Let's have dinner tonight
Ben invited her to dinner. D'uh. That's stating the obvious, no? But how will Kate weasel her way out of this fix? Creating an alternative way to get them together, no Justin.
Not mine? How dare you? Oh, because it belongs to someone else. Well, in that case…
Rating T for language and romantic scenes, no smut.
Chapter 1 – Telling him No. And Why.
„Let's have dinner tonight."
Kate was completely taken aback by Ben's words.
"Sorry, what?" she managed to squeak.
„Have dinner with me." He repeated. "You know, you and me in fancy clothes, in a tasteful restaurant, eating a delicious meal, sipping some very old wine – dinner."
His face was straight, not showing his inner turmoil and his fervent hope that she'd say yes. He needed her to say yes. After their kiss in the elevator, he couldn't even less stop thinking about her, about how she had felt in his arms, his lips on hers, and the tingling sensation in his stomach when her tongue had been coming out to play. He wanted more. Wanted her. So, dinner plans with Kate.
She took a deep breath. Her resolute 'No.' was on the tip of her tongue, but she didn't want to be rude.
"I'll think about it."
"Ok, let me know." He smiled, and with a light twinkle in his eyes, he turned to go into his office.
Kate stared after him, mind racing, heart pounding and wishing for an easy exit out of this.
She couldn't do this. She just couldn't. Whenever the thought of having dinner with him crossed her mind, her heart rate increased to a crazy speed, her palms were sweaty, and her mind got dizzy. Flight instincts kicked in. She knew she would bolt as soon as she saw him in a tux. And not because this sight would be gruesome, oh no. She knew with absolute clarity that Ben would look magnificent in a tux. She had proof that suits became him every single day, as it was. No, his looks were definitely not the problem.
No, it was the thought behind having dinner with that man - and how it would most probably end - that scared the living daylights out of her.
After that mind-blowing kiss they shared (and she couldn't deny that she had been in that kiss, too. A lot.) her mind, heart and body were all helter-skelter and upset. 'Aroused' would be more accurate, a tiny voice inside her piped up. She shoved that voice aside, not wanting to deal with that particular thought right now.
Ok, she had to be frank with him. Not too blunt, but he was entitled to know why there was no way in hell that she'd ever agree to date him. Thing was, that he must not, under no circumstances, know the real reason - just the ones she admitted to herself.
So, she laid her plan.
"Ben, you got a minute?" Kate asked, sticking her head into his office.
He looked up from the paper he was reading, obviously pleased to see her so soon. "Sure. Made up your mind about this dinner with me?"
"Actually, I have", she replied hesitantly. "And I'd like to discuss it - my answer, that is - over lunch. Do you have plans?"
That was not the response he was hoping for, but still. If Kate was willing to go to lunch instead of dinner with him, that was fine by him. "No, we can go to lunch. Didn't intend to make a break, but I could do with some fresh air."
She nodded. "I'll pick you up around 12-ish." Almost out of his door, she turned again to face him. "Just FYI, this not a date." She added, just to be clear.
She saw his shoulders sagging for a second, his disappointment showing all over his face. She blinked, and it was gone, his features had resumed their indifferent mask, shoulders erect.
"OK, so what do you suggest?" he calmly asked.
"Let's go grab a hotdog." Kate turned, already heading for the elevator. She wanted to get this over with as soon as possible.
Hotdogs in hand, they strolled to a nearby park.
"I can't go to dinner with you." She decided to use the band-aid approach: Rip it off as quickly as possible. Get it done.
"Because I'm a coward."
His surprise and confusion showed on his face, but she continued.
"As a mediator, I can be a lioness. No party too heavy to tackle, no case too complicated to find a solution to. But when it comes to relationships, I'm your biggest coward." She stated this in a quiet tone, not meeting his eyes. She tromped down the sound of her pulse hammering in her ears, fully aware of his warm body at her side.
"Look Ben, I know you're a great guy. And though I occasionally insult you, and tease you, I trust you. I really do. In all things connected with the firm, I know I can rely on you, utterly and completely.
"But I do not trust anyone with my heart."
He gave her a sideways look, and she immediately knew what he was thinking.
"Yes, I trusted Justin, and see where this got me. He still is my safe haven, somewhere to go to, and I know I'm always welcome, but we're not good for each other. He's a politician, and he needs someone at his side who is willing to support him wholeheartedly, not be another thorn in his side." He looked at her again, a slightly annoyed look on his face. He didn't want to discuss her ex-husband right now. "Erm back to the point, yes." She stumbled on saying.
"What I wanted to say is that… " she paused, not knowing how to proceed, and clearly nervous about it all.
"It's just dinner, Katie." Ben quietly put in.
"No, it's not!" Kate suddenly got angry. "It's not just dinner, and you know it. It's the beginning of something, and I don't know what that will be. I don't know what I want. I also don't know what you want, for that matter. Is it a meaningless flirt, aimed at a one-night-stand? That's definitely not what I want. Is it a relationship, like in a fairy tale, or – or - a soap opera on TV? I guarantee you, if that's what you want, you'll find me running fast as lightning." She was a bit out of breath after this speech. 'So much for not letting him know the real reason,' she thought sarcastically. He had a knack for her losing control, and that's what was scaring her as hell, too.
Ben sighed inwardly. How could she not see how he felt about her? He knew that Leo was already full in the picture, and he knew that he couldn't hide his feelings completely. She was good at reading people. He was good at reading her. And now, her eyes were full of one emotion – panic.
