Leo looked at her with a sudden, special darkness in his eyes.
‘It strikes me you’re intrigued by the bondage thing. And if you don’t relax any other way – well, that would be a good way. May I demonstrate?’
Ruth laughed out loud.
‘You mean you happen to have some rope in your pocket?’ Said perhaps slightly too loud, too aggressively.
‘No. But if I may, I can prove my point with another technique.’
And right there, right then, a little piece of Ruth’s personality kicked in. She was being challenged. And any kind of challenge was a Ruth-magnet. It was how she’d become successful in her work. It was, though not relevant to the immediate situation, how she’d first experienced anal sex. And it was how she’d acquired her gut instincts of who would and wouldn’t be a safe and satisfying one-night-stand.
This guy? Leo was calm, relaxed, open. Confident, but not overbearing. Didn’t get annoyed at her needling. Was interested in her, clearly, but his tongue wasn’t hanging down to his knees and he wasn’t trying to feel under her skirt. He’d be a safe, if perhaps unusual, one-night-stand if she wanted it.
Ruth knew she was being driven by her little personal try-anything demon. She didn’t try to repress it. Instead, she consented to something that in almost any other circumstance would be unthinkable. She consented to be on her knees, in front of him, right there in the bar. He asked her to fold her hands behind her back. Pulled some coins from his pocket. One rested on her right forearm, behind her back. One on each shoulder. One on each thigh. He was very gentle, and she had no sense he was trying to grope her.
‘Normally when I do this, there’s a threat involved. Stay in exactly that position for ten minutes, and ten strokes with a cane for every coin that falls in that time. And of course I could use many more coins. But for now, the point is just to demonstrate that holding the position requires you to still your thoughts, direct them inwards to your body, and relax. So there is no penalty if they fall. Unless you desire it.’
Surprisingly, he turned back to the bar and opened his book.
‘By the way, I’m now timing you.’
Within the first few seconds, Ruth had got the point. She did indeed become much more conscious of her body. Specifically, of the fact she was kneeling at his feet in a public place, her skirt hem almost indecently high on her thighs because of her position. Of the fact that she was relaxing, and breathing more slowly. And of the tingling sensation in her nipples and the distinct sense of juiciness between her legs.
She could move at any time. Say she understood what the technique was supposed to achieve and leave it at that. But something stubborn in her made her stay there. She wanted to see out the full ten minutes.
And then the rebel in her was telling her to shift position slightly, to allow a coin to drop. It wouldn’t result in ten strokes from a cane, of course, but she wanted to feel as if it would. She wanted the anticipation, the vulnerability.
This was a hotel bar. A public place. Anyone could walk in and see her, on her knees, in a submissive posture. That in itself set up all kinds of complicated feelings, gave her a rush of blood to the head.
The bar was slow that evening. No one else came in. Even the bartender seemed to have disappeared into a back room.
Just before she judged the ten-minute period was up, Ruth sensed an involuntary shiver in her right shoulder. And one coin dropped and rolled on the carpeted floor.
Leo turned to her.
‘You only have thirty seconds to go,’ he said accusingly. ‘You did that deliberately.’
She could only nod mutely in agreement.
Leo seemed amused.
He removed the other coins, helped her back onto her bar stool.
‘I hope it was instructive,’ he said. ‘I sense you may be more interested in what I do than you’re trying to show. So if you do want to be tied up, or indeed to receive the ten strokes, I’m an insomniac and will be awake for at least the next three hours.’ With that he flashed her the key card to his room. One zero six. Then he closed his book and wished her a good evening.