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Blood Ties

Guest Red Ranger 1

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So, this follows on from the fictions Where the Heart Lies, The Honeymoon's Over, In the Adult World and The Mistakes We Make.Um, I think.It's getting a bit hard to keep track.Links are all on my profile, anyway...

Story Title: Blood Ties

Type of story: Short/Medium fic

Main Characters: Ruby, Romeo, Xavier, Indi, Ric, Cassie, Drew, Sasha and others

BTTB rating: T/A

Genre: Drama

Does story include spoilers: No

Any warnings: Not sure yet, might be some violence and sexual content

Summary: Following on from the events of The Mistakes We Make, Romeo and Ruby both have family difficulties, Xavier and Indi are struggling to deal with a newborn baby and some of their friends have new relationships to contend with. Part 5 of "Where the Heart Lies".


Ruby was pacing up and down in the sitting room, gently rocking Louisa, the newest addition to her and Romeo’s ever growing family, who was wimpering slightly.“Now, you’re going to be a good girl and settle, because Mummy’s got a lot of things to do, right?”she asked hopefully.

Julia and Colin, their other two children, came running through from the bedroom, making loud noises and swinging their school satchels about.Charlie followed them through.“You’re going to be all right with the little monsters here?”she asked Ruby.

“I’ll be fine,”Ruby replied, raising her voice in the direction of her and her husband’s room,“So long as Romeo gets a move on!”

Leah headed through the room in the same direction as Charlie.“Don’t talk to me, just passing through,”she noted.

Romeo entered, pulling on his work shirt.“Sorry, late start.”He took Louisa off Ruby.“All right, let’s get you to the childminder,”he told her before giving his wife a quick kiss.“You okay handling the others?”

“Yeah, we’re not quite at the tying them to the chairs stage yet.I’ll drop them off at school, you just get going.”

Romeo kissed her again and headed out, carrying Louisa.

Ruby entered the kitchen, where Julia and Colin seemed to be chasing each other round the table. “Right!”she snapped,“Car, five minutes.Let’s go.”

Indi was rocking Pammy and making as many soothing noises as possible but her daughter wouldn’t stop crying.Xavier came hurrying over to the sofa where they were sat, a bottle in his hand.“Try this.”

Indi took the bottle from him and placed it to Pammy’s lips.“Come on, darling, have a bit, just for Mummy and Daddy, okay?”Pammy moved her head to avoid the bottle teat, not even taking a break from crying to do so.

“Okay, I guess she wasn’t telling us she’s thirsty,”Xavier noted.He noticed Indi was starting to sag. “Should I take her?”

“Please,”Indi sighed, handing their daughter over to her husband.

Xavier started pulling funny faces at Pammy, which she refused to take any notice of.He sighed. “Okay, you’ve got us stumped.”

“Why won’t she stop crying?”Indi complained.

“Well…because she’s a baby, I guess.”

Indi sighed and sank back in her seat.“We’re terrible parents.”

“Hey, does this baby look unhappy?”Xavier asked.Pammy gave an extra large howl in response. “Most of the time anyway.”

Indi reached over and stroked Pammy’s cheek.“Mummy and Daddy love you very much,”she said gently,“Please be happy.”Pammy howled again.

“I think she’s happy,”Xavier offered hopefully,“In her own way.”

Ric took the tray of drinks from Romeo at the bar and carried them back to the table where Cassie, Drew and Sasha were waiting.“Here you are,”he remarked redundantly as he handed them out.

“Thanks, mate,”Drew answered.He took a sip of his drink then grinned at Sasha, giving her a light kiss on the lips.

Ric and Cassie smiled quietly to themselves.“So things are going all right for you two?”Ric asked ironically.

“I think so,”Drew replied, grinning at Sasha again,“What about you two?”

Ric tensed suddenly and felt Cassie do the same next to him.“What do you mean?”he asked coldly.

Drew seemed to realise he’d made a mistake.Sasha came to his rescue.“How are you coping with living together?”she asked.

“Yeah, it’s going well,”Cassie confirmed quickly, eager to move the conversation on,“Summer and Elizabeth are enjoying it, I mean, they’re practically cousins.And it’s great having so many people around who can help out.Before it was just me and Sally.”

“I know what you mean,”Sasha agreed,“I felt weird when I first came to live with my family but now I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”

Ric glanced at Drew, who seemed to have relaxed now the conversation was more friendly.He wished he could relax too.But it annoyed him that people kept assuming he and Cassie were a couple. It was only six months since Matilda died, did they really expect him to be looking at someone else so soon?

Except…whenever he looked at Cassie, he realised that, even after all this time and however much he didn’t want to, he was still attracted to her.

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Thank you for all your comments!Hope you like this one.


Sasha cuddled up to Drew in bed.“You know, I think coming back to your place was a good idea.”

Drew shot her an amused look.“Is your dad expecting you home?”

“I’m twenty-three!”Sasha protested,“I don’t have a curfew.”

“You’re twenty-three and you’re still living at home,”Drew teased her.

“Well…Indi married Xavier and Dexter’s off in the city now he and Casey are back together.Dad would be lonely if I wasn’t there.”

“Nice excuse.”

Sasha looked at him, offended.“If this is your idea of a seduction technique, then it’s really not working.”

“I’ve already got you into bed,”Drew pointed out with a grin.

Sasha grinned back and began sliding away from him.“I can always get out of it…”

Drew caught her and pulled her back towards him.Sasha smiled as they began kissing passionately.

Romeo poured Xavier a drink and set it down on the bar in front of him.“You look like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

Xavier looked at him thoughtfully.“You’ve got three kids, yeah?”

“Oh yeah,”Romeo confirmed.

“How do you cope?”

Romeo thought it over.“I dunno, you just do.I mean, it’s not just me, Ruby’s there too.And we’ve got Grandma Charlie to help us.”

“Do they cry a lot?I mean, when they were younger.”

“Louisa still does.And yeah, Julia and Colin were real criers when they were babies.”

“Pammy cries a lot.Guess it’s her way of talking, yeah?”

“I think so.”

Xavier took a long gulp of his drink before continuing.“You know that Indi and I were trying for a long time before Pammy came along.I mean, we lost Jane and…it was starting to look like it wasn’t going to happen for us.I guess Pammy was a bit of a miracle.”

Romeo looked at him, worried.“You’re not starting to regret having her, are you?”

“No, we both love her to bits,”Xavier assured him,“But…Indi and I stopped working here and made you manager because we wanted to enjoy being parents, to have this time with Pammy.Guess we thought it was going to be like a fairy tale or something.Instead…”

“It’s hard?”Romeo supplied.

