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Missing Heart

Guest TelephotoMarigold

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Title: Missing Heart
Type of Story: Long Fic
Main Characters: Ella, Nic and Geoff, Aden and Belle, Mike, Danni, Jacob and Gabby, Toby, Amy-Belle, Miles and Leona, the Children...
BTTB Rating: A (L, SC, D)
Genre: Drama, Romance,
Does the story contain Spoilers: No
Any Warnings: Will warn at the beginning of the chapter.
Summary: This story begins with the aftermath from the events in 'Broken', and follows a year later with the changes and challenges that have wrought through all the family at different levels. Will they come back together? Ella is now alone, and raising the children as a single mother. Will she find love again? Will she find her missing heart?

Authors Note: This follows on the sequence of stories that starts with The Lost Letter, and continues with A Summer Bay Wedding, The Darkness, Remembrance of Time, Elliot's Return, The Way Bay, A Summer Bay Wedding 2, and Broken.


Ella looked over at the mirror. She was seated on their bed dressed in black. Her hair was tied back with a black ribbon and she pulled on a pair of high black heels before easing up and walking out of the room and down the stairs. She smiled at Sophie waiting for her at the bottom of the stairs.
“Mum.” Sophie said quietly.
“I’m fine. Has everyone had enough to eat?” Ella said to her daughter.
Sophie nodded.
“What are we going to do about Marcus?” she asked slowly.
“What do you think we should do?” Ella smiled at her.
“I think we should keep him.”
“What in a cage?” Meggy asked folding her arms across herself. “He’s not a pet.”
“I didn’t mean like that.” Sophie groaned.
“Guys, please lets not argue today.” Ella murmured sinking down on to a step on the stairs. “I’m sure we’re all finding it hard enough today without arguments. DOCS have placed Marcus in a temporary foster home for the moment.”
Meggy frowned before tears shot into her eyes once more.
“Sorry Mummy.” She gasped out.
“Don’t have to apologise babes.” Ella told her with a tired smile. “Come here.”
Meggy walked over to her and sat next to her on the stairs sighing when her mum put her arms around her and hugged her.
“I don’t mind if you need to cry.” Ella said softly. “It’s ok.”
Meggy sniffed and shook her head.
“Do you think that Daddy is watching over us?” Sophie asked tears starting to fall down her face.
“I think that your Daddy was a brave man and he will always look out for us.” Ella told her daughter. “And that he will be proud of how we coped today remembering him and being brave. But we don’t always have to be brave.”
Sophie shook her head tears falling down her cheeks.
“I don’t feel very brave.” Sophie said. “I miss him so much.”
“I do too sweetheart.” Ella said. “And we are going to miss him for a long time but then one day we’ll talk about him and it won’t be so sad for us. But you know that doesn’t mean we are forgetting how much we loved him.”
Sophie burst into sobs and moved to sit next to Meggy and her mother, sighing as Ella hugged her too.
“How can Daddy be dead?” Sophie asked. “How?”
“He just is.” Ella said to her.
“Ella.” Miles called from the doorway.
“Come on in.” Ella said. “It’s ok.”
He stepped inside and held the door open for Leona and Millie.
“We didn’t know what to do.” Miles said his voice deepened by his own grief.
“I think that you made the right choice by coming here.” Ella told him with a brief smile. “You are family too, isn’t that right girls?”
Sophie leaned up and wiped her cheeks free of tears.
“Let me get you a drink?” Sophie said politely standing up and moving to the kitchen.
“Millie would you like to see Lily and Liam?” Meggy asked her voice breaking just a little.
Millie nodded shyly before letting herself be guided up the stairs to the children’s room where Mira was with Lily and Liam. She peeped in the nursery at Kai and Daniella next to Fleur and August before going back down the stairs.
Ella eased up and walked over to Miles giving him a hug and guiding him and Leona into the lounge. She looked round at the solemn faces and pinned a smile on her own.
“Roman would hate this.” She announced. “All of us looking so sad and so formal in these dark suits. Jacko I think you should go into the kitchen and break out his malt whisky and we’ll all have a drink.”
Miles chuckled before looking embarrassed.
“Sorry.” He said when Ella looked at him.
“No that’s ok. What were you thinking?” she asked tilting her head to one side.
“Just that we’ll be here drinking his whisky and he’ll be there spinning in his grave because of it.” Miles said sucking in a deep breath.
“True.” Aden said glancing at Belle. “My god you should have seen how much whisky he put away on Geoff’s bucks night.”
Geoff glanced over at Aden and nodded.
“And what he got up to.” Geoff added before glancing at Ella. He smiled when he saw her blushing as she remembered.
“He didn’t make me feel foolish when I fell off my surfboard. Just encouraged me to get back on and have another go.” Georgie said sounding sad.
Sammy stepped forward and took his tie off before taking his jacket off too and folding it neatly placing it on the coffee table.
“He was my hero.” Sammy murmured.
Ella nodded trying not to cry as she stepped forward and placed her hand on his shoulder.
“I just can’t believe that he’s not going to be there for me now.” Sammy added.
“I know babes.” Ella told him. “But we will be.”
Sammy nodded.
Jacko walked in with a tray of drinks handing round glasses of whisky.
Ella nodded at him and he passed a glass to Georgie and then Sammy.
“To my husband.” Ella said picking up her glass and taking a drink grimacing at the taste.
“To Daddy.” Sammy said looking round Sophie and Meggy and Georgie before he took a sip. He frowned then passed the glass to Meggy.
“Daddy.” Meggy toasted. “Yuk.” She added putting the glass down.
“Dad.” Georgie said drinking from his glass and handing it to Sophie.
Sophie pinched her nose and drank.
“Daddy.” She said with a shudder before placing the glass an arm length away from her.
“Hardcore.” Jacko said drinking and looking at Pete and James. They nodded and drank too remembering the way they had drunk toasts for Michael all those years ago. They glanced at Mike and saw him drain his glass, knowing that he was blaming himself. Only a moment earlier he had stood in front of Roman before he was shot. He looked at Danni and saw her giving him a small smile.
Jacob looked at Gabby before reaching out and taking her hand as she sipped at the whisky and handed him the glass. Amy-Belle and Brett sat with Angel, Robbie and Tyler on the long sofa looking lost before Miles walked over and sat in the middle of them. He began telling them some story of how Roman took him running and losing the engagement ring he was going to propose again with glancing at Ella as she gave a half smile at the story.
Jacko chuckled and murmured dog tags to Pete catching Ella’s blush when she overheard.
Nic looked around the room and gave a small teary smile before starting her own story of her arrival in the Bay and how she called him Roman for a long time, unable to call him dad at that time.
The toasts continued before people took seats and began telling stories of Roman Harris and what his death meant to them. Ella nodded looking round the group before sitting quietly to one side. She would do her grieving later because right now she had to be strong for her family.

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Chapter 1 – A year later.

Ella moved the car closer to the school and parked up. She eased out and moved over to the school gates.

“Hey Step Mama.” Nic called across to her.

“Hello.” Ella replied.

“Picking up the brats?” she asked.

“Yeah, Irene is watching the babies.” Ella told her.

“So what is the betting that Sammy and Robbie are the last out?” Nic asked her.

“Seems like five minutes ago that used to be Angel and Sophie.” Ella said with a sigh. “Are we getting old?”

Nic shook her head feeling the weight of her blonde hair wrapped in a tight bun at the back of her head. She dismissed the reminder of the grown up hairstyle and chuckled at the same time.

“So what is the plan for the weekend?” Nic asked before biting her lip.

“Georgie is out camping. Sophie is working. Sammy has his counsellor appointment. I think Lily has a birthday party.” Ella outlined.

“How is my baby brother getting along?” Nic asked slowly, glancing over at the gate before looking back at Ella.

“Sammy is ok.” Ella said slowly. “He misses his Dad and can’t express that at home.”

Nic felt her eyes misting up at the mention of their father and Ella’s husband. He had been dead nearly a year and they all missed him in various ways.

“Been a lot of change.” Nic said slowly.

“I know.” Ella confirmed with a nod.

Danni and Mike had split up when Mike got recalled and sent overseas. Danni now lived in the city in a house share where she had a good job. She didn’t visit very often. Gabby, Jacob and baby Daniella had moved up north to live near Toby. They hadn’t come home since and she knew that had caused a rift between Sophie and Gabby. Annie and Jai had finally got married and moved back to Japan. The pool house was closed up; Irene moving over to the big house so she could help with the children, she had also gone ahead with the stable conversion having already paid out the deposit for the work.

The plans for the coffee shack had also gone ahead. Sophie worked there on Saturdays. Then finally, eight months later than planned work had begun on the diner rebuild and the man who caused all this damage, William Gardener had escaped after shooting her and Roman.

