The snow lay thick on the ground and covered every inch of the London streets. Big snowflakes where falling to the ground, the air was cold and the streets icy. Strike buried his hands in his pockets, had turned the collar of his coat up and slowly wandered back to the office. The streets where crowded and people where quite busy with their Christmas shopping, carrying big bags and parcels while chatting quite happily with their family and friends. It was December, 22nd and it was the last day until he’d close the office for a few days. He and Robin had decided to take some time off over the holidays. The last weeks had been quite busy for both of them. They have had lots of observations from married couples who thought their partner were cheating and some jobs from companies. Strike stopped by a small news-stand and brought some cigarettes when his phone rang. Smiling he picked up the call.
“Cormoran, I think I just agreed to visit my parents for Christmas.”
“But that’s not a bad thing, isn’t it?”, he asked while handing the man a few pounds.
“It’s not, but I agreed that you’d come too!”, she said horrified.
“What?”, he chuckled. “Ta mate”, he thanked the owner of the news stand, who handed him his change and headed further down the street. “Robin, you still there?”
“I can’t believe I agreed to this!”, she said once more.
“Now, tell me what happened and what you did exactly”, he wanted to know while he walked past some more shops.
“My mum called and invited us over to dinner. I told her that you’d be busy and didn’t want to come, but she insisted. She talked and talked and somehow, I said that we’d come over tomorrow. I’m sorry Cormoran.”
“Don’t be”, he said while stopping in front of a shop.
“You’re not mad?”
“Why would I be mad? It’s just an invitation of your mum for Christmas. I don’t mind coming, if you want me to.”
“So you would come?”
“I would”, he once more agreed and smiled, looking at the jewels displayed in the window.
“I don’t know what she’s thinking and why mum did it but – if you don’t have anything else to do – I'd love for you to come.”
“Alright. Then I’ll come. Shall I bring anything?”
“I’ll buy some small presents later so don’t worry about it. You just have to sign the Christmas Card.”
“Alright. Gotta go now. I’ll see you later in the office.”
“Yes, see you.”
He wasn’t sure if this would be a good idea to go and visit her parents, but he would come. It would be a calm Christmas with his partner and her family. Nothing more, he reminded himself. And it was Robin’s first Christmas after the divorce with Matthew.
It hadn’t worked between them for a long time and after three years of marriage Robin finally had decided to get divorced after Matthew had once more cheated on her with Sarah Shadlock. Since then she was picking up the pieces. She lived in a small apartment a few streets away from the office and worked very hard. This would be their first time off from everything, he remembered while looking through the rings, bracelets, watches and necklaces. He still didn’t know what to buy his partner for Christmas. Strike was sure she’d like some of the stuff displayed in the window. But was it right to buy her something like this? It was more something a man would buy his girlfriend. But then he thought about the green dress and remembered her look when she had unpacked it. Pure joy and a small blush on her cheeks. Without thinking about it any further he headed inside the store and looked through the wide range of jewellery.
Robin hung up with a smile. Well, apparently it wasn’t as bad as she had thought. She was sure that her dad and brothers would like her partner to come or else her mother would have never asked them. And she was sure that it would be funny, having Cormoran around for Christmas. She imagined him in her parent’s kitchen, Roundtree laying on his small dog bed and they all having dinner. Yes, this would be a good Christmas. The first good one in years, she sighed and shoved the thoughts of Matthew away. Quickly she made some notes for her shopping and finished some mails before they’d close the office over the holidays. About an hour later she finished her work and headed to the stores to buy the last Christmas presents. She found a nice scarf for her mum, a new fishing knife for her dad, a book about physics for her younger brother who wanted to start studying in a year, a pyjama with the favourite rugby team of her youngest brother, a new tie for her oldest brother and a cute baby bodysuit for her sister in law – her oldest brother Stephen’s wife - who was due in a few weeks. Yes, they would like the presents, she was sure of it. But she still needed something for Cormoran. Thinking about what she could buy her partner, she strolled through the store and looked around. What to buy him? She had no clue what he liked and if he had a special wish. While walking around she found something. Yes. She was sure he’d like her present, she thought while she put the gift into her handbag. Happy with her shopping she headed back to the office to finish some more work and buy dinner.
It was a ritual between them, when they worked late, that they’d have dinner together. Usually they had take-away, sometimes they headed to the pub or she invited him over for dinner while they discussed some of their cases. Robin stopped by an Indian restaurant a street away, grabbed their favourites and headed back to Denmark Street. Strike was already back, sitting in the inner office and phoned with his sister Lucy. Robin put the shopping bags aside, hung up her coat and put the food on some plates before heading to him.
“No, I’m sorry Lucy but I’m already invited. I can’t come over. Yes I am!”, he laughed. “Sure, whatever you say, baby-sis. I’ll call back when I’m in London again”, he said and hung up.
“I got dinner”, Robin said and put the plate in front of him. “Your favourite.”
“Thank you”, he said and started eating hungrily. “How was the shopping?”, he asked her.
“Oh, quite good.”
She told him about the presents and how Christmas usually was at her parents.
“You gonna love it!”, Robin said. “My mum is making a fantastic turkey and brilliant Christmas cookies. My dad always wants us to play games and maybe my grandma will visit too. We usually have a walk with Roundtree and my youngest brother is quite a dork.” Strike smiled softly at her. “I... Thank you. I’m really happy that you said yes to my mum’s invitation”, Robin thanked him.
“I’m really looking forward to it. It’s something new and hopefully not as dull as the Christmas party at my sisters.”
“I’m not quite sure it’s interesting either”, she joked.
“Well a calm Christmas is exactly what we agreed on, isn’t it?”
She nodded and finished her dinner.
“Is all sorted with our clients?”, he asked while opening the bottle of beer she had got him to their food.
“Yes, I wrote all e-mails and informed our clients that we’ll be closed over the holidays. We got some more Christmas cards and a few extra payments as thank you.”
“Yes, I saw the cards”, he said. "When do we start our trip?”
“Oh... I think tomorrow morning? Mum said she already made up the beds and we can arrive whenever we want but if we drive early enough, we can skip something of the holiday traffic and make it for dinner.”
“Sounds good”, he said and drank some more of his beer while they started discussing the upcoming journey and some cases.
