He was stood at the front of the room, talking to a weak looking man he presumed was Milton, though it was quite obvious that he wasn’t the best man, there was another chinless wonder that seemed to fill that role. He watched this man observe the room, and he hated the lazy way he cast his eyes over everyone. Bill also knew the exact second that he spotted the very nervous Sophie, who was clinging to him desperately, from the way his eyes widened. The man wasn’t as much impressed by her, Bill could see as he was interested, very interested.
Guiding Sophie into a row of seats somewhere near the rear, he stooped his head to whisper in her ear. He knew that Miles was still watching.
“He’s looking at you, and if you don’t smile and appear to be in love with me, I’ll stick my tongue in your ear!”
She spun her face to look at him, shock being replaced by humour, “really?”
Nodding he planted his lips on her cheek, and he spoke into her skin “appearances are everything Miss Beck, you know that.”
Giggling she stared into his eyes with what she hoped was a devoted expression, “it’s very easy to pretend you’re my everything when you’re being nice to me! Normally you tease me all day! I could get used to this!”
Wrapping an arm around her, pulling her into his body he laughed, “We’ll see about that.”
He maintained his contact with her as she discreetly pointed out the only people she knew in the room, another old school friend and two cousins of the bride. Bill knew at least three or four guys from his Eton days, but he chose to not tell her of that at the moment, London society was such a small place.
Finally Miles Langley had taken his seat in the front row, and his eyes off Sophie, so Bill relaxed, though he still held her hand possessively, it felt natural and she wasn’t resisting it. The noise in the room of people chatting deafened out their conversation, but Bill was happy to observe the room and share the odd laugh at funny sights with Sophie.
Sophie felt very protected, her hand dwarfed by Bill’s large one, his frame sitting as a barrier between her and the rest of the room. She owed him big style, and for the first time she relaxed. At that very moment the whole of the room hushed to a silence, as the Wedding March struck up.
Everyone stood, and Bill pulled her close as they waited to see Melody appear and walk down the aisle. Sophie had never had dreams of a white wedding, she hadn’t spent her whole life planning it, and had no desire to be the centre of attention, and as Melody appeared, whilst she acknowledged she looked beautiful, for Sophie is was all very awkward and uncomfortable.
“This is why I’m never getting married!” she hissed at Bill.
He laughed then lowered his head to her ear, “don’t say that too loud! I’m here being the man trying to talk you into being my wife!”
Raising her eyebrows she smiled, “you are good Bill, I’ll give you that, but not even you are that good!”
Grinning he replied, “If this wasn’t an act, and if you weren’t my best mate, I’d make you regret that!”
With an angelic smile, she turned back to the procession of bride, father and eight bridesmaids.
Bill whispered witty comments about the service, the Langley’s, and the room as the service progressed, and Sophie sniggered along discreetly as she started to relax.
It was as elaborate and over the top as she’d imagined, not quite a Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, but not far off, Melody’s dress was huge and adorned with thousands of Swarovski crystals. It was too gaudy to be really elegant, and Sophie took a little pleasure in that fact. The bridesmaids in hot pink dresses were also like eight matching blancmanges.
“All a bit chav darling, don’t you think?” Bill’s voice was a breath against her neck and followed by a soft chuckle. “The new money brigade over shooting again!”
Sophie shuddered at the tingles racing down her spine from his breath against her neck, turning to return the gesture, she whispered, “Sir William Swift, are you being an old money snob?”
It was so far from where he was that they both chuckled, and several people turned around to ‘shush’ them. Unable to look at each other, they sat together holding hands, uncontrollable smiles on their face.
After the service, Mr and Mrs Milton walked up the aisle, all beaming smiles and teeth. If Melody spotted Sophie she did a good job of hiding it. They disappeared out of the door for photos, and the rest of the congregation followed out, starting with the family in the front few rows. As Miles, accompanied by one of the bridesmaids headed up the aisle, he paused at the end of their row and stared at Sophie for a moment. She was as jittery as a nervous horse beside them in his gaze, so Bill pretending not to notice the tension bent down and kissed her gently on the lips.
When he pulled back she looked up into his eyes, “what was that for?” She whispered, stunned by the gentle tenderness in his actions.
