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A Summer Bay Wedding

Guest TelephotoMarigold

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Roman drove for an hour, He had no idea where he was going and stupidly he didn’t check the fuel gauge as he went down long country winding roads. He felt the car stutter and then stop completely. Easing it over to the side of the road he turned off the engine and pulled out the map to try and see where he was. He knew that it was stupid to leave Ella like that but he couldn’t go through that stuff again. He was no longer that person, he told himself trying not to remember the thrill he got when he and Gardy had teamed up, albeit fatalistically. He navigated the map and located the area where he was which made him swear volubly as he was miles from anywhere and no where near a petrol station. To top it off he had no money, no phone and no water. He got out of the car and looked at the state of repair on the road. It was just as he suspected this was not a road used that often. He swore some more and stood considering his options.

He walked round to the back of the car and checked out if there where anything helpful in the boot. He found a pair of Mike’s rugby shoes a picnic blanket and the tools to change a tyre. Even the first aid box had been removed. He leaned back and gave a brief sardonic laugh, before checking the numberplate and making sure that this was his car.

Of all the dumbass things to do. Not only running out on Ella without explaining but to strand his stupid self in the middle of nowhere without a phone and no water. He mentally kicked himself and grimaced that it would be nothing to what Ella was going to do to him when he got in. He pulled out the mapbook again and plotted a course back to Summer Bay and calculated how long it would take him. Then ripping out that particular page he locked the car and set off cross-country. And yes, it served him right that the clouds above where he needed to go were ominously black. He set off at a fast pace.

Rachel sat on the sofa next to Ella and handed her a glass of water.

“Thanks.” Ella said, not just meaning for the drink.

“Just remember what I said, no heavy lifting, nothing strenuous and as much rest as possible over the next few days. I honestly think this was just a bit of stress. It was just one cramp El. “ Rachel’s tone was reassuring. “But to be on the safe side I am going to monitor your pregnancy closely over the next few weeks.”

Ella pulled the throw tighter around her and drank from the glass.

“Where is Roman?” Rachel asked curiously.

“He went out. He was upset over something.” Ella said.

Rachel gave a half laugh.

“When I was pregnant with JJ, Tony was grieving over the loss of his son Jack. It wasn’t a good time.” Rachel confided sipping her drink.

Ella sighed.

“I had a pair of Roman’s Dog Tags and he saw them and flipped.” Ella said biting her bottom lip, a habit from old days.

“Oh!” Rachel said and sighed loudly. “He has told you about Mark hasn’t he?” Rachel said softly.

“I already knew.” Ella confirmed. “I bumped into one of his army buddies Jacko, he told me the whole story. Not that I think Roman even knows that.”

“Well a few years ago when Roman owned up to his part in it and the Army were planning to put him away for years the whole town rallied behind him. We all wrote testimonials about his character and things he’d done since coming to the Bay.”

“He won’t talk about it though.” Ella said.

“I can imagine that it is difficult to come to terms with something like that.” Rachel said.

“Yes. I can look at him sometimes and its like he isn’t even in the same room as me and I know that he’s thinking about those dark times.” Ella confided. “I’m an army brat, my Dad was a bigwig in the army before he died and then my brother was in the army too. I went through basic training myself.” Ella grinned at the look of shock on Rachel’s face at the last statement. “But then they found out I was only 15 and kicked me out!”

“I have to hear more!” Rachel said with a gasp in-between laughing.

“Michael had just joined up and my dad was like so proud of him so I rebelled. I stole someone’s identification and enlisted. I completed my basic training and was about to be assigned to a unit when my parents having found out I wasn’t actually staying with a friend over the school holidays came and tracked me down. “ Ella grinned. “And no Roman does not know that story so please keep it to yourself.”

“Why? I think he would be …” Rachel trailed off “Yeah, I see your point, mentioning the army – red rag to a bull?” she said and saw Ella nod.

“I don’t think he realises that I understand more than he thinks I would. If that makes sense.” Ella said with a slight frown.

Rachel chuckled. “It does to me!” she concurred. “Now I must be off. Just to check no more cramps?” she questioned.

“Nope.” Ella confirmed. “And I promise to take it easy.”

Rachel picked up her cup as she stood up and went and placed it in the kitchen. She said goodbye as she collected her bag and let herself out.

Ella looked at her watch and had a pensive expression on her face. The last time she looked out there were rain clouds heading for the Bay. Where was he? She wondered. Her phone beeped and she picked it up to read a text from Nic to say she was at Geoff’s and if it rained she would stay over. She replied with a quick message and stood and walked into the kitchen to get some food. She didn’t feel like eating but Rachel had prescribed her some anti-nausea medication and she knew she had to feed the baby.

She made herself a dish of pasta with cheese sauce and garlic bread. She saved some for her errant husband and after clearing up the kitchen she went upstairs to bed.

Roman was soaked. The storm had begun with thunder and lightening before the downpour. He scanned the map and calculated how far he had to go. His teeth were chattering and a part of him wished he’ decided to sleep in his car tonight. He forced himself to continue and found his footing disappear as he slipped down a gully made slick mud by the rain. He lay there winded for a moment and looked up at the sky as lightening flashed across it. Pulling himself to his feet he tested to ensure that his ankles were ok and set off running.

Ella put away the box in the back of the wardrobe. She took the dog tags and placed them in the back of one of the drawers. She didn’t think he could look to see if she’d got rid of them but she wanted to take no chances, as far as she was concerned they meant a lot to her and it wasn’t fair to order her to throw them away. And she would take them to her studio in the city when she had a chance so that he would not have to be confronted by them. Yes, she conceded that was sneaky but hey, sometimes a girl had to be sneaky!

She took a warm shower and pulled on a night-dress before climbing into bed. There was still no sign of Roman so she tugged his pillow across to her and snuggled up to it before falling into a deep sleep.

Roman walked silently into the house, He dumped his trainers near the door; and then made his way upstairs and into the bathroom in darkness. He clicked on the vanity light before peeling off his rain soaked clothes and climbing into the shower. The hot water sluiced over his tired and achy body and he let it warm him for a couple of minutes before adding a generous handful of body wash and soaping himself. After he felt clean he turned off the water and grabbed a towel rubbing his hard muscular body dry before wrapping it around his waist and walking into his bedroom.

Ella was curled up in the centre of the bed she had her arms around a pillow that he suspected was his. He didn’t confess that he did the same with her pillow when she was away. He dropped the towel untidily to the floor and climbed in beside her. She snuggled against him immediately and then half-waking she elbowed him in the ribs.

“I’m mad at you.” She told him.

“I know.” He replied. “But hey, I did run through a thunderstorm to get to you that should count for something.” He joked, his voice soft.

She muttered something he didn’t catch because the quilt was half over her head and then turned in his arms and pushed him out of bed.

“What the….” He said.

She came fully awake at the muttered swearword.

“I said, I’m mad at you and you are sleeping on the sofa downstairs.” She told him pushing the hair out of her eyes and leaning on one elbow, looking at him.

He laughed.

“And what do I have to do to sleep up here?” he asked.

“Be someone else!” she muttered. She rolled over in bed and pretended to ignore him.

“I could beg?” he asked with a laugh.

“And maybe I’ll forgive you in a couple of months.” She told him.

“I could give you a back massage?” he suggested.

“Really? And you wouldn’t expect anything else?” she asked.

“Nope. I’ll be your slave.” He whispered seductively.

She turned and looked at him.

“As if!” She muttered. She picked up the pillow and threw it at him. “You’ll need this when you go downstairs.” She said.

“So there is nothing I can say or do that will get me in bed with you tonight?” he asked, moving to the side of the bed so that he could lean over and run a hand seductively down her spine,

She let out a brief moan before reaching out and running an answering finger down his bare torso.

“Now that you mention it…” she paused dramatically. “No!” and pressed the flat of her hand against the hard planes of his stomach and pushed him away.

He tipped backwards at the push and fell back on his knees and burst out laughing.

“Move over!” he ordered.

She laughed and let him climb into bed.

“Oh!” she said.

“Yes that’s right.” He grinned. “I seem to not be wearing anything.”

“Doesn’t mean you are getting anything!” she told him, moving over in the bed away from him.

He reached out and pulled her towards him, moulding his body around hers.

“As long as I have this I think I can manage!” he replied, putting his arms around her.

She sighed and snuggled into his arms. Within moments she had fallen asleep again. He didn’t fall asleep for a long time he was too busy watching over her.

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Roman kissed her awake, letting his hand slowly run up and down her back. She opened her eyes and looked up at him

“No!” she said clearly and pushed at his chest, or at least that is what she meant to do she thought as she caressed him.

