Miranda woke to find Max lying close behind her again, enveloping her with his embrace, their legs intertwined. She still wasn’t sure how to handle this, but she wasn’t feeling quite as ill at ease and conflicted about it as she had been yesterday. She realised that it made her feel safe. Cared for.
She lingered, enjoying the comforting feeling as he slept tucked in against her. Getting showered and dressed could wait a few more minutes.
Buttering toast at the kitchen counter, Miranda heard footsteps slapping on the tiles behind her. She turned round to see Max wearing a towel round his waist and nothing more, still damp from the shower.
“Morning. Forgot my clothes in the dryer,” he said, pointing at it.
Miranda realised she was staring at his naked torso. She nodded, feeling her face colour. She turned back to the half-made breakfast as he bent to retrieve his clothes, telling herself she mustn’t look again.
He picked up a shirt and some underwear and began to head back to the bathroom. She silently turned to catch a glimpse of his retreating back.
Oh god, what is wrong with me, she thought. He’s taken, plus getting excited about seeing his bare chest isn’t exactly the height of professionalism! Did he notice? So embarrassing. Get a bloody grip, Miranda!
Back in the bathroom, Max smiled to himself in the mirror as he put product in his hair. She’d totally been checking him out. What a nice ego boost to start the day off with. Wonder if I’ll get a turn to ‘accidentally’ gawp at her half naked, he thought mischievously.
“Can you get the t-shirt I was wearing yesterday, please?” Max shot over his shoulder as he crouched on the snowy ground of the cottage’s little courtyard.
“I’m sorry, you want me to rifle through your dirty laundry pile?!” Miranda wrinkled her nose in distaste at his request. She didn’t see what this had to do with their current occupation, an activity she was surprised to find herself enjoying, despite the unwelcoming ambient temperature.
”No, the t-shirt is on top. All you have to do is pick it up,” he told her with a hint of condescension in his tone.
”Why do you need it anyway? Hardly traditional,” she queried, hands on hips.
“You’ll see”, he said mysteriously as he stepped back to admire the snowman he’d persuaded her to build with him.
When she returned she found he had given their creation some extra features: he had put small dark stones round the eyes to simulate eyeliner, another black pebble had been placed at the side of the head as an earring, a chocolate wrapper was sticking out of a pocket he had sculpted in the snowman’s side, and some bits of twig were pressed into the head for hair and stubble.
“Thanks!” he said as he took the black t-shirt and draped it over the snowman’s body. “Guess who?” he asked with pride.
“Too easy - it’s just like him,” she replied.
“Everyone’s favourite metalhead forensics guy. I’m going to call him Snowberto. Get a photo of me with him, will you? I think the real Roberto will appreciate my work here.” He grinned as he posed for a picture.
“I’m not so sure about that,” she said doubtfully as she opened her phone’s camera app, “but Luisa might.”
“Shall we do Inés next?” he suggested.
“You haven’t got the wardrobe,” she replied drily.
The rest of the day passed in easy companionship as they kept themselves cosy in their borrowed home. After lunch they managed to finish off the jigsaw they had started the day before.
Max sat back to admire the scene they’d completed, a vista of the old town and part of the harbour as seen from the bay. “We’ve had some good times there, haven’t we?” he reminisced.
“There was the picnic we had in Parc de la Mar after we solved the poisoned sobrasada case,” she reminded him.
”Cheese and crisp sandwiches. I enjoyed that,” he told her fondly.
”Somewhere on the left there is the Opera House where that viola player took you down a peg after your little nessun dorma solo,” she grinned.
“Yeah, she was a bit mean. Remember on our first case I drove you around near the cathedral and you thought I was a terrible driver?”
”I fully expected there to be an accident,” she answered. “The driving style here is definitely... different to the British one.”
”Didn’t put you off though,” he remarked. “Err, the island, I mean. I’m really glad you stayed.” He smiled warmly.
“Me too. This is home now,” she agreed, returning his happy expression. “With you... err, and Carmen, Inés, Christian... everyone.”
Max looked up from the travel guide he was reading.
”I was thinking, since you don’t have a car there’s probably still a lot of the island you haven’t seen, you know, apart from for work, and that doesn’t count. Would you maybe like to do some day trips together when the weather is better?” he proposed.
”What do you have in mind?” she asked, putting her novel down.
