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Fanfiction: Best Laid Plans

Fandom: Airwolf
Series: Finding Family (Story 4)
Summary: Michael's plans to propose go awry when his daughter has an accident.
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Hawke/Caitlin.  Michael/Marella. 
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.  Written for entertainment purposes only.


Best Laid Plans

Part 1

Something impinged on the dream that Marella Chappelier was having; a dull bang or thud, whispers. Whatever it was, it was enough to wrench her from her sleep and into consciousness. She frowned and opened her dark eyes, rubbing them tiredly as she registered the noise coming from just beyond the bedroom door. She heard the soft click of the handle depressing and sat up in the bed as the blonde head of Angelina Coldsmith-Briggs peeked into the room.

The young girl beamed. ‘She’s awake, Daddy.’ Angelina bounded in and jumped on the bed to hug Marella fondly. ‘Happy birthday!’

Marella returned the hug and shifted back to nudge a lock of the curly blonde hair back behind Angelina’s ear. She noticed her partner’s daughter was already washed and dressed in a child’s uniform of simple pink t-shirt and jeans. ‘You look beautiful.’ She said cupping Angelina’s cheek.

‘So do you.’ Angelina said grinning.

‘I would have to agree.’ Michael Coldsmith-Briggs III said as he entered the bedroom his hands filled with a laden breakfast tray. His good eye ran warmly over Marella; the dark hair was mussed and untamed and the smooth café latte complexion had a slightly pink tinge but her brown eyes smiled back at him.

‘We made you breakfast.’ Angelina confided in her.

‘So I see.’ Marella said fondly squeezing her gently before releasing her so Angelina could move and make room for the tray Michael placed on her lap. It was laden with a plate of French toast, a cup of coffee, a glass of orange juice and a vase with a pink carnation.

He dipped his head and kissed her, the soft bristles of his moustache tickling her lips. ‘Happy birthday.’

‘Daddy said as it was your birthday, you should get to sleep in.’ Angelina noted as she settled at the bottom of the bed with her legs crossed under her.

Marella took a sip of juice and glanced at Michael who had stretched out on the other side of the bed. ‘What time is it?’

‘Just after ten.’ Michael admitted.

‘Ten?’ Marella’s eyes widened.

Michael nodded and adjusted his wire frame glasses. ‘Angelina, why don’t you get Marella her present?’

Angelina smiled and jumped down from the bed to hurry out of the room.

Marella steadied the tray and Michael rescued the coffee before it spilled placing it safely on the bedside table. ‘Presents? You shouldn’t have got me anything else.’ She gestured at the beautiful silver jewellery box on the dresser she had unwrapped the night before at the celebration their friends Stringfellow and Caitlin Hawke had thrown for her.

‘We want to spoil you.’ Michael said his blue eye twinkling at her. ‘So let us.’

‘Yes, sir.’ She murmured cheekily.

His reply was to kiss her again. He eased back hearing the thud of footsteps that heralded Angelina’s return.

Marella reached out and took the carefully wrapped present from Angelina’s arms. She waited until Michael’s daughter got resettled onto the bed before she undid the silver bow and unwrapped the shiny red paper. The plain white box made her smile and she removed the lid and reached into the layers of tissue paper. Her fingers felt the smooth edges of the silver frame and she pulled it out of the box curiously. Her breath caught in her throat.

It was a picture of the three of them taken at the Hawkes’ cabin in the mountains just before Christmas. She could remember the moment it was taken with crystal clarity. They had all just returned from a gentle hike out on the mountainside with Hawke. They had piled into the warm cabin with relief; their cheeks and noses stinging from the cold outside. All three of them had hurried to the blazing fire and an amused Caitlin, who had stayed behind to look after the baby, had grabbed a camera and snapped a picture of them in front of the hearth. The snap was a great shot; they were all standing, Michael had his arm around her, they each had a hand on Angelina who stood in front of them with Brownie sat beside her, her hand on his head. They were all smiling and happy. They looked like a family, Marella thought, surprised at the sudden flood of emotion that filled her eyes with tears.

‘Do you like it?’ Angelina asked impatiently.

Marella smiled at her. ‘I love it.’

‘It was my idea.’ Angelina said gleefully.

‘Well, it was a great idea.’ Marella reached over the tray and gave Angelina another hug. ‘How about we put this on the dresser with the jewellery box in pride of place?’

Angelina took the frame and skipped over to the dresser.

