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.



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!



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

*Evil laugh*



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


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?”


“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!”



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



It’s Monday, which means another sneak peek into life with the Ferranti family and their friends:

Bronte and Emily’s mummy, Grace, are enjoying a coffee and chat in the family kitchen at The Dower House while their daughters have a play date. What, I hear you ask, could possibly go wrong? Read on, peeps, read on…

Sophia and Emily are sitting on the rug in Sophia’s bedroom. They’re dressed up to the nines – oceans of pink tulle, plastic silver tiaras on their head, feather boas wrapped around their neck, rings on every finger, faces painted with kiddie makeup applied with a heavy hand. Emily rummages in one of her mummy’s old handbags, it’s a battered clutch of patent leather in an eye watering pink.

“I love that bag. It’s my favorite,” Sophia says, eyeing Emily’s bag with feminine lust.

Emily has an almost empty bottle of perfume in her hand. For a moment, she struggles with the stopper, then shoves the bottle under her best pal’s nose. “Me, too. My mummy says she must have been color blind the day she bought it.”

Sophia takes a sniff, makes a horrible face. “Ugh. That’s revolting.”

Emily takes a careful inhale, nods. “It’s not very nice, is it? I found it in the bin in mummy’s bathroom. Does perfume go off do you think, like food?”

Sophia lifts her hands, shrugs and makes a how-the-hell-do-I-know face. Then she frowns when a thought enters her mind. “Mama has bottles and bottles of special perfumes in her walk-in closet. She says if papa buys her any more of the stuff from Paris and Rome, she’s gonna open her own shop.”

Emily turns huge blue eyes to her friend. “Can I see them?”

Sophia stands, and wobbles a bit in a pair of her mama’s old heels. Her papa told her to be careful not to break her neck, but these shoes are a shiny red and make an awesome clicking sound when she clatters on the stone floor in the kitchen. When Emily stands in her pair of her mummy’s discarded heels, these are pink to match her bag, and nearly falls on her ass, Sophia grabs her hand in solidarity.

Together they shuffle their way out the door and down the carpeted hallway, past baby Eve’s room, and into the sacred sanctuary of Bronte and Nico Ferranti’s bedroom suite. Like heat seeking missiles of mass destruction they head for the double doors behind which hides Bronte’s boudoir. Sophia releases Emily’s hand to open the doors. Since the light switch is too high on the wall, she takes off her shoes, just for a minute, to drag over a footstool. She climbs up, illuminates a space that has little Emily’s blue eyes go wide and her jaw drop. Once Sophia’s got her balance in her high heels, she grabs her best pal’s hand and together they move forward.

“Wow,” Emily says.

Sophia nods. “I know. My auntie Rosie says it’s the mother lode. My mama says it’s a total waste of space.”

“When I marry Tonio,” Emily begins with a determined glint in her blue eyes. A glint which makes Sophia roll her eyes to heaven, since there is no way her brother will marry her best friend because unless Emily has a growth spurt she’ll never be a super model or a film star or a pop princess. Undeterred, Emily drags Sophia forward as she continues, “We’ll live in a lovely house just like this one and he’ll make me a dressing room like this. Look at all the shoes! Look at all the bags! And I love the built-in closets. And wow, look at all the pretty bottles.”

When Sophia presses a light switch beneath the dressing table to illuminate the pretty bottles with their gold, silver and glass stoppers. Emily again gasps. “Do you think we can smell one?” she asks, her little fingers twitching as her hand hovers over a crystal bottle with a heavy glass top.

A voice in Sophia’s head whispers, ‘Do-not-touch.’ But where’s the harm in a small sniff? “Sure,” she says, lifts the bottle and struggles to release the stopper.

Meanwhile Emily’s bouncing up and down as if she’s about to pee her pants. “Let me,” she says and snatches the bottle. Her little face goes puce but eventually the stopper pops. A heady scent fills the air as she spills perfume down the front of her Elsa tulle dress.

