It was cold and dark outside but the pub was warm, filled with soft light reflected off polished dark wood. Alesha hurried inside. She pulled her hat and coat off as she made her way to a booth against the far wall. She laughed and shook her wet garments at Matt. “It’s just started raining.”
Matt held his hands up. “Hey.”
“You’re not going to melt.” Alesha turned her attention to Ronnie and James sitting on the other side of the table. She gave them the same treatment.
Ronnie chuckled. “She’s an equal opportunity harasser.”
James laughed quietly and wiped his cheek. “I’m her boss. I should be immune.” He filled her glass from the wine bottle sitting on the table. “But I’m big enough to let it pass.”
Alesha just rolled her eyes at him. She hung her things on a nearby hook and slid into the seat next to Matt. She grinned at the men at the table. “I had lunch with my sister today.”
James sipped his wine. “And how is Haley?”
Ronnie looked at Matt in wide eyed innocence. “Was she the one you told me was the dragon lady?”
Matt glared at Ronnie and kicked him under the table. He shifted uncomfortably and wouldn’t look at Alesha, who was just staring at him. “No,” he hissed through clenched teeth.
James laughed at the mock wounded look on Ronnie’s face. He slid a hand under the table to touch Ronnie’s knee. “When I met her, I thought Haley was charming.”
Matt threw himself back into his seat. He folded his arms across her chest. He stuck his chin out. “You’re not her sister’s boyfriend.”
Alesha rubbed Matt’s shoulder. “If it helps, you passed inspection.”
“Great,” Matt replied sourly.
Alesha smiled at James and Ronnie. “And in all fairness, she can be on the scary side.” She smirked at Matt. “She gave me something for you, Matt.”
“What?” Matt asked suspiciously.
Alesha drew a couple folded sheets of paper from her purse. She held them out but he didn’t take them. Her eyes and grin got wider. “Oh, come on. Don’t tell me you’re afraid,” she teased.
Ronnie took a sip of his juice. He snickered and squeezed James’ hand resting on his leg. “Come on, old son. Be a man.”
Matt grumbled under his breath but took the papers. He unfolded them. He snorted. “Murphy’s Cops Laws.”
Alesha leaned in close and pointed. “She highlighted the ones that reminded her of you.”
“If you have just punched out a handcuffed prisoner for spitting at you, you are about to become a start on ‘Eyewitness News.’” Matt frowned. “Whatever you are about to do, if there is a good chance it will get you killed, you probably shouldn’t do it.” He paused and shook his head. “Glad she doesn’t hate me.”
“You are a bit of a hot head,” Ronnie chimed in helpfully.
“I love this one,” Alesha put in. “The better you do your job, the more likely you are to be shot, injured, complained on, sued, investigated, or subpoenaed on your day off.”
Suddenly, Matt shot Ronnie an evil look. “Here’s one for you, mate. The number of years on the job is directly proportional to your waist line.”
Ronnie didn’t bat an eyelash. “No, it isn’t.”
“I think maybe it is. I’ve begun to notice a bit of a spread,” Matt said deadpan but there was a teasing glint in his eyes.
Ronnie’s eyes darted towards James. Then he looked down. He patted his very slighted rounded stomach.
“Makes me wonder if you’ll pass the physical next year.”
James leaned across the table. He held Matt’s gaze. He bared his teeth and his voice dropped to a low growl. “I can assure you that he will. He has incredible stamina.”
Matt gulped while Alesha bit her lip to keep from laughing. He looked a bit queasy. “I didn’t need to know that.”
James eased back. However, the predatory look didn’t disappear. “Take me home, Ronnie.”
Ronnie nodded eagerly. “Gladly. See ya tomorrow, Mattie.”
Alesha watched the two disappear. She turned her attention back to Matt to find him staring into his pint. “You didn’t win that encounter.”
Matt smiled sourly and downed half the glass. “I crashed and burned.” He rubbed a hand down his face. “I’ll have to bribe Ronnie so I’m not subjected to any details.”
“You’ve seen him eat,” Matt groused without any venom. “The man can eat anything. He has a cast iron stomach.”
Alesha took his arm and leaned into his side. “Don’t you just love in-laws?”
Matt arched an eyebrow. “How is James my in-law?”
“You and Ronnie are like brothers.”
Matt felt a warm feeling spread through him. “Yeah, we are.”
Alesha’s lips were close to his ear. “Ready to go?”
Matt shuddered. He shooed her out of the seat so he could get up. “Absolutely.”