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Alec Hardy and the exotic dancer

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Alec Hardy is recently divorced.  The men at the station get him on a night out to the local exotic dance club where he is smitten by a dancer known as Rosepetals.  Showing his badge to get backstage, he shares a taxi home with her and spends the night.  Then he gets jealous of the punters when he falls in love with her.  These are the events leading to his arrival in Broadchurch.






AU - Alec Hardy is recently divorced. His mates get him on a night out to the local exotic dance club where he is smitten Rose Tyler who goes by another name.  He shows his badge to get backstage, he shares a taxi home with her and spends the night. Then he gets jealous when he falls in love with her. These are the events leading to his arrival in Broadchurch.

Scroll down each chapter to read

Chapter 1
Based very, very loosely on the film 'Coyote Ugly'  Don't quote me on how much they get paid or their practices as I have no idea!


Rose Tyler had been out of a job for ages, ever since the store she worked in got blown up she had drifted from one dead-end job to another in quick succession and was tired of having no money and now no boyfriend and still living thankfully with her mother.  Goodness knows what she would have done on her own.

She was out window shopping and job hunting one day when she saw a group of girls, well young women having fun looking in a store window and pointing to outfits she hadn't even dreamt of ever owning, even second-hand and decided to follow them, keeping her distance, of course but they were making a lot of excited noise and trying outfits on and throwing them at each other then over the dressing room doors, then all laughing as they went to pay for them.

She followed them to the store café and bought herself a cup of their over-priced latte and sat down, thinking where to go to next to see if anyone was advertising a job.  The girls she had followed were sat over by the window, admiring each other's purchases and she supposed they hadn't even bothered looking at the price tags.

She was about to leave when she saw the girls huddled together and one of the girls got up and came in her direction.  Panicking, she thought she was going to get picked on for following them throughout the store and were all about to beat her up if she went to the ladies room, instead, the Asian-Oriental girl sat down opposite her and put a business card on the table.  Rose was about to get up, abandoning her drink but the girl put her hand on top of hers.

"It's ok, we saw you follow us in, we're not mad at you but we thought you looked rather jealous.  Looking for a job?"

Rose managed to nod.  "We all work at 'Pinkie's' have you heard of it?"

''No, should I?  I can't exactly afford to go to clubs.''

The woman smiled, looking back at her friends, who were watching.

"Believe me love, you wouldn't be going there, unless you were a bloke.  My name's Tosh and my friends and I are all dancers, of the exotic kind.  I know what you're thinking but it's not as bad as it sounds, really and as you can see, we make some serious cash plus you get to keep all the tips you make and we don't dance all the time, we do other things like just sitting around looking pretty and take the odd turn in carrying drinks.  Why don't you go along, ask for Donna?  She runs the place for a guy who's never there.  She'll be there from four this afternoon, we have an opening, a girl just left and she's not been replaced yet, it's not everyone's cup of tea.  Gwen just left to get married."

Rose took the card that had 'Pinkie's Exotic Dance Club,' Manager D. Noble, an address and a phone number.

"That's just for punters who leave their car keys, mobile phones and even their wallets and other assorted male items.  I heard a guy lost his wig in there."

Rose could see the other girls laughing.  She longed to be able to laugh again and have some fun and it sounded like it wasn't all that bad but her mother would never buy it.  If she went along, just to see, it would be a miracle if she actually got the job though she did like to dance rather sexily in the shower, not that she would admit it to anyone while singing 'Do ya think I'm sexy' and other provocative songs when her mother was out somewhere.

"Thanks Tosh, I'm Rose.  Is it difficult to get an interview?"

The girls were laughing.   Tosh moved over to her side of the table.  "No, just wiggle your bum and flash your eyelids at the punters, well that and other parts of your anatomy men usually like to stare at.  Don't worry, they're not allowed to touch you, there are bouncers all around the main stage.  There are different things going on.  What have you got to lose?"

Rose was about to say her dignity but she had lost that when she lost her job.  "Ok, I'll give it a go.  If it doesn't work out, at least I can say I tried."

Tosh looked pleased with herself.  "Great, might see you tonight then, Donna will look after you, she'll start you on something easy.  We start work at eight until twelve and two hours in the afternoon once a week for practising new routines.  I won't tell you how much you can earn, the rates vary depending on what Donna has you doing but like I say, you get to keep all your tips so it's down to you."

"How long have you been working there?"

"Five years now, we love it.  Had plenty of other offers but most of us stay, I've been there the longest.  It beats a 9-5 job any day."

Rose thanked her and put the card in her pocket.  She knew where the street was, just out of the town centre, not somewhere she would like to go on her own at night but she supposed the club would look after the girls and make sure they stayed safe, it wouldn't look good replacing the dancers every week.  The rest of the girls got up and one by one passed her table saying "good luck Rose" to her.

She went home and rummaged through her sparse wardrobe, finding her best dress and supposed she might be given something to wear then thought maybe not, exotic was just a fancy name for semi-naked.

"Mum, I'm going out again.  I met some girls that work at a bar and they said there was a job going there.  They give you full training."

"Oh, you haven't tried bar work yet have you?  You make good money working in a bar."

"Well it's a club really, it's behind the bar and taking drinks to tables.  Should be easy enough.  If I get it, I might get to start tonight so don't wait up.  I'll call you but I may have time to come back first, I don't know."

"Ok Sweetheart, hope you get it then, I hate seeing you like this, staying at home all the time when you should be out having a good time."

She kissed her mother's cheek, hating not telling her the whole truth but hopefully she wouldn't find out, well not unless someone who knew her went in there but she doubted any man she knew had the money to even step foot inside the place.  She picked up her keys and crossed her fingers.  Finding the street but the entrance seemed locked up, she looked around.  It was after four, she hoped the girls had not just been winding her up and it was a strip joint or something worse with 100's of dirty old men leering at girls.  She heard a noise from a side door and looked around a corner into a narrow alleyway just wide enough for a car.

A woman with red hair, a bit older than herself was taking some boxes out of the back of a car and was having trouble closing the boot.  Rose dashed over.

"Hi, do you need any help?"

The woman tried to turn around.  "If you're looking to grab these boxes and run darling, don't bother.   I can run faster than you."

"Sorry, that wasn't my intention.  Someone gave me one of your cards, a woman called Tosh, she said you may have a job."

The woman turned around and held the boxes out to Rose, remotely locking the car. "Well don't just stand there, bring them inside.  Honestly, I don't know where Tosh gets these ideas.  Have you any idea what goes on here?"

Rose shook her head and followed the woman inside, still holding the boxes that were making her arms ache.  If this was Donna, she was making no effort to introduce herself nor any offer for her to put the boxes down or take them from her. Donna walked behind the bar.

"Put them on there.   What's your name then?" she asked, looking Rose up and down.

"Rose Tyler.  Are you Donna?"

The woman laughed.  "Well I'm not Pinkie, that's for sure.  Well let me explain petal, we are an exotic dance club where the punters come to see you dancing on that small stage over there wearing just a skimpy costume.  Then there's the swing."  She pointed across the room to a swing covered in yellow plastic flowers.

"You get hoisted up there and swing backwards and forwards for half an hour at a time, half an hour off, showing your bum, same costume and you can be as creative as you want, the more creative, the better they like it.  The punters stand on the chairs and try to get money in your garter as you start to swing or pass them slowly, it's basically like playing a game to them, it keeps them amused so slow down every so often.  Then there's the golden cage."

Rose thought it may as well be the chamber of horrors, to be on display, swinging above some tables with men sat underneath and she shuddered to think what you did in the cage.  Donna saw her face and burst out laughing.

"You're a bit green luv.  Want to give it a go?"

"Do you have any bar jobs?"

Donna spluttered.  "No, sorry luv, all the bar jobs are taken but I can start you in the cage.  You just sit on the chair for an hour, take a break then go back.  You just get up, walk around, change position, look sexy, they love it, same costume again. They give you money luv, you wear a garter on your leg again and they stuff money in it, don't let them give you any fivers, push their hands away, they'll come back with a twenty.  They're only allowed to tuck the money into the garter, if they take too long, you slap their hand and their mates laugh, if they go back or fight you, my bouncers throw them out.  Same goes for dancing.  Any questions?"

She had.  "So just to make it clear, I get to keep the tips, do I get a regular wage or is that it?"

Donna laughed again.  "Are you for real?  Blimey, Tosh really got me this time but you're pretty.  Let me tell you again.  You get paid 100 quid a night for dancing and plus tips, that's all you do, dance all night and there are two other dancers, you take it in turns.  If you're in the cage or on the swing, you get 75 quid a night plus tips.  That's your take home, we do the books and employ you and you work four nights week, eight until twelve and we book you a taxi home, comes out of your pay but you make up for that in tips.  So do you want in?"

Rose did the sums, 300 or 400 quid for four nights work plus tips, was she that fussy men would be looking at her?  She put on her best smile, held out her hand and said "Maybe."

Donna shook her hand.  "You can start tonight in the cage, see how you go.  You get a dressing room you share with another girl but don't leave your personal stuff or any money.  There's Jerry and Mick around the back, they keep men from coming backstage and pestering you and see you out to your taxi every night and one more thing, boyfriends stay outside unless they pay to come in and leave you tips, no sneaking them in."

"Haven't got one.  Where do I keep my personal stuff then?"

"Lockers, I'll give you a key.  You get a silk dressing gown to wear going on stage, you put it over the back of the chair, then put it back on as sexy as you can when you go off, you're still on show, don't disappoint them when you're entering or leaving or they won't give you tips.  If you're dancing, they're allowed to put £50 notes, if they come on stage waving one, on the hips of your g-string but a bouncer will come on stage with them and believe me, they've broken a few fingers and noses of the punters who linger too long, you're perfectly safe up there."

"So do I keep any money I make in my locker, is it ok there?"

Donna laughed again, she was liking this girl, she was smart and asked a lot of questions.

"Rose, the girls all get good money, they don't steal from each other, it's just a precaution but we have to declare some tips so you may get asked to pay something extra at the end of the tax year but it's just the minimum.  The girls will show you the ropes back stage.  If boyfriends do turn up, they have to wait outside or see Mick or Jerry, it's their call, I know they take bribes from punters, they think I've not figured that one out.  If a girl says no to entertaining them backstage, they go, whether they've paid or not, that's the altered rules.  I let it slide, it keeps everyone happy, a punter might want to try his luck with one of the girls, if they want to waste their money, who am I to stop them?"

Rose was warming up to the idea.  If she could stick at it for while, make some money to get a place of her own and have some nice clothes, she could live with it.

"Yeah, I'm in, when can I start?"


Chapter 2
A/N: Reminder – I have no knowledge whatsoever of any type of club – I made everything up and if it is coincidental that I am correct, it was wholly unintentional and I do not condone any of it.  I also have no idea where Sandbrook is.

Alec Hardy was not happy.  He had found out recently his wife was having an affair and the case he was working on, a particularly complex case of two missing girls was getting nowhere.  He'd been experiencing some chest pains and gone for a check-up and been told to take it easy.  Bloody doctors, they were all the same but he was prescribed some pills to take and they had helped when he remembered to take them and he'd been fine for a while but the case was getting to him.

At least he was rid of his cheating wife, she had left him and gone to move in with her new boyfriend, taking their daughter with her but at least he got to see her at weekends.  He had been trying to get the house exchanged for a flat and thought it would be easy enough, someone would want to move into a three bedroomed house surely?

Finally, he had got a letter from the council for him to go look at a two bedroom flat but it was terrible so instead, he found one through a letting agency and moved most of the furniture in and gave some away to a local charity and finally settled down to being single again.  He hadn't bothered filing for divorce, he had let her do that, they had officially separated and agreed over their daughter.

It was coming up to his birthday, not that he celebrated it, only for his daughter's sake and this year, he wasn't even going to bother.  It was on a Thursday this year so Daisy wouldn't be around anyway and it would be too late by Saturday, she stayed overnight every other week but he remembered not this week.  He heard the others planning something and hoped he wouldn't be included.  He was becoming a recluse and never even bothered going out for a drink on Friday nights any more, mainly because he shouldn't drink, well maybe the odd half pint, then he would buy his own non-alcoholic and no-one ever knew the difference.

Alec was about to leave when three of the male DS's cornered him.  They all went by first names after they had officially stopped work and since they were on their way out, came into his office.

"So, birthday is it then Alec?  You coming out with us?  We were going to take you to this little club we know of, you'll like it, trust us."

"Trust you lot?  Never.  You'll have me going to a strip joint or something."

One of the others spoke up.  "Come on, you'll have a good time, what else do you have to do?  Go home to your empty flat on your birthday?  We can't allow that.  Come on, it's after eight, we can all share a cab, leave your car here."

They didn't have to remind him he was going back to an empty flat, did they?  He got up and picked up his jacket, the three men stood in the doorway, they had him trapped.

"We're not letting you out until agree so forget it.  You got some money on you, it costs to get in."

"Why don't we just go around to the pub on the corner?" Alec asked, trying his best to get out of it.

"No way!  You'll enjoy this much better."

Alec reluctantly gave in, he would get no peace until he agreed and did he really want to spend his birthday alone?  He had no idea where they were taking him as the cab drove through the town centre and into the back streets, finally pulling up outside a club with a flashing neon pink and blue sign that read 'Pinkies' and Alec instantly knew what they were up to, getting him in a strip joint but as they got out, he saw a sign for 'Exotic Dancers' with photos of a few of what he supposed were their best-looking dancers, the rest were probably plain and hidden by subdued lighting to hide their less than perfect looks.

One of the dancers stood out from the rest, billed as the 'Star Attraction of the month' but Alec thought she was probably the star attraction full stop, for any month.  The name above the photo was just 'Rosepetals' and the photo itself was of a young blonde woman posing sideways with her leg on a wooden chair.  She was only wearing a skimpy outfit, some cheap plastic petals on her even skimpier bra and she was showing off her leg and hip.  On her leg was a black and pink frilly garter, one hand was on her hip and the other draped on the back of the chair and she had the most beautiful smile Alec had ever seen.

Under the photo it read 'Come inside and see Rosepetals dancing or swing above the bar area on the floral swing or maybe catch her in the cage and stare at her all night.  Dare you put money into her garter?  Dare you even put money in her g-string?  Bet your mates to dare go on stage and tuck money in her g-string but she only takes £50 notes if you do!'

