Kyla darted along the edge of the huge conference hall. She kept her eyes glued to the floor. It wasn’t the finely tooled whips hanging in the booth across the way or the liquid latex application on stage, complete with squealing, half-naked women, which made her uncomfortable. No, it was the familiar faces she hadn’t seen in over two years. She couldn’t look into their faces and see the questions, the pity, the pain. It had taken everything inside her to come today. One well-meaning head pat could quite possibly send her back into hiding.
She ignored the garishly pink dildos on display in the booth on her right and headed straight toward the door marked Exit in neon red. She wasn’t here for the annual Kinkster’s Con—at least not the public displays or the staggering number of sex toys. She was here to see one person. Sawyer, Mr. Rope Top extraordinaire himself, and nothing would stand in the way of her attending his rope demo today.
Except maybe her old mentor, Mistress Neri. The blonde bombshell stood at the booth next to the exit doors, fondling a wicked-looking whip.
Kyla’s determination faltered. It was hard to see Neri and not think of Adam. The two were intrinsically linked in her mind. Neri had introduced them. Had been a huge part of her life. Before.
But now? Now she had to be strong.
And maybe a little cowardly, too. Hoping maybe she could squeak by her old BFF unnoticed, Kyla put her head down and picked up her speed.
“Kyla Grant! Long time no see.”
Kyla winced at the loud, boisterous alto that rang above the cacophony of the Con. So much for lying low. Biting her lip, she faced her old mentor. “Neri, hey. I’m just—” She cut off in a choke as her lithe friend grabbed her in a smothering embrace. The sensation shocked her for a second. She couldn’t remember the last time someone outside of her family had hugged her.
Neri pulled back a little but still kept her arms around Kyla. “Sweetheart, you have been MIA for far too long. I said just the other day I should call up Kyla and invite her over to play. I had a killer party the other month you would’ve loved. The mancandy on display was hot. The things I made those boys do… Mmmm!”
Kyla couldn’t help but relax in Neri’s company. The tiny woman was a fireball of energy who sucked everyone into her vortex. She might appear to be an adorable advertising executive in her vanilla clothes, but during playtime her friend was anything but. Kyla knew for a fact that the combination of Neri’s gorgeous figure in her siren-red micro-mini dress and her thigh-high lace-up boots had brought more than one man to his knees. Which was exactly where Neri preferred her men to be.
Kyla laughed. “Well, you know me. I’d rather feel a strong hand than be one.”
“I don’t know, darling. That display would’ve tempted even the most zealous bottom into switching for at least one night. Those boys were mighty eager to please.” A sweetly wicked smile swept across Neri’s face as she reminisced. After a second she shook her head. “But enough about me. What are you up to lately, stranger? Are you browsing for a gift for your top? The fur-lined cuffs over there are to die for. They’d make the perfect present for your master. Who are you playing with nowadays?”
Neri patted Kyla’s arms, then stepped back as though the mention of another top reminded her she could be trespassing.
Kyla bit her lip. The thought of shopping for her top brought a long-buried memory to the surface. A sheen of tears hazed her vision as she remembered her last shopping trip for Adam and the box still under her bed, wrapping paper and all. She’d been so excited when she’d bought those paddles, imagining Adam’s face when he opened the package and saw the personalized brand etched on them. Of course, he’d never seen them. Would never see them.
She blinked the memories and tears away. Even though Adam was gone, she wasn’t. She deserved to enjoy her life and hopefully a sexy rope dominant too. Determined to change her outlook, she faced Neri and tried to steel herself against her friend’s reaction. The merest allusion to her loss always made things awkward. “I’m not here to shop. I wanted to attend some of the classes. I thought that might be a better way to get into the swing of things again.”
For once the cocksure Neri appeared flustered. She ran a hand through her curly mop of hair and made a face. “Fuck, honey, I’m sorry. I’ve been a long sufferer of foot-in-mouth disease. I didn’t think.” Neri grabbed her arm and dragged her through the exit door and into the quiet hall beyond. “Have you… I know it’s been two years since he passed, but do you wanna talk about it? I’m here for you—have been here for you. Anytime, anyplace.”
Kyla swallowed past the lump in her throat. These people more than anyone understood her—knew why Adam’s death had had such an immobilizing effect on her. She’d not only lost her boyfriend but also half of herself. Adam had been the first man she’d felt truly comfortable playing with in the kinky ways she’d always dreamed about. But with him gone, she didn’t know what to do, where to go…
After a beat she cleared her throat. This was exactly why she was here. To find that other half of herself again. Her resolve returned and she gave Neri a less shaky smile than before and answered, “No, I’m good. I’ve dealt with things. I—I, it’s time. I’m ready.”
