Taylor’s Law—Postscript—22 months later

“How did you convince Tess to keep a secret? She usually blurts out everything she’s seen, heard or done during the day.” Ella’s marriage to Jake had given Tess the security to blossom.

“I was strategic. Took her for an ice-cream after pre-school yesterday. Figured she wouldn’t last twenty-four hours. I asked if she could look after Kit, while I took you away for a night. Said I wanted to give you a surprise.” Jake sent Ella a sideways grin, his voice a rumbling caress. “She said she’d need help. We negotiated, and agreed nana and grandpa could help.”

That mix of bass and desire and joy in his voice still gave Ella goose bumps. “Did you tell Kit?”

“He’s a good listener for a two-month old. I went over the details with him. Got his okay.”

“You’re crazy.” She giggled.

“Aren’t you going to admire my planning skills?” He waggled his eyebrows.

“I’m already a devotee of your attention to detail, your focus on a task, and your staying power.” She slid her hand up his thigh.

“I didn’t bring you here just to get you naked.”

“‘Just’? So naked’s in the mix.”

“I may have packed that negligee Grace gave you when Kit was born.” 

Ella had tucked it at the back of her drawer rather than get baby dribble on it. “I liked the silk drawer-string pyjama pants she got you.”

“They’re in the bag.” He reached for her hand, becoming serious. “I wasn’t sure if surprising you was a good idea?”

“I loved surprises as a kid. Until I discovered they weren’t all good. A night alone is bliss. The last time we were out of reach was—?”

“Never.” Jake squeezed her hand before releasing it. “We’re not now. I have plans, and they don’t include you worrying about the kids. The main house has internet and phone. Peter can reach us if needed. We can be back in an hour.”

Jake spotted the sign first. It was simple—cottages for rent—and some contact details. The road wound lazily through native bushland. Ella identified eucalypts, she-oaks and grass trees and smaller bushes she couldn’t name; the space closing in behind making the main road a distant memory.

“I remember you once said to me ‘it’s as if you’re holding your breath in the city and when you get to the farm, you let it go’.”

“I’m happier in the city these days.” She pressed a kiss to his upper arm.

Arriving at a typical farm gate, Ella climbed out to open it, then closed it behind the car, stopping to inhale the pure scents of Australian bush on a hot summer’s day—the sharp antiseptic of eucalyptus with its hint of citrus, the curry smell of sifton bush, and wood smoke from someone’s distant stove. The silence was broken by the buzz of cicadas, but the peace and serenity of being in a bush setting invaded her entire being. Being in a new place was surprise enough—joy enough.

“I already know I’m going to love this place.” Pulling the car door shut behind her, Ella lowered the window.

A few minutes later, Jake turned onto a side track. “Nearly there.”

“Want me to shut my eyes?”

“Nuh. I want all your senses engaged.” Another curve and Jake brought the car to a halt about fifty metres from a small stone cottage. A veranda stretched across the front with two rough-hewn planks forming steps. Yellow and red flowering grevillea spilled over the ground in front; a superb blue wren hovered.

“It’s gorgeous.”

“I’ll park up the side. So I don’t block the view.” He gestured to the water glinting at the end of a short track and an escarpment rising on the other side of a slow moving, shallow river.

“I might spend all my time on that veranda.”

“Wait until you see inside.”

“Show me.” Ella waited at the foot of the steps until Jake took her hand.

“Door should be unlocked.”

Ella pressed her free hand to her chest. “Can I say, ‘thank you’, now?”

He tugged her up the few steps and pushed open the door. “After you.”

Standing in the middle of the single room, Ella turned a slow circle. “It’s got everything. A big bed, armchairs in front of an open fire.”

“We won’t be needing the fire.”

“Maybe some other time,” she winked, continuing her inspection. “A kitchen with all the basics.”

“The banquet’s in the ice-box. Bathroom’s out the back. The place is completely off-grid.”

“It’s perfect.”

“Look up, Eleanor.” Jake pointed towards the roof. Above the large bed was a huge, clear window with an expansive view of the sky. “Shutters slide across in bad weather. We’re not expecting bad weather tonight.”

“You remembered.” Ella kicked off her sandals, climbed onto the bed and settled with her head on the pillow. Still looking up, she patted the spot beside her.

“I always promised you we’d make love under the stars.” Jake left his loafers at the foot of the bed, and crawled towards her, until his head blocked the view. “We’ve got the night sky and a comfy bed. The stuff of fantasies.”

“Have I told you lately that I love you?” Ella stroked his cheek.

“Every day. In a million ways. Tonight’s for you, Eleanor.”

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