It’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peek… featuring Sophia…

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The Ferranti’s are still at Lake Como for their Easter break. Nine year old Tonio, and his best pal from his time at the Jesuit boarding school, Michael, are spending time with his Uncle Gregorio Ancelotti sailing on the lake.

When Gregorio, Tonio and Michael return to the Ferranti villa in the grounds of the Ferranti Hotel & Spa, they find the family preparing for lunch. Bronte and Rosie, with help from Sophia and Emily, are setting a vast long narrow table set beneath a pergola…

Sophia and Emily, wearing white sundresses spattered with yellow daisies over white knee length leggings, turned to eye the new arrival. Michael Baccello was as tall and dark as Tonio, but skinny in a way that made Sophia narrow her eyes. He was handsome, and appeared shy and modest when her papa shook his hand. In fact, she decided there and then he was just about perfect, apart from the hair cut.

Bronte returned Tonio’s hug and ran her hand over his back. “I know you must be starving after your morning on the lake. Tonio, go get changed out of that damp top, give Michael a dry T-shirt and then wash your hands.”

When the boys ran off to do her bidding, Sophia and Emily and Luca were hot on their heels.

“Michael seems a nice boy,” Rosie said, lifting a comatose baby Mila from her papa’s arms and settling her in her stroller in the shade.

Gregorio accepted a glass of red wine from Nico and nodded. “He seems to be. Very quiet. Although he couldn’t get a word in with Tonio constantly asking questions.”

Dressed down in knee length ivory shorts and a black T-shirt that fit him like a glove, Nico nodded. “Tonio has an active, thinking brain. It is like a sponge. His teachers wish to place him in a grade ahead. But I am not certain it is a good idea. He has made firm friends and I do not like the behaviour of some of the older boys. They do not come from good families.”

Gregorio raised a brow. “He will need to learn how to deal with hard choices in life. Perhaps it is never too soon to learn.”

Bronte placed a bowl of salad on the table. “He’s had a hard enough start in life, Gregorio. I want him to settle down and find his feet and understand that we have his back through thick and thin.”

Gregorio’s smile rarely reached his dark eyes, but it did now. “He is a lucky boy to find himself in such a family.”

Bronte shifted to pop a kiss on Gregorio’s dark cheek and smelled the lake. “You are part of his family and now this family. There’s no ‘i’ in team. We work together.”

As she strode past the long table and into the house, Gregorio turned to a watchful Nico and a grinning Alexander. “She is a beautiful woman. You are a lucky man.”

“She made me a better man. She is my life.”

 

***

Meanwhile, Sophia and Emily were sitting cross legged on the floor in the hallway outside the closed door of Tonio’s bedroom. No girls allowed. But that didn’t mean girls couldn’t sit and listen to what was going on inside. Sophia rose to her bare feet and placed her ear to Tonio’s bedroom door. If her mama caught her, she’d be in Big Trouble. “I can’t hear anything. Can you hear anything?” she whispered.

Emily knew better than to earwig, but she placed her ear to the door. “Uh-huh. Nothing.”

Sophia thought for a moment and then her brows rose. “I know where we can go. Come on.”

The girls raced down the hall and out a side door. They crept down a shady path and Sophia pointed to the two open windows, one from Tonio’s bedroom and the other from the bathroom. She hauled herself up on a wide drainpipe and could see the inside of part of the bathroom. Tonio and Luca were washing their hands and discussing what was for lunch. Boy talk. When Emily joined her on the drainpipe, Sophia shushed her. Then they settled down to wait.

Standing in the middle of Tonio’s bedroom Michael rubbed the soft fabric of the Fantastic Four super-hero T-shirt Tonio had handed him. He took a deep inhale of the scent of fabric softener. He gazed around the large room with the fun comforter and pillow on the bed. He’d never seen such luxury or so many interesting books in one place. He had missed sharing a room with his friend Tonio and their conversations long into the night about what they would do in the world when they grew up. He’d wait until Tonio and Luca were finished washing their hands in the attached bathroom and then he’d change. He didn’t want anyone to see the bruises.

