Chapter 2

Susan's mind spun in circles, a runaway machine. Nothing that was happening was making any sense. Someone was here! Someone was in her apartment! And... was taking a shower. There had to be an explanation. It had to fit together somehow.

The thought that it was only Suzy flitted through her mind, providing momentary relief. The relief disintegrated when she reminded herself forcefully that Suzy was inside her head. Suzy couldn't calmly take a shower while Susan was tied helplessly to the bed.

The word "helpless" stuck. I am helpless, Susan thought desperately. Someone is in my apartment, and I'm tied here and I can't get loose!

Pure panic came over her. She began desperately pulling her arms and legs inward, yanking as hard as she could against the ropes holding them, whimpering in fear, her stomach bouncing on the bed from her efforts. It's happened! she told herself, not wanting to believe it. Everything I've feared, everything I've tried so hard to avoid, it's finally happened! Somebody is here, somebody can see me, somebody knows what I'm doing!

And why are they taking a shower?? In my bathroom??

Susan, with effort, pushed the panic away. She tried to be methodical, working on freeing one extremity at a time. Her right hand. Her left foot. Nothing worked, and the panic started setting in again. As she had every time before when her fear reached a fever pitch, Susan felt her bladder letting go. She hadn't wet her bed since she was a child, and would have felt shame at doing so now if her terror had been willing to let any other emotion in.

The shower stopped. Whoever it was would be here in a minute. Susan tensed all her muscles at once, telling herself This can't be happening, this can't be happening, yet knowing that it was.

She heard the bathroom door open, the padding of bare feet on the carpet. Susan literally couldn't breathe.

She heard a voice, a female voice -- somehow the voice was issuing from behind a smile, Susan wasn't sure how she knew that -- say, "Sorry, I was all sweaty. I hope you don't mind that I used one of your clean towels." Susan could hear the footsteps come closer. "Well, have you been a good girl while I was gone? You know what happens to you when you're bad." After a pause, there was a chuckle. "Oh no, dear, wetting the bed is not what good girls do. There'll have to be a little punishment for that."

This was far worse than anything Susan had ever imagined. Shame and humiliation was one thing, but this was going to hurt! All rational thought drained away, leaving nothing but blank animal terror. The gag filling her mouth turned Susan's reflexive scream into a gurgling cough.

The voice was suddenly full of concern. "Wait a minute, I think you're really choking. Sorry if you're not, but this is a little too real."

There were hands on the back of Susan's head, quickly unbuckling the straps holding the gag. Susan spat out the gag as it was released, and said in a voice she could barely give any breath to, "Please don't hurt me, please don't hurt me! Can you please go away? Please, please?" She started sobbing, her nose starting to run.

The smile returned to the voice. "That's pretty convincing. Maybe I should have left it all as is. You're really good at this. Sorry if I spoiled the moment. Let me start over from here." Susan felt a hand pat her shoulder. And suddenly the voice went silent, and the uninvited hand withdrew quickly as if burned.

After a long pause, the voice said, in an entirely different tone, puzzled, uncertain, and speaking to herself, "You're shaking like a vibrator. Nobody is that good at roleplay." Susan's panic began to shade into puzzlement. She stopped crying. What was this woman talking about? Susan tensed and whimpered as fingers touched the side of her throat. The voice went on, under its breath, "Your heart is going nuts in there!" Then, more firmly: "I want to see your eyes." Susan felt the blindfold being unbuckled.

As it fell away, Susan turned her head away, her eyes squeezed tightly shut, trying desperately to will the intruding woman out of her life.

The woman said, again firmly, "Look at me. Look at me. I need to see you."

Unwillingly, Susan somehow yielded to the command of the voice. She turned and looked into the face that had no business, absolutely none, being in Susan's apartment.

The woman locked eyes with Susan's. Her own eyes widening, she stood up slowly from her bent-over-Susan position, without her eyes leaving Susan's.

The woman, Susan saw in astonishment, was as naked as Susan herself -- well of course, Susan told herself, she just stepped out of my shower -- yet she stood over Susan without an ounce of self-consciousness, as if covering herself would never occur to her. She still held a towel -- Susan's towel, from the bathroom -- tucked under her arm, and absently raised it to her forehead to wipe away a droplet of water snaking down from her still wet hair. The hair was bright red, very short, and its unruliness seemed not to owe simply to just having showered -- it somehow looked as if it was never combed. Her face was strikingly pretty, wide with high cheekbones and dramatic red eyebrows. Black eyeliner, mascara, and dark brick-red eyeshadow made her gaze more piercing, and in some way possibly menacing, while the light blush added to the cheekbones enhanced them without, however, covering the standard freckles of red hair, the effect giving the impression that, rather than not caring about them, she was proud of them.

