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Relative Difficulties

Guest Red Ranger 1

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Thank you for all the comments!Hope people like this one.


Peter tapped his notebook with a pen in what struck Ruby as mostly being an attempt to distract her attention from his inability to answer the question.“So, this Austrian Archduke was assassinated on..?”

“28th June 1914,”Ruby supplied, hoping he didn’t notice her glancing down at her notes to check.

“And that triggered the First World War.”He looked puzzled.“How?”

“Well, that’s what you’re meant to be telling me.Didn’t you read through all those textbooks I gave you?”

Peter looked awkward.“I didn’t really have time.I mean, this is the first day I’ve had off since I started at that office and…I was worried Mum would see.”

Ruby sighed.“How’s that job going anyway?”

“It’s okay but…it’s just not what I want to do.”

“Any idea what you do want to do?”

“I was thinking I might work in a research lab or something?I’ve always liked science.”

“I should introduce you to a friend of mine, Dex.He works at a lab in the city.”Ruby noticed Peter looking around the Diner nervously.“Is something wrong?”

“I just…I know there’s not much chance of my mum coming in but I feel nervous meeting here. Couldn’t we have gone to your place?”

Ruby gave an awkward smile.“Actually, I’m trying to hide this from my mum as well.And she’s at home all day.”

Peter looked surprised.“Your mum?”

“Trust me, families never stopped worrying about you.”She turned back to her notes.“Okay.Did you read about the Triple Alliance and Triple Entente?”

Indi was surprised when she saw Mink and Brixx entering the restaurant.Mink didn’t come in very often when she wasn’t working;she had come in with Xavier some times but, for reasons that left both Indi and Xavier baffled, they didn’t seem to be spending as much time together recently.“Can I get you a table?”she asked.

Mink shook her head.“I just wanted to see Romeo.”

Indi waved over to where Romeo was taking some customers’ orders.“Romeo, visitor.”

Romeo came over to the counter, handing the pad with the order on to Indi.“Mink, hey, what’s up?”

“Just need you to look after Brixx for an hour or so.I’m going surfing with a friend.”

“What?What friend?I’m at work!Can’t you find someone else?”

“Knew you’d understand.Bye!”Mink breezed out of the restaurant.

Romeo saw the look Indi was giving him.“Don’t, okay?I get enough of that from Ruby.”

Indi held up her hands in surrender.“Look, I’m not going to give you lectures about letting her take advantage of you.But I can’t have her turning up at work and expecting you to drop everything and babysit.”

“We’re not busy at the moment.How about I take my break now so I can look after him?”

Indi sighed.“Okay.But if she’s not back in an hour, then we’ve got a problem.”

Mink wasn’t sure why she hadn’t told Romeo she was meeting Heath, other than the fact she had a feeling he’d disapprove.She didn’t let that put her off:A lot of people in Summer Bay disapproved of her, after all.And she actually found surfing with him relaxing.It was nice to share it with him someone other than Romeo or Xavier.

“You’re pretty good,”he remarked as they stood in shallow water.

“Oh, thanks very much,”she responded ironically.

“Hey, I can’t pay you a compliment now?You wanna come out again?”

Mink sighed.“I can’t, I’ve got to pick Brixx up.”

“Should have brought him with you, teach the little guy to surf.”

Mink winced.“I’m not ready for that yet.”

“Oh, overprotective mother, huh?You’ve got to let the kid live a bit.”

“I’m not overprotective!”Mink argued,“I’m just being responsible.”

“Course you are.”Heath gave a sudden cheeky grin and splashed her.Mink gave him a scandalised look and splashed him back.He caught her arm, pulled her towards him…and then suddenly he was kissing her.She started kissing him back, the two of them exploring each other’s mouths and bodies hungrily, until she suddenly pulled back, staring at him in confusion.

“I have to go,”she said at last before hurrying up the beach.

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Thank you, Jarliefan and JosieTash!Hope everyone likes this chapter.


Romeo knelt in front of Louisa, fastening up her cardigan.“Shoes on?”he asked her and she nodded enthusiastically.“Hands clean?”She held them out and he pretended to inspect them.“Okay, we’re good to go.”He ruffled her hair, straightened up…and found Mink standing in the doorway with Brixx.

