by Cardaniel

Chapter 1

Susan sighed as she turned the key to open her apartment door. The sigh was partly from relief that she would be alone for an extended time, partly from resignation to being the way she was. She wished she could be... normal. Normally outgoing, normally self-confident, with a normal number of friends, going out on normal dates.

Susan knew that a doctor, if ever she could bring herself to open herself up to one so that he could form a diagnosis, would probably term her "pathologically shy." She didn't like the term, not because it said something was wrong with her, but because it suggested that there were other modes of existence. She couldn't imagine them. Her shyness had survived her childhood. She'd always wanted to hide when people were around. She wasn't ugly, or didn't believe she was, at least. It wasn't that she was resisting inflicting a hideous face or deformed body on the world. Her shyness was a thing in itself, not a result of something. She simply hated receiving the focused attention of even one person, let alone a crowd. She was aware of fearing that they would expect things of her she wasn't willing or able to do. But she couldn't recall any particular occasion in her past of disappointing parents, or friends, or teachers, or whoever stood in judgment of her. She couldn't pinpoint any reason for feeling the way she did.

It was Friday. Susan had just finished her fourth week working at the library, mainly shelving books and cataloging new purchases. It was boring work, but it mostly kept her out of sight in the quiet of the stacks. People could see her, of course, but she had no reason to interact with them, and they didn't expect her to. She was simply part of the environment of the library, like the cart stacked with books that she pushed around. She was more or less unnoticeable. She found that tolerable.

At least, most of the time. Yesterday Susan had dropped a book, which did a belly flop on the floor with a loud bang. All of the half-dozen people within view spun their heads to look. Susan froze, her face on fire, and nearly vomited. Only momentary paralysis prevented her from bolting to hide in the storage room. She realized seconds later what a huge mistake that would have been. As it was, everyone would forget the disruption she had caused within minutes -- she'd done nothing really remarkable, her rational mind knew. But if she had run, all those people -- her mind had already multiplied them into the thousands -- would remember her for days. Being remembered, being the subject of discussion among people -- that was her worst nightmare. When she was finally able to move and breathe again, she picked up the book with trembling fingers and restored it to the cart.

Even when her duties went normally, people still noticed her sometimes. Mainly the men. She sometimes caught them eyeing her speculatively, as if considering asking for her phone number and whether she was free some night this week for dinner. At twenty-one, she knew she wasn't a child anymore. She had an adult woman's body, with all of the standard equipment, and that annoyed her. It was as if her own body was betraying her, inviting exactly the attention she had tried for a lifetime to avoid. It had been so much easier before her breasts grew -- as soon as they'd started to be prominent, she'd started seeing all the boys in school looking at her in a way they hadn't before. In the library, she did her best to remain inconspicuous: wearing loose-fitting blouses to make her chest less obvious, long skirts to hide her legs, another object of male interest. She wore her hair in what she assumed was an off-putting bun, which made her look like... well, a girl who worked in a library. Her glasses -- she was nearsighted -- were as nondescript and non-feminine as she could manage. Maybe all of that helped, but there were still those looks, as if men were looking through her clothes to see the woman beneath. It made her intensely uncomfortable.

She was glad of the job, of course. She was surprised she'd been able to find any job that suited her, after she'd dropped out of college in her junior year when she convinced herself, at last, that she wasn't going to be able to get out of taking that public-speaking course required of all students. She'd begun looking into other colleges, intending to enroll in one that didn't have that requirement. But then the library job had opened up. She was starting to grow comfortable in it. A little.

Susan opened her apartment door and closed it behind her, then leaned back against it, her eyes closed. The relief that had been building flooded her now. Alone! Out of view!

The library was open six days a week, but none of the staff worked all six days, not even the head librarian. Most of the staff had a midweek day off, or Monday, but Susan had happened to be assigned Mondays through Fridays. She was very glad of that, having two consecutive days each week to let the tensions of her existence settle down. She'd done her grocery shopping earlier in the week, and now had no reason why she would have to leave the apartment, no reason to be seen by anyone, until Monday. She would do some relaxing reading, watch television, make sandwiches and cook frozen dinners. And feel content in her solitude.

