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Red Ranger 1

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I've a feeling I may regret starting to post this, because it's going to be a long one and I haven't written much of it.Plus I'm not entirely sure about it...But see what you think!

Story Title: Older Guys
Type of story: Long fic
Main Characters: Mason, Coco, Raffy, Hunter with Justin, Leah, Brody, Ziggy and others
BTTB rating: T/A

Genre: Romance/Drama
Does story include spoilers: No
Any warnings: Sexual content: Moderate to strong, V/D. Other warnings to follow.
Summary: The aftermath of Brody and Ziggy's wedding sees a pair of unlikely couplings.How well will they navigate the weeks that follow?

CHAPTER ONE

Hunter watched the retreating back of the blonde girl walking away from him on the beach.Olivia, the girl who at one point he’d thought he was going to spend the rest of his life with.Not anymore.Their last brief liaison the previous night had convinced both of them of that.Things had changed and they weren’t going to change back.

  Most of the rest of Summer Bay were a few hundred yards away in the surf club, celebrating Brody and Ziggy’s wedding.As happy as he was for them, in his present state of mind Hunter really didn’t feel like joining them.

  He looked away from Olivia and saw another blonde girl approaching from the opposite direction.Raffy. Normally she dressed quite young, but the dress she’d picked out for her brother’s wedding, while not exactly disguising her age, did make her look prettier than usual.She regarded him with a wry gaze.“Not feeling up to joining in the outpouring of love and long life together?”

  Hunter grunted.“Not a good day to be single.”

  “Tell me about it.”Raffy sat down next to him.She hadn’t, of course, been invited to do so but somehow Hunter didn’t have the heart to tell her to get lost.

  “I thought I’d seen you around with a boy recently?”Hunter asked.He immediately suspected it was the wrong thing to say.

  “Ty.Yeah.”Raffy grimaced.“My first boyfriend.Let’s just say it didn’t work out.”

  “Any reason?”

  “I wasn’t exactly his type.”Raffy’s tone suggested it was best to leave it at that.

  Hunter shrugged and patted her on the leg.“Well, it’s his loss.”

  “Thank you for saying so.Olivia’s lost a lot too.”

  The comments had an air of going through the motions about them.Hunter nodded back towards the reception area.“You going to head back?”

  “No, I think I’ve had my fill for today.”

  Hunter got up.“Come on.”

  Raffy looked at him in confusion.“What?”

  “I’ll walk you home.”

***

Mason sat at a table on his own in the reception.Around him, people were dancing and celebrating happily.Mason took another drink of his beer before glancing at the door where his date, Dempsey, had left.Pretty much the story of his life:Girls seemed to be interested at first and then quickly made an exit.

  Coco came and sat down at his table.“You fancy a dance?”

  Mason gave her a rather bemused look.“What makes you ask that?”

  “Well, it just struck me that we’re kind of in the same boat here.Younger siblings of the bride and groom.Both here on our own.”

  “I’m not here on my own,”Mason insisted.Coco gave him a sceptical look.“I wasn’t here on my own,”he amended,“I had a date.But she had to leave early.Work.”

  “Are you expecting to see her again?”

  Mason sighed.“No,”he admitted,“What about you?I thought you’d be taking Ryder as your plus one.”

  “He’s just a friend!”Coco protested,“And there were a few issues with him and Raffy.”

  “So, looks like it’s the two of us,”Mason conceded.He looked at Coco again, trying to remember how old she was.Seventeen?She'd’seemed nice enough whenever they’d spoken to each other but he hadn’t really given her much thought.Looking at her now…she wasn’t exactly a classical beauty, but when she smiled her face seemed to light up.

  Coco seemed to be aware of his attention and flushed slightly.“I guess so.”

  Mason noticed her hand resting on the table.He slowly moved his own hand so it lay on tops of hers.Her eyes widened slightly at the contact but she didn’t pull away.“Do you think they’d miss us if we slipped away?”he asked.

  Coco continued to meet his gaze.“I think the focus is definitely off us at the moment.”

  “Do you know somewhere we could go?”

  “I guess…my place is free, if you have a car?”

  “I have a car,”Mason confirmed.He took a firm grip on her hand as he got to his feet.She allowed him to pull her up and he led her out of Salt.

***

When Hunter had offered to walk Raffy home, he had started making for the Palmer house.Instead, she had gently steered him in the direction of the Morgans’ place.It left him with the distinct feeling that he’d missed something.“How long have you been back here?”he asked.

  “A few days,”Raffy admitted,“Just to help out with the wedding.Maybe.”She sighed.“Mainly it’s to get away from living with the ex.”

  Hunter winced as he remembered moving out of Irene’s place after his break-up with Olivia.He definitely related.“Yeah, it’s tough,”he agreed thinking he should say something.He glanced around. “Well, anyway, you’re safe now and people will probably be back soon.I should leave you to it.”

  “Unless you want to stay until they get back?”Raffy suggested tentatively,“I mean, I could make us some tea, we could play one of Justin’s video games, maybe watch a movie?”

  Hunter had the feeling she didn’t want to be alone.Deep down, he didn’t want to be either.“Yeah, sure.”

***

Mason and Coco headed up the short walk from where he’d left his car to the farm house.Coco led the way inside.Mason caught hold of her hand, pulled her back towards him and kissed her.“I’ve been wanting to do that all the way here,”he admitted.

  Coco gave a playful smile.“Well, you only had to ask.”

  They kissed again.At first Coco seemed tentative but quickly the kiss deepened, becoming more passionate until they both came up for air.“Which room’s yours?”Mason asked.

  Coco raised an eyebrow.“You’re forward.”

  “Best man and bridesmaid, it’s kind of traditional.”

  Coco nodded towards the end of the corridor.“Over there.”

  Their next kiss was the most intense yet.She helped him out of his jacket and, still embracing, they headed into her room.

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Thank you for all your comments and hope you enjoy this one!

