Six months later:
Ella walked into the diner and saw Roman retreat back into the kitchen. Six months of him avoiding her since that night he’d spent in her bed. Platonically spent in her bed, a voice insisted inside her head.
Ordering a coffee from Colleen she sat at her favourite table and opened up her laptop and began to work. Looking up almost an hour later she realised her coffee was cold. Glancing over at the counter she saw Roman was there and she quickly got up and walked over to him.
“Hello,” she murmured. “Haven’t seen you around for a while,” she added.
“Been busy, “ he said taking the cup from her.
She grinned at his look of surprise at seeing her undrunk coffee before speaking again, “the kids have..” she began only to be interrupted by him asking if she wanted her cup topping up.
“No, on second thoughts I’ll give it a miss,” she said quietly.
“Okay,” he took the cup from her and disappeared in the kitchen leaving her standing there.
Feeling rejected she headed back to her laptop and closed it down before packing up and leaving the diner. Whatever had she done to make him hate her she didn’t know, and he did hate her to treat her so badly.
Sunk down in her misery she didn’t hear him calling her name as she stepped on to the path that would take her back home to Miles house until she was near the door.
“El,” he called again.
Spinning around she looked at him.
“What?” She knew she was pouting as she looked at him.
“Sorry, I …” he looked at her before sighing as he ran his hand through his hair. She noticed again the absence of his wedding ring and bit back the sigh that wanted to escape.
“What?” She asked again.
“I was distracted, Martha doesn’t want me to keep seeing Lyndsey and I think that well, I know…”
“Lyndsey isn’t mine,” he said quietly. “I just want to be a presence you know, because she’s a little girl and doesn’t deserve any of this drama. Martha rang me just before you came to the counter and I was distracted.”
“I see,” she said slowly.
“I know it’s no excuse to be rude but,” he shrugged.
A minutes silence stretched out between them before she spoke, “Do you blame me for it?”
“No, not at all… just… “ he gestured towards the house. “I was starting to question my marriage before you came here. If anything you helped me get free,” he said gruffly.
“Okay then, well I won’t keep you,” she murmured and turned towards the house.
“I miss you,” Roman finally admitted.
“Miss me?” She spun back around and faced him, “How could you miss me when you haven’t spoken to me for months?”
“I can’t involve you in my divorce. If Martha found out I had feelings for you she would have used them against me.”
“Never knew you to back away from a fight Solider,” she grimaced the endearment slipping past her guard. It only highlighted to her that she still had deep feelings for him.
“I’m not afraid of Martha or what she can do to me but there are people close to me and this is a small town. Don’t want others to get hurt on my behalf.”
“I can handle myself,” she said quickly, quick enough to see him sniggering. “That isn’t what I meant,” she muttered and flounced into the house placing her laptop on the table.
Roman followed at a slower pace before walking inside and looking around.
“I can understand you keeping the kids in check but how did you get Miles to tidy up?”
“Fear and bribery,” she muttered. “Works every time,” she added quietly before spinning around and looking at him.
“Are you happy El? Living here?”
“I am, the kids are enjoying it. Not sure I’m ever going to like living in a small town but I escape to my studio every few weeks to give me a fix of city life.”
He had a puzzled look on his face, “no, I mean with Miles?”
“He’s a good landlord,” she stated turning away and moving into the kitchen to put the kettle on to boil. She didn’t see the look of relief on Roman’s face at her answer.
“I should leave you to it,” he stated slowly.
“I was just about to make coffee,” she murmured.
“I have…” he began before looking at her. He issued a sigh and paced over to her side before pulling her into his arms and kissing her again.
Ella responded to his kiss like she was drowning and Roman was oxygen. She felt a sense of desperation in herself that had her yearning for more when he eventually broke off the kiss.
“What was that…?” She asked in an unsteady voice.
“Just checking,” he murmured pressing a lighter kiss to her lips before he moved away and slipped out of the house the way he came.
She waited several heartbeats her fingers pressed to her lips as she relieved the passionate kiss and felt a slow steady blush sweeping through her. In one kiss he’d reawakened all the old passions, all the longing and made new arousal dance through her blood.
“Dammit,” she cried out to the empty house, “One flaming kiss,” she added.
Sitting at the table with a half-eaten sandwich in front of her Ella sighed again for about the hundredth time. He didn’t want to be involved whilst he was getting divorced but he kissed her like that. What actual holy heck, she said silently inside her head.
“Hello,” a voice called from the open door.
“Oh er, hi,” Ella stood quickly.
“Just dropping this off for Miles,” the woman said.
“It’s Leah isn’t it? I’m Ella,” she moved over and opened the screen door, “Want to come in? Miles won’t be back for a while.”
“I’m interrupting your lunch,” Leah stated.
“No, no it’s fine.” She stepped back to allow the other woman to come into the room whilst collecting her half eaten sandwich and taking it through to the kitchen. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Do you have anything cold? It’s a hot day out there.”
Ella nodded and poured out a glass of fruit juice with lemonade and took it over to Leah before fetching a soda for herself. Sitting back in her chair at the table she gestured for Leah to take a seat.
“So… er… you work with Roman, right?”
“Yes, we own shares in the diner here. And you and Miles?”
“He’s my landlord. Funny that is the second time today our relationship has been questioned,” Ella found herself frowning.
