In the spirit of the holiday and a wish for familial harmony, Irene Adler persuades her detective husband to invite his brother Mycroft to Christmas luncheon. Holmes had cut ties with his brother when he discovered the machinations Mycroft employed that drove Sherlock and Adler apart for four years. He isn’t really sure this reunion is a great idea, but he can deny his wife nothing.
Of course, they can’t tell the children what Mycroft is to them, as that would entail learning that their father is the celebrated detective when they know him simply as Lucca Sapori. And just when they think things may be going better than expected, ghosts of the past crop up in unexpected ways and threaten to ruin the holidays for everyone.
Sherlock and I purchased Ash Tree farm, located just outside Amberley on the beautiful Sussex Downs, in the spring of that year. The farm required extensive renovation, but we immediately fell in love with its rustic charm, the hills’ breath-taking views, and the rolling chalk grassland overlooking the River Arun.
Sherlock ordered the workers to carry out extensive repairs, including fence replacements for the ten acres of paddocks and fields and a new roof to the stable block. The main farmhouse benefitted from a refurbished kitchen, upgraded bathrooms, and replacement wooden flooring.
I came over from Milan in the summer to see how the renovations were going. I was excited at the prospect of spending our first Christmas there as a family on my husband’s home turf. With the renovations underway, Sherlock and I stayed at the Three Tunnes Inn, which was situated a mile from the farm. However, my husband had converted the shed at the bottom of the farmhouse garden into a den. One sunny afternoon, he took great delight in showing the den to me. Afterwards we walked around the fields and talked to the labourers replacing the fencing.
I had never seen Sherlock look so energised and alive as he spoke of his plans for the farm, showing me his outlines.
“Well, what do you think?” He gestured to the inside of the shed, which looked rather cosy with its taper candles, small table and chairs, and a comfortable-looking bed in the corner.
“It looks better than I first imagined,” I admitted. “But it’s still a shed. Why would you sleep here when you have a comfortable room at the Inn?”
“Because I like to supervise the labourers. There’s a lot to be done before Christmas, and I cannot always be here. I have to get back to Baker Street.” Sherlock sat on the bed and took my hand. “Sit with me.” He fixed me with a gaze of keen penetration, one with which I was so familiar.
“I know that look. You must be insane if you think I’m staying here with you tonight. Have you forgotten? You promised me dinner at the Royal Oak.”
“Yes, of course.” His eyes crinkled. “Very well, if that’s what you want. Although I did organise a picnic for our convenience.” He pointed to a large wicker basket sitting in the corner. “We have game pie, ham, wine, bread, and cheese. What more could we need?” He laughed, cupping my face with his hands and gazing into my eyes. “Where’s your sense of adventure? What happened to that girl in Fiesole who offered to live in a cave with me?”
“She would have back then, in a heartbeat.”
“And now?” he quizzed, gazing at me questioningly.
“That girl’s still here, but she now has two children.”
“Ah, but the children are not here with us now, they are in Milan. At least take wine with me.”
“Why not,” I replied. “What wine do you have?” I gestured towards the basket.
“It’s a Bordeaux from Château Cheval Blanc. It comes highly recommended.”
“Are you toying with me, husband? If I didn’t know better, I would think you were trying to lead me astray.”
“Well-deduced, Nene.” Sherlock laughed. “I rather think I am.”
He opened the bottle and poured out two glasses then handed one to me.
“This is excellent.” I sipped slowly from the glass, not once taking my focus off my husband.
His gaze was one of anticipation and expectation. I hesitated for a moment, enthralled by his eyes. Then, before I knew what he was about, he drew me in by the waist and pulled me to him. His lips brushed mine. They pressed down softly at first, becoming more urgent as his tentative fingertips stroked my face and neck.
I heard the bold, charismatic repertoire of a song thrush in the distance. The prick of the fresh hay in the field, my husband’s cologne, and the thrill of his touch were intoxicating. They reminded me of our first time together in Fiesole when we made a mark on each other’s souls which would stay with us forever, obsessed as anyone falling under the spell of love and all the madness that entails.
Suddenly Sherlock pulled away. He rose to his feet and reached for his cap. “Forgive me,” he said. “Come, let’s go back to the Inn and change for dinner.”
“Well, that’s a shame,” I said. “The man I fell in love with would never have given up that easily.”
He spun around to face me, staring at me with a burning intensity. “Well, in that case, Mrs Sapori, I would hate to disappoint you.”