Misbehaving, p.9
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       Misbehaving, p.9

           Tiffany Reisz
 
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  thought of returning to the Essex a failure. He would find and throttle Henry and he would do it for Beatriz. And Claudia. And him. And for Henry, too. And maybe he’d throttle him just for the fun of it.

  So Henry wasn’t at any of the other hotels in town. Where else could the man be staying? Did he get a fake mustache and shave his head and book himself in under a fake identity? No way. Henry had a good heart and great work ethic, but Claudia was the brains of the operation. Ben had checked every hotel within any reasonable driving distance. Nothing to do but go back to the Essex empty-handed and hope Henry came to his senses.

  “Henry, if you cost me Beatriz again so help me…” Ben muttered as he returned the car to the rental office and walked the two blocks back to the Essex. “You’re not smart enough to hide anywhere. Where the hell could you be?”

  Once the words came out, Ben knew exactly where Henry was hiding.

  He raced to the front desk of the Essex and rang the bell.

  “Can you call up to Henry Bard’s room?” he asked the clerk.

  The clerk typed something into the computer.

  “Which room? He’s got two booked.”

  “I knew it.” Ben slapped his hand on the counter. That bastard had booked a second room at the Essex under his own name. It was such a stupid hiding place it was actually smart. “I don’t know. What are the room numbers?”

  “I can’t give those out, sir.”

  “Fine. Call both of them.”

  The clerk rang both hotel rooms. He shook his head. No one had answered.

  “That’s it, I’m killing him.” Ben thanked the clerk for trying and started to wander around the lobby. The Hotel Essex had only six floors. Maybe he could walk the halls and knock on every single door until Henry answered. But then he ran the risk of knocking on the door of Henry’s mom, Claudia and Beatriz’s mom, the maid of honor, wedding guests. Knocking on doors wouldn’t work. He just needed a room number. He’d give anything for a damn room number.

  “Can I help you, sir?” came a voice from behind him. Ben spun around and saw a young man in a bellhop’s uniform with Keaton on his nametag.

  “Can you be bribed?” Ben asked, deciding to cut through pretense.

  “Yes. Yes, I can,” Keaton the bellhop said and gave Ben a jaunty salute.

  “Good. Will a Jackson buy me a room number?”

  “Tito?”

  “Andrew.”

  “Janet?”

  “Andrew.”

  “Fine,” Keaton said. “But a Franklin would buy you five room numbers. And my R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”

  “Do you actually work here or are you an escaped mental patient?” Ben asked.

  “You really want to know?”

  Ben shook his head. “Nope.” He handed over the twenty-dollar bill to Keaton. “I’m looking for the new room number for Henry Bard. He’s got two rooms booked.”

  “Got it,” Keaton said. “You stay here. I’ll do recon. If I’m not back in ten minutes, assume I’ve been captured. Save yourself.”

  Keaton started across the hotel lobby. He seemed to be walking as if the theme music to Mission Impossible played in the background. Ben rolled his eyes. Maybe if he tackled the guy he could get his twenty back.

  The clerk didn’t pay any attention to Keaton’s antics. The bellhop got behind the desk and said something to the clerk. One minute later he was Mission Impossible-ing his way back to Ben.

  “Room 515,” Keaton said. “Booked it today.”

  “You sure?”

  “I’m sure. He booked right after I gave him the box.”

  “Box? What box?”

  “His lady had some box delivered to her. A box of books and crazy stuff.”

  “Crazy stuff?” Ben’s heart raced. Maybe they’d finally discovered something useful.

  “Crazy. Stuff. Lady stuff. Crazy lady stuff. Crazy lady you stick up the butt stuff, if you know what I mean.”

  “I have no idea what you mean and I don’t want to know what you mean,” Ben said. “But the box was addressed to Claudia Spears?”

  “It was. Saw it with my own eyes.”

  “Thanks. Seriously.” Ben slapped him on the arm and ran to the elevators. He had no idea what “crazy lady you stick up the butt stuff” was, but a mysterious box was at least some sort of motive for Henry’s weird behavior.

  Ben arrived at room 515 and banged on the door.

  No answer.

  He banged harder.

  No answer.

  He kicked the door.

  Still no answer except for the woman in the room next door sticking her head out and glaring at him.

  “Sorry,” Ben whispered. “The guy in this room ran away from his wedding.”

  “Oh,” the lady said. “Then break that damn door down if you have to.”

