Happy New Year!
May 2018 bring you health and happiness, and peace and kindness to the rest of the world.
Love and hugs,
Happy New Year!
May 2018 bring you health and happiness, and peace and kindness to the rest of the world.
Love and hugs,
Hello, my darlings,
So, what is this, I hear you ask?
I’ve been intrigued for some time by the recent advances in new technology that will allow me to sell eBooks direct to readers and I’m interested in trying it. I do believe that authors selling books direct to readers is the wave of the future in publishing, and more authors will be doing it going forward.
Plus, my team and I have been wracking our brains for months to work out how to provide you with exclusive content and deals and steals for CC MACKENZIE digital books.
However, in order for you to purchase new digital books, I need you to…
Does that sound good to you?
The first book for sale will be the full compilation of my 2017 Ludlow Hall Sneak Peeks. I’ll keep you informed of what’s coming up, too.
AND, I’m in the process of writing new books/series which will be available first in my store. The first book will be Mimi in Manhattan, a fast paced romantic comedy that’s had my editor laughing so hard she cried. (Always a good sign). Mimi is coming in spring 2018.
I can’t tell you how excited we are to be working with the amazing teams at Shopify who take payment, and Book Funnel who send the book to your device of choice. Book Funnel’s customer service is amazing.
Greetings of the season, my lovelies!
Thank you so much for the continued messages of love and support in 2017, it means the world to my team and I.
We have the whole family here, my youngest daughter has just gone down with ‘flu. Bless her. She got it at Christmas last year, too. She’s gutted, but she’s getting plenty of TLC.
So from my family to you and yours, have a wonderful Christmas and may it be merry and bright.
The next Sneak Peek will be in 2018!
Love and hugs,
The Dower House…
Nico Ferranti had escaped to his study with his brother-in-law and best friend, Alexander. It might be considered a cowardly thing to do, to leave Bronte and Rosie to the over-excited mayhem of the fruit of their loins. However, between making sure Ludlow Hall coped with an unexpected dump of the white stuff (apparently a snow bomb had slid further south than anticipated) and helping the twins build two snowmen in the garden, real men needed a break from an overdose of festivities. Festivities which had included, in no particular order, a variety of Christmas tunes all played at the same time, six children wearing a variety of dumb Christmas outfits (including dumb hats with flashing lights) and all off their head on a sugar high after helping Bronte and Rosie ice an endless variety of Christmas cookies—fir trees, snowmen all made of gingerbread. The house smelled of cinnamon, apple sauce and spun sugar. No wonder the kids were mental.
Alexander sank into a fat leather club chair situated near the blazing fire. Since no one was allowed to wear outdoor shoes inside The Dower House—his sister was more a bit anal about dirt tracking through her beautiful home—he wore thick socks, soft jeans and a cosy long sleeved thermal. He accepted the black espresso and a small brandy Nico handed him.
He eyed his friend as he eased his long body into the chair opposite the fire. Wearing black jeans and a dark grey cashmere polo neck, he placed his socked feet on the footstool and lifted his own glass. “Salute!”
“Cheers,” Alexander said. Then he winced at the high whine of an over-tired child. Not his, thank God. Mila was too young to grasp the concept of Santa, reindeer, and presents arriving down the chimney, much to Rosie’s bitter disappointment. At the moment his wife, dressed black yoga pants, a crazy Christmas sweater with a glittering winter scene with flashing lights, and an antler hair band on her head which played ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ on a continual loop. After three hours, and two battery changes, Alexander reckoned he’d earned a break. He winced now as the sound of the love of his life singing ‘I kissed a sexaaaaay Santa Claus’ at the top of her voice drifted into the study from the kitchen/family room. “Jeez. She can’t hold a tune in an empty bucket.”
Nico just grinned. “She is young at heart.”
Alexander placed his glass on the side table and wiggled his toasty toes. “I’ve no idea where she gets the energy from. You should see our house, it looks like a demented Santa’s grotto. Mila just sat there wide-eyed on the sheepskin rug watching her mother wiggle her butt to Elvis crooning about a Blue Christmas. Thank goodness it only comes around once a year.”
Nico cocked his head to listen as Sophia informed her brother Luca that, “If you eat another mince pie you’ll be sick as a bloody pig.”
“SOPHIA! LANGUAGE!” This from his wife at the top of her voice.