CHAPTER TWO

Mason and Coco lay alongside each other in her bed, a heavy silence hanging in the air.“That was your first time, right?”Mason asked.

  Coco shot a glance across at him.“Is that a problem?”

  “No, no, not really.I just wish you’d told me, that’s all.”

  “Because then you wouldn’t have done it?”

  Mason suspected there was no right answer to the question.He attempted one anyway.“Maybe not?”

  Coco sat up, pulling the sheets tightly around herself.“I’m sorry I was such a disappointment.”

  Mason hastily sat up as well and took her hands in his.“No, that’s not it, okay?I was worried that I’d be a disappointment.I mean, your first time should be special, right?”

  Coco looked somewhat downcast.“Was it really that bad?”

  “No, no.”Mason sensed he was digging himself a bigger and bigger hole.“Look, I’m privileged to be your first time, okay?I’m just surprised you didn’t choose someone better than me.That you know better, I mean.”

  Coco smiled slightly.“I didn’t exactly plan it or choose it.It just kind of…happened.It was a nice thing to happen though.”

  Mason kissed her tenderly and rested his forehead against hers.“Do you think we should probably get dressed before your parents get back?”

  “Probably,”Coco agreed.

***

Hunter and Raffy sat cross-legged on the sofa, eating bowls of crisps.“So are you really still hung up on Olivia?”Raffy asked out of the blue.

  Hunter gave her a bemused look.“You like to get personal, don’t you?”

  “I’m just asking because, having had my first experience of heartbreak, I’m wondering how long it goes on for.I mean, you’ve been apart for months and yet you’re still sitting on the beach looking sad.Have I got that to look forward to?”

  Hunter grimaced.“There was, kind of, an extra encounter.More recently.”

  Raffy’s eyes widened.“Oh!”

  “Yeah.Kind of brought a few things back up.Made it raw again.”

  “Okay, I can see that.”

  “And it doesn’t help that no-one’s shown any interest in me since her.”

  Raffy looked at him as if examining him.“I could fancy you,”she offered at last.

  Hunter managed an amused smile.“Really?”

  “Yeah, you’ve got that whole rugged square-jawed good looks thing going on.”She paused expectantly. “Okay, this is where you’re meant to say nice things about me.”

  “Oh come on, you’re Mason’s little sister!”Hunter protested,“I can’t say I’d fancy you.”

  “You could try,”Raffy suggested with mock indignity.

  Hunter put a hand under her chin and tilted her face to examine it closely.“Well, okay, you’re not bad.”

  “Gee, thanks.”

  Hunter’s voice took on a serious tone.“I mean it.You’re not bad.”

  She sensed the sincerity and, leaning forward, kissed him on the lips.She pulled back for a moment, inviting him to respond, and then they kissed again, more intensely than they could have ever anticipated.

***

Coco had selected a comfortable outfit from her wardrobe when getting dressed, rather than putting the discarded bridesmaid’s dress back on.Mason only had his wedding clothes available of course.Coco shot an awkward look back at him as they exited her bedroom.He smiled self-consciously at her and she found herself smiling back.She wasn’t entirely sure how things had happened the way they had.She’d never really thought about fancying Mason, although looking at him she could see he was a bit easy on the eye.She’d thought a lot recently about seizing the moment, living life while she could, after what had happened with her mother.She’d definitely seized it now. 

  Coco picked up her discarded phone and checked her messages.She was surprised to see several calls from Ben.Tapping the screen, she listened to one of them, then turned to Mason, shock on her face. “Mum’s been taken to hospital.”

  Mason’s concern was obvious and genuine.“Is she all right?”

  “I don’t know, she’s in hospital!I need to get down there.”

  “I’ll drive you.”

  Coco wasn’t sure about the propriety of accepting Mason’s offer but she was in no mood to refuse.She nodded gratefully.

***

Hunter sat on Raffy’s bed, putting his shoes back on.She was lying in the bed behind him.He was aware she was looking at him but he was doing his best not to look at her.He couldn’t quite believe what he’d done.She was just a kid, for goodness sake.His best friend’s younger sister.And he’d gone to bed with her?He thought he couldn’t show worse judgement than sleeping with Olivia, yet he’d managed it.

  “Are you all right?”Raffy asked.

  Hunter took a deep breath and turned to look at her, staring at him with those young eyes.“I should kind of be asking you that.”

  Raffy managed a half smile.“I’ll live.”Her expression became serious again.“I’m not sorry that happened.Are you?”

  Hunter struggled to think of a response that didn’t seem insulting.“I guess so.I mean, you’re so young.”

  “Just a kid, right?”Raffy asked bitterly.

  “Hey.”Hunter spoke in kindly tones.“That’s not a bad thing, okay?There’s nothing wrong with still being young and there’s nothing wrong with you.I just feel like I shouldn’t have done that.”

  Raffy laughed.“I guess I’m just irresistible, hey?”

  Hunter smiled.“I guess you are.”He kissed her on the top of the head.“I think I’d better go.”

  Raffy nodded.“See you around, huh?”

***

Mason was sitting in a hospital corridor.He wasn’t entirely sure why he was there.He’d driven Coco in, and she was now in the treatment room with Ben and Maggie.There was no reason for him to hang around and no-one would have thought it at all strange if he left.Well, almost no-one.But somehow, sleeping with Coco and then bailing as soon as the real world intruded didn’t sit right with him.

  His attention was drawn to Brody and Ziggy barrelling towards him down the corridor.“Where are they?” Ziggy demanded.

  Mason nodded towards the double doors leading to the treatment room.“In there.”Without breaking stride, Ziggy was straight through the doors to be with her family.Mason shot his brother a sympathetic look.“Some honeymoon, huh?”

  “Well, I guess we knew it was on the cards,”Brody commented,“What happened?”

  Mason shrugged.“All I know is she collapsed.I don’t think the doctors are sure what’s going on yet.”

  Brody looked at him curiously.“Weren’t you there?”

