[Fic] - Ten Dozen Roses
Rating: Blue Cortina
Pairings, Characters: Sam/Maya, Gene, vague hints of Annie, Chris and Ray. Ruth gets a look in too.
Summary: In 2006, DI Maya Roy's investigation into the Tyler Crime Empire takes a wrong turn when she comes across a retired Gene Hunt. Unconvinced by his ramblings, she risks her life on his hunch, hoping that he'll be able to reveal something about the infamous Sam Tyler.
Pulling up in the clapped out Fiat – with ‘pig bitch’ in luminous pink spraypaint sprawled over the sides – DI Maya Roy switched the engine off and paused, her hands wrapped around the steering wheel. This was one of the nicer areas of Manchester, but there was still a clapped out old motor in the drive of the house she was about to approach. It was a Ford Cortina, its acid orange colour scraped and bruised by the years. One of the windows was broken too.
Swallowing, she closed her eyes, steeling herself before she opened the door to her car. Checking that she had everything in her bag, she stepped onto the street, feeling glass crunch under her boots. Her mother had given her a lovely ‘sensible’ pair of heels on her last birthday. Maya wouldn’t wear them, or she would literally be seen dead in them. Sometimes, in this job, you just had to run.
Hopping up the unkempt garden path, she hammered on the door with her fist. “Hunt?” she called loudly, not caring if the neighbours heard her. Somewhere in the distance a siren wailed. “Gene Hunt!”
The door opened with surprising quickness and a tall, slightly podgy, grey faced man stared out at her. He leaned against the frame, looking her up and down with cold, blue eyes, the only part of him not grey with age. “Can I help you, petal?”
Nodding, she glanced pointedly into the hallway. “Can I come in?”
“No,” Hunt scoffed. “No idea who you are.”
Removing her ID she flashed it in front of him, quickly pushing forwards to stop him closing the door on her. “I need to talk to you!”
“Sam Tyler! Seventy three!” She gasped as the resistance behind the door suddenly gave way and she stumbled inside. The hallway was plunged into darkness as Hunt closed the door behind her. She had no time to find her bearings before he’d pushed her up against the wall, and for an old man he was strong. Panic rose up inside her as he pinned her arm behind her back, pain radiating up from her elbow.
“Who are you?” Hunt spat in face.
“Seventy three! I spoke to Annie Skelton.” She struggled feeling some give in his grip. “I don’t want to hurt you,” she grated out, “and we both know you’re not as young as you were.”
Hunt laughed roughly and stepped away. “Come into my parlour,” he drawled, limping further down the hallway.
Brushing her palms off on her black jeans, Maya followed him through. In the light of the kitchen she noticed that Gene Hunt wasn’t entirely grey. He had yellowed fingers, the nicotine stains licking up his wrists from years of smoking. Likewise his nose had a tinge of purple, an obvious sign of alcohol abuse if the empty bottle of whiskey on the sideboard hadn’t told her anyway.
He caught the focus of her gaze and laughed, lifting up an old kettle and sticking it on the electric hob. “Tea?”
“Please,” she said, reaching into her satchel for a manila folder. Finding the one in question she dropped it onto the stained Formica, watching his expression sober as he debated with himself whether or not to open it. “I’ve been working on a case,” she said quietly, “it was just a drugs ring. Nothing special about it. Until I traced back the suppliers. It turned out that it wasn’t the Tyler Empire,” she narrowed her eyes as she saw Hunt wince away from the name. “Sure,” she continued, “That’s who they work for now. But they were originally their own syndicate, ruled over by Stephen Warren. I hear you were instrumental in bringing him down.”
Hunt said nothing, taking the whistling kettle off the hob and pouring two cups. He flicked the folder open and a surveillance image of Sam Tyler flew out, skittering along the work surface. Maya had to take a moment to compose herself.
“It’s because you brought him down that Victor Tyler could step into the game,” she said quietly.
Placing two fingers on the glossy photograph, Hunt slid it towards her. “He’s a good looking bastard, inny?” He laughed. “You’d never think he’d be the man single-handedly bringing this city into ruin. At least with Warren you could walk down the streets.”
“I carry a gun, Mr Hunt, and I never walk down the streets alone,” Maya said coolly. “Tell me.” Averting her eyes from the photograph, she met Hunt’s steely gaze. “I spoke with Mrs Skelton, but she was reluctant to tell me much.”
