Holly winced as she set the basket on the table, but before she could say anything about the fact that she didn't usually suck off clients in her boardroom, Ben beat her to it.
"No-uh, I didn't mean that. Well, that was nice, too, but it's not what I'm talking about. You really lit a fire under me."
"The pa.s.sion you were talking about making sure I infuse into my presentation. I nailed it."
She grinned and moved the phone to her other ear, turning the flower arrangement from one side to the other to see which way looked best. "I'm so happy for you."
"You should have seen me in there. I really took charge, really controlled the room and let my excitement take over."
"I wish I could have been there."
"Me, too. And I wish I could see you now."
Holly bit her lip, wishing she could invite him over. Would it be the worst thing? Maybe they could just- "No." She startled herself by speaking aloud, but now that she'd said it, she knew it was the right thing. "I wish we could get together, Ben, but we both know how that would end up."
"I know. I'm on board with that. Totally in agreement with not seeing each other. That's why we're going to have a movie night together."
Holly clutched the phone tighter. "Did you miss the part where I said it would be a bad idea if we got together?"
"Nope, I heard you loud and clear. And I agree."
"Yep. Open the card attached to the flowers."
She hadn't noticed the card before, but now that she saw it, she realized it was a lot bulkier than a normal envelope. It was square and thick and looked like it held more than a card. "What's in there?"
She plucked the envelope out of the sea of daisies and sunflowers, tearing into it with embarra.s.sing enthusiasm. She stared at the packaging for a moment, then laughed. "You bought me a Star Wars DVD?"
"It's the same one I have. The collectors' edition. So I figure if we both put it in at the same time-"
"We'd avoid the temptation to put something else in."
Ben laughed. "Pretty much. Are you game?"
"Good. Go grab a snack and put your jammies on."
"Done and done."
"Yeah? What's your snack?"
"A strawberries and cream float. I just invented it."
"Sounds delicious. Okay, so I'll meet you in bed in thirty seconds."
Holly felt a jolt of excitement at his words and wondered what it would be like to have him mean it for real. Instead, she scooped up her dessert and the DVD and trudged toward the back of the house. "How'd you know I have a TV in my bedroom?"
"Lucky guess. If we're going to pretend-snuggle, it's better to do it in a bed than on the couch."
She laughed and set the froth-filled gla.s.s on her nightstand. "You want the right side or the left?"
"Good. The left side is mine. Hang on a sec, let me put it in-"
She laughed and rolled her eyes. "The DVD, you goof. If this is going to turn into a phone s.e.x session, I'm hanging up."
No you're not, her libido telegraphed.
Still, she felt a little relief when Ben didn't pursue that line of conversation. Not that she wouldn't love talking dirty with him. But there was something about the idea of a quiet evening of watching a movie together and snuggling that made her feel warm inside.
Okay, virtual snuggling. But even that sounded nice.
"Got it all cued up?" Ben asked.
"Hang on. I don't watch a lot of movies, so it'll take me a second to get it going."
She fumbled the DVD out of its case and maneuvered it into the machine, then picked up the remote control. She scampered back to bed and threw the covers back, then burrowed beneath a thick layer of blankets.
"What size bed do you have?" he asked.
"A queen. Why?"
"Just trying to picture it. How about your covers?"
"I have a down-filled comforter with a purple cover on it and this crazy-looking afghan hand-knitted with every color of yarn on the planet."
"Nope. I always wished I could, but I don't have the patience. Maybe someday. My grandma made it."
"That's sweet," he said, his voice low and even. "May I fluff your pillow for you?"
"Why does that sound dirty when you say it?"
"Anything sounds dirty if you say it right."
"It's a term used to describe the beneficial cognitive effects of chewing," he said. "Or how about antennating?"
"Is that a cross between penetrating and lubricating?"
"Now who's talking dirty? It's just the term to describe how insects communicate by touching antennae."
"That sounds romantic."
"It kinda does, doesn't it?" She heard rustling on the other end of the line, and imagined Ben snuggling back into his own nest of blankets. Did he have a bed in his penthouse yet, or was he sleeping on the floor? She hadn't had a chance to find out the other night, and now didn't seem like the right time to ask.
