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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Frankie sat on the edge of the sofa while Dylan played with his toys in front of her.There was no-one else around.After satisfying herself that no-one was about to walk in, she slid off the seat and crouched by him.“Dylan, do you like it here?”

  Dylan shot her a cautious look, as though expecting some sort of trap.“Yes,”he said warily.

  “I mean, living with Shane and Shannon.Don’t you want to live somewhere else?”

  “Like where?”

  “I don’t know, it’s up to you.With other family maybe?”

  Dylan still seemed unsure what she was talking about, almost surprisingly so.“You?”he asked.It was clearly a question, not an answer.

  Frankie didn’t want to push things too far.“Well…we get on, don’t we?”

  “Yes.But I like Shane and Shannon too.”Dylan smiled.“I’m going to be a big brother again.”

  It wasn’t perhaps the answer Frankie had been hoping for, but it was at least an answer.“Yeah, okay, I don’t want you to miss out on that.”She gave him a quick hug.“We won’t talk about it anymore.”

***

Shane and Shannon arrived home to find a bag just inside the door.“Please tell me we haven’t got any more house guests,”Shane sighed.

  “It’s Frankie’s,”Shannon pointed out.

  “I knew that.”

  Frankie emerged from the bedroom.“Good, you’re back.”She checked her watch.“Just in time for me to catch the next bus to the city.”

  “You’re leaving us?”Shane asked.

  Frankie gave him a mild glare.“What, you’re going to pretend that you’re sorry?”

  “Well, I am,”Shannon replied,“It’s been nice having another girl around to talk to.”

  “And you’re Angel’s family,”Shane pointed out,“So you’ll always be welcome here.It’s good for Dylan and baby Angel to get to know you.”

  Frankie seemed genuinely touched.“Thank you.I guess this needn’t be the last time I come then?”

  “Well, er, no,”Shane answered, seemingly somewhat thrown by the question.

  “Come any time,”Shannon agreed,“Although a bit of notice might help.”

  “I’ll see what I can do,”Frankie answered.She gave both Shane and Shannon quick hugs.“You’ll be hearing from me soon.”She hefted her bag and headed for the door, then paused.“I think Angel would want you two to be happy together,”she added before she left.

  “We’ll be hearing from her soon,”Shane mused,“Did that sound a bit like a threat to you?”

  Shannon laughed.“I think she was just being nice.And she did give us her seal of approval.”

  “I guess there’s that,”Shane conceded.

  “So, that’s another storm we’ve weathered.”

  Shane nodded.“And hopefully we won’t have any more faces from the past showing up.”

***

Frankie arrived back at her flat in the city, pulled the door closed behind her and then called out “Paul? Are you home?”

  Paul Harris emerged from one of the other rooms.“How did you go?Did you see Dylan?”

  “Yeah, I saw him,”Frankie confirmed as she moved closer to Paul,“And I hate to say it but he did seem happy and well cared for.”

  Paul nodded slowly.“I guess Mum wouldn’t have left him there if she thought otherwise.What about Shane?”

  “Well, your name didn’t come up.He is seriously into Shannon though.”

  “Right.So, I guess we’re ready for Stage Two?”

  Frankie nodded.“Whenever you want.”

  “Thanks for doing all this for me.”

  “Well, I couldn’t really do anything else, could I?I love you.”

  Paul smiled and pulled her into a passionate kiss…

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Thank you for the comments, Kristen, Chair and CaptainHulk! I am getting perilously close to the point where I've not got much written and not got much time to write anything, but we're not too far off the end of the story so I'll try to keep updates fairly regular! Hope everyone enjoys this.

CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

Paul rolled over in bed and looked at Frankie lying next to him, still feeling the glow of their very enthusiastic reunion sex.She saw his attention and smiled at him.“Have I told you lately how much I used to fancy you when you and Angel were together?”

  Paul smiled back.“Well, you can tell me as often as you want, my ego could do with a boost.”He held her hand above the covers.“I still can’t believe you’re doing all this for me.”

  “Well, you’ve done a lot for me,”Frankie replied.

  “Guess that’s true.I suppose it’s kind of destiny.”Paul hesitated for a moment.“Shane might not be happy about any of this though.”

  “Hey, I’m not afraid of standing up to Shane.I had to be nice for Angel’s sake before.This time, he’s going to listen.”