Xavier nodded.“Hard.Yeah.”

Ric staggered out of the bedroom, bleary eyed, to the sound of clattering in the kitchen as people put away the breakfast things.Cassie was finishing up drying the dishes while Summer and Elizabeth were wandering around in their school uniforms.“Bye, Mum!”Summer called as she headed towards the door.

“Hey, wait a minute!”Cassie called,“You’re meant to be waiting for Elizabeth.”

Summer grimaced.“Do I have to?It’s no fun having to walk to school with a baby.”

“I’m not a baby!”Elizabeth protested,“I’m seven!”

“You’re a baby,”Summer retorted.

“Summer Turner, just because you’re going to high school next year, doesn’t mean you can behave like that,”Cassie snapped.

“But I’ve got my own friends,”Summer protested.

“I’ve got my friends too!”Elizabeth pointed out.

Cassie sighed and looked down at the two girls.“What’s wrong, hey?You always used to be friends.”

“It’s all right being friends here,”Summer agreed,“But when we’re at school…”

“It’s a bit weird,”Elizabeth conceeded.

Cassie smiled.“Well, once you’re at school, you can avoid each other as much as you want.But first, I need you both to be friends and make sure the other one gets to school safely.”

Summer sighed.“Oh-kay.Come on, Lizzie.”

“Well handled,”Ric commented as the two girls left.

“Yeah, if you’d felt like chipping in and helping, that would have been fine,”Cassie remarked.

“I know you can deal with it.”Ric cleared his throat.“Seriously…I don’t know how I would have coped with Elizabeth on my own.”

Cassie smiled.“You’d be fine, she’s a sweetie.Have you seen my bag?I need to get to work.”Cassie had taken a job as a nursery teacher.

“Yeah, it’s on the chair,”Ric answered.He reached out to grab it and pass it to her, just as Cassie did the same.Their hands touched and they looked at each other.For a moment, Ric thought she was going to kiss him.For a moment, he wanted her to.

Then the moment passed and Cassie pulled her hand away from his, slinging the bag over her shoulder.“Thanks,”she said awkwardly,“See you this evening.”

She walked out, leaving Ric alone, pondering what had just happened.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I didn't realise Sasha was 23... now.

Yes, there's been some pretty big time skips throughout this saga.Thank you, pembie, Aden Belle and Beezzz, for your comments, hope everyone likes this one.


Indi gently laid Pammy down in her baby chair, fastening her in.Pammy immediately started struggling and wimpering, trying to get out.“You’re only going to be in there for a minute, honey,” Indi said soothingly,“Just let Mummy answer the door.”She hurried in the direction where the persistent knocking was coming from.

When she opened the door, she found Ruby and Cassie standing there, grins on their faces, Ruby carrying Louisa.“Surprise!”Ruby announced in a tone that Indi found excessively cheerful.

Indi appreciated their coming round to see her but couldn’t help feeling a slight irritation.“Can you keep it quiet?I don’t want Pammy to be even more unsettled than she is.”

“Is Xavier not at home?”Cassie asked.

“No, he wanted to check in at the restaurant.Get out of the firing line, more like.”Indi realised she was being ungracious.“Sorry, come in.”

They headed into the front room.Indi went over to the still whimpering Pammy and lifted her up, placing her daughter on her lap.Ruby sat down next to them with Louisa.The two baby girls looked at each other, as if sizing each other up.Pammy reached out a hand and poked Louisa on the cheek. Louisa gave a squeal of indignation and slapped Pammy’s hand away.Pammy looked stunned for a moment and then gave a happy gurgle, almost like a laugh.Louisa copied the noise.

“Oh, I can see these two getting up to mischief together when they grow up,”Ruby noted, hugging her daughter,“Just make sure you don’t cause as much trouble as I did, okay, missy?I’m not sure if I could handle it.”

Indi looked at the interaction between them.“How come you’re so natural with her?”

“Well, she is my third.I’d have been at a bit of a loss with Julia if I hadn’t had Charlie and Leah there to support me.”

Cassie nodded in agreement.“I was pretty much at a loss with Summer at first.Sally helped me through it.”

“Guess that’s the problem of not having my mum around,”Indi noted,“I’m not sure Dad did much when me and Dex were children.And he did even less with Sasha.”

“She seems quiet now,”Ruby pointed out.

“She’s probably waiting until you two have gone so she can ambush me.”

“Do you go to parent and baby groups?”Cassie asked.

“Yeah, they can be a help,”Ruby agreed,“Mattie and I used to go to one when we had our two.”

Indi looked from one to the other, suddenly suspicious.“Is this some kind of intervention?”

Her two friends looked awkward.“Xavier…kind of mentioned to Romeo that things weren’t going as well with Pammy as you’d hoped,”Ruby admitted.

Indi sighed.“Oh great.So now I’m a charity case as well as a useless mum.”

“Look, you’re not alone in this,”Cassie told her,“There’s plenty of other first time mums feel just the same as you do.Maybe if you got out there and see them, you’d know that.”

Indi looked at their earnest faces and smiled slightly.“Yeah, maybe.”

“Two pints of the usual, barman,”Drew requested with a grin.

Romeo poured out the two drinks, casting a look over at Ric, who was seated at a table.“He’s looking pretty thoughtful.”

“Yeah, he was like that all day at the garage.”Drew gave another solicitous grin.“You don’t fancy helping me snap him out of it, do you?”

Romeo looked around.“Yeah, okay, the rest of the staff can cope with this crowd.”He picked up the two drinks and followed Drew over to the pair’s table.

Ric accepted the drink from Romeo and looked at his two friends suspiciously.“You two look like you’re about to give me a serious talk.”

“Do you need one?”Drew returned.

Ric remained silent, simply taking a long dreg from his drink.

“You look like you’ve got something on your mind,”Romeo attempted.

“Fancy sharing?”Drew asked.

Ric continued to be silent, staring at Drew.“You were right,”he admitted at last.

Drew looked confused.“About what?”

“About me and Cassie.I think everyone else saw it before we did but I can see it now.It’s there.All those feelings we had for each other when we were kids, I think they’re still there.”

“I’m guessing from the gloomy face that you see this as a bad thing?”Romeo ventured.

Ric gave him a brief smile.“It just…it feels wrong, you know?And right.It feels wrong and right at the same time.I like Cassie, we get on together and the two of us being together…it makes sense and part of me wants it.But then there’s Mattie, everything that we had…I don’t think I’m ready to give that up yet, to move on to someone else.”

