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Postcards from Hawaii

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Chapter 41

Ella eased down on the long sofa, she was tired and stressed. The assignment wasn’t going well and all she wanted was to go to sleep but she thought about the situation with Danni and Mike and then the kids actually giving her time to work on it, having decided that they were going to go outside in the garden to give her peace and quiet leaving her feeling guilty for considering having a sneaky nap. She’d come home from Roman’s in the early hours and found Lily curled up asleep in front of a blaring tv that was still showing Finding Nemo, Meggy sleeping next to her. Her elder daughter had woken as she switched the tv off and told her that Lily wouldn’t go back to sleep without seeing her or watching her favourite film. Reassuring Meggy she picked up a sleeping Lily and carried her upstairs ending up with the little girl in her bed.

Yawning again she closed her eyes for a second before being jolted awake with the sound of screaming and shouting. Something was going on and she sprung to her feet darting out of the study hearing the study door bang shut behind her and headed to where the noise was coming from. Gabby had cornered Danni near the swimming pool and even from the distance between the pool and the house Ella could see that Danni looked scared, her eyes darting back and forth.

“You just couldn’t leave him alone could you? Had to get your claws into him!” Gabby screeched at Danni.

“Gabby no, it wasn’t like that….” This was from Danni.

Ella could see Danni putting her hands out to Gabby and flinched when her daughter reacted by slapping them away. Gabby was in the middle of a temper tantrum and nothing was going to stop her until she had her say. Ella felt her cheeks flushing as she remembered Roman once saying the same thing about her, obviously Gabby was a lot like her whether Gabby wanted to admit it or not.

“Of course it was like that, you wanted him and worse, you used him to help trick Mike into thinking he’d gotten you pregnant!”

Ella scanned round the garden her gaze searching out her other kids and getting a glimpse of what the effect of the argument on them. Meggy and Sophie would know what was being said but her younger babies wouldn’t thankfully, although they would still know the tension and hear the shouting and with that thought going through her head she sprinted across the garden until she got to the other side of the pool feeling a slight stitch in her side. She’d barely reached them when she noticed Danni recoiling from the slap that Gabby dealt out to her.

“Pack it in!” Ella shouted her own temper rising.

“You cow, just had to take something else from me!” Gabby shouted with all the angst of her resentment pouring out. “Like you stole my family!”

“Mama,” Lily called out loudly before she burst into tears.

Ella could barely glance at her, but noted that Sophie ran over to her sister just as she was heading to Danni and Gabby.

“That is enough Gabby,” Ella shot out as Gabby lifted her hand to smack Danni again.

“Don’t make me laugh, you threw away this family for a bloke,” Danni snapped, “and got yourself knocked up in the process!”

“I said that is enough,” Ella bit out finally reaching their side. She looked at both of them as they faced off before looking at the pool in front of them. With a sharp gesture she put her hands on them and gave a push smiling grimly as it took barely a push to get them off balance and they tumbled into the pool in slow motion.

Danni screamed as she hit the water. Flailing her arms she accidently dunked Gabby before getting her balance and moving to the side. Wiping water from her face she looked up at a glowering Ella before turning her head and looking over at Gabby who’d managed to get a hold of the side too.

“Listen to me you little cats,” Ella bent down to look at them both. “You are sisters and need to set an example for your siblings. If I ever catch either of you doing this again I’ll kick both of you out. Gabby, for the record Brett wasn’t seeing you at the time he may or may not have got Danni pregnant and Danni I suggest that you start sorting yourself out.”

With that she walked away from them and over to the rest of her kids.

“Mama?” August called out waving her left hand in the air to try and get her attention. Ella ran over to her and scooped her up in a hug.

“What’s up ‘Gust?” she murmured softly, aware of the sound of splashing behind her as Danni and Gabby climbed out of the pool.


“I know babes, Gabby and Danni were naughty, you aren’t going to shout at Flower like that are you?” Ella murmured kissing her daughter.

“No me’s no like,” Gust said

“Let’s go get some chocolate to cheer us up.”

Ella grinned at the change of expression on her daughters face before collecting Fleur and carrying the both of them inside. She saw Sophie and Meggy with a subdued Liam and a still sniffling Lily and smiled at them reassuringly.

“We’s choccy,” August called out.

“Oh good,” this came from Meggy followed by a blissful sigh.

“If we ever argue like that will you push us in the pool?” Sophie asked looking past her mother and down the garden.

“Depends,” Ella smiled as Meggy shot her a look before grinning at Sophie.

“We might not be near a pool,” she explained to her sister.

Ella nodded and smirked as Sophie rolled her eyes at her before moving into the kitchen. She returned a moment later and handed out chocolate to everyone.

“I think the boys missed it all.”

“Did they?” Ella sank down on to the sofa next to Lily.

“Mama,” Lily crawled into her lap and snuggled into her arms.

“What my Lily girl?”

“Is Mikey ok?”

Ella smiled and pressed a kiss to her daughters head.

“Probably got a headache,” she commented just as she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket. “Hang on Squeals,” she murmured reaching for it. “Oh look it’s the devil himself…. Hello?”

“Ma, it’s me,”

“I know.” Ella rolled her eyes expressively.

“I need some clothes and things,” Mike muttered as though she hadn’t spoken.


Ella grinned at her daughter and handed over the phone to her.

“Mikey where’s are you’s?” Lily murmured. “You no’s go away again?”

Ella shared a look with Sophie and Meggy at Lily’s questions before she grinned when Lily nodded in response to something.

“Got to talk Lils,” she told her softly.

“Mikey you’s come home now, me’s not happy,” Lily snapped the phone shut ending the call and handed it back to her mother.

“Well you told him,” Meggy said with a grin.

“I wonder where she gets her attitude from?” Ella murmured looking over at Meggy.

“Her mother!”

Ella looked up in shock to see Roman standing in the doorway. He moved inside and ushered Mike in before smirking at Ella.

“Dada?” Lily scrambled off her mother’s lap and over to where Roman was standing with the basket of kittens.

“And what are they?” Ella muttered glaring at him.

“Something to keep Lily amused for a while,” Roman shot Ella one of his smiles laughing as she continued to glower at him. “I couldn’t leave them home alone,” he murmurs softly.

“Mama,” August lisped looking over at the cute furballs.

“Fine,” Ella sighed standing and looking at Roman before she turned to Mike. He looked like crap; dark circles under his eyes and in need of a shave, the dark stubble adding shade to his face making him look haggard and drawn. Her heart went out to him and she moved quickly to his side before leading him away into the kitchen.


“I’m ok, just need to get some sleep,” he murmured.

“Well Danni is here, Gabby …”

“What Ma?”

“Gabby and Danni had a screaming match.” Ella bit her lip.

“And what is that look for?” Roman asked slowly, moving to stand next to Mike.

“I think she did something.”

“Yeah I got that from her biting her lip, son.”

“When you two have finished,” Ella said primly before shooting Mike a look. “I pushed them into the swimming pool to cool off.”

Roman let out a shout of laughter clapping Mike on his back as he did the same.

“Make some coffee and get cooking,” Ella snapped out spinning around and storming back to the sofa. She grinned at Lily hugging the black kitten and reached out to pick up the white one, stroking it behind its ears.

“What have you called them?” Sophie asked her dad.

“Nothing yet,”

“I think this one should be called Buttons,” Sophie grinned as she stroked the white kitten.

“and bows?” Lily murmured.

“That fits,” Roman muttered quietly to Mike, “because I’ve been royally stitched up there.”

Mike looked at him knowing his expression was giving away his part in the ‘giving Roman his own kittens’ scheme’ but he found himself grinning for the first time since the secret over Jennie had spilled out.

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Chapter 42

Mike moved into the kitchen and stood quietly watching as Ella portioned out the food for the rest of the kids moving in sync with Roman just like old times. He had a half-smile on his face as he watched them before moving to Ella’s side.

“Ma,” he said softly.

“What?” Ella murmured distracted.

“I need you to come with me,” Mike broached at last.

Ella stopped and looked down at the plates before nodding.

“Georgie come and finish this,” she called out wiping her hands and walking out through the back with Mike.

Georgie moved into the kitchen next to his dad and shot him a look from under his fringe.


“I didn’t say nothing,” Georgie muttered.

“It’s ‘I didn’t say anything,’ as I’m sure your mother would point out,” Roman began moving around the kitchen. “And I recognise the look from your mother.”

“What are you doing here Dad?” Georgie bit out turning and facing him folding his arms across his chest. “Because we don’t need you messing things up again.”

Roman felt the force of the words hit him despite the fact they were softly spoken. Georgie had a right to be suspicious, he told himself internally but looking at his son who was nearly the same height as him and seeing the same expression on his face that he himself gave to others when he was pissed at them was an entirely different matter.

“I brought Mike home,” Roman stated calmly.

“And stayed.”

“And stayed, and at your mother’s behest cooked dinner.”

“Cut the crap,” Georgie muttered looking at him.


Georgie glared at his father and raised his eyebrows.

“Fine, you want me to disappear after dinner and stop coming around. I can do that.”

Georgie glared some more.

“No, I want you to stop being a jerk.” He stated after a minute before walking away and over to the table, using setting the table as an excuse.

Roman looked down at his hands before he moved back to sorting the food. After a few minutes he felt himself calming but not before he wanted to go grab Ella and kiss her senseless in front of the kids to prove they were serious and getting back together. Or maybe just to kiss her, he thought with a smirk remembering saying goodnight to her on his doorstep.

Mike stopped and looked at the door of the poolhouse before he put his hand on the handle and turned. He sucked in a deep breath as he saw Danni sitting on the sofa.

“Jennie is asleep!” Danni cried out standing up and looking at him with an expression of horror on her face.

“I’m here to collect some things. I’m going to be staying with Roman until you sort out somewhere to live.”

Ella felt the force of the blow his words wrought in the other girl and was torn between telling her son off for what he’d said and taking his side. She bit back a sigh and let him talk, knowing that she was there to keep him together.

“Mike, can’t we…”

“I will want a DNA test of course,” he continued as though Danni hadn’t spoken.


Ella took in the way that Danni clutched and wrung her own hands together and she couldn’t hold back from going over to the other woman feeling strangely rejected when Danni eased away from her.

“I can understand that, but Mike please can’t we talk?”

Mike gave Danni a look feeling himself weakening at the appeal in her voice before hearing Jennie give a mewing cry in the other room. His eyes met with Danni’s at the sound of the baby and he shook his head.

“We’re over. As of right now.”

Ella looked at Mike at his words before she escorted him into the bedroom and helped him collect his stuff. They worked together in silence as he filled a suitcase with clothes and a large holdall with other stuff, text books and papers reminding Ella of his new job as a teacher at the high school. He seemed to enjoy it and she hoped that this wouldn’t set him back. She could imagine how the spreading gossip could affect him and although it was only the family that knew at the moment, others would become involved when they went for the DNA tests and it would come out somehow, the downside to living in this small town.

“I’ve got everything I need for the moment.”

Ella nodded at Mike’s words before she took hold of the suitcase, the lighter of the two bags, and eased that through the lounge and out of the door. She gave Mike a look seeing his tense jaw and the way his expression looked hard and inflexible. From there her gaze went to Danni who looked miserable. She wanted them to say something to each other that didn’t spell out the end of their relationship; she knew that the two still loved each other, especially Mike. He was so like her in that way.

“Mike,” she prompted.

He shook his head at her words before walking out of the door and away from Danni. Ella watched his departing back before casting a look at Danni. She couldn’t interfere in this one, it had to be them sorting it out but it was so hard not to go to Danni a second time and try to tell her not to give up.

“Go,” Danni said her voice breaking into Ella’s thoughts. “I know where you stand Ella; you should be with your son.”

Ella flinched at the bitter tirade and squared her shoulders before she took the handle of the case and wheeled it down the garden and into the house. She left it in the utility room out of the way and moved to sit at the table with the kids. Mike was there too, his face still with that hard expression on it and she sighed. It was then she noticed that Georgie was quiet, Meggy too, and wondered what she was missing.

“Ok, so what are we eating?” she asked looking round at them.

“Ghetti,” August trilled.

“Really?” Ella murmured softly looking at her daughter and seeing the bright smile that August gave her in return.

“With cheesy.”

Lily giggled looking round at them.

“And what is so funny, Squeals?”

“Me no eats,” she said with a pout before holding up her plaster cast covered arm.

Roman groaned and looked over at Ella as she giggled.

“Again with that excuse?” she asked her.

Lily looked at her before shaking her head.

“Mama,” she muttered, “no funny!” She shot Mike a look before grinning at him. “Mikey,” she murmured softly.

Mike seemed to react as though Lily calling the name she had for him had shocked him out of deep thought and Ella found her gaze meeting his as he flexed his shoulders and turned to his little sister.

