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Bound By Fear, Rescued By Love

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Story Title: Bound by fear, rescued by love

Type of story: Long Fic

Main Characters: Roman and Ella, Mike, Sophie, Georgie, Meggy, Sam, Aden & Belle, Nic & Geoff,

BTTB rating: A

Genre: Drama

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: Will deal with Mental Health issues...

Summary: Set in the years between The Darkness and Remembrance of Time.

Ella and Roman are beginning to recover after the events of what happened to them in The Darkness but then something else comes along and knocks them off their feet. It wasn't a person they could fight but an illness. Only time and patience can make this right again.


Ella woke slowly and slipped out the bed, Roman was still sleeping and she looked over at his profile watching as the light from the full moon outside cast its silver glow across his face. She padded barefoot over to the window and looked out on the garden seeing the roses tinged with moonbeams. She knew if she opened the window she’s smell the fragrant aroma coming from them, but then she also knew that she didn’t like the window open. It scared her on some level and made her fearful.

Not that she could share that with Roman, he thought that she was amazing because she dealt with everything that had happened, Gardy and then Sammy’s kidnap. She thought she was doing ok too, but now every little sound in the house at night and she was worrying over who was coming in. And just who they were after. Walking past the bed she carefully stepped out of the room and into the nursery.

She had to check on the children three, sometimes four, times a night. Make sure their window was shut and they were covered and ok. Sometimes she would just sit in the dark and rock back and forth in the rocking chair crying silently as she watched over them.

Megs was awake and looking at her with a solemn expression on her face. Her daughter was used to her coming in here at night now, seeming to sense that her mother wasn’t that happy.

It made her hate herself even more because here in the nursery at night when Roman was asleep was the only time she could cry without him knowing about it. He’d demand reasons for her tears and in all honesty she couldn’t give him any. Her tears were sadness and fear and hate and self-condemnation and panic. He’d try and calm her, showing her the children were all right and he was fine but it was more than that. It was everything. Everything that had happened and still happened.

How could she explain to him that even going out to the diner to see him filled her with panic and dread? That going out grocery shopping made her hyperventilate and that those moments when he insisted that they went for a walk or out to dinner were like living nightmares where she had no idea if someone was going to come looking for them or even worse coming for her children.

Moving over to Meggy she gave her daughter a brief smile fighting back her tears as she pulled up her covers.

“Sleep now little Megs,” she cooed softly, her hand stroking her daughter’s stomach gently.

“Mama.” Meggy called out before turning her head and looking over at Sophie and Georgie.

Ella followed her gaze and gave another one of her all too brief smiles before looking at her twins seeing that they were fast asleep. She envied them their innocent slumber for the briefest of moments before the first cries from Sam alerted her to his waking. Going over to him she picked him up before he could scream and cradled him against her rocking him gently. His eyes opened and eh looked at her before nuzzling.

“Hungry little man.” She whispered.

Jostling him slightly, and making him whinge she reached for the fastening on her nightdress and opened it before holding him so he could suckle. It took a couple of minutes before he latched on and began suckling. Moving them both over to the rocking chair she sat down and cradled him against her.

Not even the closeness of holding her beloved son was enough to stop her tears and she hated herself even more as she began to cry for having them look at her as she gave in to the sadness that she had inside.

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Warning: Contains some strong Imagery and mentions of self harm.

Chapter 1

Roman eased out of bed and pulled on his dressing gown. He stretched and walked over to the nursery door and frowned at seeing it empty. Yet again he hadn’t felt Ella get out of bed, which meant that she had gotten up early. He padded down the stairs and through to the dinning table where Ella was seated with the babies.

“Hey.” He said quietly, mindful of Sam in the bassinet sleeping.

“Hey yourself.” Ella said slowly.

He avoided giving her a searching look at her too cheerful tone because that would make her retreat from him and instead went over to Sophie and Georgie and kissed the twins on the top of their heads, he saw Meggy pouting immediately at not being first and he held back a smile before leaning over and kissing her too.

“I see the babies have had breakfast.” He commented. “Are you going to let me fix you some breakfast?” he asked her before walking into the kitchen. He had to avoid looking at her expression as she answered him or it would lead to him saying something or even just implying something that would cause an argument, and yeah, there had been an awful lot of them in the past few weeks.

His wife didn’t seem to eat or sleep and she certainly didn’t seem to want him to touch her. She didn’t want to tell him why either, and that really hurt. He’d thought they were past this, that she could trust him to say what was bothering her but obviously not.

Lost in his own thoughts he suddenly realised that she hadn’t answered and he stopped and peered through the archway.

“El?” he murmured.

She jumped at the sound of him calling her name and he flinched, unable to control his reaction.

“Breakfast?” he asked her forcing himself not to react further.

“No.” she said abruptly. “Thanks.” She added after a moment.

Roman nodded and moved over to the coffee pot. He poured out a cup for himself and took a long drink before grabbing a bowl and pouring out cereal. Adding milk he grabbed a spoon and took both the bowl and the cup into the other room sitting next to Ella.

“So what are we going to do today?” he asked her.

“I need to.” Ella stopped and frowned. “Do laundry.” She said after a minute.

“I’ll fetch the basket down for you.” He offered. “Maybe we should take a trip to a nursery at some point…”

“Why? I can take care of the children.” Ella snapped out.

“and search for fruit trees to plant in the garden.” Roman finished quietly.

“I’m sorry.” Ella said quickly.

“But actually, looking into Nursery’s would be a good idea in a while to give you some free time.” He broached.

“I told you I can look after them myself.” She snapped out to him, her tone strident.

Sam whimpered in the bassinet at the sound of her raised voice and she turned and looked at him before giving Roman a glare as if to say look what you’ve done now. He forced himself to keep his expression neutral and met her gaze.

“And what about socialisation?” he asked her.

She narrowed her eyes, still glaring at him.

“Stop quoting stuff like you know what you are talking about.” She hissed at him shooting up from her seat and giving an evil expression. “Your only experience of bringing up a kid is Nicole and look how that turned out.”

Roman frowned as the attack started before reaching out and grabbing hold of her arm. He stood up and looked at her with a pitying expression.

“I don’t know where this is coming from but seriously we obviously have stuff to work out.” He stopped and checked on the children knowing they were watching them with interest even if they didn’t understand what was being said. “Now I suggest that you go and get a shower and get dressed while I look after the kids and then we’ll talk.”

Ella looked at him as though she was going to protest before she gave a quick nod and walked out of the room. He watched her go warily before sitting back down and looking at the kids.

“Seriously, if you girls turn out to have half the hormones of your mother I’m moving out.” He told them and gave a sad grin as Meggy gurgled and held out her hand to him.

He looked into his bowl and saw the soggy cereal looking unappetising and realised that he’d lost his appetite anyway. Pushing the bowl away he picked up his cup and too a long drink.

“So do we want to watch some cartoons?” he asked his kids.

“Yesss.” Sophie cried out.

“Shush babes, we don’t want to wake my little Samson do we.” He told her. “Come on.”

He stood and moved to lift Georgie out of the high chair before repeating the action for Sophie and then Meggy. He walked with the twins over to the sofa carrying Meggy in his arms. Minutes later saw them sitting on the sofa watching cartoons.

Ella sat in the bottom of the shower, her arms wrapped around her knees. Her head was bent low as hot water flowed over her and splashed into the porcelain below, it mingled with her tears as she sobbed feeling like a failure for giving into the feelings inside that were telling her she was a failure. She was no good as a wife or mother. Her house was a mess and she hated that she couldn’t get everything done. Lifting the razor she had brought in to do her legs she looked at the small blade and remembered how once before she had used it on herself to make the pain go away. She’d had to break the plastic housing to make the metal part free and then she’d cut. Slice into herself and watch as the blood seeped out looking like little red dots at first but then they’d merge and if she pressed down it would flow down her arm. She wanted to do it now. To take the pain away. To cut it out of herself. Roman would hate her for it. She’d see that pitying look in his eyes, even keeping a bland expression on his face couldn’t stop his expressive eyes. Maybe that’s what she needed to do. To cut the pain away. But not with this blade, not today, no, she had to get Roman to leave her. So that he couldn’t witness how like her mother she was, how bad she was, how pathetic. She deserved to feel like this. She deserved everything that happened to her. It was punishment for not being a good enough daughter or a better wife or a decent mother.

She forced herself to stand up on shaking legs and finished her shower before heading into the bedroom and getting dressed. She chose black jeans and a black vest top. She added a pair of flat shoes and after pulling a comb through her hair quickly she tied it back off her face. Walking around the room she tidied the bed covers and picked up the laundry taking it through to the other bathroom where she added it to the laundry basket there. Groaning with the weight a little she carried it down the stairs.

“I said I’d do that.” Roman called out when he saw her from his position on the sofa, looking into the hallway through the open lounge door.

“I’ve done it now.” She snapped back and picked it up once more taking it through to the utility room.

He swore silently and made sure the babies were ok before heading over to the table and after clearing that moved into the kitchen and washed up the few pots. He put the kettle on to make them some coffee and waited. When she didn’t come out of the utility room he frowned and walked in there.

“What are you doing?” he asked seeing her handwashing clothes in the sink.

“These are the babies things. You can’t trust a washing machine with them they are too delicate. He has to have them nice.” She muttered her hands working on the clothes.

“Ella.” Roman muttered walking over to her.

He reached out and pulled her hands from the sink when she didn’t stop and gasped at the temperature of the water.

“Come on.” He told her grabbing a towel and drying her hands cautiously. They looked red raw and painful and he was totally freaked out because she hadn’t noticed the pain, continuing to plunge them in the too hot water and keeping then there.

“Why do you have to interfere?” she muttered.

He flinched at her tone but ignored her pulling away from him to lead her outside and on to the veranda.

“Stay here.” He told her, suspecting that any minute she would get up and try and move away as he walked back into the house and grabbed the first aid kit. He was shocked once more as he returned to her side to find her in the same position he’d left her in, her head bent low and her eyes tightly shut.

“You need to tell me what is going on Ella.” He announced shaken by the way she looked. Surely she wasn’t this bad? This broken?

“There is nothing going on.” She muttered her voice sounding breathy.

Roman frowned some more before he stood up and in a quick move picked her up and began carrying her down the garden.

“No!” Ella screamed. “No!” she cried out again looking back at the house. She began to claw at him needing to be inside. Her eyes flew upwards and she saw the wide-open sky and felt the now familiar panic clawing at her.