  Mason understood Brody’s misconception.“No, I’d given Coco a lift home.I was still with her when she got the message so I drove her in.”

  Brody smiled.“Thanks, mate.”

  Mason tried not to let his discomfort show on his face.“That’s okay.”

  Brody gestured to the door Ziggy had gone through.“I’d better see what’s going on.”

  And then Mason was alone again.He could leave now, he’d passed responsibility on.But slipping quietly away without saying anything to Coco still felt wrong.He sat down again.

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4 hours ago, pembie said:

Well you are kinder to Raffy than I have been in my stories haha At least she's human 

Is sleeping with Hunter any better though!

Thank you for the comments, hope you all enjoy this one.

CHAPTER THREE

Mason heard the door to the hospital room swing open and hastily got to his feet.Two people emerged: Ben and Coco.Mason looked warily at the older man, worried he was about to pin him against the wall and demand to know what the hell he’d done to his daughter, but instead Ben just looked at him in a manner that suggested he was trying to disguise how tired he was.“Can you take Coco home?”

  Mason looked at Coco but her gaze was lowered, refusing to let him catch her eye.“Yeah, sure.”

  Ben accepted the agreement and turned to Coco, kissing her gently on the side of the head.“I’ll see you in the morning, okay?”She gave a slight murmur and he headed back into the room.

  Mason looked at Coco again, unsure if he should put his arm around her or something.The way she was withdrawing into herself led him to believe he shouldn’t.“Come on then,”he said at last.

***

They drove in silence back to the Astonis’ farm house.Mason pulled up outside, putting the hand brake on.“Thanks,”Coco said bluntly then made to open the door.

  “Coco, wait,”Mason interrupted, reaching out and grabbing her gently by the arm.

  Coco stopped and looked at him, her expression almost challenging.“What?”

  Mason realised he hadn’t got as far as working out what to say next.He just didn’t want her to leave without talking to her.“How’s your mum?”he said at last.

  Coco softened at the question.“I don’t know,”she admitted,“She’s sick and I don’t know if she’s getting better.”

  “I know you’ve got lots of people to talk to,”Mason told her,“but if you do want to talk to me…I’d like that.”She didn’t answer so he hurriedly went on.“I’ve liked being with you today.Not just because of what we did.I’ve liked being with you.”

  Coco smiled.“Maybe we could see each other again some time?”

  “Yeah.”Mason wasn’t sure if he should kiss her or not.In the end, he leaned over and kissed her softly on the lips, doing his best to make it seem like a moment of comfort rather than an attempt to jump her. “I’ll see you.”

  This time he let her leave the car, staying in his seat to watch her walk into the house.

***

Raffy sat with her feet up on the couch at home.She’d pulled some bed clothes and a dressing gown on after Hunter had left, relaxing in the glow of the memories.She’d slept with a boy, with Hunter.She didn’t think he wanted her to be his girlfriend, but the fact that he’d done that, and the way he’d done it, meant he must like her, mustn’t he?Just a bit?No boy had ever liked her that way before.Not even Ty, as it turned out.

  The door banged and Mason came in.She thought she caught a ghost of a smile on his face as well but it quickly vanished when he saw her.“What’s up with you?”he asked.

  “Nothing,”she replied innocently, unable to erase her own smile,“Where have you been?”

  “At the hospital.Maggie’s back in there.”

  Raffy’s expression quickly changed to one of shock.“Is she all right?”

  “I don’t know.Brody’s there with Ziggy.”

  “What about Coco?”

  Mason seemed to hesitate, at least for a moment.“I just gave her a lift home.Tori’s at the hospital.Seen anything of Justin?”

  “I think he was tidying up Salt.”

  “Okay, well, I’m going to bed.”Mason stopped and looked at her curiously.“Is there something different about you?”

  Raffy sensed the smile returning and turned away.“What could be different?”

***

Hunter felt extremely conflicted as he walked up the path to the house.He didn’t really know what to think about what had happened.Raffy was young.Too young, probably.Did that mean he’d taken advantage of her?He wasn’t sure.He’d done his best to be respectful but maybe the very fact that he’d gone there meant he hadn’t been.

  “There you are!”exclaimed Leah as he entered the house.She and Alf were in the kitchen, Ryder on the settee.

  “We were starting to wonder where you’d got to,”Alf noted.

  Hunter shifted with discomfort.“I just went for a walk, needed to clear my head.”

  “Did you see Raffy?”Ryder asked.

  Hunter looked at him more sharply than he really needed to.“Why would I?”

  “Well, she was at the wedding, wasn’t she?I was just wondering how she seemed.We had a bit of a falling out over Ty.Was she happy?”

  Hunter felt the question pertained more to him than it should have done, but he did his best to answer it. “Yeah.Yeah, I think so.”

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8 hours ago, pembie said:

If I'm right you will post a chapter today and I will be back tonight to read it 

I was actually going to wait until tomorrow but...okay, you've waited long enough!

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

CHAPTER FOUR

Raffy was about to knock on the door to the farm house when Brody opened it.They looked at each other in surprise.“How’s married life?”Raffy asked at last.

  Brody gave a wry smile.“It hasn’t started the way I was expecting.”

  “Is Coco in?”

  He nodded.“Ziggy and I were about to go to the hospital.If you want to keep her company…”

  “That’s what I’m here for.”

  Brody moved aside and Raffy headed into the house, saying a quick hello and goodbye to Ziggy as the newly-weds left.Then she headed into the living area.Coco was there and stopped, surprised, at the sight of her.“Have you been here long?”

  “Just got here,”Raffy answered,“How’s your mum?Mason told me she was back in hospital.”

  Coco seemed to flush for a moment at the comment but Raffy thought nothing of it.“Yeah, we’re still waiting on test results.I guess it’s hard not knowing.”

  Raffy looked closely at Coco.There was something odd about her, something different.As though there was something on her mind other than her mother’s illness.“Has something else happened?”

  Coco hesitated for a long while.“It’s not important,”she said at last,“Not with everything else that’s going on.”

