Hello, my darling readers,
It’s Friday and it’s the Ludlow Hall sneak peak time. Yay!
The Dower house…
Bronte was having a bad day. It’s half-term. And the children were driving her crazy.
She’s way behind with a mountain laundry—thanks to a washing machine Armageddon. The consequence of a blocked waste pipe, which she fixed herself. One of life’s great mysteries was how a sock had managed to find its way into the waste pipe. Smaller mountains of assorted dirty laundry littered the floor. Whites. Dark colours. PE kits. And baby clothes. Plus, a huge pile of bedding. Eve had thrown up last night. The child’s projectile vomit like something out of a horror movie. Which meant Bronte stank to high heaven of disinfectant, baby puke and sweat.
After too much pushy-shovey during and after breakfast, and in spite of their red-faced mother screaming at them at the top of her lungs to desist, the kids were banished to their separate bedrooms. Winter half-term, pouring rain, and bored kids, Bronte decided, was its own special kind of hell.
The sound of a car crunching over the gravel drive had her look to heaven. She hope to hell it wasn’t an unexpected visitor. If it was Rosie that would be okay, ’cause Rosie would sympathise and probably pour her a huge glass of wine. If it was a member of the local mums and tots group, she gazed at her clothes and sniffed her armpit, and decided she wouldn’t answer the door.
In the event it was neither.
Her husband walked through the door carrying a brown cardboard box.
She took one look at Nico, all dressed to impress in a smart dark suit and crisp shirt, silk tie, with not a freaking hair out of place, and she growled low in her throat.
“What are you doing home?” She checked the clock on the wall, just in case she’d lost track of time. “It’s only 2.30 in the afternoon. What’s this, a half-day?”
Nico, his gaze taking in the complete and utter disaster that was the laundry room, and breakfast dishes still littering the kitchen, read the situation easily enough.
His brows lifted.
“I brought you a present,” he said. “Although with that welcome, I’m not sure you deserve it.”
He gave her a huge smile.
She didn’t smile back.
“Piss off,” she hissed.
“Trust me,” he said. “This will make your life so much easier, cara mia.”
Bronte moved to the sink, washed her hands, dried them, and turned to him.
“Do you want a coffee?”
Nico stepped over the detritus on the floor, placed the cardboard box on the worktop.
Grey eyes twinkling, he turned to her and opened his arms.
His wife simply gave him a bland stare.
“I stink of baby puke. I haven’t even managed to drag a brush through my hair. In fact, the way I’m feeling right now the last thing I want from you or anyone else is a hug.”
Nico ignored what had turned into a rant, and just grabbed her and held her tight.
His nose twitched.
She was right, she didn’t smell her usual fragrant self.
She snuggled into his chest and gave a heavy sigh.
“The worst, she muttered into his silk tie.
He smelled absolutely amazing, freshly laundered shirt, shower gel and the cologne she loved so much.
“I hate half-term,” she said.
“Don’t worry, he said into her hair and gave her another quick squeeze. “We will do this together.”
Bronte sniffed, step back and rubbed her hands on the legs of her jeans.
She studied the box on the worktop.
“Okay,” she said, and hoped to heaven it wasn’t some new piece of digital equipment. “Hit me with it.”
Nico shifted, opened the box and brought out what looked like a tall black tube.
Bronte just stared at it.
Her heart fell, it was a new piece of digital equipment.
Nico, on the other hand, looked thrilled.
He said, “It’s Alexa. And she is going to change your life.”
Bronte was not convinced.
She scratched her nose.
Folded her arms and cocked her hip.
“Okay,” she said, “show me exactly how that tube of metal is going to change my life.”
Nico took off his jacket hung it carefully over the back of a kitchen chair, rubbed his hands again, whipped out the instruction booklet and set up by linking it to their Wi-Fi and integrating the device from what he called, the mother-lode.
“It’s from Amazon.” He sent her a cheeky wink. “Its voice recognition artificial intelligence. All you have to do is tell Alexa what music you want to listen to, or turn on the radio, or order items from the store, and she does it. It’s like magic.”
Bronte, pouring two black coffees into cups, and lifted her brows.
She sank to a kitchen chair, folded her arms and just watched.
What was it with boys and their toys, she wondered.
It didn’t take long for Nico to set it up.
And within half an hour he had ordered a couple of items from Amazon.
Bronte reckoned she quite liked Alexa’s voice, she sounded friendly. And when Bronte asked Alexa to play rock music and she did, she couldn’t help but laugh.
“That is so cool,” she said. Her temper improving by the minute.
Looking pretty pleased with himself, Nico dropped a kiss on her cheek.
“I’ll have a shower. I’ll be down in a couple of minutes and I’ll help you with all this. There’s nothing we cannot do when we work as a team.”
Well, Bronte had to agree with that sentiment.
She strolled out the door with him, and gave his tight butt a pat.
“Maybe we could shower together and save water?” she whispered.
His strong arm came around her waist. “Just what I was thinking,” he said in a deep, growly voice.
