Rewards (but No Fairies)

“How much?” I said in rank disbelief.

She repeated the number. It didn’t sound any better the second time.

“And this is payable when?”

“Half at the end of January and half at the end of July. You don’t need to worry about it, Fran, you’ve got the money.”

“Are you sure it’s right?”

“Yes, Fran. That is how much you will owe the Inland Revenue by way of Income Tax and National Insurance based on this year’s accounts. I appreciate that it’s a shock, but you’ve made a profit. Actually, I’m not sure that it ought to be a shock. You must have noticed each month that your income was exceeding your outgoings.”

“I did. That was why I opened the building society account. I just thought that presently something horrible would happen, some huge bill which I had forgotten about, and it would be as well to ensure that I hadn’t spent everything on fast living. So once I cleared the overdraft I took to putting half the monthly surplus away.”

“Excellent idea,” approved my accountant. “So you’ve got the money to pay your tax and your pension contributions. Go on doing it. How’s business? Was that something out of the ordinary this year? Or do we expect it to continue? I heard that you had the contract to take pictures of that rugby player, the gorgeous one. I’ll accept his phone number against my bill, you know. Is he as good looking in the flesh as you make him on paper?”

“Phil Cartwright? He is one of the most beautiful men I know. And he’s a sweetheart, too, an absolute darling. He honestly is as nice as he sounds.”

“Deliver him here in his rugby kit, Fran, and I will not only credit this year’s bill, I’ll give you a refund on the last three years. Does he have a girlfriend?”

“I can truthfully say that I’m not aware of one. But in terms of people lusting after him, I think you’ll find there’s a queue.”

“Pity. All right, I think we’re done here. Sign here and here, please. I’ll drop you a line confirming those figures, and with the type-signed copies of your accounts.”

That had been a big surprise. A huge surprise. Sure, I had paid tax before: I had been making a profit on the business since about my third year, but this was the first year that I hadn’t been living hand-to-mouth. And rather to my surprise, most of the work was respectable too. I hadn’t let the FeLine stuff drop off, but I hadn’t done any more of it either – no, the work. . . well really, I had to say that the work had started at the rugby club. Over the last couple of years there had been that catastrophic dinner dance, and then the calendar, which became an annual thing, and then my contract with Piet for Phil, which was ticking along very nicely, particularly when he picked up a couple of advertising contracts, because one of them asked if he had a favourite photographer and then they used me for several other people too, and Piet recommended me for other club calendars to people he knew, and Phil gave my name to a couple of players who needed pictures, and James Hamilton used me twice a year for catalogue stuff and occasionally for website pictures as well. None of it paid huge amounts but it meant that there were fewer and fewer days on which I didn’t have any work. That in itself was probably why I had failed to notice what was happening to my bank account. I was writing up my cash book in occasional half hours at the end of the day, and almost always late, rather than having a day every month when I did all my paperwork and worried over my debts.

I had allowed a full day for this, though: for seeing the accountant and in the likelihood of her wanting other information from me, which in the event she didn’t need, so I went home and made some coffee and a sandwich, and pulled out my cashbook and began to write up the current year.

Now I’m not financially aware, but I do know the difference between cash surplus and profit. Nonetheless, when I stopped to stretch and pour away the last of the cold coffee, I was pleasantly surprised by my financial state. I was solvent! There was money in the bank and money in the building society and my income every month had exceeded my outgoings. I was still sitting there checking my arithmetic when the bell rang.

“Fran? I saw the lights were on, so I hoped you would be here even though you had the ‘closed’ sign up. I am not interrupting anything?”

“No, Pieter, just my paperwork. Come in. I was about to make more coffee, would you like one?”

“That would be pleasant. And I am come to talk to you about more photographs.”

“Phil again? What for this time?”

“No, not Phil exclusively. We have to think about photographs for the programmes and for the website. There will be the usual run of passport photograph style portraits for the line up, but we would like also to have some pictures of actual play.”

“No problem with the first part of that, but I don’t think I can do action shots. I’m not a sports photographer, Piet. I don’t know how to go about it. I’m a portrait photographer. I can find you somebody. . .”

“No. The committee wants you.”

“That’s very flattering, but honestly, I don’t know how. It isn’t what I do.”

“You are not willing to try?”

“I’m not willing to contract for something I don’t know how to do. Not when, if I make a complete dog’s dinner of it, I might lose all the goodwill I’ve gained over the other stuff.”

