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The Way Back

Guest TelephotoMarigold

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Story Title: - The Way Back

(Sequel to Elliot's Return)

Type of story: Long

Main Characters: Nicole & Geoff, Roman, Miles, Aden and Belle, Ella, The Children

BTTB rating: A

Genre: Drama and Romance

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: Will warn at beginning of chapter if any

Summary: Roman and Ella are living separate lives with nothing left between them, then a tragedy happens and suddenly things have changed.... Can they find a way back?

Chapter 1

Roman Harris woke early and dressed in shorts top and trainers before he went for his usual run along the beach. After he finished he stood looking out on the sea before her headed back to his new apartment and took a shower before going to the diner to start work. The apartment was in a new block built close to the beach. He was renting and hadn’t bothered to do anything with it and it still had the magnolia painted walls and the minimum of furniture. He spent as little time there as possible preferring to hang with Miles or go to work. He found himself thinking of the house and deciding that he should make a trip out there soon to check on it. He’d arrived back from the island to find Ella gone with the children and the house on the market. A removals company had delivered all of his clothes and possessions to Nic’s house. She hadn’t even put in any photographs of the children and he hurt all the more for that simple thing.

He sighed and pulled himself together. Thinking of the kids and Ella brought him down and he needed to focus on other stuff. He was due to go to Nic’s for dinner tonight and he didn’t want to bring her down again, having to comfort his hysterically crying daughter had nearly brought him to his knees the last time. He couldn’t promise her that things were going to get better or take care of her. Ella had taken the children away and there was no denying that she wasn’t coming back. He groaned before opening the door of the diner and turning the sign to open ready for another day.

Moving back to the kitchen he began the preparation for the day washing and preparing the vegetables. He chopped up the tomatoes and then the lettuce before tackling the peppers and the onions.

“Cooee!” Colleen called out walking into the kitchen.

“Hello Colleen. How are you this morning?” he murmured still deftly chopping the vegetables.

“I’m ok I suppose.” She said softly and went on to complain about some ailment. He focused on the food in front of him half-listening to the other woman. The first orders came in and he began cooking.

Leah came in later after dropping VJ off at school and greeted him.

“Hey.” She said after a minute.

He brought his focus back and looked at her.

“Sorry.” He murmured. “How are you? “ he asked the young Greek woman.

“I’m ok Roman Harris but you aren’t.” She said softly placing her hand on his arm.

He stopped and moved away from the cooker getting more ingredients from the fridge.

“I’m fine.” He said after a few moments.

“Can’t you track her down?” Leah asked ignoring the back off signals he was putting out.

He gave her a haunted look his eyes filling with tears before his face assumed its now normal bland expression.

“She doesn’t want me.” He said his voice cold.

“Roman you have a right to see your children.” Leah carried on looking at him with pity in her deep velvet brown eyes.

“You don’t understand.” He said a note of anger in his voice now. “She hates me and I can’t blame her.”

“I can blame her for leaving you like this.” Leah said her voice getting angry. “No-one deserves this, especially when she knows what you’d do for your kids. And there is Nic.”

Roman turned facing the smaller woman folding his arms across himself and looking at her. He controlled the anger he felt and tried not to think about where Ella was and if she was all right and how she was coping with all the kids. He also tried not to think about Sophie and how she would miss her horse. How Georgie was missing his footy practice with his juniors team or that Sammy would be stressing over not being home, or that Meggy was missing the cats and he really tried not to think about Lily and wondering if she was starting to crawl yet.

Gabby and Danni were sharing a place in the city. The two girls sitting down with him and explaining that Ella had gone in the space of the extra few hours it took for him to get back. He’d tried to get into the house but there were new locks on the door. Looking through the window he saw the house completely empty, all the furniture was gone and the walls were bare. It was clear then that she was never coming back to him and like an idiot he’d fallen apart collapsing on to the back veranda and sobbing his heart out.

“Leave it Leah.” He said quietly.

She looked at him and smiled gently.

“Fine is that is the way you want it.” she said holding up her hands expressively.

He gave her a quick grin.

“It is.” He murmured.

She sighed and began to serve up some of the food as he moved back cooking.

“Ok we’re here.” Ella said softly pulling up in the car park she reversed the car and parked it waking up Sammy and Meggy.

“Mummy?” Sammy said sleepily.

“Yes babes.” She said quietly.

She leaned over and picked up the diaper bag pulling out the wipes handing one to each of them so they could wipe their faces and hands to freshen up before looking at the still sleeping Lily in the car seat.

“Can we get out?” Georgie asked her.

She gave him a smile before climbing out and moving around to the passenger side. Opening the door she lifted Lily out, waking her up in the process. She gave a little cry before opening her bright blue eyes and looking at her.

“Hey baby girl.” Ella murmured softly closing the passenger side door and moving to the back to open the door for the others. They scrambled out quickly and she grinned at their excitement. They stretched their legs before racing to the door ahead of her. She gave a little chuckle before closing the car door and locking it before following them.

They gave her a quick look as if to ask if it were ok before walking inside the diner.

“Oh my stars!” Colleen gasped out.

“Hello auntie C.” Georgie said.

“Hello young man.” She said looking from him to the others.

Ella finally caught up with them and gave Colleen a brief smile.

“Is he here?” she asked the other woman.

Stunned in an unusual silence she nodded and gestured with an unsteady hand to the kitchen.

“Thanks.” Ella said moving the children along.

She paused debating how to do this and decided just to move to the kitchen. She saw Roman at the cooker with Leah standing beside him and opened her mouth to call to him when Sammy burst into speech.

“Daddy.” He nearly shouted with excitement.

“Ph my god!” Leah muttered turning around and looking at them. She put her hand to her throat and then cast a look at Roman.

“Sammy.” He said quietly as if he couldn’t believe what he’d heard. He turned around slowly and looked then seeing all the children and finally Ella with Lily cradled in her arms.

“Hello Roman.” She said equally as quietly.

“Daddy.” Sammy squealed.

He put the pans to one side and moved out of the kitchen bending down and hugging each of them.

“Can you take a break?” Ella asked him.

He nodded without even glancing at Leah knowing that if he said he was busy she would probably hit him with a frying pan. He followed them out of the diner and to the beach nearby. Ella handed over Lily to him and he found himself unable to speak past the lump in his throat.

“Why?” he said eventually looking at the kids playing near the sea.

“They missed you.” She said simply.

“What’s going to happen now?” he said turning and looking at her.

She looked away for a minute and then back at him.

“They want to move back home so we’re going to be in the house. I’ll arrange it so you can see them.”

“And us?” he asked already knowing the answer.

She gave a small bitter sounding laugh.

“Didn’t you get the papers?” she said referring to the decree that spelled the end of their marriage.

He nodded.

“I meant talking and being around the kids and stuff.” He said after a pause.

She looked at him.

“Of course you did.” She told him. “Anyway, I need to get back and start sorting out the house. Do you want me to leave the rest of the kids with you? “

He nodded before reluctantly handing over Lily to her.

“Does she crawl?” he asked.

Ella nodded.

“And her favourite dinner is mashed carrots and peas.”

“Colourful!” he said with a smile.

She nodded stroking her finger down her baby’s cheek.

“Say bu bu.” She instructed her.

Lily held up her hand and opened and closed her hand before she pursed her lips and framed the words bu bu.

Roman gave a laugh and leaned forward before he could stop himself and kissed Lily’s cheek. She looked at him and frowned before opening her mouth and screaming.

“Oh yeah and she does that a lot.” Ella said watching the conflicted emotions on his face. “She’ll be ok.” she added after a moment. “Kids.” Ella called grinning as they reluctantly moved over to her.

“Mum.” Sophie began in a pleading voice.

Ella smiled.

“I’ve leaving you here with your dad. You can tell him all about what you’ve been doing the last three months.” She said before bending down and giving each of them a kiss.

“Can we give him our scrapbook?” Meggy asked in a loud whisper.

Ella chuckled at her daughter.

“Sorry babes it’s in the suitcase we put in the house.” She told her.

Meggy nodded looking disappointed for a moment.

“Can I have ice cream?” she asked.

Ella nodded.

“I’ll leave you with Daddy.” She said moving back along the beach. She rocked Lily trying to shush her as she walked to the car. She put the still sniffling baby in the car seat and moved away looking back over at the beach where Roman was being knocked over be the overexcited children. He was laughing as he wrestled with them on the hot sand.

She drove away and to the house climbing out of the car and moving inside.

“Mum.” Gabby called out moving into the lounge.

“Hello.” Ella said softly.

“We got the cats they are in the study and well not happy.” Danni added walking in behind her sister.

Ella gave a grin and handed over Lily to Danni.

“Was Dad happy when he saw you?” Gabby murmured with a grin.

“Still don’t censor your questions do you?” Ella asked her.

Gabby grinned even as she blushed,

“Nope!” Danni answered for her.

“I know you think I’ve been really evil staying away with the kids but I needed time you know.” Ella said softly moving over to one of the boxes and began to open it.

“I think you were nasty.” Gabby said before biting her lip. “Putting the house on the market and disappearing like that.”

Ella nodded accepting her words.

“You well, you upset all of us.” Gabby said blinking back tears.

“Gabby.” Ella murmured spreading her hands.

“I know you had to go but cutting all ties with everyone well that was nasty.”

Ella sank down to sit onto the bare floor and looked at her.

“I am sorry.” She said to them. “But I had to get away. I needed Roman to see I was serious and I wouldn’t be crawling back to him with nothing resolved until the next time something happened.”

“And now?” Gabby persisted. “Now you are divorced are you planning to stay around?”

Ella nodded and bit her lip.

“Mum?” Danni said quietly.

She looked over at them and then at Lily.

“If I tell you something do you promise to keep it quiet.” Ella said taking a deep breath.

Gabby and Danni looked at each other.

“You aren’t ill again?” Danni asked quickly.

Ella shook her head and patted the floor next to her giving them a small tight smile. They moved over to sit next to her and she held out her hands. The two girls took hold and looked at her. Ella smiled and leaned forward. She murmured some words and grinned at their identical looks of shock.

“I promise you Danni if I’m ever ill again I will tell you straight away.” Ella murmured giving the other girl’s hand a squeeze.

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Chapter 2

Roman looked over at his kids and smiled as he served them ice cream.

“So where have you been?” he asked eventually.

“We went to England.” Sammy murmured.

“It was cold and wet.” Sophie added.

“We got you postcards and presents and stuff.” Meggy burst in with. “And Mummy got this big scrapbook for us to fill in and write stories of what we were doing and stuff.”

Roman smiled at them.

“Thank you for thinking of me.” He murmured.

“No it was Mummy’s idea.” Sammy blurted, chocolate sauce all around his mouth.

Roman chuckled before handing Sammy a napkin to wipe his face.

“Well it was.” He muttered when the others glared at him.

“And guess what?” Sophie said quickly.

“I don’t know, what?” Roman asked her.

“I get my phone back now. “ she said excitedly. “And I get to go see my horse, Princess; and me and Angel are going to have a sleepover and catch up and best of all we see you.” She finished without taking a breath.

Roman leaned over the table and kissed her flushed cheek.

“Well seeing you all today has cheered me up.” He told them smiling at all of them.

Meggy got off her chair and moved over to him putting her arms around him.

“We missed you Daddy and Mummy cried a lot.” She said. “But then she got happy and told us we were coming home.”

Roman digested everything they said to him feeling guilty about it but he reasoned that all was fair in love and war and he had to admit that just those few minutes of seeing Ella had made him realise that he was still deeply in love with his wife. Ok technically his ex wife but he would soon remedy that.

He looked up to see Danni and Gabby walking into the diner with Lily.

“Hey.” He called out to them.

“Hey Dad.” Gabby murmured and handed over Lily to him. “The carpet fitters have arrived and Lily is trying to crawl where they want to put carpet down.”

“She’s getting new carpet in every room. And the furniture is arriving soon.” Danni told him.

“New or the things in storage?” Roman found himself asking.

“Both.” Danni answered. “She’s getting new things in the lounge and study and a new bed.” She caught sight of Roman’s face as she said the last and bit her lip anxiously.

Roman tried to smile.

“Oh before I forget.” Gabby said putting her hand in her pocket. She pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to him.

Roman frowned before he opened it and then gave a small grin.

“Cheered you up?” Danni asked.

He nodded.

“What was that?” Georgie asked.

“Your mum sent the new phone numbers for you.” Roman told him, smiling because she had put hers at the top.

Sophie grinned.

“I can’t believe I get my phone.” She murmured and grinned again.

“Excited much!” Georgie teased his sister.

She blushed and looked at the table.

Roman smiled just so happy to be with them again. He was never going to take them for granted ever again.

“So where are you staying?” Meggy asked him.

“I have a place nearby.” He murmured.

“Can we come over and have sleepovers?” she said quickly.

He shook his head.

“It’s just two bedrooms.” He pointed out.

She looked at him and pouted looking just a touch like Nic.

“We’ll sort something out.” Gabby told her giving her a quick cuddle.

“So what time do they have to be back?” Roman asked the question he’d been dying not to ask.

“Ella said they have to be back in time for dinner which she said would be pizza and around 8pm.” Danni said with a smile.

Sammy nodded.

“She missed pizza.” He stated solemnly.

Roman chuckled.

“I just bet she did.” He said quietly.

He looked down at Lily in his arms and sighed looking up when Ella walked in through the door.

“El.” He said softly.

“Hi.” She murmured coming over to them. “Can I borrow you for a moment?” she spoke to Roman.

He nodded and kissed Lily before handing her to Danni following Ella out of the diner and to her car.

“What’s up?” he asked quickly.

“Well I just found something that went into storage that should have come to you. “ she murmured. “And well, you probably thought I was a complete bitch.”

He frowned in puzzlement watching as she moved to the back of her car and opened it up. He saw a box labelled with his name and frowned even more lifting it out and to the floor. He opened it cautiously and saw all the cards the children had given him for birthdays and fathers days wrapped with ribbon around them in bunches. Then photo albums. He pulled one out cautiously and opened it seeing baby pictures of Sammy. Moving to the next one he pulled it out and saw pictures if Meggy.

“This should have come to me?” he asked softly.

She nodded.

“I suppose you thought it was deliberate.” She said folding her arms.

He shook his head.

“I was hurt obviously.” He said quietly.

She gave him a small smile and gestured to the box.

“Well its yours. I have to get back. I brought Lily’s bag too the girls forgot it. “

“Ella.” He began.

She lifted her head and looked at him.

“Yeah?” she asked.

“Why did you come back?” he asked.

“Because I never meant to stay away.” She said and saw him look at her. “I just needed some space.”

He nodded understanding that at least.

“Anyway, I’ve got the builders in, they are working in the nursery.”

His head shot up as he thought of the picture of the Lily he’d drawn. Was she removing every trace of him, he wondered bitterly.