The other two were silent almost as long as Ric had been.“Do you want to be alone for the rest of your life?”Romeo asked.

“No,”Ric said straightaway, then he paused, thinking.“I don’t know.I don’t want to be alone but I don’t want to let go of Mattie either.”

“Well, you don’t need to,”Drew pointed out,“But that doesn’t mean you should miss out.”

“Dexter lost April,”Romeo reminded him,“and Aden lost Belle but they’ve both moved on, they’re happy.”

“If you don’t feel ready to move on from Mattie, that’s fine,”Drew continued,“But you shouldn’t give up on this thing with Cassie just because you think there needs to be a longer gap between them.”

“I’ll think about it,”Ric replied,“Now can we talk about spark plugs or something?”

Ruby hurried through the school doors the next morning, clutching manfully on to a set of files and checking her watch…and ran straight into Gina.She stopped, feeling like the schoolgirl she’d been when she first set foot in Summer Bay High.“Mrs.Palmer.”

“Mrs.Smith,”Gina returned.

Ruby sighed.“I’m sorry I’m late, Gina, but I was over at the primary school trying to prise Colin off me.I think he’s got a bit of a complex.”

“It’s okay, Ruby, we covered for you at registration and your first class is just starting.”She glanced up and down the corridor before asking,“How did it go with Indi last night?”

Ruby smiled.“Good, I think.She seemed to be a bit more positive when we left.”

“I do worry about her and Xav.Guess you’ve got all that to come when your three are grown up.Oh, by the way, there’s a new student in your Year 10 class.Details are all in your file.”

“Okay, I’d better get on to it then.”Ruby headed into the classroom, where she was greeted with the sound of chattering.“All right, settle down.I understand we’ve got a new member of our class today. Can you stand up, please?”

A sandy-haired boy stood up near the back of the classroom, looking slightly uncomfortable at the attention.

Ruby rustled through the register, trying to find the details Gina had said were there.“Thank you and you are..?”

“Peter Bledcoe, miss.”

Ruby froze and looked at the boy, a sudden memory rushing through her mind, of ten years previous.Her decision to confront her biological father, the decision that she regretted more than any other and she had plenty to choose from.The photograph on the sideboard of the deceptively perfect-looking family, the two children she’d been briefly introduced to.Had this boy been one of them?

She suddenly realised that he and everyone else in the class was expecting her to go on.“Ah, thank you, Peter, you can sit down,”she said at last.But in that brief moment looking at him she’d been absolutely certain:Her new student was her half-brother.Grant’s son.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you, Jarliefan, pembie and Aden Belle!Hope everyone likes this one.


Ruby’s head was a mess of thoughts during the course of the lesson but somehow she managed to keep them all in and keep her students’ attention.She waited until they were filing out before calling “Peter!Can you stay behind for a few moments?”

Peter stopped and sat back down at his desk.“Have I done something wrong?”

“No, no.Just wanted to have a catch up with you, get to know you a bit.”Ruby perched on a desk in front of him.“Have you just moved to Summer Bay?”

“No, we live in the city.”

“Right.So, I’m not going to have a sudden influx of Bledcoes then…Have you got any brothers or sisters?”

“I’ve got a sister, she’s a couple of years younger than me, she’s going to school in the city.”

“Your parents?”

Peter paused.“My mum’s still around.My dad’s dead.”

Ruby had known that, of course.Or if she hadn’t known, she’d strongly suspected.“Sorry,”she attempted, hoping she sounded sincere.

He shrugged.“It was a long time ago.I was just a kid.”He nodded awkwardly towards the door.“Can I..?”

“Oh, yes, carry on.Make lots of friends!”she offered after him.But inside, she was worried about how much this was going to change both their lives.

Indi was gently rocking Pammy in her arms while Xavier sat next to them, somehow managing to make the act of replacing the batteries in a remote control into a major undertaking.“So you don’t need to go check on the restaurant today?”she asked.

“Mmm?No,”Xavier answered in between trying to force the old batteries out with a screwdriver.

“Ruby and Cassie came round yesterday while you were out.Did you know anything about that?”

Xavier paused and put down what he was doing.“They did ask me to get out of the way so they could chat to you.”

“You didn’t put them up to it then?”

“No, no,”he promised.He looked at her awkwardly.“Are you mad?”

She smiled at him.“No, I get you were just trying to help.”

“Did it help?”

Indi thought for a moment.“A bit, I guess.Nice to know I’m not on my own.”

“Pammy seems a bit more relaxed.”

“Mmm, she does, doesn’t she?”

“Maybe she just needed you to relax?”

“Or maybe Ruby and Cassie showed her how babies are supposed to behave.”

Xavier put an arm round his wife’s shoulder.“You know I love you, right?”

Indi smiled.“Yeah, I know.”

Xavier lightly kissed her…and Pammy gave an indignant squeal.Xavier smiled at their daughter and stroked the top of her head.“Sorry, Pammy.You too.”

Ruby was in the middle of preparing what seemed to be a fairly elaborate meal, Julia and Colin watching her from the kitchen table, when Romeo and Charlie arrived at home.They stopped and stared at her.“Hi!”she called jovially,“Be done in five minutes.How was work?”

“Fine,”Romeo answered.

“Yeah, fine,”Charlie agreed,“Er, were you meant to be cooking?”

“Well, I was home and I’ve put Louisa down for her nap so I thought why not?”

Romeo gestured towards the front room.“Can we have a word in there?”

“Er, yeah, sure.”Ruby dished up two plates and placed them in front of her two oldest children. “Won’t be long.”

Romeo, Ruby and Charlie went through into the living room.“What’s going on?”Charlie asked.

Ruby looked innocent.“Why should something be wrong?”

“Because you’re acting the same way you did when you needed to tell Mum and Dad you were failing Maths.”

“Did something happen today?”Romeo asked.

Ruby shook her head.“No, course not.Normal day at school.Took classes, got ignored, met my brother…”

Romeo took a second to register the last one.“Hang on, what?”

“Met my brother.Well, half-brother…”

“Grant’s son,”Charlie realised,“You met Grant’s son?”

“Yeah, he’s in my class.”Ruby laughed at their worried looks.“Don’t worry, he’s just an ordinary sixteen-year-old boy.He’s not turned up after revenge.”

“Are you sure?”Charlie asked,“What’s he doing in Summer Bay all of a sudden?”

“He…got expelled from his school in the city for cheating.”

