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You always knew the melody but you never heard it rhyme

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Terese sat in the lobby of Lassiters, waiting for Paul to finish with the call he was making. Though Lucy had already given her the job, she knew it was a good idea to come down to the complex early to try and understand the enigma that was Paul Robinson. They had obviously crossed paths before, many years ago, even if he seemed to have forgotten that conference. That night. She certainly hadn’t, it was hard to despite all the years that had passed since, but from first impressions it appeared he didn’t remember her at all.

The impression she had of him this time hadn’t changed much from the last time they had crossed paths, but she didn’t expect him to be all that different. Just a simple weekend exchanging remarks and ideas at a hotelier conference showed her they would make a good team, she was certainly a little shocked when Lucy gave her the job offer in the hope that her management could help rescue his hotel. It was obvious he was completely unaware that she had already been given the job since she could tell through his friendly demeanour that he was still trying to assess her and whether she would be a good fit for his hotel. He was a control freak that enjoyed playing games with other people, seeing how they would rise to the challenge he set them out of pure amusement- his obvious aim to cause some form of tension between her and was it Lauren? Brad’s old flame? What he didn’t realise was that she was a good player in any game, especially since she played her cards close to her chest. Cards that he didn’t know about yet, some she hoped he may never know about for the sake of her marriage. Her mind wandered from imagining how well they would work as a team navigating the hotel out of the mess he had got it in to the secrets she held from her family and the man from her past. Secrets that could ruin her marriage and turn her children against her, but that held the possibility of making her and Paul a stronger team beyond any relationship that business could form.

She was broken out of her reverie with the return of the man in question, the sound of him pulling out the chair opposite to sit down breaking any thoughts she had. From his body language, she could clearly tell he wished to conclude the ‘interview’ he was conducting.

“There’s three things I look for in a manager; loyalty, dedication and excellence. Are you that person?” He asked, nodding at the waiter to put their coffees down on the table.

She paused for a moment, trying to work out the best response to a man who was clearly trying to get a full reading of her character. “In a years’ time, you’ll be wondering what you ever did without me.”

He sipped his coffee, looking doubtful that anyone could possibly impress him as much as she was suggesting. Despite the look, he placed his cup down and held out his hand to shake hers. “Well then, congratulations Terese. The job is yours.”

She shook his hand, smiling slightly at his own actions, but dropping it quickly to reach for her own coffee cup. Without a doubt, it would be awkward telling him she already had the job with or without his blessing. Keeping her gaze on the table, she worked to sip her coffee and reveal as little as possible to him for the sake of avoiding getting in the middle of what was clearly a familial dispute.

“I thought you might have been more pleased than this.” Clearly, her tactic for avoiding an awful situation didn’t work. “You’re getting a house, a fantastic opportunity since Lassiters Erinsborough is a much bigger and more prestigious complex than Perth was. A fantastic move for your career, but only if you like a challenge which you clearly do if you believe yourself to be an excellent manager.” His tone itself was challenging, a hidden flirtation as he questioned her dedication to the new role. A tone she was all to familiar with since it drew her in many years before now.

“Oh I am pleased, don’t worry. It’s just a little awkward you offering me a job that I already have.” His frowned in response only encouraged her to elaborate further. “Lucy has already offered me the job, I just decided to come to down before my family arrived.”

“When did she do this?” His expression was hard to read, the slight shake of his head the only indication that he was annoyed by his sibling’s action and clear distrust of his handling of the hotel.

“Two days ago.” His sigh further emphasised his annoyance. “She emailed through the contracts for me to sign after we negotiated a deal, as I am moving from another Lassiter’s branch little is needed in terms of a notice so I was to start as soon as possible.”

“She had no right doing that, this is my hotel and I decide who works here.” Clearly he didn’t like being blindsided or relinquishing control. “And now you have wasted my time when I could have been in meetings.”

His reaction was a little rude, but the defensive immediate reaction to any challenge was all to familiar to her. “Your time wasn’t wasted, I got to see if we would work well together and how you run the hotel Paul.” She reassured, attempting to soothe his annoyance and mildly bruised ego. “This interview will help me have a fast transition to my position here since I already know how we can work together to bring the hotel back up to five stars.”

He smiled slightly, suggesting he had calmed down a little – at least with her, she was sure his sister was still going to get an earful for undermining his authority.

“I suppose so.” He huffed, moving to stand. “As you have the job, why don’t I show you where you will be living since I had the property refurbished for the new manager?”

She grinned, standing up to join him. “I’d like that, should I follow you in my car then?”

“No, it’s not too far but it’d make sense if we went in the same car. We’re going to the same place, and we have to come back here after to sign the housing and management contracts so I have my own copies.”

“That makes perfect sense, lead the way.”

The short drive over to Ramsey street was a little awkward, neither of them wanting to entertain small talk. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to get to know one another- Terese already knew they would make a good team and she had a feeling Paul did too. It was more that they had no need to feel the void with inane chatter, both content to leave the personal and business conversations for another day.

