A/N: The final chapter of this story! The short companion, entitled 'Gambling' and told from a different perspective, will be up over the weekend. Sorry this took longer than I promised, I kind of got stuck away from my valuable laptop!
'Thought you'd be going out celebrating with Lorna.'
Looking up at Mickey's comment, she finally realised that the office was empty aside from them and darkness had fully fallen outside. Dropping her pen onto the desk, she shrugged. 'Had to catch up on my paperwork.'
'Does that mean you're too busy for a drink then?'
She was about to decline when she noticed he was holding an envelope. 'Is that what I think it is?'
Glancing briefly to it, he nodded. 'Haven't opened 'em yet.'
'Could do with a bit of Dutch courage?'
'Mmm, something like that.'
'Well, I'll get my coat.'
When they were settled at the pub and the envelope was resting between them on the table like some sort of spectre, Mickey muttered, 'I don't know if I can do this.'
Jo sipped her drink. 'Look at it this way: you'll have to find the result out some time. Putting it off doesn't make it any less true, does it?'
'You training to be an agony aunt or something?'
She smiled sadly. 'No, couldn't do it.'
Mickey watched her for a few moments. 'What's going on, Jo? Why are you here with me and not with Lorna celebrating that she's officially a free woman?'
Pondering how to start, she eventually questioned, 'You want kids, Mickey? You want a family and to pass something on?'
'I think I do, yeah. Just never envisioned it being with a backstabbing two-timer,' he lamented with a small shrug.
'You sound like you already know what's in there,' Jo observed.
'Worse case scenario,' he replied.
'Would it be though?' she asked. 'I mean, you've got a chance to do something amazing and raise a kid… Oh, I don't know what I'm going on about.'
'What about you?' Mickey queried. 'Do you want a family?'
'Yeah, I… I thought I did. I was beginning to think I could handle it.'
'And, what, is that not what Lorna wants or something?'
She glanced up sharply. 'I don't… She's pushing me away and I don't know why. Well, actually, I think I do. She's got her girl to think of. Maybe me being around there'd be worse for everyone involved.'
'Nah, I don't believe that. You just need to give her time. She was nearly just locked up for attempted murder.'
Jo chuckled. 'Yeah, fair point.' Resting her fingers on the envelope, she said, 'You've gotta do this sometime.'
His features tightened. 'You do it.'
She raised an eyebrow. 'You sure?'
'I never will.'
Swallowing, she ripped at the brown envelope with her fingers. Pulling out the letter, she ran her eyes over it then placed it back on the table in front of Mickey. 'Congratulations. You've got a little boy.' When he just looked shell-shocked, she stood. 'I'll get you another drink.'
She and Mickey had stayed until the pub shut, both trying to blot out their own personal woes. They hadn't spoken much, which was fine by Jo. She didn't want to contemplate, she merely wanted to drink.
When she woke up the next morning she began regretting that philosophy. Her head was banging like she couldn't believe and, since the level of alcohol she'd consumed hadn't put her into as deep a sleep as it should've, she felt very delicate and irritable that particular morning.
At work she was aware she was she was close to snapping at everyone who made even a passing comment, but what at least consoled her was that she wasn't the only one doing it. Mickey appeared to be in a similar mood.
Diane, bringing her up a witness statement for a burglary early in the afternoon bluntly, and predictably, questioned, 'Are you alright? You look like hell.'
She threw her a glare but it softened into something akin to a desperate wince when she caught the look on the constable's face. She should've known that if she could decipher Diane then Diane could most probably decipher her. 'Not especially,' she admitted finally.
'You want a drink after work?'
'I'm sure you've got better things to do.'
'Nikki's at Rebecca's school play,' she answered. 'They're doing 'The Wizard of Oz'.'
Despite herself, Jo smiled. 'Rather her than me. Who's Rebecca playing?'
'She got miscast. As the Wicked Witch,' Diane added with a grin. 'Anyway, I'll meet you downstairs after the shift, okay?'
'So, what happened?' Diane asked frankly almost immediately after she'd placed the drinks on the table and taken a seat.
Shrugging, she took a sip of her drink to buy herself some time. 'What makes you think anything's happened?'
'Does that mean it's not true that you nearly battered Beth earlier?'
Jo winced. 'She was in the wrong place at the wrong time.'
'You nearly made her cry, you know.'
'Oh, I didn't, did I?'
'Come on, tell me what's going on,' Diane answered. 'It's Lorna, isn't it?'