“Can we talk?”she asked.

Romeo sighed.“Louisa, Brixx, do you wanna go play in the front room for a bit?”He noticed his daughter’s disappointed face.“I know, I’m sorry.I won’t be long.”

The two children went into the other room, leaving them to sit down at the table.“I need your help,” Mink explained.

Romeo tried his best not to wince.“Look, Julia and Colin are spending the day with Elizabeth and Pammy at Xavier’s so I promised Louisa today would just be the two of us.I can drop Brixx off with them if you want…”

Mink shook her head.“This isn’t about Brixx, it’s about me.”

“Oh.”Romeo was thrown slightly.“So, er, what did you want to talk about?”

Mink sighed.“I kissed someone.Or someone kissed me.It was kind of mutual, either way.”

“What?”Romeo looked at her, shocked.“It wasn’t Xavier, was it?”

“No.That’s the thing.I don’t think I like Xavier anymore, not like that anyway.I think…I might like this new guy.I’m just finding myself looking at him and thinking about him in the same way I used to Xav…”

“Well, that’s great,”Romeo pointed out, before suddenly looking at her worried,“He’s not married as well, is he?”

“No.”Mink seemed to brace herself before sharing.“It’s Heath.”

“Heath?!”Romeo stared at her in shock.“Heath Braxton?!”

Mink sighed but didn’t look too surprised at his outburst.“Yeah.”

“Okay, if there’s anything worse than liking a married man, it’s liking Heath Braxton.You know he’s been in jail?”

Mink shrugged.“So have I.”

“Yeah but he actually did something to deserve it.”

“Maybe we can bond over stories of our favourite prison lags.So I take it you don’t approve?”

Romeo hesitated.“Look, Mink, I want you to be happy but that doesn’t mean you hooking up with the first no-hoper that takes your fancy.”

“Okay, I’ll take that into consideration.Do you mind if Brixx and I hide out here for a bit?”

Romeo sighed.“Yeah, sure.”He got up and called into the other room.“Louisa!We’re going.”

“So, did you manage to get all your reading done this time?”Ruby asked as they sat in the Diner again.

Peter nodded.“I managed to smuggle my textbook into work and read it during my break.”

“How did your workmates feel about that?”

“I got a bit of ribbing for trying to be intellectual but they were mostly okay about it.”

“Good.Well, perhaps this time you can manage to show me how much you’ve learned…”Ruby noticed that Peter suddenly didn’t seem to be paying much attention to her.Instead, he was staring behind her, as if frozen to the spot.Ruby looked round and saw a dark-haired girl in her early teens staring at them, open-mouthed.

It took Ruby a few seconds to recognise her.After all, on their first meeting she’d only been a few years old and on their second meeting Ruby’s attention had been mainly focused on Tracey.

“Mia,”Peter whispered in horror.Mia turned and ran.Peter scrambled to his feet and ran after her. “Mia, wait!”

Ruby went after them as fast as she could.She saw Peter catching up to his sister and grabbing her by the arm, turning her round.“Mia, stop,”he begged.

Mia looked at him in disgust.“I followed you here, I wondered where it was you kept sneaking off to, thought maybe you had a girlfriend or something.I didn’t think you’d be with her.”

“It’s not what you think, she’s all right.”

“Dad’s dead because of her!Have you forgotten that?”

“I’m sorry you lost your dad,”Ruby interjected,“But Peter wants to sit his exams, I’m just trying to help him.”

Mia shook her head.“I’m going to tell Mum, she’ll put a stop to this.”She ran off again.

Peter made to go after her again but Ruby caught his arm.“There’s nothing you can say.”

Peter looked mortified.“Mum’ll kill me.”

“She won’t blame you,”Ruby replied with a sigh,“She’ll blame me.”

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


Ruby held her phone to her ear, listening with frustration to the repeated sound of the ringing tone, before giving up.“I still can’t get through to Peter.”

She was sitting at a table in Austin’s with Romeo, Xavier, Indi, Sasha, Dexter and Casey.“Have you heard anything from the school?”Sasha asked.

Ruby shook her head.“No, I don’t think Tracey’s reported me.”

“Well, that’s something,”Casey offered.