  “Well, is it important to you?”

  Coco swallowed.“I slept with someone,”she said,“After the wedding.First time.”

  Raffy gaped.“Me too!”

  Coco gave her a look of concern, almost disapproval.“Really?”

  Raffy bristled slightly.“I’m not that much younger than you.”

  Coco’s judgement disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.“Yeah, I guess I can’t judge.”

  “I didn’t know there was anyone around,”Raffy continued, even though she was aware her own liaison had happened quickly,“It…it’s not Ryder, is it?”

  “No,”Coco confirmed,“It was someone else.Someone older.”

  Raffy smiled ironically.“Yeah, same here.”

  “Have we been taken advantage of?”

  Raffy shrugged.“No idea.It didn’t really feel like it though.”

  “Yeah, I know what you mean.Are you going to see yours again?”

  “I don’t know.What about you?”

  “Don’t know.”

***

Hunter hadn’t had any idea where he was going when he left the house.He just needed to get out, to avoid searching looks and get his head straight.He still wasn’t sure what he thought about the events of the previous day and what they meant.He hadn’t worked it out by the time he reached the surf club but decided to give his ruminations a rest and go to the gym.Instead, he ran into Mason outside the building.

  Mason gave him a polite nod.“Hey.You seemed to leave early yesterday.”

  “Yeah, I had things to work out,”Hunter confirmed,“You know, what happened with Olivia and everything.”

  “Looks like we both lucked out with our dates.”

  Hunter gave an exaggerated nod of agreement.“Yeah…no getting lucky for us.”Oddly, it seemed like Mason was finding the conversation awkward too.It would probably be more awkward, however, if Mason knew Hunter had slept with his little sister.Hunter tried to imagine how that conversation might go but found the results too disturbing.

  “Maybe we should go out one night, see if we can meet some girls,”Mason suggested,“You up for a wingman?”

  “Yeah, good idea,”Hunter replied through gritted teeth, looking around in the hope a hole would open up and swallow him.What he saw instead was someone else who was near the top of his list of people he didn’t want to talk to at that moment:Olivia.

  “Hey, guys!”she greeted them with a smile that seemed as false as anything Hunter was trying to force onto his expression.

  “Hi there,”Mason greeted her,“Tell me that you enjoyed the wedding yesterday.”

  “Well, I enjoyed seeing how the dress looked on Ziggy?”she offered.

  “Yeah, that’ll do.Well, I’ll get on and let you two catch up.”Mason disappeared inside.

  “Thanks a lot, mate!”Hunter called after him, then realised he’d said it out loud and gave Olivia an awkward nod.

  “So what have you been doing?”she asked.

  “Moving on,”he replied, trying not to sound too blunt,“You?”

  “Much the same.It’s got to the point where I’m wondering what’s keeping me here.Apart from Irene and friends.”

  Hunter thought about what was in Summer Bay for him.An image of a way too young blonde girl drifted across his mind and he quickly did his best to get rid of it.He was not going there again.

  “Yeah, there’s not a lot,”he agreed.

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Thank you for the comments, pembie, Kristen and Jarliefan!

CHAPTER FIVE

Raffy was on the beach with Ryder.At least, she was sat on a rock nearby while he threw stones into the sea.She hadn’t seen much of him lately, mainly because he spent most of his time with Ty and that was somewhere she wasn’t prepared to go just yet, even if she and Ryder had got past him keeping Ty’s secrets.With Coco spending a lot of time at the hospital, that meant she was short of friends.

  Ryder seemed to get bored of his game and came over to her.“Fancy a go?”he asked, holding out a smooth pebble.

  With a certain amount of reluctance, Raffy took it from him and skimmed it across the surface of the sea.Ryder nodded approvingly.“Not bad.”

  Raffy gave a brief nod.“So, I guess this means I’ve forgiven you.”

  “That’s what I was hoping.And I am sorry you got hurt over Ty.”

  Raffy shrugged.“I’ve moved on.”

  Ryder looked at her, intrigued.“Someone else on the horizon?”

  Raffy looked coy.“Maybe.”

  “Well, he’s a lucky guy whoever he is.If there is a he, and if it is a he…”

  “Oh, he’s definitely a he,”Raffy confirmed.

  “Hunter!”

  Raffy looked stunned.“What?”Then she realised Ryder was looking behind her.She turned round and saw Ryder’s housemate approaching them.

  Hunter seemed to falter when he saw Raffy was there but he carried on over to them.“How are you doing?”he asked, looking at Ryder.

  “Just hanging,”Ryder remarked.

  “Hi, Hunter,”Raffy greeted him.

  Hunter gave her the briefest look possible.“Hi.”He turned back to Ryder.“Anyway, I’d better get on.See you at home.”

  “That guy’s weird,”Ryder remarked as Hunter walked off.

  Raffy looked after him, disappointed.“You’re telling me.”

***

Hunter felt pretty lousy as he entered the Diner but he didn’t know what else to do.He knew he was being unfair ignoring Raffy but he didn’t want to lead her on.It wasn’t as if he could date her or something.

  Leah favoured him with a smile as she saw him.“Hey, Hunter, how are you doing?”

  Hunter knew that she wasn’t going to want a lengthy discussion of all his current troubles so just gave a non-commital shrug.“Okay.”

  “You’ve been a bit quiet since the wedding.I wondered if it had brought up old feelings?”

  “No, nothing like that.”Hunter lowered his voice before adding,“Nothing at all like that.”

  “So what can I get you?”

  Hunter actually had no idea, since he’d mainly come in there to get away from Raffy.“Er, coffee, please.”He looked out the door and saw Raffy still on the beach with Ryder.“To drink here.”

***

Mason exited the gym, heading to the juice bar to get a drink for his break…and stopped.Coco was already at the counter, being served.He could take a step back into the gym, wait until she was gone, and she’d never know he’d been there…With a sigh, he continued towards the counter.

  Coco turned and nearly bumped into him.“Mason!Hi.”