Eventually, she nodded. 'Yeah. Yeah, it is. I suppose you could say we've gone our separate ways.'
'How'd that happen? I thought you were set on it. You put your job on the line, and you wouldn't do that for just anyone. I know that.'
'Yeah, well, I…' She was finding this difficult to discuss, even with Diane who had- albeit reluctantly- shared quite a lot with her in the past. Changing tack, she questioned, 'How do you get on with Nikki's kids?'
Diane let out her breath and picked up her drink. 'They don't hate me. I mean, they don't know that I did actually break up their parents' marriage but they associate me turning up with when it happened. I don't have too much to do with them, to be honest. Doug wouldn't like it and, anyway, Nikki doesn't need the aggravation.'
Jo half-smiled. 'Spoken like someone in love.'
'Mmm. Well, don't spread it about, eh?' Diane replied good-naturedly. 'So, is this what the problem is- Lorna's kid?'
'I don't know,' she answered truthfully. 'I don't know who the problem's with! She just… She's pushing me away and I don't understand why. I thought it might be to do with Sarah and not wanting me to get too close, but it might be something else, something I did maybe.'
'Jo,' Di said slowly, placing her glass back down the table, 'you've really fallen for her, haven't you?'
She finally shrugged. 'Trust me, eh?'
'Oh, I dunno. At least she wasn't married at the time.'
Jo nodded. 'Mmm, there is that. But… I don't know. For me, it started before the case. For her it could've just… happened. Spur of the moment thing. Comfort when she needed it, that kind of thing.'
'Do you really think that?'
'Not a clue at the moment,' she replied with a small shake of her head.
'Word of advice: if you want it?'
'Got no better ideas. Go on.'
'Okay,' Diane continued. 'I made two mistakes with Nikki, I reckon. One was pushing her too hard and the other was not being open enough with her. Just talk to her, Jo. Find out exactly where you stand. I tried not to do that because I knew what I had to lose but if you feel like you've lost her anyway…'
Vaguely hearing a noise above her, she made a conscious decision to ignore it. When it came again louder- someone noisily clearing their throat- she exhaled and looked up reluctantly. DI Nixon was stood in front of her desk. 'Is there a problem?'
'No, no. I just wondered what the status was on the Dowell rape allegation.'
'The suspect's gone to ground,' Jo answered. 'Grace is talking to his associates, I'm going through his accounts, to see if there's anyone he regularly has dealings with, any haunts etc. I'll keep you informed,' she added with a weak attempt at a smile.
'Yeah, I'd appreciate it.' After a moment, Sam rested her hands flat on the desk. 'Are you aware that Alexander McMartin hasn't been tracked down yet?'
'Mmm-hmm,' she said, trying to keep her voice as uninterested as possible. 'But he'll turn up. He can't stay off the radar forever.'
'I'm sure of it,' Sam agreed. 'But you probably ought to know: Edinburgh CID had enough to break into McMartin's flat because of his association with Anderson. He's now wanted for possessing around a hundred indecent images of children. It also looks like he took some of them as well.'
Jo slowly raised her eyes to look at her superior properly for the first time. 'Someone needs to tell Lorna.'
'I thought you might want to do it.'
'I don't think I'm the right person for the job, Guv,' she replied, glancing back down to her desk.
The DI nodded. 'That as may be, I think it's a bit insensitive to have some faceless uniform breaking the news, don't you? Particularly when we were all set to lock her up a few days ago.'
Jo almost smiled. She'd known Sam Nixon possessed this rather caring side to her, but it had apparently vanished in the last few months, especially since she'd been promoted. 'But I can't do it,' she finally muttered. 'It's not right for me to go round there, not with news like this.'
Standing straighter, Sam asked, 'Well, any preferences on who should break it?'
Jo frowned thoughtfully at the delegation. 'What about Nikki Wright? She's better at this sort of this thing than I am.'
Sam disappeared to take care of that and Jo watched the phone in its cradle for a while. She still hadn't heeded Diane's advice and called Lorna. If she left it until after the potential threat of Alex had been revealed then she might construe any attempt to contact her as merely a professional inquiry. She didn't want that. She needed… Well, she didn't know what she needed really, or what she wanted.