“Bristol’s a long way away,” Hunt noted, passing her a cup of strong, milky tea. “When did you meet her?”
“Yesterday,” Maya said. “I’m tired and I’d like to get this over with. She told me that you had someone in the station round about the time you tried to bring Victor Tyler in.”
“Sam Tyler,” Hunt agreed with a sigh. He rifled in his cupboards until he found a small hipflask and poured a decent measure into his tea. Proffering it to her, he grinned at her upturned nose. “This diet’s kept me the man I am today, love.”
“It’s a wonder you’re still alive.”
“It’s Sam Tyler that I’m still alive,” Hunt retorted caustically. “Best ruddy police officer I ever met. Saved my life many times.”
Maya nodded, her hands trembling a little as she set her tea down on the counter. “I . . . I need to know more about him, Mr Hunt?”
Grinning savagely, Hunt leaned closer to her. “What more do you want to know? You’ve spoke to Chris and Annie and they’ve no doubt told you.”
“I want to hear it from you,” she whispered, feeling a familiar shudder in her belly. She could be in a classy restaurant in the city centre, with a brown eyed criminal smiling at her before he announced that she was going to be fired from her job if she didn’t let this next transgression slide.
“Well then.” Hunt stepped back, tapping his fingers against the photograph. “I saw him die in seventy five. Happy?”
She ignored his laughter, ignored the tea, ignored her racing pulse as she gathered up her things and left, her keys jingling in her shaking hand as she climbed into the Fiat and tore away.
* * *
Unlocking the door to her apartment, she hesitated as she flicked the light switch. The distinct, heady aroma of roses reached her even from this distance. In the small living room a massive bouquet of red roses adorned her coffee table, neatly placed on top of the files she’d been looking over from the previous night.
A quick survey of the flat proved that no one was lurking in wait. Hesitating, she stood in front of the vase, the envelope with her name perching between two blooms. ‘Maya’ was artfully scratched onto the surface. “Are you listening to me?” she whispered fiercely. “I don’t want you.”
Reaching for the card, she left it on the sofa as she took the roses and stuffed them, vase, ribbon and all, into the bin. The thorns cut her skin, leaving ruby red droplets on her palm. “I don’t,” she finished savagely, trying to convince herself more than anything else.
Returning to the living room, she knelt by the coffee table and pulled the files apart, searching through them word by word.
* * *
She woke up when someone placed a mug of tea beside her face, on top of an old report detailing Sam Tyler’s first – and only – arrest sheet. Startled, she scrambled away from the man standing beside her, half expecting it to be Sam, standing there in his leather jacket, one hand about to stroke her hair.
Gene Hunt, dressed in a faded and battered mustard coloured overcoat, merely raised an eyebrow at her. “Those flowers in your bin,” he said, sitting on the sofa. “They from Tyler?”
Running her hands through her hair, Maya nodded, rubbing the grit from her eyes. “What are you doing here?” She hesitated, frowning. “How did you get in here?”
“I broke in,” Hunt said, sounding affronted. He settled back on the sofa. “How do you think?”
“Stupid question,” she admitted, cradling the cup in her hands. “Why are you here?”
With a deep sigh, Hunt rubbed his frail, weathered hands together. “I did some research when you left, called a few friends. You’re the lone ranger.”
She frowned, blowing on the tea and quietly assessing Hunt’s manner as he watched her. “I don’t understand.”
“The last good man,” Hunt continued, the ghost of a smile curling over his thin lips. “The cowboy with the white Stetson.”
“I’m not corrupt, if that’s what you mean,” she said calmly, taking a drink from her mug. The tea was sweet and strong, more than enough to wake her.
Hunt rubbed his jaw with a yellowed hand, cocking his head to the side as he watched her. “I’ve policed this city since I was nineteen. I’m pushing eighty. I don’t want to die and see this place remain the shit hole it is now.”
Setting her cup aside, Maya drummed her fingers off the table. “You’re telling me you knew Sam Tyler. Thirty three years ago.”
“I don’t understand it either, love, but I know what I saw.” Shrugging his coat off, he lay it down on her sofa and leaned back against the chair, kicking his feet up on the coffee table, much to her annoyance. “I was DCI in CID. Sam Tyler walked through my door and turned my life upside down. He was a cop, like I said. And he was straighter than straight. At one point, we met up with Victor Tyler and brought him down, sent him into hiding.” Hunt sighed deeply. “Do you have anything to drink?”
