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Breathe Me


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Story Title: Breathe Me
Type of story: Medium/Long Fic
Main Characters: Nicole Franklin, Geoff Campbell, & Stuart Granger
Other Characters: Roman Harris, Aden Jeffries, Leah and Miles Copeland, Irene Roberts
BTTB rating: A
Genre: Drama & Romance
Does story include spoilers: No.
Any warnings: Will warn at the beginning of each chapter if necessary
Summary: Nicole Franklin is returning to town to get married to her very rich fiancé, Stuart. The wedding had been planned months in advance but because of paparazzi intervention she is forced to change the location of the wedding to Summer Bay to escape their attentions, bringing many challenges for her but what is really going tip the scales is the return of the one person her heart had never really got over – Geoff Campbell. How will she react when she is forced to confront her past love?

This story is dedicated to Elainea, (Aka Tessalove) because I promised her I'd write this story! xx

Chapter 1:

Nicole Franklin drove the last stretch of country road with the top down on her sporty blue convertible enjoying the feeling of the sun shining down on her as she navigated the winding road. She wore a Gucci headscarf wrapped around her head to keep her hair from flying all over the place. Not that it really could have moved that much with the amount of hair products Marcel used as he carefully arranged her hair that very morning. She wanted to look her best when she arrived so a 7:30am appointment to have her hair done followed by a manicure and 45 minutes with a make-up artist. Her clothes and shoes were designer as were the expensive sunglasses that shaded her eyes. Taking her eyes off the road for a second she reached down and twisted the dial on her radio, searching for something else other than the soppy love song they were currently playing. That was all it took for her car to drift over the centre line on the road and into the other lane. She gave a gasp when she noticed and yanked on the steering wheel.

“Dammit,” she gasped out and pulled the car sharply to a halt and parked up. Ahead of her was the ‘Welcome to Summer Bay’ sign and she frowned as she read the words on it. Summer Bay. She’d spent some of the worst and some of the best years here in the Bay and if she was truly honest with herself she was looking forward to seeing some people, Miles for example. The last time she’d heard from him he’d gotten married himself to Leah and they had a son. She would be happy for him when she saw them together, reserving judgement on their relationship. Not that she had anything against Leah personally, remembering her dealings with her when she went into the diner.

Sighing she climbed carefully out of the car, smoothing her hand down her dress as she stood up and walked over to the sign. Taking out her phone she snapped a picture of herself next to it and after checking that she didn’t’ totally look hideous she sent it to Stuart. She might as well pretend that she was happy to be there, she thought getting back behind the wheel of her car and setting off., this time keeping her eyes on the road.

She drove along the road that parallel to the beach her eyes drifting like earlier along the golden sand. Her inner goddess was teasing her about kicking off her designer shoes and heading down to the sea for a paddle but she didn’t do spur of the moment things anymore especially not with this expensive rock on her finger. She glanced at it as she steered the car into a parking space in the carpark behind the diner and once more got out of the car. Taking her handbag with her she locked the car and walked over to the diner, pausing slightly outside it she mentally shook herself and stepped inside.

Her eyes were still shaded behind the glasses so she was able to look around anonymously before she removed them and her headscarf and walked over to the counter.

“Be with you in a minute,” Irene called out from the back of the kitchen before the older woman turned around and took in who was standing in front of her, “Nicole Franklin,” she gasped out.

“Hello Irene,” Nic called back.

“What the devil are you doing back here? Would have thought this was beyond the likes of you now,” she said and Nic felt a sting at her words.

“I’m back because I wanted my fiancé to discover this place. It’s as charming as I remember it,” she murmured knowing her tone was ever-so-slightly sarcastic.

“Well,” Irene paused and Nic knew that her point had been made, “Coffee is it?”

“I’ll have a latte,” Nic said quietly.

“Drink in or…”

“I’ll drink it here,” Nic met the unspoken challenge in the older woman’s voice and gave a small moue before offering her a small smile. Turning she surveyed the tables inside the diner before heading over to the corner and sitting down at one. Placing her designer bag on the table in front of her she took out the Ipad she was using to help keep herself organised and switched it on. She was surprised that the diner didn’t have a WiFi connection and felt her eyebrow lifting as she scrolled through the various social network sites. No-one had picked up on her connection to this place and she congratulated herself for thinking of moving the wedding here.

The paparazzi had been a nightmare the past month as it grew closer to the actual date of her wedding, and all because she was marrying Stuart Granger, heir to a vast fortune. Not that money was her motivating factor, no; she loved him deeply, perhaps even more than he knew.

“Hello, so here’s your drink.”

Nicole looked up to see a teenage girl serving her, long dark hair with purple extensions in.

“Thanks,” Nicole offered her a smile. Not a real one, but one of those polite ones.

