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Extreme Lengths

Guest Red Ranger 1

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Okay, you know how my fictions should usually carry a warning saying "Unsuitable for Adelle fans"? Well, largely by accident, this one is.I promise.

Story Title: Extreme Lengths

Type of story: Long fic

Main Characters: Aden, Belle, Geoff, Nicole, Annie, Jai, Claudia and others

BTTB rating: T/A

Genre: Drama

Does story include spoilers: Probably not

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

Summary: Aden and Belle have just got back together...so they're obviously due some drama.


“Why are you sneaking me out early?”Aden complained as Belle hovered at the bedroom door, checking the coast was clear.

“Because…it’s what we do.”

“But there isn’t even anyone to sneak past.”

Belle rolled her eyes.“That doesn’t matter.When you’ve had your boyfriend stay over for the first time, you have to sneak him past the rest of the household.”

Aden still wasn’t entirely sure about the game Belle was playing.“Yeah, um, it’s not the first time.”

“It’s the first time this time,”Belle insisted,“Fresh start, new relationship, no baggage.And that means I have to sneak you out.”

“You’re one crazy chick.”

“And you love me for it.”Belle turned her attention back to the rest of the house.“Okay, coast is clear. Come on.”

Belle took Aden’s hand and led him through the kitchen to the back door.He paused on the doorstep. “Okay, do I at least get a kiss goodbye?”

She kissed him on the lips, letting it linger for several seconds before propelling him towards the door. “Go.”

“Aden?”They both turned round at the voice to see Annie had come downstairs during their conversation. “You’re round early.”She noticed their simultaneous embarrassed looks.“Oh!You mean you’re..?”Belle waited on tenterhooks wondering how Annie, with her oh so innocent view of relationships, would react to the news.Then, to her surprise and delight, Annie gave them a wild smile.“I knew you would.”

Aden leaned in closer to Belle, speaking in a voice just loud enough for Annie to hear as well.“See?The family approve.”

“The one remaining member of it,”Belle sighed.Being back with Aden, at last, was a joy but it was tempered by the fact there were so few people around to share it with.Irene was still in prison, even though they’d be promised she was almost guaranteed to be released shortly, and Geoff had disappeared soon after finding out that…“Is Claudia hiding up there as well?”

“No, she had to head off to the farm early,”Annie replied,“But I’m sure Irene’ll be pleased for you when you tell her.And Geoff, if…well, when he comes home.”

Belle gave her surrogate little sister a quick hug.She was probably missing Geoff more than she admitted. “Well, having your seal of approval certainly makes up for it.”

Annie waited until Belle had released her before asking,“Aren’t you both supposed to be at work?”

Belle glanced at her watch.“Oh shoot,”she cried, pushing Aden out the door and hurrying after him.

“Sorry,”Belle declared as she hurried into the Diner, reaching for an apron behind the counter.

“Well, we’re too short-staffed for me to fire you,”Leah commented, apparently only half-jokingly.

“I know, I know, I don’t mean to take liberties, I’ll make the time up…”

Leah was watching her carefully throughout the speech.“Is that a smile I see on your face, Belle Taylor?”

Belle wished she could manage to wipe the dopey grin off her face for at least a few minutes but it seemed to be fixed in place.“I’m…back with Aden.”

Leah smiled and hugged her.“Oh, Belle, that’s awesome, I’m really pleased for both of you.”As Belle made a move towards the kitchen, Leah kept hold of her.“Um, there’s something you should know.”

Something in her tone worried Belle.“What?”

“Well, you know we’re short staffed and I couldn’t exactly consult Irene and Roman’s not showing a lot of interest in the place at the moment so when he just turned up, asking for a job, I couldn’t really say no and I know you and Irene aren’t going to be happy but I’ve told him it’s only going to be temporary so can’t you just put up with it for a bit?”

Belle had a sudden bad feeling as she headed into the kitchen.There he was, cheerily washing some dishes as though he had every right to be there, as though he hadn’t done all those things to her and her friends.He smiled at her, that same smile, the one that told her he had no idea of the effect he’d had on her.“Hi, Taylor.”

She fought the instinct to run from the room.It was okay, she was safe.Just be polite and keep your distance and you won’t have a problem.“Hi, Dom.”

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“Looks like we’re going to be working together again.”

Belle still felt tense.There had been times when Dom had acted like a human being, when she’d been willing to give him a chance.But after all the tricks he’d pulled over the years, she found it hard not to feel nervous in his presence.“Guess so,”she replied neutrally.

“Not a problem for you, is it, Taylor?”

It felt strange hearing someone call her that again, the name that Drew had used and that Dom had adopted, as though it somehow represented a level of intimacy between them.“No.No problem.”

“Good.”He hadn’t stopped smiling throughout the conversation, as though unaware of the possible effect he could have on her.“Because I was hoping we could be friends again.”

“Friends?”Belle let the question hang in the air, unsure what she felt about the prospect.Dom could be a very dangerous friend to have.

“Well, yeah.I mean, we’re working together now, we need to get on.”

“Just friends?That’s all you want?”

Dom looked suddenly interested.“Why?Is there a chance of something else?”

“I’ve got a boyfriend,”Belle told him firmly, being sure to quash any thoughts he might have been entertaining as quickly as she could.

Dom shrugged.“Yeah, course you have.Still, doesn’t mean we can’t hang out, does it?Maybe I could take you for a drink after work?”

“I, um…I think I’m probably going to be doing something else.”

“With your boyfriend?”

“Yeah, probably.We’ve just…”Belle had been about to tell him they’d only just got back together but she stopped herself.Best not to say anything that might make him think her relationship wasn’t secure.“We’ve decided to spend more time together.”

“Okay, cool.Well…”

“I’d better get on with my shift.”Belle cut him dead at that, heading out into the counter area where Leah was waiting.

“You saw him then?”Leah asked quietly.

Belle nodded.“Yeah.”

“Is it a problem?”

“No.No problem.Nothing to worry about.”

