9 – Survey Says…

The heavy dark curtains made waking up a bit disorienting, since it was impossible to judge time. Kate made a mental note to do some research on the effects of being nocturnal and of frequent low light levels on human physiology, and stretched. For the second morning in a row, she found herself waking deeply content, and this time, it was coloured by a warm wonderful sense of connection and closeness.

Damon stirred, rolled over to face her​—​they’d both moved in their sleep, but stayed in contact somehow. Sleepily, he yawned, then smiled at her, reaching up to touch her cheek. Whatever he said, through another yawn, was in Ashdryn.

“Good morning, or whatever,” Kate said, guessing meaning from tone and context.

“Sorry, sunshine, not quite awake.” He gave her an apologetic kiss. “Sleep well?”

“Very well.”

“Good.” He grinned at her mischievously. “’Cause I have evil plans for you for today, and it would be no fun if you were tired. Breakfast first, though.” He stretched like a cat and rolled to the edge of the bed to sit up.

“Evil plans?” Kate echoed, wriggling out from under the blanket and crossing the bed on hands and knees to sit beside him. “Just what kind of evil plans, hm?”

“Kinky ones, of course, so I wouldn’t put too much effort into getting dressed.” He scooped up the soft black pants and tied them back in place; Kate retrieved the computer T-shirt she’d worn the previous morning.

Breakfast was simple, cereal with vanilla soy milk​—​tenebrans tended to tolerate lactose poorly, and Kate had spent enough of her life in places where adults didn’t drink milk that she didn’t miss it. Kate wrapped her shawl as a skirt, and Damon found his sunglasses, and they sat on the balcony to eat. There was still so much to share, a powerful longing to give everything that she was sure Damon felt as well, yet somehow there was no hurry and for the moment they could enjoy the sun’s warmth and the company in companionable quiet.

Almost done her cereal, Kate gave Damon a questioning look. “Should I ask what kind of evil kinky plans you have?”

“A number of BDSM groups, over the years, have developed various checklists to help define exactly what’s allowed and what isn’t. Mostly they amount to a list, usually very detailed, of acts and fetishes and toys and fantasies with a rating system. The idea is for both of us to do it and then use that as a basis for establishing hard limits and general boundaries, and also promising directions to go in at least to start with. Nothing is written in stone, my results today wouldn’t be likely to match five years ago, and who you’re visualizing can change it.”

“But it would make a nice clear foundation,” Kate mused.

“Exactly. I have a good one on my computer, I’ll print two copies. Make sure you do it as truthfully as you can, okay? This isn’t something that follows logic, it just is what it is, and at worst we’ll have a few mismatches, which is normal.” He grinned at her; she couldn’t see his eyes past the dark shades, but was sure she’d see mischief there. “However, I did think of a way to make it more interesting.”

“Interesting how?”

“You’ll see.”

“What if I don’t recognize things on the list? Is this interestingness going to leave me able to talk?” She felt a distinct shiver of anticipation and curiosity—what was he going to do to her? Still, no fear coloured it. Not real fear. Not in any bad way. She already knew he had an unprecedented knack for sending her hormones and imagination into overdrive, and was quite sure she’d barely broken the surface.

“Not… exactly, but I did take that into account. You aren’t going to want to have to go to the bathroom or anything for a while.” He finished the last swallow of his apple juice and set the cup in his empty bowl. “Let me know when​—​or if​—​you’re ready.”

“If?” Kate said, eyebrows raised. “Like there’s any doubt?”

“The option’s always there, sunshine.” He stood up, but leaned down for a kiss. “All this sun is going to fry me if I don’t get back in my crypt, but take your time.”

Kate lingered alone on the balcony for a little while, soaking up sunlight and thinking. How had life taken such an improbably amazing turn as to cross her path and Damon’s and bring them together? This couldn’t be real, there had to be a catch, a price, a worm in the apple​—​didn’t there?

Well, even if there was, she suspected she’d accept it as being worth it.

She gathered up her dishes and took them to the kitchen. Last night’s and Damon’s breakfast dishes were in the sink; she washed them all, figuring it was a good habit to begin, and visited the bathroom in hopes of not needing to again anytime soon.