It was early and Strike didn’t sleep very well last night when he woke up. He had a weird dream and it disturbed him. Shoving everything away, he got up, put on his prothesis and got ready. After a quick shower, he didn’t bother to shave, he grabbed a bag of clothes and stepped outside to wait for Robin in front of number six. He lit up a cigarette and waited for his partner to pick him up. It wasn’t even 6am and the streets where quiet and deserted. The snow lay thick on the ground and it was freezing cold with –14C. A few minutes after he had finished his cigarette, Robin parked in front of number six and waited for him to get into the old Land Rover. He put his bag in the trunk and climbed in.
“Good morning”, she greeted in quite a good mood but he just grumbled a short morning and wrapped himself more in his coat.
She knew that he was not a morning person, so she let him be and they started heading north while it was still dark and the streets nearly empty. After a while she heard a small snoring from the passenger's seat and realised that he was asleep once more. Strike woke about 2 hours later when Robin pulled up at a service station to grab some coffee and because she needed some petrol.
“Morning sleepyhead”, she said smiling and he looked confused around.
“Where are we?”
“About 100 miles from London. I need some petrol though and coffee”, she explained and he agreed to grab some coffee for them while she would refill the car.
Ten minutes later they meet by the same spot again and he smoked while Robin sipped on her coffee. It was still cold and snowed a bit, while the sun slowly got up in the east and illuminated the whole area in a mystic light. Strike watched her carefully while smoking. She looked beautiful and he had seen a slight change over the last months. She had cut her hair a bit and wore it shorter now, but it suited her. She had also gained a few more pounds and Strike was thankful for it. She had always been too thin during her relationship with Matthew. But since their break up she got more and more beautiful. They drank their coffee in silence and watched the sunrise before they continued their journey to Masham. After two long traffic jams near Nottingham due to roadworks and another one near Leeds due to some accident, they finally arrived in the early evening. Robin parked by the old barn and smiled happily at the old house. Strike liked it, it was a small but welcoming cottage a bit outside the village. Once it had been an old farm house, Robin told him. It had belonged to her great-grandparents once. He loved it and it was nearly like he had imagined it from her tales. Robin smiled and got out, he followed her and took her bag while they headed through the snow to the illuminated cottage. Robin rang the bell and he could hear a dog bark and someone getting to the door. A few seconds later Linda Ellacott opened the door and greeted them.
“They are here!”, she shouted into the house. “Come on in love, come on in. I’m so glad you could make it!”
Strike followed her inside, while Linda hugged her daughter tightly. A black Labrador came running and barked at him while waving his tail happily. Linda let go of her daughter who bend down to pet the dog.
“Cormoran!”, Linda said happily and hugged him. “I’m so glad you came. It’s nice to see you again.”
“It’s nice to see you too”, he agreed. “Thank you for the invitation.”
Robin’s dad stepped to them and greeted his daughter.
“Robin dear!”, he said and hugged her too. “I’m so happy you’re here.”
“Dad! How are you?”
“Oh I’m fine darling. Don’t worry about me”, he said and winked at her.
Had something happened with her dad, he wondered when the older man stepped to him.
“Nice to see you again, Cormoran.”
He greeted Michael Ellacott as well and they both shook hands. Michael got their bags and vanished while Linda took their coats and shoved them into the living room. The house was nice and very elegantly furnished and decorated with a lot of Christmas decoration. There was a huge and beautiful Christmas tree in the living room and a cosy fire was burning in the fireplace. A young man was sitting on the sofa and tipping on his mobile phone.
“Hey sis”, he said when Robin stepped inside, got up and hugged her too.
Strike knew Martin from the wedding already and they both shook hands as well.
“Nice to see you Cormoran”, he greeted.
“Yes, it’s nice to see you all again”, he agreed and Strike didn’t lie.
He had immediately liked Robin’s family and truly was happy to be here. Robin carefully watched him and his reaction. She wasn’t quite sure if he just behaved and was nice or if he really liked to be here. She knew that he usually wasn’t into family gatherings at all. Robin and Cormoran sat on the small sofa while her father got them some punch and Linda some Christmas cookies.
“I’m so happy you’re here. We haven’t seen you in months. How are things in London, the office and how are you two doing?”
Strike let her do the talking and enjoyed his punch and cookies before excusing himself and heading out again to smoke. It was a cold but clear night and he watched the stars while smoking. He heard footsteps and Michael Ellacott stepped beside him.
“She’s happy”, he said while looking at the detective. “I haven’t seen her like this in years, not even when she was still with Matthew.”
Strike knew that her father suspected them to be a couple but they weren’t.
“Yes. She loves her job, the city. I think she’s happy.”
“And I think you are one of those reasons”, Michael said calmly.
Strike looked at him confused, but the older man just smiled knowingly. Did he know something the detective didn’t? Had his daughter told him something? Michael headed back inside and left Strike with his thoughts. He liked Robin, more than he should, but why would her father suspect that there was something between them? He smoked another cigarette and sorted his thoughts before he headed inside again. Robin and her mother where in the kitchen so he headed to them.
“So what’s it with you two then?”, Linda asked her daughter when they were alone.
“What do you mean?”, Robin asked without knowing what her mum meant.
“You and Strike. How long is this going between you and him?”
What? Robin was shocked. So her mum had invited him because they thought that she and Strike where a couple!
“It’s not like that mum... He’s my partner and we work together. Nothing more.”
“But the way he looks at you and you seemed to feel pretty comfortable beside him”, Linda said and was surprised that she had been wrong. “I thought you two where in love.”
In love... Robin thought about what her mum had said. The way he looked at her. She had realised that he looked at her more lately and sometimes quite.... longing. But she had shoved her thoughts away and she was sure, that it had different reasons. It was stupid. He and her. Together. Robin shook her head. She was comfortable beside him, but mostly because he was her friend. She felt safe beside him and comfortable but not in a sexual way. Although, that wasn’t quite true, Robin remembered and blushed. Ignoring her thoughts, she changed the subject when Cormoran entered the kitchen, smiling and with some snow in his curly hair.
“It smells fantastic in here”, he said and stepped beside her to look into one of the pots on the oven. “What are you making?”