Belle glanced at her watch as she was clearing the tables.Nearly five o’clock.Her shift was coming to an end.She couldn’t help feeling a touch of relief, even though Dom had kept his distance and her initial fears had subsided to a degree.The sooner she was out of here, the sooner she could be sure that nothing untoward was going to happen.

She looked round as she heard footsteps in the doorway, expecting it to be a last customer for her.She smiled as she saw Aden there instead.“Can I get you anything, sir?”she asked with exaggerated politeness.

Aden was looking around as though searching for someone.“Yeah, I heard there was this really hot waitress worked here and I was wondering if she wanted to have dinner with me.”

“Oh right.Well, I’ll go and see if Leah’s free then…”

She made a move towards the kitchen and Aden took hold of her wrist, pulling her towards him, his arms encircling her waist.“Or I could just settle for you instead.”He kissed her softly.

He was interrupted by a male voice from the direction of the kitchen.“So is this the latest one then?”

Belle turned at the voice, suddenly awkward.Dom had appeared, carrying plates towards one of the tables. “Yes, um, this is Aden.Aden, this is Dom.”

Aden shot her a concerned look.“Dom?The Dom?”

“Yeah.Don’t worry.”

Dom had placed the plates in front of the customers and was now walking towards them, hand outstretched.“Well, I hope you’re looking after Taylor.”

Aden made no attempt to accept the hand, looking at him with an annoyed air.“Yeah, I am.”

“Okay, no worries.Hope you have a good night.”

Belle tightened her grip on Aden’s arm, worried he was going to do or say something he’d regret.“We will.Come on, Aden, how about this dinner you promised me?”

Aden seemed to relax slightly.“Yeah, sure.”

And as they left, neither of them noticed the cold look in Dom’s eyes as he watched them go.

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“He was just there when I got there,”Belle explained as they headed round the back way to the beach house,“Apparently he just turned up asking for a job and Leah couldn’t say no.”

“And you’re all right with him working there?”Aden asked.

“I think he’s harmless.”Belle couldn’t quite believe she’d just said those words…and from the look of him, Aden couldn’t believe them either.“Well, not exactly harmless but I don’t think he’s going to try anything.”

“Yeah, you never did tell me exactly what went on between you two…”

“Aden!”Belle gasped suddenly as she stepped into the kitchen and saw the table laid out:candlelit dinner for two, with the faint smell of food cooking in the oven.

Aden smiled.He’d almost forgotten the surprise he’d prepared.“Well, like I said, there’s this hot girl I was planning to have dinner with.”

“And we’ve got the place to ourselves?”

“Bunged Annie some cash, suggested she and Claudia go see a film.”

“Wow.”She put her arms round his neck.“You really are keen to have me on my own, aren’t you?”

“Yeah.But look, about Dom…”

She kissed him lightly.“You really want to talk about this now?”

“Well, when you put it like that…”

“Good.”She released him and sat down at the table.“Serve up then, I’m starving.”

Aden was still sitting at the table, now cleared of its content, when he heard the movement at the back door that signalled the girls’ return.“Oh, hi, Aden,”Annie greeted him,“We didn’t realise you were still gonna be up.I mean, here.”

“Belle turned in early,”Aden explained.

Claudia seemed to sense his desire for privacy.“I might go up too.Got to be at the farm early tomorrow. See you in the morning.”

Aden waited until she’d climbed the stairs before turning to Annie.“Do you know what happened between Belle and Dom?”

“Um, I was around for the end of it.Why?”

“He’s back.Working at the Diner.”

Annie’s eyes widened.“Irene’d go nuts if she knew!”

“What can you tell me?It’s just…Belle doesn’t want to talk about it and I’m worried there’s something I should know.”

Annie paused, uncertain whether she should say anything, then nodded.“Okay, well, we thought he’d kidnapped Belle but it turned out he hadn’t, then he ended up in hospital and Belle was visiting him and I think she quite liked him for a bit but then she found out he’d been lying to her so she told him to get lost.”

“You thought he’d kidnapped her?”

Annie looked even more embarrassed.“Um, well, Belle had gone away with Drew.You know that they..?”

“Yeah.”Aden was well aware that Belle had a past.After all, he’d been around for most of it, even if he hadn’t really been paying attention to her at the time.

“Well, Drew came back without her and said she’d gone missing and he thought Dom had her.Then he went looking for her and they came back together and said it had all been a misunderstanding.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

Annie shrugged.“Irene said that sometimes you have to accept you’re never going to get to the bottom of something.So, um, was that what you wanted to know?”

“Yeah.It’s helped me figure a few things out.”

With his shift on the trawler taking up most of the morning, it was nearly midday before Aden made it to the Diner.He knew Belle wasn’t working but that suited him fine.He had a feeling she wouldn’t approve anyway.He caught sight of Dom washing down tables outside.There was no-one else in sight.“Can we have a word?”he asked, not bothering to make it sound like a polite request.

Dom looked at him for a moment as though not recognising him, then his face cleared.“Oh, you’re the new one, right?Aden?”

“I’m Belle’s boyfriend,”Aden stressed, in case there was any doubt about it.

“Yeah, I know.For now.”

Any patience Aden had was fast being used up.“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh come on, you really think you’re going to last?First it was Ric, then it was Drew, now you.She gets rid of all of you in the end.I’m the only one that sticks by her.”

Aden grabbed hold of Dom, pulling him upright.“Now listen here, you jerk.What happens between me and Belle is our business and I know one thing for sure, she is far too good for you.”

“What, you think you are?You don’t even call her Taylor.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

Dom looked as though he thought he was explaining something simple.“Well, that’s what her boyfriend does.”

“I’m her boyfriend because I love her and because I’m there for her and because I know to keep idiots like you away from her.So I’m giving you a fair warning.You do anything to hurt her and I’ll come looking.”

Dom waited until Aden was walking away before calling after him,“You won’t last long, Aden!You hear me?You won’t last long!”