“Nothing going on?” he asked as he walked down the garden with her.

“Let me inside.” She begged. “Let me go.”

“No.” he murmured calmly, although his heart was thudding in his chest.

Ella began to suck in breath after breath feeling that wide-open sky descending on her. It didn’t end. It was too big. She looked around seeing her beautiful flowers in the garden and gasped. All she wanted to do was run away and get back inside. Inside where it was safe and no one could get her or her babies. She felt her heart pounding so loud she could hear it inside her head. It was going to explode it was working so fast. She had to get home, get safe. Jack-knifing her body she managed to get away from him and began moving towards the house. She felt like it was so far away and she wouldn’t get there. Falling to her hands and knees she crawled along the grass as it got hard for her to breath. She found bright sparkly dots swimming inside her vision and then closing her eyes she sank down further, into the dark. Into oblivion.

Roman watched needing to see this even though standing back and now helping her was so incredibly hard. When he saw her faint he moved quickly and picked her up carrying her back into the house and up the stairs. He lay her on their bed before going and reclaiming the first aid kit and taking that back with him. He put cream on to her hands and wrapped a bandage around them, although they weren’t that bad he just wanted to make sure the cream had a chance to do it’s job. Checking she was otherwise ok he walked back down the stairs and looked in on the children before finding his phone. They needed help. His Ella needed help and he cursed himself for not doing it sooner. He should have known something was wrong rather than pretend that things were ok. Cursing himself he made the call to Rachel, walking out the back to speak to her out of earshot of the babies, not that they would have understood what he was saying but he didn’t want to hear as he explained their mother was ill.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Warning: Contains some distressing references.

Chapter 2

Ella woke up in the dark. It was always dark. She couldn’t see the light. She screamed thrashing about at the ropes that were tying her down.

“Ella.” Roman called desperately coming over to the bed and reaching out for her.

She pushed at his hands, lost in the nightmare.

“No!” she cried out knowing that it wasn’t going to stop him.

“Ella Harris.” Roman called finally grabbing a tenuous hold on her. He pulled her upright and shook her breaking her out of the dream at last.

“Huh.” Ella mumbled, her mouth dry and her eyes blinking to try and focus. She felt the dream slowly leaving her and looked at Roman.

“It’s ok.” He said softly. “Rachel is downstairs,” he began,

“I don’t want to see her.” Ella gasped out, her voice high pitched and panicky.

“I’m sorry Ella, this is a no compromise condition of you keeping the kids.” He said the words hurting him. Rachel had told him that Ella would protest and he’d come up with the only threat that would work, knowing of course that it would hurt her all over again when she was so hurt anyway. He looked at his wife wanting to take the words back at seeing her expression but he couldn’t.

“You’d do that to me?” she asked.

Roman nodded.

“You aren’t fit to take care of them.” He said slowly swallowing the sudden sick feeling at hearing those words coming from him. He knew that he was touching on her own insecurities as a mother and he hated himself, right now.

She pushed at his arms and moved away from him towards the bathroom, her head was bent low and she looked achingly beautiful and also fragile. He watched as she stepped inside the bathroom before he stood up straightening the tangled bed covers trying to focus on something other than how he’d just kicked his wife when she was already down.

She came out of the bathroom after a minute and looked at him before walking barefoot past him and out of the room. He was struck by her silence. The Ella he knew would have shouted and screamed at him before falling into silence and that scared him in a new way. He was her husband he should have noticed that she didn’t like being outside that she didn’t eat or sleep. That she was falling apart inside.

He followed at a slower pace catching up with her in the lounge where Rachel was waiting. The children were playing with their toys in the playpen with Sam asleep in the basinet. He noticed Ella’s eyes immediately check the children before casting darting looks around the room and then looking at Rachel.

“Why are you here?” she asked rudely. “I’m fine.”

Rachel stood up and addressed Roman.

“She always this rude?” she asked him.

Roman shot a glance at Ella and saw her flush at the question.

“Don’t talk about me.” She bit out angrily.

“Then are you going to talk to us about what is going on?” Rachel turned and asked her.

Roman started to take a half step towards his wife and forced himself to stop. If he hadn’t spent so much time ignoring all the obvious signs then maybe it wouldn’t have been this bad.

“There isn’t anything going on.” Ella snapped giving Roman a hate filled look.

“Then you don’t care about the kids.” He told her. “I mean if you aren’t prepared to admit there is a problem then you don’t care about getting better and taking care of them.”

Ella flinched before turning and looking at him. If he thought that her first look was hate filled then that was nothing compared to the look she gave him now. He returned her look calmly, again resisting the urge to take her into his arms and hold her. Hold her until she felt better even if that took a million years.

“Are you going to talk to me Ella?” Rachel interjected.

“What is there to talk about? Apparently I’m a bad mother.”

Roman opened his mouth to comment when he saw Rachel gesture towards him with her hand. He remained quiet at that and looked over at his wife, and waited.

“This is called deflection.” Rachel said quietly. “Point the conversation to another place so we don’t talk about the real issues.”

Roman looked at his wife and folded his arms across his chest. She looked at him before lowering her eyes and flushing guiltily. He almost grinned recognising that deflection was her favourite tactic in their arguments. He would often have to stop and think about what they were actually arguing about when it seemed to take on a different direction half way through. And well, from the look on her face she did it deliberately.

“So Ella, why don’t we take a walk in the garden and talk about things.” Rachel suggested.

Ella shot her a horrified look, unable to keep the panic from her expression.

“Come on.” Rachel told her moving over to the other woman and taking hold of her arm leading her towards the door. She stopped and opened it just watching what Ella did when she was faced with the outside.

“I can’t.” Ella stuttered finally.

“That’s ok.” Rachel told her in her soft calm voice. “Let’s go sit down and have a chat.”

Ella nodded, her eyes still reflecting her fear as she looked outside. She allowed Rachel to take her over to the sofa and sit her down on it. Her eyes were still on the open door and she shuddered.

Roman walked over and closed the door pulling the light gauzy fabric of the curtains across as though sensing that he needed to shut out the world in some small fashion. He stepped through to the kitchen and made coffees, taking two cups over to them before heading back into the kitchen and drinking his own.

“Roman…” Ella murmured.

“He’s only here in case you need him. This is about what you’ve been going through.” Rachel told her.

Ella nodded.

“How much does he know?” she asked after a few minutes.

“Just that you are struggling.” Rachel told her.

“So her doesn’t know about…” Ella stopped and looked guiltily down at her arm. She pulled at her sleeve making sure it was covered completely.

She looked up and met Rachel’s concerned gaze and knew that other woman knew her secret, knew exactly what she was covering up and flushed biting her lip and looking away.

“So.” Rachel began sipping from the cup. She sighed at the rich brew thinking it strange that it was just how she liked it and then gave a small smile. Roman remembered of course.

“So.” Ella mimicked.

“Determined to do this alone aren’t you?” Rachel turned and confronted her.

Ella flinched before looking at Rachel and collapsing in on herself.

“I can’t do it.” She confessed sobbing. “I can’t be a mother.”

Rachel resisted the urge to go over to the other woman and comfort her.

“A mother?” she questioned slowly.

Ella shook her head agitatedly.

“Look at him.” She pointed to Sam. “He doesn’t know what a screw up he has for a mother.”

Rachel stayed silent letting Ella talk.

“I should let him go.” She added before lifting her horrified gaze to Rachel as she heard herself talk. How could she have even thought that for one second let alone said those words? Those few days without him when he had been kidnapped had been hell. She hadn’t been able to function; even breathing had been too much. And there she was saying she should give him up? How could she? What type of person was she?

“That’s right.” Rachel inclined her head briefly before looking at Ella. “How about we start with the truth.”

Ella groaned as slow tears fell on to her cheeks and slipped down her face.

“I can’t leave him.” She told Rachel in a sad voice.

“Who?” Rachel prompted when Ella went quiet.

“Sam.” She admitted. “They are going to come for us.”

“Who is Ella?” Rachel asked slowly.

“Gardy.” Ella replied looked up with frightened eyes. “He’s still out there.”

“He’s dead.” Rachel muttered in shock.

Ella shook her head.

“He’s inside me. Just like he was inside Louise. His shadow is there. It’s always going to be there.” She muttered rubbing at the cuts on her arm. She tugged back the sleeve and scratched at them ignoring the concerned look that Rachel gave her. “He’s always going to be inside me.” She cried out as she reopened one of the cuts and watched in fascination as the blood bubbled up on to her skin. “I can’t get him out.”

“Ella stop.” Rachel cried moving over to Ella and stopping her hands moving by placing her own on top of them.

She looked up panicked starring into Rachel’s kind gaze.

“You’ve been through a trauma.” Rachel began. “There are a lot of things here. I want you to take some tablets.”

Ella shook her head vigorously.

“No, Ella listen, we need to get you calmed down and in a routine. We need to get you to sleep. “

“How did you know….” Ella stopped and cast her eyes in the direction of the kitchen. “Oh, him.” She said dismissively referring to her husband. She hated that she hadn’t fooled him; he’d known that she wasn’t sleeping. Which meant he also knew about her not eating and she looked down at her arm, seeing the cuts then hers and Rachel’s hands together.

“Yes, him.” Rachel said softly a hint of amusement in her voice. “ If you want to look after them then you need to look after yourself.” She added quietly. “Or does Roman have to take over caring for them?”

Ella shook her head animatedly.

“Right then, I’m going to leave a prescription with you. It is incredibly mild and will not affect the baby’s milk if you are still….”

Ella nodded cutting of Rachel’s words.

“I still, my mother so I can’t.” she cried out.

“Rachel.” Roman’s voice cut through the debate. “Leave the prescription, Ella will consider them.”

Ella looked up at him gratefully before paling as his eyes looked at her arm.

“I’ll get the first aid kit.” He said slowly moving back into the kitchen.

“I didn’t want him to see.” Ella cried out shooting up and tugging on her sleeve.

Roman returned and looked at Rachel before he sat down and pulled Ella back down with him. He proceeded to clean the cut carefully making his movements slow and gentle as he added cream and then covered them with a bandage. He could feel Ella’s gaze on him all the time he was tending to her and he had to resist holding her sensing he would be rejected just like the other few hundred times she had rejected him.

“Ok?” Rachel asked slowly.

Ella nodded biting her lip and looking about worriedly.

“Sure?” Rachel asked again.

“I’m ok.” Ella said, her voice still shaken.