“I haven’t seen you around here before,” the girl said as she placed the cup down on the table next to Nicole’s bag.

“I’m just visiting,” Nic said distractedly as she read an email from her wedding planner. They wouldn’t be here for another week so she’d have to make a start on things herself. She knew that she had a scowl on her face and must have looked fierce because the dark-haired girl took a hasty step back.

“Ok then, well have a nice visit,” Sasha Bezmel stepped back again, almost colliding with a chair before she pivoted around and flounced away into the kitchen.

Only after she’d gone did Nicole look up finding that Irene was glaring at her. Great, she was now on the other woman’s hit list and had only been back in town for half-hour.

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Chapter 2:

Geoff Campbell pulled on his t-shirt and scanned the beach. The surf was wicked this morning although he’d missed the best part because he’d been up at the church checking over the arrangements for the evening’s service and found they had a visitor seeking some guidance. He didn’t begrudge them, knowing that once upon a time he’d been the one needing the counsel of the vicar. The guidance being invaluable at times when he’d questioned his faith, a faith that had been renewed when he’d worked for the mission overseas, spreading his wings as well as exploring his beliefs. Now he was back home, back amongst the people he called family.

He’d boarded with Irene at first, remembering the good times when it had been her, Annie and Belle making their impromptu family and although he hated the changes in the house, missing Annie in particular along with Belle he had loved being back and having Irene fuss over him as he took the Vicar’s job and took over this parish. Yes, Geoffrey Campbell was a Vicar and before he was 30.

The regular parishioners were dubious at first, but he’d managed to win them over in the end, even having Irene sitting up in the front of the church for some of his sermons.

He’d moved out of Irene’s after a while, no longer able to avoid moving into the housing that came with the job and felt himself rattle around the place in the evenings when he wasn’t ministering to his flock’, plus it made room for Bianca and April to move in with her. He was glad about that because he suspected that Irene always felt a bit lonely without people in the house and he would have hated to be cause of any distress on the other woman’s part.

Picking up his towel and stuffing his feet into thongs he made his way up the beach heading towards the diner, looking forward to grabbing himself a coffee and maybe some lunch. Pushing an hand through his hair he ruffled up the slightly-too-long locks before pushing it back from his face. The salt water had made it seem thicker than normal and as it dried after his swim it seemed to curl and he still hated that, preferring to spike it up a bit. He grinned as he remembered his first sermon after his return to the Bay and how he’d used too much hair gel to try and tame it, managing to get it slicked back only to forget as he’d run his hand through it and ended up with stuff all over his hands just as he was about greet people coming in. He had a fair idea of what the rubbing up and down of his hands on his legs, more importantly his thighs, must have looked like as he tried frantically to wipe the stuff off his hands.

Thank god Colleen had left the Bay at that point because he doubted he would have managed to withstand the gossip if she and Madge Wilkins had double teamed him spreading that particular story. It was bad enough when he’d received an email from Aden with links to various websites that he was sorry he’d clicked on.

Thoughts of Aden reminded him that he was remiss in contacting him. It had been a few months now. The other man seemed to be doing okay but he doubted that Aden would even return back to the Bay. Even without the reminders of Belle everywhere there seemed to be one thing or another that would stop him from coming back. Aden had moved on and that seemed to be ok, but sometimes he wondered if Aden wasn’t running away from his problems rather than facing them.

Not that Summer Bay was the answer to everyone’s prayers, even his. He was single, the last relationship had been with Amy and reached the point where he needed to decide if his love for her was enough for them to marry or if he had things from his past he had to resolve. Obviously the fact he’d returned to Summer Bay and was single was a good indicator that things hadn’t worked out.

He paused before entering the diner and looked along the pier; Alf was in his usual spot at the end, a fishing pole in his hand. As though the other man mystically sensed that he was being observed he lifted his hand and waved. Geoff returned the wave before grabbing hold of his towel and walking into the diner itself.

Immediately he stopped feeling an uneasy sensation crawl down his back, like something was about to happen and it made him stop and look around the restaurant. The scent of jasmine reached his nose and he frowned as he thought about the last time he had inhaled that particular fragrance.

“Nicole,” he breathed out the name softly, wondering if he’d hit his head whilst in the surf this morning and had concussion because there was no way that the other woman would ever set foot back in Summer Bay let along the fact that his head was suddenly consumed with memories of her triggered by remembrance of that particular scent. Stepping over to the counter he saw Irene giving him a look before her glance flicked behind him and seemingly over to the corner of the room.

“Darl,” she greeted him but he could tell that her voice was strained.

“Irene, can I get a flat white please,” he said puzzled.

“No worries, you want that to take away?” She prompted her eyes flicking to the corner and back again.