  “Thank you.Guess we’re in this together again.”Paul softly kissed her and they sank back down onto the bed.

***

Shannon was leaning against the kitchen table as Shane gently massaged her back.“You feeling better?”

  Shannon let out a deep sigh of pleasure.“Much better, thanks.You’ve got magic hands.”

  “Well, I don’t like to boast.”

  “Shane?Shannon?”called out a voice from the front door.

  Shane and Shannon looked at each other in confusion.“Was that Frankie?”Shane asked.

  Shannon nodded in confirmation.“What’s she doing back here?She’s only been gone a few days.”

  They headed into the hallway and sure enough, they saw Frankie standing just inside the doorway. Shane moved to greet her…but then Paul stepped into the house behind her.Shane shot him a look of pure hatred.“You’ve got some nerve.”He lunged for Paul but Frankie got between them, while Shannon took hold of his arm, arresting his motion.

  “Shane, wait,”she said quietly.

  “He’s here with me,”Frankie added.

  “Oh yeah, and why’s that?”Shane demanded.

  “Because he’s my boyfriend.”

  “He’s what?”Shane looked like he wanted to lunge at Paul again.“You can’t help yourself, can you?”

  “Maybe you two could take a seat?”Shannon suggested.“Shane.”She pulled her boyfriend back into the kitchen and spoke to him quietly.“I think we need to listen to them.”

  “Are you serious?I haven’t forgotten what he did to Angel.And I haven’t forgotten what he did to you either.”Somehow, the fact Shane considered her in the same category as Angel made Shannon pleased. “He nearly throttled you trying to find out where Dylan was.”

  “I know but…maybe we should find out what they want?”

  Shane couldn’t argue with the logic of that so accompanied Shannon back into the front room.The sight of Paul and Frankie sitting on the sofa together didn’t exactly calm him.“Why are you with him?”he asked Frankie.

  “Maybe I know what it’s like to have you and Angel shut me out,”she replied acidly.

  “I want to see Dylan,”Paul said tentatively.

  Shane shook his head.“Not going to happen.”

  Paul stayed silent for a moment.“Do you remember that mediation?I agreed to Dylan living here because Angel convinced me we’d bring him up together, both his parents.It was just you and her could give him more time.Then I dropped him off and I never heard from you again.I lost everything because I agreed to it:My mum hated me for it, so did my fiance, and you didn’t care.”

  “The same with me,”Frankie agreed,“You didn’t want me living you and Angel, remember?And I had to smile and say that was okay and go back to my parents, for her sake.And you never even tried to find out why I couldn’t go to the wedding.”

  “It’s not just us though, is it?”Shane asked.He turned to Paul.“You got Angel pregnant, then you and your family took Dylan off her and left her living on the streets.And now you’re here with someone even younger.”

  “You’re really going to lecture me on getting a schoolgirl pregnant?”Paul retorted.

  “Shane hasn’t abandoned me,”Shannon pointed out,“We’re in this together.”

  “And so are Paul and I,”Frankie replied.

  “When I got out of jail, I got a small place on my own,”Paul explained,“And soon after I ran into Frankie.”

  “And yeah, I was scared of him at first, I heard what he’d done here,”Frankie admitted,“But he was the first person that actually cared about me.So I moved in with him and we’re in this together.I came here hoping to convince myself that Dylan would be better off with us.But I know you love each other and you love him.”

  “We’re just asking for what I originally agreed to,”Paul continued,“Dylan knowing all his family.”

  Shane looked at Shannon who gave a brief nod.“Come back next week,”Shane told them,“You can spend an hour with Dylan here.”

  “And baby Angel?”Frankie asked,“She is my niece.”

  Shane nodded reluctantly.“Her too.After that, we’ll talk about something regular.You seeing them here maybe once a fortnight.If it goes well, maybe you can spend time with them on your own.”

  “I’m grateful,”Paul agreed.He got up and offered Shane his hand.Shane reluctantly took it.“We’ll see you this time next week.”

  Shane waited until they’d gone then let out a deep sigh.“I did not want to do that.”

  “I know,”Shannon agreed,“But I guess a father who actually wants to spend time with his kid is a good thing.”

  “I guess so.”Shane put his arms round her.“I guess this crazy extended family just got a bit crazier.”

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Thank you for the comments, I hope everyone enjoys this one!

