It’s Sneak Peek time at Ludlow Hall…

 

SNEAKPEEKMANTIME

Nico Ferranti’s study at The Dower House…

Since it’s after the family dinner, Nico was relaxing in his study—a glass of Chianti at his elbow—as he talked via Face time to Gregorio Ancelotti, Tonio’s uncle, in Italy.

“It sounds as if Tonio is doing well, Nico,” Gregorio said.

Nico nodded, studied the man on the screen.

Although Gregorio was in his late thirties, tall, slim and wide shouldered, his genes had decreed he had more grey hair than black. Bronte called him a silver fox, much to Tonio’s amusement. Like Nico, tonight the man wore a fitted T-shirt, black, and matching jeans.

“He enjoyed spending time with you at Christmas. Bronte says do not be a stranger. You are welcome any time to our home. You are la famiglia.” Not exactly offended, Bronte had wanted Gregorio to stay at The Dower House over the festive season. Instead he’d stayed in one of the Ludlow Hall’s stunning oak and stainless steel A frame cottages, perfectly happy to have his own space.

Gregorio’s dark eyes narrowed as his firm mouth curved in reluctant smile.

He spoke in his usual deeply accented drawl. “Grazie, Nico. I appreciate the invitation. However, an old bachelor like me can stomach only so much domestic bliss at any one time. You are a lucky man. The Ferranti household only serves to remind me of my—domestic failings.”

Nico had to laugh.

Domestic failings his ass.

Gregorio had his pick of women.

The man was rich, and according to Bronte hot.

Nico had heard a whisper that Gregorio had not spent some of his nights in his cottage alone during his Christmas visit.

None of his business, he reminded himself.

However, he decided that now might be the right time to make a point of an issue that was a cause for concern to his wife. “It is important to Bronte and I that Tonio spends time with what is left of his madre’s family.”

There was a silence as the two men regarded each other.

“Namely me,” Gregorio said, nodding slowly.

“You.”

Gregorio was about to respond, when Nico noticed the door to his study slowly open.

He lifted his head, suspecting the intruder might be the dog, Jimmy Chew, who had a habit of bellying into a room like a ninja. But it wasn’t the dog, instead it was his baby daughter, Eve, who was motoring into the room at a fast crawl.

It seemed someone had escaped from her mama after her bath.

The baby was dressed in a pink sleep suit, her silky black curls dancing on her head.

When she started to pull herself up to her feet, using the heavy oak door as support, he noted little fingers were about to be caught in the door hinge.

Nico was on his feet and had her in his arms, a heartbeat away from disaster.

As he took his seat in front of his laptop, Gregorio leaned forward to study the scene.

His eyes, usually cynical, went all soft. “Ah, Eve, bella. She is a beautiful bambina, Nico.”

Since the baby was busy dropping kisses to his cheek and jaw, it took Nico a while to respond.

“She has found her feet. You should find yourself a good woman and settle down,” Nico advised, and laughed at the wide-eyed look of utter horror on Gregorio’s face.

“I am content and happy and safe just as I am, and so is my money.”

Before Nico could respond, Tonio flew into the room. “Aha. There you are,” he sang to an Eve whose response was to bury her face in her papa’s shoulder, her little arms wound tight around his neck.

“Ah, Tonio,” Nico said, his voice deep and his Italian accent deep. “Here’s Gregorio. Spend some time with him, while I put Eve to bed.”

He strolled out the room and left uncle and nephew to it.

Tonio slipped into the ergonomic chair, the black leather still warm, and gave his uncle Gregorio a shy wave. “Hi.”

Gregorio cleared his throat. “How are you? How is school?”

Tonio wondered why every single adult he knew was totally obsessed with school?

“I’ve received an A* in English and Math and science.”

Gregorio nodded, as if he’d expect nothing less.

“And I am captain of the soccer team,” Tonio added into a silence that had gone for, as far as he was concerned, far too long.

Again his uncle nodded, so Tonio decided to mix it up a little. “And I have two girlfriends.”

Aha, that got a ghost of a smile. “I think you may be a little young to dally with girls.”

Dally?

Tonio made a mental note to look the word up.

He leaned forward and went eye-to-eye with his uncle. “When did you have your first girlfriend?”

Gregorio blinked. “Unlike you, I was unfortunate enough to attend an all boys school, so it took some time for me to feel comfortable with the opposite sex. I think I was fourteen.”

“Was she pretty?”

The smile was swift, like a lightning strike, and then gone. “Si. But of course she was pretty.”

“Did you kiss her?”

His uncle’s inhale made Tonio grin. “I believe I did, eventually. I seem to remember it took me a long time to work up to it.”

“I kiss girls all the time,” Tonio informed him, his chest puffed out with pride.

Gregorio nodded, not looking in the least bit surprised. “I suppose a man is never too young to get into the swing of things.”

“Auntie Rosie says I must take my time choosing the best chocolate in the box and not gorge myself on too much sweetness or they will rot my teeth along with my respect for women.”

At these words of wisdom, Gregorio’s eyes grew round. “Did she? I am sure Auntie Rosie is a wise women, but I would take her recommendation with a large pinch of salt.”

Tonio nodded. “Si. Papa says I don’t want to catch germs, and I must treat girls as equals.”

Gregorio cleared his throat again. “Si. When a man is an expert in a subject, you must listen well to his advice.”

“When are you coming to visit with us?” Tonio asked the question burning in his belly. There was something about his Uncle Gregorio, the way he held himself apart from others, that bothered Tonio.

“I was about to suggest that you and the family come to visit with me here, at Lake Como. Would you like that?”

“Do you still have the jet ski?”

Si. I purchased a  Laser Pico sailing dingy for you and the twins to learn to sail.”

Tonio’s jaw dropped. “Wow! Grazie!”

When Nico entered, Tonio turned a beaming face to him.

“Papa, when can we visit with Uncle Gregorio?”

After he’d settled Tonio on his knee, Nico sent wide eyes to a grinning Gregorio on the screen.

“What is this?”

Before Gregorio could open his mouth, Tonio jumped in, “He’s bought a sailing dingy for us to learn to sail. Can we go, papa? Can we?”

Nico nodded. “Good idea, Gregorio. It is never too early for children to learn to respect water.”

“I thought during the May school break. Speak to Bronte. I will make the arrangements,” Gregorio said.

“Wow! I can’t wait to tell Luca and Sophia. Grazie, Uncle Gregorio!”

And with that Tonio raced from the room.

“You have made his day,” Nico drawled, more than delighted boy and man were bonding.

“Hmm. The boy is highly intelligent with lots of energy. Learning a new physical skill is smart. It will keep his mind occupied with wind speed and direction, current and buoyancy rather than concerned with kissing girls and the wisdom of Auntie Rosie.”

Nico had to laugh, and then groan. “Do not tell me.”

“Tonio needs exposure to our culture. I will invite your brother Gabriel and his family, too. The boy is wealthy. He will be a target for any unscrupulous huntress who will use beauty and sex to entrap him. Between us we will educate him in our ways and prepare him for the choppy waters of life ahead.”

Nico understood the underlying message loud and clear.

Si. We are Italian.”

Oooooh, I see trouble ahead……

And I have news of the Sneak Peek book – LUDLOW HALL After HAPPY EVER AFTER:

it'sallabouttheromancebyccmackenzie

 

It’s being formatted and the file will soon be available exclusively in my reader library CLICK HERE to join.

I’m busy working on Break The Rules and No Rules and a couple of secret projects, so stay tuned.

Hugs,

Christine X

 

It’s a LUDLOW HALL SNEAK PEEK with Sophia and Emily and relationship advice by Auntie Rosie…

 

fbsophia & Emily & relationship advice via auntie rosie - it's the 2017 sneak peeks

At The Dower House, in Ms Sophia Ferranti’s pink bedroom—

Dressed as fairy princesses in brand new frocks with yards of white tulle (made by auntie Janine) the girls are sitting cross-legged on huge faux fur white rug and practising plaits (taught by Bronte) on the long hair of their new Ayla dolls.

“I’m gonna marry Tonio,” Emily said, the tip of her tongue firmly gripped between her teeth as she tried to fix the hair-tie to the end of her doll’s wonky plait.

Sophia dropped her chin to stare over black plastic framed glasses (empty of glass) to study the stubborn expression on her best friend’s face. “It’ll never happen if you don’t stop giving him stupid googly eyes,” she said in a severe voice.

“Like what?”

“Like this—” Sophia gave a bug-eyed and dropped-jaw demonstration that made Emily frown.

“Do I do that?”

“Yup. Pitiful,” Sophia said, channelling her Auntie Rosie.

Emily huffed a big sigh. “Trouble is, he’s sooooo pretty.”

Sophia cannot hide her shock. “Pretty? You can’t call a boy pretty.”

“Well, I don’t to his face. But I do in my head.” Emily picked up a small brush to stroke through her doll’s blonde hair. She divided the hair into three sections that weren’t quite even. “What should I do then if I can’t look at him or think he’s pretty and I want to marry him?”

Sophia gave her a wide eyed, how-the-hell-do-I-know, look. “I’m only six. Men are a mystery,” she said, again channelling her Auntie Rosie.

“But, you have two brothers, which is more than I do.”

Sophia reckoned that statement was very true and mulled over the worst of her brothers behaviour. “Well, they fart and burp a lot and they think it’s hilarious. And they smell bad if they don’t spend time in the bath or the shower with soap. Mama said they are disgusting little monsters. Papa just laughs and Auntie Rosie says, ‘that’s men for you.'”

Emily made a face of female displeasure. “Okay. Then who would know how I can get Tonio to marry me?”

Sophia grinned widely. “Auntie Rosie!”

***

Thirty minutes later, Rosie’s sitting, legs crossed, on the rug and sipping pretend hot chocolate, with cream and marshmallows, out of a tiny pink plastic cup.

“You rang, my children, and here I am. What can I do for you?”

Knowing that her mama was baby sitting Mila and Eve with Emily’s mummy, Grace, Sophia got straight to the point. “Emily wants to marry Tonio. I told her to quit with the googly eyes. She does this—” Her demo brought a flush of sheer mortification to her best friend’s freckled cheeks.

Brown eyes dancing, Rosie studied the girls. “Well, you’re both a bit young to think of marriage. But, you only have to look at Bronte and me as excellent role models.”

“How come?” Sophia asked.