“A lot of change.” Ella confirmed swallowing compulsively.

“Guess Sammy found it hard when DOCS took Marcus away.”

Ella looked at Nic.

“Sorry I’m depressing you aren’t I?” Nic asked.

“Er yeah.” Ella said. “And anyway.”

“Anyway?” Nic prompted.

“We are lodging an appeal to get Marcus back now that Martha has been sentenced.” Ella announced. “My solicitor thinks we have a good chance considering that we had him live with us before.”

Nic nodded and smoothed down her top.

“Got a comment Nic?” Ella asked seeing the nervous gesture.

“Well yeah.” Nic said finally plucking up the courage to speak to Ella about things. “We don’t see you very much anymore. It’s like everything changed.”

Ella nodded before piercing Nic with her gaze.

“Everything has changed Nicole. Your father died and I’ve got to keep what family I can together. I’m sorry that it doesn’t automatically include you and your kids but cruelly I really don’t have time anymore.” Ella said.

She looked up and over to the gates seeing Sammy coming towards her with Meggy by his side. He didn’t make eye contact with her or Nicole and she sighed.

“I understand.” Nic said softly. “But we miss you too.” She added and moved away to greet her son. She waited a moment before collecting Tyler and they moved over to Nic’s car together.

“Ok?” Ella asked them.

“Are we picking up Sophie and Georgie?” Meggy murmured.

Ella nodded.

“Thought we’d go check on the diner?” she added glancing at Sammy.

“Do we have too?” Sammy asked immediately.

“Yes.” Meggy said. “I want to see it and so will Georgie.”

“I don’t like it there.” Sammy protested.

“Come on guys in the car we have to get going.” Ella said in a quiet voice. “Do you have much homework?”

“Of course we don’t.” Meggy said quickly.

“Uh huh Missy.” Ella grinned at her via the rear view mirror before she turned and checked they had done up their seatbelts.

“Mummy.” Sammy began before biting his lip.

“What is it Samson?” Ella asked before sighing at her use of his nickname. It had been a natural slip up but since his father died he didn’t like anyone calling him that.

“Nothing.” Sammy said glaring at her and lapsing into silence.

“Samson, Samson, Samson.” Meggy taunted her brother.

“Meggy.” Ella called out.

“I told you not to call me that.” Sammy shouted.

“Samson.” Meggy said again.

Sammy reached across and punched Meggy in the face.

“Oh my god Sammy.” Ella cried out. She checked before putting on the brakes and pulling over to the side of the road. Vaulting out of the driving seat she ran round the back and opened up the passenger door.

“Meggy?” Ella cried out flinching from the blood pouring from Meggy’s nose. She reached out and grabbed a tissue placing that on her daughter’s nose. “Climb out.” Ella said undoing Meggy’s seatbelt, she helped Meggy out of the car and checked her over before turning her attention to Sammy.

“You ever hit out like that again and I will send you to boarding school.” She threatened.

“I told you not to call me that.” Sammy muttered still angry.

“What? So if August or Fleur did it would you punch them?” Ella asked him.

“That is Dad’s name for me.” Sammy shouted out glaring at Ella. “And you aren’t’ Daddy.”

“I know. Nothing is going to replace your father.” Ella tried to reason with him. “But you can’t his everybody or everything that reminds you he’s not here anymore.”

Sammy closed his eyes and turned his head away leaving Ella to sigh before she moved Meggy into the front passenger seat. She checked the back door was closed before getting behind the wheel again and setting off.

“You ok Megs?” Ella asked softly.

“Yeah but I’m not going to call him that name anymore.” Meggy said smiling at her mum as she adjusted the tissue. She noticed that her mother flinched and frowned. “Ouch.” She cried when she felt a jolt of pain from that action.

“I’m ok Mummy.” She said quickly to her when Ella glanced over at her once more.

“We’ll have some ice cream when we get in. “ Ella promised her.

“Can we go to the shack?” Meggy asked quickly.

“Not sure that is a good idea today but we’ll go there this weekend.”

“Great Sophie can serve us.” Meggy grinned at her.

Ella grinned and glanced back at Sammy. She saw that he was crying and bit her lip before focusing on the road. She sighed watching the cars pass on the other side of them before reaching the school and parking up.

“Stay here.” She called out climbing out fo the car and going over to the gates. She saw Georgie immediately and chuckled as he came towards her in his sports kit.

“Guess what?” he called out. “They want me to play in the footie team.” He said quickly not giving her any time to respond.

“Cool.” Ella said. “Can you do that and your cadets?”

Georgie nodded.

“I have to do so many camps per year so we can work them around the season.” Georgie told her.

“Good job. Go get in the car.” She murmured.

He nodded and ran off leaving her waiting for Sophie. She glanced at her watch and sighed before catching Sophie walking out with Angel.

“Hey.” Ella called. “Want a lift Angel?”

“No thanks.” Angel said to her. She waved to Sophie and set off home before Sophie walked over to her.

“Detention again?” Ella asked.

Sophie nodded.

“Talking in class.” Sophie admitted with a grin.

“Sophie Nicole Harris.” Ella groaned and pointed to the car.

“It was only a little talking.” Sophie told her. “Meggy whatever’s happened?” she asked looking at her sister sitting in the front of the car.

“Oh? I was running and forgot to stop.” Meggy said looking over at her sister with a smile, she caught Sammy giving her a look and she smiled at him.

Ella smiled at her.

“Want to go check the diner?” she asked.

Georgie grinned.

“No thanks.” He murmured. “I’ve got to get packed for tomorrow.”

Ella groaned.

“Didn’t I ask you about that yesterday?” she muttered.

“Yeah but you know I don’t do forward planning.”

“So I suppose everything is clean?” Ella asked meeting his gaze in the mirror.

“Er … it could be.” He said with a shrug.

“I’ve got enough to do Georgie.” Ella snapped out and immediately felt bad when he shrunk back into his seat.

“We’re having ice cream.” Meggy said into the silence. “Because it will help my nose.”

Ella chuckled.

“What do you want for dinner?” Ella asked after a moment.

“Ice cream.” Meggy said. “I just told you.

Sophie giggled.

“Before the ice cream.” Ella insisted.

“Spoilsport.” Meggy told her.

Ella groaned as she pulled into the driveway and slowed the car to a stop.

“Ok go inside and get changed. School stuff in the utility room. Homework needs to be down. Georgie get packed for the weekend.” Ella instructed them as then began to climb out of the car. “Not so fast Sammy.” Ella added.

He glared at her before sinking back into his seat as the others moved into the house. She turned in her seat and looked over at him.

“You can’t keep doing this Sammy. We all miss your Dad.” She began.

“Stop I don’t want to hear this Mummy.” Sammy growled out.

“Well tough. Do you think that I like having to do this? You hurt your sister in your temper and I can’t have that behaviour in the house.”

Sammy looked at her before he got up and walked out of the car into the house. Ella sighed and looked up.

“Roman Harris if you weren’t dead I’d flipping well kill you for leaving me.” She muttered before getting out of the car and going into the house. She smiled at Lily and Liam before going over to the playpen and seeing August and Fleur playing together before walking through to the kitchen.

“They’ve been as good as gold.” Irene told her. “Not that I expect anything different.”

“Yeah right.” Ella muttered. “Sammy hit Meggy.”

“Wondered what happened when the boy stormed in.”

Ella nodded.

“You know you have a phobia about blood don’t you Darl?” Irene asked her softly.

“How did you know?” Ella gasped.

“You’ve had me do plaster duty for ages now.” Irene smiled at her.

“I didn’t.” Ella began before she felt herself tearing up. She nodded before rushing out of the room and running into her bedroom locking the door behind her. She collapsed on the bed and pulled the pillow towards her burying her face into it. It didn’t help as the first sobs went through her body. Every time she saw blood she thought of the day her husband died. Seeing the bloodstains spreading out over his chest and his eyes closing. They’d both been rushed to hospital but Roman’s injuries were so severe that he’d immediately been airlifted to a trauma hospital in the city and had died on the operating table.

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Chapter 2

Ella looked at Sammy sitting quietly across from her in the outer office of the counsellor and frowned. She looked up when the door opened and the counsellor came out.

“Hello Sammy.” she called. “Would you like to come through?”

Ella stood and moved to the door.

“No.” Sammy told her moodily.

“You don’t get to call the shots anymore Sammy. Inside, We’re going to have a talk.” Ella said slowly.

Sammy narrowed his eyes as he glared at her before dragging his feet as he moved into the other room. He moved to the seat furthest away form her and slung down into his chair glaring at her.

Ella smiled at him and sat opposite the counsellor chose the seat facing them and sat down slowly.

