Chapter Two – Chivalry, Ben Norfolk Style
So the evening hadn't gone exactly as he had planned.
It was Tuesday, not usually the night for the unexpected, but that was exactly what he had gotten.
It had started normal enough, he spending the day cleaning his apartment. That one chore took him most of the day to complete for he was a packrat and had a horrible habit of keeping things of the tiniest significance to him. He had stacks of magazines all over his apartment, every issue of 'National Geographic' dating back from 1984, every issue of 'Rolling Stone' since 1998, and a rather extensive collection of both 'The Chicago Tribune' and 'The Chicago Sun-Times'.
He kept everything for the simple reason of he never knew when he might need something.
After the cleaning was done and the closing credits of the movie playing on the television in the background began rolling up the screen, Ben went into the kitchen to fix himself something to eat for dinner.
He had had an exhausting day, more tiring than most. Some days, he got so bored he contemplated getting himself a job. But he would quickly shake himself of those thoughts and find something to fill the time. He didn't want a job and in all honesty, he really didn't need one. He had more money than he knew what to do with.
Just as he had sat down on the couch with a plate of homemade steaming beef stroganoff – courtesy of Rose Kirkland, one of his close friends, his telephone rang. Anyone who knew him well enough knew better than to disturb him during dinnertime but looking at the caller id, he couldn't help but grin.
This was a phone call he just simply could not ignore.
"Hello?" He answered, putting his accent in full force.
He had yet to meet a girl who didn't at least raise an interested eyebrow upon hearing it. Well, there had been one girl but she wasn't worth thinking about at the moment. She only made his blood boil, a reaction no other girl was capable of getting from him.
"Hi, Benny," Kelly Evans cooed over the phone. "Whatcha doing right now?"
Ben grinned. Women like Kelly never ceased to amaze him. He never thought that there were types of women out there that were perfectly content with nothing but sex but they were because they kept calling him. He was grateful for them though because if they wanted anything else, something more from him, he would have to cut ties and he didn't want to do that. All of the girls he knew, he liked well enough but he wasn't going to be in a relationship with any of them.
He hated to admit it but even though he enjoyed women and the company they had to offer him, it was rare when he found one that he could trust. In fact, all of the women he could trust in his life, he could count on one hand.
He couldn't help it though.
Most women, when they found out who he was, became crazed with the idea of wanting to be with him and he found that they actually didn't want him but instead what he could offer and provide for them.
It was because of things like that happening to him that made him weary of letting anyone know who he truly was. Jamie, his best friend, had been one of the few outside of the Norfolk family to know the truth and Ben wanted to keep it that way until he met someone that first saw him and only him.
"Well, not you, which is what I wish," Ben answered, making her giggle, and he almost rolled his eyes before shoveling a forkful of steaming food into his mouth.
So Kelly wasn't exactly the brightest person he had ever come in contact with. But that was okay. She was fun and Ben was twenty-seven years old. What else could he want other than a girl who had a fun time and didn't mind that he only had her for a purely sexual relationship?
He had several other girls like Kelly in his life.
Before Patrick Norfolk's death, Ben's father had also invested some of the family's vast wealth into a chain of extremely upscale steakhouses, Neela. As a Norfolk, Ben had a constant private table reserved for him whenever he wanted to come in for a meal and one of the hostesses who worked there, Henrietta, was one of his favorites.
There was also Mary, a field reporter for one of the news stations, Missy, a bartender, and Michelle, a tattoo artist covered in tattoos herself – making her definitely his most interesting hookup.
"Get your beautiful Scottish ass ready, Ben Norfolk," Kelly ordered then lowered her voice to a husky tone. "I'll even give you incentive. I have to work a little late tonight and let's just say that by eight o'clock, I'll be completely naked and waiting in bed for you to ease me of my stress."
Now, if that wasn't an incentive, Ben didn't know what was. After telling her that he'd be there by eight-thirty at the latest, he hung up and sat down again, digging into his dinner. He had to eat his full because apparently, he had a long night ahead of him.
But it amazed him how quickly things could happen that put everything else out of whack.
He had been so startled when he was walking from the "L" station towards the brownstone Kelly lived in on the north side of the city when instead he found none other than Olivia Grange, sitting down in front of one of buildings and crying her eyes out.
