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Title: Running

Type of Story: One Shot

Main Characters: Roman and Ella

Rated: G

Warnings: None

Does the story contain any spoilers: No (please see Author's Note below)

Genre: Romance

Summary: The story of how Roman and Ella met was legendary. It was Afghanistan, he was in the Army and she was there to spend time with her brother as she worked as photographer. But what if things were different? What if fate had destined that Ella and Roman met before then? Surely it wasn't possible that it could have happened?

This is the story of how Ella met someone when she was only 13. He was the first boy she kissed and the one who stole her heart....

This is the story of how Roman met a mysterious girl who he was destined to love forever...

Authors Note: Part of this story is set during the timeline depicted in 'Postcards From Hawaii' a previous 'Rola' story but there are no spoilers!


“Elizabeth Addison,” Her teacher called her name and she slowly stepped forward, ignoring like always the sniggering of some of the older girls. “I’ve put you in with Catronia.”

Elizabeth nodded and looked over at Catronia. She saw her roll her eyes and make a funny expression before she nodded at their teacher too. Great, she was bunking in with one of her enemies. Lovely.

“Ok girls, that’s it for the room assignments. I’ll give you an hour to get settled before I want you to come back here ready to see the stadium.”

Elizabeth picked up her bags, one for clothes, one with her books and finally her satchel/handbag. She juggled them for a second before following Catronia to their shared room. The other girl shot her looks as she sorted out the key and opened the door.

“Ok kid, which bed do you want?”

“Er, I’m fine, whatever,” Elizabeth murmured frowning at her accent. She had been brought up in England for most of her life and knew that she sounded snooty to the other girls. She couldn’t help it, as much as she tried to get her lips round using an Aussie twang the British accent would slip out when she was stressed or emotional. Like now, sharing a room with one of her bullies.

“You’d get on better if you stopped sounding like a Princess….” Catriona drawled.

“I can’t help how I pronounce words. I didn’t spend a lot of time here as a kid.”

“You are still a kid, how old are you anyway?”

“Thirteen,” Elizabeth answered.

“Yeah, younger than most of us picked for the squad,” She shot back making Elizabeth frown.

“And what about the name, 'Call me Elizabeth',” Catronia mimed speech marks as she spoke before she shuffled her bags over the bed near the window. She looked out of it and around before claiming the other bed opposite.

Elizabeth watched before she shifted her bags and dumped them on the bed. She looked out of the window herself before collapsing down.

“My mother doesn’t allow abbreviations,” she murmured quietly. The first personal thing she’d ever told to one of her schoolmates. Not that she had any mates at the exclusive boarding school her parents picked out for her. Again.

“I see.”

Elizabeth concentrated on unpacking, hanging up her clothes in the wardrobe and using the bedside cabinet to store her books. She’d bought too many with her as normal but with no one to really talk to she had to fill her days with something. Added to the top of the pile was her camera. A second hand Nikon she’d bought herself from a pawn brokers as soon as she’d escaped from the boarding school for any length of time. It took 35mm film, had a separate flash and ate batteries faster than she could buy them. She had rolls and rolls of film to develop and was hoping that in the summer holidays she could find a photography studio where she could talk them into her being able to do her own developing.

“Look, I know…” Elizabeth began.

“Kid, I’m going back … coming?”

She frowned before grabbing her satchel and hooking the camera inside it she followed Catronia out of the room. They paused at the door before Elizabeth dived inside and grabbed the keys handing Catronia hers before the two of them laughed.

“I bet the stadium is huge.”

“From the pictures I saw…”

“Kid you do way too much homework, why don’t you have a bit of fun now and again?” Catronia asked her giving her a serious look. “In fact this trip we are going to loosen those screws of yours,” she muttered as they reached the bus.

They piled on, Catronia sitting at the back amongst her friends. The ones who were bullying her and Elizabeth frowned at the ease in which the other girl spoke to them. She wondered if Catronia would pass on stuff she’d said or the fact that she’d unpacked a load of books despite the fact they were only there for the week of the athletic competition.

Looking around she noticed all the girls were now on the bus with the teacher, Miss Carmichael getting on last. The door closed and the driver started up the bus, setting off.


Roman looked at his father again. They were in the car on the way to the stadium although he didn’t want to go but as defending cross country champion he was ‘obliged’ to at least show up. He had other stuff to do, like find out what was wrong with his girlfriend, Natalie. She’d been in a mood with him for the past week or so ever since he’d said he was going away for a few days.

“You sighed again,” His Dad murmured glancing across at him. “She will still be there when you get back you know,” he added.

Roman narrowed his eyes and glared at his dad, feeling the start of another argument bubbling up. His parents didn’t approve of Natalie. Well, more his Mother than his dad. He didn’t know what the problem was whenever he’d asked his mother had changed the subject and he didn’t get a straight answer from her.

“I don’t want to compete this year,” Roman muttered sounding defensive to his own ears. Defensive and sullen, like a typical teenager but aside from being 17 he was far from typical. He’d worked in his Dad’s restaurant since he was 13. Lugging boxes around, stacking shelves, working shifts as pot man, dishwasher and then when his dad saw that he could cook a bit he’d been drafted in as a grill chef. The money was okay but as for spending every weekend cooking he didn’t feel as though he had a life, certainly not with that and with his training. Up every morning at five am he ran a quick 7-10k before hitting the gym for weight training.

Thinking about it he came to the sudden realisation that he didn’t have a life. Maybe that was why his parents hated Natalie, she was the only thing they had no control over.

“It will be the last year,” Marco told his son quietly. “Next year you will be doing your HSC and then Uni.”

Roman frowned again at the way his parents had his life mapped out. School, Uni, restaurant, running, gym, training. He didn’t want to go to University. Instead he had a leaflet that told him about an art course he liked the look of. Not that he told them about his drawing as they would dismiss it as a hobby. How did he explain that he wanted to paint?

“Nice to know how my life is going to pan out,” Roman snapped and instantly regretted his outburst.

“So you have a different plan, eh? Tell me about it? What has the great Roman Harris devised?”

“Maybe it starts with not running,” Roman bit out feeling his face warming as he felt himself going embarrassed.

‘Don’t mention painting,’ he muttered quietly in his head. ‘You’ll only be mocked!’

“Fine, we’ll turn around shall we and you can spend the next week working in the restaurant,” Marco muttered.

Roman felt his dad shooting him a look before looking once more at the road ahead.

“No,” Roman replied.

“Then you’ll compete and win again,” Marco drawled.

“If you say so,” Roman shot back, stung into anger.

“I do,” Marco indicated and pulled into the carpark of the stadium. He parked up the car and turned the engine off before looking at his son. “And as this is your last year you might as well make the most of it,” he added.

