Thank you for the positive feedback for the first chapter – I'm sorry about the delay in posting this. It's all talk talk talk but I hope you all like it anyway. This story's going to be pretty wishy washy and will therefore not be quite so easy and quick to update as 'Distractions' was. Oh well!
The next week seemed to pass by in a blur to Jess. There was just the one anomaly alert to deal with, which meant a light workload, but even so the days flew by.
Becker and Jess didn't really talk about the upcoming weekend, except for him to give her the invitation so she knew more about the setting and the dress code etcetera. Thanks to her penchant for shopping and her cousin getting married a few months before, Jess had the perfect dress already... she was glad, because she would have felt really weird about going out and buying something new.
She didn't regret agreeing to Becker's odd request, but as the days went by Jess did start to realise the magnitude of what was expected of her. She was going to have to pretend to be his girlfriend. That meant, if they wanted to be believable, that she was going to have hold his hand, flirt with him, possibly even kiss him. Plus they'd be staying in the same room. Jess knew Becker was a total gentleman, but still...
The bottom line was that Jess spent every single day trying to hide her feelings for Becker, and for three days she was going to have to let them roam free. In front of his family. His four sisters, his cousins, all his family friends, his parents. And in front of him. She just had a feeling that their friendship was not going to survive the weekend unscathed. At some point he was going to have to realise that she wasn't just pretending, and that thought scared her beyond belief.
So yeah, she didn't want to buy something new – stupid as it may seem, to her that would feel like she was trying too hard.
She'd had to tell Abby and Connor about the wedding, of course. She hadn't told them about pretending to be Becker's girlfriend, or about his sisters or anything – just that he'd asked her along. She hoped that's what he'd prefer them to know... she later found out from talking to Matt that that was what Becker had told him, so she was glad to have got it right. Of course it meant that she had to endure Abby and Connor's merciless teasing.
Finally, it got to Thursday evening and it was time to leave the ARC and drive down to the hotel. Becker had left a little while before to drive his SUV home and pick up his other car. Jess hadn't actually known that Becker had another car, but then again she'd never really seen him outside of work, and the SUV was a company car.
God, the first time they'd really spent time together outside of work, and she was pretending to be his girlfriend. Yep, there was no way this could go wrong.
Jess handed over to the auxiliary ADD controller and went to collect her suitcase from the locker room. She dreaded bumping into Abby or Connor on her way out but she managed to make it to the car park without incident. She waited by the lifts.
A few minutes later the purring of an engine filled the underground cavern and a silver car drove down the ramp. Jess' eyes widened as the car wound its way round the pillars and over to her, before pulling up in front of her. Becker cut the engine and stepped out.
"Hey," he said, walking round the car to her. "I hope I didn't keep you waiting."
Jess managed to shake her head, still staring at the car. Becker picked up her suitcase and started to put it in the boot.
"This is your car?" Jess said after a moment. Stupid question, it clearly was, but... but...
"Yep," Becker said. He gave her a smile. "I don't really like to put it in the path of dinosaurs."
Jess just blinked at him. He frowned. "What?" He asked.
Jess looked at the car again before looking back at him. "Are you secretly rich?" She blurted out.
Becker let out a disbelieving chuckle. "Excuse me?"
Jess pointed at the car. "This is a Bentley Continental GTC," she said. "There is no way you could afford this car on a soldier's salary."
Becker smiled slightly as he closed the boot. "My parents bought it for me for my 22nd birthday," he explained. "It was going to be for my 21st but I wanted the convertible and it came out a year later."
Jess nodded. "So your parents are secretly rich," she said.
Becker shrugged as he walked back to her. "Nothing secret about it – my Dad's an investment banker," he said.
"Ah," said Jess. She gave him a smile. "Well, it's a beautiful car," she said.
Becker smiled, looking pleased. "Thanks," he said. Jess had to hide her grin – Becker was a car guy... who knew?
Becker held open the passenger door for Jess, and she started to get in, but paused to give him a teasing look. "Funny, I never had you pegged as a speed junkie," she said.
Becker raised his eyebrows. "I'm not," he said.
Jess snorted. "This car goes from 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds!"
Becker shook his head and leant his arms on top of the open door. "Okay, how do you know so much about this car?" He asked.
Jess smiled and sat down in the leather passenger seat. "My Dad collects Bentleys," she told him.
"Really?" Becker said, sounding and looking surprised.
Jess nodded and raised an eyebrow at him. "I tell you what – if we really were dating, and I took you home to meet my parents, all you would have to do would be show up in this car and my father would adopt you," she told him. She wasn't even in the least bit joking.
