He chuckles against her collarbone. “A little understatement.”
She snarls, nudging him harshly.
“Give me a second.”
She doesn’t say anything else, but winces at his awkward fumbling to recollect himself. At the way that the faucet is digging into her lower back, bodies pressed flush over the marble countertop, her silky white dress hiked up over her waist and her legs wrapped around him. His hot breath stuttered in between the valley of her breasts, planting a lingering kiss on a clothed rosy bud before sliding out of her.
“This was a terrible idea,” She supplied, taming her ravaged appearance while he tucks himself back into his trousers and tries to remedy his wrinkled dress shirt.
“Still a little understatement,” He repeats with a haughty smirk before giving up with a shrug. “I’m missing a few buttons.”
She tries to pretend that she didn’t hear the cockiness in his tone, going with her more stoic and indifferent facade as if she’s meeting a collaborator for the first time.
“Send me an invoice for the cost of damages.”
“Whoa, easy there, little sunshine,” He says, quick on his feet to help her off the counter, hands around her waist. Her legs still feel like jelly and she wobbles in his hold.
She hates that. Hates that he can see so easily what he does to her, hates this moment of vulnerability, hates the cheesy nickname he accidentally or purposely slipped.
“I’m fine.” She snapped, glaring behind her lashes and immediately batting his touchy hands away. “And this doesn’t change anything.”
He lets go then, taking a step back.
“I didn’t think it would.”
She turns away from him with the excuse to face the mirror, averting away from his eyes that are now cold and closed off when only moments ago they burned with a wildfire that threatened to consume her.
Her hair is in disarray, still pinned into a low bun but coming loose. She wrenches the hair tie and pins out to re-do the whole thing, ignoring her swollen lips and the wetness she still feels between her legs.
Behind her shoulder, he’s somehow managed to get his shirt back together and has picked up his dark coat.
“You left a mark.” She complains with an even deadlier glare, her eyes meeting his in the mirror. She points to a hickey just beginning to bloom at the juncture between her neck and shoulder.
“Consider it my gift.” He continued to smirk and she all but wanted to slap the condescending look out of him.
Except she just rolls her eyes and brushes past him, heading for the locked door to head back to her table when his hand wrapped around her elbow.
When she turns to face him, she’s struck by how close they are, how she can associate his pretentious Tom Ford cologne only to him with a bit of sweat because of their rushed tryst, even at the slightest touch her whole body seems to come alive for him.
Some inexplainable emotion flickers in his eyes as they do not stay in one place to meet her, his breath hot against her cheek.
Slowly, he starts to lean in and she doesn’t react, doesn’t pull away, doesn’t stop him. So when he kissed her, all soft and gentle and nothing like how they were since they shoved each other against the tiled wall, it was over before she knows it.
“Happy birthday, Rey.”
By the time she makes it back to her table, Rey sees that Ben has returned to his date for the evening, effortlessly slipping back into his perfect life. Something ugly like jealousy twists in her stomach as she subtly catches how he wraps an arm around her waist.
The sight of the happy couple is blocked by the sudden appearance of Finn by her side. When he follows his friend’s murderous look, he grips her arm and drags her away into a corner with a pinched look upon his face.
“Tell me you didn’t,” He says pleadingly but also already reaching into his breast pocket for a travel sized tube of concealer.
Finn sighs tiredly, “Even if I wanted to believe you, anyone could tell how thoroughly fucked you are with just one look.” He dabs the makeup on Rey’s neck to try and hide Ben’s slow forming handy work.
All credited to Ben’s obsession with her neck.
“I knew it was a bad idea to invite him.” Finn sighs again, can’t help from blaming himself for his extreme British-Nigerian hospitality.
“We’re friends,” Rey casually replies.
A scoff. “Yeah, sure.”
Yes, they were friends. Or something like that. They were trying to be, at least. Civil acquaintances, more appropriately. But Rey didn’t make a habit of having sex in isolated bathrooms during her birthday party with many of her friends, so maybe she does need to re-define her definition of friendship.
