Alec Hardy and the child-minder

Ellie Miller hires Rose Tyler, to look after her youngest son.  Ellie threatens to dismiss Rose when she suspects Rose and Alec are seeing each other.

Ellie Miller is back in Broadchurch but needs to still travel to Exeter while her transfer back is arranged.  She engages the services of Rose Tyler, who's new in the town to look after her youngest son four days a week.  Alec Hardy has been accepted back to work but has nowhere to stay and he still hates being near the water.  Ellie offers to put him up in her newly decorated loft while he gets sorted but has no idea her boss has taken a liking to her child-minder and Ellie threatens to dismiss Rose when she suspects Rose and Alec are seeing each other.

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Chapter 1
Rose Tyler was new in town, just arriving on the afternoon coach from London.  She'd been tired of working in the department store she'd gone back to after it had suffered a major fire several years back and she wanted a change, so going back to evening college, she got the basics and decided to embark on a new career, that of child-minder. 

After all, she'd had enough experience looking after her cousins on the estate but she wanted to completely get away from not being paid for it.  So she had done her research of where she'd be most likely to get a job and by some remote chance, she'd seen an advert for a job looking after the two year old son of a police officer in the town where all the fuss had just died down after a murder trial.

She had rung the officer concerned a few days ago and asked if the job was still vacant.  Ellie Miller had tried everything after her last child-minder had suddenly let her down.  Fred and his minder had really taken to each other and no matter how she'd tried during the trial to settle him with his aunt, the odd occasion was fine but now, Lucy had more or less gone to work for the paper full time now Maggie was looking after her new girlfriend.

Rose had been desperate to get away from everything so her conversation with PC Ellie Miller seemed to go fairly well until she was asked why she wanted to travel.

"Well," Rose had told her.  "I'll be honest with you, my old boyfriend keeps trying to get me to go back to him and so I'd really like to get away and have him forget about it.  While I'm still here, he'll just keep on trying."

Ellie Miller had laughed, at least the young woman was being upfront.

"He won't follow you down here will he?" she'd asked Rose.

"No Mrs Miller, I won't tell him where I'm going and he won't get it out of my mother, she'd tired of him asking about me anyway."

Ellie had been satisfied Rose Tyler was just what she needed, she'd had plenty of experience with toddlers even though she was newly qualified and she was prepared to pay for her own insurance even though Fred would be looked after at home, since she'd just moved back.  Now all she had to do was break the news to Tom and her new lodger, Alec Hardy.

He had taken some persuasion to move into her newly decorated loft but the lease on his riverside chalet was going to be too expensive since he'd come back from his short trip to see his daughter, the owner had sold it and the new owners had thought to spruce it up and charge double.  So he'd had little choice but to spend a few nights back at the hotel while Ellie put the finishing touches to the double loft and they'd come to a financial arrangement that included some meals with them or he was free to use the kitchen to his own ends and make what he wanted.

Alec Hardy, fresh from his near death experience with his pacemaker surgery was raring to get back to work properly.  Working on the Sandbrook case unofficially had got him back in the game so his meeting with his old boss had gone fairly well.

"Are you sure you're ready to come back so soon Alec?" Elaine had asked him

Alec fidgeted in his chair, loosening his collar and tie a bit more, something he had a very bad habit of doing.

"I just locked up three people, that qualifies me to come back does it not?  You never got another DI?"

"Well, I couldn't justify it, it all went quiet and Frank has been holding the fort, so to speak.  If we'd had anything more serious, we'd have got someone from headquarters to fill in.  Alec, it was not my idea to let you go but you gave me no choice.  Had you declared your illness, I would have spoken up for you and put you on desk duty.  You were the one to accept the teaching post."

"Yes and I almost bored them all to death but it meant I had time to work on the trial and Sandbrook."

"Have you heard anything about that yet?" Elaine asked, signing off his request to return to his duties though on reduced hours until the CMO declared him completely fit to start anything more strenuous.

"No, I expect Tess will let me know when I'm needed to give evidence though what they'll make of me pursuing it while on sick leave is anyone's guess."

"Ah, I might  be able to help you there Alec."

"What is it going to cost me?"

Elaine smiled.  "Nothing, if you'd cared to read the notice I handed you the day you walked off and brought Danny's killer in, you would have seen you were only retired from the case.  You went off in a huff before I could explain it to you.  After that, I had no choice but to insist you took some paid leave and what did you do?  Nothing."

Alec tried not to look embarrassed.  "I dealt with it in my own way, I wasn't expected to survive."

"So you were lucky, you got a reprieve?   Well, now you can put it to good use but you have four hours a day – tops.  I'll not put you on desk duty, just light duties, you can choose your own hours.  Where are you staying?"

He could hardly say he was going to rent Miller's attic rooms.  "I'll let the personnel department know."

So as Rose arrived in Broadchurch, Alec was giving notice on the hotel, to Becca's dismay since he was a good payer or rather the police were.  Rose was unpacking and had an interview with Ellie Miller and her young son at three.  She felt right at home as Ellie let her in and she saw Fred, with his curly hair sitting on the living room floor playing with some toy cars.

"Oh, he's so cute.  Hi Fred, are you having fun?"

The boy looked up, then looked at his mum.

"Say hello Fred this is Rose, she's going to be looking after you.  Tom will be home soon.  He insists he doesn't need adult supervision but I've tried to explain it's not practical carting poor Fred to someone's house every day, not with the hours I'm expected to work for the next few weeks."

"Ah, that's alright, I can understand his reluctance but maybe after school, he'll be at a friend's or out playing football?"

"He's still not got that many friends, it was his best friend who died last year.  You do know about us?"

"Yeah but it's not my place to judge.  It happened, you couldn't have done anything about it.  I expected that's why Fred won't settle, he misses his dad?"

Ellie looked sad to her and nothing she could say would make things better.  Ellie seemed to brighten up a little as she heard the front door opening and an "I'm back Mum, is the new minder here yet?"

"Come in Tom, meet Rose and no, she's not here to pick up your school bag or clean your football boots for you."

Rose had to smile at the thought, he'd probably try, what thirteen year old wouldn't?

"Hello Tom, nice to meet you.  I'll be keeping things tidy for your mum so you can help by taking your things to your room, yeah?  I was thinking, if it's ok with your mum, we can maybe go for walks with Fred after you get home?"

"I'll think about it," was the only reply she got.

Tom went off to the kitchen and they all followed.

"Rose will also get your tea for you so tell her what you want.  I'll make sure the fridge and freezer are well stocked but I'll have to nip up to the supermarket.  Tom, watch Fred for an hour or so please?" Ellie asked him, getting her jacket and car keys.

"Oh, I don't mind stopping for a while, I've got nothing else to do," Rose volunteered.

"Are you sure?  Well thanks then, Fred's getting hungry, why don't you put some fishfingers under the grill and open a tin of baked beans, he loves those and put some chips in the oven for Tom?  Help yourself if you're hungry.  Oh, there's just one thing if you're staying and I didn't want to bring it up over the phone."

"Yeah, I'm a bit peckish, I was gonna get something from one of the food stalls, there seems to be plenty of them.  Why don't you get off, I can manage.  What did you have to tell me?"

Tom looked at his mother, rolling his eyes.  The teenager had been arguing that it wasn't such a good idea to invite the man who had locked up his father to come and stay with them but Ellie had argued back that no-one was responsible for the actions Tom's father had taken.

"Tom, we've been through this," his mother had told him when she'd come home after picking up Fred from his aunt's and she'd trusted him with his own key to look after himself for an hour.  "We're getting a new child-minder who will come in and look after the house as well and she's willing to work my stupid hours until I can get my transfer back to the Broadchurch police.  Beside, Alec Hardy will probably keep to himself, I've put that small TV up there and he won't want to be up and down two flights of stairs every five minutes."

"But Mum, we've just moved back, I thought there'd be just the three of us?"

"Tom, I have to pay the bills, I've given notice on my tiny flat but I still have to pay for another week, I've got travelling expenses and now another child-minder to pay for.  The extra money the police will pay for his room and board will help a great deal.  It's not compulsory to spend time with him," she had smiled at Tom.  "It'll be ok, we'll be ok."

So now there was only the news to break to Rose.  "The reason why I couldn't offer you a live-in position, I'd already agreed to rent out my loft to a colleague."

"Oh don't worry about that Mrs Miller, the B&B seems nice enough and it's right on the harbour.  I just paid for a room, like you suggested, they were fine with it.  Is it a female colleague?"

"Actually no, he's my old boss, Alec Hardy.  He's just recovering from heart surgery and still needs to have someone keep an eye on him but don't worry, you'll hardly know he's here."

"Oh, I hope I'm not meant to be responsible for him?" Rose queried.

The last thing she wanted was to look after a convalescing detective who probably wouldn't want a fuss made over him.  She'd seen him on TV and he'd kept his promise of catching the boy's killer but the justice system had proved anyone could get off and that had hardly been his fault.

Ellie laughed.  "No, that's the last thing he'd want.  You shouldn't have any trouble with him, if he starts bossing you around, refer him to me."

Rose smiled, picking up Fred, who wanted to go in his high chair.  Ellie could see they were all going to get on well but as for Alec Hardy being agreeable, that was a different matter and she suspected he'd buy his own food and cook it when the boys had gone to bed.  He'd still be a grump even though he'd got himself fixed, it can't have been easy trying to make up with his teenage daughter and now he'd agreed to live where there was a teenage boy.

"Right, I'll get off then, I might be a while, it'll probably be busy at this time."

"That's ok Mrs Miller, I'll have to get used to feeding the boys.  You can give me a list of what they like, oh and what hours you'll be working until you get your transfer."

Ellie liked her already.  She had just left when Alec pulled up outside in a taxi and paid the driver.  He intended getting a car as soon as he could, he'd not been banned from driving but he'd not driven since he'd 'borrowed' Ellie's car and crashed the gears, since he'd only really driven automatics until he'd given up.  He'd already been given a key but he'd not been warned Ellie's new child-minder was going to be present.  When he'd been told, he'd been less than happy that young what's his name wasn't going to be out during the day.

When they'd spoken about it and she'd given him another key she'd had cut, Ellie had warned him.

"Hardy, she's there to look after Fred, that's all and to make sure Tom does his homework and gets fed.  There are two rooms you know?"

"How am I going to avoid a toddler?" he'd objected, thinking it had been bad enough he'd let himself get talked into taking her loft.

"Then just stay in the other room and don't make a big fuss about it."

So now, as he let himself in and he had seen Ellie's car was gone, he'd assumed she had left Tom in charge and gone shopping but as he put his large holdall down in the hallway, he heard a female voice telling the youngster to finish his food then he could have icecream and he could now assume the child-minder had started work a day early.

He opened the kitchen door to see Tom finishing his food and a young blonde trying to give a tired Fred Miller a spoonful of beans.  Tom had been told to call him uncle Alec, since his mother was trying to get Fred to say that.

"Oh hi Uncle Alec, mum's gone shopping, this is Rose, she's Fred's new nanny."

"Tom, I'm not a nanny.  Hi, you must be Alec Hardy?  Want a cup of tea or something?"

Alec could only pull out a chair next to Tom and accept, how could he be expected to live here now, when Miller was out, with a young blonde and a toddler?
Chapter 2
Ellie thanked Rose when she got back.  She'd noticed Alec in the front room watching the early evening news and Tom was in the dining room doing his homework while Rose was trying to keep a tired Fred amused with some cartoons on the small TV.

"Everything okay?" Ellie asked when she'd put the groceries in the kitchen.

Fred got up from Rose's lap and went to her.

"Hardee!" the boy tried to say, pointing to the door.

"Not now Fred, it's your bath time.  Rose, want to help?  I know I'm asking a lot when you've not even started properly yet but I do appreciate it."

"Sure, come on Fred, what do you like playing with in the bath?  Has he got favourite toys?"

Ellie was vastly relieved the young woman was taking it all so well, especially if she'd met Alec Hardy, the resident grump of Broadchurch.  After they put Fred in his cot for the night, Ellie led Rose into the kitchen.

"Well, you seemed to have passed all the usual tests," Ellie grinned.  "Oh, I didn't mean actual tests, I mean you getting on with the boys.  Have you spoken to my lodger yet?"

"I made him a cup of tea and we said a few words to each other, he doesn't seem too comfortable around Tom and Fred."

"He sometimes watched Fred for me, during the court case, it's probably Tom.  It's not easy for either of them, Hardy locking up Tom's dad.  What did he have to say then?"

Rose recalled the earlier conversation.

"So, aren't you gonna have anything to eat?" Rose had asked Alec as she gave Fred some mousse instead of icecream.

"I will make myself something when you have all finished eating.  How was school Tom?"

"Fine, it's getting a little easier as long as my mum doesn't start collecting me in a marked police car."

Rose had smiled at the thought.  "What about you detective inspector?  Looking forward to returning to work or have you already gone back?"

"Just Hardy will do and yes, I am keen to return to work."

Fred had suddenly taken interest.  "Hardee!" the boy shouted. 

Tom let out a laugh.  "That's his favourite word, his last one was 'no' to everything."

Alec really couldn't comment, the boy had only said his name – repeatedly after his mother had started drilling it into the youngster.

Tom had excused himself and Alec had got up, going to a carrier bag he'd put on the counter with a ready-made meal inside.  Rose got up.

"We'll get out of the way then?  Come on, let uncle Alec get his tea Fred."

"No need to leave on my account," Alec had said, squinting at the back of the cardboard sleeve of his meal, braised steak and mashed potatoes.

Rose pointed to the front at the larger icon of a microwave and cooking time.  Alec had let out a 'Hmm' and pierced the film covering the meal.

"You can eat with us next time?  I don't think we'll be having fishfingers and beans every teatime," she had smiled at him.

Ellie laughed at the thought as Rose told her.  She went to get some money out of her purse but Rose objected.

"I can't take anything Mrs Miller, it was a pleasure to help out and it was a good way of introducing myself."

"Well let me at least give you some money for a taxi?  Oh, here's my schedule for this week, I'll need you an hour each side, for my travelling times, in case I get delayed or if Fred's a bit cranky before I leave.  Tomorrow I'm on eleven until seven then I'm off again until Friday and lucky me got weekend duty, sorry but once I get back here, I'll have regular hours."

"No need to worry Mrs Miller, I wouldn't be doing much anyway, it seems quiet down by the harbour."

"I think you can call me Ellie but maybe not in front of Tom?  I hate being reminded I'm still married.  See you tomorrow then?"

"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it.  Are there any toddler groups around here?  Maybe I can take Fred?  Do you mind if I take him out, I mean to the playground and maybe around the harbour and the beach?"

Ellie was a bit surprised her new child-minder was so keen.  "There used to be, I'll check for you but yeah, feel free to take him out whenever you feel like it, he was out a lot during the trial a few weeks back so he's used to it.  Tom makes his own way home with some of his friends, he may sometimes be a bit late back but I'll tell him to call so you don't worry about him."

"Yeah. I'll give him my number then and plus, it will get us out of DI Hardy's way.  Night then, see you tomorrow?" Rose asked cheerfully, seeing Alec, who was trying not to take any notice but he was relieved they'd be out some of the time at least.

Alec had tried to ignore the conversation but since both the front room and kitchen doors were open, it had been difficult.  He had gathered the young woman was from the London area so what was she doing so far from home?  Maybe she was running away from something, or someone.

Ellie called for a cab to take Rose back down to the harbour and went to join Alec in the front room, sitting just across from him.

"Well, she's volunteered to take Fred out most of the time so when you finish work, you'll have some peace and quiet," Ellie remarked, wondering what he was really making of all this upheaval.

"It has nothing to do with me how you run things around here Miller."

"When are you going to drop the act Hardy?  Admit it, you enjoyed having Fred around at your old place.  Anyway, you never told me really how things went with your daughter."

"I don't want to talk about it.  We made our peace but that does not mean she wants me back full-time, we are working up to that.  This is only temporary you know, my renting your loft.  I need a place of my own, as soon as the medical officer clears me for full duty."

He was thinking maybe he wouldn't last that long, he'd been hoping the young boy would be out most of the day.

"So I redecorated for nothing then?" Ellie mused.

"I am sure you will find another willing lodger?  You know me well enough by now to realise I prefer being on my own?"

Ellie supposed she did though she'd not seen him between her husband being arrested and the start of the trial that should never even have taken place but these last few weeks they had been dragged through hell and back with one thing or another.

Rose was at her new job early the next morning, wanting to make a good impression.  Alec was going back to work, deciding to maximise his time out by working ten until two and opting to walk to the station.  Rose decided to take the toddler down to the harbour and was about to make her way back when Alec was coming down the station steps.

Fred saw him first as Rose was crossing the road.  "Hardee!" the boy called out.

Rose stopped at the side of him.  "Oh, hi, going somewhere?"

"No, I have just finished for the day.  Don't let me keep you, err, Rose was it?"

Fred was trying to get their attention by talking away and pointing to some boats, Rose thinking he wanted a drink so she got his cup out and gave it to him.

"Let me buy you a coffee or something?" Alec asked, at a bit of a loss.  "For the tea you made me last night," he hastened to add, in case she got the wrong idea.

Seeing she had time to get back in for Tom getting home, she agreed so they found a table at the far end of the outdoor catering area and Alec went to get the drinks, a bit amused at being told they would be brought to him when he ordered a ham salad sandwich after he'd asked Rose if she wanted anything.

Fred seemed happy with his drink and Alec's company.

"So, you and Fred spent a lot of time together then?" Rose smiled as they waited.

"Oh yes, me and the boy kept each other company a few times.  His mother and I were kept busy with the recent trial and she helped me close an old case."

"Yeah, I heard about that.  Nice job, detective inspector," she smiled as a tray was brought over to them.

Alec wasn't sure how to take that.  Still, being hostile to the young boy's child-minder wasn't such a good idea, if he wanted to stay until he found a place of his own and Miller had already warned him before Rose had arrived that morning while Tom was getting ready for school.

"Don't have Rose making a fuss of you Hardy, she's not here to watch you," Ellie had told him.

"I know that Miller, what do you take me for?  I won't be back until after two anyway, I will stay out of their way."

"You could try talking to them," Ellie had smiled.

That just got her a scowl.  Now, he was beginning to change his mind, watching her taking notice of the young boy and himself at the same time.

"Are you taking him back now?" Alec asked as she packed Fred's cup away and was about to go change him.

"Yeah, I was just going to go get him cleaned up."

"Then share a taxi with me, you can change him when we get back?"

Rose wasn't going to refuse, they'd been out for while and she wanted Fred to have a nap but so far he'd not obliged and it was getting on for three.  Alec called for a cab to pick them up opposite the police station and he held the boy while Rose let down the stroller after Alec looked at it and shook his head.

That made Rose smile, he might bring suspects in but a baby stroller had him foxed.  Fred of course had to fall asleep on the ride back, so Alec had to get the stroller and help Rose out of the cab.  Fortunately for Alec, the driver knew him as he'd taken him several times to the court but Alec sincerely hoped he would not jump to any conclusions.

While they were waiting for Tom to get home, Fred asleep in his stroller, Alec told her he was picking up a car the next day.

"I won't be back until Friday," she told him.  "I feel sorry for the poor boy, he must have hardly seen her recently."

"Aye, it was tough on all of them though," Alec told her. 

"Well I hope Tom doesn't think that I'm trying to take her place.  She mentioned he'd been staying with his aunt."

"I am sure he won't think that but it will be easier once she comes back to work in the town."

Fred decided to wake up as Tom came in so Alec disappeared while Rose organised their tea but Tom had already noticed the two of them had made friends.  It was all he needed, a man he was just beginning to accept being around, talking to Fred's new minder.  They had been laughing at something as the teenager had walked in and Alec had made his excuses.

"Good day Tom?" Rose asked him as he poured himself some juice from the fridge.

"So-so, what's for tea Rose?"

He went into the front room where Alec was watching TV.

"Okay Tom?  Getting on with your brother's minder?" Alec asked him.

"Yeah, she's okay I suppose, mum seems to like her."

"Well, as long as your brother does eh?  He's too young to understand what went on and he's been passed around all this time, he needs to settle down again.  That's why your mother opted to have someone come in, rather than Fred go out every day, at least until he is old enough to go to nursery."

"I know that.  Why did she leave me with my aunt Lucy so long?  She could have made me come back before she actually did."

"Yes, I heard about that, quite a display she put on by all accounts.  She was only doing what she thought you wanted, it was a bad time for everyone.  Got any homework?"

"Yeah, if I need help, can I come to you about it?"

"Sure, any time.  Now why don't you see if you can help Rose with your brother?"

Tom wasn't sure if the detective was trying to get rid of him or get him involved in his brother's welfare.  Going back in, Rose was making Fred laugh by pulling funny faces.  As much as he tried, he couldn't dislike her.  After Rose took Fred to his room, Alec was just going to the loft.

"The boy seems to have settled with you.  Have you been a child-minder for long?" Alec asked her on the landing, trying to keep his voice down.

"No, this is my first proper job though I've looked after plenty of young kids where I used to live, I thought I'd actually have a go at getting paid for it."

Alec had to smile.  She had said she wouldn't be back until Friday, that meant he had two days to put up with Ellie Miller making a fuss over her youngest son and him, if he wasn't careful.   Maybe he'd delay his return after his four hours at the police station were up and use the time to seek alternate accommodation but could he put up with three days of Miller to be there the other four when this bright, young child-minder was around?

Rose was talking to him again.

"Were you going to your room or on your way down?" she was asking him.

"Oh, I was just trying to keep out of the way, if you and the boy's mother wanted to talk when she gets home."

"Oh.  Don't feel you have to stay out of the way, you live here as well," she assured him.  "We can talk in the other room you know?"

"I know, I was trying to be polite and not listen to two women talking about nappies and what the boy had for tea."

Rose smiled, seeing Tom's door was closed.  She knocked on it and he opened it slightly.

"Everything okay Tom?"

"Yeah, why?"

"If you need help with homework, I'd be happy to help."

"Yeah, fine but uncle Alec already said he'd help me."

"Well, now you have two of us, I'm sure he knows much more than I do though.  Tom, take my advice, stay at school as long as you can, I skipped out and I had to go back to college in the evenings."

"Yeah?  I want to do well at school but I can't decide what I want to do."

"Go into the police?" she smiled.

Tom saw the funny side, as did Alec, who was listening with interest until he heard the front door open, then he hastily retreated to his loft as Ellie heard voices on the landing.  Rose thought maybe it was just as well he had made himself scarce, he probably didn't want to hear about nappies or what they'd had for tea, since he had opted to wait until Tom and Fred had finished theirs.

