It seemed like there was a split second before he leaned in to kiss me that I knew it was going to happen, but then we were kissing.
“You’re not gay?”
“I thought... Nothing, never mind.”
He leaned in and whispered, “I’m not gay,” then placed his hand beneath my elbow to help me climb into the Jeep. I narrowed my eyes as he climbed in beside me. “Why would you and your sister be curious about me, when I didn’t even know the two of you existed? I think you have a lot of explaining to do after you buy me that cold drink.”
The cold drink came from a drive-through on the way out of town. I just didn’t realize that we were driving out of town until we were.
“Can you grab the map in the backseat?” he asked. “I think it’s on the floor.”
I turned and then started rummaging. There was a lot of rubbish on his floor. And rope. Lots of rope. “Do you climb?” I asked, grabbing the map.
“The rope,” I clarified. “You have a lot of rope in your backseat.”
“Nah. That’s for my sport. My sister has always been the family martial artist. I took a less traditional familial path.” He smiled, and it was a beautiful smile, filled with wickedness and teasing.
“I feel like I’m missing something here.”
“My grandfather is an erotic rope master.”
“Shibari?” I guessed, rolling my eyes. “Like BDSM?”
“I use shibari for the classes I teach, but in Japan there are other words to describe it. Rope art has gained popularity in this country because it fits well into the parameters of the kink community, but in Japan it is taken very seriously. And what does a nice girl like you know about BDSM?”
I blushed. “Seriously?”
“Okay, okay, I know, age of the Internet, pop-up porn ads. We grew up with the visual.” He looked at me with a sideways glance and asked, “But have you ever played?”
By the sound of his voice, I believed anything I’d admit to would seem childish, and really there was only that time I handcuffed an insurance salesman to a bed in Phoenix. And that cowboy in El Paso kind of lassoed me to a bed. I stifled my chuckle. Ole!
There was no room for a nice girl in that hotel room. “Nice girls don’t kiss and tell.”
He smirked and turned off the main road.
“Where are we going?”
“Desert National Wildlife Refuge.” He reached behind my seat, grabbed a photo album, and handed it to me. “And while we drive you can settle the curiosity in your eyes about me.”
I didn’t open the album, although I was dying to. “Maybe I’m not that curious.”
“That kiss back in the parking lot is evidence to the contrary.”
“You kissed me!”
“You definitely participated, and I never start anything with anyone unless what I do on the side is fully disclosed. There’s no room in my life for jealousy.”
“Whoa, slow down. Jealousy? Starting things? I think you misread that kiss.”
I stared down at the book and took a deep breath. “Yes, definitely.”
Very softly he said, “That’s too bad. It would have been nice to have gotten to know you better.”
I didn’t look at him, couldn’t look at him. Why even get my hopes up of finding a guy to date. My life had no time for it, and I’d only be pretending if I alluded to anything different. “Why are we going to a wildlife refuge? I really can’t be gone too long.”
“I thought a hike might help you blow off steam, get your head centered before the next match. Maybe we can gossip about our families’ feud. Share what we know.”
He met my gaze, and I rolled my eyes. “What you know maybe. All I know is to not say your father’s name.”
“What about my mother’s name?” he asked.
I frowned. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything about your mother.”
“Curious. Her name is Rumiko, and I believe she was the root of the feud between our fathers.”
He had my full attention with that, and I waited for him to say more, but he didn’t. “Okay, you cannot leave me guessing. Tell me what you know.”
“They were best friends. They went to college together, trained in a dojo together--”
“I know that! Your dad, my dad, connected at the hip, blah, blah, blah. How does your mom fit in?”
“I believe the three of them were connected at the hip. At least until my dad asked my mom to marry him. She said yes. The problem was that your dad wanted her for himself.”
He shrugged. “That’s what I got from my mom. Dad doesn’t say much except that he is sorry for the loss of friendship.”
“Huh. I didn’t know.” I opened his album, hoping to hide my curiosity about our parents’ love triangle in a quick glance through. My jaw dropped at the intricate rope bondage and the very naked woman on display. “Holy shit.” Embarrassed, I wanted to crawl under my seat, but instead I flipped the page to find more of the same.
Catching his gaze, I saw his smile was nothing short of wicked. I demanded, “You tied up these women?”
His smile widened. “Yeah. I told you that that is my thing.”
“How old are you?”
“Twenty-two, same as you, same as Suki.”
I don’t know what thought hit me first; that he and Suki were twins, that we were all the same age, or that he obviously had a lot of experience with women. I swallowed hard. “Shit.” It was all I could think to say as I flipped pages, enthralled, disturbed, but mostly intrigued. I hated to admit it, but I was also getting more than a little horny sitting next to Mr. Hottie who I now knew tied up girls for fun.
“I could tie you up.”
“Uh, no,” I answered quickly, looking at him, but when my gaze collided with his, I knew that’s exactly what I wanted him to do.