When she went looking for Damon, he was at his desk​—​clearly a place he spent a lot of his time. He was dressed now, in his faded black jeans and a short-sleeved black silk shirt with buttons up the front; a heavy chain of flattened silver links held a pendant at the hollow of his throat, a silvery cross formed of a rose enamelled red and black and a thorny stem with leaves enamelled dark green.

“I’m all yours,” she said.

Damon, clearing unidentifiable items she assumed were computer parts from a table at the end of his desk, said without looking at her, “Lose the clothes.”

Kate obediently untied her shawl and pulled her shirt over her head, then tossed them onto the futon. When Damon neither provided further instructions nor glanced in her direction, she hesitated, unsure what to do. She could go sit on the futon… instead, she knelt on the floor at the end of the desk to wait.

Damon finished emptying the table, unhurriedly. He stepped around her without bumping into her, but one hand stroked her hair gently as he passed her; somehow it felt like approval, which felt unexpectedly good. So, she stayed where she was, waiting for him to tell her what she was supposed to do​—​ignoring the little voice inside whimpering that, like someone once had, he’d simply leave her until she gave up and then make fun of her for it. Damon understood, he knew how real and deep this was, he wouldn’t hurt her like that.

It was hard to wait, though, when she heard him in the bedroom, then he returned with his arms full of things he set on the table. He got one of the hard chairs from the dining room table and placed it near the small table, facing outwards.

“Up you get, and lean over the chair. You can kneel on it if you need to.”

Kate got to her feet and, after quick experimentation, found she was most stable if she supported herself on the arms with her feet spread and back somewhat from the chair.

Damon ran a hand up her inner thigh, exploring everything, parting labia and circling openings and teasing her clit.

“You don’t even know what I’m going to do, and you’re already all excited.” He sounded amused​—​not mocking, but mischievous and affectionate. He wouldn’t make fun of it, he’d make use of it. Still, she bit her lip, made herself stay still, though the position she was in felt extremely vulnerable.

Except that, that was in itself enough to make her tremble, even more wet.

Damon picked up a long piece of white rope, folded it in half, and wrapped it around her waist, pulling the ends through the loop and settling that at the front. He tightened it just shy of truly uncomfortable, then passed the ends between her legs, bringing them up through the back of the waistband, the rope parted to pass on either side of her labia, rather than between.

“I bought presents for you yesterday. This is a butterfly vibrator.” He nestled something cool and sort of jellyish against her clit, and fastened thin straps around her waist and upper thighs to keep it there. “And this is an egg.” Something hard and round and smooth pressed against her vagina, gentle firm pressure; she moaned softly, pressing instinctively towards it, and she knew she was slippery and aroused because it slid inside with minimal effort. Light fingers ran up the crack of her backside, circled her anus. “Is here too okay?”

“Yes, but nothing big.” Dear gods, how crazy was he going to be able to drive her?

“Size isn’t everything.” She heard the plastic pop of a bottle opening, and felt a very slippery finger gently probe, gradually loosening the tight ring of muscle. Kate felt her trembling increase, her hands tightening on the arms of the chair and her feet spreading farther, and closed her eyes, tangled in sensation and the sheer mental weight of being here, allowing this, wanting this. The toy that found its way inside wasn’t large at all, she shivered once as it reached a wide point, then it narrowed and her body closed around it, holding it in place.

Before she had time to adjust to these intruders, the rope came back between her legs​—​the two lengths together, this time, and pulled tight, pressing butterfly vibrator and anal toy relentlessly against and into her and there was no way the egg could come out. The smooth soft ropes trapped her swollen labia between them, pressing them, not quite painfully but it was more stimulation. She heard herself squeak in surprise and mild discomfort, but her squirming didn’t keep him from looping the ends through the waistband again at the front, tightening it a bit more as he tied it, then wrapping the ends around either side of her waist to finish it with some elaborate knot at the back.

“Stand up straight.”

Kate straightened up, a little unsteadily; Damon reversed the chair so she could hold the back for balance before circling her to examine his handiwork by sight and touch.

“Hm. I’m not out of practice after all.” He stepped up behind Kate and wrapped both arms around her, his breath warm on the side of her neck; instinctively, she leaned back against him, eyes closed, not at all sure she could have made herself move away for anything in either world.