While Linda told him, Robin continued to cut some more vegetable for the salad and thought about what her mum had said. She liked him, they were friends and she was comfortable beside him. She also understood what women liked about him. He had... something and Robin had also realised, that he had stopped dating and spend more time with the job and her but since they had a lot to do and she was his partner, Robin hadn’t thought about it further. But there had been a night, some while ago now, when she had thought about him in a different way than just being her partner, she admitted to herself. It had been during a case.
They played a couple at date night, while following a man that was a marriage impostor. They had followed him in one of London’s top restaurants and Strike had worn that tuxedo. It suited him perfectly, she remembered and she liked it very much. Robin had dressed up as well and had been very aware of his looks the whole evening. While watching the man, they had ended up in a small corner of the restaurant near the toilettes and just when their target had gotten suspicious Strike had bend down and kissed her. She was stunned but had played along and had kissed him back while pulling him closer. They had kissed way longer than necessary and no one had said anything after that. Strike had immediately concentrated on their target again and Robin had shoved her thoughts away. He had brought her home afterwards and in the loneliness of her flat she had thought about the kiss once more. About him, about his strong body under her fingers in this moment. About what it would be, being with Strike.
“Robin, you’re still with us?”, she heard him say and got pulled out of her thoughts.
She startled and slipped with the knife.
“Ah, bugger!”, she swore silently and quickly took a small kitchen towel and put it over the heavy bleeding cut in her fingers.
Immediately Linda was at her side and pulled her daughter into the bathroom to help her with the wound. Robin ended up with two bandaged fingers that still bled and a glass of wine while watching her partner do the work. Strike had cooked before and Linda was surprised. Most men didn’t know a single recipe yet handled the knife very good. She had the same problem with her sons, they thought that it was up to women to cook. Robin watched him while drinking and thinking about what her mum had said. Linda left them for a while to prepare the table and Strike filled up her glass while stepping to her.
“You look sad”, he said. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. I’m sorry that you’ve to help my mum with the cooking.”
He laughed and smiled at her. It was soft and reached his eyes.
“I don’t mind, I like cooking. How’s your hand?”
“Hurts. But it’s my own fault, I just should have been more careful.”
He slowly took her hand and kissed the top of it before he took a sip of his beer and looked for their food. Linda returned with a soft smile and Robin knew, that she had seen what he had done a few seconds earlier. Oh gosh... Maybe it hadn’t been a good idea coming here with him after all, she thought and drank some more of her wine.
They had a wonderful dinner and the food was delicious. Linda was an excellent cook, like her daughter, Strike thought while having a second plate. He talked with her dad about fishing and his life at Uncle Ted’s. The two men, his Uncle and Robin’s dad, had a lot in common he realised. Linda watched them, pleased that he and her daughter where here. Robin was very silent though and Cormoran was worried about her. This was not her, something was wrong.
“Who wants some dessert?”, Linda asked happily and hurried to the kitchen.
Martin helped his mother with the plates and Michael excused himself too, so they were alone for once.
“What’s wrong Robin?”, he asked. “You’re unusual quiet and away with your thoughts.”
“I’m just tired”, she lied.
“You’re overthinking things”, he said and she looked at him shocked.
Had he heard what her mum had said to her in the kitchen? Apparently, he had. But he didn’t seem to care? He took her hand and kissed her knuckles once more.
“Stop worrying and overthinking things, Robin. Just enjoy the holidays a bit, yeah?”
She nodded and once more her family stepped in. Her mum was carrying a tray full of puddings and immediately her mood got better. She loved pudding, always had. Strike saw how much she enjoyed dessert and he would remember it for further dinner together.
After all was cleaned up and dinner finished, the family sat in the living room, having some more punch. It was late and soon Linda and Michael said goodnight.
“Oh I prepared your old room for you two”, Linda said before leaving the living room.
Martin had long vanished into his room to chat with his girlfriend so Strike and Robin where left alone at last. Robin looked quite shocked at the statement of her mother and got pale.
“What is it?”, he asked at the face of his partner.
“We have to share a bed”, the young woman explained apologetically. “My mum has prepared my old room for both of us.”
Oh... He didn’t except that. He was right with his assumption, that Linda and Michael thought they had a relationship. Apparently, Robin had no idea of her parents guess.
“I’m sorry about that”, she said. “I hope you don’t mind. I’m a very quiet sleeper.”
“And I snore”, he said and Robin laughed. “No, I don’t mind, Robin. Don’t worry about it, we slept in one bed before, remember?”
She did. It had been during a case. They were in France and had watched a suspect. The salary had been more than generous so he had taken the case at last. It had been a short vacation for them, a bit of time off and a quite calm job. They have had to share a bed since all rooms where fully booked. It had been odd at the beginning but both of them got quickly used to each other's presence. There hadn’t been a problem at all. So why should there be one now? Robin seemed to have overreacted so she shoved her thoughts away and smiled a bit.
“You do snore”, she joked slightly and he laughed once more.
Robin made herself comfortable and for once forgot to think about what her mother had said about the two of them. She snuggled up beside him and leaned against his broad shoulders. He was stunned about her behaviour and about the closeness. He put an arm around her and she got even closer, leaning her head against his chest.
“This punch is very good”, he said and had some more.
Robin closed her eyes and enjoyed their calm evening on the sofa. He looked at Robin who lay in his arms. He was completely calm and tired from the long day and having her by his side, made him happy. He had wanted this for quite some time now. Hold her, kiss her, be his. But he knew that there would never be more than this. After a while she fell asleep in his arms and he just held her. She was beautiful and very calm beside him. He kissed her temple and held her tight before closing his eyes too and after a while he slept as well.
It was late when Robin woke in his arms on the sofa. Robin looked at him. He looked younger and completely relaxed beside her, sleeping tight and he didn’t snore at all. She let her fingers slide over his stubbled cheek and watched him in her thoughts. She liked him, that was sure. She had feelings for him for a while now but did he want her? She didn’t know. She had seen all his past girlfriends and affairs and they were way more beautiful than she and all had money. She had nothing. She just worked for him and had taken him – as a friend – to her parents. She was boring and not the slightest beautiful. Strike shifted and woke up. He still held her in his arm but she looked at him and her hands where on his chest.
“Hi”, he mumbled in a way darker voice than usual.
“Hello”, she mumbled too and blushed.
“I think we should go to bed”, he said and shifted uncomfortable. “The sofa is not very comfortable for sleeping.”
