This time I was the one thrown off balance. Part of me started panicking hard: Ben’s kiss caught me so much by surprise that I was forced to rely on a knee jerk reaction to reclaim control of the situation, but the only way I had to throw Ben off balance was to be more aggressive than he expected. It would ensure a cycle of mutually assured gratif… destruction. But the part of me that wasn’t panicking was riding some sort of swell of emotion and want. That part of me had no problem grabbing Ben and pulling him further into the room.
It was a rather clumsy maneuver. I wasn’t looking where we were going, and Ben was too busy continuing to kiss me to be paying that much attention, either. Worse, rather than being thrown off by my forwardness — which I’d come to identify as Ben’s ‘weakness’ — he seemed to take it as an invitation. Momentum compounded things and somehow we missed the bed: we stumbled right past it. My undercurrent of anxiety briefly turned into a burst of relief that surged against my overcurrent of desire’s more tangible disappointment – and then both were swept aside by a new sense of panic as Ben caught me up and turned. The next thing I knew he had me trapped against a wall while we made out.
I’ve been forced to admit to myself that I like that kind of thing. Even better, Ben was tall enough that he had to lean down to kiss me. With that and his arms hemming me in and the wall against my back I was shocked to feel almost the same sort of claustrophobic fear that I would have expected from Hans. The kind of fear that seemed to go straight from my brain to between my legs where it compressed like a building pressure explosion that gave off waves of heat through the rest of me.
I was scared and excited and kissing Ben back eagerly, over and over again. I knew that somehow some of it had something to do with all the stuff he’d been saying, and some of it had to do with the fact that I was still alive after last night, and some of it had to do with that he was hot in a dark, dorky way — and some of it had to do with the fact that he was here and kissing me. But I couldn’t articulate any of it and I didn’t even try. None of my thoughts were making even the remotest sense when I tried to focus on them.
I felt like my skin was on fire and it kept distracting me — but it wasn’t the bad sort of fire, like from the sun. Instead, it was like a fire would be if the flames were made of electricity: all tingles and sparks that jolted through me whenever Ben’s arms or hands or chest or lips brushed me slightly differently then they had been pressing a second ago.
Ben leaned over me. Somehow my arms had wound up around his neck. One of Ben’s had braced against the wall, pinning me in on my left. The other was looped around my waist and pulling me into him. If I’d needed to breathe still I would have been gasping for air because of his lips smothering mine, but as it was I just felt intoxicated and dizzy from the rush of emotions. Maybe endorphins? I had no idea what exactly was hitting me, but I could feel it. And so could Ben.
Ben’s heartbeat, which had started out absent, pounded in rhythm with mine, now. It echoed in my ears: my supernatural senses keyed in on it and left me wondering if mine was similarly eclipsing his attention. I let go of his neck. I ran my hands down across his shoulders and over his chest. He let the arm that had been braced against the wall slide behind me and wrap around my shoulders: dragging me in tight against him. I tried to drag my disjointed thoughts back together: tried to think something coherent through the haze of want want want! I wasn’t very successful.
I squirmed, trying to free my hands, but with Ben holding me so tightly they were trapped against his chest. Ben didn’t have Hans’ musculature. He was thin — almost scrawny. It lent itself to the dorky appearance that he somehow occasionally made frighteningly attractive. Emma was all soft curves and Hans was hard, warm planes. Ben was sharp angles and bone and corded muscle. And yet, even without Hans’ bulk Ben’s strength was just as inescapably obvious.
Inescapable. And I was trapped inside of it. If he wanted to he could break me, and he was kissing me instead, and it was a heady rush that I was still learning to recognize and deal with. Not terror. Not entirely. Arousal.
And that was scary. That was too much, too fast for my inexperience to handle. Own it, a thought of mine countered. I wished I could. I whimpered instead.
Ben pulled back just enough to look in my eyes again. Now that we weren’t smothering each other’s lips we were both breathing heavily. We both feel alive, I thought. For a second, the wonder at that superseded how frightening I knew it could be. What did I want? What was I willing to give? How far would I go? I slowly caught my breath. I squeezed my eyes shut against the way my anxiety twisted around those questions. I barely even know him, and I’m letting myself be swept away.
