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A Summer Bay Wedding

Guest TelephotoMarigold

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Nicole and Geoff walked outside and climbed into the car. He started the engine and slowly reversed out of the parking slot and turned around heading for the beach house. He could see that Nic was still worried about Ella.

“What did Irene have to say?” he asked eventually, unable to do so in the diner.

“Just that she wants us to not worry about her. “ Nic told him.

“But you are going to aren’t you?” Geoff asked with a quick grin.

“Of course. You are going to worry about Annie!” she replied back.

He chuckled.

“I suppose you are right.” He said.

“I know that I have a mother but Ella came around and after she and Dad said they were getting married she asked me if I were ok with it. I know now that if I said anything she would have backed off and waited until I was fine with it.” Nicole told him seriously.

“Hey, you never told me that.” Geoff said.

“I was a little embarrassed. I mean I was like an adult and she really cared about my feelings. It made me feel like …” she broke off. “Like someone cared about me in a way my mother should have done.” She looked over at his profile and noticed that his jaw was clenched.

“Hey! I’m ok Geoff. I found my Dad.” She reached out and put her hand on his knee. “And Natalie isn’t the best mother but she has tried.” She told him.

They pulled up outside the beach house and climbed out of the car. He quickly walked round to where she was standing and then he took her in his arms.

“I love you Nic.” He told her.

“Oh Geoff, I love you too.” She told him her voice husky.

He kissed her deeply pulling her close to him and wrapping his arms tight round her.

“For what its worth Nic I think you are going to be a wonderful Mum to our children.” He said seriously.

She looked up at him with tears in her eyes before thumping him on his arm.

“Ow!” he muttered. “What was that for?”

She shook her hand out.

“Stop making me cry otherwise people will start to think I’ve gone soft!” she said crossly.

He laughed.

“Did you hurt your hand?” he asked.

“Yes, have you been working out again?” she asked.

“Only a little bit. Helps with the frustration!” he grinned at the slow blush that spread over her face.

“Well I think I can help with that!” she told him softly moving closer to him until she was pressing herself against his toned body.

“You mean you’re going to come down to the Gym too?” he asked innocently.

“Geoffrey Campbell!” she muttered and turning quickly she marched into the beach house casually flicking her long blonde hair over her shoulder with a dismissive hand as she did so.

“Hello!” Annie called to her.

“Hey Annie, It’s a lovely day outside!” Nic greeted the girl. Had she not unpacked yet she was in that beige dress again! Nic thought.

Geoff picked up Nic’s handbag from the car and followed her inside.

“Hi Annie!” he called to his sister, “I still can’t get used to you being back.” He told her with a grin. He walked over to her and kissed her on the cheek

“Geoff!” Annie muttered wiping her cheek. “What was that for?”

“Well I’m happy and I’ve missed you.” He told her with a grin.

He handed Nicole her handbag.

“We also want to ask some favours too!” Nicole said and poked Geoff in the ribs as if that would get him out of the silly mood he seemed to be in.

“Anything.” Annie said quickly. She stood from the sofa and walked over to the table.

“Well Geoff here has to go out tonight. He says its for a meeting but I think he’s just meeting up with Aden and going for a drink so he can get out of doing the invites with me.” Nicole explained. “So anyway, will you help me?

“Of course I will.” Annie replied quickly. “What was the other thing?”

“Well you might get offended but seriously” Nic paused. “I need help sorting through my wardrobe. I have a tonne of clothes that need a new home.” She said with a quick grin.

Annie self-consciously put a hand down her dress.

“I mean that you don’t have to take them all. But I have like stuff I’ve never even worn.” She said to the girl.

“Actually Nic,” Annie began. “I would like to help you. Its time.” She said cryptically. She stood up and went upstairs to her room.

Geoff looked at Nic.

“Is that a good sign?” he asked.

Nicole shrugged.

“I think so. Now I need your list.” She told him.

He picked it up form the side and walked over to her. He pressed a quick kiss to her lips.

“Thank you.” He said softly.

She knew that he meant thank you for caring about my sister and blushed.

“She’ll be my sister soon you know.” Nic said.

She looked down at the list and saw one name on there that seemed to stand out to her.

“Do you really want to invite him?” she asked quickly.

“Darren Hughes?” Geoff asked. “Yeah sure. I know you didn’t like him much Nic but he was a mate.” Geoff confirmed.

Nic chewed on a fingernail and nodded slowly. She seem about to tell him something when they saw Annie walk down the stairs wearing a pair of black shorts and a cream blouse. She held the beige dress in her hand and walked into the kitchen. Picking up a pair of scissors she started cutting the dress up in bits until it could never be worn again. She looked up at Geoff and Nic and saw that they were not asking questions or being judgmental.

Nicole opened her arms after she’d finished and Annie walked into them and started to sob. Geoff walked over and embraced both girls.

“Its ok Annie. We’re here. We won’t let you be lonely again.” Nicole said to her, tears falling from her own eyes. “We love you Annie.” She told the other girl.

“Yes, Annie we love you so much.” Geoff confirmed.

She looked up at both of them.

“I lost my baby.” She said finally.

Nicole wiped tears form the other girl’s cheeks.

“It’s ok to grieve for that loss honey, but you have us to help you now.” Nicole said. She didn’t know where the words came from but she hoped that they were the right ones.

“I know. I’m sorry that I shut you out.” She said, looking at Geoff as she spoke.

“Annie, I love you. You are my family and part of me. I’m sorry if you thought I would judge you or not be there for you. “ Geoff said.

Nic could tell from his voice how emotional this was for him and felt her heart beat quicker as she thought she wanted to mend this so that these two were ok. She had never known such an overwhelming feeling of love before.

“No Geoff, I never thought that, I just cut myself off from everybody.” Annie said.

“Hey, you’re here now and you are with us.” Nicole said. “We love you baby sister.” She said and saw Annie give a small smile.

Geoff looked at his watch and kissed both of them.

“I’m sorry I have to go.” He told them. “Are you going to be ok?” he said to Annie.

She nodded.

“Thank you Geoff. I am. I have my sister looking after me.” Annie told him bravely.

He pressed a quick kiss to her head and another one to Nic before racing out of the house.

“Hey, if I’m your sister that means you get to be adopted by Ella.” Nicole told her.

The other girl laughed.

“I think I already have been.” Annie said quickly.

Nic smiled.

“Right then. Come one lets go to mine and get these invites done.” She told her with a frown after looking at Geoff’s list again.

“Is something wrong Nic.” Annie asked her.

“No it’s nothing. Just counting numbers!” she told her the half-truth. She took hold of Annie’s hand and led her out of the house and over to her place.

They found Ella in the kitchen wearing a bathrobe and looking in the fridge.

“Hey.” She called to the girls.

“Hello Step Mama!” Nic called.

“I’m trying to decide if I want something to eat.” She told them.

She picked up a bottle of water and then went and sat at the table.

“But your Dad seems to have bought healthy stuff that needs cooking.” She told them with a quirky grin.

“Where is he? I didn’t think he would leave you alone.” Nic wondered over to the fridge herself and pulled out a bottle of water. “What would you like Annie?” she asked the other girl.

“Do you think I could get a soda?” Annie said softly.

Nic handed over a can of cola and then reached for a glass passing that to the girl.

Annie sat down at the table.

“I sent him out while I had a nap. I think he is with Miles.” Ella told them.

“I can cook something.” Annie offered.

Ella smiled.

“Nonsense. I can cook some things. I just can’t decide what I want.”

“Ella, since when can you cook?” Nic asked. “Mike told me his first words were Egg fried rice!”

She turned to Annie.

“In case you don’t know. Mike is my baby brother.” She told the girl. “He is at boarding school during the week.”

“He’s staying there this weekend. I think he had a falling out with Ollie.” Ella told her.

“Well how about something like Cheese on toast?” Nic asked. Naming the one thing she could cook. “Are you hungry Annie?” she asked her.

“Yes, a little bit. I …” she began and then looked up in shock. “I actually haven’t eaten today.” She said. “And now I’m starving.” She confessed and laughed as the mention of food made her stomach rumble.

“Maybe I’ll call Dad?” Nic said quickly.

“I’m still in shock that your Dad not only has a daughter that can’t cook but married me knowing the only thing I can make involves a microwave!” Ella grinned.

“Funny that’s what I keep wondering myself!” he said from behind them.

“Will you stop doing that!” Ella exclaimed.

He walked over to her and pressed a quick kiss to her cheek.

“Hey! Where’s mine Daddy?” Nic asked cheekily. Roman grinned and went and kissed Nic on the cheek too.

“We’ve decided to adopt Annie too.” Nic and Ella said at the same time.

“Snap!” said Nic with a grin.

Roman grinned and bent and kissed Annie on her cheek as well despite her blushing.

“Now then what were you going to ring me for?” he asked

“We need food and well, the stuff you buy needs cooking.” Ella grinned.

He raised his eyebrow at her and she smiled and gave him a quick nod.

“So what do you want?” he asked folding his arms across his chest.

Ella looked at him quickly then blushed and looked down.

“Nic?” Roman asked smirking,

“I don’t know. Pasta?” she asked looking at Annie who nodded.

“Fine. Why don’t you go and sit in the other room while I cook your dinner.” He grinned.

The girls left and Ella stood up slowly.

“Are you really ok?” he asked softly.

“I think so. I am hungry which is a good thing. Normally only thinking about food is enough to set me off.” she told him.

He pulled her into his arms and gave her a quick hug.

“I love you.” She told him pressing a quick kiss on his lips.

He smiled.

“That’s only because I can cook.”

“Well there is that too!” she told him with a wicked smile on her face.

“Please!” he groaned theatrically, “Not in front of the children!”

She laughed up at him and he was surprised that he had missed her laughing the past few days.

“You don’t mind do you?” she asked indicating the adoption of Annie.

“Of course I don’t love, but I do draw the line at kissing Geoff on the cheek before any of you suggest it!” he told her.

She giggled at him and he found himself looking down at her with a smug smile on his face.

“What is that look for?” she asked.

“Because somehow I convinced you to marry me.” He said.

“That’s only because you can …” she paused. “Cook” she finished and heard him laugh.

She moved reluctantly out of his arms and into the living room to see what the girls were up to. After a few minutes she walked over to the cabinet and reached for her camera off the top shelf.

“Hey, do you mind?” she asked them.

Annie looked up and grimaced.

“El” Nic protested, half-heartedly.

“Tough!” she told them and snapped a quick half a dozen shots.

“My evil stepmother is a photographer.” Nic explained to Annie and stuck her tongue out at Ella! Ella smirked and pressed the button quickly. She moved over to Nic and showed her the back of the camera.

“Oh god you need to delete that one!” Nic cried.

Ella grinned and leaned over to show Annie.

Annie laughed and pushed at Nic.

“You stuck your tongue out when she had a camera you should expect the consequences!” Annie told her matter of factly.

Nic glared at her before laughing. She didn’t notice Ella move back over the other side of the room and start taking pictures again,

Nic pushed at Annie who turned and picked up a cushion and hit at Nic with it before glaring at Ella with crossed eyes.

Nic responded by tickling Annie making her giggle.

Ella laughed and took shot after shot.

She stood and wobbled a bit, pausing before walking into the kitchen. Roman saw her clutch the doorframe.

She pointed to her water bottle and he handed it to her, watching as she drank. She caught hold of his hand and looked at him.

“I’m ok.” She whispered.

“Hey, I didn’t ask.” He grinned. “You were way too close to sharp objects” he grinned.

She smiled.

“Can you fetch my laptop down for me in a bit please?” she asked him.

He nodded.

“Thank you.” He said softly, meaning thank you for asking and letting me look after you.

She smiled again. She mouthed ‘I love you’ and turned slowly walking back into the living room and sank down on the sofa.

Nic looked over at her and tried to smile but she felt a worried frown on her face. She watched as Ella tucked her legs up on the sofa and she went and pulled the throw out and placed that over her.

“Are you ok Step-Mama?” Nic asked.

Ella caught her hand and gave it a squeeze.

“Thank you daughter I am fine.” She told her.

They looked at each other for a long moment, knowing neither of them was fooled.

Annie came over and sat on the table.

“Are you pregnant?” she asked.

Ella reached out her other hand and watched as Annie took hold of it. She gave the girls’ hand a quick squeeze.

“Yes I am.” She told her softly.

Annie reacted visibly for a flash of a second then reached out and took Ella in her arms. Ella grinned at Nic over Annie’s head.

“I think this one is going to be ok.” She said to Nic, talking about Annie.

Annie looked up at them.

“Yes I am.” she said confidently.

“Well let’s not smoother Ella we need to get invites done!” Nic bossed and pulled Annie back to the other sofa.

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Roman and Ella climbed the stairs together. The Girls were ensconced on the sofas with popcorn and watching a scary movie. He smiled at Ella and saw how happy she was. Plus she had eaten and not been ill which was a bonus.

They walked through to their bedroom and he kissed her slowly and thoroughly.

“What is that in aid off?” she asked with a slow smile.

“I’ve missed you, thats all.”

She grinned.

“I’m always here.” She told him pressing her hand on his chest over his beating heart.