Rosie leaned in to her niece and gave her big, big eyes. “‘Cos WE rock, that’s how come. Way back before we even thought of a relationship with a man, WE were financially independent—that’s a key step in getting the man you want. Never, ever look like you want to get married to the man you want to marry or he’ll run so fast, dust will rise behind him, like the yellow-livered coward he is.”

Rightly suspicious of this advice, Sophia gave her favourite Aunt narrow-eyes. “How does that work? Surely girls need to be clear about what we want. Papa’s always saying that men are not mind readers—” she stopped when her Auntie Rosie pointed two forefingers in her face.”

“Aha! That’s just a thing a man says when they Do Not Mean It. Listen up, buttercups, and listen well to the advice of one who has been there, done it, and got the man of her dreams. 1. Men are hunters. If we make the hunt too easy…” She turned to look at a wide-eyed Emily. “By giving them googly eyes and big sighs that tell them we think they are awesome—then they’ve won us without the hunt. This is not good juju to Karma and the Universe. 2. Do not look to men to make you happy, be happy with you first.”

“Emily’s already told Tonio, about twenty times, that she’s gonna marry him. Has she failed before she’s even a woman?” Sophia asked, desperately worried about her best friend’s future happiness.

Rosie sent poor Emily an are-you-kidding-me face, but when the little girl teared-up, she pulled her on her lap for a cuddle. “It’s okay. We’ve all done daft stuff, especially me. All is not lost. Just promise me that from this moment on, no more googly eyes, no more telling him you’re gonna marry him or how wonderful he is. If you really, really want Tonio (personally speaking I think it’s better to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a man you can live with) then you need a Grand Plan.”

“Yeah,” Sophia agreed. “You gotta stop with the googly eyes.”
Emily stared at Rosie with big blue eyes, and clasped her little hands to her heaving bosom. “I KNOW I’m gonna marry Tonio,” she breathed and pressed a fist to her chest. “In here.”

Rosie took a deep inhale, nodded once. “Okay. But if I were you I’d take Sophia’s advice—never thought I’d ever say those words—and definitely stop the googly eyes.”

“And I kiss lots of boys,” Sophia said proudly.

Her Auntie Rosie turned to her. “So I’ve heard, and you need to stop kissing lots of boys.”

“Why?”

“I bet most of them have bad breath because their tooth brushing and flossing skills are not up to speed. And again, it means they haven’t had to fight for you. Kissing them first gives them all the power and it makes them think you’re ‘easy’ and that they are not special. Men always need to feel as if they are special. Give them a peck on the cheek ONLY if they deserve it.”

Sophia and Emily took time to think over advice which made no sense.

Emily turned to Rosie. “So, what should I do to make Tonio feel special?”

Rosie blinked. “Easy. Ignore him.”

“But, that would be rude,” Emily said.

“I don’t mean never speak to him ever again, and definitely respond politely if he asks you a question. What I mean is don’t volunteer information like you want to marry him. In fact, the best thing you can do the next time you see him is to say to Sophia that you’ve decided to become the next leader of the free world, which means no marriage and definitely no babies.”

“This is all soooooo confusing,” poor Emily said in a tone that made it clear she had absolutely no wish to be the leader of the free anything.

“Okay. Lemme give you an example— Tonio is surrounded by girls who flick their hair and give him googly eyes, correct?” When the little girls agreed, Rosie continued, “so, it is important that you, my beautiful Emily, stand out from the crowd. Remember what you and Sophia did two weeks before Christmas?”

It took a while, but Sophia caught on, kind of. “We wrapped presents for the little children who are poor. And papa put them in the big Ludlow Hall box of special Christmas presents.”

“Yup. And I saw the expression on Tonio’s face when you were tying the ribbon on the presents, Emily. He was impressed.”

Emily frowned. “But I didn’t do it to impress Tonio!”

Rose beamed in delight. “Of course you didn’t. You did it because you care about people less fortunate than yourself because YOU, my dear Emily, are the real deal. Men… I mean, boys, like girls who put others before themselves. It makes you very interesting compared to other girls who only care about what their hair looks like or stuff like that.”

Sophia turned to Emily and again gazed at her over her glasses. “What do you really want to do when you grow up? I want to work for Save The Childrens, and papa said I can do anything I want, if I work hard, because I am Italian.”
Rosie laughed. “You don’t need to be Italian, but I’m sure it helps. I always wanted to run my own business and make awesome wedding cakes. We had a lot of ups and downs, but your mama and I did it. And we did it all by ourselves and before we met your papa and I married Alexander.”

“I want to be a doctor,” Emily murmured after a while, then her blue eyes went anxious. “But, I don’t know if I’m clever enough. I hate sums.”

“I’ll help you,” Sophia said, immediately on-side to help her best friend realize her hopes and dreams.

“There you go,” Rosie said, utterly thrilled with both of them. “Teamwork. Be yourself with boys and not like the other girls. Talk about your hopes and dreams—except do NOT talk about marriage or babies—and don’t do anything you don’t want to do.”

Sophia leapt up to grab Rosie in a big hug. “Thank you, Auntie Rosie. No more kissing boys.”

Rosie hugged her back and headed for the door to spread the good news. “Then my work is done. I hear my daughter… Laters, my favourite girls.”

The girls settled back to work on their dolls, and continued in companionable silence until…

“Did you get everything she said?” Emily asked Sophia.

“Most of it. If you want to marry Tonio then you need to act as if you don’t want to marry him. Be polite, but not too nice to him.”

“It’s hard.”

“I don’t think we should worry about it. We’re only six. Let’s go get a cookie and milk.”

***

Meanwhile, in the family/kitchen/dining space, Rosie’s feeding baby Mila and chatting to Bronte and Grace when Nico and Tonio and Luca arrive home. By the amount of soil on the boys clothes and the skinned knees, they’ve been at soccer practice.

When Emily and Sophia enter and politely ask for a cookie and milk and are given permission, Tonio kicks off his soccer boots and places them in the mud room. He slumps into a chair at the kitchen table and turns to beam a big toothy smile at his sister and her best friend.

“While you’re at it, get me a glass of milk and a cookie, Emily,” he demanded.

Without saying a word, Emily pours one glass and takes it to her place at the table to sit next to a Sophia who’s watching the scene play out.

Emily took her time choosing a cookie from the plate before catching Tonio’s eye. “You didn’t say please, so you can get milk yourself.”

When Tonio blinked like a confused owl, Auntie Rosie bit down hard on her bottom lip to hide a smile.

“Manners, Tonio,” Nico said in his deep growly voice.

“And you didn’t wash your hands,” Bronte reminded the boy.

With a frown, Tonio slunk into the boot room to wash his hands. By the time he returned and had helped himself to a milk and a cookie, he studied Emily with interest as she nibbled on a cookie. “What did you two get up to today?” he asked.

Before Sophia could respond, Emily lifted her eyes to his and held. “We were talking about our future careers. I’m going to be a doctor.”

When Tonio’s eyes bugged out of his head, Sophia added, “And I’m going to work for Save The Childrens, and I’m gonna help Emily with her sums because we’re independent women.”

Since there wasn’t much Tonio could say in response to that statement, he said nothing, but watched his sister and her best friend, hand-in-hand, walk out of the room.

“Good lord,” Emily’s mummy, Grace, said to Rosie, “What on earth was all that about?”

With an eye on Nico and Tonio who were discussing the eyesight, or lack thereof, of the referee during soccer practice, Rosie popped a quick kiss on her daughter’s slippery black curls. “Just girl stuff. We can never begin too early to talk about girl stuff.”

“Emily’s growing up,” Bronte said. “I’m hoping it rubs off on Sophia.”

“She’s agreed to stop kissing boys,” Rosie told them.

Bronte stared at her with wide emerald eyes. “Wow. How did you get her to do that?”

“We had a discussion about self-respect and female independence.”

Grace blinked. “And here I thought they were up there busy practising how to braid hair.”

“That, too. They’re girls. They can think of more than one thing at a time.”

When Tonio cosied on the couch next to her to stroke a gentle finger down baby Mila’s hot cheek, Rosie eyed him. There was no doubt at all the boy was a true Ferranti male and a future breaker of hearts.

She nudged him with her elbow. “So, apart from being a future Ronaldo, what do you want to do when you grow up?”

Still stroking the baby, Tonio’s mouth curved. “I want to be James Bond.”

Rosie rolled her eyes. “Figures.”

Nico moved in to scrub his knuckles over the boy’s cropped hair. “An Italian James Bond.”

FINE

And so we are on to the beginning of the 2017 sneak peeks, with more to come from the girls!

By reader request, I’m working on the edits of a book of the entire 2016 sneak peeks (which are coming in at approx 50,000 words). The book will not be available for sale, but it will be exclusively available for readers in my ‘reader library’ H has set up HERE. I’ll let you know when the book’s in the reader library.

The reader library will have exclusive Ludlow Hall short stories for readers who love the series – I’m working on a Nico and Alexander short, before Nico met Bronte, and boys will be boys! So sign up to the reader library and check your spam filter so you don’t miss a story.

I’m also working on the final edit for the next Golddigger short story, GLORY (which is looking like it will be a longer read than forty minutes. I’m loving this couple so much I don’t want it to end.) I’ll give you the pre-order links as soon as I have them. I’m looking at 14th of April for this release.

And I’m also beavering away at Break The Rules, too.

I want to thank everyone who’s reached out to me about H. He had his hospital appointment cancelled at the last minute due to an emergency which had the Consultant’s entire clinic cancelled. But, he received another appointment this morning for Monday 27th March, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed. He’s looking really well, which I feel is a good sign of nothing sinister going on. I hope.

Christine X

It’s Monday and the sun is shining and it’s another slice of life with the Ferranti family…

 

jimmy-chew

Happy Monday, awesome peeps!

The sun is shining. The weather man’s crystal ball reckons frosts and crisp grass is coming in my future. I love this time of year. In this business, things ebb and flow. Seems this author is in a state of flow. Long may it last.

Here’s the latest family saga with Nico, Bronte and their family, which has a new member.

Do I hear an ‘Awwwwww’ for Jimmy Chew.  Get it?

***

It’s Saturday morning in the family-kitchen at The Dower House…

Dressed in soft jeans and their favorite T-shirts, the kids are busy completing homework tasks at the kitchen table. Tonio helps Luca with basic math. He’s doing a great job. Bronte checks the message from Nico on her cell phone, bites back a smile. Her heart melts at the picture he’s sent. Aww, how cute. How gorgeous. Her eyes mist as she taps out her response. Boy, oh boy. Her kids are gonna go absolutely mental when they see their papa’s surprise. Over the past couple of week they’d weighed up the pros and cons. The decision is made. The Ferranti’s are about to have a new addition to their family.

