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Sudden Family

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It's been a while since my last fiction but I had another idea busting to be told.I hope you enjoy!

Story Title: Sudden Family
Type of story: Short/Medium Fic
Main Characters: Coco, Ziggy, Justin, Leah, Ryder, Bella, Irene and others
BTTB rating: T
Genre: Drama
Does story include spoilers: No
Any warnings: Mild sexual content
Summary: Coco returns to town for a visit, with a surprise in store for her friends and family.



Ziggy tried very hard not to let the tension she felt show as she entered Salt.Not least because she wasn’t entirely sure why she felt tense.There were, at times, downsides to being the last Astoni left in Summer Bay.This was one of them.

  Any attempt she’d made to disguise her feelings obviously failed, since as she approached the bar, Mackenzie fixed her with a piercing if sympathetic glare.“Something on your mind?”

  “My sister’s coming to visit,”Ziggy explained.

  Mackenzie nodded and poured her friend a large drink.“Coco, right?I don’t think I’ve ever met her.”

  Ziggy managed to shake her head at the same time as taking a large gulp of the drink.“I think she was last in town just before you moved here.She’s been at college in Queensland the last few years.”

  “So, what’s the problem?Is she a troublemaker or something?”

  “She’s had her moments,”Ziggy noted,“But mostly she’s always been a Grade A student.Which is probably one of the many reasons why we didn’t really get on until we moved here.Just too different. Now, we’re still too different but somehow we’ve managed to find a way to ignore that.”

  Mackenzie nodded in understanding.“Well, if Dean and I can find common ground, I guess anyone can. So why do you look like you’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders?”

  It was the question Ziggy had been asking herself ever since she got the news.Because the thing was she didn’t actually have any reason to be anxious and worried.It was just that niggling sensation at the back of her mind that this visit meant some sort of trouble.“She hasn’t been back here in over two years, right?So why now?Because as much as we might have managed to get on better these last few years, I still don’t think she’d walk out of college just to come and see me.”She sighed.“And I really really wish Mum and Dad were here to deal with this.”

  “Just play it by ear, I guess.”

  “I guess so.”Ziggy drained her glass and put it back down on the bar.

  “Another?”Mackenzie asked wryly.



Ziggy heard the taxi pulling up outside and took a few deep breaths.Nothing to worry about.Just her annoying little sister coming to stay for a few days.Or possibly weeks.They hadn’t actually discussed that bit.But it didn’t matter.All that mattered was that there was nothing to worry about.

  “Just leave them there,”Coco told the driver, as he deposited her cases in the hallway.She handed him the money and he headed off back to his car.

  “So…you made it here then,”Ziggy commented.

  Coco nodded.“Got intimately acquainted with every train station in the last 2000 miles but yep, I made it.”

  Ziggy was still waiting for the other shoe to drop.“So, what have you been doing?”

  “Er, well, college has been fine.I’ve joined quite a few environmental pressure groups up there.Made a few new friends, something which I thought was impossible once.”Coco shrugged off her jacket and Ziggy got her first proper look at her sister’s figure.Ziggy’s eyes widened as Coco added,“Oh, yeah, and I got pregnant.”

  That, Ziggy realised, was exactly the sort of thing she’d been afraid of.

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Thank you for the comments, Kristen, Zig and beachside! I meant to post this yesterday but time got away. Hope you enjoy!


Ziggy eyed her sister, trying to formulate a response.“How did that happen?”she asked at last.She saw Coco open her mouth to respond and pointed a warning finger at her.“Do not give me a clever response, okay?I didn’t know you had a boyfriend!”

  Coco looked rueful.“I don’t.”

  Ziggy took this in, her mind racing as she tried to think of alternatives.“So…what?Are we talking a one night stand here?”

  Coco seemed to consider the question.“More of a…holiday romance?There was a guy…”

  “There usually is,”Ziggy agreed.

  “He was in Queensland for a couple of weeks,”Coco continued,“And we met up and we…well, got on well.More than once.And after he went home, I found out I was pregnant.”

  Ziggy thought about this, trying to work out what questions she should be asking.“Have you got no way of contacting him?Tracking him down?”

  Coco shook her head.“It’s best I don’t.I decided I can do this on my own.”

  “Which is why you came here?”Ziggy asked wryly.She saw Coco’s awkward look and softened her expression.“You’re not on your own.”Another thought occurred to her.“I take it you haven’t told Mum and Dad about this?”

  “No,”Coco admitted, biting her lip nervously,“Can we wait before telling them?”

  Ziggy dug deep into her reserves to try and work out what a supportive big sister would do at this point. “Okay, we can wait,”she agreed,“But, you know, they’re going to notice they’ve got a grandchild eventually.”

  “I know.”Coco looked at her gratefully.“Thank you.”

  “No problem,”Ziggy replied…even though it felt like that was exactly what it was.