  “Hi.”Mason glanced at the counter.“Juice, thanks, John.”He took his order then turned back to Coco. “Do you want to take a seat?”

  Coco seemed bemused but went with him to a table.“I haven’t seen much of you since…the wedding.”

  “Yeah, I guess not.How’s your mum?”

  “We’re just waiting for a donor.”

  Mason nodded slowly.“It’s hard.”

  “You…lost a girlfriend waiting for a donor, right?Raffy told me.”

  “Yeah.”Mason pushed the memories aside.Weirdly, Coco was the first person he’d been with since Beth.And while it wasn’t anywhere near the same thing, he still felt oddly close to her somehow.“I meant what I said…that night, you know?I get that you’ve got loads of people you’d rather talk to, but if you do want to talk to me, you can.”

  “I appreciate it.”Coco seemed to take that as her cue to leave but before she could, her phone rang.She quickly answered it.“Dad, what’s..?”Her eyes widened in surprise and delight.“Oh my god, that’s amazing!Hold on, I’ll be right there.”She turned back to Mason.“They’ve found a donor for Mum!”

  “That’s great!”Mason replied, genuinely pleased for her.Coco threw her arms round him and he held her in a tight hug.For a lot longer than he needed to.When he released her and looked at her, all he could think was that he really wanted to kiss her…He quickly broke her gaze.“So, er, do you need a lift?”

  “Um, no, Ziggy’s coming to pick me up.”Coco hovered uncertainly.“I’ll see you later?”

  “Yeah, definitely,”Mason agreed.He didn’t take his eyes off her until she was out of sight.

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Anyway, thank you for the comments, here's the next one!

CHAPTER SIX

Coco was sat by Maggie’s bedside, Ben sat on the other side.A drip had been set up to provide the stem cell transfusion.“So, what have I been missing in the world?”Maggie asked.

  Coco hesitated slightly, aware that some potential news might not be well-received.“Nothing special,”she said at last.

  “Coco’s been doing really well at school,”Ben offered.

  Maggie smiled.“Aw, that’s great, love.But you need to have some fun as well.”

  “I’ve…been getting out a bit,”Coco attempted.

  “Been seeing your friends?”

  “Kind of.”

  “Well, why don’t you go and spend time with them now?Your dad can keep me company.”

  Coco was uncertain.“Don’t you want me to keep you company?”

  Maggie smiled fondly.“Of course I love having you here, darling, but you’re just going to be sitting watching me.I’d rather you were out enjoying yourself.”

  “I can give you a lift back if you like,”Ben offered.

  Coco shook her head.“No, you stay here with Mum.I can get the bus.”

  “Any idea what you’re going to do?”Maggie asked.

  Coco allowed a ghost of a smile across her lips as she turned towards the door.“I might go to the gym.”

***

Raffy made her way along the beach towards the Diner.She had no real plans for when she got there. Coco was busy with her family, Ryder hadn’t been answering her calls and she hadn’t spoken to John and Marilyn that much since moving back in with her siblings.Her plan merely consisted of ordering a drink and then seeing if anyone interesting came in.

  Her wishes seemed to be answered instantly since, as she approached, she saw Hunter outside the bait shop, putting up a billboard advertising the day’s specials.She smiled and waved to him.

  Hunter looked away from her and hastily went back inside.

  Raffy turned and walked in the other direction, wiping tears from her eyes.

***

Coco had gone home and changed into gym gear, consisting of a gym vest and tracksuit bottoms, before heading into town and to the surf club.It wasn’t, of course, the most appealing outfit she could have worn, but turning up to the gym dressed up would have looked a bit strange.At least part of her plan went right straightaway as she found Mason on duty behind the counter.She went up to him with a smile.“Hi.”

  Mason returned the smile.“Hey, Coco.How are things with your mum?”

  “Yeah, good.She’s having the stem cell transfusion and the doctors are really positive.”

  Mason gave her a comradely pat on the arm.“That’s great.And it’s great to see you here.You after a workout?”

  Coco faltered.“Um, yeah.Thought I’d try out the machines.”

  “Okay, well, let me know if you need any help.”

  Coco went over to a rowing machine with a rather disappointed look on her face, before sitting down and getting to work.

***

Raffy didn’t have any idea where she was going.She was just walking quickly and aimlessly, hoping to power walk the hurt out of her.She hadn’t expected Hunter to marry her or date her but she’d expected him to acknowledge she existed.Instead, he treated her like some sort of shameful secret.

  Her mood wasn’t improved by the sight of a group of girls from school sitting near a rock, taking turns to take swigs from a bottle of vodka.Leading the group was Abbi, a new girl at school whose main aim in life seemed to be to make as many people as she could as miserable as possible.Raffy tried to quicken her pace even more to get out of sight but Abbi picked her out.“Oh look,”she said scornfully,“It’s the class baby who can’t get a boyfriend.”

  Raffy knew she should walk on but she was on the verge of snapping and she’d just been presented with a convenient target.She jabbed a finger in Abbi’s face.“You know nothing about me.I’m not a baby and… and whether I’ve got a boyfriend or not is none of your business.”

  Abbi laughed.“Want to be a big girl, eh?Prove it.”She held out the bottle of vodka.

  Raffy took it from her and took a swig.“Satisfied?”

  Abbi raised an eyebrow, almost looking impressed.“Maybe you’re not such a loser after all.How about we try something else?We were thinking of going to Salt tonight, see if we can get served drinks.”

  “My brother runs Salt!”Raffy pointed out,“He’s not going to serve me!”

  “Is he working tonight?”

  Raffy thought for a moment.Brody had mentioned something about a night off and trying out new recipes, now she thought about it.“I don’t think so.”

  “Well, then.Meet us outside the surf club at six, unless you’re worried they’ll think we’re just babysitting you.”

  Defiantly, Raffy took another swig of the bottle.