“I’m glad. Classes are a great way to get you back into the scene. And a good place to do some flirting. Lemme think… There’s a Tantric sex class in an hour. And there’s a ‘fun with foods’ lecture but it started thirty minutes ago, I think. There’s a single tail class later on, but it’s geared more for tops. Of course, there’s the bondage class but it’s already…”
Kyla’s eyes started to glaze over. She knew she should be paying attention to Neri’s advice but Neri was so excited and chattering a mile a minute, it was hard to follow her. But then, that was Neri—whether online or in person, she was a bundle of energy Kyla hadn’t been able to resist. Brought together seven years ago when Kyla had joined a local BDSM group on AlterNet, Mistress Neri had taken Kyla under her wing. Although Kyla had joined the alternative dating website to find a male dominant, the two of them had hit it off in the chat room. Plus she had learned more in one conversation with Neri than her months of online searching had revealed.
Even though Kyla had been dreading meeting someone who knew her from her time with Adam, she was glad the first had been Neri. Seeing her old mentor again, relaxing in her comfortable chatter made Kyla wonder why she’d waited so long. If there was one person on this earth who would understand what Kyla had been going through, it was Neri. She was the only one in Kyla’s circle of kink friends who’d known Kyla wholly as a person before she’d become Adam’s. Before she’d become one half of a relationship. Before she’d become the only remaining half of their relationship. In Neri’s eyes she was plain ol’ Kyla.
But Kyla had pushed everyone away. Longtime friends. Well-meaning family members. She’d ached to talk to her sister about Adam, but her emotions had been in such a tangle and her relationship with Adam was so complex that she didn’t know where to start. So in the end, she didn’t.
“Earth to Kyla? You still with me, sweetheart?”
Kyla nodded but she was distracted by the sound of the door behind them opening. Turning, she stared straight into the eyes of the man she’d been fantasizing about for so long. There he was. Bad boy Sawyer in the flesh. He looked exactly like the pictures of him on Twitter. From his dusty blond hair to his goatee and wireframe glasses. But pictures couldn’t capture that roguish swagger he had. A natural air of dominance swirled around him. Maybe it was the way he walked or the tilt of his chin, but whatever it was had her nipples standing at attention.
Especially once she noticed he was staring right at her. Kyla’s mind blanked. All the little witty lines she’d thought up during the drive over disappeared. She’d gone from a sexy, confident woman to a stuttering teen in a heartbeat.
Oh dear heaven, he was gorgeous.
Even his voice was sexy. His baritone pitch had an erotic playfulness that had her wanting to hear more. Look at her. He’d said two words, and she was ready to fall at his feet. She had to get herself under control.
“Sawyer, hey. Running a bit late? I thought your class already started.”
“Nah, still have a few—” he looked at his watch, “—seconds. You know me.”
“Yeah, ‘punctuality is the eighth deadly sin.’ If I had a dollar every time you said that. One of these days a woman is really gonna make you pay for your tardiness.”
Sawyer gave a Gallic shrug. “Doubt it. Are you going to introduce me to your friend?”
“Sawyer this is Kyla. Kyla, Sawyer.” Neri gave him a suspicious sideline look.
He didn’t appear to notice. He kept a respectful distance and inclined his head, but his wolfish grin had her toes curling. This was one dangerous man. Yes, please.
He laughed. “Much as I’d love to oblige such a lovely lady, I have a class to teach.”
As he nodded at both of them, then continued down the hall, a wave of mortification swept over Kyla. She said that out loud?
Of course she’d had an audience for her humiliating moment. Unwilling to face Neri and her knowing eyes, Kyla took a beat and watched the beauty of Sawyer walking down the hall. His black leather pants couldn’t quite conceal the magnificence of his ass flexing with his walk. Of course, the gray handkerchief waving from his back left pocket drew attention to his delectable rear. She knew a lot of the dominants in his circle liked to use the flagging code to proclaim their preferences. What color would the king of rope fly other than gray, the color of bondage? Maybe it meant he was looking for a submissive. Wasn’t that what they used the hanky code for? She might have picked the best time to attend one of Sawyer’s classes after all if he needed a playmate.
Once he disappeared behind a door, Kyla knew she couldn’t postpone the inevitable any longer and turned back to her friend.
Neri shook her head with a vaguely disapproving look on her face. “Kyla honey, don’t even think about it.”
“No, hon. That man is trouble. He doesn’t do commitment. And if he’s the first top you’re playing with after Adam… I’m afraid it’s a recipe for disaster.”
“I’ll be okay, Mom.” Kyla tried to keep her annoyance out of her voice. She knew her friend meant well but nothing would deter her from her plan. “I’ve thought about this. I really have. I’m not ready for a relationship yet. Which makes Sawyer the perfect partner because I know he isn’t either. We’ll have some fun and then we’ll both go our separate ways.”
