Initially this chapter was in both Sophie's and Adam's pov but my Betas seemed to think Adam should have the limelight. Okay - I've gone through the edits, and there is probably more work that could be done on this chapter. However, now that I've been punched, kicked and bullied (not really) into continuing with this then I'm really one of those writers that just keeps plodding on, writing the whole story, then going back and editing. I'm not the seats of pants type. I have to know the ending (sort of) before I can even start writing the first chapter, just because I need to know where I'm aiming at. And I'm happy to leave chapters not perfected, as I'm likely to go back and add something in, because something happens in chapter 18 I didn't expect, and I need to set it up in chapter 2.
I will be interested in any comments, good, bad or ugly - just always constructive please!
(Hoping formatting isn't too squiffy).
::Takes deep breath::
The Wedding Favour
Adam walked up the stairs towards Sophie’s flat with some anxiety. He had insisted upon driving when they had made their arrangements. He took a deep breath, about to ring the doorbell, but Sophie’s front door opened unexpectedly and he jumped, face to face with Sophie, who also gasped.
To add to his surprise, Sophie was wearing a fitted summer dress, cut just above the knee, revealing an appealing figure and great legs, accentuated by her high heels. She looked nothing like the bland engineer he’d met on Monday. Her chestnut brown hair was loose, shaping her face and there was colour in her cheeks. For some reason, he’d expected to see her in something similar to the plain - and unflattering - trouser suit she’d been wearing when James had introduced her. God, that morning he’d wondered what he’d got himself into. But now staring at this transformation….
She’d dressed to impress. Was it for him? Because he was impressed. Maybe this weekend wouldn’t be bad after all.
You made James another promise, remember.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you,” he said, clearing his throat, and straightening his tie. “I thought I’d come help you with your bags.”
“Oh, uh, thanks,” Sophie said, putting down the case outside the door, and grabbing a small holdall and her handbag.
“We agreed - eight a.m.?”
“Yes. For some reason I thought….” She shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. You’re on time.”
She wouldn’t look him in the eyes; she was nervous as hell – especially the way she fumbled to get the key into the lock.
“Here, let me.” He took the keys out of her hand and locked her front door.
“Thank you,” she said as he gave her bundle of keys back.
“Not a problem.” Adam picked up the case, then frowned, feeling the weight of it. His eyes narrowed as he glanced at her.
“We’re going for the weekend, right? Not the week?”
“I know, I know.” Sophie winced as she spoke. “I just couldn’t think what to pack, and decided to pack for every eventuality.”
“You are normal then,” he said, smiling, as he walked down the stairs to his car with Sophie following.
“Well, I wasn’t sure whether the woman I met Monday was the sort to pack everything but the kitchen sink.” She had appeared to be a minimalist.
Her expression sobered.
Great, Adam. Maybe you should wait until you get to know her a little better before you start teasing.
“I didn’t mean... Just, well, you look great.”
Very great in fact. Was James - and the rest of the design team for that matter – even aware they had a beautiful woman in their department? Why would she hide herself in the background?
“Oh… um, thank you,” she said, combing a hand through her hair, and then smoothing a hand down her dress.
Adam looked at her speculatively. James had practically begged him to help, certain something was troubling Sophie. The last three days, whilst mulling it over, he’d been assured over and over that this weekend would be good fun, that he needed a break from work. Adam had agreed; James had got him out of a few scrapes over time and trusting him with this, knowing Sophie would be treated right. But Adam was still not comfortable with this whole plan. How far would the pretending have to go?
Hopefully, it would just be a case of standing to the side, making idle chit-chat. As James had said, if he couldn’t sweet-talk a few old dears….
Adam tried hiding his grin as he placed Sophie’s luggage inside the boot. He’d noticed Sophie’s stunned expression as she looked at the car – a BMW Five Series. It was silver, and brand spanking new. He’d thought this would be more comfortable for the journey, and they could arrive in style. If Sophie was looking to impress someone, she’d do it arriving in this car.