“Oh, I’m liking this already.”

“Ruby, does he know who you are?”Romeo asked.

“Relax,”Ruby told them,“He was just a kid when I saw him, he won’t remember me.He just knows me as Mrs.Smith, so even if he’s heard the name Ruby Buckton, he won’t know it’s me, right?”

“Mum!”Julia called,“There’s a lady at the door!”

Glad of the distraction, Ruby hurried through.Then she saw who was standing there.“Romeo!”she called.

Mink grinned.“Hey, sister-in-law!”

Romeo came through and stopped.Both he and Ruby stared at the small fair-haired boy standing in front of Mink.

Mink took the boy’s hand.“Brixx, meet your Uncle Romeo and your Auntie Ruby.”

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Thanks for the comments!Hope everyone likes this.


Ruby and Mink sat in the front room in silence, neither of them looking at the other.“Can I get you anything?”Ruby said at last.

Mink stared at her.“Like what?”

Ruby struggled to think of an answer.“A sandwich?”

“No, thanks.”

Ruby breathed a sigh of relief as Romeo came back through from the bedrooms.“Well, Bricks seems happy playing with his long lost cousins.”

“Brixx,”Mink corrected,“Soft sound at the end.”

“Right.”Romeo mulled on this.“Did you just pick some letters out of a Scrabble bag when you were choosing his name?”

“Who’s his father?”Ruby asked.

Mink shrugged.“No idea.”

“You must have been busy.”

Mink rolled her eyes.“I know who he is, just not who he is.Hooked up with this guy one night after a surfing comp, when I was on the circuit.Called Bruce or Brad.Maybe Declan.We didn’t do a lot of talking.”

Romeo sighed.“Not that I’m not pleased to see you, Mink, but…why are you here?”

“Can’t I just pop in to see my little brother, his incredibly fertile wife and their army of children once in a while?”

“We haven’t seen you since the wedding,”Ruby reminded her.

“Been busy.”

“Mink, I know you,”Romeo persisted,“And I know you didn’t just come here to catch up on old times.”

Mink hesitated.“I need your help,”she said at last.

Romeo could feel himself losing his temper.“So what is it now?”he demanded,“Do you owe money?Have you got people after you because you pranged their car?”

“Brixx,”Mink said simply,“He’s ill.”Romeo stopped in mid flow and she went on.“He’s got leukaemia.They say his best chance is a transplant and I should get all relatives tested.And you’re the only relative I’m on anything like speaking terms with.”

“Have you been tested?”Ruby asked.

“No point.They won’t let me donate anyway.”

“Why not?”

“Why do you think I gave up surfing?”

Ruby glanced back at the room where their children were playing.“Brixx?”

“Apart from him.”Mink sighed.“First competition back after having him, wave slammed me into some rocks.Landed on my front, cut myself open.Needed a splenectomy.They say I’m not strong enough to donate.”She looked appealing at her brother.“Come on, Todd, you know that if I could do anything to help any of your children I would.We’re family, we stick together.”

Romeo looked from Mink to Ruby and back again.“We’re gonna have to talk about it,”he said at last.

Mink looked stung.“Fine,”she said at last,“Brixx and I will be at the caravan park when you’ve decided.”

“Xav, I’ve been thinking,”Indi announced as they settled down in the front room after dinner.

Xavier grinned.“Should I be worried?”

Indi managed a smile in reply but her demeanour remained serious.“What Ruby and Cassie were saying.Parent and baby groups are fine and I like being a parent but I need more than this.”She took a deep breath.“I want to go back to work at the restaurant.”

Xavier looked shocked.“But I thought we agreed to be stay at home parents.”

“We did,”Indi confirmed,“And I love Pammy but being cooped up with her all the time, it’s not doing either of us any good.Maybe if I’ve got something else in my life, it means I’ll appreciate the time I’ve got with her more.”

“So who’s going to look after her the rest of the time?”Xavier demanded.

Indi paused.“I only said I wanted to go back to the restaurant.”

Xavier picked up on the implication.“You think I should stay at home with her while you go back to work?”

“I don’t know.If you want to stay, that’s fine and if you don’t, that’s fine too.But I need to do this, Xav.”

Xavier kissed her gently on the lips.“Okay.We’ll give it a try for a while.”

Cassie came out of her daughter’s bedroom and dropped into an armchair, exhausted.“Well, Summer’s finally agreed to try and go to sleep.Which is a good thing because I feel like I need to join her in a moment.”

Ric didn’t reply.He just sat staring at her for a long time.“Do you want to go out for dinner one evening?”he asked at last.

Cassie nodded.“Yeah, it’d save us cooking and I’m sure the kids would enjoy it.”

Ric hesitated for a few moments before pursuing the matter.“I didn’t mean the kids.I just meant you and me.”

Cassie was suddenly more alert.She stared at him.“Oh.You mean, as in..?”

“As in a date,”Ric confirmed.He took a deep breath.“We’ve had that sort of relationship in the past. And this last while, the two of us living together again, it’s felt like we’re heading in that direction, that something could happen.”He paused, judging her reaction.“Am I imagining it?”

Cassie lowered her gaze for a moment.“No,”she said at last,“I think I’m starting to feel that way about you again too.”

“So, should we do this?”

“I don’t know.I mean, what if it’s a huge mistake and we end up hating each other?”

Ric thought about this.“Well, one date wouldn’t hurt.I guess if it really does turn out we don’t match, we could just write it off and go back to being friends.What do you think?”

Cassie smiled slightly and nodded.“I think we should give it a try.”

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How did you come up with the name Brixx?

I was after something that wasn't an everyday name but still sounded like something you'd call a kid rather than a random collection of letters.My first thought was Rixx, but that was too similar to Ric, so I added the B at the front.

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


Ruby was aware that there had been a vast metaphorical elephant in the room since Mink’s visit.She and Romeo had played with the children, given Charlie some excuse to explain his prodigal sister turning up again…but they still hadn’t discussed it themselves.

“What are you going to do?”she asked.

“I’m still thinking about it,”he answered.He noticed the look she was giving him and realised he wasn’t going to be able to avoid the subject.“She’s my sister.”

“Who only comes to you when she needs help.”

“Yeah but it’s not like we make an effort to keep in touch with her either.”Romeo saw Ruby wasn’t convinced and sighed.“What if it was one of our kids and Mink could help?Wouldn’t you want her to?”

“What about our kids?”Ruby returned,“Suppose something happens to you, how would we cope?”

“It won’t.”

“It might!”