“Ok then, I’m going to be off. I need to check my schedule but we’ll sort out some visits.” Rachel told her standing up. She moved over to her bag and took out her organiser. After scribbling down some notes she took out her pad and wrote a prescription for Ella tearing it off and holding it out.

Roman nodded and stood moving over to Rachel and collecting it from her. He folded it and placed it in his pocket. Walking with Rachel to the door he opened it and showed her out. He turned and looked at Ella before slowly walking over to her.

“We have a lot of things to work out.” He told her slowly. “But not right at this minute. The children need to see you and Samson will be wanting his dinner soon.”

Ella nodded feeling pathetically grateful that he’d not mentioned any of the things that had been discussed with Rachel.

“Roman.” She murmured standing up and looking at him.

“Ella it’s all going to be ok.” He promised her. “I’m going to make it ok.” He added, promising himself.

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Chapter 3

Ella eased out of bed and tiptoed into the nursery. She looked around her babies before going over to Sam.

“Hey Mister, are you really really hungry or are you just playing with your Mama. This is the second time I’ve had to get out of bed tonight.”

Sam gurgled at hearing her voice before raising his chubby arms and waving them at her. Unable to resist her beautiful baby she reached out and peeled back the cover before lifting him up. He immediately began to nuzzle searching out for food from her and she sighed, a smile on her face.

“You so take after your Daddy.” She told him in a quiet voice as she moved over to the rocking chair and eased down in it. Pulling open the buttons on her nightdress she moved it to one side allowing him to find her breast. Sam waved his arms again and whinged at her before finding her nipple and latching on his mouth clamping down tight over the teat.

“Steady little man.” Ella told him wincing slightly before she moved her hand over her breast and helped him. He latched on a second time and began suckling. Ella sighed before pushing off with her foot and rocking back and forth in the chair. For those few precious moments she actually felt happy and relished the feeling, knowing of course that it would fade again just like always. Sam was the sum of her universe, along with Meggy, Sophie and Georgie. She felt guilty about that because it meant she was cutting out Mike and also her husband but she rationed it by telling herself that it was because they could look after themselves but her babies needed her. She had to protect them from all the bad things out there, all the people that were going to hurt them.

She groaned at the way her thoughts were going and with another sigh she took a deep breath and forced herself to look at her son and just see his beautiful face without thinking of the bad stuff. He had Roman’s eyes and her nose and freckles. She seemed to have given her children her freckles and even though she hated them on herself she loved seeing them on her babies. Smiling at the contradiction she reached out and grabbed a towel and placed it over her shoulder before lifting Sam to her shoulder and rubbing his back in smooth circles. He let out a large belch, loud enough to make Meggy stir in her bed. She gave a chuckle before checking that he had no more wind. Cuddling him again she waited a few minutes before rising and moving over to the changing table. She dealt with the nappy and then rocked him gently before heading back to the cot and placing him in it.

He looked up with her and she smiled again. He always tried not to give in to sleep, waiting as long as possible before settling and closing his eyes.

“Come on Sam, sleep time.” She called softly placing her hand on his stomach and rubbing a slow and gentle circle. He gurgled back at her, recognising her voice before blowing her a bubble from his pursed lips. Leaning down Ella kissed his nose and then tugged up the blanket covering him safely. She watched him a moment before walked silently out of the nursery and back into the bedroom, climbing back in bed with Roman.

Looking over at her husband she sighed and moved into his arms.

“Everything ok?” he asked half turning and cradling her. He couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept this close to him.

“Yeah.” She said back in response.

He kissed the top of her head before lowering his back to the pillow and closing his eyes again.

“You put on nightlights.” She commented.

“I wanted you to feel safer.” He answered the unspoken question.

“I’m sorry.” Ella cried.

“Shush.” Roman said opening his eyes and looking over at her. “No guilt here ok, just relax and focus on getting better.”

“You can’t mean that. I hid things from you.” She cried out her voice distressed.

“Ella Harris.” Roman murmured. “Of course I’m angry and upset about how bad we are. But that isn’t important is it?”

The old Ella would have laughed at him and teased him about revealing his feelings but this new Ella pressed closer to him and sighed. He could feel her shaking and didn’t know if that was because he was frightening her or if she was reliving some moment in her head. All this was new territory and he was scared witless about doing or saying something to make things worse.

“It’s not we.” She said at last. “It’s me.”

“No.” he disagreed with her, keeping his voice low even though his tone was urgent. “It’s us, we are a partnership. A pair. Husband and wife. And what has happened to you affects us both. I thought you understood that? I know I can never be fully understanding of how much it hurt you what Gardy did but in all seriousness sometimes I feel as though he raped me too.”

He sucked in a breath realising how he’d never shared that with her before. Sure, he’d mentioned being hurt and not being able to fully appreciate her pain but admitting that he felt somehow violated too? It hadn’t been done to him, maybe, but not a day, well lately that was more like not a moment went past that he didn’t regret not stopping the other man sooner.

“Please don’t” she whispered.

She leaned up and kissed his jaw feeling how tense he was from the way his jaw was clenched. She pressed more kisses there, wanting only to ease his pain before his lips sought out hers and he kissed her back. His body stirred into life and he felt himself harden. Ho w long had it been? He asked himself. Before Sam was born, months before, problems with the pregnancy had seen him move out of their bedroom, fearing his presence would have her try and do stuff when she was unwell to ease his frustration.

Looking back he could have handled the situation much better, perhaps their lack of closeness had contributed to her condition now, he hadn’t confided in her then and maybe it had led to the fact that they didn’t talk to each other now about stuff that was bothering them.

“El,” he gasped easing away from her realising that their kisses had grown more passionate and demanding.

“Don’t you want me?” she asked in a hurt sounding little girl voice.

“I’m not rejecting you Ella Harris. I just want to make love to you when we are at peace.” He offered to her. “I want to hold you now because I haven’t held you for a long while and you are my wonderful beautiful wife.”

Ella pulled away from him and turning her back she moved to the edge of the bed and clung to the corner of the mattress. He could see her shoulders moving and knew she was crying.

“Ella please.” He murmured. “You can’t know how much I want you, but not tonight, not when we have so much going on. Please El, please just let me hold you for a while.”

Ella gasped before turning and looking at him in the ghostly blue light coming from the nightlight he’d installed in their bedroom. Tears had fallen from her eyes and wove silver patterns down the rose blush of her cheeks and he lifted a shaking hand wiping them from her face.

“Please.” He said again.

She nodded and moved in the bed into his arms half smiling when he sighed.

“You’ve missed me then.” she said slowly instilling a teasing note in her voice. She didn’t quite pull it off, her voice wavering at the end.

“Oh yes.” He answered ignoring the tremulous note in her voice. “Seriously missed you.” He kissed the top of her head again and sighed once more laying his head back down and closing his eyes.

Minutes passed as they lay there together, he focused on trying to sleep but in all honesty having Ella in his arms felt too damn good for him to relax into sleep.

He felt her wriggle against him as she heard Sam start up again through the baby monitor.

“Leave him a minute.” He told her.

“Roman.” Ella protested.

“He’s not hungry El, “ he stated.

She sighed knowing what he said was true. Still there were a hundred reasons to go check on him.

“Sammy Sammy.” Sophie called, her voice coming through the baby monitor. “you’s want your blankie?” she asked him and they heard the rustling as she must have pulled his blanket up. “Shushie baby Sammy,” Sophie sang to him, her voice sweet.

“My, is that my daughter?” Ella asked.

Roman nodded.

“She does it every night.” He confessed.

“How did I not know?” Ella cried immediately feeling guilty.

“Because you’ve been preoccupied.” He told her before leaning over and kissed the end of her nose. Did she know how cute her freckles looked when she screwed up that nose of hers, he wondered.

“Still.” She bit her lip.

Or how much he wanted to kiss her when she did that? He asked himself. Damn, why was every single thought about sex? What happened to the guy who could hold his wife for longer than a minute without wanting to roll her over and ravish her?

“She takes after you.” He said forcing himself to stop thinking about sex for at least two seconds.

“Poor girl.” Ella murmured sleepily.

“Oh no, she isn’t. She’s going to be an incredibly lucky and beautiful young woman some day.” He contradicted her. “And also she won’t be dating until she’s 30.” He added turning and looking at her. He smiled seeing that Ella was asleep and he watched over her until he too slipped off.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Chapter 4

“Ok what are you doing?” Ella asked him.

Roman looked up from what he was doing and gave her a grin.

“Well you see these logs.” He began. “I’m doing some screens with them.”

Ella sucked in a deep breath before stepping on to the veranda. She felt her heart beginning to pound in her chest and took the same step back.

“What kind of screens?” she asked him from the safety of the house.

“Well,” he murmured pretending to himself that her fear hadn’t reached into his soul and ripped a piece of it away. “See this?” he asked holding up a rectangle shape constructed of four logs.

Ella nodded biting her lip.

“Well it fits here.” He told her as he positioned it to the side of the veranda.

She took a half step out to get a better look and he lowered his head so she wouldn’t see his smile.

“I see.” She murmured looking at him.

“So then I’m going to add these here.” He murmured distracted as he reached for one of the other logs he’d cut down to size. He manoeuvred it in place and then dropped it to the ground, as he had to reach out and stop the frame from falling.

“Why?” Ella asked him after a minute.

“Child proofing.” He answered immediately.

“Yeah, I believe you.” She muttered.

He shot her a grin before swearing as the wooden frame slipped from his grasp. He juggled it for a moment before moving it and laying it flat on the grass. He reached down and grabbed the hem of his t-shirt before tugging it off and over his head. She gave him an appraising look feeling her face warm as she looked at his bare torso.

“There’s coffee in the kitchen.” He called quietly.

Ella nodded, although she could see that he was focusing on the woodwork. She wondered why she’d never seen him do any DIY, apart from put together her old wardrobe. Not that that really counted as it fell to pieces as soon as she tried to use it. She remembered then how much he enjoyed helping the builders when the renovations were done on the house. Taking a step back she moved into the kitchen and poured out a coffee for herself before taking down a second cup and pouring out some for him.

“Here!” she called out stepping out the kitchen door and on to the veranda once more. She found her hand shaking as she held out the cup and tears shot into her eyes as she cursed herself for feeling so weak.

“Thanks.” Roman murmured distractedly.

He put down the hammer and moved over to her side and took the cup from her grasp, leading her back inside before she began to panic. She looked up at him and blinked.