Sophia tsk-tsks as she opens a drawer to find a white cotton vest to mop up the spill. Meanwhile a beaming Emily takes a deep inhale. “Ooooh, I love it.”

Sophia stuffs the vest back where it belongs, closes the drawer with her hip and reaches for another bottle. “Mama loves this one best. She sprays it in the air and walks through it, like this.” She sprays a couple of blasts in the air and together they stagger through the scent.

Emily closes her eyes and gives a blissful sigh of sheer happiness. “It’s gorgeous. What else does she like?”

Sophia reaches for two bottles and hands one to Emily. “You try that one and I’ll try this one…”

Meanwhile, in the family kitchen-living space, Emily’s mummy is cuddling baby Eve.

“I wish I could have another baby, but it wasn’t to be,” Grace says, giving the baby’s hot cheek a nuzzle. “I could just eat her all up. She’s gorgeous, Bronte. I love the black curls and have you seen the length of those lashes. This one’s going to break hearts.”

Bronte grins, tops up their coffee cups from the pot. “She’s as good as gold. Nico reckons she takes after Luca in nature and I think he’s right. She’s nothing like her sister that’s for sure, thank the Lord.”

Her friend laughs. “Sophia’s brought Emily right out of her shell and I’ll always be grateful for that.”

Bronte nods. “Yep, and Emily keeps Sophia on the straight and narrow, bless her little heart. She’s a good influence on my daughter.”

“They’re like a pair of old women when they get started,” Grace says, her blue eyes dancing with wicked delight. “Emily’s taken to quoting auntie Rosie every five minutes.”

Bronte’s emerald eyes go wide as she shakes her head. “Know something? Rosie’s never changed since she was three. I could write a book about what we got up to when we were small. We gave our mothers grey hair…” She’s warming to her theme when a bare footed Luca wearing below the knee denim shorts and Spiderman T shirt races into the room and slides to a stop in front of the couch. Her son is looking a little flushed, but his dark eyes are glittering with excitement. “What’s up, bub?”

Before Luca can respond, she shifts forward on the couch to sniff his hair. “Is that Joy I smell?”

Luca’s black curls bounce as he nods. “Don’t know the name of it, but Sophia and Emily made me walk through what they call a cloud of scent. They’ve been in your closet and they stink, mama.”

“Omigod,” Grace whispers.

The women are on their feet and out the door so fast Luca has trouble keeping up with them.

Her eyes on stalks as she steps inside Bronte’s closet, Grace whispers, “Wow.”

“SOPHIA FERRANTI!” Bronte yells at the top of her voice in a tone that has Luca sprinting for the safety of his bedroom and bang the door closed. And a yell that has Sophia jump two feet in the air and drop the bottle in her hand. Chanel No 5 pools on the rug.

“Omigod,” Grace whispers again. Her hand covers her mouth and nose to protect her from a toxic mix of scents.

An hour later and both Emily and Sophia have barely survived three baths, and been scrubbed raw by their furious mothers. And still a lingering scent of Joy permeates the bathroom. A weeping Emily’s gone home with a Grace who can’t apologise enough for the olfactory Armageddon in Bronte’s closet and her daughter’s part in it. There will be no movies for Ms. Emily for the foreseeable future. And as for Ms. Sophia…

Half an hour later, Nico and Tonio arrive home from soccer practice to find Bronte lying on her back on the couch in the family room with her feet up and a very large glass of white wine in her hand. When she spots them, she closes her eyes and rests her head on the arm of the couch.

Nico lifts his brows then he sniffs the air like a wolf scenting trouble.

“Phew,” Tonio says. “What’s that smell?”

Cara mia,” Nico says. “It is not a good idea to mix perfumes. The result is not appealing.”

His wife gazes at him through narrowed eyes. “Tell me about it,” she growls.

He moves to lift her legs, sits on the couch and begins a foot rub. A foot rub usually works for whatever ails her.