“Ella.” She murmured.

“Sammy has started to display violence when he is reminded of his father.” Ella said slowly. She didn’t look at her son as she spoke.

“That doesn’t’ sound very good.” The counsellor murmured. “Would you like to tell us why Sammy?”

Sammy frowned before he leaned forward and looked at his mother.

“Why doesn’t she tell you? She has all the answers.” Sammy muttered.

“Well I think that he doesn’t care about any of us. He’s only focused on his grief and how he feels.” Ella said softly. “We all loved his father and we all miss him. We want to be able to talk about him and not feel that if we do we are going to upset Sammy.” She forced her tone to remain the same as she spoke despite the grief that coursed through her.

“You do talk about him. All the time.” Sammy said tears beginning. “It makes me miss him more.” He finally said.

Ella wanted to apologise immediately but she caught the eye of the counsellor and bit her lip.

“You talk about him too Samuel.” The counsellor murmured. “I’ve heard all about him in the past few months.”

“But it’s different.” Sammy cried out.

“How?” she prodded gently.

“Because I have to keep him alive.” Sammy shouted jumping up from his seat. He gasped and looked at his mother before bursting into tears.

“He’s gone Sammy.” Ella said quietly. “I know that we would give anything to get him back but we have to let him go.”

“Why?” Sammy muttered wiping at his tears. “Why?” He repeated.

Ella swallowed the lump in her throat and gave a small nod to the counsellor.

“Because if we don’t we’ll never get over this grief. It will spoil all our memories of him. Remember when he used to take you surfing? Or running around the garden with you? And making sure there were plenty of chopped carrots for Thumper?” Ella spoke quietly watching the play of emotions across her son’s face. “Or how he though you were the best guy in the whole world and called you Samson?” she forced herself to keep talking even though tears were pouring down her face. “Or the time he bought you your desk set. He suggested that we buy that for you Sammy because he knew how amazingly smart you were. You have to let him go but it’s only a small letting go because he’s never going to leave your heart.”

Sammy cried out and ran over to her letting her hug him for the first time in a year.

“I love you so much my Samson.” She told him. “and your Dad did too.”

Sammy gave a small moan as he wrapped his arms around her neck and sobbed.

“Sammy you’ve done so good today.” The counsellor told him softly.

He glanced up at her before snuggling back into his Mum’s arms.

“I think we’ll go home eh, Sammy?” Ella said after a time.

He nodded unable to speak.

Ella stood groaning at his weight before balancing him on her hip.

“I’ll walk you out.” The counsellor announced and Ella knew that there would be questions for her. She nodded and led them all out and over to her parked car Seating the still crying Sammy in the back and making sure that his seatbelt was fastened before she turned and looked at the counsellor.

“It might be an idea if you did some grieving too.” The counsellor suggested to her in a quiet voice.

“I do.” Ella protested.

“Sammy told me that you and Roman used to refer to each other as soul mates. I think that would be something hard to get over. You are still a young woman, maybe take some time out for yourself?”

Ella looked at the other woman trying to frame a response before seeing her walk away from her and back into the office. Her lips moved as she mouthed the words of the refrain that had kept her going for the past year before pulling herself together and getting into the car. She looked at Sammy and gave him a small smile before setting off.

“Are they at the Shack?” Sammy asked after a time.

Ella nodded.

“Lets go there.” he added.

“Sure Sammy?” Ella asked him her eyes meeting his in the rear view mirror.

He nodded and reached for a tissue wiping at his eyes before blowing his nose.

“Ok babes.” Ella said giving him another smile as she turned the car around and headed to the beach where the shack was. They got there within a few minutes and Sammy climbed out of the car rushing inside. He saw Meggy first and ran over to her giving her an enthusiastic hug.

“Ok Sammy.” Meggy asked him.

He nodded.

“Good.” She told him and kissed the top of his head before moved over on the bench seat and letting him climb up next to her. She handed him her spoon and he took a taste of her ice cream.

“What can I get you?” Sophie asked him walking over to their table.

“Coffee please Sophie.” Ella said sitting next to Irene. She glanced at Sammy and he sighed.

“Can I have a banana spilt?” he asked looking at his Mum.

Ella nodded.

“I’ll have one too.” She decided and saw him smile.

“Mama.” Lily cried out.

“What babes?” Ella asked.

“We paddled.” Liam called out.

“You and the babies?” Ella asked them.

Liam nodded.

“I was good and holded Fleur’s hand.” He said grinning proudly at her.

“And I held August’s hand.” Lily murmured.

“Wow.” Ella said grinning at them before looking at her twin daughters. “Did you enjoy that babes?” she asked them.

“Gurh!” August called spooning ice cream into her mouth messily.

Ella smiled and looked round her family.

“Here is your coffee.” Sophie said placing a cup in front of her. “I’ll be back in a moment with your deserts.” She added politely.

Ella and Irene exchanged a look and grinned.

Roman groaned as he crawled out of bed the sour taste of whisky still in his mouth. He rubbed his hand over his beard and longed once more to shave it off but the dark growth shaded his face and gave him the security that anybody who knew him wouldn’t immediately recognise him. He moved though to the kitchenette and made coffee before taking it out to the veranda and looking out on the beach. The surf was already up and he looked out on the splashing waves his hand feeling in his pocket for the small square that was his security blanket. He rubbed his fingers over the sim card. He’d been able to snatch it out of his phone before they had come to the hospital to take him away. He fought with temptation every day to put it in his phone and call home or text or just look at the photos that would be on it. They had taken everything from him when they relocated him in witness protection. His wedding ring, the watch that Ella had bought for him and his wallet and the photos it contained.

Now he was stuck in a dead end town serving in the local diner and grill. He had a fake name and wore his hair long and dyed dark, along with the wretched beard, he thought with a groan as he scratched it again. Draining the cup he moved back into the kitchen and emptied his pocket on the top before going through to the bedroom and stripping off his clothes. He headed to the shower trying to get the whisky hangover out of his head. Then it would be time for Frank Curzon to start the day he thought with bleak humour.

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Thank you all for the lovely comments :wub: Especailly Carina, of course you DOOONNNN''''TTT nag me to update... or chase me down on Facebook... :ph34r: Now then... put your hands up if you really thought I would kill Roman off.... :ph34r:Like I would survive!!!

And yes... I think Ella is going to be a little mad if she finds out that Roman has spent the last year in witness protection so you know there must be someone out there more dangerous than William for him to abandon his family like he did.....

Chapter 3

“Morning,” Sammy called sheepishly as he walked through to the dinning room.

“Hey babes.” Ella said softly. “Sophie cooked breakfast this morning.”

“Cool.” He said sitting at the table with them. He looked over at Fleur and August in their highchairs and then at Lily and Liam before looking at Meggy. He saw that there were faint smudges of blue under her eyes and her nose was puffy.

“I’m so sorry.” He said to her.

“It’s ok Samson.” Meggy smiled at him. “You should hear the story I’m going to tell everyone tomorrow.”

Ella frowned at her and caught her grinning back.

“Megs.” She said slowly.

“Well I don’t want people to think that Sammy is a violent hooligan.” Meggy defended herself.

“Uh huh.” Ella shook her head and glanced out the window.

“Lovely day today Darl.” Irene said.

“It certainly is. I think we should spend the day in the garden.” Ella told them.

“Can we go swimming?” Meggy asked. “Not now obviously but in a bit.”

Ella nodded.

“I should tackle the garden and clean out some of the weeds.”

Irene grinned at her.

“Or you could relax and spend time with the kids.”

Ella sighed.

“Do I have to?” she asked sounding petulant. “It’s just that I spend all my time with them.”

“Mummy.” Sammy groaned.

Ella smiled before looking up as Sophie brought through Sammy’s breakfast.

“Wow.” He cried out seeing bacon, special eggs with chopped spring onion along with the cheese, grilled tomatoes and sausages.

“Ok squirt?” Sophie asked biting her lip.

“More than ok. You are nearly as good as Dad.”

Sophie blinked at the compliment before she smiled.

“Thank you Samson.” She said leaning down and kissing his cheek.

“You going to sot down Sophie?” Ella asked.

Sophie nodded and sat next to Sammy picking up her bowl and pouring out museili onto her bowl. She added yoghurt and strawberries before picking up her spoon and eating.

“How is your homework?” Ella asked after a moment. “Is it all done?”

Meggy groaned before realising that gave her away.

“I’ll finish it.” she muttered ignoring Sammy’s grin.

Ella nodded before looking around the children.

“I was er.. thinking.” She began.

“Oh not again.” Sammy said with his mouth full.

Ella chuckled at him.

“Well it’s been a really long time since we had a BBQ and had people round.” She said quickly before she lost her nerve.