“No?” he questioned.

“Doctors orders. I had a twinge last night and Rachel said not to.” She told him pressing a kiss to the side of his neck.

“El why didn’t you tell me?” he gasped.

“Because I was asleep when you crawled in and I’m telling you now. Rachel doesn’t think it was anything to worry about but wants me to take it easy for a while and that includes you keeping your hands to yourself.” She said.

He looked down and chuckled. Reaching down he caught hold of her hands, as she was still touching him, and held them still.

“Uh huh!” he said pointedly.

She grinned and looked at him.

“I’m hormonal what’s your excuse?” she said.

“I’m in bed with a beautiful woman.” He smiled down at her pressing a very gentle kiss to the corner of her mouth.

“Huh!” she grumped.

He smiled and raising one hand he pushed away a lock of hair away from her face.

“I see this gorgeous hair, long and wavy and such an interesting blend of colours. I love the way it feels like silk in my hands. Then there are these sapphire eyes of yours. I never knew that sapphires could be fiery but sometimes yours shoot sparks at me. I can tell if you are sad, if you are angry just from looking into these eyes. I could drown in these eyes.“ He told her in a seductive whisper.

She felt her breath catch in her throat.

He continued. “And these cheekbones of yours. “ he pressed a kiss to one then the other and she felt his hot breath fan her cheeks.

“And your lips are perfect. The colour of roses. Made to fit mine perfectly.” He smiled and kissed her lips before tracing the curve of them with his tongue. “Then there is this chin, and your neck.” He smiled.

“And your freckles across the bridge of your nose that I’m not supposed to notice. “ he kissed the end of her nose. Before claiming her mouth again. She kissed him back passionately her hands roaming over his chest and arms and shoulders and down his back.

“Did Rachel really tell you that we couldn’t?” he asked breathlessly.

She smiled slowly.

“No. I was still mad at you. “ She grinned at him and wound her arms around his neck. “You’ll just have to be gentle with me.”

He kissed her again and moulded her body tight to his. His arms just as tight around her.

Nicole rolled over and felt Geoff stir beside her. She prodded him in the ribs and said.

“What happened to sleeping your own bed?” she asked.

“Well there was a bad thunderstorm last night and I thought you might be scared.” He told her not even bothering to open his eyes.

“Uh huh!” she replied softly, looking at his profile.

“I thought I might be scared?” he suggested.

“And were you?” she asked.

“Would you still marry me if I say yes?” he asked chuckling.

“It depends.” she said.

“On what?” he asked.

“If you were a good kisser. ” she said seriously.

He lent over and placed his lips on hers briefly.

“Well that was nice.” She told him. “But I might need some more demonstrations.”

“Uh huh!” he said.

He pulled her into his arms and pressed her against the full length of his body. Stroking her back he kissed her slowly, warming her lips with his. Her arms wound around him and she touched him everywhere she could reach her breath coming in soft sounding pants as the kisses turned into red hot passion. She tugged up the T-shirt he was wearing and put her delicate hands on the flat muscular planes of his stomach and then moving them slowly up his chest. She wanted to press herself closer to feel him naked against her.

“Nic!” He whispered.

“I know.” She said and rolled over, away from temptation.

He grinned and reached out a finger to her lips.

“This is the way you wanted it remember.” He told her softly.

She smiled at his choice of phrasing.

“Oh I can think of lots of ways I want it.” she said looking at him from under her lashes.

He laughed out loud.

“You are wicked.” He declared.

“Well Father, how about you exorcise me?” she said with a grin.

“How about I dump you in a cold shower?” he suggested instead.

“A good idea!” she told him and sat up on the bed and puled her makeshift nightdress off so that she was naked.

He groaned.

She reached out and ran a finger seductively down his chest. He captured hold of her hand and pressed it palm downwards against his beating heart.

“Have you changed your mind?” he asked seriously.

“No. I want our wedding night to be special when we are together fully for the first time.” She grinned, tilting her head to one side. “Well the first time this time!” she amended. “But I think we should practise to make sure that it’s good between us.” She suggested, trying out the idea.

“You mean everything but?” he asked clarifying.

“Well maybe not everything,” she grinned again, “but I’m sure you can be up for a little petting.”

He laughed and pulled his T shirt over his head then tugged her towards him. She lost her balance and fell against him, both of them laughing.

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“A slice of toast?” Roman suggested.

Ella groaned.

“No!” she said rolling over and pulling the quilt over her head.

“Just one.” He said in a soft voice.

She thrust the quilt down and rolled back.

“I will eat a full fried breakfast on one condition.” She said.

“Name it!” he said confidently.

“You cook it naked.” She told him.

He laughed.

“Not a problem.” He told her confidently.

“I haven’t finished yet! I will eat a full fried breakfast if you cook it naked down at the diner.” She told him with an innocent smile on her face. “Now if you don’t mind I’d like to get back to feeling nauseous over here by myself.”

Roman thought about it.

“Ok if that’s what it takes I’ll do it.” he told her seriously.

“Fine!” she told him. “Off you go.” She rolled over and pulled the quilt up. “Oh and before you get naked you might want to check if its Colleen’s shift. You don’t want her to have a ….” She paused chuckling. “A stroke do you?” she added trying to sound serious, which was only spoilt by her giggling.

He reached over and pulled the quilt down.

“You are seriously wicked.” He told her leaning over and kissing her. “Come on get dressed. You can sit downstairs with me for a bit.” He ordered.

“Bossy….” She added an expletive.

He grinned.

“Yes!” he agreed.

She pushed the quilt away and stood up then walked over to the bathroom. He heard the shower start to run so he plumped the pillows and remade the bed. He walked over and undid the window letting in a cool breeze. He was struck by how fresh the air seemed after a thunderstorm. He picked up discarded clothes and the towel he used last night and took them over to the clothes hamper just as Ella walked back into the room. She peeled off the towel and lay it on the wicker chair in the corner of the room and then opened a drawer and pulled out underwear. He watched this reverse striptease unashamedly. She walked over to the wardrobe and pulled out a pair of tracksuit bottoms noting that they were tight around the waist. She loosened the tie so they were more conformable with a grin on her face, then added a striped T-shirt.

“Pass my watch?” she asked unthinkingly.

Roman took a step towards the chest of drawers and then opened the top drawer where she kept her jewellery and caught sight of the dog tags he had asked her to get rid off.

She looked up at him with frightened eyes biting her bottom lip.

He lifted out the watch and handed it to her without comment and closed the drawer afterwards. She took the watch and put it on but her hand was shaking too much to do up the catch. He walked over to her and did the watchstrap up, then checked that it wasn’t too tight on her wrist. He collected the towel and took it back to the bathroom to hang up.

She walked slowly down the stairs. Neither of them had spoken and she knew that it was impossible for him not to have seen the tags. He followed her and watched as she lay on the sofa. He pulled the throw out and lay it on her lap as she got comfortable. Then he wandered into the kitchen and made her a ginger tea and grabbed a coffee for himself which he drank half of and then put to one side. He took the tea through and moving her legs he sat on the sofa then lifted her legs back up so that they were over his lap. He clicked the remote and put the tv on finding an old black and white movie to watch.

“I think I’ll give Miles a call later and see if we can go get my car.” He said conversationally, feeling like he needed to break the silence.

She sipped the tea and remained quiet for a moment.

“You want to tell him?” she said then.

Roman grinned.

“No. I actually want to climb on top of the surf club and beat my fists to my chest like a bad Tarzan impersonator and tell everyone.” He grinned.

She laughed and wondered if it sounded as forced as it felt.

He turned towards her then and said.

“I can’t talk to you about that stuff El, I just can’t. I need that bit of me not to intrude on this. I have hurt so many people in my life and I can’t…” his voice broke and he stopped talking.

She moved until she was on his lap one leg either side of his hard muscular thighs. She took his face in her hands and raised it fractionally so that he was looking into her eyes.

“Then we won’t talk about it. Nothing is more important than what we have here.” She kissed him and noticed that he’d placed one hand on her belly.

“I love you El.” He told her.

She kissed him.

“I love you too.” She said.

Nicole stood in the doorway and turned to someone behind her and said. “And this is why I never bring anyone home any more.”

Roman and Ella broke apart and laughed.

Nicole walked in.

“Hey, This is Annie.” She introduced the other girl. “She pitched up late last night. Annie this is my stepmother Ella, I’m trying to train her to be evil but they are still in that disgusting honeymoon phase at the moment.” Nicole made introductions. “Annie is Geoff’s sister. “ she went on further to explain.

“Nice to meet you Annie” Ella said.