“Yes, I see. It is important to know ones own limitations, I agree. But we have seen the pictures you took of the horse.”

I had forgotten the horse. A local stud bought a horse from Ireland and wanted promotional pictures of it before they put it on the stand. I had taken those – they were only portraits after all – and then half a reel which I took just for fun, when they let it out into the field after we had finished. The horse had bucked and twisted and galloped up and down and generally tallyhooted about, and the stud put the pictures on its own website beside the sober ‘good breeding potential’ ones.

“What about this, Fran? Tell me what you would charge for half a day’s work on something like the dinner dance.”

I gave him a figure.

“Then we will pay that, and you will give me half a day during training. Afterwards we will look at the sort of pictures you have got. If there is nothing of the type that we can use, well, we can afford to stand the loss and you are not out of pocket, and the fact that you have expressed reservations will sit well with the committee. If there are usable pictures, we will negotiate for them and for any more that we want you to take. Neither of us will lose by the deal.”

I considered it. “I suppose we could do that. When is a good day for you?”

And so it was arranged.

Rob the captain has more or less got over what he did in the bath when I went to the club the first time, to the extent that he can speak to me without blushing, although I don’t think he’ll ever be completely comfortable with me. But he was much better this time, on his own turf and carrying out his own job. This time he was in charge of what went in the picture, not me, and I did actually manage some good shots of him passing and kicking. I took a selection, from various angles, including one of David? Darren? Darren, I think, jumping over me having failed to spot me as he came belting towards one corner. Then Piet called them all to some rugby ritual – I’m hampered here by not knowing what anything is called! There’s a sort of wooden frame affair, and they form up like a Sherman tank and thump themselves into it, and apparently this does them some good later in the scrum. So I shoved the camera into one of the gaps in the woodwork and took a couple of shots and thought about that. Then I went to see Piet.

“I’ve been looking at rugby videos and photos” (that made him blink, but it’s only professional to do a bit of research) “ and I think those last two might be good, but they aren’t balanced. I’ve got a fish-eye lens and it might be worth trying for the scrum from the inside, if your guys could manage not to tread on me. It’s not a new shot, it’s been done, but it’s always impressive.”

“My boys know how to hold up a scrum,” he assured me. “What do you want us to do?”

“If I lie down here, can you get them to form up over me? And they’ll have to push. It won’t work if they’re just bracing, I’m going to need tension and movement.”

That was plain terrifying. Utterly terrifying. Lie flat on your back in the middle of what is, to all intents and purposes, a fight at a distance of thirty inches. Piet lined them up carefully, giving incomprehensible (to me at least) orders.

“When I say ‘engage’ you will lock and hold. You must keep it straight and stationary, even more so than usual. The man who treads on Miss Milton will answer to me. The man who collapses the scrum on her will be cleaning boots and fetching drinks until the end of the season. This will be a perfect textbook scrum, you hear me? Crouch and hold! Engage!”

I got off two shots at once, and I could see that neither would be any good. “There’s no power in this! Aren’t you supposed to push? Then bloody push!”


“Yes, Piet?”

“Don’t shout ‘Push’. Shout ‘Drive!’”

“Drive! Harder! Good! Again!”

Piet yanked me out by the ankles just as they broke up. He was laughing.

“I shall introduce this as a training technique. The Viper will shout at you from above, and Miss Milton will snarl in the tunnel.  Again, Fran, or will you have something else?”

“I think. . . You. What do you see when you go in there?”

“Mark’s arse, mostly. I mean” in response to a glare from Piet, “Mark’s backside.”

“Thank you, I understood you the first time. Um. I’m just wondering whether an eye level shot might be useful.”

“Then you want” said Piet equably, “to replace the tight-head prop, not the loose-head prop.”

Sounds obscene. Means nothing to me. He saw as much.

“You want to go in where this man does, not where that one does. Here, form up around Miss Milton. Fran, if you kneel down, you will be at the right height. Crouch and hold! You two! Give Miss Milton some breathing space.”

“No, Piet, that won’t work. There’s got to be no space at all except for the camera.”

“Then they will form up and hold, and instead of both sides driving forward, they will hold and the other side will approach them. No hit, engage gently, GENTLY. Yes, Fran? And again, the man who collapses the scrum is history. Hold still! Fran, is this what you want?”

“Yes. Now push! No, I mean drive! Harder! Is that the best you can do? Harder!”