His expression sobered. What if it was a bit too flashy? This wasn’t the car he used for the office. Sophie didn’t know who Adam really was. She just thought he was an account manager, she didn’t know his true purpose at the company. Only James knew his secret – had kept it for ten years, too.
Hell, he hoped he hadn’t over done it – first impressions and all that. He needed to put her at ease, not make her think he was some poser.
“Hang on!” he said, shutting the boot. He quickly walked around and opened the passenger door for Sophie, just before she could grab the handle. He smiled and she stared at him, opening her mouth, then closing it.
“Thank you,” Sophie said, settling into the seat. “I can see why you insisted on driving - beats my poky Corsa.”
Adam chuckled, shutting her door.
He took off his suit jacket and hung it up. Once seated, he glanced at Sophie and for a moment, she gave a fragile smile before looking into her lap, then out the window. He really needed to reassure her that he didn’t bite.
“Right, Cornwall it is then,” he said.
“I said I’d pay for the fuel, and I mean it,” Sophie said, in a worried tone.
Adam thought best not to disagree. Not that he would let a lady pay where he could help it. But maybe she was fretting because, although James had talked him into this, she didn’t want to look like she was sponging or something. For the sake of her pride, he wasn’t going to argue with her – yet.
Besides, it had been his choice to bring the gas-guzzler of a car compared to using her Corsa. Was she worried about the expense?
“Don’t worry about it for now, we’ll sort it out later. There’s a full tank. Let’s enjoy the weekend, yeah?” He winked and she smiled, lighting up her pretty face.
“Okay. It’s just you’re doing me a favour, so I don’t want you out of pocket.”
“For services rendered?” He grinned at her, then turned his attention to the road.
Luckily, Sophie giggled, realising he was teasing her. “Yes, something like that.”
She stayed quiet while Adam drove. He wondered what to discuss. Cornwall wasn’t a trip around the corner; this was a good four to five hour journey ahead of them – providing the traffic was good. Would they have enough in common to talk about or would they be stretching out conversations on the weather for the next few hundred miles?
“It’s a very nice car, by the way,” Sophie said after ten minutes, breaking the silence. Internally, Adam cringed. At least they weren’t discussing what a nice day it was yet.
“We could have used the convertible, but that gets a little uncomfortable after about an hour.”
Now you do look flash. Shut up.
From experience, he knew most women didn’t enjoy the roof down; it messed up their hair, especially if going someplace they’d got dressed up for. And Sophie was dressed up. Besides, he wouldn’t have got his golf clubs plus all the luggage in the boot.
“Depending on the traffic, we’ll stop after half way,” Adam said. He glanced down at the clock in the dashboard. “But tell me if you need a stop before then, otherwise I’ll just carry on.” He didn’t want her sitting there, too scared to ask him to stop, desperate to stretch her legs - and what fine legs they were, too.
You promised James you’d behave.
“You’re very quiet, Sophie.”
“Oh, I thought you’d want to concentrate on the road.”
“I don’t mind. If you want to talk, talk.”
“I’m happy listening to the radio,” she said.
“I can put on a CD,” he said, adjusting the volume of the radio. Not too loud that they couldn’t hear one another, but wanting to make sure they could listen to it. Hell, did he usually worry this much? She just seemed on edge. Suppose not every day a stranger picks you up and takes you away for a weekend.
“No, radio is fine.”
They listened and commented on the morning show that played on the radio. It broke the ice, he supposed. Occasionally, he’d catch the subtle scent of her floral perfume and glance to see Sophie staring out of the window. What was so bad about this wedding? Or was it him? He didn’t usually have a problem charming women. Was she intimidated? Hell, what had James told her about him?
“Should we get our story straight?” Adam asked, breaking the silence that had fallen between them.
“Story?” Sophie replied, frowning at him.
“Yeah, how we met and all that. Am I going to get the third degree?”