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

Shane had to admit that things seemed to have worked out for the best.Slowly, after a few months of no disasters and with more than a little persuading from Shannon, he’d agreed to letting Paul and Frankie spend time with the children on their own.So far, he had resisted suggestions that they stay with them overnight.

  Tonight, the children were with Marilyn while Shane and Shannon had dinner with Michael and Pippa. Given how pregnant Shannon was, there was a feeling that it might be the last chance they would have.

  “Do you know how Selina’s getting on working at the hospital?”Pippa asked Shannon.

  “She seems to be enjoying herself,”Shannon confirmed,“I’ve seen her a few times when we’ve been in for check-ups.I still can’t believe it was her thing.”

  Pippa smiled.“One factor all these years of looking after teenagers has taught me is that they can always surprise you.”

  “Another beer, Shane?”Michael asked.

  Shane shook his head.“Better not, I’m driving home.”

  “Very responsible,”Pippa complimented him with a smile.

  Michael nodded.“Yeah, I must admit I wasn’t sure you and Shannon were a good idea to start with.But I guess you’ve proved me wrong.You’ve been good for her.”

  Shane took Shannon’s hand and smiled at her.“She’s been good for me too.”Shannon smiled back at him but then she winced.Shane was instantly concerned.“You okay?”

  “Yeah, just indigestion, I think.”Shannon rubbed her side.

  “Is that where you normally have indigestion?”Michael wondered.

  “Was it just a one-off?”Pippa asked.

  “No, I had one a few minutes ago,”Shannon answered,“Why?”

  Pippa smiled at her.“I think you’re having contractions.”

  Shane looked shocked.“Should we call an ambulance?”

  “Maybe I should drive you to the hospital,”Michael suggested.

  Shane shook his head.“No, if anyone’s doing the driving, it’s me.”

  “Okay, well, we’ll follow you down.”

  Shane helped Shannon to her feet.“Oh, can you call Marilyn, let her know what’s going on?”

  “Yes, of course,”Pippa agreed.The pair hurried out as much as they could in the circumstances.“Good luck!”she called after them.

***

A short time later, Shannon was letting out a loud scream in the delivery room.Shane looked at her in a slightly bemused manner.“So those were definitely contractions then?”

  “I hope so,”Shannon replied,“I don’t want there to be anything worse than this.”

  Kelly and Selina entered.“How are you doing?”Kelly asked.

  “She’s down to about a minute,”Shane offered.

  Kelly nodded.“Shouldn’t be long now.”

  Selina smiled at her best friend.“Look at you, all ready to be a mum.”

  Shannon glared at her.“Please tell me you’re not going to be delivering my baby.”

  “Hey, I could do it,”Selina insisted,“I’ve seen it a couple of times, it doesn’t look too hard.”

  “Selina’s just observing,”Kelly assured her.

  “Well, that’s a relief,”Shannon noted,“Are Michael and Pippa here yet?”

  Selina smiled.“Yep.And Mr.Fisher.”

  Shannon grimaced slightly then turned to Shane.“Could you go and..?”

  “I’ll give them an update,”Shane agreed.He headed out into the corridor and found their respective guardian figures waiting for him.

  “How is she?”Pippa asked him.

  “She’s doing fine,”Shane answered,“Kelly says it won’t be long.”

  “Can we..?”

  “Yeah, go ahead.”Shane stepped aside and let Michael and Pippa into the delivery room.

  Donald came up to him.“And how are you?”

  Shane considered lying but he suspected Donald would see through it.“I really want to be happy,”he admitted,“But I’ve just got this cold fear that something’s going to go wrong again.”

  “I know,”Donald said quietly,“But it’s very unlikely that what happened to Angel will happen to Shannon as well.Try and enjoy this time.Otherwise you could look back on it and regret not doing so.”

***

“Steady on, it’ll all be over soon,”Michael was telling Shannon as Shane re-entered the room.

  “It doesn’t feel like it,”Shannon complained.

  “Michael’s right,”Kelly confirmed,“We’re nearly there.”

  Pippa stood up from beside the bed.“We’ll be right outside, okay?”she told Shannon.She patted Shane on the arm as she went past him, then she and Michael left.

  Shane took his place next to Shannon.“I’m right here with you, got that?”he asked, taking her hand.

  “Care to trade places?”Shannon asked acidly.She noticed Selina hovering near the delivery end.“And what are you looking at?”

  “Relax, it’s nothing I haven’t seen before,”Selina replied casually,“I’m just interested to see what happens.”

