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Chapter Two: Ben
Chapter Two: Ben
Ben sat down on the unmade bed, alone. Gwen had left a few minutes ago, but he could still smell the soft vanilla of her body on his sheets. With one hand, he smoothed the rumpled pillowcase she’d used. He missed her already.
He groaned. What’s wrong with me? Sure, Gwen was a great person, and he’d been attracted to her from the first day Janice had introduced them, but her close association with that woman made him wary. Female ‘friends’ had never lasted long in their little group. His cousin, Melissa, was an exception, but she was just a carbon copy of Janice, a wannabe dominant with enough bite that none of the guys bothered to see anything beyond her dangerously sharp wit.
Gwen, on the other hand, had known Janice before college. They had been best friends in high school. If Melissa could be turned to the dark side--shy coed to devious, callous manipulator--in four years after meeting Janice her freshman year in college, what was Gwen really like? He’d never seen aggression from her, except for the occasional board game battle, so did that mean Janice just protected her, a platonic dominance? Or was she hiding her bitchiness?
He sighed and rubbed his temples. It would be easier if he let himself believe she was just another of Janice’s puppets. Then the little spark he’d felt last night would mean nothing, because there wasn’t a chance it would be reciprocated.
Ben smiled, shaking his head. He leaned back and fell across the mattress. Last night had been interesting. But he would never have known Gwen knew about the scene, if Janice hadn’t brought it up at their last game night.
The doorbell rang, and Ben had excused himself from the other guys’ living room theatrics. He peered through the peephole. The ladies had arrived. He grinned as Janice, in her impatience, rang the bell again.
Ben considered leaving them outside just a little longer. Now, if he could somehow manage to let the other two women in and leave Janice out there by herself, it would make his night. Not a viable possibility, he knew, but damn, it was a nice fantasy.
Opening the door, he looked at them, and in his best Lurch impersonation, he said, “You rang?”
Janice rolled her eyes. “Let us in already, Ben. It’s cold as hell out here!” She pushed on the door, and he gave her an exaggerated bow as she entered. Well-coifed and fashionably dressed, the blonde walked into the house.
She patted him on the head. “Always a pleasure to serve, Ben?”
He ignored her baiting and turned his attention to the petite brunette following on Janice’s heel. “Melissa, always a pleasure,” he said, giving his cousin a bear hug.
“You realize it’s the middle of winter in Maryland?” she whined when he let her go. She walked to the coat rack behind him.
“Mini me,” he said through a fake smile. She frowned, confused for the second it took her to process what he’d said. A deep blush rose on her cheeks, but he ignored her before she could protest and closed the door behind the third woman.
She smiled, a soft, shy curve of her mouth. He wondered what she would do if he traced her lips with the tip of his tongue. He killed the thought as soon as he had it. She wasn’t Mel or Janice. Ah, wishful thinking.
“Hi, Ben, thanks for inviting me to your house.”
She was so unlike the other two -- polite, shy, reserved--that he felt the need to be different around her. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but she made him feel like he was in high school again and she was the popular cheerleader he wanted to ask to the prom.
Gwen peeled off her parka to reveal an earthy brown blouse with wide cuffs and a low-cut neckline. The color was flattering, bringing out the soft brown of her eyes, the paler strands in her long, dark brown hair. She was a hippie goddess, naturally beautiful, compared to the overdone women she’d arrived with. He smiled as he took her coat.
“Thanks for coming,” he said. “The guys are in there.” He motioned to the entryway at the end of the foyer.
After hanging up their coats, he followed them into the living room. “So what’re we going to play tonight, boy and girls?” he asked. “I think I own most of the board games known to man,” he gestured to the pile on the sideboard in the adjacent dining room,”so, it’s pretty much anything goes."
“Really? Can we play in the basement then?” Rob whispered as he walked toward the sideboard.
Ben smacked him in the arm and nodded towards Gwen. “Watch your mouth.”
Rob rolled his eyes. “I don’t think she’s as innocent as someone would like you to believe.” Before he could reply, his best friend wrapped an arm around Gwen’s shoulders and led her into the other room.