“Hopefully not, but maybe we should have a story that matches. Sorry, I just didn’t think,” Sophie said, laughing and Adam sensed the nervousness behind it.
If he was going to do this, he was going to do it right. Adam certainly hated looking like an idiot. He didn’t want them turning up to this wedding obviously not knowing one another. He wanted them to step out of this car and look like a couple. This journey would be a good time to work out the finer details, and get to know the shy engineer a little better.
She was supposed to be a brilliant designer, according to James, and could put Thomas Robotics ahead of all its competitors. So Adam had another reason to hit it off this weekend. The more he helped Sophie, maybe the more she’d help him at Thomas Robotics when it came to it.
“It shouldn’t be too difficult. We both work for the same company,” he said, concentrating back on the matter at hand. “What about Ted Phillips’ retirement party? That was a few weeks ago.”
“Did you go to that?”
“Yeah, didn’t you?” He frowned. Thinking about it, he didn’t recall seeing her there, because if she’d been dressed like this, he’d have noticed. Hell, they’d already know each other a whole lot better. He’d certainly have crossed a room to talk to her.
“Why not?” Adam snatched a glance at her before looking in his wing mirror and moving the car into the outside lane, aware of her lack of confidence again.
“I was out with friends, I think.”
She’s lying. Friday nights at The White Lion were about her limits as far as James knew. He didn’t think she had other friends outside of work.
“How was it?” she asked, looking at him. “Did many people go?”
“Yeah, it was a good night. James got up and sang to a couple of ladies that work in Accounts.”
“He never told me that.”
“I don’t think he remembers.”
Sophie laughed. “Well, we can still say we met there.”
He nodded, liking her laughter. There was honesty about it. It was something he’d like hearing more often. Meant she was relaxing, too.
“Okay, Ted’s retirement party.” He smiled at her, and she nodded back. Adam had to concentrate on the road, although he would rather get a better look at the woman sitting beside him.
Plenty of time. He had all weekend. And his job was to stay in close proximity. What a shame.
“I’ve got my clubs in the boot,” Adam said, first thing that came into his head, his mind wandering to the hotel. Golf was something he did to relax, and entertain important clients.
“What?” Sophie frowned.
“I checked out the hotel facilities. They’ve got a golf course.”
She looked at him, almost mortified. God, she didn’t think he’d be trying to escape her every given minute, did she? That’s not why he’d brought them. He thought it might be a place they could escape to.
“I know nothing about golf.”
“Then I’ll have to teach you.” He grinned. Now there was a heart-warming thought and a subtle way to get close to this woman.
“To be honest, I’m pretty useless at any sport where a ball is required. You’d need longer than a weekend.”
“My contract is only for this weekend.” He raised an eyebrow, looking at her mischievously. “If you need me for longer, we’ll have to renegotiate.”
“Oh, um, I didn’t mean -”
“I’m kidding!” Adam chuckled. “I was going to suggest the tennis courts – they have those, too, but it looks like you’ll just be using the pool.”
“Yes, I can swim.” He glanced at her, and she was chewing her lip.
Okay – so she didn’t look keen on going swimming either. Probably the idea of them going together. She didn’t come across that she was confident in her own skin – but why? He’d give her the privacy, if that’s what she wanted.
Changing the subject, Adam filled Sophie in about Ted’s retirement party, so their story was believable and the conversation moved on, allowing them to get to know one another a little better.
He stumbled over an old girlfriend’s name, internally kicking himself as he quickly washed over it. One thing he’d been trying very hard to avoid was past girlfriends - he had quite a few. He could see it had set off alarm bells inside her head. Her eyes had widened.
“You don’t have a girlfriend, do you?” Sophie asked him, hesitantly.
Adam shook his head. “No, don’t worry about that.”
“For a minute there I thought I’d put you in some awkward predicament.”