  “Shannon, next contraction give a big push,”Kelly instructed before Shannon could think of a suitable reply.

  With a loud shout, Shannon complied.One push later, they heard a crying sound.Shannon gasped.“Is that..?”

  Kelly wrapped the baby in a shawl and handed her to Shannon.“Congratulations, both of you.You’ve got a daughter.”

***

It was a few minutes later that Pippa, Michael and Donald were shown in to join the group.“Pretty cool, huh?”Selina asked.

  Pippa gaped at her new foster granddaughter.“Shannon, she’s gorgeous!”

  “She certainly is,”Michael agreed with a smile.

  “Yes, very nice,”Donald echoed.

  “Cheers, Don,”Shane noted ruefully.

  “Have you thought what you’re going to call her?”Pippa asked.

  “We were thinking Katie,”Shannon replied.

  Donald looked a bit puzzled.“Shouldn’t that be Katherine or Kathleen or something?”

  “Nope, just Katie.”

  Donald mulled it over.“Well, yes, I think it quite suits her.If you’re both happy with it?”

  Shane nodded and smiled.“We are.Very happy.”

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Thanks for the comments!I hope everyone enjoys this.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

Shane couldn’t stop smiling as he brought up the rear of the group entering the house.Shannon was with him of course, along with Selina, Curtis and Sally.Somehow Sally had ended up carrying Katie.“She is so lovely,”she was saying,“She reminds me of Christopher at that age.”

  Selina gave Curtis a playful punch in the arm.“Careful, mate, I think she wants one of her own.”

  Curtis looked worriedly at Sally.“You don’t, do you?”

  Sally rolled her eyes.“Yeah, not likely.Best thing about being an aunt is you can hand them back.”

  Shannon looked at Shane.“Well, I guess we’re sorted for babysitters.”

  “Guess so,”Shane agreed.

  A moment later, Dylan came running through, with his sister Angel toddling after him and Travis and Marilyn coming after both of them.“Is that her?”Dylan asked.

  Sally bent down to give him a closer look at Katie.“Here she is.”

  “Say hello to your new little sister,”Marilyn told him.

  “Hello,”Dylan complied cautiously.He looked at Shane.“Why did she have to be another girl?”

  Shane laughed.“Not really my choice, mate.”

  “And what’s wrong with girls?”Shannon demanded.

  Dylan seemed to consider his answer carefully.“She won’t play with me,”he complained at last.

  “What, like I don’t?”

  “Mate, never argue with a woman,”Travis advised him.

  Shane cleared his throat.“Er, Sally, since you’re holding Katie, can you hang onto her for a bit longer?”

  Sally was surprised at the comment.“Sure, if that’s what you want.”

  Shane nodded to Shannon.“Can we talk out the back?”

  Sally sat down on the sofa with Katie.“Be afraid, mate,”Selina said quietly to Curtis as he continued to watch his girlfriend,“Be very afraid.”

***

Shane led Shannon out into the back yard.“What’s going on?”she asked, confused.

  Shane took a deep breath.“You know, I never quite believed this day would come.If someone had told us a year ago that we’d have a family together…”

  “We’d have thought they were crazy,”Shannon agreed.

  “But I think the moment you told me you were pregnant, I knew this was what I wanted,”Shane went on, “I think maybe I’d have worked it out even if we weren’t having a baby together.I don’t think I’d have kept going those first few months without Angel if you hadn’t been there.And I was always afraid of losing that.Losing you.”

  Shannon gripped his hand.“I’m not going anywhere,”she promised.Shane smiled…and then got down on one knee.Shannon stared at him, realising what she was seeing.“Woah,”she noted.

  Shane reached into his pocket and took out the ring.“Shannon Reed, will you marry me?”

  Shannon leaned forward and kissed him.“Of course I will,”she said quietly.

  Shane got to his feet and placed the ring on her finger…and then she gave a woop of delight as he lifted her into the air.

***

The front room of the house was as full as it had ever been.As well as those that had been there already, there was Michael and Pippa, and Alf and Ailsa, and Donald and Kelly and Irene and Sam.Shane knew there was a lot more people to tell than that, and soon he and Shannon would have to start the round of calls to old friends and family to let them know.But for now, Summer Bay would do.