They started with Trivial Pursuit. Ben sat at the head of the table with Gavin, Melissa and Paul to his left and Janice and Gwen to his right. Rob squeezed in between the two women with a wink at Ben.
Halfway through a game of Trivial Pursuit, Gwen’s cell phone went off. “Excuse me,” she said as she got up from the table. Ben watched her disappear into the foyer. She didn’t sound happy, arguing with the caller.
“If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, she’s too good for you,” Janice said, sliding dice into his hand.
Ben blinked. “What?”
Janice shook her head and smiled. “Roll the dice, sweetie. Maybe you’ll get lucky.”
He frowned. “You’re a bitch, Janice.” She smirked, but any response was cut off when Gwen came back into the room. She walked over and whispered something in the blonde’s ear.
“I’m sorry, everyone, but I need to go. Family in town a day early.” Gwen gave a small, strained smile. Janice pulled her back down, whispered, and then kissed her on the cheek.
Goodbyes were exchanged, and Ben walked Gwen to the door to show her out.
“You have a very nice home,” she said, as he helped her into the coat.
“Tha-" Ben’s reply was cut off as she stood up on her tiptoes and planted a soft kiss on his cheek. He looked at her, confused, but she blushed and wiped his cheek with her fingers.
“Lipstick,” she whispered before dropping her eyes. “Thanks again for inviting me.”
“Yeah,” he said, his voice soft and breathy. He opened the door, and she walked out. Still contemplating the kiss, Ben made his way back into the dining room.
A curious look passed over Janice’s face as he entered, and he decided to keep the kiss to himself. She stood up, a question on her lips, but he moved around the table.
The others were too busy packing up Trivial Pursuit to notice the exchange.
“What’re we playing now?” he asked, retaking his place at the head of the table.
“Monopoly.” Gavin pushed up his wire-rimmed glasses and handed him a wad of the pastel money.
As he reached across the table, Rob came into the room with Ben’s college roommate, Thomas, each man carrying four open beers. “Move your ass, woman.” He nudged Janice with one hip. “Ladies and gents, refreshments.” He set the four bottles on the table before passing them out to Ben, Melissa, and Gavin.
“Hey, sweet cheeks.” Thomas winked and slid a beer to Paul, another of their bar-hopping, college buddies. He lifted another one to his lips, taking a deep drink. “This one’s for you,” he said as he offered it to Janice.
She grabbed a different one. “No, thanks. You probably spit in it, asshole.”
“How else do you think I’m ever going to swap bodily fluids with you, your Highness?”
Janice rolled her eyes. Ben laughed with the rest of them. It always amazed him how quickly the group changed when Gwen wasn’t around.
Before she’d first been introduced to them a couple of months earlier, her arrival had been prefaced by a little lecture from Janice.
“She’s not like us,” she’d said. “No play, no raunchy sex talk!”
“Where’s the fun in that?” Rob had asked.
She’d just glared at him. “She’s my best friend, shithead, and she’s new to the area. If I could pick out normal people for her to hang out with, I would, but we’ll just have to do. Just don’t scare her, okay?”
In the beginning, it had been a little tough, but Ben admitted she added something to the group, even if, for most of them, it was only the fun of seeing how close to the edge of indecency they could coast without her noticing. Eventually, even Rob didn’t mind the ‘clean’ nights.
“Are we playing tonight?” Melissa asked as she looked up from her carefully arranged stacks of money.” Or are we just going to act like stupid teenagers?”
Paul’s hand shot up in the air.” We get to vote?”
Ben threw a balled-up napkin at him.” Dude, you are a teenager trapped in a thirty-year-old’s body.”
“I’m the shoe,” Melissa said, ignoring the men, and she placed the shiny piece into the starting corner.
An hour and two cases of Heineken later, all the property had been bought up, and hotels were popping up everywhere. Ben leaned back in his chair, his money spent and his piece removed due to his bankrupted state, and watched as Rob’s wheelbarrow made its way around the jail. “Just visitin’, man,” he said, nodding his mover towards Thomas’s top hat and landed on St. James Place.
“You owe me $950, sir,” Janice smirked, reading the property card, “for your one night stay at my hotel.”