“Yeah but what about Peter?What sort of trouble is he in?That’s what I’m really worried about.”

Romeo sighed.“You know I hate to say I told you so but I kind of did.Maybe it’s best just to let it lie.”

“Maybe I should go round there,”Ruby mused.

“Or maybe you should just ignore what I just said,”Romeo concluded wearily.

“Well, you can’t just storm round there on your own,”Casey argued.

“Yeah but I don’t want to get anyone official involved,”Ruby continued,“That’s just gonna make it more difficult to resolve things.”

“Well, what if Romeo and I go with you?”Xavier asked.

Ruby shook her head.“Too intimidating.”

“I could go,”Dexter suggested,“I’m not intimidating.”

“Maybe Sash and I should go,”Indi added,“Bit of female solidarity.”

“What?Hey?No,”Xavier responded,“I don’t want you getting into trouble.”

“Oh but you’d happily let Ruby walk in there on her own?”

“No, I…”Xavier sighed.“I should just back down now, shouldn’t I?”

“Would you?”Ruby asked her two friends,“That’d be great.”

Sasha shrugged.“Can’t let the sisterhood down, can we?”

Heath had been flicking through the children’s channels when he heard the knock at the door.He was about to call out for someone to answer it when he remembered that Sid was at work and Casey and Dexter were off meeting their friends somewhere.With a sigh, he got up out of his seat and went over to the flyscreen.

Mink was standing on the other side of it, looking awkward.“Hey.Haven’t seen you catching the waves much recently.”

“I been going down early.Getting my chores out of the way quickly, you know?”

Mink gestured into the house.“Can I come in?”

Heath allowed her into the front room.He noticed her gaze pass over to the television and hastily turned it off.“Dex always leaves it on that channel.Take a seat.”He gestured to the sofa, perching next to her once she was sat.

Mink took a deep breath.“About that kiss…”

Heath shrugged.“No big deal, fun while it lasted.”

“Right.So it…didn’t mean anything to you then?”

“Hey, you’re a hot chick, we had fun.Don’t wanna worry yourself.”

“Just so long as we’re clear.”

“I get it.You don’t want to waste your life on a River Boy.”

Mink glared at him for a moment and then kissed him full on the lips.“Don’t go making judgements on me, okay?”

Heath waited a second before grabbing her and kissing her.Both of them surrendered to the kiss hungrily, feeling the pleasing sensation of each other’s bodies.Heath’s hand caressed Mink’s leg and then moved upwards, under her skirt, until she suddenly pulled away.“Heath!”

He looked at her, amused and perplexed.“What?”

“What do you think we were gonna do?”

He shrugged.“Whatever takes your fancy.”

“Oh, right.So you think I’m just gonna have sex with you?”

“Door’s there if you’re not.”

Mink shot him the angriest glare he’d been on the receiving end for some time and stormed out of the house.

Heath banged his head against a cushion.

Ruby stood on the doorstep, Indi and Sasha flanking her.She rapped on it and, a few moments later, Mia answered, looking at her with disgust.“What do you want?”

“Is your brother in?”Ruby asked,“Or your mum?”

“Peter’s at work.A friend of Dad’s drives him in.To make sure he gets home.”

Ruby did her best to remain civil.“Well, what about your mum?”

“Mia, who is it?”Tracey appeared behind her daughter and looked at the trio.“Oh.”

“Can I speak to you, Mrs.Bledcoe?”Ruby asked, smiling sweetly.

Tracey looked at the others.“Who are they?”

“We’re her friends,”Indi offered.

“They’re here for moral support,”Ruby answered.

“We’re very moral and supportive,”Sasha confirmed.And winced.

“Mia, keep an eye on them,”Tracey instructed,“Mrs.Smith and I won’t be talking for long.”

Ruby followed Tracey into the house.Mia continued to stand in the doorway, glaring hard at the two women.

“So, how’s school?”Indi asked her.

Mia continued glaring.Indi gave up.

“If this is about your unauthorised tutoring of my son,”Tracey began once they were alone.

“It’s not,”Ruby answered,“At least, not exactly.It’s not about me.It’s about Peter.Whatever you want to do to me, it’s not fair he gets punished as well.”