Robin smiled and agreed. She stood up and he followed her outside into the dark corridor. She heard that he stumbled against a small table in the corridor and he silently cursed. Robin tried not to laugh and took his hand. She knew every inch of her parents' house and without further collisions she got him to her old room. She put on the small lamp at the bedside table and looked at him. Strike curiously looked around. There weren’t any signs how she had lived here as a teenager, but then he remembered, that she had stayed at her parents for a while, while getting divorced. She probably had redecorated. On the left side was a huge iron bed, on the right a tiny wardrobe and a huge mirror. There was a rocking chair beside the window and a small bookshelf. Michael had put their suitcases in a small corner by the window.
“It’s nice”, he said and he could see that some burden was falling from her shoulders. “C’mon let’s sleep. You look tired.”
Robin stepped to her suitcase and grabbed some comfortable jogging pants and a long-sleeved shirt she usually wore for sleeping in winter. Without thinking much about it, she started to change and slipped out of her clothes. Strike stared at her back and watched her for a few seconds. She was very beautiful and his thoughts about what he wanted to do went wild. He shoved them away and started changing himself. He slipped out of his pullover and the blue shirt he wore underneath and into an old t-shirt. Robin had already changed and lay under the covers of the bed while she watched him quietly. He was more muscular than she had thought and his chest was covered in small black hair. She could see some scars on his body and remembered that some were from their last cases together. He fumbled at his belt and slipped out of his trousers. Shameless she looked at his bum and blushed heavily. Oh gosh... Robin looked away and turned on her side where she concentrated on a spot at the wall. Strike walked over and sat on the bed to put off his prothesis. It was way better than usual and since he had lost some weight it wasn’t as uncomfortable as it used to be. He was tired and having her around made him aroused. The thing he never wanted to be in her presence. He popped the prothesis off and put it by the small bedside table before he lay down and slipped under the covers. Robin turned to him and tried not to giggle. This was weird. Having a man in her old bedroom in her parents’ house. The only man that has ever been here, was Matthew. They had made love in this bed. Silent so her parents wouldn’t hear them. They had fought in this room. They had talked, kissed and shared their secrets. She wanted something like this again. She shut down the light, shoved away her thoughts and soon both of them where asleep again.
It was late when Robin woke up and two strong arms held her tight. Strike. He had buried his nose in her neck and mumbled her name. She didn’t move not to wake him and just stayed in his arms. The curtains kept most of the light outside and just a small gap let a bit of sun in. She could hear her parents and her brother in the kitchen down the hall. She could hear footsteps outside the corridor but no one knocked or tried to wake them. She wanted to see his sleeping face, she wanted to touch him, so Robin carefully turned around and looked at him. Strike didn’t wake up. The young woman let her fingers slide over his cheek and then her hands over his chest. The result of her journey where firm muscles and a soft tummy. Wow, she was quite impressed at how strong he still was. The next thing she realized made her blush heavily. He was hard. She was wondering about what he dreamed and let her thoughts drift too. It had been ages since she last has had sex. It had been with Matthew. He had been her first and the only guy for her. The only one she had ever slept with. It had been very simple. Most of the time he had taken control and most of the time it had been not even a pleasure for her but just for his benefits. It had happened more and more that he didn’t even managed to satisfy her. Robin wasn’t the type of girl that took things in her own hand though, she had no experience in those things so she had learned to accept it and their encounters got less and less. Oh gosh she needed a good shag. She was sure that being with him would be completely different. The thought of this and his closeness aroused her. Without thinking she pressed her lips softly against his. Startled he woke up and was shocked to find Robin kissing him and pressing herself against his body. Strike escaped a moan and then he quickly shoved her away.
“Robin, what...?”, he asked breathless and looked at her concerned.
This wasn’t his Robin. Something was different and he didn’t know what. She stood up and without another word, quickly left the room. Breathless and very well aware of his erection he lay on his back and tried to calm down. Something was bothering her since last night and he needed to find out. They can’t continue like this. He waited for his erection to fade away and after a while it worked and he got up. He quickly dressed and headed outside and to the kitchen, where her family was already up and having breakfast. There was no sign of Robin though. He had breakfast with the Ellacott’s and excused himself to smoke while Michael took Roundtree for a walk and Martin vanished to his girlfriend. Linda was in the kitchen when her daughter emerged from the bathroom after nearly two hours.
“Robin!”, she said and her daughter stopped. “Are you alright? You two didn’t had a fight, have you? You seem as if you had a row and he doesn’t look good either. What is it?”
“Nothing mum. I’m fine. Just didn’t sleep very well”, she said and quickly hurried outside to the terrace where he smoked.
“I’m here to apologise for earlier”, she mumbled and looked at her hands. “I don’t know why I did it. It just happened and... I promise it’ll never happen again. I’m so sorry Cormoran.”
“There’s no need to be sorry. Happens to the best of us”, he slightly joked and was sad that she blamed herself so much. “Don’t think about it and just enjoy the time we’re here. I really don’t blame you Robin. It’s all fine, okay?”
“Alright”, she mumbled.
“Now go in or you’ll catch a cold. It’s snowing and you don’t wear very much.”
“Thanks”, she mumbled again and got inside.
“You two talked?”, her mum asked and handed her a cup of tea when Robin stepped back into the kitchen.
“Yes”, she just said.
Robin didn’t want her mother to suspect and speculate so she didn’t say much and had some breakfast. After a while Linda made her way to the shops because she needed something she had forgotten to buy earlier. Cormoran and Robin had the house for themselves and she still felt strange beside him after what she did. It was Christmas Eve and had started snowing. Both of them had positioned themselves on the sofa, Robin read a book and Strike was working on some files.
“You shouldn’t work this much dear”, Linda said to him, when she entered the room after her small trip to the local store.
“Oh mum, you’re back already!”
“Yes, just forgot something for the turkey tomorrow”, the older woman explained and got back to the kitchen before she busied herself with ironing some clothes and preparing everything for tomorrow.
“Mum’s right”, Robin said. “You’re working too hard.”
“I’ve to do something or we will have way too much work when coming back to the office.”
Robin wanted to say something when her mum returned to the room.
“Dear, shall I iron your dress for tomorrow? And your suit”, she said to Cormoran.