“Best little whorehouse in Monopoly-land,” Thomas chuckled.
“Hey, does that mean I can get spanked by my own personal hottie?” Rob asked as he counted out the money.
Ben laughed. “Sure, if you feel like crying again, momma’s boy.”
Rob gave the money to Janice. “Dude, don’t even start that shit again. At least I don’t have to tie down my dates to get them to stay.”
“I’m not the one who brings women home drunk and says, ‘Wanna try something freaky tonight?’” Ben turned his attention to the others. “Then my brilliant roommate shows them my dungeon, and he wonders why they run screaming.”
The room filled with howling laughter. Everyone present knew about Ben’s dungeon. Most of them were into the scene, and he’d offered tours of the ever-evolving playroom on other nights Gwen hadn’t shown up. He imagined her disgust, the revulsion she would feel at this hidden part of their lives, and he found he wanted her to accept it. He didn’t want her to be like Janice, but the thought that she might be vanilla -- conventional -- saddened him.
“What the hell were you thinking? You don’t bring just anyone into a dungeon!” Melissa squealed, her protest melting into shrill giggles.
“You’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?” Janice purred. “Has anyone ever spanked that tight little ass of yours, Mel?”
Ben frowned. They’d all had too much to drink, and while it made the others jovial, Janice tended towards a biting lack of tact. He usually let Mel defend herself against the bitch, but Ben didn’t want a catfight tonight.
Melissa didn’t play. She was a sensory voyeur to the scene. She liked to hear about it, even add her own bullshit, but when it came down to actual play, she always backed out.
Janice considered it cowardice, but Mel didn’t care. Usually. He needed to nip this in the bud, or it was going to get ugly quick.
“Someone’s spanked Mel? You mean, other than you?” Thomas hiccupped with a raise of his almost-empty beer bottle.” Come on, haven’t you spanked everyone in the state at some point or another since college?”
Janice flushed and opened her mouth to speak, but Thomas looked past her to Mel.
“Let me spank you, hon. I’ll be real nice and gentle. We can use my ‘flogger’.” He smiled, a drunk, goofy grin as he leaned his chair back to give her a clear view of him manhandling his crotch. The chair tipped and spilled Thomas and his beer all over the floor.
“Alcohol abuse!” Paul, Rob, and Gavin yelled in unison. Thomas’s hand shot up, his now emptier beer bottle held high as foam ran down his forearm.
“Thomas, you couldn’t dom if you life depended on it,” Ben said as his friends helped the poor guy up. “If someone handed you a paddle, you’d start beatin’ yourself off.”
“Dude,” Rob groaned, his hand moving to his crotch. “That’s just wrong. Smack ass all you want, but no hitting Lil Rob!”
“’Lil Rob’? That’s original,” Melissa scoffed, and Ben smiled when she shot Thomas a grateful look. He wondered if she ever regretted introducing Janice to their little group.
“Hey, I’m a good sub,” he pouted, using his bottle to accentuate his point. “But I’m not as good as Paul.” He pointed at the younger guy. “Now, I know you're into the freakier shit, like candle wax and dildos sprouting horse hair."
Paul shrugged it off. “I know what I like.”
“You know who makes a great sub?” Thomas said as he walked into the kitchen. “Anyone else want another one?” He peeked his head around the side of the fridge.
Ben raised his hand along with Mel and Rob. Thomas’s head disappeared, and when he came back into the dining room with more beer, he said, “Jen Taylor.”
Gavin groaned. “She’s a bad sub. Never says no to anything.”
“I thought that’s what all you doms wanted.” Janice tossed her empty bottle at Ben. He caught it and her venomous glare.
He dropped the discarded bottle into the recycling bin beside his chair. “Yeah, Janice, and all hetero dommes want to breastfeed men who look cute in diapers.”
“Hey, don’t knock adult babies,” Rob protested, flicking the small metal lid off his beer at Ben. “Nothing more snuggly than a good Huggies.”
Thomas howled, almost falling back on the floor. “Have you seen your ass? You need Depends!