Becker quirked an eyebrow in response. "I'll bear that in mind," he said. He shut the door and jogged round the front of the car to the driver's side. He got in next to her and started the car. They both put on their seatbelts, but Becker looked at her before pulling out.
"If your Dad collects Bentleys, your parents must be secretly rich too," he said with a smirk.
Jess just shrugged. Becker pulled out and they were off.
A semi-comfortable silence fell over the car as Becker manoeuvred them through the busy London streets. Jess sat staring out the window, her mind racing. She could hear her heart pounding in her ears, so loudly she was sure Becker would be able to hear as well. She felt like she should break the silence, but she didn't know what to say.
This was stupid. She shouldn't be embarrassed. She shouldn't be nervous... not when it was just the two of them. It was when they got to the hotel that things were going to get awkward. But still... she didn't know what to say.
She caught his eyes after a while and he gave her a small smile – she returned it but didn't say anything. Instead she admired the car she was in. Like father like daughter, she'd inherited a love of fine cars... and this was definitely one. It was so comfortable, and the sound of the engine was like a purr. And she was definitely enjoying watching Becker drive – his shirt sleeves were pushed up past his elbows giving her a lovely view of his forearms tensing as his hands gripped the steering wheel...
Jess looked away quickly, hoping that Becker didn't notice the blush spreading across her cheeks. She really was pathetic. If she was going to survive this weekend, she had to stop acting like a schoolgirl with a hopeless crush. She basically was, but there was no need to act like it. She had to suck it up. She was going to need to think on her feet and at least try to look completely comfortable around Becker.
They'd reached the motorway by now, and Becker wasted no time in pushing the car to 70. He zipped round a car in the middle lane.
Jess smirked at Becker. "Speed junkie," she said.
"Shut up," Becker replied immediately.
Jess laughed and relaxed a little. She had to learn not to be so uptight and worried about everything... yes, lots could go wrong, but on the other hand this was an opportunity to spend time with Becker, and that had to be good, right? Things would only be uncomfortable if she let them be.
She hesitated a moment and then turned a little to face Becker. "So... we should probably use this time to discuss our back story," she said.
Becker frowned and glanced at her. "Back story?"
"Yes, we need a back story about our relationship..." Jess' voice trailed off as Becker looked completely bewildered, and she rolled her eyes. "Honestly, have you never had a fake girlfriend before?" She asked teasingly.
Becker's lips twitched. "No – have you been one before?" He countered.
Jess grinned. "No, but I've seen enough of those bad romantic comedies you were talking about to know how this has to go," she said. Becker actually smiled at that, and Jess ploughed on. "The first thing your sisters will ask is how long we've been together, how we met etcetera etcetera," she said. Now that they were actually talking, her nervousness was evaporating. Clearly silence was to be avoided.
"Oh god," Becker said – clearly none of what she'd said had actually occurred to him before now. "Right. What do you think?"
"The best thing to do is stick to the truth as much as possible," Jess said firmly. "So... we work together, and that's how we met."
Becker nodded. "Okay."
"Incidentally, what does your family think you do?" Jess asked curiously.
Becker quirked an eyebrow. "They just know I work in London, and it's classified," he said. He glanced at her again. "My work is the one thing they don't pryabout, amazingly enough."
Jess smiled and nodded. "And we met nine months ago," she said. "And we've been dating two and a half months."
"Two and a half months?" Becker repeated incredulously. "That's very... precise."
Jess shrugged. "It's the perfect time frame," she said. "Anything less than two months it's not really that serious, anything more than three and you really should have already told your family about me."
Becker took his eyes off the road long enough to give Jess a disbelieving look. But he also looked a little bit impressed. "You know what Jess, you're clearly better at this than I am," he said. "Why don't you just tell me our back story?"
Jess smirked and shook her head. "Let's leave the back story for now," she said. "Why don't you tell me about your sisters?"
Becker pulled a face. "You'll meet them soon enough," he said in what Jess considered to be an overly dramatic fashion.
Jess rolled her eyes. "It would be nice to know their names," she prompted.
"Right," Becker said on a sigh. Jess kind of wanted to laugh at his reluctance, but she bit her lip and stayed silent.
"Veronica's the oldest," Becker said. "She's thirteen years older than me. Miranda's two years younger than her. Tabitha's next, she's a year younger... and Carolyn is the youngest, and like I said she's eight years older than me."
"Veronica, Miranda, Tabitha, Carolyn," Jess repeated.
Becker nodded. "They don't go by their full names though – they're Ronnie, Mindy, Tabby and Carrie," he said.
Jess suddenly saw an opportunity to bring up something she'd been wondering for a couple of days. "What about you?" She asked.