“When you tell me something interesting, then I’ll get you a drink,” she grumbled, shuffling back so she was leaning against the wall. With as much distance as possible between her and Hunt, she folded her arms over her chest and watched him.
He grinned. “Cheeky bugger, aren’t you? Well in that case. Sam and me didn’t always see eye to eye. By his definition I was a bent copper.”
“Interesting,” Maya said, rising up as she had promised. She sashayed into the kitchen and removed two bottles of beer from the fridge. Handing one to him she sat on the other side of the sofa. “Because you were forced into early retirement by the bentest of the bent.”
“Sam changed me.” Reaching for his jacket, Hunt removed an old photograph. A younger Gene Hunt was sitting on the bonnet of the Cortina she’d seen earlier in the day. He was laughing and grinning, one arm locked around the neck of someone who was definitely Sam Tyler. “He . . . he eventually told me that he was from 2006. He had been run down by a car and woke up in seventy three.”
“You believed him?” Maya asked quietly.
“No. He was dying at the time, Victor Tyler had stabbed him after Sam had tried to track him down. Victor was Sam’s father.” Hunt sipped his beer, the muscles in his cheek working. “I miss him,” he whispered.
“So Victor Tyler walked free,” Maya surmised. “And his son, Sam Tyler, eventually inherited the empire he built. Which leaves us with where we are today. Most dangerous European city five years running.” She took a hearty swig of her beer and sighed. “And me with my . . . what did you call it? White Stetson?”
“Do you want to take Sam Tyler down?” Hunt asked, glancing at her sharply. “I know that man better than anyone.”
“You knew your Sam,” she corrected. “Your Sam was a copper.”
“He’s still Sam,” Hunt shrugged. “I know how he thinks. At the very least, I know how he fights, what his weaknesses are. I bet you’re one of them.”
Maya glanced away. “You saw the roses,” she confirmed.
Lifting the little envelope with her name on it, Hunt grinned. “I read the note.”
“How dare you,” Maya hissed, lunging forwards to snatch it from his hand.
“I wondered how you could stay in the force,” he said, watching her circle the table. “Particularly when you’re so obviously against him. He protects you, doesn’t he? You’ve slept with him.”
“You’re a bastard,” Maya snarled, crumpling the note as she held onto it.
“Been called worse, love. Tell me, does he still cook a mean chilli con carne?”
Taken aback, Maya felt the wall at her spine. “Leave me alone,” she commanded. “Leave me alone.”
With a heavy sigh, Hunt finished his beer and reclaimed his jacket. “When you want to talk,” he said, “you know where I live. Phones aren’t safe.”
“Leave!” she yelled, not moving until she’d heard him close the front door behind him. Shaking, she slid down to the carpet, her fist clenched around the note. With a great force of will she peeled it apart, reading the letters there.
‘Dinner. You. Me. Saturday night. My place, or yours?’
“Bastard,” she whispered. “You bastard.”
* * *
Maya didn’t care much for the Red Boys restaurant. More than anything else, it was the notorious base of operations for the Tyler Empire, but even so, it was a typical explanation of why men and football was just a bad idea. Football memorabilia lined the walls and more than a few players could be found in its booths, talking with the latest smack headed, anorexic model to hit the headlines.
She waited at the bar in a simple emerald dress, deliberately offsetting the traditional black and red attire one wore to this establishment. She could see a few of the higher ranking police officials enjoying a meal with their mistresses. None of them met her eye.
“Excuse me, detective inspector,” a waiter said quietly, materialising at her elbow. “If you’d care to come upstairs now?”
With a polite smile that she didn’t feel, Maya left her drink where it was and followed the waiter to the prominent glass spiral staircase in the middle of the room. She could feel the eyes of everyone in the room on her as she ascended, knowing that they knew she was only there by invite. They knew she was Sam’s bitch.
She hated it.
Approaching his all-seeing office, she did her best not to scowl as she saw two drug dealers leaving. They nodded to her respectfully, a courtesy she did not extend. “I wish you wouldn’t do that,” she said as Sam showed her in.
Wearing a dark, open necked shirt, Sam raised an eyebrow at her. “Do what?”