***

Coco continued pretending to be interested in the rowing machine until the gym had emptied of customers, leaving her and Mason alone, then got up and went purposefully over to the counter.Mason looked up, puzzled.“Can I help you with something?”

  “Yes,”Coco replied…and then kissed him full on the lips.Mason stared at her in surprise.“I didn’t come here for a work-out, okay?I came her to see you and do that and…”

  She was cut off by Mason kissing her back, deeply and passionately.After a few extremely energetic seconds, the kiss broke.“I have been wanting do that since…pretty much the last time we did that,”he admitted.

  “Me too.”Coco swallowed hard.“Should we maybe…go somewhere?”

  “Yeah.”Mason looked at her intensely, with just a hint of mischief.“Or we could just lock the door.”

  Coco’s gaze flicked down to the keys on the counter surface, then back up at Mason and that intense gaze.This was new territory for her, scary and strange…and very very exciting.She scooped up the keys and went to the door, closing it, finding the right key and locking it.Then she went back to Mason.

  He carried on looking at her for a moment, then he grabbed and kissed her, their hands roaming around each other as he twisted her round and pushed her into the back room.

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Thank you for the comments, here's another one!

CHAPTER SEVEN

Mason and Coco emerged into the main gym area, quickly adjusting their clothing.“So,”Mason remarked, “Twice.”

  “Yep,”Coco agreed.

  They kissed, awkwardly but hungrily.Mason pulled back reluctantly.“We’d better unlock the door before people start wondering why the place is closed.”

  “Right.”They kissed again, again reluctantly ending it.Then they went over to the door.Mason unlocked and opened it.

  “So I’ll speak to you soon?”he suggested.

  Coco nodded.“Yep, see you.”

  Mason really wanted to kiss her at that moment and had a feeling she wanted him to.Only the fact they were now in full view of the surf club stopped him.He nodded back and then watched her walk away, wishing she didn’t have to go.

***

It was some hours later when Hunter entered the surf club and headed upstairs towards Salt.His mind was full of thoughts of Raffy.He’d been treating her badly, he knew that.In a way it was deliberate.He’d been telling himself that it was best to distance him from her, let her move on, forget about what had happened. But he knew that every time he blanked her she was so upset and he wasn’t sure if he could handle seeing that look on her face again.

  So inevitably when he got up to Salt, Raffy was the first person he saw.She was sitting with a group of the older girls from her year, who he remembered from the previous year as being mostly troublemakers. He noticed she’d also got dressed up:She was wearing a blue dress and make-up which made her seem older.

  “Boys,”she slurred,“They’re such jerks.”

  “How’d you know?”retorted Abbi contemptuously, before pushing another glass in front of her,“Here, have this.”

  Raffy downed the contents of the glass with barely a pause.“Every boy I’ve known is a jerk.”

  “Maybe they never noticed how funny you are when you’re drunk.”

  It was enough to get Hunter to storm over to the table.“What do you think you’re doing?”he demanded. He took Raffy by the arm.“Come on, we’re leaving.”

  He managed to get her downstairs and outside without much protest but once there she pulled away from him.“Leave me alone!”she snapped.

  “I can’t leave you like this,”he protested.

  “Why, are you afraid I’ll tell people you slept with me?”Her face fell.She’d apparently entered the melancholy stage of being drunk.“I wouldn’t.I know you don’t want me to.You’re ashamed of me.”

  “It’s not that,”Hunter tried to protest.

  Raffy looked up at him.“I think I’m going to be sick,”she told him calmly, then dashed to the railing and threw up over the sand.

  Hunter sighed, went over and rubbed her on the back soothingly.

***

Coco found herself looking around cautiously when she got home.She wasn’t entirely sure why, since it wasn’t like she’d done anything wrong.At least that was what she was telling herself.Plus, she was pretty sure her parents would still be at the hospital, so there wouldn’t be anyone around to ask her what she’d been doing.

  “And what have you been doing, little sister?”demanded Ziggy, instantly disproving her.

  Coco stared at her in bewilderment.“Why aren’t you with Brody?”

  “Because someone needs to keep an eye on you and he’s doing the accounts.And the question still stands.”

  “Just…walking.”Coco headed to the fridge and poured herself a juice before turning round to meet her sister’s gaze.“Ziggy, you had boyfriends when you were my age, right?And you slept with them?”

  “Well that’s a bit random and personal.”Ziggy gasped.“Have you got a boyfriend?Have you got a boyfriend that you’re sleeping with?”

  “No,”Coco insisted, mainly because she wasn’t quite sure what to call herself and Mason.

  “It’s not Ryder, is it?”

  “No,”Coco replied, more firmly.

  Ziggy took a deep breath.“Okay, I’m going to assume this is a general enquiry.If you have a boyfriend, and you like him and he likes you, and you feel comfortable taking the next step in your relationship, then that’s okay.But it’s also okay not to have a boyfriend and not to sleep with him.It’s what’s right for you.”

  Coco nodded.“I’m comfortable with that.”

***

“I’m going to die,”Raffy complained as Hunter helped her along the beach.

  Hunter sighed.“Yeah, can you try not to?”He wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing.The most sensible and responsible thing to do at this moment was to get in touch with Raffy’s family.He could have called Mason and asked him to come and get her, or taken her back to her house.Yet something had convinced him that he needed to look after her himself.Which is why he was here, leading her towards the bait shop.

  Hunter propped Raffy up near the door while he fished in his pocket for the keys.She almost immediately slumped forward so he caught her and helped her inside.Once there, she sank to her knees before lying down on the floor.

  “I’ll get you some water,”Hunter offered, going behind the counter and filling a glass.When he got back however, he found Raffy asleep.After a brief check to make sure she was actually still breathing, he got a blanket and draped it over her.As he did, he gently stroked her hair.

  He searched Raffy’s bag and found her phone.Finding Justin’s number, he sent a brief text saying “Staying with a friend.Don’t worry.”Then he turned the phone off and lay down beside her.

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Thank you for the comments, Kristen, Jarlie and pembie!

