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Postcards from Hawaii

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Chapter 92

Roman shut up the diner and began making his way home. He’d worked right through until Christmas Eve because he wanted to make it up to his partners for not being there for so long. Plus come the New Year and he would be working on his restaurant. Heading home he thought about what awaited him; Lily was still being a pain because he hadn’t fetched either Mike or the kittens’ home, and now they had Marcus living with them. Ella had seemed to blossom over the past week, almost glowing and he smiled at that.

Tonight the kids would descend on them for the usual Christmas Eve buffet. Already a stack of presents resided under the tree but he knew that Ella had more planted all over the house. He grinned as he imagined the look on her face in the morning when she spotted her stocking. He planned a few surprises, first some new charms for her bracelet and then a new necklace. Ella was hard to shop for, not because she was fussy, on the contrary she loved everything he’d ever bought her, no it was more because she didn’t need anything. She rarely wore jewellery around the house, likewise make-up or perfume and she had a full wardrobe of clothes, including handbags, shoes and accessories.

Walking into the house he found it strangely quiet and smiled. That was never a good thing. Heading into the kitchen he looked around noticing that the tops were clear and the room was tidy, pausing to put the kettle on to boil he headed out to the garden. The kids were around the pool or in their section playing. He noticed that Daniella was with the twins along with Kai, which meant that Toby and Amy-Belle were here. Scanning around, he didn’t spot Ella and frowned again before turning around and checking out the house.

First stop the study, and then upstairs and into the bedroom. He smiled when he saw her sitting on the floor surrounded by presents she had wrapped and gifts she was in the process of wrapping. Every year she spent ages making sure the presents looked special. Moving over to sit next to her on the floor he leaned close and kissed her. Immediately her arms wrapped around him and he sighed against her lips as he felt her hands on him.

“Hey you,” he murmured easing away and looking into her eyes.

“Hey yourself, Soldier,” she murmured back.

“I thought we’d finished the shopping,” he said unaware he was pouting at her.

“I know, but I just wanted to get a few more bits,” Ella responded not quite meeting his eyes.

Roman looked down and gulped.

“Who is that for?”

“What?” Ella looked down and grinned as she saw what he was focused on, “Oh this?” She held up the small baby’s cardigan and booties set.

“Yes that,” Roman muttered giving her a look and being forced to watch as Ella bit her bottom lip and gave him a look in return, one of those sly looks from underneath her lashes. Seriously if he had managed to knock her up after going through the pain of a vasectomy he was going to go kill someone.

“Well,” she placed the cardigan on her lap as she inspected the booties.

“Elizabeth Louisa Laura Addison Harris,” Roman muttered not noticing he’d automatically added the Harris bit.

“It’s for Gabby,” Ella told him softly.

“Wait, our Gabby?”

“You know another one Soldier?” Ella tilted her head and looked at him.

“But wait she’s only…”

“I know she and Jacob are just back together,” Ella sighed, “Anyway, it’s not for now, it’s for…well, in a couple of months she’ll probably tell us…”

“Oh, your witchcraft,” Roman let out a loud sigh of relief.


“A little.”

“I see,” Ella looked down at the cardigan and it was like Roman could read her mind because he felt like she was suddenly incredibly sad.

“We can’t afford for you to be pregnant again,” he pointed out in a gentle voice before leaning forward and putting his finger under her chin to lift her head slightly. She met his gaze and he leaned in closer to press his lips to hers.

“I know that,” Ella kissed him back, “Just…” she sighed again and he felt his heart thumping in his chest.

“El?” he questioned.

“We’d have a baby now,” she whispered.

“I know,” he replied, thinking of the baby they had lost a few months before the divorce. He felt himself sinking into depression. If she’d had that baby there was no way they would have ended up getting divorced but then if that hadn’t had happened there was no way they would have been like this. Sometimes he wanted to punch fate in the face for all the cruel tricks it seemed to like playing on them.

“Mia is giving her baby up for adoption,” Ella murmured slowly, “We were in a meeting at Doc’s today.”

“Ah,” Roman looked down. Part of him wanted to tell her they would adopt Mia’s baby but another part of him liked this Ella, who was a mum and a photographer.

“We were asked if we wanted to consider it,” She continued.

Roman gulped and found his mouth opening and closing without saying anything. If Ella wanted to adopt Mia’s baby he would find himself adopting Mia’s baby. Because he was just so crazy about Ella, oh and she had her ways of getting him to do things he wouldn’t normally do.

“Don’t worry, I said no,” she added after a while.

“Phew,” Roman said before he could stop himself. He grimaced expecting the usual poke in the ribs and frowned when she laughed at him instead.

“I was tempted but no, we need to spend time working on us and our family,” she murmured when he gave her a look.

Shaking his head he refrained from comment and looked around at the chaos that seemed to be surrounding her.

“I think we need to discuss your apparent addiction to shopping,” he murmured.

“Mine? And I suppose I wasn’t to notice the pile of packages that were in the bottom of your wardrobe?”

“Uh huh,” Roman eased up and moved over to the wardrobe. He opened it up and picked out a number of presents before going to sit back with her. Looking at them he picked one up and placed it in her hands.

“I’m not opening this,” she muttered before giving the small box a shake.

“Of course you won’t,” he told her.

She shot him a look before glancing at the box again. With a sigh she pressed it back into his hands and shook her head.

“Really don’t want to open this present. Really?” He asked shaking the box again.

“Roman Harris,” Ella groaned and snatched the box from his hands and ripped off the wrapping.

He watched her with a smile on his face as she opened the small jewellery box and looked at the contents.

“A ring?” she gave him a glare.

Roman continued to smile as he took it out of the box and took hold of her right hand, sliding the ring on to her finger.

“It’s a promise ring, I promise to be faithful, loyal and loving,” he murmured.

A scathing note entered her voice, “And what do you want me to promise?”

“That you’ll marry me in five years? That you’ll keep doing kinky sex things? That you’ll…..” he paused, “Oouf!” he gasped out, “Dammit woman I knew I should have held both of your hands!”

She poked him in the ribs for a second time before looking down at the ring on her finger. It was a simple silver band with two hearts entwined on it. Pretty, simple and not flashy. Just the way she liked her jewellery, he thought with a smug smile as he watched the expression on her face.

“I suppose you want a present to open now too?” She said after a long pause.

He gave her a look before frowning slightly at her expression. She was biting on her bottom lip again and starting to look worried.

“El?” he questioned.

Ella eased up on to her knees and reached across to her dresser drawer. She opened it and took out an envelope before handing it to him to open. He looked down at it and slowly turned it in his hands so that he could slide his finger underneath the back flap and open the envelope. Inside was a sheet of paper and another envelope. This one he recognised and knew that he was now frowning as he looked at it.

“Read the letter,” she instructed, her voice sounding husky to his ears.

Opening the folded paper he scanned the lines before reading it for a second time as it didn’t seem to sink in on the first reading.

‘Roman, I’m giving you your ‘honeymoon’ for Christmas. I know you didn’t want to give the tickets away so I’ve arranged for babysitters. Nic & Geoff, along with Aden & Belle, and their families, are moving in to take care of the kids for the two weeks we’ll be away. We’re going to Hawaii baby, Hawaii!!! Love El xxxxx’

“Seriously? But what about..”

“Look at the booking,” she said rolling her eyes at him.

Roman leaned forward and kissed her before he looked at the tickets. In three weeks. She’d arranged for them to go in three weeks’ time. She’d booked the same hotel he’d chosen and he smiled at that before feeling tears pricking his eyes. Dammit, he was not an emotional sissy he muttered to himself even as he reached for her and pulled her into his arms.

“Thank you,” he whispered before kissing her.


Roman finished up in the kitchen. He’d made a variety of dishes for the annual Christmas Eve buffet, with the help of both Sophie and Mia, the other girl wanting to do something to help repay them for having her there. He pointed out she didn’t have too, just as he did when it was Danni insisting on repaying them in a similar fashion when she’d first moved in. He was glad he was home and knew that it showed. Ella would look at him with that teasing expression on her face just like she knew what he was thinking.

Moving into the lounge he saw her sitting with the younger children, including Marcus, playing a board game, Snakes and Ladders. Lily was sitting next to Marcus and kept giving him looks to which the poor boy was oblivious.

“Food Dada?” Liam called looking over at him.

“Soon,” Roman murmured as he walked over to them and eased down next to Ella, “Who’s winning?”

August pointed to the board and smiled, “Me’s Dada,” she lisped sweetly.

The door opened to admit Nic and Geoff, followed by Robbie, Angel and Mira. Roman shot up and headed over to them. He hugged his daughter first before shaking Geoff’s hand.

“Do you think she told him?” Nic drawled.

“She did,” Geoff said back.

“Told him what?” Another voice asked.

