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Wedding espionage


Triosk1

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I wrote this extremely quickly so I'm sorry if it's no good. Not sure if there'll be more, depends on time and inspiration. Imagine your favourite posh British actor (Huddleston, Cumberbatch, Hugh Grant etc etc).

 

The second wedding confirmed it: he was definitely a spy. 

To be honest, she'd suspected it from the start - like recognizing like. Two people trying to fit in but not quite succeeding. She was smug that she was doing so well; she'd even been invited to the hen do for this one. No one so far had questioned her cover story of "second cousin Maureen's first husband's sister's eldest". That was the beauty of extended Fitzherbert family weddings - when money was no object, even the bride and groom couldn't remember who they'd invited. As long as she only came to the evening reception, no one was any the wiser. 

The first wedding, cousin Alison's, he'd caught her eye propping up the bar and watching the girls dance to the dreary covers band. 

"Bride or groom?"

"I'm sorry?" He had a surprisingly nice accent - old-fashioned RP, not braying or shrill or strangled. 

"How do you know the bride or groom?"

She saw his eyes unfocus for a split second, like someone recalling a story. Not suspicious in and of itself, unless you were the suspicious type. Like she was.

"Oh, I'm a distant cousin of the brides', third time removed, something like that, I can never remember. But I play golf with Johnny." He gestured at the father of the bride, dancing enthusiastically to Abba in the middle of a circle of encouraging young women. 

Sure you do, she thought to herself as she floated off to join them, with a "nice meeting you" thrown carelessly over her shoulder in parting. 

• • •

At the second wedding she had spotted him early on (the darkest possible green bow tie and waistcoat attractively setting off his chestnut hair, with its smattering of early grey). She hadn't dismissed him, quite, but he hadn't been forthcoming the previous time, and there was easier prey in the loud-mouthed, overconfident young men of the family.

This changed when she caught him sneaking through the kitchen's back door. She let him have a few seconds' head start, and watched him listen, unseen, to the older men of the family's conversation as they smoked. Then she put a firm hand on his shoulder and was gratified when he flinched badly. As he spun and to face her, she put her finger to her lips and jerked her head back to the kitchen door.

They headed back inside and took seats at the long-abandoned dining table - catering for 100 or more still scattered about. She found a clean-looking glass and helped herself to some red wine which was going spare. He sat still, impassive. They were of an age, mid-thirties, both dressed up for the occasion. He thought his eyes (hazel) were kind, but it could have been acting, of course.

She stuck out a hand. "I'm Sam."

He took it. "Nathan. Nice to meet you. Have you travelled far?"

"Drop the act. I know what you're up to."

It was as though shutters came down behind his eyes. He closed down instantly and withdrew his hand. No wedding ring.

"Likewise. And I can't see why anyone would hire us both without telling us about one another, so I can only assume that we aren't working for the same people. And if that is the case, I see no reason to talk further. Good evening."

He got up and stalked away. He had a slim build - not tall, but strong-looking. Sam wondered what he'd be like to dance with. In her heels they would be about the same height.

She spent a productive and enjoyable evening listening to the various bridesmaids and other ladies gossip on the dance floor. She had a good ear for picking out conversation over loud music. There was only a glimmer of annoyance when "Nathan" popped up every time she thought she'd found a good vantage point. The wedding was in a large marquee attached to a pub/hotel - open plan and hard to go unseen. She wondered again and again who had hired him.

• • •

A month later, they were back again. This time, the venue was an old barn, decorated with fairy lights, and pastoral floral arrangement in aesthetic milk churns.

Unusually, the families had elected to do speeches once the evening guests had arrived. Sam positioned herself 
towards the back of the room, out of the way, with a glass of prosecco. Off to one side, she spotted Nathan doing the same. His looked a little dishevelled tonight, his suit perhaps not pressed, his hair rumpled. She kept him in the corner of her eye as the portly father of the bride began speaking, barely audible because he refused to use the proffered microphone.

