Alec Hardy and the shop girl

Just after the aftermath of Joe Miller's arrest, Ellie Miller finds herself relying too much on her grumpy ex boss Alec Hardy and contemplates if he asks her, to start seeing him socially but he moves out of Broadchurch to a small village a few miles up the coast and rents a flat close to the sea, and discovers his new neighbour – shop manager Rose Tyler, much to Ellie's dismay.

Just after Joe's arrest, Ellie Miller finds herself relying too much on her grumpy ex boss Alec Hardy and decides if he asks her, to start seeing him socially but he moves out of Broadchurch to a small village up the coast and rents a flat close to the sea, and discovers his new neighbour – shop manager Rose Tyler (who never met The Doctor), much to Ellie's dismay.

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Chapter 1
Comedy love triangle with Alec in the middle of three women vying for his attention – who will win his recently mended heart?  Throw in one ex-boyfriend who gets jealous when he attempts to win back his ex-girlfriend and a now jealous ex-wife who has become interested when her daughter wants to start seeing her father again after he has life-saving surgery and wants to re-open an old case they had both worked on and a jealous husband who accuses his wife of having an affair with Alec.

Ellie Miller was finally free of the investigation and the aftermath and was considering divorcing herself from her murderous husband but first she needed to get her life back together.

She had wanted Tom to go back home with her but he still insisted on living with his Aunt Lucy and she had been offered a job in Exeter but it meant an hour or so's journey each way and now there was no-one to look after Fred, she didn't trust her sister so she was going to have to find a sitter near her new station and hope for the best.  At least she could claim child-care and travelling expenses while she looked for a one bedroomed flat near her new job.

Alec Hardy had been invalided out pending getting himself a pacemaker.  The game was up but at least he had put Danny's killer behind bars and had lived to tell the tale.  The CMO had referred him to the hospital in Exeter and since there was nowhere left for him to go, he had to reluctantly agree on the condition his room was kept at the Trader's and when he came back, he could go back to work part time but was told it may not be in Broadchurch until he was completely fit so he took the time to look up accommodation outside Broadchurch and nearer to Exeter as he was told he would probably be tutoring new recruits because it wasn't too strenuous and before he knew it, Miller had driven him to the hospital and to everyone's surprise, he had come through it.

Ellie had visited him before he was released and had come to pick him up to help him move out of the hotel and into a two bedroomed flat near the coast in Charmouth, a few miles up the coast from Broadchurch.  Ellie had said though that since he didn't like water, he was punishing himself still by choosing to live near it again to which he had just huffed and told her to mind her own business.  After his release from hospital, staying at the Traders for a week until his new flat was ready, Ellie considered they had become better friends than when they worked together and had nicknamed themselves 'The former detectives club', them being the only two members and weren't letting anyone else in so the day he was supposed to move in, Ellie was fussing over him having trusted her youngest son to her sister for the day and Alec had collected all his belongings.

"So is someone meeting you there?" Ellie asked as they loaded everything into her car.  She had taken the day off to move him.

"Yes, it's all arranged so stop nagging so much, let's just get it over with.  I'll have to call at the local store to get essentials though I expect it will be expensive."

"That's why they're called convenience stores Hardy."

They drove the few miles up the coast and turned down the coastal road until they reached a few houses and apartment blocks and turned into the driveway of the one Alec was moving into.  It was a large place with two balconies on each of the four storeys, Alec's was on the first floor.  So was Rose Tyler's.  He had been lucky to get the place, it hadn't been advertised but the agency had let him know and he'd grabbed it while he could and since he was still on medical leave, he was getting it paid for.  He had a month to recover before he started his teaching job for three months before he could go back to work properly and hopefully, Joe Miller's hearing would be over, he'd confess and there would be no trial, well not unless the idiot thought he was going to get away with it.

Alec decided to leave his unpacking and walk back up to the mini market on the main road and get what he needed.  Once they arrived, Ellie went off to get a few things and met him back at the counter.  Rose Tyler was sat in her office getting her head around the new ordering system that head office had come up with but decided at that moment since she was going to have to learn it, so was the assistant manager Adam so he in turn to could teach the night manager.

She spied a couple at the counter, a tall man with a scruffy beard and a woman with a bright orange anorak and curly hair who looked like they were together and thought nothing of it until a few days later when the couple came in again with a small boy around two years old.  It was Friday, Ellie had just called in to see if Alec had settled down and she had found a place in Exeter and was preparing to move in over the weekend which would save her commuting and had secured a new child minder for young Fred.

Going back to his flat before she headed back to Broadchurch for the last time, Fred had fallen asleep on Alec's sofa and she was drinking coffee, something Alec had to buy especially for her since he had no taste for it now.

"I'm going to go through the case again Miller, make sure nothing is left to chance, we don't want him getting off on a technicality do we now?"

Ellie nodded her agreement and was contemplating telling Hardy what else was on her mind.  She had toyed with the idea of suggesting she moved in with him since they now spent a lot of time together and it was heading for the winter months, well it was six weeks since Joe's arrest and if they had been keeping each other company since her husband was locked up, they were close enough to being friends.  She was never one for being subtle but neither was Alec Hardy.

"So, you're in a new place, I'm moving in a new place, shame we're so far away now."

"It's not that far Miller, we both need some space after all that happened.  Let's just get the hearing out of the way.  I'll see you when they call us for it."

"Oh I thought I'd keep popping in on my way back from seeing Tom.  I wish I could afford a place like this, what's so special about you?  You could have offered to share."

Alec raised his eyebrows.  "Seriously Miller?  That's not a good idea and you know it, what would people think?"

"That we're two friends sharing a flat and why did you get a two bedroom one anyway?"

"Because that's all they had and I hoped my daughter would come for a visit, now she's answering my phone calls.  Why else do you think I got it?  Really Miller, you're making something out of nothing, what were you thinking I'd got it for?"

She didn't want to tell him after that but she decided if he did want to make something of it, she wasn't going to complain, she could do worse than Alec Hardy, SOCO Brian for starters and her husband.  If Hardy wasn't taking her seriously, she would have to pay more attention to him and make a fuss of him and drop in on a regular basis.  Ellie left after Fred woke up and Alec went about organising his new flat how he wanted it.  Then he was going to take a walk down the road to see just how far he was from the actual coast.

Rose was just leaving work, thinking about the man she had seen earlier but he was with that woman and that boy so she didn't know why.  Still, it was her weekend off so she was going to go do her main grocery shop and maybe go take a walk on the beach and for October, it wasn't really bad weather.  Somehow or another, neither Rose or Alec realised they lived on the other side of the landing from each other.

Ellie was kept busy over the weekend and had to go back to work on Monday, her, Ellie Miller busted back to traffic cop but she had chosen it, not ready to be dealing with domestic fights and the local hooligans or other incidents and she got to drive most of the time.  It was a shame Hardy couldn't drive yet, she would be waiting on the county border for him to cross over and issue him a ticket, then he would have to try and get out of it and she would actually enjoy that.

Rose Tyler was going to be the least of Alec's problems as was Ellie Miller as he received a text on Monday morning from Claire Ripley, the witness he had been protecting from her estranged husband and main suspect in his previous failed case.

The text told him she believed her husband had got hold of her new number and had left her missed calls.  Alec phoned her back.

"What do you want Claire?  If Lee had come back, I would have been informed.  It can't be him."

"Can't you come down Alec?"

He didn't want to tell her where he had moved to or that he'd just recovered from major surgery.

"I can't Claire.  Just carry on and keep working, stay with people and you'll be fine."

"I miss you Alec, why don't you come down any more?"

"You don't need me Claire, I'll check on you in a couple of days."

"I do need you, what if he's back?  I'm scared Alec."

"Everything will be ok, don't worry.  As soon as Lee sets foot in the country, I told you, I'll know."

Claire rang off but wasn't happy.  Why was he so reluctant to travel a few miles to see her, unless he'd moved?  She had her ways of finding that out.  She would use the same charm she had used on him to get what she wanted, that was what she did and she was good at it.

Alec decided he would take a walk up to the shops and maybe get himself something for his lunch and he was going to have to find which was the nearest supermarket, probably the one back in Broadchurch knowing his luck.  He decided to walk, it wasn't far and he knew he really should see about hiring a car but maybe they would ask some medical questions but he was going to go crazy if he didn't start getting out and it hadn't been that long since he came out of hospital.

As he walked into the store, he noticed a blonde woman wearing a manager's badge who smiled at him as she passed on her way back to her office and he smiled back.  Maybe she had seen him in with Miller and her young boy and he hoped the woman hadn't thought they were together, something that could have been easily assumed.  He wondered if she lived locally, he wouldn't mind asking her out for a drink, if she didn't think he was married.  He was about to leave when she came out again so he nodded and grunted a quick 'Morning' to her.

"Hi, I saw you a few days ago, are you on holiday at one of the camp sites?"

"No, I just moved here."

"Right, are you and your wife finding your way around ok?"

She did think he was married so he was quick to correct her.

"No, that wasn't my wife, just a friend, she was helping me move."

Rose smiled.  "Sorry, my mistake.  Well maybe I'll see you around then?"

"Maybe, I hope so.  Can I buy you lunch?"

"Wow," Rose thought, "He's not wasting any time."

"I don't get off until one but I can meet you in the café though I normally don't go out."

"Well maybe you can make an exception then, just this once?"

"Ok then, I'll meet you at the old bank café, just down the road."

Alec could hardly believe he had asked a woman out after all this time, even though it was only lunch but Miller might be a bit annoyed since she had practically asked him if she and her young son, what was his name again, if she could move in with him.  Since there was over half an hour to wait, he decided it was too far to walk back home and go back so he decided to look around some of the shops and maybe come back later to pick up a few things for his new kitchen and maybe some pictures for the bare walls Miller had said were in need of decoration.  He found the café and ordered a pot of tea and waited for his guest.  When she arrived, the staff at the counter seemed to know her and they ordered lunch, Alec offering to pay since he had invited her when the waitress came with the bill.

"So, how long have you been the manager at the store then?" Alec asked, he wasn't one for small talk.

"Four years, worked my way up.  I came down from London on holiday with my mum and I liked the place so I took a caravan for a few months until I could afford my own place and got made night assistant manager then I got promoted.  People don't tend to stay too long."

"So you left the big city behind, don't you find it boring?"

Rose smiled.  "No, I keep busy, got my own place now, go out a couple of nights to the pub but I like to stay in and watch TV so it suits me just fine.  You, you're a long way from home.  What's your name then?"

"Sorry, it's Alec, Alec Hardy, did you not recognise me?"

"Should I?  Are you famous or something?"

"Or something.  I was given the title of the worse cop in Britain a while back."

"Really?  I'll get you a t-shirt with it printed on."

"That was what my colleague said, the one that was in your store with me the other day, we worked together on the Danny Latimer case."

"Oh, you're that Alec Hardy," she smiled.

"How many are there?"

Rose was about to call him a smartass but he had offered to pay for lunch. 

"So it's all over now?  You caught the killer?"

"Yes, just waiting for it to go to court then who knows where I'll end up.  I'm on medical leave so after the customary probationary period of me teaching recruits, I'll be back on the transfer list, maybe to go back to Broadchurch until someone else is prepared to take me on.  I just moved down to a flat near the coast, down Sea Lane."

"Oh.  I live down there, don't say you're my new neighbour, I know someone just moved in opposite me."

"Well I may just have to organise a flat-warming party then."

"I may have to complain if it gets too rowdy," Rose mused, finishing her latte.  "I have to get back to work, maybe I'll call in on you on my way back one evening?"

"Fine.  May I cook something for you then, what time do you get home?"

"Just after six though I'm a grump when I get home, I might not be very good company."

"Well I've been told I'm a grump all the time so you'd be excellent company.  Why don't you bring a bottle of wine with you?"

"Ok, I'll do that that, Alec Hardy.  I'm Rose Tyler by the way."

"So your name badge said and sorry for making you think I was with Miller."

"Would that be Mrs?"

Alec smiled.  "You really don't know much about that case in Broadchurch, do you?"

"You can tell me over dinner.  I guess you'll be coming back into the store then?"

"Yes, how embarrassing is that?  I'll have to get a taxi back down to the large supermarket down in Broadchurch, that's the nearest one isn't it?"

"Yeah, I go down on Saturdays or sometimes I go to Exeter for a change, we could share a taxi?"

"I was thinking of renting a car, I could take you, if you wanted?"

"Ok, I'll think about it, neighbour."

Alec followed Rose back to the shop, Rose went back in her office, hoping he hadn't been just trying to dodge the woman he had been in the store with and Alec putting various ingredients into a basket and hoping he didn't get asked why he already had a shopping bag with the name of the store on it but Rose would vouch for him.  He set off back home after calling at the florist to get a bunch of assorted flowers to give her, forgoing the chocolates as he had gone overboard on his last dinner invitation to the Miller house and went to start tidying up and preparing for his dinner guest.

Rose was smiling all afternoon, Adam, Julie and Becky all trying to guess what had brought it on and were having bets that their manager had a hot date with the mysterious tall man with the scruffy beard who she had talked to earlier and who had followed her back in after she actually went out for lunch, something she rarely did unless her mother was staying.

All Rose had to do now was hope either her mother wouldn't want another late holiday or her loser of an ex didn't pick this time to travel all the way from London to try to get her to make up with him again and never took no for an answer and Alec was just praying that Miller wouldn't stop in on some pretence or Claire wouldn't call him or find out where he was now living because tonight, he had a hot date with a blonde.
Chapter 2
Rose called home first to get changed and then rang Alec's doorbell.

"Hi, I'm not too early am I?  I thought I'd go get changed first."

"No, it's fine, come in."  He picked up the flowers from the table in the hallway. "These are for you."

"Wow, thanks, this bottle of wine is to share, hope you like red?"

"Thanks, I made beef bolognaise, hope you like it, I'm not very adventurous, had about two years when I couldn't eat rich food.  I'm just learning again, think I'll have to buy a cookbook."

He took the wine from her and showed her into the living room, which was almost the exact same as hers apart from the bare walls.

"You need some pictures up on the walls, if you like, I can help you choose some and a mirror in the hallway gives extra light and makes it feel bigger."

"Thanks, I was looking in the shop near where you work, they have some nice things in there, bit expensive though.  I'm having a car delivered tomorrow so maybe I'll go to Exeter or somewhere and have a look around.  Maybe if you're not doing anything next Saturday, you could come with me and go to the supermarket on the way back?"

Rose smiled.  "Yeah, maybe."

She had not been expecting to be asked out for a home cooked meal let alone for a shopping trip on her day off.  This was going to take some thinking about, she was used to being on her own.

"Well I'll have to find my way to and from Exeter anyway, I'll be travelling there on a regular basis soon, I take up a post teaching at the police academy there plus I may have a court case to attend."

"Whatcha doing teaching recruits, did you annoy someone?"

Alec placed a plate in front of her and opened the wine bottle.  He smiled. 

"No, that's what I get for not telling my boss I needed major heart surgery.  Now I have to wait to go back to work properly so instead of going crazy, I opted for the teaching job plus I'll be on hand if I need to attend court."

"Mmm, this meal is good Alec, thought you weren't much of a cook?"

"I have time on my hands now, have to put it to some good use, I got the recipe online.  Aren't you going to ask what was wrong with me?"

"You'll tell me if you want to."

Alec's message tone went, another text from Claire.  When he got his car he was going to have to go down and drill it into her she was just being paranoid.  What did she want with him?  Well he knew what she wanted, she manipulated men in her life and was out to try it with him.  Well he was going to tell her she was wasting her time and maybe now he could use his new neighbour as an excuse.  There again, that may make Claire even worse.

Maybe he would have had a chance at getting Tess back if he hadn't been engrossed in hiding Claire from her husband, Tess surely thought he was also having an affair as he had done nothing to encourage Tess to go back to him.  Claire was part of the reason he had taken the job in Broadchurch but she had been fairly quiet all that time, why start now?  She had a good job running a hair salon, not her own like she used to have but it was mostly left to her to run the place, she even used to give him free haircuts on his visits.  Now it was growing again, his fringe was getting too long and he needed a shave, well at least his beard trimming.

His neighbour was giving him the eye, that was three women who were potentially vying for his attention and up until now, Rose was already way ahead.

"Sorry, just a friend I'm looking out for, they're just a bit paranoid."  The message tone went again.  It was already annoying him since this morning, he'd had six messages from her, all ending with him replying to her with 'Get a grip of yourself Claire' the last few times.

"I'm really sorry Rose, I have to reply to this or she'll be doing this all night."

Rose smiled.  "Don't worry about it.  An old girlfriend, current one?"

That was it, the last he would see of Rose. 

"No, nothing like that, she was a witness in a case and she thinks her husband is trying to find her, he was the main suspect but it all fell apart."

"Oh, sorry.  It's none of my business anyway, answer her, she's probably just scared."

Alec just answered with 'Will call on you tomorrow' to which he got the answer 'Looking forward to your visit.'

He wasn't looking forward to it, seeing a still married woman was not his 'thing' and even though she had so far not tried anything with him, it was only a matter of time before she did, then if her husband did find out it would make things even worse.  Then there was the question of Miller, who had been acting very strange lately like going shopping with him, hinting about sharing and divorcing her killer husband.  It was not a good sign and now Rose, who was smiling at him would expect him to accept a dinner invitation back for the one he had extended to her.

The meal over, Alec brought out some luxury ice-cream he had bought from her store and made some tea.  They sat on the sofa, Alec saying he would clear the dishes later but Rose insisted she would help before she left.

"So what's that court case you may be going to, is it about that woman you were texting?"

"No, the one from Broadchurch a few months back."

"Oh, that one, sorry.  I should have recognised you really but I think your beard has grown a bit since then, you look different."

Alec rubbed his chin, she was right. 

"Well I was ill back then so maybe that had something to do with it.  Since I'm getting a car tomorrow, would you like to go out for a drink tomorrow night?  I can wait for you to finish work."

"There are pubs on the main street you know," she smiled.

"Well they will all probably know you and I'm new around here, maybe we can go some place else?"

It didn't take long for her to say yes.  They talked a while until Rose reminded him about the dishes and they cleared up.  Alec decided to put one of the few CD's he owned on and hoped she liked songs from the 1940's.  She did and hinted that they danced, not that he'd done much recently, not being able to but as they got up and swayed to the music, he found he hadn't quite forgotten.  The evening ended all too soon for his liking but at least she didn't have far to go.  She gathered her  purse and scribbled her number on the pad in the hallway.

"Call me tomorrow, I finish at six, tell me when you're setting off but I would rather go get changed first."

"Ok, I'll pick you up and give you a ride home, save you walking then call for me when you're ready."

She reached to touch his beard. 

"Don't take this the wrong way Alec but I would really love to see what you look like under all that.  Goodnight, I had a really nice time and keep the wine, you might want to invite me again and maybe next time, I can cook something for you, maybe on Saturday night?"

"I enjoyed the evening and yes, you're invited again.  Goodnight Rose, I'll stay here until you get inside."

She reached up and kissed his cheek and was inside before he had chance to give her his number.  He just hoped when he called her she would answer.  Rose was blushing when she closed the door.  She never expected the man who had taken her out for lunch and then spontaneously invited her for dinner was a Policeman but he hadn't said what rank he was though if he was teaching recruits, it had to be at least sergeant, maybe a detective.  She hoped she would get to know tomorrow night.

The next morning, Rose was looking forward to being taken out and staff and regulars alike were wondering why she had a smile on her face all day and wondered if she would disappear for lunch again.  Alec was not having such as good a day though as his car arrived and he set off to go visit Claire.  She greeted him, coming out of the cottage he had rented for her.

"You should be at work Claire."

"Says you, what have you been doing?"

She was referring to his almost non-existent beard that was now back to about two days growth.

"Never mind me, what have you got so worked up about, show me your phone."

"I didn't call the number back and the first two came up with 'number unknown'.''

"They're probably just trying to sell you something.  Is it your day off?"

"No, I rang in sick yesterday, I can't work, I panicked.  Can't you stay with me Alec?"

He knew what she was up to and it wasn't going to work, not now he was taking his new neighbour out tonight and hoped to get to know her a little better.

"I told you Claire, you know why I can't stay.  Just try to go back to work, you still need to pay for this place, I can't pay it for you all the time, we agreed I would just help you out until you were working and now you are but if you keep taking time off, you'll lose your job and this place."

"You vouched for me, it's in your name."

"Well it doesn't mean I'm going to keep on paying, I'm not on full pay any more."

"Why, what happened?"

He wasn't going to tell her. 

"I moved out of the hotel and I have to pay for my own place now, I took a new job.  I had my reasons."

"And you're not going to tell me?"

"Look, why did you get me down here?"

"I told you, I'm sure he's back.  Where did you move to Alec, can't I come and stay with you?  He'll never find me if you're there."

"No Claire, I'm not telling you where I live so forget it.  I'm going to be busy soon, I have that court case coming up.  If there's nothing else, I have things to do."

"Leaving so soon?  Can't you stay a bit longer?"