“What are you getting me into now troublemaker?” he asked her. Luckily it was the adults and perhaps the older kids who picked up on the note in his voice.

“Meggy troublemaker,” Lily protested.

“What? Hey!” Meggy muttered.

“Me’s Squeals,” Lily continued.

“Uh huh,” Roman said softly.

“Trues,” Lily told her Dad with a nod.

“What do you want?” Mike butted in before he suspected Lily would argue them into the ground.

“Help mes with dinner?” she asked fluttering her eyelashes at him.

Roman laughed and shook his head before catching Georgie looking at him. He grinned back at his elder son.

“Are we going to eat this?” Ella asked them.

Suddenly the silence was broken and they all started talking and the sounds of eating the good food that Roman had prepared filled the house. Still Ella couldn’t help glance down the garden to where Danni was and a worried frown crossed her face.

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Chapter 43

After Ella had dispatched all the children to school and nursery she made her way across the garden and over to the poolhouse. She knocked once before opening the door and stepping inside.

“What do you want?” Danni asked over the sound of a crying Jennie.

Ella looked over to where the other woman was standing and gave a small brief smile before she walked over to her and took Jennie from her grasp.

“What…” Danni protested.

“Go and wash your face,” Ella instructed the other woman in her ‘don’t mess with me’ voice. She earned a glare from Danni before she moved past her and into the bathroom.

Ella soothed the crying Jennie, balancing her in her arms as she stepped into the kitchen and began clearing the top. Within a couple of minutes she had the kettle on and the fixings for coffee along with finding a bottle for Jennie. She saw Danni come out of bathroom wrapped in a towel, using the time to get a shower and freshen up. Ella gave her a small encouraging smile which Danni ignored as she stomped over to the bedroom and closed the door firmly behind her.

“Your parents are going to drive me nuts Jen, my girl.” Ella murmured transferring the weight of the baby to the other arm as she fetched the warmed up bottle and began feeding her. She grinned down at her as she suckled hungrily.

Jennie was such a contented baby despite the drama going on around her. She would soon be crawling and pulling herself up and then would be first steps before she ran her parents ragged trying to keep up with her. Neither Danni nor Mike should miss those precious moments because they would regret it for a long time, she knew that Roman regretted the things he’d missed out on with the children, moments with Lily and then missing out on the twins when he’d been in witness protection.

“Has she had much?”

Ella looked up at Danni’s question before showing her the empty bottle.

“I swear she’s going to need to go on a diet!” Danni said sounding happier.

Ella smiled.

“Is this a good time to tell you that Mike was the same?”

“Oh Ella, don’t. I have to get used to Mike not being here and well,” Danni’s voice broke as she looked over at Jennie.

“Why didn’t you tell me Danni? I would have helped you. Instead we have to deal with this coming out now?”

“I don’t know, ok.”

Danni stomped into the kitchen and finished making the coffees taking Ella’s over to her before sitting opposite with her own. She sipped at the too hot brew trying to marshal her thoughts before looking at Ella.

“I was pretty off my head for a long time, Mike and I were arguing, he got his recall notice,” Danni sucked in a breath remembering the time when her daughter was conceived. She looked over at Ella once expecting some kind of condemnation in her expression and instead only seeing compassion. It had been a bad time for all of them, Roman dead, as they thought, Ella injured, people falling apart. “Brett was there for me, you know.” She voiced her thought.

Ella nodded.

“So it went a bit far?” she asked slowly.

“I don’t know.” Danni blurted. “I remember being drunk and falling into bed with him and well waking up in his arms. What happened in the middle is just a blur.” She lowered her head for a moment before lifting it again and looking at Ella. Now was the time for honesty, even if she wasn’t able to talk to Mike about this stuff at least she could finally get it out in the open. “I remember kissing him.”

Ella sighed and stood slowly being careful with a sleepy Jennie. She walked into the nursery and settled the little girl down before backing away and going back to where Danni was seated. Leaning down she kissed the top of Danni’s head before claiming her coffee and sitting opposite her.

“What do you want Danni?”

“I need a job Ella, I need to make friends with people my own age, and well, get out again. I miss Michelle.”

“Then do it,”

“You make it sound so simple,” Danni muttered,

“Got your CV done?”

Danni sighed recognising where the conversation was going. She gave a half shake of her head before standing and walking into the bedroom retrieving her laptop and taking that through to where Ella was. The two women worked together for a long while writing out her CV and then searching for jobs in the area.

“You worked in the diner for a while, why not ask there?”

“Oh please, working with Sophie?”

Ella smiled and standing moved into the kitchen to make more drinks. She looked over at Danni after a moment.

“Does it matter? You’ll have money and independence. You’ll see people again.”

Danni half shook her head.

“How will Roman react?”

Ella grinned suddenly and looked over Danni.

“What is that look for?” Danni asked before smirking, “you know that Lily has the same expression don’t you?”

“Roman doesn’t know that you know…”

Danni giggled as she looked over at Ella.

“I guess he’d want to keep it secret?” she mused when she’d stopped laughing. “And well offering me a job in the diner would do that wouldn’t it?”

Ella nodded at her.


“You are a sneaky woman Mrs soon-to-be Harris!”

“I’m not getting married again.” Ella groaned as Danni just smirked at her.

“You think Roman is going to be happy living together?”

Ella eased back in her seat and looked at the other girl as she thought about it.

“I don’t think he is, but I can’t go through another wedding with him. All the other times didn’t work out so well did they?”

Danni brought over the drinks and sat next to Ella.

“Then why try again Ella? I’m not being facetious, I want to know, maybe…”

“You and Mike are a different story Danni,” Ella said quietly.

“What kind of story though?” Danni chewed on her bottom lip as she looked to Ella for an answer to the question. “Does he know you are here?” She found herself asking another one as she grew suddenly afraid of the answer to the first one.

“You haven’t had relationships before and haven’t made the kind of mistakes that you learn from and get over before making a lifetime commitment. No, he doesn’t know I’m here. But then I don’t have to ask his permission to spend time with my daughter, now that she’s stopped pushing me away, anyway.”

“I didn’t…” Danni stopped and looked at her. “Ok, I did push you away, first it was Jennie, you just know what to do with kids and that…”

Ella held up her hand stopping Danni mid-sentence.

“Woah, Danni, stop there.” Ella leaned forward looking into the other girl’s eyes. “I’ve got Sophie rebelling, Meggy has been quiet for the past week meaning something is up with her, Lily got suspended from school for two days and she’s only six. Georgie likes to spend his weekends playing soldiers and Sammy needed counselling. Not tell me I’m a good mother?”

Danni looked at her for a long moment as her words sank in and she began giggling.

“I suspect that Sophie’s rebellion might stop when you and Roman get back together.”

Ella sighed.

“I know. But still there is a lot of underlying stuff that I don’t have time to figure out anymore. When I split from Roman I became the sole parent and if that wasn’t busy enough I signed up for college, and my agent wants me to do another book and an exhibition of my work,” Ella shrugged.

“Sounds like you are going to be very busy,” Danni muttered feeling upset that she’d spent so long resenting Ella. Underneath all the confidence and the surety she could see that other woman was vulnerable in ways she’d never expected.

“Yeah, and I wouldn’t swap any of my kids for anything in the world Danni but somedays I do actually think about what it was like not having to worry about appointments and school events and all the other one hundred and one things going on all the time. So yeah, if you want to think of me as superwoman go right ahead but it’s not true.”

“I never thought about what was going through your head before.”

“Good, most of the time it’s full of crap.”

Danni laughed again feeling more relaxed than she’d felt in a long time.

“Let’s go to the diner for lunch,” she murmured.


Danni stood and walked through to the nursery collecting Jennie and her bag. She saw it as a sign when her daughter didn’t scream the house down before walking back out to where Ella was standing by the door.

“Come on then, but you are buying!”

The two women moved out and around the front and over to Danni’s car. Within twenty minutes they were seated in the diner having given their order to Colleen. It didn’t take long for Roman to find an excuse to come over to them.

“Hello,” he said slowly looking from one to the other.

“hey,” Ella responded carefully her eyes catching sight of Leah in the kitchen giving them a curious look. She grinned suddenly before nudging Danni with her foot.

“Oh er yeah, hi, Mike’s staying with you isn’t he?”

Roman met Danni’s gaze evenly and nodded.

“He is.”

Danni gave Ella a look before she shot a look at Roman.

“I need a job.” She announced proud that her voice didn’t waiver.

“And why are you telling me?” Roman muttered folding his arms as he looked from one to the other.

“Because you know I’ve worked in the diner before. I’m flexible with shifts, local and I can cook,” Danni paused shooting a look at Ella before glancing back at Roman, “And if you don’t give me a job I’ll tell everyone that you are seeing each other,” she murmured.

“Danni no,” Ella protested keeping her facial expression neutral.

“Ella Addison I think we are going to need to talk,” he muttered before glancing at Danni, “I need to discuss it with Leah and see where we are with staffing levels despite your attempt at blackmail.”

“Roman,” Ella murmured looking up at him, her lips twitching as she tired not to laugh at the expression on his face.


Danni giggled at them earning herself a look as Roman strode away.

“Is he really pissed at me?” she asked after a moment.

Ella smiled, “No of course not.”


“But he’s kinda pissed at me,”

“I’m sure you can persuade him to forgive you.”

The two women looked at each other and laughed again unaware that Roman was grinning at seeing Danni out and looking better than she had for a long time. He knew from talking to Mike that the other man wanted to try again with Danni, when things had evened out between them and if giving Danni some shifts in the diner was going to help then of course he’d swing it somehow. The blackmail was Ella’s invention he knew, especially when she had that same expression on her face that Meggy and her equally troublemaking sister Lily had. He grinned suddenly, thinking of a happy Ella.

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Chapter 44


Roman half-turned his head at Mike’s muttered word and grinned.

“You want to take a break Private?” he shot back and heard the muttered swearword of Mike’s response. Guiding the run over to the natural seat on the beach he slowed down and finally sank to a seat handing over his bottle of water to the younger man.

“When you said you ran every day I didn’t realise that you meant this,” Mike muttered sounding breathless.

“Meggy comes with me some days.”

Roman grinned at the expression that crossed Mike’s face when he thought about his younger sister doing the same run as him, and being faster and fitter. He didn’t mind being beaten by a girl he told himself just…

“I wondered..” he said eventually.


“Well Meggy has lost weight and …”

“She does gymnastics club twice a week. Surfing, and running with either me or your mother. Apparently that combined with a growth spurt.” Roman shrugged and held his hand out for the water bottle accepting it from Mike. He took a drink and shrugged again. “I don’t know why she’s decided to stay with your mother, I don’t think it’s because you’re staying with me if you were worried.”

“I was.”

Mike looked at Roman for a long moment wondering how to broach the subject of the other man and his mother. It had never been hard to talk to him before but there was something that held him back. He must have transmitted his unease because Roman placed his hand on his shoulder before speaking.

“What’s wrong son?”

Mike felt himself sighing at the ‘son’ part of the question. Not that Roman had been anything but a father to him all these years, just sometimes he’d held back and let his mother take the lead. And it was what was going on between them that had him worried.

“You and Ma,” he finally said.

“You want to know what is going on?” Roman guessed.

“That and,” Mike paused. “I don’t like you hooking up with her.”

Roman was glad he wasn’t drinking when he heard the words ‘hooking up’ come out of Mike’s mouth because he guessed that he would have spat the water out in surprise.

“I’m not hooking up with your mother; we’re serious about trying again.”

Mike shook his head before looking at Roman and piercing him with his gaze.

“You can’t be serious? After everything you’ve done to her you want to try again?”

Roman met the other man’s gaze evenly and before he spoke he considered what he was going to say.

“You seem to think that it was all one sided Mike, have you considered what your mother put me through?” he spoke softly keeping emotion out of the question. “I had to fight to see my kids, let alone the money side of things in the divorce.”

Mike shook off Roman’s hand and stood moving three paces away before he turned and looked at him.

“If she hadn’t have made you fight for the kids you would have walked away,” The words were delivered without condemnation but Roman felt them hitting him like the bullets that had torn into his body once before. He sucked in a breath and when that didn’t help sucked in another before he looked up at Mike.

“I..” he stopped when he found that he couldn’t breathe.

Mike took pity on Roman and moved back to sit next to him, placing his arm around the other man’s shoulders in sympathy.

“Is that true Mike?” He asked and watched as Mike nodded.

“You know that Mum puts you and us kids first,” Mike began, “and she just happened to know that you were in a bad place when you split up, I’m sure she didn’t want to get divorced.”

Roman looked down at the sand below his feet seeing the golden colour blur as his eyes filled with tears. He knew what Ella had meant by wasted moments now, when they should have backed down or just listened to one another.