Alec thought about turning around and calling another cab back to the station but he was already being grabbed by the arm and pulled towards the kiosk to pay to go in.  His colleagues had conspired to pay for him since it was his birthday but the first round of drinks was on him, which he agreed because he only intended having one, he doubted he'd get served if he asked for non-alcoholic and would probably get thrown out.

As they queued to get in, he wondered why women would even want to display themselves to the men who came in but was it any different from the women who frequented street corners?  At least in a club they were reasonably safe and he saw a list of rules clearly stating what men were allowed or not allowed to do once they were inside and everyone seemed to be reading them.  At least the women were reasonably gainfully employed, not leaving it to chance and from what he read, thankfully in large print so he didn't have to get his glasses out, men were most definitely not allowed to touch any of the women's anatomy except to place money under their garters.  He cringed at some of the rules, wondering really what type of men came here and how the woman put up with it.

They finally got in and Alec bought a round, getting a bottle of the least alcoholic lager he could name and the men all went to find a table, under the swing Alec noted, an oriental woman swinging backwards and forwards performing various aerobic feats showing off her rear.  Alec didn't think she was particularly attractive from what he could see of her face but men were standing on chairs and trying to tuck £10 notes under her garter as she passed by, slowing down when a man waved a note at her.

A woman was in a gold cage, sitting and standing around and doing various ordinary things like stretching and leaning over to move the chair and Alec just zoned out.  It wasn't really his 'thing' and he planned on getting out as soon as he finished his drink and his three colleagues were suitably amused with something and wouldn't notice he was missing.  He could make the excuse up he was going to the bar and slip out without them noticing, they wouldn't remember in the morning anyway.

He had almost finished his drink, he'd only been in for about forty minutes when a man announced in a boring voice that Rosepetals was about to come on stage so he put his drink down and decided he may as well see what all the fuss was about until a crowd of men got up and stood in front of the stage and he couldn't see.  He knew the men weren't allowed to whistle at or cat-call any of the women, they showed their appreciation by cheering or not as the dancers took their places and giving them money.

The spotlight came on the small stage, showing a pink wooden chair and then it moved to the edge and hung for a few seconds before a bare leg appeared in the beam and Alec could just about see through the crowd the woman who the leg belonged to saunter up to the chair and rather seductively take off the pink silky robe she was wearing.  The men were still cheering as she placed the robe just as seductively on the back of the chair and stepped forward.

Dressed only in white shorts covering her lower anatomy and some pink what looked like flowers covering her skimpy top, the woman began to sway to the beginning of the music and kept time as the beat increased.  From what he had heard, each dancer did two turns, one fast then one slow and then was replaced a few minutes later by another dancer but he could now only see her head since someone had changed their position, probably to get a better view.

Alec picked up his bottle and walked across to the stage to see the woman making her moves and men were now silently watching her, well the ones that weren't trying to stuff £10 notes under her garter.  Eagle-eyed bouncers were stood at either side of the circular stage for those who got a bit carried away and fancied their chances of staying longer on the women's legs than was necessary to tuck the note under the garter.

He saw one man doing just that and one of the bouncers gave him a shove, rather painfully, on the shoulder.  The man just laughed and went back to his place but Alec imagined if he did it again he would get dragged out unceremoniously.  They were all getting egged on by their mates, trying to come up with a £50 note between them and choosing who was going to dare go up to her but non of them ventured up on stage.

The woman was just slowing down to the end of the song and the men began cheering again.  The woman's stare was mutual, she probably zoned herself out and concentrated on the music and her dancing.

A few seconds later, another song started, a slower one that Alec recognised and she started dancing more slowly this time to 'Careless Whisper' and Alec was captivated.  She was more graceful this time, taking her time at coming out of the twists and turns of her dancing and he had never seen a woman look more fascinating in his life, certainly not his ex wife, she had never gone in for anything like that, not even to tease him when they were actually together.

The song finished and the woman stopped, turned around to the chair slowly and retrieved her robe, putting it on just as seductively as she had taken it off.  Alec had finished his drink without realising as she slouched off the stage to an uproar of cheering and a garter stuffed with notes.

He would have to wait another hour before she came back on but he was going to stay.  He went back to the bar and while he was waiting to get served, saw the three men he had come in with trying to catch the attention of another woman who was now up on the swing.  He spotted his brand of non-alcoholic lager and asked for a bottle, it cost twice as much as the regular brands anyway and the management probably didn't mind stocking it at that price.

Just under an hour later, having re-joined his now much less than him sober colleagues who asked why he was still drinking from the same bottle, he was waiting for the blonde to come back on stage and casually made his way to stand near the front before the crowd gathered again.  He had noted the last two women hadn't had as big a crowd but they were still getting money from the punters but non of them had attempted to linger like they had done previously.

The announcer called Rosepetal's name and the men came hurrying forward to get the best spots but Alec had beaten them to it, just where she would stand and maybe just about see him, not that she would even notice.  He had let his appearance slip slightly since his divorce, sporting two day's growth of beard and his fringe almost covering his right eye, he brushed it back absent-mindedly just as the spotlight moved from the chair to the side where he had just seen a glimpse of the woman being escorted by one of the bouncers who he supposed was there to fend off anyone straying behind the stage and from the dressing room area.

Being nearer, he first saw her leg, then the rest of her followed and she looked even better close-up as he took a sip of his drink and watched her taking off her robe.  Now she was a wearing a leopard-skin printed outfit and she took her place at the front of the small stage and began to move to a different tune than earlier, moving fast, in time to the music which was now Madonna's 'Beautiful Stranger' and that was what Alec thought she was and the way she moved was mesmerising.

More cheering followed as she came to a stop, Alec was still silent as a few men next to him were fishing in their pockets to double-check they didn't have a £50 note they had missed earlier.  She started to move again, slowly and Alec didn't recognise the tune, he was too busy watching and found his hand wandering on its own to his pocket and fishing a £10 note out and before he knew it, he was quickly tucking the said note under the garter, fleetingly touching her leg as he did but he was quick enough to remove it before the bouncers saw him as she bent her knees just enough for him to do so.

He had stepped back, realising what he had just done, like it had been a slow-motion scene from a film and only just realising he had actually done it.  He would never have believed himself capable of doing such a thing, he never went in for that kind of thing, he had certainly never been to a place like this before and he hoped his colleagues hadn't seen him or he would never live it down and plus, his ex wife would get to know about it and would stop his daughter's visits, such as they were.

He hadn't thought about it, he had just done it but he was right at the front and was probably hidden by the crowd as she moved her hips at him, well it seemed like it was at him.  The music came to a stop and she turned around, just the very thin strip of material covering her behind as she put on the robe.

Alec knew he was just one of the crowd and one of the many who had tucked money into her garter and had not stood out from the rest.  Most of the men were younger than him probably though some did actually look older but she would never even have looked as he had touched her leg for a second.  He wondered what it would be like to touch her leg for longer and for her to dance only for him.

She left the stage as gracefully as she had entered and he found himself staring at the spot she had disappeared into the darkness for a few minutes, unaware he was the only one still standing there.  He shook his head to snap himself out of it, his colleagues had moved and were now around the other side of the cage watching another woman stretching and yawning but he wasn't interested.  He bought himself another drink and found an empty table to wait another hour until it was her turn to dance again and then, he was going to do something really stupid.

He had heard men saying the two bouncers backstage let you in to meet the dancers if you paid them twenty quid but that Rosepetals never saw anyone and more than a few had tried and some had wasted that amount just trying.  Apparently, the girls told the bouncers at the beginning of the evening if they were taking visitors or not and sometimes they conveniently forgot or sometimes they would just turn them away, depending if the men were good looking or not but it still cost you to find out.

He had read the rules, there weren't that many but they were quite frank – no sex in the dressing rooms was one of them and he supposed that was how they kept their licence as a dance club and not a strip joint but Alec wasn't going backstage for that purpose and was going to ignore the fact that she never saw anyone because he wasn't even going to pay.
Chapter 3
Rose had noticed the second time she took the stage that a man was standing behind the crowd, bottle in hand and looking slightly disinterested than the rest of the men but the third and subsequent times, he had been at the front and even given her money.  There was a haunted look about him, like he didn't want to be there yet couldn't tear himself away either and was torn between giving up his spot and averting his eyes.  She did the rest of her turns and went to her locker to retrieve her clothes and the money she had made that evening, she never counted it until she was home.

Home was a luxury pad, ten minutes by taxi from the club that cost her £600 a month but was worth it, a far cry from her humble beginnings when she had to get a loan from Donna to buy clothes and make her way to the club the first few nights but as time went on, she had become the recurring star attraction and had money to burn.  She still hadn't got up the courage to tell her mother exactly what she did but had told her she was now a dancer and made good money, which explained her apartment and her sending money to her mother every week and inviting her to stay when she wasn't working.  They had even had two holidays, the first time Jackie had really been away and Rose had met a man but he'd not wanted to stay in touch once they left the hotel complex.  She should have known really, she couldn't admit what she did for a living and he lived a long way away.

Pulling the curtain back over on her side of the dressing room she shared with Alice, she tucked the notes into her extra wallet and smiled at her friend.  She had two more nights to do then she was off again and was about to ask Alice what she was doing with her days off, which were different to hers, when a knock came on the door.  Neither Rose or the other woman accepted men back to their dressing room, Rose went to answer.  It was Mick.

"Rose, I know you don't see anyone but there's a detective to see you.  Say's his name is Hardy but he won't say what it's about.  Do you want me to show him out?"

That was Mick's way of saying he would show him out head-first into the street for bothering her, policeman or not.

Alice was just leaving.  "No, it's ok, let him in.  Night Alice, see you tomorrow."

The other woman smiled and ducked under Mick's arm.  Rose wondered if the detective had shown his ID to get backstage or had actually paid.   She doubted he had done the latter.  Alec came around the doorway.  Rose recognised him from earlier.

"So detective, what can I do for you?  Am I in any sort of trouble?"

Alec thought she looked even more beautiful than on the stage and now she was wearing jeans and a button down floral top and was putting her jacket on.  He offered to hold her sleeve while she put her arm in it.

"Thanks.  I saw you earlier, you're not here on business are you?"

"No and I'm a detective inspector."  He let go as she put her other arm in her leather jacket, rather expensive, Alec thought.

"I do tell the boys that I don't see visitors, they did tell you that?" she queried.

"Yes but I thought you may make an exception to that rule."

Rose looked at him.  He was tall, lean, needed a shave but looked kind of sexy with it and well dressed, well for this establishment anyway, not many punters came to watch the girls when they were dressed in suits.

Rose regarded him.  "I should have you thrown out you know, getting back here under false pretences.  I really don't take any visitors, nothing personal, detective."

"It's Alec, Alec Hardy and I just wanted to meet you.  Why are you doing this and I know your real name is Rose so why?"

Rose thought not another one.   "It's just a job Alec, that's all.  Now if you'll excuse me, it's past midnight and I have a cab waiting.  Thank you for taking the time to come back and see me but I'm afraid you've wasted your time and probably money, if you paid Mick to come and meet me."

"I didn't pay and I hope I've not wasted my time.  Since it's late, may I at least escort you to your cab?"

"Mick does that, the cabs come and go until the last of us have left."

Alec tried to hide his disappointment and stood his ground.  "Then if you don't meet people backstage, why don't you let me escort you home?"

Rose had been picked up more than once on the pretence of someone seeing her home, hence the fact she no longer saw anyone full stop.  She was halfway out of the door and Alec followed.  Making her way to the stage door, Mick saw the detective following her and put himself inbetween him and Rose.

"Rose, do you want me to keep him here until you're in your cab?  One will be here any minute, Lucy has just taken one."

Alec was looking at her and something in his eyes, something that made Rose relent but she didn't know just why.  He had a pained look on his face, like he was defeated but not about to give up.

"No, it's ok, let him past."

Mick moved to allow Alec to pass him, giving him the evil eye for getting in his way.  He was hooked on her and he knew it, he hadn't stood a chance once he saw her photo in the doorway and when he had seen her on stage, he knew he was a goner.  He knew 1000s of men probably felt exactly the same way as he did and had tried and failed to get her attention but she had moved to the doorway, a watchful eye being kept on her by the bouncer, who was being more than a bit protective of her but he was just doing his job.

A cab pulled up and Rose turned around.   "You coming then, detective?"

Alec moved forward and followed her to the cab, opening the door for her then as she moved over, got in beside her.  He noticed she didn't give her address to the driver, he thought they were contract cabs and knew all the women.  The driver struck up a conversation with her, his eyes wandering to the mirror.

"Had a good night Rose?"

"Yeah, not bad Fred, how about you?"

Fred laughed.  "Nah, not until you lot come out of the club, then we go back for all the drunken punters who barely know where they live.  Never known you to have company."

Rose just laughed and sat back, she wasn't getting into that conversation.  Ten minutes later, the cab stopped outside a fancy apartment block and Alec looked at Rose.  Did she mean for him to follow or stay in the cab.   When she just sat there, he realised she wanted him to let her out since her side was on the road.

He got out and she slid across the back seat, taking Alec's pre-offered hand as he helped her out.  "Goodnight Fred, maybe see you tomorrow?"

"Night Rose, have a good one, what's left of it."

The cabbie smiled and headed back to the club to make a few quid for himself out of the punters who always told him to keep the change.  He'd never seen anyone in the cab with Rose before and wondered what was so special about this bloke.  At least they hadn't been snogging and trying to have sex in the back of the cab like some of them did.

Rose keyed in the security code and entered the lobby.  A night manager was on duty at a small desk and greeted her and Alec thought this must cost her a small fortune.  The man came out from behind the desk and greeted her, pressing for the lift before she had even reached it.

"Good evening Miss Tyler, how are you?"  He looked directly at Alec.

Alec didn't know whether he should show his ID or not.

"Great Nigel, thanks for asking.  Having a quiet night?"  She knew he had a TV behind the counter and who could blame him, even though he was meant to be watching the security cameras.

Nigel just grinned as the lift doors opened.  Alec now knew her name was Rose Tyler and it seemed she did live alone.  Both the cab driver and the manager plus the bouncer all made it quite plain that she never took anyone home with her, well not from the club and the way the man had just looked at him as they got into the lift, it was a first her bringing anyone home with her – period.

They rode to the third floor and Rose silently opened the door.  Alec saw a stunning view of the river and the town beyond, all lit up and now knew why she had chosen the location.  He still hated the water but he could look down on it and see all the lights reflected in it.  He thought she must sit for hours staring at the view.  She threw her jacket on the sofa and kicked off her shoes and crossed to the cabinet, getting out a bottle of white wine and two glasses.