“We’re sleeping in one of the guest rooms tonight,” she says, and takes a deep sip of her wine.

“We are?”

“We are, because thanks to our daughter and her best-best-friend we need oxygen just to enter ours. We have a specialist cleaning company coming in tomorrow to deep clean the carpets in our bedroom and my closet and the hallway. Even then they cannot guarantee the toxic mix of Joy and Chanel No 5 and Clive Christian No 1 will be removed.”

Nico’s jaw drops. “Clive Christian?” he whispers in horror.

“Yup. Good job I hate the stuff even if it is expensive. Emily spilled it on her Elsa dress. Grace and I had to give them three baths and even then they still reek to high heaven.”

“They were in you closet?”

“Yes, to ‘just have a little sniff’ of my perfumes. Nico, you’ll need to see it to believe it.”

Dio mio.”

“Sophia’s being punished,” Bronte says. “No movies for a whole month.”

“Women,” Tonio says with his head buried in the fridge on the hunt for any leftovers. He scores when he finds strawberry milkshake and cheese and pickle sandwiches wrapped in foil. As he piles sandwiches on a plate and places it on the table, he grabs the milkshake and takes a seat. “They’re too high maintenance with perfumes and makeup and hair products. Who needs it?”

“You will think differently when you are nineteen instead of nine,” Nico says.

“Uh-huh,” Tonio mutters with his mouthful. He catches Bronte’s gimlet eye and swallows. “I want a woman like mama. A natural beauty. Not fake.”

Nico bites down hard on his bottom lip as Bronte’s eyes go all soft as she watches Tonio. The boy knows exactly how to play her. But then why is he surprised? He’s Italian.



Ah, that smoothed tongued Tonio. In Italy, they start them young at charm school.

I actually have a story about perfumes and my daughters when they were small. You’ve just read it, except exchange the Chanel No5, etc., for Nina Ricci and Boots. The result was pretty much the same.

SEAN goes live a week on Friday. Put the 30th of September in your diary.

I’m busy writing/editing/formatting/publishing on pre-orders THE GOLDDIGGERS.

Can’t say life is dull in this house!

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.


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



Hi girlies,

Here’s our favourite Ludlow Hall girls doing what they do best:

Bronte, Rosie and Janine are holding a management meeting at Sweet Sensations. And Rosie’s still on a high from her meeting with the GOLDDIGGERS the night before …

“You should have seen them, Jan. They looked like long legged gazelles. I’d love to be a Golddigger,” Rosie says wistfully. Lounging on the office couch, dressed in her chef whites with her rubber kitchen clogs discarded on the floor, she certainly didn’t look like a Golddigger. After working on a lace icing design for two hours, the way her neck aches she doesn’t feel like a Golddigger either.

Sitting behind the glass-topped desk, wearing black skinny jeans, Nike running shoes and a white vest, Jan’s fingers fly over the keyboard of her laptop typing the minutes of the meeting. “Uh huh,” she says. “I’d have thought with the amount of work you did today that you’d be too tired to even think about being a Golddigger.”

Oblivious to the way Bronte rolls her eyes, Rosie wiggles tired toes. “My Golddigger name is Ms. Rosie La Fleur, and sitting over there wearing her bored face is Ms. Bronte Bon-Bon.”

Jan’s laugh peals through the loft space of the office. “I can see those names up in lights.”

Rosie grins. “And you’re Midnight Martini.”

“I like it,” Jan says.

“Nico’s not said much about tonight’s stag party, or the Golddiggers,” Bronte muses. She’s wearing her usual black Capri pants and matching short sleeved T-shirt and leather flats on her narrow feet.

“Nico’s not really a stag night sort of guy,” Rosie says. “Unlike Alexander who had a haircut today.”

Jan shook her head. “Josh isn’t excited either. He said he’d be home early.”

“That’s because you’re in the honeymoon period of your relationship and God knows you made him fight every single step of the way to woo you.”