“Or had a sleepover.” Sophie pointed out.

“Well how about if we did that in a couple of weeks?” Ella asked them.

Meggy looked at Sammy and waited for his reaction before she spoke.

“It could be good.” He said slowly. “Not that I don’t want to talk about dad but well do you think we could try not to talk about him then.” He tried to explain.

“You mean have a BBQ and talk about regular stuff Darl?” Irene asked.

Sammy nodded.

“That sounds like a very good idea.” Ella said to him with a smile.

“We’ll still miss him though.” He said quickly.

Sophie nodded.

“Its ok Sammy we know what you mean.” She murmured to her brother. “I wouldn’t mind doing some cooking for it.”

“What do you mean some cooking?” Ella teased her. “You’ll be doing all of it.”

“Could we ask Miles and Lee?” Sammy said.

“Millie.” Lily cried out happily.

“I think that is a yes.” Ella grinned. “And now time to tackle the garden.” She murmured standing up and taking her pots into the kitchen. She poured out a third cup of coffee for herself and collected the flannel to wipe hands and faces of the babies. Lifting them down and guiding them out the back. She took her coffee and a blanket and went out with them. Placing the blanket down in their play area she added toys from the shed for them before walking around to the other shed and taking out gloves and gardening tools.

“Lily help Mama.” Lily called out.

“Thank you Lily but don’t you want to play with Liam and the babies?” Ella said to her.

“Lily help.” her stubborn daughter said again and she could see Roman’s face inside her head grinning at her and saying Lily took after her Mother. The thought made her sad and she frowned staring at one of the flowers in front of her to stop herself crying.

“See Mama.” Lily cried out coming up to her and picking a flower.

Ella nodded at her unable to speak for a moment before she found her voice.

“Sorry Lily, but you need to pick out the weeds.” Ella said hating the quiver in her voice. She pointed to a weed and showed her how to pull it from the flower bed.

“Like this Mama?” Lily said picking one.

Ella nodded and they worked together for a while until Lily grew bored and moved back to playing with the children. Ella gathered the weeds together and put them in the compost heap before going inside and washing her hands. She caught Irene watching her and smiled at the other woman.

“His herb garden needs weeding.” Irene said softly.

Ella nodded.

“I wonder if Sophie wants to take it on. He’s got some books on herbs in the study.” She said and looked at Irene in horror at her slip.

“That’s right you still think of him in the present tense. You haven’t grieved at all for him have you Darl?” Irene said slowly.

“Its not that easy.” Ella muttered.

“I know it’s not. You keep putting those kids first all the time and at first I was like ok it’s fine she’ll get them over the worst and sort herself out but now.” Irene paused checking to see if her words were sinking in. “It’s like you are using them as a defence mechanism so you don’t have to face up to Roman being dead.”

Ella flinched and pulled back from Irene.

“I don’t know what you mean.” She lied.

“Darl, your family fell apart. Mike is off god knows where, you are missing out on your grandbaby growing and these kids have had a hard enough time.”

“So what? I couldn’t keep things together?” Ella shouted out her voice rising.

“The only person who expected you to keep things together is you.” Irene said softly. “You were at breaking point before Roman got hisself killed so why are you trying to hold it all together like you are because you know it’s not healthy to bottle things up like you are doing.”

Ella gasped at the cruelty of the words pulling back from the other woman. She turned away and moved out of the kitchen and up the stairs. She heard Irene sigh before she made it to her bedroom feeling like she was running away.

She stopped when she got to the bed she’d shared with Roman and screamed, yanking off the covers before tugging at the mattress. One corner landed on the floor just as the first tears came and she collapsed sobbing in a heap.

“Irene.” Sophie said worriedly from outside the bedroom.

“It’s ok Sophie.” Irene murmured giving her step-granddaughter a smile as she walked up the stairs. “Your Mum needs to let this out.”

Sophie nodded still looking worried and then as she caught a glimpse of her Mum sobbing on the floor near the wrecked bed as Irene moved inside and closed the door, she gasped out in shock.

Irene gave a small smile before crouching down next to Ella and putting her arms around the other woman.

“How could he leave me Irene? How could he leave me alone?” Ella gasped out between sobs. “He knew how much I needed him. How much I loved him. And the children. It’s so unfair that August and Fleur will never know him and Lily and Liam will only have a few memories of him. I hate him for leaving me like this.” Ella sobbed.

“I know Darl.” Irene soothed her.

“I can’t stand living here without him.” Ella cried out. “Never having his touch again. Never seeing his smile. Never feeling his arms around me.” She howled as the pain of his loss went through her. “Waking up without him. Every day is like torment.”

“I know my sweetheart.” Irene said softly.

“I loved him so much.” Ella wailed scalding bitter tears falling down her face.

“You don’t have to tell me Darl, strike me, the way you two were with each other used to make me blush sometimes.”

Ella shuddered, sobbing in Irene’s arms.

“I miss him so much.” Ella gasped.

“And you’ll miss him for the rest of your life but you know that it will get easier.”

Ella nodded.

Irene leaned back and looked into Ella’s tear drenched eyes and smiled.

“You did good today kiddo because now we can make a start on moving on.” Irene told her. “So why don’t you get changed and we have a relaxing swim?”

Ella nodded.

“I’ll be down in a bit.” She said to her.

Irene smiled before kissing her cheek and easing up. She walked out of the bedroom and closed the door quietly behind her seeing Sophie and Meggy sitting on the stairs.

“We told Sammy to watch the babies.” Meggy said.

“Good idea.”

“She’s going to be ok isn’t she?” Sophie asked.

“Of course she is.” Irene said. “Just needed to let off a little steam. We’re going for a swim in a bit.”

“Want some help changing the babies?” Sophie said immediately.

“Thanks Darl.” Irene said with a smile. “Lets go tell them.”

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Chapter 4

Danni smiled at the little girl in front of her in the supermarket queue as her phone beeped with an incoming message. She took it out and read it before frowning.

“Ok ducks?” the woman at the tills asked.

“What, sure fine.” Danni murmured.

“Only you are starring at that phone like you want to kill it.” she continued as she ran through Danni’s purchases.

“Oh, just a message from my Mum.” Danni murmured.

“That kind of message is it? “ she murmured back. “That will be $38.92 please.”

Danni pulled out her purse and took out some bills handing them over before taking her change back. She gave the woman a smile before lifting the bags and walking out of the store with them.

She walked over to her car juggling her purse, phone keys and shopping for a moment before getting everything sorted. Taking out the phone again she reread the message and sighed before starting the car and setting off home to the house she shared with two other girls.

“Hey Danni.” A voice called as she walked through the door. She made her way straight to the kitchen and began to put her stuff away.

“Hey Michelle.” Danni called back. She smiled at the blonde girl who walked barefoot through to the kitchen and planked herself down on the wide bench seat around a battered table.

“You sound down what’s up?”

Danni smiled despite herself at the question.

“Text from my Mum.” She explained.

“Been a while since she’d been in contact hasn’t it?” Michelle asked tucking her feet under her and sitting cross legged.

Danni nodded.

“Seems a bit…” she stopped and grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge before sitting opposite her housemate glancing at the other woman. Michelle was blonde with green eyes, all high cheek bones and a long straight nose. She had a fantastic smile and wonderful personality.

“I suppose that I’ve felt guilty for leaving them. I didn’t break up with them I broke up with Mike.” Danni explained slowly.

“So what did your Mum say?” Michelle asked.

“They are having a BBQ next weekend and would like me to visit.” Danni muttered.

“Ouh.” Michelle said slowly. “I think you’d have some explaining to do.”

Danni nodded.

“I miss them.” she said finally.

“Yeah, I’ve heard you talk about them and they sound great.” Michelle said softly.

Danni sighed.

“I feel like I lost them too.” She finally admitted aloud.

“Then you should go home.” Michelle said after a long pause. “Go and see them. At least you know that they aren’t holding a grudge over your break up with Mike.”

Danni sighed once more resting her head on her hands. She looked up at Michelle after a moment before speaking again.

“I know they would never have a grudge. God, Ella was going through so much but she just listened to both of us and didn’t pick sides.”

“That must have been hard for her to do. Not only are you both her children but she’d just lost her husband.” Michelle commented. “Would have been easy to give you a guilt trip.”

Danni nodded again.

“Thanks for that.” Danni said rolling her eyes.

“Well what are you going to do?”

Danni groaned.

“If I don’t go home and see them I’ll feel guilty and if I do go I’ll feel guilty.” Danni muttered placed a protective hand on her stomach. She caught Michelle watching the betraying gesture and she groaned once more.

“You could tell them.” she said slowly.

Danni frowned.

