Valentina Boundless - Book 2

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Benji 3.0

Yes! Benji emailed me back. He is next on my call sheet, you know how I love my lists. It’s only been a week since we saw each other last. Benji tried to deliver me to New York City, he wanted to make sure that there was no way I was changing my mind. But I wouldn’t let him. Plus he had so much going on at work.

I remember my family dropping me off at the airport. Once they were out of my sight, my eyes scanned the airport. Logically there was no way Tommy would know I am here. But love doesn’t know logic. All those romance novels and movies poison my mind with disappointing wishes.

Working every day at my dad’s bar, I would look up, wishing he would walk through the door. All I wished was for him to come for me. To fight for me. Silly since no one but me knew this. No, that only happens in the movies, not in real life. I dare not think of what Tommy might be doing at this moment. It was bad enough that I drove past our park where we necked in my dad’s car.

Now that I am in New York City, I can stop scanning every place I walk in to. I can stop looking up every time someone walks in the door.

Good thing I still have the effects of my two glasses of wine from lunch because I will need the buzz to keep my feelings just surface and bubbly.

“Hello, Benji?” I ask when he answers the phone.

“Hey, Valley-girl!” The nicknamed rubbed off on him from hearing my dad call me that for the entire summer he spent with us.

“The one and only. How are you?”

“Great, and you?”

“I am getting there.”

“How is NYC so far?”

“Amazing! I am sitting in my office at INK.” Thank you wine because you make me sound convincing.

“Is it a corner office?”

Benji’s boss during his first summer internship left Q’s Gaming; yes, a huge 007 fan, and took Benji as his partner and they started Hermes. For those who know Greek Mythology, Hermes was not only the winged messenger of the Gods but he was also the God of gambling. Benji likened to his trickster side as well as his ability to stay one step ahead of everyone else.

Growing up with an uncle that worked for Nintendo, Benji got games before they were even released. He started developing his gaming skills at the age of 3. I was grateful to help him sketch pages for his new game that he and Jared are working on. Nice to have family money to take chances with. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I asked for 2% of the company in exchange for my artwork. I am no dummy.

“Not everyone is like you and your big office suite. But the fact that I just turned 22 several months ago and I have a small office and an assistant we both would gladly sleep with.”

“In this climate? Really? Valley-girl!”

“It’s you and me Benji and I am not important enough to have my phones tapped. Plus you are the one that was begging me to work with you so you and your nerd clan would have ‘inspiration to come into work’ every day.” We both laugh.

“Yeah, yeah! You got me! You still owe me a good pin-up for the locker room.”

“Don’t hold your breath! Actually, please do.” Benji does a great job of making me laugh. “How are things with you? Rocking it at work, I am sure.”

“Well, you taught me everything I know about coding. Whenever I wanted to goof off you kept me in line. And you are so damned good at it, you brought out that competitive edge in me as well.”

“Nice to hear you finally admit it.”

“Yes, I can own it all now. You did bring out the best and worse in me. Keeping our friendship after you broke my heart has its benefits.” Benji loves his digs.

Yes, I was the idiot that broke up with him. We joke that about me being the one that got away but he was the one that got away from me.

“And as you and I have both witnessed, it takes more than great sex to make relationships work.” Benji's apology for his dig.

Yes, I finally realized that Tommy and I avoided issues with great sex. Change the subject before I get to remembering.

“Well now I am about to give you the chance to trump me, I will even admit in advance that this is now more your wheelhouse than mine.” I find that it's best to butter someone up before you as a favor from them.

“Only because I have been doing it daily since we graduated. I am sure you will catch up quickly. And you know it’s my pleasure to brainstorm with such a beautiful mind, but yes, the ego boost is always a huge bonus. So, what are we working on together?”

“I need to build an extremely intricate APP for Wanderlust. It has to be fun and interactive. It has to be able to collect data while appeasing to a broad audience.”

“Well, then let us get to it.”

“I was hoping you would say that.”

Putting all of my education to use jazzes me up. I have an impressive to-do list to discuss with our Technology team, which gives me a nice exhale, it will be a huge plus for me to be able to walk into a room of strangers, mostly men, with my ducks in order. The world may have come a long way with civil and equal rights; however, it still is a caveman concerning women in the workforce.

