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The Way Back

Guest TelephotoMarigold

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Chapter 21

Roman rolled over and looked around the room. He was alone and he sighed before standing up and dragging his tracksuit bottoms on. Walking barefoot down the hall he saw Ella in the nursery with Lily. She was holding her in her arms and had fallen asleep. Lilly looked at him with her big blue eyes and he smiled at her before walking into the nursery and picking her carefully out of Ella’s arms. He picked up the shawl, which had dropped to the floor and placed that gently over Ella’s shoulders to keep her warm before he took Lily with him down the stairs. He found Meggy in the lounge watching cartoons. She grinned up at him and Lily.

“What’s with everyone being up so early?” he grumbled.

Meggy shrugged.

“Mummy says I’m like you.” She told him. “Lily.” She called to her sister.

“Mog.” Lily called out clapping her hands.

“Mog?” Roman questioned.

“She’s only a baby Daddy she hasn’t learnt how to speak yet.” Meggy told him as though she couldn’t believe he didn’t know.

“Yes but Mog?” he asked.

Meggy shrugged.

“The cats are called Moggies in the UK.” Meggy said.

“Uh huh.” Roman said still not understanding.

He placed the squirming Lily on to the floor and watched with a grin as she made her way straight to Cookie who was curled up by Meggy.

“She likes cats, huh?” he asked Meggy.

Meggy grinned and looked up at him.

“She adores cats.” She explained.

Cookie gave him a look as if telling him off for yet another baby in the house before jumping off the sofa and winding herself around his legs.

“Breakfast?” he asked not sure he was talking to Meggy or the cat.

“I think we all want some.” Meggy told him with a chuckle when the kittens started coming out of their hiding places.

“Kitty.” Lily cried out and clapped her hands.

“I know I should have got a dog.” Roman said under his breath and then winced as he felt Cookie stretching up and putting her claws in his leg as she used his leg as s scratching post.

“Hey.” He cried out. “Behave yourself Cookie or no biscuits.”

She eased back and sat down lifting up one paw and licking it clean before looking up at him innocently.

“Yeah that’s about what I thought.” He said to her.

“Daddy, you are talking to a cat.” Meggy pointed out.

He gave her a smile and bent down to kiss her. Smiling as Lily climbed up on the sofa next to her.

“I know.” He said. “And she talks back sometimes.” He confessed hearing Meggy giggle at him.

Cookie looked around the room and meowed before leading the kittens out of the room and to their food bowls. He followed and bent down feeding them before washing his hands and looking in the fridge for food.

“We have porridge.” Meggy told him helpfully. “Well, Lily does so we all have some because Mummy gets tired with." She stopped. “Us kids.” She continued.

“Well I can do porridge. Do you want toast? Or I can do special eggs?” he asked.

“No eggs.” She said quickly. “Mummy doesn’t like cheese.”

“How about banana fritters?” he asked thinking of birthdays when Ella insisted on special breakfasts for the children.

“Daddy, we have porridge. “ Meggy said again. “You don’t have to cook.”

He gave her a smile and bit back his words that he needed to. He needed his place in the family.

“Maybe Lily would like mashed banana though?” Meggy asked seeing the sad look on his face.

“Meggy I love you.” He found himself saying and scooped her up hugging her.

“Love you too Daddy.” She told him.

She put her arms tight around his neck and hugged him. He didn’t tell her that she was strangling him that would have ruined the moment.

“Hey!” Sammy said sleepily walking into the kitchen.

He pulled out the stool moving it over to the other side of the kitchen before getting out the bread and after climbing on to the stool he reached up and put four slices into the toaster. He climbed back down and moved the stool so he could get the peanut butter out of the cupboard. Roman watched him silently hiding a grin.

“Hey Sammy?” he said eventually.


“Yeah, it’s me. I’m doing porridge, apparently, for breakfast.”

Sammy nodded and climbed down off the stool.

“That’s good.” Sammy told him. “But I’m having toast.”

“Er, Sammy I think I can manage toast too.” Roman murmured.

“I know but I don’t want mummy to know.” He told him and looked at Meggy who was grinning.

“Why don’t you want Mummy to know?” Roman asked puzzled.

“Because we don’t do stuff that makes her cry.” Meggy explained. “And Sammy doesn’t like porridge so he gets up and has toast.”

Roman nodded at his children and placed Meggy slowly to her feet. He moved over to the toaster and took out the toast and placed it on a plate before getting out the butter and a knife. He handed them to Sammy.

“Better go to the table.” He told him watching as he made several trips.

He put the kettle on and searched for the coffee finding regular and decaff versions. He made both and poured out juice for the children.

“Mummy drinks milk now.” Sophie told him when she moved into the kitchen.

She reached up and took down the museli box from the pantry shelf and went over to collect a bowl.

“Let me guess you don’t have porridge either?” he asked her.

She shuddered.

“No way.” She told him tossing her long hair over her shoulder and pouring milk into her bowl.

Roman bit back a smile and looked around his children wondering if he’d stepped into a parallel universe. He poured out oats into a pan and stirred in milk.

“Sugar or salt?” he asked them.

“Salt?” Sammy asked spitting out a mouthful of toast. “You mean it can taste worse?”

Roman laughed.

“It’s nice with salt.” He told him.

“Honey.” Sophie said.

“Yeah!” Meggy said tugging at his hand.

“And sugar.” Georgie told him moving into the kitchen. He walked over to the table and picked up a glass of juice taking a drink.

“Honey or sugar?” Roman asked them stirring the pan.

“You put sugar in first and then a spoon of honey in after when it’s cooked.” Sophie told him as though he should know.

He nodded and gave her a smile and then gasped when Lily grabbed hold of his leg and stood up.

“Lily.” He murmured.

“I’ll get her.” Georgie told him.

“Its ok I got her.” Roman told him picking up Lily and moving over to the high chair. He placed her in it and handed her a cup of juice, watching as she took a drink.

“What’s up?” Georgie asked him.

“Nothing.” Roman murmured. “Are you having porridge or sneaking toast.”

“Porridge thanks Dad.” Georgie told him.

Roman gave him a smile.

“Who else?” he asked in shorthand.

“Me and Lily.” Meggy told him. “But Lily doesn’t have the honey.”

Roman nodded and began to serve the porridge. He took the honey out of the fridge and placed it on the table. Before sitting next to Lily and feeding her. She grabbed on to the spoon and pulled it from him splattering it down in the porridge. Giving him a look she began to feed herself with more porridge on her face than in her mouth.

Meggy laughed at her.

“Lily.” Roman called out.

She paused and looked at him her blue eye huge in her face.

“Let me do it.” he told her.

“Dada!” she cried and held out the spoon to him.

“Wow Lily has learnt a new word.” Sophie said excitedly.

“Cool Dad.” Georgie told him and suddenly Roman didn’t feel so lost. He accepted the spoon from his daughter and began to feed her.

She ate quietly before holding her hands up wanting to be out of the high chair.

“Are you lot going to get ready for school?” he asked them. “I’ll drive you.”

Georgie nodded.

“Thanks Dad.” He said. “Can I sit in the front with you?”

“Hey no fair!” Meggy cried. “I wanted to sit in the front.”

“At the moment none of you can sit in the front because you need to go get dressed.” Roman told them clearing the bowls from the table. He rinsed them out keeping an eye on the squirming Lily and placed them in the dishwasher. He collected the flannel and rinsed it under the tap before wiping Lily’s hands and face and lifting her down. She immediately crawled over to Cookie and started pulling her tail.

“Lily.” He called out. “Cookie won’t like that.” He added.

Cookie glared at him and moved off with Lily chasing behind and he smiled.

“Are you getting ready?” he asked the others before scooping Lily into his arms and moving up the stairs himself. He placed Lily in the nursery in her cot before heading into the bedroom. Ella was dressed and sitting at her dresser combing her still damp hair.

“Is it safe?” she asked him.

“Safe for what?”

“For me to go downstairs. Sammy things he’s fooling me.” She told him.

His eyes met with hers in the mirror.

“How?” he asked the one word question.

“Oh come on, he doesn’t put the stool back and I do notice that the peanut butter is in the wrong place not to mention that Georgie is putting on weight from eating two bowls of porridge. Oh and the knife and plate are also an indication.” She pointed out.

He walked around the bed and sat down on the neat covers.

“So why do you think they do it?” he asked.

“Because they don’t want to upset me.” She told him turning around and looking at him. “So I let them. They feel good about it.”

“Ella.” He said.

“Yes?” she asked raising an eyebrow at him.

“You should talk to them and let them know you are ok.”

She gave him a look.

“Yes dear.” She told him.

“Ok so you’ve tried.” He said with a sigh.

“It will be ok soon.” She promised. “They are a lot more settled.”

“They shouldn’t have been unsettled.” He said feeling anger despite himself.

Ella starred at him.

“Then maybe you should have done something about your Mark issues before they broke us.” She told him angrily and stood up.

Her words were more effective than a slap in the face and he felt himself get angry all over again.

“And maybe you should have had more counselling to get over your issues.” He snapped back.

“Now that is a funny thing because when I did go to counselling all I talked about was the crap you’ve put me through over the past ten years. “ Ella told him moving away from him.

She bent down and picked up his T-shirt off the floor and tossed it to him.

“Get your stuff packed.” She muttered. “I think you should go home.”

She stalked out of the bedroom and into the nursery where she changed and dressed Lily. She carried her down the stairs and saw the children standing by the door. Picking up her keys she moved out of the door.

“Get in the car.” She told them.

“Daddy was going to take us to school.” Sophie protested.

“Get in the car.” Ella told them again ignoring Roman walking down the stairs behind then. She watched as they moved reluctantly into the car before she went out and put Lily in her car seat. She waited until Roman was outside before she went and locked the door and then climbed into the car and drove off.

Roman sat in his car and cursed. He found himself driving off aimlessly not knowing where he was going or what to do next before finally heading home. He went into his apartment missing the cats and the noise of the kids and most of all missing Ella. He took a quick shower and dressed before heading to the hospital to pick up Leona.

Ella dropped the subdued children off before heading over to the hospital. She checked in with the receptionist before sitting with Lily in the waiting room. She saw Aden come out of an exam room with one of his patients and nodded at him,. He came over after a couple of minutes and sat next to her.

“We have to stop meeting like this.” He murmured glancing at Lily in her capsule.

“Yeah.” Ella said quietly trying to pretend that she wasn’t still feeling fraught. “People will talk.” She added knowing her voice sounded brittle.

“Ok.” Aden said, “Come with me.”

He stood up picking up Lily’s capsule and moving away. He spoke to the receptionist and led Ella down to the canteen.

“What happened?” he asked her when they were seated.

“Well the usual. We had a wonderful night.” She paused as she blushed.

“I’m a doctor I think I can work out what that means.” Aden told her with a smirk.

“Yeah anyway, everything was fine and then this morning we just snapped at each other.” she stopped talking and rested her chin in her hand. “Again.” She muttered. “And the kids hate me.”

Aden picked up the rattle that Lily dropped and handed it back to her.

“I’m sure they don’t and I think some of this stems from the fact you aren’t being honest with him.” Aden murmured and looked pointedly at her belly.

She placed a protective hand there and smiled at him.

“Do you have any idea how many times I’ve started to tell him?” she muttered.

“I’m surprised he hasn’t..er… noticed.” Aden told her.

She glanced at him and then down as she saw where his gaze was.

“Hey stop that.” She groaned.

“I can’t help it they were starring at me.” Aden said and grinned when he saw the flash of anger in her eyes followed by her laughter.

“Ok I’m going to tell him.” she said when she sobered. “I’m here for a scan. I’ll go straight to the diner and tell him.”

Aden gave her a look.

“Alright.” She muttered at his expression. “You can baby-sit tonight and I’ll take him out to dinner and tell him.”

“That worked so well last time.” Aden pointed out.

She nodded and gave a little sigh before burying her head in her folded arms on the table.

“I don’t know what it is. I keep wanting to say something to him but I get as far as “Roman I’m.” and it all disappears.” She murmured. “He deserves to know and now the kids know I’m surprised that Sammy hasn’t blurted it out.”

“I’m surprised that Colleen hasn’t blurted it out.” Aden told her chuckling at the expression on her face.

“Is there anyone that doesn’t know?” she gasped out. “Oh god I really need to tell him now before someone else does.”

Aden said nothing and sipped at his coffee.

“What do you want El?” he asked her after a moment.

She looked up at him.

“My family together.” She answered immediately.

“And does that include Roman?” he asked the question she dreaded answering. She looked at him and gave a small smile.

“I want him to be part of the kids lives.” She answered quietly.

“Doesn’t answer the question El.” He pointed out.

She nodded.

“I know. I do love him Aden.” She said and a single tear escaped and fell down her face.

“But you don’t want to live with him again?” he asked.

She nodded again then shook her head before lifting her tear filled eyes to him.

“I can’t go back to how it was.” She said finally. “I can’t have that life for the children.”

She looked at her watch and drained her glass of milk before standing up. Aden stood too and cleared the table before picking up Lily and walking with El to the elevators.

Roman watched them go before bending down and picking up the rattle that Lily had dropped. It was coloured plastic and resembled a set of keys. He traced one of the shapes before moving back to the table behind the screen and sitting down in front of his cold cup of coffee. He thought back to the conversation he had overheard and gave a sigh. It was over and it was his fault. He should let her go and focus on proving some kind of continuity for the children. He looked at the rattle again and blinked back suspicious moisture from his eyes before heading away and to the elevators. He had to collect Leona and her baby and take them home.

Ella stood next to Aden in the elevator.

“Yes.” She said suddenly.

“Yes?” he asked puzzled.

“I want Roman to be part of my family.” She murmured with a smile. “He’s my husband.” She added and saw Aden lift his eyebrow as he smirked at her.

“Yeah ok, my ex husband!” she muttered as the elevator stopped and they returned to maternity.

Aden walked with her to reception and then to the exam room. He settled Lily nearby while he helped Ella get onto the examination bed.

“I’ll go let Rachel know that you’re waiting.” He murmured.

She gave him a nod before leaning back on the bed tiredly.

He moved out of the room and saw Roman stepping out of the elevator across the room and grinned when he saw the other man with Lily’s rattle. He watched him walk over to the receptionist and speak to her seeing the puzzled frown on his face as she replied. Deciding quickly he walked briskly over to them.

“Roman.” He said clapping him on his back.

“Aden, I’m here to pick up Leona but they seem to think I should be in exam room 2.” Roman muttered.

“No that’s Mrs Harrison.” He said to the receptionist seeing her flustered look.

She looked at her computer screen and then back up seeing Aden meeting her gaze.

“Sorry that’s right Mrs Harrison in Exam room 2.” She said quickly. “Leona and her baby are waiting through the door. I’ll just buzz you in.”

Roman nodded and moved over to the door to the maternity wing. He stepped through it and carried on walking.

“Dr Jefferies?” The receptionist muttered angrily.

“I’m sorry but they are divorced and she doesn’t want him involved.” He explained “And well you are aware of patient confidentiality.”

The receptionist nodded.

“I’m sorry Dr Jefferies.” She stuttered.

“Its ok. It’s an easy mistake to make. Nothing to worry about.” He gave her a smile and moved over to Rachel’s office knocking on the door once before opening it.

“Aden.” Rachel said in greeting. “I’m on my way.” She added.

He grinned and eased back as she moved out of her chair and walked by his side. He briefly explained what had happened with the receptionist and saw her grin.

“I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up.” Rachel told him. “I know I told Ella to avoid stress but giving it to us is not part of the deal.”

“I think we should go to plan B.” Aden said quietly.

“You mean the diner bill.” Rachel asked him and saw him nod.

“The more contact they have at the moment the better.” He told her. “They had a bit of a fallout this morning so she’ll be furious and if I get Colleens keys we could lock them in over night in the diner.”

Rachel shook her head.

“Too stressful?” Aden asked.

“No I know Roman can pick locks.”

“Yeah but would you do that if you really wanted to spend time with her.”

“Good point Aden but still no. Just do the bill.”

He nodded and picked up his phone moving down the corridor to make the call.

Rachel opened the door and moved into the room with Ella.

“Hello.” She said brightly.

“Hi Rachel.” Ella murmured.

“As bad as that?” she asked and saw Ella lift her head at the question.

“No I’m fine. Just a little tired.” She added with a blush.

”Really?” Rachel asked and looked at her. “Do I need to ask the question why?”

Ella shook her head letting her long hair fall around her face to hide her bout of blushing.

“Now then lets get you comfortable.” Rachel told her.

Ella lay back on the bed and lifted up the long loose blouse she was wearing. Smiling as Rachel warmed her hands before she pressed gently on her stomach.

“How’s the food?” she asked her.

“Still can’t eat cheese but everything else is ok. I’m drinking gallons of milk.”

“Indigestion?” Rachel said.

Ella nodded.

“All the time.” she groaned. “And the other night I wanted a curry.”

