Bill was more than a little bit pissed off with the glances that Miles was throwing their way, as a partner of Sophie he may not have been aware of the one sided history between them, but as her friend he knew that this man had rejected her at her most vulnerable, but now he was showing signs of interest. It annoyed him beyond belief, he knew men like that who were always more interested in attached women, and ones who thought that every woman should drop at their feet. Sophie was too naive with men to manage a predator like Miles Langley, and he had to ensure that he didn’t get the opportunity to play her.
Glancing at Sophie he groaned, she’d spent most of the meal absorbed in her own world, and he knew who was figuring in her daydreams.
Sophie felt like a teenager again every time she felt Miles cast his eyes on her. And she meant that she could feel it, because she didn’t dare meet his eyes, but her awareness of him zinged every few minutes and she felt light headed at his attention. Saying that she wasn’t stupid enough to think that he was interested in her. Not really. Miles was a flirt, she’d learnt that ten years ago and nothing she’d witnessed today had changed her opinion of him.
Every time she’d seen him Miles had been more than charming, he had that way of looking at her, as though she was the only woman in the room, singling her out for attention when she felt was insecure and awkward, which was all the time. She wasn’t someone used to attention, so when he followed her out of a room to ask how she was, or when he laid a hand on her shoulder for that moment too long, she’d taken it as interest, attraction. Apparently he saw it as a joke.
But she was different now, more confident, independent, and with Bill to support her - invincible. So taking the bull by the horns, the next time she felt his eyes on her, she lifted her face and sought out the gaze. She thought she’d flinch, but she didn’t. She met those bold blue eyes head on. Miles did a double take; she knew she’d stunned him with her boldness. Raising an eyebrow in what she hoped appeared as possible recognition; she turned back to Bill, to find him staring at her.
“You trying to make me jealous?” he asked with a smile he didn’t feel, then without warning he swept his lips over hers. What was meant to be chaste punishment suddenly became more. His lips stayed there longer than was necessary, but she didn’t pull away either. There wasn’t the passionate flare of clashing lips and tongues that would lead to more, but as he opened his eyes, he saw hers still closed, a blissful look on her face, and he panicked pulling his mouth from hers.
“You’re a great kisser!” she breathed, surprised. “Though I should have expected that! You’ve had enough practice!”
He groaned, this was starting to fall apart, “You think badly of me Miss Beck!”
Sophie saw that slight hint of hurt in his eyes, and it shocked her, “you are never short of attention Bill, you are the biggest womaniser I know!”
He was stunned, suddenly being viewed the same way as the man he was protecting her from, but he wasn’t like that, was he? Floundering for an answer he finally managed, “if I slept with every woman who threw herself at me maybe, but I only get involved with women who want the same as me, and I never lie to people about it. I’m young, and living my life. Is that wrong?”
Suddenly she didn’t want to get into this, her and Bill had a great relationship, they never argued and never judged each other, and Sophie suddenly realised that her snapping at him may be due to the fact that his kiss had caught her completely off guard.
Reaching out she laid a hand over his, “I don’t judge you Bill and I don’t want to argue with you.”
He grinned, “maybe I was a bit defensive...I’m used to comments like that from my brother, my father...”
Sophie gave her best dramatic shocked face, “and you put me in with those two?”
Laughing, he pulled her in to his body and kissed the top of her head, “never.”
Everything hushed again as the speeches started, Bill and her had wagered on how long they would last, and how many times each person would say the word ‘bride’, with a pencil he somehow found in an inside pocket of his suit, he kept a tally on the cloth napkin. As they came to a conclusion he’d won every single bet.
“You’re used to society weddings!” had been her excuse as they stood and wandered back outside. It was mid afternoon and the weather was warm for a September afternoon.
“Like I spend every weekend at Lord and Lady Aristocrat weddings! I’m always on my bike!”
She laughed, “That’s true.”
“And I think it’s worked, the ‘show Miles Langley what he’s missing’ plan, he can’t take his eyes off you, which is rude considering you are meant to be with me.”
“I don’t want that attention, I’m just glad that I haven’t looked a fool here, without you this would have been torture.” She realised it was the truth, Miles was someone she wanted to Wow, but that was all.
He nodded as he watched her drain her drink, “I couldn’t have let you come alone!”
As Sophie signalled to a waiter for another glass of champagne, Bill intervened waving him away, “think we’ve had enough for a while. It’s going to be a long day, and falling over pissed or being sick all over yourself is not the way to end this day!”
“Once I was sick!” She protested, but acknowledged he was right, she’d sipped on the champagne to calm her nerves, and she’d had a lot of them!
“I’ll go get us a soft drink. You stay here ok?”
She nodded, closing her eyes and sinking back into the comfortable seat, the warm sun caressing her face.
Sophie felt quite pleased with herself, or rather her friends. With Vincenza’s advice and Bill’s company she’d more than held her own at this wedding, and as she thought back to the man that Melody had married, she almost laughed out loud, she’d rather commit to a nunnery for life than spend her life with him.