“Suit?”, he asked startled and not quite knowing what she wanted.
“Oh... I’ll do it myself later”, Robin answered.
“Alright”, Linda said and left once more.
“Suit? Why would I bring a suit for a simple Christmas dinner at your parents?”
“I haven’t told you”, Robin explained. “My mum is hosting a small Christmas party for our family and friends every year. It’s quite a gathering and everyone’s very chic. I should have told you, I’m sorry.”
“Oh no, it’s fine. I’ll find something to wear.”
It was nearly midday when he grabbed his coat and left the house. He needed some time and wanted to take a walk. Robin followed him and held him back by the arm. He simply smiled and she took his arm while the both of them wandered around and to town.
“So... Why did you do it?”, he asked while they strolled past the shops and through some people who were buying the last things for Christmas.
“What do you mean?”
“Why did you kiss me?”
“Oh... I... I shouldn’t have and I’m truly sorry for it but...” She sighed. ”I just wanted it. I was thinking about all that had happened in my room. All the things that had happened with Matthew and I just wanted to kiss you.”
He knew what she meant. He knew that it had been more... His feelings started to get in the way and things like this didn’t make it easier for him to not fall for her even harder. They sat in a small café and had some tea while it started to snow heavier. After a long and casual talk about their life's and the office both of them headed back. It was late when they arrived at her parent’s house and both where wet from the heavy snowstorm outside. Robin was freezing but quite happy. The walk had done them good and everything was normal again. She excused herself to take a hot shower and so did he after she returned from the bathroom.
“You both look happier now”, Linda said in a good mood when Robin entered the kitchen and helped her with preparing the dinner.
“We talked. It helped.”
“I’m glad it did.”
Strike took his time and changed into something nice for the evening. It was Christmas Eve after all and they wanted to head to the church after dinner. It was traditional, Robin had explained. He joined the two women in the kitchen and helped them before they had a fantastic dinner. He and Robin shared a bottle of wine and all was back to normal. Afterwards they drove to the church. Michael, Linda and Martin shared a car. Strike and Robin drove separately. She had changed into a black dress, high boots and a black coat. They arrived in time and Robin had found a parking space with a perfect view on the church doors. They waited and looked at the people heading inside.
“I don't want to go in”, she said.
“Well then don't.”
“It’s traditional. We do this every year. I don’t want to disappoint my parents.”
He knew that this was very important for her, so he let it be and they made their way in. She held his arm because it was very slippery outside and he helped her in. When they entered the church together, a lot of people looked at them.
“You know this is going to get us even more rumours”, she mumbled while he led her to the bench where her parents sat.
“Do you mind terribly?”, he said with a big smile.
“No. It’s quite fun.”
She sat beside her mother and could feel the strange looks people shot them. It was because of Strike. A few minutes later the mass started and they kept quiet. Strike watched her and didn’t concentrated on the service itself. He never really cared about the church. Kneeling on the old wooden benches was impossible for him and Robin giggled when she realised it, what gave her an annoying look from an old lady beside Strike. He bended over to her while everyone was singing and whispered into her ear.
“How dare you laugh in the middle of the mass. That’s quite disrespectful Miss Ellacott”, he said teasingly and she laughed some more.
The mass took two hours and Strike was happy after it ended. He led her out again and both of them headed back to the car. It was late when the whole family arrived at the old farmhouse again and all of them immediately headed to bed. Strike smoked while Robin headed to the bedroom and changed. She was already half asleep when he returned. She watched him while he changed himself and fell asleep with a soft smile on her lips.
It was late when he woke up beside her. He had slept quite well since he started to slept beside her. He had pulled her closer, lay on his stomach and his arm was resting over her belly. He liked waking up beside her and was quite happy that all was normal between them again. He inhaled her scent and tried to remember this moment since she looked so beautiful. Gosh he loved her. He truly did and this was the first time that he admitted it to himself in all those years. He should tell her. Well she must have feelings too when she kissed him and reacted like that over the last days. He decided to talk to her when they had a free minute. He wanted to know. He caressed her cheek and closed his eyes once more. He imagined that they were at his place, in his bed. That he could have this every day. Touch her and wake up beside this beautiful woman in his bed. It knocked at their door and Robin woke up.
“Robin, Cormoran?”, they heard Linda asking. “You awake yet?”
Robin stayed silent and so did he. He just watched her and smiled. They heard footsteps leaving and she tried not to laugh and buried her face at his shoulder. He rolled over too so that they faced each other.
“Merry Christmas Robin”, he then said since it was Christmas morning.
“Merry Christmas Cormoran.”
They stayed silent for a while and he just looked at her. This was one of the best days in the last years. He felt completely happy.
“My mum is probably making a fantastic breakfast right now. You sure you want to miss it?”, she asked when just in this moment his stomach gave a funny sound and betrayed his hunger.
“Ok, then let’s go and get some, shall we?”, he said and they both got up.
He wanted to dress but Robin only handed him an old dressing gown.
“Tradition”, she mumbled and both of them headed to the kitchen where the whole family sat at the table, only wearing their PJs and night gowns.
He had just slipped into some pyjama bottoms because of his leg. Linda got up and hugged both of them.
“Merry Christmas you two. C’mon let’s have some breakfast. I’m sure you must be hungry”, she said and winked.
What did her mother thought they were doing? Robin shoved the thought away and they joined her family for breakfast. It was quite good and Strike enjoyed the closeness of the family members. After breakfast, Linda shoved her family into the living room for handing out the presents. Strike sank in the old armchair, Michael and Linda sat on the sofa while Robin sat beside Strike on the floor and Martin by the tree to hand the presents to their owner. He only now realised, that his present for Robin was still in his bag. But then he found that it wasn’t a thing her parents should see. He wanted to give it to her in private. Martin was quite eager to unpack first so they let him. Linda was next and she received a pair of earrings from her husband. He softly kissed her and Robin wished for something like her parents had. Her father was quite happy about the new fishing knife of his daughter and thanked her a lot. Then it was Robin’s turn. She got a new scarf from her brother and a nice new leather handbag from her parents. Quite expensive, Strike deduced. Robin had no present for him but he received a new tie from her parents and a bottle of whiskey. He thanked them, although he never had been a friend of ties. Robin laughed because she knew it and met his eyes. The rest of the presents was for the other part of the family and some friends that would arrive early in the evening. Everyone was busy and occupied as Robin and Strike headed back to her bedroom. Quickly he dressed and left for a fag to give her some privacy for dressing herself. They had decided to meet up for a walk with Roundtree. Half an hour later they already where on their way through the snowy landscape.