“Make it easier for yourself. It’s going to be hard to cope in a while.” Michelle said quickly looking over at the other woman.

Danni gave a groan and eased up looking at the wall.

“So you expect me to go home and say Hi, I know I broke up with your son and left while you were coping with Roman’s death but hey, guess what, I’m pregnant.”

Michelle tipped her head to one side making out that she was contemplating what was said before she nodded.

Danni looked at her friend and giggled.

“You are terrible.” She told her. “I should make you meet Ella.”

Michelle shook her head.

“So not doing that kid.” She murmured. “I don’t want to end up getting married and settling in the Bay.”

Danni raised her eyebrow as she looked at her.

“I think that would be perfect.” Danni said slowly.

“What?” Michelle asked with a note of panic in her voice.

“You coming with me.” Danni muttered. “Coming to the Bay. You can help me break the news.”

“And deflect Ella?” Michelle said dryly.

Danni nodded grinning.

“Ain’t going to work. You won’t get me in the Bay.” Michelle told her.

Danni smiled.

“No I said.” Michelle murmured.

Danni stood up and moved to her shopping putting the last of is away.

“Is that it?” Michelle asked suspiciously.

“Is that what?” Danni asked back.

“You giving up the idea.” Michelle muttered blowing out a breath and making her fringe ruffle.

“You really should meet Ella.” Danni said. “She’s amazing. You end up doing stuff you never thought you could. Oh and she does this a lot too.”

“What?” Michelle asked standing up.

“Gets you to do stuff even when you don’t want to and makes it seem like it’s your idea to do it.” Danni explained.

“That is so not going to happen here.” Michelle promised.

“So I’ll tell her to expect us then.” Danni said softly looking into Michelle’s green gaze.

Michelle sighed.

“Fine. But If I come back engaged to someone you are in so much trouble Harris.”

Danni smiled and reached for her phone.

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Chapter 5

Roman walked into the Diner and Grill. He was early for his shift and moved into the kitchen preparing for the morning rush. He greeted Betsy, the owner as he washed down tops and cleaned off the grill. If he closed his eyes the smell of the place would take him back to Summer Bay and the diner there but he didn’t, willing himself to like this place, to enjoy his work and to not miss Ella like crazy.

“You look rough Frank.” Betsy commented. “Been putting it away?”

Roman nodded, hating his new name just as much as this place.

“Maybe.” He said with a quick flash of his grin.

He could have told her that if it wasn’t for the half bottle of whisky he drank most nights he would have got in his car and gone home. But no, he drank and watched the sun set and then he crawled into bed and pulled a pillow towards him thinking of his wife and his kids and how if he did go home he might trigger events that would get them all killed.

“Better ease up.” She cautioned looking over the rim of her glasses at him.

“Yes sir.” Roman snapped out.

“Frank!” Betsy cried out in protest.

“Sorry.” He told her quickly. “It’s just that….”

“That you miss someone and can’t have them.” she said slowly.

“What?” he gasped out.

“That was a guess.” She told him. “But it’s true isn’t it? That’s why in a year I’ve never seen you give anyone the time of day.”

Roman nodded biting his lip not to blurt out about Ella just for the relief of telling someone and not feeling so lost and lonely.

“You got kids?” she asked him.

“No.” Roman forced the word past his lips. “No kids.” He said definitely.

“Shame, you look like the kind who’d like a handful of rug rats.” She said with a smile. “Was that the problem? You didn’t want kids?”

Roman shook his head.

“We drifted apart.” He murmured moving around the kitchen. He put the first of many pots of coffee to percolate and looked back at Betsy.

“She was amazing.” He told her, his voice full of emotion. “And she loved me even when she shouldn’t.”

“Maybe you should call her sometime and just say ‘Hi’.” Betsy suggested before she moved around the counter and collected the tray of bits that went out on the tables. She carried it to the first table and began to put them out. The salt and pepper shakers; the basket with the packets of sugar and sweeteners in, and finally the small vase with the yellow daisy in. Satisfied with the arrangement she moved to the next table and repeated the action.

“Because I wouldn’t stop with Hi.” He said to himself. “I’d tell her I missed her and needed her and I was sorry for running out on her and putting her through hell. Not that she would believe me or forgive me.”

“Talking to yourself?” Betsy called out. “It’s the first sign of madness.”

Roman chuckled.

“I think I’m passed the first sign.” He told her.

She moved over to his side with the empty tray in one hand and placed her free hand on his shoulder.

“I’m here if you need to talk Frank.” She murmured. “And I think she would love to hear from you if only to find out you were doing ok.”

Roman smiled and patted her hand before he half turned away and began working on the salads.

Betsy watched him for a moment before she moved away and unlocked the door. Eight months of working for her and she was still no closer to finding out anything about him apart from whoever she was that he pinned for she must be pretty special.

Ella dropped the kids of at school. She had them in a routine now, first Sophie and Georgie, then Sammy and Meggy and finally to nursery with Lily and Liam who now spent all day there, leaving her free to spend time with August and Fleur. Although she knew it wouldn’t be long before they went to nursery and then she would have nothing to keep her busy except rattling around a big empty house each day. But today instead of heading back home with the babies she was driving into Yabbie Creek.

After the emotional breakdown of a week ago she had finally managed to pluck up the courage to sort through Roman’s clothes and she was heading to the charity shop to drop them off. She had not only sorted them all out but also gone through the pockets finding surprising things that he’d kept. There was the shopping list she had written out for him and added at the bottom she loved him with her normal double “xx”. Then a piece of pink ribbon from one of Meggy’s bunches. The receipt for her engagement ring was tucked inside the jacket of one of his suits and she’d groaned at the ridiculous amount that he had spent on her, especially now she could barely bring herself to wear it. She’d also found the key to his old army trunk and had taken all the little things he’d kept and placed them inbetween the pages of his diary, placing that in his trunk. She’d found a sketch book in his trunk and had placed that to one side to look at later wondering when he’d had time to do any drawing.

She’d also looked at the bag of effects the hospital had sent to her. It had contained his phone and wallet and his wedding ring. She wore it now on a chain around her neck feeling the platinum metal rest above her heart.

Pulling the car into the parking space they had told her too she opened up the back and began passing out the bags of clothes to the staff who were waiting there.

“I included some bedding. Like covers and stuff.” Ella said softly. “Just think it was time to get some new things.”

She saw the woman she had spoken to on the phone about the donation nod with a look of understanding on her face and she knew then that this probably happened a lot.

“Well anything is welcome Mrs Harris.” She was told.

Ella smiled and checked in the back on the twins before she took out the last of the bags.

“That’s the last of it.” Ella murmured. “Thanks again for your help.” she added before closing up the car and getting behind the wheel once more. She headed over to the main concourse of shops and after parking up took out the buggy and put the twins in before heading out shopping. She passed Nic’s shop and smiled as she saw her stepdaughter with a customer.

“Want to go see Nic later?” she asked her daughters.

“Yeah!” August called out happily.

Ella smiled as she pushed the buggy along and moved into the home wares shop. She walked around guiding the buggy through the displays before selecting new sheets and a nice cover in a floral pattern, something that was quite girlie and fresh and most importantly something she wouldn’t have chosen before. Not that Roman would have minded she thought with a half grin, as he would have been happy with anything she put on the bed.

Wondering over to the tills she managed to bump into a display with the buggy.

“Steady.” A man’s voice cried out.

“Sorry.” Ella gasped.

“It’s ok I just had visions of this crashing on those pretty babies of yours.” He added.

“Oh they are used to breaking stuff.” She murmured finding herself smiling.

“I can imagine. Identical?” he asked.

“Yup.” Ella grinned.

“And you dress them the same?”

Ella smiled again.

“Of course.”

“Brave woman.” He grinned back at her and she looked into his blue eyes, taking in how handsome he was. She felt something inside her flicker into life and grinned.

“Not really I just like messing with other people’s heads.” She commented slowly watching him laugh.

“What do you say we go get a juice or something?” he asked.

Ella blushed before stuttering her answer.

“Er no.”

“Well that was a shame because I was asking them.” he murmured kneeling down and taking hold of Fleur’s hand.

“I think they’ll have to say no too.” Ella murmured. “I’m telling them they shouldn’t go off with strangers.” She added conspiratorially.

“Would it make a difference if I introduced myself? My name is Angelo Rosetta.” He said softly standing up and holding out his hand to Ella.

“Hello, I’m Ella Harris.” She murmured taking his hand.

“Nice to meet you Ella Harris.” He grinned at her. “If you won’t have a drink with me will you at least let me have a number for you?”

Ella flushed and looked at him.

“I’m not ready for this.“ she found herself saying.

