Benny never kissed Beth. There was no illusion of affection between them; just ecstasy granted or denied at the end of a tug of wills. She had learned that orgasms earned were better than the ones simply given away. At first, she thought he was just trying to rebuild his own ego after she had cleaned out his wallet with speed chess, but the proof was incontrovertible.
There were two ground rules to their nightly game. The first was that her eyes had to stay shut. He said it would make it better for her, but Beth wondered if he simply didn’t want her to see what this did to him. When she asked him why he didn’t just throw in a blindfold, he told her that the fun is in the challenge.
The second was she had to pick a safe word. She had laughed when he told her that but he was very serious about it. Doubting that this man would do anything too drastic and wanting to prove to herself that she wasn’t a fragile little girl, she picked ‘resign’. It was a word she detested to speak aloud and his eyes had narrowed at her choice, but he didn’t fight her on it.
He would rile her up and then make her plead for more. His control over himself was disconcerting. She thought if she held out long enough, he would slip but as he had warned her, he could bring her to the brink and suddenly withdraw. The first time she had clung on to her iron will and refused to yield all night. It was as if her body was an orchestra and he was the conductor, except the sole movement he was interested in pursuing was an endless crescendo.
When the sun came up, they called it quits and he left her in the bed unsatisfied to go take a shower. She assumed he jerked off in there, considering how downright perky he seemed at breakfast that morning. She was strung out, sweaty and sore despite the lack of fruits from her labors. She hadn’t given in but somehow she felt like she was the one who had lost their game.
After she caved on the second night, Beth blamed it on the sleep deprivation. As their game continued however, she realized the only way to win was to lose first. Failure was a sensitive topic for her; it was a rare occurrence but one she dreaded nonetheless. As Borgov had stated in the elevator, without her ability to win, what kind of life would she have? She’d be destitute and she never wanted to be at the mercy of Christian charity again.
Thankfully this scenario didn’t make her feel helpless, pushing wood to certain doom. Here she found release, learning more about herself and her body along the way.
Tonight as she laid on his mattress in just her bra and panties, she still felt like the Beth Harmon who walked into tournaments and crushed the egos of men with her perfectly manicured hands and cunning mind. Her armor wasn’t physical like Benny’s knife and attire. Her defenses were her nerves of steel and flawless composure in the face of pressure. Well nearly flawless, two men aside.
She heard the glass door softly thud closed and her heartbeat picked up. She forced herself to draw slow, deep breaths. There was no point to tensing up, Benny liked to take his time. While the anticipation was agonizing, it also made the eventual contact feel euphoric.
A part of her has been waiting to feel the press of hard wood against her soft skin, but perhaps he would never commit such blasphemy. Chess was the temple at which they both worshipped, the one religion worth blindly believing in.
Then again, the heights of passion he drove her to fulfilled the promise of lifting her up that ‘faith and prayer’ had failed at. Beth doubted Mrs. Deardorff would appreciate the assertion that extramarital sex was an alterative to attending Church.
She detected the scent of smoke in the air. She hadn’t heard the considerable clink of his Zippo lighter so Benny must have lit up one of his Marlboro cigarettes in the living room. She pictured his O-shaped smoke rings vividly in her mind and wondered if she would be able to feel them if he blew them her way.
Her mind always returned to chess though. She pictured him blowing pawns out of those thin, pink lips that had a habit of staying slightly open always. Instead of floating to the ceiling, they would descend onto the board formed by her body.
She felt his long fingers, the ones that elegantly danced across the board even in blitz, grasp her jaw in a firm grip. Her mouth fell open and she sensed his body heat near her. Her brows furrowed slightly, was he going to finally kiss her?
Instead she swallowed a warm exhale of cloyingly sweet nicotine and realized he was sharing his cigarette with her. Beth had never really enjoyed second hand smoke before, but now it made her tingle all the way to her toes.
She fidgeted a little, needing some contact, but all she had was the smooth sheet beneath her. While it was cool to touch, it did nothing in terms of providing friction. The mattress dipped where he sat next to her.
Benny had moved down her body and she felt the caress his smoky breath on her chest, her stomach and finally her still clothed crotch. It warmed her and the nicotine soaking into her skin made her even more restless.
Her usual method of self-distraction, playing on the ceiling, was unavailable with her eyes closed. She began to tap the fingers of her right hand with her thumb, keeping count of the seconds.
By the time Benny had smoked the cigarette down to the filter the way he always did, saying anything less was a waste, Beth was starting to sweat.
A bead on her forehead traced its path sideways to her temple before disappearing into her matted hair.