He smiled and slowly began to undress.

She pulled off the bathrobe and was about to drop it to the floor when she caught the expression on his face.

She walked over and hung it up on the back of the closed bedroom door.

“Happy?” she asked him a grin on her face.

“Yes I am.” He said. He dropped his trainers and socks in an untidy mess on the floor. Adding his top and trousers to it.

“Happy?” he asked.

She laughed.

“Much better!” she commended.

He smiled and went to climb in bed.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” she asked.

“No I don’t think so.” He grinned.

She reached down and pulled the nightdress off and dropped it on the floor.

“Ok then.” She said climbing into the other side of the bed.

He reached down and tugged his boxers off and pulled her into his arms.

“You are seriously going to wear me out!” he grouched.

“Oh come on you love it when I’m demanding!” she said to him.

He rolled over so that she was on top.

“Take me then!” he told her.

She bent and kissed him slowly. Her hair falling down in a velvet curtain. Suddenly a rush of nausea went through her and she groaned. She pulled away and stood up. She felt the blood rush out of her head and she swayed. Roman stood quickly and put his arms around her.

“Steady.” He murmured softly.

“Oh god!” she moaned.

He sat her on the bed and picked her robe off the back of the door.

“Deep breath hun.” He told her wrapping the robe around her.

She looked at him and reached out. He caught hold of her hands and sat for a long time until she felt like she could move.

“I hate this,” she told him.

“It’s going to be ok. We’ll get through this.” He told her.

She laughed.

“How? Because the only thing that doesn’t make me feel like a hormonal freak is to make love to my husband and I can’t even do that.” She moaned trying not to cry.

He laughed and lifted her chin up.

“I don’t need sex to love you El. I told you that when I first met you.” He smiled down at her. “Look at you. I’m so proud of you. Looking after Annie, caring about Nicole, keeping an eye on me and all the time you feel like crap.”

“Ha!” she muttered. “I’m a mess and you might as well just admit it” she grouched. “One minute I’m screaming at you like a banshee and the next I won’t leave you alone!” she blushed as she admitted that she had turned into a sex mad, well banshee.

He laughed.

“Yes but I do consider that I’m at fault to a certain extent.” He grinned at her. “I rushed you into marriage without talking certain things through,” he referred to their pasts. “And then I did actually get you pregnant unless there is something you’ve been wanting to tell me?”

“No it’s definitely yours! I can write a list of all the men I’ve slept with and it would barely fill a post it note! We’ll have to get the phone book out for your list! You can just cross out the ones you haven’t slept with. Shouldn’t take you long!” she grinned at him and noticed the tide of colour that spread along his cheeks.

“Yes, well it’s different for a man!” he said for want of anything else. “And yes, I am aware that is sexist! Before you thump me!” He was still blushing.

“Rachel and Leah and I had an interesting chat the other day!” she told him, her nausea was definitely receding she thought trying not to grin at his discomfort.

“I only dated Rachel once and well Leah was.” He broke off unable to phrase the nature of the relationship with Leah. Had they been friends with benefits or could it have been more? He asked himself.

She looked at him from under her lashes.

“And then of course Charlie and Martha.” She said softly. “And that is only Summer Bay!”

“Obviously, I have had some experience. I’m not a saint.” He grouched.

“What role would you have taken in Lindsay’s life Roman?” she asked suddenly realising she was being serious. She reached out and squeezed his hand.

He looked at her.

“I don’t know. Jack would have sidelined me, I think. It’s not something I ever really gave a thought too. It’s hard to explain I know you are pregnant and aside from worrying myself sick I’m over the moon. This baby seems real to me. It wasn’t ever like that with Martha, even though I thought I loved her, and I think the word Panic pretty much describes the state of mind I was in when Natalie took her pregnancy test. “ He told her, and it was the longest conversation he had ever had about his feelings, she thought.

She reached across and kissed him gently on the lips.

“What was that for?” he asked.

“Because I love you.” She told him.

“Even though I’ve slept with half the western world?” he queried self-mockingly.

“Presumably that statement just refers to women and don’t forget to include all of Summer Bay!” she grinned. “Exactly how close is your relationship with Colleen?” she asked him.

“Excuse me, you’re hormonal and you know where I keep my knives, like I’m going to answer questions like that!” he grinned.

She put her arms round him and they hugged.

“Exactly how big a post it note?” He asked eventually. “Like a little one or one of the bigger ones and how big would your writing be?” he found himself asking almost against his will. “Would you use both sides of it?”

She giggled as she pulled away from him and crawled underneath the covers and he switched off the lights and climbed in beside her.

He reached out and pulled her into his arms holding her close.

After a long time, knowing she was still awake he kissed the back of her neck and pulled her tight against him letting his hands gently roam over her body.

“Yes!” she said into the dark.

He sighed and rolled her over and underneath him.

She kissed him and pulled him close running her hands down his back and holding his waist.

He pressed gentle kisses to her neck and down.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

She sighed.

“Yes.” She told him.

She cradled his face between her hands.

“Make love to me please.” She asked him.

Annie looked over at Nic.

“Your worried about her aren’t you?” she asked her.

Nic tried to look brave but found her eyes filling.

“Yes of course I am but its more than that.” She looked up as Annie stood and moved over to the sofa she was lying on.

“Budge up.” Annie ordered,

Nic moved and Annie lay down next to her. She put her arms around her and pulled her cover over the pair of them.

“You and Ella and Geoff made it ok for me to tell you about the baby and the divorce. You can tell me anything.” Annie told her.

“You are going to hate me.” Nic said.

“Is this about Ruby?” Annie said softly.

“Yes,” she said quickly, “I want her for my other bridesmaid and I haven’t told her about you.” She said.

“Well we’ll deal with that when Hurricane Ruby hits town.” Annie said without malice. “What else is bothering you?”

“You are as bad as Geoff!” Nicole muttered.

“Yes. And just wait until you’ve lived with Irene for a while!” Annie told her.

Nic laughed.

“Don’t get me wrong I really like Irene and of course I am going to adore living with Geoff but I am so going to miss Ella.” She said and then grinned and added. “And my dad of course.”

“I doubt she’ll stop being there for you.” Annie said.

“I know.” She said with a sigh.

“But?” Annie asked.

“Oh Annie. I thought this was in the past.” Nic started crying softly.

“Seems to me Darl that the best way is just to spit it out!” Annie said in a near perfect imitation of Irene.

Nic laughed despite the tears.

“Geoff wants to include someone at the wedding who.” She stopped. “Well he got a bit.” She stopped again.

“Did he….” Annie started to ask.

“No!” Nic exclaimed. “No!” she said again in a quieter tone.

“But?” Annie asked again.

“Well it was close. And I thought that I wouldn’t have to see him again. I didn’t think Geoff was still in touch with him.” Nic said and a shudder ran though her.

Annie held her and waited until the other girl was calm again.

“You need to tell Geoff.” Annie said.

“I know. I just don’t want anything to spoil the wedding.” She confessed. “Pretty selfish, eh?” she muttered with a mocking expression on her face.

“You have to think about if you and Geoff want secrets between you or if you want to start married life off as a couple." Annie said wisely. “I learned that lesson the hard way.” She told her.

“Oh Annie.” She said and put her arms around the other girl. “I should be cheering you up!” she muttered, feeling guilty.

“Don’t be daft!” You needed a hug and after what you guys have done for me today well least of my worries is to come and give my big sis a hug!”

“Oi!” Nicole said. “Less of the big!”

“Older?” Annie said with a slight giggle.

“I think we’ll just stick with the Sis part, thank you very much!” Nicole told her.

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Ella dressed quietly after her shower and walked downstairs. Roman was still asleep in bed. She saw the two girls dressed and sitting in the kitchen.

“Hey Step-mama!” Nic called.

“Hey girls!” She said softly. She reached into the fridge and pulled out the last bottle of chilled water and then went over and sat at the table.

“Now would anyone like to explain your guilty looks this morning?” Ella asked taking a long drink.

Annie and Nic looked over at each other.

“Do we look guilty?” Nic asked the other girl.

“Yes!” Ella answered for her. “Might it have something to do with the sofas being moved?” she said quietly.

“She spilled it not me!” Annie said quickly.

“What?” Ella asked.

“I had a glass of red wine last night when I couldn’t sleep.” Nic said “And we had a pillow fight and the glass got knocked over. I tried to clean it but I picked up bleach instead of the carpet shampoo.”

“We thought if we move the sofa then Roman might not notice!” Annie spoke up.

“Uh huh.” Ella smiled. “And by what stretch of the imagination would you think he wouldn’t notice?” she asked them.

They looked down at the pieces of toast on their plates.

Nic shrugged.

“Perhaps if you were to distract him?” she said to Ella.

“And how did I get involved in this?” Ella asked.

“Well you let us stay here last night and you bought him the wine.” Nic explained trying to sound as though what she said made sense.

“Uh huh, but he’d never fall for me buying cleaning stuff Nic!” Ella said with a laugh.

Nic looked at Annie.

“Well we tried.” She said.

Ella stood up and walked over to the cooker. After a moment she remembered how it worked and switched the grill on.

“Nicole pass the phone book.” She instructed and nearly laughed at the connection with last night’s conversation.

Ella opened the fridge again and pulled out the fixings for her famous cheese on toast. She put the bread in the toaster and opened the phone book.

“How bad is it?” she asked them.

They looked at each other and then moved over to the sofa and moved it so that Ella could look at the damage.

“Ok then.” She said and closed that section of the book and opened it at Carpet warehouses. A couple of phone calls later she had carpet fitters lined up to come within the next hour and replace the carpet.

She added the cheese to the toast and put it under the grill, making sure she wasn’t distracted as she watched it melt. Normally she went off and did something else and came back to charcoal. Pulling it out she placed it on a plate and fixed a cup of coffee, grimacing at the strong smell.

“Ok, you two will need to move all the ornaments and books and thing out as soon as I drag your Dad out for a walk. The carpet fitters will measure up and replace the carpet.” Ella outlined the plan. She carried the coffee and toast up the stairs and went to distract Roman.

Annie smiled at Nic.

“She really is a bad cook isn’t she?” Annie said. “I thought you were joking.”

Nic looked at her.

“What makes you say that?” Nic asked.

“Because she left the grill on and everything has been left out on the top.” Annie explained.

Nic swore and reached out to switch the grill off.

“Perhaps its just hormones?” she suggested as she put everything away.

“Uh huh?” Annie said.

“No, she’s terrible. She gets distracted. I have no idea how Mike survived aside from living on take-away of course.” Nic said.

“You should tell her.” Annie told her.

“I can’t she’s got enough to deal with.” Nic chewed on another fingernail. At this rate she would have none left for the wedding.

“Uh huh Nic, we just gave her a big problem and instead of getting upset she just dealt with it. What makes you think that she won’t do the same for that?” Annie said confidently.

“Since when did you get all grown up and bossy?” Nic asked her.

“It’s Ella she kinda turns things around!” Annie said with a quick grin.

A knock sounded at the door and they looked at each other.

“This had better not be the carpet people arriving early.” Annie said fearfully.

“If it is then Ella will manage to keep him entertained upstairs.” Nic said and then looked at Annie as she realised what she had said.

Annie pushed her.

“Stop giggling and answer the door before he comes down.” She instructed.

Nic walked over to the door and opened it wide.

“Oh my god Ruby!” she exclaimed seeing the other girl there. She glanced back at Annie and then at Ruby like in a comic soap opera.

“Well aren’t you going to invite me in?” Ruby asked smiling,

She looked up and saw Annie and the smile disappeared.

“Oh!” said Ruby.

Ruby had had a feeling that she would have to deal with this but not quite so soon.

“Hello Ruby.” Annie said calmly.

“Come in.” Nic instructed grasping hold of her hand and pulling her inside. “We don’t have time to have any drama today we need your help!”

She dragged her into the kitchen.

“I had a glass of wine last night and I split it.” Nic started to explain, then hearing her Dad and Ella coming down the stairs she placed her finger over her lips and cautioned Ruby not to say anything.

Roman walked to the door and stood in the doorway as Ella carried the pots through to the kitchen.

“I’ve persuaded your Dad to take me out for a walk while I’m feeling so good.” Ella explained and then looked curiously at the third girl.

“Ella this is Ruby. I’ll let you go as time is moving on and you want to get started on your walk.” Nic said sounding slightly desperate.

“Nice to meet you Ruby. I’ll talk to you later, obviously.” Ella said looking at Nicole. She left the things on the table and turned and took Roman out.

“Nic, do you think you could I dunno, let go now?” Ruby asked.

Nicole looked down and saw that she was still holding Ruby’s wrist. She grinned. And pulled Ruby to her giving her a hug.

“I’ve missed you!” she said to her.

“I missed you too.” Ruby replied. “So what is this drama?” she asked avoiding talking to and making eye contact with Annie.

“First off, I insist on a truce between you two. You are my very best friends and my bridesmaids. At least for the next hour. Do you think you could manage that?” Nic said. “I know it’s a big ask but please you did used to be besties!”

“Ruby. I would like us to talk but I understand if you feel that you can’t” Annie told her.

