Princess - *Book One*

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Ben’s vibrating phone interrupts the first decent train of thought I’ve had all morning. Trying to concentrate on my work is pure torture today because the tension between Ben and me is so damn frustrating that hardly any other thought can occupy my racing mind. Neither of us said a single word, let alone dared to look at the other.

Ben’s phone keeps vibrating, which means someone is calling him. But he’s too far away to hear because he’s helping a colleague with something over at his desk on the other side of the room. I look at him but can’t get his attention.

The vibrating finally stops, and I turn my attention back to the computer screen. But not even a minute later, I hear the vibrating again. Only this time, it’s my phone. I answer straight away when I look at the caller ID. “Aaron! Are you okay?”

He hesitates a moment after my greeting. “Uhm, sure – Listen, I don’t have much time. Can I talk to Ben?”

“What makes you think that I’m anywhere near him?” I grumble.

“Uhm–” Again he seems surprised by my words.

“Never mind,” I snap. “Ben’s talking to a colleague right now. Do you want to leave a message?”

“No, that’s fine. I will get back to him later.”

“Okay.” The line is silent for a moment before Aaron sighs. “Is everything okay between you two?”

I let out a humorless laugh. “Okay? Ben broke up with me; nothing is okay.”

“But didn’t you guys talk things out? After all, it was all just a big misunderstanding.”

His words need a moment to sink in. “Excuse me?” I gasp.

“Uhm – yes, nothing bad happened, and nothing will happen.”


Aaron takes a deep breath. “Amy, listen – my brother can be an enormous idiot sometimes. He feels bad about everything that happened. He may still be looking for the right words to fix this.”

“Wow, I can’t believe those words are coming out of your mouth.”

Aaron laughs. “Yes, please, don’t tell him. Okay, I have to go. I’ll call Ben later.”

When I hang up, Ben comes back to his desk. He looks at me with raised eyebrows when I scowl at him. “What’s up?” he asks hesitantly.

I cross my arms in front of my chest and lean back in my chair. “Aaron just called.”

“Hm.” Ben sits down and avoids my intense stare.

“Don’t you have anything else say about that? How about: It’s all okay; we don’t have to worry anymore because it was all just a fucking misunderstanding.” I have to try hard to keep my voice down and not attract attention from our colleagues.

Ben sighs when he looks at me. “I wanted to discuss all this with you later.”

“What are you waiting for?” I groan. “Ben, you’re tormenting me. Can’t you see that? For days, I’ve been wondering what has gotten into you, and don’t try to tell me that your feelings for me have suddenly vanished or that you don’t care about me anymore – that you don’t care how terrible I feel. And I know that you feel just as terrible.”

Ben ruffles his hair and lets out a long breath of air. “The last few days have been hell for me, Amy, believe me. When things finally cleared up yesterday, I thought I could be relieved; I thought I could go back to you and tell you everything was all right. But suddenly, I had the feeling that I had already fucked it up. How many times have you told me I shouldn’t act the way I did. I’m scared that I’ll never be able to turn it off completely, and that I’ll react that way every time something like this happens. And then I remembered the look on your face when I left – the pain. I don’t want that anymore, Amy. I don’t want to hurt you anymore.”

I take in a long, slow breath. “And that’s why you think it would be better to break up?” I say through clenched teeth.

Ben averts his eyes again, and I rub my forehead, trying to ward off the start of a headache. “You can’t be serious. Don’t I get to have a say in this? I don’t want to break up. I love you, dammit. But if you don’t get it, there’s nothing I can do.” I jump up from my chair with a huff, grab my bag, and leave my desk, thus ending this dreadful conversation. I go and find Lauren at the reception desk. When she sees me, her smile falters immediately.

“Have you had lunch yet?” I ask her.

She shakes her head.

“Good, because I desperately need to get out of here. Are you coming?”

When I return after a short lunch break, I feel a little better. I told Lauren everything, and she raised a little hope in me that Ben and I can still fix this. After work, we’ll sit down together and talk it out.

I arrive at my desk and look over to Ben, who’s engrossed in work. He doesn’t say a word, doesn’t even look at me, and at once, the tension is back.

With a sigh, I sit down and take the file I need to work on. But again, my thoughts wander off repeatedly. What if Ben meant what he said? How can I tell him that it would kill me if he left me?

The current mood really affects my work. It takes me forever to finish the simplest tasks. Again and again, my thoughts are elsewhere. Every slight pain in my lower abdomen almost brings tears to my eyes. Every time I steal a glance at Ben and he accidentally looks in my direction as well, I have to quickly avert my gaze before I start to cry.

It’s already late afternoon when Luke comes out of his office and stops at my desk. I hand him his messages and try to smile. He tilts his head and looks at me. “Amy, you should go home.”

I nod. “I will. I just need to finish one last thing.”

He gives me a warm smile. “Okay. I’m off to my meeting with Mr. Wilson, so I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Okay, bye, Luke.”