"Hey Tom, had a good day?" Ellie asked him, wondering why Rose was on the landing.

Tom nodded and went back in his room.

Rose noticed.  "Hi, Fred might still be awake, he was talking to his bear."

"Well, he'll drop off, I'll go see him.  Had a good day?"

"Yeah, we went for a walk, watched the boats and stopped to get a drink by the harbour."

Ellie nodded and opened Fred's bedroom door, Rose not so sure she should tell her new employer she had shared a drink and a cab home with her lodger but would Alec Hardy have been so friendly if he thought Ellie Miller was interested in him?  Ellie hadn't said as much but Rose had a feeling they'd become good friends recently, had she any intentions behindoffering him a place to stay?  If she had, she herself would have to tread very carefully because the detective was very cute   and looked like he'd actually shaved off some of his beard from yesterday but that could mean anything, couldn't it?
Chapter 3
Alec had gone to his room, wondering why he'd just walked off and left the child-minder to explain everything.  After all, it had been his idea to invite her to sit with him by the harbour and share a cab back but he told himself that was all there was to it.  Rose got back to her lodgings and thought about how she had easily covered the fact she'd not been alone after her walk with young Fred.

What would her new employer think if she'd admitted it but would he thank her for dragging him into things when all he'd done was offer to share a cab and buy her a coffee?  No, she was making something out of nothing and she wouldn't see him over the next few days anyway and then she would have to avoid him.

If young Fred had been spending a lot of time with the detective, it wouldn't look good if they were all seen out together, it was a small town.  That however was going to be harder than Rose could ever have imagined.  When Alec had got home the next day, after talking his boss into him borrowing a car, Ellie was trying to get him all domesticated and he wasn't sure he liked some of her ideas.

"So, are you going to help around the house or not when Rose isn't here?" Ellie had asked him.

"Are you serious?  Why don't you just get her in for a few hours?"

"And pay extra?  I'm not asking a lot, just for you to pitch in and help."

"Fine but remember I am supposed to take things easy.  When are you back at work?"

"Trying to get rid of me?  Well I'm working all weekend, happy?"

Ellie hadn't meant it to come out like that but she was getting annoyed with him already but what did he expect?  Maybe she was asking too much of him but she was tired of balancing all the travelling and running a home for her two boys.  She thought about taking his advice and getting Rose in a few hours extra just until she could get back to work in Broadchurch.

Rose was sitting on the end of the stone pier, reading a book she'd picked up earlier at the market up in the town.

"Oh hi Ellie, everything okay?"

"Hello Rose, I was wondering if you were free tomorrow?"

"Well I was thinking about getting the bus down to Dorchester but why are you asking?"

"Well, it's just proving a bit much, I was wondering if you could come up for a few hours or maybe take Fred out while I get the cleaning done?"

"Sure, why don't I do the cleaning and you take him out?  What time?"

"How about two, tomorrow afternoon?  That would be great."

"Sure, see you then.  Have you looked up nurseries or toddler groups?"

"No but I will do, thanks again Rose."

Ellie hung up.  "Satisfied?  I trust you'll keep out of her way?"

Alec just huffed and went to make himself a drink.

Rose was at Ellie's house just before two the next day, Fred already in his stroller waiting to go so she ruffled his hair as she let herself in.

"Hi Fred, going out with your mum?"

"Roe!" the boy greeted her.

"Well that's near enough.  Ellie, can I ask why he always calls Alec Hardy 'Hardee'?"

Ellie had to smile.  "Just to get him annoyed.  He'd never had much to do with us, before my husband was arrested but when the trial started, we were also working on an old case of his.  Fred just picked it up."

"Aw, Fred's so cute.  I wished I'd had someone when I was growing up."

Alec was just getting out of the station, meaning to call at the mini-market on the way back and stock up on some proper food instead of ready-meals but he wasn't sure what he could eat yet.  He'd been looking online at alternate accommodation but had come up with nothing so far, then as he got to the corner, outside the harbour caravan park, he wondered how he would manage in a caravan, at least there would be no steps, if he could get one with a ramp or a decent set of steps.

Perhaps he would put one of his list of possibilities, in case Miller decided he'd be the one washing all the dishes.  Rose was vacuuming the dining room and never heard Alec let himself in.  It was only when she switched it off and heard someone in the kitchen did she go and look.

"Oh hi, sorry, I never heard you.  Ellie asked me to come and help her out for a couple of hours," Rose explained as he was filling the kettle with water.

"I know.  Finished?"

"Just about, I've just got the bathroom to clean," she replied, going back to put the vacuum cleaner away.

She was about to go upstairs when Alec called her and pointed to a mug of coffee.

"Time for a break?"

Rose smiled and sat at the kitchen table.  She thought this was starting to be a habit, sitting and sharing tea or coffee with him.  She excused herself and went to start cleaning the bathroom, Alec wondering if he made her uncomfortable.  He was in the front room when he heard her come back down just after three.

"Rose, do you have a moment?"

"Sure.  Did you want your room tidying?  Only Ellie never said anything."

"No, it's fine.  Please, sit down."

"Can I get you a drink or something?" Rose asked nervously, thinking she'd been getting in his way, annoying him or he was going to ask her to keep young Fred out of his way.

"No, I'm fine.  Do I make you nervous?  If I do, I can assure you, it is not intentional."

"Oh.  No, you don't make me nervous, I thought I'd been making too much noise, with Fred when you come back?"

"No, it's his home, I would not expect him to be quiet.  You just carry on, pretend I am not here."

"Yeah but I'll try and keep it down, okay?  You're stuck with me all weekend though, sorry.  I'll try and take Fred out as much as I can but I don't know what Tom will be doing."

"It's fine Rose, really.  I was going to look at a few places to rent."

"I thought you had to rest?"

"I get enough of that, I also have to get some exercise so would you mind, if I joined you when you took the boy out?"

Rose was taken aback.  "Sure, why not?  As long as you don't mind being seen with the hired help?" she smiled.

"I am sure they will treat you as part of the family.  Everyone knows who I am anyway, maybe it will be a case of you not wanting to be seen with me?  I will be working on Saturday morning for a few hours, what time do you start?"

"Ah, I think I'm here for eleven all weekend though how they work out the shifts is beyond me."

"Then why not join me for lunch at twelve, where we were the other day?"

"Yeah, if me and Fred are down that way?  Like I said, I don't know what Tom will be doing."

Alec thought her response was reasonable, she would be responsible for the teenager when he wasn't at school.  Rose went to make a drink and was just handing one to Alec when Tom came in just after three thirty.  He took one look at them as Rose sat on the sofa, leaving a gap.

"Hi Tom, did your mum say I was here today?"

Tom nodded, taking more notice of Alec, pretending he wasn't sat next to the child-minder.  Things had been confusing for the teenager as his mother had ordered him back home.  First they had painted the bedrooms, then she'd decided to make some extra money, to decorate the double loft and rent it out and it had been to DI Hardy, the man who had taken his dad away.  Ellie had tried to explain to him that his dad had made his own choices and it was now just the three of them but over the last few days, a lot of changes had come about.

First, Rose had turned up to look after him and his baby brother, then uncle Alec, as his mother wanted him to call the detective had moved in on the same day.  As if that hadn't been enough, Rose had been talking outside his room to the detective in a way that they hadn't wanted to be overheard so now he'd seen them sitting together, he was totally confused because the way his mother was going on, 'uncle' Alec was there to stay, be part of the family but now, Rose was here to spoil that.

He knew he should talk to his mother about it but she'd probably say he was imagining it all, that it was not what she'd meant about being a family again but why have him stay if she didn't want him to be part of it?

Rose went into the kitchen after Tom.

"Something wrong?" she asked him as he got himself a drink.

Tom shook his head.  There was but he couldn't tell Rose what it was.  "No, I just thought mum would be here when I got back."

"She took Fred out for a while, he's too young to understand what's been going on and why she's never here.  If you need to talk, just say, I know it can't have been easy on you and you're trying to forget it.  I'm here all weekend so whatever you had planned, just go ahead, yeah?"

"Sure.  Mum said to let you know if I was staying out.  I'll probably go to the skateboard park on Saturday, we spend most of the day down there."

"Great, I'm sure I can keep your brother amused.  Maybe we can pop down and watch for a while?"

Tom had to agree, as long as DI Hardy wasn't with them.  Most of his friends who were now more agreeable with him had asked where the detective had disappeared to, he didn't want to have to explain what the detective was doing with his brother and a woman who had just arrived in town.

"Are you waiting for them to come back or do you want something to eat?" Rose asked Tom.

"I'll wait, thanks.  I'll be in my room."

Rose went back into the front room.  "I think Tom's finding it all a bit confusing," Rose told Alec.

"He's very reluctant to let anyone get close to him, it will pass.  Have you been out yet since you arrived in the town?"

"Out where?  You mean the pubs?  They're not much fun when you're on your own and I don't fancy being chatted up by the locals."

"You have something against the locals?" Alec smiled hoping she didn't consider him as one of them.

"Well, I was kinda holding out for the holiday makers, less complicated if it doesn't get beyond a second date," she smiled.  "Maybe it's a bit early for them though?"

Alec considered his options.  "Well, if you don't consider me as either, maybe we can meet for a drink later tonight, say around eight at the pub by the river?"

Rose wasn't sure if it was a good idea or not but it had been ages since she'd actually been asked out and not dragged out under the guise of Mickey watching the football.

"Well, just one drink then?  Are you allowed?"

"I can have a light beer or lager, not that they taste as good as a malt whiskey but that would be too much.  I have to make a start, getting back to normal."

"Yeah?  Well if it helps you get back to normal, how can I refuse?" Rose smiled.

She sat back, finishing her drink, Alec spreading out and putting his arm on the back of the sofa, until they heard the front door opening and Alec got up to sit in the chair as Ellie was getting Fred out of his stroller.  Rose got up as Fred came toddling in and went to her.

"Hi Fred, had a nice time with your mum?"

Ellie followed him in.  "We went to the park.  Tom in?"

"Yeah, he went to his room.  I asked him about Saturday, he said he was going skateboarding."

"He's started doing that again.  Anyway, thanks for coming Rose, see you tomorrow, at ten?"

"Oh, I thought it was eleven or is that the weekend?"

"Saturday and Sunday, worse luck.  It should be my last weekend, I'm trying to arrange next weekend off to clear the other flat I was renting."

"Well Fred can stay with me while Tom helps you, if you want?"

"Rose, however did I manage without you?" Ellie remarked.

Alec was also wondering the same thing, she was like a modern day Mary Poppins, coming from nowhere right when she was needed.  Was she too good to be true?  He hoped not, he had sort of taken a liking to her in just a few days but Miller might not like the idea very much.

Saying goodbye, Rose set off to walk back to the harbour, wishing she had got the detective's phone number in case she changed her mind and thought it wasn't such a good idea.  She went to get something to eat, sitting at one of the tables by the river, looking at a bright blue chalet.  She was thinking how cool it would be to live there but it was probably a holiday home and beyond her budget.

"Hi there," a male voice called out.  "Mind if I join you?  I'm Olly Stevens, from the Broadchurch Echo.  Have you just arrived?"

"Oh, is that your office over there?" she pointed just past the amusement arcade.

"Guilty.  So, staying long?"

She felt like saying she was leaving but he'd see her around, pushing Ellie Miller's young son so there wasn't really any point.

"Yeah, I've just got a job here, child-minder for a police officer, you probably know her, Ellie Miller?"

Olly swallowed.  His aunt had said she'd got a new child-minder but not given any details.

"Gosh, sorry, I should have known.  She's my aunt so you must be Rose?"

Rose did a little wave.  "Yeah, that's me, hi."

Olly took that as he could sit next to her on the wall, Rose remaining where she was.

"So have you found your way around yet, Rose?"

Rose knew when she was being chatted-up but she wasn't going to spoil his fun, well not just yet.

"Me and Fred have walked around the harbour and I've been up on the High Street.  I was going off for the day but your aunt asked me to do a few extra hours for her today, I've just finished."

"So you haven't ventured further a-field yet?  There's not much to do here on a night but maybe you'd like to have a drink later?"

"Sorry, got a date tonight and I'm working late the next few nights, your aunt's funny working hours."

Olly looked disappointed.  She didn't think it was a good idea to be seeing Alec Hardy so it was definitely not a good idea to be seen out with her employer's nephew.

"Oh, maybe next weekend, if she's not working?" he hastily added.

"Look, Olly, I don't know how long I'm staying here and someone has already asked me out but if it doesn't work out, I'll look you up, yeah?  Besides, once your aunt gets back to work here again, if she gets Fred in a nursery, I may have to look for another part-time job, she won't be needing me as much."

She hadn't really thought about that, if Fred went to nursery a few hours a day, Ellie would be able to take him and she herself would pick him up and have her hours reduced so would there be any point in staying?  Unless Ellie still wanted her to look after the house but if Alec Hardy was leaving, would it be worthwhile actually staying?
Chapter 4
After Rose had left, Alec stayed where he was as Ellie fussed over her two boys but she noticed him waiting again to get something to eat.

"You are allowed in the kitchen at the same time as us you know?" she reminded him.

"Yeah Mum, he sat with us the other night, Rose had to show him how long his meal took in the microwave," Tom joked.

"Well the times are usually at the back," Alec objected, turning the carton over of his latest meal, chicken curry with boiled rice.  He thought the teenager had left the other night, he must have heard from the other room.

"How did you manage before?" Ellie wanted to know as he set the timer on the microwave, hoping it was the right setting, bloody modern things, he thought to himself, what was wrong with a simple timer?

"I ate out a lot and bought salads," he replied gruffly, Tom thinking it was funny how he'd never heard the detective being so grumpy in Rose's presence.

Ellie noticed Tom grinning and frowned at him.  "Tom, homework," she chastised him.

Tom thought it was much more interesting seeing the two of them trying to get on, it was opposite to what it had been like at mealtimes when his dad had been around.

"Mum, can you do me a packed lunch on Saturday, so I don't have to bother Rose?  She said she might bring Fred down to watch."

Alec was listening with interest, leaning back on the counter, his arms folded.  She'd said she might have lunch with him, did she then intend taking the youngster to watch his brother?  Maybe he could suggest something more interesting?

Rose had managed to get away from Olly, making the excuse she had to attend to her laundry before the caravan site launderette closed so having put her things in the machine, she went to sit by the harbour instead of in front of it and watching her underwear go round.  She got her phone out to call her mother but noticed a number had been put into the contacts under 'Alec' and smiled to herself.

The sneaky detective must have picked up her phone and put it in while she'd been talking to Tom.  That would teach her to leave her phone lying around then.  She sat with the phone in her hand and wondered if he'd expected her to get the hint and call him or was it in case she changed her mind about later?

It was after six by the time she got out of the laundrette, it would be almost time to go meet him so she decided to wait but Alec was annoyed with himself he'd not dared retrieved her number while covertly tapping in his and saving it before she had come back into the front room.  Since when did he do that? he'd wondered as he went to get changed into a casual blue polo shirt that his daughter had made him buy on a recent shopping trip with him, saying he always looked 'stuffy'.

It was all he could do to stop her picking out t-shirts with logos on them but she'd got him into some black jeans and he'd relented and bought a tweed jacket with a red collar so just after seven, he went to the bathroom, hoping it wasn't occupied with the young boy having his bath and took a bit more off his beard, making him look more like when he'd first arrived in the town.

He'd only had the beard on his arrival because he'd been travelling and arriving at the hotel, had noticed the owner looking at him as if to say he was a bit scruffy so he'd kept it to warn her off.  Then of course, he'd done something utterly stupid and asked her to keep him company but she'd had the sense to turn him down.

He had the misfortune just after seven thirty to see Ellie as he was trying to sneak out.

"Oh, going somewhere?" Ellie asked, looking at him like he'd suddenly grown two heads.

"Am I not allowed to go out?  You're not going to put the chain on if I'm late back are you?"

"Back to your usual self then?  Go out, I'm not stopping you, I had enough on that night out with Claire, thanks for that."

"Did I tell you to go off your head Miller?  I thought I would let everyone know I don't just sit in the station all day doing nothing."

"Well if you're bringing someone back with you, don't wake the boys and make sure she leaves before Tom gets up, it's bad enough getting him used to having Rose around."

Alec thought he could take that one of a few ways.  "I don't intend bringing anyone back with me Miller.  I think I can wait until I get a place of my own," he added.  He could picture her face at him trying to sneak Rose in.

"Have you found somewhere already then?  I thought you'd stay longer than a week."

"Not yet, I was going to enquire about a caravan, down by the harbour.  It would be nearer the station and all on one level," he replied, hoping Rose wouldn't choose that moment to call and cancel.

He managed to get out and thought about what he was doing.  What would he find to talk about with a woman almost half his age?  Daisy would be horrified or would she?  She had encouraged him to smarten himself up, was it with the intention of setting him up with a girlfriend?  He parked in front of the pub and looked around to see if Rose was on her way across the road bridge.

Ten minutes before she was due to meet him, Rose was having second thoughts, thinking she should call the whole thing off.  She had to work where he was living at present, maybe she should put this off until he moved out?  If Ellie Miller suspected anything, then she wouldn't trust her to look after Fred and she really needed the experience before she could move on to another family.

She retrieved his number, about to press it then changed her mind, put the phone in her shoulder bag and picked up her keys.  She bumped into the owner on her way out though.

"Oh, hello dear, settling in okay?"

"Yeah, thanks Mrs Williams and thanks for doing just the room."

"That's fine, we get a lot of people passing through who don't want meals, if you're working different hours.  Going to sample the night-life?"

"Yeah, I got asked out so I'd best go before he thinks I stood him up," Rose grinned.

Two minutes to eight and Alec was still waiting outside.  He'd give her five more minutes then go inside and hoped she was just running late.  He didn't even know where she was staying, she could be coming down from the town for all he knew.  Then he walked towards the river and thought he saw her crossing the bridge, letting out a sign of relief.  It would have been awkward over the weekend if she'd changed her mind but it may be equally as awkward if they didn't get on.

Rose saw him and waved, she noticed he'd changed out of his grey suit.

"Hi, hope I'm not late?" she asked, giving him a smile.

"Not at all, you are just in time, after you?" he offered, opening the door for her.

The 'just one drink' turned out to be three for Rose to his two halves of non-alcoholic lager, which he didn't really enjoy.

"Why don't you have a proper drink?" Rose asked, on her second one.

"I brought the car, maybe another time?"

There was loud laughter in the corner, Alec noted Nigel Carter was leading it.  Why had he picked that pub to invite Rose to?

Just before ten, Rose asked if they could go for a walk, so she could clear her head.

They walked back towards the east pier which was all lit up with white string lights and stopped at one of the benches, the cliffs behind them.  Rose had put a thin jacket on and it was getting chilli, it was only just into April.

"We could go back, if you are cold?" Alec asked.

"Nah, it was a bit noisy in there, are they always like that?"

"I would not know, I've never been in before.  I had to be careful before my surgery and since I came back, this is my first time out."

"I used to get dragged to watch the football on the pub's big screen," Rose recalled, thinking how stupid she was to mention it.

"A football widow eh?  Is that what you are running away from?" he asked, wondering if he should offer her his jacket but he'd been warned he was still a bit delicate.

"Partly.  My ex never seems to take no for an answer, I had to make a break for it.  This is my first time away from home."

"How are you finding it then?"

"It's nice here, I think I picked a good place to make a fresh start.  What brought you here?  That murder last year?"

"No, I had been here a week before that happened.  Then DS Miller came back to work and accused me of taking her job."

"Ouch, I bet that made you popular?" Rose smiled, wishing she'd had the sense to put a thicker jacket on.

She rubbed her hands together and Alec took the chance to grab one.

"Cold?" he asked, taking the other one and trying to warm them.

"That'll teach me to dress properly.  Thanks for the drinks, it made a nice change."

"My pleasure.  Allow me to walk you back, have you far to go or do I need to get the car?"

Rose pointed across the harbour.  "No, just the corner guest house.  I thought it would be expensive but it's out of season though I hope to be out of there before the prices go up."

Alec looked disappointed, was she not planning on staying?  Rose saw the look on his face.

"I meant get a place of my own," she laughed.

Alec realised his mistake and gave her a grin.  "My mistake, I thought maybe when young Fred Miller started nursery, you would be leaving?"

"Why would I want to go back to London?  I should be able to get another job after this one.  Did you tell her you were meeting me?"

"I don't report to her Rose, I just lodge with her, for the time being.  I was considering renting a caravan until I found somewhere else but I was told I shouldn't live on my own just yet."

"You mean until you get the all clear?  If you rent a caravan, there'll be no steps, right?  So why do you need anyone to watch out for you?"

Alec thought she had rather a good point.  "Well, when you put it that way?  I should walk you back, you are still cold."

Rose couldn't really argue with him though she'd not expected the walk, that had been a bonus.  They stopped on the corner and she turned to say goodnight.

"See ya tomorrow when you finish work?" Rose asked, Alec being at somewhat of a loss how to say goodnight to a woman he'd asked out for a drink.

"Yes, unless you are around here with young Fred again, around the time I get out?"

"It depends on if he falls asleep or not but I was planning on taking him out, he seems to enjoy it."

"He was out a lot before, his mother helped me with an old case."

"Yeah, she said.  Night then, I'll see ya at some point tomorrow."

"Yes, no doubt.  It was just if I stop to get something to eat or bring something back with me.  If you are in, I could call you and see if you want anything."

"You put your number in my phone, that was very sneaky."

"You noticed?" Alec grinned, hoping she wasn't mad at him.

"I was about to call my mum.  I should be careful where I leave my phone?"

"You are very trusting Rose, do you know that?  I did not pry into your phone contacts though so I did not get your number."

"You have the house phone number?  I should make you call that."

"So I don't get your number?" he smiled.  "What if I need to get hold of while you are out?"

"Why would you need to do that?  To cancel lunch?"

"No, to see if it is worth my while waiting for you?  Why don't you text me it?"

"I'll think about it.  Goodnight Alec."

"Goodnight Rose, thank you for a pleasant evening."

He took her hand, which was cold and kissed the back of it.  When she got inside, she made herself some tea and sat on the one chair, trying to compose a text to Alec.

Should she just put  'Hi Alec, this is my number, Rose' or  'You wanted my number, here it is, Rose. X'.  She smiled and went with the second one, hoping it didn't seem too forward but it sounded less formal than the first one at least.