Unoffended with the accurate summary, Jan smiles. “He’s still wooing me.”

“There you go,” Rosie says.

“Nico doesn’t look at other women, when he’s with me I mean.”

“Of course he doesn’t,” Rosie agrees. “That’s because he’s got the equivalent of a Golddigger at home. You’ve got the height and the legs and the looks. It’s a mystery to me why I don’t hate you, but in spite of the fact you’re a cranky pants at times, I don’t.”

Bronte’s emerald eyes twinkle. “Why thank you kindly, Ms. La Fleur.”

Rosie turns to a Jan who’s still rattling the keys, and pouts. “And you’ve got the height and the legs and the looks, too. It’s only me who’s vertically challenged.”

Jan gazes at her over her laptop. “Good things come in small packages. Josh adores you.”

“He does. And I adore him. But not in a dirty way.”

“I should bloody well hope not,” Bronte says. “You’re married to my brother.”

Rosie’s smile grows wicked. “I wore my best Agent Provocateur last night. Black silk and lace corset with tiny panties and …”

She stops when Bronte shoots her a finger. “I don’t want to hear it,” she says in a tone that means business.

“I do. Ignore her. Tell me everything,” Jan says, her blue eyes twinkling.

“I was about to show him some of the moves the Golddigger’s taught me, but my plan didn’t work out.”

Jan stops typing. “What happened?”

“Next thing I know I’m over his shoulder and he’s taking the stairs two at a time.” Rosie ignores Bronte’s heartfelt groan. “Apparently Alexander Ludlow knows some kinky moves himself.”

“Good Lord,” Bronte mutters.

“How many times did you see Jesus?” Jan wants to know.

Rosie hold up three fingers.

“Aww,” Jan says. “I love it when that happens.”

Bronte gazes at her best friends, smiles like a cat who’s got the cream. “Three times in one night is nothing to an Italian.”




Ah, that Nico, why am I not surprised?

It’s gonna be a busy September and October here on the blog. SEAN is out two weeks on Friday then the GOLDDIGGERS short stories are released every Friday from the end of October.

Love and hugs,

Christine X


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



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.


“Alexaaaaaaaander,” she sings, louder.


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.


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.


“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



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.”



Ah, birthdays are wonderful things.

Big hugs,

Christine X

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


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.”




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


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




Greetings, my lovelies,

It’s August 1st.

Where has the summer gone?

Time for another slice of life with the Ferranti family………..

All is quiet on a hot and sultry Saturday at The Dower House. Bronte and Anastacia Morgan, Italian soccer star Olivier Conti’s fiancée, are out having a girly day at the Ferranti Hotel and Spa, Ludlow Hall. Luca and Tonio are spending the weekend at a summer sport camp. Nico and Olivier are on daddy duty looking after baby Eve, and… Sophia.

Since the guys are off duty, today they haven’t bothered with a razor, and both wear below the knee khaki shorts and ratty T-shirts.

We join them, dear readers, snoozing on the L shaped couch in the family-living-kitchen space. Yup, my friends, the boys have taken their eyes off the ball. Oh dear, oh dear…..

Meanwhile, in Sophia’s world, also known as her bedroom…….

*Before she’d gone out with Anastacia, Sophia’s mama had brushed Sophia’s silver blonde hair back in a complicated plait arrangement threaded with pink satin ribbon. At the same time Anastacia (Sophia ADORES Anastacia) painted Sophia’s tiny toenails with five different shades from ruby red to a sparkling pale pink.

Now a beyond thrilled Sophia is kicking back in her bedroom where it’s nice and cool. She’s wearing her favorite pink cotton sun dress. She’s added a purple ostrich feather boa around her neck and painted her pink mouth bright lemon from her stash of kiddie make-up – a gift from her auntie Rosie. She and four of her favorite dolls are watching the final credits at The End of the movie, Frozen. When the song Let It Go begins, Sophia’s on her twinkling toes, her hairbrush is her microphone as she sings along at the top of her voice. Maybe one day she could be a pop star. Four smiling dolls watch her with wide-eyed unblinking blue eyes*


Dio mio,” Oliver murmurs and turns to lie flat on his back. Eyes closed, he yawns huge enough to crack his jaw, scratches his flat belly. “What the hell is that noise?”

