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A Summer Bay Wedding

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Chapter 9 (continued)

Nicole walked into the beach house and saw Geoff sat at the table with a notebook in front of him writing something.

“Hey!” she called.

“Hello” he said cautiously.

“I’m sorry I had a meltdown earlier.”

He looked at her for a long moment.

“Nic, I don’t care when we get married.” He said eventually.

“Even though we aren’t sleeping together?” she asked. “No scrap that. That’s the bridezilla talking.” She sighed, “Geoff I want to marry you but I want it to be so special. I know” she held up a hand to forestall him from comment. “I know that as special as the day is it won’t be as special as the rest of our lives. I also want to look like a princess though.” She continued.

“Did you rehearse that all the over tonight?” he asked in a cynical tone of voice.

She smiled.

“No just in the ten minutes I was outside listening to your Princess Amy-Belle story!” she reached over and picked up the notebook before he could stop her.

“Nic!” he protested. “That isn’t finished.”

She laughed. And patted his hand away reading until the end.

“That’s cool!” she declared.

“Uh huh! Trying to distract me?” he asked pulling her down until she was sitting in his lap.

“Did you book the church?” she said without commenting.

“Yes.” He confirmed.

“Good because Dad and I chose the Sands for the reception.” She smiled at him.

He laughed.

“Why is it when I am mad you always manage to do something surprising?” he asked.

“We also have the invites ordered and the other stationery so we need to draw up a list of people we want to invite.” She ignored his comment again.

“I’ve asked Aden to be my best man.” He said.

She looked at him in surprise.

“Really?” she asked.

He laughed at her.

“Did you think we would have a problem?”

“Maybe. But then again you may have chosen him for a best man but the better person is you!” she said slightly confusedly.

“I want to ask Annie and Ruby to be bridesmaids.” She confirmed.

“Annie will be thrilled.” Geoff told her. “She’s been hinting for a while!”

“So anyway there are 100 invitations to be used up and I know there won’t be a 100 people to invite so I thought it would be a nice touch for the kids to get their own, like Ollie and VJ and Brett and” she paused. “Princess Amy-belle.”

She looked at him as he laughed.

“Well Bridezilla for someone who wants their day to be so special you seem to want others to enjoy it too.”

She looked up in shock.

“Do I?” she questioned. “Sometimes I feel so selfish. Like this morning when Ella went to bed sick instead of coming shopping with me.” She paused again, biting her lip. “And I never even thanked my Dad for taking me shopping and being so great. He didn’t even flinch as he booked the hotel and I know it cost a fortune.”

Geoff put his arms around her and gave her a quick squeeze.

“On top of that he distracted me from panicking when I was having a complete meltdown in the shopping centre. He even had me drive his car.” She suddenly thought about his motives. “He hates my driving!”

Geoff laughed.

“Now that isn’t true Nic.” He paused for effect then said. “We all hate your driving!”

“You!” she exclaimed.

He leaned forward and kissed her.

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Chapter 10

Ella woke up and rolled over. Luckily the room seemed still this morning and not revolve like a fairground ride. She took a breath and tested to see if she still felt nauseous. Nope, she thought, it seemed ok but then she hadn’t tried standing up yet.

“Morning!” Roman said. “Feeling better?” he asked.

“I think so.” She said softly.

“Really?” he asked a teasing note entered his voice.

He walked over to the bed and lay down before looking at her the same teasing note in his eyes.

“Yes I’m fine.” She told him.

He reached down and traced a path down her cheek, turning her head gently toward him. Now his thumb was caressing her bottom lip and she felt her heartbeat quicken.

“Oh!” she said looking him in the eyes.

He lowered his head and kissed her very slowly. She moaned against his lips and lifted her hands to caress his strong arms and shoulders.

He laughed against her lips, his breath hot and sweet and smelling faintly of mint from his toothpaste. She could tell that he had already had a shave too. He lay down on top of her and did a very slow push up making sure his body weight didn’t crush her!

“You like that?” he asked teasingly flexing his biceps under her touch.

“Uh huh!” she moaned as she felt his muscles move against the palms of her hands, she pushed aside the covers and he climbed into bed despite still wearing his trousers.

He kissed her again, his lips gentle but firm on hers only pulling away when their bedroom crashed open.

“Oh sorry!” Nicole gasped. “I didn’t see anything!” she stood and covered up her eyes.

“Er Nic, how about knocking?” Roman asked grumpily, rolling over and sitting up. He adjusted the bed covers.

“It’s just that Rachel is on the phone for Ella.” Nicole held out the receiver.

Ella sat up and held out her hand for the phone.

“Thanks Nic!” she said.

Nicole started to back out of the room but then noticed her Dad getting out of the bed. She gave an Eek sound and turned around, running out and slamming the door.

He laughed as he stood up reaching for his trainers and T-shirt he placed a quick kiss on Ella’s lips.

“I’ll be downstairs!” he said and left her to take the call.

“Hi Rachel.” Ella said.

“Hey, I take it I called at an inconvenient time?” she said with a laugh.

“No” Ella laughed, “but if you’d called ten minutes later I probably wouldn’t have been impressed!”

“I have a problem. My sitter cancelled on me so I need to bump your appointment up to this morning,”

“That’s no problem. When do you want me there?” Ella asked.

“Could you do in an hours time?” she was asked.

“no problem. I’ll see you then!” Ella said.

“Thanks Ella.” Rachel said.

They cut the connection and Ella stood up pulling on a fluffy bathrobe over her nightdress and eased her way downstairs.

She replaced the handset and went into the kitchen.

“Hey!” Roman called to her from the cooker. “Are you up to a little breakfast?” he asked.

She went pale.

“I’ll take that as a no!” he exclaimed and went over to her quickly and helped her into a seat.

He picked a bottle of water from the fridge and opened it before he placed it in front of her. She took a sip and then another.

“Do you think I could get some more of that Ginger tea?” she asked softly. He chuckled with amusement.

“Of course!” He said and went over to the cooker to turn off the heat putting the kettle on at the same time.

“Please tell Rachel didn’t call to cancel.” He said trying not to fuss.

“No she’s bumped me up to an appointment this morning.” Ella told him.

“Do you think you could be pregnant?” he asked eventually.

“I don’t know. I didn’t…” she trailed off as Nicole walked into the kitchen.

“Hey, I’m sorry!” She said. “I didn’t mean to interrupt this morning!” she blushed.

“Or just now?” Roman asked pointedly.

“Oh!” Nic said and stepped back.

“Don’t take any notice Nic your dad is just in a bad mood.” Ella told her. “I have to go get ready for my appointment.” She said to them and stood up slowly.

Roman moved protectively toward her but she held up a hand.

“I’m fine.” She said to him.

She walked up the stairs not noticing the worried look on his face.

