His Cook Islands Roommate – Chapter 1

Daniel Jones’s left hip ached like a bitch. Trying to breathe through the pain, he gripped the armrests of his airplane seat.

“Are you a nervous flyer?”

Dan glanced at the woman next to him who was busy strapping her little boy into the window seat. “No.”

“Lucky you.”

Yeah, he was a lucky bastard, alright. Lucky to have survived the freak horse riding accident that had put him in a coma last summer. Lucky that his muscle mass had protected his vital organs and that the horse’s hoof had struck only inches from his brain.

“I mean, I don’t freak out or anything like that,” the woman continued, her accent American. “It’s just when I think about being so up high and nothing below my feet, it sometimes does make me wanna freak out, but I guess the trick is to not think about it, huh?”

“Hmm.” Dan laid his head back and closed his eyes.

“I should be used to flying, but I still get butterflies before take-off. Although as soon as the engine fires up and it’s all go-go-go, it’s kinda exciting isn’t, baby?”


Dan cracked one eye open.

“So, you’re British, huh?” she said. “As soon as we’re up high in the air, you can sit on my lap.”

Dan jerked his head. Ah. The child. She’s talking to her child.

In the five minutes since he’d sat down, she’d kept switching from addressing him to addressing her kid in the same breath. Dan couldn’t keep up—and neither did he want to. Stealing himself against the agony of moving his body, he turned as much of his back toward her as was possible in his cramped airline seat.

“Don’t do that,” she said firmly.

What the—? “Look, I don’t mean to be—”

“Aw, c’mon, honey. Work with me here.” She was talking to her child again who wasn’t looking at all happy with the toys she’d placed around him. He shoved them away and wriggled in his seat, grizzling. “We’ll be flying soon. Look, here’s the air steward, getting ready for take-off, yay! Voom-voom, we’re going up, up up!”

Ugh. Baby talk. His sisters used that same tone with his nieces and nephews. Dan pulled his pills out of his pocket and popped another into his mouth, hoping this one would take the edge off the pain—or at the very least, drown out this woman’s voice.

“Got a headache?” she said.

Head, legs, knee, hips. Heart. Everything ached. Dan sighed. “Yes.”

“Travelling takes it out of us, huh?”

It really did.

Six months after the accident that had nearly killed him and Dan’s body still needed to heal. But he’d had to leave England. Those journalists were still camping out on his street, always trigger happy to take shots of the Great Daniel Jones—Olympic sprinter, once the fastest man in the world—now limping like an old man.

And soon, those same tabloid hacks would be sniffing out the truth about him and Isabella.

That’s why he was putting himself through this horrendous thirty-five-hour-and-counting journey to the tiny South Pacific island of Rarotonga. He had to get far, far away before the news of his and Isabella’s split hit the headlines. If he’d never got on that stupid horse, he’d have been spending Christmas in the Cook Islands, anyway—with Isabella. On their honeymoon.

Instead, he’d gifted the whole package to his mum and aunt, and the fact that they were already out there, currently on one of the outer island resorts, had appeased Dan’s doctors and physiotherapists enough to allow him to travel, agreeing that the hot, humid climate would help heal his broken body.

Too bad this hellish journey to paradise was setting his recovery back several weeks.

Yesterday at Heathrow, due to some error beyond their control, the airline had downgraded his first class seat. Dan couldn’t hang around—he’d just given a dozen journalists the slip with his clever decoy—so he’d had no choice but to accept the error and squeeze his stiff, six foot three frame into a standard class seat. But his hips and legs weren’t aching that much then, his stomach was full, his energy levels high, and it was only a twelve hour flight to Singapore, where he’d change planes and get the roomy first class seat he’d originally booked.

Twelve hours.

No problem. He’d watch a couple of films, have a nap, and focus on how spending time with Mum and Auntie Zeezee, Mum’s best friend, would help his recovery. But then, that first flight had sat for hours on the rainy Heathrow runway, severely delayed. He’d missed his connection to Auckland and had to wait a further eight hours at Singapore for the next one, only to again be given another standard class seat.