“Just imagine,” he said, hands stroking her thighs and belly and breasts lightly. “That won’t show under the right clothes​—​the skirt you were wearing the night we met, for example. We could be right in the Gryphon’s Nest having supper with Magda and a handful of other people, and they’d never know what you’re wearing underneath, or about the remote controls in my pocket. And you’d never know what moment I might choose to turn on one, or two, or even all three at once. Just because it would make you feel good and also because it would be so much fun to watch you trying not to let on what’s happening.”

Kate heard herself whimper, not doubting at all that he’d do exactly that​—​or that she’d consent and continue to, even certain that it would drive her completely mad.

Damon nipped the side of her throat barely hard enough to sting, and moved away to pick up another length of rope, doubling it as he had the first one. This time it went around her torso just under her breasts, the loop at the back, then the ends came forward over each shoulder, under the doubled rope and back up and over, and he did something behind her before wrapping it around her again but above her breasts this time. Something behind her again, then the ends came back around, one on either side, were tied to the upper band and fed under the lower one and back up over her shoulders; as the rope pulled, it brought the two bands closer together in the middle, creating pressure on her breasts and keeping them more erect. He tied off the ends somewhere behind her.

The pressure wasn’t uncomfortable, precisely, and she was fairly sure it wasn’t interfering significantly with circulation, but she could definitely feel it and wasn’t going to be able to forget it.

Damon ran a fingertip around one nipple. “Oh, that works nicely on you,” he said appreciatively. “It never looks that good on women with less curves and small breasts.” He interposed himself between her and the chair, slipped one hand around the back of her neck, the other around the small of her back, and pulled her tight against him for a long deep kiss; Kate shuddered, lost for a moment in the contact and the increased pressure against her breasts and the pressure between her legs and emotions too intense and complex to name.

“I’ve got you, sunshine,” Damon said softly. “I’ll look after you, I promise. You’re safe, no matter what you do. Or where you find yourself going inside.” He stayed where he was, holding her, stroking her hair with one hand, until she stopped feeling like she was going to fall off the edge of the world. “Are you okay?”

Kate nodded, swallowed, and found her voice. “Yes.”

“Good. Then sit down. Leave the chair where it is.” He let go and moved out of the way.

One hand on the back of the chair, Kate walked around it to the front and sat down. The cushion on the seat was enough for comfort, but it still meant her weight was on the rope running between her legs.

Damon did something behind her that involved the rope around her upper torso, then said, “Lean forward.”

She obeyed​—​or tried to. The ropes wouldn’t let her get more than an inch or so from the back of the chair. The entire harness seemed to be anchored, not just a single point, joining her upper body immovably to the sturdy chair.

“Perfect,” Damon said, and knelt in front of her with yet another rope. As far as she could tell, he was weaving it back and forth around each of her legs and the chair legs, and the farther down from her knees he got, the more she could feel the constriction. He finished by wrapping it repeatedly around her ankles before tying it.

“How much can you move?”

Kate wriggled experimentally. Her upper body was immobilized, so were her lower legs. She could shift her bottom on the seat, but that only caused less deliberate squirming. Her arms and hands were free, but she couldn’t have gotten loose despite that even if her life depended on it. There was simply no way she was getting out of this chair until he chose to let her do so. The resistance every time she tried to move, the reminder of her own helplessness, the impersonal and unyielding caress that had been created with love, was almost frighteningly erotic. “Um… not very much at all.” She knew she was breathing fast, forced herself to slow it down, with questionable success.

“That’s the idea.” He left her there and turned his attention to the table he’d cleared. Not much left on it, only one more coil of rope, one roll of red plastic tape, that little music player​—​mp3 player, he’d called it​—​with its headphones, three little remote controls that made her shiver since she knew what they were for, and a Darkside knife, a six-inch single-edged straight steel blade, thicker across the unsharpened edge for strength, the hilt made of dark polished walnut like the bed and lacking pommel or guard. The blade looked well worn but well cared for, and she had no doubt it was razor sharp. That was a tool, not a weapon.

“It’s just in case I need to cut the ropes,” Damon said, following her line of sight. “I have yet to find anything that can do it faster.” He pulled the table away from the wall and did something with the rope behind it, finishing by bringing the ends onto the top in the centre of the far edge, apparently attached underneath.

“I wasn’t worried,” Kate said truthfully.

“That’s good. Put your arms on the table.” He moved the table directly in front of her.

