Prologue

Years later, Hathaway will assure her that the common assumption around the station is that she's been in love with Robbie Lewis since the day they first met. It won't be true, and she'll say so, but Jean-bloody-Innocent will smirk until Laura's ready to throw something at her.

The wanderer returns

When Lewis returns from the British Virgin Islands, Laura Hobson's heart doesn't lurch, her breath doesn't catch, and she isn't instantly smitten by his rumpled charm.

In fact, her first thought is to wonder where on earth he'd got that bloody awful shirt, and whether he's actually been allowed to turn up to crime scenes dressed like that while he's been on attachment. She can't resist a crack about the shirt, but she regrets it later, when it occurs to her that, despite the two years since Val's death and the extended posting abroad, Lewis still hasn't moved on from the man who had let his wife choose his clothing.

All the rage

Accustomed by this point in her career to wielding a certain authority, Laura doesn't give it a second thought when Lewis picks up on her hint about the scene suit, accepting unquestioningly from her what he wouldn't take from Hathaway. It isn't until later that she begins to wonder whether deferring to a woman's judgement on matters sartorial is still an ingrained response with him.

On the other hand it may simply be that, amongst a world of changes, she is the only thing in Oxford to remain familiar. That reasoning might explain why she seems to be his go-to girl whenever someone turns up a corpse - that, and the fact that she's damn good at her job, of course.

It might also explain how far her own mildly antagonistic attitude towards Jean Innocent influences Lewis. Although, to be fair, the Chief Superintendent probably had a lot to do with that herself.

Best I can offer

The instant Lewis mentions retirement, Laura leaps in to knock that idea on the head. He's always had two loves in his life: his family and the job. Now, with Val gone and their kids grown and flown, the job is all he has left to fill the void where half his life used to be.

Laura is unsure whether or not to mention Val (after all, she'd never known the woman personally) but in the end she goes ahead. It seems to be the right call and, if Laura's any judge, Lewis welcomes the opportunity to talk. Certainly he's more than irritated when Hathaway interrupts.

It is at this point that Laura realises that she seems to have been promoted onto Robbie Lewis' list of friends. Further consideration suggests the possibility that, given his current circumstances, her name may actually constitute the entire list.

Were you expecting more?

He entices her away from the lab by promising to buy her coffee. She wouldn't know how to be enticing if she tried, but she'd always found simple demands work well for her, so she manages to drag him out for a walk in the sunshine.

He asks her what goes on at a ladies' group. She responds by asking him if she looks like the sort of woman who spends her free time going to ladies' groups. He has the cheek to look her up and down, as though he's considering the question. She elbows him in the ribs. He grins, and agrees that she's probably not the ladies' group type after all.

She finds the idea of Innocent dragooning him into being her escort highly amusing, and teases him mercilessly; but she leaves him, somehow, in a better mood about the whole thing.

This is the day when 'Mr Innocent' first starts to become a shared joke between the two of them.

Just an itinerant doctor

This is the day she starts calling him Robbie. Not to his face (it will take a significant amount of alcohol before she does that for the first time) but she's not going to let Diane Turnbull have it all her own way.

She's seen nothing of Lewis lately without a body in tow, and when she meets his ex-girlfriend she understands why. Next to the other woman, she suddenly feels scruffy, with her practical clothes, minimal make-up, and hair pulled back anyhow.

Still, the woman's newly widowed and obviously looking for company, so Laura stops for a chat. Naturally, Lewis - Robbie, she reminds herself to call him - forms the topic of conversation between them. He's the one thing they have in common, apart from Mr Turnbull's dead body, and Laura is hardly going to discuss that with the man's widow, no matter how little grief-stricken she may appear.

However, the more she hears about Mrs Turnbull's relationship with Robbie, the more Laura finds herself disliking the woman. Not that she's at all concerned over a casual reference to having spent the night in Robbie's flat. There's no reason that should bother her. No reason at all.

She wonders what the hell she thinks she's doing, getting territorial over a man who's still grieving for his dead wife. Maybe, she decides, it's time she took a holiday.

Professional integrity

She's already irritated and Lewis seems intent on winding her up further. She's spent years training and even more years building up her skills and experience and she's not going to let him dismiss that, even as a joke; especially not after having seen the mess Cook has made of their autopsy. Also, she doesn't smoke and Lewis damn well ought to know that. She's vehemently anti-smoking, and he knows that too (although she might not be so vehement if she hadn't actually been a smoker in her student days).

This is the first time she's given Lewis a smackdown - but he deserves it, so she has no regrets.

I secretly love Hathaway

Arrogant. Presumptuous. Conceited. Self-satisfied. All perfectly good words. But no, she had to go with cocky. Not that it wasn't entirely apposite. Still, she doesn't want him reading anything into it, no matter how blatant his attempt at flirting with her.

She panics at that, wondering how on earth she's given herself away, and for a moment she's frozen in place, staring at him. But she knows he's not actually interested in her, so his words feel like a challenge - and she rises to it.

On the whole, she is inclined to congratulate herself. As a spur of the moment retort, that Hathaway comment had been nothing short of genius. Let that give Robbie Lewis something to think about.