much.

“We will have a duvet day.”

Then he set to work to get her naked with an efficiency that made her laugh a little breathless.

“We can’t Nico. Nico—really, Nico!!”

 

Much later……..

Her cheeks hot, her bones liquid, Bronte lay naked on her back in her bed and stared at the ceiling. Somehow they’d lost the duvet, the pillows and the sheets. “Wow,” she whispered with what sounded like awe and wonder.

Sprawled on his belly, Nico’s heart was racing so fast, he wondered if he was going to have a heart attack. “That was… something else.”

“We’ll never be able to better that,” she said.

He turned his head, and had to laugh at her shocked face.

Hell, he was a little shocked himself.

Cara mia,” he drawled in a voice as smooth as silk. “How quickly you forget. Me, I am Italian!”

FINE!

Ahh, a sexy sneak peek. Whatever will Sophia say….. Stay tuned for part two….

 

 

SOPHIA’S NOT WEARING A HAPPY FACE…

 

Nico Ferranti scratched the scruff on a chin that hadn’t seen a razor today. No time. Hehehe. He was dressed in his favorite jeans, worn white at the seams, a black long-sleeved thermal beneath a duck down vest, his feet nice and toasty in thick socks inside black boots, the leather nicely broken in. He’s driving his big shiny black Range Rover. Since it was all his fault the love of his life had slept-in this morning—for the first time in her life, hehehe—as punishment, he’s on daddy duty and doing the school run. He’s picked up Tonio, Luca, Sophia and her friend Emily. It’s Friday and Emily’s having a sleep-over.

Even though frost had turned the fields into a winter wonderland and dusk was fast approaching, all is sunshine and roses in Nico Ferranti’s world. He’s living in a happy bubble of an afterglow of hot, make that HOT, luv’in. He heaved a happy sigh, and hummed a happy tune. So what if he and Bronte had overslept? What was the big panic? They hadn’t broken any laws, had they? After all, didn’t they deserve a duvet day once, maybe twice—if he was lucky, a year? It wasn’t as if the world as they knew it had ended. Their children had shown a resilience that gladdened his heart in the way they had got themselves dressed, made their own breakfast and telephoned auntie Rosie to collect baby Eve, and asked Alexander to drive them to school. An Alexander who had thoroughly enjoyed the experience, if his unholy glee over the telephone was anything to go by. Hell, Nico would do the same himself for his best pal.

Nico smiled again at the memory of the way Bronte cuddled their baby girl close before he’d left The Dower House for the school run. Then the smiled slipped a little at another memory, of the way Rosie had grinned cheekily at him, her brown eyes dancing with an impudence and suppressed laughter that had made his own cheeks burn. Little devil. There was no point in asking Alexander to control his wife, because the man adored the ground the woman walked on. Nico lifted a shoulder. He could hardly blame the man when he himself adored the ground his own wife walked on. Ah, yes. He and Alexander Ludlow were lucky, lucky men.

Still humming, it occurred to him that the children were quiet. Too quiet. He glanced over to Tonio to find the boy watching him like a hawk, his dark brows raised in a silent question.

“What?” asked Nico.

Tonio might be nine (nearly ten) years old, but he had what Bronte called, the Ferranti stare. Unblinking. Hard. Unforgiving.

“What!?” asked Nico, this time returning the stare in full measure, and keeping one eye on the road.

“You are a disgrace,” said Tonio, as if he was the parent talking to an errant child.

Nico blinked.

But, before he could open his mouth…

“Yup. You and mama were up to a bit of monkey-business,” said Sophia. And Nico bet he knew where his six year old daughter had got that phrase from—auntie bloody Rosie.

“My mummy and daddy,” said Emily in her high, breathy voice, “Call it hanky-panky. They think I don’t know what it means, but I do know…”

“Hanky-panky?” Luca’s dark head swung around as he stared with wide-eyed wonder at an Emily who was sitting between the twins in the middle of the back seat, like a good little angel, as if butter wouldn’t melt in her sweet little mouth. “What does that mean?”

Sophia sniffed. “It meeeeeans,” she said in a tone which made it clear she thought her twin was as thick as a plank. “—that mama and papa were having lots of rumpy-pumpy.”

A bewildered Luca stared unblinking at his sister, then he scowled. “Never heard of it.”