“Have you tidied your bedrooms?” she asks. Heads lift showcasing three guilty faces. Again, she bites back a smile. Little monkeys. “Well, I suggest you get right on it. I want every single piece of Lego in the box, Luca Ferranti.”

Her beloved boy makes a horrible face. His dark curls bounce as he shakes his head. “But, mama. I’m building a space station.”

“Then use the table and not the floor. Papa hurt his foot this morning,” Bronte says. And the air had turned blue with a roar of expletives in rough Italian. Words which made Tonio run for cover.

Tonio grins at the memory. “Si. He was so mad.”

“He was hopping on one foot. He said bad words,” Sophia says, tossing her papa under the bus. She closes her spelling book, tucks her pencil in her beloved Frozen pencil case with a picture of Anna on the front. Bronte reckons her daughter and her best pal must have watched the movie hundreds of times and never tire of singing the songs.

“Hmm,” Bronte says, eyeing Sophia. “Last time I looked you had the entire contents of your dressing up box all over the carpet, including play makeup. I want everything put away nice and tidy in the right places. Capisce?”

Sophia lifts her chin. “You are not Italian.”

Sophia’s emerald eyes dance as her mama bends to go nose to nose with her. “I’ll have you know, Missy, I am an honorary Italian and that makes me very speshul. And since I am the boss around here, you will jump to it!” She plants a kiss on her daughter’s little snub nose.

Sophia grins and rolls her eyes. “Okay. Okay. Do we get a treat for tidying our rooms?” she asks, as usual pushing her luck with her mama.

Bronte fold her arms and gives a grinning Tonio, Luca and Sophia big wide eyes. “Well, you’ll never know until you do it, will you?”

“Are you gonna give us another room inspection?” Luca growls, remembering what happened the last time his room failed a spot inspection by Nico. No candy for a whole week.

Bronte checks the time on the clock on the wall. “Well, you have exactly twenty minutes before the Big Boss arrives home, so if I were you I’d make the most of the time instead of standing here debating with me.”

As her children slink out of the room, she shakes her head. Good God, a snail with a limp moves faster than those three. When she has the room to herself, she grins as she dances a merry jig on the spot. Omigod, they are going to go crazy. She can’t wait for Nico to arrive home with his precious little package.

Twenty minutes later…

The sound of a car on gravel has Bronte slip on her shoes and head for the kitchen door. Nico exits his shiny black Range Rover. When he spots her, his smile is wide and wicked.

He cranes his neck to look beyond her. “Where are they?”

“Tidying their rooms. You’d have thought I was sending them down a coal mine as slave labor.”

His laugh makes her smile. Then her smile goes all soft and trembly as Nico lifts the pet carrier from the passenger seat. Inside the box a beautiful little face peeks out at her and sniffs Nico’s fingers as he opens the lid and lifts out the most gorgeous ball of fluff she has ever seen.

Bronte’s fingertips press on her lips. “Oh, Nico, he is the cutest thing. Our very own Bacon Freeze.”

Si,” Nico grins as the tiny ball of fluff licks his neck and chin. “He is eight months old, house trained, and smart. The shelter staff are sad to see him go.” He places the wriggling pup into Bronte’s outstretched arms.

“Poor baby,” she whispers as she presses soft kisses on the clipped fur. “Poor little thing.”

Nico’s face goes serious. “Si. His elderly owner had a heart attack and passed away. The puppy has been in the shelter for six weeks. He needs a home and plenty of love.”

“And who’s a beautiful boy, then?” she says to the delirious pup.

Grazie, cara,” Nico says as he opens the trunk to remove a doggy bed, and box of essentials which include food and water bowls, toys, a selection of chews, dry dog food and a leash in bright red leather.

“I’m talking to the dog,” his wife says, tossing him a saucy look. “It’s been a long time since you were a boy.”

His response is to drop a hot kiss on her mouth. “You sit with him the family room. I’ll get the kids.”

She bites down hard on her bottom lip. “Nico, they are going to go nuts.”

Si. I cannot wait.”

 

 

Meanwhile, Sophia is folding her dressing up clothes. Shoes and bags go in the big wooden box first. Then the dresses and then the accessories, as her auntie Rosie calls the myriad of plastic bracelets and necklaces and tiaras and magic wands. And while she’s at it, she lines up all her dolls on her bed. One has a plastic shoe missing, so she bellies beneath her bed to grab it. When she’s fitting the shoe to the foot, her papa pokes his head around the door.

“Sophia, cara. Mama wants you in the kitchen.”

“I’m nearly finished. Is this my room inspection?”

Nico cranes his neck around the door and scans the room. He holds out his hand for hers. “Good job.”

With Sophia’s hand in his, Nico enters Luca’s room to find him and Tonio flying the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars. “Come down stairs, mama has something for you,” he says to the boys.

Luca makes a face. “I haven’t finished yet.”

“Do it later,” Nico says, shocking both boys into silence. When have they ever been told to, ‘do it later’ when it came to cleaning their bedrooms? Never.

Luca shoots his papa a suspicious look. “Are we in trouble?”

Sheesh. How hard is it to get these kids down stairs for their surprise? Nico shakes his head. “No.”

“What is it then?” Luca asks in a sulky voice. The boys trail behind Nico and Sophia as they go down the stairs. “You’re acting funny.”

Nico turns to his youngest son. “How am I acting funny?”

“You’ve gotta funny look in your eye as if you’re gonna laugh or cry.”

By this time they’ve reached the door to the family-kitchen-living space. Bronte is sitting on the couch with the puppy on her lap. When Sophia makes a gasp, Nico releases her hand and grabs his phone from his jean pocket. Eyes like saucers, Sophia takes hesitant steps towards her mama, with a silent Tonio and Luca hot on her heels. Sophia drops to her knees.

“Who does it belong to?” she whispers, her little hand trembling as she strokes the soft, downy fur.

“He belongs to us,” her mama whispers, her emerald eyes swimming.

“He’s mine?” Sophia whispers.

“No,” her papa says. “He belongs to the Ferranti family, to everyone.”

“Wow,” Luca whispers. “If I’d known we were gonna get a puppy, I’d have tidied my room weeks ago.”

Tonio sinks to the edge of the couch and leans into Bronte. “He’s really cute. What’s his name?”

“Well, his previous owner called him Jimmy,” she says as she hands him the pup.

Sophia turns anxious eyes on her mama. “Why couldn’t they keep him?”

“His owner was very sick and couldn’t take care of him. He sadly passed away, so Jimmy needs a new home. What do you think, will we keep him here with us?”

All three children nod, and when Jimmy barks and wriggles to be free, they all laugh.

And so the Ferranti family have a new addition to the household.

“I think Jimmy’s a boring name,” Luca says, gently stroking the puppy.

Nico starts to laugh. “What’s so funny, papa?” Sophia says.

Nico moves to sit. He slides his arm around Bronte’s slim waist. “His full name is Jimmy Chew. And with mama’s love of shoes, I felt he was meant to belong to us.”

Bronte gives him big eyes. “I don’t believe it. You made that up.”

“No. I promise you. His owner named him Jimmy Chew because, like you, she adored Mr. Choo’s shoes.”

“Wow.” Bronte slides her arm around his waist and cosies in. “Rosie would say it’s karma, baby. Karma.”

Si. I understand the workings of the Universe. I am Italian.”

 

FINE

 

Awwwwww. I want a Bacon Freeze (as Sophia calls a Bischon Frise). H says no because he’d be the one to do the walking and pooper scooper. But I still want one.

AND we have Golddigger book two, MILLIE, on Friday.  Every Friday all the way up to Christmas you’ll have a 30-40 minute read (depending on how fast you get through it) Golddigger story to keep you going. I’m having the Best time writing these. They’re great fun, and I hope you enjoy them.

Love and hugs,

Christine X

 

 

 

Exclusive SEAN excerpt and a video….

iBOOKS pre-order

Greetings my darlings,

And how cool is the video? Can you tell I’m getting down with technology. I’m gonna have a CC MACKENZIE youtube channel. I know, how cool for school is that? LOL!

My amazing daughter is helping me with a few things we’ve had on the back burner for months, but are now coming to fruition, including a video reader/author question and answer session. So if you can think of any burning questions to ask, now is the time. Stick them in the comments section below or message me or send up smoke signals – I will respond.

Want a sneak peek of SEAN?

Then read on:

***

Katherine slapped cold cream on her face, plucked tissues from the box on the dresser, and wiped her makeup from her skin. Removing her eye makeup took time. It had been applied by Birdie with a heavy hand to allow people at the back of the room to see her properly.

Behind her Birdie was helping Ellie out of her flesh colored strapless bra.

“You’re burnin’ up,” Birdie said to the girl in a sharp tone that caught Katherine’s attention.

She spun to study one of her best Golddiggers.

Ellie was an all-American blonde bombshell.

The girl did look flushed, her eyes a glassy blue.

“You sick?” Katherine asked.

Ellie nodded.

“Feel like crap. Took a couple of pills before the show, but every bone’s aching.”

“It isn’t the Grey Goose flu, is it?” Katherine wondered, her voice sharp as she studied Ellie.

Ellie glared at her. “For crissake, I never touch vodka and my drink was spiked, once.”

“Just checking.”

Non. She ees seek.” Pearl, a petite Golddigger from Paris, placed the back of her hand on Ellie’s forehead and clicked her tongue. “Mon dieu, you are hot. Let us hope it is not ze flu. You need a bath, a painkiller, and bed. Tout de suite!”

“That’s why you threw your panties into the crowd instead of to me, I knew there was something wrong,” Birdie said as she helped Ellie dress. “Let’s get you out of here.”

In no time, all the girls were bundled up in jeans and sweaters.

And just as they were about to leave, a knock at the door heralded the arrival of two outrageously good-looking men. They were both tall, built, and dressed in immaculate dark suits with pristine white shirts opened at the neck. Katherine, unfortunately, was well acquainted with one; the other was super model Noah Blake. And at the moment, Noah was staring hard at a very sick Ellie who stood and smiled and nodded as she did her duty and shook his hand.