Roman turned and shot his former comrade a look as Jacko sheepishly stepped over the threshold.

“Jacko?” Roman asked puzzled before turning to Ella.

“Not Christmas without Jacko.”

“Hello Old man,” Lily piped up.

“Huh,” Jacko grunted, “someone needs to teach that kid a lesson in manners,” he muttered before grinning at Roman’s expression, “and I’m still waiting for an answer,” he added.

“Oh, Dad and El are going away for a holiday,” Nic said in a quiet voice checking to make sure that the younger kids weren’t listening in.

“Really?” Jacko asked shocked.

“We’re heading to Hawaii,” Roman confirmed in an equally quiet voice.

“Does this mean we’ll finally find out the reason you kept that hideous Hawaiian shirt?”

Roman felt his face flushing at Jacko’s question and looked up in shock at Aden’s husky chuckle. Whenever there was something embarrassing his foster son seemed to appear. He contented himself with a glare at Jacko before moving aside and letting them all come in. Then it was getting drinks sorted, over-excited kids, including Nicole, settled down watching a film as he put out the food. In the midst of the chaos Pete turned up soon followed by Toby with Amy-Belle and Kai. Then Mike finally pitched up. His son seemed to drift away to speak privately to Nic and he grinned as he worked out why.

“Hey Soldier,” Ella murmured stroking her hand down his back as she moved to get herself some food.

“Jacko and Pete?”

“I’m going to make them babysit too,” Ella said with a smile.

“I can see Pete not being impressed,” Roman murmured back, “He’s a little on edge....” his eyes straying to where the two men were seated with a beer.

“Going to propose to Charlie tomorrow, he wanted to have a word with you first.”

“Me why?” Roman flushed when Ella gave him a look and he realised that it was about his former relationship with Charlie, “It was a lifetime ago,” he said feeling defensive.

“Still, he needs to talk,” Ella smirked at him before leaning up on tiptoes and kissing him.

Roman immediately put his arm around her and grinned.

“Guess this means the Malt coming out tonight,” he murmured.

Ella chuckled.

“Go and have fun,” she whispered and kissed him again before moving away and reclaiming her seat. Roman watched her for a second before getting out the whiskey and the glasses and moving to sit with Jacko and Pete. Christmas with his family.

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Chapter 93

Roman grabbed the pink fizzy wine and two glasses and the throw from the sofa and making sure that no one was paying attention to him he eased out of the back and down to the orchard. There he began to light the candles and the lanterns after placing the glasses and bottle on the small round cast iron patio table nearby. The throw he put on the hammock and with any luck he would be able to steer Ella out of the house and down here. He wanted to just spend some time alone with her to celebrate their first Christmas back as a couple. Yeah, okay, he was getting mushy, he thought with a grin but this stuff was important, the small stuff along with the big stuff and he was damned if he was going to take their relationship for granted again.

Heading back up to the house he saw Ella moving through the lounge checking on everyone, especially Mia and Marcus, making sure that they felt included amongst the group. Not that Marcus really needed encouragement, the small boy messing about with Sammy and teasing Meggy just like he had never left. Luckily he was still impervious to Lily’s apparent crush. He cast his mind back a year, remembering when Doc’s were coming to claim Marcus from them and how it was Lily who had kicked up a fuss. At the time he put it down to their daughter being stubborn but now, with the help of Ella’s insight he saw it differently. Their daughter really was in love with the boy. Poor Marcus, he thought with irony as he watched his kittens weave amongst the people gathered in the room, Lily having finally got her way over that.

This reminded him of the fact that he needed to check on something in the garage for tomorrow and he grinned as he eased out of the room.

“What was Dad grinning at just now?” Nic murmured to Ella.

“Got no idea,” Ella shrugged, “And usually at Christmas time that is never a good sign.”

“You just don’t want..”

“Any presents? No, I’ve got enough stuff, as your father and everyone else keeps reminding me,” she grinned at her stepdaughter.

Nic giggled as she gave Ella a look.

“So we aren’t to notice that you appear to be wearing a new ring,” she murmured, “Pretty sure I saw Dad coming out of the jewellers near my shop a few weeks back,”

“I hope that just explains this ring,” Ella muttered and grinned as Nic gasped.

“Step-mama you take that back, a girl can never have too much jewellery!”

“What are you talking about now Nicole?” Belle overheard part of their conversation.

“I think she wants more diamonds for Christmas,” Amy-Belle murmured to her mother moving to sit next to them.

“You need to be careful you don’t get any diamonds the way that my brother is looking at you,” Nic grinned as she looked at her foster-niece.

“That isn’t going to happen any time soon,” Amy-Belle muttered drinking from her glass quickly.

Belle looked at Ella as her daughter spoke before casting a glance at Toby, the tall young man standing the other side of the room with Mike and Brett. She frowned slightly before speaking, “Do you want him to propose?” She asked her daughter.

“Maybe, I don’t know,” Amy-Belle shrugged.

“Uh huh,” Ella murmured looking over at Toby herself. She saw Roman in his every gesture and not just the way he looked. How he moved his hands as he talked, the way he tilted his head when he was focusing on something. She would have given anything to have raised him and Gabby but knew somehow that this was the way it was meant to be.

“Aren’t I good enough for a daughter-in-law?”

Ella frowned at the edge to Amy-Belle’s question before turning and giving the girl a look.

“No, certainly not.”

“What?” All three chorused.

“Oh come on, whoever my kids marry is automatically accepted into the family. Like I’m going to be any different for Amy-Belle,” Ella shook her head before standing and easing away. She made her way into the kitchen and poured out another drink for herself before spotting Roman at the door.

“Come here,” he said quietly.

“Here where? Don’t tell me there is something wrong with Flopsy?”

“Flopsy is fine,” Roman told her taking hold of her hand and leading her down the garden and over to the hammock. Ella sighed looking around the garden before he ushered her over to the hammock and she cautiously climbed on to it. Looking around she took in the candles and then he placed a glass of fizzy cava into her hand.

“Roman Harris,” Ella muttered taking a sip of the sweet pink wine. She smiled as he eased slowly on to the hammock beside her and proceeded to lie down, leaving her no choice except to lay next to him.

“It’s our first Christmas again,” he whispered in her ear as he settled next to her, “I wanted to spend a few minutes with just you,” he added.

Ella sighed as she eased into his arms and then sighed again as he pulled the throw over them. She gave a giggle as the hammock moved and she had to cling on to her glass so not to spill her drink.

“And you couldn’t think of a better place?” she muttered the question trying to drink from the glass without spilling anything. She groaned as the liquid sloshed around the glass and spilled over her chin and down her neck.

Roman laughed before leaning down and kissing her. He trailed kisses down her neck and licked off the spilled cava smiling at her when she moaned softly under her breath.

“Like that?” he whispered near her ear.

“No,” she muttered, “we aren’t staying out here all night and no, I’m not having sex with you in this hammock, just because you want to see if it can be done,” she murmured pushing at him with her free hand.

Roman laughed at her as he eased away and allowed her to climb off and stand up.

“How is Flospy?”

“Flopsy is fine,” he murmured, “Are you sure this is the way you want to go?”

“It will make her like you again and anything that stops Lily being a pain in the… neck,” she amended what she was going to say, “is worth it.”

“Better hope Liam doesn’t get upset,” he said looking at her as he climbed off the hammock himself.

Ella pointed to a seat next to the wrought iron table and he sat down giving a grunt as she perched herself on his lap.

“Liam is going to be fine with his present of a sleeping bag and tent. He wants Dada to treat him like one of his big brothers and take him camping,” she murmured and kissed Roman as she saw him start to pout at her.

She found herself wrapping her arms around his neck and enjoying the kissing. Enjoying the scent of her man as she kissed him back, the feel of his arms around her that always made her feel safe and secure.

It was some time before they made their way back up to the house. They immediately saw all the kids, including a very excited Nicole gathered around the tree waiting to open their Christmas Eve presents.

“Where have you been?” Mike muttered at them, his arms folded across his chest.

“Down the garden,” Ella answered trying not to blush.

“And what…. Never mind,” Mike muttered turning away.

“Presents?” Lily called out pointing to the stack she had placed in front of her.

Ella grinned because she knew that some of them would be for other people, her daughter either just liking the look of the wrapping paper or the size of the presents. She felt Roman let go of her hand and she grinned over at him before heading over to the tree and helping her babies select the traditional Christmas Eve presents. She knew that Roman was watched her and grinned when he came over and reached under the tree to find one of his presents.

“Didn’t I give you one…” she began to murmur to him breaking off when she felt people looking at her, Mike in particular seeming to smirk at her.

Roman chuckled and leaned forward to whisper in her ear making her feel like she was blushing even harder.

“You!” she groaned.

