I can't say I'm keen on thrillers myself. I read them occasionally, but they aren't my fiction of choice. I'll watch them occasionally too, but not with any great enthusiasm; they're his choice, not mine. I must be one of the very few people who has never seen 'The Usual Suspects' all the way through; even knowing what happens, I can't get a grip on it. And I'm a long way from thinking that I want to live in a thriller. It started at the end of a day at work, a day like any other day. I'd been out on the road, making polite with new suppliers; when I came home, I wanted a shower, a change of clothes, a cup of coffee and half an hour sitting down with a book before I thought about going out again.

Well, I got the first two. I'd known there was nobody home when I came in, because his car wasn't there, so I didn't hurry myself, only, when I came out of the bathroom, the house felt different, or sounded different or something. I leaned over the banister: “Is that you?” Stupid question, I know, but we all ask it. No answer. I went to the end of the landing to look out of the window: still no car. I must, I thought, have been mistaken.

Chest of drawers, clean underwear (well, it was Friday night and I might get lucky); wardrobe, clean jeans, and I thought I saw a flicker of movement reflected in the mirror inside the door, but when I turned, there was nobody there. Over-active imagination; it had been a long day. Back to chest of drawers, clean T shirt, socks. It was as I straightened from tying my shoelaces that I saw the man in the doorway – not the man I was expecting, either.

“Hey, pretty boy.”

For a moment I hadn't even the wit to speak, just stared at him. It's a gut reaction thing: somebody unexpected in my bedroom, in my personal space!

“You're in trouble now, pretty boy. The Big Man wants to see you – sent me to fetch you, no arguments.”

“The... Big Man?” Not one of my sharper responses, actually, but come on, that's not the sort of thing you expect to hear people say. Well, I don't, anyway; doesn't go with my life as I know it.

“The Boss. The Chief. Come on, keep up, will you? He sent me to fetch you, told me not to take no for an answer. Said that if you didn't come willingly, I was to bring you anyway.”

“What” – that came out pitched a little wrong: I swallowed and tried again. “What does he want?”

“I believe he thinks that a conversation with you on the subject of going public and acknowledging your own actions is in order, and maybe he wants to talk to you about ransoms.”

Oh? OH. “And if I don't want to talk to him?”

He shrugged. “Tough.”

I stared at him, doing my best to display an indifference I was a long way from feeling. I knew what he was talking about, however little I was inclined to acknowledge it. It was nobody’s business but mine and I resented any interference in it; I would fight this one all the way. “He isn't my boss. Why should I do what he wants, Blondie?”

“Because he's my boss, pretty boy, and he told me to bring you back with me. By force if need be.” That last was barely whispered, a threatening growl; I got the distinct impression that he was really hoping to have to use force. He was twice my size, and the black T shirt was a size tighter than is fashionable and plainly displayed the ripple of muscles. If it came to force I hadn't a hope.

But... no. No, I couldn’t get my head round it; this was just ridiculous.

“Look, I’m sorry. I just can't...”

The world spun, disconcertingly, and came to rest black and, from the feel of things, upside down. It hadn't been black before, not all the way across the horizon. I aimed for right way up and found that there was a cotton clad shoulder in the pit of my stomach and something gripping my legs. I kicked, as far as I could, twisted, as far as I could. Not very far in either case, so I pushed, both hands braced against a back solid with muscle. That let me get my head out of his shirt far enough for me to breathe. And panic.

“No! Put me down! You can't just carry me off like this...”

He swung me back to my feet, shifted his grip to my upper arms, a little tighter than was quite comfortable. He was invading my space again, much more seriously this time.

“Pretty boy, I can do what I like, and you can't stop me.”

And he proved it, spinning me round and marching me ahead of him towards the top of the stairs. I fought, heels digging into the carpet, twisting against his arm, throwing my weight left and right. I'm not totally helpless, I know a bit about using my weight in a scuffle, and I can hold my own against a man bigger than me, but he wasn't just a bit bigger than me, he was about six inches taller and probably four stone heavier: I was plain outclassed. Still, nobody said I had to fight fair, did they? I drove my elbow hard back into his midriff and my fingers went numb; the man appeared to have abs of concrete.

“Now that wasn't nice,” he chided, amused, and I twisted again and this time drove my knee towards his groin. He twisted in his turn, evading me easily, but just for a second his grip on my arm loosened – and that was enough. I wrenched myself free and bolted down the stairs and through the house. I made myself a bit of ground by slamming the kitchen door in his face but I hadn't enough of a lead to risk stopping to lock the outside door as I passed through it. Still, for pity's sake, surely I could evade him down through the garden?

No. Dear heaven but he was fast for a big man. Much faster than me, and he brought me down on the grass before the garden gate, and then yanked me back to my feet by the scruff of my neck.

“Good try,” he said dryly – he wasn't even breathing hard! – and turned me firmly back the way I had come.

“Give me your keys.”

“What the fuck for?”

“So that I can lock your house, idiot. This isn't 1960, you know; you can't just go leaving your doors open.”

I stared at him. “You came bouncing into my house without so much as a by your leave and now you want to play at being a responsible householder? Damned if I'll give you my keys.”

So I'm damned: he simply body-searched me, neat as a cat, one arm wrapped solidly round my torso while I squirmed and fought, the other hand exploring all my pockets, and taking the opportunity to explore a fair amount of me. No keys, although he seemed to be enjoying looking for them.

“Indoors, pretty boy. Keys. Where are they?”

“Find them yourself,” I spat at him, struggling again. They were on my dressing table, something that took him ten minutes to discover, by which time I was breathless and exhausted from fighting, and he hadn't even broken a sweat. He pocketed them neatly, and spun me round again.

“We're going to see the Big Man now; are you going to give me your parole?”

Is the Pope a Unitarian? My second attempt at kneeing him in the nuts was no more successful than my first, and seemed to convince him that I wasn't going to play nicely. He glanced round the bedroom, and then hauled me, swearing and kicking, into the bathroom, where a brief exploration of the cabinet produced a roll of surgical tape.