Alexander shook his head. “Do you remember the good old days? The days before changing diapers, sticky fingers and drool?”
Nico’s broad shoulders shook in silent laughter. “Si. But I would not change a single thing. And neither would you, my friend.”
When the study door opened very slowly, both men turned to watch a damp curled and pink-cheeked Eve toddle into the room. She wore pink pj’s and since she was still to find her balance, she walked like drunk trying to go in a straight line. She headed for her papa and lifted her arms. “Batman!”
Happy to oblige, Nico sat her on his lap and nuzzled the soft black curls. “Hmm. Someone has had a bath.”
She turned to wrap her arms around his neck and smacked a wet kiss on his cheek.
Alexander had to laugh. “She calls Rosie and me Batman, too.”
Nico gently tickled his daughter. “She does it to make us laugh. Don’t you, cara.”
When Rosie poked her head around the door and took in the cozy scene—the coffee, the brandy snifters, the fire, she narrowed her eyes. “It’s bath time and bedtime and we need all shoulders to the wheel if we want a bit of peace and quite before midnight.
Nico rose to his feet with Eve on his hip.
Alexander stood. “Coming, dear.”
In response, Rosie simply smiled, pressed a button on the Antlers on her head. As ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ began, Alexander groaned long and loud.
Nico turned to look at him. “When will you ever learn that we cannot win?”
Three hours later…
The adults had retreated to the main sitting room. On the hearth in front of the log burner was a white china plate containing two mince pies dusted with icing sugar and a glass of whisky (for Santa), plus four carrots (for the reindeer). The thud from above, had four sets of eyes peer at the ceiling. “That sounded like Sophia jumping off her bed,” Bronte said in a low growl.
Rosie clapped her hands and stood. “Right. That’s it. We’ve tried bedtime stories, Christmas carols and milk. It’s time to bring out the Big Guns.”
She marched out the door and up the stairs, closely followed by Bronte and the men.
Hands on her hips, she stood in the hallway and eyed the three bedroom doors, all closed.
“Want to know what happens to naughty children who are not asleep when Santa comes?” she called out.
A muffled giggle from Sophia’s room had her open the door to peer at the lump beneath the duvet which was her niece. “I heard that, Ms Sophia Ferranti.”
Sophia’s blonde head popped up. “I’m trying to sleep, but it’s too hard.”
Luca, wearing Spiderman pj’s slid into the room. “I can’t sleep either. I’m too excited.”
When Tonio popped his head out of his bedroom door and simply grinned, Rosie folded her arms and put on her fierce face. “If you hear sleigh bells then that means Santa will know you’re not asleep and not leave any presents because he’ll go on to the next house where the GOOD children are asleep and give them ALL the presents.” She shrugged as if she could care less. “So, sleep or not sleep, the choice is yours.”
Sophia thought for a moment as she eyed her parents. “Is that true?”
“Si.” Nico said without a blink.
“Trust me, you don’t want to hear sleigh bells,” Bronte said.
When Sophia lay down and rolled onto her side, and Luca raced into his room and banged shut the door, Nico turned to Tonio. The boy simply lifted his eyes to heaven and closed his door.
The adults waited five minutes and when all was quiet, they trooped back down the stairs.
“Glass of champagne?” Nico asked Bronte and Rosie.
“Yup.” Rosie said. “We’ll give them half and hour and then we’ll bring out the bells.”
Alexander blinked. “Bells?”
His wife turned her big Bambi eyes on him, as if butter wouldn’t melt, and fluttered her outrageously thick lashes.
“But of course. We have a plan. We have sleigh bells. We’ll just let them get warm and cozy and then we’ll sneak out into the garden beneath their windows and jingle the bells.”
Alexander bit his lip. “Why, that’s just a cruel and dastardly trick to play on little children. I love it.”
Thirty minutes later, Bronte and Rosie, dressed for a trek to the North Pole, crept into the garden and once they were in place and hidden by a conifer hedge, they jingled their bells loud and long. There was a muffled cry from upstairs, but then all was quiet. And for good measure Alexander hung out the window and called, “Yo-Ho-Ho!” in a deep voice.
The women returned, cheeks pink from the cold and their eyes sparkling with sheer mischief. Nico poured them their second glass of bubbly. Then he turned to pick up a remote control and pressed the button. The low sound of Bing Crosby crooning about dreaming of a White Christmas filled the room. Not a sound was heard from the bedrooms above.