She looked over at the other girl and immediately felt sorry for her. She seemed to be wearing a beige dress two sizes too big for her and totally the wrong colour, as if she was trying to shrink out of the room.

“Right that is my cue to leave so you lot can discuss the wedding stuff. I’m going for a run then I will look up Miles, and see if we can go get my car.” He said standing. He lent down and gave El a kiss on the cheek.

“You can tell him.” She said with a grin.

He grinned back and pulling the trainers he had discarded the night before he turned to leave. “Nic, can I have a quick word?” he asked.

“Sure.” She said and followed him outside.

Ella glared at his departing back before settling back down on the sofa. She patted the seat beside her and after a pause Annie sat down.

The girl twisted the ring on her finger nervously and looked as if she didn’t know what to say.

“Its great about Nicole and Geoff isn’t it?” Ella said softly. “But it can be hard if things aren’t as they are supposed to be in your own life.” She placed her hand over on top of Annie’s and stopped the girls’ wrestling with the ring, she was making her hand red and sore.

Annie burst into tears and Ella took her into her arms.

Nic walked in moments later.

“Oh.” She said. She had been trying to draw out the other girl all morning with little success.

“How about some drinks Nic?” Ella suggested.

Nicole walked into the kitchen and put the kettle on. She’d known as soon as Ella saw Annie she would be able to say the right thing. She busied herself making drinks and walked back into the lounge.

“Annie has gone upstairs to wash her face she’ll be down in a moment,” Ella said. “And I take your Dad has told you not to let me move off this sofa unless I’m to go upstairs to bed?” she asked with a half smile.

“Something like that!” Nicole grinned. “And then I think he wished me luck and ran off quickly.”

Ella laughed.

She swapped her cold ginger tea for a cup of hot ginger tea and said mournfully. “I miss coffee.”

Annie walked slowly downstairs and joined them. Nicole handed her a cup of tea and pushed a plate of biscuits towards her. She took one and nibbled it slowly.

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Eventually Annie looked at them.

“My marriage is over. The divorce will be through in a matter of weeks.” Annie said trying to sound brave.

“Oh Annie!” Nic cried and moved over to the other girl giving her a hug.

“I’m ok Nicole. It’s just that…” she trailed off tears springing into her eyes. She tugged at the ring and pulled it off placing it on the table next to her empty cup.

“I’ve been trying to do that for days. I married for the wrong reasons and it’s all gone wrong. Now I don’t have a job, or a home or my…” she stopped.

“Anyway you don’t want to hear about my problems.” She told them wiping at her overflowing eyes.

“Nic I think we need a tissue party.” Ella suggested.

The girls looked at her.

Have you never had one?” she asked them.

Annie shook her head while Nic said “No!”

“I am ashamed to be in the same house as you!” Ella said with a laugh.” Right bring me my purse, my phone, a pen and some paper.” She instructed Nic and while the other girl was gone she laid a hand on top of Annie’s and gave it a squeeze.

“I lost a baby once too.” She said softly to her.

Annie looked up.

“Am I so transparent?” she asked with a sigh.

“No sweetie. It just seems that it was more than your divorce and if, as you said you married for the wrong reasons, and knowing Geoff as I do I imagine that you have the same faith?” she said.

Annie nodded.

“So you married for the baby and you lost it.” Ella said softly.

Annie looked as though she was breaking inside, but she looked up wiped her tears and nodded again.

“We can talk anytime.” Ella said just before Nic walked back into the room.

Nicole handed over the items.

“Right then. We need some DVD’s, you need to make them really sad films and a chick flick or two. We need two boxes of tissues; Chocolate, Popcorn, Wine, Something non-alcoholic.” She went through the list. “Now the idea is, we watch the movies with our friends and it gives us an excuse to cry our eyes out.” Ella told them.

Nic grinned.

Ella nodded and looked over to Annie.

“Are you up for it?” she asked her.

Annie slowly nodded.

“Great.” Ella told them. “Now off you two go and get my shopping and I’ll call around to see who is up for it.”

Nicole stood up and took hold of Annie’s hand and pulled her upright. Ella handed over a sum of money for the supplies out of her purse with the list.

As the two girls left she began to use her phone.

“Hello Rachel.” She said.

“Hey El, is everything alright?” Rachel asked quickly.

“Yes thanks Rach, got a question are you busy tonight?”

“Depends.” Rachel said.

“Well how do you fancy a night over here with weepy movies lots of chocolate and no men.”

Rachel laughed.

“I think that could be arranged. How about if I ask Leah too?” she said.

“Cool and Irene if she’s available.” Ella told her.

“Will do. And I hope you are taking it easy.”

“ Between my favouritist doctor and my over zealous husband how could I not be?” she said with a laugh.

“Well I’ll leave you to it. What time tonight?”

“About 7?” she suggested.

“Ok do you want me to bring anything?”

“No I think we have it covered. See you later. “ Ella said and disconnected the call. She then rang Belle and finally Kirsty who both said they could come. She texted Nicole and told her there would be probably be 8 woman there so make sure she bought lots of chocolate!

Roman walked in minutes later and planted a quick kiss on her cheek before saying that he was heading for the shower.

“Hang on!” she called to him when he was halfway up the stairs.


“I need some help.” She said with a grin.

“El, can it wait I need to get a shower I’m ..” he began and she interrupted.

“Very smelly yes I got that already round about when you kissed me. Did a lot for my hormones?” she told him with a smile.

“Oh really?” he asked raising his eyebrows.

“Yes.” She said. “Just such a pity that we have people coming over and I need help in the kitchen.” she finished, standing up and looking at him under her lashes.

He laughed and followed her to the kitchen.

“Ok where do you want me?” he asked.

She looked at him for a moment. A very long moment. Then blushed when he had to repeat the question.

“Ella!” he said trying to sound shocked.

She walked over to him and put both of her hands on his arms stroking them then slid them upwards and wound them around his neck. She leaned forward and whispered seductively in his ear.

“And Rachel said I might get even more demanding…”

He laughed and disentangled himself.

“There is no way that is possible.” He told her.

“In that case I need a couple of salads and whatever you can whip up in the way of cakes or something.” She said turning around and walking through to the lounge.

She ignored his muttered comment of only wanting him for his cooking and stacked all the tea things they used earlier on a tray. She was about to lift it when Roman caught hold of her arms from behind, pulling her against his hard body.

“Yes?” he said.

“I was just about to call you to do it for me honest guv!” she said blushing.

He lent down and kissed the back of her neck.

“I believe you.” He said in a tone of voice that meant he didn’t believe her in the slightest.

She giggled and feeling his arms wrap about her, she lent back against him.

“Yuk!” she said, “you need a shower. “

“Yes I did try to tell you that earlier but you were intent on making me your slave.” He said softly.

She had a sudden image of him in a gladiator outfit and wondered if it were too late to text Nic and ask her to get the film too. What girl didn’t like Russell Crowe she wondered.

“Have you finished in the kitchen slave?” she asked.

“not yet!” he said. “I got distracted.”

She pulled herself out of his arms.

“Well can I suggest that you get back in there now!” she ordered.

“See you just want me because I can cook!” he said picking up the tray and moving back into the kitchen.

“Not at all. I want you for the way you can catch spiders and put them outside too!” she called out him on the way upstairs so she could have a shower before he did!

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Roman found Ella in their bedroom rifling through her wardrobe. She’d pulled out a number of jeans and discarded them. He picked them up and hung them back on hangers.

She stopped and looked at him.

“I never noticed before how annoying that was.” She told him.

“Sorry!” he grinned. “We can’t all be messy people.”

“Not those ones.” She told him indicating a pair of combat style shorts in a pale tan colour. He looked at them and noticed that the stores label was still attached.

“And that is annoying!” he grinned back.

“What that we can change our minds and instead of taking it back we keep it in the back of the wardrobe?” El asked him.

He nodded.

“In that case don’t even go into Nic’s room.” She warned him.

“So what exactly is this destruction in add off?” he asked indicating the two skirts she’d just pulled out and put to one side, on the floor.

“This is your fault.” She told him, looking at from under her lashes.

“Uh huh, I had a feeling it might be!” he said. He waited and then said. “Why?”

“Well if you’d kept your hands to yourself I would have clothes that fit me!” She grinned.

“What already?” he asked walking over to her and pressing a hand on her belly.

“Yes Mister!” she grinned back.

He kissed her gently.

She responded eagerly wrapping her arms about his neck.

“Dammit!” she groaned. She kissed down his neck and pulled him closer to her. Her towel slipped to the floor and landed at her feet. He pulled away slightly and looked down at her.