  “Well, we thought we were coming here to toast Summer Bay’s latest resident,”Michael noted,“And we can still do that.”He nodded towards Katie, who was somehow still being held by Sally with Dylan and Angel by her side.“But now we’ve got an engagement to toast as well.So, to Katie, and to Shane and Shannon.”

  The toast was echoed by the others present.“Nice to see you doing the right thing,”Alf added.

  “Oh, Alf,”Ailsa sighed.

  “What?They are!”

  “Yes, I must say that I’m pleased,”Donald agreed,“Not just for, you know, propriety but because, well, it is good to see you happy.”

  “So when’s the wedding?”Selina asked.

  “I don’t know,”Shane admitted,“I mean, we don’t really have any reason to wait.Maybe we could pull a wedding together in, I dunno, a couple of months?”

  “Sounds good to me,”Shannon agreed.

  “Oh, we must have a word about your dress,”Pippa told her.

  “And what about bridesmaids?”Sally asked.

  “Sam here would make a decent page boy,”Irene added.

  “Yuck,”was Sam’s only response.

  Shane chuckled and looked at Shannon.“What have we got ourselves into?”

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Thank you for the comments, Kristen and chair! I hope everyone enjoys this one.

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

“Anyone at home?”called a male voice from the direction of the front door.

  Shane and Shannon both headed in that direction and found two figures standing in the hall.Seeing them here drove it home to Shane that this was really happening.Damian and Sarah, in town for his wedding. Again.

  He wondered if similar thoughts were crossing Shannon’s mind as she gave her foster brother a hug and then made a vague gesture towards the top of his head.“You’ve cut your hair.”

  Damian laughed.“Yeah, someone decided that the dreadlocks were giving off the wrong image. Apparently I have to look respectable.”

  “Which you do,”Sarah assured him fondly,“But still approachable.”

  “Yeah, thanks for coming, both of you,”Shane interjected, shaking Damian’s hand and giving Sarah a slightly awkward hug.

  “You don’t think we’d miss the chance to be here for our friend?”Sarah asked.

  Shane was grateful.With the two of them having left the Bay, there had been the chance they’d have found the developments even more surprising than those who’d witnessed his and Shannon’s unexpected romance.“No, I guess not.Er, some of the guys are coming round for drinks later.”

  “I’m taking the children over to Michael and Pippa’s,”Shannon added,“I’ll be staying there tonight and I’m having some friends over.Sarah, did you want to join us?”

  Shane again found himself touched by the way everyone was so accepting.Shannon didn’t really know Sarah that well, only having been in town with her for a short while and then seem her at his and Angel’s wedding.Sarah smiled.“Yeah, it’ll be good to catch up with everyone.”

  “Okay, well, I’ll be with you in a minute.”Shannon headed towards the bedrooms.

  “So, where are you staying?”Shane wondered,“Are you at your mum’s”-he looked at Damian-“and you at Alf and Ailsa’s?”he added to Sarah.

  “Ah, no, we’re booked into a room at the motel,”Damian answered.

  It took Shane a few seconds to register that Damian had only mentioned one room.And a few more to realise that the pair were holding hands.“Oh!Okay.I…”

  He was saved from thinking of something else to say by Shannon emerging with a number of bags and her dress, Katie in her carry cot and Dylan and Angel tottering after her.“Hey, can someone..?”

  “Yeah, sure.”Sarah took one of the bags from her and also picked up Angel before offering Dylan her hand.She gave Damian a quick kiss goodbye.“See you later.”

  Shane waited until the two women had left before trusting himself to address Damian.“I thought you were supposed to be becoming a Catholic priest?”

  Damian looked a bit awkward.“Well, it’s not like I’ve taken a vow of chastity yet…”

***

There were people dotted all around the living area of the Ross house:Pippa was there of course, along with Ailsa and Marilyn and Irene, various old schoolmates…Shannon had retreated into the kitchen with Selina, where they had as much privacy as they were going to get.“You were right,”Selina said out of nowhere.

  Shannon looked at her in confusion.“About what?”

  “About you and Shane.About taking a chance.I kind of wish me and Steven had done the same.Wasn’t as easy for us, with him being a teacher, but maybe we could have made some sort of plan…”

  “Have you heard from him since he moved to the city?”

  “Yep.”Selina pursed her lips.“Got a letter from him a while back, said he’d got back in touch with an old girlfriend and they’d got engaged.Someone called Viv.”