She spotted Mia holding back and reached under the tree for one of the girls presents, finding the one that Amy-Belle had gifted the young girl and eased up and over to her placing it in Mia’s hands.

“What.. but… I er…” Mia blushed.

“It’s tradition, one present now, one present at breakfast and then we open the rest just before lunch tomorrow,” Ella explained, “I see my girls have been remiss in telling you about your new Christmas traditions,” she added softly.

“My new..” Mia stuttered.

“If you want to stay with us,” Ella added slowly.

“I do,” Mia gasped and blinked back tears before moving over to the long sofa and sitting down on it. She looked at the present and read the label, “Amy-Belle?”

“That’s me,” AB murmured moving to sit near her, “Oh that one, well open it,” she instructed.

Mia cautiously ripped off the wrapping and looked at the pregnancy book inside. She gasped softly before lifting her face up and giving Amy-Belle a look.

“I didn’t know I wanted to keep Kai until well, moments before giving birth. If I had any sense I would have read this book and it would have helped me prepare. I didn’t know anything,” AB slowly explained her reasoning. She gave Ella a small smile and then her eyes sought out those of her mother before looking back at Mia, “I did some bad things to people that cared for me as I figured it out and I know you aren’t in the same place as me but anyway, I thought you should be prepared,” she sucked in a breath.

“People here in this room have been adopted,” Danni spoke up her eyes scanning the room before finding Gabby’s, the other girl standing nearby, and then speaking again, “some stories are good, some are bad but the main thing is you don’t have to decide right now and you don’t have to be alone, we’re family now, right El?”

“We are,” Ella confirmed softly.

Marcus grinned at Mia and ran over to them from his place next to Sammy near the tree.

“All of us,” he told the girl before laughing as Ella lifted him on to her lap and gave him a cuddle.

“See, this is why I just never want to come to these things, if you don’t end up married to someone you end up adopted…” Jacko muttered to Pete and spun on his heel to head into the kitchen where the Malt was stashed.

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Chapter 94

Roman woke up slowly and looked around where he was for a moment as the confusion of not sleeping in his bed cleared. He was on an airplane, in business class heading on a flight to Hawaii. With Ella. He turned his head and looked at her, she was still asleep and he smiled at that.

Christmas had passed in a blur of activity, first had come the millions of presents for the kids, including the rabbit for Lily, that she had christened ‘Flower’. Then they had Christmas dinner that had included gathering all the family together, and then they had headed down to the beach on Boxing Day. He and the boys had gone surfing before they’d had a game of cricket that somehow included Jacko, the other man not fond of the beach. Or the water. Still between Lily and Meggy he’d been persuaded. That was the start of the argument between him and Ella, when he’d noticed that Meggy had a crush on his former sergeant.

Pete and Charlie had swung by whilst they were on the beach to share the news of their engagement followed by Jack coming to spend time with Marcus and then it had become a beach party with Rachel and Tony joining them, Miles and Leona.

He wasn’t entirely sure the first argument with Ella had stopped when they’d started up again. He knew that she hadn’t been impressed with the joke presents he’d bought her and placed in her stocking and somehow in the middle of the ‘discussion’ they were having over Meggy this subject had been brought up. Later, when they had managed to smooth things over and had found time to spend together they’d been interrupted when Lily ran in and announced that Sammy’s rabbits were hugging her rabbit. That is when he found out that he’d somehow managed to buy a girl rabbit whilst Sammy’s were boys. They’d separated them but by then he was convinced that the damage was done and in a matter of weeks they would have some baby rabbits. Ella had shouted at him then, calling him a few choice names and in a way it was a relief. Their first argument was out of the way.

Except it wasn’t.

For some reason there was some underlying tension between them that he couldn’t put his finger on and he didn’t like it. He hated being with her and not really being with her. She was right next to him and he couldn’t reach out and hold her hand. It reminded him too much of the way they were on the flight back from Bosnia before they’d divorced and he grimaced at reminding himself of it.

“Can I get you anything sir?”

The question from the stewardess broke into his thoughts. Looking over at Ella he smiled as he saw her stirring.

“Can we get a couple of coffees?” he murmured.

“And a diet coke,” Ella added her voice muffled by the cover over her.

“Certainly,” the stewardess murmured and moved away down the aisle.

“Flirting with another woman?” Ella said easing the cover down and looking at him.

“Of course I wasn’t,” he muttered frowning at her before realising that she was teasing him. He half-groaned and gave her a look.

“Do we need to talk Roman?” Ella asked after a moment.

“You’ve been quiet on me,” he finally broached the subject that was on his mind.

“I’ve been thinking about things,” she answered him, “But well… it’s nothing important,” she added quickly when he looked at her.

“And it’s something you can’t tell me?”

He watched as Ella adjusted the chair she was in so that she was once more upright. She looked over at him and held out her hand, giving him one of her smiles when he automatically placed his hand within hers. He never was this demonstrative with anybody else he realised suddenly. Stroking his thumb over her fingers he found himself looking down at her hand in shock when he realised she was wearing a ring on the third finger of her left hand. Not her wedding band, but the eternity ring.

“El,” he murmured.

“Thought it was about time I gave some commitment back to you,” she told him.

He found himself lifting her hand and pressing a reverent kiss to her hand.

“Thank you,” he said, his voice sounding husky to his own ears and he smiled as he saw Ella blushing.

He was always surprised that she never accepted how beautiful she was. He loved her hair, the way it curled when it was wet and more importantly how it looked spread across the pillow as he made love to her. He grinned suddenly because in a few hours they would be in a hotel room without the kids threatening to barge in on them. Especially Lily.

Roman stepped out the bathroom and smiled as he saw Ella hanging up the last of their clothes. The room was painted magnolia with one wall a deep burgundy colour. Matching bedding and other accessories were scattered around the room whilst discrete wall lights illuminated the room. Next to a small round table and chairs was a two-seater sofa facing the TV unit and there were doors leading out to a small balcony where there was a couple of sun loungers and another small table and chairs. He looked out there now, seeing a full moon hanging low over the ocean.

“I’m heading for the shower,” Ella called and stepping inside the small en suite before he could say anything.

Reaching for the tourist bumf they put in the rooms he scanned the material making note of various popular destinations. They’d also brought their surfboards with them, currently being looked after downstairs in storage by the hotel. He smiled as he thought about sharing some precious time with Ella and catching some major surf.

“Hey,” she called interrupting his wayward thoughts as she came out of the shower with a towel wrapped around. He smiled over at her before standing up and stretching. “You should grab a shower,” she instructed, “It really gets the kinks out.”

Walking over to her he placed a swift kiss to her lips and disappeared into the bathroom. El was right, he thought a few minutes later as the hot water jetted on to his skin and eased his tired muscles. Finished washing he climbed out of the shower and looked in the mirror above the sink. He should have had a haircut before coming he thought critically as he appraised himself, seeing that his blond hair was at that length now where it was just starting to curl. Running a hand over his face he reached for his shaving kit and gave himself a quick shave too, not that he was expecting anything to happen tonight, apart from maybe some room service and then sleep. He’d forgotten how tiring it was flying over time zones he thought yawning as he stepped through to the other room. He stopped dead as he looked at her.

“Problem soldier?” Ella asked in a sassy tone.

Roman shook his head in wonderment.

“How did you…”

“Remember?” Ella asked him as she tugged on the edges of the Hawaiian shirt she was wearing as she knelt up in the centre of the bed.

“Yes,” he murmured looking at her.

“Let me see, you said and I believe I quote here, that you wanted to make love to me on the beach in Hawaii whilst I’m wearing this very shirt, under..” she paused and gestured to the open balcony doors, “a full moon!”

Roman narrowed his eyes and gave her a look as he folded his arms across his chest.

“So that is what you were plotting?”

“Had to work it all out, was a bit worried I had the wrong days but here we are; you, me, the beach, the shirt and even the full moon. Whatya say solider?”

Roman dropped the towel and moved over to claim his board shorts. He tugged them on, grabbed the room key even as he thrust his feet into his trainers and collected a t shirt.

“In a hurry?” Ella asked.

“Better believe it, been over twenty years since I made that promise,” he muttered.

Ella eased off the bed and put her feet into her plimsolls before following him out of the room and over to the elevators. Along with the shirt she was wearing a yellow bikini, obviously chosen because it was the one colour that didn’t clash with the pattern on the shirt and a pair of jean shorts. She’d also parted her hair and put it in two plaits whilst he’d been showering and he vaguely remembered that she’d had her hair the same way back when he’d made the stupid vow.

Turning to her as they stood together in the elevator he leaned forward and kissed her.

“So did any of them guess?”

“You mean Miles and Jacko?” Roman shook his head, “pretty sure they have no idea that I kept this shirt, not because I ever expected to keep a drunken promise but because it was something tangible, something that connected us.”

