“You're not the only one who can keep a secret.”
— Sir Anthony Fairchild, in 'Identity Crisis'
Alex tugged her veil as she strolled along the path, thrilled by how the day had gone. Weddings were never as perfect as the plans that led to them; as Ed had put it, thinking her out of earshot, there was always a hitch in the hitching. Every wedding the team had attended had ended in disaster.
This wedding had been the total opposite. The summer day was scorching, setting straight from a masterpiece. Her Grecian-style gown clung to her like a second skin, exactly as she'd designed it to.
And then there was the groom. She’d known Adam Mosby for a few short months, but events had bonded them as if it had been years. Even the discovery that he’d helped two criminals steal CAT Flap—after they’d learned he’d laundered Hive funds through a trust—couldn’t part them. Adam was contrite, and ready to pay for his crime.
Alex was in love: her forgiveness had been only a little harder won than her heart.
She stopped by some of her guests, sipping at crystal flutes. “Has anyone seen my husband—?” She giggled, the novelty overwhelming her. “It’s so weird saying that!”
Part of her noted that Ed was there. She couldn’t envisage a day he wasn’t. Ed was her dearest friend; a connection that had always held potential for more. One disastrous date had placed that squarely on the back burner, and soon after, Adam had entered her life. The darkly brooding Hive agent was nothing like blond, vivacious Ed.
In the beginning, if Alex was honest, that had been the main attraction.
While Ed had been struggling to prove himself boyfriend material, their colleagues Ros Henderson and Nick Beckett had begun a love affair of their own. But that had gone pear-shaped too: Ros had disappeared with Sunstorm, a group of environmental activists run by old friends. One memorial service and the death of her ex-fiancé later, what had seemed like a fairytale had collapsed into dust. Ed and Ros had been left out in the cold as other relationships blossomed: Beckett and his neighbour, Christa, and Alex and Adam.
She’d been Mrs Mosby for a few short hours, and it was everything she’d ever dreamed of: happiness so exquisite it fizzed like champagne. She wanted to revel in it, like a child; do somersaults on the grass. It was superstition, more than propriety, that prevented her: a lingering fear of hitches. Happiness was hard-won, and easily lost. It could slip through her fingers, like her wilted bouquet. The petals had dropped in the heat, leaving a scented trail behind her.
The thought of the bouquet reminded her to throw it in Ros’s direction, once the reception wrapped up. Beckett had chosen Christa as his plus one, but Ros was all alone. She deserved to find someone special, after everything that had happened. Alex pondered turning her hand to matchmaking, once they returned from honeymoon.
Love could conquer all: even the friction between estranged old flames.
The romantic notion was shattered as two shots split the air. Alex turned towards the sound, instinctively tracking it. Her guests began to scatter, a flock of startled birds. Ed and Jan set off at a sprint. Alex was left behind, bewildered, limbs locked in place.
Two years of Bureau service fired her into action. Alex flew across the path, skirt in her hands, pins slipping from her bun. She pushed through a cowering crowd, into the hall past the glass. There she spotted Ed: bent over a body. His expression was grim, tanned face gone grey with shock. Jan had turned as pale as the statues, standing vigil around them. A hand was clasped to her mouth in silent horror.
As Alex took in the scene, her heart thumped faster and faster, louder and louder, a jackhammer in the midst of paradise. When she realised the body on the floor was her husband, it almost stopped beating altogether.
She bolted to Adam and stumbled to the floor, clutching him. He smelled faintly of her perfume, skin as warm as when he’d kissed her, after their vows. But sweetness was laced with the metal of blood, and his neck rolled limp in her arms. She whispered his name, waiting in vain for an answer.
This was the disaster Ed, Ros and Beckett had feared would come. Love couldn’t conquer all, after all. It only made heartbreak more inevitable.
Buried in Adam’s hair, tears blotting out the world, Alex was barely aware of Ed and Jan, backing away. It was the ice in Jan’s voice that registered, as she posed a question to Ed.
“Where are Ros and Beckett?..”
Alex clung tighter to Adam’s motionless form as it dawned on her that the nightmare was far from over.
This was only its beginning.