Making a sudden decision, she picked up the phone and dialled Lorna's mobile. It rang twice then went straight to voicemail, the call obviously having been rejected. Sighing, Jo waited for the beep then said, 'Hi, it's only me. I know you said you wanted some time with Sarah and I respect that, I do. I just… I wanted you to know that I'm around if you need me. And,' she went on, lowering her voice, 'I hope you don't think that I regret what happened, because I don't. Anyway, I hope you're both alright.'
Was that good enough, she wondered as she hung up the phone? At least it was too late to change the fact that she'd made the call.
Later that afternoon, as she made her way out of the station to locate a friend of the Dowell rape suspect, Jo was surprised to bump into Mia Perry entering the front office, complete with pram. Skidding to a halt, Jo held out a hand to stop her before she approached the desk. 'What are you doing here?'
Evidently not impressed at her curt greeting, Mia shrugged. 'I'm here to see Mickey.'
'Yeah, I know why you're here,' Jo replied. 'But I think you need to give him some time, don't you?'
'Look, I don't know what he's told you, or why for that matter, but it's between me and Mickey, no one else.'
'What, like you sleeping with the Super was between you and the Super? Things affect other people, you know. And maybe, just maybe, Mickey needed someone to talk to when you dropped your little bombshell.'
Mia was quiet for a minute. 'He needs to take responsibility.'
'Yeah, and he will! But, for the love of God, give him some time! You can't just turn up with a pram after all that's happened and expect him to be head over heels. You can't…' Trailing off, she recognised the significance of her next words before she spoke them. 'You can't walk into someone's life and expect to understand what's going on with them.'
Finally, Mia nodded. 'Can you ask him to call me when he's ready?'
'Course I will, yeah. Hey,' Jo added, touching her arm, 'I suppose I should say congratulations on your baby.'
'He's got Mickey's eyes,' Mia retorted before she left.
A couple of days passed and, having heard nothing from Lorna, Jo was becoming slowly resigned to the fact that particular avenue had closed before it had really opened. It was an annoying concept to swallow, especially since she still couldn't get the redheaded Scot out of her head. She wouldn't call again though. It was too much like begging, and if Lorna was only bowing to pressure then it meant nothing. If she wanted anything, it was equality, and she couldn't get that by going in there all guns blazing.
Having spoken to Nikki the day before she was satisfied, anyway, that Lorna could cope on her own. The way she'd reacted to the details of her ex-husband's life had been very clinical according to Nikki, but the sergeant hadn't been fooled completely. Lorna was scared, she said, but she was also dealing with her fear well enough to make it a powerful weapon rather than something to be held against her in the future. That was reassuring and made Jo ache once more for what she was missing out on.
Nikki passed her at the coffee machine as she was lifting her plastic cup up and, having seen her, backed up a few steps. 'Jo, you got a minute?'
The tone of voice worried her. Nodding, she followed the blonde into the Sergeants office and closed the door. 'What's wrong?'
'Just thought you should know, Lorna's been the victim of some harassment. She had a brick through the window early this morning.'
'Was anyone hurt?' she questioned immediately.
'No, Lorna and her daughter are both fine. But, well, you know who the top suspect is.'
Jo sighed and pressed her thumb and forefinger against her forehead. 'She needs protection! He's a known sex offender and he's after her daughter!'
Nikki gazed at her sympathetically. 'I've got patrols regularly passing the house. He won't try anything.'
Sitting heavily in the closest chair, Jo shook her head. 'It's the night I'm worried about.'
'I don't suppose there's much chance of you…'
When she looked up sharply, Nikki trailed off. 'What's Diane been telling you?'
'She hasn't told me anything,' Nikki answered. 'I just assumed with you not wanting to visit Lorna's the other day…'
'I'm sorry,' Jo interjected. 'I didn't mean to bite your head off. Me and Lorna aren't really in a great place at the moment. It's all a bit up in the air. I wanna be there for her but… Well, I don't think she'd let me, to be honest.'
After a moment, the sergeant shrugged. 'You could try. Nothing to lose.'
Jo let out her breath. 'You and Diane are more alike than I thought.'
Drawing the car to a halt, she got out immediately; aware that if she thought about it, she'd just as easily turn around and go straight back home. It was just that Nikki's words had struck a bit of a chord with her, and she hadn't been able to concentrate for the remainder of the day. She'd finally decided that she did have a legitimate reason for visiting Lorna and, she'd discovered, she desperately wanted to. The thought of Alex wandering around the streets was enough to make her protective streak leap into being and she needed to see that both Lorna and Sarah were safe.