“It’s complicated,” Rey irately states with a dismissive wave of her manicured hand.
“And I had to invite him since I invited everyone who worked with me on my latest album. He’s my agent, and it would look weird if I didn’t.”
“Well, he didn’t have to show up,” Finn murmurs in disapproval. “And he definitely didn’t have to bring her.”
On that point, Rey couldn’t argue, she thought bitterly.
“That will do for now.” Finn finishes covering the hickey as much as possible but he can also tell that she’s not happy about it from the way she keeps frowning.
“Are you okay?” He asks.
The question is loaded and open to a lot of interpretation. But Rey’s brain is fuzzy from her over consumption of fruity cocktails and one bad decision. She doesn’t trust herself to speak up.
So she simply nods.
But that seems sufficient enough for Finn, who smiles and grabs her hand.
“Okay, birthday girl, let’s dance and forget all about Ben Solo.”
Rey spends the next day nursing a third degree hangover.
When not remedying her queasy stomach and splitting headache, she finds herself drifting to the thoughts of Ben.
It comes as quick flashes, brief moments of clarity in an otherwise hazy memory.
The moment that their eyes met across the bar, the way she had deliciously drank him in before noticing the stunning woman at his side, the way she had drank three tequila shots in rapid succession around her friends who knew nothing more. Her avoiding him at all costs, a harmless flirtation with some stranger at the bar. Then going to the restroom and suddenly he shows up there. The first move gets lost in translation between bated breaths and salacious stares, but she could remember Ben shoving her against the door as he reached behind to twist the lock in place.
It gets fuzzier from there.
An intense kiss with no build up, his entire form crowding her space, her short little dress being yanked down and also pushed back up.
Bliss. Lust. Passion.
And then came regret.
Rey knows that quick hookups in a public restroom with an ex-boyfriend while his date or new girlfriend or new play thing waits outside being none the wiser is not exactly what anyone would call a healthy or functioning relationship.
But then Ben always had a way of getting under her skin.
He wasn’t the first eccentric agent she had a pleasure of working with. But he was the hungriest, the most ambitious, the one who set eyes on her as if she’s the most brilliant artist of all time. He makes her feel like that, feel special.
At that time, she was slowly but surely building traction from independent music festivals and releasing her second album while Ben would have to be the youngest agent she got introduced to, considering she expected a suited, father of two, happily married kind of agent like her previous one, Cassian Andor. Considering Ben was only in his early thirties, she initially pinned him as inexperienced, lacking, but he was eager. Eager to prove himself and his instincts, eager to sign his first big contract, eager for her name to blow up in shining lights.
Although he was not as seasoned as other agents, Rey can’t help but admire him for his tenacity, had appreciated his vision of reaching the mainstream level of fame.
She had said yes and their contract was signed within the month.
Back then, as a rising artist, she had relied heavily on Ben’s suggestions and branding.
They found that they naturally worked well together. Rey respected his opinion and he respected whatever boundaries she drew between what she’s okay with and what she isn’t. She trusted that he would steer her in the right direction, and Ben had never once let her down.
With the booking of her first concert, he had pitched and promoted the hell out of it, lunching with producers and inviting her to meetings with other fellow collaborators. He had shown her the ropes of the music industry behind the scenes, and he had secured her a multi-million dollar recording deal with one of the biggest record labels in the business.
In short, they made a great team.
And, if there was some sort of attraction that burned hot between them, they tried their best to not let that get in the way.
From the very beginning a current of sexual attraction ran beneath the surface of their relationship. He stared too long and said so little while she pretended not to notice on their first meeting. They ran hot and burned cold with one another, arguing with such a ferocious intensity that it was a wonder how the room didn’t catch on fire. Other times, they would run cold, ignoring each other for days and weeks.
Nevertheless, there was always that something, that buzz that hinted and dared and drew them together.
Their fights felt like a duel, their teasing felt like flirting. Their chemistry is uncontainable within four walls. It simmered and brewed until it snaps to consume them both.
