It’s Monday, so it must be a Ludlow Hall sneak peek with the Ferranti family…

 

What do you call an Italian father of four gorgeous children_

 

It’s the Dower House with the Ferranti family…

Nico Ferranti walked into The Dower house wanting nothing more than a hot kiss from his wife, a glass of Chianti and a quiet thirty minutes. He’d had a jam-packed day. A guest who’d goosed the ass of a maid had taken up too much of his time and put him behind. Hence why he was late.

The chorus of three children, his children, wailing at the top of their lungs told him he wasn’t going to get his thirty minutes. Not yet.

It shamed him that for three seconds he seriously considered walking back out and letting Bronte deal with whatever incident had set them off. Taking the stairs, he reminded himself that he’d fathered all three—and enjoyed every second of it—he’d do his husbandly duty.

However, when he entered baby Eve’s nursery, he nearly turned tail.

The twins were balling their heads off. While his wife, looking furiously harassed, was dressing a squalling toddler who was fighting every inch of the way. His brows rose. His youngest daughter, usually, was so laid back she was horizontal. But now, Eve was having what appeared to be a major temper tantrum. He studied the evidence. The twins, and every surface was covered in a fine film of talcum powder. A couple of clean diapers were tossed on the floor along with a wet one.

Sophia, his eldest daughter, had one eye on her mother as she made a heroic attempt to squeeze out a tear. Meantime her twin, Luca, had tears streaming down his face. The boy had a very soft heart.

“Which one,” he asked the room at large, “tried to change her diaper?”

Dressed in a footless pink babygro Eve sobbed against Bronte’s neck.

A Bronte who beaned her eldest daughter with a dark look. “Guess.”

Nico turned his head, eyed his daughter who was dressed in a Beauty and The Beast nightgown. “Sophia, cara mia?”

“I was helping.”

He crouched to look her in the eye and smelled toothpaste, soap. “Bed,” was all he said.

Dressed in Ninja Turtles pj’s Luca’s bottom lip trembled as, head down, he slouched away. Sophia, made of sterner stuff, opened her mouth and closed it when he held up a finger.

With a sigh, an eye-flick to her mother, she turned and walked away.

Nico rose, took his now whimpering baby girl from his wife.

“What happened?”

“I was talking on the phone to Rosie, and turned my back for a moment, just a moment. Eve was grumpy and I told Rosie I needed to change her. Then things were quiet. I should have known something was up. When I walked in Sophia had Eve naked on the changing mat on the floor…” she stopped, closed her eyes, bit down hard on her bottom lip. When she opened her eyes they swam.

“God, Nico. What if…”

He placed his sleeping daughter in her crib, turned down the light and led his wife from the room.

“We will both talk to them.”

Together, they brought the twins into their bedroom, sat them side by side on the couch.

He and Bronte sat on the heavy coffee table facing their twins.

“You must never,” Nico began in a tone that meant business and held up a finger when Sophia opened her mouth, closed it. “Ever lift Eve from her cot. If you had dropped her, she might have been badly hurt. When she cries, fetch mama.”

“We help mama with Eve,” Sophia muttered. And Luca nodded his head in solidarity.

Si, and helping is a good thing. But you must never lift her from her cot. Promise me.”

Sophia’s emerald eyes filled, but she nodded and Luca nodded, too.

“And too much talcum powder is very dangerous,” Bronte added. “If Eve or you breathes it into your lungs it can cause a chest infection.” Or worse, she added in her mind.

“It wasn’t me who spilled it,” Sophia said, giving her twin a hairy eyeball.

Bronte fired up. “It doesn’t matter who spilled it. The point is that neither of you should have touched Eve or her diaper or talcum powder.”

 

It took twenty minutes to settle the twins.

Although beneath her comforter, Sophia turned her back to her mama. Little monkey. By the time Nico had changed into his favourite jeans and T-shirt, poured himself a glass of wine and Bronte placed their meal in the oven and set the timer, the pair of them were exhausted.

He opened his arms and his wife stepped into the hug. “God, Nico,” she drew in a deep breath, slowly exhaled.

Rubbing her back, he lay his cheek upon her blonde head and inhaled the wonderful scent of his woman.

“They would never hurt the baby.”

She lifted her head.

Her eyes flew to his. “I know that—”

She buried her face in his neck and closed her eyes.

Eventually, he felt her settle.

“I miss Tonio so much,” she said.

Si. The house does not seem the same without him. But the summer school at Lake Como is good for him. Plus, he is bonding with Gregorio. We cannot keep him to ourselves.”

