“Ben, do you want to grab a bite?” I ask when I notice around noon that my stomach is growling.
After our more than confusing conversation about Luke, it took me a little while to focus on my work, but I can’t say that I got much done. And when I look over to Ben, I notice that he doesn’t look particularly happy either.
He gives me a smile that lights up his whole face. “Yes, please. I’m a little stuck here. Do you want to get some sandwiches?”
I nod. “Sure, let’s go.”
I grab my bag and follow Ben to the elevator. As it’s lunchtime, lots of people are leaving their desks. When we step into the elevator, we are greeted by a really handsome man. He’s probably in his fifties but hasn’t lost any of his good looks, which his expensive suit only adds to. He reminds me a little of George Clooney. I try not to stare at him but—hello? A George Clooney look-alike?
On the way down, more people step into the elevator so we need to move closer together. Ben puts his arm around my waist to make more room, which means he’s so close to me that I can feel his body heat seeping through his clothes, and it doesn’t take long until my whole body tingles. I can barely hold back a moan when his face comes even closer, so he can whisper in my ear, “By the way, that’s the big boss, Mr. Wilson.”
I look at Ben wide-eyed and then at George Clooney. This is Patrick Wilson? I’ve heard a lot about him, but he exceeds all my expectations. I feel the charisma coming off him in waves. But the closeness to Ben makes it impossible to think about Mr. Wilson’s charm any further.
Too fast for my liking, the elevator ride is over, and we have to step out. Ben keeps his hand on my lower back and gently pushes me forward.
Many thoughts buzz through my head. For example, what it would feel like if his hand wandered a little further down, or how his breath felt on my skin. How would it feel on the rest of my body, along with his mouth? Oh, his glorious mouth!
I shake my head. Amy, get a grip! I hardly dare look in Ben’s direction because I know I would blush to the roots.
Ben only removes his hand once we’re outside, and I immediately feel this cold again. I’m so distracted by my thoughts that I’m hardly aware of the many people rushing past us until someone bumps into me and I lose my balance.
Ben grabs me and prevents me from falling. “Princess, are you all right?” He laughs and holds me tight.
I gasp. “Watch it, idiot!” But I quickly forget whoever almost made me fall. The shock is probably still apparent on my face when I look at Ben. And for a second, I’m not sure if my heart is beating wildly because of the collision or because he’s so close to me again. “Wow, you have pretty good reflexes,” I mumble.
He grins at me. “Yeah, I moonlight as a knight in shining armor.”
I roll my eyes and hit his chest, which makes Ben laugh. “Can I let you go now?” he asks.
But my brain takes over the thinking again and silences my hormones. I give him a forced smile. “Of course. Thanks for catching me.”
The sweet look Ben gives me makes my heart melt. “Anytime.”
Even though pictures of me in Ben’s arms kept popping up in my head, concentrating on my work was much easier after our lunch break. It’s late afternoon when I’m sending off my last email for the day.
Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Ben repeatedly looking at the time and sighing. I clear my throat to get his attention. “Ben, is there anything I can help you with?”
He looks at me surprised. “Help me? Don’t you have enough work yourself?”
I shake my head. “I’m almost done. But I’m not the one who wanted to leave early to go on some secret mission.”
He smiles at me. “Are you sure? This only needs some finishing touches.”
“Of course I’m sure. Tell me what I need to do, and then off you go.”
Ben beams at me. “Princess, I owe you one.”
I chuckle. “You can start paying off your debt by buying me a drink tomorrow night.”
Ben explains everything, and I reassure him that I’m not going to ruin this and he won’t lose his job. He winks at me. “I trust you. I know you’re smart, and Luke is going to like anything you present to him.”
I roll my eyes. “Stop with that already.”
Ben laughs, jumps up, and comes over to hug me. He whispers in my ear, “Thanks, that’s really great of you.”
I put my hand on his cheek and give him a peck on the other. For a second, I was tempted to brush his lips, solely by accident of course, but my brain hasn’t shut off entirely yet.
Ben packs up his stuff, explains some last things again, and then he’s gone. Whatever he’s up to, it seems to mean a lot to him. I’m very curious about what he’ll tell me tomorrow night.
Even though the file only needs finishing touches, it almost takes me another hour, but I’m done before Luke has to leave for his meeting with the client.
I knock on his office door and wait for him to call me in. When I enter, he smiles widely at me, and I remember Ben’s words. Of course, I’m reading way too much into it now. I try to shake it off and go over to his desk. I hand him his messages and the files he wanted me to get. Then I hand him Ben’s file. “Ben asked me to give you this.”
He takes a quick look at it and then smiles at me again. “Very good. Thank you.”
I’m relieved that he doesn’t have anything to complain about.
“So how was your first week? Is everyone treating you nicely?” Luke asks me with an even more charming smile.
“Yes, everyone is great. Especially Ben. He helped me a lot with finding my way around.”
Luke nods, and of course, I’m thinking straight away that there’s a hint of disapproval flashing in his eyes.
“I’m glad to hear that.” Luke gets up from his chair and ushers me out of his office. “Okay, that’s all for today. Go home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I have to admit that Luke’s sudden and cold dismissal surprises me. Ben would probably see this as proof for his theory. With a deep sigh, I sit down at my desk and put everything away. I look over to Ben’s desk and the mess he left. I smile at the thought of him – and of him sweeping everything off his desk – and lifting me on top of it...
