16. Picture Perfect Morning

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Elle had tossed and turned all night, unable to fall asleep. Since Blake's death, she had a fear of falling asleep only to wake to horrible news, but that wasn't the case tonight. It was Dean. He was only meters away. Meters. And no matter how much she tried, Elle couldn't get that thought out of her mind. She turned and moaned into the pillow. Meters.

When she woke up, the sun was high, too high. The house was already buzzing, and Maya had long since left her side of the bed. Elle got up, tied her hair in a ponytail and eyed her alarm clock. It was nine. Any other day she would have waltzed into the kitchen in her pyjamas, but not today. There was every chance Dean was still in the house because Elle had a habit of locking all the dead-bolts on the doors at night and keeping the keys on her nightstand. Thus, she grabbed a change of fresh clothes and waltzed into her bathroom instead.

As for Dean, it wasn't exactly easy to fall asleep in Elle's house and know that she was on the other side of that wall, and nor was he used to being conscious of his actions. Before long, he found Maya eagerly bouncing in front of his face, excited. "Your eye still hurt?"

"It's much better now, thank you." He pushed himself up with a smile.

"Let me see," the little one demanded and he obliged as Ethan popped his head around from the kitchen. "I held her back as long as I could."

Dean stifled a yawn as shook his head.

"Would you like some coffee?" Ethan asked, holding two mugs in hand. "I just brewed a big batch." Dean nodded and a mug was passed to him before Ethan sat on the opposite sofa and flicked the TV on. "So, you and Ellie, huh?" he asked casually and watched Dean almost snort his coffee out his nose.

"Mummy kissed Dean," Maya blurted, plonking down next to her uncle.

"It was, it..." Dean stumbled, unable to look Ethan in the eye.

"Dean hurt his eye and Mummy kissed it better," Maya continued, and Dean shrank back into the sofa, wanting desperately to blend it with it.

"Rise and shine!" Bert boomed as they came in through the front door. "Look who brought some croissants and Danish."

"Where are the girls?" Trish smiled at Dean, delighted that he was still there.

"Bree's in the shower" Ethan took the massive paper bag of pastries away.

"Mum's sleeping," Maya ran to Bert who picked her up and planted a big kiss on her cheek. "She is not feeling well, Grampy."

"Why?" Trish's voice rang in alarm.

"She kept moving in the night."

"Mummy is just excited," Trish laughed and kissed her cheek.

"Excited about what?"

"She has so many lovely people in the house, that's why," Trish finally said as Bree walked into the room with a beehive of a towel on her head and smiled.

"Who's next? The bathroom's free."

"It's all yours, Dean," Ethan emptied the pastries onto a tray and gave Bree a kiss.

Dean nodded, glad to get away on his own for a bit. The more time he spent with her family, the more he realised the joy that comes from a simple family with simple needs and comfort, not materials like his was used to. He must tell her that one day, he thought and left.

By the time he joined them, everyone was out the back with their morning brew and brekkie in hand, except Elle. He wondered if she was delaying on purpose. Should he have stopped at just the touch on her lips? Maybe she felt awkward around him now. His brother Jared had warned him about coming on strong.

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