There were certain people that he could never imagine crying and Olivia Grange was one of them. He had known her for almost a year, against his own will of course, but in that entire time, he had only seen her fierce and angry, her eyes ablaze with a fire that startled him down to his very bones.
No woman he had ever conversed with before had such a look of utter passion within her orbs. But instead of pleasing him with the challenge she constantly presented to him, her strong will and stubbornness seemed to rub him the wrong way and for that reason, the two, ever since their first meeting, constantly fought.
Sometimes, he couldn't stand the sight of her, but other times, he purposely picked fights with her just so he could hopefully see her furious. She was such a vision when furious though he would rather die than admit such a thing out loud to anyone.
So to see the bane of his very existence sitting on some steps, crying and her knee cut open and bleeding, Ben stopped dead in his tracks.
She didn't notice him for she was too busy bawling and trying to tend to herself with one wimpy Kleenex. Ben knew that wouldn't do anything. She needed to bandage that up and hopefully, she wouldn't need to get stitches. The sense of duty his mother had raised him on tugged at him like an annoying mosquito buzzing in his ear and if she needed to go to the hospital, Ben knew that he would have no choice but to accompany her.
It wasn't exactly the evening he had had planned. But he couldn't leave her to fend for herself. His mom would fall to the floor in a faint if she knew that her son was going to leave a woman unguarded at night while injured.
He wouldn't do the same thing to a lost dog and he couldn't very well do the same to Olivia Grange, no matter how much she was capable of aggravating him.
As he took care of her, he was actually glad to see that she still managed to keep possession of her sharp tongue though he wasn't having as nearly as much fun as he usually did sparring with her. He was too concerned over her knee and preoccupied cleaning it for her, trying to be as gentle as possible.
He was surprised to find out that it was her birthday. She wasn't acting like it. Most people loved their birthdays and used them to their full advantages, getting and doing whatever they wanted.
But Olivia looked as if she would rather die than have any sort of celebration. And that message left by her dad on her machine only seemed to make her more tense.
He had wanted to ask her when she was going to England, half in curiosity and the other to make sure that she wasn't going as the same time as him. He had planned to visit Jamie and Violet in London next month before heading up to visit his mother in Scotland where he was born.
But he had kept quiet. He was smart enough to know that talking about it would only upset her. Besides, the odds of them leaving at the same time for the same country and being on the same plane seemed highly unlikely.
Nonetheless, he would have to speak to Jamie about it.
He had gotten out of her apartment as quickly as possible.
She had looked at him and it wasn't the way she usually looked at him. She looked grateful and sad and vulnerable. She wasn't supposed to look like that. She wasn't allowed to. She was supposed to spit fire at him, not thank him. He may have done what any other normal human being would have done but she was still Olivia Grange and he was still Ben Norfolk and they hated one another. She wasn't supposed to show any type of gratitude. It was unnerving.
He had barely said goodbye to her before he was gone, finally able to breathe normally again.
As he burst out into the fresh air, he gulped in desperate amounts of air. God, what a night it was turning out to be. He thought that maybe she had been so upset because it was her birthday but once again, no one hated their birthday and it wasn't as if people had forgotten about hers.
Harry and Toby had clearly been at Humpy's, waiting for her.
He wondered why she hadn't gone out with them, especially since Toby was going to be there. It wasn't exactly a secret that Olivia had a thing for Toby. It though was clearly going unnoticed by him since he hadn't done anything about it. He seemed to be dating everyone but Olivia, which also confused Ben.
Though he, himself, could never be with such an insufferable woman, he couldn't deny the fact that Olivia was quite beautiful.
As soon as the thoughts entered his head, he shook them out. He didn't care about her so he had no time to think of her. He had been a Good Samaritan by taking care of her but that was where his concern for Olivia ended. She could take care of herself.
Or at least, she acted like she could with her determination to come off constantly as some fierce fighter in front of him.
He was surprised when she let him take her upstairs and clean her cut, though she had had little say in the entire matter. She was an independent one and though Ben wasn't too keen on relationships, he knew that a personality like Olivia's would drive him insane. He was the kind of guy that wanted to be depended on. He liked to feel wanted and needed and a girl as fiercely determined at everything like she was, Ben knew he wouldn't be happy.
Oh, it was fine with him for a girl to have convictions and want to sometimes do things on her own but Olivia was convinced that she could do everything by herself.
He didn't know her that well but he did know that about her with utmost certainty.
