When we step out of the door into the night, I deeply inhale the crisp and refreshing air, which is a nice change to the used air inside the pub.
“Where do you want to go?” Aaron asks me.
I look at him and sigh. I’m still not too sure if this is a good idea. On the other hand, why not? A little bit of attention won’t hurt, even if I’d rather get that from Ben. But the way he reacted, it bothered him a lot that I was leaving with his brother. So I give Aaron a subtle smile. “I’m a little hungry.”
“Say no more; I know just the place.” Aaron offers me his arm to link mine with his and leads me to a little burger place a few blocks down.
I sit down at a table in the corner while Aaron gets our food. In the meantime, I look at my phone and see a message from Ben.
"Princess, if my brother causes any kind of trouble, call me, ok?"
Princess? Really? Even though I’m not at all into silly pet names, this makes me smile. I text back:
“He is behaving very well. If that should change at any point, I’ll twist his wrist first and then break his nose. After that, I’ll call you so you can take him to the hospital.”
His answer follows promptly. “I’m amazed! I’m sure the shock effect would be on your side.”
I can’t resist another comment. “Princess knows how to fight back. So don’t worry. I’ll text you as promised once I’m home!”
I put my phone back in my purse when Aaron comes back with our food. He sits down next to me and is so close that he almost touches me. I’m not so sure yet if I like that.
He puts his hand on mine. “Before we talk about anything else – is there anything going on between you and my brother?”
I almost choke on my spit when I hear Aaron’s question, and I withdraw my hand. “What do you mean?”
He laughs. “He was acting like your fucking bodyguard. He doesn’t do that often.”
I shrug and avert my gaze. “Uhm, okay – well, we’ve only known each other for a week. We’re just colleagues, that’s all.”
Aaron keeps looking at me. “Hm.”
I still avoid his eye. “Perhaps you could explain to me why your brother is anything but ecstatic that you are sitting here with me now?”
Aaron laughs. “So you’ve noticed? We don’t get along too well sometimes. Ben has a problem with my extroverted character. I take what I want. He, on the other hand, hesitates too long. But let’s not talk about my brother and me. What about you? Do you have any siblings?”
I sigh. “No, I’m an only child.”
“Then it must be tough for your parents that you’re so far away from home, right?”
I nod and feel a lump forming in my throat. “It’s not easy for me either, but I had to leave,” I say in a low voice.
Aaron studies me for a moment. “What did you run from?”
I’m surprised. “Run?”
Aaron nods. “Your ex-boyfriend? Was he a jerk?”
Despite the pain I suddenly feel in my chest, I have to smile. “Yeah, something like that. But I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Okay, accepted. Why did you choose New York? Apart from the fact that it’s probably farthest away from home.” He winks at me.
I have to say he, too, has his charm; one that is entirely different from Ben’s. Aaron gives off this bad boy vibe. I think about Lauren’s words. What trouble does he get into?
That thought doesn’t bother me for too long, though, because Aaron manages to engage me in easy conversation, making me smile and even laugh more than once. For the first time in ages, I feel comfortable with this kind of attention.
Of course, he insisted on taking me home. When we arrive in front of my building, he looks at me silently for a moment.
I tilt my head. “What?”
Aaron smiles. “You’re a great girl.”
I return his smile and blush. It’s been a while since a man was so attentive towards me. “I can understand that you are a success with the ladies. You’re good at that complimenting thing.”
He frowns. “Is that the picture you have of me now? A womanizer?”
“Well, you’re more like the bad boy. You make a big secret about what you do, and you direct the attention to your date. You always find the right words so that whoever you’re with feels comfortable in her pretty skin. This is the picture I have of you.’”
Aaron laughs. “Does that mean my trick worked? Do you feel comfortable in your pretty skin?”
I have to grin inevitably. “Yes, very much.”
“Will I see you again?”
I shrug. “Maybe. But I don’t want to raise your hopes or hurt your feelings. I think you’re a nice guy, that’s all.”
Aaron laughs and theatrically holds his hands over his heart. “Just a nice guy? I’ve never been rejected this coolly.”
I smile at him and shake my head. “Thanks for a nice evening.”
“The pleasure was all mine.” He gives me a note with a phone number. “Call me if you want to go out with a nice guy.”
I nod and put the note in my pocket. “Good night, Aaron.”
Before I can say any more, Aaron raises my chin a little and gently presses his lips on mine.
He takes a step back. “Yes, I know. But I didn’t want to miss out on the goodnight kiss. Sleep well, Amy.” With a smile, he turns and disappears around the next corner.
I take another deep breath before I go to my apartment, where I drop on the couch, exhausted from an eventful day. It’s just after 1am. Despite everything that happened tonight with Aaron, all I can think about is Ben. I don’t think he will be too happy about Aaron’s advances.
As promised, I send him a text. “I’m back home, safe and sound. Now you can rest easy ;-) "
I go to the bathroom to remove my makeup and get into my PJs. While I’m brushing my teeth, my phone vibrates. Oh, Ben is still awake?
"So no broken nose?"
"No, no fisticuffs. On either side."
I don’t really want to tell him anything about the kiss.
Ben’s answer comes promptly. "Are you sure? This would be a first for my brother."
“Yes, I promise :) Okay, I’m going to sleep now. Good night, Ben, see you Monday!′"
"Good night, Princess. Sleep well."
