“Wrap your arm around my waist.”
Through a mouth full of crisps, Benedick was only able to mumble incredulously, “Whaaa?”
With a sickly-sweet smile on her face, Beatrice hissed her next words through her teeth as she laid her head on his shoulder, shooting warmth to his gut. “Wrap. Your arm. Around. My waist.”
Ben complied because that all you could really do with Bea giving you that look and your mouth full of crisps and some stupid-looking fellow approaching at a party.
“Hey Bea, how’s it going?” he asked in a way that was shooting for nonchalant but ended up somewhere in the region of quite chalant.
Bea giggled in a way that shot for chalant and hit it on the mark. “Oh, Louis, I didn’t see you there.” She grabbed a crisp from the bag that Ben was still stupidly clutching in his other hand, and popped it into her mouth.
“You’re looking lovely tonight, Bea. That top really brings out your eyes.” Ben felt his lip curl in disgust. Why was this strange chap trying to chat up Bea? And why was he doing such a terrible job at it?
She placed her hand over the one resting on her waist and let more of her weight lean against the side of his body. “Have you met my fiancee, Ben?”
Ben was incredibly grateful he had swallowed his junk food, because if not he would surely have choked and died and no one really wanted the whole world to have to mourn his untimely death for a week. And what was this about being engaged? To Beatrice?
The awkward bloke (Louis, apparently) stuck out his hand for Ben to shake. Not bothering to wipe off the fine dusting of crisp residue, Ben shook it in a way that he hoped conveyed how incredibly macho and manly he was.
“Well,” Louis said, bobbing his head, “I guess I’ll see you around.”
“See you around, Louis,” Bea chirped, already popping another tasty crisp into her mouth. As soon as Louis turned his back, Ben tried to extract his arm, but Bea had him in some sort of a death grip. It wasn’t until he had disappeared into the crowd that Bea let him go, but she still remained in his personal space, eyes glowing with her usual passion. “Good god, that man is a pill,” she muttered, rolling her eyes.
“Care to fill me in?” Ben pouted, letting his curiosity get the better of him.
Bea looked over at where Louis had gone and sighed, taking a deep pull of her drink before responding. “That’s Louis and he is one of several men I know who absolutely refuse to take no for an answer.”
“So he regularly tries to chat you up?”
“Very regularly. Every time I see him regularly.”
“And you’ve told him off?”
“Every time. In clear and indisputable terms. But he’s one of those stupid blokes who will only really back off when another guy has already claimed a girl he’s interested.” Bea spit out ‘claimed’ like it was a disgusting word and Ben had to chuckle. She wasn’t the sort of girl that anyone could claim. Not really.
Bea clapped him on the shoulder and it was like old times again. Like they were fourteen and it was the two of them against the world. “Thanks for helping me, Ben.”
He stuffed another crips in his mouth to cover up the goofy grin that spread across his face. “No problem. Is that all you need?”
Her hand stroked her chin in an exaggerated manner and shifty eyes darted once again to where Louis had gone. “I don’t know. He might be back.”
That grin came across Ben’s face, but this time he didn’t try to hide it. “What do you say we have a contest, then?”
“A contest?” Bea echoed, eyebrows shooting up. “What do you have in mind?”
“I say we see who can be the most disgustingly adorable. Like Hero and Claudio.”
A sparkle appeared deep in Bea’s eyes, and she reached out her hand for a formal and challenge-sealing handshake. “You’re on, snookums.”
Ben leaned forward and pinched her cheeks. “Anything you say, sugarbooger.”