Hah. Good picture. I could tell as soon as I had taken it.

“Who scores tries? If I go and lie on the line, can I have some. . . why does rugby lend itself to so much in the way of double entendre? I want somebody to score, please.

A variety of people coming past me with the ball, at waist height, knee level, skidding along the ground. Some of them I thought would work, some wouldn’t.

“O.K. Who kicks?”

“Me. I’m Ryan. What do you want me to do?”

“If I want to lie on the grass, how close can I get without risking you kicking the camera?”

“Arm’s length. When it’s gusty, somebody has to steady the ball until I kick. I’ve never hurt him.”

“Show me.”

It was Phil who came up, stretched himself along the wet grass with his fingertips lightly on the top of the ball, snatching his hand away just in time for Ryan’s boot to connect.

“Brilliant. Again. Wait, Phil.”

I tucked myself against the solidity of Phil’s body, hooked myself around him and lined the camera down the inside of his arm. I took two shots just of that: the increasing focus of the arm, culminating in the delicacy of the touch on top of the ball. “Go, Ryan.”

Brilliant indeed. Perfect. The same shot with the explosion of power all acting through the boot, and the wet grass throwing up a prism of droplets. When I saw it printed out later I was surprised by how good it was. The boot-and-ball shot has been done before – apart from anything else, it was used by one of the television companies for the rugby a few years ago – but the addition of the sensitivity of the balancing hand against the power of the foot made it special. What next? Watch another half hour’s training.

“Piet? What’s that?”

“That is a ruck. If the ball is off the ground it is a maul.”

Watch it on the High Street on a Saturday night and there will be eight people arrested.

“And that is a rolling maul. When it moves.”

“Make them do it again.”

And again: “Piet? What did he just do?”

“That was a box kick. He is a scrum-half.”

Nice for him. Bring him over here. And again:

“That thing Ryan just did: pushing Darren away. Is that allowed?”

“Yes. It is called a hand-off.”

“How accurate are they? Could they do it over my head if I knelt down?”

They could. And again:

“Show me the line-out. Oh yes. Oooohhhhh yes. Those two half way down. . .”

“You mean the jumper and the lifter?”

“How close can I get without being kicked? I want to take one upwards. And. . . hell. It would be better if I were at the same level as the guy at the top. I want one looking down into the line.”

“Phil? Lift Fran up. . .”

I was absolutely exhausted by the end of training and some of the squad were much the same. Piet looked down at me. “I do not suppose you thought to bring a change of clothes?”

“No, but it’s all right. I’ve got my leathers. I think I want to find a quiet corner to change in, I don’t want to put my leathers on over this degree of mud.”

“You may have the referee’s room. I will find you a towel and there is a shower. You should perhaps get the mud out of your hair.”

“And,” added Phil cheerfully as he passed, “the guys will be hugely reassured to know that you aren’t in the showers with them clutching your camera.”

I landed one smart slap before he got out of reach.

The pictures really took me by surprise; the committee took the lot and wanted more. Financially a very rewarding afternoon. Some of them were good. Some of them were very good. And two of them – the one with Phil’s hand and Ryan’s boot, and the one with the view down into the lineout and the ball approaching – were exceptional. A long way from my usual line of business, but there was power and balance and good composition and light and all the trimmings there. I was unbelievably proud of them. Well, it isn’t what I do, so to discover something good in a new field for me was. . . I tried not to smirk too much.

Until the letter came about the awards. Then I smirked. My God but I smirked. Miss Frances Milton and Guest invited to the Sports Photographers’ Annual Awards Ceremony. We are pleased to advise you that two of your photographs have been short-listed in the category of ‘Least Probable Sports Shot by a Pornographer’ or some such.

I thought for a long time, before I sent Nick an email. I didn’t want to ask him to his face or to phone him: I thought it extremely likely that he wouldn’t want to go anywhere very public with me. It’s a bit like Phil and Piet: I don’t make a great to-do about the FeLine photos, but other photographers know what I do, and Nick might not want to be openly linked to me. He’s rather twitchy about going about with me even in town, and then he gets embarrassed about that – more than I think it warrants. Effectively, he isn’t ‘out’. I’m not that bothered about it, but. . . Anyway, if I sent him an email, he had the option of saying that he was working and couldn’t get leave or had a prior engagement or anything.