As Ellie left with Birdie and the rest of the girls, Noah was hot on their heels, his eyes glued to Ellie’s back. Seemed her Golddigger had found herself a rabid fan, which left Katherine alone with a man she hadn’t seen in years. One who’d always tied her emotions in knots, and these days, a man who regarded her as public enemy number one.

Her stomach knotted as she took a good long look at the narrowed eyes, the set face, the firm line of his mouth.

Well, time had certainly been kind to Sean Gallagher.

He looked the picture of power and authority in his expertly tailored suit. To call him good-looking would be a pitiful description.

As the camera well knew, the guy was devastatingly handsome.

Trouble was, he knew it.

Unblinking eyes captured hers, and held.

Her pulse raced; her mouth went dry.

God, it was like being trapped in a blue tractor beam.

It cost her, but she dragged her eyes away as scenes, good and bad, from long ago flew into her mind to send it spinning down memory lane.

“Hi, Sean,” she said.

Of course she’d known he’d be at the wedding. His friendship and best man status with Marc Atelier had come as something of a surprise, which was putting it mildly. Seemed the guys had met years ago, long before Marc met Elena, and become firm friends.

Normally, Katherine didn’t believe in coincidences. But, coincidences happened in life all the time.

Sean was well over six feet tall.

Big.

Bigger than she remembered, with wide shoulders, narrow waist, and a flat belly.

Her eyes lifted to his. She’d always loved his eyes, a shocking ice-blue. The kind that seemed to see right into a person’s soul.

However, at the moment his gaze didn’t look friendly, and not once did that wonderful mouth crack a smile. Rather, he pursed his lips in a thin, hard line.

His hair was still jet black, cut in a modern style, short at the sides, longer on top, and he wore his signature carefully cut and trimmed five o’clock shadow.

Seemed after six years he was still bitter, and how pathetic was that?

She’d been eighteen, and when it came to men, especially this man, she’d been too stupid to live.

“Long time no see,” Sean said in a low tone that was one click up from a growl.

“Years,” she responded in a clipped tone.

Now, he curved his full, sexy lips in a smirk as his eyes lingered on the V of her thin silk wrap. She folded her arms against her body’s pitiful reaction to a man who couldn’t stand the sight of her. He’d always affected her this way, made her tongue-tied and nervous, when, in truth, she was anything but.

“Bit of a step-down from the Royal Ballet, don’t you think?”

The fact he was beginning their conversation with an insult shouldn’t have hurt, but it did.

Then she wondered why she was surprised?

In the past, when they’d been young and before his brother came between them he’d been full of fun and not the sort of person, she’d have thought, to hold a grudge. He’d changed—and that change had a sliver of disappointment in him curl in her belly.

At one time, their late grandmothers had been best friends. They’d lived next door to each other in Dublin. After Katherine’s grandmother passed away and Joanne Kennedy had taken her daughter to live the dream of ballet in England, they’d lost touch with Sean’s family. Katherine and her mother had finally joined her older brother and his family to settle in Old Ludlow, where they’d lived ever since. And of course, since then, all her dreams of ballet had turned to dust. Not that she’d had second thoughts. Creating The Golddiggers had opened more doors to her than ballet alone ever could. She’d never regretted her decision. Plus, as far as she was concerned, she had nothing to be ashamed of, and if Sean Gallagher thought he could rain on her parade, he had another think coming. Namely, a boot up the ass.

“I had my reasons,” she said, determined to give this man no cause to sneer at her life choices.

“Sure you did. Maybe you just weren’t good enough.”

The blow of his open hostility hit like an open handed slap to the face.

Her cheeks might be hot, but Katherine blinked—held her chin high.

“We’ll never know, will we?” she said.

His blue eyes went so cold, she shivered.

“You’ve gone from living like a nun to courtesan in seven years. Bit of a departure,” Sean said, his voice low.

Not once did her eyes leave his. She refused to back down from the challenge he’d tossed between them.

“I don’t regret my life choices.”

“I’m sure you don’t. You were a good actress then; you’re an Oscar winner now. With you it’s all smoke and mirrors. Always was, always will be.”

When Birdie pushed through the door, Sean moved past her and walked away.

And all the while, Katherine’s heart was going crazy against her ribs.

“Sheesh. That’s one helluva bitter man,” Birdie said, tipping her head out the door to watch Sean.

Katherine’s eyes narrowed as she stood behind her dresser and stared down the corridor at his retreating back.

A boiling anger bubbled inside her, so intense it made her fist her hands.

Birdie turned to her, studied her face, snapped her gum. “What on earth did you do to him?” she asked.

Katherine wished she knew, because whatever had set him off like that had to be more than that one kiss years ago.

“I didn’t do anything to him.”

***

Not long now until SEAN is live – the 30th September.

Don’t forget you can pre-order him HERE.

Any questions you want to ask about the writing process, creativity, or what’s coming, leave a comment below.

Big hug

Christine X

IT’S ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE … This week it’s Rosie and The Golddiggers …

 

rosiegolddiggersliceofludlowlife

Bronte is picking up Rosie. They’re on their way to Ludlow Hall. It’s early evening and the week before Elena and Marc Atelier’s Big Day. Marc is the head of Ferranti Security, and Elena’s organizing a huge surprise for Marc’s stag party at Ludlow Hall – a live performance from Miz. Pousse-Café (a.k.a her cousin and maid-of-honor, the famous Irish showgirl, Katherine Mary Kennedy)  and four of her GOLDDIGGER burlesque troupe. Tonight is a rehearsal behind locked doors, and Elena, Bronte and Rosie have been invited to attend.

*A beaming Rosie waves to Bronte from her front door. She looks a million dollars in a fire-engine red party dress and heels. She kisses her man and baby girl goodbye. Alexander gives his sister big eyes as his wife skips over to the car, her inky curls bouncing on her shoulders*

“I can’t believe I’m gonna meet the famous Pousse-Café and her amazing Golddiggers,” Rosie sings as she clicks the seatbelt over her lap. She turns to a Bronte who’s wearing one of her signature sleeveless sheaths, this one a black mini and showcasing fabulous legs. “Did you see them at the Oscars? Didn’t you just love their black leather ensemble, the thigh high boots, the makeup, the hair? They brought the house down. Alexander’s tongue was on the floor he was panting so hard, dirty boy. At the end of their raunchy routine he jumped me right on the couch.”

“Puleeeeeeze, that’s my big brother you’re talking about. I don’t wanna go there.”

Unrepentant, Rosie gives a happy sigh in remembrance. “Three orgasms that night.”

“Eww, my brother, Rosie!”

But Rosie isn’t listening. “I’ve always dreamed of being a Golddigger.”

“Yeah? You’ve always dreamt of lots of things. Well, you’ll need to grow about another twelve inches,” says her friend with ruthless logic.

Rosie heaves another happy sigh. “Maybe they can teach me a few bedroom moves. You know, to keep our sex life fresh and new.”

Bronte turns to look at her, but Rosie’s miles away. “Rosemary Margaret Ludlow,” she says in a tone that makes Rosie jump. “I do not want to discuss my brother’s sex life. We clear?”

Rosie hunches her shoulders. “Spoil sport. But I’m gonna pick up a few moves.”

“Go for it.”

Rosie turns to grin at her bestie. “Maybe you could learn a few things.” When Bronte simply stares straight ahead, Rosie makes a face. “Then again maybe not. I bet Nico’s gotta lotta moves.”

Bronte’s mouth goes all prissy. “I’m saying nothing that might incriminate me.”

“Show off.”

“I’ve even got my Golddigger name – Rosie La Fleur.” She turns to a smiling Bronte. “And you could be Bronte Bon-Bon.”

Bronte rolls her eyes.

*By this time they’re outside Elena’s coach house in the grounds of Ludlow Hall. Bronte toots the horn. The door opens to reveal Elena and Marc in a clinch*

“Aww, look at them,” Rosie says. “I well remember those days.”

Bronte frowns. “What the hell is wrong with you tonight? Alexander adores you.”

They greet Elena as she slips into the back seat.

“I know he does,” Rosie says. “But variety is the spice of life.”

“What’s all this?” Elena asks.

“Don’t ask,” Bronte suggests.

“I wanna be a Golddigger,” Rosie says, turning to grin at Elena. “Love the dress. Slutty but tasteful. You’re Golddigger name might be Elena Lawless.”

“Ha ha. I love it. Marc loves this dress,” Elena says.

“I bet he does,” Rosie agrees. “Do you think we’ll get to dance with the troupe?”

Elena shrugs. “If you don’t ask you don’t get. It’s a run-through before tomorrow night, we’ll see how the time goes.”

“She wants them to show her bedroom moves,” Bronte says.

“Well, they’ve nailed the grinds and pelvic thrusts,” Elena says.

*Conversation ends as they park the car and make their way into Ludlow Hall. They approach the arched oak double door entrance to the Grand Ballroom*

“I think it’s amazing you’ve organized this surprise for Marc’s stag party,” Rosie says to Elena.

The bride-to-be’s eyes glitter with a wicked excitement. She cackles like an evil witch. “Just wish I could be there to see his face, but no cell phones are permitted to film the show. It’s a shame, but Katherine’s pretty strict about protecting the Golddiggers privacy and brand.”

In front of the doors stand two men in sharp black suits, white shirts and black ties. They’re built like Sumo wrestlers. Unblinking, they eye Bronte, Rosie and an Elena who’s grinning like loon. “I’m Katherine’s cousin Elena,” she says.

A doorman mutters into a microphone attached to his wrist, listens to a voice in his ear. He nods, opens the door, and the girls slide past. The doors close behind them with a definite click. Rosie’s Bambi eyes go wide as she takes in the changes to the space. The vast room smells of lemon oil, and fresh flowers and something else she can’t put her finger on. Towards the back of the room a stage is assembled, the apparatus below hidden from view by black silk fabric pinned around edge. The back wall is covered in black silk, too. Situated before the stage are a collection of round tables and chairs covered with red silk.

On the mirrored wall opposite the stage resides a gleaming bar, at the moment empty of waiting staff. Rosie turns in a circle. “Wow,” she whispers. “This place has got a Cabaret vibe going on.”

“Well spotted,” a woman’s voice calls from behind the stage, and out walks Miz. Pousse-Café herself. Chin held high, posture perfect, Katherine’s wearing sheer black tights, showcasing the longest legs Rosie’s ever seen in her life, beneath a skimpy black leotard with shoelace straps. Like the rest of her, all long and lean, her arms are beautifully toned, like a ballet dancer’s.