“Are you ok with keeping the kids for a bit longer?” she asked him. “I know.” She murmured raising her hand when she saw him look at her. “But it’s a but cheeky using you as a babysitting service after I’ve been gone for 3 months.”

He smiled at her, really smiled.

“Yeah, I’m fine with them. I can’t take them back to my place though.” He said.

She looked at him and smiled.

“That’s ok. I’ll send you a text later.”

“Danni mentioned you have furniture coming?” he said. “Do you need any help?”

She laughed.

“Maybe.” She murmured. “Although there is no flat pack wardrobe to assemble this time.”

He gave out a bark of laughter surprised that she would bring that up. When she’d first moved into the house he’d gone over and spent the night with her and in the morning spent an hour putting together a wardrobe only for it to fall apart again as soon as he hung up some of her clothes in it.

She laughed.

“Ella can we talk?” he asked quickly before he lost his nerve looking to the floor unable to meet her gaze. “Over coffee sometime.” He added.

She looked up at him.

“I don’t think that is a good idea do you? I’ve moved on Roman as I believe you have.”

He looked up at that and shook his head.

“No it’s not what you think.” He muttered.

“We’re divorced you are free to do what you want.” She added with a shrug.

“El please.” He said quickly sensing that the small rapport they had only moments ago was slipping away.

“Roman.” She said with a sigh. “You are living with Leona.”

“Not that way.” He said.

“Whatever” she murmured. “I’ve got to go anyway.” She added closing up the car and moving to the front. She hooked out Lily’s bag and handed it to him. “I’ll see you later.” She told him and climbed behind the wheel.

He watched her drive away before collecting the box and carrying it to his car. He put it in the back and walked back into the diner to the children.

Ella walked through the house and wrote down what needed doing. She went into the bedroom and pulled off the plastic cover from her new mattress before making the bed with new covers and a new quilt. She added the lace cushions to the top and then got out the scented candles and the new mirror. She’d opted to get rid off the old dressing table and chest of drawers and have a new dresser. She placed the mirror on it then pulled the antique trunk she used for storage to the end of the bed. The wardrobe doors had been given a coat of white paint to freshen them up and so they would match the new dresser. She placed the candles around the room before setting up the new bedside units and then finally the bedside lamps. Plugging them in and testing them.

She moved then into the nursery and looked at the new plasterwork. She’d had the archway between the two rooms bricked back up and the wall plastered both sides so she had the extra bedroom back. Her eye caught the picture of the lily on the wall and she gave a breathy sigh as she looked at Roman’s painting.

“Is it all right Mrs?” She came back to the present with a start at the builder’s question.

“Yeah its great.” She murmured.

He nodded.

“The carpet fitters want to do this room.” he said.

She nodded once more and walked out standing to one side as the fitters carried the carpet up the stairs and into the nursery. The builder gave her a quick look before heading back down the stairs.

Ella sighed tiredly as she went up the stairs into the attic rooms and looked at what she had to do in there. She started with making the beds then sorting out the toys and finally hanging the blinds at the windows. The setting up of the tv and DVD player she left for tomorrow and groaned as she stretched tiredly. She eased down the stairs and looked in the nursery seeing that the fitters had laid the new carpet. They had put the nursery furniture back and she moved around the room changing a few pieces around before unpacking the case that held Lily’s clothes. Next came the boxes with her toys and finally the bags with the new stuff she’d bought. Satisfied she moved out and down the stairs just in time to see the front door opening.

“Hello.” She called out and saw the children piling in followed by a reluctant Roman with Lily.

“Hi.” He said standing in the doorway. “They were getting tired so I thought I should being them back.”

She nodded before looking at her watch.

“Oh god is that the time? I’m so sorry I just lost track.” She murmured.

“It’s ok.” Roman told her giving her a brief grin.

She looked at him and smiled slowly.

“Come in.” she instructed him.

He smiled and stepped in closing the door behind him.

“Did Daddy feed you?” Ella asked them.

Sammy nodded.

“He cooked.” He said with satisfaction, rubbing his belly.

Ella smiled at him stroking his tousled blonde curls away from his face.

“Hair cut?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Yes Sammy my babes.” Ella told him. “Sophie can you get drinks for everyone please?” she asked her daughter.

Sophie jumped up and ran into the kitchen with the others following behind.

“I’ll take her.” Ella murmured reaching for Lily.

“Ok.” he said and handed her over. “I’ll get off then.”

She smiled at him.

“Ok.” she said unaware she was mirroring him.

“I’ve got you a drink.” Sophie called desperately.

“I’ve got to go.” Roman called out.

“Daddy can come and see you tomorrow.” Ella said. “That is if you aren’t busy?” she turned and questioned him.

“I’m not. What time?” he asked quickly.

“Up to you.” She murmured. “When ever you want.”

He smiled.

“Tomorrow then.” He agreed and moved out of the door. “Night kids.”

Meggy ran over to him and hugged him.

“Daddy why can’t you stay over?” she asked.

“Because it doesn’t work like that.” Ella said to her. “And if I get temper tantrums Missy then you are going to find that there are a lot of punishments heading your way. Now say goodnight to Daddy and you’ll be seeing him in the morning.”

Roman looked from on to the other and gave a tiny smile as he said goodnight to her and then the others in turn before heading out of the door. Ella followed him and closed the door behind her so the kids wouldn’t be listening in.

“She been difficult?” he asked quickly.

Ella nodded.

“I did wonder at one stage why I didn’t box her up and put her in storage.” She murmured and gave a half smile.

Roman grinned at the joke.

“I put some food in with Lily's stuff in her bag so you wouldn’t have to cook.” He told her. “Although, I did expect the pizza van to be parked up.”

She laughed.

“Thank you for the food. I was planning on takeaway but I got busy.” She murmured. “See you tomorrow.” She said and watched as he stepped away and climbed into the car. She saw him drive away before stepping back into the house

“Ok kids, bedtime.” She instructed and watched them reluctantly move up the stairs. She went into the kitchen looking at the food containers Roman had sent over before storing them in the fridge. The bed was calling more than her need for food. She opened the study door to give the cats run of the house before collecting Lily from her carrier and headed up the stairs. Lily settled quicker than the over excited children and she collapsed tiredly on her bed, falling asleep fully dressed on the covers.

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Chapter 3

Ella woke up early and moved down the stairs. She fed the cats and shut them back in the study before washing her hands and beginning breakfast for the kids. She made oatmeal for Lily and added honey. She placed a plate of toast on the table with jam and chocolate spread. Meggy was down first and she gave her mum a sleepy hug before opting for the chocolate spread on her toast.

“What time is Daddy getting here?” she asked.

“I don’t know Meggy.” Ella murmured to her daughter just as a knock at the door sounded. She moved over to open it and gave a small sigh when she saw Nic standing there with her kids.

“Hello.” She murmured.

“Ella.” Nic said frostily.

“Planning to come in or shout at me on the doorstep?” Ella asked her.

Nic glared at her before stepping to one side and letting the children walk in first. Ella greeting Angel and Robbie looking over at Nic.

“I hate you for leaving like that.” Nic said finally three months of hurt pouring out of her.

“I don’t blame you but neither you or your dad have tried to see things from my side for a long time.” Ella said softly. “Was I supposed to go through all of that and prop him up too?”

“And what about the times he’s held you together Ella.” Nic said quietly.

“Why has he needed to Nic? First Gardy and then Elliot.” Ella shot back feeling stung. “All through out marriage I could never talk about when we were first together and I accepted it. I supported him and when he had nightmares I was right there.” She turned and saw Meggy and the others standing at the table and lowered her voice.

“Well I knew I couldn’t do it again Nic and I didn’t want to be manipulated back into a marriage that wasn’t working.” She murmured. “It was better to have a clean break for the both of us and I knew Roman would let me leave. Besides.” She paused and looked over at the children before stepping out of the door and pulling it closed behind her. “Besides it seemed the only way to get Elliot out of our lives.” She murmured looking at her bare feet on the wooden decking.

“So you still care for him?” Nic asked.

“Of course I do Nic but please accept that we are divorced ok and just let us have space. The last thing either of us needs is someone interfering because that would mean I can’t stay here.” Ella finished with a sigh.

“Ok.” Nic said. “Considering my Dad sat me down last night and said the same thing.” She paused raising an eyebrow. “Nearly word for word.” She added.

“He did huh?” Ella asked. “He actually used the “D” Word? “ she murmured.

Nic nodded.

“He stuttered a bit but he said it.” She grinned.

“Oh Nic I did miss you ok, I just had to get my head straight.” Ella sighed

“Uh huh Step Mama.” Nic said and then handed over Mira to her. “She walks now.” Nic informed her proudly.

Ella laughed and turned to open the door before walking inside with Mira firmly in her arms while Nic followed behind.

“We have so much homework to catch up on.” Sophie groaned.

Angel grinned.

“I’ll help you.” She promised.

Angel was a few months older than Sophie and Georgie but they were in the same class, likewise with Meggy being the older one but in the same class as Robbie and Aden and Belle’s son Tyler.

“What are we going to do?” Meggy was asking her panicking.

”Well for a start you are going to eat your breakfast and someone is going to get Robbie and Angel a drink and then you are going to go up to your room and bring down all those workbooks you did while you were away.” Ella said calmly.

She put Mira on the floor and watched as Lily made a beeline for her crawling along the floor. She reached out sitting up at the same time. Mira gave her a smile and the two babies began chattering.

Ella shared a smile with Nic.

“Coffee?” she asked her. “But I warn you I only have decaff.”

Nic nodded.

“Would love one, even decaff.”

Ella grinned and moved into the kitchen.

“You’ve decorated.” Nic murmured looking round the lounge.

Gone was the old furniture and in its place were new sofas and an armchair in pale cream. A white wall unit had replaced the bookcases and a long square white table had replaced the other one. The walls were painted a pale blue and the new cream carpet completed the look. Nic walked over to the fireplace and ran her finger along the new mantelpiece.

“You opened up the fireplace.” She added after a minute.

Ella brought the coffee through and handed over the cup.

“Yes. I needed to make it a home. I don’t know how to describe it really.” Ella told her moving to the sofa and sitting down.

Nic sat opposite.

“I don’t see anything of Dad here and that is a bit upsetting.” She said after a minute.

Ella nodded.

“I can understand that.” She began.

“Mum can we go upstairs?” Sophie asked holding Angel’s hand.

“Of course you can.” Ella murmured and both women grinned as the children ran out of the room.

“What about cleaning the table?” Nic said after a minute.

“It’s ok.” Ella said. “They can have a few days off. Soon be back in a routine when they return to school.”

Ella looked over at the two babies and fetched some of Lily’s toys for them to play with before returning to her seat. She picked up her cup of the coffee table in front of the sofa and took a sip.

“There isn’t anything of him.” she told Nic after a while. “All his books were sent to him. The photos of him that I have are in the kids room.”

Nic smiled but a tear slipped out of the corner of her eye.

“Sorry.” She gasped. “I just noticed that you aren’t wearing your rings either.”

Ella nodded and moved over to kneel in front of Nic. She brushed her blonde hair back from her face and looked into her blue eyes, so like Roman’s. Brushing away the tears that were falling she whispered softly.

“Nic I love you like my own and I’m sorry that this hurts you. Roman will always be a part of my life and he will always have a special place in my heart.” Ella told her.

Nic nodded unable to talk past the lump in her throat. She looked at Ella and tried to smile but couldn’t seem to get her face to work. Ella nodded and then she felt herself pulled into Ella’s arms and held like a baby as she bawled her eyes out.

“Better?” Ella asked after a moment.

Nic nodded wiping her eyes.

“I hoped that when you came back that you would get back together.” Nic admitted.

“I wish I could.” Ella told her. “But it’s not that easy.”

Nic looked at her then and gave a tiny calculating smile.

“Don’t you dare Nicole.” Ella murmured catching the end of the smile.

“You just said you wish you could get back with him.” Nic pointed out.

“You do anything Nic and you won’t be welcome in this house.”

Nic pouted before easing away and reaching for her coffee. She looked at Ella over the rim of her cup before she drank.

“Ok.” she said.

“Ok?” Ella asked.

“I know I can get you and Dad back together but ok I’ll keep out of it. Lets see how long you two last in the same space without falling into bed together.” Nic murmured with a grin and watched with satisfaction as Ella blushed. “So you’ve already thought about him like that.”

She shook her head even as Nic continued to give her a knowing look.

“You are a wicked person Nicole Campbell.” Ella mock groaned.

“Of course, I have to make up for my husband being a saint.” Nic told her straight-faced.

Ella sat back and laughed.

“How is Geoff?” Ella asked quickly after she sobered.

“He is ok.” Nic said quickly. “We’ve sort of reached the stage where it’s as good as it gets.”

“Still love him?” Ella asked after a pause.

Nic nodded.

“I’m happy and he’s happy.” She said with the confidence of truth.

“Do you want more?”

“Now isn’t that a leading question. I have looked elsewhere just the once and only the once.” Nic confessed. “Never more than looking though. But you know my husband is my life and I love him.”

“You’ve never told me that.” Ella said.

“I had no need to.” Nic confessed. “Not until Dad came to me and told me why you left. Well part of the reason.”

“Leona.” Ella said.

Nic nodded placing her now empty cup on the table.

“He told me that he couldn’t remember if he did or didn’t.”

“Nic please. This isn’t going to remedy anything.” Ella cried out felling herself get upset.

“But you won’t ask him Ella and he “

“He lied to me. Whatever pretty paper you wrap it in he lied Nic. I’m not going to forgive the lie even if I could forgive what happened.” She interrupted the other woman.

“So what you hold him guilty of the lie more than the act.” Nic asked. “Are you punishing him?”

“God!” Ella exclaimed bitterly standing up and glaring at her. “What do you take me for?”

“Some one who has to all intents and purposes just found out her husband was unfaithful.” Nic said calmly.

“And I’m the same someone who held him when he fell apart with guilt over it. No, Nicole, I am not doing this out of some misplaced anger issues. Now I think you should leave.”

Nicole stood up and looked at her before going over to pick up Mira. Both babies gave a wail of protest.

“Lily.” Ella murmured going over to her daughter.

Lily gave her a look and then looked over at Mira being carried out of the room and let out a loud scream. Ella reached for her and picked her up making shushing noises hearing identical cries coming from Mira in the hallway.

“Angel! Robbie!” Nic called out loudly.

The two children appeared at the top of the stairs after a minute standing with Sophie and Sammy.

“We’re going home.” Nic told them watching identical looks of disappointment on their faces.

“Mum.” Sophie cried out looking at Ella.

“We have things to do Sophie and Nicole needs to go.” She said.

Sophie looked from one to the other.

“I hate you.” She cried out and stormed up the attic steps.

Ella flinched when the door slammed and gave a caustic half smile when she noted how many times she had done the same to Roman.

