HAPPY EASTER TO THE BEST READERS IN THE UNIVERSE. It’s time for a sneak peek…

 

SNEAKPEEKEASTERITALY

Today, the sneak peek takes place at The Ferranti Hotel and Spa in Lake Como where Bronte and Nico and Rosie and Alexander have taken the children, and Emily as company for Sophia, for the Easter break. Alexander is taking the opportunity to do an inspection of the staff at the hotel. Rosie and Bronte have gone for a spot of retail therapy. Nine year old Tonio is spending time with his Uncle Gregorio Ancelotti learning to sail on the lake.

When Gregorio returned Tonio to the Ferranti villa in the grounds of the hotel, he found a lone Nico relaxing on a sun lounger beneath a vast umbrella in the garden doing daddy duty…

Nico had to smile when a windswept and beaming Tonio raced into the garden followed at a more sedate pace by an equally windswept Gregorio. Both wore sneakers, navy knee length cargo shorts and T-shirts.

When Tonio wrapped his arms around Nico’s waist, he received a knuckle scrub on the head for his trouble. “I can see you had a good time. Your T-shirt is damp.”

“I had THE best time,” Tonio agreed. He turned to his uncle Gregorio. “Grazie, for taking me sailing.”

E stato un piacere,” Gregorio said in his deep voice. “My pleasure. You did well at the helm.”

“The helm is how I steered the boat,” Tonio explained to Nico. His bright eyes scanned the garden. “Where is everyone?”

“They are in the rose garden playing The Wedding Game,” Nico told him and bit back a smile at the boy’s obvious dismay.

“Not the Wedding Game. I hate the Wedding Game.”

Since Nico had spent most of the afternoon refereeing Sophia and Emily who wanted a very reluctant Luca to be the groom, he felt his pain. “Go and change your T-shirt.”

When the boy left, Nico opened the cool box and turned to Gregorio. “Beer? The afternoon went well?”

Gregorio took a seat on a sprawling sofa which faced the garden and the lake and mountains beyond. The scent of spring flowers filled the air. He accepted the glass of a full bodied red from Nico and took a sip. “Grazie. Si, even though he never stopped talking, he is good company and a natural sailor.”

Dressed down in knee length ivory cargo shorts and a T-shirt, Nico took a seat and stretched out long bare legs. “He is coming out of his shell and has grown very fond of Bronte and she of him.”

“A family setting has been good for him.” Gregorio frowned and turned enquiring eyes on Nico. “What is The Wedding Game?”

Nico gave him a bland look. “Do not ask.”

 

***

“I don’t wanna marry Emily. I’ve married her eight times already,” Luca said, and tossed the old black jacket and tie that belonged to Nico on the grass. “And I’m not gonna kiss her again.”

Sophia, wearing tea-towel on her head because she was a nun and in her world a nun was reeligis and could marry a couple. She gave her twin a dark look and jerked her chin. “We played super-heroes with you all morning. You said you would play The Wedding Game this afternoon. Fair is fair.”

Luca got into her face and went nose to nose. “Yeah, but a super-hero didn’t do the kissy-kissy stuff. And Emily can’t stop giggling in my face.”

Emily, the blushing bride, said nothing as she watched from the sidelines. She didn’t like dramas. They made her belly feel funny.

Sitting on the grass, fifteen month old Eve picked up the end of the tie and stuffed it in her mouth, all the while her big brown eyes watched the heated debate.

Always willing to pour oil on troubled waters, Emily picked up a drowsy Jimmy Chew. “I’ll marry the dog. He doesn’t mind kisses.”

Sophia frowned at her best friend. “You can’t marry a dog, for goodness sake.”

The arrival of Tonio had Emily blush furiously and hug Jimmy Chew close.

Tonio scooped up Eve and placed her on his hip. “Papa said to come and get a drink and come out of the sun because it’s too hot to play The Wedding Game.”

“Yay!” Luca didn’t need to be told twice and whooped as he raced across the lawn.

Sophia yanked the tea-towel from her head. “Oh well, I expect it is too hot for this. I wonder if papa will let us have a little piece of our Easter eggs?”

Tonio shook his head. “No. Bronte said no chocolate until after supper time and only if we eat our vegetables.”

Sophia sent him a look of utter disgust. “That’s blackmolling little children.”

“Blackmailing,” Tonio corrected.

“Whatever,” she snapped and quoted her Auntie Rosie. “It’s still against the law of the land.”

“My uncle Ethan,” Emily began in her breathy voice. “Is a policeman. He carries a gun. We should tell him.”

Sophia stared at her very hard. “I don’t want anyone to shoot my mama.”

Tonio jiggled Eve who was doing her level best to yank his hair out by the roots. “I cannot believe you two. Bronte is only making sure we eat the correct food groups so we receive all our vitamins and minerals to make our bones grow and give us a healthy skin. It is not as if broccoli is going to kill you. And then you can have chocolate.”

Emily nodded wisely, popped a kiss on Jimmy Chew’s head. “He’s right.”

Still not looking convinced, Sophia turned to her best friend. “Don’t say anything to your uncle.”

“Okay,” Emily agreed.

After the children had scoffed fresh orange juice and cookies, they decided to play statues, which left Nico and Gregorio to relax and discuss the financial management of Tonio’s vast property portfolio left to him by his late mother. The children were busy with their game. The two men were deep in discussion. No one noticed when Eve, on her hands and knees, powered into the house with Jimmy Chew hot on her heels.

 

 

***

Twenty minutes later…

Sophia and Emily wandered into the house to wash their hands, before mama and Auntie Rosie returned from shopping. It was their turn to set the table for supper. When they entered the kitchen-living-dining space, Sophia stopped dead and her eyes popped from her head.

Omigod,” Emily’s whisper was filled with awe and wonder.

Sophia raced outside. “Papa!!” Sophia yelled, the panic in her voice loud and clear.

Nico and Gregorio were on their feet. “What is it?”

Sophia’s face was pale. “Eve and Jimmy Chew. Papa, they’ve got… the Easter Eggs.”

Nico and Gregorio and the boys entered to find Eve sitting on the floor with two huge boxes of large chocolate eggs in pieces. The child was covered in head to toe in dark chocolate, 86% fair-trade cocoa. Her cotton romper had been white once upon a time. And Jimmy Chew was heroically licking her toes making her squeal and gurgle with laughter.

Dio mio,” Gregorio whispered.

Nico swallowed language not fit for little ears. After glancing at the clock, they didn’t have much time, he clapped his hands. “Tonio – go and fill a bath with warm water. Emily – go and get a change of clothes and a diaper for the baby. Luca – pick up the chocolate, foil paper and rubbish and put them in the bin. Gregorio – pour us a drink.”  He made his way carefully through pieces of melted chocolate on the floor until he stood over his baby girl. “Ah, il mio bambino, if your mama could see you now she would kill your papa.”

Nico lifted the baby and was immediately covered in black chocolate. Jimmy Chew, heroically licking the floor, was in seventh heaven. Nico could only hope the dog wasn’t sick as a… dog.

 

Twenty minutes later, Bronte and Rosie strolled through the door with baby Mila in her stroller and her daddy bringing up the rear laden down with bags and boxes.

Bronte surveyed the scene: the dining table was beautifully set, with napkins! And the children were sitting quietly watching the cartoon of Beauty and The Beast, the volume turned low. Probably because Eve was snoozing in her papa’s arms.

She noticed that Gregorio, strangely, seemed riveted on the movie, too. Bronte narrowed her eyes as she studied her husband and baby girl. “Those aren’t the shorts or T-shirt you were wearing when I left this morning. And Eve’s wearing one of her best dresses,” she muttered. When no one looked her in the eye, she folded her arms and cocked her hip. “Okay, what happened?”