“Sneaky.” She muttered under her breath as she collected her cup and took a sip.

“Of course.” He told her smoothly. “Where’s the hoard?”

“Sam is asleep.” Ella told him, “Which is quite something with all the banging you were doing this morning.”

Her eyes met his and she gasped at the double entendre in her words. She couldn’t help flushing as he grinned slowly at her, his own eyes travelling down to her cleavage. Her hand flew there to try and cover herself up and she glared at him.

“Am I supposed not to notice?” he asked softly. “When you are falling out of that bra?”

Ella flushed.

“It’s Sam.” She cried out. “He’s greedy.”

Roman gave her a look and smirked turning partially away.

“Thanks.” She cried out going bright red.

“I really can’t blame him.” Roman said eventually. “And I think I need to go finish hammering stuff outside.”

“Wait.” Ella cried.

“El?” he murmured softly.

She put her cup down and took a deep breath before stepping forward and placing a soft kiss on his lips.

“Hey you.” He said when the kiss ended; he caught hold of her hand and threading his fingers through hers. “That was nice.”

“Yeah well.” She murmured flustered.

“I better get back to it.” He said before leaning down and kissing her again. He slowly loosened his fingers from hers and grabbing his cup moved out the back and over to where he was working.

Ella stood watching the way he’d gone before lifting her fingers to her lips. She found she was smiling and sighed wondering why it felt so weird. Had she really been so sad for so long?

She looked round the spotless kitchen; Roman’s doing of course, and sighed before diving into the utility room and taking out the cleaning stuff. Walking through to the lounge she began dusting before abandoning that to sit of the floor and play with the kids. She didn’t notice Roman peering through the back and checking on her a couple of times; if she’d had she would have seen him smiling.

Roman worked on each section of the trellis design and slotted them around the veranda. The criss-cross design he’d made out of logs of wood looked rustic and would manage to make an enclosure around the veranda without somehow containing her. Of course he was doing it for Ella, the kids didn’t come outside without someone with them.

He stood back and surveys his handiwork unaware that Ella was watching him from just inside the kitchen. She stood fascinated by the sheen of sweat that covered his bare torso and the way his muscles seemed emphasised. Sighing she dragged her gaze away and grabbing the baby’s bottles she moved back to the stairs where they were waiting for her.

“Come on then babes, time for a nap.”

“Mama me is sleepy.” Georgie told her.

“I’m not surprised my little man, you have been busy playing with your cars.” Ella called softly.

“Carry me Mama?” he asked.

“Ah babes.” She murmured bending down to his level. “Mama has to carry your drinks up.”

Georgie nodded solemnly before he gave her a grin.

“I helps Mama.” He offered.

Ella grinned and leaned forward giving his a kiss on his cheek before she gave him his bottle to carry.

“Ok?” she asked him.

Georgie nodded again and moved with her as she opened up the stair gate and walked the twins up the stairs. She guided them into the nursery not surprised that Meggy was sitting up in her bed and grinning at her.

“Hello Madam, you should be asleep.” Ella said to her.

“Me drinks mama.” Meggy said sounding innocent.

“Uh huh.”

Ella moved over to her side and sat on the bed handing the bottle to her and grinning as she put it in her mouth and sucked on the teat guzzling the water down.

“Steady Missy before you burp like Dada.” Ella called.

Meggy always giggled at that and today she gave her mother a goofy grin.

“Dada burps.” She called.

“Hey!” Roman called softly from the doorway peering into the nursery.

“Dada!” Georgie called to him. “I carry’s me drink.” He explained.

“So I see my little man.” Roman murmured.

“Into bed with you.” Ella said to him.

Roman grinned and looked at Ella, he grinned even more when Ella shot him a look as she realised what she’d said.

“Come on Georgie.” She said. “You too Sophie.”

She stood up from Meggy’s bed and moved over to the twins guiding them to their beds and tucking them in before checking they had their drinks.

“Now then we need to have a good naps because we did a lot of play this morning.” She called softly.

“Mama cuddle.” Sophie called out.

“Ah bless my babes.” Ella said softly before she moved to her daughter’s side and hugged her. “Close your eyes.” She called gently. “Time for naps.”

She eased her daughter under the pink princess cover and tucked her back in before kissing her and slowly standing from the bed. She caught Roman still standing in the doorway watching them and she sighed.

“Dada.” Meggy called sleepily.

“Dada needs bubu’s.” Roman announced. “He give you extra cuddles laters.”

Ella found she smiled at him using the word they had for bath or shower and realised that she was still smiling when he looked at her and smiled back. He took her hand and led her into the bedroom.

“Er, what are you thinking?” she asked him suspiciously.

“Of taking a shower.” He answered in an innocent tone before picking up on her expression. He found himself getting angry and sucking in a deep breath. “No, I didn’t expect anything.” He stated keeping his tone even. “I thought you’d take a lie down too, you normally do.”

Ella looked at the bed and blinked back stupid tears. All those good feelings disappeared in an instant and she nodded stupidly.

“I’m going for my shower.” He announced and walked through to the en suite.

She stood looking at the bed for a long moment before climbing under the covers and snuggling down herself. She sighed as she settled disturbed by her sudden natural inclination to reach for his pillow and hug it too her. It had been a long time since she had turned to him for comfort, even longer since they’d made love. She was so selfish, thinking just of herself. How was he supposed to feel when she just kept cutting him out? She didn’t even accept help with the children half the time. She found sad tears leaking from the corner of her eyes and reached out wiping them away just as he came out of the en suite. She saw that he didn’t even look in her direction as he moved to the chest of drawers and took out clean underwear pulling on boxers and a t shirt. She squeezed her eyes tight shut and pretended to be asleep so that he wouldn’t feel he had to say something.

Her eyes shot open when she felt the covers moving and he slid into the bed next to her.

“Come here.” He said softly leading her into his arms.

“Roman.” Ella protested.

“I want a cuddle too.” He told her as he moved down in the covers and pulled them up around them.

“Roman.” She said again.

He grinned at her before leaning his head down and kissing the end of her nose.

“Sleep.” He said closing his eyes and leaning back on the pillow.

With no choice she gave into the moment and cuddled up to him, thinking that she was such a bitch. She took him for granted most of the time and then pushed him away the rest of the time.

“El, sleep.” He murmured when he felt her hand creeping out to hesitantly touch him. “I’m not here for that.” He added pressing his hand on top of hers stilling the movement.

“Don’t you want me?” she asked him slowly her voice sounding sad.

“Not right now.” He said turning and kissing her slowly. “I’m sure you could change my ..er… mind.” He drawled giving her a grin. “But I am actually tired.”

She recoiled just the same as if he’d slapped her and he sighed before giving her a searing kiss once more and turning in the big bed until she was safely tucked in his arms.

“Loved seeing you with the kids today.” he told her in a sleepy sounding voice.

Ella bit her lip feeling rejected and hurt before his words got past that and inside her. Has she really been so distant from him and the children? It was her last thought before she fell asleep wrapped in his arms.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Chapter 5

Ella awoke when Roman kissed her. She ignored the way her mind immediately went to the sleeping beauty fairytale but it was hard not too when she sometimes thought of Roman as her very own Prince Charming. Not, she muttered silently inside her head, that she ever told him that. Ever.

“Hey you, kids are awake.” He told her easing her hair back from her face. He must have been up for a few minutes because he was dressed and had put his trainers on.

“You go take care of them.” She muttered mutinously snuggling under the covers.

Roman sighed softly before moved down the bed and after putting his hand under the cover, tickled her feet.

“Ah!” Ella screamed yanking her feet away from him and sitting up at the same time. “That isn’t fair.” She muttered glaring at him.

“Mama?” Georgie called from the doorway looking over at her.

Roman found himself smiling proudly at his son for checking on his mum. He caught Ella smiling at him and he moved quickly towards her, sitting on the bed and capturing her face between his hands. He kissed her softly unable to stop himself. Easing back as he felt the bed dip he looked to see Georgie climbing on the other side.

“Hello son.” He grinned at him.

“Dada.” Georgie murmured.

“Hello little man.” Ella said half turning and holding out her arms. He crawled over to her and let her hold him. “Putting on weight my man.” She told him kissing the top of his head.

“I no squish mama?” Georgie asked worriedly.

“No babes.” She said with a rusty sounding squeak of a laugh.

“Hugs mama.” He told her his handsome little face looking up at her.

Ella sighed as she pulled him close and held him. She inhaled that baby smell of his and smiled feeling his little arms around her neck. Oh, how much love she had for him, her little man, she thought and felt her eyes misting up with tears.

“Mama squish me.” Georgie said after a minute.

Ella laughed and released him slowly. Taking a look at his face she grinned before leaning down and covering it in kisses.

“Mama no.” Georgie cried out giggling. “No girl kisses.”

“You want Dada kisses my man?” Roman asked leaning forward.

“No, no.” Georgie cried shaking his head from side to side. “Dada scratch.”

Ella looked at Roman and nodded.

“He does, I think Dada needs to shave more.”

“Huh.” Roman said standing up from the bed. “If no one wants my kisses then I will go downstairs.”

“Dinner Dada?” Georgie murmured rubbing his tummy comically as he looked up to his tall father.

“Is that your way of telling me that you are hungry my man?” Roman asked him just as Sam started to cry.

“As is someone else.” Ella commented wryly. “Guess there is no more sleeps for me.”

Roman grinned at her before sweeping Georgie up into his arms and holding out his hand to Ella. She frowned for a nanosecond before placing her hand in his and letting him help her up from the bed.

“Right then let’s get the others.” Roman murmured jostling Georgie accidentally on purpose.

“Dada!” he cried laughing.

Ella smiled again before reaching out and stroking down Roman’s back. She heard him sigh and grinned at him before moving ahead of them into the nursery.

Sophie was standing by Sam’s cot looking at her brother through the bars and Meggy was sitting up in bed looking at on of her storybooks. She was looking at the words before running her little fingers over them just like Ella did herself when she was showing them the letters and she knew that behind her Roman was watching with a grin on his face.

“Ok Sam, are you hungry?” Ella called softly at her son.

“Mama,” Sophie began to say something before falling silent.

“Have you been looking after him Sophie?” Roman murmured as Ella lifted Sam out and took him over to the rocking chair. She placed a folded towel over her shoulder before beginning to adjust her clothes, stopping and looking at Roman. He gave her a grin and made no attempt to look away.

“Roman.” She cried.