The theme of width continued in the rest of the woman's body -- broad shoulders, wide hips -- but slim waist, and no hint of fat anywhere. Firm breasts, with uptilted nipples, with a flat tummy and visible washboard abdominals below. Very muscular build suggesting confident strength. Susan thought she must be an athlete. Tennis, maybe. But her bulging arm and shoulder muscles matched on both sides, so she'd have to be ambidextrous. Or no, with those legs she could be a soccer player. Susan wasn't able to stop herself from observing that she couldn't tell whether the woman's pubic hair would have been as red as the hair on her head, because her mound was shaved perfectly smooth, though Susan felt sure it would be -- with the freckles and her pinkish skin, the hair color was most likely authentic. She looked, in Susan's best estimate, to be about twenty-five.

All of these observations ran through Susan's mind in an instant, along with the certainty that Susan had never seen the woman before in her life. She was sure she would remember. Anyone who looked like this would make an impression.

After a long pause, eyes still fixed on Susan's, the woman finally said slowly, in obvious amazement, "You really don't know me. You don't..." She stopped suddenly, then went on, sounding awestruck, "Sus-an?"

It didn't come out anything like "Suzanne," yet somehow there was a subtle emphasis on the second syllable, as if to contrast it with a different possible ending.

Susan's jaw dropped open with sudden understanding. Somehow, some way, Suzy had invited this woman here, had let her into the apartment. The woman knew Suzy. Susan couldn't imagine how. And the woman knew, somehow knew, that the girl she had known as Suzy might now be Susan.

Susan gave her a timid nod.

The woman closed her eyes and shook her head. Abruptly, she turned and sat on the bed, as if too stunned to stand anymore. She twisted around to look at Susan again, and said, more to herself than to Susan, "It's for real. It's really... I thought it was the greatest bullshit story I'd ever heard. That you're two different... Okay, let me get this worked out." She sat still for a moment. "All that stuff you told me... Wait. It... wasn't you that told me, right? You're... not Suzy? Was I, like... talking to somebody else?"

Susan nodded again. Clearly this woman had been told about the double occupancy in Susan's head, but hadn't believed it. And she couldn't have got the information from anyone but Suzy.

"And so, when you told me..." She shook her head again. "When she told me, that you... that... Susan... is kind of the... main person..." She stopped. "Tell me what's going on. In your own way. So I can see if I'm understanding right. Tell me who Suzy is."

Susan had lived with it long enough that it seemed clear to her, though she had never imagined she would ever find herself telling another person. But there was no reason to hide anything. This woman, Susan saw, only wanted verification of what she already strongly suspected.

In the same weak, almost breathless voice, not wanting to talk to this woman who shouldn't be here, sitting beside Susan while Susan was tied naked in a strangely erotic position on the bed, and only hoping that if she could answer the woman's questions, then the woman would go away and leave Susan alone, Susan said hesitantly, "Suzy is... inside me. She helps me. She... fixes it so I can do things I always wanted to do, but was too scared to..." She paused, not knowing what to add. "You see?"

The woman nodded. She asked, "Do you... like, hear her voice, in your head?" She seemed only to be trying to establish in her mind exactly how the relationship worked.

Susan shook her head. Doing so was awkward, with her whole body stretched so tautly, but asking the woman to untie her was beyond anything she could imagine doing. All through her bondage adventures, there had been a vision in Susan's mind of her worst fear, that of being caught, and the vision proceeded in a certain way: discovery, laughter, discussion of her as if she couldn't hear, and finally being untied or unchained by those laughing people or the police. Her discovery was in progress now, but as long as she could put off the untying part, the vision was somehow on hold, not fully realized. The woman's reaction itself didn't fit the vision. Susan liked that the woman was struggling to understand, rather than judge, and was far from finding it a source of amusement.

Besides that, once she was tied, Susan always hated the thought of her bondage ending until it absolutely had to. She felt far more comfortable, far more centered as a person, when she was bound. It was as if she was her most true self when tied. She had never imagined talking to someone while bound, but now that she was, she could only continue as Susan-bound, not Susan-unbound. Unbound, she knew she would run straight to the bathroom and lock the door. Susan didn't want that. In some way she couldn't understand, despite this woman intruding into her world and, indeed, into her most private space of all, Susan wanted to continue talking to her. The sympathy was very nice.

In a similar way, even though covering herself with clothes, to the maximum extent compatible with being unremarkable, had always been a must for dealing with the world in Susan's mind, a way of hiding herself when she was required to be in plain sight of others, Susan felt right now a need to hold desperately onto her nudity. She was aware she could ask this woman to pull a blanket over her, but to her own astonishment, felt a resistance towards doing it. That, again, was part of the terrifying vision of being caught: being handed a blanket to wrap around herself. Again, as long as Susan could resist living out the vision in reality, she could keep herself removed from it, keep it from destroying her world. She couldn't help, at this moment, displaying her entire body in a way she could never have imagined anyone seeing it, but it was crucial for that to continue.

At least Susan and the woman were on equal ground, in the context of clothing, or lack of it. And on the woman's part, she seemed so absorbed in trying to understand the inside of Susan's mind that she had no apparent conscious awareness, at present, of the state of Susan's body.