He entered the beautifully appointed bathroom with Tonio and gazed in opened-eyed wonder. The bath might fit a football team.  Tonio caught his look and grinned. “A bit different from those dark and cold shower rooms at school, isn’t it?”

Michael nodded. “Si.” He studied Tonio’s face. “This family who care for you, they are good to you?”

Si! Nico is my half-brother, but I call him papa. Gregorio is my mama’s brother.”

Michael frowned. “Sounds complicated.”

Si. But as papa says, such is life.”

After Tonio left, Michael whipped off his T-shirt and turned to check out his back in the mirror. His bones stuck out from his skin. They only hit him where the injuries couldn’t be seen. In his heart, he understood he needed to tell someone soon, or run away. He didn’t know which was worse. The thought crossed his mind to tell Tonio, he was sure his friend would believe him that he had never stolen any money. But would the priests at school? He washed his hands and pulled on the borrowed T-shirt and inhaled the scent. His eyes stung because he longed to keep the T-shirt and keep the scent, but he knew that miracle would never happen. In the mirror he studied the state of his hair, the gauntness of his face and knew that the time had come for him to run.

A very pale Sophia stared into the shocked eyes of her best friend. “Somebody has hurt him.”

“What are we going to do?” Emily whispered, her freckles stood out like paint splatter on her white face.

“We’ll speak to my papa. He will fix it,” Sophia said with a surety that made Emily nod.

“When?”

“After lunch. Did you see him? He is skin and bone and needs a good meal,” Sophia said, channelling Auntie Rosie.

***

Bronte eyed her daughter and Emily.

They’d been almost silent during lunch, which for them was either a miracle, they were sick, or they’d been up to something.

Her eye caught Rosie’s and she jerked her chin towards the two little girls sitting there as if butter wouldn’t melt.

“What’s going on with you two? You’re too quiet and lloking far too serious. What have you done and don’t think to fib because I’m a witch and I can tell,” Rosie said, her eyes twinkling.

Sophia sent her aunt a who-me? look. “We have been very good girls,” she said, while Emily kept her eyes glued to her empty bowl on the table.

“Hmm,” Rosie studied their little faces. “You have a seeeeekrit.”

When Emily’s head popped up to stare at Rosie in awe and wonder, Bronte nearly burst out laughing. Trust Rosie to guess. Ah, well, little girls always had secrets. They’d been young once and had kept plenty of secrets themselves. “Why don’t you both go and play football with the boys and Alexander?”

Sophia shook her head and sent her mama an are-you-kidding-me look. “I hate football.”

Bronte made a face. “Of course you do. How could I have forgotten. Whatever it is you’re up to—the babies are sleeping and papa and Gregorio are having a meeting in his study—do it outside.”

When the two little girls trooped into the garden holding hands, Rosie watched them go with a frown in her eyes. “Something’s brewing.”

Bronte lifted a bottle of white wine from the cooler on the table to top up their glasses. “Doesn’t seem like five minutes since we were that age.”

Rosie took a sip of her wine. “Good times. Good times.”

 

***

Thirty minutes later…

Nico reckoned the family holiday at the Lake had been a great success. One of his goals had been to integrate Gregorio into the family to bond with Tonio. The man still held himself back a little, but he could hardly be blamed for that. Gregorio’s late sister had left a huge emotional and financial mess behind her. However, nothing positive ever came from brooding over mistakes made in the past. The key was to move on, together, to guarantee Tonio’s future was secure.

The soft knock at his study door had Gregorio’s brows rise. Nico frowned, because Bronte had made it clear no one was to disturb them. “Come in,” he said, in a tone that made it clear he was Not Pleased.