“Reap what you sow.” Nic said pithily and moved out the door waiting for her children to join her.

“In that case Nic maybe you should invest in a chastity belt now.” Ella replied and only just stopped herself from slamming the door in Nic’s face after the other woman went out of it, her children moving in front of her.

Nic turned and looked at her with narrowed eyes.

“At least I’m not a stuck up frigid bitch.” She muttered. “You may have told yourself that you were waiting for Roman but in reality you are just an ice queen.” She shouted back.

Ella looked at her feeling tears gathering pulling herself up to her full height she looked over at Nic.

“I’d rather be frozen than give it up to anyone who smiles at me.” She replied. “At least I know who I’ve slept with.”

“Excuse me?” Nic muttered. “I can’t believe you said that to me. Way to make me feel like a…” she stopped and looked at Ella with a deep hurt in her eyes before giving a concerned look to Angel and Robbie standing nearby.

“Leave Nicole. And don’t come back. “ Ella said tiredly and moved inside and up the stairs.

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Chapter 4

Roman pulled up in the driveway and sighed. He climbed out of the car and walked over to the door, knocking once and how weird did that feel knocking on his own front door. He waited hearing only Lily crying and some very loud music coming from upstairs. After a moment he knocked again and then gasped in surprise when the door flung open and Ella placed the screaming Lily in his arms.

“I could have been the postman.” He pointed out.

“Great deliver her to her father.” Ella told him and headed to the kitchen.

“Hello.” He said and cuddled Lily tightly before placing her down in the lounge next to her toys. She immediately picked one up and threw it.

“Oh and don’t put her down she throws stuff.” Ella called out from the kitchen.

Roman walked into the kitchen and placed the pull along plastic telephone he had just caught on the top.

“Is this to do with Nic?” he said.

Ella nodded.

“Sophie isn’t speaking to me. Lily wants Mira back and Sammy is in our, I mean my, bedroom in the bed with Travel bear refusing to speak to me.”

“And you coped for three months with them.” he murmured.

A light came into her eyes and she looked at him,

“No don’t even think it.” he said.

“But you are their father and I was mean taking them away. You should be spending more time with them.”

He nodded.

“Totally agree.” He said smiling at her. “Just not when the spawn of Satan is screaming in the other room and Sophie is living proof that I should have got fixed after I found out what Nicole is like.”

Ella giggled and handed him a coffee just the way he liked it well apart from the fact it was decaff but she decided not to let on to that bit.

She walked to the bottom of the stairs and pressed a button on a small white plastic box on the wall.

“Kids, your father is here.” She shouted into it.

“You had an intercom installed.” He said and saw her nod. “Was there any need to shout though?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Stress Relief.” She said and saw him smile.

She decided that she liked him smiling it made him look even more handsome, liking the faint lines at the corner of his eyes and how they creased up. He was wearing his age well and then reined in her thoughts. Divorced remember, she told herself.

The children came to the stairs and looked at her as if testing whether she was lying. Grinning when they saw Roman standing beside her.

“Bring down your workbooks and the presents you got him.” she told them.

Sophie glared at her and Ella gave her a smile in turn watching as she flounced away.

“Meggy, can you collect Sammy and bring the scrapbook you made for him it’s on the trunk in my bedroom.” Ella asked softly.

Meggy gave a nod and moved away.

Roman smiled and turned to walk back into the lounge feeling Ella grab hold of the back of his shirt and pull him back.

“What?” he muttered.

“Did you leave Lily near toys?” she asked quickly.

He felt the warmth of her touch through his thin shirt and stopped himself from giving a satisfied sigh.

“Yeah, I think so.” He said.

She handed him her cup and moved in front of him catching the ball that Lily threw with ease.

“Enough.” She said to her daughter moving quickly and scooping her up off the floor.

She heard Roman laughing from behind her and turned and glared at him.

“Well how many years have I put up with it from you.” He murmured walking into the room and placing the cups down on the table.

She glared at him before letting out a laugh and threw the softball at him. He caught it one handed and came over to her placing a kiss on Lily’s head.

“I was so mean to Nic.” Ella told him.

He nodded.

“I suspect that she wasn’t so nice to you either. Give it time, let her get some acceptance of the situation.”

“Is that what your doing? Accepting the situation?” she asked.

He gave her a look of such blazing hunger that she gasped.

“Maybe.” He said taking a step back.

“Roman.” Ella said quietly.

“We aren’t going there. “ he said quietly and turned when Sammy and Meggy came into the room.

Ella gave them a smile and noticed Sammy avoiding her gaze. Sighing she took Lily over to the playpen and sat her in there handing her some toys to keep her occupied.

“Is this for me?” Roman asked looking at the scrapbook.

“Yes daddy.” Sammy murmured quietly.

Roman lifted him on to his lap and then lifted Meggy next to him. He opened up the scrapbook and saw pictures of them in a green field potting up a tent and then sitting posing at a campfire. He looked at Ella.

“Where was this taken?” he murmured.

She looked at him and grinned, moving over to sit next to him lifting Meggy on her lap.

“I took them to the Lake District.” She told him. “This was near Windermere.”

“It was cool we went on a boat then on a train and it blew smoke out.” Sammy told him.

“A steam train.” Meggy said wisely.

Ella laughed.

Roman turned the page and saw them trudging up a hill. He saw Sophie’s clear handwriting on a page underneath telling how they were climbing up the hill in the footsteps of some 1930’s explorer. She described the weather and how it changed and added in details she must have researched later.

“Homework.” Roman said under his breath.

Ella smiled at him.

“You just have a clever daughter.” She told him.

“Nope, I have wonderful children.” He said softly.

She gave him a look that was full of meaning and smiled.

“Mum.” Sophie said from the doorway.

“Come in then.” Ella told her.

She moved stiffly into the room and sat next to Ella.

“Daddy is looking through the scrapbook.” Ella told her daughter. “Why don’t you show him your workbooks after and then maybe he’ll go fix up the tv in your room.”

Sophie nodded.

“Ok?” Ella asked her.

“Can he stay for lunch?” she asked.

“He’s right here why don’t you ask him?” Ella suggested quietly.

“Because when people get divorced they don’t like each other.” Sophie said.

Ella nodded.

“That is true but not the case with your Mummy and Daddy, Sophie Nicole Harris because we always will care for each other.”

“But I don’t understand.” She cried out. “How can you care for each other and be like this together and still be divorced.”

“Sophie.” Roman murmured.

Ella gave her a smile and reached out to stroke her hair from her daughters face thinking about how she’d done the same with Nicole earlier.

“Because it’s easy to be like this but look how we are sometimes when we shout at each other. Isn’t it better to be like this?”

Sophie nodded.

“And we are like this together because we love you Sophie.” Roman said his voice breaking with emotion. “And you Sammy and Meggy and Lily and even Georgie.”

“We do love you Sophie.” Ella told her quietly.

“Even when I slam doors?” she muttered looking guilty.

“Oh so that is what Nic was talking about?” Roman murmured with a chuckle.

Sophie and Ella turned and glared at him.

“The amount of times you did it to me.” He said after a moment.

“Come on Sophie lets go into the kitchen.” Ella said.

Sophie grinned and followed her.

“Is she really mad at you Daddy?” Sammy asked. “She was mad at Nic.”

Roman smiled and pressed a kiss to his son’s head.

“No Sammy babes and she wasn’t really mad at Nic either.” He told his son. “And Nic shouted back didn’t she?”

“Yes, but Mummy went and cried after.” Meggy told him. “I don’t like Mummy crying. She used to see someone when we were in England and used to cry a lot.”

“Meggy even I knew that was a secret.” Sammy muttered folding his arms and glaring at her.

“What was a secret?” Georgie asked coming into the room.

“The man that Mummy used to see in England.” Meggy said and then put her hand over her mouth.

Georgie looked at her then at his dad.

“It wasn’t anything.” He said quickly.

Sophie came in from the kitchen with a plate of biscuits and placed them on the table.

“Mummy asks if soup and toast is ok and what?” she added the last after seeing them all looking at each other.

“Meggy told Daddy about the man Mummy used to see in England.” Sammy said quickly.

“You are so relieved that you can say it now aren’t you?” Georgie asked Sammy and saw him nod enthusiastically.

“Say what?” Ella asked. “And is soup ok?”

“Yes, soup is fine.” Roman said quietly.

“Good.” Ella murmured sitting down and picking up her cup. She took a drink and felt them all look at her as she drank. “Ok talk.” She instructed.

“I told.” Meggy blurted out.

“Told what Megs?” Ella asked her daughter gently.

She saw Roman look at her and then down at the scrapbook.

“It was nothing.” he said earning a big sigh off Meggy.

“Nothing my foot.” Ella said her gaze travelling around the room. She settled on Georgie and smiled.

“It was Meggy.” He said defensively.

“Meggy what?” She asked and then looked at Sammy.

“Who told about the man.” Sammy blurted.

“What man?” Ella asked looking at Sophie.

“Don’t drag me into it I was with you in the kitchen I never said anything about the man you used to see in England.” Sophie told her and then comically put her hand over her mouth.

“Now you see this is why you shouldn’t have secrets.” Ella told them.

She stood up and moved over to Sophie and hugged her before doing the same with Georgie. She sat back down next to Roman, lifting Meggy on to her lap.

“Roman I saw someone while I was in England and it was a man.” She said quietly.

“Ok.” he said sipping at his coffee and trying to pretend he wasn’t feeling as jealous as hell.

“It was a counsellor.” She said. “So that I could get my head better.”

He found himself almost grinning with relief and then cursing that she needed to see someone and get better.

“So that is why you used to cry?” Meggy asked turning sideways on her lap and looking up at her mother.

Ella nodded,

“Yes my babes.” She told her. “After the bad man hurt us I needed a long holiday and to make sure I was ok.”

“But why couldn’t Daddy come with us?” Sammy asked putting his thumb in his mouth.

“Because he needed to work and get better in his own way.” She said in explanation. “And anyway I didn’t ask him.”

They looked at her judging her.

“You didn’t ask him?” Meggy said.

Ella shook her head.

“No I didn’t.” she said honestly. “Because I was very angry at Daddy and I never wanted to see him again.”

“But now you aren’t angry?” Sammy said quickly.

“That’s right.” Ella murmured. “That’s why I went to see the counsellor and got better.”

Sammy nodded absorbing the information.

“If you aren’t angry at Daddy are you getting back together?” he asked.

“No.” Ella said. “Because its not as simple as that when it’s grown ups.”

“Ok.” he said and looked at his Daddy.

“You’ll still have us as your Mummy and Daddy though.” Ella said quietly.

“Ok.” he said sounding happier.

“Do you understand?” Ella asked them.

Sophie and Georgie nodded and looked at Meggy.

She nodded looking solemn.

“Do you love Daddy?” she asked.

Ella smiled.

“Of course I do.” She replied. “I’m always going to love your Daddy. He gave me you and your brothers and sisters.”

Roman gave her a smile and she looked back at him.

“So it wasn’t a boyfriend.” Meggy said quickly.

“Oh Megs. Sweetheart, is that what you thought?”

She nodded looking at the others.

“We all thought it Mum.” Georgie said.

“And I suppose you didn’t want to ask me in case it was true?” she murmured raising an eyebrow at them.

They slowly nodded.

“And if you had spoken to me you would have known a lot sooner that we were coming home and that man wasn’t my boyfriend.” She pointed out.

Sophie and Georgie shared a look before slowly smiling.

“And you Missy can stop having temper tantrums now can’t you?” Ella said to Meggy tickling her.

Meggy let out a laugh and looked over at Roman.

“Daddy.” She said. “Help.” she cried giggling.

“Don’t look at me Meggy.” He said laughing at his squirming daughter.

“Now I need to see to lunch so sit down and tell Daddy what you’ve been up to.” Ella told them after a minute. She sat Meggy down in the seat she vacated. She turned and placed a kiss on her cheek before kissing Sammy and then Sophie and Georgie. Catching the look in Roman’s eye she leaned forward and kissed his cheek too.

He smiled before looking back at the scrapbook and turning the pages trying not to build up that kiss into anything special.

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Chapter 5

“I can’t believe what she said to me.” Nic muttered for the tenth time pacing back and forth in the lounge of the beach house.

“And for the tenth time.” Geoff murmured. “What did you say back to her?”

“That isn’t important.” She said. “I’m looking for support here Geoff. She upped and ran out on my Dad, taking his kids away from him.”

“And from you.” Geoff pointed out.

Nic turned and looked at him before turning back and doing another circuit of the lounge skirting the sofa.

“Nicole Campbell.” Geoff said after a minute.

She glared at him and moved to sit opposite.

“I was trying to help.” she said finally.

“Help who Nicole?” he asked her.

“Geoff don’t use that tone on me. Both of them. They still love each dammit and they need to sit down and talk.” She muttered chewing on a fingernail.

She stood up suddenly and walked into the kitchen pulling out cleaning supplies and placing them on the top.

“Nic what are you doing?” Geoff asked tiredly moving to the kitchen himself.

She gave a look as if to say wasn’t it obvious.

“I’m cleaning.” She told him.

He nodded and reached for his keys from the top. Turning he moved up the stairs and collected Mira and Robbie before going back down and getting Angel out of her room.

“I’m just going for a drive.” He called out taking the kids out of the door. Nic didn’t even bother turning around from de-scaling the kettle. He gave her a last look before grinning and getting the kids in the car. It took him minutes before he reached the house spying Roman’s car in the drive.

“You’re in luck kids Grandpa is here.” Geoff told them.

Angel gave an excited squeal.

He slowed the car to a stop and climbed out coming around to the passenger side to collect Mira before opening the door and helping Robbie out and then Angel. They ran to the door and he knocked for the first time.

Sophie opened the door and squealed.

“Who is it?” Ella said coming to the door. “Geoff.” She murmured.

He stepped forward and shyly placed a kiss on her cheek.

“She’s cleaning.” He stated.

Ella looked at him and then at the kids.

“Come in.” she said.

He nodded and moved into the lounge.

“Hey Roman.” He greeted Nic’s dad.

“Geoff, what brings you here?” he asked standing up and moving over to them.

“Nic is cleaning.” Ella supplied.

“Can we go play out back?” Sophie asked holding tightly on to Angel’s hand.

Ella nodded.

“And check if they want a drink or something?” she instructed watching Sophie lead them away.

Geoff walked over to the playpen and put Mira in with Lily grinning when Lily reached out and put her arms out to the little girl.

“So cleaning?” Roman asked.

“Yup as soon as the cleaning supplies came out I left.” He murmured folding his arms across his chest. “Discretion and all that.”

Ella smiled at the quote sobering when she caught the two men looking at her.

“No.” she told them. “I am no longer part of the family remember. And you,” she said turning to look at Roman. “Are my ex husband. That means I’m not her step mother anymore.”