Romeo looked hard at her.“Brixx is my nephew and he’s just a kid, he doesn’t deserve this.If I can help him, then I should.”

Ruby lowered her eyes slightly.She had no answer to that.“You’re going to get tested then?”

Romeo sighed.“I’m still thinking about it.”

“It’s only me!”Ric called out as he arrived home.

“Did you drop Summer and Elizabeth off all right?”Cassie called back from the bedroom.

“Yeah, Auntie Roo says she can look after them overnight.In case we…get back late or something.” In truth, Ric wasn’t sure what Roo had been implying, mainly because he was doing his hardest not to think about it.“You don’t mind that Drew and Sasha are coming along as well?I just thought a double date might make us relax a bit more.”

“No, that’s fine, it’s a good idea.When are we meant to meet them?”

Ric checked his watch.“About quarter of an hour.”

Cassie emerged from her room.“Good job I’m ready then.”

Ric stared hard at his ex.It was the first time since she’d returned to Summer Bay that he’d really seen her get dressed up.He’d forgotten how much it suited her.“Wow.”

Cassie smiled slightly at the offhand compliment.“You’re not going to be embarrassed to be seen out with me then?”

“Not for a second.”Ric offered her his arm.“Let’s go.”

Xavier was carrying Pammy in a plush strapped around his neck, so she dangled in front of him, facing towards him.He walked along the beach, glancing out at the early evening surfers.“See those kids there, Pammy?”he asked,“One day, I’m going to teach you how to do that.”

“Well, if she’s relying on you to teach her, she’s going to be in real trouble,”remarked a familiar female voice.

Xavier looked down and saw Mink seated on the sand nearby, grinning broadly.Brixx was crouched in front of her, making patterns in the sand with his hands and showing a studied disinterest in what the adults were doing.

Xavier matched her grin.“They really let you back into town?”he asked.

“Yeah, I’m astonished by it myself,”she agreed as Xavier sat down next to her.She tickled Pammy under the chin.“So who’s this?”

“Pammy,”Xavier answered,“Pammy, this is Mink.She’s the one who turns up every few years to mess with Daddy’s head.”

“Aww, I’m offended.”Mink smiled at him.“I’m glad things finally worked out for you and Indi.”

Xavier recalled that last time she’d been in town was just after they’d lost Jane.“Thanks,”he answered.He nodded towards Brixx.“Why have you got a little boy crawling about in front of you?”

“Why do you think?”

“I dunno, you kidnapped him and you’re holding him to ransom?”Xavier smiled to show he didn’t really mean it.“What’s his name?”

“Brixx.”Mink caught his amused expression.“With a name like yours, don’t even think about saying anything.”

“He’s great, Mink.You should be proud.”

“I am.I really am.”And to Xavier’s shock, she started crying, something he didn’t think he’d ever seen her do before.“He doesn’t deserve for this to happen to him.”

“Hey!”Xavier put his arm around her shoulder and she buried her face against him.“What’s up?”

“I can’t lose him, Xav,”she sobbed,“I just can’t.”

“Well, this feels like old times,”Drew remarked as the four of them relaxed with a drink after their meal.

“How did you three meet?”Sasha wondered,“I don’t think you ever told me.”

Drew thought for a minute.“Didn’t I break into your foster mother’s car?”

“That’s right,”Ric confirmed,“And then you tried to break us up.”

Cassie nodded at the memory.“Belle wanted Ric back and she persuaded you to help her.”

“I’m guessing you got your comeuppance in the end,”Sasha remarked.

Drew shrugged.“Not really.Once it didn’t work, I just hooked up with Belle.”

Sasha raised an eyebrow.“I’m going to have to watch you, aren’t I?”

“Hey, we all had our idiotic moments when we were young,”Ric replied,“Lucky Cass and I were rock solid back then.”

Cassie smiled at him.“Yeah, we were, weren’t we?”

Ruby stood in the doorway of the room Colin and Julia shared, the door slightly ajar, looking in on them sleeping.She felt the bond between a mother and her children as she stared at them.If something happened to them, she didn’t know how she’d feel.

“Ruby?”Charlie had come up behind her.“Romeo’s filled me in on what Mink said.How are you feeling?”

“Scared,”Ruby admitted,“Scared about what could happen to Romeo.Scared about how we’d cope if it did.But if something happened to one of the kids, I don’t know how I’d cope.I don’t know how Mink would cope if she lost Brixx.So, whatever Romeo decides, I guess I’ll be all right with that.”

“Are you sure?”Charlie asked gently.

Ruby felt tears in her eyes.“I don’t want a little boy to die.He’s my nephew, he’s part of Romeo.But I don’t want Romeo to be risked either.I don’t know what I want, Mum.I’m just so confused.”

Ric and Cassie collapsed onto the sofa when they got home.“So, we’ll pick the girls up in the morning, yeah?”Ric asked.

Cassie nodded.“I don’t think I could face dealing with them tonight.I don’t know when I last stayed out this late.”

“Me neither,”Ric agreed,“Guess we both needed to let off some steam.”

“Yeah, that must be it.”

“Or it could be that we were enjoying the company.”

Cassie looked at him, saw the expression in his eyes, and realised he was being completely serious. “That too,”she said quietly.

Ric thought again about how beautiful she looked, inside and out.Seeing her sitting there like that, he really wanted to kiss her.“We should do it again some time,”he said.

She nodded.“I’d like that.”

He thought about kissing her a moment longer…then he got up and kissed her on the cheek.“I’ll see you in the morning.”

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Thank you, Danni, Jarliefan, pembie and Beezzz!Hope everyone likes this.


“Um, class dismissed!”Ruby confirmed as she heard the school bell go.She was probably more relieved to hear it than her students.Her attention hadn’t really been on the class.Her mind was full of Romeo and Mink and Brixx and the choice he had to make.

“Are you all right, miss?”

Ruby hadn’t realised that Peter had stopped in the doorway.She quickly wiped her eyes, aware that tears were beginning to form there and that crying in front of a student was considered unprofessional.“I’m fine, thanks, Peter,”she answered, forcing a smile.

Peter probably wasn’t convinced but he nodded and made to leave anyway.

“It’s my husband,”Ruby blurted out, not quite sure why she was doing so.Since that first day, when she’d realised who he was, her interaction with Peter hadn’t extended beyond the normal classroom relationship:He’d answered a few questions, she’d drawn him into the conversation at times but they hadn’t mentioned anything that wasn’t concerned with the lesson.Yet somehow, she found she wanted to involve him in this.