Kate laid both forearms on the cool wood, extended. “How am I supposed to fill out a checklist if my hands are tied?”

“Tying your hands is to make sure that’s the only thing you can do. I have the oddest feeling that if I don’t, your mind and hands might both wander.” He laughed as she blushed, and wrapped rope around one wrist, loop after loop creating a kind of cuff; when he tied it, she had enough leeway to move her hand freely on the table, but not past that. She tested it while he did the other, found that it wouldn’t tighten but she couldn’t twist out of it either. “There we go.” He placed his laptop and the mouse on the table. “Try to focus for a few minutes, I’ll make the computer lesson quick. This is a web browser. It lets you look at websites, things people have created on the internet, from all over the world. Personal, professional, businesses, groups, you name it.”

Kate did her best to pay close attention while Damon explained clicking on links, navigation buttons, and browser tabs. If she was careful not to move, then she didn’t get constant reminders that derailed her thoughts. He already had multiple tabs open, each with a glossary of definitions for kinky terminology.

“There are always infinite variations of each,” Damon said, “but those are good sites and they’ll give you a pretty reasonable idea what things mean. Got it?”

“I think so.”

“I knew you would. There’s another program open, see it in the bar at the bottom? Click on that. There you go. This is a chat program. It can be used to talk to anyone on the Internet in real time. When you type something and press Enter, it sends it to whoever you’re talking to, and anything they say to you will come up here. It’s already set up to talk to me on my desktop.”

“Why would I…” Her gaze flickered to the red tape and mp3 player. “Oh no…”

Damon gave her that impish grin. “Can’t have you getting distracted.”

Kate held still while he wound red vinyl tape across her mouth and carefully put the earbuds in, covering the wire with the final couple of layers of tape to keep them in place.

“Don’t rush through it,” he told her. “Take your time and think about answers. Use the reactions you get when you imagine doing it. Tell the real truth, not what you think it should be. I’ll be close and keeping an eye on you, you’re absolutely safe.” He kissed her forehead. “Have fun.”

What the mp3 player played wasn’t exactly sound but it was impossible to hear anything else past it. He tucked it behind her somewhere she couldn’t reach, laid a handful of paper and a pink highlighter on the table, and moved away.

That chat program thing flashed; she looked and saw:

Damon: Red, yellow, green?

She wasn’t all that accustomed to Brightside keyboards, but she did know how to type on a Darkside one in multiple alphabets, so it didn’t take all that long to type Green and press Enter, to see it come up as:

Kate: Green

Damon: Good.

A heartbeat later, she yelped into the gag. The toy up her backside came on for a moment, then shut off and the egg deep inside began to buzz, first low then the intensity made a step upwards, making her wriggle in place​—​she never would have believed that stimulation there could make her react like this. It turned off, and she tensed, braced for the butterfly at the front to begin. It didn’t, for what felt like forever. She realized she was breathing fast, her hands clenched, her eyes closed, and forced herself to calm down and relax.

Virtually as soon as her breathing returned to something like normal and she drew the paper over to read it, the butterfly came on, jerking an involuntary whine out of her. She closed her eyes again, waiting for the incredible and maddening sensation to pass, because there was no way she could concentrate on anything with feelings like these rampaging through her body.

Once it stopped and she caught her breath, she saw the chat thing blinking again.

Damon: All three work?

As though that hadn’t been perfectly obvious! But she replied affirmatively.

Damon: Just testing. Get to work.

The checklist, she discovered, had a column for “Have done this”, and one for “Like this/Want this”, and one with a handful of additional points. The list itself was organized into sections, the first of which was an amazingly detailed list of sexual acts. She had to mark a depressing number as “never done this” and wondered whether the high percentage of high numbers in the second column meant she was an utter slut in denial. Then she wondered whether she should consider it a problem if so, and whether Damon would mind.

She flipped to the next page.

And the egg came on, mildly at first, then stronger. She dropped the highlighter on the table and curled her hands around the ropes as the steady vibration became a throbbing weak-and-strong pulse, closing her eyes, aware of her heartbeat climbing. Helpless to escape or to touch herself, there was nothing she could do but experience it, hoping it wouldn’t end because it felt so good, hoping it would end quickly because the sooner it did, the less excruciating it would be when it did.

Not that it currently mattered what she hoped or wanted.

The pulsing changed and finally vanished.