Ella sat on the bed in the examination room at the hospital waiting for Rachel to come in. Roman stood next to it, every so often he’d pace the room and look at her. She knew what he wanted, an end to the discussion they had started in the kitchen when she had unwittingly started to tell him something.

Rachel walked in.

“I’m sorry!” she said to them. “Hello Roman.” She said pointedly.

“Hello Rachel. “ Ella said glaring at Roman. “Could you ask him to wait outside please?” she said.

“Wait!” Roman began.

“Thank you for giving me a lift here today and I’ll see you when my appointment is over.” She said pointedly.

Rachel looked at them and then held the door open.

Roman grunted under his breath and left the room. Rachel closed the door behind him and walked over to the bed.

“Ok. I get the feeling that this isn’t going to be a routine appointment.” She pulled up a chair and sat down facing her.

“I’ve been feeling really sick and dizzy.” Ella began and saw Rachel nod. “I don’t think I’m pregnant but I could be.” She blushed under Rachel’s knowing look.

“And why wouldn’t you be pregnant?” Rachel asked intuitively.

“Well,” Ella began. “It’s not impossible but,” she paused and took a breath, “I had a miscarriage a long time ago. And I didn’t get medical help until it was too late. I picked up an infection.”

Rachel nodded but remained quiet, understanding both as a doctor and a woman how difficult this was.

“The infection was treated but I was told that there might be complications if I decided to try for children.”

Rachel nodded again and said. “That’s true. Sometimes there can be lingering problems. I take it you and Roman never discussed this?” she asked wisely.

“No. We got married so quickly and then we.” She stopped and blushed a deep crimson. ”we didn’t bother to use birth control.”

“Ok. First of all let me draw some bloods to send to the lab and I’ll get them to run a pregnancy test. If its negative then I think we’ll start you with some fertility tests.” Her voice was calm and reassuring. “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” she asked.

“I ..er…yes…” she stuttered.

Rachel placed a reassuring hand on her arm.

“I never told him that I had a miscarriage. I didn’t think that it could be a problem after all these years and..” she trailed off.

“And you didn’t want Roman to find out you lost his baby?” Rachel guessed.

“Not only that but …well…” Ella felt herself welling up with tears. “We just said that we would try for children straight away and I never meant to deceive him but I feel that I’ve done just that.”

Rachel stood and took a step toward her. She put her arms around him and gave her a quick hug.

“Lets get some bloods and give you a quick exam.” She said.

Roman helped her back into bed. She looked pale and tired. She hadn’t told him what Rachel had said but he guessed that it was bad. If they weren’t able to have kids then, he decided that it wouldn’t be the end of the world for him. He had Nicole and Mike and Aden. Although he didn’t like to class Aden as his son simply because that meant he had to acknowledge Aden’s two children Brett and Amy-Belle as his grandchildren! It was bad enough that Aden had taught the two youngsters to call him that already!

He took her up a cup of Ginger tea and she indicated that she wanted him to stay. He felt his heart leap into the back of his throat as he sat next to her on the bed.

“A long time ago I had a miscarriage.“ she blurted out.

“Ok.” He said calmly, more calmly than he felt. He took hold of her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

“And there were some complications, I didn’t give them a thought until now. I should have told you when we first started talking about trying.” She said unable to meet his gaze.

“Is that all?” he said, feeling more churned up inside than he let on.

“No. I never had a chance to tell the father I was pregnant.” Ella said taking a breath. Then taking another one. “Until now!”

Roman stood up abruptly as her words sank in.

“You were pregnant with my baby?” he asked his voice very calm but like steel.

“Yes.” She said quietly.

He felt as though someone had just ripped his insides out.

“So lets see if I have all the information.” He said in a cold voice. “You lost my baby and didn’t tell me. You might not be able to have another one. And you knew we talked about having children when we got married.” He knew he should be holding her and telling her it would be ok that they would get through this but he was so angry and so incredibly hurt. He should shut up now, he thought but the words came out of his mouth. “You say you didn’t blame me for what happened to Michael but you must have done to wait until now to tell me that my baby was gone!”

She went a shade paler at his words but didn’t say anything to defend herself.

“I can’t look at you right now!” he said but he wasn’t talking about her he was talking about himself. He stood and walked out of the bedroom and then out of the house. He didn’t hear her call him or see her run to the top of the stairs where she swayed and fell, rolling down the steps to the bottom.

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Roman returned home an hour later. He saw Rachel’s car outside his house and blanched. He opened the door and saw Rachel walking down the stairs. He could tell from the look on her face that something serious had happened.

“What…?” he began to ask.

“Ella had a fall down the stairs. She’s ok. “ Rachel told him.

He went to run up the stairs but she placed her hand on his arm.

“She needs some rest Roman.” Rachel warned him “And anyway Nic is with her. “

He looked at Rachel’s face and knew there was more to come.

“I did a pregnancy test for her this morning,” she told him and he gasped.

What had he done he thought, had he caused her to lose another baby, and how would she ever be able to forgive him.

“You are lucky that it was negative.” A hint of anger in her normally placid voice and with that she left.

He slowly walked upstairs and saw Nicole sitting outside the bathroom. She looked up when she saw him and he could see she had been crying.

“I’m sorry Nic.” He said.

“I’m not the one you should apologise too. She’s taking a shower.” She said.

He straightened up and walked inside the bathroom. She was sitting in the bottom of the shower letting the warm water fall over her down turned head. He peeled off his top and kicked off his shoes before stepping into the shower. He bent down and pulled her to her feet.

“I’m sorry.” He said. He kissed her. “I’m so sorry.”

She looked up at him and he could tell she had been crying, her tears mingling with the drops of water from the shower. He lifted her into his arms and held her tight, feeling her start to sob.

“Please don’t cry?” he begged. “I’m sorry that I didn’t hold you this morning,”

“I hate you.” She said at last but she had stopped crying.

“I deserve it.” he said. “Especially…” he stopped.

“Especially?” she questioned.

“The only time I wasn’t careful with you was the night that Michael died.” He said referring to her brother and his colleague. “And I think I wanted you to get pregnant on some level so that you wouldn’t be able to leave me.”

His words sank in and she moaned in renewed pain. Turning around she flicked the temperature setting to cold and stepped out hurriedly leaving him under the icy spray.

“Ok.” He said. He turned off the water and reached for a towel. “Maybe I deserved that.”

“No!” she spat. “You deserve much more you pig!”

“Ella?” he looked at her questionably.

“How many other woman have you gotten pregnant?” she sneered really really angry for the first time since they got married.

He held out a hand towards her, which she slapped away.

“I mean you tried to trap me with a pregnancy 12 years ago when hey, you already had a daughter that you didn’t even bother to tell me about!” she growled at him. “And then what, there was Martha. Just tell me how many others are out there? Maybe I should check your bank statements to see if you are paying child support to anyone else?” She turned around and marched out of the bathroom slamming the door in his face.

Nic looked up at Ella.