And that was it, wasn’t it? I couldn’t own it because I wasn’t doing anything. I was letting the experience sweep me along. I was reacting like I always did, letting my actions be dictated by whatever foibles governed my emotions in the moment. I took a shaky breath. Ben’s hands released me and slipped to his sides.
“Abigail?” He asked.
There were so many things I wanted to say. ‘Okay, you can date me,’ was one. ‘This is too much, too soon’ was another. ‘I’m not ready’ or ‘Don’t stop’ both vied for my autopilot’s favor. I strangled them all. I choked off the options that would’ve just been me reacting and tried to sort out the conflicting drives instead. What did I want? What was I doing?
Right now? I want to feel alive. And I want Ben. And I don’t want to be helpless. Not in terms of agency. Autonomy. I don’t want to just be swept along by a smooth talker and the rush of surviving and the passions of being kissed. Being held down? Being trapped? That was okay. That was good. Not owning it? That wasn’t.
I opened my eyes. Ben was looking into them. His head was slightly tilted, and he looked concerned. I took one more deep breath, to steady myself. And then I owned it.
I shoved Ben hard enough to throw him backward. He let out a yelp that ended in an oof when he went sprawling against the bed.
I pounced on top of him in an instant. I caught his wrists out at his sides and straddled his hips. I caught his gaze with mine again and grinned. He was looking back at me in wide-eyed surprised, but when I spoke he started to grin too.
“I win,” I said.
Ben’s grin broadened. “You win?” He asked. “Is that what this is?”
“Yes,” I told him. “I win. And since everyone knows the victor sets terms for the defeated, that’s what I’m going to do.” My heart was revving up again: pounding from adrenaline as I struggled with my own audacity. But I’d made my decision, and by god I was going to own it. “You can date me, Ben. And make out with me. And someday, maybe you can hold me down and fuck me silly. But right now is too soon. I’m dealing with too much. My evenings are already filled up this weekend. And frankly, I’m just not ready to be that intimate with someone else. Especially someone I barely know.”
I took another deep breath and let it out again. I was kind of stunned that I’d managed to get all of that out. I was kind of proud of myself for it, too. Unexpectedly, I was absolutely terrified of how he was going to react. I should have expected that. I really should have. It was just: how often did I manage to say something that I wanted without my autopilot taking over? That was what I was supposed to be afraid of. That and how people would react to me being crazy. Not how people would react to me being… not crazy? Was I being crazy? Oh god, Is Ben going to think I actually am crazy?
The degree of panic I usually feel after blurting out stupid stuff suddenly skyrocketed as I realized that if Ben thought what I was saying was insane then it wasn’t just the crazy part of me that was insane, it was actually me.
And now I was staring at Ben, wide-eyed, and starting to hyperventilate even though he was nodding back at me. “I can deal with those terms,” Ben told me. I almost didn’t hear him. I was too busy thinking: Oh god, he must think I’m some sort of psycho tease now! Fuck! Am I a psycho tease?!
“That’s too bad…” I started to acquiesce on autopilot before it sank into my brain that he wasn’t telling me to fuck off or be serious. I clamped my mouth shout. Then I opened it on autopilot again. “I mean, good. Yay.” Yay? I wanted to wince at how stupid I sounded, but years of covering up my faux pas saved me there.
“Yay,” Ben agreed solemnly. Then his grin turned devilish, and suddenly I was the one who was airborne and yelping — but just for an instant before Ben finished twisting around, rolling over, and pinning me down on the bed. “Now then,” he said while waggling his eyebrows in a way that turned him right back to dorky. “I believe there was something in those terms about further making out?”
I tried not to laugh, but I couldn’t stop giggles from sputtering out. Ben wasn’t even trying to be dark and serious, even though the paranoid part of me was very busy pointing out that he’d jumped the gun on pinning me down to a bed. Even his voice was full of good natured humor instead of suave innuendo. And then Ben dipped down to kiss me.