“I’m not punishing him,”Tracey insisted,“He’s got a good job…”

“Yeah, which he hates.He needs to be in school.Even if it’s not Summer Bay High, he needs to be somewhere.I can get you information, contacts, whatever you need.Just make sure he gets the education he deserves.”

Tracey looked hard at her, as if searching for an ulterior motive.“I’ll think about it,”she said at last.

Ruby nodded.“Just do what’s best for Peter.”

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Thank you for the comments, everyone.Hope you like this one.


Heath hoisted his gym bag onto his shoulder as he exited the surf club.He was in an even fouler mood than usual.All the dreams he’d had when he returned to Summer Bay seemed to be in tatters: He was no closer to having contact with Darcy and as for Mink…So he wasn’t exactly in the right mood to face up to the two people blocking his path.
“You’re still here then?”Drew asked.
“Looks like it,”Heath confirmed,“You got a problem with that?”
“Just so long as you remember which local girls are off limits,”Ric answered.
Heath smirked.“Well, let me see.”He looked at Drew.“I know that you’ve been getting your jollies off the doc’s youngest.What’s it feel like having to make do with my gay brother’s cast-offs?”He looked at Ric.“And I hear that since your wife died, you’ve been having to make do with sleeping with your sister.So, anyone else you want to lay claim to?”
Drew made a lunge for Heath but Ric managed to block his friend with his arm.“You know who we’re talking about,”he snapped at Heath.
“Hey, what’s going on?”Romeo asked as he came over.
Heath glared at him.“I think these two have worked out what a tease your sister is.”
“You really are going to get a slap in a minute,”Ric told him.
“Yeah?”Heath flexed his muscles.“You wanna try something, girlie hair?”
“Oi!”John Palmer came marching out of the surf club towards them.“What’s going on here?”
Heath shrugged.“These three have slept with half the town so they’re scared of the competition.”
John let his gaze rest on all four of them before turning his attention to Heath.“Are you going somewhere?”
“Then get on with it.”John waited until Heath had gone before looking at the other three.“You should know better.”He headed back inside.
“What was that all about?”Romeo asked.
Ric and Drew looked awkward.“We were kind of warning him off Mink,”Ric explained,“I mean, after you told me that she was interested in someone that she shouldn’t be…”
“What?”Romeo struggled to remember the conversation.“That wasn’t…Never mind.Look, I appreciate the thought, guys, but maybe it’s best just to leave it.”
“Well, if she is interested in that guy,”Drew replied,“I reckon she’d better watch out.”

Ruby knocked once on the door of the office before opening it.“You wanted to see me, Gina?”
She stopped as she recognised Gina’s two visitors:Tracey and Peter.Peter was smiling at her.Even more surprisingly, Tracey was almost doing the same.
“Yes, Mrs.Smith,”Gina confirmed,“I thought you might want to welcome back a member of the student body.”
Ruby understood Peter’s smile.Indeed, she was now sharing it.“You’re coming back?Here?”
“Mrs.Smith helped me see that I wasn’t exactly acting in Peter’s best interests when I removed him from the school,”Tracey noted,“I think I’ve…misjudged a lot of things.This is where he belongs.”
Gina got up.“Why don’t you two have a word while we get the paperwork sorted?”
Tracey hesitated for a moment, then got up and followed Gina out of the office.
Ruby hugged Peter and sat down next to him.“I can’t believe you’re here!”
“Mum told me that you spoke to her.Must have had an effect on her.I spoke to Mia, tried to convince her you’re not as bad as she thinks…”
“Any luck?”
“No.But I’ll keep working.I’ve decided to drop Music.I’ll be taking Business Studies instead.Mum’s idea.Think she’s still hoping I’ll follow in Dad’s footsteps.”He hesitated.“As far as work goes, I mean.”
“Well, I’ll be sorry not to have you in my class anymore but I think it’s probably for the best.”
“Yeah.”Peter was silent for a moment.“Do you think we could still meet up at the Diner though? Have a coffee or something this time instead of you marking my essays?”
Ruby smiled.“Yeah.I think I’d like that.”