Ella smiled before kissing him back.

“I think we’re pretty connected right now,” she whispered looking down at his arm that he’d wrapped around her.

Roman grinned back at her before he led her out of the elevator and walked through the lobby and out the front doors. Then it was a short walk over to the beach. They passed a few people on the way, finding themselves giggling as they held hands and kissed.

“I can’t believe that we are acting like…”

“Teenagers?” Ella murmured.

“Yeah pretty much,” he chuckled and glanced around before he guided her over to a secluded bit of the beach.

“Well if we get arrested I’m so calling Jacko to come bail us out,” she threatened him.

Roman laughed even as he pushed her down to the sand and covered her body with his own. He wished that he could write poetry at that moment because the way the moon was painting her delicate beautiful features with silver was magical. Even caught up with loving her he still found that he glanced around self-consciously before grinning as she chuckled at him.

“Woman, you need to stop that,” he mock-growled at her, “I’m starting to get a complex!”

Ella laughed at him before she squirmed out of his hold and shot to her feet, running down to the water’s edge before looking over at him. He found he was ridiculously happy as he shot up and ran over to her.

“I love you,” she whispered as he picked her up and held her against him. He kissed her passionately before once more laying back on the soft sand, the soft cotton of the very shirt that he’d held on to all these years falling away as he parted it to touch her body.

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Chapter 95

Roman awoke in the big bed alone. As he came too he looked around and grinned as he saw Ella sitting at the table with her camera beside her and the laptop in front of her.

“Morning sleepy head,” she called before pouring out a cup of coffee and bringing it over to him.

“Hey you,” he said softly taking the cup and putting it to one side before he leaned forward and kissed her. She smiled at him and kissed him back. “Tell me that you got up..”

“At some ridiculous time of the morning to take pictures of the sunrise? Yes, and now I want to go shopping and then some beach time…” she murmured.

“Really, so you don’t want to come back to bed for a bit…”

“A bit of what Soldier?” Ella asked leaning forward and kissing him again.

“Well… we do have this very impressive bed…”

“I recall that we managed to use most of this bed last night after we came back from the beach.. speaking of that… I er, well, sent Jacko a picture of ..”

“God now what?” Roman groaned, “You are determined to get me into trouble..”

“A picture of your shirt hanging on the back of a beach chair with a message…” she continued with a laugh, “telling him that as he didn’t guess he owed you a case of malt whisky.”

“Ella Harris,” Roman groaned, not even realising that he’d used the name Harris again.

“Hey, I figured you’d need some whisky to help you recover…”


Ella smiled and pushed him back amongst the pillows.

“From my sexual demands,” she whispered before kissing him.

Roman chuckled as he kissed her back. He was so in love with her, the only drawback was that she wasn’t his wife but he shoved that niggling thought to the back of his mind.

“Love you,” he whispered as he kissed his way down her neck.

It was quite some time later when Ella looked over at him, “Want some breakfast?”

“I need to keep my strength up so yeah,” he murmured and grinned presumably because she was blushing at him.

“Okay, Soldier,” she groaned and moved over in the bed before grabbing the hotel phone off the nightstand and made the call down to reception. She ordered more coffee to start with and then a full breakfast for him and some toast for her before hanging up. She couldn’t help watching him as he climbed out of the bed naked and walked over to the en suite.

“I like this,” he said when he caught her looking.

“Us being naked, yeah, I think before the twins were born,” she made a small grimace with her mouth before relaxing her face and smiling back at him.

“We’re definitely going to do this again…”

“Wow really?”

“I meant come away on holiday,” Roman chuckled before pushing the door closed as he used the bathroom. He came out a few minutes later a towel slunk low around his hips and moved over to the small balcony and looked out at the water.

“Kids come with us first,” Ella said quietly.

“I know,” he turned and gave her a look, “I was thinking we could take them interstate on a road trip. Maybe do some camping.”

“Yeah, I’m going to love that aren’t I?” She knew she was pouting.

“Actually, take two cars, maybe hire a camper van so I and boys can sleep out and you and Sophie can sleep inside. The twins and Lily will no doubt be staying at home because of the mountain of rabbits we have and well they have to look after the cats,” he murmured.

Pausing as there was a knock at the door and the announcement of room service, Ella stood from the bed and pulled on the hotel bathrobe before answering the door. The waiter discretely brought in the food and set it on the table clearing away the coffee order from earlier before leaving the room. Roman moved to the table and sat down looking at her as she moved to sit next to him, putting the laptop to one side.

“You forgot to mention Meggy,” she pointed out.

“I’m not sure the convent will allow her to come with us,” he referenced the earlier argument about their daughter’s attachment to his former sergeant.

She leaned back in her chair and glared at him, her mouth dropping open in shock before realising he was teasing her.

“Not funny Mister, I swear if you ever let on to Meggy you spotted her crush I will do nasty things to you,” she waved her hand at him and caught him smirking again before he captured her hand and removed the knife from it, placing it back down on the plate with her toast.

“Is it just a crush?” He asked quickly and she sighed at the worried frown that creased his forehead.

“Yeah,” she told him, her voice gentle, “She hasn’t met hers yet,” she added.

“I just know..”

“Hey, things may have been a little rocky between us but I’m glad you were my first love,” she murmured looking at him.

“Yeah, your very first,” he commented.

“You so can’t be smug about that still?”

Roman grinned at her before he spread a slice of the toast and placed it on a plate for her.

“Your first kiss, your first…”

“Thanks, I think we all know….”

She groaned at his smug look before he leaned forward and kissed her again.

“I packed my sketchbook and materials,” he said slowly.

“I’m not posing for you,” she shot back hastily, feeling her cheeks warm under his scrutiny.

“Yes you are,” he ignored her shaking her head, “I want to draw you again, I want to finish it this time,” he added.

“You mean now that you remember me?”

“I remembered your freckles,” he protested.

Ella glared at him before having to deal with him standing and moving over to her. He loosened the belt around her waist so that he could slip the bathrobe off one of her shoulders.

“These, here,” he murmured quietly, “The shape and position of them, telling you that they would will always lead you home because these freckles would guide you back. The Southern Cross,” Lowering his head he kissed the freckles that were so similar to the constellation that signified Australia, “It wasn’t until Cyprus that I remembered them. Lying with you under the stars and tracing the patterns of the stars on your skin.”

Ella sighed at the touch of his lips on her skin before she met his loving gaze and shared a smile with him. Standing up she opened the bathrobe and pointed to the heart and daisy tattoo on her hip.

“See this,” she began in a halting voice, “If you look carefully at the daisies you might notice the strange placement of the daisies.”

Roman chuckled under his breath as he knelt down and looked. He gave a small gasp as he realised.

“Southern Cross?”

“That’s what I originally had tattooed there when I was 14,” Ella finally confessed, “But well after some time I changed it, I er… got over you.”

“But you still had a heart done?”

“I knew that the loveheart represented that I could love and the daisy chain bound my heart to be careful and not …”

“Fall in love with someone like me again?”

“I wasn’t in love with you at 13, I wouldn’t have known what love was, let alone the fact that the first boy who kissed me had a girlfriend already,” she gave a sigh before sitting down and closing the robe.

Roman had been eager to visit his parents for some time and they had finally made the trip a couple of weeks back. He hadn’t explained what he was looking for until they’d been outside his parent’s address.

Running with Georgie had led to him being reminded him of his time doing athletics and when he’d been a teenage combining not only cross-country running with its demanding schedule of training, practice and events but also somehow cooking in his father’s restaurant and his artwork. Maybe that was why he had such a work ethic, never wanting to let her support them even though she was financially able too.

It also made her realise that she’d never asked him why his sister Meg was practically the only portrait he’d ever done, his talent being directed towards landscapes and nature and maybe she should have talked to him about it, encouraged him to start drawing again she thought with another touch of guilt at the way she’d never asked him about it when he was the one to forever encourage her drawing.

He’d gone on to explain that the first time he ever drew anyone it was this magical girl he’d met when he was a teenager, long before Nicole had been born. She smiled now as she thought about it but at the time he was telling her this story she’d been so jealous and even, she acknowledged now, hurt but then he’d leaned over in the car and kissed her before tracing the features of her face and murmuring that he’d never been able to really do this mysterious girl’s face.

They’d gone inside and spent time with his mother all the while she’d been feeling strange. Like something she should know. Something she should say, something she should confess to him. He searched for his drawings to see if he could find the picture that he had described to her and been depressed when it wasn’t there. Later they’d had dinner at his parent’s restaurant and it was there that he discovered not only the picture but that his Dad would have supported his artwork. It had healed something inside her man, made him feel more at peace with his past and when his parents had visited at Christmas they’d presented him with the portrait of his mysterious girl, the one he’d known as ‘Tania’.