Nico’s pulse beat too fast in his throat.

And Tonio’s choked laugh did not help one iota.

Dio mio.

He swore he would NEVER, ever, pick the children again.

“Stoooopid, boy,” said Sophia.

Luca’s dark eyes fired. “I am NOT stupid. You are not allowed to call anyone stupid. It is very rude. YOU are very rude. In fact, YOU are horrible. I hate you.”

With a very bad feeling in his belly, Nico watched the scene unfold in the rear view mirror, and saw his daughter roll her eyes to heaven. “It means, thicko,” said Sophia—using a word that made her papa’s hand itch to spank her bottom. “That they were fooling around.”

Luca blinked, then his eyes went wide. “You mean they were playing?”

“My daddy calls it a bit of slap and tickle. I know what that means as well,” said Emily, as if her parents were just too stupid to live.

Again, Luca stared in awe and wonder at Emily. “Your daddy hit your mummy?”

Emily’s riot of red curls danced as she shook her head. “Nooooooo. He also calls it, nudge nudge wink wink. I know what that means, too.”

Luca made a face. “I think your family are a bunch of weirdos.”

“For heaven’s sake, Dumbo!” yelled Sophia, clearly at the end of her tether. “They’re talking about SEX!”

Luca’s jaw dropped. “You’re not allowed to say that word, Sophia Ferranti. I’m telling mama.”

Meanwhile, Tonio was laughing so hard in the front seat, he had to stuff the hem of his woollen sweater in his mouth.

“Sophia, (sounded like Sopheeeeeeeaaaa)” said Nico in a soft and silky voice. A voice his daughter knew well.

In the back seat, her cheeks all flushed with temper, his not-sorry daughter caught his eye in the mirror and beaned him with a black look. “Okay, then. You and mama were having high jinks. Is that better?”

“Oh, my goodness,” gasped Tonio, tears running down his hot cheeks. “You English—the language, it is insane.”

Determinedly ignoring the mounting verbal abuse being flung between the twins in the back seat, Nico heaved a heavy sigh and caught Tonio’s eye.

He couldn’t help but respond to the glee dancing there.

He swung the car through the gates of The Dower House, and thanked God he was home.

Si. I thank God I am Italian.”

 

FINE!

 

Why two this week you ask? I was sick and had guests the week before, which threw out my routine, and although I posted the peeks on my author Facebook page – I totally forgot to post it here. I know… terrible.

Going forward, since Fridays are super-busy around here, the Sneak Peeks will be posted during the weekends.

Big hugs,

Christine X

p.s. I have NO RULES pre-order coming soon. Between my illness and my editorial team affected by hurricanes everything went all to hell. Stay tuned!

 

Why mummy needs wine…. It’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peek…

!

Boy, am I glad it’s Friday!!!

Here’s this weeks Sneak Peek with the Ferranti family…

WHY MUMMY NEEDS WINE

The Dower House. It’s the night before, the night before, All Hallows Eve and it has been a looooong weekend in the Ferranti household…

Dressed in their cosy clothes, ancient jeans and T-shirt for him and yoga pants and one of her husband’s sweatshirts for her, a shattered Nico and Bronte are lounging on the sofa in the family room. The lights are out. The room lit by flickering beeswax candles and a glow from the log burner. Nico’s stroking the arch of Bronte’s bare foot. He took a sip from a glass of Chianti, closed his eyes and rested his weary head on the back of the sofa.

Enjoying a sip, the first of many, of a sparkling Prosecco, his wife sighed. “Hmm, that feels so good,” Bronte wiggled her toes. “That was one helluva day.”

Si,” he said, his deep voice rumbling in his chest. “I am ashamed to say I found it hard to find the love for my children today.”

“Nightmare,” she agreed. Quiet and peace reigned, for about five seconds. Her foot nudged his six pack. “Who was it that decided that Elsa and Spiderman are suitable characters for a Halloween party? Who? Back in what Sophia told me were ‘the olden days’ we were witches and ghosts and ghouls – it was all about scaring the bejeesus out of ourselves—AND we made our own costumes. Did you SEE how entire families got into the spirit of the thing at the party? Every single one of the Henderson family were dressed as Power Rangers – even the baby! WTH is wrong with these people. We were the only mummy and daddy who hadn’t made an effort. I could have cried at the bitter disappointment on Luca’s little face when he saw everyone. And then there were the boring Ferrantis…”

Nico opened one eye to study her face. “Do not ask me to do it, cara mia. I will never dress up as a Power Ranger. Mr. Henderson’s outfit left nothing to the imagination.”