“Uh huh!” he said. He kissed her a last time and stepped away. “I need a shower and you have guests coming remember.” He waggled a finger at her. “I’ve made you three different salads and some chocolate chip muffins. There is also a cheese platter and I expect you to stay away from the soft cheese.” He told her.

She nodded and then stepped forward and put her arms around him, then standing on tiptoe she placed a quick kiss on his lips.

“Thank you.” She told him, pressing her naked body as close to him as she could get.

“Uh huh, that won’t work either!” He told her. “I can see the bills are going to go down over the next few months with all these cold showers we’ll be having.” He told her, again disentangling himself and stepping back.

She pouted at him before turning back to the wardrobe. She pulled out a T-shirt with a purple butterfly motif on it and threw that on the bed before she found a maxi dress in a black crinkle fabric. She held it up and looked at it before she went to discard it. He caught hold of her hand and guided back into the wardrobe to hang it back up.

“See that’s not hard is it?” he asked.

“Isn’t it?” she asked, turning and looking at him, her true meaning clear to him.

“El!” he said.

“Look, just five minutes I’ll be quick!” she told him.

He grinned as he felt her hands on the waistband of his shorts. He caught hold of them and walked to the door. He heard her sigh and knew she was thinking that he was planning to leave. He turned the key in the lock and then turned and looked at her pulling his top over his head. He walked towards her and picked her up in his arms.

“Ouh!” she said breathlessly.

He lay her on the bed.

“Five minutes?” he asked.

“Four and a half now” she told him.

He bent his head and kissed her, his hands roving freely over her naked body. She responded and tugged his shorts down. He pushed them down his legs and lay naked, his body against hers. She wrapped her legs around him.

“I love you!” she told him.

“That’s good I’m sure it’ll help with the performance anxieties I’m sure to have in the next few months.” He told her tugging her bottom lip between his teeth,

She kissed him.

“Are you telling me that you never fantasised about sex on demand?” she asked.

She ran her hands down his back the way she knew he liked.

“Yes, but I had this thought it would be me demanding it!” he grinned. “Not being used as a sex object.” He told her.

She laughed and then gasped.

“Oh” she said.

He kissed her deeply.

“How long have I got now?” he asked.

“Sorry I lost track!” she said moaning softly as she felt his hands on her.

“Do I have to start again?” he questioned.

She didn’t answer but just smiled.

“El!” he said moaning as she wiggled.

“I was thinking about it!” she told him.

“Uh huh, you can still think?” he said. “I must be losing my touch.”

Nicole brought Annie in. She thought about how to broach the subject of getting her to change out of the hideous dress without offending her. She carried through to the kitchen the party supplies and looked in surprise to see a selection of salads in bowls with covering over them already on the top and a basket of still warm to the touch chocolate muffins.

“Oh!” she said.

Annie walked in behind her,

“Ella’s gone to a lot of trouble.” Annie commented.

Nicole grinned.

“Nope!” she said. “She got my dad to do it. Ella doesn’t cook.”

They heard the shower come on and looked at each other. Nicole blushed.

“It could be innocent.” Annie said.

Nicole shook her head.

They turned round and saw Ella walking down the stairs. She was wearing a long floral peasant skirt, with elastic waist and a white cotton top. She was pulling her wet hair into a rough ponytail.

“Hey.” She said to them.

They both turned to her and looked guilty.

“Ok, did you get really bad films?” El asked them.

“No.” Nic told her. “We just thought you were in the shower.” She finished.

“No that’s Roman. “ Ella told them. Then “Oh!” she blushed. “We do have some self control you know!” she grumbled, after all hadn’t she just gotten out of bed instead of staying in it for the evening, she thought, wearing a wicked grin on her face.

“Now then, I’ve put some clothes on Nic’s bed for you Annie, They are brand new I’ve never worn then I’m sure you’ll want to freshen up.” She told the young girl with a no nonsense tone of voice. “I’m sure you haven’t had a chance to unpack yet.”

“No I haven’t. My room was being used last night.” She said pointedly looking at Nicole who was blushing even more.

“Yes well, I think we should change the subject here.” Nic said.

“Why don’t you two go and get ready and I’ll sort out the rest of the bits.” Ella suggested. She watched the girls go upstairs with Annie looking much brighter than earlier.

She looked in the bags and pulled out the wine putting the white in the fridge to chill. She saw multiple cartons of juice and lots of different chocolates. She tipped them into bowls and put them on the coffee table and then poured out a juice and sat on the sofa, looking at the dvds. She picked out Mama Mia to watch first then Nic had chosen Brief Encounter and Who will look after my Children and another one called Sweet November about a Girl who has month long affairs because she is dying. Great she thought, tearing up at the titles.

She turned her head as Roman walked down the stairs.

“Hey!” she said softly.

“Hey.” He replied. “Aren’t you supposed to cry at the end of the movie?” he asked. “Or at least after watching it?”

She nodded and held her arms up.

“As long as this is just a cuddle and you won’t be attacking my body.” He said.

She nodded again.

“Which part?” he asked.

“Come here!” she sobbed, comically.

He sat beside her on the sofa and held her in his arms as she cried her eyes out.

“I’m not sure I’m liking these hormones much.” He told her.

“Me either” she sobbed.

“What do I have to do to get you to smile?” he asked.

“More sex.” She told him, without thinking about the answer, then blushed.

“Sorry El I’m worn out.” He said.

She laughed.

He pulled away and reached for a tissue and wiped her face.

“Com’on beautiful.” He said.

She looked at him and burst into tears again.

“Ok, what are these for now?” he asked apparently.

“Because you called me beautiful but you don’t want to have sex with me!” she said loudly, still sobbing, just as Leah, Rachel Colleen and Irene walked in.

Roman sighed.

“Of course I want to have sex with you. Just not right at this minute.” He said unaware that he had an audience.

“That’s a bit of a relief!” Colleen said. “I’ve already seen quite enough.”

“There is a group of women standing behind me, isn’t there?” Roman asked not daring to look around.

Ella pulled back and blew her nose.

“Yes.” Ella said.

“How much did they hear?” he asked.

She shrugged.

“Pretty much everything.” Irene said to him.

“Ok then. I’m just going to go to Miles’s and drink a lot of alcohol and pretend I don’t know any of you.” He kissed her quickly. “You ok?” he asked.

She nodded.

“You sure?” he said standing up.

She nodded again.

“El I need to hear you say it.

“I can’t talk because I’m just going to cry again.” She said crying again. “Go!” she told him.

“You sure?” he asked for the final time.

She nodded and pointed to Rachel.

He smiled. “Was the El speak for you’re ok and you have Rachel and I should stop fussing?” he asked.

She nodded smiling.

He bent down and kissed her.

“Love you.” He whispered into her ear then turned and walked away, and out through the front door.

At that moment Nic and Annie walked down stairs. Annie had changed into the new outfit and Nicole had styled the other girl’s hair. There was a black band in it, keeping it back from her face and Nic had also plaited it so that it fell over one shoulder. Nic had also changed into a pair of shorts herself and teamed it with a T-Shirt so that they matched. She nodded at Nic and smiled.

“Hello.” Kirsty called from the doorway.

“Come in.” Ella said. She pulled herself up form the sofa.

“Nic can you and Annie see to drinks for everyone.” Ella asked her, thinking that if Annie had a job to do she wouldn’t feel so self-conscious and was proved right.

Rachel took Ella to one side whiles the others were getting drinks.

“Are you feeling ok?” she asked quickly.

“Yes, no cramp or nausea and I’ve eaten. Aside from crying and….” She blushed and looked around to make sure the others weren’t listening. “I can’t keep my hands off him!” she said.

“Yes well he is a good kisser.” Rachel said with a grin.

“I found that too.” Said Leah, handing Rachel a glass of white wine, overhearing the last comment.

“Yeah!” Rachel said taking a sip.

“Excuse me, but that is my husband you are talking about.” El said trying to look offended. “Is there anyone he hasn’t slept with?” She said grinning.

“Well there was me and Martha and he dated you.” Leah said with a gesture at Rachel.

“Yes but it was only the once!” Rachel said. “And speaking of Martha, she sort of invited herself I hope you don’t mind.”

Ella looked at her for a moment without saying anything.

“I’m sorry.” Rachel said quickly.

Leah looked at them.

“No it’s ok. I need to see her sometime.” She said. Ella turned to Leah. “I only just found out about Lindsay.” She told her. “And it wasn’t Roman who told me.”

“Ah.” Leah said nodding understandingly. She took a drink of her wine and put her hand on Ella’s arm. “We probably shouldn’t tease you about Roman then” she said with a twinkle in her eye.

El laughed.