Rosie came to stand at her side, her dark eyes dancing. “When the cat’s away the mice will play. What have the mice been up to?”

“It was all Sophia’s fault because she wanted to play The stupid Wedding Game, and then we played statues because I didn’t want anymore kissy-kissy” Luca began. “Which meant we didn’t notice Eve and Jimmy Chew were missing…”

“Missing?” Bronte’s head spun on her shoulders, at bit like a scene from the Exorcist, to stare hard at Nico and Gregorio.

Nico sent Luca a dark look. “Not missing, exactly. The children were playing…”

“And what, exactly, were the two adults doing?”

“They were drinking beer,” Sophia said, tossing a wide-eyed Gregorio and her papa into the fire without a blink. “Emily and I found her and Jimmy Chew eating Easter eggs.”

“Yeah, and you should have seen the big mess they made,” Luca added helpfully.

Bronte simply stared unblinking at the two men sitting on the couch until they wriggled beneath her scrutiny. “I cannot say I am surprised by you, Nico Ferranti. But, Gregorio Ancelotti, I am surprised at you.” And with that she picked up her baby girl and walked out.

Nico stood and turned to his twins. “Do neither of you understand the meaning of loyalty to la famiglia?”

Rosie slid into a dining chair and sat back to enjoy the show.

Sophia, still dressed as a bride, ignored her papa’s outrage, looked him in the eye and lifted her chin. “We’re not responsible. You are the adult here, papa. We’re just little children. You did your best. We all learn from our mistakes.”

“Wash your hands before dinner!” Bronte yelled from the hallway. The children were up and out of the room in about three seconds.

“Phew. Is this what family life is like?” Gregorio wanted to know.

Rosie grinned at him. “It is in this house.”

Gregorio stood. “I should leave. I think Bronte is not happy with me.”

Nico shook his head, put an arm around his shoulders for a man-hug. “Nessun problema. When she yells at you it means she loves you. You are la famiglia. We are Italian.”

Happy Easter!

 

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

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

 

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

RING THE BELLS OF CHRISTMAS! IT’S THE LUDLOW HALL SNEAK PEEK

 

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Greetings, peeps!

It’s that time of year when teary-eyed parents cram into school halls to watch the annual nativity play, and the Ferranti family is no different.

Enjoy!

***

The family-kitchen-living space at The Dower House smells of ginger chocolate chip cookies, freshly brewed coffee… and glue.

Bronte, Rosie, Janine and Emily’s mum, Grace are working hard with scissors, yards of thin rope and crisp white cotton sheets—donated for the cause by Nico’s housekeeping staff at Ludlow Hall.

Red curls pinned in a top knot on top of her head, dressed in black leggings and an old cotton shirt of her husband’s to protect her clothes, Grace focuses on the job at hand. “It’s really kind of the hotel to give us old sheets to make sheep and shepherd outfits,” she mutters as she pins two oblong pieces of cotton together to make a simple tunic, leaving space for a child’s head and arms. She turns to a Janine who’s doing the same thing with her fabric. “And thanks for this template. What a genius idea. How do you think up this stuff?”

Rosie, wearing thermal leggings and one of Alexander’s old short sleeved T-shirts over her sweater, lifts two big plastic bags filled with cotton wool balls onto a huge folding table erected next to closed bifolding doors showcasing the stunning winter garden. Another smaller table set at angle holds a large pot of glue with brushes. She sets out a stitched and hemmed tunic on the table, smoothes the fabric and places a pre-made template filled with accurately spaced circles on top, and marks a dot in the middle of each circle. Then she takes a cotton wool ball, dabs glue on it and presses it to the fabric and repeats the process on the front and the back of the tunic. Voila, the beginning of a sheep. “Because she’s a hugely talented creative. Have you seen Boo’s new bedroom? It is beyond amaze balls. The child sleeps and plays in her own magical world with fairies and twinkling stars watching over her. I love the way the white fluffy cat peeks out from behind the gingerbread house.”

Wearing painter’s white cotton coveralls over her jeans and T-shirt, Janine grins. “Boo makes Josh kiss the cat before bedtime. He’s besotted with her. How are you getting on with the glue and cotton balls?”

“Aw, I love Josh. I’m doing good.” Rosie eyes a Bronte who’s busy fingers fiddle with black and white shaped ears from thick felt as she machine stitches them together. Then she pins the ears to a thick black velvet headband, glues a flat piece felt to the top of the hair band and pops the headband over to Rosie’s table for her to glue more cotton balls to the white felt on the top. Voila—sheeple. “Wow, the ears looking amazing. Wait ’till the kids see these outfits. They’re gonna go nuts.”

Bronte smiles as she returned to her kitchen table to stitch together another set of ears. “All this is a far cry from our nativity play. Do you remember what our nativity was like when we were five?” she asks Rosie.

“Sure do. I was a cardboard tree with green arms and gloves as branches and on my head I wore a twig hat made by my mother. It itched like hell. My role certainly lacked glamour,” Rosie says, deadpan. When the girls laugh, she shakes her head. “My mother was gutted because she wanted me to be an angel—as if that was ever gonna happen. With Mrs. Mottershead as my teacher she’s lucky she didn’t make me one of the stars in the sky. Rosie sends Bronte a side-eye. “Of course, Ms Butter-wouldn’t-melt-over-there was an angel.”

Bronte sends her wide eyes and a big toothy smile. “I’ll have you know that, unlike you, I was a perfect angel.”

Rosie nods, takes care to place another cotton ball on the correct spot on the tunic. “It was the cardboard wings, the steel coat hanger wrapped in silver tinsel as the halo and all that long blonde hair. Then the awesome white cotton nightgown with the high frilly cuffs and collar your mother bought in the children’s department in Harrods. I remember being sick with jealousy over that nightie.”

Bronte just laughs. “Not for long, my mum had bought you one as part of your Christmas gift. You cried happy tears and Alexander gave you a cuddle.”

Rosie nods as she makes short work of another tunic. “Yep. I knew even then that I adored him. Then once I stopped crying, he ate half of my selection box of chocolates as payment. Even then he had a business brain. Bastard.”

Grace does a quick recce around the room to check for her daughter and her best friend. “Little eyes and ears, Rosemary, with big mouths.”

“More like little monsters,” Rosie says severely. “They’re upstairs watching Kung Fu Panda in Tonio’s room. That boy will keep them on the straight and narrow. I love Tonio.”

“Yup,” Janine says as she pins more templates to white and black thick felt and cuts out another dozen sheep ears. “He’s settled in well. You and Nico are doing a great job with him, Bronte. He’s so happy.”

Bronte nods as her foot presses down on the sewing machine pedal on the floor beneath the table. “He’s had his moments. I try to have one-on-one time with him a couple of times a week. He helps me with the grocery shopping. As a reward, we stop at the coffee shop to have a hot chocolate and a cookie. It’s the perfect time for me to listen to his day.”

“Is he in the nativity?” Janine asks.

“He’s the narrator.”

Grace rolls her eyes. “A narrator of the nativity with a wonderful Italian accent. All the girls will be swooning. My Emily is besotted with Tonio, and he’s so patient with her, poor boy.”

Rosie shakes her head while Janine laughs. “I don’t know about that. Emily’s not stupid, even if she is a sheep in the play.”

“She’s shy and perfectly content to be one of many,” Emily’s mum says. “She hates the spotlight.”

“Can’t say the same about Sophia,” Bronte mutters beneath her breath.

“What’s up with my favorite niece?” Rosie asks, picking up her friend’s dark tone.