Arriving at the property, Paul began to show her around, explaining the changes that had been made in redecorating the house. “We left the house structurally as it is and just updated the décor so it’s a four bedroom property. There is an office downstairs that could be changed into another room if you needed it though.” He gestured to a room just off of the kitchen before showing her the upstairs.

“Yes, that’s fine. It’s just myself, my-” She began, cutting herself off as her phone began to ring. “Apologies, it’s my husband. I told him only to call me if it was urgent so I should take it.”

Accepting the call, Terese wandered away from Paul to find out what was going on. “Brad. What’s wrong, is everything okay?”

“Mummy.” A voice she didn’t expect, replied down the line. “Mummy, I know I shouldn’t use Dad’s phone but I missed you and I finished packing all my things so I have nothing to do.”

“Emily? Why do you have your dad’s phone?” Her anxiety at the call was not eased despite her youngest’s sweet tone, it was silly as there was no way Paul would know from a call he couldn’t even hear, but this was her secret. She had been scared to take the job for this reason, already she knew the man was too observant for his own good. “Emily, I miss you too darling. So much, but we will see each other tomorrow.”

“I know Mum.” She sighed. “But Imogen is doing homework and Dad is at the pool with Josh when he hasn’t even finished packing. I wanna play a game, I said chess but she said she had to do school stuff. And he forgot his phone so I called you on it cos I can’t phone you another way since Imogen won’t let me use hers.”

Terese knew full well Brad would have looked for it, but it was likely the child hid it in her pocket. She was too smart for her own good, knowing full well it was the only way she could chat to her Mum today. “I’m sorry to hear that sweetheart but I’m with my new boss.” She began sadly, trying not to upset her child. “I’ll ring you when I finish, I promise. You can tell me all about your last day at school and what you’ve been up to since. Okay, talk later. I love you darling.”

Hanging up the phone, Terese walked back over to Paul, knowing he had most definitely heard her half of the conversation for definite. “Sorry about that, my youngest apparently took my husband’s phone as she missed me. Definitely not an emergency, so shall we continue with the tour.”

“Of course.” Showing her the rest of the house, curiosity got the better of Paul so he could better know what to expect from his new employee. “So, how old is your daughter?”

“Oh Emily? She’s 7.” She smiled warmly. “The baby of the family, especially since my other children 15 and 17. Mind you, sometimes you’d think she’s older with some of the things she comes out with.” Terese laughed slightly, hoping he just assumed she and Brad had just had an accidental last child. She assumed he would since there was no other sign of recognition in their meeting that he remembered her. That he remembered that night.

“Quite an age.” He remarked. “And you are sure you have the time and what it takes to manage Lassiters?” He smirked, stopping at the bottom of the stairs.

“As I said earlier, you won’t know what you did without me. Don’t see my children as a weakness, I know how to balance being a mother and running a business Paul.” His instant worry purely about her abilities should have annoyed her, but instead it was a reassurance. He didn’t remember that night all those years ago. He had no idea.

She had left the room in the early hours of the morning, riddled with guilt and vowing to herself that it was a mistake. She and Brad had been going through some issues, it wasn’t an excuse but she had left for the conference feeling hurt due to him kissing Beth when he was visiting Ned. Then she met Paul. They had sparred at the welcome drinks mixer, attending similar talks and exchanging strategies of how they ran their respective Lassiters branches. The talk ran into the evening, even more drinks flowing as business talk became flirtatious comments and lingering looks. She had assumed she could leave that one night of weakness in the past, him sleeping deeply as she made a hasty exit, foregoing the final breakfast. How foolish she had been, nine months later and she had one last memento. A little girl who bore an uncanny resemblance to her mother. Almost a carbon copy if it wasn’t for the eyes. Those were all him. A Robinson green she hoped no one would notice. That was Emily.

Chapter Text

Things had been frantic around the complex since the eclipse occurred only hours before, it was almost as if the moment had created a shift in the air of Lassiters. A worried call from Kate had informed him that Lucas and Vanessa’s son was missing, something else was off in her tone though, and he was certain it wasn’t missing child causing it. He didn’t think it could be because of Mason as she’d seemed just as impressed as he was with him landing a sale of one of the new appartements, they’d seemed fine when he’d left them to enjoy the eclipse at least. She’d tell him later, or at least she would work through whatever it was on her own. In the mean time, he had a hotel to run and with some staff excused to help the search, that hotel needed his watchful eye more than ever.