She could hear some tapping, clicking, thumping sounds from nearby apartments, the low murmurs of voices, opening and closing of doors. That was normal. Just people living their lives and not even thinking about Susan hidden away behind the opaque walls of their building. The sounds were all subdued -- that was almost their defining property.

Susan allowed herself a smile at the thought of being one of the tenants. She hadn't realized, when she had first gone to the office for a rental application, that the building was strictly for couples fifty-five and older. She'd apologized to the sweet lady who managed the building, and started to leave. Surprisingly, the woman, Nellie, had asked Susan to wait, and then had asked just one question: "Are you quiet?"

Susan had blinked and nodded solemnly. No one, she was sure, was quieter than herself.

Nellie had burst into a grin. "I could tell that about you. That's really what our tenants like about the place. No big noises, no parties, no drama... you don't throw parties, do you?" Just wanting to make sure.

Susan had nearly laughed at the idea that she might host a party, but had simply shaken her head, with a sincere look on her face.

Nellie had smiled conspiratorially. "Okay, look. We've got three vacancies right now. One bedroom, all the apartments are one bedroom. The owner has been getting on me a little about getting them rented, as if I could just go out on the street and drag people in to rent apartments. I can't imagine any of the tenants will mind you being here, you being quiet as a mouse the way you are." Susan couldn't help smiling, and Nellie pulled an application out of a drawer, saying, "First and last month rent in advance, plus one hundred dollar cleaning deposit. Will that work for you?"

Susan had smiled again, said "Thank you" in a tiny voice, and begun filling out the application.

*   *   *   *   *

It was so nice having her own place! Susan's mother had wanted her to live at home, but Mom was always trying to change her -- bring her "out of that shell," as she put it. Mom kept trying to arrange blind dates, which Susan always declined, kept trying to get Susan to go out and do something sociable, join a local theater group, do anything. It seemed that Mom approved of the idea of Susan renting the apartment, even though it was fifty miles from home, as soon as Susan suggested that it represented going out on her own, doing something grown-up. It was, to Mom, a first step towards what she wanted for Susan. She'd even talked Dad into fronting the rent money for a few months, with the understanding that Susan would take over after that, now that she had a job.

Susan finished changing out of her work clothes into a more comfortable t-shirt and jeans, and hesitated in front of her dresser, wanting to open that bottom drawer and telling herself she shouldn't. She was ashamed she had broken down and bought the stuff. But now she felt the familiar tingling between her legs, and a growing compulsion to look at the drawer's contents once again. She bent down and pulled it open, and her breath caught in her throat, her eyes widened, and her hand snuck down into her crotch without her even realizing it.

The fantasy of bondage had fascinated Susan for as long as she could remember. She loved imagining herself tied up and helpless. She didn't understand it. Her most profound wish in life was to escape all notice, to be able to get away and hide from all eyes that could see her. So why would she want to be immobilized, unable to remove herself from any amount of unwanted attention?

She knew her attraction to bondage was sexual in nature. She understood about fetishes, and knew the futility of trying to explain them. Certainly her own made no sense to her. Yet picturing herself hopelessly bound had, long ago, led to her first orgasm, before she even knew what an orgasm was.

Now she had the necessary equipment for making her fantasy come to life. She hadn't acted on it, but just possessing the means of really doing it excited her more than ever. Her jaw, unattended, fell slack as she looked now at the chains, the ropes, the cuffs, the padlocks.

She had ordered the bondage gear from a website she'd stumbled upon accidentally one day. Well, she admitted to herself, not totally accidentally. She'd Googled "bondage," hoping to find an article that would explain her obsession to her, and had found a site that sold bondage gear. She hadn't even known there were businesses like that. She had come back to the site again and again for days, staring disbelievingly at the equipment available to her at the click of a mouse. She had started three times to fill the site's shopping cart with items she really wished she could see and touch, finally did it, then spent a week trying to persuade herself to buy the things in her cart. She had her own bank account with debit card, so there was no problem ordering, other than the psychological hurdle. Finally, looking over her order for the umpteenth time, not able to breathe, she clicked on "Buy" and typed in her card information. After that she'd checked three times to make sure her bank account had her new address, so that the monthly statement would come to her and her parents wouldn't see it.

The items had arrived on Tuesday of this week. Quickly, her fingers trembling, she'd unpacked the shipping box, dumped the things in the drawer, and torn up the address label on the box so no one could sift through her trash and find out she'd ordered things from That Place.

