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!

 

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

Did you know Amazon have Break The Rules on a deal for two days?

 

Happy Wednesday!

We’re recovering from ex-hurricane Ophelia, which battered Ireland and the west coast of Britain. Ireland go the worst of it, poor souls. The storm brought all sorts of weird weather to the UK; twenty degrees with a hazy red sun that was seriously spooky.

Want proof?

My town on Monday 16th October:   unnamed

(HK Carmichael)

 

In other news, the lovely people at Amazon Direct Publishing have one of my Ludlow Nights books, BREAK THE RULES, on a deal for two days only. Remember that all of the stories set in the Ludlow Nights world standalone, so if you haven’t tried one then grab T.C. and Sean’s story now. I’m so thrilled readers LOVED this couple’s journey to their happy ever after as much as I loved writing it.

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

“Absolutely loved this book,it was brilliant I’ve read all the Ludlow books they make you laugh,cry they are so enjoyable once you start to read you carn’t stop till you get to the end.So looking forward to the next book well done CC don’t keep us waiting to long.”

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

“This writer keeps you reading and put twists and turns in. She is amazing.”

Here’s the blurb

Sean Kennedy had a simple rule when it came to women—if they were hard work—he didn’t bother.
Why put himself through unnecessary hassle? And then he met a blonde bombshell…

From the moment Sean Kennedy frisked T.C. he captivated her. The look in the bodyguard’s tawny eyes for her was too intense, insanely sexy and dominant. He was a powerful man who towered over everyone. And a man who believed he could have anything and anyone. Despite T.C.’s reservations, she had a night of passion with him. A night which brought the demons of her past into her present and her future.
Demons that have no intention of ever letting her go.
But Sean was a man prepared to fight dirty for the woman he wanted.
And a man who’d never lost a battle—yet.

BREAK the RULES is the third installment of the LUDLOW NIGHTS series. It can be read as a standalone. But, to fully appreciate Sean and T.C.’s story, I recommend combining the reading experience with HIS RULES and HER RULES.

 

breaktherulesdeal

CLICK HERE FOR YOUR FREE COPY – AMAZON

 

You’re probably all wondering where the hell I’ve been. Well, the bad news is that I’ve been chronically unwell with an arthritis flare, which has seriously sucked. It’s been one step forward and three steps back for months. Pain meds = brain fog. Brain fog = no writing. No writing = a cranky and miserable author. It’s taken months for the flare to burn out. Bleh. To make matters worse, most of my support team are based in the USA and they were impacted by hurricanes, Harvey and Irma. Between my illness and stormy weather everything came to a grinding halt.

The good news is that I’m slowly returning to writing after weeks of binge reading Georgette Heyer’s historical romances. I adore her work. She lifts the spirit. She makes me happy. And you’ll be glad to know that NO RULES is in final(!) revisions before returning to my editorial and proofreading team. Then I do the final(!) fixes. Then formatting. Then on pre-order on all distributors (iBooks, Nook, Amazon) to give readers a chance to grab it for a few weeks before it is exclusive to Amazon.

So fingers and toes crossed, I’ll be back on track soon.

Big hugs,

Christine X

 

 

 

 

 

His Rules is free on Amazon for a limited time.

HIS RULES FREE ON AMAZON

GET IT HERE

Happy Friday!

I’m thrilled to bring you HIS RULES free for a limited time on Amazon.

I’m working hard on the final edits for NO RULES, and it’s reading well. Because I want to keep ALL my readers happy, the story will go on pre-order everywhere for two weeks and for one week after release, before it heads over to Kindle Unlimited.

For fans of the Ludlow Hall series, I’m writing Gregorio Ancelloti’s story. This will be the eleventh book set in the Ludlow Hall world – where has the time gone? I love Gregorio soooo much and I’ve found an amazing woman for him. “Honey, I grind my pelvis for a livin’, no way am I the right woman for you.” Hehehe! This book will be available in all digital stores. I’ll keep you posted.

Don’t forget the Ludlow Hall sneak peeks will return at the end of August.

Hugs,

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

SHE - SHAKESPEARE

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He looks rich.”

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

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

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

“Why?”

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

“Bad news?”

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

“A Prince amongst men?”

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

When Serge put his hands on Chloe both men stiffened.

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

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

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

Chloe turned towards the restrooms with Sophia.

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

She made a horrible face and poked out her tongue.

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

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

“Christ, that Sophia is something else.”

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

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

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

 

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

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

“Hmm. He is smitten with her.”

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

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

“She’s like an earworm in my head.”

Nico blinked.

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

“Sounds… irritating.”

“She is irritating.”

Nico laughed. “She is very beautiful.”

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

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

Sean knew it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ask Tina Turner.”

“F*ck off,” Sean said.

 

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

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

“Ouch.”

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

Her attention elsewhere, T.C. nodded.