She still couldn’t work out how she’d forgotten that she’d been the one he had referred to as his mysterious girl, circumstances at the time had made her give him the false name of ‘Tania’. The one who he met when they were kids and for her part she’d shut out for the longest time the magical kiss she’d had on a beach before her heart had broken when the boy of her dreams confessed he had a girlfriend. Now thinking about it she realised that she’d been afraid to remember on some level. That maybe if he’d broken up with Natalie and she’d been in contact with him then things would have been so different for them.

“So yes, I want to draw you again,” he murmured finally sitting back with his cooling breakfast.

“We’re supposed to be together,” she muttered also facing her breakfast of toast.

“Yes,” he said simply.

“Forever, it’s what fate is telling us.”

“Not going to argue with you about that one,” he shot her his little boy grin and she chuckled at him.

“Still not marrying you Harris!”

Roman laughed out loud before leaning across the table and kissing her.

“Wait until your asked,” he shot back.

“Ask me then,” she challenged.

Roman met her gaze and nodded. She knew she had his attention now and she smiled at that before finishing off her coffee and toast. She noticed that Roman was quiet before grinning as she slipped of her seat and into the en suite to get ready to go out.

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Chapter 96

Ella walked dejectedly back into the hotel alone. She was supposed to have been shopping, because that was the alibi she’d given Roman so she walked over to the front desk feeling every step in her tired frame and asked for the packages she’d left there earlier to complete her alibi.

“I’m sorry Mrs Harris, we don’t seem to be able to find them,” she was told after some minutes. After the frustrations of the day Ella was able to stand nothing further, Roman would never believe that she’d been shopping for the past three hours and managed to buy nothing. Especially here where she’d been tempted to buy almost everything she’d seen so far. What Roman didn’t know was that she’d packed a suitcase inside her suitcase so she’d have two to take home more than she came with. Not that he would complain that much, or at least not complain enough that she couldn’t ‘persuade’ him. She gave a fraught half-smile at imagining one of the many ways she could convince him before her face fell and she looked at the receptionist.

“Look, it’s simple, I left three bags here, one was blue, the other cream and….” Ella trailed off at the blank and slightly condescending expression of the receptionist behind the mahogany reception desk.

“Yes, you told me, but well I can’t see them in the storage room,” the receptionist murmured quietly, “and my colleague is no longer on duty to confirm…”

Ella shook her head and frowned. She could feel her throat clogging and tears pricking her eyes. This really was the last thing she needed.

“Look, I’ve had a really bad day and as much as I don’t want to shout at you I suggest that you disappear out the back and look again.”

“Madam,” the receptionist began to try and pacify her just as the manager came out of his office and walked over to them, obviously catching part of their conversation.

“Don’t even bother,” Ella snapped out, “Just go have a look and this time open your eyes…”

“Is there a problem?” This from the manager.

“Yes there is a problem, my bags seem to have vanished,” Ella snapped. She lifted her hand and pushed her sunglasses up to balance on the top of her head before fixing the incompetent receptionist with a glare. “I suggest that you go and double check,” she muttered.

“Rochelle, please check once more for Mrs Harris’s bags,” the manager instructed in a quiet voice.

“But as I was saying, I’ve looked and they aren’t there,” A whiny note entered Rochelle’s voice.

“Now,” he said and gave her a look.

Ella watched as the receptionist melted away and moved into the other room.

“While you are waiting perhaps you’d like to step into my office?” The manager was suggesting.

Ella rubbed at the spot between her eyes before heading after the manager. He pointed out a chair and she sank into it lifting her feet up from the floor for a moment to rotate them and ease the ache in them.

“Look I’m a reasonable person but right now I’ve reached the end of my tether.”

“I can see that, is there anything we can do to help?” The manager murmured calmly in the face of her distress and she didn’t know whether it was that or the way that her plans were falling apart but she burst into tears anyway.

The manager walked around his desk to sit next to her, he handed her some tissues from a box he had and she grabbed a handful trying to stem her tears.

“I wanted to do something for him,” she moaned.

“Perhaps if you were to tell me?”

Ella looked up and sighed loudly before wiping her eyes. Haltingly she began to explain.

Four nights earlier:

Ella looked over at Roman and smiled. He had been looking serious all night, like he had his mind on something else. They’d called the children tonight and maybe it was guilt because she’d been a bit tearful over hearing their voices.

As he guided them to the beach she slipped off her high-heeled shoes and held them in one had before taking hold of his again. It was nice to get dressed up and go out to dinner, even choosing a restaurant near the hotel so they walk there and back and could both have a drink.

“Penny for your thoughts?”

He turned and looked at her before looking up at the sky, seeing the smattering of stars and the still full moon above them.

“Just,” he began.

Ella looked up herself and smiled.

“Last night of the full moon,” she whispered.

“Last night of the magic?”

“Maybe,” she said softly and felt him tug on her hand as he turned to her. The silver hues on the gentle night tide looked like mermaids had painted the waves. They splashed onto the soft sand in gentle repetition. She could smell the perfume of flowers planted along the path that ran alongside the beach and felt like time stood still whilst he looked into her eyes. Even her heart seemed to pause for a beat.

“Ella, will you marry me?” he asked quietly.

“Expecting full moon magic to persuade me?”

Roman nodded at her.

“Yes,” she whispered and smiled as he pulled her closer and kissed her. She dropped her shoes to the sand as she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him back and the magic swirled around them.

Had Roman not been so preoccupied he would have noticed that there was someone following them back to the hotel.


“I see,” The manager murmured quietly when she’d reached the end of her ramble, “perhaps I could help?” he suggested.

“How?” Ella groaned aloud.

Without a word he moved around the desk and picked up his phone and dialled. She heard him speaking into it and it sounded like he was talking to someone he knew. She listened with half an ear as she thought about her day. How she’d sneaked away from Roman with the excuse that she wanted to go shopping whilst making him go for the run he wanted and then heading to City Hall to apply for the licence.

Ella looked up when a timid sounding knock at the door came. The managed paused in his conversation to issue a brief instruction and the door opened to admit the receptionist she’d been ready to slap earlier. She notice immediately that the three shopping bags she’d requested were in the receptionists hands and she moved over to collect them from her.

“I told you so,” she muttered giving her another glare.

“I’m sorry madam,” Rochelle said quietly before retreating from the room just as the manager hung up the phone.

He waited until the door closed before he spoke, “I think we can help you,” he announced.


“Wendy, my contact at City Hall, is going to come to the hotel and assist you in gaining the necessary signatures for the licence. Then we can go ahead and book it.”

Ella let out a big sigh before nodding.


“Is tomorrow soon enough for you? Once the paperwork is in hand we can arrange everything else,” he gave her a smile that seemed to calm her nerves and she nodded again.

“Thank you so much,” she said quietly.

“It is our pleasure to help out when we can,” he said.

After murmuring arrangements to meet up the following day, Ella eased out of his office and walked over to the bank of elevators. She headed to their room stepping in through the door just as Roman walked out of the en suite, a towel wrapped around his waist and another slung over his shoulders, his hair still wet from the shower. She could see glistening drops of moisture dotted here and there on his hard muscular chest and felt her breath catch in her throat as she looked at him.

“Did you have a good run?” She finally remembered to ask him.

Roman gave her a smile, and not just any smile, it was the ‘I know you want me’ smile and she couldn’t help licking her lips as she watched a droplet of water trail down his chest.

“It was good to get some exercise,” he said in a husky voice. His eyes shot to the bed and then back to her and she moaned before dropping her bags to the floor and stepping over to him. He laughed as he bore them both to the bed and began kissing her as he pulled her shirt out of the waistband of her skirt. She moaned as he slid his hands around her waist as he moved her under him.

“This is..” she moaned again when she felt his lips trace kisses down the side of her neck before he nibbled on that spot that always drove her wild. She pushed at his shoulders to stop him, laughing as he pouted, before they rolled over in the bed and she moved restlessly until she was sat astride him, her navy blue skirt pushed up over her thighs. He ran his hands over them and then skimmed up her body until he reached up and removed the grips from her hair and let it tumble down on her shoulders. He met her gaze with a rueful smile before they kissed once more, their tongues teasing each other just as their lips met and parted and met once more.

Her hands went to the buttons on her blouse and she began to undo the small pearl buttons with shaking fingers. He reached up and slid the silk garment off her shoulders and down her arms smiling as he saw the cream lace bra underneath.

“Very pretty,” he said softly.

He lifted his finger and traced the globe of her flesh just where the lace cup ended and she swore at him as a shudder ran through her body.

“Just get on with it Harris,” she moaned before laughed and he pulled her down on top of him.

“Love you,” he murmured as he kissed her.

“Well,” Ella murmured some time later.

“Well,” he mirrored.

Rolling over in the bed he traced a finger down her face before kissing her.

