Sitting in a bookshop is not normally where adventures begin, but Caroline Gray’s did that Saturday morning, Waterstone's Bookshop has big sofas and a coffee house which does amazing lattes. It is a nice place to spend a wet dreary morning.
Her life was going well, she had decided the night before. 39 years old and still single but not chaste, a string of boyfriends, and a nice flat overlooking the river in one of York’s most expensive areas made her feel contented.
She was reading a magazine she had chosen and when she looked up to sip her coffee and caught the eyes of someone she sort of recognised, his grey eyes were looking at her with the same sort of 'where do I know you' expression.
She cast her mind back but couldn’t remember who he was. She smiled at him and thought, 'Oh god... he is coming over.'
He was smartly dressed and had that designer stubble look that was either cultivated or just very casual. His hair had just a touch of grey at the temples. 'He must be my age, maybe just a little older...'
His eyes smiled before his lips and she found herself enchanted by the rich voice that boomed over the jazz that was being played over the speakers above her.
“Caroline Gray, well who would have thought it?" His voice dropped a little. "So are you still getting tied up in your dad's barn?”
She looked at him again, confused and uncertain. There was only one person who knew about that. No, it couldn’t be. Darren Brocket? Little, fat Daz? The boy who did everything she asked of him due to his undying puppy love for her? She used to play games with him, there always have has to be a hero and victim, she would be tied to a post and he would burst in to rescue her. She hadn't worked out that side of her psyche until late on in life, but had enjoyed all the feelings that went with the suffering. She had thought at the time she might become a actress.
She smiled at him. “Darren! Is that really you?”
He nodded and grinned, “Yep. It's I, le Claire!”
She laughed. They had played the “Allo Allo” game a few times. She being Helga and him being Herr Flick of the Gestapo, of course.
“How are you? You look well!” she asked, taking him all in.
“All the better for seeing you!” he smiled at her and looked her up and down. “You look great!”
“Flattery will get you everywhere,” she grinned, really pleased to see him.
His grey eyes sparkled. “Even back in your dad’s barn?”
Caroline found herself blushing. As she fought to recover she said, “Dad sold up and moved to Spain last year. So I am the only Grey left here now!”
“Lonely?” he asked
“Yes a little," she agreed. "I have a few good friends but nobody from school. You?”
He grins and she finds it cute as she almost sees the old Darren. He has changed so much and for the better.
“Well I still live with my mum and dad," he pauses for effect, "but they have a bungalow on the farm now."
“Does that mean you have the house then?” Caroline remembered the house, with its low ceilings and oak beams.
She grins at him. “And the Aga? I used to love coming to yours in the winter. Your mum used to make that flapjack...”
“Yep and I have updated the house, I now have a shower”
'I, not we,” Caroline thinks as she looks at him.
“What you doing this afternoon," he asks.
“Not much, why?”
“Come and see the old place!”
“Are you sure? I don’t have a car.”
“I’ll drop you back, its no trouble.” He smiled at her. "I have just got to buy a book.”
She waited while did so, watching the gentle, easy way he dealt with people.
“Where did you park?” she asks and he nods towards Clifford’s tower.
She watched him a lot as they walked together chatting; he had altered a lot in the last 23 years. He was a lot better looking than she remembered and he had a nice air of calm. He had been good with animals and with his hands; in more ways than one, she smiled to herself. Although they hadn't been boyfriend and girlfriend, lots of people had eluded to it. She had, if she was truthful to herself, used him to fulfil her fantasies of being a prisoner. Now here she is wandering with him to his car, thinking about when before they had kept everything between them a secret between themselves.
He points to a new BMW5 series 4x4. “Nice!” Caroline says as she gets in. “No money in farming!”
He grins back, “There isn’t. It’s my side-line business that paid for this.”
Caroline didn’t ask what as she was looking at the dash board. She hadn't had a car for about 6 years, preferring to travel everywhere by train. This car was very nice. Soft leather seats and as he started the engine classical music came out of the speakers. Very soothing she thought as he slipped out of York towards Driffield. The X5 ate up the distance as he turned up towards the hills.
The farm was as she remembered it. The old house that looked out over the valley, the big Dutch barns and the two grain silos painted in a dark green colour that blended with the tall Cyprus trees that she had seen planted all those years ago.
In the corner of the large yard the only thing that had really changed was a new bungalow. “Mum and Dad live there, they moved out about a year ago. Dad runs the dairy herd with me." He looked out at the cows eating in the field. "We don’t farm the arable land any more as we have leased it out.”
Caroline looked round at the yard, its tidy straw stacks and the soft rustle of the leaves made her all nostalgic. “God this brings back memories!” she smiles at him with genuine warmth. He walks her toward the farm house and she slips her arm into his.
Unlocking the door he waves her into the large pine kitchen. 'This is nice,' she thinks as she sits in the chair he offers her. She catches him looking at her as she undoes her leather jacket and is pleased to see his eyes admiring her figure.