Rosie made herself comfortable on Alexander’s lap and kissed him.
While his best friend made out on the sofa, Nico pulled Bronte into his arms and took his time to kiss her senseless.
By the time he came up for air, her arms were wound around his neck and her hands were in his hair. He rubbed his nose against hers. “Ti amo, Bronte.”
“I love you, too,” she whispered.
The carriage clock on the mantelpiece began to chime the midnight hour.
“Merry Christmas,” he whispered back.
Dear readers, it’s been a crazy year with much writing stuff not achieved by this author. So things, as the song says, can only get better! From my house to your house— MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!
The Sneak Peeks will return in 2018!
We’re recovering from ex-hurricane Ophelia, which battered Ireland and the west coast of Britain. Ireland go the worst of it, poor souls. The storm brought all sorts of weird weather to the UK; twenty degrees with a hazy red sun that was seriously spooky.
My town on Monday 16th October:
In other news, the lovely people at Amazon Direct Publishing have one of my Ludlow Nights books, BREAK THE RULES, on a deal for two days only. Remember that all of the stories set in the Ludlow Nights world standalone, so if you haven’t tried one then grab T.C. and Sean’s story now. I’m so thrilled readers LOVED this couple’s journey to their happy ever after as much as I loved writing it.
“I loved this book. The people come right off the page and you can feel every emotion. I can tell I will be re-reading it over and over. I will be sharing this with everyone.xxx”
“Absolutely loved this book,it was brilliant I’ve read all the Ludlow books they make you laugh,cry they are so enjoyable once you start to read you carn’t stop till you get to the end.So looking forward to the next book well done CC don’t keep us waiting to long.”
“Another emotional read from C C, once again laughed and shed a tear, loved catching up with other Ludlow characters.”
“This writer keeps you reading and put twists and turns in. She is amazing.”
Here’s the blurb
Sean Kennedy had a simple rule when it came to women—if they were hard work—he didn’t bother.
Why put himself through unnecessary hassle? And then he met a blonde bombshell…
From the moment Sean Kennedy frisked T.C. he captivated her. The look in the bodyguard’s tawny eyes for her was too intense, insanely sexy and dominant. He was a powerful man who towered over everyone. And a man who believed he could have anything and anyone. Despite T.C.’s reservations, she had a night of passion with him. A night which brought the demons of her past into her present and her future.
Demons that have no intention of ever letting her go.
But Sean was a man prepared to fight dirty for the woman he wanted.
And a man who’d never lost a battle—yet.
BREAK the RULES is the third installment of the LUDLOW NIGHTS series. It can be read as a standalone. But, to fully appreciate Sean and T.C.’s story, I recommend combining the reading experience with HIS RULES and HER RULES.
CLICK HERE FOR YOUR FREE COPY – AMAZON
You’re probably all wondering where the hell I’ve been. Well, the bad news is that I’ve been chronically unwell with an arthritis flare, which has seriously sucked. It’s been one step forward and three steps back for months. Pain meds = brain fog. Brain fog = no writing. No writing = a cranky and miserable author. It’s taken months for the flare to burn out. Bleh. To make matters worse, most of my support team are based in the USA and they were impacted by hurricanes, Harvey and Irma. Between my illness and stormy weather everything came to a grinding halt.
The good news is that I’m slowly returning to writing after weeks of binge reading Georgette Heyer’s historical romances. I adore her work. She lifts the spirit. She makes me happy. And you’ll be glad to know that NO RULES is in final(!) revisions before returning to my editorial and proofreading team. Then I do the final(!) fixes. Then formatting. Then on pre-order on all distributors (iBooks, Nook, Amazon) to give readers a chance to grab it for a few weeks before it is exclusive to Amazon.
So fingers and toes crossed, I’ll be back on track soon.
Today, the sneak peek takes place at The Ferranti Hotel and Spa in Lake Como where Bronte and Nico and Rosie and Alexander have taken the children, and Emily as company for Sophia, for the Easter break. Alexander is taking the opportunity to do an inspection of the staff at the hotel. Rosie and Bronte have gone for a spot of retail therapy. Nine year old Tonio is spending time with his Uncle Gregorio Ancelotti learning to sail on the lake.