Nic’s jaw dropped. Way to grab the bull by the horns she thought.

Annie picked up the pots of the table and put them in the dishwasher, without waiting for a reply.

“Ok Annie. Nic.” Ruby said finally. “Truce for today at least.” She conceded.

“Right then. Nic spilt a glass of wine last night on the carpet and then tried to clean it with bleach instead of carpet shampoo. Ella has ordered a new carpet and it will be here soon and we need to clear the living room so they can put it down.” Annie told Ruby, looking her in the eye.

Nic glanced at both of them.

Then dragged them into the lounge to clear the room. They worked in silence for the most part until Annie decided to put on some music. She was soon singing along to an old pop song. All three looked at each other when Gloria Gaynor’s “I will survive” came on. They stood next to each other and started singing and dancing remembering how they had done this in the past when one of them or the other had had a break up.

They looked up in horror to see the carpet fitters applauding them.

“Right girls I understand you want this replacing?” The foreman said, indicating the carpet.

Nic stepped forward.

“Yes please.” She told them.

“You understand how much it’s going to cost. My men don’t normally move furniture.” He said.

Nic nodded understandingly.

“Well it’s like this.” Annie began, “I had a really bad break up and my friend here tried to console me.”

“Yeah I poured her out a glass of wine and then I tripped and it went everywhere!” Nic said.

“Yeah, and I made matters worse because I tried to clean up with bleach. It was dark and we didn’t want to wake the grownups!” Ruby said looking at the other two girls.

“Alright, enough of the soft soap. I’ll knock a bit off the price if you get us a brew we’re gasping!” he said and motioned for the men to start work.

Annie walked into the kitchen followed by the other two.

“Annie we do need to talk. But I can say that I am happy to see you.” Ruby finally said.

“Thank you Ruby, I’d give you a hug to welcome you back to the bay but I think we’d get wolf whistled.” She joked softly, trying to keep the atmosphere light.

Ruby grinned.

“Well if it gets us another discount Girls, then go for it!” Nic said to them.

“Was I supposed not to notice the sofa had been moved?” Roman asked her when they reached the beach.

“The girls were planning to surprise you with a …” Ella paused as she looked at him. “Cleaning session?” she suggested.

“I see.” Roman said. “Ella you are a terrible liar.”

“I can’t be that bad, you believed me about the post it note!” she said cheekily and began to run off.

He caught up with her easily and catching hold of her waist he swept her legs out from under her and controlled her fall to the soft sand. Laying down with her.

“You do realise if I wasn’t pregnant you wouldn’t have got away with that don’t you?” she asked him.

He chuckled.

“Just because your brother taught you a few moves doesn’t mean you can beat me. I’m stronger and I work out.” He said logically.

“Oh, so I’m just a little woman to you?” Ella asked him.

“That is so not what I mean.” He told her.

“Right then. Stand up.” She instructed.

“Ella you are pregnant.” He reminded her.

“I do know. “ she pushed at his shoulders and he rolled over and stood up. He extended a hand to her and she ignored it standing up on her own.

“Like that is it?” he asked.

She smiled.

“Com’on big boy.” She said with a grin.

He moved to sweep her legs again, his hands on her shoulders. Only to find himself somehow looking up at her, laying flat on his back on the sand.

“How did you do that?” he asked puzzled.

She laughed.

“Want to go again?” she asked him stretching her hand out to help him up.

He ignored her hand and stood up.

“Like that is it?” she asked with another grin.

He approached her quickly, reaching out to grip her hand and suddenly found himself flat on his back again.

“Ok, that is weird!” he muttered.

“Are you out of practice Lt Harris?” she asked with a grin.

“You are asking for trouble.” He grouched and stood up. He stepped forward quickly and she let herself fall this time, landing softly on the sand. He lay down with her.

“Fine, you have some explaining to do!” he told her.

She put her arms around his neck.

“My brother taught me some moves that’s all.”

“El, there is a difference to learning some moves and instinctive training.” He told her.

“I doubt I could have taken you so easily if I wasn’t pregnant and you were going easy on me!” she told him. “But yeah, I told you Dad and Brother in the army and grew up on bases around the world.” She said. “I learnt a few tricks.”

“Uh huh.” He lowered his head and kissed her. “What secrets are you keeping now I wonder?” he asked softly.

She smiled at him.

“I’ll tell you one of my secrets if you tell me one of yours?” she suggested.

“No.” he said instinctively in a harsh tone and saw her flinch.

“I wasn’t going to probe you know, Roman.” she pulled away from him and sat up.

“El I’m sorry. I wish I could say I didn’t mean it but I did.” He said placing a hand on her shoulder.

She flinched and stood up.

“I ran away when I was 15 and joined the army and completed basic training. There, that’s the secret. “ She walked to the seas edge and looked out at the horizon.

Roman sat and watched her. She had her head bent and he could tell she was upset and angry. And once again he was at fault.

“Ella!” he called and held out his hand,

She turned and looked at him and sighing she walked over to him and sat down next to him almost touching. He put his arm around her and held her close to him.

“I’m sorry. “ he said.

“Roman, glossing over what happened, which incidentally I do happen to know about but won’t pretend I understand what you feel about it, I am your wife. I feel that there is a brick wall between us sometimes. I don’t like not talking about things to you.” She grinned. “Now is that vague enough so that you know what I’m talking about without me having to go into more detail and getting you grumpy again?” she asked.

“That was vague enough.” He replied. “Did you know before or after you looked me up?” he said.

“Before.” She answered quickly.

“Is that why you came to the Bay?” he said, not really sure what he should be feeling.

“No. I came because Mike needed to meet you. I didn’t expect this.” She reached out and took a hold of his left hand holding it between both of hers.

“I don’t know what to say right now.” He said.

“It’s ok not to say anything.” She told him and leaned into him.

“Is it?” he asked.

She put her hand to his face and turned his head towards her.

“I know who you are and I am not confusing this man that I married with the idiot I loved in Afghanistan. Is that what you think?” she asked him.

“I really don’t know. I am happy with you El, its uncomplicated and easy and fun and I don’t know where I’d be if you hadn’t have found me. I was drifting along in the Diner pretending that the whole past didn’t exist. I couldn’t even open your letter.” He told her. “I’ve done some bad things and I can never wash away the guilt. I..” he stopped.

“Don’t feel you deserve to be happy?” she asked in the silence.

“Yes. I don’t deserve to have Miles still as a friend or have Nic love me as her Dad or have Mike look up to me or have Aden have his kids call me Grandpa.” He said.

“Or me to love you?” she asked.

“Oh I really don’t deserve that one.” He said, with a fatalistic grin. “What can you see in me? I got your brother killed and I intentionally made you pregnant and didn’t even check on you and you lost the baby after flying a hell of a long way to tell me about it because I ignored you when you came back to see me. Then I conned you into a marriage where I stomp around telling you that I can’t talk to you about half the things that we need to talk about.”

“Conned me into a marriage?” She asked. “I’m sorry did you use rohypnol or something?”

He looked at her quickly.

“I loved you and wanted to marry you. Yes, it has been fast, I don’t recommend marrying someone on the third date and yes, we are still dealing with lots of stuff. Maybe it is a bit mixed up that we are bringing a baby into the relationship so soon but hey, I was under the impression that you loved me.”

“I do love you El. I can’t remember what it was like not to wake up and love you.” He said finally.

“Good because we have the kids to think about and I suspect that I am about to adopt someone called Ruby too!” she warned him.

He laughed and reached over and kissed her.

“I love you Roman Harris.” She said laughing.

“I love you too Elizabeth Harris.” He replied with a smile. She pushed him back until he lay flat on the sand and kissed him before looking at her watch.

“Is it safe to go back now?” he asked catching her looking at the time,

“I don’t know, I think they might still be cleaning.” She said with a quick grin.

“Uh huh!” He pulled her on top of him. “Perhaps you need to keep me distracted then.”

She looked around and said deadpan. ”What here?”

“I didn’t mean that!” he said with a quick laugh. “Although there isn’t anyone around.” He looked deep into her eyes pushing her hair back off her face.

“Maybe when it is dark mister!” she told him.

He laughed.

“I thought you had out of control hormones!” he said.

“Out of control yes but they would prefer not to get us arrested!” she said.

“I thought you liked a hint of danger.” He told her grinning.

“A hint of danger is eating my own cooking not making out on a public beach!” she told him.

“Making out?” he asked quickly.

She nodded.

“I was trying to phrase it so it wouldn’t seem so….” She began to say.

“Uh huh!” he interrupted. “You were trying to say it so that the words wouldn’t turn you on a little.” He grinned as he saw her blush. He caught hold of her head and pulled it towards him gently. He kissed her deeply before whispering some words to her that had her blushing some more.

She pushed away and stood up. Walking away she bent and picked up the sandals she’d dropped earlier and held out her hand to him.

“Come on then!” she instructed and lead him to the dunes his favourite spot on the beach.

He laughed.

“El I wasn’t serious!” he said.

“You messed with my hormones You better face the consequences.” She told him and pulled him down beside her in the middle of the dunes.

He kissed her quickly and found her hands pulling his top off.

“El!” he protested.

“Hurry up!” she grouched and kissed him again. He pulled her hands away and pinned them to the sand.

“Are you serious?” he asked quickly.

“Yes. Aren’t you turned on?” she asked.

“Yes I am.” He confessed with a quick grin.

She smiled and pulled him to her, looking at her watch again she grinned. The things she had to do to distract a man she thought laughing.

They walked towards the diner, Ella was laughing and they were brushing sand off each other. She kept giggling every time he looked at her.

“It happens to every guy.” She told him. “Don’t worry about it!”

“Ella.” He cautioned.

“Some men just aren’t comfortable with taking chances.” She said.

“Ella.” He muttered.

“I won’t tell a soul.” She told him. “Not even Miles!”

“Right that’s it.” he muttered and picked her up and over his shoulder carrying her back to the dunes.

“Well.” She said later.

“Yes.” he said.

“I think that was…” she trailed off.

He rolled over and looked at her.

“Yes.” He said again. He pulled on his clothes and looked around making sure that no-one had seen them. Or, he hoped, heard them.

He reached out and pulled her to her feet and she adjusted her clothes.

“I think we should take up skinny dipping too!” she said with a grin.

He tugged her against him.

“These hormones of yours are going to get me arrested aren’t they?” he kissed her quickly.

She put her arms around his neck.

“Uh huh. You might need to carry me home Mister. I can’t find my sandals”

“Where did you drop them?” he asked.

“Near the diner when you went Caveman on me.” She laughed.

“Oh my God, did anyone see us?” he asked. He groaned.

“I don’t know.” She answered him. “But if Colleen did she might be a bit jealous!” Ella laughed at him.

“Ella this is serious I’ve just picked you up and dragged you…” he stopped and looked at her and laughed.

“Caveman!” she said. “And you stopped asking me if I were ok every 5 minutes too!” she grinned at him before setting off along the beach.

He ran and caught up with her, putting his arm around her and pressing a quick kiss to her temple.

They walked into the Diner and saw Miles and Kirsty sitting at the table.

“Hey!” Ella called and walked over to them. “Is Ollie ok?” she asked them.

“Funny you should ask. He’s been in a bad mood. I take it he and Mike had a fight?” Kirsty asked.

“I have no idea what happened I just got a text from Mike saying he didn’t want to come home this weekend.” Ella said. She sat next to Miles.

Roman walked over and handed her a bottle of mineral water. She smiled up at him as their fingers touched for a second.

He had a cup of coffee and as soon as the smell hit her she flinched.

“I was like that with coffee too.” Kirsty said.

“Sorry.” Roman said standing.

“Don’t be silly hun, sit and drink it. I’ll be ok. I feel really good today.” She caught his arm and he sat down again, she smiled at him, stroking his arm.

He caught hold of her hand and sat there holding it, his thumb rubbing her fingers.

“Miles don’t you remember what it was like to be like that?” Kirsty asked him with a glint in her eyes.

“To be in love? Or to be carried off into the sand dunes?” Miles asked.

Roman and Ella looked at each other and both of them blushed.

“Please tell me Colleen didn’t see that?” Roman asked his friend.

Kirsty grinned.

“Well.” Miles said. He reached down beside himself and handed over Ella’s sandals.

“Thank you.” El told him with an embarrassed grin.

“We were just arriving when we saw you do your caveman thing.” Miles explained.

“I was jealous!” Kirsty confessed.

“But in answer to your question, no Colleen didn’t see it!” Miles told him. “Doesn’t mean that I won’t keep reminding you at certain moments. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you face that particular shade before!” Miles laughed.

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Ella pulled on his hand and stopped him.

“How strong are you feeling?” She asked.

“Are you ok?” he murmured softly.

She wavered.

“I seem to have no energy left.” She confessed.

He responded by picking her up and carrying her.

“I’m beginning to think you are doing this just to test me!” he teased.

She laughed softly.

“I felt good all day and now I’m just so tried.“ she said to him wrapping her arms around his neck and leaning into him.

“And what have you eaten?” he asked quickly.

“A couple of biscuits and a banana smoothie.” She replied. “Don’t nag.”