When she clocks Katherine’s high firm breasts, Rosie immediately has boob envy. The girl has the tiniest waist she’s ever seen on a female, and hair the color of ink tied back in a high tail which falls in a slippery river to her waist. Her creamy face is smooth and blemish free, the tone makes her large brown-black eyes pop, and her lips are full and pouty. On her feet, she’s wearing black leather tap shoes. Just seeing the famous showgirl in the flesh makes Rosie realize that her title as one of the most beautiful women in the world is absolutely deserved. In fact the girl is so stunning Rosie takes a step back. But Katherine’s high squeal of delight as she hugs her cousin Elena makes Rosie grin. Any lingering feeling of insecurity around such perfection simply melts away. Hell, the girl might be famous and gorgeous, but she’s just like everyone else and adores her family.

“Omigod,” Elena cries, shifting to hold her cousin’s hands wide and simply take her all in. “Look at you. You look fabulous, dahling.”

“And you look beyond happy,” Katherine says, the soft sing song of Ireland in her voice. “Is your man good to you? Does he treat you well?”

“Marc treats her like a Queen,” Bronte says, and moves in to air kiss Katherine’s cheeks.

Katherine’s dark eyes find Rosie, and those black brows rise in question. Her full mouth curves. She offers Rosie her hand. “And who have we here? You look like one of the little people. A fairy perhaps?”

Rosie steps in to take Katherine’s hand, and beams up into her face. “Rosie Ludlow. Elena’s friend and Bronte’s sister-in-law.”

Katherine’s eyes go wide. “So you’re married to the lovely Alexander?”

“For my many sins,” Rosie says in a long suffering tone which makes Katherine grin.

They turn to the sound of feet wearing tap shoes. Four stunning women in matching tights and leotards enter, closely followed by an elderly lady bearing a music box and a sheaf of papers.

“Ah,” Katherine says. “And here’s Birdie, she who must be obeyed, and part of my troupe. Ellie, Millie, Sukki and Pearl, say hello to my cousin Elena, Bronte Ferranti and Rosie Ludlow.” The girls shake hands. Then Katherine put her arm around the shoulders of a woman who appears so frail, she looks as if a strong puff of wind might blow her over. Her baby fine hair’s dyed bright orange, a color that matches her lipstick. Her brows are drawn in black pencil. Sharp beady eyes set in a wrinkled face take their time to study Elena, Bronte, and then land on Rosie. Katherine continues, “And this is Miz Birdie, the boss of everyone.” There seems to be a scent of mint and lemons surrounding the girls.

Birdie digs a sharp elbow into Katherine ribs and rolls her eyes. “God knows you need someone to keep you in line,” she drawls in a New Yawk accent that thrills Rosie to bits.

“Are you all from America?” Rosie asks.

A tall blonde who looks as if she could be the next Miss USA steps forward. “Yes, ma’am. Except for Pearl who’s from Paris. I’m from Texas. Ellie’s from the Big Apple, and Sukki’s from New Orleans.”

“Wow,” Rosie says, her eyes wide. “Do you have to be tall to be a Golddigger?”

“The girls range from five nine to five eleven,” Katherine says. “I’m five ten.”

“Me, I am the smallest,” Pearl says in her soft French accent. A dimple pops in her cheek.

“Okay, enough shootin’ the breeze. Let’s get this show on the road,” Birdie claps her hands and on cue all the Golddiggers skip onto the stage and take their positions to pose for the music. “Let’s see if we can get the bend and snap right, shall we? We need some ass from you, Ellie.”

*Bronte, Rosie and Elena sink onto chairs around a table to watch the show. It doesn’t take Rosie long to learn that a Golddigger works like a dog. If Miz Birdie isn’t one hundred per cent happy, they start again. By the end of their Putting On The Ritz tap routine, Rosie’s toes are tapping. The Golddiggers grab bottles of still water and towels to dab their neck and cheeks*

Birdie marches right up to Sukki and pulls a face. “Is your shoulder still givin’ you trouble?”

Sukki rolls her right shoulder forward and back, and drawls, “F’sure. It stiffened up on the flight. It’ll be fine.”

Birdie pulls out a little black book, jots a note. “Massage first thing tomorrow.”

“Yes’m,” Sukki says.

An hour and a glass of wine later and Rosie eyes are all starry. She’s living in a wonderful daydream where she’s up there with the Golddiggers strutting her stuff and singing her little heart out. Those girls can sing, dance, tease and make an audience laugh and cry. They’re simply amazing.

*By the time Bronte drops Rosie back home, Rosie’s head is in the clouds. Man, what she’d give to be a Golddigger. It was a shame she didn’t get a chance to dance with them, but the girls had given her plenty of ideas*

Rosie enters the huge barn conversion she calls home. The house is quiet. Mila’s a good baby and sound asleep. From the family room the sound of the TV turned low and something else has her tip toe through the dining hall. And there lying on his back with his mouth open and snoring like a freight train is the light of her life. Alexander’s wearing his habitual soft jeans and comfy T-shirt. Bare feet hang over the end of the couch. His hair’s all messed up and he has that I-need-a-shave-look she loves so much. Taking care not to make a sound, she slips off her heels, turns and skips up the stairs to their bedroom. She makes short work of her dress, strapless bra and panties. The box of special underwear she ordered from Agent Provocateur is so exquisite that for a moment she simply strokes gentle fingertips over the boned satin and lace corset in black silk. The tiny panties are thing of beauty and the stockings are so shiny and smooth. By the time she’s back downstairs and positioning herself just right with her back against the door frame, her knee bent with her foot on the frame, and both hands held high above her head, Rosie’s ready for anything.

“Alexaaaaaaaander,” she purrs.

Nothing.

“Alexaaaaaaaander,” she sings, louder.

Nothing.

If anything his snoring grows louder.

Her eyes narrow into slits.

She moves to loosen up, tosses her hair back a couple of times, and again assumes the position.

“ALEXANDER!”

In a scissor kick he’s sitting, one hand reaching for the baby monitor while the other scrubs his face. “What? What?”

“Alexaaaaaaaander,” Rosie sings, and reckons it’ll be fourth time lucky.

The way his jaw drops and his eyes go too wide when he clocks her outfit is everything she’s ever dreamt of.

“Whoa, baby,” he says as he stands and moves towards her. “What have I done to deserve this?”

“I learned some moves tonight,” she whispers as his big hands grip her waist and pull her close.

“Yeah?” In a smooth move he bends to hoist her over his shoulder and makes tracks for the stairs and their bedroom. When she pummels his back, he smacks her hard on the ass.

“Ow!”

“You just hang on there, baby. I’ve gotta few good moves myself.” He enters their bedroom, kicks the door closed.

 

 

 

FINE (Italian for The End)

 

I know. I know. But no sex on the blog.

In SEAN we attend Elena and Marc’s wedding, and catch up with the lives of the usual suspects in Ludlow Hall.

This week I’ve been an editing/proof reading demon, and more Golddigger stories will be placed on pre-order soon, so keep an eye on this space.

Don’t forget you can grab SEAN and ELLIE on pre-order  HERE 

 

More Ludlow Life coming next week!

Love and hugs,

Christine X

 

ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE …

Rosie & Brontelunch

Hello, my darlings,

It’s a bank holiday here in the UK, so I’m a leeeeeetle bit late with the Ludlow Hall sneak peek.

Here’s Rosie and Bronte doing what they do best:

Their baby girls sound asleep in their strollers, Bronte and Rosie are having a girlfriend lunch at Café Roma in the ancient market town of Old Ludlow . . .

*Rosie’s not a happy bunny. Wearing a face like a smacked arse, she’s pushing a limp lettuce leaf around her plate. When she heaves yet another deep sigh, Bronte tries hard not to laugh*

Bronte’s digging into a big juicy steak and fries and shoves the pail of crispy fries drenched in salt and mayo towards Rosie. “Stop making a face. Go on, have one. You know you want to. What’s the point of depriving yourself of all your favorite food groups if it makes you a miserable cow?”

Rosie’s gaze lingers longingly on the crispy fries with their fluffy centre. They smell amazing. Her mouth waters to taste one, just one. The fries whisper in an evil voice, ‘eat me, eat me’ in her ear. But she refuses to give in to temptation. Her eyes click to her best friend. Her skinny best friend. Her best friend who can eat whatever the hell she likes (even chocolate) and nothing sticks to her skinny ass. Her tight skinny ass. An ass that has delivered not one, not two, but THREE children. To be fair, the twins were delivered by C-section, but still . . .

“It’s not fair,” Rosie whines. “I love breastfeeding my baby girl to bits, you know I do. But Mila ate my boobs. They’re gone, baby, gone. For six short months I had a wondrous cleavage to be proud of. Awesome breasts. And now look at them.” She tugs her neck of her T-shirt to peer down. “They’re like deflated balloons. All empty skin. The fat’s gone to my ass and hips. It’s not fair.”

Her BBF does such a huge eye roll Rosie’s surprised she doesn’t give herself a migraine. So much for sisterly solidarity, eh? It’s okay for HER, she’d look amazing in a black bin bag. Not that she’s ever seen Bronte in a black bin bag, but that’s not the point, is it?

“For goodness sake stop that horrible whine,” Bronte says in a chirpy voice that does Rosie’s head in. “Breast feeding, if a woman can manage it and you have, is a wonderful thing for the mother and baby. Look at your belly, it’s flat and tight. And look at Mila, she looks plump and healthy and all on mother’s milk. You should be proud of yourself. And drink up your water, it’s good for milk making.”

Chewing on a sliver of red pepper, Rosie recognises a pep talk when she hears one. She’s not having it. “I smell of baby milk. She’s like a parasite sucking all the good stuff out of me, and leaving the crap on my ass and hips behind. My hair’s still falling out, too.”

Bronte pops another fry in her mouth, eyes Rosie’s riot of glossy curls, shakes her head. “You’ve gorgeous hair and plenty of it. What the hell is the matter with you today? Are you sleep deprived?”

“Nope. Mila’s sleeping through the night these days. She’s a frigging angel sent from heaven. I probably get too much sleep,” Rosie says in a pitiful little voice.

A voice that makes her BBF sit up and take notice. Bronte tops up their water glasses from the jug on the table. “Okay, what’s up, Buttercup?”

“There’s something going on with Alexander,” Rosie whispers.

Bronte’s eyes grow big and wide. “What’s my brother done?”