He turned the Jeep off-road. I watched him shift gears, maneuvering the rough patches of the off-road dirt path. He seems to know his way around. Obviously better than me because I’d never find my way back out of here.
Nervous, I fished my cell phone out of my hip pocket and discovered I had no signal. “Are you sure it’s safe out here?”
“Don’t worry; you’re going to love it out here. Joe May Canyon has a beautiful trail.”
“We should go back.” I looked down at the album and realized how helpless the women tied in rope would be. I slammed the book closed and tossed it back behind the seat where it landed in a nest of rope.
“Are you scared?”
Rule number one in self-defense: never let them believe you’re afraid. I pivoted in my seat, made solid eye contact, and assured him in a strong, sure voice, “I’m not afraid.”
A million red flags waved around in my head. I tried to remember the roads we’d taken, but truthfully, I’d paid little attention. I tried to remember if anyone had been in the parking lot when I got in the Jeep. Could anyone lead the police to this man, this Jeep, this location? No. My father saw me stop to talk to him...a part of me wanted to believe that he stopped pursuing me when he saw me talking to Gichin Miura’s son because he recognized him. My father will remember that if I don’t come back
. I relaxed a little, then realized our gazes were still locked, and he’d stopped the car.
“So you really do have balls of steel, don’t you?”
I looked away, cringing. I knew the other athletes said it behind my back.
He climbed out and walked around the Jeep to open my door. I didn’t climb out, but he leaned in. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
I shrugged. “Sometimes the truth hurts. Doesn’t make it any less true.”
“The truth should never hurt. Be proud of your strengths. It helps make you invincible.” He smiled, half naughty mischief, half teasing intelligence, and his entire face lit up. “So what happened today?”
I blinked. Today? Shit. I lost to Suki today, not once, but twice
. I sighed heavily, then joked. “Your sister has bigger balls?”
“Titanium grade,” he agreed. We both laughed, and it was like the world lifted off my shoulders. I got the feeling again that he was going to kiss me, and I wasn’t disappointed. He leaned forward, stroked my jaw with gentle fingertips, and lulled me nearer. Our lips met in the middle. Need flashed straight from my lips to my pussy.
When he leaned back, he took my hand. “Ready for that hike?”
I shook my head. “Take me to the hotel. Tie me up. Or fuck me senseless.”
“Talk like that will make me think you aren’t such a nice girl after all.”
I sighed. “That’s my problem. I’m too nice. I always do what I’m told. So when I get an unchaperoned moment, I tend to take advantage.”
“Almost never. But the few times it’s happened, I was very, very bad.”
Shiro smiled a naughty smile. “If I tied you up in the desert and fucked you senseless, would that constitute as bad, very bad, or very, very bad?”
I smiled back. “Very bad.”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk. I think it would be a scary thing to see you very, very bad then.”
I nodded. “I’m fairly reckless.”
“Alone in the desert and tied up by a complete stranger seems fairly reckless in my book.”
“You’re not even a little bit nervous? Once you’re in my rope, you’ll be completely helpless.”
My heart skipped a beat, but it wasn’t fear. It was excitement.
“Even if you scream at the top of your lungs, no one will hear you.” He tried to stare me down, and I returned the challenge.
I couldn’t remember ever being as turned on as I was by Shiro Miura. “Maybe you just aren’t scary enough.”
His lips twitched. “Oh, I can be scary.”
I swallowed, thinking how ridiculous that statement seemed. We were the same age, the same size. I knew dozens of ways to kill a man with my bare hands.
“I want you to let someone know where you are.” He tapped my cell phone.
“No signal,” I said.
He opened the glove box and tossed me his cell. “It’s a sat phone. I’ve never been anywhere that it won’t work.”
I accepted the phone and took a long look at it, knowing I would probably feel better if someone knew where I was. “It texts?”
“Sure. If you’d rather text...text. Tell them where you are and who you’re with.”
“Where are we?” I asked, looking out over the scrub-covered desert to a nearby rocky mountain range.
Shiro laughed. “We’re at the Joe May Wash.”
I lifted my eyebrow. “And someone will know where that is?”
The thought ran through my mind that he could be lying to me about where we really were, but then I remembered seeing the road sign. I handed the phone back to him. “I don’t need to call, or text.”
He shook his head but put the phone back in the glove box. “I really don’t understand.”
“Me either, but I’m here, you’re here. Would you rather hike or give me a rope lesson?”
The sun blinded me as I stepped out of the Jeep. He moved between the sun and me to create shade.
“So when you’re reckless, when you’re very, very bad as you put it, is that the only time you ever do something for yourself?”
“I don’t like to think of you putting yourself into dangerous situations.”
I let out a deep sigh. I did not need Mr. Hottie being my conscience. “I guess we hike then.”
