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Light and Shade

Guest Red Ranger 1

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The relationship you've all been waiting for!Oh.You weren't all waiting for it?Okay.

Story Title: Light and Shade

Type of story: Short/Medium fiction

Main Characters: Geoff, Belle, Aden, Nicole, Annie.

BTTB rating: T/A

Genre: Romance

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: Violence: Mild.Sexual content: Moderate.Language: None.

Summary: Aden and Belle are dating and inevitably Geoff disapproves.But is there another reason for his attitude?


“Geoff, have you finished with that?”

For a moment, Geoff wondered what Annie was talking about.Then he realised he still had the cereal packet in his hand, even though he’d finished pouring some time ago.“Er, yeah, sorry, there you are.”

Annie took the packet from him but didn’t show any interest in getting on with her breakfast.Instead she just gave him a quizzical look.“Are you…worried about something?”

“No, just thinking, that’s all.Wondering why people do the things they do.Make the choices they make. Why some guys seem to come out on top whatever they do.”

Annie thought about this for a moment.“Bit deep for me.”

Belle came out of her room and glanced over at the table.“That toast free?”When neither Geoff nor Annie claimed it, she pulled it out of the rack and took a bite.

“Aren’t you going to sit and eat with us?”Annie asked.

“No, I’m due down at the Diner first thing.I’m meeting Aden for breakfast first.”

Geoff snorted at that, drawing the two girls’ attention.It was then that Annie realised that he hadn’t looked at Belle since she’d come in.He had, in fact, been purposefully avoiding doing so, staring in the opposite direction even though there didn’t appear to be anything there.

“You want to make some comment, Geoff?”Belle asked testily.

Geoff still didn’t look at her, staring down at the contents of his bowl instead.“No.Not up to me who you have breakfast with.”

“You’re right.It isn’t.So maybe in future you could keep your…grunts to yourself.See you later, Annie.” She headed out the door.

Annie waited until she was out of earshot before turning her attention back to Geoff.“Is that what you were going on about before?Belle and Aden?”

Geoff had a look of confused hurt on his face.“Why him, Annie?Of all the boys in this town, why’d she have to pick him?”

“I don’t like him either but it’s Belle’s choice.We shouldn’t be horrible to her just because we don’t agree.”

“And if he hurts her?And we just stood by and did nothing?What sort of friends would that make us?”

“Geoff, if you start telling her how to run her life, she’ll just tell you to mind your own business.”

“Maybe but I’ve got to try.I can’t just ignore the fact that she’s making a mistake.”

Aden was already down on the beach as Belle hurried up.“Hey,”he greeted her,“I wasn’t sure if you were coming.”

She took his hand and kissed him.“Course I was,”she teased him,“Just had to navigate my way past my disapproving housemates first.”

“The God Squad giving you a hard time?”

“Well, Geoff anyway.Annie probably thinks the same but she’s keeping it to herself.”

“Is this about me?”Aden looked concerned.“Do you want me to have a word with him?”

“Would that word be something along the lines of ‘Be nice to my girlfriend or I’ll knock your block off’?”

Aden grinned sheepishly.“Yeah, probably.”

“Then I think it’s probably a good idea if you don’t.Don’t worry, I’ve got used to handling Geoff.He’s actually quite sweet once you get him to stop moralising.”

“I’ll take your word for it.Anyway, why are we wasting time talking about Geoff?”He leaned in and kissed her.

Belle went with the flow for a while before stepping back half-heartedly.“If we do this for much longer, we won’t have much time for breakfast before you need to get to school.”

“I can make that sacrifice,”he replied, kissing her again.

And from the headland above them, Geoff looked on.And glowered.

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Wow, I don't think I've ever had that many responses to a first chapter.Welcome aboard, everyone, and, er, hope you stick around...


They had finally made it to the Diner and their breakfast but they hadn’t left themselves a lot of time and before long Aden was glancing at his watch in irritation.“Okay, either I go now or I get a week’s detention. Shall I see you in here at lunch time?”

“Well, you can come in but I’m not sure I’ll be able to take a break.It’s kind of our busiest time.”

“Okay.I’ll just sit and watch you work then.”He got to his feet and gave her a quick goodbye kiss.

Belle’s eyes flickered past him to one of the other tables, where Geoff had just got up and was heading for the exit.She suddenly remembered that he had already been eating when she left home, so he couldn’t have been there to have breakfast.She had an awkward feeling he had gone there purely to keep tabs on them.

Aden followed her gaze and seemed to come to the same conclusion.“Was he watching us?”

“I…I don’t know.I think he might have been.”

“Okay, I know you said you didn’t want me to knock his block off but…”

“No, Aden, if you start getting heavy with him it’ll just make him all the more stubborn.Let me handle it. I’ll have a word with him.”



Aden looked confused.“I thought you said you’d be working.”

“I would.If I didn’t have a gorgeous and considerate boyfriend who’d be willing to stand in for me.”

Annie noticed Geoff coming through the school gates mere minutes before the bell went and hurried over to him.“Where have you been?You left ages before me!”

“I went to the Diner.I wanted to keep an eye on Belle and Aden.”

“Keep an eye on them?Why?”

“In case he…”Geoff broke off.In truth, he wasn’t sure what he had thought might happen.He’d just felt it would have been better if he’d been there.