Rosie tends not to talk about her husband to his sister behind his back. It might have something to do with the marriage rules her mother drummed into her head, with loyalty to her spouse being very near the top. But if she doesn’t unburden herself, she’ll explode. “He didn’t kiss me goodbye this morning. No hug. No nuthin.”

Bronte blinks. “That doesn’t sound like him.”

“I know. Usually he can’t keep his hands off me.” The sting of tears prickle in Rosie’s throat. She sniffs. “Thing is, last night at least twice I caught him on his phone and he switched it off really fast, like he doesn’t want me to hear or see what he’s doing.” Now the prickle is stinging behind her eyes.

Again Bronte sends her wide eyes, and an even bigger smile. “Probably work. You know what Nico and him are like, they never switch off.”

“Yeah, but usually Alexander’s pretty open about pressure of work. I’m telling you he’s up to something. I know it. I can smell it. He’s gone off me. Probably because having a baby has wrecked my ass. I worked really hard for that toned butt,” Rosie says miserably. Then another thought hit her. “And have you seen the blonde dolly on reception at Ludlow Hall?”

Bronte shakes her head. “She’s a student. You’re being ridiculous, my brother adores the ground you walk on.”

“Not recently,” Rosie mutters.

“Anything else bothering you?” Bronte asks.

*Actually there was something else, but Rosie would rather have her tongue cut out with a rusty knife than say so. They’ve been best friends since they were three, and not once has Bronte ever forgot Rosie’s birthday. NEVER. Until today that is . . . Well, her BBF has the kids, Nico and Sweet Sensations to look after. Maybe now they’re all grown up birthdays shouldn’t matter so much? Maybe the hurt and upset she’s feeling is truly pathetic? Maybe she needs to get a frigging life? After all look, she should be counting her blessings. She has a longed for baby girl and a man who loves her. At least he did until this morning, and obviously HE forgot it was a special day for her, too*

Biting down hard on her bottom lip, Bronte stands. “Ready to go?”

Rosie shrugs, lunch with the eternally skinny Bronte has not been fun. “Sure.”

*The girls buckle the baby seats securely in Bronte’s car, fold the strollers into the trunk, and then take their seats. But as they drive out of town Bronte doesn’t head for home, instead she takes the turning to Ludlow Hall*

Rosie turns to her, frowns. “Where are we going?”

“I want to check on Sophia and Luca. They’re having a play date in the kiddy party area next to the Spa. Won’t take a minute.”

“Sure.” Rosie shrugs miserably, stares unseeing out the window at the passing glory of acres of grass, the meandering river Ludlow, and the forests and hills beyond.

*The girls carry their daughters into Ludlow Hall*

Bronte leads the way past the Spa and into a function room. When she shoves Rosie through the door before her, there is a crowd of people lurking there who all roar, “SURPRISE! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ROSIE!”

Rosie’s jaw hits the floor because standing before her are all her family and friends. Her parents have flown over from their retirement home in Cyprus. Jacob and Gabriella Del Garda are laughing at the shock on her face. Sophia and Luca and Tonio are all dressed to the nines and carrying cards and gift bags as they run to hug their favorite auntie.

Rosie turns to a crying with laughter Bronte Ferranti, and narrows her eyes. “You shit!”

Bronte grabs Mila, gives Rosie a smacking kiss. “God, your face. Best laugh, evah!”

And then there was Alexander, his arms filled with fresh flowers, and his emerald eyes dancing with wicked laughter. Oh, man, she was so gonna kick his very fine ass.
“Hey, baby,” he whispers in her ear. She shut her eyes to inhale the delicious scent of her man “Happy Birthday. Gimme a kiss.”

FINE

 

Ah, birthdays are wonderful things.

Big hugs,

Christine X

Pre-order Links for SEAN, and a cover reveal and pre-order links for the first of the GOLDDIGGERS, ELLIE… so excited…

LUDLOWSEANFINITO

 

Greetings from a soggy Sunday,

As you can see from my new banner at the top of the page, we’ve been busy at MORE Press, and we’re about to get busier still. The next Ludlow Hall Romance franchise is SEAN going live on 30th September. Remember the story is stand-alone with no cliffhangers. And because it’s set in the Ludlow Hall world we meet Nico, Bronte & Co.

The book’s pre-order links are available below for the awesome peeps at iBooks, and for Amazon.

(Kobo and B&N links will be added as soon as they become available.)

iBOOKS  USA      iBOOKS UK     AMAZON USA    AMAZON UK

Here’s the blurb for SEAN’s story:

A sizzling love story with a superb cast of characters…

Businessman and model Sean Gallagher is catch-your-breath gorgeous and ruined by his troubled past in Ireland and the tragic death of his brother. All grown up and relocated to New York, he’s become one of the most photographed face on the planet. No one knows the dark childhood secrets that have given Sean a backbone of steel and a heart untouched by love…

No one until Irish showgirl Katherine Mary Kennedy that is…

In his role as best man for the wedding of his best friend, Sean’s keeping a close eye on the stag party. From the moment his former girl-next-door steps onto the stage at Ludlow Hall as Pousse-Café, leader of the GOLDDIGGERS, Sean’s captivated…

Burlesque star Katherine and her troupe might be taking the world by storm, but she’s had more than her share of heartache and broken dreams.

She’s come to give a special one off performance at Ludlow Hall with four of her GOLDDIGGERS, and to prepare for her tole as maid of honor at her cousin’s wedding.

Neither Sean or Katherine believe in romance or a happy-ever-after, but the attraction sparking between them cannot be denied…

Sean and Katherine’s story is one of passion, love lost and love found and changes both of their lives forever…

Get your copy of SEAN today!

***

And now we come to a project my team and I have been working on for months… drum roll… introducing the world famous…

GOLDDIGGERS

A weekly tale of love and scorching desire  best describes the brand new short romance reads from USAToday bestselling author CC MACKENZIE. Let’s face it women today are short of one thing. TIME. We might snatch ‘me’ time during a lunch break, or a commute to and from work, or we’re not in the mood for a committed book relationship. Sometimes we want a satisfying story quick and fast, a bit like a book one-night-stand.

Each story is set in the world of Burlesque with feathers, glitter, love, desire, music and dance where girls tease and tantalize. Each story stands-alone, unrelated to the next, except they are set in the same world. And CC will release an original story every Friday to get you in the mood for the weekend.

The GOLDDIGGERS series of thirty minutes of fun romance from CC MACKENZIE – for busy people everywhere. Get your copy of ELLIE today!

The first thirty minute read, is out on OCTOBER 28TH.

Pre-order links below:

 

ellie (1)

 

iBOOKS USA     iBOOKS UK    AMAZON USA   AMAZON UK

 

 

Here’s the blurb:

ELLIE

“I didn’t plan to talk to him.

Or fall for him.

Or have anything to do with devastatingly handsome Noah Blake, supermodel.

Meeting him had been a complete and utter shock to the system, my reaction took me by surprise. In my line of work, I meet new people all the time and none of them impressed me the way Noah did. Isn’t that just typical in life? A girl can meet hundreds of people and they don’t touch her where it matters, but then she meets the one who changes everything…

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Thing is, I’m a Golddigger, and proud of it. We make the Pussycat Dolls look like kittens. We work hard to achieve one goal, being the best. And to do that we do not need distractions like, for example, men. A Golddigger’s focus is on one thing, her performance. A Golddigger’s priority is the continued success of our Burlesque troupe. Thing is, I learned the hard way men didn’t like coming a poor second in a woman’s life. They appeared to be panic-stricken by a career driven, successful woman. I’ve been called “hard work,” “stroppy,” and “pigheaded.”

Like the rest of the Golddiggers, being free of emotional ties works well for me. Trust me, I had no long term plan to live happy-ever-after.

But then I met Noah.

And he stole my diamanté encrusted panties, and my whole world imploded…

 

***

It’s feast or famine on this blog, isn’t it?

I’m so excited by the GOLDDIGGER project, the girls are brave, funny, hard working, super-talented and don’t put up with ‘no shit’ from anyone. I introduce the world of the GOLDDIGGERS in SEAN, and my team are drooling over him and Katherine and the girls. So from the last Friday in October and every Friday through Christmas, you guys will have stories to enjoy between my full story releases.

Next up will be the usual sneak peek of Ludlow life tomorrow.

Love and hugs,

Christine X

IT’S MONDAY, ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE . . . Aaaaand she’s back . . .

Rosie

 

Greetings, my awesome readers,

I hope this finds you well after the weekend, and raring to go for the week ahead. It’s been a while since we heard from Rosie … She’s back …

***

Working alone, Rosie Ludlow is busy, busy, at Sweet Sensations running against a deadline to deliver a surprise order of four dozen cupcakes for an engagement party before five o’clock . . .

*The kitchen smells of toffee, chocolate, and vanilla icing. Even though the place is rocking to Ella Henderson praying by a river, baby Mila is sound asleep in her amazing top of the line stroller. White rubber clog tapping to the beat, Rosie’s wearing chef whites, her inky curls tied back beneath a cap and net. With her tongue caught firmly between her teeth, she uses quick flicks of the wrist to pipe tiny spears of white meringue icing to make a ball effect for the topping of the chocolate cupcakes. It takes a steady hand, precision and a good eye to place a red cherry made of icing with a fragile chocolate stalk on the top. Since they were fiddly little bastards, she’d made the cherries the day before. When Nico Ferranti strolls through the door looking for all the world as if he’s just walked off a photo shoot for GQ, she sends him a lightning grin, nods to the pot of coffee on the counter top*

“Coffee’s hot, big boy. Help yourself. Let me just finish up here.”

Nico pokes his head inside one of the eight boxes of white card, checks out the cupcakes. “Amazing. You are a clever girl, cara. But why are you working so late?”

“It’s a favor,” she says, her focus one hundred per cent on the job at hand. “And they’re paying me big bucks for this favor. Bronte offered to help, but Eve’s cutting another tooth and it’s not going well. Her little cheek is all swollen and hot. Poor baby.”

Making himself right at home, Nico helps himself to a cup from the cupboard, pours himself a coffee from the pot. “Si. The twins didn’t suffer as much as la mia bambina. We’ve had to resort to medication to bring down the inflammation.”