“Parade them in front of me,” she retorted, stalking towards the beautifully set out table that was in the middle of the room. The glass windows at the far end looked out over the restaurant, the light filtering through to their little dining area.
“Why?” He pulled a chair out for her, a grin playing on his lips. Maya had to look away. “What will you do?” Reaching for wine, he poured for them both, lighting the candles before sitting down. Unobtrusive waiters instantly began serving out their starters.
Maya clasped her hands together, meeting Sam’s gaze. “I spoke with someone who knew your father during the week. Gene Hunt.”
Sam shrugged. “Doesn’t ring a bell.”
Nodding, she eyed her meal. “What’s this?”
“This,” Sam said with another grin, this one much more innocent, “is Paté de Campagne. I made it myself. All of it, actually. We have Stuffed Roast Poussin for the main course and Chocolate and Passion Fruit Mousse with Brandy Snap Baskets for pud. Hope it didn’t get too cold.”
With a chill passing down her spine, Maya nodded. “I’m sure it will be lovely,” she said quietly. “Your food always is.”
Sam grinned. “A passion of mine,” he said, watching her as she ate.
“What would be your others?”
“The usual,” he smirked. “Arson, theft, pillage and plunder. Corrupting innocent coppers. You name it, Maya, I’ve done it.”
Swallowing roughly, Maya reached for her wine, her eyes closing as she felt Sam’s fingers brush hers. He reached for her wrist, holding her captivated as he pulled her hand towards him. Taking the glass from her fingers he held her hand palm upwards and then placed a kiss on the soft flesh of her inner wrist.
“Ah,” she groaned, wishing she could think of something, anything to distract him. “What are we listening to?”
“Rolling Stones,” he said, returning the glass to her hand and supporting it until she placed it down on the table once more. “Wild Horses.”
* * *
Rolling over, Maya hit a solid lump of Sam and groaned. She was in his loft again, in his bed again. Eyeing her surroundings she caught sight of her dress strewn over the balcony and her little white bag lying on the steps. Quietly she slipped out from the covers, creeping along the beech flooring to her bag. She sat on the steps, glancing down at the large kitchen and living room with the massive LCD TV hanging on the far wall. Sam’s shirt was on the back of the sofa, a scattering of buttons on the ground.
Reaching for her phone she pressed the ‘receive’ button and lifted it to her ear. “DI Roy,” she murmured, running her hand over her face and coming away with a mascara smeared palm.
“Maya,” it was Hunt. “I know I said it wasn’t safe, but I need to talk to you. I’ve just spoken with an old friend of mine, Superintendent Carling. Bent as a boomerang. I’ve got something for you.”
“Where are you?” she whispered, glancing over her shoulder at Sam’s sleeping form.
“I’m heading to yours.”
“I’ll be there in a bit,” she murmured, ending the call abruptly. Reaching for her dress she pulled it over her head, padding down the steps. Just outside the front door, one of Sam’s goons glared at her, patting her down before allowing her to leave the block. She retreated from the revamped warehouse only when the taxi she’d called for pulled up outside.
“What did you want?” she demanded, pushing the door to her flat open when she saw it was unlocked.
Gene Hunt glanced at her, a wry smile flickering over his features when he took in her appearance. “Something big,” he assured her. “Do you want to get showered first?”
She flipped him the finger as she passed, making sure to lock her bathroom door. Standing in the shower, she let the cold water drizzle over her body, streaking last night’s make up and removing him. Removing his smell. Removing his taste. Removing his touch that still tingled her senses. Removing the taint of him from her body. With shaking hands she took up a bar of soap and scrubbed until her skin was raw.
When she emerged from her long sabbatical, she found herself sniffing the air. “Hope you like a bacon buttie,” Hunt called through to her.
“Oh, yes,” she whispered, salivating at the thought. “I’m slightly hungover,” she admitted, meeting him in her tiny kitchen. The roses were still decaying in the bin.
“Best cure for that is food,” Hunt assured her. “Or more drink, I find.”
Trying and failing not to laugh, Maya sat on the counter top, taking a hearty bite of her role. “What did you find out?”
“Right.” All business, Hunt leaned against the counter for support. “My friend Ray is a big cheese. He says, this is only rumour mind you, that Sam Tyler is on medication. Apparently he’s on Seroquel.”
“What’s that?” Maya asked, frowning.