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Belle knew nothing about Aden and Dom’s conversation when she arrived for work the next day.Aden had decided against telling her:He was never entirely sure whether she was going to approve of his “protective” attitude or not.So she had no idea why Dom was looking at her the way he was.

“You have a good time with your boyfriend last night?”he asked.

Belle was in the middle of the food preparation, having left Dom to handle the dishes.She paused, not knowing if she was still on safe ground or not.“Yes,”she replied at last, before adding,“His name’s Aden.”

“It’s still him then?”

Belle glared at him angrily.“Yes.Aden is my boyfriend and I am not planning on breaking up with him so if you’re here because you think if you wait around long enough…”

“So you don’t want to do anything with me tonight?”

“No, Dom, I don’t want to do anything with you tonight.Aden’s my boyfriend, he’s the one I like spending time with.Are we clear on that?”

“Yeah, okay.”Dom paused.“I’m not going to hurt you, Taylor.”

“Did I say you would?”

“No, he did.Your Aden.”


“Yesterday.Told me to stay away from you.”

Belle looked at him.She knew he was telling the truth, to a point, and she also knew it was the sort of thing Aden would say.All the same…“Well, Aden doesn’t decide who I hang out with.I decide that.And I’m deciding, Dom, that you and I are work colleagues.Nothing more.So can you please cut out all this hanging around and making snide comments about my relationships?Because I know who I love and I know who I want to be with.”

“So, what?We’re not even friends?”

Rejecting Dom was never the safest option.He didn’t tend to take it very well.But letting him think there was a chance could be even more dangerous.“No, Dom.We’re two people that work together and that’s the way it has to stay.Now, just let me get on.”

Belle had arranged to meet Aden at the surf club for lunch.She wanted to get away from the Diner, away from Dom, and find somewhere quiet to sort things through.She let him order and waited until they were halfway through the meal before asking him,“Did you speak to Dom yesterday?”

Aden seemed to pause for a moment, as though trying to decide what answer to give.“Yeah,”he said at last,“I just…I wanted to make sure you were all right and I knew you wouldn’t ask me to talk to him yourself so I just went and did it.”

Belle grinned.“My hero.But no going behind my back from now on, hey?”

“Nope.Fine.From now on we do it your way.Did it work though?”

“Well, I think I managed to convince him to back off.”

“So he isn’t still asking you out or anything?”

Belle avoided his gaze slightly, not wanting to lie but having a feeling that telling the truth would result in some serious trouble…

Aden’s face darkened and then he was heading for the exit.“I’m going to kill him.”

“Hey!Moran!”Aden spotted Dom outside the Diner again and stormed over to him.When he reached him, he didn’t stop, instead slamming into him with his open palms and shoving him away.“What did I tell you?”

“That you’re Belle’s boyfriend?Seems the two of you need to keep saying it.”

“That you should stay away from her!”

Dom shrugged.“We work together, can’t help being around her.”

“You know what I mean, moron, you stop asking her out.”

“What’s the matter?Afraid she’s going to say yes?”

Aden was shaking with anger, trying to keep it under control.“I am not going to let you hurt her.”

“Or maybe you’re just worried she’ll realise what she’s missing out on.”

Aden’s struggle for control ended in that instant.His fist connected with Dom’s jaw, knocking him down. He took a step towards him and then Belle was standing in the way, having run after him all the way from the surf club.“Aden,”she said beseechingly,“Come on, you don’t need to do this.”

Which was when Dom struck past her, striking Aden a glancing blow to the head.She turned and pushed him away.

“Both of you, stop this, all right!”she shouted,“There’s no need for this.”She risked a look at Aden, relieved to see that her presence seemed to have calmed him slightly.“Come on, Aden, let’s go.”She looked back at Dom.“All right?We’re going.”

Dom didn’t say a word.Belle took that as a good sign.She backed away from him, indicating for Aden to do the same, waiting until she was sure it was safe before she turned her back on him and took Aden’s arm, leading him away.

Dom waited a few more seconds before taking out his phone and dialling the number.“It’s me.I want the gear.That’s right.Two packages.”

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Thanks for your comments, hope you like this one...


Belle crossed the room quickly when she heard the insistent knocking at the door.She swung it open to find Dom standing there.She paused, looking at him, uncertain how to proceed.“You’re lucky Aden’s not here,” she said at last.

Dom had, in fact, been fully aware that Aden wasn’t there.After all, he’d been waiting in hiding at the bottom of the drive until he saw him leave.“Where is he?”

“He just had to go to the shops, he shouldn’t be more than half an hour.What do you want?”

“Look, I’m not going to hurt you, Taylor.I just wanted to apologise.”

Belle, as was often the case with Dom, wasn’t sure what to do for the best.Eventually she nodded.“Okay, come in, but…make it quick.I don’t want any trouble when Aden gets back.”

Dom made his way past her into the house, quickly picking out the jacket on the end of the stairs.He’d seen Aden wearing it earlier and it seemed just right for his needs…“How about a coffee?”

Belle looked at him in confusion.“What?”

“Coffee.Let’s have a cup of coffee while we talk.”

“Okay…I’ll just go and make some,”Belle replied uncertainly,“Have a seat.”

Dom waited until Belle was in the kitchen, out of sight, before walking over to where the jacket was hanging.Keeping an eye on the kitchen, to make sure he wasn’t disturbed, he reached into his pocket and took out a clear plastic bag full of brown herbs.Then he placed the bag in the pocket of Aden’s jacket.

His job done, he headed through into the kitchen.“Let me do that.”

Belle had placed two cups containing coffee granules on the side and turned the kettle on.She looked round at his entrance.“It’s okay, I can do it.”

“No, really, let me.Call it part of my apology.”

Belle still seemed uncertain and for a moment he thought she wasn’t going to go for it.Then she nodded and went through into the sitting area.Dom waited until she was gone, then took a second bag, identical to the first, from his pocket and poured the contents into one of the cups.

