Chapter Twenty – Wooing for Beginners

Ben wondered how he could have both the best night and worst night of his life in one night. It had been the night that would never end. He had taken Olivia out – their first date. They had laughed and talked and kissed. And then he freaked out when he found she was a virgin and had left only to return to see Toby kissing his girlfriend and then there had been more talking and more kissing and hours later, he was still cursing at himself for not going up with her into her apartment like she had invited.

Because now, he had this situation.

A very hung-over Henrietta on his couch, answering his phone, after spending the night.

Before he had gone into the shower, he had told Henrietta specifically to just sit there and drink her water and not touch anything. So, of course, the phone had rang and she had picked it up and the sinking pit in his stomach told him that he knew exactly who was on the other end. By the time he snatched the receiver from Henrietta's hand, the person on the other end had already hung up.

He swore under his breath, glaring at Henrietta. "You can leave now."

She leaned back into the couch with a dramatic pout. "Why? I just got here."

"Six hours ago. I let you pass out but it's time for you to go now," he was practicing speaking through grinded teeth.

When did everything in his life get so complicated?

And why did his mother teach him to always be a gentleman and not toss a drunk-off-her-ass girl from his apartment though that was the exact type of treatment she deserved?

When he had opened the door to Henrietta the night before, she was crying and her words were slurring but he got the gist of it. He had slept with Henrietta several times. She had been one of his more-frequent hook ups. And she had seen him on his date with Olivia at Neela. Ben had felt bad. How could he not? He knew he could be a right cad most of the time but Henrietta was crying and asking him why Olivia was the girl who got a date and not her and he couldn't leave her in his hallway.

But now, the next morning, things were fucked up again and he had to call Olivia because he knew that was who had been calling.

For the countless time, he missed Jamie and wished he still had his best friend here. Things like this never seemed to happen when Jamie was around. He was the adult between the two of them. Of course, with Jamie gone, that was how Ben got himself a girlfriend. An actual girlfriend and he wanted her to stay that way. And that meant Henrietta had to get the hell out of here.

Somehow, he got her heels back on and was ushering her to the door, offering to call her a cab so she wouldn't have to deal with the "L" and she was beginning to sniffle again. He couldn't handle anymore of her crying and he was beginning to feel the onset of panic in his chest because too much time was passing and he really needed to talk to Olivia. He could only imagine what she was thinking right now. Knowing Olivia, she was probably back to cursing his name with every name imaginable.

"Do you love her?" Henrietta asked just as he got the front door open.

The question made him still and he stared at her, as if wondering why anyone would ask a question like that. But then he realized that Olivia was his girlfriend and it was natural for others to ask if someone was in love with their girlfriend.

He had already told Olivia that he loved her – more than once – and he did. He loved her so much already and he wondered if it was obvious that he was a man in love. Could everyone else see it? And how long had they been able to see it since he and Olivia just confessed to one another last night, their feelings?

He thought of Olivia – with fire flashing in her eyes and heat rising in her cheeks. The freckles on her face and the way she fidgeted with her fingers or constantly darted the tip of her tongue out to wet her lips. The way she gave him as good as she got and refused to ever back down, standing toe-to-toe with him and just daring him to make another move. The way her sister spoke to her and the way she resigned herself to just take it; as if anyone needed to take something like that. The way her thumbs brushed along his cheeks as they kissed and the way she was so willing to be with him in a way she had never been with a man before. Because of her trust and feelings for him.

How could he not love her?

He saw her on the highlands of his land, picking heather and humming a song and he could see them both there together, lying in the grass together, loving it all as much as he did.

"I love her," Ben said with a single nod.

Henrietta's eyes flooded with a fresh round of tears and he braced himself. Miraculously though, none fell. They brimmed in her eyes, about to cascade out, but she kept them in.

She nodded slightly. "I could tell."

She didn't say anything else. She didn't make a move towards him – a hug or even a kiss on the cheek. She simply turned and began walking down the hallway, towards the elevators.