Kate took a deep breath​—​through her nose, her mouth being currently unavailable​—​and opened her eyes, acutely aware of the heat of her body, of every inch of rope against her skin, the presence of the toys inside. Short of telling Damon “red”, which she didn’t want to use without a truly dire reason, she suspected she wasn’t getting out of this chair until she finished her assignment. Procrastinating wasn’t going to save her from being tantalized and stimulated and frustrated, it would only make it last longer; there were only two ways out, and one was cheating.

But oh gods, the ropes themselves felt so very good, an odd sort of embrace, and even turned off the butterfly rubbed at her clit every time she shifted position, and every internal flex of muscle as she was teased reminded her of the toys inside. She couldn’t forget for an instant that she was trapped, and the sense of disconnection created by her inability to hear or speak only kept her more focused on her own predicament.

She’d barely begun and there were something like a dozen pages. She’d either be a whimpering wreck or howling like a cat in heat by the time she finished.

She was certainly getting practice with these websites, half of this she’d never heard of​—​it was a fascinating education, and considerably more raw material for her fantasies, along with torment in itself as she imagined herself doing each one. Intermittently, and apparently at random, the chat program flashed to get her attention and Damon asked, “Red, yellow, green?” Each time she replied with “Green” though it grew harder and harder to collect her thoughts enough. A few times she had to ask him for clarification on things, which always arrived promptly.

Somewhere close to the end, the chat program flashed; it took her a moment to remember what that meant and switch to it.

Damon: Want to see one of the most sexy and beautiful sights I’ve ever seen?

Something new opened on the computer screen, a picture she thought at first, a curvy woman with a shoulder-length chestnut ponytail, bound with ropes that accentuated her large breasts, red shiny tape wrapped around her mouth as a gag… tendrils of escaping hair, wet with sweat, coiled around her face, her body was flushed with heat and shone with sweat, and faint redness was barely visible along the ropes. That was her, she realized, forcing herself to focus, a view from somewhere to one side, the direction of Damon’s desk. And it wasn’t a picture, it was video, with only a very brief delay between what she did and what she saw​—​she could see the rapid rise and fall of her chest, an intermittent glint as the light caught the slow slide of a drop of sweat from her forehead down her face to fall to one boob and down between them, the highlighter falling from her hand, but all a couple of heartbeats after she felt it.

It increased the sense of dislocation and disorientation considerably.

What was real?

Then the vibrators began to buzz, first the one up her backside, followed by the egg deep inside. She moaned, writhed involuntarily against the ropes, watched the woman in the video struggling in vain against the relentless embrace of rope and wood, her expression above the gag a mixture of ecstasy and desperation. Which was real: the pleasure and hunger that made it hard to think, or the video she couldn’t look away from of a woman shaking visibly in frustration and arousal?

Damon: Oh, sunshine, you are just so damned much fun to drive crazy, you react so wonderfully. I think I’m going to have to keep you in this state as much as possible when we’re alone. I’ll have to think of lots of ways to keep you mentally and physically stimulated but prevent you from actual orgasm until I decide you’re ready.

Kate knew she whimpered, although she couldn’t hear it, knew she was trembling, knew it was at least as much wanting as fearing that he’d do exactly that.

Damon’s hand, stroking her cheek, made her shudder, needing that touch but helpless to encourage it or ask for it. She felt him remove the headphones from her ears, and he leaned down to continue what he’d been typing, out loud now, all running together.

“Just imagine if I keep you restrained all the time when we’re home. I bet I could train you to come on command, just by building the right associations. Maybe I’ll buy you a chastity belt, wouldn’t that be fun? Leather or rubber with padlocks, instead of rope, maybe with that nice little egg inside you where you can’t get at it, so I can get your attention anytime. Wouldn’t going to the mall or out to a movie or supper be a whole new experience? It would be as good as a leash, but one no one else would know about. As long as you didn’t do anything to give it away to them, at least.”

Her skin felt hypersensitive all over, heightened beyond anything she’d ever felt, or maybe it was just that she was aware of so little else. His breath was warm on the side of her throat; his hand, caressing her neck and shoulders and arms, felt too good to be real, but it wasn’t enough. She couldn’t close her eyes, couldn’t stop watching the woman in the video; Damon’s voice and touch were like a spell, holding her bewitched and paralysed both physically and mentally. Her mind was filled to overflowing with images.