‘So,’ Michael said clearing his throat, ‘we thought we might spend the day altogether on the beach.’ He met Marella’s questioning gaze. ‘Like the first date we all spent together. Picnic and swimming with a nice meal back at the house later. What do you think?’

Marella found herself smiling again. ‘It sounds perfect.’

‘Good.’ Michael kissed her again. ‘We’ll leave you to finish your breakfast and get ready while we finish getting the picnic together.’ He slid off the bed and reached a hand out for his daughter. Angelina snagged it happily and the two of them moved out of the bedroom.

Marella moved the tray aside and shoved the covers back. She stretched as she stood up and took a moment to peek out of the curtains at the blue cloudless sky. Perfect weather for a picnic, she thought happily. She left her breakfast and wandered into the en suite bathroom. Five minutes later she was standing under a stream of hot water.

The photo had been lovely, she thought as she reached for the shampoo, and more meaningful in some respects because it had been Angelina who had thought of it and not Michael. The day at the beach that Michael and Angelina were recreating hadn’t been Marella’s first date with Michael. They had arranged an evening alone together. Caitlin and Hawke had supplied the cabin for privacy and they had been dancing to an old jazz record when Michael’s mother Elizabeth had called and informed them Angelina had gone missing. The rest of the date had been forgotten in the rush to return home where they had discovered Angelina had run away after overhearing her grandparents talking about Michael’s date with Marella. Her ten year old mind had leaped to the conclusion that because the couple hadn’t informed her of the date that they didn’t want her. Marella sighed and rinsed off. They had found her and once everything had been explained, Angelina had given her blessing. The gift of the photo was lovely, Marella thought, because it showed how much Angelina accepted her.

She stepped out of the shower and wrapped herself in a fluffy robe. She wandered back into the bedroom and made for the closet. Michael had never formally asked her to move in with him and she had her own apartment but somehow most of her clothes had ended up in Michael’s closet, most of her things in his house. She reached for a swimsuit, shorts and a t-shirt. She dressed unhurriedly and sat at the dresser to do her make-up. Her eyes caught on the photo again and she picked it up. She and Michael hadn’t discussed the status of their relationship for a long while. Over the Christmas holidays Angelina had tried to convince them they should marry primarily because her best friend had just been a bridesmaid and Angelina wanted to be one too. They had laughed about it, Marella remembered, even when Angelina’s campaign had lasted over the visits with both Michael’s parents and her own.

Marella put the photo down and reached for her make-up bag. Her mother had quickly supported the idea of marriage. Marella sighed. Her parents were in their sixties and old-fashioned; she shouldn’t have been surprised that the visit had led to subtle and not-so-subtle hints about her marital status. She smoothed on lipstick and blotted it with a tissue. She had tried to ignore the hints; she and Michael were happy as they were and she was liberated enough to feel she didn’t need the trappings of a marriage. She believed she would have been happy to continue the status quo if it hadn’t been for Michael getting kidnapped just after the New Year.

She sighed and looked at her reflection in the mirror. Thankfully Hawke had rescued Michael but she had almost lost him. It had hit home to her just how head-over-heels in love with him she actually was and how much she wanted to be his wife. She glanced at the picture on the dresser. She wanted it to be more than a photo; she wanted them to be a real family. She pushed the stool away.

Marella gathered together the rest of what she would need at the beach absently stowing it all into an oversized carry bag. She knew that deep down she was hoping that all of the plotting and planning Michael and Angelina had engaged in during the last couple of weeks in the run up to her birthday included a proposal. She suspected it did but there was always the remote possibility that she was wrong. Marella made a final check of her appearance in the mirror. Hell, she thought, if Michael didn’t propose to her by the end of the day, she would propose to him. Her dark eyes gleamed brightly at the thought and she was smiling when she left the bedroom.

Part 2

Marella laughed as she struggled back up the steps laden down with her own bag and Angelina’s. The eleven year old was helping her father carry the picnic basket back up the steps and teasing her father for going slow.

‘When you get to my age then you can tease me.’ Michael grumbled good-naturedly. He glanced back over his shoulder at Marella’s grinning face. ‘What’s so funny?’ He demanded.

‘Oh nothing.’ She laughed. ‘You two want to get a move on?’

‘It’s Daddy.’ Angelina complained her eyes twinkling with amusement. ‘He’s going slow.’ Her dog, a chocolate Labrador called Brownie barked excited from the top of the steps.

