"Explain to me again why you felt the need to invite him to Christmas dinner."

"I told you, mother," Detective Casey Shraeger hissed at the woman who had given birth to her. "He's my partner. His girlfriend dumped him and he has no family in town."

Her mother frowned. "And that makes it your duty to look after him?"

"Dad likes him."

"Please, your father likes anyone who will discuss the Yankee's with him."

Casey peered into the living room where her father and several male relatives were listening to Jason Walsh tell a story, which, if she read the hand gestures right, did indeed involve baseball. Her female relatives were lolling around in various states of inebriated boredom while the children were running amok in other rooms.

"Think about it this way," Casey said, "Now I have someone to help me wrangle the kids when everyone else is too sauced and I won't have to harsh your buzz."

Her mother paused, then said, "Well, that makes sense then." Before returning to the party.

"Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward men," Casey murmured, giving her partner a supportive smile as she dropped into a chair nearby.

She wondered what it said about her and her family that she'd rather be hanging out in a decrepit diner, eating pork chops with a Skittles reduction, then here, about to be served a five star meal. Maybe, after the kids wound down from their sugar high, they could sneak off, catch a flick. It was Christmas after all. They deserved some fun.