She moved out of his arms and into the kitchen to check the timer on the oven. “I know I’m being selfish. It is important he retain his heritage and culture. Apart from the fact I miss him desperately, Luca looks up to him and he’s a superb role model for a young boy. Plus, he keeps Sophia out of trouble. I truly think we’ve created a monster at times.”

Nico didn’t think now was a good time to mention that Sophia’s energy and intelligence needed channelling. The last thing he wanted tonight was a heated discussion with his wife about parenting. Over the years, he’d learned the hard way that timing was everything. He kept his mouth shut.

Bronte eyed him over her wine glass. “You look tired. Bad day?”

He nodded. “Si. Had an issue with housekeeping. One of the new maids had a guest lay his hands on her.”

Bronte’s eyes bugged. “Did he hurt her?”

Nico shook his head. “He goosed her ass. She punched him on the mouth. Blood was spilled. He wanted her sacked. Instead, he has been banned from all of my hotels.”

“Was he a regular guest?”

Nico nodded, made a face. “Unfortunately. On this trip he was without his wife and thought he would chance his luck with a young brunette.”

She looked to heaven. “How old was the maid?”

“Eighteen.”

“How old was he?”

“Sixty-five.”

“He should be thoroughly ashamed of himself.”

Nico had to laugh. “She is Susan and Andy Bradshaw’s youngest daughter gaining work experience.”

Bronte’s jaw dropped. “Omigod. The daughter of a senior police inspector.”

Si. When I made the connection clear, our guest beat a hasty departure.”

“I just bet he did.”

“No wonder you look tired.”

Nico sat back on the couch and stretched out long legs. “Si. All I wanted was a kiss from my wife, a glass of wine and a few minutes of peace and quiet.”

Placing her glass on the worktop, she walked towards him.

Emerald eyes dancing, she took his glass, placed it on the coffee table, slid to straddle his lap and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“And you arrived to find chaos reigning.”

He slid his hands beneath her T-shirt to find warm skin as smooth as silk.

And no bra.

He wiggled his brows.

She rubbed her nose against his. “Is that a subliminal signal for a quickie on the couch?”

In a smooth move, he had her on her back and grinned down into her laughing face.

Dio, he adored her.

Si.”

“What about dinner,” she asked breathlessly after a scorching kiss.

“I can multi-task. I am Italian.”

FINE

I’m working hard on Break The Rules and No Rules. Both stories are clicking along quite nicely.

Christine X

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael frowned. “Sounds complicated.”

Si. But as papa says, such is life.”

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

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

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

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

“When?”

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

***

Bronte eyed her daughter and Emily.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

***

Thirty minutes later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both men spoke, “Si.”

***

Hours later…

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Who said I will remain single?”

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

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

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

“Clio.”

Cue another silence.

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

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

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

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

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

Gregorio nodded. “I let Tonio down—”

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

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

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

“You think I cannot provide both?”

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

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

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

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

“Ah, but you have feelings for her?”

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

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

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

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

 

FINE

 

Oooooooh, who is Clio?

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

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

 

Christine X

Inspiration and where it comes from…

Reader Question:  Christine, where do you get your ideas for your characters and stories from?

Answer:  Mostly from real life. True. I remember when Reckless Nights In Rome was first published, a reader said that she couldn’t believe any girl would jump out of a window to avoid the blind date from hell and that she preferred REAL LIFE. Well, it DID actually happen to a close relative of mine, not once but twice. When I was told the whole sorry saga, and after I’d stopped laughing, I remember thinking that it would be a great hook for a story… and the rest, as they say, is history. And no, I’m not telling anyone her name.

Anyhow, to get back to the question where my ideas/inspiration comes from…

I write things I’ve been through, seen, understand, lost, loved, hurt, hated, endured, and I place all of those life experiences inside a world that does not exist but mirrors the real world. Does that make sense?

I use those experiences to build and create real characters readers want to root for and care about, even when they make the wrong choice to try to fix a problem (especially the guys) and end up in an even bigger mess. And along with mirroring real life my characters are fun, sometimes insane, and when they make me laugh out loud, I can be pretty certain they’ll make a reader laugh, too.

In the old days when I was submitting stories, I remember an editor telling me to tone down the laughs, the family with the kids and the dog. Hmm. I hope she’s read SEAN because you guys laughed out loud at all that.

Most of all, I write from the heart.

I write about family, whether created by non-blood friends (like Nico and Bronte who embrace many into their fold), or the vampyres who are battling the greatest evil to save our world. At the core of all my books is the bond of family.