“No I’ll drink it in here,” he murmured and then fate had him turn around when he heard footsteps behind him, “Nicole.”

“Hello stranger, didn’t think you were ever going to come back here,” she said cheerily.

“Nicole,” he said again, shocked into repetition because he couldn’t think of anything else to say.

“Is that all Darl,” Irene said over them as she handed him a take-away cup.

He gave her a look before turning and looking back at Nicole. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s a long story that I don’t actually have time to tell you right now, perhaps we could meet in the surf club later for a drink?” She murmured.

“Angelos,” Irene butted in.

“Oh yeah, that’s right I forgot, its Angelo’s restaurant now isn’t it? Run by…” Nicole said a miniscule frown appearing on her face for a second.

“The Braxton’s,” Irene supplied again.

Geoff glared at Irene for a nano-second at the way she seemed to be butting into the conversation. Not that he was hitting Nic with his sparkling repartee right at that moment, too shell-shocked to see her standing in front of him.

“You know I would but I’m actually busy tonight,” Geoff finally managed to say something, “Perhaps another time. Where are you staying?”

“In Dad’s old house. The last tenants moved out a while back,” she gave him a mega-watt smile and spun around collecting her things from the table before moving back over to him, “here,” she added presenting him with a small white business card.

Geoff accepted it slowly looking down in shock before realising that she was giving him her contact details and then she was gone, just the cloud of jasmine perfume to prove that she had even been there.

“Now Irene,” he began taking a long drink of his coffee, “just what were you trying to do?”

“Strike me Darl, are you plain stupid or what? You and that… floozy are plain still crazy about each other and she’s flashing a big diamond on a particular finger…” Irene muttered giving him a look.

“So she’s getting married,” Geoff said evenly unaware that his finger was stroking the business card Nic had given him.

“Do you really think the parishioners of the Bay are going to like their vicar hooking up with the likes of her, ‘specially when her dad is in prison for murder?”

“Who I see isn’t any of the towns business, and as for Nic, you said yourself she’s getting married so…” he shrugged, “thanks for the warning, and the coffee.”

“Still… coming round for dinner?”

“Of course,” Geoff smiled at her, “why did you think I was going to stand you up for a blonde?”

“Get out of here…” Irene muttered her cheeks flushing.

Geoff leaned over the counter and pressed a swift kiss to one of those cheeks before he turned and walked out the way he came. He stood for a moment looking down at the card before putting it away in his pocket and walking down to the end of the pier. Alf still hadn’t actually made it to church since he’d been back from visiting Sally and Pippa so it was time to have another chat with him and besides he needed the distraction.

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Chapter 3

Nic put the key in the lock and turned it, hearing the faint click as the barrels inside the lock turned and unlocked. She pushed the door open and looked over the threshold into the house that used to belong to her Dad, Roman Harris. She half expected him to walk out of the kitchen and give her that cheeky smile of his and closed her eyes on the wave of emotion that followed that. She found she had tears pricking her eyes and blinked them away hurriedly before they even had half a chance of ruining her mascara.

She didn’t do sentimentality; it didn’t go down well in her world where the person next to you was more likely to sell your story to the gossip rags than console you over something. She’d loved being a fashion designer. Had worked hard to get a fashion line of her own out and enjoyed the modicum of success that went along with it despite all the people that wanted to drag her down with petty gossip.

The kind of gossip that had fuelled the tabloid rags for months since she had accepted Stuart’s proposal. He was the son of property magnate, incredibly smart, kind and handsome and of course rich. The amazing thing was that he loved her too. She couldn’t wait to see him again not that she particularly wanted him here in Summer Bay, her head being deluged with memories from when she lived here, Aden sitting on the sofa mooning over Belle, her and Ruby laughing as they got into one scrape or another. She chuckled as she remembered Ruby’s crush on Miles and the lengths she went too.

She couldn’t help but think of Geoff having just bumped into him. He was looking as good as ever if she had to admit it and seemed happy. She wondered if he was seeing anyone but knew that asking that in front of Irene would have earned her even more glares. Honestly, the nerve of that woman.

Nicole tossed her hair over her shoulder as she strutted into the house taking in the shabbiness of the place as she looked around. Dammit, she needed to fire the rental company if this is what they termed as clean. She trailed a finger along one of the surfaces and lifted it up seeing a smudge of dust on her finger. She could write her name in this, “Ouh,” she muttered before stepping into the kitchen.

It had been the hub of the house and now she looked at it with an expression of horror. Gone were the cupboards and work surfaces that had been in place when her father had owned the house, and replaced with different colours and materials. There was a gaping space where the table used to be and she couldn’t help but mentally picture it being there, with Aden sitting there giving her that cheeky look.