Only he didn’t. He telephoned in his lunch break and said he wanted to come with me and what was the dress code? And where was the do anyway? So I explained, in my smoothest and most superior Top tones, that he would wear precisely what I told him to, and that it was my choice, and that we were going to London. And that I was inclined to think that he ought to wear his dog collar under his shirt. He made a noise like an airlock in a radiator.

But we did go to London, and he didn’t wear his collar – we couldn’t arrange it to be invisible. I shall have to think of some way round that, because Nick just loves to think that he belongs to me, and that I’ve marked him as mine. We went on the train because it allowed us both to drink.

“Do you go to this every year?”

“I’ve never been before. I’m not a sports photographer, remember. Don’t run away with the idea that I’m going to win this; I’m not. But even a nomination will bring in more work.”

“You are going to win. Listen, there’s an omen. He’s playing your song.”

There was a busker at the entrance to the station. The tune was familiar, but I couldn’t place it, and I said so. Nick wrapped an arm round my waist and leaned over to get his mouth next to my ear. “Don’t you know your Cole Porter?

“’You're the Nile, you're the Tower of Pisa,
You're the smile on  the Mona Lisa,
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop!
But if baby I'm the Bottom,
You're the Top!’”

Yes, of course I smacked him! But I did laugh too.

Saturday morning with Fran. She’s not at her brightest and best first thing – well, to be truthful, she doesn’t know who she is before the first cup of coffee, nor who I am before the second. So I got up first and put on the kettle, and heard the letterbox rattle at the bottom of the stairs. There wasn’t much post, but it included a plain brown envelope. I knew what that was. Fran’s mail includes a selection of soft porn which would gobsmack the Vice Squad merely by its spread and scope: she says she always wants to see where her pictures go and what style has been attached to them. It’s very disconcerting watching ones – girlfriend? lover? – flick through a magazine plainly intended for a lesbian, or for someone interested in a practice of which one has never heard, and then cast it into the bin with ‘well, those came out better than I expected’.

This time she took her coffee with no more than a faint growl, and tore open the envelope. Inside was a variety of models wearing a great deal of rope and chain and very little else. She made a faint approving noise and sank her nose into her coffee cup.

“I didn’t know you did this sort as well.”

“I do whatever I get paid for. Well, no, that’s not quite true. There’s quite a lot I don’t do but I have no problem with this.”

“It looks dreadfully complicated.”

“You have no idea. The Health and Safety regulations relating to this are nothing ordinary. I was standing in front of a man with a Stanley knife and bolt cutters, they had a nurse on site all the time, and that harness affair had to be looked over and swung on like a fairground ride before the model was allowed anywhere near it. And every time I said: can we do such-and-such? the director would say: no, the market wants it this way. Honestly, they’re so mainstream you wouldn’t believe it. They think they’re so kinky and original but if you try to show them anything they haven’t seen before, they have hysterics.”

I turned a couple of pages, and looked up to see Fran’s gaze fixed on me.

“Does it do it for you, Nick? Being unable to move? Being absolutely controlled and knowing I could do anything I wanted and you couldn’t stop me?”

Yes. No. Maybe. Oh God, why am I so ambivalent about the whole thing?

“I – yes, a bit. The control thing – well, you know that gets me going. But the ropes and chains I find a bit icky. I don’t think I could do it. I mean, I do trust you, but I think I would feel silly, possibly enough to over-ride any pleasure. And actually, I think I would find it a bit claustrophobic. I suspect that knowing I couldn’t get out would be a panicky turn-off, even though theoretically I like the idea.”

She pursed her lips, obviously thinking hard. “Mm. Physical control isn’t your thing, then. Head to head, though. . . Doing as you’re told because I’ve told you to. . .”

Yes, all right, that does do it for me, and she knows it. Specially when she threatens to punish me if I don’t. We ended up tangled in the duvet and laughing, and I thought no more of it. Well, that’s a lie, actually I thought about it lots, but not very seriously.

“What are you going to do with your prize money? And how much was it?”

“For a first and a fifth? About twelve thousand altogether. Bloody amazing. I think it might be time to change the bike: sell the Blackbird and get a Gold Wing. I’ve wanted one of those for years, but I’ve never been able to put together the money.”

