The club is packed with people, which is usual for a Saturday night, or at least Alesha thinks it is. She's been so busy with work lately that she's not honestly sure what a social life is any more. Which is more than a little depressing, she knows, but it's her best friend's birthday and she's not going to think about work.
She manages that just fine until work comes and finds her.
She's standing at the bar waiting for the barman to get to her when there's a knock to her elbow from the man to her left. She looks in that direction, all ready to give him a piece of her mind, or at least a withering stare, but when she finds herself looking into a pair of very familiar blue eyes, she smiles instead.
"Buy you a drink?" Matt asks her, all crooked smile and dancing eyes and she tilts her head as she turns to face him.
"Better not - I'm getting a round in. Three Cosmos."
Matt puffs his cheeks out, but he's still grinning when he shakes his head. "Fair enough," he allows. "You can buy me one then. Equal opportunities and all that."
She knows he's kidding and she laughs. "Chancer."
"Can't blame a guy for trying." He glances over his shoulder for a second then back to her. "You here alone or-?"
Which is a ridiculous question - like she'd be buying three cocktails if she was - but his reaction when she says, "Girls' night out," doesn't go unnoticed. His shoulders relax straight away and something that looks very like relief flashes across his face. She files that away for future reference, even as she's telling herself it can't mean what she's thinking it means - what she's hoping it means. "You?"
"Out with the football team," he says. "We won our first match, so we're celebrating."
That makes sense except for she's heard all about the many losses of his five a side team to be familiar with the timetable. "I thought you played on Sunday mornings."
"We do." He nods, looks strangely resigned. "We won last Sunday, this is the first chance we've all had to go out." His eyes fall to his watch, then the pint of beer, half empty, in his hand. "I don't fancy our chances tomorrow morning somehow."
All Alesha can do at that is laugh and it's then that the barman comes over and she places her order. She tilts her head at Matt, lifts one eyebrow in silent question and he shakes his head, holds one hand up to indicate that he's fine. She hands the money across to the barman who takes it before he heads off to fix her drinks and when she looks back at Matt, she notices straight away that his eyes are nowhere near her face.
Quite a bit south of it, actually.
He startles when he realises she's caught him checking her out and it could be the light or lack thereof, or the heat of the place but she'd swear his cheeks are flushed. She's not offended though - she's in a dress which is both shorter and tighter than anything she'd wear around CPS and even with her hair down, there's no hiding how low on the back it's cut either. Between that and a pair of heels that could double as stilts, she's about as far from her usual look as it's possible to be. "Sorry," he says and she tosses her hair over her shoulder, something that makes him blink.
"Not quite George approved, am I?" she quips and he shakes his head.
"Not really. But you look terrific."
She takes the compliment for what it is, takes her chance to look him up and down as well - well, turnabout's fair play and all of that. "You don't scrub up too bad yourself," she says and it's true. He's wearing dark slacks, probably not a million miles away from the ones he'd usually wear to work but the white shirt he's wearing look decidedly more expensive. There's also not a jacket or tie in sight, and the open collar and rolled up sleeves are pleasing enough to the eye that Alesha finds herself fighting the urge to lick her lips.
Which, ok, sometimes she's done that when they're on the clock as well, but he doesn't need to know that.
Matt shrugs as he brings his pint to his lips but she can still see the edge of his lips quirking up. It does her urge to lick her lips no good at all and she's almost - almost - relieved when the barman places three glasses on a tray in front of her. She hadn't even noticed him put the tray down, that's how wrapped up she'd been in Matt and her own thoughts and she shakes herself inwardly. He's a mate and a colleague and no matter how many Cosmos she might consume, she shouldn't let herself go there.
"Need a hand?" Matt sounds hopeful but she steels herself, takes the tray in both hands and turns ever so carefully on her high heels.
"No, I'll be ok." She gives him one last smile over her shoudler. "See you later? You can save me a dance." A look of utter horror crosses his face and is gone quickly. "Let me guess, you don't dance."
"Only with the right girl."
It's hard to say who's more surprised by that, him or her but she feels her smile widen and she puts an extra swing in her hips as she walks away.
Of course, when she gets back to their table, her two friends are both wearing huge smiles that have a decidedly knowing look to them. "Details," Amanda demands, not even letting Alesha sit down.