‘I’ll give you slow.’ Michael teased as they made it to the final step.

They made for the sunny kitchen and dumped everything into a corner of the utility room off to the side.

Michael ruffled his daughter’s hair, tangled and sticky from swimming in the sea and the breeze down on the beach. It had been a good day. ‘You head up and have your bath.’

Angelina rolled her eyes. ‘Yes, Daddy.’ She smiled mischievously. ‘I’ll meet you here to cook dinner?’

‘Absolutely.’ Michael said dropping a kiss on her head. The original date had ended with the two of them cooking for Marella and he wanted their recreation to be the same; steak, baked potatoes and salad. He felt a rush of nerves and hastily reached for the basket to cover his sudden anxiety.

He knew it wasn’t the meal that worried him but their plans for coffee when Angelina and he intended to ask Marella to marry them. He had been wary of proposing. It would be his second marriage and his first had been a disaster. It had taken the prompting of a strange conversation with the late Dominic Santini when he had been kidnapped – and he was still undecided whether it had been a hallucination or a visitation from the man’s ghost – to make him realise he was being foolish fearing a marriage with Marella because of what had happened with his first wife, Gemma. There was an obvious similarity, Marella was his senior aide and Gemma had been his senior aide when he had married her, but that’s where it ended. When he thought about it, Marella suited him on so many levels he was left wondering why he had hesitated about proposing at all.

He had also hesitated about including his daughter in the proposal wondering if Marella would prefer a more intimate and romantic setting but had decided that including Angelina was necessary. He and his daughter were a package deal and Angelina’s own enthusiasm for the proposal had reassured him that she had accepted the idea of Marella being part of their family. Marella’s reaction to the photo had also reassured him a little that his decision had been the right one. He just hoped it was a positive sign of how she would respond to the idea of marriage; they hadn’t really discussed it before except in jest over Angelina’s Christmas campaign to be a bridesmaid. He focused on putting the remnants of the picnic into the refrigerator. Marella loved him and she adored Angelina; he just had to believe she would say yes. Their friends Hawke and Caitlin certainly seemed to think she would.

Marella handed him the last container and sighed running a hand through her black wiry hair. ‘I’d better hit the bathroom myself. I have salt and sand everywhere.’

Michael reached out and pulled her closer. ‘Everywhere?’

‘Hmmm.’ Marella kissed him.

‘Why don’t you have a bubble bath?’ Michael suggested. ‘It’ll take some time for me and Angelina to get things ready.’

‘Want to share?’ Marella offered with a seductive smile.

‘Behave.’ He tapped her nose. ‘And hold that thought for later.’

Marella grinned and they walked through the house hand in hand to the bedroom they shared. Michael took a quick shower while Marella went to check on Angelina’s progress. She was soon caught up in assisting the eleven year old in choosing an outfit and fixing her golden hair.

Michael tapped on Angelina’s bedroom door and entered, smiling at the picture they made. He fingered the ring box in his trouser pocket. It was going to be a big night. ‘Ready?’

Angelina grinned. ‘I am.’

‘You look pretty.’ He noted taking in the pale blue dress that set off her eyes. God knew what he was going to do when she was a teenager and boys wanted to date her, Michael thought wryly. Maybe he could keep her locked up until she was thirty.

‘You look handsome too, Daddy. Doesn’t he, Marella?’

Marella ran her eyes over Michael’s outfit of dark grey pants with a matching grey v-neck sweater. A pale blue shirt peeked through the neck opening. She stroked Angelina’s hair. ‘I agree. He looks very handsome.’ She exchanged a smile with Michael. ‘I’d better go and make myself beautiful to match you both.’

‘That won’t be difficult.’ Michael commented. He smiled at his daughter. ‘Come on. We’d better make a start on dinner.’

Angelina took his outstretched hand and they made their way down to the kitchen. Father and daughter worked well together as a team. It wasn’t long before the dining table had been set up with fine china and crystal glasses, a fresh salad was made, the potatoes were sat ready to be zapped in the microwave and Michael started the grill for the steaks.

Angelina fidgeted nervously as she handed Michael the pepper. ‘What if she says no?’ She blurted out suddenly.

Michael stopped what he was doing and turned to his daughter. ‘She won’t say no.’ He said confidently wondering again if it had been the wisest decision to include his daughter in the proposal.

‘But what if she does?’ Angelina insisted.

‘Then we’ll try to understand why and accept her decision.’ Michael said. He held Angelina’s gaze firmly. ‘But she’s not going to say no, OK?’