“She wants to be Mary. But, Miss Brown has made her the innkeeper’s wife. In response, my daughter told her teacher she’s a feminist and isn’t ever gonna marry, so it will look bad for the innkeeper to live in sin with a woman. What would God think?” Bronte says. While her friends laugh out loud, she moves into the kitchen to prepare another pot of coffee and set a plate of her homemade ginger and dark chocolate cookies on a plate. “Miss Brown told her that since she’s the boss, she decides who will be Mary, end of.”

Swiping tears from her cheeks, Rosie takes a deep breath. “And what did my favorite niece have to say to that?”

Filling up their coffee mugs on the countertop, her friends gather around and grab a cookie, Bronte shakes her head. “She thought about it for a while, then nodded, and said, ‘Okay. But, since it is MY inn and my papa works in the hospitality industry, I’ll have a room cancellation so the baby Jesus in MY nativity won’t be born in a smelly old barn with sheep and cows and poop.”

Janine laughs so hard she chokes on her cookie. “Omigod. She’s re-writing the Christmas story? What did the wonderful Miss Brown say to that?”

“That maybe the world could learn a lesson from the innkeeper’s wife’s kindness to Mary and Joseph.”

Rosie nibbles on a cookie. “Wish we’d had a teacher like Miss Brown. I bet she’s thrilled about the way we’re all mucking in to make costumes. In our day it was headgear made of tea cloths.”

Bronte nods. “I think it helps to take a little of the pressure off Miss Brown at this time of year. The way she keeps on smiling through the kid’s fevered excitement about the visit from Santa, the woman deserves a medal. She’s organizing each child in her class to bring in a wrapped gift for kids who are in hospital over the holiday, and for children less fortunate.”

Rosie’s black brows wing into her hair. “Ah, that’s what Alexander and Nico were on about. I know the Ludlow Hall team organize food hampers for the elderly living alone in town. But, I heard them making plans to give kids who have nothing a box of goodies, too.”

Looking thoughtful, Janine bit into a cookie. “That’s what the spirit of Christmas is all about. Remember the time I dropped the baby Jesus and the entire audience gasped in shock? Good job he was a doll.”

Rosie grins. “I remember that. I also remember you ran off the stage hand-in-hand with the donkey.”

“The following year they had a real donkey and it peed all over the manger and fused the lights because there wasn’t enough straw to cover the wooden stage,” Bronte says, her emerald eyes all dreamy with happy memories. “Those were the days.”

Grace checks the watch on her wrist. “Better get back to it. I’ve counted eight black long sleeved roll neck T-shirts and eight pairs of black tights. The sheep will wear their black plimsolls. I think we need black woollen mittens, too.”

Bronte makes a note of the mittens, fires up her laptop and goes online. “Eight pairs? Maybe we’d better make it ten, just in case they lose a glove.”

By the time they were all done and dusted and cleaned and tidied the room, eight perfect sheep costumes were complete and boxed ready to be taken to school the next day.

By the time Nico strolls through the door, the kitchen smells of a Ferranti family favorite, home-baked Italian meatballs and pasta. All bathed and ready for bed in her onesie, Baby Eve sits in her high chair. When she sees her papa, she beams a toothy smile and bangs her plastic sip cup on her plastic tray. As he carefully rolls his silk tie, tucks it in a pocket before tossing the jacket over the back of the couch, Nico grabs his baby girl for a hug and a kiss on her hot cheek. By the time the baby nuzzles her face into his neck, Bronte grins and lifts her mouth for his kiss.

“Had a good day?” he asks the love of his life.

“Yep. We had a team effort on the sheep costumes. They look fabulous, Nico, I hope you’re able to make the play.”

He pops Eve into her high chair, offers her a squeaky toy which is accepted with a beaming smile. Then Nico heads to the fridge for a bottle of white pinot. He grabs a couple of glasses from a glass cabinet. “Si. Wouldn’t miss it. Alexander’s making time for it, too.”

When Bronte’s eyes go all shiny, he sets down his glass and moves in to hold her. “Hey, what is this?”

She sniffs and wraps her arms around his waist and inhales the scent of her man. “It’s nothing really. It’s just they’re all growing up so fast. I wish my parents had lived to see our family.”

“It’s Christmas. It always makes us sad to think of those we have lost. I know you find this time of year hard at times.”

Bronte shifts to look up into his amazing face. “He never speaks of her. Do you think Tonio misses his mother?”

He frowns. “From what the good father has told me, she sent the boy money and gifts, but she didn’t visit him.”

“I don’t know how a woman could do such a thing to her child, Nico,” Bronte whispers.

He rests his cheek on her hair. “She is dead, cara mia. Tonio is happy here, with us.”

“I’ve been thinking we should invite Gregorio Ancelotti to spend Christmas with us. Tonio is his only living relative. They need to bond.”

When the rumble of his laugh echoes against her cheek, she looks up. “What’s so funny?”

“I spoke to Gregorio today and invited him myself. However, he wants to stay at Ludlow Hall.”

Anxious emerald eyes stare into his. “But, we have plenty of room.”

Si. However, we must respect his wishes. Perhaps the man needs his space. Let us take little steps, cara mia.”

“Okay.” She reaches up a hand to run her fingers through his hair, happy to mess up his sartorial perfection. “How come you can read my mind?”

Before Nico answers his mouth captures hers in a hungry kiss that makes her toes curl inside her thick socks. When he rests his forehead on hers, Nico’s marvelous mouth curves. “What do you expect, I am Italian!

 

FINE

Ooooh, a visit by Gregorio, sounds like a story to me.

*Evil laugh*

ChristineX

 

It’s Monday, so it’s got to be the Ludlow Hall Sneak Peek!

raymond-edwards

Happy Monday, my wonderful peeps.

Here’s this week’s peek into the crazy lives of the residents of Ludlow Hall (and it’s a doozy)…

 

It’s late afternoon in Nico Ferranti’s office at Ludlow Hall…

Ah, it is good to kick back and relax after a busy and productive day. Nico powers down his laptop, leans back to stretch out in his fancy schmancy ergonomic chair of soft black leather. Don’t you just love it when everything in life comes together as it should? Psychologists call the occurrence a state of ‘flow’. Whatever, business is booming. His baby girl’s bruised cheek is healing as it should. The twins have settled into school and are sailing through math and reading tests. Tonio is top of his class and captain of the soccer team Go, Tonio! The baby is finally sleeping through the night, thank you, Jesus. His wife loves him to bits. Hell, when has life ever been this good? A brisk knock at the door and Josh Erichsen pokes his head in, smiles when he sees his pal. He strolls in and closes the door. Today, he’s wearing soft jeans, a pale blue button down shirt, navy sweater and black steel capped work boots. Seems Josh has been on a building site.

“Hey, passed Julie on her way out, she told me to come on through. You got time for a beer?”

Nico spins in his seat to the built-in cooler behind his desk. “Si! Have a seat. How are things?”

Josh eases himself into a fat leather club chair the color of blackcurrants, accepts an icy bottle of Peroni. “Thanks. Good. Broke ground on a new project. And, so far—touch wood—the planners are in harmony with my project manager and crew. Long may it last.”

Nico takes a sip of Italian nectar, closes his eyes to enjoy the moment. “And how are Jan and Boo?”

“Good. Boo’s found her feet and is on the move. Jan’s been teaching her how to climb down stairs backwards. It’s the cutest thing, evah.”

Experienced daddy, Nico nods. “Need eyes in the back of your head when they are at that age.”

Josh rolls blue eyes. “Tell me about it…” But, before he continues, a white-faced and wild-eyed Alexander plunges through the door.

Dressed for business in a smart dark grey suit handcrafted in Savile Row, his crisp white shirt is unbuttoned at the neck and his silk tie is askew. Alexander sinks gingerly into the chair next to Josh. “Thank god you’re still here, Nico,” he says in a squeaky voice. “I’m in deep shit.”

