Princess - *Book One*

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Nine

After we had our first drink, Lauren drags me after her onto the dancefloor. We plunge into the crowd, and I can finally block out all the frustrating thoughts about Ben and me while the music reverberates through my body and guides my movements. I dance close to Lauren, which soon attracts some guys, but she lets them know quite clearly that it’s girls’ night. I laugh when she tells one particular pushy guy to fuck off. And when she dismisses one guy after the other, I yell in her ear, “Hey, Lauren, don’t you want to pick up any of these guys?”

“No, not tonight. At least not for now.” She winks at me, swinging her hips sexily again.

I flinch when I suddenly feel two hands on my waist. I turn around and smile when I recognize Aaron. He grins at me and gives me a peck on the cheek. “Hey, there you are,” I say.

“Of course. I told you I would come. I see you’re already having a good time.”

I chuckle and point to our table when he asks where he can find his brother. When he’s gone, my eyes meet Lauren’s, and she gestures for me to follow her. We go to the bathroom where we freshen up. Lauren stands in front of the mirror and fixes her hair. “Well, Aaron is here. Now we’ll have to wait and see how Ben reacts.”

I sigh and lean against the wall. “I hope he’s not mad that I invited Aaron.”

“I think it will stir a little jealousy in him,” Lauren says with a chuckle and a shake of her head.

“What’s so funny?” I cross my arms and watch her with narrow eyes.

Her lips stretch in an amused smile. “I still can’t believe we are talking about Ben here. The Ben who constantly has something stupid to say and cracks up at his silly jokes.”

I sigh. “I don’t see him like that. Sure, the jokes and that are part of him, but first and foremost, I see his warm and cordial nature. I feel safe in his presence, and I could get lost in his eyes. I know I’ve only met him, but this feels so right. I have never felt anything like that. Not even with... ” I hesitate. No, I can’t talk about him yet. I try to swallow the huge lump in my throat and rub the back of my neck. Even thinking about him - my ex - is too painful.

“Oh, honey,” Lauren says when she sees the look on my face. She comes closer to wrap me up in a tight hug. “I’m so sorry. What did this bastard do to you?”

“Thank you,” I say when I take a step back and roll my shoulders to get rid of the tension that took hold of my body. “You can’t imagine how much that means to me.”

“You’re welcome,” she says with a reassuring smile. “Shall we?”

I nod, and we go back to the others. When I spot our table, I see that a lot has happened. The rest of Paul’s band has arrived. Ben is talking to their drummer, Jack. Aaron is talking to Henry, the keyboardist - and Lauren’s secret crush. Even if she still denies it, the way she blushes when she sees him says it all. I chuckle. “So you’re telling me you don’t like him more than the others?”

Lauren glares at me. “Hey, not you too! I’m not crushing on him, okay? I like to look because - hello? He’s hot!”

I just shake my head at her and laugh.

When we reach the table, Henry and Aaron both greet us with a wide smile. Henry gives Lauren a peck on the cheek. “Hey, Sweets. How are you?”

I’m pretty sure Lauren blushes some more, but I’m not going to tell her that.

She points to me. “Have you met Amy?”

Henry stretches out his hand. “I don’t think so. Not officially, at least. Nice to meet you, Amy.”

I take his hand. “You too.”

Aaron turns to me. “Hey, are you okay? You look like you need a drink.”

I laugh. “Yes, that’s exactly what I need. It was a little warm on the dancefloor.”

“I just wanted to ask if you wanted to dance.”

I grimace. “In a bit, okay? I need a drink first.”

When I take my drink from the table, my eyes meet Ben’s. He gives me a look that I can’t really read. His gaze flickers to Aaron, who has put his hand on my lower back to get my attention. When Ben’s eyes fall on me again, I have to swallow hard and avert my gaze. I turn to Aaron, who whispers in my ear, “By the way, you look gorgeous tonight.”