"And even though she'll always be my little girl..." Sam's was distracted by a sudden movement and she glanced across to see Nathan raising his head, one hand to his face. Was he…crying? She watched him, still half listening to the waffling speech, and sure enough, a few seconds later, Nathan's head jerked forward, the hand not holding his glass pressed tightly over his nose. This time he only got halfway up again before another downwards spasm. Sneezing. Sam watched it happen twice more before reluctantly dragging her attention back to the speeches. Maybe he was allergic - most of the flower arrangements seemed to feature hay or wheat in a nod to the rustic setting.

Once the speeches had finished, she decided to take a more direct approach, and headed over to where Nathan was sitting nursing a drink at the bar.

"Fancy seeing you here." She leaned her elbows against the counter and surveyed the increasingly drunken revelry. She noticed he'd nearly finished his drink. "Can I get you another?"

"No, thank you. And I'd keep my distance if I were you, I've got a streaming cold." His voice, gravelly and indistinct, more than confirmed his words. That explained the sneezing, then.

"I'll risk it." Sam leaned across the bar and ordered herself a drink. Nathan shifted on his stool, retrieving a white cotton handkerchief from his trouser pocket. As she tapped her card to pay, he turned away from her with an urgent sneeze.

"Ehh’TSZSSCH’shieww!!" He held the handkerchief to his nose as he took a shaky breath, then pitched forward again. "Hehh’TSZSSCH’shieww!!” He sniffed audibly, then refolded and pocketed his handkerchief.

"Bless you," Sam sipped at her drink, openly watching him. This was much more fun that observing the party. Not so aloof and disdainful now, are we?

"Thanks," he muttered thickly, lifting off his glasses and pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Where are you staying tonight?”

“The Humboldt.” He sniffed again, rubbing at his nose with the back of one hand.

“Really? Me too, as it happens.” She hadn’t expected him to answer. Perhaps he wasn’t  thinking straight, feeling under the weather.

"Want to tell me who you're working for?"

He eyed her scornfully, one eyebrow raised. "I do not. Do you?" But he ruined the effect by sneezing, frantically retrieving his handkerchief just in time.

"Hah’TSZSSCH’shieww!! Ehh’TSSCCH’sheww!!”” Sam thought she caught a murmured "god," under his breath as he straightened. She softened and dug in her bag.

'Here, take a couple of these, you'll feel better." She plonked a packet of paracetamol on the counter. "And if you go up those stairs-“ she gestured to the corner - “you'll find a very comfortable lookout from the balcony, complete with sofas. I recommend it.”

Edited by Triosk1
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Wow, thanks so much! I wasn't really expecting (m)any replies. Glad people are enjoying. This may be it for a while now.

 

 

As the wedding festivities wound to a reluctant close, Sam looked around for Nathan, but there was no sign. Eventually, she tried upstairs and, sure enough, there was a familiar mess of curly-hair peeking over the back of an armchair. When she rounded, she saw he was fast asleep, head back against the cushion, mouth hanging open. She shook his shoulder gently and his eyes snapped open, disorientated but quickly alert.

“Come on, time to leave. Carriages at midnight. You can share mine.”

Nathan ran a hand over his face, waking himself up. Sam was already waiting for him at the top of the stairs. He joined her.

“Could you manage to act drunk rather than ill? Better for both our covers.”

Without a word he slumped clumsily against her, one arm on her shoulder so she almost staggered under his weight. Together they awkwardly manoeuvred down the stairs and towards the exit.

One of the bridesmaids spotted them and shouted to Sam.

“Sam! I thought you were happy with the single life!”

“Shut up,” Sam called good-naturedly. “Just doing my good Samaritan bit. Someone’s can’t handle his drink.” She felt a sharp elbow in her ribs.

“See you next month for Totty’s do, yeah?”

“See you there!”

They quickly found a taxi and she gave the address. Nathan immediately straightened up once they started moving.

“Very convincing,” Sam commented as he found his handkerchief and blew his nose.

“Three years at RADA.”

“Really?”

He looked at her, one eyebrow quirking up. “That would be telling, wouldn’t it?”

They sat in silence for a while after that, Sam mentally filing away everything she knew, or didn’t know, about Nathan. He was turning out to be more interesting than the actual job she was on. After a few minutes, she heard a quiet snore, and realised he’d fallen asleep again.