“Rosie? Mila?” Josh asks as he sits up, places his bottle on the leather top of Nico’s oak desk.

Alexander shakes his head, closes his eyes tight. “No. They’re fine. It’s me. I’ve had an accident.”

Alarm shoots up Nico’s spine. “Car accident? Anyone hurt?”

Again Alexander shakes his head, this time he lets out a long low groan. “No. Me. I’ve really messed up. I’ve spent all day trying to fix it. And I can’t. I can’t!”

Nico and Josh exchange a wide-eyed look.

Nico turns to a pale Alexander. “If it is business, you must not worry. There is nothing we cannot fix. Even if we’ve taken a financial hit, we will weather the storm.”

Alexander shakes his head. “No. No. Business is good. It’s… It’s me. I don’t know what to do.”

Josh reaches over to grab Alexander’s hand. “Are you sick? Is it bad?”

Cristo! Nico knew the state of ‘flow’ wouldn’t last. But, this? How will he tell Rosie and Bronte that Alexander is seriously ill? Panic uncoils in his gut.

Alexander closes his eyes tight and slumps in the chair. “No. I’m not sick. But I’ve gotta problem… a big problem.” He opens his eyes to watch their faces. “I need to go to A&E. I’ve seriously messed up, Nico.”

Bemused and bewildered, Nico looks at Josh. Josh looks at Nico, lifts his brows and shrugs in an I-have-no-clue-man gesture.

“What has happened?” Nico asks all at sea without a boat or a life jacket.

Alexander sits up places his elbows on his knees. His Adam’s apple bobs once, twice.

“It happened this morning. We were waiting for ‘the call’ to say we got the deal…”

Si, and we won, so?”

“Well, I was in my bathroom and needed to pee. I was in a hurry. So, when the phone rang I… I…”

Josh leans forward. “You what?”

Alexander’s cheeks puff as he blows out a very long breath. “I pulled up the zipper of my pants too fast… and trapped a long sliver of skin on the underside of my dick in the metal teeth of the zip.”

When Josh takes a deep inhale of utter horror and Nico’s eyes go wide, Alexander nods. “And, it’s bad. Four inches of skin stuck fast.”

“Omigod,” Josh whispers, his face pale. His eyes drop to Alexander’s package. He winces. “Can’t you just, sort of, yank the zipper down?”

“I thought of it, but I can’t bring myself to do it.”

Nico cranes his neck to check out the package in trouble. “Looks okay from here.”

Alexander shakes his head. “No. It’s not this zip! I had to cut myself out of my suit pants. The zipper’s still attached. These are new pants. Christ, how am I gonna tell Rosie? I will never, ever, live this down?”

Never mind Rosie, Nico thinks. What about Bronte? He stands up. “Right. We will go to the emergency room and get this sorted. Nessun problema!”

“I’m coming, too,” Josh says, his blue eyes dancing with sheer wickedness.

“I feel sick,” Alexander mutters as his two best pals escort him out of Ludlow Hall and into the car park and into Nico’s black shiny Range Rover.

“We will fix it!” Nico slaps Alexander on the back so hard Josh coughs to hide a choke of laughter.

In the accident and emergency department of the local hospital, the guys stand at the long narrow desk in reception…

The place smells of antiseptic with an oily undertone of bodily fluids. There are a small number of people seeking assistance, including a young mother with a young baby, and an elderly man sitting on a trolley with a horrible head wound.

“How can I help you?” A grey-haired dragon who protects the gates for the genuinely sick and injured eyes three men who look the picture of health. Her gaze narrows on Josh’s shit-eating grin, Alexander’s white face, and Nico’s I’m-in-charge toothy white smile.

Alexander opens his mouth—but nothing comes out except a pitiful squeak. A squeak that makes the dragon’s black pencil brows rise sharply above the black frame of her reading glasses. “What the problem?” she snaps.

Alexander closes his eyes, drops his chin to his chest. “I have a delicate and personal problem.”

The dragon leans over the desk. “Listen up. In here there is nothing I have not seen or heard. Do you or do you not require the immediate attention of a doctor?”

Alexander lifts his head, his Adam’s apple bobbing. “I’ve trapped my penis the zipper of my pants.” He holds out his thumb and forefinger about four inches. “This much.”

She doesn’t blink. “And these guys are your two amigos who have come to support you in your hour of need?”

“Yes.”

“Okay. Let’s fill in the details.” She turns to the flat screen on her desk to bring up a form, and barks, “Name?”

Thirty minutes later, Alexander’s heart is going crazy against his ribs. Jesus, he needs to keep calm. The thought of a needle going anywhere near his junk makes perspiration bead on his top lip. He’s lying on his back on a narrow bed in a cubicle without his suit pants, his Calvins and his shoes. On either side of the bed are two young nurses. They’re wearing thin latex gloves and holding long metal tweezers. They are total professionals. Not once have they snickered or grinned at his predicament. In fact, if anything, their serious demeanour is having him shit bricks.

“You’ve really caught the foreskin,” one says as she peers up close and personal at his dick. He can feel her breath on super sensitive flesh. He closes his eyes tight and tries to ignore the way her latex covered fingers are fiddling with metal teeth on delicate flesh.

“It’s a good job you didn’t leave it until tomorrow, or you would be in bigger trouble. This sort of thing happens all the time, usually to young boys. But, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible before swelling or infection takes hold,” the other one says. She has a white can in her hand and shakes it with vigour. “I’m just going to use a numbing spray. It’s cold. It won’t hurt.”

When the freezing spray shrivels his junk, Alexander nearly hit the ceiling. His girly yelp mortifies him enough he covers his burning face with the hands. And is that laughter he hears from his two amigos sitting behind the curtain? Bastards.

Twenty minutes later…

“I think we need to get a doctor. He might need a circumcision,” a nurse says. Her wide blue eyes are sympathetic as they meet an Alexander’s who’s lungs have gone tight with something like horror. “Good job you didn’t try to yank down the zip or we’d be dealing with the plastic surgeon. Let me go get the duty registrar.”

As she closes the curtains, she sends a wide-eyed reproof to a Nico and Josh who are suffering great paroxysms of silent laughter.

“Did you hear him whine when she said circumcision?” Josh whispers to a teary Nico.

Si.” Nico inhales a couple of deep breaths through his nose.

“Did you see how he couldn’t speak to the receptionist? He tried twice and nothing came out?” Josh whispers, swiping tears of hilarity from his wet cheeks.

The nurse returns with a young Asian doctor dressed in blue scrubs hot on her heels. The doctor eyes a Nico and Josh who sit up straight in their grey plastic chairs and assume serious expressions of brotherly solidarity. The doctor clearly isn’t impressed as he breezes past them. The nurse closes the curtains with a snap.

“Stop laughing. It’s not funny,” Josh leans over to whisper into Nico’s ear.

Nico nods, but his smooth brow creases as he bites down hard on his bottom lip, his wide shoulders shaking. Dio mio, who would have thought he’d be spending the early part of the evening in a drama involving Alexander’s dick?

Half an hour later…

Josh and Nico walk back to the car with a relieved Alexander between them.

Alexander lets out a shaky laugh. “Rosie’s gonna kill me. No sex until the stitches dissolve and the wound is fully healed, not even with a condom. Honestly, when the nurse mentioned going under the knife, I thought I was gonna pass out.” He places a hand on Josh and Nico’s shoulder. “Sorry I spoilt your evenings. Thank you so much for coming with me.”

Nico turns to give him a toothpaste-white smile. “Nessun problema. I would not have missed this for the world.”

“Are you in pain?” Josh asks from the back seat as the car glides down the winding country road toward Ludlow Hall.

“Stings a bit, but painkillers will deal with it,” Alexander says, and stretches out as he relaxes for the first time in eight hours. He turns to eye a Nico who is biting down hard on his bottom lip. “You’d better warn Tonio and Luca about the dangers of zippers, pal.”