“Come on Nicole we need to go shopping.” She told the other girl.

“Er Ella, do you think you should get dressed first?” Nic asked as she saw Ella start to walk downstairs in just a towel.

“What…?” Ella asked, then “Oh.” She turned and walked into the bedroom. “I won’t be long and if your father has any sense he’ll wait in the bathroom until I’ve finished getting dressed.”

Nicole turned around and saw her dad standing in the bathroom doorway.

“It’s ok Nic I think I heard.” Roman said with a quirky grin, Ella had never shouted at him before.

“Dad, I think everybody heard!” she said softly.

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Ella turned on the radio and flicked through the channels until she found a rock station. She reached into her pocket and pulled out her phone.

“Nic, can you just hold my phone next to the speaker for me please?” she asked her passenger.

“Er sure…” Nicole said.

Ella flicked open the phone that answered the incoming call. She handed it to Nicole who heard her Dad’s voice as she put it against the speaker in the door. She grinned at Ella and then flinched as Ella used the controls in the steering wheel to put the volume of the radio on full. The call ended abruptly Nicole noted and handed the phone back to Ella who had by then turned the radio down low.

“Thank you!” she said to Nic with a wicked grin on her face.

“No problem. I think I will remember that one.” Nic said with a smile.

“Just remember to use it sparingly otherwise they will get used to it and not have the phone next to their ear!” she advised. She indicated and they pulled into the shopping centre in the city. She led Nic to a boutique the other girl had crossed off her list because the wedding dresses were too expensive.

“Ella.” Nicole half protested.

“Remember Nic, don’t get mad..” to be interrupted by the other girl.

“Get even?” Nicole said.

Ella laughed. “No, Get their credit card!” she showed Nicole the wallet she had picked up in the bedroom when she had got dressed.

Nicole laughed.

“Is that why he rang?” she asked.

“I don’t know I was too busy listening to the radio!” Ella said, then “Hang on.” She put her hand in her front jeans pocket and pulled out her phone again. She flicked open the phone then closed it again. “Some people are just so persistent!” she muttered and then clicked the phone to off.

“Now lets go shopping!” Ella said with a grin.

“This shop is way too expensive.” Nicole said fearfully.

“Don’t worry about it we took out a credit card just to pay for wedding stuff. Its fine!” Ella said grinning in a wicked way again.

“You’re plotting something aren’t you?” Nic guessed.

“Yes. But I assure you its fine to go in here and try on dresses.” Ella put her arm through Nic’s and steered her into the shop.

Miles sat opposite Roman on the picnic table at the lookout. He handed the man a large coffee.

“I take it its not good?” Miles said to him.

Roman grimaced and took a long swallow of hot coffee.

“If by it you screw things up each time you open your mouth then no, its not good.” Roman said. “And she has her phone switched off.”

“Hello!” Geoff called. “We had a surprise visitor!”

Roman looked up and saw Aden standing there. He stood and gave him a quick hug. “What the devil are you doing back in the Bay. Not that I’m not pleased to see you!”

“Geoff asked me to be his best man.” Aden said.

“Well I hate to break it too you but the wedding is still 5 weeks away!” Roman said.

“Yeah but we needed to get our house move sorted.” Aden said with an Aden trademark smirk.

“Wait are you telling me you are coming back?” Roman asked with a grin.

“Yeah, we’ve bought Rachel’s old house.” He said.

“Mate!” Roman looked pleased and gave the other man another hug. “It’ll be great to have you back!” Geoff and Aden sat down at the picnic table.

“So anyway!” Geoff began. “You screwed things up?”

“Nicole told you?” Roman asked.

“And Rachel told me!” Aden told him.

“Great who doesn’t know?” Roman muttered.

Aden looked at Geoff and grinned. “I always said she would wise up to him in the end!”

He said as though Roman wasn’t sitting at the table with them.

Miles laughed.

“Mate,” he began, “I think you should get flowers and chocolates…”

Aden chipped in with “and cuddly toys, they love that kind of thing.”

“Especially chocolates!” Geoff said.

Roman sighed.

“I think this is past chocolate!” he said putting his head down on his folded arms.

Aden looked at Miles over Roman’s downcast head.

“If its beyond chocolate the man is ….” Miles began

“Doomed.” All three chorused.

Nicole was crying again. The dress was taffeta and tulle with diamantes and embroidery. But she’d looked at the $12,000 dollar price tag.

“And people really pay this much?” she asked with a sob.

Ella smiled.

“Yes!” she said. She picked up the tiara with the $1000 price tag and handed that to her. Nicole fixed it to her head and gasped.

Ella came up behind her and helped place the matching veil with the $2000 price tag. She looked at the other girls’ eyes through the mirror.

“You do look like a princess Nic!” she said softly.

“I can’t though! Its way too much money.” She said.

“Miss, “ came the voice of the shop assistant, “We do a special pair of slippers for this dress. Its called Cinderella so we have these.” She showed Nic and Ella a pair of shoes that had been designed to look like glass slippers. She took them out of the box and placed them on the carpeted floor.

Nic slipped one foot in then the other and lifted the dress so she could look at them in the mirror.

“Wow!” Ella said. “We’ll take the complete outfit.” She added.

Nicole gasped and then saw Ella grin.

“It’s fate Nic, the dress doesn’t even need altering. Can you package it up for us?” she turned to the assistant.

“Yes of course!” the assistant simpered.

Nic stepped back into the changing room to slip out of the dress.

“Are you ok Nic if I go and pay?” Ella asked.

“Yes I can manage!” she called.

Ella turned and walked with the assistant to the front of the store.

She pulled out Roman’s wallet and picked out his bankcard and handed it over.

“You should be ok with that one but the bank may call my husband to authorise the payment.” She confessed with a grin. “It’s probably best just to run it through quickly before he has an heart attack.”

“I won’t ask what he did wrong.” The assistant said with a grin. She began processing the payment. It went through on the first try and she printed off a receipt for the total of $20,000 dollars. Ella knew that would take out all his savings and max out the overdraft.

She was still grinning a full half-hour later when she pulled up in front of a branch of their bank.

She turned to Nic and said. “The dress is a present form me.”

Nicole looked up confused.

“But I thought you said you had a credit card?” she said.

“We do. But this is something a little different. I used your Dad’s bankcard.” Ella said. “And now I’m going to transfer the money from my account to your Dad’s to cover the cost of the dress. It’ll just take a couple of days.”

Nic still looked puzzled but then she grinned.

“You want him to think you spent all his money?” she said.

“Any second now your Dad will be getting a phone call from his bank manager to tell him!” Ella stepped out of the car and was joined by Nicole as she walked into the bank.

Roman looked at the three men grinning at him and soon laughed himself.

“You are impossible!” he told them. He picked up his cup and took a long drink when his mobile rang. He looked at the display and noted he didn’t recognise the number.