He knew he shouldn't drink any more but she may be insulted if he refused.  He would just take a sip or two to please her then casually put the glass down but she took out a bottle of lemonade and filled the glasses and handed him one.  She had hardly said a word since they left the club and he wasn't one for small talk really so he took the glass and held his hand out to her.  She took it and he led her to the window.

"I can see why you live here, it's a great view.  How long have you been here?"

"Nearly two years, the spoils of my trade you might say.  You asked me why I did it, why I danced almost naked in front of all those men every night, well four nights a week.  It's to have a lifestyle like this because I had nothing Alec, I had no money, no job and no boyfriend.  Now I've got two out of three and I'm happy with that arrangement."

"Why no boyfriend?"

Rose laughed and took a drink.  "Are you kidding me?  You've seen what type of men go in there and you've probably gathered I never bring anyone back with me.  The men that go in there go for one reason, to think about the women that are dancing for them, imagining only for them and what they'd like to do with us.  Use us then throw us away.  I don't expect to be treated any differently, given what I do for a living.  Are you one of those types Alec?"

At least she wasn't accusing him of being the stereotype that frequented clubs like where she worked.  He wasn't like that and had been practically dragged in by work colleagues and about to leave when he saw her.  Now he couldn't resist her and hated the fact other men had stared at her and thought he may just as well leave now, not that he even knew where he was except by the river somewhere.

"Do you think I am Rose?  Do I look like the normal blokes who go in there?"

Rose looked at him.  "No, you don't so why were you even there?  Your mates been bragging that they've been and you wanted to see what they were talking about or are you considering organising a raid and arresting everyone?"

"No but should I?   If you really want to know, three men I work with dragged me there for my birthday, I didn't go there voluntarily.  I was going to go home, on my own and count another year off my calendar.  Satisfied?  I should go now, if you tell me where we actually are?"

"Sorry.  I just get loads of men trying it on with excuses to get backstage to meet me, I stopped that a long time ago and you're the first, that's why the cab driver and Mick looked at you.  Happy birthday Alec."  She raised her glass and took a drink.

She put her glass down and turned around to face him properly and touched his cheek, then leaned over and still holding him with one hand, kissed the other cheek.  Then she pulled the blinds over and put on the lamp and went back to him.

"You could at least finish your drink Alec."

How could he tell her?   "Well, I've had my limit for one night, I didn't want to offend you by refusing one."

Rose laughed.  "It's ok, I didn't really want one either but I'm a bit out of practise in entertaining men.  I thought you'd maybe want one."

Alec thought he should really go but something was holding him back.  His desire to at least get a kiss out of her for his birthday and not just one on his cheek, though it had been nice.

She picked up her phone.  "Do you want me to call a cab for you?"

"Do you want me to leave already?  I thought you might dance, just for me seeing it's my birthday still, well technically."

Rose smiled.  "Why not?"

She walked over to the Hi-Fi and selected a track.  She unfastened her top and pulled it over her head, revealing her pink lacy bra then she unfastened her jeans and stepped out of them, showing her matching knickers and Alec sat down on the sofa before he fell down.  Dancing slowly to the slow music, Alec watched her every move, twist and turn as she swayed in front of him.  He knew he shouldn't be even doing this, he knew he had to try and keep his heart rate as low as possible or he really would have to have that operation his GP had talked to him about.  He knew why he was so scared of having it, his chances were slim of coming through it and Rose wasn't helping.

The music stopped and Rose stepped nearer, her legs now touching his knees.

"Dance with me Alec?"

He shook his head as she grabbed his arms to pull him up.  He was surprisingly heavy since he looked skinny and she managed to get him to his feet.  Another slow tune began, very low that Alec thought that even paying top money wouldn't stop your neighbours complaining about the loud music and she most definitely didn't want to answer the door dressed, or rather not dressed like that.  They swayed together to the rhythm, Alec had tossed his jacket onto the chair and Rose was unfastening his top buttons, his tie being in his pocket from earlier when he had first seen her on the stage and thought he couldn't breathe.

His shirt was halfway off his shoulders as Rose admired the hairs on his chest, splaying her hands over it and dotting light kisses over it.  He was much taller than her, she was on her tip-toes as they stood still, the music still playing.  Alec knew he should try and calm himself down before he did too much damage to himself but he couldn't.  He also knew he could do nothing further than they were already doing without his admittance there was something actually wrong with him, maybe she wouldn't take it any further but on the other hand, she'd said she hadn't invited a man back for a long time, maybe she was breaking with that tradition.

Rose now had his shirt off him and had already undone the cuffs without him realising as she brushed up as close as she could get to him and was swaying to the music again, her arms now around his slim waist and halfway up his back.  He could feel her through the thin material of her bra and felt the uncovered parts of her on his own skin.  It was like having a waking dream where he knew the things that were happening to him couldn't really possibly be happening but they were.  He found his arms were around her back as she pressed closer to him and she moved one arm to reach back and placed one of her hands on his, indicating for him to unfasten her bra.

He did as indicated and the item fell loose, he could feel her soft skin on his chest as he pulled it away and slung it onto the sofa then with her still free hand, she reached for his trousers, struggling one-handed with the fastener and having to move her other hand to accomplish her mission.   She looked up at him and smiled as if to say it had been a while since she had done this and unfastened his belt.  Rose moved to let the garment fall to the floor, his shoes still in the way.  Carefully, he sat down with Rose still attached to him until she let go for a second while he toed off his shoes and giggling, she pulled them from around his ankles.  Then still giggling, she pushed him back against the sofa cushions and sat on his lap, her legs either side of his and lay forward on him, touching his chest as she looked at him.

Without saying a word, she reached for his lips and sucked on the bottom one, eliciting a moan from him as he flipped her over onto the sofa, carefully avoiding her falling on the floor although it flashed into his mind they may be better off on the floor the way things were going and he lay her down, pushing her towards the back of the sofa and carefully got on top of her, trying to avoid crushing her.

Their lips found each other as she pressed against his chest, she moaned into his mouth, something incoherent that may or may not have resembled she wanted him as she gasped for breath.  Rose let out a loud moan as they did and he managed to stop himself taking her right there as she ruffled his hair.

"Hi," was all she said as she slung her arm around his neck.  "Shall we continue this in my bedroom or do you want to do some more investigating?"

Alec smiled back.  How could he tell her that having sex with her was virtually impossible, it went against his doctor's orders as did any form of physical activity that involved getting all hot and bothered and he was already past boiling point that he wanted to go all the way.  Maybe, just maybe if he let her do all the work, he could avoid being rushed to the emergency department at the local hospital.

He slowly moved away from her, looking down at her body lying there, wanting him.  "I'd say that was an excellent idea but I don't carry any protection with me, I don't usually follow women home, I don't make a habit of it."

Rose smiled as she took his hand to pull herself up.  Gathering their clothes, Rose led him to her bedroom, which was draped mostly in pink and blue, they threw them onto the chair, Rose diving onto the bed and scrambling beneath the bedclothes.  She was going to expect him to follow through, though whether she had heard him say the word 'protection', he didn't know.

"Got that covered Alec, you know, just in case I change my mind, like I did tonight with you."

Alec smiled.  "Well about that Rose, I wasn't quite prepared for what just happened in the living room, it was really nice, maybe we could go for more of that."

Rose sniggered.  She could do that but she really wanted to feel him, it had been a long time since she had a man in her bed.  Oh well, you have to start somewhere so she grabbed his neck and pulled him onto her.

"Ok then, since it's still your birthday, officially until you leave here."

She grabbed hold of him again and Alec chuckled and dove down to get his revenge as Rose squealed as he bit her and playfully smacked him, her thoughts were lost at his touch.

"Alec, want you now, please?"

Alec smiled, this was going to be crunch time and he knew it.  "Want you on top Rose but there's just one thing."

Rose looked at him.   "What's wrong Alec?  I told you it didn't matter about protection."

"It's not that, it's just if we do this, I may need my medication, it's in my inside jacket pocket.  Just so you know what to do if I ask and I really, really hope I don't need it, well not until afterwards.  Are you ok with that?"

He moved onto his back, waiting for her reaction.  He was hoping she would be ok and not scream obscenities at him and tell him to get the hell out.  Instead, she moved onto her side and saw the look on his face.  He was so cute and she really wanted him, not just because he was the first decent man she had met in a long time but the fact he knew what she did for a living and was sort of ok with it.

"Oh, I'm sorry Alec, you should have said.  How many do you have to take?"

"Just one, I have a bit of a heart problem and I don't know why I even let myself get this far.  I can go now, if you want, if this is too embarrassing for you."

Rose smiled.  "Don't be so daft Alec, you look fine to me but if you have a problem, it's ok, I'll go easy on you.  Just tell me if you want to stop and if you can't tell me, shove me off and I'll get the message. Ok?"

Alec laughed.  Was she kidding him?  It was the best offer he'd had, considering he'd never even attempted to get this far since he had found out about his impending doom if he even dared get half the chance to lie naked with a gorgeous woman who was ok with the fact he was at death's doorstep if he did have sex.  He just nodded and pulled her down on top of him, feeling her pressing into him.  He managed to say 'Ok' back to her and thought he was done for.

Chapter 4
If Alec thought she was going easy on him, he would have told her not to bother as she moved gently on him and he was using very little effort although it wasn't quite what he had wanted but close enough for him to hear her softly moaning his name as she melted and Rose lost all coherent thoughts of him not being a well man.  As first times went, she was happy enough, he made her feel sensations she'd never had before though she had to admit it had been rather a long time.

She clung hold of him, riding out the tidal wave that washed over her, giggling to herself at the feeling as it seemed to last forever.  Alec was quite pleased he had lasted without actually collapsing, that would have been embarrassing to say the least since they were both naked.

Rose looked at him, her eyes still slightly watery and smiled at him.  "That was amazing Alec, I would never have known there was anything wrong with you if you hadn't told me.  How long have you been ill?"

"A while, it's my heart, irregular heartbeat, I'm supposed to just take it easy, no strenuous activities but no-one knows about it, except you and my GP.  If my bosses find out, I'm finished and I'm working an important case that I have to see through."

"But it could kill you Alec, why don't you get something done about it?  Is a case so important that you'd risk your life on it?"

"You sound just like my doctor.  You don't know him do you?" Alec smiled, pushing her off him and onto her back.

He leaned down to kiss her skin, wanting to take his time but he knew it was very late and he still had to go to work the next morning and face the question of where he disappeared to.  He was going to say nothing that he had gone home with the most exquisite woman he had seen in his life and had been to bed with her.  The things he actually wanted to do with her would certainly kill him in his present condition.

Rose looked up at him, smiling.  She seemed to guess it was way past his bedtime.

"Alec, do you have to go to work tomorrow?  If you do, I understand, really, I'm used to the different hours, I should let you get some sleep.  Will you stay with me?"

"If you want me to, then I'll get a taxi to my place and get changed, my colleagues from last night will get suspicious if I turn up in the same shirt as yesterday, then I'll get a taxi to the station, tell them I was too drunk to drive home last night."

He smiled at her, he so wanted to just take his time over her but he didn't think she would ever want to see him again, not in his current state of health.  He reached for his mobile and checked the time, it was 1.40 am and he would have to leave at eight to get home, quickly change his clothes and get to work for nine so he changed the alarm and put the phone down, reaching over to kiss her as she pulled him towards her.

"Wake me up before you leave Alec, please, don't just go.  I'm going to need your phone number."

"Why?"

Rose smacked him playfully.  "Goodnight Alec, get some sleep, I'll tell you why in the morning.  Oh, you thought this was a one night stand, didn't you?  If that's all you want Alec, it's ok, it was your birthday after all, I don't expect you'd want to be seen out with an exotic dancer."

"What?  Is that what you think?  Why do you think so little of yourself Rose?  It doesn't matter to me what you do and yes, I'll give you my number because I do want to see you again, unless that was all you wanted?"

"No, I told you, I don't normally let men bring me home and then have them in my bed and don't think because I was going easy on you that it didn't count, you're far better than some of the men I used to go out with.  Most of them were too drunk at the time it didn't really count, they never got half as far as you did."

She smiled at him and ran her fingers through his beard.  "It makes you look older Alec, you should give it a trim, make yourself look younger, because I don't care how old you are, I prefer older men but you're so sexy and cute it's not fair on other men, they don't stand a chance against you."

She ran her hand over his chest and noticed him flinch as she got to his heart and he tried to move her hand away.  She fought against it and rested her palm and felt it beating slightly faster than it should be.

"You need to get help Alec, before it's too late.  I'll help you, if you want?  You need someone to trust you can trust me and I'll trust you, I don't go around telling people what I do for a living.  Even my mother just thinks I'm an ordinary dancer, she'd literally kill me if she found out the truth.  Please Alec, trust me?"

She pulled him down and kissed him.  He needed someone, that much was certain and he couldn't think of anyone better than Rose, if she was willing to take him on but he wasn't sure he could cope with all those men leering at her every night.  Rose fell asleep, Alec's arm under her as he lay on his side after putting his shorts back on and passing Rose a clean pair he retrieved from the top drawer for her and he smiled.  He felt safe with her, she would never tell anyone his secret, that he was certain of and as for his arm under her, that was probably her way of saying he wasn't getting away without saying goodbye to her.

Despite only a few hours sleep, Alec slid his arm from under Rose, who was now facing him with her head nestled on his shoulder and neck.  He laid her gently on the pillow and got out of bed, he had no intention of just leaving but gave her a few minutes to wake up.  She opened her eyes and smiled.

"Not creeping away are you Alec?"

He turned around to fasten his shirt, Rose admiring the hairs on his chest.  "Wouldn't dream of it."

He picked up his phone and put it in his jacket pocket and picked up her mobile from the dresser.  He tapped his number and left it on the screen.  "I have to go now Rose, call me later and give me your number.  Are you working tonight?"

"Yeah, tonight and tomorrow, then I'm off until Thursday night.  Will you be coming to watch?"

"No, I can't Rose, I'm really sorry but I'd just get jealous, I admit it.  I'll come and pick you up though, after you finish?  Same time as last night?"

"Yes, I'd like that and please, don't get jealous, I take no notice of them.  I'll just pretend I'm dancing for you and when we get back, I will dance only for you.  Pass my phone, I'll call a cab for you."

