Coming soon….

hitchedcomingsoonbanner

Good morning from sunny Cheshire,

HITCHED TO THE ITALIAN has gone for final proofing, do I hear a yay?

As soon as I’ve fixed any bloopers, the file goes for formatting for upload to all the stores. When I receive the pre-order links, I’ll post them. We’re doing a short pre-order so that the book lands at the same time everywhere.

The idea for me to write stories incorporating some of the weekly sneak peeks came from readers. As an author, I’ve had the best time writing HITCHED TO THE ITALIAN. I cannot wait to bring you the full length story showcasing the ups and downs and sometimes chaotic lives of Nico, Bronte, Sophia, Luca and Tonio & Co.

As I drew to The End of this book, it became very clear that there as a lot more potential adventures for the family to come. So stay tuned for a huge surprise next month.

Love and hugs,

Christine X

Best friends… it’s the Ludlow Hall short story…

bestfriends

 

Greetings, my darlings!

We have cloud and wind and rain.

Come on, Spring!

Here’s part two of the Ludlow Hall short story…

It’s the morning after the night before at The Dower House, and Emily finally gets her chance to talk to Rosie about the love of her life, Tonio.

Sophia and Emily, wearing soft blue jeans and their hoodies are sitting at the table in the kitchen-dining-living space with Rosie and the toddlers.

“How old were you when you knew Alexander was the one?” Emily asked Rosie in her soft, breathy voice.

Rosie, wearing black thermal leggings and an oversized T-shirt, her inky curls tied in a messy knot on her head, placed plastic bowls filled with cereal and sliced banana on the high chair tables for Mila and Eve. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted Sophia’s here-we-go-again face and tried hard not to laugh.

Emily was a lovely kid, but her head was in the clouds much of the time, and Rosie reckoned her obsession with Tonio was not healthy.

“When I was your age I actually didn’t like Alexander very much, mainly because he treated me like his sister. Even Bronte would tell you that having an overprotective big brother is no fun. And things got even worse when we hit our teens. I cannot tell you the number of arguments I had with him over who I dated in high school for example.”

Emily’s blue eyes went wide. “Was he jealous?”

Rosie shook her head. “Nope. He didn’t ever see me as anyone other than part of the family, which he reckoned gave him rights to have an opinion.”

Clearly disappointed, Emily seemed to mull over that statement as she nibbled on her cheese on toast.

“I can’t stop thinking about Tonio,” she finally admitted.

Rosie buttered fingers of toast and set them on the toddler’s high chair tables.

The little girls were still dressed in their pink pj’s since Rosie reckoned there was no point in bathing until after breakfast. When Mila stroked sticky fingers over Eve’s dark curls, Sophia and Emily howled with laughter.

Rosie studied Emily’s little face before she answered.

“Have you ever considered Tonio’s feelings?”

Sophia, unusually for her, had been silent during this exchange, but now she turned to her friend. “You should ask him what sort of girl he likes.”

Emily blinked. “But what if he doesn’t like me?”

“He does like you,” Sophia said. “But not as a girlfriend because number one – you’re too young. Number two – you’re my best friend. Number three – I think auntie Rosie’s right.”

And on cue Alexander, Luca and Tonio entered the kitchen.

Hair damp from the shower, they wore jeans and T-shirts with soccer colors of their favourite team because they were attending a big match today.

They grabbed plates and headed for the mountain of bacon and eggs set on the worktop.

When they settled at the table and Rosie had poured milk for the boys and black coffee for her husband, Sophia gave Emily a very hard stare to get-on-with-it and ask Tonio the question.

Unfortunately, it was clear poor Emily’s courage had failed her.

“Emily wanted to know,” Rosie began, and sent a cheesy grin to the love of her life. “When you knew I was the one.”

Alexander blinked, sent Emily a smile that made her already pink face go nuclear.

“Yeah? Um—I’d always liked her, even when she drove me crazy. But it was when we became close and then she left me that it really hit me hard and I knew I couldn’t live without her.”

Tonio crunched a piece of crispy bacon, then said, “When I am a man I will live in Italy and marry a beautiful Italian girl.” He dug into his breakfast totally unaware that he’d just dropped a bombshell and broken a little heart.

Rosie studied her nephew.

“So, what’s wrong with British girls?”

Tonio glanced at her, then appeared to realize that every single female had her eyes, hard eyes, on him.

“Oops,” Alexander muttered.

It seemed Tonio had mastered the Ferranti smile, the one that could charm the birds off the trees. He turned it on full watt now. Then it slipped a little when there was no response.

