Princess - Book cover

Princess

Lilly Henderson

2: Chapter 2

BEN

What a crappy way to start the week.

After a shit weekend where I had yet another fight with my dad over his health because he’s careless with his medication, I almost didn’t hear my alarm this morning.

On my way to work the masses of people on the subway annoyed me so much that by the time I reached the building of Wilson & Partners, one look at my face was enough to scare anyone off.

Unfortunately, some people aren’t scared off easily. So instead of letting me do my job, a colleague asks for help.

That’s why I have to fix some diagrams for a presentation someone else screwed up rather than finishing the graphics for another ad campaign.

I was glaring at the screen of my tablet when someone called my name.

“Hey, Ben.”

I recognize Lauren’s voice, and my lips stretch in a tentative smile. “Hey, Lauren.” Our gazes meet when I lift my head, and I need a second to realize she’s not alone.

Then I see her.

She walks behind Lauren, fixing her big, beautiful eyes on me, causing my breath to hitch.

When a slight blush suffuses her cheeks, something funny happens to my entire body—but especially to my groin.

Wow, I can’t remember the last time eye contact had such a strong effect on me. As she walks by, a hint of her sweet scent fills my nose and does even funnier things to my body.

What the hell is happening?

Before I can even begin to grasp what this woman causes in me, Lauren’s voice snaps me out of my haze.

“There we are.”

Then she’s gone.

With my mouth agape, I stare at the office she disappears into. She was real, wasn’t she?

Something in her eyes evoked sensations I thought lost, and I wonder if this is a dream. At the same time, though, I feel like I’ve woken up from the nightmare that has been this Monday morning.

Leaning back in my chair, I close my eyes and draw in a slow breath. Calm your damn hormones, Ben.

At the sound of Luke’s door, my eyes snap open. Lauren waves as she strides past my desk but doesn’t stay for a chat like she usually does.

“Lauren, wait,” I call after her.

She stops in her tracks, raising her eyebrows. “Yes?”

“Who was that?” I jut my chin toward Luke’s office.

She squints at the door as if to make sure she understands what I’m talking about.

“Luke’s new PA.” She turns back to me, eyebrows still raised. “Her name’s Amy. She’s the girl I met at my yoga class, remember?”

Oh, damn. The mental image of that woman in tight yoga pants is the last thing I need. I’m a grown man, for goodness’ sake, and not some horny teenager.

I shift in my seat. “Yeah, I do. I just didn’t expect…that.” I point my finger at the office door, doing a shit job at pretending to seem unfazed.

“What did you expect?” She raises her eyebrows a little higher.

“She doesn’t resemble the ones he usually preys on,” I explain with a shrug.

Lauren laughs. “What are you talking about?”

“Come on.” I roll my eyes, huffing. “We both know he didn’t hire his last assistant based on her skills.”

I know this isn’t only my personal opinion of my boss as he supposedly had his hands on every willing female in this company, including his last PA.

I shudder at the memory. “No one was worse than that blondie. Sorry, no offense,” I add, giving Lauren a half-smile.

Waving off my remark, she sits on the edge of my desk. “None taken. I know what you mean.” She runs her fingers through her long blonde hair with a chuckle. “Give the new girl a chance. She’s nice.”

She thinks the new girl is nice? Damn, I might be in trouble.

I’ve known Lauren for a few years, and she’s an expert at reading people. Her first impressions are never wrong, so if Luke’s new PA is nice, it might be a deadly combination.

“What’s that look on your face?” Lauren tears me out of my thoughts.

I direct my attention back to her, grimacing. “What look? It’s nothing. Just the usual Monday morning,” I murmur.

Lauren laughs. “If your weekend had been anything like mine, you wouldn’t glare and grumble like that.”

“Please, spare me the details.” I groan. I know exactly what she’s referring to. Lauren and her flings, an endless story.

She smirks at me. “Oh, sweetie, I think your mood would improve a lot if you got some.”

“Lauren, stop.”

“No, I’m serious.” She leans closer to whisper for my ears only, “You need to get laid. How long has it been?”

Leaning away from her, I shake my head. I’m not having this conversation, especially not where our colleagues could overhear. “You’re hopeless, Lauren.”

“Yes, and I must be on my way.” She hops off the desk and straightens her skirt. “See ya.” With a wave, she takes off toward the elevators.

Once Lauren is out of sight, I glance at the desk across from mine. Her desk.

I tap my fingers on my knees, anticipating the new girl’s return. It’s unlike me to overthink situations, but our first encounter threw me off.

Finally, Luke’s door opens, preventing my thoughts from going places where I don’t want them. My boss ushers Amy out, and her gaze wanders through the room.

She bites her lips and rubs her arm when they stop at her desk. Our eyes meet for a second before Luke clears his throat to grab our attention—not enough time to check if I’ve gone crazy or not.

“Ben, let me introduce you to your new colleague.”

I rise from my chair and move around my desk, stretching out my hand. “Uh, yes, hi. I’m Ben.” My large, warm hand envelops her smaller, cold one.