“You can’t go home again,” she told herself in a soft voice, shocked that she was moved by being here. She certainly hadn’t expected that she would be so emotionally compromised by being here.

With a shake of her head she pulled out her phone and scrolling through the options she placed a call to her real estate company. The magic power that Stuart’s incredibly large diamond ring on her finger brought her ensured that a cleaning company would be there within the next hour followed by a delivery of new furniture and although she could have also ordered groceries that way too she decided that a trip to the shopping centre in Yabbie Creek was on the agenda. She gave a last look around the house before putting on her sunglasses and heading to her car.

Geoff pushed at the petrol lawnmower and uttered a small prayer that it started up again. He heard the engine tick over and then a plume of white smoke accompanied the lawnmowers roar into life. No sooner had he begun to tackle the grass that had taken over his lawn without him noticing than his phone jangled with an incoming call.

“Typical,” he muttered before answering it, “Aden?” he said with surprise when he heard the voice on the other end of the line.

“Nic’s back? What did you do to deserve that?”

“Now come on Aden, Nic is…”

Aden laughed, “Yeah, she’s very ‘is’…”

“So what do I owe the honour of this call to?” Geoff said changing the subject.

“Oh just curiosity. You always had a thing for our Princess,” Aden told him, “And what is that noise?”

“I’m in the middle of cutting the grass,” Geoff muttered sounding terse. He knew that was down to Aden calling Nic a ‘princess’. He’d never seen her like that, not that she wasn’t a stuck up brat at times, no Nic had let him in, and he’d seen her at her worst. His thoughts flashed back to the Island when Elliot had tried to kill them both. She’d still presented that sassy front of hers but he’d seen beyond that.

“I was thinking,” Aden began after Geoff had offered nothing further, “that maybe I could come for a visit?”

“Now?” Geoff shot out switching off the lawnmower in his shock.

“In a couple of days.”

“Aden why?” Geoff moved over to the front veranda of his house and sat on the steps looking over at the progress he’d made in the lawn as he waited for an answer.

“Why not?” Aden shot back after a minute.

Geoff could imagine the expression on Aden’s face. That smirk he had and the way he managed to raise one eyebrow just a fraction higher than the other. He wondered if Aden practiced that look in the mirror.

“Aden, I think you need to examine why you’d want to come back now? If it’s to mess with Nic’s engagement then…” Geoff trailed off when he heard Aden swear at the other end of the call. He shouldn’t have just told him about that he thought with a groan.

“She got engaged?” Aden murmured, “Bet that was a shock for the poor fella,” he added back using his jovial tone.

“Aden,” Geoff’s tone, he knew, was cautious.

“We were over a long time ago Bible-Boy,” Aden said quickly, seriously, “I let her down. I should have told her how much I cared for her and I didn’t. Now, well, I still have feelings for her before you even go there but not like that.”

“I have a spare room,” Geoff said slowly.

“I have a few things to do but is it okay if I…”

“Be good to catch up.”

“I’m glad,” Aden paused, “Being a vicar does that mean that you don’t drink? Or well… girls?”

“It means that if you are my guest then you have to go to church…” Geoff told him and heard more swearing before the call disconnected.

Aden looked at his phone wondering if he’d just made a mistake. But then if he had he tended to make a lot of them especially when it came to Summer Bay. The small town was nice enough but there were so many bad memories there that could trip him up. His grandfather. His father. Belle. And now Nic was back.

No, he decided, he wasn’t going to be a coward anymore, he was going to go and face up to her, accept anything she handed out and then it would be over and maybe he could let go of guilt he carried over her. He owed it to Roman to make sure she was okay at the very least for the way he’d taken him in when he had nowhere to go.

Looking around his small apartment he realised that he’d never really called any place home apart from Summer Bay. Maybe after seeing the place again, with a more adult perspective he’d be able to put some distance between him and the Bay.

Yes, he was going back.

Nic looked around the house and slowly nodded before she accepted the electronic clipboard and signed off on the cleaning. The new furniture completed the replenishment of the place and at last she was satisfied. She watched the house slowly clearing of people before going into the kitchen and putting away all the food she’d bought that included a stack of ready meals. Frowning she glanced around before swearing. No microwave. How the hell was she supposed to cook now?

She grinned suddenly as she imagined her Dad giving her one of those looks that seemed like he was ready to go for a DNA test any second just to confirm she was his daughter. ‘Daddy’, she would say to him, ‘Cooking skills do not come through DNA!’ She’d pout like always and after a minute he’d give her a grin back.

With a shake of her head she grabbed her expensive phone and quickly dialled. She owed a few calls to people that she’d been almost dodging because of her schedule and the press intrusion. First though she was going to call Stuart and let him know she had arrived safely.

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