After some measureless interval, I heard a car pull up, and the door open. I braced myself, certain that I'd be greeted by a blow. But I was surprised. "Hi, Boss. At least, I assume that's you." It was Roger -- and I nearly fainted with relief.
Quickly, he unfastened the ropes holding me in place, carried me to the couch, and removed the hood and gag. He didn't waste time asking me if I was okay; the outlines of what had happened were obvious enough. "Where are the keys to your handcuffs and leg chains?" he asked. I told him that I had left the keys on the night table, but that I suspected John had taken them with him. "There's a master set in the linen closet, though; I always keep spares there." Roger disappeared for a moment, but returned empty-handed: "John apparently ransacked the place; there are no keys to be found. Let me run into town and pick up a few tools."
I demurred. "Before you go anywhere, could you please carry me to the bathroom? And I have a well-equipped workshop downstairs; you'll find what you need in there, I think." Roger obliged in the first respect, but before fetching the tools, he carried me back to the couch and covered me with a sheet. "I think you'll be more comfortable this way," he said, without even a leer or flirtatious note. Teasing games were one thing -- I remembered Roger at a company beach party when John had eased my bikini top off -- but he knew that this wasn't the place for any such thing. Of course, I was feeling safe again, which made my bondage seem a bit sexy again; my reaction, at least partially, was that I wouldn't mind the chains just then if only Roger had been the one who had put them there! I didn't let on, though; I just composed myself while Roger got what he needed, and cut through the links. He then dispatched me to the bedroom to shower and dress, while he cooked some food for us.
Over the meal -- breakfast? lunch? -- I told him what had happened, sparing no details. I even explained the "k**nap" game to Roger; he seemed fascinated. When I finished, I asked him to explain how he had shown up to rescue me.
"When I saw John following you away from the office yesterday, I knew there would be trouble. I had biked in to work, so I had no way of following you, and of course I had no idea where you were going except for *the farmhouse*. I tried going to the police, but they weren't interested; everything was too vague and weird- sounding. So I went back to the office and thought for a while."
"It seemed to me that your farmhouse would be 30 minutes to two hours from here. Much closer and you wouldn't get any extra privacy over your regular house; much further and it would be too inconvenient for weekend visits. I kind-of guessed it was a love nest, but I wasn't certain just how you'd feather it." We both blushed.
"I narrowed down the search area a bit by assuming it was in the same general direction as your house; the direction you headed off in was at least consistent with that guess. That still left a lot of towns, though. But it was all I had to go on, so I started dialing Information for each of the towns. No dice."
"No," I said. "The purpose of this place is relaxation and isolation; I deliberately didn't get a phone or even any clocks. As far as possible, this is not the real world."
Roger nodded. "That left the local tax offices, for all those wretched little towns. I knew there was nothing else to be done until morning when they opened, so I called my `assistant' and alerted her." I looked a bit puzzled; Roger replied, "Surely you remember Janice?" I nodded; Roger continued, "Even though we're no longer going out, we're still friends. And Janice hates John with a passion. Their relationship ended much like yours is doing: with John getting violent, though not quite to this ex- tent. He let her go after a week, and she never filed charges -- she said that she had no evidence it wasn't just another game, and he could point to her collection of toys when defending himself. I didn't agree, but it's not the sort of thing you can push a lover into doing, especially after a couple of years."
"Anyway, by morning I had compiled a complete list of numbers for her to call; one of them eventually worked. I couldn't make the calls myself -- I had to give your presentation."
I jumped up. "Roger! How did it go? What did you say about me?"
"No problem -- I said you had a bad stomach virus, but would probably be in tomorrow. And I think things went quite well; they really liked your stuff, even more than mine, I think." He paused. "You always keep the best parts of these bids for your- self," but he was smiling as he said that.
I smiled back at him. "That's my real pay for running the business, and tending to all the paperwork. Anyway, that's neither here nor there. What are we going to do about John?"
Roger turned dead-serious. "I don't know. Would you prosecute?"
"Well, to some extent I have the same problem as Janice: where's the evidence? You rescued me, of course, but all of the paraphernalia here is mine -- and that's a pretty strong defense. We'd need to get more evidence."