“You upset her.” Geoff pointed out.

“She called me a frigid snow queen.” Ella muttered.

“Frigid?” Roman burst out laughing. “Did she not live with us at all?” he added and earned another glare off Ella.

“Yes, well, moving on.” Geoff interrupted blushing.

“Fine. I will go and talk to her. Which means I have to take the children with me.”

Roman coughed.

“You don‘t live here anymore.” She told him.

“I think I’m qualified to baby sit though.” He said.

She gave him a look and then disappeared up the stairs.

“Nic’s right.”

“Not about the frigid part.” Roman said distractedly and heard Geoff laugh.

“No I remember a certain blonde in a night club and seriously if that is frigid then I’m signing Nic up for lessons.” Geoff said still laughing.

He caught Roman glaring at him.

“What?” he asked.

“You are not supposed to mention your stag do, remember.” Roman muttered his gaze going back to the stairs.

“But Nic is right you do still love each other.” Geoff said quietly.

Roman turned and looked at him.

“Yes I do. As for Ella.” He paused.

“As for Ella?” Geoff asked him.

“I don’t know Geoff I just don’t know. I’ve hurt her.” Roman murmured after a long silence or maybe it just seemed that way.

They looked up and saw Ella walking down the stairs after having got changed. She looked at the two men and gave a small-taught grin before grabbing her keys and moving to the door.

Roman gave Geoff a look before he followed Ella, pulling the door closed behind them for privacy.

“I don’t have to tell you that Nic is wrong do I?” he said quietly.

She spun around and looked at him blinking back tears.

“Was she?” Ella muttered folding her arms across herself.

He nodded.

“If I had my way right now I would kiss you and you’d know it. You’d know that you drive me wild and I’ve missed you so much and I just want to take you to bed and bury myself in you.”

She gasped and looked at him.

“But we are divorced.” He said “And I’ll keep those thoughts to myself.” He added quietly. He stepped forward and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. Leaning forward to whisper to her.

“Having values about who you sleep with is not the same as being frigid.”

She flinched.

“I told her that she…” Ella stopped talking and bit her lip. She caught Roman smiling at her and blushed. “Ok, I still do that.” She muttered.

He nodded.

“And it’s still cute.” He declared. “You didn’t mean what you said to her. You would never judge her for anything she may have done.”

“About what I said on the island.” She began.

“I would never have taken your, well put you in that situation if I knew he was there.” Roman told her quietly his voice full of guilt.

“It’s ok.” she told him taking hold of his hand. “I was actually going to apologise. “

He gave her a half smile and then tugged her into his arms holding her close but not as tightly as he wanted and pressed a kiss to the top of her head before releasing her.

“Go see Nic.” He told her stepping back and into the house.

He caught Geoff looking at him smiling.

“Shut up.” He muttered.

“I wonder if I should have accepted Aden’s bet now.” Geoff said handing Roman a cup of coffee. “It’s decaff by the way.”

Roman looked at him.

“She’s drinking Decaff?” he murmured quietly. “What bet?” he asked in a louder voice.

“Oh just that you two would be getting back together.” He murmured.

“That isn’t going to happen Geoff and the sooner people accept it round here the better.” Roman ground out, drinking the coffee with a puzzled expression on his face.

“So a couple of months then.” Geoff said moving out the back to check on the kids.

“Probably a bit longer.” Roman said quietly after following him.

“Nic it’s me.” Ella called out softly.

She walked in through the shining glass doors, smelling the lemon scent of the window cleaner on the way, then that scent mixing with the lavender of the furniture polish. Placing her feet carefully on the still damp floor she walked though the house and followed the sounds of cleaning into the bathroom.

“What do you want?” Nic said in a hostile tone of voice.

“To apologise and to ask if you want a job.”

Nic looked up at her and made a half laugh half sob kind of noise.

“I do not think that you are dirty or wicked because you’ve had a bit of experience.” Ella murmured. “I think you are beautiful inside and out and I’m sorry I made you ashamed off yourself. I know how horrible that feels and that I did that to you is awful.”

Nic nodded.

“I’m sorry I called you frigid.” Nic murmured. “I mean anybody who does it in the hospital Janitors cupboard can’t be frigid.”

“I am so going to kill Aden Jefferies!” Ella exclaimed. “He promised not to tell anyone.”

“Well you should have got him to promise not to text anyone.” Nic added laughing. She peeled off her rubber gloves and dropped them next to her cleaning stuff and stood up.

Ella stood too and put a hand out to steady herself as she went dizzy.

“Cleaning stuff?” Nic asked.

She nodded and took a step back.

“How about a coffee?” Nic murmured.

Ella smiled.

“Perfect.” She said.

“I even have decaff.” Nic told her after a minute.

She walked through to the kitchen and looked at the kettle giving it an extra rinse before putting it on to boil.

“Why did you come back if you aren’t going to get back with Roman?” Nic asked her.

Ella smiled.

“Are we back to that?” she said.

Nic nodded and moved over to the sofa sitting next to her.

“Please leave it.” Ella asked her.

“I can’t because you love him and I sure as hell know that he loves you El.” Nic told her.

Ella nodded.

“I know he loves me. I tried to give him time and to get him to hate me for taking his kids away.” She finally admitted.

“He would never do that El.” Nic told her talking hold of her hand. “He defended you to everyone. Even when we told him that if you loved him you would never have taken them away in the manner you did after what Natalie did to him.” She said referencing her mother and the situation with her birth and subsequent upbringing.

Ella sighed and felt Nic pat her hand before standing up and making the drinks bring them over after a moment.

Ella took her in her hands and looked at Nic.

“You know don’t you?” she said after a moment.

“I figured it out. You left him so he would be protected. From Elliot.” She said and looked at her.

“But Elliot would know you are back.”

“He won’t.” Ella murmured quietly. “The reason Elliot never slept with me when I was supposedly Beth was because he couldn’t, he was dying.”

“You mean.” Nic gasped out.

Ella nodded.

“I came home because I found out he was dead.” She said. “I can’t just pick up where I left and anyway.” Ella stopped and smiled. “We weren’t working.”

Nic nodded.

“So what does he have to do?” she asked.

Ella grinned.

“Nothing.” She replied.

Nic grinned.

“Nothing, huh? Then it’s no good shutting you in the janitors closet for old times sake.” She murmured.

Ella laughed.


“Or anywhere else?” Nic asked.

“No.” Ella said laughing harder.

“Not even the sand dunes?” she murmured keeping a straight face.

Ella gasped, clutching her side.

“God no. And who the hell told you about that?” she said when she’d stopped laughing.

“Does your side hurt?” Nic asked calmly.

Ella nodded. Her side hurting from laughing so hard.

“So the sand dunes and a janitors closet and the night club on the stag do.”

“Oh god, Nic, stop ok.” Ella gasped out. “You lot gossip way too much.” She added referring to her and Geoff and then Aden and Belle.

“Anywhere else?” Nic asked.

Ella looked at her and smiled.

“Nope.” she said.

“So not the diner?”

“How…?” Ella began to ask. “You were guessing that one weren’t you?”

Nicole nodded her blonde hair falling over her face. She tucked it back behind her ears and looked over at Ella.

“I know all your secrets.” Nic told her after a pause and sipped the coffee.

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Chapter 6

Ella handed Roman a hammer and nail and pointed to a section on the wall.

“I’m sure there is a thing in the divorce papers that say you can’t use me as slave labour.” Roman muttered under his breath.

“Hang the picture already.” Ella told him with a smile.

He mumbled something under his breath as he knocked the nail into the wall.

“What was that? I didn’t quite catch it in all the swearing.” Ella told him handing over the picture.

He gave her a smile and hung the picture on the wall leaning back slightly to check it was straight.

“Perfect.” She murmured.

“Yes.” He agreed. “I always liked this one.” He told her referring to the photograph she had taken of some Mountain View. The sky was a burnt orange colour as the sun set and the mountains looked almost lavender in the picture. The black and white version looked as amazing but this one was so spectacular that it seemed as though painted instead of a photograph.

“I know.” She murmured. “I thought it would look nice in your bedroom.”

He nodded and made to follow her out of the room when her words connected.

“Ella?” he murmured.

She turned round and looked at him.

“So you can spend time with the kids.” She told him walking back into the bedroom.

He looked round at the double bed with blue covers the wooden two-door wardrobe with cane and rattan decoration to the doors and a small chest of drawers with a lamp on. The walls freshly painted with a dark blue colour.

“Are you sure?” he asked.

Ella smiled at him and nodded.

“I know it’s unconventional but well the kids miss you being around and its not like you are moving in just maybe having some space so you can be here for them because they can’t come to you.” She told him with a shrug.

“Thank you.” He said softly, resisting the urge to pull her into his arms and kiss her. An urge he’d been resisting for the past month.

She grinned.

“I haven’t told the children though I thought I would leave that to you.” She said.

He gave her a chuckle and moved over to her.

“El.” He whispered looking into her eyes.

“We are so not going there.” she said and put her hands on his chest and pushed him.

He let out a laugh and put his hands up instinctively and caught hold of her.

“Fine.” He murmured. “Not even a kiss as reward.” He grumbled.

She laughed.

“Certainly not.” She told him and moved out of his grasp.

He forced himself to laugh once more and followed her out of the room and down the stairs. He had no idea how he was going to cope sleeping two doors away from her. He struggled knowing she was in the same town. He found himself gritting his teeth before relaxing his facial muscles. He should be pleased she had done this for him instead of feeling mean that he wasn’t allowed to move back home.

He found her standing in the kitchen making another cup of decaff coffee and he frowned at her.

“What’s wrong?” she asked him.

“Just the decaff.” He murmured.

She gave an unconcerned laugh.

“I drink decaff now.” She said shrugging.

“And eat breakfast and healthy foods and I haven’t see you drink anything.” He told her.

“And?” she asked sipping the coffee and moving out on the back veranda.

“And it’s scaring me.” He said moved to the door and folding his arms. “Last time you were on a health kick it was because you adjusted your diet because you were ill.”

She looked at him and sighed.

“I’m not ill and if I were I wouldn’t hide it.” she said slowly. “I do have a doctors appointment coming up though.” She added raising an eyebrow.

“Don’t be sarcastic Ella. I didn’t cope very well last time you were ill I’d like to think that you would give me a chance to make up for that.”

She placed her cup on the table and lifted her feet up, tucking them under her and patting the empty seat beside her.

He looked at her for a moment before walking over and sitting next to her.

“I am not ill. And last time you were wonderful. You looked after the kids and cleaned the house and held me all night. It was when you got it into your head that you should have protected me that screwed you up.” She said.

“Well don’t hold back Ella.” He said after a moment looking down at his feet.

She laughed and reached out to hold his hand.

“Isn’t that true though?” she asked him.

He looked into her eyes ignoring the fact her perfume was driving him mad and that her lips seemed to be really close to his.

“Yes.” He said finally.

She looked up at him and smiled.

“Well you don’t have to worry I’m not ill.” She said softly and then bit her lip.

“El.” He said.


“I think I should get going.” He told her his gaze fixed on her bottom lip.

“Oh.” She said after a moment.

“I’m going to kiss you.” He warned her.

She looked at him from under her lashes.

She stood up and held out her hand.

“We shouldn’t.” he murmured standing up and taking hold of her hand within his own before he pulled her into his arms.

She smiled and lifted her lips to his and welcomed his kiss.

“Oh god.” He whispered against her lips and he kissed her.

She wound her arms around his neck and pressed herself against him. He wrapped his arms tight around her and lifted her off her feet as he kissed her.

“I need you.” He told her easing her back down and looking into her eyes.

“I’m not coming back to you.” She told him gently. “Can you settle for this?”

Roman continued to look into her eyes as he nodded.

“Yes.” He said.

“Even if it’s just physical.”

“Bite your bottom lip one more time and I’ll explode right here.” He told her lifting her into his arms and carrying her into the house and up the stairs.

He strode into the bedroom and then kicked the door shut behind them and dropping her on the bed.

“Get naked.” He ordered stripping his clothes off.

“Are you in a hurry?” she whispered teasing him.

“Now.” He muttered kicking his shoes off.

She eased up on the bed and slowly started to undo the buttons on her blouse. He looked over at her and smiled before reaching out and ripping the blouse open. He dragged the torn bits off her and looked at the hot red bra. He moaned and reached out cupping her breasts.

Ella threw her head back and let out a seductive laugh as she undid her skirt and slide it down her thighs. She eased away from him and stood up her back to him as she pushed it over her taught bottom and to the floor. He took in the matching thong and let out a slow groan.

“Get here.” He growled.

She shook her head reaching up and undoing the hooks on the bra before letting the straps ease down her shoulders. She left it in place as she hooked her thumbs in the top of the thong and pealed it down kicking it off. Half turning she gave him a look before slowly licking her lips. Her pink tongue slipping between her full kiss swollen lips, teasing him. She placed her hands over her breasts and then removed the bra letting it dangle from her hand before dropping it to the floor.

“Ella.” He muttered.

She looked at him again and let herself be dragged on to the bed.

“I need you now.” He growled in her ear. “I’m going crazy.”

She kissed him and traced the outline of his lips with her tongue feeling his hands running over her.

“I promise next time I’ll go slow.” He whispered.

She grinned at him and pulled him to her kissing him and moving against him. He dragged his mouth away from hers breathing heavily.

Laying her back on the bed he ran his hands down her body feasting on her with his eyes. He leaned down and kissed her belly and down, easing his hand between her legs. He cupped her sex feeling heat against the palm of his hand before he began teasing her with gentle strokes of his fingers. He moved over her and slid between them feeling her moving against him. Easing himself inside her he bit the inside of his cheek to stop himself telling her he loved her. He gasped felling her moving against him and he kissed her feeling her hands on him. It seemed so long since he’d made love to her. And it seemed a miracle she was making love with him. He kissed her gently.

“El.” He murmured.

She ran her fingers through his hair before placing her hand on his cheek and looking into his eyes. She kissed him slowly feeling his body tense as he moved against her.

“It’s ok.” she whispered. “I’ll come with you next time.” she promised clutching him to her.

He groaned against her lips kissing her again and again as he shuddered in pleasure and collapsed on top of her.

“I’m sorry.” He groaned. “That was so selfish of me.”

She chuckled.

“I’m sure you’ll make up for it.” she whispered kissing his shoulder. “But not now I have to go pick up the kids.”

“Oh god.” He groaned. “I should have been at the hospital.”

Ella closed her eyes for a fraction of a second.

“Ella.” He said looking at her seeing the expression on her face. “Picking up Aden, his car is in the garage getting repaired. Leona is just sharing a place with me I’m not the father.” He said quickly mentioning the other woman for the first time.

She eased away from him and walked naked into the en suite. He watched her go before following her.

“El.” He said.

She climbed into the shower and began washing.