Alec passed her the phone, sitting on the edge of the bed as she put his number in her contacts and called for a cab.  She put her robe on and walked out of the bedroom and switched the kettle on then Alec got his shoes on and they walked to the door.  Rose put her arms around him and kissed him.

"See you tonight and Alec, if you change your mind, I'll tell Mick to let you in and not to charge you for it."

Alec smiled.  He may just take her up on that but he would have to pay to get in and wasn't sure he actually wanted to watch the other woman just to see her, well he would meet her at the stage door at the very least because now he had someone in his life again.  He managed to get to the station just after nine, claiming he'd ordered a cab and it had been delayed, his cohorts from last night not believing him and saying he must have got off with one of the dancers and had been shagging her.  He wasn't going to give them the satisfaction of naming Rose, no-one knew her real name and if he did happen to mention he had a girlfriend, he certainly wasn't going to say she was also known as Rosepetals.

He wouldn't be able to introduce her anyway, the men would recognise her and derive her for her profession and it wouldn't do his already fading reputation any good to admit who he was seeing outside work and that was going to be a challenge.  If he talked about her, he would say she worked in a bar, they wouldn't be any wiser and it was sort of true, well almost.  He wondered if she would talk about him when she got to work that night, although he hoped she wouldn't tell her friends that he was a detective, the one working on the Sandbrook case.

The day went slowly for him.  Going over the same old things, nothing new was happening, some old witnesses were re-questioned and anyone without an alibi were being rounded up.  He finally got home, debating whether to give in and go to the club until at just after nine, he couldn't stand it any longer.  Rose had sent him a message, giving him her number and he'd saved it to his contacts saying she would wait inside the club until he came to collect her and not get a taxi.

Rose got to the club at her usual time, chatting to her dressing room companion and never saying a word about Alec, she knew word would spread like wildfire if she mentioned she was seeing a detective, especially after she found out what he was actually investigating and had kicked herself for not recognising him from the news and was surprised no-one else had spotted him.  There again, she doubted the type that came in here actually could comprehend the news and would find it difficult to handle a quiz programme.

She saw Mick just as she was going out for her first turn.  "Hiya Mick, can you do me a huge favour?"

"Sure Rose, anything for you.  You want me to keep that detective from coming back here then?" he laughed.  "If you do, I can kick him out for you."

Rose smiled.  "Nah, quite the opposite actually, I was going to ask if you'd let him and not take any money from him, I know it's asking a lot."

"Right, never expected to see you asking anyone to come back but I'll make an exception just for you, so long as I'm here and it's not Jerry.  If it's Jerry though, your boyfriend will have to pay or get rough with him and show his ID again."

"He didn't get rough with you did he?  To get back here last night?"  Rose hadn't thought Alec had it in him to get rough, considering.

Mick laughed.  "I was just winding you up Rose.  No, he just showed his ID and said he needed to talk to you so I just let him pass, don't want a run-in with the law, do I?"

Rose was relieved.  "Thanks Mick, catch you later.  If he doesn't come backstage, he'll be waiting outside for me when I finish so I won't need a cab tonight unless he leaves his car at home."

Rose started to walk off but Mick called after her.  "Hey Rose, you serious about this bloke?"

She didn't know, maybe she was.  It had just happened, she'd not intended to let him get any further than the sofa and even then she had not intended to strip off and dance in her underwear just for him but he had looked so despondent, like life had let him down and now she knew the reason why.

"That remains to be seen Mick."

She did her first and second sets but there was no sign of Alec as she looked amongst the sea of faces of the men who had filthy looks on their faces.  Some she had seen before, some new ones, all looking at her and drooling.  She blocked them out as usual as she started her second dance, wondering if Alec was going to show up before her next turn but he wouldn't know when she would be appearing, they varied the turns of the girls to add variety, it wouldn't do to have set times for them every night so each night they worked, they rotated so no-one could guess when they were going to be and they weren't told until they arrived.

On her third set, she walked from her dressing room, escorted by Jerry and she thought she caught sight of Alec but he looked different, standing where he had been the night before, a bottle in his hand.   He had given in and gone down to his car and tried to remember where the club was, getting lost and then discovering it by accident and hoping he wouldn't get pulled up by a uniform for curb crawling as he stopped several times to see where he was.  He parked in the street, not many cars around and supposed most men came there to get sloshed and got cabs.  He paid the entrance fee, which he was surprised at since he had been paid in last night and had a quick look around on his way to the bar but there was no sign of Rose.

He'd had a brainstorm at lunchtime, forgoing his food and going to a barbershop, got his beard trimmed and his hair re-styled so his fringe was gone and his hair swept back and when the stylist had finished, he looked ten years younger, despite his still rather pale look but he knew he couldn't do anything about that.  Then he had time to call in the men's shop near the station and bought a new white shirt, with subtle greyish stripes down it, a new tie and some cologne.

He was going to get a snazzy new blue chequered suit but didn't have time to try it on so he was going to go back the next day, maybe getting Rose to come with him to give him her opinion.  Well she had said he was looking older than he was, it had been her idea, he was just trying to please her.  It had been a while since he'd had to impress a young blonde, in fact any woman at all and he wasn't going to fail.

Then it was announced Rose was about to take the stage and he made his way to the front, where he had stood the previous night and saw her passing the gap between the stage and the partition and he suppressed a smile, not wanting to gloat that he had spent last night with her.  He was sure all the men in the club would have killed for a night in Rose's bed and she had chosen him.  She could have refused to let him take her home, got the bouncers to throw him out of the club, she could have left him in the cab or outside her expensive apartment or even mocked him for having something wrong with him and kicked him out but no, she wanted to sleep with him and take what he had to offer and furthermore, she wanted him to come and watch her dance again and take her home afterwards.

He'd had to admit he was a little surprised at her reaction to him being ill so he had done his best to live up to her expectations, somewhat relieved he'd not landed himself in the emergency department of the local hospital but she had kept her word and been gentle with him.  Now he was repaying that with smartening himself up, making himself look younger and making an effort not to arrest everyone in the room and lock them up for leering at his new girlfriend, that's if she wanted to be.

He stood staring at her as she took off her robe, revealing she was wearing a blue g-string as she began to dance slowly to the music, Alec was captivated by her and it seemed she did indeed block everyone else out and was dancing just for him and later on, when he had got her to his place, she would do just that because tonight, she would dance naked for him while he touched her.

She left the stage after her second dance and Alec went to find a table, relieved to find his colleagues were not there again.  Then came Rose's final turn and he could take her home with him but he was unaware of a man at the bar who had been watching her from a distance.  Mickey Smith had wandered into that part of town and was walking past, looking for a bar to go drown his sorrows that his latest in a long line of flings after he fell out with Rose had left him again, saying he loved the pub and football more than her and never putting two and two together and thinking that was the common complaint in every one of them and saw no reason that should have made any difference.

He had walked past the club then doubled back, swearing he had just seen a photo of Rose in the window.  He blinked, yes it was her with the name 'Rosepetals' above the picture of her posed over a chair.  "What the hell?" he asked out loud, then closed his mouth.  He had seen her mother quite often, he knew Rose had moved out, to a better part of town and got her own fancy place and Jackie had told him she was a dancer in some fancy nightclub but he never expected this – Rose was an exotic dancer.  Jackie would kill her if she found out, well not actually commit murder but she would never talk to her daughter again.

He had begrudgingly paid to get in, watching other woman until Rose had come on the first time, never attempting to get nearer in case she saw him and think he was spying on her, which he'd not intended to do.  He had cringed as men tucked money into her garter, why was she doing this?  Jackie had bragged how well Rose was doing, that she'd taken her on holidays, sent her money every week and even spent a few days with her in her luxurious apartment by the river.  Jackie had even said she had met some bloke on holiday but it hadn't worked out but apart from that, she didn't have a regular boyfriend.

Now he knew why and it was no wonder, judging by the type of men that went in there but by Rose's third set, a well dressed man had made his way to the front of the stage, bottle in hand and had stood out from the rest of the crowd.  Imperceptibly, Rose had been watching the man, he could tell somehow and he had felt a pang of jealousy and had felt like just going up there and shouting her name and pulling the man away but he had been made to read the club rules and knew he would get thrown out if he did.

He thought he would wait until it was almost closing time and try to get backstage although he'd heard the bouncers made you pay and some of the dancers never saw anyone in their dressing rooms but he was going to try or wait outside for her if he couldn't get in.  Her name was announced again and the same man he'd seen earlier got up from his table and went to the front of the small stage so Mickey knew the man was doing it on purpose.  He debated whether to move closer to the stage but Rose would see him so he waited for a crowd to go forward and got up, standing at the back.

Rose came back out, seeing Alec but not daring to have a hint of recognition for him, she knew it was frowned on and the men got disgruntled and complained so as she started her dance, a few men waved notes at her and tucked them into her garter then Alec slowly took money out of his wallet and stepped nearer and very quickly put the money under the item, Rose feeling his fingers on her leg and longing for her job to be over so he could do it properly, it was all she had thought about all night, of him kissing her and making love to her again, she no longer regarded last night as a bit of a fling, he had been amazing despite his protests he had been ill.

Alec had just taken his fingers from her leg when he felt someone jostle him from behind.  He knew it was against club policy for the punters to hassle each other and thought it was one of the bouncers but he turned around to the offender to see a dark skinned man with a close haircut staring at him, an irritated look on his face.  Rose had seen and immediately saw Mickey but had to carry on dancing.

Mickey covered his mouth and whispered in Alec's ear, "I'm watching you mate, hands off."

Alec knew he wasn't a bouncer, they all had badges.  He shrugged the man's hand off his shoulder, just in time to see one of the actual bouncers looking over and beginning to move so he backed off and stepped away, not answering him, he would deal with him later.  Nothing was going to stop him coming and watching her if he wanted and knew picking a fight would not help his cause or his health.  All the punters knew the rules and since he had not retaliated, the bouncer caught hold of the other man and made him step away.  It was the same bouncer who had let him backstage last night and maybe Rose had managed to have a word with him.
Chapter 5
Mickey was not going to let that just slide, he knew he couldn't start a fight or he would get thrown out but he was going to watch the man.  He knew Rose would have seen and be angry he had shown up after all this time but he was going to go backstage and talk to her or wait by the door for her.

Rose was leaving the stage and putting her robe on, stunned at what had just happened.  How on earth had Mickey discovered where she was working?  Then she had seen him approach Alec and was afraid that one of them would start a fight or get thrown out at the very least.  She went back to her dressing room and went to her locker, giving Alec time to get to the stage door to meet her or he may just come backstage again.  She was about to go in the door when Mick called her.

"Rose, you'd better come here."  Bouncers were not allowed in the dressing rooms.

Rose went to see what he wanted.  "Your boyfriend nearly got in a fight, best warn him to keep out of it next time, some other punter took the huff when he put money in your garter."

"Yeah, thanks Mick, I saw what happened, I'll tell him but he didn't start it."

"I know but rules are rules, you know that Rose.  He had the sense to back off but I'll let him in when he comes round."

"Thanks."

She went into her dressing room and quickly got changed, waiting to see if he was going to come round or just wait by the door.  Her friend had just come in when there was a knock on the door.  Alice went to answer it.

"Hey Alice, tell Rose her boyfriend's here will you?"

That amused Alice, who turned around to see a red-faced Rose Tyler.

"You been holding out on me Rose?" Alice laughed.  "Not that dishy bloke from last night?"

She turned back to Mick.  "Yeah, I've told her and you were holding out on us, not saying Rose had a boyfriend."

Mick laughed.   "Oh yeah, well here's some more juicy news."

Rose stopped him.   "Mick, tell him I'll be out in a minute, thanks."  Then she scowled at him for almost spilling the beans that Alec nearly got into a fight with her ex.

"Sure thing Rose but there's more, the other bloke was asking Jerry to let him in but he wouldn't pay and you know Jerry, he held him at arms length and told him you didn't accept visitors but he had just seen your bloke being let in by me.  So he's still at the other door ranting and raving saying if you don't see anyone, why was he being let in and Jerry said it was your call as to who you let in."

"Did you tell Jerry that you let my boyfriend in?"

"No, course not, like I said, it's up to you who you let in, you let one bloke in all the time you've been here, I say that's cause for celebration."

Mick grinned then went out, winking to Alec who was waiting just outside and seeing the other bouncer at the other end trying to keep the man who had picked on him at bay.  A few minutes later, after worming her way out of telling Alice she had gone home with the man last night but he wasn't her boyfriend, Alice sincerely doubting she was telling the whole truth, Rose came out and greeted Alec with a kiss on the cheek.  She would have let him inside the dressing room but Alice was getting changed.

"Hi, sorry about what happened earlier, I saw what went on.  You ok?"

"I'm fine.  Are you ready to leave?"

Rose reached up and put her hands through his recently cut hair then onto his chin.  "Looking good Alec, I'm impressed."

Alec smiled.   "My car's out front, I don't know how you get around to the other entrance."

"Oh, it's easy, it's just on the corner, I'll show you, I can't walk through the club."

She took his hand and walked towards where Mick and Jerry were now seeing the other girls out to their cabs.

Then she heard a familiar voice.  "Rose, wait. I wanted to talk to you."

Was he kidding?  After over two years and him now picking a fight with Alec, he wanted to talk to her?

"Well I don't want to talk to you.  Mick, will you keep him until after I've left?"

Mick grinned, it had been two days since he actually threw someone out and he was itching to go.  He just lost out earlier so he was ready.  He faced Mickey.  "You heard her mate, on your way before I remove you myself, go back into the club, you're not getting out this way."

Mick knew it would take the man a while to make his way back through the club and Rose would be gone.

Mickey shouted after her.  "What's he got that's so special about him, why did you let him back here?"

Rose was going to turn around and answer but Alec put his arm around her and stopped her.  He whispered in her ear.

"A difficult ex boyfriend Rose?  You could have warned me, I thought he was going to punch me out there."

Rose smiled and relaxed into his arm and shoulder and let him lead her out into the street.  They crossed over to Alec's car, an SUV type, Rose couldn't tell the colour very well under the street lamps and instead of asking her where she lived, since this morning she'd had a cab sent to just Rose's apartment, Alec guessing she was using the taxi firm that serviced the club Rose just let him drive, guessing they were going to his place.