Nico cranks open an eye. Listens to his daughter murdering Idina Menzel’s brilliant vocals, and joins Olivier in a yawn. It is true. Yawning is contagious. He and Olivier have been hard at it, with Anastacia cracking the organizational whip, since six thirty discussing the next marketing film Olivier is due to star in next week for the Ferranti Boutique Hotel campaign in Rome. “Ignore her. It is Sophia singing along to Frozen. It can go on for hours.” Like Olivier, he rolls onto his back and closes his eyes. Dio, the heat is oppressive, this must be the hottest day of the year so far. Through folding doors opened wide to the garden, he can hear the buzz of lazy bees rumbling from rose to rose. The silence, apart from Sophia, is golden. Heaven.

Meanwhile, back in Sophia’s world…..

*In bare feet, Sophia skips along the thick carpet running along the wide corridor outside her bedroom, and tip toes into baby Eve’s room next door to her mama and papa’s huge bedroom suite. The baby is sound asleep, the window shades drawn to keep out the heat. She’s is sooooooo cute with her black crazy curls and pink cheeks and tiny mouth. And she has the teeeeeeniest fingernails.

Pursing her lips, Sophia slides into the hallway, cocks her head to listen for any sign of life from her papa or uncle Olivier, and hears nothing. The football season is over for the summer, which means Olivier is spending ‘quality time’ with Anastacia. Sophia sidles into her mama and papa’s bedroom. The place smells faintly of her papa’s cologne and her mama’s shampoo and fresh flowers in the huge class vase on the serving table between his and her walk-in closets. Her little fingertips run along the velvet edge of a low backed couch. Her nails are unpainted because her mama might permit toe nails to be painted (on special occasions) but not fingernails because, ‘Sophia is too young.’ Hmmmmmmm. But like a moth to the proverbial flame (as auntie Rosie says) Sophia is enticed by the devil temptation to the open double doors of her mama’s walk-in closet. And, like a magnet, is drawn to her mama’s make-up area. Also known as (auntie Rosie says) ‘The cosmetic mother-lode.’

Sophia switches on the array of lights surrounding the huge mirror, and an entirely new world of wondrous opportunities opens up before her very eyes. Her eyes go wide at the vast array of make-up, brushes, pots, and all sorts of marvellous things (many unopened because her mama cannot be bothered, but her papa keeps supplying mama with lots and lots from the Spa) laid out before her. There are lipsticks, eye shadows, and a couple of little jewelled pots.

She reaches out a hand, her fingers just itching to explore the pretty pots, when the thought enters her mind she is NOT permitted to touch ANYTHING in her mama’s closet.

Battling two voices in her young mind, touch it versus don’t-you-dare, Sophia heaves a deep sigh as she chooses the latter.

But then, her emerald eyes linger on the bottles of nail polish. In particular a couple Anastacia had used on Sophia’s beautiful pink toenails.

The devil temptation whispers.

Between one heartbeat and the next, she’s got two bottles in her hand, and she’s back in her bedroom.

The four dolls on her bed seemed to beg, literally beg her, to paint their toes.

What was a responsible doll owner to do?*

Minutes later, and screwing the lid on the pink glitter nail polish, Sophia studies her hard work. Pink nail polish had dripped, just a little, on her favorite Frozen comforter, but it’ll probably come off in the wash. A couple of the doll’s plastic legs are streaked with drips she rubbed off with her thumb, but all in all it isn’t a bad effort. “It’s a bit like coloring in,” she says softly to her dolls. “I just need to keep inside the lines. And you’re looking good, girlies.” (As auntie Rosie would say.)