“I am aware my husband had a past. “ she grinned. “Just not that it was so varied.”

Suddenly she raised her head and saw Martha and Belle coming in.

“Hello!” Ella said quickly and smiled at them. “Nic and Annie are on drinks duty in the kitchen.” she told them.

Ella walked over to the TV and put in Mama Mia. As it was playing the trailers she turned to everyone.

“Ladies, take your seats. Tonight’s entertainment is about to begin!” Ella told them and watched as they took various seats around the room. Kirtsy, Belle, Annie and Nic were sitting on big cushions on the floor that left one space for her she noted. “Now in conjunction with the DVD’s I have ordered a selection of Pizzas from around the district for us to eat. They should begin arriving soon. Can I ask my lovely assistant Nicole to had round these please? “ She handed Nicole a bundle of sheets printed with the names of the Pizza parlours on and a box for scoring them. She gave Annie a collection of markers to hand round as well.

“Now ladies these are not to score the food. We have a solemn duty as woman who will be drinking alcohol, well most of us anyway, “ she grinned, “ then we must check out the delivery boys. Whomever scores highest we’ll call them back and give them a tip!” she said.

Rachel and Leah looked at each over and grinned.

“I’m up for that.” Kirsty said.

Belle chuckled.

“Now you have a column for manners, cute-ness, brain-ability. How smart they are.” Ella explained walking over and sitting down in the last seat. “And then an overall score.”

Colleen looked down at the piece of paper.

“So if they are cute we score them?” she said.

“Yes Colleen! Strewth!” Irene told her.

“Marks out of 10!” Martha said and drained her glass.

“Yes!” Rachel said.

Ella pressed the button on the remote and the film started. As they watched the first delivery arrived. Nic answered the door and started talking to the delivery boy.

“Hi there.” She said, hooking her thumb through the loop in her shorts.

“Hey, I have one four cheese and one meat feast it that right. “ The boy said.

Nic looked over at Ella who nodded then turned to him and flicked her hair over her shoulder.

“Yeah!” she told him.

He looked down her body and blushed, stammering a price. Nicole paid and he left after giving her change.

“Hey Nic, “ Belle called with a big smile on her face. “How about a bit less flirting before they start giving you the money!”

“Oi! Nic said with a grin, showing she was no way affronted. “See if you can do any better!”

“Ok, I bag the next one.” Belle said.

Annie carried the pizzas into the kitchen and Nic got the plates and napkins out of the cupboard just as there was knock at the door.

Belle shot up.

“Watch and learn future sister in law. “ she called to Nic.

Nic stood in the kitchen door.

Belle opened the front door.

“Hey there, just in time we are so really hungry.” Belle said.

“I have an Hawaiian and a vegetarian.” He said.

“Oh great just what we ordered, How much?” Belle said softly.

He had to lean in closer to hear her and found his gaze lingering on her cleavage that had improved with breast feeding two babies, she thought proudly.

He named a price and she handed over the money. She took the menu off the top of the boxes as she handed them to Annie and fanned herself with it.

“It’s hot tonight isn’t it” she said to him.

“Yeah it is. Here how about I put my number on that and if you decide you want any free garlic bread give me a call and I’ll come back." He said to her.

Belle smiled at him as he wrote his number on the menu.

“Thanks a lot. I’m sure I’ll be calling you later!” she told him seeing him out and shutting the door.

Nearly everyone burst into spontaneous applause.

“And that my dear Nic is how you do it…” Belle said taking a bow.

Nic laughed and went with Annie to the kitchen to add the pizzas to the others. She picked up the wine bottles and topped up glassed while Annie brought in the juice for Ella and Irene.

“Thank you Darl!” Irene told her.

Annie smiled.

“Ok, who wants to take the last one?” Ella said.

“I think you should do it El.” Martha said and there was just an undercurrent in her tone.

“Sorry Martha, I’m spoken for!” she said quickly.

“That’s not an excuse.” Martha said and was about to say something else when a knock sounded at the door.

Annie jumped up.

“I’ll go.” she said.

“No its ok Annie, it’ll be my pleasure.” Ella said and let down her hair. She loosened the ties of her blouse and walked over to the door. Tucking up her skirt she kicked off her shoes and then opened the door just a few inches.

“Sorry,” she said breathlessly.

“Hey, no problem.” He said watching as she caressed the door with the leg she had exposed with pulling up her skirt.

She pulled the door open further with her foot.

He gulped.

“Are those our pizzas? She asked, she made her voice low and breathy.

“Er… yeah sure. And here’s some garlic bread, on the house.” He told her.

“Oh that’s great.” She said and pulling the door wide open she fanned herself and loosened the top just a little more. She handed over the money.

“Silly Me. “ she said with a girlish giggle. She moved quickly and placed her hand on his arm.

“How much?” she asked.

He named a sum and she looked at what she given him.

“Well how about you keep the rest as a tip?” she suggested. “In fact I tell you what, there is me here.” She said, touching her hand to her neck. “And my friends, we would love a little fun. Tell me would you be up to taking your shirt off for us?”

He grinned and handed the pizzas over. He reached down to the hem of his shirt and pulled it over his head. Flexing his arms he showed off his muscles. He did a slow turn and winked at Colleen.

“Oh my stars!” Colleen said.

She pulled another twenty out of her purse.

“Here you go I think you deserve a tip!” she told him.

He muttered his thanks and pulled on his top and left.

Ella shut the door behind him.

Nic and Belle looked at each other and began clapping.

“Thank you!” Ella told them. She took a step toward them and felt herself go dizzy. “Woah!” she said.

“El?” Rachel asked quickly.

“Just dizzy.” She said.

Nic moved quickly over to her side.

“Its ok.” She told them “I’m fine. Ladies, how about we grab pizza.” She said and watched them move into the kitchen.

She sat on the sofa and was surprised when Irene handed her a slice of the vegetarian pizza.

“Thanks. “ she told her.

Irene sat next to her with her own pizza and some salad.

“Good job with Annie.” She said. “I was pulling my hair out trying to get the story out of her and that dress.” She said. “You better keep a watch out for Martha, I can’t think what got into her tonight, especially when you have to think about the little one.” She said guessing about aher condition.

“I’m fine.” Ella said, grinning.

The others started walking in and she restarted the film.

The watched it and polished off most of the pizzas. She found herself eating another two slices that Annie bought her. They watched Brief Encounter next and Colleen was the first one to cry! They finished the popcorn and made sort work of the chocolate. She noted that everyone had a muffin. Belle managed to snag two muffins. Then Rachel declares that it is home time and leads people out, ensuring that Martha is one of the first to go.

“Do you want a hand clearing up Darl?” Irene asks

“Yeah, it doesn’t seem fair to leave you with this?” Annie adds. “I’ve had the best time though” she adds.

Ella stands up slowly.

“Its ok. We’ll sort it out tomorrow.” Ella told them. She hugs both of them as they leave.

Nic yawns as she too hugs them.

“Night!” she says and watches them walk away.

Nic closes the door and picks up the bowls off the table.

“I’ve filled the dishwasher, put the remaining food away. So there isn’t anything to worry about!“ she told her with a grin.

“Nic you are a star.” Ella said.

“Right up to bed for you step-mama!” Nic said “and I’ll finish down here. It was a brilliant night.”

Ella yawned and started climbing the stairs. She was tucked up in bed when Roman came in an hour later. She didn’t stir when he climbed into bed but she did sigh and snuggle up to him in her sleep.

Roman chuckled and then fell into a deep sleep himself.

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Roman woke up feeling a little puzzled. He reached out and found the other side of the bed empty. He picked up his watch and saw that it was early, very early. He flicked on the light and looked blearily around the room. He listened for a moment and then heard Ella in the bathroom and it didn’t sound good. He climbed out of bed and pulled on a pair of shorts, before walking into the bathroom.

“Hey!” he said to her.

“Hey yourself.” She said back quietly.

He wet a facecloth and walked over to her kneeling down next to her. He bathed her face and then held her as she bent over the toilet again heaves wracking her body. When they stopped he stood and filled a tumbler and helped her to take a drink. He noted that she was freezing cold again and felt a shiver go through her as she touched the cold glass.

“How long have you been like this?” he asked quickly.

“For about an hour. I tried taking a tablet that Rachel gave me but it didn’t work.” She told him.

He sat behind her in the small bathroom and pulled her tight against his chest wrapping his arms around her.

“I think we need to see Rachel again in the morning, this isn’t right.” He pressed a quick kiss to the side of her head.

“I know.” She said with a sigh. “I just really need everything to go ok this time.” She began to cry softly, nothing like the hormonal storm of earlier.

“El sweetheart.” He groaned and pulled her closer.