“They were mine first.” He murmured with a pout, “If I’m willing to share why won’t Sammy?”

“Dada not Sammy, Sam.” Sophie corrected.

Meggy looked up from her book and sighed.

“Mama dinner?” she asked.

“Dada is going to take you all downstairs now.” Ella muttered giving him a glare. She rocked Sam trying to settle him not wanting to feed her son in front of Roman.

“Come on babes.” Roman called out softly.

Meggy held her arms up to him and he moved over to her and picked her up.

“Me’s?” Sophie asked pouting.

“Oh ok then,” Roman said sitting on Meggy’s bed.

Sophie ran over to him and climbed up on his lap smiling happily as he lifted all three of them and began to walk out of the room.

Ella waited until she heard the stair gates going before finally allowing Sam to feed. Watching her precious boy suckling she didn’t see Roman standing in the doorway of the nursery. He let out a small cough to alert her to his presence and her head shot up, her eyes meeting his.

“Go away.” She hissed out to him.

“El?” Roman asked puzzled.

“Don’t look at me.” She cried out rising from the chair with difficulty and reaching out for a blanket to cover herself.

Roman shook his head and eased out of the room feeling hurt and confused. When she’d fed the twins and Meggy she’d not only let him see, but also he’d held her sometimes when she’d brought the babies back into their bed whilst she fed them. What was going through her head now scared him so much. Not just the fear of going outside but also her terror at leaving the children. How could she be this bad and he really had not noticed?

“Have you finished?” he called out after a moment urging his voice to be normal.

“What do you want?” Ella bit out and swore as Sam fussed.

“Meggy wants her book.” Roman said slowly and heard Ella sigh.

“Ok.” She said after a minute.

Roman moved slowly into the room and picked up the book Meggy had been looking in before turning and looking at Ella. He saw tears slipping down her cheeks and he cursed before going over to her and kissing her.

“We need to talk.” He said wiping away the hot tears. “Bring him down when you are done.” He added and kissed her again.

Turning he moved out of the room and back down the stairs over to the children. He placed the book on the coffee table and saw Meggy make her way over to it and plonk down on her backside before she opened up the book. He should have been surprised when she turned pages until she had got to the place where she left off but he wasn’t, thinking how like Ella she was. He saw Sophie giving him a look and he smiled at her before reaching for the remote and switching on the TV. Surfing the channels he found some cartoons for them to watch and smiled as Georgie moved over to sit in front of the TV with one of his toy cars in his hands.

“So what do you want for dinner?” Roman asked them. “Ghetti?”

Sophie shook her head just as Meggy opened her mouth to speak.

“Jamwiches.” Georgie said not looking at the other two.

“That’s jam sandwiches.” Ella translated moving into the room with Sam. She placed him into his basinet and smiled down at him before moving over to Roman’s side.

“It’s ok. I worked that out.” Roman muttered moving away from her and into the kitchen.

Ella stood looking at the space where he’d been and tried not to sigh. She felt tears prickling her eyes and blinked them away hurriedly before going over to where Meggy was looking at her book.

“What you up to little girl?” she asked her in a soft voice.

“Me’s doing me letters.” Meggy explained patiently.

“So what letter is that?” Ella asked sitting next to her on the floor.

“Aaaaaaah.” Meggy enunciated carefully.

“And this one?”

“Furrrrrrrh” Meggy told her with a smile.

“You are so clever Meggy girl.” Ella murmured kissing her daughter.

“I can do my letters too.” Sophie said narrowing her eyes and looking at her sister.

“I know you can, that because my babies are so clever.” Ella called softly.

“Me’s too Mama?” Georgie said not taking his eyes off the tv screen.

“Yup, you too Mr Man.” Ella said with a giggle. “Now how about I read this to you?”

Yes Mama.” Meggy cried giving her a toothy grin.

Ella moved to sit on the sofa lifting her daughter next to her. She saw Sophie looking at them and patted the other side of her smiling as Sophie climbed up next to her. She began reading the story of Little Red Riding Hood.

Roman moved around the kitchen thinking of all the differences in his wife, her fear of being outside, her obsession with cleaning and looking after Sam. All the little fears she had seemed to be multiplying until she was crippled by them and he had absolutely no idea how to help her, he thought looking out on the veranda with it’s new addition. How he’d congratulated himself on that little idea when it actually meant nothing. There was no way he could fix her and he hated the idea of what that meant for them as a couple.

“Hey.” Ella called from the archway.

Roman started and half turned towards her shielding his face at the last minute. There was no reason she needed to see that he was worrying about her.

“Want a drink?” he asked in a normal voice. “I thought I’d cook something so the kids have carrot and potato mash with sausages.”

“They’ll enjoy them.” Ella commented. “How about you look at me?” she added after taking a deep breath.

“What?” he asked lifting his head as he moved to the kettle. He switched it on before turning and meeting her gaze.

“Fine.” Ella muttered after a moment. “What is going on?”

“I don’t know what you mean.” He tried to act innocent but his gaze met hers and he saw tears gathering in her eyes again. Why did she cry so much? What was hurting her and making her sad? He asked himself.

“I don’t want anything to eat.” Ella said after a moment.

She stepped past him and over to the fridge taking out a can of soda and opening it. Her eyes went to the veranda and the fencing he’d put around it. She took a deep breath and stepped outside seeing how with the waist high wooden surround seemed to create a barrier between being totally outside and still in the house. She knew that he’d done it for her and she sighed.

“Do you like it?” Roman asked stepping out next to her.

She could feel the heat from his body and smell the musky scent of his skin and was suddenly very aware of him as a man. How many times had he wanted to get close to her and she’d frozen on him? When had they last made love together? Before Sam was born.

“It’s good.” She told him finally feeling her face grow warm.

“Ok.” He murmured and walked back into the kitchen.

Ella stood for a second before she retreated back into the safety of the house. She glanced at Roman before collecting drinks for the children and taking them through. One thing was for certain, they were struggling and she had no idea how to fix things.

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  • 2 months later...

Chapter 6

“So.” Rachel murmured looking over at Ella.

“So.” Ella said back in a subdued voice.

“Ladies.” Roman greeted coming in from outside. He placed the groceries he was carrying on the side and walked over to where they were seated in the longue. Pressing a gentle kiss to Ella’s cheek he half smiled when she didn’t flinch. “Would you be more comfortable sitting elsewhere and talking?” he asked.

Ella looked at him ready to say something if he went on to suggest going out on the veranda before frowning.

“I’ve sorted out some of the things in the store room.” He explained. “So you can go in there?”

Ella looked at him tilting her head to one side before she slowly stood and walked through to the room opposite the longue. In need of decoration it had all her boxes of photographs stacked in it until she decided, well they decided if it were going to be a space for them to retreat when the children were older and took over the longue or a space for her to work.

Opening the door she took in the rows of metal shelving he’d put together and stacked her storage boxes on. The floor had been cleaned and an old rug placed on the bare boards. She took in the pale cream walls, cleaned and smelling faintly of lemon. And there in the middle of the room were the two red armchairs that had been left behind by the previous owners. Somehow they looked clean and less shabby than the last time she saw them. Between them was an upside down packing case, there to act as a table. She frowned looking at the room not even noticing that there were curtains up at the cleaned windows.

“When did you do this?” she asked in that quiet subdued voice.

“Oh, over a few weeks.” Roman commented ushering her into the room. “I was going to ask you about the getting rid of the chairs but then a few days ago when you told me that Rachel had set up an appointment to see you.” He stopped realising that she’d stopped listening to him.

“This is great.” Rachel said after a moment. “Let’s get seated, eh Ella.” She added in a murmur and guided Ella into the room.

She and Roman exchanged a look and Roman retreated out of the room closing the door behind him before he moved into the kitchen and put the groceries away.

“This is great.” Rachel said to Ella as she moved to sit in one of the chairs.

“Yeah isn’t it.” Ella muttered folding her arms across herself.

“Not too happy are you Ella?”

“You are asking me that?” Ella shot out anger in her voice. “You are here for my counselling sessions surely that is a clue.”

Rachel smiled at the sarcastic words before she gestured to the other chair and Ella mutinously sat down, her arms crossing over herself.

“So, how are things?” Rachel prompted after a moment.

“I don’t know.” Ella paused looking around. “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

She stopped and looked down noticing her body language and sighed before slowly uncrossing her arms.

“Tell me more.” Rachel said when Ella had fallen silent once more.

“I mean,” she stopped as though gathering the one hundred and one thoughts going round her head at that moment. “One minute I’m talking to him and it’s nice, it’s good even and we are smiling and I’m not unhappy or sad and the next I’m just swamped by these feelings of sadness and I can’t control how I am with him. Like this.” She gestured to the room. “He did this for me and I just resent him for going behind my back.”

“Would you say you are punishing him?” Rachel asked slowly.

Ella started looking shocked. She frowned and leaned forward.

“Why would I?” she asked back.

“You need to tell me that.”

“I don’t think this is going to work?” Ella said quickly. “You know both of us.”

“Ella, I’m here today as your counsellor.” Rachel pointed out after a moment.

Ella sighed before lifting sad eyes to the other woman.

“I think.” She stopped biting her lower lip before continuing. “I think that I hate him.” She admitted and burst into tears.

Rachel sighed before standing and easing out of the room. She returned a couple of seconds later and placed a box of tissues on the makeshift table inbetween them before tugging a couple out and handing them to Ella. She waited a couple of moments before she spoke again.

“Why do you hate him Ella?”

Ella looked up, her tears drying up.

“Because he didn’t stop him.” She said in a whisper.

“Ok,” Rachel said slowly.

“And if he’d stopped him then she wouldn’t have taken Sam.”

“I see.”

“Is that crazy?”

“That or you Ella?” Rachel asked her. “I think that we have a lot of things to work on here.”


“If you needed an answer then no, I don’t think you are crazy. I think you are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.”

Ella sighed before grabbing some more tissues.

“Do you think, well that I would, you know,”

“Ella?” Rachel prompted.

“Well, get back…”

“With Roman? Or how you were?”

“Either.” Ella sighed thinking of Roman and how hopeful he was now that she was getting help. She tilted her head to one side and listened. “That’s Sam.” She added hearing her son cry.

Rachel smiled at her.

“Do you need to go?” she asked watching as the other woman moved restlessly in the chair.

“No, er, Roman can er,” Ella stopped and looked down at the way she was touching the marks on her arms from when she’d cut herself. She flexed her fingers and stopped what she was doing.