Bronte’s snort of hilarity made his mouth twitch. “That’s the trouble with tight lycra,” she said. “He should have worn underpants.”

“Or rearranged his junk,” Nico muttered. “And the way Rosie and Janine couldn’t stop ogling him, like a pair of cackling harpies…”

Bronte laughed. “I didn’t know where to look. What was he thinking?”

“That he enjoyed it,” Nico growled. “It clearly aroused him.”

“And in front of all those children too.”

“The children were so high on sugar and excitement they were non the wiser, thank goodness. I thought the evil clowns were a nice touch,” he said, referring to part of the entertainment.

“Ugh. They were horrible. I’ve never been fond of clowns.”

“They did not scare Sophia.”

Bronte nodded. “Not a lot scares Sophia. Certainly these days I don’t appear to put the fear of God into her.”

“She is growing up fast.”

“Too fast,” she nodded. “She wanted me to carve a picture of Elsa on her pumpkin. Who the hell does she think I am, Damien Hirst? Then she had the cheek to ask, ‘why can’t we grow a pumpkin patch in our garden – it’s not as if we don’t have enough room.’ I told her that I have more than enough to do, thank you very much. Then Rosie and I spent four hours screeching at them to be careful and that knives are sharp while they carved their supermarket pumpkins. Never mind the mess, my heart was in my throat the whole time.”

“You are the best mama,” he told her and dropped a kiss on her big toe.

“I am not. I do my best, that’s all any of us can do.” She sipped her wine, settled back and frowned. “I blame the internet. Have you seen some of those Instagram Halloween pics? The kids see all that stuff and expect me to be able to do it, too. I can make cakes, but don’t ask me to make a spider’s web. Luca told me to my face he’s bitterly disappointed at my lack of imagination.”

“We should dress up and surprise them for Halloween,” Nico muttered, thinking out loud.

Bronte nudged his six pack again, this time harder. “Should we indeed? We have forty eight hours to come up with a plan. What do you suggest?”

Nico placed his glass on the coffee table and grabbed his Smartphone. “I am thinking we should have a theme.”

“The boys are Spidermen and the girls are Elsas. How are you going to combine those tropes intoa theme?”

Nico scrolled through the internet. “Our children have no imagination. We will amaze them.”

Bronte shifted to lift her bottle from the cooler and refill her glass.

She sat back and closed her eyes. “Good luck with that. You’ll need a miracle to pull something out of the bag in forty eight hours.”

“I have a team,” he said.

“That’s cheating.”

He plucked the glass out of her hand, placed it on the table, and then lay on top of her.

Bronte, watching him from beneath her lashes, ran her fingers through his hair, her nails gently scraping his scalp.

He closed his eyes and almost purred with the pleasure of it.

When her legs wrapped around his waist, he settled into the cradle of her pelvis and went rock hard.

His hands busy beneath her sweatshirt, her breath hitched as he found warm and willing flesh. He looked down at the face of the woman he adored. The mother of his children. The keeper of his heart, a heart that seemed to expand in his chest.

His mouth whispered over hers. “Ti amo, Bronte.”

The way her teeth caught his bottom lip and gently tugged made him groan deep in his throat. “Love you, too.”

Their kiss, like their lovemaking, was slow and easy and lovely.

And Nico Ferranti knew he was a lucky man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forty eight hours later…

 

“I don’t understand why we can’t get ready for trick or treat at our house,” a belligerent Spiderman (aka Luca Ferranti) said to Batgirl (aka Auntie Rosie.)

Batgirl is dressed to match Batman (aka Uncle Alexander who’s dressed in black rubber and posing in the mirror and showing off his guns, much to the hilarity of his niece.)

“Beeeeeecause,” Batgirl said, as she tugged the final piece of his costume over his head, “The Dower House is the last stop on our trip to gather goodies, and your mummy has organised surprise treats for everyone.”

