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The Lost Letter - The Revised Edition

Guest TelephotoMarigold

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Story Title: The Lost Letter - The Revised Edition

Story description: Roman and Miles friendship /Roman's past catches up with him.

Type of story: Long Fic

Main Characters: Roman and Miles, and the mysterious introduction of Ella

BTTB rating: see official ratings guidance G

Genre: Romance, Drama,

Does story include spoilers: No

Is story being proof read: No

Any warnings: No Strong language or graphic content. But I do have Roman take his shirt off every so often.

Summary: A glimpse into Roman's past as it catches up with him in a surprising way and he has to decide between following his heart or following his head. We see the emotional part of Roman that he never lets anybody into.

Authors Note: I decided that some parts of this Fic are longing for a rewrite so who am I to argue?! Look out for the added bits!! Love Tele x

Chapter One

It was another hot day as Roman pounded his trainer clad feet into the hot sand. Sweat glistened on his torso as he ran along the beach. His eyes scanned the horizon, although familiar he still loved to look at the view and besides his training had ensured that he take note of everything. He saw Miles sitting in the dunes up ahead and he took that as a sign to rest a while and catch his breath. He pulled his T-shirt from the waistband of his shorts and used that to wipe the sweat from his face.

"Hello there!" Miles called out in his normal tone of voice.

Roman flexed his legs keeping his muscles supple and warmed up.

"You come here to think about Kirsty don't you? Isn't it time you moved on?" Roman came bluntly to the point.

"You would think that I would have gotten over the situation by now don't you?" Miles asked shaking his head. "It's been years."

"You loved her." Roman used the past tense, but he knew his friend had still not resolved his feelings towards her.

"Yes I did and if Kane hadn't have come back well who knows?..." Miles' voice trailed off and for the first time he looked at Roman, his friend and was once again thankful for the special bond they had that could not be broken. His thoughts drifted back to the time when he had first come to the Bay and it had been Roman who had known what he had been through. Roman, a person who had not judged him. Roman who had helped him find acceptance. Encouraged him to find Jai and helped create his family.

"And then Kirsty faced an impossible situation." he finished his sentence.

"Choosing between you and him." Roman finished.

"So I can't blamed her for running away can I?" Miles asked softly.

"But she ran from both you and Kane in the end." Roman concluded. In the power struggle between the two men they had both lost the woman they loved.

"I have Jai and the caravan park and teaching." Miles quickly ran through the list of things that kept him going on the dark days when it seemed too much to even get out of bed in the mornings.

"Has Jai told you what university he has chosen yet?" Roman asked drawing Miles back to the present.

"No still undecided. He doesn't even know exactly what he wants to do. He has been thinking about going into Medicine. Rachel is giving him a tour round the hospital as we speak."

Roman laughed.

"I still can't believe she hasn't gone on Maternity leave yet." he said.

"Well we all know Rachel! Her second child in just a couple of years!"

"Second and third!" Roman exclaimed!

Miles looked up at him in shock.

"Twins?" he asked.

"Yes. Martha let it slip."

Miles looked at him questionably.

Roman shrugged.

He thought back to the time after Jack's death when he and Martha had become close again. He had wanted to confess his feelings for her but had known it was too soon. Luckily, the moment had passed and those feelings he had mistaken for love had evolved into a deep friendship. Something she would need in the time coming up.

He flexed his calf, feeling himself getting stiff legged as he stood there and decided to sink down on to the sand beside his friend.

"Don't you need to finish your run?" Miles asked, his eyes twinkling.

"I think I can give it a miss for one day!"

"So.... "Miles said.

"So." Roman answered.

"You know what they are saying don't you?"

"Yes." Roman suddenly wished he had a beer in his hand for this conversation.

"You have to keep this to yourself mate." He made Miles swear before he went on.

"You know I will." Miles confirmed.

Roman's eyes narrowed as he looked out to sea. He caught the movement of a distant seabird in his peripheral vision and then looked about to ensure that no one else could overhear.

"The baby isn't mine." he stated.

"What?!" Miles exclaimed.

"Before she went for Chemotherapy she and Jack..."he trailed off not sure how to verbalise the next part." Well they underwent fertility treatment, you know IVF and storing Martha's eggs. She had to be clear of cancer for a year before trying to get pregnant. It took 3 tries."

"So that's why you never told her?" Miles questioned. "She's having Jack's baby!"

Many people had assumed that Roman was the father and he had gone though an uncomfortable couple of months of speculation. Not to mention Irene and Leah were still not talking to him. They had assumed like everyone else and wondered why he, of all people, was not facing up to his responsibility.

"That and well by the time it seemed right to tell her I found that I did love her but in a new way."

Roman grimaced.

He had broken his promise to Martha in telling Miles but it seemed right. And, anyway, he needed to tell someone.

"I take it Nic knows?" Miles asked the only question that seemed less invasive to Roman’s emotions.

"Like I could manage to keep it from her, even if I tried." Roman laughed at mention of his impossible daughter.

Nicole and Geoff were still very much an item. Nicole going as far as to be baptised when she'd found out from her mother that she never had been. It was even fun to hear her discussing the bible with Geoff, of course this was whilst she still had her copy of vogue open in front of her. He had the feeling that if she and Geoff decided to get married Nic would make the best dressed Pastor's wife ever!

"So if not Martha being the love of your life then who?" Miles asked.

"You know Miles, when I stopped running and decided to chat I thought I would be cheering you up, not you depressing me." Romans' eyes narrowed again as he looked his friend straight in the face.

"Someone has to ask the difficult questions!"

"Yeah, but I was trained to resist all types of interrogation, how do you think I've managed to keep Martha's secret from Irene for so long!"

They shared a moment of laughter before Roman looked serious.

"There was someone once, a long time ago."

The rough material of his uniform rubbed against his skin as he lay still in the hot desert sand. He had been wearing it for more than eight days while he laid low in the hot Afghanistan desert. His eyes were shaded from the burning sun, netting covering his position as he trained the scope of his rifle on the target. Just a squeeze of the trigger and it would be all over for another Human being. But that was not his mission. He was to observe only. His shoulder was stiff where the barrel of the rifle was pressed and he felt the need to stretch his legs and not only that, a more pressing need was starting to enter into his consciousness. He clamped down on this and all the other concerns from his mind and concentrated on his mission.

Five days later he was back in camp, amongst his men. The mission was completed and noted as a success. Now was the time to relax a little. He made his way to the showers fantasying only about hot water. He made his way to the showers a towel draped round his neck, his shower kit under one arm anther towel round his waist, although he was wearing a pair of board shorts underneath them. The thought of the surf near his hometown never that far away from his thoughts these days.

With his mind elsewhere he was for once not concentrating on where he was going. His boots were stuck once again on his feet but the laces remained loose. Normally not a problem but somehow today fateful. He felt the impact before he saw the person he'd bumped into. He reached out instinctively the towel falling from around his neck and his soap kit crashing to the ground.

"Hey!" he exclaimed, his hands reaching to clasp the person who'd managed to knock him off stride. He felt his ankle twisting under him, with the loosened boot, as the effort to stop them both tumbling to the hard ground. A bolt of pain shot up his leg and in an effort to stop any further damage to his ankle he shifted his balance. He felt the impact knock him backward and he pulled the person with him unwittingly. As he landed flat on his back he felt his head bounce on the hard ground, once and then a second time. He couldn't stop the swearword that escaped past his lips.

"Hey Soldier if that how you normally greet women perhaps you should brush up on your technique!"

He looked up in surprise as the hat tumbled off her head and her long dark hair fell in bouncy waves around her heart shaped face. Her eyes were a striking shade of blue and her lips, luscious and ripe looking. His heart thudded in his chest as he looked at her. It had been too long since his last downtime he decided quickly, as the poetic description of her took him by surprise.

She pushed herself up and managed to get into a sitting position beside him, he noticed then that she had a camera strapped to her and that she was wearing army issue camouflage the same as him, and yet he knew immediately from instinct that she wasn't in any of the forces.

She brushed off the camera first, he noticed the name on the camera strap then reached for his wash kit and towel.

He eased himself to a sitting position beside her and looked at her properly for the first time.

"Hello." he said for want of something better. Here he was tired and dirty and yes even very smelly sitting in the dirt trying to get his mind round what exactly had happened.

She pushed herself to her feet and extending a hand to him, he didn't want to accept it but knew his ankle would need looking at.

He stood up slowly testing how much weight he could put on his foot. He towered above her, thinking how here head would only just reach his heart. The flowery language again taking him by surprise.

"Hi I'm ...." she began to introduce herself, her voice soft, smiling at him

"Your Ella?" he murmured, indicating the name on the strap.

"If you like." she said after a brief laugh.

And that was how they met.

"You can't leave it there!" Miles exclaimed. "What happened then?"

"Nothing much, my ankle kept me back from two missions, then came the business with Elliot's brother." Roman's eyes clouded with mention of that incident. "And after that we came back to Australia and Ella, well she seemed to be part of something I didn't want to remember for a long while. Then came Iraq, some training in England and then the Tsunami, until I finally decided that leaving the army was what I needed to do and travelling around until I came here."

"But you were close?" Miles questioned.

"Closer than I have been to anyone until Martha. Charlie, well, that is another story." Roman concluded. “She was one of my men’s sister. I shouldn’t have dated her.”

Miles looked at him.

“I guess there is another story there.” He said.

“He was killed in Afghanistan. She was with us at the time, taking pictures of the village.”

He stood and extended his hand to Miles.

"Come on time to go get some lunch."

Miles looked down at his wrist and saw that it was nearing 1pm. He had had no idea they had been talking for so long and as he clasped Roman's hand and allowed him to pull him to his feet he noticed the other man wore no watch.

"Don't ask." Roman said guessing what Miles had been about to say.

They walked slowly to the Diner.

Miles and Roman ate lunch slowly, the conversation was non-existent as they contemplated what had been said between them on the beach. Leah had slammed the plates on the table in front of Roman as she served them causing Miles to smile at the situation.