Alec had just got back and was making himself a drink, to get rid of the taste of the lager.  Ellie had seen him come in and had left him, thinking he would be bound to join her and brag about picking someone up and not bringing them back but it was a bit early if he had met someone and gone back to their place.

His message tone went and instead of going for his specs, he squinted at the screen.  He was pleased it was from Rose and smiled at the 'X' at the end.  He managed to send 'Got it, thanks' then added 'Alec. X' to the end before sending it.  Pleased with himself, he pocketed his phone and took a sip from his tea.

"You're back early," Ellie remarked, standing in the doorway.

"I could always go out again," he replied, not happy at her observation he had come back alone.

"Just making one for yourself?" Ellie grinned, reminding him of when they had first worked together last year.

Alec leaned back against the counter.  "Want to know where I have been?  I left early as Nigel Carter was being loud, does that satisfy your curiosity?"

Elle shook her head and went back to finish watching the end of a programme.

Rose had smiled when she'd got his message back but she was on very shaky ground because if he was going to continue asking her out for a drink, until he moved out of Ellie's house, it was going to be difficult to not let it spill over when he came back from work.

When Rose got to Ellie's the next morning, she almost had to lie about having a quiet night in.

"Oh, I met your nephew yesterday," Rose told Ellie, who had asked if she'd been anywhere.

"Watch out for him Rose, unless you want to end up on the front page of the paper as his latest conquest."

Her sister had told her about catching the young assistant of the barrister who had got her husband freed in the house and why they'd got to know she'd paid Lucy for information.

"Thanks for the warning but I turned him down.  I mean, it would be a bit awkward, me working for you and all and him being your nephew."

"Why would it?  Still that's up to you Rose, don't let that influence your decision."

Rose wondered if Ellie would be so keen if it came out she'd been out with her lodger.

Rose decided to take Fred out just before one, after giving him his lunch.

"Let's go see if we can find uncle Alec, yeah?" she asked the young boy.

Fred looked at her, putting his fist in his mouth.  Then Rose realised he was still having trouble with names.

"Okay, how about we go find Hardee?"

The boy giggled and moved around in his stroller.

"Yeah Fred, that's just how I feel and you know what?  I think you and I both like having him around so why don't we tell him?"

Then she thought about him saying he would soon be moving out.  The young boy would be let down again, after losing his father so there was only one way of making sure Alec would still be around.  If he asked her out again, she wouldn't hesitate and if that was before he moved out they would have to be very, very careful but she wasn't going to rush things. 

If he was moving, it would give them time to get to know each other and when he did move, it would determine if they still wanted to see each other for more than the reason she was the hired help and he was the lodger because if Ellie found out, she would probably dismiss her.
Chapter 5
Rose walked along the cliff top towards the harbour, Fred chatting away to himself over something as she followed the path down.  There were plenty of people around who waved at the youngster and she was soon walking on the seafront towards the station, thinking maybe she should wait across the road.  She didn't want to give everyone the wrong idea after all and when Ellie got back there, this would have to stop.

Ellie would soon get to hear about them meeting from her colleagues but maybe she'd want her to bring Fred to meet her and she'd be able to go off?  Still, if she was seen around with Alec, they wouldn't be able to keep it a secret for long.  At the moment, it was totally innocent anyway and maybe he was only being friendly, he'd been a perfect gentleman last night, even kissing the back of her hand.

It was ten to two so Rose sat on the wall facing the harbour and fussing over Fred, getting him his drinking cup.

"You watch for Hardee, won't you Fred?"

"Hardee!" the boy repeated, laughing.  He repeated the name and pointed to the station.

"Yeah, we saw him the other day here didn't we?" she told the boy.

Fred pointed again so Rose tried to turn and saw Alec on the balcony.  She waved and Alec gave a little wave back.

"Well done Fred, he might come out early now."

Alec was thinking the same.  He'd gone out onto the balcony in preference to composing countless text messages asking if she was going to be outside at two, none of which he'd dared send.  For one thing, she'd think he was checking, which he was, for another it would make it look like he was being over-keen, which he probably was and he could think of a dozen other reasons not to send the latest one before he'd got up and opened the balcony door.

The others in the office were watching him with interest.  They'd been surprised he'd come back, even part-time but now, he looked like he wanted to be somewhere else.  They were already betting either he'd found himself a girlfriend or he just plain couldn't settle with Ellie Miller still being absent.  Only time would tell, the general consensus being when Ellie got back they would go back to bickering all day long and him shouting 'Miller!' at the top of his voice and blaming her for everything.

Some were secretly hoping he and his DS had got their acts together and the accusations from the trial were now true, they certainly weren't during the investigation.  Alec crossed the road, Rose was half turned and waved again.  He sat beside her, Fred grinning at him.

"Hello there young man, you saw me before Rose eh?" he asked the boy.

"Roe!" the boy pointed, Rose moving his hair out of his eyes. 

Alec smiled.  "You decided to join me then?"

"We're here, thought we might as well, didn't we Fred?  I was thinking, when his mum comes to work back here, she'll maybe want me to bring him down to meet her?" she told him as they moved to the seating area.

"She questioned me when I got back last night, well sort of.  I think she had expected me to either stay out or bring someone back with me."

"I'm sure she was disappointed then?" Rose smiled.

"Aye, I think she was.  Can I buy you lunch?"

"Sure, thanks.  Whatever you're having?"

Fred fell asleep as they walked to where they had been the night before and they sat talking.

"So did you think about a caravan then?" Rose asked him, keeping an eye on Fred.

"The personnel officer was not in today, I will have to ask on Monday but I may call in the site office tomorrow." 

He didn't really have to work on Saturday mornings but he thought he'd needed an excuse not to be around when she arrived at the house.  How this was going to work, he had no idea, keeping it quiet in front of Miller and Tom was going to prove difficult to say the very least.  Still, he hopefully would be out of there by the following weekend so it really wouldn't matter that much, Miller could hardly complain if he wasn't there.

He took them back to the Miller house, Rose holding Fred in the seatbelt with her and meaning to ask if Ellie would leave the car seat but how she could without giving the game away, she didn't know.  When Ellie got back, Alec offered to take Rose back to where she was staying since Ellie had been a bit late, Ellie not bothering at first, thinking he was just trying to be helpful.  They got to the corner where the caravan park was and Rose was about to get out.

"Is it too late to ask you for a drink?" Alec asked, about to get out and walk her to the door.  "We could just go to the camp bar?"

"Well if they do hot chocolate, then yeah."

"You could get some and leave it at the Miller house you know?" Alec smiled as he locked the car doors and they walked across the road.

"It's nicer when someone else makes it," she smiled back as they entered the quiet bar.

Getting two drinks, Alec sat next to her.  "So, will you meet me at twelve tomorrow?"

"Yeah, we'll probably be down that way and then we'll go see Tom."

"Maybe we can find something else to occupy young Fred?"

"Maybe, if he doesn't fall asleep, he seems to do that a lot."

"He used to fall asleep on my sofa when his mum was helping me with that old case of mine.  I came back one time and she told me not to wake him."

They talked a while longer then Alec walked her across the road.

"See you tomorrow then?" Rose asked, getting nervous and wishing if he was going to try and kiss her that he'd just get on with it. 

Alec was fidgeting, his hands in his jacket pockets.  "Goodnight then, I look forward to having lunch with you again and maybe going for a walk?  Maybe we can take both the boys out on Sunday?"

"Yeah, they'd like that.  Night then," she told him, going to kiss his cheek.

Alec turned and kissed hers back and whispered, "So would I Rose and maybe we could go out again tomorrow night?"

"I'm working late again but I wouldn't say no to another hot chocolate?"

She kissed his cheek again and he reached for her arm, turning slightly so she caught the corner of his mouth.  Blushing, Rose just said, 'Oops' and Alec smiled.

The next morning, Rose asked Ellie if it would be okay if she left the car seat as Alec had said he would take them all out the next day.

"Yeah, remind me in the morning but I hope they won't be any trouble to him."

"Aw, they’ll be fine, Fred seems to like him."

"They spent a bit of time together.  Right, I'm off, sorry I was a bit late last night."

"It's fine, it happens."

Rose went to get Fred ready and they were just in time to see Alec coming down the steps and looking for them.  They were about to walk around to the skateboard park after they'd eaten when Rose's mobile rang so Alec took the handle of the stroller.

"Oh hi Ellie, something wrong?" Rose asked as she saw Ellie's name.

"Are you near the skateboard park?  Only Tom rang to say he fell off his skateboard and hurt his knee, he was going to go home with his friend's dad but if you're nearby?"

"Why didn't he call me?" Rose asked, looking at Alec.

Now Tom would wonder why they were together.

"He called me, I don't know why, I asked him if he'd tried to get hold of you and he said he forgot.  Not much I can do in Exeter."

"I'm on my way now, is it the one behind the old railway station?"

"Yeah, that's the one, I told him to wait, he never said how bad it was, it's probably only a scrape.  Get a taxi if you need one and get a receipt."

"Oh, it's fine, don't worry, I'll get him home.  I have DI Hardy's number, I'll see if he can come and pick us up."

Alec frowned at her but they were almost at the park.

"Well okay then, see what he says.  How did you get his number?"

She wanted to say because he'd been sneaky. 

"He gave me it in case I needed it, I'm almost there now, will Fred be ok in his car?"

"There's a spare seat in the shed, tell him to get it, I have to go now."

Alec looked at her, moving away from the stroller.

"I will go back and get my car, you'll have to manage without the seat for now, I will get it later.  Just tell Tom I am on my way and wait, I will pull into the car park."

Alec headed back to the station's car park and Rose went to find Tom, who was sat on a bench nursing his sore knee, another boy and a man with him.

"Oh, hi Rose, sorry, I fell and I forgot about calling you.  Mr Rodgers, this is our child-minder Rose, she'll take me home thanks," Tom told the man.

"Well, I'll leave you with her then.  Come on Eric, say goodbye to Tom," the man told his son, who waved at Tom and smiled at Rose.

"Okay, how did you manage that?" Rose asked Tom, seeing the tear in his jeans and the red knee.  "Can you walk?"

"I don't know, can we get a taxi?"

"I've called DI Hardy, he's on his way.  I hope he can find the spare seat for Fred," Rose had to lie.

This was already getting out of hand but Tom was clever, he'd probably work it out before his detective mother did and if Fred began talking, that would be it.

Alec had to make the excuse up he'd not found the car seat for Fred so Rose had to fasten the just woken up toddler in her seat belt in the back again.  She got the first-aid kit out when they got back to Tom's house and Alec went to the same shed he'd arrested Joe Miller in last year and retrieved the spare car seat, putting it in the dining room.

As they sat drinking tea, Fred in his high-chair, Alec asked what they had planned for the following day.

"Maybe I could take you and the boys somewhere?" Alec asked, for Tom's benefit but a bit disappointed to have his afternoon interrupted and take Rose off somewhere with Fred still asleep.

"Yeah, that would be nice, Tom?  Maybe we can go down to Weymouth or somewhere for a few hours?  Thanks, uncle Alec," she smiled, making Alec blush.

"Do I have to call you uncle Alec?" the teenager asked, his knee still stinging from the cream Rose had put on.

"Don't let your mother catch you not using the 'uncle' bit then but I really hate my first name."

"Ah, I think it suits you," Rose smiled, "We can't call you 'Hardee' all the time like Fred does.  Hey Tom, why don't you take your brother out into the garden for a while and let him kick a football around, if your knee's not too bad?"

"Sure Rose.  Come on Fred, football."

Once they'd left, Rose wanted to apologise to Alec.

"Hey, sorry for dropping you in it back at the skateboard park.  I could hardly tell her we were already with you, could I?"

"She will find out, she is a detective Rose."

"Yeah, well I'd rather she found out after you move out, I need this job."

"Rose, it was just a few drinks the last two nights," he tried to tell her.

"Yeah and the lunchtimes and then me asking about a car seat for Fred, just in case and telling her I had your number already?  She won't be fooled for long or is that all there is to it?  You asking me out just the once?"

"Is that all you wanted?  You pretending you might not meet me this lunchtime?  You want the truth Rose?  Yes, I am interested in you, it's up to you whether you return that interest and I appreciate your position here, I know you have your job to think about.  So, we will downplay this until I move out, then if you want us to pursue this further, then I am more than willing to do so.  Taking you all out tomorrow will not have any bearing on the matter, I was merely volunteering to help you out, Miller said I should show an interest around here."

"Sorry, I didn't mean it to sound like that and yeah, when things are different around here then I'd like to go out with you again Alec."

"Good, then I will be sure to ask you once I find another place to live which is why I will pursue the caravan for now, just to get me out.  I will have to leave it until Monday now but their mother needs to know it was my idea taking them out, not yours.  I will not have you taking the blame for asking me."

"Thanks, I'm sure she'll be okay with it.  They look like they're enjoying themselves," Rose nodded towards the garden and Tom holding his brother and Fred kicking the football.

Alec joined her at the window.  Tom saw them and waved.  He had noticed the way the detective had stopped what he was doing and come down to pick him up at Rose's insistence but she must have been quick at calling him since it hadn't taken her and Fred long to get there after he'd called his mum.

He'd not called Rose, it was just natural he called for his mum, forgetting she was too far away to just come and get him but had Rose already been with the DI?  The way there were standing at the window, the detective with his hands behind his back made Tom wonder if he'd not been about to put his arm around her or was his imagination working overtime again?

Rose gave Fred and Tom their tea and Tom wanted to watch something on TV other than what Alec was so he was in the dining room while Rose was clearing up, Alec having eaten a veggie burger and fries with then just after five.  Tom noticed Rose was joking with Alec about his odd eating habits but had thought nothing of it at the time but now, he wasn't so sure as Rose checked on him.

"Hi.  How's the knee?" she asked as Tom watched his programme.  "Feel like going out tomorrow?"

"Yeah, it's better, thanks.  My friend said there's a funfair on down there, maybe I can get some money off mum to take Fred on a few rides?"

"Yeah, he'll probably like that.  You must miss your dad taking you places and with your mum always working funny hours but once she's back here, it'll get easier.  You lived with your aunt for a while, yeah?"

"Yeah and my older cousin Olly."

"I met him yesterday, he asked me out," Rose grinned.

Tom laughed.  "Did you say yes?" he grinned.

"I told him I'd think about it, I don't know what hours your mum will be working next week, do I?  Besides, she warned me I might end up on the paper's front page if I did."

Tom laughed again.  Perhaps she was just friendly with everyone, not just Alec Hardy?

"Don't forget to turn off the TV if you go upstairs will you Tom?" Rose asked.

Tom nodded so Rose went into the front room, leaving the door open so she could hear if he went upstairs or Fred wasn't settling down

"You are very good with the boys," Alec observed as she left a gap on the sofa.

"Thanks, I had enough practice back where I lived, these two are angels compared to some of them.  I had to warn them I'd get my ex round to sort them out but that just made them worse."

"I can imagine," Alec smiled, wondering if he dare move up a space but Tom might wander in.  "What time is their mother due back?"

"Around nine or so.  Why?  Wanting that hot chocolate?" she smiled as he spread his arm on the back of the sofa.

He was about to reply that no, he was looking forward to actually try and kiss her goodnight but in view of their earlier conversation, he thought maybe he should put it off for the time being.  Rose though was hoping that it hadn't put him off and he would try again and this time, she might just let him.
Chapter 6
Ellie was back a little early though Alec had already moved when he heard Tom moving around.  He'd really wanted to let his arm wander onto her neck and try and touch her shoulder with his fingers, since they seemed long enough to reach but he had failed as they both watched TV.  Rose however knew what he was up to and wondering what had stopped him.  She knew though that Tom would have thought something of earlier and Alec turning up so fast to fetch him.

Then Alec had sat with them for tea, Rose joking with him and Tom and Fred pointing to Alec as she'd cut his food up for him.

"No Fred, uncle Alec's eating his own tea," she'd told the young boy.

She knew it was because at lunch, he'd given Fred some of his baked potato with cheese but she'd not wanted Tom to know that.  Now Ellie was letting her umbrella down and leaving it in the porch.

"Hope you're not walking home tonight Rose, it's terrible out there."

"Oh, I'd not realised it was raining," Rose replied, as she'd pulled the curtains over a bit earlier.  "Hope it's fine tomorrow so we can take the boys out."

"Did you find the car seat?" Ellie asked Alec as she shook her coat in the doorway.

"I left it in the dining room.  If it's your spare one, I could put it in the back of my car in case Rose has any more emergencies?"

"Well it makes sense I suppose.  Rose, are you phoning for a taxi?" Ellie asked her.

Alec spoke up.  "I can take her, no need for her to have the expense of a cab.  I will get my jacket.  Rose, when you are ready?"

"Yeah, I'll get my stuff then?"

Rose went off and Ellie stood for a moment.

"You should go and see Tom," Alec reminded her.

"You think I like being so far away?" Ellie replied.  "Rose is capable of looking after him, if it had been Fred, I would have come back."

"They both need you," Alec reminded her again.

"Well it's only for another week, well not even that hopefully.  I'm going to ask to change my hours and just do three days but work a bit longer.  If I do mid-week, I can get Friday off and make a start over at my flat.  Fred can come with me."

"Trying to save money?" he quizzed her, raising his eyebrows.

"Very amusing.  No, I'll have to get Rose in five days a week when I come back here to work or had you forgotten?"

Alec shook his head.  Perhaps he was best keeping out of her arrangements but he'd wanted some idea if Rose was going to be free some evenings next week so he could invite her out properly.  He'd been surprised last night that Ellie had not said anything when he'd got back but she'd already gone to her room or maybe she was in her youngest son's room, he'd not looked.  He'd just known she wasn't downstairs so he'd locked the door and put the chain on then watched the late news.

Rose came downstairs after using the bathroom and told Alec she was ready to go.

"Want to borrow an umbrella Rose?  You've only got a thin jacket," Ellie asked her.

"Oh, I'll be fine, honestly.  See you in the morning and don't worry about Tom's knee, he's fine now.  He probably just missed you when he called you."

"Maybe, it's not been easy since he came back to live here.  See you tomorrow.  Are you coming straight back tonight?" she asked Alec as he opened the front door.  "I heard you come in last night, did you go somewhere?"

"I found the caravan park's bar does a mean hot chocolate," he grinned.

"You could always get a jar," Ellie called after him.

That's what he'd told Rose last night.  He felt like telling her not to wait up, if Rose were to invite him in but the guest house probably had rules about visitors.  He could always pretend he was there on official business though.  Rose had dashed out to the car after standing under the porch as he remote unlocked the car doors.

Alec didn't seem bothered as she hurriedly got in beside him.

"Yuck, horrible weather.  I hope it's not raining tomorrow or we'll have to find somewhere else to take the boys," she told him.

"I am sure there are plenty of places to take them around the area.  There are a few museums, they will probably like the car or tank museum."

"Well Tom might but I'd get bored," Rose smiled.

Alec pulled up opposite the caravan park's bar and waited to see what she wanted to do.  It was already after nine and he doubted she would invite him in tonight, maybe tomorrow night after a nice day out though.

"Another hot drink?" Alec asked, switching the car engine off.

"Yeah, okay then.  I thought you were waiting for me to invite you in?" she smiled, hoping she wouldn't get too wet but the rain was easing off.

"I was waiting to see what you wanted to do.  I'm sure visitors are not allowed after a certain time?"

"Yeah, there's a notice up for others to leave before ten, since you're interested."

"Like I suggested, we should ease up until I move out of the Miller house, I am sure Tom was giving me a funny look earlier."

"He probably wondered how you'd got to pick him up so fast.  I should have maybe said you were about to leave work."

"You can't keep covering up Rose, don't even try.  Once I leave, it will be easier, that's if you want to go out with me?"

"Yeah, I want to go out with you Alec, I'm just worried Tom will make something out of it and tell his mother."

"She's not blind Rose," he told her as they dashed across the road, avoiding the puddles and into the bar.

Alec got two hot chocolates and they sat by the window, the harbour lights sparking in the rain.

"I'm not saying she is Alec, she probably thinks nothing of the fact you went to Tom's rescue and you took me back to my room two nights in a row?" Rose smiled, putting cream on the spoon and licking it, Alec finding it amusing.  "What?" she asked him innocently.

"Nothing, only it looks to me like you are eating that, not drinking it.  Not that I am complaining, you make it look like an art form."

Rose blushed the colour of her name.  "I'm not sure how to take that Alec."

"It was a compliment actually.  I am somewhat out of practice.  You should find out what you are working next week, then I can invite you out properly.  She told me she is trying to just work three days but longer hours."

"Right, I'll maybe get two days off then?  I wanted to go have a look around Dorchester.  So, we wait and see what the weather's like tomorrow then?"

"Yes, it may actually stop raining at some point.  What time do you start work?"

"Eleven.  You mean you are actually going to be there?" she smiled, finishing her drink.

"I just set off before you get there," he smiled.  "I could come down and collect you?"

"That's a great idea, Ellie will never notice," Rose grinned, pushing the tall glass mug further on the table.

"Another?" he asked, finishing his own.

Rose shook her head.  "Alec, I'm sorry I can't invite you to my room but it's almost ten now.  Walk me back?"

"Sure but maybe we could go park the car on the seafront for a while?"

"Yeah, I'd like that.  I'll just go visit the ladies room first."

Five minutes later they were back in his car and he turned around and going around the mini-roundabout, headed for the esplanade, going to the last parking bay.  It had stopped raining so he asked if she wanted to get out.  Leaning against the wall, Rose stood in front of him, Alec daring to hold his arms out.

Rose hesitated a few seconds before he unfastened his jacket. 

"Cold?" he asked taking her arm.

Rose nodded and stepped up to him.  "I hope no-one comes down here," she asked nervously.

"Afraid of being caught?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.  "If any officers come down here, they all know me.  Don't worry so much," he told her as he put his arms around her waist and she put her arms around his back. 

It felt really nice to Rose, she'd not got close to anyone since she'd split with Mickey and he'd never really been the romantic type.  As she leaned into his shoulder, he nuzzled her neck, smelling her shampoo.

"You smell of apples and strawberries," he told her, kissing just below her ear.  "I don't think it would do any harm to see each other like this before I move out, we will just have to be careful Tom does not say anything when we are out or in the house with him."

Rose was liking that even more.  "Mmm, not if you keep doing that Alec.  Just carry on," she told him as he stopped. 

She rested her head on his shoulder, trying to look up at him.  She'd never expected things to escalate like they were doing.