“What about when she disappeared to the UK?” Roman muttered dragging that memory out from the back of his mind. “She just disappeared then, do you think that if she’d wanted me to fight for the kids she …”

“Funny thing about that,” Mike murmured interrupting Roman, “She still had her phone. We kept in touch with her.”

Roman felt his heart leap inside him at the quiet words. After Ella left, just after that time when Elliot had done his little tricks to separate them, he’d not texted her or phoned or even just tried the number to see if it still worked. He’d let Ella drift out of his life for three months until her being pregnant with William had brought her back. An inner voice mocked him and he groaned at the enormity of it all. How many chances was she going to give him? How many times was she going to forgive him for the stupid things he’d done?

“Come on,” Roman muttered standing up and stretching.

Mike eased to his feet in slower time and looked at the other man before he swore and was forced to sprint after him.

“Old man, remind me to repay you for this one day!” he got out between rapid breaths and heard Roman’s laughter drifting back to him.

It took less time to get back to Roman’s place than it did on the outward leg and Mike made a beeline for the sofa, collapsing on to it. He chuckled breathily when Roman opened the fridge and threw a bottle of water at him.

“I can’t even remember Tomkins running us that hard!” he mused thinking of his old sergeant in the SAS.

Roman peered at him from behind the fridge door and narrowed his eyes before he spoke again.

“Roger Tomkins?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Mike murmured taking a long drink before he looked over at Roman. “Nah, he wouldn’t have…”


“Been your sergeant. He’s too young.”

Roman growled at the second age comment coming from the younger man. That and Georgie standing up to him the other day helped make him feel old. He ignored the milestone birthday that was creeping up on him.

“I trained him,” Roman said quietly.

“Oh well, that explains why he was such an evil bas….”

“Mike!” Roman cut off the other man mid-sentence before grinning at the affronted expression on his face. He took out his bottle of water and closed the fridge before walking past Mike and heading to the stairs. Taking the steps two at a time he moved through into his bedroom and took out some notepaper and a pen. Stacking the pillows against the headboard and grabbing his diary to lean on he began writing.

Ella looked again at the computer screen reading the sentence she’d just spent ten minutes typing out. She deleted it and groaned before undoing it and by magic the text reappeared on the screen.


She jumped at the shout and stood moving over to the study door and opening it quickly.

“What is it?” she called before noticing the delivery at the door. “Er..”

“It’s for you!” Meggy said breathlessly her excitement radiating outwards.

“Er,” Ella said again and moved to take the very large bouquet of flowers from the delivery man.

“There’s something else!” Meggy said in a sing-song voice.

Ella frowned as she looked for a card in amongst the flowers as she placed them on the console table behind the door before turning and looking back at the delivery driver.

“I need a signature Mrs,” the driver murmured.

“For?” Ella asked feeling slightly more composed.


‘This’ turned out to be a large padded envelope and she starred at it remembering with trepidation the last time she signed to receive a package it had contained signed divorce papers. Steeling herself she signed where the delivery guy indicated and took the envelope from him. He moved off the front veranda and got back in his van and headed out the gate. Ella slowly closed the door and looked at the envelope before catching sight of Meggy and an equally curious Sophie looking at her.

“Who are the flowers from Mummy?” Meggy asked a catch in her voice.

“Probably from my publisher Megs,” Ella said slowly not noticing the sad look that crossed her daughter’s face for a moment.

“What is that?” Sophie asked pointing to the envelope.

“Probably something to do with my new book. Anyway, back to it.” Ella murmured and moved back into the study. She grinned at the disconcerted voices reaching her as she closed the door and retreated into seclusion. She looked back at the envelope trying to figure out who wrote the address on it before sucking in a sharp breath and opening it as she sat on the long sofa. The white vellum envelope dropped on to her lap and she frowned recognising the writing on that envelope. Moving back against the cushions she lifted her legs up to the side of her and opened the smaller envelope feeling a flutter of excitement and trepidation mixing inside of her.

‘Dear Ella,

I’ve never written you a love letter before. Not anything that really counts as one. So here it is my first official love letter to you.

I love you.

I love you because you are beautiful. Yes, you are, stop frowning at me. I love the freckles on your nose and the way you smile at me. I love all the ways you smile at me and I love hearing your laughter, even when you are laughing at something stupid I’ve done.

I love you because for all the wonderful little things you do. For putting little kisses at the end of your text messages. For the way you stroke your hand down my back, it lets me know you love me even when I’ve been acting like an idiot. I adore the way we snuggle, the way you curl up in my arms. We fit together so well, you and I, and I can’t help but wonder if you were made just for me. Just to be mine.

I love you for all the children you’ve borne me. So many wonderful chances to be a dad and that is not forgetting about Mike, or even the way that you care for Nic and Aden. You are so amazing with them Ella, sorting out scrapes and scraps and whatever other trouble Lily manages to get into. I love you for our children and I love our children a little extra bit more for all the things they do that remind me of you.

I can’t write a love letter without telling you I love all the ways we make love. Lying with you in our bed (or anywhere else!) and just sharing those precious quiet moments with you.

I want us to see each other often, to share things again. I want to hold your hand and listen to music or watch a film with you. Let us have a date soon. A proper going out together date. So I can see you in one of your amazing dresses and feel proud of you, feel proud of being with you. And because I’m asking, I’ll add please to that sentence. Please can we go on a date soon?

Well that is all for now, I guess you got the general hint from this that I am totally crazily madly in love with you again. I can’t imagine what sort of idiot I was to ever let you go and I won’t do it again.

Write back, or well not, if you are too busy but I would like it. And there I go spoiling this letter by being ‘me’…. I better just put this,

Love always and forever,



Ella reread the letter three times before she wiped at the tears that had slipped down her face. She reached for her phone and dialled his number grinning as he answered the call on the first ring.

“Yes,” she murmured emotionally.

“Yes?” he questioned as though he’d expected another answer.

“I would love to go out with you.”

“Great,” he murmured. “When?” He asked after a short silence.



He was suddenly aware of Mike miming kissing his own hand from his seat near the tv and groaned.

“Is there a problem?”

“No, Friday it is. I can’t wait.”

Ella chuckled.

“See you then.” She said and hung up the phone before rereading the letter again.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter 45

He walked in through the studio door and began looking for her. She’d told him to park up and let himself in, which at the time he’d pouted at because he’d wanted it to be like a proper date but then he caught sight of Mike giving him a goofy look and moved out of sight of the other man as they finalised the details of the date. Looking round he noticed that she had moved furniture around. He walked past the long sofa and peered into the bedroom, and after seeing it empty he turned and walked down the stairs and into the studio. Again it was empty and he pulled out his phone checking for messages before dialling her number only to groan when he heard it ring back up the stairs in the apartment. He turned to walk back up the stairs when the door to the darkroom opened and Ella peered out.

“Oh,” she murmured looking down at herself.

“Were you working?” He asked, a smug look crawling over his face.

“I…er… aren’t you early?”

He continued to smile at her, loving the sexy cut-off shorts she was wearing and the vest top, not to mention the hair pinned on the top of her head. She was obviously not dressed for their date but well, she still looked adorable.

“Actually I’m nearly 40 minutes late. Traffic was bad. I did text you…” he trailed off at the look on her face and grinned.

“Wipe that smirk off your face Harris, I was distracted.”

“By your darkroom. Been taking pictures?”

Ella groaned at how smug he was sounding before she grabbed hold of the tie he was wearing and tugged on it pulling him into her darkroom. She pushed the door shut behind him cutting out all light for a moment before his eyes adjusted to the red bulbs. She motioned for him to move to the side as she pulled the curtain across the door. He could see that this was to prevent accidental exposure to the light from outside and smiled thinking that she’d done it so maybe Mike could have come in and spoken to her or something like that. Folding his arms across himself he watched as she began to process a roll of film. The acidic chemical smell hit him and he grimaced slightly before he got used to it. She was amazing to watch even in the dim light of the darkroom. Her face alone had a wondrous expression on as she worked her movements easy and controlled but with a dancer’s grace about them. This was her world, one she was utterly confident in and he smiled at seeing her so happy. This was the Ella he fell utterly in love with all those years ago and damn, if he wasn’t back in love with her again.

After some time he eased to her side and pressed a kiss to her cheek before slipping behind the curtain and moving out of the room. He could tell that she was still engrossed and he left her to it as he moved back up the stairs and into the apartment. Crossing over to the door he eased out of it and disappeared to a 24 hour delicatessen.

Ella emerged from the darkroom and caught sight of the time. She’d been so involved that she hadn’t noticed Roman leaving the room. He must have been so bored, she groaned as she ran up the stairs into the apartment and stopping dead when she saw the tall candles lit around the room. Roman was sitting over on one of the sofas watching a movie on the large tv.

“Hey,” he called out before half-turning his head and looking at her.

“Hey, sorry,” she groaned and moved over to him. “I was planning to get changed and be waiting for you and everything.”

Roman smiled holding his hand out to her. She placed her hand in his and cried out in shock when he pulled her down to sit in his lap.

“As wonderful as it would have been to go out and have dinner and see you all dressed up it is just as wonderful to spend time with you.”

“Uh huh, solider!”

Leaning forward she kissed him and smiled as his arms wrapped around her. She felt the warmth of his body pressed against her making her realise just how little she was wearing. He was wearing her favourite aftershave again and she sighed into the kiss drawing breath after breath as she inhaled the heady musk scent. It was nice when she’d sniffed it in its bottle but mixed with the masculine smell of him it was evocative and she couldn’t help but remember the times she’d caught a sniff of it transferred to her skin after they’d made love. Drawing back she broke away from the kiss and looked into his eyes. Black suit, the jacket discarded over on one of the chairs at the dining table, white shirt and black skinny tie. He was dressed to impressed and there she was in cut off shorts.

“Ok, I’ve got to go…” she began.

Roman sighed.

“Just as I was starting to enjoy that,” he murmured.

“I could tell,” Ella said and blushed when he laughed at her. “I so didn’t mean that,” she groaned removing his arms from around her and moving off his lap.

“Want a drink?”

“Aren’t we going out?”

Roman chuckled.

“Pretty sure we’ve missed the reservation,” he said when she glared at him.

Ella muttered something under her breath and stomped over to her bedroom. He stood too and moved in the opposite direction heading for the kitchen and taking out the things he’d bought at the delicatessen and arranged them on plates before taking them over to the table. He added the sticks of fresh baked bread grinning as he imagined the look on her face when she saw it. A third trip made, he returned to the table with a bottle of rose wine and glasses. He’d selected the bottle with Ella in mind, choosing something fruity and sweet and he hoped that she’d like it he thought as he uncorked the bottle and sniffed in appreciation of the gentle fruity aroma coming from the wine. He began pouring the wine into the glasses before stopping as he saw Ella walk out of the bedroom. She was dressed in a long velvet skirt and white strapless top. The time she’d been spending on the beach lately had lent a bronze glow to her skin. She looked amazing and he groaned at the surge of arousal that sang through his blood and raced to his loins. They needed to spend time together without falling into bed he thought as his eyes were drawn to the long sofa and he grinned suddenly.

“I can tell what you are thinking soldier!”

Ella’s sassy sounding voice lured him back from the fantasy world he’d briefly visited and he grinned at her before finishing with pouring the wine and handing a glass to her.

“Am I going to like this?” she asked him sniffing at it suspiciously. Her question and the look on her face made him smirk as she took a cautious sip before she nodded her approval.

“Ok?” he asked her.

“Yup!” She took another long drink feeling the tang of the wine rolling across her tongue. “What is this?” she asked gesturing to the food he’d spread out on the table.

“I went and got something to eat.”

“Making me feel guilty now,” Ella pouted.

Roman chuckled before he reached out and tugged on her hand leading her over to the long sofa. He sat down pulling her towards him and smiled some more as she sat next to him, close enough for him to be intoxicated on her heady perfume.

“This is nice,” he murmured leaning back on to the sofa.

Ella chuckled before placing her glass safely down on the table and half turning so she was facing him she reached up and began unknotting his tie. She could stop the smug grin she knew that was on her face at his little sigh of relief.

“Seriously, why do you wear these when you really hate them?” she asked her voice sounding breathy to her own ears. The brush of her fingers against the cotton of his shirt had encountered the hard and very toned muscles of his chest. She knew that he was working out, her mind drifting for a second as she thought of the other type of workout and couldn’t stop the tip of her tongue escaping her lips to trail a circle around her mouth and the unbidden way her eyes shot to look at her bedroom door. She dragged her thoughts back to the present focusing once more on his tie as she pulled the silk tie off and gently folded it before laying it beside him on the arm of the sofa.

“Because you seem to enjoy the sight of me in a suit.”

“I do,” Ella murmured feeling a flush of heat suffusing her face.