That’s why INK is so impressive, it employs and empowers women. Jessica, our fearless leader at Wanderlust, INK’s travel subdivision, is both feminine and powerful. Qualities that aren’t seen in a lot of women in the workforce these days. Many women are made to feel like they must operate from masculine energy to be seen as strong and capable. Like most of the employees at INK, the women working here are beautiful, especially in the divisions that run their fashion magazines. Jessica has managed to find women with her qualities. Starting with my assistant, Sylvia.

I admit that I am finding it hard to stay focused. Thanks to the nice buzz from lunch, it is harder to keep Tommy locked-up tight. I can sense his sensations reigniting in my cells. A whiff of his scent still lingers. I catch myself caressing the places his lips have lingered. Worse, it’s not tears that I am fighting back, it is the urge to hear his voice.

“Okay mi amore, my brain is full,” I lie to Benji after hours of sketching and tech talk. I need to get off the phone and out of my head. “Would you be a love and email me a recap?”

“Great, that’s when you start doing that magic that you do inside that crazy head of yours. And you should be getting an email as we speak. I was testing a new dictation App I built as we spoke.”

Phew! Because my mind missed half of what Benji was saying.

“Of course your built and App for that! And of course, it worked impeccably! Thank you so much for always being there for me.”

“Vally-girl”, yeah still can’t get used to him calling me that, “do you remember what I used to say to you all the time about us?”

“That you either dodged a bullet…”

“Or lost the love of my life. When you and Tommy got together, I had to finally accept the idea that you and I were finally just friends. You told me all the time but you and me, we groove so well in so many ways, I wanted myself to believe that we were soul mates. Now I am grateful that after all these years you are still one of my best mates.”

“I chalked it up to bad timing, it wasn’t that I didn’t want it to be you, I just wasn’t ready.”

“Ready doesn’t have anything to do with it. When you meet that love, you can’t help yourself. The fact that you were able to keep boundaries between us spoke volumes. I just wasn’t listening. Now that I met Josephine, I get it. That feeling that you cannot breathe without that person. That is true love. That is how you felt about Tommy.”

“Wait, what? Whoa! Way to drop a bomb!”

“Yeah, I met a great woman and she makes me so happy. She brings out the best in me and it’s so easy. But I don’t think I could have appreciated her if you hadn’t set the bar so high.” He laughs.

“What happened with Amy? It was just a little over a month ago that you and she were together.”

“After she sorted things out in Chicago, she was offered a job she couldn’t refuse in London. It was hard enough to do the distance between Palo Alto and Chicago, London? No way. I can see why Nate refused to date you while you both were in separate cities. I didn’t say anything to you because you were still so fragile here. So, I buried myself in work. I only left my office to grab coffee breaks. Josephine owns the coffee shop down the road from my office and it was just like the movies, love at first sight.”

“I am so happy for you. And I am so sorry that you felt you couldn’t tell me, you have only been the best friend I could ask for. Stubborn, self-absorbed Val, I should have seen beyond my shit.”

“Stubborn yes. Self-absorbed, not possible. I didn’t think it was such a great idea to discuss Amy and me while your heart was shattered. Let alone, tell you that I found my true love.”

“Well, I am not so fragile anymore,” liar, “so spill the beans. Then I can make you eat your words about true love and moving too fast! Wow! All those lectures you gave me about Tommy. Hmmm. Which should I regurgitate first?”

“Well, you can say them to my face when you are back this way. I know the holidays here are special to you, I will make sure Josephine and I are at Triple Rock on Christmas Eve in case you are. But also know that healing takes time, so it’s okay if you don’t want to come back at the risk of running into him. Although I miss you something awful.”

“Okay, we need to end this call before I start crying.” I miss Benji too but now those tears for Tommy are pushing their way to the surface. “I love you and appreciate you so much.”

“Ditto!”

Benji and I do groove nicely, when we are in sync it’s amazing how brilliant our two minds can work. We bring out the best in each other when it comes to coding and designing. If it weren’t the fact that I know first-hand that Benji is into women, I would say he is my best gay friend. His eye for design would make any gay man envious. He also knows me better than anyone. Benji opened a crack in my heart that I am not ready to look at. I need to distract his words out of my brain. Work always takes me away from the hard stuff in life.

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