This sequel takes place approximately 6 months after Secret Weapon. If you haven't read it, you might want to for context, but in a nutshell: Jess Parker has a very interesting backstory which involved espionage….as did Captain Becker. Their previous professions, before they came to the ARC, intersected in the story Secret Weapon. One of the results of that mission is that Jess and Becker are now together, quite happily, and working at the ARC…..however, sometimes our past can come back for a visit...and not always a pleasant one…..cue the ominous foreshadowing music….
Hilary Becker couldn't remember the last time a mission filled him with such a sense of well…...terror might be too strong of a word…..well….maybe terror fit this scenario. Matt Anderson, his back up, put his hand on the soldier's shoulder and patted it lightly.
"Yeah, you can do this mate," the team leader added for extra support. "Remember that T-Rex we took down in Swindon? I mean, next to that one, this is a cinch….." Becker rolled his eyes and narrowed them as he stared at his friend and colleague.
"Sure…..and you've done this before?"
Matt Anderson looked distinctly uncomfortable for a brief moment before he waved away Becker's sarcastic question with his hands.
"I'm sure someday …...but, hey, right now this is about you. Get in there, mate."
Becker felt a bead of sweat roll down his back between his shoulder blades. He hesitated slightly as he looked back over his shoulder at the team leader.
"But…..there's so many of them…..how will I…."
His nervous question was abruptly ended as Matt pushed him sharply on the back toward the large, open building in front of them. Becker swallowed hard and finally strode into the door ahead of him.
A young woman with blonde hair, sparkling earrings, and a smart navy suit approached the man in black rapidly.
"Hello, sir, welcome to Taylor & Hart. I'm Vanessa...How can I help you?"
Becker blinked several times as he searched for the right words to answer her question until after several minutes of silence Matt finally took pity on his friend and stepped forward next to him.
"Hello, this is Hilary Becker and he would like to see some engagement rings."
The blonde woman tilted her head and smiled sweetly as she gazed adoringly at both men in front of her.
"Awww that's so incredibly sweet. You're letting your fiance pick out his own engagement ring? That's so thoughtful! You two make such an adorable couple!" She turned her attention to Becker. "Now tell me about what kind of ring you think you might like, dear…."
Both men stood in place with identical looks of confusion on their faces. Becker suddenly realized who the young woman thought the aforementioned fiance was. He quickly sputtered his denial as Matt was now the one looking horrified.
"No….no….I'm actually looking to be buy a ring for a girl…..a woman…..I mean, my girlfriend …...ummmm….yeah….a woman…" Becker's words slowly sputtered to an end as it was now Matt Anderson's turn to chime in.
"What? No! We aren't…..where did you get that idea? I'm just here as moral support….not….you know…..yup…."
The young woman blushed profusely. "But…..you two seemed like such a cute couple! Sorry!" She quickly recovered and gestured toward a large display case full of sparkling gemstones. Becker did a military 180 degree turn to face the door as Matt grabbed both shoulders and spun him back around.
"It can't be that difficult. Just find one you think I'd like and pick that one for her!" Becker whipped his head around to see the smirk on his friend's face and arched an eyebrow as he followed the young woman to the large, well lit display case.
Abby Maitland closed the large sack of food she had just finished using and stored it in the supply room as she picked up her phone and headed out the door of the menagerie. Emily Merchant looked up at her coworker and friend and waved as she pointed toward the hub where Jess Parker was downloading a new program into the ADD.
"So Parker…..you still up for girl's night out? Think you can leave your adorable boyfriend for one evening to hang out with girlfriends?" Abby intoned solemnly and then winked wickedly. Jess laughed as she nodded in the affirmative.
"Of course, you idiot!," she giggled. You know I'm not going to miss one of our drinks and dinners without the men. You have nothing to say because you cancelled twice last month to spend time with YOUR adorable boyfriend."
"I do not understand why we cannot ever decide on where to meet! I have found a perfectly respectable dining establishment in Kensington." It actually existed in my time it's quite lovely and quiet. I believe they even have a string quartet on Saturdays!"
Abby made a face that suggested she might be violently ill. "Really, Emily…..it's a girls night out not a meeting of the Greater London Garden Club. There's a fun new place over on Old Street. Very hip….you'll love it."
Emily now made a face indicating she might be violently ill. "That area does not seem like a place to have eating establishments that promote quiet conversation."
Jess threw up both hands in a gesture indicating "time out."
"Hold on, ladies! It's my turn to pick the place and I think I'm keeping it my little secret! Meet me in the car park at 19:00 hours. I brought my car and I'LL be choosing the "eating establishment," Jess said with an air of finality. Both ladies tilted their heads to one side in thought and then nodded in agreement.
Abby smirked, "Look at Jess taking charge….I think Becker's personality is beginning to rub off on you."
The field coordinator's cheeks grew slightly pink and she smiled as she went back to work on the computer in front of her. "See you ladies in the car park," she laughed as she returned to her work.
Well things seem to be going well for our team…..or are they? Stay tuned for chapter two.