SAVE ALL YOUR KISSES FOR ME…

 

SAVEALLYOURKISSESFORME

Greetings!

Here’s this week’s (belated) Sneak Peek.

Enjoy!

The Dower House, and Sophia is out of hospital and reeeeeeelaxing in her pj’s and all cozy under a fleece blanket on the sofa in the family room and being spoiled rotten by her papa and her baby sister, Eve. Aww…

Sophia studied all the lipstick kisses on the plaster cast on her broken arm. It didn’t hurt now, although big bump on her head sometimes ached. She counted the kisses… mama, papa, Auntie Rosie and Uncle Alexander, which made four. The sound of a car on the gravel driveway had Jimmy Chew sit and cock his head to listen. Car doors banged and the sound of footsteps running had Sophia eye the door to the boot room. First through the door was Tonio who skidded to a halt in socked feet in front of her. He had mud on his knees and his school tie was wonky.

Tonio’s dark eyes went huge as he studied her face. “Dio, you have two black eyes.” And then he spotted the pink plaster on her arm. “Does it hurt?”

Sophia shook her head. “Nope.”

Since Jimmy Chew was begging for attention, he lifted him for a hug, and sat next to Sophia. Next through the door was Luca and Sophia’s best friend, Emily. An Emily who stopped dead and her face went pale as she stared at her in absolute horror, and then promptly burst into tears.

“What’s the matter, Emily?” Bronte asked as she walked through the door, closely followed by Emily’s mummy, Grace.

“Sophia’s hurt really bad and I don’t like it,” poor Emily sobbed.

And just like that, Luca—always a sensitive soul—burst into tears as well.

Nico bit his lip and sent his wife big eyes.

Meanwhile, Grace hugged her daughter and checked out Sophia at the same time.

“You’re a poor injured soldier, you have been in the wars haven’t you?”

Sophia wasn’t sure what that meant, but she shook her head. “I wasn’t fighting. I fell down the stairs.”

“You were in time-out,” Tonio reminded her, ever helpful.

Luca, feeling better after his papa had gently scrubbed his knuckles on his head, nodded. “Yes, because you were naughty.”

Sophia made a face. “I can be a little bit—naughty, but—good naughty.”

Nico’s dark brows rose. “Good naughty? That’s a new one.”

Emily, feeling better after a hug, wandered over to closely inspect the injured soldier.

“Your eyes are swollen and red and black. Does it hurt?”

“My head hurts a little bit, that’s why I have to have quiet and plenty of rest,” Sophia said, channelling the doctor at the hospital.

Emily squeezed herself between Sophia and Tonio and gently touched a finger to the pink plaster cast. “This just breaks my little heart,” she whispered.

“A cuddle makes your heart bigger,” Sophia told Emily perfectly seriously.

“Aw, that’s a lovely thing to say,” Grace said, and dropped a kiss on Sophia and Emily’s cheek for good measure.

“Yup. The pair of them would bring a tear to a glass eye,” Bronte said from her position behind the counter-top in the kitchen. “Who wants a hot chocolate?” The cries of me, me, me, had her jerk her chin in the direction of the hall. “After you’ve washed your hands and changed out of your school uniform, boys.”

Emily trooped after them to wash her hands, and returned to continue her examination of her best friend’s injuries. Very serious, earnest eyes lifted to Sophia. “You have kisses on your plaster.”

Sophia grinned. “That one was mama, then Auntie Rosie, and then Uncle Alexander and then papa.”

Emily turned to give Nico a wide-eyed look. “You wore lipstick?”

Si. We were kissing her arm better.”

Emily turned to her mummy. “Do you have lipstick in your bag? Can I kiss Sophia’s arm better?”

Grace rummaged around in her bag and found her make-up bag and a red lipstick. Both mother and daughter carefully applied the cosmetic and gently placed a kiss on a thrilled Sophia’s cast.

“That makes six kisses,” Sophia said, her cheeks pink.

Tonio and Luca dashed into the room, Jimmy Chew hot on their heels.

Dressed in soft blue jeans and his clean but ratty Spiderman T-shirt, Luca stood in front of the girls. He shoved a black curl from his forehead even as his brow furrowed. “What are you doing?”

Emily made a kiss mouth with kissy noises. “Kissing her better.”

Grace watched Luca think about it, then offered him her lipstick. “Would you like to do it, too?”

“He’s a boy,” ten year old Tonio said. He wore sweatpants and a Star Wars T-shirt. He puffed out his chest.  “Boys don’t wear lipstick.”

Luca turned to him. “But I want to.” He thought for a minute, then accepted the cosmetic, holding the rose gold case as if it was a grenade with the pin pulled.

“Would you like me to apply it?” Grace offered, her blue eyes dancing.

Luca nodded, and stood solemn and still while the cosmetic was carefully applied to his mouth. Then he placed a gentle kiss on the cast and stood back to admire his handiwork. Rubbing his lips together, he licked to taste it.

“Hmm. It tastes sort of… nice.”

When Eve toddled over and presented her face for lipstick, too, Grace simply could not resist. She carefully applied it and then lifted the child up to kiss her sister, too.