"I'm leaving Claire and stop texting me all the time."

"Why, was I disturbing you last night?"

"Yes, you were.  I'll call back next week, if you're worried, call Tess or the Broadchurch Police Station."

"I'd rather call you Alec, you listen to me." 

She put her hands on his jacket lapels.

He moved them as fast as she put them there.  "Bye Claire."

She huffed as he turned around.

Just before six, he called the number Rose had scribbled on the notepad and waited for her to answer.  Rose was having a mini crisis, the night manager's car had broken down and she was waiting for a breakdown service to arrive, five miles up the road.  So Rose was pacing up and down the store, much to the night staff's amusement as they usually only saw her for a few minutes before she left and one of them was a cheeky nineteen year old girl called Carly.

"Got a hot date Miss Tyler?" Carly grinned, looking at Ben, who was only just a bit older than the girl but was just as bad.

"Maybe and no, I'm not leaving before Mrs Bates arrives, she'll be here soon."

Just then her phone rang and she didn't recognise the number, forgetting it may be Alec, her new neighbour and rather dishy at that and thought for some reason Andrea Bates was ringing from another phone.

"I hope you're calling to say you'll be here soon, I'm in a hurry."

"Really?  How did you know it was me?" came a soft Scottish voice.

Rose retreated into her office and closed the door.

"Oh, I'm so sorry Alec, I thought you were the night manager again, her car broke down and she was waiting for the recovery to get to her, it's busy up on the main road at this time."

"And I thought it was a lucky guess.  So I won't set off just yet then?"

"Maybe I should just walk down, it will be easier, there's never anywhere to park around here."

"Well if you call me back and wait a few minutes, I can be there by the time you get out."

"If you insist but I don't want to be any bother."

"You're not any bother.  Why don't we get something to eat while we're out, do you know somewhere?"

"There are a few places though I haven't been to any of them, we could try one. Actually, you can set off now, she just walked in."

"Ok, I'm on my way, I'm driving a black Nissan."

"I think I'll be able to spot you."

Rose briefed her replacement and got her jacket, the two night staff were grinning and placing their bets Rose was going to get lucky tonight.  She saw a black Nissan pull up a little further down and walked towards it, Alec waving to her.

"Are you sure you want to go get changed?  You look fine."

That was easy for him to say in his blue shirt and black casual trousers and jacket, he'd look good in anything Rose thought.  So this was not an actual 'date' then?  Alec followed the road and turned left when he reached the main road and drove for about twenty minutes, past the roundabout leading off towards Lyme Regis and spotting a white painted pub, he pulled into the car park.

Over their meal, Rose having now put his mobile number into her phone, she told him a bit more about where she came from, omitting the whole ex boyfriend who kept pestering her every so often when he fell out with his current girlfriend and Alec told her about some of his past, not too much.

"You must miss your daughter then?" Rose asked, finishing her drink.

"Well I hope when I get this court case sorted, I can go visit her.  So what about you?  Do you miss your family?"

"There's only really my mum and a few relatives in London."

"You don't have much of an accent now."

"Oh, it depends on what part of London you come from for the accent.  I like yours by the way, I thought you'd be difficult to understand."

"Thanks though my ex colleague says I tend to mumble a lot."

Rose smiled.  "Well you're not mumbling now.  Can I ask you something?"


"What happened to you Alec?"

"I was ill and I did nothing about it, almost left it too late but I finally saw sense and got myself sorted, just over a week ago and here I am.  My friend was helping me move and no, there's nothing between us."

He hesitated to say not that Ellie Miller hadn't been hinting lately but so had Claire.  All he needed now was Tess back in the picture.  He'd had to inform her he had moved recently in case Daisy decided she wanted to contact him but he was hoping she wouldn't care to visit.  They finished their drinks and made their way back just after nine, Alec hoping to get invited into her flat tonight.  His luck held as she opened the door for him to follow.  She had been right, he did need to decorate his place.  He was hoping he might at least get to kiss her goodnight this time.

After sitting on the sofa and Alec pouring them some wine Rose had half a bottle of, Rose got up and put on some music.  It seemed Alec's dancing skills were not as bad as he had initially thought.  As they danced, Rose kicked off her shoes making Alec seem even taller as she put her arms around his neck and leaned into his chest.  He was liking this a lot as he put his arms around her waist and moved in time to the music.  An hour later, Alec had successfully steered her to the sofa and with his arms still around her waist and hers still around his neck, he was kissing her cheek then slowly made his way onto her neck, just catching her ear and he was driving her crazy.

"You never said you liked my new haircut Rose and I even shaved a bit off my beard for you."

"Mmm, I had noticed and I do like the haircut, it makes you look younger."

She moved her head and unfastened another of his shirt buttons and began kissing his neck.  Alec thought finally they were getting somewhere although the last hour or so had been pleasant to say the least.  Rose moved to look at him and his gaze met hers.  Slowly, she edged herself up until their lips were a fraction apart until Alec closed the gap, taking a chance.  It paid off as his lips brushed hers lightly then as she gave way, the kiss deepened and lasted for a few moments.  Then Rose moved on him to let him move his head as he angled to kiss her again, this time it lasted longer as Alec tried to get her down the side of the sofa without falling off, their legs now tangled together as Rose slid down the gap.

She reached to undo some more of his buttons as he fumbled with her blouse, revealing her skimpy black bra as she ran her finger across his chest, seeing his scar.

"What happened?  You never told me."

"Pacemaker.  Don't worry, I'm fine, it hurt for a bit but the pain's gone now.  Maybe you could kiss it better for me?"

Rose smiled and leaned over and began kissing around it.

"Now why didn't I meet you before?" he smiled back.

"Maybe because you just moved in next door?" she grinned, looking up at him.

He smiled again, she was too young for him but she made him feel young again, he'd spent far too much time on his own without any female company.  She pulled his shirt out of his trousers and finished with the buttons, revealing a splattering of hair as he fumbled to finish unfastening her blouse and on doing so, shuffled around so he was hovering over her and staring at her cleavage.  Then without warning he nipped at the exposed skin, Rose gasping and reaching her hands to his hair, ruffling it.

All too soon, Alec insisted that he left before things got too steamy for a first proper date.

"Can I make you dinner again tomorrow night?  Only I invested in a recipe book today."

Rose smiled as she fastened her blouse.

"Ok, tomorrow night then but on Thursday night, I cook though I may have to make something quick so I don't know what you'll end up with."

He leaned down to kiss her, some shirt buttons still undone but he didn't have far to go.  Rose ruffled his newly cut hair again and he was glad he'd invested some money earlier when he had got back from visiting Claire and not asked her to do it.

"Goodnight Rose, I'm sure anything you cook will be just fine."

"Goodnight Alec, I had a great time."

"Me too, I'll collect you at six."

Rose kissed him again and Alec crossed the landing.  It was after eleven and he was about to go to bed when his doorbell rang.  Thinking it was Rose who had changed her mind and wanted to do some more of that brilliant snogging from a while ago, he opened the door to find Ellie Miller standing there, staring at him with his shirt half undone.

"Catch you at a bad time did I?" she asked.
Chapter 3
"Miller, what are you doing here? It's gone eleven."

"Been at my sister's, Fred's staying there tonight, he fell asleep.  My child-minder let me down and I was on my way back, thought I'd call in.  Aren't you going to offer me a drink?"

"What?  When you're driving?"

"I don't mean that kind of drink you wally.  What are you doing with half a bottle of wine?"

"Mind your own business Miller.  For your information, I had some company last night and I've just been out and I want to go to bed."

"Fine.  I wanted to ask you a favour.  Can you look after Fred sometimes?"

"What?  Are you trying to be funny Miller?  What would I do with a two year old?"

"You brought up your daughter didn't you?  It's just until I find another minder.  It's that or I have to pay my sister and travel backwards and forwards."

"I'm sorry, I can't do it, I'm barely back on my feet and this apartment's hardly the place for a young boy."

"Then you'll have to put up with me calling in then."

"About that Miller.  It's not a good idea for you to be calling in late at night, people will get the wrong idea."

Ellie laughed.  "Since when have you been bothered about what people say?"

"I'm the one who has to live here, remember?"

"So would these 'people' be anyone in particular?"

"None of your business Miller.  Now if that's all, maybe it's time you went home?"

"Ok, I know when I'm not wanted.  You should have taken me up on the offer to share or was there a no kids clause in your rental agreement?"

"I think you'd best leave, don't you?  I'm sure you'll find someone qualified to take care of your son."

"That's easy for you to say.  Oh don't tell me you're scared of changing nappies now?"

"Goodnight Miller," Alec replied, opening the door.

"Don't you miss female company Alec?"

"It's being taken care of." 

He really hoped Rose would not realise he had a late night visitor or he would be without her company tomorrow night and he would have wasted his money on a cookery book.

He also hoped Miller wouldn't make a habit of calling in, especially if tomorrow night he could persuade Rose to stay a bit longer.  Ellie was fuming a little when she left – mostly at herself for having the stupid idea of inviting herself to Hardy's place late at night and hoping he'd take pity on her and ask her to stay.  No, he had made it plain he just was not interested in her in that particular way.  So what if he wasn't?  He certainly didn't appear to have a queue of women knocking on his door and he could do a lot worse than her – mother of two and soon to be divorced Ellie Miller.

Hell, Alec Hardy was divorced and maybe as desperate as she herself was and them getting together was not totally out of the realms of possibility.  Granted, it might take some work but she would be off duty early tomorrow, nip over to see Fred and maybe persuade Lucy to have him a bit longer then call and get another bottle of wine from that mini-market nearby and go see him again.  It should be early, maybe around seven once she had seen the boys.  Yes Ellie, she told herself, that might work.

Alec had managed to get to bed after Miller's unexpected visit.  What the hell was she thinking about?  Was she trying to tell him something?  He should put a stop to it and he would the next time he spoke to her.  He just hoped she wouldn't take it the wrong way.  He didn't see Rose until the following afternoon.  He called at the store to pick up something for dinner but Rose had been busy in her office and he just saw her as he was leaving.

"Hi Alec, been getting dinner sorted?"

Alec smiled, something she was making him do more of the last few days.  The rest of the staff were in the corner smirking at the two of them.

"Yes but I really must go do a big shop at the weekend, not that there's anything wrong with your store but I seem to be giving your staff something to talk about."

Rose turned around and scowled at them, seeing them hurry off to perform various tasks they had meant to be doing and had stopped to gawk at their boss talking to a tall good-looking man.  It was a novelty to say the least.  They had seen her a while ago with a man but not recently, until this one started finding excuses to come in and buy something, including Monday when he had gone in twice.

"Well maybe I can show you around Exeter on Saturday then?  We can go to the supermarket on the way back?"

Alec could have sworn he'd already suggested that but didn't want to say anything to her about it. 

"Then I'd be only too happy to take you then.  See you at six."

Alec left and Rose turned to her staff. 

"Haven't you lot got anything to do?"

She got a chorus of "Yes Miss Tyler."  They only called her that when they were being told off.

Rose was anxiously waiting for her lift home and to see what Alec would make of the ingredients he had bought, not that she had seen what it was.  She was going to tell him no for Friday night though, this was getting to be a regular habit and it had to stop.  He had already made her a meal and taken her out and now he was cooking again plus she had said she would cook tomorrow night, not that she had any idea what she was going to cook in an hour and tonight, she planned on getting changed before she went across the landing.

Since he had half a bottle of wine from the other night, there was no need to take anything but herself for her dinner date.  Alec had called at the shop that sold expensive chocolates and got a small box of Belgium chocolate shells, not the kind found in discount supermarkets but the real thing.  He figured Miss Rose Tyler was worth it.  He set off just before six, praying Miller wouldn't decide to show up again.  He'd felt a bit odd, standing there with his shirt half buttoned and hoped she hadn't got the wrong idea.

Rose was just coming out of the store so he pulled in a bit further down and turned around in the pub car park, making a note to maybe take her one night if she knew the patrons and she might want to show him off.  He certainly wanted to show her off and establish himself in the small village and that was the best way of doing it. Surely all the locals knew her or of her and she could do worse than be seen out with a detective inspector, on duty or not.  That would soon be fixed anyway.  He may well now ask to be reassigned and forget about teaching in the college, Rose was giving him a new lease of life and making him feel wanted again.

Well that was if it lasted.  She may just be playing the friendly neighbour and it may all fizzle out by next week, especially if they went shopping together.  Maybe that was not such a good idea after all but he could drop her in Exeter and meet up with her then they could each fill their shopping trolleys separately and meet at the checkout, maybe have lunch beforehand.  Yes, he could live with that plan, it wasn't like she would be dragging him in every dress and shoe shop in sight or asking what brand of coffee he drank – was it?

Rose kissed his cheek and said she would see him in an hour and went off to get changed.  She rooted through her wardrobe and decided on her red floral top and a short black skirt and black tights, then she ditched the tights and went bare legged then thought she was being presumptuous and changed into her black trousers.  She told herself to get a grip, that it was just dinner again at her neighbour's place, no big deal.  Maybe a bit more of that brilliant snogging wouldn't go amiss.  She decided on no make-up and let her hair hang loose and picked up her phone and her purse and put the key into the door to lock it once out on the landing.  Then she prepared to ring his doorbell.

Alec meanwhile was warming up the meal he had prepared earlier, setting some candles he had bought from the gift shop and a small bowl of rose petals on the table and was choosing some music from his meagre CD collection and promised himself he would buy some more romantic ones next time he went shopping.  All kinds of things were running through his mind such as would she succeed in actually getting his shirt off tonight, would she slap his face if he went for her bra strap, would she actually be wearing a bra?  Then there was the question how far they should actually go, he didn't want to scare her off, they had done quite well last night, she had kissed around his scar, very delicately and that hadn't put her off.

Most women would have run at the sight or even at the mention he'd had an operation but not her, she had taken it very well considering.  No, he would play it cool, be the perfect host, suggest they dance for a while and slip his hand on her back and play with her bra strap, if she was wearing one and see how far she would be willing to let him go.  However far it was, it was a bonus considering his lack of female company since his divorce, Becca Fisher quite rightly turning him down when he was ill.

He just hoped she wasn't just stringing him along to get a few free meals out of him to save her from cooking when she got home or to save her walking back but he somehow doubted it.  She didn't seem like the type to mess about.  He just hoped she didn't have a jealous ex boyfriend somewhere.  Ten minutes before Rose was due to arrive, he got a text from Claire.  'I need to see you'

He sent one back saying he was busy and not to keep bothering him.  She sent one back saying 'I'll make it worth your while, I'll talk' to which he replied 'Talk to Tess'. Two minutes later, she tried again.  'She's not like you, she doesn't understand me Alec, you're the only one' so he replied 'No I'm not now stop it I have better things to do' and turned his phone off.

Now he didn't care if her husband did come back, they deserved each other.  Claire was just playing him for the fool he had been and tomorrow, he was going to put an end to it.  Eighteen months he had been fooled and it was coming to an end. Tomorrow he was giving her 48 hours to clear out of the cottage or he was going to the owner to tell them he was no longer prepared to guarantee the rent and put it in her name not his.

That was not going to go down well as he was about to find out when he switched his phone back on.  His doorbell rang and there was Rose, looking radiant.  He kissed her cheek and presented her with the neatly wrapped box of chocolate shells he had asked the assistant to do for him and hoped word wouldn't get around just yet he had a 'thing' for the manager of the local grocery store.

They talked over dinner, Alec telling her about the complex case he had been involved with recently and how he was waiting for the hearing which would be in Exeter and why he'd rented a car and that the woman she had seen him with was having problems accepting it had been her husband that had been responsible.

"She couldn't have known Alec, if he hid it so well.  She shouldn't feel guilty so why have people turned against her?"

"Not everyone did but she felt uncomfortable, she only has her family to rely on. Now she thinks she can depend on me like I depended on her for a few weeks and it's getting awkward."

"In what way?"

He didn't want to tell her but if Miller showed up while he was 'entertaining' Rose, well it would just make things worse.  "I have to warn you Rose, she could turn up without giving any notice, she only has to make a slight detour from picking up her youngest son on the way back.  He's being looked after by her sister back in Broadchurch."

"Hasn't she got a child-minder?"

"She did have but she's looking for another one and meanwhile, she tried to rope me in for the job."

Rose smiled.  "Alec, you must be blind, she clearly has a 'thing' for you," she teased, poking her tongue between her teeth that was driving him mad.

"Don't you start.  Besides, she's still married, has another boy who's nearly twelve and I'm not remotely interested that way.  We worked together and hated each other.  She mistook my asking for her help getting over my operation for something else."

He was going to add Miller wasn't the only one who had misunderstood him but thought best not to bring Claire into this.

"Aw, poor Alec, no wonder you looked flustered that first time I saw you with her.  If it makes you uncomfortable, you should tell her, before it gets worse.  I know what it's like, my ex was on the phone every week trying to get me to let him come and visit but I kept hanging up on him.  I hope he does come down, I'll slap him silly if he does."

Alec smiled.  "Ouch, remind me not to get on the wrong side of you then."

"I take after my mother, just so you know.  She raised me on her own after my dad died when I was a baby.  She had a tough time."

"Well she raised you ok from what I've seen so far.  If you've finished eating, I'll get dessert."

He had found a simple recipe that included the tin of peaches he had bought and a plain sponge cake, hollowed out the uncut cake, drained the juice from the peaches and put them in and poured cream over them.  Rose approved which pleased him no end.  They danced for a while, leaving the dishes to soak.  Rose kicked off her shoes as Alec held her tightly to his now almost bare chest after she unfastened his buttons again and Alec was trying to see down her top so he could tell if she was wearing anything underneath as he thought placing his hand where her bra strap should be was a bit obvious.

He hadn't forgotten all the old tricks as he kissed her neck then moved her top to kiss her shoulder and found there were no shoulder straps and her being bare-footed made her raise herself up so he could just get one hand under the top, touching her skin since she was resting her head on his chest.  The neck kissing got more intense as he moved the neck of her top to one side and went lower then he steered her towards the sofa.

The music was still playing as he lay her on the sofa, she moved over to the back and lay on her side, putting her arms around his neck and pulling his shirt off his shoulders.  Alec decided to see how far she would go as he tugged on the hem of her top, pulling it up slightly as they began kissing, slowly at first until the kisses lasted longer each time, until they were both out of breath.

"Alec, I don't think I've ever been kissed like that before."

He smiled, something he was doing more and more of since he had met Rose.  "Then I'm glad it was me who made you feel that way and I don't recall a woman kissing me back like that either.  I should tell you now Rose, if you want to, you know, take this any further and if it's not alright, then we can put this down to two neighbours inviting each other over for a meal, well not quite, I've not been to your place for dinner yet but if you are ok with it, I'd really like to carry on seeing you."

"Well you'd better tell me what it is then Alec or do I have to guess?"

She was doing it again, poking her tongue out that Alec thought she didn't even realise she was actually doing it but when she did, he was getting these urges to plunge his own tongue at hers and do battle with it to get his inside her mouth.  He mentally slapped himself, hell, he'd never even battled tongues with his ex, even before they got married so where had that train of thought sprung from?  Not only that, he vaguely remembered thinking last night as he fell asleep of all the things he wanted to do to her that he'd never done to Tess.  Rose was doing wonders for his imagination that he thought had long since made its retreat.

"No, you don't have to guess, I'll tell you.  I'm divorced, I have a teenage daughter who lives with her mum.  It was me who left, Tess was seeing someone else during a case we were both working on and half the station knew before I found out.  I left and filed for divorce, I didn't want her back.  There was just too much going on to even think about it but I don't regret it.  I had offers, well one but I never followed up on it.  The thing is Rose, it's not just Ellie Miller who's infatuated with me, there's someone else and it's complicated but there's nothing in it on my part.  I never encouraged either of them but they both might make trouble.  So, if you want to leave, then go, before I do something I might regret in the morning and you'll end up hating me."

Rose smiled.  "Aw, poor Alec, sounds like you've got yourself in the middle of a love triangle to me."

"What?  You think this is funny do you?"

Rose began giggling.  "Aw, lighten up Alec, it is sort of funny though just be thankful it's only a triangle."

"I told you, Tess is not interested in getting me back so that puts paid to your theory somewhat, doesn't it?"

She touched his cheek.  Then she leaned close and whispered in his ear, touching his soft beard with her lips. 

"I included myself in that."

"Really?  Despite what I just told you?"

"Well yeah though you'll have to ditch the other two."

"There's nothing to ditch, it's them that are under the illusion, not me.  Are you really interested in me or are you trying to keep your ex at bay?"

"Nah, not heard from him for a while now, I think he gave up.  So besides Ellie Miller and possibly, though I use the word 'possibly' very loosely, there's this other woman?"

"The wife of the prime suspect in the case before the one in Broadchurch.  I'm sort of helping her hide from him after she testified against him but she's playing games.  The case fell apart and she was scared he'd come after her.  She's the one who was texting me the other night.  Don't worry about her, I'm sorting that out tomorrow, she won't be a problem."