“So tell me, how is this evening going to be?”, he asked her and Robin obliged and told him about other Christmas parties they had over the years.
“My mum is quite famous for her Christmas parties and invites a lot of people. Everyone is dressed up, cheerful and presents get exchanged. Dinner is before all that though. Only the family is invited. Afterwards there’ll be the big party with a lot of punch and cookies while chatting with all the people. Sometimes it’s quite hard to do it but mum doesn’t mind if someone leaves early. She understands.”
“Sounded like an invitation to leave early and get away”, he said and smiled at her.
His ringing phone interrupted them but he picked up since it was Shanker.
“Merry Christmas Bunsen”, he said at the other end.
“Merry Christmas”, Strike wished his friend as well.
“Shall we meet up like usual at your mum’s place?”, he asked his friend.
“Love to, but I’m not in London. I’m with Robin at her parent’s place”, he explained.
“Oh... So this is official now? You and her?”
“I... No, it’s not”, he said devastated and Robin looked curiously at him what had changed his mood so suddenly.
“You should talk to her Bunsen.”
“Maybe I will. I’m sorry I couldn’t make it today.”
“Don’t worry about it. Just enjoy your time with her and Merry Christmas to Robin too.”
“Thank you. See you.”
He hung up and looked at her for a moment.
“Who was it? Is everything alright?”
“Yes, just Shanker. Merry Christmas from him.”
They continued walking in silence for the next time and he was deep in his thoughts if he should talk to her about his feelings and the thing between them or not. He decided to wait.
It was nearly time for dinner when they arrived back at the old house and headed in, both freezing from their long walk. Roundtree immediately got to his dog bed in the living room and fell asleep.
“Dear god, what have you done to him?”, her father joked and Robin laughed.
“We had quite a long walk”, she admitted.
“I’m sure you’re starving. Come on, dinner is nearly ready and everyone’s arrived”, he said and they headed to the kitchen together where Linda was putting a fantastic smelling Turkey on the table.
A big bonus to be here was not even waking up beside Robin but Linda cooking. It was always delicious. They ate and like the last days Robin was very quiet during their dinner conversations and let Strike do the talking. Linda was kind of curious what they were up to with the business and private. Strike told them a bit about the business and about Denmark Street itself.
“So are you two together or what?”, Martin asked the final question.
“Martin!”, Michael said and all where silent.
Robin uncomfortable looked at Strike.
“Excuse me”, she mumbled and headed outside.
That was his chance, to talk to her, but he stayed where he was. She needed some time alone and he didn’t want her parents to think something wrong of their relationship. Not until he had talked to her himself.
“Who want’s dessert?”, Linda asked but Strike refused and headed to smoke. He let his hand slide through his already ruffled hair. Fuck... This was a mess he wasn’t sure how to fix. Strike took his time and smoked a few cigarettes before he once more headed inside. He could hear Robin in the bathroom and when he looked around, everyone was preparing something for the guests who would arrive soon. He asked if he could help anything but Linda shoved him out of the kitchen.
“You go and get ready and talk to Robin. I think she needs you the most right now.”
He obeyed and headed to his partner’s old bedroom where he changed and waited for her.
Robin had taken a hot bath and had dressed for the dinner party. She had decided on the green dress Strike had brought her all those years ago. She felt confident in it and liked how she looked. She was sure he would do too. She had small curls, a light make-up and a fire red lipstick. She slipped into some silver high heel sandals and headed back to her room. Strike sat on the bed, wearing that suit again and looked up when she entered the room. He stood up and stared at her.
“You look stunning Robin”, he mumbled and stayed where he was.
“Thanks”, she mumbled and blushed heavily. “So you do have something to wear.”
Strike laughed and smiled at her.
“Not sure why I packed it though”, he admitted. “But it’s good that I did. I’m sorry about what’s going on lately. I didn’t know that your parents thought we were a couple. If I had, I would not have come here.”
Robin stepped to the window and looked out while putting her make-up bag away.
“I... It’s confusing. I had no idea either and I don’t know what to do with my feelings. I... I feel something I shouldn’t feel. I know it’s not right but I can’t help myself. I have to find out and deal with them on my own.”
He stayed silent. So she had feelings after all. He didn’t know what to do. Say that he loved her? Stay silent? Act as if nothing happens? Instead he stepped to his bag and got out his present.
“Robin I... Merry Christmas”, he said and handed it to her when she turned around and faced him once more.
He handed her the small package and waited for her to open it. Robin just looked at it and then got him his package from her suitcase.
“Merry Christmas Cormoran.”
“That wasn’t necessary”, he mumbled.
“It’s not much but I hope you like it”, she explained while he opened the gift box. Inside was a brand-new pair of black leather gloves. “They’ll keep you warm while on observation.”
“Thanks, they’re beautiful.”
He tried them on and they fitted perfectly. He smiled at her and lay the gloves on his bag.
“Now open yours”, he said softly but quite nervous.
Robin did and unpacked the elegantly wrapped parcel. It was a small and square box. What was it? Robin looked asking at him but Strike just smiled and waited for her to unpack it all. She opened the box and found a beautiful pearl necklace in it. The pearls where quite big and the fastener was of white gold and diamonds. Robin just stared at it. He was completely insane. She couldn’t take it. It was way too expensive. Only now she realised that the box said Tiffany’s.
“Cormoran I... It’s beautiful but way too expensive. I can’t take it.”
“It’s a present and it’ll suit your dress perfectly. Please take it. I haven’t given you a decent pay rise or any benefits so please take it.”
Robin felt bad taking it. He had spent way too much money and she knew he could use it differently but apparently this was important for him. He opened the box once more and got the necklace out and put it around her neck. She shuddered at the slight touch of his fingers while he fastened it. Strike took the opportunity and kissed her slightly on the shoulder.
“See, it’s perfect”, he mumbled and took her hand before he kissed her knuckles.
He guided her to the mirror and she looked at herself. Wow, she was stunned. He had been right, that it would be perfect for her.