Nico turns to give him big eyes. “No need. They are Italian!”

 

FINE

Ah, men and zips.

The jaws of death.

This Friday we have the first of the Golddiggers short story. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a great time in my entire writing career. There are eight in total to take us right through the holiday season!

Big Hugs,

Christine XX

ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE…

 

the-ferranti

It’s Monday!

Which means another slice of Ludlow Life!

 

 

Nico’s been summoned to his children’s school. He’s standing in the headmaster’s study. Seems there’s been trouble in the playground, with the twins.

His heart beating too fast, Nico juts out his chin.  “Let me get this straight. A seven year old boy used his fists and his feet on my daughter?” he says, unaware he’s doing a perfect imitation of Michael Corleone’s voice in the Godfather. Mr Weatherby, the headmaster, goes sheet white. His Adam’s apple bobs once, twice.

He clears his throat. “Yes. Older boys, including Tonio, and staff were on the scene within moments. The boy concerned is suspended until a thorough investigation is completed.”

“What’s his name?” Nico growls.

“Richard Winthrop.”

Nico doesn’t blink. “Any relation to Jonathan Winthrop?”

Again, Mr. Weatherby clears his throat. “His eldest son.”

There’s a knock at the door and a very pale Miss Brown enters with her hand on Sophia’s shoulder, with Luca hot on their heels. Luca’s tie is loose. There’s a rip and blood smear on his shirt collar. But it’s the ink-black bruise on Sophia’s cheek and the fact she walks with a limp that has the blood roaring in Nico’s brain. He crouches down to gently cup his daughter’s sweet little face, to study over-bright emerald eyes in the search for a sign of concussion, and finds none. Her chin trembles, but she bites down hard on her bottom lip.

“Where does it hurt, cara mia?”

“My hip and my cheek.”

He scoops her up, and sits on a chair in front of the headmaster’s huge desk of polished oak. Holding her close, he turns to his Luca. “What happened?”

“I punched Rick in the face and kicked him in the goolies,” says his peace loving son.

Nico nods. “What started it?”

Luca’s chin lifts and his dark eyes go hard. “He called mama a f***ing whore. Scusami, papa.”

Miss Brown clears her throat.

Nico spares her a look that would melt steel. “He is only repeating the words he heard. My children are not exposed to such language.”

Sophia rests her head on her papa’s chest. “Rick is a bad, bad boy. I told him to say sorry and he hit me.”

Miss Brown steps forward, but Nico’s glare stops her in her tracks.

He stands with Sophia in his arms. “I will deal with this,” he says, and moves towards the door.

Mr. Weatherby and Miss Brown share a look of utter panic. She takes another step. “Mr. Ferranti, I—”

Nico’s glance makes her wince. “This is not the time to discuss why my children are not safe in your establishment. Bring Tonio to me immediately. We have had more than enough trouble from the Winthrop family in this school. We are leaving.”

Fifteen minutes later, Miss Brown enters the headmaster’s study.

“Richard Winthrop’s behaviour is escalating. We need to bring in the authorities, headmaster.”

Mr. Weatherby nods. “With Jonathan Winthrop as a father, the boy hasn’t had the best start in life. But, you’re right.”

She walks to the window to stare unseeing at the playing fields and the forest beyond. “What do you think Mr. Ferranti will do?”

“Something tells me Mr. Winthrop and his son won’t cause the Ferranti family any more trouble.”

 

Later…

Nico and Alexander leave the Winthrop estate where Annabel Winthrop and her ex-husband Jonathan have assured them there will be no repetition of the day’s events. Going forward their son will receive specialist counselling.

Alexander’s driving his Range Rover down the winding country road towards Ludlow Hall. He gives a stony faced Nico the side-eye. “I thought the creep was gonna piss his pants. And did you see his kid’s face? The boy’s gotta bad attitude. He’s nearly eight, big for his age and already a bully like his father.”

Nico nods. “Annabel has her hands full with her ex-husband and her sons. Bronte’s been in angry tears all afternoon. Not that she lets the children see her upset. She’s broken the habits of a lifetime and letting them have pizza on a school night. Oscar’s preparing four huge pies. Why don’t you and Rosie join us?”

“Sure. You know Rosie. She’s been talking to Bronte about enrolling the twins in martial arts. I don’t see the harm myself. When I explained the discipline is about avoiding conflict, you should’ve seen her face. She wants them taught the Vulcan mind meld.”

“Luca,” Nico says, as Alexander swings the car through the gates of Ludlow Hall, “is not aggressive, and yet he placed himself between Sophia and a boy twice his size.”

“He’s a Ferranti, Nico. He’d give his life for his sister.”

Si,” Nico growls.

Alexander brings the car to halt in the car park next to Nico’s Range Rover. This evening Nico needed a witness to his discussion with a man who was a mortal enemy to Bronte. Alexander was more than happy to oblige his brother-in-law. “What if this isn’t the end of the matter?”

“My children will be protected,” Nico says.

 

Two hours later, during an impromptu pizza party at The Dower House…

With the rest of the family, Rosie sits at the huge table in the kitchen-living-family space. Her feet are bare and she’s wearing skinny blue jeans and an oversized black sweatshirt with the logo, ‘I made a human, what’s your super power?’ Her inky hair’s caught in a messy top knot of glossy curls. She’s cuddling a very quiet Sophia and every other second she drops a soft kiss on the child’s sore cheek to make it better.

“Little s.h.i.t.,” she says, ignoring Tonio’s big eyes and Nico’s what-the-hell face.

“I can spell. I know what you just said,” Sophia says, accepting a sliver of pizza from the plate.

Rosie resolutely ignores her husband’s ‘she gotcha’ grin, and pops another kiss on top of ash blonde hair. “That’s because you’re an Einstein.”

“What’s an Einstein?’ Luca wants to know as he compares the size of his pizza slice with Tonio’s.

Rosie gives him big eyes. “It means she’s a genius.”

When Luca’s mouth opens, Tonio jumps in with, “It means she’s clever.”

Luca shrugs. “I’m not clever like Sophia.”

“Of course you are!” his auntie Rosie says in a tone that makes his cheeks pink. “You’re super-clever in a different way. You’re a thinker.”

Luca frowns as he rolls the words in his mind. “What do I think about?”

Alexander’s soft laugh has Rosie toss him a dark look. “Deep thoughts, like world peace. Or, if we’re talking about right this minute, you’re wondering if you can have a bigger slice of pizza than Tonio.”

“How did you know that?” Luca whispers, his eyes wide.

“She’s a witch,” Sophia says from her cozy spot on Rosie’s knee. “Uncle Alexander says it’s a kind of magic the way she can read minds and everything.”

“Maybe you could turn Richard Winthrop into a toad, or a donkey?” Tonio says, grinning wickedly at Rosie.

“I’ll have you know, young man, that I’m a good witch,” she says accepting the boy’s unspoken challenge and ignoring Bronte’s eye roll. “If I put a bad thought or deed out into the universe, it comes back to me times three.”

“It’s karma, baby. Karma,” Sophia says.

“See? The kid’s a superstar. She takes after me,” Rosie says and drops another soft kiss on a giggling Sophia’s cheek. Then she frowns and shifts to look at the child’s flushed cheeks. “You hot, baby?”

Bronte’s emerald eyes narrow on her daughter’s face. “Gotta headache?”

Sophia nods. “A little bit.”

After a dose of kiddy ibuprofen, she accepts another slice of pie and her eyes droop.

Nico scoops her up and takes her upstairs to bed, with Bronte, Luca and Tonio hot on his heels.