That was what he thought as they began kissing and Alec discovered Rose was wearing a strapless bra as he coaxed her out of her top and began kissing her exposed skin after she unfastened his shirt cuffs and threw the item over the back of the sofa so she could admire the hairs on his chest.

"Your skin is so soft Rose," he mused, kissing where he could reach without taking the offending item off.

Rose ruffled his hair.  "Mmm, your beard is soft but I do wonder what you look like without it or if you were to trim it.  I never kissed a man with a beard before I met you."

"Another first then?  I'm honoured to be the first man with a beard that you've kissed and the way we kissed earlier.  Care for a repeat?"

She never had the chance to answer as he captured her lips until they were interrupted by his doorbell at just after eight thirty.
Chapter 4
"Who the hell is that?" he muttered to himself, Rose's top landing on her as he fished for his shirt and trying to untangle his long legs from hers that had got wrapped around his own.

"Mmm, must be one of my rivals then, I think I'll just stay like this shall I?"

He frowned at her, trying to fasten his buttons but not bothering to tuck the shirt back in his trousers, if Rose stayed, she would just pull it back out again, he hoped. Rose reluctantly pulled her top back on and sat up as he went to the door.  It was Ellie.

"Oh, I thought you were out?  Can I come in?"

She was minus her youngest son and Alec figured the boy would be forgetting what his mother looked like.  She pushed past him to see Rose sitting back on the cushion, her now bare legs stretched out that Alec could have sworn were still covered by her trousers before he'd gone to answer the door.

"Oh, you've got company?"

"Yeah he has so if you don't mind not barging in unannounced, his company is getting a bit annoyed at being interrupted."

Alec shook his head and wondered why his new 'company' hadn't got up, slapped his face and walked out.  If anyone could get rid of the problem he had inadvertently created by becoming friends with Miller, then it seemed Rose could.

"I came to ask if I could bring Fred over in the morning, Lucy got herself a job, can you believe it?  She can be home when Tom finishes school but I have to go back now and pick Fred up, even though he'll be asleep so I'll probably stay over.  I'm interviewing a childminder tomorrow, it's just for one day.  Please Alec, I'm desperate, I've no-one else to ask.''

Alec looked at Rose who was retreating to the bathroom, minus her trousers which was a good sign she wasn't ready to leave just yet.

"Ok then, one day and that's it.  Bring everything he needs and his pushchair and leave his car seat, I pick Rose up at six from work."

"Oh so that's her name.  She's from the store isn't she?"

"Yes and she's my neighbour.  A little notice would have been nice Miller."

Ellie noticed his buttons weren't fastened straight and the tails not tucked in.  She should have known last night when his shirt wasn't fastened properly, he had probably just got back from her place.

"I didn't get any notice, she just announced it.  It's not like I've not been paying her, she wants to make something of herself she said, she's off to work for The Echo, Olly got her the job, they've just moved down by the harbour and let most of the staff go, budget cuts and all that.  She knew she'd leave me in the lurch."

"Ok, enough with the sob story Miller, I said I'd do it.  What time?"

"I'm on twelve until eight tomorrow so I'll have to interview the childminder before I go to work.  Then hopefully she'll start on Monday but have you any idea how much they charge?"

"Then why don't you just put him in nursery?"

"Because I work different hours you prat.  What nursery opens until eight at night?"

"Then maybe you should ask for your job back at Broadchurch, they haven't got replacements yet.  I was thinking of asking to go back."

"What?  Like I'm going back to working with you?"

"You practically asked me if you could move in with me the other day."

"Yeah, what the hell was I thinking?  I'll go then since your new girlfriend is probably laughing her head off in the bathroom and can't wait to get your shirt off you again.  Don't bother looking Hardy, I know all the signs you two were engrossed in something before I arrived."

"Yes well you could have phoned and saved yourself a journey Miller."

"Shut up Hardy, your phone is switched off.  I'll see you at ten in the morning, I have to interview the childminder."

He didn't expect a 'thanks Hardy' from her.  Neither of them did any please and thank you's to each other, they had long since both decided to remain hostile although maybe on Ellie Miller's part, she had mistaken that for intimacy.

Ellie went down to her car and sat for a moment, cursing herself for letting Hardy get to her and for finding him with a half naked young blonde woman from the local store.  Maybe she should put Olly on to it and get himself a scoop - the detective and the shop manager.  No, that wasn't juicy enough, she would get her revenge some other way when the time was right.

Rose came out of the bathroom.  "Is it safe to come out now?  You're not mad at me are you?"

"What for?  Because you took your trousers off when I wasn't looking?  That was a bit sneaky and uncalled for but I think she got the message she was interrupting something.  Now I've got a two year old to watch tomorrow as punishment."

Rose smiled and walked back to him, putting her hands on his shirt buttons. 

"You made a right mess of fastening your shirt Alec, in a rush were you?"

"Very funny Rose, it was your fault it was off in the first place, you didn't offer to help me."

"We hardly had the time, did we?  Here, let me help you."

Alec didn't stop her unfastening them again as they fell onto the sofa and Rose lost her top again, this time along with her black strapless bra.

By eleven, after lots of kissing, cuddling and grunting and groaning, mainly from Alec who had been sorely lacking in the needs department, by mutual agreement, Alec fastened her bra for her but left his shirt buttons undone since Rose seemed to like looking at him like that.

"So, uncle Alec is on babysitting duty tomorrow then?" she smiled, pulling on his neck for him to kiss her.

"It's ok for you, what am I going to do with a two year old for all that time?"

"Well don't bring him into the store, they already saw him with Ellie Miller and they know we've been seeing each other, it's a hot topic of gossip already.  It will be all over the village by Monday morning."

"I might just have to move then."

Rose looked worried until she realised he was smiling when he said it.

"Well I'll see you at six tomorrow night, complete with what's his name?"

"'Erm, Fred, I think.  Why couldn't they have named him something modern like Dylan?"

"Poor Alec.  Well what time is he being picked up?"

"It will be late, maybe you'd best come over here tomorrow night unless you want to just leave it?"

"You mean you won't need rescuing by then?  I'll make something and bring it over.  The boy will be asleep by then won't he?"

"I expect so.  You're being really good over this Rose, I expected a slap on the face and you saying you hoped you'd never see me again."

"Well it can be arranged but maybe Friday night, we should both have a night off?"

Alec was sort of relieved but didn't want to show it.  "If that's what you want.  I'm sure we both have things we need to do and I wasn't intending to take up all your time, it was only meant to be dinner on Monday night and things just escalated.  It seems to be happening to me a lot lately, with Miller and Claire."

"I thought you were taking care of that problem?"

"I can't now can I?  I can't take the boy with me."

"Well you could tell her he's your secret love child and you want her to move in with you so she can look after him when you're at work," Rose grinned.

"Rose Tyler, you are wicked."  He kissed the tip of her nose.  "Well only if I tell her he's mine and yours and you left me with him."

Rose swatted his arm.  "Thanks, forget it then."  Then she reached up and ran her fingers through his beard.  "I might play along if you get rid of some or all of that though?"

"I thought you said it was soft of your skin?"

"It tickles.  Besides, I bet it will knock ten years off you.  Maybe you should think of getting some jeans and t-shirts when we go shopping on Saturday loverboy."

She pulled him down for another kiss.  "See you at six tomorrow, sweet dreams uncle Alec."

Alec let her out and stared after her as she turned and blew him a kiss over the landing.  What the hell had he got himself into?  Babysitting Miller's young son, having Rose wanting him to shave his beard and calling him 'loverboy' and suggesting he make himself look younger which meant she had plans for Saturday and boy was he dreading it.  It seemed somewhere between Monday lunchtime and Wednesday evening, he'd got himself a young, blonde girlfriend.

So early the next morning, Alec had switched his phone on to find a lot of missed calls and texts, one call from Miller and the texts all from Claire saying if he didn't visit her, she was going to Tess and make a complaint against him that he forced her to have sex with him.  He was furious to say the least, just typical of her style of manipulating every man she laid eyes on and he hadn't fallen for it then and he certainly wasn't going to now.  He put his phone away and tidied his flat, put anything away that could get broken and prepared himself to look after a young boy for the day.

He just hoped Miller wouldn't find fault with this minder she was interviewing later.  The highlight of his morning was when Rose sent him a message telling him to have a good day and suggested to keep the boy amused to take him down the road to the beach where there was a visitor centre and a café and maybe let Fred play on the beach for a while.  He sent her a thank you message saying he owed her.  Rose had said she would collect when the boy had gone home.

He was going to suggest that until he returned to work in a few weeks, she came over for breakfast, if she wanted but maybe they should see how things went over the weekend when Rose wasn't working and they had managed to survive a shopping trip that now looked like she may be helping him choose some trendy clothes.  After his breakfast, he went into the bathroom and fingered his beard, then remembered Rose last night running her fingers through it and how good it had felt.  He'd never had a beard when he was married, he had only let his appearance go once he had no-one to impress but now he rather liked it.  It was sort of making him feel rebellious but now he did have someone to impress and she hadn't been entirely opposed to him keeping it, just trimming it.

If he hadn't been roped into babysitting today, he would have gone to get his hair cut properly after he had trimmed his fringe but maybe he would get it done on Saturday while Rose went shopping and doing whatever women did these days, maybe getting her nails done.  He didn't really want to get too familiar with the local barber, they asked too many personal questions and he wasn't ready to divulge his feelings towards Rose just yet, not until he had sorted them out himself.  Just how did he feel about her though?  He knew she was young but maybe she liked older men, especially since she had said she had grown up without a father and she had mentioned an ex boyfriend, maybe he had been older as well.

He got his saving kit out again, surprised he still had one and not tossed it out when he had moved and took some of the growth off, leaving him looking like there was only about a day's worth instead of two and decided he did actually look younger.  He just hoped Miller wouldn't make the mistake he had done it to impress her but she had met Rose last night.  He had to smile when he thought about her taking off her trousers to make it look like something else had been going on and had been pleased she had left them off even though he had left his on.  Maybe tonight after he got rid of the child he might get lucky.

Miller arrived and he went down to take the car seat out of her car and she showed him how to put it in his and helped him upstairs with the bag she had brought with her, leaving the pushchair in the back of the car, Alec saying he was quite capable of carrying the boy up and down the stairs on his own.  Miller didn't say anything about his new look which he thought was just as well, it wasn't for her.  He was instructed the boy had a nap around two in the afternoon so he said he would take him out for a walk when he woke up.

"I hope you're not taking him up to the supermarket?"

"I will be later, I pick up Rose from work."

"Can't she walk back on her own?"

"That's not the point.  I have nothing else to do, not until I go back to work.  I called the chief super back in Broadchurch, I'm meeting with her on Monday morning.  It seems they haven't filled the DI position yet and she may be open to the idea of me returning.  She got a male DS."

"Is that supposed to make me want to return?"

"No, nothing of the sort.  Shouldn't you be on your way if you're interviewing?"

"Fine, I'm going, I'll see you some time after eight.  I hope your girlfriend will be wearing some more clothes tonight," Ellie snapped, kissing her son's forehead as he sat on the sofa playing with a toy car.

"Don't be daft Miller, she did it to rile you when you came barging in so maybe in the future you can refrain from calling in unexpectedly?"

"So the two of you were not having S.E.X on the sofa then?"

"You'd better leave now Miller or you can take your son with you.  What Rose and I do is nothing to do with anyone, we're both consenting adults, I'm divorced, she's single and I'm not explaining myself to you.  I'm grateful for you helping me get over my operation but that's it, there's nothing else.  We can be friends or you can collect young Fred tonight and walk away.  Your choice Miller."

"Fine, you know I don't have many friends now but don't expect me to be happy about it.  Ok, I may have taken it all the wrong way, you being ill and getting better but it wasn't easy, we started getting close."

"Maybe it seemed like it to you but I'm sorry Miller, it wasn't my intention to mislead you.  You're still relatively young, you'll find someone else, hell look at me, I never thought I would meet someone like Rose.  I even shaved for her."

Ellie tried to smile but inwardly she was feeling dejected. 

"Well you can expect me tonight and I trust if she comes over, there'll be nothing going on."

"What do you take us for?  A couple of teenagers?  I told you, she was messing with you last night, it was just getting interesting when you barged in."

"Well keep your phone on next time Hardy, then maybe I'll call you instead.  It wasn't my idea of fun coming in to find your almost naked new girlfriend looking at you like she wanted to you know what?"

"Yes, I get the picture and you're going to be late.  Say goodbye to your son and you might want to spend a bit more time with him instead of coming out of your way to visit me.  I have to put this bluntly Miller but there can never be anything between us, even if I hadn't met Rose and you are still married."

"Technically but not for long I hope.  Maybe the judge will take pity on me and speed things up when I get the papers signed."

Alec was glad when Miller left and decided to take the boy out and follow Rose's advice then maybe later on take a ride out somewhere and then pick up Rose from work, he was looking forward to this now and it had only been a few evenings.  It was amazing how easily he had got into a routine and babysitting or not, he wasn't going to change it.  He had to carefully think about Friday night though, his suggestion of maybe doing their own thing that night hadn't seemed to go down very well so they were going to have to discuss it once Miller had picked up the boy.

Taking Fred in his pushchair, he walked the short distance to the visitors centre, buying him a brightly coloured book with an octopus on the front that Fred held on to all the way back and Alec ended up reading to him twice before the boy fell asleep on his spare bed.  He left the door open and put the TV on to watch the news and began to doze off himself, dreaming about what it would be like to wake up with Rose in his arms.

She was beautiful and she deserved better than a detective who had just cheated death.  He woke up half an hour later and checked on the still sleeping boy but Fred soon woke up and after giving him some juice, it was still only just after three, he took the boy down to the car and drove down Claire's cottage, debating whether to tell her the boy was his and Rose's but decided not to, it might just make things worse.

"Who's the boy Alec?" Claire asked as she came out when she realised Alec was not stepping away from the car and was leaning on the back passenger door, the window open.

Fred was playing with one of his toys. 

"I'm minding him for a friend, she used to work with me, her childminder let her down."

"It suits you, you must miss your daughter."

"Keep her out of it.  You wanted to talk."

"Yes but not out here or with a baby in the back seat of your car."

"Well I'm not coming in.  You have two choices Claire, go back to work and keep paying the rent or leave.  I'm not supporting you any more."

"What?  What brought that on?  You're deserting me after all I did?"

"You did nothing Claire, you messed us around, that's all.  It's over.  You want protection, go to South Mercia Police and don't call me any more.  As for your petty threats, Tess knows as much as I do your reputation for getting men to do what you want, it won't work.  She might hate me but she would never believe you."

"I did it because of you Alec, I turned on Lee because you said you'd take care of me and you left me here all that time."

"Yes and it's been well over a year, time to move on Claire, like I am."

"So the kid is yours?"

"No, he isn't, want a DNA test?  No he's the son of my ex DS I worked with on the Broadchurch murder case and even if he was, it's nothing to do with you."

"Didn't you even think about it Alec?  When you had the chance since your wife was cheating on you?"

"No, I wasn't even tempted, you have nothing I want Claire, not then and not now."

"So you got yourself a girlfriend then?"

"None of your business."

He got back in the car and resolved not to go back again.

Chapter 5
It was too early to call for Rose, there was still over an hour and what he was going to do with a still sleepy two year old boy he didn't know.  He pulled up in the village car park and spied a playground and thought that might pass an hour, then leaving the car he could browse in a shop or two and wait for Rose.  That sounded like half a plan.  He put Fred in a swing and the boy seemed to spring awake, laughing and then he put him on the slide.  A few mothers there looked at him and hoped the boy wouldn't start calling him dad.

He felt sorry for the youngster, it was slightly different for Tom, he at least mostly understood but a two year old would wonder where the man who had looked after him all day had suddenly gone and why he was being passed from pillar to post with his aunt and various minders.  Sitting the boy firmly on a roundabout, he let a few others get on before pushing it around but an older boy started pushing it too fast and Alec scowled at the offender, slowed it down and took a slightly dizzy Fred off.

So putting Fred on a large wooden rocking animal, an hour passed and after putting him back in his pushchair, walked towards the shops and looked in the gift shop and bought a painting to put up in his hallway.  So balancing it, he thought he would rather wait for Rose than try to struggle back to the car on his own so he waited where she would see him when she came out.  Rose had a rather boring day, wondering though how Alec had got on with his young charge and looking forward to meeting the boy properly and finishing time was looming.

She picked up a bar of kiddies chocolate and some sweets and another bottle of wine and went to finish up in her office.  After handing over, she put her jacket on and looked around for Alec's now familiar car but spotted him a few shops away with a pushchair.  She smiled and went over to them.

"Hi, you must be Fred," she greeted the boy who was looking up at her.  Then she kissed Alec's cheek.  "Had a good day uncle Alec?"

"Don't give everyone the wrong idea Rose, I already got a few looks in the playground.  Would you mind pushing him back to the car and I'll carry this?"

He showed her the painting he had bought that reminded him of the one back in his old office in Broadchurch.  He only bought it because it was mostly neutral colours.

"Sure, come on Fred, let's get back and get you some tea, yeah?  Carry this for me though?" 

She handed Alec the carrier bag.

They were soon back and Rose took charge of young Fred, making him some scrambled eggs and beans and feeding him, Alec smiling at her.

"Why don't I order something for later, instead of you cooking?"

"Sure, the pizza place will be open, they do other stuff and they deliver.  Maybe we can wait until Fred falls asleep?"

"He's been asleep nearly all afternoon, I took him for a drive down to Claire's earlier as well as him having a nap."

"You went down to see her?"

"I had to, her behaviour is getting out of hand.  I'm going to have to call my ex about her, tell her she may cause trouble again."

"Really Alec, you don't need all this hassle, just let her get on with it, it will all die down surely?"

"I hope you're right but I just don't want you getting caught up in it, that's all."

"Don't worry about me, I grew up on a tough London council estate, I can take care of myself."

"Yes, I got a demonstration of that last night with your little display.  Miller said if you came over when her son was here, she hoped you would be wearing more clothes."

"The nerve!  Who does she think she is?" Rose huffed, wiping the boy's face.

"Relax Rose, I told her straight it was her own fault for barging in but I'd turned off my phone because of Claire."

"Well the next time Claire rings, hand the phone to me, I'll get rid of her, that's if you want me to?"

"Don't get involved Rose, it's not worth it."

"In case you hadn't noticed Alec, I am involved that's if you want to keep on seeing me?"

"Of course I do, I just don't want you to get hurt, if she makes threats against you."

"Why would she?  Oh, has she threatened you?"

"You could say that though the police would never believe her, not after she changed her testimony three times after her husband got arrested and she figured she was on the losing side so she switched.  Now she still expects me to keep her hidden but I told her today that was all over with, she was on her own.  It's been over a year now and he made no attempt to go back to her.  I'll know if he does, someone owed me a favour and will let me know."

"What did she threaten you with Alec?"

"You don't need to know but it wasn't pleasant.  We'll discuss it later.  I think young Fred has finished, don't you?"

Rose smiled and took the napkin from the boy's chin and lifted him up before he fell asleep, taking him first to the sofa but Alec led her into his spare bedroom.

"He was asleep in here earlier, just leave the door open then we'll hear him.  I'll call the takeaway if you like?"

Rose put her arms around his neck.  "Ok then, I'll just nip back home and get changed, it will take them half an hour to get here anyway.  I don't suppose we'll need the wine now?  Oh and there's sweets and chocolate for Fred in that bag, he can take them home with him."

"That's if he's going home poor kid.  He's just been taken away from his real home, lost his dad and now his mother is traipsing backwards and forwards between Broadchurch and Exeter and if that's not enough, she's taken to calling in to see me at all hours, leaving him with his aunt and cousin, he never hardly sees her."

"It can't be an easy decision for her Alec, commuting like that but why did she choose to move and work in Exeter?"

"I don't know, maybe because the whole town turned against her when her husband killed a twelve year old boy had something to do with it?  Like you say, it can't be easy but there again, I chose to get out when I finished the case though I'm going after my old job back on Monday."

Rose reached up to kiss him.  "Good for you Alec, you show them."

Rose went to get changed while Alec ordered from the takeaway, having found a leaflet that had been put through his door and twenty minutes later, Rose came back and checked on Fred.

"You look nice Rose, wearing a dress.  Did you take Miller's words to heart?"

Rose smiled.  "Thought you'd like to see I don't just wear blouses, skirts and trousers. No funny business from you until Fred's mother collects him, got it?"

"Yes Ma'am."

Rose pretended to smack his arm and pulled him onto the sofa, Alec quickly checking nothing had been left behind the cushions.  Their takeaway arrived, both getting scampi with salad and Alec put the TV on low and they settled back until the doorbell rang just after eight thirty.  They were going to have to wake poor Fred again.

Ellie eyed Rose up and down, pleased to see she was at least wearing a dress tonight and figured the blonde had actually done it on purpose last night to state she had laid claim to Hardy and he had made it quite plain he only had eyes for the shop manager.  Between them, they got Fred downstairs while Alec got the child seat and the pushchair from the back of his car, making a note to take his painting back up with him, Rose carrying Fred's belongings and tucking the sweets and chocolate into the bag and they got the boy into his seat, still asleep.

