NSFW Warning – At the very end… ♥
Ben opened a bottle of wine and poured them each a glass. Sofia took the offered drink and sat down at the bar. She took a sip and looked around. “Ben, where is Cole?”
Ben almost dropped the tiramisu he was taking out of the refrigerator at her words.
Uh oh. Ben put the dessert down and sat on the stool next to Sofia. “He’s spending the night with Mom. She volunteered to keep him so I wouldn’t have to wake him up to bring him home.”
“So….we are alone?”
Ben was nervous, so he got up to serve the desert. He couldn’t read her tone and feared she wouldn’t feel safe alone with him. “Yes. I guess so. Is that okay? I mean, I can take you home if you want.”
Sofia’s gaze softened. She got and walked over to him. She slipped her arms around his neck. “No Ben,” she said and smirked at him, “I don’t want to leave yet. We still have tiramisu and wine.” Her tone was light and playful, but she looked at him like she wanted to eat him.
His pants were suddenly too tight at her aggressive behavior. Shit. He hoped she didn’t notice, he didn’t want to frighten her so he slipped out of her arms and turned away to get the tiramisu. This was going way faster than he planned.
She immediately backed away, embarrassment covering her face. “Oh Ben. I’m sorry. I thought…”
He had never been nervous about kissing a girl for the first time. He just did it. But with Sofia it was different. It meant something real, it was a milestone in their relationship and he didn’t want to get it wrong.
“No Sofia,” he said and quickly turned her around to face him, pulling her all the way against him so she could feel his arousal. He suddenly needed her to know what she did to him. “You weren’t wrong,” he said the words coming out on a breath.
Then he lowered his head and slowly pressed his lips to hers in a soft feathery kiss.
He pulled back and looked at her. “Pia, Sweetheart,” he whispered, “I have wanted to do that for months and it was more than worth the wait.”
“Oh, Ben…” she said looking at him with love in her eyes and her breath coming in short pants.
“God, I love you Sofia.” As soon as the words were out he knew he had messed up.
Sofia gasped and pulled out of his embrace, turning away from him. “Oh No. No Ben, you don’t. I’m damaged.”
Ben’s heart sunk. He clearly didn’t understand the signals she had been sending all night. She wasn’t ready and he had moved too fast. “No. Sweetheart, you’re perfect,” he said with as much love as he could convey.
She whipped around. “Look at me Ben, I’m not gorgeous and smart and sophisticated like Grace. And emotionally, I’m a wreck. No Ben, you can’t love me.”
Ben’s stomach dropped to the floor. “Sofia, why are you comparing yourself to her? You are the most beautiful, precious thing in the world to me.”
“But, I’m damaged. You don’t really love me. You just feel sorry for me. Always have felt sorry for me. The only reason you’re still here is because I’m not pregnant. If I were, you wouldn’t want any part of me and that bastard’s kid. I have so much baggage.”
Ben was trying hard to keep his cool but not doing a very good job. He couldn’t believe what she was saying. “Stop Sofia. Stop it right now,” he said, his voice harsher than he intended. “You are NOT damaged! And Sweetheart, children are NOT baggage, no matter how they were conceived. If anyone’s damaged, with baggage, hell, it’s me. I have a child whose his mother died a week after he was born. And I’m only 23 years old! Plus, I did some really ugly things in the past.”
Sofia turned away looking frightened, so he took a breath and tempered his tone. “The past is the past Sofia. I hope I have learned from those mistakes. But you should know, I was 100% prepared to be there for you if you had been pregnant. I would have loved that child the same way you love Cole. I think about you all the time. I look forward to going to work to because you will be there. I treasure the times you spend with me and Cole. And baby, I only want to do things that make you happy.”
Sofia looked at the floor. “I’m afraid,” she muttered.
Ben gently placed his hands on her shoulder. “Of me?” he said, his question a soft breath against her neck. “No, Pia, you never have to fear me. I would never hurt you.”
“No…not like that. I’m afraid I won’t live up to your expectations. That I will disappoint you. I couldn’t bear it if I did.”
Damn Jesse for messing with her head. Ben turned her around once more and put his hands on her face so she would look at him. He spoke softly, but deliberately, looking deep into her brown eyes. “Pia, Sweetheart. I meant to go slow, but it’s out there now and I am not sorry. I love you just like you are. You could never disappoint me.”
He snorted and smiled, lightening the mood slightly. “You forget. I have known you since you had braces and pigtails.” He reached up and touched her hair. “You have blossomed into a beautiful, strong young woman. This past year we have spent getting reacquainted has made me appreciate everything about you even more.”
