Princess - *Book One*

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“Don’t believe a single word she says,” Ben grumbles and glares at a chuckling Lauren. She glares back at him, and this turns into some sort of who-blinks-first-contest.

I watch them with narrow eyes and growing confusion until Lauren gives in and turns back to me with an eye-roll. “Oh,” she says when she sees my questioning look. “I’m sorry,” she laughs. “Just ignore that. Will you still go to have lunch with me? I am a nice person, I swear!” She ignores Ben’s snorting laugh and gives me a wide, toothy smile.

“Well, yeah,” I say with a small shrug. “You two are kinda weird, but I’ll give you a chance.”

Lauren and Ben burst out laughing. After a moment, I join in, and I’m relieved that my first working day is going so well so far.

“Now, enough of that.” Lauren’s face takes on a stern expression again. “Are you ready, guys? I’m starving.”

With a nod, Ben and I follow Lauren to the elevator. While we’re waiting, she turns to Ben. “Are you coming to the fifth floor on Friday?”

“Yes, I am,” he responds and turns to me. “Amy, are you coming, too?”

I look at him questioningly. “Uh – what’s happening on the fifth floor?”

“Every once in a while, we have drinks after work at the firm’s expense,” Ben explains. “And that is happening on the fifth floor; they have the nicest lounge area.”

“And afterward,” Lauren adds, “we’re going out for more drinks at O’Reilly’s, a great Irish Pub around the corner. So pack your nicest dress.” She winks at me, and I have to laugh.

“I’ll think about it,” I tell her, even though I know I don’t really have to think about it, not with the way those stupid butterflies in my stomach are going crazy again when Ben smiles at me.

When the elevator doors open, Ben and I take a step forward at the same time. We collide and go awkwardly back and forth. I have to try hard to hold back a groan because if anyone saw us, they’d think we are two idiots.

With a low chuckle, Ben puts his hand on my lower back and gently ushers me into the elevator. He gives me a timid smile that makes me tingly all over. I quickly avert my eyes and try to ignore the heat that his touch and that smile trigger in me.

I turn my gaze to Lauren, who luckily hasn’t noticed what’s going on. During the elevator ride, Ben and I stand far apart, and I look in any direction but at him. Seriously, what is that? I don’t know him at all, yet I am attracted to him?

When we arrive on the ground floor, Ben approaches a guy and introduces us. “Hey, buddy,” he says to him. The guy nods as Ben goes on, “Isaac, this is Amy, a new colleague. Amy, that’s Isaac. He’s part of the legal department.”

Isaac takes a quick look at me and nods guardedly. I smile at him, and I think he smiles back at me. But the movement of his lips was so quick that I might have imagined it. Wow, not very enthusiastic.

Lauren links her arm with mine. “Okay guys, enjoy your Chinese while we’ll go eat some real food.” She pulls me after her out of the building, and I’m already looking forward to getting to know Lauren a little better.

A little while later, Lauren and I sit in a cozy little restaurant, waiting for our food. That’s when she begins her questioning. “How is your first day going? Was Luke nice? And how is Ben treating you?”

I laugh because Lauren makes it so easy to like her that I catch myself thinking about becoming good friends with her. “The day is going better than I feared,” I tell her. “Yes, Luke was very nice, and I can’t complain about Ben.”

Lauren smiles. “That’s good.”

There’s one thing I’ve been dying to ask ever since we left the office though. “Can I ask you a question? Don’t get me wrong – but what is that between Ben and you?”

Lauren laughs. “Ben? We’ve known each other for a while now. At first, we only met at company parties, but now we often go out. For example, to that pub. Or to the Avalon, one of the hottest nightclubs around. You have to come with us next time. I desperately need female support; going out with the boys makes it hard for me to meet cute guys.” She winks at me, and I chuckle at her enthusiasm.

“So you and Ben are just friends?” I ask her. “Because it just seemed like more than that.”

“No!” she says with wide eyes. “I admit Ben is a great guy, but his charm doesn’t work on me. Wait until you see all those women drooling over him, but apparently, none of them are good enough for him.”

My first thought is that Ben’s charm is already working on me. With his brown eyes and his dark wild hair, he sure falls into my category of ′attractive’. He has a dream body, muscular and athletic. He’s easy to talk to, and his laugh is really contagious. I’m already wondering how I’m supposed to work with him every day from now on without losing it. Or maybe it’s just the first impression, and the emotional chaos will calm down soon.

When I return to my desk after a relaxed and fun lunch break, Ben is back already. My heart rate picks up right away, and I have to keep myself from grinning stupidly.

When Ben sees me, he gives me a smile so dazzling that I blush, and again, I curse those evil hormones that make me act like a silly little school girl.

“Oh no,” Ben groans when he looks at me. “Please don’t tell me Lauren told you all of her embarrassing stories about other people, including me. Whatever she said is probably exaggerated.”

I laugh as I sit down at my desk. “Are you worried that I think you’re a big flirt?”

He looks at me with raised eyebrows. “Damn. That bad?”

I shake my head. “Don’t worry. She just told me that you don’t have any trouble making new acquaintances—unlike Lauren when she’s going out with you.”

Ben rolls his eyes but laughs. “Don’t let her fool you. She definitely can’t complain.”

I chuckle. “Let’s just say that Lauren is happy she has female support from now on.”

“Sounds like you are officially accepted into our selected circle.” Ben’s sweet smile immediately triggers this pleasant tingling in my belly.