  Sally was getting a drink from the fridge and was close enough to hear the last few remarks.“Oh yeah, I remember her,”she noted,“She and Steven dated in Year 12.She’s nice.”Selina looked daggers at her. “Which obviously isn’t what you want to hear,”she concluded before heading back towards the seating area.

  “I’m sorry,”Shannon told Selina,“But there’ll be someone else for you.What about that doctor at the hospital you said you got on well with?”

  “Lachie?I think he’s more your type than mine.”

  “Well, we’ve had similar tastes in the past.”

  Selina grimaced.“Ooh yeah, all those fights we had about Curtis over the years…Funny how things work out, isn’t it?”

  Sally, meanwhile, had ended up in the seating area with Sarah.Despite being three years apart at school, they’d always got on and Sarah was probably grateful for a familiar face.“I still can’t get my head around you and Damian being together,”Sally remarked,“I mean, there were times when you both lived here when I thought something might happen but neither of you seemed interested.”

  “Well…I never picked you and Curtis,”Sarah returned.

  “Yeah…been together a year now,”Sally reflected,“I don’t know if it’ll last when we’ve both left school, I keep expecting him to take off…”

  “Same here,”Sarah agreed,“Damian and I are both at uni so that’s fine but when we leave, especially with him planning to join the priesthood...”

  “Yeah, okay, but what changed to make you be together in the first place?”

  Sarah looked embarrassed, although it wasn’t something she really wanted to discuss but she had to tell someone.After all, Sally mused, once the first person she’d tell would have been Angel, and after that probably Damian himself.“I wanted him to be my first time,”Sarah admitted.

  Sally found herself flushing.“Oh…”

  “I’ve had boyfriends before, you know that.But there was always that feeling of…do I trust him enough?Especially when I nearly had my first time with Nathan, which would have been a huge error. With Damian, there wasn’t really any doubt that I wouldn’t regret it being him.”

  “This isn’t exactly a one-off though?”

  “No, I never really intended it to be.I think we both just thought it was something we’d try for a bit. Thing is…I like it.I mean, not just the sex, I kind of like being Damian’s girlfriend.”Sarah’s gaze flickered towards the door.“Oh my.”

  Sally followed her gaze.“Is that..?”

  “That’s Shane’s mother,”Shannon told Selina.

  Selina looked round.“Oh yeah, I remember when she was staying with Fisher…Have you ever met her?”

  “Couple of times.Last was when we went to the city to tell her about the engagement.”Shannon saw Pippa heading towards Ros Parrish but managed to get there first.“Mrs.Parrish, hi, we weren’t expecting you.”

  Ros smiled.“Well, I wouldn’t want to miss out on my future daughter-in-law’s last night of freedom, would I?I’ll say one thing for my younger son, he does manage to do a good job of convincing strong, intelligent young women to marry him.”

  Shannon wasn’t sure if that was a compliment but decided it was best to imagine it was.“Er, thank you.”

  “Drink?”Pippa offered.

***

Shane handed Travis a beer.“Are you sure you’re going to be sober tomorrow?”

  “Why do I need to be?”Travis responded with a grin,“You’re the one that needs to remember how to say ‘I do.’”

  “Good point.”

  “Is there a groom in the house?”demanded a loud voice as Nick came in to join the party.

  Shane gave his brother a quick hug.“I wasn’t sure you could make it.”

  “Hey, I wasn’t going to miss out on being your best man a second time.I flew into the city this morning then drove down with Mum.”

  “Mum’s here?”Shane checked.

  Nick nodded.“Went straight over to the Rosses’ to see Shannon.”

  Shane winced.“Ouch.Maybe I should have warned her.Roxy didn’t come down with you?”

  “No, she couldn’t get time off work.”

  Shane suddenly remembered Travis was standing there.“Do you two know each other?”

  Travis offered Nick his hand.“Yeah, I think you were the local constable when I first came back to town.How are ya?”

  Leaving them to talk, Shane slipped away from the main party to join Damian in the kitchen, handing him one of the beers on the table.“You know Don brought his own drink this time?I think he’s still having nightmares about you and Rob spiking the punch at my last bucks night.”

  “Probably,”Damian conceded.

  “Sorry about you not being best man this time but I was trying to get away from the same service, different girl thing.”

  “That’s okay, I wasn’t expecting to nudge Nick out of the way this time.”

  “So, go on then.Explain to me how you’re going to manage to become a priest while dating Sarah.”