Coco had found a table in the Diner and looked around her.It all looked familiar…almost depressingly so. The place didn’t seem to have had so much as a menu holder moved in the last two years, and of course Irene and Marilyn were still behind the counter, greeting her like an old friend and cooing over the prospect of her being a mother.They hadn’t asked too many questions, thankfully, and she hoped they weren’t closely in touch with her parents enough to let anything slip.

  She had fond memories of her time in Summer Bay, but she really thought she’d moved on from them.

  Her mood brightened when she saw two people her own age enter.Despite the awkward questions it was going to provoke, she was pleased to see them.

  Ryder withdrew his arm from round Bella’s waist and favoured Coco with a large grin.“Hey, long time no see!How are you..?”He paused as Coco stood up and he noticed the curve of her abdomen.“Woah.”

  “Well, you’ve been busy,”Bella noted drily,“Or is it just that you’ve been eating more than you used to?”

  “No, no, I’m pregnant,”Coco confirmed as the three of them sat down.She looked across at Ryder, who seemed to be staring into space.“What?”

  “No, no, just trying to picture you as a mother,”Ryder mused,“It looks weird.”

  “For me as well,”Coco admitted,“But here we are.”She hurried to change the subject.“So, I kind of noticed you two have changed your relationship status.”

  Ryder put his hand over Bella’s.“She couldn’t resist me,”he agreed conspiratorially.

  “I could too,”Bella insisted.She turned back to Coco.“I just happened to point out to him that, since we were both single and spent most of our time with each other, a friends with benefits arrangement could be to both our advantage.”She sighed.“And, as it turned out, we both liked it a lot more than we expected.” She looked accusingly at Ryder.“So, of course, he insisted we had to make it official.”

  “I don’t see you complaining much, girlfriend,”Ryder responded.

  “I complain a lot,”Bella retorted,“But not about dating you.”

  “Well, I’m pleased for you,”Coco replied.

  Ryder gestured to her.“So are you..?”

  “Going it alone,”Coco completed for him.

  Ryder nodded.“Well, the kid will always have Uncle Ryder and…”

  “Do not call me Auntie Bella,”his girlfriend warned him,“I am no-one’s auntie.”

  Coco smiled in spite of herself.Suddenly, she didn’t feel alone at all.

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Thank you, all of you, for the comments! Managed to post this one a bit closer to when intended.


Justin looked up from the car he was working on, glancing across the garage at Ziggy.“You know, you don’t have to be here if you want to spend time with Coco.”

  Ziggy had thought about this but had ultimately come to the conclusion that spending all her time with Coco wasn’t something either of them wanted.“No, it’s fine.I think Coco and I tolerate each other best in small doses.”

  Justin grinned.“Yeah, true.If Raffy was visiting, we’d probably spend five minutes loving see each other, then she’d want me to STop cramping her style.”

  Ziggy nodded in agreement.“Mmm, right.Coco’s got her friends to hang out with and…”

  “Hi, Coco!”Justin interrupted, just that little bit too loudly for it to sound natural.

  Ziggy turned round and sure enough, there was Coco, holding a bag of takeaway from the Diner.“I thought you might want to have lunch together,”she explained.She glanced across at Justin.“She gets lunch, right?”

  “I’ll allow it,”Justin deadpanned.He looked Coco up and down, obviously taking in her condition, but apparently decided not to say anything.“So, what have you been up to?”

  “This and that,”Coco replied vaguely.

  Justin nodded.“Mostly that, eh?”he couldn’t help responding, prompting an embarrassed look.

  “Hi there!”interrupted a fourth voice and Ziggy looked round to see that Leah had entered as well.She smiled at their visitor.“Coco, hi!Irene told me you were in earlier.”

  If Coco had looked awkward at Justin’s attention, she looked as though she was dying inside at the sight of Leah.“Hi, Leah,”she managed to say.

  Possibly sensing her discomfort, Leah turned to Justin.“I was wondering if you wanted to go somewhere for lunch?”

  Ziggy nodded.“Yes, go.I can keep an eye on things here.”

  “Chased out of my own garage,”Justin grumbled as he took Leah’s arm and accompanied her away from the premises.

  Coco seemed frozen to the spot as she watched them go.“I’d forgotten they were together,”she said quietly.

  “Is that a problem?”Ziggy asked, even though she couldn’t think of any reason why it would be.

  “No, no,”Coco said quickly,“I just wasn’t expecting her to see her.I’ll see you at home.”

  The abruptness of her depature took Ziggy by surprise.“What about eating lunch together?”But Coco was gone.


By the time Ziggy arrived home that evening, her brain was full of possibilities for Coco’s strange behaviour.Some of which she liked better than others.Coco was at home as she’d expected and Ziggy had had a lor of time to think of an opening gambit.Ultimately, vague questions won out.“What was all that about?”