Roger paused. "Can we frighten him, maybe even punish him enough to make him stay away?"
"I doubt it -- and in any event I will not be a party to that sort of v******e." Roger seemed to sigh in relief as I continued, "Hmm -- if we did manage to get some more evidence, could we use it for blackmail instead? Neither of us wants our proclivities known." I blushed; I'd been fidgeting with the remains of the handcuff the way I do with bracelets, treating it almost as if it belonged there. Roger noticed, and laughed.
"Whatever do you mean by that?" he asked, as he pulled the two chain remnants close together. "Do you mean you like this?" he asked as he grabbed a discarded twist-tie and fastened the two together again.
"Roger! Stop that this instant! Or I'll have to spank you," I said. But I left my hands together, not pulling them apart, while we continued talking.
"Can you tolerate being bound again, the way you were when I found you?" Roger asked. I hesitated; he continued. "If the chains and hood are on you, but you're laying on the floor, I think I can pull the rope taut when I see his car entering the driveway. There would still be time for me to hide. Here's what we'll do."
Eventually, reluctantly, I agreed. And so it was that after Roger chiseled the remains of the old manacles from me, I brought out some new ones -- sans any keys -- from the toy box. I stalled, looking for every last excuse not to go through with it. Was the kitchen properly cleaned up? Was Roger's car well-hid- den? Finally, there was nothing left to prepare; it was time to do it or flee. I went into my room and undressed, then headed back to the living room. "Are you ready?" Roger asked. I remained mute, no more able to agree than I had been when John bound me to his whipping post. I d****d the gag around my neck -- we decided to try pretending I had managed to spit it out -- and Roger tied the hood. He handed me the handcuffs then and asked me to chain myself. "No, Roger -- you do it." I hugged him; he hugged my naked body, and bent to his task. The locks clicked home. "Roger? Touch me again?" I pleaded. He finished tying my ankles to the floor, and properly threading the ceiling rope. I felt a gentle caress on the side of my breast as I lay on the floor. "Let's talk about that later, when we're equal again," he replied. But he caressed my breast once more, loving- ly and lingeringly, taking the sting out of his words. And though we lay there silently, his arm remained on my shoulder, reassuringly.
I don't know how long I laid there, bound. This time, the chains were Roger's; the scene, though, was John's, and there was still very real danger ahead. And I could do nothing to help; we had no key for me to use to escape and come to Roger's aid if necessary. Eventually, we heard tires kicking up gravel in the drive. "He's here," Roger said, unnecessarily. He helped me to my feet, pulled the rope taut, and vanished without even a kiss. Help- less, I waited for John.
A few minutes later, John came in. "Waiting where I left you, I see. Polite of you," he sneered. I heard the sound of a heavy object hitting floor, and the clank of some metal. John chuck- led. "Remember what I said I'd do tonight? Here are my branding tools, all nice and clean. I ordered them weeks ago, waiting for this moment." Now that was an interesting revelation; my revenge for his apparent thoughtlessness had nothing to do with the situation. It struck me as quite likely that if I hadn't escaped from the motel, all this might have happened last night.
As if he were reading my mind, John said, "Yup -- last night was to be the lead-in, if you hadn't dawdled. You thought you were playing bondage games with me, but it was never really a game to either of us, was it?" With that, he slapped my buttocks, hard. "Of course, I could never have afforded a place like this before today anyway; it was thoughtful of you to provide it for me. I hope you like it a lot; I don't think you're ever going to leave. While you're here, you life will be like this."
With that, he started to hit me, hard. I stifled a scream; I was supposed to be gagged. Roger stayed hidden; he was going to come out on my signal only. For now, we had to elicit as many incriminating comments as possible from John, which meant that I had to take as many blows as I could stand. And I had to judge the psychological moment just right; expelling the gag with a scream after a blow seemed more plausible if I were silent despite having been ungagged for some time.
Why not put the gag back in? Well, apart from the dangers I described earlier, I need to be free to give our release word. And we were certain that the hood was going to come off before the attempted branding; John would certainly want to tease me with the sight of the hot iron. If we were wrong about that, I was going to suffer a lot of pain before I got out of this. Worse yet, John might consider the hot iron a weapon to use against Roger; in a fight like that, anything could happen.