Ben stood in the doorway, still wearing nothing but a towel, and he watched her go.

He wasn't sure what he had been expecting but it wasn't that. He was grateful, of course, but he couldn't help but still feel a little bad for using Henrietta all of those times and watching her walk away when she had gotten nothing in return.

He sighed and returned inside, closing the door behind him. He immediately went to get the phone from his bedroom and tossing the towel off and leaving it on the floor, he sat on the edge of the bed, naked, and he dialed her cell number.

"Hi," she answered on the third ring.

He paused for a moment and took note of her tone. She sounded perfectly normal.

He wasn't sure if that should concern him even more.

"Hey," he remembered to speak. "Are we still going to the museum today?"

"I'm feeling so lazy today," she confessed and he smiled a little. "Maybe next weekend? It's going to be there a few months so there's no rush. Do you mind if I… could I come over?"

"Why would I mind, woman?" He asked and she laughed softly. "Olivia," he turned to his more serious tone. He hated using his serious tone but sometimes, it was needed. "Did you call a few minutes ago?"

She was quiet for a moment and then, "Yes."

"I swear, nothing happened. She was the hostess from the restaurant last night. Remember her? She showed up to my place, drunk-"

"Ben," Olivia's voice was calm as she interrupted him. "I know nothing happened."

He couldn't help but be shocked. And feel a little suspicious. "You know?"

"Just last night, you were talking about wooing me and wanting to earn me," she reminded him. "I know you wouldn't say all of that and then just turn around and sleep with someone else. Even you're not that terrible."

He exhaled a deep breath he hadn't even realized he was holding.

"I trust you," she then said. "We're two adults in an adult relationship and I trust you."

"Thank you," he closed his eyes for a moment. "Believe it or not, I really don't want to fuck this up. Especially not one day after it started." He could hear her smiling from her end and he smiled, too. "We'll go get some food when you get here. I'm cleaned out of everything."

"I'm actually at the office right now. Harry and Anne are having a fight and Toby has come to take him to play basketball. I was invited but if it's not a game of HORSE, forget it. Can I come by in about a half hour? I'm just finishing up editing something."

"Come whenever you want," he stood up and went to his dresser to get some boxers. "I'll give you a key when you're here."

"A key?" She repeated.

"Yeah, a key to the lock in my door," he smiled. "That way, you can come over whenever you want. You don't have to ask for my permission."

"You want to give me a key?" She asked as if still not understanding.

"Should I not? Are you going to make copies and hand them out to women?" He joked. "Relax, Liv. It's just a key. You don't have to use it. Just consider my reason for me giving it to you is because I sometimes need you to come over and water my plants for me."

"You don't own any plants," she immediately argued. "Do you?"

He then realized that she had never been over to his apartment. He quickly looked around to survey the clutter. He was a bit of a storage hog and had back issues of National Geographic and Rolling Stone in stacks everywhere. He thought of Olivia's small, yet always, spotless apartment. His girlfriend was a neat freak. He had to clean up in a half hour.

"Someday, I might," he replied.

She laughed softly and he couldn't help the images that suddenly flooded his head.

He was standing, naked, in the middle of his room and her laughter flooded his ear and she was going to be here in the next half hour. He would show her his apartment and her scent would fill every room and this was his girlfriend – because he had a girlfriend now – visiting his home. He had been to her apartment so many times, all beginning with carrying in with a bloody knee on her birthday, and had always felt a level of comfort while there. Of course, Ben rarely felt awkward or uncomfortable when somewhere.

He wanted Olivia to like his apartment and be comfortable here and he imagined her being naked on his bed, in his shower, on his couch, on his kitchen table. He wanted her naked everywhere and hearing her soft laughter, he imagined them spending the day between the sheets, talking and laughing and making love. Is that how that worked? He loved her so he assumed they would be making love.

Sweaty, animalistic love that made her screaming his name and which left her unable to walk afterwards.

He tried to take a deep breath. Easy there, mate. He glanced down to himself. No time for an erection right now.