“Hello Roman Harris!” he said when he answered it. He stood and walked a little way away from the group and looked over at them as they exchanged interested looks.

“Yes speaking.” He answered his two security questions and was then put through to the manager of his branch.

“Yes, no that’s fine….. I understand….. No, its ok….. I was aware of the purchase. Thank you for calling. Good bye.” He said in response.

He stood behind Geoff with a thoughtful look on his face.

“Ok spill it!” Miles said.

“Well you know I asked you to buy my coffee and bring it here.” Roman began. “I may need you to buy me a few more from now on!”

“Huh?” Geoff questioned.

“His wallet was missing!” Miles explained.

“Nicole is now the proud owner of a $20000 dollar wedding dress. “ Roman said.

Miles had been taking a drink of his own coffee when Roman spoke and he ended up choking on it.

“I take it Ella had your wallet then?” Miles said when he could speak again.

“Yes. And that was my bank to tell me that I am now slightly overdrawn on my account.” Roman said with a grimace.

Geoff and Aden looked at each other and began laughing. They stood up at the same time.

“Mate, you are on your own I am so not messing with that woman. She knows Belle.” Aden confirmed.

“And I’m on Nic’s side.” Geoff said holding up his hands.

Roman looked at Miles as he too stood up.

“Hey! She knows Kirsty too and I can’t afford any friction!” he said.

The three men walked away together telling each other that they admired the woman for her sneakiness.

Roman picked up his phone and tucked it in his pocket before collecting his coffee cup and draining the dregs he threw the cup away and made his way home. After a moment his sense of humour kicked in and he chuckled.

Nic carried her dress into the house as Ella followed behind with the accessories. As cued by Ella in the car on the way back from the city, she walked up to her dad and placed a kiss on his cheek.

“Thank you Dad!” she said.

“Your welcome!” Roman said dryly. He turned to Ella and said. “Feeling better?”

She smiled. “Much!” she said.

She handed over his wallet and said with an innocent expression on her face.

“I seem to have picked this up by mistake!”

“Uh huh! So you did.” He turned to Nic. “Are you going to Geoff’s?”

Ella chuckled.

“I think that’s code for leave.” She said to the other girl.

Nicole looked at the both of them.

“Ok just so long as you understand the rules, no screaming, biting or gouging and its Marquis of Queensbury!” Nic parodied the boxing rules.

“Nic leave.” Roman said and he lifted Ella off her feet and tipped her over his shoulder in a fireman’s lift and carried her up the stairs. He heard the front door click shut by the time he stepped into their bedroom. He kicked the door shut and threw Ella on to the bed.

She lay there and began laughing.

He moved to lie on the bed and pinned her underneath him.

“Did you have fun shopping?” he asked.

“Yes.” She answered the wicked grin back on her face.

“Uh huh!” he said and kissed her.

She found her arms around his neck and kissed him back.

He traced the outline of her face.

“I’m sorry I hurt you.” He told her.

She looked at him.

“I meant to tell you about everything that happened there just wasn’t time.” Ella sighed. “We got married so quickly.”

“Its ok. We got here in the end.” He said. “I love you El, whether we have kids or not.”

“I know that.” She smiled. She pulled his head down to hers and kissed him.

“I know sweetheart but I should have said that this morning.” Roman whispered against her lips. They continued kissing as they peeled off each other’s clothes. Caressing each other gently.

“Wait.” she cried. “I’m not sure if I want to get pregnant.”

He stopped and looked disappointed. He stood up and pulled on his trousers.

“Where are you going?” she asked.

He turned and grinned.

“I just need to make a trip to buy something and then I’ll be back. Don’t move.” He instructed. “I don’t carry any on the off chance you should know that you’ve had my wallet all day!”

“Just like that?” she asked sitting up and pulling up the sheet.

“Of course. Or is this some kind of test?” he asked starting to frown.

“No! It wasn’t a test.” She pulled him back to bed.

“El?” he questioned.

“I’ve just been convinced!” she said. “Now don’t you have something to do?” she teased.

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Chapter 11

Aden and Belle sat on the sofa after Belle was eventually happy with where it ended up. Well he hoped she was happy because quite frankly his back was sore and he doubted he could move it or indeed another box anytime soon.

“Its good.” She said.

“To be back in the Bay Babe?” he asked with a smirk.

“Yes!” she smiled. “And the kids will know the beach and all their friends and Nanny Rene and Grandpa Roman!” she laughed.

Aden pulled her to him for a kiss, her happiness was infectious he thought.

“They might not have a grandpa Roman much longer.” He said and told her the story of what happened. Just as he finished there was a knock at the door.

“Hey!” Nicole called. “I was going to bake a cake to welcome you back but thought that even though Aden is a doctor giving you food poisoning wouldn’t be nice.”

Geoff handed over a cake box.

“So we went to the Diner and got one instead. Colleen is dying to know who the mysterious people are who moved here.” He looked down at Nic who was smiling.

“I told her it was ex-Russian spies who just wanted a nice quiet life.” She chuckled.

“You have been hanging around with Ella too long!” Belle said. “And tell me there is chocolate on that cake.”

Nic looked at her and smiled.

“As if I would bring you anything else?” she asked feigning being affronted.

Belle giggled and carried the box through to the kitchen as Geoff and Aden sat on the sofa.

“How’s it going?” Geoff asked him.

“Not too bad but I swear that if I see another box it will be too soon” Aden smiled. “You and Nic thought about where you are going to live?”

“No not yet.” Geoff looked amused.

“What’s that?” Nic asked. She walked over to him and handed him a slice of cake while Belle was doing likewise for Aden. She sat on a chair next to them whilst Belle took the last space on the sofa.

“A place to live.” Geoff said.

“I thought we were going to come and live here?” Nic said with a grin.

“Cute Nicole!” Belle said raising her eyebrows.

Whilst Aden chuckled and said. “One Princess in the house is bad enough! Amy-Belle won’t answer to anything else.” He glared at Geoff and added “Now.”

Nic smiled and prodded Geoff in the ribs. He looked a bit bashful as he pulled out a Notebook from his back pocket. And handed it over to Aden.

Aden opened and looked at it. He read the first couple of paragraphs.

“Hey!” he exclaimed. “You did this?” he asked. He passed it to Belle who looked as if she were debating whether to put the cake down on the nearby coffee table or not before she took it and had a read.

“This is great. Amy-Belle will love it!” she said eventually.

“Geoff did the story and came up with the idea I just helped with some of the illustrations.” Nic said and they could tell she was proud of Geoff.

“She’ll be back from my mums tomorrow she’ll adore it.” Belle said. “Only thing is now you have to come up with one for Brett.”

Nicole chuckled.

“He’s working on it!” she confessed much to Geoff’s chagrin.