“In case he what?”Annie demanded,“Stole one of her chips?”

“Okay, now you’re just being silly.”

“I’m not the one who’s practically stalking them.Aden wouldn’t be my first choice of boyfriend for her but I don’t think he’d actually hurt Belle, at least, not like that.And he wouldn’t do it in the Diner in front of everyone anyway.”

“I’m…I’m not saying he’d be violent towards her or anything, I just…”Geoff sighed.“Look, Annie, he’s Aden.That’s a good reason for keeping an eye on him.”

As he stormed off, Annie looked after him in exasperation.“She won’t thank you for it, Geoff.”

Belle had made it back home in good time and was already there waiting when Geoff came in.He stopped, looking embarrassed to see her there.“I…thought you were working.”

“I was.Aden’s covering for me.”

Geoff nodded, trying to keep the disapproval off his face.“I was going to make myself a sandwich.Did you want one?”

“No, what I want is to know why you were following me.”

“Following you?”He laughed nervously.“I wasn’t following you.”

“You followed me to the Diner this morning.You were watching me and Aden.What is this, some protective brother kick?’Cos I’m telling you, save it for Annie, ’cos I really don’t need it.”

Geoff abandoned his pretence.“He’s not right for you, Belle.”

“And since when did I have to ask your permission to date someone?”

“Come off it, Belle, it’s not just someone.It’s Aden.”

“Look, what has he done to make you dislike him so much?”

“Well, locking me in the boot of a car for a start.”

Belle had forgotten about the incident and for a moment felt embarrassed.“That was a long time ago.”

“Not that long.And what about what he did to Axel?I hated the guy as well but what sort of person treats another human being like that?”

“Look, you’re just going to have to accept that there’s a lot about Aden that I know and you don’t and I’m telling you to trust me when I tell you that underneath the temper and the bravado he’s actually a really nice guy.”

“And I’m just supposed to take your word for it?”

Belle could feel herself beginning to lose her temper.“Dammit, Geoff, you’re not even trying to understand, are you?Why can’t you just accept that I know what I’m doing and…”

And then he kissed her.

Belle was so taken aback that she didn’t react at all.She just stood there, stock still, feeling his lips pressing against hers.And then, before she could work out what she was going to say, he was out the door.

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Geoff slowed to a walking pace once he was a far enough distance from the beach house, his mind wiring. He’d kissed Belle.Why had he done that?It wasn’t something he’d planned or even thought about, it had just somehow…happened.He’d never looked at Belle like that.He supposed she was pretty, in a grungey sort of way, but she was like a sort of big sister to him.So why had he done it?

He cast his mind back to the conversation.Belle had been going on about Aden as usual, about what a great boyfriend he was.It always frustrated Geoff when she couldn’t see what he was really like.That must have been why he’d kissed her, to shut her up, to stop her going on about Aden.He nodded his head decisively.That was it.The only thing that made sense.

After all, it couldn’t have been for any other reason…

When Belle arrived back at the Diner, she was feeling even more uncertain than before she’d spoken to Geoff.She had thought she had known what it was about, that it was just Geoff being his usual narrow-minded self, insisting that he knew what was best for everyone.She supposed it was rather sweet in a way that he wanted to protect her but she had been sure it was a simple matter of convincing him to stay out of things.But then the kiss…That had been something she definitely hadn’t been expecting.

She noticed Aden behind the counter, still covering her shift, still giving her the time to talk to Geoff and still completely oblivious as to what had happened.Which she supposed was just as well.He was likely to handle the situation even worse than she was.

He noticed her and breathed a sigh of relief.“Oh, there you are.I was beginning to worry, I need to head back in a bit.After having had no time to have my own lunch, of course.”

Belle felt guilty.She’d asked Aden to do her a favour but she’d been longer than she planned, too lost in her own thoughts to think about him.“Sorry, I…I can make you something quickly if you like.”

“Nah, it’s okay.Did you get things sorted with Geoff?”

“Er…sort of.”

He looked at her, confused.“What do you mean, sort of?”

“Well, we talked but…we kind of left things up in the air.But at least it’s out in the open now.I’ll have another go at him tonight.”

“Does that mean I’m going to need to leave the two of you alone together then?”

“Nothing’s going to happen,”she protested abruptly.

Aden looked amused at the remark.“What does that mean?”

“I just mean that…I’ll just tell him what a fab and incredibly handsome boyfriend I’ve got and that he’s wasting his time if he wants me to ditch him ’cos that is something I’d never do.”

“Oh, right.So, just tell him the truth then.”

Belle grinned.“Just get out of here, mister.I’ll catch you later.”

By the time Belle’s shift was finished, Geoff was already at home.She found him sitting in the lounge. “Geoff, we need to talk.”

“Yeah?”He looked somewhat nervous.“Um, what about?”

“Well, about what we were talking about at lunchtime and about the fact that you…kissed me.”


Belle waited for him to say something else before finally realising he wasn’t going to.“So…why did you?”

“I…I don’t know.I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with wanting to kiss you, it’s just not something I’ve ever thought about.It was just a kind of spur of the moment thing.”

“So, your attitude towards Aden, that’s not some kind of jealousy thing?”

“No, no.”He sounded as though he was trying to convince someone, although she wasn’t sure whether it was her or himself.“Look, Belle, I just want you to be happy and I really don’t think Aden can make you happy.”