“Anti-psychotic,” Hunt revealed, sounding pleased with himself. “Over the better part of this year, Sam’s been plagued by these dreams of a different world, where he – believe it or not – is a policeman. He’s being treated by a psychologist in town.”
Finishing her roll, Maya licked her fingers. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“I’ll meet you in town this evening,” Hunt announced with a grin.
* * *
“It strikes me that this is entirely illegal,” Maya muttered, crouching by a filing cabinet as Hunt sprayed paint onto the CCTV cameras.
“I wouldn’t start worrying about it now, love,” he told her, beckoning her into Doctor Lindfarm’s office. He glanced around at the well kept mahogany desk and the neat rows of books on the shelves. Peering out at the dark streets, he shook his head. “The streets were safer in the old days,” he murmured. “And I hate saying that.”
Maya paid him little attention, breaking the lock on a cabinet with the handy use of a screwdriver. Pulling the folders out, she paused when she came across the one marked ‘S. T.’ “Found it,” she whispered, handing him roughly half the material. Kneeling on the carpeted floor, she lifted her maglite torch and began skimming the volumes. “Delusions are advanced. Patient described in detail the way in which he functioned in his alternate universe. His father is notably absent in this world . . . the other ST has developed relationship with female colleague,” she read, flicking through the pages.
“Raimes,” Hunt said quietly. “Patient describes in detail the lengths as to which his alternate ego goes to put this criminal away. Patient displays uncharacteristic frustration when this comes to nothing.”
“Patient reveals that his alter ego has trouble in relationship . . . uncharacteristic with persona traits showed by patient . . . patient’s significant relationship has been transferred into an awkward sham in the dream state,” Maya trailed off.
Clearing his throat, Hunt continued. “Patient describes how alternate significant other is kidnapped by Raimes. Patient displays all the emotions that would be concurrent with this event. Patient goes so far as to search for a Raimes here.”
“Patient describes in detail the accident,” Maya stopped, setting the page aside. She couldn’t watch as Hunt stooped to pick it up, but she had to listen to him as he spoke.
“A blue car pulls around. Life on Mars plays on the iPod. Alternate ST is taken by surprise when car hits him. Patient has fleeting glimpse of a bright, sunny wasteland.” Hunt hissed through his teeth. “This is what my Sam said, Maya. He was hit by a car and he woke up in a wasteland in seventy three.”
Swallowing, Maya turned to the last page. “Patient describes existence as a police officer in 1973,” she whispered. “Patient’s delusions show little response to the Seroquel. Reluctant to prescribe Geodon considering patient’s nervous temperament.”
“We should go,” Hunt announced, taking the files from her hands and tidying them away. “Right now.”
She allowed Hunt to tidy up, even helping him as she did so. “I never suspected,” she murmured as they reached the street. “He’s a complete bastard, he’s a crook, and he’s bent. I never thought he was insane.”
“Maybe he’s not,” Hunt said, taking her arm as they hurried through the streets. “Maybe he went back in time.”
“Gene,” she began, pulling away from him.
“Think about it, Maya! Don’t you ever feel like this is wrong? That is shouldn’t be happening?”
She stared at him, at his old, lined face and his sunken eyes. “No, Gene,” she murmured. “I think this world is very real.”
“But it’s not right,” he pressed. “If I could go back . . .”
“If?” she retorted. “If is for children, Gene.”
He hesitated, staring at her. “Run me down, Maya. Run me down.”
The sound of her phone ringing interrupted them and she cast a warning glance in his direction before answering it. “Hello, DI Maya Roy?”
“Maya,” Sam’s voice seemed to pour down the line. “Where are you?”
“I’m . . .” she stared at Hunt in the ridiculous camel coat and felt her throat constrict. “I’m out with a friend, why?”
“I called in at your flat,” he said. “You left without saying goodbye. That’s pretty rude, Maya.”
“I thought you might like the lie in,” she said, wishing that she could force her voice to sound more sultry. Instead she just sounded scared.
“Have you been investigating me, Maya?” Sam asked. “You’ve got some interesting files in your living room. Gene Hunt. And that picture of me with him on the Cortina.”
Staring wildly at Hunt, Maya reached for him, grabbing at his lapels. He knows, she mouthed.
“Where are you, Maya?” Sam repeated, his tone dropping dangerously low.
“In town,” she said, her throat sticking. “Do you want me to meet you?”