Oh God, a bigger motorbike. I’m scared of the one she has now. How in hell’s name am I going to stop her? Fuck, get a grip, Nick. This isn’t Kate. She hasn’t promised to love and honour you (and Kate didn’t promise to obey, which, all things considered, was just as well). If she wants a bigger bike, she’s going to have a bigger bike. Frankly, I think she would be better advised to sell this damn flat and get somewhere better, but it’s not my choice and only very marginally my business. I really don’t like this flat. I don’t like where it is, the kitchen-diner is badly laid out, the bathroom suite is a colour which sets my teeth on edge, there’s only one bedroom and the sitting room is damp. Hell, the whole flat is damp. God knows why a sensible woman like Fran bought such a dump. But she’s an adult and I wouldn’t like her – love her? Do I love her? I don’t know. Yet – I wouldn’t like her half as much if she didn’t keep me so constantly off-balance.

And the next day? Off-balance isn’t the phrase. She had me reeling. All over the place. The ground went from under me, and if it hadn’t been that I have never felt other than safe with Fran, I think I might have been very seriously scared. And yet, logically, I was never compelled by anything more than Fran’s instruction. She made me do nothing – but I could no more have refused her than I could have. . . fill in your own unlikely phrase. I knew she had something in mind, because she had insisted on doing some shopping on Saturday which she hadn’t let me see. We had eaten, washed up, drunk half a bottle of wine between us. I was thinking about reaching for the bottle and topping up the glasses, when Fran suddenly gave me that look which makes my bones go to over-boiled spaghetti, and said, calmly but in a voice brooking no argument, “Strip.”

I was on my feet and unfastening buttons before my brain had caught up with what she had said. My balls knew: I don’t think anybody has ever said anything to me which turns me on as much as that one word from Fran. She simply sat and watched me, unsmiling, her face in shadow so that I couldn’t see her expression, and when I got the last of my clothes off, I didn’t know what to do with my hands.


Oh, right, now I know. Hands behind my neck. Eyes down. She got up, and left the room and I heard her moving about between the bedroom and the kitchen (why the kitchen?) before she came back holding my collar, and fastened it around my neck without a word.

“Are you going to do as I tell you, Nick?”

Yes. Obviously. Silly question.


What, at once? I know I like this, but even I need a little more preparation than. . . oh, I see. I followed her to the kitchen, casting one slightly panicky look towards the window, before realising with some relief that she had drawn the blind. She reversed a chair and moved it until the back was against the edge of the table. There were two pillows on the seat, and she pulled one of them to cover the top of the chair, and lined the other along the length of the table.

“Kneel on the chair. Good boy. Now, bend over. That’s right, on top of the pillow. Stretch your arms out in front of you. Bend your elbows a little. I want you flat on the table and comfortable enough to stay there as long as I say. Hands flat. Good. Now, you belong to me, Nick, don’t you?”

Jesus, the words. She says that and I’m helpless. I’m hers. Utterly hers. She knelt on the floor, her face level with mine, leaned in to kiss me. “Will you do as I tell you?”

I closed my eyes and nodded. “Everything?”

Everything, Fran.

She moved away from me to the shelf next to the cooker and I heard the ring of glass against the worktop, and then Fran came back. She touched my hand which had clenched on the table. “Hands flat, I said. Palms down. I expect unqualified obedience. I’m telling you to keep still. Absolutely still. Hands flat, head down. You do not move without my permission. You don’t speak. Not a word unless you need your safe word. I don’t mind if you whimper a little, but no words. If you move, or if you speak, I will spank you, or strap you, or cane you. My choice. Or I might do that anyway, just because it pleases me. And you’ll submit, Dominic, won’t you?

Nobody else calls me Dominic, not even my mother. And when Fran does, Dominic breaks out of his cage and swallows Nick whole and wants simply to please Fran. To be hers. To obey, unquestioningly.

She moved to the other end of the table and I felt something cool on my skin. When I opened my eyes, there was a pound coin balanced on the back of each hand.

“If you move, those will fall off. And if you lose them, I will punish you for it. Do you understand?”

I opened my mouth to say I did, and caught myself. Don’t speak. I nodded.

“Well done.” She disappeared off and came back with a selection of things which she placed in my line of sight. The short strap. A longer one. A leather paddle (I love that). A cane – I’ve never had that and I’m deeply suspicious of it. A small paintbrush, not a decorator’s brush but an artist’s brush. What the hell was that for? A fine silk scarf. A scrap of fur fabric. Then she went to the fridge and broke six ice cubes into a bowl. A second bowl contained a dribble of cream cut with some sort of sharp orange liqueur: I could smell it.