“Did you have one?” Rachel asked before reaching for the gel.

“No I still want a curry. A big plate of spicy curry with popadoms and naan bread.” Ella muttered. “With samosa’s and onion baji and saag aloo.”

“Maybe you should have a word with a chef.” Rachel said with an air of mischief.

“Behave Dr.”

The two women laughed with Lily joining in.

“She’s learnt a new word.” Ella said after a moment her voice alarmingly sad.


She eased up and looked at Rachel.

“Dada.” She explained.

Lily looked at them and then opened her mouth.

“Dada.” She said. “Dada.”

“I can see how that would get …”

“A pregnant hormonal woman insane?” Ella finished wiping at her tears.

“Well yes.” Rachel told her.

Ella lay back on the bed and let Rachel apply the gel for the ultrasound. She ran the wand over her belly and the room filled with the sound of the baby’s heartbeat.

“The baby has a strong heartbeat.” Rachel told her.

“He has a strong heartbeat.” Ella corrected. “I’m carrying him different to Lily.”

Rachel chuckled.

“Well he is a good size and everything seems ok. I’m a little concerned by the fainting spell and the drop in your blood pressure the other day.”

“I missed lunch and I was a little more active than I’ve been lately.” Ella said.

Rachel printed off a couple of the scans and put them to one side before handing Ella some tissue to clean the gel off. She moved the ultrasound and reached for the blood pressure cuff placing it around Ella’s arm and pressing the button before reading the display.

“Its still pretty low Ella.” Rachel said. “If it doesn’t change in the next week I want to bring you in for some rest.”

Ella sat up and looked at her.

“I have no one to look after the kids.” She protested.

“I know that isn’t true. There is Nic and Belle and Danni and Gabby and failing that well you could ask your husband.” Rachel told her. “But hey, let’s not worry about that until we have to.”

Ella nodded and swung her legs to the floor.

Rachel handed her the scans and watched as she picked up Lily’s capsule and moved out.

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Chapter 22

Ella took in the post and dropped it on the table by the door to deal with later while she focused on Lily and the other children.

“So why are you and Dad fighting now?” Sophie asked scornfully.

“Well if it were any of your business Miss I would tell you.” Ella replied her tone similar to her daughters. “ And did you hear raised voices?”

Sophie shook her head.

“He took his stuff.” She said mutinously folding her arms.

Ella looked at her and hid a grin at the way she’d picked up the arm folding from Roman.

“Because we aren’t due to see each other until Friday.” Ella said quickly.

“Oh.” Sophie murmured her mouth in a round ‘o’ shape.

“We thought.” She began.

“Sophie its no good you and the others trying to second guess. If Daddy and me are getting back together we need to make sure its ok so that we don’t do this again.” Ella said softly and leaned over and kissed Sophie on the cheek.

“So when are we going to see Daddy?” Sophie asked.

“This weekend.” Ella told her not all that confidently.

Sophie nodded and moved into the lounge with the others. She sat at the table and pulled out her homework.

“Stopped giving mummy a hard time?” Georgie asked her.

Sophie glared at him.

“Georgie.” Ella said warningly.

He gave her a grin and then focused back on his books.

Ella looked over at Lily in her playpen and gave her a smile.

“Dada.” Lily said waving her hands.

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

“Hello Gabby.” Ella said softly.

“Any post? I was expecting a letter today about a job.” She asked her.

Ella moved over to the hall table and picked up the envelopes. She flicked through them before opening one. She looked at it and swore softly under her breath.

“You got the kids.” She announced to Gabby and pulled open the door. She stalked out to her car and climbed behind the wheel. Gabby watched as she drove off the wheels spinning on the gravel.

“What the hell is the meaning of this?” Ella fumed waving the piece of paper at him.

Roman looked at her and then around the empty diner and bit back a grin.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.” He pointed out.

She flung the bill at him and spun around to stalk out when he caught hold of her arm.

“Ella.” He muttered. “Slow down I don’t know what you are talking about.”

He bent down and picked up the piece of paper from the floor and gave it a brief look before meeting her furious gaze.

“Well you can’t expect me to pay for what you have.” He said after a moment.

“No.” she snarled. “I expect you to talk to me about stuff.”

“Oh like that does us any good.” He muttered.

She gave him a look and then they seemed to be kissing and she had no idea who started kissing who.

He led her over to the sofa and pushed her back on it feeling her hands pushing aside his T-shirt and stroking his back.

“Ella.” He gasped out.

“Don’t talk.” She begged huskily.

He looked into her eyes and smiled before his hands pushed her skirt up and he stroked her thighs. She opened her legs and he eased in-between them.

“Are you sure you want this?” he asked her between kisses.

“Yes.” She moaned against his lips.

She put her hands to his waistband and undone his shorts pushing them down. She continued to caress him moving her hands everywhere hearing his gasps and moans.

“Please.” She begged again her voice heavy with arousal. He eased back and looked at her before giving her a grin and ripping at her panties. She gasped when she heard the material rip and then gave a slow moan when he caressed her there. She fell apart underneath him squirming as the pleasure shook her body. He looked into her eyes before easing into her slowly. She looked up at him her eyes suddenly wide and put her hands on his hips pulling him closer.

“Slow down.” He whispered.

“I can’t I want you.” She moaned and kissed him tugging on his bottom lip with her teeth.

He gave a husky laugh before wrapping his arms tight around her feeling the press of her breasts against him. Ella looked at him and wrapped her legs around his thighs moving against him. He let out a low moan kissing her again and again.

“God Ella.” He cried reaching his peak.

She gave a small triumphant sound as she too reached the pinnacle.

They lay together for a time before Roman eased up and adjusted his clothes. He picked up her ripped panties and gave her a look before putting them into his pocket with a small smile. Ella hastily pulled down her dress and moved to sit up.

“Can’t get enough of me?” he asked her grinning.

She gave him a look and folded her arms.

“We need to make some boundaries.” She declared.

Roman looked at her and grinned.

“Like we don’t have sex for at least a day?” he suggested and felt her hand connect with his ribs.

He looked at her and smiled before looking at the bill reading down the list.

“So what does this knock off the total?” she said to him.

He pulled out a pen and put a line through the top item adjusting the bottom total accordingly.

“Is that all?” she gasped out.

He smiled at her.

“Hey if you are intent on paying me back like this am I stupid enough to let it be for more than one thing at a time.”

She gave him a smile before the frown appeared on her face.

“El this is a joke ok.” he said quickly.

She looked at him and then nodded.

“I mean that you aren’t er recompensing me in this way.” He told her a slight blush on his face.

“I know.” She said quietly. “I should get back to the children.”

“Wait a minute.” He told her before standing up and moving into the kitchen coming out after a minute and handing her a takeaway cup. She looked at it and then at him.

“Roman.” She gasped out.

He placed the banana milkshake on the table and sat next to her.

“Can I?” he asked.

She nodded and held his hand to her stomach.

“I’ve been noticing all the changes in your body and dismissing them.” he said softly.

“I’ve been trying to tell you for ages.” Ella said a tear falling down her face.

“Shush.” He told her.

He reached over and lifted her into his lap.

“How far along are we?” he said smiling gently at her.

“Nearly 5 months.”

“Really?” he asked. “You aren’t that big.”

She nodded.

“I was underweight. I lost a bit when we were in England.“ she told him finally. “Everything is fine though.”

He gave a small nod.

“Really?” he asked again after a minute.

She nodded before looking into his eyes.

“Ok so my blood pressure is a concern and they did Amniocentesis to check there were no abnormalities.” She confessed.

“Alone.” He muttered feeling even more disgusted with himself.

“Roman please.” She said putting her arms around him.

He sighed against her neck and eased back on the sofa keeping his arms tight around her.

“So we need to think about baby furniture and names and stuff.” He said eventually smiling at her. “And maybe me moving back home in a while. In the spare room. I can do that. “

“No.” she said immediately and felt him recoil.

“Ella. You are my responsibility.” He told her. “I have to take care of you. If you want it platonic I can do that but I’m not going anywhere.”

She pulled away and eased up off his lap.

“A responsibility.” She quoted.

“A very nice one.” He said his eyes straying to her breasts before meeting her gaze.

“I am no ones responsibility.” She said icily. “And yes they are bigger.” She added folding her arms around her waist.

He gave her a grin.

“I know I thought I was imagining it.” he confessed. “That maybe abstinence had finally made me insane.”

“Well we know that you can’t…” she began and saw his face fall.

“Ella why are you doing this to me?” he asked after a moment. “You came home because you were pregnant didn’t you? But you keep finding little ways to punish me. Here’s my body but you can only have it when I say so. Here is the happy family you aren’t a part off anymore. Here is heaven but you get to stay in hell.”

Ella gasped and raised a hand toward him.

“I’m sorry I let my past hurt us, that it hurt you. I’m sorry that the Mark stuff messed with my head and essentially denied us our daughter all those years ago. I can’t change any of it, ok.”

She looked at him and gave a small moan.

“Is that what this is?” she asked him.

“I don’t know.” He told her. “You’ve told me you want to try again and yet five minutes later you are throwing out nasty comments to me. “

She shook her head and backed away her leg connecting with the table behind her and she would have fallen if he hadn’t have reacted and caught hold of her arm his fingers pressing into her flesh as he felt her still slipping. Standing quickly he placed his other hand on her waist.

She stood there looking at him.

“I have to go.” She told him quickly.

He eased back and watched her as she moved away and out of the diner a sad look on his face. Picking up the forgotten milkshake he moved into the kitchen and poured it away before cleaning up the rest of the diner before heading back into the kitchen.

He turned around when he felt someone standing behind him.

“Ella.” He said softly.

“Roman we are having a baby.” She told him. “I think it’s a boy.” She held out her hand to him and he moved over to her. She took hold of his hand and pressed it gently against her belly and he felt the baby kicking inside her.

“Thank you.” He told her.

She moved into his arms and felt his warmth and strength and gave a small sigh.

“I can’t let you move in. Not yet anyway.” She said after a moment.

“Not yet is better than never.” He pointed out.

“I’m not trying to punish you.” She told him biting her full bottom lip. “I’m just …” she stopped and looked at him. “You do realise I’m now going to use this every time we have an argument.” She warned him as she felt his instant arousal pressed against her.

Roman nodded and moved a little way away from her.

“Hormonal?” he suggested. “It explains why you are so…”

She looked at him her eyebrow raised.

“So demanding in bed.” He finished with a grin.

She nodded after a moment of glaring at him.

“Are we still having a date tomorrow night?” he asked her after a moment.

Ella looked at him in surprise.

“You still want to after what I said to you earlier.” She gasped out.

“Yes.” He said simply and leaned down to kiss her.

She wound her arms around his neck and pressed herself close to him.

“El.” He said after a time.

She eased back and looked at him from under heavy lids.

“Yeah?” she asked.

“Is this hormones or do you really want me?” he asked her softly.

She pulled back and away from him.

“Yeah fine make jokes.” She hissed. “You don’t have to put up with your daughter saying Dada as her first proper word when you’ve been the one taking care of her for the past 5 months. You don’t have to deal with throwing up all the time and feeling bloated and horrible. And not even my favourite jeans will fit anymore. And I have to get up in the morning and pretend that my kids like porridge because its all I can stand to cook without throwing up. So I hope you are good and pleased with this baby because at the moment all I want to do is slap you for making me pregnant again.” She growled at him and stalked out.

“Ella.” He called.

She paused in the doorway and looked at him.

“Pick you up at 7pm?” he said and saw her nod.

He watched her go out and grinned before getting back to cleaning the kitchen.

“Mum?” Sophie called out.

“Yeah?” she replied looking into the freezer.

“I’ve just heard from the stable.” She said her face pale. “They have sold Princess.” She gasped out as the first tears fell down her face.

“Sophie.” Ella called closing the freezer and going over to her daughter.

“No don’t touch me. You ruin everything.” She gasped out. “I hate you.” She snapped and spun around on her heel and ran up the stairs. Ella moved to go after her and found herself going dizzy.

“Sophie.” she called out.

“Mum?” Georgie asked coming through from the lounge. “Mum are you ok?” he asked quickly.

She gave him a smile.

“I’m ok.” she said to him clutching the door frame.

He nodded.

“Should I call someone?” he asked. “Daddy?”

“Georgie I’m fine. The baby is making me a little dizzy. Can you go upstairs and make sure Sophie is ok for me please? And tell her we know Princess has been sold because we bought her.” Ella said suddenly fearful.

He nodded and ran to the stairs giving her a last look before running up them. She took some deep breaths and then gasped when Georgie came down the stairs.

“She’s gone.” He muttered.

He walked over to her and handed her the note that Sophie had left on her bed.

“How did she get out?” Ella asked.

“She climbed out of the window?” Georgie suggested.

Danni moved into the kitchen.

“My window was open.” She told them. “She must have gone out of there and climbed down the trellis.”

Ella gave a small nod.

“Danni can you take the torch and look around the garden for me. Georgie can you pass me the phone and then go make sure everyone else is ok.” She asked them. They gave equal nods before disappearing and she dialled Roman’s number on her phone.

“Hey.” He said. “I was about to call you. Are you missing a daughter?” he asked her.

“She’s there?” Ella said with relief.

“Yup just walked through the door and lucky she was too I was about to lock it and go home.” He told her.

“She won’t feel so lucky when I get hold of her.” Ella warned.

“I’ll bring her home.” Roman promised.

“Yeah.” Ella said and hung up.

“Mum?” Georgie asked quickly.

“She’s with your Dad he’s brining her home.” Ella told him and saw the look of relief on his face. She took a cautious step to the door and opened it calling Danni in.

“She ok?” Danni asked.

“She’s with Roman.” Ella told her.

“I need to get you sitting down and maybe call Aden over.” Danni said worriedly.

“I’m fine.” Ella dismissed.

“If this is fine how come you look like death warmed up?” Danni muttered.

Ella gave her a grimace and walked slowly into the lounge she saw the worried expressions on her other children and gave them a smile.

“Its’ ok.” she said easing back onto a sofa.

“Did you really buy a horse for Sophie?” Meggy asked taking hold of Sammy’s hand and distracting him.

“Yes but as she is going to be grounded for the next 100 years she won’t be able to ride her.” Ella said to them.

“Does that mean we can have a pet?” Sammy asked. “Because I would like a rabbit. “ he announced. “They have one at school and we all take care of it.”

Ella smiled.

“I think we can look at Rabbits.” She told him softly.

“Hello.” Roman called out bringing Sophie in through the door. “Hey?” he asked seeing her sitting on the sofa.

“Ok kids upstairs.” Ella ordered them out.

“No fair we always miss the good telling offs” Meggy announced. “Well I don’t because they are usually mine but for once it would be nice to watch someone else get told off.”

“Er Meggy.” Sammy interrupted. “I get the feeling that it will be yours if you don’t get a move on and I want a rabbit.”

He gave his sister a push towards the stairs and they moved out leaving Sophie standing in front of her mother.

“Sophie Nicole Harris.” Ella began. “If you ever pull a stunt like this again I will spank you.”

Roman nodded.

“And when she is finished I’ll take a turn. Do you have any idea how worried your mother was tonight?” he asked her.

“Not that worried.” Sophie told him mutinously.

“Well perhaps you should take a look at her because she is about ready to collapse.” Roman said quickly. “Now what was this about?”

Ella raised an eyebrow at the way he was dealing with it and he gave her a look in return.

“She let my horse be sold.” Sophie began.

“You mean when we went and bought the horse for you and are about to have stables built so you can keep her here?” Roman asked his daughter and saw her expression change. “And no we weren’t telling you until your attitude changed.”

“But if you really think I’m a bitch and you do want to live with your father go right ahead.” Ella told her.

Sophie looked from one to the other before bursting into tears.

“Sophie pay attention. I’m the adult here ok and that means I will do what is best for us. It so happened that meant that we spent some time away from the Bay and your Daddy but we are home now and no-one has said that you can’t see him. Now I want you to go upstairs and wash your face and hands before you come back down.” Ella told her daughter. “And then I will finish getting dinner for everyone.”

Sophie gave a hiccup before turning and running up the stairs.

Roman moved over to her and sat next to her.

“Are you ok?” he asked again.

Ella gave a slow nod.

“I feel a bit faint.” She finally admitted. “I need to get the kids fed,”

On cue they heard Lily start to cry and Roman gave a laugh.

“Behave or you won’t get anymore overnight visits.” She threatened.

He leaned over and gave her a kiss his hand on her wrist.

“I’ll cook some dinner then.” He suggested.

“You go do that.” Ella instructed. “And you can stop taking my pulse now.” She added from under half closed lids. She heard his chuckle and gave a tired smile before lying down and feeling Roman pull the cover over her. She drifted asleep.

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Chapter 23

Ella eased into the car and looked over at Roman as he climbed into the other side.

“Where are we going?” she asked him.

“Funny you should ask.” He grinned over at her. “Rachel told me about this special place that was perfect for you.”