The blush that Ben’s look caused intensifies, and a tingling sweeps up the back of my neck. I clear my throat and give Aaron a thin smile. “Charming as usual.” I quickly look over to Lauren, who’s already engaged in a conversation with Henry, before I look at Aaron again. “Is it even possible to have a normal conversation with you, or is it all about flirting?”

Aaron laughs. “It’s always about the beautiful things in life, which is way too short to devote yourself to anything else. And right now, you are the most beautiful woman around.” He delivers his line with a flirtatious smile, and again I don’t question his ability to charm the panties off any willing female.

I roll my eyes at him but laugh. “Please tell me that women don’t fall for something like that.”

“Every woman likes to hear compliments,” he tells me with a confident grin.

I snort. “All your sweet talk is making me dizzy, Aaron.”

He laughs. “That’s not what I intended. I don’t want to bore you. I offer you excitement and fun. Come on; dance with me,” he says and takes my hand.

“Let me catch my breath first, okay?” I signal to him that I’m going to get some fresh air. Alone. Because he offers to come along but lets me go when I shake my head, and as soon as I leave the building, I breathe in the fresh air. I’ve already gone through so many emotions tonight that I’m slowly feeling exhausted.

While I’m standing outside, I see a guy approaching me, and I instantly get a queasy feeling. The guy puts on what’s probably his most charming smile. “Hello, sweetie! Are you all alone out here?”

I take a step back and cross my arms in front of my chest. “Yes, and it would be nice if that stayed that way.”

“Come on! A girl doesn’t dress like that to be alone.”

My body tenses at his insinuation, and I can hardly hold myself back from slapping him. “Are you insulting me?”

He raises his hands apologetically. “No, not at all. May I invite you for a drink?”

“No thank you!” I tell him as calmly as possible, and I want to give him another piece of my mind, but before I can, I flinch when someone puts his arm around my shoulder.

I turn my head to where Ben emerged out of nowhere. He looks at the guy threateningly, which makes him grow pale. Ben almost hisses through his clenched teeth, “Is there a problem here?”

The guy shakes his head. “Sorry, I didn’t know.” And without another word, he turns around and disappears.

I turn to Ben, who removes his arm from my shoulder. “Thanks, but I had everything under control.”

“Didn’t look like it.”

I let out an annoyed puff of air and roll my eyes. “Ben, what are you doing here?”

He runs his fingers through his hair with an exaggerated sigh. “I wanted to see if you’re okay. My brother really doesn’t hold back; I wonder what he’s doing here.”

“I invited him.”

Ben frowns. “You?”

I glare at him. “Do you have a problem with that?”

“Oh, Amy,” he says with a frustrated groan. “After everything I’ve told you about him, you know he’s bad company.”

I pinch my lips together and draw in a long breath through my nose, which I slowly release through my mouth before I say, “Maybe you should let me decide that for myself.”

Ben looks at me with a frown. “I just want to protect you. You know I care about you.”

I snort. “I do? And how should I know that? For days you’ve been backing away, barely talking to me, and saying you don’t want to be with me.”

“I never said I didn’t want to,” he says in a strained voice. “I just feel a little overwhelmed,” he adds and averts his gaze.

“That amounts to the same thing. Ben, if you need more time, then I have to accept that. But then you have to accept that the proximity between us isn’t easy for me to bear, and I would like to have some distance.” Before he can answer, I raise my hand to stop him and go back inside.

I can’t stand this emotional chaos between us anymore. On the one hand, I understand him, and I was serious when I said I accept it. But it’s so damn hard to see him every day and be so close to him.

I look for Lauren and find her on the dancefloor. Excellent! Time to turn off my head again. We dance and dance, and after what feels like an eternity, Lauren needs another drink. I realize I am thirsty too, so we go back to the table, where Ben is talking to Isaac. I feel him looking at me, but I avoid his gaze. Lauren sits down next to Isaac. “Guys, would you get us something to drink?”

The two nod and take everyone’s orders. Lauren turns to me. “What was going on outside earlier?”