“Can you try and keep your mates in line next time they come around here?”John asked as Xavier helped him tidy up the gym.
“Which mates are those?”Xavier replied.
“I caught Romeo, Ric and Drew ganging up on Heath Braxton outside.”
Xavier shrugged.“Well, we’ve all thought about doing that at one point or another.”
“Yeah but a mass brawl outside the place isn’t exactly good for our image.”John opened up the cash register and looked at it curiously.“Ah, Xavier, have you emptied this?”
Xavier looked at him, puzzled.“No, why would I?”
John stared hard at the empty register, checking the area around it as if expecting the money to have somehow fallen out.“I think we’ve been robbed.”
“Did you leave it unattended or something?”
“Well, I did when I went to sort out that fracas outside but there was no-one hanging around then…” John stopped and clicked his fingers.“Heath Braxton.”
Xavier was confused.“I thought you said he was outside at that point?”
“Yeah but before that he was in here.And I had my back to him, he could have swiped it easily.” John picked up a phone.“I think I’d better call the police.”

Heath was halfway through his latest beer when he heard someone at the door.He went to answer it and found Charlie and Georgie waiting there.Charlie was holding up a piece of paper.“Heath Braxton.Long time no see.”
“Buckton.”He glanced at her rank insignia.“Senior sergeant now, I see.Good on ya.”
“This is my colleague, Sergeant Watson.And this”-she waved the piece of paper pointedly-“is a warrant to search these premises in connection with a robbery at the surf club earlier today.”
Heath took the paper and glanced over it.“What, you think Doc Walker was behind it?”
“Well, maybe someone that lives here was?”Georgie suggested innocently.
Heath handed the paper back to them and shrugged.“Knock yourselves out.”

Mink knocked on the door and waited.When she’d been waiting half a minute and hadn’t had an answer, she pushed it open.
The house was in darkness so she turned the light on.Heath was leaning against a table with his back to her.He glanced over his shoulder.“The doc’s doing a night shift and Casey’s geeky boyfriend has dragged him off to some poncey film festival so…”
“I was looking for you.”She took a few steps nearer tentatively.“Romeo said the police had been round here.”
“They came, they looked, they went away again.Didn’t find anything but why should that matter? I’m still gonna be number one suspect.”
Mink shrugged.“You learn to live with it.”
“Yeah.Because this is it, isn’t it?No matter how clean I am, I’ll always be a Braxton, a River Boy. First time something goes wrong, my door’s gonna be the one Buckton knocks on.And why should I care?No-one else does.”
Mink turned him round to face her.“Heath, apart from Brixx, the only people in this town I particularly give a damn about are Romeo, Xavier, their kids…and you.Mainly because they’re pretty much the only people that give a damn about me.If you say you didn’t do this, then I believe you.”
“Great.Maybe you can convince all the people that don’t give a damn about you to give a damn about me.”She punched him in the arm and he glared at her.“What was that for?”
“For…making this so difficult.”
“Making what?”
Mink leaned forward and kissed him, softly at first but letting it deepen.They wrapped their arms around each other as the kiss became more and more intense.Then she released him.“Where’s your bedroom?”
“Er, out that door, turn left, end of the corridor facing you…”
Mink took his hand and led him out the door, to the left, to the end of the corridor.

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Thank you for the comments, JosieTash, Jarliefan and pembie!Hope you like this one.


Casey yawned widely as he came out of the bedroom, leaving Dexter asleep behind him.He made his way through to the living area where he found Heath at the table, stuffing belongings into a bag.He stared at his brother.“What are you doing?”
“What does it look like?”Heath snapped back.
“You’re leaving?”
“Well, what else can I do?Everyone thinks I’ve robbed the surf club and Buckton’s going to be looking for a way to pin it on me.Either I get out of town or I end up back in jail.”
Casey put his hands on Heath’s bag to stop him taking it.“Heath, you run and everyone will think you’re guilty.”
“What he said,”commented Mink, who had just appeared in the other doorway.Casey stared at her and she shot a brief glance in his direction.“I stayed over last night.Deal with it.”Casey gave a shrug of acceptance.
“Yeah and that was great,”Heath told her,“But I need to get going now.”
Mink punched him in the shoulder.“Don’t go pushing me away and pretending you don’t care. That’s my job.And dammit, Heath, I care about you.You’re gonna throw your life away for nothing if you run now.How are you gonna get to see your daughter then?”
Casey stared at Heath.“Daughter?”
Heath shot Mink a glare before turning to Casey.“Darcy.”
“Darcy’s your daughter?”
“Not the point at the moment,”Mink cut in.
“Look, I appreciate you both sticking up for me,”Heath noted,“But two people on my side and the rest of the town thinking I’m a thief isn’t going to help.”
“Have you asked everyone in town if they think you’re a thief?”Mink returned.
“Look, Heath, I know you think I turned my back on you and Brax and Mum when I went off to college,”Casey admitted,“And who knows, maybe you’re right.But we’re both here now and maybe there’s a chance for us to get on at last.”
Heath looked from one to the other and sighed.“Fine.I’ll stay.But you’d better come and visit me in jail because it looks like that’s where I’m going.”