Dom had sat and watched Belle as she drank the cup of coffee he’d prepared for her, sipping away at his own cup with its slightly different mixture.He gave a smile of satisfaction as she began to relax, patting his knee affectionately.“You know what, Dom?You’re not all that bad.”

“Well, I’m glad you noticed that, Taylor.”

“In fact, in a certain light, you are quite cute.”

Dom leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers, tracing the contours of her back with his hands.He thought she was beginning to respond but then she pushed him away and wagged a finger at him reproachfully.

“Naughty, naughty.You’re supposed to wait until you’re asked.”

Dom’s mood darkened slightly but he did his best not to show it.“Why don’t you ask me then?”

For a moment, he thought he was going to have to force the issue but then she pulled him into a kiss.He reached for the top button of her blouse, undoing it and starting to caress her skin.

Then he heard movement round the back.He turned round and caught a glimpse of Aden through the window, quickly scrambling to his feet.“Don’t tell him I was here,”he told Belle anxiously before making his exit.

He paused with the door half open and saw Belle rush over to Aden and plant a kiss on him, saw Aden’s bemused but appreciative grin.“Wow, you must have missed me a lot.”He noticed the two coffee mugs. “You have someone round?”

Belle put a finger to her lips playfully.“It’s a secret.”

Dom pulled the door closed, cursing Aden for coming home so early, for interrupting him.But he could still do the rest of it.He pulled out his phone and dialled another number.“I want to make a report.”

Aden was getting worried about Belle.He’d washed up the two coffee cups and asked her to stay in the lounge while he did so but instead she’d spent most of her time touching and kissing him.Which he didn’t exactly object to, except that her behaviour reminded him all too well of what she’d been like a few months previous.He hadn’t noticed the warning signs then and he didn’t want to make the same mistake now.

“Maybe we need to take a trip out,”he suggested, taking his jacket from the bottom of the stairs and pulling it on.

Belle gave him a sulky look.“But I want to stay here.”She put her arms around him and kissed him.“Don’t you think that could be fun?”

“Yeah, probably, but I just want to get Rachel to have a look at you.”He steered her gently towards the door but as he opened it he found Charlie and a male police officer standing there, apparently about to knock.

“Aden!”Charlie greeted him in surprise.“Ah, can we come in?”

“Well, we were just going out…”

“I’m sorry but we got an anonymous call and I need to follow it up.”

“Can’t it wait?”

“I’m afraid not.It’s okay, just show us the contents of your pockets, then we’re done.”

Not quite sure what was going on but eager to get rid of them, Aden reached into his pocket, picking out wallet, keys…he paused as his hand touched the plastic bag, drawing it out slowly.

Charlie snatched it from him, examining the contents.“Cannabis?”

“Charlie, I swear I had no idea that was there,”Aden told her.

From her expression, Charlie wasn’t sure whether to believe him or not.“Either way, I’m going to need you to come down the station.”

“No, no, no.”Belle stepped forward, taking hold of Charlie’s arm.“You can’t take Aden away, I need him here, a girl’s got needs, you know.”

Charlie noticed her odd behaviour straightaway.“Belle…are you high?”

It was the question Aden hadn’t wanted to ask.“She was like this when I got home, I was about to take her to Rachel.”

Charlie gave him a nod of understanding before turning to the officer with her.“Hogan, can you take Aden out to the car?”

“No, you can’t take Aden!”Belle protested as Hogan stepped forward.She turned and pushed him, catching him at just the right moment when he was off balance.She gave a little giggle as he fell over, his head connecting with the wooden back of the sofa on his way to the floor.

Aden was relieved to see Hogan getting to his feet straightaway.He wasn’t so relieved to see the blood dripping down the side of his head from the cut there.Belle didn’t seem at all bothered, still seeming on the verge of giggles, even when Charlie pulled her hands behind her bag and cuffed her.“Okay, Belle, I’m afraid you’re going to have to come with us.The doctor can see you at the station.”

Aden took a step forward.“Charlie, you don’t have to…”

“Aden.”Charlie’s gaze made it clear this was his last warning.“If you don’t want to find yourself facing a charge of resisting arrest, you won’t say another word.You all right, Hogan?”

Hogan nodded, rubbing his head wound slightly.“Yeah, fine, Senior.”

Charlie looked back at Aden.“As it is…I think we’re looking at some fairly serious charges for both of you.”

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“Aden, I swear I didn’t take that stuff willingly,”Belle insisted.It was the first real chance they’d had to speak, sat outside a court waiting to be called, wearing clothes that Nicole and Annie had brought over to the police station.The hearing had been arranged with almost indecent haste, making the continued delay in Irene’s bail hearing all the more frustrating.Apparently they were more keen to send you to jail than let you out.

“I believe you,”Aden replied,“Dom’s enough of a head case to do it.”

“I should never have let him in, I should have known he was up to something.Why won’t anyone believe us?”

“You say he was there, he says he wasn’t.You heard what the solicitor said, it’s not even worth putting him on the stand.We can’t prove anything.”He scowled in frustration.“I should have taken you to the hospital the moment I saw what you were like.Instead, I went and washed the cups.Got rid of his fingerprints and any dregs that might have been left in there.”

Belle put her hand on his arm consolingly.“Hey, we’ll get through this, okay?They’ll realise the truth.”

“Belle, they found the drugs in my pocket and in your system.Unless we can prove Dom put them there, we’re going to be found guilty for sure.”

Annie was glad that Geoff was there.He’d arrived home that morning, his homecoming present being the news that Aden and Belle were due in court in a matter of hours.He sat in the gallery, Annie and Claudia either side of him, holding both their hands.The one good thing was that he and Claudia seemed to have sorted out their differences.Nicole was with them as well, sat beside Annie, significantly away from the other two.

The only other person in the gallery that Annie knew was Dom, sat the other end from them.Waiting to see the result of his handiwork.

The police prosecutor had presented the evidence, how Aden had been found in possession of cannabis by two police officers, how Belle had caused one of those officers to be injured, how tests had shown cannabis in her system.After that, the verdict wasn’t in doubt.