Tonio scowled. “I am not doing it.”

Little Eve turned to Luca and wrapped her arms around his legs. “Batman,” she said.

Luca laughed and pointed to his T-shirt. “No. This is Spiderman.”

“Batman!” she said.

“If you do it that will make nine kisses,” Sophia told Tonio. She batted her lashes. “I bet my arm will heal much faster with kisses.”

Tonio rolled his eyes, heaved a deep sigh. “Okaaaaaay.”

Biting down hard on her bottom lip, Grace kept her face straight as she applied the cosmetic, and when Tonio did his duty, everyone cheered.

The boy’s face went bright red.

“BATMAN!” cried Eve and hugged Tonio’s legs.

Tonio picked her up smacked a lipstick kiss on her chubby cheek. “No. My T-shirt has Star Wars on it.”

“BATMAN!” roared Eve.

 

 

Nico, pouring coffee for the adults, caught Bronte’s eye and grinned.

“It’s her favourite word,” she said. “Everything and everyone is Batman.”

 

By the time everyone had drunk their hot chocolate and coffee, Nico was in his study and Bronte Grace were chatting about their day.

The kids were settled on the sofa with Sophia watching the Disney movie, Frozen… again.

Emily turned big blue eyes on Tonio and gazed up at him with adoration. “Tonio?”

“Hmm?”

“Can I ask you something?” she said in her soft, breathy voice.

Sleepy eyes the colour of dark chocolate met hers. “Sure.”

“Will you promise to keep all your kisses for me?” she whispered, her cheeks hot.

The slow smile reached his eyes and they twinkled into hers. “I do not think I can do that.”

Her little face fell. “Okay. I suppose you want to kiss lots of girls.”

“How will I know which girl is the right one if I do not kiss her?” he asked her with an unshakable logic. “You will kiss lots of boys, too.”

Emily shook her head so hard her fiery curls danced on her shoulders. “No. I’ll save ALL my kisses for you.”

Tonio shrugged. “When you are older you will change your mind.”

Emily turned back to the movie. “Never.”

Meanwhile, Bronte and Grace had overheard the entire exchange.

“Wow. My daughter’s got it bad,” Grace said.

Bronte made a face and topped up their coffee from the pot.

“What do you expect? He’s Italian!”

 

FINE

 

Aww, poor Emily and poor Sophia.

BATMAN!

Until next time,

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!

 

Finally, the Ludlow Hall sneak peek is back….

Join the ferranti family,

 

Guess what I’ve got for you today?

Welcome back to The Ludlow Hall Sneak Peek with Nico, Bronte & Co.

It’s a sunny autumn Saturday morning in The Dower House and Nico Ferranti, his feet bare, dressed in his favorite soft jeans, loose at the waist, and ratty T-shirt stretched tight across wide shoulders, is shaving. Thanks to a six hour delay at Rome airport, he’d arrived home late last night. Too late to kiss his children and baby good night. But not too late to kiss his sleepy wife awake—and of course one kiss led to another and then—his grin went slow and sexy as he lifted his chin to run his razor through white foam. Ah, he was a happy man. A lucky man. Out of the corner of his eye he spotted a movement at the bathroom door. Sophia, wearing her favourite Elsa nightgown and clutching her battered Raggedy Ann to her chest was watching him like a little hawk. His children knew better than to interrupt him when shaving, in case he sliced his face with the old fashioned but lethal blade. His daughter and her twin were nudging towards their seventh birthday and the thought make him shake his head at the way time flew too fast. He rinsed his face, and lifted a white fluffy towel, warm from the heated towel rail, to pat it dry. In the mirror, he caught a glimpse of a few white hairs around his temple. They didn’t worry him. Hadn’t Bronte said he was going to be a sexy white fox? Plus, he worked out regularly. His belly was still flat and hard. Earlier Bronte had explored his belly, and another hard part of his anatomy, and what she called his ‘awesome guns’. Hehe.

“Papa,” Sophia said. “You’re in big trouble.”

Nico blinked, and eyed her in the mirror.

She eyed him right back.

“Considering I’ve been in Rome for three days, I cannot imagine what sin I have committed when I wasn’t even here.”

“You missed Luca’s spelling competition.”

Nico sighed and crouched down to take her little face between his hands and drop a kiss to her nose. “Si. My flight was delayed. Even I cannot grow wings and fly.”

“I know that. But, he came second. It’s a big deal, papa.”

Nico smiled. “Second? Well done, Luca.”

Her face still serious, Sophia nodded, then bonked him on the head with Raggedy Ann.

“He was the youngest boy to reach the final and up against bright sparks,” she said.

“Bright sparks?”

“That’s what auntie Rosie called them.”

“Hmm. I can hear her say it myself.”

She nodded again and said seriously, “Uh huh, auntie Rosie said the word that tripped Luca up at the last damn hurdle was tricky.”

Nico bit down hard on his bottom lip. “What was it?”

“Liaise. He missed out the second i.”

Impressed, Nico studied her face and realized his twins were growing up fast. Maybe too fast. “That is tricky. Did you know how to spell it?”