“But he does, Geoff.”

“Yeah, but how long for?”

“Geoff, that’s my lookout.You can’t just go around trying to live other people’s lives.Even if going out with Aden is a mistake, and I don’t think it is, it’s my mistake to make.”

“Yeah.Yeah, I can see that.And I’m sorry about, you know, the kiss and everything.I didn’t mean to offend you or anything.”

Belle found herself smiling, despite herself.No matter how self-righteous Geoff could be at times, somehow she found it hard to stay angry with him.“It…it wasn’t entirely unpleasant.But I think we need to put it behind us now.Forget the whole thing ever happened.”

Geoff looked relieved.“Yeah.Thanks.And, Belle…I really do want you to be happy.”

“Even if it’s with Aden?”

He sighed.“Even if it’s with Aden.”

Belle smiled, pleased that things were all right between them.But there was still one niggling worry at the back of her mind.What exactly would happen if Aden found out.

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Well, for everyone who wanted this, hope it doesn't disappoint...


Aden grinned at Belle across the counter.“I’ve gotta say, your coffee pouring skills have definitely improved.”

Belle gave him a long-suffering look.“Haven’t you got anything better to do than hang around here watching me slave away?”

“Nope.Haven’t got any work to do for school so…”

“Well, what about coming round here and giving me a hand?”

Aden checked his watch.“Still got half an hour before my shift starts.Plenty of time for Belle-watching.”

“I’ll try and put on a decent show for you.”She noticed Geoff getting up from his seat at the other end of the Diner and nodded a farewell to him.He gave her a polite smile in return as he left.

Aden saw the exchange.“So, things are definitely sorted between you two now?”

“Yeah, we had a chat and he saw my point of view.”

“So, he agrees that I’m a fabulous guy and you’re really lucky to have me?”

“Umm, more like he agrees that I’m a grown up and he needs to butt out of my affairs.”

“Guess I can settle for that.What made him come round?”

“I think he was just embarrassed by…”She broke off, realising she’d said too much.

“Embarrassed by what?”

“Oh, you know, just by the way he’d been behaving.He realised he was being childish.”

“That’s not what you were going to say.”

Belle was finding it hard to meet his gaze.“Yeah, it was.”She decided this would be a good time to get back to serving people and headed towards one of the tables.

Aden caught her arm and turned her to face him.“Belle.What were you going to say?”There was a dangerous look in his eyes, one that told her that lying to him wasn’t a good idea.

“He…he kissed me, okay?It was just one stupid moment that didn’t mean anything…”

“Lunchtime yesterday.When you went to talk to him.That’s when he…are we talking a peck on the cheek here or him sticking his tongue down your throat?”

“Sort of…something in between.Look, Aden, it doesn’t matter…”But before she could finish the sentence he had stormed out the door.“Aden!”she called, hurrying after him.


Geoff was making his way home along the beach when he heard the voice behind him.He stopped and turned to see Aden running towards him.“What’s up?”he asked.

Aden didn’t stop running.He came right up to him and shoved him.“You want to tell me about you cracking on to my girlfriend?”

“What?Aden, it wasn’t like that.It was just one kiss.I didn’t mean anything by it.”

“Oh, what, and you usually go around kissing people that are unavailable and saying it doesn’t mean anything, do you?”

“Look, it was between Belle and me, we sorted it, it’s over.Why are you getting so worked up about it?”

“Oh, let me see, ’cos you fancy my girlfriend!All this time I thought it was me you had a problem with but it’s not that, is it?You just want her for yourself.”

“I don’t…I mean, okay, she’s…Look, Aden, you don’t have anything to worry about.”

“Who says I’m worried?”

“Well, you felt the need to come storming over here.”

“I’m telling you to back off.”

“She’s already said that and I’ve agreed.We don’t need you involved.See, this is why I don’t think she should go out with you.You’re not happy unless you’re pushing someone around, trying to make yourself feel big.When really you’re so insecure that all it takes is one kiss for you to feel threatened.”

Neither of them really saw the punch coming.Aden didn’t even realise he was going to do it until his fist was connecting with the side of Geoff’s temple.And Geoff certainly wasn’t expecting it, since it left him flat on his back.

“I am so sick of you people judging me,”Aden snarled,“You know nothing about me.Get back to your own poor, pathetic life and leave me and Belle alone!”

Geoff was angry as well now, as he clambered to his feet.His fists were balled like Aden’s and it looked as though they were about to exchange blows.

“Aden!Geoff!Stop it!”Belle had finally caught up with the pair and ran in between them.“Stop this right now.Both of you, turn and walk away in opposite directions.”

She was relieved when they did as she said.Only then she realised she had no idea what she was going to do.Just stand there and watch them both disappear into the distance?But if she went with one of them, what would that mean?If she went with Geoff, she knew Aden would see that as a rejection and she’d have a hard time convincing him otherwise.But…Aden had just hit Geoff.And if she went with him, it would seem like she was condoning it.

Belle had moved before she even knew she’d made the decision, taking his arm.“Okay, Geoff, let’s get you cleaned up.”

And as they walked back to the house, she tried to ignore Aden’s gaze burning into her back.

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Thanks to everyone that's reading this.Hopefully you'll continue to do so...