“Sorry, not ready?” he asked her frowning. “I’m sorry if I’ve over stepped the mark here.”

Ella shook her head.

“No it’s ok. It’s just that I lost my husband a year ago. It’s still …”

“Say no more.” He murmured when she couldn’t bring herself to finish her sentence. “I’m sure I’ll see you around Ella Harris.” And with that he turned and collected his shopping bag before heading out of the shop. Ella watched him go before she let herself smile.

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Chapter 6

Ella headed for the diner meeting Leah outside the place. She watched as the other woman reached in her bag and pulled out the keys unlocking the door. They both stepped inside and looked around the generous tables and chairs.

“Needs some plants.” Ella murmured.

Leah nodded stepping forward.

“You were right about the sofas.” She said smiling at Ella.

“I’m always right.” Ella grinned at her.

Leah was about to murmur some comment about Roman when she remembered and closed her mouth feeling awkward.

“It’s ok you know.” Ella told her softly. “The kids are better and I’m ready to move on. I even met someone last week.”

“Oh my god Ella!” Leah muttered looking at her. “Are you dating?”

Ella shook her head.

“No, wasn’t ready for that but well, a bit of flirting made me smile instead of feeling sad.” Ella said softly moving to the counter. She ran her hand along the edge of the cream work top before walking around it and looking at the till. “So we need a degree to work this thing?”

“Don’t you dare change the subject. Who is this person you were flirting with?” Leah asked putting her hands on her hips and facing Ella.

“I didn’t say I was flirting.” Ella said laughing. “He was flirting. The twins thought he was funny.”

“Spill.” Leah instructed.

“He said his name was Angelo Roselli or something.”

“Roseta.” Leah said paling.

“Yeah, why do you know him?”

Leah stepped forward.

“Is he back in the Bay?” she asked quickly not answering Ella’s question.

“I don’t’ know. I met him in Yabbie Creek when I was shopping. Tell me what’s the matter?” Ella said quickly.

“Angelo was a fellow police officer. He was responsible for Jack’s death. You know Tony’s son.”

“And Martha’s husband.” Ella said slowly. “But he seemed really nice.”

Leah nodded.

“I suppose he is nice. Just if you get involved with him be prepared to deal with the baggage.”

“Leah, I’m not getting involved with him. It was just a moment. I don’t’ even know if I’m going to see him again.” Ella protested.

Leah looked at Ella and saw a flush on her cheeks and her eyes were shinning. She gave a small sigh before smiling at Ella.

“I have a feeling you’ll see him again.” She said slowly.

“Well enough about that, we’re here to discuss any last minute things for this diner aren’t’ we?”

Leah chuckled.

“Embarrassed Ella?”

Ella nodded letting her hair fall forward and cover her face momentarily.

“Right then. The kitchen.” Leah murmured walking around the counter and heading into the large airy kitchen. She looked at the large gleaming oven, her finger tracing along the silver metal surface. It was placed at a height so that a person could look through the glass in the doors and check the food and so that they didn’t have to bend down to put food in it. Next to it was a large grill pan and then six hobs for routine cooking. On the opposite side there were two large double sinks. One for food prep, and the other for cleaning with a garbage disposal in the centre of them. Then there was the large dishwasher. The back wall housed the two fridges. One would house all the drinks and the other would be for the food, with the tall freezer next to it. Next to those were tall cupboards that housed the dinnerware.

“It looks great.” Leah said softly.

“Roman would have liked it.” Ella told her. She smiled at Leah as she saw the other woman blink back tears. “None of that.”

“Sorry.” Leah said.

“I know you miss him too.” Ella murmured smiling at the other woman.

“We do.” Leah confirmed. “He was always trying some new recipe out on us.”

Ella nodded.

“He hated me being a vegetarian because he couldn’t cook his favourite recipes for me.” Ella told her with a smile. “He was relieved when I didn’t insist that the children were vegetarian too.”

Leah nodded.

“He did mention that a few times.”

“He did?” Ella asked.

Leah nodded once more with a glance around the kitchen.

“Something about Sammy and bacon.”

Ella threw back her head and laughed.

“He does like his fry up breakfasts.” She said glancing around. “Are we ready for this?”

“The Grand re-opening?” Leah said. “Bring it on.”

Ella nodded.

“This time next week the diner will be back.” she said with a smile. “And Roman would be proud of us.”

“And probably just a tiny bit grumpy that he wasn’t here for it.” Leah found herself saying before she could stop.

“Yes.” Ella said softly sounding sad once more. She gave the kitchen another look before heading out through the diner and looked at the sea.

“Sorry.” Leah called moving to stand behind her.

“Nothing to be sorry for Leah, honest. Roman is gone and nothing we can say or do will bring him back. But we are still here and the diner is back. So we should celebrate.” She said softly.

Leah gave her a searching look before she nodded and moved over to the door locking it up once more.

“Next week.” She confirmed.

Ella smiled and gave a glance to the large watch on her wrist.

“God!” she cried out. “I have to go and get ready.”

“What time is everyone coming?” Leah asked.

“In about an hour.” Ella murmured her lips twisting. “It’s going to be strange.” She added referring to the BBQ that she was having, the first since Roman died.

“It will be great. Time for you all to move on.” Leah said quietly. “And don’t think I didn’t notice that you are wearing his watch.”

Ella blushed.

“Not because I’m clinging to him.” she protested quickly. “Just Georgie and Sammy began arguing over which one was going to get it so I settled matters by telling them I was keeping it.”

“That backfired?” Leah guessed.

“You got it. They said they would believe that when they saw me wear it. I mean look at the size of this thing. I swap it to my other wrist sometimes so that the muscles in this arm don’t get too big.”

Leah looked at her friend and burst out laughing, smiling even more when Ella laughed too. She couldn’t remember the last time she had heard her laughing and couldn’t stop the minuscule frown at the rogue thought.

“Well anyway it will be good to see Danni.” Ella said softly. “She probably thinks we hate her for ending things with Mike.”

“Still don’t know how that happened.”

“Neither do I.” Ella confessed. “I stayed out of it, not so much through choice but because I was grieving and trying to get the kids through the worst.”

“Well I’ll let you go.”

Ella nodded.

“Speak to you soon.” She promised and ran off to her car jumping up behind the wheel and setting off.

Leah raised her hand in a wave before she frowned. She’d better let Charlie and Rachel know that Angelo was back before they heard it from Colleen, or even worse he just showed up. She was glad that Ella was moving on but hated that it was someone like Angelo who had made her smile again.

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Chapter 7

Danni looked over at Michelle’s profile and sighed once more.

“I swear Danni Harris if you don’t stop that I will smack you.” Michelle muttered.

“It’s just that it even smells like home.” Danni cried out.

“Well it’s your Summer Bay isn’t it? Of course it does.” The other girl flashed her a look before glancing back at the road.

“I never expected to feel homesick.” Danni groaned. “And Ella will be all nice and I’ll be guilty.”

“Oh for Pete’s sake.” Michelle cried. “One more word and I’ll turn the car around.”

Danni looked at her friends profile.

“I think you should do that anyway.” She said after a moment.

“What?” Michelle gasped out. “You want to go home?”

“No you missed the turning.” Danni murmured pointing behind her, grinning as Michelle swore before she turned the car around and went down the road towards the house. Danni could feel excitement going through her and she looked out the window seeing the familiar landscape roll out before them.

Pointing ahead to the open double gates she felt Michelle give her a look before manoeuvring the car into the driveway and going down it.

“Nice house.” She said.

“Yup.” Danni agreed with her. “Park anywhere.”

Michelle nodded easing the car to a full stop. She looked at Danni and laughed when she saw the other girl undo her seatbelt and spring out of the car. Michelle followed at a slower pace.

“Hurry up.” Danni called out.

“I’m coming.” Michelle said with a laugh.

Danni moved to the door and paused before she took a breath and opened it stepping inside.

She saw the back door was wide open and smiled as she looked into the garden and began to see people.

“Come on.” Danni told Michelle grabbing hold of her hand and leading her out the back.

“Danni.” Sophie squealed out.

“Sophie.” Danni said running over to her sister and hugging her.

“Why did you stay away so long?” she asked her.

“Sophie.” Ella murmured.

“Ok wait, we’re not allowed to be nosy and ask you stuff.” Sophie said with a grin smiling shyly at Michelle.

“Ok you ready for this?” Danni said. “Sophie, Meggy, Sammy, Georgie.” She pointed out. “Then Lily and Liam and the two small ones are August and Fleur. Or Fleur and August.”

Michelle laughed looking round the faces.

“That is Nic and Geoff with Angel, Robbie and Mira.” Danni murmured. “There will be a test later so I hope you are paying attention.”

“Danni.” Michelle groaned.