Roman chuckled before he reached over and pulled her into his lap. Looking into her eyes he smiled with sheer joy before kissing her. He was still smiling when they eased down amongst the soft cushions of the sofa and began to make love.

Ella eased the car to a slow stop and grinned at seeing Roman’s car ahead of hers in the driveway. She climbed out and stretched before heading into the house. Most of the kids were gathered ready to go to Roman’s for the weekend and she grinned as Lily, Liam and the twins ran over to her.

“Hey my babes,” she whispered leaning down and hugging them in turn. “Ready for Dada’s?”

Lily nodded and pointed to her pink case and Ella wondered which book she’d packed this time.

“Hello,” she called quietly to Roman watching him come down the stairs towards them.

“Hi, I didn’t know that you’d been to the studio. I could have taken the kids last night.”

Ella heard the words they’d rehearsed and she still wanted to giggle at them. Forcing herself to look at him with a neutral expression and nodded.

“It was a last minute trip. I did a wedding shoot today.”

Roman nodded, although he’d already known that. He liked that she was back doing assignments and had spent a long time praising her up and then chuckling as she protested. They’d been taking a long leisurely bath at the time and he’d been unable to resist making love to her again, the water splashing over the side of the bath and going over the floor.

“Meggy doesn’t want to come with me,” he said quietly.

Ella frowned before she nodded.

“Ok, better get the hoard in the car, I’ll have a chat with her in a bit,” she said slowly and then ushered her kids out hugging them on the way out. She watched Roman drive off before getting herself a coffee and looking out of the back down to the poolhouse. Her father and Irene had been in charge of the kids for the night whilst she’d been at the studio, they must have gone down to their place when Roman turned up and she frowned wondering if there was a problem there.

“Hey,” Meggy called from behind her.

“Hey yourself Megs,” Ella murmured spinning to look at her daughter. “Are we going to talk and sort this out Megs, it’s been obvious you’ve been unhappy with your Dad and me for a while now.”

Meggy opened her mouth to say something feeling her eyes fill with tears. She groaned as they overflowed and slipped down her face in a scolding trail. Then came a hiccupping sob that she couldn’t stop before she felt her mum pulling her close and holding her. She loved that her mum always smelt the same, that and her arms around her always made her feel safe somehow,

“Come on Megs,” Ella led her daughter over to the sofa and sat them both down before reaching for the throw and putting that around her as if she were one of the younger children.

“I heard him.”

“Who Megs?”

Ella couldn’t stop the feeling of dread going through her as she recalled Sophie being like this once before. Mentally she prepared herself for whatever her daughter had to say.

“What is it Megs?” she asked again a faint sound of strain to her voice that she hoped her sensitive daughter hadn’t picked up on.

“I heard Daddy tell you that he hated you,” Meggy cried out before clutching at her Mum’s arms and pressing closer to her.

Whatever she had been expecting Meggy to say it hadn’t been that and Ella couldn’t stop the laugh that built up and tumbled over her lips.

“What?” Meggy gasped out shocked. “Mum?”

“Was this the night that I came and fetched you Megs?” Ella said sobering.

Meggy nodded unable to say anything. Of all the reactions she never expected laughter from her mother.

“He was talking to his kitten.”


“Your Dad was talking to his kitten, the one that kept climbing his leg.”

Meggy groaned and shook her head unable to believe it.

“Seriously babes, your Dad wouldn’t say that to me.” Ella said before explaining what happened. She looked at her daughter and wiped her eyes and checked that she understood. She waited a moment wondering what to say to her before easing them back on the cushions. “Megs, my darling beautiful girl, as you know your Dad and I have had trouble in the past. When the twins were born for example,” Ella paused before she sucked in a breath and continued. “But even though we were in a bad place your special dad never said those words to me. He never has.” She left the fact that he sometimes felt like that for another discussion. Meggy didn’t need to know that bit.

“If he doesn’t hate you how are you divorced? I don’t understand. I never want….”

“Want to go through it?” Ella finished when Meggy went quiet. “Well, yeah, it’s hard to understand sometimes but even though you love the person you just can’t make it work, you just reach the place where it’s better to be apart than together. I’d rather be divorced than have it so you and your brothers and sisters have to keep hearing us argue and be nasty to each other.”

Meggy sighed and snuggled closer for a while before realising that if her dad hadn’t said those words and well, her mother had just said that she still loved him sorta then maybe it was time to get back to the plan. Yeah, definitely. And well she needed to see Sammy because she’d snapped at him earlier when he’d said about her seeing Dad.

“I should, “

“Want to go …”

They spoke at the same time before laughing and Ella felt her tension slipping away.

“You won’t mind if I go to Dad’s?” Meggy asked softly.

“Of course not babes, I’ll just go drink my coffee whilst you get ready and then we’ll go over.”

The drive over was silent with Meggy seeming lost in thought. Ella looked at her daughter warily wondering if that were the only reason her daughter had been quiet. With Sophie being back best friends with Angel she wondered if Meggy had also been feeling a bit left out.

“You’ll come in with me?”Meggy asked suddenly biting her bottom lip anxiously.

Ella nodded as she eased the car to a halt and parked up. They climbed out and moved over to the door, with Meggy carrying her overnight bag. Before she could knock Meggy had used her key and opened the door shooting her Mum a look before stepping inside.

“Hello,” Roman called softly when he saw the door open feeling a jolt go through him when he saw Ella standing there too. He smiled and then wiped the smile off his face before it crept back. Dammit, he needed to get a control on this puppy-dog expression stuff.

“Megs wanted to come over after all,” Ella murmured to him and earned a grateful smile from Meggy for not revealing the reason she’d held back before.

“Ok Megs?” Roman said quietly.

Meggy gulped and nodded before she dropped her bag and ran over to hug him.

“It’s ok,” he whispered to her before he spoke in his normal voice. “I’ve got dinner just about cooked, vegetable lasagne.”

“Oh Mum can eat that,” Meggy said turning and giving her mother a pleading look.

“I’m sure that your Mum …” Roman began just as Lily appeared from upstairs.

“Mama’s here!” she called out loudly running over to her.

Ella sighed as she was forced to pick up her daughter to stop herself being bowled over by her.

“Hello Squeals,” she sighed.

“Mama is staying for dinner,” Meggy said quickly.

“Yeah!” Lily said squirming out of her hold and running back the way she came. They heard excited chattering coming from the stairs as Lily told everyone.

Ella shot a look at Roman groaning as he smirked at her.

“Take your bag upstairs Meggy,” Roman murmured chuckling as Meggy shot out of the room leaving them alone.

“Lily is so not like me,” Ella exclaimed folding her arms and glaring at him.

“She is,” Roman chuckled again before stepping over to where she was standing. He checked no one was about before leaning forward and kissing her quickly. “I missed you,” he confessed and smirked as she blushed.

“Fine, dinner.” Ella conceded sitting down on one of the long benches and giving him a reproachful look just as the front door opened and Mike walked in.

“Oh hello Mother, when he said he was collecting everybody I thought he meant the kids….”

Ella groaned again as she blushed at his knowing look.

“See’s…” Lily murmured walking back into the room and over to her mother. “Mikey …” she added grinning.

“Mum,” Sammy called.

“Dinner isn’t ready yet,” Roman announced as he watched the kids collapse around the room. He smiled at Meggy and Sophie talking again. The two sisters had seemed to be a bit strained earlier and then looked over at Ella as the twins found her and climbed up next to her. It seemed so natural to have her there that he found himself sighing with a mix of contentment and happiness.

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  • 1 month later...

Chapter 46

Mike smirked as Roman kissed Ella for the fourth time as she prepared to leave. He had loved the way the kids seemed to be oblivious to the fact that their parents were seeing each other and he could swear that Sophie was putting on the stroppy act in some kind of plot with the others. He could have told his brothers and sisters that they should just enlist Lily into the cause and she’d sort the parents out and the thought of Lily standing and glaring at the parents until they gave in made him smile.

“Mike go to bed!” Roman called out over his shoulder.

“I’m sleeping on the sofa old man,” Mike called back.

“Mike go to bed,” Ella said, her voice soft.

Mike chuckled at them before he stood and began to move toward the stairs.

“Anything you want from your bedroom before I crash?” He asked them.

Roman grinned over at Mike watching as the other man flushed, before disappearing from the room and up the stairs.

“This is not a good idea.”

Roman smiled some more at Ella’s words before he tugged at her hand and led her back inside and over to the sofa. He bore her down amongst the cushions and moved with her, kissing her and feeling her hands reaching for him. He eased down with her enjoying touching her and kissing her and the feel of her hands on him

“You know I hate saying goodnight to you,” he commented. “I love our kids by the way.”

“You mean for the sneaky way they made me stay here all evening?”

“Yeah, can’t think where they get their sneakiness from…”

Ella glared up at him before the both of them chuckled.

“So,” Roman murmured before kissing her again.

“I need to go, I’ve got stuff to sort out, cats to feed, and…”

“Just for an hour.”

Ella groaned at the cajoling note in his voice before she kissed him again and then another groan as she eased up beside him after a long while and then stood, heading back over to the door.

“Could have had your bed….” She said to him.

He chuckled at her as she blushed at her own comment.

“Nah, Mike needed his sleep.”

Standing he moved to her side and kissed the end of her nose.

“Text me when you get in,” he instructed watching as she walked out of his house and over to her car before he closed the door.

Ella sorted through the last of the school uniforms that she’d ironed, checking them over before collecting the various hangers and starting to take some of them to their bedrooms. She paused when she heard footsteps from just beyond the back door.

“Hi,” Gabby called out cautiously before stepping over the threshold.

“Perfect timing, give me a hand carrying these upstairs.”

Gabby flushed and nodded shyly before she moved over to where her mother was standing just outside the utility room door and collecting a number of uniforms from her.

“I can’t believe that you iron all these,” she gasped feeling the weight of the clothes.

“Well, I do,” Ella grinned at her daughter, “and you know, I flipping hate ironing!”

Gabby giggled feeling her unease leaving her.

The two women moved up the stairs and began sorting out the clothes, hanging them in the children’s wardrobes before heading back downstairs. Ella walked ahead of Gabby and into the kitchen putting on the kettle to make drinks, collecting them she moved to sit with Gabby at the dining table noting that her daughter was still nervous around her.

“Where’s Daniella?” she asked softly.

“She’s with Kai, Amy-Belle is taking them to the park.”

Ella sipped from her coffee and waited.

“You,” Gabby began.

“I?” Ella murmured,

“You think I should go see Jacob?” she whispered.

Ella nodded at her daughter before she placed her cup down and reached out taking hold of Gabby’s left hand. She ran her thumb over the third finger where Gabby was still wearing her wedding ring and watched as the girl flushed.

“It’s not easy, being married. You can Jacob saw things in each other that you needed. Can’t throw that away.”

“But Mum,” Gabby groaned at how the words came out.

“Brett and you, it’s not right, Gabs and you know it. He needs to find his path in life, get a decent job that he enjoys,” Ella sighed not wanting to hurt her daughter but needing to express her thoughts.

“We’re good together!” Gabby protested with a sniff.

“Then why have you insisted that it remain a secret for the past year?”

Gabby shook her head at the question before she lifted tear filled eyes to look at her mother.

“I love him.” She whispered.

“I know my angel, but it’s time to move on.”

Ella reached out and pulled her daughter into her embrace, holding her as she cried.

“It’s never easy to walk away when it’s not working. Even harder when you do love that person….”

“Like you and Dad?” Gabby interrupted.

“Especially me and your father.”

Gabby sniffed and eased back. She wiped at her tears with her fingers before meeting Ella’s gaze.


“I’ll look after Daniella if you want to go see him.”

Gabby nodded.

“I can’t afford it,” she whispered. “I would need to borrow the money too.”

“Not a problem. I can sort that for you tomorrow.”

“The benefit of having rich parents.”

Ella laughed softly.

“Yeah, go ask your Dad for money!”

Gabby grinned although there was still a hint of sadness around her eyes as she looked at her mother. She glanced towards the poolhouse.

“Do you think Danni will forgive me?” she asked after a long silence.

Ella smiled at her daughter, “I’m sure she will, in fact she probably already has.”

“I was…”

“You were just like you always are when something happens. Might want to think about finding someone to talk to about that,” Ella said quietly. “But as for Danni, she’s had her own things to deal with.”

“More than just Jennie?”

“Some women find it hard to deal with being a Mum. Especially as Jennie was a premature baby,” Ella murmured softly. “She didn’t have time to sort through bits and pieces and get ready for the baby.”

“Then she got an infection,” Gabby added remembering.


Gabby sighed.

“I should have helped her more.”

Ella grinned at the guilty tone in Gabby’s voice before she drained the last of her coffee.

“Nothing you could really have done until she was ready to accept help,” Ella said softly before pulling her phone out of her pocket. She read the incoming text message and frowned.