“Absolutely nothing,” he said and added a little extra Italian accent for good measure. “But I like dark hair, long legs and girls with energy and good humor. Many British girls are like little mice and do nothing but stare at boys.”

“Well, you can’t blame them for staring,” Rosie said, very aware that a devastated and very pale Emily was gazing at her plate. “The Ferranti males are pretty to look at.”

At that, Luca raised his head from inhaling his breakfast, and stared at his aunt in disgust.

“I’m not pretty!”

Rosie turned to him.

“You’re the prettiest one of them all.”

Luca turned to his uncle Alexander.

“Can you not control your wife?” he asked.

“Nope.”

“I’m never getting married,” Luca told the room at large.

His twin, her face an expressionless mask, simply said, “Trust me, no one with a single working brain cell would want you.”

Luca, dark eyes flashing, leaned over the table and hissed,

“I hope your next poop is a pineapple.”

Silence.

 

Alexander, fighting a losing battle to keep a straight face, got to his feet.

“If we want to get to the kick-off in time we’d better get moving.”

In the scrimmage of hand washing, the hunt for Luca’s missing boot, tugging on coats and hats and goodbye’s Sophia simply sat at the table wearing a face that might turn milk sour.

“Well then,” Rosie said as she correctly read the expressions on two little faces. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen Luca have the final word.”

Emily sniffed, and even though her big blue eyes looked suspiciously bright, she lifted her chin.

“I’m not Italian and I don’t have long legs or dark hair. I don’t have a chance with Tonio. Do I?”

Rosie sat at the table and desperately wanted to be kind.

“I don’t know. No one knows. Do you want my advice?” Emily nodded. “There’s a big wide world out there and a huge amount to learn, so if I were you I’d get prepared as best you can to explore the world.”

Sophia put her arm around her best friend’s shoulders and pulled her in for a hug.

“We’re starting dance classes soon, and I want to learn to horse ride.”

“Ponies are too big and scary,” Emily said, her little face the perfect picture of misery.

“It’s not just riding,” Rosie told her in a cheery voice. “You’ll learn how to look after a pony, to groom it and keep it’s stall clean and what to feed it and how much exercise it needs. Plus, ponies need company just like humans.”

“Do they get lonely too?” Emily asked.

Rosie nodded. “They do or they become stressed.”

Sophia made an ‘Aww’ face.

But before she could speak, the sound of her papa’s car rolling over the gravel on the driveway had her bounce out of her chair and heading for the door.

***

After catching her daughter in a huge hug, Bronte studied Sophia’s serious little face, those anxious and wary emerald eyes that held hers, and felt terribly guilty.

It was the first time in over eight years of marriage that her and Nico had had a major issue in their marriage, and she hoped it would be a long time before they had another one. Trouble was, at times they were both as stubborn as each other. If there was one thing they’d learned after talking into the wee hours, was that compromise was the name of the marriage game. Usually they were pretty good at compromising. However, on this particular issue, Bronte Ferranti had dug in her heels. Nico had got himself into one hot mess and it was up to him to get himself out of it.

Right now, she watched him as he caught Sophia in his arms and blew a huge raspberry on her cheek. The man only got better looking as he got older. Even dressed down in blue jeans, black boots and a casual black cashmere sweater, he looked good enough to eat. He didn’t have an ounce of spare flesh. His hair was still black as jet with the odd grey hair at the temple. Just looking at him right now with the strong manly jaw, the high cheekbones, and those eyes that turned her knees to jelly every single time, she knew she was a very lucky woman. Plus, he adored her. They might have had a blip in their relationship, but they’d worked through it. She hoped.

“Did you miss us?” he asked his daughter.

Sophia laughed and clung to him like a limpet.

“Of course I did.” Then her big emerald eyes studied his face. “Are you and mama getting a divorce?” she whispered.

“No!” Nico and Bronte said together.

“Okay,” she said, clearly accepting the tone and look of utter horror on their combined faces. Then her brows met as she caught her papa’s face between her little hands and squeezed. “Don’t let a mean girl be mean to my mama.”

Nico blinked, caught Bronte’s big eyes.

She shook her head because she had no idea where Sophia had got that idea from.

“I won’t,” he said.

Sophia squeezed his cheeks even harder and made him look her in the eye.

“Even grown ups need help with mean girls. Know what I mean?”

“I do.”

He placed her on her feet and held her hand as they strolled through the kitchen door of The Dower House.

As for Bronte, she was just happy to be home.

 

Once they’d greeted little Eve and Bronte had thanked Rosie for stepping into the breech and looking after her kids, everyone settled down at the table for a chat.

Bronte’s eye caught a sad looking Emily.