Aden threw his bag down on the living room table, quietly seething.He looked around the empty house. With his dad gone, he’d taken the decision to move back into the old family home, partly to give himself some independence, partly so he and Belle would have somewhere to be alone.But at times like this he really wished he still had Roman around to talk to.Even Nicole would have been better than nothing.Not that he would have got much joy from either of them at the moment:Roman would probably think he was in the wrong, while Nicole would either have a go at him or tell him what he wanted to hear, depending on her mood.

He just couldn’t believe it had happened.He was having a hard enough time getting his head around the fact that Geoff had kissed Belle but for her to then side with him, to go off with him like that, leaving him standing around like a fool…Belle should be on his side, not turning her back on him.That was the way it was supposed to be.

He sat there and let the bitterness fester.

The single punch from his altercation with Aden had left Geoff with a nasty gash above his eye, so Belle had sat him at the table while she went to get some medical supplies from the bathroom.When she came back, she had a bowl of warm water and some cotton wool.“I hope you realise I don’t give everyone this attention.”

“How come I’m getting it?”

In truth, Belle wasn’t sure.She’d come to the decision without thinking.So she gave the obvious answer. “’Cos Aden was out of order and what you’d done didn’t deserve this.Now hold still.”She wetted the cotton wool and began dabbing at the cut.

“Belle…I am sorry about everything.”

“I know you are.If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”

“The way I was acting before, I honestly thought I was doing what was right for you.You really like him, don’t you?”

“This would be a lot easier if you stopped talking,”she complained, as she continued trying to clean his cut.Then she sighed.“Yeah, I like him.”

“And he obviously likes you, otherwise my face wouldn’t look like this.”

“Hmm.I can probably do without someone liking me that much.But yeah, he can be quite sweet when he tries to be.I just wish he’d try more often sometimes.”

“And I am sorry about the kiss, I…”

She leaned closer and kissed him, once more feeling his lips against hers as, for a brief moment, he responded.As they parted, she looked at him evenly.“Now we’re even.Okay?Say no more about it.”

“Okay.”He had a grin on his face which didn’t exactly tie in with his claim not to be attracted to her.She’d felt a bit of a spark herself for that matter…She pushed the thought out of her head.Things were complicated enough as it was.

“What about Aden?”he asked after a pause.

She sighed.“Don’t worry.I can handle him.”

Handling Aden hadn’t been as easy as Belle had thought.She’d gone along to the Diner first thing, dragging Geoff and Annie along for moral support.As she’d expected, Aden was there.But he was sitting at the counter with Nicole, studiously ignoring all her attempts to catch his attention.

“I don’t know why you want to make things up with him anyway,”Annie complained as she tucked into her breakfast,“I mean, have you seen what he did to Geoff?”

Geoff was now sporting a plaster over his cut eye.“It’s okay, Annie, I was kind of asking for it.”

“Why?What did you do?”

Geoff glanced at Belle, remembering their agreement.“I…I was just winding him up, okay?Look, trust me, Aden had his reasons.”

Belle got slowly to her feet.“Wish me luck.”She headed over to the counter, feeling somewhat nervous. “Aden?”

Aden didn’t look at her, turning to Nicole instead.“Did you hear something?”

Belle felt hurt.She knew she’d upset him but he didn’t have to treat her like that.“Aden, come on, this is stupid.”

“Why can’t you leave him alone?”Nicole complained,“Can’t you see he doesn’t want to talk to you?”

“Why can’t you stay out of it?”Belle fired back.

Aden turned to her at last.“All right, Belle, what is it you want to talk about?The fact that you left me for your loser friend over there?”

“I didn’t leave you for him, you…you hit him.I couldn’t just let you…”

“I did it for you,”he insisted,“You told me he kissed you, remember?”

Belle noticed Nicole having a fit of giggles at that and wished Aden had kept quiet.“Yes, Aden, he kissed me.I didn’t want him to and I wish he hadn’t but come on.It was hardly the crime of the century.”She decided against mentioning that she’d kissed him as well.She didn’t think it would go down too well.

“You were the one person, Belle,”he insisted,“The one person that I thought I could trust, that I could count on to be on my side.But you’re just like the rest.‘That Aden’s a troublemaker, don’t go near him.’So just go back to your little God-bothering friends and leave the grown-ups in peace.”

“Grown-ups?That’s a laugh, Aden.Any time you want to start behaving like a grown-up let me know.I’ll organise a celebratory parade.”The look on his face told her she’d gone too far.“Aden, I’m sor…”

But he’d already gone, Nicole following him.Belle sighed.It was looking as though making up with Aden might not be possible after all.

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Sorry, everyone.When I first came up with this idea two-thirds of the stories on here had Aden and Belle as a couple so I thought their fans were well catered for.I didn't realise a month on I'd be seen as an oasis in a desert of misery.Who turned out to be a mirage.


Belle hung around outside the school gates, checking her watch.There were times when she wondered why she bothered.It had been a week now since she and Aden had broken up, a week in which she had made numerous overtures towards him, all of them rejected.But still she was here, trying.She noticed his familiar face among the crowd pouring out of the school.She wasn’t sure if he saw her or not but, either way, he was soon walking in the opposite direction.

“Aden!”she called, running after him,“Aden, wait up!”