“Let’s just hope they keep him locked up this time,”Ric declared loudly.
Cassie, in the middle of drying the dishes, shot him a look.“You don’t know for sure that he did it.”
“Course he did it.Money goes missing right after the biggest crook in town is there on the spot?Good job he’s thick enough to make it that obvious.”
“You know, from what Mattie told me, people used to say that sort of thing about you when you first went to live with Sal and Flynn.”
“Heath Braxton’s not the same as me.I was getting beaten up by my dad, what was his excuse?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never met his dad.But we probably shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions.”
Summer and Elizabeth were zipping up their school bags at the table.“Is Heath Braxton really a bad man?”Summer asked.
“Yes he is,”Ric told her.
“Ric!”Cassie admonished,“You can’t go around telling her things like that.”
“Why not?She needs to know the truth.”Ric patted the two girls on the head and gave Cassie a quick kiss.“See you later.”

“Yeah but are you absolutely sure it was him?”Ruby asked as she followed Charlie around the living room.
Charlie was in the middle of gathering her stuff together for work.“Well, we’re continuing to investigate but he’s our number one suspect at the moment.”
Ruby sighed.“Poor Casey.I think he was really hoping to get back on track with Heath.”
“Well, sometimes you just have to accept your family aren’t gonna be the people you think they are.”
“Ah, Ruby!”Romeo called through from the kitchen,“I think you’ve got a visitor.”
Ruby headed through to find Peter standing in the doorway, smiling nervously.“Hey, Ruby.”He stood at alert as he saw Charlie follow her through.“Senior Sergeant Buckton.”
“Peter,”Charlie replied curtly before turning to her daughter,“I’ll see you later.”
“So, what did you want, Peter?”Ruby asked as Charlie left.
“I was wondering if you wanted to walk to school together.”
Ruby gave an amused smile.“Isn’t it daggy walking in with a teacher?”
“Nah, everyone thinks you’re cool.”
“That’s good to know.Well, we’re in the middle of breakfast at the moment…”
“Oh.”Peter looked awkward.“Well, I’ll see you…”
“Do you want to join us?”
Peter paused, halfway out the door.“Yeah, okay.”He sat down at the table with the children
“Well, I guess I’d better give you the introductions.This is my husband Romeo and that’s Julia, Colin and Louisa.And that’s our nephew Brixx, who has ended up staying with us again for some reason.”
Romeo looked embarrassed.
“Who are you?”Colin asked.
Peter hesitated.Ruby smiled.“That’s your Uncle Peter.”

Cassie had settled down in front of the afternoon television after collecting Summer and Elizabeth from school, leaving the girls playing nicely in Summer’s room.At least, she thought she had.The raised voices coming from that direction suggested otherwise.
“Put it back, it’s mine!”Summer was shouting.
“You shouldn’t have it!”Elizabeth shouted back.
“Put it back or you’ll be sorry.”
Cassie got up and went through to the room, looking at both girls angrily.“Hey, stop this!What’s it all about?”
Then her eyes fell on what Elizabeth had found under Summer’s bed.Money.A lot of money.She pulled the shoebox out and searched through the contents, staring at her daughter aghast.“Where did you get this from?”Summer looked away guiltily and that was when it clicked in her mind.“The surf club?You stole it from the gym?”
“I didn’t steal it!”Summer protested,“I mean, I wasn’t going to spend it.I would have given it back or something.”
“But then why take it?Was it a dare or something?”
“To get rid of Heath.”
Cassie looked at her bewildered.“What?”
Summer was looking quite pleased with herself now.“Ric always says he’s a thief and someone should get rid of him.So I did.I saw him in the gym and then I saw Mr.Palmer leave the till open, so I thought that if I took the money everyone would think it was him.So they’d know he’s a thief and lock him up.”
Cassie hung her head and drew her daughter into a hug.“Oh, Summer.”

