The ropes were a dirty dun colour, thin, but wound several times around his body in rippled bands so that the bite of one cord was negated by its sisters. Such comforts gave him the full ability to concentrate on the hanging weights and the cross linked cords that made each of the four men intimately connected and gave them one contact point with the ground.
There was a price of course, choosing to rest would strain one of your other body parts and put an unfair tension into his neighbours bonds. Phillip’s testicles were in their own little nest of rope, each ball separated from the other and a profusion of Maria’s nasty little clips biting the sensitive skin, and into his nipples and grabbing onto his soft cock. Each of these were strung criss-cross in an unpleasant net, a thin, strong twine with just enough slack that if everyone stayed perfectly still the tugging was merely uncomfortable.
He and Vitaly were mirror images; each on tip toe, Philip on his left foot and Vitaly on his right, both able to rise and lower as long as they didn’t mind feeling the bite in their nipples. The one called Puppy was tied with his knees bent, so that he could rest either knee on the ground, though at the expense of everyone’s testicles, and a pair of clips attached to the corners of his mouth like a horse’s bridle added to his misery. The final member of their quartet was the least restrained, with both arms unbound, an advantage somewhat negated by his upside down position. But despite being the only one of the group who could thrash or swing as he desired, and even untie knots or remove clips with his unfettered fingers, for most of the time Pitor remained with his arms folded over his lean, well developed chest, like a sleeping bat.
They had been like this for an hour, not counting the time it took for the women to see them strung up, and this was more than enough time for Phillip to learn the temperament of his fellow victims. Puppy never seemed to decide which knee to rest and would rock back and forth at five minute intervals, eternally hopeful that the next pose he took would be the best, to the point that he was blind . Vitaly took what slack the other men would give him, but never paid his debts, quick to adjust and spoil his companion’s comfort. Pitor, by contrast, watched the others and made scant few adjustments, usually to the benefit of others except when he’d jackknife up, bending at the middle with muscles a gymnast would envy and hold himself with his arms so his blood could rush from his head to his other extremities. If there was a hierarchy, Pitor was the elder brother in suffering and seemed to appoint himself minder to the others, going as far as to twist his body so the tension of the clips was against him, whenever one of the other men flagged.
He was not sure of the particulars of Pitor relationship with Patricia. At breakfast that morning the man had spoken as if he were an equal to her, and yet Phillip had clearly seen her take Pitor’s plate and use the genteel cover of the napkin to spit on his food. But there was no chance to converse under the watchful eye of one of the security men, who marked the tedium of watching the tied men swing and wriggle by tapping the shaft of his picana against his hand.
The women were elsewhere, looking over fabric samples in another more civilized part of the house, while Phillip reckoned that the men were housed in a storage room near the servants’ quarters. The rings in the ceiling told him this was not the first rope game and none of the other men seemed unfamiliar with the idea of being tied when Patricia had suggested leaving the men something to do. Strangely both Pitor and Puppy appeared to approach it with something like enthusiasm. And an hour later Phillip was quite sure the elevated leg was asleep and the next time Vitaly tried to lean to the left he was going to pull off some of Phillip’s clips outright.
The guard was the first one to notice someone come into the room, nodding with a bow that hinted the presence of one of the women, before Phillip saw her identity. Maria, looking ready to hurt someone, with a cat’s predatory smile. She took the picana from the guard and Phillip’s breath caught, a reaction mirrored by the other tied men.
She chose Vitaly, and the back of his knee and the thigh of his outstretched leg her target. This meant misery for the others, and Vitaly grunted and tried to curl away on the one thing that was supporting his weight. The result was easily predictable, with every man feeling the aftershocks of the thrashing, Vitaly’s pain echoed in the yanks and counter squirms of the other men.
A little metallic ‘plink’ marked the dropping clip, which had gained its liberty from Phillip’s chest, with the sensation it took a bit of his nipple with it. “Jesus Christ!”
“Whoops.” Maria paused, “I probably should have checked that.”
Since they were forbidden to speak, when the blasphemy had escaped his mouth, Phillip’s first impulse was to try to clasp his bound hand over his mouth in horror. Meanwhile his ribs were wet with a fresh red rivulet.
“Ooh, ouch.” Maria looked at his chest. “I didn’t realize that was pulled quite that tight.”
Pitor coughed, making the fake throat clearing noise servants used to interrupt and maintain the pretense of deniability.
“No, that’s alright Pitor, it’s not as bad as it looks, you can stay put,” Maria ran her finger just under the fresh tear in Phillip’s flesh. “Everything’s still attached but…”
She took the picana and caressed it up the inside of Phillip’s thigh, “You sir, were told to shut up.”
He breathed in sharply, unable to resist the desire to pull himself, and his bound, endangered testicles away from tip of the prod.
“You don’t like that very much, do you?”
Phillip shook his head.
“Annette told me you take a beating with commendable stoicism, and you tolerate her whims with pleasing compliance, but bring one of these to work and you whimper like she put a knife in you.”
He felt the contact prods sit directly on his testicles and gave a shiver.