“I …” Roman stopped his eyes being dragged against his will to where a bus was parking up. The doors opened and a gaggle of giggling schoolgirls got off. Great, he thought, just what else is this nightmare trip going to throw at him? Watching them with half an eye he turned to face his father. “I don’t want to keep running. I’m slowing down and there are others faster than me,” he finally murmured. “My height…” he stopped and looked across at the bus feeling a jolt go through him as the final girl got off. He couldn’t see her face from this distance but there was something about her that gave him a sudden jolt. Like he should run over to her and introduce himself to her or something. She tossed her very long hair over her shoulder and his eyes followed the movement of the very-long caramel tresses.

“So, if we agree that this will be your last tournament…?”

Roman dragged his attention back to his father.

“I will win it for you,” Roman promised rashly.

“Come on, let’s go find your coach,” Marco nodded and climbed out of the car.

Roman followed at a slower pace his eyes seeking out the girl from the coach. She was already gone and he felt a strange sense of loss before he shook off the sentimental thoughts and focused on getting his bags out of the car.


“Ok girls, this is where you’ll be getting changed. You’ll be sharing it with two other teams so keep an eye on your things and remember to mind your manners,” their teacher explained slowly her eyes travelling around the group.

“Great, easy pickings,” Someone at the back joked.

A small smattering of laughter went around the group before it silenced under a stern look from Miss Carmichael.

“There are only three of us here to cover all you girls so we are expecting you to be on your best behaviour,” Miss Carmichael announced. “Now if you follow me we’ll make our way to the track. You will have a training session on the track tomorrow morning at eight am,” she murmured as she led them out of the changing room and along the green painted corridor before going out the double doors and into the stadium proper.

Elizabeth looked out across the track and to the stands. There were people milling about, some of them working on the grounds and others, obviously competitors in the events, were training. Her eyes strayed to a tall blond guy across the stadium. He was standing next to two men, one looking vaguely like him and the other man was shorter with dark hair. She kept trying to focus on what the teacher was saying to them but her gaze kept leaping back to the blond guy.

“He’s pretty cute,” Catronia murmured from beside her.

“I’m not…” Elizabeth tried to deny she’d been caught staring at a boy but couldn’t control the hot colour she knew had entered her cheeks.

“Don’t worry kid,” Catronia drawled, “Come on over,” she urged.

Elizabeth sighed and followed the other girl going to stand with her and her friends. She could have pointed out the amount of times they’d bullied her over the past few months and how she wanted nothing to do with them but the fact that she was sharing a room with Catronia and she seemed to be making an effort kept her quiet.

“What’s she doing here?” One of them asked glaring at her.

“I want her here ok, she’s cool,” Catronia said smoothly giving the blonde haired girl a glare back.

Elizabeth looked down hiding the small smile she had at being called cool. She wasn’t cool. She was just herself. Rubbing at her arm, the one that had been broken as a kid she looked up and found her eyes trailing back over to where the blond guy was. She didn’t go for blonds she told herself remembering her crush on Johnny Depp that her brother Michael still teased her about.

“We going to meet up tonight?” Leslie asked quietly. “I managed to get a bottle of vodka stashed in my bag.”

“You had vodka before kid?” Blondie asked her. Blondie wasn’t her real name but Elizabeth couldn’t be bothered trying to remember what she was called especially when she was being a bully.

“Actually, no,” Elizabeth drawled injecting a measure of scathing in her voice. “But I’ve been drinking whisky for a while.”

“Maybe we should get some of that then,” Blondie shot back as though to challenge her claim.

“I wouldn’t, tastes like mouthwash mixed with soil,” Elizabeth said and stepped away no longer able to deal with the other girls' stupid taunts besides she wanted to check out the stadium. She looked at the track again and moved over to the starting blocks looking at the way the numbers were painted on the red surface. She reached down and touched it before nodding to herself. The track was made with a mixture of things, probably recycled tyres in there too. The last track she’d run on had been made of clay.

“Hey,” a voice murmured.

Elizabeth looked up and found herself starring into the incredible blue eyes of the blond guy she’d been fascinated by earlier.

“Hi,” she squeaked out.

“What events are you competing in?” He asked her and her heart gave a strange little hop in her chest.

“Fifteen hundred metres,” Elizabeth said dusting her hands off and standing up. Maybe she held herself a little differently, trying to look even taller acknowledging thankfully that she had just hit her growth spurt, reaching 5ft7, whereas he must be easily over six foot tall she told herself, and those eyes. She’d swum in far off seas that were the exact colour of his eyes.

“Wow, long distance girl,” he said his accent typically Australian.

Elizabeth threw her shoulders back and gave him a look as though expecting some scathing comment.

“How much training for that do you do?” He asked.

“A fair bit,” Elizabeth said trying not to read anything into the way he was talking to her or well, the very fact he was talking to her. She knew that the girls from her school must have noticed that she’d disappeared by now and Catronia had the eyes of a hawk and would have noticed her talking to the guy she’d been caught staring at earlier. Just the thought of that had her cheeks starting to flame and she silently urged herself not to blush.

“I’m in the cross country,” Roman murmured.

“Good for you,” Elizabeth said before she could stop herself. She mentally groaned at how prissy she sounded and knew, damn it she could hear, just how prissy-up-herself her accent sounded.

“Are you a pommie?” he asked her.

“No, I’m Australian, just spent a lot of time overseas,” Elizabeth sighed at the familiar explanation. She was going to crack an Aussie accent if it killed her to have to stop explaining why she’d sounded stuck up.

“Cool, my name is ….” He was interrupted before he could tell her his name.

“Girls, gather round!”

“Sorry,” she muttered and spun away running over to where her teacher was standing. There was some more discussion before she and the other girls were led back out to the bus. Elizabeth glanced back to where she’d been standing and saw the blond guy still there. She gave a little sigh before surreptitiously easing her camera out of her bag and pointing it in his general direction. Pressing the button a few times she shot some candid images of him. Even if she never did find out his name she wanted a record of the time she spoke to a boy without completely making an idiot of herself. Putting the camera away she moved quickly catching up with the others and getting back on the bus for the trip back to the hotel.


Roman said goodbye to his dad watching as he drove off. He felt a vague ruffle of disappointment that his father had left to go back to the restaurant and wouldn’t even be around for his race before he gathered his stuff together and moved out to his coach’s car to head over to the hotel. He could feel the first stirrings of hunger and hoped that the place had decent room service.

“Come on kid,” Micky called.

Roman opened the back door and put his bags on the back seat before climbing in the passenger side.