He realized that Olivia was saying something else now and he scolded him for not listening.

"Maybe I could bring a bag?" She was saying.

"What?" He wanted to make sure he heard correctly.

"I mean, I just thought… would that be too weird? We just started dating."

"What does that have to do with anything? We've known each other for a lot longer," he pointed out to her. "Bring a bag. That way, you don't have to worry about going home tonight and if you stay over, you won't have to rush home to get ready for work in the morning. Bring whatever you need."

Olivia was quiet for a moment. Even though she had been the one to suggest bringing one, she had needed to be convinced; she had needed to make sure she wasn't crossing a line.

He was about to snap at her, to tell her to stop being so bloody stubborn and just bring a damn bag, but she spoke again before he could.

She laughed again. "I just realized that I don't even know your address," she said.

He grinned himself and rattled off his address and listened as she repeated it back to him.

"Fancy," she teased and he almost actually blushed at that. She laughed. "See you soon?"

"Hurry up," he smiled and she laughed again before hanging up.

He sighed, hanging the phone up and then finally getting himself dressed. He picked up the towel from floor and went into the bathroom. He only had a half hour and he figured he needed to clean the bathroom first. He didn't want Olivia to be disgusted. He didn't think he was a generally messy person but he was a guy and lived on his own. He had gotten into several habits. The toilet seat was up, and the toilet had never been cleaned at that, there were toothpaste and water stains on the counter and his towels were smelling a bit.

Olivia was eventually going to give him her virginity.

The least he could do was give her a clean bathroom.


She wanted to laugh at herself. She was being completely ridiculous.

This was Ben. Her boyfriend. The boyfriend who, just last night, she had said she loved. The boyfriend who she was fairly certain she would be having sex with someday. The boyfriend who pissed her off and drove her insane and made her feel so happy all at once. Ben. Just Ben. There was absolutely no reason to feel nervous about knocking on this door and spending the night with him. He had already spent the night at her apartment. It was time that she spend the night at his.

She took a deep breath and lifted her fist to knock on the door but before she could make contact, the door swung open. She couldn't help but jump in surprise and Ben stood there, looking at her with a raised eyebrow and the smirk she used to always want to smack.

"About time you were going to knock," he said.

She looked at him for a moment and then sighed. "I just going over some things in my head."

"Like what?"

"Like that if I remembered to pack my razor because I don't want to use yours," she said and he broke into a grin, reaching out and taking the small gym bag from her shoulder that held her things that she would need to get ready in the morning for work.

"Don't worry about that. I'll let you use the razor I use on my pubes," he joked.

"Let the wooing begin," Olivia smiled and put her hand to her heart as if truly touched and he laughed, stepping aside so she could enter the apartment. "I also have brought you this."

She held up a small fern plant that she had bought at the grocery store on her way there.

He smirked, looking at it and then at her. "A plant," he then stated.

"If you're going to give me a key to water your plants, you actually need plants," she said.

He rolled his eyes and closed the door behind her. "I'll forget to water it and it'll die and then you'll have no other reason to come over after that."

"I'll make sure it doesn't die," she looked at him. "And I'll also make sure to nag you constantly about remembering to water it."

"Thank god. I was hoping that when I finally did decide to get a girlfriend, she'd be the nagging sort," he walked further into the apartment and dropped her bag on the couch.

"Lucky you then. I am a nagging expert," she smiled sweetly.

"Don't I know it," he grumbled and she laughed.

"Where do you want this?" She asked. "It'll need sunlight."

"Well, shit. I was going to say the closet but I guess that kitchen's alright, too."

Olivia rolled her eyes. "Are you going to give me the tour?" She then asked.

"No," he shook his head, coming back to her.

"No?" She raised her eyebrows.

"I have something else to do first," he said and then before she could even open her mouth to ask what that is, he was kissing her.