“Remember, still and silent.”

In your dreams. In mine. She spent something she later claimed was ten minutes – I would have said an hour – touching me. My legs, my back, my neck. Sliding a hand under me, between my chest and the pillow. I rapidly decided that the point of the pillows had been not to make me comfortable but to make me accessible. Her fingertips stroked, her nails scratched and when she pinched my nipples I yipped and wriggled. That earned me a smart spanking with her palm, inducing heat almost enough to make me wriggle some more.

The paintbrush tickled a little at first and then. . . it was as if the designs she drew in air across my back were lined in pure sensation. She drew circles all the way from my waist to my knees and that last made me yelp and squirm again, and the paddle made me yelp some more, although I fought off the squirming.

And through all that I kept my hands flat and the coins balanced.

The silk scarf was pleasant on my skin, and to begin with, so was the fur fabric, although I think it wasn’t fair to tickle my ribs and abdomen with it. I don’t believe anybody could have kept still through that. I didn’t deserve the strap for that. But I didn’t drop the coins.

The ice cubes on the back of my neck made me quiver, and the one she trailed down my spine and abandoned to melt and slide downward from the back of my waist brought my breath rather fast, but I was still and silent. And then she painted me with triple-sec and cream, and began to lick it off, and the combination of the tickle of the dripping mixture on the back of my leg and her mouth on the inside of my thigh made me buck, and my arms shot wide over the table and I dropped both the coins.

“Careless,” whispered a voice in my ear, and the cane was withdrawn, painfully slowly, from my view. My hands were pushed flat again, and the coins replaced. I shut my eyes. If the cane felt anything like the descriptions I had read, I hadn’t a hope of keeping my hands still. I felt the brush of the rattan slowly up the back of my thigh and a throaty sound broke from me. She tapped, lightly, and then a little harder, and a little harder again. It didn’t hurt, but there was a slight sting, and – I had never heard of anyone using a cane like that. Lightly and fast, more a burn than anything else, growing heat and smart. I wriggled. She stopped.

“Do you want to know what the cane feels like if I use it properly?”

No. Yes. No. I nodded, eyes shut. She slid the coins off my hands and onto the surface of the table.

“Two, then. Just so that you know.”

Not swish, exactly. A sort of whisper, and thwup, and a fraction of a second when I thought: so what’s that like then? and then FUCK! And my back arched and I took in a long whoop of air and felt myself making faces as the edge wore off and I subsided onto the table again. And I heard Fran move, and felt the damn thing as she lined it up, and only realised when it went whiss-thwup again that the bitch/queen/lover/torturer/Top had crossed the strokes, and the second hurt like blazes too and the point at which the welts coincided was a laser-strike. I squealed. Bucked. Started to get up, started to swing my hands round to protect my bottom, and heard her voice.

“But I want you to keep still.”

And my torso fell back down and my hands went flat on the table, and she picked up the coins, replaced them, this time on the backs of my fingers, not behind my knuckles, and said, “Shall we go on, Dominic?”

And I nodded.

The fur fabric tickled the two welts across my backside. The silk comforted them. The orange in the cream stung and I wriggled again, and the spanking delivered on top made me whine in increasing desperation. The strap, laid with eye-watering accuracy along the two lines made me yell and scatter the coins, and Fran swore.

What? Why? I opened my eyes, which had been screwed shut for the second stroke, and wondered for a moment if I had. It was pitch dark.

“Keep still, Nick,” came a voice from somewhere below me. I could hear – what the hell could I hear? From the sound of it, Fran was patting the floor: very odd. I heard her make a faint sound of satisfaction and then move towards the door. Something opened, there was a mechanical sound, and the lights came on again, blindingly.

“Up. Enough here. Bring the pillows.”

My knees were stiff when I got up, and my hips wouldn’t flex and I staggered after her down the hall to the bedroom. A clean pillowcase would be a good idea too – that one was – well, let’s say the cream had escaped, shall we? Yes, I was a little over-wrought too. Fran took the pillows and arranged them on the bed and then grinned wickedly at me and opened the wardrobe. From the foot of it she removed a – a doormat? What the hell did she keep a doormat in her wardrobe for?

