ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE WITH THE FERRANTI’S…

 

sophias-in-trouble

 

Happy Monday, my lovelies!

Apparently, we’re about to have a polar vortex impact us over the next few weeks. Oooooooooh. Ice and snow is on its way. Oh, my. And I don’t know about you guys, but I think the world needs love – lots and lots of love – and kindness. Here is my tiny contribution to more love and kindness. The Ferranti family at home. And Sophia’s being… Sophia.

Enjoy!

***

The Dower House…

In the family living-kitchen space, Bronte and Rosie are enjoying mummy time with their babies. Tucked up in her stroller, three month old Mila is in a milk induced coma. Bronte lays a heavy-eyed Eve in her playpen with her blankie.

“Camomile tea?” Bronte asks her best friend and sister-in-law.

Since it’s winter the girls are wearing their usual house uniform of skinny jeans, worn white at the seams, and cashmere sweaters. Rosie’s sweater is fire engine red and Bronte’s is black. Rosie’s Uggs lie abandoned on the floor. She tucks her legs beneath her on the couch and accepts a polka dot mug. “Cheers,” she says. “Can’t wait for my first cup of coffee once Mila’s weaned. Alexander reckons it’s the camomile tea that has her sleeping through the night.”

Bronte makes herself comfortable in a fat velvet chair the color of blueberries. She lifts her socked feet up on the matching footstool. “Cheers,” she says, sipping her tea. “Could be, plus the fact she’s simply adorable and so laid back she’s horizontal. Of course, I’m her auntie so I’m probably biased. Eve is such a good baby, too. Nico reckons it’s because of all the love and attention she receives from the kids.”

Rosie’s inky hair is tied in a messy knot of glossy curls on top of her head. She grins wickedly at her best friend, who looks simply amazing with her ash blonde hair skimming her shoulders. “Six and a half years ago, we were foot loose and fancy free. You thought you’d never marry, never mind have a child. Now look at you, Mrs Ferranti. All loved-up with Nico and mama to four children.”

Bronte’s emerald eyes dance. “You can talk. Your mother is in seventh heaven with her, hint-hint, first grandchild.” Her eyes go sad as she whispers, “I so wish my mum and dad had lived to see theirs.”

Rosie’s bright brown eyes dim a little in heartfelt sympathy. “I miss them, too. With Christmas around the corner, it’s always hard at this time of year.” Then she makes a face. “The mother from hell is already dropping hints about grandchild number two.”

Bronte laughs. “I love your mother. She has no filter between her brain and her mouth.”

Rosie rolls her eyes. “Yeah, she’s a laugh a minute. I told her Alexander won’t be up to making more babies until his love muscle heals. Even though she’s in Cyprus, her shriek of horror nearly broke my cell phone.”

Bronte bites down hard on her trembling bottom lip. “How is the brave little soldier?”

“It’s been two weeks and the love muscle is still healing. My mother told him to dip it in neat TCP. You should’ve seen his face. Stoopid man.”

Bronte grins. “How are you coping with no sex?”

Rosie gives her big, big eyes, and purrs, “Who says we’re having no sex? Dontcha know Alexander Ludlow is nothing if not inventive?”

Bronte holds up her hand in mock surrender. “Okay. Okay. I do not want to know what my brother gets up to in bed.”

Rosie pouts. “You started it.”

The noise of children and a barking dog has them crane their necks to look out floor to ceiling windows into the garden and the kiddie play area built of smooth oak.

“How’s Jimmy Chew?” Rosie asks.

“A complete joy. Sophia’s his favorite human.”

“Hmm,” Rosie says, her eyes narrow as she watches her niece and nephews and the family’s Bichon Frise. “Bet I know why.”

Bronte follows her gaze. She goes utterly still. “That girl! She’s a little monkey.”

“Yup. Dunno where she gets her ruthless streak.”

“Her father,” Bronte says tartly. She shoves her feet into her ankle black Uggs, grabs her duck down jacket and heads out the door with Rosie hot on her heels.

Like her brothers, Sophia is dressed in jeans and a fleece beneath a hooded duck down jacket. On her blonde head sits a cream beanie with a huge fake fur pom-pom the color of ink. She sits on the swing with an open bag of chips in her hands.

“Sit!” she says to the wide-eyed pup bouncing at her feet.

Jimmy Chew’s butt instantly hits the ground.

Sophia gives Jimmy Chew a chip. “One for you. And one for me.”

Her twin’s face is fierce. “You’re not supposed to feed Jimmy Chew human food,” Luca says in a stern voice.

Si!” nine year old Tonio says. “Papa will punish you.”

Unrepentant, Sophia sends them a black look. “MY dog. My food. Piss off.”

“Mama says if you use that kind of language again in this house, you’ll get a smacked bottom,” Luca reminds her.

“And you can shut your big fat mouth, too,” a naughty Sophia says. She makes a horrible face. Then tosses her blonde plait over her shoulder.