Speaking of family, we’re on the road to wellness after pneumonia and getting better every day.

Big hugs,

Christine X

See You Soon!

www-ccmackenzie-com

Yes, that will be me very soon!

I’m taking a break from the blog over the holidays to spend time with family and friends. H reckons I’ll also be writing because I never stop scribbling ideas and conversations in one of my hundreds of notebooks.

I want to wish each and every single one of you a happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous 2017!

See you next year.

Hugs,

Christine X

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

 

 

 

Time for another slice of Ludlow life with The Ferranti family…

cookielove

 

Happy Monday!

It’s time for another slice of Ludlow life with our favourite family……

The Dower House…

Dressed in skinny blue jeans, a cropped T-shirt that’s seen better days, Bronte pads into the family-kitchen living space on bare feet. She’s given Eve her last breast feed of the day. It won’t be long before her daughter is fully weaned, and the thought has a little pang of loss hit her heart. She’ll miss the intimacy and the connection. Her baby won’t be a baby for much longer. The kids are settled down for the night—at last. Sophia is out like a light after her horrible day. Looks as if her right eye is swelling and will be closed by the morning. Her brothers insist on having their bedroom doors open so they can hear her if she calls in the night or has a bad dream. Glancing at her husband, she reckons someone else needs a bit of love and attention. Sprawled on the couch wearing his favorite jeans white at the seams and a black long sleeved thermal, a stony faced Nico stares unseeing into the flames of a stainless-steel log burner. His long legs stretching out before him, his bare feet are long and narrow and sexy. Bronte’s mouth lifts. He’s a big sexy Italian beast and she loves him more each day. In the sexy beast’s hands, he’s nursing a wine goblet. His mouth is a thin, hard line. Bronte takes the seat next to him and curls up her legs and cosies into him. She reaches out for his glass, and takes a sip of the ruby liquid.

“You’re thinking bad thoughts,” she says and offers him the glass.

In response, he places the wine on the vast glass coffee table before taking her in his arms. Bronte closes her eyes to simply breathe in the heady scent of her man. A woodsy cologne, his shampoo, and an alpha male testosterone that feels like home. As much as she loves The Dower House and the life they have here in the old market town of Old Ludlow, in her heart she knows that wherever Nico goes is home to her and their growing family.

“I have had a call from Annabel’s papa,” Nico says, indicating his cell lying on the coffee table. Annabel’s father is a wealthy and influential businessman. Although he has a good reputation, Nico and Alexander tend to give him a wide berth.

“By the look on your face I take it it’s not good news.”

Nico heaves a deep sigh. “It’s not good news for his grandsons. Seems the social services have paid Annabel a visit. Both boys are to be placed on the ‘at risk’ list. Annabel’s papa seems to think we had something to do with it. I put his mind at rest. I’m thinking this might not be a bad thing for those children.”

“Jonathan has them every weekend,” Bronte says, and repeats the local gossip. “They run wild through the town, stealing candy and general mischief making. The man doesn’t have a clue about parenting or taking care of young children.”

“From what Alexander and I saw earlier this evening, he’s not taking care of himself either. I’d say it is either booze or an out of control recreational drug habit. Whatever, it is not bringing out the best in him. I said as much to his ex father-in-law. He is planning to stage some sort of intervention with Jonathan and his sons. His daughter is at her wit’s end.”

“She was a friend—once,” Bronte says. Her mind slips into the past, remembering the hurt and especially the public humiliation she suffered when Annabel and Jonathan had a torrid affair behind her back during the time she was grieving over the tragic loss of her parents. An affair which resulted in Annabel’s first pregnancy. The town had taken sides and the rift between the Winthrops and the Ludlows and Ferranti families had never healed. Seven years seems such a long time to hold a grudge. But, at the time of the betrayal, life for Bronte Ludlow had been tough going. Bronte had lost her parents, her home, her fiancé, and was at odds with Alexander over the shocking discovery that they had different fathers. And then the whirlwind of Nico Ferranti had entered her life, and look at them now! Parents to four wonderful children. The love and commitment they shared grew more each day. While poor Annabel limped from one domestic drama to another. She has an ex-husband with a sly, vicious tongue and a wandering eye. A man always on the look-out for the main chance to get something for nothing.

Si. We cannot say she has not paid for her mistake. Perhaps it is time to offer her the hand of friendship. That is what good neighbours do, is it not?”

