My bloody brother. Butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
Not that I blame him. Couldn't have been easy, growing up with four older sisters. We all teased him horribly. Still do.
In spite of that, he'd tell me things he'd never tell Nance or Jenny or Kay. I think it helped that I was closest to his age. I was their victim of choice when he wasn't available, so the two of us stuck together more than the other three.
I was the first to find out that he'd kissed a girl. Eight years old and he kissed Allison Hazelton behind the garden shed. Precocious little bastard, he was. And I was the only one he told that he'd kissed a boy. Was jealous about that. Robbie Watson was a handsome lad from down the road and we all fancied him something rotten. Of course Ray had to have him. Always known what he wants, our Ray.
He told me the bad stuff too. Told me who'd smashed his face in a street fight when he wouldn't tell anyone else. And he told me when he cut the same kid up in revenge. He didn't half scare me in those days. There were times I didn't think he'd make old bones. Reckoned he'd be in gaol or dead by the time he was twenty.
But what happens? He moves to London and joins the Met. And didn't that make us all laugh: Ray a copper.
We talked less after he moved south, but he'd still call every month or so. Let me know he was all right. Tell me about some bird he was seeing or some bloke he fancied. More birds than blokes as time went on. I reckon he didn't want to risk being found out while he was on the force.
Then he joined CI5 and the calls became very infrequent indeed.
We were all worried about him, working for that mob. I listened to the news more, wondering if he'd been near this bombing or taken part in that raid. And I wondered what he'd seen, or done, that never made the news.
He could never say much about the job when he did call. Official Secrets Act, no doubt. He didn't really talk about birds or blokes much anymore, either.
Would always talk about Bodie, though.
Didn't say too much at first, just that he'd been partnered with an ex-soldier. Got the impression he didn't like the fella much. Not that he said so, but Ray's never been keen on the military mindset. Has too many issues with authority, Ray does. Which was why he'd never risen higher than a DC in the Met: gotten into too many arguments with his governor.
Gradually, though, the mentions of Bodie became tinged with a grudging respect. And then, almost without my realizing it had happened, Bodie was his best mate, the one who joined him at his local for a pint. The one who watched his back.
I only met Bodie once, just after Ray had been shot. None of his lot had thought to contact his family until after the woman who shot him was dead. Then his Mr. Cowley called our mum. I'm sure he caught an earful from her. Ray gets his temper honestly, and I can only imagine the three kinds of hell she threw at him, finding out that her only son had nearly died and no one had bothered to tell her.
Once she'd calmed down, she called us girls. I was the only one who could spare the time, so I drove mum down to London to see Ray in the hospital. He looked a fright, but the doctor promised us he would recover.
In those days, Bodie was a ghost haunting Ray's hospital room. He looked nearly as bad as Ray, beard shadowing his face and bruises under his eyes from lack of sleep. Didn't pay much attention to him—was too worried about Ray—but I could see he cared about my brother. Could see that he mattered to Ray, too.
But even then I didn't realize exactly how much they cared about each other. Not until Pamela's wedding.
They certainly made an entrance when they walked into the church together. Every head turned to watch them, and no wonder. Put Ray in a tux and he cleans up nicely, but Bodie…Bodie looked like he'd been born to wear formal clothes. Handsome bastard, he is. And he knows it. He gave a smug little grin at the attention he was getting. Ray only rolled his eyes and stuck an elbow in Bodie's ribs. All sweetness and light, my brother.
They looked good together, but it wasn't till the reception that I really noticed which way the wind was blowing. The little 'uns snagged Bodie as soon as he walked through the door; they could spot a big kid like him a mile away. Nance and I grabbed Ray and were joined by Jenny and Kay and various cousins soon enough. We plied him with drinks to loosen his tongue and pumped him for details of his glamorous life in London.
He was in fine form. Told us shocking stories about sheikhs and KGB agents that I'm sure were all lies. Went on about the posh birds he'd pulled. But the whole time he was talking his eyes never left Bodie. And any time I glanced over at Bodie to see what outrageous game he was playing with the kids, Bodie was looking right back at Ray.