"So how did the interview go Miller?" Alec asked.

"Fine, she starts Monday though goodness knows why she wanted a job that meant Fred needed looking after at all hours, I'll have to get them sorted on Monday.  I'm off tomorrow anyway thank goodness.  Thanks again.  Do I owe you for anything?"

She had noticed the book sticking out of the top of the bag.

"No, I bought it for him at the heritage centre, he's quite interested in fossils, it's probably their shapes.  Rose put a few things in for him.  It was her idea I took him down there then we had some lunch and a walk on the beach."

"Sorry about last night but how was I to know you had female company?"

"It's not entirely impossible I can still get myself a girlfriend Miller," he smirked, after Rose had said goodbye and she had gone back to Alec's flat.

"Well you did a good job at fending me off you know, I did try and drop a few subtle hints that you chose to ignore."

"Well they were not so subtle Miller, asking if you could move in with me, it would never have worked and not just because of your son, what would Tom think?  I put his dad in prison and you're having a tough enough time as it is, it would just make things worse.  We can still be friends, you said you don't have many now and I'm sure Rose took a liking to Fred, you should have seen her take charge when we got back."

"I bet she did, playing happy families with my son."

"Don't get hostile, it won't change my mind about her, she's exactly what I need right now.  I have a new lease of life and a new home and if all goes well on Monday, maybe my old job back."

"Well that's ok for you then.  I'd better get him home, we have all the weekend to get sorted."

"Well Rose and I might be in Exeter on Saturday, she was going to show me around."

"I bet she was."

Alec knew it was sour grapes on Miller's part because he had rejected her but what could he do?  He just wasn't romantically attracted to her and that was the end of it, there was no use in stringing her along and have her under the illusion it would turn into something other than friendship because it never would, not on his part.

He went back up to his flat and Rose was waiting.

"Is everything ok Alec?"

"Fine.  You worry too much Rose, everything's taken care of.  Now about tomorrow night?" he asked as she pulled him down onto the sofa and put her arms around his waist.

"What about it?  I thought we were both going to do our own 'thing'?"

"Well yes, we can, if you want but I can still pick you up and maybe we can have a drink at the pub, since I know you're dying to show me off."

Rose smiled.  She did want to show him off, unlike when Mickey came to visit and she had to hide in the corner out of embarrassment.  Now she wondered why she went out with him for so long and took him back so many times, despite moving and allowing him to come and visit, him assuring her he could go for a long-distance relationship when her friend had called to say he was going out with someone else.  She had called him and told him she never wanted to see him again and yet when that girl had seen him for what he was, he had tried to come crawling back again but so far, he hadn't come down to plead in person.

According to her mother, Mickey Smith was a saint and grossly misunderstood, mainly by Rose and thought if she hadn't left home to go work in Dorset, the two of them would have been married by now.  Rose knew full well Mickey was not marriage material, well not to her though maybe some poor girl would have that honour one day.

Alec brought her out of her thoughts.  "Are you ok Rose?"

"Yeah, fine. I'm sorry Alec, I'm just tired, maybe I should go, I'm not much company right now, I did warn you."

"It's not nine yet but if you'd rather go, I won't stop you.  So, a drink after work tomorrow evening then I drop you off outside your door and we'll go to Exeter on Saturday morning, is that ok?"

"Yeah, I look forward to it. Alec can I ask you something?"

"Sure, what is it?"

"I just feel a lot of resentment from your friend Ellie, she doesn't like me.  I know she's jealous, I saw it last night.  You didn't lead her on did you?"

"No, of course I didn't, what makes you think that?"

"It's like she was a DS, I don't know what she is now and I'm a shop manager, like she's looking down on me and I'm not good enough for you or something."

Alec smiled.  "Well you didn't exactly help last night with your little trick did you?"

Rose smiled back.  "It was just too tempting, I used to do it to rattle my mother when my ex came over.  He'd jump a mile when he heard her come back from bingo or the pub and spring onto the chair and I'd unfasten my blouse or take my trousers off and she would scream at him and throw him out."

"I was right, you are wicked, Rose Tyler.  I'm going to have to watch out for you, aren't I?"

He leaned over and pushed her back against the cushion, wishing she was actually wearing a blouse and not a dress.  They began kissing until they both had to stop.

"You never really answered me Alec, did you give her the impression there might be something besides friendship with her?"

He wanted to be mad at her for pushing the subject but there really hadn't been such a thought behind it and Rose would keep on wondering and he really wanted to make something of his new friendship with her.

"No Rose, I gave her no such indications, I just may have relied on her a bit heavily when I came out of hospital but she offered.  She was the one that took it the wrong way but nothing she can say or do can make me change that.  I don't feel anything else for her, I swear that's the truth Rose."

"Ok, I believe you Alec, you can tell me how you feel about me when I've snogged your face off."

She pulled him back and they kissed again until they were both having trouble keeping it going.  He risked unfastening her dress zip and pulled it over her shoulders as she fumbled with his shirt buttons.

"Mmm Alec, you really need to start wearing t-shirts, they come off much easier you know?"

"Yes but then you couldn't admire my bare chest when I don't fasten my shirt back up, could you?"

"Oh but then you'd have to leave your t-shirt off and I'd get a better view.  Speaking of which, let me get to your sleeves, this shirt is coming off – now."

"I thought you were tired?"

"Maybe I want to fall asleep with you, on the sofa?"

It may have been worth his while thinking about that earlier then.  He helped Rose out of her dress, revealing her matching underwear that she was now going to go choose some more when she went shopping since she hadn't had anyone to impress lately and had no intention of doing so since she met Alec a few days ago.  She knew she had never felt this way about Mickey, he was a child compared with this man as he was snogging her senseless again and giving her feelings she'd never had before.  This was insane, they had only just met on Monday lunchtime properly and she was telling him she wanted to fall asleep on the sofa with him.  What would he think of her for coming out with that?

Rose was laid on him with his shirt draped over her as they lay listening to another CD he had found from somewhere and Rose had never felt better in her life.

"You know I'm too old for you Rose?" he whispered softly in her ear.

His beard didn't feel so tickly now.  "I don't care Alec, I really don't.  I like you, a lot."

"I like you a lot too Rose, if you're sure about this, that you don't mind me being divorced and having a teenage daughter."

"We both had lives before we met, I accept that."

"Good because I want to carry on seeing you."

"Just to annoy Ellie Miller?"

"That's not fair Rose."

"Just teasing, lighten up Alec.  No more about her or this Claire, ok?"

"Ok darlin' it's all been taken care of.  Now what about you falling asleep on the sofa with me?"

"I'd better go Alec, I'm getting too comfy on here and I really will fall asleep on you, it's just too nice."

"Then fall asleep, I don't mind, you don't have far to go."

"We just met, it would be rude of me so don't tempt me, Alec Hardy.  Maybe another time?"

"Feel free.  How about I make you breakfast in the morning, come over around half seven, if you want?"

"Thanks, I'd like that.  Can you zip up my dress for me?"

"Mmm, I'd rather unzip it but if you insist on leaving, I don't have much choice."

"Let's just see how things go Alec, it's new for both of us, we've both been out of the relationship game for a while haven't we?"

"I suppose so.  I'll see you across the landing then."

He opened the outer door and leaned in the door-frame.  "Goodnight Rose, tonight was more than nice."

"Yes it was, once we were alone."

"Well we will be, there won't be any more interruptions, I promise."

He just hoped he was right.  Neither of them could stop thinking about the other. Alec had almost got his wish of waking up with Rose and having breakfast together would see if they could both put up each other in the mornings.  Rose was up at seven, getting showered and dressed and was ringing Alec's doorbell just before she was due.  Alec had been cooking eggs and toast and it was almost ready.  It reminded him of making Daisy her breakfast when she was off to school and Tess had been working different hours.

"Morning sunshine, did you sleep well?" Rose greeted him, kissing his cheek.

"Fairly well although I had a certain blonde on my mind most of the night."

"Really?  Who was that?" she grinned teasingly.

"Do you have to ask?" he replied, putting his arms around her waist and kissing her neck.

"Aw, you're so sweet!  You're gonna make it really difficult you know, I'll want you to make me breakfast every morning."

"We could take it in turns, until I go back to work.  You could make it for me at weekends.  That's if you want to see me at weekends, you might get tired of me."

"No way, I couldn't get tired of you.  You're the first decent man I've met in a long time, my ex never treated me like this."

She sat down for breakfast, admiring his skills like he had put fresh orange juice in a glass jug and a tumbler at the side of an empty cup and he had put some tea into a teapot he found in the cupboard.

"You didn't have to go to so much trouble Alec, it's really all very nice, thank you."

"It's no trouble and you are very welcome.  I hope you like your eggs poached?"

He put a plate in front of her while she poured two cups of tea.  "I usually have coffee in the mornings though but I can make an exception."

"I have coffee, I'll remember the next time, I prefer tea in the morning.  I couldn't drink coffee for a long time and I'm just getting used to it."

"Mmm, I prefer latte when I go out.  I was thinking of treating myself to one of those machines but it was a bit extravagant just for myself."

"Well why don't I pick one up tomorrow and we could share?  It will keep you coming back every morning."

"I don't need much tempting, you're really spoiling me.  What are you going to do today?  You'll be at a bit of a loss after yesterday."

"I'm sure I'll find something to do.  If all goes well, another week or so and I'll be back in my old job.  It seems they didn't have a rush on applications when I left, the new DS has been running things."

"I'm sure they'll be pleased to have you back, in better health.  How bad were you Alec?"

"Fairly bad, I just hid it well.  I suppose I hid my condition as well as Joe Miller hid the fact he killed a young boy.  Pretending all was well when it was far from it and it was all so obvious.  If I'd not been ill, I would have caught him sooner."

"Don't blame yourself Alec, I'm sure you did your best, under the circumstances.  At least he didn't kill anyone else."

"No, that's a blessing I suppose.  Do you want me to walk you to work?"

"No, I'm fine, thanks.  Adam opens up at eight, then he leaves an hour before me then the night manager comes in four nights and the two weekend managers. Goodness knows how they came up with that arrangement but it's to keep the shop open late."

"Don't you get any trouble, late at night?"

Rose smiled.  "Playing detective?"

"It's in my nature.  You said you used to be night manager."

"I was until they changed everything around.  Working full time enables me to have a place like I've got, it wasn't easy.  I think I'm the longest serving day manager they've had."

Alec smiled.  She was too good to be a shop manager.  She got up and cleared her things away. 

"Do you need me to get anything for you today?"

"No, I may have a walk up there later, that's if you don't mind your staff gawking at me again?"

"They'd best get used to it then, hadn't they?"

"Oh, had they now?  Do you plan on keeping me around?"

Rose put on her jacket and kissed him goodbye.

"I could get used to that, see you later darlin'."

"Not if I see you first!"
Chapter 6
As he watched her walk down the steps, he wondered what he had done to deserve her.  Was it his reward for coming through the Latimer case?  Whatever it was, he was going to take it with both hands.  She was truly amazing and far too young. They had never even discussed ages but she didn't seem to mind, there had to be quite a age gap between them.  She looked around twenty seven or so, he was forty three, he supposed her mother wasn't that much older than he was but she didn't seem to care.  The test would come when they were introduced, if she wanted him to meet her mother.

He supposed that was inevitable, if they continued to see each other but the test would come over the weekend.  He decided he would go get his hair cut properly and go back down to Broadchurch where he went once before on the High Street.  He also made the decision to finally get his beard shaved off but he knew he would probably just grow it back again but he could make the effort, maybe just make it look like there was only a day's growth on it but he wasn't going to grow it thick again.  He would judge by Rose's reaction when he met her for a drink.  If she just wanted to go for a drink and go home, he could go for that, they had hardly been apart all week.

Maybe he should offer to take her out for lunch again, her staff would have something to talk about.  They were going to have to make the most of him being off work if he was thinking about going back to his old job.  Rose had made him realise he did not want to commute to Exeter all the time and Miller was a classic case of why he shouldn't do it.

Rose had got to work and got a few glances, mostly from the two women.  Julie caught her as she was coming out of the stockroom.

"You seem happier these last few day, things working out with that man you went to lunch with?"

"Yeah, I feel happy, he's nice and we're off for a drink after work."

"What's he do then?"

"He's a detective, waiting to go back to work, he's been off."

"Thought I recognised him, from that boy's murder a few weeks back.  He seemed to have disappeared."

"He did, he moved here."

Alec got back to Charmouth just before one and decided to park in the car park and go take Rose out to lunch and stepped into the store.  Becky saw him lurking around the drinks section and approached him.

"Hi, you waiting for Rose?"

He had been sussed.  "Yes, is she around?"

"Yeah, I'll get her for you.  You get discount since you're a friend of hers."

"I'll remember that but we're going out tonight, I think.  Maybe another time?"

Becky wondered how her manager had bagged herself a dishy looking bloke such as this one.  She knocked on Rose's door.

"Your boyfriend's here Rose, shall I send him in?"

Rose looked up, not expecting Alec to show up but since he'd had nothing to do today, she should have expected it.  Becky didn't want to give the game away but she was sure the man looked different to the last time he had been in.

"Yeah send him in, thanks.  You lot had better not talk about me while I'm gone."

Becky tried to sound offended.  "Would we do that to you, Miss Tyler?"

"Yeah, I don't doubt you will find it the topic of the day, discussing my love life."

"Well, there hasn't been much going on around here lately, it's just what we need to liven things up.  You going to the local tonight?"

"Which one?"  There were two local pubs.  "That would be telling, wouldn't it?"

"Like we would all come in and spy on you – much."

"Yeah, 'course you wouldn't dream of doing anything like that, would you?"

Becky smiled.  She was a bit younger than Rose herself but they got on well, they were all on first names and didn't stand much on ceremony except when Rose made it crystal clear who the boss was on odd occasions if something went wrong but the other part-time managers were not so friendly at times – apparently.

Alec stood at the door, grinning and hoping she would notice his latest look.  That had been twice in a week he had tried to alter his appearance and this was definitely his last albeit the last attempt was self-administered.  It had all been in the attempt to impress his new girlfriend.  He had been sorry she had left last night but had enjoyed making her breakfast and if she could put up with him over the weekend, he was going to ask her to stay over on Sunday night or suggest he stayed in her flat.  That was if they both survived.

"I wasn't expecting you but it was sweet of you to call in.  I'll just be a moment, I have to finish this."

"Take your time or shall I go and order?"

"No, I'll come with you.  We can go to the fish bar today if you like?"

"Fine, you know your way around here."

She got her jacket on and led the way.  Once seated, she teased her new boyfriend.

"My staff were trying to find out where we are going tonight."

"That would the member of staff who came to get you for me?"

"Maybe.  They'll be talking about us now."

"Is that so bad?"

"No. It's just, well, they never used to talk about me, even when my ex used to come down.  They never said anything, even when he used to come in and wait for me.  I think I kinda like it."

"So do I.  We could go out somewhere else tonight?"

"No, it's fine, really.  I want to be seen out with you and get talked about."

Alec smiled.  "So do I so let's give them something to talk about.  I'll walk you back, if you've finished?"

"Yeah.  I'll see you at six then?"

Once outside the store, Alec made sure no-one was around and kissed her lightly on the lips. 

"I may walk up tonight, if you don't mind walking back down again?"

"No, 'course not, it'll be nice, walking down the lane with you."

Alec kept his word and set off to walk back up to the store.  He was going to suggest they got something to eat and then take her back around nine and suggest they both had a few hours to themselves and she could make him breakfast in the morning before they went on their shopping trip.  Well that was half a plan.

They got into the pub, went into a side room and Alec ordered at the bar and they got their meals then a few drinks later, they were sat in a corner, just holding hands and talking.

"So, are you going to invite me for breakfast tomorrow then?" Alec asked.

"Well, I have to return the invitation, don't I?  Make it around nine then."

"Nine?  That's half the day gone Rose.  Make it eight?"

"It's Saturday, in case you'd not noticed?"

"I had which makes it all the more reason not to waste the entire morning.  If you want to debate it, I can always make it seven thirty again."

"Ok, eight it is then, you drive a hard bargain Alec Hardy."

She turned to kiss his cheek.  "I'll be back in a minute, don't go anywhere, will you?"

"Where would I go without you?"

While she was in the ladies room, she took the chance to call her mother.

"Hi Mum, you ok?  It's been a bit hectic lately."

"Don't worry about me then, up here all my own.  Did Mickey find you?"

"What?  Tell me you're winding me up?"

"No, he set off around fiveish, said he was going to give you a surprise visit.  Aren't you at home?"

"No, I'm out with a friend."

"Then where are you?"

Like she was going to tell her mother and have her telling Mickey which pub she was in.  Then she had a horrible thought – this was the pub she used to go in with him and if she wasn't at home, he'd go to the store though the night staff thankfully didn't yet know about Alec but then he would try both pubs or he'd be waiting outside her flat in his car or worse still, get someone to let him in because thankfully she had never given him the code though Alec appeared to have given it to Ellie Miller.  Her mother snapped her back to reality.

"Rose, are you still there?  So where are you then?"

"I told you.  I'm out and I'm not rushing back home because that loser decides to pay a visit.  Why the hell did he decide to come down?"

"Because he's not seen you in ages, he says you never ask him to come down any more and you never ask me either but he is your boyfriend."

"Oh, so suddenly, he decides he's my boyfriend does he?  He failed to mention that he'd been seeing someone else when he agreed to have a long distance relationship and Shareen told me he was out with Martha, that medical student.  I dumped him months ago Mum, he failed to tell you that as well?  I suppose he got dumped again then but he needn't come crawling back down here because I've got a new boyfriend, one who lives in the village and has more respect for me and a better job."

"Oh, well that didn't take you long, did it madam?"

"I gave him more chances than I care to remember, it's not like Mickey's not blown it before.  If he comes down, he's wasted his time.  Don't worry, if Mickey starts any trouble, Alec will sort him out, he's a police detective inspector."

Jackie Tyler laughed.  "You and policeman?  See how long that lasts lady.  As soon as you see Mickey again, you'll go crawling back to him, it's happened before."

Rose was furious, what had that creep been telling her?  "Excuse me, he neglected to tell you he was the one that always came crawling back to me and like an idiot, I let him but last time was the final time, I'm with Alec now."

"So who's this Alec then?"

"He just solved that murder recently, down in Broadchurch."

"Oh, I read about that, wasn't the killer's wife a detective?"

"Yeah and she's not too happy about it, I met her.  Anyway, he'll wonder where I got to and if Mickey rings you, don't you say anything.  I may just lay on a little surprise for him that will guarantee he won't come back again."

Rose hung up and went back to Alec.  "Hey babe, sorry I took so long, my mum rang and does she like to talk or what?"

"It's ok love, she was just maybe making sure you were ok." 

Since when had they given each other pet names? he wondered and 'love' was about the best one he could come up with at such short notice.

"I have to warn you Alec, she just told me and I swear to you I didn't know."

"Know what?"

"She said my ex was driving down, to surprise me and he's probably here by now, traffic permitting and he knows I used to come in here."

"It's ok, don't worry about it.  I think I can deal with your ex boyfriend, if he really gets persistent.  I am in the police, well I will be if I get my job back on Monday."

"I don't want him making trouble for you Alec, not when you've just had your operation.  I can deal with him."

"I told you, it's ok, you don't have to deal with him.  I take it he doesn't understand you don't want him back?"

"You could say that.  He might be waiting for me at home if he doesn't come up here."

"Then we'll deal with him when we see him.  What made him come after you?"

"I guess he split up from his last girlfriend, the one my friend told me he was seeing when he'd already agreed he would come down every few weeks.  I had to tell her about us, I hope you don't mind?"

"Why should I?  You said I'd have to meet her.  Why don't you invite her down next weekend?"

"She might not be talking to me now, she was keen on me getting back with Mickey. I grew up with him, he's older than me and when I was old enough, we started going out but we didn't get serious until I was about nineteen and even then, well we never, you know."

"It's ok, you don't have to explain anything to me, I was married, remember?  Relax Rose, I'll take care of you, I won't let him upset you or talk you into going back to him if you don't want to."

"I don't want to Alec, I swear I don't.  I want to be with you, Mickey never treated me the way you do, you know how to really treat a woman Alec.  Mickey and I used to go out and I always ended up paying for everything and we never went out like this, for a meal or for a proper lunch or offer to take me shopping, you really spoil me."

She squeezed his arm and moved closer.  "I could really get used to this."

"Then there's no reason why you can't get used to it, don't think this will put me off just as Claire and Miller trying to interfere with my life should not put you off either.  We've been off to a rocky start, Miller calling in and Claire texting me but it's all over Rose, I promise I won't let them interfere, not if I can help it."