“SOPHIA FERRANTI!” Bronte bellows in a tone that makes Miss Sophia’s green eyes go wide. She shoves the bag of chips in her pocket.

The angry tone of his mistress has Jimmy Chew make a high-speed beeline for the safe haven of Tonio who lifts him in his arms.

“You’re in big trouble,” Luca hisses to his twin under his breath.

“Poopie doo, girly hair,” the twin from hell says, referring to a very sensitive subject for her brother—his glossy curls. For good measure, she juts her chin.

Bronte and Rosie eye Sophia and the pup in Tonio’s arms. Bronte bends to sniff Jimmy Chew’s muzzle. Her chin’s bathed in puppy kisses.

“Cheese and onion chips,” she says. Turning to her daughter she holds out her hand palm up and wiggles her fingers. “Gimme.”

The unblinking battle of wills between mother and daughter is short and sweet. Mama wins. “Go to your room. No TV. No tablet. You may read. Papa will deal with you.”

Head held high, Sophia marches into the house.

Bronte turns to Tonio, shakes the packet. “How much did he eat?”

“Only a couple.”

“We TOLD her she’d get into trouble, but she ignores us, mama,” Luca says. “She keeps saying Jimmy Chew is HER dog. But he belongs to everyone.”

Bronte nods, her mind racing. The time has come for her daughter to learn a lesson, and she’s just the mama to do it. “Take him in, it’s too cold out here. Keep him in the family room in case he has an upset tummy.”

Luca’s face goes white. “Do you think she’s made him sick?”

“Well, we won’t know until we know, will we?” she says tartly. “One of you should have come and got me immediately. Jimmy Chew is EVERYONE’S responsibility. Papa will speak to you when he comes home.”

Rosie nibbles on her top lip as two miserable looking little boys trudge into the house with a wide-eyed, alert and perfectly fine little dog. “Omigod. Their faces. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Bronte turns to her. “That girl will be the death of me. When she’s wilful and naughty, my hand itches to spank her bottom. But, that wouldn’t work with her. Nope. We need to hit her where it hurts.”

“Where’s that?” asks a Rosie who was always up for learning a new parenting technique from the Ferranti’s.

“In the heart.”

 

Later, Nico, still dressed for work in one of his fancy suits, stands before his three children. In his arms is a bright and breezy Jimmy Chew. The kids are washed, teeth brushed and ready for bed. Between her brothers, her chin on her chest, sits his daughter. Even when she’s in the wrong her brother’s protect her.

“I am wondering,” he begins in a soft voice, “if we are the right family for a little dog who has already lost an owner. It seems we cannot look after him properly.”

Three heads lift, their faces white with shock. Sophia’s bottom lip trembles. “We love him, papa.”

Nico’s dark brows lift. “Do you? It does not look like it to me. There is a reason we do not give human food to dogs. Their digestive system does not deal well with sugar or fats. If you love him, Sophia, why would you want to make him sick?”

Her emerald eyes huge in her pale face, Sophia shakes her head. “But, I don’t want to make him sick. I just… just…”

“Just what?”

“I want him to love me,” she whispers as a fat tear tips over to run down her cheek.

“You think you can buy love? Do mama and I buy your love, Sophia?”

Eyes swimming, she shakes her head. “No, papa. You love me to the moon and stars and back again.”

Nico clears the huge lump in his throat. “Si.”

“So, what should we do with Jimmy Chew?” Bronte says from the doorway. In her arms is a drowsy baby Eve fresh from her bath. “I need to be able to trust my family to help me look after and care for him. Feeding him chips or cookies is not looking after him, is it?”

Three heads shake.

“I’m thinking that Jimmy Chew needs a family who will put his needs first and love him as he deserves to be loved. What do you think?”

Luca looks her right in the eye. “We love him, mama. We won’t ever let anyone give him human food. We promise!”

“Sophia?” Nico whispers.

His daughter takes a shaky breath. “I’m sorry. I promise never to feed him snacks or treats again.”

Nico nods. “Very well. There are doggie treats, but we do not use them to buy his love. Do I make myself clear?”

“Yes, papa,” three soft voices chorus.

“Okay. It is time for bed.”

All three troop past their parents and up the stairs. The sound of bedroom doors closing has Nico give Bronte big eyes. “Dio mio, that was harsh, cara mia. I feel like crying myself.”

“Don’t waste your sympathy on her. You didn’t hear her telling the boys to piss off and inform Luca he has girly hair.”

Nico’s dark brows lift as he nuzzles a delirious Jimmy Chew. “Little monkey.”

Bronte moves into his personal space. She lifts up on her tip-toes to give his five-o’clock shadow a kiss. “She’s headstrong. She’s ruthless when she wants something, like someone else I know.”

Handsome face serious, Nico nods. “Si. She is Italian.”