“Give me your hands.”

Like hell I would; I apparently didn't need to say that, my punch at his ribs conveyed it wordlessly. He sighed, lifted me off my feet again, and somehow, with a peculiar twist and jerk, I was face down on the floor, and he was sitting my shoulders with his knees on my upper arms. It wasn’t hard for him after that to wrench my hands together, and bind them, palm to palm, with half a dozen loops of tape.

“You know, this would go a lot better if you would only cooperate a little,” he said, without any particular dismay. “Mind you, it’s a lot more entertaining for me when you don’t.”

I made a suggestion of some anatomical complexity.

“Why, is it fun?” he asked innocently, and picked me up off the floor, considerately waiting until I was sure of my balance. “I do hope the Big Man’s going to let me have you. After he’s finished, of course.” He turned me to the bathroom mirror and grinned at my reflection over my shoulder. “I think it would be fun to play with you. I bet you wriggle. I love it when they wriggle and can’t get away.”

I swallowed, hard, refusing to think about that. I just had to wait until he was distracted and I could get my hands up. Micropore tape is strong enough provided the edge isn’t compromised, it’s like sellotape that way. If I could only bite the edge, the rest would tear.

He kept me in the curve of his arm and dragged me back to my bedroom where he explored drawers and cupboards, obviously having decided that I wasn’t going to tell him anything he wanted to know. He was tidy, I’ll give you that; nothing left out of place. Nothing to show he’d been there, except that I knew. He found what he wanted inside the wardrobe, a broad, heavy leather belt, about two inches wide. I stilled for a moment when I saw him draw it out, and renewed my struggles with a flurry of profanity. Whatever I’d expected, though, it wasn’t what he did: he looped the belt round my body, pinning my elbows to my sides and fastening the buckle with a look of some smugness. Banjaxed my chances of biting the tape: I couldn’t get my hands to my face. Still, if he reckoned I was getting in a car with him that way... After all, if anybody saw us on the road, I might as well have a sign saying ‘Kidnap Victim’ over my head.

Only he’d thought of that, apparently. His shoulder went in my abdomen again and I travelled down the stairs with my head at the back of his waist. I don’t recommend it as a mode of transport, it’s very uncomfortable, but when I said so, he patted me lightly on the bottom and said that if I wouldn’t walk I’d have to be carried and that was that. Tidy minded man, he seemed to be. He checked the back door and locked it without either letting go of me or cracking my head on the doorpost, despite my struggles; then on the way to the front door he passed the coat rack and I was unceremoniously dropped back onto my feet. Well, upside down makes the blood rush to your head, and going right side up again gives me at least the head staggers; he caught me just before I hit the floor.

“Steady up, pretty boy. The Big Man won’t like it if I deliver you damaged. He likes a clean canvas to start with. Now, let’s get your coat on.”

“I’m being kidnapped and I have to put my coat on? Do I need a clean handkerchief as well? And a penny for the collection?”

“Don’t be cheeky,” he chided. “Remember, you’re not the boss here. If I know what’s coming, you’re going to learn something about who actually is the boss. Oh, I really do hope he lets me play with you, you’ve got such an attitude! I just love breaking the ones with attitude!”

As he spoke, he arranged my jacket over my shoulders; obviously with my hands fastened together and my elbows pinned down I couldn’t put it on, but he zipped it carefully to my throat – and thereby immobilised me more or less completely.

Then he pushed me outside – and locked the door behind me, pocketing my keys absently. Tidy minded kidnapper. Weird. I was just wondering if I could bolt without going arse over tip – having your elbows fastened down throws your balance completely – but he read my mind and put his hands on my biceps, pushing me the way he wanted me to go, which was round to the side of the house and towards a car. Big car. Expensive car. And another man leaning on the bonnet.

“You got him then. Took you long enough.” Foxy here was nearly as big as Blondie, but rather older.

“He wasn’t inclined to cooperate. Bags I first dibs at him when the boss has finished, he’s a wriggler. Cracking arse too, nice and firm.”

“How come you get to go first?” sulkily.

“Because I’m the Chief’s right hand man and you’re not, that’s why. Oh, all right, we can share him. Actually, we might need to; like I say, he’s a wriggler and he’s stronger than he looks. Might need one of us to hold him still while the other... you know.”

I swallowed again, dry mouthed, listening to this.

“Well, let’s get him in the car,” said Foxy, pragmatically. “Are you going in the back with him?”

“Probably best. Open the door, I can’t see him going in of his own accord. Here, you hold him while I get in and then pass him in to me, and I’ll get the seatbelt round him. Now, drive, and I’ll look after him, oh won’t I just!”

‘Looking after me’ apparently involved stopping me sliding about and banging my head on the shell of the car. It also involved touching me up in a manner... well, I swore a good deal, to the great amusement of both Foxy and Blondie. Every time Foxy put his hand on the gear lever, Blondie changed gear with my knee; by the time we got to where we were going, I’d got my legs pressed together like a panicked virgin, I was squeaking with indignation and Foxy was laughing so much he probably wasn’t safe to drive. What with the surgical tape and the coat and the belt and the seatbelt, there wasn’t a damn thing I could do except swear as Blondie ran his hands over – well, basically over as much of me as wasn’t pressed into the car seat. Swearing didn’t help much – it made me feel a little better, that’s all, and Foxy in particular encouraged me to ever greater extremes. Some of my more biological offerings were received with open mouthed respect and at least once with “Is that legal in this country?”

I was whistling in the dark, though; my stomach was clenched with the anticipation of what they meant to do. I knew the boss, the Big Man; compared with him, these two were puppy dogs, pussy cats. No, he was the scary one, when he chose to be. Whatever they had implied they would do, they would do nothing without his permission – but I had no particular confidence that permission wouldn’t be granted.

It was getting dark when I was unloaded at our destination, hauled out of the car like a parcel and bustled into... into what? I didn’t have much of a chance to see, but it was even darker inside than out, unsurprisingly. A big space, from the way it sounded, with piles of something on pallets blocking off most of the access.

