Beautiful Bombshell: Chapter 5

Bennett Ryan

I was pretty sure I looked like an idiot. Will and Henry continued to sip their drinks and pore over the menu, oblivious to the fact that I was sitting across from them, damn near giggling and randomly breaking into the widest, goofiest grins imaginable.

Despite Max’s sudden departure, I was still on a high from how much fun it had been to follow Chloe, then spank and fuck her in a bathroom. And she was going to be my wife.

I had no idea how I’d gotten so lucky.

“Are you gentlemen ready?” the waiter asked, removing a slew of empty glasses from the table and stacking them on his tray. Will and Henry looked up for the first time in about ten minutes and blinked around the table.

“Max not back yet?” Will asked, surprised.

I shook my head, refolding my napkin in an attempt to avoid their eyes. “Doesn’t look like it.”

“Should we wait for him or . . .?” Henry asked. “I could go out and kill a few minutes at one of the tables while we wait.”

I glanced down at my watch and groaned; the flimsy excuse Max had used about needing the bathroom was most definitely losing its credibility with each passing minute. And it wasn’t that I particularly cared if Max got busted—it’s possible that might actually improve my night—but if Max went down then so did I. We had the rest of the weekend with these guys, and Will would make it a living hell if he found out we’d been sneaking out to bang our girlfriends on Valentine’s Day.

And, truth be told, Will was the only single one here and was the most focused on hanging out with the guys. I felt a pang of guilt that, of the three of us who seemed to care more for women than gambling, he was the only one not getting laid this weekend.

“Sure he’ll be back any minute,” I said. “Must not have been feeling well.”

“What the hell did you two eat anyway?” Henry asked.

I tried to formulate an answer and remembered the waiter only when I heard him sigh. “I’ll give you gentlemen a few more minutes,” he said before stepping away.

Will narrowed his eyes. “Yeah, what is going on,” he said, words slurring together a little. “There’s no way a person could have this much diarrhea and survive.”

“Thank you for that very tasteful analysis.” I set my napkin on my plate and stood. “I’ll just step over there and see how much longer. You two go ahead and order for us. I’ll have the filet. Bloody.” I started to walk away and stopped, turning to face them again. “Oh, and get yourself a few more drinks,” I added with a smile. “It’s on me.”

The mood in the restaurant had changed as the night went on. Lights embedded in the ceiling and around the room had shifted from the soft white to warm gold, washing everything in rich color. The music was louder, not so loud that you couldn’t talk or make out individual conversations, but loud enough that you could feel it deep in your chest, a pounding like a second heartbeat. It felt more like a nightclub than a restaurant now and made it easier for me to step out unnoticed, to text Max.

Where the fuck are you?

I paced the glossy wood floors just outside, debating whether I could leave and get away with it. My phone vibrated with his incoming message less than a minute later.

Just pulling up. Two minutes.

We need to talk, I answered. I’ll meet you near valet.

With a glance over my shoulder to make sure Will or Henry hadn’t followed, I headed down to meet Max.

The casino floor was bustling. The sound of laughter and cheering floated up from one of the tables and a couple of police officers stood near the entrance, speaking to a group of valets.

Max stepped through the doors and stopped just in front of me, rebuttoning his suit jacket and straightening his tie. “Always so impatient,” he said, glancing twice at the police before gripping my arm. “Perhaps we could move just over here . . .” He guided us away from the area and out of their direct line of sight.

“Oh, that’s comforting. You’re dodging the police now? Jesus Christ, what is happening? I feel like an accomplice in some sort of crime spree,” I said, running a hand through my hair.

“The less you know, the better, mate. Trust me.”

“And the toilet, Max? Really? That’s the best you could come up with?”

“As if your excuse was any better? An ulcer? You’ve lost your touch, mate. The Ben I knew in uni would be ashamed. Love’s made you soft.”

I sighed, glancing behind me. “You’ve been gone for almost an hour. What the fuck took you so long?”