“You know you can talk to me don’t ya kid,” Mickey told him as they drove off for the short journey to the hotel.

“Nothing to talk about,” Roman denied.

“Just don’t want you to burst something…”

“This is my last tournament Micky, I know that my olds won’t agree but I’m too … old now, too tall,” Roman finally broached what he’d been thinking about.

“There are others who….”

“I know Micky but you can’t deny that I’m getting slower. “

“Not enough to get beat,” Micky shot him a look.

“That will happen soon, god I thought Paulo was going to wipe me out last race,” Roman muttered thinking of the boy from the next district who was a few years younger than him and coming up the ranks.

“He’s going to be one to watch alright,” Micky told him.

“Yeah and it’s cool, I’m not into it for the right reasons,” Roman confided.

“You tell your folks about your drawing?”

“No,” Roman said flatly thinking of the sketchbook he’d stashed in his bag. Yeah, they knew he drew but not that he wanted to go to college and take courses. There were a few coming up as part of the summer programme that he wanted to sign up for and would go towards his credits for getting on the art course he wanted to do after his HSC too. He’d been saving all his money to put towards them although his family thought he was saving for a car.

“So we should probably make the most of this then, it being our last outing,” Micky was saying.

Roman felt a pang of guilt then at letting Micky down. The other man had been good to him. Giving him time off to go see his girlfriend Natalie and then keeping quiet when he’d been off drawing instead of training like his Dad thought he was.

They pulled up at the hotel, registering and going to their respective rooms on the second floor of the hotel. Roman moved inside and unpacked, hanging up his clothes and checking through his running gear. As Micky said this was the last time they would have so he needed to make the other man proud. Not to mention of course that it was probably also the last time he could escape the confines of working in the restaurant.

Pulling out his sketchpad and artists pencils he settled back on the bed and began to draw. Within minutes he’d outlined the shape of the girl he’d been talking to earlier and began to add in features, like her long hair and the tilt of her nose. She had deep blue colour eyes and he cursed that he hadn’t put in his other pencils so that he could add in the extra dimensions like the colour of her eyes and lips, or even the way that she’d blushed as she spoke to him.

He hoped that he would be seeing her again, maybe this time even get as far as to find out her name. There was just something about her that was calling to him. Maybe it was the dissatisfaction with his current life or maybe it was that hesitant uncertainty about her that made him want to protect her. Not that he would get very far with that, remembering the way her eyes had shot sparks at him over his choice of words earlier. And her accent. Frightfully British. The words sounding so clipped and precise that he reckoned they could cut if she aimed them in the right direction. Yeah, protecting her? Hell, who would protect him?

Looking down at his sketchpad he realised he’d covered a page with images of her. Capturing the way her hair curled just near her ears, the way her eyes were ever so slightly tilted at the edges and framed by incredibly thick eyelashes. She was beautiful.

Roman groaned at the enormity of what he was doing. He had a girlfriend and this girl, whose name he didn’t even know had bypassed his subconscious. He never drew people and had refused for years to do a portrait of his sister, Megs. So what the hell was he doing now? Closing the book in exasperation he got changed into running gear and after letting Micky know he was going out he headed out of the hotel for a run to clear his head.


Elizabeth watched the faces of the other girls. Well, mostly the popular ones that were hanging back this morning trying to cover up their hangovers.

“Didn’t realise that you smoked kid,” Catroina murmured her voice hoarse.

“Didn’t ask,” Elizabeth murmured back. She shot Catronia a grin before leading her over to the side of the track and handing her a bottle of water. “Keep drinking, ok,” she instructed.

“I have a flashback of you saying that to me last night,” Catronia groaned and then let out a short bark of laughter as one of the other girls who’d been drinking with them the night before suddenly ran off the track and headed towards the changing rooms.

“I did and that is why you aren’t following her…” Elizabeth murmured gesturing to the girl who’d gone running.

She began warming up, stretching out the tendons in her legs and shaking off the residue of a night drinking with the others and not getting much rest. Luckily her race wasn’t until Thursday so she had time to work on her fitness and get some rest in. Stretching out the kinks in her back and shoulders she grabbed hold of Catronia’s hand and tugged on it until the other girl moved with her getting on to the track.

“You are trying to kill me!” The other girl grumbled.

“Come on,” Elizabeth instructed and began a gentle slow jog round the track leaving Catronia no choice except to join in.

“Actually this isn’t too bad,” Catronia said after a couple of laps at the gentle pace.

“Great, let’s go a bit faster then.”


Elizabeth laughed as she picked up the pace on two more laps before heading back over to the bench. They completed the exercises that constituted warming down before grabbing drinks and sitting down.

“Thanks Kid,” Catronia murmured.

“No worries,” Elizabeth shot back in a perfect Aussie accent.

Catronia laughed before she pulled on Elizabeth’s hand and pointed across the field.

“What? Oh,” Elizabeth felt her face growing hot and knew that it wasn’t because of the recent exercise.

“That’s your fella…”


“Not yours?” Catronia sipped from her bottle of water and smiled as Elizabeth glared at her. “Well he’s coming over here.”

“He’s so not…” Elizabeth groaned again and shot up from her seat before sitting down again. She felt all her nerves twitching and knew she was blushing bright red.

“Hello,” Catronia called out.

“Cat,…” Elizabeth hissed out.

“Hi,” Roman said slowly.

“Hi,” Elizabeth squeaked out. Again.

She was too aware she was only in a pair of skimpy shorts and a vest top, both having had many washes and being slightly faded if not shapeless. Her face must look like a beetroot and her hair was scrapped back into an unflattering pony tail. Obviously it was some cosmic joke to have the cute boy come and stand near them today.

“Nice day,” Roman murmured and frowned.

“It should be, still too early for me,” Catronia murmured nudging Elizabeth with her hand in her back.

“I’ve just about finished here, going to head to the gym,” Roman said slowly.

“Yeah, well, I’ve still got training but my friend here could do with a gym session,” Catronia said ignoring the glare she got in response.

“I can’t go,” Elizabeth squeaked out.

“I’ll cover, don’t worry and you need to do your other training, remember,” Catronia said.

Elizabeth glared at her before nodding slowly.

“Fine, “she said.

“Meet back here in what, an hour?” Catronia glanced at her watch as she spoke.

“Ok,” Elizabeth turned and looked at Roman, “I need to get my bag,” she murmured to him.

“What’s your name?” Roman asked following her across the track and into the stadium building.

“Her name is Tania,” Catronia called out.

Elizabeth turned to look at her schoolmate and gave her a puzzled glare before her eyes drifted over to the real Tania the other side of the sports track and then back again. She mouthed the word ‘what?’ to her before groaning as Catronia ran over to them.