For, I rapidly discovered, her Bottom to put his bottom on. It was a new and stiff and perfectly clean doormat, and a freshly spanked bottom on a bristle doormat is. . . it feels like. . . look, just go and try, O.K.? I wouldn’t precisely say I liked it, and every time I moved. . . Oh, try for yourself. I can’t describe it. I wasn’t exactly lying down, I was half sitting on the damn mat, propped up on the pillows, and trying not to fidget, extremely conscious of my backside, and Fran went back into the wardrobe and came out with a small box.

“I was afraid I might not be able to get these, but the classroom equipment supplier had them. You will find them most educational, I’m sure.”

“What are they?”

“Poppit beads.”

I tried to sit up and yelped at the rasp of sisal on my arse. “Beads? What. . . what for?”

“Not that. I know, pet, it’s all right. You don’t want to do that and neither do I. No, this is different.”

I watched while she made several short strings of beads. They were white and green, and she knelt over me and linked them round my wrists.

“Pull. See how hard you need to pull to break them.”

A slow, steady tug left the beads sliding down my arm. She picked them up again and formed a loop round each of my wrists. “Stretch.” A second loop from my wrist to the bed frame on each side. Then she lifted the silk scarf again and wound it round my head, covering my eyes. The end was tucked in, not knotted. If I shook my head violently it would unravel, I could feel that. And I lay with my hands fastened to the bed head and my burning backside on a rough mat and tried not to twitch while she licked and kissed and tickled and stroked. I wasn’t hugely successful and every squirm set my behind throbbing again. I heard the drawer of her bedside table open and shut, and the unmistakeable sound of tearing foil, and Fran said, in a light, amused tone, “Do you know this method of putting on a condom, Nick?” and although I couldn’t see it, I had no doubt about what she did, her mouth hot and her hair soft against me, and I must have all but choked her because I couldn’t help but lunge upward, and then I bounced on the damn mat and bucked again for the chafe.

“Now, if you don’t want to end up with your backside looking like it’s been sanded, you’ll lie still.” And her weight settled across my thighs. Then she leaned forward, and I could feel the brace of her arms against my ribs, and she began to move, and I couldn’t help it, I moved with her, feeling the slick friction of her and the much rougher friction beneath me, and she leaned close and began to describe to me what I had looked like bent over the table, and how red and hot my bottom had been by the time she let me up, and I could hear her whisper and my own breath coming in shorter and shorter gasps, and suddenly, no not suddenly, not suddenly, a sound like hailstones on a conservatory roof.

The sound of about eighty loose plastic beads bouncing off a wall and falling onto the carpet.

Apparently I shall be spanked for that, next time.

I actually thought for a moment that I had made him faint. His eyes were certainly turned up in his head when I peeled away the scarf, and he seemed to be remembering to breathe only occasionally. I eased myself down beside him and waited until his head turned to me and he appeared to have some notion as to who I was.



“Honestly. I didn’t know. . . I didn’t realise. . . So that’s bondage?”

“Not really. No more than Bondage Lite.”

He sighed. “Enough for me. Can I get off this damn mat now?”

“Yes, if you like.”

“And then perhaps I could do something for you?”

“Well, I was rather hoping you might.”

“I’m told I’m rather good at this.”

Oh, he is, he is. . . definitely good at that.

And later still, when we had gone to the shower and carefully rinsed the fibres off his backside, and I had coated the sore skin with something soothing from my first aid box, and we had washed the poppit beads and put them away and rearranged the pillows to get the damp one underneath, and found the other half of the bottle of wine and gone back to bed, he said sleepily, “What was all that when it went dark?”

“My fault. The meter ran out, and those were my last two pound coins. I keep them in a jam jar by the cooker so that they’re to hand, but you had just dropped them, and I couldn’t find them on the floor in the dark.”

“Why the hell have you got your electricity on the meter?”

“It’s not my choice, is it? The landlord wants the power metered so it’s metered.”

“Landlord? You mean you don’t own this place?”

“Don’t be silly, of course I don’t. I can’t afford to buy into the housing market. By the time I’ve paid my day-to-days and my health insurance and my pension, I couldn’t manage a mortgage. Not in this part of the world. Mortgage providers don’t like self-employed people with no regularity of income. And I’ve never been in a position to find a deposit.”

“You mean other than twelve grand for two prize-winning photographs?”

Mm. I hadn’t thought of that. And actually, I probably did have enough regular income now to go for a mortgage. Still, when it came down to it, given the choice between a house and a new bike, I knew what I wanted. Sod the house.

I wanted a Gold Wing.

Idris the Dragon

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© , 2005