“She says you’re sensitive. She keeps you on a low setting. Lower than my Vitya. And I’d seen her crank the dial a quarter short of maximum on him.”
“Of course…” Maria rested her hand on his shoulder. “She wasn’t frying his eggs. He’s supposed to be a husband, if he ever learns to behave. But you, you’re her toy. Just like Pitor, you’re a stoneless peach.”
Phillip felt her pull the tip of the prod back, and stayed perfected still, even his breath held in his chest.
“She could roast your nuts as long as she wanted. And it’s her prerogative to punish you, when she hears you disobeyed. ”
With that announcement, she walked away and saw to releasing the four men, Pitor first, then Puppy, and lastly Vitaly and he. “It’ll be another few hours of fabric samples and flower arrangements before we get to go riding and I’m stuck at home with this ankle. Pitor, see to Adam, will you? Assume to use your discretion.”
Phillip found his right leg was useless, full of pins and needles, though not numb enough worry him. He thumped the thigh with his hands to drive the circulation back into it. “Ow!”
“That’s not bad at all. Miss Decovics worried me for a moment.” Pitor left the room and came back with a small metal box of bandages. “I guess she thought she’d taken a nipple clean off with you howling.”
“Uh,” Phillip began, but Pitor’s frown suggested silence.
Vitaly was sitting on the floor, with his back propped up against the wall, face loose and his eyes closed. The man called Puppy looked bored and sat on his heels, and lacking any instruction Phillip did what he usually did in these long quiet periods, and let his mind wander. They were in roughly the same place when Annette and Patricia came to the room, a full three hours later, full of mundane chatter from the day.
“I swear shopping takes longer with a private agent than in a store,” Patricia rolled her eyes. “And we still haven’t decided on day lilies or jasmine sprays.”
“Maria will pick the under shade for the table skirts, and then Agatha will know which to order.”
All four men assembled into some sort of attention. Vitaly put his forehead to the floor, Puppy sat a bit more upright and smiled, a both Phillip and Pitor swooped in with alacrity to please even the fussiest decorum teacher, each extending an arm to a woman.
Annette looked him up and down, and her fraction of a smile cracked wider. Phillip felt her fingertips lightly brush his bare chest, just below the little bandage over his injury. “I’m glad Pitor didn’t bother to find you pants.”
“Come on, there’s tea. The agent from Brently and Orski has taken our demands and left.”
“I’m not going to pretend you need to be remotely interested in women’s work, such a burden that may be, but it’s a pity you won’t be attending this wedding. The Decovics will have reason to brag for decades.”
Puppy followed behind on all fours, with a strange level of delight that Phillip could not fathom, at least not until they passed a mirror on their way back to the refined part of the house and saw the assembly in the hall. There were two respectable women, dressed demurely in their muted shades and two naked men, spare and hungry looking, but glued to the ladies with dedication that was nothing short of slavish.
He didn’t act like an animal, but he recognized in himself something absurdly close to Puppy’s attachment. Annette Harrington was the new magnetic north to the compass of his consciousness. All the time alone and in the ropes, he’d had a lover-like obsession. Where was she? When would she come? And when she did come, knowing full well that she was as likely to bring pain as some sort of friendly contact, he craved the attention.
“Now darling, I understand you had an instruction you failed to follow.”
“I’m sorry my Lady, I forgot myself.”
“You understand that Maria is young and her style in these matters involves a bit less finesse. So she considers it a faux pas. I consider it human, but since this whole unpleasant business,” Annette gestured at Vitaly “She second guesses her judgement, a not unreasonable trait in a young girl, but not always to her advantage. And what is true for you is not true for her misbegotten fiancé.”
“I decided that the best way to alleviate some of Maria’s complaint is to give her the option working with you. But, and I say this plainly, it depends on you. If you do not feel you have the capacity to endure her company I will take the more traditional option and settle her discomforts by publically showing your punishment for your little slip.”
“I’m going to let you make a choice, Adam. You may stay with Miss Decovics for the next four hours, or I will see to demonstrate how you are best taught. My option is shorter, less uncomfortable and over before dinner, as reminding you to how to scream is a quick lesson. She, on the other hand, will be permitted to follow her whims, short of forcing you to endure the attentions of her enforcers, which, I think in not to my tastes even if it is about the only thing Mr. Yardley understands.”
“As you wish. I will obey whatever you want.”
“No, Adam. I’m offering you a choice in a social engagement. Your body belongs to me, but your brain has to monitor its capacity. You are my pet gentleman, as Mrs. Hinchley likes to refer to her Pitor, and for that reason I permit you to use your judgment.”
“My Lady?” Phillip was still uncertain. Spend time with Maria, the option he was sure Annette preferred, but would be letting a rabid cat loose on his flesh, or some short, sharp rebuke that would fall within the tight parameters of control Annette always seemed to operate under.
“You are not doing this for me. You are choosing, as a gentleman, whether to alleviate Miss Decovics’s discomfort personally or leave it as a matter between women.”
Phillip thought for a moment. “Well, my Lady, in that case, I have my answer.”