The judge looked at the two defendants carefully.“Belle Taylor, you have been found guilty of assaulting a police officer whilst under the influence of a banned substance.For this crime, I am handing down a sentence of six months imprisonment, this sentence to be suspended for one year on the provision that you pay a fine of two hundred dollars.”

“What does that mean?”Annie whispered quietly.

“She’s not going to jail,”Geoff whispered back.

Annie breathed a sigh of relief.“That’s good, right?”

Nicole leaned over, joining in the conversation.“Wait until the next bit before you celebrate.”

“Aden Jefferies,”the judge concluded,“you have been found guilty of being in possession of a banned substance.This court showed you leniency once before on the assurance you were unlikely to reoffend but less than a year later you appear here again.For this reason, I am sentencing you to twelve months in jail, with a non-parole period of six months.”

It was Belle that broke the silence.“No!”she protested,“You can’t do that.”

The judge fixed her with an icy stare.“That will be all, Miss Taylor.”

“No, you can’t send Aden to jail,”Belle continued as if nothing had been said,“We’ve been set up, we’ve been framed, give us time and we can prove it to you.”

“Miss Taylor, the court has passed its verdict, you will be silent.”

“Are you completely stupid?”Belle shouted,“He’s innocent!”

“Miss Taylor,”the judge snapped, his patience exhausted,“you are guilty of contempt of court.And since a suspended sentence was apparently not enough to teach you respect for the law, I am sentencing you to three weeks in prison.Please remove the defendants from the court.”

Aden tried to reach out to Belle, to hold her, but they had both already been grabbed by court officials and were being dragged in opposite directions.“I love you!”he shouted,“We’ll get through this!”

“I love you too!”she called back.

Aden’s gaze drifted from Belle to Dom, standing there with a look of horror on his face.Things had clearly not gone to plan.And the fact that Dom hadn’t got what he wanted was the only positive Aden could take from the situation.

Dom slammed his fist into the wall, wincing at the pain that coursed through it.It wasn’t supposed to be like this.Belle wasn’t supposed to annoy the judge, to get herself locked up like that.She was supposed to be out here with him.

He forced himself to calm down.It was only a temporary thing, he told himself.He could wait three weeks. Then Belle would be out and her boyfriend would still be out of the way.Then he could show her they were meant to be together…

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Thanks for all your words of encouragement, I was worried people were going to be rolling their eyes and thinking "Oh, Red Ranger's torturing Adelle again..."


Belle liked to think it took a lot to make her scared.But the atmosphere around her could only be described as oppressive.Even leaving aside the humiliation of the “processing”, being stripped of her own clothes and ordered to change into the prison issue outfit, everywhere she went it seemed that people were staring at her, trying to size up this newcomer that had been locked up with them.Making the situation worse was the fact that she knew Aden was going through the exact same thing and she had no way to be with him.

“Belle love?”

She turned to the person that had spoken, feeling a sudden surge of delight.Both her voice and her appearance seemed a shadow of their usual self, just as they had been every other time Belle had seen her, from the other side of the bars then.But none of that mattered right now.She flung her arms round her with a gasp.“Irene!”

“Gawd, love, you’ll choke the life out of me.”

The comment, so much like Irene, made Belle even more pleased.She released Irene and looked at her, seeing a slight spark return to her eyes.“Getting locked up with you was a pretty extreme way to get a hug but I think I needed that.”

“Me too, love.”Irene nodded towards a quiet spot where they could sit, following Belle over there.

“You been doing okay?”Belle asked,“I mean the drinking and everything?”

“Never mind me, Belle,”Irene insisted,“What the blazes have you been up to?When Annie phoned me and said you were on your way here, I couldn’t believe it.”

“Guess I still haven’t learnt to keep my temper when someone I love is being treated unfairly.”

“Aden too?”Irene sighed.“And…this is all Dom’s doing?”

Belle nodded.“He gave me drugs, Irene.And he planted some on Aden.”

“Strewth, love, whyever did you let him near you in the first place?”

She shrugged.“Just too trusting, I guess.”

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you.”

“Hey, hey.”Belle shook her head firmly.“This isn’t your fault, just as it isn’t your fault you’re in here. You’re going to get out, then I’m going to get out.Then we’re going to get Aden out.”

Claudia could hear the sound of Geoff on the phone when she got home.“But we’re like family to her!I don’t care what your rules say…No, that’s not soon enough!...Oh, you’re sorry, well, you don’t sound very…hello?”

“Was that to do with Belle?”she asked once he’d put the phone down.

He nodded.He seemed more tired than she’d ever seen him.“I’ve been trying to get in to see her, Nicole’s doing the same for Aden.We just keep getting told that there’s a wait for visiting orders and times and we’ll just have to put up with it.”He walked over to the sofa and practically dropped into it.

Claudia took a few steps closer.“Weren’t you talking about getting them out?”

“We spoke to the solicitor but she said there’s no point in appealing against Belle’s sentence, it’d take three weeks to get to court and they might keep her in longer.We might be able to do something for Aden but our only real chance is to prove Dom set him up.”

“I guess he’s not going to admit it.”

“No.”He turned towards her slightly and patted her hand.“I’m sorry.”

“What for, talking to Nicole?I know you need to…”

“No, I mean not being here.Leaving you to cope with everything by yourself.”

She shrugged.“Well, Annie helped and Belle too.I didn’t really have much to do with this whole Dom business.”

“I should have been here, Claudia.If I had been, maybe I could have done something.First Irene, now Belle and Aden.”

She put her arms round his neck in a slight hug and gently kissed the side of his head.“Geoff, if anyone can come through this, I know you and Belle can.”

Belle wasn’t sure where Irene had got to but in the circumstances her cell seemed like a good place to start. She was surprised to find the corridor empty but she was pulled up short by the image thar greeted her: Irene sitting on her bed, taking a large sip from a bottle of vodka.

“Irene,”she gasped, running forward and snatching the bottle,“What are you doing?”