“How many people are in on those sweepstakes?” Ella turned and looked at his profile. She saw the smile on his face and raised an eyebrow in query.

He glanced over at her before focusing back on the road ahead.

“I bet on three months.” He told her.

“Roman Harris!” she gasped out.

“I figured I may as well have a go.” He said softly. “And maybe there was a bit of wishful thinking in there.”

“Three months?” she asked.

“It goes from when you first came back to the bay. “ he explained.

“So three months would be” she worked it out.

“In about 5 weeks time.” he murmured.

She gave a laugh.

“I’m not that easy.” She warned him.

“Really because I’ve only a half tank of petrol and I’d hate to run out if it isn’t going to get me anywhere.” He pouted.

Ella looked at him and laughed.

“You idiot.” She gasped out.

He eased the car into a parking slot and turned off the engine.

“Did I tell you how beautiful you look?” he asked her.

She smiled again and smoothed her hand over her bump.

“My first maternity dress.” She confessed.

“Well you do look beautiful.” He told her his voice ringing with truth. “And I do have thing for pregnant women.” He confessed with a crooked grin.

“Really?” she asked him her eyes wide.

“Well yes. They have this magical glow about them especially the one I’m married too.”

He told her walking around the car and opening the door and helping her out. He pressed a gentle kiss to her cheek and hooked a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

“Ready?” he asked.

She nodded and felt his arm go around her as he led her into the restaurant. She looked around and grinned at him.

“An Indian restaurant?” she asked him.

“I have it on good authority that you were after something spicy and hot.” He said looking at her and noticing the blush on her cheeks. “Food that is.” He added.

“Yes I’ve been having cravings.” She admitted.

They were seated at the table and he looked over at her before ordering two drinks for them.

“It’s a non alcoholic cocktail made with coconut milk. If you don’t like it we can try something else.” He explained.

“Roman are you nervous?” she asked him after a moment of silence.

“Yes.” He replied quickly. “I don’t want to stuff up.” He added.

She smiled at him and reached out her hand to stroke his arm.

“I’m nervous too.” she said to him.

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

“How is Sophie?” he asked her.

“I’m getting the silent treatment.” Ella told him with a shrug. “I’ve promised Sammy a rabbit.”

Roman laughed.

“Have you talked to Cookie about that?”

“Only is so much as she should leave it alone or I’d shut her in with Lily for an hour.”

He laughed again and then looked into her eyes and smiled.

“Is it wrong to want to kiss you right now?” he asked her.

“Please!” she gasped. “I never kiss on a first date.”

He chuckled.

“I’m sure I can change your mind.” He whispered near her ear.

She gave him a look from under her lashes and grinned when he chuckled again.

“Here you go.” The waitress came over and placed the drinks in front of them. “I have your menus here too.” She added placing two menu’s in front of them.

Ella glanced at hers before ordering.

“I’ll have the chicken korma.” Murmured Roman.

“We can share rice.” Ella told him.

He nodded and glanced again at the list of sundries on the menu.

“Onion baji for me too.” He declared and they handed over the two menus.

She took a sip of the drink and smiled at him.

“Nice?” he asked.

“I think you are going to hate it.” she told him smiling.

“Sweet?” he asked and she nodded.

He took a cautious sip and gave a slow smile.

“Nope it’s very nice.” He told her after a moment and took another drink.

She smiled at him and looked down seeing their hands were still joined and grinned some more.

“I think it only fair to warn you that I do have a late night planned for us tonight. “ he said after a pause.

“Oh?” she asked him seeing the expression on his face. “Is it a surprise?”

He nodded and watched her smile.

“Here you go.” The waitress interrupted again handing out dishes of food she placed on the table. She moved away after a moment.

Roman smiled at the expression on her face and held up a dish for her to serve some on her plate. He waited until she had finished before serving himself doing the same for most of the dishes.

She sipped at her drink before dipping her fork into her curry and taking a small cautious bite.

“Ouh!” she said softly.

He grinned at her.

“Good?” he asked and she nodded.

“I have been craving this for so long but your baby has been giving me indigestion so I didn’t want to risk it.” she told him. “And please take that look off your face when I refer to bump as your baby.”

“Can I help it if I’m very fertile?” he asked her still looking smug.

She leaned over and kissed him gently on his lips.

“And you got me pregnant while I was on the pill.” She whispered.

He threw back his head and laughed before looking serious.

“Would you have come back if you hadn’t been pregnant?” he asked her suddenly.

She nodded.

“Yes probably have taken a bit more time before I did.” She told him, “But we missed you.”

“We?” he picked up on.

“We, us, the kids and me.” She explained softly her eyes meeting with his.

“Then I’m even more grateful to the baby.” He told her.

He lifted her hand and pressed a kiss to her palm before looking into her eyes.

“How is the food?” he said quietly.

“The food is heavenly.” She said. “Thank you.”

He speared a piece of chicken on to his fork and savoured the rich creamy sauce enjoying the feel of her hand in his and her body close to his. The way he caught the scent of her perfume every now and then and the way her eyes sparkled when she smiled at him.

“This has been a good night.” She said to him as he walked them back to his car.

“I told you it wasn’t finished yet unless you and the baby are too tired.” He murmured.

She leaned into him his jacket draped around her shoulders.

“I feel like I can be up all night.” She confessed smiling up at him.

He opened the car door for her and she climbed in. He shut the door gently and moved around the other side of the car and climbed behind the wheel. She leaned over and kissed him lifting her hand and stroking his face.

“Ready?” he asked and she nodded.

He set off and drove back to the Bay smiling as he saw her eyes close and she drifted to sleep. He pulled up at the beach and placed his hand on her cheek.

“Hey.” She told him softly.

“Hey yourself. Would you like to go home?” he asked her banking down on his disappointment.

“No.” she told him leaning forward and kissing him.

He smiled at her and eased out of the car again walking around and opening the door for her. She climbed out and kicked off her shoes to walk barefoot on the beach. He led her a little way away and she gasped.

“Oh my god Roman.” She cried out looking at the projection screen.

He moved a little way away and pressed play on the machine and within minutes the screen filled with a picture and the sound came out of a couple of speakers. He helped her sit on the blanket and plumped up the cushions he’d placed there. She lay down and he lay spooned behind her.

“I don’t suppose..” she began to ask.

He chuckled and picked up the throw he’d also brought and placed it over her before putting his arms back around her.

“Perfect.” She pronounced. “This has been the most perfect night.” She told him gently.

“I’m glad that you are having a good time.” he whispered before kissing her shoulder.

They settled down and watched the movie Airplane under the moon and stars with the sea gently lapping the beach.

“That was perfect.” She told him sleepily. “Take me home?” she asked.

He grinned.

“I need to pack up the equipment.” He told her.

She bent down slowly and picked up the throw and cushions.

“El.” He murmured.

“I can help.” she told him kissing him.

He put his arms around her and held her to him for a long moment before kissing her again. She dropped the cushions to the beach below and put her arms around him kissing him back. He eased away slowly and looked into her eyes lifting a hand to caress her face before he kissed her again.

“You are beautiful.” He told her. “Thank you for a wonderful night.”

She eased down and picked the cushions and blanket back up and put them in the car whilst he packed up the projector and screen. She stood by the side of the car looking up at the moon.

“Making a wish?” he asked.

She shook her head.

“Why would I need to make a wish when everything I’ve ever dreamed about is right here?” she asked him.

He looked at her unable to speak for a moment and then he took hold of her hand and tugged her to him lifting her up and holding her full length against his body as he kissed her again.

“I love you.” She told him.

“Me too.” He whispered. “Now I have to take you home before you turn into a pumpkin.”

She gave him a smile.

“Better pick up my shoes then Prince Charming.” She instructed pointing to her discarded footwear.

He lifted her on to the front of the car and bent down collecting her shoes and gently brushing off the sand from her feet he eased first one then the other shoe on and helped her stand once more. He opened the door and let her climb in before closing the door after her again. He drove them home and eased the car to a halt. She turned to him and smiled.

“Would you like a coffee?” she asked.

“I would love one but its late and you are tired.” He said.

She nodded.

“Please.” She asked.

He grinned.

“I tried.” He murmured turning off the ignition and climbing out of the car. He walked around to her side and opened the door for her once more grinning at her raised eyebrow.

“Nic told me I’m supposed to keep doing it.” he pointed out.

“Dating tips from Nicole?” she asked.

He nodded.

“She cut out a few articles for me to read from her magazines.” He told her.

“And you read them?”

He shook his head.

“No I plan to read them if I stuff up so I can see what I did wrong.” He muttered. “But she did say she would check with you to see if I acted like a gentleman.”

Ella laughed and put her arms around him standing on tiptoe to place a kiss to his cheek.

“The perfect gentleman.” She said and led him to the house. She looked at the door and grinned pulling off the post it note stuck on there and read it aloud.

“Invite him in for coffee.”

Roman chuckled.

“Guess you’ve got your Nicole.” He pointed out.

She shook her head.

“I have Gabby and Danni and Meggy and Georgie and Sophie, when she’s talking to me.” She told him. “And Lily hasn’t stopped saying ‘Dada’”

He chuckled.

“No Sammy?” he asked.

She shook her head.

“No he wants a bunny rabbit so I think you’ve been superseded,”

“Wascally Wabbit!” he said imitating Elmer Fudd.

She giggled before opening the door and leading him inside. She saw a tray on the coffee table with the coffee-pot and a cup on and pointed it out to him.

He grinned and moved over to the sofa and eased down seeing another bright post it note on the coffee-pot.

”We’re all in bed asleep if you want an overnight visit!” he read. “I see what you mean.” He grinned at her.

She eased down beside him and poured out his coffee. He accepted the cup and took a sip before easing back on the comfortable cushions. Ella looked over at him before kicking off her shoes and lifting her feet up on the sofa and snuggling up to him.

“Have you had a good time?” he asked her kissing the top of her head.

“I’ve had a fantastic time. I hope you enjoyed it too.”

He smiled placing his arm around her.

“It was great.” He told her.

“Doesn’t have to end tonight?” she suggested.

“I would love to stay over, in fact I have my bag in the car but I want to take things a little slower and…” he stopped. “You did actually fall asleep earlier.”

She nodded.

“I was hoping you wouldn’t notice.” She told him with a laugh.

He looked down into her smiling face and grinned.

“I better go.” He said.

She nodded.

“Now would be the moment that you do.” She advised him.

He nodded and smiled.

“I can’t move.” He admitted. “If I do it means that the night has ended.”

“The night may end but I think it’s the beginning of something special.” She whispered.

“Again.” He said a slight tone to his voice.

“Again.” She confirmed and lifted her hand to his cheek.

He looked down at her and sighed before his lips claimed hers.

“I guess you aren’t going home tonight.” She whispered.

“Not a chance in hell right now.” He whispered back.

He placed his cup on the table and stood up holding his hand out to her.

She put hers securely in his grip and eased to her feet gasping when he lifted her up and carried her up the stairs to the bedroom.

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Chapter 24

“Morning.” He whispered.

“How did you know?” she muttered looking at him and seeing his eyes were still closed.

“That you were awake?” he grinned. “A sneaky SAS trick.” He told her.

He opened his eyes and looked at her leaning over him and reaching up he brushed back her wild hair from her face before leaning up and kissing her.

“Morning.” He told her. “No regrets?”

“None.” She smiled down at him before kissing him.

“I’m glad.” He murmured.

He put his arm around her and felt her snuggle up to him resting her head on his shoulder.

“What do you want to do today?” she asked him.

“I would like to hang out with the kids and look at the plot where the stable is going to be.” He murmured. “And then make long slow love to my woman.”

She gave him a look and then bit her lip, hearing him laugh at her.

“Is that a hint?” he asked softly.

She nodded and ran her hand down his chest and around his navel before teasing him with a slow caress.

“That works for me.” He grinned and rolled her over kissing her as he eased on top. She ran her hands down his back slowly teasing all those little spots that made him catch his breath before he kissed her again and again hearing her gasp.

They turned at the door crashing open before they heard voices just outside.

“Mummy!” Sammy called out loudly.

“Sammy I told you Mummy and Daddy need their privacy.” Meggy called out.

Ella looked up at Roman and grinned at the look on his face.

“Why do they need privacy?” they heard Sammy ask.

“To do that thing that makes babies silly.” Meggy told him.

“Yuk!” Sammy muttered. “You mean kissing and stuff.” He said. “But Mummy is already pregnant.” He announced loudly.

Ella looked up and saw Roman hiding his laughter.

“Shush.” She whispered.

“Mummy.” Sammy called again walking into the bedroom.

“What is it Sammy?” Roman asked him quickly. “And what did you say about Mummy?”

Sammy looked at his Mum and then his Dad, his mouth opening and closing like a fish before he spoke again.

“A penguin. I said Mum already had a penguin.” He said quickly after Meggy nudged him in the ribs.

Roman rolled over making sure the covers were pulled up and felt Ella kick his ankle.

“Penguin?” he asked.

Sammy nodded and looked to Meggy.

“Are you getting up?” Meggy asked them changing the subject.

Ella smiled.

“In a bit. Why are you hungry?” she asked them and saw Sammy nod. “How about fried eggs on toast with sausages and bacon?”

“Really Mummy?” Sammy asked his eyes suddenly huge in his face.

She gave him a smile.

“Yup. Daddy can go cook it can’t you Daddy?”

Roman gave a groan and then gasped as Sammy jumped on him.

“Are you here for the weekend?” he asked him.

“Yes Sammy.” Roman said, feeling Ella stroking his arm before taking hold of his hand underneath the covers.

“Good Daddy. Get up now I want breakfast.” Sammy murmured jumping off the bed and going out the room. Meggy followed slowly behind making sure she shut the door.

“Penguin?” Ella muttered. “What the hell am I collecting a zoo?”

“Rabbits, cats, horses.” Roman pointed out. “Do I take it from that snippet that the kids know you are pregnant.”

Ella looked at him and bit her lip before nodding.

“Hey, less of the lip biting.” He moaned leaning over and kissing her.

“Meggy guessed apparently.” Ella said quietly.

“Must have been the throwing up and the moods and the huge breasts that told her.” Roman murmured and felt her hand connecting with his ribs.

“Hey!” he said quickly.

She grinned at him.

“You should know better than to mock a pregnant woman.”

He kissed her slowly moulding her lips under his before he climbed out of the bed and stood up moving over to the en suite. He grinned when he saw a collection of toiletries on the side.

“I had a feeling you might need them.” Ella said from the doorway.

He held out his hand to her and she moved into his arms.

“Toothbrush, razors, shampoo, shower gel, shaving foam.” He listed.

She grinned.

“And body spray.” He added looking through the basket. “All my favourites.”

She nodded.

“Thank you El.” He told her kissing her.

“You’re welcome. “ she said moving past him and into the shower she turned the water on and adjusted the temperature. “Did you bring your bag in?”

He shook his head.

“I better go get it unless you want to wear that suit again.”

Roman laughed suddenly.

“I can’t someone ripped the buttons off my shirt.” He told her looking in the mirror as he began to shave.

“Really?” She asked looking innocent. “You’ll have to be more careful taking your clothes off won’t you?”

He grinned meeting her eyes in the reflection in the mirror.

“Maybe.” He said. “But well I did enjoy her use of her claws last night.”

“I keep telling you that you are getting kinky.” She murmured and reached up to wash her hair. She felt him step into the shower behind her and take over massaging the shampoo into a white frothy lather. He leaned forward and kissed the back of her neck hearing her moan softly under her breath.

“I think you might need to come and rest for a while this afternoon.” He told her.

“Do I look tired?” she asked him, her voice breathy.

He grinned.

“No of course not. You look beautiful but if you make me wait until tonight to love you again I think I’ll scream.” He said.

She giggled and moved around in the shower putting her arms around his neck and pressing her naked body close to his.

“Ella.” He groaned out pressing his lips against her neck.

She kissed him before running her hands over his body. He gave in and lifted her up against the cool tile wall of the shower hearing her moan as the cool tiles met her hot body. She wrapped her legs around him and felt his first thrust.

“Couldn’t wait?” she asked him moaning

“God no.” he said gritting his teeth. “El I want you so much.” He ground out burying his mouth against her once more to kiss her and muffle his cries of pleasure.

She ran her hands over his shoulders and down his arms and then in-between their joined bodies caressing them both.

“El don’t.” he ground out.

“Can’t handle it?” she asked him breathing heavily.

“No I’m about to scream like a girl.” He confessed kissing her his lips pressing on hers in frantic kisses.

“Fill me up.” She whispered to him.

He groaned and thrust into her reaching his climax.

“So now I owe you again.” He murmured.

“Just get me a milkshake and we’ll call it quits.” She told him.

He eased back and let her stand once more before picking up the shower gel and pouring a measure into his cupped hand. He began a slow exploration of her body as he soaped her all over. She grinned and rinsed off under the pouring water before climbing out and leaving him in there.