“But getting back onto the subject of where we are going to live. I honestly don’t know.” Nicole said, “I suppose we might have a chance of staying at the beach house. Things would be different if I’d got this cool job in Yabbie Creek because then we could have saved up a deposit.” She smiled at Geoff.

He reached out and took hold of her hand.

“I’ve already asked Irene.” He confirmed.

Nicole chuckled.

Belle finished her cake and looked at the other woman. Is it possible that she had really grown up so much? Belle thought. Which of course was followed by how could she get Aden and Geoff to leave so that she could ask about the dress and have more cake.

“What was the job?” Belle asked eventually.

“It was for a boutique. They have a chain of 30 across NSW and they promote in house designers.” Nic told her and recognising the light in Belle eyes she went on to discuss clothes for the next 5 minutes, pretending not even to notice that Geoff and Aden excused themselves and went for a walk to the surf bar. She stopped and then said. ”Go ahead.”

“That was good!” Belle acknowledged. “How did you know I wanted to talk about the dress?” she asked.

“Well it was either that or another slice of cake and if you had to include the boys then the slice would have to be much smaller. “ she grinned. “Either way I win because I can talk about the dress or eat more chocolate!”

Belle took the plates to the bar in the kitchen and Nic sat the other side whist she cut a slice of cake.

“The dress is beautiful. I started to cry when I put it on and then I started to cry again when I saw the price tag! It makes me look like a princess from an old time fairytale book. Ella made me get it but honestly its so expensive Belle. “ She smiled. “I feel greedy for wanting it!”

“How are Roman and Ella? Have they made up yet?” Belle asked.

“I think so,” she said and blushed a fiery red colour. “My Dad kicked me out and carried her upstairs. She taught me this neat trick though!” Nic said and told Belle about the radio and the phone.

Belle laughed.

“Beats mine. I used to put the washing machine on when I knew Aden was talking a shower so that it would take all the hot water and leave him in the cold!” she confessed.

“I was going to ask because Geoff has Aden for a best man I was wondering if the children would like to be unofficial attendants?” Nic said clearing up the last of her cake.

Belle looked up in surprise.

“I plan to have Ruby and Annie as bridesmaids but I thought Amy-Belle would like the chance to wear a pretty dress.” Nic explained. “And then of course include Brett. He could help Aden.”

“Nic that is so nice.” Belle walked around the breakfast bar and gave the other girl a hug.

Aden and Geoff walked back in at that moment.

“See Aden I said they were eating the last of the cake!” Geoff said.

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Geoff and Nicole walked slowly from Aden and Belle’s new home to the beach house. They were holding hands and every so often would stop and kiss. It seemed to be taking forever to get there, Nic thought, but what a pleasant way to do it.

They walked in and Irene was sitting at the table, she was talking on the phone and she looked up and smiled.

“Speak of the devils Darl I’ll pass you over.” She said into the phone and then to them “It’s Annie!”

“I’ll take it!” Nic said and she took over the phone as Irene got up and walked over to the far side of the room.

“Hey Annie, Its Nic!” she explained. “I want to ask you a really big favour.”

“Ask away” Annie told her from the other end of the line.

“Will you please be one of my bridesmaids?” Nic said.

“Of course. But this isn’t because I hinted to Geoff is it?” Annie agreed in one breath and then showed off her insecurity in the next.

“No! I want you and Ruby to be my bridesmaids and I’ve thought nothing else since just after Geoff asked me!” she said trying to reassure the girl. “Well that’s not entirely true sometimes I have thought about chocolate.”

She heard Annie chuckle.

“So is that a yes?” Nicole said.

“Of course it is.” Annie told her.

“Well we need to set up a time and date for choosing the dresses and everything. I’ll text you shall I?” Nic said.

“Well the thing is Nic, I’m sort of coming home for a bit. I was just talking to Irene about it.” Annie said hesitantly and slowly.

“Ok sweetie, “ Nic said softly, suddenly suspecting there was more to the story. “Do you want to talk to Geoff?” she asked.

“No!” Annie exclaimed.

“Sure thing. Not a problem shall I say goodbye for you?” she asked covering for the other girl. She saw Irene look at her out the corner of her eye.

“Please.” Annie said very quietly.

“Ok I’ll see you soon Annie and take care won’t you?” she said then “Bye love!”

Nicole hung up the phone and gave a quick nod to Irene to show that she knew something was wrong and then smiled at Geoff.

“Now all I have to do is get in touch with Ruby!” she said bringing his focus back to the wedding. “Irene have you had something to eat because we were thinking about Chinese?” Nic asked her.

Geoff looked puzzled for a second, they had talked about having a Chinese but then realised someone would have to go out to fetch it.

“No Darl, and to be honest I didn’t feel like cooking tonight after working today!” Irene said.

“Well I think that’s sorted. Geoff will you please be a darling and fetch us our dinner?” she asked him with a smile.

Geoff disappeared moments later dispatched with their orders.

“Annie told me very little before you even start!” Irene said.

“I gather its something big though. Do you think she’s leaving her husband?” Nicole asked. “Because I know Jai still has a thing for her.”

“Strewth! Are you trying to get everyone married off?!” Irene asked with a chuckle.

“I can’t help it Irene, I’m in love with the most amazing man and he’s swept me off my feet!” She chuckled in response, knowing that there was a silly love struck expression on her face. “Just you wait until I line someone up for you.” She half threatened.

Irene laughed.

“I also want to thank for telling Geoff that we could come and live here. It’s a fantastic offer Irene. Thank you so much!” Nicole told her and walked over to embrace the other woman, she also placed a kiss on her cheek.

“Are you turning me down with that soft-soap?” Irene asked, pretending not to notice how grown up Nicole suddenly appeared.

“Not at all, Mrs Roberts Ma’am!” She said cheekily. “I just want you to be aware of what you are getting. I’m untidy, I can’t cook, I use up all the hot water and I don’t have a job at the moment so I’ll be under your feet all the time.”

“Tell me again why I proposed?” Geoff asked walking in the door at that moment.

“Hypnosis. El taught me it. And don’t think you can get out of it either!” Nic told him.

He smiled at her.

“You two are daft as each other!” she said. “I might just take my dinner upstairs out of your way!”

“No chance Irene, you need to sit with us. Have you seen Geoff try and use chopsticks?” she asked and hooking her arm though the other woman’s she led her back to the table.

Geoff looked over at them and smiled.

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Ella smiled at Roman and ran a teasing finger down his chest.

“Stop!” he ordered. “I’m exhausted!” he grouched.

“I’m sorry, did someone say stop?” Ella laughed and started tickling him.

He grabbed hold of her hands and rolled them both over, pinning her arms above her head.

“Now what was it you were trying to say?” he asked her.

She looked at him with a smirk on her lips.

“I was saying...” she paused for effect ”…who was it that said stop?”