"It will be the same time tomorrow night when we get down here Alec, maybe we can just sit in the car?"

"There is no-one around, relax," he told her, kissing her neck.

"Your beard tickles," she informed him as he continued.

"Are you objecting?"

"No, it feels kinda nice, just don't grow it any thicker will you?"

"I will be sure to trim my beard every morning, just for you.  Want to sit in the car because I really want to kiss you right now."

"I'd rather stay here," she smiled as he stopped kissing her neck.

"If that is what you want?  I really want to start seeing you, properly, not just for an hour when you finish work.  May I?" he asked, kissing her cheek.

Rose managed a nod, she'd never been asked that properly, she and Mickey had been thrown together after she reached sixteen and he'd been the only one to have some sympathy when she'd finally had the sense to see Jimmy Stone for what he really was.

"I'd like that Alec but it's getting cold now.  Maybe you should take me back?  Can we just walk?"

"I will have to walk back on my own, it will not be as pleasant."

Rose smiled as he let go and fastened his jacket.

"Well if you put it like that.  You'd best hope there's still a space around there, the car park for the guest house looked a bit full."

"I could park on a yellow line, no-one will be checking at this time," he replied, opening the door for her.

Rose thought tomorrow she would bring a thicker jacket with her, so she could stay out longer with him.  He was about to get out of the car to walk her to the door when a group of people passed them, Alec recognising Nigel Carter again and a few other men who had probably hounded the local newsagent to his death last year so he waited, Rose wondering why he was hesitating.  Then she recognised Nigel from a few nights ago.

"The local rowdies?"

"You could say that.  I would prefer to avoid them if possible."

"They must have seen us the other night, aw, don't worry, as if I'd look at any of them," she told him, turning and touching his cheek as the last of them were in front of them.

"Rose, I did not mean we should hide, they may have been responsible for an incident during the Latimer case last year, I was not willing to take any chances them saying anything, well not when there was a group of them anyway."

Rose leaned over and kissed his cheek.  "My hero.  So, about that kiss?"

Alec was about to put the light on but she stopped him. 

"Don't spoil it Alec.  Would you rather walk me to the door first?"

He was going to say he'd rather see her to her room first but they'd run out of time for that.  He leaned over to put his arm around her then leaned closer, touching her cheek with his other hand.  Rose took hold of it as he angled his head towards her.  He kissed the back of her hand then moving it slowly, he looked at her in the light from the street lamp.

"Rose, this is not how I'd planned to have our first kiss."

"Then wait until tomorrow night?  How did you plan having our first kiss?"

"Maybe back on the seafront or maybe on the end of the pier, it would have been more romantic than sitting in my car."

"I don't care Alec, just kiss me."

"Well if you insist but I would still like to take you somewhere nicer than my car."

He brushed her lips very lightly, Rose feeling that tingle of excitement, not that she'd ever really felt it with Mickey but when they'd fallen out on numerous occasions, she'd not sat at home moping over him.  Now it had been months since her last date because she'd been too choosy and she was glad she had.  The kiss was brief but was enough to leave her wanting more as she leaned forward to indicate she wanted another.  It was still short and sweet but it was a start.

Rose felt all flustered as their lips parted after a few more very short, sweet kisses.  Rose was sure he was determined to save the best for a better setting than his car parked by the side of the road on the way up to the town.

Rose leaned back.  "That was nice, I look forward to more."

"I will try not to disappoint you then.  Tomorrow night, you can invite me to your room for a short while."

"Yeah, Ellie should be back early with it being Sunday, hopefully.  Will she say anything about you being out for a while?"

"Just let her try.  I told her I'd be sampling the hot chocolate, she told me to buy a jar."

Rose let out a giggle and kissed his cheek.  "What do you look like under that?" she asked as she fingered his beard.

"Maybe I will let you find out sometime?  It is shorter than when we first met."

"I noticed, you didn't need to impress me."

"This is about as much as it was when I came here, I had no-one to impress back then."

"So where did you live?  In a hotel?"

"At first, then I got a place of my own but when I came back, it was being sold and I expect the rates will have doubled."

"I hope I can find somewhere cheap to rent.  Maybe I'll get the caravan next to yours?"

Alec smiled.  "In that case, I'll be sure to make certain the doors face each other.  I will walk you to the door then.  I hope there are no cameras?"

"Nah, I don't think so.  Got something against kissing me goodnight in front of one?"

"Not at all, as long as it is not recorded.  Rose, there were unfounded rumours during the recent trial."

"What rumours?"

"That Miller and I were having an affair during the investigation and that was why I arrested her husband, to get him out of the way."

Rose tried not to burst out laughing, unsuccessfully.  "You are joking?  Is that why he got off?"

"Partly.  Miller came to my hotel room the night he was locked up, the hotel CCTV footage was retrieved and it showed she stayed a while longer than was acceptable.  I sincerely hope no-one believed it."

"Is that why you left?"

"Partly, that and to see my teenage daughter."

"Well, if you're seen with me, that'll stop all the gossips.  Is that why Ellie's a bit off with you?"

"Maybe I suppose," he told her, touching her cheek with his finger, making her shiver and not with the cool night air.  "She is trying to cope with travelling and running a home for her two boys and forgetting her husband got off.  It can't be easy for her but if she has mistaken my moving in for any other reason than I needed a place to stay, she is going to sorely disappointed."

"I hope she doesn't take it out on me then."

"I won't let her," he told her, kissing her cheek then below her ear.

A few cars had passed, neither of them actually noticing as Rose turned her head and he kissed the side of her mouth, one arm still around her.

"I should go in now Alec."

"Then that is a great shame but I should not keep you out here all night, as much as I would like to.  Wait there, I will help you out."

He walked around and opened the car door, offering his hand, which she took.  They walked the short distance to the guest house door and Alec stopped just at the side.

"Goodnight then Rose, thank you for spending some time with me.  I will see you in the morning."

"Yeah, we'll have a nice day out as long as Ellie doesn't think we're carrying the roles of child-minder and lodger too far."

"Then that's up to her.  We can manage until I move out, which I will start on first thing Monday morning.  I will take a caravan for the time being."

"Goodnight then Alec, it was really nice, getting to kiss you.  You still taste of hot chocolate."

"That was me?  I thought it was you," he grinned.

They kissed once more then Rose got her keys out and unlocked the door, which had been closed at ten.

"Text me when you get back?" she turned and asked him.

"You can bet on that, after I have deleted all the ones I was going to send you yesterday."

"Should I be worried about you?" Rose smiled, taking her key out of the lock.

Alec shook his head.  "No, that was why I was on the balcony looking for you, I was going crazy not knowing if you would show when I had finished work.  Today, I was more sure you would."
Chapter 7
Rose smiled as she climbed the stairs to her room.  The short, sweet kisses had been nice but she was now looking forward to him kissing her properly.  They had made her heart skip a beat or two, that was probably how he'd lived up until he'd had his surgery.  She shouldn't forget though that he was still recovering so she knew she shouldn't get ahead of herself and make him do anything stupid just yet.

They could have a nice day out tomorrow but it could be even nicer if it had just been the two of them but what would Ellie think of it?  She saw the bathroom was vacant so she hurried to get her wash-bag before someone beat her to it, longing already for a bathroom, however small of her own again.  She envied Alec, he was determined to get another place of his own but it would be a few weeks before she could get her finances together to afford more than the fifteen pound a night that included a kettle and small portions of tea/coffee and those horrible little milk cartons so getting a jar of hot chocolate and a jar of ready mixed tea was on her shopping list.

Alec got back and locked the door behind him and noticed Ellie was in the front room.

"Got delayed?" she asked, switching off the TV which to Alec indicated she wanted to talk whether he did or not.

"I told you, the caravan park's bar does hot chocolate, which I discovered last night after dropping Rose off.  Not that I have to explain myself to you, do I?  Or is it one of your house rules I have to be back by a certain time?"

He was getting annoyed at being questioned when he should have been texting Rose to say he'd got back. 

"It was a simple question Hardy, don't snap my head off," Ellie retorted.  "Where's she staying then?"

"You did not get her address Miller?  You surprise me," Alec replied dryly.

"We have a few things to sort out, she just said a guest house somewhere by the harbour.  Don't be so smart either."

Alec raised his eyebrow.  "How many are there down there?  She just had me drop her on the corner near the station, how do I know where she went?"

"Some detective you are.  I'm surprised you never followed her.  I'm off to bed and if you are taking my two boys out with her tomorrow, be careful with Fred, he's already confused enough right now.  First Joe's with him all day and then suddenly, he's with either my sister or a babysitter.  Then you're roping me into solving Sandbrook with you and you're pushing him around in his stroller."

"That was only because I needed something to hold on to when I was ill Miller.  You started with him calling me uncle Alec, which Tom is having difficulty with, which you can't really blame him for."

"I'll talk to him then but he has to show you some respect."

"Then he can just call me Hardy, everyone else does."

"Only when we get annoyed with you.  Goodnight, some of us have been working all day."

"I did a few hours this morning Miller," Alec huffed.

"At your desk?  Tom said you were pretty quick picking him up earlier."

"And the point is?  I had just got back, I went straight out."

"After finding the child seat or didn't you bother?"

"Finished?" he asked, wishing she would just go to bed and leave him to text Rose.

"You're still a knob Hardy.  Rose is going to need all her patience spending the day with you tomorrow, I hope she knows what she's letting herself in for."

With that, Ellie went upstairs, Alec going into the kitchen to text Rose, not that it couldn't wait until he got to his room but if Miller had gone into the bathroom, it was easier to wait down there than climb the loft stairs twice.  Perhaps he'd been too hasty taking up her offer so soon after his surgery?  He couldn't wait to get out, especially with the situation he was putting Rose in now.

He composed the message a lot easier than yesterday morning when he'd abandoned the numerous attempts to ask if she was joining him for lunch.  He'd been fairly certain she would have done but standing on the balcony had calmed his nerves somewhat than being in his office and if his pacemaker hadn't been working correctly, he'd have mistaken that nervousness for another attack because that was what she was doing to him.

Him, Alec Hardy, a divorced father of a teenage daughter and probably over ten years Rose's senior was now carefully composing a short but meaningful message to the young woman who had captured his once broken heart and all he could come up with was 'Sorry for the delay, I was caught coming in, feel like a teenager being questioned!  Looking forward to tomorrow despite having the 2 boys with us.  Maybe Monday night I can take you out properly?'

He sent it before thinking maybe he'd been a bit too hasty assuming she'd still want anything to do with him if she thought tomorrow was nothing more than keeping the boys occupied and him having a car, which would be a shame after telling her he wanted their first kiss to have not been in his car.  Maybe he'd presumed too much that she'd actually cared where they kissed the first time.  He'd never really know because she would surely quite rightly keep that to herself.

Rose got his message and smiled at the being caught bit.  He was skipping ahead to Monday night though, they had to get through Sunday and being with two boys yet!  She sent a message back 'Sorry, my fault for keeping you out!  Yeah, Monday would be nice but I hope that doesn't mean you won't bring me back here tomorrow night?'

She got ready for bed and waited for his reply.  Alec was thinking what to reply as he went to the bathroom.  Would his delay make her think he'd run out of witty banter or was he flirting?  Yes, he'd been flirting and they both knew it, the 'meet me for lunch' and then watching out for her, not to even mention how he'd so quickly volunteered to take them all out tomorrow.  It had worked though, he did feel like a teenager again.

Rose had thought he'd either given up and gone to bed or he'd run out of chat-up lines and was about to turn out the bedside lamp.  It was only a small single room but at present it was all she could afford until she got paid, which Ellie had promised to get sorted out tomorrow night when she got back.  She also needed to give all her details and start keeping accounts to satisfy the tax people.  That in itself had been a nightmare when considering to work for herself but she'd got some advice from a friend of her mother's who ran his own market stall.

Then her mobile buzzed, she kept it on 'vibrate only' once she got back, she wouldn't be popular if Darth Vader's theme blasted out when her mother called.  Then she saw it was Alec.

"Hi, I didn't expect you to call."

"Yes, well, I am hopeless at composing messages as you would have seen if I'd sent all those from yesterday," he admitted.  "Miller was trying to find out where you were staying, have you not told her yet?"

"No, we were gonna sort all that out tomorrow, she won't have to leave as early with it being Sunday.  What did you tell her Alec?" she asked, sitting up in bed.

"Nothing, I told her I dropped you off and now I feel guilty about it.  Rose, I don't want us to be forced into keeping this quiet but I won't put your job at risk.  I will leave here as soon as I can, then she can't say anything.  I meant to ask you earlier about something."

"Yeah?  What was that then?"

"We have seen each other here most of the week, you must know I have feelings for you?"

"Yeah, I sort of worked that out Alec.  It's just that after I split from my ex, I never really dated seriously and trust me, we split a few times, he wasn't really what you'd call the romantic type though so all this is new to me.  So if ya want to, you know, go out on dates, then yeah, I'd like that."

"Ah, when you say dates?  Does that mean I have to bring you flowers, wine and chocolates?" he smiled, remembering dinner with the Millers.

Rose giggled.  "Well that might be overdoing it a little, one of them would be fine but I've nowhere to put flowers just now," she told him, looking around.

"Ah, well I hope you like different chocolates then?  So, if you are agreeable, then we will go out on dates when we can?"

"Well let's see how tomorrow goes, we could have fallen out when we get back."

"I hope that was intended as a joke?  Why would we fall out?' he asked, a bit puzzled.

"Well, I'm the one who will be responsible for Tom and Fred, not you."

"That's rubbish Rose, we will share equal responsibility for them.  I do have a sixteen year old daughter, Tom will be no different in how he behaves when he's with me."

"You locked his dad up Alec, I think that's rather different," Rose yawned.

"I should let you go to sleep, we will manage tomorrow to have a pleasant as possible day out.  I was going to ask you something else but it can wait."

Rose thought he sounded disappointed.  "No, it's okay, ask me."

"No, maybe I should ask you personally, not on the phone?"

"Do you know how to video chat?"

"Yes, Daisy, my daughter was my first one last year."

"Then use it next time?  Go on, ask me."

"When I asked you if you wanted to go out with me.  I meant not just casually."

"Oh.  What did you mean then?  As just friends?" she asked, trying not to sound disappointed.

"No, that was not what I meant at all, please don't think that.  I meant as in us going out properly, not just on dates.  We can do dates, of course but we already know each other and well, I was rather hoping, if it's not too soon, that I could assume you would maybe want to be considered as my girlfriend, if I were to introduce you to anyone."

Rose was just a little surprised, they didn't know each other that well but he'd been bold enough to ask her and she hadn't really considered Olly's offer seriously after what Ellie had told her.

"I don't know what to say Alec.  I mean it's awkward for me at the moment and if you said I was and it got back to Ellie?"

"Well, after next week, she will be busy working and moving and I will have left by then.  Rose, I am not going to waste time.  Not long ago, I did not think I had much of it left but I've got a new lease of life now and I want to spend as much as I can of it with you, if you want?"

"Wow.  You really feel that way about me?"

"Yes, I do and maybe this is all too soon for you?"

"Ah, you just took me by surprise, no-one's ever ask me like that before, that's all.  Can we just keep it quiet, until you move out of there?"

"If you say yes," he smiled to himself, wishing now he had done a video call to her.

"Then I will, initially but for now, we can't tell anyone, not until you do move out."

"Fine, that's settled then.  First thing Monday morning, I will go to the caravan park myself, they can deal with the personnel department and I'll take anything they have as soon as something is vacant.  I will have to give Miller a week's notice though but as long as she gets her money, she can hardly object if I move out early.  Until tomorrow then?" he asked, both pleased and surprised she'd actually said yes even though they couldn't go out as a couple just yet.

"Yeah but we still have to be extra careful in front of Tom and think yourself lucky that Fred can't talk properly yet so his mother can't ask him where I've been taking him," Rose smiled.

"Yes, I am sure he would have quite a lot to tell her eh?  She could have a degree in baby-talk though," he joked.

"Don't say that, she might have for all we know but would she interrogate a two year old?"

"Yes, for revenge of me interviewing Tom last year and from the last one, figuring out it was his father who killed Danny."

"I'm sure he'll get over it.  He seemed okay with you today," Rose assured him, stifling another yawn.

"I am keeping you awake, goodnight Rose, pleasant dreams."

"Aw, you're so old fashioned Alec.  Night then and I'll try my best to keep my hands off you tomorrow."

"Don't joke about it.  I think Tom has already formed an opinion and will be watching."

"I'm sure you're imagining it Alec."

He hoped he was as he hung up.  Keeping quiet in front of Tom was going to be a challenge to say the least because if the teenager voiced his concerns, Rose would lose her job and he didn't want to be responsible.  He'd been the one to come on to her by flirting and offering her a ride home and insisting she took young what's his name to meet him at lunchtime.  Miller was bound to find out they were seeing each other but he hoped it would be after he'd left.

Ellie had gone to bed, wondering why he was taking his time after she'd come out of the bathroom.  If she didn't know any better, she could almost suspect he'd been delaying to avoid her asking him more questions as to where he'd got to the last few nights but he had been given a second chance at life so maybe he was just making up for lost time?  Just as long as it wasn't with Fred's child-minder but what would a twenty something year old be doing with the likes of him?

Any accusations that were still going around that she and Alec Hardy had plotted to get Joe out of the way were way out of line but she hoped now he'd not made anything out of her offering to let him stay and quizzing him as to where he'd been.  It was impossible anyway, she would lose Tom again over it and she couldn't allow herself to get involved with the man who had broken up her family, even though her husband was guilty.

Alec got into bed, pleased he'd had the nerve to ask Rose to be his girlfriend and more than a little surprised she had sort of agreed but that was now dependant on him getting a place of his own, even if he had to take a caravan to speed things up.  He'd been told he still needed to have someone around during his recovery but Rose only lived across the road and she wanted to get out of the guest house.  She would surely not want to move far away though but that depended on them keeping things quiet at least for another week and he wondered who would cave in first – him or Rose?

Well maybe it wasn't down to either of them?  Maybe they would be discovered by Miller or her son but he could hardly bribe Tom to keep his silence, he wasn't exactly popular with the teenager, young Fred he might have more chance with.  He wasn't going to let Rose lose her job over it though, she might go back to where she'd come from but while she may have read about him in the newspapers, he knew absolutely nothing about her, not even where she had lived, her family, just she'd had a boyfriend who'd obviously not known how to treat her.

Did he even know her surname?  No, not that he recalled but he knew one thing.  She had captured his attention a very short space of time and he hoped by her agreeing to be his girlfriend, she wouldn't stop her lunchtime visits across the road from the police station after Miller went back to work there because the last few times it had been the highlight of his boring day.
Chapter 8
Rose woke early the next morning, was it the anticipation of actually going out with Alec for the day or she was just used to getting up early?  No, it was most definitely the thought of going out with Alec for the day, with or without two boys she was looking after.

She was about to go find some breakfast when her message tone went – 'I'm outside, have breakfast with me - x'

It was only just after nine and she hoped somewhere was open.  Alec was parked on the corner again, leaning against his car.

"How did you manage to sneak out?" Rose smiled as he greeted her with a kiss on her cheek.

"Does it matter?  If I happen to see you while I am out, then it was just a happy coincidence.  Miller can hardly say anything if I pick you up on the way back from getting a Sunday newspaper, can she?" he grinned.  "The camp site bar serves breakfast, I checked before I sent that message."

"You're such a sneak Alec Hardy.  At least the rain has stopped.  We'll go down to Weymouth then?"

"Yes, we can go there as long as there is enough to occupy Tom?"

"There's always walking on the beach?  Anyway, Tom said there's a funfair on the seafront, he told me yesterday.  Oh, I meant to tell you something, in view of you asking me last night," she added as they decided what to have.

Alec went off to order and Rose hoped it wouldn't make her late, looking at her phone.

"Relax Rose, I won't let you be late," he told her as he sat opposite.  "It was rather chaotic in the Miller kitchen this morning, Fred was not co-operating with his mother."

"Was that your excuse?" Rose smiled.  "They'll be getting to know us in here."

"Just as well since I hope to be taking a caravan here next week?"

After they had eaten, Alec went to get his paper from the harbour newsagents which he was pleased to see had reopened recently.  When they arrived at the Miller house, Rose wanted him to go in first.

"Rose, it will be fine, I will just say I saw you on my way back.  I will say I decided to eat out or I can say I asked you to join me.  What did you have to tell me anyway?" he asked, locking the car.

Rose knew it was better she told him than have Tom bringing up the subject.

"Alec, when I left on Thursday afternoon, well the local reporter, Olly, well he sort of asked me out but you'd already asked me so I turned him down."

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I mentioned it to Tom, he might say something to his mum."

"Good, it may throw her off our scent then?" Alec smiled.

"I can't use him as a decoy Alec."

"Why not?" he asked, opening the door to hear Fred making a noise.

Tom was in the front room. 

"Oh hello Rose.  Did you get a lift then?" Ellie asked, carrying Fred on her hips and glaring at Alec.

Alec though wasn't used to lying, especially about a new girlfriend.  "I was down near the harbour, I asked if she wanted a lift."

"You don't have to account for your whereabouts you know," Ellie told him as Fred wanted to go to Rose.

"Hi little guy, what was all that noise about?" Rose asked the toddler.

"Hardee!" the boy cried, trying to get to Alec.

"Come on Fred, let's get you ready to go out then we can go in uncle Alec's car," Rose told the boy.

Rose went off to the dining room to get Fred's bag that Ellie had packed for him.

"I will put the car seat in then come back for the stroller," Alec told Rose, hoping to avoid any more questions.

"You know how to put one in?" Ellie asked, doubting he'd actually used it yesterday after what Tom had said when he'd gone out.

She had asked Tom if he was okay going out for the day with them.

"Can I have some spending money Mum?" Tom had asked.  "I can take Fred on a few rides."

"Fine but nothing too much for him.  I'll give you some money for lunch to Rose, she can sort it out.  Tom, are you sure your knee's okay now?"

"Yeah, don't fuss Mum.  Rose was really good, she'd called uncle Alec before she got there."

"Did she now?  Tom, did he have the car seat in the back?"

"I never noticed, I sat in the front.  My knee was hurting.  Mum, is he moving out?"

"Why do you think that?" she'd asked him.

"He acts all different when Rose is around," Tom had replied.

"In what way?" Ellie had wanted to know, trying to give Fred his cereal.

"Like he's feeling awkward around her when she gets him to have his tea with us."

"She makes his tea?"

"Not the first few times but yesterday when she asked him.  He'd been saying no."