Knocking on the door, she waited until Lorna opened it on the chain. 'Hi,' she said tentatively. The fact that she could only see half an eye through the crack was a mixed blessing- on the one hand, she couldn't decipher anything so she didn't feel quite so apprehensive but, on the other, she had little idea what reaction her appearance was garnering. 'Can I come in?'
The door closed and then fully opened. Lorna stepped away to let her pass before chaining and locking the door again. Turning back, allowing Jo to see the rings under her eyes, she questioned, 'What are you doing here?'
'Call it police protection,' she answered with a shrug. 'Look, I just wanted to see how you were. I'm sorry if that was out of line but…'
Lorna cut her off with a long sigh. 'It's not out of line at all, Jo. It's actually very nice of you considering.'
'I've been worried,' she admitted with a mild shrug. 'How's Sarah? Have you told her what's going on?'
The Scot shook her head. 'No. I probably should've but… How do you tell a young girl that her father's a… I can't understand it, I don't see how she could.'
The look on Lorna's face made Jo move forward and reach for her hand. 'He won't get to her. We'll catch him.'
Lorna glanced down to their joined hands. 'I got your message. I'm sorry I didn't call you.'
'You've had other things on your mind,' Jo said dismissively.
After what seemed like a long inner struggle, Lorna murmured, 'Sarah's upstairs doing her homework. I've got a bottle of wine in the fridge if you want to join me in drowning my sorrows.'
'It'd be my pleasure.'
When they were seated on the sofa, Jo recalled Diane's words about having nothing to lose by pressing the issue. Apart from not wanting to alarm or irritate Lorna at this precise moment in time. Yet, perhaps that made it the right time after all. They were seated a few inches away from each other. Making a decision, Jo turned onto her side so her shoulder was resting against the sofa.
Lorna seemed to shift uncomfortably. 'Jo, I…'
'What happened?' she interrupted simply. 'I thought we were getting along really well.'
Her cheeks flushing, the CSE nodded. 'We were. I can't deny that but… I suppose you want honesty do you?'
'It's always my preference.'
Finally, Lorna continued, 'I never trusted Alex completely, not after I opened my eyes about what he was really like. But hearing… Hearing what I have about him recently makes my skin crawl. And the terrible thing is that, eventually, I might've let him back into Sarah's life. When I saw him at the B&B I was angry with him, but I thought my anger came from what he'd done to me. That would've faded in time, Jo, and I might've… Sarah might've been put in harm's way.'
'You can't blame yourself for something that never happened,' Jo said quietly. 'It doesn't work like that.'
'But that's not my point,' Lorna replied. 'It made me realise how careful I've got to be. Sarah's my life, Jo. You know, she's what I do everything for. She was the one decent thing that came out of my marriage and I'm thankful I met Alex because of that fact every single day. So if I love my daughter that much, how can I knowingly put her in danger?'
Absorbing the words slowly, Jo questioned, 'You think I'm a danger to her?'
Lorna sighed. 'Jo, I know the job. There's no guarantee that you'll be coming home at the end of the day. And, I admit, that didn't just worry me because of Sarah. I've lived with uncertainty. Half the time I couldn't be sure whether Alex'd be coming home or not because he was so unpredictable. And the worst part of it was that I didn't want him home, but I had to want that for Sarah's sake.'
'I'm not planning on getting killed,' Jo said softly, playing with the rim of her wine glass with her left hand.
'But if Sarah gets close to you and something does happen…'
'Why are you living on ifs? Anything can happen when you look at it like that!'
'And you haven't got kids, Jo! You can't look at something in that way when you might leave someone behind to deal with it!'
Suddenly dragging herself to her feet, Jo walked over to the window and twitched the curtain. 'Are you hiding behind Sarah? I mean, are you the one that's scared?'
Lorna didn't speak for a long time. Then she said, 'I wanted it, Jo. You and me. I actually allowed myself to think of it for a minute. I've liked you for a long time, practically since I met you. But I couldn't let myself overstep that mark. I've been alone for a long time. You can't go from that to leaping into a casual relationship at the drop of a hat!'
'And how did you know what I wanted? You didn't ask.'
'I didn't want to ask. I was terrified of what the answer might be.'
Letting out her breath, Jo let the curtain fall back into place and took a sip of her wine before she turned around. 'I haven't looked at anyone seriously since Tess left. Well, I suppose you could say I left Tess. But I did it because it was my job and…' Quickly taking another sip, she then added, 'I regret it now. It was the wrong thing to do. But it happened and I learned from it. And I wouldn't do it again. I wouldn't put my work ahead of my happiness or anyone else's ever again.'
