Benjamin looks up from the table, then blinks a moment before standing as well. He looks a little bit lost as to what to do.
So I step into him, putting my hands on his waist and rising onto my tiptoes to give him a kiss. “I had a wonderful time last night. Thank you.”
This seems to knock him out of his indecisive stupor, and he reacts immediately. His arms come around me, and Benjamin gives me a kiss that is anything but a goodbye. It feels very much like an invitation to stay, and that delights me more than I care to admit.
But I can’t since I really do need to get going. When I pull away and he releases me, his expression is reluctant. I know mine matches.
“Tonight?” he asks simply. “Wicked Horse? Or would you like to come back here?”
Tilting my head, I give him another apologetic smile, this one more regretful than the last. “Actually, I would love to do either with you, but I can’t. I actually have plans I can’t back out of.”
It’s vague, I know—the explanation of my prior commitment. But we are not in the type of relationship that requires me to explain myself. Not that I have anything to hide, but well… I don’t want to move too far out of the box we’d put around ourselves. It’s risky to say the least.
“Oh,” Benjamin says, and I can tell he’s slightly put off. Not in a mad or angry way, but I can tell it never occurred I might not want to spend every night with him. He gives me an understanding smile, though. “Sure, I understand. Another night when it’s convenient.”
I find myself not wanting him to have any doubts about my desires, and I don’t want him feeling rejected. Risk be damned, I decide to explain.
“Please know if I could get out of these plans, I would. I would much rather spend the evening with you. But Walsh is up for some businessman-of-the-year award, and Jorie asked me to attend it several weeks ago. I promised her, and I can’t back out. Why I agreed is beyond me because I hate these things. I won’t know anyone there. Even though Jorie wants me there, she’ll have to stick by Walsh’s side most of the evening. So I’m sure you can understand this is not going to be pleasant for me.”
I’m completely blown away by Benjamin’s next words. “Would you like me to go with you? I’m assuming you can bring a plus one.”
I blink at him stupidly. An array of emotions flutters through me. Thrilled he would offer. Worried at the same time. I would love to be able to do normal things with Benjamin, but I can’t help but wonder if he’s moving us toward failure. Can he really be ready for more?
“I mean,” he continues as if he needs to reassure me. “You did me a solid when you went with me to that charity gala. The least I can do is return the favor to you.”
“I wouldn’t want to impose,” I rush to say, offering him a way to back out gracefully.
But fuck, I really would like him to come with me.
“You’re not,” he replies quickly. “It would be my pleasure.”
This is it—an intense change of circumstances between us.
Tilting my head, I say, “I thought you wanted boundaries. I thought we had agreed this was only about sex. You going on a date with me to an event is distinctly not within those boundaries.”
Benjamin gives me a rakish grin. “If it helps, I do plan on fucking you after. Hell, maybe even at the event in one of the bathrooms or in the parking lot.”
I can’t help the laugh that pops out of me. I haven’t seen this lighthearted, funny side of Benjamin before.
I like it way too much.
Benjamin takes my hands, giving them a squeeze. “Listen, maybe we should just play things by ear. I’m not going to lie. It seemed natural for me to offer to go with you tonight. It surprised even me. What I do know is I want to see you. I like being around you. So why not?”
“It’s sort of like we’re friends with benefits,” I point out with a grin.
“Maybe. I haven’t been a friend to so many people in a long time. Not sure I’m any good at it.”
“Well, I can tell you that you’re very good at the benefits part,” I say with a laugh. “I’m willing to try the friend thing to see how that goes.”
Benjamin’s hand comes to the back of my neck, and he pulls me toward him for a kiss.
Just before our lips meet, he murmurs, “Friends with benefits. I’m liking the sound of that.”
Fancy dinners, award shows, charity events, operas… I’ve done it all throughout my life. It was nothing to put on a tux or suit to go out for a high-class evening.