Roman leant down and kissed her, trailing kisses down her neck and across her collarbone to the hollow at the base of her throat. He kept one hand pinning hers above her head while the other one familiarised itself with the sweep of her stomach before caressing her hip and round to cup her buttock in his hand. She responded by lifting her leg and rubbing her foot up his calf.

She heard him moan and smirked.

“You are wicked!” he accused her with a laugh. He raised his hand and spanked her playfully.

“Come on, I’m starving and I know you haven’t eaten for ages.” He told her.

She made a moue of disappointment but let him pull her up from the bed. She pulled on a fresh pair of panties because she noticed the pair she had been wearing earlier were now dangling from the light fitting, and topped it off with one of his T-shirts. He laughed and pointed out that it was on the wrong way round, as he pulled on a pair of faded jeans he’d found in the back of his wardrobe.

“I’m sure you’ll take it off me later!” she commented with a shrug.

He held out her bathrobe.

“I’m fine.” She told him.

“Put it on.” He instructed.

“Stop fussing.” She said grumpily, but could tell from the light in his eye that she wasn’t going to win. She accepted the bathrobe and pulled it on, muttering something uncomplimentary under her breath.

“El please. “ he said.

“I’ve been taking care of myself for a good many years Roman.” She said haughtily.

“Yes, but now that’s my job so I’d appreciate it if you were to let me do it!” he told her and smiled, expecting her to smile at the humour.

She pushed away the hand he’d placed on her arm.

“El?” he said puzzled.

“I really want you to stop fussing over me.” She said folding her arms across herself.

He walked to the chest of drawers across the room and took out a T-shirt and pulled it on, slamming the drawer shut after. He turned back to her and saw that she was crying.

“El?” he said and walked over to her. He tried to take her in his arms but she shrugged his touch off.

“You should have told me.” She said eventually.

“What?” he asked patiently, although he felt far from patient at the moment.

“About Lindsay.” She said.

“About?” he began to say then stopped. He thought back to earlier today and her comment about getting other woman pregnant. “El please. “ he said finally not really knowing what to say to make this better.

“Why did I have to learn about it from someone other than you?” she sank down to sit on the bed.

He walked over to sit beside her.

“Yes, I can imagine that hurt but I don’t think this is just about that I think that we have had a lot going on today.” He said calmly. If only he felt calm, he thought He put his arm around her and wouldn’t let her move away from him. “Tell me about what happened Ella?” he asked.

“No.” she shook her head, fresh tears falling. “You don’t deserve to know about it. You weren’t there. “

“Ella, honey, I know. And don’t you think that if I’d known I wouldn’t have done everything I could.” He pulled her onto his lap and cradled her in his arms. “You are so strong to have coped with taking care of Mike and Jennie and not only with losing Michael but losing our baby too.” He kissed the top of her head as he felt her begin to cry harder. “Maybe we did get married too quickly because we didn’t get the chance to say some of the big important stuff before we were living together.”

She sobbed harder.

“Hey!” he said. “That doesn’t mean that…” he stopped. He caught hold of her face in-between his hands and raised her face to his. He used his thumbs to wipe the tears from her face. “I love you El, and I want you as my wife. You have made me so happy.” He told her looking deep into her tear-drenched eyes. “Except perhaps right now because you are kind of scaring me. I don’t know if I can say the right thing to you.” He added softly.

Her lips moved as though she was saying something but no words came out. She caught hold of his hands and pushed them away from her then stood up and walked away from him into the bathroom.

“Great!” he said to himself. ”You handled that really well Harris!” He walked slowly down the stairs and into the kitchen where he poured himself a large glass of wine and then sat down at the table in the back patio. He sipped the wine slowly feeling completely helpless.

He looked up and saw Ella standing in the doorway. He held out his hand to her and she walked over and took it. She sat next to him on the little seat, curling up so that the bathrobe covered her feet. He put his arm around her and pulled her close. She held out her hand for his glass and he let her take it and drink, watching as she wriggled her nose at the taste. She hated red wine but she always took a drink of his. She handed back the glass and pretended not to notice his smile.

“You scared me.” He told her.

“I don’t know where that came from. One minute I was really happy and the next I was so sad.” She explained. She reached a hand up to his face and turned his head towards her. Leaning up she placed a kiss on his lips.

He put the glass on the table and pulled her tight against him kissing her deeply. She wound her arms around his neck and rested her head on his shoulder.

“Your not going to start crying again are you?” he asked softly.

She sighed.

“I don’t think so but who knows what will happen tonight!” she said snuggling against him and pressing her lips to a special spot on his neck.

He chuckled softly.

“I think we better get you fed before you start anything else!” he groaned.

She flinched at the mention of food and felt an unbidden rush of nausea run through her.

“El?” he questioned.

“I don’t think I want anything to eat.” She said and carefully put her feet on the floor.

“Sorry sweetheart you need to eat something even if its just a cracker.” He stood and pulled her to her feet so that she stood next to him. He tugged her hand and pulled her into the kitchen after him.

“Sit.” He instructed and walked over to the fridge taking out a bottle of water and handing it to her.

She lifted the lid and took a long swallow before placing the bottle on the table watching as he pulled a packet of crackers from out of a cupboard. He placed a couple on a plate and put them in front of her. She picked one up, knowing that he wouldn’t accept her not eating. She took a small bite and swallowed. The saltiness seemed to settle her stomach and she was able to eat both crackers. He placed another on her plate despite the shake of her head.

She glared at him but he just sat opposite her with his arms folded across his chest and she eventually picked up the cracker and ate it.

“Thank you.” He said.

She took several long drinks of water feeling it soothe her throat.

“Now go up to bed and I’ll be up soon.” He instructed.

She lifted her chin and a fiery look came into her eyes.

“Please” he added with a grin standing up.

She stood and placed a kiss on his cheek as she walked through the lounge to the stairs. She turned to say something and suddenly crumpled to the floor in a dead faint seeming in slow motion. He watched horror stuck and shouted out her name.

“Ella!” he cried running towards her. He cradled her gently in his arms and pushed her hair from her face checking she was still breathing. He lifted her up and placed her to lie on the sofa. Her hands were so cold he thought. She had felt so cold all day. He reached for his phone in his pocket before remembering it was upstairs.

He took the stairs two at a time and flipped open the phone and dialled as he ran back down the stairs.

Rachel answered on the third ring.

“Hello.” She said.

“She collapsed.“ he blurted. “She just crumpled.”

“Roman?” Rachel questioned. “Wait I’ll be over in a few minutes.”

He dropped the phone without disconnecting it and went and knelt beside her.

“Come on El.” He said stroking her hands and face. “Wake up love.”

Rachel found them five minutes later. She let herself in and walked over to the sofa. Roman stood and stepped away to let her examine her.

“Has she eaten anything today?” Rachel asked.

“Just some crackers, just now. She’s had plenty to drink. I don’t think she ate anything else.” His voice broke with emotion.

She pulled out a stethoscope and checked her heart and breathing, then checked her blood pressure.