“That was pretty hot,” she said and felt herself go beet red.

“I noticed,” he kissed her before climbing out of bed and moving over to the en suite. She heard the shower come on and smiled as she also climbed out of the bed and moved into the shower too. He laughed and reached for the shower gel and pouring a measure onto the washcloth he began by washing her back.

“You know we’re going to have to make love again,” he whispered as he leaned down and kissed the back of her neck.

“I think we should wait, let the anticipation build a little,” she whispered in return.

“You would say that,” he mock-groaned seeming unable to stop the smile on his face as he looked at her.

“Let’s go, grab some beach time,” she murmured.

“Lunch first,” he announced, “I’ve been working up an appetite and then I think we should plan the next few days,” he added as he stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel. He handed the last clean towel to her as she moved out and switched the water off. She went over to the mirror and began to comb out her hair knowing that he was watching before he stepped through to the bedroom. She joined him moments later smiling because he’d made the bed and tidied up the bedroom, hanging up her skirt and blouse. She grinned at him as he dressed in shorts and t shirt before he collected up all the wet towels and took them through to the bathroom as she got dressed herself.

“Lunch,” she said to him in the form of a question.

“There is burger place a little way down the beach,” he paused as he pulled on his trainers, “or we could head to a restaurant in the main part of town and see what we end up with?”

“I don’t want to tackle the town again,” she told him unaware she was pouting. Looking around she noticed that he must have put her shopping bags somewhere and chuckled softly as he pointed to the chair next to the table.

“I’m not surprised,” he said drily.

“It was only a few things,” she pouted once more and fluttered her eyelashes at him.

“And the kids have only just had Christmas,” he pointed out.

“How did you…”

“I know that you’d bought things for them?”

Ella shook her head primly and groaned as he looked at her before coming over and kissing the end of her nose.

“You always spoil them,” he said quietly before he took her hand and gathering the door key as she grabbed her handbag he led them out of the room and over to the elevators.

They rode down to the lobby and stepped off to head out when they heard a voice calling Mr Harris. Pausing Roman turned and caught the hotel manager trying to get their attention.

“Is there a problem?” Roman asked.

“No problem, my colleague here, Wendy, was going over the receipts and we came across a discrepancy in the credit card details,” he explained.

Ella frowned for a second as she realised where she remembered the other woman from, City Hall. She narrowed her eyes and was about to speak before she realised what this was.

“I’ll just be over here for a minute,” she eased away and went to look in the hotel gift shop’s window.

Roman watched as Ella walked away and frowned slightly. He was still unsure about this relationship of theirs sometimes, for example was he supposed to sort everything out and then if he did would he overstep her boundaries. It could be so confusing. Putting that aside he focused on the man and woman in front of him.

“What seems to be the problem?”

“The room was originally booked with another card, we just need to see the card that you are paying with and take a signature from you,” the manager explained smoothly, “Won’t take a moment and we wouldn’t normally disturb you like this but well, it’s a matter of accounting,” he added.

Roman nodded and moved over to the manager’s office with them. He took out his wallet and showed the credit card that had been used when they booked it. It was true, originally he had used a different card to make the initial booking and he gave a wry grin.

“Thank you Mr Harris,” the woman called Wendy murmured. She seemed to consult a clipboard in front of her as though checking a list. “Ah, I see why we have an issue, it’s a different card altogether.”

“Was the confusion because it was booked under my wife’s name?” Roman murmured and then cursed under his breath, “Under the name Addison,” he corrected.

“Your wife has a different surname?”

“She’s not technically my wife at the moment but well I’m hoping that we can do something about that,” Roman said slowly.

“I see, well anyway, here,” Wendy passed back his card, “I’ve corrected the details in our records, now for the signature.”

She handed him a pen and pointed to the form watching as he signed it. Flicking over the page she pointed out the second place he had to sign and gave him a small smile. Roman looked at her with a puzzled frown on his face not certain he liked signing a document without being able to read it but he did so anyway.

“Is there a problem?” Ella asked from the doorway.

“Just collecting signatures here,” The manager put in smoothly.

Roman handed back the pen and put his wallet away.

“Do I need to sign anything?” She added slowly.

“Well, no it’s not needed,” the manager began before pausing as he looked at the woman, Wendy.

“I think that perhaps we could take a signature to be on the safe side,” she was saying.

Ella moved over to where Wendy was and looked down at the paperwork. She picked up the pen and Roman watched as she signed next to his on both pieces of paperwork. Her eyes seemed to go wide as she seemed to spot something he hadn’t seen on the second page before she looked at him and gave him a small smile.

“Shall we go?” She asked him.

Roman nodded and guided her out of the manager’s office. She walked next to him until they were at last outside the hotel.

“Any particular reason for that smile?” He asked her.

“What smile?”

“The one that reminds me of when Cookie used to sneak around the kitchen and steal my cream.”

“Oh, no reason…” Ella laughed softly before leaning up and kissing him, “I do love you,” she added.

“Yeah, I love you too,” he said back, “despite the fact that sometimes I have no idea what sneaky thing you are planning next,” he saw her give him a too-innocent smile and smiled back.

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Chapter 97

Roman woke up alone on what was their last full day in Hawaii. Tomorrow they would board a plane and head back home to Summer Bay. Looking around the room in puzzlement, he slowly eased up in the tangled bed covers and grinned slowly remembering the night before. The action dislodged the note that Ella must have left for him and he retrieved it as he placed his feet to the floor and read the brief explanation she’d written. Shopping again, he thought and knew that he’d pouted. Not that he begrudged her that but well, he would have liked to wake up with her and anyway since when was Ella a morning person, he asked himself as he stood and walked naked into the en suite.

Shower completed he stepped back into the other room wearing a towel around his hips when a knock at the door sounded. Moving over to open it he was taken aback at seeing the manager standing there.

“Is there another problem with my credit card?”

“No Sir, I’ve been instructed to bring you this,” the manager held up a suit. Pale cream with a white shirt and Roman could tell that it was a designer outfit.

“Is there a particular reason?”

“I believe this note will explain,” the manager told him.

Roman took the suit from him along with the note and frowned. He laid the suit carefully on the still, as yet, unmade bed and slipped open the envelope.

‘Roman, saw this whilst I was out shopping and thought you’d look hot in it!! Come and meet me for brunch? Love Ella xx’

He gave a puzzled look to the paper before looking at the manager still standing in the doorway.

“She also booked a car to take you there,” he intoned.

“Fine, I’ll be down presently,” Roman said finally.

He closed the door as the manager left and looked back at the suit before re-reading the note. This wasn’t like Ella. The early morning departures, the secrecy and it made him wonder if there was something wrong.

He was suddenly filled with horror. What if when they’d removed the cyst they found something else, something worse and she was keeping it from him? What if she was trying to give him the holiday she thought he wanted because their time was limited? He groaned aloud and rubbed a hand over his face before sighing. No. They didn’t have secrets anymore. They talked to each other. His eyes strayed to the suit and instead of calling her like he’d planned to find out what the hell was going on he found himself getting dressed in it.

Looking at the pale cream tie that went with the outfit he shrugged and began to wind the scrap of silk around the collar of his shirt. Looking in the mirror as he began to tie a perfect Winsor knot he stopped and took it off. It was too hot to wear and too cumbersome to have the jacket on too. He hung them in the wardrobe before slipping out of the shirt and placing a white vest top on before adding the shirt over the top and buttoning it back up. Then slipping his feet into his shoes he grabbed his phone, wallet and the hotel key before heading out of the room.

A grin crossed his face as he suddenly remembered the wet towel he’d left on the bed. Walking across the lobby he went out of the double doors and got into the car provided.

Ella paced nervously.

She covered the long stretch of beach with her bare footprints a couple of times before heading back to the flower covered archway. She looked up as the first car arrived and parked nearby, to emit the manager of the hotel and Wendy from City Hall. They were there to act as witnesses.

She smiled at them before nervously touching the cream lace dress. She had a silent bet with herself that Roman wasn’t wearing the tie. He hated ties. Looking down at her pale peach painted toenails she sighed. Choosing the beach for the ceremony was an easy decision to make compared to finding the right dress. She knew that Roman would expect something bridal, compared to her just wanting something to look special. The dress she’d finally chosen was a pale cream strappy number with layers of tulle over lace. It had a vintage quality to it. Nervously she smoothed a hand over it just as the second car arrived and Roman stepped out of it. Looking down at the spray of island flowers she had as her bouquet she gave a moaning little sigh. There was no way he was going to say no was there?

“Had to go and surprise me,” he said drily as he approached over the hot sand. With a sigh he bent down and removed his socks and shoes before easing up and heading towards her to stand in front of the flowered archway.