“That could be because you have a reputation around here already,” Leah said without malice, “You turn up and Roman suddenly seems to be changing his life. He gets fit, starts getting a divorce. Suddenly he’s back to being the same Roman who first come to the Bay,” she added quietly.
“That is nothing to do with me,” Ella muttered lifting her fingers to her lips as she remembered the kiss.
She met the brown eyed gaze of the other woman and sighed. “No, I’ve barely seen him over the past few months. Only for the handing over the kids sometimes,” she found herself saying.
“That’s a shame,” Leah sighed herself.
“Is it? I’m getting mixed messages here.”
“Roman and Martha weren’t a good match. They just seemed to be two people at a loose end who got married one day.”
“Why are you telling me this Leah?”
“Because Rachel saw you and Roman together. She seemed to think that Roman more than liked you.”
“We are friends,” Ella muttered adding silently, ‘I think.’
“And he’s been avoiding you like the plague, gets us to serve you,” Leah continued as though she hadn’t spoken.
“Wait, what? He does what?”
“Yeah he sees you coming in and before we can say cash and carry he’s off with an excuse that we need something or getting Colleen to serve you. The first month was fine but after that we kept trying to get him to say why he didn’t want to see you,” she murmured.
“Let me guess, he never said anything. “
“Not a word.”
“Well I can’t ….”
“Ella, may I call you Ella by the way?”
“Sure,” she murmured taking a drink to cool herself off.
“Well yesterday Miles came in for lunch like usual and …”
“Roman started having a tantrum,” Leah explained her lips twitching with merriment.
“Yeah, normally as you know he and Miles are friends but yesterday something was said and Roman reacted by banging the pots around in the kitchen. “
“And is that why you are here?”
“I’m here because today we forced him to serve you and after you left he shot out like he was being chased. “
“I’m not seeing the connection. “
“The man is crazy about you Ella. He’s jealous of Miles because you moved in here and…”
Ella shot up so fast her chair fell over, gasping at the same time. She thought back to every comment Roman had said to her over the past six months and suddenly things became clear. He thought she was with Miles. That her moving in here was because she and Miles were an item.
“I so don’t think so. Things are just…” she tried to come up with an excuse but everything slipped out of her head as soon as she began talking.
“Then I imagine that look on your face when you think no one is looking? I imagine that you sigh when Roman is hiding in the kitchen away from you. I’m sure that you could work just as well here instead of coming to the diner every other day.”
Ella wanted to deny it but despite not even realising she was doing it she had been stalking Roman. Wanting to see him. Dammit. Double dammit, she thought with a grimace.
“I…er…. no,” she murmured in her prissy tone, “That is Roman and I are not seeing each other. We don’t have a relationship nor plan too…”
“If you say so,” Leah looked affronted and she placed the envelope for Miles on the table and stood up. “I’ll see you in the diner then,” she murmured as she left.
Ella groaned and rubbed a hand over her face before picking up the fallen chair. She tucked it under the table and cleared the glasses away before tidying the kitchen. Her moves were automatic because her head was the other side of the Bay thinking about what Leah had said and Roman.
Grabbing her car keys she headed out. She found herself outside Roman’s place in no time and eventually worked up the courage to knock on his front door.
“Why did you kiss me?” She blurted out the question she was thinking and not the one she’d practiced on the way over.
“Because I needed too,” he said stepping back to allow her to come inside.
She looked at him as she entered his house. She hadn’t been inside his place for months and she was struck by the changes. The walls had been painted pale blue and the sofas changed. Everything looked cleaner somehow, and neater.
“I… have you been avoiding me?”
“No,” he answered quickly.
“So it’s just a coincidence that when I walk into the diner you seem to walk out of it? That you manage to pick up the children when I’m busy or not there?”
“Just coincidence,” he affirmed.
Ella gave him a long assessing look before she walked past him and up the stairs giving him no choice except to follow. She heard the front door slam as she reached the landing and looked around until she found his bedroom again. Stepping inside it she looked at the masculine looking wardrobe and bed.
“What are you doing?” He asked from behind her.
“I’m testing your boundaries,” she said slowly turning and facing him. Reaching for the hem of her t-shirt she tugged it over her head before dropping it on the floor.
“Are you trying to seduce me?”
She didn’t answer his question choosing instead to slip off her shoes before unsnapping the fastening on her jeans. It had been a long time since she’d down a striptease for a man. So long in fact that the last man she did it for was probably Roman. She licked her lips as she undid her zipper before sliding her fingers into her waistband and with a wiggle of her hips she began to slide them down her legs.
Ella almost panicked when she wondered how sexy she looked stepping out of her jeans but focused instead on him. He was watching her intently as she moved. Sliding them the rest of the way down her legs she lifted one foot out first and then the other one, congratulating herself that she didn’t fall over.
Left only in bra and panties she stood in front of him and gave him a slow grin. “So you just going to stand there?”
“Why are you doing this?” She felt her face flaming at the question feeling completely humiliated when he stepped over to her and placed his finger under her chin lifting her head up to look intently into her eyes. “Because I’m still married Ella, I can’t give you anything.”
“I don’t want anything,” she said knowing deep down she was lying.
“Then just sex?”
“Just sex,” she agreed, still lying as Roman kissed her.