Moving through to the bedroom she dressed hurriedly and tidied the bedroom blushing at the tangled bed covers. Picking up his clothes she smiled at the way he had discarded them the night before. She picked out his car keys and went out and down the stairs. Within minutes she had collected his bag form the car and picked up his phone that he had left in the car. She walked back up the stairs and found herself breathless. Pressing a hand to her belly she moved over to the bed and sat down.

“El.” Roman called moving out of the bathroom. “Hey!” he gasped out moving over to her.

“I’m fine. I think I may have rushed up the stairs too quick.”

Roman looked at her and knelt down pushing strand of wet hair away from her face.

“El are you ok?” he said after a moment.

She nodded.

“I picked up your phone too. Lee’s been trying to get hold of you.”

“Rachel had said everything is ok hasn’t she?” he asked double-checking.

“Do you mean with the pregnancy or the er.. bedroom activities?” Ella asked mischievously.

“Both.” He replied kissing her.

“Just my blood pressure.” She told him reaching out and placing her hand on his bare arm.

“I need to take care of you.” He growled out and saw her lift her eyebrow as she looked at him.

“Sorry my alpha male side slipped out then.” He said in a high pitched voice.

She leaned over and kissed him.

“I have your bag.” She told him.

He nodded and reached for the bag opening it and getting out his clothes. He pulled on clean underwear before adding shorts and a T-shirt. He tipped out his trainers and pulled them on before tucking his shoes in the same bag they came out of.

“There is space in the wardrobe.” She pointed out.

“I thought you weren’t ready?” he asked seriously.

Ella looked at him.

“I wasn’t two days ago but suddenly it feels right.”

“If you don’t mind I won’t use the wardrobe. I don’t want to rush this El.” He told her looking serious.

She nodded and stood pressing herself against him as she put her arms around him.

“Ok.” she told him. “Now you need to go cook your kids breakfast.” She instructed.

They moved out of the bedroom together. Roman walked down the stairs and Ella went into the nursery and saw Lily awake in her cot. She had pulled her self up and was looking at her.

“Hey you.” Ella said softly moving over to her. “Do you want breakfast?”

“Dada.” Lily cried out clapping her hands.

“Come on then.” Ella said picked her up and changing her before taking her down the stairs. She took one look at Roman and clapped her hands at him.

“Dada.” She cried out.

Roman looked at Lily and smiled.

“Hello moppet.” He said to her and she chuckled.

“I give in.” Ella told them. “She’s a Daddies girl.”

“Dada.” Lily cried out clapping her hands at him.

“That’s right moppet.” Roman told her leaning over and kissing her. He looked into Ella’s eyes and kissed her too. “Are you Daddies girl?” he asked her.

She nodded smiling at him feeling his arms go around them both as he turned her round in a smooth circle in the kitchen. They paused as they heard giggling from behind them.

“Hello Sammy.” Roman called to his son.

“Are we getting breakfast?” he asked.

Ella laughed.

“Are you sure you don’t want porridge? You seem to finish your bowl before all the others.” She asked him a light in her eyes.

Sammy’s face fell and she bit back a giggle.

“Mummy is teasing you my babes.” She told him leaning down and kissing the top of his head. She moved over to put Lily in her highchair at the table before moving to the toaster and putting some slices of bread into it.

“Can I put cartoons on?” he asked.

“If you want.” Ella said to him.

She went over to the fridge and took out the juice pouring out glasses and putting them on the table as Roman cooked the sausages and bacon.

“El.” He said softly.

She moved over him a smile on her face.

“Yeah?” she asked.

“I need a kiss.” He told her putting his arm around her waist. She tilted her head back and felt his lips press on hers.

“Get a room.” Sophie cried out moving into the kitchen behind them.

“Talking to your mother again?” Roman asked.

Sophie looked at him and spun around heading for the stairs.

“Sophie.” Ella called stopping her mid flight. “Your Dad was teasing you, get back here and get your breakfast.”

She paused by the stairs looking from one to the other.

“I’m not hungry.” She told them and moved up the stairs.

“Sophie.” Roman called.

“Leave her.” Ella said to him.

“No El that was rude and if that is the attitude you’ve put up with then..”

Ella put her hand in the small of his back and leaned over and kissed him cutting off what he was going to say.

“Yes.” She said quietly. “Ride it out or you go places that you can’t come back from.”

“Ella.” Roman said and then stopped.

“Sophie.” Ella said quietly.

“Can I have museli?” she asked quietly her head down.

“It’s on the table.” Ella told her softly and watched as she moved to the table and sat down.

He gave her a look before turning his attention back to cooking.

Ella moved over to sit at the table with a glass of milk feeding Lily a cracker.

“Breakfast is ready.” Roman said after a while putting plates of food on the table. Slowly the kids started moving towards the table and began eating. Ella took one look at the plates and stood hurriedly before racing for the stairs.

“And that is why we eat porridge.” Meggy muttered and then looked at her dad.

“Don’t worry she’s probably going to make sure the penguin is ok.” Roman said in reply smiling as Sammy giggled.

Georgie looked at them and shook his head.

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Chapter 25

Roman jogged along slowly with Georgie beside him.

“What’s the matter?” he asked his son after a time.

“It’s Mum.” Georgie stopped and looked at him before bending over and putting his hands on his hips.

“What about her?” Roman asked his son.

“Dad it’s like this.” Georgie said straightening up and looking him in the eye. “Mum is “ he stopped and looked at him.

“Shall I make it easier on you?” Roman asked him a smile playing on his lips. “You want me to be careful so I don’t hurt her anymore?”

Georgie nodded.

“She was very sad when we were in the Lake District Dad. She cried a lot and Sophie didn’t make it easy on her. “ Georgie said to him.

“I understand Georgie. I promise that I will take care of her. I love your mother very much you know.” Roman nodded.

“I know that dad but the war stuff keeps coming between you.” Georgie blurted out quickly before he lost his nerve. “I’m interested in World War one. We’re doing it for history at school and Mum told me to ask you about soldiering and stuff.”

“Really?” Roman said calmly.

Georgie nodded looking at his Dad.

“And I don’t know that I should.” He added as if his dad hadn’t spoken.

“Let’s sit down shall we?” Roman suggested moving over the beach away from the surf lapping at the beach.

Georgie followed slowly and sat beside his dad.

“What do you want to know?” Roman said softly.

“I don’t know. Did you go in to the army because you felt a patriotic urge?” Georgie asked him.

“No I didn’t. I just foolishly rebelled against working in restaurants and signed up. There were no wars to go fight then. “

Georgie nodded.

“What was toughest to learn?”

“Obeying my drill sergeant.” Roman said with a laugh. “Imagine me and your mum in one mixed with your teacher and Charlie.”

Georgie giggled.


Roman looked at his son and nodded.

“Yup, he made me run round the base in the pouring rain because I was two minutes late for curfew once. Then I had to make sure my room was tidy and the punishment for anything out of place was to clean the toilets with a toothbrush.”

“Is that why you are so tidy now?” Georgie asked him and Roman laughed again.

“I suppose so. You’re mum was so messy when we were together it used to drive me mad.”

Georgie laughed.

“She’s not messy she just get distracted and we love it when we get paint or stuff all over the place and she just laughs.”

Roman gave him a nod and put his arm around him.

“Me too.” Roman told him. “She used to have you and your sister tidy up your toys before bed but up until then she didn’t care how messy you got when you were playing.”

“I miss Mummy sometimes. She gets so busy with the baby.” Georgie admitted.

“And now I’ve made her pregnant again.” Roman muttered under his breath.

“Yeah but she was very happy when she found out.” Georgie told him.

Roman laughed.


Georgie nodded.

“Not that we knew that was the reason but she just told us that we were coming home and stopped crying.” He admitted.

“Anyway back to soldiering.” Roman said after a time.

“Yeah, what guns did you shoot?”

Roman laughed.

“All of them.” he said quickly. “Sub machine guns mostly.”

“Did it like sound really loud when you shot them?” Georgie asked him.

Roman looked at him and gave him a quick smile.

“I wouldn’t want you to think its like how it is on TV. It’s scary when you fire a gun.” He said softly. “It’s loud and there is a smell and you feel the gun recoil.”

Georgie nodded.

“I think I want to be in the army like you and Mike and Granddad.” He announced.

“Well the good news is that you are only 10 and might change your mind.” Roman said quietly.

“And the bad news daddy?”

“I think when you tell your Mum she’s going to kill both of us.” Roman said to him.

Georgie laughed.

“Well that’s why I want to tell her now because she can’t run very fast at the moment.” He told his dad and they both laughed.

“How serious are you Georgie?” Roman asked after a minute.

“I don’t know. Its not because it’s cool or something. I just want to do it.” he said. “I was thinking that maybe I would join the cadets when I was older like Mike. I want to go to Anzac day with you and Aden.”

“You are welcome to come. It means getting up really early though.” Roman told his son feeling a lump in the back of his throat.

“I know. Mummy told me about it.” Georgie nodded.

“What did your Mum say?” Roman asked curiously.

“That it was a time when people thought about the men and women who fought for our country in wars and remembered them.” He told his dad shading his eyes from the sun as he looked at him.

“Really?” Roman asked.

He thought about how much Ella protected him from and he never knew. For him Anzac day was an emotional time and Ella had let Georgie know what he would be thinking about without making it obvious.

“Yeah. I guess you think about people like Uncle Mike.”

Roman nodded feeling that lump get bigger in his throat.

“I think Mum does too.”

“I’m sure she does son.” Roman said to him. “Are you ready to finish the run?”

Georgie nodded.

“Dad?” Georgie said standing up.

“Yes?” Roman replied.

“Thanks for talking to me.” He told him.

Roman stood and fiddled with his laces for a moment before he looked at his son.

“You can talk to me about anything.” He told him eventually.

“I know but we sort of didn’t want to mention the army stuff.” Georgie confessed standing up too.

Roman felt a surge of pride and then suddenly humbled. His son was only ten and already more grown up at that age than he ought to be. He moved over to run by the sea once more with Georgie running easily next to him.

“Dad.” Georgie said after a moment.

“Yes?” Roman answered.

“Perhaps we shouldn’t tell Mum about this talk after all. I mean she is hormonal.”

“You noticed?” Roman asked feigning surprise.

“I’m pretty sure everyone noticed.” Georgie said to him.

Roman laughed and turning quickly he scooped His son up over his shoulder and ran through the surf with him.

“Dad put me down!” he said between laughter.

“Are you sure about that?” he asked him laughing too.

“No stop.” Georgie said quickly.

Roman spun around in the water hearing Georgie squeal before he dropped him into the waves.

“Dad you are so going to pay for that one.” Georgie promised him wiping water from his face.

Roman laughed.

“Come on lets go home.” He said after a time.

Georgie stood up and held out his hand for help the water swirling around his knees.

“Am I really going to fall for that one?” he asked him.

His son shrugged before walking out of the surf and up the beach. They jogged along together before reaching the car. Roman moved to the back of the car and took out a couple of towels handing one to Georgie.

“Lets get home and see what everyone else is up to shall we?” Roman asked him.

“Sammy will be looking at his book on Rabbits.” Georgie predicted.

Roman chuckled and climbed into the car with Georgie getting in the other side. He waited watching as his son did up his seatbelt before they drove off.

“What happened to you?” Ella asked Georgie when he walked in.

“Dad dunked me in the sea.” He said and gave his dad a glare.

“Uh huh. Hot shower for you. The others are outside in the pool.” Ella told her son placing a kiss to the top of his head. “Yuk Sea water!” she said.

Roman laughed watching Georgie head up the stairs. He moved over to Ella and put his arms around her kissing her softly on the lips.

“Yuk you smell.” She told him.

He grinned.

“You used to like my smell.” He said to her.

“Used to.” She said quickly trying to ease out of his arms.

“Come here for some loving.” He said in a comical tone of voice.

“No.” she said emphatically.

“El.” He murmured letting her move away.

“Yeah?” she asked in the doorway. “I’ve got to see to Lily.”

“Just thanks.” He said.

She gave him a grin and moved outside.

He spun around and headed up the stairs walking into the bedroom. He grabbed a quick shower before changing into swimmers and a T-shirt and heading back down the stairs/ He was outside and by the pool in next to no time seeing Ella in the clear water with Lily. She was safely inside a blow up ring and splashing about laughing.

“Hey.” Roman called out.

“Daddy.” Meggy cried. “Are you swimming?”

He nodded and stripped off his top before diving into the deep end and swimming under water surfacing just near Lily and Ella.

“Dada.” Lily said with a squeal.

“Hello.” He said to them.

“Daddy.” Meggy cried swimming over to him.

“Hello Meggy my girl.” He told her spinning around and hugging her to him.

“Dada!” Lily shouted out before trying to get to him. Ella moved out the way and let Lily kick her legs.

“Come on Meggy lets swim.” Ella said to her before they swam to the end of the pool and back again leaving Roman with his baby daughter.

“See that Lily, how good your sister is at swimming?” Roman said to her.

“Mog.” Lily called out.

“No Lily its Meggy.” Roman corrected her.

She looked up at him with the cutest smile on her face.

“Meg-gy.” She pronounced carefully.

“That’s right my Lily girl Meggy.”

“Did you hear that she said my name.” Meggy squealed excitedly.

Ella looked at both of her daughters before moving over to the side of the pool and getting out. She moved over to the sun lounger and lay down putting on a pair of sunglasses to cover her eyes.

“Ella.” Roman called out.

She opened her eyes and looked at him.

“Yeah?” she asked softly.

“You’ve been asleep.” He told her.

She nodded and eased up swinging her legs over the edge and finally standing up.

“What time is is?” she murmured.

“Time for you to go get changed.” He said softly. “All the kids are ready for dinner we’re waiting for you. “

She gave him a look and moved towards the house.

“El?” Roman asked.

Turning she looked at him.

“Are you upset with me?” he asked finally. “Only you’ve gone quiet on me and I have to say I really hate it when you do that.”

She shook her head and moved into the house.

“Hey Mummy.” Sammy called out. “Daddy said that we can go look at Rabbits tomorrow.”

Ella gave him a smile.

“Oh he did, did he?” she said softly.

Sammy nodded.

“And I was thinking that a rabbit would be lonely on its own so maybe we should think about a guinea pig or another rabbit.” He told her seriously. “And then Meggy could have a pet. I’ll do most of the work.”

“And what pet does Georgie have?” Ella asked him.

“I don’t want a pet I want a laptop.” He pointed out.

Ella laughed.

“No to the rabbits plural. Maybe to the guinea pig. And no to the laptop.” Ella told them. “Now I’ve been told to get changed because its dinner time.”

Meggy nodded.

“Sophie helped Daddy cook.” She told them.

“Really Sophie?” Ella asked her.

Sophie looked down and nodded, her long hair covering her face.

“Where are Gabby and Danni?” Ella asked changing the subject.

“Gabby is here. But Danni went out with Brett.” Georgie said sounding disapproving.

Ella smiled and moved to the door and then up the stairs to the bedroom she saw it immediately sitting on her pillow and moved over to the small teddy bear. There was a gift tag on a ribbon tied around the bears paw and she moved over to it and read it.

“I thought bump could use some cheering up.” Roman said from the doorway.

She spun around and looked at him.

“Bump is fine. “ she muttered.

“Then it must be Mummy that is feeling sad.” He said and moved over to her. He moved his hand from behind his back and offered her his closed fist. She glared at him for a time and then sighed watching as he opened his closed hand to reveal the crystal penguin.

“Oh!” she cried out.

“Did Mummy need some cheering up because I can always take this back if she didn’t.”

“Don’t you dare.” She told him.

He put his arm around her and moved to stand close to her feeling her shake as she sighed again.

“Lily?” he asked finally.

She nodded.

“How hard is it to say Mama?” Ella grouched. “Oh no, she can say Mog and now Meggy.”

“And Dada.” Roman pointed out.

“Yeah, I wasn’t going to mention that bit in case I killed you.” Ella mooched.

“Come on get a shower and come downstairs.” He said quietly.

She nodded.

“Did Sophie talk to you?” she asked him.

“Not much. I blame you for that though you did insist on her being named after Nicole and you let her sister babysit.”

Ella looked at him and spun around storming into the en suite. He heard the shower come on and he grinned before placing the penguin on her dresser and heading down the stairs.

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Chapter 26

“Ok, so we have them dating.” Nic said to Aden. “What next?”

Aden shrugged and took a drink of his coffee.

“I’m not sure. Maybe we should leave them alone for a time and let things proceed naturally.“

“You’ve run out of ideas haven’t you?”

Aden nodded.

“I do have something to ask you”

She looked at him and grinned.

“Tuxedo?” she asked.

He nodded.

“Here.” She told him handing over Mira to him.

He cradled the little girl in his arms and watched as Nic disappeared upstairs returning a moment later carrying a suit bag draped over one arm.

“Belle told me your measurements.” She confessed.