"Do you think they will ever forgive you?" he asked Roman when they were alone again.

Roman shrugged.

"I've been trained to deal with hostile situations." he joked.

"But perhaps your training should have covered a few extras such as Dealing with Teenagers 101 and...." Miles apt but true comment was interrupted by the arrival of someone into the Diner. His jaw dropped.

Roman turned around and saw Ollie standing in the doorway. The boy had still been a child when Kirsty had left and now standing before them was a taller more confident young man, fast approaching teenage-hood. Miles starred. No words came to him. Moment’s later Kirtsy followed. She wore a short skirt and cream blouse. A smart handbag Nicole would have immediately labelled as designer, and matching shoes completed the outfit. Her hair was sleek and smooth, pulled away from her face into a tight bun. Her eyes ran around the room and locked onto Miles surprised face. They travelled over his face looking for changes and for a sign. She smiled at him. A radiant smile. It lit up her whole face as she saw him.

Miles took a deep breath. And when that didn't work he exhaled and took another one. He blinked but when he opened his eyes she was still there, in fact she was walking towards him, a halo of light from the open door behind her making her look like an angel.

"Hello Miles." She said softly.

Roman looked at his friend and rather than make a comment he waited for a sign, a gesture or a simple glance of his eyes to see if he needed to leave them alone. Kirsty was still very much in his friends heart however much Miles had tried to move on.

"Hello Kirsty." Miles returned the greeting and was grateful that his voice sounded normal.

"I know we have things we should talk about Miles" Kirsty began, "and I can't tell you why I'm here now but if I can I'd like a chance to talk to you later." Her voice was modulated and even as if she had practised the speech, yet from his long association with her he knew somehow that wasn't the case.

Ollie stood silent in the background.

Miles took a bite of his sandwich before replying. Roman recognised it as a classic delaying tactic. While Miles chewed slowly the seconds slipped in a full minute.

"Darl!" came an exclamation from the counter near the kitchen.

Irene opened her arms and Ollie moved into them to get in the first hug, grateful there was someone who offered him some warmth. He had thought his mum mad for asking him if they could do this but then on the other hand he had missed everyone, Jai his brother and Annie and Auntie Irene as he thought of her. Irene looked at Miles and Roman and Kirsty over the top of Ollie’s head. She wanted to interrupt the moment with some meaningless chatter to ease the tension the same way she always did but suspected that it was not appropriate.

"Kirsty I'm, not sure we have that much to say to one another after all this time but sure I'm willing to listen to you." Miles attempted nonchalance.

"Then if its ok perhaps we could meet up later in the Noah's?" she suggested.

Roman's eyebrow shot up as he looked at Miles. The suggestion for the neutral location for the talk had surprised him.

Miles looked at the Kirsty before him; the hair, the clothes and even the voice had changed. He wondered what had happened to her in the years she had been away and knew that he needed to know. All caution flew away as he replied.

"Noah's at 7 tonight." he confirmed.

He couldn't quite meet Roman's gaze across the table because he knew there would be questions that he had no answers for.

"Thank-you, I'll see you there." Kirsty confirmed. She turned and walked over to where Irene and her son were in conversation and joined them, greeting Irene with a hug. Telling Irene she would catch up with the news later, she asked for a drink and a something for Ollie and they took it outside.

Roman finished his sandwich in silence allowing his friend to take the moment he needed to take in the events that had just happened.

Miles sat and after a moment pushed away what was his favourite sandwich, now half eaten, and reached out to take a very long drink of his coffee. After a moment he looked up and then realised that he had not drunk his coffee, because he had not ordered coffee preferring a soda today, and had instead finished off what had been Roman's drink.

The two men looked at each other and burst out laughing.

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Chapter Two

Nicole sat on the top step of her stairs with her mobile phone on her lap. The text from Geoff was on the screen in front of her. She hit reply a number of times but somehow the words didn't sound right when she typed them. He was away at a Church camp and although they had been fine with the temporary separation it seemed to be as though Geoff was slipping away further and further. It wasn't that she did not believe in God, it was that she didn't believe with the same passion as Geoff.

Her thoughts were on their last meeting when the kisses had become passionate and she had been the one to pull away even though she had wanted and, yes even needed him but their relationship had matured and she loved him as much as she respected him. That had come as a surprise even to her.

She re-read the text message and decided to ignore it for the moment, and go to the beach to get some work done on her tan.

The beach was packed as she expected but looking around she found a quiet spot away from the main crowd of sun worshipers, cringing at the word as she immediately thought of Geoff, and laid down her towel on the hot clean sand. She had smoothed sun cream on herself prior to coming out so she merely laid down on the towel and slipped her sunglasses on and plugged in her headphones to her state of the art Ipod. Her phone beeped away in the depths of her beach bag as she lay there trying to ease her thoughts away from Geoff.

Geoff sat cross-legged under a large tree staring at his phone. This was his one free afternoon and he felt as though he needed some space from the demanding routine inside the halls. He wanted to hear Nic's voice or at least read her words. Comfort he had been taught came in many forms and today he needed Nic's comfort as much as God's. It wasn't that he wanted to change his mind about the path he was on it was that many things had happened over the past year that had not shaken his faith but had somehow strengthened it. Nic's support during that time had been surprising and welcomed. Her decision to become baptised had highlighted the darkest hour of his faith.

He loved her more each day and knew that somehow they would have to find a way of fulfilling both their dreams. Nic needed a family. She needed the warmth that had not been there between her mother and her but had been built between Roman and her. He wanted to propose and had bought a ring, not a large showy one but something that would have meaning. It was a sapphire that shone like eyes in a simple white gold band. The box was in his pocket now, he carried it like a talisman. But it wasn't fear of rejection that stopped him it was fear that his dreams and faith would hold her back from hers.

Nicole rolled over, feeling the hot sun warm her back and the song that came on the Ipod was one of their favourites. It seemed that everywhere she turned there was Geoff. She thought back to the text message. Geoff had sent, she didn't know how to phrase it, it had seemed questioning without asking a question. She didn't know how to tell him she loved him and wanted to be with him more than anything without tying him to their relationship, without letting him choose freely what he wanted and needed to do.

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Chapter Three (REVISED)

Rachel scooped up her three-year-old son James Jack Holden and held his wriggling form as he giggled away. Named after her hero and mentor from Medical school Dr James Bradshaw and the brother he would never have the chance to know except through stories told to him from his dad, he was commonly known as JJ.

They had moved out of the old house just a couple of months ago, Tony had felt that the memories of both Beth and Jack were not something he should drag into his and Rachel’s lives although she more than anyone had understood what he had been going through. The property they called home now was three-storey beach house. An office occupied part of the top floor where they could both work when necessary and not only that but it was also a place for Lucas to do his writing when he joined them. The other part of the space was being slowly turned into a guest suite when they had both the time and the money.

The second floor composed of the nursery for the new arrivals. JJ now had his own room and connecting them was a small room they had made into a playroom for JJ. Allowing him his own special space to allay any fears at his new bedroom and also make him feel special in his own right so that there would be no sibling rivalry when her attention would be focused on the twins.

The office was for her research projects so that she could continue with her medical career whilst staying at home caring for her family. Although she still did some hours at the hospital she was now firmly head of emergency medical services, lessening her time spent in the hospital on duty but providing her with the satisfaction of a career and the role that she deserved. The research side had proved a bonus when she had been offered it whilst on maternity leave the first time. It allowed her to expand her professional capability whilst proving useful in filling in the odd hours she had free when caring for her son. She had of course, worked up until the very last minute maximising her maternity leave so she could spend as long as possible enjoying her son. They relied on Colleen and Leah for childcare when she was at work. Both women becoming surrogate Auntie’s. The situation though was due to change and she would employ a full time Nanny when she was due to return to work after the twins. Although, she thought happily that would not be for many months.

She looked around the downstairs of her home, noting the informal open plan design. It had already been childproofed because of JJ but she still looked for overhanging wires and sharp corners without even noticing.

She felt the now familiar ache in the small of her back and smiled at her first born. It wouldn't be long before his siblings joined him if the timing of her contractions were anything to go by. She kissed the head of the small boy, a spitting image of her husband Tony and handed him to his Aunt Leah. Her bag was waiting by the door and all she needed now was her husband. He had been paged and phoned and eventually she had made her brother, Brad, go and look for him.

Brad was visiting from Tasmania. Their half sister was looking at universities to attend after finally taking her HSC and catching up on her studies and it seemed long enough not to have the memories of the past cluttering up the visit. He did confess in a quiet moment that he still expected Sally to be around the next corner, with a strange look on his face.

Rachel took another deep breath and released it slowly as another contraction came. Leah reached out and took hold of Rachel’s' hand.

The door burst open and both Brad and Tony erupted into the room. The look on Tony's face was pure panic. No one would realise that this was the forth time he had gone through this. The last time he had sworn just a month ago but had seen the look on Rachel’s face and knew that this might not be the end of his torture. Not that it wasn’t wonderful and everything it was just so hard watching the woman he adored and loved go through this.

Brad and Leah waved them off as they went to the hospital.

“Well trust my sister not to do anything by halves!” Brad exclaimed laughing.

“You got that right. Perhaps you should go the hospital yourself, Tony has forgotten to pick up Rachel’s bag to take with them!” Leah laughed.

According to Rachel the birth had been easy, but judging from Tony's face it was like he had just been through something horrific. He had phoned Lucas first then Leah and to save on phone calls he had then told Colleen. Mother and Daughters doing well, Dad still in shock came the report around the Bay.

He was still in the hospital waiting to go into the room where Rachel was. She was asleep at the moment and he couldn't really blame her. He could do with a nap himself and he hadn't really done anything, he once again looked through the glass window at the nursery as the pink bundles. Luckily they looked like Rachel.