She didn't mind, after all if he still had to work even though it was Saturday, it made sense, she could get a cab home.  They drove into a district of the town and reached a tree lined street and he pulled into a driveway and in front of a block of flats.  Alec went to help Rose out and they walked up to his flat and kissed as soon as he closed the door.

"I'll make us some tea, then you can tell me why I almost got in a fight over you."

Rose sat on the sofa.  "I'm really sorry Alec but there was nothing to tell you.  I've not seen him for over two years, I swear I haven't.  Mum keeps telling me she's seen him but I wasn't interested.  I had no idea he knew where I was working.  Now he'll tell my mother and she'll disown me and never speak to me again."

Alec sat down and put his arm around her, kissing her cheek.  "It won't make any difference to her Rose, not if she loves you.  Tell her first, before he has the chance.  Will she still be awake?"

"I doubt it, I'll call her in the morning and go meet her somewhere and tell her.  Best not tell her about you yet though, might be a bit too much."

Alec smiled.  Rose noticed how much younger he looked.

"You're not going to keep me a secret as well are you?"  He kissed her cheek.

Rose lay back on the cushions, pulling him down for a proper kiss.  "No but she'll go ballistic about my job, I don't want her to take it out on you."

"Best get it over with Rose, come clean about everything and get it out into the open.  You never said if you really like my new look Rose."

"I thought I'd made that clear when I snogged the life out of you just then," she joked, ruffling his hair.

Alec smiled.  She liked it.  "I have to work in the morning so why don't you meet me for lunch?  Talk to your mother, get her to meet you early then I'll come and join you.  I wanted you to come with me to pick out a new suit I saw, see what you think."

"Really?  Yeah, I'd love to and maybe get you some tight jeans and some t-shirts while we're at it."

"Hold on, I didn't say I was buying a whole new wardrobe you know, I'm not quite ready for that yet."

Rose giggled.  "Well maybe just a pair of extra tight jeans then, to show off your cute bum."

"Oh, you think I've got a cute bum?  Well it's not as cute as yours and believe me, I've spent two nights staring at it."

Rose picked a cushion up and threw it at him.

"I'll go make that tea now before I have to arrest you for assaulting a police officer."

Rose giggled again and threw her jacket onto the chair and took her shoes off.  Alec came back with the tea.

"You got some music, so I can dance for you?"

"Oh yes Rose, I have music and I would love you to dance for me.  First though, I want to be the one to undress you tonight."

Rose let him undress her until she was in just her underwear.  Then she turned around for him to unfasten her bra.  Alec went to put the music on and Rose began to dance for him, getting nearer so he could put his hands on her hips as she moved in front of him, his hands wandering down.

Rose leaned and ruffled his hair again and Alec grabbed her and pulled her on top of him, letting out a wicked laugh.  Rose pretended to battle him but he turned her around until she was against the cushions.  She pulled him down for a kiss.

Then she whispered, "Enough dancing Alec, I want you."

"Oh Rose, you'll be the death of me at this rate, I won't survive your dancing if you keep doing this to me.  What am I going to do with you?"

She pulled him down again, putting her finger on his lips and whispered back, "Anything you like Alec."

He got up and turned the music off and pulled her up from the sofa.  Leading her into his bedroom he whispered back, "You might regret saying that Rose."

Rose climbed into his bed and watched him take his shirt off.  He definitely looked younger than last night, maybe it wasn't just the shave and the new hairstyle, maybe he just needed someone who cared about him.  He left his shorts on, figuring they could maybe fool around for a bit as she went to lay on him.

They kissed and Alec wanted to try to be the one on top but Rose wasn't having any of it.

"Don't be daft Alec, it's ok, really, I don't mind.  You're still amazing and it's a long time since I felt like this so just relax.  You don't have anything to prove to me.  I happen to like being the one that's on top so when you get better, you're going to have to fight me for it.  That's if you want me to stick around?"

Alec thought he was hearing things.  "Yes, I do want you to stick around but maybe after I get better, you might just have your hands full."

"Alec Hardy, you are so full of yourself."

With that she kissed him again and by mutual agreement, got down to being serious as Alec smiled wickedly at her, knowing what she was going through.

Rose pulled herself away slowly, savouring every moment of the aftermath and moved over onto her back.  Alec was still reeling, he never even thought it was possible any more and was trying to calm himself without reaching for his pills.  After a few moments, Rose was on her side, looking rather concerned he hadn't yet moved but knowing he was ok, her hand was on his chest, he was breathing steadily.

Alec was glad she wasn't repeatedly asking him if he was ok, he'd never felt better in his life and it would be easy to forget he was ill around her.  He felt her finger drawing circles on his chest and grabbed her hand, then moved onto his side to face her.

"Hi, are you ok Alec?  I didn't go to fast for you did I?"

Alec smiled.   "Are you inferring something by any chance?"

Rose bit her lip.   "No, not at all.  Seriously Alec, whatever you are working on is not worth the risk and I wouldn't want you to leave it until it's too late to do anything about it.  You have to get help and soon."  She leaned across to suck on his bottom lip.  "I've just found you, I don't want to lose you.  I'm not done with you yet."

Alec smiled, feeling his bottom lip starting to swell slightly.  That would take some explaining in the morning unless it went down and he swore she'd done it on purpose.

"I should hope not, there's plenty left in me but I can't give up yet Rose, I'm going to get through the case and then I'll take some time off and get something done. Ok?"

"Well just make sure you do and anything I can do to help, just tell me.  I'm here for you Alec."

She took his hand and laced her fingers through his.  Alec leaned over and kissed the back of her hand.  "You're already doing it Rose and I know you're here for me, just as I'll try not to pick a fight with your ex boyfriend if he comes back but I can't go in that club any more, I can't sit there and watch other men staring at you while you dance.  I want you all to myself and I know I'm sounding possessive right now but that's how I feel.  Tell me I'm wrong to want that."

"I can't tell you you're wrong, it's kind of sweet but you know it means nothing to me Alec, all those eyes on me and men drooling over me, I'm coming back with you and you alone.  Just don't go all freaky on me and get into a jealous rage in the club, I don't want to have to call an ambulance, just imagine the crew's reaction, you having a heart problem in a place like that."

Alec had to smile, she was making light of it and his feelings for her were running wild.  "Yes, that would cause quite a stir but like I said, it's best I stay away from the club.  What are you going to do if he comes back tomorrow night?"

"I'm not doing anything Alec, I'm with you now, I stopped seeing Mickey over two years ago, there is nothing that can tempt me to go back.  Like I said, you're so cute and sexy, no-one stands a chance against you."

Rose settled down, wrapped in his arms and sprawled over him.  Alec had his alarm set, he could go in when he like on Saturdays and he would go meet Rose for lunch so he could face her mother, if they were still talking after Rose told her what she had been hiding for over two years and if her ex didn't get to her first.

Rose woke up early and slipped out of bed, going to make him some tea and toast before he went to work.  He woke up and wandered into the kitchen in his shorts and t-shirt and put his arms around her, kissing her neck.

"Mmm, I could get used to this Rose, you'd better be careful."

Rose smiled and turned around and kissed him.  "If it isn't my cute detective.  Did you sleep ok?"

"Fine, now I have someone to keep an eye on me, you'd better not let me persuade you into taking the job on full time."  He thought she would be annoyed at him making assumptions.

"Then you'd better not ask me or you might just regret it."

She wriggled free and rescued the bread from the toaster.  After putting the plate on the table she ruffled his hair before sitting down.

"What if I do ask you Rose, is it too soon to assume you actually want the job of looking after me?"

Rose regarded him over her mug of coffee, she had made tea for Alec as he had put a teabag in his mug.  She guessed he had to avoid coffee.

"Well, it's going to be tough but someone has to do it, I reckon I'm up to it up but you may find you have to change some of your ways, if we're going to do this properly."

"Such as?"

"To start with, I work four nights a week, Wednesday to Saturday so you'd have to let me go to work and you'd want to come and pick me up which means late nights for you and I'm not sure that's a good idea so we'd have to negotiate on that point but the other nights, well we could divide our time between your place and mine, maybe go out for a meal and have proper dates but we'd have to stay well away from the club.  Then what if you want to introduce me to your friends?  What will you say I do for a living?"

"Don't worry about that, I don't have that many friends you know, the men I went to the club with the other night haven't offered to let me go out with them again.  I have to get going now, I'll meet you at one.  Why don't you take my spare key and let yourself out or do you want me to take you home?"

"It's the other side of town Alec, I'll get a cab, you go if you have to.  I'll lock up after I've cleared breakfast."

Alec went to finish getting dressed, thinking he could definitely make do with this every morning, he missed having someone with him, even if it was only to argue with them, which had caused his illness in the first place.  He had only known Rose a short time but she was willing to take him on and he was more than willing to let her.

They kissed goodbye and Rose tidied his kitchen and made the bed, putting his laundry into the basket in the bathroom and noted there was a fair bit so she took it into the kitchen and loaded the washing machine then made another drink.  This was going to take a while but she was in no hurry.  She decided to call her mother after going into the living room and tell her the truth, well at least try.

"Hi Mum, can you meet me later?"

"Yeah, course I can what's wrong?  You meeting me on a Saturday?" Jackie laughed.

Rose thought obviously Mickey hadn't contacted her yet and it was almost ten.

"Can you meet me at one?  The café in the department store, I want to tell you something and I want you to meet someone.  I have a new boyfriend."

"What?  That's good Rose, you need to settle down.  Who is he then?"

"His name's Alec and he's a detective."

"Really, that's a bit different for you isn't it?  You know, I always thought you'd get back with Mickey some day, I saw him recently, just split from another girl 'cos he wanted to hang out at the pub.  I don't think he'll ever learn."

Rose knew he never would.  She just hoped her mother wouldn't see Mickey on her way to meet her and at least in the store café, she wouldn't be able to rant and rave like she would at home.  She also hoped her mother wouldn't shout out to the whole store what she did for a living.  She thought maybe she should leave it until after her mother had met Alec.

Rose eventually made her way home after sorting Alec's laundry and ironing his shirts when they came out of the tumble dryer, hanging them up.  She laughed to herself thinking he would certainly get used to this but was she ready to take this on as a permanent arrangement?   She had been on her own and was used to doing as she pleased and she had never really looked after a man before, that slob Mickey hadn't really counted, he had things slung everywhere and he never even washed his crockery properly let alone wash his clothes so she had avoided his flat like the plague.

She then made her way into the town, hoping to get chance to talk to her mother before Alec arrived but as her mother sat down, Rose lost her nerve and thought about putting off dropping two bombshells in one go and tell her about what she really did for a living after she met Alec.  That way, if her mother saw that Alec had accepted her for who she now was, maybe she would as well and if she hadn't yet seen Mickey, it was safe to leave it for now.

Jackie Tyler had been on her way into town to meet Rose when Mickey had been out and about, fuming after last night and Rose going off with another man and him getting into a car with her and driving off.  Mickey had just made his way back out of the club as the other man had got into the driver's seat and saw the way Rose looked at him.  He deeply regretted almost getting himself thrown out of the club but it had been too much to keep his jealousy in check.  He saw Rose's mother waiting for the bus into town.  He bet she didn't know what her daughter actually did for a living.

"Jackie!  Have you seen Rose lately?"

"HI Mickey, I'm on my way to meet her, imagine that!  She actually wants to meet on a Saturday, says she had a new boyfriend, in the police, can you believe it?"

Mickey couldn't but now he had some ammunition.  "Oh yeah?  What's he do in the police then?  On the beat?"

"Dunno, she just said his name was Alec and he was in the police, I'm off to meet him."

Jackie had already forgotten who Rose had said her new boyfriend was, it didn't matter, poor Rose, she never kept anyone more than a week or two and the last one was on holiday.  Jackie had been disappointed that the man Rose had met had said goodbye to her on their last night and not wanted to tell her where he lived.  Rose had been crying all the way back home.  She didn't expect this Alec, whatever he was, would be any different.   Rose was a dancer in a club, that usually put men off and more so with someone in a high position like in the police.

Mickey went off with fresh hope, if he could find out who the man was, he could warn him off but being in the police, he himself could end up on the wrong side of the law so he had to tread carefully.  It wouldn't look good on the man's record if he was seeing a twenty six year old exotic dancer who paraded herself mostly naked in front of a crowd of men every night.  He would have some explaining to do, it could be embarrassing and he wouldn't have anyone to blame but himself for being so stupid as to get involved with her.  Mickey was already formulating a plan to discredit who Jackie had said was called Alec.   It was an unusual name, it should be easy to find out who he was.  So he went home and got to work on his computer.
Chapter 6
Alec didn't know why he had bothered going into work, he could have stayed at home and paid more attention to Rose.  Was she now willing to actually be his girlfriend?  Maybe she had just assumed she was, it probably didn't need debating and he was going to bring up the subject and would now refer to her as such unless she protested and corrected him but he doubted that she would.  He sent her a text to ask where they were meeting and said he would be there just after one.

Rose sat down opposite her mother in the department store café, the same one she had met her friends over two years ago.

"Hi Mum, have you been ok?"  She was trying to avoid using the term 'have you seen Mickey?'

"Fine, what's wrong, you're being secretive, what aren't you telling me?"

Rose kept quiet, sipping her latte and waiting for her lunch.

"I saw Micks this morning when I was waiting for the bus, he asked about you."

"So what?  I don't care Mum, I told you, I've got a new boyfriend, he'll be here soon so be nice to him.  Look, I know I don't keep men for more than a week or two but I'm not going back to Mickey.  He turned up last night where I work, did he tell you that?  I think he was spying on me since his latest girlfriend dumped him but I had him thrown out of the club.   I've met Alec, he's nice, he's kind and he accepts what I do for a living."

Jackie was stunned by her daughter's outburst.  Rose didn't normal defend herself when she had a new boyfriend, well not like that.

"I wasn't implying for you to go back with him, well not if you have someone else but you don't hold the record in keeping a man since you split with Mickey."

Rose was thankful their food arrived and was hoping Alec wouldn't be long.  After the waitress left, she felt a hand on her shoulder and a kiss on her neck.

"You ordered without me?  Oh I forgot, you only had toast this morning, well so did I.  Hello, you must be Mrs Tyler, I'm Alec Hardy."

Alec held his hand out to a stunned Jackie Tyler, who for once was lost for words and the man's familiarity with her daughter as to have known what she had for breakfast.  Was he implying he knew because they'd had it together?  Jackie knew Rose never invited men back to her apartment.