“Are we going to talk about this?” he asked.

“Maybe.” She replied over the noise of the cascading water. “You better use the other bathroom.”

He pulled off a towel and wrapped it around his waist and turned walking back into the bedroom picking up his clothes. He sighed as he moved out and into the main bathroom stepping under the hot water. He should be feeling happy he’d found out she still wanted him so why did he have the urge to punch someone.

He dressed in the bathroom and moved out and down the stairs meeting Ella in the kitchen already changed, her wet hair tumbled up in an untidy bun. He smiled when he saw her and she moved over to him catching hold of his hand.

“I have to fetch the kids.” She said again and stood up on tip toe to kiss him and he slid his arm around her waist to steady her.

“Tomorrow?” he asked.

She grinned.

“No I’m busy, I might see you in the diner for a coffee.”

He mock growled.

“It’s not coffee I want.” He told her.

Ella looked at him and laughed.

“I should be the impatient one. “ she said and watched him blush.

He eased back and pulled out his ringing phone.

“It’s Aden probably wondering where I am.” He said and released her to go outside and answer the call. He came back in after a minute grinning.

“Ready?” she asked and he nodded leaning down and kissing her before moving to the front door. He strode towards his car hating the fact that he had to leave. He drove off slowly heading down the drive. Ella watched him go before she ran inside the house and to the bathroom to be ill.

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Chapter 7

Roman woke up and rolled over. He eased out of bed and moved to the kitchen to get a glass of water.

“Get me one.” Leona muttered walking into the kitchen.

She eased down into a chair and leant against it rubbing her back.

Roman gave her a look before filling a glass and handing it to her.

“Thanks,” she said

He nodded acknowledgement and looked out the window. The sun was rising in the distance and the sky was already lightening.

“So is it her?” Leona asked placing a hand on her swollen belly.

He nodded.

“And me being here?” she said wisely.

He looked over at the girl, young enough to be his daughter and gave her a smile.

“Lee,” he began.

“Ot oh!” she said. “Here it comes, the Dad lecture.”

He laughed and eased into a chair beside her.

“I lied to her. I said that we didn’t sleep together.”

“Hello!” she muttered. “That wasn’t a lie we didn’t and oh my god can this kid kick any harder.” She said rubbing her side.

“But at the time I said it I didn’t know what happened.” He explained slowly reaching out a hand to her bump and rubbing slowly.

“You have the touch.” She said with a blissful sigh.

“I used to do this for her.” he said and stopped pulling his hand away.

“Would it help if I talked to her?” Leona murmured.

He shook his head.

“Roman.” She said after a minute.

“What?” he asked.

“I’m not sure that the baby is kicking.” She said looking panicked.

“You think you are having the baby?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Ouh and it hurts.” She gasped breathing heavily.

He chuckled.

“What?” she moaned.

“This is just the start.” he said to her. “Where’s your bag?”

“I haven’t packed it yet.” She said mournfully.

Roman put his hand through his hair and moved over to the phone.

“Yes I know what time it is.” He said in greeting.

“What do you want Roman? I’m not exactly alone here.” Ella told him looking at Sammy asleep beside her.

Roman sucked in a sharp breath.

“Yeah ok it’s dumb. Leona has gone into labour.” He said and mentally kicked himself

He caught sight of Leona looking at him grinning. Suddenly she let out a loud shriek.

“I want my mum.” She cried out.

Roman looked at her seeing the grin and only just stopped himself from laughing too.

“So let me get this straight you want me to help your pregnant girlfriend because I’m a substitute mother to her?” she said.

“Well when you put it like that it does sound a little bad.” He replied.

“How does this sound?” she began. “Drop dead.” She shouted and hung up the phone.

He looked at his phone for a minute and then clicked it shut.

“Well the good news is that they’ve stopped.” Leona said. “And the bad news is that your wife is now really ticked at you.”

“So what else is new?” he replied not correcting her for once and saying that Ella was his ex wife.

Leona looked at him and hid a smile.

“Think she’ll forgive you.”

“For waking her up, eventually.” He predicted. “for trying to get her to help me with my pregnant live in mistress?” he grinned. “Not as long as she is breathing and maybe a little while after that.”

Leona let out a laugh.

“I’m going back to bed I’ve caused enough trouble tonight.” She told him. “I don’t regret it.” she added standing near her bedroom door.

“Taking in a drunken rambling idiot?” he said with a grin.

She nodded.

“You were cute and I wish I could meet her.” she said referring to Ella.

He chuckled.

“Maybe not tonight though.”

“Would my survival rate go down?” she asked.

He nodded and chuckled.

“For what it is worth Lee I don’t regret meeting you either. From what I remember of that night I was in a bad way.”

She smiled looking down at her bare feet then looking up at him.

“You missed her and from all I’ve heard since I came here I can’t say I blame you. “ she declared and moving into her bedroom.

He looked at her closed door thoughtfully before collecting his phone and going back to bed. He opened up the phone and scrolled through the pictures he had stored on it until he found the one of Ella and Meggy. She was pregnant in this one and looked so beautiful. It was his favourite picture of her and he drifted to sleep the phone clutched in his hand.

Ella looked at the ceiling and then eased out of the bed. She made it into the bathroom just in time before she was sick and leaned back putting her hand on the slight swell of her stomach. She grimaced and stood up cautiously grabbing a beaker from the side she filled it with water and took small cautious sips.

“Mum.” Danni called out moving into the bathroom.

“Hey Danni.” Ella said smiling at her.

“I heard you shout and then come in here.”

Ella nodded.

“Your Dads friend may have gone into labour.” She told her.

Danni nodded absorbing the information and reached out and caught hold of Ella’s hand.

“We should be celebrating your news.” Danni said to her.

Ella looked at her and shook her head.

“Still early days yet.” She murmured.

“You worrying about the amniocenteses?” Danni asked her knowing Ella was booked in for that in just a few hours.

She nodded.

“A little. Not that it will make a lot of difference.” She confessed. “I’m keeping my baby.”

“When are you going to tell him that you are pregnant.” Danni asked her holding her breath for the answer.

Ella shook her head.

“At some point.” She said vaguely.

She eased up and turned the shower on.

“My cue to leave.” Danni said with a grin. “I wish you’d let one of us come with you.”

“I need the kids looking after and that includes Lily.” Ella told her. “Danni don’t fuss ok. Everything is ok.”

“It’s just that.” Danni began and stopped looking down at the floor.

“It’s fine. I’m fine. The baby is fine. And the only thing is I wish it would make up it’s mind whether its going to be morning sickness or afternoon sickness or even evening sickness.”

“Maybe its triplets.” Danni said with a laugh.

“That is not funny. Really not funny. “ Ella said.

She leaned forward and stroked Danni’s hair back from her face and placing a gentle kiss to her cheek.

“Have I told you how lucky I am to have you as a daughter?” she said after a moment.

Danni blushed and looked at her tearfully.

“Gee Shucks Mummy.” She said after a minute and moved quietly out of the bathroom.

Ella watched her go and took off her night gown before stepping under the hot spray. She showered and stepped out wrapping herself in a big fluffy towel before going inot the bedroom.

“Mummy.” Sammy called out.

“What babes?” she asked him.

He sat up and looked at her.

“Is it school time?”

She nodded and watched as he climbed out of the bed and moved to hug her before heading off to get dressed. She pulled out her clothes changing them twice as the first outfits felt tight around her thickening waistline. Running a comb through her hair she captured it up in a band and moved down the stairs finding Danni feeding them all breakfast. Gabby came in from outside with Lily.

“Chasing cats again?” she asked about her youngest daughter.

Gabby nodded.

“She must have snuck out when I opened the door for Cookie to go out.”

Ella laughed.

“Bad Lily.” She said with a laugh leaning over and kissing her squirming daughter on the end of her cute upturned nose.

“Kitty.” Lily said clapping her hands.

“I can’t believe that’s her first word.” Danni grumbled. “The time I spent trying to get her to say Danni.”

Ella laughed.

“Ok all I have to go for my doctor appointment now I’ll see you tonight.” Ella told them and went round depositing kisses and hugs for each of them. She grabbed her bag and keys and moved out of the house. Meggy watched her go and then moved over to Danni and lifted her arms up.

“What’s up Hunny Bunny?” Danni asked her picking her up.

Meggy leaned forward and whispered in her ear.

“No.” Danni said. “She’s not I promise.”

Meggy nodded still looking worried.

Danni hugged her and pressed a kiss to her cheek before placing her down on the floor watching her with a worried expression on her face.

Ella walked into maternity and checked in with reception. She was ushered through quickly and sat in front of Rachel.

“Ella.” She said softly.

“Rachel.” She murmured sensing the other woman’ s disapproval from the frosty tones.

“I looked at the notes and your pregnancy was confirmed in England.” She commented.

Ella nodded.

“I’m 16 weeks pregnant.” Ella said quietly.

“Ok.” Rachel said. “And you are here today for am Amino.”

Ella nodded again.

“Not going to lecture me?” Ella asked.

Rachel looked up at her.

“What would be the point?” she asked. “And anyway today I’m just your doctor.”

“Rachel?” Ella asked puzzled.

“You just do what you want don’t you Ella? You never think about the consequences.”

“Ok doctor.” Ella said emphasising the word. “Is this about me being pregnant or leaving?”

Rachel shook her head, her auburn curls moving around her face.

“Roman was gutted Ella. He had no idea where you were and you causally pop back to town pregnant.”

“Oh so you think this is…” she trailed off. “Doctor you’ll excuse me for requesting someone else.”

Rachel looked at her and smiled.

“Certainly.” She said with a strange satisfaction. “Aden is on duty today.”

Ella stood up and moved to the door.

“Ella.” Rachel called after a moment.

She turned and looked at the other woman.

“16 weeks Rachel.” She pointed out. “Which means this happened before I left. And yeah I haven’t told Roman, yet. And finding out I was pregnant was part of the spur that brought me home. Little did I know that Roman would be living with someone else so soon.”

Rachel looked abashed and gave a groan.

“I’m sorry Ella, I shouldn’t have judged you, not only was it unprofessional but well, “ she stopped.

“Apology accepted Rachel. Now I’m going to make an appointment with Aden.”

“You don’t have to.” Rachel said quickly standing and moving over to her.

“Yes I do.” Ella said with quiet dignity.

“Ella.” The other woman murmured.

“I’m sorry Rachel but with every day that passes, coming back here seems to have been a mistake.” Ella told her quietly. “Its funny how this town accepts people one minute but turns on them the next.”

“It’s not that.” She said quickly. “It’s that we saw Roman lose you once. I attended your funeral for gawds sake El, so for you to just take the kids and disappear on him it seemed cruel.”

Ella nodded.

“It was. I needed him to hate me,” she blurted out.

“Hate?” Rachel picked up on. “Why?”

Ella sighed.

“Elliot wasn’t going to stop.” She muttered folding her arms. “So I went. And if Roman hated me I could never be used to hurt him again.”

“Oh Ella.” Rachel cried coming over to her and putting her arms around her. “How could you think he would be better or safer without you.” She asked.

“Because he was.” Ella said with a shrug. “And I had to get my head straight.”

“A counsellor?” Rachel asked. “That was a brave step to go alone.”

Ella shook her head.

“No I needed to be ok for my kids.” She said not thinking anything of it.

“Come on El let me get the scan sorted and then we will do the amino.”

Ella looked in the gentle eyes of Rachel Holden and smiled.

“Fine.” She said giving in.

Rachel led her over to the exam table and let her get changed while she prepared for the procedure.

“How is the nausea?” Rachel asked her.

“Comes and goes.” She murmured lying back on the bed.

Rachel smiled and moved over to her.

She did the simple procedure of collecting a sample of Amniotic fluid for testing before puling over the ultra sound.

“Any idea what you are having yet?”

Ella laughed.

“A pizza hating monster.” She muttered.

Rachel laughed.


Ella nodded.

“Hates cheese.” She said. “Every time I try to eat any the baby either makes me sick or gives me indigestion.”

Rachel laughed.

“Well here you are.” She said turning the monitor so she could see.

“I see it.” Ella murmured after a moment.

“The baby looks good.” Rachel told her and turned on the audio so she could hear the heartbeat.

“Wow.” Ella said quietly, her voice choked with emotion.

Rachel printed off copies of the scan and handed them to her moving away so Ella could get dressed.

“I have your appointment card here.” She said placing the scans with it. “And I’ll phone you with results of the test tomorrow.”

Ella nodded and moved out of the door.

“I’ll see you soon.” Rachel told her.

“Yeah, bye Rach.” Ella murmured moving out of the door. She passed the reception area and moved out down the corridor. She didn’t notice that she had dropped one of the scans or that a very pregnant woman had seen her and picked it up, a thoughtful expression on her face.

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Hey, I'm on holiday for 2 weeks so no new updates until I get back.... hope I have a lot of lovely comments to read... Love Tele....xx

Chapter 8

Roman moved out of the car and up to the front door. He waited a moment before knocking and then another long moment passed before the door was opened by Sophie.

“Daddy.” She said excited.

“Hi Sophie is your Mum home?” he found himself asking.

“She’s upstairs with Lily.” Sophie said tilting her head to one side as she looked at him. “Are you fighting?” she asked.

He shook his head and stepped inside quickly.

“Daddy.” Meggy said and ran over to him putting her arms up.

He looked at his younger daughter and picked her up holding her.

“What’s up Megs?” he asked.

“Nothing. Mummy went to the doctor and I think she might be ill again.” She leaned forward and whispered in his ear. “I asked Danni and she said no but” she stopped as he mum started walking down the stairs.

“Hello Roman.” Ella said coolly.

“Ella hi.” He greeted her.

“Sophie shut the door please.” Ella told her moving over and placing a kiss on her daughter’s head. She held out her hands to Meggy and took her form Roman. “Megs I’m not ill.” She whispered to her daughter and kissed her before putting her on the floor. “Coffee?” she asked him.

“Please.” He said smiling at her.

She gave him a small smile back and turned walking into the kitchen.

“Hey Roman.” Gabby called out from her seat at the table.

“Gabby.” He smiled at his elder daughter.

“We have something for you.” She told him.

Ella smiled watching as Gabby fetched the envelope out of the Study and brought it to them.

She handed it to Roman. He looked at them both before opening the envelope.

“Gabby’s birth certificate?” he asked.

“Read it.” Ella told him with a smile.

He looked at the names all filled in, his and Ella’s in the boxes marked Mother and Father.

“When did you do this?” he asked Ella.

She gave him a smile as she handed him his coffee.

“When the DNA tests came back. I got my solicitor to handle the paperwork.” She murmured. “I thought it would be a nice surprise for Gabby. That is your copy if you want it.” she said to him.

He nodded looking at the print on the certificate.

“Thanks.” He told her. “Now you officially have to stop calling me Roman.” He said to Gabby and grinned when she launched herself at him.