“Problem?” Gabby asked picking up on her mother’s sudden tension.

“Roman has asked if I can take some swimming things round for the kids. They didn’t pack any and he’s going down to the beach with them,” Ella sighed.

“You were planning on taking a nap weren’t you?”

She narrowed her eyes at Gabby’s comment before nodding, her cheeks growing warm as Gabby giggled at her as she stood up from her seat.

“Thanks Mum.”

“No worries my Angel,” Ella said just as softly and stood too hugging her daughter before she cleared the cups away and watched Gabby slip out of the back and head towards the poolhouse. She smiled at that and then turned and ran up the stairs collecting the swimwear for the kids. She moved into her bedroom and got changed herself before heading out and over to Roman’s. He’d said he was going to be on the beach with the kids and she drove there smiling because he’d invented another reason to see her.

“But when is Mama coming?”

Roman turned to Lily and crouched down.

“Soon,” he promised hoping that were true as she hadn’t actually replied to his text message.

“Dada….” Lily looked up at him and blinked. On cue two fat tears appeared in her eyes and she gave him a sad look.

“Squeals, if you start crying I’ll have to send you home to bed,” he commented softly, “Now then, it’s Mikey’s turn to bat.”

Lily pouted before she looked over at Mikey. Roman had shifted all the kids over to the beach and set up an impromptu game of cricket. He’d been a little surprised by how good Georgie was at bowling, his son managing to bowl him out twice already. Of course he put it down to his late night and being a little distracted by Ella.

“Come on then,” Mike called out to Georgie.

Roman smirked as Georgie shot him a look before he started his run up. He swivelled his arm over and delivered the ball down the other end of the makeshift pitch. He saw Mike swinging the bat and then heard the twack sound as the ball made contact with it, driving the yellow tennis ball through the air and down the beach. Sammy and Meggy ran for it as Mike began his run up the beach to the other marker they’d used to complete his run.

“Go Mikey!” Lily cheered her brother on and Roman smiled at that too his eyes flicking to where Liam and the twins were to check on them. He saw them engrossed with making sandcastles and grinned at how his youngest son was in charge.

Ella pulled up the car and parked up. She eased out and looked across the beach grinning as she saw the cricket game in progress. Mike was batting and Georgie bowling. She could hear Lily calling out encouragement to her brother and grinned wider before kicking off her shoes, and after collecting them, began to move down the beach toward them. She yawned once, thinking of the nap she had promised herself when she’d been ironing before reaching Roman’s side.

“Hey,” he called.

“Swimming things.”

She handed over a bag and watched his face seeing him frown as he took hold of it. He felt Lily tugging on his shorts and turned to look at his younger daughter.


“Now we swims?” she asked him looking up at him and fluttering her eyelashes.

Roman chuckled even as he bent down and scooped his daughter into his arms swinging her up and spinning around with her.

“What did you say Squeals?” he asked her.

“Dada!” she cried giggling.

“Roman put her down; you’ll get her too excited.”

Roman sighed at Ella’s rebuke and resisted the urge to lower Lily and pick up Ella and twirl her around. He looked over at his ex-wife and sighed again taking in the hot pink bikini she was wearing and the sarong she’d wrapped around her waist. At least she was dressed to join them and he frowned, thinking of the fact she hadn’t replied to him text.

“Come on Squeals lets go get changed,” he murmured lowering his daughter to her feet.

Ella handed Roman the bag with the swimming gear in and turned watching as Sophie ran over to them. Her elder daughter smiled at her before speaking.

“Did you bring my one piece or…”

“Both,” Ella said softly before reaching out and picking up a lock of her daughter’s hair. “This needs a trim, babes,” she commented looking at the ends.

Sophie shrugged.

“Been pretty busy,” she said back.

“I’ll see about getting an appointment.”

Sophie smiled at her mum before sprinting off and collecting the younger children. She led them over to where Roman was standing with Lily and they moved across the road into the house to get changed. Meggy,, Sammy and Georgie followed at a slower pace leaving Ella on the beach with Mike, her eldest running over to her the cricket bat still in his grip.

“I see that he managed to find an excuse…”

Ella sighed.

“Actually I think this was more the kids doing.”

Mike laughed.

“Risking a lot aren’t they? Preventing Lily from swimming…”

Ella met Mike’s gaze and sighed before she grabbed a towel from her bag and moved down the beach spreading it out. She eased down and chuckled as Mike sat next to her.

“I take it you want to talk?”

“I… er… Danni has a job at the diner.”

“She does,” Ella smiled.

“Well isn’t that going to make things awkward?”

“You want your Dad to sack her?” Ella shot back.

Mike shook his head.

“I don’t know what to say to her Mum, I don’t …”

She sat up and turned to face him, tucking her legs in.

“Mike, you are an adult. You are bound to encounter all this nasty tricky things in life when you see someone and have no idea what to say. Just got to go with what you think.”

“But that’s it. I want to sweep her into my arms and tell her I love her.”

He groaned at the look on his mother’s face and felt the colour flooding into his cheeks.

“Well that wouldn’t be a good move. Not until you know about Jennie.”

“Mum,” Mike groaned. “It doesn’t matter who is the father, I can deal with Brett if he wants to see her.”

Ella smiled at her son feeling a wave of love and respect for him. She reached out and took hold of his hand giving it a gentle squeeze.

“It matters to Danni,” she murmured softly.

Mike paled before his gaze was captured by Lily leading the charge back to the beach, he looked back at Ella.

“She told you what happened?” he asked a brittle note in his voice.

Ella nodded her hand still on Mike’s.

“I know this whole thing is really painful but you need to know that Danni loves you,” she commented quietly after he went silent, losing himself in his own thoughts.

“She loved me enough…”

“To drive herself half-crazy over this. She wouldn’t have deliberately hurt you for anything and you know that don’t you? It’s why you want to try again.”

Mike stood, mindful of the kids coming towards them he kept his voice low.

“Danni lies. She gets into situations and lies. She’s a liar.”

Ella shot up too and faced her son.

“Danni has had no one to protect her for the longest time. No one to rely on except herself. And when you are like that you find it hard to trust in anyone,” even as she spoke her eyes drifted over to Roman who was carrying the twins on to the beach. August was giggling and Fleur looking serious as always. “If she was the liar you’ve made her out to be she would have married you ages ago and not thought anything of it. She’s always protected you, Mike.”

“What?” he gasped out his voice rising.

“A liar. A person who manipulates situations would have married you and secured her place in your life regardless of everything.”

Ella spun away from him and ran over to where the kids were. She began to organise the cricket match sorting the kids into teams before handing the bat to Lily to bat first. She caught Roman giving her a look before he collected the ball and prepared to bowl. Easing to her daughter’s side she bent low and spoke softly to her before moving away.

Lily laughed and patted the sand with the bat.

“Come on Dada,” she called.

Roman shook his head before he bowled an underarm ball to her. He laughed as Lily swung and whacked the ball across the beach seeing it sailing past him and down to Mike. His son seemed to be lost in his own world before he shook himself and grabbed the ball sprinting up the beach to join in with the game.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Chapter 47

Danni looked over at Mike. She frowned. He was sitting at what Leah told her was his now usual table. He’d ordered a tuna salad sandwich and coffee which Leah had told Danni to take over to him. She glanced at the other woman and saw her warm brown eyes glowing with merriment and nodded once before picking up a tray and loading it with his order. She walked confidently out of the kitchen and walked over to where Mike was sitting. It took her that long to realise that this was the section of the diner where Colleen waited the tables and she shot Leah a look.

“Is that my order?” Mike asked slowly.

“Yes, sorry,” Danni muttered.

Getting herself back in order she picked up the plate with the sandwich on and placed that on the table before doing the same with the coffee cup.

“Thanks,” Mike said turning his head away and looking back at the book he was reading.

Danni narrowed her eyes as she looked at him before tucking the tray under her arm and moving back into the kitchen. She glanced at Leah. “Woman, you have been hanging around Ella too much.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Leah grinned.

“So he.. er.. “

“Every lunchtime since you and him fell out.”

Danni sighed.

“He used to come home and check on me,” she murmured remembering the way she’d snap at him for disturbing Jennie sometimes.

“Ah, well,” Leah’s even tone and non-judgemental gaze nearly had her bursting into tears all over again. She sucked back her excess of emotion and moved around the small kitchen clearing away the used pots and stacking the dishwasher.

“Mr Harris.”

Mike looked up as his name was called. He still found it odd to be referred to as ‘Mr. Harris’ often glancing around and looking for Roman. He saw one of his year 12 students standing next to his table and he tried not to frown at her.

“Yes,” he murmured slowly.

“I er.. need some help with that assignment,” she murmured giving him a look.

“Perhaps you’d like to discuss it at school and not approaching me during my lunch break,” Mike murmured quietly mindful of the fact that the girl had her friends nearby. “And I’m sure that Miles can suggest a tutor if you really have a problem.”

He felt pity for the girl when she flushed with embarrassment and resisted the urge to say anything else to try and make things better. He’d had his own crushes on teachers at school and knew what it was like to want them to notice you. These days though, that usually meant girls dressed in next to nothing. He wasn’t opposed to the fashion of short skirts and low cut tops, just that he preferred them when Danni was wearing them. He offered the girl a brief smile and waited patiently as she stood there.

“Er, er, well a few of us were wondering, your Dad, like…”

“My Dad?” Mike muttered feeling his face get hot.

“Well, he’s like single now isn’t he?”

“So wait? You have a crush on my Dad?” he shot out managing to keep his voice quiet with difficulty.

The girl flushed and nodded.

“My Dad?” he asked again.

She nodded once more before fiddling with a lock of her long hair.

“So er..”

“Yeah, he’s single,” Mike told her.

He grinned as he thought of Roman dealing with the young girl. His Dad would be flustered and embarrassed and would probably have to drag his mother into the mix; maybe they’d even stop this secretive dating stuff.

“Would he like, date someone well younger?”

Mike looked up at the question wiping the amused look from his face of a moment earlier.

“He might,” he found himself saying.

Glancing across the restaurant he caught sight of Danni shooting him poisonous looks from behind the counter and it made him think of what he’d been talking to his parents about.


“Yes?” Mike prompted despite part of him not wanting to encourage the poor girl.

“Well, er… nothing,” she said and giggled before blushing bright red and going over to where her friends were sitting.

He watched them for a second before turning and picking up his sandwich. Just as he was about to take a bite he looked up to see Danni standing by his table.

“Don’t you think…” she began.

“I’m trying to eat my sandwich here,” he interrupted her mid tirade and hid his smile because he knew how much that would have annoyed her.

“Look,” she began again and could only glare at him as he proceeded to take a big bite of his sandwich. She should have been glad that because of that he couldn’t answer her back but she found herself losing track of what she was going to say. Giving him a hate-filled look that she hoped would be sufficient to tell him she was mad at him she spun around and stalked back into the kitchen.

Mike watched her go as he chewed his mouthful. He took another bite and then another before washing it down with coffee. Turning his attention back to his book he looked down at the black text in front of him his mind on a whole load of different thoughts.

By the time Ella got out of class and shuffled the twins from crèche into the car she knew she was running late for picking up Lily and Liam. And that would also make her late for picking up the other kids. Grabbing her phone from her bag she’d hastily put on the passenger seat she pulled over to the side of the road and dialled Roman’s number. She groaned when it went straight to his voicemail.

“Matta mama?” Fleur asked picking up on her tension.

“Nothing babes, we are going to be late for Lily and Liam,” Ella explained in a soft voice.

She turned her head and looked at them smiling as they grinned back at her, although Fleur still had a hint of a frown on her face.

“Liam?” August murmured.

“That’s right your brother. I bet he’ll be playing on the monkey bars.”

“He’s a monkey!” Fleur and August said at the same time before giggling.

“He certainly is,” Ella said agreeing with her baby girls. She jumped when her phone rang in her hand and frowned at seeing the caller display. “Hello,”

“Hi,” Nic said softly, “Can’t see you here so do you want me to grab your two and take them to the Shack?”

“Oh God Nic, you are amazing. Yes please. Class ran over and I just tried to get hold of your Dad…” Ella trailed off when she heard Nic laughing at her.

“No worries, I can do it every Monday if it helps. I don’t work Mondays.”

“Alright what do you want Nic? A credit card or …”

“I do have a dinner coming up with Geoff.”

“Your anniversary.”

Across the Bay Nic flushed with happiness that Ella had remembered. It wasn’t a special number but she and Geoff liked to do something to mark it each year, a picnic or a day trip, but this year Geoff was taking her to a snazzy restaurant in the city.

“Yeah,” she murmured unaware that the single word was full of her love for Geoff.

Ella sighed softly.