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Thanks as always for the comments, Jarliefan, JosieTash and pembie!This is the last chapter, hope people like it.


Romeo came up the stairs.“They’re coming.”
There was a large group sitting around a table in Austin’s:Ruby, Indigo, Xavier, Dexter, Casey, Ric, Cassie, Drew and Sasha.The children-Julia, Colin, Louisa, Elizabeth and Pammy-were sat at a nearby table, amusing themselves with colouring books and play dough, oblivious to the serious manner of their parents.Summer, however, was at the adults’ table with Cassie, looking suitably chastened.
Heath, Mink and Brixx entered.Most people noticed that Heath and Mink were holding hands.Mink nudged her son.“Go and sit with the other kids, okay?We’ll be along in a minute.”
As Brixx scampered away, Heath’s eyes swept over the group.“Well?”
Cassie nudged Summer who clambered down from her seat and went over to Heath.“I’m sorry I tried to get you blamed for what I did,”she said quietly.
Heath smiled at her, the most genuine smile most people there had ever seen him give.“That’s okay, squirt.Cops let you off with a warning?”
“A warning and a severe talking to,”Cassie amended.
“Well, listen to them and don’t do it again.”
“Or if you do, don’t get caught,”Mink added.Several people glared at her.“Well, someone had to say it.”
Ric cleared his throat.“Um, I guess I’d better apologise too.I shouldn’t have been talking that way about you in front of Summer.I mean, I don’t really know you.”
“Same here,”Drew added,“We thought we were doing the right thing but it wasn’t really our business.”
Heath raised an eyebrow.“Guy might almost think he’s wanted.”
“Aren’t you glad you stuck around now?”Casey asked.
“What, so we can hang out before you up sticks again?”
Dexter and Casey exchanged a glance.“About that,”Dex began.
All eyes switched to him.“What?”Sasha demanded.
“Well, we actually both quit our jobs before we came back here.”
“So it looks like you’re stuck with us,”Casey added.
Heath shrugged.“Sweet.”He sat down at the table with the others.“Who’s up for arm wrestling?”
“And on that note, we’d better get back to work,”Indi decided, guiding Xavier away from the table. From the way he’d opened his mouth, she had a feeling he’d been about to take Heath up on his offer.
Romeo indicated for Mink to join him, slightly away from the rest of the group.“So, you and Heath, how serious is it?”
“Dunno.Guess I’ll have to wait and see.You got a problem with that?”
“Well…I guess it’s good you’re ready to move on from Xav.And…he’s kind of got hidden depths.”
“Yep.And I’m having a lot of fun uncovering them.”

“I’m going to have a Braxton as a brother-in-law,”Romeo complained as they walked towards the beach, Ruby next to him carrying Louisa, with Julia and Colin scampering impatiently ahead of them.
“I dated one once,”Ruby noted,“They’re not that bad.”
“I’ll take your word for it.”Romeo nodded further along the path.“Talking of brothers-in-law…”
Peter was walking in the opposite direction with Mia.He came hurrying over to them.“I was just showing Mia where I go to school.Hey, Mia, come and say hello.”
Mia looked at him frostily.“I’ll go check out that surf club.Let me know when you’re done.”
“I don’t think she likes me,”Ruby commented as she watched Mia’s retreating figure.
Peter shrugged.“She’ll come round.Maybe.So what are you up to?”
“Just heading down to the beach for some family time,”Romeo explained.
Peter shifted awkwardly.“Oh, right.Well, then…”
“Are you coming with us, Uncle Peter?”Julia asked, taking hold of his hand.
Peter looked quizzically at Ruby who smiled.“Don’t get out of it that easily.”
Peter turned around and fell into step with the rest of them as they headed towards the beach.

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