"It's ok Alec, I know you're in a difficult situation, we'll get through and I'm not going to let them put me off, no matter how much they try.  Come on, let's get out of here and hopefully, he'll have been to the flat, be looking in the other pub and we'll miss him then if I go to your place, he'll give up."

"What happened to 'let's have a few hours on our own'?  Not that I'm complaining of course."

"Just 'til I'm sure he's gone home, he'll be calling the intercom and no-one will answer him so he'll figure I've gone out."

"How long will he wait though?" Alec mused, hoping this Mickey didn't give up easily and she would stay the night.

"I'll just stay until you think it's ok for me to go home."

Alec smiled and got up, reaching for her hand.  "That depends but it could take a while.  Why?  Are you in a hurry to get home?"

"No, are you in a hurry to get rid of me?" she smiled back.

"Not in the least but I don't want you to think I'll be keeping you there longer than necessary."

"Why would I think that Alec?" she grinned as they left the pub.

"Not that I would keep you there longer than you needed to be but we might just lose track of time and tonight, since you seem to now relax more around me, you might actually fall asleep on me on my sofa."

She held onto his arm tightly.  "Mmm, I think I like that idea but would you wake me up to send me home though?"

"Is that a trick question?  If I get it wrong, you'll get up and leave."

"Then tell me the alternative."

They had started walking down the lane leading home, it was still light and there had yet been no sign of Mickey, maybe he'd changed his mind and not bothered. Rose was hoping so as they neared their block of flats until her mobile rang.  It was Mickey.

She unhooked her arm from Alec's.  "Sorry, I have to take this."

"Is it him?"

Rose nodded and Alec felt a pang of jealousy, something he thought he would never experience again.

Rose answered.  "What do you want Mickey?"

"I'm up at the pub, someone said you'd just left, I was looking in the other one. Where are you?"

"Never mind, go home Mickey."

"Who did you leave with?"

"I'm hanging up, I don't have to answer to you.  I don't hear from you for over two months and suddenly you decide to come down here?  I don't think so, I told you last time, it's over Mickey."

"You always say that Rose, you know you don't mean it."

"Yes I do, I have someone else now, go home."

"Who is it?  I'm coming down, I want to talk to you."

"Well I don't want to see you."

"Rose, just talk to me."

"Why?  You don't get it do you?  Bye Mickey."

She hung up and stopped.  Alec put his arm around her. 

"Come on Rose, don't let him get to you.  Let him come down, I'll deal with him.  We're almost home."

They had just turned the corner when a run-down black mini passed them and stopped outside their driveway.  Mickey got out, tattered jeans and a yellow t-shirt and black and white trainers.  He was scruffy, no match for Alec Hardy, there was no comparison.  Rose and Alec approached him as he leaned on his car.  Alec was wearing his dark grey suit trousers and a black jacket along with a blue striped button down t-shirt he had picked on his morning trip to Broadchurch.  He was going to add to his sparse wardrobe the next day and if Rose wanted to go with him, who was he stop her?

Rose was now walking with Alec's arm around her and they stopped as they approached Mickey's car.

"So who are you then?"

Alec fished in his inside pocket with his free arm and brought out his ID card.

"Detective Inspector Alec Hardy.  You're Mickey then?"

"Mickey Smith.  Where did you find him Rose?"

"Come on Alec, just ignore him, he's not worth it."

"Aw come on Rose, give me a chance, I came all this way."

"Who asked you to?  Just go home, I don't want to see you."

"You heard her, go on home or do I have to have you removed?"

"For what?" Mickey grunted.

"Do I have to make a list?  Disturbing the peace, dressing like a down and out and has your car even got an MOT?  It does not look roadworthy to me, I might get it towed away for safety reasons.  Enough?"

Rose smiled and half hid behind her new boyfriend, keeping out of it.  Alec was being the perfect gentleman and defending her and she liked it, more than she should do.

"Huh, I'd like to see you try and yeah, my car has its MOT, I work in a garage."

"Passed it yourself did you?  Licence and registration, insurance and MOT now or get that thing from in front of my driveway."

Rose was trying her best to keep a straight face.  Mickey stared at him then began laughing. 

"Very funny, you're not even in uniform."

"I don't wear a uniform, detectives don't wear a uniform.  Come on Rose, let's go home."

"You live here too?"

Now it was Rose's turn and she hoped Alec would play along.

"He stays over, what's it to you?"

"What?  He's moved in with you?"

"Yes Mickey, more or less though from next week when he gives up his place, he's moving in permanently with me, my place is bigger than his, isn't it babe?"

Alec stood his ground as Mickey lurched forward from leaning on what Alec laughingly called a car and wondered how the contraption had even got him this far, over 140 miles.  He felt like calling a tow-truck and impounding it for safety reasons, the public's safety.  Mickey stood with his arms folded.

"You're kidding me, right?  Like you Rose always got me into bother with your mother when she came back and she'd slap me and throw me out."

"No but I did tell Alec about that, he thought it was hilarious.  Just get back in that death-trap of a car of yours and go home, save your money up and buy a decent car will ya?"

"I'm not going until you talk to me."

"Well you're not coming inside with us, what do you take me for?" Alec asked indignantly.

"Then I'll talk to her out here then."

Alec was loosing his cool, fast.  "Look, I don't know about you but I'm getting tired of this.  Go home and leave Rose alone or I'll have a squad car here in less than ten minutes.  That's how long you've got.  Come on Rose,"

Alec started leading her away.  Mickey made one last plea.  "I'm sorry Rose, I know why you were mad at me but I left Martha, I didn't mean to start seeing her after we made that agreement, please Rose."

His speech was falling on deaf ears as Alec led her away.  Alec turned back.

"And don't you keep pressing the buzzer for her flat either or I will have you forcibly removed.  Clear?"

He pressed the code and went inside, making sure the door had locked behind them.  Rose stopped and turned to Alec, putting her arms around him and he leaned down.

"My hero," she whispered and kissed him.

Mickey stood outside watching.  He had well and truly blown it this time and Rose had found another bloke.

Chapter 7
Alec didn't want to risk this Mickey pressing Rose's intercom all night. 

"Let's go get you a few things and come and stay with me."

"Just get a squad car up here and get him removed."

"I'd be wasting their time."

"Not if you say your young neighbour was afraid he was watching her and came to ask for your help."  She put her arms around his neck.

"I was right Rose Tyler, you are wicked.  Do you really want to do that?"

Rose crossed over and looked out of the window.  Mickey was still sat in his car.  She got a message from him asking her to let him in.  She handed her phone to Alec.

"He's not going to go away Alec, I have to stop this.  I know I made a big mistake, taking him back the last time but I was lonely, I didn't have anyone else and even though he only came down every other week, I could at least say I had a boyfriend then when I found out he was seeing someone back home, I was furious.  I could have easily done the same but I didn't.  I just don't want you thinking that he's gonna get me to go back to him."

"I don't think that Rose, honestly.  Just forget about him.  I'll call Broadchurch Police Station, get them to come and talk to him but you'll have to admit you know him.  Do you want that?"

Rose leaned on his shoulder.  "No, can't you just report him?"

"Well I could but he's met me now.  Let someone else report him.  Come on over to my apartment and just forget it.  You can even fall asleep on my sofa if you want?"

"Yeah, I'd like that.  Let me get a couple of things."

Alec waited in the living room for her and she was back in a few minutes then went into the bathroom.  Her buzzer went and he knew who it was.  Rose was still in her bathroom and Alec answered.

"Who is it?"

"Put Rose on."

"Go away, she doesn't want to talk to you.  Do I have to get a patrol car out here?  If I look out and see you down there in five minutes time, I'll have your car towed away."

"You don't scare me Hardy.  Who do you think you are, bossing me around?"

"I'm the police, that gives me the right."

"It doesn't give you the right to make Rose's mind up for her."

"I thought she had made it clear?  Ok, don't say I didn't warn you."

He got his phone out, the Broadchurch Police Station still in his contacts.  He had got sort of friendly with one of the patrol drivers, Bob and called the station.

"This is DI Hardy.  I need a patrol car out at my place in Charmouth, my address is on file, it's just off Sea Lane.  There's a man parked outside my driveway, he was there when I came back in and my neighbour says he's scaring her.  She came over for help.  I asked him to leave but he said he was waiting for her but when I asked her about it, she had told him to go away and now she thinks he's going to try to get into the block."

"Ok Sir, I'll have someone there shortly.  Is the young lady alright?"

"Yes, I'm over in her apartment now, he's been calling her on the intercom, I just answered it for her.  I'm taking her over to my apartment, get whoever you send to call my mobile."

"Yes Sir."

Rose was stood in the bathroom doorway.  "Did Mickey call or were you just saying that?"

"Do you want him out there all night, possibly when we go out in the morning?"

"No, 'course not but why won't he just go away?"

"Maybe because you kept taking him back.  It's a habit with him Rose, you break up, you take him back.  You said yourself that you've known him all your life.  He thinks he owns you and you owe him.  He doesn't get the fact that you've finally got over him and moved on.  I'm just making it plain to him it's finally over.  It is over with him, isn't it?"

"Yes, I told you that. I just want him gone Alec, please make him leave me alone." She put her arms around him and he held her tightly.

"I told the station I was in your apartment, they'll call when they've spoken to him. We can still go to my place if you want, I told them I might be taking you there."

"Don't you think you'd better go down?"

"Why, he'll know I sent a patrol car to get him to move, I'm showing him I mean business."

They crossed over into Alec's flat and Rose flopped down on his sofa.  She held her arms out and he joined her, putting his own arms around her.

"It's ok Rose, he'll be gone soon, as soon as the patrol car comes, they'll move him on.  Don't get too comfortable, I may have to answer the door."

"Won't they treat this as a domestic disturbance?"

"No because I reported it on your behalf, you don't have to say anything unless you want to bring charges against him?"

"No, I can't be bothered Alec, I just want him gone."

"He will be, he won't dare come back."

"I hope you're right but you don't know him like I do."

Alec's phone rang.  It was Bob.

"Can you come down here Sir, this man says he's not moving and you're keeping him from talking to his girlfriend."

"She is not his girlfriend, she told me she hasn't seen him for over two months. What's wrong with him?  Ok, I'll come down but she stays here.  She doesn't want to get involved and since he's making accusations against me, then I'll face him.  Just be ready to arrest him."

Bob chuckled to himself and expected the man now sat on the hood of this clapped-out mini was about to lose.  He knew Hardy had a temper and maybe the former DI had stolen this man's girlfriend and it was sour grapes but knowing Hardy and seeing this man, no wonder the woman had gone off with Hardy.

Alec gave her a kiss and told Rose to relax, he would deal with it.

"A little warning would have been nice Rose, you could have said he was likely to show up."

"How was I to know?  I confronted him, when my friend told me he was going out with someone else back in London.  He didn't bother denying it, said he'd made a mistake and he'd break it off but I told him not to bother, it was obviously not working and I didn't want to see him again.  I wouldn't have known he was here if mum hadn't said.  Don't you think after two months he'd get the message I didn't want to see him again?"

"Obviously not.  I won't be long.  Once he's gone we can just relax and then I can take you back to your place, if you want?"

"I thought you were letting me fall asleep on your sofa?  I'm disappointed Alec."

He smiled and picked up his key and went downstairs.  Mickey was fuming when a police patrol car had pulled up behind him and someone got out and approached him.  He was motioned to step out of the car and asked for some ID and in his haste to drive down here, he had neglected to bring anything with him and already been told to take his licence and insurance and other documents into the nearest station within seven days.  Then the officer had told him there had been a complaint and he knew it had been the bloke with Rose.

"Sir, I'll have to ask you to remove yourself from this location, there has been a complaint, you're making one of the residents nervous."

"Yeah?  I expect it was that detective that made the complaint?  Did he tell you he's keeping my girlfriend from speaking to me?"

Bob called Hardy and was amused the detective's side of the story was completely different.

"Sir, DI Hardy is on his way down to settle this."

"I don't want to speak to him."

"Well you have no choice in the matter, the young lady in question is not prepared to come downstairs and I can't make her.  If this is something only you and DI Hardy can settle, then I'll leave you to it but if you insist on making something of it, I'll have to escort you back to the main road and I suggest you go home."

"Huh, fine but I'm not leaving until I talk to her."

"You won't have a choice in it, not if Hardy hauls you to the station."

"He wouldn't dare."

"Son, listen to me carefully, Hardy eats punks like you for breakfast, he just put a child-killer behind bars and he's not in the best of moods so take my advice and quit while you're ahead, got that?"

Just then, Alec came out.  "I thought I told you to leave?  Bob, did he produce his documents?"

"No Sir, said he left them at home."

"Then arrest him and have his car towed to the nearest police approved garage and have it tested, in the morning and detain him overnight at the station.  That car's a death-trap."

"Oi, you can't do that," Mickey protested.

"I'm afraid he can.  I'll just call a tow truck.  Sir, we do charge the offender for that, don't we?"

"Yes, since the chief had her budget cut.  Unless he wants to co-operate and leave?"

Mickey saw there was little he could do.  Rose wouldn't take his side now. 

"Ok. I'm leaving but don't think you've heard the last from me and you're not stopping me from seeing her."

"It's ok, you can go now Bob, I'll see he leaves."

"Ok Sir, if you insist but I won't be far away if you need me."

Alec turned to look up to see if Rose was watching, he was pleased she wasn't.  He didn't like to see her upset even though it hadn't quite been a week yet, they were getting closer and this morning, breakfast had been really nice with her.  She had brightened his day and now she wanted to get comfy on his sofa and fall asleep on him and if she didn't want to go home, he wasn't going to make her.

"Are you going to leave or do I bring charges of harassment against you?"

"Why won't you let me talk to her and explain?"

"That you went off with someone after suggesting a long-distance relationship and only Rose kept her end of the deal?  I don't think so.  She told you it was over so just go home.  Yes, she is with me now and no, we don't live together, not yet but it won't be long if I have a say in it.  How do you expect her to feel when you come back after all this time and expect her to take you back?  How do you think that makes me feel?"

Mickey knew the feeling.  Yes, he had sort of cheated on Rose with Martha Jones after he met her at the hospital when he had gone with a broken finger and she had flirted with him but what did Rose expect?  He was a hot-blooded male and Rose was over 100 miles away and he'd got further with the medical student than he'd ever done with Rose, who had chosen to move away despite him pleading with her to stay and she had taken him back before, so why wouldn't she do it again?

Maybe because she had been infatuated with this tall detective inspector while he, Mickey Smith was a mere mechanic.  Hell, that black SUV parked there was probably his while he had this mini that he'd been duped into trading for his beloved VW Beetle and now wasn't so sure as to the validity of the MOT certificate that came with it but if he gave in, Jackie wouldn't talk to him any more and she was his ally.  There would be no more chances, was he prepared to give up altogether?

"So, what's it going to be Smith?" Alec asked impatiently, knowing Rose was lying on the sofa anxiously waiting for his return.

"Ok, I'll leave but only 'cos I don't want to spend the night in a cell and have to pay to get my car back."

"Yes, about your car.  I think you got done with that so if you really are a mechanic, I'd get it re-tested, as soon as you get back, if it gets you that far and you leave Rose alone.  No calls, no texts and if I find you tried, I'll call the nearest station in London to you and they will haul you in and Rose will bring charges of harassment against you, clear?"

"Crystal and for the record, just tell Rose I'm sorry I cheated but she came all the way down here."

"Well she seemed to have managed up until she met me and I've been divorced nearly two years and it never did me any harm.  She's mine now so just leave her alone, I'll not have her getting upset and if I hear from you again, I won't be responsible for my actions.  Now get out of here."

Alec stood as Mickey got back in his car.  Now not only was Rose not talking to him, she would set her new policeman boyfriend onto him and Jackie would be bitterly disappointed with him.  She had been tearful when he'd hurriedly called her and said he was off to try to get Rose back and she had told him Rose probably just missed him and gladly take him back, just like she had always done.

Mickey just didn't get the whole 'Rose was well and truly over him' bit and drove off, seeing Alec Hardy making sure as he turned around and drove back around the corner.  Alec was relieved it had finally got dark and hoped the car was as bad as it looked and he'd get caught by the traffic cops on his way back though he couldn't bring himself to wish for anything else, he wasn't that vindictive, mostly for Rose's sake as she could still take pity on the bloke if something happened to her ex.

Now he just had to be certain he really wanted Rose to be part of his life and hoped she wanted to be part of his because over the weekend, he was going to suggest a few changes in their new arrangements and see how things turned out.  Now if Rose wanted him to follow her into dress and shoe shops, he would willingly go because like it or not, he had a girlfriend.  Rose was waiting for him and it was now getting late.

"Come on sweetheart, let's just forget what happened and tomorrow, we'll go shopping.  When we go to the supermarket, we'll go together, no sense in getting two lots of the same things, is there?"

Rose smiled and snuggled up to him, curling her feet under her.  "No, s'pose not but what about when I'm out?  We'll have to both get essentials like tea and coffee and milk.  If you like, you can have my spare key then if you need anything, you can go and get it."

"Fine, you can have my spare.  Now let's just hope we have a nice quiet weekend with no more surprise visitors.  Anyone else you want to tell me about?"

Rose smiled and began unbuttoning his new t-shirt, admiring as always the splattering of chest hair, knowing full well it now turned her on in a big way.  She was going to have to be very careful because Alec Hardy was going to turn out to be her first real lover.  She and Mickey hadn't gone very far in that department though she had already half admitted that to Alec already.  She didn't know what had stopped her, maybe because she had always known Mickey and never really felt 'That' way about him and he had always had too much to drink anyway the times they went out and she'd ended up paying.

The t-shirt came off and her white blouse got unbuttoned, she'd not bothered getting changed when all the fuss had kicked off and now with just her red cotton bra exposed, they were kissing, Rose laid in Alec's arms.

"Mmm, I'm really getting to like this Alec, are you?"

She was now leaning over to kiss across his chest, noticing a small scar now she was paying more attention. 

"Does it hurt Alec?" she asked, kissing around it.

"No love, it doesn't hurt any more but you can still kiss it better if you like."

After he thought she'd had more than her fair share of kissing his chest, he flipped her over and kissed her exposed skin.

"Rose, when are you going to stop tormenting me?" he asked, trying to move the bra slightly to kiss more skin.

"Mmm, wasn't aware I was Alec."

"Yes you are, you get my shirt off every night and you've not yet returned the favour."

"Oh, I thought it was you, you know, being a bit shy at trying to unfasten it."

Alec looked up.  "Really?  No I'm not shy, I was being a gentleman.  I was waiting for an invitation to take it off."

Rose smiled and ruffled his hair.  "Consider yourself invited."

Alec just grinned and reached around the back and unfastened the offending article, tossing it over the back of the sofa.  It seemed she liked wearing strapless ones although he thought now she had been doing it on purpose to get him going and it had worked.  She still had her blouse on and he parted it, staring down at her beauty, then kissing every part of her bare skin, Rose was kissing his neck as she reached over and whispered, "Mmm, that's nice and no tickly beard either.  I could definitely go for more of this."

"Oh so could I Rose, so could I.  I can't remember when I felt like this."

"Yeah, I know what you mean, this is heavenly.  I think you're gonna have trouble getting rid of me tonight."

"Oh, am I?  That's the best news I've heard all day.  Stay with me tonight Rose?  We don't have to, you know, we can just do more of this, if you want?  Maybe it's too soon to think of anything else but you decide."

"I want more of this, boy do I want more of this," she smiled, pulling his head down for him to kiss his way across from one side to the other.

He stopped and looked at her.  She was beautiful and she wanted to be his.  He was certainly not going to take advantage by forcing her into anything, she would give herself to him when she was ready and from what he could gather, he would be her first.  He really didn't know why she had chosen him, she had obviously never really had sex with that Mickey Smith and maybe that was why the bloke was so mad at the thought of her being with someone else and someone of Rose's age, still being fresh was something of a rarity but if Smith had been her only boyfriend then it shouldn't be that unexpected.

The other man obviously didn't know how to treat her properly and maybe that was why she had been a bit shy to rush into something but he could wait, she would be worth it.  The thought of her nearly drove him crazy, he couldn't get her out of his mind when he was alone and here she was, smiling up at him and running her finger on his chest.  He glanced at the wall clock, it was after ten, maybe a bit too early to suggest going to bed just yet.

"Rose, come and lie on me?"

He moved over and Rose slid on top of him, her head on his shoulder and the crook of his neck, skin touching skin and he parted her blouse again, not wanting to take it off but wanting to feel her skin on his.

He reached to her cheek and whispered, "Rose," as she turned to him and they began kissing, deeper with each kiss until they were both out of breath and Rose called his name.

"Is it too early to ask if I can fall asleep with you?" she asked.

"No, I thought you were going to stay but we really don't have to sleep on the sofa."

"Then take me to bed Alec."

He moved her to one side and got off the sofa then gathered her in his arms. "With pleasure Rose."

Chapter 8
Rose had brought a few things with her, a pair of short pyjamas and a change of underwear plus a pair of jeans and a t-shirt for the morning but she hadn't really thought she was going to stay over but now, she didn't want to be alone in her apartment in case that moron of an ex boyfriend decided to call her intercom all night.

