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She sniffed then looked up and to his dismay he saw that her cheeks were streaked with tears.

‘It… It should’ve been me getting engaged this year. Possibly even pregnant too.’ She was trembling and Leo wasn’t sure if it was shock or the cold so he grabbed the throw off the back of the sofa and wrapped it around her shoulders. From the kitchen he could hear the sound of champagne being corked and cheers of celebration.

‘You were getting engaged?’ he asked softly.

‘Yes. Well, no. I mean… I had hoped that Billy would ask me sooner rather than later and I always imagined that I’d have a baby before I turned thirty.’

‘I see,’ he said. ‘But now Paul’s the one who’s engaged and is expecting?’

‘Y-yes!’ She rubbed at her eyes with her free hand. ‘P-Paul… the one of us that we never thought would get married or possibly ever become a dad. It wasn’t what he wanted at all.’

‘Not before, no, but he seems to really care about Angelina.’

‘I know.’ She nodded. ‘I am happy for them. V-very happy… b-but I just wish that…’

‘You were getting married too?’ he asked.

‘Y-yes.’ She covered her face with her hands again and Leo rubbed her back in slow circles over the blanket, hoping he was offering her some comfort.

When Erin finally looked up, Leo offered her a tissue from the box on the side table and she wiped at her eyes and her face. ‘I’m a terrible person and a dreadful sister, aren’t I?

‘Not at all.’ He shook his head. ‘I’ll be honest with you, I’m surprised that Paul’s engaged and expecting too and while I am happy for my oldest mate, I also wish I was as happy as he is. I can’t remember the last time I felt that good about life.’

‘Oh Leo, I’m so sorry.’ Erin took his hand now and squeezed his fingers. ‘I’m being selfish. You’ve been through so much and lost so much and I’m so terribly sorry for your loss.’

‘It’s not your fault and certainly nothing you need to apologise for. We’re people with feelings and that’s just fine.’

Zara appeared in the doorway, and she raised her eyebrows in question. ‘Everything all right in here?’

Leo looked at Erin and she nodded. ‘Bit of a shock.’

‘Tell me about it,’ Zara said in a stage whisper. ‘Paul getting married and having a baby! Whatever next?’

Erin giggled at her sister’s expression. ‘I can’t believe it.’

‘Me neither and between us, I think Mum and Dad are in shock too. But they’re doing a good job of showing him and Angelina that they’re pleased, bless them. At least they get to be grandparents now though, right?’

Erin stiffened next to Leo and he scanned her face.

‘Oh god, Erin, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that the way it might’ve sounded,’ Zara said. ‘I meant because Dad’s been ill and he’s always wanted to be a grandparent and now he will be one and… I’m going to shut my big mouth now before I make it worse.’

‘It’s fine,’ Erin said. ‘I knew what you meant. It’s just a shock and yes, I did want to make him and mum grandparents, but it wasn’t meant to be.’

‘Erin, you’re only twenty-eight,’ Leo said. ‘You have plenty of time.’

‘But does Dad?’ Zara said and Erin and Leo both turned to look at her.

‘Don’t say that!’ Erin said. ‘He’s going to live forever.’

‘I bloody hope so but who knows?’ Zara held up her hands.

‘None of us know how long we have and Dad’s on the mend now.’ Erin sniffed. ‘He’s got years ahead of him.’

‘I hope so.’ Zara nodded. ‘I really do. And you are going to meet someone and get married and have plenty of lovely babies and make me a very proud aunt.’

Erin shrugged. ‘I don’t know about that.’

‘You will!’ Zara inclined her head and set her jaw. ‘Who knows… the man you’re going to fall in love with could be in this very village. On this street. Hell, he could even be under this roof right now!’

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