“Ok, I’m pretty sure this is just a faint. “ she confirmed. “Everything seems normal.”

Ella started to open her eyes, issuing a sick sounding moan. She eased up and looked up.

“Hey there.” Rachel said to her. “Welcome back. Do you think you could try to sit up? Roman could you get her a glass of water?” she sent him out of the room.

“What happened?” Ella asked.

“You fainted.” Rachel said. “I want you to come in for a full check up tomorrow.”

“Ok. “ Ella said and managed to sit up.

Roman brought through a glass off water.

“What do you think is wrong?” Roman asked.

“Well we won’t know more until we do some tests it could be a virus, which is most likely or it could be stress. “ Rachel told them.

“Or it could be something serious.” Ella said.

“It could be, but I think we need to rule out the simple things first before we start jumping to conclusions. “ Rachel reassured them. “Now how do you feel?” she asked her.

“I feel ok.” Ella confirmed.

“No sign of dizziness?” Rachel asked her.


“Ok then. I will leave you to it. If anything happens between now and the morning I’m only a phone call away.” She said and picked up her bag and walked out closing the door behind her.

Ella placed the glass on the table and held out her hands to Roman. He pulled her upright.

“Ok?” he asked.

“Yes. “ she replied. She stood on tiptoe and pressed a kiss to his cheek and turned and walked slowly up the stairs. He stood at the bottom and watched her before reaching down and collecting his phone from where he’d dropped it, a worried look on his face.

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Ella and Roman walked into the examination room and waited for Rachel to come in. Ella sat on the bed with Roman in the chair beside it. They had not talked this morning, or at least had not talked about anything specific. She could tell Roman was nervous and tense and although he had held her all night he had treated her like delicate glass. On the one hand she thought it was very sweet how protective he was but on the other she was ready to slap him if he asked if she were ok one more time.

He smiled at her and looked as if he were going to say something when the door opened and Rachel plus another woman walked in.

“Good Morning.” Rachel said.

“Guess this is my queue, I’ll be outside.” Roman told her pressing a quick kiss to her lips before leaving the room.

“How did you work that magic?” Rachel asked referring to the docile way Roman left the room.

“Well you know how soldiers sense danger?” Ella said with a smile. “I reached the point about an hour ago that if he asked me if I were ok one more time I was going to hit him and I think he knows it!” she confessed.

“Right then we’ll get started. I want to introduce Cally. She works in our lab downstairs. I want to take some more bloods for testing.” Rachel said.

Ella nodded at the other woman and said to Rachel. “Didn’t you already do blood work the other day?”

“This is why Cally is here. Apparently there were some mix ups in the lab. We just want to confirm what we think has happened.” Rachel said and smiled.

She walked over to Ella with a covered tray and proceeded to take the samples. Handing them over to Cally.

“I’ll have the results for you in 15 minutes Dr Holden.” Cally said and walked out.

“Now how have you been feeling? Any more dizzy spells?” Rachel asked as she took her blood pressure.

“Nope.” Ella said.

“Nausea?” she was asked.

“Some this morning but I had some ginger tea and it seems to have settled.” Ella confirmed.

“Good good.” Rachel said. “Have you noticed any other symptoms we should be aware of?”

Ella thought about it then said. “Does a highly changeable emotional state count?”

“In what way?” Rachel asked.

“Well one minute I’m fine then I’m either really angry or crying.” Ella confessed starting to frown.

“Almost hormonal?” Rachel asked with a smile.

Ella looked up at the last question.

“Ok spill it what do you know Dr Holden!” she said.

“Only that one of my 80 year old Alzheimer’s patient got told he was pregnant yesterday. His name was similar to yours and the lab must have switched samples. That’s why Cally who manages the lab is redoing the tests now!” Rachel said. “And here she is.” Rachel added as she heard a knock at the door “Come in.” she called.

“Here are the results Dr Holden.” She said handing over a sheet of paper.

“Thank you Cally.” Rachel called as the other woman turned and left. She looked down at the paper and saw the result she expected. The HCG levels were high.

“Congratulations.” She told her.

“I’m pregnant?” Ella asked.

“Yes.” Rachel confirmed. “I would like to do a quick scan and just check everything is ok.”

Ella looked up with tears in her eyes.

“I’m really pregnant?” she asked.

“Yes.” Rachel said and took hold of her hand to give it a squeeze.

“Roman.” She said.

“You want him to come in?” Rachel guessed.

Ella could only nod.

Rachel walked out to the waiting area and saw Roman standing looking out of a window.

“She would like you to come in.” Rachel told him and watched as the other man paled.

“Is everything alright?” he asked but knew Rachel wouldn’t tell him.

He walked into the room ahead of Rachel and saw Ella sitting on the bed in the same position where he had left her, tears were falling from her beautiful blue eyes. And he could feel his stomach sink with dread.

“Hey!” he said softly.

She looked at him and placed his hand on her stomach.

“We’re going to have a baby.” She said to him.

She looked up and saw the expression of joy on his face.

“Really?” he asked.

She nodded.

He picked her up of the bed and kissed her.

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Nicole sat on the beach looking at the want ads. She was desperate for a job now and she would do anything. Well, almost anything, she amended crossing out a telesales job that sounded ever so slightly sleazy. The current plan was that after the wedding they would move in with Irene, but if as she suspected Annie was returning home for good, then it would be great if they could move out and find their own space. It would seem a bit cruel to inflict newlywed behaviour on Annie if she were to split form her husband.

Once she had a shortlist of jobs to apply for she packed up her things and made her way home. As soon as she was inside she looked at her phone and noticed a text message from Ruby. She must have been too lost in thought whilst down on the beach not to hear her phone beep. She clicked open the phone and read the message.

“Happy to be BM. Now in Japan but Bk Sn. Let u no when cu sn luv rubes” Nicole deciphered the text speak and texted Geoff to let him know.

She went upstairs and took a quick shower before sitting down at the table to phone about the jobs. Out of a list of twenty that she phoned up for she only got one interview and it didn’t sound too promising.

She put away her notes and pulled out her wedding planner. She had to review the list of things to do. She and Geoff were drawing up separate invite lists and would look at them together tonight, before making a final selection. She needed to choose a cake and see who were the best people to organise the catering. She’d had an idea regarding the cake. She thought she would get Colleen to make a chocolate cake that would be for the kids and Belle; and would go as the middle tier. Then a large square one on the bottom for the adults and probably also Belle and then the top one would be a smaller version that she would keep. Mental note, remind Belle not to touch the top one.

Then there were the gifts. She knew that she and Geoff had both discussed people making donations to charity rather than formal wedding gifts but they would need so much stuff if they were to set up a home together. She chewed on a fingernail while she pondered it and on a separate piece of paper she wrote a shortlist of items, Kitchen stuff, towels, bedding, furniture, microwave (or they’d starve). There was no need for a full set of saucepans, (as they wouldn’t ever be used!) but things like cutlery and plates and cups would be good.