Alec had told her he had watched Mickey drive away but Rose wasn't convinced he would stay away.  He had told her he had almost had Mickey carted off to Broadchurch Police Station but had given him the chance to drive away with a warning but he didn't promise he would be so lenient the next time.

Alec had picked her up, leaving her bra on the back of the sofa and had deposited her on the bed.

"Alec, I really need the bathroom and I think I should put my PJs on, this is all a bit unexpected.  Not that I didn't want to fall asleep on you on the sofa, I did, I mean I still do but I'm here, in your bedroom, with you and well, I do want to go to sleep on you and I want so much more but I'm a bit scared, that we're rushing into something."

"It's ok love, I understand, was Mickey your first and only boyfriend?"

Rose nodded.

"You go get changed, take your time, it's going to be ok.  I'm not going to force you to do anything you don't want to, I'm not like that but I have to ask you, don't get mad with me for trying."

Rose smiled and touched his cheek.  "You're so sweet Alec, you're so different. Mickey used to try it on, mostly after a few drinks but somehow, I don't know why, I never wanted to give myself to him.  I never really thought he was the one for me but I suppose that's because he was the only one I ever went out with when I was old enough to have a proper boyfriend."

"Well I understand Rose, take all the time you want and if you just want to sleep with me, in my bed, then that's fine, if it gets too much just say.  I won't throw you out.  Miller used to say I had no patience but I do really, it was just I thought I was never going to finish that case and my time was running out.  Now I actually have some time, I can wait, until you're ready."

She leaned over and kissed his cheek.  "I won't be long.  Don't put a t-shirt on, will you?"

Alec smiled.  "No, I won't, you'll just take it off again."

Rose looked at herself in Alec's bathroom mirror.  Why was he being so patient with her?  Mickey, she understood but she was convinced all that time they went out, he had seeing someone else when they used to be always splitting up and maybe he did it on purpose, got her annoyed so she would tell him to get lost and he'd go away for a few weeks then probably got what he wanted elsewhere and came crawling back and she suspected he'd just finished his latest 'fling' with that medical student.  Well he could go crawling back to her because she had found someone who actually cared about her because to Mickey Smith she was just a possession, she was so much more to Alec, Alec wanted her and was prepared to wait until she was ready.

She just hoped he wouldn't change his mind or that she wouldn't make him wait too long.  He was an amazing person, to come through a heart operation and solve a child's murder when he had been so ill.  She wished now she had met him before. Once changed, she stepped out of the bathroom, Alec's bedroom door was open and he was laid in bed, propped up against the pillows.

He held out his arms after pulling back the covers.  "Come here Rose."

Rose climbed in beside him and he pulled the covers over her and she snuggled up to him.  "Ok sweetheart?" he asked, kissing her cheek.

"Mmm, fine, can I come and lie on you?"

He moved around until she had got settled.  "Are you going to keep your top fastened?" he asked as he reached over to turn out the lamp without disturbing her.

He reached for the buttons and she let him unfasten them, letting the top flap loose.  He could feel her soft skin on his chest and a shiver ran down his spine.  She was gorgeous and she knew it, what man could resist her and that clown Smith was a loser.  For the first time in a very long time, Alec felt like the winner even though she was not ready to give herself to him yet, it was just a question of biding his time and she would, he was sure of it.  Rose Tyler would soon be his.  That was just as long as Miller and Claire Ripley stayed out of the picture and he wasn't going to disturb the hornet's nests and bring them both down on him again, not now he had Rose in his bed.

They kissed for a while and Rose got a little bolder, kissing further down until she lay her head on his belly which made him smile.

"Mmm, this is a nice soft spot, you're all squidgy there Alec." 

She was kissing her way around his belly button.

"Yes and you're making me squirm Rose so you'd best stop or you really are going to be biting off more than you can chew at this present time."

"Really?  Is that a challenge Alec?"

She didn't know what she was doing to him as she continued and he was having an inner battle with himself not to flip her over and have his way with her, promise or no promise to wait until she was ready.

"Well don't say I never warned you, be it on your own head if you continue like that.  Now you know what I like, what do you like Rose?"

She looked up then shuffled back to meet his lips.  "Mmm, I don't know Alec, care to find out?"

"Would I?  Are you joking?  I would love to find out what you like my sweet Rose.  Are you tired yet?"

"No but I might be if you don't hurry up and find what I like you to do to me."

He flipped her over and parted her pyjama top and began kissing her between the two parts.  She ruffled his hair and he was smiling as he kissed one side then the other.

"Anything special yet Rose?"

Rose couldn't answer, she was enjoying herself too much.  "Just carry on, I'll let you know."

"Are you going to be hard work?  Don't go falling asleep on me just yet, I've only just got started."

Rose let out a giggle and pulled him away.  "Lower down Alec, I want you lower down."

He moved his head to her tummy and began kissing his way across, stopping in the middle to do the same as she had done to him but she didn't squirm like he had done which made him wonder if she really intended for him to go even lower but he daren't, not without her permission, since he had promised her and he wanted her to trust him because now she had upped the stakes and he needed her to trust him.  Now, he wanted to ask her to let him take care of her, properly which included keeping her ex away from her and telling Miller and Claire to stay away from where they lived.

He knew he'd have to see Miller when the court case came up but he could no longer be friends with her, not while she was insinuating she expected more than friendship and as for Claire, she was good at getting men to do as she wanted but he'd managed so far not to fall under her spell and there was now no danger of that, even when she had more or less tried yesterday.  He was totally gone on Rose, even more now she was beginning to cave in to him.  He didn't like women who pursued him, he like to do the chasing or at least a mutual attraction and he was very much attracted to the woman who was raking her fingers through his hair and making soft moaning noises under him at this very moment.

He had stopped to kiss her right hip and he knew he'd got her. 

"Ah-ah, I've got you now, have I not?" he asked in triumph.

She had to admit it, it was turning her on.  She pulled his head back down but he pulled back up again.

"Now I have to see if it's the same with your other hip, you must be really sensitive there."

A second later, he was kissing the other one and Rose was beginning to squirm. 

"Yes, you got me Alec, don't stop, please don't stop."

He was grinning to himself.  Less than a week and he almost just lost control when she had been doing that to him and now Rose was writhing under him as he repeatedly gave tiny kisses to her hips.  Who would have thought he could please a woman like this?  Tess had been difficult to please, especially near the end so it was hardly surprising he had hardly noticed any different.  His ex wife was nearer his own age, not a lot younger like Rose was and he supposed that was making all the difference.  She was relaxing more around him and he with her.  He never would have asked a pretty young blonde out for lunch as he had done with her a few days ago.

He was aware her hands were now on his back and looked up. 

"Happy now?"

Rose giggled and ruffled his hair again.  "Yep, you got me.  That was really nice but I'm getting tired now.  I'll make you breakfast in the morning though maybe you should come over to my place?"

"Why?  You can use my kitchen you know it's almost the same as yours, why go back over there?  I want you to feel just as much at home here as you do in your own apartment, ok?"

"Yeah, ok and that goes without saying you can go in mine any time.  Can you let me up now?"

"Ok but don't you go doing what you did earlier or I won't be responsible."

Rose smiled to herself as he let her up and went straight for the target area, making him jump and making her giggle.

"I warned you Rose, you're asking for trouble so tread very, very carefully.  You're not ready for anything more yet, are you?"

Rose looked up, placing one last kiss.  It was a shame he couldn't control his feelings, she thought.

"Ok, ok, I'll quit – for now.  It's just too nice, squidgy."

"Oh so that's your new name for me, giggles?"

"Giggles?  I suppose I deserve that but you make me happy Alec."

"You make me happy too Rose, now we should get some sleep and tomorrow night, bring your things over and we'll go out for the day, not shopping though, just a nice day out."

"Yeah, I'd like that."

She settled in his arms and tangled her legs in his as he lay partly on his side to accommodate her.

"I suppose I'll end up with a mouthful of your hair in the morning?"

"It's clean.  Night night squidgy."

"Night night giggles, sweet dreams."

They both had the best night's sleep they'd had for a while and Alec woke up first, his arm trapped under the beautiful blonde asleep at his side.  She had moved over slightly but still had him trapped as his alarm went off.  He was also aware of his proximity to another part of her anatomy as he turned and his own body was having other ideas about keeping his promise to her but thankfully she wasn't aware of it.  It had been too long, he knew that but his illness had kept him in check until recently and now Rose, just stirring, was opening her eyes and smiling up at him as he tried to prop himself up on the pillow.

"Morning sunshine, sleep well?"

Rose just about had both eyes open and let him move his arm.  He rubbed it to get some feeling back in it and Rose noticed.

"You should have let me sleep where I wanted to, your arm wouldn't be dead then," she smiled, putting her hand on his chest.  "Morning DI sexy."

She placed a quick kiss on his lips and started getting out of bed but he pulled her back with a "Where's my morning snog?"

"I should have brought my toothbrush with me before we start a full blown snogging session."

"There's a new one in the bathroom cabinet but you're not that bad so come back here."

He pushed her onto her back and began kissing her exposed skin which soon escalated until he coaxed her out of her top altogether and she lay under him as they kissed in earnest.

"Breakfast?" Rose asked over half an hour later, a big smile on her face.

After they cleared away the breakfast things, they set off to Exeter, Rose showing him around and agreeing to go do their own thing for an hour then meet for a late lunch, they then went to the supermarket and had the misfortune to bump into Ellie and her youngest son as they were in the tea and coffee aisle and Rose was persuading him to get decaff teabags while he was stating that was a misconception if she was buying coffee and her saying they were better for him since he still had to be a bit careful after his operation.

"Hello you two, doing domestics already?" Ellie quizzed, not looking too happy they were sharing the same shopping trolley and there seemed only one lot of everything of the essentials in there.

"Ah, Miller.  Yes, well, we both had to come shopping, it made sense to do it together.  I didn't expect to see you here."

"Well I do live here and this is the nearest supermarket.  You two are a bit far out, I would have thought the one in Broadchurch would be the nearest?"

"Rose wanted to show me around.  She doesn't like the one in Broadchurch much though I can't say I've been in there too much either.  Well don't let us keep you.  How's Tom getting on?"

"Not good, he misses his dad and he still blames me for it."

"Maybe I could talk to him for you, if you wanted?"

"Well I'm seeing him tomorrow afternoon at my sister's house.  Maybe you could call in?"

"Alec, we were going out tomorrow, remember?" Rose reminded him, taking his hand and rubbing her thumb over his.

Ellie noticed.  "Well leave it until another time then if you two have plans, don't let me interrupt them."

"We could call on the way back from wherever we go, maybe around five, if you'll still be there?" Alec offered.  He was only doing it for Tom's sake.

"I expect so, maybe you should ask your girlfriend?"

Rose could see this woman was clearly not going to make friends with her so easily but the feeling was mutual. 

So to disprove her and show Alec her support she said, "No it's fine Alec, we can call in.  Maybe a word from you will put the boy at ease though you were responsible as well, for taking his dad away but you might get him to shift some of his anger away so he'll start talking to her again.  You should give it a try."

Alec squeezed her hand.  She was something else.  "Ok, we'll call in.  Does he like comic books or something?  Maybe we can pick something up for him?"

"We can get him one of the latest ones and something for Fred here," Rose added, ruffling the young boy's hair and getting a laugh from him. 

She was telling herself not to start getting broody, she and Alec hadn't even had sex yet, this was way ahead of her schedule and did he even want to think about starting another family, especially with her?

That settled, Rose said goodbye to young Fred and they finished their shopping, loading everything into Alec's rented car when Alec stopped, staring at someone in the distance.  It was the local vicar from Broadchurch.  What was he doing there? Alec wondered, hoping he hadn't been spotted.  He had as the vicar started walking towards him.

"DI Hardy, what a surprise.  I just saw Ellie Miller inside.  Do you live here too now?" Paul Coates asked, looking at Rose as if to ask if she was actually with the detective he had locked horns with a few times.

"No, we just came here shopping.  This is my girlfriend Rose.  Rose this is the Reverend Paul Coates from Broadchurch."

Paul held his hand out and Rose put her shopping bag down and took it. 

"Hi, nice to meet you Reverend.  Alec doesn't talk much about where he used to live but I know Ellie Miller, sort of.  She doesn't like me very much."

Rose was not going to say why the ex DS Miller didn't like her, mainly because Ellie had designs on her now boyfriend and the fact she had deliberately led the other woman to believe she was already having sex with Alec that night she had barged in unannounced.  Well it would be true, quite soon if last night was anything to go by and she could have sworn she had been aware of certain things in that department this morning when she had felt Alec leaning over her to turn his alarm off and she had felt something.  She wished she had been brave enough to make something out of it but it had only been for a few seconds.  Goodness knows how Alec had managed to keep control.

They drove back to their block of apartments, Rose just hoping Mickey wouldn't be so stupid as to try coming back because she wasn't going to stop Alec from doing anything now, including locking him up to teach him a lesson.  She was with Alec now, well partially but she knew it wouldn't be long before she gave in to him, something she had never wanted to do with her ex.  They sorted their groceries, splitting a packet of decaff teabags and other items they had decided to share and Rose said she just wanted a little time to herself to sort her laundry and do other odd jobs she had been neglecting lately since seeing Alec every night for almost a week.

Alec was quite relieved though said he'd miss her and see her for dinner she was going to make for him but he knew they both needed a little space after their intense week or so together.  If had only meant to be lunch and making her dinner last Monday night but it had become clear to both of them it was going to be much more and he was looking forward to it.  He had someone back in his life again and now he knew why he'd managed to survive the operation he had so begrudgingly undergone – he had been destined to meet Rose Tyler.
Chapter 9
After Rose made dinner and they danced for a while, Rose having more CDs in her collection than Alec had, Rose persuaded him to stay in her apartment and he went to get a few things but while he was gone, he got an unexpected message from Claire – 'I know where you're living Alec' which made him drop the phone on his bed.

How the hell had she found out where he lived?  Well maybe she was just guessing, unless for some reason Tess had told her or she had bribed the Broadchurch Police to tell her but they never gave out confidential details, well not unless it was to relatives or official.  Then it struck him – Claire was resourceful and had probably given a sob story about he left her and she wanted to make up to him but even then, they should have informed him they had given out his address.  Still, he was going over to Rose's anyway, she could press the intercom as much as she wanted, he wouldn't be there to answer it.

Maybe she was just bluffing though, it was after nine on a Saturday night, why would she be in Charmouth at that time?  Maybe she wanted him to panic and reveal where he was and she really had no idea.  He still had to warn Rose though, in case she came around when he wasn't there.  He had his meeting with the chief superintendent in Broadchurch on Monday morning.

He didn't answer Claire, he just got what he needed and was using Rose's spare key she had given him and let himself in.  She was in the bathroom when he called out to her.

"I'm back sweetheart, you ok in there?"

"Yeah, won't be a minute."

She came out, towelling her hair and Alec opened his arms to her. 

"That shampoo smells nice, like strawberries.  I might just eat you in bed tonight."

"You're welcome to try.  Is there something wrong Alec?"

She had noticed he wasn't looking too happy.  "Just another message from Claire but I never answered her."

"What did she want?"

"I don't want to bother you with it, she's my problem, not yours."

"That's not fair Alec, what if she finds out about me and starts bothering me?  It will be my problem then so tell me what she said."

"She says she knows where I live but that's very unlikely.  She's just doing it because I walked off the other day."

"You said she lives alone, in a cottage, maybe she has no-one else to talk to but it doesn't give her the right to bother you.  Why doesn't she make some friends?"

"She's trying to play the innocent party, her husband went off or rather she went off then he disappeared, to France somewhere.  She thinks he's come to get her back.  She's not scared of him, she's using it as an excuse to get to me.  That's what I get for helping her."

"I told you, if she calls again, I'll tell her to stay away from you."

"That will only make her worse.  She uses people Rose, she'll step all over you."

"Well she didn't grow up on a tough London council estate did she?  I might have got upset over Mickey bothering me but I'm not going to let her think she can get to you."

"Leave it Rose, I'll deal with her tomorrow and once I get my job back, I can do something about it.  Now how about an early night, when you've dried your hair? That's if I don't eat you first."

He slipped his arms around her waist and kissed her cheek.  Rose snuggled up to him, her hair still damp. 

"Well if you let me get my hairdryer from my bedroom you won't have to wait that long, will you?"

Alec let her go, reluctantly.  While she was drying her hair, he got another message – 'No point in ignoring me, I'll be in Charmouth tomorrow afternoon'.  She did know where he lived though maybe not exactly where but he and Rose would be out and wouldn't be back until the early evening, hopefully.  He wandered into Rose's bedroom, she was sat in front of her dressing table.

"You look beautiful Rose, come here."

She turned around, putting the hairdryer down and he stooped down to kiss her.  He didn't want to worry her further by telling her that Claire may or may not actually know where he lived.

"Are we going to have more of what we did last night?  If so, that's fine but maybe you can ditch the pyjama top?"

"How about I wear a nightdress?"

"With nothing underneath?  Hopefully?"

"Now who's getting ahead of himself, detective?  I think we should work up to that, don't you?" Rose smiled, getting up.

"If you insist, I'll go along with it but I'll wear you down sooner or later."

"Mmm and don't think I didn't notice something this morning Alec Hardy, when you were silencing your phone alarm."

Alec almost went red, she had noticed then. 

"Well what do you expect, you just lying there next to me?  Especially after what you did to me last night."

"Mmm, I really liked that, shame you can't keep yourself in check to let me go to sleep there."

"I could, if I wanted to, I suppose.  You want to go to sleep there?"

It was a novelty for her, something she liked and made her giddy just thinking about going to sleep with her head on his belly.

"Most definitely, if you were to let me.  I want to curl up and rest my head there, it's nice and soft there."

"So the rest of me is not?"

Rose pretended to consider his question.  "Well not exactly but I like that bit about you the best."

He smiled and wondered if he actually could do it but it was all a bit much, her not expecting him to keep himself in check when it turned him on in a big way.  He hadn't known until last night just how much he liked it.  He was discovering new things with Rose and it was most enjoyable.

"Well maybe not tonight but possibly in the very near future, if you're still interested?"

"Oh I will be, don't worry on that score.  Would you make sure everything's turned off and the door chain is on please and I'll slip into the best of my nightwear for you?"

"Sure though you don't have to be shy at getting undressed in front of me, do you?"

"I'm not but I have to get used to it first.  There's lots of things Alec, things we have to get used to doing when we're around each other."

"Yes, I expect there is and one thing is, Rose, I want you to let me take care of you, you know, properly.  I know I introduced you today for the first time as my girlfriend, do you want the job?"

Rose smiled and put her arms around his neck.  "Only if you want the job of being my boyfriend?"

"So that's settled?  I can tell people you're my girlfriend?  It will make it easier than trying to deny it or not being certain I can make such a claim.  If Claire does actually find out where I live, you'll become her number one target, she won't take kindly to it.  I tried to tell her that the other day but I don't think she took it seriously."

"Well she'd better or there will be trouble.  I can fight my own battles when someone who I don't know is trying to get between us.  It was different before, with Mickey, we always argued about something or other but now, with you it's different."

"Well I never got the chance of being jealous of my ex, it all went on during a case we were working on and I was focusing on that so I don't know what it's like.  I could sense his jealousy of me and we hadn't then established I was actually your boyfriend.  If he comes back Rose, you have to let me handle it and Claire, if she comes around.  Promise me you'll leave it to me to take care of it, I mean it Rose."

"I know and I do trust you Alec but if she starts on me, she'll have a fight on her hands.  Don't ask me to sit back and let her walk all over me 'cos that's not ever gonna happen."

"Right, that's fair enough then but try not to start anything or do anything to provoke her, ok?"

"Yeah, ok sexy.  So go make sure everything's ok and I'll be waiting in bed for you."

"I won't be that long Rose, why don't you wait and let me help you?"

"I don't know Alec, I'm still a bit shy."

"Well we can easily remedy that, can't we?"

"Maybe but don't rush me, ok?"


He came back in after going into the bathroom and Rose was combing her hair, already in her dressing gown with just her underwear showing.  He tried not to show his disappointment but it was very early in their new relationship to just expect her to stand there and get undressed in front of him, even though he had taken off her bra last night, he had never taken off her skirt or trousers and even when she had worn a dress, he'd not taken it off but they could work up to it.

Rose got up and began unfastening his buttons on his shirt. 

"Did you buy some new t-shirts today?" she asked, putting her hands on his chest.

"Yes and that's not fair Rose, I let you unbutton my shirt and take it off for me, I expect some kind of return gesture."

Rose stood back and took his hands, placing them on her robe.  He got the hint she wanted him to unfasten it, this was going to take some time to get her to trust him enough that she would have already ditched her bra at this stage of the game.  He undid the tie, revealing her red underwear that he could have sworn she deliberately got a size too small and whistled under his breath.  He stepped nearer and she pressed herself up against him.