“They’re trying to hide it, but they’re all terribly upset,” Alexander says to his wife. He’s nursing a comatose Mila on his lap while sipping a small glass of Chianti from one of Nico’s Italian vineyards. “Seems we can’t escape the dark deeds of the past.”

“It’s the bloody Winthrops!” Rosie says in a tone that means business. “Every single one of them are twisted. What the hell Annabel was thinking to sleep with that creep Jonathan when he was engaged to Bronte, I don’t know. What I don’t get is the way they see this family as the enemy. What have we ever done to them? Bronte’s the victim in all this, and yet they’re always sniping at her and Nico and now the kids? What’d wrong with some people?”

“It is the result of being unable to deal with losing face and the lack of a working conscience,” Nico growls as he strolls into the room. Grey eyes hard, he helps himself to a glass of wine.

“Do you really think a little chat with that rat is gonna do the trick?” Rosie asks.

Nico sits. Stretching out long jean clad legs, he studies the blood red liquid in his glass.

“I will protect la mia famiglia.”

Alexander gaze meets Nico’s. “Yeah, but what does that mean exactly.”

“I am Italian.”

FINE

 

Oooooh. Someone’s gonna be swimming with the fishes.

I’m working hard to finish the first eight weekly Golddigger reads, first one out at the end of the month, 28th October. Book three, SUKKI, hit the top 50 in Amazon from the pre-orders. I have to admit the cover is awesome. Wait until you see RUBY, she’s a goddess. (RUBY’S pre-order links coming soon).

My cover designer is Gabrielle Prendergast of Cover Your Dreams and you can check 0ut her site HERE.

Big hugs,

Christine X

TIME FOR ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE AND THE FERRANTI FAM-LEE.

 

children-quotes-funny

 

Hi, girlies,

Time for another slice of Ludlow life with the Ferrantis’.

On a baking hot day Bronte is in her car with a full load of groceries and four children.

*Why has she gone supermarket shopping with four children in tow? Why? What the hell was she thinking? The baby’s all hot and bothered and has expressed her feelings by vomiting on a gorgeous sun dress, and baby seat clipped into the passenger seat. The twins are squabbling viciously in the back, and Tonio is boogieing on down to something on his iPod. She’s already pulled over once to deal with the baby. Thank God for Tonio. Nothing ever fazed the boy. Without being asked he’d grabbed Eve’s diaper bag and tucked a stinky dress into a plastic bag, and handed Bronte baby wipes and then a sip cup of fresh water to rehydrate the child. She’s no idea what the hell Sophia and Luca are bickering about, and since there’s no pushy-shovey yet, she left them to it. The twins are all hot and bothered, too, a bit like herself. This whole sorry mess is all her own stupid fault. Her nanny is matron of honor at her best friend’s wedding. Rosie, bless her, offered to take all four Ferranti children while her harassed bestie did grocery shopping, but Luca has a mild cold and Bronte doesn’t want baby Mila to catch it. Why borrow trouble?

And Nico is in Rome for two days, on business, or so he says. Last night he’d called her from one of his clubs, all Ciao, baby, and ti ‘amo, cara mia. Yeah right, there was nothing wrong with her hearing, was there? Hadn’t she heard the low and sexy, “Nicolo, come dance with me?” Then there’d been a short pause on the line before ‘Nicolo’ blew his wife a kiss goodbye. She’d give him more than a kiss when he got back, more like a fat lip and a thick ear. And as for dancing, she’d give him dancing. Temper on a nice steady simmer, she doesn’t notice the beautiful day or the beautiful countryside as she drives home with the air con turned on to full.

Imagine dancing with some sexpot, and doing God knew what, in a nightclub, while his adoring wife runs his home, does his laundry, and looks after HIS four children. AND runs a successful business. Seriously, the broom stick up her ass is beginning to chafe.

As temper leaks away leaving her all weepy and desperately fed up, Bronte tells herself she trusts her husband implicitly and not be stupid. But she tries not to think about the woman who calls him, ‘Nicolo’, and what it meant or she’d be as sick as her baby girl.

“I hate your big fat mouth,” five year old Sophia declares.

“I hate your stupid skinny chicken legs,” her twin snarls.

“I hate your ugly, smelly guts.”

“I hate your stupid bimbo hair.”

*Bronte takes a very deep breath, and turns up the radio. Even Taylor Swift yowling about lost love is better than listening to what’s going on in the back seat*

When she reaches the gates of The Dower House, she stops the car. And just sits still while the invectives rage on in the back seat. Tonio pulls out his earphones, sends her a wary look via her rear view mirror. She turns off the radio. It takes a about twenty seconds for the twins to realize all is not well. After a final, harshly whispered, “And I hate your stinky breath.” Quiet reigns.

“Wanna know what I think?” Bronte says in a silky tone. “I think I’m going to sell two of my children to the gypsies camped in farmer Brown’s fields.”

*Cue a stunned silence. In the rear view mirror she sees Tonio bite down hard on his bottom lip. It’s not often she uses the selling them to the gypsies threat. It’s bad parenting, but at the moment Bronte Ferranti could not give a hot damn*

“Got nothing to say?” she asks. She spins around so she can face her twins. It hits her hard, and not for the first time, what an fascinating blend of herself and Nico they are. Her green eyes in Sophia’s face, Nico’s dark grey eyes in Luca’s. Her mouth in Luca’s, Nico’s in Sophia’s. Her coloring and build – poor child – gifted to Sophia, and Nico’s jet black hair to Luca. She pauses and raises her brows, notices the twins are pale, eyes too big in their little faces. “Do you want me to take you to the gypsies now, or should you go home to pack your belongings first? What do you think?”

“I think I don’t wanna live with the gypsies. I won’t like it there,” Sophia says, her emerald eyes swimming.

“They have lots of puppies and kittens,” Tonio says helpfully.

Luca juts out his chin. “I don’t care about stupid puppies or kittens. I’m not gonna live with the gypsies. I’m gonna live with Auntie Rosie and Uncle Alexander and baby Mila. And without HER,” he says jerking his thumb at his sister. “They won’t sell me to the gypsies because they LOVE me.”

A little voice, might be the voice of reason, is telling Bronte to wind the conversation down instead of up, but she ignores it. “Um, I dunno about that. A little boy like you could make big bucks with the gypsies.”

Now Sophia’s chin jerks as she watches her mama through slitty eyes. “You’re being horrible to us. You’ve been cranky all day. I’m gonna tell papa what you said about the gypsies. He’ll spank your bottom.”

*If only*

She stares hard at the twins, her voice firm and a tone that means business. “You both know better than to argue when I’m driving the car. And I have the baby with me. What would have happened if I’d been distracted by your bad behaviour and had an accident?”

Cue another silence, and Bronte let it go on, and on, until both twins dropped their chin on their chest. “Do I hear a sorry, mama?”

Typically, Luca nods first. “Sorry, mama.”

On the other hand, the stubborn Sophia takes a few seconds longer before she twisted her mouth, nodded. “Sorry, mama.”

Bronte starts the car, continues up the drive. “Well then, I think I’ll keep you both a little longer.”

*As she winds around to the parking space at the back of the house, Nico lifts his suitcase out of the trunk of his car. His smile is big and wide as he spots them. But the smile slides when he sees his wife’s stony face*

As the children barrel out of the car, Luca throws himself at his papa. “Mama’s going to sell us to the gypsies,” he says, then bursts into tears and buries his face in Nico’s belly.

Sophia, wearing a cute little white cotton sundress with sandals on her bare feet, marches past him. “You need to spank her bottom for scaring little children. Mama’s been a bad girl all day.”

Nico’s brows wing into his hairline as he hugs Luca and sends a ‘What happened?’ look to Tonio.

“Eve was sick in the car. The twins have been fighting all afternoon. I think the gypsy plan is a good idea,” Tonio says as he carries a heaving bag of groceries into the house.