“Why would you get me something like this?”, she asked calmly.
“Because I simply wanted to.”
She wanted to turn around and face him just when someone knocked and opened the door. It was her mum.
“Come on kids, the guests arrive.”
“We should go”, he said and let go of her hand.
Robin held him back for a second.
“Thank you so much Cormoran. For coming here and for your gift”, she mumbled and kissed him on the cheek. “Let’s get this over with.”
They headed outside and together they made their way to the living room where the rest of the Ellacott’s was seated and also waited for the guests. Everyone hugged Robin and Strike shook some more hands. Some were quite pleased to see the detective but some were just surprised and soon there were rumours all around the house. Mostly between their friends since the Ellacott’s knew Strike from the wedding. Robin stood inside a corner between the living room and the kitchen when her mum stepped to her.
“Quite some nice pearls”, her mum noticed. “From Cormoran?”
Robin nodded and blushed. Her mum handed her a glass of punch.
“You are not together, are you?”, Linda asked carefully.
“No, we’re not.”
“But you love him?”
“I think I do mum”, she confessed silently.
“Then you should go and talk. I think he does love you too. You two are just too dumb to see it.”
Robin looked at her mum and initially she wanted it to be real. She wanted him. But did he want her too? Linda pulled her daughter back to the others and to Strike. He smiled down at her and took the punch she was still holding.
“Mistletoe!”, they heard someone saying loudly and gesturing to the both of them.
Some were laughing but everyone watched them what they’d do. Strike looked up and saw what the others meant. Linda had deliberately placed them here. Robin blushed and he softly tilted up her head with his fingers. His eyes asked for permission before he bend down and carefully pressed her lips against hers. It was a soft and innocent kiss so people won’t be bothering them. The guests still looked at them but soon everyone was back to their own business. Robin had still closed her eyes and longed for the touch of his lips again. He kissed her softly once more and this time it was more intense. She breathed heavily when he broke the connection.
“Oh gosh, I love you”, he mumbled without thinking and she startled.
“Yes...”, she then breathed heavily and wanted to pull him closer but he refused.
“No”, he said and smiled softly.
Robin wanted to leave but he took her hand instead and they once more joined the others. Oh gosh, he wanted to leave with her, he really did. But it was just a kiss for the others, wasn’t it? No, it was more. She had wanted it too and he had told her that he loved her. Stupid!
The party was still going when he excused himself to smoke. He enjoyed the cold and fresh air. It helped to get his head clear. He shouldn’t have told her... The door opened once more and out stepped Robin, wrapped in a blanket. He finished his cigarette and carelessly tossed it away before scrutinizing her. She smiled and held up a small mistletoe between them. Strike laughed. So he had been right. She wanted it too.
“I smuggled this outside. You know what this means?”
“Yes”, he laughed and softly pulled her closer to him.
Strike let his hand slide over her cheek and looked at her as she was the most precious thing in the world. To him she was. Robin rested her hands on his chest and smiled.
“Did you mean what you said earlier?”
“What?”, he asked and shoved a strand of hair back past her ear.
“That you love me”, Robin said silently, as if it would go away if she said it loudly.
“God help me I do”, Strike once more mumbled and kissed her passionately now.
Robin let it happen and kissed him back while she pulled him closer at the hem of his jacket. She moaned into their kiss and when they broke up both of them breathed heavily.
“Thank god my mother is into mistletoes”, she joked slightly.
“Yes, I think I’m gonna thank her for that personally after the party.” Robin laughed. “But now... I know exactly what I’m going to do with you.”
She giggled while his lips wandered over her cheek down to her throat where he sucked and made a small love mark. Robin moaned. She wanted him.
“I forgot how beautiful this dress looks on you”, he mumbled. “I wanted to do this for so fucking long.”
“See me in this dress again?”
“No..”, he kissed her once more. “Get you out of this dress”, he said in a hoarse voice.
“Robin, Cormoran, are you out there?”, they heard Robin’s sister in law asking while getting closer.
They let go of each other and a second later the other woman was stepping outside.
“My god it’s freezing out here. You gonna catch a cold Robin! Beside I was looking for you. Can I talk to you?”
“Sure”, she said quite unsure and Strike tried not to laugh.
Robin didn’t want to go, not now but she tried to be a good friend for her brother’s wife and the two women headed inside.
“What is it Susan?”, she asked.
“I wanted to know if you would like to be the godmother of our little daughter?”
“Oh... I... “ Robin didn’t knew what to say. “I don’t know if I’m the right person for this.”
“I talked with Stephen and we think you’re right. You’re a strong woman. You are perfect.”
“Okay well then it’s an honour”, Robin said and looked back to the door where Strike was entering and smiled at her.
“I’m so glad you’re ok with it”, Susan said and hugged Robin.
Robin smiled and after a few more words she made her way back to the front door but Strike wasn’t there anymore. She found him in the living room, chatting with her mum. She watched him with another glass of punch and thought about his hands on her body. His kisses. His confession that he wanted her. She was aroused and this waiting made her impatient.
It was past midnight when the last guests left her parent’s house and Robin said goodbye to them. Strike had seated himself on the sofa with another beer when Robin entered the room once more. She quickly kissed him on the mouth before she sat beside him. Her family was still here and all headed to the living room now. Robin let Susan sit down and instead sat on the armrest of the sofa beside Cormoran. He was hard since their encounter outside and he wanted to take her to bed but it wouldn’t have been decent so he waited. They exchanged the last presents and talked a bit before they all headed to bed. Stephen and his wife stayed overnight, as well as her younger brother. Strike headed for another smoke while Robin got to her room. She was nervous and aroused. When he returned, he quickly knocked before he stepped in. They just looked at each other while he silently closed the door and waited. He watched her in the small light of the bedside lamp. Gorgeous, but she also looked nervous.
“You’re so beautiful”, he said again and stepped closer. “The last hours have been very hard for me”, he admitted and Robin blushed while he let his hand glide down her cheek to her hips and pulled her closer before he carefully kissed her.
This time the kiss was slowly again and they took their time. It felt brilliant and Robin had been right. It was completely different from kissing Matthew. Even though it was slow she could feel all his passion. Robin kissed him once more and all his self-control was gone, yet he took things slowly.