Her eyes linger on our hands a moment longer before she lifts her gaze.

Yup, I have my answer. I’ve gone crazy. Standing in front of her, I feel things I haven’t felt in a very long time.

I take in her appearance—her simple, yet elegant outfit, her light-brown hair tied back in a perfect ponytail, her cheeks, which still have that tinge of pink, her rosy lips.

And of course, her eyes. They are a captivating greenish color, and they radiate warmth and kindness, even in the apparent nervous state she’s in.

She blinks at me before she says, “Hey, um, I’m Amy.”

My lips lift in a warm smile as I let go of her hand. The smile she gives me in return is slow and soft—and damn sexy. My lips stretch even wider.

Shit, this weird urge to grin at her worries me. I feel like a damn teenager, not being able to act like a normal person in front of a cute girl. And cute she is. Gorgeous even.

We only shook hands, and all I can think about is how touching her felt fucking amazing. I’d love to touch her again.

Of course, Luke has to ruin the moment when he speaks. “Ben will be your go-to guy for everything concerning the graphic design parts of our ad campaigns. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.”

He stares at Amy a bit too intently, and I wonder if she’s on his list yet. I cringe at the smile he gives her, suppressing the strong desire to grind my teeth; I’d love to wipe that smirk off his face.

“Okay, I’ll leave you to it.” Luke squeezes her shoulder before he turns around and disappears into his office.

With narrow eyes, I watch him leave until Amy sighs. I direct my gaze at her while she takes another look around. My lips do that crazy thing again, lifting in a silly smile.

“Okay, Amy,” I tell her. “Sit down and feel at home.”

She does, and with a short, sweet laugh, she runs her palms over the desk.

“So much space. My last desk was half this size.” She scans my desk and smiles. “When I see yours, that also means more room for chaos.”

I inspect my mess and laugh. “Oh, um… yes, right. But I’ve got it all under control. I can find everything I need.”

“So genius controls chaos?”

I grin at her. “Exactly. I just hope you’re not a neat freak?” I raise my eyebrows, and she grimaces. Oh no.

“I wouldn’t put it like that, but I do need a certain order to do my work properly.”

“I’ve made a striking first impression then.” I run my hand through my messy hair, ignoring the slight nervousness that hangs in the air.

Amy laughs softly at my remark. Damn, I’ve never heard a happier sound. Lauren was right, she seems nice and genuine, the total opposite of her Barbie-like predecessor.

“That’s fine.” She waves off my comment. “I’m all for second chances.”

Her words make my stupid heart skip a few beats. They tug at something deep inside me. She utters them so casually that I wonder if she realizes the impact they have.

“That’s good,” I respond, after moments of staring at her. The corners of my lips lift in a subtle smile. “As Luke said, if you have any questions, let me know. And later, I’ll show you around.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

***

Over the next few hours, Amy works her way into her tasks.

We engage in light small talk, and I answer her questions, telling her the most important things she needs to know about her new workplace and some of our colleagues.

Luckily, the nervous tension eases, but I still wonder what it is about her that drew me in so quickly. I keep stealing glances at her.

When she catches me staring, her lips stretch in a sweet and sexy smile, making me question my sanity with the way it causes a lightness in my chest.

Around noon, Lauren shows up at our desks.

“Hey, you two.” Tilting her head to the side and pointing her thumb at me, Lauren offers Amy a thoughtful expression. “So, Amy, what’s it like to work with this good-for-nothing?”

I chuckle. “Charming as usual.”

“You know me, love.” Lauren narrows her eyes at me. “At least you look more cheerful than this morning.”

Resuming her earlier place on the edge of my desk, she looks back and forth between us. “Do you guys have plans for lunch?”

I nod, checking the time. “Yes. Paul is meeting me downstairs. We’re checking out that new Chinese place down the street.”

Lauren grimaces. “Ugh, Chinese. Amy, what about you?”

She shrugs. “I don’t have plans.”

“Do you want to join me?” Lauren leans closer to Amy. “There’s this cute sandwich place around the corner. I could tell you everything you need to know about your new colleague.”

I huff out a breath. “Don’t believe a single word she says.”

With a chuckle, Lauren turns her gaze to me, and she starts one of her silly staring contests, which I am so going to win. I always do.

Sure enough, Lauren is the first to avert her eyes after a few seconds. She turns to Amy, who watches us with her eyebrows squished together.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Lauren says. “Just ignore that. Will you still have lunch with me? You know I’m a nice person.”

I couldn’t suppress a hearty laugh, which Lauren ignores.

Poor Amy; she must think we’re crazy. This playful banter between Lauren and me has become a habit I much appreciate on sometimes dull and aggravating workdays.

“Um, yeah.” Amy crinkles her nose. “You two seem kinda weird, but I’ll give you a chance.”

Lauren and I burst out laughing, and when Amy joins in, that lightness from earlier is back.

“Thank you, Amy.” Lauren hops off my desk, her expression turning serious. “Now, are you guys ready? I’m starving.”

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