"I wonder what changed his mind then?" Ellie asked him.

Tom had just shrugged his shoulders.  It was confusing, first Alec was keeping his distance, then Rose had been laughing about his microwave meal and now they were all going out together and he was sure he'd heard them talking again last night.  Why was he acting so strangely?  Why couldn't they talk in front of him?  Then Rose had said Olly had asked her out but his mum had said nothing.

Now Tom could see Rose making a fuss as Alec took the stroller and Fred's baby bag and she followed him out to put Fred in the car seat.

"Tom, you be good for Rose today.  Try and help her with Fred," his mother told him.

A while later, after Ellie had more or less followed them to the main road, she was wondering what Tom was getting at.  It was difficult, having him home and then a few weeks later to expect him to accept the man who had tried to lock up his father as a paying house guest.  Then the 'house guest' was offering to drive Rose back to her lodgings and he'd 'bumped' into her while seeking some breakfast but she couldn't really blame him for escaping that morning.  He was supposed to be recovering but where had he got to last night and why had he been so long taking her back?

His excuse about the hot chocolate had been feeble to say the least.  Who did he think he was fooling?  Maybe he'd met a woman and had chatted her up?  Well she didn't envy whoever it was.

Fred managed to stay awake and they were soon in the car park near the railway station, Tom showing Alec how to put up the stroller and laughing.  They made their way to the seafront just after twelve, the funfair was already open, Fred pointing to the flashing lights and the rides going around.  Rose said they should go for a walk first and have some lunch and they sat at the far end of the promenade, Tom taking his brother down to the sea, Ellie having packed a towel.

"They seem to be enjoying themselves," Alec pointed as Tom lifted the youngster over the waves.

They were sat on the wall, Alec having carried the stroller and Rose had held onto Fred.  The boys turned and waved, Rose waving back and nudging Alec.

"Give them a wave back, uncle Alec," she teased.

He managed to give a short wave as Fred wanted to go back to the water.  Once he'd had enough, they stopped at an outdoor café and Alec went to order.

"You can have a bit extra to spend on the rides," Alec had told Tom when he'd said his mother had given him some money for lunch.

Before Alec got back, Rose was fussing over Fred, who didn't want to stay in his stroller.

"He likes to get out Rose," Tom told her as she unfastened the strap.

She couldn't tell him Fred had not objected the last few lunchtimes.

"Rose, are you sending those pictures you took to my mum's phone?" Tom asked, sure he'd see her take some of the detective.

Rose nodded.  She had indeed taken some of Alec while she thought the boys were occupied and he'd taken some of her.  He'd got up once or twice as had Rose and she'd taken some when she'd gone to make sure Fred was okay but neither of them had known Tom was half watching.  Now Tom was wondering why they'd be wanting to take some of each other, if that's what they'd been doing when Alec had moved.

They let Tom take his brother on a few kiddies rides then they walked across the road to get icecream.  Alec saw a large carousel and asked Tom if he wanted to go on.

"No, I don't really like it," Tom replied.

"Tom, would you look after your brother while Rose and I go on?" Alec asked.

Tom nodded.  "Sure, Fred and I can watch."

Rose wasn't so sure.

"They will be fine, don't worry so much," Alec told her as the ride stopped and people got off.

"Don't go wandering off Tom will you?" Rose asked as Alec indicated for her to go first.

Tom shook his head, a firm grip on the stroller handle.  Alec had to resist sitting behind Rose though, just in case the teenager thought anything of it but he kept grabbing her hand when they were around the far side.  Once the ride had stopped, he helped her off but he'd taken a few photos whilst out of Tom's view, well he hoped the teenager hadn't seen him.

Rose wanted to go look around the shops so Alec said he would take the boys down to the harbour to watch the boats.  An hour later, Rose was waiting outside an outdoor café, seeing Alec and Tom, who was pushing the stroller.

"Hi, had fun you three?" Rose asked, finding a table.

Fred was holding a toy boat, which he held out to her.

"That's a nice boat Fred, you can put it in your bath," Rose told him.  "Did uncle Alec get I for you?"

The young boy nodded and pointed to Alec as Rose got the boy's cup out of the baby bag.  Alec went to order some drinks, Rose pouring some juice from a bottle into the cup.  Half an hour later, they were making their way back to Alec's car, Rose strapping Fred in his seat.

"Can we go somewhere next week Alec?" Tom asked, which surprised both Alec and Rose.

"Yes, if you want to?" Alec replied, not wanting to frighten the teenager off by saying no.

By the time they got back, Fred was fast asleep so Alec carefully got the child seat out and carried him into the front room, Rose carefully getting him out and lying him on the sofa.

"I'm off to my room until tea," Tom told her.

There was still about an hour or so before she had to start preparing it for them.

"Well, did you have an enjoyable day out?" Alec asked, closing the door to and sitting opposite Rose.  "Why don't you come and sit with me?" he asked, moving over slightly.

The chair was behind the door so Tom wouldn't see anything if he were to walk past but he would if he burst in and seeing Fred asleep, thinking no-one was there.

"Well we'd best be careful Alec, I think Tom saw you taking photos on the beach."

"Hopefully he would think I was taking some of the whole area.  Rose, are you going to invite me to your room tonight?  Even if only for a short time.  I can't keep kissing you in the car or on the doorstep, I want to kiss you properly."

"Yeah, you can come up for a while, we'll have about half an hour, if Ellie's back early and I can get my pay sorted."

She got up and sat beside him, putting an arm around him.

"I hope I can get a caravan by the end of the week," he told her, going to kiss her neck.

"Yeah, if that's quicker than getting an apartment.  At least you won't have far to go from work."

"I was not thinking of that, I was thinking I could still come and collect you and take you back to where you are staying but you could stay with me for a while," he smiled.

"Is that allowed?" she smiled back, touching his cheek.

"If I put you down as staying there then yes.  You would get a pass for the swimming pool."

"Really?  I could take Fred."

"Well I was hoping you would also go on your own so I could watch," he grinned, going for a kiss.

Rose melted into his kiss, forgetting Fred was on the sofa.

"You could go in with me Alec."

"I can't go in the water Rose, too many memories."

"Then let me help you get over them?  You could stay near me."

"I will maybe try it then, just for you eh?" he smiled, going to kiss her neck again.

Rose was about to loosen the buttons on his t-shirt when she heard Fred moving so she got up.  Maybe it was just as well before Tom did catch them, then he'd really have something to tell his mother.

"I will watch him while you get their tea ready," Alec told her as she changed Fred.  She got Fred up and set him on the floor.  "Go see uncle Alec then, why don't you get a toy to play with?"

It wasn't long before they were all sitting at the table and somehow, it was all too much for Tom as he excused himself without finishing.

"Tom are you not hungry?" Alec asked him.

"No, it's just this, sitting here, it reminds me of when my dad was here."

"Tom, I'm sorry about your dad but it's not going to bring him back, no matter how much you want it," Alec told him.

"Where did he go?" Rose asked, trying to clean Fred's face.

"Mum wouldn't tell me.  Do you know?" Tom asked Alec.

"Sorry Tom, I wasn't a party to that, all she told me was that he was dealt with, whatever that means."

Tom looked disappointed.  "Didn't you ask?"

Rose thought they both needed rescuing.  "Hey Tom, want some icecream?"

Tom shook his head.  "You don't care what happened to my dad, no-one does," he shouted and ran out of the kitchen.

Alec was going to go after him.

"Leave him Alec, he's just upset," Rose told him, wiping Fred's face again and the toddler squirming.

"I am just making things worse, being here."

Rose got up and stood behind him, putting her hands on his shoulders and kissing his cheek.

"It's something he'll have to deal with on his own, no-one can help him.  It wouldn't matter if you were here or not.  I'm sure his mum has a good reason not to tell him, maybe she's afraid for Tom?"

"Aye, maybe she is," he told her, reaching to touch one of her hands.

Rose knew if Tom came back in, seeing them like that wouldn't help. 

Tom had slammed his bedroom door.  Why would anyone care how he felt?  His mother was trying to fill the gap of his dad not being there by inviting her old boss to stay with them, why hadn't she asked him how he felt about having the detective there?  Didn't he have a choice now she'd forced him back home?

The decorating had helped take their minds off the recent events but now it had all died down, his mother was friends with the Latimers again but no-one had bothered asking him if he really was coping knowing his dad had left and he wasn't in prison.  Why if the jury had found him innocent, which he really believed his dad wouldn't have hurt Danny like people said he'd done wasn't he back home with them where he belonged?

He wiped his face, picking his phone up to call Olly, who'd told him he could call any time.

"Hey Tom," Olly answered, sitting by the harbour.

"Can we talk?" Tom asked him, trying to hold back the tears.

"Sure, want me to come over?  How's Fred's new child-minder?  I met her the other day."

"She said you asked her out," Tom half smiled.  "No, it's ok, can we meet after school tomorrow?  I'll tell mum I'll be late?"

Then he thought about Rose and Hardy earlier, going on the carousel together and the way he'd helped her on and off the horse and up and down the steps.

"Sure, come to the new office, I'll tell her.  What's it about?"

"Everything.  Rose is okay but she's not here for me, so mum said but she pays more attention to Fred and DI Hardy."

"Does she now?" Olly asked with interest.  "What's Hardy got to do with things?"

"He's our lodger since mum did out the loft."

Well his mum had never said it was a secret and Olly was family.

"Since when?" Olly asked, wondering if he dare make a story out of it, in view of the recent accusations but his aunt would string him up from the nearest flagpole for doing so.

"Tuesday, the day Rose started.  They seem friendly with each other."

"Who does?  Your mum or this Rose?" Olly asked.

"Mum tells him off and I know what was said at the trial.  No way she likes DI Hardy that much, she hated him last year when she worked with him.  No, I meant him and Rose.  We went out today, he was watching her all the time."

"Hmm, in what way?" Olly asked, wondering if he should write this down.

"They went on a ride together and when I took Fred down to the sea, they were sat together."

Olly thought no wonder it was bothering his young cousin so much.

"Tom, it was probably nothing, don't let it worry you mate, okay?  Tell your mum if it bothers you so much.  See you tomorrow, we'll play on the machines in the arcade, my treat," Olly told him, not that he had much spare money these days since Maggie was stretched to pay his measly salary after the newspaper 'downgraded' recently.

"Okay, thanks Olly.  Why don't you ask Rose out again?" Tom asked, thinking at least if he did, Hardy would be annoyed and stop looking at her.

"Yeah, if I see her again," Olly laughed.

"She's not working tomorrow and I think mum said she's staying down by the harbour, you could watch out for her."

"I suppose I could then.  Don't worry Tom, I'm sure things will settle down.  Maybe Hardy won't be there that long?"

"I hope not, I just want my dad back," Tom almost sobbed again.

"I know mate, it's tough but the town did what they had to do, since the court wouldn't," Olly told him.

"Yeah but did he have to go away?  I thought he'd just come home but mum was angry he got off.  Why wasn't she happy about it?"

"No-one can answer that Tom," Olly told him sadly.  "Only your dad knows what really happened and he wasn't telling why he changed his mind about owning up to what he did.  He shouldn't have put everyone through what happened."

"What if he really didn't do it though?" Tom asked.  "How can mum be so sure?  Just because her boss told her dad did it.  Maybe the barrister was right and she just wanted to get rid of dad and she really was seeing DI Hardy behind my dad's back?  She worked funny hours."

Olly had to smile.  If the accusations were true, having Hardy stay was a big mistake but did anyone know the detective was staying with her?  Take that along with the fact Fred's child-minder had been thrown into the mix, this would make a very interesting story, if he were to dare pursue it and risk his aunt's wrath.  Maybe he could just mention Rose and Hardy and leave the rest to the reader's imagination?
Chapter 9
Rose was unaware Tom was slightly upset at her being so friendly with Alec but she was soon going to find out.  After she put Fred in his cot for the night, she sat on the sofa next to Alec, hoping Tom wouldn't creep downstairs and catch them.

"I wonder what brought that on with Tom earlier?" Rose asked Alec, who now she had moved right next to him was able to put his arm around her shoulder.

"As he told us, it reminds him of when they were a family.  It won't be easy for him to accept his father is gone and not coming back."

"Do you really not now where he went?" Rose asked him, holding his other hand.

"She would not say but I heard someone saying he was warned not to come back.  I can find out, if you are interested?  It may help you understand Tom better."

"It’s none of my business Alec, he should talk to his mum, not two strangers."

"I am hardly a stranger to him," Alec objected.

"I didn't mean you're exactly a stranger but he just sees it as you trying to replace his dad."

"I'm sure his mother never intended that before she asked me to stay.  It will be easier once I move out."

"Maybe?  Did you say that reporter was his cousin?  Maybe Tom will talk to him?"

"You had better hope he does not say anything about us all going out, I am sure he already suspects something."

"They're cousins Alec, Tom's bound to say something.  We'd better hope Olly thinks Tom's imagining things."

"Relax Rose, we will hear him come downstairs," Alec whispered, kissing behind her ear as she looked towards the door.

Rose relaxed into his shoulder and the kissing became more intense but Alec was listening for any noises that indicated Tom may be lurking around or sat with his legs dangling through the banister.  Just before Ellie was due back, Rose excused herself to the bathroom so once she'd sorted out her pay, they could leave.

"We will go to your room when you have finished here and then we can still go get a hot drink," Alec told her.

"Yeah, sounds like a plan," Rose smiled, kissing his cheek as she got up.

Once upstairs, she saw Tom's bedroom door was slightly open so she knocked, hoping his hearing wasn't that good but they'd tried to keep quiet.

"Everything okay Tom?" Rose asked as he opened the door.

"Yeah, why?" Tom asked.

"You were upset earlier.  Do you want to tell your mum?"

"Will you tell her?" Tom asked, going a bit red in the face.

"I'm not here to tell tales on you Tom.  It's up to you if you want to mention it to her but is something else worrying you?"

"Such as?" Tom asked.

"Well if there is, you can talk to me or Alec, yeah?"

"Yeah, I'll let you know if there is.  When are you here again?"

"Tuesday, then the next two days and I think Saturday to watch Fred while your mum gets moved out of her flat."

"Yeah, I think she wants me to help," Tom grinned.

"Well she'll be back to normal the following week, she'll be here when you get home or just after, she never said what she'd be working but she'll have the weekends off."

Rose left Tom and as she came out of the bathroom, she heard Ellie come in.  Alec was the one to be caught as Ellie looked in the front room.

"Where's Rose?" Ellie asked.

Alec looked like he was about to say why ask him.  "Upstairs checking on Fred and I heard her talking to Tom."

"Had a good day out?" Ellie asked, taking her bright orange coat off that Alec hated so much.

He thought she may as well wear a yellow one.  "The boys enjoyed themselves," Alec admitted.

Rose was just coming back downstairs so Alec went to get his jacket from the dining room but Ellie followed him in to use the laptop she'd had to buy, not wanting the one back that her husband had used.  Ten minutes later, after Rose assured her new employer everything was in order with working for herself, she would now be able to pay for another week at the guest house.

So just before nine, Alec had driven down to the harbour and they were quietly going upstairs to Rose's single room, Alec looking around.

"Yeah, it's not much," Rose admitted as they sat on the bed.

Alec took his jacket off and put it on the back of the only chair and something gave between them, Rose barely registering unfastening his t-shirt buttons and pulling it off and scrambling on the bed after him.

"We don't have much time," Rose managed to say as he took off her pink t-shirt.

"Shush, I won't get us thrown out," he assured her, going for her jeans button, Rose grabbing his hand.

"Shouldn't we talk about this?" she asked as he won the battle.

"Really?" he asked.  "Did I get my signals crossed?" he asked, not willing to lose any time, since they didn't have much.

"No, of course not but maybe we should just get to know each other first?"

"That makes sense.  No sex on a first date eh?" he grinned, unfastening his belt.

"Then stop wasting what time we have, detective," Rose smiled as she helped him then wriggled her way out of her jeans with a little help until they were both in their underwear.

After getting entangled, they changed places, Rose straddling him.

"We'd better get dressed Alec," she reminded him, looking at the clock/radio and seeing it was already twenty to ten.

"You know that was not enough time," he told her, running his finger down between her breasts.

"I know but I can't afford any other place for a while."

"Then come and move in with me, into the caravan?" he asked as Rose got off the bed.  He let out a low whistle as he looked at her.

"I thought the police were paying for it?" she asked, indicating for him to fasten her bra, Alec wanting to take his time over it but knowing they had to leave.

"It does not matter if I share Rose," he told her, placing a kiss on her back.  "Think about it and I will try and get one as soon as I can, within the budget I am allowed.  If they have nothing in that price range, I will put some money to it, just to get out of the Miller house and for you to get out of here."

"I should argue with you," Rose grinned as she watched Alec put his t-shirt on, thinking it was a shame he did so.

Alec looked at her.  "They have two bedrooms Rose, you can have your own room until you are sure about me and if it doesn't work out, you can always come back here."

"Yeah but the rates go up at the end of next month so I'd have to leave anyway," she told him, fastening her jeans and watching Alec put his trousers back on, seeing he was trying to show himself off slightly to her but not wanting to say anything to him.

"It will get you out of here, when I go see about it, I will put you down, even if it is only for the swimming pool."

"You already promised me a swimming pass Alec," Rose smiled as he put his jacket on, leaving his t-shirt buttons undone.

They were downstairs with five minutes to spare after Rose limited his kisses as they were leaving her room but they had got closer than Alec had dared hope in the little time they'd had.

The landlady was just coming out of the dining room when she saw Alec.

"Hello inspector, I never expected to see you here," the woman told him as Rose opened the door.

"Ah, yes, I was just visiting," he mumbled.

"Glad to see you are obeying the rules.  Miss Tyler, are you staying for another week?"

"Oh, I don't know yet, I was going to pay for another few nights, I might have something else sorted," Rose replied, trying not to look at Alec, who was clearly embarrassed at actually being caught going out of the door with her but he'd better just get used to it.

"Well let me know in the morning then?  If you want a bigger room, just say, I have people leaving in the morning who were just here for a long weekend."

Rose herself didn't think they looked that obvious but maybe she'd got the meaning of what the landlady had said wrong?

"Yeah, I'll let you know, I'll probably be staying a couple more nights."

The woman nodded and went off, Rose grabbing Alec's hand as they went outside.

"Not trying to deny you're with me are you?" Rose grinned at him as they crossed the road.

"Not at all, had I been questioned further.  She did offer you a bigger room."

Rose smiled.  "So, we'll wait and see what happens when you go ask at the sales office tomorrow then?" she asked as they took a seat by the bar window, the same one they'd been sitting at the last few nights.

Alec went off to the bar where the young woman who had served him the last two nights was already preparing the machine.  Alec thought of maybe changing his order but being close to Rose not long ago had put him in a fairly good mood, which would have been a very good mood if she'd not curbed his amorous advances.

He took the drinks to the table and sat next to her.

"So, you are going off tomorrow?  I could come down and collect you when I finish work?"

"Yeah, that would be good.  Maybe we can meet for breakfast again before I catch the bus?" Rose asked, also disappointed they'd not had much time together.

She knew it would have been no good trying to go further than they just had done, it would have been rushed and she really wanted it to be special.

"That would be most pleasant," he told her as once again he watched her licking the cream off the top of her hot chocolate.  "I will buy you a jar of that and a can of cream if you will consider sharing a caravan?" he asked hopefully.

"You don't have to try and bribe me Alec," Rose grinned.

"Really?  Is that a yes then?"

"A maybe.  See how soon you can get one then?  I can get a bigger room at the guest house, just for a few nights but I'll need some help with the cost."

"Then I will pay the extra.  Come to the caravan office with me after breakfast and then you can move rooms if we can't get one."

"Yeah, okay then.  Can we go sit in your car again?"

"Sure but you'll have to make a dash for it, it's started raining again."

"Well at least it stayed dry when we went out.  Come on then, though you'll get wet twice more, with you walking me to the door, unless you're staying in the car?"

"What sort of date would I be if I made you go on your own?" Alec smiled as he held the door open for her.

He drove them as far as they could go on the seafront and since the car windows were already steaming up, no-one would see them kissing if they were stupid enough to wander down that far in the rain as Alec let the seats back.

"This is not enough Rose," he told her as he kissed her neck.

"I know, I never expected things to happen so quickly.  I should really go now before we get arrested."

"Then let me drive you somewhere a little more private?"

"No Alec, I don't want our first time in the back of your car.  Do you?"

"I suppose not but we could do some more kissing?"

"Yeah, a while longer.  Maybe tomorrow night, we won't have to make-out in your car?"

All too soon, they were standing on the doorstep of the guest house, water just missing Alec's back as they huddled in the doorway.

"Meet me at eight thirty across the road then?" Rose asked him as they had kissed.

"That I will.  It will be chaos in the Miller house anyway, I will go back and tell her I am leaving.  You pay for the larger room and I will get the money for you, if we can't get a caravan."

"Yeah, okay then, we can go to the office after breakfast, if I see the landlady I'll tell her.  We'd better hope there will be a double available."

"Yes, goodnight then," Alec replied, going for another kiss.  "I hope tomorrow night I can kiss you goodnight properly?"

"So do I.  Don't get wet standing there, I don't want you catching a chill."

"Indeed, I've been ill enough until recently."

They finally parted, Alec getting back in his car and waving as she opened the door, not wanting to leave until she was inside, not that there was anyone around, he'd not even seen the locals walk past but that was just as well.  Ellie was still up so he thought he may get it over and done with and tell her he was leaving.

"What?  You've only been here a week Hardy," Ellie objected.  "I thought you'd stay a bit longer?"

"It's just not practical Miller, we both know that.  People still remember the accusations and it will only make things worse for you and Tom.  He seems very unsettled at my being here."

"In what way?"

"Earlier he said my sitting with them in the kitchen reminded him of when his dad was here.  So, it's best I just go, I'm going to see about a caravan when the office opens in the morning."

"Well I could have used the extra money to pay Rose but since I've cut my days down next week then I'm back here, I'll just about manage.  Is that the only reason you're leaving?"

Alec wanted to say no.  "I just need my own place, I managed before my surgery.  I will come and collect my things tomorrow after I finish at the station.  If there are no caravans, I will just go back to the Trader's for a few nights or find a B&B."

"Tom did mention a few things but I took no notice of him," Ellie had to admit.  "I thought he was just still upset over what happened at the trial.  I'll talk to him again."

Alec was hoping the teenager hadn't made anything out of what had taken place while they were out.  He sent Rose a text but she called him back on a video call.