 

FINE

Naughty Sophia! I can’t help but love her anyway.

‘Til Friday, when The Golddigger short story, SUKKI, goes live, be good.

Hugs and love,

Christine X

It’s Monday and the sun is shining and it’s another slice of life with the Ferranti family…

 

jimmy-chew

Happy Monday, awesome peeps!

The sun is shining. The weather man’s crystal ball reckons frosts and crisp grass is coming in my future. I love this time of year. In this business, things ebb and flow. Seems this author is in a state of flow. Long may it last.

Here’s the latest family saga with Nico, Bronte and their family, which has a new member.

Do I hear an ‘Awwwwww’ for Jimmy Chew.  Get it?

***

It’s Saturday morning in the family-kitchen at The Dower House…

Dressed in soft jeans and their favorite T-shirts, the kids are busy completing homework tasks at the kitchen table. Tonio helps Luca with basic math. He’s doing a great job. Bronte checks the message from Nico on her cell phone, bites back a smile. Her heart melts at the picture he’s sent. Aww, how cute. How gorgeous. Her eyes mist as she taps out her response. Boy, oh boy. Her kids are gonna go absolutely mental when they see their papa’s surprise. Over the past couple of week they’d weighed up the pros and cons. The decision is made. The Ferranti’s are about to have a new addition to their family.

“Have you tidied your bedrooms?” she asks. Heads lift showcasing three guilty faces. Again, she bites back a smile. Little monkeys. “Well, I suggest you get right on it. I want every single piece of Lego in the box, Luca Ferranti.”

Her beloved boy makes a horrible face. His dark curls bounce as he shakes his head. “But, mama. I’m building a space station.”

“Then use the table and not the floor. Papa hurt his foot this morning,” Bronte says. And the air had turned blue with a roar of expletives in rough Italian. Words which made Tonio run for cover.

Tonio grins at the memory. “Si. He was so mad.”

“He was hopping on one foot. He said bad words,” Sophia says, tossing her papa under the bus. She closes her spelling book, tucks her pencil in her beloved Frozen pencil case with a picture of Anna on the front. Bronte reckons her daughter and her best pal must have watched the movie hundreds of times and never tire of singing the songs.

“Hmm,” Bronte says, eyeing Sophia. “Last time I looked you had the entire contents of your dressing up box all over the carpet, including play makeup. I want everything put away nice and tidy in the right places. Capisce?”

Sophia lifts her chin. “You are not Italian.”

Sophia’s emerald eyes dance as her mama bends to go nose to nose with her. “I’ll have you know, Missy, I am an honorary Italian and that makes me very speshul. And since I am the boss around here, you will jump to it!” She plants a kiss on her daughter’s little snub nose.

Sophia grins and rolls her eyes. “Okay. Okay. Do we get a treat for tidying our rooms?” she asks, as usual pushing her luck with her mama.

Bronte fold her arms and gives a grinning Tonio, Luca and Sophia big wide eyes. “Well, you’ll never know until you do it, will you?”

“Are you gonna give us another room inspection?” Luca growls, remembering what happened the last time his room failed a spot inspection by Nico. No candy for a whole week.

Bronte checks the time on the clock on the wall. “Well, you have exactly twenty minutes before the Big Boss arrives home, so if I were you I’d make the most of the time instead of standing here debating with me.”

As her children slink out of the room, she shakes her head. Good God, a snail with a limp moves faster than those three. When she has the room to herself, she grins as she dances a merry jig on the spot. Omigod, they are going to go crazy. She can’t wait for Nico to arrive home with his precious little package.

Twenty minutes later…

The sound of a car on gravel has Bronte slip on her shoes and head for the kitchen door. Nico exits his shiny black Range Rover. When he spots her, his smile is wide and wicked.

He cranes his neck to look beyond her. “Where are they?”

“Tidying their rooms. You’d have thought I was sending them down a coal mine as slave labor.”

His laugh makes her smile. Then her smile goes all soft and trembly as Nico lifts the pet carrier from the passenger seat. Inside the box a beautiful little face peeks out at her and sniffs Nico’s fingers as he opens the lid and lifts out the most gorgeous ball of fluff she has ever seen.

Bronte’s fingertips press on her lips. “Oh, Nico, he is the cutest thing. Our very own Bacon Freeze.”

Si,” Nico grins as the tiny ball of fluff licks his neck and chin. “He is eight months old, house trained, and smart. The shelter staff are sad to see him go.” He places the wriggling pup into Bronte’s outstretched arms.

“Poor baby,” she whispers as she presses soft kisses on the clipped fur. “Poor little thing.”

Nico’s face goes serious. “Si. His elderly owner had a heart attack and passed away. The puppy has been in the shelter for six weeks. He needs a home and plenty of love.”

“And who’s a beautiful boy, then?” she says to the delirious pup.