Dan had held back his frustrations—until he’d arrived in Auckland for the flight to Rarotonga. More delays. Another standard-class seat, only this time, it was next to an irritable child and a motor-mouth who wasn’t picking up on his I don’t want to talk vibes.

“I lived in London a few years ago. I totally loved it, I met so many nice people, like my friend Mia.” Motormouth had short, pink and red hair twirled in little spikes around her head. Her wide, full lips were stained with faded red, a tiny diamond stud sparkled on her nose, and her thick eyelashes were painted with glitter. “But don’t worry, I’m not going to ask if you know a Mia living in South London. It’s wild when people ask that, huh? As if London’s a small village.” She chuckled. “It took me weeks to get my bearings. People would say meet me on Oxford Street, the Tottenham Court Road end, and I’d be like, Eh? I’d see it on the map but then I’d take the wrong exit out of the tube station. Once, I ended up walking away from Oxford Street, toward Leicester Square, and…”

Good. God.

Dan closed his eyes, his brains banging against his skull.

This was the last leg of his journey—only four hours—and there was a huge double bed waiting for him at Are Moana, the beach bungalow he and Isabella had booked for the entire month of December. His mum and Zeezee would be back from the resort on Aitutaki on Wednesday. Dan knew their travel itinerary off by heart—it had once been his and Isabella’s itinerary—so he had two days to recover from this journey. He’d sleep on the beach the whole time.

The air stewards ran through the safety briefing, the plane began to taxi.

“…anyway, I eventually found my way back and got used to how things worked. The London  street names are kinda cute though, huh? They carry so much history.”

Earplugs. Where the hell were his earplugs? He searched the seat pocket in front of him.

“So, whereabouts in England are you from?”

“Bristol,” Dan muttered, finding only magazines and a sick bag.

“Bristol’s in the west, isn’t it? Near Wales?”

“Yes.” Dan closed his eyes again.

At least this woman didn’t know who he was. Journalists shooting questions at him every time he opened his front door were bad enough, but the general public were often worse. The pity! Dan hated it. Over the past few months he’d made several formal statements thanking all his well-wishers—and yes, he was truly grateful—but he couldn’t bare those sad gazes dipping to his damaged leg any longer, nor the way people pretended not to notice his limp, and their sympathy-filled little head tilts when they asked how he was feeling.

And now, that pity would only increase when they found out about Isabella.

“We never got to visit Bristol,” Motormouth continued. “But my friend Mia? She’s just bought a house and has a spare room so we hope to visit England again next year, don’t we, honey?”

The child wasn’t listening. He was too busy whinging. The sound drilled into Dan’s sore head, making his bones hurt even more.

Or was that because he’d just thought about Isabella again?

Trying to block her out of his mind was hard, and back home, her new song played everywhere. Every time he switched on the TV or radio, there it was—Give my love a home this Christmas. It had even been playing in the cab on the way to the airport.

“We’ll be flying soon, honey,” Motormouth said. “He’s not normally like this. Maybe something’s bothering him? Do you have a pain somewhere, honey? Does it hurt here? Or here? Or maybe you want a snack? You didn’t eat much earlier.” There was rustling and bags being opened and closed. “Maybe you want one of these, sweetcheeks?”

The child squealed no.

“But you love them. Look, grapes. They are so yummy.” Motormouth made some ridiculous chomping noises. “Well, honey, if you don’t want them, I’ll give them to our friend. Here”—she nudged Dan’s elbow—“take one.”

Dan glanced at the tub of green grapes cut in half. “No, thanks.”

“Just pretend, please?” Motormouth’s glittery lashes fluttered like worn-out butterflies. Even the child had stopped to stare at him.

Stifling a huff, Dan pinched a piece of grape between his fingers. He couldn’t be arsed faking anything, least of all his enjoyment of having to sit next to this annoying woman and her awful child. He popped the grape into his mouth and swallowed it whole, like one of his pain meds. “They’re nice, kid. Now do as your mother says and eat them.”