“Nic thank you.” He said.

She nodded draping it over the back of a chair and sitting back down opposite him.

“Ella gave me details of the hotel bookings yesterday. She’s going to take Mira in with her and Lily.”

“Yeah, Brett is in charge of the boys and Amy-belle will be in with Danni and Gabby looking after the girls.” Aden confirmed.

“I heard that Brett and Danni have been seeing each other.” Nic told him.

“Only as friends.”

“That’s good.” Nic grinned. “Because I’d hate to be in his shoes when her SAS boyfriend comes home.”

“Are they really dating?” Aden asked her.

Nic nodded.

“Well they will do when he comes home. She wants to finish her college course first. I think it’s a bit more than dating.”

Aden grinned and moved Mira into his lap picking up her toy for her to play with.

“Ta.” Mira intoned giving him a smile.

“Has Roman said whether he is going to the anniversary party yet?” Aden asked after a moment.

“I knew you were going to say that.” Nic exclaimed with a sigh.

“So he’s refusing to talk about it?” Aden asked her frowning.

Nic shook her head, her shoulder length blonde hair falling around her face.

“He and Ella discussed it apparently and he’s not going. But he has got his parents a present.” Nic said softly her voice full of confusion. “I mean he can go after Elliot and doesn’t get scared when faced with a bomb but these people are his family and he doesn’t want to see them.”

“I think a lot went on that we don’t know about.” Aden told her.

She shook her head once more.

“If he is ok with us going then I don’t know how he can not go.” Nic muttered. “But still I get to dance in the arms of Geoff wearing a fabulous designer gown.”

Aden raised his eyebrow.

“Designer?” he questioned.

“Ok it’s one of Ella’s.” she confessed. “Red silk.”

Aden chuckled.

“I wonder what she’ll be wearing now. She’s put on some weight.”

“Aden Jefferies you aren’t still perving over your stepmother are you.” Nic gasped out grinning at him.

He gave her a look and then grinned.

“Yeah, that’s why I’m in the secret club to get them back together.” He told her and saw her laugh.

“I’m not so sure it’s that much of a secret.” Nic said after a time.

“Ella was underweight.” Aden said softly. “now that Roman knows about the pregnancy she’s er… glowing.”

Nic nodded.

“I’ve noticed that too.” Nic said after a pause. “I really hope they get back together.”

“What do you think they would do if they knew we were plotting like this?” he asked her.

“Well dad would go all moody and Ella would get stubborn and then both of them would kill us.” Nic said.

Aden chuckled with Mira joining in.

“Maybe he would be grateful after a while?” he suggested and saw Nic look at him her perfectly arched eyebrow raised. “Yeah ok, he will kill us. “ Aden confirmed.

He took a last drink of his coffee and put the cup on the table in front of him.

“Aden.” Nic said softly.

“No I love Belle.” He said in answer to her unspoken question. “I’ve been worried about Ella because of the pregnancy.”

“There have been problems?” Nic asked quickly.

Aden gave a small nod.

“She’s lucky. There was an incident when the pregnancy was first diagnosed. She had a fainting spell and fell down a flight of stairs.” He said slowly.

Nic gasped, putting her hand over her mouth.

“Oh my god.” She murmured looking at him in horror. “Were the kids with her?”

Aden shook his head.

“Luckily no. She had left them with the minder service at the hotel. When she woke up she booked the flight and brought them home because she thought if anything happened they would be with your dad.”

Nic looked at him.

“So she didn’t want to be back. Its just convenient for her.” she muttered.

Aden shook his head.

“You only have to see them together to know that isn’t true Nic.” He told her but she still had her arms folded.

“Does he know this?” She asked after a moment.

Aden gave her a look.

“You know I wish I hadn’t mentioned it. Nic she’s back and your dad is happy. Leave it.”

She looked at him and gave a sigh.

“I have to be off.” He said. “I’ll see you tomorrow. “

She nodded a pinched look still on her face.

Aden picked up Mira and handed her over to her mother before standing up. He leaned over and kissed Nic.

“You’ll get wrinkles Princess.” He murmured.

She gave him a quick smile watching as he picked up the suit bag and moved over to the door.

“Hey Aden? You want to climb out of the window for old times sake?” Nic asked pointing to what used to be Belle’s room.

He gave her a look before stepping out of the door closing it behind him and cutting off Nic’s amused laughter.

“So you are trying again?” Miles asked and shook his head.

“Yes!” Roman said triumphantly.

Miles took a sip of his beer and looked over at the calendar near his desk.

“How slow are you planning on taking it?”

“Not the dumb sweepstakes again?” Roman groaned.

Miles laughed.

“Maybe. So what happened that had you grinning like that?” he asked Roman and then groaned at the other man’s expression. “You sorted out the Aden thing?” he added.

Roman stilled the beer halfway to his lips.

“She isn’t seeing him.” he said sounding uncertain.

“You don’t sound too sure.”

“He was round there yesterday. She said she called him over because she was unwell.” Roman muttered.

Miles nodded drinking some more of his beer and felt Roman looking at him.

“So when are you seeing her again?” he asked quickly in an effort to cover up something else he was going to say.

“Now there is the rub.” Roman murmured.

“Shakespeare?” Miles whistled.

“Hey, I do read you know.” Roman defended.

“I know, mostly magazines.” Miles pointed out. “The ones with lots of pictures. And some of the women are clothed.”

“Did I ever mention that I’m trained to kill.” Roman mock growled at his friend.

Miles chuckled.

“Once or twice. Back to the subject.”

“Ella.” Roman said smiling at his use of her name.

“Yes.” Miles said rolling his eyes.

“Well this weekend she’s going to my parents anniversary party.” Roman told him looking down at his feet.

“This weekend? You mean tomorrow?” Miles asked.

Roman nodded.

“And you are doing what?” he asked raising his eyebrows at the other man.

“Hanging out with you.” Roman told him.

Miles looked at him and then shook his head.

“I can’t believe you.” He said standing up.

“Miles I’m not ready for that.” Roman said to him.

“To see people who care for you?” Miles scoffed.

“I know. I’ve been in touch with my parents and Megs, my sister. But there is a difference between letting them in slowly and being bombarded. “ Roman said slowly. “My family haven’t been part of my life for a long time.”

Miles gave a slow nod.

“Time to change that don’t you think? And Ella will be there to hold your hand when you get scared.”

Roman let out a bark of laughter and looked at the other man.

“If I didn’t know better I would suspect you are reading from a script that Ella prepared.” He said eventually.

Miles looked at him over the rim of his glass smiling slowly.

“Hey Nic, your Dad is over at Miles place.” Lee murmured.

“I gathered as much.” Nic said with a grin. “I’m here to drop of this.” She walked over to the sofa and placed the suit bag over the back of it.

“He’s not going.” Lee told her moving over to the cot and lifting up the baby.

“I know but well if he changes his mind.” Nic said peering over at the baby herself.

Lee grinned.

“Have you thought of a name yet?” Nic asked her moving into the kitchen and putting the kettle on.

Leona shook her head.

“I keep thinking of one and it’s never good enough. I want to call her Elizabeth.”

Nic smiled.

“Who would have thought that you and Ella would have become friends.”

Leona laughed.

“Not me. I hated her for leaving your dad but he, well he seemed to need the time.” she said softly and then looked at Nic. “What is it?”

Nic shook her head.

“Spill it Nic you know you can’t keep secrets.”

“Oh yeah Lee, my dad doesn’t know about the fact that half of summer Bay are in a secret club to get them back together.” Nic grinned at her.

”I wouldn’t be too sure about that. He was very suspicious about the bill and the way the diner was empty when Ella turned up.”

Nic threw back her head and laughed before sobering once more.

“What is it Nic?” Lee asked softly moving over to her.

“Ella only came back because she was pregnant.” Nic muttered looking at her shoes. “She had a fall and it made her decide to come home.”

Lee nodded.

“Would make me come home too.”

“Oh Lee.” Nic sighed. “What if she only came home for that reason?”

“I wouldn’t have thought so.” Lee said quietly. “Look at what she’s done since she’s been home. Got the kids back in school. Bought Sophie a horse. Made plans for the extensions to the property. And dated Roman.”

Nic looked up.

“Yeah. But not let him move home. It’s like she’s keeping as back up in case the worst happens.” She mumbled.

“Or making sure that it is ok so they don’t split up again.” Leona suggested.

Nic gave a slow grin to the other girl.

“I know why my dad went to you that night. You are like Ella.”

Lee chuckled.

“Well can you really see Ella using your dad like some sort of back up plan?” She murmured gently. “And what if nothing happens is she going to stop dating him and shut him out again? Doesn’t sound like the Ella I’ve heard so much about.”

Nic gave a small grin but then looked sad again.

“I never thought Ella would have said some of the things she said to me.”

Lee looked at her before handing over her daughter to Nic to hold.

“Lets get a coffee.” She told her. “And then I will show you my wonderful bedroom that Ella helped Roman with.”

Nic nodded and looked down at the sleeping baby.

“Are you packed?” Ella asked again.

Meggy looked over at Sophie before looking at her mother.

“I am.” She told her.

“Sophie?” Ella asked softly.

“I don’t like my party dress.” Sophie told her. “I want to wear jeans.”

Ella looked at her and gave her a small smile.

“Then wear jeans.” She told her. “But everyone else will be in party dresses including Angel.”

“That isn’t fair.” Sophie muttered.

“I’m tired Sophie. Whatever I’ve done to upset you I’m sorry ok. If you want to wear jeans then go ahead but you’ll feel out of place.”

“I want to live with Dad not you.” Sophie said eventually.

“Well that will be fun since Daddy has spent every weekend here.” Meggy piped up.

“Meggy keep out of it please.” Ella told her.

Meggy grinned and gave Sophie a glare.

Ella walked over to the wardrobe and picked out Sophie clothes putting them in the bag.

“Not that dress.” Sophie said after a minute. “I want the pink one.”

Ella looked at her and then went over to the bag and took out the dress she’s placed in there and hung it back up before adding the pink dress. She looked at the matching jacket and added that too.

“Shoes?” she asked her.

“White sandals.” Sophie said quickly.

Ella nodded and picked out the sandals placing them in the side compartment.

“Jewellery?” she asked them

“I’ve got my necklace and earrings ready. “ Meggy told her.

Ella smiled at her younger daughter and then looked over at Sophie.

“Can we wear make up?” she asked.

“Only lip gloss.” Ella said.

Sophie nodded and moved over to her jewellery box picking out a small silver necklace with a seashell on it. She took out silver hoops at the same time.

“Lip gloss?” Ella prompted.

“Can I borrow the pink one of yours?” Sophie asked.

Ella nodded.

“What did you put your jewellery in Meggy?” She asked her other daughter.

Meggy moved to the bag and took out her small velvet covered jewellery box. She clicked it open and looked inside.

“There is room for yours too.” She told Sophie.

Sophie nodded and took over the jewellery to put in with Meggys.

“Ok then.” Ella said. “Now the boys.”

“Is Lily got a dress to put on?” Sophie asked after a moment.

Ella grinned.

“Yup.” She told her. “It used to be yours.”

“Really?” Sophie asked quickly.

Ella nodded.

“I didn’t know that you kept anything from when we were babies?” Meggy said. “You had to buy lots of stuff when you had Lily.”

Ella moved over to the bed and sat down next to Meggy.

“I’ve got special stuff that I kept for each of you. This was such a nice dress and Meggy used to scream when we put her in one.”

“I so didn’t!” Meggy muttered.

Sophie grinned.

“Did too. And you used to hit everyone especially Mummy. You hated her being pregnant with Sammy.” Sophie said quietly.

Ella looked at her daughter and patted the bed next to her smiling as Sophie came and sat next to her. She put her arms around her.

“What’s been going on Sophie?” she asked her. “Is it because I’m pregnant again? Or is it your dad and me stuff?”

“Did I really hit you?” Meggy asked worriedly.

Ella nodded.

“But we worked out why and you were ok after that.” She told her gently. “You just wanted my attention.”

Meggy nodded and gave her a grin.

“I want you and dad back together.” Sophie said.

“I know my babes and if it were simple we would be. But I promise I’m working on it.” Ella said and pressed a kiss to the top of Sophie’s head. “You know I’m never going to stop loving your daddy.”

Sophie nodded and looked at Meggy.

“I wish Daddy were going too.” She murmured. “So does Meggy.”

“I’m sure we all wish that but he’s got a weekend with Miles. And it’ll be like a big sleepover with you and Amy-belle and Angel all together.”

“I think the boys are looking forward to it more. “ Meggy said quickly. “They talked about waterbombs.” She added and then covered her mouth.

“If they do then they will have to pay for the hotel room.” Ella promised with a grin.

Sophie smiled and put her arms around her mother.

“When are they going to start building the stables?” she asked.

“Your daddy is in charge of that.” Ella told her. “Gabby is going to help you when Princess gets here.”

“It might be lonely for Princess on her own.” Meggy said frowning. “Maybe Gabby could bring her horse here?”

Ella laughed.

“I am getting a zoo aren’t I?” she asked Meggy. “I asked Gabby and she said that her other parents sold her horse.”

Sophie looked up.

“That’s horrible. You are never going to sell Princess are you?” she asked quickly biting her bottom lip.

Ella grinned and gave her another kiss on the top of her head.

“No my sweets Princess is your horse.” Ella told her.

Sophie smiled and looked at Meggy who nodded.

“Can we find Gabby’s horse?” Sophie asked.

“I think that might be hard.” Ella said slowly.

“But can you try Mummy?” Sophie asked a pleading look in her eyes.

“Oh so now I’m mummy and not she devil out to ruin your life?” Ella asked her.

Sophie looked up.

“For the moment.” She said primly.

Ella giggled and lifted her onto her lap.

“I love you Sophie Nicole Harris. Let’s ask Jacko to track down the horse shall we?”

Meggy laughed.

“I can just see the look on Jacko’s face when we ask him.”

“Me too.” Ella murmured. “Now then are we all packed, nightdresses, change of clothes, underwear, toothbrushes.”

Sophie gasped and stood up moving over to the wardrobe.

“Can we wear jeans during the day?” she asked.

“Wear what you want. It’s a two hour drive remember.” Ella said softly.

Meggy stood and went over to the wardrobe too shifting through the clothes.

“I’m going to see the boys.” Ella told them standing up and moving across the hall to the boys room.

“Mummy.” Sammy greeted her.

“I’ve come to check what you’ve packed.” Ella said softly and saw them exchange a glance.

“We were supposed to pack?” Georgie asked.

Ella nodded moving over to her eldest son.

“You know nice trousers a shirt shoes socks underwear pyjamas, something for the following day. Toothbrushes. “ Ella murmured.

Sammy jumped off his bed and ran over to the chest of drawers pulling out clothes and dumping them on his bed.

“Should I mention that they need to be neatly folded in the bag.” Ella said to him. “Georgie put the book down and sort your clothes out.”

“We’re not going until tomorrow.”

“Exactly. If you leave it to the last minute you’ll forget something.” She cautioned.

He looked at her and sighed before climbing off the top bunk and moving over to the wardrobe. He took out his clothes and laid them neatly on the bottom bunk. He folded them carefully and put then in the holdlall.

“Do you think Daddy will come over tonight?” he asked.

“I don’t know.” Ella murmured.

“What about dinner? Is he coming for dinner?” Sammy asked. “Only I wanted to show him a picture of the rabbit I want.”

“Sammy babes, what does I don’t know mean?” Ella asked him a smile playing on her lips.

“I was just checking.” He said. “Can we call him?”

Ella laughed at her son moving over to give him a kiss.

“Send him a text if you want Sammy.” Ella told him. “But we still aren’t getting that rabbit for another few weeks. We want to get the building work started first its going to be noisy and dusty.”

Sammy nodded and looked at his clothes laid out on his bed before going and getting out an extra pair of socks. He started folding up his clothes and putting them in the bag.

“I’m ready.” He declared.

Ella smiled at him and gave him a hug.

“Ok then.” She said moving out of the room.

“Mummy.” Sophie called.


“Can I borrow your handbag?” she asked her.

“What for?” Ella asked back.

“To put the lip gloss and my phone in.” Sophie explained walking down the stairs following Ella.

“I suppose you want to wear perfume too.” She asked her daughter sarcastically.

“Can I?” Sophie asked quickly.

“Sophie!” Ella muttered moving over to her dresser. She opened a drawer and took out a small handbag. “This one?” she asked and saw Sophie nodding.

Opening the next one she took out a small pot of dusting powder, the kind with the fluffy sponge and then the pink lipgloss with the sparkles in it that she knew Sophie liked.

“It’s perfumed.” She told Sophie.

“Thanks Mummy.”

“You’re welcome.” Ella replied smiling at her and watching as Sophie ran out and up the stairs back to her room.

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Chapter 27

“He won’t come you know!” Nic said to her.

Ella turned and looked at her stepdaughter.

