Disclaimer Just checked. Nope, not mine.

Rating T for language and romantic scenes, no smut.

Category Romance/Humor

Chapter 2: Rule 1: Always wear a shirt!

"I'll take it, Katie. I'll take anything you are willing to give me."

Kate was back at her office, contemplating the most recent encounter with Ben, feeling extremely cranky and fiddling with her plushy pink pen. What had she done? - "A huuuuuuuge mistake!" she whispered to her pen, blowing a raspberry for good measure.

Or was it a mistake? She agreed to meet with him on a regular basis, apart from work, under "no-date" conditions – but who was she kidding? This tasted a lot like dating, and only her kiss-befuddled brain was to blame that she ever agreed to this crazy idea of his.

Once again, kissing Ben… Her eyes got dreamy at the memory of the jolts going through her body. Oh yes, she had enjoyed kissing and being kissed by him. Very much so. And she did kiss him back. Fervently. Again. Like in the elevator (or in front of, technically).

It had felt so, so good! She wanted to do it again. - She choked at that thought. On the other end of that mouth was none other than Ben Grogan! He was a complete mystery to her, and he - and - he- he was making things worse, he had said so himself, aaaaannnd – why the heck was he doing that to her? Kate grunted, shifting in her chair.

But his kisses had tasted soooooo yummy… (She wanted more.)

Kate put her head in her hands. What had she gotten herself into?

Ben felt rather smug with himself. All he had wanted was one dinner with Kate, but instead he would be spending a lot of quality time with her, and with the possibility of seeing her also on weekends. This would be easy to achieve. Five days in a row actively avoiding lunch with her would have its drawbacks, but he'd be rewarded with a whole day with her, instead of only some half an hour at midday.

The more he thought about this outcome, the more he liked it. Yes, he would be making the most of his time with her, impressing her, and sweeping her off her feet. Not a sudden onslaught, which would send her running, but sublimely, with finesse and delicacy.

Katherine Reed may be a fortress, but Benedict Yancy Grogan fully intended to be a knight in shining armor and take that fortress.

"First rule: Always wear a shirt!" she almost yelled at him, when they met shortly later at the coffee bar.

Ben had expected her to lay down rules, and some precise ones at that. Something in the lines of "No funny business", "No expensive gifts", or that sort of thing. Him to be obliged to wear clothes at all times (and why did she think of him being naked, anyway?) surprised and intrigued him, to say the least.


Kate cursed herself. She hadn't intended to be that blunt (or for the whole office to hear, for that matter), but this "rule" had blurted out of her, images of him shirtless (and her strong reactions to it, though she had tried to hide them from him) overriding her speech filter, and thus leading to a slightly awkward situation.

"Because I think that shirts suit you." She clarified, trying to sound aloof while pouring some milk in her coffee. She was proud that her hands weren't shaking. 'Ha, take that, Ben Grogan. You have no effect on me.'

"So you think I'm handsome?" Ben asked rather pleased.

"No, I just don't want to be arrested due to indecent exposure." Kate shot back.

He stepped closer to her, bringing his lips to the side of her head, whispering softly in his best bedroom voice into her ear, careful to let his breath tickle her earlobe, his lips only a fraction of an inch away from her skin.

"Believe me, Katie, if I was shirtless with you around, it would not be in public. In fact, it would be very private, just you and me. Nobody would see where my hands touched your body, which would be as devoid of clothes as mine, and yes, I would do some indecent things to you. Just so you know."

He felt her shudder at his words, and he couldn't decide which pleased him more: That he could elicit such a strong reaction from her, only by being close, or that she obviously thought his naked chest could have some power over her which she sought to avoid. Well, he stored this particular information away for later, and continued talking to her, this time with an appropriate distance, voice back to normal.

"OK, got it, never be shirtless. Can do that." – 'For the time being, at least', he added silently. "Only, of course, if we'd go swimming, or sun bathing. Then, me wearing a shirt would look a bit silly, and we'd have to reconsider. But I'm sure you're more than capable of procuring a perfect solution, somewhere in the middle. You're the master at that, after all." Ben beamed at her.

Kate stood, immobile. When he was so close to her, her mind seemed to shut down, and she could hardly refrain from grabbing him by the lapels of his expensive suit and kiss him senseless. Kate took a deep breath and was trying to decide the second time this morning if she should strangle him, or kiss him, or both.

'Ewwww!' she corrected herself inwardly. 'Better do that in the correct order, hun.'

"OK, Ben, you know what?" she said aloud. "If you're so clever, then we will definitely NOT go swimming. Everything is ruled out where we're obliged to shed our clothing. Got that?"

She'd have liked to be more eloquent, but her brainpower still wasn't fully restored yet, so she'd have to settle for a feeble rebuke.

Ben sensed her fleeting moment of lowered defenses and decided to make full use of his advantage. "You think I need to be naked to seduce you? Interesting thought, Katie, but I assure you, clothes will not be our issue. From what I can see, it suffices when I get into your personal space. And I admit, as much as I enjoy your sight from afar, the sight of you with flushed cheeks, dilated pupils and increased heart rate is much more - how do I put it? - satisfying at close distance." His grin was charming, but in his eyes she perceived a predatory glint which made her struggle again to keep her balance.

'How the hell does he know my heart is racing? Am I unknowingly attached to a ECG device?' Kate couldn't stop this rather ridiculous thought.

Blushing furiously, she wanted to set him straight, stop playing games with her, when another thought crossed her mind, and she smiled wickedly.

'Enjoying rattling my tree, are you Ben?' she thought. 'Well, two can play that game.'

She put her coffee cup aside, and moved closer to him, hips swaying, and bringing her chest close his body, carefully brushing her dress against the sleeve of his suit.

"Well, Ben" she purred. "If it's closeness what you're craving, I can certainly help you with that." She let her hand wander upwards, played with the button of his shirt, pressed her chest even tighter against him, and -

"Still stirring your coffee? Must be mighty cold already." Lauren's cool, crisp voice interrupted their little banter.

They both flew apart, blushing some (Ben) and some more (Kate), coffee cups carefully balanced (or grabbed first, respectively) and held as a shield against the party pooper, aka the Principal Lauren McKeenan Reed.

She stepped past them, getting herself a cup, and pouring in coffee and milk with determined, purposeful movements. In a low voice, she murmured out of the corner of her mouth, only for the two of them to hear.

"Whatever is going on here - in plain sight of everyone, I might add! - stop it. You both are partners in the firm, with all rights and privileges, but also with the obligation to set an example for good behavior. I will not have any of you charged with sexual harassment, from whomever. So cut it. Or get a room."

With that, she turned around and strode directly back to her office.

'Really' she scoffed. 'Are we at a Kindergarten here?!' She sighed and whished for the umpteenth time to have Teddy back.

At the coffee bar, Kate and Ben smiled sheepishly at each other, before each of them grasped their coffee cups tighter, and vanished in their respective offices.

A/N: That's it for Ch 2. I have some ideas to continue the story, let them dance around each other a little bit more, throw in some Justin for good measure - there are some scenes swirling around in my head. J

Just so I don't commit any character blunder: Is there any mention of Ben's parents (still alive?) or siblings (are there any?)? Would be a huge help, Thank you in advance!