Rose led him over to her bed and he stopped, took off her robe and threw it over the chair then sat down, kicking off his shoes and taking off his trousers and his socks.  Rose was smiling and got into bed, Alec then climbing in beside her.  Rose reached her arms up to put them around his neck as he began kissing her neck then reached around and unfastened her red satin bra and threw it onto the floor, then he dived to down to kiss where he had removed the item.

Rose ruffled his hair and he smiled, maybe tonight would be even more interesting than last night and he would find out what else she liked him to do to her.  The first chance she got, she went directly to where he liked her kissing him and he returned the favour until Rose let him kiss her even further down, Alec making sure he didn't cross the line.  He was in no particular hurry.

The next morning though, she did notice she had not been imagining things the previous morning as he tried to turn off his alarm he had set a bit later with it being Sunday.

He quickly moved after realising she had stirred and lay on his back, one arm under his head and one around Rose.

"Hey, squidgy," she smiled, looking up at him. 

She couldn't resist leaning over to kiss him then moved down to kiss his belly again.  He squirmed.

"Hey yourself, I did warn you about that."

Rose had put a thin nightdress on before going to sleep and he suddenly flipped her over and raised it up and began kissing her hips.

"Ok, I give in. Alec, I want to come and lay on you, properly.  Please?"

"Oh Rose, you don't have to ask.  Come here."

Rose got on top of him and flinched as they touched and she started to move around on him.  She didn't quite know how she was supposed to feel but it did feel good.  Soon, before she knew it, Alec was easing off her nightdress and she was left only in her skimpy underwear.  She knew she wanted much more but didn't quite know how to tell him so she showed him  by taking his hand and guiding it and soon he had slipped his hand down the back as she slipped hers down the back of his shorts.

She began to shy away before he had chance to do anything else, until he realised why and apologised.  Rose just giggled.

"I'm really sorry Rose, I just got carried away."

"It's fine Alec, you don't need to apologise.  Why don't I nip over to your place and get you some clean ones?"

"I brought some with me, it's fine.  Am I forgiven?"

Rose kissed the tip of his nose.  "Yes, maybe just next time, we try it without your shorts but I keep my underwear on?"

"Anything you want Rose.  You promised to make breakfast at weekends but why don't I make you breakfast and you stay in bed?  Maybe just put your robe on and we can do some more snogging when we've eaten?"

"Can't think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning, lover."

Alec smiled, well it was better than her calling him squidgy.  So he got up, changing his shorts and found his way around her kitchen, remembering to make her coffee how she liked it and took a tray to her.  He kissed her forehead and went back to get his own.  After, he cleared the trays and climbed back into bed, taking his t-shirt off.

"So, how about now, you know, me taking my shorts off?"

Rose giggled.  "Ok Mister impatient, let's just leave them on for now, snogging only."

"You are a tease, Miss Tyler but come here." 

He unfastened her robe again and began kissing her.

Just an hour later, they were on their way to Weymouth for the rest of the day, walking hand in hand along the sea front and having lunch then looking around the shops, Rose persuading Alec to buy some tight jeans and then bought him a t-shirt with a star on it.  He just shook his head and humoured her.  He was just waiting for her to start picking out ones with cartoons and pop groups on them, then he knew he was in trouble.

He couldn't resist her, he knew it and she knew it.  It was a new lease of life for him and he was grateful he had taken the plunge and got himself sorted though give Miller her due, she had badgered him into it, probably because she was trying to get closer to him after her husband's arrest but it was all one-sided.

He just hoped Miller wouldn't do anything to ruin what he now had with Rose.  If she was willing to up the game tonight, it wouldn't be that long before she gave in to him.  Maybe next weekend, he'd take her somewhere nice on Saturday night, even book a hotel room for the night and buy her flowers and maybe some sexy underwear or a sexy nightdress and help her make her mind up by making it extra special that she would be willing to give it a try.

He knew she was still a little shy and he wasn't going to do anything to put her off, well maybe except for the little incident this morning but she had taken it well.  It was just like being a teenager again, his first mistake in getting a woman to have sex with him which had gone completely wrong but he had recovered and not let it put him off.  If she wanted him to show her, he would gladly teach her what it was like to be fully with a man.

They called at the home of Ellie's sister Lucy and much to Alec's annoyance, Olly let them in, looking at Rose to which Alec clearly gave him the 'Keep your hands and eyes off her – she's mine' look in not so many words.

Ellie did the introductions as Lucy went to get Tom.  Rose was making a fuss about young Fred who was showing her his toy car.  They had stopped and got him a brightly coloured ball to play with and a science fiction comic for Tom.

"Hi Tom, how are you doing?" Alec asked as the teenager came through the door.

Tom wasn't exactly happy to see the man who had locked up his father.

"Ok I suppose.  What are you doing here?  Did my mum ask you to come?"

"No, it was my idea and Rose wanted to meet you.  Say hello Rose."

"Is she your girlfriend?"

Alec knew he was going to regret this as the star reporter for The Broadchurch Echo was busy sharpening his pencil or the modern day equivalent that was now something to do with what birds did to each other instead of talking.  He was still mad at the reporter for leaking out facts about Danny's death.

"Yes Tom, she's my girlfriend and you," pointing directly to Olly, "Don't you go printing or tweetering anything either."

Tom laughed.  "It's not called that, it's called…."

"Tom!  Don't encourage Olly," Ellie interrupted.  "DI Hardy was talking to you."

"Sorry," the boy grinned, amused that the detective was more human than he had first thought.

"Maybe we can go talk in the kitchen?" Alec suggested.

"I'll make some tea first shall I?" Lucy asked, halfway out of the door.

"How long have you two been going out?" Olly asked, a possible topic of the next edition.

"Never you mind, I don't want to see myself on the front page of a newspaper any time soon so stop right now."

"I'm sure everyone wants to know what happened to you after you left town."

"How do you know I actually left town?" Alec asked, scowling at Ellie.  "Don't tell me, I already guessed."

"I didn't think it was actually a secret, I never told him exactly where you did move to so what's your problem?"

"I moved for a reason, to forget everything."

"Is that why you're considering coming back to work here then?" Ellie laughed.

Olly's ears pricked up.  "Is that true DI Hardy?"

They would find out if and when he was seen walking the streets of Broadchurch again.

"Ok.  Yes, I'm considering it but I'm also considering another offer so just keep it out of the paper."

"Ok, for now if you give me the story of why you decided to come back."

Alec knew he was cornered.  "I'll think about it.  Come on Tom, let's have our little talk."

He took the mug of tea offered to him, hoping it was decaff since Rose had said it was better for him.

Rose was left alone once Alec left the room with Tom.  She knew Ellie Miller was going to try to find out how her relationship with Alec was going, maybe she should lay it on a bit thick.  Alec would most likely play along, he had tried and almost succeeded getting in her underwear this morning.

"So how long then?" Lucy asked her.  "Where do you live?"

Like she was going to give that away, she could know that Claire for all she knew.

"Just up the coast, I run a shop up there."

"Mini-market," Ellie interrupted.

Rose felt like strangling the woman.  "Sort of, I met Alec when he came in and he asked me out to lunch."

"He did what?" Ellie asked.  This was news to her.  "Didn't you see us in there together last week?"

"No, I was in my office.  I can't remember everyone who comes in if they're not regulars, can I?"

"You didn't seem to forget him though did you?"

Lucy was smiling, this was interesting.  She'd not heard any juicy gossip for a while and now it seemed her sister had the hots for the detective but this other woman had beaten her to it.  She should have guessed with all the 'I'll be back soon I'm just popping out' even back the night her husband had been arrested by Hardy.  Maybe she had been about to leave Joe Miller and Hardy had done her a favour.  This was going to be good.

"I don't know what you're getting at.  It's up to Alec who he asks out for lunch."

"Well it looked like you'd done more than had lunch the other night to me."

Lucy was loving every second of this - her own sister in a cat fight.

"Yeah?  Well that's what you get for barging in then, isn't it?"

Olly was fascinated, he loved to see women arguing, it was an art form.

"Did she catch you doing anything Rose?" Lucy asked, grinning.

"Did I?" Ellie asked.

"Wouldn't you like to know?  I think the evidence was quite clear at the time."

Lucy burst out laughing, getting a filthy look from Ellie. 

"Thanks for your support Luce."

Olly had a big grin on his face, wondering what his aunt had actually interrupted.

"Yeah well me an Alec hit it off right away.  He took me out for lunch then cooked me dinner at his place and you know, it didn't take me long to give in to his charm, he's well, best not say anything more, he doesn't like to brag about it."

Ellie was just wondering if she was entitled to throw Hardy's latest conquest out of her sister's house.  No wonder he had been so touchy about looking after Fred.  They had probably been groping each other while Fred was asleep the other night.  That was it, no more asking him to babysit.  She felt foolish now, he was never interested in her in that way, she had just latched onto him after she found out about her husband.  Now she had to stay away from him like the plague.  She felt really embarrassed and what would Hardy be wanting with her, a still married mother of two?

Hardy was right, she would find someone, once she got divorced.  Alec came back in with his hand on Tom's shoulder.

"He's ready to go home, aren't you Tom?"

"Yeah, sorry Mum, Alec explained it to me.  Thanks for letting me stay Aunt Lucy. I'll go get my stuff."

"I told him I would come round next week and help you decorate and when I see Jenkinson tomorrow, I'm telling her you want back in."

"But I can't.  Everyone hates me."

"Rubbish, you are just giving them what they wanted, someone else to blame. Everyone who knew him was equally as guilty as you were for not seeing it sooner. Hell, I even sat across the dinner table from him so I count myself in so going back to work proves you've got nothing to feel guilty about.  I'm sure the chief will back you up and plus the press will, won't you Olly?"

Olly stuttered.  "Yes, yeah sure Aunt Ellie, you totally shouldn't take the blame for this.  I'm sure Maggie will back you up."

"Come on Rose, let's go home.  I'll call you tomorrow Miller, make an appointment to see the chief super."

Ellie was stunned.  He had just got her son back for her, was going to get her old job back and he was just so infuriating and if Rose hadn't been there she would have kissed him but Rose was there and there was no way he would leave the young blonde for her.  The least she could do was finish a bit of painting and try and put her life back together again and stuff everyone else.

Once back in Alec's apartment, Rose turned and kissed him

"You are amazing Alec.  You do all that after you warned her off."

"Well her husband's guilt was not her fault and she needs to show everyone that.  It will stop her coming over here unannounced.  Now all we have to worry about is Claire."
Chapter 10
They made some supper and Rose went off to get her things for the following morning and Alec really hoped he'd get her underwear off later, even if it meant him leaving his shorts on.  Things were beginning to get intense between them so it was a good thing Rose was back at work and he himself had decided he was going to worm his way back into Broadchurch Police Station.

He never really wanted to go off and teach recruits anyway, it was the department's way of punishing him for not declaring his illness and hiding it so well, that was up until the Latimer case anyway when he had finally fallen apart – twice.  Funny how Miller probably saved his life the second time but if she had mistaken it for something else, surely he couldn't be blamed for that?

He knew he and Rose had something really special.  The way she smiled at him, she had almost apologised for thinking he was with Miller and her son, she would have probably spoken to him sooner had she not seen him with her a couple of times.  He was glad he had set the record straight on that point.

It was almost nine, Rose had said she wouldn't be long so he went to find a new CD he had bought in Exeter, romantic love songs, not that he thought he would need any help tonight.  Goodness knows what she had told Miller and her sister while he had been convincing Tom it was the right thing to go home to his mother plus that nosy town reporter had been there and their names would be plastered all over the paper by morning.

Still, being seen with Rose, he felt a sense of pride he could still get himself a girlfriend, at his age and she was a lot younger.  He really didn't care what people thought about that and he didn't think she did either.  Just then, his intercom buzzed and he jumped out of his daydreams about his plans for Rose later on.  They had decided to stay at his place in case Mickey came back.

He reluctantly answered with a "Yes?"

"Alec, let me in, please?"

"Claire?  Go home, I'm not letting you in."

"But I've nowhere else to go."

"Go back to your cottage."

"I can't.  I left it."

"What?  Why did you do that?"

"I quit my job.  Please Alec."

"Go down and see Tess, tell her what she wants to hear, she'll protect you if you're worried about Lee.  I'm no longer on the case."

"But she won't look after me, not like you did."

"I never did anything Claire."

"Does your new girlfriend know about me?"

"Yes she does so stop that right now."

Alec was having none of this.  She could buzz all night if she wanted, he was going over to Rose's apartment.  He gathered what he needed and turned out the lights and let himself into Rose's flat.

"Sweetheart, it's only me," he called out, seeing her bedroom door open.

"What's wrong Alec, can't you wait for me to join you in your bed?"

"Well no but that's not why I came over.  Claire found me and if I find out those clowns at Broadchurch Police Station told her where I live, they will all be back walking the beat."

"Then how did she find out?  Do you think someone has been watching you?"

"There's only one explanation Rose, she's back with her husband and he followed us or me, you just got caught up in it.  I'm really sorry Rose."

"Listen Alec, I chose to be with you so stop saying you're sorry.  Just ignore her, she'll get tired and go away."

Rose's buzzer sounded.  Alec went over to it but she stopped him. 

"Let me deal with this Alec."  He nodded.  "Hello, who is it?"

"Hi, this is a friend of Alec's, have you seen him only he's not answering his intercom?"

"Why should I have seen him?"

"Oh, I thought, with you being his neighbour, he might have gone over to your flat.  You are his girlfriend, aren't you?"

Alec tried to get to the intercom but she stopped him.  "Don't Alec."  Then she pressed the button again. "I'm sorry, Alec's a bit busy right now.   Why don't you just go home?"

"Ask him why I can't go home.  Did he tell you, about me?"

"I'm not having this conversation via an intercom.  Goodnight." 

She turned the switch to the 'Off' position.

"She won't go away."

"Tough, she's not getting into my flat.  Now I know how you felt when Mickey was insisting on seeing me.  Why can't people just get on with it, accept it's over?"

"Rose, with Claire, there was never anything to get over, it's all in her mind.  She's playing cat and mouse and her husband and I, we're the mice."

Alec took his jacket off and flopped onto the sofa, patting the seat beside him.  "Come here."

They soon began smooching which resulted in Alec lifting her up and carrying her to the bedroom.  This time, he lay her down and told her to stay, taking off his shirt and his trousers then kneeling over her, took her top off and then her trousers. Then he looked down on her.

"Trust me?"

Rose nodded.  He moved slightly to remove her bra slowly then leaned down to kiss the exposed parts that have just been uncovered, taking his time as she ran her fingers through his hair.

"You don't believe her, do you sweetheart?"

"No, it's just wishful thinking on her part but you've got to admit she's good.  She'd give Ellie Miller a run for her money, chasing after you."

Then Alec knew he had taken the right action, asking her out for lunch last Monday.  "She won't give up Rose, just be careful at work tomorrow, promise me."

"I will Alec.  Now who's leaving their underwear on tonight, you or me?"

"Oh, I thought it was your turn to lose yours or was I mistaken?"

Rose smiled and touched the waistband of his shorts. 

"I believe the deal was you lose yours and I keep mine on?"

"Well you can't blame me for trying, can you?  Why don't you come and lay on me?"

Alec moved onto his back and pulled his shorts down some of the way, to let her get settled.  She gently lay on him and gasped at the contact between then, then he edged his shorts down a bit further until Rose seemed ok and never tried to move them any further but gently pressed himself against her.

"Ok?" he whispered.

"Mmm though I don't think I'll be laying on your squidgy belly just yet thanks."

Alec laughed.  "You mean to tell me, that you didn't get, you know, intimate with Mickey?"

"Tut, tut, Alec, rule number one, never compare boyfriends against each other when one is present.  I don't kiss and tell Alec."

"Really?  What were you telling Miller back at her sister's house?"

"Excuse me, I didn't tell them anything.  I just said you didn't like to brag about it."

"Rose!  Do you know what you implied there?"

Rose giggled.  She knew exactly what she had implied.  The next morning, not having much time to fool around except she kissed around his 'squidgy' belly a few times, Alec saying he would get her back later, Rose got ready for work while Alec fixed breakfast in her kitchen.

"Just remember, be extra careful.  I'll drop you at the store, I can be in Broadchurch early for my meeting so no matter and I'll still pick you up at six so make sure you wait inside the store for me, ok?"

"Is this all really necessary?  She doesn't even know what I look like, does she?"

"If she is working with her husband, he will have described you.  How many other gorgeous young blonde women live in the village, huh?"

"How would I know, you're the hot-blooded male around here."

"Very funny Rose, only for you sweetheart." 

He folded his arms around her as she placed her dishes in the sink.

She turned to kiss him.  "Best get going then or I'll be late and I really do love waking up with you and having breakfast with you."

"I know, it's the highlight of my day.  I'll start on dinner at my place before I come to collect you later."

"Barring any interruptions."

"She'll have gone back to him and reported her failure to get to me though why they've brought this up now, I have no idea.  It's a game they like to play and I was foolish enough to play it for a while but now she knows I'm not playing any more, there'll be no fun in it for her."

"Well let's hope not.  Come on lover, I'll be late."

After Rose kissed him goodbye and he watched her walk into the store, her waving as he passed, he drove on to Broadchurch even though he would be a bit early.  He never noticed a van following him as he neared the turn-off, thankful there was only a short queue of traffic at the notorious roundabout and he drove around the harbour area and turned left then left again into the car park opposite the Police Station, opting to get a two hour ticket though he begrudged paying it when he was on police business and wished he'd turned into the police car park but he wasn't officially re-instated yet.

A van pulled in behind him and as he turned to return to put the ticket on his dashboard, Lee Ashworth got out and faced him.

"Hardy, what have you done with my wife?"

"What?  Why are you asking me?  How do I know where she is, she's your wife."

Alec was fuming, that moron, Craig whatever his name was, was useless.  He was supposed to be informed if Ashworth re-entered the country and thought Claire had colluded with her husband over the phone, not in person.

"You've been hiding her away from me, telling her not to answer the phone to me so where is she?"

Alec had nothing to gain by keeping the man's wife hidden from him, she had crossed the line and put his new relationship with Rose in jeopardy.

"You really want to know?  She was down in a cottage in Abbotsbury until yesterday, where she is now, I've not got the faintest idea.  You go down there and ask the neighbours, it's a row of cottages next to the farm, you can't miss them.  Do you know why she came to me for help?"

"You've been helping her, all this time?"

"I wouldn't say helping her exactly but she's scared of going back to you because you're like a magnet to her that she keeps getting pulled back towards and she loses control.  As for me, I'm the repelling magnet, she's not attractive to me, I have my own girlfriend who I love and nothing would make me have anything to do with Claire on that score.  Good luck finding her then.  Oh, you might want to get a ticket for your van, the attendant's just pulled up behind you."

Alec opened his car door and put the ticket in view as Ashworth got back in his van.  He could have sworn the man got it from the same person Mickey had been duped by.  With Ashworth out of the way, he crossed over and was still a bit early for his meeting so he went into the bistro next door and got himself a pot of decaff tea, Rose had really got to him.  Had he really just told his enemy and one-time major suspect that he loved Rose?

He was going to have to tell her, tonight, take her out for a walk by the shore and tell her.  It didn't seem right just telling her over dinner or in bed.  There was going to be nothing to keep them apart now and how it had happened so quickly, he didn't know, he was just glad it had.

He entered the station, saying he had an appointment and made his way to the chief super's office.

"Hello again Alec.  I hear you got yourself fixed.  Why didn't you say anything before?  You were so off with me, when you walked away from me that morning I handed you the medical report but I'll forgive you, since you brought Danny's killer to justice.  You said on the phone, you wanted to ask for your old job back?  What made you change your mind about coming back?"

He wanted to say because he had a girlfriend and didn't want to travel.  "I moved out of the town, kept my distance to give everyone a chance to come to terms with what happened but I've nowhere else to go.  I got myself a nice apartment and I don't really want to travel to Exeter every day, I've seen what that's doing to DS Miller.  She's moved back to Broadchurch by the way."

"Yes, she called me this morning, said she had changed her mind about being a traffic cop and wants to come back.  Did you have anything to do with that?"

"I told her not to let people judge her for what her husband did and to do that, she needs to be here, where it happened, not forty miles away.  So is the DI's job still open?"

"Yes but Ellie also asked to be considered for it but I'd be reluctant to give it to her yet, under the circumstances.  Best let the dust settle first but are you fit to come back full time?  You were only going part time for three months at the training college, weren't you?"

"Well isn't it better to have a part-time DI than none at all or were you saving money on your budget?"

Elaine laughed, he'd not changed much lately.  Just then, her desk phone rang.

"Yes, DI Hardy's here.  What?"  She held her hand over the phone speaker.  "Does your girlfriend work at the mini-market in Charmouth Alec?"

Alec got up to grab the phone from her hand.  "What's going on?  Is Rose ok?"


Rose had been checking stock and was about to go into her office after making herself a coffee when she heard a familiar female voice.