“So, no Mrs Brocket?” she says looking at the pictures on the dresser in the corner.
“Nope. I never bothered. Been quite a few nearly ones but they all lacked the right stuff. You?”
He switches the coffee machine on and puts a pan on to warm some milk.
She nods, “There was a Mr, but he went a few years ago, I have lived on my own for a couple of years now. Not quite at the cat-owning age yet.” She grins ruefully at him.
“You look fine, well more than fine really. Do you remember the games we used to play?” He came out with it quite teasingly but she could tell he was interested and wondered just how much he remembered of the times all those years ago!
“Oh yes! They were the good times." She smiled wistfully, "Life was simple then!” She pauses and continues, “Me, you, and my dreams of being a damsel in distress, did you ever think of them?”
“Yes they made huge impact on my life.”
“Really? Don’t tell me the stud of year five pined after little old tubby Caroline?” She giggled a little as she remembered the stick-thin body she had before her breasts had decided to grow in her late teens.
“You were a little different, that’s why I liked you.”
He poured her coffee adding hot milk and a pinch of vanilla scrapings.
“Mmmm that’s good coffee," she smiled at him. "Are you saying I perverted you?”
“Yep,” he grinned back at her. "I have you to thank for that. And well…" He stood up and poured the rest of the coffee into a thermos and added the milk. “Come on, I want to show you something. Leave your jacket, you will be warm enough.”
Carrying her cup she followed him down the long stone hallway towards what used to be a side barn. “I extended the house when we got rid of the sheep. The old lambing barn is now my workshop. It's warm, comfy and my favourite place on a cold evening.” He grinned back at her as he opened the door with a massive old key.
“Hey, I remember that key!” Caroline exclaimed and smiled at him. "We found it didn’t we?”
He smiled and nodded. “In the old wood shed. The night we made that cage for you to be locked in so I could rescue you from it." He pauses... "What was it now?”
Grinning at him she replies, “The slave trade! We had been to the Wilberforce museum in Hull with school.”
He grins, “Did you realise then why it fascinated you or do you still not know?”
She sees a little cheeky grin come to his face. “Yes I knew when I got to sixteen why I liked it. At what stage did you realise why I liked what we played at?"
He smiles a huge grin. “Susan Watts.” She looks quizzically at him. “Well after you went to collage and then university I had to have someone to rescue. She seemed to like the same thing.
“Ah well she is married now but she still gets away now and then.”
“You rogue!” Caroline says, feeling a little jealous.
He opens the unlocked door and waits for her to go first. The room is light and airy and she sees a large sweeping wooden staircase that goes up to another floor. The main parts of the left wall used to be wooden barn doors but are now large glass doors.
The conversion has been very well done, she thinks. “It's nice, very nice. But why have you had it done? Isn’t the house big enough for you?"
“Well I needed a workshop and the old cow shed was okay but bloody cold in winter. So I had this done.” He walked to a large work bench in the corner; on it she could see loads of rolls and tools.
Then she got a whiff of something. “Is that leather that I smell?"
He looks round at her and taking hold of a cover that hangs over a rack he whips it off with a flourish. “See, I told you that you had an influence on me!”
Caroline realises she is open mouthed. Placing her cup on his bench she walks over to the rack and picks up one of the items on it. The thick but soft leather collar feels gentle but firm in her fingers as she holds it to the light looking at the gold stitching and the four gold rings sewn into its middle band. The buckles, of which there are two, have got loops on them which takes her a while to realise are for a padlock or two to hold the collar on.
She realises he is watching. “You made this?”
He nods and takes it from her. Handing her a pair of wrist cuffs he watches her as she looks at them and handles them with a reverence. As if they are works of art.
“I did leather work at college and I made jackets and all sorts of stuff. Then I realised that there was a market for this stuff. A lot of it is sold as fashion. I do a cheap line and a high class line. Gay customers buy a lot but I do get couples as well!" His grin at her carried all sorts of meaning as he continued, “I tend to make a lot of special orders. Stuff that some of my rivals tend to not want to do due to time constraints." He smiles at her as she unbuckles one of the cuffs and wraps it round her wrist.
"There is a lot of tat made for the cheap market. I try to give value for money. Here let me!” he buckles the other cuff onto her right wrist and smiles at her as she looks at them.
“These are great; soft, but you know they have you, firm." Caroline realises she is a little affected by them. She looks at Darren.
He is grinning at her. “It still does it for you? I have always thought about the stuff we used to do... He pauses and looks down at his feet. "I started to make this stuff with you in mind. And I tried to get in contact with you through your mum but she didn’t seem that keen to pass my number on. I think you were married..."
Caroline grinned at him. “Well the last time she saw you we had cocked it up and used that chain and padlock to chain me to the old railway line at the back of the farm and you broke the key off in the lock... Remember?”