And the bastards led me into the middle of it and abandoned me! Just walked off, leaving me not sure where I was, or what danger there might be in moving or anything! Mind you, the minute they were gone, I was giving my attention to getting the damned straight-jacket of my own coat and belt off. Unfortunately I was giving so much of my attention to that, that when the Big Man spoke in my ear, I screamed like a girl with the shock.

“Would you like some help?”

He had to catch me, because I twisted to face him and overbalanced, and then I had another big man invading my space. I couldn’t see his expression in the failing light, but his voice was no more than courteously enquiring, and he neatly unzipped my coat and peeled it off me. The belt came off and was dropped on the floor, and he lifted my hands to inspect the taping.

“Ah. This may be a little uncomfortable. You are fortunate in that you do not have hairy hands. There, that is better, is it not? Now, I believe that my colleague has already explained to you what I want?”

“Your colleague,” I said bitterly, “has told me nothing of any particular use, except that you wanted to see me.”

“Indeed. I think it would be useful for us to have a discussion about your recent activities and the way they were made public.”

“It’s none of your goddamn business!” I spat.

“You think not? You do not think that I, that I and my colleagues might have had something to say on the subject? We wished to make you aware of our views on your behaviour. That is why you are here.”

I turned my head away sullenly. It wasn’t his concern; it was nobody’s business but mine.

“Very well. You are not willing to discuss it like a reasonable man. In that case I wonder if you have anything to say to me on the subject of ransoms.”

I stared him down; well, no, not really. I don’t suppose anybody has ever stared that man down. “I don't think I want to talk to you about ransoms at all. I can’t imagine any circumstances in which I would want to talk to you about ransoms.”

“Can you not? Well, we shall see. We must see what we can do to make you change your mind, must we not? Still, as long as you understand that if at any point you should change your mind, you need only make it plain to me or to one of my associates that you are willing to discuss a ransom; it is open to you at any time to bring this – conversation – to an end.”

I snorted, loudly. “Like I would do that.”

“Oh, I think you might,” he assured me gently. “Perhaps we could discuss it upstairs? This way, if you please.”

Only my eyes had adjusted to the gloom and I had managed to turn far enough to get some notion of where the door was; I stepped forward as if I would pass him and go towards the stairs, and then jinked back and broke for the way out. There was a courtyard of sorts outside; Foxy and Blondie were just coming back through one gap between the buildings, which was enough to send me towards the other one and along an unmade track. Waste of time. They cut me off and I was ignominiously returned to my inverted position on Blondie’s shoulder, and carried back to be dumped in front of the Big Man.

“Are you going to try this every time we put you down? You must surely have realised by now that you cannot match my colleagues here, for speed or strength. You will go where they take you, and stay where they put you, is that clear?” There was a bite to the tone now, not the calm reasonableness of before.

“Your attack dogs, are they?” I spat back at him. He smiled calmly.

“Perhaps if you think more of a brace of sheepdogs? You will go where you are sent. You may go willingly, or you may be taken. Up the stairs, please.”

I didn’t move. He sighed, gently, and nodded at Blondie, who heaved me up again and toted me up a flight of dark stairs into a long store room of some sort. There were lights, spotlights, but only at one end, and the whole place smelled of something I couldn’t quite place. I didn't give it much thought, being engaged in trying to kick Blondie anywhere that might hurt; he wasn’t having it, but he swung me off his shoulder and somehow as I went down I met his hand coming up and...


“What was that?” enquired the Big Man, arriving behind us.

“The little sod bit me! Look!”

His eyebrows went up; “My, you do like to live dangerously, do you not? I would not, myself, have said that you were in a good position to antagonise people. However, we shall let it pass.”

“But...!” That was Blondie.

“I said, we shall let it pass. Now, are you quite certain” (this to me again) “that you have nothing to say to me about ransoms?”

“Listen, Concorde, I’ve got nothing to say to you about anything!”

There was a deathly silence in which a helpful voice at the back of my head whispered ‘I think that might have been just a tiny bit too far?’

“I beg your pardon?” That was coldly civil, the tone of a man whose guest has made some horrendous faux pas, but who is willingly to overlook it provided it’s acknowledged as out of order. Sheep. Lambs.

“I’m sorry, were you not aware that your nose shares its proportions with the north face of the Eiger? I’d have thought that Blondie here, or Foxy, would have mentioned it.”

“Foxy.” That was Foxy himself; Blondie had eyes like saucers and his gaze was flickering from one of them to the other. “Foxy?”

“Is that not what people call you? What do you prefer? Gingernut?”

Blondie flinched and hissed at that; Foxy was half way across the space between us when Concorde stopped him.

“Be still. The young man is deliberately provocative; I do not think he knows quite what he is provoking. You,” (this to me) “would be well advised to consider whether you want to remain under my protection, or whether you wish me to hand you over to my colleagues here.”

Foxy grinned, like an animal; Blondie leaned a little forward and said softly “Oh, yes, please.”

“Under your protection?” I said, dismissively. “And you think I would care about that?”

He came deliberately close, too close, so close that I had to lean back a little in order to keep him in focus. Fuck, but he was big!

“In here, my word is law. It is all the law there is.” That hung for a moment between us; he paced slowly round behind me. I refused to look after him although my skin prickled with the knowledge of his proximity.

“Shall I show you my law?” That was purred into my ear; I jumped and Blondie laughed. I shot him a hot look.

“Me, sir, please? Let me show him? He bit me!”

“Crawler,” I observed, dispassionately. “Oooh, please sir, please sir, like a schoolboy.”

Concorde eased round to the other ear.

“You think he need not call me ‘sir’?”

“I wouldn’t,” I said, still dispassionately, but with my stomach churning with nerves.

“You think not? I tell you, he calls me ‘sir’ but before I finish with you, you will call me ‘master’.” This was very soft and deep, delivered into my ear from a distance of no more that six inches; my denial stuck in my throat and I saw a jerked reaction from both Blondie and Foxy.

I had to swallow twice before I could speak, and even then my voice cracked. “There’s nobody I call ‘master’.”