The fern was still in her hands, now between their chests, but he didn't care. He wrapped his arms around her as held her as close as he could regardless. He had initially kissed her with too much pressure. It had been forceful and too hard but now, he slowly pulled back, his lips gentle and soft as they massaged hers.

Olivia moaned softly and was able to move the planter into one hand so she could wrap her other arm around his neck. Ben tightened his arms around her and began to back her slowly to the closest wall behind her. His mouth moved against hers and his tongue slipped past her lips, deepening the kiss and making her moan again. Ben almost groaned. She really needed to stop with the moaning. She was doing things to his body; things that only a cold shower right now would be able to fix.

But he didn't want to stop kissing her. She was warm and soft and if he could, he would pin her to this wall for the rest of the day and night and kiss her until they were both delirious.

He cursed his stupidity – again – for not having kissed her months ago.

Olivia didn't want to. She didn't want to stop but her lungs were burning and she had never been the best at holding her breath underwater. She had no lung capacity and breathing was becoming a luxury that Ben was making a challenge for her.

"Wait," she laughed softly, able to turn her lips away. "I just need a minute," she was breathing heavily and looking at Ben, he was staring at her – his eyes so dark, she almost gasped – and his own chest was heaving up and down.

"We'll build your lungs up," he told her rather matter-of-factly and she couldn't help but blush, laughing a little with a shake of her head.

His hand cupped the back of her neck and he leaned in but not for her lips. He pressed a kiss to the middle of her forehead that sent her heart somersaulting in her chest.

"Now, I'll give you the tour," he smiled and she smiled, too. He reluctantly stepped back and gestured behind her. "That, right there, is the wall I pressed you against."

She laughed and made a show of turning around to look at him. "It's a beautiful wall."

"Best wall in the city," he smiled and she laughed again.

He lived in a large loft apartment, the kitchen and living room open in one massive room with tall windows that allow light to pour in and Harry was right. The television was huge. His bedroom and bathroom were through an open doorway. He didn't have much in the way of furniture – couch, table, couple of chairs, the bed – but she was constantly stepping around things. Mostly stacks of magazines.

She looked at the top one on the pile closest to her. "National Geographic, July 7, 1984."

"Great issue," he joked.

"Why do you have so many issues of National Geographic?" She asked.

"Most of them were my dad's. He had a subscription for years. And when he died, I inherited all of this and I've kept up with every issue since."

She smiled. "So you read as much as Jamie."

"No one reads as much as that tosser. I talked to him this morning and do you know what he was doing? He was reading Oliver Twist to Violet's stomach. The baby's not even born yet and he's reading Dickens to her womb."

Olivia laughed because she had talked to Violet yesterday afternoon and she had said that Jamie had been doing this for months now.

"I have to show you something," he grabbed her hand again and she was quick enough just to put the fern on the large wooden table he had.

"IKEA?" She asked, thinking she recognized it.

"You should have seen me and Jamie try to put that thing together," he said, tugging her from it and she laughed as he pulled her into the bedroom and then into the bathroom. He stopped her in the doorway and then flicked on the light switch. "What do you think?"

Olivia took a moment to look. "It's a bathroom," she then said, honestly not entirely sure what he wanted her to say.

It had a sink, a large counter, a toilet and a separate bathtub and glass shower stall.

"It smells like Clorox," she then noted, sniffing.

"I cleaned!" He then exclaimed and she couldn't help but smile because he looked and sounded so proud of himself. "I washed towels and scrubbed everything."

"For me?" She then looked at him, feeling completely astounded.

"Of course for you. I, obviously, don't even clean the bathroom for myself," he said.

Olivia stared at him and there it was again. Her heart was somersaulting and wouldn't stop. It was like a fish someone was trying to grab a hold of. It wouldn't stay still and it bounced against every inch of her chest.

"You cleaned for me," she then whispered, needing just another moment to process it. She shook her head. "No one has ever done anything like this for me before."

His smile faded. "That's actually really sad. And it pisses me off."

She smiled and turned to him, her arms slipping around his waist. Immediately, his arms were around her shoulders, holding her to his chest.

