A/N: Here we go- my second long story for CQ! The original plot idea has changed a little, so sadly, there will not be as much Connie/Col fluff, but I'll do my best. This is my first attempt at writing first-person, so please excuse me if I'm rubbish at it! And just so nobody gets confused, Connie and Col are both fourteen at the beginning of the story. Special dedication to everyone down at the forums :)

Disclaimer: Julia Golding owns the Companions Quartet, all I own is a copy of each book and a very large obsession with them :D

Anneena's Idea

The wind blew ripples across the lazy, glass-like sea, as the four of us lay sprawled out on the deck of the Water Sprite. Anneena, Jane, Col and I took in the rays of sun that rarely bothered to visit Hescombe while Rat attempted to steer. Every so often the boat would tilt dangerously to one side- we had already lost a towel, a bottle of water and a pair of sunglasses, that Rat had happily chased in the water after handing the wheel to Col, the only one of us who actually knew how to steer the boat. The table beside me wobbled precariously, and I hastily scrambled out of the way.

"Rat, maybe we should just drop anchor here?" I suggested. Col had obviously thought better of letting Rat take control of the boat, and was already lowering the heavy steel anchor. It fell with a splash into the water, and there was a little-concealed sigh of relief from everyone. Anneena sat up, her still slightly damp sunglasses slipping down to her nose.

"Now that we don't have to worry about getting killed any more," she stated, looking pointedly at Rat, "I have to tell you about a great idea that just came to me!" Rat groaned.

"Not again, Anneena! The last time you had a 'great idea', Connie was almost killed! Are you sure you need to share this one as well?" Anneena scowled.

"That's different. This idea is foolproof- there's no chance of anyone getting hurt! Unless they forget to wear a life jacket, of course." Jane unconsciously tugged on the strap of the luminous orange life vest that she was wearing.

"Why do they need life jackets?" Rat asked curiously. Anneena's face brightened, obviously delighted at being asked.

"How's this for an idea- a boat race!" All four of us stared blankly at her. "Not just a little one with two or three boats, a proper one, with advertising and photography, maybe even a story in the newspaper!" Jane began to take interest in what Anneena was saying.

"Photography? Maybe I could help with that, I've gotten a lot better at it since I joined the photography club, and I'm getting a new camera this weekend." Anneena produced a notepad from her exotic-looking beaded beach bag and neatly wrote the heading 'photography', with Jane's name under it- she seems to carry those notepads around everywhere. Anneena then looked at me expectantly.

"Connie, can I put you down for advertising? There's not much to do, just make out a few flyers that we could post around the town, and maybe a few extra for Chartmouth, and-"

"Send in an announcement to a radio station, and put a front-page advertisement in a newspaper, and hire a giant blimp and fly it over London!" Rat finished. Anneena failed to note his sarcasm.

"Great idea, Rat! The blimp and the front-page ad might be a little past our budget, but we could definitely send in a notice to that radio station based in Chartmouth, and I'm sure that I can get Rupa to put something into the Times for us- that will definitely get it noticed. Hey, she might even write an article on it after it's done!" I looked at her sceptically.

"Do you really think a national newspaper would run a story on something that happens in a town as small as Hescombe?" Anneena was quick to defend her point.

"What makes you think that Hescombe is so unknown! Thanks to you and Col, this little town has received more publicity than ever! Remember when you saved that oil tanker three years ago? And the time you ran away to join the Mallin's Wood protest? I suppose you weren't involved in the refinery incident last month," Col and I shared a secret look, "but Rupa sent us a copy of the article, and do you want to know what it said?" Obviously, this was a rhetorical question, because Anneena didn't wait for my answer. "The refinery in Chartmouth is located directly beside Hescombe, a town that has been made famous in the past three years because of one of its underage residents, Connie Lionheart, who has made quite a name for herself as an ecological protestor." I buried my face in my hands in embarrassment, and Rat sniggered. Col wrapped his arms around me and gave me a hug in commiseration. I stretched up to kiss the top of his head. A sudden silence fell over the boat. Anneena was looking at us, slack-jawed. For once not a word came from her mouth. Jane was smiling contentedly, and I thought I heard her whisper,

"Finally." Rat was, of course, the one to break the silence, by collapsing with laughter.

"You… her… hahaha!" The temporary silence shattered, Anneena recovered from her shock.

"When did this happen? Why didn't you tell us! Have you kissed yet?" I could feel my face going red, mirroring Col's intensifying blush.

"Guys, why don't we just leave them alone? I think they make a great couple." I smiled thankfully at Jane.

"Yeah, you're right. To be honest, I'm surprised they haven't got together before now. Has Evelyn only allowed you to date him now, Connie?" Jane looked at her reproachfully.

"Sorry! Rat, don't you think they make a cute couple?" Rat was unable to keep a straight face and burst out laughing again. Anneena rolled her eyes dismissively, and turned to Col.

"Col, why don't you enter the race! You have a boat." I have a feeling that I heard Rat mutter something like 'very observant', but obviously, nobody else heard it, as Col shook his head.

"Oh, why not!" Anneena pleaded. "We need at least one person to sign up to the race to make it official!"

"I'll lend the boat to somebody else, so they can be part of the race instead. Connie, do you think Jessica and Arran might be interested? And maybe the Littles and your uncle? They have boats of their own, I think." Anneena scribbled their names down in the little notebook, and turned to the first page again.

"Okay, Col, I'll put you down for advertising with Connie, and since that's a fairly big job, I'll do what I can to help as well. We only have a month left of the holidays, so we'd better set a date that's before the end of the holidays, but with enough time to give notice to people who need to get a boat ready. Let's see… it's the second of August today; would three weeks be enough time to get everything organized, do you think?" Rat glanced at her sadly. Jane felt sorry for him, and visibly racked her brains for something that Rat could do to help.

"Anneena, maybe Rat could do the running commentary?" Anneena gave a long-suffering sigh, but nodded her head in agreement.

A huge grin broke over Rat's face. He put his hands around a bottle of sun cream in lieu of a microphone and started to shout.

"And here they are, all lined up, to take part in England's most unknown boat race! The three boats taking part in the race are… Whoops." he ended dejectedly as the bottle of sun cream flew from his hands and landed with a splash into the ocean. "Sun cream overboard!" he yelled, then grabbed a life ring and started to run towards the edge, but got his foot tangled up in a piece of discarded rope and fell into the water.

Jane winced and put her hands over her head to avoid the spray of water that showered over us. As she offered a hand tentatively to a bedraggled-looking Rat as he climbed back on board, I got up from the wooden floor to whisper in Col's ear.

"She's going to regret offering him that," I murmured. Rat lost his balance and toppled over again, but this time dragging an unwilling Jane in with him. Col chuckled, and leaned against the unsteady table cheerfully.

"Which part of it?"

So, should I continue? Review for a preview! :D