“She’s 15, spent some time overseas, and she likes taking pictures,” Catronia intoned, “And you are?”

“I’m Ro….” Again he was cut off as he was about to give her his name and he frowned at the disruption the other side of the field as one girl seemed to bump into another and they both fell over.

“Less talk more walking,” Catronia told them giving them both a push using the distraction to cover Elizabeth disappearing from training.

Elizabeth moved quickly inside and over to the changing rooms. She slipped off her running shoes and swapped to trainers and then grabbed her deodorant and spritzed. She gave her reflection a brief look before racing outside to where he was waiting.

“Ok?” He asked slowly as though sensing her sudden unease.

“Sure, let’s go,” she murmured and followed him along the corridor and up a set of stairs then along another corridor until they moved through double doors and into the gym. They were the only ones inside the gym and she looked round seeing the complex machinery before spying the gymnastics equipment through the other section of the gym. Her eyes lit up and she had to resist the urge to race through there and start working out.

“Wow, bigger than my usual place,” he commented. “So you’ve been overseas, I’m guessing the UK?”

“UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, USA.”

“Must be nice to travel,” Roman said slowly.

He moved over to a cross trainer and scanned the instructions before looking up and seeing her give him a curious look.

“What?” He asked.

“Just wondering what you are doing talking to me?” Elizabeth blurted out the question she’d been thinking ever since he’d originally spoken to her.

“I don’t know, I just wanted to get to know you a bit,” Roman confessed.

“Ok,” Elizabeth frowned for a brief second but then remembered the words of Catronia about ‘living a bit’. Fine, she decided slowly, she would have herself a romance or something.

“Is that cool or…”

“It’s cool, “ she gave a small laugh before stepping on to the cross trainer and clicking on the settings and setting it in motion.

Roman watched her before grinning and joining her by getting on the machine next to her.

“What was your favourite place to visit?”

“We went up to Scotland whilst we lived in the UK, which was cool.”

“I can’t imagine being able to travel,” Roman said thinking of his life in the kitchen.

“Why? I mean we travel because my Dad is in the Army,” Elizabeth murmured slowly. She could feel that maybe trying to conduct a conversation whilst exercising was maybe a mistake, she could feel her breath coming in pants. Although she ran she wasn’t as fit as him apparently, feeling a little resentment that he wasn’t struggling with the exercise.

“The Army?” He murmured.

“My Dad is a lifer, you know one of those who is in until he gets his pension,” she stopped and turned off the machine before climbing off and going over to where she’d dropped her bag. She reclaimed her bottle of water and took a drink watching as he kept going on the machine. He looked fit, she thought and inwardly groaned at how that sounded. She meant fit as in his actual fitness level, she told herself and not fit as in he had a hot body, although he did have a hot body. His arm muscles were huge, well not huge - huge, oh god, her thoughts were drifting and she knew that the colour in her face was not due to her recent exercise now but because she was blushing.

Feeling the need to calm herself down she left him to it she moved through to the other room and slipped her trainers off before stepping to the side of the balance beam. Placing her hands on it she levered herself up before slowly raising herself into a handstand. She lowered herself back down before placing her feet on the beam. Within moments she was lost in her routine. Tiptoes, balance, stretch, lift leg, arabesque, pivot, turn, dip, stretch, then jump, land, scissor kick, turn and then, the dismount, run, build momentum, spin forward on to her hands and for a second, a nano-second look like that is it before springing off and contorting her body into a twist and then landing safely on the mat. Her arms flew up in the regimented pose a gymnast did at the end of every routine automatically.

“Wow!” Roman called out clapping profusely. He wolf-whistled her and grinned as she immediately went red.

“You, er, you, er…. garh!” she cried out.

“No, you were wow, that is, you are amazing!”

“If you say so,” Elizabeth said primly.

“Tell me that thing where you stand on one leg,” he began, the small furrow between his eyes creased up as he smiled at her.

“Arabesque,” she told him.

“How long can you hold that pose for?”

“What?” If she had been drinking she would have spat water at him. Whatever was he thinking about, and oh god, now she was back thinking about stuff that no 13-year-old should be thinking and almost against her will her eyes travelled down his body and then back to his face. She had way too many teenage hormones to have a normal conversation with a boy.

“I draw, like well, you know an artist, and I want to draw you.” Roman stuttered.

“Oh,” she nodded and shot him a look before heading over to the large mat and within a second she extended her left leg behind her and held the pose.

“Do you need to use your arms to provide counter balance?”

She smiled at the seriousness of his question and half-nodded. “Why?”

“Well could I pose you?”

Elizabeth looked at him, the way his blond hair curled and his earnest blue eyes. She gave another nod and he stepped over to her reaching for her hand he touched her fingers and lifted her arm up. Turning her hand slightly he began arranging her fingers. She wondered what he was thinking as he moved her body into the pose he wanted. Would he think her fingers elegant or short and stubby? Her nails were clipped and unpainted.

“There,” he said stepping back and looking at her.

“So you want to draw me like this?”

“Yes, I know it sounds weird but there is something about you, I don’t know, I hope we can be friends, “ he muttered sounding uncertain. “I like you,” he added.

“I think we already are,” she breathed out slowly as she spoke the words wondering why it felt as though her very soul seemed to shudder at her words.


Roman led the way down to the beach. He had his artist materials in his backpack along with an improvised picnic of sandwiches and drinks. It was three days to his race and one before hers and he already felt guilty that he’d dragged her away from training to come with him to the beach.

“Alright?” He muttered the question.

“I’m cool,” Elizabeth grinned as she followed him stepping carefully over the rocks until they reached the sand. She seemed to pause as she looked around before reaching into her bag and taking out her camera.

“Again?” He murmured.

Elizabeth smiled at him as she clicked a couple of shots of the view. Dumping her bag on the sand she stepped off the rocks and walked down to the water’s edge before setting up a couple of shots and snapping them quickly, her eyes on the viewfinder.

“It’s beautiful, how did…”

“Did I find it?” He finished her question before taking out the blanket he’d ‘borrowed’ from the hotel and spreading that out for them to sit on. As he dished out the food and drinks he noticed that she was off exploring. He was so enchanted by her, the way she held herself, the way she moved, how she spoke. It was so special, even down to the way she used her hands when she was explaining something to him. He couldn’t believe that he met her somehow, and then thoughts of Natalie, his girlfriend would creep in and he was forced to remember that he wasn’t free to ask her out properly.

“I was here two years ago,” he murmured quietly to her as she returned.

Taking out his art supplies he placed them to one side and patted the blanket indicating that she should sit down. She nodded and moved over to where he was sitting and eased down beside him.