She leant against him for a moment then pushed away and started to be sick again. He reached out and stroked her back. Then handed her the glass to take a sip of water.

She drank and waited. She felt him stroking her hair softly, as she became sleepy and lent back against him.

He waited until he felt her completely relax against him and then, lifting her gently he carried her back to bed, climbing in bedside her and holding her close. He stayed awake the rest of the night watching her.

Nicole met Geoff early in the morning. They travelled into the city to look for suits. She was subdued throughout the trip despite his best attempts to cheer her up.

“Geoff what if there is something wrong?” she turned and looked at his profile as he drove.

“Nic, you know I believe there are reasons behind everything.” He said. “Doesn’t stop us worrying or hoping that things will be different.” He told her.

“But how can you have so much faith Geoff?” she asked seriously.

“I don’t know I just do, I just feel it.” he said.

They pulled up outside the first store on the list and climbed out of the car. Geoff walked around to her as she stood on the pavement outside.

“Nic, I know that you don’t feel the same as I do about faith and God, but it doesn’t bother me not anymore. You’ll find your own path and it may one day lead you to church and then it may not. What does make my heart glad is that you respect what I believe and you support me. I could love you for that alone.” He pressed a swift kiss on her lips and then stood back lifting her chin with his hand, raising her face so that he could look into her eyes.

“I know you are worried about Ella and I know that it wouldn’t be fair if she lost this baby but sometime things like this happen for reasons we may never be able to understand.” He told her and pulled her into his arms for no other reason than he needed to hold her.

She half smiled.

“Come on Darling, let’s get you kited out for our wedding. This shop does a nice line in top hat and tails.” She said with a grin.

“I believe I’m with you dad on that one.” Geoff said.

“Yeah ok,” she grinned, “How about a Kilt them?” she asked, “After all you are a Campbell?”

“Nice, er…. That would be the same response as for the Top Hat and tails.” He grinned.

She walked with him into the store.

She looked around and pointed to a display that had a simple black suit on it.

“Hey, That actually looks like something I could wear.” He grinned.

She walked up to it and felt the material and checked out the cut of the cloth. She found herself inspecting the stitching. She turned towards him.

“This is actually good quality. It would last for years.” She told him.

He laughed.

“After what you spent on your dress you’re worried about being frugal now?” he asked.

“Ha ha Geoff Campbell. I’m actually thinking of taking my dress back and getting something cheaper. But I was thinking that Aden is a family man now and he won’t want to spend a fortune on a suit that is only going to last for a year or so.” She smiled at him.

“Wow Nic, You keep managing to impress me.” He told her, pressing a quick kiss on her cheek.

“What because I actually think of other people now and then?” she asked jokingly.

He laughed.

“Well when you put it like that.” He said seriously.

“I know me and thinking about others doesn’t have a long history does it. It’s all right Geoff I know I’m a Princess. But you love me anyway. “ She said a truly Nic comment.

He reached out and caught hold of her hand.

“That I do, Princess.” He said. “Now let’s ask about these suits and how about something fancy for the waistcoats?” he suggested.

“I want to wait for those because I was thinking of matching the bridesmaids dresses to the waistcoats.” She said. She pulled out a picture from her cavernous handbag and showed him something she had torn out of one of her wedding magazines.

“See like this!” She said. “So if could check out what they do here it’ll give me an idea for the bridesmaids.”

“Nic, you have told Ruby that Annie is your other Bridesmaid haven’t you?” he asked.

“Not yet.” She grinned.

“What are you plotting?” he asked folding his arms across his chest.

“No need to come over big brother with me I promise that I will not hurt Annie for the world. But its about time those two sort themselves out.” She stroked his arm.

“Just be careful Nic.” He said, still not convinced.

“I will be.” She said softly. “Now lets sort out these suits.”

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The two police officers escorted Ruby to the check in desk and then through security staying with her until she boarded the aircraft. Neither of the Japanese Police officers spoke English. She flipped them a Peace sign as she boarded the jet to fly back to Australia. She was under orders never to land on Japanese soil again all because she protested against Whale hunting. There was a warrant out for her arrest should she defy that order. She hoped there would be a welcome back in Summer Bay she was homesick.

She sat in economy and clicked the seatbelt shut. So Nicole was getting married and to Geoff of all people. She hadn’t know he’d got it in him to Tame Nicole Franklin. She wondered if the Diner were still the same, and whether Colleen was still in town. She knew that there was a lot of unfinished business for her back in the Bay but she maybe needed a reason to go back.

She wondered if Charlie and Joey were ok, she hadn’t heard from them for a while. They had adopted a little girl not so long ago and so far she had only seen pictures of her niece.

Ruby collected a set of headphones from the friendly stewardess and settled back in the seat to listen to non-stop music while the Jet took her home.

“El,” Roman called softly waking her up. She was sleeping like the dead he thought then grimaced at the analogy.

“Hey!” she said quietly. She eased up off the pillows and moaned as the room spun. Roman reacted instinctively and pressed her back.

“Ok, I think it is a trip to the hospital for you.” He stated.

She nodded weakly and could only watch while he disappeared to fetch a glass of water for her. She sipped at the cool liquid for a moment before her stomach turned on her and she had to race for the bathroom.

Roman followed her.

“Go away!” She told him, bending over the toilet.

“El!” he said softly.

“Please Roman.” She begged huskily holding her hand up.

“Fine, but I’ll be waiting out here.” He said eventually.

He heard the shower go on and she came out 10 minutes later looking slightly better.

“Hey!” he called.

“Hey yourself.” She replied heading into the bedroom. He followed behind and sat down on the still rumpled bed as she started to get dressed.

“You know some men are actually turned on by women taking their clothes off.” She muttered brittle sounding.

“Why don’t you try it one night and I’ll let you know!” he said and then caught hold of her hand.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“Nothing!” she said quickly.

“Don’t lie.” He warned her.

“Roman. Leave my head alone. I don’t have to tell you my every thought.” She muttered and tugged her hand free. She looked at him and sighed.

“Sorry, I’m just worried and I need to focus on the baby at the moment.” She reached out to him.

He caught hold of her hand and pulled her towards him. She resisted only slightly as he lifted her to sit in his lap.

“I’m worried too.” He told her pressing a kiss to her mouth.

She responded putting her arms around him and holding him close before resting her head on his. His arms snaked around her and they sat like that for a long time,

Geoff and Nicole travelled back to the bay in silence. He had to admit that he was worried about Annie. She didn’t seem like his sister and if Nicole was planning on some kind of confrontation then he didn’t want to see Annie hurt anymore.

She placed her hand on his knee.

“I won’t do anything if you don’t want me too, you know. I know Annie was able to talk to Ella about some stuff I just think it would be good for her and Ruby to talk. They used to be best friends.” She said softly.

“Nic.” He started to say something then glanced over at her profile. “Just be careful ok.” He eventually warned.

“I know. “ she said with a sigh.

She reached into her bag and pulled out her wedding planner.

“Now we have your suits sorted, Just got to get my dad and Aden to get fitted, then we have to select a caterer.” She glanced back over at him. “Which would you like a formal sit down thing or a buffet?”

He laughed.

“I get a choice?” he asked.

“Of course you do. I’ll ignore it if it isn’t the same as mine though!” she giggled.

“Buffet” he replied.

“Correct answer!” she giggled again.

“We need to sit down and go through the invites tonight.” She told him.

Geoff groaned.

“I have a meeting tonight I can’t do it.” he said and looked over at her.

“Have you finished your list then?” she asked.

“Yes I have its on the table.” He muttered and focused on the road, as he had to overtake a slow moving vehicle in front.

“Well how about Annie and I work on them tonight? We can get them posted over the next few days.” She suggested.

“Posted?” Geoff asked. Indicating and moving across to the correct lane.

“Yeah, I know most everyone is in the Bay but it would be a nice touch to go through the mail. Like we have made and effort.” She grinned, “I might wait a couple of days before I send Colleens though!”

“Nic!” he warned, trying not to smile.

He pulled off the main road and headed into the Bay.

“What about the cake?” he asked.

“I’ve had an idea about that.” She began and told him her thoughts.

“Sounds good but why keep the top part?” he asked.

She laughed and blushed.

“Tradition. Its supposed to be used at the Baby’s christening.” She said trying not to giggle with embarrassment.

“We haven’t talked about kids!” he turned round and told her, his expression serious. He pulled up outside the Diner and stopped the engine.

She climbed out of the car and watched as he did likewise. Tugging off her shoes she started heading towards the beach.

“You do want them don’t you?” she asked softly once she reached the seas edge.

“Yes I do.” He reached out and caught hold of her hand.