“No. But I do now.”

He stood, took her hand and they headed for the kitchen for one of his wife’s Saturday breakfasts. “It is always the way with spelling,” he said. “We always remember the mistakes. English is not easy even for people for whom English is their first language.”

As they entered the kitchen/living/family room, the delicious aromas of pancakes cooking on the eight burner stove had Sophia race to take her seat beside her twin. At eighteen months, Eva, still wearing her pink pj’s edged with a frill at the waist and ankles was ensconced in her high chair, her fingers sliding over sliced banana in her pink plastic bowl. When she spotted her father, she forgot her banana, clapped her hands as her fat little legs pumped and she yelled in joy, “Papa!!”

“Good morning, neonata.” Nico took time to bend down for a cuddle and to blow raspberries on her neck, while her hands gripped his hair and pulled.

“Papa!” Luca crowed. “You have banana in your hair.”

Si, your sister likes to make a mess, Nico said in his deep voice, as Luca tossed him a white cotton napkin.

He decided not to tell his son his Spiderman T-shirt was on inside out. Instead, he kissed Luca’s hot cheeks and scrubbed his knuckles over a grinning Tonio’s black curls. Then he headed for his wife who was busy preparing breakfast, admiring the way her tight butt, clad in dark jeans, wiggled to a rock song on the radio. From his position of his dog bed set in the corner of the room, their Bischon Frise, Jimmy Chew, kept an eagle eye on food preparation in case anything dropped to the floor. Nico gave in to temptation and wound his arms around Bronte’s slim waist. She had the figure of a girl. He hugged her tight while he nuzzled his favorite spot on her neck. “Good morning, bella. You smell amazing.”

When Bronte promptly used her spatula to slap his hand that had whipped a piece of crispy bacon from the pan, the Ferranti children howled with laughter.

“Try to pretend you’re civilized, sit at the table and wait until I’ve finished,” she told him.

Unoffended, he crunched the bacon and gave a solid pat to her butt.

Then he did as he was bid and headed to his spot at the head of the table.

When everyone was settled and digging in to a mountain of buckwheat pancakes, bacon, eggs, fresh juices for the kids, and coffee for the adults, Nico took time to simply enjoy the moment.

“I hear you did very well in the spelling competition. I am sorry I missed it,” he said to Luca.

Luca made a face. “I lost.”

“Luca’s really hot on English. I’m hot on Math,” Sophia said.

“I hate Math,” Luca said. “I just don’t get why we’ve gotta learn stupid stuff.”

“Math is not stupid,” Tonio piped up.

“Try not to speak with your mouth full, Tonio,” Bronte reminded him.

Tonio swallowed, shot her grin. “Sorry. But, it is sooooo good. I love your cooking.”

Bronte beamed. “You’re very welcome.”

Nico reckoned Tonio knew exactly how to charm and stay in Bronte’s good books.

He turned his attention back to Luca. “It was a great achievement to come second against a boy who is two years older than you. Well done. I am proud of you.”

Luca’s cheeks flushed. “I wanted to win.”

Si. But again, we cannot win at everything in life. All we can do is give it our best shot and then try again.”

Luca nodded. “I’ll win next time.”

Silence prevailed, until…

“Mama and I have been thinking…” Nico said and waited until he had everyone’s attention. “How do you feel about a move to our villa in Italy and you attend school in Lake Como? Perhaps for a couple of years—to improve your Italian?”

Tonio blinked. “I would like it very much.”

Luca made a face. “I dunno. Do they have spelling competitions in Italy?”

Si,” Luca beat Nico to it.

Bronte caught Nico’s eye and nudged her chin towards a very quiet Sophia who was pushing a piece of bacon around her plate with her fork.

Nico studied his eldest daughter’s body language, the hunched shoulders and dropped chin. Uh oh. “Sophia, bella?”

Sophia lifted her head and met his eye. “No.”

“You do not enjoy our house at Lake Como?”

“I love it. But, I don’t wanna live there forever.”

“It wouldn’t be forever,” Bronte said. “And you would see more of your cousins.”

Sophia made a face. “Yes. But, I’d miss Emily.”

Nico nodded. “Si. But, Emily can visit regularly and you can stay with her in the holidays, too.”

Sophia’s emerald eyes glittered with unshed tears as her chest rose and fell. Her bottom lip trembled. “She’s my best friend. I see her every day. And without me she would be lonely because she has no brothers or sisters. I like my school and my friends and my teacher. I don’t wanna go to Italy.”

Nico exchanged a look with Bronte. “We will think about it,” he said.

Sophia slid from her chair, grabbed Raggedy Ann from the floor and clutched her doll to her chest. The light of battle lit her emerald eyes. “No! I’m not going to Italy. You can’t make me.”

She ran from the room with Jimmy Chew hard on her heels. Child and dog thundered up the stairs, seconds later Sophia’s bedroom door banged.

“That went well,” Bronte muttered.

“If Sophia doesn’t wanna go to Italy, I don’t wanna go,” Luca said, his face fierce.

The twins might bicker, but when push came to shove they looked after each other.