“Obviously you have a lot of anxiety about the care of your son.”

“Obviously.” Ella drawled.

Rachel looked down to hide the smile she had on her face. She understood what Roman had told her now about how she was Ella one minute and then she was gone. She’d just witnessed it for herself.

“He’s stopped crying.” Ella said and forced herself to sit back in the chair.

“So is it that you don’t trust anyone with Sam?”

“Rachel.” Ella protested.

“Or just Roman?”

Ella shook her head and seemed to shrink into herself at the question.

“I don’t know.” She said slowly, plotting out the words carefully. “I feel that I need to take care of him.”

“Just you.”

Ella nodded.


“Because I won’t let him be taken.” Ella blurted out and gasped. She’d had no idea she’d been holding Sam’s kidnap against Roman. It hadn’t been his fault. She knew that. Logically.

“I think that we’ve done really well for a first session.” Rachel murmured slowly.

“But what about…” Ella stopped and looked over at the other woman.

“We can talk about the cutting, but you haven’t cut since have you?”

Ella shook her head.

“So…” Rachel paused. “That leaves your agoraphobia.”

Ella sighed and closed her eyes for a second before opening them. Her gaze went over to the covered windows and she sighed again at how Roman had covered them with nets and curtains, shutting out the view of the outside so that she would feel safe in the room. She sighed one more time before turning and facing Rachel, her arms folded across her middle.

“How do I deal with it?” she asked slowly.

“There is something called exposure therapy. I’ve given Roman the details.”


“Because he wanted to understand how he could help you. “ Rachel said slowly watching the flare of emotion in the other woman’s eyes.

“Exposure?” Ella asked quietly.

“You go outside for a short period of time until you start to feel the panic sensations start.”

Ella nodded as she listened to Rachel outline the therapy techniques.

“But as I said, Roman has this information.”

“So, what happens if I freak out?” Ella said her eyes straying to the windows. “I don’t.” she stopped talking dragging her gaze back to Rachel.

“Don’t?” Rachel prompted.

“Well I don’t want Roman to have to keep looking after me.” She bit out.

“I don’t think you have a choice about that right now. He’s still your husband.”

“For the moment?” Ella queried.

“That isn’t for me to say.” Rachel said feeling a quiver of sadness going through her at the thought of the couple splitting up after all they’d gone through. “Read though the information and get back to me if you have any questions.”

She stood up and looked over at Ella.

“Thanks.” Ella murmured slowly before she too stood up. She led Rachel out of the room and back into the longue stopping when she saw Roman there holding Sam and feeding him with a bottle.

“Hey.” He said softly. “Want to take over?”

Ella sucked in a deep breath before she answered.

“No, you’ve got him.” She said in her quiet voice.

Roman looked at her before he nodded.

“The others are upstairs playing in the nursery.” He said

Ella gave him a hesitant smile feeling strange when he smiled back at her before she turned and escorted Rachel to the door.

“See you soon Ella.” Rachel promised before leaving.

Ella took a step back before watching Rachel go over to her car and drive off before she shut the door and went back over to where Roman was. He’d finished feeding Sam and was cradling him over his shoulder.

“Ok?” he asked her.

She nodded at him before reaching out and stroking her baby’s back.

“Thank you for the room.” She whispered.

“We still need to decide what to do with it.” He said quietly. ”Do you want a drink or…”

He stopped when she shook her head at him.

“We need to talk.” She told him her voice wavering.


Roman eased up and moved over to where Sam’s crib was and laid his son gently inside it knowing that her eyes were following every movement of his. Pulling up the cover he waited a moment before turning to her.

“Here?” he asked.

She nodded and moved to sit on the sofa waiting for him to join her there. Her fingers were rubbing at one of the cuts nervously. Roman watched her before he moved over to join her.

“I need you to take care of Sam.” She whispered. “full time.”


“I need you to look after him. I’ve been pushing you away and it’s not fair.” She said her voice no higher than a whisper.

“I can help you out more certainly.” He told her. “But I can’t do full time.”

“I’ve been blaming you for his kidnap and I need to relax.” She shot out.

“I know.” He told her quietly.

Her eyes flew to his and he smiled gently before moving closer to her and taking hold of her hands.

“It’s ok.” He said calmly. “It really is. We can get through this.”

“I’m not sure I want to.” Ella gasped out.

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying that I think.” She stopped and looked at him. Really looked at him. She saw lines of strain around his eyes and mouth and he was tired and pale. Dark circles ringed his eyes and in that one moment she felt something flutter into life inside her. Something she had thought dead ever since Sam had been kidnapped. “Well I think that we need to take things slow.” She amended what she had been about to say and saw the immediate look of relief in his face.

“So no hot kinky sex then.” He shot back.

Her eyes flew to Sam and she frowned.

“He’s asleep.” Roman told her amusement in his voice.

“Still…” she bit her lip and looked back at Roman before she smiled. “Fine.”

He chuckled softly.

“I got Rachel to give me some paperwork on the sort of therapy she’s suggested. I thought we could go over it together.” He said after a minute.

Ella nodded at him.

“I was kinda…”

“Annoyed at me?” Roman smiled again. “I haven’t looked at it yet, I thought that if you didn’t want me to.” He shrugged.

She looked at him for a long time before realising that she hadn’t removed her hands from his clasp like she normally would. Maybe she had made some progress.

“I do want you to look at it, at the paperwork.” She decided. “We need to do this together.”

Roman nodded before leaning forward to kiss her. He aimed for her cheek but at the last moment she turned her head and his lips connected with hers.

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  • 2 months later...

Chapter 7

Roman stepped into the shower. It had been a long day with one thing or another. Ella’s counselling and then taking care of Sam and the children as Ella tried to take a backseat and then after they had gone to bed, he and Ella had sat and talked about the treatment for her agoraphobia. He could see that it was hard for her to talk to him and he couldn’t do anything to make it easier on her. She wouldn’t let him for one, insisting on starting in the morning. She had dark shadows under her eyes and looked pale and fragile. Like a copy of his vivacious wife.

As he turned under the hot water, letting it cascade over his body he smiled thinking of her, of how she used to be. He felt suddenly guilty for saddling her with Sam, after they had agreed to have no more children and then allowing him to be kidnapped and vowed that he would do anything to get his Ella back.

She was so beautiful, so amazing and she didn’t even know it. Her sapphire eyes shot fire at him one minute and glowed with happiness the next. And her smile. He’d walk barefoot across desert sands for one of her smiles. His thoughts drifted thinking of her hands and then her legs and finally her body. He moaned as his body reacted to his thoughts of her. Looking down he saw his aroused flesh and groaned. He couldn’t go to bed like this, and even turning the water to freezing he knew that would only provide a temporary solution. Lying next to Ella, smelling the perfume on her beautiful skin and not getting aroused?

With a groan he lowered his hand to himself and began stroking. He’d done this before, relieved his frustration like this but never had he felt like he was cheating on her. He sighed releasing a slow breath before the sensual feelings built up again. Ella. His Ella. His beautiful wife Ella. She would use her hands just like he was doing now. Or even more seductive, her mouth, he moaned softly imaging her mouth on him, the way she would swirl her tongue around him. Oh god, Ella.

He felt the sexual release shudder through him and then the guilt of somehow being unfaithful to her again and he lowered his head feeling the beating water thudding down on him. Grabbing the shower gel he poured out a measure in his hand and soaped down his body cleansing himself physically if not metaphorically.

Turning off the water after rinsing off, he stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel rubbing his body quickly dry before wrapping it around his waist. Walking through to the bedroom he saw Ella laying in the bed and smiled.

“Hey,” she mumbled from underneath the covers.

“Hey yourself.” He said back before pulling out a pair of pyjamas from the chest of drawers at the side of the bed. He dropped the towel to the floor before pulling on the pyjama bottoms and then tugging the t shirt over his head. Bending and retrieving the towel he took it through to the en suite and hung it back up on the rail before heading back through to the bedroom. He noticed then that his light was on and nodded to himself before getting into the bed with his wife.

Her perfume enveloped him immediately and he bit back a groan.

“Light on?” he asked trying to distract himself.

“Yes please.” She told him in a quiet sad sounding voice.

“Ok.” He said in the same tone of voice.

He had to admit there were some nights that he wanted to rip his light out and throw it across the room looking at it with great satisfaction as it smashed to bits. But it wasn’t the light, merely what it represented, Ella’s fear. Ella’s pain.

“Brooding.” She muttered sleepily making him laugh.

“Yes.” He agreed rolling over and putting an arm around her.

Her perfume once more enveloped him and he sighed when he found himself leaning closer and inhaling deeply.

“Why?” she asked and he forced himself to remember what he’d been thinking about.

“Ah,” he murmured.

“I want to know even if it’s bad.” Ella said suddenly rolling over and pinning him with her gaze.

He leaned forward and kissed her before sighing.

“Just not liking the light being on.” He admitted finally. “I can do the nightlights.”

“But the light means what?” Ella picked up on immediately.

“That you are having the dreams again.”

Ella groaned and realised he was right. When she had nightmares reliving the rape she always wanted his light on.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered in that hurt voice he dreaded.

“El, please.” He gasped out kissing her. “Please.” He said again and kissed her once more. She sighed and responded kissing him back and he groaned against her lips thinking that the brief moments of pleasure he’d felt in the shower were nothing to what he felt in her arms, what he felt from her kisses and touches. His body throbbed from urgent arousal and he wanted to make love to her.

He felt her hands tentatively reach for him and he crowed out his triumph at reaching her. She kissed him back and he felt like swinging from the light fighting and beating his chest like Tarzan. As suddenly as he felt her respond to him he also felt her withdrawal and eased back to look into her eyes. He saw them fill with tears before they slowly trickled down her face.

“I can’t do it.” She whispered.

“Can’t do what?” he asked slowly forcing his voice to be normal.

“Make love.” She whispered looking down his body.

He shifted uncomfortably before leaning down and kissing the end of her nose. He heard her sigh before kissing her lips, not the deep kiss of earlier but a gentle peck on her lips. He followed it up by kissing first one cheek and then the other before kissing her nose again.

“Roman!” she protested.

“Am I not allowed to kiss you now?” he asked keeping his voice jokey.