“How am I supposed not to nag?” he grouched at her. “Ella, you know what Rachel said. “

“Put me down I’ll walk from here.” She told him huskily.

“Nope.” he replied.

“I said put me down.”

“And I said no.” he muttered.

“Put me down or I’ll scream.” She muttered wriggling in his arms.

“Fine!” he said finally, and let go of her. She stood beside him and tugged his arm so that he was facing her.

“I know exactly what Rachel said to me and I have been through a miscarriage before. I have eaten a Banana Smoothie, which has fruit and vitamins and potassium and iron in it. I have taken my vitamin tablets and my iron tablets. The two biscuits I ate this morning are especially for pregnant woman to help with nausea and stomach upsets. Now I am sorry that it isn’t a three course meal that I have had but I am not a big eater anyway and I intended to have a meal this evening, it was going to be with my husband but he can go to hell.” She finished shouting at him and walked away into the house.

Ella walked in through the front down and tried to slam it but the new carpet prevented her from forcing the door closed.

“Dammit!” she muttered and walked quickly upstairs where she slammed the bedroom door successfully.

“So much for hoping that they wouldn’t notice the door not closing!” Nic said to Ruby and Annie.

“You’re not worried about Ella?” Ruby asked.

“No my dad keeps doing stupid things and anyway her temper usually cools down after about 5 minutes.“ Nic told them with a grin.

Annie chuckled.

“Still Nic perhaps you ought to check on her?” Annie said.

“No chance, my Dad was in the SAS not me!” Nic told them.

Ruby laughed.

”Ruby I’m serious, it’ll be ok its just hormones mostly, she’s pregnant.” Nic told her. “She’s been a bit under the weather though, and we keep asking if she’s ok and it drives her nuts.” Nic explained.

“I would have thought that even more reason to go check on her.” Ruby told her a worried expression on her face.

Nic looked at her watch and on cue the bedroom door opened and Ella walked slowly down the stairs.

“Feeling better?” Nic asked.

“Yes.” Ella said with a slow blush on her face. “But I think he’s going to notice the door won’t close.” She told them.

“He might not. What did he do this time?” Nic asked.

“Nag me about what I’m eating.” Ella told her.

“Ah ha.” Nic said. “So you’ve actually eaten something?” Nic asked.

Ella looked at her.

“No you don’t daughter! You are not going to wind me up so I distract him by having another argument as soon as he walks in.” Ella told her with a laugh.

“I tried.” Nic said with a shrug.

Ruby looked at Annie and saw that the other girl was trying not to laugh.

“You are all mad.” Ruby told them with a grin on her own face.

Annie picked up a cushion and threw it at Ruby, who caught it and fell back on the sofa giggling.

“El what do you think of these?” Nic asked showing Ella a wedding magazine with bridesmaids dresses in.

“I like the gold colour I think that could pick up a theme for the wedding.” She told her. “But are you going to make them wear matching dresses because obviously they have different tastes.”

“We were discussing that when you er…walked in!” Nic said.

“Uh huh!” Ella said to her. “And what did you come up with?”

“Nothing. Still deadlocked.” Nic said with a sigh.

“Well they are your Best friends Nic, why don’t you make them something. “ Ella suggested. “You can pick up the material in the city and run up the dresses yourself.”

Annie and Ruby grinned.

“A Nicole Franklin Design.” Ruby said,

“No.” Nic said. “A Nicole Harris design. Thank you.” She said.

“Since when?” Ruby asked.

“Since when Mike decided that he wanted dad to adopt him legally so that he had the same name. I know that it will change to Campbell in a few weeks. But when I stand next to Geoff at the altar and they get to the bit where they ask me if I take this man I want to see the look on my dad’s face when they call me that.” She said a tear falling down her cheek. “And I will keep the Harris part for my designing. I’ve already done the paperwork to change it on both counts.” She confessed with a teary smile.

Ella pulled the other girl into her arms and held her, tears pouring down her own face.

“He will be so proud of you.” She told the girl.

Nic laughed and wiped the tears away.

“Until he tries to close the door he will be!” she said.

Ella laughed and wiped her tears away.

She stood and walked into the kitchen pulling things out of the fridge to make dinner. Inside 10 minutes she had a salad ready and was grilling veggie burgers while jacket potatoes were cooking in the microwave. She set the table making sure that the burgers didn’t crisp under the grill too much and lifted down a jug to make some fruit punch in.

The burgers were cooked and she lifted them onto a plate and placed another one on top to keep them warm whilst waiting for the microwave to finish.

She cut up an apple and orange and placed them in the jug adding fruit juice and lemonade to it. Oh, for the pre pregnancy days when a slug of vodka would have gone in as well, she thought with a sigh. The microwave pinged and she tested the potatoes making sure they were cooked before placing them in a dish on the table.

“Lunch.” She called to the girls.

Annie looked up.

“Do we have to eat it?” she asked mock fearfully.

Nic pushed her towards the kitchen.

They saw the food on the table.

“Ella I thought you couldn’t cook?” Nic said to her.

“I can’t. Not stuff like your Dad does but I can do simple stuff and I can order pizza.” She grinned.

“Seriously this is amazing!” Nic told her.

She sat down at the table and poured out some of the drink. And topped up the glasses of Ruby and Annie.

“Thanks Ella.” Ruby said.

“No problem.” Ella poured herself a glass of milk and sat sipping it before lifting up the lid of the burgers and placing one on her plate. “Sorry that they are vegetarian.”

Ruby grinned.

“I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to tell you but I’m a vegetarian now.” Ruby told them.

“Seriously?” Annie asked.

“Yes, I know you and Geoff come from the farm and its natural to you but I have strong views about it.” Ruby told her.

Annie laughed.

“Sorry Rubes, but I’ve been a vegetarian for the past two years now!” Annie said.

“Get out!” Nic said.

“No way!” Ruby said at the same time.

Annie laughed.

“Yeah, I just decided one day and that was it!” Annie said.

Ella avoided the salad but ate a small jacket potato and managed two of the burgers and even some bread. She stretched and stood from the table.

“Can I leave you guys to clean up for me?” she asked them.

“Of course you can.” Nic told her.

Ella walked up the stairs and was at the bedroom down when she heard Roman walk in and ask why the door wouldn’t shut. She thought she heard him grouchily say never mind, and walk up the stairs.

She was lying on top of the covers on the bed when he came in.

“Is it my turn to apologise or yours?” he asked folding his arms across his chest and grinning.

She looked over at him.

“I think its mine this time. “ she told him. “But I am worried. If we are like this now how are we going to cope with sleepless nights and nappy changes?” she asked.

He kicked off his shoes and lay beside her.

“Well we are coping with sleepless nights very well!” he murmured in that tone of voice that usually managed to make her knees go weak.

“Oh no you don’t.” she muttered. “You are so not getting round me like that!”

“Really?” he asked using the same tone.

She looked at him and burst out laughing.

“You did it deliberately didn’t you?” she asked.

He tried to look innocent but a slow grin spread on his face.

“Guilty as charge. Seems when I get you mad you …” he began.

“Go off like an angry cat?” she suggested the ending of the sentence for him.

“Well,” he paused. “Yes!” he confirmed.

“If I wasn’t totally in love with you I would be so mad right now!” she said with a grin.

“Yeah and if I wasn’t in love with you I would suspect that the carpet downstairs is new.” He told her.

She blushed.

“It may have been really good carpet shampoo they used?” she suggested.

He leaned over and kissed her.

“El I do love you and no matter what happens to us we will get through it.” He pulled her into his arms and held her.

“Uh huh! Well in that case I cooked lunch and yours is waiting downstairs.” She told him.

“I said I love you not that I’m suicidal.” He said with a grin.

She sat up and looked at him, a hurt expression on her face before standing and walking away into the bathroom. He heard the shower go on and decided to follow her. She was hormonal and the last joke may have really upset her, he thought with a frown. He should stop picking on her cooking, he thought, but normally she laughed.

He stepped through the bathroom door and saw her dress and underwear had been dropped in an untidy pile on the floor. He looked up in time to catch the sponge she threw at him.

“For that last remark you can wash my back!” she instructed.

He grinned.

“Just your back?” he specified.

She peered at him from under the hot spray.

“To start off with!” she grinned.

He stripped of his own clothes and climbed in beside her.

“Hey this is my shower gel!” He grouched, looking at the bottle she handed him.

She smiled at him.

“It’s the only smell I like at the moment.” She explained.

He sighed and squirted a generous amount on the sponge and rubbed it slowly down her spine until it lathered up. He spread the foam across her shoulders and began a slow massage.

“Is that what you wanted?” he asked.

“Yes it is.” She confirmed with a sigh.

“Now is that all you wanted?” he asked huskily.

“Yes.” She said. “Unless you have any suggestions?”

He turned her around and kissed her long and slow, his arms tight around her. She put her arms around his neck and pulled him close.

“I may be able to come up with something.” he whispered in her ear.

She laughed.

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“What do you think?” she asked him as they were getting dressed.

“I would love to see it and if you are eating and feeling good I don’t see a problem with it.” he murmured.

She walked over and kissed him.

“Thank you!” she murmured softly.

“Why?” He said. “I should have thought about it sooner!”

She grinned.

“Let’s go tell Nic!” she said.

“Not so fast! I believe that you said you’d tidy up the bathroom.”

“Oh yeah.” She said and reaching down she picked up her discarded towel and held out her hand for his.

“You know you are worse than…” she stopped.

“Yes, I know I am annoying, I’m just used to being neat.” He said to her.

She looked at him for a long moment.

“Are you sure Nicole is your daughter?” she asked with a cheeky grin on her face. “I’ve been in her room!”

“Funny, how does Mike manage to keep his room tidy with you as an example!” he said in response.

“Touché!” she smiled at him. “But I manage to be disgustingly messy for both of us.”

“Stop putting it off and clear up the bathroom!” he turned her toward the door and tapped her gently on her cute behind.

“You keep doing that!” she muttered. “I don’t actually like it!”

He smiled.

“I know but I do. Gives me an excuse to do this when you turn around and have a go at me!” He pulled her into his arms and pressed her close to his body kissing her hard on the lips.

She dropped the wet towels on the floor and wound her arms around his neck.

“Ok!” she said when he released her. “Carry on doing it!” she instructed in a slightly shaken tone of voice.

He laughed as she stepped into the hallway and bent down to pick up the dropped towels holding them at arms length when she turned around.

“I remembered them!” she grouched, and snatched them from him.

His laughter followed her into the bathroom and he finished getting dressed and sat on the bed to pull on his shoes while she cleared up the bathroom.

She stood in the doorway watching him. He smiled over at her and held out his hand. She walked over to him and he pulled her to sit in his lap holding her in his arms.

“Still feeling good?” he asked.

“Disgustingly good.“ she told him.

“Well, we could leave this afternoon and stay for a few nights.” He suggested an alternative.

“Seriously?” she asked him.

He grinned at her excitement.

“Yes, seriously!” he told her. “Of course I may just need to fix the front door before we go, but yes!”

“Yeah, that carpet shampoo has really made the carpet fluffy looking.” She grinned.

“But it must have been worth it because that carpet looks good as new!” he smiled back at her, loving the way she laughed, the way she looked at him, the way she held him.

They walked downstairs hand in hand and saw Ruby asleep on the sofa with a throw over her and the other two in the kitchen.

“Hey!” Ella said to Nic.

“Sh! She fell asleep about 30 minutes ago. She’s supposed to be staying with Charlie and Joey but they only have a sofa for her to sleep on.” Nic was saying.

Roman looked at Ella who shrugged.

“Ok,” he said.

“Would you like her to stay in Mike’s room? I’m sure he won’t mind.” Ella told her.

Nic launched herself at them and gave them a hug.

“Thank you!” she cried.

“There is something else. We are going on a trip to stay at El’s studio. We thought you guys wouldn’t mind having the house to yourself for a while” Roman told her.

“Wow!” Nic said.

“But Nic, no parties!” Roman warned.

Nic blushed.

“That was 5 years ago. I’ve grown up since then.” She grouched at them.

Annie laughed.

“Don’t you side with them or I’ll make you a dress with a lot of ruffles!” Nic warned her.

Roman kissed Ella and then turned and walked over to the door to see if it could close. He tutted a lot and then went to fetch his tool box muttering something about re-hanging it.

Ella laughed softly.

“Nic come with me! “ Ella instructed. “S’cuse us Annie.” She grinned at the other girl before heading upstairs with Nicole.

“What’s up step-mama?” Nicole asked.

Ella pulled out her purse.

“You’ll need some money.” She told her.

“No I’ve got some saved.” Nic protested.

“Nicole, we are leaving you for a week and I don’t know what food is in the house or if you need anything and then if you decide to get some material for the dresses you’ll need some cash.” Ella told her.

She handed over several hundred Dollars.

“Ella I can’t take this.” Nicole protested.

“If you get the material you’ll need the money and we’ll be in the city so we won’t be able to help with the credit card. And you can treat Annie and Ruby to a night out or something!” Ella hugged the other girl and pulled out a bag to pack a few things.

She left the bag on the bed so Roman could pack his things and followed Nicole downstairs.