Nico’s brows rose. “We are only thinking about it. No decision has been made.”

Tonio took a break from hoovering up his breakfast. He eyed Sophia’s full plate and stole her bacon. “There is no point in causing a big upset,” he said with a calm wisdom far beyond his years. “I love my football team. And my English is getting better. I am happy anywhere.”

“May I leave the table?” Luca asked his mother.

“Yes. Make sure you’ve done your Math homework by lunchtime. I don’t want a repeat of last Sunday evening’s multiplication drama,” she said severely.

Luca shot her a dark look, but he nodded as he left.

The way his feet dragged a person might think his mother was sending him down the mines to dig for coal.

“He hates Math,” Tonio stated the obvious. “I will help him.”

Nico reckoned the day Tonio had come into their lives had been a lucky day. The boy was kind, hard working, and easy going. “Grazie. When you are finished we will watch football this afternoon.”

Nico saw his wife eye their baby girl.

A baby girl who was holding her breath, her face red as she filled her diaper.

Bronte whipped the baby out of her chair and headed for the nursery and a spot of belated potty training.

“You two clear the table and tidy the kitchen.”

“I reckon we got the best job,” Nico said to Tonio as they worked as an efficient team to fill the dishwasher and wipe down the table and worktops.

“I do not think it is a good idea to make a big upheaval in the twins lives for no good reason,” Tonio said as he polished the glass table to a shine, then placed a goldfish bowl filled with fresh flowers in the middle, exactly as Bronte liked it. “Sophia would miss auntie Rosie, too. They are very close.”

By this stage, Nico wished he had kept his big mouth shut. “It was just an idea. As I said nothing is set in stone.” He eyed Tonio. “You would see more of your uncle Gregorio.”

“I can stay with him during the holidays, or perhaps he can visit with us at Christmas.”

Nico set the dishwasher programme before turning to him. “That is an excellent idea. I will ask him about his plans.”

Tonio moved to the huge velvet sofa set in front of a massive flat screened TV. He picked up the remote control and found the sports channel. “I think he is lonely.”

Nico settled himself in his favorite chair and placed his bare feet on the matching stool.

“He has been a bachelor for too long. He needs a wife.”

Tonio’s black brows rose. “From what I have seen he doesn’t have a girlfriend. Maybe he does not like women.”

Nico knew that Gregorio Ancelotti liked women well enough and enjoyed the company of plenty. However, it was hardly the conversation to have with a ten year old. “However, he is descended from a wealthy Italian family and can trace his ancestors back to the time of the Borgias. He needs to find the right one.”

“Women,” Tonio said. “Are hard work.”

Nico turned amazed eyes upon him. “Some are. But most are easy to live with if a man knows how to handle the woman he loves.”

“The way you handle Bronte?” Tonio said, his dark eyes twinkling with sheer mischief.

Nico shrugged, and sent him a shit-eating grin. “Si. I am Italian!”

 

*Part two of this story coming next week…..*

 

Big hugs, girlies!

Christine X

 

 

Ludlow Nights – new series covers reveal.

twitterheadertherules3

HIS RULES AND HER RULES – READ FREE ON KINDLE UNLIMITED!

BREAK THE RULES AND NO RULES, COMING SOON!

 

Greetings,

The Ludlow Nights books have new covers. Each book stands alone within the Ludlow Nights world. The stories have a younger, romantic comedy vibe, which the awesome Gabrielle Prendergast of Cover Your Dreams has nailed.

Break The Rules is coming soon. I’m looking at early June. The book will be placed in all distributors for seven days to give iBooks and Nook readers a chance to grab it and then the book be available on Amazon only. As soon as it goes live I’ll let you know.

No Rules will be released at the end of July.

#amwriting #amediting

Hugs,

Christine X

It’s throw back Friday…

nicoscreaminagoodway

FREE ON:  AMAZON    iBOOKS   NOOK   KOBO   GOOGLE PLAY

Who remembers the music playing in the background of this scene from RECKLESS NIGHTS IN ROME?

***

A few minutes later, Nico’s car purred to a halt at the back entrance of The Dower house.

He checked the time.

Too early?

Too bad.

Stepping out of the car, the scent of warm apples, sugar and cinnamon poured across his senses.

Pure annoyance fired his blood pressure again.

So she made cakes while he suffered the agonies of hell.

The Dower House throbbed and boomed with the bass of a pop song.

Nico lifted his hand to knock the door and then shrugged.

She’d never hear him over the racket.

Ignoring the little voice that told him he was invading her privacy, he tried the handle and opened the door.

Strolling into the house, he cocked his head.

It appeared Bronte was singing.

Then he thought again.

Nope.

That noise could never be called singing, more like howling or screeching.

And he winced as she let out an endless shriek that didn’t quite make a long top note.

Nico stepped into the kitchen and every particle of angry frustration drained away.

He couldn’t help the big grin that split his face.

Blissfully oblivious she had an audience to her hips bumping and grinding to Rihanna’s big hit, Bronte stripped off her top, swung it around her head and tossed it.

The sweater sailed high through the air to land at Nico’s feet.