  Coco had obviously decided to play innocent.“All what?”

  “You know.”Ziggy had had time to think and the first conclusion she’d come to was this.“You didn’t want Leah to see you.”

  “I just…I was worried she’d tell Mum and Dad I was back,”Coco attempted.

  “No, I don’t think that’s it,”Ziggy replied,“I think it’s something to do with her knowing you’re pregnant. I mean, Irene or Marilyn could have spoken to Mum just as easily.So it must be someone else you don’t want her to tell.”She paused, waiting for Coco to contradict her.She didn’t.“Maybe something to do with the father?Someone that Leah’s most likely to speak to?”Ziggy thought for a moment.“Hunter?No, that’s a bit too random…”

  She could tell from the look on Coco’s face that she was getting close.“Ziggy, please,”Coco attempted.

  And then it clicked into place.“VJ,”Ziggy realised,“VJ’s the father.”

  Coco hesitated for a moment, then she nodded.

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Thank you for the comments, Zig and Kirsten!


Even though she was the one who’d said it, Ziggy couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing.“You slept with VJ?”

  Coco fixed her with a glare.“Yes,”she confirmed,“Several times.Don’t act like it’s that shocking.”

  “No, I just…”Ziggy struggled to put her thoughts into words.“How did you even meet VJ?”

  “Much the way I told you,”Coco answered,“I was in the city when I ran into him and Luc.They were there on holiday.”

  “But, last I heard he was in Cyprus.”

  “Hence the holiday bit,”Coco explained carefully.

  “Okay and…”Ziggy tried to put what she knew together.“Things happened the way you said, right?”

  Coco nodded.“Once we got over the shock of seeing each other, we started hanging out, which quickly turned to us staying in and me spending nights where he was staying, and then he went.”

  “And…what?He didn’t leave a number?You didn’t have a social media account for him?”

  “I could have contacted him when I found out I was pregnant,”Coco confirmed slowly.


  “Why did VJ go to Cyprus in the first place?”

  Ziggy thought back.It wasn’t that long after the family had come to Summer Bay but she’d heard most of the bits she’d missed out on from Hunter and Olivia.“Because of Irene’s son, what’s his name, Mick.He was Luc’s father, he’d raped VJ’s wife, and VJ wanted to get away…”She trailed off.

  Coco nodded.“VJ wanted to get her as far away from him as possible.I guess he was feeling a bit homesick for Australia, and Cairns was as close to here as he was willing to risk.I promised him I wouldn’t tell anyone he was there.”

  “So if you told him you were pregnant..?”Ziggy mused.

  “Then he’d probably want to do the decent thing and help out.And that would put them at risk.”

  “Okay, I get that.But as you’ve probably worked out by now, he’s going to find out some time.Isn’t it best he hears it from you?”


“VJ,”Ryder repeated after Coco had finished telling her story,“Wow, okay, didn’t see that coming.”

  Bella looked sideways at him.“You know him?”

  “Yeah, he was living with Grumps when I first got here.”Ryder thought for a moment.“Actually, I think I took his room…”

  “So there you have it,”Coco concluded,“I hooked up with my first Bay crush and I got pregnant.Living the dream.”

  “When you say hooked up..?”Bella prompted.She noticed the looks the other two were giving her and gave an exasperated sigh.“Yes, I know what it means on a practical level.I mean…was it just sex?Or were their…feelings involved?”

  Coco shrugged.“I don’t know.I mean, we both knew from the start that we only had a short time together and neither of us really questioned that.”

  “But you’d like to see him again?”

  “I guess so, as long as it’s safe.”

  “But it might not be because of this Mick guy?”

  “I hate to say this,”Ryder put in,“but if it was me I’d want to know.I mean, yeah, there are risks in VJ getting involved but this way, you’re not giving him a choice.”

  “I hate to admit this,”Bella noted,“but he’s right.”

  Coco sighed.“Yeah, I know he is.I kind of hate that too.”

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Thank you for the comments, Kristen and beachside!


Coco’s hand hovered over the button for several seconds before pressing it.A message flashed up on the screen:Connecting.A moment later, the message disappeared and VJ’s image appeared.He smiled awkwardly and waved at her.“Hey there.”

  “Hey,”Coco returned.

  “I was surprised to get your message.I mean, I don’t mean that I wasn’t pleased or anything, it’s just, well, we haven’t really spoken since…we last met.”

  Coco could understand VJ’s confusion.There were very few reasons for her to contact him in the circumstances.She wondered if he’d thought of what one of them was.“Yes, well, there’s a few things we need to discuss.”Instead of saying anything else, she got up and gave a quick twirl, giving VJ a good luck at her baby bump.

  By the time she sat down again, VJ’s mouth was hanging open.“Wow,”he concluded,“Er, how far gone are you?”

  “How long since we last saw each other?”Coco replied.