  “Thank you, ma’am.”

  He kicked and banged and finally the door flew open and Ben found Henry standing before him looking more heartbroken, downtrodden and miserable than he’d ever seen him.

  “Henry, what the hell—”

  “She wants to fuck me up the butt, Ben.” Henry stepped forward and wrapped Ben in a hug. “Hold me.”

  “I’m going to kill you,” Ben said, grabbing Henry by the shoulders and force-marching him into the room. “What are you thinking? Are you thinking? At all? Is anything going on in there?” he asked, knocking on Henry’s head.

  “I’ve been doing nothing but thinking,” Henry said as he grabbed a box off the table. “Look. Claudia said she ordered stuff for our honeymoon. It came. This is what was in the box.”

  Henry turned the box over and let everything fall out onto the bed. Ben picked up the first book. It was a guide to couples in the swingers/wife-swapping lifestyle. Another book said it would help women find compatible sexual partners outside their marriage especially if the husband was bad in bed or impotent. Ben raised his eyebrow at Henry.

  “I can get it up, I swear,” Henry said. “Like five times a day. And she knows that.”

  The third book was a guide for women on how to use a strap-on dildo to have anal intercourse with the men in their lives. If that wasn’t enough, the book came with its own harness and dildo, plus a small package of lubricant.

  “She’s never once said anything about our sex life not being enough for her,” Henry said, collapsing into a chair. “She’s never once said she wants to see other people. I asked her once if she wanted to try kinky stuff because she was reading that one kinky book.”

  “There’s more than one.”

  “Whatever. She said no, that she just liked reading about it and didn’t want to do it. Apparently she lied because my fiancée wants to have sex with other guys and fuck me up the butt.”

  “Maybe she just wants to fuck the other guys up the butt and not you.”

  “If she’s going to fuck any guy up the butt, it’ll be me.” Henry pointed at himself.

  “I’d let her if I were you, man. She’s pissed. And crying her fucking heart out right now and Beatriz is going to kill you and me both.”

  Henry winced. “I pissed Beatriz off? She’s scary.”

  “She’s Spanish-speaking pissed.”

  “I’m going to die, aren’t I?” Henry asked.

  “You are. She’s furious at both of us. She thinks we’re in this together just like in college when you made me dump her.”

  “I didn’t make you dump her. I asked you not to pursue her. You didn’t even put up a fight.”

  “Yeah, well, I didn’t have your parents’ money. I didn’t want to fuck up my one chance to get a decent job.”

  “Fuck that. You already had the job offer. You were just scared of dating someone who had it more together than you did. That’s why you dated dumb girls and then broke up with them when you couldn’t stand to be around them anymore. Beatriz would have made you work and think. I had a girlfriend in college. I still got a good job and had a great life. So don’t blame me for you being a pussy over Beatriz. You like to think yo
u were being all loyal to your best friend by staying away from her. We both know you were just scared of the real deal.”

  Ben couldn’t speak. He only looked at Henry curled up in the chair looking more scared and miserable than he’d ever seen the man look in his life.

  “When did you get so perceptive?” Ben asked.

  “I’m not perceptive.” Henry rolled his eyes. “I just saw through your bullshit.”

  “Which is the actual literal definition of perceptive.”

  “Fine,” Henry said. “I’m perceptive. I’m also fucked. Up the butt apparently.” He swept his arm toward the bed and the pile of books and sex toys.

  Ben stared at the books and sex toys on the bed. He had to admit it didn’t look good for Claudia. He didn’t have a problem with couples wanting to swing, choosing to be in open relationships or using sex toys. But Henry and Claudia were a nice, staid, stable, happy, monogamous, vanilla couple. Finding out his almost-wife wanted to sleep with other guys and use a strap-on on him and be in an open relationship would freak out anyone on the planet. Anyone except Beatriz probably. She probably already owned all these books. And he already knew she had sex toys and dildos and the like. In fact, the contents of the box looked like something Beatriz would have delivered to her, not to Claudia.

  “Dude, hand me the box,” Ben said and with a desultory sigh, Henry picked up the box and tossed it at him.

  Ben examined the box for labels, for any clues at all. Henry and Keaton hadn’t been wrong. The box was clearly addressed to Claudia Spears. But right after her name was the word “Attention.” Attention who? Attention what? The rest of the sentence had been cut off.

  “It says Claudia Spears,” Ben said, “but after it, the label says ‘Attention’ like it was supposed to go to Claudia but attention someone else.”