“No, no,” He waved his hands in the air. “Back to the subject at hand.” He cleared his throat. “A good sub is a woman, or a man,” he gestured at Paul and Rob with his beer bottle, “who can take a shitload of abuse, heal fast, and come back for more.”
“You’re a bigger asshole than I thought,” said Gavin. “Anyone can take a shitload of pain, but it doesn’t mean they’re having fun. What’s the point of a little BDSM if you are just whaling on someone’s ass?
“No,” he continued, “a good sub is someone who understands their own boundaries, isn’t afraid to use their safe word, and while willing to test those same boundaries, won’t let some smooth-talking dom convince them to just ‘trust me’.” Gavin made the quoting gesture in the air. “There’s more to being a dom than that, not that you fuckin’ switches would understand that.”
Thomas flipped him off with both hands. “What’s being a switch have to do with anything? I can top just as well as you guys.”
Rob snorted.” No, you can’t.”
“Yeah, I can.”
Rob put two hands on the table and leaned towards Thomas. “No. You can’t. I wouldn’t trust you anywhere near me if I was tied down.” He shook his head when Thomas opened his mouth. “There’s only one person in this room I’d trust to top me. One. And it isn’t you.”
“I didn’t know subs could be so smart,” Janice quipped. She licked her lips in obvious pleasure. “And to think all this time I thought you were just another pretty face.”
Rob frowned, but Ben answered. “It’s not you either, Janice.” A genuine look of surprise crossed her features, and Ben didn’t even bother hiding his grin.
“What?” Rob moved closer to her. “We all know you go through subs faster than socks. You play until you get bored, which is usually, what, two sessions? Then you drop them and move on. You don’t give a shit if they are a good sub or not. As long as you can order them around, spank a little cock, and get laid, you’re a happy domme.”
Ben leaned forward, eyes intent on Janice. “You wouldn’t know a good sub if he bit you on the ass.”
The room went silent. Gavin started putting the game away, and the rest watched the three of them with interest.
“And what, Ben,” she seethed, tapping her bottle on the table, “do you consider a good sub?”
“Something along the lines of what Gavin said. There’s a big trust issue in a good sub/dom relationship, something that requires time and energy. You have to know what they want, how they want it. You need to be aware of the extent of their fears and the fantasies that can make them fly.
“A good dom also knows that their sub will use their safe words without fear of disappointment. But all this takes time to cultivate, and you don’t know the first thing about building a non-scene relationship, much less one in scene.”
She leaned back in her chair and pushed the bottle across the table. “You don’t know shit about me and the way I dom, Ben.”
He raised a brow. Their relationship was common knowledge in the group. It was a bold-faced lie, and she knew it. But she cut him off before he could argue.
“I can train a sub better than any of you,” she smirked.
Thomas cleared his throat.” You’re full of shit, Janice.”
“Am I?” She didn’t take her eyes off Ben.
“I think you are,” Gavin said as he laid down a pile of play money. “Name one person you’ve been with long enough to teach them anything about play.”
Ben’s eyes widened. “You said she didn’t play.”
“No, what I said was she wasn’t like us, like you. She plays. She plays well. And she plays for me.”
Ben sat back in his chair, his thunder stolen by her announcement. A million thoughts ran through his head: confusion at her loophole, anger that she had kept this from them for months, but underneath all of it, relief. If Gwen really played, then he didn’t have to worry about her reaction to that part of his life anymore.
“Prove it,” Rob said from behind her. He sat his beer down on the table and crossed his arms over his chest.
“You doubt me?” she replied, turning around in her chair.
“So, what do you want me to do? Show her off? Do a little dog and pony show? Next week you want to watch as I put her through her paces in Ben’s dungeon?” She took a long look around the room. “Or do you all want to have a turn?”
“If you know so much about our dear, sweet Gwen,” Mel chimed in, her tone dripping with sarcasm, “then what’s her deepest, darkest sub fantasy?”
Janice hesitated, and it planted a seed of doubt in Ben’s head. Was she bluffing? Or was there a chance she had a soul after all and actually cared about the other woman? Had her hesitation been regret about betraying such an intimate secret? Yeah, right. Not Janice. She had to be gaining something out of it.