“You are so turned on right now, I’d be able to smell it in your blood from six feet away. So much that I just have to try a little experiment. Close your eyes, I want you to concentrate on my voice and what you feel and nothing else. Don’t worry, that’s been recording for longer than you think, you can watch it later.”

Kate whimpered again. He was recording this? But her eyes closed without conscious thought, simply obeying.

“I want you to use that marvellously vivid imagination of yours. Imagine you aren’t here and safe with me. You’ve been abducted, kidnapped, you don’t even know who did it because they had you blindfolded while they tied you up and they didn’t say anything to give you any hints. They cut your clothes off you with a knife and tied you to a chair, gagged you so you can’t call for help. You have no idea what they have in mind. Maybe it’s a group of tenebrans who fancy you as entertainment for a party, and they’ll tie you up so it’s all artistic with red and black and white silk rope crisscrossing you all over so you can hardly move an inch, but there’s enough skin that anyone who wants a taste can have one. Maybe they want to sell you to someone as his private toy, and you’ll belong to him for him to use and command and the only thing that will matter to you is pleasing him, and he’ll have complete power over you. There’s no way to know yet, you can’t do anything but wait until someone decides to come back, and no matter how much you struggle, you can’t get free, there is simply no chance you are getting out of that chair until someone unties you. You have absolutely no control over what’s going to happen. Whoever tied you up has all the control and can do anything with you and can make you do anything.” His voice had been dropping steadily, and by that point was low enough that she had to listen intently to every syllable to understand what he was saying.

Simultaneously, three things happened.

He bit the side of her throat, not breaking skin, but it did hurt; one hand curved around her hypersensitized breast and his thumb flicked back and forth across the nipple; the butterfly vibrator came on.

Every muscle clenched in a single whole-body spasm, encountered the resistance from the ropes, and strained against it. The second spasm came with a surge of pleasure deep enough to drown in, and without the gag the neighbours might have heard the cry it tore from her. The ropes held her safe, kept her from falling or hitting anything or otherwise hurting herself, gave her one less thing to try to be aware of.

With secondary quakes still rocking her every few seconds, she sagged against the back of the chair, struggling to catch her breath. Her mind felt too full, unbearably so, thoughts and feelings and images all tangled together and chasing each other with bewildering randomness. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to laugh or cry or hide in a corner or scream.

Damon, gently, began to unwind the red tape; as the last came away, she licked dry lips, tasting vinyl faintly, and looked up at him pleadingly.

“Slowly,” he told her firmly, holding a glass of water with a straw so she could reach it. “I don’t want you making yourself sick.”

She wanted to gulp it, but obediently took small sips, letting the cool water chase away the dryness.

When he took it away a moment later, she whined wordlessly and tried to grab for it, hitting the end of the ropes on her wrists.

“Wait. You can have more in a minute.”

Each rope cuff around her wrists came free with a tug and some unwinding; Kate watched, realizing that she could have done that herself at any time, but she’d accepted the rest as inescapable and hadn’t even thought to try. Although even if it had occurred to her, she wasn’t sure she’d have followed through.

Damon pulled the table out of the way and knelt in front of her, untied her ankles and began to unweave the rope around her legs. Kate wriggled, dismayed by the loss of the rope’s embrace.

“Stop. You’ve been in the same position for a while, you need to move.”

She sighed, but Damon’s touch on her legs felt good, and if he wanted her to stay still, she would. The rope fell away and he scooped it up to toss on the table. He ran a hand along each leg slowly​—​her lower legs felt oddly exposed without their prison, and she could still feel a kind of phantom sensation of the rope against her skin.

Rising, he stood directly in front of her, kissed her forehead, and reached around her with both arms. She felt more rope loosen and slither behind her. Fear flashed as the unyielding support/captivity released, and she grabbed for the arms of the chair, suddenly certain she’d fall.

Damon’s arms tightened around her, holding her close against his body. “It’s okay, sunshine, you’re safe, I’ve got you.”

Gratefully, she snuggled against him. With her mind in utter turmoil and her body still trembling, she closed her eyes and sighed softly, enjoying the reassurance of his hand stroking her hair and back, the freedom to not have to think or analyze or decide anything and to just let Damon look after everything including her.