Quietly, Hunt placed his hand over hers and squeezed.
“That’s alright, Maya,” Sam said, his silky words sending a chill down her spine. “I’ll meet you when you get home.”
Hanging up, she stared up into Hunt’s eyes. “What do we do?”
“You run me over,” Hunt retorted fiercely. “If I’m right I can fix things. If you’re right, you can say you killed me to protect him, and then he won’t kill you.”
“Gene,” she protested, groaning as he pressed the keys of the Fiat into her hands. “This is madness.”
“I’m old,” he soothed. “I’ve had my time. Let me go back to it now.”
Shaking, she walked towards the Fiat parked in the street. Someone had smashed in all the windows. She realised, suddenly, that it was blue. Quietly stepping inside, she tried three times to start the ignition, jumping as the cassette player started loudly.
Take a look at the lawman
Gene Hunt stood in the middle of the road, his camel skin jacket hulked over his frail body.
Beating up the wrong guy.
Stamping on the accelerator, she closed her eyes, clinging to the wheel as the car kangaroo hopped forwards, speeding towards her target.
Wonder if he’ll ever know.
She didn’t open her eyes, even as she smelled smoke and whiskey on impact.
He’s in the best selling show.
* * *
Is there life on Mars?
Maya nearly jumped from her skin as she slammed on the brakes of her Jeep. Switching off the engine and letting the iPod play on, she climbed out onto the street and stared at the empty spot of ground.
Car crashes. They were on her mind lately.
She could have sworn there had been a man there. Nervously, she rubbed her hands against the thighs of her jeans, folding her arms against the chill winter air. No one there, as if there had never been anyone there. She returned to the Jeep, noting that she’d missed the last echoing chords of David Bowie, before switching the engine on and continuing to the hospital.
* * *
Sam hadn’t been moved since she’d been here last. Predictably she saw Ruth Tyler sitting there, a bag of knitting at her feet and the TV up in the corner playing some evening quiz show. A little plastic pumpkin was on the bedside table, the only concession to the season.
“Maya,” Ruth said warmly, rising to meet her when she came in. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, thank you,” Maya said. She ran her hand over Sam’s brow and stooped to kiss his forehead. “I managed to sneak away from Pete for a bit,” she said with a smile to show she was joking.
Ruth took her seat again. “It’s good of you to come. His other friends just seemed to fade away.”
“He may be in here, but he’s not out of my life,” Maya said honestly, taking his hand as she sat.
“That’s good of you,” Ruth was sincere. “I know you two were having some troubles.”
“Well,” Maya shrugged. “I like to think we would have remained friends.” She sighed, watching as the machines breathed for Sam. “It was my fault. I wanted kids. He wasn’t too keen on the idea.” She squeezed his hand gently. “Thought he’d be an awful Dad.”
“You have to understand Sam’s Dad was never there for him,” Ruth said quietly.
“Whatever happened to him?”
“Oh, he died,” Ruth dismissed quickly, too quickly.
Piercing Sam’s mother with a look, Maya watched Mrs Tyler squirm under her gaze. Say nothing for long enough, and the other person is bound to want to fill in the blanks.
“He was a . . .” Ruth hesitated, dropping her voice, “he was a bastard. A criminal. He went on the run when Sammie was about four. Tried to come back but he was attacked by this old homeless guy. The old guy died too, no charges were ever pressed. I decided . . . maybe I shouldn’t tell Sam. Just let Sam believe whatever it was he believed. That maybe one day Dad would come back.”
“His father died?” Maya asked, running her thumb along Sam’s knuckles.
“Yes,” Ruth shivered expressively. “Sam idolised his Dad. Sometimes I think it was better this way. I don’t think Sam would have ended up a policeman if his Dad had been around!”
With a faint smile, Maya raised Sam’s hand to her lips. “He wouldn’t be here,” she said quietly. “But I’d probably be dead, or worse.”
“I think he had a good life,” Ruth said quietly, wincing at her words. “Has a good life. Has. Will return to.”
“I know he will,” Maya said confidently. “It’s hardly better where he is, is it? You hear me, Sam? Me and your Mum want you home by Christmas.”
Ruth smiled and reached for Maya’s hand. “Thank you, Maya,” she said. “Now tell me about this new bloke of yours.”
With a smile, Maya settled back in her chair. “Pete Hunt. He’s lovely.”