Now, against her own determination not to do it, not to torment herself with the sight of things she desperately wanted to use but never would, she looked in the drawer nightly, feeling the heat of excitement all through her body as she focused now on a chain, now on a padlock, now a rope, pictured the ways they might restrict her movements, and minutes later always slammed the drawer closed again. It was impossible, she knew, that she could ever actually make use of any of these things. It was far too dangerous. What if she locked herself into something she really couldn't get out of? She might even die, either from starvation as she lay in her apartment, unable to move, or else die, literally die, of embarrassment, the rush of blood to her face bursting blood vessels all around, from being found by someone that way. Why had she bought this stuff? She couldn't afford to be wasting money like that.

Furious with herself, she went out to the living room to turn on the television. She needed to calm down before she made herself dinner. She couldn't eat right now anyway, not with her stomach in such tight knots.

*   *   *   *   *

As she put the frozen dinner in the microwave at last, after thirty minutes of watching entertainment news, vicariously living celebrity lives she knew she could never have, her eyes caught sight of the liter bottle tucked into a corner of the kitchen counter. She growled quietly in renewed anger. Another useless purchase, money thrown away. She had never taken an alcoholic drink in her life. She knew all the things it could do to people. She'd been terrified walking into the state-owned liquor store, sure that everyone was looking at her with scorn for buying such a shameful product, though they were all there to do the same thing. But she had persevered, fumbling to show her driver's license to verify her age for the clerk, who looked at her the same way her father always did when she was doing something wrong, paying with, again, her debit card -- she should cut the thing up, she really should -- and walking out into the wider world, trying to look as if she didn't have a bottle of tequila in a paper bag, though surely everyone would know why she'd been in the store. She had wanted to buy the booze to celebrate living on her own and being employed, but there, on the counter, it had sat untouched for nearly a month. She'd chosen tequila because she'd heard her father swear once to a friend that you didn't get hangovers from drinking tequila. Well, Susan had learned that you definitely didn't get hangovers from not drinking it.

Susan closed her eyes and sighed. If I drink some, she pointed out to herself, at least then the money wasn't all wasted. It won't kill me, certainly not if I just sip a little of it. Not like the bondage gear with its deadly danger.

She unscrewed the bottle and poured a small splash of the clear liquid into a glass tumbler, such a small amount in such a large glass that it almost looked like the amount of water she usually poured into the sink when she got thirsty at night and ran more from the faucet than she needed.

She took a small sip, swallowing as quickly as she could. Instantly she began coughing, her eyes watering. Why in the world would anyone want to drink this?? she demanded of the world.

Wait, she thought, I'm doing it wrong. Stupid, stupid. People don't drink it straight out of the bottle. They mix it with something, something tastier, something that cuts down the effect so it doesn't hit you so hard. And no wonder.

She opened the fridge, and pulled out a bottle of carbonated orange soda she'd been going to drink with dinner anyway. She poured it into the glass to mix with the tequila. Readying herself for another head blast like the earlier one, she sipped.

Now I'm just tasting orange soda, she told herself, and reminded herself there hadn't been much tequila left in the glass. Wanting to make it a fair test, she added a little more tequila to replace the mix she'd just sampled. She sipped again.

Her eyes rose in surprise. That's not really too bad, she thought, and at least it's not slamming my head against the wall. It tastes... darker, somehow, than the soda. Less sweet, but in a nice way.

The microwave dinged. She pulled out her dinner with an oven mitt and transferred it to the table, took another sip of her drink, then poured some more tequila and more soda into the glass. She took a little longer drink.

As she sat down to her dinner, she realized she was feeling calm, content, satisfied, in a way she rarely did even when she was alone. She retrieved the bottle and added some more tequila to the glass. Without quite so much soda.

She giggled suddenly, not knowing why. This is nice, she decided. She made up her mind to watch a comedy on the DVD player after she'd cleaned up from dinner. She was sure she would appreciate it more than usual. She giggled again, in anticipation, and took another drink.