“It’s really nice,” she said again because she felt the need to say something.

Roman chuckled. Over the past few days he knew her well enough to realise that she tended to chatter when she was nervous.

“So I got you cheese,” he said with an earnest look.

“Perfect,” Elizabeth murmured and accepted the sandwich from him and unwrapped it. “So can I see in your sketchpad?”

“No,” he grinned. “I don’t let anyone see my work.”

“But don’t you want to go to Art College?” She smiled as she spoke the question. “Going to have to let someone see it then,” she added sounding rational.

“I know and that, well that scares me. I haven’t told my parents that I want to go to Art College yet,” he confessed.

“Surely they’ll be ok,” Elizabeth frowned thinking of her parents then. The Major wouldn’t care what she did but her mother was a different story. Luckily or Unluckily depending on the mood of her parents she never went home over the holidays and of course that meant that she didn’t see her brother either. Not that he was home much himself, having been accepted into basic training and entered the army himself.

“I’d like to think so, but I seemed to have been the one who likes cooking,” he shrugged.

“You could still work in your Dad’s restaurant though, couldn’t you? Whilst you were going to college?”

Roman grinned suddenly and half shook his head.

“How did you get to be so smart?” He muttered.

“I was born smart,” Elizabeth shot him a grin.

Roman laughed and put aside his half eaten sandwich. “Ok then, let’s get you posing for me.”

“Hang on, turn your back,” Elizabeth blushed at his look. “Turn mister!”

Roman slowly turned his head away and heard rustling coming from behind him. He couldn’t help sneaking a look and earned a smack to the back of his head from her.

“Turn your head away and no peeking, in fact, close your eyes!”

Roman chuckled as he did as she instructed. He heard more rustling and the occasional word that sounded like she was swearing in Chinese.

“Ok you can look now,” she said breathlessly.

Roman spun around and gasped. She’d loosened her hair from two plaits and it fell down her back in loose waves and she’d also applied some make up, pale pink lipstick and mascara on to her lashes. But what really made him gasp was the dress she was wearing, pale pink, like almost white it was so pale and made of floaty material that flared out from a low waist. She placed her hands on her hips and gave him a glare.

“Well,” she muttered.

“You look… I’m not good at the words type stuff, but well, you looked ethereal…” he gasped out. “An angel.”

“Ok then,” she slipped off her socks and trainers and put them to one side because making herself look unaffected by his words. She just hoped that he hadn’t seen that her hands were shaking.

“So er…” he looked away before grabbing his things out of his bag and turning to a fresh page in his sketchbook. Taking out his pencils he inspected them before selecting one and holding it poised above his pad. “So er… “ he repeated. “I er..” he looked at her.

“Oh for …” she again added some strange sounding words before moving across the beach and beginning to do some of her gymnastic routine. She lost herself in the movements as always, before hearing him call to her to hold the pose and froze. “Like this?”

“Perfect!” he called.

Elizabeth wobbled for a second as she adjusted her weight from one foot to the other. She looked at him, one arm raised in the air and the other stretched out behind her. She wiggled her fingers before arranging them, fingers slightly separated and curved, her longer middle finger curved inwards just a touch more emphasising the separation.

“That’s amazing,” he called and began drawing.

As he looked up he saw the wind catch the floaty material of her dress, pressing it against her legs and pushing it backwards so that it flew out behind her. He gave a soft gasp as he watched before catching sight of her hair flowing behind her too, tousled waves tossed over her shoulders. That and the way the sun was highlighting her body was incredible. He knew that he had to draw her, to capture this moment.

“I need a break,” she called after a while.

Roman looked up before noticing that his hands had cramped up from drawing so god knows how she was feeling.

“I’m sorry, “ he groaned and put the pad to one side to jump up and walk over to her.

“It’s ok,” she laughed up at him before moving and shaking out her muscles to free up the tenseness in them.

He stopped looking down at her before he lowered his lips to hers. He knew that he shouldn’t. He had a girlfriend. It was all kinds of complicated but he still found himself kissing her and then he knew he was in trouble.

Elizabeth met his kiss. Her lips hadn’t kissed anyone except family before and certainly not in any romantic sense but now with his lips pressing softly on hers she found her heart thumping in her chest and her skin tingled all over.

“I shouldn’t have done that, I’m sorry,” he gasped out.

Elizabeth looked at him and saw a contrite expression on his face and she blinked once, twice, a few times as though holding back tears which of course was silly because she never cried.

“I have a girlfriend,” he added, all too aware he was making things worse, ”I’m not free to have a relationship with you, it’s totally my fault. I hope that you’ll forgive me please.”

“Of course,” Elizabeth said slowly masking her inner turmoil. “Let me get a drink,” she added and moved over to the blanket. She picked up her bottle and took a long drink before delicately wiping her mouth.

“I’ve ruined things haven’t I? I like you but well, I need to make things right with Natalie before I…”

“Before you what?” She asked the question and held her breath.

“Before I ask you out on a date?” He murmured back and frowned.

“We live in different cities,” she whispered.

“I don’t care, I’ll find a way,” he promised rashly.

“Uh huh, Mister,” She gave him a megawatt smile and he shot her his little-boy grin in response. “I better get changed, we …”

“Should get back,” he murmured.

Elizabeth nodded and gestured for him to turn his back smiling as he chuckled at her before turning away. She slipped off the dress and put her shorts back on with her vest top before packing everything away in her bag with the exception of her camera.

“You can turn around now. “

Roman let out a laugh before moving back to the blanket and beginning to pack up his things. She picked up her camera and moved barefoot over the rocks. He watched as she hopped from rock to rock before taking a photo. Even rock-hopping she was graceful he thought with a smile before closing his sketchbook and putting it slowly away. He heard her cry out and his head shot up and he saw that she had fallen.

“Hey,” he cried out running over to her.

“It’s ok,” she said and handed him her camera.

“Thanks but I’m more concerned with you,” he said slowly.

“I’m fine… ouch!”

“Yeah, that really sounded fine,” he muttered unconvinced.

“It’s just a twist, it’s nothing…” She tried to get up and move but collapsed back on to the rock.

“Ok,” Roman stepped forward and lifted her up in his arms. He carried her easily over to the blanket and set her down. “Let me see?”

He knelt down next to her and began to examine her foot wincing as she hissed in a sharp breath. “I’m sorry,” he cried out, “I’ll have to go for help.”

“No, I can walk on it.”

“No,” he looked around but the beach was empty, which was why he’d chosen to go there in the first place knowing that the terrain was too difficult to navigate for people to make use of it, with large rocks between the footpath and the sand that you had to scramble over. He frowning again thinking of how to get her out of there.