*On a roll, Sophia clutches the two sticky bottles of nail polish as she skips down the hall. She hesitates at the baby’s room. After all, little Eve has beautiful tiny fingernails. But what if the baby doesn’t stay still? Instead, she tip toes past the baby’s room and down the stairs and into the family room. She stops dead. Papa and uncle Olivier are sound asleep. Papa is snoring gently, even though he swears he never snores. Her gaze lights upon their bare feet. Nothing small about those hairy feet. But her eyes go wide as her little heart soars with a thrilled delight. Look at those bare feet. Look at all those toenails.

She skips over, places a bottle on the table, the top isn’t on properly and lands on the glass with a soft clink. For a moment she freezes as if she’s playing statues with Luca and Tonio. Unblinking eyes are glued to her papa’s face, but no one stirs. With her tongue caught between her teeth, Sophia picks up a bottle, gives it a shake, and gets to work.

Fifteen busy minutes later, both bottles are empty. Shame about the smeared drips on the floor, and the cotton tea cloth. They’ll wash off. But Sophia Ferranti is tickled pink with the two sets of beautiful pink toes. She managed to stay within the lines. Mostly. That’s ten toes for each man, that makes twenty because she can count all the way up to one hundred. Papa says she’s so clever one day she might become the President of the ‘Nighted States.

The sound of a car on the gravel driveway, has her skip to dump the empty bottles in the trash, and dance out to greet her mama and auntie Anastacia. Wait ’till they see what a good girl she’s been*

Anastacia, dressed in a linen sleeveless sheath the color of black coffee, in her usual sky high heels with her jet curls dancing down her back, bends down with arms wide open to greet a beaming Sophia. “Hey, baby girl. Did you miss me?”

“Yes! I watched Frozen two times… and…”

Anastacia spins Sophia in a wide circle making her squeal with glee.

Bronte grins at her daughter, emerald eyes running over her, and can’t see anything amiss. Makes a change. “Did you have a good time with papa and Olivier?” she asks.

Sophia shakes her blonde head. “They’ve been sleeping on the couch all day. And papa snores even if he says he doesn’t.”

Bronte rolls her eyes at a grinning Anastacia. “Might have known it. Is Eve still asleep.”

Sophia hop-skips behind her mama and Anastacia as they walk through the door, and takes time to admire Anastacia’s fabulous black curls that fall to her tiny waist. Sophia wishes God had given her hair that curls. Anastacia looks like a princess. A real one. “Yep,” she says to her mama. “She’s been good as gold.” (As auntie Rosie says.)

*They enter the family room and her mama and Anastacia stop dead*

Anastacia slaps a hand across her mouth as her blue eyes fill with mirth. “Lemme get my phone,” she whispers, digging into her purse. “I’ve gotta get a picture of this for posterity. Omigod.”

*Meanwhile, her mama’s emerald eyes go wide. Sophia’s little chest puffs out with pride. She’s done a good job. Her papa and uncle Olivier’s toenails are a dark pink and sparkly pink, one after the other*

*Bronte’s gaze turns slowly upon her daughter, and reads the beaming face and who the culprit is with no problem. No problem at all*

Bronte knows exactly who’s responsible for the mess on her coffee table, AND her floor. And those responsible were going to be very busy with nail polish remover. Honestly, MEN! She claps her hands and clears her throat, loud. Her husband cracks open an eye, sends her a slow, sexy smile. “Hey, cara mia. Have a good time?”

Bronte ignores the way Olivier is eyeing Anastacia, as if he could lick her from top to toe. And talking about toes… She sends her husband big eyes. “Not as much fun as you two have had. Check out your toenails.”

*The great thing is that Anastacia is still filming with her phone and catches the entire shock, awe, and roars of male laughter in real time. Nico grabs Sophia and turns her upside down, holding her by the ankles. His baby girl screams with laughter*

“You little diavolo!”