*   *   *   *   *

Susan's consciousness returned suddenly, like the flicking on of a light. The first thing she was aware of was shivering. It was cold, too cold. But it was only an instant later that the pounding in her head became more important than the cold. That, along with an intense thirst, as if her mouth was stuffed with worn wool socks. She remembered her thoughts of a hangover. I've got to tell Daddy he was wrong, she thought. This fits everything I've read about hangovers. Except the shivering, I hadn't heard about that. Susan reached down to pull the blanket over her. Or tried to.

Full realization of where she was slammed into her all at once, but not yet the memory of how it had come about.

She wasn't in her bed. She wasn't even in her apartment. She was lying on her side on the cold, hard, uneven ground, outdoors, in the dead of night. She probably wouldn't have been especially cold if she were dressed for it, perhaps with a light jacket. But it wasn't the sort of weather to be out in completely naked. As she was.

Naked!! Outside!! Where anyone can see me!! Susan felt her face, her entire body burning with complete mortification. No one can see! she screamed silently. They must not see me this way!

Susan had those dreams sometimes, the ones everyone had, of being out in public and suddenly realizing she'd forgotten to dress. The feeling that came with those dreams was a detached, muted sort of shame, somehow less intense than she knew it would be in real life. She always, at some level, knew it was a dream, that it wasn't really happening.

In the same way, she knew with certainty that this, here, now, was not a dream. The headache, the thirst, the cold all had that quality that dreams never quite seem to reach. This was happening.

She tried desperately to get up, and it was then that a second layer of confusion peeled away, and she understood why she was having so much trouble. She was bound up in chains! Someone must have broken in! she thought. I've been kidnapped...

Memory, then, the wispy, small voice of memory, returned in bits and pieces, and she knew she had done this to herself. There were just flashes of it, like still pictures illuminated for an instant, slowly, so slowly coming clearer as she lay there, still shivering, trying to make out any useful details in the darkness. Her breath came faster, still faster, as the terror of what she had done to herself built. She began jerking randomly, now making scared little cries, her voice muffled by the gag in her mouth -- the ball gag she had bought, not the dirty laundry it tasted like to her dry tongue. She knew full panic was approaching, and she tried to fight against it.

A crucial memory returned, now, and she stopped moving to consider it. There was a way out of this! She had left herself a means of escape. Somehow the fact that she had done that helped the panic recede, brought her some measure of self-control that had almost been lost completely.

She remembered exactly where she was, now. The other side of the street from her apartment building was an undeveloped acreage of woods, part of the original forest through which the road at the edge of town had been built. The road had sporadic clearings for dwellings, mostly along its south side, such as the apartment building. She was, if she remembered correctly, about a hundred yards from the street. The trees were heavy in this spot, with thick undergrowth filling the spaces between. She was safe from detection, for the moment, even if it had been daylight. Bending her head back, she could see a very dim glow from the direction behind her. That had to be where the street and her building were. Only a small amount of the light made it this far through the trees.

She took stock, each detail reminding her of how she had come to be in the straits she was in.

She felt around her wrists, behind her back, with her fingers. Yes, these are my wrist cuffs, she told herself. Brushed steel, two inches across, an eighth inch thick, two semicircles joined by a hinge and now closed around her wrists, the hasp pushing up through a hole in the metal, so that a padlock could secure each one, impossible to remove without the padlock key. The cuffs were really oval in cross section, not circular, to fit more snugly around the wrist. Susan traced the padlocks with her fingertips, finding them to be locked, as she remembered they were. As she remembered doing. The wrist cuffs were locked to each other by their padlocks, so that she couldn't separate her hands.

She could feel, even without using her fingers, the tight chain around her waist. It was locked in front of her stomach, she knew, with another padlock. To that padlock, a second chain was attached. This one was drawn downward, tightly through her crotch, and locked behind her back to both wrist cuffs.

With an effort, she bent her knees more than they already were, bringing her feet closer to her hands, and felt the ankle cuffs with her fingers. The same design as the wrist cuffs, except that they did have a circular cross section. They hugged her ankles as snugly as the wrist cuffs did her wrists. She verified that, as she remembered, the ankle cuffs were joined to each other by their padlocks as well.

Taking several minutes, she tugged on every cuff, one after another, to see whether she might possibly free a hand or a foot. It wasn't possible. They were very well-designed to make it impossible.

The scratching of the rough bark of the tree trunk against the backs of her calf muscles and thighs -- Susan's legs were bent around it -- was a little irritating.