“I look at my dad and Ella and they are so happy and with the baby, obviously things aren’t going well but they were over the moon.” She told him.

“We are not Roman and Ella, Nic.” He warned. “You don’t have a job and I don’t earn a lot. I’ve been asked about going back to college to do courses in psychology.” He began.

“You have?” she asked. “That’s wonderful” and threw her arms around him.

“Ok Nic!” he said, and looked at her. “Perhaps you want to try that without the high heels in your hand.” He said.

“Whoops!” she said and dropped them to the sand.

“Back to the subject – Babies!” she said.

“Yes Nicole Franklin. I would like nothing better than to give you lots of Babies.” He grinned.

“But you think we should wait?” she asked.

“Just for a while.” He told her.

She sat down on the sand and he sat next to her his arm around her. She leaned into him.

“I am disappointed but I understand.” She told him.

He put a finger under her chin and turned her face toward him. He saw a glint of tears in her eyes.

“Oh Nic!” he said.

She lifted up her hand and wiped at the overflowing tears.

“Really Geoff it’s ok. I mean we don’t even have a house and neither of us can cook and this way I’ll get to practice on my new brother or Sister and hey, if they survive then we can talk bout it again.” She told him bravely.

He moved so that he was sitting behind her and pulled her back against his chest. His arms tight around her,

“I didn’t know what it was like to have a family. My mother presented me with a series of stepfathers and up until Ella I never really felt part of a family, maybe that’s what I wanted.” She told him.

“I’m sorry Nic, I should have thought about it more.” He told her.

“No Geoff, you are right. We aren’t in a position to cope with a baby just yet.” She said.

“It might take ages to get pregnant.” He told her.

“Thanks, is that supposed to cheer me up?” she grouched.

“No I was just thinking. If we did start right away it could still take ages.” He said.

“Again, thanks for that, any second now and I’ll start to feel reproductively challenged!” she muttered.

“Nicole. Think about it. If we start right away it still might take a while to get pregnant so we would have a chance to get a place, learn to cook, find a job.” Geoff told her.

“Wait a minute, are you saying what I think you are saying?” she asked, a puzzled expression on her face.

”As long as you don’t go all broody on me Nic, we just take it as it comes,” he said with a smile.

“And you get yourself a job. I know you Nic, you’ll be ok and then if it didn’t happen for a while you’ll start to panic over it.” he said.

“Do I have to promise?” she said quickly.

He laughed.

“Uh huh!” he said.

She laughed and then turned around and kissed him, pressing kisses all over his face. He fell back on the sand laughing.

“Nic, we aren’t starting now you know!” he told her.

She looked down at him and smiled.

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Ella and Roman walked slowly along the same beach. The water was lapping at her feet and she was holding his hand tightly.

He stopped and pointed in the distance and Ella laughed.

“Well they are engaged,” she said to him. “Or are you getting a bit jealous that maybe we are moving out of the honeymoon phase!”

Roman pulled her into his arms.

“I have no doubt that our honeymoon phase is going to last a long time.” He told her placing a kiss on her mouth.

“Yum!” she told him.

“Uh huh.” He grinned. “Come on into the diner for a sit down.” He instructed.

“I don’t think I like you being bossy.” She grumbled.

He grinned at her.

“This isn’t bossy. This is slightly over protective. I’ll give you ample notice of when I shift into bossy.” He told her.

“Oh great I’ll look forward to it.” she replied with a sigh.

“Shut up and let me do the protecting Alpha male thing.” He told her steering her into the Diner.

She laughed up at him.

“You know what I fancy?” she asked him a glint in her eye. “A full fried breakfast!”

“Ha Ha ha!” he said. “You are so funny.”

“Hello Darl!” Irene called when she saw them. Roman steered her to the comfy couch and watched as she sat down. He bent down and placed a quick kiss on her lips.

“What do you want?” he asked.

“Just a mineral water please.” She told him.

He nodded and went and fetched it.

“How are things Irene?” he asked her.

“Quiet. I don’t mind doing s few extra shifts you know!” she told him a glint in her eye.

“Uh huh, does everyone know?” he asked.

“No "someone" hasn’t connected the dots yet!” Irene told him with a lift of her eyebrows.

“That would be why it hasn’t been reported in the paper yet!” he grinned. He carried the bottle through to Ella and then went back to the kitchen to finish the conversation with Irene.

“I take it things aren’t going ok?” Irene asked quickly. “She doesn’t look well.”

“No she isn’t. She’s not able to eat anything and its causing some problems. If it continues Rachel is going to keep her in hospital for a few days.” He told the other woman.

“Poor thing. She must be worrying herself sick.” Irene told him and then added after looking at him. ”You too, from the looks of things.”

“Yes I am. “ he shrugged. He turned and reached into the tall fridge to pull out the ingredients to fix himself a toasted sandwich.

“I’m not quite sure what I’d do if she lost this one too.” He confessed and to his horror found tears in his eyes again. He blinked them away and focused on making the sandwich.

“I’ll give you a few moments Darl!” Irene told him, placing a comforting hand on his arm. He looked at her and nodded.

Irene went and sat next to Ella on the sofa.

“I know I should be cleaning those tables but I’m taking my break!” she said.

Ella laughed.

“Just as long as he hasn’t told you to watch me!” Ella told her.

“I heard that!” Roman grouched form the kitchen.

Irene laughed.

“No Darl I can faithfully say that he didn’t. Any minute now the school will ring the home time bell and we’ll have another rush. I’m taking any chance I get to have a sit down!” Irene explained.

Ella smiled and reached for the water bottle. She felt herself go woozy and tried to sit back on the cushions but it felt as though her body wasn’t responding. She took a breath and then another one, finally sinking back on the cushions.

Irene handed her the water bottle and she took a cautious sip.

She met Irene’s eyes and saw the worried expression.

“Don’t tell him Irene, he’ll just get worried and I know he hasn’t been eating properly. I’ll go home and go to bed as soon as he has finished.” Ella told her softly.

“He’s got a right to be worried hasn’t he?” Irene said to her.

Ella nodded.

“Rachel told me that if I don’t get eating then the risk of miscarriage will go up. And I’ve tried but everything makes me sick. She gave me an injection today to try and ease the nausea. I also have a problem with my blood pressure, which is why I keep going dizzy.” Ella confessed to the other woman.

“Darl, I just want to give you a great big hug right now!” Irene said. “Does Princess Nic know?” she asked.

“No. We talked it over and decided not to tell her. She has enough to worry about with no job and the wedding.” Ella told her. “Actually we wanted to talk to you about something. We know Geoff spoke to you about them living with you but we were planning on giving them a wedding present. We’ve been looking at houses,” Ella began, she held her hand up to stop Irene interrupting. ”via the internet at the moment and we were planning to buy one for them.”

“Strewth!” Irene exclaimed. “Has Roman been scamming the profits behind my back or something?” Irene asked quickly, a grin spreading on her face.

“I heard that too!” he shouted out from the kitchen.

“We juggled our finances a bit.” Ella told her, with a shrug.

“Blimmey Darl, do you want to do likewise with mine?” she asked her.

“Well Roman took out some policy for her when he was in the army, just in case and with that maturing we can afford either a small place or something to fix up.” Ella closed her eyes for a moment and then took another long drink. She felt so tired all of a sudden.

“Hey,” he called to her.

“Hey.” She replied opening her eyes. “Have you eaten?” she asked with a frown.

“Yes I have. And I think you should get home.” He told her.

“In a bit.” She nodded. She turned to Irene and patted the other woman’s hand. “Will you help us find a place for them?” she asked.

“Of course I will Darl, and I really hate to agree with that husband of yours but I think you need to get home.”

Ella laughed.

“Me too, but I kinda like it when he goes caveman on me.” She said with a grin. She held her hands out to him and he helped her to her feet. She wobbled for a moment and felt his arm go around her.

“I’ll give you a call about the thing,” Ella said her voice drowsy.

Roman took a look at her and sighed. He picked her up and carried her out to the car. Ella winked at Irene over Roman’s shoulder and the older woman laughed for a brief second before her frown reappeared.

“Hey we’re home!” he told her.

“Good. Carry me!” she said and held out her arms to him.

He got out and walked around the other side of the car and opened her door. Unclipping her seatbelt he lifted her easily out of the car and into the house. Not even pausing he strode up the stairs and sat her on the bed.

She giggled.

“I must remember that you can do that when I feel better!” she told him.

“El.” He began.

She caught his hand and pulled indicating she wanted him to sit down. He sank slowly beside her.

“I think we need to face up to this pregnancy not going well. We have to focus on Nic and the wedding, I don’t her day spoiled.” Ella told him.