He stopped and turned, which was more than she got sometimes.“What do you want, Belle?”

“What do you think?To talk.”

“What’s the point?We talk, we argue, we get nowhere.It’s over, Belle.I’ve accepted it.Time for you to do the same.”

“Except I never wanted to break up with you, Aden, and I don’t think you did either.We had an argument but we can get past it.”

“Come off it, Belle, I was always just a stopgap until something better came along.Your little bit of sympathy dating, seeing if you could coax Big Bad Aden out of his shell.Well you’ve got Bible Boy following you around now, so you don’t need me.And I certainly don’t need you.”

“Aden, that’s not true…”Belle stopped, seeing she wasn’t getting through to him, her frustrations boiling over.“Fine, Aden.You don’t want us to get back together so we won’t.But I am through humiliating myself, pleading with you to take me back.Have a nice life.”

As she stomped off down the street, Aden watched her and, for the first time, he felt a pang of something. She had only said what he’d been saying all along but hearing it from her made it seem so…final.And suddenly he was overcome with a deep desire to run after, to tell her he was sorry and he did want her back.

But then he realised there was something else he could do, which would work out a lot better for him.

By the time he reached home, Aden was convinced his idea was right.Just another day and Belle would be back with him.He smiled as he settled back on the couch.

“You took your time.”He looked round in surprise at the feminine voice and saw Nicole coming through from the kitchen, a glass of lemonade in hand.“I was beginning to wonder.”

He gaped at her in astonishment.“Okay, correct me if I’m wrong but…you don’t live here.”

“No.You do.So I came round to see you.”

“And what, you just let yourself in and helped yourself to the drinks cabinet?”

“Well, what did you expect me to do?Hang around on the doorstep until you deigned to show yourself? That might be Belle’s thing but me?I’ve got standards.”

He sighed.“Was there anything you actually wanted, Nicole?”

“At a bit of a loose end, wondered if you wanted to go and see a movie.”

“I don’t think Belle would like that.”

Nicole looked annoyed.“What’s Belle got to do with it?”

“I’m going to get back with her.”

Nicole picked up on the tense he’d used.“Going to?So you haven’t already?”

“I’m not gonna go round there, begging her to take me back.I’ll pop in to the Diner tomorrow, casually bump into her, she’ll probably bring up the subject of us getting back together and then I can gracefully forgive her and everyone’ll think I’m the good guy.”

“Game playing?”Nicole shook her head.“Need to be careful, Aden.Girls don’t really like that.”

It was already getting dark when Geoff got home.He’d been having dinner with Irene and Annie at the Diner and left them to clear up.Belle was sitting on the couch, methodically devouring the contents of a plastic tray.“What you got there?”he asked her.

“Chocolate.The last refuge of the single and heartbroken.”

He sat down beside her.“Can I have one?”

“Are you heartbroken?”

“Well…I’m single.”

She considered this for a moment, then passed him the tray.

“So, you still haven’t got back with Aden?”he asked, as he popped one of the chocolates into his mouth.


He sighed.“Sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, Geoff.If it hadn’t been you, it would have been something else.It always is.That’s the trouble really.Half the time it’s great, the other half we’re at each other’s throats.”

“You sound like you’ve given up.”

“Well, he’s not going to take me back so I haven’t got any other choice really.”

“I…I guess I should say I’m sorry.I mean, I know I wasn’t that keen on the two of you but I didn’t want you to be miserable like this.”

Belle looked at him.The problems with Aden had sprung up because he’d behaved badly but he’d been so kind and supportive the last few days that she’d virtually forgotten about it.“Thanks, Geoff.”And then she kissed him.

Geoff looked at her, stunned.“That…that wasn’t us being even, was it?”

“No.No, it wasn’t.”

“So it was…‘Thank you’?”

“No, actually I think it was ‘I like you.’”

“Like me as a friend or as a brother..?”

“Geoff, I wouldn’t kiss a brother like that.”

“No, I guess not.”

“I think that was…I like you like you.”

“Like me as in…we’re going to do that again?”

She didn’t say anything to that.She showed him instead.

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Well, if you hated that chapter...you'll positively loathe this one.

I'm beginning to think we need a new rating."Not suitable for Adelle fans."


When Geoff emerged for breakfast the next morning, he wasn’t sure what to expect.Irene and Annie had come home shortly after he and Belle kissed and they hadn’t really had a chance to talk.He knew what she’d said but she couldn’t really like him, could she?He really didn’t seem like her usual type.For that matter, he didn’t think she was the type of girl he’d normally go for but yet somehow he found himself being increasingly drawn to her.

He looked round and saw her emerging from her room as well.“Hi,”he greeted her, nervously.

“Hi,”she responded.She had an amused look on her face.“Is there something on your mind?”

“Well, last night, we…”He floundered around for the word.

“Pashed?”she suggested playfully.

“Well, yeah.So was that some sort of one-off or..?”

“Or are we on together?”She moved closer and kissed him.“What do you think?”

“Um, can you do that again while I try and work it out?”

As they kissed again, they heard a shocked voice from the direction of the stairs.“Geoff!Belle!”They sprang apart and turned round to see Annie standing there.“What are you doing?!”

Aden examined his reflection in the mirror.No stubble, hair just right, clothes…school uniform but that couldn’t be helped.At least he could pull it off.Perfect boyfriend material, even if he did say so himself. Seriously, how could Belle resist?