Without taking his eyes from her, he picked it up.

Absently, he rubbed the soft wool between his fingers. Absorbing the warmth from her body and inhaling her scent.

She wore black fitness pants slung low, low on her hips and a short skinny vest.

No bra and bare feet.

Still cheerfully unaware of his presence behind her, Bronte continued to sing her heart out as she shook her booty.

Blonde hair, piled in an incredibly sexy knot on top of head, accentuated a long and delicate neck. Her ears, small and perfect, hugged her scalp.

Nico had to laugh when he spotted a black sock over the kettle and another in the middle of the fruit bowl. Rihanna blasted through the speakers telling everyone to please don’t stop the music.

Please don’t, Nico begged, leaning his shoulder against the door frame to relax and enjoy the show. Guilt that he was witnessing something terribly private dug him hard in the ribs, but Nico ignored it.

He wouldn’t have missed this for the world.

God knew she couldn’t sing but the girl had moves.

Skipping to a fridge, her tight little bottom wiggled in perfect time to the beat and Nico bit down hard on a knuckle.

With a bottle of water as a microphone the fabulous Ms. Ludlow step-touched with a sexy swing of her hips, shook her booty and strutted her stuff.

Spinning round he saw her eyes were closed and that stunning face was flushed with exertion.

She opened her eyes and saw him.

And those fabulous eyes bugged right out of her head.

 

Jogging frantically on the spot, Bronte Ludlow screamed her lungs out.

Pure reflex had Nico catch the bottle of water that almost beaned him between the eyes.

“You bastard!”

The girl was on him like a wildcat. He was a big man who knew how to handle himself. Bronte was no match for him. The shock that she’d even think to attack him in the first place made him laugh out loud. A big mistake, he realized, when she growled in his ear. A growl that only made him laugh harder. A flying fist caught him on the chin as she clung like a limpet to his back. An arm locked around his neck in a tight strangle hold. Endless legs wound around his waist like a vice.

Cristo, Bronte, stop.”

Roaring with laughter, Nico couldn’t catch his breath.

His eyes watered when Bronte did her level best to rip his hair out of his scalp.

When her teeth sank into his shoulder, he yelled,

“Okay, that is it!”

“How dare you come into my home without warning?” she yelled in his ear. “You almost gave me a heart attack.”

She made a determined effort to twist his earlobe off and he’d had enough.

Nico landed back against a wall.

And he heard Bronte’s breath whoosh from her lungs.

He spun, pinned her arms above her head and pressed his body against hers.

Her powerful knee thrust missed unmanning him by a whisker.

Panting now, her eyes spat green fire into his.

The feel of her struggling under him sent blood racing to his shaft.

And he knew he was in big trouble.

Her breath was panting into his mouth as she went utterly still and those green eyes grew wary now.

She trembled and not just from fury.

“Let me go,” she panted. “I mean it.”

Her voice was high as her breath heaved in short bursts and he couldn’t take his eyes from her mouth. Her heart bucked against his and the scent of her shampoo and pure Bronte made his mouth water. A pink tongue licked her top lip and Nico knew he desperately wanted, needed, to taste, to take.

A soft whimper made him look into her eyes and what he saw there, arousal battling with alarm, made him stop.

He’d already taken a misstep with her last night and he wasn’t going to take another with her today.

Chest heaving, Nico released her and stepped back, palms up in a gesture of peace.

 

***

Ah, those were the days!

I’m deep in the middle of BREAK THE RULES AND NO RULES.

They’re all coming together!

Christine X

It’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peek… featuring Sophia…

here-comes-trouble-its-the-ludlow-hall-sneak-peek

The Ferranti’s are still at Lake Como for their Easter break. Nine year old Tonio, and his best pal from his time at the Jesuit boarding school, Michael, are spending time with his Uncle Gregorio Ancelotti sailing on the lake.

When Gregorio, Tonio and Michael return to the Ferranti villa in the grounds of the Ferranti Hotel & Spa, they find the family preparing for lunch. Bronte and Rosie, with help from Sophia and Emily, are setting a vast long narrow table set beneath a pergola…

Sophia and Emily, wearing white sundresses spattered with yellow daisies over white knee length leggings, turned to eye the new arrival. Michael Baccello was as tall and dark as Tonio, but skinny in a way that made Sophia narrow her eyes. He was handsome, and appeared shy and modest when her papa shook his hand. In fact, she decided there and then he was just about perfect, apart from the hair cut.

Bronte returned Tonio’s hug and ran her hand over his back. “I know you must be starving after your morning on the lake. Tonio, go get changed out of that damp top, give Michael a dry T-shirt and then wash your hands.”

When the boys ran off to do her bidding, Sophia and Emily and Luca were hot on their heels.

“Michael seems a nice boy,” Rosie said, lifting a comatose baby Mila from her papa’s arms and settling her in her stroller in the shade.

Gregorio accepted a glass of red wine from Nico and nodded. “He seems to be. Very quiet. Although he couldn’t get a word in with Tonio constantly asking questions.”