He gave me a wide, leering smile. He looked happy. Fuck, he looked downright giddy, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. I knew that expression; I’d been wearing it less than ten minutes ago.

“Just gave the lady friend a screaming orgasm, mate.”

“Okay, right. I did not need to know that.”

“You’re one to talk.” He stretched his neck, cracking it. “So how are the boys?”

“Replacing most of their blood with vodka and discussing the beauty of aged meats.”

“Shall we head up for dinner, then?”

He went to push by me but I reached for his arm, stopping him. “Look, you know what I’ve been doing and I know what you’ve been doing, let’s cut the bullshit. Back in New York, I’m lucky to get Chloe to myself for ten full minutes. They’re only here tonight. Let’s help each other out here.”

His expression seemed to sober and he nodded. “Am I the only one that finds it hilarious that it’s Valentine’s Day and we’re the ones behaving like idiots and chasing them rather than the other way ’round?”

“The thought may have occurred to me once or twice, yes,” I said with a shake of my head. These women made us insane. “We need a plan. It will be no problem to get our comrades lost in a meat coma but that won’t last all night. And Will is getting suspicious.”

“Agreed,” he said. “How much do you think he knows?”

“I’m not sure. Henry hasn’t stopped drinking or looking at the poker chips in his pocket all night, but Will—he seems to be under the impression that you and I are both suffering from some sort of horrible digestive issue.”

Max groaned. “I’ll want to see her again, mate. I have to be honest. She’s here, and she’s . . . well, I’d like to check in on her again.” He looked up at me and I nodded, understanding. “Will would never let me live it down if he thinks I couldn’t go a single weekend without seeing her. You know him. I love the man but he’s enough of a tosser as it is; I’m not giving him this, too,” he said, shaking his head.

“Exactly. My brother loves giving me shit about Chloe and the fact that I slept with her while she still worked for me. If he finds out about this there won’t be a Ryan family holiday where he doesn’t regale everyone with the story of the other time Bennett couldn’t keep it in his pants. Fuck that.”

“Right.”

“So what now? If we wanted to see them again tonight, how could that work?”

Max paced back and forth in front of the registration desk before turning to face me. “I think I’ve got it.”

“Tell me.”

“I’m thinking . . .” He was looking down at the ground, still putting the pieces together in his head. “I think . . . we need them distracted, yeah? And we want to make sure Will has a brilliant night.”

I nodded. “But it’s got to be more than booze. Those two have been drinking all night and somehow still seem to be functioning. I don’t want them blind or facedown in a gutter somewhere.”

“Obviously.” Max pulled out his phone and began scrolling through the contacts. I shifted from foot to foot and kept glancing over my shoulder, waiting for Henry to come out and drag me back by my collar to the table.

When I turned back to Max, he’d stopped on a number. “Who are you calling?”

“Mr. Johnny French,” he said.

“How do you know him, anyway? An old friend?”

Max laughed. “Not sure I’d call him a friend. Not sure he’d call anyone a friend, really. But he does owe me a few favors and as you’ve seen, caters to the type of crowd that might be helpful in our situation.”

“I’m afraid to see where this is going.”

“A little faith, mate. Will is a bit of a ladies’ man,” he said, smiling. “We’ll just . . . help him.”

“Help him?”

Max shrugged, meaningfully.

“You mean get him a hooker?” I practically shouted.

Max shushed me and glanced around. “A little louder perhaps? And who’d have thought you’d be such a prude, Ben? I’m a little surprised,” he said. “I’m not going to let him sleep with her. We just want a distraction. We’re getting him a distraction.”

“But—”

He held up a finger to silence me, and put the phone on speaker between us. It rang a few times before it was answered by a man with a deep, serious voice: Johnny French.

“What can I do for you, Max? Again,” he said.

“How are you this evening, Mr. French?” Max asked.

“Still fine.”

“I hope I didn’t wake you?”

A gravelly laugh filled the line. “Funny. I trust you found everything to your liking?”