  “Right.Yeah.Of course.About six months then, I guess?”

  Coco nodded.“That’s about right.”

  “Um, why have you waited this long to tell me?”

  Coco rolled her eyes.“Come on, VJ, don’t you remember everything we talked about before we left?The whole ‘This was nice but let’s not do it again’ thing?”

  “I…don’t think it was as cold as that,”VJ protested.

  “I know,”Coco conceded,“But I also know how important it was to you to stay out of view.”

  “So why tell me now?”

  “Because…you made the decision then.And it was pointed out to me that if you knew about this, you might make a different decision.”

  VJ hesitated.“Coco, you know I’d be there for you if I could.But I’ve got to think about Luc.”

  Coco nodded.It was much as she’d been expecting.“I understand.”She reached forward to break the connection.

  “No wait,”VJ replied,“I haven’t made the choice yet.Just…give me time to think, okay?”

  “Okay,”Coco agreed,“I guess you’ve got a few months.”


“So how did he take it?”Ziggy persisted once she’d got home

  Coco shrugged.“Okay, I guess.”

  Ziggy rolled her eyes.“Come on, Cocs, I need more than that.”

  “Well, he didn’t exactly immediately jump on a plane and rush to my side.”Coco knew she was being unfair.“He said that in ideal circumstances he’d be there for me, but he’s got Luc to think about.Which is pretty much what I knew.”

  Ziggy didn’t seem willing to leave it at that.“So, what?It’s just your bad luck and you have to do this on your own?”

  “He didn’t exactly say that,”Coco admitted,“He just said he had some thinking to do.”

  “Okay, well, I guess that’s not too bad.But if he doesn’t do the right thing…”

  They were interrupted by a knock on the door, followed a moment later by Leah awkwardly sidling into the room.“Hi,”she greeted them,“Am I interrupting?”

  “Kind of,”Ziggy replied bluntly.

  “Come in,”Coco added, sensing what this was about.

  “I’ve just spoken to VJ,”Leah confirmed,“He told me I’m going to be a grandmother again.”She looked kindly at Coco.“You could have told me, you know.”

  “I’m sorry,”Coco found herself saying,“I was just trying to do what was best for everyone.”

  “I know,”Leah agreed,“VJ hasn’t decided what he’s going to do yet.But he asked me to let you know that you can come to me if you’ve got any problems.”

  “Thank you.”

  “But…my first bit of advice is that maybe someone else needs to know they’re going to be grandparents.”


And so, for the second time that day, Coco found herself waiting for a Skype call that she wasn’t exactly looking forward to.Finally, the call connected and Ben and Maggie appeared.“Hey there, kiddo!”Ben greeted her, waving.

  “We’re pleased to hear from you,”Maggie noted more cautiously,“But what are you doing back in Summer Bay?”

  Coco did her best to smile as she delivered the news.“You’re going to be grandparents!”

  There was a moment of stony silence.“Is Ziggy..?”Ben ventured.

  “Me,”Coco confirmed.

  Ben’s expression, pretty hard already, seemed to harden further.“Who’s the father?”


  “Leah’s son?”Maggie checked,“One of my old students?”

  “Knew I should have chucked him out of the house harder,”Ben grumbled.

  “It did take both of us,”Coco argued,“And he’s only just found out so don’t be too hard on him.”

  “Do you want us to come down there?”Maggie asked.

  “Of course we should!”Ben protested.

  Maggie shot him a look.“It’s up to Coco.”

  Coco bit her lip.“I really want to see you both,”she admitted,“But things are crazy here as it is with Ziggy and Leah and I don’t know what VJ’s going to do…can you hold off for a bit?”

  Maggie shot a look at Ben, who nodded.“Okay, darling.Just keep in touch, okay?”

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Thank you for the comments, Kristen, Helena and beachside!


Coco had been left alone in the house but that was okay:She was kind of used to it.She was trying to think of a way to fill the hours when the knock came at the door.Opening it, she found possibly the last person she expected to see.

  “VJ!”She dragged him into the house, shooting a quick look around outside to make sure no-one was around before closing the door behind them.“What are you doing here?”

  “Where else would I be?I wanted to see you!”He looked her up and down.“And you look great.”

  “I don’t,”Coco replied petulantly,“I look bloated and spotty and exhausted.”

  “Aren’t pregnant women supposed to look glowing?”VJ pondered.

  “I don’t think I’m a very…glowey person.”Coco walked over to the sofa and sat down, VJ following her.“VJ, I know you were worried about coming here, about Luc being found here…Where is Luc, anyway?”

  “She’s with Mum.”VJ let out a loud sigh.“Look, you know I went through all this with Billie, right?And I made a lot of mistakes along the way, we both did, and things didn’t turn out like I hoped…”

  Coco didn’t feel comforted by his words.“VJ, this isn’t some sort of do-over.You can’t see me and this baby as a way to make up for what you think you did wrong then.”