“Aden and Belle are running late.” Ella told her. “Come here.”

Danni walked over to her mum and grinned when she was pulled into a bear hug.

“Missed you my daughter.” Ella whispered.

“I’m sorry.” Danni cried out.

“It’s ok.” Ella said quickly. “Glad that you are home.”

She eased back and gave Danni a quizzical look.

“We’ll talk later.” Danni muttered a hand going to her stomach. She checked the movement glancing over at Michelle. “This is Michelle and she reckons that she’s going to go home engaged to someone.”

“Danni.” Michele cried out blushing.

“It’s ok it’s safe.” Ella said softly. “Jacko isn’t here.”

“Jacko?” Michelle asked slowly. “Wait isn’t he the one you are always trying to marry off.”

“That would be Uncle Jacko.” Meggy murmured grinning.

“Georgie and Sammy are on drink duty. There is some nice fruit punch.” Ella said and felt Danni’s eyes on her. She smiled at her before gesturing over to the bar the boys had set up with glasses and cocktail shakers and large jugs. There were bottles of beer in a chest full of ice.

“I’d love a beer.” Michelle said softly.

“Come on.” Sophie said leading them over to the bar.

Nic walked over to Ella from the BBQ and smiled at her.

“Missed her then?” she asked.

Ella nodded smiling at Nic as she put her arm around Ella’s waist and they walked over to the seats.

“Not leaving him cooking are you?” Meggy asked pointing to Geoff.

“Hey I heard that.” Geoff called out.

“It’s ok Megs, your Mum taught him to cook.” Nic said softly. “I think he can manage a BBQ.”

“Who can?” Aden called out coming through the house ahead of Belle and Irene. Tyler following on.

“Hello.” Ella greeted them standing and giving each of them a hug. “No Amy-Belle and Kai?”

“They are coming separately.” Belle murmured avoiding Ella’s gaze for a moment. She grinned at Nic before sitting down.

Ella sighed and eased down in a seat smiling over at Michelle and Danni sitting at the bar, the other girl fitting in. She looked to Aden who had moved over to stand with Geoff, the two men now deep in conversation. The kids naturally playing.

Irene placed her hand on Ella’s shoulder.

“Ok Darl?” she asked.

Ella nodded.

“It’s perfect.” She said softly feeling Nic and Belle looking at her.

“Good.” Nic said slowly. “Now what do you want to drink?”

“Apparently I’m supposed to ask for a blue Hawaiian.” Ella said with a glance at the bar.

“That sounds interesting.” Belle said.

Nic chuckled before she stood up and walked over to the bar.

“What can I get you?” Georgie called out.

“Three Blue Hawaiians.” She said.

Georgie and Sammy looked at each other before they took out a large jug. They placed fresh pineapple in it before adding white rum and vodka before putting in coconut flavoured Malibu drink. Next they added some blue liqueur before topping up with Pineapple juice and adding a dash of lemonade. They poured out three glasses and placed small cocktail umbrellas with pieces of pineapple and cocktail cherries on.

“There you go.” Sammy told her.

“Well that looks interesting.” Nic murmured.

She picked up her glass and moved the cocktail umbrella before taking a cautious sip.

“Wow.” She called out. “It’s amazing.”

Sammy laughed.

“We know.” He said. “It got lots of ratings on the website.”

Michelle laughed looking over at Danni.

“Your brothers look up cocktails?” she murmured.

“You look like a black Russian kind of girl.” Georgie said wiping part of the makeshift bar with a cloth.

“What’s that?” Michelle said.

Georgie glanced at Sammy before he picked up a tall glass, added ice and then a slug of vodka before opening a can of diet coke and pouring that over the top. He slid that over the top to her and smiled.

Michelle giggled flushing slightly.

“Perfect.” She agreed. “Good call.”

Nic grinned at her brother before she walked the drinks over to Ella and Belle.

“Should we….” Ella began to say.

“Only drink one of these? Yes.” Nic told her with a smile. “And your son seems to be chatting up Michelle.”

Ella laughed.

“No chance there, he likes someone called Buffy.” She said softly.

“What?” Nic grinned. “In Angel’s class Buffy?”

Ella nodded.

“Wow he aims high.” Nic murmured. “She’s more of a Princess than I was.”

“Is that possible Nicole?” Belle asked before she could stop herself and she flushed looking up when Irene laughed at her.

Ella smiled at her daughters before turning and looking at the door. She shot up out of her chair and gave a gasp before realising that the man coming towards her wasn’t Roman but her son Toby.

“Surprise.” He called out keeping the door open for Amy-Belle coming in with Kai. He kept his hold on the door as Brett came in and then Gabby and Daniella.

“Oh my god.” Ella gasped out looking at them. She moved shakily towards them and hugged each of them in turn.

“I can’t believe that you didn’t suspect we were up to something.” Amy-Belle said to her.

“I forgot that some of you inherited my sneaky gene.” Ella muttered glaring at Toby and then Gabby.

“Gabby?” Sophie murmured looking over at her sister.

“Hey Sophie.” Gabby murmured shyly.

Sophie glared at her before turning away and heading back out.

“Oh.” Gabby said sounding disappointed.

“Give her time.” Ella said. “And come on through.”

“Not asking where…” Gabby began.

“Got a feeling we should talk tomorrow.” Ella said giving her daughter a hug. She turned and hugged Toby again before taking Kai’s hand along with Daniella’s and leading the two babies out the back to where hers were playing. She saw them all start sharing toys and talking away in they baby language before giving her attention to Gabby and Toby.

“I can’t believe that you are here.” She said to them hugging them again.

Gabby smiled.

“It’s good to be home.” She told her before smiling and walking over to Danni. The tow embraced and began gossiping.

“So who is cooking?” Toby asked.

“The men are over there.” Ella grinned pointing. She watched as he joined Geoff and Aden and also Brett before moving back over to sit with Belle and Nic.

“Got ya Darl.” Irene grinned at her.

“You were in it too?” Ella gasped.

Amy-belle smiled looking over at Ella before she sat next to her mother.

“Guess we should mark this day in the calendar.” Amy-Belle grinned. “The day we kept a secret from Ella.”

Ella groaned and glared at her before she grinned. She took a long sip of her drink and looked around at her family. There was some missing faces, Mike was still overseas and she hadn’t seen Jacko, Pete or James for a long time. But her family was home and she was happy.

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Chapter 8

Roman eased into a hot bath and sighed with contentment. Well it was really contentment more like relief. He’d gone for a run for the first time in a year and there wasn’t a muscle that didn’t seem to ache. He’d decided that the half bottles of whisky a night had to stop before he did something stupid and tried to phone home. As he soaped his body he thought of Ella and what she might be doing right now. Would she have just got all the kids in bed and was enjoying a bit of peace or would she be out on a date?

He shot up in the bath at the rogue thought ignoring his protesting muscles before climbing out and wrapping a towel around himself.

“There is no way she would be dating.” He muttered to himself.

‘Get a grip.’ His inner voice screamed inside his head. ‘You’re dead, remember! She can do what she wants.’

Roman growled as he thought of some other man kissing his wife. Putting his hands on his wife. Ella smiling at them and leading them up the stairs to their bed. Letting some other man touch her in all the places he liked to touch. That little hollow at the base of her spine for example, or kiss the side of her neck. He tortured himself with imaging some other man discovering that Ella loved the back of her neck kissed and then his thoughts drifted as he remembered making love to her himself. The jealousy that had him reaching for the bottle of whiskey dissolved as he felt his body responding to the mental images going through his head.

The way she kissed him and touched him. So shyly and then so passionately. He groaned and moved over to his bed laying back on it thinking of her, her perfume, her lips, her touches. The way she would kiss down his body and then pause and give him a look before her mouth enclosed him or her hand caressed him.

“Dammit.” Roman groaned shooting up off the bed. He paced into the kitchen and picked up the bottle once more taking off the cap and drinking straight from it as he walked over to the sofa and switched on the tv flicking through the channels until there was something that caught his attention. He watched the flickering images and started to drift off to sleep. As soon as his eyes closed he dreamt of Ella. She’d found him and was walking along the beach towards him. He smiled and ran over to her.

“Sorry.” He gasped out in his dream.

“It’s all ok. I’ve found you now.” The dream Ella called touching his face before she kissed him. Roman smiled in his sleep.

“Love you so much.” He mumbled.

“I know.” The dream Ella teased him.

He sighed and reacted by lifting her up and holding her against him. Kissing her passionately. They fell to the hot sand and in the way of dreams their clothes disappeared, melting away. He ran his hands down her body.

“Missed you.” He said softly.

“Sorry.” The dream Ella said quickly. “But I can’t do this. I’m married to someone else.”