He glanced around the room. Gavin and Thomas caught his eye. He wasn’t the only one who’d noticed her pause.
“She’s a masochist, enjoys pain,” Janice began slowly, as if she was unraveling facts in her head.
“No shit,” Mel sneered. “Every good sub enjoys a little pain, Janice. Tell us something we don’t know.”
A brief flush rose on Janice’s cheeks. “She wants to be kidnapped. There. You happy now?”
“Oh, hell yeah,” Thomas piped up. “That would be sweet!” Paul and Gavin nodded in agreement, but Rob raised a hand.
“That doesn’t prove that Janice did shit. I want proof.”
Janice shot him an acid look. “What do you propose?”
“A bet,” Paul said without looking up from the fan of property cards in his hands. He folded them into a neat stack and passed them to Gavin. “Look, we know who the top doms are in this group: Ben and Janice. If she’s really ‘trained’ Gwen well, then he should be able to vouch for it with one session with her.”
“But I want to kidnap her!” Thomas moaned from his end of the table.
Paul rolled his eyes. “We will, if her domme can get her consent. Do you think you can manage that, Janice? Without telling her why?”
Janice nodded. “But she’ll recognize me when we grab her.”
“No,” Paul interrupted. “You aren’t going to be anywhere near her or this house that night. You’ll make plans with her, so that we know she’ll be home, but beyond that, you aren’t allowed to interfere. No coaching your sub, Janice.”
She opened her mouth and closed it, frustration bright in her eyes. “What are the parameters of the deal? And what do I win?”
“Ben, you agreeable to this?” Rob asked with a goofy grin.
He laughed. “A chance to play with Gwen and make an ass out of Janice? Hell yeah, I’m in. But I’d like the details laid out first.”
She pouted, but Paul tapped his bottle against the table. “The parameters. In order for Janice to win, Ben has to, after one night with Gwen in his dungeon, admit that she has been well trained. If she exhibits the points he stated earlier, then Janice wins. If she does not, Ben wins.”
“I’m not going to be soft on her,” Ben warned the blonde, “but she’ll have the option to back out early on.”
“Of course,” she said with a smile. “We play by the rules, remember?”
Ben frowned. He remembered all too well how much attention Janice paid to the rules. “And the prizes?”
Janice moved closer. “Afraid you might end up beneath me again?” she purred.
Ben shook his head, and in a low growl, he said, “Nothing could make me sub to you again, Janice.”
“Trophies,” Melissa offered instead.” A collar for the loser, complete with leash for the winner at the next game night after this bet has been decided."
“It’s not fair,” Janice whined. “He gets a night with my sub, and I get a collar?”
Ben bristled. A collar was like a wedding ring in their circles. Using it as a trophy was serious business. That Janice thought she was getting a raw deal, well, this was one of many reasons why they weren’t dating anymore. “If you can’t stick to the rules, you can forfeit the bet right now.”
She mumbled something he couldn’t hear and nodded at Paul. “Fine. A collar then.”
“When do her parents leave?” he asked Janice.
“They’re supposed to fly out on Monday.”
“Then we do this Friday.” Paul shrugged. “All that’s left now is for our competing doms to shake on it. Guys?”
“Don’t think you’ll win this easily,” Janice said as she offered him a hand.
He took her hand in his and gave it one firm shake. “You’ve underestimated me before. Sure you want to do it again?”
Thomas clapped his hands in glee. “A kidnapping!”
“Yes, Thomas,” they said in unison.
All the subsequent planning had happened so fast, he had been unable to express his misgivings about the whole mess. They had cut the meaning of consent a little too thin for his tastes, but Rob and Thomas had assured him that they were still within scene boundaries. He had insisted that Janice be filled in on the specifics of the kidnapping to present to Gwen and that the actual kidnapping itself be taped for the safety and welfare of all parties involved. There had been no objections to his requests.
Janice had won the bet, Ben realized as he lay there. He wasn’t looking forward to the collar next week, having seen the spiked monstrosity Melissa had picked out--never send a non-player shopping in a BDSM store alone--but the night with Gwen was worth a little humiliation.
He couldn’t help but wonder what Janice was getting out of this and just what he had gotten into.