It caught me by surprise. Why did that catch me by surprise? Just because he wasn’t being sinister about it? I gasped. He kissed me again. They were gentle kisses. Teasing and far less threatening than they had been when I’d been trapped in his arms. And they kept coming. Worse, since they were gentle and I could tell the difference between being afraid and being turned on… I was getting worked up again. I wriggled slightly, trying to escape.
But not trying very hard. Or succeeding very much.
Ben lowered his body over mine. We continued to kiss while gradually becoming entwined over the covers: I wrapped my legs around one of his, he slid his arms around me; I wrapped my arms around his neck and ran my fingers through his spiky hair. Mr. Spiky. The name reminded me of how we’d met, and the thrill of fright was just enough to make the rest that much more intense.
Then Ben’s phone vibrated. With my hyped up senses the vibration traveled from Ben’s pocket, through his body and into mine like I was being repeatedly slapped by an alarm going seventy miles an hour. It probably shouldn’t have bothered me. It probably wouldn’t have bothered anyone else. It wasn’t really an alarm. But since it was a phone, I had no way of knowing when it would go off again. Had he just gotten a text? Or was it ringing on silent? Would whoever it was just send the one or….
It buzzed again. I pulled back from Ben, who leaned in to kiss me again until he realized that I’d gotten my arms back between us and was pushing him away. Another buzz, and this one made me wince. Someone was calling.
“Are you going to get that?” I asked.
Ben looked at me, then pulled out the phone and checked the screen. It buzzed again in his hand. He snorted and tossed it onto the hotel room’s desk. “I’ll call them back,” he said, and started to lean forward again.
The phone buzzed, and this time it was sitting on a hard faux wood surface. I didn’t feel it, but the rattle that assaulted my ears made all the composure and pride and self-affirming determination I’d gathered by owning myself crack a little. I pushed Ben back a little harder. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I meant: Please, get that.”
I was a little proud that I’d managed to leave off ‘for the love of god.’
Ben sat up and glanced at the phone, then back at me. I couldn’t stop myself from wincing that time. “I really don’t like things that buzz repeatedly,” I tried to explain. “Or randomly. Or make noise. Or have alarm clocks built into them.” Damn smart phones. They weren’t nearly as bad before they had an app for that, a part of me thought. What’s wrong with a phone that’s just a phone? But the part that was more cognizant of what I was saying and who I was saying it to and how that probably looked thought: Welp, if I didn’t sound stupid and crazy before I sure do now.
Ben scrambled off of me anyway. He snatched up his phone and gave it an exaggeratedly cross glare. At least, I hoped it was exaggerated. Otherwise he was probably planning to kill whoever had invented that brand.
Then Ben accepted the call and brought the phone up to his ear. “Hello, Ms. Grenz,” Ben said — but he managed to sound bemused, now. “To what do I owe the pleasure, Valerie?” He gave me a half grin over the side of the phone. A smile that said: You and I have a secret. We were up to no good, but nobody knows — least of all this poor schmuck who’s interrupting. It made me bite my lips and cover my mouth to keep from laughing out loud.
A cheerful, decidedly feminine voice answered him. Since I had supernatural hearing and the phone was inside my room’s wards, I had no trouble making out her response. “Oh, nothing in particular, Ben,” Valerie said. Valerie. She’s the vampire who caught my dad. I didn’t have time to freak out about why she was calling and if my dad was okay, though, because she wasn’t done talking.
“I just thought I should be nice and let you two lovebirds know that I’m on my way up,” Valerie said. “Oh, and that I have Abigail’s father with me. I mean, we could’ve just shown up by surprise but I thought you’d appreciate having the time to straighten your clothes and all that. I hope there aren’t any bloodstains, ’cause those are a bitch to get out and.…” I heard a soft ‘ding’ through the phone “…we seem to have just reached your floor. See you in five!” She concluded cheerfully.
And then the connection cut off.