Alec assumed Rose's mother didn't want to shake his hand so he sat next to Rose and took the menu, getting his rimless glasses out of his top pocket and Rose thought they made him look even more sexy than she had previously thought.

"I think I'll have what you're having but with cheese," he stated, looking at Rose's jacket potato with tuna and sweetcorn.   "I have to eat healthily."

Jackie could tell, he looked as thin as a rake and could do with some meat on him if he was going to handle Rose.

"So you're Alec that Rose told me about.  What sort of policeman are you then?"

He thought Rose would have already told her but he humoured her.  "Detective Inspector Alec Hardy, to be precise.  Pleasure to meet you.  You and your daughter look very much alike.  I'll just go order my food then Rose, we could go look at that suit I was telling you about, see if you like it."

He got up, putting his hand on her shoulder and went off to the counter.

"Blimey Rose, what's with him?  He's all smiles and charm.  Where did you find him?"

Rose cringed, should she admit it, her mother might even find it amusing.

"His mates brought him into the club on Thursday night for his birthday, we met when I was inbetween my turns on stage, I let him escort me home then he came back again last night."

There, she had almost admitted it, apart from leaving out the fact she was dancing almost naked in front of him, goodness knows what her mother thought she actually wore in the club.

"So did you stay with him last night then, since he knew what you had for your breakfast?"

"What if I did?  I'm not a kid any more.  Just leave it Mum, I'm going out with him and that's that."

Alec came back and they chatted over the remainder of their meal.  Jackie finished and Alec was still eating.

"Rose, come to the ladies with me?"

Rose knew what that meant.  Her mother wanted to talk about Alec and not actually to him.  Rose excused herself, kissing Alec's cheek and asked him to wait at the table until she came back.  He knew they were going to discuss him, he'd seen it before.  At least Rose's mother hadn't seemed too bothered by his presence.

Once in the ladies room, Jackie made sure they were alone.  "He's a bit different than your usual tastes, what's so special about him?"

"He accepts who I am and he doesn't care that I'm a dancer.  Did Mickey say anything about me, when he said he saw me last night?"

"No, should he have done?"

"He made a scene when I asked Alec to come backstage and he almost picked a fight with him.  Honestly, did Mickey think I would seriously go back to him, especially after that?  Who is he kidding?"

"Why would Mickey pick a fight with him?  What aren't you telling me?"

"Nothing.  The point is Alec's not like that, he didn't grow up on a council estate, he's not rough and ready like Mickey and I don't want him getting hurt in a fight if Mickey keeps going on at him."  She couldn't say she was afraid his heart would suffer if he did.

"Rose, there's still something you're not telling me, what is it Sweetheart?"

"Believe me Mum, if I told you, you'd disown me."

"Why would I do that?  Is it your job?"

Rose remained silent, looking in the mirror and noticed a red mark on her neck where she hadn't realised Alec had got her last night.  His revenge for her biting his bottom lip she supposed though she didn't remember him sneaking that one in.

Jackie laughed.  "Just as long as you don't tell me you dance naked."  Then she stopped and looked at Rose.

"Oh Rose, please don't tell me that's what you do?  How could you?  And Alec approves?  What sort of blokes go in such a place like that and what's more, Alec's ok with it?  How could he be ok with it?"

Rose already knew he didn't actually approve but he accepted it.  "I said he accepted me and what I do, I never said he actually approved but he knows that's what I do, he doesn't have to like it and he did come to the club, he took me home and I let him stay and do you know why?"

Just then, the door opened and two women came in.  Rose leaned against the sink.

"If you don't like it then fine, I'm not asking you to.  Alec is the only one who understands.   Call me, if you want to talk about it."

Rose walked out and back to Alec, who was wondering why they were taking so long.

"Everything ok?" he asked.

"Not exactly but she'll get over it."

Alec got up and helped Rose on with her jacket.  "You told her then?"

"More like she guessed.  Let's go see that suit you were on about, was it in here?"

"No, the store near the police station."

Then he thought so much for keeping her away from where he worked but there wouldn't be that many people around.  Just his luck one of his colleagues had been lingering and spotted Alec and Rose after he had driven her to the shop and were just going inside.  The man swore it was one of the dancers from the club they had taken Alec to.  He was going to have so much fun with this on Monday morning when he told the others.

Rose approved of the suit but asked what the occasion was.

"Do I need one?" Alec smiled, looking in the mirror at himself.

He did look younger and he felt it, Rose was doing wonders for his ego.  She persuaded him to give in and get a pair of jeans, not tight enough for her liking but close enough and a purple t-shirt although he wouldn't get one with a logo on it.  She was going to have to work at that.

While they had been having lunch and getting Alec his new suit, Mickey had been hard at work, looking through the local police website to find anyone called Alec and finally found him under one from Scotland.  Mickey thought he must be recently transferred or the website badly needed updating.  He found his name, Alec Hardy but he still didn't know where he was assigned to, there were several stations around the town so that would need investigating.

He had made his mind up to go back to the club, even though it would cost him, he'd have to skimp on going to the pub next week but he was determined to talk some sense into Rose.  If not, he would find where the detective worked and confront him or make sure his mates there knew who he was going out with, he wasn't much bothered which.  Why would a detective inspector even bother going to one of those places?

Rose took Alec back to her place, offering his spare key back to him but he told her to keep it.  Rose didn't have a spare for her place but said she would get one on Monday.

"You may as well keep it Rose, if you don't want me to come out and get you every night, you can come and wake me up."

"Alec, it's not that I don't want you to, it's just not fair to ask you to come out at that time and it's not fair to wake you up either.  Maybe I should just go home the nights that I work?"

Alec put his arms around her.  "Are you trying to say you don't want to see me after you finish work Rose?"

"No, it's not that but you need your rest and I'd rather not wake you up."

"Well why don't we compromise?   I'll come over and let myself in here when you get a key and if I wake up then all the better and if not, you'll be here when I do.  I'll still have to leave early to go get changed or even better still, you come to my place and we'll do the same, not every night though, if you don't want to."

"Well you come to my place tonight, leave the door unlocked after you've taken your new clothes home.  Why don't you leave your jeans and t-shirt here for tomorrow then tomorrow night, I'll stay at yours?"

"Aye, we'll do that then.  See, it wasn't so bad, was it?  We can work out the finer details later so does this make it official?"

"Make what official Alec?" she asked as she went to get ready to go to the club.

"So are you my girlfriend?"

Rose was going to tease him.  She hadn't really thought about it.  "Oh I don't know Alec, does it?  Are you sure you're ready for that?"

Alec moved over and put his arms around her waist, noticing the red mark on her neck. "Where did you get that from?" he asked, kissing over it so it stung slightly.

Rose giggled.  ''I was going to ask you the same thing, I don't remember you doing that last night."

"Well, don't ask me, I was too busy, I may or may not have done it.  It must have been while you were groping my ass again, I do tend to get a bit carried away when you do that."

Rose swatted his arms away and went to get ready to go out.  Alec drove her to the club, agreeing he wouldn't come and watch her tonight, he knew he couldn't handle it and they agreed Rose would get a cab back and wake him up if he was already in bed.  She only needed the code to get in downstairs anyway and he could leave the door unlocked without any problems.  She went to get changed and ready to be tormented by the other girls as any type of gossip travelled fast in there.

A few of the girls teased her about locking horns with a police detective since they had got Mick to reveal who he had let backstage for the last two nights and about the almost fight last night, him being annoyed nothing had come of it.  Mick asked her if he would be picking her up again.

"No, not tonight, it's not really a good idea if he comes every night.  If that other creep comes around though, keep him out will you?  And let Jerry know as well, only Alec is to be let in if he does come into the club."

"Sure thing Rose, I'll let him know.  So he's your boyfriend now is he?  About time."

Rose smiled.  She was third on tonight and dreading it if Mickey did show up again.  She wasn't sure if her mother was talking to her or not, she hadn't rung.  Maybe she would calm down in a few days and accept it.

After Rose had left her mother, Jackie had gone home despondent.  How could her little girl do such a thing?  Show herself off like that to men and a police detective be ok with it as well.  Had she herself failed Rose when she was growing up?  To think she had accepted money and holidays because Rose was doing well and all the time she was getting money to do that.  She had called Mickey when she got back, angry and upset.

Mickey had been sympathetic.  "I know Jackie, I should have said something.   Imagine when I went in there last night and saw her, then there was that man she went off with, what's his name, Alec."

"I met him today, seemed a decent bloke as well.  Why would he be ok with Rose dancing like that?  I don't understand it."

"Yeah well, I'm going back tonight to try to talk some sense into her, get her to quit."

Jackie knew her daughter was headstrong and he'd have his work cut out for him.  Mickey made his way to the club and waited for Rose coming out, sitting at the back so she wouldn't see him.  He noticed Alec wasn't there, good, Rose wouldn't be going off with him then, he had brought his car tonight and would offer to drive her home, find out where she lived.  If that Alec wasn't there, maybe he had no taste watching women dancing like that, well maybe apart from watching Rose and he expected most of the men in there had come in to see her.

Well if he had any say in it, she wouldn't be doing it for much longer.  If he could get her back, he wouldn't let her parade herself on stage like she was doing now.  She never used to be like that with him when they were going out.  Her last turn came and Mickey prepared himself to go backstage, even set money aside to pay that awkward bouncer who wouldn't let him last night but had let that Alec through, probably because he had shown his badge or something.

Mick barred Mickey's way as he approached the door through to the dressing rooms.  Rose was about to go inside when she heard Mickey's voice again.

"Look, I'll even pay you if you let me in to see her," Mickey pleaded, waving a twenty pound note around in front of Mick's face.

Mick was sorely tempted to take his money then throw him out but he was in a good mood, he had stopped a fight earlier.

"I told you, she doesn't see anyone so don't waste your money."

"But you let someone in last night, I bet he didn't even pay you."

That was true but he had promised Rose he wouldn't let anyone else in.  "It's up to her who she sees, now do yourself a favour and forget about her.  Why don't I see if any of the other girls will see you?"

"No, I just want to talk to her."

"Look mate, all the time she's been here, she never sees anyone, it's just how it is.  When she's on stage, it's different but when she finishes, it's up to her."

Just then, Rose came out of her dressing room, having promised Alice that she would have a good few days off as she was spending most of the evenings with Alec.  She saw Mickey.

"When are you going to get it Mickey?  Go away or you'll get thrown out and I'll get into trouble."

Trust Donna to come out of her office and suss what was going on.

"Rose, what's this?  No sneaking boyfriends in that don't want to pay."

"Donna, he's not my boyfriend.  My boyfriend is waiting at home for me, this bloke is just causing trouble because Mick won't let him in after I asked him not to let anyone come back and see me.  He won't take no for an answer."

Mickey saw his chance.  "That's not true, I was going to pay but her boyfriend came back here last night and didn't pay."

"What?  Is that true Mick?  Are you going soft or something?" Donna laughed.

"No Donna, Rose asked me, as a favour, not to charge him for coming backstage to meet her to take her home, it's the first time since she's been here, I swear."

Donna tossed her hair back.  That was a first, Rose having a boyfriend.  "Well, if that's the case, if Rose doesn't want anyone coming back, rules are rules so whoever you are, I don't advise you trying again."

She turned to Rose.  "You didn't let your boyfriend into the club without paying did you Rose?  Swear to me you didn't."

"I swear Donna, he paid to come in last night and the night before, his mates brought him for his birthday."

Donna was satisfied and went back in her office, scowling at Mickey for causing a commotion and reckoning it was him making all the noise last night but she hadn't bothered seeing what it was, there were always men griping about the dancers not thinking they were good enough for them.

Rose got a cab home and quietly let herself in and found Alec asleep on the sofa, his sexy specs on the bridge of his nose and the TV volume on low.  He looked so peaceful, she didn't want to disturb him but she thought he looked uncomfortable and took the specs off his nose and folded them, putting them in his jacket pocket that was draped over the chair by the window.  Then she leaned down and kissed his cheek and he stirred, swatting her away.

Rose smiled and went into the kitchen and heard him moving, probably wondering where his glasses had got to and thinking he had lost them down the back of the sofa.

"Rose?" he called out, making his way into the kitchen in his bare feet.  "Is that you?  Where are my glasses, I fell asleep with them on and I can't find them."

Rose met him in the doorway and put her arms around his waist.  "Relax, detective, you don't need to launch a full-scale enquiry, they're in your jacket pocket.  Are you ok?"

He leaned down and kissed her neck.  "Now you're back yes.  I don't think I can do this Rose.  I didn't want to go to bed in case you didn't wake me.  Was everything ok?"

"No, he turned up again, can you believe it?  My boss heard him carrying on when Mick wouldn't let him past and he tried to cause trouble.  I don't know what I'm going to do Alec."

She buried her head into his chest.  He was rubbing her back just like her mother used to do when she was younger.

"Well, you're off until next week and he doesn't know that so if you're not there, he'll get the message and from now on, I pick you up.  I'll have an hour's nap before I come and collect you, I'll be fine.  If I'm not there when you leave, call a cab and ring me."

Rose clung hold of him.  "Ok, we'll do it that way then.  I'm just going to make a drink, you go to bed if you want."

"Well, I'm awake now."  He leaned down and lifted her chin.  "So snog me senseless."

Rose was only too happy to oblige.  As they got into bed, Rose letting him go on top for a while as he kissed his way across her skin, Rose giggling then they swapped places as they made love and Rose tried to calm herself as she came down from her high.

"Let's go out for the day, forget about everything, we could drive somewhere if you like?  Alec offered as Rose settled on him.

"Mmm, great, just what we need.  I know just the place."

After spending the day out, they went back to Alec's flat so he didn't have to rush out to get to work the next morning but when he got there, after Rose sent him off with a good snogging and her promising to be there when he got back and have dinner ready for him, he was in for a shock.  One of the DS's who he had been out with him cornered him in the break room.

"So, Sir, you did go out with one of the dancer's then?"

"What?  So what has it got to do with you?  It was my birthday, remember?  That was the reason I let you drag me there."

"I don't mean the other night, that I can understand but I saw you on Saturday afternoon, going in the menswear store with her.  Come on, taking one of them home for a quicky is one thing but being seen out with one of them?  Really?"

Alec lost his temper.  Rose had not been 'just a quicky' as he so aptly put it, she was now his girlfriend.  He pushed the other man against the wall.

"Mind your own business Jenkins, who I see in my own time had nothing to do with you or anyone else.  Got that?"