Besotted with each other, they were.
I wondered if they knew it.
I wasn't going to ask—I value my own skin too much to stick my oar in where it's not wanted, especially where Ray is concerned—but there was one moment when I caught him looking at Bodie with an expression so shot through with desire and regret that I aimed a pointed look at him. No one else was paying attention to us—Nance was going on about her kids and the rest of them were busy commiserating with her—so I reckoned it was safe. He just shook his head in response and turned back to Nance and her stories of her brood, leaving me none the wiser.
Kept an eye on the both of them the rest of the evening, though. And I was watching when they left the hall, both weaving slightly from the drink they'd consumed, Bodie's hand resting lightly on the small of Ray's back.
I knew I couldn't let it rest there. I'm a stubborn one, make no mistake. It's a Doyle trait. Probably what makes Ray good at what he does.
I collected Kevin—he's a nice lad and we've been dating for close to a year, trying to decide if we want to risk making it permanent—and informed him we'd be meeting my brother for breakfast the next morning. I didn't tell him I hadn't let Ray in on this plan. Some things he doesn't need to know. Kevin just shrugged and nodded. He's smart enough not to contradict me when my mind's made up; that's part of why we get along so well.
So, the next morning we drove up to Ray's hotel. I left Kevin waiting in the car park while I went up to their room. I stood in front of the door for a moment, taking a deep breath and wondering exactly what I was doing. Then I put my doubts behind me and knocked on the door.
There was no response, so I knocked again, louder this time, and much longer. This time I could hear rustling behind the door and a distinct moan. There was the sound of feet dragging across carpet and then the door opened.
My brother stood at the threshold, his eyes bleary, feet and chest bare, last night's trousers hastily pulled on for modesty's sake.
"Cath, what are you doing here?"
"Kev and I are taking you two out to breakfast," I said and pushed past him. He was definitely the worse for wear or he'd never have let me through the door. I was greeted by the sight of Bodie quickly pulling up the covers to an expanse of creamy flesh. The second bed in the room had obviously not been slept in.
Bodie gaped at me stupidly, clearly still making the effort to wake up and unsure of my reaction. Ray glared at me like he had when we were kids and I'd just landed him in it with mum. I just smirked, happy that they'd obviously figured out how much they cared for each other and pleased past telling that I'd worked it out too.
"I thought so," I said.
"Right, Cath. You've had your fun. Now off with you." Ray put his hand on my back and started pushing me out the door. I stood my ground.
"I wasn't kidding, Ray. Kevin's waiting downstairs with the car. We're taking the two of you out for a full breakfast." I looked at my watch. "You've got fifteen minutes before I come back and haul you out by your ear."
"I don't think so, Cath."
"Breakfast?" Bodie asked. "You're never turning down breakfast, Ray."
"He can't afford to turn down a meal, can he?" I said to Bodie. "Too skinny by far."
"That's what I keep telling him. But he doesn't appreciate the joys of eggs and bacon and beans."
"No understanding of the finer things in life, clearly."
Doyle looked back and forth between the two of us,
"Oh my god," he said, throwing up his arms in surrender. "I should never have let you two meet. Okay, we'll go for breakfast if that'll get you out of here. But you," he pointed a finger firmly at me "don't go telling tales out of school. I'll tell mum and the rest of the family when I'm ready. And you," the finger swerved in Bodie's direction "don't go spilling any state secrets to this one. She's sneaky, she is."
"Fifteen minutes, Ray," I said, heading for the door. Then I turned back to Bodie and gave him a wink. He flashed me a wicked grin in reply.
I was smiling myself as the door closed behind me.
I'd always hoped Ray'd find someone to share his life. I just never expected that someone'd be a cheeky blue-eyed ex-soldier. But from what I've seen of him, Bodie's going to fit right into the Doyle clan. Completely balmy, the lot of us, and if he's willing to take on my brother, Bodie's the balmiest of us all.
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