Dressed down in knee length ivory shorts and a black T-shirt that fit him like a glove, Nico nodded. “Tonio has an active, thinking brain. It is like a sponge. His teachers wish to place him in a grade ahead. But I am not certain it is a good idea. He has made firm friends and I do not like the behaviour of some of the older boys. They do not come from good families.”

Gregorio raised a brow. “He will need to learn how to deal with hard choices in life. Perhaps it is never too soon to learn.”

Bronte placed a bowl of salad on the table. “He’s had a hard enough start in life, Gregorio. I want him to settle down and find his feet and understand that we have his back through thick and thin.”

Gregorio’s smile rarely reached his dark eyes, but it did now. “He is a lucky boy to find himself in such a family.”

Bronte shifted to pop a kiss on Gregorio’s dark cheek and smelled the lake. “You are part of his family and now this family. There’s no ‘i’ in team. We work together.”

As she strode past the long table and into the house, Gregorio turned to a watchful Nico and a grinning Alexander. “She is a beautiful woman. You are a lucky man.”

“She made me a better man. She is my life.”

 

***

Meanwhile, Sophia and Emily were sitting cross legged on the floor in the hallway outside the closed door of Tonio’s bedroom. No girls allowed. But that didn’t mean girls couldn’t sit and listen to what was going on inside. Sophia rose to her bare feet and placed her ear to Tonio’s bedroom door. If her mama caught her, she’d be in Big Trouble. “I can’t hear anything. Can you hear anything?” she whispered.

Emily knew better than to earwig, but she placed her ear to the door. “Uh-huh. Nothing.”

Sophia thought for a moment and then her brows rose. “I know where we can go. Come on.”

The girls raced down the hall and out a side door. They crept down a shady path and Sophia pointed to the two open windows, one from Tonio’s bedroom and the other from the bathroom. She hauled herself up on a wide drainpipe and could see the inside of part of the bathroom. Tonio and Luca were washing their hands and discussing what was for lunch. Boy talk. When Emily joined her on the drainpipe, Sophia shushed her. Then they settled down to wait.

Standing in the middle of Tonio’s bedroom Michael rubbed the soft fabric of the Fantastic Four super-hero T-shirt Tonio had handed him. He took a deep inhale of the scent of fabric softener. He gazed around the large room with the fun comforter and pillow on the bed. He’d never seen such luxury or so many interesting books in one place. He had missed sharing a room with his friend Tonio and their conversations long into the night about what they would do in the world when they grew up. He’d wait until Tonio and Luca were finished washing their hands in the attached bathroom and then he’d change. He didn’t want anyone to see the bruises.

He entered the beautifully appointed bathroom with Tonio and gazed in opened-eyed wonder. The bath might fit a football team.  Tonio caught his look and grinned. “A bit different from those dark and cold shower rooms at school, isn’t it?”

Michael nodded. “Si.” He studied Tonio’s face. “This family who care for you, they are good to you?”

Si! Nico is my half-brother, but I call him papa. Gregorio is my mama’s brother.”

Michael frowned. “Sounds complicated.”

Si. But as papa says, such is life.”

After Tonio left, Michael whipped off his T-shirt and turned to check out his back in the mirror. His bones stuck out from his skin. They only hit him where the injuries couldn’t be seen. In his heart, he understood he needed to tell someone soon, or run away. He didn’t know which was worse. The thought crossed his mind to tell Tonio, he was sure his friend would believe him that he had never stolen any money. But would the priests at school? He washed his hands and pulled on the borrowed T-shirt and inhaled the scent. His eyes stung because he longed to keep the T-shirt and keep the scent, but he knew that miracle would never happen. In the mirror he studied the state of his hair, the gauntness of his face and knew that the time had come for him to run.

A very pale Sophia stared into the shocked eyes of her best friend. “Somebody has hurt him.”

“What are we going to do?” Emily whispered, her freckles stood out like paint splatter on her white face.

“We’ll speak to my papa. He will fix it,” Sophia said with a surety that made Emily nod.

“When?”

“After lunch. Did you see him? He is skin and bone and needs a good meal,” Sophia said, channelling Auntie Rosie.

***

Bronte eyed her daughter and Emily.

They’d been almost silent during lunch, which for them was either a miracle, they were sick, or they’d been up to something.

Her eye caught Rosie’s and she jerked her chin towards the two little girls sitting there as if butter wouldn’t melt.

“What’s going on with you two? You’re too quiet and lloking far too serious. What have you done and don’t think to fib because I’m a witch and I can tell,” Rosie said, her eyes twinkling.

Sophia sent her aunt a who-me? look. “We have been very good girls,” she said, while Emily kept her eyes glued to her empty bowl on the table.

“Hmm,” Rosie studied their little faces. “You have a seeeeekrit.”

When Emily’s head popped up to stare at Rosie in awe and wonder, Bronte nearly burst out laughing. Trust Rosie to guess. Ah, well, little girls always had secrets. They’d been young once and had kept plenty of secrets themselves. “Why don’t you both go and play football with the boys and Alexander?”

Sophia shook her head and sent her mama an are-you-kidding-me look. “I hate football.”