“Daddy.” She said.

He hugged her to him and looked over at Ella. He mouthed the words ‘thank you’ to her and she smiled back at him.

“Now why does Meggy think you are ill?” he asked her later when they were alone.

“Because I had a doctors appointment today.” Ella shrugged. “She’s focusing on it. A few days and she’ll relax. Danni and Gabby are thinking of moving back in.”

“Will that help with the kids?” he asked. “You look a little tired.”

She glared at him.

“Still blaming me?” he asked.

She stood and moved into the house and the study collecting a small box and carrying it back to him.

“Here.” She said to him handing it over.

He peered in it seeing a Pregnancy book and a bunch of baby things.

“They were Lily’s I won’t be offended if she doesn’t want them. And the book will tell her about braxton hicks which is probably what she had last night.”

He looked at Ella and in that moment fell in love with her all over again. She’d gone out and brought the book especially before sorting though the baby things and passing them on. And all this for a baby she thought was his.

“I’m sure she’ll be thrilled.” He said.

Ella nodded.

“She’s ok by the way. She went to the hospital this morning for a check up and they have booked her in next week if she doesn’t start labour.”

Ella nodded and then paled as she remembered the woman she had seen at the hospital today,

“El>?” he asked looking at her.

“What?” she asked him and then looked past him as Sophie came out of the house.

“Can Daddy tuck us in?” she asked.

Ella nodded.

“Go on Daddy.” She told him.

He smiled and them moved up the stairs with Sophie.

Ella watched him go and then moved into the kitchen. She washed up the few dishes in the sink and put them to drain before reaching for a tub of ice cream from the freezer.

“Busted Mum.” Gabby muttered yawning as she walked into the kitchen. She poured out a glass of milk for herself and watched as Ella guiltily started spooning the ice cream into a bowl.

“Sh, it’s not me that wants it.” she told Gabby. She finished with the ice cream and put the rest away taking a big spoonful.

The girl laughed watching her.

“Where is he?” she asked her.

Ella grinned.

“Saying goodnight.” She told Gabby moving to the soda with her bowl. She pulled the throw around her and clicked the remote putting on the TV. She went through the channels before finding a film to watch. Gabby smiled at her before moving over to her and sitting down.

“Do I need to leave you two alone to talk?” she asked tongue in cheek. “You know there is something you might need to tell him.”

Ella grinned at her.

“You and Danni are awful.” Ella muttered.

“So it won’t be talking you two are doing then.”

“Gabby stop. And keep away from Nic.”

Gabby giggled.

“Ho2 did you guess we’ve been discussing things?” she blurted.

“Oh I don’t know maybe it’s the general theme about getting us together.”

Ella looked over at her and smiled.

“You have a milk moustache.” She told her daughter.

Gabby laughed and put her hand up to her mouth.

“Is this a private conversation?” Roman asked from the doorway.

“No.” Ella told him. “Are they in bed?”

He nodded.

“Meggy needed a few million cuddles and reassurance.”

Ella nodded.

“I thought I would take her shopping after school tomorrow. Sophie is horse riding so if you wanted to take the boys?” she asked him.

He nodded.

“I’ll have Lily if you want to just focus on Megs.” Gabby offered standing up.

Ella nodded.

“Thanks.” She said to her.

“No problem. I’m off to bed.” She told them and leaned down to kiss Ella.

“Can you take this in the kitchen?” she asked handing over her empty bowl.

Gabby grinned and nodded, taking hold of the bowl with her empty glass. She kissed Roman on the cheek as she went past and into the kitchen calling out a final goodnight as she went up the stairs.

Roman walked over to the sofa and sat down a frown on his face.

“What’s up?” she asked him.

“I miss the old sofa.” he mumbled.

She laughed.

“This one is nice and it’s still pretty big.” She told him.

He looked at her.

“But we made love on the old one.” He told her with a pout.

She giggled.

“Ella.” He said his voice plaintive.

She looked at him.

“Well don’t get any ideas.” She said.

“Are you sure?” he said sink back against the cushions and stroking the material of the sofa.

“Positive.” She said. “I had an invite from your parents today for their anniversary party.” She added changing the subject.

“I’m not going.” He said quickly.

“Why? I thought you mended things between you.”

He nodded.

“Just can’t face them all.” He said. “Not at a party.”

Ella looked at him and smiled gently.

“Surely a party will be ok. You don’t have to go into depth about stuff. See everyone in one go.”

He looked at her.

“No.” he told her his voice hardening.


“No don’t use that tone with me.” He replied giving her a quick smile.

“Why don’t you think about it at least.” She suggested.

“The only good thing about being divorced is that when you start trying to get me to do something I don’t want to I feel less guilty about saying no.”

She glared at him folding her arms across herself.

“Excuse me?” she asked him raising her brow at him. “How many times did we end up doing your stuff?”

He looked up at the ceiling before over at her.

“Ella.” He said. “That doesn’t really count, my stuff as you call it, usually involved a bed and I’m pretty sure you enjoyed it too.”

“It’s late.” She pointed out after a moment.

“I thought I could stay over tonight.”

She shook her head.

“It’s a school night.” She murmured looking at him. “I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

He nodded keeping his eyes on her.

“I thought I would make up for the other day.”

Ella stood up and clicked off the TV.

“No it’s not a good idea. I’m tired and I don’t want over excited kids in the morning.”

He stood too and moved towards her.

“Ok.” he said finally.

She nodded and reached up and kissed him on the cheek.

“Good night.” She told him.

He nodded and fetched the box with the baby things in and took them out to his car.

“Night.” He called out climbing behind the wheel and starting the car. He drove away slowly thinking that at least she hadn’t said she didn’t want to be with him just not on a school night. He could understand her not wanting the kids to be upset.

He walked inside the apartment he shared with Leona and saw her sitting in the kitchen.

“Hey.” He said and placed the box in front of her.

She looked at him and then in the box.

“You shouldn’t have.” She said.

“I didn’t. Ella did.” He murmured. “She said they were Lily’s so if you don’t want them she won’t be offended.”

“I’m so not turning them down but won’t she be needing them?” she asked and bit her lip.

“No, Lily has grown out of them.” he said distractedly.

“Ok.” Lee told him softly and pulled out the book. “This is new the receipt is inside and its dated today.”

Roman nodded.

“I’m not surprised.” He told her.

She stood up slowly and moved over to stand beside him silently debating with herself over whether to tell him she had seen Ella today. She decided against it.

“I’m going to bed.” She said quietly.

He pressed a quick kiss to her cheek and watched her walk slowly into her bedroom. Sighing he turned out the lights and went into his bedroom striping off his clothes and climbing into his bed. He opened his phone and saw he had a message. Looking at it he smiled.

“Rain check for this we? Yes please.” He typed back and hit the send button before falling asleep.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I'm back from my hols.... have you missed me?? Yes Pollymoon, I've spent my first day home updating just for you... and everybody else... hope you like..



Chapter 9

Roman ran slowly Georgie and Sammy following him. He eased back and let them catch up before coming to a full stop to where Ella was with the girls.

“You know what boys there was a time your Mother used to come running too.” He said taking the bottle of water that she held out to him and sipping from it.

“Yeah but that was back when she didn’t mind getting all hot and sweaty.” Ella said to them. “Now I like my sunbathing.” She added softly and ignored the teasing look in Roman’s eyes.

He handed the water bottle to Georgie watching as his son took a long drink before passing the bottle to Sammy.

“Mum did you really go running?” Sophie asked.

“Yes she did.” Roman said sitting next to them on the beach.

He looked at his daughter and gave her a smile.

“And she did lots of other stuff too.” He murmured.

Ella shook her head and stood up.

“Time to head home.” She said to them hearing cries of disappointment.

“Daddy is coming too.” Ella said quietly. “We thought that maybe he would stay tonight in the guest bedroom.” she announced.

“That’s cool.” Meggy said launching herself at him and putting her arms around his neck. “Carry me Daddy,” she muttered.

“Your Mum used to do that too.” He said sotto voco.

Ella looked over at him from under her lashes as she packed up the beach things. She collected Lily and sat her in her car seat before leading them all to her car. She put Lily in first noting that her youngest daughter was getting ready to start screaming.

“Hurry up.” She muttered to the others seeing their usual reticence to leave the beach.

“Mummy.” Sophie began in a wielding tone of voice.

“No.” Ella said rubbing a hand over her eyes tiredly.

“But we are really close.” Sophie said looking in the distance at the diner.

“No.” Ella said again and saw Lily screwing up her face. “Lily be quiet.” Ella instructed her knowing that it was pointless.

“I want a milkshake.” Sophie said petulantly.

Ella shook her head.

“Get in the car now.” She told her and then looked over at the others.

“El.” Roman murmured handing Meggy into the car.

“No.” she told him glaring at him.

Lily did as she had threatened and started to scream.

“Right kids in the car.” Roman murmured. “I’m heading home to get my stuff and I’ll see you in a bit.” He promised them.

Georgie gave his sister a push and she mutinously climbed in the car and clipped up her seatbelt. Meggy glared at Sophie.

“I don’t need to tell you not to argue do I?” Ella murmured trying to quiet Lily.

“Nope.” Sammy said. “See you soon Daddy.” He murmured waving as he climbed into the car. Georgie got in last and checked that seatbelts were fastened for each of them before Ella shut the door.

“El.” Roman said quietly.

“Later.” She said back. “I need to see to Lily or I’ll have screaming all night.”

He nodded feeling strangely left out and watched them leave. With a sigh he climbed in his car and set off to his apartment. He realised what it was that made him feel like that, Georgie had checked the seatbelts of everyone, something he used to do when Ella was driving. His son was being the man of the family and he hated it. He got in and saw Leona on the sofa.

“Ouh what’s up with you?” she said quickly. “You have a face like a thundercloud.”

“Nothing.” Roman bit out.

“Of course.” Lee murmured as she saw him slam into his bedroom.

Roman walked out a minute later and sat opposite her.

“Georgie.” He said.

“Your elder son right.” She said.

Roman nodded.

“He checked their seatbelts.” He said.

“Well that is good isn’t it? He’s looking out for the family.”

“But that was my job.” Roman muttered and stormed into the bathroom.

Leona heard the shower come on and grinned. She was still smiling when Roman came out after a moment the shower still running.

“Don’t you see that was what I should be doing not him.” he muttered.

He had a towel wrapped around his waist and was dripping on to the pale cream carpet of the living room.

“Checking seatbelts?” Leona asked.

“No.” Roman ground out rubbing his face. “Being the man of the family. I’m the dad I should be there.”

Leona nodded.

“Then go get her.” Leona advised him.

“Her?” Roman asked.

“Her, the mother of your.. er… children.” She said softly and gave a strangled little cough as she stopped herself from blurting out the fact she knew Ella was pregnant.

“She doesn’t want me.” Roman said quietly.

“Then why is she back? Why is she letting you stay over tonight?” Leona told him.

“Because of the kids.” He said and turned around slamming back into the bathroom.

Lee sighed and moved ungainly off the sofa. She stepped into the kitchen when a knock at the door sounded.

“Kid.” She muttered to her bump. “You and me is going to have words about how slow you are making me these days.” She moved to the door and opened it.

“Hey Nic.” She greeted Roman’s eldest.

“Hey Lee.” Nic murmured.

“You dad is in the shower. Ella got him hot and sweaty.” She murmured and caught Nic’s grin.

“Have you met her yet?” she asked.

Leona shook her head.

“No but I already like her.” she said grinning back at Nic.

They moved over to the kitchen and Lee put the kettle on to boil.

“Coffee?” she asked.

Nic nodded.

“So what is going on with them?” she asked Leona. “I never get a straight answer from either of them.”

Lee nodded.

“I know. She says something and he comes home muttering. He only really smiles when she is the topic of conversation.”

Nic grinned.

“Thank god someone else has noticed that. I thought I was going insane.” She said and then fell quiet as the bathroom door opened.

“Hello Nic.” Roman said on the way to his bedroom.

“Hello Daddy.” Nic said quietly.

Lee looked at her and chuckled as they heard Roman mutter a swearword as he went into his room. She made the two drinks and moved to the lounge area. She eased down on the sofa and groaned.

“El was like that with Lily.” Nic commented.

“She’ll soon be like it again.” Leona burst out and watched in consternation as Nic spat out her mouthful of coffee.

“What are you saying?” she said when she could speak again.

“Nothing.” Lee said quickly and tried to move off the sofa.

She felt Nic place her hand on her arm and she was forced to face her.

“I saw her at the hospital.” She said quietly. “She dropped this.” She added delving in her magazine and handing Nic the scan from where she had hidden it.

Nic took hold of it and looked at the small black and white picture. She peered at it and then Lee leaned over and pointed out the baby.

“Another minute and I would have found it.” Nic muttered.

“Yeah.” Lee scoffed. “It isn’t a magic eye picture.”

“Oh do you remember those? No matter how hard I stared I could never see the blinking image.” Nic said reminiscing.

Lee nodded and reached for the scan just as Roman came out of his room. He was dressed once more in shorts and T-shirt and had a bag in his hand. He stepped into the bathroom collecting his wash bag to add to it missing the wrestling match on the couch between the two girls.

“Ok what is going on?” he asked looking over at them.

He moved quickly and took the scan out of their hands looking at it.

“Oh Nic.” He said.

“No it’s not mine.” She said to him. “And anyway don’t you think you have enough children.”

She muttered and then caught herself. “Grandchildren.” She corrected.

He nodded not noticing the slip or Leona openly glaring at Nic.

“I don’t know I think all children are miracles.” He said softly, thinking of Lily at that moment and the way she came into their lives after he had thought El was gone forever.

“Really.” Nic said quietly and ignored Leona poking her in the ribs.

“Yeah.” He smiled and then leaned forward, raising up his hand to ruffle Nic’s long golden blonde hair. He heard her cry of protest and grinned.

“I have to go.” He declared and moved to the door before either of them could say anything. He picked up his bag and went out closing the door behind him.

“But wait.” Nic cried out pushing her hair back from her face.

“He’s going over to Ella’s. He’s staying over tonight.” Lee told her. “I think it won’t be long before he finds out on his own do you?” she asked Nic.

Nic smiled.

“I know Ella.” She murmured. “She won’t get back with him because of a baby,”

Lee nodded.

“I suspected as much. “ she said quietly.

“So what are we going to do about it?” Nic said raising her eyebrow and looking at her.

“I think we should let proximity do its job. “ Lee said softly.

Nic chuckled.

“You think that…” she began and saw Leona nod.

“I’ve never known your dad to shave twice in one day.”

“I think someone is hoping to get lucky tonight.” Nic said with a whistle.

“Well at least he won’t have to be careful.” Lee pointed out.

“I’m going to be a sister again. Oh God!” she exclaimed.