“Probably best you don’t tell your dad!” El said softly.

Nicole grinned.

Ella and Nicole walked into the kitchen to where Annie was.

“Hey!” Annie said. “You must be excited about the trip you’re glowing!” Annie told her.

Ella blushed.

“Don’t be silly. I’m just feeling good. Now I know we’ve said Ruby can stay here but if you want to hang out you are more than welcome.” She told Annie.

“I had a feeling that you would say something like that.” Annie smiled her shy half smile.

“Well, we have adopted you!” Ella told her and gave the other girl a hug. “Just a word of warning though, don’t let Nic have any parties!”

Annie laughed.

“I like your confidence that you think I’ll be able to stop her!” Annie grinned.

“Just threaten her with Irene and if that doesn’t work say you’ll tell Geoff!” Ella joked.

“I heard that!” Nic grumbled. ”I’m right here you know!”

Roman joined them and put his tool box away in the cupboard.

“Funny how good that carpet looks!” he said softly.

Annie and Nic looked at each other guiltily.

“Have you packed?” He asked Ella and saw her nod.

“I have stuff at the studio so I don’t need much.” She confirmed. “I left the bag upstairs for your stuff though.”

He nodded and reached into his pocket for his wallet. He handed Nic a bunch of notes.

“But Dad…” she began to protest, only to see Ella wink at her in warning.

“You’ll need food and things.” He explained.

“Take the money Nic!” Ella instructed.

Nicole grinned.

Roman gave Nic a quick kiss on the cheek and then went upstairs to pack. He strolled down moments later with the bag in his hand.

“Ok Girls, you can reach us on our phones or at the studio!” Roman said to them. He held out his hand and Ella joined him after giving both Annie and Nic a quick hug.

They walked hand in hand to Ella’s car and she tossed him the keys.

“I’m driving then?” he asked, catching them one handed. He stowed the bag in the back.

“Uh huh!” she nodded as they climbed into the car and did up their seatbelts

He put the keys in the ignition and turned the engine on only to be blasted by the music player sending out Guns and Roses nearly full volume. He swiftly turned the volume down.

“You still listen to them?” he grinned once he could hear again. She looked over at his profile.

“You know me I listen to pretty much anything!” she grinned. “Including some of the stuff you like!”

“Hey!” he grumbled.

She reached out and flicked through the selection and found something he liked to listen to. Watching as a slow grin spread across his face.

“That’s better.” He said. “Incidentally how much money did you give to Nic?” he asked her.

“A hundred or so.” She confessed smiling at him.

She reached over and touched his knee.

“A hundred?” he questioned. “Uh huh” he said.

He looked down for a second and put his hand on top of hers, before returning it to the steering wheel and concentrating back on driving.

Nic looked at Annie and burst out laughing.

“They both gave you money didn’t they?” Annie asked.

Ruby joined them in the kitchen.

“What’s so funny?” she asked sleepily.

“Roman and Ella have gone away for a few days and they left some money with Nic.”

“And that’s funny because?” Ruby grumbled.

“Because they both did separately. And I’m rich! I’m rich enough to buy the material for your dresses and feed a small third world country!” Nic said laughing.

“Or buy us pizza?” Ruby suggested instead.

“Yes! Absolutely! And one other thing. They said that you can stay here. You’ll have to sleep in Mike’s room but he only comes home at weekends.” Nicole told her and watched the slow grin on Ruby’s face.

“Seriously?” Ruby asked.

“Yup!” Nic confirmed.

“Cool!” Ruby said. “Maybe we should have a…” she began.

“No, no parties!” Nicole grinned.

Ruby and Annie laughed at the expression on her face.

Ella drove the last section of the journey pulling up outside the studio and opening the door to show him inside. She clicked the code into the alarm as they walked past. He took in the layout before she ushered him upstairs through to her apartment.

“Its really nice.” He commented, admiring the open plan living area. She pushed open her bedroom door and showed him inside.

“Wardrobes over there and there should be room in the drawers for your things. The bathroom is through that door. I’ll put the kettle on and put the car in the garage downstairs while you get settled.” She told him.

“You mean while I nose through your stuff.” He said quickly.

“Only thing off limits is the top drawer in my dresser.” She confirmed nodding.

He grinned at her.

She turned and walked through the bedroom door.

“It’s also locked.” She warned him.

She thought she heard him mutter something like as in like that would stop him and grinned as she walked downstairs. She returned 15 minutes later and saw him looking around her kitchen.

“I knew it.” she told him.

He held out his hand and she walked over to him.

“I think you have some explaining to do. “ he told her.

“Really?” she asked, trying to keep a straight face.

“Yes. How does someone who doesn’t cook have such a kitchen complete with a full selection of cookbooks. And before you try to figure up some excuse I’ve had a look in some of them and you seem to have added your own notes to some of the recipes.” He smiled at her.

“The kitchen was just as designed. Truly I didn’t have anything to do with it. But yes I can cook some things.” She confessed.

He pulled her towards him and kissed her.

“Would you like me to cook for you?” she asked him eventually.

“Yes I think you should.” He smiled at her. “But not tonight.”

“Pizza?” she asked.

“In a bit.” And the light in his eyes told her exactly what he was thinking about.

“Really?” she asked breathlessly. “Again?”

He picked her up and carried her through to the bedroom.

“Oh!” she said.

“Nic, I cannot eat another slice!” Ruby said as she was passed the pizza box again. “Honestly!”

“I wonder what Roman and Ella are up to?” Annie said innocently and saw the look on Nic’s face.

“It’s disgusting they can’t keep their hands off each other.” Nicole said with a grimace.

“You are only jealous because you aren’t doing it!” Annie told her.

“How do you know?” Nic asked quickly.

Annie looked at Ruby who reached into her pocket and handed over a banknote.

“Hang on!” Nicole said. “How bet you could on me? That is so not fair. You are supposed to be my betties!”

“Er Nic, I think now would be a good time to stop drinking.” Ruby suggested.

“Why?” Nic asked.

“We aren’t your betties. And your glass is empty!” Annie told her.

“Why are you two still sober!” Nic grouched.

Annie looked up from where she was laying on the floor.

“I’m not.” She said. “I think I’ve discovered leglessness!”

Ruby grinned.

“Well at least you’ll keep them closed now!” Ruby said and clapped a hand over her mouth.

Annie looked over at her and grinned.

“B*****” she said without malice.

“Did you just call me a rude word?” Ruby said laughing.

“I surely did.” Annie told her still smiling.

Nicole laughed.

Ruby picked up a cushion and threw it at Annie who ducked back down on the floor.

The pillow went past her and hit Nicole.

“Ow!” she groaned. “This is like deja thingy.” She said.

Nic picked up the pillow and threw it back at Ruby who held up her hand and caught it.

“I hate to stop a pillow fight but seriously I don’t think Ella would be impressed with buying another carpet so soon!” Annie pointed out logically.

“Good point Anster” Ruby told her. She tried to stand up to clear the glasses and pizza boxes away but ended up sinking back on the sofa.

“I can’t move!” she told them.

Nicole laughed and picked up her phone.

“Hello!” she said after she dialled, them remembered that you needed to wait until it was answered. She paused then said. ”Hello emergency come quick I need you.” And hung up the phone collapsing back on the cushions.

“I think we should have stopped drinking a while ago!” Annie said wisely, draining her glass.

“I wonder who she called.” Ruby mused.

“This is fun, I want my hen night to be like this. Do you think you two can resist killing each other until then?” Nic asked them.

“Probably not Nicster!” Ruby said. “Annie keeps calling me a …”

“Hey!” Annie said. “Just the once!” she stuck her tongue out at Ruby.

“And what is with the adding ster to the end of our names?” Nic asked.

“Nicole!” Ruby told her. ”Sh! I’m really drunk I have no idea what I’m saying!”

“uh huh.” Nicole glared at them, unaware she had unwittingly crossed her eyes.

“Oh my god! That would be such a good look for the wedding photos!” Ruby told her.

“Wedding photos?” Nicole groaned. “I haven’t even thought about photographers!”

“You weren’t going to get Ella to do it were you?” Annie asked her.

“No of course not but” Nic paused. “Now that you mention it having my pics taken by a famous photographer would be good!”

Ruby and Annie looked at each other.

“NICOLE!” they said together and laughed.

A knock sounded at the door and they shouted “Come in!” at the same time.

Geoff and Aden walked through the door.

“See Bible boy I said she was drunk!” Aden told him with a laugh.

Geoff laughed as Nicole looked over at them.

“I phoned you?” she asked Aden.

“Yes.” Aden said.

“What was the emergency?” Geoff asked, he peered down at Annie who was trying to cover her face with a pillow and stifle giggles at the same time.

“I think they may have run out of alcohol!” Aden said with a smirk.

Ruby pulled herself up leaning on one elbow.

“Actually we want the room clearing so we can have a pillow fight.” She told them.

“I phoned you?” Nic said again looking down at her phone in shock.

Geoff walked over to her and helped her sit up properly. He took the phone out of one hand and the empty glass out of the other.

“I think we could use some coffee.” Geoff told Aden, watching as the other man went into the kitchen and put the kettle onto boil.

Annie pushed the pillow down and looked at Geoff.

“We’re practising the hen night. Are you going to strip for us?” she told him.

Ruby burst out laughing.

“Annie that’s your brother.” She told her.

“I know that I was planning to ask Aden too!” she muttered.

“Pity your dad has gone away we could have asked him too!” Ruby told Nicole.

“Yuk he’s like old and old and like my dad!” Nicole said.

“Surely you knew every girl in school had a crush on him!” Annie told her.

“He’s my dad!” Nicole told them. “How could you even? That is so gross!”

Annie and Ruby grinned.

Geoff laughed at them and picked up the rest of the glasses. He took them through to the kitchen and put them in the sink.

“In my medical opinion Bible boy your fiancée will have one heck of a hangover in the morning!” Aden said with a smirk.

“We should so not mess with their heads it wouldn’t be right!” Geoff said to him with a grin.

“What did you have in mind?” Aden asked him quickly.

Geoff leaned forward.

“I know that Nic still has her school uniforms upstairs.” Geoff began, “How about we tell them to get changed because they are late for school.”

“You think they will fall for that?” Aden said. “It’s been a few years!”

“Lets have a go!” he laughed.

Geoff picked up a coffee and handed it to Nic.

“You know that if you are late again Bartlett will expel you!” he told her.

She looked up puzzled.

“I left years ago.” Nicole said.

“You wish!” Aden said to her. “Shouldn’t you get changed?” he asked.

Nic looked down at her clothes.

“Yeah!” she said still sounding puzzled. “Wait if I’m at school shouldn’t they be?” she pointed at the other girls.

“Yes.” Geoff said. “And I’ve got a free period so I can go in later. Do you want to walk with us?”

“This doesn’t feel right!” Annie said when Aden pulled her up from the floor. “I left. I went to college!”

She looked over at Ruby who shrugged.

Geoff helped Nic upstairs and rifled through the wardrobe until he found the uniforms at the back. He handed one to Nic and took the other two downstairs.

“Nic says to get changed quick.” He said to them watching as Aden had to go into the kitchen to stop himself from laughing. Geoff followed him and waited.

They walked back into the lounge minutes later and found all three girls had got changed and were waiting be the door.

Aden and Geoff burst out laughing and then had to duck as three pillows hit them.

“We are really going to fall for that one?” Nicole asked them. “Just you wait Aden Jefferies and Geoffrey Campbell!” she warned and ducked as they threw the pillows back.

Annie caught one and threw it back before diving for the sofa where she picked up more ammo to throw.

Aden ducked and a cushion flew past his head to land in the sink.

Geoff took a step toward Nicole who hit him square in the chest! He picked up the pillow from where it landed and hit her with it. She caught hold of the corner and they started wrestling for control falling over arm of the sofa until they lay on it.

Annie looked at Ruby and passed her the cushions to throw at Aden.

“Truce!” Aden said after a few minutes, he hadn’t laughed so much in ages he thought.

They sat down on the sofas and grinned at each other.

“That was fun.” Annie said. “But I think I’ve sobered up. Is there anymore pizza left?” she asked.

Aden grinned at Geoff.

“Now that sounds like an idea!” he said to him.

Nicole reached for her phone.

“It’s my treat” she said with a grin. “Do you guys want beer?” she asked them.

Aden shrugged and looked at Geoff.

“Yes!” Geoff said and saw Aden nod in assent.

Geoff walked over to the fridge and helped himself to a couple of Roman’s. He passed one to Aden.

Ruby and Annie looked at each other and held out their hands,

Geoff laughed and fetched more beers for the girls.

“Hey you know we should play spin the bottle or something!” Ruby suggested and then laughed as she heard Annie choke on her beer.

“What have you not heard of kissing cousins?” Ruby said with a laugh.

“Yes but he’s not my cousin he’s my brother.”

“And you are so not kissing him anyway!” Nic said grouchily. “He’s mine!” she said possessively and kissed him.

Aden laughed.

“How about we just put on a dvd?” he said peacefully.

He winked at Annie.

“Did you really want me to strip?” he asked her.

She grinned.