  “I don’t!”VJ protested,“But if I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be here.There was something between us back in Cairns, right?”

  “Yes,”Coco admitted.

  VJ took her hand.“Coco, I want to be here for you and the baby.And not just because I feel I have to, because it’s what I want.I want you, with or without a baby.And maybe it wouldn’t be happening if all this hadn’t happened, but it might have happened sooner if things were different…and I’m babbling, aren’t I?”

  Coco smiled.“Yes.But it’s nice to hear anyway.”

  VJ leaned in to kiss her and she melted into it.


Ziggy came into the Diner and slumped down at the counter.“Coffee, please.Make it a double.”

  Irene gave her a sympathetic smile.“Been having a hard time of it?”

  “Yep, you could say that.We’ve got a load on at the garage, which would be fine, except I’ve got Coco up and down all through the night, heading to the bathroom to do goodness knows what.”

  “Joys of pregnancy, eh?Wait till you have to go through it.”

  Ziggy pulled a face.“I think watching it second hand has put me right off.”

  It was at that moment that Leah entered with, incongruously, a young girl of about four or five clutching onto her hand.Ziggy stared at them in shock.It couldn’t be…

  Irene provided the answer.“God save us, is that little Luc?”

  “Sure is,”Leah confirmed, smiling down at the girl,“You’re having some quality time with your yia-yia, aren’t you?”

  “Is VJ here?”Ziggy asked.

  “Ah, yes,”Leah admitted,“He went round to see Coco.”

  “Right,”Irene commented,“I heard that he had something to do with her condition.”

  “They’re trying to keep it quiet,”Leah explained.

  “So…can you not tell anyone?”Ziggy checked with Irene.

  “Mum’s the word,”Irene agreed.

  Ziggy got up, taking her coffee.“I think I’d better go and check on what little sis is up to.”


Ziggy pushed open the door to the house and hurried inside.She found Coco making two cups of tea in the kitchen…clad in her dressing gown.Her face creased into a frown.“Why aren’t you dressed?”

  She got her answer a moment later.VJ came bounding from the direction of Coco’s bedroom, wearing only his boxers.“Hey, what are you doing?You said you wouldn’t be long.”He stopped as he saw Ziggy and awkwardly folded his arms across his chest.“Hi.”

  Ziggy nodded at Coco.“Well, if you still fancy her when she’s that big, you must really like her.”

  “Ziggy!”Coco protested.

  VJ inched towards Coco and put an arm round her.“I do like her,”he confirmed,“A lot.”

  “Good,”Ziggy noted,“because if you hurt her, you’ll have a lot of big and scary people to answer to.Not just me.”

  VJ nodded.“I’d better go and get dressed.”He headed back towards the bedroom.

  “Me too,”Coco agreed.

  “Not just yet,”Ziggy told her,“I wouldn’t want you both getting distracted.”She was in the parent position again and she didn’t like it.“Have you two talked at all?”

  “A bit.He says he wants to stand by me and the baby and…he says he likes me.That’s a good start, right?”

  Ziggy nodded.“We’ll take it for now.”

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Thank you for the comments, Helena and Kristen!


Leah sat and watched as VJ played with a smiling Luc.It was a sight she hadn’t got to see very often, given they’d left Summer Bay less than a year after Luc was born.“I can’t believe how much she’s grown!”

  “You’re telling me,”VJ agreed, turning his attention to his daughter,“You’re getting a bit too big for me to lift up, aren’t you?”

  “No,”Luc replied, shaking her head with a smile.

  VJ paused and looked around the Morgan house.“I’ve got to say, it feels weird seeing you living here.”

  “It wasn’t planned,”Leah agreed,“But, well, sometime things just happen and you find yourself with a life different than the one you were expecting.”

  “You’re telling me,”VJ accepted.

  Another voice called out from the doorway.“I’m home!”Justin stepped into the house and paused as he saw VJ and Luc.“You’re here,”he noted redundantly.

  “Yeah,”VJ agreed.There were several seconds’ silence.

  Leah sighed.“The two men in my life.Such great conversationists.”

  Justin nodded slowly.“I think I might take Buddy for a walk.”

  “You do that,”Leah agreed.

  VJ waited until Justin had gone before smiling at Leah.“Well, you do look happy here.”

  “Thanks.What about you?What about this business with Coco?”

  VJ sighed and sat himself down on the couch, leaving Luc to play on her own.“It wasn’t planned,”he noted,“I’d got used to it just being me and Luc.”

  “You know, just because you’re having a baby together, that doesn’t mean you have to do anything else.”

  “I know.But I like her, Mum.More than I’ve liked anyone since Billie.”

  Leah nodded slowly.“Yeah, I can see that.”

  “So I guess we’ve just got to figure out a way to make it work.”