"Well I'm guessing they don't call you 'Becker'," she said. He glanced at her, and she shrugged. "Do you go by Hilary or...?"
"Hil," Becker said after a moment.
For some reason, hearing Becker actually admit his first name to hear – finally – made Jess absurdly happy, and she had to purse her lips together to keep from grinning. She'd known his full name since before they'd met, when she'd first read his file, and though it was unusual it wasn't something she'd thought much of. But then she'd met him and he was Becker... to her, to the team, to his men, to everyone, and Jess had started to wonder why he never went by his first name. She wondered if the others even knew it.
Eventually she nodded. "Okay... Hil," she said. She quite liked the sound of it.
Becker glanced at her and shook his head. "That sounds so weird coming from you," he said.
Jess was silent for a moment, studying his profile. "Do you not like your name?" She asked eventually. It was something she'd been wondering for a while.
Becker let out an exasperated sigh. "When people find out my first name, they always assume I must be embarrassed about it..." he said, shaking his head, "but I went to an all boys public school, and there were three other Hilarys in my year." He gave her an annoyed look which clearly told her that he'd had this conversation before.
Jess threw up her hands as if in surrender. "I'm sorry – it's just no one calls you Hilary," she said. Becker – Hil – shrugged, his face clearing.
"It's just a military thing," he said. "Everyone calls me Becker – they have done since I was twenty."
Jess nodded, fighting back a smile. She decided to move off the subject of his name. "So back to your sisters," she said. "Carrie's the one getting married – is she the last to get married?"
"No – yes," Becker said. He frowned. "She was actually the first." He glanced at Jess and saw her confused look. "Carrie got married when she was twenty-one, straight out of uni," he explained. "But her husband, Ross, he was a marine and he got killed in action six months later."
Jess gasped, and Becker looked at her again. "It's worse – Carrie was pregnant at the time," he said.
"No!" Jess exclaimed. "Oh that's awful... did she have the baby?"
"Yeah," Becker said. "He's called Ross, too. He's twelve now."
Jess blinked, realising what this meant. "You have a nephew?" She said.
"I have four," Becker said. "And three nieces."
Jess couldn't help a grin spreading across her face. "You're Uncle Hil."
Becker smiled a bit at that. "Yep."
Jess' grin widened – she'd never imagined Becker as an uncle before, but now that she did she could just see him with a bunch of kids. He would be that kind of uncle that you didn't see that often but when you did he was loads of fun. She would bet anything that his nieces and nephews adored him.
Jess shook her head. "I'm so jealous... I'll never be an aunt – I'm an only child," she said.
Becker glanced at her again. "Well I'm jealous of that," he said.
Jess laughed. "Liar," she said.
Becker smiled. "I love my sisters, of course I do," he said after a moment. "And individually I get on really well with all of them. But when the four of them get together... they make my life hell."
Jess laughed, and Becker shook his head. "You laugh now, but you'll see," he said dramatically.
Jess just grinned and started asking questions about his nieces and nephews. The rest of the trip was spent discussing his family, and Jess felt she learned more about Becker in that hour than she had in the past nine months. She found herself getting quite excited to meet his family, if only to see if he was exaggerating about his sisters; but on the other hand, if they were as shrewd as Becker claimed they were, how were they every going to pull this off?
She didn't have much time to get worried about it though, because in no time at all they were turning off the motorway and winding their way through country roads towards the hotel where the wedding was taking place. Becker had mentioned earlier that it was a place his family had visited a few times when he was a kid, so he knew it pretty well. Jess had looked it up online a couple of days ago – it looked really posh.
With that and the Bentley, Jess tried not to think of how rich Becker's parents must be.
The sun was just setting as they drove up the long gravel driveway towards the hotel. It really was beautiful, like something out of a Jane Austen novel. Becker smiled at Jess' awed expression as he swung the car around and parked at the side of the hotel. He cut the engine and they sat in silence for a moment.
Becker turned to face her. "Seriously Jess, thank you so much for doing this," he said.
Jess smiled and was about to reply, but before she could she noticed someone walking across the car park towards them. It was a woman, probably in her thirties, and she was making a beeline for their car. Her expression was one that Jess recognised.
"Um, there's a woman heading for the car with a very determined look on her face," she said to Becker.
Becker looked over his shoulder and groaned slightly. "That's Tabitha," he said, sinking down in his chair a little.
Jess had to laugh. "I can't believe how nervous you are," she said. "You face down dinosaurs for a living."
Becker gave Jess a sardonic look. "Where do you think I got my training?" He said.
Jess smirked and Becker sighed. "Well... here we go," he said.
To be continued...