“Serves you right,” the daughter from hell says, her head at his feet. “You’re supposed to look after little children, not snore like a pig.”

*Later… much later… Sophia is in bed sound asleep after a busy day and dreaming about featuring in the starring role in Frozen… Her parents and Anastacia and Olivier are enjoying an after dinner drink in the garden as the sun goes down*

A grinning Olivier wiggles his toes. “I like it. I could start a new soccer trend.”

Anastacia digs a sharp elbow in his ribs. “You’ll have to wax the revolting black hairs on your toes.”

Nico’s feet are propped on a chair as he admires his daughter’s handiwork. He has hairy toes, too. “Waxing will hurt. Maybe another color. Aubergine, something like that would work.”

Sitting across the table, Bronte sips her white wine, shoots the men a hard stare. “I cannot rely on you two for one little thing, can I?”

Nico sends her a slow smile, and she knows exactly what’s coming. “Ah, bella mia. Did you see Sophia’s little face? She is so happy. My job as her papa is to make her happy. After all…”

“You are Italian,” they chorus.

Nico grins, shrugs. “Si.”



Many moons ago, H was looking after my youngest daughter while I was out buying shoes for her big sister, and when we returned home we found my baby girl had raided my nail varnish. She was nearly three. She’d painted dark pink varnish on her eyelids, around her mouth, and on my bedroom carpet. All I can say is it was not pretty for H or for her. Not pretty at all. MEN!

If you haven’t read the story of how Anastacia and Olivier got together, here’s the blurb:


Ambitious, workaholic Anastacia Morgan runs Ferranti Communications

with a cool-head and an iron will. Her latest project is ensuring sports star Olivier Conti does what he’s told in a series of adverts. Olivier is impossible with a huge ego she’s more than able to handle. His smile may do wonderful things to her libido, but Ana is determined to succeed where other women fail and resist the gorgeous soccer star.

However, in this game there are no rules and Olivier’s never missed scoring a penalty, yet.



Here’s an excerpt:


Anastacia studied her PA’s hurriedly cobbled together file on the footballer. According to Nico, Olivier Conti’s good looks, charisma, work ethic and skills on and off the field were going to make working with him a breeze.

Yeah, right.

Easy for him to say.

Anastacia glared and glowered at the glossy ten-by-twelve publicity pic.

Almond shaped eyes the color of bitter chocolate twinkled into hers.

She sniffed.

He looked… charming.

Anastacia didn’t trust charming.

He also had an in-your-face confidence.

Anastacia didn’t trust a man who was over-confident.

His thick black hair had been styled. Not too much.

She loathed too much hair product on a man.

Good bone structure. Strong jaw. Smoothly curved mouth. Kissable. A straight nose, sharp black brows and a taut smooth skin combined to produce a face that women all over the world (according to the gushing blurb) dreamed about.

Anastacia’s PA, Linda, was a blood-hound when it came to digging up the juicy stuff in a client’s private life. So far she hadn’t found too much juice on Olivier. However, from the photographs and gossip pages it appeared he was fond of leggy blondes. A lot of leggy blondes, which was pretty representative of his type of breed.


Men who were too young to deal with too much money and the pulling power that money brought them.

Men who were notoriously fickle when it came to commitment.

Men who walked away from their responsibilities.

Even if that responsibility was a child.

She’d avoided the sport and the people in it like the plague.

And she had a very good reason.

A reason which was no one’s business except her own.

Now she tossed the photograph on her desk, and spun her chair to stare broodingly out over the city.

She could smell it a mile away.


Olivier Conti was trouble with a capital T.


While Anastacia was nose deep in everything Olivier, the man himself was giving Nico Ferranti plenty of grief.

Olivier dragged his hands through short black hair. He was six foot two inches, tall for a footballer, and as lean and fast as a greyhound.

“Nico, I cannot believe that a casual conversation about an investment has led to this.”