*Rosie finishes the final cupcake, lays the cherry on the top, and carefully places the work of art in a box. The box lids are all sitting waiting. By the time she’s placed gold and black Sweet Sensation stickers on each box and ties them with black satin bows, Nico’s grinning at her quick fingered expertize. She checks the huge clock on the wall, turns the music down. While Nico pours her a coffee, she pulls the net and cap from her head to reveal inky curls that fall in a tail between her shoulder blades. She accepts her coffee and closes her eyes as she takes a sip of the black stuff. Heaven*

“Thanks,” she says, leans her hip against the stainless steel counter top, and eyes him appreciatively from the top of his immaculately cut hair, the sharp threads (Italian of course) to his hand stitched shoes. “Are you coming or going from a meeting?”

“Coming,” he says in the deep Italian accent that always makes her mouth curve. Man, with Nico as her husband her pal Bronte has got herself a hunka-hunka burnin’ love. His next words wipe the smirk from her face. “I have been meaning to stop by and have a little chat with you.”

*Little chat? Uh oh. Rosie recognizes the signs, that sharp eyed look, the way his mouth has gone firm. Something’s up*

“Everything okay with Bronte? Things okay at home?”

Nico nods. “Everything is mostly fine. Except for Sophia . . .”

Rosie blinks and can’t help but grin widely. “What’s up with my favorite niece? Been cutting hair again? Putting toys down the toilet? Painting toenails that don’t belong to her?”

Nico’s mouth curves, but he shakes his head. “No. But she’s quoting statements from ‘Auntie Rosie’ almost every time she opens her mouth. And some of the statements, cara mia, are causing her mama and me a few bad moments.”

Not in the least bit fazed by the way he’s glowering at her, Rosie sends him a cheeky grin. “Yeah? That’s my girl. Inquisitive. Smart as a whip.”

Nico’s dark brows lift. “Si. But it seems she knows a little too much about certain things, like child birth, and . . . sex. She was happy to inform a car load of children including her BFF Emily, that according to auntie Rosie, Tonio, just like me, is gonna break hundreds of hearts with his love muscle . . .” Nico waits until a spluttering Rosie stops laughing to continue, “then she told the same audience that women, and I quote, are cursed each month and put their men through hell. Men, according to auntie Rosie, do not know they are living.”

Wiping her eyes on kitchen towel, Rosie takes a breath. “Omigod. The little monkey. She’s been listening to adult conversations again. What the hell is she like? You’ll need to break her of the habit, Nico.”

Nico blinks. “Si, but . . .”

Rosie shifts to top up their cups. “Thing is, Sophia is super bright. She can write everyone’s name. Her reading age is way ahead of her peers. She’s also overcurious and nosey. The trick for you and Bronte will be to channel that investigative trait within her into something positive. I’ve been thinking maybe horse riding to balance all that physical and emotional energy. Or ballet or gymnastics . . .”

Nico shudders at the thought. He cannot imagine what his daughter would be like if she was doing gymnastics. The conversation is not going Nico’s way. He’s here to ensure Rosie bites her tongue around his daughter. On the other hand, he can’t resist the complete lack of guile in Rosie’s dark chocolate Bambi eyes. Hell, he doesn’t want to upset a woman he adores. In truth, he doesn’t want Rosie to be anything other than Rosie, so he treads carefully and tries again, “I, we, feel Sophia is too young to understand certain things like how a woman has eggs in her ovaries . . .”

Rosie nods enthusiastically and jumps in with, “Exactly. You and Bronte are doing an amazing job with your children, but especially with Sophia. It is very important for adults to answer a child’s questions with the facts and total honesty. A penis is a penis and a vagina is a vagina. I simply do not understand why some adults, especially men, cannot be honest about procreation and how the human body works. And I’ll tell you something for nothing, Nico. Not telling a child the truth can set them up for an epic fail when they hit the hell that is puberty. It’s dangerous. Get Bronte to tell you the story of when our mothers were at school in the seventies. In their year was a girl of fifteen who’s first sexual experience with a boy, who just as clueless as her, ended up with her at A&E because of an infected navel. Apparently, the poor kids believed they had sex via the belly button. I am not joking. Our mothers drummed the facts of life into us as soon as we began asking questions.”

Dio mio. Nico knew his jaw was on the floor, knew there was perspiration beading on his top lip. “Si, but . . .”

*Baby Mila stirs, and her mama is at her side in an instant*

“Aw, did you have a good sleepy sloppy?” Rosie coos as she nuzzles the baby. She sniffs her diaper, makes a horrible face. “Phew. A diaper bomb.”

Nico can’t help but grin at how happy Rosie is since she married Alexander and became a mama. Today his mission has been as Rosie would say, ‘An Epic Fail.’ But he loves her. Perhaps he’ll just need to live with her Big Mouth because at the end of the day he wouldn’t change her for the world.

“I’ll leave you to it,” he says.

Rosie jiggles Mila, grabs the diaper bag hanging onto the stroller handle. “Drop in any time. Try not to worry about Sophia. If I were you I’d forget about a convent for her, too. The planet is made up of fifty per cent men, Nico. Better Sophia learns how to handle the suckers. When she grows up, that girl will have the world by the balls.”

And that, Nico decides as he strolls to his car, is exactly the problema. By the time Sophia Ferranti becomes a fully formed new adult, his hair will be white from worry and stress. As he drives towards home, he nods. He’ll handle anything his baby girls will throw at him because, at the end of the day, he’s Italian.

 

FINITO

 

Can’t fault Rosie’s own brand of logic.

Nico didn’t stand a chance!

The pre-order links for SEAN should be up in a couple of days (it was my birthday last week, so I got side-tracked by my wonderful family.)

Hugs

Christine X

It’s Monday, which means another peek behind the curtains of life with the Ferranti family. Grab a coffee, settle down, and enjoy . . .

Tentacles-

Happy Monday, my darlings,

Working hard and nearly at The End of SEAN.

Here’s the latest from the Ferranti Fam-lee . . .

Bronte is driving Nico’s Range Rover with Luca, Sophia and Emily in the back, and Tonio in the front. Luca, Sophia and Emily have been attending a birthday party, which means they’re checking out their party bags, all hyped up on sugar. And Tonio has had soccer practice, which means he’s a bit bruised and battered since he’s a fearless Ferranti.

*Emily and Sophia begin their own unique rendition of The Lonely Goatherd*

“Yodelaaaaaay-eeeeeeee, yodelaaaaaay-eeeeeee-eeeeeeee, yodelaaaaaaaaay-eeeeeeee,” shrieks Sophia with Emily right behind her.

All hot and bothered and tired, of girls, Luca squeezes his eyes shut and bangs the back of his head on the car seat. “Mamaaaaaaa, tell them to stop.”

“Okay, girls, no distractions while I’m driving please,” Bronte says. Out of the corner of her eye she spots Tonio making a horrible face. To be honest she can’t blame him, the singing is pretty horrible. “That’s enough now.”

*And silence once again reigns across the land*

“How come,” Emily begins in her soft little voice. Her fingers smooth the skirt of her pale pink party frock. “Boys can wear dresses? I’ve never seen a boy in a dress.”

Out the corner of her eye, Bronte sees Tonio’s eyes go wide. She clears her throat, guessing someone’s been talking to Emily about gender equality in schools, where boys were given permission to wear a dress if they so wished. “Well, yes they can,” she says. “Most boys don’t, but if they wanted to they could.”

Sophia’s watching the word go by. She shakes her head and pipes up, “I can’t imagine my papa in a dress.” She’s wearing her best party frock and it’s pink, too. “I mean papa’s got hairy legs, and muscles . . . and tentacles.”

*Oh. My. God. Bronte cannot imagine Nico in a dress either. And as for tentacles . . . Stifling a giggle, she drives the car through the winding country road. She spots Tonio biting down hard on his knuckles, his shoulders shaking with laughter*

“Boys have testicles,” Tonio correct Sophia.

Luca frowns. “So what have tentacles?”

“Octopus have tentacles,” Tonio says.

Little Emily shakes her head, her smooth brow creases. “I don’t think that’s right. My mummy says my daddy’s like an octopus. He’s all hands.”

Tonio turns to give a wide-eyed Bronte big eyes. Bronte clears her throat. “Remember Ursula in The Little Mermaid?” she asks, desperately trying to guide the conversation into safer waters. “She was part octopus.”

Sophia nods. “Uh huh. Ursula is half-witch. My auntie Rosie says Ursula’s bad to the bone.”

“My daddy says my mummy turns into a witch at the time of the month,” Emily pipes up.

Wide-eyed, Luca turns to Emily. “Is that the time of the full moon? My papa says mama goes nutso during a full moon. Witches fly over the moon at Halloween. Does your mummy have a broomstick?” he asks hopefully.

“Uh huh,” Emily says, shaking her head so hard her bright corkscrew curls dance. “My mummy says that she is not a witch and knows he really means she’s a bitch and he’s not fooling anybody and if my daddy keeps it up, she’s gonna nail his tentacles to the wall.”

*Oh. My. God. Bronte decides she needs to have an urgent chat with Emily’s mummy, Grace, and with Nico about his Big Mouth*

“Well,” Bronte says in a high cheery voice. “Another octopus is Pearl in Finding Nemo. I think Pearl is sooooooo cute.”

*When Emily beams and nods, Bronte heaves a relieved sigh that none of the kids could find a problem with Pearl. Until . . .*

Sophia turns to Emily. “The reason your mummy and my mama get cranky at the time of the full moon is because they are cursed. And because you and me are female, Emily, when we hit pubsinthecity we’re gonna be cursed too. My auntie Rosie says we are cursed because inside us we have eggs to make babies. When we don’t make a baby, once a month we have an egg and we have belly cramps and spots and horrible hair and we put the men in our life through merry hell.”

“Eww,” Luca says.

Sophia nods as Emily stares at her with big blue eyes. Sophia continues, “Auntie Rosie says men don’t know they are living.”

“God,” Tonio mutters, sliding down in his seat.

With a determined smile fixed on her face, Bronte steers the car into Emily’s driveway. She turns to the three children in the back seat and says, “And here we all are. Safe and well.”

*Minutes later, back at The Dower House, Nico Ferranti is waiting for his family, baby Eve tucked on his hip. And since the baby’s cutting teeth her little cheeks are apple red, and she’s wearing a white cotton bib. She’s gnawing heroically on a plastic ring filled with ice water*

“How was soccer practice?” Nico asks Tonio as the boy heaves his kit bag from the trunk.

Tonio turns to send him a slow smile. “I made the team.”

Nico and Tonio slap a high five. “Well done.”