When Sophia’s blonde head popped around the door, the pleading look in her emerald eyes and the way her bottom lip was caught between her teeth, told him she was well aware she wasn’t supposed to disturb him. And yet she’d done it anyway.

“What is it, Sophia? Can it not wait a few minutes?”

Her eyes flicked to a serious-faced Gregorio and her face paled a little, but she entered the study, dragging a trembling Emily behind her. At once, Nico’s spidey senses tingled. He rose and walked around his desk to crouch before his daughter and her friend.

He took each of their hands, and smiled. “What is wrong, cara mia?”

Sophia’s eyes stayed rock steady on his. “Papa. Something bad has happened to Michael. He has been beaten. His back is covered in bruises. And he is too thin.”

When Emily burst into tears, Nico lifted them in his arms and moved to the couch to sit with one on each knee.

Gregorio moved to lock the door. He went to the built-in fridge and poured two small glasses of fresh orange juice and placed them on the coffee table in front of the couch. He took a seat.

“Why don’t you tell us exactly what you saw.”

When the girls had finished their story and their juice, Emily’s face was still pale, but her tears were gone.

Nico turned to Gregorio. “Is the boy still living at school?”

Gregorio shook his head. “After what happened to Tonio, I have been sponsoring an outreach programme within the community for the boys with no immediate relatives to be placed with good families. Michael was placed with a large family ten days ago.”

“Then you should make sure little children go to a safe place,” Sophia piped up before her papa could open his mouth.

Gregorio’s eyes grew big, but he nodded. “You are quite right.”

Sophia turned emerald eyes on Nico. “Michael must stay with us tonight, papa. Then Uncle Gregorio can find a safe place for him.”

Nico drew her close for a hug and dropped a kiss on her blonde head. When his baby girl grew up she was going to do great things. “Si. Now, I want both of you to say nothing of this to Michael or Tonio or Luca until I have spoken to mama.”

Sophia took a deep breath, nodded and slid from his knee. She took Emily’s hand. Together, they moved towards the door.

She turned to study the serious faces of her papa and Gregorio. “Do you promise to fix this?”

Both men spoke, “Si.”

***

Hours later…

Rosie lay on her back on a couch in the sitting room, her bare feet resting on Alexander’s lap. “Well, they’re all sound asleep, at last. What a day!”

Face hard, mouth hard, Bronte nodded. “That poor boy. What kind of parents bring up children who beat on a boy so much younger than themselves?”

“Apparently, the father does not spare the rod,” Gregorio said, nursing a cognac. “I am meeting with Father Ricardo who is in charge of the programme. We need better safeguards in place.”

“No system is perfect. There is not much you can do against a liar,” Nico growled. “After they held him down and cut his hair, Michael’s plan was to run away.”

Gregorio paled. “He is close to Tonio. I like the boy. I am preparing to settle here and I am prepared to offer him a home. I have a plan.”

Bronte sent him a narrow-eyed look. “I applaud your need to do the right thing by the child, Gregorio. I doubt the priests will allow him to live with a single man.”

“Who said I will remain single?”

“Ooooh,” Rosie sang into the shocked silence. She wiggled her toes. “Seems there’s a lot of seeeeekrits going around.”

Gregorio’s firm mouth curved in a reluctant smile. “Let us just say my future plans have changed.”

“What’s her name?” Rosie wanted to know.

“Clio.”

Cue another silence.

When Rosie opened her mouth, Alexander tweaked her big toe. He stood and lifted his wife in his arms. “None of your business. Leave the man in peace. It’s time for bed. Let’s see if we can get six straight hours before our daughter decides she wants to play.”

As they left, Gregorio’s face was thoughtful as he watched them go. “Rosie reminds me very much of Sophia.”

“There is a very good reason for that,” Bronte told him. “They bonded when she was a baby. They are like two peas in a pod.”

She gave Gregorio a hug goodnight before she left him and Nico to it.