“Sit back,” he said eventually. “I need to finish untying you.”

Reluctantly, she leaned back in the chair, but she couldn’t help squirming unhappily when he moved around behind her and began to undo the harness across her upper body.

“Be still,” Damon told her. “Your safety is the most important thing, and you’ve had this on for long enough for the moment.”

“But it feels…”

“Hush. No backtalk from you. Do as you’re told. I give the orders and you follow them, not the other way around. Obviously this is something we need to work on. Maybe some lessons like in Clea’s story about training a warg for a canine obedience class?”

Kate bit her lower lip and shivered, adrenaline surging again. Said warg’s master had concentrated on training him to immediate unthinking compliance with any command while collared, in human form, before starting on the necessary specific wolf-form commands.

Damon finished and tossed the rope to join the others.

“Stand up. Hold the chair if you need to, and I’m right here if your balance is off.”

Kate hesitated, reluctant to lose the last of the rope and be completely naked and loose, equally reluctant to disobey.

Now.” There was a definite hint of a growl to the command, and while she wasn’t exactly frightened, she doubted it would be a good idea to protest any further. She stood up, shaky but the chair was enough support, and held obediently still while he unfastened the rope from between her legs and around her waist. He removed the anal toy gently, undid the thin straps of the butterfly, and reached in with a finger to draw the egg slowly out. She felt exposed and empty, but his fingers made her shiver in pleasure.

“Sit.”

Kate dropped promptly to the edge of the chair, all confusion secondary to waiting for Damon to tell her what to do next so she could do it.

“Good girl, that’s much better.” He handed her the glass of water. “Go slow, just a little at a time.”

His approval felt far better than it should have, but right now she accepted it without question and, thankful for the water, sipped it slowly. Damon watched her while he rolled the tape and coiled the ropes, except for one rope​—​he sniffed at it, smiled, and left it on the table loose.

“All done? Need the bathroom?”

“I think so.”

“Take your time, I don’t want you to fall.” He stayed protectively close across the apartment to the bathroom. Being toilet-shy was mostly a cultural thing, and his closeness was comforting; without the ropes she felt inexplicably vulnerable, more than she had while actually helpless.

Once she finished, he took her to the bedroom and had her sit on the edge of the bed; he dropped to one knee in front of her and cupped a hand around her cheek. “How are you feeling, sunshine?”

Kate contemplated words, none of which were quite adequate. “Very very good. A little tired. A little sad. Sort of… not exactly confused, maybe just trying to process a lot, but not more than I can handle.”

“Sad why?”

“I like how the ropes felt,” she said truthfully. “And because you sound like you’re going to say you don’t want to do anything else today.”

“You haven’t had enough.” It wasn’t a question, and he sounded amused and affectionate. “You do have limits, and you aren’t used to this.”

Kate bit her lip, trying to collect her thoughts enough to explain. “I like being yours,” she said finally. “Not for anything physical, just for itself.” That sounded stupid, how was he supposed to understand that?

“The genie’s well and truly out of the bottle, I think. Honestly, what kind of idiot can’t appreciate… never mind. The day I can’t recognize sub frenzy, I pack up my toys and sell my bed.” He didn’t move for a moment, his expression suggesting that he was badly torn. Finally, he sighed, and leaned forward to press a kiss to her forehead. “Kneel on the bed facing the headboard with your hands behind your head and stay there. Close your eyes and keep them closed until I tell you otherwise, no matter what.”

She looked up quickly, surprised and delighted​—​he wasn’t going to just end the game?

Damon smiled and kissed her lovingly. Then he stood up, glanced at the middle of the bed, and said pointedly, “Well?”

Kate hastily obeyed, kneeling with her knees far enough apart for balance; she laced her fingers together with her hands against the back of her neck, and closed her eyes.

“Good girl. Stay there.”

He hadn’t actually needed to repeat that last command, she had no intention of moving until he told her to. Somehow, Damon understood that the driving long-thwarted need inside went beyond physical sensations, however wonderful, into some murky hard-to-describe mental and emotional realm, something she’d never had anyone truly comprehend. Beyond understanding, he accepted it and didn’t treat it as something wrong with her. And beyond even that, he knew what to do with it and wanted to.

Continued in Brightside 10, in which Damon improvises in order to keep Kate in the Goldilocks zone of enough but not too much.

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