She looked at him about to say something when he kissed her nose again and instead of telling him to stop she giggled. She hadn’t giggled in so long, she could feel the laugh building her, before erupting in the rusty sounding laugh. Looking into his eyes she could see that he was shocked by her laughter and that made her giggle some more before she leaned up and capturing his face between her hands she kissed his nose, and then his cheeks before kissing his lips.

“Ella Harris.” He moaned before returning her kiss.

“I want to.” She said biting her bottom lip and looking at him from under her lashes.

“I want to as well.” He replied grinning at her. “You can’t believe how much I want to.”

“So.” She said and that look of panic crossed her face as she felt his hard body moving in the bed before feeling him put his arms around her.

“So how about this.” He began kissing the end of her nose again. “We take things very slow.”

She nodded swallowing the sudden lump in her throat. “How slow?” she asked him.

“Tonight I want to do some kissing,” he told her and smiled. “and then tomorrow night If we aren’t too tired I would like to give you a very long,” he paused watching his words sink in. “Very slow,” he murmured trying not to smirk as Ella began to blush. “very sensual,” he added and heard her give a gasp. Leaning down he placed his lips near her ear and whispered. “massage.” He said and chuckled when she groaned.

“You.” She muttered before pushing at his chest and roiling over until she was facing away from him.

Roman laughed before he moved to snuggle with her. He inhaled her perfume again loving the mix of strawberries from her shampoo and shower stuff and her. She smelt so wonderful, so delectable. He could spend ages kissing her and touching her just to keep inhaling that scent. Did she have any idea what that did to him? How sometimes when he prepared strawberries he immediately thought of her? How he would imagine her lying underneath him and have to pull himself together before he rushed home to make love to her. Not that he always resisted, he thought with a grin, remembering the times he’d come home just in time to help put the kids down for their nap before easing Ella inside the bedroom and seducing her.

“I..” Ella began.

“What?” he prompted when she went quiet.

“Do you think I’ll get better?” she asked him finally.

His heart broke just a little at the question and his arms tightened around her in reflex.

“No.” he answered and felt her sob against him as thought her last remnants of strength left her at his answer. Leaning close and placing his lips next to her ear he spoke again. “I know you are going to get better. I know you are going to be back chasing the kids round the garden and surfing and out with your camera because that is you. And because in all the magical years I’ve known you, you haven’t let anything beat you yet, not your crappy childhood, not Gardy and not this.”

He felt more sobs from her before she turned in his arms and clung to him and he in turn clung just as tight to her. She was his Ella, his wife, his woman and his lover and more important than all of those, she was the best part of him. She made him smile and now, in the electric yellow glow from his bedside lamp, it was her pain that made him cry and even though he tried to stop himself he felt emotional tears slipping down his face.

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  • 1 month later...

Chapter 8

“Ok?” Roman murmured to her.

“This is fine, not scary at all,” Ella muttered back before frowning at his smug expression.

“Time to step off the veranda and on to the grass,” he whispered after a long pause.

“I don’t know that I can,” Ella whispered back, “It’s all too much.”

“Take a deep breath and visualise it, there is nothing that can hurt us, it’s our back garden, all you need to do is take a step forward and then one more and you’ll be there.” Roman encouraged softly. “Hold my hand if that will help?”

Ella groaned before shaking her head.

“I need to do this alone.”

She sucked in a deep breath before taking one, then two and finally three steps forward. Opening her eyes wide she felt the first panic reactions set in and focused on her breathing, in and out keeping it nice and slow and even. Turning to look at Roman she saw his worried expression and groaned again. It took a moment to realise that she hadn’t immediately panicked.

“Roman,” she whispered.

“It’s ok,” he said back sensing her emotions.

“This is ok, really is,” she gave him a hesitant smile just as Sam let out a cry and her expression changed in a flash. She lurched forward towards the house where her son was crying and stumbled. She would have fallen if it were not for Roman catching her but in her fear and panic it was Roman who was stopping her from reaching her baby and she began to fight him.

“Ella no,” he cried out feeling her clawing at his hands.

“Got to get to Sam,” Ella screamed.

Roman swore under his breath as she continued to fight him before he reacted and picked her up carrying her inside the house. It took her a moment to realise she was inside and looked at him with blank eyes until recognition reached her subconscious.

“Oh god, no,” she cried out subsiding into sobs.

Roman looked down at his crying wife and wanted to comfort her but Sam was crying and if he left him then the other kids would get upset and he could only deal with so much at once. He groaned once more before easing his wife down on the sofa.

“I’ll be back in a minute,” he told her not sure if she was even listening to him before he walked out of the room and ran up the stairs. He chuckled, feeling tension leaving him, as he viewed his daughter Sophie standing next to Sam’s cot trying to sooth him.

“Hey, baby girl,” he called easing down to kiss the top of her head before looking in on Sam. “Now then my boy,” he murmured.

As he reached in the cot to pick up Sam he spotted the red welts on his wrists from Ella’s scratches and frowned. Easing the fierce expression from his face he dealt with Sam’s dirty nappy and placed him back in his cot.

“Dada,” Meggy called out grabbing his attention.

“What babes?” he turned and looked at her smiling as she held out her favourite teddy bear to him.

“For Mama?” she lisped softly.

“Why are you giving your teddy to mama?” he murmured moving to ease down next to her. He found a lump in his throat and swallowed to try and ease it. They’d made the kids stay up here so they wouldn’t be upset if Ella had a reaction and yet they’d still seemed to have picked up on the vibes, he shouldn’t be surprised really because they were part witch, inheriting that from their mother.

Meggy shrugged before she pouted up at him.

“I dun’nos” she murmured.

“Mama has a bear, but I’m sure she’d tell you that it was really nice to think of her,” he said slowly, “What have you been playing?”

“Dollies, buts Georgie no like,” Meggy pouted and looked over at her brother.

“I think he needs to run around and play boy games,” Roman told her with a chuckle as Meggy nodded solemnly. He watched as his daughter turned to her brother and shot him a grin.

“We plays chase?” she asked him.

Georgie nodded.

“Well in a little bit after you’ve had your lunch and a nap Dada will take you outside so you can have a run around?” he promised feeling a bit foolish as the words left him. Seeing them settled and with a alst check on Sam he moved out and down the stairs heading back to Ella. Roman frowned when he saw the living room empty and felt the first stirrings of panic. “Ella?” he called quickly.

“I’m here,” he heard called back and followed the voice to the veranda where Ella was sitting. He breathed out a sigh of relief and quickly sat next to her.


“I’m sorry,” she told him reaching out a hand towards him. “I think you’d be better off if I seek some help,”

“You are getting help…” he began before realising she was referring to something else, to going to an institution. “God, no!” he gasped.

“This isn’t going to work and I don’t want to hurt you,” she gasped.

Roman shook his head and reaching out he grasped hold of her hand tightly.

“This was the first time we tried it. You were doing ok until you heard Samson,” he murmured and watched the changing expression on her face.

“I’ve got to get a handle on this, Mike will be here this weekend and I don’t want him…”

“Ella, stop,” Roman told her in a strict tone of voice. He looked around the veranda and stood up before pacing. “Mike needs to know.” He decided. “It’s not like he’s not going to figure out something is wrong,” Roman paused and looked at her. “If he hasn’t already, and then there is Nic and Aden. I’m sure they will want to help us, babysitting if nothing else.”

Ella shook her head and stood up. She faced the garden before turning away and going into the house, he heard her breathe a sigh of relief when she moved inside and rubbed at his face.

“I’ll think about it,” she called back after a moment without turning round to look at him.

Roman found himself smiling again and walked into the house after her; he caught up with her and took hold of her hand tugging her into his arms.

“Thank you,”

Ella sighed.

“No, I should thank you, why are you putting up with me Roman? I’m a mess.”

“You’re my mess,” he said quietly. “And I know that when you are better things will be great between us again.”

“No pressure then!” she grouched.

“Only a little.”

Roman leaned down and kissed her before he led her through to the storage room.

“Now then, what do you want to do with this room?” he asked gently.

“I’m still upset with you….” She began.

“For tidying it up?” Roman grinned at her and moved over to one of the red chairs and sitting in it as he did so he tugged on her hand and she had no choice but to follow him even being pulled down and sitting in his lap.

“You,” she muttered wriggling before easing back against him with a breathy sigh. She sighed again when he wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer and then flushed knowing that he would have a smug look on his face.

“Well?” he prompted.

“A study,” Ella whispered.

“So you can work on your photography?” he smiled.

“Well, no, er,”


“I was thinking like further down the line and having a place where Mike could do his homework and you could do the books for the diner,” she said tugging her bottom lip between her teeth and frowning.

“Ok,” Roman bit back a sigh not liking the way that Ella had put them first. It just highlighted how little she focused on herself and that made him feel guilty and tap into those feelings that he was being selfish by trapping her with three toddlers and the demands of looking after a new baby. He remembered the night Samuel was conceived, his wanting a baby when he knew he should have been protecting Ella and then the difficult pregnancy when she’d been so ill.

Groaning at the way his thoughts were going he cut them off before they went to the kidnap and Ella’s mini-breakdown.

“How about we get some storage in here so that your books and things are put away, maybe some shelves and drawers?” he suggested turning his focus back to the room.

“I suppose so,” Ella said without enthusiasm.

“Come on El, think about what you want.”

She shook her head before turning to look at him.

“I don’t know. I don’t… well… I can’t see myself taking pictures any time soon,” she elaborated and chewed on her bottom lip nervously.

“Ok, putting that aside, you’ve still got a lot of stuff here so we would need shelving?” he asked her reaching out his hand and placing it on her face stilling her nervous habit.

“Cabinets,” she murmured. “Floor to ceiling. Three drawers and five shelves. With cupboards too.” She tried to describe it and frowned as she looked over at the far wall. Within a minute she’d slipped off Roman’s lap and walked over to the other side of the room taking out her laptop and opening it up, a few more minutes passed as she found a website that dealt with custom made furniture. She used the design feature on the website to sketch out what she meant.

“I see,” Roman said softly when she’d shown him.

“Oh,” Ella flushed before groaning as Roman laughed at her.

“No, come here,” he called out when she went to move away from him talking the laptop with her. He reached out and pulled her back into his lap, one arm snaking around her waist whilst the other helped steady the laptop. He looked down at the screen and they discussed options before he smiled. “Ok and furniture? I presume a desk…”

“A sofa bed.” Ella said quickly.

“For people to stay?” he asked and she nodded.

“Have we finished in here?” she asked after a moment.