Martha waddled down the corridor, herself very pregnant, with his Grandchild. His face glowed with the pride he’d felt at her decision. Many nights they had sat and discussed it, ending up talking into the early hours. The ins and outs of bringing a child into the world that would never know his father. They hadn't even known if the pregnancy would take and then it was discussed what would happen if Martha's cancer came back. Eventually it became simple, Martha loved Jack and she wanted to have his child, although the possibility remained that she could still have a child with a different father, should she meet someone new, due to the frozen eggs.

He stood and held out his arms to her and they embraced.

"Daughters can you believe it?" he asked his voice still shaking. After three sons he was shocked with the arrival of girls. Somehow he suspected that he would still be in a state of shock until they got married. That was if he ever let them date.

Martha looked through the window at them too, listening to Tony as he described the trip to the hospital, with Brad following behind with the bag he'd forgotten. She sank slowly to a chair.

"And how is Rachel?"

Tony laughed.

"She's doing better than me!" he confessed.

Martha laughed, and the sound warming his heart. She had become more his daughter than his Daughter-in-law.

"Have you given any more thought to your birth partner?" Tony asked softly.

"Granddad would probably have a heart attack if I even ask him." she had wanted to ask Roman at one stage but knew that would be unfair on him. She still had feelings for Roman but they were nothing compared to the love she had for Jack.

"I don't know who I'd like there yet Tony but don't worry I won't put you through it!"

Tony laughed again.

"I didn't realise I looked that bad!" he murmured.

Brad laughed with them for a moment before he felt his mobile vibrate in his pocket, after forgetting to turn it off.

“Excuse me” he said to Martha and Tony and walking to the exit, he took the call.

“Hey you!” he said into the phone.

“Hey yourself!” Sally said, all the way from Tasmania, “How are you?” she said.

“Well I’m now the proud uncle of two nieces!” he told her. “I’ll send some pics as soon as I can. How’s Cassie?” he asked.

“She’s better. They want to keep her in hospital a bit longer but it turned out just to be a bad case of flu in the end.” Sally filled him in on Cassie’s condition. “I hate not being there with you to surprise them all.”

“I’m not sure they could take the shock!” he joked, “I’ve kept you a very big secret as promised but I keep getting lectures from Rachel about moving on with my life and dating. I can’t wait to tell her my wife might not approve.”

Sally laughed.

“I’m still not used to being called your wife.” She said. “But I guess I can put up with it!”

Brad laughed. He thought back to the email he had received from Sally when she had been in Indonesia on her travels. She told him all about Cassie and her baby and going to Phuket in honour of Miles. He replied with news of what he was doing and trivia about Tamsin and Rachel. He added as an afterthought about how he missed her.

The email that came back surprised him with its honesty. He never expected that she would say the biggest regret in her life was that she hadn’t married him that day. But because she hadn’t really said goodbye to Flynn, something she’d needed to do before she could move on and now she’d missed her chance and knew it. She’d added a postscript saying ‘ so much for timing’.

He laughed out loud when he read the email. He’d been having an on-slash-off relationship with a fellow teacher when he worked and now he knew why he couldn’t seem to commit to her. He’d split with her before he received Sally’s second email as though he was expecting it.

He’d replied back that it was a funny thing about timing and chances and you never knew what was round the corner. When he didn’t hear anything from her he’d called himself a fool and tried to forget again, until getting a knock at the door.

“Hey!” she’d said standing at his door “Did he still give people second chances because she’d like one?”

He’d swept her up in his arms and swung her around on his doorstep much to the amusement of Cassie and Pippa, waiting nearby. They’d married a week later and when he’d been asked by Rachel to visit, whilst Tamsin was looking at universities, they’d decided to come and surprise everyone. Only Cassie had caught a chill and got taken into hospital for monitoring because of her condition.

Sally filled him in on what Pippa had been up to and he told her about the birth and everyone, saying that unfortunately her ‘Mr. Stewart’ was away at the moment so he hadn’t had a chance to speak to him. The call ended with them saying mutual ‘I love yous’ and Brad walked back inside the hospital and into Rachel’s room.

“What’s got you all goofy looking?” Tony asked. He was sitting in a chair by Rachel’s bed.

“Yeah!” Rachel piped in. “You look like the cat who got the cream!”

He just looked at them and said nothing then remembered that the chain he was keeping his wedding ring on was outside his shirt. He hastily tried to put it away but it caught Rachel’s eager gaze.

“Ah! Is that Emily’s ring?” She asked. “Is that why you aren’t dating?”

He smiled.

“No actually it’s mine.” He confessed unable to keep it secret any longer.

“What?” Tony said at the same time as Rachel. “You’re married?”

“Yes I am.”

“Well don’t keep us in suspense!” Rachel said sitting forward in the bed in her eagerness to discover the story.

He flipped open his phone and showed them the wallpaper on it. It was a picture of him and Sal on their wedding day, taken by Cassie and sent through to him.

“SALLY?” Rachel exclaimed. “What-where-when-how?”

Brad laughed and said that he would tell them all about it if they promised to tell no one as Sally wanted to come back to the Summer Bay and surprise everyone with the news!

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Chapter Four (REVISED)

Miles was in a panic. If he ironed his shirt and trousers and made an effort what would Kirsty think. Then there was his hair. Years before it had been long and shaggy but now it was clipped short and almost respectable. He thought about using some of Jai's hair gel on it but then that would send out the wrong message too. Perhaps he should just turn up just like he was; shorts and deck shoes with a T-shirt. He looked down, perhaps a clean T-shirt, with one of his cotton shirts on top. Then maybe that was too much effort or maybe he needed to send her a message.

Jai had sensed something was amiss and already gone out, so there would be no help there. Now Miles knew what a woman went through on a first date, he thought then catch himself. This was no date.

Kirsty had walked out on both him and Kane. At first he had fought for her but then seeing as how trying to get her to choose between them, he had backed off. Maybe not telling her he loved her had driven her away in the end.

He was beginning to get a headache with all the second-guessing he was doing. The only true way of finding out why Kirsty was back in the Bay was to go and talk to her.

It was at this moment his phone beeped, announcing an incoming text message. He opened his phone and looked at the screen to read the message that had come from Roman.

"Don't dress up, be yourself, but maybe a clean T that one has mayonnaise on it - Roman"

Miles laughed out loud and felt the tension easy from his shoulders.

Irene starred at Roman as he put his phone away, washed his hands and went back to preparing the order. She wanted to ask him again about Martha and her baby, but knew that this time it would do no good. Roman had been as quiet as a flipping grave on this subject. She and Leah and even Colleen watched them like a hawk but nothing seemed to crack either one of them into confessing who was the farther of Martha's baby. Somehow, today and for the first time, she suspected that it wasn't Roman.

"Darl, for heavens sake sooner or later one of you is bound to crack!" she muttered under her breath, just loud enough for him to hear but quiet enough to keep Colleen from listening.

"Irene, order's up." he said softly and handed her a plate. She smiled at him for the first time in ages finally realising that whatever the secret was he was responsible for protecting Martha and her baby.

"Thank you." she said and took the plate from his hands.

He thought back to his first few months in the Bay when he had bought a share of the original Diner from Leah and Irene had been sceptical about him and his motives. The Tsunami was horrible. His team had been sent in afterwards and it wasn't just the chaos and devastation it was the destruction of entire communities that had got to him. Sometimes and he never admitted to it to anyone he had nightmares about that more than any situation he had faced in his entire army career.

He didn't know quite what had put him on that train of thought, maybe it was the discussion with Miles earlier and suddenly he thought back to Ella. Her long hair, easy smile and the camera that had never been far from her at all times. She took some of the snapshots of his team. He continued to chop fresh herbs for the dressing he was making for a salad and as his attention wavered so did the knife. It slipped as he chopped slicing into his finger. It was Irene's gasp of shock that made him realise.

He looked down to see the deep cut in his finger. He felt it then as it began to bleed. Irene reacted extremely quickly wrapping a cloth round his hand and drawing him over to the sink.

Colleen chose that moment to look into the kitchen.

"Oh my stars!" she exclaimed. "I knew things were bad you tried to kill him didn't you?" she asked, totally misconstruing the situation as only she could.

Irene and Roman laughed together for the first time in months.

"It's alright Colleen it’s just a cut, pass me the first aid box will you?" Irene said.

Colleen acted quickly and passed the box to them, avoiding looking as Irene removed the cloth from around his hand and ran cold water over the cut. . It had stopped bleeding but still looked nasty to her.

Roman looked down surprised.

"It's fine." he stated before they suggested a trip to the hospital. He used antiseptic on it and added a couple of butterfly plasters to secure the cut before wrapping it in the blue plasters kept for suck emergencies. He tested it to make sure it was secure and put the things back in the box. Irene cleaned down the top while he put the first aid box back in its place. It was there that he saw it for the first time. Tucked away almost as is hidden he saw the cream envelope. Picking it up he turned it in his hands. The address on the front had been the first place he had stayed at after he left the army. That was crossed out and a forwarding address was put on it. He recognised it as the last place he had stayed in before coming to Summer Bay. From the postmarks this letter had been following him around for more than 7 years.

"Irene" he called. "When did this come?"

Showing her the letter.

"I'm sorry Darl!" she exclaimed "I totally forgot to tell you about it!"

"When did it come?" he asked again.

"About a month ago. I'm so sorry I just clean forgot about it."

He dragged of his apron and walked out without a word leaving both Irene and Colleen speechless.

Miles walked into Noah's dead on seven p.m. His hair was clean and scraped back with just a hint of Jai's hair grunge. He wore a clean T-shirt and shorts with deck shoes on his feet. He hadn't shaved mainly because he was so nervous he didn't trust himself not to cut himself.

Kirsty was sitting on one of the sofas. She had changed clothes too, he noticed. There was a certain polish about her.

Should he sit or stand and what about getting her a drink, his brain once again went into overdrive.

'Relax' he ordered it walking slowly over to where she was sitting.

"Hello" she said, smiling up at him.

He felt his heart jump into his throat as he looked at her.

"Thank you for seeing me. I know that it was out of the blue my turning up like this."