Not exactly thrilled with the idea, Bronte makes a face and heaves a big sigh. “I’ll speak to Janine and Rosie and run the idea to reach out to Annabel past them. If we do this, I’ll need their support. We were all a close-knit group once, when we were ten.”

Nico pulls her onto his lap to wrap her in his arms. “I am thinking of the children. If the adults cannot find a solution, what hope do they have? But let me clear, I will never under any circumstances be a friend to Jonathan Winthrop.”

Bronte reaches up to wind her arms around his neck. “Thank God for that. But I can tell by your face you have a plan for him.”

Si. It is nothing for you to worry about,” he says in that deep growly tone her hormones love.

Nico dips his head to taste her mouth. At least that was the idea. Instead, it isn’t long before they’re naked on the couch, replete and relaxed. “My toes are tingling,” Bronte says. Her eyes shut, she adores the way his big hand sweeps lazy strokes down her spine. She smiles as his big body shakes with laughter.

“I can never get enough of you, cara mia.”

Bronte runs her nails gently over a dark nipple, feels him shudder. “Rosie says that when we’re in a care home and hobbling around with Zimmer frames we’ll still be snogging in corners.”

“She can talk,” Nico says severely. A squawk and grizzle from the baby monitor has both of them on their feet. They dress fast. He grins at Bronte’s flushed cheeks. “Ah, I remember the good old days when we walked about naked whenever we felt like it.”

“We need a break without the kids,” she says as they rush up the stairs. Nico heads off to check on Sophia, and Bronte enters the baby’s room. The heady smell of a dirty diaper has her dealing with the problem within minutes. After settling the baby, she searches for her husband and finds him leaning against the door frame of their eldest daughter’s bedroom. The door is wide open. As she approaches, Nico turns to place a finger on his lips, his grey eyes dancing.

As she studies the scene before her, Bronte lifts her hand to smother a laugh. Omigod. Tonio and Luca have dragged their duvets and pillows into Sophia’s room and are sleeping on the floor next to her bed. She tip-toes over the sleeping boys to study her daughter. Yep, the eye is swollen shut. The livid bruise on that velvet little cheek hurts Bronte’s heart. If the chance of letting bygones be bygones with Annabel and her sons prevents a repetition of today’s events, she’ll do it. The idea of offering the hand of friendship to Annabel may not go down well with Rosie and Janine, but they’ll support Bronte and the children through thick and thin—that’s what best friends do.

Tonio stirs, his eyes pop open as he watches them tip-toe out of the room hand in hand.

The boy lifts up on his elbows to crane his neck to check on Sophia. She’s out for the count, as is her twin sleeping on the floor next to him. Tonio settles to lie on his back and counts the tiny lights on a ceiling which replicates the milky way. Bronte and Rosie and Janine painted the ceilings in the twin’s bedroom. And when Tonio joined the family, the women did the same in his bedroom and gave him lights, too. The Ferranti children sleep beneath the stars.

Tonio smiles as his heavy eyes shut. He knows for sure they’ll have fresh cookies tomorrow because he can smell them from here.

It’s the smell of a safe haven.

It’s the smell of home.

It’s the smell of love.

We are mia la famiglia

We are Italian.

 

FINE

Not easy doing the ‘right’ thing, is it?

Working hard on the weekly short stories, the first one released at the end of this month, then I’m diving into the Ludlow world with Break The Rules. I LOVE my job!!!

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

New Ludlow Hall Release today… SEAN…

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iBOOKS   AMAZON  KOBO  NOOK

Happy Friday!

I can’t believe this is the tenth book set in the Ludlow Hall world (although when I count in the Ludlow Nights books it’s thirteen with BREAK THE RULES coming soon). Who’d have thought when I released RECKLESS NIGHTS IN ROME in 2012 it would lead to this!

Last night H and I were talking about the last four years and we goggled at the thought that by the end of this year there will be TWENTY-SIX books (including The Golddiggers) out by the end of 2016. And if I’m spared and well, there are incredibly exciting things coming for 2017/18.

A big hug and smoochies to my readers who keep me going every single day. I love receiving your emails and messages so keep them coming. For the Sophia Ferranti fans out there (and, boy, there are plenty) your favourite girl has a starring role in SEAN, just thought I’d put that out there. Hehehe.

Sean and Katherine and the supporting characters have been an absolute gift to an author, and I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I’ve loved writing them.

On Monday it’s another Ludlow Hall sneak peek as we join the Ferranti twins on their first day of school. What could possibly go wrong?

Christine X

IT’S ANOTHER SLICE OF LUDLOW LIFE…

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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