CHAPTER EIGHT

Hunter woke first the next morning.He lay watching Raffy until she slowly opened her eyes.She looked at him with some confusion, sat up…and clutched her head.“Ow.”

  “I think that’s the hangover kicking in,”Hunter remarked as he sat up as well.He nodded towards the glass sitting to the left of her.“I got you some water last night but you might need to give it a stir.”

  “What did I do last night?”Raffy groaned.

  “You don’t remember?”

  Raffy thought hard.“I remember going to Salt with Abbi and some of the other girls from school.And drinking.A lot.Did I throw up over you?”

  “Not quite.”

  “And now it’s morning and I’m in the bait shop…Justin and the others are going to freak!”

  “It’s okay,”Hunter promised her,“I sent a message from your phone, they know you’re okay.”

  Raffy looked at him in confusion.“Why would you do that?”

  Hunter had been asking himself the question a lot and he still wasn’t entirely sure that he had a satisfactory answer.“Because I can’t help thinking this had a bit to do with me.”

  Raffy sighed.“Well, you didn’t help.”

  “Sorry.”

  “It’s okay.I get that you’re repulsed by me.”

  “You’re not repulsive,”Hunter promised her.

  “Thanks for the compliment.”

  “You’re really not.”Hesitantly, Hunter leaned forward and kissed her.They lay back down again, continuing to kiss and caress.

***

Mason was having a lazy start to the day.Justin and Tori had both rushed out to work but he didn’t have a shift at either the gym or the hospital until the afternoon.He was in the middle of munching his way through a slice of toast when there was a knock at the door.Answering it, he was presented with Coco walking straight past him into the house.“What are we?”she demanded.

  Mason closed the door before turning to face her.“What do you mean?”

  Coco hesitated, suddenly remembering the situation.“Are we alone?”

  “Yeah, Justin and Tori are at work, Brody’s out with Ziggy, Raffy stayed over with friends.”

  Coco nodded.“Mason, I really like you.And the two of us, together, it feels really great.But I need to know where I stand because there’s a lot of uncertainty in my life at the moment and I could do with getting a few things clear.”

  “I really like you too,”Mason promised her,“But I’m not sure how people would feel about us suddenly stepping out.”

  Coco considered this.“Mum and Dad would probably freak.”

  “Justin too.Maybe Tori as well.”

  “So, we just forget it?”

  Mason shook his head.“I don’t want to do that.Maybe wait until we’re sure before we start telling people we’re together?”

  “But we are going to be together?”Coco checked.

  “Yeah, if you want to.”

  “I do.”They moved closer and kissed.“Everyone’s out, you say?”Coco asked for clarification.Mason nodded and they kissed again.

***

Hunter headed towards the counter, pulling his shirt back on.On the floor, Raffy pulled her clothing back into place before standing up.She went over to him and he offered her a glass of water.Raffy took a long sip of it before pulling a face.“Okay, now I’m really confused.”

  “You and me both,”Hunter confirmed.

  “You’ve spent the last week or two acting like you don’t want anything to do with me and then as soon as we’re alone, that happens again.You want to explain that?”

  Hunter looked hard at her.“If anyone found out about this, I could be in a lot of trouble.”

  Raffy scowled.“Because I’m just a kid.”

  “Without wanting to sound insulting, yeah.That’s not a bad thing and it doesn’t mean you’re not a great person, but you’re still young and you should be off limits and the responsible thing would be for me to stay away from you.Especially since every time I’m alone with you, I seem to start kissing you and forget about all that.”

  Raffy smiled again.“So, now that we’ve established that I’m irresistible, what are we going to do about it?”

  “We could go back to Plan A and stay away from each other.”

  “Mmm.Or we could just make sure no-one finds out.”

  Hunter sighed.“You are really bad for me, you know that?”

  “Yep.”Raffy kissed him softly.“But I could be really good for you too.”

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Thank you for the comments, everyone, another short chapter for you!

CHAPTER NINE

Raffy sat alone in the schoolyard.She had to admit she was more than a little confused.She didn’t really understand her relationship with Hunter.After a bit of thought, she decided that he was her boyfriend but she couldn’t tell anyone. She could live with that.It felt like he cared about her anyway.

  She saw Coco approaching and quickly tried to adopt a placid smile.“Hey, how are you going?”

  Coco sat down next to her, letting out a deep sigh.“If I tell you something, do you promise not to tell anyone?”

  “I guess so,”Raffy ventured.

  “You remember that older guy I told you about?”

  “The one you hooked up with after Brody and Ziggy’s wedding?”

  “That’s the one.Well…it’s happened again.More than once.”

  Raffy’s eyes widened, at the parallel as much as anything else.“Are you going to see him again?”

  “I think so.I mean, that’s what we decided.We carry on seeing each other and see how it goes.We’re not telling anyone for now.”

  “Except you’ve told me,”Raffy pointed out.

  Coco looked worried.“You’re not going to tell anyone, are you?”

  “No, no,”Raffy promised,“It’s not even like I’ve got anything to tell.I don’t know who it is.”

  Coco looked away.“Right, yeah.Probably better it stays that way.”She looked back.“What about your one?”

  Raffy gave a short laugh.“Much the same actually.I mean, we’ve only been together once since then.I thought he didn’t like me for a while.But now, well, like you said, see each other in secret.”

  “So we’ve finally got boyfriends and we can’t tell people?”

  “That’s about it, yeah.”Raffy suddenly noticed someone else coming over.Ty.

  Coco noticed him as well.“Should I give you some space?”

  “Please.”

  Ty stopped in front of Raffy, looking awkward.“How are you?I haven’t really seen much of you since you moved out.”

  “No, that was kind of deliberate.”

  “How is it, being back with your family?”

  “Surprisingly good.I think they’re all worried I’ll move out again.How’s it for you living with John and Marilyn?”

  “Yeah, it’s great.I’m glad you convinced me to stick around.”He paused before asking,“Have you got a boyfriend?”