“So what’s so funny?” A dark husky voice asked.
Sophie felt her heart start to pound, her awareness heightened at the familiarity of that voice. As she stayed with her eyes closed, two things went through her mind, firstly that he’d sought her out, and secondly that this wasn’t just good timing, Bill had been at her side since they’d arrived. This was the first time he’d left her alone. Miles had been watching them.
Slowly opening her eyes, she turned to the direction of the voice and gave her best magnanimous smile, “Miles.”
He had designer shades covering his eyes so she couldn’t really gauge what he was thinking.
“I was surprised to see you here Sophie, I haven’t heard anything about you for such a long time.”
And there it was, he’d dragged her back to that fateful day when he’d not just turned down her attentions, he’d humiliated her. Choosing not to go there, she wasn’t about to humour him by blushing and rambling she ignored the reference.
“I was surprised to get the invite to be honest, but it’s nice to see how friends are getting on, and I’ve learned so much about your sister today!”
She hoped that her surprise at the tacky wedding and rather bland yet rich husband came across in that comment, and by the way his lips tightened she felt she’d hit home. He was such a good looking man, maybe not classic, maybe not everyone’s ideal, but to her he’d epitomised all that she’d wanted from a man since she’d been twelve.
“One of us had to settle down eventually!” He offered in a rather enigmatic way. He had picked up in her scorn, and the thought pleased her.
“It’s no surprise that it’s not you!”
He grinned, “I’ll put that off as long as I can! I’m far too busy enjoying life.”
She raised an eyebrow, “aren’t we all? What do you do these days?”
She’d followed his progress through her teens and university days, the internet allowed that, but she had no intention of hinting at the fact.
“I’m a barrister, in the Old Bailey, rumour I may become the youngest QC by the end of the year.”
He was bragging! This was the equivalent of a bird of paradise displaying its colourful plumage. Look at me, look what I can do! At that moment she knew Bill was right, he was interested in her, this was flirtation at its most obvious.
“Really?” she was surprised that her voice was firm, she was starting to shake inside. Standing to be on his level she wished she could see through those glasses, “I know nothing about law...I’m a good girl!” It was her attempt to flirt back, and as his lips curled into the hint of a smile she knew she’d hit home with her helpless female comment.
“You always were Sophie! What about you?”
She tried to stop her hands wringing knowing displaying nerves was a sign of weakness, “I’m an artist! Lifelong dream and all that!”
One eyebrow rose from behind his sunglasses, “I wasn’t aware that was your dream when you were younger.”
He was hinting that HE was! She knew that. The cheek! The cock-surety! She was sorely tempted to reach out and slap his face, but then he’d know that she was bothered by what he said. Much better to take it at face value.
“Well we’re all misguided in youth!”
Fifteen all! A voice screamed inside her head, she was giving as good as she got and could barely contain the beaming smile threatening to emerge.
He almost took a step back and that made her feel even more euphoric, “ooh, she bites!”
“Only if you push the right buttons!” Bills voice boomed from behind Miles, and she’d never been so glad to see him. “Hi, I’m William Swift!” He handed Sophie a drink before extended a hand to the unusually speechless Miles.
Miles met his hand and nodded, “Miles Langley.”
There was a standoff now, and the usual social attention avoider Sophie loved it. Bill slid an arm around her pulling her close, “I’ve told you before you need to sheath your claws outside the bedroom, this poor man will be scarred if you attack him here!”
She loved Bill so much, only he could stun Miles in such a dramatic yet inoffensive manner.
“So you knew the young Sophie you lucky man, was she was foxy as she is now? Or as independent...or stubborn?”
Sophie looked up at him, his twinkling eyes, and she joined in the game, “Sir William, I’ve told you I won’t marry you, now let’s leave the subject!” She turned to Miles with a grin, “every wedding we attend I get this. Miles here has the same views as me on marriage darling, so don’t try and use him to bully me like you did the Viscount Barwick!”
Bill guffawed loudly, “old Monty agrees that I should get a ring on your finger as soon as I can! And I won’t give up!”
With that he pulled her close and landed his lips on hers. The adrenaline, the fact that Miles was less than a foot away, made this kiss more forbidden than the others, and Sophie literally melted into his arms for that brief moment.
“Well I need to circulate, get another drink. Nice to see you again Sophie, and a pleasure to meet you William.”
Bill nodded an acknowledgement, then held his breath as he watched him leave. Turning back to Sophie, she looked like she’d just skydived. Her face was flushed, eyes wide, and he could sense the racing pulse surging through her.
“Bill! You are immense! And exactly right!”
Bill had hidden his anger at seeing Miles with her, seconds after he’d left, but she’d joined in the banter, and hopefully done enough, but by the look in her eyes he wasn’t convinced. She’d loved the wind up, loved their role play, but there was more than that. He hoped it wasn’t a rekindled interest in Miles Langley that made her eyes twinkle.