They arrived at the hotel 40 minutes later – chosen for its inconvenience and therefore lack of other wedding guests. She paid the driver and elbowed Nathan, who looked around groggily and got out of the car. They parted company in the lobby of the hotel without a goodnight.

 

 

Sam had expected that to be the last she saw of Nathan (until the next wedding, of course). But in fact, fate threw them together again at the hotel breakfast the following morning. She was sitting having a croissant and tea when he entered the austere, institutional dining room. Although there were several empty tables available, he surprised her by sitting down opposite her and ordering tea.

“Good morning. How are you feeling?” He still looked unwell – pale, and with a hint of soreness around his nostrils.

“Still pretty awful, to be honest. Partly that I wasted such a good opportunity.” His voice was hoarse, and he cleared his throat and sniffed, looking down at the tablecloth. “Thank you for last night, by the way.”

“It was no trouble.” He nodded vaguely, then turned away from the table before sneezing into his handkerchief.

“Hah’TSZSSCH’shieww!! Hehh’EH’TSSCH’shieww!! Hah’DTZSSCHH’shieww!!” He seemed to curl further in on himself with each explosion, before finally blowing his nose and straightening up.

“Bless you.” His tea arrived and he busied himself stirring and pouring it out. Sam tried to further the conversation. “Probably would have been better off watching TV in bed.” He gave a tiny half-chuckle.

“Maybe, maybe not.” He sounded very congested now. “But anyway, this didn’t really come on until last night. When I checked in I thought it was just hayfever - I get dreadful hayfever in the autumn.” He looked at her as he took a sip of tea and she remembered his drunken performance the night before.

“Do you?” She was rewarded with an appreciative smile.

“You’ll have to wait and see, won’t you?” She grinned and finished her croissant, glancing up when Nathan turned away for another bout of sneezing.

“Ehh’TSZSSCH’shieww!! Hihh’TSSCH’shieww!!”

“Bless you. You’re going to be a delight for whoever sits next to you on the train.”

Nathan finished blowing his nose, then fixed her with an appraising look.

“If I were to offer you a piece of advice, one professional to another, it would be to stop fishing so obviously.”

She returned his gaze coolly. “You don’t need to act so superior. I don’t think there’s more than, what, a year between us in age? I can handle myself.”

“Alright, then two can play it your way. Is Samantha your real name?”

She paused for a beat. “What do you think?” She watched him, trying to imagine what he was thinking. Seconds went by.

“Yes,” he eventually decided. “I think it is. And I’ll tell you why, for free: when that woman called your name as we were getting into the taxi, you turned immediately, on reflex.”

“Reflexes can be trained.”

“They can,” he agreed. “But it’s easier if they’re natural. Am I right?”

She shrugged. “Maybe. Maybe not.” She poured herself some more tea.

“Aren’t you going to ask me?”

“No. I already know Nathan isn’t your name.” Again, she watched his face, but the only thing it gave away was that he was about to sneeze, eyebrows cinching tightly together and eyelashes fluttering. He raised a hand briefly, then turned to one side.

“Hehh…heh….Hah’DTZSSCHH’shieww!!”

“Bless you.”

“Thanks.” Something was still bothering him though, she could tell. He rubbed at his nose with a knuckle, thinking. Then she saw it come to him.

“The taxi! You must let me pay half.” He was already reaching for his wallet, flustered.

She laughed. “Oh no, don’t worry. I was coming here anyway.”

“Absolutely not. How much was it?” His tone was urgent, Sam was surprised to hear. He sounded almost panicked.

“Really, it was less than forty quid…”

He slapped a twenty-pound note down on the table and stood up. “Buy me a drink at the next one, then we can call it even.” Then he turned and left without another word.

Sam put the note in her purse thoughtfully. She was certain that, whatever else had been a performance, that hadn’t been acting. It implied to her that Mr High-and-Might Received Pronunciation, probably-went-to-Eton-and-Oxford might be itself an act. People who had never had to worry about money weren’t as zealous about paying their debts. Of course, she’d given just as much about herself away in not caring, but she could live with that. Curiouser and curiouser.

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well I sure can't wait to see if he does get bad hayfever in autumn 

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this is sooo good!! can't wait to see what happens next!!

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