Grazie, cara,” Nico says as he opens the trunk to remove a doggy bed, and box of essentials which include food and water bowls, toys, a selection of chews, dry dog food and a leash in bright red leather.

“I’m talking to the dog,” his wife says, tossing him a saucy look. “It’s been a long time since you were a boy.”

His response is to drop a hot kiss on her mouth. “You sit with him the family room. I’ll get the kids.”

She bites down hard on her bottom lip. “Nico, they are going to go nuts.”

Si. I cannot wait.”

 

 

Meanwhile, Sophia is folding her dressing up clothes. Shoes and bags go in the big wooden box first. Then the dresses and then the accessories, as her auntie Rosie calls the myriad of plastic bracelets and necklaces and tiaras and magic wands. And while she’s at it, she lines up all her dolls on her bed. One has a plastic shoe missing, so she bellies beneath her bed to grab it. When she’s fitting the shoe to the foot, her papa pokes his head around the door.

“Sophia, cara. Mama wants you in the kitchen.”

“I’m nearly finished. Is this my room inspection?”

Nico cranes his neck around the door and scans the room. He holds out his hand for hers. “Good job.”

With Sophia’s hand in his, Nico enters Luca’s room to find him and Tonio flying the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars. “Come down stairs, mama has something for you,” he says to the boys.

Luca makes a face. “I haven’t finished yet.”

“Do it later,” Nico says, shocking both boys into silence. When have they ever been told to, ‘do it later’ when it came to cleaning their bedrooms? Never.

Luca shoots his papa a suspicious look. “Are we in trouble?”

Sheesh. How hard is it to get these kids down stairs for their surprise? Nico shakes his head. “No.”

“What is it then?” Luca asks in a sulky voice. The boys trail behind Nico and Sophia as they go down the stairs. “You’re acting funny.”

Nico turns to his youngest son. “How am I acting funny?”

“You’ve gotta funny look in your eye as if you’re gonna laugh or cry.”

By this time they’ve reached the door to the family-kitchen-living space. Bronte is sitting on the couch with the puppy on her lap. When Sophia makes a gasp, Nico releases her hand and grabs his phone from his jean pocket. Eyes like saucers, Sophia takes hesitant steps towards her mama, with a silent Tonio and Luca hot on her heels. Sophia drops to her knees.

“Who does it belong to?” she whispers, her little hand trembling as she strokes the soft, downy fur.

“He belongs to us,” her mama whispers, her emerald eyes swimming.

“He’s mine?” Sophia whispers.

“No,” her papa says. “He belongs to the Ferranti family, to everyone.”

“Wow,” Luca whispers. “If I’d known we were gonna get a puppy, I’d have tidied my room weeks ago.”

Tonio sinks to the edge of the couch and leans into Bronte. “He’s really cute. What’s his name?”

“Well, his previous owner called him Jimmy,” she says as she hands him the pup.

Sophia turns anxious eyes on her mama. “Why couldn’t they keep him?”

“His owner was very sick and couldn’t take care of him. He sadly passed away, so Jimmy needs a new home. What do you think, will we keep him here with us?”

All three children nod, and when Jimmy barks and wriggles to be free, they all laugh.

And so the Ferranti family have a new addition to the household.

“I think Jimmy’s a boring name,” Luca says, gently stroking the puppy.

Nico starts to laugh. “What’s so funny, papa?” Sophia says.

Nico moves to sit. He slides his arm around Bronte’s slim waist. “His full name is Jimmy Chew. And with mama’s love of shoes, I felt he was meant to belong to us.”

Bronte gives him big eyes. “I don’t believe it. You made that up.”

“No. I promise you. His owner named him Jimmy Chew because, like you, she adored Mr. Choo’s shoes.”

“Wow.” Bronte slides her arm around his waist and cosies in. “Rosie would say it’s karma, baby. Karma.”

Si. I understand the workings of the Universe. I am Italian.”

 

FINE

 

Awwwwww. I want a Bacon Freeze (as Sophia calls a Bischon Frise). H says no because he’d be the one to do the walking and pooper scooper. But I still want one.

AND we have Golddigger book two, MILLIE, on Friday.  Every Friday all the way up to Christmas you’ll have a 30-40 minute read (depending on how fast you get through it) Golddigger story to keep you going. I’m having the Best time writing these. They’re great fun, and I hope you enjoy them.

Love and hugs,

Christine X

 

 

 

ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE…

 

the-ferranti

It’s Monday!

Which means another slice of Ludlow Life!

 

 

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

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

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

“What’s his name?” Nico growls.

“Richard Winthrop.”

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

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

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

“Where does it hurt, cara mia?”

“My hip and my cheek.”

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

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

Nico nods. “What started it?”

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

Miss Brown clears her throat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Si,” Nico growls.

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

“My children will be protected,” Nico says.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sophia nods. “A little bit.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will protect la mia famiglia.”

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

“I am Italian.”

