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The music at the Christmas party was loud. The lights were bright. The eggnog, spiked and unspiked, flowed freely.

James Steele threaded his way through the crowd with ease. He had quick smile or exchanged a few lines of banter with anyone who spoke to him but he didn’t stop. That is until he got to the doorway of the main room where Santa sat for the children.

James grinned when he saw Matt Devlin dressed in a green and red elf’s costume, complete with green and white striped tights and the pointy shoes and hat with bells on the ends. He didn’t miss the glares Matt occasionally threw at his partner sitting at one of the tables across the room. He laughed and made his way over to Ronnie Brooks.

Ronnie nodded in Matt’s direction. “Looks pretty good, don’t he? He’s got the legs for tights,” he said completely dead pan but there was a twinkle in his eyes.

James pulled a chair close. “Should I be jealous?”

Ronnie arched an eyebrow. “Should I be jealous of Alesha? There’s more chance of her looking at you that way than Mattie looking at me that way.”

James lowered his voice to a husky whisper only Ronnie could hear. “Why not? I look at you that way.”

Ronnie’s breath hitched. “And you’re daft.”

James chuckled and leaned away. He pointed at Matt. “How did you get him to do that?”

Ronnie snickered. “I have my ways.”

A little boy hopped off Santa’s lap and kicked Matt in the shin. James and Ronnie could read his lips from there. He clamped his mouth shut and glared at Ronnie.

“I don’t know if I want him watching your back the next couple days,” James said half seriously.

Ronnie waved that off. “No. Mattie’s more bark than bite.” He tilted his head to the side and studied James. “Was it you who got Castle to be Santa?”

James grinned widely and gestured to where Alesha appeared and snapped a picture of Santa and his scowling elf. “That was all my high powered assistant.”

Ronnie laughed. “Nice.”

James rested his arm along the back of Ronnie’s chair. He barely brushed Ronnie’s shoulder. He leaned in close again. “What say we find some mistletoe?”