Resting his lips on her forehead, pulling her into his arms, he replied, “that man was intimidating you, and I’m not going to let him!”
Leaning back, she looked up into his eyes and smiled, “you’re taking this very seriously Bill.”
He sighed, “You’re my friend, I can’t bear to see him psyching you out like that! Now come on, let’s go find champagne!”
In her ridiculous heels, all she could do was totter after him, for a moment she envied those women who could stride confidently in heels! In the adjoining rooms tables to seat the two hundred quests were laid out with expensive crystal and china. Dozens of waiters circulated with trays filled with glasses of champagne, and Bill grabbed two, handing one to Sophie.
“Do you want to go outside for a moment? There’s a veranda over to the left. It may be a little quieter?”
She nodded, “I need some fresh air.”
They’d been sat on the veranda in the afternoon sun for only a few minutes when the door to their left opened and half a dozen guests spilled out to join them.
“So do you recognise anyone?” Bill asked as Sophie nervously finished her champagne.
Shaking her head, she reached for his glass, stealing it with a smile, “no. Not really. I’m wondering whether that’s the point, that I’m here deliberately to feel awkward.”
Bill shrugged, “are people really that horrible?”
As she sipped at his champagne she gave him a brief resume of her relationship with Melody.
Stunned he shook his head, “why are you here then?”
She sighed, “Vin knows how much the shit with Miles screwed my head, and she’s convinced that the fear of him, or a repeat of how embarrassed I was, is why I’m so screwed up when it comes to men. I think she believes that this is going to be cathartic, and I’m going to be healed once I’ve faced him as a ‘success’!”
Bill laughed, “You’ve hardly screwed up, you’ve just met a few monkeys that’s all. Remember that Sam guy you worked with?”
Sophie squirmed, “he was so nice in work!”
He nodded, “but more than weird out of it! I suppose you maybe levitate towards ‘safe’ guys, and we all know that’s not always the best!”
“So says the epitome of a bad boy!” She winked, and he reached out to ruffle her hair, something he normally did, but with her hair so carefully teased he was risking his life, she applied an elbow to his ribs. “Watch it Swift!”
Laughing he signalled to a waiter for another couple of glasses of champagne, “Sophie, bad boys are not necessarily bad!”
Fifteen minutes later the MC called them all to dinner, and as they entered the dining room Sophie and Bill joined the long queue of guests waiting to pass into the dining room via the welcoming committee of the new bride and groom.
“Sophie!” Melody squealed in a rather dramatic way, dragging the unsuspecting woman into an exaggerated hug. Then Melody turned to the man beside her, her husband, “Hugo darling, this is Sophie, remember I told you we went to school together?”
Hugo was worse up close; the vacant look was backed up with a rather empty smile as he acknowledged her, “pleased-to-meet-you!”
“Congratulations to you both,” Sophie offered, “and can I introduce my...”
As she stalled unable to quantify their relationship, Bill stepped forward, “Sir William Swift, Sophie’s devoted follower!”
Melody giggled at that, and as Hugo shook hands with Bill, Bill leaned in and asked in a very theatrical whisper, “How the hell did you get your good lady to say yes to marriage? This woman keeps refusing, damn those suffragettes, hey?”
As Hugo guffawed with laughter, nodding in agreement, Melody looked a little green, and Sophie had to remember that Bill was playing a part, she was so tempted to elbow his ribs again...but that would do nothing to help the facade!
Moving past the bride and groom, Bill led her in the direction of their table. They were sat with no one either of them knew, and that was fine. Neither had to act excessively hard, they were good friends, and were comfortable to engage in conversations with the strangers they were sat with. The food was wonderful and the wine was fast free-flowing.
Sophie had the perfect opportunity to study both the bride Melody, but also Miles her brother as everyone ate. Miles was sat on a round table near to the top table with the bridal party, and he was as beautiful as she remembered, angled cheek bones, square jaw and that thick dark hair. She was trying to work out which woman at the table was his guest, each one there seemed to be flirting with him.
“Earth to Sophie!” Bill’s voice cut through the depth of her daydream and she shook her head and tried to focus on his words. “You dreaming of getting your hands on someone other than me?” he asked at a whisper.
The delay in her answer was all he needed to know, and Bill hated Miles Langley even more.