FINE

 

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

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

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

Big hugs,

Christine X

ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE… and it’s first day of school for the Ferranti twins…

 

six-days-to-go2

Happy Monday, peeps!

I bet all y’all remember your very first day of school. I remember mine, and not with fondness. I well remember the first day for my daughters and son. And on occasion there was a lot of dramarama in this house, too. It seems the Ferranti family are no different…

 

It’s early morning in The Dower House, and the place is buzzing with excitement because today is the twins first day at ‘big school’. Bouncing with excitement, Sophia’s been ready in her uniform for over an hour. She’s primping and preening in front of her bedroom mirror, while a teary and proud Bronte plaits ash blonde hair and ties a navy blue ribbon on the end.

Meanwhile, in her twin’s bedroom, shame the same can’t be said for Luca…

“I’m not wearing a stupid shirt and stupid tie,” Luca says, he folds his arms while his bottom lip trembles. His cropped black curls are still damp from the shower.

Nico is on his knees before his son, showing him AGAIN how to tie his tie and he’s not winning. Dio, why hadn’t they practised this skill before today? What the hell was he thinking? “Everything will be fine,” he says soothingly.

Luca’s fingers tug at the crisp collar of his white cotton shirt. “I hate this stupid shirt. It’s too tight. It hurts.”

Perhaps they should have run the new shirts through the wash before wearing? Nico makes a mental note to talk to Bronte. “It is normal to feel nervous on your first day…”

Cheeks hot, dark eyes hot, Luca goes nose to nose with his papa. “I am NOT nervous. Stop saying I’m nervous. All my pals will be there. I told you I HATE the shirt and the stupid tie.”

Nico hooks Luca’s red and grey striped school tie around his own neck and stands. He beams at his son, offers his hand. “Why don’t we try the tie again after breakfast? Mama’s made your favourite breakfast, bacon and pancakes.”

Hand in hand they march down the hall and down the stairs and into the family kitchen-living space. Luca slides into his seat, accepts the small glass of fresh orange juice. When Nico slides a plate of crispy bacon and pancakes in front of him, Luca picks up his fork and makes his papa’s morning by sending him the glimmer of a smile. “Grazie, papa.”

Sophia skips into the kitchen, grabs her papa around the waist for a hug. “Ooooh, I love bacon. AND pancakes.” Happy as a clam, she takes her seat, and studies her brother across the table. “Where’s your tie?”

As Luca’s dark eyes fire in response to his sister’s query, Nico jumps in with, “Luca will wear his tie after breakfast. He does not wish to spill food on it.”

“Do you think Miss Brown will be nice to us?” Sophia asks her papa.

Nico nods. “Si. I have heard she is one of the best teachers in the whole school.”

“I’m not a baby,” Sophia says and lifts her chin. “I can write my full name and read and count.”

Nico sends her a warning look over the rim of his coffee cup. “You will obey Miss Brown to the letter.”

“She has kind eyes,” Luca pipes up. “She has brown eyes and brown hair. Is that why she’s called Miss Brown?”

“That is the name of her papa. I doubt the colour of her eyes or hair has anything to do with it,” Bronte says as she slips baby Eve into her high chair and places a plastic bowl of sliced banana on the tray. The baby picks up her sip cup and sucks voraciously on her juice while her big dark eyes study her siblings.

Bronte gazes at Luca who’s tucking into pancakes and bacon. “Where is your tie?”

It cost him, but Nico didn’t roll his eyes to heaven or pray for deliverance. Instead, he gave his wife BIG eyes. “He’ll put it on after breakfast.”

Bronte shrugs, but then Luca says, “I HATE the stupid tie and this stupid shirt.” His knife and fork clatter on the plate. He sits back in his chair, bottom lip stuck out and his arms folded. “I’m not going to stupid school.”

Cue a stunned silence.

Even the sip cup halts on its journey to the baby’s mouth as she gazes at a big brother about to have a temper tantrum of epic proportions.

“Then you will be as dumb as a turnip,” Sophia says severely, quoting auntie Rosie. She climbs down from her seat, without asking her mother permission if she can leave the table, and takes the seat next to Luca to sit shoulder to shoulder with her twin. “Gimme the tie, papa.”

Nico hands her Luca’s tie. Sophie hands Luca his tie. She lifts the collar of her shirt and unknots her tie. She waits until Luca lifts the collar of his shirt and has his tie around his neck. “Right. Watch my hands,” she says. “And do exactly as I do. Okay?”

Tongue firmly caught between his teeth, his eyes focused unblinkingly on Sophia’s hands, Luca nods.

Tonio strolls in just as a beaming Luca has managed his version of a knot. The mangled fabric makes Nico wince, but he claps and cheers along with Bronte and Sophia. Even baby Eve bangs her sip cup on the tray in support.

“What’s up?” Tonio asks.
“I tied my tie!” Luca cries.
“Yay!” Tonio says.