“He will.” She said quietly. “He’ll be here.”

Nic swished the red silk skirt of her dress and looked around the ballroom. She spotted the children mingling with their cousins and gave a small smile. The older ones were standing and talking to each other. The boys fiddling with their ties.

“Danni and Gabby look beautiful. Thank you for helping choose their dresses.” Ella told her looking over at the two girls. Danni was in a full-length rose pink gown and Gabby was wearing a cocktail gown in pale lavender.

“Thank you for letting me borrow this one.” Nic said moving again slowly hearing the stiffened silk of the skirt making the swish noise again.

Ella laughed.

“I didn’t lend you the dress Nic. I gave it too you. When am I going to wear that again with my bundle of kids.”

“Ella I’m sure you’ll.” Her voice trailed off as Sophie walked up behind them.

“Hello Sophie.”

“Why are you waiting here Mummy?” She asked referring to Ella standing by the entrance to the ballroom.

“Because I’m hoping for a miracle.” Ella said with a smile. “Are you having a good time?”

“Megs children are nice Mummy.” She told her.

“Good. Have you had enough to eat and drink?” Ella said leaning down to her daughter.

“Ella.” Nic said suddenly.

Ella stood up and looked through the door.

“You knew I’d come, didn’t you?” Roman asked.

She nodded.

“I’ve been waiting for you.” Ella told him.

He smiled at her.

“Are they here?” he asked looking past Sophie and Nic into the beautiful lit ballroom.

“Your brothers and sisters?” Ella asked.

She half turned her head and looked in the direction of his brothers, his sisters sitting a bit further away.

“They look like you.” Nic told him.

He chuckled and reached out feeling Ella place her hand in his. Pulling her close to him he walked over to where his parents were seated at a table. They were with family friends, and conversation stopped when he approached.

“Roman.” Marco called out.

“Dad.” He said in reply.

“I’m glad you could come.” Marco murmured to him shaking his hand before pulling him forward into a bear hug.

“Roman.” Antonio cried out coming forward. “How are you little brother?” he asked him.

Ella looked up at her husband and gave him a smile of encouragement. She let go of his hand and placed hers in the small of his back. He grinned at her before turning to his brother.

“Ant.” he greeted him.

“Bro.” Ant replied smiling before they hugged.

“I’m next.” Santino said standing next to them.

“It’s good to see you.” Roman told them smiling. “I take it you’ve met my wife and family?” he asked casting a sly grin at Ella.

“How did you end up with such a beautiful wife?” Ant asked him.

“I was drunk and blindfolded.” Ella murmured. “I thought I was marrying Christian Bale.”

Roman gave her a look before grinning.

“Sassy.” He called out seeing his sister walking over to them.

“I go by Sarah now.” She told him primly.

“I’ll try to remember that Sassy.” He said and saw her grin at him.

He picked her up as he hugged her and heard her laughing.

“Its so good that you are here Roman.” She said. “You’ve come home to us finally.”

Roman gave her a grin and looked at Ella. She was smiling at him before she uttered a gasp and placed her hand on her bump.

“Is the baby kicking?” He heard his brother Santino ask.

Ella nodded.

“Want to feel?” she asked him still smiling.

He gave a shy nod and extended his hand feeling her warn grip as she guided it to her belly. Roman watched feeling a wash of jealousy go over him.

“Feel?” Ella asked Santino.

He nodded a look on his face.

“That is amazing.” He told her. “Thank you.”

“You should be there when Roman is talking to the bump.” She told him.

Roman felt everyone looking at him and a mixture of embarrassment went over him followed by pride.

“So come on how did you end up with so many kids. You swore you’d never have any.” Sassy murmured. “He hated growing up in a big family. He got all the hand me downs.”

Ella laughed her hand stroking Roman’s arm before she felt him moving to put his arms around her. He began a slow massage of the small of her back feeling her relax against him.

“I can see that might be embarrassing if they were yours first.” She told her.

Roman looked at her and grinned at the joke.

“Shall we sit down everyone? Megs will you join us?” Roman suggested calling out the last big. He guided Ella over to a table and held out the chair for her to sit down. She eased into a chair and smiled at him. He leaned over and pressed a kiss to her lips before sitting next to her. He looked at her hand seeing not only her wedding ring but also the engagement and eternity rings on her finger. He gave her another smouldering look and she smiled at him in return. He felt a flutter of something inside and chuckled softly. She gazed at him before they held hands.

“I’m not sure I want to sit with you. I haven’t been married as long as you two and I don’t get lovey dovey like you two.” Megs moaned.

Ella laughed.

“I’m waiting for one of you to tell me all his secrets.” She announced.

“He liked to paint.” Santino said.

“I said secrets. I found that one out last time.” Ella murmured with a grin.

“He used to have a teddy bear.” Megs told her. “Mr Muffles.”

“Muffles?” Ella said looking at him.

Roman looked down at the white linen covering on the table and shook his head.

“What happened to Mr Muffles Roman?” Sassy asked him.

“I can’t believe you are dragging out this story.” He groaned covering his face with his hands.

“Well?” Ella asked him.

Roman lowered his hands and looked at her.

“I didn’t always share my things.” He began and saw Antonio laughing at him.

“Uh huh?” Ella said softly.

“Megs decided she wanted the bear for herself.” Sassy continued with the story. “So Roman went out and set it on fire to stop her having it.”

Ella gasped and looked at him.

“You so didn’t!” she gasped.

“Actually he didn’t. He bought a cheap bear and set that on fire and hid Mr Muffles away.”

“Roman Harris.” Ella muttered.

“I was 8 at the time. She had all my other toys.” he muttered his cheeks red.

“We had to put up with her screaming for months because Mr Muffles was the only thing that would get her to sleep.” Ant told them.

Megs looked at Roman and smiled.

“There is another part to this story.” She said slowly. “When I went into the clinic the first time Roman visited me and presented me with Mr Muffles. It got me through the first couple of months.”

Ella watched as Roman and his sister shared a smile.

“I need to go see to the children.” She announced standing up. “No, stay here.” She told him pressing a kiss to his cheek. “Lily will need a cuddle anyway.” She moved away over to the other side of the room where the children were.

“Daddy came.” Sophie cried out.

“Yes he did.” Ella said proudly and bent down to hug her daughter. “Everybody alright over here?” she asked.

Sophie nodded.

“Are they going to play music soon because Angel and I want to have a dance?”

Ella looked at her watch and nodded.

“I think so. I’m going to take Lily up to the room. Is Nic around?”

Sophie looked around.

“Over there Mummy.” She pointed out Nic and Geoff standing with Aden and Belle.

“Thanks. “ Ella said softly walking over to the group.

“Hey!” Nic said. “You got him here.” She added a tone entering her voice.

Ella gave the girl a puzzled look before catching Aden’s concerned expression.

“Yes.” She confirmed. “I’m going to take Lily up to the room now. Do you want me to take Mira?”

Nci shook her head.

“No thanks perfect Mummy. I’ll take care of my daughter.” She said slightly slurring her words.

Ella recoiled at the taunt and spun around walking quickly away.

“Nic I think you’ve had enough to drink.” Geoff said.

“What do you think you are doing Princess?” Aden asked her.

She looked at them both and flung back the contents of her glass before handing it over to Geoff.

“She’s not a saint. She’s a stuck up frigid bitch.” Nic told them angrily. “And how do you think she got him here? On her back that’s how. She’s controlling him. You watch she’ll dump him as soon as she doesn’t need him anymore. I don’t know how we can accept that is his baby. She was on that Island alone with Elliot for a week before my dad turned up.”

“Nic shut up.” Geoff said sounding disgusted.

Aden looked past Nic in horror to Sophie standing there behind them with Angel.

“Oh my god, Nic!” Belle exclaimed.

She spun around seeing the two girls standing there.

“How could you say that about my mummy?” Sophie gasped out, tears pouring down her face. “I hate you Nicole and I never want to see you again.” She added spinning around and running out of the ballroom.

“Mummy?” Angel said before she ran out after Sophie.

“Nicole.” Geoff said angrily. “Where did all that spite come from? You are going to have to go and explain to Roman what you’ve just said about his wife and who heard it.”

She looked at him and shook her head.

“Like Daddy is going to believe me over that ..”

“Nicole.” Aden shouted out harshly causing some people to turn and look at him.

Nic pouted and looked down.

“Babe I’m going to check on the girls. You better go see Ella.” Belle told him.

Aden gave her a look and nodded, both of them moving off.

“And you are going to have some coffee.” Geoff told Nic grabbing her by the arm and dragging her to the bar at the end of the room.

Belle walked into the ladies room. She saw Angel immediately talking to a locked door and moved over to them.

“Sophie.” Belle said softly and heard the girl’s muffled crying.

“She won’t come out Auntie Belle.”

“It’s ok. I’ll just sit here for a bit anyway.” Belle said lifting Angel on to her lap.

“Why would my mummy say horrible things about Ella?” Angel asked.

“I don’t know. It’s like you were upset when Ella left and took everyone, well your Mummy was upset too and you know grown ups don’t always say what they need to.”

Sophie opened the door and looked out, her eyes were rimmed in red and her nose was blotchy.

“So Nic was upset because we went away?” Sophie asked slowly.

Belle nodded.

“And she’s worried that your Mummy might do it again. So inside she is making herself hate your Mummy so if she does go away it won’t upset her so much.”

“Belle that is just silly.” Sophie said. “Mummy promised us. We are staying here in school.”

“Really?” Angel asked her.

Sophie nodded.

“Are you going to give your face a wash and I’ll take you to see your Mummy.” Belle suggested.

Sophie shook her head.

“I don’t want Mummy upset.” She told them.

“I think she’ll want to give you a big cuddle Sophie.” Belle murmured.

Sophie shook her head.

“Best not upset her with the baby.” Sophie decided.

Angel moved over to her and put her arms around Sophie.

“You’re my best friend.” She told her.

“Mine too.” Sophie replied.

“Come on then girls.” Belle said standing up slowly. She extended her hand to Angel first helping her stand up and then did likewise for Sophie leading them over to the gilt edged mirror. Sophie looked at her reflection and grimaced. She poured out some cold water into the sink and dipped a tissue into it before patting her face slowly.

“Where did you learn that Sophie?” Belle asked slowly.

“From Mummy. She cried a lot when we were away and she would do this so the others didn’t know. But we all did. She missed Daddy.”

Belle bit her lip and looked away for a moment before looking back at the two girls.

“Don’t be sad Belle. Mummy is happy now we are home.” Sophie said with a quick grin.

Angel looked at her and smiled too.

“Excuse me.” Geoff said walking up behind Roman.

“Hello.” Roman greeted him. “You’ve met my son-in-law Geoff haven’t you?” he asked his brothers and sisters seeing nods around the table.

“Yes.” Megs said softly. “And your grandchildren.” She added with a sly chuckle.

Roman gave her a look.

“Sorry to interrupt but I need to borrow Roman for a minute.” Geoff told them.

Roman nodded and stood up.

“Excuse me.” He said politely following the younger man. “What is it?”

“It’s Nic. She’s had a bit too much to drink.” Geoff began.

Roman scanned the room seeing his daughter sitting over at the bar a cup of coffee in front of her.

“Does she need to go back to her room?” he asked.

Geoff shook his head.

“Its not that.” He denied quickly. “Its well, its’” he stopped looking over at his wife and then back at Roman.

“Spit it out Geoff.” Roman instructed.

“She said some stuff about Ella.” Geoff murmured and gave a groan when Roman stalked over to the bar where Nic was sitting. He followed quickly catching up with him and placing a restraining arm on the other man. “Roman.” He said quickly forestalling him.

Roman spun around.

“What did she say Geoff?” he asked him.

Geoff sighed.

That the baby wasn’t yours and that she persuaded you on her..” he stopped when he saw Roman’s face and even though he reached out to stop him, to tell him the rest, he found his hand moved though air as the other man rapidly walked away.

“Ella.” Aden called knocking softly at the hotel room door.

“Come in Aden.” Ella murmured.

He turned the handle and pushed open the door.

“El.” He said again.

She turned around and looked at him Lily cuddled in her arms.

“That can’t be good.” She said in the same tone of voice. She gestured for him to be quiet while she put Lily down in the cot and pulled a soft cover over her. Moving slowly away she gestured for Aden to follow her into the bedroom. He looked slowly around before giving her a smirk and sitting on the bed.

“What’s up?” she asked him.

“Nic has been drinking.” Aden said quickly.

“I noticed.” Ella murmured folding her arms.

“She said a few things.” He muttered.

Ella looked over at Lily’s cot before sinking on to the bed next to him.

“You better start from the beginning.” She instructed him.

“She said that the baby wasn’t Roman’s and that you were fooling him. When you were finished you were planning on dumping him again.”

Ella gasped her hand going to her stomach.

“How could she say that?” Ella moaned.

“Ella.” Aden said quickly.

She shook her head.

“She knows I love him.” Ella groaned tears forming in her eyes.

“We all know that.” Aden said with a grin. “There is more.” He began. “She said this in front of Sophie.”

Ella gasped and stood up rapidly. She felt the room closing in on her and flashing lights before her eyes.

“Steady.” Aden cried out catching hold of her. He kept his arms around her as he pushed the hair back from her face. “Ella.” He murmured leaning close to her.

She pushed herself upright and eased away from him.

“You better go.” She said in a breathy voice.

“Not until I know you are ok.” Aden said quickly.

“Aden please leave.” Ella told him.

“Yes. Please leave Aden.” Roman said from the doorway, his tone like ice.

Aden looked up.

“I can explain.” He began.

“Explain why you are holding my wife in your arms?” Roman asked his eyes meeting Ella’s. She had a horrified look on her face. “I’m sure you can but please leave.” He added after a moment.

Aden looked at Ella and saw her nod before he moved out of the room.

“Ok Roman get it off your chest.” Ella said after a moment.

“Why would Nic seem to think that the baby you are carrying isn’t mine?” he said his tone of voice cold.

“You tell me.” Ella said quietly. “You have a hypothesis.”

“Yeah but I want to be wrong.” He said after a moment. “I really want to be wrong about what I’ve been thinking lately.”

She looked at him.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“You joking with Aden about him taking your clothes off. You and Aden sharing a coffee at the hospital and you didn’t even mention you’d see him. Oh and meeting with him when you were supposed to be seeing Rachel.” He said folding his arms across his chest. “I saw him kiss you.” Roman bit out.

Ella recoiled, her face pale. She took a deep breath and moaned as she exhaled.

“I don’t know what you saw but I haven’t slept with Aden.” She began.

He shook his head.

“Is it my baby?” he asked her. “You are very enthusiastic in bed Ella, are you feeling guilty about anything?”

She sucked in another breath and placed her hand on her belly feeling the baby kick against her hand.

“This is your baby. And you want to know when it was conceived? It was during the Elliot stuff, when you mad at me and you were drinking. The taste of whiskey was on your lips.” She pulled herself upright and looked him in the eyes. “You held me down and forced me, you hurt me… “ she broke off at his gasp of pain.

“You told me that was a dream.” He said his voice rising.

She shook her head and moved towards him.

“Does this feel like a dream?” she asked him pulling his hand on to her belly.

He flinched.

“Ella.” He gasped out his voice broken.

“Get out Roman. Get out.” she told him.

He spun around and raced out of the room.

Ella watched him go her face pale tears falling slowly down her face. She felt the blood rushing from her head and she sank in slow motion to the floor in a dead faint.

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Yey! Another comment!!

For the purposes of this story the kids are:

Aden and Belle's:

Bret 19

Amy-belle 15

Andrew Tyler 8

Nic and Geoff's:

Angel 11

Robbie 8 (3 months difference between him and Andrew)

Mira 10 months

Roman and Ella's:

Mike 20

Gabby 20 (7 months difference between her and Mike)

Danni 18

Georgie and Sophie 10 (nearly 11) & Georgie is 23 minutes older than Sophie.

Meggy 9 (81/2 months younger than the twins!)

Sammy 7

Lily Alyssa 7 months

And seriously if you think you have trouble keeping up with them.... you should try writing a chapter!!!

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Chapter 28

Danni moved into the suite and gasped out loud. She rushed over to Ella’s prone figure and put her hand on the side of Ella’s face. She felt could to the touch and was breathing shallowly. Ignoring the still crying Lily, she pulled out her phone and dialled Roman’s number. His phone went straight to voicemail and Danni hung up with out leaving a message. She hit a number on speed dial and groaned when she heard Sophie’s voice on the other end of the phone.

“Hey Sophie.” Danni said controlling the panic in her voice. “Can you get Aden for me?”

She waited while the phone was handed over.

“What’s up Danni?” Aden asked.

“Ella fainted. Can’t wake her up.” Danni bit out hanging up the phone and moving back to Ella. She pressed a kiss to her cheek before taking hold of her limp hand.