“Well, I’m not going to be able to avoid drinks on Friday and an evening at the Avalon.”

Ben winks at me. “Consider this the official initiation ritual.”

I laugh. “Well, I guess I’m lucky it’s only that.”

And just like that, Ben has me engaged in yet another easy conversation while we start with our respective work.

After some chit-chat about different places around here that serve good food and how I don’t really have any friends yet to go out to eat with, Ben asks, “So you just moved here? Without any family or friends to accompany you?”

I nod. “Yes, I came alone. My family lives on the west coast.”

“And your friends? Don’t you miss them?”

This conversation suddenly goes into way too much detail. I inevitably think about what I left behind, which is something I’m not necessarily ready to share with anyone yet.

Ben looks at me questioningly. My hesitation probably puzzles him. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be nosy,” he says. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

I wave him off. “No, that’s fine. I do miss my family and friends, but I prefer to focus on my new life here. And apparently, I’ve found some new friends now.” I smile at him and hope he doesn’t ask any more questions about my past.

He smiles too. “Yes, you have. Okay, let’s get back to work before the boss catches us chatting instead of working.”

Before I know it, my first week at work is over, and I already love my job. Ben and I get along great, Luke is happy with my work, and Lauren and I spend our lunch breaks together. It’s good to finally have a girlfriend to chat with again. And she, too, seems to enjoy my company. As Ben has already insinuated, she is really fun-loving. The things she tells me about all of her affairs make me blush every time. Fortunately, Lauren likes to talk a lot so that I have avoided questions about my love life so far. We first have to get to know each other better before I can tell her about it.

The only thing that worries me is Jenna. She turns out to be a real bitch. She eyes me at every opportunity and seems to be looking for mistakes. Ben said she was jealous because I got the job as Luke’s PA.

Whatever her reasons are, it’s indisputable that she doesn’t like me. And in Ben’s presence, she’s the epitome of innocence; she’s always smiling and making eyes at him, or at any other good-looking male co-worker, for that matter. And Ben definitely falls into that category, with his wild dark hair you want to run your fingers through and his brown eyes you could lose yourself in. His muscular chest awakens X-rated fantasies.

Yes, it’s official: I’ve fallen for his charms. But it’s not only his good looks. He stirred emotions inside me that I didn’t think were still there. We talked a lot these past days about anything and everything. He’s a good listener, and after just one week, he knows almost everything about me that I’m willing to reveal.

He also told me a few things about himself, but I heard between the lines that he’s not telling me everything either. But I didn’t expect him to because we’ve known each other for only one week after all, even though it already feels like much longer.

After a busy Friday, I’m happy when I finally shut down my computer at half past five. Luke’s just left for a meeting with a client, but he said he would join us later on the fifth floor for drinks.

Ben is done with his work for the day too. He packs up his things and looks at me. “Are you ready?”

I nod, and we make our way to the elevator and on to the fifth floor. Ben leads me to a nice lounge area with comfy chairs and a few tables already filled with snacks and drinks. I grab a glass of champagne and watch my colleagues, only some of which I have met already. I spot Lauren talking to Isaac, and we join them.

Lauren beams at me. “Hey, Amy!” She hugs me and smiles at Ben. “Hey, stud!”

“Lauren!” He fails to sound menacing when she hugs him too; his sweet smile gives him away.

I raise an eyebrow. “Stud?”

Lauren giggles. “Yeah, he hates it when I call him that, but as you know, I like to tease him. After all, that’s what all the ladies think when they see you, right?”

Ben snorts. “How would I know what they think?”

Lauren rolls her eyes. “Because they’re always drooling over you. But at least Amy here still seems to be prudent enough not to fall for your charms.”

I almost choke on my drink when I hear her words. I know she meant it as a joke, but she couldn’t be more wrong. There were these little moments throughout the week – coincidental touches and occasional glances – that made me question my sanity because I felt a pleasant tingling in my belly every time.

And between my thighs. Stupid hormones!

While I try not to die of either choking or sudden embarrassment, Lauren slaps my back. “Amy, are you okay? You’re supposed to drink the champagne, not inhale it.”

Slowly but surely, I can breathe again without having to cough. “You’re telling me this now?”

She laughs and takes the glass out of my hand. “No more for you.”

Ben hands me a glass of water, which I gratefully accept. “Okay, now that we’ve established that I’m not to be trusted with champagne, what’s next?” I ask.

Lauren grins at me. “That’s basically it. We drink and talk, and then we’re off to some more fun at the pub. I think there’s gonna be live music tonight.”

Ben nods. “Yes, Paul and his band are playing.”

Lauren claps her hands. “I love Paul and his band; they’re great!”

Isaac laughs. “It’s Henry you love, admit it.”

I stare at him a little shocked because that’s the first time I heard him speak more than three words in a row. I’ve met Isaac a couple of times this past week. He is a good friend of Ben’s, but every time we met, he barely spoke to me. Ben assured me that he is a little shy at first, but once you get to know him – or better, once he gets to know you – he can be fun and outgoing.

At Isaac’s remark, Lauren gives him a menacing look. Ben leans closer to me, which makes me flinch. My heart is beating wildly, and I’m sure I’m blushing. Again, stupid hormones.

All because Ben whispers to me, “Henry is part of Paul’s band. Lauren’s had a crush on him for ages, but she would never admit it.”

I nod and take another sip of my water. Looks like this is going to be a fun evening.

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