“I’ll see what I can do,” she told her former step-daughter thinking of perhaps speaking to Geoff on the quiet and getting them a suite in a hotel for a night and looking after the kids for her. She could imagine Roman inviting himself over on some pretext just to spend the night and that made her grin too.

“Thank you step-mama!” Nic called gaily. “Off to collect them now!”

“Ok speak later!”

Ella cut the connection and started up the car. She indicated and checked the traffic and pulled out after a time.

“Mama?” Fleur asked.

“We’re off to see Dada,” Ella told them seeing them giving her identical grins care of the rear view mirror.


“You like that Miss Flower?” She asked her daughter grinning as Fleur chuckled and nodded. “So what did you get up to today?”

“We paints and makes stuff,” August murmured.

“Ah cool, babes,” Ella said before focusing on the road and falling silent for a moment. She swapped to the correct lane and eased her speed waiting for the turn off to Summer Bay to come up. “Now then, what did you paint? Some flowers or a horse or…”

“Cat,” Fleur said giggling.

“Like Fudgie?”


“You like your Dada’s kittens?” Ella grinned as she spotted her twin daughters nodding through the mirror. “Maybe we can go see them today,”

“Me’s likes Buttons!”

“Is that the white one?” Ella asked before indicating and pulling into the road heading to the Bay.

“Yes Mama,”

“What about you Gust?”

“Me’s like Bows,” August said quietly.

“Ah that’s nice babes,” Ella murmured, “Did you paint a cat or something else?”

“No no,” August said sounding sad, “Me paints cat.”

“I bet you both painted really nice pictures of cats too.”

She grinned as she thought about her twin daughters. August was subdued because she had no doubt lost the argument about what they would paint, neither of them realising that they didn’t have to paint, or indeed do the same stuff as the other twin. Her musings put to one side she caught site of the Shack up ahead and pulled off into the carpark before manoeuvring her large car into the only empty slot.

“Okay babes,” she called hopping out and opening the back door to help them out. She saw identical expressions of mischief cross their face before they caught her warning look and instead of running off like they’d planned they dutifully held her hand and let her walk them into the Shack. She caught sight of Lily and Liam at once and let go of the twin’s hands watching as they ran over to their brother and sister. Immediately they began chattering.

“Hello,” Roman called from behind the counter.

“Hey there,” Ella answered walking to where the kids were seated and sitting with them. She hid her smirk as Roman moved over to them and then frowned as he looked a little flustered. “Is there a problem? I half expected Nic…”

“Nic had to go get Robbie,” he commented before his eyes flicked to the blonde girl sitting in the corner. “Er, no, nothing,” he added, “Want a drink?”

“Please and a large bowl of ice-cream,” Ella said and grinned as the kids began pleading for ice-cream too. She nodded at Roman’s enquiring look and he moved into the kitchen returning a few minutes later with a bowls of ice-cream for everyone. Ella moved the twins close to her to help them with the dessert. She looked over at Lily and grinned at her as she looked down into the bowl.

“Sprinkles Dada?” she asked pouting up at him.

“I can do you sprinkles,” he confirmed as he fetched Ella’s drink.

Time passed as the older kids made their way in and Ella listened to their chatter with half an ear her eyes straying to Roman. He seemed to be looking uncomfortable and well, troubled seemed to sum it up. Watching him she turned her head slightly and encountered the fierce gaze of the blonde girl she’d noticed earlier. Looking from one to the other she saw the way Roman was studiously avoiding the other girl and grinned. Her handsome, er, ex-husband seemed to have an admirer.

“Mama,” Fleur called out.

“uh huh Miss Flower, what are you plotting?”


“Ask Dada then.”

Ella lifted Fleur down and watched her toddle over to her father. She chuckled as August moved to try and get down too.

“It’s alright Gust, Fleur is asking,” Ella told her daughter.

“But’s Mama,”

“Gust,” Liam called trying to get his sisters attention.

Ella chuckled softly before lifting August into her arms.

“Miss Flower will be back in a minute,” she comforted her. “How abouts you give me a cuddle?”

“Gust cuddles you.”

“Dada says yes,” Fleur said loudly racing over to the table. She climbed up on the same beach seat as her mother and twin and snuggled close to them.

“Ok then,” Ella said putting an arm around Fleur. She didn’t have to look at Roman to know that he was smiling and she guessed that it wasn’t just because she was encouraging the twins to be more independent just like she had with Georgie and Sophie, her eyes flicking to her elder twins and smiling as she watched them both for a second as they packed away their schoolbooks in identical fashions.

“Ok,” Roman called out beginning the process of closing up the shack. “We’re closing,” he added for the benefit of the blonde girl who hadn’t moved from her seat.

Ella caught sight of another ferocious glare before said girl got up from her seat and stalked out of the door. She heard Roman’s sigh of relief and chuckled before gathering all the kids together.

Sophie stood too and moved over to her Dad to give him a hand. Georgie watched her for a second before he too moved to help and within minutes they had stacked all the chairs and stools up as the floor was swept and washed and Roman finished tidying up the kitchen.

With a last look around he collected his keys and ushered everyone out grinning as Ella took the kids to her car whilst he locked up. He turned and moved over to her and shot her a little boy look.

“Want a lift, sol…” she asked cutting off the last word and biting her lip.

“I do,” he replied evenly without looking at the kids to make her slip more obvious.

“Get in.”

He hid his grin as he moved around the car and got in the passenger seat next to her. She always called him ‘solider’ when she was really happy, not that he let on that he knew that of course because she’d probably stop the habit.

Roman grinned again as he watched the kids pile out of the car and into the house depositing bags and shoes near the door and make themselves at home just like normal. He also liked the way Ella walked in after them with the twins and Lily and Liam. The younger kids racing to the TV to try and influence what they watched before Fleur ran over to him and pointed to the kittens curled up in their basket.

“Go on then, wake them up!” He murmured and chuckled as she ran to them and began stroking the cats. He looked up at Ella and they shared one of their looks before he went into the kitchen. He saw a pile of pots in the sink and groaned.

“Enjoying living with Mike?” Ella asked moving to his side.

“Oh it’s a lot of fun,” Roman drawled.

“Pizza?” Ella offered.

“Should I be encouraging your habit?”

“Oh yes,” She sighed happily.

He laughed before taking his phone out of his pocket and started to order.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Chapter 48

He got Ella’s message about collecting the kids and had managed to collect Lily and Liam just about on time. Then he’d waited at the Diner for the others to turn up before heading out to the house. She’d told him that she was up to her ears in assignments and couldn’t get the kids and finish what she was doing. He’d heard the stress in her voice and found himself frowning and cursing that he’d missed her call because maybe he could have said something to help ease her mind.

“Ok kids in you go,” Roman murmured just meaning to drop them off.

“Dada…” Lily began in a wheedling voice.

Meggy grinned at her sister before she’d even finished her sentence and then turned to look at her dad.

“She’s plotting something!”

“Yeah…” he murmured and after turning off the engine he climbed out of the car and undid the back doors letting them all climb out. Walking over to the door he knocked once and then opened it stepping over the threshold. He caught sight of the messy hallway with the kids toys scattered around and a basket of laundry to one side. For a moment he thought he’d stepped into the wrong house but the kids walked in behind him and proceeded to scatter to different parts of the house. Sophie into the kitchen where she got herself a drink and began to head up the stairs, Meggy laying on the sofa and putting on the tv, Sammy next to her. Georgie moved over to the table and moving aside some of the dirty breakfast dishes got out his books and started his homework. He looked down next to him and saw Lily and Liam looking up at him. Something was clearly on her mind and just as he was going to ask her the study door opened and Ella stepped out looking over at him.

“Got the kids then?” she said slowly.

“El,” Roman began about to ask her about the mess in the house when she walked past him and into the longue and over to where Meggy and Sammy were sitting.

“Homework,” She stated switching off the tv. “Sammy it was your turn to clear the pots off the table this morning. As you can see I’ve left them for you. Georgie I asked you to take the laundry up and as for you Lils, they are your toys so go put them away.”

Sammy groaned and stood slowly moving over to the table and beginning to move the used dishes and plates. He exchanged a look with Georgie as his brother slowly stood up and moved to go pick up the basket before he took it upstairs.

“Now then would you like a coffee?” Ella asked Roman.

“Mama, where’s Gust and Flower?” Lily asked her before Roman could answer.

“I told you if you didn’t put your toys away…” Ella murmured causing Roman to smile at the hint of mischief in his former wife’s face.

“Ah Mama.”

Liam chuckled at his sister making her frown even more as she prepared to have a tantrum.

“Toys, missy.”

Ella walked past her and Liam and into the kitchen where she put the kettle on and began making coffees.

“Can I get a cup?” Georgie called out as he came down the stairs with the empty basket.

“Did you put everything away?”

“Yes,” he said as he headed into the utility room to put away the laundry basket.

“Homework, and tell your sister too.”

“Jeez mother,” Georgie muttered under his breath as he walked over to the intercom on the wall and spoke into it. A moment later they heard the bedroom door open and an unconcerned Sophie walked down the stairs and into the kitchen.

“I was…” she began to say when Ella spun around and fixed her teenage daughter with a look.

“About to apologise for being a brat this morning?” she said.

Roman stood back his arms folded across his chest and he had to admit to feeling left out.

“Look, a load of girls are…”

Ella spun around and faced her daughter.

“I’ve said I’ll think about it. If you give me another load of attitude the answer will be no. Telling everyone to leave their chores because you had a hissy fit worked out really great didn’t it because now everyone one of you is on a warning.”

“What? No way,” Sammy cried out.

“Want to make it two?” Ella asked trying not to smile at the changing expression on her son’s face as he was torn between protesting again and remaining silent. He finally moved away and sat at the table getting his books out and focusing on his homework.

“Mama, mes toys is tidy,” Lily called as she and her brother ran down the stairs and over to her.

“That is good Squeals; do you and Liam want to go see the twins now?”

“Mama?” Liam murmured.

“Go on, they are with Gabby and Daniella,” Ella smiled at her younger kids as they ran out of the back and down to the Stables. She watched out the back making sure that they got in ok before finishing the coffee and handing a cup to Roman. “Shall we?” she asked leading the way into the study and closing the door behind them.

“I thought you’d been killed and the kids were afraid to tell me,” he said softly.

“The state of the house you mean?”

Ella smiled before placing her cup on the small coffee table watching as Roman did likewise. She turned then and moved into his arms placing a sweet kiss to his lips.

“Missed you,” she told him quietly, “Kids have been testing their boundaries. How about you have custody for a while?”

He grinned down at her before shaking his head.

“Nope, I ended up with Mike. I’m sure that he used to be neat and tidy in his former life.”

“Are you kidding? Did you not see the state of the poolhouse? And he never goes shopping.”

“Erm, takes after you then.”

“Hey!” Ella muttered indignantly before grinning as she led Roman over to the sofa, moving a pile of books to one side before he could sit next to her. He smiled again and placed his arm around her. He could feel how tense her shoulder muscles were and realised then that she was under a lot of strain. He immediately felt guilty about pushing her over her degree.

“How much more do you have to do for your degree?” He asked slowly.

“Just need to finish the rest of this course and that’s it.”

He sighed at her words and took a long look at her. She had dark circles under her eyes and had visibly lost weight; the hollows in her cheeks were so much more prominent than was usual.

“You look pretty tired,” he commented and groaned when she looked at him.

“I’ve got 50 kids Roman, what do you expect?”

“And you seem a little grumpy,” he added.

“That would be because of your 50 kids,” she muttered.

“I’ll swap you the whole 50 for Mike!”

She giggled at the sentiment in his voice before sobering.

“Seriously, I’m just got college and the kids and the house and garden. It’s just proving to be a lot to take on,” she sighed giving him a look before reaching for her coffee and taking a long drink. She felt the heat of the cup warming her hands and frowned with the realisation that they were cold. Maybe she was coming down with something she thought and shuddered in response to her thoughts.


“Nothing,” she pinned a smile on her face.

“So do you want me to take the kids all weekend? Bring them back on Monday night?” He asked her.

“That won’t really help will it? They’ll just have an excuse not to tidy their rooms and do their chores. Plus, I still have all the laundry to do, even more when they come home from yours.”

Roman shot her a look before sighing himself. She had a point he never did their clothes because they always packed them and brought them home. He leaned forward reaching for his cup and taking a long drink mirroring what Ella had just done.

“Well we could get Irene and your Dad to babysit and move country,” he suggested with a straight face.

Ella turned and glared at him before she sniggered, just a little. The corners of her mouth twitching as she tried not to laugh.

Roman leaned forward and kissed the end of her nose before speaking again. “And don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it!”

“I haven’t!”

He chuckled at her indignant squawk that didn’t match her guilty expression before placing his hands on her shoulders.

“Turn around,” he instructed.