“Yup. Oh God is right.” Lee murmured. “And if Geoff gets his way I’ll end up getting this one christened.” Lee added patting her bump.

“Forget that if Geoff gets his way I’ll end up with a similar waistline.” Nic laughed.

“That would be so cool! Our babies could play together.” Lee said after a moment.

“Forget it. “ Nic told her and watched as Lee chuckled.

Roman walked to the door uncertain whether to knock on it or try the handle and open it. He groaned thinking off all the times that he took this place being his home for granted.

“Daddy.” Meggy cried opening the door and puling on his hand tugging him inside.

“Roman.” Ella said over the noise of the still crying Lily.

“She like this all the time?” he asked walking over to them.

Ella nodded as she paced the floor.

“It’s ok. Go see the others. “ Ella told him. “I haven’t done any dinner and there is homework to organise.”

He chuckled and saw the look of disappointment on Meggy’s face.

“Have you got a lot of homework?” he asked her quietly.

She nodded.

“It’s math and I don’t understand it.” she confessed.

“Perfect.” Ella declared. “Your Daddy does the math homework. Do you want to show him his room?”

Meggy nodded and tugged on his hand leading him upstairs. He looked over at Ella and saw her give him a smile and he grinned back. She looked happy he was there and he certainly was over the moon. He thought over Leona’s words from earlier and what Nic had been saying and he gave a small groan. Maybe they were right and he could get his family back.

“Are you alright Daddy?” Meggy asked him bringing his attention back to her.

“Yes sweetie. “ he murmured. “Just trying to remember my maths.” He said kneeling down and looking at her.

She looked at him solemnly.

“It’s ok I don’t remember it either but the workbooks Mummy made us do while we were away were really good so we didn’t miss any school.” She murmured.

Roman nodded at his daughter and gave her a hug.

“That’s because your Mummy is very clever.” He said softly.

Meggy eased back and looked at him.

“Then why am I so thick?” she said and broke his heart.

Roman picked up Meggy and kissed her before walking into his new room and sitting on the bed.

“What’s the matter Megs honey?” he murmured.

“Well if I didn’t speak to the bad man then you and Mummy would still be together and I can’t do it. School is so hard.” She finally told him and started crying.

“Oh sweetie.” Roman said choking and unable to find the words to comfort her. He found this the hardest thing about being a dad, which was why Ella was such a fantastic mum. She always found the right words to say to them.

“Hey are we having a crisis?” Ella said softly from the doorway Lily asleep in her arms.

“Just a little one.” Roman said quietly. “I got it covered.” He added trying to sound confident.

“Ok.” Ella said and blew him a kiss.

He grinned stupidly unable to hide it and saw Meggy looking up at them. She’d stopped crying and had her mouth in a round O shape.

Ella chuckled and carried on to the nursery. They heard her murmuring quietly as she placed Lily down for a nap.

“I’m sure Mummy has told you that whatever happened between us has nothing to do with you being bad or good it’s just the way things are. We love you Meggy.” He said feeling an emotional lump in his throat. “So enough about thinking you could change what happened ok.” he added.

She wiped at her eyes.

“And school isn’t easy. I wasn’t very good at it.” he said looking at the way her eyes seemed to be huge blue saucers in her face. She had inherited freckles from Ella and he loved the way she had them scattered across her nose just like her Mum.

“Really?” she asked after a minute.

He nodded.

“So Mum is the clever one.” She said.

He looked at her and resisted the urge to laugh at how he ended up admitting these things.

“Yes.” He said with a slow nod.

She gave a slow smile.

“So I’m like you?” she asked.

He nodded again.

“Cool.” She said after a moment and jumped up running out of the room.

Roman watched her go before the laugh he was holding back finally erupted. He giggled and grabbed a pillow off the bed placing it over his face to muffle the belly laugh. He looked up and saw Ella standing in the doorway smiling at him.

“You heard?” he asked and saw her nod.

“And finally you admit it.” she said.

He stood up and walked over to her looking past her to make sure no kids were around before tugging her arm and pulling her into the room. He kicked the door shut before pulling her into his arms and kissing her. She struggled briefly before kissing him back and wrapping her arms around his neck.

“Behave.” She told him. “This isn’t a good idea!”

“Well you should know you are the clever one!” he murmured slowly releasing her.

She eased back and looked at him.

“What’s up?” she asked.

“Nothing.” He said quickly.

“Roman.” She added after a moment. She continued to look into his eyes and smiled at him.

“I think you are wonderful.” She said quietly. “And you said it yourself to me, you don’t do book smarts but well book smarts don’t always cut it in the real world.”

He gave her a nod and then smiled as he realised she hadn’t removed her arms from around his neck and she was trying to cheer him up. Of course she felt nothing for him, he reasoned still grinning.

“Oh you.” She said eventually and pulled away.

“Hang on.” He told her grabbing hold of her waist.

He looked deeply into her eyes and then his gaze travelled lower as he counted the freckles on her nose. Still grinning he released her.

“What was that?” she asked moving to the door.

“Meggy has fewer freckles than you.” He murmured.

She gave him a frosty glare.

“I do not have freckles.” She declared and moved out of the room.

She heard his laughter and grinned herself as she moved down the stairs, unaware that Sophie and Georgie were standing on the other set of stairs watching them. They looked at each other before Sophie pulled out her phone to text Nic.

“Mum and Dad.” She began.

“They kissed.” Georgie said. “You know they kiss when they close the door like that. If they were arguing Mum wouldn’t have been laughing and she would have slammed the door.”

Sophie looked at him before retyping the message.

“Operation MD is a go.” She put and pressed send.

Over the other side of the Bay Nic pulled out her phone and read the incoming message.

“Proximity is working.” She declared looking at Leona.

“You have a spy in the camp?” Lee guessed.

“More like four of them. And don’t count out Gabby and Danni.” She said softly. “We’re trying to play it cool at the moment.”

“That isn’t working so much for you.” Lee said after a moment.

“Hey, these are my parents.” Nic grouched. “I want them back together.”

“But isn’t Ella your stepmother?” Lee asked.

“Shut up.” Nic said. “You just pick holes in everything don’t you?” she added.

They looked at each other and burst out laughing.

Roman wandered down the stairs and saw Ella making drinks. He smiled when he saw her make real coffee for him.

“Thanks.” He told her.

“Roman.” She said looking at him over the rim of her cup.

“Yes?” he asked.

“I have something to… she began.

“Mum.” Sophie called out.

“Yes Sophie?” Ella asked biting back a swearword at the interruption.

“Have you told him?” she said quickly.

“No Sophie.” Ella murmured with a resigned groan. “Have you got your homework out?”

Sophie glared at her before storming up the stairs. They heard the bedroom door slam and gave each other a rueful grin.

“She learnt it from you.” Roman said after a minute.

“I know.” She murmured. “And one day she will meet someone as stubborn as you and there will be no doors left in their house.”

He looked at her for a moment before laughing.

“Touché.” He said rising his cup in a toast to her. “El.” He added in a whisper.

“Shush.” She said quickly. “Stop wishing for the moon and settle for what we have ok.” she mouthed to him with a frantic glance at Sammy in the other room.

He nodded having read her lips, his gaze still on them as he thought about kissing her again. He dragged his eyes away form her reluctantly and walked through to the lounge sitting next to Sammy.

“Hey Daddy.” Sammy greeted him.

“Hey Samson.” He said quietly.

“Hey!” Ella grumbled at him leaning in the archway between the kitchen and lounge. “I thought you were doing food.”

Roman looked at Sammy who was grinning at him.

“I’m hungry Daddy.” He said. “Must be the running.”

Roman laughed again knowing that any minute he would start welling up with tears he was so grateful to have them back. He looked over at Ella and saw her smile at him like she knew what he was feeling inside. He nodded unable to speak and walked over to her. She stepped to one side and let him into the kitchen.

“What have we got?” he asked her.

“I did a shop yesterday so pretty much everything, only one request.” She said quietly.

“Yup?” he asked.

“Nothing with Cheese for me I’m trying a new health kick.” She improvised.

He nodded and looked in the fridge.

“I can do pasta with a cream sauce and mushrooms.” He said.

Ella moved over to him and stood next to him looking in the fridge too She causally let her hand touch his back and gently rubbed a circle on it. He nodded at her.

“If this is too much Roman.” She began.

“No chance. I’m not going to pass up being with my kids.” He stated then gave her a look. “Or the things I plan on when they’ve gone to bed.” He added watching as she blushed.

“What are we missing out on?” Sophie asked from behind them.

“Watching a dvd.” Roman said quickly.

“Oh that is boring.” She muttered and walked over to the table with Georgie and dumped her books on it. Meggy followed them a look of distaste on her face as she put the maths book down.

Roman caught Ella’s gaze and gave her a quick grin that didn’t resolve the frown she had on her face.

“Pasta and sauce?” he asked out loud.

“Tomato?” Sammy asked hopefully moving to the kitchen.

“No cream and mushroom.” Roman told him and saw an almost comical change of expression on his son’s face.

“I can go with tomato.” Ella said quietly.

Roman gave her a look and then over at the children.

“Ok?” he asked watching them nod.

He began cooking as Ella moved away and collected her cup. She walked over to the sofa and sat down leaning her head back on the cushion and closing her eyes. She was fast asleep in minutes not noticing when Roman rescued the cup before the coffee spilt or when he fed the children dinner and then sent them upstairs. She was still asleep when he placed the throw over her and went with the children. They watched a movie together before he got them to bed.

“Sorry.” She mumbled when he sat next to her.

“I guess the children wore you out.” he told her.

“They did and thank you for not being too disappointed.”

“I am actually I was looking forward to being with you tonight.” He gave her that little boy grin of his and she gave a tired sounding chuckle.

“Well.” She began. “I wouldn’t mind a hug.”

He laughed and picked her up carrying her up the stairs.

“Is Lily still asleep?” she asked him.

He nodded.

“I take it you had to give her some medicine”

She nodded.

“She had a temperature and she’s been fretful for the past couple of nights.” She told him. “I’m hoping its nothing serious.”

He lowered her to her feet inside her bedroom and looked suddenly uncertain.

“Stay.” She told him. “But I don’t want the children…”

“It’s ok I understand.” He interrupted working on keeping a sudden bitter note out of his voice. “I’ll just go get a quick shower.” He added nervously.

She nodded biting her bottom lip and he grinned.

“Not the lip?” she said with a groan.

“Well yes and the fact you are as nervous as me right now.”

She nodded shyly.

“I know we’ve been together ages but this is” She stopped looking at him.

“Something new.” He finished the description.

She nodded once more and then gave another small groan at her inability to do more than nod.

“I’ll be back in a minute.” He said resisting the urge to kiss her.

She smiled at him and moved over to the en suite as he moved out of the room. He made sure the lights were out before getting his things from the bedroom and heading to the bathroom. Running a hand over his face he grimaced wondering if he should shave again and then chuckled as he climbed into the shower. He finished and was out again in minutes pulling on pyjamas as he headed down the hallway. Moving into her room he looked over and saw that she was already in bed. He walked closer and saw that she had fallen asleep already. Grinning he climbed into bed and pulled her gently into his arms. With a sigh he closed his eyes and fell asleep himself unaware that he had a stupid grin on his face.

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Chapter 10

Roman walked into the Summer Bay house. Miles was on the sofa an open beer in his hand. He clicked the remote and turned the TV off.

“What’s up?” he asked him.

“Nothing.” Roman said helping himself to a beer and sitting next to him.

“If it is nothing what are you doing here drinking my beer?” Miles asked.

“Well I spent the weekend with Ella and the kids.” Roman began and paused speaking to take a drink.

“And?” Miles was forced to ask.

“Well you know it was supposed to be.” Roman stopped looking down at the floor. “That kind of weekend.”

“Oh.” Miles murmured raising his eyebrows.

“As long as the kids didn’t find out.” Roman added. “So I didn’t mind the sneaking around and being careful.”

“Do I really need to know this?” Miles murmured speaking more to his nearly empty beer bottle than to the other man.

“Well don’t worry nothing happened.” Roman finished. “Ella was so tired that she just went to sleep.”

“Ah!” Miles said and stood up walking over to his fridge to replenish his beer.

“No it wasn’t that.” Roman defended himself suddenly thinking he sounded like a boy denied a treat and well it would have been a heck of a treat he thought with a quick grin.

Miles counted the beers left in his fridge and gave a small groan. They would probably start on the whiskey and he would have a hangover in the morning. Good job he was now the headmaster and didn’t have to deal with Bartlett anymore.

“It was the feeling that I was not really part of their family anymore.” Roman said quietly.

“But you are, you know that.” Miles said quietly. “You and Ella have a connection Roman and wonderful kids.”

“I know but I’m an Ex husband.” Roman mooched.

“Who has his own room in his ex-wife’s house and just spent the weekend with her and well it would have been a bit more than that too.”

Roman chuckled.

“Yeah but I’m still on the outside no matter that Ella lets me cook and take care of the kids. I still have to go home to somewhere that doesn’t have them in it.” he said quietly.

Miles smiled.

“I know I should be grateful that I haven’t lost them altogether.” Roman said looking over at his friend. “And trust me I am, I really am but watching Georgie adopt the role of the man of the house.” Roman took a drink. “He even caught a spider and took it outside when Ella screamed.”

“She still screams?” Miles asked.

“Yes I do and I hope you were talking about the spider incident.” Ella told them from the doorway.

She gave them a smile and walked in placing a bag on the table. Opening it she took out a bottle of light beer for herself and sat opposite the two men on the sofa.

“The kids?” Roman asked quickly.

Ella shrugged.

“Danni and Gabby turned up an hour ago and declared they were moving back home.”

Roman chuckled.

“And you escaped?”

Ella nodded.

“Thought I would come see Miles.” She explained a light of mischief in her eyes.

Miles chuckled.

“And check up on me?” Roman added.

She shrugged again and then stood up pulling out an envelope from her back pocket and passing it to him.

“I forgot to give you that too. It’s the new card for our joint account.”

He gave her a look before taking the envelope from her. He hadn’t touched the money in their account surviving on what remained of his savings.

“Thanks.” He said knowing that he wouldn’t touch the money.

“Made me remember that I needed to talk to you about finances.”

“Yeah sure but I’m busy with school and stuff.” Miles answered when Roman went quiet.

Ella giggled and looked over at Roman a puzzled expression on her face.

He looked up and gave a small quick grin.

“I er.. free tomorrow afternoon.” Roman said quietly.

“Cool. Works for me.” She said sitting back down. “And I also wanted a word about Sophie.”

“Should I leave you two?” Miles asked.

“No.” Ella said quickly. “It’s just that she found out that Princess is up for sale.”

“Princess?” Miles asked.

“The horse she rides at the stables.” Roman told him.

“Oh. So what is the problem?” Miles murmured taking a sip of his beer.