“Have you keep you on your toes soldier,” she murmured back to him surprised that she still sounded so nervous, “this is what you wanted isn’t it?” She asked quickly.

“I want this if you want it,” Roman replied.

Ella looked down for a moment and then cast her eyes around, a number of people were gathering to watch them and the nerves built up before she sucked in a breath and met his eyes.

“Yes I do,” she said quietly.

Together they turned and faced the man that Ella had arranged to perform the ceremony. He was dressed in a white bejewelled jumpsuit, a red silk scarf around his neck and tinted aviator sunglasses covering his eyes. Everything was trademark Elvis, including the quiff he had in his hair and Roman let out a laugh. Getting married on a beach, in Hawaii by an Elvis Impersonator. Who else but Ella would arrange that?

He began to repeat his vows to her as she did back to him and he pouted for a nanosecond because he didn’t have a ring to place on her finger before she opened up the small handbag she had strapped around her wrist and took out the two rings. As she held out her hand and showed him them he realised that she’d been thinking about this for a very long time because she had their wedding rings. Taking the ring from her hand with shaking fingers he murmured promises to her as he slid it on to her ring finger and then it was her turn and as he felt the ring slide on his finger he felt a sense of homecoming, of completion. This was why she did it of course, because she knew that he needed it. He needed these vows, these promises and even this ring on his finger.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife, you may kiss the bride,” Elvis intoned, sounding very much like the real Elvis.

Roman leaned down and pulled Ella into his arms. His wife. He lowered his head and pressed a soft kiss to her lips before becoming more passionate.

“Hello wife,” he said quietly looking into her eyes.

“Hello husband,” she said back.

Greeting the witnesses and the Elvis-impersonator they signed the official paperwork, collecting a copy of the marriage certificate before drinking a celebratory toast of champagne. Then it was heading back to the hotel in the car.

“So,” Ella began.

“All along?” He asked as he put his socks and shoes back on.

“Pretty much,” she confirmed, “One or two little glitches.”

He leaned over and kissed her before taking hold of her hand with his and putting his arm around her.

“So what do you have planned next wife?”

“Dinner in the hotel and packing I’m afraid.”

He pouted at her and she couldn’t help laughing at him. “Sorry,” she gasped out, but we do have a flight to catch back tomorrow night,” she added.

“Wife,” he protested.

She shook her head before undoing her seatbelt and moving across the seat to climb onto his lap and looked into his eyes before kissing him.

“Husband,” she said softly. Turning she reached into that small handbag she’d bought to go with the dress and took out her eternity and engagement rings, slotting them on to her finger next to her wedding band.

He smiled as he watched her before they kissed again; luckily her arms were around his neck because the car came to a sudden stop. Looking through the window she saw that they were outside their hotel.

“Ok?” He was asking her.

“Yeah, we’re here,” Ella eased off him and moved across the seat claiming her bag and flowers before opening the door and getting out of the car. She grinned back at him as he followed.

“Will that be all sir?”

Roman turned at the question and nodded, barely taking any notice of the diver.

“Thanks,” he murmured and handed him a bank note to cover his tip before he caught hold of Ella’s hand and slipped into the hotel. The driver looked down at the money before watching them disappear. He gave a small smile before removing the drivers cap from his head and tossing that inside the car he headed along to the carpark by the hotel and reclaimed his car. All the time he was being careful that his picture wasn’t been taken by the security cameras that littered the hotel carpark. Hardcore hadn’t recognised him. And the other one. She had been there. Before it happened.

Roman opened the door to their room and turned to her, he placed his hand on her arm preventing her from entering the room.

“What?” She muttered.

“Need to carry you over the threshold,” he announced and he laughed as she blushed. He lifted her smoothly into his arms and stepped inside regretting that he hadn’t spent the time to straighten the room when he gave a small gasp. Obviously housekeeping had been in because the room was immaculate. Fresh flowers and candles were dotted around the room along with a bottle of champagne and glasses.

“Wow,” Ella muttered as she saw it.

He allowed her to slide to her feet before he dealt with the door and then moved to open the champagne.

“With the congratulations from all the staff at the hotel,” he read aloud from the card next to it.

“That’s nice of them,” Ella sighed and moved to him, she stroked down his back as he removed the cork and poured out the drink.

“So Mrs Harris,” he said tilting his glass and clinking hers.

“Mr Harris,” she said back, “husband,” she added.

“I can’t believe you did this,” he shook his head.

“What can’t you believe?”

“Well you getting out of bed that early for a start,” he grinned at her expression.

“I’m starting to regret…”

Roman kissed her into silence.

“We should order some food,” she murmured to him when they broke apart, “I’ve been too nervous to eat the past few days.”

“I had noticed,” he smiled over at her as she eased carefully into a seat smoothing down the lace of her dress, “Beautiful dress,” he added realising he hadn’t commented.

“Yeah well,” she turned her face away hiding the fact that she was blushing, her hair drifting over her face helping to disguise her blushing.

“And I love your hair down,” he added leaning down to trace a finger along her cheek before kissing her once more. He moved to sit with her at the table and reached for the room service menu scanning the lunchtime options before handing it to her. She told him what she wanted and he went over to the phone and ordered it.

“It’s a good day,” Ella said when he’d hung up and re-joined her at the table.

“It is,” he agreed and caught hold of her hand to press a kiss to it.

Ella smiled at him before she stood and moved across the room. She returned with the pile of postcards they had ready to send to the kids and the pen. He wondered why she’d held off on sending them but now as he watched her he grinned at her sneakiness. On each of the postcards she added the postscript, ‘PS. We got married!!!’ before she placed them in the courier envelope and sealed it.

“Sneaky witch,” he murmured unable to resist kissing her again.

“And I worked out that they will get this just before we land,” she murmured.

“I would be in awe of you, however Lily seems to have inherited a double dose of your sneaky genes,” he told her with a mock-shudder.

“Oh you love her being sneaky,” Ella scoffed.

Roman half shook his head before reaching into his pocket and taking out his phone. He fiddled with the settings before snapping a couple pictures of her. She shook her head and stood heading over to claim her camera. A few seconds to set it up and she primly moved over to sit on his lap. The timer elapsed and shot a couple shots of them.

“Thank you,” he murmured moving her long hair to one side and kissing her neck.

“You’re welcome husband,” she said sighing because he was kissing down her neck and along her shoulder. They were interrupted by the knock at the door and the announcement of room service and broke apart. Roman stood and moved to the door allowing the waiter to come in and set up the food on the table.

“Can you take this down to reception they are expecting it?” Ella asked handing over the courier envelope from earlier.

“Certainly,” she was told as he moved quietly out of the room and left them to it.

Roman looked down at the food on the table before smiling over at her.

“Our first meal as husband and wife,” he said to her.

“Maybe we should have ordered something other than burger and fries?”

He let out a laugh before leaning over and kissing her again. They were married. She’d arranged a wedding and married him because she knew that he needed that commitment from her. Whatever he’d done to deserve her he wondered as he kissed her again before they began to eat.

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Chapter 98

“That was some dream solider,” Ella murmured looking over at his profile as she shook him awake.

“Sorry,” Roman shook himself as if to shake off the dream. He looked over at the other passengers and saw a few curious looks before turning to Ella, “I gather I was …”

“Shouting in your sleep,” Ella said quietly.

She knew of course that he’d be embarrassed by that which is why she woke him. He groaned aloud before leaning over and kissing her.

“What time is it?” He asked covering up his emotions.

Ella just smiled at him as she unclipped her seatbelt and moved over to sit on his lap.

“We’ll be landing soon,” she murmured as she leaned forward and kissed behind his ear. She eased off his lap just as he was about to grab hold of her and kiss her back to stand beside his seat and reach into the overhead locker. Taking out her bag she made her way to the toilets at the front of the aircraft and inside, no doubt to freshen up before they landed. They had a shuttle service picking them up and taking them home so he didn’t have to worry about driving whilst he was still tired.

Catching sight of the ring on his hand he smiled before he too unbuckled his seatbelt and stood up stretching the kinks out of his body. He had to admit he was looking forward to being home and seeing the family. Mentally he calculated what time it was there and adjusted the settings on his watch. He looked around the aircraft as he reached up and took out his hand luggage from the overhead compartment. He felt as though he was being watched for a second and looked along the lines of seats to the back of the aircraft before dismissing the notion. He resumed his seat and waited for Ella to come back before smiling as he caught sight of his wedding ring again. It was strange how good it felt to be wearing it again.

“Hey,” Ella murmured before she climbed over his lap to get to her seat. She took the opportunity to kiss him again and grinned as he grinned back at her.

“Back in a minute,” he murmured standing up and beginning his walk to the toilets. Again he felt that strange feeling that he was being watched and dismissed it. No. he thought rubbing a hand over his face. It was just the reminder of the dream that was making him feel like that.