She gave him a look before slowly turning her back to him and feeling the slow massage begin. She breathed out slowly feeling the tension leaving her shoulders. She’d had a knot there for a couple of days. All the rushing around with the kids, being late for almost everything.

“Ouh!” she gasped.

“Like that do you?”

She nodded feeling herself responding to the husky note that was in his voice and leaned back further allowing him greater access to her back. Her eyes shot open and she glared at something out the window before shooting up from her seat. Spinning around she slapped Roman round the face.

“What the…” he gasped out before she slapped him again.

“Coming here and trying it on! How dare you?” Ella screeched out.

Roman shot to his feet and looked at her an expression of bewilderment on his face. He reached out an unsteady hand to her, his mouth trying to frame words. The change of attitude was so shocking and unexpected that he couldn’t think straight.

“Ella!” was the most he could manage.

“Out!” She muttered placing her hands on his chest and pushing him backwards.

Roman reached for her only to have his hands slapped away and he could only gasp and back away from her.

“Didn’t you hear me I said get out? Go on, leave. I don’t want to see you again.”

He shook his head in disbelief wondering what he’d done or said and frowned again before scrambling out of the study door and striding out of the front door. He spun around and was about to say something when he spotted Sophie hiding at the top of the stairs obviously listening in.

“But I didn’t….” he began and improvising quickly, “finish my coffee!”

Ella gave him a glare before she stormed into the study and collected his cup. She strode over to where he was now standing, by the driver’s door of his car and threw the contents over his head.

“There, you’ve had your coffee!” She shouted at him before spinning furiously around and heading into the house slamming the door behind her. She stomped into the kitchen and began clattering the pots and pans around as she began to fix the dinner.

“What happened?” Meggy groaned looking at her brother.

“I have no idea. You saw for yourself,” he shot back looking up as Sophie came into the room.

“Better unhook that camera before Mother sees it,” she said softly, “She’s in a bit of a bad mood. What the hell did Dad do?”

Sammy frowned before he slipped across the hall and into Lily and Liam’s bedroom. Going over to the window he leaned out of it and slowly began reeling in the Webcam he’d set up to look in the Study window downstairs. It had seemed a good idea a half hour ago seeing the parents heading into the room and talking. Of course there was no audio from the feed, the mic not picking up anything from inside the room but they’d watched as the parents had got closer and then suddenly their Mum had had a hissy fit. That was when they’d dispatched Sophie to the stairs to see if she could hear anything.

“So what do we do now?” Meggy asked looking up at Sammy as he walked back into his bedroom putting the webcam and extra cabling away in the bottom of his wardrobe.

“And why did you have that stashed away if you only just thought of it?” Sophie added.

Sammy flushed and looked down.


They stilled as they heard their mother calling and moved reluctantly downstairs to go see what she wanted.

“What the hell happened to you?” Mike gasped when he saw Roman walking in through the door. “Oh never mind, you were just with mother weren’t you? Explains it!”

Roman shot the other man a scathing look before going over and up the stairs. He shut the bedroom door firmly before taking off his wet t shirt and throwing it across the room. Examining every word he’d spoken he couldn’t think of a single thing that would have hand her slap him. He grimaced and was forced to acknowledge the slight twinge of pain in his face. She still knew how to pack a punch. And he was bloody grateful she hadn’t punched him, he thought with a rueful shake of his head. Moving over to his bed he sat down and pulled his phone out of his pocket seeing a text message from her. Debating whether it was safe to read it he called himself a wuss and opened it up.

‘kids put camera outside window!!! They are so GOING 2 boarding school!! Sorry about the coffee!! But look on your face - priceless!!! Xx’

It took a minute before he saw the funny side of the situation and eventually smiled. He might have known they’d inherited her sneaky gene, he muttered to himself.

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Chapter 49

Finally climbing into bed Ella settled back against the pillows, she reached for her phone and dialled grinning as it took six ringtones before Roman answered.

“Did I wake you?” she asked her voice husky.

“Yeah, but then you knew you would,” Roman murmured grumpily before he coughed and she heard him moving in the bed as he put on a bedside light and, she presumed, moved the pillows behind him so he could sit up.

“Maybe,” she said softly.

“Now then we need to talk about….”

“You want to know why I don’t just tell the kids, don’t you.”

Roman sighed, the breathy sound betraying his annoyance through the phone.

“Yeah, I sorta understand it El, but we, well I thought we were really getting somewhere.”

“We are,” Ella muttered and frowned at the whiny note that had entered her voice. She rubbed at the spot between her eyes and breathed out slowly. “Roman, the kids, well, they didn’t react well to us splitting up.”

“I can understand but well, if you’d let them see me and not..” Roman muttered and sighed at the note of anger underlying in his words.

“Goodnight,” Ella said disconnecting the call.

Roman stared at the phone in his hand in puzzlement. Obviously he hadn’t intended to touch upon the fact that Ella had prevented him from seeing the kids at first, then giving him an hour’s access Tuesdays and Thursdays before finally letting him see them at weekends. He’d hated the brevity of seeing them, feeling the atmosphere strained between them, more so with the older kids.

He dialled her number and frowned when it went straight to voicemail meaning that she must have switched her phone off. What was he missing here, he asked himself.

“Ella, what…” his voice stopped and he ended the call cutting off the message that he was about to leave. Getting out of bed he pulled on clothes quickly and after grabbing his keys, headed out of the house and over to his car.

He pulled up slowly near her house and parked on the verge so that his car wouldn’t be seen and hoped out before slowly walking up the drive toward the house. He smiled when he reached the front veranda and saw Ella sitting there a cup of coffee in her hands and another one on the table next to her.

“I won’t be wearing that one will I?” he asked moving to sit next to her.

“Maybe not,” she said slowly looking at him.

She lifted her bare feet up from the deck and tucked them under her nightdress before looking at him.

“El, we…”

“I don’t want the kids to know about us, not yet. I can’t deal with their expectations and disappointments.”

“Woah, disappointments? Thanks for the vote of confidence there!”

He put his hands in his jean pockets and hunching his shoulders he leaned forward turning his head away from her.

“What is our track record Roman?” She asked scathingly, “On, off, on, off, on off.. “

He shot her a look and saw her begin blushing as she realised the double entendre in her words.

“Yes, well,” he said in a husky voice shooting her another look. “Tell me why El, I don’t understand.”

“The kids didn’t want to see you.” She whispered.

Roman shot to his feet and paced to the edge of the veranda. He thought back to his seeing the kids the first few times, putting their awkwardness down to not seeing them for a while and instead it was because they hated him.

“Why did you make me fight for access?”

“Because it showed the kids you’d fight to see them,” she said softly.

“And if I fought then it would show them I didn’t leave them I just left my marriage,” he groaned, “What are you doing giving me another chance Ella, sounds as though you should just get as far away from me as possible and live your life.”

“I’ve tried that remember, just so happens that I seem to keep falling in love with you,” she told him with a soft sigh.

Roman spun around and looked at her. Maybe it was the moonlight, maybe it was because she always looked beautiful, or maybe it was because she’d just told him she loved him but he strode over to where she was sitting and lifting her out of the seat he wrapped his arms around her and pressed her full body against his and kissed her passionately.

“I love you,” he cried softly, “Like really love you,” he said kissing her again and again.

“I notice,” she said giggling at him her eyes shooting downwards.

“Oh that,” he said still kissing her, “tends to happen a lot when you are around!”

Ella laughed and pushed at his shoulders, “Put me down idiot!”

He slowly lowered her to her feet and grinned as she flashed him a look from her lashes before taking hold of his hand and leading him inside and into the study. She looked round cautiously before closing the door behind them and taking him over to the long sofa.

“I take it there are no cameras this time?” he asked as she clicked on one of the side lights on a table near the sofa.

“Wouldn’t be the first time we made a movie!”

Roman flushed his eyes focused on her daring her to say something about his discomfort when he groaned. “We did delete that didn’t we?”

She flashed him a look and giggled when he groaned again.

“You will give me a heart attack!” he muttered and grabbed hold of her boring her down on to the sofa. She wrapped her arms around him and returned his passionate kisses. He pressed her back on to the soft cushions his hands roaming over her body. They stripped each other’s clothes off and lay together naked, gently exploring each other before he joined his body with hers. They moved together filling the fragrant night air with gentle sighs as they reached their peak together and then slowly moving again to lie in each other’s arms.

“Perfect,” Roman whispered as he spooned with her. Leaning down he kissed the back of her neck before reaching across the sofa and pulling the throw over them. It had been a while since they had made love and he’d missed her. Been a while since he’d even held her properly he thought with a groan.

He waited a few heartbeats before speaking again.

“So, the kids?” he asked not really wanting to hear the answer.

“Sammy retreated into his room. Meggy stopped doing her homework and even bunked off school. Sophie refused to speak to anyone and came home with black hair.”

“Black?” Roman grunted.

“Oh yeah,” she nodded, “imagine my surprise when I saw that!”

“Did you actually swear at her?” he asked chuckling.

“Maybe a tad.”

He felt his heart smile as he watched her nose crease up when she smiled at him, and from the way she was stroking her hand down his arm.

“What else?” He murmured finally.

“Georgie,” she whispered. “He threw away his art stuff.”

Roman swore under his breath and shook his head trying to stop the guilt going through him. He should have fought a bit harder, a bit longer for his marriage.

“That’s not all of it is it?” he asked after a time.

“It was Georgie who,” she paused knowing that this would hurt him again and hated telling him, “He took your place.”

“Oh Ella,” Roman shook his head feeling the need to pull physically away from her and pace or at the very least fold his arms across his chest. He recognised all the defensive techniques he used when he felt emotionally threatened in some way and chuckled when she eased up and reached for her nightdress pulling it on over her head. “I can cope,” he told her and offered her a brief smile as proof.

She shook her head but moved back to lay in his arms.

“He got Sophie looking after the younger ones, keeping her focused on that. He spent ages combing the garden until her found the pebble you’d brought Sammy that time. Samson threw it out you see and your special son knew that Sammy would regret it.”

“My son,” Roman murmured a touch of pride in his voice.

“Oh yeah, he would tell the others off for not doing their homework,” she said softly.

“He did the arms didn’t he?”


Roman chuckled again.

“My boy.”

“Your wonderful boy. He got Meggy a very expensive notebook for her to write her poems in.”

“So how did they change their minds and want to see me? Was that Georgie too?”

“Lily I think, not too sure,” she joked.

“I’m sure.”

“I just told them it was court ordered and they had to go or I would be in trouble.”

“Oh you’ll be in trouble alright, how did Sammy let you get away with that one?”

“You mean without surfing the internet and finding out I was er.. stretching the truth a little? I think by that time he wanted an excuse to see you.”

“Doesn’t make me feel any better, not really,” he confessed feeling his arms tightening around her.

“Would more sex help?”

Roman laughed before leaning down and kissing her shoulder.

“Maybe,” he sighed, “Maybe if I could get a date soon so I can spend some time with you.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Ella promised leaning back into him.

He muttered something pressing his lips against the back of her neck.

“What was that?”

“I believe I said I had to get home.”

“Soon,” she murmured.

“Uh huh, I need sleep and you should be asleep already.”

“No guarantee that I won’t be staying awake anyway,” she told him and laughed as she yawned.

“Like to bet on that?”

He knew why he was still talking. If he ended the conversation he’d have to get up and get dressed and go home. He didn’t want to go home. Not only was he emotionally vulnerable right now but with Ella being so busy he just wasn’t seeing enough of her. He didn’t like that in all sorts of ways and not just because he was an alpha male missing his mate he told himself.

Roman sighed again before easing away from a sleepy Ella and climbing over her before getting off the sofa. He grabbed his clothes and for the second time that night dragged them on before looking at Ella and smiling because she was asleep. He eased his arms underneath her and lifted her in his arms smiling as she leaned into him and pressed her lips to the column of his neck.

“I love when you do that Ella Addison,” he said as he eased out of the room and carried her up the stairs avoiding the creaky floorboard on the landing. He pushed open the bedroom door with his foot and moved inside laying her in the bed and placing the covers over her.

“Love when you do that,” she whispered turning over in the bed and reaching for a spare pillow and pulling it into her arms.

“That will soon be me,” he promised himself.

“Ha! Don’t get too cocky Solider!”

“Ella Addison!” he groaned her name.

“Promise, when it’s time to let people know, I’ll kiss you in full view of everyone in the diner!”

Roman grinned at her wondering if she would remember that promise before he leaned down and kissed her a last time and strode out of the room and down the stairs. Heading back to his car he found himself smiling at the thought of her knowing he’d come to talk to her and waiting for him, but not just that, it was the way she set it up. Ending the call abruptly and then not answering, two things that would have certainly got him intrigued enough to come and see her. She was a witch. His own wonderful, magical witch.

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Chapter 50

“Maybe they decided not to come to the diner today Roman Harris!”