Coco jumped up when she heard someone at the door and was delighted to see VJ and Luc there.“Hello again,”she greeted the girl, before giving VJ a tight hug which he returned.She ushered them both in.

  “I’ve been thinking,”VJ noted as he and Coco took a seat, leaving Luc to play with the toys she’d brought with her.

  “Come up with anything?”Coco asked.

  VJ laughed.“Not really.But I’ve been wondering if maybe I should stay here.If that’s what you’re planning to do.”

  “I haven’t really thought about it,”Coco admitted,“I came here because I didn’t want to have to go through this on my own.I don’t know if I’m going to stay here or not.”

  VJ nodded.“But we’re both here now,”he concluded,“So I’ll stick around while we work out what to do with all this.One thing I’m sure of, I don’t want to be away from you.”

  Coco smiled gratefully and gave him a quick kiss.


It was later that day when VJ, Coco and Luc arrived at the Diner together.Leah favoured them with a smile.“Well, it’s good to see you all out and about.”

  Ryder waved at them from the table where he and Bella were sat.“Hey, come and join us over here!”

  VJ looked at Coco, who nodded in agreement.They headed over and took their seats.“Good to see you again,”VJ greeted his old housemate.

  “You too,”Ryder agreed,“You haven’t met Bella, my girlfriend.”

  Bella rolled her eyes.“I like how he always feels the need to include that bit.”She looked over at Coco. “So, are you his girlfriend now?”

  Coco looked quizzically at VJ.“Erm, yeah, I guess you are,”VJ agreed,“I mean, if you want to be.”

  “Yeah, yeah, I want to be,”Coco agreed.

  Bella sighed wearily.“And they say romance is dead.”

  A voice began to drift through from the kitchen.Irene was having a phone conversation.A rather loud phone conversation.“No, really, you don’t want to do that, it’s not a good idea.Just listen to me…”

  “What’s that?”Ryder asked Leah.

  “I don’t know,”Leah admitted,“She got a phone call five minutes ago and she’s been on there ever since.”

  Irene came through, the phone call ended, looking rather harassed.She headed straight for their table.“I promise you, I didn’t have anything to do with this,”she told them.

  “What’s wrong?”Leah asked.

  Irene looked at VJ.“You and Luc were on the beach earlier?”

  “Yeah, we went down there first thing,”VJ confirmed,“Why?”

  “Apparently someone took a photo and tagged you on social media.Mick saw it and realised you were back here.He’s on the first flight down.”

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Thank you for the comments, Kristen and Helena!


Coco watched as VJ packed a bag.The sight was quite surreal.Just a matter of hours ago, they were going to be a family.Now he couldn’t wait to get away.Leah came hurrying back in.“I’ve got you and Luc booked on a flight to Malaysia.It leaves from the city at three o’clock.”

  VJ nodded.“That’ll do.Once we’re out of the country, I can work out what to do after that.”

  Leah sighed.“I wish you didn’t have to go.”

  “Me too,”VJ agreed.

  “Then why are you?”Coco blurted out.She hadn’t meant to say anything, had just meant to stand there quietly and stoically, but she couldn’t get past how unfair it all was.

  “You know why,”VJ replied,“Because of Mick.I can’t let him near Luc, he came close to getting custody of her last time.”

  “But that might not happen now.”

  “I can’t risk it!I have to look after her.”

  “And what about me?”Coco demanded,“What about our baby?Do we not count?”

  “Of course you do, and I’ll sort something out as soon as I can, but…”

  “But we’re not the most important thing,”Coco completed.She didn’t know what she was going to do but she did know she didn’t want to be there anymore.She stormed out.


Coco considered going to the garage and offloading to Ziggy.But somehow, her journey had taken her in the direction of the Diner flat.She climbed the stairs, contemplated knocking for a second, and then just walked in.She found herself reconsidering the decision when she was greeted by the sight of Ryder and Bella kissing on the couch.“Sorry,”she said awkwardly.

  The two broke apart.“That’s okay,”Bella replied in a tone that suggested it wasn’t at all,“Just be grateful you didn’t barge in a bit later.”

  “What can we do for you?”Ryder asked.

  “I…need someone to talk to,”Coco answered.

  “Sure,”Ryder agreed, then noticed Coco was looking at Bella,“Oh, sorry, is this a girl thing?”

  “Maybe you should go and get coffee and muffins,”Bella suggested,“From Yabbie Creek.”

  “Gotcha.”Ryder gave her a quick kiss goodbye and left.

  Bella looked back at Coco.“So…this had better be good for me to lose out on alone time with the boyfriend for.Don’t tell him I said that though.”

  Coco collapsed into the seat next to her.“VJ’s leaving the country.”

  “What?The rat!Do you want me to beat him up for you?”

  “No…he’s got really good reasons for doing it.He wants to get his daughter away from her father, I mean, her biological father.He raped her mum.”