When Gregorio returned Tonio to the Ferranti villa in the grounds of the hotel, he found a lone Nico relaxing on a sun lounger beneath a vast umbrella in the garden doing daddy duty…
Nico had to smile when a windswept and beaming Tonio raced into the garden followed at a more sedate pace by an equally windswept Gregorio. Both wore sneakers, navy knee length cargo shorts and T-shirts.
When Tonio wrapped his arms around Nico’s waist, he received a knuckle scrub on the head for his trouble. “I can see you had a good time. Your T-shirt is damp.”
“I had THE best time,” Tonio agreed. He turned to his uncle Gregorio. “Grazie, for taking me sailing.”
“E stato un piacere,” Gregorio said in his deep voice. “My pleasure. You did well at the helm.”
“The helm is how I steered the boat,” Tonio explained to Nico. His bright eyes scanned the garden. “Where is everyone?”
“They are in the rose garden playing The Wedding Game,” Nico told him and bit back a smile at the boy’s obvious dismay.
“Not the Wedding Game. I hate the Wedding Game.”
Since Nico had spent most of the afternoon refereeing Sophia and Emily who wanted a very reluctant Luca to be the groom, he felt his pain. “Go and change your T-shirt.”
When the boy left, Nico opened the cool box and turned to Gregorio. “Beer? The afternoon went well?”
Gregorio took a seat on a sprawling sofa which faced the garden and the lake and mountains beyond. The scent of spring flowers filled the air. He accepted the glass of a full bodied red from Nico and took a sip. “Grazie. Si, even though he never stopped talking, he is good company and a natural sailor.”
Dressed down in knee length ivory cargo shorts and a T-shirt, Nico took a seat and stretched out long bare legs. “He is coming out of his shell and has grown very fond of Bronte and she of him.”
“A family setting has been good for him.” Gregorio frowned and turned enquiring eyes on Nico. “What is The Wedding Game?”
Nico gave him a bland look. “Do not ask.”
“I don’t wanna marry Emily. I’ve married her eight times already,” Luca said, and tossed the old black jacket and tie that belonged to Nico on the grass. “And I’m not gonna kiss her again.”
Sophia, wearing tea-towel on her head because she was a nun and in her world a nun was reeligis and could marry a couple. She gave her twin a dark look and jerked her chin. “We played super-heroes with you all morning. You said you would play The Wedding Game this afternoon. Fair is fair.”
Luca got into her face and went nose to nose. “Yeah, but a super-hero didn’t do the kissy-kissy stuff. And Emily can’t stop giggling in my face.”
Emily, the blushing bride, said nothing as she watched from the sidelines. She didn’t like dramas. They made her belly feel funny.
Sitting on the grass, fifteen month old Eve picked up the end of the tie and stuffed it in her mouth, all the while her big brown eyes watched the heated debate.
Always willing to pour oil on troubled waters, Emily picked up a drowsy Jimmy Chew. “I’ll marry the dog. He doesn’t mind kisses.”
Sophia frowned at her best friend. “You can’t marry a dog, for goodness sake.”
The arrival of Tonio had Emily blush furiously and hug Jimmy Chew close.
Tonio scooped up Eve and placed her on his hip. “Papa said to come and get a drink and come out of the sun because it’s too hot to play The Wedding Game.”
“Yay!” Luca didn’t need to be told twice and whooped as he raced across the lawn.
Sophia yanked the tea-towel from her head. “Oh well, I expect it is too hot for this. I wonder if papa will let us have a little piece of our Easter eggs?”
Tonio shook his head. “No. Bronte said no chocolate until after supper time and only if we eat our vegetables.”
Sophia sent him a look of utter disgust. “That’s blackmolling little children.”
“Blackmailing,” Tonio corrected.
“Whatever,” she snapped and quoted her Auntie Rosie. “It’s still against the law of the land.”
“My uncle Ethan,” Emily began in her breathy voice. “Is a policeman. He carries a gun. We should tell him.”
Sophia stared at her very hard. “I don’t want anyone to shoot my mama.”
Tonio jiggled Eve who was doing her level best to yank his hair out by the roots. “I cannot believe you two. Bronte is only making sure we eat the correct food groups so we receive all our vitamins and minerals to make our bones grow and give us a healthy skin. It is not as if broccoli is going to kill you. And then you can have chocolate.”
Emily nodded wisely, popped a kiss on Jimmy Chew’s head. “He’s right.”
Still not looking convinced, Sophia turned to her best friend. “Don’t say anything to your uncle.”