He frowned at Leah’s softly spoken sentence before letting loose the heartfelt sigh he’d been holding in for the past five minutes as he watched the clock as the hands ticked round signalling the end of lunchtime at the school.

“I wasn’t even…” he began trailing off when she chuckled at him. He wiped his hands on a cloth and took his phone out of his pocket and stepping through the back door he dialled Ella’s number and cursed at it going straight to voicemail. Her phone must still be switched off he thought with a groan. He looked at the display before texting Mike and asking him if the kids were ok and just as he were about to put his phone away he got a response telling him the kids weren’t in school. That made him frown even more and as he put his phone away he knew that he was going to go over and check on them.

Stepping back into the kitchen he looked at Leah and caught her smirking at him.

“Fine ok,” he held his hands up.

“I knew you were seeing each other,” Leah squealed.

“I was only going to say that you were right, I did try to ring her. Steady on Leah, we’re only just managing to talk right now.”

As he looked at the changing expression on his friend’s face and silently cursed that he and Ella were keeping things secret. He would have gladly shouted from the rooftops that he was going to marry her again but the thought of the kids being upset again stopped him.

“I see,” Leah murmured pressing her lips together to prevent her from saying anything further but he could tell from that reaction alone that she was far happy with his response.

“Is this one of those times were you keep silently nagging me?”

“Me nag you? I believe that is a wife’s job. But you know if you are missing that maybe you should go have a word with Ella and sort it out!”

Roman let out a shout of laughter before moving to Leah’s side and leaning down he pressed a kiss to her cheek.

“I’ll let Ella know what you’ve said!”

“Going to see your wife then?” Leah asked quickly.

Roman shook his head even as he removed his apron and grabbed his things. He murmured his goodbye to Leah and walked slowly out of the diner feeling her eyes watching him as he left. Going over to his car he sighed as he climbed behind the wheel and set off. He steered the car towards Ella’s frowning at the way he’d mentally called it home.

When he thought about the house he knew that it was still an issue between them. He had to admit that he loved it, but a part of him resented that she could just go and buy a place like that and expect him to move in. Of course, finding out she’d put his name on the deeds had been a significant sign of her trust in him, having done it when they were separated in the period before Meggy was born and it wasn’t just that, remembering how she’d planted the herb garden for him before he’d even seen the house. No, it was that he was so easily dismissed from it. If, no that was definitely a ‘when’, they got back together then they were going to have to look at where they lived.

With his whirling thoughts slowly getting back in control he pulled up outside the house noticing open windows and hearing music playing from around the back. He climbed and walked over to the door almost expecting Ella to be seated on the front porch waiting for him again and smiled before he reached the front door. Debating with himself about knocking he reached up and knocked once before walking into the house.

“Er what are you doing here?” Sophie cried from her spot on the stairs.

“I was worried about you,” Roman murmured feeling the need to fold his arms around himself. Looking around he spotted Sammy and Georgie sitting on the sofa obviously playing one of their games before Meggy raced over to them and grinned. He noticed that both girls were wearing party dresses and their hair had been curled with plaits and ribbons in it. He frowned before Meggy pointed him towards the lounge and he walked slowly inside bypassing the boys and over to where Ella was sitting at the dining table with Lily in front of her. She was painting their daughters face and had curled and styled her hair.

“Hello,” Ella called softly.

“Hey,” he said and folded his arms across himself. Too late he thought as he looked down at Ella and saw her eyes sparkling with amusement at seeing the familiar defensive gesture. “Kids weren’t in school,” he added.

“No, I overslept. Can’t find my phone,” Ella told him almost daring him to say something.

“Didn’t the kids wake up in time?”

Ella nodded at the question.

“But they forgot to wake me!”

“We’s didn’t!” Lily cried out pouting at them.

“Don’ts you ‘members Megs said nos wake Mama?” Liam told his sister.

“Thanks Liam!” Meggy groaned as the others laughed at her as she flushed.

“I thought we could do with a day out,” Ella explained to him.

“Oh, ok,” Roman took a half step back wondering what to say next when Ella shot him a look and spoke again.

“We haven’t had lunch yet if you want to feed us?”

“Yeah make yourself useful!” Sammy called out cheekily.

“Oi,” Roman shot his son a look before accepting the unspoken challenge thrown out by Ella and heading into the kitchen.

“We’s want some juice too’s” Liam called out before flushing as Ella gave him a look.

“William Roman Harris!” Ella called out trying not to grin as Liam gave her an innocent look. “Go and ask your Dad properly and show some manners!”

“Yes’s,” Liam called hopping off the chair and moving into the kitchen where she heard him speaking to his dad.

“Ok, Missy, all done!” Ella told Lily and lifted her carefully off the chair before moving to put her make-up away. She was conscious that the older kids were watching her and could have laughed at the way they were pussy-footing around her and Roman. None of them had spoken to her about the incident yesterday which didn’t surprise her because then they would have to admit that they’d put the camera there.

“Ta’s Mama,” Lily called before running out the back and down the garden to where the twins were playing along with Daniella.

“Can we…”

Ella nodded at Sophie and Meggy and smiled as they ran out following Lily down the garden before she stood and took her empty coffee cup into the kitchen and looked over at Roman standing next to Liam. The two of them had gone silent when she stepped into the room and she arched an eyebrow in silent query.

“Nothings Mama!” Liam called cheerfully.

“Scamp,” Ella couldn’t help the grin on her face at her wonderful boy’s infectious smile. Placing her cup on the side she moved over to him and swept him up into her arms before placing a kiss on his soft cheek. She didn’t see the look that Roman gave her.

“So er… food,” Roman said slowly.

“I was going to do sandwiches for them,” Ella shrugged jostling Liam who giggled at her.

“Me’s want chocolate’s spreads pleases.”

“I see,” Roman gave his son a stern look spoiling it by grinning as Liam looked at him from under his long lashes and blew his dad a kiss.

“I think Dada can do that for you,” Ella said softly and lowered him to his feet watching as he collected his drink and moved into the lounge to sit with the boys.

“So er…” Roman began again and the two of them laughed at his repetition of the words.

“Girls wanted to have a fairy picnic in the garden,” Ella began explaining why the girls had make-up and girlie dresses on.

“And you wanted to spend some time with them because you felt guilty for being so busy,” he told her in a soft voice. Ella gave him a sassy grin and he smiled back realising that he wanted to reach over to her and then kiss her. He groaned when she smirked at him knowing what he was thinking about of course.

“Might do them some good if we both spend some time with them, without arguing I mean,” Ella said in a slightly louder voice than normal and he smirked back at her.

“I think I can handle that,” he told her in the same tone of voice.

“So let’s get them some food,” she added going over to the fridge and opening the door.

He moved to stand next to her and spoke softly, “I’ll do the lunch, go sit down.”

“Sure?” she asked and he nodded at her before smiling as she grabbed a soda for herself and began moving out the back.

“I’m assuming that the twins are somewhere,” he murmured quickly.

“Twins? What twins?”

“Ha ha,” he began giving her a look.

Ella continued walking out the back settling on a bench without answering him. She curled her feet up and lay back before closing her eyes. She drifted to sleep and became oblivious to the moving bodies around the garden as Roman began getting the kids organising things in the garden.

He got Sammy and Georgie to help move the patio tables and chairs into the orchard, with Meggy and Sophie draping table clothes over them and bringing out cushions and a blanket. The girls also tying ribbons around branches in the trees as the boys put out the fairy lights and set up the lanterns they used for BBQ’s. He then brought out some of Ella’s tea sets and placed them on the table getting them ready for the lunch he’d made. As he was setting it up he noticed Georgie looking at him before he finally muttered something.

“There is a box of stuff in the shed Dad,” Georgie told him.

“What kind of stuff?” Roman asked distractedly.


He looked up and saw his son look uncomfortable and moved over to his side letting him lead them over to the shed. Roman spotted the box immediately. He grinned at Georgie before grabbing the box and a ball of string.


“I know, it’s just a box of junk but to Lily and Liam and the twins, well this stuff is like treasure.”

Georgie shot him an incredulous look before he moved with him and together they decorated one of the trees with it. There was a chipped tea cup with a pattern of roses on, a wind chime that had come from the front porch, a dream catcher with long white feathers on it. As Georgie watched his dad put the things in the tree he smiled as Lily stopped playing with the twins and ran over to watch.

“Dada looks pretty’s,” she proclaimed making Georgie snigger.

“I think you mean the tree Lils,” Roman murmured giving his son a look.

“Like’s Christmas,” Lily murmured oblivious to what was making her brother laugh at her.

“Here, I’ll finish this,” Georgie offered.

Roman nodded and handed the box to his son letting him finish putting the last few things in the tree. As he began walking up the garden he smiled hearing Lily offering her help to her brother and the two of them working together hanging up the last of the things, a decorative butterfly made of blue lace and covered in sequins, a broken gilt clock and a purple lampshade with a deep frill.

Going into the house Roman collected the food and took that down the garden to the long table. He grinned as the kids started moving towards him and helped him set out the sandwiches and the butterfly cakes he’d made.

“Want me to fetch the drinks?” Sophie asked him.

“No, I’ve got it,” Roman murmured before making a second trip and returning with the teapot and jugs. He smiled as Lily pouted at him before he poured her out some juice from the teapot.

“Dada!” she squealed excitedly.

“Me likes,” August called clapping her hands just as excitedly.

“And what am I missing?” Ella said getting to her feet and moving across to them. She caught Roman’s look and gave him a small smile before sitting at the table and looking at the cake stand with the butterfly cakes on. The daisy tea set finally being used.

“Mama,” Liam giggled.

“Oh is this what you were talking to Dada about?” Ella murmured to her young son.

“Maybe’s,” Liam giggled again.

“And what do we think Gust and Miss Flower?”

“Fairy garden,” the twins chorused before looking over at a shy Daniella sitting with them and seeing her nod before she let her hair cover her face.

“It’s so cool,” Meggy murmured selecting a sandwich and placing it neatly on a plate.

Roman grinned before looking at Sammy and Georgie.

“Maybe you could come over and do some guy stuff with your brother and me?”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Ella encouraged catching Sammy shooting a look at her as though asking for permission.

“Surfing?” Georgie asked slowly.

“Definitely,” Ella answered him and chuckling at Roman’s pout. “Take their boards with you?”

“Sure,” he shot her a grin before catching Liam looking at him. “What’s up Liam?”

“Me’s wants to do boy stuff,” Liam pouted.

“No’s you’s stay’s here!” Lily ordered.

Meggy giggled before catching Lily scowling at her with a fierce expression on her face.

“Liam you can come running with me, that’s boy stuff,” she offered her brother.

Ella smiled at them before looking round the orchard and seeing the decorated trees. She grinned at seeing the tea cup hanging from a branch before looking over at Roman and smiling at him. She remembered all the times in the past when he would get down on his hands and knees to play a game with one of the kids or how he’d spent ages doing their play garden, putting the swing set together and then years afterwards painting it and making sure it was still safe to use. How he’d repaired the play house for Lily and Liam after years of it not being used. They had history in this house and she didn’t want to leave.

As if he’d read her mind he caught her eye and slowly nodded offering her a brief smile when she teared up. She blinked a few times before reaching across and grabbing a cake.

“Mum you so can’t eat that first!” Sophie cried out.

“Of course I can,” Ella peeled off the wrapper and took a big bite of the small cake. She sighed blissfully as the cream topping oozed slowly over her tongue.

“Oh Mother!” Meggy rolled her eyes before discarding her sandwich and taking one of the cakes.

“Me’s Nana?”

“Go on then Nella,” Ella murmured to her granddaughter smiling as the little girl got down from her seat and came over to her. She held her arms up grinning as Ella lifted her up and helped her reach one of the cakes and chuckling as Daniella slipped back down and walked over to her chair before her tongue slipped out between her lips to lick at the cream.

“Good?” Sophie asked her.

“Yes’s,” Daniella murmured nodding.

“Thank you Roman,” Ella said softly just as Gabby and Danni came out of the stables and looked over in their direction. She grinned as they came over to them, Danni holding Jennie.

“Madhatters tea party?” Gabby asked lifting her daughter up and sitting in the chair before putting her daughter on her lap. She leaned down and kissed Daniella’s nose before accepting a bite of the cake that Daniella held out to her. “Ta,” she said quietly to her.

“No no’s,” Liam called out. “We’s not wearing hats, we’s fairies.”

Ella grinned at him before she patted her lap and he ran over to her climbing up and hugging her.

“That’s right, my fairy princesses are having a tea party,” Ella explained as Danni took the chair vacated by Liam.

“It does look like a fairy grotto.” Danni said looking around the orchard.

Ella shot Roman a look before hugging Liam closer to her and grinning at his smile as he nodded happily.

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