The Eclipse appartements seemed to finally be taking off, proving to both Lucy and his new manager that the construction needed for them was only a short term loss for the hotel. In turn they would create a reliable stream of revenue that would only add to the appeal of the Lassiters brand in the long run, but clearly only he could see that currently. Almost as if he had the power of manifestation through thought, said manager exited Harolds across the complex. Paul was almost sure from his vantage point that she couldn’t see him so chose to observe her from afar. It appeared already that Terese had fast become a part of Ramsey street, armed with what looked to be leaflets aiding the search and, was that her husband? Paul couldn’t be sure as he hadn’t seen Brad in years but it had to be likely considering how close the two appeared to be in conversation.
Even from here he could see her body language was much more open with him than it was in the meeting they had shared earlier that week, much less closed off and guarded. That guard frustrated him to no end; in their meeting she had been fairly obtuse and virtually impossible to read, only becoming ever so slightly vulnerable by the surprise call from her child. Even then the professional mask slipped ever so slightly for a moment, carefully put back into place by the time she had hung up the call. He had to hide his own surprise at the age gap between her two youngest children, although he did hope to use any guilt she had for not being there for the seven year old to his own advantage. Without a good read on her, he had to use any information he did actually have to outmanoeuvre her and gain the upper hand.

All he had was that currently since any mention of their previous meeting years ago put himself in a more vulnerable position as it would indicate to her that he did remember their evening together. Business could be mixed with pleasure, but only in ways that benefitted himself and the game they were playing. Indicating to her that he remembered sharing drinks, flirtatious glances, a night of pleasure would not do – especially since he also remembered waking up alone with her scent and scratch marks on his back acting as the only indication that the events hadn’t been a dream. No. He would stir up drama between her and Lauren and win the game he was starting against her. Neither task involving stirring up any feelings he had harboured for her in the past.

Pulled out of his thoughts, he shook his head frowning at an irritating hand waving a flyer in front of his face.

“Excuse me sir. Scuse me, have you seen this lady and this baby?” She seemed oddly familiar, even though Paul was sure he had never met the child before.

“No, I haven’t and if I had I would go to the police. Not a little girl.” He frowned, taking the leaflet from her hand so she’d stop holding it in his face. “Shouldn’t you be with your parents anyway? There’s already one missing child, we don’t need another in the area.”

“They know I’m here, and they are too.” She replied as if there couldn’t be a more obvious statement. “I’m not lost cos they’re at that café, they can see me I think.”

“Emily Helen Willis!” Paul sighed at the voice that rang out across the complex. That was why the girl looked so familiar, coming quickly into view were his new manager and Brad Willis. “What do you think you were doing walking off like that young lady!”

“I wasn’t far, you and dad were doing boring adult things.” She tried to argue, looking for any way she might not end up in trouble. “I was just trying to help find the baby, and I wasn’t alone. I had an adult with me like you say to have.” Gesturing to Paul, waving her arms to make her indication clear.
“Okay, I know this place is new and you want to explore, but you can’t walk off like that.” Brad’s tone was testing Paul’s ability to refrain form rolling his eyes, he wasn’t going to even discipline the child?

“No, no Brad. We can’t let this slide.” Terese sighed, glaring at her husband.

“When we say that Emily, you know we mean for you to be with an adult you know and not just a random person you have found on the street. It’s not safe.” Her tone gave no room for arguments, unlike her husband’s. “I know you want to help, but you can’t just walk off like that. Wait for us. Now we will continue this when we get home.”

Paul had to smirk slightly at the scene, now they were together there was no denying who the little girl’s mum was. She was a carbon copy of Terese, right from the light brown locks to the fiery temperament. He loathed to admit that Lucy’s choice for the new manager was a perfect fit, but in the interview she was determined to prove she could bring Lassiter’s back up to standard and Emily coming over to him to ask him about the missing child only mirrored that attitude.

“Now apologise to Mr Robinson for disturbing him as I am sure he is very busy.” He could tell the dig of her comment was aimed both towards her daughter and him, clearly she thought he should be doing more.

“Sorry Mr Robinson, next time I won’t try to find a missing baby by giving you a poster.” Her tone held some sincerity, even if she did seem to use the statement to argue with her parents once more. Smart kid.

“It’s fine.” He cleared his throat, sensing that Brad was itching to get away from him, or more likely Matt Turner who was currently glaring at him as he walked across the complex and back to the police station.

“See you on Monday Terese, bye.” He nodded once more, turning to head back into the hotel.

“See you then Paul.” Terese replied, taking her daughter’s hand.

“Bye Paul, see you soon.” Emily’s voice mimicked her mother’s, clearly not phased by the telling off she would no doubt receive when she got home.

Waiting for the elevator, Paul shook his head once more, trying to make some sense of the interaction he’d just had. Not one to have anything to do with most of the Ramsey street residents, Paul had little to do with the families, especially their children. The interaction he’d had with the younger Willis had been amusing though, clearly she was a child who caused much grief and mischief for her parents. It was uncanny how much she was like Terese, favouring her much more than any passing resemblance she had to Brad. Some of the mannerisms too reminded him of his own daughter, even if he hadn’t been around much at all when the triplets were her age. Maybe he’d see if she was free later for a call after he’d spoken to Lucy to let her know about Terese’s arrival.