“I hope there are toffee apples,” Sophia said through stiff lips as Auntie Janine told her to keep still as she perfected drawing cat whiskers on her face.

Batgirl turned to grin at her niece. “You look totally awesome, baby cat girl. Much better than boring old Elsa.”

Elsa’s not boring,” Cat girl cried, then spun to the mirror to check out her outfit. Her emerald eyes popped. “Wow! I look just like black cat.” She turned to check out her fake fur leggings and top. She shook her booty to twitch her ‘tail’.

Auntie Janine handed Cat girl sheepskin mittens, which matched her sheepskin ankle boots. Then she popped a black hair band with cat ears on her blonde head.

Captain America (aka Tonio Ferranti) posed in the mirror with his uncle. “I love the skeletons climbing up wall of the house. They’re awesome.”

“It took a full crew and a cherry picker from Ludlow Hall’s maintenance department two hours to fix them to the barn wall,” Batman said. “With Batgirl directing proceedings and distracting them.”

Batgirl batted her lashes at him. “Aw, they were such good sports.”

“They were drooling over your legs,” he said severely.

Since her role for the evening was baby-sitting duty for Boo and Mila, Janine grabbed her cell phone and opened the camera. “Okay everyone, gather together. That’s it— and say cheeeeeeese!” Once she’d taken a few pics, she opened the main door and had to laugh at their antics as they trooped out to a people carrier with blacked out windows, usually used by Ludlow Hall to pick up guests from the airport. She waved them away, shut the door and studied the detritus they’d left behind.

“Okay. A quick tidy, and then a glass of wine.”

 

 

Two hours later…..

“If you eat another chocolate you’ll be sick, Luca,” Batgirl told Spiderman.

“I’m hungry.”

“Well, if you just wait, you’ll be home in a couple of minutes.”

On their way through the town of Old Ludlow, the people carrier had collected Super girl (aka Sophia’s best friend, Emily.) Now, as the car purred up the driveway of The Dower House, Super girl’s jaw dropped. “Oh, my. Look at the house!”

The house was lit up by up lights set in the grounds. Ivy climbed over the walls and around the chimney pots, and it looked as if a jungle had sprung up around the ground floor and front door.

The car stopped and everyone piled out, the children lugging goodie bags laden with candy.

Cat girl’s eyes went wide as she studied her home. “What’s happened?”

The door flew open and there stood a very fat bellied Baloo (aka, papa) and a sexy Shere Khan (aka mama) holding an incredibly life like baby monkey (aka baby Eva).

Baloo was giving his back a thorough rub on the door frame. “Welcome, welcome one and all to my jungle home.”

Mouths open, eyes wide, the guests wandered into a world of make believe to the sound of the music from The Jungle Book.

Batgirl, Wonder woman and Cat girl couldn’t stop laughing at the way Baloo scratched his huge belly and waddled into the family room. The Jungle Book movie played on the huge flat screen on the wall, while Shere Khan explained to a confused looking Captain America what apple bobbing meant.

 

Much later…

Baloo kissed four exhausted children goodnight (Wonder woman was having a sleep over), and made his way downstairs to his remaining guests.

“Well, all the hard work payed off,” Batgirl said to Baloo. “When he saw you, Luca laughed so hard I thought he was going to throw up. I dunno what I was expecting, but I was certain you’d dress up as a super-hero.”

Baloo grabbed Shere Khan and smacked a hot kiss on her mouth. “We wanted them to go to bed laughing and happy.”

“Yup. Job done,” Shere Khan said as she rubbed Baloo’s belly. “Luca’s gotta a big imagination. At the moment he has a thing about the dark and the creature lurking under his bed. His feet must be tucked in nice and tight beneath the duvet. And Sophia and Emily put on a brave face, but they’re easily spooked too.”

Baloo lounged on the love seat, accepted a beer from Batgirl, and checked out a very relaxed and chilled-out Batman.

“What on earth is that at your crotch?” he asked the caped crusader.

Batman grinned. “A cod piece.”

Baloo blinked. “It looks out of proportion to me.”

“He’s gotta a big, hot, love muscle,” Batgirl said, and received a scorching kiss from Batman as a reward.

“Puleeeeeeze,” Shere Khan begged. “Too much information, that’s my brother you’re talking about.”