Max smiled and I raised an eyebrow. It occurred to me that I really had no idea what Max had been up to in there. I knew it involved Sara, but now I was beginning to wonder if the details were a bit more . . . sordid than I’d originally thought.

“It was brilliant. Bloody brilliant. As usual, of course. You have one hell of a place there.”

“Good, glad to hear it. Now get to the point.”

“I’d like to call in a favor.”

“I assumed as much,” Johnny said flatly.

“The thing is that we’ve found ourselves in a bit of a predicament here, and need a little help getting out of it.”

“I’m listening.”

“We need a distraction. A decoy.”

“A distraction.”

“Yes. Sara is here, as you know. But so are our friends.”

“I see . . . And you’d like to ditch them.”

“Not exactly. We just want them . . . entertained. One friend in particular. We’d like him safe but maybe . . . occupied for a few hours.”

“So you can run off and be with your girls on Valentine’s Day.”

Max smiled. “Something like that.”

Silence filled the line and Max and I looked up at each other in question.

“Did he hang up?” I mouthed.

Max shrugged. “Still there, mate?” he asked.

“I’m here. And yeah, no problem. Pretty sure I have the perfect distraction in mind.”

“I don’t trust him,” I said on our way back to the restaurant.

“Stop worrying. Johnny is a man of his word, I assure you.”

“He didn’t exactly sound happy with you.”

Max waved me off. “He’s never going to be the guy to give me flowers and tell me I’m lovely.”

“He sounded like we were assholes.”

“We are arseholes.”

He had a point. “So what about Henry?” I asked, stopping at the stairs just outside the restaurant.

“Do you think he’ll be a problem?”

“I think if I shoved a thousand bucks in his pocket I wouldn’t see him again until Tuesday morning.”

“Brilliant. So we have a nice dinner, wait for Johnny to send someone over, and then find our girls. If all goes well I won’t see your ugly mug until the morning, when we can start this weekend properly.”

“Done.” We shook hands and made our way inside with a new sense of purpose.

Will and Henry were just where I’d left them and now surrounded by a mountain of bowls and platters. There were steaks and fish, salad with bacon, steaming dishes of vegetables and what had to be some of the biggest shellfish I’d ever seen.

“Wow,” Max said, looking over what had to be enough food to feed at least ten people. “Hungry?”

“We didn’t know what you’d want,” Henry said with a shrug. “Plus Ben’s picking up the bill so . . .”

“Feeling better?” Will asked Max skeptically.

“Much, thank you. And absolutely famished.”

We each took a seat and Max motioned to the waiter. “I’ll have another Macallan,” he said.

“And a Belvedere gimlet for me.” I pointed to Henry and Will across from me. “And bring them two of whatever they’re having.”

“So what did I miss?” Max asked, covering his plate in some sort of potatoes. “Did you two finally stop playing hard to get and decide to run off together? There’s a chapel just downstairs, I believe. In the casino.”

“Ha,” Will said. “We were actually discussing who would be next. I assured Henry here that the only possible answer was you.”

“Oh I don’t know about that,” Max said. “Never know what will happen with one of your sheduled booty calls.”

Will laughed.

“What about that, Stella? Think it’ll happen with you and Sara?” Henry asked.

Max smiled but it was the shielded smile that he wore whenever he spoke about Sara. “I haven’t had this conversation with her yet, I’m certainly not having it with you lot.”

“But you’ve considered it,” I found myself saying. I’d never seen Max fall for anyone like he had with Sara. I knew the feeling. He had to have at least considered it.

“Of course,” he answered. “But we’ve only been together for a short while. We’ve got time.”

Another round of drinks arrived and Max reached for his, holding it up for a toast. “To Bennett and Chloe. May your fights be rare, and if they aren’t—because who am I kidding—at least may they be followed by some wicked shagging.”

We all clinked glasses and drank deeply. The room seemed to expand and shrink, and I put my vodka down, reaching instead for my water.

“Well, I can’t wait to hit the tables,” Henry said, rubbing his palms together. “I spoke with a few of the dealers earlier. Kind of disappointed they have standard odds and no fire bet but hey, can’t win them all.”