“Now remember what I said,” Bronte says to the twins as she straps them into their booster seats in the back of her car. “Everything that happens in The Dower House stays in The Dower House.” She sends her daughter a dark look. “I caught that eye roll, Sophia Ferranti.”

And the Ferranti twins are on the way to their first day at school.


In class their teacher lives up to her name. Her hair, eyes, and soft pants suit are all… brown.

Miss Brown claps her hands and beams at her new babies with nothing but love in her heart. “Okay, everyone. I want you to draw your best friend’s face…” Emily and Sophia beam at each other, grab a variety of markers from the pot in the middle of the long table, and begin…

Later that day…

A very anxious Nico and Bronte wait at the school gate for their twins. “How do you think it went?” she asks him.

Nico shrugs, runs a hand through his hair, over the back of his neck. “No idea. But I hope we do not have tears before bedtime with Luca over his shirt and tie. By not practising a simple skill, I have let him down.”

Bronte wraps her arm around his waist and leans in for a hug. “It didn’t even cross my mind. The state schools wear polo shirts and sweaters.”

Si, much more sensible. I will suggest this to the headmaster.”

“Let’s wait until the end of the first week before you go charging in trying to change two hundred years of tradition. Rosie and I got the hang of the tie, eventually. I seem to remember we used to slip it over our head with the knot intact.”

“Luca is clever, he will master the tie.”

Tonio spots them and charges to their side with his fan club posse, mostly girls, hot on his heels. “Hey.”

Nico grins. “Hey, yourself. How did the first day go?”

“Good.” He turns to the flushed and pretty girls at his side. “This is Greta, Angela and Susie.”

Nico and Bronte say hello, nice to meet you. “Did you see the twins? Were they okay?” Bronte asks, the suspense killing her.

Si,” Tonio says, sounding so much like Nico the girls gaze up at him with adoration befitting a rock-god. “They are fine.”

“What about Luca and his tie?” Nico asks.

Nessun problema,” Tonio says and turns to one of the girls. “Tell them.”

Angela, blushing furiously as her big eyes study Nico, says, “Our little sisters are in Luca’s class. At break we asked them to make sure he was all right and to buddy him when it came to helping with his tie. Lots of the little kids struggle in the beginning. He’s totally fine. He’s sooooo cute.”

Tonio turns at a commotion behind him. And sure enough a beaming Luca surrounded by his pals and three girls strolls towards his mama and papa. One girl is clutching Luca’s back-pack and another his lunch box. The top button of his shirt is undone, but his tie is in place. Bronte heaves a deep sigh of relief.

She stares over his shoulder on the look out for her daughter and best friend.
“Where are the gruesome twosome?” she asks Luca, referring to Sophia and Emily and making the girls giggle.

“Sophia’s in time out,” Luca says, tossing his sister under the bus without a blink.

“Why?” Nico wants to know.

“When Miss Brown told her to be quiet. Sophia said her mouth didn’t wanna be quiet, and that she’s not a baby and can write her own name and read a whole book and that Miss Brown isn’t the boss of her.”

Dio mio,” Nico whispers.

“Knew it,” Bronte whispers back to her husband. She turns to Luca. “What’s the punishment?”
“Sophia and Emily are helping Miss Brown tidy the class.”
“Why is Emily being punished?” Bronte demands. Emily, compared to Sophia, is an angel… most of the time.
“Emily said that best friends stick together through thick and thin. She’s helping.”
“Good Lord,” Bronte whispers.

Emily’s mum, Grace appears, gives Luca a hug and turns to study Bronte’s set face.
“What’s up? Where are they?”
“Time out,” Bronte says.
Grace’s blue eyes go wide. “On the first day?”

But then Nico’s huge intake of breath has them look up and here come their girls each one holding Miss Brown’s hand.

“Omigod,” Bronte and Grace chorus in a whisper.
Sophia and Emily’s faces are covered from forehead to chin in marker pen.
“My fault,” Miss Brown says in a cheery voice, her eyes dancing. “I asked the class to draw their best friend and the message sort of got all mixed up in Sophia and Emily’s fascinating little minds. It’ll wash off… eventually.”
Bronte gives Sophia a hard look. “I hear you’ve been rude and naughty…”
But before she could continue, Miss Brown turns to Luca. “Master Ferranti, everything that happens in Miss Brown’s class stays in Miss Brown’s class. Okay?”
Luca’s cheeks are beet red, but he nods.
Miss Brown gave them a wave. “I must admit I’ve had one of the best first days, evah. See you tomorrow.”

Nico drives the twins in his car, while Bronte takes Tonio and his friends in hers.
“And what did you think of your first day of school?” he asks the twins in the back seat, eyeing them in the rear view mirror.
“I think I like Miss Brown,” Sophia says, her eyelids drooping.
Luca beams. “I had the best day. I like school. I have lots of friends.”
Sophia shook her head. “The girls were helping because you are a typical Ferranti male and you look like Tonio. He even has his own fan club.”
Nico frowns. “What’s a typical Ferranti male?”
Luca just smiles and sits back to enjoy the ride home. “Papa, we are Italian!”

