Do you ever think, that soulmates really do last forever? That lifetime after lifetime, two beings meet each other again and again? -Makenzie Hipple
Ben Solo grumbled under his breath. He stood in front of the contemporary-style house that belonged to his childhood friend, Poe Dameron. Even from the sidewalk, he could hear the sounds of music and laughter coming from inside.
Glaring at the front door, Ben debated making up an excuse so he didn’t have to stay or not going in at all. Maybe he could just leave the housewarming gift inside and head back home. The necessary boxes would be checked. Poe would understand.
“Ben!” The instant he stepped into the foyer, the dark-haired, tanned, former quarterback of Alderaan High spotted him. “You made it!”
All conversation stopped while the other guests took in the sight of him.
Instinctively, Ben felt his skin flush. He didn’t enjoy crowds or parties and he certainly didn’t like having attention called to himself.
“Congratulations,” Ben told his friend. His only friend.
He handed Poe the present he’d bought for the occasion; a cheese board. It seemed practical; since, unlike him, Poe enjoyed the company of others.
“Thanks, man,” Poe replied, taking the gift from Ben with one hand and using the other to pat him on the back. “Come on. Let me introduce you to some folks,” he offered.
Ben nodded mutely, knowing there was no way to get out of making the rounds. Poe was exceptional at hosting and he loved introductions. It was one of the reasons why he was a Public Relations Director. The man was overflowing with charisma.
“You already know Finn,” Poe pointed to his boyfriend, who was busy pouring wine in the kitchen.
“Hi,” Ben greeted him with a brief wave.
“Hey, Ben.” Finn grinned effortlessly. “Thanks for coming.”
“Thank you for the invite,” Ben returned.
Poe deposited the gift on the counter and slung an arm around Ben’s shoulders, guiding him into the living room where the other party guests had converged.
There was Jess Pava, Tallie Lintra, Snap Wexley, Paige Tico, and her younger sister, Rose. They all worked with Poe for the governor, or as Ben knew her, mom.
Leia Organa was rumored to be vying for a coveted spot in the Senate during her campaign next year. She’d always planned on following in her mother’s footsteps.
Ben shook hands and smiled the way she’d taught him as he worked his way around the room. Everyone was pleasant but he still would rather be back at his apartment, reading the next chapter of The Border by Don Winslow. It was the final novel in the thriller trilogy and Ben was anxious to finish. Besides, books didn’t judge you based on who your parents were or what college you went to. Books provided an escape.
And Ben wanted to escape.
He was remembering the last passage he’d read, when he saw her .
Like him, she’d arrived late to the party. Unlike him, she seemed to know everyone in the room. She was quickly enveloped in hugs and chatted animatedly with the others.
There was a warmth about her. She seemed to possess a brilliance that shone from everywhere all at once — her gorgeous smile, her beaming eyes, and even her glowing complexion. She was a golden goddess, walking among mortals.
She was in a black silk cami, which hung loosely on her sun-kissed skin. Skin, which in Ben’s opinion, looked just as soft as the shirt she wore. Her legs were hidden under army green pants, but he suspected they were toned like her bare arms. Her hair hung in loose waves around her face, which was slightly turned away from him as she spoke to Rose.
Ben couldn’t keep his eyes off of her. Something in him shifted, as if a piece of his soul had been dormant until he laid eyes on her, something deep within that had always been there but was now awake.
“Don’t even think about it, man,” Poe warned him, catching his gaze. “That’s Finn’s sister. They grew up in foster care together. He’s very protective of her.”
Ben didn’t respond. He merely kept staring.
“Did you hear me?”
His friend sighed in defeat, pinching the bridge of his nose. “She likes Moscato,” Poe informed him. “There’s some in the kitchen.”
Ben made a mental note to grab two glasses as soon as he could tear himself away. He’d stomach the sweet beverage if it meant getting a chance to have her smile at him the way she was currently smiling at her friend.
Suddenly, she glanced up and their eyes met. It was as if all the air in the house was sucked out. Silence reigned and for that single moment, it was as though they only existed for one another. He swallowed, nervously, watching her watch him. Her lips parted in surprise and despite the crowd surrounding them, Ben heard her gasp.
Then he blinked and the moment ended.
Sound filled the room, far too loud and the light felt too bright. It was overwhelming but Ben endured, chancing another glance at the girl.
Her eyes were intense with emerald flecks decorating her brown irises. She gazed at him like a puzzle she couldn’t quite piece together which was ironic considering how he felt when he first saw her.
