STEELE CHAP

Trouble and strife - wife. Mince pies – eyes. Raspberry ripple – that one made her blush. She let the book drop softly into her lap.

Steele appeared at her elbow. "Boning up, I see. Cockney rhyming slang has an old and honorable history."

"Dishonorable is more likely." She re-opened the book to the preface. "Some expressions were used as code by the criminal classes to confuse the authorities."

There was something unbearably smug about the way he looked back at her.

"Don't. Past or no past, you're not going to get me to say it suits you."

A hand flew over his heart. "I'm crushed."

"If I memorize this entire lexicon will you retire Johnny Todd for good?"

"But, Laura, 'e's a diamond geezer. Give you the shirt off 'is back."

"Who would want it?"

"Eye of the beholder, me old china."

"His accent makes my ears bleed."

"I'll buy you some muffs." He grinned, working his jaw.

"Could you ditch the gum?"

He pried it loose and tossed it in the bin.

"Thanks."

"There are compensations." His lips brushed her cheek.

"Such as?"

"The leather jacket."

"Hmm. Can I borrow it on the weekends?"

"Anything for my push and shove. Love."