She pulled her bottom lip into her mouth. Ben tensed, holding his breath. Finally she released it as she reached up and lightly touched his face. Her touch sent chills down his spine and he started to get hard again. “Let’s sit down,” she said softly, “I need to tell you some things.”
Ben was relieved. She was no longer running. He hoped. They settled on the couch and she began.
“Ben…I have had a terrible crush on you since I was fourteen. I relished the weekends I spent fishing with you. At your graduation party, after I dressed up, I secretly hoped you might notice me. At Christmas, we seemed to have a connection and I thought maybe, someday, I just might be good enough for you. But then you got married. Jesse came along right about that time and swept me off my feet.” She gave Ben a sad smile remembering happier times with Jesse. “He was the older college guy interested in the nerdy senior that had never had a date. He was really was sweet and attentive in the beginning.
“But he changed over time when I disappointed him again and again. And, then, after what he did…your arms were the only place I felt safe. But Ben, Grace is still there between us. Her presence is there even if she isn’t. I can tell how much you love her by how you talk about her. Don’t you understand? I can never live up to her memory. I never thought I had a chance with you, so I stayed with Jesse even when it wasn’t great. I tried to be a good girlfriend, to make it work, but when you and I almost kissed that day, it scared me. I was letting myself believe in my fantasy. And I lied to Jesse. I was a horrible girlfriend.”
She was crying now and Ben’s heart ached. He scooted closer and put his arm around her. She accepted his affection and continued, her voice a whisper. “When we got to his house, we had a huge argument. I told him I was leaving him. I knew that I would never feel about him the way I already felt about you. Even if I couldn’t have you, I couldn’t stay with him. It wasn’t fair to him. That’s when he lost it completely.” Her voice broke on the last word.
“You don’t … “
“Let me finish Ben. Please,” she took a deep breath and continued. “He said he was going to show me what it was like to be with a real man so I wouldn’t waste anymore time on you. Afterwards, he told me I had to quit and move in with him or he would get you thrown in jail and put Leroy out of business, I couldn’t let him do that. I was so afraid. He had never forced himself on me before. He guilted me into having sex in the past, but not like….”
Ben suddenly knew exactly how Leroy must have felt. He gently wiped her tears with his thumbs and pulled her against him. He wanted to protect her and make it better. “Sweetheart, baby, please don’t cry,” he said while he gently massaged her neck. “You no longer have to worry about Jesse. What he did was wrong and not your fault. They say what doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. And as lame as that sounds I think it’s true. Losing Grace brought me back to my family. And, yes, Pia, I did love Grace. She taught me about love and family. Before her, I thought I was unlovable. I was afraid to fall in love – afraid of being rejected or becoming my father.
“Do I still think about her? I would be lying if I said I never thought about her. It’s mostly when I look at Cole and see her smiling back at me. But really, anymore it’s beginning to become Cole’s smile, you know, not Grace’s. And when I’m alone at night, Pia, it’s your face that I yearn to see lying next to me. You are who I think about, who I love.
“That awful day four months ago, that’s when I knew just how deep my feelings for you ran. I literally wanted to kill him.” Ben snorted. “I think Leroy did too. We have both seen first hand what abuse can do to a person. Mom said she knew that day at the office that we loved each other. But she said you would need time. So I have been trying like hell to give you time to heal and space until I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I’m sorry I rushed things, but, Pia, please don’t doubt the depths of my feelings for you.”
Sofia still had tears streaming down her face. “Ben, where is your wedding band?” She asked as if she didn’t really want to know the answer.
He had forgotten he had taken it off. He pulled her chin up so he could look her in the eye. “I’m not married Sofia,” he whispered.
Her expression went from one of apprehension to one of joy at his answer. She wiped her eyes and smiled, “Can we skip dessert?”
“Are you ready to go home?” he asked trying to keep the disappointment out of his voice.
“No,” she said and snuggled into his embrace. She gave him a look so filled with love and hope, that his knees would have buckled if he hadn’t been sitting down. “I have ten years worth of pent up feelings for you to get out of my system. And from the way you felt when you kissed me, I would say you have some pent up needs as well. And Ben, I really want you to kiss me again.”
Ben let out relieved laugh. His heart was racing. He smiled and brushed her hair back, “God, I love you, my sweet Pia.”
Sofia licked her lips in anticipation, “I love you too Ben.”
At her words he quickly captured her lips with his. This time neither one held back.
Ben stopped suddenly, “Oh shit!” he said putting his forehead against hers.
“What? Why are you stopping?”
“Nicks’s going to kill me.”
Sofia giggled softly. “Oh shit is right! Me too.” She put her finger over Ben’s lips. “No more talking. I’ll tell him – later – I’m busy right now,” she said and pulled Ben’s mouth back down to hers. Ben groaned into her kiss.