  Henry’s eyes widened.

  “It does?”

  Ben nodded.

  “I wonder…” Ben looked at the UPS label again. The box had been sent by someone named John Prinz.

  Ben grabbed the hotel phone and called Beatriz’s room number.

  Beatriz answered on the first ring.

  “Ben?” she asked instead of “Hello.”

  “Do you know some guy named John Prinz?”

  “Ben, what the hell—”

  “You can yell at me all you want later,” Ben said. “Just answer the question. John Prinz? You know him?”

  “Yeah, of course,” she said. “He’s the editor at The Daily Cocktail.”

  “Would he possibly have sent some stuff to the hotel care of Claudia Spears?”

  “He said he had a box for me he was sending. Why?”

  “He sent it.”

  “Fine. I’ll get it later. What’s going on—”

  “Never mind,” Ben said and hung up the phone on her.

  He grabbed the books and the sex toys off the bed and shoved them in the box.

  “You,” Ben said, grabbing Henry by the collar of his polo shirt. “Come with me.”

  “Wait. What are you doing to me?”

  “Saving your marriage. And getting Beatriz back. One of those is a higher priority than the other. I’ll let you guess which.”

  Chapter Eleven

  Beatriz stared at the phone in her hand. Ben had hung up on her without answering her questions. Fine. Whatever. Let him be that way. She had more important things to worry about, like how to best murder Henry and where to bury his body.

  Claudia gasped as the two of them—Ben and Henry—entered the room. Beatriz could tell she wanted to run to Henry, but she held back. Her eyes had turned red from crying.

  “Is this yours?” Ben asked Beatriz as he handed her the box. Beatriz looked into the box.

  “Guide to swinging, open relationships, pegging…” she said, smiling for the first time in hours. “Dildo and harness. Yeah, this is the stuff John sent me to see if I wanted to review them for the blog. Where did you get them?”

  “Look at the label,” Ben said as Claudia and Henry continued to eye each other warily.

  “That stupid fucker,” Beatriz said, half-laughing, half-groaning. “I told him to send it to me care of Claudia Spears since she’d booked the hotel room in her name. He sent it to Claudia. John, you cabrón.”

  “Those are your books and stuff?” Henry asked Beatriz.

  “Yes, they’re mine. Not Claudia’s.” She emptied the box out onto the bed.

  “You thought those were mine?” Claudia demanded, looking at books and the sex toys. “You thought I wanted to be in an open relationship?”

  “You said you had stuff coming for our honeymoon,” Henry protested. “I asked. This is the box they gave me.”

  “I ordered a new swimsuit and beach towels since I forgot to pack ours, Henry.” Claudia nearly yelled the words.

  “So you don’t want to be a swinger?” Henry asked.

  “No, I don’t want to be a swinger.”

  “And I’m enough for you?”

  “You are more than enough for me,” Claudia said.

  “So you don’t want to fuck me up the butt?” he asked.

  Claudia slapped a hand on her forehead.

  “No, Henry. I do not want to fuck you up the butt. I mean, unless you wanted me to and then we can talk about it, but I’d really rather not unless it can’t be avoided.”

  “It’s more fun than you think it would be,” Beatriz said. She’d tried it before with an old boyfriend and they’d both thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

  “Just use lots of lube,” Ben said. Beatriz looked up at him with an arched eyebrow. He put on his most innocent face. “What?” he asked her. “It was a phase.”

  Beatriz said nothing. She turned her attention back to Claudia and Henry.

  “Baby, I’m so sorry,” Henry said. “The box had your name on it and I just…I’m an idiot.”

  “You had me scared to death. I’ve been crying for three hours,” Claudia said. “What do you have to say to that?”

  “I thought you were going to fuck me up the butt.”

  “Oh, come here, you ridiculous man.” She wrapped her arms around him. “I was still your fiancée even after you dumped me, you know. I refused to believe you didn’t love me anymore.”

  “And I still loved you even when I thought you wanted—”

  “To fuck you up the butt. I know.”

  “Aww…” Ben said. “I love a heartfelt reunion.”

  “They should probably go have make-up sex,” Beatriz hinted loudly. She and Ben needed to talk and needed to talk right now.

  “We probably should,” Henry said.

  “Definitely,” Claudia said. “Thank you, Ben. Thanks for finding him.”

  “Anytime. But if he does it again, he might be getting fucked
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