“Go and help your brother,” Nico says, giving Luca a gentle pat on the bottom. He turns to his wife, takes the baby from her arms, catches a whiff of baby puke from her black curls. Bronte’s hefting a couple bags from the trunk. Chin high, she marches past him and into the house. Uh oh. Trouble. Can’t be anything he’s done. Can it?

*Three hours later and The Dower House is quiet. Nico’s just finished listening to Tonio read another chapter of Moby Dick. It’s hard going at times, but the boy is doing well. The twins and the baby are out for the count. He pours himself a glass of Chianti and a glass of white for her and goes in search of his wife, and finds her sitting outside on one of the swings watching the sun going down. Her hair’s tied back at the neck in a short tail, she’s wearing a skinny vest, tiny jean shorts showcasing long tanned legs stretched out before her. Her feet are bare, and he notices her toenails are painted deep pink. It’s clear she’s had a bad and tiring day. It’s also clear she’s still in a mood, which is something of a novelty because Bronte’s rarely moody. She simply doesn’t have it in her to hold onto a grudge for long*

He bends to kiss her flushed cheek, hands her the wine. Her eyes flick to his and hold. Now his own narrow as he recognizes something that looks like hurt and disappointment. “Enjoy dancing last night?” she says, takes a sip of wine, and not once do her eyes leave his.

Ah, the light bulb switches on in his brain. “It was the wife of a business colleague. Harmless.”

Her eyes move to study the growing dusk. “I can’t remember the last time I danced. It was definitely before we had Eve.”

*Within a couple of heartbeats, their wine is set on a table, and she’s in his arms. Nico hums, ‘Shall We Dance’ and spins her around the garden until she’s breathless and laughing so hard her sides hurt*

As they move into a slow dance, more of a foot shuffle and hug, she nuzzles her face into his neck to simply take a breath and inhale the incredible scent of her man. And just like that her world steadies again. “I’m a terrible mother,” she says as guilt about the gypsies hits her hard.

“No. What you are is tired and a little out of sorts. What you need, we need, is a special place just for us. A place that’s not far away. A place you, we, can escape to when things get on top of us. A place where we won’t be disturbed when I spank you when you need it.”

Her gurgle of laughter has him shift to stare into her face. He gives her big eyes. “I am not joking. According to our daughter you have been a very naughty girl.”

“And where would this magical place be?”

“You know the new A frame cabin set high in the hills above Ludlow Hall? The place from where we can see The Dower House?” She nodded. “I had it built for you. You and me. Why don’t we visit it tomorrow afternoon and christen the super-king-sized bed?”

Emotions, too many to handle, rose up to block her throat. Dear heaven she adores this man.

“It’s mine?”

He drops a kiss on her stunned mouth. “Si. Somewhere you can chill, listen to music, work on a new cake design. Or simply read and relax. And it has a Jacuzzi.”

“Wow, how did you come up with such a great idea?”

When he sent her an are-you-kidding-me look, she had to laugh. “Cara mia, I am Italian.”

 

Finito

 

 

Until next week.

Remember, be good or I’ll sell you to the gypsies.

Hugs,

Christine X

 

It’s (just after) Monday, and here’s more from the Ferranti Fam-lee.

Behind every great daughteris a truly amazing dadand his name is Nico Ferranti

 

 

Hi, guys!

I’m late with this week’s post due to travelling yesterday. A trip that was supposed to take about five hours took nearly nine thanks to an acid spill on the motorway (freeway) which ate up the tarmac. We were stuck in a ten mile tail back in one of the hottest days of the year. Not fun.

Here’s this week’s slice of life with the Ferranti Fam-lee!

BRONTE & NICO EATING A ROAST CHICKEN, WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS, DINNER WITH THE KIDS AT THE DOWER HOUSE.

*Luca, his little face a picture of complete misery, is pushing a piece of broccoli around his plate with a fork*

Dressed in below the knee jean shorts and an Incredible Hulk T-shirt, he says in a tone of utter disgust, “I hate this stuff.”

Sophia dressed in matching shorts and a Frozen T-shirt swings her bare legs beneath her chair, nods. “Me, too.” She spears a piece of chicken breast, nibbles delicately.

“I’m not eating it.” Luca’s mouth goes tight as he moves his full plate away.

*Bronte studies her youngest son’s stony face. He doesn’t look flushed. He doesn’t look pale. It’s not like him to make a fuss. He’s gone through a sudden growth spurt and is at least a head taller than his twin sister, so maybe he’s tired. He tends to leave food he doesn’t want, which is fine with her. But she frowns when Sophia, in a show of sisterly solidarity, pushes her full plate away, too. Little monkey*

Tonio, who by the amount of food he scoffs at meal times possesses hollow legs, cranes his neck to check out their plates. “Not want the chicken?”

Luca makes a horrible face, shoves his plate across the table to his brother. “Nope. It’s gross.”

*Bronte’s brows fly into her hairline. Excuse me? Since when has her freshly prepared, carefully balanced meals ever been regarded as gross? But before she can open her mouth, Nico steps into the breach*

“Do you have a headache? Are you sick?” he asks Luca.

Luca shakes his head. Big dark eyes meet his papa’s. “I don’t like these little trees. They taste gross, like soil. Why do I wanna eat soil?”

Nico sends Bronte big eyes to tell her he’ll deal with the sudden revolt in his family. He turns to his son. “We have carrots. You like carrots.”

Luca makes another horrible face. “I don’t like cooked carrots. I like raw carrots.”

“I like raw carrots, too,” Sophia says. She turns to Luca. “Maybe you’d like raw trees?”

“Yuk.”

“I do not mind the little trees,” Tonio says, spearing broccoli from Luca’s plate to his own, and then helping himself to chicken breast in gravy. “Mama makes the best food. Much better than school food. The priests used to say that we who have full plates and full bellies are blessed by Jesus. Around the world there are thousands of little childrens going to bed every day with empty bellies because of war… and stuff.”

Sophia’s green eyes went wide. “Little childrens go to bed with no dinner?”

Si.” Tonio broke a table rule by pointing his knife at his sister. “And without breakfast, and even lunch. Sometimes the little childrens have no food for days. Babies, too, have no milk.”

Now Luca’s bottom lip’s trembling, and his big dark eyes swim. “But… You’ve eaten all my dinner. Now I’m gonna go to bed with no dinner, just like the poor little childrens and babies who have no milk.”

Sophia’s bottom lip joins her brother’s in a show of sibling sympathy. “Me, too, just like the poor childrens.”

*Nico’s eyes go huge as he looks at a wife who’s biting down hard on her bottom lip. Dio mio. Just listen to them, a person might think that Nico Ferranti starves his childrens, er children. Tonio’s English is amazing, but sometimes he has trouble*

Nico claps his hands. “We have plenty of food for everyone in this house. There is lots of chicken for anyone who wants it.”

Luca’s big eyes find his papa’s. “But… but… what about the little children who have no food? Can’t we give them our food if we have too much?”

*By this time, Bronte’s hand is covering her mouth to hide her smile. Her baby boy has a good heart, big heart. A heart that is easily bruised*

“Yes,” Sophia cries. “Emily’s daddy says my papa’s a filthy rich typhoon. Papa will send lots of food to the hungry childrens, especially lots of roast chicken and gravy.” She turns big emerald eyes to a Nico who’s still trying to recover from the shock of being called a ‘filthy rich typhoon’. “Won’t you, papa?”

Nico sends his daughter a nod. “Si. Ferranti Enterprises supports many charities, including Save The Children.”

*All three of his kids gaze at him in awe and wonder. Actually, he and his team donate much needed blankets and clothes to the United Nations refugee camps currently based in Jordan and Turkey*

“What does Save The Children do?” Sophia asks.