Starting up the trail, I decided I needed to run--not wanted to, but needed
to. I ran, not looking back. The terrain was unknown and uneven, but I just didn’t care. I wanted to feel the way I’d felt when I was doing the kobudo kata. Free, unencumbered by rules and expectations. I could hear Shiro’s heavy footfall behind me, keeping pace, gaining on me. I pushed myself harder, but I wasn’t fast enough, and he caught my wrist, jerked me back. I fell backward into his chest, but he caught me and held me. He whispered in my ear. “You’re burned out, Stephanie.”
“Is that what you call it when you stop seeing the point to everything?” I closed my eyes and soaked in the heat of the blazing sun against my face.
He turned me to face him. “Yeah, that’s what it’s called.”
“You probably think I’m one crazy bitch.”
He shook his head. “I think you’re the strongest, most beautiful, most intriguing woman I’ve ever met, and I’d be insane if I let you slip through my fingers without trying to make a play for you.”
“Make a play for me?”
“I want to take you out... Dinner, movie--”
I laughed. He didn’t just say that. I didn’t state the obvious that his family lived in California and I lived in Nevada. “You really don’t understand my life. There is no time for dating.”
“Convince me you’re worth making time for. Tie me up, shake up my reality a little; fuck my brains out.”
“Again with the fucking?”
I challenged him with my eyes and a tilt of my head. Knowing he would be leaving soon made me bold. I’d never have sex with a local boy. The farther away they lived the better.
“I’ll tie you up, but I won’t fuck you.”
“Being tied up is strenuous enough in this heat. You’ll be glad I set limitations.”
“Call me highly skeptical.” I wasn’t sure whether to go back to my earlier assumption that he was gay, or have my feelings hurt by believing he just wasn’t interested.
He led me over the rocks and back to the Jeep. “Once I start tying you, just relax, don’t do anything, and especially don’t struggle. Just submit to whatever happens.”
Just submit. Did he just say that? Really? Give up control? My lips twitched, and I tried not to laugh out loud.
He smiled, winking. “I know that will be nearly impossible for you
“Uh-huh. Strip down to your bra and panties.”
“You really aren’t interested in me?” I didn’t keep the hurt from my voice.
He pulled me nearer. “I’m too interested, and I told you my terms. Dinner. Movie.”
I was glad when he softened the blow of his refusal by kissing me again. He was an amazing kisser, stealing my breath with his expertise. I now had no doubts about whether or not he was interested but worried about how many women he’d kissed to become so skilled, and that reflection sure didn’t make stripping down to my bra and panties easier. I thought back on all the photos in the album of all the different women. There were hundreds. I was just another willing body.
I was okay with that. I was
I pulled off my gi top and pushed down my bottoms. I knew he was watching me, and I hoped he wasn’t turned off by girls who were too muscular. Or who wore sports bras.
He took my clothes and laid them on the front passenger seat. He reached behind the backseat and retrieved several lengths of rope.
My hands started trembling, and I wasn’t sure why. I pressed my palms against my thighs to make them stop, but he lifted one of my hands and kissed the knuckles. “I won’t hurt you.”
I wanted him to kiss me again, but he didn’t. He turned me to face into the sun, forcing me to squint. The rocky hills and desert blurred into shades of ash. I felt him behind me, circling my upper arms with rope, and I knew that if I didn’t stop him soon, I wouldn’t be able to. I didn’t want to stop him. The rope tightened and circled again. Some part of me reacted, tugging against the rope, testing its strength. I heard him chuckle softly, but he didn’t say anything. He brought the rope around my torso and then coiled the rope above and below my breasts.
I knelt, surprised to realize that the sandy dirt wasn’t nearly as soft as it appeared. The grit pressed painfully into my knees.
At least there was a reprieve to the heat. As I knelt in the shade cast by the vehicle, beads of sweat trickled down my neck.
He took me by surprise when his boot planted in the middle of my back between my shoulder blades and pushed, not a kick but a soft nudge. Without my hands to catch myself it could have been a kick for all the difference it would have made. I fell on to my chest, mashing my breasts into the sand with a forced, “Ummph,” which I followed up with, “Hey!”
I still wasn’t scared. A little voice in the back of my head started to panic, not because of what he was doing, but because I wasn’t reacting the way I thought I should.
“Are you all right?” he asked softly as he knelt beside me.
“Good. Bend your knees.”
“What? Why?” I asked.
“I’m going to tie you into a classic hog-tie. Bend your knees.”
“Oh,” I said, not, “hell no” or “screw you,” just, “oh,” and bent my knees. The warm earth shifted beneath my stomach and ribs, feeling abrasive.
Rope circled each ankle quickly and efficiently. He drew my hands behind me, wrapping each wrist. I was surprised by the texture of the rope against my skin, rougher and scratchier than the smooth braid appeared. The rope seemed tighter than I’d expected. God, what was I expecting? I really hadn’t thought this through. I was definitely hog-tied. It dawned on me only then, as the warm desert breeze teased my pussy through my cotton panties, that I was completely helpless.