  Bella froze at that, her expression becoming more serious.“Okay, I get why that’s a good reason.Could you go with them?”

  “I don’t know.Maybe.But he doesn’t even know where he’s going.I can’t go dragging after him when I’m pregnant.”

  “No, no, but…you get why he’s doing this, right?”Bella hesitated.“You know what went on with my dad and Colby?”

  “Yes,”Coco confirmed,“Ziggy filled me in.”

  “Right.So I know that sometimes dads aren’t worth having around.And while I might have a hard time with what Colby did sometimes, I know he was just trying to protect me.And it sounds like VJ’s a lot smarter when it comes to that sort of thing.So…maybe try and see where he’s coming from?”


VJ did a last check of his bag and then looked at his watch.“Taxi should be here soon.”

  Leah nodded.“It’ll be okay, you know?”

  “I know.I just wish I didn’t have to leave like this.”

  A moment later, Coco burst in.Leah saw her expression and made a quick decision.“I’ll just go check on Luc.”

  Once she’d gone, Coco took a deep breath.“I know why you want to get away and I’m sorry I got angry but this isn’t what I want.”

  “It’s not what I want either,”VJ started.

  “Just let me finish!”Coco snapped before relaxing back into her speech,“I’ll support whatever you want but I can’t let this be how it ends between us.Because I love you.”

  VJ closed the space between them and softly kissed her.“I promise as soon as Luc’s safe, we’ll sort something out.I’m not abandoning you or the baby.”There was a knock at the door.“That’ll be the taxi.”

  But when VJ answered the door, there was a police officer standing there.Leah emerged from the bedroom.“Cash, what’s going on?”

  Cash’s attention was focused on VJ.“Vincent Patterson?”

  “Yes,”VJ confirmed,“Look, I’m not doing anything wrong by taking Luc away, I’m her legal guardian…”

  “This isn’t about that,”Cash replied,“You need to come down the station for questioning over the murder of Mick Jennings.”

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Thank you for the comments, Kristen and Helena, I hope you like this!


VJ sat in the cell at the police station.He had been taken into the interview room and asked what he knew, which was nothing.That didn’t seem to make much difference: the officers had taken what they called a preliminary statement and then taken him to the cell.

  Cash appeared and unlocked the cell door.“The detective’s ready to speak with you.”

  VJ got to his feet.“What about my lawyer?”

  “Duty lawyer’s been called.They’ll meet us in there.”

  VJ followed Cash to the interview room, where a superficially friendly woman greeted them.“Mr. Patterson?I’m Detective Peters.Please take a seat.”She checked her notes.“So, here’s what we know.Mr. Jennings arrived on a flight into Sydney earlier today and got into a hire car, heading straight for Summer Bay.He made it to the outskirts of town where someone bludgeoned him to death.”

  “I don’t know anything about that,”VJ replied.

  Peters mulled this over in an exaggerated manner.“But you knew Mr.Jennings?You knew he was on the way to Summer Bay?”

  “Yeah, his mother told us,”VJ conceded.

  “And when the police called round your house, you were about to jump on a plane to Malaysia?Why was that?”

  “I was going to get a flight to Cyprus from there,”VJ answered,“I live there now.”

  Peters checked her notes.“You and Mr.Jennings had a rather complicated history.Last time you were in town, he attempted to file an order to stop anyone taking your daughter, or should I say stepdaughter, out of the country.He’d done a DNA test showing that he was the biological father.”

  VJ thought about his next words carefully.“You’ve seen Mick’s record, right?He kidnapped Irene, he ran off with Luc, he’d sexually assaulted women…he should have been in jail!I didn’t want him coming anywhere near Luc.”

  “Mmm.Well, his character isn’t what’s in question here, is it?It’s what happened to him.Now, we’ve taken statements from Miss Coco Astoni and your mother.Miss Astoni has admitted she was away from you for a chunk of the afternoon.Your mother has admitted she took your daughter out for a walk while you did your packing.So, seems like you had time to leave the house and lie in wait for Mr.Jennings.”

  “But I didn’t,”VJ persisted.

  “But you had motive, means and opportunity, you’ve got no alibi and you were about to flee the country!”Peters closed her file.“I think that’s what they call a prima facie case.Take him back to the cells, Constable.I need to consult with prosecution.”


Coco had crouched on the floor of the Morgan house next to Luc, who was playing with some bricks. “That one goes there?”she asked.Luc looked closely at Coco’s handiwork and nodded approvingly.Coco gave her a hug.“You just stay here for a minute, okay?I won’t be far.”

  Coco went over to where Leah was standing.“Thanks for helping with her,”Leah noted,“She seems to like you.”

  “We spent time together when she and VJ were in Cairns,”Coco explained,“We did get to like each other.”She suddenly found tears rolling down her cheeks and looked away, embarrassed.“I’m sorry.”