The child blinked at him.

Then bawled even louder.

Fucking hell.

Motormouth ditched the grapes and hugged her child, singing nursery rhymes and gabbling on about the beach, and the fishies and seashells, the clear water and coconut trees… until the wheels firing up on the runway drowned her out.

Four hours.

Come on, Jones. You can do this.

The engines revved and roared, and a few minutes later, they were in the air. The airplane straightened. The seatbelt sign came off.

“Got many plans for when you’re in the Cooks?”

“No. Just resting.” An air steward passed by offering headsets. Dan’s hand shot up for one.

“In need of a vacation, huh?” Motormouth lifted the armrest between her seat and her son’s and settled back with him on her lap, which thankfully quietened him down. “We just spent the past three months in New Zealand.  Have you been there before, other than the airport?”

“No.” Dan unwrapped his headphones.

“We’re hoping to head back to Auckland after the Cooks. I have to narrow down all my favourite places to just ten. Ten! That’s gonna be hard. I’ve currently got fifteen, and man, it was hard getting to that number, so I might stick with the fifteen, though the Top Ten has more of a ring to it than the Top Fifteen…”

Dan plugged himself into the plane’s entertainment system and found an easy listening station. He raised the volume, and—boom!—Isabella’s damn Christmas song blasted through his brains. He whipped his headset off, but it was too late. All the anger and hurt came flooding back. He reached for his pain meds and popped a couple more into his mouth.

“Haven’t you taken enough of those already?”

Dan glared at her. Mind your fucking business.

Her eyebrows raised, like she’d heard his thoughts. “I guess you know what you’re doing, huh?”

“I do,” he snapped. “Now, all I need is some quiet and some shut-eye, you know what I’m saying?”

“Sure thing, we’ve got three hours before landing. It’s hard napping on flights, but if you—”

“Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”

Her sharp gasp sliced through the air between them. Shit. He’d never been so rude!“I am so sor—”

“Mommy!” The boy cried out, snapping the hurt out of her eyes.

“What is it, sweetie?” she cooed softly. “Did you get scared?”

Dan rubbed his sore head. “I’m really sor—”


The child wretched.

“Honey!” Motormouth cried. From nowhere, she pulled out a paper bag and held it against the child’s mouth.

But it was too late—the child spewed over Dan’s lap.

“Damn it!” Dan tried to hoist himself out of his seat, but he couldn’t get up fast enough to avoid the next stream of puke. The kid got him square on the chest. He was covered in it! “Can this bloody journey get any worse?”

“How about being a two year with an upset stomach?” Motormouth bustled past him with the boy wrapped in her arms. “Asshole!”

“I didn’t mean…” But whatever. His apology could wait! Everyone was staring at him. Milky green gunk was sticking his shirt to his chest, and it was all seeping into his underpants and trickling down his leg.

“I’ll help you get cleaned up, sir.” An air steward handed him a wet cloth and some napkins. “Come this way. We have another seat for you.”

“Thank you.” Dan looked back up the aisle. Motormouth and the Projectile Puke Kid were getting help of their own. So he pulled his carry-on bag out of the overhead compartment and hobbled to the other end of the plane, wondering what the hell else could go wrong.


His suitcase was missing.

In the quiet arrivals hall in Rarotonga, Dan stood alone glaring at the empty conveyor belt.

Perfect. Just…perfect.

Dizzy, tired and truly pissed off, he limped to Lost Baggage.

“My bag isn’t here,” he told the young woman behind the counter. She had a flower over her left ear, which, like her face, was coming in and out of focus. Dan tried to shake the fog out of his head. At some point during the flight, the sharp pains in his leg and hips had turned into a warm, dull ache and everything blurred. Had he taken too many pain meds? He needed to lie down. He needed to sleep, and his stomach didn’t feel right either thanks to the constant wafts of vomit emanating from his clothes.

“Your baggage is still in Auckland, sir.”