Susan did her best to answer. "She can't talk to me. Not directly. When I have a few drinks, though, she... she can take over then. I don't remember anything about what she's done then. Unless she lets me. She gives me memories of what she's done when she wants to."

The woman nodded. "That's what you said..." She smiled. "This is hard, finding the right way to say it. I meant that's what she told me, before." She rubbed her eyes, as if they had somehow been playing tricks on her. "I talked with... with Suzy. We met online..."

Susan blinked. So that was what Suzy had been doing on Susan's laptop. At least part of what she'd been doing.

The woman looked suddenly startled. "Oh! I just realized, you don't even know my name. Not if Suzy didn't tell you..." She looked at Susan questioningly. Susan shook her head. The woman went on. "I'm Quinn. First name, not last. Spelled with two n's." She waited for reaction from Susan, got none, then went on. "Anyway, Suzy told me this whole multiple-personality story. I thought all along, sure, sure, great gimmick for roleplay. I thought I'd come over, she'd pretend she didn't know who I was... get it? Just her way of having fun, of getting into it." She rested her chin on her fist, now not looking at Susan at all. "Has Suzy always been there with you?"

"No. I mean, I don't know. She still doesn't talk to me, and maybe she could have been there a long time without me knowing." Quinn nodded.

An unwelcome thought occurred to Susan. "Before, when you... before you took your shower, were you..." She paused for a long time, trying to decide whether she really wanted the answer, and finally went on. "Were you... watching me?"

Quinn looked uncertain. "You mean... Oh! So that was you? I assumed it was Suzy. I mean, that was before I knew that it was true that there really were, like, two of you." She smiled. "Yeah, I was watching from the door. After I finished tying Suzy up -- I've never tied anybody quite that stretched out before, but it's what she wanted --- I asked her -- it must have still been her -- if it was okay if I took a shower before we started our... ummm, session. She said sure, and then it was like she fainted. I decided to watch her a minute to see if she was okay. I think that must have been when she handed things over to you. It was kind of interesting when you started moving -- it was like you were 'getting in character' now." Here Quinn held up her fingers in air quotes. "So I kept watching."

Susan, amazed at herself, thought she should be wanting to crawl inside herself and disappear. Somehow she didn't. This stranger in her home had seen her masturbating! The most private thing she could possibly do! And not like a normal girl, but using bondage to do it! Yet Quinn wasn't, technically, a stranger. It was only Susan who hadn't met her. Quinn was a friend of Suzy's, however that might have happened. Susan had developed implicit trust in Suzy, and obviously Suzy had invited Quinn here, had opened the door and let her in. Quinn had every right to be here, because it was okay with Suzy. Or so Susan told herself, and was making fair progress towards accepting it.

It was still the case that no other person must ever be allowed to see Susan during one of her bondage adventures. Such a thing would be the end of the world, in Susan's mind. People surrounding a bound, nude, helpless Susan, concentrating their attention on her, thinking about her, talking about her, laughing at her, would shatter every protective barrier Susan had assembled around herself that made it possible for her to survive in the world.

But Quinn didn't do any of those things people did in Susan's nightmare of discovery. Far from gawking and gaping at Susan in amazement, Quinn seemed barely to notice Susan's physical presence, let alone the situation Susan was in. She was completely focused, it seemed, on Susan's internal landscape, a world Susan barely understood herself, in a way that suggested she wanted to understand it and might help Susan understand it.

Suzy had introduced someone into Susan's private world whose presence Susan might learn to find tolerable. And yet even Suzy's recommendation would not have carried weight with Susan if she had bestowed it on the wrong person. Susan was willing to accept Quinn on probation, as it were, and only partly because she was Suzy's friend. There was something, somehow, about Quinn that failed to set off Susan's alarm bells.

A thought obviously occurred to Quinn now. "Oh! Back in a minute." She ran out into the living room, and returned seconds later. She looked at Susan again. "If I talk to Suzy right now, she can hear me?"

Susan blinked in surprise. "I think so."

Quinn held up her hand to show that she was holding several bills of some denomination. "I'm not going to take the money, Suzy. What you have is something special that I'll never run into anywhere else. I don't want it to be about money. I just want to be part of this." She set the bills down on top of the dresser.

Susan looked at her in astonishment. "Suzy paid you money?"

Quinn smiled. "This is what I do, Susan. I mean, not for a living, just spare change. In the daytime I work in my dad's auto body shop." Susan supposed that explained the muscle fitness. She'd never really watched auto repair workers in action, but she assumed it wasn't a job for weaklings. "But in my time off, when I get a chance, I work as a domme. You know what that is?"

Susan gaped at her, and nodded slowly. "A... dominatrix... People hire you to give them orders. Cause them pain." During the course of trying to research her own kink, Susan had run across a number of others that were related. Domination/submission relationships didn't appeal to Susan, but she knew what they were.

"Well, it doesn't have to involve pain. It can, and I do have whips and other similar things. Mostly it's just taking control over my clients, as much as they want me to. Or more accurately, it's them giving away control to me."