“Okay,” Emily agreed.
After the children had scoffed fresh orange juice and cookies, they decided to play statues, which left Nico and Gregorio to relax and discuss the financial management of Tonio’s vast property portfolio left to him by his late mother. The children were busy with their game. The two men were deep in discussion. No one noticed when Eve, on her hands and knees, powered into the house with Jimmy Chew hot on her heels.
Twenty minutes later…
Sophia and Emily wandered into the house to wash their hands, before mama and Auntie Rosie returned from shopping. It was their turn to set the table for supper. When they entered the kitchen-living-dining space, Sophia stopped dead and her eyes popped from her head.
“Omigod,” Emily’s whisper was filled with awe and wonder.
Sophia raced outside. “Papa!!” Sophia yelled, the panic in her voice loud and clear.
Nico and Gregorio were on their feet. “What is it?”
Sophia’s face was pale. “Eve and Jimmy Chew. Papa, they’ve got… the Easter Eggs.”
Nico and Gregorio and the boys entered to find Eve sitting on the floor with two huge boxes of large chocolate eggs in pieces. The child was covered in head to toe in dark chocolate, 86% fair-trade cocoa. Her cotton romper had been white once upon a time. And Jimmy Chew was heroically licking her toes making her squeal and gurgle with laughter.
“Dio mio,” Gregorio whispered.
Nico swallowed language not fit for little ears. After glancing at the clock, they didn’t have much time, he clapped his hands. “Tonio – go and fill a bath with warm water. Emily – go and get a change of clothes and a diaper for the baby. Luca – pick up the chocolate, foil paper and rubbish and put them in the bin. Gregorio – pour us a drink.” He made his way carefully through pieces of melted chocolate on the floor until he stood over his baby girl. “Ah, il mio bambino, if your mama could see you now she would kill your papa.”
Nico lifted the baby and was immediately covered in black chocolate. Jimmy Chew, heroically licking the floor, was in seventh heaven. Nico could only hope the dog wasn’t sick as a… dog.
Twenty minutes later, Bronte and Rosie strolled through the door with baby Mila in her stroller and her daddy bringing up the rear laden down with bags and boxes.
Bronte surveyed the scene: the dining table was beautifully set, with napkins! And the children were sitting quietly watching the cartoon of Beauty and The Beast, the volume turned low. Probably because Eve was snoozing in her papa’s arms.
She noticed that Gregorio, strangely, seemed riveted on the movie, too. Bronte narrowed her eyes as she studied her husband and baby girl. “Those aren’t the shorts or T-shirt you were wearing when I left this morning. And Eve’s wearing one of her best dresses,” she muttered. When no one looked her in the eye, she folded her arms and cocked her hip. “Okay, what happened?”
Rosie came to stand at her side, her dark eyes dancing. “When the cat’s away the mice will play. What have the mice been up to?”
“It was all Sophia’s fault because she wanted to play The stupid Wedding Game, and then we played statues because I didn’t want anymore kissy-kissy” Luca began. “Which meant we didn’t notice Eve and Jimmy Chew were missing…”
“Missing?” Bronte’s head spun on her shoulders, at bit like a scene from the Exorcist, to stare hard at Nico and Gregorio.
Nico sent Luca a dark look. “Not missing, exactly. The children were playing…”
“And what, exactly, were the two adults doing?”
“They were drinking beer,” Sophia said, tossing a wide-eyed Gregorio and her papa into the fire without a blink. “Emily and I found her and Jimmy Chew eating Easter eggs.”
“Yeah, and you should have seen the big mess they made,” Luca added helpfully.
Bronte simply stared unblinking at the two men sitting on the couch until they wriggled beneath her scrutiny. “I cannot say I am surprised by you, Nico Ferranti. But, Gregorio Ancelotti, I am surprised at you.” And with that she picked up her baby girl and walked out.
Nico stood and turned to his twins. “Do neither of you understand the meaning of loyalty to la famiglia?”
Rosie slid into a dining chair and sat back to enjoy the show.
Sophia, still dressed as a bride, ignored her papa’s outrage, looked him in the eye and lifted her chin. “We’re not responsible. You are the adult here, papa. We’re just little children. You did your best. We all learn from our mistakes.”
“Wash your hands before dinner!” Bronte yelled from the hallway. The children were up and out of the room in about three seconds.
“Phew. Is this what family life is like?” Gregorio wanted to know.