“Well, actually James was the one to get me in this predicament, because it was his idea.” Then, more seriously he said, “But if I had a girlfriend, I wouldn’t be here. I’m not that kind of guy, either.”
“Of course not. Sorry. I didn’t mean it that way.”
Her cheeks flushed pink – the English rose look suited her. What would she look like...? Adam swallowed, burying his inappropriate thoughts inside his head. Where did that come from? He just didn’t need to be thinking like that. He’d promised James.
“God, I hope you don’t feel bullied into this?” she said, frowning.
“I wasn’t bullied. I can’t be made to do things I don’t want to do. We should have some fun, right?”
He hoped that she could have some fun. Something had stopped her from wanting to attend this wedding. Now that Adam was with her, maybe she could enjoy herself. If that’s what she needed – company? Or would Adam add to her stress? They were strangers after all.
Sophie turned in her seat, and Adam kept his eyes on the road. Occasionally he glanced and smiled at her. It was working, she was relaxing.
“I hope you don’t mind me being nosy, but….” Sophie stopped.
His eyes narrowed as he glanced at her. “What?”
“I don’t mean this to sound as bad as it does, but you’re an account manager… and this car….”
Adam relaxed. “Not exactly standard issue company car?”
“Long story. Might tell you one day. Might not.” He winked and tapped his nose. “It’s a secret.”
“What? Would you have to kill me after?” she said, giggling, then sobered.
Adam noticed her anxious expression, and chuckled. “Sophie, you’re safe. I promise. I wouldn’t hurt you - James would kill me for a start.”
He just wanted to put her at ease. But their conversation had not been stiff or stilted; to his relief they’d actually joked.
“Hey, the other week, I was in Bracknell stripping down one our old QB13’s.”
“Oh, now you are showing your age,” she said, unable to hide a smile. “That’s an old model - way before my time.”
“I was on the shop floor making them.” He raised an eyebrow. “And I’m not that old – I’m thirty-three.”
“Oh, that definitely is old,” she said, sarcasm lacing her words.
“Experienced.” In many things. Adam liked the fact that she was flirting.
Sophie coughed and sobered. “So why were you stripping it down?”
“Well, it was either that, or they’d have to wait three days for our engineer,” he said. Had Adam taken it too far flirting back, or did he look like he was bragging? God, he felt like he was treading on eggshells. He wanted her to loosen up, get to know him, even like him. It felt important.
Of course it was important; they needed to at least get on this weekend to be remotely believable.
“Why?” she asked.
“He was on holiday.” Adam grinned. “And our other engineers were busy with other projects. We couldn’t get anyone else there sooner.”
She giggled. “I can’t believe you got your hands dirty.”
“Me neither. But I wanted them to purchase the new QB20s. And that wasn’t going to be likely if they had to halt their manufacturing line for three days.” Adam chuckled, and Sophie laughed with him. Yeah, and he’d got the contract.
And maybe he was worrying about nothing. They’d become comfortable with one another inside the car, all tension had ebbed away. But what would happen once they set foot on the grounds of the hotel, meeting Sophie’s friends and family? Adam’s stomach churned. Then he’d really have to turn up the charm. That was going to be a whole different experience. Would he be believable enough for her? Or would they see through him?
No, he’d be fine. She was beautiful, after all. There wasn’t going to be too much pretending about that. But he would be pretending. Sophie didn’t seem like his usual girlfriends, ones he could discard when bored. And they worked under the same roof. He needed to tread carefully. Do enough to keep Sophie’s family at bay, but not too much he’d provide mixed messages to Sophie.
What had James got him into?
Adam pulled into the services around eleven o’clock, suggesting an early lunch. They’d been on the road three hours and with the early start, he’d skipped breakfast. His stomach was growling.
It was a small roadside restaurant, and they stood in silence, waiting to be seated. They were quickly shown to a table and their orders taken.
“So what does your father do?” Adam asked.
“What?” Sophie looked at him, frowning.