Annie had listened to the pair’s explanations and was now looking from one to the other curiously.“So… she’s your girlfriend?”

Geoff looked at Belle.He had a feeling that neither of them had ever expected to hear that question directed at them.“Yeah, I guess she is.”

“And what about Aden?”

“We’ve broken up,”Belle assured her,“I mean, really broken up.For good.We’ve both decided on it.”

“And you’re sure this isn’t some sort of…rebound relationship?”

Belle glanced at Geoff and sighed.“I don’t know but I know I like Geoff and I think he likes me.”

“I do,”Geoff confirmed.

“I guess we’ll just have to see what happens.”

Annie nodded, considering all this.“So…why were you keeping it all a secret?”

Geoff opened his mouth to answer then stopped and turned to Belle.“Why were we keeping it a secret?”

“I dunno, it just seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Aden hadn’t been able to catch up with Belle before school-for some reason she’d been late turning up at the Diner.So it was lunchtime before he finally got to put his plan into action.He could see her serving at the counter and quietly made his way over there.“Hey, Belle.”

“Oh, hey, Aden.”

He was expecting more but he didn’t get it.“What we were saying yesterday, about not wanting to get back together.Seems a bit silly this morning, huh?”

The look in Belle’s eyes wasn’t what he was expecting.There was surprise there but not in a happy way.It was the look someone might give if their numbers had come up on the lottery the one week they hadn’t bought a ticket.“What…what do you mean?”

“Well, you wanted to get back together and I think it’s what I want as well so…what do you say we give it a go?”

Belle groaned inwardly.If he’d said this just twenty-four hours ago, things would have been so different. But now…“Aden, it…it’s too late.I’m with Geoff now.”

It was the last thing Aden had expected to hear.“What do you mean, you’re with him?”

“I mean…we’re going out together.”

“So…so all that stuff about you not wanting him to kiss you, all that stuff that I punched him for-that was all a lie?You wanted him all along?”

“No, I…I wasn’t interested in him then but…he was there for me, Aden.When you weren’t.”

“And who was there for me, hey?When you were off playing footsies with Bible Boy.Where were you when I needed you?”He waved his hand dismissively.“Forget it, Belle.We were right yesterday.I wouldn’t get back with you if my life depended on it.”

Aden was still angry when he got back to school.How could she have done that to him?He’d put himself on the line with her so many times yet she’d rejected him.Gone off with Geoff of all people.How could he have been so stupid, putting all his trust in her?

He shook his head.If Belle wanted it to be over, if she’d moved on, then that was fine with him.He wasn’t going to sit around pining.He could see Nicole at the other end of the corridor.Thinking about it, her offer of a movie the previous evening didn’t seem like that of a friend.Maybe there was something there.Plus he knew Geoff liked her, so there was the added bonus of winding him up.

“How’s it going?”he asked.

“Oh, yeah, fine,”Nicole replied,“How’s the big plan to win back Belle going?”

“Decided to blow it out.Who needs her?She only gives me grief.Especially when there’s something better standing right in front of me.”

He could tell from her expression that he’d guessed right.“You finally noticed.”

“That movie offer.You want to make it tonight?”

“I guess I could be persuaded.”

He leaned in closer and spoke softly, his words for her alone.“In fact, how about we forget about school this afternoon and find something more interesting to do instead?”

He kissed her as he pushed her through her front door.She looked around in mild concern.“What if my dad’s home?”

Aden raised his voice.“Roman?You home?”

Nicole punched his arm, annoyed.“Aden!Suppose he’d answered?”

“He’s always at the Diner this time.Anyway, I’d just have said we were doing homework.”

“Oh, right, homework that involves you standing here with your arms round me.”

“Best kind.”

“Why couldn’t we just have gone to your place?”

“Because yours is nearer and I really don’t think I can wait much longer.”He kissed her again before dragging her upstairs.

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“These shoes are killing me.Why the uniform in this place has to be so restrictive I don’t know.I mean, would it kill Bartlett to stretch things to a nice designer pair?It’s like we’re living in a police state.”

As he often did when Nicole was speaking, Aden was tuning out most of the conversation.He noticed she appeared to have paused, either because she needed to breathe or because she was expecting an answer. “Oh.Yeah.I agree totally,”he offered.

Nicole followed his gaze over to the school gate.Belle had walked in with Geoff and they were standing there, talking.“Oh, I see.The ex has turned up, has she?Checking to see if she’s looking at you?”

He grinned.“What say we give her something to look at?”

“Oh, I could be persuaded,”she agreed as he kissed her.

Belle glanced over at the pair, feeling annoyed.She could tell Aden was looking at her, seeing how she was reacting.She grabbed Geoff and kissed him.For a moment he looked pleased then he noticed where she was looking.“Was…was that for their benefit?”

Belle was surprised.He seemed almost offended.“Not…not entirely.You don’t usually mind me kissing you.”

“I want you to kiss me because you want to kiss me, not to prove a point.”

There were times when Geoff talked sanctimonious nonsense and it was best to ignore him.Unfortunately, Belle thought, there were also times, like now, when he said something she found hard to argue with.“I’m sorry, I do want to kiss you, I like kissing you, it’s just…”She glanced back at Aden and Nicole, who seemed to be only a couple of steps away from mating in the schoolyard.“Come on, that’s obviously meant for us to see.”