Nico eyes the twins, notices Sophia giving him a head to toe appraisal of his bare feet, battered blue jeans and black thermal. “What?” he asks her.

She shakes her blonde head as she walks past him. “Papa, there’s no way you’d ever look good in a dress, it’s sooooo not your style. You’re Italian.”

A stunned Nico turns to a laughing Bronte to give her wide eyes. “Me? In a dress?”

Bronte stretches up on her tip toes to plant a kiss on his cheek. “It all began with tentacles and an Octopus….”

 

Finito

 

Writing final scenes for SEAN last night and I cried a river . . . and all y’all know that if I cry, you cry. I love this couple soooooo much, so many feels . . .

Before final edits, I’m placing SEAN on pre-order, the links are coming soon.

AND I have a huge surprise for you guys at the end of SEAN, with pre-orders for the surprise, too.

Stay tuned . . .

 

Christine X

Happy Monday, and here’s another slice of Ludlow life… I’m still yodelling to the Lonely Goatherd…

Ludlowlifebanner

Remember, to read how Nico and Bronte’s love began, you can grab it here, free:

Dressed down in black below the knee yoga pants, a matching skinny vest, and sneakers, Bronte is collecting Sophia from a play date with her BBF, Emily, and her Bacon Freeze puppy, Bubblegum………

“Hi, Grace. How are you today? Did they run you ragged, or did they behave themselves?” Bronte asks as Grace waves her through the door and leads her through her beautifully appointed home into a huge light and airy family kitchen space.

Wearing cropped blue jeans and an ivory short sleeved sweater, Grace has the same petite build and fair coloring as her daughter, creamy skin with a constellation of freckles, and wild chestnut curls. She grins, rolls her blue eyes. “Do you have time for a coffee?”

“Sure.” Bronte dumps her purse on one of the breakfast bar stools, and slides into another. Her eyes click to a Grace who is still grinning as she pours black coffee from the pot into two white china mugs. “What’s she done or said now?” she asks, referring to Sophia, and fearing the worst.

Eyes dancing, Grace hands Bronte a mug and slides into another stool to face Bronte over the brown speckled granite counter top. “Nothing naughty, which makes a delightful change. Although I did manage to stop them before they painted Bubblegum’s nails with purple polish. No. I had what I thought was a brainwave and introduced them to one of my favorite childhood movies. They’ve been watching The Sound Of Music. And replaying Julie Andrews singing, ‘The Hills Are Alive’ about twenty times. Don’t get me wrong. I adore Julie’s voice. But I’m finding myself singing along. Betcha I’ll have an earworm for days.” She takes a sip of her drink, and then her grin turns into a wide smile, her eyes still sparkling.

“Okay. Spit it out,” Bronte says.

“They’ve got the words down pat, but can’t quite hit the high notes, know what I mean?”

“Aww, bless their little hearts. I’m not seeing a downside to this, Grace.”

*And right on cue, from a room above, there comes the dulcet tones of introduction music as Dame Julie begins her song, and right along with her comes a yowling of two young voices determined to nail it. Whoa. Bronte’s emerald eyes go wide*

Grace tips back her head to study the high ceiling. “And there they go… again.”

They both burst out laughing. “Could be worse, Grace, it could be The Lonely Goatherd,” Bronte says, wiping her eyes. And of course that thought made them laugh even harder.

Grace shakes her head, laughter making her eyes all teary and her voice quaver. “Thing is, Bronte, and I’ll apologize right now because I just didn’t see this coming.”

Bronte puts her cup down, places her elbows on the work top and leans over to study a Grace who is weeping hard so hard with laughter, she’d needs to cross her legs. And of course, Bronte ends up weeping with her.

Grace grabs a couple sheets of kitchen roll, wipes streaming eyes, takes a deep breath and holds up her hands. “I’m sorry. Sorry… Okay. I’ve got a hold of myself. Okay…” She takes a huge inhale in, holds it for four counts, and then breathes out. Her eyes meet Bronte’s. “They came down here and demanded two clean white tea towels. When I asked them what for, they said…” Again Grace’s eyes swim as her face creases. She takes another deep inhale. “They’ve decided to dedicate their lives to Jesus. They wanna be nuns.”

Grace stuffs kitchen roll in her mouth as she weeps with laughter at Bronte’s stunned face. And then cries even harder when Bronte whispers, “Omigod.”

*Next morning at breakfast at The Dower House*

Dressed to impress, Nico Ferranti strolls into the kitchen looking like something off the cover of  Men’s Fashion magazine. With his hand protecting his silk tie from sticky little fingers, he dips his head to deliver a raspberry to the hot cheek of a delighted baby Eve sitting in her high chair and using her empty sip cup to beat the hell out of the plastic table. Tonio and Luca are wolfing down oatmeal and honey in a race to see who can finish first. No sign of Sophia… yet. Nico’s eyes light on a wife who is barefoot at the range preparing his poached eggs and bacon. She’s dressed in one his T-shirts and boy panties wiggling her cute little butt to Paulo Nuttini rocking the iPod. At the table the boys are now digging in to a mountain of toast and buttered crumpets. Since he cannot help himself, Nico shifts to slide his arms around Bronte’s slim waist for a cuddle, drop a kiss on her neck, and pat her ass. “Where,” he asks with his tongue firmly in his cheek. “Is the good sister Sophia.”

Bronte heaves a sigh, shakes her head. “The sister has kindly informed me that when she’s finished her morning prayers, she will join us for one slice of toast without jam or butter, and a cup of weak tea.”

Nico’s wide shoulder’s shake with laughter.

Tonio, face fierce, pipes up with, “Si. And she’s still wearing that stupid tea cloth on her head. She’s driving me nuts. Every time she sees Luca or me she says, ‘Bless you, my child.'”

Nico shakes his head as he pours himself a coffee from the pot, takes his seat at the head of the table. He flicks out a stiff white cotton napkin on his knee. When Bronte places his breakfast in front of him, he sends her a slow and sexy smile. “Grazie, cara. You are too good to me.”

Bronte drops a kiss on his freshly shaved cheek. “That’s because you smell delicious.”

“You buy my cologne.”

“Yep,” she agrees, as she places a fresh sip cup on Eve’s table and a plastic bowl of sliced banana so the baby can help herself. “If I’ve got to live with you, I get to decide how you smell. Wife’s rights.”

*The whole room goes quiet, even the baby’s eyes go big, as Sophia walks slowly into the room. She’s wearing a black dress from her dressing up box, black ankle socks, and black patent shoes with a strap. The tea cloth is pinned to her hair, and the palms of her hands are pressed together as if in prayer*

Dio mio,” Nico mutters under his breath, and digs into his breakfast.

Bronte can’t quite hold in the giggle before she clears her throat. “Good morning, sister. Would you like bacon?”

Sophia cannot resist bacon, ever. Temptation whispers loud in her mind, but she remembers the promise she and Emily made on the Holy Bible. “No thank you, mama. One slice of toast and tea, please.”

Luca, a piece of toast half way to his mouth, scowls at his twin. “You look stupid with that thing on your head.”

Sister Sophia narrows emerald eyes, purses her small pink mouth, then takes a breath. “There is no need for rudeness. I forgive you, my son.”

Tonio rolls his eyes, turns to his papa. “You’ve gotta do something. This cannot go on. She’s gonna drive us nuts.”

Nico nods, dabs his mouth with his napkin, and rests his gaze on a daughter he adores. “Sophia, bella. A little girl cannot be a nun. A convent will not accept you until you are eighteen.”

Sophia’s emerald eyes meet his. “Eighteen? Why?”

“Because when a woman decides to dedicate her life to God, she needs to have lived a normal life first.”

Sister Sophia’s shoulders droop, but she nods. “Okay. But can I go to a convent school for girls to see what it’s like?”

Nico’s heart soars with joy. There are no boys in a convent school, and he has just the place in mind, but before he can reply, his wife beats him to it.

“No,” Bronte says. “For a well rounded education it is important for you to socialize with boys and girls and learn to get along with both.”

“She has no problem with boys,” Tonio growls, and earns himself a dark look from his papa for his trouble.

Sister Sophia takes her own sweet time to think about it, then she nods, and pulls the tea towel from her head. “Okay. I’m still a little girl…”

“Yup,” Bronte says, slipping a plate of bacon and toast and a poached egg in front of her daughter. “And a little girl need a good diet of good food to grow into a fine woman. Dig in.”

*And peace descends upon The Dower House… until…*

“What’s the next film Emily’s mama has chosen for you?” Nico asks.

Sophia nibbles on crispy bacon, swallows. “The Goonies. It’s about buried treasure.”

Bronte grins in delight. “Aww, I love that movie.”

Nico rises to leave for another day at the office of Ferranti Enterprises, based at Ludlow Hall. “Si, just be prepared for her to start digging up the garden hunting for buried treasure.”

Luca turns big dark eyes filled to the brim with excitement on his papa. “We have buried treasure on our land?”

Ignoring his wife’s imploring gaze, Nico comes up with a dastardly plan to keep his children entertained for days. “Si. Of course. You did not know The Dower House has a box of treasure just waiting to be discovered?”

As a wide-eyed Luca shakes his head, whispers, “No.”

“Then today, even though I am busy, I will retrieve the treasure map from the safe at Ludlow Hall and bring it home with me tonight. But you must promise not to tell anyone about the map. It is a secret.”  And all the while his busy mind is coming up with a plan that will include Alexander and their PA, Julie, who will be only too happy to play their part.

As Bronte follows him to his car, she gives him the stink eye. “You are worse than they are. If they dig up my garden…”

After dumping his laptop on the passenger seat of his Range Rover, Nico grabs his wife for a hot kiss. Shifting to watch the way her eyes have gone all cloudy, he grins down into her face. Dio, he adores her. “Trust me, X will mark the spot around their play area. Nessun problema. But I’d like you to think about a convent for Sophia.”

Bronte grins as she adjusts the knot of his tie. “I don’t care if you are Italian. Not a chance, sunshine.”

 

FINITO

 

And here, for your listening pleasure, is Dame Julie singing one of her signature songs:

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE

My best pal, Linda, and me were six when we saw The Sound of Music and immediately dreamed of becoming nuns. For two weeks we wore a white tea towel on our heads and blessed every person we met, and drove our families mad. We never ended up in a convent, which is just as well. But we still remember every single word of every single song in The Sound of Music.

Those were the days, eh?

There was no catch a Pokémon in my day.

With love and hugs,

Christine X