Peter stopped and stood, listening to her.

Ruby realised she couldn’t say much, both for professional and personal reasons.“He’s got a problem with his family,”she said,“They need his help.But…if he helps them, it could hurt us.”

“How badly do his family need his help?”

Ruby sighed.“Very badly,”she admitted,“But…he hardly sees his family, he doesn’t really know them.”

“They’re still his family,”Peter suggested awkwardly.

“What, there isn’t some part of your family that you wouldn’t help?”Ruby didn’t know why she asked the question.But from the way Peter froze, she knew what he was thinking about.Her, even if he didn’t know it.In a way, she was his Mink.Except…she wasn’t.Romeo and Mink had grown up together, been a family.She and Peter might have a bit of DNA in common but she was a complete stranger to him.

“I’ll see you tomorrow, miss,”Peter said woodenly before he made an abrupt exit.

“Romeo, Table 4 needs clearing!”Indi called.

“Yes, boss!”Romeo called back with just a hint of resentment.

Indi paused and looked at him.“Okay, I know I was supposed to be staying away and you were supposed to be managing this place.But I’m not trying to take over, I just need to be here, okay?”

Romeo’s expression softened slightly.“Well…I guess I wouldn’t want to be around my kids 24/7 either.How’s Xavier coping with that, by the way?”

“Surprisingly well.I think Pammy’s going to turn into a daddy’s girl.”

Mink came bustling into the restaurant, strode up to the bar and stared straight at Romeo.“So, have you made your mind up yet?”

There was an awkward pause.“Good to see you again,”Indi attempted.Mink stared at her as if she’d gatecrashed a private function.“It’s Indi.We met last time you were here.”Mink continued to stare at her without recognition.“Indigo.”Still no recognition.“Xavier’s wife?”

“Oh.Yeah.Good to see you again.”Mink turned back to Romeo.“Well?”

Romeo sighed.“I said I’d think about it and I am.”

Mink glared at him.“Fine.My son’s life can just hang in the balance while you decide.”She stormed out.

Xavier had placed Pammy’s carry cot on the side of the pool table downstairs, giving her a clear view of his play.“That ball, top pocket,”he told her, playing the shot.The ball went down.Pammy looked at him, unimpressed, and then turned her attention to the far more interesting sight of the wall.“Yeah, okay, it’ll be more fun when you can play as well.”

His attention was distracted as Mink came storming down the stairs, Romeo just behind her.“Mink, wait!”

“Go to hell, Romeo!”she replied, not breaking stride.

Xavier looked at Romeo.“You said no?”Romeo gave him a quizzical look.“Mink explained.”

“I said I’m still thinking about it,”Romeo replied, slightly defensively.

“She might think that’s the same thing, like you’re looking for an excuse not to help.Are you?”

Romeo sighed.“I haven’t seen Mink in six years and she turns up here wanting my help.”

“I haven’t seen Hugo in ten years but if he turned up I’d help him.I think Mink would do the same for you.But then, I think you know that.”

Drew and Sasha were passionately kissing in his flat.Drew undid her top button but Sasha pulled away with a smile.“Later.I’m thirsty.”

Drew sighed.“You really know how to keep a guy waiting, don’t you?”He got up.“Got some of those little bottles of wine you like in the fridge.”

“That’ll be fine,”Sasha answered,“How’s Ric been at work since that double date?”

“I asked him how things were between him and Cassie.He said ‘Good.’”

Sasha stared at him.“That’s all?Good?”

“Where Ric’s concerned, that counts as discussing your feelings.”

“I don’t know why they’re making such a song and dance about it.They obviously like each other, they both want it to happen.Why are they waiting?”

Drew handed her the glass he’d poured her bottle into.“Why are we?”

Sasha raised an eyebrow.“You seriously can’t wait until I’ve finished this?”

“I don’t mean that.I mean you moving in.”

“I’ve told you, Dad’s on his own, Indi and Dex have moved out already…”

“Yeah and we both know he’d be fine.That’s just an excuse.This is what I want and I think it’s what you want too.So…will you move in with me?”

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Thanks for the comments, Danni, Jarliefan and pembie!


Ruby saw Romeo sitting alone in the darkness.She stood in the doorway for a moment, watching him, unsure if she should intrude, before walking into the room and sitting next to him.“I woke up and you weren’t there.”

Romeo looked sideways at her.“Sorry,”he said quietly,“I just…I guess I needed to think on my own.”

“You’re going to do it, aren’t you?”

Romeo met her gaze.“I don’t really see how I can’t.I know you’re scared…”

Ruby shook her head.“This isn’t about me.I mean, yeah, I’m scared for me, for us, for our family, but…”

“I might not be a match.”

Ruby sighed.“And what, I’m supposed to hope you’re not?Because if you’re not, then that’s probably Brixx’s only chance gone.I can’t wish that on him.”

“I…really love you, you know that?”

Ruby managed a smile.“Yeah, I kind of figured that out.”

Romeo leaned over and kissed her, softly but intensely.She felt the same tingle that she always did when they kissed, that reminded her how much she loved him.Smiling, she took his hand and led him back to bed.

Sid looked suspiciously at the sight of Sasha making breakfast.“What have you done?”

Sasha managed an innocent smile.“What?I just thought it might be nice for the two of us to sit down to breakfast together.”

“Well, yes, it is nice,”Sid agreed,“I’m just wondering what the catch is.Have you been sacked from the hairdresser’s?”

“No!”Sasha took a deep breath.This was going to be harder than she thought.“Drew’s asked me to move in with him.”

She was half expecting him to start ranting and raving and giving her a lecture.But instead he just raised an eyebrow.“And that’s all?”

“All?!”Sasha repeated,“Dad, this is a really big deal!”

“Well, yes, I know it is.For you.But you didn’t have to start an all-out charm offensive to soften the blow for me.”

Sasha tried to put her thoughts into words.“It’s just…it’s only been the two of us for a while now and…”

“You think I’d miss you?”Sid looked hard at her.“Well, yes, I will but that’s got nothing to do with it.If this is the right thing for you and Drew, then you need to do it.It’s not like you’re going to be that far away, you can still drop in whenever you need a bit of father/daughter advice.”

Sasha smiled slightly.“I guess so.”

“So the question is…do you want to do this?”

Sasha smiled even more.“I think so.”

Mink flung her arms around Romeo.She looked happier than he’d seen her in a long time.“Thank you, thank you!I knew you wouldn’t let us down.”