“Well, don’t rise to it.If they want to carry on like that, let them.”

“Don’t you mind the fact they’re going out?”

“They seem happy enough, I guess.If it’s what they want…”

“You’re not going to swoop in and rescue her like you did me?”

“The fist in the face kinda made me lose my taste for that.”He heard the school bell sound in the building. “I’d better get going.”

“Okay.Am I allowed to hug you in front of other people?”

He gave her a quick squeeze.“See you this evening.”

She watched him go…but despite herself, she couldn’t resist looking back at Aden and Nicole.

Aden saw the look on her face and smiled.Mission accomplished.Or at least half a mission.Geoff was being his usual unflappable, “turn the other cheek” self.What did it take to rile the guy?The only other way he knew was dating someone’s sister…and asking Annie out would probably get him arrested.

“Well, this has been fun,”Nicole noted, pulling his attention back to her,“But I have to get to class.”

“You gonna come round tonight?”

She gave him a quick kiss.“I’ll check my diary.”

Belle was in the middle of setting the table for dinner when Annie came home.“Belle, do you love my brother?”

Belle looked at her in a mixture of surprise and amusement.“It’s a bit early to be talking about love, Annie.I like him and I think he’s cute.Where’s all this come from?”

“It’s just…you got together with Geoff just after you’d split with Aden so if you change your mind and go back to him…”

“Well, I wasn’t planning to but…”

“You’ve kinda been like a sister to me but if you hurt Geoff…”Annie tailed off.

“Yes?”prompted Belle.

“Well…then I guess I won’t like you anymore.”

Belle smiled at her.“Well that gives me a good reason not to hurt him.Dinner’s going to be about an hour.”

“Okay.”Annie headed upstairs just as Geoff came in.

“What were you two talking about?”he asked.

Belle put her arms round his neck.“I think your little sister just warned me to be nice to you.”

“Oh.That was sweet of her.And kind of embarrassing.What did you tell her?”

She kissed him softly.“That she had nothing to worry about.”

Aden looked at Nicole sleeping next to him and wished that she was Belle.He didn’t like thinking it but, after everything he and Belle had been through together, he couldn’t help it.There was a bond there between them.Would it always be there?Would he always be comparing other girls to her, thinking that they fell short?He was trying to move on and he did like Nicole.Just not as much as he’d liked Belle.Maybe not even as much as he still did like her.But what could he do about that?She was with Geoff.That was that.

Or was it?Exactly how tight were Belle and Geoff?When she was with him, did she wish that he was Aden?Were those feelings they’d had for each other still there, despite everything?He didn’t know but he resolved to find out.He was going to keep a close eye on Belle, find out exactly how she felt, see if there was a way to win her back after all.And in the meantime…being with Nicole had its compensations.

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Geoff watched Belle coming out of the water and one thought went through his mind:Was she really his girlfriend?The whole thing had happened so fast it was surreal.She stopped in front of him.“Are you just going to lay there all day?”

“I’ll get wet later.For now I’m just…soaking up the sun.”

She grinned as she sat down beside him.“Better stay away from me then or you’ll be soaking in another sense.”

“Oh.I could be persuaded.”

She lay down, her body resting against his, and kissed him.Then she heard a voice from behind her.“Oh, sorry, are we interrupting?”

She looked round to see Aden and Nicole walking up the beach towards them.It was Aden who had spoken and his tone implied he wasn’t really sorry at all.

Geoff looked flustered.“What…what are you doing here?”

“Same as you, mate.Getting in a bit of beach action.”Aden wrapped his arm around Nicole’s waist even more tightly.

Belle smiled tartly.“I don’t ever recall you being against public displays of affection.”

“Maybe we should find our own spot?”Nicole suggested.Oddly, she seemed almost as uncomfortable about the situation as Belle and Geoff were.

Aden glanced at her and nodded.“Right.See you kids later.”

It wasn’t until they were out of view and she relaxed that Belle realised how tense she’d been.Geoff put her thoughts into words.“Wow.That was…awkward.”

Belle smiled and turned back to him.“Are you still against kissing when those two are around?”

“Well, would you want to kiss me if they weren’t around?”


“Then I guess that’s okay.”

Aden glanced back at the pair of them, their lips meeting, their arms around each other.He wanted to believe it was for his benefit but they didn’t even seem to be aware he was watching, too caught up in each other.And yet…he’d seen something, in Belle’s expression, in her eyes, when she’d looked at him.She’d felt something, he was sure of it.And that made him convinced that maybe he still had a chance of getting her back.

He realised Nicole was waiting for him.“Let’s go further along,”he said at last.

“Are you in a mood?”Nicole asked as they arrived back at the house.

Aden could have done without the question but did his best to be placating.“What do you mean?”

“Well, ever since we saw Belle and Geoff on the beach this morning, you’ve been sulking.”

Aden wondered how much of the truth she could handle.He couldn’t tell her the whole story, that it still hurt seeing the girl he was certain he was meant to be with acting like that with someone else.“Well, seriously,”he offered at last,“After having me, how could she go on to him?”

“You’ve got to admit, he is almost as hot as you.”