He paused outside her building and nearly started cursing at himself. Something was pulling at him and though he didn't want to admit as to what it was, he knew exactly what it was. And it wasn't Kelly's promise of complete nakedness and animal sex.
"Fuck," he grumbled to himself and then stuffed his hands in his jacket pockets.
He turned and began walking down the sidewalk, away from Kelly's place and towards the small convenience store on the nearby corner, the place where liquor and cigarettes and sometimes lottery tickets, if the jackpot was large enough, were the main sellers. But Ben didn't doubt that they wouldn't have what he needed.
He nodded his head at the cashier working behind the counter before going into the snack aisle, his eyes flying over all of the food and searching in earnest for what he had come there for. Successfully finding a pack of two Hostess cupcakes, he snatched it then went to go get a box of candles.
He couldn't believe he was doing this but he couldn't shake the feeling that he had to do something. And it wasn't one of those feelings that he could just go and ignore either. He knew that if he just ignored it, it would continue to eat and gnaw at him relentlessly like a guilty conscious.
God, he wished his parents had raised him to be an asshole though he must admit, sometimes he could play a pretty good one.
When 'Reservoir Dogs' came out, in homage to the movie, all of his friends – the few close ones he had – started calling him Nice Guy Benny, which he used to find hilarious, but now, he cursed at it all.
He tried so hard to not care and he wouldn't have if she just had refrained herself from looking up at him the way that she had.
She had better appreciate what he was doing but even as he handed the cashier the money, he knew she wouldn't in the least. Nothing about her nature that he had seen seemed to scream "appreciative" to him.
He walked back towards her apartment, his feet dragging and his head hung low. But he did not stop. He wasn't able to. He wasn't able to tell himself to not push the button next to her name and he could not will himself to keep silent so she would think that it was a prank.
No. For the hundredth time in an hour, he cursed his upbringing. He was supposed to be in a very willing girl's bed right now, stretching muscles he didn't even know he had; not worried about the frigid queen and her injured knee.
"Hello?" Her voice was broken apart in static through the intercom and he, once again, wished he could turn and run. She would never know that he had returned.
He cleared his throat. "Olivia? Can you let me back up?"
He closed his eyes and prayed that she would refuse him. If she refused him, he at least could fool himself into thinking that he had tried. And he would completely ignore the fire escape on the side of the building he could easily climb up to crawl in through her window. That wasn't even going to be an option for him.
There was nothing but silence on her end and for a moment, he thought that she had, in not so many words, told him to piss off.
But then he heard static.
"I forgot my jacket," he immediately lied, knowing he could only be so noble when it came to her.
"No, you didn't," she argued. "You didn't even take it off when you brought me in."
He sighed heavily. For the love of...
"How do you remember that?" He demanded.
"I'm observant, Ben," she snapped.
And with that, she punched the button that buzzed him in.
For a moment, he didn't move. Why was he there again? Oh, right. He could actually hear his mother's voice in his head and his scowl deepened as he jerked the door open and began to trudge up the staircase as if he walking to certain death.
"Now, Benjamin," Madelyn Norfolk would lecture him. "Just remember this. Gallantry to women - the sure road to their favor - is nothing but the appearance of extreme devotion to all their wants and wishes, a delight in their satisfaction, and a confidence in yourself as being able to contribute toward it."
He grumbled incomprehensible words under his breath as he yanked open the sets of doors and then stalked up the stairs.
He didn't want to get to Olivia's favor, nor do anything that she wanted or wished. He was there simply because he had to do this or else, he would be plagued with nonsense quotes of chivalry and he wouldn't be able to sleep that night.
His scowl grew worse. He hadn't even planned on sleeping that night. Hopefully, he would get this thing over with Olivia and then he could haul ass over to Kelly's, where, please God, she was still naked and ready.
The door was opened when he approached it and Olivia stood there, looking none too pleased with him.
So. This was the thanks he got for bringing her upstairs before she bled to death, or worse, drowned in her own tears.
He absolutely hated it when girls cried. It was something he tried to prevent at all costs. He hated the way they looked like when those fat tears rolled down their cheeks with no control. When they cried, it looked as if they were actually falling apart, as if they had lost hope in the smallest of things. He couldn't stand such a sight. He hated to see such a lack of faith in one's eyes.