“She’s having temper tantrums and sulking.” Roman told him.

“I would if I found out I was up for sale.” Miles said with a straight face.

“Not the horse.” Ella told him with a giggle.

“So what do you suggest?” Roman asked her.

“I’m asking you. I’ve said no but only on the basis that she is acting like a brat not because I don’t think that she can take care of the horse.” She murmured sipping the beer.

He looked over into her eyes and gave a small smile again.

“Where would she keep her?” he asked.

Ella gave them both a big smile.

“No.” Miles said before he even knew what he was saying no to.

“We have a lot of land at the house. It was a working farm until the mid seventies.” Ella told him. “So there is scope for a paddock and a stable block. Just need someone to do the work.”

Miles looked at her and shook his head again.

“Are you falling for this?” he asked Roman.

Roman shrugged.

“It could be a new keep fit routine for you.” He said softly looking over the rim of his bottle at Miles.

Ella laughed.

“Actually.” she began. “I spoke to the builders that at drawing up plans for the building by the pool and they can knock up a stables in a couple of days.”

“Still going ahead with that?” Roman asked.

Ella grinned.

“Yeah, I’m running out of room.” she said and found she had unconsciously placed a hand on her belly. “So what do you think about the horse?” she asked him.

He looked at her and gave her a smile.

“We did say a year and it is over that.” He pointed out.

“Is that a yes?” she asked.

“How much is the horse?” he asked and she named a sum.

“Is that how much a horse costs?” Miles groaned. “And then you have to feed it and water it.”

Ella nodded.

“And the grooming and the mucking out and all the other stuff.” She added.

Roman smiled.

“I think we can do that.” He said knowing that half that would clean out his savings and he would be damned if he let Ella pick up the bill. He would have to juggle his money but he was sure he could stretch it.

“We should speak to the stable people and get a vet to look over the horse and stuff.” Ella suggested and yawned.

“Never owned a horse before?” Miles asked her.

Ella shook her head.

“My first pet was a cat and that turned out so well I’ve got seven of them now.” she muttered glaring at Roman.

“Still not forgiven you for the three months in the cattery?” Roman asked with a grin.

She shook her head and smiled again.

“Anyway I better go.” She added after a moment feeling tiredness wash over her again. “See you tomorrow.” She said and stood up.

She moved easily over to him and placed a kiss on his cheek before doing likewise to Miles.

Both men watching her walk out before Miles looked at Roman and laughed.

“What?” he said glaring at him.

“You seem to be really relegated to the ex husband category.” He said with a sardonic grin. “So much so that she came to talk to you rather than pick up the phone.”

Roman sent a puzzled look in Miles’ direction before smiling.

“She did didn’t she?” he said softly.

Miles let out a laugh and looked over at Roman who was still looking in the doorway as if expecting her to walk back in at any moment. He shook his head but another grin erupted and he couldn’t help wondering how long it would be before they got back together.

Roman heard the music from outside. He looked at the door and resisted the urge to knock instead turning the handle and pushing it open. He stepped inside and walked into the lounge reaching for the remote and turning down the music.

“Oh.” Ella said looking at him from the doorway in the study.

“You said this afternoon.” He murmured feeling a touch uncertain.

“Yeah, sorry I was…” she stopped and looked at him taking a breath. “Working.” She finished.

“You took some photos?” he asked looking at her glowing face and taking in the baggy dungarees she was wearing.

She nodded.

“You want to see now don’t you?” she muttered folding her arms across herself.

He chuckled and nodded.

She sighed and then gestured behind her spinning around and walking into the study. He laughed again and followed her his gaze dipping to her cute behind.

“Eyes up Harris.” She sang out and he laughed again.

“I wasn’t…” he tried to say.

“Like a) I would believe you and b) I don’t know you.” She muttered gesturing with her fingers.

“Did you not get any sleep last night?” he asked.

“I’m grumpy because your daughters, plural decided to give me some grief. Sophie is now saying if she doesn’t get the horse she will sue us for breach of contract and Lily was up most of the night. Gabby has taken her for a drive to get her to sleep.”

“Maybe you should take her…” he began and then stopped catching sight of her expression.

“This afternoon at half 5.” She said. “Rachel has said she’ll look at her.”

He nodded and walked over to her. She looked up at him and suddenly burst into tears.

“She’ll be fine. It’s probably a cold or an earache.” He pointed out the minor ailments.

“I know.” Ella said with a snuffle. “But she’s my baby.” She added emotionally.

He stroked her hair and led her over to the sofa resisting the urge to pull her on to his lap and hold her like he used to. He did however sit down pulling her gently down beside him.

“Ella.” He said after a time.

“Sorry I guess I’m tired.” She began. “I have something to tell you.” She added.

He nodded using his thumbs to wipe away the trace of her tears.

“Tell me what you are working on?” he suggested looking over at the laptop on the table.

She gave a sigh and reasoned with her conscience that at least she had tried to tell him she was pregnant twice now.

“I took some photos in the Lake District and they want a book out of it.” she said picking up the manuscript to show him. She handed it across to him and unplugged her camera from the laptop and carried it over to the desk nearby. She did the same with the laptop and plugged it into the mains.

“This is really good.” He said.

“Not too flowery?” she asked him.

He shook his head and looked over at her.

“Sophie looks like a fairy princess in this one.” He said pointing out one of the shots she had taken of Sophie dancing in the stone circle. The picture was taken from behind so her face was out of the shot.

“Still not sure about using pictures of the kids.” She muttered.

“There are only three so I think it will be ok and anyway none of the shots show their faces..” he said to her.

She looked at him and then nodded before reaching for a picture she had put in a frame for him.

“She really is a fairy princess.” Ella said to him.

He reached for it and their fingers touched before their gazes locked.

“El.” He whispered.

“We have stuff to talk about.” She said.

He nodded and then looked at the photo Ella had taken. It was taken as Sophie danced her face tilted down slightly so that the daisy chain around her long hair seemed to stand out brighter and she had a big grin on her face, like the picture had been taken while she was laughing.

“She’s beautiful.” He said softly.

Ella grinned.

“That she is.” She agreed. “Now hand it back that is your birthday present from her.”

He let out a laugh and gave her the photo back.

“What are the others getting me?” he asked. “Because I could do with some new socks.”

Ella nodded grinning before picking up an album and handing it to him.

“The rest of the pictures I took.” She said quietly.

She sat next to him as he went through the bulky album looking at the pictures.

“These are good. Probably some of your best.” He said after a time.

She shook her head.

“They are nothing special.” She denied with a nonchalant shrug.

“They are great El, it fantastic that you have started taking pictures again. I love some of the ones of the kids.” He said softly.

She gave him a small smile.

“Money.” She muttered.

“I haven’t touched the money in the joint account.” He said quickly.

“Why?” Ella asked him. “It’s mostly yours.”

“I thought it as ours and anyway I didn’t know what was put in by you or what was put by me. I didn’t want to touch it until we spoke.”

She looked up at him and then nodded again understanding his pride.

“Well .” she began. “I know you’ll want to provide for the kids and the easiest thing I thought of was if you put money in savings accounts. I mean you can buy them stuff but well ..” she trailed of looking over at him.

“That sounds fair.” He said quietly.

“And while we are talking about this stuff I’ve left the house in both our names. And well there is a load of legal stuff.” She murmured thinking about if things went wrong with the pregnancy.

He nodded.

“Do we need to go through it now?” he asked.

Ella shook her head and walked over to the desk and pulled out a folder with his name written on it. She handed it to him and he scanned the contents.

“Those are duplicate bank books for their accounts. The kids can only withdraw money with one of us present.” She outlined the arrangements she had made at the bank.

He looked over at them and nodded.

“Roman.” She said suddenly.

He looked up from the folder.

“What?” he asked.

“If you didn’t touch the money in the joint account what have you been living off?” she asked her head titled to one side as she looked at him.

“My savings.” He said quickly.

Ella stood up and put her hands on her hips as she glared at him.

“I had enough in there.” he muttered sounding defensive.

She continued to look at him.

“We both know that is a lie Roman Harris. You used all your money to pay for the remodelling of the house.” She muttered.

He shrugged.

“Well I managed.”

She nodded and then looked at him.

“Is that why Leona is living with you?” she asked suddenly.

She saw his face turn red and laughed.

“It is isn’t it.” she confirmed.

He gave her a look and then nodded slowly.

“Oh wow.” She murmured.

“Did you really believe that I would be shacked up with another woman?” he muttered folding his arms across his chest.

She looked at him and decided it wasn’t worth telling him that folding his arms like that only emphasised his biceps.

“I think that if I really thought you were with her I wouldn’t have come back.” She said finally.

Roman stood up and stepped towards her.

“Ella.” He murmured.

She looked up at him their eyes meeting and suddenly they were kissing passionately.

“God.” She gasped easing away from him.

“El?” he said quietly.

“I’m not coming back to you.” She gasped out.

He wanted to point out that he hadn’t actually asked her but well it didn’t seem the right time.

“We need to stop this.” She added.

He nodded again.

“You can’t keep coming here and kissing me.” She muttered.

He looked at her and waited for the next bit.

“Because well its wrong and we should behave ourselves.” She ran out of steam and looked at him. “Say something.” She instructed.

“Ok.” he said. “We’ll go somewhere else to kiss then.”

She gave him look of disgust and then burst out laughing.

“Roman Harris.” She gasped out.

He pulled her back into his arms and kissed the top of her head before sitting back on the sofa.

“So is that all the finance stuff sorted out?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Then we need to sort out Sophie.” he murmured.

Ella grinned.

“Before she retains a lawyer?” she asked him.

“Hopefully. Is Princess worth the money?”

“What would you pay for replacement doors?” she pointed out. “Seriously I have no idea. I mean why couldn’t she like smaller animals?”

“Because she is a mini-you.” Roman said. “Still keep the telephone directory in here?”

Ella nodded and pointed to a drawer.

“Do you want a drink?” she asked him looking at her watch. The kids were due back soon. Gabby was going to pick them up from school and bring them home.

He nodded.

“Coffee would be good.” He said reaching for the big book and flicking through it.

Ella moved out of the room and went into the kitchen. She made two coffees carrying them back in and placing them on the desk just as Roman hung up the phone.

“I spoke to the stables and they gave me the name of the vet they used. He’s going out there on Wednesday so that we can talk to him while Sophie is having her lesson. They’ve said they will keep her busy so that it will be kept low key.” He explained.

“Thank you.” Ella said smiling at him.

She found her gaze caught by the photo he had on his phone and she chuckled.

“Oh.” He said a stain of embarrassment on his face. “It’s my favourite one of you.” He added after a moment.

She nodded and looked at him their eyes meeting once more.

“Give me your phone.” She said.

He looked at her face and resigned himself to her deleting the image. She hated her photo taken and that one of her and Meggy had been taken without her permission just a quick snapshot. He handed the phone over to her and watched as she scrolled through the menu. They each had the same model phone so she knew how to work it. Or at least they used to have the same model phone he didn’t know if she’d gone back to hers or just got a new one.

Ella smiled as she moved around the desk and opened the drawer. She pulled out the USB cord and hooked the phone up to her laptop. Within seconds she had the image on the PC. She cropped it and fixed it with a border before printing it out on glossy photo paper. Moving over to the bank of cabinets the other side of the room she selected a drawer and opened it pulling out a small tissue wrapped object and brought it back to the desk. She picked up the photo from the printer and unwrapped the wooden photo frame from the tissue paper. Placing the photo down she cropped the excess paper from it before she placed it in the frame.

“Here you go?” she said handing him back his phone and the photo.

“Ella.” He said quietly.

“Well the phone is pretty ancient.” She pointed out. “I wouldn’t want you to lose your favourite photo of Meggy.”

He nodded.

“Thank you anyway and yes Meggy does look cute in this.” He confirmed. “Do you remember this day?” he asked her.

She nodded and moved over to the sofa grinning as he did too, sitting next to her his arm on the back of the sofa as he looked at her face.

“It was the day that Sammy was born.” She said quietly looking at the picture.

He chuckled.

“You’d spent ages upset with me because we weren’t sleeping together and that one was hitting you.” He began.

“Meggy did have her moments.” Ella said tiredly.

“And you doubted yourself as a mother.”

“Still do.” She told him with a sardonic grin. “How do I know I’m doing any of this right? At least you had Nic and then Aden to practice on.” She pointed out.

“And look how they turned out? I should have got myself fixed.” He muttered grinning at her.

She reached out and traced the face of the picture Meggy with her finger.

“Uh huh.” He said at the look on her face. “Still think you should have given her up?” he asked.

Ella smiled and blinked back tears.

“I would have done anything to keep her safe.” She pointed out feeling Roman put his arm around her. “Even give her up.”

“And that is why you are a wonderful mother ok, don’t let me hear you doubt yourself ever again.” He said holding her close.

She felt him shake and she looked up at his face.

“I lo…” she bit back the words she wanted to say as she heard the front door slam.

“The kids?” he asked and she nodded.

“I need to go get ready for the doctors appointment.” Ella told him after a moment.

“Do you mind if I hang out with the other kids for a while?” he asked softly.

She shook her head and stood slowly picking up her coffee cup and taking a drink before heading out.

“Mummy.” Sammy greeted her.

“Hey babes.” She said hugging him a little extra tighter.

“You are squishing me.” He pointed out after a moment. “Is that Daddy’s car outside?”

“You know very well it is.” She said tickling him.

He giggled and then looked past her.

“Daddy.” He cried rushing over to hug his dad.

“Hey Sophie.” Ella greeted her daughter.

“She’s told me to tell you that she’s not talking to you.” Georgie answered.

“Oh ok.” Ella said. “Can you tell her that won’t work either?”

Sophie leaned over and whispered something to Georgie and he nodded.

“She said to say she’s not talking to you but she can still hear you.” He muttered folding his arms.

“Maybe I’m not talking to her.” Ella told Georgie. “In fact maybe I’m not talking to you. Sammy can you tell Georgie I’m not talking to him.”

“Hey that’s not fair.” Sophie said and then clamped her hand over her mouth and looked at Ella.

“Kids homework please.” She said softly.

She gave Georgie a kiss and then Sophie as they moved past her.

“Hey Meggy.” She said to her other daughter.

“I’m not feeling well can I lay down?” M<eggy said quietly.

Ella reached out to her frowning when Meggy flinched.

“Ok.” she said softly.

Meggy nodded and moved slowly up the stairs.

“What’s wrong with her?” Gabby asked from the doorway. “Lily is finally asleep so I’ve left her in the car.”

“I hope you opened a window.” Roman said and saw Gabby frown before seeing that he was joking.

“Ha ha Daddy.” She said glaring at him. “That’s why I’m standing here. I want to make sure she is ok..”

“I better hurry up and get ready then. “ Ella told them and began making her way up the stairs.

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