Nico sent him a big grin. A grin that a killer whale might have been proud of.

“In five years, or less, you will be burned out. Finito. It is time you learned the hotel business.”

“I do not know what my agent is going to say about this. He knows I cannot act. I am not doing any of that modelling shit in my underwear, showing the world the size of my package, either.”

“You would probably need to fill out your package with a pair of socks.”

Nico’s droll response had Olivier wiggle dark brows and toss him an evil grin.

“I do not like to boast, but…”

Nico threw back his head and roared with laughter.

Once he’d found his equilibrium again, he shook his head.

“Your personal business has nothing to do with your agent. No one has asked you to strip. And, there will be no modelling your impressive package. It is small scenes in three cities, endorsing hotels in which you have invested a large sum of money.” Nico decided not to mention a certain bathroom scene, which was pencilled in for the Rome shoot. He’d let Anastacia deal with it.

Olivier swore, paced to the hotel suite’s floor to ceiling window and back again.

“This is not the same thing. I am not endorsing a watch or a car. This is acting, per amor di Dio! I am going to make an ass of myself.”

He might feel like one, but he wouldn’t look like one, Nico decided, as he sipped his espresso. He studied Olivier over the rim of the tiny cup.

The boy was tall, hard muscled, lean and wore clothes with a style and flair that was perfect for the Ferranti brand. Olivier’s tanned, chiselled face, the drop-your-panties-eyes, had women all over the world drooling, while his skill and sportsmanlike play on the soccer field had won over male fans of the beautiful game. Olivier was highly intelligent, easy-going, good-looking and charismatic. And Nico reckoned he’d be a natural in front of the camera.

Plus, the boy had good instincts. He was no fool.

“You will not make an ass of yourself,” Nico said in a reassuring tone. “And I can guarantee that I have the best person in the business who is going to see to it.”

Olivier looked less than impressed as he flopped into a chair and stretched out long legs clad in black designer jeans.

“I do not need a babysitter,” he growled.

The thought of Anastacia Morgan babysitting anyone flashed into Nico’s brain. Somehow, he couldn’t quite see it. But he ignored Olivier’s sulky comment and changed tack.

“What if you get injured again? What if this time there is no going back?”

Olivier sent him a black look of sheer disbelief.

But Nico knew how much Olivier had panicked last year when an injury had put him out of the game for three months.

“I am one hundred per cent fit.”

He was indeed.

And he was scoring goals.

Si. But how many footballers, the best, disappear into depression, and worse, after they have played their last game?”

“I am not my father…”

Si. I know this. But… it is never too early to plan for the future. You have a responsibility to your madre, your sorelle.”

“I have planned for the future and I understand my responsibilities to mia famiglia. I can go into coaching…”

Nico raised his hand to brush away that bright idea.

“It is always wise to spread our skill base. What good is a business degree if you do not use it?”

“So, instead of chilling out in a hot tub with hot women in Las Vegas, this summer I will be cooped up in hotel rooms?”

“Think of it as investing in your future,” Nico said in a cheery voice, tossing in a big smile for good measure. “Plus, having a work ethic instead of partying will set a good example to young players who look up to you. And it will be good for the image of the sport.”


“I need to prepare for the game,” Olivier said as he stood. When he reached the door, he turned and beaned Nico with a dark look. “And if I end up flat on my face in this advertising campaign, I promise to tell Bronte about you and four showgirls in Vegas.”

Nico felt the blood drain from his face.

“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Anyway, that happened long before I met my wife. I am a changed man.”

Olivier gave him a hard stare. “Si,” he said, sounding like his mentor. “Do not say I did not warn you.”

As the door closed behind Olivier, Nico tipped back his chair and finished his coffee.

Ah, he loved it when a plan came together.



new1 copy





Coming to The End game of SEAN and then it goes for editing. It’s reading good, girlies.

Hugs and blessings and peace to my favorite peeps.

Christine X





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.”





Until next week.

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


Christine X