But as he walked towards her, Ben was hit with such an unsettling thought, he almost stopped dead in his tracks and gaped at her.
He knew that sometimes, he picked fights with her simply to see her angry because when she was red with fury, she was beautiful and at the present moment, with the scowl with a hint of curiosity on her face, Ben truly realized just how beautiful she could be.
He decided right then that she and Toby were both fools- Toby for not seeing her and Olivia for seeing only him. Olivia and Ben might have disliked one another greatly but he was still a man and as a man, he was capable of seeing beauty.
"Hey, firecracker," he teased and she looked at him, crossing her arms across her chest, almost as if she was protecting herself from his presence.
"Firecracker?" She questioned.
He shrugged casually. "Better than most nicknames I come up with for you." He grinned and she rolled her eyes though she remained silent. She could not argue for he was right. Oh, it was such a glorious feeling to be right whilst in Olivia's presence. "Are you going to invite me in?"
"Why would I do that?" She questioned. "Last time you were in, you left as if someone lit a fire up under your ass."
He chuckled at that then shaking his head slightly, held up the white plastic bag from the convenience store. "I brought you something."
He restrained a mighty eye roll from coming on. "Because it's your birthday."
He was amazed at how quickly the stone wall she constantly barricaded around herself whenever he was near could crumble as she stared at him.
She didn't want it. He could tell. She wanted nothing to do with whatever it was that was in his bag but he didn't care. It was her birthday, damn it, and it was a crime against man to not at least have something sweet on such a day.
"The sooner you let me in and give it to you, the sooner I'll leave."
He had to convince her somehow and promising her his hasty disappearance was as good as anything.
She shook her head slightly. "I don't like birthdays," she said, barely above a whisper.
"No shit," he said then without waiting for her permission, brushed past her into the apartment.
He was unable to look around earlier but now, he could afford a quick look about. The place was small and absolutely spotless. It almost reminded him of a museum. Everything was too nice and tidy and he wasn't allowed to touch anything.
There were framed black and white photographs by the famed French photographer, Robert Doisneau, hanging on the walls. A vase of lush lavender flowers was sitting in the center of the coffee table in the living room, sending its sweet scent faintly into the air. There were framed photographs of her friends – mostly of Violet, Harry, Harry's wife, Anne, and of course, Toby – and who assumed to be her family. There was also a box underneath one of the tall narrow windows, filled to the brim with toys.
He didn't inquire about that though the question was on the tip of his tongue.
He turned and saw her closing the door, slowly and hesitantly. He couldn't help but smirk. He knew his smirk drove her insane which was all the more reason to do it around her.
"Nice place," he commented.
She nodded her head, still unable to argue with him. "Yeah. It costs like it, too."
Okay. Money was definitely something he did not want to talk about. Ever. He had to switch topics and fast.
"Come see what I got you," he said with a slight cock of his head.
"Ben..." she began to say but she couldn't finish whatever it was that she wanted to say.
That was a first for her. Usually, she couldn't stop making insolent statements directed towards him.
He went to the counter that separated the kitchen from the living room and pulled the package of cupcakes from the bag. She watched as he ripped the plastic wrapping and placed the two chocolate treats down before ripping the box of candles open and sticking one in each of them. He pulled the lighter from his jacket pocket and quickly lit them before looking up at her.
She was staring at him as if she had never seen him before.
She spoke quietly. "Why are you doing this?" She looked as if she was about to cry again and Ben quickly scrambled about before that could happen.
"No one should completely forgo birthday celebrations," he explained. "And no one should be alone on their birthday."
She stared at the cupcakes. "What if I want to be alone?"
He shrugged. "If that's your wish..." he trailed off and motioned towards the candles.
Olivia continued to look upon him then stepped forward and tucking her chestnut brown hair behind her ears, she bent over and blew the candles out before straightening again and staring at him.
He smiled cheekily. "Anything for the birthday girl," he said then flashing another smile, he left the apartment, once again as quickly as he had come.
There. He had gone there and done what he had set out to do. His mother should be proud that the manners she had raised her only son with had stuck into his adulthood.
Now, on to Kelly's.
A/N: Wow. I was not expecting that many reviews for the first chapter. Honestly, I didn't think too many people would be interested in reading this. But thank you so, so much to those who left me their thoughts and opinions. I cannot express how grateful I am. As always, thank you for reading and I hope this second chapter is received just as warmly as the first.