"Hopefully we will not have to do this again," Alec suggested.

"Yeah.  Have you spoken to Ellie?"

"Just now, she was not happy about my leaving but Tom may not have said much though I mentioned about teatime."

"Well it's maybe not just you being there, he might think I'm trying to take his mum's place.  I mean if he lived with his aunt until recently, he'll think she's trying to get rid of him."

"Well hopefully he won't think she is trying to replace his dad with me?" Alec grinned.  "Rose, you do not believe what was insinuated at the trial?"

"About what?"

"The defence saying we arrested Joe Miller so we could continue an alleged affair."

Rose burst out laughing.  "Alec, you told me about it, just forget it.  It's late, I'll see you for breakfast."

Alec was somewhat relieved she believed him because he really wanted a relationship with her without things getting awkward but now he was leaving, some of the pressure would be off them but little did he know how things were going to turn out.
Chapter 10
Alec was waiting for her outside the next morning, having easily found a parking spot outside the camp's bar. 

"I wish you could have stayed last night," Rose told him as they ate.

"So do I but you need to know what you are letting yourself in for.  My daughter needs to be told."

"Well yeah, I'd like to meet her.  Why don't you get settled first though?" Rose smiled.

"You are very understanding Rose.  Let us hope Daisy is just the same, she doesn't really like her mother's boyfriend.  Can't say I blame her, I never got on with him.  Maybe that was why she chose him?"

"Opposites attract Alec," Rose smiled.

"Are you the opposite of me?" he asked, Rose not knowing if he was being serious or not.  Then he smiled.  "That is not always the case you know?"

"Maybe not then?"

They finished breakfast and walked around the corner to the site office, which was fairly busy and Alec didn't want to wait.

"Alec, I need to know what to tell the landlady," Rose reminded him as people took their time, Alec thinking over trivial things they could have gone to the tourist office for, until he remembered it had closed.

"If we are not seen in the next five minutes, you go book that double room, I have to go to work soon."

"Okay, I have to tell her before ten or she'll expect me to stay another night in my old room."

Alec leaned down to her.  "That could be interesting don't you think?"

Rose nudged him as the man in front of them finally left with a dozen or so leaflets and the poor woman who he'd been talking to looked relieved.

"DI Hardy?  I thought that was you.  What can we do for you today?" the woman asked.

Twenty minutes later, after the woman had agreed to wait for a call from Alec's personnel department, Rose had chosen a two bedroom extra wide caravan within Alec's budget but it wasn't free until Thursday afternoon and no others within his budget were free either.

Walking out arm in arm, Rose told him she'd best dash over and secure a double room.

"It's okay Alec, we can manage for a few nights.  There won't be a problem paying for it will there?  You got a good deal on it."

"No, there will be no problem, I have not been claiming the last few weeks with being away and I did not want them to know where I had moved to."

"Yeah, I bet that would have been awkward?" Rose smiled.

"Embarrassing since she will be back next week," Alec admitted.

"You just didn't want it to be office gossip," she teased him.  "Right, I'll go book a double for three nights but you'll have to pay me the difference later, right?"

"Of course, don't worry about it eh?  Have a good few hours down in Dorchester, if you get there?"

"I probably won't be able to move my stuff until later anyway, if someone's leaving.  Call me when you finish work yeah?"

She kissed his cheek, Alec almost forgetting there were a lot of people around.  He went off to work even though he was early and went to secure the cost of the caravan, which he was sure they would be happy to pay for considering it was vastly cheaper than his old riverside chalet would now cost.

Rose found the landlady in the dining room.

"Hi, did you say you have a double vacant room?" Rose asked, hoping the woman wouldn't ask if the detective was the intended other guest.

"Oh, yes dear, I have a budget double, no on-suite for another twenty pounds a night or one with for another twenty five."

"Yeah, I'll take that one, I had to make two attempts for the bathroom this morning, then it wasn't so pleasant, if you catch my drift?" Rose grinned, thinking she'd gladly pay the extra fiver herself for the luxury of buying some air freshener.

"Sorry dear, the cleaner will sort that out.  How many nights are you staying?"

"Oh, three?  Is that okay?" Rose asked, worried there was a minimum.

"That's fine dear, paying by card?  It will be ready after two but you can keep your things in your own room until then, if you're going to work?"

"No, it's my day off today anyway, I was going down to Dorchester for a few hours."

The woman went behind the small desk in the corner, reaching for the register and Rose noting the lack of a computer.  Sometimes there was nothing like the old-fashioned way, Rose thought.

"I take it you won't be on your own?" Rose was asked as the woman indicated the card machine.

"Oh, 'erm no, someone will be joining me," Rose stuttered, hoping Alec wouldn't be embarrassed if she were to sneak him in.

The woman just smiled.  "You mean the detective?  Don't be so shy, I'm glad he's got himself a girlfriend, goodness knows he's been through a lot lately and those unfounded accusations didn't help.  I mean him and Ellie Miller?  That defence team of her husband's was way out of line.  Just put your card in the machine dear and I'll give you a receipt if he wants to claim it back."

"Oh, I don't know if he can, he's just booked a caravan but can't get in until Thursday," Rose replied without thinking.

She was just glad the woman hadn't asked who she was working for and where Alec had been staying since his return.  Thanking the landlady, she made her way to the bus shelter to see what time she could get one to Dorchester and saw a bus making its way to it as she crossed the road bridge, Rose hoping it wouldn't leave before she got there.  When she reached it, she looked at the destination as the driver read his newspaper but it was going to Exeter, the opposite direction or so Rose thought.

Then she looked at the timetable and saw she was right and it was another twenty minutes before the one she wanted arrived.  The driver gave her a funny look as she walked off to get a coffee while she waited but she was too late, Olly had already seen her from the office window, where his mother had asked him what he was staring at.

"Don't deny you're staring at someone Olly," she told him, trying to see who it was.

"Aunt Ellie's new child-minder, I saw her the other day," he replied as he saw she hadn't got on the bus and was heading for one of the food stalls.  "I'll be back in a while."

"Might have known it would be a blonde," his mother muttered under her breath.  "So long as she's not a nosy solicitor who snoops around and gets your guilty as hell no good uncle off."

"That was a mistake Mum, don't go on about it, we dealt with him didn't we?"

"Yeah and who was behind it?  It shouldn't have come to that.  Anyway, if that blonde's your aunt's new child-minder, she'll have warned her about you."

"Well I can try," Olly grinned.

He walked swiftly in front of the amusement arcade as Rose sat on the wall so she could see the bus approach the stand.

"Hello again, Rose was it?" Olly asked, standing in front of her.

"Oh, 'err, Olly was it?" Rose mimicked him, blowing on the hot drink and hoping she'd finish it in time but not now the reporter was here.

"How are you getting on with Fred?"

"He's cute and he's been fine but he can't say my name properly."

"Going somewhere?  I saw you looking at the bus just then."

Rose thought he was rubbish at chatting women up.  "No, I was just seeing where it went," she grinned.

Olly got she was winding him up.  "I could give you a lift somewhere?" he offered, pointing to an old car parked in one of the parking bays.

Rose thought it looked like it wouldn't get far and was probably as reliable as Mickey's old mini.  "No ta, I was looking forward to the bus ride."

"Another time then?  How about that drink?" Olly asked hopefully.

"I don't think so, I'm seeing someone."

"Oh, it worked out then?"

"Yeah, it did, no offence, Olly."

"None taken, maybe I'll see you around, with Fred?  Tom said you took them out yesterday, with DI Hardy?  I never asked Tom what the detective was doing taking you all out."

"I bet you didn't?" Rose laughed, thinking she may as well give up on the coffee, it wasn't brilliant nor her favourite brand.  She knew with him being a reporter, he was fishing for a story but she wasn't going to play along.  "I think he promised your aunt he would keep an eye on Tom for her.  Since he volunteered, I was hardly gonna refuse."

"So how well do you know DI Hardy then?  Won't your new boyfriend be jealous?"

Rose knew she was being interviewed and Alec had warned her.  "He won't know unless someone tells him, will he, Olly?" she grinned, getting up and pouring the coffee onto the grass.  "Excuse me, I think that's my bus coming along the road.  Nice talking to you but I'm really not interested and I'm not discussing my role as your young cousin's child-minder."

"See you around then?" Olly called after her but she was going to have to be extra careful to avoid him in the future, at least until Ellie had got over the fact her now ex-lodger had left because they were seeing each other.

She paid the fare to Dorchester, sitting upstairs to get a better view of the area since the timetable had said it went through a few villages on its way to the next town and she sent a message to Alec that she'd finally got on the bus and the double room was theirs for the next three nights.

Alec had got back to his office after getting delayed in the personnel office and was just looking at a new case when the chief stood in his doorway.

"Yes?" he asked, throwing the folder on his desk and taking off his glasses, rubbing his eyes.

"How are you really doing Alec?" Elaine Jenkinson asked him.

"Fine.  When DS Miller comes back, I'd like a few more hours?"

"We'll see, since she's not said what she'll be working.  I hope she's got some child care sorted out, when I last spoke to her, she'd interviewed half a dozen at least but she was unsure about them."

"She would not leave her youngest son with just anyone, maybe her sister has taken him again?"

"No, I saw her going into the newspaper office earlier.  So, where have you been staying since you came back Alec?"

"Why?  Do I have to report my whereabouts?  For your information, I just got a caravan and I've asked for a housing allowance again."

"Well you never claimed anything when you came back, it won't be a problem but a caravan?"

"What's wrong with one?  I need to be taking things easy and climbing hotel stairs is not my idea of doing so.  It will only be temporary until I am fully fit again."

"Ah, maybe you just wanted a free swimming pass?" Elaine smiled.

"You know my view on water Elaine, it was not easy having to go out last year to inspect Mark Latimer's boat."

"Yes, so I heard.  Anyway, I'll let you get on but take my advice Alec, don't be so secretive with everything.  Speculation and office gossip soon spread, remember that when Ellie comes back, not that anyone would believe those ridiculous accusations but don't give them any cause to."

"I won't be, I have found myself a girlfriend."

Elaine almost didn't believe him.  "She must be something then?  Does she know what was said at the trial?  I hope she's not like your ex wife Alec, really, that woman came barging in here and took the place over, then you, on sick leave and Ellie who was working at another station join her.  You really should have left it to her."

"I couldn't, I thought that case would never be solved before I expired so now I've survived it, I intend getting back to normal as fast as I can."

"That includes getting a girlfriend?" Elaine smiled.

"If that's what it takes.  She's new to the area so she was not around when last year's events were taking place but she does know about the accusations and she does not believe them."

"Well good, maybe you should not hide her away then, if you want everyone else to think the same?"

"I won't be hiding her Elaine but there are a few complications that I won't go into just now."

"Really?  If she's new in town?"

"Her job, I can't say any more."

"Oh.  Oh, don't tell me, she's Ellie's new child-minder?" Elaine laughed.  "So what's the problem, beside you having to work with Ellie from next week though I can see it might be a bit embarrassing but Ellie doesn't know, does she?"

"No and I would prefer it to stay that way for a while longer."

"Oh but there's more to this isn't there Alec?  Ellie just moved back home and redecorated, so she said but no, don't tell me, she rented a room to you when you came back and you asked the child-minder out?"

"Something like that.  Can I trust you not to say anything, to anyone especially her, at least until I get moved out which will be Thursday."

He didn't think it was wise to tell his boss he was moving into the guesthouse with Rose.

"Fine, she won't hear it from me but if you're seen around the town with your new girlfriend, someone might tell Ellie, especially if you're seen with Ellie's young son."

Elaine got up to leave, he'd never thought about that so it was time to come clean and hope Miller didn't dispense with Rose's services before he'd had chance to say it was him who was to blame.

Olly had gone back to the newspaper office, disappointed the young blonde was already spoken for when she'd only been in the town for a week or so.  Had she taken up with his aunt's old boss or was Tom really imagining things?  He sat at his desk facing the window, wondering whether it was newsworthy the disagreeable detective had taken up with a newcomer.

"Turn you down did she sunshine?" his mother asked.

Olly just ignored her.  Meanwhile back at the station, Alec tried to take his mind off thinking about getting to stay with Rose tonight but he hoped neither of them were being hasty in sharing and not doing it for the wrong reasons.  He'd had a message from her to say she was on her way to Dorchester and she'd get the key for another room when they got back and that Olly had tried chatting her up again.

He'd replied with a 'Hope he didn't succeed?' to which Rose had texted back saying 'What do ya think?'  It had made him smile and wish she hadn't gone off for the morning but he'd thought more about not being in the Miller house with her after the two boys had gone to bed.  He could hardly invite himself to keep her company, Miller would be mad enough with him leaving, let alone when she discovered they were seeing each other.

Ellie though already had her suspicions after her conversation with Tom at breakfast.

"Alec said you were a little upset last night," she had told Tom.

"It's nothing Mum.  Is he leaving though?"

"Yeah, he thinks it's for the best, he feels a bit awkward.  It was a daft idea."

"Maybe he's leaving because of Rose?"

"Roe!" Fred shouted, waving his arms around.

"No Fred, she's not here today," Tom told him.

"What do you mean about him leaving because of her?" Ellie wanted to know, trying to feed the young boy.

"They're always talking and yesterday, they ask me to watch Fred while they went on the carousel."


"They were only on five minutes, I could see them all the time but I think Alec was taking photos on his phone."

"Of what?  Did they take any of you and Fred?"

"Rose did, didn't she show you them?"

"No, she never said.  I'll have to ask her tomorrow about them."

"She took some of us on the rides and some when we were in the water.  They were sat together but I didn't see him take any of me and Fred, just Rose."

"Why would he be taking any of Rose?  Tom, how do they act around each other?"

Tom shrugged his shoulders.  "I have to get going Mum, maybe you should ask Fred?" he grinned, ruffling his little brother's hair.

Ellie intended to ask Rose in the morning and Hardy when he came back for his things.  If something was going on, she had a right to know and maybe that was the reason he was moving out or was it because he thought she'd object?  Well she did, under her roof and with her child-minder.

Alec was watching the time on his computer monitor, there was still half an hour to go before he was due to leave but he'd been told he could work the hours he pleased so he thought he'd had enough and if he waited the half hour, he would go jump off the balcony.  He decided leaving would be preferable to having a crowd watch him and wondering what he was trying to do.

Rose was sat outside a café in Dorchester, still not her favourite coffee shop but better than earlier.  She'd been in the discount store and stocked up on things they could use in their double room and toiletries for their tiny bathroom in the guesthouse.  She really wished she'd brought her CD and DVD collection with her but it hadn't been practical so she was going to ask Alec if he'd take her home the weekend after next.  She'd given in and bought a few cheap DVD's she thought he may like to watch and some CD compilations.

Alec was about to set off but called her first.

"Hi Alec, you're calling early," Rose greeted him when she answered.

"I got bored so I left early.  Rose, we have to talk.  I got reminded that someone may see us around and tell Miller."

"Whoa, we thought about that but you're moving out today, what can she say?"

"Plenty, you are still working for her but we will discuss it when I get there."

"I was gonna ask you if you wanted to just call in and get the key for that double room?"

"It can wait, you have to move your things anyway.  I will see you soon.  Have you eaten yet?"

"No, we can get something when we get back.  Alec, is there something wrong?  Have you changed your mind about sharing?"

"What?  No, I've not changed my mind, I was thinking about how it would affect you, were Miller not to be pleased about us seeing each other."

"Alec, we've been through this, you're leaving, what can she say?"

"Well I will see you soon, where are you?"

"Outside a café but I can walk back to the car park, it's next to the bus station.  Oh, there's a supermarket, wait there for me, you can buy me that jar of hot chocolate."

"I said when you moved into the caravan with me.  I will meet you there in twenty minutes though."

"That's faster than the bus, it took the long way around.  See ya soon then lover?"

Alec almost stalled the car.  Was she calling him names already?  He just hoped when they moved in together he could meet her expectations.
Chapter 11
Rose had realised what she had said, would he object?  Well they were almost that, once they moved into the double room later on, nature would take its course, providing he felt like he was fit enough for them to become lovers.  Now all she had to do was survive Ellie's scrutiny in the morning by hoping she wouldn't spot the great big grin on her own face.

Alec wondered what he could say to Rose when he met her, he had just assumed they were about to become lovers but who was he kidding?  A lot had happened in a short space of time, it had taken him weeks to get like that with Tess, hiding in small spaces to risk a quick two minutes of kissing when they worked late nights and never being invited back to her house for fear her mother would throw him out when she went to bed.

Now it was almost the same, only sneaking around in his DS's house with a teenager and a baby present.  Rose made her way to the supermarket near the bus station and watched out for Alec's car, then realised how nervous she actually was about moving in with him but maybe he'd realise they were being a bit hasty and not actually move in with her, just stay a few hours then go back to Ellie's but would he actually want to?

As Alec pulled into a parking spot, having followed the signs for the bus station, Rose was standing in front of him.

"Hi, you managed to find it okay and not get lost?"

"It was not that difficult.  So, you want to go in?" he asked, nodding towards the store entrance.

"That was the idea, you owe me a jar of hot chocolate."

"Well no, not yet, we've not moved into the caravan yet."

"Close enough," Rose grinned, grabbing his hand.

Alec just hoped no-one from Broadchurch went shopping there.  He'd been thinking about what his chief had said, meeting Rose across the road from the station with Miller's young son was not one of his better ideas but it had been innocent enough, surely Rose had mentioned they'd stopped for lunch and if he just happened to be there?  Well the first time had been coincidental anyway, the other times, he'd been hoping he was lucky enough she was down that way but Saturday, he'd known she'd be there. 

They were both hooked and they knew it as they walked around the store, Rose putting things in the basket and Alec asking if she was feeding an army, with the other biscuits she'd bought already in the car.

"Rose, we only have a double room love," he told her as she went to get teabags and coffee, which she cursed herself for not buying in the discount store.

"Yeah but the guesthouse only provides two each plus it's cheap coffee.  Oh, I need coffee whitener or maybe powdered milk?"

Alec shook his head, it was as bad as going shopping with both Tess and Daisy but he was already loving every minute of her enthusiasm.  He had to laugh though when she went to buy a can of cream and a packet of marshmallows but he shouldn't have expected any less really from her given their nightly stop for a hot drink.

Now, he was regretting not being able to stay with her the last few nights but that was over now, once they starting sharing, there would be no clock-watching or getting caught sneaking out with five minutes to spare.  He just hoped the landlady wasn't a friend of Miller's.  They set off back to Broadchurch, Rose was getting hungry but said they should go collect the room key, all she had to do was change rooms, she'd already packed.

The landlady wasn't around so her husband got the key from behind the small desk in the corner.

"There you go Miss Tyler, room 5, it overlooks the harbour, it's just above your old room.  Just leave the key when you've emptied that, no rush.  Have you signed the register?" he asked Alec, who was hoping he'd got away with it.

"No, I was not with her when it was arranged," he replied, a bit put out but rules were rules and there was no computer.

He helped Rose carry her things upstairs to one of the attic rooms that had been extended.

"We could have stayed in Miller's loft," he remarked, seeing the dormer window.

"Yeah?  Brilliant idea Alec," Rose smiled, putting her shoulder bag on the bed.

Alec just smiled and closed the door and without warning, pushed her onto the bed and hovered over her, putting his hand up the front of her t-shirt.

"Got you now," he told her as she put her arms around him.

Rose shuffled onto the bed, toeing off her trainers as Alec did the same with his shoes and climbing further onto her.

"I thought you were hungry?" he teased, trying to get her out of the t-shirt.

"Stuff eating but we have to get the other key back before he comes looking for it."

"Ah, a very good point love.  Stay right there."

Rose looked at him as he put his other shoe back on and picked up the other key.

"Don't you go anywhere, right?"

Rose gave him a wicked smile.  "Where am I gonna go?"

He was back minutes later.  "Miss me?"

"Nah, you weren't gone long enough.  Come here."

They lay afterwards, both contented that they had got further than last night though Rose had kept her underwear on as she claimed again she didn't want their first time to be rushed or awkward.

"Rose, it could never be awkward, you know that?" he told her as he kissed across her tummy.

"Yeah but we have to get used to each other first, right?'

"What is it we have to know?  You mean what we both like and dislike?  Rose, there is only one way to find that out and we will, tonight.  You don't think I am staying a few hours then going back do you?"

"I wasn't sure Alec.  I mean, this is a big step for both of us and we've missed a lot out."

"Such as?" he wanted to know as he looked at her.

"Well a week ago, we hadn't even met and the next day, I thought I was getting in your way all the time and then you started inviting me out.  We only really had one date, then a few hours after I finished and then you're asking me to move in with you.  Yeah, I'd say it was a big step considering we seemed to have skipped the dating bit."

"Is that such a bad thing?" he wanted to know, thinking maybe this was too much and she'd insist he went back on his own tonight.

"Well no, it's not a bad thing but we have a few hurdles to get over and we will."

"You mean Tom Miller finding out and telling his mother what he thinks was going on after he went to his room?"

"Yeah, that won't help," Rose giggled, fingering the buttons of his shirt as he was putting it on.

She moved to kneel behind him as he pulled his trousers on, resting her hands on his shoulders and ruffling his hair.

"Mmm, that's better.  Now everyone will see you just got out of bed."

"Thank you for that.  Do you think I enjoy hiding the fact we are together?"

"No, I don't think that.  How'd ya think I felt?"

"Rose, it's only for a few more days love, we can get by and if she finds out and lets you go, we can manage until you find another job."

"That's it though Alec, how will I get another minding job if my latest employer dismisses me for inappropriate behaviour?  She won't give me such a good reference."

"Of course she will.  You were good with both the boys, she saw that.  Anyway, it may not even come to that so stop worrying or I will get back in there and I may not let you out."

"Yeah?" she teased, reaching around his neck where the buttons weren't fastened and putting her hand down the front.

"Stop it Rose.  Why don't you get dressed, we will go and eat then while you unpack, I will go get my things?"

Rose was annoyed he moved her hand when she had reached where she wanted, running her finger on the hairs.

"Don't ya like that Alec?" she whispered.

"Yes but you said you were hungry hours ago."

"Spoilsport Alec.  Next time you get dressed, take your time."

"I will, no need to worry about that.  Want your t-shirt back?" he asked, picking it off the headboard along with her black lacy bra.

"You can fasten that for me."

Rose let him help her off the bed as she held her t-shirt in front of her.

"Too late for that Rose," he grinned.