Angelina nodded. ‘OK.’ Her face brightened and Michael gave her a brief hug. ‘Can I go out and play with Brownie?’

Michael agreed; it would probably take her mind off the proposal. ‘Just don’t get your dress dirty.’ He cautioned.

Angelina smiled and was gone before he could change his mind. She jogged out of the French doors on the dining room to the back lawn where Brownie had ended up after the picnic. The dog was thrilled to see her and bounded across from his kennel on the far side with his ball.

They had been playing for a few minutes – Angelina throwing the ball and Brownie retrieving it – when Brownie suddenly ignored the ball and took off across the grass. Angelina followed him curious to see what had caught his attention.

He had come to a halt underneath an old tree at the far side of the garden and was stood on his hind legs, his front paws resting on the bark as he woofed at something in the branches.

Angelina looked up and frowned. A plaintive meow sounded from a high branch and her blue eyes widened at the sight of a small smoky grey cat with bright green eyes staring back down at her. She pushed Brownie to one side and tried to coax the cat down but it remained huddled on the branch. She considered her options carefully and darted a glance back towards the house before quickly removing her socks and shoes. She could climb the tree, rescue the cat and be back down before her father even realised what she was doing, she decided. She scrambled up the first part of the tree easily but it became quite smooth in the mid-section and she struggled to find footholds. She persevered and made it to the branch the cat was clinging to with a relieved sigh.

‘Here, kitty.’ She held out a hand and the cat sniffed it suspiciously before inching forward to nudge its head against her knuckles. ‘Hello there. Aren’t you cute?’ She cooed at it. ‘You want to come down? Come on then.’ She reached out and the cat allowed itself to be held, its claws digging into her shoulder.

Angelina winced at the sharp pinpricks of pain but started down the tree keeping careful hold of the cat with one hand as her free hand and feet sought purchase against the bark. Half-way down, she missed her footing. She had a moment of panic as she fell and heard the cry of the cat as she let go of it. Her head hit a branch and she was unconscious when her body bounced on the ground and her arm snapped ominously.

Part 3

Marella stood at the kitchen door and admired Michael for a moment before she tapped lightly on the doorframe. ‘Anything I can do?’

Michael shook his head. ‘It’s all under control.’ He glanced anxiously back at the grill where the steaks were beginning to fry nicely. ‘You can just sit and relax. Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes.’ His gaze took in that she was wearing the same orange and cream dress she had worn on the original date and he smiled. ‘You look beautiful.’

She crossed the kitchen and slid her arms around him to hug him tightly. ‘Thank you.’

‘What for?’ He asked amused.

‘For a great birthday.’ Marella answered. She rubbed his shoulders and looked around. ‘Where’s Angelina?’

‘Outside with Brownie.’ Michael replied. ‘Why don’t you call her in?’

‘Sure.’ Marella gave him a light kiss before she slipped out of his hold and headed for the garden. She frowned as she made her way through the dining room. Brownie seemed to be barking loudly. She paused at the doorway and looked out at the lawn which was enjoying the last full rays of the sun. She located the dog by the tree on the far side and was about to smile when she realised he was standing over something crumpled on the ground…he was standing over Angelina.

‘Michael!’ She yelled for him even as she began to run over the lawn, her feet carrying her swiftly to the young girl. She pushed Brownie to the side and knelt over Angelina. ‘Oh God.’ Her trembling fingers searched for a pulse as her eyes catalogued the red scratch and large bump on Angelina’s pale forehead, the odd angle of the arm caught underneath her twisted torso.

‘Angelina!’ Michael staggered to a halt beside her.

‘Get an ambulance.’ Marella ordered.

‘We’ll take her.’ Michael reached down to pick up his daughter.

‘Don’t move her!’ Marella snapped at him. She gentled her voice. ‘She fell, Michael. She can’t be moved without proper equipment.’

Michael flinched away from Angelina. ‘God!’ He muttered helplessly.

Marella’s dark eyes caught his shocked blue gaze. ‘She’s got a steady pulse, Michael. Just call an ambulance, please.’

Michael nodded jerkily and ran limping back to the house to follow her instructions.

‘Can you hear me Angelina?’ Marella begged. Her hand stroked over the blonde hair. ‘Come on, wake up for me, sweetie.’ She continued to talk to Angelina until Michael came hurrying back.