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

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

Bastard.

She turned to bestow a wide smile upon Freddy.

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

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

“Put your hand on my ass.”

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

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

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

She stared up into his face and fluttered her lashes.

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

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

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

He didn’t bat an eye.

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

He mouthed. You are a bad, bad girl.

He moved towards them.

T.C. blinked.

Omigod.

What if Sean hit Freddy?

He wouldn’t hit Freddy, would he?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

FINE

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

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

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

Christine X

It’s 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

Golddigger new release – Ruby’s in town.

happy-release-day

iBOOKS   AMAZON   NOOK   KOBO

 

Greetings from a snowy and frosty Christine!

I’m thrilled to bring you the next Golddigger short story, RUBY. Writing in the Golddigger world is a gift to an author. The characters chat to me every single day. There’s always something going on in the world, with more love stories to come and plenty of twists and turns.

 

ruby

My name’s Ruby and I’m a GOLDDIGGER. Some women believe in romance and finding the one shit. Not me. Love left my heart a broken and bloody mess, like road kill on the freeway of life.

The long journey back to wellness brought me here, to success, fame and fortune. Sounds great, right? Except I value a helluva lot more, things a woman cannot put a price on, like independence and FREEDOM.

No man will ever again take away my sense of self. Not even Mr. Too-Hot-To-Trot Andre Martinez. His Latin machismo and arrogance puts my teeth on edge. Try telling that to my hormones which sit up and pant when he comes anywhere near me. The problem is, in his job as one of the top costumiers on the planet, he has his hands on my bare skin—a lot.

I might tremble. I might get hot under the collar. But I Will Not Give In. I won’t.

Will I?

WILL I?

Will she? You betcha. I had the best time writing Ruby and Andre’s story. This girl takes no prisoners. Enjoy!

Christine X

Golddigger short story, SUKKI, is out today!

sukkireleaseday

Greetings, my lovelies!

I bet you’re all pleased it’s Friday and time for another Golddigger short story extravaganza. Thank you so much for the Golddigger love. I appreciate the messages and feedback so much. My readers seriously rock.

Today it’s the turn of SUKKI. I had the best time writing this one. The hero, Jon Castro, is desperate to make amends for past wrongs. Will he convince Sukki to give him another chance? And if he does, will they live happy ever after? Grab the story and see.

 

sukki

Jon

“Once upon a time there was a beautiful and sweet but dirt poor girl who met a wealthy guy with the world at his feet. Against the odds, they fell madly in love. But the guy was a complete dick and broke the girl’s heart.

My name’s Jon Castro. I’m a top ball player and I’m the dick.

The girl’s name is Sukki Silver. These days she’s a Golddigger. A fully paid-up member of the top burlesque troupe in the world. Yep, seems my sweet girl didn’t wallow for long in heartbreak and misery. In the time we’ve been apart, she’s moved on to carve herself a wonderful career, while I did my level best to destroy mine.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’ve had issues to work through. I say had because over the last two years I’ve been forced to deal with the emotional crap that kept me trapped in a past I found I can’t out-drink or outrun.

Basically I had two choices, deal or die. I chose to deal.

Now I’m in a better place, as part of my treatment is to atone for my many sins. To reach that goal I want Sukki back where she belongs — with me. Trouble is, she isn’t giving me the time of day. Who can blame her? See, love’s a tricky thing. Seems a man doesn’t choose not to love someone. The heart wants what the heart wants.

And this dick is back, and I’m gonna go down on my knees to make amends. Have you heard the phrase ‘talk’s cheap’?  I agree with the sentiment, which means actions speak louder than words. It’s actions Sukki needs from me. Will she give me a chance? Who knows? Nothing’s ever certain in life, but by God I’m gonna fight for her…

Wish me luck.”

iBOOKS   AMAZON USA   AMAZON UK   AMAZON AUSTRALIA  NOOK    KOBO

Next up, pre-order links for RUBY and PEARL. Two girls who know what they want out of life.

And on Monday, it’s another slice of Ludlow life, and we have tiaras, tantrums, and screaming good fun with the Ferranti family.

Hugs,

Christine x

ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE WITH THE FERRANTI’S…

 

sophias-in-trouble

 

Happy Monday, my lovelies!

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

Enjoy!

***

The Dower House…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rosie pouts. “You started it.”

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

“How’s Jimmy Chew?” Rosie asks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Chew’s butt instantly hits the ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Head held high, Sophia marches into the house.

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

“Only a couple.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“In the heart.”

 

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

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

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

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

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

“Just what?”

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

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

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

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

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

Three heads shake.

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

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

“Sophia?” Nico whispers.

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

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

“Yes, papa,” three soft voices chorus.

“Okay. It is time for bed.”

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

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

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

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

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

 

FINE

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

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

Hugs and love,

Christine X