“Well if we get you really drunk would you?” she asked him.

He lifted his T-shirt and showed off his abs.

“That is as much as you get!” he said to them pulling his T-shirt back down.

Ruby laughed and took a big swig off the beer.

“Well that was better than nothing!” she said.

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Roman was sitting on the sofa with Ella lying across his lap. They were wearing matching fluffy white towelling bathrobes. He’d been suspicious when she’d suggested he put on a bathrobe wondering who else she had suggested that too but watched as she pulled a new one out of her wardrobe, still in plastic covering. She’d laughed at the expression on his face and told him she’d picked it up free at one of the hotels she’d stayed at.

She’d then wandered into the kitchen and poured him out a glass of very good red wine while she had a tall glass of fruit juice and lemonade over ice. She looked at him and grinned explaining that she’d texted her assistant and asked him to fill up the fridge with basics. The wine she’d told him was a present from somebody at some point but as he knew she never drank it. He’d sipped at the wine and nodded, whoever had bought it had good taste.

Then they’d settled down on the sofa waiting for the pizzas to arrive. They’d argued over choice of movie but eventually settled on one that they both liked.

A knock sounded at the door and she went over to open it.

“Hey Ms Addison” The pizza guy called. ”How you doing?”

Roman found himself standing up and walking up behind her.

“That’s Mrs Harris Now!” she told the pizza guy, handing over the cash.

“Cool congratulations!” The guy said. ”So… do I get to kiss the bride?” he grinned.

Roman peered round the door and glared at the delivery guy.

“No!” he said softly.

Ella laughed.

“See ya Pete!” she called to him. “Make sure you close the outside door won’t you?” she asked.

“Sure thing Ms.. I mean Mrs Harris!” Pete said and clicking his headphones back in he walked back downstairs.

Ella waited for a moment and on hearing the downstairs door closing she closed the door and handed Roman the pizzas.

“The pizza guy knows how to get in?” Roman asked.

“Yes!” she said.

“The pizza guy who has a crush on you knows how to get in your place?” Roman asked.

“No the pizza guy knows how to get in through the bottom door.” Ella said.

“How about the guy who delivers Chinese food?” Roman had placed the pizzas on the top and now stood folding his arms across his chest.

“No, he has to be buzzed in!” she told him grinning. “But if you are worried I’ll introduce you to Pete’s dad tomorrow.”

“Ella!” he groaned.

“Sorry do you have me confused with …I dunno…an idiot?” She was still smiling. Followed by her saying. “But it was sweet how you were jealous and then overprotective.”

He smiled slowly as he pulled her toward him and kissed her.

She walked over to a cupboard and pulled out napkins and picked up the wine bottle. Roman collected the pizzas and followed her over to the sofa. She topped up his glass before she sat down.

“Are you trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me?” he asked.

She laughed.

“Maybe I’m trying to get you drunk so I can get some sleep.” She suggested an alternative.

He laughed loudly.

“Since when?” he asked her placing a kiss on her temple as he sat next to her.

She snuggled closer to him and tucked her feet up beside her. He checked which pizza was which and handed hers to her, before sliding his arm around her shoulders. She looked up at him and sighed.

“What’s wrong?” he asked quickly.

“Nothing, I’m just really happy!” she told him.

He put his pizza to one side and then placed her pizza box on top of it pulling her onto his lap he kissed her lips hard and long.

“I’m sorry!” she told him pulling away “but if it comes to a choice between you and pizza you won’t win!”

“Pizza over a fantastic orgasm?” he asked.

“Fantastic?” she questioned.

“Amazing?” He tried again.

“Uh huh!” she said, shaking her head. “I need food!”

He lent forward and whispered in her ear.

“Well if you insist!” she told him with a grin.

He laughed.

“I will definitely do my best!” he told her.

She stood up and held out her hand.

“This had better be exactly what you promised.” She told him.

He laughed.

“Well it won’t be from lack of trying on my part!” he said to her following her to the bedroom.

“Well?” he asked.

“I’m not sure you might have to try again.” She told him.

“Ha ha, you are so funny.” He groaned. “I wish I’d thought to bring the pizza in with me!” He said

“You’d put pizza crumbs in my bed?” she grouched.

“Are you sulking because you didn’t think of it first?” he asked.

“No. I may be a slob compared to you but I do have some standards.” She said standing and pulling on her robe before walking into the lounge. She opened up her pizza box and picked up a slice to eat.

Roman walked over to the sofa and sat next to her. He picked up his wineglass and took a long drink before opening his pizza box and picking up a slice. He tried to take a bite but found his appetite had left him. He looked over at her.

“Do I nag you about cleaning too much?” he asked eventually.

She looked at him

“Yes.” She answered immediately.

“I’m not a messy person. I’m used to being orderly.” He said eventually.

“And I understand that. I don’t have a problem with you being neat. It’s what I drilled into Mike myself but it feels a bit much when you are forever criticising my food and my habits. If I mess something up I will clean it up.” She said. She put the pizza to one side.

“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.” She said. “I think I’ll go to bed.” She walked through to the bedroom and climbed into bed.

Roman sat and drank the wine, he refilled the glass and flicked through the tv channels before finding something mind-bendingly boring to watch. After he finished the wine he debated about staying where he was or going to bed. Comfort won and he decided to go to bed. He clicked the tv off and walked through to the bedroom.

She’d left the bedside lamp on for him he noted and smiled. He walked through and climbed naked into bed with her clicking the light off. She immediately snuggled up to him and he sighed feeling her naked body press into him.

“I’m sorry.” He said into her hair.

“Me too.” She replied.

He put his arms around her.

“You don’t nag me I’m just feeling sensitive. It’s been a challenge fitting in with you and Nic and making sure Mike is ok. It still feels like it is your place sometimes and I’m a visitor.” She told him.

“I had no idea you felt that way.” He admitted.

“Yes. Not all the time though, just the odd moment.” She said.

“Maybe we should look for a new place for ourselves” he suggested.

“I’m not sure that would be the best thing at the moment with the baby coming we should make sure that Mike is settled first and we have Nicole making a big change. It will be a struggle buying a place for them.” she told him.

”Uh huh, maybe I’ll retire and let my rich wife keep me in the manner in which I can become accustomed. “ he suggested.

“And maybe pigs will fly Mr macho I will pay all the bills and I won’t touch a penny of your money!” she grinned.

“Ok so I’m a bit …” he began to say.

“Chauvinistic?” she asked interrupting him.

“Yes fine. I’m a macho Alpha male who likes to wear the trousers.” He said.

“Great now we’ve established that could you go fetch my pizza?” she asked.

“You complete …” he groaned. “I so don’t believe I fell for that.”

She switched on her light and turned toward him laughing at the expression on his face.

“How serious are you though?” he asked.

“The first couple of weeks were a challenge I admit and yes sometimes I still think of it as your place but not enough to cause me any unhappiness.” She explained.

“Uh huh. How about you don’t keep any secrets from me?” he suggested and then groaned.

She laughed.

“I so can’t believe you tricked me into saying that too!” he groaned.

“That one was just an accident.” She grinned at him. “But aren’t you supposed to be trained to resist all types of persuasion?” she asked.

He laughed out loud.

“Having naked women press themselves against us wasn’t part of our training exercises!” he said. “We just did that for fun!”

She hit him in the ribs.

“Ow!” he cried.

“Excuse me. I do believe that you were jealous of the pizza delivery guy and then you talk about other women in our bed!” she muttered.

He laughed.

“I am jealous of any man you look at.” He confessed his tone serious.

She snuggled up close to him and pressed her lips to his neck.

“I will always be yours.” She told him huskily.

He kissed her and pressed her back into the pillows.

“Mine!” he groaned and moulded her body to his.

She pushed him away.

“No more. I need pizza.” She told him.

“Uh huh.” He said.

“What are you doing going for some kind of record?” she asked.

”God no!” he groaned. “I’m not 26 anymore!”

She looked at him and laughed.

“I thought you didn’t like to remember those days?” she asked smiling.

“Hey that was pretty memorable!” he looked down at her. “Especially the last minute mission they put us on the following day. I was so worn out I suspect I was marching asleep half the day!”

She laughed.

“You were pretty incredible!” she admitted with a blush!

She climbed out of bed and pulled on her bathrobe before going and fetching the pizza. She returned minutes later and handed him part of his on a plate and another glass of wine. He moved the pillows so they could sit up in bed and she kissed him quick and went and fetched hers. She handed him a photo album.

“What’s this?” he asked.

She climbed in to bed beside him and put her pizza and drink to one side while she took the album and opened it.

He found himself looking at a picture of himself as a younger man. He was smiling into the camera.

“El I don’t…” he began.

She pulled his arm around her and snuggled up to him.

“I’m right here and its only photos. “ she said softly. She turned the page and showed him the one she wanted him to look at.

He saw himself and Michael posing for the camera. They’d been drinking beer and had cheekily flipped peace signs when she’d clicked the button. He remembered that she’d laughed at them and ran off to her tent, returning moments later with a handful of things. She’d put a peace symbol patch on his uniform stuck there with two-sided tape and something similar on Michael’s. Then she handed them each surfer beads. He remembered suddenly that he’d never given his back and idly thought about where they could be now. She snapped the photo and they’d told her they wanted one with her in it. She climbed up in between them after setting the camera on timer. She turned the page and he saw the result. It was the three of them sitting together. He caught a glint of a silver chain at her neck and instantly remembered what it was. Michael had known and laughed at him. He smiled at the memory. They had made her do it again and again telling her they wanted a shot each. The final one he’d been unable to resist kissing her just as the camera snapped. He knew exactly where that picture was.

“See that wasn’t so bad was it?” she told him and closed the album.

“No that was ok.” He told her reaching for the album.

She put her hand on top of his.

“No, in time don’t force it.” she cautioned.

She placed the album on the floor and held his hand.

“It’ll be here when you are ready!” she explained.

“How did you get so wise?” he asked with a half smile on his lips.

“I can’t be that wise I married you!” she replied with a quick grin.

“Ha ha!” he said and kissed her.

She smiled up at him and snuggled closer before reaching for her pizza.

He placed the plate on his lap before picking up a slice so that he could keep his arm around her.

Nicole woke slowly. She looked down and saw she was wearing her school uniform. She sat up noticing that the room was spinning ever so slightly. She caught sight of herself in the mirror and screeched loudly. She had ponytails, plural. Like Brittany Spears in Oops video and groaned again. She had a vague memory of singing.

“Oh my god!” she exclaimed.

“Not so loud Princess!” came a voice beside her.

She looked over and saw Geoff in bed.

“Thank God!” she exclaimed.

“Yeah, I’m glad you are seeing things from my point of view at last but do you think you could keep the noise down a little!” he said with a grimace.

“But I snogged…” she trailed off and blushed.

“Yes I know… Aden.” He smiled. “And then you told him he wasn’t as good a kisser as me and dragged me up to bed.”

“What else happened?” she asked.

Geoff threw back the covers and revealed that he was also wearing a school uniform.

Nicole laughed hysterically.

“You and the girls gave us a makeover at around 2am.” He told her. “You shaved…”

Nicole gasped.

“I shaved off one of Aden’s eyebrows!” she groaned. “I am so never drinking again!” she hung her head down.

“Only part of it. That was when you decided to kiss it better…” Geoff told her.

“And snogged him.”

“Yes, Nic, I was there you don’t have to keep telling me!” he grinned at her blush.

“How could you let me get in this state?” she prodded him in the ribs.

She moved out of the bed and into the hallway almost tripping over Ruby who was asleep on the floor.

“What?” Ruby said sleepily, still sounding drunk.

“Why are you on the floor?” she asked her peering down at the other girl. “Never mind I need coffee and aspirin and more coffee.” She groaned and stumbled downstairs.

She saw Aden asleep on one of the sofas holding Annie in his arms and did a double take.

“Annie!” she screeched.

The other girl opened her eyes and looked at her.

“We have clothes on and I wasn’t the one who snogged him” she said quickly.

Aden stretched as he woke up.

“Yes I know I snogged him. I was drunk. Ok?” Nic blushed again and strode into the kitchen. She found a jar of instant coffee and made a very strong cup before reaching for the aspirin. She turned and saw the empty bottle of vodka. So this was all El’s fault she grimaced. She turned and poured herself a tall glass of water drinking it down quickly.

“Yup that’s what you did with the vodka last night!” Aden said from behind her.

She choked and nearly dropped the glass as she was struck by another flashback.

“It was you” she screeched. “You made me sing Britney Spears!”

He laughed and looked down.

“You made us wear school uniforms” he told her gesturing to the dress he was wearing over the top of his jeans. “And I had to ring Belle at midnight to let her know I wasn’t going to be coming home.”

She bent her head.

“That’s when I told her I’d kidnapped you and was using you as my sex slave wasn’t it?” she said quietly.

Aden chuckled.

“Yes Princess. “ he confirmed.

Geoff walked up behind them and laughed at the expression on Nics face.

“We could so have fun with this!” Geoff told Aden.

“Don’t you dare!” she warned.

Geoff pulled out his phone and showed Aden the video he took last night of Nic singing 'Oops I did it again'.