  “Hey, don’t worry about it,”Leah said soothingly,“I know about pregnancy hormones.”

  “It’s just…for a while there, I thought it was going to be all right.That we were going to be a family.And then suddenly VJ was leaving and now…now he might be going to jail.”She sniffed.“I know it’s not all about me…”

  “Your feelings in this are important as anyone else’s,”Leah assured her.

  “Yeah, but you’re worried about him too.It’s just…I really, really love him, Leah.I kept pretending I didn’t because I didn’t think I had a chance, I thought that what happened in Queensland would have to be enough, but…since he said he wanted me and the baby, I was just thinking about this future we might have together.”

  “You’ll still have it, okay?We’ll make sure of it.”

  Then the phone rang and both women froze.Justin came in and looked between them and the ringing phone.“I’ll get that, shall I?”he suggested.He picked up the receiver.“Justin Morgan…Right, yeah, are you sure you wouldn’t rather talk to..? Okay, I’ll tell them.”He put the phone down and turned to the others. “That was VJ’s lawyer.”

  “Is he being released?”Coco asked hopefully.

  Justin shook his head.“He’s being held in custody…and the lawyer thinks he might be charged.”

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Thanks for the comments, I hope you like this one!


Cash showed Leah and Coco through to the cell area and unlocked the door to where VJ was being held. “Just give a shout when you’re ready to be let out,”he told them, locking the door after them.

  VJ gave Coco a tight hug.“I’m sorry,”he said quietly.

  “You didn’t do anything,”Coco told him,“I just wish I’d stayed with you, then I could tell them that.”

  VJ looked past her at Leah.“How’s Irene taking all this?”

  “She’s pretty shocked,”Leah admitted,“Mick seemed to have turned his life around, she was hoping things might be different between them in the future.”

  “I got to admit,”VJ sighed,“I’m kind of glad that he won’t be able to come after Luc again.But I do feel sorry for Irene.”

  “What’s your lawyer said?”Leah asked.

  VJ nodded towards the main area.“The detective seems to have picked me as her number one suspect.”

  “Yeah, she has a habit of doing that,”Leah noted,“She went after Justin for something he didn’t do once.”

  “The police’s case seems to be based on the fact that I’m the one with the best motive.And I haven’t got an alibi and I was in town at the time.”

  “But they’d need more than that,”Coco argued,“I mean, there’s nothing to place you at the scene, there’s no murder weapon…”

  “Apparently it all depends on whether they think it’s enough to convince a jury.If the prosecution goes for it and there’s no other suspect, then I’m it.”

  “But that’s not fair,”Coco protested.

  “Since when did fair come into it?”

  A moment later, Cash returned with Detective Peters.Leah looked at them in confusion.“I thought we had longer?”

  “You’ve got all the time you want,”Peters replied,“Mr.Patterson, you’re free to go.”

  Everyone looked confused.“Did something happen I don’t know about?”VJ asked.

  “Have you got another suspect?”Leah wondered.

  “We’ve got a confession,”Cash answered.

  “A chap called Warren Ricketts,”Peters added.

  VJ was none the wiser.“I don’t know him.”

  “He lives in the city.His sister was sexually assaulted by Mr.Jennings five years ago, before he came to Summer Bay.Ricketts spotted Jennings getting into his hire car in the city and chased after him.Finally caught up with him just before he got to town and the rest is history.When he heard you’d been arrested and about what happened between Jennings and your wife, he turned himself in.”

  “So that’s it?”Leah asked,“No apology?”

  Peters turned casually to VJ.“Sorry to have kept you, Mr.Patterson.Now do you want to leave or not?”

  “Please,”VJ said eagerly.Coco gripped his hand.


The three of them headed back to the Morgan house.Leah paused and looked at the other two.“You know what?I think I’m due to meet Justin at the Diner.You two just amuse yourselves.”

  The two youngsters waited until she’d gone.“Subtle, isn’t she?”VJ commented.The two of them sat on the sofa, VJ staring ahead of him contemplatively.

  “What are you thinking?”Coco asked.

  “I was just realising,”VJ noted,“I’m free.I mean, I don’t like that someone had to die so I could feel like this but…I’m safe, Luc’s safe.We can go anywhere.”

  “I’m pleased for you,”Coco replied but her tone was awkward.

  VJ turned back to her, placing a hand on her leg.“I’m including you in that, okay?I’m not going anywhere without you.”

  Coco wasn’t sure how to react to that.“But you’ve got a new beginning going on…”

  “Because of the baby and because of you.I know I’ve kind of been one foot in, one foot out with all this…”

  “I know you had your reasons…”

  “But what you said when I was going?I love you too.”

  Coco felt her heart skip a beat.She leaned in and kissed him and he kissed her back.“So what do we do now?”she asked.

  VJ smiled.“Whatever we want to.”

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