He smiled. “Yet.”

I swallowed again, and he nodded, slowly. “Very well. You do not wish to cooperate. Let us see how we may persuade you.” He glanced at Blondie. “Strip him.”

“All the way?” enquired Blondie, advancing on me in a businesslike manner.

“You may show him the law first, so go as far as entertains you. Can you manage by yourself?”

I missed the answer to that, because I was first of all scrabbling towards the stairs and then fighting frantically in Blondie’s grip. He lifted me as easily as a parent lifts a child in a tantrum and my struggles were... I can’t remember ever feeling quite so helpless. I could get no purchase on the ground, and his left arm was sufficient to wedge me against his body, leaving his right hand free to work my shirt up my chest. I snarled and swore, in a rising tone which I tried to tell myself was only rage and not rage with a dilution of fear, as he neatly changed hands and pulled the shirt over my head. He did need help to get my shoes off, because I had double-knotted the laces, but after that, Foxy yanked my socks clear and then stood back to watch and applaud as my jeans were quite slowly unzipped, with a comprehensive grope – and then left. I had expected him to pull them off, but he didn’t. Instead, he simply held me off the ground and allowed me to kick and struggle.

Stupid. It was stupid. If you jerk about with your trousers unfastened, what happens? They fall off. They bloody fall off. He didn’t even take them off me, he let me do it myself. By the time I worked out what was happening, the denim was sliding down my legs and all he had to do was lift me high enough, and get his own knee between mine so that I couldn’t clamp my legs on the fabric. There was a soft thump and my jeans hit the floor and were neatly kicked to one side by Foxy, and there I was, hanging in his grasp and with only Messrs Marks & Spencer’s best cotton briefs between me and the evening air.

Between me and the groping hand. He had a comprehensive feel around, ignoring my increasingly indignant and nervous squeaks, and then set me on my feet again, still gripping me tightly round the waist.

“This way, I think. Can we have some light up here?”

Somebody turned one of the spotlights towards the corner, in which there was a block of something, a cylinder two or three feet high, draped in an old army blanket. Somehow, I didn’t like the look of it.

“Hold him a moment?” This to Foxy, who took the opportunity to cop a feel of his own, while Blondie seated himself on the cylinder, which eased under him; I didn't know what it was, but it wasn’t absolutely solid.

“Now, pretty boy. Let’s show you how the law is applied up here. Give him here, thanks.”

Between them, Blondie and Foxy got me between Blondie’s thighs; I was beginning to get a decided notion of what was coming and my struggles were increasingly frantic, but however pointless they had been against one assailant, against two they were – well, how could they be more pointless? I exhausted myself to no end. Blondie’s plan was to get me over his left thigh, head down, arse up, and his right leg keeping me where I was put. Struggling postponed it, but it did nothing else – and the postponement was for his entertainment rather than my benefit. I couldn’t get away and he let me know it. His left arm wrapped firmly round my body; his right hand yanked at my briefs. Not downwards, which I had half expected, but up. Turned ordinary everyday briefs into a bloody thong in one tug. There they were, I could feel them if I thought about it, twisted and not terrifically comfortable and my arse as bare as the day I was born.

Do they actually do that, or is it an old wives’ tale, that thing about smacking a baby to make it cry and breathe? Seems a bit extreme to me. I’m telling you, a hard hand applied to a bare arse is indeed a shock. Blondie, as I’ve said, had muscles on his muscles and under other circumstances I might well have admired his upper body tone. As it was, he took me very seriously by surprise. Hell, I don't know what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it. I thought – I thought he was all mouth, you know? Concorde was the dangerous one and Blondie and Foxy were muscle, but somehow, despite the ease with which he had hauled me about, I hadn’t really thought that he could hurt me. He had done enough damage to my dignity that even once I’d worked out what he meant to do, I had been expecting it to be humiliating rather than painful. Frankly, being manhandled that way was intimidating in the extreme, the more so once my clothes had gone, but this plain hurt!

Well, my left arm wasn’t going anywhere; I tried a couple of times to get my elbow into his ribs, but he had me gripped too tightly and I couldn’t get enough leverage to do any damage. I couldn’t reach him with my right hand, except down his leg, so I did what I could with that – a one-handed Chinese burn on his ankle and then my nails dug into his calf. It had some effect – not enough to make him let go, but he kicked and then Foxy swooped down to the floor beside us and caught my wrists, pulling my hands out in front of me.

“Give him some more for that, go on.” And Blondie did, another minute of landing his extremely large hand with some force on my increasingly tender backside. I certainly wasn't going to give him the satisfaction of asking him to stop – I mean for God’s sake, a spanking? He wasn’t doing me any lasting harm – and I wasn’t going to jump or buck or squirm. I wasn’t. I wasn’t. And I certainly wasn’t going to make any noise. Well, not more than the occasional muffled gasp.

“He likes it.” That was Blondie, his voice warmly amused. “Don’t you, pretty boy? You like being naked and helpless. I can feel you.” He shifted his leg underneath me, and then I did jump; he did it again and my gasp wasn’t at all muffled, and all three of them laughed.

“A little more, I think,” instructed Concorde, and Blondie returned to the attack, landing his palm crisply and with, in my opinion, a great deal too much enthusiasm, concentrating on a single spot until my aspiration to keep still and be quiet failed, and then simply allowing every squirm of mine to present him with a new target. Only now I knew that he knew – that they all knew – that the wriggles which he was inducing by his hand on my arse were having their effect elsewhere too. He eased off a little, possibly in response to some cue from Concorde, and allowed his fingertips to dance lightly over my heated skin – then I really did wriggle, and they all laughed again.

“Hot,” observed Blondie.

“What, his backside, or him?” asked Foxy.

“Well, both, I suppose. I told you, didn’t I, cracking arse he’s got. Even better now that it’s got a bit of colour on it. Is that enough, sir?”

“You may let him up.”

Actually, he gave me a shove, which landed me on my smarting backside on the floor; it was Foxy who picked me up, holding my shoulders and turning me to face Concorde.