It was the broken Irene that was facing her again now, the brief sense of purpose she’d gained from Belle’s arrival all but gone.“Just give it back to me, love, I need it.”

“You don’t need this, Irene, this is the last thing you need.”

“I do, love, I just…I can’t think about it, what happened to Lou, being in here and now you and Aden.I need to drink, I need to forget.”

“Yeah?Well, if that’s the answer…”Belle lifted the bottle to her lips and took a large gulp.

“Belle!”Irene was on her feet, making a grab for the bottle.Belle lifted it out of her reach, holding it behind her.“What the hell are you doing?”

“Just doing what it takes to get by in here.That’s what you were just telling me, isn’t it?”

“What if one of the doctors takes a look at you, huh?What if you get called in and they find that stuff in your system?You know how much trouble you’d be in?”

“Exactly,”Belle told her decisively,“Irene, you have a lot better chance of getting out of here than I have. Your bail hearing’s tomorrow, you know what Angelo said, with the new evidence they’re almost certain to let you out.But what do you think’s going to happen if you turn up smelling of drink?”She inched slightly towards the sink, preparing to tip the contents down it.

“No, no,”Irene wimpered, holding out her hand again.

Belle took a step backwards, clutching the bottle to her chest.“Either it goes down the sink or we share it. Which is it to be, Irene?”She made to drink from the bottle again.

Irene backed away, sitting down heavily on the bed, her eyes averted away from Belle as though she couldn’t bear to see what happened next.“Get rid of it,”she said quickly.

Belle breathed a sigh of relief and poured the vodka down the sink, every last drop of it, turning on the taps to get rid of any dregs.Then she sat down next to Irene, putting her arm round her.“It’s okay, Irene.I understand.”

Irene shook her head.“You can’t.”

“I can because…that stuff Dom gave me, I didn’t want it but…it made me feel good.Better than I’ve felt in weeks.And I want more.I hate myself for it but I want more.And I know if I got offered it now, I’d take it.And because…”She tried to hold back the tears, tried to stay strong.“Because…I’ve only just got Aden back and they’ve taken him away from me again.”

Irene hugged her, awkwardly, perhaps a little of her old strength, of the old Irene, in her crackly voice. “I’m sorry, love.I’m so sorry.”

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Thanks for the encouragement.


Geoff was fairly certain he hadn’t been planning to start anything when he went into the Diner.But the sight of Dom there, casually waiting tables, doing the job that Belle should be doing, made him see red.He stormed over to him and swung him round.“What are you doing here?”

Dom’s expression was so calm, so lacking in any reaction, that it only annoyed him further.“I’m just getting on with my work.”

“It’s your fault that Belle’s not here!”

“I didn’t expect her to talk to the judge like that, it was only her boyfriend I wanted put away.Anyway, she’ll be out in a few weeks.”

“And what, you think that makes it all right?”

Dom made to walk away but Geoff swung him round again.He rolled his eyes.“Look, I care about Taylor, okay?I’ll make it up to her when she comes out, she’ll understand.”

That was not the assurance Geoff had been looking for.“You stay away from her.”

Dom laughed slightly.“Yeah, that’s what her boyfriends usually say to me.You after the job?Because remember what happened to the last one.”

Geoff froze, suddenly finding Dom’s attitude unnerving.“What do you mean?”

“I mean, it’ll be better for everyone if you concentrate on that pregnant girlfriend of yours and leave Taylor to me.”

Leah had emerged from the kitchen during the confrontation and was standing by the counter.“Dom?”she asked quietly,“Maybe you should get back in the kitchen.”

Dom didn’t break eye contact with Geoff until he had to.“Yeah, sure, boss,”he replied before disappearing.

Geoff swung round on Leah angrily.“What’s he doing working here?”

“Look, I don’t like it any more than you do but we can’t afford to be choosey with our staff at the moment.”

“Irene’s going to go crazy when she finds out.”

“Well, maybe when she gets back here we can sort something out.Her bail hearing’s this morning, isn’t it?”

Geoff nodded.“Yeah, we’re waiting for news.”Another thought struck him.“Maybe I should speak to Roman?I mean, Dom hurt Aden as well, maybe he’ll find a way to get rid of him.”

Leah looked at him in surprise.“What, you haven’t heard?”

“Heard what?”

“Roman’s disappeared, something to do with that mate of his, Gardy.”

“What?Does Nicole know?”

“Yeah, she’s at the police station.”

Geoff found himself torn slightly.“Maybe I should go and see if she’s okay.”

Leah placed a hand on his arm.“Don’t you think you’ve got enough people to worry about?I’m sure it’ll all sort itself out.”

Irene had been allowed to change back into her own clothes for her court appearance and they’d agreed to let her speak to Belle first, a guard escorting her to her surrogate daughter’s cell.Belle smiled at her appearance.“Look at you.”

“Yeah, I’m starting to feel a bit more human,”Irene agreed,“I just wanted to say thanks for sorting me out yesterday.I could have ended up in a right mess.”

“You’d have come through without my help.”

“I’m not so sure of that.”

“Just make sure that you get some proper help when you get out.Geoff and Annie are finding it hard as it is, especially now I’m in here.”

“That’s almost enough to make me want to stay here.I hate the thought of leaving you alone.”

“What?You think I’m going to be alone with all the guards here?”Belle forced a smile.“You just look after yourself and I’ll be home before you know it.”

Irene gave her a quick hug.“Just stay well, love.And look after yourself.You can’t count on anyone else to do it.”

“I wasn’t really expecting to see you here,”Aden told his visitor.

Annie shrugged.“Nicole was busy so she sent me instead.”


“She just thought there should be someone here to see you.”

“Well, what’s Nicole doing that’s so important?”Aden sensed Annie’s reticience, her reluctance to talk about whatever was going on.“Annie?”

“Roman’s gone missing,”Annie admitted at last,“The police are looking for him.But I’m sure it’ll be all right.”