Rose blushed as she turned around.  "Yeah, that's another thing, I don't want to be shy in front of you but just give me a chance to get used to it, yeah?"

"Yes, I can make allowances love," he told her, kissing just above the strap.  "You'd look more beautiful if you got a tattoo there, with a red rose."

"Seriously?  I never even thought about it."

"I will even pay for it doing, if you want?"

"I'll have to think about it, if you have my name tattooed over your…" she whispered, putting her finger on his left side and indicating.

"I will have to consider it.  I can't have it on my heart, for obvious reason."

"I know that Alec, I'd never ask you to," she assured him, putting her arms around his neck and going for a kiss.

They finished getting dressed, then went to find something to eat, going to sit by the river.

"I used to live there," Alec nodded to the blue chalet sticking out behind a dull red one.

"No!  Seriously?  Why did you never go back?"

"Too expensive now, it was being renovated.  I could make enquiries?"

"Nah, we can take our time looking.  I could look in the agency window on my days off.  I did see a nice little place down near the beach or is that too much?"

"No, I lived by the river but that was as punishment, for letting those killers free but that's over now."

"Yeah, I don't expect you to completely forget it though," she told him, taking his hand.

He went to collect the food but as he left, Rose thought she saw Ellie with Fred and hoped she didn't see her tucked between two food stalls.  Ellie though saw Alec as he turned with two cartons of food.

"You must be hungry?" Ellie indicated.

"Ah, Miller.  I bumped into Rose while I was walking around," he indicated to where Rose was sitting.

Rose turned back as she heard him say her name and waved to young Fred, who wanted to get out of his stroller.

"Roe!  Hardee!" Fred called out, waving his arms to be let free.

"He looks like he's used to seeing you both together," Ellie remarked.  "Care to explain?"

"He sees us at your house Miller, don't make anything out of it," Alec told her, handing fish and chips to Rose and putting his chicken sandwich carton on the metal table.

Fred was still struggling and holding his hand out for a chip.

"Seems like more than that to me," Ellie observed as Rose held out a chip after blowing on it for him.

"What do you want me to say?" Alec asked her.  "Rose is entitled to do what she wants on her day off, is she not?" Alec wanted to know, hoping the young boy really couldn't tell his mother about their other lunchtime meetings.

"Well you two look very friendly then.  So this isn't the first time you've eaten together?"

"Miller, we don't have to explain ourselves to you, can't we both sit at the same table?" Alec asked.

Rose was trying to keep out of things but Fred was still trying to get to her, which made Ellie more suspicious than she already was.

"Nothing to say Rose?" Ellie asked, wondering why her new minder was keeping quiet.

"Why?  Like he said, it's my day off."

Ellie wondered what had come over the young woman who had been so polite, until she realised Tom's fears he'd mentioned that morning were not unfounded.

"Where's Tom anyway?" Rose asked, trying to eat her food before the seagulls swooped down.

"I'm meeting him at the amusement arcade, he was meeting Olly.  You got Alec to him fast the other day."

"I called on my way, there was no point in getting a taxi if he was willing to come down."

"Well I'm betting he wasn't at my house, were you Hardy?  Were you two already together?"

Rose almost gave the game away but Alec decided to come clean.

"We had met for lunch, since she was out with young Fred already."

"So why the pretence?" Ellie demanded to know.

"Seriously?  You need to ask when Rose works for you and I was living there?"

"So this is why you're moving out?  Because you're already involved?  What about when you asked Tom to watch Fred while you went on that ride?"

"Miller, don't fuss, Tom was perfectly fine, there were enough people around and it was for five minutes," Alec informed her.

"What about the photos?" Ellie asked.

"What photos?" Alec wanted to know, seeing it was none of her business he'd taken some of Rose.

"I mean of the boys.  Rose?"

"Yeah, I was going to send them to your phone but last night, I just wanted to get back."

"You mean with Hardy?  I thought I could trust you, both of you.  Tom said he'd heard you two talking."

"So, we talked?" Alec huffed.

"In my house?  What else do the two of you get up to?"

"What?" Rose asked.  "We don't get up to anything, it's not like that.  Yeah, Alec asked me for a drink the other night, on my day off and the last few nights, we've just been to the camp's bar for a hot drink so what do you think has been going on?"

"Really?  You work for me Rose, Tom is very impressionable and inviting Alec to eat when the boys do, no wonder he got upset over it.  He talks to his cousin, do you want to be on the front page of The Echo?"

"You are over-reacting Miller," Alec butted in, his sandwich half eaten.

"Am I?  Rose, it's too short notice for me to make other arrangements this week but after Thursday, I'll have to give this some thought."

"Don't take it out on Rose, Miller." Alec pointed to Rose.  "This is as much my fault, I asked her out.  Why do you think I'm moving?  I won't be there when Tom gets back so what is your problem?"

"My problem?  It's Tom, he's very unsettled and he doesn't need to see you two in his house being friendly and acting like me and his dad used to.  Rose, I will see you tomorrow and I want those photos please."

"Sure, I'll send them to your phone.  Alec didn't take any of them, just of me and if that's a crime, then I'm sorry but I'm not going to stop seeing him."

Ellie went off, Fred pulling faces he want to go back to Rose.

"Stop it Fred, I wish you could tell me what those two thought they were doing, messing about in my house," Ellie told him.

"Roe!" was all she got out of him.

Rose's food had gone cold so she put it in the litter bin.

"Rose, I am sorry about that but we half expected what her reaction would be," Alec tried to explain.

"Yeah, I just didn't think it would be today, in public and she saw us together."

"Well at least it is out in the open now, we don't have to worry about her finding out from Tom though he must have said something to her, about the pictures you took."

"I just forgot about it last night.  I almost told her it was because I wanted you to come to my room with me."

"Well you may as well have done love.  Not hungry?"

"They went cold, sorry.  That was just bad timing."

"We can get something else later.  I'll take you up into the town and we'll find a pub.  We can walk around together now though," he smiled, holding his hand out as Rose finished her drink.

"I'm just glad Olly wasn't around."

Olly had been around and saw his aunt standing in front of the arcade.

"Aunt Ellie, have you got a minute?"

"What do you want Olly, I'm meeting Tom."

"He's inside.  It was just about your new minder.  Tom was worried about something."

"I already know, it's being taken care of," Ellie sighed.

"Oh.  Well I told him to talk to you about it.  He said Hardy and your new minder were being very friendly."

"Yes, well, I'm not talking about it and don't you dare print anything, I've been in the news enough thanks.  I don't need to be in it again along with their names."

"So has Hardy been staying with you?" Olly asked, thinking he may just risk it, news was getting stale around the town.

"That's not up for discussion Olly.  If you put Hardy in the paper, he won't be pleased."

"I already know that but Rose might talk to me."

"I sincerely doubt that Olly, I just saw them together, she won't tell you anything."

"She only told me she's seeing someone but I guessed who it was," Olly admitted.  "I can see why you don't want to talk about it, you getting accused of an affair then letting him stay with you, the town gossips would be happy to spread the word," he grinned.

"Well he's left, probably moving in with her though he told me he was getting a caravan."

"Really?  Maybe she's moving in with him?" Olly gloated, thinking he might get a story after all of his aunt's child-minder and the detective who had just moved out of the house of the person he'd been accused of having an affair with.
Chapter 12
Ellie felt angry and somewhat betrayed – by both of them.  She hadn't expected Hardy to take to the new child-minder at all, let alone within a few days and she should have listened to Tom when he'd said he didn't like the way they acted around each other.  She watched Tom laughing with Olly as they played a game of table hockey inside the arcade, Olly letting his younger cousin win and then playing a game of rolling a coin down a slope and Tom winning a few coins.

"Hi Mum, can we get something to eat?" Tom asked her, seeing Fred was now asleep.

"If you want," Ellie told him, hoping Rose and Hardy had left.

They had as Alec led Rose back to the guest house.

"Rose, you get unpacked while I go get my things.  It's best I go now while Miller is out," he told her.

"Yeah, she seemed pretty mad.  Now I've probably lost my job."

Alec put his arms around her once back in their room.  "Are you going to unpack everything?' he asked when they had kissed.

"I might leave things that won't crease.  I was hoping you'd take me back home the weekend after next."

"Sure, I have to meet your mother at some point.  I may as well get it over with," he smiled.

"We may get there this weekend, if Ellie doesn't want me to watch Fred for her."

"Well we could set off early on Sunday morning, if you want?"

"Yeah but how do I tell my mum I lost my job because Ellie doesn't like the fact I fell for her lodger?"

Alec kissed her cheek.  "That is down to you to explain.  I am just as stuck what to tell my daughter, trust me.  If we go this weekend, we can go see Daisy next weekend, you have to meet her at some point."

"Yeah, I want to meet her.  Have you told her about me yet?"

He had to confess he hadn't thought it was urgent but now they were going to live together, that had changed everything.

"Not yet, have you even told your mother?"

"Ah, well no, not yet.  Alec, this is all happening so fast."

"Well yes, I have to admit I never thought things would escalate.  You are not having second thoughts are you?" he asked, his arms now around her waist.

"No, of course not.  There are things you need to know about me though."

"Plenty of time for that.  I should go while I have a chance of getting in and out before they get back."

"Well good luck with that then.  If she says anything, don't you take all the blame Alec."

"We are both to blame but I did encourage you somewhat."

They kissed goodbye and Alec went off to pack, well the rest of his things, he was hoping he wouldn't get delayed by Miller but he was out of luck as he was loading his car when Tom had reached the gate.

"You are leaving then?" Tom asked him.

"It's for the best Tom, we all know that."

"Will you still come round, to see us?"

"Sure, if that's okay with your mum?" he asked as Ellie wanted Tom to take the stroller while she got Fred out.

"Do you want the other car seat back?" Alec asked her.

"Keep it for now, since Rose will probably get a ride back with you if she meets you at lunchtime.  I meant what I said.  Tom, go open the door so I can take Fred inside in the stroller, it'll save me waking him up."

Tom was disappointed he wasn't going to hear his mum telling off the detective for going on the ride with Rose yesterday.

"What is that supposed to mean?" Alec asked as she unfastened the strap.

"Come off it Hardy, did you really have to make a play for Rose?  She was here to look after the boys.  Do you know how difficult it is to get someone who doesn't mind what hours they work or coming in at the last minute?"

"Then don't let it make a difference Miller, you are the one making something out of it.  How does the fact we are seeing each other reflect on her ability to look after your two boys?  I thought you were pleased with her?"

"She can do the job but you're distracting her."

"What?  In what way am I distracting her?"

"I'm not discussing it with you Hardy, I'll let her work the next three days but after that, I don't know.  I haven't got time to find anyone else just now."

"You are being unfair Miller and you know it."

"It's up to me who I employ Hardy, I said I would think about it."

"She is really good with young what's his name you know?"

"You still don't know his name, you're such a knob Hardy."

"I do know his name Miller, I don't like admitting it but that is beside the point.  I urge you to reconsider and keep her on."

"Why?  So you can come round every night and keep her company?"

"You are acting like your son Miller," Alec told her, walking off.  "Think carefully, like you said, who is going to put up with your hours?" he asked her, putting his sunglasses on in the late afternoon sun.

Ellie took Fred out carefully but he woke up and called for Rose.  She knew he got on well with Rose but she couldn't just allow them to use her house to get cosy every night.  Now she wondered where she was going to get someone else, she had taken a chance with Rose and it had paid off.  Why was she so angry about it though?  She was back to normal hours from next week, Hardy wouldn't have a chance to get in the door.

Maybe she was jealous but not because Rose had captured Hardy's recently mended heart.  No, it was because she had lost her husband and the worse thing was, he wasn't dead, just to her.  She'd met people who had thought they were too hard on him but if the jury wouldn't convict him, the community had to, how could they have let him back when he wouldn't admit what he'd done?

Alec got back to the guest house and Rose went down to help him carry his things back upstairs.

"Are we going out later, for hot chocolate?" Rose smiled.

"Rose, why did I get you that jar earlier love?"

"Just checkin'.  I'd rather wait and make some when we get to the caravan though, these cups are too small."

"Well if that's what you want, we can go out later then, if it is not raining."

"Why the sunglasses?  Not that they don't make you look all mean and moody," Rose grinned.  "Did Ellie say anything?"

"Never mind her, she will see sense."

"I hope so, what am I gonna do Alec?"

She put her arms around his neck, taking his sunglasses off, though why he still had them on inside, she had no idea.  He did look kind of sexy in them and no-one did sexy better than he did.  They went out later, Alec driving up into the town and finding a pub that was serving food.  Then they drove back to the harbour, like they had been doing and after their hot drink, walked around to the end of the esplanade, Rose leaning into him as he rested against the wall.

"We could go back to our room you know?  Or are you finding it difficult to break this habit we started?" he asked as she snuggled into him.

"Yeah but this is much nicer Alec, don't ya think?"

"Yes, it is pleasant enough.  The caravan is only temporary, we should look for something else."

"I don't know, let's stay there a while yeah?  You don't need all those stairs."

They went back inside and Rose was about to take her things into the tiny bathroom, though it was slightly better than sharing she supposed.

"Rose, can't you get ready for bed in front of me?" Alec asked, a bit disappointed.

Rose tried not to blush.  "Yeah, okay then but turn around."

"Seriously?  I did see you earlier you know and you told me not to be in such a hurry next time, did you not?"

"So I did, well that's different Alec.  You win," she told him, taking her t-shirt off.  "Care to help me?"

Alec grinned like a schoolboy.  They snuggled up in bed, just kissing and Alec kissing her exposed skin, since Rose opted to wear a pale blue v-necked nightdress she thought she would never wear when she had bought it last week on impulse.  It wasn't long though before they agreed she would be the one to lose her underwear, since he had opted to let her keep hers earlier and they were soon lost in each other's touch.

The next morning, Alec was woken by his phone buzzing and it wasn't his alarm.  It was his daughter, just after seven thirty.

"Daisy?  Is something wrong?" he asked, trying to move Rose's arm since it was over his bare chest.

"Wot's going on Alec?" she murmured, objecting to him moving her arm.

He tried to cover the phone.  "Shush love, it's Daisy."

"What's going on Dad?  Are you with someone?" Daisy laughed, thinking it wasn't before time now he was well again.

"Nothing.  So, why are you calling me so early?"

"Dad, I have to go to school, remember?  I wanted to know if you were going to come up this weekend?"

"I can't, not this week but I was planning the week after.  Daisy, there is someone I want you to meet."

"I knew it, you have got a woman with you, really Dad, why bother pretending you haven't?  Can I come and see you then?"

"I have somewhere to go this weekend but I will come to you the weekend after, I promise."

"Where are you living now?  Mum said something about you were staying with someone you knew and she swore it was Ellie Miller.  Were those rumours true then?  Is that who you're with?"

Rose heard.  "Excuse me, I'm not Ellie Miller," she huffed, reaching for the t-shirt Alec had thrown on the headboard.

"Rose, shush love.  No Daisy, her name is Rose, she's a child-minder who works for DS Miller but I will introduce you to her.  Put your mum on the phone."

Daisy was rolling her eyes as she passed the phone to Tess.

"What now Alec?  I'm trying to get Daisy off to school early.  Who is she going to meet?  You want her to meet Ellie Miller?" Tess asked.

"No, not her, there's someone I want her to meet though."

"Well I'm glad it's not her, you thought I was bossy enough.  Who is she then?"

"Her name is Rose, she's Miller's child-minder.  Not objecting then?"

"Why should I Alec?  If you're bringing her with you, meet Daisy out somewhere, I'm not ready to have your girlfriends in the house."

"Fine, tell her the usual place at seven, a week on Saturday."

He rang off and pounced on Rose, who was about to get out of bed.  "Sneaking off darlin'?  Come back here."

He dropped her outside Ellie's house just after eight thirty, Rose saying she'd have breakfast there.  She was feeling tense though as she let herself in.  Tom was just leaving.

"Hi Rose, will you be here when I get back?"

"Yeah, I'll be here.  Were you planning on staying out?"

"Nah, not today.   Bye."

Fred was sitting in his high chair. 

"Hi Fred, how are you today then?" Rose asked the young boy.

Fred held his arms out to be lifted out so Rose took hold of him.  Ellie was at the sink.

"I can do that Ellie," Rose told her as she carried Fred over, who then decided he wanted his mum.

"I have to go Fred, stay with Rose," Ellie told him.  "Rose, if you're taking him to meet Hardy at lunchtime, please make sure you pay attention to him."

"I always do, I can't understand why you're so upset about Alec and I seeing each other.  Nothing's been going on in the house, I can assure you."

"I'm not saying there has but the temptation was there.  Tom is vulnerable right now, he doesn't need to see you two playing house, in his house."

"We weren't but we never even talked about it.  He's still wanting to meet when he gets out of work and Fred seems to like his company."

"Stop using Fred in your defence Rose.  I'll make my mind up by Thursday and in the meantime, just carry on but don't have Hardy coming in later."

Rose thought she was being just a little harsh.  "He's collecting me later."

Ellie went off and Rose put Fred in the dining room in his playpen.  "Seems like you and me are in trouble with your mum Fred?  Want to go meet Hardee with me later?"

Fred looked up.  "Hardee!" the boy laughed.  "Meet Hardee!"

Rose smiled.  "Guess that's unanimous then?" 

She finished the housework then played with Fred for a while and set off just after one to walk down the cliff path.  Things were tense when Ellie had left but Rose couldn't understand what was going on with her employer, unless she was actually jealous of either her and Alec or the fact her husband had been run out of town and she was now on her own.

Whatever it was, Rose didn't think she and Alec deserved to be on Ellie Miller's hit list.  She found a seat just opposite the station in the outdoor catering area and got Fred his cup out.

"Let's see who sees Hardee first Fred?" Rose joked to the boy but just as she turned, Olly was making his way over.

"I told you I'm not interested Olly," Rose told him.

"I came to see Fred.  Hi there little guy.  Meeting someone?" he asked Rose.

Rose picked up the menu.  "Yeah, my boyfriend so maybe say goodbye to your cousin, Olly."

"I can take a hint.  It's Hardy you're meeting, don't deny it, my aunt confirmed it yesterday."

"So, I never denied anything did I?  Is seeing a detective suddenly a crime around here?" Rose wanted to know, wishing she'd not got there that early.

Alec was sitting at his desk, wondering whether to send Rose a message but he was meeting her in twenty minutes or so.  Last night for him had been amazing, Rose insisting they took their time in getting to know each other and she was right, it had been far more enjoyable than rushing things and he was now glad they'd not had a quick grope in the back of his car, unlike some people he could think of.

He wondered how she'd got on with Miller but knowing her, she'd bottle it all up until she had to make the decision to still employ Rose or not.  Well, he had to take part of the blame so tonight when he went to collect her, he was going to have it out once and for all with his soon to be again DS and if it cost Rose her job, then he had to offer to look after her until she found another because now, he couldn't let her go back home.
Chapter 13
After lunch, they went for a walk around to the other side of the harbour, not knowing Olly had been watching out for them and followed them.  His mother wondered what he was up to.

"Where are you sneaking off to again sunshine?" Lucy asked, seeing Hardy walk past on the other side of the road, with a blonde who seemed to be pushing young Fred in the stroller.

"Nowhere.  Has aunt Ellie said anything to you about her new child-minder?"

"Such as?  You'll have to more specific than that.  Why are you so interested, I told you she'll have been warned about you."

"Yeah, she's told me she has a boyfriend and she's not denied it's Alec Hardy but he doesn't seem the type to get attached to a young blonde so what's so special about her?"

Lucy laughed.  "She's female and blonde, anyone is Hardy's type if they're willing to take him on, especially after his surgery.  I wonder if he's told her?" Lucy mused.

"Well she'll think something's wrong with him only working a few hours.  Tell Maggie I'm going out, I might have a juicy story for her."

"You keep in mind Hardy could run you out of town Olly," Lucy shouted after him, which made Maggie come halfway down the stairs.

Lucy was glad her boss had decided the dreadful haircut she'd got a few months ago hadn't suited her and had almost grown out.

"Where's Olly going?  I have a job for him."

"Chasing that mysterious blonde he keeps seeing walking with his baby cousin.  She must be Ellie's new child-minder, can't get much out of him."

"Well he's a reporter, he won't tell us anything.  I need to talk to you both when he gets back, I might have to give up the office, things aren't looking too good and Olly does most of the reporting online now.  How do you feel about working from home Lucy?  Just taking phone messages.  Jocelyn's going to take more looking after, her sight's getting worse, she had a bit of a fall yesterday and she never even called me."

"Oh.  Is she okay though?  Yeah, I can work from my kitchen, long as I don't have to make any calls?"

"You can do it by email, I'll work from my place and any ads can be put in messages, Olly is going to have to take a bit more responsibility instead of chasing blondes around the harbour.  Was she with anyone or on her own?"

"She was with DI Hardy of all people, what does she see in him?" Lucy laughed.

"Well it could get tongues wagging, we need something to get over the trial but Olly had better not get on his wrong side, you know what Hardy's like?"

"Yeah, all mean and moody, lucky her, whoever she is."

Rose and Alec took Fred onto the beach, just past the old sea scout hut that had since been turned into a small exhibition centre for local artists  and a feature on the town.  Alec had carried the stroller again while Rose had held onto Fred, who wanted to run off.

Rose turned to Alec.  "I should have packed a towel, I could have taken him in the water."

"The water will still be cold," Alec told her, taking his jacket off to put down on the small pebbles.

"That didn't stop him the other day, did it Fred?" she asked the young boy, who had a fistful of small stones.  "Is this beach all pebbles?"

"How would I know eh?  The beach is not one of my favourite places, given the circumstances last year.  We should try further up, it may be more sandy up there.   You carry him and we'll go and see shall we?" Alec asked, picking up his jacket and dusting it off.

"I didn't know there was a café behind here," Rose pointed to some decking with tables and umbrellas behind the pub.

"It is well hidden but people must know about it.  Take this stroller down it will be easier for me to carry."

Rose handed Fred to him, who went for Alec's beard.

"Hardee, go," the boy giggled.

"Guess he wants you to carry him?" Rose smiled, making a point of showing him how to let the stroller down.  "Are these things more complicated since your daughter was small?"

"Yes, the makers do it to catch us parents out," he grinned, hoping Fred was dry since Rose had changed him not long ago.

They walked for a while, Rose opting to drag the stroller behind her, leaving the wheel marks in the now softer sand.  Fred was now on Alec's shoulders, who was holding him by his legs and Rose occasionally watching.