“Well? Are you going to talk to me about what you did and how we got to hear about it?”

I looked blankly past him. It was not his business.

“I see not. And do you wish to discuss ransoms?”

I didn't move, or open my lips.

“We have not yet convinced you. Very well. A little more, then.” His gaze lifted to Foxy. “What do you wish to do?”

Foxy’s hands left my shoulders and slid down my back; I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of flinching, even when he ran a hand over my stinging behind, untwisting my underpants and smoothing them back to their proper place with a final pat.

“I want that belt he brought with him. Where did it go?”

“It is downstairs with his coat, I think.”

Foxy headed for the top of the stairs; Concorde stopped him.

“No. Do not go yourself; send him to fetch it.”

“He’ll bolt again. Do we want to chase him?”

“Why not? But we will not make it easy for him. Hold him still.”

And Blondie wrapped his arms around my chest again as Concorde approached. He wrapped his palm very gently round my jaw, and coaxed my face upward until I could bear it no longer and lifted my eyes to his; as soon as he was sure he had my attention, his fingers drifted downward, over my chest and stomach to my waistband. I sucked in a breath, unsure and apprehensive, and the long fingers walked around my waist to my hip, slid inside the elastic, pulled it an inch from my body. Against all sense, I looked down, and, so fast that I couldn’t process what I was seeing, his second hand joined his first in the waistband of my pants, he gripped, twisted – and ripped. Ripped through an inch of elastic waistband, a hip depth of strong cotton and a double stitched, elasticated leg. Ripped them clean through, and I cried out, actually afraid, panting with some unidentified emotion, throwing myself backwards at Blondie, suddenly frantic for the relative safety of his grip.

“Ah. Now I am getting through to you. Such a simple way to get your attention.” And he repeated the trick on the other side. It was no less frightening on repetition, and one tug left me defenceless – as if a single layer of cotton would have been any defence.

“You heard him. Fetch the belt.”

Blondie had to unpick my fingers from his shirt; he turned me very gently, but the slap on my backside was far from gentle.

“Go on, you heard.”

I wouldn’t go; would not. Only, only, only Concorde came for me, led me to the top of the stairs, until I could see the crumpled heap of my coat with a dead striping of torn surgical tape and the ophidian curl of the belt, and when his deep voice said “Fetch it,” my legs jolted me forward and downwards with the floor gritty under my bare feet. At my coat, with the belt in my hand, the doorway called to me, although I was naked and reddened, shoeless – but I bolted anyway. With shoes on I might have dodged them round the building. As it was I was delivered back up the stairs over Foxy’s shoulder, just for a change, with the belt lying down my back.

“Wait.” That was Concorde again. “You. Come here.”

He took my watch. Is that weird, or what, that he could make me feel even more exposed, more vulnerable than I already was, by taking from me my wristwatch? Now I really had nothing else they could take, any of them.

Foxy was winding and unwinding the belt around his hand; from the look of things, he was enjoying himself far too much. It hissed when he swung it through the air and only a real effort stopped me flinching, but my breath was coming way too fast. He put a hand in my back and bustled me across the floor to another solidity hidden under sheeting. This one was taller, waist height; it was obvious what he intended but I balked, slipped from his grip, backed away and found myself trapped between Concorde and Blondie. I might as well not have bothered: I was lifted, arranged on the sheeting, chest flat, legs trailing over the edge. I had been mistaken about ‘waist height’ – this was a little higher, so that my feet didn’t quite reach the floor, but that didn’t stop me making another determined bid for freedom.

“Just hold him a minute and I’ll sort him.” That was Blondie, and sorting me, apparently, meant climbing up beside me, straddling my back and kneeling down, so that enough of his weight rested on me that there was nowhere I could go.

“That should do it,” he observed cheerfully, leaning forward to pat my bottom lightly. “And I get the best view. Go on, then, let him have it.” This to Foxy, who was pleased to oblige: the belt sang, cracked, and the pain flowered across my backside and down my legs.

I lasted about two minutes, I think, maintaining all that was left of my dignity, lying under the bulk of Blondie and simply waiting for it to be over. Perhaps if I’d been able to touch the floor, to brace, I could have lasted longer, but with my legs just hanging it was impossible not to kick. I was silent, though, a double handful of the sheeting under my face dragged up and bitten; I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of hearing me, however much I was squirming. There was no lack of sound effects anyway: the whistle and crack of the belt, and a running commentary from Blondie, presumably for my benefit since the other two could see for themselves the effect of the strap on my poor abused backside. I didn’t need to know that the stripes were overlapping, I could feel that they were. I didn’t need to know that the top ones were merely red but the lower ones were shading to purple. When he started again at the top, I didn’t need to know that the second set showed white at first; I would have preferred not to know what he was doing, because by then every stroke was making me buck, my head was filled with unspoken profanity, unspoken only because I couldn’t trust my voice, and I was sweating freely.

I didn’t need the committee meeting, either, when Concorde made Foxy stop so that I could be inspected; when all three of them touched and patted me, pointed out particularly ‘good’ welts; when Concorde caught my ankles and pulled my legs apart so that Foxy could strap down each one individually, letting the tip of the belt kiss the tender skin on the inside of the thigh. That was the end of my silence: I managed to avoid words but some of my yelps were close to outright yells.

“Enough. That will mark him up nicely. Now, have you anything to say to me?”

I wasn’t even going to try. I had no confidence that I would be able to keep my voice steady; I pressed my face down against the sheet and tried to tell myself that the only reason my face was wet was that I was overheated.

“Well. Let us try something else.” The three of them went into a huddle; I crawled up on top of whatever the block was and curled up. I had learned one thing: there was no point in running away. Nowhere to go. I couldn’t get away. . .

“Right, pretty boy.” Blondie was back, looking down at me. “Up you get. You’re going to sit on my knee.”

I was going to what?