“Maybe I can lean on you?” She suggested. “Take my sock to the water and soak it, will keep the swelling down.” She was grateful that he didn’t ask how she knew that trick not wanting to get into explanations about things in her past.

He returned and handed her sock to her and she pulled the wet cloth over her foot. The cold made her shudder and she frowned as she pulled on her trainer. She bit her lip as she focused on the task not noticing that he was flinching with each movement she made like it was his foot that was injured.

“Ok, help me up?” She held out her hands to him and he stepped forward and helped her to stand watching as she took a cautious step. “I think it will do,” she murmured.

He watched her before moving to clear up the rest of their things ensuring that he tucked her camera away safely inside her bag and with everything gathered up he guided her carefully over the rocks and on to the path. He watched her struggle for a moment before he stopped them and moving the backpack to hang down in front he knelt down in front of her and indicated she should get on his back.

“A piggy back?”

“Yup,” he grinned at her.

“All the way back to the hotel?”

“If I have to, trust me?”

Elizabeth grinned and checking her bag was ok she climbed up on his back. He adjusted her weight on his back before standing up and setting off.

“My hero,” she whispered.


Elizabeth moaned in pain trying to keep quiet because she didn’t want to wake her roommate Catronia but her ankle was killing her. Not even the tight bandage she had on it was enough to stop the swelling she thought with a sigh as she eased out of the bed. She gasped as the light sprung on and Catronia sat up in the bed.

“Kiddo,” she murmured.

“Sorry, go back to sleep, it’s just….”

“That you are in pain?” Catronia pushed back the covers and stood up moving over to her. “Wow, you are burning up!”

“I’m fine,” Elizabeth murmured.

She hadn’t even told one of the teachers about her ankle because then she would have to explain that she sneaked out of the hotel when she shouldn’t have done. Not to mention that she’d been with a boy. Well not been with a boy unless that kiss counted. She groaned and accidentally nudged her ankle making her whimper in pain.

Catronia reached out and tugged the covers away and swore.

“I’m getting Miss Carmichael,” she muttered.

“You can’t I have the race tomorrow…”

“You won’t even be walking tomorrow kid,” Catronia told her, “Don’t worry I won’t spill the beans.”

Elizabeth shook her head even as Catronia put on her bathrobe and headed out the door. Feeling the room spinning she slowly sank back on the pillow and waited,

The rest of the night passed in a blur as Miss Carmichael insisted that she went to the hospital for a check-up revealing that she’d broken her ankle. The cast was applied quickly and she was presented with crutches and instructions for using them whilst Miss Carmichael was handed her pain prescription.

“Kiddo,” Catronia greeted when she’d returned to the room and hobbled over to her bed.

“I guess I’m going home,” Elizabeth told her and burst into tears.

“Yes, well I’ve called your parents and your father is coming to get you tomorrow,” Miss Carmichael murmured slowly, “And I’m still not sure how this happened,” she added.

“The curtains,” Catronia pointed to the long drapes at the window.

“I see, and of course it had nothing to do with reports that one of the girls was seen with a boy from one of the other teams?”

“Really? I bet that was Tania,” Catronia murmured and quickly covered her mouth as though she had been shocked by her outburst.

Elizabeth was in too much emotional turmoil to join in with the conversation, her thoughts on being collected.

“Did you say my Dad?” She eventually asked wiping her tears away and sitting up straighter.

“Yes,” Miss Carmichael confirmed. “And your brother I believe.”

Elizabeth nodded and watched as the other woman left the room.

“Ok kiddo, I can sense something wrong,” Catronia murmured.

“Nothing,” Elizabeth bluffed.

“Uh huh.”

“My mum…” Elizabeth stopped unable to say the words.

“She hit you or something?” Catronia asked and saw Elizabeth pale. “Oh my god, I had no idea,” she added rushing to her side and putting her arm around her shoulders and hugging her. “Come on let’s get you in bed and get some rest,” she murmured easing Elizabeth under the covers and lifting her cast in. She placed her foot up on one of the spare pillows and tucked her in. “Get some sleep.”

Elizabeth nodded silently and closed her eyes.


Roman looked round for her after training. He knew that she wouldn’t be running her race and felt so guilty about it. If he hadn’t have been so insistent on drawing her then none of this would have happened. Trying to focus on Micky’s instructions had been difficult with his head all over the place. Heading back to the hotel he noticed a car pulling up in the carpark and two men getting out of it, both of them in army uniforms and then thought nothing more about it as he wondered on how she was.

Elizabeth looked at her stuff all neatly packed away. She had wanted to write a letter for the boy she’d spent time with but felt stupid that she didn’t even know his name. Especially as he would forever be her first kiss.

A knock at the door sounded and she rushed over to open it seeing her father standing there nearly reduced her to tears again but she straightened her shoulders back and gave him a measured look.

“Dad,” she murmured softly.

“Been in the wars Sis,” Michael called out pushing past his dad and going inside. He picked up her bags and started carrying them out of the room. “Books I’m betting,” he mumbled as he passed his dad.

“Probably and a camera.”

“Hey,” Elizabeth muttered before she was enfolded in her Dad’s arms.

“Okay Princess?”

“Better now,” she muttered and burst into tears.

“Come on, it’s ok, we’re having a little break, just the three of us,” George murmured to his daughter, “Thought you could do with some cheering up.”

Elizabeth nodded and allowed herself to be led out of the hotel. She’d already murmured her goodbyes Catronia earlier and had seen her teacher.

Moving out of the hallway she saw her brother at the elevator and hobbled over to him.

“You even think about joking about this and I’ll let on about your crush on your music teacher,” she whispered to him.

“As if… god, you are scarier than my drill instructor!” he murmured back.

They headed back out and over to where the car was parked. Michael turned his head as someone called the name Tania and frowned before he focused on looking where he was going. He noticed that his sister kept looking around before she climbed carefully into the car as he placed her things in the back seat and climbed in himself. Then their dad moved behind the wheel and they left.

Roman finally figured out that the two army guys he’d spotted earlier must be her father and brother and he ran out to the elevator. It was in use so he ran down the three flights of stairs and sprinted out through the lobby. He saw them walking towards the car and spotted her stumbling away on crutches. It must have been worse than she let on and he cursed.

“Tania,” he shouted knowing he looked like a mad man. “Tania!” he called again.

The younger guy turned and shot him a look before they disappeared into the car and drove off. He felt something break inside of him and determined that one day he would find her again.

He headed home a few days later, handing his trophy to his Dad. From another race ran and won. There had been emotional scenes with Micky his coach before they parted too. He wished the other man good luck in finding another runner knowing he still felt like he was letting him down in some way but he knew that it was the right choice.