I sigh. “Nothing. Ben just told me again that he doesn’t want to be with me - or can’t just yet; it’s moving too fast.”

“If you weren’t taking this so badly, I would almost say, that’s cute. He’s a true gentleman who isn’t just trying to screw you.”

I look at Lauren with a raised eyebrow. “And what does that make me? The sex-craving whore?”

Lauren bursts out laughing. “Those are your words!”

I let out a heavy sigh. “Lauren, I want this man. I’m crazy about him. I don’t care that we just met. But I have to get that out of my head now; otherwise, I won’t be able to work with him anymore.”

When Ben and Isaac come back to the table with our drinks a minute later, Ben gives me my beer, and for a brief moment, our hands touch. Again, I immediately feel the tension between us. My whole body tingles and screams at me to finally satisfy that craving for Ben’s touch. He looks me straight in the eye, and again, I think that it’s impossible that it’s only me who feels it this strongly.

But then he averts his eyes, and I feel the blush creep up my cheeks. My eyes cross Aaron’s, who looks at me with a raised eyebrow. I blush even more and look away.

When I take a sip of my beer, Aaron gets up, comes over, and grabs my hand. “Come, dance with me,” he says, and before I can refuse, he leads me onto the dancefloor. He puts his hands on my waist and pulls me close. We move to the beat of the music and look at each other for a moment. Then he breathes in my ear, “What is that between you and my brother?”

I narrow my eyes. “With Ben? I don’t know what you’re talking about. Nothing is going on.”

He rolls his eyes and smiles. “Your looks speak volumes.”

“If you say so. But it’s nothing more than looks.”

“But you’d like that.”

“Is that a question or a statement?”

Aaron’s face comes closer again when he says, “My brother is obviously an idiot if he doesn’t make a pass at you.”

“Who says he doesn’t?”

He laughs. “If he does, he’s an even bigger idiot because he doesn’t know how to do that right. Because then you wouldn’t look at each other like that.”

“Okay, Aaron. That’s enough.”

His smile grows wider. I want to back away, but he holds me tight and looks deep into my eyes. A shiver runs down my spine; a pleasant shiver. I can’t take my eyes off him either. My heart suddenly beats faster, and his gaze wanders to my lips while a hand moves towards my ass. He presses me even closer as he puts his other hand on my cheek.

Everything happens so fast. I can’t move an inch, but right now I’m totally mesmerized by him and actually don’t want to move. His masculine scent fills my nose, and I take a deep breath. His face comes ever closer, and then I feel his lips on mine.

I automatically close my eyes and simultaneously open my lips a bit. His tongue finds mine, and suddenly I return his kiss with increasing passion. I realize I’m letting go of all of my frustration. Why can’t Ben kiss me like that? Why doesn’t he want me? Will anything ever change, or am I wasting my time with him?

Aaron captures me with his kiss. He triggers something in me. I realize how much I’ve missed this kind of physical closeness. It’s been way too long since a man touched me like this or caused such desire in me. Even though it’s Ben I want - that my heart wants - my body is currently speaking a different language.

Aaron’s mouth wanders to my ear. “You just have to say the word, and I’ll take you to my place.”

I feel a burning desire in my lower abdomen at his invitation, but suddenly, my mind turns back on. I take a step back and shake my head. “No, Aaron. I can’t do this.” I push past him. I have to get out of here; I need fresh air. On the way out, I look over to our table, and the expression on Ben’s face tells me he saw everything.

Once I’m outside, I take a deep breath. What was I thinking? I run my fingers over my mouth. The taste of Aaron’s soft lips still lingers on mine. This kiss stirred something in me; but what? Ever since Ben and I met, I’ve longed for him—for his touch, his lips on mine, and for a kiss that passionate.

I rub my aching chest as a tear runs down my cheek. I pull my phone out of my purse and send Lauren a message: "Sorry, sweetie. I have to go. Don’t worry. Enjoy the rest of the night!"

I put my phone away and make my way home, but after I’ve taken a few steps, someone calls my name.

“Amy, wait!”

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