Rosie grinned at him. “It is in this house.”
Gregorio stood. “I should leave. I think Bronte is not happy with me.”
Nico shook his head, put an arm around his shoulders for a man-hug. “Nessun problema. When she yells at you it means she loves you. You are la famiglia. We are Italian.”
For library access, click HERE
Greetings from a soggy and windy Cheshire.
Behind the scenes, H has been working hard on a plan to bring you exclusive access to a reader library of some of my work. We needed a place where readers can download a story/sneak peek/book etc., straight to the reading device of their choice.
There’s no catch and it costs nothing.
Readers here and in my Facebook group have been asking me to put all the Ludlow Hall sneak peeks into a book and I’ll be working on collating the stories with my editorial team during the next few months. Then I’ll place the book in the exclusive reader library where you can download the entire content for free before it goes on sale.
H and I are feeling better after pneumonia (and I pray to God we never get it again). He is waiting for biopsy results and we see his consultant on 13th March, so fingers crossed.
The illness means I’m way behind with my production schedule. I’m hoping to get back on track over the next few weeks. Thank you for being patient and for the kind get well messages. They picked me up when days were dark.
Happy Monday, my lovelies!
This house has been hit by a winter cold bug. It’s not been pretty, but I struggle on. Brain fog hit my creativity for a few days. Soooo frustrating. But, I’m back with a vengeance. Here’s Bronte and Emily’s mom, Grace, having fun with the children from hell.
The Dower House…
Dressed down in yoga pants and sweaters, Bronte and Emily’s mom, Grace, are enjoying an afternoon coffee, while their daughters are playing ‘princesses’ in Sophia’s room. At least, that’s what they think their daughters are doing…
“How’s Jimmy Chew settling in?” Grace asks Bronte.
Bronte grins at a Grace who’s refusing to relinquish a snoozing baby Eve. The baby adores cuddles. “Now we’ve nipped in the bud Sophia feeding him human food, he’s doing well.”
Grace rolls blue eyes, shakes her head. “I don’t know what it is about men and kids, but they can’t seem to help feeding a puppy treats.”
“Actually, the boys have been great. Lucky for me, neither of them give me a moments worry, unlike my eldest daughter,” Bronte says, deadpan.
“She’s a determined girl,” Grace agrees.
Bronte makes a face. “She’s a chip off the old block, her father’s daughter.”
“Sophia’s incredibly good for Emily. Brings her out of her shell.”
“Hmm. Nico and I are praying Emily’s calm common sense rubs off on her.”
Grace drops a soft kiss on Eve’s inky curls. “You’ll have no problems with this one. She’s adorable.”
Bronte’s mouth curves and her emerald eyes go soft. “She’s an angel. More coffee?”
Meanwhile, upstairs in Sophia’s room…
Dressed in pale blue tulle and wearing a yellow feather boa around her neck, Emily sits cross-legged on Sophia’s princess coach bed. She drops a kiss on each head as she cuddles the two boneless pooches passed-out on her lap. “I like the pink tiara best,” she says to a Sophia whose bottom’s up as she rummages in her dressing up box for her special magic wand. “It goes with your pearl beads.”
Sophia emerges, clutching a plastic pink wand with a wonky silver star glued to the tip. She flicks the wand and then points it to the dogs. “Take two dogs and two frogs to bind them well, jim jam jog, abracadabra, we’ve got a magic spell…” She waves her wand around with a huge flourish. Nothing happens.
Emily shrugs, her big eyes anxiously fixed on the dogs. “Well, thank goodness that one didn’t work. I hate frogs,” she says in her high girly voice. She shifts on the bed. The movement disturbs Bubblegum and Jimmy Chew who stretch hugely. They cock their heads when they hear giggling from Tonio’s bedroom. The dogs leap to the floor and trot out the door.
“Hmm,” Sophia says as straightens the corners of the star on her wand. Her pink tiara sits at a crazy angle on her ash blonde head. Her bedroom smells of cherry lollipops and cheap scent donated by Emily’s mama. When she hears more insane giggling from her brother’s bedroom room, she jerks her chin. “Tonio and Luca are up to something. Let’s go.”
The girls clomp in a pair of their mama’s high heels down the corridor to Tonio’s bedroom and arrive in time to see Jimmy Chew barking at something hidden behind Luca’s back.
“What are you doing?” Sophia asks her twin.