Nic stamped her foot and ignored the resulting throb in her head.

“Geoffrey Campbell you delete that or I swear I will not marry you.” She warned.

He laughed and walked over and kissed her before reaching down and taking a long drink of the coffee. He caught Aden’s expression and handed him the cup next.

“And how did you end up sleeping with my sister?” he asked the other man.

“Can’t tell you.” Aden said. “Doctor Patient confidentiality”

“Is that what they call your bedside manner?” Geoff asked.

“No that was just my sofa side manner.” Aden punned.

Nic made more coffees handing Annie one and asking her to take it upstairs to Ruby.

“Seriously Aden” Nic began, hands on her hips.

“Seriously guys, Annie got upset last night and I was comforting her. Nothing sinister.” Aden said. He grinned at Nic. “We didn’t kiss or anything else.” He confirmed. “And the rest really is confidential.” He told them.

Geoff put his hand on the other mans shoulder.

“In that case thank you for looking out for her.” He told him.

“No problem Bible Boy!” Aden said handing over the now empty cup for a refill.

Nicole made more coffees and searched out bread to make toast. She found the bread bin empty and groaned.

“How about we go down the diner?” Geoff suggested.

Annie joined them with Ruby tailing behind her looking very green.

“We’re going down the diner to get some food in us.” Nic told them.

Aden peeled off the dress and went over and picked up his T-shirt.

“See Ruby I told you I could get him to strip!” Annie said to her.

Ruby pulled out another banknote and handed it over.

“Annie since when did you start to gamble?” Geoff asked trying to sound shocked.

“Probably around the same time you started wearing girls clothes.” She told him pointing out the dress he was wearing.

He laughed and looked down.

“I wondered why my knees were feeling a draft!” he said.

“Amongst other things bible boy?” Aden asked.

“That would be telling.” Geoff grinned.

He began walking up the stairs to get changed and looked over at Nic.

“Are you planning to go like that?” he asked her.

“Hey I’m liking this image of you Nic, you look kinda innocent.” Ruby said.

“Ha bloody ha!” Nic said and made for the stairs.

She walked into her bedroom after Geoff and watched as he peeled off the dress and revealed the underwear he was wearing underneath it.

“Oh my god!” she said. “I made you wear that?” she asked.


“I can see that married life is going to be fun.” She walked over to him and kissed him slowly.

“Nic, it may be fun for you but seriously lace thongs just don’t do it for me not to mention they are really uncomfortable!” Geoff complained.

“Not even if I’m wearing them?” she asked.

He grinned.

“I’m pretty convinced that I prefer you wearing nothing!” he said. “Of course I may need to experiment a little.” He told her. “You know, see you wearing different things. Basques, suspenders and stockings,” he began a list.

“Uh huh” she said.

“Nurses uniforms, see through nighties, leather cat suit.” He continued.

“Geoffrey Campbell!” she exclaimed in shock.

He moulded her body to his and kissed her long and deep.

They got dressed and made their way downstairs slowly meeting the others. She grabbed a set of keys and handed Ruby the spare set and they set off to the diner.

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Roman looked through his wash kit twice. He tipped it out on the surface near the sink and groaned. He must have been extra excited about the trip, he thought with a sardonic grin.

“What’s up?” Ella called from beside the shower, she’d been testing the temperature to make sure it was ok before climbing. She had to admit to having a few extra aches this morning she thought with a grin.

He turned round to look at her.

“I forgot my razor.” He admitted. “You’ll have to put up with me growing a beard.” He told her.

She swore causing him to lift his eyebrows in surprise.

“No way.” She told him. She walked over to the vanity unit next to him and opened the cupboard door pulling out a new bright pink razor and handing it to him.

He laughed.

“That is a girls razor.” He said gingerly taking hold of it.

“Yes and it copes with a lot more than just a beard!” she informed him. "Would you prefer it if I had a man’s razor stashed away?” she asked him.

His eyebrows shot up again.

“No!” he said without thinking about it.

She laughed at the expression on his face.

“I can’t cope if you grow a beard!” she told him.

“Why?” he asked puzzled.

“Oh that would be because these are getting sensitive.” She gestured to a part of her anatomy. His eyes travelled downwards and he noticed the red marks for the first time.

“Perhaps I should kiss it better?” he suggested.

“Certainly, once you’ve had a shave!” she told him pulling away and heading for the shower.

He caught hold of her hand.

He handed her the razor and used his other hand to lather up his face.

“You do it!” he told her.

“No way!” she protested.

“El come on.”

She clicked the top off the razor and lifted it toward his face noting that her hand was shaking.

“The sooner you get it done the sooner I can join you in that shower.” He told her.

“Hey!” she said. “Who said you were invited?” she grouched.

He laughed and caught hold of the hand with the razor in. He guided it to his face and she began shaving him slowly. He looked in the mirror after she was done and smiled at her. Peeling the towel from his body he guided her into the shower and began soaping them both.

He kissed her slowly and held her slippery body against his.

She lifted her hands to his face and stroked his cheeks.

“Checking you haven’t missed anything?” he asked grinning.

“Yes.” She said honestly.

“And?” he questioned.

“Pretty smooth.” She confirmed kissing him. “But this won’t get us to the market and if you want me to cook for you we need to go.”

“Uh huh.” He murmured. “You going to leave me in this condition?” he asked.

She moved against him and moaned softly.

“You are going for the record aren’t you?” she asked.

“Maybe, now you reminded me of it!” he confessed.

“That would explain why you woke me up twice.” She said softly.

He chuckled.

“That’s funny because we actually made love three times during the night. Are you saying you were asleep during the third time?” he asked.

She didn’t answer just climbed out of the shower and pulled a towel round her.

“El?” he questioned.

She walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom without answering hearing the shower shut off it was moments before he joined her. He pushed her down on the bed.

“Now answer the question.” He said kissing her.

“This is so funny because I can’t remember that having a naked man questioning me was part of the army basic training I thought I was just doing that for fun!” she murmured softly.

He found himself roaring her name and rolled over.

“You so did not.” He groaned.

“Jealous much?” she asked laughing.

“Yes. And I hate being jealous.” He said.

She reached out and ran a finger down his profile.

“Tough cookies. We both have a past. I deal with yours everyday in Summer Bay.” She told him.

“I think I need your post it note.” He told her seriously.

“Great I’ll just go get you a phone book.” She replied.

“El I’m serious.” He looked at her.

“Roman.” She sighed his name. “You are an experienced man and in one respect I am grateful.” She grinned as a slow blush spread on his face. “But seriously we both have a past and if you get jealous of everyone I’m with then you are going to waste an awful lot of time on negativity.” She told him.

“Have you brought me here to do marriage counselling?” he asked with a quick grin.

“No I just wanted to spend time with you. But if we talk about stuff and work out kinks then so be it.” she said to him. “You are the only man I have brought here. The only man who has lain with me in this bed. The only man I want to wake up with tomorrow.” She paused. “Although if George Clooney is available I may have to reconsider that last one.”

He laughed.

“Fine I get the message. I will not be jealous.” Roman said to her.

He looked over at her and pulled her to him, kissing her softly.

“I love you.” She told him. “I always will.”

She laughed.

“What?” he asked.

“Or Russell Crowe. Seriously. Ouh, maybe Christian Bale.” She said.

“Fine give me a complex.” He muttered.

“Arnold Schwartznegger.” She said. “Nice muscles.”

“Right that’s it. The only name I want on your lips is mine.” He kissed her and let his hand remove her towel. He caressed her slowly then more urgently.

“That was not funny.” He repeated for the fifth time.

“I thought it was hilarious.” She smiled.

“Asking my name?” he looked at her. “At that particular moment?” he looked away and folded his arms over his chest refusing to hold her hand.

She laughed at him.

“We’re here.” She announced. She’d made them walk the four blocks to the market. “Are you going to keep sulking?” she asked him.

“I am not sulking. I am merely keeping my hands to myself until you can get my name right.” He said and almost spoiled it by laughing at the pathetic excuse. He turned his head away so she wouldn’t see his lips twist with amusement.

“Liz!” he heard called.

She turned around and walked over to the stall holder who had called her name.

“Franco!” she greeted and leaned over to kiss the older man on both cheeks. “Let me introduce someone to you. This is my husband Roman.” She pulled Roman over and watched them shake hands.

“Congratulations Roman, I take it you know what a cutie you’ve got here” Franco grinned.

“Yes I do!” Roman told the other man and threw her a look.

She laughed.

“Right down to business. I need potatoes and vegetables to cook a meal tonight!” she told him handing over a cloth bag.

Franco picked out the vegetables and put them into the bag. He turned and grabbed an apple and tossed it to her.

She laughed and bit into it.

“Lovely.” She grinned.

“I’ll have your bag ready for when you leave Princess!” Franco said to her.

Ella turned round and looked at Roman. She saw that he was smiling and she just held out her hand to him. He took it and pulled her toward him kissing her gently on the lips.

“Nice.” He murmured.

She held up the apple and he took a bite.

She tugged on his hand and walked further into the market. She stopped by one of the other stalls that sold material and looked at some of the ethnic prints. When she looked over at him he was looking at a cot blanket in pale yellow on a nearby stall. She smiled and shook her head at him. He held up a baby sized leather motorcycle jacket and she grinned at him.

She finished her apple and threw the core in a nearby bin before looking more closely at some of the material.

She was holding some up when she felt him stand next to her.

“Hey.” She said to him.

He smiled at her and picked up the corner of a bolt of cloth.

“I like this.” He told her.

“I was just looking at that.” She leaned over his arm and ran her hand over the cloth.

“Can I get 3 meters please?” she asked and watched at the stall holder cut the cloth and place it in a bag for her. She handed over the money and they moved on.

“What exactly do you plan to do with that?” he asked placing an arm around her shoulders.

“A bed cover for our room.” She told him. “I’m nesting.”

He laughed and placed his hand on the still slight curve of her belly.

“So you are.” He commented. “Maybe I should…” he began.

“No you are so not buying baby stuff.” She told him.

“But that jacket was seriously cute.” He said imitating Nicole.

She laughed and led him through the market. He found himself picking out a glass candle holder, while she added church candles to the pile.

“Stay here!” he instructed.

She waited until he came back he had a bag in his hand and refused to tell her what was in it.

“Now then. Give me the heaviest bags. “ He instructed.

She smiled up at him and handed over all the bags.

“It’s a good job I love you!” he said trying to hold a stern expression on his face.

She laughed up at him and standing on tiptoe she kissed the corner of his mouth.

“Come on, we need to see Franco and then I will take you for a cup of the best coffee in Australia. When you tell Miles how good it is he’ll be so jealous!” she promised.

They walked back to the beginning of the market and he watched as Ella picked up the bag. She kissed the other man on the cheek and promised to come back and see him before they left. Roman looked over at her and could only describe her as glowing. She handed him the bag and took some of the lighter ones away from him despite his protest. She hooked her arm through his and steered him towards a café.

She walked confidently through the door.

“Wow!” she was greeted immediately. “Elizabeth!”

“Harry. How are you?” she called.

The other man walked around the counter and enfolded her in a bear hug.

“I’m good. Who is this person you bring to meet me than?” Harry looked over at him.

“Now Harry I want you to be nice to him. This is my husband Roman.” She introduced them. Harry reached out and shook Roman’s hand. For a second he felt the vicelike grip of the other man was almost painful and looked and saw the twinkle in Ella’s expression so he returned the same pressure in his grip and saw the other man smile.

“He gets my approval.” Harry told her.

She laughed.

“And he can cook!” she told him.

Roman raised his eyebrow at her.

“That’s good because if he were relying on you to feed him he’d starve!” Harry told her.

She laughed.

“That is so not funny.” She told Harry. “It’s true but not funny!”

She turned to Roman.

“Mike went to Harry and asked him if he could give me cooking lessons.” She began.

“Mike?” Harry questioned.

“Little Roman decided he wanted to be called Mike and seriously it saves confusion in the house. Well mostly, I should add that I am now called Ella.”

Harry shook his head.

“Don’t even bother I will still call you Elizabeth.” He told her.

Roman laughed at the look on her face.

“Now Elizabeth, “ Harry began, and Roman suspected that he had used her name deliberately. “Make this man of yours a coffee.”

Harry led Roman to a table and sat down with him while Ella went behind the counter and wrestled with the mechanics of the coffee maker.

“How did you meet?” Harry said to him.

Roman laughed.

“Long story. We knew each other years ago. And met up again recently.” He abridged it.

Harry looked over at him.

“You love her?” he asked straight out.

“Yes.” Roman said immediately.

“I thought you did because even though you are over here with me you are still watching her out the corner of your eye. Unless you are used to doing that?” Harry asked him.

Roman did a double take and looked at the other man.

“I am Elizabeth’s godfather. I’ve known her since she was born and I did my training with her father.” He explained quickly.

Roman pondered what to say when Ella walked over to the table with the coffee. He took a sip of it and smiled at her as she sat next to him.

“Ok. You can work in the Diner.” He told her.

“No fear. I’d have to deal with your other woman. Colleen!” she grinned.

“So.” Harry began. “When is the baby due?” he asked.