Susan looked over toward the dresser, where the bills were. She didn't have nearly enough money to afford something like this. Where had Suzy gotten it from?

Quinn saw the look, and understood. She seemed good at that. She smiled. "It's just fifty dollars, Susan. When I said I do it for spare change, it's hardly even really that. I really just do this for fun, but part of the job is that I need to get respect. I would do it for free, but I found out early on that people take me more seriously if I charge them money. So it's a token amount."

"How did Suzy find you?" It certainly didn't seem to have taken her long.

"She said she saw an ad I have on a bondage website." Susan nodded. That made sense, as something Suzy would check into. "I live in Watney." A small town twenty miles away. "So I could get here without any trouble. She emailed first, and then we talked on Skype a couple of times."

Susan shook her head. Her laptop did have a camera, but she didn't have Skype. At least there was no icon for it. Suzy may have hidden it. Susan hadn't checked all the programs lately.

Quinn went on, "You already know she didn't hide anything from me. She told me all about her and you. And you already know I didn't believe it, until tonight when I saw... well, that you're not her." She smiled again. "My first hint should have been when I saw you'd peed the bed. But I just thought Suzy was really going for authenticity. She was obviously expecting you'd do that. That's why she put plastic under the sheet beforehand."

Where did Suzy... Oh, a trash bag, Susan told herself. That's what that crackling sound is when I move! And yes, Suzy would definitely have known that was going to happen.

Quinn continued, "Anyway, she made an appointment for me to come over tonight. I kind of had to hurry over from work, but it was no big deal."

"Oh. That's why you needed a shower when you got here."

Quinn gave her a puzzled look, then slowly smiled. "Okay, you don't know about that. No, I worked up kind of a sweat after I got here."

Susan was about to ask what she meant -- tying up Suzy didn't seem like it would have been that strenuous. But at that moment, Suzy uncovered the memory for Susan.

Susan remembered, now, opening the front door -- Suzy opening the door -- and seeing Quinn standing there, with that wide, strikingly pretty face and the same unruly, uncombed, spiky red hair Susan had seen after her shower, except dry. Quinn was holding a large duffle bag. Susan hadn't known until now how tall Quinn was; standing looking at her now, within the memory, she saw Quinn was about two inches taller than herself. She was dressed in a sleeveless vest and full-length pants, all in black leather, with silver buttons that matched the short lengths of chain seemingly running at random between pockets or studs on the leather. On her feet she had black leather boots with heels that raised her height another inch or so. Susan herself would have been afraid of any of her neighbors seeing that such a person was visiting her apartment, but Suzy had no such qualms.

Quinn stepped forward as Suzy invited her in, dropping the duffle bag on the floor, where it made a clinking sound as well as a thump, swept the money out of Suzy's hand, folded it one handed, and slipped into a pocket of her pants, all in one gesture, with that smile that Susan, by now, had become accustomed to seeing on her face. Quinn looked around the apartment and then back at Suzy, in time to receive Suzy's arms sliding around her, parting her lips for Suzy's kiss. Suzy, now closer to the door, had reached blindly behind herself to close it, then used the same hand to begin stroking the leather covering Quinn's hip as they maintained the kiss, moving their mouths against each other while occasionally gently licking tongues.

It was Quinn who had begun the disrobing segment of the activities, unbuttoning her own vest, under which she wore a black bra, and pulling Suzy's shirt over her head and up her upraised arms, pausing their kissing just long enough to accomplish the actions, including, in the case of Quinn's clothes, folding them and draping them over a kitchen chair. Once they were both naked, Quinn, arms around Suzy and pushing forward very gently against her, with Suzy responding and walking backward, led Suzy to the sofa and down onto her back on it, with Quinn laying atop her afterward.

Quinn, still kissing, began moving on Suzy beneath her, her hands stroking her sides, cupping her buttocks, gently squeezing her breasts, and at last reached down to stroke her sex. As Suzy moaned, Quinn whispered "Touch me like that too." Suzy did so. Quinn covered Suzy's hand and guided it, saying, "Just a little higher... there, exactly there," afterward breathing out a satisfied sigh. After a few moments Quinn's moans began echoing Suzy's.

Susan could remember it all. As usual with Suzy's memories, Susan didn't have the feel of having initiated any of Suzy's actions -- it felt, as always, as if her body was moving on its own, without intent. But the memories of all of Suzy's sensations were there. Susan remembered the feel of bare skin pressed against bare skin, moving against skin, the feel of breast against breast, lips against lips, remembered the look of Quinn's face filling her field of vision as they kissed. She remembered how Quinn's hardened nipples felt like fingers tracing designs on her chest, remembered how Quinn's lips and tongue tasted like peppermint, perhaps from a hard candy she'd been sucking on before arriving. And she remembered Suzy's emotional reactions -- the pleasure, the wonder accompanying the touches, the growing need for Quinn's body, the growing excitement, up to and including the shaking, quivering, breathless climax, Suzy's virgin orgasm. Suzy had felt Susan's orgasms in a slightly muted way, but had never directly experienced one, never had an orgasm of her own. Susan knew that, as part of the memory.