"Its ok." he dismissed. "Can I get you a drink?" he offered.

She indicated the glass of wine in front of her that she'd barely touched.

"I'm fine thanks." she said softly.

He walked over to the bar and ordered a beer for himself. Taking the bottle back to the table he sat down opposite her on the sofa.

"First off Miles I want to apologise for the mystery and drama in getting you here tonight, I realise now what it sounded like in the Diner earlier."

Miles remained silent letting Kirsty speak. He took a sip of his beer trying to make sure he didn't down it in one go.

"It was just I wanted a chance to speak to you alone and well explain a few things." She sipped her wine, more in an effort to do something with her hands than anything else.

"I can't say I'm not intrigued." he said raising an eyebrow.

She had to stifle a smile at the familiar expression.

"Well when I left Miles I was a mess. I owed money to Martin and had bills coming out of everywhere. Not to mention the whole situation between you and me, and also Kane. I, well, felt the need to escape from everything. At least for a while."

She paused again.

He could have said something but he didn't. He needed to hear what she had to say.

"Yes, well it was difficult. I never had much of a head for schoolwork but I went to adult literacy classes and took a number of jobs. Eventually I paid off Martin and my credit cards. And with the classes I was able then to get a better job and go to night school to get a degree in marketing. I got a job then working with a PR company. I'm not a brain by any means but I needed to prove to myself that I could do it. Not just for me but also for Ollie. With the start we, Kane and I gave him I needed to prove to him that hard work will beat sealing hands down!" She paused then, and risked looking at him.

"And?" the simple word gave her the encouragement to go on.

"Well then after I pulled myself up and proved to Ollie and myself I could make it on my own I knew it was time to explain to you and Kane my actions and why I needed to do it."

At that point he wondered where he came in the pecking order.

"I went to Kane first. He's changed. The man who came home from prison now is a counsellor helping others adjust to normal life. You could say I'm proud of him." she said.

He could sense the feeling of pride in her voice and found that there was still a feeling of jealousy passing through him at the mention of his former rival.

She risked another glance at his face hoping perhaps for a sign, before taking a deep breath and moving on.

"But it wasn't Kane that I wanted and missed. It was you."

He took a sip of his beer at that point and then the words sank in.

"What!" he exclaimed choking.

"Miles, I needed to prove myself for Ollie and set him an example but there hasn't been another man in my life except you. I have come back for you. If you'll have me that is."

He stood up.

Then sat back down again.

"What!" he exclaimed again.

"I'm my own person Miles. And I want to share my life with you if you'll have me. I know this is a shock. I needed to grow up Miles. I needed to miss you to know that I loved you." she twirled the wineglass between her fingers.

"Kirsty." he began but didn't know what to say or how to finish the sentence.

He emptied his beer and placed the bottle carefully on the table.

"Stay here." he ordered. "I need to think about this. I'll be back."

He stood and walked quickly out of Noah's leaving her behind.

Miles walked fast along the beach. The sun was setting but his mind was not on the view, rather very much on the bombshell that has just been dropped on him. He found himself in the exact same place that he'd been sitting this morning. Again he wasn't alone.

He sat next to Roman amongst the dunes. There was enough light left to see his friends’ face and it was not a good look.

"You look how I feel." he said softly.

Roman said nothing and handed over an open bottle of whisky.

Miles took a swig, gasping as the alcohol slid down his throat.

"Remember our conversation this morning." Roman began.

Miles nodded, then realising his friend wasn't looking at him he said yes.

"Well I guess you should be careful of what you wish for." Roman sounded bitter.

He handed the unopened envelope to Miles.

"It’s her handwriting. It's been following me around Australia." he murmured taking a long drink from the bottle.

"And are you going to open it?" Miles asked.

"No." Roman said.

Followed quickly by "Yes."

"I see your problem. Its indecision.”

Roman nodded. “No it’s not!” he denied, followed by “Yes, your right!”

“Ok that’s really clear.” Miles took another drink and handed the bottle back. “I don’t think that drinking is helping.” He told Roman.

“No your right.” He said confusedly.

Miles looked on as Roman took a very long swallow of neat whisky without flinching.

“I think it is though, because I’m not thinking, I’m drinking.” Roman told him handing the bottle back.

“Er…. Did that even make sense?” Miles asked the other man.

“Of course it did. You just have to drink about it.” Roman told him with a giggle.

“Roman, I think you are drunk.” Miles said laughing.

Roman laughed and launched into an off key song about not being as thunk as you drink he was.

Miles laughed and fell back on the sand. His foot hit something and he looked down and saw an empty whisky bottle.

“Did you drink that?” he asked, pointed to the empty bottle.

“Bogof!” Roman replied.

Miles sat up.

“There’s no need to be rude!” he said huffily.

“No!” Roman leaned toward the other man. “It was buy one get one free at the offy. Bogof!”

Miles laughed.

“That doesn’t mean you had to drink it!” he muttered. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone. “What is Nicole’s number?” he asked Roman.

Roman recited a number on command and lay down.

"And I know your problem." Roman said loudly, ignoring Miles command to ssh while he was on the phone. "Are you going to take her back?" he asked.

Miles hung up the phone and shrugged. The answer no further forthcoming now than it was ten minutes ago.

Roman held out his hand and took back the envelope. His thumb glided over the hand-written address as if caressing the person.

"It seems like we need to make a choice." Miles said.

"Ssh…I can't go back to that time Miles I am a different person! Assuming that there is a contact address in here. What about Nic?" he paused long enough to take another drink. "And Ella is my past. She knew me as a soldier."

"What are you afraid of?" Miles asked.

Roman looked sad for a moment and then said honesty. "That I'll open this envelope and she'll somehow become more than a memory. And she'll be someone I can never be with."

"There are no guarantees in life." Miles said answering some of his own questions.

"I need to go back."

Roman looked at him.

"Yes." he concurred. "And I need to know if I can go back."

Miles stood up and the two friends parted. Even from some distance Miles could see the envelope still unopened in Romans' hands, although he was now collapsed and laying on the sand. Nic had said she was on her way to get him.

Kirsty was exactly where he had left her in Noah's bar. He stood in the doorway and looked at her.

She stood and walked towards him, stopping only when she stood in front of him.

"Yes." he said.

"Yes?" she questioned, biting her bottom lip nervously.

"Oh yes!" he said.

He took her face in-between his hands and kissed her in full view of the bar.

She wrapped her arms around him and kissed him back.

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Chapter 5 (REVISED)

Roman woke slowly. Information filtered into his battered brain. Questions came slowly to the forefront of his mind, such as why had his bedroom ceiling become blue, why did his mouth feel as though he had been chewing sand all night and why was there rolling surf ahead of him. It was at the point he sat up slowly and really noticed his surroundings. His foot touched something and he flinched before realising it was an empty Whisky bottle, there was another one in his hand. Okay, he reasoned, he deserved to have the hammers pounding inside his head and the tongue like sandpaper.

His eyes adjusted to the glare slowly. He had no idea what the time was. Heck, amending the curse word inside his head, he didn't even know what day it was. A muttered swearword escaped his lips as he stood up and stretched. His body felt as though he had gone ten rounds with ... the sentence trailed off as he couldn't even formulate the name of a boxer. He bent and picked up the other bottle to add to recycling and started the long walk to his house for a much-needed shower.

Seconds later he turned around and ran back to the dunes. The letter wasn't in his pocket. He searched the scrub but knew it wasn't there. He wracked his memory of the night before but all there was in his head were blurred images. The last time he remembered touching the envelope he had been talking to Miles.

A sudden urgency quickened his steps as he made his way to his house and before he knew it he was running. The one thought driving through his head was that the letter was gone. It was over, there would be no second chances for him now and he didn't even want to think about how much that hurt. He tore into the house, taking the steps two at a time pulling off his top and dropping that to the landing floor. His shoes followed and he dropped the empty bottles onto his bed. He paused long enough to put his phone on charge before divesting himself of the rest of his clothes and diving into a punishably cold shower.

The water pounded down on his throbbing head before cascading over his hard muscular body. The cold temperature caused a smattering of Goosebumps across his skin. He felt sober enough to turn the dial on the shower and bring it to warm before reaching for the soap.

If only he was sober enough to remember what happened to the letter.

Nicole pulled up underneath a large leafy tree. She left the engine run a moment longer than necessary before turning the key in the ignition to the off position and removing them. Climbing out of the car she made her way to the first while building she saw. It had the sign outside of it saying administration so she supposed that it was a good a place as any to start.

"Hello!" she called softly, then raising her voice slightly, "Anybody there?"

"Hello." came a disembodied voice from somewhere in the background. "With you in a sec!"

Nicole pulled off the headscarf that had tied her hair back in the open topped sports car that had been a present from both Roman and her mother for passing both her HSC and gaining her full driving licence! She grimaced as she remembered her over the top reaction to the speeding ticket from Charlie and the subsequent removal of the other car.

She fluffed up her hair and waited patiently, something she was not renowned for.

"Now then what can I do for you?" she was asked finally.

She turned to look as the owner of the voice who was standing beside the desk in front of her. It was a kindly looking woman with a dog collar around her neck. She had blue green eyes and hair going grey at the temples. She wore half moon glassed with the chain around the arms so she could take them off and hang them around her neck. The voice although quiet contained an element of steel within in and for the first time Nicole reviewed her choice to come here.

"Hello, I'm looking for someone who is staying here, Geoff Campbell." She said with a confidence she didn't feel.

"And why would that be dearie?" the woman asked softly.

Nicole pondered her choices, she could lie and say it was a family matter or she could just tell the truth and say. Say what she suddenly mocked herself. That she didn't know if he was serious about their relationship anymore and she needed to see his face, to look into his eyes and see his smile. That she missed him. That Roman had told her not to miss any chance offered to her.