They looked over at him in shock.

“Elizabeth since when do you not make yourself a coffee?” he asked her pointing out the logic that had made him suspect her condition.

“In 6 months.” Ella confirmed and looked over at Roman who was grinning.

“Congratulations.” Harry told them.

“You aren’t going to shake my hand again are you because I’ve just got back the use of my fingers.” Roman said.

Harry let out a loud bark of laughter.

“I like this man Elizabeth. “ Harry told her. “I think your…” he began and she glared at him.

“No.” she told him flatly.

“Not even now?” he questioned.

Roman looked at them and listened to their exchange.

“Sorry.” She said to both of them. She placed her hand on Roman’s knee and he immediately covered it with his own.

“I can’t.” Ella told Harry.

Roman leaned over and placed his arm around her shoulders not understanding the conversation but feeling that Ella needed his support. She leaned into him.

“Fine. I won’t push.” Harry told her.

Ella nodded.

“Now why don’t you take this man of mine and show him your kitchen and teach how to make Almond fingers Harry style.” She suggested. “I’ll take a trip to the butchers and I’ll see you back here in about 10 minutes.” She stood and kissed Roman before she turned and walked out of the café.

Harry sighed.

“She is a stubborn one.” He said.

Roman nodded.

“Funny, I have noticed that myself.” He told Harry in a soft tone of voice that was much to the other mans amusement.

“Come on Roman. I should at least show you my kitchen or she will know.” Harry led the way through the back and into his spotless kitchen.

For the first time in his life Roman felt Kitchen envy. He sighed.

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“I say why don’t you do a joint one.” Ruby suggested. “Start off in the surf club together and then we women will get a limo or something and go to the Sands and leave you men doing whatever.”

“No offence but Bible Boy isn’t the most wild of people.” Aden grinned at Geoff as he said it.

Geoff had his arm around Nicole and pressed a quick kiss on her lips before she could comment. He didn’t want his secrets revealed around Colleen!

She laughed.

“I like the idea of a joint do. It will let everybody join in. And if we girls go off and do our own thing and leave you to it.” Nic nodded.

“By own thing I presume you mean go to a strip club?” Annie asked loud enough for Colleen to hear. “I still owe that money to the casino.”

Ruby rolled her eyes and then grinned.

“I was thinking that we could all get matching tattoos as well.” Ruby joined in.

“I’m sorry but I have to draw the line at a tattoo. I don’t like the two I have now.” Geoff winked at Aden. “And the big one still looks like it says Aden instead of Amen.”

Aden sipped his coffee slowly before replying with. “Well at least we managed to get out of that Gay bar still wearing clothes.”

Nic stifled the giggles as she added.

“I still don’t know how you managed to convince me to get up on stage and pretend I was a bloke pretending to be a woman and singing ‘stand by your man’.”

Annie looked over at Aden.

“I’m sorry that we got you drunk last night. I hope the botched surgery this morning won’t go on your record.” She said to him.

“I’m sure it will be fine. I’ll just amend the paperwork so it reads he wanted to become a woman.” Aden replied to Annie raising one and a half eyebrows at her.

Colleen dropped the plates she was carrying on the floor at the last comment and the five off them burst out laughing.

“What has got into us?” Nic asked with a grin. “We so did not used to be this bad.”

Geoff groaned.

“I think we are happy.” He said. “and hung over.”

Ruby looked at them and picked up another French fry off Aden’s plate.

“Ruby why didn’t you order your own food.” He asked her.

“Because I kept making bets with Annie last night and I’m now broke.” She told him. “Besides I think if I actually had my own food in front of me I might not be feeling so good!”

Nic laughed at her.

“Vodka shots are not a good idea!” she commented wisely after the fact.

“It wouldn’t have been so bad if in fact you used shot glasses and not tumblers!” Aden told her.

Belle chose that moment to walk into the diner. She walked over to their table and smiled at her husband. Then full out laughed as she noticed the missing section of eyebrow.

“Have you finished using my husband as a sex slave?” she asked Nic.

They all turned round as they heard a crash from behind them.

“I think Colleen is having a bad day!” Geoff said and they burst out laughing again. He placed a kiss on Nic’s mouth before getting up and going over to help Colleen clean up the dropped tray of food.

Nic moved over and let Belle sit next to her.

“We had such fun last night that we are talking about the respective Stag and Hen do’s.” she told Belle.

“In here?” Belle asked nodding at Colleen.

“Yeah.” Annie said. “We did kind of embellish a few details of last night. “ she said.

Belle laughed.

“That explains it.” she said. “So what have you come up with?”

“Holding a joint one to start off with and then moving to separate parties.” Nic told her.

“Sounds like a good idea. That way everyone can join in and those who don’t want the wild night can still celebrate with you.” Belle said softly.

“That’s sorted then. I’ll contact Alf to sort out dates. I think we’ll go the week before the wedding so that we can recover!” she grinned at Annie and Ruby.

“What else needs sorting?” Annie asked her.

“Your dresses, my dad’s and Aden’s suits, caterers and a photographer.” Nic mentally went through the list. “Clothes for Brett and Amy-Belle..” she said.

“Well when I drag Aden to get fitter for the suit you come along and we pick out something for the kids?” Belle asked Nic.

Nic grinned.

“Ok so I am only getting married to experience multiple…” she began and blushed as Aden raised his half eyebrow at her. “I was going to say shopping trips.” She glared at him.

They laughed at her.

Ruby stood up and stretched.

“I’m going to go see Charlie and collect my stuff. Are you sure it’s…”

Nic laughed at her.

“Yes its cool. I’ll see you later. Don’t fall asleep on the way to Charlie’s!” she warned her.

“I’m going to go too.” Annie said. “I need some sleep.” She grinned.

Annie lent over and hugged Nic.

“See you later Sis.” She told her.

She and Ruby walked out together.

Belle stood and went and sat next to her husband.

She lifted her hand and stroked his eyebrow with the missing section.

“I presume there is a reason for this?” she asked him.

Nicole coughed and looked into her cup and took a long drink.

Aden smirked.

“If I could remember I’d tell you.” He told Belle and heard Nicole sigh with relief.

Belle looked over at Nic and smiled.

“So nothing to do with that drunken message from Nicole about snogging you then?” she asked them.

Nicole choked on her coffee.

“See I told you not to let me near a phone drunk!” she told him.

Belle laughed at them before leaning over and kissing her husband.

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Roman walked out of the bedroom wearing black trousers and a crisp white shirt. He saw the table had been set with neat white china and candles.

“Wow! .My husband is handsome. Incidentally how many clothes did you pack?” she asked him with a quick grin.

“I was thinking that maybe I would take my beautiful wife out to dinner one night.” Roman said and walked over to take her into his arms for a kiss.

“Well dinner is ready. Why don’t you take a seat while I go and freshen up I’m feeling a little underdressed.” She gestured to the brightly patterned skirt and vest top she was wearing.

He kissed her again.

“Don’t be long.” He said with a smile.

She looked at him and grinned.

“I think I have just the outfit.” She told him and slipped into the bedroom to change.

She opened up a section of her wardrobe and pulled out a long silver sheath dress and matching shoes. She stepped into the bathroom to freshen up and added a splash of her favourite perfume. She pinned her hair up into a neat roll leaving a few errant tendrils to curl around her face. With a shaking hand she changed her earrings for long glittery ones and also added makeup.

Slipping on the dress she smoothed it down over the slight curve of her belly pressing her hands there for a second before letting fall over her hips. The backless design meant that she could only wear certain underwear with it and being at home she decided to go without, apart from a minuscule silver thong. She stepped into the very high heels and wobbled for a second before walking back into the lounge.

She knew it was worth the effort when Roman whistled slowly under his breath.

“Breathtaking.” He told her.

She looked and saw that he had lit more candles and soft romantic music was playing.

“Oh.” She said.

“Have we got time to dance?” he asked.

She nodded.

Roman held out his hand and she stepped into his arms for a very slow dance. She smelt her favourite aftershave on him and sighed softly as she moved closer to him. He breathed out and she felt the whisper of his breath on her hair. She sighed and as she felt the warmth of his hand on her bare back a delicious shiver went through her. She looked up and felt her gaze trapped by his intense blue eyes.

“I love you.” She told him.

“I love you.” He whispered and she felt his arms tighten as he held her closer for a second.

She looked up at him and felt her eyes moisten with tears. Drat, and she’d put mascara on too!

The song finished and she moved away from him to serve the first course.

They ate slowly stopping to look into each other’s eyes as they talked. She cleared the plates and hoped he wouldn’t notice she had kicked the shoes off under the table, bringing out the next course.

He ate slowly savouring the food and the company.

“I am so making you cook more often.” He warned her.

“And spoil my reputation?” she asked him.

As they finished the meal he took her in his arms for another dance laughing as he realised she’d discarded the shoes.

“Well I can’t be girlie for long!” she muttered at his amusement.

“I wouldn’t change a single thing about you.” He told her.

“Not even wet towels on the floor? Leaving my perfume and things everywhere? Burning toast because I got distracted?” she asked him.

“Maybe a few things.” He said and laughed when she pouted up at him. “Anyway what is for desert?” he asked.

She looked at him.

“Me.” She told him and led him into the bedroom.

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Nic and Geoff were sitting on the sofa. She had her wedding planner open and the phone book. So far they had rung round all the caterers in there this afternoon and none of them could cater for the day.

“Well we’ve both agreed that we want a buffet so we could ask the diner. I know its not perfect Nic but well they might be upset if we go somewhere else.” Geoff said.

She looked at him.

“I want Irene and Leah and Colleen to be guests not worry if they have done enough food for everyone.” Nicole said. She still felt rough from the previous night, not to mention she really ought to tidy up a little, looking round at the debris from the previous night. How was she going to keep their place tidy if this was the state of a place she was looking after? She thought to herself.

They turned as they heard a knock at the door before it opened to admit Ruby and her bags.

“You knocked?” Nic asked her.

“I didn’t want to interrupt you and Geoff or you and Aden.” She said with a grin.

“Ha bloody ha Rubes” Nic said.

“What’s up?” she asked quickly sensing Nic was feeling a bit stressed.

“We can’t find a caterer. But on the plus side we have the cake ordered and Colleen is doing the middle tier.” Geoff said trying to cheer her up.

“Yes but I have to design their dresses, find a caterer, sort out a photographer, decide on the waistcoats,” Nic began a list, she could feel her voice rising.

“Nic, we are your bridesmaids. Me and Annie will help you.” Ruby said looking at Geoff. “And you forgot flowers.” she added as an afterthought.

Nic burst into tears.

“Nicole.” Geoff said pulling her into his arms and trying to comfort her.

“Sorry." She said after a minute. “I’m ok really.” She tried to smile at Geoff but it ended up being a twist of her lips before she burst out sobbing.

Geoff held her for a time while Ruby collected a glass of water from the kitchen and handed that to her.

“Sorry I didn’t mean to have a meltdown. I’m fine really. Geoff can you carry Ruby’s bag upstairs for me please?” she asked him.

He pressed his lips to her temple before going upstairs.

“Ok Nic spill!” Ruby told her.

“I want Ella.” She said. “She’ll know what to do.” Nic said bursting out crying again.

“Isn’t that a bit selfish?” Ruby asked her. “I mean you told me they didn’t have a chance to go away after their wedding so this is like a holiday for them to be together.” Ruby stroked Nic’s hair and put her arms around her.

“That’s why I’m crying!” Nic said. “Because I am horrible and selfish and I kissed Aden when I love Geoff!”

Ruby looked over at Geoff who had come down the stairs and saw that he put his finger on his lips to stop Ruby from telling Nic he was there.

“uh huh!” Ruby said.

“How can he trust me after last night?” she asked.

“I think the fact that you told Aden that you wanted to kiss him because you wanted to prove he was your brother. Then you said that you really did love me and no-one would ever know how good I was kinda told me that you are head over heels in love with me.” Geoff told her moving round to the other side of her.

She looked up in shock.

“I said that?” she asked.

“’Fraid so Nicster!” Ruby grinned at her. “There was a bit more there as well.”

Nic looked at both of them.

“What did I say?” she asked.

“Well you said that it may have been a long time ago but I was actually better in bed!” Geoff said blushing. “Of course you added that a bed wasn’t involved so you really couldn’t wait until we were married to try it out!”

Nicole groaned.

“And that you couldn’t wait to have “Niff” babies!” Ruby added. “Whatever they are.”

“It’s when you combine the two names of the people who are dating.” Nicole said conversationally.

“Hey!” Ruby said, she screwed up her face. “RuXa?” she muttered. “Xavru?” she tried again.

“Does that mean we refer to Belle and Aden as Bead?” she asked them.

Nicole and Geoff laughed.

He looked over at her.

“How about I stay here tonight and we snuggle?” he said softly.

Nic nodded.

Ruby smiled at them.

“If you insist Geoff but I have to say that if you steal all the covers you are so sleeping on your own!” she said.

Nic and Geoff laughed.

“Sorry that is not one of the tasks of the bridesmaids. I hope you can find your bed tonight!” Nic told her and led Geoff upstairs to her room.

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