Greetings and happy 2018!
Here’s the first Ludlow Hall short story of the year!
It’s Friday evening and Nico and Tonio are in the Range Rover escorting Sophia, Emily and Luca home after their first week of the New Year back at school…
As he drove the car towards The Dower House, home, his wife and his baby girl, Nico wore a dark and brooding face. He’d had one of those days. A day where everything that could go wrong, had gone wrong. A busy and trouble filled day at Ludlow Hall. Six key members of staff were down with flu and needed to be isolated for ten days. He detested using agency staff, but needs must. Three Grand bedroom suites had been negatively impacted by a burst pipe in a toilet in the floor above. The leak hadn’t been detected in time to prevent one unholy mess. Three suites, three sets of floor to ceiling raw silk curtains, expensive handcrafted beds made of smooth oak, mattresses, and carpets—destroyed. And the smell… He didn’t want to even think of it. Their insurance company, in the first instance, hadn’t exactly been nimble footed in their response. Not until he’d lit a fire under their collective ass had they sent a couple of loss adjusters pretty damned fast. The full cost of redecoration, yada, yada, would be covered. And so it bloody well should. Didn’t the premiums cost him a small fortune? Thank goodness the Hall’s interior decorator, Janine, bless her heart, had already organised the professional clean-up, decorating team and suppliers to replace the soft and hard furnishings. Alexander had taken control of the bookings and managed to move two couples to upgraded cottages in the grounds, much to the thrilled delight of the clients. Ludlow Hall was always full to capacity, which was a testament to the hard work of his outstanding staff, but if something when wrong, like it surely had gone wrong this morning, then there was nothing worse than disappointing a client. Nothing worse.
“My mummy,” Emily’s breathy voice began from the back seat. Nico adored the child. She had fairy hair and a lovely little fairy face, and a kind and loving nature. Her parents were rightly proud of their little girl. “My mummy said that my daddy is now a beta male and that’s because he has completely lost his virginity.”
Cue a stunned silence.
Tonio, sitting in the passenger seat, gazed wide-eyed into the road ahead.
Nico’s belly plunged and his hands went clammy on the steering wheel.
Sophia, staring drowsily out of the window into the darkening and freezing landscape, turned her head to frown at her best friend in the whole wide world. “That can’t be right. They must have lost their virginity years ago, or you wouldn’t be here.”
Emily thought for a while about the sensational logic of the statement.
“You might be right,” she said in her soft voice.
Sophia, still staring hard at her friend, voiced her opinion, “The word is virility.”
Nico prayed to heaven to let the girls stop the conversation right there.
Luca proved he was wide awake by asking, “What’s a beta male and what’s virility and how come he lost it?”
By this time, Tonio had slid down in the seat and was shaking with laughter.
Nico sent him a black look to cease and desist, but it only made the boy laugh harder.
“It means he’s gotta broken penis,” said Miss Sophia Ferranti, who, her father decided, knew far too bloody much about too bloody much.
“Ew,” said Luca, his dark eyes wide with horror. “Can he get it fixed?”
“It’s to do with getting old,” said Sophia, on a roll. She turned to Emily. “Your daddy has grey hair, hasn’t he?”
Emily nodded so hard her curls danced. “Yes. Although he’s lost most of his hair because of low flying aircraft.”
Even Nico had to bite down hard on his bottom lip to prevent a laugh at that one.
Meanwhile Sophia, looking at her friend as if she was beyond stupid, said, “That is ridicalus. Your daddy lost his hair because of hormones and his old bones. I heard my auntie Rosie and mama talking about the advance of science and a little blue pill for a man with a broken penis. It fixes it right away.”
Luca’s dark brows rose. “Well then, that’s a relief,” he said.
Nico cleared his throat and tried, without luck, to catch his daughter’s eye in the rear view mirror.
“My daddy was upset at losing his hair, but my mummy said she loves him anyway,” said Emily, loyal to the bone.
Sophia nodded and jerked her chin in the direction of the driver. “My papa is gonna be a hot silver fox,” she said.
The way Tonio crowed in the front seat had Sophia crane her neck to look at him.
“What’s so funny? Papa has five grey hairs. I counted them just the other day. Auntie Rosie said we shouldn’t mention it in case it’s a touchy subject for a hot silver fox. You’re not touchy, are you papa?”
And there he was thinking the day couldn’t get any worse.
He was a silver fox.
And any day now it looked as if he’d need Viagra for his old bones.
As Nico, heart heavy, swung the car through the gates of The Dower House, he shook his head.
“Not at all. Remind me to have a little chat with Auntie Rosie. For each grey hair on my head, I lay the blame for each and every one firmly at her door.”
“I love Auntie Rosie,” said Luca in a whiney and tired voice. “Don’t be mean to her.”
Sophia leaned over to pat him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry. Mama said you will never, ever, need the little pill because you are filled to the brim with toblerone.”
Cue another stunned silence.
“Testosterone,” corrected Tonio, wiping tears of hilarity from his cheeks.
Nico, spirits lifted, brought the car to a halt.
It was a happy man who hugged his wife and kissed his baby girl on her flushed cheek.
Bronte wore black skinny jeans and a matching cashmere sweater. Her ash blonde hair was tied in a loose top knot on her head. She smelled amazing, and so did the house.
He took off his coat and suit jacket. Sniffing the air, he recognized the herby scent of beef and his favourite pasta dish.
How had he got so lucky to have such a wife, a family and a wonderful home?
“I heard about the leak. What a bummer,” Bronte said, and went, unresisting, into his arms.
“I am just relieved that I am filled with so much toblerone I won’t need Viagra.” He said and gazed down into her puzzled but laughing face. “How does it feel to be married to a hot silver fox?”
“Oh, Lord, I knew Sophia wouldn’t be able to keep her tongue in her head,” Bronte said. She ran her fingers through smooth hair black as ink. “A sprinkle only. Anyway, you’re too young to be a silver fox.”
He dropped a soft kiss on her soft mouth, and sighed. “Grazie. When that day comes, at least I will be an Italian silver fox.”
“You forgot the HOT bit.”
Aw, poor Nico. We all get days like that. And in book news, NO RULES is finished! Yay! Just a final read-through and then proofing and another read through and formatting and then it will go on pre-order. Once the date is fixed, I’ll give all y’all the links.
I’m already well into OUR RULES and the next Ludlow Hall story about Gregorio Ancelotti and his rocky road to true love. Lots to come!