“You okay, Emily?”

Emily nodded.

“I’m good. Did you have a nice time?”

Nico shot his wife a wink that made Bronte blush.

“We did,” she said.

Emily sent them a sad little smile.

“Did you play the Pirate and the Maiden game?”

When Nico inhaled his coffee and a grinning Rosie threw him paper napkins, Bronte could only blink.

“It’s based on a poem,” Sophia said, correctly guessing that her mama had no idea what Emily was talking about.

Nico blew his nose, cleared his throat, and wiped his streaming eyes.

Dio mio, where on earth did you hear about that?” Nico asked Emily.

“It was something we heard at school,” she said.

Rosie clapped her hands and then shot an index finger at each little girl.

“I know, why don’t we have a pampering day?”

“What’s that?” Sophia wanted to know.

“We can make facial masks out of cool stuff that’s edible. They’ll hydrate and moisturise and refresh the skin.”

Emily perked right up, her big blue eyes sparkled. “Will they cure my freckles?”

Rosie made a sad face. “Nope. But they’ll make you even more gorgeous.”

“What stuff do we need?” Sophia asked, her little face pink and happy.

“Well, we’ll start with oatmeal, honey, banana and yoghurt.”

“That sounds really cool,” Bronte said and fluttered her eyelashes at a worried looking Nico.

He shook his head.

“Not for me. I’m off to the match.”

When he moved to hightail it out the door, Bronte had to laugh.

“Coward!” she yelled at his departing back.

 

Twenty minutes later, Emily, Sophia, Rosie and Bronte sat at the table all watching a kitchen timer tick down the seconds.

Sophia took a lick of mashed banana, yoghurt and honey from the edge of her mouth.

“This tastes really good.”

Emily giggled. “You’re not supposed to eat it.”

“Smells nice, too,” Bronte said. Then she eyed the girls. “Did Luca do his math homework?”

“Dunno,” Sophia said. “Probably not since he’s heart lazy.”

“Have you been arguing with him again?” Bronte asked.

“He told me he hoped I pooped a pineapple.”

Bronte bit down hard on her bottom lip.

Good Lord.

What next?

“Tonio only likes Italian girls. He broke my heart,” Emily whispered.

Bronte held out her arms. “Come here, sweetheart. A cuddle makes a broken heart all better.”

Meanwhile, Rosie used a muslin cloth soaked in warm water to gently remove the home made facial from Sophia’s face.

“Ooh, your skin looks all fresh and lovely,” she cooed at her niece.

“Why do we have eyebrows?” Sophia wanted to know as she poked her skin.

“To protect our eyes, I guess,” Emily said as she slipped from Bronte’s lap and lifted her face for Rosie to clean her skin too.

“There we go,” Rosie said when she was all finished. “Two gorgeous girls.”

 

 

Later, in Sophia’s bedroom, the girls shared a Fat Boy beanbag, their eyelids drooping.

“I’m gonna wish upon a star,” Emily said in her soft breathy voice.

Sophia, her eyes heavy, turned to look at her bestie.

“Stars,” she said. “Are made of gas.”

“That’s science,” Emily said. “I’m talking about making a secret wish while looking at the biggest star in the sky.”

“Cool!”

“I bet you can’t guess my wish.”

Sophia rolled her eyes. “Bet I can. You’ll wish that Tonio falls in love with you when you’re both all grown-up.”

But Emily shook her head.

“Uh-uh. I’m gonna wish my mummy and daddy have a miracle and have a baby.”

Sophia threw her arm around her bestie and pulled her close.

“I think that’s a lovely wish.”

“Then I won’t be lonely,” Emily said.

Sophia rubbed her soft cheek against Emily’s.

“You’re never gonna be lonely because you’ll always have me for ever and ever.”

Emily turned big blue eyes on her friend.

“For every and ever.”

“For ever.”

“I love you, Sophia.”

“Love you, too, Emily.”

 

The End….

 

Aw, that’s what friends are for…

Until next time, be kind, peeps, be kind.

ChristineX

Happy New Year from CC and family….

HappyNewYear!

Happy New Year!

May 2018 bring you health and happiness, and peace and kindness to the rest of the world.

Love and hugs,

Christine X

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

!

Boy, am I glad it’s Friday!!!

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

WHY MUMMY NEEDS WINE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And in front of all those children too.”

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

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

“They did not scare Sophia.”

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

“She is growing up fast.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I have a team,” he said.

“That’s cheating.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Nico Ferranti knew he was a lucky man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forty eight hours later…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Two hours later…..