My cheeks flush, and I cover them with my hands. Goodness, Amy, take your mind out of the gutter! Why can I only think of all the naughty things Ben and I could do on his desk? And in the elevator, and in his bed...
I clear my throat, shake my head, and get back to reality. I grab my purse and my jacket and go home, helplessly failing to think about anything but Ben and our date tomorrow night.
Finally, it’s Tuesday evening. Ben and I had so much to do today that we barely had time for much else, which means I didn’t have much time to be nervous. I’ve been thinking for ages about what to wear; something not too smart and a little sexy. In the end, I chose my – admittedly a bit tight-fitting – favorite jeans and a lilac blouse.
When I arrive at the bar that Ben picked out, he is already waiting for me. As usual, he smiles at me and gives me a hug. And as usual, his touch in combination with his scent makes my hormones dance the salsa. Ben leads me inside, and we look for a table in a quiet corner. “It’s nice here. Good choice,” I tell him as I take a look around the bar.
Ben grins. “I have good taste.”
I laugh. “Why don’t you prove that and get us something to drink.”
Ben winks at me. “With pleasure.”
While he’s gone, I have some time to calm down a bit. I’m really nervous. I take several deep breaths, and slowly my heartbeat returns to normal.
Ben comes back with two glasses of beer. “Specialty of the house. Beer fresh from the keg.”
He sits down, and I take a sip. I close my eyes for a moment and enjoy the feel of the cool beer as it runs down my throat; a pleasant contrast to the heat that Ben triggers in me. I hope the alcohol relaxes my tension a bit.
I sigh and look at him. “Well then, tell me what exciting things you do in your spare time.”
Ben laughs. “Who says it’s exciting?”
“I can’t imagine you doing anything but something exciting. You have to sit still for so long at work that you’ll need something to compensate.”
Ben nods. “Wow, I’m impressed. Good conclusion.”
I shrug. “And you don’t get a body like that from sitting around all day.”
Ben laughs again, and I realize what I just said. And of course, I’m blushing scarlet. “Uhm, I mean – oh Ben, don’t pretend you don’t know how athletic you look.”
Ben grins. “Yes, I know what you mean. I spend most evenings in a gym giving self-defense classes for teens.”
I look at him wide-eyed. “Wow, that sounds pretty noble.”
He shrugs. “It gets the kids off the streets. I wish my brother and I had something like that while we were growing up. We could have used someone to talk some sense into us, especially my brother.” He looks at me for a moment. “Yesterday I wanted to leave early because I had a class with some thirteen-year-olds. Those kids come from pretty messed up homes, and some of their so-called friends are not the best people to hang out with.” He pauses for a minute, still looking at me. “A little like Aaron and me.”
I have to swallow. “Will you tell me about it?” I ask quietly. “And about why you two don’t get along?”
Ben takes a deep breath before he nods and continues. “Our mom died when I was five. Aaron was almost three. A car accident. Our grandparents looked after us most of the time because our dad was traveling a lot due to his job. It was a shitty situation. And then, when I was thirteen, my grandma died too. That hit my grandfather hard. He was heart-broken. And he couldn’t look after us alone because of his health issues, so our dad had to give up his job.”
He pauses and takes another deep breath. I look at him sympathetically and wait for him to continue.
“Aaron and I, we didn’t have any other family. Both of our parents had no siblings, and our dad’s parents had died long ago. So Dad had no other choice but to stay home with my brother and me. But he didn’t deal with it well. My grandfather died a couple of years later. So my dad was on his own with two teenagers, and that was just too much for him. He started drinking, and Aaron and I had to look out for each other. It didn’t take long until we were surrounded by the wrong kind of people. Suddenly, we found ourselves selling drugs for some guy, and making good money in the process.”
I’m taking in Ben’s every word, trying to imagine what it must have been like. The way he’s talking about drugs now disturbs me. I give him a worried look. “Did you ever do drugs, too?”
He grimaces and avoids my gaze. “At first, yes. But it didn’t take me long to understand that selling them was much better than doing them. Especially after one of our closest friends died of an overdose. That was my wake-up call. All I wanted was to quit and leave the people behind who were dragging me down.”
I try to digest everything he’s just told me. The Ben I met, even if it was just a week ago, is very different from the one he’s describing. This wake-up call has caused a tremendous change in him.
Ben tells me the rest of his story. How he broke off contact with the gang of drug dealers and begged Aaron to do the same. But his brother didn’t want to listen. For a few years, the two had no contact at all. Until Aaron suddenly quit two years ago. But apparently, it’s not easy to avoid these circles completely.
Ben takes a deep breath. “And that’s why I hate to see my brother throwing himself at you even if he’s not a bad person. But when you spend time with him, sooner or later you end up in trouble.”
I nod. “I understand that now, but you also have to trust me that I can take care of myself. Please don’t worry so much. And don’t be so upset; that doesn’t look good on you.”
“Okay, Princess, I’ll try.” Ben chuckles—a soft sound that reverberates through my body and makes my heart skip a beat or two. And it makes me wonder how I am going to get through the rest of the evening and act like myself. Because right now, it seems like I’m losing control over my hormones yet again, acting more like a crushing teenager.
Well, one thing is sure: That silly little crush is turning into more way too quickly.