“Where are you staying?”

Are Moana on Muri Beach.”

The woman typed into her computer. “We’ll get it to you tomorrow.” She then sniffed the air and eyed the wet patch around Dan’s crotch.

“A child threw up on me,” he said. “Is there a place around here where I can get some clothes?”

“I’m sorry, sir, all the shops shut hours ago. But, hold on.” She yelled at someone out the back. “Hey, Nikau, has that unclaimed lost property been given to the church yet?”

“Nah, it’s still here.”

“Bring it over then, there’s guy here needing clothes.” She turned back to Dan. “You can sort through and take what you like for a small donation to the church.”

A big, broad guy dumped a sack of clothes by Dan’s feet. Dan rummaged through it, and pulled out the only pair of shorts that looked like they’d fit and a basketball top.

He handed over ten dollars. “Now, where can I get a cab?”

“Outside, sir. But I reckon they’ll all be taken now.”

Of course they were. “How long before one comes back?”

“’bout thirty minutes.”

Dan thanked her and headed to the toilets to change into his new clothes. A few minutes later, he was outside at the taxi tank. It was dark, and a strong wind almost knocked him on to his backside. The pilot had said on landing that a storm would be hitting the island tonight. What else could Dan have expected?

He pulled his phone out of his bag, switched it on, and sat on the edge of a concrete flower planter. His phone buzzed with several messages—his agent, his physiotherapists and his publicist. Without reading them, Dan cleared the notifications, then scrolled to a message from Femi, the youngest of his two sisters.

WTF? You’re going to the Cooks!!!

Ugh. He swiped the message away, only to see one from Gabrielle, his other sister.

When you said you needed to get away we didn’t think you meant TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD!!

Double Ugh. He couldn’t deal with Gabrielle either but after what he’d put them through these past few months, he owed his sisters more than just the quick text he’d fired off to them at Singapore telling them of his plans to join Mum and Zeezee.

In Raro now. All good. I’ll let you know when I’ve met up with Mum on Weds.

He was ten hours behind the UK here. Both his sisters would be in the thick of getting their kids ready for school, hopefully too busy to see his text let alone have time to reply. Dan stuffed his phone back in to his bag, praying the thirty minute wait for a cab would feel like thirty seconds.

Of course, it didn’t.

An hour later, a cab finally rocked up. It was only a ten minute drive to Muri Beach, but by the time they pulled up outside Are Moana, Dan could barely move. His whole body had ceased up and his head ached so bad he could barely see.

He paid the driver, then limped to the main entrance.

An old man sat behind a desk watching television.

“Hello, I’m… I’m Daniel Jones.” Dan leaned against the counter, holding his breath as a sharp pain shot up his leg. “I’ve booked the…the bungalow.”

“Ah, Kia Orana Mr Jones, you’re here at last.” The man slowly got to his feet, his dark, glassy gaze shifting over Dan’s new lost property outfit—loud-orange shorts two sizes too big and a bright red top. “You come from a fancy dress party?”

“No. A child…never mind.” Dan gripped the counter. If he let go, he’d fall flat on his face. He managed to pull his passport out of his bag and slid it across to the old man. “Can any paperwork wait until morning? It’s been a long journey and I’m desperate to get into bed.”

“Of course, this way.” The man shuffled out from behind the desk, leading Dan through a door and back out into the wind. As they crossed a heavily scented garden, a hammock flapped between two trees. Clouds raced across the dark sky and a few spots of rain hit the side of Dan’s face.

“You’re a very lucky man,” the old Cook Islander said.

“So people keep telling me.”

“Your wife is very pretty.”

Isabella flashed through Dan’s mind, gripping his heart. “Thanks. Wait—what? My wife?” But Isabella was in L.A—and that wasn’t the only reason she wasn’t here now by his side, walking up to their honeymoon bungalow.

Dan shook the pain away. “You’re mistaken. I don’t have a wife.”


Do you want to keep reading? Let me know. Would love to hear what you think of it so far!

Giulia x