“Almost?”Aden grinned, slipping back into the persona of the flirtatious boyfriend,“I can remember when you thought he was hotter than me.”

“Yes, well…that was before I got a chance to examine you up close.After that?No contest.”She placed a hand on his chest and kissed him.

Yes, Aden thought, having Nicole as a stand-in girlfriend wasn’t the worst situation in the world.At least until he could work out what to do about Belle.“You going to stay the night?”

“You have to ask?”

Lying on a sofa, cosying up to Geoff, was pretty low on the list of things Belle would have expected to find herself doing a few weeks ago.Which was surprising, considering how comfortable it seemed.“I had a good day today,”she offered at last.

“Yeah, me too.”

“Doesn’t have to end yet.”She kissed him, softly at first but becoming more and more passionate.“Do you want to go through to my room?”

“We’re comfortable here, aren’t we?”

Belle wasn’t sure if he was feigning ignorance or really was that clueless, although she suspected the latter.“Yeah, but there are things we can do through there.I mean, I suppose we could do them here but I really wouldn’t want Irene or Annie coming home in the middle.”

“Oh!”Geoff’s eyes widened in surprise.“You mean you want to..?”

“Don’t you?”

“No, well, yes, I mean…I mean, we can wait, can’t we?Just until we’re sure.”

“Um, yeah, I guess so.”Belle hadn’t had many reactions like that.She and Aden had waited, for reasons that had eventually become clear to her, but this was different somehow, a conscious decision on Geoff’s part.As if he really did want sleeping with her to mean something, something that she hadn’t really considered.She supposed it was sweet in a way.

Just incredibly frustrating.

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Belle had had the early shift at the Diner, which meant getting up before seven.On the upside, it meant she was finished by the early afternoon.Aden had been on shift as well which had been awkward, he’d been shooting her those same looks that he had on the beach, the ones that could only be interpreted one way, that, despite everything, he was still interested in her.The ones that always stirred up mixed feelings.

She was making her way back home along the beach when he came running after her.“Belle!Belle, wait up!”

Despite not wanting the conversation, she stopped.“What do you want, Aden?”

He stopped, barely a foot away from her.“You know what I want.”

She shook her head.“This can’t happen.”

“It can if it’s what we both want.”

“And what about Geoff?And Nicole, for that matter?”

“Nicole’s fun to be around but she’s not you.No-one could ever come close to what we had.And are you seriously telling me you feel the same about Geoff as you feel about me?”

Felt about you, Aden.We broke up, remember?”Belle realised she was avoiding the question.“No, it’s not the same but that’s the way it works.You’re different people-very different people-so I feel differently about the two of you.It doesn’t mean that what Geoff and I have is worse than what we had.”

Aden took her hands.“I want you back, Belle.I don’t care what it takes, I want you back.”

“And I don’t have a say in it?”

“You can say whatever you like.”He leaned in closer.“You can tell me to stop.You can tell me you don’t want this.You won’t, though.”And he kissed her.

Neither of them saw Geoff.He had walked out from the house to meet Belle and arrived on the scene just in time to witness the kiss.He stopped dead, staring.He remembered the previous time he had seen them kissing on the beach, back when he had thought Belle was just a friend he was looking out for, before he realised what she meant to him.Back then he had been annoyed, bitter, now…he just felt an incredible emptiness inside him.He couldn’t lose her, not like this, not to Aden, he had to…he had to…He stopped walking and turned, heading back to the house, knowing that there was only one option left to him.He had to.

Completely unaware that they had been seen, Belle stopped, pushing Aden away.“Aden, no, stop.I can’t do this.”

“But you did do it.”

“Because…because I remember, what it was like.But this isn’t then.I’m with Geoff now, not you.”She shook her head in horror.“What am I doing?”

“What you want to.”

“No, no, this isn’t what I want.”She turned and walked away from him, as quickly as she could.

Geoff was waiting for her when she arrived back at the house.She did her best to erase the guilt from her face.He couldn’t know what she’d been doing.She tried to think of a suitable way to greet him, but before she could, he’d pulled her into his arms and kissed her.It was such an unGeoff thing to do that she was shocked.“That’s…a bit more spontaneous than usual.”

“I just wanted to welcome you home.”

“Well, I feel very welcome.”She looked at him carefully.There was a kind of nervous intensity about him. “How was your morning?”

“Fine.Fine.Yours?You, er, meet anyone interesting?”

“Just the usual crowd.”

“Well, you’re here now.”He nodded towards her room.“Do you want to..?”

It was so out of the blue that it took her a second to realise what he was saying, to remember their conversation the previous evening.“I thought you didn’t…”

“I…I do.I do now.”He seemed almost scared although she wasn’t sure what of.Was it of her saying yes or of her saying no?

“That’s quite a turnaround.”

“I just want to prove to you how much you mean to me.How much this relationship means to me.”He swallowed hard.“Un…unless you’ve changed your mind?Unless you don’t want to anymore?”

“No, no, I want to.If…if you do?”

“I do.”

She’d wanted to when she’d suggested it, she knew, really wanted to.So what had changed since then?You kissed Aden, a voice in her head reminded her.She ignored it.Instead she grabbed Geoff and kissed him and kept kissing him, until she couldn’t hear the voice any more, until she was sure this was what she wanted. Then she led him to her bed.

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