Susan's jaw dropped in stupefied amazement as the memories swept through her, and she stared at Quinn in disbelief. Suzy was a lesbian! Could that be possible? Susan wasn't sure about any of the rules governing multiple personalities. She supposed there was no rule saying different personalities in one body had to have the same sexual orientation.

Susan had never in her life looked at any woman as a potential sexual partner. She was attracted to men, though she had never, of course, taken any action to initiate a relationship with one. Susan had never believed a sex act could happen with her own participation -- she fantasized about them, dreamed about them, but always thought that in real life they must surely be out of reach. In fact, since most of the objects of her admiration were men in movies, television, or magazines, they were out of reach in a very literal sense.

It occurred to Susan that she had never felt as comfortable around any man, in real life, as she already did now with Quinn.

She saw Quinn suddenly grin at her. "Suzy just told you what happened when I got here, didn't she?"

Still too stunned to speak, Susan could only slowly nod.

Quinn looked up at the ceiling, summoning her own memory of the event, still, as she so often was, smiling. "I haven't done that before -- had sex with a new client right from the start of the first session. It's not like I have any rule about it, though. Like I said, what I do is just for fun. And to just walk in on someone I'd never met face to face before and start having sex, without a word... Well, that did sound like fun. Suzy's idea." The smile turned into a grin again, as she looked at Susan once more. "And now you know why I only take female clients."

Susan nodded again, having learned something new about Quinn as well as Suzy.

Quinn had the air of having made a decision as to what to do next. "Look, if you're wondering, we can't have the session I planned with Suzy. I have to have your permission ahead of time for anything I do to you, not Suzy's. Not down to exactly specific actions, but I have to know what your preferences are, and I absolutely have to be clear beforehand on your limitations. And you're not in a position to give permission right now, genuine permission. I'm standing here over you, and you're tied to the bed, so you can't feel free to withhold permission. Anything you say might be because you were scared not to." Another smile. "See, I do have some rules." She looked thoughtful. "I have a feeling Suzy knew we'd run into this problem. She knew I'd figure out you weren't her. So she knew I wouldn't do anything to hurt you."

Besides feeling Quinn was right about Suzy not really exposing Susan to genuine potential harm, Susan once again found Quinn's perceptiveness remarkable. It was true: Suzy would have known exactly what Susan's reaction would be -- witness the trash bag under the sheet -- and would have known that Quinn would not hurt anyone whose permission she didn't have, and that that would apply to Susan. Suzy had told Quinn about the shared tenant in her body. Quinn didn't have to figure that part out. Quinn only needed to see the obvious signs that it was all true. And she had seen them, and had known Susan wasn't Suzy. Susan nodded and said, "I think so."

She felt relieved Quinn was calling off the session. She could imagine what Quinn might do in a typical encounter.

Quinn came back to the bed, leaned over, and reached for the knot at the right-hand bedpost.

As she saw Quinn was about to let her go, Susan shook her head vehemently. She still didn't want to be released.

Quinn stood upright and gave Susan a puzzled look. "Susan, you can't get out of that on your own. I made sure of that."

"Suzy... always gives me a way to get free myself."

"Yes, but there isn't one now."

"I mean, you could give me one."

Quinn looked uncertain. "You want that? Instead of me just untying you?"

Susan nodded. "Yes, please. Could you look in the drawer, over there?" She gestured with her head towards the dresser. "There's a boy scout knife. I can cut the rope with that, after you leave, if you put it where I can get it."

Quinn went to the dresser, and opened Susan's bondage drawer. She whistled. "Hey, I'm impressed. You've got a lot of nice stuff in here."

Susan realized, in surprise, that the leather cuffs she was wearing were not what Suzy had ordered from the bondage supply house. Likely the ropes weren't Susan's either, though they may well have come from the same source. Quinn hadn't seen the bondage drawer before this moment. These must be cuffs and ropes Quinn brought with her. What Suzy ordered must have been something else.

Quinn returned to the bed, holding the knife, and frowned. "I'd better open it. I can't imagine how you could get it open one-handed."

Susan thought a moment, and nodded. "Okay."

"Just put it right here by your hand?" Quinn set the knife on the bed.

Susan shook her head. "Not close to my hand. I really want to have to work to get it. To get free. Fix it so it takes a lot of time and a lot of work." Susan felt herself getting wet, for the first time since becoming aware of Quinn's presence. Having to work hard and long to escape her bondage -- that always had its effect on her.

Quinn pinched her lip between thumb and forefinger. "I could put it under your stomach, and you could kind of pinch it between her body and the sheet, and brush it with your body up towards your hand." She smiled. "You should see how your face lit up. I know I'm on the right track." Then she frowned. "That would totally slice up your stomach, though... Wait a minute." She brightened. "Let me see what's in your kitchen." She ran out of the room. Susan could hear her looking in drawers. She came back moments later with a long wooden spoon, part of the kitchen supplies Mom had made Susan bring with her that she hadn't found a use for, with her reliance on frozen dinners.