Ok, so the last one shouldn't have made any sense, as he had been completely drunk last night. Drunker than she had ever seen him before. Drunker than she’d ever seen anyone before, she thought about his rendition of ‘The house of the rising Sun’ and shuddered. Then there was the image of him hugging the bin because he didn’t want to come home and finally getting him upright only for him to turn round looking for Miles and falling over the same bin. With him being so drunk he hadn't made much sense at all, when she came to think about it but the one thing that had stuck in her mind was the phrase

'Don't let anything stop you from feeling love.'

She had taken the bottle off him at that stage of the conversation and had poured the rest into the sea, apologising to any fish that might be affected! Not that there was much left to pour away. She thought about the hangover he would have this morning and it brought a smile to her face.

"Because I need to tell him that I love him!" she suddenly blurted.

The words came out of nowhere or perhaps they were a reflection of listening to the babble from her father the night before.

"Well then that must make your name Nicole." came the reply.

"How did you know?" she asked surprised.

"Because he has talked of you. In fact you'd be surprised at how much he does talk of you. I have to say the normally we do not allow visitors at the retreat but in this instance I think I'll make an exception." came the unexpected response.

The other woman walked to the back office and used the phone.

Nicole sank on a nearby chair and waited. For once she didn't tap her foot impatiently nor play with her hair or any other annoying thing she did while she was waiting for something. She stood only when the door opened.

"Nic!" Geoff exclaimed.

"Hello!" she said nervously.

He walked over to her and put his arms around her.

"I'm glad you are here." he said just low enough for her to hear.

"I needed to see you. I hope you don't mind?" she asked.

Geoff took half a step back and looked at her. This was his Nic, his Nicole, being humble. He felt so protective of her in that instance. So honoured that she was revealing vulnerable feelings to him. And, of course, he loved her. In that single moment he loved her enough to throw away everything he had ever wanted for himself. He knew though she wouldn't let him.

"Geoff." the woman vicar interrupted. "In light of our discussions and your decision of earlier I suggest that you collect your bag and go home with Nicole."

Geoff smiled.

"It's already in her car." he confirmed.

Nicole drove her mind in turmoil. She hadn't meant for him to leave the retreat she just wanted to tell him she loved him. She began mulling over what he could have been saying about her. The more she was thinking the less she thought about what she was doing. It was only his voice interrupting her thoughts that made her realise that she was on the wrong road.

"Nic, I think you shouldn't have turned off here." he was saying.

She looked down at fuel gauge in a panic. She had planned to stop at the last petrol station to fill up with gas but had instead driven by. She indicated, checked for traffic although it was non-existent and turned around.

"Geoff what did you mean by your text?" she finally asked the question she had been meaning to for the entire time she saw him.

"Just what it said." he murmured.

"You put that you were thinking about where we were going?" she said, a touch of anger in her voice. "Where do you think we are going?" she asked finally.

"I know what I want," he said after a long pause.

The car chose that moment to chug. She eased of the pedal and allowed it to coast along for a hundred yards. A quick tap on the accelerator had it going for a bit further.

"Great!” He exclaimed. "Don’t you ever think about anything?" he asked with a uncharacteristic burst of anger.

The argument that followed grew out of nowhere as they got out of the car and began the long walk to the gas station. She complained about the stones in her totally un-sensible shoes. He told her to stay behind and she told him no.

Eventually he snapped at her.

"I can't believe that I want to marry someone like you!"

She stopped dead in the road and starred at him.

"Was that a proposal?" she asked.

He walked to the side of the road and picked a flower, then looked at her shocked face before determinedly walking over to her. He sank slowly to one knee and pulled the jewellery box from his pocket. Opening it he looked deep into her eyes. He handed her the flower and then offered the box for her inspection.

"No." he said. "This is.... Nicole will you please marry me and make me the happiest man ever?"

She looked at him. Her voice seemed to have stopped working. Shaking she held out her left hand and he slid the sapphire ring onto her finger. The sun caught it just at the right moment and it glowed with the same radiance as her gaze.

"Yes please." she answered simply.

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Chapter 6 (REVISED)

Leah had previously arranged to take that day off to go to one of VJ's events at his school, so Roman considered himself a lucky man as Colleen had gone with them! It left just Irene and himself, in the diner that day. As Irene still hadn't forgiven him for walking out on her the previous day, something that had came as something as a relief as she was giving him the silent treatment and with his hangover he'd needed the peace and quiet.

Now he was walking along the beach his shoes in his hand letting the sea wash over his feet he thought back to the letter. She had written to him for a reason. He thought back to their last meeting. He'd gotten off the chopper, his friend dead at his feet, his buddies torn apart by the last mission. He'd filed the report they'd agreed on then and got himself cleaned up. She’d been on her way back from Australia via a flight to England and then she’d bummed a lift on an English transport plane. This was before getting on the chopper with some NATO force and arriving in camp, the ever-present camera slung around her neck and her backpack trailing from her hand. Somehow during the journey she'd heard the mission had gone south, and there were casualties. He couldn’t believe she was there. He thought back to that last time he had held her, before she’d gotten on a plane and as he thought out of his life accompanying her brothers body back home. He felt he had let her down and let her brother die and now in parallel to that betrayal he had let all his men down.

His heart thudded when he saw her. He'd wanted nothing more than to hold her and feel her pressed against his heart, but he couldn't accept sympathy after what he'd done. He couldn't let her be with him because he was a murderer of his friend. His friend! He turned away from her unable to face what he's done. Unable to accept the comfort she was offering him. He found his way into the barracks he shared with his men. They looked at each other briefly, before he looked away and didn't speak. He went to his locker and took out a bottle of whisky. The locker wouldn't shut afterwards. He remembered banging it closed; once, twice, half a dozen times each time harder and louder. Swearing and shouting at it until he screamed and yanked it out of the barracks and threw it into the compound. It was the first time his men had even seen him lose it and in any other circumstances he knew it would have shocked them. He sank onto his bunk and buried his head into his hands. It was then that one of his men, Jacko had picked up the bottle and opened it. He took a drink and handed the bottle to the next man.

"To fallen comrades!" he said.

Roman raised his head and watched as each man in turn did the same until the bottle was handed to him.

"To fallen comrades!" he’d toasted weakly.

Then to his amazement they each walked up to him in turn and saluted. He accepted the gesture of respect but inside he felt hollow and ashamed. He was their leader and he should have made more of an effort to change what had happened. It was down to him and he would never forget it. He would carry it to his dying day, he promised.

She tried to speak to him in the days that followed but he still couldn’t accept comfort. She was something he denied himself, as punishment he knew that but he still couldn’t help his actions. When he was ready to see her, some instinct to explain himself and what he had done she was gone. No one it seemed knew where she was. He asked, oh yes, he’d nearly punched a senior ranking officer to try and find out her location, Jacko dragging him away before he was charged with insubordination, amongst other things. But he eventually accepted she was gone and he felt like he was dead inside. He carried on with all the missions they were given, hoping perhaps subconsciously that a stray bullet would find him.

A feeling that had fleetingly persisted even when he was out of the Army and travelling around seeing all the beauty that Australia had to offer, something inside him telling him he would be better off. Until Summer Bay had been the next stop on his journey and he finally felt some human feelings. Nicole had found him next and then he had Aden too. Somehow he found home and family and friends in the last place he thought he would, a stop off point in his journey.

Back to the present and dropped his shoes wallet and phone to the sand, stripped his shirt off dropping it over the top of them, and splashed through the surf to dive into the sea. Within moments he was doing a fast crawl, out to the deep water. He swam until he was exhausted. Then he turned around and swam back. Breathing heavily he collapsed on the beach beside his discarded possessions. He had never felt so out of control since that day. He cursed receiving that letter, letting it upset his life like this, and dragging up the past.

But what he hated more was not being brave enough to open it before he lost the chance to.

Roman lay back on the sand, unable to move for the present moment and began starring up at the sky above him. The setting sun cast scarlet hues across the horizon. He put his arm over his eyes shutting out the beauty of the sunset, the beauty of life. He believed, just sometimes, that he didn't deserve to see such things with the actions he'd done in his life.

Roman dragged himself to his feet. He was cold, tired and hungry. Upon reaching this conclusion his stomach growled as if to reprimand him, he then realised that he hadn't eaten for what amounted to the last 48 hours. Pulling on the T-shirt he pushed his feet into his shoes and grabbed hold of his wallet keys and phone.

He looked at the phone and saw that he had eleven missed calls and a half a dozen text messages. He chose to ignore them until he had gotten himself cleaned up and feeling like he was human again. The walk back to his house took longer than he expected, as he was almost shaking with cold and had cramp in his right leg. He walked wearily into his house and went straight to the kitchen, the sandwich he made hastily was devoured. He put some pasta on to cook on a low heat while browning some onions and peppers in a pan. Once cooked he added tomatoes and garlic and herbs for a quick pasta sauce. He left it simmering also on a low heat while he disappeared upstairs to take a shower.

By the time he returned from the shower the sauce was cooked. He drained the pasta and stirred it into the sauce. He let that heat through and then served a large portion for himself. He walked into the living room and clicked the TV, acknowledging wryly that he felt the need for the slight companionship the flickering images on the box provided.

Only when his meal was finished did he remember the messages on the phone. He clicked it open and read the first text. It was from Nicole asking him to call her, as were the next three messages. The last two were from Miles asking him if he was ok. He looked at the time on the phone and decided that it was too late an hour to phone anyone. Most of the missed calls were from Nicole, a couple from Miles, one from Irene and there even was one from his service provider. He rang his voice mail to hear the message left there by Nic. He could hear Geoff's laughter in the background as she said she was going to be away for a couple of days and not to worry about her but please call as soon as he got the message. He smiled. The next messages were from Miles asking him if her were ok and checking up on him.

Suddenly he yawned, and he decided to listen to the rest of the messages in the morning. Switching off the TV, he took his tired and aching body slowly up the stairs and fell into his bed. He shivered as he lay on the cool cotton sheets. Pulling up the large duvet he hadn't needed for ages because of the summer heat he snuggled down under the cover and sank into a dream filled sleep.