“Aw, feeling a little bit intimidated, Baloo?” Batman jeered.

Baloo wiggled his brows. “You have fathered one child, whereas I have fathered three. I am most potent. I am Italian!”

Shere Khan rolled her eyes. “Gawd, dial down all the testosterone, someone pass me the wine!”

 

FINE

I hope everyone had a fun Halloween. In the UK, we’re gearing up for Bonfire night on Sunday (although some people have been lighting fireworks for days).

I’m slowly getting back into writing life, thank goodness, and trying to decipher all my written notes on a variety of projects.

Big hugs,

Christine X

 

#sneakpeek #LudlowHallRomance #TheFerrantiFamily #funstuff #bites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who else wants part two of last Friday’s Sneak Peek? You do? Read on….

grab a coffee - it's time for the Ludlow Hall Sneak Peek!

Happy Friday!

PART TWO

 

This story is the continuation from last weeks Ludlow Hall Sneak Peek…..

The Dower House, later in the morning…

Bronte was relieved to see that the arrival of Sophia’s best friend, Emily, her mother Grace, and Emily’s Bichon Frise, Bubblegum, appeared to lift Sophia’s spirits. As had the entrance of Auntie Rosie, Uncle Alexander and baby Mila. It seemed the mummys were about to spend an afternoon of sheer indulgence at the Ferranti Hotel and Spa. Nico and Alexander were in charge of the children, and looking forward to what promised to be a cracking game of soccer between an Italian team and ‘City.’

Bronte picked up a bag of scarlet leather the size of a small town and shoved it on her shoulder. She turned to cast a severe eye upon her husband and her brother. “You know where I am if you need me. Try and keep your ear open for the babies when they wake.”

Nico sent her a slow, sexy smile and waved her away. “Go and enjoy yourselves. Between the two of us and Tonio nothing can go wrong,” he said.”

As she guided them out to the door and down the path to her car, Bronte muttered to her companions, “Famous last words.”

Grace, her auburn curls bouncing on her shoulders and her blue eyes dancing, said, “God, I love Nico’s voice and the way his Italian accent rumbles in his chest.”

When Bronte just laughed, Rosie dug Grace sharply in the ribs. “You’ve been too long without your man. When’s he home?”

“A week today. We’ve missed him. It’s not the same talking everyday on Skype.”

They piled into Bronte’s shiny black Range Rover. As the car sped it’s way through the winding country road, Rosie relaxed in the back seat and wiggled her toes inside her black UGG ankle boots. “I’ve been waiting for this treat for weeks.” She tugged the neck of her T-shirt to check out her girls, and made a face. “Mila’s gobbled up my boobs. I actually had a C cup for about three months.”

Bronte swung the car through the sandstone gates of Ludlow Hall. The car purred up the long winding drive. “You’re lucky. I never had boobs to begin with.”

Grace, studying a glossy leaflet from the Ferranti beauty spa, piped up, “It says here that they offer ‘Breacials’ or breast facials.”

Rose laughed. “Wow, facials for our ta-tas whatever next.”

As Bronte parked the car, Grace continued, “It’s a massage of the breast tissue and surrounding areas, often used in conjunction with lotions, masks, and oils. After a few sessions you can expect perkier breasts (although they won’t make the girls bigger)…”

“Typical,” Rosie muttered as she climbed out.

“However,” Grace added, joining her, “It also says they do deliver glowing skin, may help drain lymphatic fluid and ease pain or tenderness from regular hormonal changes.”

“Sounds kooky to me,” Bronte said as she locked the car, hefted her bag and joined her besties as they made their way up the steps and into Ludlow Hall.

Still reading, Grace said, “Apparently a medical expert in dermatology, cosmetic, and laser surgery says, ‘Draining the lymphatic system helps maintain a balanced body and when applies to breasts, can help with discomfort and increase breast health.'”

“I might just try it,” Rosie said.

“I will if you will,” Grace said.

“How about you?” Rosie turned to Bronte.

“Nah. I have Nico. He keeps my girls pretty perky.”

Meanwhile, back at The Dower House…

In her pink bedroom, Jimmy Chew and Bubblegum were lying on the rug and braving the ministrations of two little girls tying bows between their ears to keep their fur out of their eyes. And Miss Sophia was having a serious talk with Emily…

“I told mama and papa I don’t wanna go and live in Italy.”