He knelt down beside her and his own shaking hand touched his daughter’s still face. ‘They’re on their way.’

Marella nodded. ‘I’ll wait for them out front. You stay with her.’ She laid a hand on his shoulder. ‘If she wakes up, keep her still.’

‘I will.’ He promised.

It seemed like an age before the paramedics joined him and Angelina was efficiently transferred to a stretcher. He was barely aware of locking up the house and climbing into the ambulance with Marella. They sat together, their hands held tightly as they watched the paramedic monitor Angelina as they sped towards the hospital. Within moments of arrival they were separated from the injured youngster and directed to a waiting room, a sympathetic but firm nurse telling them the doctor would come by with news as soon as he could.

Marella sat down in the plastic chair and Michael slumped into the one next to her. His hand sought hers and she interweaved their fingers.

‘If anything happens to her…’ Michael began before his fear closed his throat on the words.

‘I know, Michael.’ Marella comforted him. ‘But she’s a survivor. Her pulse was strong and she was breathing OK. She’ll be OK.’

He wrapped his other hand around hers. They waited for a long while before running footsteps had them both turning to look anxiously. Michael blinked at the sight of Hawke and Caitlin.

Marella patted his arm. ‘I called them.’

Michael got to his feet and Hawke wrapped the other man in a manly hug as Caitlin greeted Marella.

‘How is she?’ The pretty redhead asked, her blue-green eyes looking over the pale, shocked couple in front of her worriedly.

Michael stepped back from Hawke and gestured awkwardly. ‘We don’t know.’

‘I’m so sorry, Michael.’ Caitlin hugged him.

They all settled back into the uncomfortable chairs.

‘What happened?’ Hawke asked, his blue eyes landing on Marella as Michael seemed too upset to speak.

‘We don’t know exactly.’ Marella admitted. ‘We think she fell out of the old tree in the back garden.’

‘I’m cutting it down.’ Michael growled angrily. ‘Tomorrow. The tree comes down tomorrow.’

Marella took his hand again. ‘Her pulse and breathing were good but she wasn’t conscious when we found her and when they brought her in.’ Her own emotions rose up and strangled her breath.

Caitlin moved to sit beside her and put an arm around the other woman. Her eyes met her husband’s across the bowed heads of the other couple helplessly.

‘Where’s Nicky?’ Marella asked realising their baby wasn’t with them.

‘Saint John’s at the cabin.’ Caitlin said. ‘He’s looking after him.’

‘Where the hell is that doctor?’ Michael snapped.

Hawke put a comforting hand on the spy’s shoulder. ‘Why don’t I go and find out?’

Michael gave him a grateful nod.

A few minutes later the pilot returned with a harried looking ER doctor.

‘Mr Coldsmith-Briggs?’

Michael stood up, his heart pounding painfully in his chest. His grip tightened on Marella who rose to stand beside him. ‘Yes?’

The man looked over at the gathered foursome and scowled. ‘If I could have a moment alone with Angelina’s father, please.’

‘They can stay.’ Michael said firmly.

‘I’m only supposed to give out information to the next of kin…’ began the doctor.

‘They’re family.’ Michael said.

The doctor sighed but gave in. ‘Your daughter’s going to be fine.’

‘Oh thank God.’ Michael muttered and turned to hug Marella fiercely.

Hawke slid an arm around Caitlin’s waist and pulled her against him; her own arm went his.

Marella breathed in deeply. ‘How is she?’

‘Lucky.’ The doctor said tiredly. ‘Minor concussion, a broken arm, some scrapes and bruises but otherwise she’s OK. We want to keep her in overnight for observation but she should be fine to go home tomorrow.’ His eyes landed on Michael. ‘She’s awake and has been asking for you if you’d like to follow me.’

Michael nodded. He turned to Marella.

‘You go ahead.’ She said quickly before he could ask for time alone with his daughter. ‘I’ll come along in a few minutes.’

Michael kissed her cheek and hurried after the doctor. He was shown to a private room and Angelina’s head turned to the door as soon as it opened.

‘Daddy!’ Her blue eyes were already over-spilling with tears as he crossed the room and wrapped her in his arms.

‘It’s OK, angel. I’m here.’ Michael patted her back and clutched her closer. ‘You’re OK. You’re safe.’ They stayed like that for a long time.

‘I’m sorry, Daddy.’ Angelina sniffled. ‘I’ve ruined everything.’

‘No.’ Michael denied, stroking her hair away from her damp face as he eased back to look at her. ‘You haven’t ruined anything.’