“Life is never that simple, sweetie.”
But this time it would be. If there was one person she could definitely play with and not lose her heart to, it was Sawyer. From what she’d read about him online and heard from her friends—back when she used to talk to them—the man defined commitment phobia. There was no way it would ever go past fun and easy.
And that was just what she needed.
“Tell you what. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll let you give me all the ‘I told you so’s’ you want and any other punishment you decide I need.”
Kyla gave her friend a sassy smile, even as Neri’s frown grew more worried.
Sensing an impending fustercluck, Kyla edged away from Neri. “It’ll be fine. You’ll see. I gotta go or I’ll be late. We’ll catch up later, okay?” Kyla said the last bit over her shoulder as she quickly made her way down the hall to the room Sawyer had disappeared inside.
The paper taped to the inset window fluttered as Kyla opened the door. In her peripheral vision she noticed the class description on it—Rope Bondage. She smiled smugly. Perfect.
“I’ll be fine, Mama. I’m a big girl.” With a cheerful wave over her shoulder, she ignored the butterflies swirling in her stomach and stepped inside, closing the door behind her.
She surveyed the room. A large group of folding chairs full of interested kinksters lay before her. A boisterous group of burly leather-clad men took up the far side of the chairs. Quite a few of them had a slim younger man cuddled to their side, some resting their heads on their partner’s shoulder. A few PVC-clad women coupled with mostly nude men took up the back few rows. Wow. Suddenly she felt a little overdressed in her micro-miniskirt and tank top.
She didn’t want to be too obvious, but she searched the crowd for Sawyer. She spotted him at the back of the room talking to a gorgeous, curvy brunette. Well, crap. He had a submissive. She’d hoped maybe he would pick an assistant from the group of willing and available women.
At least there weren’t any familiar faces. She wasn’t in the mood for any more sympathetic and well-meaning hand-holding today. There were, however, a plethora of empty chairs available in the front row. And only the front row. Her shoulders slumped. Dang it, senorita incognita was out. Drooling loner groupie, front and center.
Adopting an air of confidence she wasn’t even close to feeling, she grabbed a pamphlet off the closest chair to the door and sat down. Without looking at the program thingy, she proceeded to blow her calm persona by rolling the pamphlet into a tight spiral until her hands were a mess of smeared printer’s ink and the paper an illegible tube.
With a wince, she laid her program tube on the empty chair next to her before rubbing in vain at the mess on her hands. Perfect. Just perfect. Sweaty palms and newsprint were never a good first impression. She swiped at the hair falling over her forehead in frustration. Why the hell had she left her handbag in her car? She could use some hand sanitizing gel right about now.
Kyla jerked at the sweet dulcet voice and looked right into the face of Sawyer’s mystery woman. Now that she could see her up close, the voluptuous brunette wasn’t drop-dead gorgeous but she had such a confident air, Kyla was instantly intimidated. She quickly sat on her hands to hide the evidence of her nerves. “Hi.”
“I, um, I thought you could use some help.”
Kyla couldn’t keep a poker face to save her life. Help? Did she have clueless rope newbie tattooed on her forehead? “I, uh…what?”
The buxom brunette gestured at Kyla’s head.
Holy Hannah. Did she actually have newbie written on her face? Her confusion must’ve shown because her new friend reached into her handbag and pulled out a wet wipe, of all things. With an apologetic half smile, she swiped the cloth across Kyla’s forehead.
Kyla couldn’t help but flinch at the contact. And of course flush fire-engine red when the brunette showed her the black ink left on the cloth. Not a tattoo, just a huge smear of ink on her face from her program. She offered up a slightly mortified smile to her new friend. “Wow, that would have been embarrassing to walk around the Con like that. Thank you.”
“Nah, with this crowd, I doubt anyone would’ve noticed. There are so many interesting makeup applications here. I’m Lauren, by the way.”
“Kyla.” She held out her hand and winced at the black ink smeared across her palm.
“I guess that explains the black on your face then.” Lauren smiled and handed the wet wipe over to her.
Kyla gave a chagrined half smile in reply before she vigorously scrubbed at her hands. “Thanks again.”
“No problem. It happens to the best of us. Is your significant other on their way? You might want to call and tell them to hurry up. Sawyer should be starting any minute.”
“Significant other? What do you—”
“Sorry I’m late.” Sawyer addressed the crowd behind her before turning to her newfound friend. “Lauren, you’d better go grab your man before I grab you.”
Lauren snorted. “Like to see you try. You know how Jamie is about your grabby hands.”
Sawyer clutched his heart in a melodramatic action. “You wound me. Get going before I return the favor.”