He’d made another one too and that was why he was knocking on Natalie’s door the first night he was back. He couldn’t be her boyfriend anymore not when he had feelings for someone else, even if they were in another state almost.

“Oh it’s you,” Natalie said when he’d been shown in.

“Hi,” Roman said slowly.

“I have something to tell you,” Natalie said not realising that Roman had been about to say the same words to her. “I’m pregnant,” she added.

“What? But we… what?” he moaned.

“I know we didn’t plan it, and I’m not sure where we are going to go, like marriage and stuff but well…”

Roman felt like all his hopes slipped away. Finding his mysterious girl was gone. No way could he expect her to take on these problems and then Art College. He’d have to get a job. Like a real job. A paying one.

“Ok,” he muttered and sank into a chair. “Are you sure? Have you seen a doctor and everything? “ He asked and sucked in a breath. “We have options,” he added. “We should find someone to talk to I suppose then…”


“Huge,” he finished.

Looking over at his petite blonde girlfriend he resisted the urge to cry and instead moved over to her and hugged her. There was a new life to consider, hopefully and he had to do his duty. Duty. The army paid well and he was 18 in a matter of months. He could enlist and get benefits and housing. How was his mother going to react was his next thought and he frowned before slowly releasing Natalie.

“I’ve got a doctor’s appointment tomorrow.”

He nodded and realised that he could walk away, no one would blame him but then the thought of seeing his son or daughter start to grow and he knew he couldn’t. He was irreconcilably trapped.


“Hello Mum,” Roman called as she opened the door to them.

Ella smiled her hand pressed against the small of his back and he, well he hadn’t really stopped touching her for the past few days since he’d moved back home, holding her hand, putting his arm around her, kissing her. She grinned up at him now feeling his arm tense around her shoulders as he faced his mother.

“Well this is a surprise,” Alyssa muttered before stepping back and looking around her as though checking the apartment behind her. “Please come in,” she added.

Roman inclined his head briefly before stepping over the doorstep and moving into the large hallway. He guided Ella in with him and they followed his mother through the hallway and into the lounge.

“We came because I needed to ask you something,” Roman murmured and gestured to the sofa indicating that they should sit down.

“Do you want a drink? Let me get something…” Alyssa fussed.

“Not on my account?” Ella said quietly and looked at Roman watching as he shook his head.

“Ok, what can I do for you?” Alyssa moved to sit down with them.

“I was wondering if you had any of my things from when I was a kid?” Roman broached. “Like my sketchpads?”

“We kept everything,” Alyssa said after a moment.

“You did?”

“Of course, you were my son, and I..” Alyssa stopped and looked to Ella with an appeal in her eyes.

“Of course,” Ella copied and smiled. “How about I get us a coffee whilst you show Roman where his stuff is?”

Alyssa stood up regally and moved ahead of Roman leading him down the corridor to the bedrooms. Ella watched them go a half smile on her face before she moved into the kitchen and began making coffee. She used the Cafetiere that she knew Alyssa preferred and after placing cups and saucers on a tray she took it through to the lounge and waited for Roman and Alyssa come back.

“hey,” Roman called moving towards her after some minutes.

“Your Mum..”

“She needed a minute,” Roman said sitting next to his .. dammit his brain kept calling her his wife. He wondered if he could sneak in a quick trip to the Registry office whilst they were there. “When you said you visited…”

“Yeah, Sammy stayed over,” Ella smiled at the look on his face as he absorbed the information. “Seemed only fair because their other grandparents live with us,” she added in explanation.

Roman nodded before reaching for the coffee and pouring it out into cups. He looked up as his mother came back into the room her make up once more immaculate. “Coffee, “ he called to her handing her a cup and saucer.

“Didn’t find what you wanted then?” Ella murmured to him.

“I found my running trophies, some old sketches but not what I was after,” he confirmed. “Maybe it’s gone,” he shrugged.

“We’re having dinner at the restaurant tonight,” Ella told Alyssa.

“Marco is cooking tonight,” Alyssa murmured coolly.

“There you go Roman, go and do some cooking with your Dad,” Ella suggested and watched as Roman’s eyes lit up and he shot her a little boy grin. She could see that Alyssa was also affected by the suggestion as the older woman pulled out a lace handkerchief and wiped at her eyes.

“Hey Mum,” Roman moved quickly over to her and placed his hand on the side of her face urging her to look at him. “It’s all ok now,” he murmured to her and pressed a kiss to her cheek.

“I didn’t think, well, after what I did…”

“Shush, that’s in the past,” Roman murmured.

“The kids call her ‘Grannie’ I think that is enough punishment,” Ella said and heard Roman laugh.

“I bet they picked that up from Nic…”

“They certainly did, and now Meg’s children are doing the same,” Alyssa said in her normal voice, all signs of emotional strain gone.

Roman chuckled before resuming his seat next to Ella. He gave her a grin before reaching for and holding her hand once more smiling as he heard her give a little sigh.

“So if you are at the restaurant then it will be a late night for you…”

“We’re staying over in a hotel,” Roman put in.

“You could have…” Alyssa trailed off

“I know, we could have stayed here, and you would have fussed over us but we wanted to have a night being a couple,” Roman told her gently. “We’ve just got back together and well, we sorta said we’d spend more time doing couple stuff,” he explained feeling his cheeks redden.

“That would explain why you haven’t let her go since you got here,” Alyssa said softly.

Ella grinned at Roman’s discomfort before sighing as he lifted their joined hands to place a kiss on hers.


Roman walked ahead of Ella and held open the door of the restaurant for her. He grinned as she blushed slightly as she moved ahead of him.

“Table for Harris,” he said to the maitre’d.

“Right this way Sir,” came the response as they were shown to a table.

Roman guided Ella to her seat, pulling out the chair for her before tucking it under the table as she sat down before taking the seat opposite. They were offered menus and asked if they would like drinks to start.

“I’ll drive,” Ella offered smiling at him as he looked over the wine list.

Roman gave her a look and smiled. “We should have booked a taxi.”

“It’s ok, I’ll have a nightcap at the hotel,” Ella murmured to him and grinned as he ordered himself a bottle of wine. “Just a diet coke for me, no ice,” she ordered for herself.

As they were left alone to look at the menu, Roman reached out and took hold of her hand across the table. He grinned as she shot him a look.

“Did you not get enough …”

“How are you planning on finishing that sentence?” Roman murmured laughing out loud as she blushed.

“You,” she groaned.

“Not my fault that you needed your back washing.”