“Is there something you’d like to ask for?” he murmured, voice low and heady.
Benny could get Beth to say anything in bed. It was almost ventriloquism the way he could coax those words out of her lips. He would build up the desire inside her like a fever until she was burning for release and willing to relinquish her poise and rationality for baser instincts. Already her clit pulsed with need.
“Touch me,” she whispered, chest rising a little off the mattress.
“Where exactly do you want me to touch you?” he pressed, even though he probably read her body language well enough to know.
She felt her face flush. She wanted to blindly grab for his hand and lead him there because saying it aloud, asking without the guarantee of receiving, was an act of vulnerability. It meant exposing a crack in her armor and trusting him not to stab her through it.
“Grab my tits,” she elaborated, eyes clenched shut against what it had cost her to answer. The warm, flat of his palm pressed across her right breast over her bra and his fingers curled in a gentle squeeze. Technically he had done as requested, but it wasn’t enough and the bastard knew it.
“Harder,” she clarified, fists clenched in frustration. He twisted his grip to knead her breast firmly, finally throwing a bone for the growing hunger in her to gnaw at. She wanted so much more though. As much as she liked his hands on her, his mouth was even better.
“Bite my nipple,” she grew bolder, falling into a familiar momentum. But Benny never allowed her to become comfortable, he always pushed and pulled until she became unfurled.
“No,” he dismissed. “Play with it yourself.”
As if she couldn’t do that by herself on the air mattress, but there was no use in pointing that out unless she planned to relocate there now. Bluffs didn’t work on Benny in her experience. She reached out towards her left breast with her right hand but found his forearm in the way so she switched to her left hand.
Beth tried to twist her tip but it was hard to maintain motor control over her less favored limb when she was hot and sweaty. She slipped her fingers beneath the bra cup so she could use her sticky skin to her advantage. She rolled the hardened pebbles with just the slightest hint of nails and she hissed at the mix of pain and pleasure.
“Someone’s getting ahead of herself,” he warned, lightly pulling on her wrist until she withdrew her hand.
Beth didn’t want to wait. She had too much clothing on for the sweltering sensation raging within her. She needed more direct contact. “Take off my bra.”
“Ask nicely,” he chided, removing the hand he had on her breast.
That was the long awaited cue. He was willing to provide relief if she was desperate enough to beg for it. She could probably stand to stretch out the middlegame, it was her specialty on the board, but here she preferred the endgame.
“Please,” she murmured, swallowing the lump in her throat that tasted bitter like defeat.
“Atta girl,” he murmured, slipping his forearm under her to unhook the bra strap with an easy pinch and release motion. The veins in his arm pressed against her back and it made her rub her legs together. He began to pull her bra off and she lifted her arms to assist but he left it hanging around her wrists and pinned them to the mattress above her head with one hand.
“Stay,” he instructed before he released his grasp.
His breath was on her chest once more, but this time there was no barrier. She licked her lips in anticipation. He licked the valley between her breasts; the cooling saliva was a welcome respite to her heated skin. He didn’t go further, waiting for her solicitation, but Beth was past the point of being self-conscious.
“Put your mouth on my tits?” she prompted, her voice filled with hope.
Finally his lips closed one of her tips, sucking and flicking with his tongue. He switched to the other and tugged it with his teeth softly. She let out a screech, arching her back towards his mouth.
“Just like that,” she moaned, wary that he would withdraw without her encouragement.
He continued to lay siege to her chest with his mouth, sucking and biting, as his hands stoked her ribs, her stomach and her neck. Her toes curled and her hands clenched the sheet as she tried to hold herself still to no avail, chanting a string of meaningless exclamations.
Suddenly she cried out as a powerful orgasm washed over her, her body clenching up as waves of pleasure wrecked her. A moment later, all the tension slowly seeped out of her. Benny laid his head on her stomach and the weight was a comforting anchor without which she may have drifted off into sleep.
“I uh,” she stammered over her shuddering breathing. “I didn’t know it could happen like that. You didn’t even touch me down there.”
“Hmm,” he mumbled into her belly button. “There are other ways too.”
“Like what?” she questioned curiously.
He lifted his head off her and was quiet for a moment. Beth was ready to open her eyes and end their game for the night.
“I could spank you,” he informed her, voice wicked in the best of ways.
The heat pooled in her stomach again. She was both embarrassed and fascinated by the idea.
The fever was a river of lust that ebbed and flowed, but in the end it led surely to the sea of satisfaction. Benny would be her ferryman as long as she paid his toll. Perhaps this was a game she could grow accustomed to losing.
She settled in for another round. “Maybe you should.”