"Met your postman on the way in." Bodie held the cream linen envelope up and waggled his eyebrows. "What's this, then? Been invited to the palace and not told me about it?"
"Give me that, you pillock." Doyle reached over and grabbed the envelope from Bodie. He noted the Derby return address as he tore it open. Bodie put the rest of his mail, the usual assortment of bills and flyers, on the counter.
"Well?" Bodie asked, after a minute had passed with no words spoken between them.
"Well, what's in the envelope?"
"Wedding invite. My cousin Pamela is finally marrying her fella. Poor sod."
"Thought one of your cousins just got married last month. How many relatives have you got, Doyle?"
"Dozens," Doyle said. "Hundreds. Far too bleeding many. Always getting married or having babies. Be thankful you haven't got many."
"Haven't got any that I'm still speaking to." Bodie brushed a piece of imaginary lint off his jacket as coolly as he brushed aside any and all inquiries about his family.
"Sometimes I wish I could say the same." Doyle bit his tongue on any questions about the family that Bodie wasn't speaking to. Some day he'd get answers on that count, but he didn't need them today. He was patient; he could stay the course.
"So, when's this wedding?"
"Two weeks before Christmas."
"Christ, that's barely a month away. Your cousin doesn't waste any time, does she?"
"Pamela? Nah. I reckon she ran roughshod over my aunt and uncle to arrange a Christmas wedding. And she's going to run roughshod over Derek after they're married, you mark my word."
"Doyle trait, then? Running roughshod over people?" He looked up to see Bodie looking at him with a twinkle in his eye.
"Ha bloody ha, Bodie. I'll show you running roughshod."
"Oh," Bodie said, camping it up. "Big butch lad like you, I wish you would.'
"Nutter," Doyle said, giving Bodie a punch and stamping down hard on the thoughts of what he'd like to do to a big butch lad like his partner.
"Takes one to know one," Bodie said, leaving the kitchen without a backward glance. "C'mon. Shift yourself. If we're late for the briefing the Cow won't be pleased."
Snagging his jacket from the kitchen chair where he'd thrown it the night before, Doyle followed Bodie out the door.
They were halfway to headquarters when Bodie brought up the wedding again.
"So, are you going to this Doyle family function?"
"S'pose I'll have to, if Cowley'll give me the time off. I've always been close to Pamela's parents, and she spent all her time at our house, causing trouble with my sisters."
"And what lucky lady will you be escorting to this affair? The amorous Amelia? Or perhaps the gorgeous Gemma?"
"Both those ladies have made it abundantly clear that my attentions are no longer welcome. Stood them up once too many times, haven't I?"
"No new talent on the horizon?"
"Nah. Haven't had the time or energy to be chatting up anyone lately." He hadn't had the inclination either, if it came to that. Didn't want to be shagging some random bird when the only person he really wanted was sitting right beside him in this car.
"Not like you Doyle, neglecting the ladies. You're not coming down with something, are you?" Bodie reached over and felt his forehead."
"Gerroff, you mad bastard," Doyle said, fending off Bodie's hand.
"No fever. But I shall be keeping an eye on you, my lad. Wouldn't want you to sicken for love, would we?"
And then Bodie gave him a look. It was a look he'd seen on his partner's face more than once in the last few weeks: desire merged with diffidence, heat fused with humility, confidence mingled with caution. And all that jumble of emotion aimed squarely at one Raymond Doyle.
Holding Bodie's gaze, Doyle wondered how much his own face revealed, how much of his own longing could be read in his features. And just like that, he knew he didn't want to wonder any more. He wanted to know, once and for all.
"Why don't you come with me?" The words were out of Doyle's mouth before he could stop them. Not that he wanted to stop them.
"Yeah, you. My family are all barking mad, but you'll have a good time. You can charm my cousins into buying you drinks for the evening. They're all soft touches."
"Not as mean as you, then."
"You're confusing me with Cowley." Doyle decided to throw his pride to the wind. It'd never done him any good. "Look, I'll even pay for the hotel room."
Bodie gave him a sceptical look before responding. "Can't refuse, can I? Not if you're offering to pay."
"So, you'll come then?"
"Yeah, I'll come. Wouldn't want you to venture up to the wilds of Derby on your own."
"Great." Doyle smiled and leaned back in the seat and put his booted feet on the dashboard. "You'll see. It'll be fun."
"Oh, I'm counting on it, Doyle." Bodie had a smile of his own in place.
Doyle spent the rest of the drive making plans as detailed as any of Cowley's strategies for an operation. He'd pull out his tux for the wedding, the one that showed off all his assets to best effect. He'd reserve a room in the best hotel in Derby, the better to woo Bodie in. And he'd make damn sure that the two of them had a skinful by the end of the reception. Maybe Dutch courage would succeed where their own had faltered.
And if he was very, very lucky, maybe there'd be mistletoe.
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