Lorna's head lowered a little and she refused to meet her eye. 'I didn't realise you felt that way.'
'You didn't ask,' she repeated, moving back to sit down next to the Scot. 'Sorry, I shouldn't be pressing it. You've got enough on your plate.'
When Lorna spoke, her voice was unsteady. 'Would you stay in the spare room tonight? I don't much fancy being here alone with Sarah while he's out there.'
She smiled. 'Of course. That means I can stop going easy on the wine as well.'
Despite the amount of alcohol she'd eventually consumed Jo was finding it difficult to turn her mind to sleep. She was too awake and, she knew, much too aware of who was a few doors down the hall from her.
Having practically reconciled herself to the fact that she wasn't going to get any closer to Lorna, this was a bizarre situation for her to be in. She half wanted to go down the corridor and see how things would play out, but that was a ridiculously selfish idea and she couldn't do it. Alex was still out there somewhere and the last thing Lorna needed was… Well, it was a bad idea anyway. But now she'd considered moving she recognised she needed the loo.
Slipping out of the bed she made her way down to the bathroom. A couple of minutes later, when she opened the door again, she found to her surprise, Lorna leaning against the doorframe of her own bedroom. Uncertain whether to speak, Jo found her mouth was too dry to even if she'd known what it was she wanted to say. Lorna looked absolutely gorgeous, bathed only in the light coming out of the bathroom. Jo felt her breathing quicken and she immediately tried to battle that back down, she was trying to keep herself distanced from this and…
Lorna suddenly stepped forward. Losing her notion of keeping her distance, Jo reached for her hand when it was close enough and pulled them closer together. When they kissed it was slow and exploratory and Jo felt her whole body giving in to the sensation.
'Yeah, I heard it,' she muttered, already slipping out of the warm bed and grasping for the makeshift sleep attire she'd dropped onto Lorna's bedroom floor a few hours earlier. 'I'll check it out. You call 999 then go in and sit with Sarah, okay?'
Lorna nodded and reached for her hand. 'Please be careful.'
She smiled briefly. 'Always.'
Going down the stairs as quietly as she could, she made sure not to turn a light on. She knew the darkness was her friend on this one. She knew the layout of the house better than Alex did and he also wouldn't be expecting her. The element of surprise had a lot going for it. At the bottom of the staircase, aware she was only in shorts and a t-shirt, she took one of Lorna's coats off the hook. Then she went through into the kitchen.
The brick that had careered through the kitchen window and woken them up was resting on the floor by the table. There was no evidence the door had been tampered with at all. Swiftly, Jo went over to it and unlocked it, pulling it open a little way. The air that drifted in was cool, it would've woken her up had she needed any further stimulus. Stepping out into the night, she heard a movement to her left and felt herself grabbed tightly around the waist and dragged down the back step onto the lawn.
'Don't struggle, Lorna!'
'Not Lorna,' she growled, garnering enough room to elbow him in the stomach. For good measure, she used her heel to press back harshly into his shin. He yelped and fell away. Turning, she immediately went for him before he could get himself back together. Kicking him to the floor, she pinned his arms behind his back. 'Hello, Alex.'
'Who the hell are you?'
'Call me the guard dog. Lorna had some extra protection put in, on account of her ex-husband being a piece of paedophilic scum.'
He groaned as she twisted his arm further. 'Get off me! I haven't done anything!'
'That's where you're wrong, mate. See, we know all about your little collection of child pornography, Alex. You're going inside. For a long time if I've got anything to do with it. You'll never see your daughter again, and I reckon that's all the better for her.' With that, she twisted his arm just that little bit further and smiled in satisfaction at the noise he made.
Closing the door on the final uniformed officer, Jo turned back to Lorna who was leaning against the banister. 'Sarah asleep yet?'
Her lover nodded. 'I don't think she was ever fully awake, which is a blessing. I don't think I could've explained her father being bundled into a police car like that. Or the blood on his face,' she added.
Jo shrugged. 'My hand slipped.' Moving forward, she wrapped her arms around Lorna's waist. 'He's gone and I doubt you'll have any trouble from him again for a long time.'
Lorna kissed her briefly. 'Thank you.'
'All part of the service.'
