A/N: Trigger warning regarding non consensual sex between partners.
Ben was restless. He hadn’t slept well worrying about Sofia so he went to the office early. He wanted to be there when she got in so they could talk.
As he made coffee, he thought about his feelings for Sofia. Lillie May was right. Leroy even saw it. He was attracted to her. More than just attracted. He had deep feelings for her. After the almost kiss yesterday, he was pretty sure the feeling was mutual.
Now that Jesse had confirmed that he really is a controlling ass, it brought out all of his protective instincts. He never thought he could feel this way again and it confused him. Was it just because he hadn’t been with anyone in three years? He didn’t think so. He knew it wasn’t just sex he wanted from Sofia, although the need to be close to her was real. He wanted to be with her.
Ben sat down at his desk with his coffee to think how he could get her to open up to him. Like Leroy said, he was more worried about how Jesse was treating her right now than his confused feelings for her.
He was still sitting there when she walked in. Ben was shocked. She didn’t look like she had slept at all and had obviously been crying. They must have had a huge argument. Shit. “Pia? Are you okay? I was hoping you would have called me. I was worried about you.”
Sofia eased herself into the chair by Ben’s desk. “I’m okay. I just came in to tell Leroy I am quitting.” Her voice broke on the last word. She swallowed hard, biting her bottom lip and continued, “Jesse won’t file charges if I quit and move in with him.”
Ben’s heart sunk. He knew that bastard was making her quit so she would have no choice but to move in with him. He probably threatened her. “Look at me Pia. He is awful and dangerous, do you understand that. Why are you even staying with him?”
“He loves me. I should have never tried to live apart from him. I just, I just wanted to be married first. I didn’t think I was ready before, but now….well, it will be okay. Ben, I can’t let him sue Leroy, it would destroy his business. Plus, he could file assault charges against you. I can’t let that happen.”
“Don’t you see what’s happening? He’s manipulating you, using you. He doesn’t love you. And I don’t believe you love him. How long has this been going on?”
Sofia stood up and started to leave. “Tell Leroy thank you for everything and I’m sorry for causing problems. I should never have taken the job.”
Ben jumped up and stopped her. “No. Pia, you aren’t quitting. He can’t make you do that. Leroy and I will be fine.”
Sofia turned back around. “That’s sweet, but I won’t need to work if I live with him. He makes good money. He loves me, he said we could get married.”
Married? “NO! Sofia Hamlin, what has he done to make you so afraid of him? This isn’t you. I can’t believe that is what you want.”
Sofia bit her lip again before answering, her voice flat. “I’m not afraid. I almost kissed you Ben. He was right about that.. I cheated on him. In my head.”
“No. No. No. Pia. That’s not the point. You have to get away from him – fast.”
“He’s expecting me back. If I’m not back in an hour, he’s going to the cops. He said he would have come but he doesn’t trust Leroy. I need to leave now.”
She wasn’t going anywhere if Ben could help it. She wouldn’t say she loved him and he gave her every opportunity. Fuck him. Let him go to the police. He was going to take her to his mother’s house so they could talk. Get her away from here. His mom could tell her how controlling men eventually became abusers. “Come on. I need you to come with me, get out of here,” said Ben and reached out to take her arm.
When Ben touched her she arm she yelped in pain. “Owww, no, don’t Ben, please,” she begged, throwing her hands up so he wouldn’t touch her again.
Ben’s stomach clenched. “No fucking way….No! Push up your sleeve! Let me see,” he demanded.
Sofia turned away from Ben. “No, please, it’s just a small bruise. He just got a little too rough when we….” she whispered. Then she wrapped her arms around herself and began to cry softly.
“Pia, Sweetheart, when you what?” asked Ben, his voice a gentle whisper, “How did he do that to you? How?” His heart was hammering in his chest waiting for her answer.
“I couldn’t stop him…he said he wanted to show me….what a real man was like….” She began to sob, unable to talk anymore.
Ben’s stomach turned. It was worse than just a bruise on the arm. He had forced sex on her. Raped her. He needed to comfort Sofia, so he automatically reached out to her before thinking. He was surprised when she allowed him to pull her to him . “Shhh,” he said, gently stroking her hair, “You don’t have to say anything else. It’s not your fault. Sofia, sweetheart, I’m going to call my mother and have her take you to the hospital.”
“No! Ben, you can’t tell anyone. I shouldn’t have said anything.” She seemed ashamed as much as she was afraid.
Ben wrapped his arms around her and she leaned into him. “Sweetheart,” he whispered, “they need to examine you and collect evidence. They will call the police and have him arrested. Do you understand?”
“No, you can’t do that. They won’t believe me anyway. We have been dating for three years. I can’t. Please don’t tell anyone, especially Nick or my parents.”
His heart broke in a million tiny pieces at her request. “Okay, I won’t. But please, let me or my mother take you to the hospital.”
“I am afraid. He will be here soon to get me.”
“Of course you are. But he can’t get to you. It’s over Pia. Just say the word.”
“Just keep holding me Ben, please, don’t let me go,” she said and buried her head in his shoulder fresh tears sliding down her cheeks.
Ben could barely breathe he was so upset. He knew he hated that jackass from the first time he met him. He didn’t understand how someone as independent and sweet as Sofia got mixed up with someone like him. She really did need to talk to his mother, but in her absence, he would have to do.
“Sofia,” he said as gently as he could, “Come into Leroy’s office and sit down with me. I need to tell you a story.”
He guided her into Leroy’s office and sat her on the couch. “Is it okay if I lock the door? I just don’t want anyone walking in on our conversation. Okay? Do you trust me?”
Sofia nodded her affirmation to Ben’s questions.
As soon as he sat down, she snuggled up close to him. He let out a sigh of relief. He didn’t know what he would do if she hadn’t let him touch her. Ben desperately needed to touch her, to comfort her and himself too. He didn’t know what he had done to earn that kind of trust, but he was thankful for it. In that moment of mutual need, he realized what he was feeling for Sofia was love, not just a physical attraction. Soul deep love. He loved her and would do whatever he could to help her. He had no doubt he had loved Grace. But what he felt for Sofia seemed different, deeper somehow, and it scared him. Maybe because he was different. But right now, he didn’t care, all he knew was that the woman he loved was broken and hurting, and somehow, he needed to fix her. That’s why he was going to tell her his mother’s story.