Quinn bent and, as Susan sucked in her stomach, Quinn pushed the spoon in underneath Susan's stomach just below her navel, pointing across her body, the bowl on the left side. "See, brush that up towards your hand, and I'll put the knife here..." She set it down between Susan's right hand and the bedpost, just inches from the corner of the bed, several inches beyond Susan's fingers. "Try to reach it there."

Susan wriggled, stretching forward as far as the restraint on her ankles would allow, all her muscles taut and straining. She felt the rope through her crotch tighten again, pushing her arousal another notch higher. She relaxed, and shook her head. "That's good. I can't get it."

"Okay. So once you have the spoon in your hand, you can use it to pull the knife to you."

Susan nodded eagerly, and said, "That's the kind of thing I meant. Thank you."

Quinn looked at the arrangement for Susan's escape, seeming deep in thought. "That knife is close enough to the corner of the bed that you could easily accidentally knock it to the floor. And then you'd be totally stuck. It's not like you can slice through the rope with a wooden spoon, and there's nothing else you can reach." She bit her lip. "My dad closes up the shop at noon on Saturdays. We just finish up leftover jobs from Friday. I can leave then, and get here by twelve-thirty. Here, let me leave my card here." She ran back to the living room, and returned with a business card. She dropped it on the nightstand. "As soon as you get free, send me a text."

Susan shook her head. "My phone doesn't text." She had never felt she had a reason to bother with the ability to send texts.

Quinn nodded, "Shit, right, Suzy told me that. Okay, just call, then. Even if it's the middle of the night. If I don't answer, leave a voicemail. Tell me you got free. If you don't, I'll know you're stuck, and I'll come and let you loose."

"Okay." Susan wasn't completely sure she wanted simply to be cut free, rather than saving herself on her own. But Quinn was right -- there was a chance that escape might be impossible. And if anyone did have to help Susan get loose, it had to be Quinn, who already knew Susan's secret. As usual, Susan knew she couldn't possibly call out for help from whomever could hear her -- especially right here in her apartment building, where everyone around was her neighbor and knew who she was.

Susan could see her bedside clock, its big red digits readable even without her glasses. It was just after 10 p.m. If Susan couldn't free herself, she'd spend fourteen to fifteen hours unable to do anything about her post-tequila thirst. Since Quinn was about to go, Susan realized she needed to do something about it now. "Wait. I'm sorry. I woke up really thirsty, and I still haven't had any water. Could you get me some, please?"

Quinn nodded, and went out to the kitchen. Susan heard cupboards opening, the clink of a glass, the faucet running, and Quinn calling out, "Do you have any straws here?"

Susan, seeing the problem, wished she did have some. "No."

Quinn returned, holding a filled glass. "We'll make do, then." She gently lifted Susan's chin so she could get the bottom of the glass below it, and carefully tilted the glass so Susan could drink. Quinn's hands were steady, and very little water spilled out as Susan drank. Quinn took away the empty glass. "More?"

Susan shook her head. "I couldn't hold more right now."

Quinn snorted. "You know you won't hold that for long either." Susan could see that Quinn was looking at the still-wet patch of bedsheet between Susan's legs.

Susan sighed. "I know." At least the mattress was protected by Suzy's foresight.

Susan was suddenly acutely aware something was missing. The thought of restoring the missing ingredients made the tingle intensify between her legs. "Could you gag me again? And blindfold me?"

Quinn frowned. "Are you sure?"

Susan nodded. This wasn't like the time when she'd left herself blindfolded when she needed to retrieve her briefcase out in the woods, failing to think how easy it would be to lose her senses of location and direction and be lost permanently, with no hope of releasing herself from bondage. At present, she knew exactly where everything was that she needed for freeing herself, didn't need to see any of it, and being blind, she decided, would make her escape no harder. And she did so love being gagged and blindfolded. She waited for some sign from Suzy that she was making a serious mistake. None was forthcoming.

Quinn picked up the gag, and Susan opened her mouth for it. At that moment, Susan suddenly remembered the experience of her orgasm earlier tonight. She remembered what she thought she had learned from it. And she remembered what Quinn did for a living. (For spare change, not a living. And not even really much spare change...)

Out of that mixture of thoughts, an idea came to Susan. A brilliant idea. Suzy wasn't the only one who could get them. An idea that scared Susan so much her heart started pounding. You should just shut up and let this go, Susan, she told herself. But being scared, according to her new theory, was exactly what she needed. The more the idea scared her, the more necessary it became. She made herself speak. You'll be rewarded later, she promised herself. "Wh-What do you use for a whip?"

Quinn raised her eyebrows at the question that came out of nowhere. "There's different kinds. What I use depends on what the client is there for. Some want symbolic pain, because they find it a turn-on. It's purely sex play. And some genuinely want to be punished. Why do you ask?"