“Can we...”, she started but stopped. “I.... I haven’t done this for a while”, she admitted and blushed once more.
“We’re gonna take it slow, I promise.”
They kissed and kissed and it seemed as if they did this for hours. It was Robin who started unbuttoning his shirt after a while. She wasn’t good in these things and he could feel how insecure she was. Jeez, she had no experience in seducing someone and being more confident with these things. Probably Matthew had been her only one.
“Let’s get you out of this beautiful dress first.”
He turned her around and started kissing her shoulder and her neck while slowly pulling down the zipper. He could hear her take a deep breath before his hands slowly worked down to get her out of this dress. His rough big hands where shoving the silky material down to the ground and she only stood in front of him in her lace lingerie and sandals. Immediately Cormoran was hard and he suppressed a moan. He didn’t want to rush things since she hasn’t had sex for so long but it would have made things easier if she had a bit more experience. He decided to change this. He liked when a woman was sensitive and confident in bed. He continued to kiss her and to touch her softly. Robin was nervous since it had been so long and she was afraid to disappoint him.
“Stop thinking”, Cormoran said when he could feel that she was still pretty tense and didn’t let herself go. “Just feel...”
His hands moved down to her belly and further down to her lap. She moaned but he quickly pressed a kiss to her lips to silence her a bit. He didn’t want her parents to hear them. Robin turned around and started to undress him as well. She opened his shirt and shoved it away. A few seconds later it was down on the ground. She softly caressed his chest and her hands made her way down to his belt. With shaking fingers, she unbuckled it and opened his trousers. He tried to occupy her racing thoughts once more and shoved her to the bed.
“Sit down”, he ordered and Robin obeyed. “Let’s get you out of these wonderful shoes.”
Strike slowly got down, took her leg and wandered with some soft kisses from her tights down to her calf while unbuckling the shoes and tossing them away. Sucking and with small bites he moved back over her legs to her inner tights. One by one Strike removed her underwear and looked at her. Gosh she was stunning. Robin tried not to think of the past and her encounters with Matthew and just tried to concentrate on what he did. He was slowly and caressed her body with knowing fingers and kisses. Robin lost herself and moaned his name while he crawled over her and kissed her once more on the mouth. She started giggling when he kissed her nose and cheeks. Her cheeks where blushed, her lips swollen from his kisses and soft bites and she just looked beautiful. Robin looked at him and stroke his cheek before she kissed him softly.
“I can’t believe we waited this long...”, she mumbled.
“I wasn’t sure you’d want me”, he said.
“Me neither”, she laughed. “I will never complain about mistletoes again.”
“I totally agree on that”, he laughed and continued with kissing her before she was a complete mess under his hands again.
His hands wandered to her lap and Robin moaned once more.
“Sch...”, he mumbled with a smile and kissed her. “I’m sure you don’t want the whole house to hear us.”
Robin moaned frustrated and unexpectedly turned around. Cormoran lost his balance and she was over him. He laughed while she kissed him and held his arms while she moved on him. This time it was his turn to let out a moan and close his eyes a second. Oh gosh... She kissed him while her hands wandered to his trousers and shoved them down so he only wore his boxers. She could clearly see that he was aroused and blushed but before she could think about it further, he turned her around once more and she let out a sound of surprise before he continued his sweet torture and wandered with soft kisses from her tights down over her breasts to her lap and shoved a finger into her. Her hips buckled up and she tried to stay as silent as possible. With the other arm he easily got her in place while continuing and it only took him a few moves to realise that she was very sensitive and responded to his touch immediately. Her hands gripped the sheets and she started to sweat and shake after a while. She was close. With a last expertly move of his fingers she came. She moaned out his name while her heavy orgasm rippled through her body. Her hands clenched the sheets and a few tears stole her way down her cheeks before she got silent and her heavy breathing was the only sound in the room. Strike gave her a few minutes and kissed her temple. It worried him that she cried. Had he somehow hurt her?
“Sch.. Are you alright?”, he mumbled. “Did I hurt you?”
“No it’s fine, it’s just.. I’m kinda overwhelmed right now.. Oh gosh I.. I’m sorry.”
He softly kissed her lips and down to her neck and as his hands once more wandered over her body Robin immediately was aroused again. His erection was nearly painful and he couldn’t wait any longer, yet he tried not to rush this. For both of their benefits. Without her noticing he fished the condom out of his trousers. He had checked earlier and had been quite thankful that he always had one in his wallet. Quickly he removed his pants and put it on. Robin was still kind of dizzy and already so aroused again that she couldn’t keep a thought in her head. He pulled her closer, once more kneeling over her and crawled between her legs. Strike ignored the pain in his stump, well aware that this would have consequences in the morning. It was not important though. He only thought about the fact that she was finally his and that he loved her. Nothing else seemed important. It was just the two of them in their own bubble of happiness. Slowly and still caressing her, he shoved himself into her. Robin’s hands gripped his arms and she shuddered. It was a mixture of pain and pleasure but soon pleasure took over and she once more fell. Slowly he moved his hips, a bit faster and different. He teased her and tried to make this last as long as possible. He held her hands while she wrapped her legs around him and met every trust of his hips. Robin’s eyes where closed, lips parted, skin blushed and sweaty.
“Look at me", he mumbled and she obeyed.
Her eyes found his and she could see the passion and adoration in them. She stroke his cheek while he slowly moved. A soft gasp left her lips.
“You’re so beautiful”, he managed to say while he could feel his orgasm build in his body. “I love you", he breathed heavily and kissed her once more.
She said something that sounded like “I love you too", before she cried out his name and her orgasm carried her away. After a few more trusts he lost himself in a heavy orgasm as well. He buried his head in her neck and shouted out her name. Their hands held each other tight while he found his release and sank on her.
It took both of them some time before they found their way back to reality. Still heavy breathing and sweaty they lay in each other’s arms. He was heavy but it wasn’t too uncomfortable to shove him away. She stroke his hair and he then moved. Robin winced a bit when he pulled out and turned around to get rid of the condom. Silent he then pulled her closer, put the sheets over them and kissed her softly. Robin snuggled up beside him while he laughed.
“I never would have thought that the day would turn out like this", the detective admitted happily.
“And all this to some mistletoes...”, Robin said smiling and kissed him once more before both of them fell asleep in each other's arms.