“Danni I’m here.” Aden called out a moment later moving into the bedroom. He knelt down by her and reached out a hand to Ella’s neck feeling her pulse. “Can you get me a wet flannel please?” he asked Danni and watched as she shot up and ran into the bathroom.

“What’s wrong?” Sophie asked from the doorway.

“Your Mum had fainted.” Aden said quickly. “Can you see to your sister for me please?” he asked the youngster giving her a reassuring grin. He saw her nod and move over to Lily in the cot putting her hands down to her sister and soothing her.

Danni came out of the bathroom and handing over the flannel. Aden gave a small grimace before applying it to the back of Ella’s neck. She gave a small moan before stirring and her eyes finally opened.

“Where’s Roman?” she gasped out.

“Don’t worry about him now.” Aden said. “I want to get you on the bed.”

Ella flinched at the words he used causing him to curse under his breath. He caught Ella’s Gaze before lifting her up and moving her on to the bed.

“Aden I think I’m going to be sick.” Ella muttered gritting her teeth.

“Can you stand?” he asked and she nodded.

He eased her up and moved with her into the bathroom.

“What happened Danni?” Sophie asked blinking back more tears. “She was so happy that Daddy came.”

Danni shook her head.

“I’m sorry hunni Bunny I don’t know.” Danni told her standing herself and moving over to the cot. She lifted Lily out and placed her on the changing mat dealing with her nappy before dressing her back in her sleepsuit.

“Does Lily want a drink?” Sophie asked reaching for her bottle.

“I think we’ll give her a drink. She’s been crying a while.” Danni told Sophie and accepted the bottle. She pressed it to Lily’s mouth and she accepted the teat and began drinking.

“Danni.” Aden said coming out of the bathroom.

“Yeah?” she asked looking up.

“I’m not happy with Ella I want to get her to a hospital just to make sure she’s checked out ok. Can you look after the kids? She won’t go “

Sophie shot up and moved past him into the bathroom.

“Mummy please go to the hospital.” She asked her. “I’ll take care of everybody.”

“Sophie.” Ella said quietly holding out her hand to her. “Just for you I’ll go but you are going to be with Angel and the others and try and have some fun. We’ll give you a call and let you know what’s going on ok?”

Sophie nodded and wiped at the tears falling down her face.

“Mummy is this because of what Nicole said?” she asked looking sad.

“No baby girl. It’s because I’ve been doing a lot and the baby is very heavy and making me tired.” Ella said with a smile.

Sophie nodded and reached out to hug her.

“Love you.” Ella said softly. “Now off you go. “

Sophie gave her a small grin before heading into the other room. She saw that Lily had been placed back in the cot and was drifitn to sleep.

“What do you want me to do Danni?” She asked quietly.

“Can you go get Gabby for me?” Danni asked her watching Sophie as she moved out of the room. It took a couple of Minutes before Ella eased out of the bathroom.

“Aden,” Ella gasped clinging to the doorframe.

“Ella.” He called her name moving over to her.

“I think I’m losing the baby.” She told him her voice panicky.

“We’re not going to let that happen, ok.” he told her.

He moved rapidly to her side and put his arm around her waist leading her over to the bed.

“I need to go speak to the hotel reception ok.” his voice was calm. He moved out of the room and down to reception quickly speaking to the night manager of the hotel In no time a car and driver were summoned to take them to the nearest hospital he was assured was less than twenty minutes away. Turning he moved back to the elevator and up to the room. He saw that Ella had changed out of the ball gown she had been wearing and into a T-shirt and leggings.

“I have a driver lined up. Are you ready?” he asked.

She nodded and looked over at Danni.

“Mum.” Danni said standing up and moving over to her.

“I’m ok.” Ella said quietly.

Danni eased back and watched as Aden led her out. She was still in the same spot when Sophie returned with Gabby.

“Danni?” Sophie asked.

“Aden has taken Mum to the hospital to be checked out.” Danni told her.

“Oh.” Gabby said.

“Its because of what Nicole said I know it is.” Sophie said worriedly.

“What did Nic say?” Danni asked quickly.

Sophie looked at her before she told her wiping away fresh tears.

Danni looked at her and then at Lily sleeping peacefully before she stormed out of the room. She ran to the elevator and stood impatiently waiting until it came ignoring Gabby calling to her. She stepped inside and rode down to the ground floor and moved out to the ballroom She saw Nic immediately, looking sorry for herself standing at the bar and stormed over to her. Pulling back her hand she slapped her as hard as she could.

“You never come near Ella again. Don’t even look at her. I hate you Nicole. I hate you and if she loses this baby I will kill you.” Danni screamed at her.

“Wait.” Alyssa called out moving over to them. “What about the baby?” she added worriedly.

“Aden has taken Ella to hospital.” Danni said forgetting that Georgie, Sammy and Meggy were within earshot.

“Oh god.” Nic moaned. “I didn’t mean it.”

“Well too late.” Danni sneered. “You said it.”

Nic looked at Geoff and for the first time she saw a look of disgust on his face.

“Go to your room.” he told her. “I’ll go take care of Lily and Mira. “

He turned away from her and moved over to where Mira was picking up their baby daughter and taking her out of the ballroom.

“Is Mummy ok?” Sammy asked putting his thumb in his mouth.

Danni was struck by what she had said in front of them and gave him a reassuring half smile.

“Yeah sweetie. Aden has taken her to hospital for a check up is all.” Danni told him.

He reached up and took hold of her hand.

“I want to go to bed now.” He told her still sucking his thumb.

“Come on. Meggy do you want to come?” Danni asked and saw her nod. Georgie followed taking hold of Meggy’s hand as they walked out of the ballroom together.

“Well Nicole, you certainly are your Mother’s daughter.” Alyssa said sadly.

Nic shook her head and met the confused looks of her children.

“You don’t understand.” She said. “I didn’t mean it.” she added and looked at Alyssa. “I’m not like my mother.”

A slow tear trickled down her face and she stood there a shudder going through her petite frame.

“I was mad at Ella for leaving us. And then coming back because she was pregnant not because she missed us.” Nic said brokenly.

Alyssa looked at her and gave a sigh moving over to her and putting her arm around her.

“Let me take you to your room.” she said told Nic in a calm voice. “Then you can tell me all about it.”

Nic nodded unable to speak. More tears fell down her face as Alyssa led her out.

Belle looked at the children and gave them a small reassuring smile.

“I think we should all go upstairs and get some hot chocolate.” She told them.

Amy-belle moved over to them and took hold of Angel’s hand, with Brett moving up to them. They followed Belle out of the ballroom and to one of the hotel rooms. She organised drinks for everyone and Amy-belle sorted everyone into putting on their night-clothes. The door opened and Sophie led the rest of the children in.

“Hey Sophie.” angel called. “Come and have some hot chocolate.”

She moved over to her and put her hand in Sophie’s.

“Meggy, Sammy.” Sophie called. “Do you want some?”

Sammy shook his head his thumb still in his mouth.

“Maybe we could share a cup?” Meggy suggested to him.

He shook his head again and moved over to one of the beds sitting down on it and pulling up the cover.

Belle moved over to the TV and put a film on making sure each of the children had a cover to put round them

Meggy moved over to Sammy and sat with him pulling his cover around her too and putting her arm around him.

“Samson.” Georgie called out sitting the other side of him.

“Daddy calls me that,” he told him. “I want Daddy.” Sammy added tears spilling down his cheeks.

Sophie looked at Belle and saw her quickly look away.

“I don’t know where Daddy is, Sammy.” she told her brother. “But you have us here and Gabby and Danni are here too.”

He nodded his bottom lip trembling.

“But Daddy always makes it less scary.” He said quietly.

Again Sophie glanced at Belle and then sat next to Sammy.

“Well, we’ll just have to do until he gets here.” She told him.

Roman looked at the drink in front of him and sat starring into the amber depths. He picked it up and took a long sip before he felt bile rise up in his throat and he raced into the men’s room. He made it just in time before he emptied the contents of his stomach. Rinsing his mouth at the sink with cold water he moved back through the dark bar and out of the door. He walked down street after street before he found himself back at the hotel. The first person he saw in the lobby was his Mother and he flinched from the anger in her face.

“Roman Harris.” She said in a tone of voice he knew well from his childhood.

“No mother.” He said. “Just don’t.”

“You might like to know that your ex-wife is at the hospital.” She said to him stopping him dead on his way tot he elevator. He spun around and looked at her.

“Which hospital?” he asked quickly.

She shook her head.

“I don’t know.” She admitted.

He gave her another look and headed to the reception and after speaking to them moved out of the door. It took him that long to realise she had referred to Ella as his ex-wife.

The taxi ride to the hospital was fraught and he gave a half grin at the thought of going there still wearing his tuxedo. Moving though the doors he scanned the foyer until he spotted reception and he strode over and spoke to them before being directed to the maternity wing. He saw Aden immediately and moved over to him.

“Are you here to hit me?” Aden asked him.

Roman shook his head.

“Just tell me.” He begged.

“I don’t know anything to tell you. Danni found Ella in a dead faint and she became ill when we brought her round. She began cramping during the car journey here and they rushed her straight in. “ he told him. “Apparently I don’t look enough like a doctor to be in there with her.”

Roman eased down on a seat nearby and cast a look at Aden.

“We look like we’ve escaped from a James Bond movie.” He told him.

Aden looked at him and gave him a slow smile.

“You’re the superspy.” Aden muttered.

Roman nodded and then sobered abruptly. He felt his stomach churning again.

“Roman what is it?” Aden asked quickly.

“I hurt her.” Roman muttered under his breath. He leaned back his head against the wall and closed his eyes fighting nausea.

“Did you hit her?” Aden asked puzzled.

Roman groaned.

“No, or at least I didn’t think so.”

“You aren’t making sense.” Aden told him. “What happened tonight?”

Roman breathed in slowly and then straightened before opening his eyes and looking at the other man. If Aden had to describe the look on the other man’s face at that point he would have used the word haunted.

“Before.” Roman said. “I hurt her before.. “He stopped and swallowed. “I was drinking heavily and I took out my anger on her. Hell I was angry at her. She pushed me and pushed me about the Mark stuff and I couldn’t take it.”

Aden listened to him suddenly realising what the other man was saying.

“Roman!” he gasped out.

Roman lowered his head.

“I dreamt it Aden. I woke up and it was a dream. She told me it was a dream.” He gasped out feeling tears forming in his eyes. He closed them and leaned back in the chair once more not realising that one of the tears had escaped and was running down his face. “She said tonight that that.” He pronounced the second that like it was the most horrid thing on the planet.

“Well that it wasn’t a dream. That it was how the baby was conceived.”

Roman stood up and walked down the corridor her searched frantically for the men’s finding it at last and was once more sick to his stomach.

He walked slowly back to where Aden was and eased once more into the chair beside him.

“Roman.” Aden said putting his hand on the other man’s shoulder.

“Don’t.” he cautioned.

“This makes sense now.” Aden said softly.

He handed Roman a note and watched as the other man opened it and read it.

“I lied.” He quoted.

“She said I should give it to you. That you would know what she meant.”

Roman shook his head.

“She meant she lied when she told me it was a dream.” Roman said.

Aden shook his head.

“I don’t think that is what she meant Roman.” He told him quietly.

They looked up when a white-coated doctor moved toward them. Roman stood.

“Ella Harris.” He said to him.

The doctor stopped.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“I’m her husband.” Roman said quickly.

He gave frown and looked over at Aden before looking at Roman once more.

“You better come with me then.” The doctor murmured.

Roman followed him down the corridor that only seemed to get longer until he was shown into a room where Ella was sat up on the examination bed.

“Roman.” She gasped out.

He moved over to her then, not the guilt of the earlier accusations which now seemed so foolish nor the crippling guilt over his attack on her could keep him from reaching out to her. She clung to him.

“Tell me you are alright.” He begged her.

She gave him a nod.

“We are fine. Both of us.” She said quietly.

He leaned forward to kiss her checking the movement at the last minute. She reached up and put her hands around his neck tugging him forward and completing the kiss.

“You can take her home now.” The doctor said to him.

She eased up and placed her feet on the floor and moved out of the room. She felt Roman fall into step beside her and they moved slowly into the corridor.

“What did the doctor say?” Aden asked quickly.

“Stress and tiredness. I’ve been doing a lot recently.” Ella told him.

Roman looked at her and then looked away.

“I mean aside from us. I’ve been working.” She said quietly. “And preparing for the builders to come in.”

Roman gave her another look and then turned his head away.

Aden moved to the reception desk and began to arrange transport back to the hotel.

“Roman.” Ella said putting her hand on his arm.

She felt him tremble at the touch and she looked up in shock.

“Roman.” She said again louder forcing him to look at her.

She took hold of his hand and placed it on her stomach.

“This baby was conceived as near as I can tell in a janitors closet in a hospital.” She told him seeing part of the haunted look leaving his face. “Which as I remember it was the last time we were truly together, with no drama and no hurt. Just loving each other.”

She took a deep breath and forced herself to look into his eyes.

“It was a dream. I lied to you. I wanted to hurt you. I wanted you to feel pain because accusing me of seeing Aden, of seeing anybody hurts me. Roman you should have comforted me tonight or at least asked if I was ok or anything except shout at me with those stupid accusations. My god Roman, do you honestly think I could ever be the kind of woman who could sleep with you and tell you I want to be with you but go behind your back like that? You should have at least asked us how Sophie was.”

“What about Sophie?” he asked quickly.

Ella looked at him.

“She and Angel heard what Nic said about me.” She told him quietly.

He shook his head.

“I need to get us back to the hotel.” He said softly.

She nodded and looked over at Aden.

“The car will be here in about 5 minutes.” He said.

Ella nodded and looked at Roman.

“It will be ok.” he said, his tone still quiet.

She gave another nod and they got into the car heading back to the hotel. Within minutes of arriving they were up in the room. Aden moved down the corridor and fetched the children.

“Ella.” Roman said quietly. “I think we should stop seeing each other.” he murmured.

She looked at him in shock.

“Roman.” She said uncertainly.

“I can’t do this ok. “ he muttered.

“Give me a clue here what can’t you do?” she asked him.

“I can’t be your on off part time husband.” He said. “I can’t stand not being with you full time.”

She gasped holding out her hand to him.

“He moved and placed his hand on her belly.

“I put this baby in here and I’m scared that you’ll decide it over between us Ella. What is going to happen the next time that I hurt you? Am I going to wake up and you’ll be gone with the children again?”

She shook her head.

“I promise you that will never happen.” She said.

“Ella how can you say that? We promise each other stuff all the time and it never works out.”

She eased back away from him.

“If that is what you’ve decided then you are going to tell the kids.” She murmured eventually.

He looked at her and gave a small nod before turning away.

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Chapter 29

“Georgie come in here.” Ella called.

Georgie looked at Meggy and Sammy and moved to the study slowly.

Ella went over to the door and closed it quietly.

“I’ve just had Gabby on the phone telling me that Sophie isn’t at the stables where she said she would be. Care to tell me where your sister is?” Ella asked him.

Georgie looked at the floor.

“I don’t know.” He said quickly.

She nodded and eased into a chair.

“Want to try that again?” she asked after a while.

“No Mum I really don’t know. She gave me this to give to you tonight.” Georgie said finally.

Ella reached out and took the envelope from him. She opened it quickly and read the contents.

“I need to call your dad.” Ella murmured and moved to the edge of the chair before finally managing to stand.

Georgie nodded and looked unhappy.

Ella moved over to him and put her arms around him.

“It’s ok.” she said kissing the top of his head.

“Has she run away?” Georgie asked her.

Ella nodded.

“If we are lucky we can stop her before she goes too far.” Ella said calmly and watched as her son moved over to the door and opened it going out and talking to Meggy and Sammy. She saw Sammy put his thumb in his mouth and sighed. Ever since the fated anniversary party he had been doing that. Pulling out her phone she dialled Roman’s number and wasn’t surprised when he didn’t answer. She dialled Lee’s number next.

“Hey Ella what’s up?” Lea asked immediately.

“Do you know where Roman is?” Ella asked.

Lee looked over at Roman and he shook his head.

“Sorry I think he’s gone for a run.” She lied.

“Interesting.” Ella said softly. “Has he taken his phone with him?”

Lee looked at Roman and then at the phone.

“Yeah I think so.” She said quickly.

”Uh huh.” Ella murmured moving over to the landline she dialled his number again and heard it ringing in the background of her call to Lee.

Lee looked at Roman again and then handed her phone to him.

“I’m not lying for you anymore.” She said to him.

Roman groaned and accepted the phone placing it to his ear.

“Shut up.” Ella said immediately. “I don’t want to talk to you any more than I have to. Sophie has run away. I need you to get to the bus station and check out all the buses. I’m calling Charlie.” And with that she hung up the phone. Moving as quickly as her bump would allow she went into the lounge and looked at Meggy.

“Sweetie, I’m about to call the police is there anything you can tell me about Sophie?” she asked her other daughter.

