“You better take your shirt off, too.” He set down his glass, and she helped him remove his saturated coat. “Oh, you have wine all over your back. Ben, I’ve ruined your beautiful suit.”
“No big deal. I was getting hot anyway.” He smiled wickedly. “If I can use your sink, I’ll wash it off and head back to my apartment. I have rooms right here at the hotel. I’m sure no one will notice a half-naked man roaming the halls, and if they do, too bad. I own the place, you know.”
They both laughed. Maura delighted in his easy going temperament, how he made her feel whatever she did, he’d like. She was sorry to see their date end this way, but accidents happen, and this one might have very well saved her from further impetuosity.
“You know where the bathroom is. Help yourself.”
He laid his suit coat on the table and started unbuttoning his shirt. Maura turned away, all of a sudden feeling bashful. How silly, she thought. I have already seen his chest. But that had been at the pool with loads of other people around. Now, they were all alone in her hotel room, only a few feet away from a suddenly imposing bed.
He must have recognized her gesture. “I’ll take care of this in your bathroom. Excuse me, please.”
He thoughtfully shut the door so she couldn’t be caught watching him.
She sunk onto the bed and shook her head self-derisively. “Way to wreck the mood,” she told herself and lay back to stare at the ceiling.
When his phone started beeping from his suit coat pocket, she ran to the table and hastily retrieved it, fearful the expensive phone might be damaged by the spilled wine. She wiped it with a tissue from the ornate box on the bedside table and sat down again on the white duvet. She must have hit the wrong button because a “new text message” alert flashed onto the touch-screen.
New message from Jessica.
Maura blinked hard once, twice, three times. Her stomach tightened apprehensively as she stared at the sender’s name. She wouldn’t read the message.
She wasn’t a snoop. Jessica could be anyone, most probably a business associate or an employee, but before she could set the phone down on the bedside table, the message scrolled across the screen.
When will you be home? I can’t fall asleep without you.
Maura’s stomach clenched as did her fists. Tears stung her eyes, and she blinked hard, willing them away. Her jaw set, and she took a deep, ragged breath.
When Ben came out of the bathroom a minute later, his shirt was on, though it hung loose and open. It was damp and red in places as if he’d been in a fight and had tried to wash blood from it.
When he saw the look on Maura’s face, his grin faltered then faded.
“What’s wrong, Maura? I meant it when I said I don’t care about the suit.
Please don’t be angry at yourself. We had such a great time tonight…”
He stopped midsentence, midway between the bathroom and Maura’s bed, perhaps perceiving something terrible had occurred.
She shot to her feet and thrust his phone out to him as if it were a poisonous snake.