"Okay, are you all settled in?"
"Yes," Holly said, nestling back against her own pile of pillows. "Ready."
"I'm going to count us down from three. When I say go, hit play."
"Got it. Are we watching the previews, or skipping them?"
"Which do you prefer?"
"Okay. Go ahead and cue it up."
Holly hit a couple b.u.t.tons on her remote, then hit pause. "Ready," she said.
"Good. Okay then. Three-" His voice was low and s.e.xy and left no doubt he'd be amazing at phone s.e.x if he tried. "Two-"
"Wait. Are you wearing pajamas, too?"
"What are you wearing?"
"I thought we weren't having phone s.e.x."
"We're not," she said, flushing a little as she picked up her gla.s.s. "I just want to be able to picture you. If we're virtual-snuggling, you've gotta set the scene."
"Fair enough. I'm wearing boxers."
She ignored the pulse of pleasure that shot through her as she picked up her ice cream float and took a sip. It was amazing. "What's your snack?" she asked.
"Root beer float and a bowl of popcorn."
"Just like the other night."
The smile in his voice sent a fresh wave of excitement coursing through her body, but she scooped up another bite and closed her eyes. "Okay, I can picture you snuggled up in bed in your boxer shorts with your popcorn and your-"
"No bed. I haven't gotten around to getting one yet."
"What? Where are you sleeping?"
"A sofa. It's quite large and very comfortable. I just need to find time to get back to the furniture store to pick out the rest of the things I need."
The idea of Ben sleeping on a couch in his gazillion dollar penthouse gave her a tickle of guilt, and she almost opened her mouth to invite him to share her bed for real.
But she stopped herself. He was a big boy. He could get a hotel room with a bed if he needed one. Right now, she needed the security of knowing she could keep her distance. That she could keep her professional composure and still have a relationship with this guy.
"Okay, so you're snuggled up in a blanket nest on the sofa," she said. "And you've got your snack."
"Yep. Got your remote?"
"Yes." She took another sip of her float. "My feet are a little cold. Can I put them on you?"
Ben laughed. "Sure. Here, let me scoot over so you can snuggle under my arm and get warm. Better?"
"Much," she said, closing her eyes as she imagined herself leaning her head against Ben's chest. She sighed with pleasure, the gla.s.s chilly in her hands, her feet somehow toasty now, and somewhere in the middle-right around her heart-she felt absolutely perfect.
"Okay then," Ben said. "Three, two, one, play."
Holly opened her eyes and hit the b.u.t.ton, then watched as the 1977 version of the Twentieth Century Fox logo flashed across the screen. The image faded, giving way to a sea of brightly colored words on a black screen.
"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away-" Ben murmured.
She closed her eyes again, giving herself over to the steady hum of his voice, the softness of the blankets, the smooth richness of her dessert.
And the terrifying suspicion she was falling for Ben Langley.
The next morning, Ben was still warm all over from his night of make-believe snuggling with Holly. Unlike his teen years when his social awkwardness and rapid advancement through school had made imaginary girlfriends the only kind he could get, Holly was all real. Even virtual-cuddling with her felt better than real intimacy with most women had.
Of course, that didn't detract from the fact that touching her for real had been mind-blowing. Both times. He ached to have his mouth on her again, to feel her writhing beneath his palms and hear those soft gasps of pleasure as he touched and tasted and stroked her.
G.o.d, he was losing his mind.
He kept himself busy all morning, working on spreadsheets and sales reports and going over the figures for a new client they were bidding on. Anything to keep his mind off having Holly again.
When his phone rang at eleven and he saw her name on the readout, Ben's heart nearly surged out of his chest.
"Holly," he said, leaning back in his chair. "Is life vastly improved for you now that you aren't the only person on the planet never to have seen Star Wars?"
She laughed. "Yes. Losing my Star Wars virginity to you has been life-changing. I just finished doing my hair in Princess Leia braids."
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