'Oh, so this was all your job?' Lorna challenged, arching an eyebrow.
'Of course,' Jo replied, grinning as a hand made its way round to massage her lower back. 'So… now it's over, I should probably go.'
The Scot refused to release her. 'Well, I'd rather you didn't.'
Jo's smile slowly faded as she thought over something that had been niggling her since her confrontation with Alex. 'Lorna, you were right, you know? This job's dangerous. Things could've easily gone wrong out there. Maybe you're right to be protective.'
After a moment, Lorna smiled and ran a finger down her cheek. 'But you came back. I think… I don't know. If I push you away, if I say no, then I'm letting Alex win, aren't I? Because I want to be with you, Jo. I think that's pretty evident.'
She smiled slightly. 'Well, I might've had an idea. Can I just clarify something?'
'Are you kicking me out tonight or not?'
Lorna shook her head. 'Nope.'
Jo nodded. 'Thank God for that.'
When Diane stopped her in the corridor the next morning, Jo could tell that she knew most, if not all, of what had gone on. A little on the defensive, but only half-heartedly, she questioned, 'What?'
'Heard you made an arrest.'
'In the middle of the night.'
Jo rolled her eyes. 'Do I stick my nose into your life?'
'Well, Jo, it has been known,' Di answered.
She conceded that with a shrug. 'Alright. Let's just say I talked to her, because I had nothing to lose, and we're okay.'
'What, only okay?' Diane queried, a wicked glint in her eye.
'Oh, shut up!' Jo muttered, laughing as she continued to walk towards CID. When she entered she saw Mickey with his head in his hands at his desk. Her jovial mood disappearing, she went over and pulled a chair up beside him. 'Penny for 'em.'
He looked up, allowing her to see the exhaustion on his face. 'I'd rather not if you don't.'
'Have you talked to Mia yet?' she asked carefully.
Shaking his head, he answered, 'I can't do it. I wanted to go round there last night. I got to the street and everything but…'
She sighed. 'If you want some company… I'm free tonight. We could go round together. Take the pressure off a bit.'
'Nah, you don't have to do that,' he said uncomfortably.
'I'd rather do that than sit here and look at your ugly mug for the next six months. Come on, Mickey. You've gotta get it over with.'
She was fairly surprised they'd made it to the front door given Mickey's demeanour for the entire journey. At one point she was sure he was going to make a jump for it at the traffic lights and she'd clicked the automatic locking… just in case. At least he'd got this far without bolting, so there was a minute chance he'd get through the door.
Mia answered after a few moments. She seemed surprised to find Mickey accompanied but nodded courteously anyway. 'Hi. Come in.'
Once inside, Mickey seemed to be fidgeting more but was evidently trying not to display his nerves to Mia. They went through to the living room where the little boy was grizzling in his cot. Mickey had his eyes focused on his son and stepped forward, only to step back again.
'You can hold him if you want, Mickey,' Mia said quietly.
After examining Mickey's face, Jo muttered, 'How about a cuppa? I could give you a hand.'
Mia finally nodded and Jo followed her into the kitchen. While she was filling the kettle, she asked, 'How is he?'
'Well, he's here. More than that, I couldn't tell you.'
'Thanks, Jo. For getting him here.'
'Don't thank me. I was just the taxi driver.'
A few minutes later, when they went back through, they found Mickey sat on the sofa cradling baby Michael. He glanced up as they came in. 'How is he? Is he healthy?'
Mia smiled and placed two mugs down on the coffee table. 'Mickey, he's fine. Healthy as anything.'
Jo took a proper look at the kid who was surprisingly content in a stranger's arms. 'He's gonna be a right charmer.'
'Like his dad,' Mickey said softly. 'Ain't that right, mate?'
Placing plates in front of Lorna and Sarah, Jo then went to get her own before she sat down. 'Don't expect miracles,' she warned. 'If it's edible I'll be impressed.'
'It doesn't look burnt,' Sarah said examining the meat.
'Ah, but does it look cooked?' Lorna queried innocently.
Jo threw her a look. 'Let the girl decide for herself!'
'I think it's only fair to be cautious. I'll have to deal with the food poisoning after all.'
'Don't listen to her, Jo,' Sarah said quickly. 'I think it looks great.'
When Jo looked up she met Lorna's eye and smiled. She did have a slight suspicion that the carrots were hard and the gravy was lumpy but she doubted it mattered all that much. She knew there was plenty of time to improve.