Bronte made a face. “Of course you do. How could I have forgotten. Whatever it is you’re up to—the babies are sleeping and papa and Gregorio are having a meeting in his study—do it outside.”

When the two little girls trooped into the garden holding hands, Rosie watched them go with a frown in her eyes. “Something’s brewing.”

Bronte lifted a bottle of white wine from the cooler on the table to top up their glasses. “Doesn’t seem like five minutes since we were that age.”

Rosie took a sip of her wine. “Good times. Good times.”

 

***

Thirty minutes later…

Nico reckoned the family holiday at the Lake had been a great success. One of his goals had been to integrate Gregorio into the family to bond with Tonio. The man still held himself back a little, but he could hardly be blamed for that. Gregorio’s late sister had left a huge emotional and financial mess behind her. However, nothing positive ever came from brooding over mistakes made in the past. The key was to move on, together, to guarantee Tonio’s future was secure.

The soft knock at his study door had Gregorio’s brows rise. Nico frowned, because Bronte had made it clear no one was to disturb them. “Come in,” he said, in a tone that made it clear he was Not Pleased.

When Sophia’s blonde head popped around the door, the pleading look in her emerald eyes and the way her bottom lip was caught between her teeth, told him she was well aware she wasn’t supposed to disturb him. And yet she’d done it anyway.

“What is it, Sophia? Can it not wait a few minutes?”

Her eyes flicked to a serious-faced Gregorio and her face paled a little, but she entered the study, dragging a trembling Emily behind her. At once, Nico’s spidey senses tingled. He rose and walked around his desk to crouch before his daughter and her friend.

He took each of their hands, and smiled. “What is wrong, cara mia?”

Sophia’s eyes stayed rock steady on his. “Papa. Something bad has happened to Michael. He has been beaten. His back is covered in bruises. And he is too thin.”

When Emily burst into tears, Nico lifted them in his arms and moved to the couch to sit with one on each knee.

Gregorio moved to lock the door. He went to the built-in fridge and poured two small glasses of fresh orange juice and placed them on the coffee table in front of the couch. He took a seat.

“Why don’t you tell us exactly what you saw.”

When the girls had finished their story and their juice, Emily’s face was still pale, but her tears were gone.

Nico turned to Gregorio. “Is the boy still living at school?”

Gregorio shook his head. “After what happened to Tonio, I have been sponsoring an outreach programme within the community for the boys with no immediate relatives to be placed with good families. Michael was placed with a large family ten days ago.”

“Then you should make sure little children go to a safe place,” Sophia piped up before her papa could open his mouth.

Gregorio’s eyes grew big, but he nodded. “You are quite right.”

Sophia turned emerald eyes on Nico. “Michael must stay with us tonight, papa. Then Uncle Gregorio can find a safe place for him.”

Nico drew her close for a hug and dropped a kiss on her blonde head. When his baby girl grew up she was going to do great things. “Si. Now, I want both of you to say nothing of this to Michael or Tonio or Luca until I have spoken to mama.”

Sophia took a deep breath, nodded and slid from his knee. She took Emily’s hand. Together, they moved towards the door.

She turned to study the serious faces of her papa and Gregorio. “Do you promise to fix this?”

Both men spoke, “Si.”

***

Hours later…

Rosie lay on her back on a couch in the sitting room, her bare feet resting on Alexander’s lap. “Well, they’re all sound asleep, at last. What a day!”

Face hard, mouth hard, Bronte nodded. “That poor boy. What kind of parents bring up children who beat on a boy so much younger than themselves?”

“Apparently, the father does not spare the rod,” Gregorio said, nursing a cognac. “I am meeting with Father Ricardo who is in charge of the programme. We need better safeguards in place.”

“No system is perfect. There is not much you can do against a liar,” Nico growled. “After they held him down and cut his hair, Michael’s plan was to run away.”

Gregorio paled. “He is close to Tonio. I like the boy. I am preparing to settle here and I am prepared to offer him a home. I have a plan.”

Bronte sent him a narrow-eyed look. “I applaud your need to do the right thing by the child, Gregorio. I doubt the priests will allow him to live with a single man.”

“Who said I will remain single?”

“Ooooh,” Rosie sang into the shocked silence. She wiggled her toes. “Seems there’s a lot of seeeeekrits going around.”

Gregorio’s firm mouth curved in a reluctant smile. “Let us just say my future plans have changed.”

“What’s her name?” Rosie wanted to know.

“Clio.”

Cue another silence.

When Rosie opened her mouth, Alexander tweaked her big toe. He stood and lifted his wife in his arms. “None of your business. Leave the man in peace. It’s time for bed. Let’s see if we can get six straight hours before our daughter decides she wants to play.”

As they left, Gregorio’s face was thoughtful as he watched them go. “Rosie reminds me very much of Sophia.”

“There is a very good reason for that,” Bronte told him. “They bonded when she was a baby. They are like two peas in a pod.”

She gave Gregorio a hug goodnight before she left him and Nico to it.

As a companionable silence stretched, Nico poured another cognac for the road and relaxed in a fat chair of soft suede the color of the liquid in his glass. “A child is a big responsibility and not one you can hand back.”