FINE

 

I can still remember my first day at school. I loathed the stiff white collars and the school tie, among other things too numerous to mention. Apparently, my mother cried for the first week. (H says probably in relief – my husband’s a laugh a minute.)

 

I want to thank each and every one of you who bought and read SEAN and left feedback via email, messages and on my incredibly active Facebook author page HERE (I post the sneak peek there every Wednesday as well as updates and chats). For a couple of crazy days over the weekend SEAN broke the top one hundred in three categories in the Amazon stores. He was sitting pretty right next to POLDARK twice, which was a huge thrill. And thank you so much for the amazing reviews from Australia to America to Germany to the UK. They’ve totally blown me away. I don’t have a publisher or street team or ARC team (Advanced Reader Copy of the book which is sent out before a book release) or any other help in getting the word out about my books. I have YOU guys who love the Ludlow World and the characters who inhabit it. The characters are family to me, and are like family to you, too. I cannot tell you how much the love and support for the stories mean to me.

It’s a lonely business being an author. But, let me tell you one truth about creativity and craft that is key for me personally, it’s summed up by this statement by author Colleen Coble:

You know the best thing about writing? You never arrive. There is always something you can improve on.’  

When I sit down to write I live by those words every single day.

Aaaand, in other news (didn’t I say it’s going to get pretty busy on this blog in the run up to Christmas, and boy, do I have surprises lined up)  SUKKI, (Golddigger book 3) is available on pre-order on Amazon HERE. Once she’s live on all distributors I’ll do a post with all the links. Next up RUBY, who is about to go to proofing. It’s all go-go-go in this house.

Big hug,

Christine X

IT’S ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE…

here-comes-trouble-its-the-ludlow-hall-sneak-peek

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.

 

FINE

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

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

 

ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE …

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.”

FINE

 

Ah, birthdays are wonderful things.

Big hugs,

Christine X

IT’S MONDAY, ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE . . . Aaaaand she’s back . . .

Rosie

 

Greetings, my awesome readers,

I hope this finds you well after the weekend, and raring to go for the week ahead. It’s been a while since we heard from Rosie … She’s back …

***

Working alone, Rosie Ludlow is busy, busy, at Sweet Sensations running against a deadline to deliver a surprise order of four dozen cupcakes for an engagement party before five o’clock . . .

*The kitchen smells of toffee, chocolate, and vanilla icing. Even though the place is rocking to Ella Henderson praying by a river, baby Mila is sound asleep in her amazing top of the line stroller. White rubber clog tapping to the beat, Rosie’s wearing chef whites, her inky curls tied back beneath a cap and net. With her tongue caught firmly between her teeth, she uses quick flicks of the wrist to pipe tiny spears of white meringue icing to make a ball effect for the topping of the chocolate cupcakes. It takes a steady hand, precision and a good eye to place a red cherry made of icing with a fragile chocolate stalk on the top. Since they were fiddly little bastards, she’d made the cherries the day before. When Nico Ferranti strolls through the door looking for all the world as if he’s just walked off a photo shoot for GQ, she sends him a lightning grin, nods to the pot of coffee on the counter top*

“Coffee’s hot, big boy. Help yourself. Let me just finish up here.”

Nico pokes his head inside one of the eight boxes of white card, checks out the cupcakes. “Amazing. You are a clever girl, cara. But why are you working so late?”

“It’s a favor,” she says, her focus one hundred per cent on the job at hand. “And they’re paying me big bucks for this favor. Bronte offered to help, but Eve’s cutting another tooth and it’s not going well. Her little cheek is all swollen and hot. Poor baby.”

Making himself right at home, Nico helps himself to a cup from the cupboard, pours himself a coffee from the pot. “Si. The twins didn’t suffer as much as la mia bambina. We’ve had to resort to medication to bring down the inflammation.”

*Rosie finishes the final cupcake, lays the cherry on the top, and carefully places the work of art in a box. The box lids are all sitting waiting. By the time she’s placed gold and black Sweet Sensation stickers on each box and ties them with black satin bows, Nico’s grinning at her quick fingered expertize. She checks the huge clock on the wall, turns the music down. While Nico pours her a coffee, she pulls the net and cap from her head to reveal inky curls that fall in a tail between her shoulder blades. She accepts her coffee and closes her eyes as she takes a sip of the black stuff. Heaven*

“Thanks,” she says, leans her hip against the stainless steel counter top, and eyes him appreciatively from the top of his immaculately cut hair, the sharp threads (Italian of course) to his hand stitched shoes. “Are you coming or going from a meeting?”