“Well, tell her I’ll call her later, find out what’s happened.”Annie’s unfailing optimism wasn’t exactly what Aden was looking for at that moment.He admitted that over the past few months he’d grown to quite like her but that still didn’t mean they had much to talk about.“Look, I don’t mean to be rude, Annie, but if you’ve got nothing to tell me…”

“I spoke to Belle this morning,”Annie replied quietly.

That stopped him in his tracks, the conversation taking on a new interest for him.“How is she?”

“She’s okay.She told me to say that she loves you and she misses you and she’s going to try and write.”

Aden nodded.Pouring his heart out to Annie felt strange but he needed to say it to someone.“I miss her too,”he replied,“How did we get into this?”

“It’s not your fault, you were set up.You’ll be all right.”

“Annie, the way things stand I’m gonna be in here for six months.At least.”

Annie shrugged.“Well, think about the last six months.Or the six before that.If that didn’t split you up, I don’t think this will.”

Aden was surprised at how comforting the words seemed.“When did you start handing out the advice?”

“I’ve just seen the way she looks at you.It’s going to take more than a prison uniform to put her off.”

Belle was alone again.In a way that was good news, it meant that Irene wasn’t still locked up with her.But it also meant she was standing on her own in the exercise yard, facing up to stares that ranged from the suspicious to the downright hostile, far away from anyone she knew or loved.

She caught sight of a girl sitting alone on a bench, maybe a few years older than her, with long blonde hair and a timid expression.Belle had seen her around, usually on her own, but hadn’t paid much attention to her.She seemed like a good person to start with.

“Is it all right if I sit here?”she asked.

The girl looked up at Belle in surprise, maybe even a little bit frightened.Belle put on her most unthreatening smile and the girl seemed to relax slightly.“Um, yeah, okay.”

“I’m Belle,”she introduced, holding out her hand.

The girl seemed to hesitate for a moment then accepted it.“Lucy.”

Before Belle could say anything else, a group of women, four or five of them of varying ages, were suddenly in front of them.“You got a new friend, Shaw?”asked one of them.

“This one’s about your level,”added another,“A junkie who was brought up by a drunk.”

Belle stood up angrily, facing up to the woman who had spoken.“Irene is not a drunk.”

“Oh yeah?You should have seen her in here.Pathetic, same as you.”

Lucy was standing nervously by her shoulder.“Belle, maybe we should go somewhere else?”

Belle didn’t usually back down from a challenge but she understood the wisdom of it here.“Yeah, okay.”

They were halfway across the yard when it happened.Belle didn’t know what it was that hit her.In fact, one of the group had taken a ball from the pool table and somehow managed to conceal it about her person. All Belle felt was a sudden thud against her head and then everything went black.

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Aden took the envelope from the guard.Mail round was one of the few highlights of the day since it was the only time he ever heard from Belle.The fact that they were both locked up meant there was no chance of seeing her in person and even talking to her on the phone was difficult because they both had limited access.

Of course, not all news of Belle was good.He still remembered how, a week previous, he’d learned about Belle being hurt.Nicole had come to deliver the news, which was good of her considering what had just happened to Roman.She’d assured him that it wasn’t serious, that all Belle had needed was a few stitches, but her next letter had come as a relief all the same.

Looking at the letter in his hand now, he was disappointed to see that he didn’t recognise the handwriting and it wasn’t written on prison notepaper.Curious all the same, he tore it open.

Inside the envelope was a photograph of Belle.It had obviously been taken since before she’d gone to prison but he could tell it was recent all the same, probably in the last month.The way she looked in it, it almost seemed as though she hadn’t known the photograph was being taken, as though someone had been taking pictures of her in secret…

Aden turned the photo over and his blood ran cold.Scrawled on the back, in the same handwriting as on the envelope, were the words “I’ll look after her for you.”

Leah almost dropped the plates she was carrying when she saw who her next customer was.“Irene!What..?” Her partner hadn’t dropped by the Diner since her release and she hadn’t been expecting her.

Irene barely acknowledged Leah’s greeting.Instead she walked straight through into the kitchen where Dom was working.She stared at his back for a moment before announcing,“You’re fired.”

The words seemed to stun Dom into silence.He stood there, gaping at her before asking,“What?”

“You’re fired.Thanks for all your help but I’m back now and we don’t need you anymore.Hand your apron in on the way out.”

“But…but…I’ve done a good job.”

“Yeah, you did a good job all right.You did a good job in getting Belle and Aden banged up.You did a good job in getting Belle put in the hospital wing.You’ve always done a real good job, Dom.Now get out.”

Dom seemed to have recovered his wits slightly.“That’s got nothing to do with the job.That’s wrongful dismissal.”

“Yeah?So sue me.You’re still fired.”

Dom looked appealingly at Leah, who had followed Irene in.She shrugged.“If Irene says we can cope, we can cope.”

Dom took off his apron and threw it to the ground.As he walked out, he paused in front of Irene.“You won’t stop me seeing Belle.”

Irene waited until Dom had left, until he was out of sight, before she sagged, almost collapsing, having to grab onto the kitchen surface for support.Leah suddenly realised that her friend’s strength had all been a façade, for Dom’s benefit.She hurried to her side.“Irene, are you all right?”

Irene nodded.“Don’t worry, love, it’s just the detox.I probably shouldn’t have come here but I knew I had to get rid of that mongrel now or else I’d never be able to do it.”

Leah had heard rumours about Irene’s new drink problem but she’d largely ignored them.Seeing her so weak like this was a shock.“Irene, I don’t mean to point this out but if you’re not well enough to come back here and with Roman gone, how are we going to cope without Dom?”

“Don’t worry, love, I’ve spoken to Geoff and Annie and Nicole and they’ve all agreed to help out when they can.You’ll have to rearrange the casuals so they can cover when they’re at school.But one thing that’s definite:I do not want Dom ever setting foot in this place again.”

Geoff had been surprised to get the call from Aden.Although they’d been getting on well recently, he didn’t think it was well enough for Aden to ask to see him.But then Aden had pushed the photograph with its worrying message across the table to him and he’d understood.