Of course, she nagged herself, if she had a job then she could start buying some of this stuff herself! She was still doodling when Roman and Ella came in.

“Hey!” she called. “Ella, how are you? What did Rachel say?”

They walked into the kitchen and looked at each other. Ella nodded at him.

“Nic, We have something to tell you?” Roman began.

Nic looked at them.

“Its serious?” Nic asked with a gasp.

“Nothing like that love,” Ella told her walking over to her and sitting on the chair next to her. Nicole sighed.

“Are you sure because Geoff and I can postpone the wedding? We don’t want to add anymore stress.” Nic said.

Ella looked up at Roman and saw how proud he was of his daughter. Of course he’d told her of all the stunts Nicole used to pull but he said she’s grown up into a lovely young woman. And Ella could certainly agree with that.

“Well Nic it’s like this, you’re about to be a big sister.” Roman said at last.

“Get out!” Nicole screamed and launched herself at Ella. She enfolded the other woman in a bear hug. “I can’t believe it!” she whispered. “Congratulations!” she then flushed as the realisation that for Ella to be pregnant it meant that her Dad had actually had sex. “Congratulations Dad!” she said not quite meeting his eyes. She stood up and gave him a brief but embarrassed hug.

Ella smiled at him.

“So when are you telling Mike? And can I tell Geoff? Oh you’ll want to turn my room into a nursery. “ Nicole said without pausing for breath.

“Telling Mike this weekend when he comes home. Yes you can tell Geoff but no one else please. And we might start looking for a new house with a bit more room.” Ella answered. “Oh and Nic?” Ella said.

“Yes?” she said.

Ella held out a copy of the scan that Rachel had taken.

Nic looked at it and burst into tears.

“What’s the matter?” Roman asked quickly.

“Nothing. I’m just happy!” she told them, grinning too. Roman opened his arms and Nic went into them. He kissed the top of her head.

“You’ll still be my Princess you know!” he told her.

Nic lifted her head and looked up at him, then held out her hand to Ella.

“Com’on Step-mama Family hug!” she said with a laugh.

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Roman went to find Ella. She was sitting cross-legged on the bed with a small red box in front of her criss-crossed legs. She had a pensive look on her face.

“Hey!” he called.

“Hey yourself!” she said back. She held out her hand and he walked over to the bed and sat next to her.

She took a deep breath and opened the box. A scent of violets was released into the room. She lifted the layer of tissue paper and he saw the contents finally. He had a strange sense of Déjà vu and realised that the box was the one she had had all those years ago in Afghanistan.

She lifted out a jewellery box and opened it to reveal a gold cross on a chain. She handed it to him

“This belonged to Jennie. She gave it to me when I first went overseas.” She told him.

She pulled out a pair of identification discs on a long silver chain and smiled pulling them over her head.

Then she opened a lace handkerchief and showed him the pressed flower she had saved.

He chuckled as he recognised it as one he’d picked for her the day after he met her. He remembered the ribbing he’d got from his men for picking flowers whilst on patrol.

She put it to one side and then pulled out an envelope, her hand not quite steady.

Roman closed the jewellery box and placed it carefully into the box.

“We don’t have to do this!” he told her.

She smiled at him.

“Yes we do.”

She opened the envelope and took out the contents. A coil of ribbon ran out un-snaking on to the bed covers. He looked at it seeing the white ribbon with little yellow ducks on it. He found that it seemed to be blurring before him and he realised that he was welling up with tears. He picked up the ribbon and cradled it in his hand, wrapping it around his fingers.

She pulled out the scan and handed it to him. His hands were shaking as he took it form her. He turned it over in his hands and read out loud the writing on the back.

“Baby at about 8 weeks.” He turned it again and looked at the front. It was just like the scan they had gotten today, he thought. He handed it back to her.

“When I found out I flew out to see you. Because there was a tribunal about the death of my brother they wouldn’t let me hop on an Australian transport so I flew to England then on a C130 and finally a chopper.” Her voice was calm as she continued. “I saw you but didn’t get a chance to talk to you. So I waited. Only,” she paused. “Two days later I miscarried and they flew me out of there without being able to tell you. I was ill for a while afterward, but Jennie collapsed and was taken into hospital and I had no time to deal with it or to contact you.”

He turned away from her sitting on the edge of the bed looking down at the floor. What had he been doing, he thought, wallowing in self-pity when she’d needed him.

“It wasn’t anyone’s fault it just happened. I was fit and my doctor cleared me to make the trip.” She added. “They tell you this wonderful phrase when you lose a baby.” She sighed. “They say it just wasn’t mean to be. Oh, of course you hate that saying but then you know it has some truth about it.”

She pushed the box out of the way and moved over to him to wrap herself around him, her arms around him and she pressed her cheek against his back. She felt him take a deep breath.

“Roman.” She said softly.

“I’m sorry. “ he said.

“Its ok. It really is. I never blamed you.” She told him.

She moved off the bed lifting up the box and placing it on her dressing table and then closing the bedroom door. She walked back towards him and lifting his head she bent down and kissed him softly on the lips. She pulled his hands up and placed them on her stomach.

“We’ve been given another chance.” She told him.

He raised his eyes to hers at last and saw the radiant look in them. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her down onto the bed beside him. Kissing her deeply he moulded her body to his.

“I love you.” She told him.

Roman pealed off his shirt and held her close pulling away when he felt the metal of the identification discs press into his chest.

“Sorry!” he muttered and pulled away.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“The discs.” He said. “Are they Michael’s?” he asked finally.

She tugged them off and handed them to him. He traced his finger over the name and read his own name on them.

“Why?” He asked eventually.

“Because they were a part of you.” She answered puzzled.

He dropped them into her hand as though they were poisonous.

“I am not that person anymore.” He growled. He stood up and pulled on a vest top.

“Roman?” Ella asked puzzled.

“Get rid of them.” he ordered. He walked over to the bedroom door without turning around.

“Where are you going?” she asked. “What’s going on?” she tried again.

“Get rid of them.” He said again.

He strode out of the room and down the stairs and then through the front door.

Ella clutched the discs in her hand and curled up on the bed as she began crying. She remembered doing this once before many years ago and had a strange feeling of déjà vu. She suddenly gasped as she felt a cramp start low in her stomach. Pressing her hand against it she forced herself to lay flat and breath deeply and evenly without panicking. After a couple of minutes the cramp passed and she continued to lie flat waiting to see if it were to start up again.

Finally confident that she was ok she sat up slowly and reached for her phone.

“Hello!” Rachel answered

“Rachel, it’s El, can you come over?” she said trying not to cry.

“Of course. I’ll be there in 10 minutes. I have to drop the twins off with Tony.” Rachel told her.

Ella cut the connection and lay back down on the bed and waited.

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