Emily’s little face fell and big blue eyes welled up with emotion. “I don’t want you to go to Italy either,” she whispered in her high, breathy voice.

Sophia nodded. “I told them you would be upset.” She waved the brush in the air. “We’re like sistas, like mama and Auntie Rosie.”

Emily sniffed heroically. “We’re besties.”

Sophia nodded, her face fierce. “Yup. And I’m not going to stupid Italy to learn stupid Italian. Papa and Tonio can teach us all the Italian we need.”

Speaking of the Devil, Tonio popped his dark head around the door, his dark eyes twinkling. He opened his mouth and then closed it when he spotted the girls’ handiwork. “Dio mio. You cannot have pink ribbons on boy dogs!”

Sophia sent him a dark look. “They need a trim because they can hardly see. I’d do it myself but mama told me never to touch scissors.”

Tonio entered.

“No wonder,” he said. “The last time you had a pair of scissors, you cut mama’s ponytail and got into Big Trouble.” He wore soft blue jeans, worn at the seams and a replica shirt of his favourite Italian soccer team.

Stung, Sophia fired up. “It was an accident.”

Cheeks pink, in her breathy voice Emily intervened to tell him he’d lost a sock.

Shooting her a grin that caught the little girl’s breath, Tonio tugged off his sock and shoved it in the pocket of his jeans. The way he wiggled his toes and made her laugh.

Hugging Bubblegum to her chest, Emily gazed up adoringly into his face and missed the way Sophia rolled her eyes.

“I can stand on my head,” Tonio told them, and put the words into action.

And of course, the girls had to show him they could stand on their head, too.

By the time they’d finished falling over, their peals of breathless laughter had brought Sophia’s twin Luca into the room to see what all the fuss was about, along with a warning. “You’d better keep it quiet or you’ll wake the babies.”

Tonio nodded. “Si. The game is about to start are you watching it with us?” he asked the girls. Their expression of utter horror made him curl his lip.

“Girls” Luca muttered.

After the boys had left, with Jimmy Chew and Bubblegum hot on their heels, Sophia heaved a deep sigh.

“I forgot!” Emily cried. She spun around to grab her favourite bag—one of Grace’s old handbags—and rummaged around. She held up an item. “Mummy bought me this! It’s a magnifying glass!”

Sophia’s emerald eyes popped. “Wow.”

The next five minutes were spent searching out cool stuff to magnify.

When Emily peered through glass to Sophia’s skin, she muttered, “You have fuzzy chin hair. It’s white.”

Sophia stroked her chin, her eyes wide. “Do I?”

Emily handed her the glass. “Do I have a hairy chin?”

Sophia studied Emily’s chin through the glass. “A little bit. It’s white, too.”

She scrambled to her feet and studied her chin in her dressing table mirror. “I can’t see it here.” Then she spun around. “But, there’s a magnifying mirror in mama and papa’s bathroom.”

She grabbed a white plastic stool and led the way through her parents bedroom and into their huge bathroom. In front of one of the built in sinks, she stepped on the stool and checked out her chin on the extendable mirror. “Oh, yeah. I can see the hair.”

She jumped down and while Emily checked out her own chin, Sophia rummaged around the built in cupboards beneath the creamy marble worktop, and emerged with a can of shaving foam and her papa’s razor.

Emily’s blue eyes went like saucers. “What are you doing?”

Sophia gave her a look that told her she’d just asked a dumb question. “I’m going to shave it off.”

Emily shook her head. “Uh-huh. Nope. My mummy says razors are dangerous to little children.”

“Pooh!” said her sista.

A sista who proceeded to shake the can like a maraca, then pressed the button and a huge blob of shaving foam landed on the counter top. Sophia scooped up the foam in both hands and smeared it over her chin. She turned to a grinning Emily. “I look like Santa Claus!”

But when Sophia picked up the blade, the grin slid from Emily’s little face. “No, Sophia. Don’t do it.”

“Pooh!” However, once she’d made a couple of strokes without disaster, she gained confidence and studied the clean part of her chin in the magnifying mirror. “The fuzz has gone. This is sooooo cooooool.”