As a companionable silence stretched, Nico poured another cognac for the road and relaxed in a fat chair of soft suede the color of the liquid in his glass. “A child is a big responsibility and not one you can hand back.”

Gregorio nodded. “I let Tonio down—”

“Nonsense!” Nico interrupted. “Neither of us knew he existed.”

Si,” Gregorio’s deep voice was no more than a growl. “But, she was my sister. I should have—”

Nico sat up, elbows on his knees, and stared into the other man’s eyes and read guilt, shame and a deep regret. “You cannot take responsibility for her behaviour. All we can do is to take care of Tonio. If you want to look after Michael there are other ways to do it. The boy needs a happy home and stability.”

“You think I cannot provide both?”

Nico shrugged. “I have no idea. Who is Clio?”

For a long moment Gregorio didn’t respond, then his gaze met Nico’s and held. “Have you ever made a huge mistake for all the wrong reasons?”

“I did with Bronte. But she loved me and so she forgave me.”

“I doubt very much if Clio could ever bring herself to love me.”

“Ah, but you have feelings for her?”

Gregorio nodded. “I wonder why it took me so long to understand what was happening to me?”

“Love makes fools of us all,” Nico said wisely.

“It is a bit more complicated than that,” Gregorio murmured.

“That, mio amico, is because we are Italian.”

 

FINE

 

Oooooooh, who is Clio?

All y’all are gonna LOVE her and that’s all I am saying.

I’m working on Break The Rules and The Rules – and Gregorio’s story is coming after those and will be set in the Ludlow Hall world, but will stand alone. I’m busy and having the best time.

 

Christine X

Golddigger short story, SUKKI, is out today!

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Greetings, my lovelies!

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

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

 

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Jon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wish me luck.”

iBOOKS   AMAZON USA   AMAZON UK   AMAZON AUSTRALIA  NOOK    KOBO

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

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

Hugs,

Christine x

It’s Friday. Time for another Golddigger release.

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iBOOKS    AMAZON USA   AMAZON UK   AMAZON AUSTRALIA   NOOK   KOBO

 

Happy Friday, you wonderful readers!

All ready for the weekend?

We have Guy Fawkes lighting up clear frosty skies across the land over the next couple of days. Lucky for us we can sit cozy and warm in the conservatory and watch the fireworks.

There’s plenty of fireworks in store with the next stand alone Golddigger instalment out today. Man, oh man. Miss Millie is a modern day Calamity Jane in stiletto’s and corsets who knows how to make a certain man weak at the knees. Which is all very well, but is she prepared to forgive him?  Hmm. Read on and find out.

My lovely Australian readers are incredibly thoughtful. They read Millie yesterday and spent hours teasing and torturing their reader friends in the UK and the USA until the story went live. You guys are crazy in a good way. I like that about you.

Here’s Millie’s blurb:

“Money. Fame. Success.

Honey, I’m a GOLDDIGGER.

I’m truly walkin’ in high cotton.

I have it all.

Sure, I’ve gone through real hard times and made mistakes along the way.

Who hasn’t?

I’m not a perfect person.

But success comes with a price.

Seems I have a stalker.

Since I’m his object of desire, the notes detailing what he’s gonna do to me have gotten everyone from the police to my boss’s knickers in a knot.

You might ask, am I scared?

’Scuse me, sistas. I’m from Texas. I learned to shoot a gun before I could walk.

A nut job don’t worry me none.

Remember I mentioned a past mistake?

Well, the mistake just walked through the door.

Cole Buchanan’s always been too good looking with a hot bod and sultry bedroom eyes. Once upon a time, Cole and I did a lot of messin’ up the straw in my daddy’s hayloft.

These days, he’s an ex-navy seal, runs a personal protection business, and looks like a man straight out of central casting for the Men in Black, complete with the shades and piss poor attitude.

And he’s here to protect me.

(Hang on a minute while I stop laughing).

But then a tragic secret from the past comes back to bite my ass, and both our lives are changed…

Forever.”