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Chapter 7

Nicole woke up in Geoff's arms. They had booked a room in a small B&B somewhere out in the country. After the magic of the proposal they had decided to drive around for a couple of days before letting everyone know the news. The room they were in was decorated with cabbage rose wallpaper and white muslin curtains at the window. It had a dark wooden four-poster bed with lace curtains they could draw around them to shut out the rest of the world. Together, with the ring on her finger and the room made the most romantic setting she had ever been in. Strangely, she had never imagined something this romantic and girlie looking for herself before now. She looked quickly down at her hand watched as her engagement ring caught the light. She sighed with happiness.

Turning slightly, she smiled as she looked at his sleeping profile. She wanted to touch him but resisted the urge. She wanted him to wake in that moment so she could share with him her smile and her feeling of complete happiness. She felt as though her heart were going to explode any second it seemed to be pounding so hard against her rib cage. She was sure any second he would hear it and it would wake him up. She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Last night had been magical. They had talked into the early hours about what they both wanted. Children, careers, the wedding, his dreams and her hopes. It was lovely just to be totally honest with him, with neither of them hiding behind misunderstandings and token exchanges of conversation.

He was to complete his training to become a Pastor while she went to college to finish her course. Once done they would marry. The church in Summer Bay was the only one they both thought of when discussing the wedding. It was small and Victorian but somehow perfect. She would begin looking for a dress immediately she'd decided even though it would be a long engagement.

"Stop" Geoff whispered.

"Stop what?" she asked, turning to look at him.

"I could hear your thoughts even though I was asleep." he said softly.

"I wasn't" she began, then, "Ok I was thinking about the wedding."

"I knew it." he laughed and placed a gentle kiss on her lips.

"Behave yourself Geoff Campbell, I am not that sort of girl!" she laughed and pushed her long tousled hair away from her face.

"Oh Nic," he whispered. "I know exactly what type of girl you are and I am so looking forward to our wedding night!" his voice was soft and it caressed her skin as he leaned forward and placed another kiss onto her mouth. They tangled hands as they continued to kiss, until breathing heavily they parted and moved away.

He lifted one hand and traced the outline of her face with a shaking finger.

"You are beautiful!" he said softly.

She laughed.

"I am beautiful only to you." she denied.

"You are my love." he said and kissed her once more. "You are my heart."

His kisses became passionate and deep.

They broke apart once more. Nicole stood on shaking legs and headed for the bathroom, away from temptation.

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Chapter 8 (Revised)

Miles knocked at Roman's front door numerous times. There was no response. He made his way round to the back of the house, where he tried the handle of the back door. As luck would have it the door was unlocked. Miles began to get more and more concerned as the time ticked on. He walked slowly into the kitchen and placed the two cups of coffee he had bought from the diner on the kitchen table.

Glancing around the kitchen he saw that a meal had recently been made. Knowing Roman as he did he was surprised that the kitchen hadn't been tidied afterwards. Walking through into the lounge he saw a plate with half-eaten pasta and sauce on it. He picked it up and took it into the kitchen and tidied the tops while he was there.

Picking up the spare coffee he made his way up the stairs. It was easy to spot Roman's room as the door was left wide open and Roman was in the bed. He was wrapped up in a quilt despite the sweltering summer heat. Miles sat beside him on the bed without Roman knowing. He grimaced and placed his hand on the other man’s forehead. The man had a temperature and was feverish to the touch. No wonder no one had heard from him for the past three days, he was only here now because Geoff had texted Annie who had texted Jai who had told him and so on. He wondered how the world had managed without Mobile phones in it for so long.

Picking up his own phone he called Rachel. He hated to disturb her whilst she was home on Maternity leave but knew that if he left this in the hands of her Locum she would give him hell. Roman was for a number of them family. She told him to keep him warm and try and get liquids down him. Discarding the coffee in the kitchen, although on some level that seemed to be a crime against caffeine he poured a large glass of water. Although it took him several tries to find the cupboard where the glasses were kept. He took it upstairs and placed it on the bedside cabinet. He turned around and found the bathroom, wetting a facecloth he took that over to Roman and wiped his face with the cooling flannel.

Roman woke his eyes unfocused. He licked his tongue over his dry lips.

Miles raised the glass and helped Roman sip the water. He eased the glass away to allow a moment of rest and stop Roman drinking too fast.

"I have to say mate, if this is a hangover you will be in some serious trouble when Rachel gets here." Miles joked.

Roman looked at him.

"S'ok no need Rach. Just cold" Roman muttered.

Miles laughed.

"Tough guy aren't you?" he said for want of anything better.

"Bathroom" Roman instructed and tried to get out of the bed.

"Woah boy!" Miles stopped him. "I think you might need a hand there!"

Roman looked at him and gave what was supposed to be laugh but came out as barking cough.

"It's not true what they say about soldiers you know... now sailors that is a different matter!" Roman joked, his voice was low and husky.

Miles helped Roman into a sitting position. Noting in consternation as Roman gave a hacking cough at the motion.

Once the cough had subsided, Miles held up the glass for Roman to take another drink. Then he got Roman to stand and helped him to the bathroom. While Roman was in there he pulled off the sheets from the bed and remade it with fresh linen.

Roman made it to the door of the bathroom and clung to the doorframe. Miles caught him just in time and helped him back to bed.

"You and Kirst?" Roman asked.

"We are back together. She's in the city at the moment packing up her flat and sorting out schools and everything." Miles answered.

"S'Good." Roman said and coughed again. "Maybe you won't be so miserable now!"

Miles laughed.

"Lost letter." Roman began. "S'gone and I shudda opened it." Another fit of coughing wracked his frame.

Miles began to formulate a response when he heard a knock at the door. Knowing that could only be Rachel he raced to answer it.

"Glad you are here. He doesn't look good." Miles indicated that she should go upstairs to Romans' bedroom. He stayed downstairs and walked back into the kitchen. The pots he's tidied earlier he now washed up and stacked clean on the side. He put the kettle on and made himself a strong coffee. Rachel joined him moments later.

"He has a chest infection. I couldn't persuade him to go to hospital so he needs someone to look after him here." Rachel's tone was brusque indicating the attitude of the conversation she had just had with the Roman upstairs.

"I've contacted Nicole and she is on her way back with Geoff."

Rachel gave him a look with one of her eyebrows slightly raised.

Miles shrugged.

"She went to see him at the retreat and he decided to spend some time with her." Miles gave her the bare bones of the story, filling her in on the background.

"Ok." Rachel said softly. "But what is this about a letter?" she asked.

"Now that is a long story." Miles laughed.

Rachel sat down at the kitchen table whilst she began writing out the prescription that would need picking up for Roman.

"Tony is babysitting for another hour!" she said softly.

Miles laughed again and handed over a cup of green tea he'd already prepared her.

"Roman was in Afghanistan. He met a photographer out there, and they started a relationship. " His voice was soft as he began the story, he filled Rachel in on the barest details. He knew that Roman would be distressed at the full details coming out, although everyone knew about Elliot and some of the details about his brother, so Miles generalised as much as possible glossing over a number of details.

He concluded with "The letter was from her but it seems to have gone missing again. Roman doesn't even know what was in it."

"Well, he seems to be upset by it. More than is good for him at this moment in time." Her voice was sympathetic. She finished her tea and stood up. Indicating the prescription she said. "I'll get this filled and sent out to you. I'll let Irene know Roman won't be in the diner anytime soon."

Miles laughed.

"Good luck with that one, when I saw her this morning and told her I was coming here she threatened to put something nasty in his coffee!" he said.

Rachel laughed.

"Yes, I have sensed a certain atmosphere of late" she confessed.

Miles did not let on that he knew the reason for the tension in the diner and the explanation behind it.

"Well I'm sure that when she knows he's been ill she will send over some food." Rachel said optimistically. "Now when you give him the tablets make sure he takes plenty of water with them. I'll check back with you tomorrow to find out how he is doing." Rachel walked to the front door with Miles a step behind her. He'd give it half an hour then go make sure Roman hadn't done anything stupid like try to get out of bed, he decided after seeing Rachel out. He collapsed on the sofa and switched on the TV.

Nicole and Geoff sat quietly in the car together. Geoff was driving but they were still more than four hours away from Summer Bay. When she had received Miles' text message to say her Dad was ill she felt first, upset that her time with Geoff was over and then really concerned about her Dad. Now she was guilty that she'd had felt upset for the wrong reasons.

Geoff reached over and caught hold of her hand.

"It's ok." he told her. "Roman is going to be ok."

She sighed.

"It's not that, its... " She trailed off uncertain how to phrase it. "I felt sad that our time together was over before I felt upset about my Dad!" she finally confessed.

Geoff smiled, firstly because she had called Roman 'Dad', something she rarely did; and secondly because she was letting her feelings out and not hiding behind her persona, something she normally did when it came to feelings. Their eyes met in the rear view mirror.

"Nic, that’s perfectly understandable," he told her.

He gave her hand an extra squeeze.

"Is it?" she screwed up her nose in that cute way she did when she was thinking about something.

"Yes, of course. It's been so special, us being able to spend this time together. I feel disappointed too that it has ended like this. But we will have the rest of our lives together Nic."

"Oh Geoff." She sighed again. This time it was at the thought of the rest of her life, spent with Geoff, being with Geoff, being Geoff's wife. She looked down at their entwined hands. This was just the start of a long time together.

He lifted their combined hands so he could place a kiss on hers and they continued on thier way back to Summer Bay.

Miles surfed through all the channels before finding an old black and white horror film he had only seen a handful of times, he pulled the blanket higher around him and settled back to watch the film. Somehow he had managed to get Roman to stay in bed all day and not only that but also take his tablets on time, although it was more the threat of saying that he would get Irene to come and look after him than good judgement on Roman's part. The stubborn man would not concede that it was anything more serious than a cold.