“Coming,” he says in the deep Italian accent that always makes her mouth curve. Man, with Nico as her husband her pal Bronte has got herself a hunka-hunka burnin’ love. His next words wipe the smirk from her face. “I have been meaning to stop by and have a little chat with you.”

*Little chat? Uh oh. Rosie recognizes the signs, that sharp eyed look, the way his mouth has gone firm. Something’s up*

“Everything okay with Bronte? Things okay at home?”

Nico nods. “Everything is mostly fine. Except for Sophia . . .”

Rosie blinks and can’t help but grin widely. “What’s up with my favorite niece? Been cutting hair again? Putting toys down the toilet? Painting toenails that don’t belong to her?”

Nico’s mouth curves, but he shakes his head. “No. But she’s quoting statements from ‘Auntie Rosie’ almost every time she opens her mouth. And some of the statements, cara mia, are causing her mama and me a few bad moments.”

Not in the least bit fazed by the way he’s glowering at her, Rosie sends him a cheeky grin. “Yeah? That’s my girl. Inquisitive. Smart as a whip.”

Nico’s dark brows lift. “Si. But it seems she knows a little too much about certain things, like child birth, and . . . sex. She was happy to inform a car load of children including her BFF Emily, that according to auntie Rosie, Tonio, just like me, is gonna break hundreds of hearts with his love muscle . . .” Nico waits until a spluttering Rosie stops laughing to continue, “then she told the same audience that women, and I quote, are cursed each month and put their men through hell. Men, according to auntie Rosie, do not know they are living.”

Wiping her eyes on kitchen towel, Rosie takes a breath. “Omigod. The little monkey. She’s been listening to adult conversations again. What the hell is she like? You’ll need to break her of the habit, Nico.”

Nico blinks. “Si, but . . .”

Rosie shifts to top up their cups. “Thing is, Sophia is super bright. She can write everyone’s name. Her reading age is way ahead of her peers. She’s also overcurious and nosey. The trick for you and Bronte will be to channel that investigative trait within her into something positive. I’ve been thinking maybe horse riding to balance all that physical and emotional energy. Or ballet or gymnastics . . .”

Nico shudders at the thought. He cannot imagine what his daughter would be like if she was doing gymnastics. The conversation is not going Nico’s way. He’s here to ensure Rosie bites her tongue around his daughter. On the other hand, he can’t resist the complete lack of guile in Rosie’s dark chocolate Bambi eyes. Hell, he doesn’t want to upset a woman he adores. In truth, he doesn’t want Rosie to be anything other than Rosie, so he treads carefully and tries again, “I, we, feel Sophia is too young to understand certain things like how a woman has eggs in her ovaries . . .”

Rosie nods enthusiastically and jumps in with, “Exactly. You and Bronte are doing an amazing job with your children, but especially with Sophia. It is very important for adults to answer a child’s questions with the facts and total honesty. A penis is a penis and a vagina is a vagina. I simply do not understand why some adults, especially men, cannot be honest about procreation and how the human body works. And I’ll tell you something for nothing, Nico. Not telling a child the truth can set them up for an epic fail when they hit the hell that is puberty. It’s dangerous. Get Bronte to tell you the story of when our mothers were at school in the seventies. In their year was a girl of fifteen who’s first sexual experience with a boy, who just as clueless as her, ended up with her at A&E because of an infected navel. Apparently, the poor kids believed they had sex via the belly button. I am not joking. Our mothers drummed the facts of life into us as soon as we began asking questions.”

Dio mio. Nico knew his jaw was on the floor, knew there was perspiration beading on his top lip. “Si, but . . .”

*Baby Mila stirs, and her mama is at her side in an instant*

“Aw, did you have a good sleepy sloppy?” Rosie coos as she nuzzles the baby. She sniffs her diaper, makes a horrible face. “Phew. A diaper bomb.”

Nico can’t help but grin at how happy Rosie is since she married Alexander and became a mama. Today his mission has been as Rosie would say, ‘An Epic Fail.’ But he loves her. Perhaps he’ll just need to live with her Big Mouth because at the end of the day he wouldn’t change her for the world.

“I’ll leave you to it,” he says.

Rosie jiggles Mila, grabs the diaper bag hanging onto the stroller handle. “Drop in any time. Try not to worry about Sophia. If I were you I’d forget about a convent for her, too. The planet is made up of fifty per cent men, Nico. Better Sophia learns how to handle the suckers. When she grows up, that girl will have the world by the balls.”

And that, Nico decides as he strolls to his car, is exactly the problema. By the time Sophia Ferranti becomes a fully formed new adult, his hair will be white from worry and stress. As he drives towards home, he nods. He’ll handle anything his baby girls will throw at him because, at the end of the day, he’s Italian.

 

FINITO

 

Can’t fault Rosie’s own brand of logic.

Nico didn’t stand a chance!

The pre-order links for SEAN should be up in a couple of days (it was my birthday last week, so I got side-tracked by my wonderful family.)

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