Rey loved watching his breath catch and pupils dilate whenever he saw her in a new dress, when she showed off her collarbones, but especially when she showed off her striking legs. And every single time he graced her presence wearing a suit specifically tailored for his chiseled chest and broad shoulders, she felt her insides turn to mush and she grew flush with desire.
Innocent touches became lingering caresses, and whispers became ghostly kisses.
But when Ben had kissed her for the first time, late at night in her apartment, in the middle of her songwriting with random sheets spread around them as they sat on her living room floor, it was like a spark that set her blood on fire. Like everything between them over the course of two and a half years had been building up to that single perfect kiss.
It was quickly followed by the first time he had sank into her, they both cried out in relief. In joy, in ecstasy. As Ben thrusted deep inside her, her name spilling from his lips like a prayer, Rey had spread her legs and took him in deeper, greedy for all of him.
Desire rolled over her like heat waves and she wanted him everywhere, all at once. His kisses were addicting and she drugged herself freely from his lips. He provided relief, sweet oblivion, and Rey had felt that she would never get enough.
Beyond their palpable chemistry and sexual attraction, there was also the matter of trust. Theirs was a strong trust and a deep intimacy that had been born over years of working together. There was no one else that Rey respected more, and Ben had shared things with her that he never shared with anyone.
Not to mention, they already spent so much of their time together, at publicity events and recording sessions or work meetings at the agency. They were in regular, constant communication with each other.
It was like they were already dating.
So they had transitioned their professional working relationship to a romantic one, and they found that it didn’t feel any different.
Things were so familiar between them that the transition had been seamless, except now Ben didn’t go home after a late night of recording with her. They still argued and they still did a lot of work related events, only with a few occasional dates and lots of sex in semi-public places sprinkled in between.
And it had been amazing for about six months, even more impressive how things could fall apart in far less.
The excitement of their lives had devolved, and things grew tense as Ben’s attention drifted over to other artists while Rey’s creativity stalled and has been put on hiatus. Their teasing jabs at one another became bitter arguments, the laughter had drained from their home only to be replaced by poisoned silences and the slamming doors.
They had stopped seeing eye-to-eye with her songwriting and it was hard not to let their professional relationship bleed over their personal lives.
They were no longer happy with one another, but both of them were afraid to let go.
In the end, it had been Rey who had to put her foot down.
To his credit, Ben had put up a valiant fight not to, pleaded and begged and made a very good case for why they should stay together. Some very good cases if memory served her correct of waking up the next day being sore and sated and blissed out.
But rationally speaking, they had to though, after the haze of lust and passion dwindled, Rey had to convince Ben it was for their own good, that they made a brilliant team. She would hate for her to lose the only professional relationship that she didn’t find with anyone else, all ruined because of a poor decision on their part, at the naivety that they could be in a romantic relationship.
It was better to end things but keep working together.
So Ben had packed up everything and left.
In the weeks that followed, things were expected to be tense.
Makeup artists, music producers, directors and staff and runners knew that something was going on between them. But Ben and Rey were trying to be civil, at the very least, they owed each other that much if they strive to work professionally with one another.
They had agreed to be civil, but that didn’t always go according to plan.
Ben was hurt and often took it out on her. Ignoring her calls and purposely rejecting her ideas, which often lead to arguments, but unlike before, instead of sex in her personal recording studio, it led to an onslaught of insults until one of them walked out the door.
It didn’t have to be that way for too long though. Because several months later, the calm settled, things had gotten better.
He no longer spoke to her with clipped sentences and he answered most of her calls. They could even stand to be in the same room together for hours at a time until one day, they could hold a decent conversation which didn’t involve passive aggressive remarks or back handed insults.
It wasn’t quite the same as what they had been, but it’s beginning to look like something.
Ben shows up on her doorstep a few nights after her birthday party. He’s holding up takeout food from her favorite Thai restaurant with a bottle of wine.
On his face, he wears a cautious but hopeful expression.
Rey holds the door open for him.
“We should probably talk about what happened,” Ben started only after waiting on a few spoonfuls of her carton box.
Rey frowns, setting her wine glass aside together with the unfinished takeout that she’d surely get back to later on.