“Wow. You sound like you’ve . . . really looked into this,” I said, wondering for a moment if I should be legitimately concerned.

He shrugged and cut into his steak. I made a mental promise that if he started talking about card counting or needing a spotter, I’d intervene. Who said I wasn’t a good brother?

We continued with dinner, Max and I sharing conspiratorial glances toward the door and back to each other. Just as Will excused himself to the restroom Max got a text.

“She’s here,” Max whispered. He typed something into his phone and pressed SEND. “Told Johnny what Will’s wearing and that he’ll be near the front of the restaurant. Showtime.”

“This is too easy,” I said, looking around, the tickle of uneasiness settling into my stomach. “Since meeting Chloe, nothing in my life is ever this easy.”

“Would you relax?” he said under his breath. “This isn’t insider trading, it’s finding a way for us to sneak off for a shag. Calm the fuck down.”

“Whoa.”

I looked up at the sound of Henry’s voice and followed his gaze across the room. A woman had stopped Will on his way back to the table. She was . . . beautiful, with miles of wavy red hair and makeup so skillfully applied she looked like a piece of art. She wore a short beaded dress that clung to her body and she smiled as she gazed at Will, her hand resting on his forearm.

But . . .

I nudged Max and pointed, sitting back when he looked up. “Is that the woman Johnny sent?”

His eyes widened before they narrowed slightly, as if he were trying to get a closer look, figure out what didn’t quite add up.

“What the. . . ?” Henry said. Max began typing furiously on his phone while Henry and I continued to watch Will. The escort stood about eye level with him and had steered him toward the bar. It looked like Will might be buying her a drink. “I’m confused. Is that—?”

Will looked over at the table, meeting my eyes. And, oh, shit. In a rush I burst out laughing, understanding dawning. Johnny had totally fucked with us, and from the second the woman found him, Will knew exactly what we’d done. The gauntlet had most definitely been thrown.

“That son of a bitch,” Max swore. But I didn’t have time to ask because it looked like Red was ready to put the moves on Will.

We all watched in rapt silence as the escort leaned in, whispering something in his ear. Her hand was big—bigger than my own—and she placed it against his chest, fingers twisting in the fabric. Will laughed, shaking his head before nodding to us at the table.

With a seductive grin, she gripped his shirt and pulled him forward, kissing him hard on the lips. Damn.

He stepped away in a daze and made his way back to the table. As he took his seat we each looked at the other, unsure of what had actually happened. Will was silent for a moment, blinking several times before reaching for his drink. He drained it in one pull and then took a deep breath.

“You’re a bunch of assholes,” he said, leaning back in his chair and popping a shrimp into his mouth. “But as far as kissing a dude went, that actually wasn’t bad.”

Honestly, that one really had ended up in the Win column for Will. I glanced across the table to where he perused the dessert tray, still wearing the same smug fucking grin.

“Am I really really drunk or did we accidentally hire a male prostitute to distract our friend?” I asked Max.

He didn’t answer, just held up his phone displaying his most recently delivered text message: a picture of Johnny’s hand, middle finger extended. Perfect.

I laughed, putting my drink down with a bit more of a crash than I’d intended. “I’m not going to say I told you so but for the record, I definitely did.”

“Fuck you.” Max slumped back in his seat, pushing his hands into his hair. “This isn’t over. He’s going to bide his time, and then completely ruin us. Do you have any idea what I’ve done tonight to be with this woman? I snuck out on my best friend’s stag weekend. I stole a limousine. I hired my other best friend a drag queen, Bennett.”

Maybe it was the alcohol buzzing in my system, or the absolute absurdity of the situation, but I started to laugh, and then I couldn’t stop.

“I think Ben’s finally lost it,” Henry said. “Who called today?” He pulled a wrinkled slip of paper from his pocket, presumably with the bets they’d each taken earlier in the day. “Damnit. It was Max.”

I sat back in my seat and scrubbed my face. Max was right: this definitely wasn’t over.


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