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

“I’m hungry.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Much later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Batman grinned. “A cod piece.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

FINE

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

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

Big hugs,

Christine X

 

#sneakpeek #LudlowHallRomance #TheFerrantiFamily #funstuff #bites

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Ludlow Hall single title books available on Google Play books…

GOOGLE PLAY

 

Get it HERE: GOOGLE PLAY BOOKS

Greetings dear readers,

I’m working hard on final edits for NO RULES, working on OUR RULES and the next Ludlow Hall Romance!

The Ludlow Hall sneak peeks will return at the end of August, after the summer break, and I’m looking forward to getting back to ‘normal’.

I hope everyone is having a wonderful summer and chilling out.

Big hugs,

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

Ludlow Hall sneak peek book is in my reader library – grab it now

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READER LIBRARY LINK

I’m thrilled to bring you the 2016 sneak peeks in one book, all thirty of them.

Enjoy!

Christine x

Sneak peek book news… and a new release…

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READER LIBRARY

 

Greetings,

Is that picture cute, or is that picture cute? It’s the cover of all thirty sneak peeks from 2016 collected in one book titled LUDLOW HALL After Happy Ever After. The book  is NOT for sale and will be placed in the exclusive reader library next week (it’s being proofed as I type) and is a full length compilation of around forty-nine thousand words. I will do another post when the file goes live in the library.

Editing the thirty sneak peeks has been an incredible journey – who’d have thought an author could forget whole scenes? I laughed so hard at times, and had a couple of teary moments, too. *sniff*

More Ludlow Hall sneak peeks are on the way for this year, too. So worry not.

I’m writing Break The Rules and No Rules together, but will release Break The Rules first and I’m having a great time with T.C. and the gang. The girl is trouble with a capital T.

 

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AMAZON   iBOOKS   NOOK   KOBO 

AND – the sixth Golddigger short story, GLORY, is available right now for pre-order in the store links above. GLORY is out on Good Friday 14th April. My editor and team love this one and especially the lovely Odin who is brought to his knees by Ms Morning Glory Haden.

The next Golddigger will be HEATHER out sometime in May.

I’ll keep you posted.

Christine X

Exclusive starter pack for my reader library.

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For library access, click HERE 

Greetings from a soggy and windy Cheshire.

Behind the scenes, H has been working hard on a plan to bring you exclusive access to a reader library of some of my work.  We needed a place where readers can download a story/sneak peek/book etc., straight to the reading device of their choice.

There’s no catch and it costs nothing.

Readers here and in my Facebook group have been asking me to put all the Ludlow Hall sneak peeks into a book and I’ll be working on collating the stories with my editorial team during the next few months. Then I’ll place the book in the exclusive reader library where you can download the entire content for free before it goes on sale.

Sound good?

H and I are feeling better after pneumonia (and I pray to God we never get it again). He is waiting for biopsy results and we see his consultant on 13th March, so fingers crossed.

The illness means I’m way behind with my production schedule. I’m hoping to get back on track over the next few weeks. Thank you for being patient and for the kind get well messages. They picked me up when days were dark.

Big hugs,

Christine X

 

 

Inspiration and where it comes from…

Reader Question:  Christine, where do you get your ideas for your characters and stories from?

Answer:  Mostly from real life. True. I remember when Reckless Nights In Rome was first published, a reader said that she couldn’t believe any girl would jump out of a window to avoid the blind date from hell and that she preferred REAL LIFE. Well, it DID actually happen to a close relative of mine, not once but twice. When I was told the whole sorry saga, and after I’d stopped laughing, I remember thinking that it would be a great hook for a story… and the rest, as they say, is history. And no, I’m not telling anyone her name.

Anyhow, to get back to the question where my ideas/inspiration comes from…

I write things I’ve been through, seen, understand, lost, loved, hurt, hated, endured, and I place all of those life experiences inside a world that does not exist but mirrors the real world. Does that make sense?

I use those experiences to build and create real characters readers want to root for and care about, even when they make the wrong choice to try to fix a problem (especially the guys) and end up in an even bigger mess. And along with mirroring real life my characters are fun, sometimes insane, and when they make me laugh out loud, I can be pretty certain they’ll make a reader laugh, too.

In the old days when I was submitting stories, I remember an editor telling me to tone down the laughs, the family with the kids and the dog. Hmm. I hope she’s read SEAN because you guys laughed out loud at all that.

Most of all, I write from the heart.

I write about family, whether created by non-blood friends (like Nico and Bronte who embrace many into their fold), or the vampyres who are battling the greatest evil to save our world. At the core of all my books is the bond of family.

Speaking of family, we’re on the road to wellness after pneumonia and getting better every day.

Big hugs,

Christine X