Their silent staring match was interrupted, when Poe appeared, sliding an arm around her shoulders.
Ben felt his hands clench into fists. An unnamed sensation surged forth, a mixture of darkly possessive nature and protectiveness at the top with compassion and hope lingering beyond that.
She said something to Poe. He glanced over his shoulder at Ben, then responded. The girl nodded and Poe walked off, but not before he shot Ben a thumb’s up.
Sighing, Ben ran a hand through his hair and turned away. He shouldn’t have come to the party. He wasn’t good in social situations and it wasn’t as though anything was going to happen with this girl. She probably didn’t even like h—
Ben felt something being thrust into his hand.
He raised his eyes to find the culprit.
It was the girl.
She was staring up at him, a shimmer of hope in her beautiful hazel eyes. He couldn’t tear his gaze away from her.
“What is this?” he asked, not talking about the object in his hand.
“Love at first sight,” she replied simply. Before he could reject the sentiment, she was smiling again. A smile just for him, a knowing smile, as if she had uncovered a secret. “It exists.”
And with that, she strolled out. Ben watched her walk out of the house and down the sidewalk until she vanished from his view, disappearing as quickly as she’d appeared.
He didn’t glance down to see what she’d handed him until she was gone from sight.
It was a napkin.
With a phone number scribbled on it.
For the first time in recent memory, Ben Solo smiled.
He didn’t stop smiling until Poe commented on it. “What’s gotten into you?” he asked, patting Ben on the back.
“What do you mean?”
“You’re grinning,” Poe pointed out.
“Am not,” Ben groused, pulling away.
“Did the Moscato work?” Poe inquired with a not-so-subtle wink.
Ben frowned. “She left before I could offer.”
“Sorry, man,” Poe patted his back again. “It’s for the best. Finn doesn’t—.”
“She gave me her number,” Ben cut him off and held out the napkin.
Poe stared at it for a moment. Ben worried the girl hadn’t left him with her actual number and this was all a cruel joke. Then Poe grabbed Ben’s wrist, shoving the napkin away.
“Put that away before my boyfriend sees it,” he ordered.
“Seriously?” Ben snarked. “Are we in junior high?”
“Listen, Ben,” Poe led him away from the rest of the guests, namely Finn. “My boyfriend is a great guy but if there is one thing in this world he loves more than me, it would be his sister. Hell, the reason we met was because he thought I was hitting on her and came over to tell me off.”
“That’s your problem,” Ben scoffed.
“It will be your problem if you aren’t careful,” Poe warned. “What are you going to do with her number anyway? I thought you didn’t believe in relationships? Isn’t the whole star-crossed lovers thing a bit cliche to you?”
It was true. Ben wasn’t one to subscribe to romantic notions such as the belief that there was one person out there for everyone. Fate, karma, soulmates — they were all just fairytales people told themselves to cope with the harsh reality that everyone was alone from the moment they were born to the moment they died.
He blamed his family for his cynicism. His parents had been the first to teach him. His father, Han, could never stay still for long. He fidgeted, body always aching for a fight, needing a spark of conflict to send him flying off. Ben’s mother was the same, though she hid her need for conflict under the guise of political prowess. She preferred the thrill of executive briefings and tense negotiations to the everyday humdrum of cooking dinner and maintaining their house.
For Ben, the result was a childhood filled with nannies, housekeepers, the rare family dinner around the holidays. As he grew older, his unhappiness with the situation became harder to control until a series of outbursts, meant to gain his parents’ attention, made them decide to send him to live with his uncle.
Luke Skywalker was, by modern societal standards, a hermit. He lived alone on a ranch in California. While the property was gorgeous, acres and acres of sprawling greenery and fresh water springs, the house itself was barren of such grace.
Ben’s uncle had never married or had children of his own. He was ill-equipped to raise a troubled teenanger. Ben, who already felt far too lost, was not interested in listening to his uncle’s spiritual teachings. They clashed like a pair of battering rams on a hillside, yelling at one another and spitting insults until the day Ben left for good.
Years later, he still hadn’t made peace with his family. The only one he still spoke to from his younger days was Poe. His only friend was the one person who had fought to keep in touch with him through the years. At first Ben suspected Poe’s sole reason for speaking to him was because of Leia, until he’d learned that Poe rarely saw the woman. She was far too busy with her campaign to pay attention to the inner workings of her own office.