He gives Ben a quick look. He probably noticed the tension between us too. If we don’t fix this soon, he’ll eventually talk to us about it, trying to prove his point that a relationship between colleagues is toxic to the job performance.

When Luke is gone, I decide to take the initiative because this is getting more and more ridiculous. I look over to Ben and clear my throat. “Are you done?”

He looks up from his work and sighs. “You mean to fabricate the biggest crap of my career so far?”

I snort. “It can’t be worse than my crap.”

And then it happens: Ben smiles. It’s just a tiny movement of his lips, but it is undeniably there, and when I see it, a warm feeling spreads in my chest. Oh, how I missed that.

I throw my pen on the desk. “Let’s give up. I need to get out of here. I’m hungry, and I want to talk; I can’t stand the silence between us any longer.”

Ben nods. “Okay. I’ll take you out to dinner.”

“Yes, please,” I respond with a hopeful smile. I’m finally fully willing to believe that we’ll be able to work this out. With a lighthearted feeling, I grab my bag from under my desk and place it on my chair. When I put on my coat, my phone rings in my purse. I rummage in my bag, find my phone, and pull it out – and with that, the bag lands on the floor and the whole content falls out.

“Shit!” I quickly bend down to pick everything up because I know what’s in my bag. But Ben already crouched down beside me. I push him away. “No, Ben; I’ll do it.”

But it’s too late. Ben grabs my wallet and spots what’s underneath: the ultrasound image. I sigh and lower my head. That’s not how this was supposed to happen.

Ben picks up the picture, gets up, and stares at it. Then he looks at me. “Is this yours?”

I get up too and frown. I nod hesitantly. Does he even know what he’s looking at?

“Amy, whose baby is this?” Okay, so he knows what he’s looking at.

“That – that’s – our baby.”

He stares at me, eyes wide, mouth slightly agape. He doesn’t move a single muscle, and I’m not even sure he’s still breathing. He looks awfully pale too. Shit. I tilt my head and narrow my eyes at him. I had expected many reactions, but none at all? “Ben? Are you okay?” I put my hand on his arm.

He clears his throat and looks at the picture in his hand. “You’re pregnant – from me?”

I roll my eyes. “Who else?”

“And when were you planning on telling me?” His calm voice and neutral facial expression still don’t show how he feels.

“I wanted to talk to you about everything else first – about us. I didn’t want to tell you beforehand because I wanted you to be unbiased so you don’t just take me back because I’m pregnant.”

Ben shakes his head, and as if that made him snap out of whatever state he was in, he says, “Oh, Amy, I’m such an idiot!” And before I can react, he takes me in his arms and hugs me tight. I close my eyes and bury my face in the nape of his neck.

Ben whispers, “I love you so much, Princess.”

At his words, I can’t hold back the tears any longer — tears of relief.

Ben pulls back from the hug, takes my face in his hands and wipes away the tears with his thumbs.

I frown. “See? That’s what I wanted to avoid. You’re just saying that because you know you knocked me up.”

He furrows his brows. “Princess, don’t say things like that. You know it’s not true. If you hadn’t dropped your bag, we would be sitting in a nice little restaurant soon, and I would tell you again what an idiot I was and that I was so sorry I behaved like this.”

A subtle smile plays on my lips. “And then I’d tell you that you were an idiot, but that I forgave you if you promised me that you’d never do that again.”

Ben returns my smile. “I would grin like a madman and gladly give you that promise. That I’d try everything to make amends and that I wouldn’t freak out anymore because I knew we belong together.”

“And hearing those words from you, I’d be totally relieved and would grin as well. And then I would tell you to finally kiss me.”

Ben doesn’t hesitate and presses his mouth on mine. Good thing all of our colleagues already left so I don’t have to worry about anyone seeing us. I close my eyes and enjoy the gentle contact of his lips before he deepens the kiss. Our tongues meet, and I feel the tension leave my body.

After a minute or two, I take a step back and look at him. “Ben, I’m pregnant.”

Ben looks at me with mock surprise. “You’re what?”

I smile. “Pregnant, and you’re the father.”

Ben takes my hands and looks at me lovingly. “That scares the shit out of me, but at the same time, it makes me indescribably happy; you make me indescribably happy. And I want to spend the rest of my life making you just as happy. Marry me, Amy.”

My heart stops for a moment, and I stare at Ben with wide eyes. “What? Are you crazy? Ben, I love you too, much more than I could put into words, but I seriously think you’ve lost your mind.”

“I’ve never been as sound as I am right now. I’m not letting you go again.”

I shake my head with a chuckle. “I just went through a divorce, and I have to digest that first. And I don’t need a marriage certificate to know that we belong together. Not yet.”

Ben grins. “Okay, later then.”

Before I can protest, Ben closes my mouth with a passionate kiss that makes me weak in the knees. And all the bad thoughts disappear.

All thoughts, except for one – Ben and me forever.

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