Gregorio nodded. “I let Tonio down—”

“Nonsense!” Nico interrupted. “Neither of us knew he existed.”

Si,” Gregorio’s deep voice was no more than a growl. “But, she was my sister. I should have—”

Nico sat up, elbows on his knees, and stared into the other man’s eyes and read guilt, shame and a deep regret. “You cannot take responsibility for her behaviour. All we can do is to take care of Tonio. If you want to look after Michael there are other ways to do it. The boy needs a happy home and stability.”

“You think I cannot provide both?”

Nico shrugged. “I have no idea. Who is Clio?”

For a long moment Gregorio didn’t respond, then his gaze met Nico’s and held. “Have you ever made a huge mistake for all the wrong reasons?”

“I did with Bronte. But she loved me and so she forgave me.”

“I doubt very much if Clio could ever bring herself to love me.”

“Ah, but you have feelings for her?”

Gregorio nodded. “I wonder why it took me so long to understand what was happening to me?”

“Love makes fools of us all,” Nico said wisely.

“It is a bit more complicated than that,” Gregorio murmured.

“That, mio amico, is because we are Italian.”

 

FINE

 

Oooooooh, who is Clio?

All y’all are gonna LOVE her and that’s all I am saying.

I’m working on Break The Rules and The Rules – and Gregorio’s story is coming after those and will be set in the Ludlow Hall world, but will stand alone. I’m busy and having the best time.

 

Christine X

It’s Monday and time for another slice of Ludlow life…

thedomesticgoddess

 

 

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.”

 

FINE

 

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.

Big hugs,

Christine X

A FILM-STAR, A BABY, AND A PROPOSAL

IT'S A LUDLOW HALL CHRISTMAS!

IT’S A LUDLOW HALL CHRISTMAS!

Hello my darlings,

It’s been a while since my last post, and that’s because I’ve been writing, visiting London, writing, and attending a wedding! Writing. Editing. And writing.

As a family, we love this time of year. There’s something about Christmas that makes me all warm and fuzzy. And from the lovely feedback and comments I’ve been receiving about my books, I know my readers love feeling warm and fuzzy too.

The Ludlow Hall series has struck a chord, especially Nico and Bronte. Readers are enjoying watching how their relationship and marriage unfolds with all their trials and tribulations. It was something I always wanted to read – how a couple I loved in a romance – coped with real life challenges in subsequent stories. The reader response has been nothing short of amazing and has truly humbled me.

So to keep all y’all going until book five, The Fall of Jacob Del Garda, comes out next year I had the bright idea to write a Ludlow Hall Christmas special featuring the usual suspects, Nico and Bronte, Alexander and Rosie, and the fabulicious movie star Mathias Carter and super-model Eve Langan, who gives Matt a run for his money. Bringing two independent and successful career people, who’ve overcome many early challenges in their lives, together is always fun. Especially when they don’t have time for love, marriage, children, or a happy-ever-after. How the might fall flat on their face. Hehehe. Watching them climbing out of the deep hole they’ve dug for themselves is always a blast. And Nico Ferranti steps up to lend his best pal Matt a hand in his hour of need. The scene where Matt returns the favour brought a tear to a couple of beta reader’s eyes, and that is very a good thing.

Man, I love this job.

I’m waiting for the story to go live on iBooks and Barnes and Noble. When it does, I’ll add the links. Until then, here’s the Amazon links USA and UK and SMASHWORDS.

As y’all know I’m part of a boxed set called Sugar and Sin, which has been really well received. Well, we’ve got together again to bring you more of the same – Sugar and Sin, The Sexy Seven. Seven books by the same authors plus one. The plus one is the talented and all round awesome romantic suspense writer Dana Delamar, who keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Dana has joined our ranks and we’re thrilled to have her.

We’ve been touched by the Amazon Angel who has very kindly given us a pre-order button for the set, so thank you, Amazon! The set is on pre-order at a very special $3.99 and due for release on 15th January 2014. I love the way Kim Killion of the Killion group has branded Sugar and Sin – the colour of this set is warm and sunny – just like us! I love it!

51CHoprUrJL._AA300_PIkin4,BottomRight,0,8_AA300_SH20_OU01_

Here are the pre-order links (we’re waiting for B&N):  Kobo  AMAZON  iBOOKS

While I have your attention, I’d like to thank you, dear reader, for your continued patience while I’ve been juggling my writing calendar.

My publishing schedule (hopefully not subject to change) is:

Book one of a new Desert Princes series – Desert Orchid (cover reveal coming very soon) January 2014.

Book five of The Ludlow Hall series, The Fall of Jacob Del Garda (cover reveal coming very soon), February 2014.

Book six of The Ludlow Hall series, A Daddy For Daisy, late Spring 2014.

For those of you waiting for the next Vampyre Legal Chronicles instalment, I have an exciting announcement in the New Year about what’s happening to the entire series.

So stay tuned!

Thank you so much for taking the time to email/FB message/Tweet and leave very kind comments on my website. Readers rock!

You know I adore hearing from you guys, so any questions feel free to fire away.

Christine X