Nico clears his throat, the last thing he wants is to worry his kids, but it seems they are ready to hear about those less fortunate than themselves. “Well, they make sure children have clean water to drink and that they have a safe place to sleep, and they make sure they have clothes and food.”

Luca’s eyes go huge. “They have no water? No bed to sleep in?”

“Sometimes,” Bronte jumps in. “There is a natural disaster, like a flood or an earthquake, and houses are damaged or crops destroyed, so help is sent from many people all over the world.”

Without asking to leave the table, Sophia slides out of her chair. She moves to kneel on her papa’s lap and goes nose to nose with Nico. “When I’m a big girl and I can read and write good and get all my sums right, can I work for Save The Childrens?”

Nico can hardly swallow the lump of pride in his throat. Dio mio, how lucky is he to have such children? He cups Sophia’s little face, kisses her forehead, her nose. Then shifts to look her in the eye. “Cara mia, if you work hard you can do whatever you want to do in the whole wide world. Do you know why?”

Sophia’s high ponytail of shiny silver bounces as she shakes her head. “Why?”

“Because you are Italian.”

 

Finito

 

Gotta love the kids.

Until next week, enjoy the summer and hold your childrens tight and give them a big hug from me.

Christine X

 

 

 

Another slice of Ludlow life with Nico and the kids

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Happy Monday, my lovelies,

After all the excitement of the weekend, here’s something to make you smile.

Another scene from the busy lives of the Ferranti family.

NICO AND THE KIDS IN THE CAR ON THE WAY TO THE DOWER HOUSE

*Nico and Tonio are in front, while Luca, Sophia and her best pal, Emily, are sitting in the back*
Easing the car around a tight bend, Nico shoots Tonio the side-eye, and grins. “You played well. I am proud of you.”
Tonio makes a face, gives a jerky shrug of a skinny shoulder. He spits on his palm and proceeds to clean grass stain, mud and blood from his skinned knee. “Si, but we lost by one goal.”
Si, but the team never gave up. You fought to the bitter end,” Nico says. He glances at Tonio’s sulky mouth, bites down hard on his bottom lip. He can’t bear the boy’s bitter disappointment. But such is life. “Why don’t we do a pit-stop for burgers?”
“Yay!” chorus Tonio and Luca.
“Mama doesn’t like us having burgers,” pipes up Sophia. She turns to look at a wide-eyed Emily. “Unless she makes them herself. And Luca is not allowed soda, he throws up everywhere. It’s totally gross.”
*Nico makes a face. How did he forget Ms. Big Ears with her big mouth was sitting in the back seat. Busted. Bronte’s gonna give him hell, but he can’t back out now and disappoint the boys*
“Mama won’t mind this one time,” he says.
“My mummy says fast food is full of complete crap. It gives you heart desees and cancer, and alls climbers,” Emily says.
*Nico racks his brain to work out what ‘alls climbers’ might be*
“Alzheimers,” Tonio says helpfully.
“Auntie Rosie says a Big Mac is the work of the devil,” Sophia says as she watches the world go by out the window.
*Since there was no good answer to that, the guys in the front keep schtum. Nico wonders why the hell he didn’t keep his mouth shut about burgers. All is peace and quiet, until….*
“My daddy,” Emily begins. “Says that mummies have a special zipper in their tummy and that’s how a baby is born.”
*Nico and Tonio go utterly still and stare unblinking at the road ahead with wide eyes*
“He lied,” Sophia says with the grim authority of a person who knows exactly what she’s talking about.
*Dio mio, is all Nico can think as his mind goes blank and a cold sweat breaks out on his top lip*
“The baby comes out a mama’s vajayjay,” Sophia says with a relentlessness that has Nico’s sweat turning to ice. “With my own eyes I saw pictures in a book in Auntie Rosie’s bedroom after Mila was born. They were totally gross. Lots of blood and poop. It was disgusting. I’m never ever in my whole life ever having a baby.”
*In the rear view mirror Nico sees Luca turn a pale shade of green. He swings the car into a handy rest stop and leaps out the door. He’s just in time to grab his son before Luca’s breakfast is tossed into the hedge. Without being asked Tonio climbs out of the front seat and into the back. Luca is better travelling in front, less likely to get carsick*
“Feeling better?” Nico asks, wiping his son’s white face with a hand wipe.
Luca nods. “I’m okay. It was just…” he shudders.
Si, capisco.” Nico understands exactly how the poor child feels.
*He pats Luca on the back and shoots a dark look to his daughter. A daughter who is sitting there like the Queen of all she surveys, as if butter wouldn’t melt. Meanwhile little Emily, a red headed fairy with wild corkscrew curls and a constellation of freckles anointing her pretty face, is all flushed cheeks and big blue eyes staring up at Tonio as if he’s a rock star. Dio mio. Nico wonders why he hasn’t gone straight home? He clicks the seat belt around Luca, hands him a plastic bag, just in case, and jogs around the bonnet to get into the drivers seat. As he pulls into the road he decides he needs a very stiff drink*
“Are you gonna get married one day, Tonio?” Emily whispers, hope a living, breathing, thing in her voice.
Before Tonio can respond, his sister does it for him. “Nah, he’s gonna be a world famous footballer, and date supermodels and film stars. My Auntie Rosie says if he’s anything like my papa he’s gonna break hundreds of hearts with his love muscle.”
*Cue a deadly silence. And Nico Ferranti swears to Sweet Baby Jesus and Bhudda and all God’s in the known Universe he is going to strangle Rosemary Margaret Ludlow with his own two hands*
Meanwhile Luca frowns, turns to his papa. “What’s a love muscle?”
“It’s a penis,” Sophia says, still clueless about the bombshell she’s dropped into her papa’s world as she stares out the window.
“My mummy says little girls are not supposed to talk about private parts. It’s naughty,” Emily says.
“Your mummy is quite right,” Nico growls from the front seat, desperately trying to catch his daughter’s eye in the rear view mirror. To no avail.
Sophia is still watching the world go by. “My Auntie Rosie says that talking the truth about sex to children is very important. I even know how a baby is put in a mummy’s tummy. In the book a picture shows……”
“SOPHIA FERRANTI,” Nico roars, his blood pressure threatening to give him a stroke, or a heart attack, or both. “One more word you will not be Elena’s flower girl.”
*Sophia’s head spins on her shoulders, her eyes, at last, meet her papa’s. The message is received and understood*
“But…” she begins, catches his eye again and closes her mouth.
*Silence*
Emily flutters her lashes at Tonio like a camel in a sandstorm. “Do you have a girlfriend?” she asks in a stage whisper.
Tonio sends her a grin that has poor Emily catch her breath. “Si. I am Italian.”
*Nico decides when he get’s home to his wife and baby girl, he’s gonna skip the wine and go straight for the hard stuff, Cognac*

Finito

This exact conversation actually happened between two six year olds in the back of my car when I’d picked them up from school – my son, Scott, takes Sophie’s role, and his best pal, Tom, is Emily. A few days earlier Scottie had found a copy of A Child Is Born and flicked through the pictures, stopped on one and said the immortal words, “This is totally gross.”….. Two days later his teacher asked me if I’d been giving him a talk about the birds and the bees. I said, ‘No. But that’d he’d found the book’ Then I asked, “What has he been saying? Are parents upset?” She shook her head. “Nope. He did a better job of it than I could.” Then she told me about a daddy who’d told his little girl about the baby zipper (his wife had had a c-section). We both agreed the zipper idea had not been a wise choice. Gotta love kids and their clueless daddy’s!

Until next week, my lovelies, be good. I’m desperately trying to catch-up on SEAN’s story, after the roller-coaster of the Referendum.

Christine X