What he said. He sat down on the edge of the block and between them, he and Foxy arranged me on his lap, facing forwards, and trying not to give them the satisfaction of seeing me fidget from the rasp of my hot backside on his jeans. I thought Blondie was going to put his arms round my waist but he didn’t: his arms went under mine and back up against my shoulders, allowing him to link his hands at the back of my neck, and that was me immobilised again. Then Concorde and Foxy caught my ankles again and splayed my legs wide, wide enough for Blondie to double his legs back over my shins – and then open his own thighs. I don’t think I can make you understand how vulnerable I felt, legs wide, everything on display, held helpless and defenceless.

“We have tried pain,” said Concorde calmly. “Now we will try something else.” Oh no. Please no. Foxy was gazing at me as if I were a particularly succulent dish served up for his personal delectation. Please, no?

Only it was yes. There was nothing I could do except squirm, and that was futile. Foxy knelt deliberately between my thighs, leered knowingly at me, and leaned in to run his tongue slowly over the tender skin still pink from his application of the belt. Then he blew on the damp trail, and I squalled at the sensation.

“Ooooh, a reaction!” smirked Blondie – I couldn’t see his face but I could tell from the tone that he was smirking. I wriggled helplessly, every shift reigniting the burn in my arse, and a matching burn in my face – and Foxy grinned like an animal and leaned in again.

“D’you like that, pretty boy?” enquired Blondie very softly against my ear. I shook my head mutinously – and gasped as Foxy did something slow and wet and unbelievable which made my spine arch and threw my head back onto Blondie’s chest.

“He lies,” said Concorde dispassionately, and came to kneel beside Blondie with his arms round both of us. Then he dipped his head – I could see him, just, from the corner of my eye – and nipped Blondie’s ear, and Blondie gave a little breathy squeak and jumped. That made me jump too as his trousers rasped my arse, and Foxy jumped when I did and swallowed, so that I gave a helpless mewl, and Concorde gave a growl of amusement. Then – oh God – he ran his tongue very slowly around the curve of my ear, pulled the lobe into his mouth and sucked hard, and I made a most peculiar strangled noise. I love having my ears licked, always have done; my ears are incredibly sensitive. And Blondie wasn’t far behind either; he leaned a little to one side to make room and rasped his tongue over the other earlobe just as Concorde began to nibble the outer shell, and I was lost. Blondie scraped his fingernails over the nape of my neck and attacked one ear; Concorde pinched and fondled my nipples and worked on the other ear; and if I hadn’t been so firmly fastened down by Blondie’s grip that I could do no more than twitch, I would have been snapping my hips up to Foxy’s incredibly talented mouth. As it was, I was babbling – a breathy, incoherent narrative of ‘No, no, yes, oh please, oh God, don’t, don’t, no, stop, don’t stop, oh fuck, oh fuck. . .’ I don’t know how long that went on – not nearly long enough, otherwise known as far too long, but when Concorde said, “That will do. Stop now,” I actually howled, and my voice broke on a sob.

“My turn, I think,” he added calmly, “unless our friend here wants to talk about his ransom?”

Talking? What was that?

Face down again, and this time my arms were pulled widely to the sides, and held by Foxy and Blondie. Concorde tickled something slowly down my spine. “This is a riding whip. The core of it, I believe, is nylon. It is extremely flexible. Can you hear it?” It ought to have been such a cliché, the whip swishing through the air, but I was cringing away from it and trying not to whimper. “The outer cover is not leather but some leather substitute. I doubt that you will be able to tell the difference. You do remember, do you not, that I will bring an end to this conversation at any point if you simply tell me that you wish to discuss your ransom with me?”

I tried to bury my face in the sheet; he caught my hair and pulled my head a little up from the yielding surface. “Answer me. You know how to stop me?”

“Yes,” I whispered, and my treacherous tongue added “sir.”

“Ah. We make progress at last. I intend, apart from any other method of bringing you to an understanding of your own position in my world, to have you understand, plainly, that the only law here is me. I can do with you precisely as I please; indeed, I shall do with you precisely what will bring me pleasure.” He let go of my hair; his hand slipped down my back, caressed my backside lightly. “Now, as for the question of lubricant. . .”

I bucked so hard I nearly got an arm free; nearly but not quite. There was a brief struggle which landed me precisely where I had been before, but a great deal more apprehensive. Then I felt his hand again, cool and slick, but insistently probing. “You are in too much of a hurry. It is a common failing of the young. I will have you fully prepared, not for your comfort, but for mine. Your comfort is. . .” and the whip sang.

But it didn’t touch me, not with the slashing cut I was expecting. A moment later I felt it nip, no more than a tiny sting, and again and again, little flicks against my backside. I’d have thought he didn’t know how to use it – except that only some sort of idiot would assume that this man didn’t know how to do anything. If he were only tapping my tail, it was because that was all he wanted to do, not for any other reason. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Actually, it was irritating, it itched, it stung just a little, but that sting was building and I was beginning to shift.

“Have you anything to say to me?”

“No, sir.” The ‘sir’ came quite naturally that time. The taps fell harder, and my shifts of position were more frequent, less controlled. He began to tap my thighs with sufficient force that I kicked, and the kicks exposed my inner thighs, which took their share of the blows. I yelped at each one.

And then he delivered six blistering strokes, squarely across the centre of my backside, so fast that my howl at the first broke on the last.

Then there was silence except for my rasping breaths, for a slow count of ten.

“Shall we do that again?”

I couldn’t answer him; his fingertips trailed across the smarting welt and my skin twitched.

“Well, what shall it be? The whip? Or me? Choose.”

“You.” It was no more than a whisper.

“I beg your pardon?” Politely enquiring.

“You, sir. Please.”

“Turn him over.”

I blinked foolishly when I landed right way up, and whimpered as my bruised and swollen arse touched the sheet. My back arched the wrong way over the edge of whatever was under the sheet, and Foxy and Blondie hastened to shift me a little back until I could bend my knees and get my heels onto the edge. Concorde spoke again. “Hold him still. Hold him quite still.”

Both Foxy and Blondie were scrambling onto the block beside me; I still had my arms thrown wide and they came to kneel close beside me, each one with a knee in my ribs and my arm clamped between his legs. Concorde rested his hands on my knees, and slowly, inexorably, they fell open.