  Raffy smiled ironically.“Have you?”

  Ty winced.“Yeah, still trying to get used to that one.”

  Raffy thought for a moment.“Let’s just say I’ve moved on.”

***

Mason saw Hunter hanging around outside the surf club and went over to join him.“You waiting for someone?”

  “No,”Hunter said quickly…possibly a bit too quickly,“You?”

  Mason did actually have plans with Coco later but he wasn’t going to mention that to Hunter.“No. Actually, I was wondering if you were doing anything tonight?”

  “I’m…doing something,”Hunter confirmed evasively.

  Mason was somewhat relieved but he felt the need to press the point.“And would that involve female company?”

  “There may be a female involved.What about you?Anyone on the horizon?”

  “Might be,”Mason confirmed.

  Hunter fidgeted.“So, are you staying here?”

  Mason had the odd feeling Hunter didn’t want him to.If that was the case, then he didn’t really have any reason to stay.“No, I’m just off.”

  “Right.”Hunter hesitated before adding,“You know if there was a girl involved, I’d treat her right, don’t you?”

  “Yeah, sure, me too.”As Mason walked away from his friend, he took out his phone and dialled a number.“Coco?It’s me.What are you doing next week?I’ve got an idea.”

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Thank you for the comments!

CHAPTER TEN

Hunter stood at the counter of the Diner, trying to peer through into the back.Irene appeared from the outside.“You haven’t seen that mate of yours, have you?”

  “Mason?”Hunter asked,“No, why?”

  “Car brakes are playing up.I was hoping he could get his brother to have a look at them.”

  “You could always take it to Justin yourself.”

  Irene rolled her eyes.“Gee, why didn’t I think of that?Maybe because I’m up to my eyeballs here.What can I do for you, anyway?”

  “Actually, I was just looking for Leah.I needed to tell her I’m not going to be home tonight.”

  “Secret assignation, is it?”

  Hunter suddenly had a bit of difficulty looking her in the eye.“Something like that.”

  “Not Olivia again?”

  “No,”Hunter replied firmly.

  Irene shrugged.“Okay, I’ll let you keep your secret.And I’ll pass it on to Leah when I see her.”

  “Thanks, Irene.”And as Hunter turned to leave, he was already making plans for the night.

***

Mason opened the door to the motel room and ushered Coco inside.“Not exactly posh but what do you think?”

  Coco looked around in delight.“We can really stay here all night?”

  “Yeah.Um, provided you sorted things out with your parents?”

  Coco nodded.“Yeah, Raffy’s covering for me.”

  Mason was suddenly concerned.“She doesn’t know..?”

  “She doesn’t know I’m with her brother, no.”

  “Good.”Mason realised how that sounded.“I mean, I’m not ashamed of you, or us, it’s just…I dunno, I guess I want to work out what this is before other people start giving their opinions.”

  Coco nodded.“I think our opinions are the only ones that matter for now.”

  “Right.”Mason put his arms round her and softly kissed her.“And my opinion is that being here with you is exactly what I want right now.”

  “Me too,”Coco agreed with a smile.

  “So, what do you want to do?We could call room service or see what movies they’ve got…”

  “We could do.”Coco kissed him again.“But there’s a few other things I want to do first.”

  The kiss deepened and he lowered her down onto the bed.

***

Hunter was waiting outside one of the caravans.He’d taken the key and got everything set up but he was having to wait and it was making him nervous.Eventually, Raffy came bounding round the corner.“Got your call.What’s up?”

  Hunter grabbed her and kissed her passionately.She responded and he twisted her round and pushed her into the van, at which point he reluctantly let the kiss break and turned her to face away from him.“What do you think?”

  Raffy gave a gasp of delight as she saw the small table and modest food he’d set up.“Is this for me?”

  “Well, for us anyway.I’m not going to let you eat all of it.”

  “And we’ve got the van for the night?”

  “That’s the plan.If you’re okay with that.”

  Raffy tried to sound casual.“I might be persuaded.”She kissed him briefly then sighed.“Eat first?”

  “Probably best.”

***

Mason was sitting up in bed.Coco was sat on top of the covers cross-legged, having pulled on a dressing gown.She was eating from a tub of strawberries.“The minibars in this place are great.Do you want to try one?”She offered the fruit to Mason who ate it out of her hand.She smiled.“Ooh, I wonder if they’ve got any champagne.”She swung herself down and headed for the fridge.

  “I think they’ve still got licensing laws here,”Mason pointed out.

  Coco stopped, looking awkward.“Right.Yeah.”

  Mason looked at her sympathetically.“I’m not saying I think you’re a child or anything but…”

  “But I am?”

  “Could have put it better.”Mason held out a hand and she took it, clambering back onto the bed.“You do know I love you, right?”

  Coco looked at him in surprise.“Really?I mean, you’re never said it.”

  Mason looked at her seriously.“Well, I do.I love you.”

  Coco smiled.“I love you too.”

  “And when the time’s right, we’ll tell everyone that we’re together, okay?”

  “Okay.”She leaned down and kissed him, then slipped under the bed covers with him.

***

“Are you sure you’re okay to stay out all night?”Hunter asked as they finished eating.

  Raffy nodded.“Coco’s covering for me.”

  Hunter was cautious.“Coco knows?”

  “Not that it’s you, just that I’m with someone.She’s with someone too and I don’t know who that is.” Her voice took on a wistful tone.“He’s taking her to a motel tonight.”

  Hunter sighed.“I’m sorry.”

  Raffy was surprised.“Why?”

  “Because…if I took you to a motel, I’d probably get arrested.It feels like you’re missing out on stuff.”

  “Hunter, are you going to…make love to me and hold me while I sleep?”

  There was an intensity to the remark that made Hunter stop and think.This meant something to her and he was going to make sure it meant what she wanted it to.“Yes.”

  She smiled.“Then you’ve nothing to apologise for.”

  Hunter helped her to her feet and kissed her, then led her over to the bed.

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