“When did you get this?”he asked.

“Yesterday.Not exactly what I was hoping for in the mail.”

“You think Dom sent it?”

Aden shrugged.“Who else?”

“But what do you think he means?He’ll look after her?”

“Don’t you get it, Geoff?This is what he wanted all along, this is why he set me up.In less than two weeks, Belle’s going to be out and I’m still gonna be in here.Dom can do what he likes and I won’t be there to stop him.”

“Yeah but…he wouldn’t hurt her, would he?”

“Geoff, he put me in here.You really think he’s just gonna ask her out to lunch?And you really think he’d take no for an answer if he did?”

Geoff had to concede the point.“So…what do you think we should do?I mean, if you’re right, Belle’s probably better off where she is.”

“Yeah, I don’t think we’ve reached the point where we want her to stay in jail,”Aden replied ironically.


“Someone needs to look out for her, make sure Dom doesn’t get anywhere near her.And I can’t do it because I’m in here.”

Geoff suddenly realised where this was heading.“Oh hang on a minute, Aden…”

“Geoff, there’s no-one else I can ask.I know you care about her and I know you don’t want anything to happen to her.I need you to look after her for me.Because if you don’t, I am seriously worried about what he’d do to her.”

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Thanks for the encouragement.


A large part of Belle had wanted to make a break for the gates as soon as her release papers came through but a desire for closure had caused her to hang back.She’d asked the guards to take her on a last trip to the recreation area in search of a friendly face.“Hi, Lucy!”she called as she caught sight of the closest thing she had to a friend in there.

Lucy stood up as she approached, obviously noticing Belle had changed out of the prison uniform.“You on your way then?”

“Yep, apparently I’ve paid my debt to society.”

“Going to see that cute boyfriend of yours?”

Belle sighed.Her sentence might be over but Aden’s…“Not exactly but at least they should let me into the same room as him now.You going to be okay?”

Lucy nodded.“Mmm.I’m used to it in here.And sorry about the…”She tapped the back of her head.

Belle felt her own head, grimacing slightly as her hand came into contact with the bump.At least the injury had mostly healed.“It’s okay.I’ve had worse, trust me.”Almost on impulse, she grabbed Lucy and hugged her.“Just take care of yourself.”

Belle hadn’t exactly expected a celebratory parade on the other side of the gates to welcome her out.But she had expected more than Geoff standing there, nervously fiddling with the keys to a ute.All the same, he was obviously her reception committee so she headed over there and dumped her bags into the back.“Where’s Irene?”she asked.

“She’s, um…she couldn’t make it.”He tried to avoid her gaze but she held her ground, staring at him, until he gave in.“She’s gone away for a while.To a retreat that the alcohol support group arranged.”

“She’s that bad?”

“Not really, I mean, she got off the drink pretty quickly when she came out.She told us what you did while she was inside, she was really grateful, it helped her a lot.But she didn’t think she could manage on her own so she arranged to go away until she was sorted.”

Belle sighed.“I’m sorry, Geoff, you and Annie shouldn’t have had to cope on your own.”

“No, no, it’s fine,”he assured her,“In fact, it’s probably for the best given that…”He broke off, looking embarrassed, as though he’d said too much.

“Given that..?”Belle prompted.

Geoff shook his head.“Come on, let’s get you home.”

Geoff had been acting strangely since they’d got home.He’d instantly bolted both the front and back door before checking all the windows.They were in her room now, while he struggled with the window’s rarely used key.“Don’t you ever lock this?”he complained as he turned the key stiffly.

“Well…you never know when someone might use it,”Belle replied, slightly amused.

“Yeah, like Dom.”

The smile faded from her face instantly.“Dom wouldn’t…”She paused, suddenly remembering that Dom had used that window once, when he’d planted her watch back in her room.“I guess no-one’s going to be using it at the moment,”she said at last.

Geoff seemed to have won his battle with the lock and gave a nod of satisfaction.“Not now they’re not.”

“Well, you’re going to have to let someone into the house at some point.I mean, what about when Annie and Claudia come home?”

“Oh, they won’t.I mean…”Geoff had that furtive look again.“They’re spending the night at the farm.Just in case.”

“Just in case what?”Belle didn’t like being kept in the dark especially when it meant feeling as panicky as this.“Geoff, what’s going on?”

“It’s okay.”He rubbed her shoulder gently.“I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”

“Geoff, I want some answers!”

“It…”He sighed.“Aden asked me to look after you.”

“Well, Aden should know better.”

“Belle,”Geoff replied gently,“Dom sent Aden a message in jail.He said he’d take care of you.”

Belle felt deflated suddenly and very scared.“Why can’t he go away?This is like a bad dream.”

“Well, you’re safe here.I mean, no-one can get in.”He stopped suddenly.“Did you hear that?”

Belle listened for a moment.“You mean that scratching sound?”

“Yeah.What is it?”

Belle didn’t want to say it but she had a feeling Geoff wasn’t going to.“It…sounded like someone picking a lock.”

Geoff swallowed hard.“Wait here,”he told her before heading out of the room, not giving her a chance to argue.

Belle waited for a few seconds before she heard a thud.“Geoff?”she asked,“Are you all right?”She left her room cautiously…to the sight of Dom standing in the kitchen, a baseball bat in his hand and an unconscious, she prayed unconscious, Geoff at his feet.“Geoff,”she gasped in shock before realising exactly how much danger she was in.She backed away, making a grab for the phone.Dom got there first, grabbing hold of her wrists.

“Come on, Taylor,”he told her in that completely inappropriate calm way of his,“This is our chance to finally be alone together.”

He began dragging her towards the back door.She tried to stop when they got to where Geoff was lying but Dom kept on pulling her.“Please, at least let me make sure my friend’s all right,”she pleaded.

“You don’t want him,”Dom insisted,“He’s just another one that wants to keep us apart.You won’t need to see any of them ever again…”

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