“Give him something to watch.”

It was Foxy who started that, cupping a hand behind Blondie’s head and pulling him in for a kiss, a long, surprisingly gentle kiss which left Blondie sighing and which was almost enough to distract me from Concorde and what he was doing, tickling up my inner thigh, stroking the delicate skin behind my balls. Asking. Suggesting. Insisting.


I convulsed and his hands closed on my waist, holding me effortlessly still and lowering me slowly down again. And then he moved. Slowly. Slowly. And I looked up, not at him but at the other two, who were linked again, Foxy’s wide, clever mouth working on Blondie’s, Foxy’s fingers unfastening Blondie’s jeans, Blondie tugging Foxy’s waistband down over his thighs, each of them stroking, touching, rubbing at the other.

“Oh God yes,” whispered Blondie into Foxy’s mouth. “Harder. Go on, you bastard, you gorgeous bastard. . .” and Foxy obliged, and there was another whimper of “yes, harder,” only that wasn’t Blondie’s voice, it was mine, and Concorde was thrusting again, faster, harder, shorter, I could feel, I could see, it went on and gloriously on and Foxy was panting as Blondie rubbed and then one of them yelped, stiffened, the other groaned, and I felt the hot drops on my chest and for Chrissakes would somebody touch my cock before I oh God was that Concorde and I clamped my legs round his back and begged, “please sir, harder, harder, oh please sir!” and then the world ended, not with a whimper, but with a bang.


And I lay splayed on a cotton sheet on something yielding and slightly scratchy and didn’t care. There was movement, somewhere else, and whispering, somewhere else, and presently an arm which insinuated itself under my shoulders and another which hooked under my knees, and I was lifted, carried a short distance, and laid down again, with my neck pillowed on somebody’s arm. I opened my eyes enough to see damp pale curls close beside me. Blondie.


I was too tired even to turn my head; I just leaned on his shoulder, and when he spoke I could feel the buzz from his chest as well as hearing him.

“Behind you, Hansie, in the coolbox. And can we have. . . oh, you’ve got them, good.” And then to me: “Tim? Here, have a drink, it’s only water. Come on, sweetheart, just a little.”

I was too tired to resist so when the bottle touched my lip I opened my mouth, swallowed, and suddenly realised how dehydrated I was, struggling to get a hand to the bottle.

“It’s all right, pet, don’t gulp, there’s plenty more, slowly, slowly, that’s it. Now, here, this will be cold. . .” It was cold, it was Hansie with something damp, a flannel or a wet wipe which he ran over my body, leaving me cleaner (if not actually clean) and considerably less sweaty.

“Are you all right, my liefie?” That was Hansie, sounding a little apprehensive; I nodded and managed to put out a hand towards him, but my other hand was attached tightly to Phil’s shirt.

“It’s O.K., Hansie, he’s not quite back yet. Give him a minute. I told you, it wasn’t too much. Come on, Tim, a little more water?”

I managed to sit up for it, although all my muscles were cotton wool, and I had to lean on Phil; Hansie came down beside him to take a share of my weight and Piet was kneeling at my feet looking concerned.

“Tim? Timmy?”

I swallowed another mouthful of water, and speech came to me.

“Bloody hell.” I considered, and added, with conviction, “Fuck.”

“Tim, I think Hansie and Piet would like something a little more articulate, if you could manage it? They’re worrying that you didn’t like it.”

I coughed and reached for more water; Hansie steadied my hand which was trembling.

“Didn’t stop you, did I?” My voice was hoarse.

“I was afraid of you waiting too long to stop us,” put in Piet, who still looked concerned. “Phil kept saying that we could go on, and we had said that we would trust him to know, but. . .”

I drank some more. “Piet, you were asking me for my safe word about every second sentence. I knew you would stop if I said it.” I lay back onto Phil’s shoulder again, and squeaked as Hansie touched my backside.

“No, it is Phil’s ice-gel stuff. You will be badly marked. Can you roll a little further?”

“What am I lying on? What’s under this blanket?”

“Hay,” said Phil, cheerfully. “Piet’s hay. I knew you would like it, Mr Can’t-Get-His-Head-Round-Rôle-Play. What price Tim can’t do masters and slaves now?”

I stuck my tongue out at him, that being the best I could do by way of sarcastic and witty repartee, and shut my eyes. Presently, I heard Piet again.

“Timmy, can you move? I fear that if you do not stretch a little, it will take you like a heavy exercise session. Come, try, or you will be stiff tomorrow.”

“Piet, I’m going to be stiff every day for months just thinking about this.”

I heard Phil snort, and he eased me up a little and gave up his place to Piet, who pulled me to him and touched my face gently.

“It was truly good for you? Not too much?”

“It was bloody brilliant. I mean, I know you’re the Alpha Top, but I wouldn’t have expected you to be able to frighten me that way. You were really scary when you ripped. . .” my voice failed. “And look, yes, O.K., I’m sorry about the other thing, only I told Hansie not to tell you about it. It’s not a big deal.”

“It is a big deal,” insisted Hansie, staunchly. “You have done something amazing and then you would not allow me to tell the others so that we could celebrate.”

“Well, you did tell them,” I pointed out. “For pity’s sake, what’s the fuss?”

“The fuss,” admonished Piet, tapping me on the nose, “is that as usual you undervalue what you do. When Phil had that player’s award, we celebrated. When I was made Director of Rugby rather than simply coach, we celebrated. When James gave Hansie a big bonus for a successful year’s sales, we celebrated. Why are you to be different?”

“Well, but we all know how important those things are. What I did. . . Well, it’s not something anybody understands.”