Deeply engrossed in the movie he did not hear the silent tread of footsteps behind him. He continued to watch the movie as the vampire circled around one of his victims. Miles loved these types of movies but he could never understand how a person could not know the serial killer was behind them or the vampire. Surely there would be something that gave them away. Miles flinched as the victim was grabbed.

"Mate, surely you knew that was going to happen!" Roman said from behind him.

Miles let out a girlie screech.

Roman laughed, his voice still rusty.

"What the heck are you doing out of bed?" he asked, all his years of teacher training automatically amending the curse word to a mild one.

"I needed a drink and I didn't want to disturb you if you were asleep!" he confessed.

"Sit down." Miles ordered.

He went into the kitchen and put the light on quickly, trying not to let on he was subconsciously checking there were no vampires in the room. He poured two glasses of orange juice and took them back into the living room.

Roman was collapsed in a chair. He gratefully accepted the drink and took a long thirsty swallow.

"It's still on your mind isn't it?" Miles asked.

"The letter?" Roman responded truthfully. "Yes, it is. I keep trying to work out why she would write to me after the way I left things!"

"You could always track her down and ask her?" Miles suggested.

"And say what?" Roman looked at his friend for a long moment. "Sorry I didn’t talk to you, sorry I left without telling you I was going, sorry I didn't tell you where I was going, sorry I didn't tell you about my daughter, sorry I never got in touch. Sorry I had the chance to find out what was in the letter you sent to me, but I was too much of a coward to open it?"

"Well I would start by saying 'Hello'!" Miles said softly.

After a long moment Roman laughed.

"That might be a better opening. I'll think about it." he promised, before making his slow way back upstairs to bed.

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Chapter 9 (Revised)

Miles was in the kitchen at Roman's house. He had an oversized apron wrapped around his waist and was trying to cook bacon, eggs and toast all in one go. The first lot of toast had already been tossed into the bin, luckily he had managed to grab it before the smoke alarm had gone off, which no doubt would have woken Roman. He turned the bacon in the grill, noting that it was just on the unburned side of crispy and ensured that the grill was turned down to a lower setting. Or at least he hoped it was a lower setting. The toast was done, and this time with no obvious black bits. All it needed now was the eggs to cook and breakfast would be ready.

He managed to get it served up on the two plates with no further drama and turned slowly around. Roman had once again crept downstairs silently and had been watching him.

"How long?" Miles asked in shorthand fashion, with a sheepish grin on his face.

"Long enough never to ask you to work in the diner!" Roman laughed, gasping, as the laugh became a harsh cough. He winced as pain from his ribs shook through his frame. His shoulder felt sore too but he had put it down to being in bad shape for the past few days, now though he raised his t shirt and looked down.

"Oh my god!" Miles exclaimed.

The left side of his body all along his ribs was covered in bruises, shading from yellow to livid purple.

"Funny, I can't remember doing anything!" Roman exclaimed in shock.

"That looks so bad." came a new voice from the doorway.

Roman and Miles turned in unison.

"Dad!" Nicole exclaimed.

Roman walked slowly to the table and sat down. He reached for a slice of toast absentmindedly, turning his sapphire blue eyed gaze on his daughter he took a slow steady breath in.

"I don't think I want to know what happened!" he said softly, remembering the mad swim and lying on the beach until it grew dark. Being cold tired and hungry had led to the Chest Infection. Obviously, the bruises had not been showing when Rachel had examined him.

Nic sat opposite her father just as Geoff walked through the door carrying the luggage.

"Miles told me you were ill but I think Rachel needs to take a look at you." Nicole said softly. She unthinkingly placed her hand on top of his. Her left hand.

Roman silently debated the wisdom of her words and looked down at the table. He did a double take after he glanced at their hands.

"Oh my god Nic!" Roman exclaimed.

She smiled.

"Congratulations!" Roman exclaimed again, dropping the toast onto the plate.

Nicole and Geoff looked at each other in that special way they had.

Belle drove slowly, Aden was asleep in the passenger seat. They had picked up the rental at the airport after flying in from the depths of the outback. Aden was now a typical bush doctor, his days on a fishing trawler long behind him, and she, well she was a mummy first and a photographer second. She looked briefly into the rear-view mirror to look at the two little darlings also fast asleep in the back seat. The reason for returning to the Bay was simple, Nicole had texted Aden to say Roman was unwell, although serious it was expected that he would make a full recovery, and Aden being Aden wanted to see the man he described as his dad if anyone asked him about family. Although the text message had reached them yesterday morning it had taken them over twenty-six hours to even reach any place close to the bay, down to a combination of finding cover for Aden and the travel. She had to admit that she was looking forward to seeing everyone again, but mostly she was looking forward to sitting on the beach and looking out to sea.

Watching the way the sun had risen over the approaching town seeming to highlight the place that they had once called home was seemingly magical. She pulled the car up to a small rest stop and took out her camera to get a picture or two, needing also to stretch her legs. She walked a little way up the hill, noting the addition of a couple of picnic tables and seats that had not been there before from when they lived here. Walking past these she continued on the path worn smooth by multitudes of walkers. She raised her camera and snapped a couple of shots quickly as seagulls rose up into the air.

"Not bad!" exclaimed a voice from behind her.

Belle spun round and almost dropped her camera.

"Oh my god!" she shrieked.

The newcomer laughed.

"Not quite."

Belle had immediately recognised the woman from an article she had just seen in Australian Geographic magazine. She was renowned for her photography all across Australia. Although the copy of the magazine had been a few months old by the time it had reached them.

"May I?" the other woman, asked, indicating her desire to look at the photos Belle had just taken.

Belle handed over her camera and watched as the woman went though the snaps. She still couldn't seem to form a sentence to say to the other woman.

"These are good. Are you a professional?" the dark haired woman commented.

At last Belle found her voice.

"I have worked for a couple of newspapers." she said.

"That’s great. I'd like to take a look at your portfolio sometime." the woman said handing over first the camera then a business card. "Give me a call sometime and we can arrange it."

Belle held her camera with shaking hands as she watched the woman walk away. She couldn't believe just whom she had bumped into. She turned and made her way back to the car and its sleeping occupants. She had the urge to shake Aden awake and tell him but it wouldn't have been fair he needed his sleep that she had met famous photographer Elizabeth Addison. Of course she would then have to explain who she was.

Miles sat at the kitchen table, the remains of their breakfast had long since been cleared away and Roman had been despatched to the hospital for an x-ray on his ribs. Rachel had been so insistent that there was no way he could get out of it, although Roman still had no idea how he'd done the damage. Geoff had gone home to speak to Irene and Annie, and Nicole was upstairs in the shower. He'd decided that there was only one thing to do to put his friends mind at ease over this situation so he'd taken the time to go online surfing for any mention of a photographer named Ella. He'd called Jai moments ago to ask for help and he was coming over to help.

He went through several newspaper websites looking for any mention of the photographer, getting frustrated by his lack of success more than anything. A figure appeared in the doorway and he looked up to see Jai there.

"Hello Jai." he called, "Come in!"

"Miles," Jai said in greeting, "How is Roman?" he asked.

"You’ll see him soon he should be back from the hospital shortly." Miles said and filled Jai in on the rest of what had been happening. Soon Jai was on the computer whilst Miles made himself busy making coffee.

He'd had to admit he always wondered what a chef's kitchen was like and now standing in Roman's he'd had the chance to look around, not being nosy though, he'd needed to find plates and cups and other things. He was slightly surprised when he'd remembered which cupboard the cups went in on only the second try.

Jai suddenly pushed his chair back and stood up.

"It's no good I can't find any mention of any photographer." he confessed reluctantly.

"What?!" exclaimed a voice from the doorway. Jai and Miles turned guiltily at the sound of Roman's voice. Roman held up a pacifying hand before saying, "Rachel just dropped me off in case you were wondering." he explained before Miles could say anything.

"Well I thought if we knew where she was it might make it easier for you to say 'Hello'."

Roman laughed briefly at the reminder of a previous conversation. He sat down at the table and typed a name into the search engine.

"Perhaps it might help if you actually knew her name.” he said.

Miles read the screen over Roman's shoulder and was surprised by what came up on the screen.

“That’s her?” he asked in surprise.

“Yes.” Roman said shortly.

“Well even I’ve heard of her!” Miles muttered then asked. "How did you get on at the hospital anyway?" and going back to his task of pouring the coffee.

"Yes Dad, what did Rachel say?" Nicole added, coming through the lounge to join them in the kitchen. "Hi Jai!" she called to the other person.

"I have a couple of cracked ribs and I still don't know what I did." he said with a laugh.

Nic laughed.

"Sorry!" she said to the three shocked faces. "I went down to the beach to drag you back after Miles told me you drinking and" she paused. Roman had stood up and folded his arms across his chest. The action caused a coughing fit.

Miles reached for a glass and filled it with water. He handed it to Roman and watched in concern as the other man took a drink.

"I'm all right!" Roman said after a minute. "Carry on Nic." he instructed.

"You were on the beach completely drunk, I took the bottle off you and emptied what was left in it." She smiled. "not that there was a lot left."

Miles laughed, remembering the state his friend had been in when he'd seen him.

"I tried to get you home, but you didn't want to leave the beach and you ended up first hugging a bin and then falling over it. After that you refused to get up. I had to leave you on the beach to sleep it off." Nicole finished the story. “You were convinced that you had to wait for Miles even though I kept telling you he had gone home.”

The story has brought back some memory of that night. He suddenly had this image of sitting next to the bin clutching the empty bottle and telling Nic that he'd messed his life up and that she should take a chance on love when it came along because she would never know what would come next. Obviously she had taken him on his word.

She smiled at her father and said softly. "You did actually make some sense," she paused “So I went to see Geoff.”

Another coughing fit was brought on by his laughter.

"Right that's it you're going to bed." Miles instructed.

Roman nodded, unable to speak for a moment. He looked at his daughter and smiled at her. She had never seemed so happy. He gave her hand a squeeze on the way past as he made his way to his bedroom.