He wondered if the girl worked at his mother’s office, or if she was employed by someone who wasn’t a master manipulator.
“Ben?” Poe’s voice pulled him out of his thoughts.
He blinked. “Huh?”
“Are you going to call her?”
Ben shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Just be careful.”
Ben didn’t put much stock into Poe’s warning. After all, his friend had a good point. It wasn’t as if he would actually call. He wasn’t boyfriend material and that girl, well, she deserved someone whose shadow wouldn’t dampen her light.
He did, however, tuck the napkin safely into his pocket. Ben told himself it was because he didn’t want to risk an altercation with Finn. He didn’t want to ruin Poe’s party.
But when Ben got home, he laid the napkin out on his dresser and smoothed out the crumpled edges until it laid flat with her number displayed.
The forest was cooler than the lake, the shade of the branches shielding him from the sun’s rays. His body thrummed with anticipation. He could sense her. He could feel her pulse quickening the closer he got to her location. He could almost hear her short pants of breath from the exertion of running.
He was close.
The second she came into view, he felt it. Like a lightning strike, a power within him ignited, along with a deeply possessive need to be with her. She appeared to have the opposite reaction, snarling as she shot at him and scrambled away.
He chuckled. He enjoyed the hunt.
Dodging blast after blast, he continued to approach her. Anything worth having was challenging and she was proving to be nearly as stubborn as he was. Yet, he was tired of the game.
Hand outstretched, he froze her in place and stalked toward her.
She didn’t speak. She didn’t have to. She had what he wanted. She was what he wanted. And he took what he wanted.
Another swipe of his hand caused her to go limp. He swept her up, carrying her away. He had what he’d come for.
But not for long. She was far more powerful than she knew and as her power grew so did his fascination with her.
They’d danced around each other for days. Much like their game of cat and mouse in the forest, until she finally gave in and came to him.
He thought she’d stay. He thought she’d come to accept what they were to each other. He thought she’d stand by his side the way he’d seen in his vision and together they would cure each other of their loneliness.
She stared at him from that piece of junk, hand hovering over the ramp release. She didn’t look angry. Her lips weren’t curled up in a snarl. Her eyes weren’t narrowed in fury. No, her expression was one of disappointment. She’d lost her hope for them...for him.
Her palm slammed against the button. As the door shut, the sound echoed in his ears so loudly he winced.
When he opened his eyes, she was gone.
“No!” Ben shot up in bed, hands grasping at his bed sheets.
Sweet covered his brow as the memory faded and he adjusted to his surroundings.
It was a dream, only a dream , he consoled himself but he found no rest after he woke.
Ben waited as long as he could. He distracted himself by going to the gym, cleaning his apartment, and even organizing his closet, before he called the number on the napkin.
“Hello?” a groggy voice answered.
He inwardly groaned. It was still early. She was probably sleeping in, the way most people did on the weekends.
“Hi,” he croaked.
His heart rate increased. She recognized his voice!
“Hi...uh, I didn’t get your name.” He grimaced at his honesty.
“Guess,” she dared him, amusement lacing her tone.
He swallowed nervously. Ben didn’t have much dating experience, zero, in fact, but he was pretty sure calling a girl by the wrong name was never a good start. He tried to recall if Poe had mentioned it, but oddly enough, he hadn’t.
Suddenly, his dream came back to him. He thought of how she’d looked in the forest and on the ship. There had been so much pain in her hazel eyes, so much left unsaid between them. He couldn’t lose her again. He couldn’t lose—
There was a pause and then, “Wanna grab breakfast?”
He practically ran to the diner she picked out, his mind coming to terms with two equally unbelievable items. First, his dream wasn’t a dream but a memory and second, the girl, Rey, was waiting for him.
Ben Solo, the love cynic and original loner, a guy who hadn’t ever kissed a girl, let alone been with one. Yet, here he was, rushing through the front door as if he was being chased down.
And there she was.
Just as breathtakingly beautiful as he remembered. Maybe even more so.
“Hello again.” She smiled up at him.
He slid into the seat across from her, his gaze lingering on the smattering of freckles decorating her bronze skin.
“I’ve been waiting for you,” Rey told him.
He knew she wasn’t referring to breakfast because whatever existed between them — this tether binding them through space and time — he felt it too.
“I’ll always come back to you, sweetheart,” he promised, reaching across the table to take her hand. “You’ll never be alone again.”
“Neither will you.”