They covered the base level of a light-hearted amicable conversation, so it’s fitting that they should probably address the giant elephant in the room. Ben wouldn’t just come here to bring her food and talk about her lazy afternoon.
He chose to sit on the opposite end of her couch while she nursed her half empty glass of wine back, shooting him a side eye as she took a small sip.
“How’s your back?” She had the politeness to ask, remembering how she dragged her nails along his skin in the throes of her passion.
“It’s fine,” He shrugged as a reply. “Wasn’t too deep.”
“I’m sure your new girlfriend had something to say about it.” She murmured pointedly, choosing not to look at his reaction in case she found something she didn’t want to find.
“She’s not my girlfriend.”
Rey rolls her eyes.
“The person you’re dating,” She retorts with a flick of her wrist. “The one you make dinners with or go back home to. I don’t care for the semantics. You know who I’m talking about.”
Ben smirks. “Are you jealous, by any chance?”
“Never. She’s a lot prettier but I sing better.” She scoffs.
The bastard hums, all too knowingly, that damn smirk still on his face.
“Good, because I would hate for you to be jealous especially when she’s not even my girlfriend. I’m not even dating her. At least not now. Or want to for that matter, since that night.”
She can hear her heartbeat pounding in her eardrums as he punctured her with those words. She shouldn’t perk up by what she just heard when Rey meets his gaze, stares at him for a long moment, teetering over the edge of a question.
“Why not?” She asks in a hushed tone, watching Ben pull himself closer, holding her stare before answering her question with one of his own.
“What about what happened between us that night?”
“A mistake. A one-time thing. It’s never going to happen.” She declares with so much promise. “I was very drunk.”
His eyes bore into hers. “Right. It’s never going to happen again.”
They fuck right there on her living room floor.
She goes through with the carpet skid marks on her hands and knees as he rides her from behind, hard and fast, his hands digging into her hips, their coherence reduced into gasps and grunts and needy little whines until Rey is crying out, collapsing on her elbows with Ben curling not far behind her.
They don’t get up for a while.
“For the love of God, please tell me you didn’t do it again!” Finn practically yells in reiteration to what she had just told him through the phone. “Rey fucking Niima!”
“I didn’t do it again.”
“You know it can’t happen again, right? This can’t be good for you. You’re just going to get yourself hurt.”
“Let me hear you say it. Tell me it won’t happen again.”
“It won’t happen again.”
It happens, in fact, more times than she’d like to admit.
Surprisingly, in his condo unit, when he invited her over, thinking it has something to do with work but he practically didn’t allow her to make it past his living room when the wall beside the door is made available.
In the back seat of his car during one rainy evening. It’s all uncomfortable bumping with Ben awkwardly hitting his head on the roof repeatedly.
Twice in his office, when she personally delivered a sample she was working on and he ate her out on his desk until she begged him to stop, and when she returned the favor.
Sometimes he stays the night. Sometimes she does. Sometimes neither of them does.
Sometimes it’s really just a meet-up and don’t have sex. Sometimes an office visit is just an office visit.
They were never clear about what the rules were. She doesn’t understand where they stood, doesn’t know where it’s headed, but Ben never mentioned anything, never brings it up, seems perfectly content with this very college-like, casual arrangement they have going on.
But it only made her more confused and unsettled, unsure if she should be the one to bring it up because for the most part, the reconciliation of their physical intimacy back on the table has produced another tunnel opening in their strained relationship.
There hasn’t been a single fight at all, which was once normal for them than what they have now. She can’t even remember the last time one of them snapped at the other.
When they’re together, they cuddle and share thoughts and opinions in between the hook ups. She can’t deny how nice it is. How natural.
But also very fragile. She’s afraid of losing it more than the professional relationship they desperately tried to maintain, afraid that if she questioned or said anything, something terrible is bound to happen and she’d completely lose him.
“So what, are you and Ben back together again?”
Rey nearly chokes on her drink. “What?” She wheezed at her friend.