Luca gives her huge brown eyes. “Nuthin’. We’re doing nuthin’.”
Tonio clears his throat, grabs a Spiderman pillow from his bed and dumps it behind Luca’s back. “You cannot come in here without permission,” he says in a severe voice to the girls.
Sophia’s eyes narrow on two guilty faces and a Jimmy Chew who’s sniffing behind Luca’s back. “It’s my house. I can go where I like, when I like. What’s behind the pillow?”
“Nuthin’ to do with you, nosy knickers,” Luca says rudely.
When Bubblegum begins to growl and yap at Luca, Emily kicks of her heels and goes to rescue her dog who’s trying to dive beneath the pillow. When she sees what’s behind Luca, her little face goes pale and she slaps her hand over her mouth.
“What is it?” Sophia says. She kicks off her heels and joins her friend. Her face goes milk white…
Meanwhile, downstairs in the family room…
The sound of dog howls and ear piercing screams have Bronte and Grace on their feet to race up the stairs. They burst into Tonio’s room. The boys are pale and wide-eyed. Sophia and Emily clutch each other as they dance on the spot and scream at the top of their lungs. The dog’s growls have Bronte clapping her hands.
“What on earth is the matter?!” Bronte yells at the top of her voice.
A sobbing Emily is in her mother’s arms.
Sophia dances on the spot, her emerald eyes huge. “I did a spell, mama. A frog spell. And it’s come true,” she cries.
“Don’t be silly,” Bronte says.
But Grace’s eyes are like saucers when she clocks what Tonio lifts up his pillow. “Omigod! What on earth is that?”
Bronte shifts Tonio out of the way. Her jaw drops when she sees what he’s hiding. It’s an insect ‘house’ filled with leaves and twigs. “Tonio Ferranti! What on earth is that bug barn doing in my house?” She moves closer, and something inside the bug barn moves. It’s black. It’s huge. And it has long legs. A horrible shiver runs down her spine. “Is that… is that… a spider?”
Not many things give Bronte Ferranti the heebies, but a black spider the size of her fist is one of them.
Tonio heaves a huge sigh and shares a what’s-the-big-deal look with his brother. “Si. I am feeding the frog.”
Bronte clutches her chest. “FROG?!” she screeches at the top her voice.
A sound that makes the dogs bark even louder.
When a huge green toad moves in the bug barn, Grace shrieks at the top of her voice as she hugs a crying Emily and Sophia.
Meanwhile, Nico strolls into the kitchen-family room to find his baby daughter sleeping in her playpen with her blankie. His eyes go wide at the sound of yapping dogs, the high voices of his children, and his beloved bellowing at the top of her voice. He heads for the stairs.
As he pokes his head around the door of the room at the centre of all the fuss, Tonio’s bedroom, he takes in the scene. Dio mio. Seems Tonio has his bug barn in the house. Luca’s bottom lip is trembling. Grace clutches Sophia and Emily to her breast as if saving them from shark infested waters. Bronte’s hands are on her hips, her legs spread and she’s ringing a peal over Tonio’s head.
“Out! Out! OUT!” she cries. “And do not dare bring frogs or spiders or any living thing into this house.”
Tonio makes a face, but he carries the bug barn past a Bronte who takes a step back to give it a very wide berth. “It is only a little frog and one measly spider,” he mutters. Then he stops dead when he spots Nico. “Hey, papa.”
“What is going on?”
“It’s cold outside. We just want to help the frog,” Luca says as the boys troop past him and down the stairs.
Nico gives Bronte big eyes. “Frog?”
Bronte shivers dramatically. “Ugh. Don’t ask. What is it with boys and creepy crawlies?”
Nico flashes a white smile upon all the females in the room. “They are male. They are Italian!”
Many moons ago, when we lived in Nairobi, my son had a bug barn. We’d no idea he was keeping it in his bedroom. He was feeding a gecko bugs of every description. I’m not ashamed to say my screams were blood curdling and could be heard for miles.
Thank you so much for sharing the Golddigger love. This Friday we have the release of Golddigger short story number five, RUBY. And the girl is a pistol. I had the best time writing the story of two incredibly stubborn people. Falling in love can be crazy making and scary. Can Andre win the beautiful Ruby’s heart?
You can grab the story on pre-order on the links below.
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, 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.”
“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.
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!
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.”
Ah, birthdays are wonderful things.