"About what?" Not that Alesha thought for a minute that playing innocent was going to work with her two oldest friends, but she at least wanted to wait until Matt had hopefully disappeared back to his friends and wasn't watching her.
Sharon rolled her eyes. "Fine then, don't tell us about Mr Tall, Dark and Handsome. But at least tell us you got his number."
Alesha sits down, takes a sip of her Cosmo, as much to annoy them as to think about what to say. She settles for the truth. "I've had his number for ages," she says and she rather enjoys how their faces drop. "He's a mate from work."
Sharon and Amanda look at each other, then back to her. "If I'd known CPS looked like that, I'd've worked harder in school," Sharon laughed and Alesha shook her head.
"Not CPS," she said. "He's one of the coppers I work a lot with."
Sharon's smile takes a wicked turn. "Old Bill, eh? He could read me my rights anytime."
Alesha's torn between rolling her eyes and laughing. Amanda's not in any such dilemma. "Or put me in handcuffs," she adds as she brings her drink to her lips.
Alesha closes her eyes. "I have to work with him," she protests weakly, both at her friends and the images that are starting to crowd her mind.
"We're sorry." Sharon is instantly contrite. Only for a second though, then the grin is back. "Bet he'd love to show you his truncheon though."
That does surprise a giggle out of Alesha and she covers her face with her hands. "Enough," she orders but she thinks the girls are laughing too hard to hear her over the music. "We're colleagues, remember?"
Sharon sobers up a little at that, gifts Alesha with a dead eyed stare. "I have never," she says flatly, "looked at any of my colleagues like you looked at him."
"And the way he looked at you?" Amanda's eyebrows are all the way up. "He definitely has more than business in mind."
"It's not like that." Alesha doesn't know who she's trying to convince. "He's a mate. A good mate." She hadn't told the girls about Merrick, about the trial, until it was over, but she remembers all too well how Matt was there for her every day, sitting beside her, holding her hand when the verdict came down. If she's really honest - and the Cosmo is helping - she thinks that's when she first began to realise that the flirty friendship they had going just might be turning into something more, on her part at least. She'd been so knocked about though, so all at sea emotionally, that she hadn't let herself dwell on it.
She's done a good job of burying herself in work too, hasn't let herself think about it much since then.
Except now she can't stop.
Her thoughts are interrupted by Sharon kicking her under the table. She turns a shocked face to her friend, but Sharon's not looking at her. "Drink up," she says. "I think your colleague's on his way over here."
Sure enough, next thing she knows, Matt's at her side, looking down at her. She knows him well enough to know he's nervous, and he's so nervous that Amanda and Sharon only get a cursory nod where she knows he's normally have better manners than that. "How about that dance?" he asks her and before she can say anything, Amanda, sitting beside her, gives a shove in his direction.
"Don't worry, Officer," she says. "She'll come quietly."
It's said with a laugh and beside her, Sharon stage whispers, "Let's hope not," and Alesha decides she'd better get Matt away from them before they say anything else.
Of course once they get to the middle of the dance floor, the DJ is playing something slow and sultry, made for swaying in another's arms. Which is what Alesha does, resting her palms on Matt's chest as he slides his arms around her waist.
"Your friends seem nice," he says and she rolls her eyes.
"They like you," she says, not unkindly and Matt laughs.
"And the football team want you to be our new mascot," he says. "The words 'get your arse over there and get your girl'? Also mentioned."
There's a sheepish look on his face now and she knows why. "Your girl?" It's accompanied by two raised eyebrows and she's trying for indignation, she really is, but he looks so bashful about the whole thing that she can't help but smile.
"If it helps, I told them you'd kick their arse if you heard them saying that."
She pretends to consider it. "Maybe after this dance." She tilts her head, looks up at him and takes a leap of faith. "Unless I get a better offer that is."
Now it's his turn to pretend to consider something. "You have something in mind?"
He's definitely flirting but she also knows he's holding back, like he's giving her a chance to back away if this isn't what she wants, because he won't push her any further than she's ready to go. But standing here in his arms, the heat of his body against hers surrounding them, his heart beating strong and steady and just a little fast under her palm, she knows she's ready.
Bringing their lower bodies into contact, she moves against him in a way that can only remove all doubt. "I'm sure you'll come up with something."
He grins and leans down as she grins and stretches up and then their lips meet and there is no more talking, not then.
Not even later that night when Sharon's stage whispered hope proves to be right on the money.