It’s Sunday, and the cafe where they’re having brunch is a bit rowdy and busy but no one bothers them in this side of the city. They’re sitting on the patio, being warmed by a summer breeze, and Rey thinks she might need to order another bubbly drink to have this conversation.
“It’s a valid question,” Finn declares as he twirls pasta around his fork.
“Why would Ben and I be back together?”
Finn shoots her a deadpanned look. “Are you seriously going to try to deny this?”
Rey just blinks at him.
Groaning, Finn sets her fork down and begins to count with his fingers.
“First, you spend most of your free time with him. Second, you go to him when you’re sad, when you’re happy, or when you’re just bored. Third, you depend on him for a lot more than his opinions on your songwriting and more that has to do with your orgasms.”
“It’s not like that. We’re friends,” Rey stresses.
“No, we’re friends,” Finn retorts pointing between him and her. “But you and Ben? Whatever you are, it certainly doesn’t qualify as just friends. Co-workers to friends to lovers to exes to fuck buddies to... What exactly do you call yourselves now?”
“It’s complicated. There’s history there.”
“You always say that. That it's complicated,” Finn presses. “I’ve never understood it. You two are just dragging this on much longer than it should. Either you don’t want to be with him or you do.”
“It’s not that simple.”
“Yes, actually, it is! You’re actually killing me. I love you, Rey. I really do. You’re my best friend but you’re thick headed to a bloody fault. Finn ranted. “You love him, he loves you. You both want to be together. What’s the problem?”
Rey had stopped listening, tuned Finn out as her head spun around and around. She doesn’t even have the excuse of being drunk. The drink she ordered is non-alcoholic.
It comes to her like a freight train.
One moment she’s staring out of the window, watching the world continue from beneath her apartment window.
Rey could only blame Finn for this.
If Finn didn’t point out what is glaringly so obvious, she wouldn’t be in this embarrassing and mortifying situation of having to confront her thoughts and emotions about Ben. All of what has been happening for the past several months or so made perfect sense. She loves him. She has always loved him. She’s certain that nothing could ever change that.
But even if Finn claims that Ben would return her feelings, she isn’t so sure anymore.
What if she’s only projecting her feelings and thoughts but he actually doesn’t want to try again knowing the outcome of their ill fated relationship?
What if all he wanted from her was casual sex and maybe some company afterwards?
Rey groans in frustration and curses Finn to oblivion for putting all these wild thoughts in her head.
She arrives at his door before she’s realized she meant to knock.
He smiles and lets her in, politely asks if she has eaten. She almost wanted to scoff because they should be past the point of pleasantries after fucking on almost every available horizontal surface she could lay her eyes on. But she didn’t come here to remind him of every tryst they had in his place.
She shakes her head no because she went straight here without food in her stomach and he mentioned that she’s just right on time since he just finished cooking dinner.
Ben is dressed casually. Normally, she’d see him in a fine suit and tie, but right now, he’s wearing a plain black t-shirt and jeans, his hair slightly damp from a recent shower. He even wore his glasses for once, abandoning the contacts.
He pulls out the chair across from where he normally sits in his four-person dining table, preparing her usual salad of lettuce, tomatoes and some balsamic vinegar, his thoughtfulness squeezed at her chest as she couldn’t find the words for her gratitude.
Just a nod of thanks and he smiles.
Did he love her?
Once, he had loved her once. But didn’t he date other people after her? How is she any different from those who came before?
Did he still love her?
Ben settles down on the chair across her, insisting that she should try the pasta first before anything else, eager for her opinion about the dish. She tells him it’s delicious, nothing less from every dish he has made and his mood lifts, shows up as a crooked tilt of his lips.
He provides her with another serving of the pasta on her plate when she realized she ate it all.
Rey stares at it.
“Is this all just for sex?”
The words have flown from her mouth before she can stop them from coming to life.
Ben is startled by her question and he stared at her wide-eyed for a second too short. He answers with immediate grace.
“No, you can have the pasta for free.”
She openly glares at him, and he laughs.
“Forget it,” She mutters petulantly before shoving more pasta into her mouth.