Laughing at his blush she takes his hand and looks in his eyes. “I was bloody mad at you but at the same time immensely turned on!” She grinned. And said, “If we both had known why we liked doing what we did we might have had a lot of fun.”
“I was shy, but I knew why I did it! I hoped you would fall in love with me and I’d get the chance to do all those things a teenaged boy wants to do to a girl” he laughes and sips at his coffee. “Your mother didn’t see the romance in being rescued, did she?”
Caroline winced. “I was grounded for a month and then I went to collage. So that’s why I dropped out of sight then... I stayed of mum’s way.”
She watches him step behind her and feels him lifting up her hair and is almost transfixed as the collar wraps round her neck and she feels the tug of the buckles as he gets the tightness just right. His fingers are warm as he tucks his little one down the side of the collar to check it’s not too tight.
She leans the side of her face onto his hand almost without realising why or in fact that she had done so.
His smile as he steps round to the front to look at her makes her knees go a little weak. Then they both seem to snap out of the moment and Caroline as much to cover up the flashback in time in her mind as to be curious walks back over to the rack and takes a harness off the hanger.
She realises he is watching her as she plays with the leather and then catches sight of the two large rubber prongs that sit in the middle of the crotch-piece. Defiantly she looks up at him. “Is this for Susan Watts then?”
“Nope,” he grins at her, “not jealous, are we?”
She is about to deny it when she thinks about what he has just said. 'Am I?' she wonders, 'and if so why?' She shakes her head. “No... just wondering!” She is thinking, 'God the back one looks big. That must hurt.'; Her fingers go down to the prong and grip the top to find its width. “Ouch.”
Darren tries to ease her embarrassment by helping the subject along. “No that one is a trial run for a client in the Middle East. I’ve got to do all the tacking in gold thread and use a different type of leather but the harness is to his specifications.”
“So I inspired all this?” she asks in a teasing voice.
“Well yes, in a way. This and more! Mum and Dad think I make leather jackets. Which I do, and I make them well. But this is my real passion.”
He walks to her and taking her hands in his kisses her fingers, smiling he raises them to her neck and she feels a click and her hands are fastened tight underneath her chin. Grinning he steps back and looks at her while picking up a camera. “Smile!”
She did, and thinks, 'You git!' She feels her loins tighten and she knows that he knows.
Reaching on to his desk he pushes a button and all the blinds on the big windows slowly cut out the light.
“Do I have to worry?” Caroline asks as she moves her body to follow his movements as he walks over to his desk. He points to a big leather armchair.
She walks over and with a little bit of shuffling sits down. He smiles at her and wanders over to the rack and picks up another pair of cuffs. He kneels in front of her and buckles them round her ankles attaching a chain between them and clicking two padlocks onto the rings in the buckles, locking the cuffs on.
She watches him thinking, 'Why am I doing this... more to the point why do I want him to do this?' She smiles at him looking quizzically.
“Just say no!” he steps back and touches her cheek with the tip of his fingers.
She stands and moves over to the mirror with short stubbing steps and looks... She looks daft with her trousers sort of hanging down over her chains. 'My chains?' she wonders.
Darren pours them a coffee handing it to her and watching her struggle to drink it grins at her. “So how does it feel to be back in my clutches?”
“What? I am weird or the situation?”
“No not that or you. Me! I haven’t done anything like this since I got caught on the railway line by mum and here I am; you click me up with one catch and I am back in my teens again. I’ve fantasised and wished for this sort of thing but I have never even thought of doing it for real and all this time you have been carrying on with what I thought was my idea and my strangeness!”
She shrugs and walks back over to him. She enjoys the way his eyes watch her keeping the cup from spilling on her white shirt. He hadn't changed that much. 'Still I haven’t seen him for years, but then again he knows my inner thoughts. Do I want to go down that route again?'
As he took the cup from her she watched his hands, his eyes and then his mouth. He smiled at her and she decided.
“Well why not!” He unclips her wrists and bends down to unfasten her ankles.
“Darren you don’t have to undo me. Lock my wrists behind me.”
He does as asked and moves to her front. “You sure?”
“Yes but I am afraid that’s it! For this weekend anyway..." she smiles at him.
Taking her hands he places them behind her back and clicks the cuffs together.
She is in a way relived that she is on her period. “I need a bit of thinking space I think.”
She smiles at him when he responds, “That’s fine. If you fancy coming out again and having a bit of fun, can I take your measurements? Then I can make you something that I have had in my mind for ages.”
She smiles. “Well, I take it we may be rekindling our past then?”
“It never ended for me. I have always had you here, and here!” he touches his head and heart.
'Bugger he is good,' she thought. He made her go all gooey at that moment.
“Okay then, why not?” she thinks and says it at the same time... while glancing at her reflection in the windows.
End of part 1
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