Smiling, I put my phone away and go to bed. There is something between Ben and me, that’s obvious. But what? I definitely feel the butterflies in my stomach when I think about him. And when he touches me, a pleasant heat rushes through me. Does he feel the same way? Or is that just his protective nature?
While thinking of Ben, I soon fall into a peaceful sleep.
Monday morning on my way to work, I realize that I’m pretty excited. Over the weekend, Ben and I were constantly sending texts back and forth. It’s becoming more and more familiar between us, and now I’m looking forward to seeing him again.
As I walk past the reception desk, I wave to Lauren. We’re becoming really good friends too. We spent Sunday afternoon in Central Park; she told me all about her Friday night, and I told her about Aaron. She said she was surprised, too, that he wasn’t a little more persistent. Apparently, his reputation isn’t the best. But he was nice, and that’s what counts for me. The only thing I didn’t tell Lauren is that I’m totally into Ben after just one week.
When I arrive at my desk, Luke is already waiting for me. I smile at him. “Good morning, Luke.”
“Good morning, Amy. I hope you had a nice weekend. Could you come to my office? I have some important tasks that need to be taken care of now.”
“Of course.” I take off my jacket and follow him.
In Luke’s office, I sit down on one of the chairs in front of his desk while he sits down on the other side. He hands me some files and explains what I need to do. “Do you have any questions?” he asks.
I shake my head. “No, I’ll get to it right away.”
Before I get up and leave his office, he calls me back. “Amy, can I ask you for a favor?” Without waiting for an answer he continues, “Ben just called to say he’ll be a little late. I have an important meeting to attend in ten minutes.” He takes another file out of his desk. “Ben needs to work on this right away. It’s for a client I’m meeting tonight.”
He explains some things to me while I’m taking notes. “Ben already knows the client and also knows what they want. If he has any questions, I’ll be back around noon.”
I nod. “Okay, I’ll tell him. No worries.”
At least that’s what I hope. Now I’m counting on Ben that he knows what he’s supposed to do, just as Luke said. I take the file and go back to my desk.
When Ben arrives half an hour later, my heart races as soon as I see him. He puts on his irresistible smile, which causes the butterflies in my stomach to go absolutely crazy. “Good morning, Princess.”
I raise my eyebrows at him. “Is that your new thing now? Princess?”
He grins at me. “I can’t help it.” He winks at me and laughs silly. Again.
“Maybe because you want to fulfill my every wish?” I ask with a smirk.
Ben laughs. “Maybe. So, what did I miss?” He points to the file on his desk.
“Luke asked me to give this file to you. He’s meeting the client for dinner, so he needs it to be done by then. I took some notes.” I give him the piece of paper. “I hope this will answer all your questions.”
He sighs and rolls his eyes. “Ugh, I wanted to leave early today.”
I look at him open-mouthed. “You come here late, and then you want to leave early? What would Jenna say to this kind of work ethic?”
Ben smirks. “I don’t worry about her. First, she is not my boss, but my boss’s PA, even though she likes to act as if she were in some sort of control here. And second, as soon as I tell her that I was late because I had to take my dad to his doctor’s appointment, she’s gonna be like, ‘Oh, Ben, you’re sooo sweet!’"
“Are you serious?” I let out an annoyed puff of air. “That woman is horrible. Imagine if I told her something like that; I’d never hear the end of it. But shame on you for using your good looks to get out of trouble with her.”
Ben looks at me for a moment, and I’m already starting to worry that I put my foot in my mouth again as he bursts out laughing. “Oh, Amy, the only reason she’s treating you like this is that Luke has his eye on you.”
I narrow my eyes at him. “What are you talking about?”
“Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed the way he looks at you.”
I shake my head. “That’s stupid.”
Ben sighs and comes closer to me so he can whisper in my ear, “You are on his list.”
I smack his shoulder and push him back towards his desk. Why is he telling me this? He doesn’t know what he’s talking about, right? No, I haven’t noticed the way he looks at me, as Ben put it. He never made any advances or said anything inappropriate.
“Look at you thinking hard. You know I’m right.”
“Ben, just shut up and do your job. Why do you want to leave early anyway?”
“I’ll explain that to you when we have more time. I need to start on this file now.”
He winks at me before he opens the file. He looks at it and then at my notes, but of course, he still has some questions.
I look at him apologetically. “Damn, I should have listened better.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll ask him once he gets back. If he can take his eyes off you long enough for me to get his attention, that is.”
I roll my eyes. “You’re stupid.” I stick out my tongue.
Ben grunts as he tries to stifle a laugh. “I’m just warning you. I told you about his reputation. That list of his is already pretty long.”
“Wow, I don’t know what to say. I’m not used to that much attention.”
Ben snorts. “I don’t believe that for one second.”
“Believe all you want; Aaron was the first guy to take me out for ages.”
“Aaron? Really?” he asks with a frown.
I roll my eyes. “What is your problem with him? He was very nice to me.”
“Of course he was. He’s just bad company.”
“Care to give me more details?”
Ben sighs. “I think we need to talk. Can I take you out for drinks tomorrow night?’”
“Uh, okay...” I try hard not to leave my mouth open in surprise. Has he just asked me out? Even if it’s only so that he can explain his hostility towards his brother.
I don’t care. Ben and I will spend an evening alone outside of work. My little heart leaps with joy.