He pressed a gentle kiss to her mouth.

“How about you stop worrying about me and Nic for a moment.” He said.

“I can’t help it I just want this to go ok and if I think about what can happen I’ll be an even worse basket case than I am now!” she told him. “I need you to take care of yourself too. I know you have been skipping meals Mister because I haven’t been eating.” She grinned. She stood slowly and walked over to the chest of drawers and pulled out a long cotton nightdress.

“True.” He said. He stood from the bed and pulled the covers down, watching as she slowly got changed. She climbed into bed and lay back against the pillows.

“Why don’t you go for a run? Or go and see Miles?” she suggested. “I’m ok, I’m going to sleep for a while.”

He pulled the covers up tucking her into bed and pressed a kiss to her mouth.

“How about I get to stay here and watch my beautiful wife sleep?” he suggested instead.

“Yeah, you could do that but all I’m planning to do is drool on your pillow!” she told him with a grin. “Please…” she began and he watched as her eyes drifted shut.

He pressed another kiss to her lips.

“Fine I’ll go see Miles for a coffee.” He said and began walking out of the room.

He laughed when the cushion hit his back.

“Don’t mention Coffee!” she groaned sleepily. “I miss coffee.”

“That’s only because it is the only thing you can cook!” he said softly and caught the second cushion that she threw at him.

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Geoff and Nicole eventually walked into the Diner brushing sand of each other. They were giggling and holding hands.

“Hello Darls!” Irene called out. “You just missed your Dad and Ella.” She said to Nic.

“Is she ok?” Nic asked quickly.

“She seemed ok. I gather she hasn’t been feeling well lately. Picked up a bug didn’t she?” Irene said cryptically and nodded back towards the kitchen.

“Yeah. My dad was a bit peaky too!” Nic said.

“Yeah, well I’m going to be covering a few of his shifts too!” Irene confirmed with a nod.

Geoff laughed at the faces Irene and Nic were pulling at each other.

Colleen walked out of the kitchen.

“Hello you two lovebirds!” she began.

“Hey Colleen. “ Nic said.

“Can we get some coffees please?” Geoff asked her. He kept Colleen talking while Nic and Irene scooted off to a table out of earshot of the other woman.

“How was she, Irene?” Nic asked quickly, “I thought maybe Rachel would keep her in for a bit.” She confessed.

“She’s not doing ok, that’s for certain. I gather that she doesn’t want you to worry about her so you need to stick a smile on your face when you see her otherwise she’s just going to feel worse.” Irene told her.

“I know. I really try. I keep distracting her with wedding stuff and showing my latest designs to her but I just take one look at her and want to wrap her in cotton wool. I would rather go through this instead of her.” Nic said for the first time, and realising just how true that statement was.

“Strike me!” Irene said. She patted the other woman’s hand unable to hug her in front of Colleen without tongues wagging.

“I know Irene. I keep surprising myself. It’s Geoff’s fault his goodness keeps rubbing off on me.” Nic said and then blushed. “Oh you know what I mean!” she said with a quick grin.

Geoff arrived with Coffees and sat next to them.

He winked at Nic.

“I’ve just told her we are having a circus theme to the wedding and she needs to wear a costume. She’s over the moon at the moment and I think she’s planning to come either as a clown or the ringmaster.” Geoff said.

Nic laughed.

“See that’s Ella’s influence on us!” Nic told the other woman.

“Your Dad’s definitely met his match in that one.” Irene said. She stood up quickly and swiped discarded pots from an adjacent table. “Did I ever tell you he used to wink at me from the kitchen?” she asked the girl.

Nic laughed.

“No you didn’t!” she said.

“Well when he first pitched up he was sleeping in his panel van and he was supposed to be my new partner. Well he seemed a very dicey character to me but I was persuaded to give him a month’s trial. And blow me if he didn’t wow everyone with his cooking.” Irene told them. “There was I, still not convinced but he would look at me through the hatch, this was back in the old diner and he would just give me this beaming smile and next thing you know he would wink at me!” she laughed at the memory.

“Yeah, that sounds like my Dad.” Nic sighed. “Before…” she began and broke off.

Geoff took hold of her hand and gave it a squeeze.

“Ella has brought him out of his shell a bit.” Irene said softly. “Anyway Darls I better get back to it before the ringmaster cracks her whip at me!”

Nic took a sip of her coffee and smiled slowly.

“Circus theme? Now why didn’t I think of that?” she asked Geoff.

“Oh no you don’t!” Geoff warned her. “It’s bad enough that your Dad has had to get a mortgage to buy you a dress with making him hire clowns and circus elephants!” he grinned.

She poked him in the ribs.

“Oi, I told you that dress was from Ella. I couldn’t say no it would only have upset her!” she tried to keep a straight face as she said it but one look into his blue eyes and she melted. She laughed out loud.

She pulled out her wedding planner and started looking through it.

“I’ll speak to Colleen about a cake in a bit.” She said distractedly. She looked at him. “Can you remember when I gave Annie a load of my clothes?” she asked him with an embarrassed groan.

He laughed.

“Yeah,” he grinned, “Sorry about losing you that bet!”

She blushed.

“That’s ok I made another one later.” She looked at him straight in the eye. “I bet Aden that I would marry you one day!” she said.

Geoff choked on his coffee.

“You so didn’t!” he groaned.

She looked at him over the rim of her cup.

“No I didn’t.” she said with a sigh. “But I wish I had, can you imagine what I could scam out of him?”

Geoff laughed and found himself reaching out and holding her hand.

“Anyway, I have a tonne of clothes that I will need to sort through before I move out of the house. Do you think Annie will be offended if I offered them to her again?” she asked him seriously.

“I don’t know Nic, to be honest anything you could get her to wear would be an improvement on the Beige dress she seems to be superglued into!” he said.

“You noticed?” she asked him.

“I know I’m mostly clueless about clothes Nic but that I have noticed!” he grinned at her.

“I wouldn’t say you were clueless you liked that black number I used to wear.” She fluttered her eyelashes at him.

He laughed.

“Was that the lace one or the velvet one?” he asked grinning.

“Now I’m really impressed you actually remember two of my favourite outfits!” she grinned back.

“Nic I have to say seriously that you look beautiful in everything you wear.” He looked deep into her eyes and whispered the comment.

She blushed before walking around the table and kissing him slowly and thoroughly. He placed his hands on her waist and kissed her back.

“Have I told you I love you lately?” she said.

“No you haven’t and please don’t call me lately!” he grinned at his own joke.

She laughed and placed another kiss on his lips.

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Ruby collected her cases for the luggage carousel and walked outside to find a taxi. She took a deep breath and sighed. There was nothing like Australian air. She’d been all around the world with Green peace and it was so good to get home. The taxi driver left her at the bus station, grumbling when she made him carry her cases for her and she bought a ticket and boarded the bus heading for Summer Bay. She felt a shiver of excitement about going home for the first time in months and then did a quick calculation in her head, it wasn’t months it was 1 year, four months and 12 days. She had left the day she and Xavier got their Decree Absolute through. The day of her divorce.

She groaned as thoughts of that day entered her head. She had gone to the Sands Hotel and got very drunk then she had stumbled home along the beach, cursing at the full moon. She imagined she had been raving like a lunatic but then she had discovered something worse and more hurtful than the Divorce papers. She shut her eyes, reaching into her bag for her Ipod. She clicked in the ear pieces and tried to distract herself from thinking about the past. She listened to song after song but it was no use.

She’d stumbled into their old house calling him, thinking that even then they would somehow talk and get past this. The house was a mess and she thought about who would do the washing up now she was gone. She walked down the hallway hearing the click of her shoes on the floor tiles. The bedroom door was open and he was in there. She pushed the door wide and saw him in bed.

Tears sprang into her eyes as she remembered. She’d looked on in shock as he sat up and revealed that he wasn’t alone. Annie was in bed with him. She’d screamed at them, seeing only how hurt she was. Then walked out racing back to the beach and throwing up. She’d left Summer Bay the next day and now was her first time back.

Annie had tried to contact her but she refused to answer the phone, she deleted text messages and voicemail and finally returned letters unopened. She’d heard later that Annie and Xavier married. She’s tried to tell herself that it didn’t matter but she knew she was lying. Xavier was her soul mate and nothing anyone could do would change that. Part of her, admittedly a very small part of her hoped he was happy!

She pulled on a pair of large sunglasses to hide the fact that she was crying and listened to all the sad songs she could find on her Ipod so that she could get this out of her system by the time she arrived.

‘Look Out Summer Bay here she comes.’ She thought with a grin.

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