Roman reached out and swept her hair back from her face, he tucked it behind her ear and swept it down over her shoulder before leaning forward and kissing the side of her neck.

“Stop,” Ella cried out.

He recoiled immediately and pulled back.

“Fine,” he whispered and let her scramble off his lap before he too stood up and moved away and out of the room. A glance at his watch told him that he should make a start on lunch and he walked through to the kitchen. Marshalling his thoughts he began to cook, potatoes for mashing and a quick vegetable stew. He chopped vegetables and focused on the food cutting out the negative thoughts. So yeah, she’d sat on his lap but other than that she didn’t want him to touch her. What the hell? He thought. How could he be ok with that? She was amazing and beautiful and brave, he murmured inside his head, just look at the way she’d had a panic attack but then had made herself sit back on the veranda.

“How long until the food is cooked?” she asked in a quiet voice.

He turned and looked at her in shock having not even heard her approach.

“About 30 minutes.” He murmured still reeling; it wasn’t just that he hadn’t heard her, no, he hadn’t even sensed her. That felt like a body blow, how could they have been so far apart he groaned before looking at her. It was difficult to make eye contact with her with so many thoughts going through his head about them.

Ella nodded before walking carefully over to him, she placed her hand in his back and stroked a smooth circle before leaning up and kissing his cheek.

“Would you like a drink?” she asked a brittle note in her voice.

“I’m guessing this is as hard for you as me?”

“It is, I do want to be with you Roman but when it comes to the physical stuff I just freeze inside,” she gasped as though the words shocked her and lifted frightened eyes to him.

Roman stopped what he was doing and wiped his hands on a tea towel before turning to her and capturing her face between his hands and looked deep into her eyes.

“I’m not going to do anything that will hurt you or scare you, trust me please?” he begged her, his voice husky and his eyes boring into hers urging her to believe him.

“Logically I know that,” she whispered.

“Then what is it Ella because I have to say it’s tearing me apart here.”

“Don’t you think that I know that?” she cried out. “You think I don’t want to be able to touch you too?”

“I don’t know what to think El,” he said softly.

Ella shook her head pulling away from.

“I’m going to go for a lay down,” she announced retreating physically and emotionally from the room.

Roman rubbed at his face willing himself not to react, not to shout, and not to be upset and groaned before turning and seeing back to the lunch. Food was easy. It didn’t make him mad, or confuse him or demand things from him he couldn’t cope with.

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Chapter 9

Ella lay on the bed, too wound up to sleep even though she felt physically tired. She could hear the kids in the nursery, their sweet innocent voices made it harder to focus on sorting her head out. She knew that she and Roman were at breaking point, one minute she was ok with him, with being with him and getting physical and the next she was so scared and just couldn’t handle him getting close to her. How could she be like this with him, she asked herself for the one hundredth time. She knew she was pushing him away, no; she corrected frowning at the thought, punishing him. She gasped at the feelings going through her and wrapped her arms around her stomach as tears gathered in her eyes and brimmed over. They slipped silently down her face before she reached for her phone with a shaking hand. Dialling she waited for the call to connect and moved back to rest against the headboard.

“Hey, El, I’ve got exactly two minutes before my next patient what can I do for you?” Rachel’s voice came through the phone.

“I need to see you,” Ella whispered brokenly, “Tomorrow?”

“Hold on let me go grab my dairy,”

Ella sat holding the phone to her ear feeling her heartbeat quicken with each passing second. She felt her breath rasping past her lips and thought how pathetic she was to feel this panic when she was only talking on the phone. It wasn’t like the person could get her and then she remembered Gardy’s emails, first to her public email address and then her private one and finally the way he’d broken into their house. Finding his way through the security and the guards until he’d taken her away and then Louise had stolen Sam from the hospital. Nowhere was safe.

The phone slipped from her grasp and landed onto the bed making her realise that her hands were shaking. She forced herself to steady them and wiped them anxiously on her jean clad legs before picking up her phone again.

“El are you there?”

“Sorry I dropped the phone,” Ella said breathlessly.

“4pm tomorrow okay for you?” Rachel asked.

Ella nodded before she spoke.

“Thanks Rachel,” she murmured eventually.

They talked briefly before Rachel rang off leaving Ella nursing her phone. Sucking in another breath she dialled and waited hearing the ‘ring ring’ tone through the speaker. With each ring her heart seemed to thump until she contemplated hanging up to end the panic she was feeling. Her finger hovered over the button to disconnect the called when she stopped and sucked in another deep breath. It did nothing to calm her rapid beating heart.

“Hello!” Nic answered sounding breathless.

“Hey, hi,” El murmured.

“Oh hello El,”

“Can you talk?” Ella said biting on her lip again. She drew her knees up and wrapped her arm around them unaware that she was rocking back and forward.


Ella closed her eyes briefly.

“Hey Nic, I’m in trouble here, “ she said quickly before she chickened out, “Between Gardy and Sam’s kidnap I’m not doing so good.”

Nic gasped, “God El, what can I do to help?”

“I need you to …” she stopped and closed her eyes for a minute before speaking again. “not make things easy for me.” She uttered with a little gasp. “I need to, no, I’m scared all the time Nic, I’m scared of leaving the house.”

Ella closed her eyes as she spoke the words to her step-daughter and felt tears squeeze through the tightly closed lids to drip onto her cheeks.

“Like before?” Nic asked sounding uncertain.


“When you used to have me come to the shops with you?”

Ella laughed at the comment her voice croaky.

“Yes, but worse.”

“Ok, El, I’m going to come over this afternoon and we’ll talk ok, you can tell me all about it and I’ll help you,” Nic said quietly.

“No, not this afternoon, and anyway, ]well, “

“What El,”

“I want to spend some time with your Dad and reconnect,” Ella whispered into the phone.

“So what can I do El?”

“Can you,” Ella stopped and sucked in a deep breath and then another one, she felt panicky feelings throbbing through her and fought to control them before she could speak again, “take the kids for the afternoon?”

“Sure, anything. You know that right?”

“Oh Nic, of course I do, but well, Sam too.”

There was a pause.


Ella felt her heard pounding and flashes of light hitting her eyes, she realised after a moment she’d been holding her breath and slowly released it and breathing in quickly, sucking the breathe into her lungs.

“Yes please,” she whispered.

“Ok El, but if you change your mind ….” Nic trailed off.

“No, and don’t let me ok.”

“Alright then, I’ll come and see you tomorrow afternoon and take the hoard off your hands.”

Ella rang off and put her phone to one side before moving in the bed and burying her face in a pillow and sobbing her heart out. Sam hadn’t left her side since she’d got him back and as much as she loved Nic maybe this was too much? Maybe she should let the other kids go and not her Sam. Pulling herself together she eased up from the bed and moved like a marionette into the en suite. A quick wash of her face didn’t get rid of the evidence of her tears and she couldn’t hide from her pale strained reflection. It was the start of summer when she would be on the beach and in the garden getting the kids used to the heat so they wouldn’t be so grumpy and out of sorts when it got really hot.

“El,” Roman called from the hallway and she smiled at the way he kept his voice low so he wouldn’t disturb her if she was sleeping.

Walking out through the bedroom and over to the door she pinned a smile on to her face and walked up to him.

“Yeah?” she asked brightly.

“Lunch is ready.”

She could see him looking intently into her face and knew he would have worked out she’d been crying. Should she give him an excuse or just pretend nothing had happened?

“Ok, let’s get the kids then,” she said focusing on making her voice sound normal.


She moved over to his side and pressed a quick kiss to his lips.

“I’m ok,” she whispered and twirled around heading into the nursery before he could say anything. “Hey hey hey, what have we been doing in here?”

“Mama!” Meggy cried out dropping her doll to the floor and running over to her excitedly.

“Hey my Meggy girl, is we hungry?”

“Yes Mama, but’s we’s missing you too,” Meggy pouted.

“Ah babes, do you need an extra cuddles?” Meggy nodded and wrapped her arms tight around her mother’s neck before she could even finish the sentence. “What about my twins?” Ella asked Meggy in a quiet voice, “Do you think they need an extra cuddle too?”

Georgie looked at her and nodded before he too launched himself at his mother and hugged her. Ella’s arms opened wide as she snuggled with two of her babies before she looked over at a sedate and quiet Sophie.

“Sophie?” she murmured, “Are you going to come for a cuddle?”

Sophie shook her head and pouted.

“What’s the matter Sophie?” Roman asked her moving into the nursery and kneeling down next to Ella.

“Mama and Dada no like,” Sophie muttered.

“Ah ok”

“Me likes them,” Georgie told his sister. “If mes like them Sophie like them.”

“Mama leave Sophie.” Sophie muttered her bottom lip trembling. “Mama leave Georgie, Mama leave Meggy, Mama leave Sam.”

Roman smothered a chuckle and then ducked as Sophie threw a plastic toy mobile phone at him.

“Sophie Nicole Harris that is naughty behaviour!” Ella said hiding her laughter as Roman glared at her.

“Yes it is…” he murmured smirking as Ella flushed at his look. “Anyway, your lunch is ready so come on downstairs.”

“Mama take Sammy?” Sophie asked looking intently at them.

“Mama take Meggy and Georgie and Sophie, Dada take Sam.”

Roman shot her a look before he eased up and picked up Sam from the cot. He tucked him carefully in his arm before leading a procession from the nursery.

“Dada tells mes wes play chase,” Georgie announced.

“Did he?” Ella said quietly.

“Thought they could do with some fresh air,” Roman said slowly.

“Probably,” Ella conceded feeling guilty immediately.

Glancing back at Ella he could feel himself sighing. She was taking every little thing so hard and he felt like he was walking in a minefield. As soon as the thought processed inside his head he groaned and shot Ella a look. An image flashed through his head of her face when he’d pulled her brother’s body out of the minefield and he had a sudden understanding of what she was going through now, of how memories kept flashing through her head at strange moments taking her away from him. He swore silently under his breath and moved across the room placing Sam securely in his crib. Looking over at Ella leading a procession of children towards the table he reached out and caught hold of her arm.

“El,” he murmured leaning forward. He checked the movement at the last minute and stood there looking at her feeling slightly foolish. She shot him a smile and reached toward him letting their lips touch momentarily before she eased away and saw to the children. He felt himself smiling happily because of the simple peck on the lips and wondered how stupid his grin looked. Before he could dwell on such thoughts he went over to the table and began helping with the kids. Maybe later there would be some handholding or even cuddling and he found himself looking forward to something instead of worrying.

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