"What do you use that causes the most pain, but without any cuts or permanent damage?"

Quinn frowned as she thought it over, looking at Susan speculatively. "I guess I'd go with the paddle. I've got one with air holes so it moves faster and hits harder, and the holes have rounded, smooth edges so they can't break the skin. I've never cut anybody with it. It leaves bruises, but they heal. I know you're going somewhere with this, Susan. Somebody tied up like you doesn't go in for idle conversation."

Susan pushed herself, again, to go on. "If I don't get out of this and you have to come back tomorrow, bring that. And paddle me, hard, before you let me go." Make it worse, Susan told herself. Expecting just a token slap isn't enough. Make the picture totally clear in your mind of how bad it will be. She forced herself still farther onward. "Fifteen strokes. Five on the butt, five on each thigh. Treat me exactly like any one of your clients who wants to be punished."

With her greatest effort of all, Susan made herself keep looking at Quinn, despite a lifetime habit of avoiding eye contact. You have to look like you're sure, she told herself.

Quinn blinked. "For real? I was guessing you just wanted some idea how mean I could be in general. From what Suzy said about you, you don't seem like the type to..."

Susan nodded, still looking Quinn in the eyes, and interrupted her, another novelty for Susan. "I mean it." Make sure you can't back out, she told herself. "Do it, even if I look scared, or try to tell you no. Each time I make any sound, or shake my head, or anything that looks like I'm trying to get you to stop, add five more strokes total." A practical consideration presented itself. "Unless it's just squeaking in pain right after the stroke."

Susan could barely breathe, thinking about what she was doing. Quinn continued looking at her. Susan had a sense that Quinn really liked the idea, but that something was holding her back from agreeing to it.

Susan explained, "I'm not expecting it to happen. But I need to have that looming ahead of me. It's my motivation to get free on my own."

Quinn nodded. "I can imagine that would really be some motivation. I don't have any problem with doing it -- I've done similar things often -- but you remember what I said about permission. I can't accept anything you say as a free-will statement when I'm already in a position of power over you. It has to be made clear beforehand."

Susan shook her head quickly. "This is different. You know there isn't any way you forced me to ask for this. You didn't even know I was going to."

Quinn stood with her right hand against the side of her head, her eyes closed, deciding whether this fit in with the rules. At last she said, "I've got the paddle here with me. Suzy didn't tell me not to bother bringing stuff like that, so I brought it along just in case. My last reason for not agreeing to this yet is I'm not sure you know what you're asking for. If you still say yes once you do, I'm in."

Maintaining eye contact now might have been the hardest thing Susan had ever done. She's saying she wants to swat me now! she wailed in horror inside. Just so I can see what it feels like! And otherwise she won't do it. I need her to promise to do it!

Susan had absolutely no interest in pain and punishment. None whatsoever. While reading about masochism, she had wondered what made a person want that.

She was terribly afraid of what she was getting herself into. She knew she would not enjoy any such paddling, at any level. But that was exactly what made it so important.

She understood now. What had been missing from her orgasm tonight had been that element of fear. It didn't, Susan saw now, have to be the fear of discovery. It could just as well be fear of pain. Tonight, as she was working on freeing herself, she needed to be terrified of the consequences of failing. Exactly as she had been each time Suzy had tied her up and left her outside.

Susan had wondered, all along, why Suzy, who seemed always to have Susan's needs at heart, kept putting her in such scary situations. In no way did Susan enjoy thinking of the possibility that she might be caught in bondage.

Yet for some reason Susan couldn't remotely understand, the threat of it supercharged her orgasms.

It seemed that there were three basic building blocks to Susan's sexual response. One was being in bondage, and Susan had always been aware of that. Another was the consideration of all the time and effort that would be required to escape the bondage, and Susan had seen that fairly early on. And the third was fear of the dangers she might potentially fall into while in bondage, and Susan was only just now coming to recognize that. Somehow Suzy had seen the entire picture, long before Susan did. Suzy had always understood, as someone could only if they were inside Susan's head.

Exposure was one of those possible dangers, and that probably accounted for Susan's need to be naked while tied up, but that was only one example. Susan was sure that the situation she was putting herself in would serve just as well, as that third building block.

It wasn't masochism. If Quinn paddled her, Susan knew it would be the worst thing she had experienced in her life -- being caught in bondage, by anyone other than Quinn, would be far worse, but that had never happened yet -- and Susan would absolutely get no positive reaction of any kind from being paddled by a professional. What Susan needed wasn't the pain. It was the anticipation of potential pain, pain to be avoided at all costs: that is what fed into her sexual responsiveness. She needed the fear of what would happen if she failed to escape bondage. It was a possible consequence of bondage, something that was part of the world of bondage that Susan needed to inhabit fully.

And now Quinn was proposing to give Susan a taste of that pain right now. Now that Quinn had brought it up, Susan, who absolutely wanted no part of any such demonstration, realized that it was, nevertheless, an important part of the whole effort. She needed to know how much it would hurt. If Susan, in her ignorance, managed to convince herself that paddling wouldn't be so bad, that would probably defeat the entire purpose. She wouldn't fear it anymore.