As Bronte and Nico strolled out the door, a little blond head appeared slowly, very slowly, from behind the back of a lilac velvet sofa.
Sophia, dressed in pink leggings that hit above her ankle, and an oversized white hoodie that proclaimed, ‘The Snuggle Is Real,’ and clutching a battered looking Raggedy-Ann doll, strolled over on bare feet to check out Alexa.
Emerald eyes wide, she placed her arms on the worktop and stared unblinking at the machine.
“Hello, Alexa,” said Sophia.
Next morning, Bronte was busy at her twelve burner stainless steel hob, making a full English breakfast for her hungry horde. In a good mood, she shook her booty to a rock song via Alexa. The device was soooooo cool.
The peal of the doorbell had her yell, “Nico! Could you get the door?”
“Si,” he yelled back from his study.
She heard him opening the door, and chatting to the postman.
A minute later, he walked into the kitchen-dining-living space, carting at least six cardboard boxes.
Her brows rose. “Good Lord, what’s all that?”
Checking the parcels, Nico shook his head. “I ordered two items.”
Using tongs to lift a pile of crispy bacon onto a plate, she placed the plate in the middle of the table. Wiping her hands on the tea towel tucked into the waistband of her black skinny jeans, she wandered over to find Nico using a sharp knife to open the boxes.
“From Amazon,” she muttered.
When Nico took out a large box of Lego—Elsa’s Sparkling Ice Castle, she goggled.
“Whoa,” she said.
The next box opened, it was like Christmas all over again, held more Lego—this time a BIG selection of Mighty Micros Spiderman VS Scorpion Street Showdown.
“Wow,” she whispered.
By this time, Nico’s shoulders shook so hard, he needed to take a breath as he opened box number three. A huge box of Mega Blocks for ages 1-5.
“Aww, that must be for Eve,” Bronte said, her eyes going all teary. “What’s in this one, it’s big.”
Nico opened it, and blinked. “Mio dio. It is the iScoot Blaze Tonio’s been after.”
Bronte picked up a receipt invoice, and bit down hard on her top lip. “Alexa ordered it. All of it.”
Her eyes met his as they turned their attention to another box.
A heavy one this time.
“What do you thinks’ in here?”
His grey eyes, twinkling, met hers. “There must be something you’d love to have.”
She shook her head. “I’ve no idea.”
When he opened it, she slapped her hand over her mouth. “Omigod. It’s the Tefal Cook4Me Multicooker. But… it costs a fortune.”
He opened the last box, it didn’t weigh much.
And Bronte collapsed into a chair laughing so hard, she nearly peed her pants.
It was a ‘Man Tin’ (Leads, Screws & Other Pointless Stuff I must keep.)
And right then, Tonio and Luca strolled into the kitchen.
They wore below the knee jean shorts and hoodies.
The boys stopped dead, and stared, wide-eyed, at all the goodies lined up on the table.
“Wow!” said Luca, diving on the Lego box. He held it in his hand as if it was the crown jewels. His beaming smile split his face. “This is sooooo cool. Thank you, papa!”
Tonio’s dark eyes flew to Nico as he grabbed the box containing the much-longed-for scooter.
“We’ll need to buy him protective gear for that,” Bronte whispered into Nico’s ear.
And then, without a word, Sophia slid into the room.
She wore soft blue jeans and navy hoodie.
Her big emerald eyes studied the toys, her brothers’ clear deeeeeelight, and then flicked to her mama and papa’s wide eyes as they watched her face.
“Um…,” she said, her fingers playing with her blonde tail.
“Um?” Bronte said in a soft voice.
Nico crouched down in front of his daughter, took her little hand in his.
“Were you speaking to Alexa?” he asked in a soft voice.
Sophia’s brows flew into her hairline. “She’s nice.”
Luca, carefully unwrapping Lego, glanced at his sister. “Who’s Alexa?”
Sophia, eyes glued to her papa’s, said, “Alexa? What time is it?”
There was a slight delay and then a woman’s voice said from the tall black tube, “The time is 9.20 am.”
Luca’s eyes nearly popped out of his head. “Wow! That is amazing,” he whispered.
Bronte ran her hand through his dark curls. “Isn’t it?”
“Did you ask Alexa for all of these?” He indicated the boxes on the table.
“Uh huh,” she said in a soft voice.
“Didn’t Alexa say how much they cost?” Nico wanted to know.
“They cost a lot of money,” Nico said.
Sophia went nose to nose with her papa.
“I know.” Then she stroked a small finger down his cheek. “But you’re filthy rich, papa. We can afford a nice surprise now and then. And mama’s always wanted one of those Cook4Me pots because she works too hard looking after all the heathens in this family. So I asked Alexa to send one and she said yes.”
In response to the absolute logic of her statement, Nico grabbed her in a big hug.
“Your heart is in the right place, bambina.”
Meanwhile, Bronte couldn’t help but laugh.
Wait until Rosie heard all about Alexa.
Seriously, she couldn’t make this stuff up!
Real life is stranger than fiction. This actually happened to someone I know. Not on the scale of Sophia. One dozen boxes of cake mix. LOL!