There was one more chain in use, one of the longer ones. Susan couldn't trace all of it with her fingers, but she knew how it had been arranged. It began from between her ankle cuffs, secured there by another padlock. From there it wound around the tree trunk once, then ran to her wrist cuffs, circled the locks between them, and went back to her ankles, to be held there by that same padlock. There was no slack in the chain, and it kept Susan's ankles no more than half a dozen inches from her hands.

She was hogtied, her favorite of all bondage positions in her fantasies. With her body encircling a tree.

But there was, as she had reminded herself, a way out. Unlike the rest of the padlocks, which opened with keys, the padlock that secured that final chain was a combination lock. The lock was in reach of Susan's fingers, and she knew the combination.

An extra chill beyond the shivering ran through Susan as she thought of the future. She had never wanted anything more in her life than to be safe now in her apartment, lying snug in her bed, instead of here. The chill came from her realization of what she would have to go through before she could return to that safety. She moaned aloud.

Once she had opened the combo lock and freed herself from the tree and hogtie, she would need to make her way back to the street, then emerge from the protection of the trees and cross the street to her building. She would have to do it still bound, hopping because her feet were stuck together, always in danger of falling because she couldn't use her arms, bound behind her, for balance. She didn't have the keys here that went with any of those padlocks securing her wrist cuffs and ankle cuffs together. They were still in the drawer in Susan's bedroom.

And she would have to do it naked. It had always been hard, so hard, for her to have people watch her, to have people aware of her and thinking about her. Though always fully clothed, she had always tried to cloth herself still more, to shrink into herself and be invisible. It was unimaginable how much more petrifying it was going to be to risk revealing her entire body, the parts she had never remotely considered showing to anyone -- even her navel was extremely private to her, but how much more so her breasts, her nipples, that dark patch of pubic hair in front of her crotch... and beyond all else, those soft folds of skin between her legs. People would see all of those things.

Only the darkness would save her. It was nighttime. Everyone was asleep, the street deserted, no one watching from sidewalk or windows. She must get to safety before daylight came.

But first, before that ordeal, she had to release herself from her hogtie, and from the immovable tree.

She felt between her ankles with her fingers. There it was, that all-important padlock, the one that had to be opened before anything else could happen. She turned the dial with her fingers, feeling it spin freely.

She twisted her body, managing to raise herself on her elbow, to bring the combo lock into view. There was just enough very dim light from the distant streetlamps filtering through the trees that she could just make out the lock, and the dark circle of its dial. But as the minutes went by and she wished so hard for her eyes to adjust still more to the darkness, she couldn't begin to make out any of the white-on-black markings around the dial. And without that, without the ability to stop the dial at very precise places marked by the numbers, she couldn't possibly open it.

No, she thought, no! I have to do it in the darkness! If I wait until daylight, then I don't have any hope of getting across the street, getting into my building, getting up to my apartment -- on the third floor! -- without being seen! People will be awake, they'll be moving around, looking out the windows, driving by in their cars... I have to get out of this now!

*   *   *   *   *

Susan was aware -- had been aware from the moment of awakening here -- of an undercurrent, a buzz of sexual electricity, surging through her body underneath every other sensation, underneath the fear of the future, underneath the scratching of the tree and the shivering from the cold, underneath all of her rational thoughts about the situation she was in, underneath her struggles, now mostly completed, to remember what had happened. She knew the undercurrent for what it was. She knew what the idea of bondage had always done to her, and here it was, real for the first time, not just theoretical, not imagined. It was responsible for the extra coolness between her legs, slippery with the secretions of arousal, it was responsible for the swelling and extra sensitivity of her vaginal lips, it was responsible for the hardness of her nipples, even beyond the cold, so that the smallest movement of air flowing past them seemed to lick and caress them. And it added to her fear: she saw the possibility of it interfering with what she must, must do, which was to get herself home, safe, undetected, without having made a memorable spectacle of herself. Besides the cold, besides her entrapment, besides the terrifyingly complete exposure of her body, it was one more thing to grapple with.

*   *   *   *   *

Susan felt the dial of the padlock with the very tips of her fingers, hoping against hope that she could feel the markings, feel the numbers. She could sense, barely, the impressions of the markings, but her fingers had nothing like the sensitivity that would have been required to read the numbers.