She tipped up her chin and tried to copy how her papa shaved his face that very morning. When the shaving foam turned bloody, Sophia dropped the razor, grabbed one of the pristine white cotton towels and pressed it to her face.

“Omigod,” Emily whispered, her freckles dotted like constellations on her white face.

Her legs like jelly, Sophia sat on the white plastic stool, and when she checked out the towel and found it bloody, her eyes rolled back in head and she fainted clean away.

Chanting, “Omigod. Omigod. Omigod.” Emily raced out of the room, down the stairs, through the hall and into the kitchen/dining/living space.

Nico and company, thoroughly enjoying the game, took one look at Emily’s face and muted the flat screen TV on the wall.

“What is it?”

Emily danced a jig in front of him. “She’s bleeding. She’s bleeding. Quick. Quick. Quick.” Then she raced out of the room with Nico, Alexander, Tonio and Luca on her heels.

His heart pounding, his ears buzzing, Nico took in the scene and dropped to his knees in the bathroom and scooped up his baby girl. “Dio, what on earth was she doing?”

“Shaving her beard,” Emily sobbed from the safety of her perch on Alexander’s lap.

Tonio stared at her as if she was crazy. “Girls don’t have beards!”

Dabbing Sophia’s pale and bloody face with hands that weren’t quite steady, Nico was relieved to see the damage was not as bad as it looked. Like Luca, Sophia was not good with blood. He pressed the towel to the wound.

“Does it need stitches?” Alexander asked, then rocked Emily when his question had her wail for her mummy at the top of her voice.

Nico shook his head and lifted the towel to get a better look. “No. However, she has removed a thin layer of skin.”

“Jeez, we can’t turn our back on them for five f… frigging minutes,” Alexander said. “It’s okay. It’s okay, Emily. She’ll be fine. Look, she’s coming round.”

Sure enough, Sophia’s eyelids fluttered madly and then cleared and spotted her papa.

Her emerald eyes filled.

“You are going to be fine,” Nico told her in a rough voice. “Once the bleeding stops, we will put a plaster on your chin.”

“A Frozen plaster?” Sophia asked.

Nico took a deep breath, there was no use in yelling at his child. She’d been frightened enough. “Si. A Frozen plaster.”

By the time he had attended to his daughter, and cleaned the bathroom, Nico reckoned he had earned a Peroni. A large one.

Later, when Bronte and her friends returned to The Dower House, she walked into a scene of peace and tranquillity. Unusually, the room was immaculate. The flat screen was playing the end credits of the movie Frozen, which was nothing new except that the boys and men lined up on the sofa looked a bit glassy-eyed, as if shell-shocked. Nico and Alexander nursed their sleeping baby girls. On a fat love seat of lilac velvet and matching footstool, Sophia and Emily were tucked in together beneath a blanket. Emily had her arm around Sophia and the dogs dozed on the rug.

Bronte frowned at Nico. “Okay. What’s going on?”

He slid a guilty look at his wife and cleared his throat. “Um… we had a small drama. But, everything is fine.”

Sophia turned.

When she spotted the large plaster on Sophia’s chin. A plaster featuring Elsa, the heroine of Frozen blowing a kiss, Bronte’s brows flew into her hairline. “What on earth happened to you?”

“I had an accident in the bathroom.”

“There was blood everywhere,” Luca told his mama. Then he tossed his sister under the bus. “And Sophia fainted.”

Bronte opened her mouth, but Tonio jumped in with, “She was shaving her beard and shaved her skin off instead.”

What?!”

Nico nodded. “Si. With my razor.”

By the time Bronte had checked out her daughter, Rosie shook her head as she cuddled Mila. “Honestly, Sophia Ferranti, what are you going to do next?”

“That’s it,” Bronte said, her eyes burning. “We need to put a lock on our bedroom door.”

Rosie made a face. “Might not be a good idea, knowing them they’ll get hold of the key and probably lock themselves inside and you’d have to break down the door or worse.”

“I think,” Nico said, his deep voice no more than a growl. “She had learned her lesson. She was a brave girl.”

Eyes too bright, Sophia lifted her sore chin. “I didn’t cry. I am Italian!”

 

FINA

Until next time, keep your chin up!

Hehehe.

Hugs,

Christine X