“I’ll give it a try,”Romeo said, trying to stop her getting too carried away,“But this might not work out.”

“It will, I know it will,”Mink insisted,“You’re the best brother ever.”

“Well, the first thing we’ve got to do is get me tested and see if I’m a match,”Romeo pointed out.

Mink nodded.“We should get onto the hospital and arrange it.”

“I’ll talk to Sid, see what I can sort out.”

Mink looked slightly puzzled.“Who’s Sid?”

“Indi’s dad.He’s a doctor.”

Mink thought hard.“Indi’s that blonde you work for, right?The one Xavier married?”She sighed. “And we could have been so good together.”

Romeo grinned.“You really are impossible, you know that?”

“It’s why you love me.”

Cassie glanced across at Ric sitting next to her on the sofa, unsure how to broach the subject.She’d spent all evening trying to pluck up the courage.“Ric, you remember that date we went on?”

Ric turned to face her.“Yeah.”

“It went well, don’t you think?I mean…”

“I enjoyed it,”Ric assured her.

“So, are we going to go on another one?I mean, are we going out?”

Ric hesitated and took her hand.“I’d like that.”

“So, are we, like…boyfriend/girlfriend now?”

Ric grimaced.“Aren’t we a bit old to be calling ourselves that?”

“I’m only thirty!I’m not ready for the scrapyard yet.”

“Okay.Then…yes, we’re boyfriend and girlfriend.”He looked hard at her.“I have been really wanting to kiss you for a long time.”

“Well…now you can.If you like.”

Ric leaned forward and touched his lips against hers, letting the kiss deepen as they felt the taste of each other, then pulled back.“How was that?”

“Felt…kind of familiar,”Cassie answered.

“Yeah.Did, didn’t it?”He smiled slightly.“I’d forgotten.”

He leaned in and kissed her again and this time they didn’t stop.They revelled in each other’s touch, feeling each other’s bodies responding to it.Ric’s hands drifted down Cassie’s front and started unbuttoning her top and she pulled away.“Ric!”

Ric held up his hands.“Sorry, sorry.Moving too fast.”

“It’s not that, it’s…I’m HIV positive, remember?”

Ric seemed slightly thrown that she’d brought it up.“We can use protection, can’t we?”

Cassie felt herself reddening slightly.“I haven’t got any…”

“I have,”Ric admitted.He saw her accusing glare.“After what happened to you, Mattie and I started being extra careful.Guess having them around is a habit I haven’t broken.”

Cassie sighed.“Ric…since I’ve been diagnosed, I’ve had sex eight times.Five of them were with that guy I told you about, the one I met shortly after I left here.The other three were with this guy I met about five years ago.Anyone else that showed an interest, I made them wait until I was sure they wouldn’t freak out when I told them.And none of them fancied sticking around.”

Ric sat in silence for a moment, then he raised an eyebrow.“Five years?”

Cassie gave an embarrassed smile.“Yeah.I’ve surprised myself.”

“Cass…I want to make love to you.Now, if you’re not ready for that, then I’m fine, I’ll wait.But don’t think that you having HIV is going to put me off.Any time you’re up for number nine onwards, I’ll be ready.”

Cassie smiled, leaned forward and kissed him for a moment.Then she took his hand.“Come on.” They started kissing again, their passion for each other increasing, as they headed towards the bedroom.

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Thank you, Danni, Jarliefan, Beezzz and pembie!Hope everyone likes this chapter.


Ric blinked himself awake to find Cassie lying next to him.She’d insisted they put their underwear back on before going to sleep, to prevent any accidents, but he was still seeing more of her than usual.“How long have you been awake?”he asked her.

“Not long,”she answered,“Just enjoying the feeling of lying here.”

“No regrets then?”

She shook her head slightly.“Not from me.Unless…”

“I told you,”he insisted firmly,“I haven’t got any doubts about this.”

“But there’s so much to think about.I mean, we wouldn’t be able to have any more children, not without paying tons of money for IVF anyway…”

“We have a hard enough time coping with the ones we’ve got, haven’t we?”

“Plus…if I wasn’t positive, we’d be having spontaneous, early morning sex right now, wouldn’t we?”

She gave a slight smile and Ric returned it.“Well, yeah, that is a downside,”he admitted,“But only because you’re hot.”

“You’re quite cute too,”she agreed,“Is it tacky to say ‘Thank you’ for last night?”

“No, I get what you mean.”He brushed her hair away from her face and kissed her lightly.“And, um, it might not be spontaneous but we have still got most of the packet if you want to, you know, go again.”

She flushed slightly but smiled.“I think that’d be okay.”

Ruby felt more nervous than she’d ever felt in her life.She was sitting in an office at the hospital with Romeo and Mink, waiting to hear news.And she didn’t even know what she wanted the news to be. Romeo was gripping onto her hand silently, trying to reassure her, but it only reminded her of what she might lose.

Sid came back in, shuffling papers, and sat down at the desk.“We have a match,”he announced, “Romeo is a suitable donor for Brixx.”

Mink looked as delighted as Ruby had ever seen her and even Romeo looked pleased.Ruby tried to hide her own sinking feeling as much as possible.“So when can you book us in?”Romeo asked.

“I think we can arrange a slot to harvest the bone marrow from you and transplant it into Brixx some time in the next week.”

“That soon?”Ruby couldn’t help asking.

Mink either didn’t notice or chose to ignore her sister-in-law’s reticience.“Thanks so much, Doctor Walker.”She got up and hugged Romeo.“And thank you too, Romeo.I’ll never forget what you’ve done for us.”

Romeo smiled.“Don’t worry about it, sis.”

“I’ve got to go and tell Brixx.”Mink hurried out.

“I’ll go and check theatre slots,”Sid noted, following her out.

Romeo and Ruby were left alone.He still hadn’t let go of her hand.“You’re sure you’re okay with this?”he asked.

Ruby forced a smile.“Yeah, of course I am.”

“I cannot believe we’re finally going to be living together!”Sasha exclaimed as she unloaded another box from the back of her car.

Drew was too busy staring at the boxes.“How much stuff did you bring?”

“Just the bare essentials.”

Ric and Cassie grinned at the exchange.“A girl can never have too many things,”Cassie explained.

“That’s what I always say,”Sasha agreed.She looked over at where Summer and Elizabeth had opened up a box and were taking things out of it.“Don’t do that, I need those together!”

“But we want to help,”Summer protested,“And the box is too big for us to carry.”

“So we’re taking the little things in,”Elizabeth added.