“Maybe if you’d actually washed my back instead of climbing in the bath with me,” she muttered and then groaned at the discrete cough coming from behind her. “If that is Aden…” she said as Roman laughed.

“Hello Dad,” he greeted his father.

“Son, Ella,” Marco leaned down and placed a kiss on Ella’s cheek in welcome before shaking Roman’s hand.

“Hello Marco,” Ella said shyly.

Roman smiled at that before looking up at his dad.

“I wondered if you needed any help in the kitchen tonight,” he said slowly.

“And miss dinner with your beautiful wife?”

Roman shot her a look daring her to contradict his father and smirking when she stayed silent.

“I think she won’t mind me disappearing for an hour?” He said in the form of a question.

“Of course I won’t,” she grinned at him as he shot up out of his seat and quickly followed Marco through the restaurant and into the kitchen. Putting the menu to one side she took out her phone and looked through the texts that the kids had sent her before responding to them and then checked her emails. She had planned to do it before they came out but Roman distracted her, blushing red at the how he’d distracted her bit.

Looking up she spotted Roman moving back towards the table and frowned at him.

“Hey,” she said, “You weren’t gone long.”

“I’ve been over an hour,” he confessed, “In fact nearly two.”

“Ah, have fun?”

“Lots,” he confessed sounding just a touch like Sammy.

She put her phone away and smiled up at him before feeling his lips touch her cheek.

“Thank you,” he murmured close to her ear.

“You’re welcome,” Ella said feeling herself tingle all over at the way he was looking at her.

“I’ve said we’d pop into his office and say goodnight before we leave, is that ok?”

“Of course it is,” Ella told him.

They both looked up then as two waiters moved toward their table carrying plates of food.

“You decided for me, huh,” she grouched.

“I did, in true caveman fashion, and Dad and I cooked it,” he sounded smug.

Ella laughed softly before looking down at the exquisite food on her plate. She reached for the fork and soon they were tucking into the food with Roman explaining how they cooked it. She loved the expression on his face and the way he was so animated about it, not just the cooking but being able to show his Dad that he could still cook. He lapsed into silence when he caught her looking at him.

“So you had fun then?” She asked.

“Just a bit!”


The food finished along with desert and in Roman’s case also most of the wine left them relaxed and happy.

“We should get the bill, say goodnight and…” she began stopping when she accidentally burped. “Oh, my, God,” she groaned.

“I understand that is a sign of a good meal in Italy!”

“You are never ever going to repeat this story!” Ella threatened.

“Come on, let’s go see the old man,” he told her standing up from his seat and moving over to her chair. He held it out allowing her to stand before he led the way through the restaurant and into his father’s office. Pushing open the door he stopped still and moaned under his breath.

“What is it?” Ella cried immediately worried.

“It’s,” he stopped and pointed to a picture on the far wall.

Ella skirted the still figure of her husband and walked over to it. She stopped herself and looked. “That’s Tania,” she whispered.

During the drive down, Roman had explained that he’d been reminded of something from his past when he’d been running with Georgie, about why he’d never really done portraits and also the story of why he hadn’t gone to Art College and instead chosen to enlist. That was when the story about the girl called Tania, his mysterious girl, had come out and she’d found herself staying strangely quiet. He’d decided before that happened that they should pay a visit his parents, but now he’d wanted to see if he could find the picture, if his parents had kept it so that he could show it to her, not explaining that he thought it was an important part of their story. The way that their lives intertwined over and over again.

“Yeah,” Roman muttered, “Dad, you’ve got my picture… my art…”

Marco staggered up and paced over to him.

“I always loved your drawing,” he confessed in a shaken voice.

“But I never, I always had to cook?” Roman muttered.

“We needed you to have something that you could use as back up,” Marco explained.

“I see, but…”

Ella smiled at her husband and his unusual lapse into gibberish.

“I think he’s trying to ask is how you ended up with that picture.”

“Yes exactly,” Roman confirmed.

“After you joined up, well for months we never touched your room and then I opened the door one day and decided that even if you did come back to us you’d never want to be in there because it had too many memories.”

Roman nodded before sinking into a chair that was luckily nearby. He rubbed a hand over his face and shot Ella a look.

“So we cleaned the room out and this picture, well it was important to you because it was pinned up inside your wardrobe door and she,” Marco stopped and looked at the half finished drawing. The face wasn’t quite pencilled in, just an outline sketch of the eyes; nose and mouth to give it some definition, whilst the rest was drawn in deep detail, the long floaty dress and the tousled hair caught by the wind and sent flying.

“I kept forgetting what she looked like,” Roman admitted, “She was so beautiful but she kept changing inside my head, every time I tried to draw her I would see Natalie or Megs or even Sassy until I was scared I’d lose her altogether so I could never finish her face.”

“I can understand that, still she can be finished now can’t she?” Marco said quietly. “Not sure why she was referred to as Tania though,” he added puzzled.

Roman nodded and looked across to a blushing Ella.

“I think that is a story best left to another time,” he commented.

Marco chuckled before heading to the cabinet at the side of the room. He poured out two whiskies handing one to Roman.

“It was me I was 13,” Ella blurted remembering her first kiss.

Roman chuckled and nodded.

“You have freckles are the shape of the Southern Cross on your shoulder,” Roman said quietly.

“How long have you known it was me?” Ella asked slowly, “That I was Tania?”

“Since the first moment we er…” he grinned and shot her a look with his eyebrows raised and chuckled as she blushed, “went to the hotel in Cyprus, it was tracing the stars,” he finished, remembering how he’d traced those freckles on her shoulder before kissing them. He was always drawn to that spot, loving that even if she were mad at him over something he’d done she’d still melt just a little bit if he leaned down and his lips touched there, not to mention how many times he’d woken with her in his arms and he’d kiss that magical spot before feeling her stir and wake.

“Well I .. er.. “

Roman took pity on her and pulled her down to sit on his lap and wound his free arm around her waist.

“I wish we’d stayed in contact,” he said softly ignoring the grin his Dad shot him, “but we didn’t and other things came into our lives,” he paused, “You didn’t seem to remember when we met again and I still felt guilty over kissing you when I wasn’t free, and then there was your ankle injury and missing the race. Not to mention that you were only just 13,” he smiled at her discomforted squirming on his lap at the mention of her age again, “I did the maths when we met again,” he added.

Ella grinned at him before kissing him softly.

“I think we need to bring that picture home.”

“Over the mantelpiece,” Roman told her.

“No way, with our daughters? We’ll just keep this story to ourselves until they are safely married off.”

Roman chuckled and raised his glass in toast to the picture of his mysterious girl. She had brought him home again and helped make peace with not only his past but his family. He just needed to get her to marry him again.

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