She felt the panic starting to set in again, as she began rocking desperately, jerking her hands and feet against the chains holding them. Let me out! Let me out!!

She remembered having done this to herself, trapping herself here. It was such a different self that had done this -- drunk for the first time in her life, giggling as she made preparations and slid the locks closed, throwing away a lifetime of caution, for what? For a trauma that would envelop her for the rest of her life? She remembered how happy, how excited, that other self had been. Excited by...

Suddenly the panic transformed itself. That underlying sexual current rose to the surface. All of the arousal, the intense awareness of every part of her body, that she had always experienced during her fantasies of bondage, manifested in a rush, multiplied a thousandfold because now she was really in it! She really was bound in chains! Her rocking became more rhythmic, her moans became breathy sighs, and she began using her hands to pull on the chain through her crotch. The excitement rose still higher, centered on her private place, tucked away between her legs, an intense tingling that spread like a flash flood through her entire body. She grunted in time with each pull on the chain... and felt her body explode, there, there, there!!! Time moved so slowly! She was aware of every nerve ending, every dimension and feature of sexual release, hers to examine, cherish, and embrace for as long as she wanted. Wanted. She regretted that she had ever wanted anything, because anything she had ever wished for was trivial compared with this.

The waves receded very slowly, leaving her on the beach, spent. Breathing. Hard.

She had had orgasms before. She was sure they had really qualified as orgasms, on a par with those that anyone else had ever experienced. But they had been nothing like this. She had never had every fiber of her being crying out, shouting, screaming YES!! YES!! before. She had never imagined that any moment of her life could feel as overpoweringly wonderful as that one had.

She wasn't shivering anymore, she realized. She could feel a layer of sweat coating her body. But the pounding headache was back, and the dryness in her mouth, making her desperate for water she had no way to get. And the shivering, she knew, would return.

She plunged back towards the pit of fear as the realization of the danger she faced came floating back. Being discovered naked and bound was starting to seem a near certainty. The afterglow of her sexual explosion muted the fear, but couldn't erase it.

She remembered having thought, in her drunken daze, how funny it was! She could recall, now, emerging from her building carrying two trash bags, one full of bondage gear, one empty. As soon as she'd crossed the street and gone into the trees, out of view, in the fading light of sunset, she'd taken off all her clothes and stuffed them into the empty bag. That bag, she remembered, was now wedged securely up in the crotch of a tree, above the level of her head. She remembered putting it there, giggling and reeling dizzily, exactly so that once she freed herself, she wouldn't have any way to reach it, any way to dress herself, even to the extent of draping her shirt over her upper body, until after she got back to her apartment -- she'd have to return to retrieve the clothes later. She remembered the thrill of every part of her body being exposed, visible, and how she'd giggled again over that, while she stumbled farther into the forest. She remembered the feeling of playing a huge, hilarious practical joke on herself.

It really, Susan thought again, was as though another person had done this.

Suddenly she realized who it was.

It was Suzy.

Susan had, on rare occasions in her life, been addressed as Suzy. She had never corrected the person doing it -- correcting would be the very essence of assertiveness, alien in every way to Susan -- but inwardly she had always rejected the name. It wasn't because she didn't like it. The name "Suzy" suggested someone casual, outgoing, fun. Susan rejected the name "Suzy" because she felt she didn't deserve it. She was nothing like a Suzy.

Tonight Suzy had come into Susan's life, released by a bottle of tequila. Susan and Suzy shared memories, shared a body, but Suzy was a new occupant, at least new to Susan's awareness.

It was Suzy who had played this joke.

The ball gag, Susan realized, was part of the joke. The big gag wedged into her mouth, preventing Susan from saying anything intelligible even though she would never, ever have been able to bring herself to call out for help anyway. The gag could be removed, but not yet. It was designed to be secured by a buckle, but Suzy had tied it closed with a shoestring instead, using a shoelace knot easily untied. To untie it, Susan just had to move a few feet away from where she lay. A second shoestring was tied to one end of the first, and ran to the side and upward to another tree branch. Moving away would pull the string taut and untie the knot. But until Susan opened the combo lock, she couldn't move that far.