”Your choice,” he said as he passed her a guidebook.
”Well, I don’t want to dictate to you and Carmen what we all do with our time off,” she replied considerately. She also didn’t want it come across as her trying to muscle in on their relationship, eager though she was to spend more time with him.
”Oh, no, I meant just you and me,” he corrected her, hurriedly adding, “Carmen will be busy at the weekends, you know with the bar and her art.” He cursed himself internally - that was a perfect opportunity to let her know that he was no longer off limits, yet still he withheld the information. Why wasn’t he telling her?
”Oh, I see. Well, if Carmen doesn’t mind, I’d like to do that. I do need to explore a bit more.”
”Great! There’s loads to see and do: Alcúdia old town, Valldemossa, great seafood restaurants along the coast, boat trips, hiking in the mountains, ooh, and bodega visits, which will be a lot more fun if we’re not on duty. We could check out some fiestas too. Why don’t you make a list? You are itching to make this organised fun, I bet.”
”You know me too well,” she concurred. Better than anyone has, she mused.
Night began to draw in and, prompted by the urgency of his growling stomach, Max suggested they make dinner a team effort tonight. They amiably prepared a meal together of chicken and vegetables with a creamy white wine and thyme sauce. Miranda hadn’t really cooked with anyone before and she was enjoying picking up some tips from her more culinarily-experienced compañero. Max equally liked being able to share some of his knowledge with her.
Sitting back in his dining chair once their tasty concoction had been devoured, Max let out a sigh and beamed at Miranda. “Good job, partner!”
“Same to you, chef,” she replied. She narrowed her eyes and frowned. “You’ve got some on your cheek though. Just there.” She indicated the position on her own face, but he struggled to locate the stray sauce.
“Hold still,” she instructed. “I’ll get it.”
She reached out and laid her palm against his cheek, brushing off the smudge with her thumb. Their eyes met and her hand remained where it was, both their heart rates increasing rapidly. Max began to raise his arm to touch her wrist, but the sound of a knife clattering in the sink broke the spell and she rapidly recoiled. She got up hurriedly and crossed to the kitchen area to make a start on the washing up.
Max sank in his chair, his cheek still tingling where her hand had been. He wanted to make a move, but he was conscious of how easily she might be scared off. He should probably explain about Carmen first too... Would she be encouraged by him finally being single, he wondered, or would the news make her more nervous around him?
Kitchen tidied, they moved to the living room. Max shared that he’d found a few games in the same cupboard as the jigsaw and went off to get them. He returned a minute later holding up two boxes.
“Tonight you have a choice of activities: Scrabble or Twister?” he proffered with a flourish.
“You can’t play Twister with two people: it’d just be you spinning and then watching me contort myself on the floor,” she chided.
“Sounds great, let’s get started,” he replied wickedly.
Miranda raised an eyebrow in displeasure. “Very funny, Max.”
“What makes you think I was joking?” He tried to keep a straight face.
She shot him a dark glare.
“Ooookaaaaay, Scrabble it is then” he said, raising his arms in surrender.
“Yessss, I win!” Miranda declared with glee.
”Ja, but next time we play in German. Then we see how you good you are, Ms ultra-super-competitive,” he teased.
“Make it castellano and we have a rematch,” she told him, looking less triumphant since he’d pointed out her linguistic advantage.
”You’re on,” he agreed. “But not tonight. Get your coat on; we’re going outside for a bit.”
”What, now?” she asked in surprise.
“Yeah. It’s a clear night: we’re going stargazing.”
They dressed in their outdoor gear and went out to the courtyard. On the table Max had earlier put a bottle of cava and two glasses, all of which was well chilled by now.
“I don’t know much about the stars. I can only really point out Orion’s Belt and the Plough,” Miranda remarked.
“Same, but I got cava so we’re doing our astronomy in style at least,” he admitted. “Plus, I have an app.” He grinned as he held up his smartphone.
They drank their fizz as they stood close together, using Max’s phone to identify various star systems above them, their breath mingling and making clouds in the crisp night air. They managed to name a few constellations and some of the brighter stars.
Eventually the cold got to Miranda and she shivered, then stifled a yawn.
”I think I need to take you to bed,” Max declared. “Umm, you know what I mean.”
I wish I did, his partner thought.