‘But Marella’s birthday and,’ she hiccupped, ‘the proposal…’

‘Marella’s only concern is that you’re OK and we can do the proposal another time.’ Michael assured her. ‘When you’re home.’

Angelina nodded and settled back against the pillows. Michael found a box of tissues on the bedside table and handed her one. She was wiping her face and blowing her nose when there was a light tap at the door and Marella walked in. Michael moved to the far side of the bed while Marella hugged Angelina.

‘So you want to tell us what you were doing climbing the tree?’ He asked softly as Angelina settled back against the pillows and Marella perched on the bed by her side.

‘I went up to rescue a cat.’ Angelina confessed.

‘A cat?’ Marella asked confused.

‘Oh no,’ Angelina’s eyes widened, ‘I must have dropped her.’ She looked at her father. ‘Daddy, we have to find her. She might be injured too.’ She started to sit up and grimaced at the pain in her arm.

Michael pushed her gently back down. ‘We’ll look for the cat when we go back to the house, I promise, but you need to rest now.’

‘Yes, rest.’ Marella said stroking Angelina’s fringe away from her face. ‘Look, why don’t I head back and get you some things and look for this cat. Hmmm?’

Angelina smiled at her gratefully and came to a sudden decision. She sneaked a glance at her father. ‘We could ask her now.’

‘Now?’ Michael asked taken aback.

Angelina nodded firmly. ‘I want to.’

Michael looked across at Marella who was staring in bemusement at him.

‘Ask me what?’ Marella said trying to act blasé but desperately hoping it was the question she wanted to hear.

Michael looked back at Angelina who smiled encouragingly. He cleared his throat and reached into the pocket of his trousers. The ring box was still there. He took it out and gently passed it across the bed. ‘Marella, Angelina and I,’ he paused to catch his breath suddenly terrifyingly nervous, ‘we were wondering, that is if you wanted…if you would do us the honour…’

Angelina rolled her eyes at her father. ‘Will you marry us?’

Marella’s dark eyes snapped to Michael who nodded and smiled ruefully at his daughter’s directness. ‘Will you marry us?’ He repeated.

Marella looked at the box she held, her heart racing in her chest. She hadn’t opened it but she knew it would contain a ring. She looked back at Michael who was trying to hide his worry over her answer and to Angelina who was looking at her impatiently and found herself swamped in a feeling of love. She nodded and her eyes filled with unexpected tears. ‘Yes.’

‘Yes?’ Michael checked her answer. ‘Did you just say yes?’

‘Yes.’ Marella smiled as the tears trickled down her cheeks.

Angelina frowned at her. ‘Why are you crying?’

‘Because I love you both so much and I’m very happy.’ Marella reached forward and hugged her.

‘We love you too, don’t we, Daddy?’ Angelina said returning her hug.

‘We do.’ Michael confirmed gruffly. ‘Hey, don’t I get one of those?’ He joked.

Marella slid off the bed and hurried around to him.

‘You haven’t opened the box.’ Angelina pointed out after watching the couple embrace for a moment.

The couple separated and Marella handed the box back to Michael. He opened it and took out the exquisite diamond. She held out her hand and he slid it firmly on her finger.

‘It’s stunning, Michael.’ She said admiring the square cut diamond.

‘So are you.’ Michael kissed her gently before they reached down and included Angelina in a group hug.

‘Do I get to be bridesmaid?’ Angelina asked her voice muffled in Michael’s shoulder.

The couple laughed and shifted so Angelina could get settled back into bed.

‘Yes,’ Marella confirmed, ‘you get to be bridesmaid.’ She tapped Angelina’s nose fondly. ‘I’d better go and get your things.’

‘You won’t forget to look for the cat.’ Angelina asked anxiously.

‘I won’t forget.’ Marella promised.

‘I’ll walk out with you.’ Michael said. ‘I’ll be back in a minute.’ He said to Angelina as he limped around the room to the door. They made their way into the corridor and stood for a moment holding each other in relief.

‘Are you OK to go back?’ Michael asked reluctantly releasing her but keeping hold of her hand for a moment.

Marella nodded. ‘Hawke and Caitlin will give me a lift home.’

He brushed a thumb over her knuckles and smiled when he met the edge of her engagement ring. ‘This wasn’t quite the way we planned to ask you.’ He noted wryly.

Marella kissed him. ‘I thought it was perfect.’






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