Miles looked at the screen and smiled, it was no wonder that there were no search results for a photographer with the first name of Ella. He scrolled down the page and clicked on the biography. The woman had a list of credits longer than the phone book. He began reading quietly to himself, moments later he was joined by Nicole and Jai as they walked back into the kitchen to refill their drinks.

"Is that her?" Jai asked looking over Miles' shoulder.

Nicole sat down beside him and all three of them were then engrossed with reading the biography.

Miles clicked on the next page and lifted his cup up to take a drink. As he read the paragraph at the end of the page he froze, the cup halfway between tabletop and his mouth. Turning his head slightly he looked at Nicole's face and waited. The expression of shock mirrored his own.

"That does say what I think it says doesn't it?" he asked her. He felt his hand shake slightly and lowered the cup.

"Elizabeth Addison is the proud mother of one son, 11 year old Roman Addison." Jai read aloud.

"Roman?" Nicole questioned, her lips continued to move as she tried to form a sentence.

"Is there a picture of them?" she eventually asked.

"No, look it says that she doesn't allow them to take photographs of her son." Jai murmured, "Hey! That's cool!"

"Well..." Miles began.

He took a long swig of coffee, followed swiftly by another one, the words to finish the sentence he had just begun were in his brain somewhere, he just didn't know where.

"Jai, can't you do something? Find a snapshot or something? You know, work your magic!" Nicole pleaded in a husky voice.

"Hang on!" Jai murmured taking control of the laptop.

It took about half an hour before Jai called them both back into the kitchen to see the results. Neither Nic or Miles had thought it prudent to say anything to Roman until he was back to normal.

"Ok, are you ready for this?" Jai asked them.

"I found an old school photo of the boy and used some digital software to enhance the age. This is what he should look like now.!" Jai pulled up a photo and showed them.

Nicole gasped and found herself leaning on the back of a chair for support.

"Then I took a photo of her and one of your dad and used some tacky picture software to see what a child of theirs would look like. Merging the faces etc."

At this point Nicole wanted to scream at him to get on with it.

Or scream at him to stop.

She didn't know which.

"Well this is what it would look like. "

Nicole sighed and closed her eyes briefly before looking at the screen.

"Oh! My! God!" she exclaimed.

"Here are the two photos together." Jai explained. "As you can see there are distinct similarities!"

Miles looked at the screen and uttered a curse, unable to stop himself.

Nicole looked at the both of them and at the screen before shakily pulling out a chair and sitting.

"And she called him Roman!" she said in shock, falling off the chair and to the floor.

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Chapter 10 (REVISED):

Belle pulled up the car outside the Diner and climbed out of the car. She inhaled deeply, loving the scent of Salt Ocean in the air. It was clean and damp at the same time and such a nice change from the oppressive dust of the bush. Not that for one second did she regret her life, she thought, glancing in the back of the car.

At that moment, Aden awoke. He climbed out of the car and stretched.

"We're home." he said softly.

They looked at each other for a long moment before going into the car and waking their children. They carried one each and walked into the diner, answering excited but sleepy questions.

"Oh my god! Darls!" Irene exclaimed when she saw them.

"Hello Irene." Aden said. He placed his son Brett in a chair and reached out to take Amy-Belle, his daughter, from Belle.

Now her arms were free Belle gave Irene a long hug. Both women had suspiciously bright eyes.

"What in the blazes are you doing here?" Irene asked, "Not that I'm not pleased to see ya, you understand!"

"Well, we heard about Roman and Aden wanted to see him. And we thought the kids should see where we grew up!" Belle explained.

She glanced over at Aden and the two exchanged a look.

"Come and say hello!" Belle instructed.

Irene nervously smoothed down her hair and began to walk over to the table where Aden had settled the two kids. They looked the spit of Aden, all blond hair and gorgeous blue eyes. And that smile.

"Yeah I know." Belle said softly, sliding her arm through Irene's as she led her to the table "Not a bit like me!"

"The pics haven't done them justice darl!" Irene exclaimed.

"Irene this is Brett and this one is Amy-belle." Aden introduced them, placing a hand on Amy-belle's shoulder. "Kids this is your Nanna-Rene."

Irene blushed at the complement.

"Hello kids." she eventually said when she found her voice.

" 'Lo." Brett said

"I want mine chocolate." Amy-belle lisped. "plleesesse"

Aden and Belle laughed.

Aden continued smiling when he explained.

"We talk about this place so much that they know the menu!"

Irene laughed.

"Well that will be one chocolate milk coming up!"

They all gave orders for both food and drinks and persuaded Irene to join them for a bit while they caught up.

Aden looked at Belle and smiled at his wife.

It was Aden who first noticed the arrival of the boy. He looked to be around 10 or so, slim build with fair hair, and it was only when he turned that he saw the boy had bright clear blue eyes.

"Irene, I think you have a customer!" he murmured softly.

Irene turned to look at the kid standing at the counter. She had never seen him around before. She stood up from the tale she was sharing with Belle and Aden and walked to the kitchen.

"What can I get you Darl?" she asked softly.

The boy turned and looked at her.

"A black coffee please and a chocolate milkshake." He gave his order and watched silently as she prepared the two drinks.

"You got family in the bay?" Irene asked, gently.

"No." the boy answered in a flat tone of voice.

"Are these to drink in or takeaway?" Irene eventually asked, to try and draw the kid into conversation.

"Drink in." he replied.

"Why don't you take a seat then Darl, and I'll being them over." she suggested.

He walked over to a far table and sat with his back to the room and facing the door. Irene followed him with a tray and placed the drinks in front of him. He fished in his pocket and handed over a bank note to pay for the drinks. A length of string, a penknife and a packet of bubble gum fell out onto the floor. He bent down quickly to pick them up, looking around to see if anyone noticed. Irene handed over his change that he placed next to the coffee cup.

Moments later a tall dark-haired woman rushed in. She was carrying a large holdall in one hand and a backpack in the other.

"Oi!" she said walking over to the kids table. "I believe you forgot this?" she handed him the backpack with a smile on her face.

He shrugged as he took it from her and placed it on one of the spare chairs.

"Thanks!" he said to her.

She sat opposite him and took a long swig of the coffee.

"Perfect." she announced.

Irene walked over to them and smiled.

"Everything ok?" she asked.

"Yes, thank-you." she was answered.

"Planning to stay around here are you?" Irene asked.

"Actually, yes, I am for a bit. My name is Liz and this is my son." She stood and held out her hand to Irene.

Irene shook her hand.

"Nice to meet ya!" she said.

Liz sat back down and took another long swallow of her coffee.

Aden looked on in surprise as he saw Belle wriggle in her seat. He raised his eyebrows as if in question, but she didn’t say anything until the boy and the woman were talking to Irene,

“That was her!” Belle said quickly.

Aden still looked puzzled.

“That was Elizabeth Addison the photographer. You bought me on of her books last Christmas!” she said excitedly trying to keep her voice down.

“I take it she is famous then?” Aden asked in a stage whisper.

“Yes.” Belle said almost jumping up and down in her chair. “And she liked one of my photos!” Belle added boasting.

Aden laughed.

The boy looked at his mother and sighed.

"Alright Mister, what’s the matter now?" she asked him.

"Nothing." he enunciated the word clearly, looking her in the eye.

"Of course not. Silly of me to ask isn't it?" she half smiled at him.

"Stop it!" he muttered angrily.

"Look kid, we are on holiday so that means I don't want your attitude to suck it up. So you can either talk to me about stuff or sit there and sulk but either way I'm going to have some fun." Liz explained clearly.

She finished her coffee and pocketed the change. Toting the holdall over one shoulder she stood up and walked to the door. He sullenly followed her, dragging his backpack along the tiled floor.

Once outside she placed sunglasses over her eyes and stuck her hand in her back pocket and waited for him to catch up.

"Ready?" she asked, and without waiting for a response she walked over to the car. It was a black top of the line jeep. She opened the car door and shoved her bag on the back seat, then stood to one side to let him do likewise with his backpack.

Walking around the front of the car she climbed into the drivers seat and started the car. They set off as soon as he was safely buckled into the passenger seat.

"Do we really have to stay in a caravan?" he asked eventually.

"Is that what has been bugging you?" she murmured.

"No!" he exclaimed, the tone of his voice rising.

Liz sighed.

"The caravan is in walking distance of the beach and from there the Diner and also the school. It is perfect as a base until we, as in the pair of us, decide what we are going to do next."

He grumbled under his breath as she drove. She was tempted to put on the radio to fill the silence but decided against it. He would come around sooner or later. She clung to the thought.

She slowed the car as she negotiated the turning into the Caravan Park. She continued up the drive slowly until they pulled up in the Caravan Park itself and she stopped the car.

She turned towards him.

"Are we sorted?" she asked.

"S'pose so." he muttered.

"Great, you can go knock on that door over there and get the key." she pointed out the green door of the house.

She got out of the car and stretched and watched as he walked over to the house. The slump of his shoulders highlighted that he was still upset with her. She knew logically that there was nothing she could do about that until such time as he decided to start talking to her.

She stood lost in thought until her phone beeped. Opening the phone she read the message and grimaced.

"Mum I've got the keys and this lady is Kirsty, she's going to show us the van." her son explained, breaking into her thoughts.

"Hi." she said. "I'm Liz." she introduced herself.

"Hey there, I'm Kirsty and the boy over there is my son Ollie." Kirsty smiled.

"Nice to meet you. I hope the boy introduced himself?" Liz said softly as they walked to the caravan.

"Actually he didn't give his name."

Liz laughed.

"Why am I not surprised by that one!?" she muttered to herself.

"Long Story?" Kirtsy asked. "If you need a chat just come over to the house." she offered.

Kirsty opened the door and handed over the key.

"I've put in fresh towels and bedding. The shower blocks are over there. Enjoy your stay."

Liz thanked her and went into the van. She looked pensive as she watched Kirsty walk away.

"Com'on Boy, get your bed made!" she instructed. It was turning into a long day.

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