 

 

Thank you so much for sharing the Golddigger love, and the fabulous reviews. I’m thrilled you’re enjoying these short stories as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Up next week is SUKKI. Bless her. She’s Birdie’s favourite.

Hugs,

Christine X

 

 

Fall in love with Noah in the Golddigger first short story… ELLIE

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CLICK HERE FOR BUY LINKS

Only seven days to go and ELLIE will be winging her way into your eBook/reading App. I cannot tell you how excited I am to bring you the first of eight 30-40 minute stories (depending on how fast you read). Each story is released every Friday to set you up for the weekend and well-earned ‘me’ time.

They are romances, heavy on comedy, focusing on the moment when two hearts beat as one. All the stories are set in the world of The Golddiggers, where Miz Birdie rules the roost. But, each romance is a standalone with no cliffhanger. They are the perfect length for the commute to work, or lunch break, or relaxing in the evening or weekend.

I can promise you lots of feel-good fun and laughter. And I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing these feisty ladies and the men who adore them.

And I have a Big Surprise coming in the next few weeks, but shh, don’t tell anyone.

 

Big hugs,

Christine X

Exclusive SEAN excerpt and a video….

iBOOKS pre-order

Greetings my darlings,

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

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

Want a sneak peek of SEAN?

Then read on:

***

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

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

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

She spun to study one of her best Golddiggers.

Ellie was an all-American blonde bombshell.

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

“You sick?” Katherine asked.

Ellie nodded.

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

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

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

“Just checking.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, time had certainly been kind to Sean Gallagher.

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

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

Trouble was, he knew it.

Unblinking eyes captured hers, and held.

Her pulse raced; her mouth went dry.

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

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

“Hi, Sean,” she said.

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

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

Sean was well over six feet tall.

Big.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Years,” she responded in a clipped tone.

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

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

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

Then she wondered why she was surprised?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His blue eyes went so cold, she shivered.

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

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

“I don’t regret my life choices.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I didn’t do anything to him.”

***

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

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

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

Big hug

Christine X

READY FOR ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE?

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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.”

 

FINE

 

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

 

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

LUDLOWSEANFINITO

 

Greetings from a soggy Sunday,

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

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

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

iBOOKS  USA      iBOOKS UK     AMAZON USA    AMAZON UK

Here’s the blurb for SEAN’s story:

A sizzling love story with a superb cast of characters…

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

No one until Irish showgirl Katherine Mary Kennedy that is…

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

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

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

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

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

Get your copy of SEAN today!

***

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

GOLDDIGGERS

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

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

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

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

Pre-order links below:

 

ellie (1)

 

iBOOKS USA     iBOOKS UK    AMAZON USA   AMAZON UK

 

 

Here’s the blurb:

ELLIE

“I didn’t plan to talk to him.

Or fall for him.

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

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

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

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

But then I met Noah.

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

 

***

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

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

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

Love and hugs,

Christine X

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

Tentacles-

Happy Monday, my darlings,

Working hard and nearly at The End of SEAN.

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

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

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

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

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

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

*And silence once again reigns across the land*

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

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

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

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

“Boys have testicles,” Tonio correct Sophia.

Luca frowns. “So what have tentacles?”

“Octopus have tentacles,” Tonio says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Eww,” Luca says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Finito

 

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

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

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

Stay tuned . . .

 

Christine X

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

Ludlowlifebanner

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Okay. Spit it out,” Bronte says.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*Next morning at breakfast at The Dower House*

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

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

Nico’s wide shoulder’s shake with laughter.

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

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

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

“You buy my cologne.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

FINITO

 

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

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE

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

Those were the days, eh?

There was no catch a Pokémon in my day.

With love and hugs,

Christine X

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

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

 

 

Hi, guys!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yuk.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Because you are Italian.”

 

Finito

 

Gotta love the kids.

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

Christine X