Susan tried to decide whether she was overlooking anything important, now that so much of her memory had returned, but all she could think about right now was water. She was SO thirsty. She wished she'd found a type of alcohol that really didn't cause hangovers, rather than trusting her father's misinformation on the subject. Then she replaced that with a wish that she'd never decided to try alcohol at all. It had brought out Suzy, and had led Susan to... Susan's blood ran cold as she came back again to what might happen to her before she could get back to safety.

As her body cooled from her earlier exertions, she began shivering again.

She twisted once more to bring the padlock dial into view, squinting hard. It was no use. She moaned again, remembering the horrible Catch-22 she was in: She couldn't escape without light, but as soon as there was light, there would be too many witnesses outside the forest for her to leave it.

And now she realized she needed to urinate. I'll have to hold it, she thought miserably, until I get home. I'm not going to just pee in the woods like a wild animal.

Suddenly Susan began crying. It came on her unexpectedly, the crush of fear and pending humiliation passing beyond the level she could bear. She realized in seconds that she had to stop. With the ball gag in place she could only breathe through her nose, and her crying was starting to block her nose with snot. She sniffled desperately to clear it.

There were a lot of pebbles, like small marbles, underneath her. She'd had too many other concerns before to focus on them, but they were causing growing discomfort. She wriggled awkwardly, trying to lift parts of herself so she could brush the offending rocks aside.

The wriggling brought it back to her with sudden, intense clarity: she was in bondage. In chains. So often in her life her mind had gone to that zone of excitement. Now it was as intensely arousing as she'd ever imagined.

She pulled the chain tight through her tender vaginal lips, again and again, rubbing, making her conscious of them as never before. Her muscles tensed in rhythm, in sequence, in ripples. She grunted, in gradually increasing throatiness and breathlessness, until everything spilled over into a second convulsive, all-consuming orgasm.

She almost fainted, trying desperately to recover her breath, lying still, feeling her sweat turn the soil to mud underneath her.

And then nearly fainted again, as the thought ran through her mind: What if someone heard me just now?? What if they come out looking to see what the noise is about, flashlights waving from side to side as they search for the source? I have to be quiet! They can't find me like this! Please, no, they CANNOT find me!

She held her breath, listening tensely for any sound that might signal imminent discovery, any sound suggesting she was about to be surrounded by amazed faces staring at her imprisoned, naked body, her bare breasts, her buttocks, wondering about the sweat covering her on such a cool night, laughing at the mud coating one side of her...

No, please, no, please, no, please... She could only repeat it to herself, again and again.

After several minutes of uninterrupted chirping of crickets and sighing of leaves, and nothing else, she convinced herself that she was safe from discovery. For now. But in the morning...

She must not still be here in the morning!

Maybe, she thought, with the first spark of hope she had been able to muster since finding herself here, maybe I can open the padlock at the very first light of dawn, and get across the street and into the building before people awaken.

Her heart fell again as she examined the possibility. That first bit of light would come at around six o'clock. A lot of people had to start their day even before that, their alarms set for five-thirty or so. If I'm not out of here and into the building before the very first hint of coming daylight, she told herself, I'm sunk.

She felt at the padlock again, this time with her fingernail, letting it tick at the grooves in the dial, willing herself to detect a pattern that told her where the numbers were.

After a few minutes she bounced on the ground in frustration, making an angry growl in the back of her throat despite her resolve to stop making any noise at all. She froze and listened once more for any sounds that said someone might be coming. At last she lay back on the ground with a soft, helpless whimper.

I just need to get out of this as soon as I can, she told herself, and maybe it will be early enough. I can at least get up closer to the street and see what's happening. Maybe I'll be able to see there's nobody around, even after it gets light.

When will that be? She realized she had no clue what time it was right now. She couldn't know how long she had slept in her drunken stupor. It might be only minutes from dawn, or dawn could still be three or four hours away.

Two record-shattering orgasms had drained Susan of energy. She thought she might be able to sleep and make the time pass more quickly. But she didn't want to miss the first light.

I should at least try to relax, she decided. I have a lot to do when the light comes. I need to be alert.

She lay quietly, letting her eyes close. I don't really think I could sleep, she told herself. Even after her orgasms, there remained the background hum of sexual excitement which, it seemed, could rise again to a fever pitch at any moment...

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