“Nice idea, girls,”Ric noted,“But might be best to leave these things to the grown-ups.”

“What he said,”Cassie agreed.She leaned her arm on Ric’s shoulder and he put an arm round her waist.

Drew and Sasha watched the interaction in bemusement.“Is there something different about you two..?”Drew asked.

Ric and Cassie grinned awkwardly.“Yeah, we’re…kind of together,”Ric confirmed.

“About time too,”Sasha told them,“Hopefully you’ll be as happy as we are.”

Xavier was sat at one of the tables downstairs in the surf club, feeding Pammy her baby food while trying to simultaneously eat his own meal.Mink came bounding over and, before he could say a word, flung her arms round him and hugged him.“Sorry, just wanted to do that to someone,”she explained,“And hugging anyone else would just be weird.”She patted Pammy on the head.“Apart from you, of course, Penny.”

Xavier started to correct her, then decided it wasn’t worth it.“I’m taking you’ve got good news?”

Mink nodded.“Romeo’s a match, Doctor Walker’s booked us in for the operation next week and it looks like Brixx is in with a chance.”

Xavier grinned.“Mink, that’s the best.I’m really pleased for you.And him.”

“Aww, you say the sweetest things.Guess I’d better go and tell him.”

“I’ll come with you,”Xavier offered,“We’re about finished here anyway.”

“Thanks, that’d be good.”

As they chatted, Indi came down the stairs, instantly noticing her husband and daughter.She stopped, watching them, seeing Mink lift Pammy up and swing her in the air, before passing her to Xavier.Seeing them laughing and joking and jostling each other, walking out of the surf club without noticing her.

She couldn’t help wondering if there was anyone in the surf club who didn’t know her and Xavier and thought that he, Mink and Pammy were a family.She found she was bothered by that.And maybe a bit jealous.

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Big thanks for all the comments.Hope everyone likes this one.


Indi paused before entering the flat.She adjusted her top to show off her figure more, then as an afterthought undid her top button.She took a deep breath and stepped inside.

Xavier seemed to be picking leftover baby clothes off the back of the sofa when she came in.“Hi,” he greeted her,“I’ve put Pammy down for her nap so I was just…”

Indi slammed her lips down onto his, the kiss restrained but intense.

“Okay,”Xavier acknowledged,“What was that for?”

Indi shrugged.“Been a long day, thought we should unwind.”

“Well, I’m all for unwinding but…”

Indi silenced him with another kiss, deepening it this time, her hand moving under his shirt and stroking his chest.She pulled back from the kiss but kept her hand where it was.“You really want to stand here talking until Pammy wakes up?”

“Well, when you put it like that…”Xavier was the one who initiated the kiss this time, both of them feeling the soft, intimate touch of the other's lips, before he let her lead him to the bedroom.

“I’m home!”Ric called out jovially as he arrived home.Then he noticed the look on Cassie’s face and his expression became serious to match hers.“Is something up?”

“Summer’s been asking questions,”Cassie explained.

Ric went over to her and put an arm on her shoulder.“Like..?”

“Like…why don’t I sleep in my bedroom anymore?”

Ric nodded in understanding.In truth, he’d been expecting it to come up sooner or later.“So what did you tell her?”

“I told her that you were my boyfriend now.She seemed to accept it rather than asking any more questions.Was that all right?”

Ric smiled reassuringly.“Well, it’s not like it was a secret.”

“Don’t know how she’ll take it when she’s had time to think about it.It’s always just been the two of us.”

“Well, it isn’t anymore.So I guess we’ll deal with her together.”Ric looked uncertain suddenly.“Do you think I should say something to Elizabeth?”

“I guess we’ll have to explain things to her eventually.”Cassie hesitated.“I don’t want her to ever forget Mattie, I mean, she’ll always be her mother, I’m never going to replace her…”

“It’s okay.”Ric kissed her lightly on the lips.“We both loved Mattie, I know that.But Elizabeth and I have got you in our life now.And we’re really lucky.”

Drew was greeted with a bellow of frustration as he arrived home, coming from the direction of the kitchen.“Sasha?”he called,“What’s wrong?”

“No, don’t come in!”Sasha shouted back desperately.

“Why, what’s happened?”Drew ignored her entreaty, headed into the kitchen…and found it in a mess, chopped vegetables strewn all across every available surface.There was a large amount of smoke in the air.

“I burned the peppers,”Sasha said by way of explanation.

Drew raised an eyebrow.“Didn’t you do a bit more than that?”

“Fine, I did a bit more than that,”Sasha snapped.

Drew gestured at the mess.“What’s all this?”

“It was meant to be chicken stir fry,”Sasha replied testily,“It just…didn’t go according to plan.”

“You didn’t have to do all this,”Drew protested,“You’ve been working at the salon all day.”

“I know but I got home first and…”Sasha sighed.“Look, I’m new to this, okay?I don’t know what the rules are.I’ve only ever lived with Mum or Dad.I don’t know if I’m expected to cook or clean or what.”

Drew put an arm round her and hugged her.“Tell you what.How about we draw up some sort of roster to work out who cooks and cleans when?”

Sasha nodded.“The kitchen’s a mess,”she said at last.

“We’ll get takeout.”

Peter had been delayed after class, helping the science teacher clear up.He checked his watch as he removed his books from his locker, wondering how long he had before someone locked the place up. He heard movement and looked round the locker to see Mrs.Smith coming out of one of the classrooms.To his surprise, he noticed a woman in a police sergeant’s uniform enter the building and go over to her.Curious, he shrank back out of sight.

“Mum!”Mrs.Smith greeted the woman,“What are you doing here?”

“Just wanted to check up on how you’re feeling.Romeo goes into hospital tomorrow.”

“I know, I’ve asked Gina for time off to be with him.”

“But you’re sure you’re all right?”

“Well, I’ve got to be, haven’t I?He needs to do this for Mink and Brixx and I need to be there for him.”

“Ah, Sergeant Buckton!”Peter peered round the locker at this new voice and saw Gina approaching the pair.“Anything I can help you with?”

“No, no,”Charlie answered,“Just checking that Ruby’s okay.”

And suddenly it clicked in Peter’s mind.The odd sense of familiarity he got from Mrs.Smith, the way she seemed to be more approachable towards him than teachers usually were…“You’re her!”he shouted and the three women turned round, suddenly aware of him,“You’re Ruby Buckton!You’re the one who…”He was unable to put it into words.He took a step back.

“Peter, wait!”Ruby called.

But Peter didn’t want to hear anymore.He ran from the school.

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