“What does your father do? And your mother? Where do they live?” Adam asked, as the waitress arrived with their meals. Sophie smiled her thanks at the waitress then met Adam’s gaze. Her dark brown eyes flitting with worry.
“Why do you want to know about my family?” Sophie said, her voice hesitant.
“Well, have I met them or not? We need to decide.” He raised an eyebrow.
“Oh, God. I didn’t think of that, either.” Sophie sighed, resting on her elbows.
Neither had James when he’d come up with this harebrained idea – just pretend you’re her boyfriend. Adam was making a mental list of the things he was going to ‘thank’ James for when he returned.
Adam waited, patiently, watching her deep in thought. She shook her head. “Is it easier if you haven’t met them?”
“Probably. Not really a lie then, is it?” Better to keep this fabrication to a minimum. Believable too, if they had only been seeing each other a few weeks.
“But I might need some background about your family. I mean, it’s not like you wouldn’t have talked to me about them.”
Sophie rolled her eyes. “Okay, I’ll fill you in.”
As they ate, Adam listened to Sophie explain that she had grown up in Cornwall, and her parents were still living there, but were currently on holiday. They had booked a once in a lifetime trip before the wedding had been announced.
“They’re probably in Hawaii as we speak,” Sophie said, after sipping her coffee. “Sunday, I think they fly to New Zealand.”
“They decided to retire last year. They owned a couple of restaurants but sold up last autumn,” Sophie said. “So, what about your parents?”
“They’re in Surrey.” Adam didn’t look at her. Hell, what should he tell her? Was it better to come clean now about who he really was? He finished his coffee, aware that she was watching him, waiting.
“Um... shall we say I haven’t met your parents either? Bit early on in the relationship and all that.”
Adam looked her in the eye and nodded. “Yeah, good idea. I’m not really close to them.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
Now what would it look like if she found out the truth?
“It’s not like that.” He sighed heavily. “They’re divorced.” That was true.
She nodded and finished her cappuccino. Adam was relieved she was too polite to ask about the gory details. “I’ll get the bill then.”
“Wait.” Adam quickly laid a hand on her arm, stopping her rising from the table. He couldn’t let her leave the table like that.
“I said I’d pay for everything.”
“It’s not that – though I won’t let you keep this up for long,” he said, with a scowl that he meant it, then his expression softened. “But you’ve got chocolate on your lip.” He reached out and gently rubbed the top of her lip with his thumb.
Sophie flinched, quickly rising out of her chair. She looked mortified, rubbing the same spot on her lip with her own finger automatically. She sure knew how to blush.
God, had he done it again? Moved things too quickly? Had he frightened her?
Once she’d paid, they were back in the car and on the road in under an hour.
“Nearly there,” Adam said, pointing to the sign on the motorway, ‘Welcome To Cornwall’.
“So how did you escape Cornwall and wind up in Surrey?” Adam asked, lowering the volume on the radio.
“Oh, um, I did my degree in Guildford. I came straight out of Surrey University and landed on my feet in this job at Thomas Robotics,” she replied.
“Do you go home much?”
“Uh, sometimes. My parents tend to visit me though. They like to stay in London, see a play, shop in Oxford Street – that’s more my mother rather than Dad.”
“Your dad just carries the bags,” he said.
“Yes, and holds the credit card.”
“Of course.” Adam chuckled.
After half an hour of winding through the narrow country lanes of Cornwall, their journey ended as they pulled into the drive of Tinners Bay Hotel. Five stars. Positioned on the hill of Tinners Bay, the hotel was a large, white, contemporary building. Like someone had sunk part of a luxury cruise liner into the hillside. It stood three storeys high, with balconies on the top floors to admire the golden sandy beach below.
Adam took a deep breath. Cool, salty sea air filled his lungs and the wind whipped up Sophie’s hair, so she turned to face the oncoming wind, and looked out towards the ocean.
This was it. Now they started pretending.