Meggy looked at her brothers and sisters before looking at her mother.

“She took her clothes.” Meggy said. “Instead of her school books.”

Ella nodded and looked at Georgie.

“She has her phone.” Georgie said quickly.

“Thank you.” Ella murmured. “Georgie can you call her and ask her to come home please.”

He nodded and pulled out his phone while she moved back into the study. She took out her phone and called Charlie telling her what she knew quickly almost unemotionally. She felt the baby kick inside her and she almost collapsed thinking about her young daughter out there alone, thinking that being somewhere else was better than being home with them. She’d failed her daughter.

“Ella.” Roman called out coming through the front door.

She moved to the hallway and looked at him folding her arms across her middle.

“I checked all the buses going in and out of the station. The call has gone out amongst the drivers to be on the lookout for her.” he said quickly.

She nodded and cast a glance at the other children watching them before she gestured for Roman to move out on to the front veranda. She closed the door behind her and stood there looking at him for a moment.

“We did this.” She said finally. “We made her life so unhappy that she left. She’s ten years old Roman.”

He nodded accepting her words.

“So we have to fix this.” She murmured.

“How Ella? How do we fix this?” he asked his voice bitter.

She looked at him and then away.

“I don’t know. I thought we were getting back together Roman. I thought we were finally working towards something.”

He shook his head.

“No.” he denied.

She stepped back as though he had slapped her feeling herself go cold.

“Fine. Let’s focus on Sophie then.” She said in a cold voice.

He gave her a look and narrowed his eyes before giving a small nod of acknowledgement.

“I think that maybe she’s heading for the studio.” Ella said slowly.

“Why would she go there?” he asked.

She gave him a look before continuing.

“It’s the only other place she knows apart from Summer Bay.” Ella told him. “But she doesn’t know.” She stopped.

“Doesn’t know what Ella?” Roman asked quietly.

“That the place is locked up. There is nothing there.” she said.

“What happened?” Roman asked quickly.

Ella shook her head.

“Its not important.” She exclaimed quickly.

He shook his head before focusing back on Sophie. He had no rights left where Ella was concerned.

“Can Harry help?” he asked her referring to her godfather who ran a café in the city. He knew the man had ties with the homeless shelters.

She shook her head and blinked as though fighting back tears.

“Hey.” He murmured.

She pulled her arm away from his grasp before he could even make contact.

“Harry died at the beginning of the year.” She said softly.

“Ella.” He gasped out. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked finally feeling an incredible hurt that she hadn’t told him.

“Doesn’t matter.” She said.

He looked at her and willed himself not to react, not to be angry that she had shut him out of one more area of her life. And definitely not to reach out again to her, even though he couldn’t stand the sad look on her face and he really couldn’t stand the sheen of tears in her eyes. It was why he had shut her out the past month. Not even attending hospital appointments missing out on seeing his baby grown in her. He hardened his heart against her because he had too, they only hurt each other.

“Ella.” He said quietly. “Have you spoken to Jacko?”

She shook her head.

“I’ll give him a call and see if he can check the bus station in the city.” He said.

She nodded and moved away back inside.

“Mummy.” Sammy said. “What’s happening?”

“Sammy.” Ella said sounding tired.

All she wanted to do was curl up somewhere and sleep. The bulk of the baby made her worn out and clumsy when she moved. She forced herself to stand up straighter and put her hand to the small of her back where the ache was.

“Sophie has run away so if any of you know anything please tell me because we need to find her.” Ella said quietly.

Meggy moved over to Sammy and took hold of his hand.

“We don’t know anything.” She said quickly.

Ella nodded after a moment.

“Ok. I’m going to ask Gabby to look after you for a while.” Ella told them. “Have you finished your homework?”

“How can we think of homework at a time like this?” Meggy cried out over emotionally.

“Because I only just told you about Sophie so if you haven’t done your homework you must have known in advance she was running away.” Ella said as quietly as before.

Meggy looked immediately guilty.

“Meggy please tell me?” Ella asked her.

“I’ve told you.” She said. “I saw her put clothes in her bag this morning.”

Ella nodded.

“How much money did she have with her?” she asked after a time.

Meggy gave a little betraying gasp.

“You gave her some didn’t you Meggy?” Ella said and gave her daughter a smile.

“I gave her $40.” Georgie volunteered.

“Ah babes.” Ella said still smiling. “That was the money you were saving for your laptop.”

She said.

Since she had told him that she would pay half towards a laptop if he saved the other half and he’d been really good at putting his pocket money to one side.

He nodded.

“I didn’t want her to run out.” he said.

Ella nodded at her son.

“Did she tell anyone if she was heading towards the city?” Ella asked finally.

She caught the look between Sammy and Meggy and then finally they glanced at Georgie.

He nodded and they all spoke at once.

“She’s going to the studio.” Meggy murmured.

“She looked up the bus schedule on the internet at school.” Georgie told her.

“We planned it.” Sammy blurted.

“Ok.” Ella said. “What is she going to do when she finds the studio locked up?”

Georgie looked at her.

“She has the keys.” He said.

Ella shook her head.

“It’s closed Georgie. Boarded up.” Ella murmured.

“She didn’t answer when I called her.” Georgie said sounding panicked.

“It’s ok. Your Dad and I are going to the city. We’re going to find her.” Ella said instilling as much confidence in her voice as she could.

Georgie nodded.

“She left school this morning Mummy.” He said.

“Just means she has a head start.” Ella told him.

She moved over to them and hugged them before heading back outside to where Roman was waiting.

“Jacko is out of the country.” He said quickly.

She nodded.

“Sophie is heading to the city.” She confirmed. “We need to go after her. She left this morning.”

“Is that what the others told you?” Roman asked her quickly.

She nodded once more.

“You better go in and reassure them. I’m going upstairs to see to Lily and get my bag.” She told him.

He nodded and watched her go taking a deep breath before he followed her through the door and into see his children.

“Daddy.” Meggy said casting a worried glance at Sammy.

“Hello.” Roman said to them quickly before he lost his nerve. Since he had told them about not seeing Ella anymore Sammy had not spoken to him.

“Dad.” Georgie said using the formal term he had adopted.

“How are you?” he asked moving over to them. He knelt down next to Meggy and reached out to hug her. She stepped back and away from him.

“We’re fine.” She said answering for them all.

“That’s good. How is school? Sammy have you got that Rabbit yet?” Roman asked them refusing to be undaunted.

“School is fine.” Georgie answered.

“Sammy has decided that he doesn’t want a rabbit.” Meggy answered for her brother.

“Why?” Roman asked quickly before he thought about it.

“Because they leave you too.” Sammy told him and moved away to sit on the sofa.

“Sammy.” Roman said sadly. “I didn’t leave you. Your Mummy and me are just apart.”

He turned his head away not even looking at him anymore and Roman felt like swearing. He bit back the curse words that hovered on his lips and stood up. The door opened behind him and he saw Gabby coming in with Danni.

“Hey.” She said to him.

“Has she run away?” Danni asked quickly.

Roman nodded.

“Ella and I are going into the city to look for her.” he said.

“You’re going with Mum?” Georgie asked him.

Roman nodded and watched as the kids looked at each other before looking back at him.

“Danni.” Ella called coming down the stairs.

“Mum.” Danni answered.

“I need you to look after the children. If we aren’t back tonight then it’s the usual routine. School, homework etc.”

“Mummy.” Meggy groaned,

“That’s right Missy it’s homework.” Ella said to her daughter before she walked over to her and gave her a hug. “Right then give your Dad a hug and we’ll go.” She announced.

Gabby and Danni exchanged a look before taking a step towards Roman and giving him a brief hug, Georgie was next followed by a reluctant Meggy. Sammy remained seated on the sofa his eyes filling with tears.

“Sammy come on we haven’t got all day.” Ella said softly.

He stood and moved over to Roman and embraced him quickly.

Roman resisted the urge to cry like a baby at the brief contact and hugged Sammy back before moving to the door. Ella walked slowly after him issuing instructions and goodbyes to the children before she made it though the door and out to his car.

“I need to pick up some things from home.” He announced setting off and driving to his place.

“I’ll wait in the car.” Ella said quickly.

He nodded manoeuvring the car into a parking place.

“Won’t be long.” He told her.

She leaned back in the seat closing her eyes she didn’t hear him come back to the car and put his bag in the back. He collected the blanket he kept in the car and placed it carefully over her smiling as she sighed and curled into it as she fell deeper asleep.

He set off driving quickly using her being asleep to drive a bit quicker than normal and overtake a few more cars than he might have done if she had been watching his driving. He shook her awake when they reached her studio.

“We’re here.” He announced redundantly.

“We made good time.” Ella said tongue in cheek.

He gave her a little boy smile and watched as she pushed the blanket down and eased up in the seat. She gave a small groan as her back protested.

“El?” he asked her.

“Nothing just my back.” She told him and opened the door stepping out and stretching. He joined her walking around the back of the car.

“Why is the place shut up?” he asked going over to the door covered over with wood to prevent it being broken into.

“Because I died and stopped taking photos.” She said softly.

“Ella.” He said in shock.

“It’s ok.” She said looking up at the building.

He shook his head.

“Do you have the keys?” he asked her. “I was thinking that we should loosen the boards so she can get inside.”

Ella looked at him.

“Sophie has the keys.” She told him.

He looked at her and gave her a grin.

“No.” she said after a minute. “You aren’t breaking in.”

He grinned over at her before walking to the door and checking to see if it had been tampered with.

“Where do you think we should go first?” he asked her after a moment.

“Bus station. Find out the timetables and speak to any of the taxi drivers see if they have picked her up.” Ella said.

“Would she use a taxi?” Roman asked.

Ella nodded.

“We used them all around the city. I doubt she would walk for one thing she wouldn’t know the way unless she picked up a map.”

Roman looked at her and wanted to go over and rub her back. He could tell that it was really bothering her.

“According to the kids she’s planned this.” Ella told him.

“So she’ll have a map.” Roman said and grinned suddenly.

“What are you grinning at?” Ella asked a note of anger in her voice.

“Oh how clever our daughter is.” He said. “Ring Georgie and tell him that we’ve found her and see what he says.”

Ella looked at him putting her hand to her hip and easing her weight as she stood looking at him.

“You think this is a put on job?” she asked.

“What did Charlie say?” Roman asked quietly.

Ella spun around and grabbed her bag from the car. She pulled out her phone and dialled Georgie putting her phone on speaker. He answered on the first ring.

“Georgie. We think we’ve found her.” Ella murmured.

“You have?” he said sounding surprised.

Ella looked over at Roman and saw him smile.

“Yeah. She’s definitely been here.” Ella told him.

“She has?” Georgie said quickly his voice going up a notch.

“We’re just going to get something to eat and then we’ll be back home with her.” Ella told him.

“You can’t.” he said before he could stop himself.

“What was that?” Ella asked as though she hadn’t heard him.

“That will be good.” Georgie murmured.

They heard muffled voices in the background before Georgie came back on the line.

“I have to go Lily is crying.” He said ending the call.

Ella clicked her phone shut and looked at him.

“So what do we do now? That wasn’t concrete proof that she is somewhere safe.” Ella said biting her bottom lip.

Roman watched the movement of her tugging on that full bottom lip and turned his head away for a brief moment before looking at her. He took out his phone and dialled Miles’ number. The other man answered after a couple of rings.

“Miles.” Roman greeted him.

“Hello.” Miles said back.

“I need a favour.” Roman said immediately coming to the point.

He moved to the car and opened the passenger side door. Ella looked at him glaringly for a moment before going over and sitting in the car.

“What is it?” Miles asked him finally.

“We think the kids are doing a con on us.” Roman said quietly. “Georgie has runaway.”

“Georgie has?” Miles said and then swore as he realised what he’d just admitted.

“Thanks Miles.” Roman said grinning again. “Is she safe?”

“Sophie is upstairs.” Miles admitted. “Do I need to go get her?”

“No. We’ll be home soon. We’ll be having words.” Roman said to him. ”Speak soon.”

Roman ended the call and looked at Ella.

“She’s there?” Ella said. “How could they do this to me?”

“Ella they want us together.” Roman said trying to mediate on the children’s behalf.

She shook her head.

“It’s not going to happen.” She said a note of bitterness in her voice.

She sighed suddenly and leaned back in the seat.

“Come on I’ll get you home.” He told her.

She shook her head.

“I need to get something to eat.” She told him.

“Ella it’s getting late.” He murmured.

Ella looked at him.

“I feel very tired and cold and I know I need to eat.” She said again.

He looked around him before looking at her.

“Ok where do we go?” he asked her.

She moved her legs into the car and pulled the door shut as he climbed into the other side behind the wheel.

“Go down that street and turn left at the end. Follow the road down.” She said softly.

He did as she said casting the occasional worried glance over at her slumped in the front seat.

“Where next?” he asked after a time.

She sat up and looked out.

“Keep going.” She advised

He kept driving before he realised where she was directing them.

“Ella.” He muttered under his breath.

“Yes?” she asked innocently.

“Having a trip down memory lane?” he asked her sarcastically.

“Sorry?” she asked sitting up straighter.

“You are taking us to the restaurant we went to the night before we got married.” He pointed out.

She nodded.

“Yeah because it’s a good place to eat.” She explained. “You seriously can’t think I want to go there for any other reason.”

He sighed at the tone that entered her voice.

“How about a truce?” he asked after a moment.

“For what reason?” she replied quickly.

“Because getting at each other might make Sophie run away for real.” He suggested turning down a street and slowing the car.

“Don’t guilt trip me.” Ella snapped.

He pulled over to the side of the road and turned off the ignition.

“Ella.” He said abruptly.

“No Roman. I’m fed up with dealing with the kids and this pregnancy and you avoiding us. If I call you don’t answer. I should have to go through Leona to get hold of you or that I can’t even go into the diner anymore. It’s like Summer Bay is your territory and I’ve been pushed out.”

“Ella it’s not like that.” He said quietly.

“Then please tell me what it’s like?” she said eventually turning and looking at him.

“You’ve got no idea how hard it is for me.” He said and didn’t miss her glancing involuntarily down his body. “I have to stay away from you.”

She gasped and looked at him in shock.

“I can’t be around you and not want you, and if you think it’s bad for you because you can’t go into the diner well tough I’m missing out on seeing you grown with our child, with holding you at night and feeling our baby move inside you. I’m missing seeing you laugh and hold my hand and kissing you. I am really missing being able to kiss you.” He ground out.

“Then why are you doing this to us?” she gasped out.

“Because if I stay with you I’m going to hurt you again.” He said simply.

She recoiled.

“Take us home.” She said after a moment.

“Ella I thought you needed food.” He said when the silence stretched between them.

“I do.” She told him. “But I can’t do this.”

“This?” he asked.

“Be with you.” She told him her voice rising.

He looked at her and started the car he was forced to wait a moment before he could pull back into traffic and set off. He continued down the road for a while before he passed the restaurant. He looked at the front of it as he drove past and swore silently under his breath. Pulling over suddenly in the only available parking spot her stopped the car and turned off the ignition.

“Come on.” He said.

She looked over at him.

“What?” she asked puzzled.

“Ella you need food and I need to stretch my legs.” He told her.

She shook her head.

“I’m still going to go stretch my legs so you might as well get some food.” He pointed out.

She looked at him and then checked the mirror before getting out of the car and moving slowly around it and on to the pavement. He joined her and held out his hand to her. Ella looked at his hand for a long moment before putting hers in it and when she looked at him he smiled at her.

“Just so you know this isn’t a date.” She told him.

“God no.” he agreed. “We are not going to be nice to each other and under no circumstances are you to enjoy yourself.”

She giggled suddenly and he stopped half turning to wards her.

“Just so you know.” She began again.

“There will be no kissing?” he asked.

She nodded.

“uh huh.” He murmured tugging on her hand gently.

She took a step towards him and he leaned down placing his lips on hers.

“Nope.” she said easing back. “No kissing.”

He grinned as he nodded.

“Can I just do something I’ve been dying to do?” he asked.

Ella looked around the busy street and blushed.

“Ella Harris.” He said reprovingly and watched as she blushed some more.

He leaned over to her and pressed his hand to the small of her back rubbing a smooth circle. She gave a little contented moan.

“Yes!” She exclaimed loudly.

“Uh huh.” He said again near her ear before he led her inside the restaurant. They were seated at a table quickly and ordered drinks. Ella looked at him and moved closer to him on the bench seat.

“More?” he asked and she blushed before nodding.

He put his hand to the small of her back and massaged the spot again.

“Oh god that is so good.” She cried out after a time.

He grinned.

“Missed this?” he asked cheekily.

She gave him a glare.

The drinks arrived and they gave orders for the food. Ella looked at him before moving.

“Ella.” He said stopping her. “Its ok.” he added.

She looked up at him before moving until she was back close to him. He put his arm around her and kissed the top of her head. He heard her sigh and a smile crossed his face.

“Missed you too.” he told her.

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