  “I haven’t quite worked that one out.Maybe it’ll fizzle out and I can concentrate on the priesthood. Maybe I’ll switch denominations:Some churches let their priests marry, you know.I know Mum had us christened as Catholics but…”Damian sighed.“I guess I’m just praying for guidance really.Seeing if any sign’s going to crop up to tell me what to do.”He shook his head, amused.“And why am I talking to you about it?I mean, I can’t see you ever giving up…it.”He saw a rueful look cross Shane’s fate.“What?”

  “Well, it’s just me and Shannon haven’t, you know, done it since we had Katie.I mean, we’ve kissed and cuddled, but she’d just given birth and we were exhausted from having to get up and see to Katie all the time, plus I guess we wanted the wedding night to be special…”

  “Things are all right between you two, aren’t they?”Damian asked cautiously,“I mean, I’ve kind of got a protective big brother duty here.”

  Shane shot him a hard look.“Do you have any idea how much self control it takes for me to hold her in my arms every night and not do anything?”He gave a short sigh.“It’s not just about wanting her, anyway.I just can’t imagine not having her around anymore.I can actually picture us being old and grey and being silly with the grandchildren.”

  “A proper old silver couple, eh?”Damian nodded approvingly.“You know, it’s a long time since I’ve seen you like this about anyone.Good to see.”

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Thank you for the comments, Captain Hulk, chair and Kristen! This is the last chapter, I hope you all enjoy!

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

Shane stood at the front of the church with Nick and Travis alongside him.He felt scared and he wasn’t sure why.It wasn’t the prospect of being married to Shannon that scared him:He couldn’t wait.He wasn’t even scared of something happening to her.He’d begun to relax on that one and accept it was very unlikely history would repeat itself.

  His biggest worry, he realised, was that he’d mess up during the service and make a fool of himself.He wanted it to be perfect for both of them.

  He took a quick glance around the congregation.Ros and Donald were sat behind them, and behind them were Damian, Sarah and Tug, the latter having arrived from the Thompson farm that morning.Alf, Ailsa, Irene, Marilyn, Kelly…At the back were Paul and Frankie.Inviting them had been a bone of contention but he eventually accepted they should be there for Dylan and Angel’s sake if nothing else.

  Pippa was near the front of Shannon’s side:She was the one that had been tasked with looking after Katie.Jack and Chloe had made it too and were sitting with Curtis, while behind them were Steven and his new girlfriend.(Or old girlfriend as Donald had told them, along with some stories of when she’d lived with him.)Sam and Christopher had both turned down page boy duties and were sat with Pippa.Alex had been invited but had merely sent back a message wishing them well.

  Shane heard the organ start up a tune and took a deep breath before glancing backwards.Shannon came into view, Michael at her side.Behind them came Dylan and Angel, being shepherded by bridesmaids Sally and Selina.

  Shane’s gaze fixed on his bride.He couldn’t believe how much he loved her.It was something he’d never expected to experience again.She finally came alongside him and smiled.

  “We are gathered here to witness the marriage of Shane and Shannon…”

***

The service passed in a blur for Shannon.She smiled at Shane, she said the correct response, there was a lot of joining hands and giving of rings and some very nice kissing of the bride.It was only as they exited the church hand in hand to cheering and applause that it dawned on her that she was married to Shane. That was something she had definitely never expected to happen.

  The reception was at the surf club.Shannon glowed as first Michael and then Shane complimented her. She held her new husband close for their first dance as man and wife.She did the quick round of the guests.She’d convinced Selina to invite that Lachie to the reception and it briefly entered her mind that yes, she might well have been interested in him in another life.She saw Selina chatting to Steven and being introduced to Viv:Awkward, but friendly.Maybe they could be friends in the future.

  Michael and Pippa had volunteered to look after the children and so Shane and Shannon returned home alone.He carried over the threshold into the bedroom and lay her down on the bed.“Welcome home, Mrs. Parrish,”he said smiling as he lay down beside her.

  Shannon laughed.“I’m not sure if I’ll ever get used to being called that.”

  “You’ll have a long time of it.”

  Shannon thought of the years stretching ahead before them, all that time together.“I love you,”she said, “So much.”

  “I love you too.Thank you.”

  And they made love for the first time as husband and wife, both as sure as they could be that their future would be together.

 

 

 

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Edited by QUIET ACHIEVER

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