Just friends then. Although she followed him on Twitter and knew he was single, she also knew there were things in his life he didn’t share with the rest of the world. No one put everything online, after all. A huge part of her was relieved he was still maybe, possibly available.
“Okay, everyone. First things first. I’m Sawyer, and if you’re looking for rope bondage you’re in the right place. Now, before we get started I have a little PSA I do every class before we get to the fun, interactive bit, so bear with me.
“Bondage is edge play. You’re at the edge of the real possibility of circulation or nerve damage. Whether you call yourself a dom, top or plain ol’ partner, it’s important to be open to feedback. Make sure to give your submissive, slave, bottom or partner permission to tell you when something makes them physically uncomfortable. You need to know when bits are tingly that aren’t supposed to be tingly. Circulation is your number one concern with bondage play. Check hands and feet. Nail beds should always be a healthy pink. And of course if bits are numb then you need to stop the scene and get your partner out of the rope immediately.
“Safety scissors are better to free your partner instead of spending minutes unraveling all your gorgeous wraps. So remember to always keep a pair at hand. They should be at your side, not buried in the hall closet. It’s much easier to replace your bondage rope rather than your submissive. Even in a town like Vegas.”
Sawyer paused for a second, his blue eyes twinkling as the group chuckled.
“And lastly, do not leave your bound mate alone. They won’t be able to tell you about those tingly or numb bits if you’re not in the room. Of course, they don’t have to know you’re there. Blindfolds, bondage and mind fucks can be a very fun mix.
“That’s my—hopefully—short PSA. Please refer to the handout for more complete safety info. And of course, I’m available after the class if you have any questions. Now, I’m not gonna stand up here and lecture you all on the intricacies of knots and rope. Where’s the fun in that? So if everyone will stand up…” he waited a beat for the group to follow his directive, “…and push your chairs into a large circle, we can get this party started.”
The room filled with the rumblings of conversations and clatter of aluminum chairs as the crowd formed a haphazard oval. Surreptitiously surveying their instructor, Kyla watched him talk quietly with Lauren and another man. From the protective arm around her shoulders, Kyla guessed he must be the significant other. A wave of pain washed over her before she bit her lip and firmed her jaw against the weak sensation. She could do this. She was ready to get back into the scene. Her lack of significant other notwithstanding.
Significant other. The phrase rang ominously in her mind. A quick glance around the room showed that unlike herself, everyone else here had come with a partner. A feeling of dread pooled in her stomach. Once again she was the odd duck out. The dread multiplied as she watched Lauren gesture to the gap in the circle next to Kyla.
Before she could look away from Sawyer’s corner of the room—or disappear with her tail between her legs—Sawyer turned to her.
Air froze in her chest. Sawyer, The Sawyer, was looking at her. Not only looking but seeing her. She watched in frozen silence as his gaze swept from the tips of her toes, lingered on her small chest and finally rested on her face. She swallowed hard at the mischievous glint in his bright blue eyes. How could one man promise oh-so-much danger with only one glance? She shivered at the heat in his gaze.
Lauren said something, and he turned away. The moment gone. But the butterflies continued to dance and swirl in Kyla’s gut. He was more potent in person than she had ever imagined. Good thing she was sitting, otherwise she would’ve left a Kyla-sized imprint in the middle of the floor.
She looked away from the trio in the corner and focused instead on her wadded-up program. Since she didn’t have anyone near her to talk to, she might as well take a few minutes and read up on the class before it officially started. Her heart lurched when she curled open her program and saw the title: Rope Bondage for Couples.
Oh, Mylanta. Couples? What the frick was she gonna do? She was the clueless single in the couples class. She fidgeted in her seat. No one was looking her way now. If ever there was an opportunity to gracefully exit, this was it. As quietly as possible, she clutched her program and stood halfway up when Sawyer addressed the group again.
“Uh, yeah. Lauren reminded me we need to do a head count. If everyone can stay still for a sec…”
Kyla froze in her crouched position. Frick, frick, frick. There was no way she could leave now without causing a scene. And not the fun kind. She pretended like she needed to pat down the invisible wrinkles in her skirt before she claimed her seat once more.
“…twenty-two, twenty-three. All right, I think we might have one extra. But that’s okay. I’m going to need a lovely assistant to help me demonstrate the ties.” Sawyer turned and leveled her a smoky, seductive look. “Do I have any willing victims?”
Kyla swallowed hard. It didn’t take a NASA engineer to figure out she was the loner in the group. Her empty end of the circle spoke volumes for her single status. The butterflies in her stomach doubled. She’d wanted to play with Sawyer, but now—and in front of an audience? Suddenly it didn’t feel like the sexy, fun time she’d imagined. But the smoky promise in his eyes vowed some wonderfully naughty things to come.
Her hand shook slightly as she raised it. “I’m available.”Return to Up in Knots
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