“Rey,” He calls out to her. But she just deliberately keeps on ignoring him, shoving more food in her mouth if that’s what it takes to stop themselves from having that conversation until he ends up going to her side and turning her chair to face him.
He cradles her face in his hands and kisses the scowling pout off her lips.
“Does this feel like just sex to you?” He asks before kissing her again, more certain of themselves. “What do you think?”
There’s a moment of clarity to feel a bit of relief and not ridiculed, but it was only short-lived when she remembered how she’s being left out to deal with this all on her own.
“But why didn’t you say anything? I thought you wouldn’t want to!”
Ben gives her a tiny smile.
“I was waiting for you to figure it out on your own. I know it would take this long knowing how stubborn you could be.”
She lets his condescending comment slide, not ready to let go of asking the questions that demanded answers.
“Figure out what?”
“That you couldn’t stay away from me even if you tried to. In the end, you still love me.” He laughs but quickly turns very serious.
“And I love you, Rey Niima. I always have. I’d wait forever to have you if I have to.”
She doesn’t fight the happiness that enveloped between the re-admission of their feelings to one another, stronger than it was before, she wraps her arms around his neck, smiling brightly.
“Take me to your bed, Ben Solo.”
The following day, Rey receives a call from the agency with some big news. Firstly, Ben Solo is no longer her agent. Effective immediately. Secondly, she would now be represented by a Poe Dameron instead.
“Excuse me,” The endorphin rush from last night drains from the unexpected news.
“What? What happened? And who authorized this? I still have a contract with Ben what do you mean I’m being represented by someone else?”
“Oh, right,” There’s some slight rustling of papers from the other line. “It’s Mr. Solo who filed for the termination of your contract with him.”
Rey storms into the building like a woman on a mission, her heels clicking on the expensive marble floor, she supposed she is.
Because she failed to understand where this decision is coming from. She can think all she wants of what prompted his decision, but she will never get her answer until she asks him herself, if she can contain from killing him.
They had spent the better part of the evening less talking and more overpowering lovemaking. She was nursing the healthy glow of being in love and wanting to do it all over again when she woke up without him spooning her like expected. Instead, waking up with a phone call that he doesn’t even have the balls to do on his own.
By now, his assistant knows better than to stop her when she’s on a war path. Instead, the young man tries to offer her an consoling smile as if he’s taking yet another bullet for Ben.
She walks past his desk without so much as a glance before throwing Ben’s door wide open.
He’s dressed in another suit.
He doesn’t look at all surprised to see her. In fact, he doesn’t even look up from his desk.
“What the hell is this?” She marches over, slamming the stapled papers on his mahogany desk. It’s her new contract.
Ben still doesn’t look up. “Poe is an amazing agent. He’ll take good care of you,”
Rey lifts her chin and even if she doesn’t want to, her words wobble with emotion.
“Did I misunderstand you last night?”
This time, Ben dropped what he was doing, going around his desk, sliding on his swiveling chair, he yanks Rey to rest on his lap.
“No, you didn’t. I just figured that the main reason why our relationship didn’t work out before was because we never got a break from each other. At home, at work, even just with friends... We couldn’t separate which is which until that took a toll on us.” He explained softly, looking deeply into her eyes.
“When you got frustrated over lacking inspiration in composing, I didn’t know how to console you. As a friend? Your agent? Your boyfriend? Our disagreements clashed because we don’t know where to draw the line anymore when it comes to being partners.”
His expression softened, kissing her bare shoulder.
“Please don’t be upset with me. I just don’t want to repeat what went wrong between us.”
After several soothing kisses, Rey finally relents with a sigh.
“You’re right. But I also hate when you’re right because you just get this smug look on you,” She says while properly perching herself on his lap where they could be on perfect eye level.
“Now I have to work with someone new. I don’t even know who Poe Dameron is. He better be half as good as you.”
He kissed her knuckles.
“I hand picked him. He’ll be perfect for you.”
“But how are you going to make up for this play of deception, huh?” She asked, tilting her head to the side.
He catches on quick.
“I have a few ideas.”