“What’s to understand?” asked Phil. “I mean, I’m not exactly renowned for my superior intellect, so let’s see how difficult it is. Tim Creed gets transferred at work to the department which looks after the company stock. He revamps the whole department including redesigning the paperwork and sorting out the stock control system, thereby allowing them to carry less stock without reducing their efficiency. This saves the company a sackload of money and his uncle Jim is pleased with him. He writes up what he did as part of his MBA, and the examiner is impressed to the extent of Tim Creed winning the examiner’s prize; the MBA college, tutorial system, whatever you call it, is also impressed and wants to print his case study in this year’s Amazingly Wonderful Exam Answers. His friends – his Family – want to celebrate because he’s done something clever. Even Phil Cartwright can understand that.”

I blinked at him. Could he really not see? “But Phil, it’s just what I do at work; it’s nothing special, it’s just me being reasonably good at my job.”

Hansie shrugged. “And what is it when Phil wins an award? It is Phil being good at his job. I won a bonus because I was good at my job. Piet has his promotion because he is good at his job. Anyway, it is irrelevant. I am not going to be told that I may not celebrate when my boyfriend does well at his job; it is up to me to arrange a celebration and I did.”

“Didn’t you just,” I agreed, pulling his head down for a kiss, “Foxy.”

He raised his eyebrows and shook his head at me. “Foxy you will not call me, and any mention of Gingernut and you will die. And as for Concorde. . .!”

“It has to be admitted,” said Piet, equably, “that I have a big nose, but I agree that there is no particular reason for him to call attention to it. (Yes, you may well come to offer me apologetic kisses. . .!) However, he is down a pair of underpants so we may say that honour is approximately even. Timmy, I think you should put your clothes on, for we do not wish you to become chilled. And you may spend the evening without underpants as a punishment for not wishing to tell us about your success.”

Ow. Stiff denim on a well whacked bum. Mind you, they didn’t hold me to it; we went back to the house and Phil disappeared into the kitchen muttering about lasagne ready to go into the oven while Piet poured wine and went to set the table, and when Hansie took me upstairs to shower off the dust and sweat, Phil called up the stairs after us that if I wanted something other than jeans I could look in his wardrobe. So while I got clean, Hansie found me a pair of Phil’s shorts, probably indiscreetly tight on him but soft and baggy on me, and we lay down on Piet and Phil’s bed, my head on Hansie’s shoulder, a pillow tucked under my hip.

“You have forgiven me for telling them about your case study being published, then?”

I kissed him roundly. “What about you? Were you. . . I mean, I loved that, but I wouldn’t like you to. . . Fuck.” There was no way to find out what I wanted to know, short of asking. “Hansie, when Phil taped my hands together, were you all right with that? It was a big thrill for me, but I don’t want to do it if it freaks you out.”

“I was not freaked at all; we had talked about it in advance, and I said that I thought I could do it, but that was partly why Phil put your coat over you, so that I need not see. But I found I was not troubled; it was plainly a turn on for you, so. . . See, I do not wish to play that way myself, I do not think I could ever bear to be tied, but you liked it and I could see that you liked it, and it was Phil, so I was not afraid. I am growing up, moving on, too, Tim. I make progress.”

I nodded, thinking about that, and presently we went back downstairs and I was allowed to lie on the sofa while the lasagne cooked, and then I was allowed a pile of cushions to sit on while I ate it, and then we took our coffee into the living room and I was rolled across Hansie’s lap, complaining mightily, and Phil’s shorts were peeled off me and Hansie smoothed another layer of Phil’s soothing gel across my backside and held me while it dried.

“Now, my liefie, I shall help Phil to clear the table and fill the dishwasher and Piet shall look after you, ja nee?”

Piet nodded, and stretched along the sofa and held out his arms to me, and I wriggled up against him and put my own arms as far round him as they would go, and the other two went off to the kitchen.

“Thank you,” I said, eventually.

“You are welcome. I hope we had your fantasy right?”

“Oh God, you have no idea. You have no idea. Piet. . . something I don’t understand. O.K., I like to play rough, I get turned on by the idea of force, you know that. And you’ve all humoured me a bit with it in the past, too; I love it when Hansie does it, but it makes him uneasy and I don’t like to ask him too often. The one who does it most easily, though, is Phil, and of all of you, Phil is the one who’s least toppish. I don’t get that.”

“It is because there is no sexual violence in him, none at all. He has as much testosterone as the next man, and we know that when he is roused to anger he is capable of violence, we have seen that, but sexual violence is beyond him. So for him, such play is only that, it is play, it cannot conceivably be anything else. Hansie fears his own responses, and so do I; we would both be capable of sexual cruelty. So, perhaps, would you, in the right circumstances, but Phil would not, so when he plays at it with you, there is no shadow and he can go as far as you desire and as far as he is willing to take it. This was his idea, and I tell you, if he had not been present I think neither Hansie nor I would have dared do it. Phil was our safety check; you trusted us not to go too far and we trusted Phil to identify where ‘too far’ might be, because it was much further than either Hansie or I would have thought.”

I chewed that over for a moment, while Piet’s hand smoothed lightly down my back. “You don’t mean that you didn’t like doing it, do you?”

“No indeed; I mean that we, that Hansie and I, were in danger of liking it too much, and Phil kept us safe as surely as he kept you safe; he gave us permission, if you like, to enjoy it too, without being afraid. So we may all have the experience untainted, pure pleasure.”

“However kinky.”

“However kinky, Mr Can’t-Get-His-Head-Round-Rôle-Play, is that what Phil called you?”

I snorted with amusement, and it was then, when I was off guard, that it happened, although I could have sworn that it never would. Piet tapped me on the nose again. “But it has its serious points too, Tim. You must accept that we, your Family, are proud of you and what you do. We do not need to understand all the detail to admire what you are capable of, any more than you need to be able to do what Phil does on the pitch to celebrate when it is acknowledged that he does it well. We love you and we are proud of you.”

Oh God, sniveller Tim, it’s so embarrassing! A simple compliment and I well up, every time. Piet pulled me closer, thumbed the tear off my lashes, dipped his head, and kissed me, so gently, with such tenderness, that I could hardly bear it.

“You have done well, Tim, and we will not have you denigrate it. I forbid it, do you understand me?”

And oh God, I said it. I can’t believe I said it.

“Yes, master.

Idris the Dragon

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