"Are you that afraid of me?" Ben inquired, trying to sound casual and curious, not hurt. Her words about a meaningless flirt had stung.
"No!" Kate said desperate, seeing how wrong her words had been taken. "I'm not afraid of you, it's -it - it's what's between you and me that makes me lace my running shoes."
She sighed and rubbed her face with her free hand, trying to make him understand.
"It's just… I can't trust myself in this. If I'm sending mixed signals, that's because I'm full of mixed signals myself. My mind keeps telling me that this is a bad, bad idea, where both of us will get hurt, but the rest of my body insists on telling me a different story. I feel –"
She cut herself off, not willing to share with him, him, of all people, how he made her feel. 'Nervous, excited, giddy in the head, blushed to the earlobes, butterflies in the belly. I'm pathetic.' she scolded herself, before continuing.
"I even can't trust my instincts, which work perfectly well in the conference room, but if it concerns you, I feel like the middle of a storm in a nutshell with no paddle. And that scares the shit of out me." 'I can as well tell him the full story,' she thought. 'What's the difference.'
"So you see, no matter which angle I look at this from, it's always a 'No'." she finished, glad to have had her say, and confident that he'd see the reason behind all this.
Except, he didn't.
"So, let me sum this up." He began, in full lawyer mode.
"You are scared, you don't know what to expect, and your brain - and body - are mush due to the effect my presence has on you. Sounds to me like you're already in this knee-deep, but too afraid to admit it to yourself." He quickly stated, not letting her interrupt him.
"If it's any comfort to you, I know how you feel. I am already putty in your hands, long before our kiss the other day." He continued in a conversational manner, banning all emotions out of his words, to keep her calm, despite the bombshells he was just dropping on her.
"In fact, every time I think of this kiss, I want to grab you again, and repeat the experience, 'cause I liked it very, very much." 'And to see if it's even better with increasing practice, he silently added. But he deemed it prudent to keep this particular thought hidden from her. At least for the time being.
"Yet I can also understand your scruples. You say you don't know me well enough to gauge my sincerity, and if that something between us is as terrifying as you make it.
"But let me suggest this: We don't go to dinner, we don't date. But we will go to lunch each day, together, alone, and we talk. If we have to cancel lunch, we meet on Saturday and/or Sunday, to make up for the missed time. We get to know each other better, and see where that leads. Deal?"
It was his way in negotiations to demand as much as possible, for in the end, he could get even more than he thought possible at the start.
She was stunned by his off-hand statements about being all "putty", and "mush", and "lunch", and "kiss".
Eventually, she gathered enough brainpower to put up a response.
"Wait, no, that was not what I meant."
"Why? You got what you wanted. We don't go to dinner. We don't even date." Ben said, shrugging nonchalantly.
"Uh – ehrm… that was not my point! Don't twist my words in my mouth!"
"I'd much rather like to twist my tongue in your mouth, but you've made it abundantly clear that this is a bit early for that, despite past evidence that we're really good at that. But let's ignore that pleasant thought for a moment - what is it that you want, Katie?"
Katie… His use of an endearment of her name got her confused even more, if that was humanly possible. She stared at him for several moments (and 100.000 heart beats), open mouthed and on the verge of either grab and kiss him ('YESYESYES', the tiny voice piped up again), or to stomp on his foot, to make him LISTEN to her.
"Look." She started, having collected the last shreds of her self control, and somewhat exasperated, "I told you that I'm screwed up. I'm recently divorced, not over my ex-husband yet, and clearly not in the position to negotiate on non-dating terms."
A thought occurred to her, spurred on by her professional experience as a mediator. "Besides, do you really think this would be acceptable for me? I refuse one dinner, and in exchange you claim a good deal of my free time, to spend exclusively with you? Slow down, Buster!"
He looked at her with narrowed eyes. He had seen how flustered she was and had tried to take advantage of that. This was love, after all, and in love and war…. Well, he failed, so he had to find another way to her heart. Her words at their first encounter came back to him. 'No strategy, no foreplay, no negotiation. Just be who you are and take me…'
OK, he could do that.
So he suddenly stopped walking, took her food out of her hands, and tossed it together with his into a nearby bin. Before she could protest, he turned to her, wrapped his arms around her tiny frame and pressed his lips on hers. Every fiber in his body rejoiced at the renewed contact. He didn't know how much he had missed her touch until now, as he felt her soft lips against his. When he felt her melt in his arms, and her tongue slid out to meet his, he welcomed the familiar sensation of his tingling stomach, but couldn't help but smile against her lips.
'She had onions on her hotdog, the little minx.' He was sure that she did that deliberately. Nonetheless, he kept kissing her, wrapping his arms tighter around her, let one arm wander upwards, into her hair, to her cheek, stroking her tenderly, and deepened the kiss even more, trying to convey the sincerity of his feelings towards her, being gentle and passionate at the same time.
When they finally parted, she took a few moments to open her eyes, clearly needing some time to collect her thoughts (which had flown right of her head the second he kissed her).
"OK, lunch once a week, but nothing fancy, and no weekend postponement. That's my offer." She conceded.
"I'll take it, Katie. I'll take anything you are willing to give me," an equally perturbed Ben answered. He just got promised by Kate that she was willing to let him in, and he intended to use his chance to the maximum.
And he knew, that when she finally would accept him, he would never let her go.
A/N: My take and try with another fandom. This story is not beta'd, so all mistakes are mine.
Please let me know your thoughts.