The other man pushed Alec's hand away and brushed himself down.  "Hey, take it easy, right?  Who you see is up to you but you can do a lot better than someone like her."

"What does that mean?"

"Come on, do you really want everyone to know you're going out with a stripper?"

By now, people had seen Alec pushing Jenkins back against the wall and poking his finger at him.

"Don't you dare call her that, she is not what you say she is, she's a dancer.  If you're going around saying that, you'll know about it."

One of the other DS's came into the break room and pulled Alec back.   "Hey Sir, come on, take it easy.  No need to make a scene over it.  We all know."

Alec shook himself free.  "What?  What have you been saying?  You were the one's that took me out the other night, were you setting me up for this?"

Alec couldn't believe it.  Had they arranged for Rose to see him backstage and take him home?  He pushed past everyone who were now watching and went into his office, slamming the door behind him.  It was all making sense now, why else would Rose have let him in to meet her, taken her home and had taken him to bed?  He was a thirty eight year old divorced detective, 100's of miles away from home and not in the best of health.  Why would she bother with him?

He made his mind up to confront her when he got back and tell her to leave, get his key back and if she had got a spare for her place, she could keep it.  Why was she even still bothering keeping up the pretence?  Then it struck him.  No-one else would go out with her seeing she danced naked in front of all those men and wondered how many more she had entertained in the own homes by dancing just for them?  He thought he had found someone but she was just using him, to prove she could get a boyfriend even in her line of work.  She had even probably arranged for her ex to show up.

Chapter 7
Rose had tidied Alec's flat, been home and got changed and gone shopping, bought the ingredients for chicken and boiled rice with vegetables and taken them to his flat and had put a nice dress into an overnight bag to get changed for when he got back.  She was liking this arrangement and couldn't believe it had only been a few days and they had already got settled.  She and Mickey had danced around each other, mainly going to the pub and she had stayed the odd night or too but she hated his untidy flat, it was a lost cause, needing a full cleaning crew to tackle and fumigate it.

Mickey was still trying to find out what station this bloke worked at but had to go to work himself so he'd have to continue later.  Jackie was sitting with her phone in her hand, debating whether to call Rose and see if she was ok, it wasn't like them to just fall out like that.  Despite Rose admitting what she had been doing for the past two years, it wasn't something they should fall out over.  She could still tell people that Rose was a dancer, just not exactly which type but she was surprised Rose had even gone in for that sort of thing.  She thought she would leave it until later.

Alec was still fuming at his humiliation even after lunch.  He'd avoided the break room, going out for a sandwich and eating it in his office.  Everyone was staring at him and laughing at his outburst.  To think he had trusted Rose with his secret and she still had his key and was probably making dinner for him.  He felt used, of course she wasn't interested in him but why take him to meet her mother?  Why have her ex show up?  Maybe he should at least give her the chance to explain that to him, why she had kept up the pretence this long.

Of course she couldn't get a serious boyfriend, anyone in their right mind would run a mile if they knew what she did and he'd let her believe he was ok with it.  Well he was far from ok with it, he hated the fact of her standing there and men leering at her but he had been just as guilty when he had been there.  Why had she agreed to see him if she hadn't been put up to it?  Those DS's must have been the night before to set it all up with her and she had seized the opportunity to get herself a boyfriend out of it.  Either that or she would tell him tonight it was all over and just leave.

He had been better with her, made himself look and feel younger and he'd actually bought some jeans because she said he looked sexy in them.  He even felt better in himself, wasn't getting as irritated, well apart from this morning and he had thought that was justified, he'd even defended her until he realised they'd fooled him.  He wasn't going to apologise though, not for what they had done.  He would confront Rose and if she denied it, he'd just say he was busy with work and wanted to be alone.

She had just been either playing a good part or she had got caught up in things and was now taking advantage of it.  He finished early and thought about maybe seeing if he could return the suit, he wouldn't be needing it, he'd never wear it without Rose being with him and now it was a joke.  His mind was full of questions, after all, he asked them all day for a living.  He was about to leave when the chief pulled him up.

"My office Alec."

He knew it was about his outburst this morning or the fact the case had gone stale.  If it was neither of them, it was the fact he was going to get warned about his serious misjudgement in his choice of girlfriends.

The chief closed the door.  "I heard about your little altercation this morning, try to keep squabbles to your own time but that's not why I called you in.  We have a lead and I want you on it right now.  Our main suspect sold a car that we've just been alerted to and the garage are holding it for us to search it.  It only came in an hour ago but they checked the database and it came up as a police interest so they just called.  I want you and your team over and collect any evidence, especially if the missing necklace is there.  Take your team and take DS Hardy with you, she was working just as hard as you lot before she moved to the other division."

"What?  Now?  Everyone's about to finish.  Do I have to take Tess with me?  You know she and I divorced a while back."

"She's just as much a part of this case as everyone else.  Get your team together and get out to this address."  He handed Alec a piece of paper with the address of the garage.  "If you find anything, bring it directly back here, you're in charge so it's your responsibility."

Alec reluctantly went back out and gathered his team, who were not happy to be putting in some overtime.  He picked up his desk phone and called his ex wife and they were soon on their way, joining the forensic team.  On his arrival, now after 6pm, he gave the go ahead for the forensic leader to start the search after getting the co-operation of the garage owner and they soon discovered a pendant in the glove compartment of the car.  It was put into an evidence bag and labelled, being handed to Alec.

"Right, I'll take this back to HQ, you lot can go now."

He still hadn't called Rose, who by now must have started making dinner and he really wasn't in the mood to eat or face her and have to confront her motives.  He received a message.  'Dinner is on and I have a surprise for you.  Rose.  xx'

Yeah, she had a surprise alright, what had she been hiding from him?  The fact that he wasn't the only man she had danced for in her apartment or someone else's?  The fact his so called 'mates' had set him up and she had played along.  He sent a message back saying he was on his way, not mentioning he was going to get his key back and tell her just to go.  How could he be with her now?  She had been good in putting on a show for him and maybe she had actually enjoyed playing the part but it would be over soon anyway, when she got tired of him and he would rather end it on his terms.

Tess was talking to him.  "Alec, I said I can take that back to HQ, I'm going that way and you live in the other direction don't you?"

He snapped back to reality.  There was no need for him to go out of his way and he realised she had got his address from the divorce papers.  "Yes, ok, you take it back and don't lose it, it's crucial to the case, we have him now, once it's been examined."

"What do you take me for Alec?  I'm not a rookie you know."

The woman took the evidence bag from Alec and got into her car, putting it in the glove box and drove off.  Little did Alec know that was the last any of them would see of the evidence.  Everyone had just about left, leaving Alec to drag himself back to his car and go face Rose, who he thought he may have actually been able to make a life with, if he could persuade her to change her profession.  He had even toyed with the idea of offering to look after her until she found another job and he'd only known her for a few days but the weekend had been intense and he'd enjoyed their day out and waking up on Sunday morning with her.

He could have easily got used to waking up with her every morning.  He set off to drive home and let himself in.  Rose had put dinner on a low heat to keep warm and was anxiously making herself look alluring to him.  She had chosen a floral dress with a low neckline that showed shape off, bought some sexy new underwear and she had looked in the mirror a dozen times in the last ten minutes after getting Alec's text.  She heard the door open and jumped away from the bathroom mirror and into the hallway.

"Hi Alec, how was your day?"

She put her arms around his neck and went to kiss him but he pulled her arms away and put his keys down and took his jacket off.  Rose thought he wanted to take it off so she could unfasten his shirt buttons and then snog the life out of him but he just went into the kitchen and drew a glass of water and took two pills out of a blister pack.  She thought he must have had a bad day.  She didn't know he was preparing himself for the showdown of the decade.  She went up to him as he sat at the kitchen table and standing behind him, put her arms around his neck and kissed his cheek, then down the side of his neck.  He wriggled free.  Why was she still doing this?  Should he just come out and ask her or tell her he knew her game and tell her to leave?

Rose sensed there was something wrong as she went to the stove to get dinner out.

"Leave it Rose, I'm not hungry.   I want to ask you something.  Whose idea was it?"

Rose sat down opposite him.  "What?  Whose idea was what Alec?  What are you talking about?"

"Don't play games Rose, I've had enough today.  Just tell me who it was who put you up to this?"

"I have no idea what you're talking about Alec.  Put me up to what?"

Alec got up and paced the kitchen.  He was tired and he was hungry but he was in no mood to eat or play games.

"Was it Jenkins, or was it Smith or even Hughes?  Which one Rose, who put you up to letting me backstage last Thursday night and getting you to take me home with you?  Did you have your fun and decide I was too good a thing to let go and you decided to string me along?  Come on Rose, admit it, it was no coincidence you just happened to let me backstage when you never see anyone and then took me back and had sex with me, even though I told you there was something wrong with me.  I trusted you Rose, why didn't you just have the one night with me and that was it?  Did you feel sorry for me or was it the fact you can't get a boyfriend because of what you do so you took advantage of me?"

Rose was stunned to say the very least.  What had brought this on?  Had one of the men who Alec had said took him to the club for his birthday said something to him or hinted it had been a set-up?  How could he think such a thing?  She looked at Alec, who was now leaning on the back of the chair and not looking directly at her.

"Well you could at least deny it, or is it all true?"

Tears were forming in her eyes.  "Alec, how can you even think such a thing?  Why have you even brought this up?  I let you take me home because I liked the look of you and you looked sad on your birthday, that's why I wanted you to stay but in the club, I was willing to take a chance with you."

"So it just happened that was the night you were going to break your own rules and let me take you home?  I don't think so Rose, I know someone put you up to it so just admit it."

"I'm not admitting anything that's not true Alec."  Rose looked up at him.  He was looking older again, all the new youthfulness was going out of him and he was back to his old self.

Just then, his phone rang.  He answered it in a gruff voice.  "Hardy.  What?  What do you mean the evidence has been stolen?  Her car got broken in to?  Where the hell was she?  She was supposed to go straight back to HQ.  What do you mean she stopped off somewhere?  Oh for crying out loud, what is wrong with you people?  Yes, go out and send forensics to dust her car and I'll be there when you send a car for me, I'm not driving out there.  Have a car here in ten minutes and tell her to stay there and she had better have a damn good reason why she left her car unattended."

Alec ended the call and picked up his jacket.  "I have to go out, turn off dinner and go home Rose, I'll get my key from you tomorrow.  I don't think we have any more to say about what happened.  I wouldn't want you to be under the illusion you're fooling me any longer."

Rose couldn't get up.  Alec turned off the oven and walked to the door.  "Lock up when you go, leave my key with your doorman and I'll collect it."

"Alec, I don't know what I'm supposed to have done but whatever you think, I'm not guilty.  I don't know any of those names you mentioned and I really didn't intend to play games with you, well not those kind of games.  Please believe me Alec.  At least come round later or I can wait here for you and we can talk."

"What's to talk about Rose?  The fact that you've fooled me for the last few days?"

"No Alec, the fact I do care about you despite what you think."

She got up and went into the bedroom and threw her clothes back in the bag she had brought with her then took his key out of her jacket pocket.  She went back into the hallway and put the key on the hallstand.  Alec had the door opened, ready to leave and turned out the hall light and allowed her to go first.  He didn't see the tears streaming down her face.  She didn't even know what she was supposed to be guilty of.

Downstairs, Alec got into a waiting police car and Rose called for a cab and cried all the way home.  She let herself in and nodded to Nigel when he got up to call the lift for her.

"Good evening Miss Tyler, are you ok?"

Rose shook her head, she was far from ok.  "Nigel, if Mr Hardy comes around, will you let him in?"

"Of course I will Miss Tyler.  Are you sure you're alright?"

The lift arrived and she went up to her apartment, flung open the bedroom door and sank onto her bed, the same bed she had made love with Alec on not that long ago.  What had he been accusing her of?  She had let Alec do all the talking, he'd been furious with her for some reason and no wonder he had taken his pills.  She knew he needed them but she had never seen him actually take them.  She was hungry but was too upset to make something to eat and she had left the food in Alec's oven.

She got up and went into the kitchen and found a tin of chunky soup and warmed it up.  It was now 7.30 and she wondered what Alec had been so angry over the phone about.  She had only heard one side of the conversation and it sounded like it had to do with the case he was so badly trying to finish so he could get help with his health.  Who was going to look after him now?   She picked up her phone and sent her last message to him.  'I'm sorry if you think I've done something but for what it's worth, look after yourself Alec because I do care about you.  Rose.'

Alec still hadn't calmed down as the squad car drove him to where Tess had said she was.  How could she have been so stupid?   Most importantly, why had she even stopped at that hotel, it was nowhere near the station, it was on the outskirts of town.  He knew he should never have trusted her to take back vital evidence, now it was all over, the search of the car had been completed and there was nothing else to tie their main suspect to the case who was now going to walk free.

He chewed Tess out in front of everyone when he arrived and asked why she had stopped there although he suspected she was still seeing the man she'd had an affair with while they had still be married.  She'd asked for the divorce and he thought she wanted to re-marry but it was months ago now.  Now they had lost a case and a killer was going to walk free because that had been their last hope.

He got back in the squad car, it was almost nine, they had waited for a breakdown truck to take her car back to HQ and forensics had been over it, no fingerprints and the surmised it had been kids wearing gloves since she had also been stupid enough to forget her purse and had realised too late and gone back to see the car window smashed and everything gone.  The thieves had been quick and must have been watching her.

The message tone had gone on his phone, no doubt from Rose.  He wasn't going to bother reading it just yet, he needed to calm down first and was glad he'd taken those pills earlier although he hadn't taken them in front of her before.  Why worry now?  She still knew his secret but who would believe her, an exotic dancer?   Really, what had he been thinking, contemplating having something permanent with her and then there was her ex suddenly showing up like that, after all that time.

He let himself in again and thought about the food in the oven but just made himself some toast and sat down.  He picked his phone up, forgetting that Rose had sent a message, well it was probably from her.  He put his glasses on and opened the message, then took his glasses off and rubbed his face.  She was sorry?  He had accused her of all kinds of things and despite her not arguing, maybe because she knew his condition, she hadn't even stormed out or thrown something at him or even thrown his key down in a temper.