"Shame I can't take more photos but I don't think Ellie was pleased yesterday I took some of them ."

"That was not your fault Rose, she is just being that way out about it for some reason, she is trying to make a point of some kind."

"Yeah, well I wish she wasn't making it with me.  I mean I get she's lost her husband and Tom's having a difficult time but she's not doing anything to get him out of it.  He lost his best friend, now his dad and she lets him stay with his aunt and goes to live miles away.  Then she gets him back and does it again.  I'm grateful for the work but he'll be much better off when she comes back here."

"Are you trying to talk yourself out of a job Rose?" Alec smiled, feeling Fred's hands in his hair.

"Where Tom?  Where mummy?" the boy chatted to himself, Alec not understanding half of what he was saying.

Rose had to smile as the young boy held both his arms out, his hands upturned.

"Hey Fred, how about a walk now and give uncle Alec a rest?" she asked him, dropping the stroller handle and holding out her arms to take him down from Alec's shoulders.

Fred seemed agreeable but as she was taking him down and putting him on the sand, Alec took her arm and pulled her for a quick peck on the lips, Fred facing the other way.

"Just because his mother is disagreeable at us seeing each other does not mean we can't show each other some affection, does it?" he asked as Fred ran towards the sea.

"No Alec, of course not but it's difficult to kiss you with Fred on your shoulder," she smiled back as Fred stopped at the edge with water just missing his feet.

Fred got excited and began stepping back as this time, it touched the tip of his toes, Rose thankful she'd taken his socks and trainers off earlier.

"Then come here, he's having fun over there."

They kissed, just briefly, Alec with one eye half open to watch the youngster but Olly was just a bit further down behind a crack in the cliffs and had got his camera-phone out, zooming in and capturing the kiss, Fred at the water's edge and Olly not seeing him at first.  Now he had something to write about, they were clearly engrossed in each other as Rose put her arms around Alec's neck and he swung her around.

"Best go see Fred, or his mum will have a point," Rose told him.

"He's fine, I can see him from here," Alec told her, standing sideways.

Rose thought she saw something a bit further down, Olly's phone was catching the afternoon sun but Rose dismissed it, leaning into Alec's shoulder and tightening her hold on him.  Alec suddenly let go as Fred was now standing with the sea covering his feet.

"Come on young man, we have no towel today, what's Rose going to do with you?" Alec asked the toddler, who was giggling and jumping up and down calling "Roe!' as Alec held him by the waist.  "Yes, I know you are having fun but I don't like the water."

"Aw, you're not even in it Alec," Rose teased him, putting the stroller and the baby bag down again.  "You said you lived by the river."

"I did but I never went in it, I could barely go out on a boat last year to inspect some evidence."

"Well you promised to watch me swimming, maybe you can come in the pool, we'll take Fred then you'll have an excuse to go in the baby end."

"Stop teasing me Rose," Alec grinned, now dangling Fred, who was getting giddy trying to reach the water with his toes and it going under Alec's feet.

"Well you're standing in it now, isn't he Fred?" Rose laughed.

Holding Fred's hand, they walked a bit further and came to a gap in the cliffs where there was a café and a beach shop and since it was now almost three thirty, Alec decided they should get a cab back to the Miller house and drop her and Fred off and stay in the cab, since his car was now in the guest house car park.  Rose sent a quick message to Tom, who replied saying he was calling at a friend's house on the way back anyway, so she wasn't too worried about being late.

Ten minutes later, he was helping Rose out, telling the cab driver to wait while he got the stroller and handing it to her.

"Call me when his mum gets home and I'll come and collect you love," he told her, kissing her check and patting Fred on the head.

"Yeah, will do.  Say bye to uncle Alec Fred," she told the boy, taking his arm.

"Bye love, see you soon.  Bye young man, I will see you tomorrow then?"

"Bye, Hardee!" was all he got out of Fred, who was rubbing his eyes.

Alec got back in the taxi and Rose waved then dragged the stroller, Fred in the other arm.  She had just put Fred some socks on after drying his feet when the doorbell rang, thinking Alec had changed his mind.  She knew Tom would just use his key so putting Fred in his playpen, she went to answer it, hoping it wasn't someone selling double glazing.  It was Olly.

"What do you want Olly?  Come to see your cousins?"

"No, you actually.  Does my aunt know about the two of you?"

"What?  That's our business Olly, thanks very much.  Yes, she does know, what has it to do with anyone else?"

Olly got his phone out, finding the photo of them from a short while ago and showing it to her.

"You delete that right now Olly, you can't just take photos without permission."

"Oh, I was just taking some of the area, how was I to know I'd catch the two of you snogging?  Got anything to say?"

"Should I?  You should be more worried about him, he won't let you make anything of it.  Are you trying to get me fired because if you are, you're too late."

"So my aunt doesn't like you seeing him?  Why's that?"

"Yeah, like I'm gonna tell you?  Hasn't she already told you to back off?  What are you up to?"

"Just a story, about how you two met and I won't publish the photo."

Rose was getting annoyed and thought of calling Alec anyway, he wouldn't go wasting any time in getting here. "Get out of here now before I call him."

Just then, Tom showed up.  Olly thought the teenager may have a thing or two to say about them.  "Oh hi Tom, you're just in time," Olly greeted him.

"Tom, go see if Fred's okay will you please?  Only your cousin here thinks he's gonna get me to talk to him," Rose asked Tom, who didn't want to miss anything.

"Yeah, sure Rose.  Is Olly asking you out on a date?" Tom grinned.

"No, he is not and even if he were, I wouldn't go," Rose told him.

"Tom, mate, this doesn't concern you," Olly tried to tell him, hoping to have got his interest.  "Is she really seeing anyone?" he added as Tom went inside.

"Leave him alone Olly, I don't discuss my relationships with twelve year olds," Rose snapped at him.

"I'm thirteen," Tom called back, seeing his baby brother curled up in the playpen.  "What about you and uncle Alec?"

"Oh, what about her and Hardy?" Olly wanted to know.

"Not now Tom, have you got homework to do?"

"Changing the subject Rose?" Olly grinned, determined to discover what the teenager meant.  "Tell me more Tom."

"Do you want me to call his mother as well?" Rose asked, going for her mobile.

"And tell her what?  That I was concerned for my cousin, you seeing Hardy?"

Tom turned back.  "Yeah Rose, are you going out with uncle Alec, 'cos you were very friendly with him the other day."

"Were they being friendly Tom?  What were they doing?" Olly quizzed the boy.

"Tom, that's enough thanks," Rose chided him, though it wasn't really her place to tell him off and if he told his mother, she'd be really mad.  So trying to put it nicely was Rose's only option.  "I don't think Olly wants to hear about the other day."

"Oh but I do Tom and why do you call him uncle Alec?" Olly asked.

"Mum said I had to, in front on Fred," Tom admitted.

"Do you see him often?  Does he come and collect Rose?"

Tom looked at her, Rose willing him not to say anything but the boy was the reporter's cousin and a good way of getting family information.

"No, he didn't have to Olly, he was already here.  He was staying with us but he left yesterday, I heard him and mum talking.  She's annoyed 'cos he'd only been here a week and now she thinks they've moved in together."

Olly already suspected it after his conversation with his aunt but now, Tom had more or less confirmed it.

"Thanks for that Tom," Rose signed, walking off and leaving Tom to talk to Olly.  She dialled Alec's number.

"Hello sweetheart, miss me already?" Alec asked, trying to sort out his laundry and not look at Rose's lacy underwear and imagine seeing her wearing it, well not for too long.

"Yeah but we have a problem.  That nosy reporter is here and Tom just confirmed a few things to him.  I tried to stop him but if I get cross with Tom, he'll tell his mum."

"I'll be right up, if Olly is there when I arrive, he'll wish he wasn't."

"Well if he is, you'll only confirm things then so I guess the game's up?"

"Just stay calm love, I'm on my way, the laundry will just have to wait."

"No, I can handle him, you go take the laundry, I'm running out of clean stuff and I don't want to have to bring it up here with me tomorrow, things are already bad enough."

"Well if you are sure you can handle him?"

"Yeah, I'll be fine, I just wanted to warn you.  Olly took a photo of us when we were out earlier."

"What?  Seriously?  What is he playing at?"

"He wants a story and in return, he won't publish it and the one with Fred on his own by the water and you holding me while Fred's feet are getting covered."

Alec knew it had been too good to be true, having a moment with his now girlfriend.  "Right, the laundry can wait, I'm on my way, don't let him leave."

Rose could hear voices in the front room, hoping they'd closed the front door.  "I don't think that'll be a problem, he invited himself in and he's still talking to Tom.  I'm calling Ellie, she has a right to know if her son's being interviewed, cousins or not."

"Good, maybe she will tell him to back off until I get there but don't tell her I'm on my way," Alec told her, locking their room door.

Rose could only leave a message on Ellie's mobile.  "Ellie, you need to call your nephew, he's asking Tom a lot of questions," Rose spoke to the answer machine.

Five minutes later, she got a call back.

"Why are you letting Olly ask Tom questions?" Ellie wanted to know.  "Put him on now, well Tom anyway, I'll deal with Oliver later."

Ellie had already been having a bad day, since she was two days from leaving, her sergeant was making life difficult for her and now Rose was adding to it.  She'd not even had time to think about what to do with her new child-minder but maybe Hardy was right, she shouldn't take her personal grievances against her husband out of Rose and Hardy but she had to think about the effects on her two boys.

Rose had gone to give Tom her phone.  "Tom, your mum wants to talk to you."

"You called her?" Olly laughed.

"Don't think you've got away with it Olly, she'll call you later."

Rose could only imagine the other side of the conversation as Tom said yes mum and no mum then handed the phone back.

"I'm going to do my homework, call me when tea's ready."

"I'll see you later and I have those photos for you," Rose told Ellie.

Olly thought she was admitting more had been taken but then thought they must be of the two boys.  Why didn't Ellie already have them, what was Rose hiding?  Unless Hardy was in some of them?

"Tom told me, he was staying here," Olly admitted, getting up.  "This will make quite a story."

"Did you not hear what I just said Olly?  She's really mad with you."

"She won't be when she sees those photos I took earlier, you leaving Fred on his own to play in the water," Olly gloated.

"What?  We were only a foot away from him, how's that leaving him on his own?  What were you doing there anyway?  Just happened to be going for a stroll were you?"

Olly laughed.  Rose was trying to delay his departure so Alec could lay into him for following them.  In the taxi on the way back, Alec had told her while they had been intimate, he'd had one eye on Fred all the time, which Rose was glad about as she was feeling guilty again and she hadn't wanted Ellie to think she was right and she wasn't paying attention.

"I think you'd better leave Olly, Tom's gone to his room and Fred's asleep so unless you want more trouble from your aunt?"

"I'm not worried about her," Olly laughed.  Then he saw a black SUV type car pull up and Alec got out.  "You did call him then?  Good, he can explain what he was doing staying here after all those accusations about him and my aunt.  You do know about them?"

"Yes, I know and I wouldn't gloat about it if I were you," Rose told him as the doorbell rang.

Tom heard it and stood outside his room as he heard Rose greeting Alec.  He smiled to himself, if this didn't lead to a bust-up then nothing would.  He thought Rose had been a good minder but he really wanted Alec to have stayed, without her being there.  Someone had to take his dad's place and he really thought Alec had been the one, despite the alleged affair with his mum when she'd still been married to his dad but he just wanted them to be a family again and although he missed his dad, Alec Hardy was better than nothing.  Not with Rose though.
Chapter 14

Alec had been furious when Rose had told him Olly was trying to get information out of her and probably Tom. What business was it of the local reporter if he'd lodged with the Millers or that he was now dating, well living with Rose. He pulled up outside the house, seeing what he recognised as Olly's car, pleased he was still there and Rose had kept him talking. Now, the reporter was going to listen to him and if he didn't back off – his job would be on the line because he would see the reporter never worked again.

There was news and there was invasion of privacy and Stevens was crossing the line, using the fact Miller was his aunt and the excuse the town needed something juicy to forget her husband had walked free. Rose was just opening the door, thankful Ellie wasn't due home yet but she didn't know Tom had called her.

Ellie had rung him back. "What's wrong?" she asked Tom. "Is Fred okay?"

"Yeah Mum but Olly came around and now uncle Alec's arrived and I think there's going to be trouble."

"Why is Olly there?" Ellie wanted to know.

"He was here when I got home. I thought he'd come to ask Rose out on a date but I think she's going out with Alec."

Ellie didn't need reminding of that. "Does Olly know he was staying with us?"

"He tricked me Mum, I didn't realise. He was asking me loads of questions about them, until you called Rose."

"She did the right thing, telling me. Wait until I get my hands on him, I did warn him. Just stay out of it Tom, I mean it."

"Yeah Mum, I'm sorry."

Ellie knew he was and Olly was way out of line using his young cousin to drum up a few newspaper sales.

Olly hadn't even tried to escape as Rose greeted Alec and led him into the dining room to check on the still sleeping Fred.

"I don't know how this got out of hand Alec."

"Don't worry, I will sort him. If he has any sense, he will leave before I go in there."

"Some start this is, us living together," she whispered as she put her arms around him. "I don't want to be on the front page of the town's paper."

"You won't be, it will never be printed. I will give him a choice."

He led Rose into the other room but then she heard Fred waking up and had to go back, picking him up. He was wanting his tea so she took him into the kitchen and placed him in his seat.

Alec stood in the doorway of the front room, Olly sat playing with his phone, composing his story.

"You can put that away Stevens, there is no story here."

"That's what you say Hardy. You can't stop me."

"It's over, go home. Your aunt will be furious when she finds out."

"She already knows, Rose called her," Olly grinned. Just then, his phone rang and he looked disappointed when he saw who it was.

"Olly, leave now," he was told by Ellie.

"What's wrong, don't want anyone to know he's been staying with you?"

"What? Yes, he was staying with us and do you know why?"

"I don't need pictures drawing aunt Ellie," Olly grinned.

"Listen to me Oliver. Alec Hardy had just got over surgery, he wasn't supposed to be on his own until he got the all-clear from the hospital so I suggested he stayed with us. So if you think that's newsworthy, go ahead and try and print it because I'm calling Maggie, if he's not already done so."

Alec was listening with interest. He knew Rose had gone in the kitchen to see to young Fred so she was best keeping out of it.

"You know whatever she told you, she will follow through," Alec told him.

Olly knew he was defeated, Maggie would never allow him to go ahead. "Okay, I'm going," he told Ellie, getting up.

"Why were you so interested in me all of a sudden?" Alec asked him.

"Seriously? You're accused of having an affair with my aunt then you move in?"

"Yes, I can see how it would look but I moved out because I met Rose. There was never anything in those accusations and you know it."

Olly supposed he did but it would still have made a good story, though that was all it would be.

"Forget it, I'm not going to print anything. Shame you got to Rose before I did."

"Do you really think she would be interested in you, going around telling everyone about your dates and putting them in the news headlines?"

Rose heard the front door go and leaned around the door-frame. "Tom, your tea's ready," she called upstairs.

Alec walked towards her. "Then I will be going, I will see you later."

He was about to kiss her cheek but heard Tom moving around.

"Yeah, I'll call when she gets home. I take it we'll have no more trouble with Olly then?"

"No, he's been warned although I think he had some help, eh Tom?"

Tom shrugged his shoulders.

"Forget it Alec, no harm done. I have other things to worry about still," Rose told him.

Alec left and went to pick up some food, since he was no longer invited to have tea with them but when Rose got back, whether she'd still have a job or not, he was going to suggest she found another line of work. He couldn't imagine how things were going to be when Miller was back working with him next week.

When Ellie did get back home, she'd still not made her mind up but said nothing about what had taken place, leaving poor Rose hanging on. Rose sent a message for Alec to come and pick her up and Ellie watched her as she looked out of the window for him.

"So, are you two serious?" Ellie asked her.

"Yeah and we never intended deceiving you. We were just waiting for the right time to tell you."

"That you were playing around, in my house?"

"No, it wasn't like that, nothing happened here, trust me."

"Tom seemed to think so, whispering outside his room."

"We didn't want to disturb Fred, that's all. Alec and I, well, he's asked me to move into the caravan with him, to save me paying for a room."

"That didn't take you long?"

"He's here now, see you tomorrow and if you can let me know one way or the other, so I can look for another job?"

Ellie was silent as Rose left. What was she supposed to do? She needed a reliable minder and Rose was more than capable but would she stay now?

Alec greeted Rose by turning for a kiss. "Any news?"

"Nah, she's not decided yet but I asked her if she could tell me by tomorrow."

"Never mind love. Shall we go to our usual place?"

"Mmm, wouldn't miss it," she replied, giving him a quick kiss.

When they got to bed, Alec tried to take her mind off things again, reminding her they would soon be moving in together properly and not just in one room. Rose couldn't believe how she was looking forward to having more space to move around in.

"Well there is only tomorrow, then we will get the keys to the caravan," Alec reminded her as they lay together after they got as close as they dared.

The next morning, Rose got no clue as to what Ellie's decision would be. She thought it best not to mention it but Ellie asked if she was taking Fred to meet Alec, which surprised her.

"Well yeah, Fred seems to enjoy it. Can I say something? Fred's too young to understand about his dad but he seems happy to be around Alec."

"They spent a lot of time together. That's beside the point Rose, it will be difficult for him when he gets older."

"He'll understand better then. If he sees me and Alec together, he won't get the wrong ideas, as Tom seems to have done. Alec thinks he did the right thing, leaving here before Tom started to believe those accusations were true. That's probably what he was talking to Olly about."

"He's barely thirteen Rose, he's just confused and Olly should have known better than to get him talking."

"Well does it mean the boys have to stop seeing Alec altogether? Can't they see him as a family friend, if I'm with him? Then Tom will know he got it wrong."

"I'll think about it."

Ellie knew Rose was beginning to make sense, she did have to think about the boys and Alec Hardy was a better influence on them than Olly was turning out to be. Fred was talking to himself while they had been discussing things.

"Let's ask Fred? Want to go find Hardee Fred?"

"Hardee! Where Hardee?" the boy spread his arms out like he'd done before.

"We'll go find him later yeah? See? He likes going to meet him, Alec shares his lunch, doesn't he Fred?"

"Seems I'm outnumbered?" Ellie asked, kissing Fred's cheek and him pulling a face. "This doesn't change anything, I still have to think carefully."

Rose got cleaned up and put Fred into his stroller, the boy chatting away and pointing to things on the walk down but when they got to the corner where they usually met Alec, Olly was waiting.

"Thanks for getting me into bother with my aunt," he told her, leaning against the wall.

"What do you want Olly? Do ya think I was gonna let you put me and Alec on the front page of your tacky little newspaper? You would have involved your own aunt in it, how could you after what she's just been through just to get a cheap story? You should be ashamed of yourself. Come on Fred, we have a lunch date."

She walked off around the corner, just as Alec was coming down the steps. Olly saw him and thought it would be wise to make himself scarce but Alec crossed the road and caught up with him.

"If I catch you bothering my girlfriend again, I'll lock you up Stevens," Alec warned the reporter.

Before Olly could say anything, Alec walked off because all morning, all he'd looked forward to was meeting Rose and even Fred was beginning to grow on him.

Fred saw him as they were waiting at the table.


"Hello young man, are you being good for Rose?"

"Roe, Hardee here!"

Both of them looked at the young boy, who just grinned back at them and pretended to be shy.

"Ride Hardee," Fred continued.

"Ride what Fred? Oh, in his car? Later, you can share Hardee's lunch first."

While they ate, Alec sharing his baked potato and cheese, Rose said Olly had been bothering her again.

"I know love, I saw him around the corner, I have warned him off again."

"He's not gonna give up Alec and I don't want my mum reading about me getting caught up between you and a supposed affair with Ellie."

"There was no affair love, you know that," Alec told her again, watching Fred and thinking if the boy was taking notice, they would have to be careful what was said between them.

"Yeah, I know that but my mother doesn't. I'll have to call her, see if she can come down."

"We will go for a visit, I said I would take you," he told her, taking her hand and not caring if Olly was lurking around the corner with a camera or not. Just let him try printing any photos.

They finished lunch and went to get into Alec's car, him driving them to where they had been the day before and letting Fred run in the water, since Rose had packed a towel this time. Fred thought it was funny to jump up and down and splash Rose and Alec ventured near them, trying to keep his clothing dry.

"Aw, take your shoes and socks off Alec and come in with us. What can happen?"

"He can splash me to start with," Alec complained as his trouser bottoms got wet.

He soon relaxed a bit more and picked up the young boy, Fred laughing while trying to dangle his feet in the water and splashing the water back at Alec.

Rose was splashing water at both of them and took some photos, trying not to get Fred in them but it looked a little odd. They just had time to get dry and Alec dropped them off, waving them goodbye as Tom walked towards his house but something made Alec stop and call from the window.

"Is something wrong Tom?"

"No, why?" Tom replied, trying to avoid the detective.

"You can talk to me, if something is bothering you but I'll let you get on."

Rose suspected something when Tom walked in as she put Fred in his chair.

"Did you see Alec?" she asked the teenager.

"Yeah, did you go out with him again?"

"Why shouldn't I? You might not like it but he is my boyfriend, I'm not denying it and I'm not gonna stop seeing him and go out with your cousin."

"I never said you had to," Tom replied quietly.

He knew she meant it and he had to accept it but it was hard to swallow.

When Ellie got back, she'd been thinking about what Rose had said earlier. She didn't really know how she felt about Rose seeing Alec Hardy but he'd been right in so many ways so now, she was determined that once she got back to work in the town, having him as an enemy because she'd fired his girlfriend was not going to be an option. Rose was maybe right, him being a friend to her two boys was better than nothing and when Fred got older, he'd have to be told what happened to his dad.

So she sat opposite Rose in the front room. "I've decided not to let you go, if you want to stay?"

"Yeah, I want to stay Ellie, I know it's an awkward situation but I never planned on Alec asking me out. He surprised me."

"Yeah, I think he might have surprised himself that you actually agreed," Ellie laughed. "So, is he really in a caravan or is he staying with you?"

After that, things got easier in the Miller house. Alec went to collect the caravan keys, putting Tom and Fred down so Rose could take them swimming and Fred into the playroom and once Ellie got back to work in the town, Rose would hand the boy over to his mum for half an hour while she and Alec had lunch to themselves. Sometimes if Rose was already in the caravan, Ellie would come and collect Fred and sometimes watch if they were still in the swimming pool but not if Alec was there, ogling his girlfriend.

The End!