BEN AND BEATRIZ
Author: Katalina Gamarra
Publication Date: August 2, 2022
Publisher: Graydon House Books
Which of his bad qualities did she fall for first?
Harvard senior Beatriz Herrera does not have a post-graduation plan. What she does have is a shaved head, a sharp tongue, political views that skew so far left she’s this close to eating the rich, and deeply rooted trauma from the results of the 2016 election.
Still, she would do anything for her sweet, opposite-from-her-in-every-way prima, Hero. Even if it means watching Hero and her boyfriend, Claudio, make googly eyes at each other all spring break. And even if it means spending that week at the Cape Cod mansion of Claudio’s best friend and Beatriz’s worst nightmare: arrogantly attractive playboy Ben Montgomery. Ben is everything Beatriz can’t stand: he’s white, he’s rich, his taste in literature is the embodiment of toxic masculinity, he’s already got a post-grad job lined up in Boston’s Financial District (with a cushy loft that’s paid for, of course), and he’s a walking reminder of the steamy night they spent together four years ago, during their very first week of college. A night that cemented her disdain toward him forever—not that she plans on telling him why.
When a night of drinking games takes a terrifying turn, Ben and Beatriz are forced to put aside their dislike for each other to save someone’s life. What follows–over the course of several months–is an unraveling, as both of them learn how wrong they’ve been about the other, and a rebuilding of something new and surprisingly tender. But does a country so bitterly divided have space for this kind of love story?
“What makes you think the subway is a good place to flip through nudes?”
I look up to see Beatriz staring down at my phone. I start to say, “What the hell,” but then she says, “Alexis from the philosophy department, Morgan from Alphi Phi and the girl who’s been Hula-Hooping on the quad. How do you keep track of them all?”
“I have a bulletin board with red string connecting everyone, like on Homeland. Why do you care?”
Beatriz grits her teeth. “Because I heard Alexis crying about how you told her you liked her then never texted her back. And Morgan’s been posting about how her new boyfriend actually wants to be her boyfriend. And right around the time you stopped publicly making out with her every goddamn day, Hula-Hoop Girl started an Instagram page on why final clubs should be abolished.”
I blink. “You sure you don’t have a bulletin board charting all my hookups? And aren’t you snowflakes above slut-shaming?”
“I don’t care how many people you sleep with, I care that you ghost them the second you’ve come. Keeping track of guys who treat women like they’re disposable isn’t hard. Especially when you have a sparkling reputation as Harvard’s hottest misogynist.”
Beatriz Herrera is the bane of my existence. She’s got this way of looking at you that feels like she’s about to cancel you for sneezing too loud, and she is so fucking hot that I wish I didn’t care.
She’s sitting next to me on the subway, her cousin Hero on her other side, while I’m next to Claudio—the whole reason I’m stuck next to Beatriz in the first place.
Claudio’s been my roommate since freshman year. A streak he didn’t want to break even though we’re seniors and could totally have gotten singles.
“How many people are still bros with their first-year roommate?” He’d said when we got our housing forms last year. “That’s fucking fate, man.”
“Cool,” I said, not letting on how psyched I was. We’re in different majors, and I was worried we’d stop being friends if we didn’t live together. Claudio’s the only dude I talk to about shit I usually pretend not to feel—and I hate how much I need that.
But this year, Claudio wanted to bring Hero home with us for spring break since he finally made her his girlfriend after years of pining. But Hero wanted Beatriz along in case Claudio and I turn out to be serial rapists or something.
To be honest, I wasn’t really listening because Claudio ran all this by me last night just as a girl I recently ghosted strode toward us across the dining hall. So I mumbled, “Sure,” then bolted. By the time I understood what I’d gotten myself into, we were rolling our suitcases to the Harvard Square T stop and it was too late.
“Are you intending to use the colloquial interpretation of misogyny—meaning ‘lack of respect for women’—or the real definition, meaning ‘hatred of women’? Because hate is not the word I’d use to describe how I feel about what women have to offer.” I raise an eyebrow at Beatriz, but she turns away and takes out her phone.
But I spot an opening. “So you think I’m hot, huh?”
“Your head sure is.”
“How long ago did you designate me one of Harvard’s most bang-able?”
She snorts. “The fact that that’s your takeaway makes the misogyny title oh-so well deserved.”
“I’m just saying. In Latin last year, you called me a misogynistic twat, but this time you went with ‘hot.’ You trying to tell me something?”
“Fuck off, capitalist.” She turns away to say something to Hero in Spanish. Hero smiles, tucking her blond hair behind her ears, and mumbles quietly back.
I’ve never met someone as shy as (or with a name as weird as) Hero. Every time she talks to me—which is not often—I feel like I need hearing aids.
Beatriz shoots me a final look of disgust before pulling a book out of her backpack. Only once has Beatriz acted like I don’t repulse her, and that was our first night on campus.
When we had sex.
Beatriz is the last person I thought I’d be attracted to—she’s not skinny, her head’s shaved, she has more attitude than my brother when a waiter takes over three minutes to take his order, and she—well—let’s just say my family wouldn’t approve. And it’s just easier not to get on their bad side.
But I couldn’t not notice Beatriz. She was wearing a shirt that said, “Fuck the Beats, Read Austen,” and was the only girl at the orientation party who wasn’t all over me when they heard who my dad was. I walked over to her and said, “If you’d actually read On the Road, you would find—”
She cut me off saying, “If you quote Jack Kerouac, I swear to god I will dump my beer over your head. At least go for Ginsburg, he was less of a twat.” She walked away and I thought my groin would explode.
Later, we ended up near each other on the dance floor. Alcohol had dulled her rage, and when she looked at me, I could tell I wasn’t the only one who felt something. I put my hands on her hips, and when she brushed her lips against my neck, all I could think about was getting her alone. The next thing I remember was being in my room, her mouth all over me, my body on fire, our lust pushing us together with an intensity I’d never experienced. And haven’t since. Afterward, I vaguely remember cuddling—which I never do—and talking, but who knows what about.
Then I woke up to find Beatriz gone. Which was surprising because usually I have to make up an excuse to get girls to leave.
I saw her a week later, looking at her phone while a bunch of students waited in front of a locked classroom door. I glanced over my shoulder to make sure no one I knew was around and walked up to her.
And Beatriz looked at me with more disgust than I thought eyes were capable of emoting. The few times we’ve crossed paths over the three years since, she’s made it clear that whatever was said between us could only result in bad blood.
And it drives me absolutely insane that I was too drunk to remember what it was.
Excerpted from Ben and Beatriz by Katalina Gamarra. Copyright © 2022 by Katalina Gamarra. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.
Gamarra earned a BA in English from Drew University, where she received accolades for both creative writing and academic prowess, as well as an award in Shakespeare Study. Before becoming an author, she worked in bookselling and literary scouting. She lives in Boston with her husband, cat, and dog.
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