The Dower House…
Nico Ferranti had escaped to his study with his brother-in-law and best friend, Alexander. It might be considered a cowardly thing to do, to leave Bronte and Rosie to the over-excited mayhem of the fruit of their loins. However, between making sure Ludlow Hall coped with an unexpected dump of the white stuff (apparently a snow bomb had slid further south than anticipated) and helping the twins build two snowmen in the garden, real men needed a break from an overdose of festivities. Festivities which had included, in no particular order, a variety of Christmas tunes all played at the same time, six children wearing a variety of dumb Christmas outfits (including dumb hats with flashing lights) and all off their head on a sugar high after helping Bronte and Rosie ice an endless variety of Christmas cookies—fir trees, snowmen all made of gingerbread. The house smelled of cinnamon, apple sauce and spun sugar. No wonder the kids were mental.
Alexander sank into a fat leather club chair situated near the blazing fire. Since no one was allowed to wear outdoor shoes inside The Dower House—his sister was more a bit anal about dirt tracking through her beautiful home—he wore thick socks, soft jeans and a cosy long sleeved thermal. He accepted the black espresso and a small brandy Nico handed him.
He eyed his friend as he eased his long body into the chair opposite the fire. Wearing black jeans and a dark grey cashmere polo neck, he placed his socked feet on the footstool and lifted his own glass. “Salute!”
“Cheers,” Alexander said. Then he winced at the high whine of an over-tired child. Not his, thank God. Mila was too young to grasp the concept of Santa, reindeer, and presents arriving down the chimney, much to Rosie’s bitter disappointment. At the moment his wife, dressed black yoga pants, a crazy Christmas sweater with a glittering winter scene with flashing lights, and an antler hair band on her head which played ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ on a continual loop. After three hours, and two battery changes, Alexander reckoned he’d earned a break. He winced now as the sound of the love of his life singing ‘I kissed a sexaaaaay Santa Claus’ at the top of her voice drifted into the study from the kitchen/family room. “Jeez. She can’t hold a tune in an empty bucket.”
Nico just grinned. “She is young at heart.”
Alexander placed his glass on the side table and wiggled his toasty toes. “I’ve no idea where she gets the energy from. You should see our house, it looks like a demented Santa’s grotto. Mila just sat there wide-eyed on the sheepskin rug watching her mother wiggle her butt to Elvis crooning about a Blue Christmas. Thank goodness it only comes around once a year.”
Nico cocked his head to listen as Sophia informed her brother Luca that, “If you eat another mince pie you’ll be sick as a bloody pig.”
“SOPHIA! LANGUAGE!” This from his wife at the top of her voice.
Alexander shook his head. “Do you remember the good old days? The days before changing diapers, sticky fingers and drool?”
Nico’s broad shoulders shook in silent laughter. “Si. But I would not change a single thing. And neither would you, my friend.”
When the study door opened very slowly, both men turned to watch a damp curled and pink-cheeked Eve toddle into the room. She wore pink pj’s and since she was still to find her balance, she walked like drunk trying to go in a straight line. She headed for her papa and lifted her arms. “Batman!”
Happy to oblige, Nico sat her on his lap and nuzzled the soft black curls. “Hmm. Someone has had a bath.”
She turned to wrap her arms around his neck and smacked a wet kiss on his cheek.
Alexander had to laugh. “She calls Rosie and me Batman, too.”
Nico gently tickled his daughter. “She does it to make us laugh. Don’t you, cara.”
When Rosie poked her head around the door and took in the cozy scene—the coffee, the brandy snifters, the fire, she narrowed her eyes. “It’s bath time and bedtime and we need all shoulders to the wheel if we want a bit of peace and quite before midnight.
Nico rose to his feet with Eve on his hip.
Alexander stood. “Coming, dear.”
In response, Rosie simply smiled, pressed a button on the Antlers on her head. As ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ began, Alexander groaned long and loud.
Nico turned to look at him. “When will you ever learn that we cannot win?”
Three hours later…
The adults had retreated to the main sitting room. On the hearth in front of the log burner was a white china plate containing two mince pies dusted with icing sugar and a glass of whisky (for Santa), plus four carrots (for the reindeer). The thud from above, had four sets of eyes peer at the ceiling. “That sounded like Sophia jumping off her bed,” Bronte said in a low growl.
Rosie clapped her hands and stood. “Right. That’s it. We’ve tried bedtime stories, Christmas carols and milk. It’s time to bring out the Big Guns.”
She marched out the door and up the stairs, closely followed by Bronte and the men.
Hands on her hips, she stood in the hallway and eyed the three bedroom doors, all closed.
“Want to know what happens to naughty children who are not asleep when Santa comes?” she called out.
A muffled giggle from Sophia’s room had her open the door to peer at the lump beneath the duvet which was her niece. “I heard that, Ms Sophia Ferranti.”
Sophia’s blonde head popped up. “I’m trying to sleep, but it’s too hard.”
Luca, wearing Spiderman pj’s slid into the room. “I can’t sleep either. I’m too excited.”
When Tonio popped his head out of his bedroom door and simply grinned, Rosie folded her arms and put on her fierce face. “If you hear sleigh bells then that means Santa will know you’re not asleep and not leave any presents because he’ll go on to the next house where the GOOD children are asleep and give them ALL the presents.” She shrugged as if she could care less. “So, sleep or not sleep, the choice is yours.”
Sophia thought for a moment as she eyed her parents. “Is that true?”
“Si.” Nico said without a blink.
“Trust me, you don’t want to hear sleigh bells,” Bronte said.
When Sophia lay down and rolled onto her side, and Luca raced into his room and banged shut the door, Nico turned to Tonio. The boy simply lifted his eyes to heaven and closed his door.
The adults waited five minutes and when all was quiet, they trooped back down the stairs.
“Glass of champagne?” Nico asked Bronte and Rosie.
“Yup.” Rosie said. “We’ll give them half and hour and then we’ll bring out the bells.”
Alexander blinked. “Bells?”
His wife turned her big Bambi eyes on him, as if butter wouldn’t melt, and fluttered her outrageously thick lashes.
“But of course. We have a plan. We have sleigh bells. We’ll just let them get warm and cozy and then we’ll sneak out into the garden beneath their windows and jingle the bells.”
Alexander bit his lip. “Why, that’s just a cruel and dastardly trick to play on little children. I love it.”
Thirty minutes later, Bronte and Rosie, dressed for a trek to the North Pole, crept into the garden and once they were in place and hidden by a conifer hedge, they jingled their bells loud and long. There was a muffled cry from upstairs, but then all was quiet. And for good measure Alexander hung out the window and called, “Yo-Ho-Ho!” in a deep voice.
The women returned, cheeks pink from the cold and their eyes sparkling with sheer mischief. Nico poured them their second glass of bubbly. Then he turned to pick up a remote control and pressed the button. The low sound of Bing Crosby crooning about dreaming of a White Christmas filled the room. Not a sound was heard from the bedrooms above.
Rosie made herself comfortable on Alexander’s lap and kissed him.
While his best friend made out on the sofa, Nico pulled Bronte into his arms and took his time to kiss her senseless.
By the time he came up for air, her arms were wound around his neck and her hands were in his hair. He rubbed his nose against hers. “Ti amo, Bronte.”
“I love you, too,” she whispered.
The carriage clock on the mantelpiece began to chime the midnight hour.
“Merry Christmas,” he whispered back.
Dear readers, it’s been a crazy year with much writing stuff not achieved by this author. So things, as the song says, can only get better! From my house to your house— MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
The Sneak Peeks will return in 2018!