I was bracing myself to scream when John stopped the beating. "Time for a different game," he said. He untied the ropes holding me in place, and pushed me to the floor. My arms and legs were still chained; he further secured my by tying my handcuffs to my waist. Finally, he tied another rope to my leg chains and dragged me, feet first, towards the barn.
My sense of panic, which had vanished when I heard Roger's voice, returned in full measure. Could Roger follow us and not be noticed? Did Roger even know where we were going? Was there a place for him to hide in the barn? I didn't know, and it worried me.
If I'd known what Roger was up to, I'd have been even more worried. He hadn't even been in the house during the whipping! Rather, he'd been out searching John's car, an action that was ultimately to prove very helpful, but almost got him caught at the time.
When we reached the gravel drive, I couldn't hold in my screams any longer. I was being dragged face down, and the rocks raking across my breasts were too much to bear. John dropped me, swore, and came over to investigate. "Maybe I should have dragged you by the hair; the gag seems to have been pulled off." Sure enough, the hood was shredded, so his explanation was quite plausible. "No matter, I'm the only one who can hear you scream, and I quite enjoy it." He laughed again, and twisted my breasts. "But I think I'll let you recover a bit while I prepare the next set of toys." With that, he picked me up in a fireman's carry and went into the barn.
It would have been out of character not to plead, so I did. "John, stop this; you know I'll play any sort of game you want, do anything you want."
"Of course you will, dear; did you think I'd give you the opportunity to refuse. Now shut up; if you say another word I'll gag you again." I was silent; another gag could have been deadly. John continued, "But I do think I'll put the hood back on for now; wondering what I'm going to do next will be half your pleasure."
When we got into the barn, John tied a rope to my ankle cuffs, and hoisted me into the air up-side-down. "Next time, instead of leaving your hands tied to your waist like that, I'll just attach them to a heavy weight, and bounce it down on occasion; this time, though, this pose is just to hold you for a while." I moaned, and had no need to fake it.
What followed next was a bit odd -- some hammering, drilling, sounds of something -- a ladder, I learned later -- being dragged around, plus more than a few curses -- John wasn't the handiest guy around. Finally, he was done. He informed me of this by unceremoniously cutting through the rope; if I had been much higher off the ground, I could easily have broken my neck when I fell. He then unlocked my leg chains, and fastened a strap around each ankle. Some footsteps, and the clicking of a ratchet. Slowly, my legs were pulled further and further apart. Slowly, they were raised into the air. I started to scream, but John didn't say anything until I was again suspended, this time with my legs pulled uncomfortably far apart. He pulled off the hood and looked at me.
"I'm going to spread you a bit more, then leave you like this. Then I'm going to brand the inside of your thighs while you can't move an inch to stop me. Then I'll drop you to the ground, rearrange the pulleys to spread you like you've never been spread before, and take you till you scream." True to his word, he tightened the ratchet a bit more, and vanished.
For some reason, I felt the urge to look around and understand what he had done. A rope from each ankle went through a pulley wheel mounted high off the ground, at either end of the barn. One rope was simply tied, at ground level; the other went to a winch, also near the ground. By turning it, he dragged my ankles apart, and raised me into the air. Obviously, by simply removing the pulley wheels, he could stretch me on the floor, in a more convenient position for ****.
Suddenly, I heard Roger's voice. "I think we've got him. If you can, try the release word before he lights the torch!" But where was Roger hiding? The whole inside of the barn was open; there weren't even any stalls left.
I didn't get a chance to ask him; John came back in. "I found something else I want to try before branding you; it should be even more fun." It was a round file, a very coarse one, that he had found in the workshop. He rubbed it, hard, on the inside of my thighs. It would have hurt enough under any circumstances; with my legs stretched that tight, it was sheer agony. I screamed, then used our release word. I'd only done that once before with John, and that time it was a test, though he never knew that -- it's always wise to learn if your partner really will stop when things get too rough.