"So where is she then?  I know she works here so just tell her to come out.  Come out, I know you're here."

Rose opened the staff room door.

"What do you want Claire?"

"You, you stole Alec from me."

"What?  I did no such thing so you'd better leave, now."

"I'm not leaving, you can't turn your intercom off on me now can you, you bitch."

With that, Claire lunged for her, a small knife in her hand and pushed Rose up against the door, holding the pocket knife a centimetre away from her cheek.

"Let's see if he finds you so attractive with a scar?"

Julie spoke up.  "I wouldn't do that if I were you, whoever you are, the police are on their way.

The staff had seen what was happening and Adam was straight on the phone for the police, getting through to Broadchurch station and calmly told the operator his manager was being held at knife point by a woman with a Welsh accent and remembering Rose had mentioned her boyfriend was off to get his old job back and luckily she had joked how she would now be officially dating DI Alec Hardy, though they already knew who he was.

Claire never flinched at the new information. 

"Did he tell you how he used to lie with me, tell me everything was going to be ok when my husband got locked up? Did he?"

She shoved Rose back again after slackening her grip but not by enough for Rose to escape.  Adam had spoken with Alec and Becky had locked the shop door, not wanting customers to see the current situation.  Alec had assured Adam he and a squad car were on their way and not to let the woman leave but if Rose was in grave danger to just let her go, Rose was more important.

Claire now had her audience and was putting on a good show except for Becky anxiously watching for a police car to pull up outside, even on a double yellow line and her boss's boyfriend's black SUV type car and he would probably do the same.

"What's your name love?"  Claire teased, the tip of the knife touching Rose's cheek but not yet drawn any blood thankfully.

"I'm not scared of you, you cow and I'm not telling you.  You want Alec?  Then you just made a very big mistake if you think he'll ever come near you now.  You know what he told me?  He felt sorry for you, that's all and you've played him all this time but it's over Claire, if he was even thinking about you and I say 'if' then he won't now, not if you hurt me.  Alec loves me and I love him, nothing will change that."

"Shut up bitch, it was me that he loved."

"You're deluded Claire, it was pity."

Rose thought she felt a tiny trickle of blood on her cheek as the knife came in contact with it.  She had known all along it was love she felt for Alec, even though she couldn't bring herself to be fully with him yet.  She had never felt that way about Mickey.  Now she had to get up the courage to tell him and ask him to give her the time she needed to be with him and she had told this woman she loved him before she had told him.

Alec had put the phone down, worried sick about Rose.

"Is she ok Alec?  You should go to her, what exactly happened?"

"A woman, from my last case in Sandbrook, she found out where I lived and she seems to think I owed her, she wants me so she's holding Rose hostage until I go."

"Then if she wants you, let the uniforms handle it, you're walking right into it."

"No, I'm not leaving her there.  So, do I get my job back, officially?"

Elaine had very little choice by the looks of things.  She knew Hardy was stubborn and now someone was threatening his girlfriend, he wouldn't let it rest.

"Ok but part time only and you start next week but go and rescue your girlfriend, I'll rush the paperwork through.  I just hope you know what you're going in to Alec."

"Oh I know Elaine, I'm going to rescue the woman I love."

Alec sped downstairs as a squad car pulled up outside.  He got in, it was faster than going to get his own car and if he got a fine in the car park, he would deal with the clown that gave him it.  There were two uniformed officers in the car with him, he knew them by sight but not by name.  Elaine had informed the unit responding that Alec was to be picked up outside and another unit was already on its way but not to do anything until he got there, only if Miss Tyler was in any immediate danger.

Alec just wished they would go faster, he would never forgive himself if Claire hurt Rose.  He knew Claire had something to do with the death of one young girl and maybe the disappearance of another and she was desperate, she wouldn't think twice about hurting Rose to get to him.  He just hoped he'd get there before something did happen because now, this was all he needed to get the Sandbrook case re-opened because one way or another, he was going to get Claire Ripley to tell the complete truth.
Chapter 11
Claire turned around to the rest of the staff. 

"So you lot, get out of here, this is between her and me."

"Sorry, whoever you are, we can't just leave the shop unattended, I'll send the other two out but I stay," Adam insisted, looking at Rose, a spot of blood on her cheek. 

He wondered how she was keeping so calm.

"Ok but stay behind the counter, you two, get out and if you let the police in except for Alec Hardy, she gets more than a little nick on her cheek, get it?"

Julie unlocked the door just as the first of the squad cars arrived.  Bob got out of the car, putting his cap on.  He had been told it involved Hardy's girlfriend and was wanting to find out if it was the same woman as a few nights ago.

"Do you two work in there?" Bob asked Becky, who had come out first.

A few people were now looking from across the road and a few of the shop-keepers had come out after two women complained the mini market was closed, something unheard of.

"Yeah, this mad Welsh woman is holding our boss, Rose.  Is Alec Hardy on his way?"

Now Bob knew.  He also knew Hardy wouldn't take too kindly to someone holding his girlfriend and was surprised it was a woman and not the man from the other night.  Bob spoke to the other officer. 

"Stop anyone else going in but we wait until Hardy gets here, he's just a few minutes behind us.  So Miss, do you know who the woman is who's holding your manager?"

"Rose called her Claire, she seems to know her.  Something about Rose pinching her boyfriend."

Bob thought Hardy had got himself caught up in some kind of love triangle.  This Rose was the one from the other night, the one that Smith bloke had been trying to talk to and he knew, despite Hardy not admitting it at the time, that he had to be tangled up with her to want to defend her.

The other police car pulled up behind and Alec got out.  He went to talk to Bob. 

"I'll go in, just you lot wait out here.  Is anyone else in there?"

Becky spoke up.  "Yeah, Adam stayed behind.  He told that Claire he couldn't leave the shop unattended.  I think there might have been a drop of blood on Rose's cheek, the woman's gone mad, holding a pocket knife to her."

Alec was fuming at the thought Claire had dared to hurt Rose.  If only he had done something the other day when he'd had the chance but threatening a woman wasn't his style but it had resulted in Rose being held hostage.

Claire had heard the two cars squeal to a halt outside.  The knife was still at Rose's cheek. 

"So you think he's come to rescue you do you?  Well he's leaving with me, he came for me, not for you."

"Who are you kidding?  You need to see a shrink if you think he's going off with you."

"You're the one being held love, not me.  Did you think he'll want you when all you did was stand there with a knife to your face?"

Alec had come in but Claire hadn't noticed.  Rose had.

"I'm the brave one not you.  Did he tell you about me?  That I grew up on a rough London council estate?  I've had more scraps than you've had hot dinners 'love'.

With that, Rose suddenly brought her knee up and into her opponent's leg, tipping her off balance and causing her to drop the knife.  Bob grabbed Claire from behind.

"You bitch, I've not finished with you yet so don't think I have." 

Then she saw Alec, who was rushing over to catch hold of Rose who just slumped into his arms and Adam rushed up with the first aid kit from behind the counter.

Alec took out a wipe and patted it on Rose's cheek.  "Are you ok sweetheart?"

"Fine, thanks for the 'rescue'."

Alec was holding the wipe to her cheek but no more blood was going on to it. 

"You'll be ok, it was just a little spot."  He turned to Bob. "Get her out of here and take her to the station.  Miss Tyler will be along to make a statement and press charges and tell the other car to wait for us."

"Yes Sir.  Come on Miss, put your hands behind your back."

Claire was staring at the floor.  "You betrayed me Alec, I thought you cared about me?"

"I never cared in that way Claire, come on Rose, get your things.  Adam is it?  Thanks for calling me and staying with Rose.  Can you manage for the day?"

"Yes Alec, you look after her.  I'll have to report this to head office, if you're going to make this official?"

Alec looked at Bob.  "I'll have to.  This woman may have some information about another case I was working on but just tell your head office to refer to me, ok?"

"Yeah, sure.  Are you ok Rose?"

"I'm fine Adam and thanks for staying."

"Any time, you'd do the same for any of us.  See you tomorrow?"

Rose got into the back of the remaining police car. 

"I hope everyone doesn't think I'm being carted off?" Rose smiled, holding Alec's hand and seeing the officer in the passenger seat eyeing them.

"I'm sure it will be the talk of the village for days.  Sure you're ok?  Feel like making a statement?"

Rose nodded and leaned into his shoulder.  Once they were outside the station, Alec had to go move his car, just in time before the attendant came back and drove it around the back of the station, getting an official police sign and allocated a parking space.  He had let Rose go in with the two officers and she was in one of the interview rooms drinking coffee when he went in to join her.  A WPC was also present since Rose was his girlfriend and he couldn't interview her alone but her statement given, Alec went around the other side of the desk and she let him put his arms around her.

"I never should have let this happen Rose, it got out of hand."

"I know but if you got your job back, I'll just have to get used to it, won't I?"

"Rose, you know what it can be like now, are you sure about this?"

"Yes Alec.  I love you."

"Oh Rose, I love you too but I wanted to tell you tonight, not in a police interview room."

"It doesn't matter to me where I tell you but will you just give some time, you know?"

"Yes, take all the time you need.  Now I have to go interview Claire.  South Mercia Police are sending a car down to collect her, they want to interview her as well."

"Are you getting that other case re-opened?"

"I'm going to try.  Just go and wait out in reception then I'll take you home, ok?"

Alec led her out then went into the other interview room, having left Claire to stew for a while and sat down opposite her and who he recognised as one of the solicitors they had on call.

"These are serious charges Claire, holding a shop manager at knife point.  What have you got to say for yourself?"

"She's bringing charges against me?  That's a laugh Alec."

"It's DI Hardy and yes, you threatened her staff as well.  You'll be interested to know we have statements from the other three staff members who all say you walked in and used threatening behaviour towards them and demanded Miss Tyler came out to face you, then you pulled a pocket knife out and held it to her face.  There's no getting out of it, it was recorded on their security camera."

Claire wiped the grin off her face.  Damn, she never checked for cameras unless he was bluffing.  He hadn't been which was why Adam had to report it to the store's head office.  Alec had watched the footage after making sure Rose was being looked after in reception and had gone back to his old office which was still tidy from his absence and getting him a few looks.  The chief had hurriedly told them he was coming back next week but something urgent had come up.

"So, have you got anything else to tell me?"

Claire held her silence until there was a knock on the door.  It was Brian from the forensics team and he wasn't amused Hardy had just come back.  Hardy meant they were all going to have their work cut out for them again.

"Sir, you might want to hear about this."

Alec paused the interview tape and then saw an evidence bag in the other man's hand.  He knew immediately what it was, he could clearly see the contents and his own signature on the outside – it was the missing pendant.

"Where did you find this?"

"In the woman's coat pocket Sir.  It says South Mercia Police evidence on it.  Sir, is it to do with your previous case?  No-one has touched it."

The room door was still open and Claire knew what they had found when she had relinquished her coat when told she was being charged with assault.

"Right, have someone contact DS Henchard at South Mercia Police, they are already sending a car for Claire Ripley.  Tell DS Henchard I'll contact her shortly and if she wants to come down herself, the woman will be detained until she gets here, otherwise she can go when the officers get here."

"Yes Sir and the pocket knife in her possession, it has more than her fingerprints on it.  They belong to her husband, Lee Ashworth."

Alec knew the two of them had already got together.  Now it was all coming to light.  He went back in the interview room but didn't start the tape again, holding onto the evidence bag and waving it in front of Claire's face.

"It was you who broke into Tess's car wasn't it?  All this time, you had it, Lee walked out of court because of you and you pretended to turn against him.  Why Claire?  I almost killed myself on that case, not that you cared and you used me.  You two, leave us."

The solicitor got up but the WPC knew it was more than her job was worth to leave this stranger with a suspect, since she had not had the pleasure of working previously with Alec but knew of his reputation of having a temper. 

"Go on, I promise not to kill her if you leave," Alec said to the nervous female officer.

"Sir, you know it's against regulations and especially if you know the accused."

"Very well then, what's your name?"

"WPC Stevens Sir."

Alec thought this one would go far and may give him a run for his money at some future time. 

"Well Claire, nothing to say now you're not holding a knife to someone's face?  I trusted you when you said you would testify against your husband."

"I've got nothing to say to you.  So are you charging me with assault on your girlfriend then?"  She turned to the WPC.  "Did he tell you it was his girlfriend?"

"It won't work Claire, you don't have to admit your guilt, I have three witnesses and CCTV footage to prove it.  Take her away and lock her up until South Mercia Police come for her.  Has she signed a confession yet?"

"No Sir."

"No matter, we'll finish with her when they have, whenever that is now we've got the evidence back to tie her to breaking into a police officer's car and stealing goods in connection with a murder enquiry and the officer's personal belongings."

"Hang on, I never took anything else."

"You heard her, she just admitted to breaking into a car.  Get her out of here."

The WPC got up and pulled Claire to her feet.  "You won't get anything else out of me Alec."

"We'll see Claire." 

He got his phone out and called Tess.

"So Alec, it was her after all.  I had my suspicions about her.  Your officer told me you brought her in on another charge of hostage taking and threatening behaviour."

"Yes, she threatened the manager of a local store.  So are you coming down? Ashworth stopped me this morning, he was looking for her."

"Really?  Why would you know where she was?"

"Because she was stalking me and the shop manager, she's my neighbour."

"Oh, is that all she is?  From what I was told, they had to go out to a disturbance involving your girlfriend."

"That's got nothing to do with this and you know it Tess.  I take it you're not coming down then?"

"No.  Has Claire been charged for the offence she committed down there?"

"Yes but yours takes precedence, we'll have her back when you've finished with her."

"That might take some time."

"Suits me, that case in Sandbrook almost killed me."

"Yes, Daisy told me you'd got yourself sorted though you really should have told me what was wrong with you Alec."

"Would it have made any difference with you going off with Dave?"

Tess went silent.  "Thought not.  You know how to reach me if you need any help with the case, if you're going to re-open it?"

"Yes, it will get re-opened and I suppose I have you and your new girlfriend to thank for that.  I'll keep you informed of any developments.  Really Alec, I thought you were past getting involved with women again."

"Thanks for that, I really needed to hear that Tess."

Alec hung up and ran his fingers through his hair.  He couldn't believe it was almost all over.  The chief would go for postponing the charges to do with Rose in favour of closing a murder enquiry and Rose herself wouldn't give him any grief about it, she knew how important to him it was to get his old case solved.  He went back out to reception where Rose was waiting for him then led her out the back way and got her into the car.  He had a quick look at her cheek but there was hardly a mark.  He kissed where the knife had been and she flinched slightly.

"It's ok sweetheart, she'll never bother us again.  We found that missing evidence from Sandbrook, she'll be on her way back there shortly but it means the charges you brought against her will have to wait but I'll explain it to your head office."

"Never mind me Alec, just get her locked up if she had anything to do with that poor girl and the one who went missing."

Alec drove them home and Rose went to get changed then they walked down to the seashore and had some lunch, walking then on the rocky shore and stopped in front of some painted blue chalets.  Alec turned to kiss her.

"I love you Rose but are you sure you're ok with me going back to work?  It's just part time for now, I'll still come and meet you and make dinner."

"I'm fine with it Alec, really.  I love you too, squidgy."

He took Rose out for dinner but just as they were about to set off, his phone rang.  It was Tess.

"She's admitted everything Alec and we just hauled in Lee Ashworth and you won't believe who else was involved?"

"Surprise me."

"Ricky Gillespie.  I'm really sorry Alec but we found Lisa.  He admitted to killing her in a rage and said it was an accident but he drove off and buried her in a churchyard he was working in at the time.  Claire admitted drugging Pippa but Lee killed her by smothering her when the girl heard all the commotion downstairs. She was at Lee and Claire's house when Ricky came in and caught Lee and Lisa together."

Alec flopped onto the sofa.  Rose sat beside him and took his hand. 

"Do you need me for anything?" he asked Tess.

"No, not yet but I'll call you when it goes to court, we'll need your testimony and I'll see you get the credit for what you did on the case.  I'm sorry Alec, everyone wanted Lisa to be alive, no more so than you and I did.  I'm sorry things never worked out.  I'll call your chief, about the charges your girlfriend made, we can add them to the list."

"Yes, fine.  Will you let me know about any funeral arrangements?"

"Yes, you know I will and thank you, for covering up for me, I never would have let you do it if I'd known you were so ill."

"It happened on my watch, that made me responsible."

"We could give things another try, if you want Alec.  I know it was the case that tore us apart.  I'd be willing to, if you were."

Alec looked at his new love and not even for his daughter's sake could he forgive his ex wife for putting him through the endless arguments and her betrayal at going off with another DS. 

"I don't think so Tess."  He squeezed Rose's hand.  "I have Rose now."

"Fair enough, I suppose I made my own bed on that score.  Good luck Alec."


Just over two months later, Rose had resigned as manager of the local mini market and had given notice on her apartment and moved in with Alec.  Her mother was coming down for the Christmas holidays, Jackie Tyler's first meeting with Alec and she had settled into her new job as manager of the gift shop a few doors from where she worked previously since her bosses at head office were not happy because the charges against her attacker had been put on hold and she had to admit the lead detective was her boyfriend.  It was better pay and better hours anyway and she seemed happier to Alec.  So on the 24th, Christmas Eve, Alec had finished for the holidays for a few days, on emergency call-outs only and had already dared anyone to bother him, they were preparing to go pick up her mother from Dorchester railway station.

"Why can't your mother just get off in Broadchurch Rose?  The traffic will be bad enough as it is today sweetheart."

Rose turned to kiss him.  "You know why Alec.  I told you, she's prone to slapping any of my male friends, I can't tell you how many my ex got from her.  So taking her out for lunch in Dorchester will give her time to adjust to you and when we get her back here, she will have blown off all her steam."

Alec put his arms around her waist.  "You are just too devious Rose, do you get that from your mother?" 

He nipped at her neck.

"No, she said I got it from my dad.  You're not nervous are you lover?"

"No, I interrogate people all day, why should I be nervous?  Just because she's only maybe a few years older than me, why would that make me nervous?"

Rose smiled at him.  "Relax Alec, I'm sure there are a lot of men who are only a few years younger than their future mother-in-laws."


"Oops.  Didn't mean for it to come out like that, I meant to say their girlfriends' mothers' sorry.  A slip of the tongue."

"No it wasn't and you know it."

"Well you have been rather sneaky lately, taking me out and asking all kinds of questions about me and my family."

"I just need all the facts, I can't help it, it's the detective in me."

"Yeah, of course it is.  Come on, won't do to keep her waiting if you want to make a good impression."

"Why would I want to make a good impression exactly?  She'll either love me or hate me."

"I'm sure it will be the first, as much as I love you and don't look nervous when she gets off the train.  She'll throw all her luggage at you and expect you to carry it."

"Thanks for the warning.  Did she even know I had a bad heart?"

"Yes she knows all about you."

"Oh, did I tell you?  We got a date for Joe Miller's hearing, it's in February and the other one is next month so I'm going to be busy." 

He had a call while Rose was getting herself ready.

"That's good, about the hearings, not that you'll be busy though I hope you won't be too busy."

"Not for you sweetheart, never.  Now let's get going or they'll be nowhere to park."

"Good 'cos you really won't want to be busy."

"Why's that then?" he asked as they got in the car.

"Because I might just be keeping you busy."


"Well yeah, I was gonna tell you, when my mum gets here."

"Tell me what?" he asked, starting the car.

"That I think I might be pregnant."

Alec almost crashed the car into the barrier.  "What?  But that's great Rose though I never expected it to happen so fast, it's only been six weeks since our first time."

"Yeah, exactly six weeks, that was what the test said so I was gonna get it confirmed after the holidays.  Are you pleased?"

"Pleased is not the right word Rose, over the moon is a more accurate description.  Do you want to get married?"

"Is that a proposal Alec?"

He still hadn't driven off and the train was on its way from London to Dorchester with an impatient Jackie Tyler on board who was setting out determined to not like her daughter's latest boyfriend after the way she had treated a rejected Mickey and had seen him on his return from more or less being threatened with being locked up just because Rose had taken up with a police detective.

Then when Rose had said she had moved in with him a few weeks ago Jackie knew she had to meet the man, even if it was only to slap his face and tell him he was too old for her daughter but as Jackie got off the train and saw Rose with who she supposed was this Alec Hardy, looking at the two of them holding hands and the way she looked at him, she knew she was going to be lumbered with a police detective as a son in law, so throwing her luggage at the man who was now standing there having let go of Rose's hand, Jackie hugged her daughter.

"So this is him then?" Jackie said, eyeing poor Alec as he picked up the handle of a case and a shopping bag full of presents.

"Yep, this is Alec. Alec, say hello to my mum."

Alec tried to hold out his hand to her.  "Nice to meet you Mrs Tyler."

"Don't you Mrs Tyler me."  Jackie saw the look on Rose's face.  "Come here you daft lump, it's Jackie."

So Alec received a bone-crushing hug from his soon to be mother-in-law and after she left to go home, Alec took Rose down to the sea, in the freezing cold on New Years day and asked her to marry him.

She said yes.

The End!