Roman shot up on the sofa coming awake.

“Great attacked by my own dream.” He muttered to himself rubbing a hand over his face. He switched off the tv and dropped the damp towel to one side as he walked over to his bed and climbed into it.

Maybe if he tried hard he could get the dream back and this time it would be just about Ella, his beautiful wife Ella.

Ella yawned again and eased up.

“Off to bed?” Nic asked her.

“Well is it nearly one am.” Ella muttered with a look at her watch. She looked over at Danni and Michelle. Brett was standing next to them and she sensed that he was interested in the other girl.

“Sensing anything step-mama?” Nic asked.

Belle glared at them.

“No way.” She muttered and saw Ella smile at her.

“Right everyone. Danni and Michelle you are in Irene’s place with Amy-Belle. Gabby and Toby in the pool house with Brett. “ Ella explained. “Nic Geoff you guys are in the old stables along with Belle and Aden.”

“I presume that means you are going to bed?” Danni said slowly a note of yearning in her voice.

Ella nodded.

“I’ll see you all in the morning.” She told them heading through the house and up the stairs. She looked in on all the babies before moving into her bedroom. Falling on to the bed fully dressed she tugged the covers over her and slipped into sleep. For the first time in months she dreamt of Roman. She was walking along a beach she didn’t recognise and she saw him ahead of her. He was standing with his back to her but she knew it was him and then he turned and looked at her. Surprise held her still for a moment before she ran to him and they fell into the surf kissing and holding each other. Ella smiled in her sleep.

After everyone had separated and gone to bed Gabby found herself unable to fall asleep immediately. She moved out of the pool house and looked out at the stars.

“Ok where is Jacob?” Danni asked from behind her.

Gabby looked up at Danni sitting on the stairs that led up to the door of Irene’s place and grinned at her sister.

“We’ve split up.” Gabby confessed.

“Oh no.” danni gasped out rushing down the rest of the stairs and hugging her sister.

“It’s ok.” Gabby told her. “We’re still friends.”

“Really?” Danni murmured.

Gabby nodded.

“We did our best but things weren’t right. I’ve come home.”

“Ella will be thrilled.” Danni predicted.

“So come on I told you….” Gabby said looking down at Danni.

“Yeah, ok, I’m pregnant. Yes it’s Mike’s. And yes I love him. I thought it was best he didn’t’ know while he was out there.”

“So you split up with him?” Gabby shook her head.

“We split up with each other.” Danni shrugged. “We’ll see when he comes back. He was hurting so badly over Roman’s death.”

Gabby nodded.

“Sophie hates me for leaving.”

“Sophie will be ok.” Danni said and giggled when Gabby glared at her. ”Sorry was I doing an Ella?”

“Oh yes.”

Danni smiled at her.

“Come on up and stay with me?” she asked.

Gabby chuckled and walked up the stairs next to Danni, the two of them going into Irene’s place.

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Chapter 9

Ella pulled out the folder that contained Roman’s recipes and began looking through it.

“Mum?” Sophie called out walking over to her.

“I was looking for the recipe for his ginger biscuits.” Ella told her daughter.

“Oh, that is at the back.” Sophie said before her mouth opened and she looked at her mother.

“Not for me.” Ella said giving Sophie a little nudge when she glared at her. Roman had always cooked those biscuits when she was suffering from morning sickness, the ginger in them settling her stomach. “I thought that I would make a batch for the people who were drinking last night. You know settle their tummies.”

“I can do them.” Sophie murmured before raising an eyebrow at her. “Tummies?”

“Uh huh.” Ella grinned at her.

“And how exactly would I be pregnant again?” Ella asked Sophie and grinned some more as her daughter blushed.

“Well you can start dating again.” She mumbled.

“Thank you for your permission.” Ella said softly.

“No Mum.” Sophie shook her head. “That wasn’t what I meant.”

“I know silly girl I’m just teasing you. Now where is that recipe.”

Sophie took the folder from her hands and turned the pages until she found the recipe for the ginger biscuits.

“There.” she said softly.

“You like this cooking stuff don’t you?” Ella said to her.

Sophie nodded.

“Makes me feel closer to Dad.” She admitted in a timid voice.

“Then I’m glad. You should have this.” Ella pointed to the folder. “And his cook books.”

“Mum?” Sophie cried out.

“They need to be used and loved and I know you’ll do that.” Ella said leaning over and kissing the top of Sophie’s head. “Now are you cooking those?”

Sophie grinned and nodded.

“Thank you.” She said before turning round in the kitchen and beginning to gather the ingredients for the biscuits. Ella smiled and left her too it moving out of the kitchen and heading back up the stairs to her bedroom. She sat on the bed and looked at Roman’s watch. She supposed that Toby could have it she thought with a curious feeling inside her. She put it down to the dream she’d had of Roman last night and mused that it was the seconds when she’d thought Roman had actually walked through the door.

Taking the watch she placed it back in the box it came in and looked at it before taking out a storage box she had placed a few of his other things in. She saw his phone and looked at it before switching it on, on a whim. She’d kept his account up to date because she knew that Sammy sometimes called Roman’s phone to listen to his voice on his answering message.

The battery symbol immediately flashed and she moved it over to where her charge was plugging it in. She frowned as she looked at it before opening up the back and taking out the battery only to find that the sim card was missing. Pulling out her own phone from her jeans pocket she dialled Pete’s number and heard the call go straight to voicemail.

“Pete it’s Ella. Give me a call as soon as you get this message.” She said into her phone before she hung up. She put the box back in her wardrobe and moved back out and down the stairs.

“Mum.” Gabby called from the back.

“Hey I’m here.”

“Is…” Gabby began.

“Babies are still asleep. How about a coffee and a chat?” Ella said with a smile moving over to her daughter.

“I’d like that. There is something I need to ask you about.”

“Are you moving back?” Sophie called out excitement in her voice.

Ella smiled and looked at Gabby face seeing her elder daughter smile too at the question.

“Thank you Sophie.” Ella called out before moving into the kitchen and taking down a couple of cups. She poured out the coffees and took them out the back, handing one to Gabby.

“Thanks.” Gabby said gratefully.

“Now then.” Ella said slowly.

“Jacob and I have split up which you knew last night didn’t you?” Gabby began.

Ella nodded.

“I’m sorry. I hoped being away from the Bay and everything that happened would help you to work through things.” She said quietly.

“We’re still friends.” Gabby said quickly.

“Ok.” Ella murmured. She could have told Gabby about the amount of times she and Roman had split and remained friends and that the friendship had always resulted in sex. Her thoughts drifted for a moment and she blushed remembering the dream she’d had the previous night.

“Anyway he’s going to go overseas and do some charity work. I think he’s trying to atone for his part in the whole drama.” Gabby murmured after a time looking out on the garden. She wondered what time Ella had got up this morning because the garden was spotless.

“Sounds ok.” Ella said slowly. “Are you going to give him time and see if there are any feelings left or are you moving on?”

Gabby started and looked at Ella before she flushed bright red.

“Guess I’m going to wait.” She told her mother with a raw honesty.

“Might be the right choice.” Ella nodded. “As long as you do more than sit and wait. A job or college. Amy-Belle is going to college so it can be done as a single Mum.”

Gabby smiled.

“Does that mean I can move home?” she asked.

“Yes!” Sophie called out loudly.

Ella chuckled.

“Guess I better say yes too then.”

“Too right.” Sophie muttered before peaking round the back and looking sheepishly at them. “We can help with Daniella can’t we Mum?”

“What is this ‘we’ bit Madam?” Ella asked her. “You have school and study groups and work and cooking.”

“She cooks now?” Gabby asked.

Ella nodded.

“Takes after her dad.” Ella told Gabby. “Thank goodness. I still manage to burn cheese on toast.”

“We got new smoke alarms.” Sophie called out cheekily.

Ella looked at Gabby and shook her head before she grinned.

“Well how else would you know when your dinner was cooked?” she asked them and heard Sophie giggling in the kitchen. “Now then the stables are done so you can move stright in there.”

Gabby smiled.

“I did go and have a look round them yesterday.” She admitted. “Can’t work out why there are four bedrooms?”

“The space was there to do it. No ulterior motive really although I did think that Toby would stay over there when he came to visit.” Ella said before draining her cup. She eased up and moved into the kitchen placing her cup in the sink smiling at Sophie as she saw the clear tops.

“I better get started on breakfasts.” Ella murmured.

“I’ll help?” Sophie offered.

Ella smiled at her and shook her head before she pushed Sophie in the direction towards her sister.

“Go and have a gossip.” She told her.

Sophie smiled and skipped outside hugging Gabby before she sat next to her. Ella heard her begin chattering 19 to the dozen and smiled.

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