Nic opened the courier envelope and grinned as she saw the pile of postcards inside. She headed back into the house and over to the table where her kids were sitting along with her brothers and sisters.

“Here,” Georgie stood up to allow her a seat at the crowded table and she smiled at him before accepting.

“Postcards,” she told everyone and began sorting and handing them out.

“Er, Nic have you read this?” Sophie said quietly.

“No,” Nic looked up, “Why does it say they aren’t coming back? Because it isn’t true,” she added with a minute frown.

“No, at the bottom,” an excited note entered Sophie’s voice as she showed her postcard to Meggy.

“Oh my god!” Meggy cried out.

“Less screaming please, you don’t want to wake the little ones…” Nic said before she read the bottom of the card addressed to her, Geoff and her family, “Eeek!!” she squealed.

“What’s going on?” Sammy muttered coming into the room. He rubbed at his eyes and looked at the table before going into the kitchen to organise his toast.

“Oh Samson,” Meggy shook her head at the brother before she rummaged through the postcards and found the one addressed to him. She moved into the kitchen and handed him the card standing next to him as he read it. He showed no reaction for the longest time before he ‘whooped’.

“Sammy please,” Nic said before giving up as Meggy and Sammy excitedly danced around in a circle in the kitchen. She retrieved her phone and made a call over to Belle who was staying in the Stables with Gabby, telling her to come and collect her postcard before instructed Sophie to take Danni’s and Irene’s postcards to them.

Sophie ran out the back and down the garden just as Belle came in with Gabby.

“Here,” Nic told them handing over the postcards. She waited as they read them before grinning as Belle looked over at her.

“Again? Seriously?”

“Again what?” Gabby asked before she spotted it, “Oh my god, I have to go tell Jacob,” she added and ran out the back.

“I think we can tell she’s Sophie’s sister,” Belle said before she and Nic laughed.

“We should do a party for them? A Bbq?” Meggy called out.

“What?” Georgie asked coming in with Mike, the two having been out for an early morning run.

“Here,” Nic handed over more cards and grinned as their expressions changed as they reached the last line.

“She got her beach wedding,” Mike commented fetching bottles of water from the fridge and handing one to Georgie.

“What makes you say that?” This was from Danni who was standing on the veranda with Jennie in her arms. She clutched at the postcard Sophie had run over to her.

“Well, Ma, she didn’t want the big wedding, she only did it for Roman,” Mike announced.

“How can you not want a big wedding?” Nic wailed.

“Not everyone has an addiction to weddings you know,” Aden pointed out having come to join his wife, Belle, at the main house.

“But the dress, and the flowers, and the…” Nic stopped talking when everyone looked at her.

“Nic Dear,” Geoff began having heard most of the discussion as he walked down the stairs, “I’m not renewing our vows.”

Mike smirked at Nicole as she flushed.

“It’s the parents,” Nic defended, “They got married.”

“Again,” Aden added for reference.

“And why are you all surprised?” Geoff shook his head as he moved to get himself a coffee.

“I don’t think any of us are,” Danni sighed as she moved over to the table and claimed a seat. She gave Mike a look and sighed again, juggling Jennie on her lap as she settled down.

The house began to fill up again with the children gathering and chattering loudly as plans were made to have a BBQ to celebrate. Mike made a call to Toby and told him, grinning as the other man made plans to travel down later. Then they called Miles, Leona and Leah and invited them, which sparked phone calls to Jacko, Pete and James.

Nic and Belle went through the cupboards and freezer and drew up a shopping list and to keep the younger children occupied they had them making a combined welcome home and congratulations banner they would put up later.

Ella and Roman looked out of the windscreen of the shuttlebus from the airport as it drew up in the driveway.

“House is still there,” Ella murmured.

“Yeah, and we seem to have quite a few extra cars parked up.”

“Think they got our postcards?”

Roman let out a laugh and she glanced over at him.

“Of course they did witch,” he murmured.

Their transport slowly pulled to a halt and they got out, placing the suitcases on to the veranda before it left. He glanced at her before sweeping her up into his arms and carrying her over to the door.

“Really? Again?” Ella asked with a laugh.

“Of course,” he said as he juggled her slightly reaching for the door handle and turning it.

“You do know that historically this refers to bringing the new bride to orgasm,” she whispered into his ear and was forced to clutch at him as he nearly dropped her.

“Thank you wife,” he said.

She laughed and leaning close to him she touched his ear with her finger as the tip of it turned red indicating his embarrassment.

“You’re welcome,” she told him as he stepped over the doorway and into the house. He looked around and grinned at her. The house was deserted.

“Maybe they all moved?” Ella suggested.

One of his kittens came running through the hallway and up the stairs.

“Nah, Lily is still here,” he told her.

She took hold of his hand and walked through the house and out the back.

“Surprise!” Lily shouted out on seeing them.

“Mama,” August and Fleur called together.

Ella looked at Roman and grinned as he released her hand so she could go run over to her babies. She hugged them all in turn before hugging Marcus and then Sammy. Next was Meggy and Sophie who both asked about the wedding dress before she was engulfed by everyone. She looked over at Roman and saw him with Jacko, no doubt teasing the other man about their bet over the Hawaiian shirt.

Later, Roman walked over to her. She was sitting with Danni, holding Jennie on her lap, leaning down he kissed her cheek.

“Mike told me there was some post waiting for me at the house. I’m just going to make a trip and get it.”

“Ok, don’t be long,” Ella said smiling up at him.

Roman nodded taking a mental picture of his wife. The sun was behind her so she looked like she had a golden halo. He shielded his eyes, feeling the start of a headache, a pressing ache behind his eyes and put it down to jetlag. Pressing another kiss to her lips he eased up and walked away from her.

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Roman stood in his house going through envelopes and scanning the information on them until he reached the one that mattered. It was about the funding for the restaurant and he opened the bank letter and quickly scanned their response. It was a goer, they were going to back him and he laughed out loud before a noise behind him caused him to turn around. He faced the door he'd left open in his haste to get to his post and gasped aloud in shock.

“You,” he muttered. “But you are dead.”

“Hello Hardcore, nice family you have.”

“No, you can’t be here, you can’t do this,” Roman cried out feeling that pressing ache turn into an explosion of pain. He felt his left eyelid flickering and he blinked to try and ease it.

“Why can’t I be here?” The other man asked him stepping into the house and looking around as he crossed over to the sofa and sat down.

“Because…” Roman’s voice slurred the word as he fought against the darkness closing over his eyes.

“Because you shot and killed me?” The man asked.

“Yes, I killed you.”

“Must mean I’m a ghost,” he drawled after Roman seemed to collapse in on himself dragging out a chair to sit down when his legs didn’t want to hold him up anymore. “Am I a ghost Roman?”

“Yes,” Roman screamed out.

“Think about it, you saw me…”

“Hawaii,” Roman groaned, “That was why I kept feeling like someone was watching me….”

The other man stood from the sofa and walked into the kitchen going through the cupboards until he found a bottle of whisky. Unscrewing the bottle he took a long drink from the bottle before glancing at the label.

“Nice, certainly got yourself a nice little life here, and well the Mrs,” the guy murmured drinking more from the bottle, “I know her don’t I?”

“Leave her out of this,” Roman stood, forced to clutch at the table to support him. His headache was worse, the pounding resonating through his whole head making him want to be sick.

“But I should go say hello, been a long time since I saw her last,” he said slowly, “When was it exactly? Oh yeah, before you killed me.”

“You… keep…. away…. from ….. her….” Roman groaned out.

“But we have so much catching up to do…”

Roman swore and staggered over to the door. His only thought was to get to Ella and protect her. He grasped the door, feeling his head throbbing and gave the other man a last look before getting out of there. He dropped his car keys and nearly passed out as he bent down to pick them up, taking several tries before he even got his car door open. His fingers were numb and he couldn’t seem to fully control what he was doing. Finally starting the car up he put his foot down on the accelerator his only thought to get home to Ella.

He swerved over the road before getting control and easing back. It wouldn’t do any good if he totalled the car he told himself. The sun glared through the windscreen and he flinched at the pain the influx of light caused. Unable to bear the light hitting his eyes he automatically closed them just as a stone disturbed by his erratic driving flew up. It hit the windscreen before bouncing harmlessly back to the side of the road. Exaggerated by the intense pain pounding inside Roman’s head the stone hitting the windscreen sounded just as loud as a gunshot and he gasped at the influx of memories and threw his hands up in horror as though expecting a second shot. The car veered to the side of the road and up on the bank before all control was lost and it smacked into a tree crumpling the front of the car like it was made of paper rather than metal.

In his haste Roman hadn’t fastened his seatbelt and he careered forward his head connecting with the windscreen with a sickening smack sound before he slumped over the steering wheel unconscious.

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