He would think about it overnight, see how he felt in the morning.  He went to bed just after ten, lying on the pillow when he had held Rose the night before.  He closed his eyes but she was all he could see.  Her face lighting up as he ran his fingers on her and that wicked grin, her calling his name as they came together and waking up to a mouthful of her hair and her smiling at him.   Since Thursday night, they had been together and she had made him feel young again, he'd cut his hair, shaved a bit off his beard and now wore jeans just to please her.

For almost an hour he tormented himself with going over what had been implied that morning and it had hurt when Jenkins had said he could do better than an exotic dancer because he knew he couldn't.  She had understood his problem and been ok with it, so what if they had put her up to it?  Would they actually stoop that low, did they think that badly of him to set him with an exotic dancer?  He looked at the time, it was after eleven.  He should call her but she might be asleep or she may not answer her phone.  He'd been a complete idiot.  He got dressed, put his jacket on and got his car keys, spying the spare key where she had left it.

Rose had gone to bed, still crying and wondering if he would reply or even read her message.  She didn't really expect it, he was really mad with her for something she hadn't any knowledge of and as for those men, she had never heard of let alone even seen.  She tossed and turned, meaning to try sending him another message in the morning and tell him she wouldn't bother him again.  Then she would call her mother and tell her she was sorry if it upset her with what she did to earn a living and try to get on with her life.  She was sure of one thing, she would never meet anyone like Alec Hardy again.

It was after eleven as Rose tossed and turned, hugging the pillow where he had laid, the pillow now wet with her tears.  Alec was out of his apartment and sat in his car fumbling with the keys and cursing for getting in such a state and for telling her to leave his spare key, he may just as well have just told her to get out and never come back.  He was never one for being tactful yet she had still sent that message and if she had been guilty of what he had accused her of, she wouldn't say she still cared, she would have ignored him or slapped his face before she left and told him he was right.

He arrived outside her apartment block just after 11.30 and he just sat there for a few minutes.  He couldn't tell her apartment from the road, some had lights on, some didn't and she may already be asleep anyway, maybe he should leave it and apologise in the morning but he knew he wouldn't sleep if he went back home.  He got out of his car and rang the doorbell and he saw the man Rose had called Nigel come to answer the intercom.

"Mr Hardy, good evening Sir.  Are you here to see Miss Tyler?"

"Yes, is she at home?"  Stupid question, where else would she be when she wasn't working?  Nice one Alec.

He half expected the man to shut the intercom off and tell him she had given instructions he wasn't to be admitted.  Instead, he opened the door and Alec stepped inside.

"Can you find Miss Tyler's apartment Sir?"

Of course he could, he had stayed there the other night.  Nigel called the lift for him and Alec got in when it arrived.  "Have a good evening Sir."

Just as the doors were closing, Alec found his voice again.  "Thank you Nigel, I certainly hope so or I'll be back down in a few minutes."

On reaching the third floor, he rang the bell to Rose's apartment and waited for the barrage of abuse she would probably throw at him for being a stupid, inconsiderate prat and tell him to get lost but as he waited, he thought there again she would know that he'd get in because Nigel recognised him and just ignore her own doorbell ringing but a few minutes later, after he was about to give up, he heard the door unlocking.

Rose heard the doorbell and knew Nigel would only let Alec in.  She dried her eyes and put her robe on and found her keys.  Putting the chain on and looking through, there stood Alec.

"Rose, I know it's late but I came to say I'm the one that's sorry.  Can I come in?"
Chapter 8
"Alec, yes it is late.  Can we talk tomorrow?"

"Please Rose, I need to apologise for my behaviour.  I was wrong.  Can I come in?"

Rose moved over and he stepped through the door.  She wasn't going to make this easy for him.  She knew he had been in the wrong, not her, why had she said she was sorry for something she hadn't done?

"You'd better explain yourself Alec because I have no idea what that was about earlier, it was totally out of order.  Where on earth did you get such an idea from?  Did one of those men who took you to the club put some stupid idea into your head?  I thought you were different from all the other men who go in there but you just think I used you."

Alec knew he deserved it.  "I know Rose, I'm sorry, I just got mad at something one of them said to me this morning and I just got this stupid idea they had put you up to it, letting me take you home.  I know how wrong I was."

He went to put his arms around her waist but she shook him off.

"I trusted you Alec, you heard everyone say I never let anyone backstage or take them home.  Just ask Nigel, he'll tell you I came home, on my own every night.  Why didn't you believe me?"

"Rose, I said I'm sorry.  Let me make it up to you?  The case I was working on, it's all fallen apart and as soon as I wrap up the loose ends, I'll take that time off, take medical leave and get myself sorted because I know what I want now, I want you Rose.  I want to take care of you, I want you to quit that job and let me look after you."

Rose looked at him, this was a turnaround from earlier when he had told her to leave.  She didn't know if she was quite ready for that sort of commitment.

"Let me think about this Alec, you said some very hurtful things."

"I know Rose and I really am sorry.  I'll go, let you sleep on it.  I'll pick you up after I get out of work and we'll go back to my place and eat that food you cooked."

"I'll think about it, you have some apologising to do."

"Anything Rose, I'll get a bottle of wine to go with that food, what was it?"

Rose smiled.  "Chicken and rice.  Get some white wine and some lemonade and you can get me some chocolates, the cream ones and some flowers and I might forgive you."

Alec smiled, he could live with that, he'd been an idiot.  If that was all it took for her to forgive him, he would make sure he went out of his way to do so.  He opened the door to leave.

"Can I at least get a kiss?"

Rose kissed his cheek.  He deserved that too.  He set off to go back to the lift and made his way downstairs, he'd been stupid to think she would just forgive him without him having to work at it.  He stepped out of the lift and spied Nigel, apparently watching something on a TV.  Just then his phone went.  It was Rose.

Rose had locked her door and stood with her back to it.  Should she just take him back?  Every couple had rows and forgave each other, well most of the time, look how many times she herself had taken a snivelling Mickey back because they had been miserable without each other but he had done it once too often, sneaking out of a party to watch football.  She picked her mobile up and pressed Alec's number.  He answered.

"Alec, are you still in the building?"

"Yes, well just about to step out.  What is it?"

"Come back up, if you want. I'm ready to accept your apology."

"I'll be right up."  He turned back to the lift and saw the amused look on Nigel's face.  He must see it all the time.  "Women!" Alec muttered as he got in the lift.

Nigel smiled and went back to watching his late night chat show.

Rose let him in.  "I'm not saying I was guilty Alec, it was never about that.  If you didn't believe me then you wouldn't have come back."

She was right.  He took his jacket off and unfastened her robe, putting his arms around her waist and kissing her neck.  Rose looked at him.  It was a good thing he was so damn cute or she might not have forgiven him so easily.  She wasn't going to let him off though as she made him keep his shorts on in bed, he complained and she said it was his punishment.

The next morning, Alec had to leave early again and Rose said she would be ready when he called around later and would stay at his place, taking a few things with her.  They kissed goodbye, Alec not getting his usual snogged senseless goodbye but Rose was still a bit mad at him so he let it slide.  Things were not going to go so smoothly once he got to the station though.

His chief had them all in the office, shouting and carrying on at them all, especially Alec who leapt to his own defence and said his stupid ex wife had broken protocol and not gone directly back with the evidence and she should have been more than capable of delivering it.  He now had to face going back to court and watching the suspect walk free but at least he could face it with Rose by his side even though he couldn't ask her to actually go to the court with him.

Rose had called her mother and apologised for deceiving her all this time, if apologies were going around, she owed her mother one.  When Alec picked her up that night and they had the meal intended for the night before, they made up properly and Rose persuaded him to let her carry on working for the time being, to which he reluctantly agreed.

After he had laid her on the bed and gave her his full attention then they had switched places as Rose moved her hips on him and they both fell over the edge, Rose taking longer to come back down again than Alec, she said since they had two places to pay for and if he was taking a drop in pay, she needed to still work.

"Only until I go on leave, then we'll go away somewhere, anywhere you want.  We can still manage."

"I have some time owed to me anyway, get the court over with and we'll go book something.  What about seeing your doctor?"

"I'll make an appointment, I promise.  Now let's make up for last night again."

He didn't know that wasn't going to be the end of it however.  As expected, he went back to court and the case was thrown out due to lack of evidence and even though it had not been entirely his fault and had to accept the responsibility and since it was hardly time to admit there was something wrong with him, he asked for a transfer rather than medical leave.  He wasn't too sure how long it was going to take and since the families involved with the case were out for blood, his chief decided it would be best if he went on administrative leave meaning he would only get half pay or he could stay where he was and put up with it.  He decided to take the leave he was owed and hope he would get a transfer but now it was out he had allowed evidence to be lost, there wasn't going to be a long line of chiefs wanting to take him on.

Rose wasn't pleased when he hadn't gone on medical leave but she understood his motives.   She still insisted he saw his GP and insisted on going with him to see what his chances were.  After his examination, he was told to take it easy and come back, he had been under too much stress.  That wasn't going to be easy and Rose would have her work cut out for her as Mickey was about to kick up a fuss.

Rose had gone back to work, saying she was going to take some time off when Alec had seen about getting himself sorted but on the Saturday night, Rose was doing her second turn and she saw Mickey.  Not believing he'd had the nerve to turn up, she rang Alec after she came off stage and asked him to come and meet her after she finished and asked Mick not to let Mickey backstage.  When Alec arrived just before Rose was due to come out, he had got out of his car and crossed the road to wait for her, knowing the door would be open and she would see him when she came out of her dressing room.

Mickey came around the corner, having worked out where Rose came out and confronted him.

"So who exactly are you then?  Getting backstage without paying and forcing Rose into your car."

"I was not forcing Rose into my car and what has it to do with you?  She broke up with you over two years ago.  What's wrong with you?  Can't you get your own girlfriend you have to come back into Rose's life and try to take her from me?"

Mickey was boiling.  "What's a detective doing with a dancer?  Isn't she a bit below you?"   Mickey was determined that if Rose wouldn't go back with him, this Alec Hardy certainly wasn't going to have her.  "She's too young for you anyway, how old are you?  Late 30's?"

He stepped up to Alec but he sprang back.  Alec regretted not taking his pills earlier, they were in his jacket pocket and he needed them.  He would have to ask Rose to get some water for him so he could take them.  Mickey sprang forward without warning and pushed Alec back just as Rose came out.

"Alec!  Mickey, what are you doing?  Leave him alone.  He's not well."

Alec was stumbling back, his focus was going and he could just make out Rose coming towards him.  Mick had seen what was going on and urged Rose to go out, he was not allowed to interfere outside the club.  Rose caught Alec and steadied him.  "Alec, where are your pills?"

"Inside pocket, I need some water."

Rose shouted for Mick to get some water and he was back out a few seconds later, Rose holding onto Alec while he took them.  Making sure he was ok, she rounded on Mickey, who was just staring.

She lunged at him and slapped his face, hard.  "Get out of here Mickey or I swear I'll take an injunction out against you if you ever come near Alec or me again.  Now apologise to Alec, you could have sent him to hospital."

Mickey wondered how he was supposed to have known there was something wrong with the bloke.  "I'm not apologising but I'll leave.  I wanted you to come back Rose, to give me another chance."

Rose laughed.  He had to be joking.  "After your behaviour?  Really?  Come back to nights of you going down the pub, with or without me and ignoring me when the football's on?  I don't think so.  When I was 19 I didn't know any better, I thought all blokes were like that.  Now I know they're not.  Alec is a decent man, a far better one than you'll ever be so go away Mickey or I'll carry out my threat.  I have witnesses to your behaviour towards me and Alec."

Alec was feeling slightly better, still holding onto Rose but now with one arm around her.  "Come on Rose, leave it, let's go home, I'm ok now."

"No, it's ok Alec, we'll get a taxi and you can come back for your car, you can't drive like that.  Come on, one's just arrived.  Is that ok Mick, will one of the girls wait?"

"Sure Rose, take him home."

"Did you lock your car Alec?  You didn't leave anything in it did you?"

Alec smiled and was about to say he wasn't called Tess but she wouldn't get the joke.  Once back at her apartment, she made sure he was ok and he didn't need to go to hospital before going upstairs and made sure he didn't exert himself again.

"Alec, you can't keep on like this you know.  Why don't you ask your GP to refer you to the hospital and get on the waiting list for an operation?  Once you do that, we'll go take a holiday for a week and hopefully your transfer will have come through when we get back.  In the meanwhile, why don't you give notice on your apartment and come and live with me so I can look after you?"

"I haven't been there long enough Rose, it's a minimum of six months and I've only been there five, I'll have to wait.  I got offered a place teaching at the academy in Exeter, I was going to tell you when you got back.  Should I take it?  We'll both have to move and it's not until next term, September."

"Alec, you know you won't settle down there, let's just wait and if nothing turns up, then take it."

So Alec got a hospital appointment after his own GP said it was urgent and he was told it could be up to 3 months before he could have the pacemaker fitted anyway so he agreed to wait.  Rose offered to pay for him to go private and that was a mistake.

"No Rose, I won't let you pay for it, I could use my medical insurance if I wanted to, there's no sense in you offering to pay, it's not happening."

Alec moved his personal belongings out of his apartment a week later, having to pay another month before he could give notice on it.  Fortunately, it came furnished so he had nothing to worry about in storage arrangements.  He was already annoyed about Rose paying for her apartment and carrying on working but they had booked a holiday to a resort in Spain for the end of the month and were looking forward to it.

After their holiday, Alec was about to accept the post at the academy, his operation was still almost two months away, he had just given notice on his apartment when he received another offer from the chief superintendent of a small town in Dorset, saying the position of detective inspector was open and only one candidate had applied, a detective sergeant so he was more than likely to be the one to be offered the job.  He had three days to make his mind up.

"What do you think Sweetheart?  We thought we were going to move to Exeter anyway in September, it's only six weeks early.  We were going over to look at apartments anyway and this town, Broadchurch, well it's right on the coast.  We could go down for a few days and look at places there.  Rose?"

Rose was daydreaming.   "Mmm, yeah, ok, we can do that.  Why don't we go this weekend, I'll get Saturday off and we can stay a couple of nights.  When do you have to start?"

"Right away, if my interview goes ok but I can't say anything about my health Rose."

"Won't they want you to have a medical exam before you start?"

"No, I've been on leave.  Besides, I still have a while to wait for my operation, I'll get it moved to a hospital nearer there then once I've started the job, I'll take some medical leave, if everything goes ok, I shouldn't be off that long, I can go back part time.  It's a quiet seaside town, what can possibly go wrong?"


The End!






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