"You are such a great guy," she whispered, looking up at him with love and awe and she was still so astounded. "You've wooed girls before, haven't you?" She then teased.

His smile returned. "Believe it or not, I'm a wooing beginner. But I wanted to do this for you. You're the sort of girl who deserves a clean bathroom when they come to spend the night with their boyfriend."

She laughed and she stepped as close as she could, hugging him. "I love you," she whispered against his shoulder.

He squeezed his arms around her and held her as tight and close as he could. "I love you, too," he closed his eyes and let the words sweep over him. He couldn't believe how three words – and Olivia saying those three words – could make him feel so warm. "And look," he suddenly remembered.

He pulled away from her and went to the counter. He opened the top drawer and then the two cabinet drawers beneath the sink. He smiled back at her.

"For all of your lady products," he then explained.

"You're actually inviting me to leave my things here? My tweezers and make-up and tampons?" She asked, laughing.

He shrugged. "If you're trying to scare me by using that word, it won't work. Tampons," he then said himself easily.

"I'm impressed," she nodded.

"The way I see it is this. You can have multiple orgasms, right?"

"I assume I can," she felt a flush on the back of her neck.

"Oh, you'll have them," he said as if promising her. "But I've heard guys actually bitch that women can have multiple orgasms and guys can't. But women get periods every month so I think you more than deserve multiples."

She laughed. "I thank you on behalf of women for understanding."

He smiled as if proud of himself. "My mother raised me right."

"I've actually been meaning to send her a good job on the child rearing card."

"She would love that," Ben laughed. "Some company has to make a card like that."

"I'd be disappointed if not. I'm sure I could find something at Papersource. I've been wanting to send your mom something anyway. She was so kind to me when I visited."

"She loved you," Ben informed her just in case she didn't know.

Ever since he had visited Scotland and had brought Olivia with him, each time he spoke with his mom on the phone – at least four times a week – Madelyn Norfolk always made sure to ask how that beautiful Olivia Grange was doing.

"Of course she did. I'm not blonde," she smiled.

"I certainly did have a type," he agreed. "But in my defense, we don't eat enough vegetables in Scotland and I was clearly lacking carrots in my diet to help with my weak eyesight."

Olivia laughed and stepping to him, she craned her neck up and kissed him. Ben's hands framed her face, fingers in her hair, and he kissed her with the same hard pressure from the front hall. He pressed her against the door, pinning her there with his hips, and though she could feel his growing arousal in his jeans and she blushed, she also couldn't help but laugh.

"Is pressing me against walls your new thing?" She wondered.

"Technically, this is a door and it's not my fault you look damn good pressed against them."

She gave him a quick peck on the lips but pulled away before he could begin another breath-stealing make-out session. "I believe you promised me a grocery shopping trip?"

He nodded and sighed heavily. "I suppose I did. I've got a Trader Joe's a couple of blocks away. We'll stock up on whatever you want."

"What about what you want?" She asked.

"I'll eat anything," he playfully nudged her nose with his and she smiled softly, her cheeks flushing as she looked into his eyes. She knew he didn't mean to make a sexual innuendo right then but she was certainly going to interpret it that way. "And this is another step in my wooing plan," he told her.

"Is it?" Her fingers slowly began to scratch the back of his head. He had recently buzzed his hair again and the short hairs pricked her fingers.

He closed his eyes at her touch and he managed to nod. "Cleaning the bathroom, leaving the toilet seat down and stuffing you with food. Isn't that what women really want and love?" He asked.

She smiled. "I have a feeling that I would love anything you do because it's you."

He smiled, too - how things could change in just a few months - and opened his eyes to look at her. He leaned in for a kiss, brushing his lips across hers.

"I even put clean sheets on the bed."


A/N: No cliffhanger this time! Please comment if you read - thank you!

Also, I have posted a new story, Alesund, that I'm very excited for. Please read and comment on that one, too, if you're interested in reading something else by me. Thank you!