"Release you?" John asked? "Are you joking? That was when we were playing your games. This is my game, and I'm the one who decides when to let go. Come now -- are you ready for your brand? Or shall I use this a bit more?" He pointed the file downward, as if ready to insert it. "No, no!" I screamed. "Beg to be branded," he replied, touching me with the tip of the file. "I beg you, I beg you!" I screamed, all but forgetting that rescue was at hand. But I had to get him away from me, lest he use me as a hostage.
I needn't have worried. As John stepped towards the propane torch he'd brought, I yelled, "Roger!" John looked up, and an amazing thing happened: Roger jumped him from above; he'd been in the hayloft!
It wasn't really a fight; John was stunned by the impact. Roger pushed him, roughly, towards the winch, slammed John into the wall to immobilize him, and released me. He caught the crank so he could lower me slowly to the floor. The keys had fallen from John's pocket during all this; ignoring him for the moment, Roger picked them up, walked over to me, and unlocked me.
John slowly rose to his feet. "I'm not done with you yet, bitch. And don't try calling the cops; with this setup, I'll have no trouble convincing any judge this wasn't just a game. And you can't even afford to have this public; your precious business would fall apart."
I was going to reply, and dare him to expose me. He didn't really understand the situation. I, and my competitors, are fundamentally artists. So are the client representatives we deal with. And in the art world, people pride themselves on ignoring odd personal lives; such things are irrelevant. What I did was quite tame by comparison to some of them.
I didn't get a chance to answer, though; Roger spoke first. "Of course, you can't afford the exposure, either. What's more, there will be no trouble with the jury; I have the whole thing on tape, even the part about you rejecting the release word." John started looking concerned. "But there's more. While you were busy, I had a look in your car." At that, John started looking very alarmed. Roger continued, "I'm sure the D.A. would love to send that funny white powder to a lab. But that's not all. That stuff was packaged for sale, not home use. And there was a lot of cash in the trunk as well, which suggests that you didn't purchase the stuff. Tell me -- what would the kind of folks you ripped off do if they learned your name and address? Wait -- don't leave yet. I'm not going to do anything with that tape now. Nor have I removed anything from your car. But I did use your very own car phone to tell some friends what's going on. I suggest that you leave, immediately. And if you ever come near her or me again -- well, that tape will be page 1 news, and a letter about the d**g rip-off will be mailed to a certain address."
John didn't stay to hear any more; he fled. All I wanted to do was lay down and have a good screaming fit, but Roger dissuaded me. With some justice, he pointed out that I should not stay at a known address until he had distributed copies of the tape and I had installed suitable alarm systems. We walked back to the house, arm in arm. Roger cleaned me up and bandaged me; then we headed for a randomly-chosen hotel to spend the night. Obviously, all we did was cuddle.
Roger was a bit distant in the morning, when I was a bit in the mood for more. "Right now, you're feeling very grateful to me. Don't mistake that for infatuation. And remember, we still work together, even if you do make me a partner to handle half of this contract." How had he guessed my thoughts! "Relax for a while, date others, and recover from all this. In a few months, you can make a decision about us."
His logic was, of course, impeccable. And I did start dating others, though I remained celibate; I wasn't ready for anything deep. Work kept me busy; we did get that contract, and I did promote Roger. And we never heard a word from John; when we checked with his neighbours, we learned that he had never re- turned that day. I never did learn if he fled or if the mob got him without our help.
Finally, I hit it off with someone. We retired to his place that evening; he even had a reasonable set of toys of his own. And it felt good -- when you chain yourself up, as I had been doing, there isn't that sense of abandoning control that you get when someone else does it. Most important, though, it clarified my feelings about Roger.
I waited until the next time both of us had to work late, well after everyone else had gone. I walked up behind him as he sat at his desk, put my arms around his neck, and rested my head on his shoulders. "You've been k**napped," I said in a dreamy voice, closing my eyes. He grasped my hands, and I felt something hard. "No, it's you who's been k**napped," he said, as he snapped a pair of handcuffs shut.
We drifted back to the couch in my office. Before this, I'd often spent the night there when I'd been working late, but never nude, never bound, and never with Roger chained beside me.