The Benson (Experiment in Terror #2.5)
by Karina Halle
KINDLE Edition License Notes:
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to amazon.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
For more information about the series and author visit: www.experimentinterror.com
PRAISE FOR THE EXPERIMENT IN TERROR SERIES
“Perry and Dex are two charismatic and slightly crazy characters that carry you in kicking and screaming along for the ride.” – Naughty Between the Stacks
“I don’t think, short of being completely ridiculous, I can encourage you more strongly to read this series. It has quickly moved to the top of my favorites list.” – The Bookish Babes
“Halle continues to surprise readers with different twists and turns.” – Living Life Through Books
“A ghost hunting adventure with original characters guaranteed to please!” – Romancing the Darkside
“Seductively entertaining…I’m convinced that it has some secret ingredient (like the sauce on a Big Mac or the coffee beans at Starbucks) that makes it immediately addictive.” – Bitsy Bling Books
“Loved it, loved it, loved it. I can’t say it enough. I’ve never related to a character as much as I did to Perry Palomino.” – Pretty Opinionated
For my readers
I have never been inside The Benson hotel before. Looking back, it’s kind of weird since I’ve lived in Portland for my whole life, but I guess there are a lot of things in your city you never see. Not the way the tourists do.
Tonight though, I decided I would be a tourist. Having a camera at my side would certainly help in that pretense. I smile up at the doorman as I make my way up the sidewalk, pausing briefly at the bronze plaque on the ground as I have many times before when walking throughout downtown, and then timidly walk up the steps inside.
“Good evening and welcome to The Benson ma’am,” the doorman says to me, cheery enough in his fancy, gold-gilded uniform. Still, I feel like he’s judging me and what I’m wearing; my Doc Martens still muddy from the morning’s rainfall, my maroon leggings with a hole in them and a scuffed leather jacket. I’m obviously not a guest here, not at one of the most prestigious hotels in the state of Oregon.
I give him a tight smile and walk past him into the revolving doors which sweep me inside. The lobby is surprisingly busy for nine p.m. as there’s a line at the vast checkout counter a few people deep, and the bar/lounge to the right of me is crammed full of swanky patrons swilling martinis. I barely have time to take in the understated grandeur and opulence of the lobby – which totally reminds me of the golden age of Hollywood – before a waving movement brings my attention to the bar again.
In the corner, swilling what can only be a Jack Daniels and Coke is Dex. Actually, he’s not swilling it. Rather, downing it in fast gulps and as soon as he sees he’s caught my attention, he waves the prim waitress over and orders another one.
I swallow hard, feeling all sorts of strange feelings rush up in my body. I’m nervous, I already was, but I’m excited too and though my breath catches slightly when I see him, it eventually flows out all hot, ragged and sparkling with nerves.
I haven’t seen Dex since we parted ways at the airport in Albuquerque. It wasn’t long ago, but it still makes me feel like I’m going on a first date all over again. Not that we ever were dating and not that (with his girlfriend Jenn) we ever would. But I can’t help the way I feel. Stupid. And in love with my partner.
I smile, broad and completely natural for him, and make my way to where he is sitting, at a small, white clothed table just big enough for two. Before I reach his side, I wonder if he’s going to hug me and before I can finish the thought, he stands up, stepping around the table. I am quickly enveloped into his arms. He smells like Old Spice and a bit like the hand-rolled cigarettes he picked up in New Mexico. His arms are strong and firm around my back. The hug is close, tight and genuine. I relax slightly, wishing we were somewhere else and not this busy lounge where people watch us with disinterest.
I am the first to pull apart, though I could have stayed in his arms all night. I give him the once over now that I am up close.
He looks pretty much as he did in New Mexico. The cuts on his face from the shapeshifter’s attack are faded; his moustache has been trimmed, almost gone, as is the scruff beard under his chin. His eyebrow ring glints from his black brow. His cheekbones are high, perhaps higher than before. I take another step back and see that he’s lost a little bit of weight. It shows in his face most of all.
“Checking me out again?” he says, his voice low, his lips snaking to the side in a smirk. There’s something off about him, but I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because, despite the closeness of the hug, there’s an awkward distance between us, like we aren’t sure how to act around each other now that the skinwalkers and Maximus and sharing a bed for a few nights are gone. We both almost died in New Mexico – I know it had an impact on us, but it doesn’t seem to have any bearing here in the swanky Benson hotel.
And then there are his eyes. Dex’s eyes are his focal point, the part of him that wins people over or drives them away. Dark chocolate, enigmatic and emotive. Sometimes they are ruthless, sometimes seductive. They are a mystery as much as he is and the one thing I can’t help from drowning in over and over again.
But here, tonight, they are clouded. No, that’s not quite it. Not clouded but subdued. The sparkle and zest that roam in them, no matter what his mood, are gone. They are handsome, beguiling eyes but not his.
I think back to Red Fox and how he had gone so long without his anti-psychotic medication that he began to actually feel again. It was scary for him, no doubt (and for me, let’s not kid ourselves) but in the end…he was free. Or so I thought. Now it seems that sparkle and life, the manic highs and lows, are gone. As destructive as they were, they are an important part of him.
“Sorry,” I mutter to myself, dropping my eyes quickly to the table just as the waitress comes by and puts down his drink.
“What would you like, Perry?” he asks me. I look up at him and the waitress. Her name tag states her as Prudence. She has white hair and a friendly smile but a stance that says I better be quick with an answer.
I don’t drink normally, especially not on the job – which is what I am doing here tonight with Dex – but I say, “A glass of the house red, thanks.”
It’s the cheapest and will relax my nerves. Prudence leaves with my order after Dex gives her a quick wink. He then turns to me as we sit down.
“So how are you, kiddo?” he asks, peering at my face, trying to read me before I say anything. “Is it nice having me in your neck of the woods again?”
“It’s just nice to see you again,” I say honestly. With Dex living in Seattle and me in Portland, I only ever see him when we film. And in the between time, I miss him.
A blush starts to creep up my neck. I can feel it.
He gives me a smile that reaches his eyes and shows perfect teeth that are quite white for a smoker. “Well, it’s nice to see you. Too bad you’re not bunking with me tonight at my motel.”
I give him a sharp look, not sure if he’s kidding or not.
He smiles again, almost leering. “I’ll probably be shaking in my boots after tonight with only my pillow to hug.”
The waitress comes back and gives me my wine. He gives her the same kind of smirk. This is how I know he’s messing with me.
I roll my eyes. “So what is our plan for tonight anyway? Are we just going to sit here and drink and wait for the ghosts to show up?”
“Patience, Perry,” he says and takes another gulp of his drink. He gestures to the wine and nods at it. “Have some of that and relax.”
I take a sip of the acidic merlot and look around me. As gorgeous and old-fashioned as the hotel is, there are so many people about, and I can’t imagine how on earth the place could be haunted. But apparently it is. In fact, Portland has a few ghost tours that come around and poke their heads in the hotel a few times a week. I doubt anybody ever sees anything, though.
“Are we the first ghost hunting show to come inside here?” I ask Dex.