Susan looked at Quinn and nodded, unable to make herself say the words.

Quinn went out to the living room. Susan could hear her rooting around in her duffle bag. Susan's heart started pounding harder than ever as Quinn returned, holding the instrument of torment under discussion.

It was beyond Susan's power to avoid squeezing her eyes shut. Quinn said, "This'll be just one, but it'll be the way I'd do them tomorrow. Just so you know, when I give multiple swats, I give time in between for the client to think about it." In other words, a detached part of Susan's mind told her, time between to let the pain mature and the dread build for the next one.

Then, probably because she saw Susan had her eyes closed, Quinn said, "Okay, left buttock, in five, four, three, two, one..."

Susan tensed, and heard a slight hissing sound, and an instant later a flash of stinging pain attacked her left buttock, and spread out as a wave of fire -- not the good kind like an orgasm. The bad, I-don't-want-this kind.

Susan somehow avoided crying out -- with Quinn's warning, she'd managed to steel herself against doing so, knowing she couldn't afford to make that much noise. Afterward it was nearly as hard for her to clamp down on an automatic plea for Quinn not to hurt her anymore. Susan breathed in tiny sips of air, as the pain slowly faded. She had to remind herself, forcefully, why she was doing this. At last, with more determination than ever, she looked up at Quinn again. Not yet able to make herself speak voluntarily, she nodded.

Quinn nodded back, and smiled. "Good girl. All right, now you know. You said you don't want to be able to back out, so I'll just ask once. Be sure about your answer, because once you say yes, I'll consider it a done deal. If I need to come back tomorrow to set you loose, do you want the fifteen swats?"

A hurricane of conflicting thoughts whirled through Susan's head. Three of them dominated. One of them ran: I know why I'm doing this. I cheated myself out of a super-orgasm before, because I didn't understand what I needed. I don't want to be disappointed again. The second was: The swats aren't going to happen. I will get out of this. It will be a lot of work [a quick thrill of arousal ignited between Susan's legs as she visualized the work], but it's all set up, it's straightforward and simple, and I will do it, like I've got myself free every time before, even those times when I didn't know how I was going to do it. I don't need to think of this as agreeing to all that pain. That's not what this is about. I'm just setting up the potential for pain to be held over my head while I'm working on escape. That's what I need.

The third was: Suzy isn't telling me not to do this. I've got in trouble by ignoring signs before. There's nothing there this time.

Continuing to look at Quinn, repeating to herself, it won't happen, it won't happen, Susan said, "If you come back, I want the fifteen swats." Another burst of excitement buzzed between her legs, in anticipation of the explosion of sexual energy she was going to feel later.

Quinn grinned and nodded. "Okay. If I have to come here and get you out of this, be prepared for some punishment beforehand. Treating you like a client. I always hold up my end of the deal. Fifteen strokes with the paddle. Like I said, you'll have bruises, but no permanent marks."

Susan, now that she had done it, felt horror bursting into shrapnel inside her mind at what she had done -- the arguments in favor had carried the day, but the arguments against the whole idea, augmented by the memory of the pain of that one single swat, refused to go away. She had to renew her inner chant of it won't happen, it won't happen, until some of the clamor quieted, to some extent. To Quinn, she simply nodded, and said, "Thank you." She opened her mouth for the gag again.

As Quinn strapped on the blindfold afterward, Susan felt her excitement continuing to build, along with that horror returning -- the clamor of negative voices couldn't be stilled entirely. She reminded herself, in another effort to suppress the horror, that the arrangement was made, the deal was done. Susan couldn't stop what lay ahead of her, except by getting loose before early afternoon tomorrow. And I will get loose, she insisted to herself.

And she had one more weapon against those disagreeable, worried voices inside: she reminded them again about the super-orgasms. She wanted one so, so, so much. And she felt sure this was the only way to get one.

Quinn spoke. "I'll turn off the light. I don't guess it matters one way or another, all things considered, but you'll save some electricity anyway. And I'll leave the front door unlocked, because otherwise I can't get back in if I need to."

Susan hadn't thought about that. It scared her for a moment, before she remembered that being scared by the possibilities was the whole point. Discovery was back on the table, if anyone should hear her and decide to check on her well-being. Susan thrust aside the automatic No, no, no feeling that Quinn leaving the door unlocked was giving her. She knew it was exactly what she needed. Facing in the direction of Quinn's voice, she said, "Mm-hmm," and nodded her head.

Quinn continued, "It was really, really nice meeting you, Susan. You and Suzy both. I know I will see you again soon, even if it's not tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that."

A moment later Susan was startled to feel a soft kiss on her cheek, between the straps of the gag and the blindfold.

Susan heard Quinn go into the living room. There were sounds Susan identified as Quinn getting dressed, and closing up her bag. After a few minutes, Susan heard the front door open, then close. And then the apartment was silent.

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