They approached the revolving door and Adam instantly noticed Sophie slow. Adam held out his hand to gesture Sophie to go first, as the doorman greeted them. They entered the circular atrium, white and fresh, with the contrast of rich orange and blue furnishings. It screamed sophistication but had a definite seaside resort feel with bold stripes of colour and plenty of natural light.
Adam gently nudged Sophie in the small of her back, to get her walking again. He kept his arm around her as they made their way towards the reception desk, following the porter with their luggage.
He watched as she nervously glanced around. Was there anyone here yet that would recognise her? He didn’t think there was; he had a feeling he’d soon know. He felt her take a deep breath, and gave her a reassuring squeeze.
“Miss Fletcher. Part of the Staplehurst’s wedding party,” Sophie said, reaching the reception desk.
“I’m sorry, Miss Fletcher. Your room isn’t quite ready yet. Please accept our apologies; we had some problems this morning and housekeeping is just catching up,” the receptionist said with a professional smile, looking up from her computer screen. “Why don’t you go through to our lounge and have a complimentary drink? I‘ll arrange for your luggage to be taken to your room once it is ready.” The receptionist ushered for a porter to secure their luggage. “If there is anything else you may need, please see our concierge, who will be more than happy to help you.”
Sophie slowly nodded, mumbling a thank you.
Adam frowned. She’d come such a long way in the car, opening up, laughing with him, even flirting. Now she’d turned back into the shy, nervous wreck he’d picked up this morning.
“Thank you,” he said to the receptionist and took Sophie’s arm to lead her through to the lounge.
“No, Adam.” Sophie put her arm across his chest to stop him entering the room. “I can’t do it.”
“Of course you can do it.”
“No, I can’t. This is ridiculous. No one will believe it,” Sophie replied, her voice low. He could barely hear her. “Let’s just drive home.”
There was no way in hell he was driving home. He needed a drink. Strong one at that. “I promise, I’ll be convincing. I’ll be with you every step of the way.”
She shook her head. “Adam, I don’t doubt you can charm the spots off cheetahs.” She nervously fiddled with an earring and looked him in the eye. Her voice softened. “I just don’t think they’ll believe I’m seeing a guy like you.”
Adam chuckled and wrapped his arm firmly around her waist to pull her closer, liking the way she felt against him.
“Of course they will,” he said.
“It’s a big lie we are trying to pull off, and just so I can save face,” Sophie whispered. He felt her try to pull away, but he kept her held firm against him, so they looked close – like lovers? That’s what she wanted, wasn’t it?
She hesitantly put her arm around his waist. “I can’t believe James talked me into this.”
“Look, at first I wasn’t too sure about this either, but James is right. We can pull this off. Hey, we might even have fun.” Adam was even liking the idea of the challenge.
“But it’s foolish. More on my part than anything. I’m lying to my friends and family.”
“Sophie, I promised James I wouldn’t let you down and I won’t. They will never know.” He held her hand, and tugged gently, for her to follow. “Now let’s get that drink. You may not want one, but I do.”
Sophie took two hesitant steps, stopped, bit her lip, and looked him in the eye. “Adam, I’m still not sure about this.”
Adam was about to argue, trying to keep a lid on his impatience, but he caught someone heading towards them out the corner of his eye, and pulled Sophie even closer. His hand pushed back her hair as he whispered into her ear. “Too late.”
He breathed, taking in the scent of her hair – coconut, reminding him of Caribbean beaches and the sun. Before he could register the feeling it provoked properly, an older woman, in her sixties, pulled Sophie out of Adam’s hold.
“Sophie! Sweetheart, so glad you could make it,” the woman said loudly, her voice echoing through the bar as she hugged Sophie. She kissed Sophie’s cheek. “Was the drive down all right? Not too much traffic I hope.”
“Aunt Veronica, lovely to see you.” Sophie’s smile stiffened. Adam swallowed. “This is my boyfriend, Adam.”