"Sit," she said, lying down. "Stay. Roll over."
"Look, I will, too, okay?"
He ignored the obvious crack. "We'll just have a nap."
"And then all my problems will be solved! Thank goodness for your little plan. Shel, I've tried this. It doesn't work. I can't nap."
"Yes you can. Just close your eyes and go to sleep."
"No, I mean it. Even when I didn't have insomnia. I can't sleep during the day."
"Yes you can."
"Shel! Jesus, did you really think I wouldn't have thought of this if the great Dr. Rivers hadn't come along?"
"Can I get that on a T-shirt? 'The Great Dr. Rivers'?"
"I've tried this stuff, okay? It doesn't work. I can't nap."
"Look, I'm not asking you to cure bone cancer, for crying out loud, just take a nap at five o'clock." He propped himself up on his side and rubbed her arm, then began to sing in a cracking baritone, "Go to sleeeeeeep… goooooo to sleeeeeeep…"
"How in the hell am I supposed to sleep with that racket?" she bitched. "Yet another flaw: you sing like old people drive. I'm keeping a list, you know."
"… I'm ignoring you… gooooo to sleep…"
"Stop singing," she said, "and I'll close my eyes."
"Done and done."
Forty minutes later…
"Can I get up now?"
"How could you not sleep?" he demanded, looming over her. "You did that on purpose!"
"Yes, I really get off on irritability, memory loss, loss of appetite, and all the other fun effects of long-term insomnia. Also, I'm conducting a survey, and it doesn't matter how many channels you have, there is nothing on at four in the morning."
"Well, that would not fucking surprise me!" he shouted, sitting up. "Who lies in a sumptuous royal suite, getting sung to sleep on a feather bed with expensive pillows and all that fancy shit, and doesn't sleep?"
"It's all part of my sinister plan."
He stomped around the bedroom for a minute, and she got up to brush her hair, amused. He really seemed genuinely annoyed that his plan hadn't worked. Men! She admired their confidence:I can fix it, just give me a minute .
"Well, hell," he said after muttering and grumbling. "I guess we'd better have dinner, then."
"Those were our only choices?" she teased. "Nap or eat?"
"Well…" He crossed the room and went to his navy-blue backpack. Which was odd, as she'd never seen him with one before. And it was strangely deflated, as if there weren't very many things inside. "I did have one idea…"
"Did you bring some Ritz? Because Iam a little hungry… one nice thing about being on the road is I don't have to wait until eight o'clock to eat supper." She blinked. "What the hell?"
He held up something shiny, something the light bounced off of. Handcuffs.
"Why, Dr. Rivers," she said, staring.
"Now, it's not what you think," he began.
"Really? It's not? Because I'm thinking you're a man just full of surprises."
"Okay, thanks." He was still holding the cuffs up, watching them spin lazily. "What I was afraid you were thinking was that I was some big old perv."
She laughed nervously. "No, I wasn't thinking that."
"Okay, and I know it's a big step for us, and you more than most people have to worry about, you know, the Paris Hilton effect and all that—"
"You've got a video camera in there?" She tried to figure out if she was horrified, or interested. "I'm dying to see what else you carry around with you."
"No! No no no. I'd never ask you to do that. Do it on camera, I mean. Like I said, you more than most people would have to worry about it getting out. Although these things don't just 'get out'," he added in a mutter. "The asshole ex-boyfriend sells her out, is what—okay, we're getting off the subject."
"And the subject was bondage?" She sat on the edge of the bed and looked up at him like an attentive pupil.
"Uh, yeah. And a change of clothes."
"What? Sorry, I'm having a little trouble following you."
"In my pack." He held the bag open and showed her; she could see a glimpse of white cotton, denim, and buttercup yellow. "I got you some souvenir T-shirts."
She laughed. "Thank you."
"Welcome. I also brought a change of clothes. In case you, uh, we decided to spend the night. That I could spend the night."
"One thing at a time, doctor. I'm pretty sure," she mused, "that I don't know you well enough to let you cuff me to the headboard."
"That reminds me." He dug through the pack and she heard the clink as he held up the second pair. "Okay, don't freak out, but because it's a headboard, we need two pairs. Otherwise you're lying on your hands and I don't think that'd be very comfortable."
"You seem to know a lot about it," she observed.
He blushed. Blushed like a kid! His cheeks went red and his eyes seemed to get darker. "I've never done this before. It just seemed logical, the hand thing. You're the only girl I ever wanted to tie up."
"Oh, Dr. Rivers!" To cover her extreme nervousness, she folded her hands over her breasts and looked up at him adoringly, batting her eyelashes. "That's so sweet."
To her relief, he laughed, and some of the high color left his cheeks. "Yeah, yeah, very funny. But I really haven't."
"In that case, I'm dying to know… where did you get two pairs of stainless steel handcuffs in Minot? You didn't—" She nearly vomited as the thought struck her. "You didn't ask my security team for them, d—"
"No. God, no, I'd never do that. Didn't I just get done telling you I was sensitive to your needs, as a celebrity, not to be sexually embarrassed on the World Wide Web? Or anywhere?"
"So where did you get them?" she asked, calming down.
He grinned at her. "Some things," he vowed, "will never be told. Suffice it to say, there are some interesting people frequenting the sex shop in this town."
"And I bet they all have doctorates."
"I'm assuming, from all the joking, that you haven't done this with anyone either?"
"Not hardly," she said, watching him spin the cuffs on the end of his right index finger. "I was nervous enough about losing my virginity, and I was nineteen when I got around tothat ."
"Well, here's what I'm thinking. Think fast." He tossed her a pair and she caught them by reflex. Out of pure curiosity she studied them. Yes indeed, stainless steel and very sturdy. "I think it's a control issue. With you. And not coming."
"Oh boy," she said, flopping back down on the bed.
"Hear me out! I think if you gave up a little bit of control, you might have a better time. That's all. It's an experiment. If it works, great. And if it doesn't—"
"You got a money-back guarantee?"
He laughed. "No. I guess I'll throw them away if it doesn't work."
"Shel." She sighed. "I told you it wasn't a problem for you to fix."
"Well, I'm a fixer," he said cheerfully. "I figured, we start out slow, and if you don't like it, we're done."
She studied the cuffs again. "I can't believe I'm even thinking about this."
"Well, you're right in that we haven't known each other very long, but how many girls have a team of highly-trained bodyguards in the next suite, ready to kick the living shit out of me if I forget the safety word?"
She burst out laughing. "I hadn't thought about it like that."
"Which isDendrochirus zebra , by the way."
"The safety word." At her confused (possibly aghast) expression, he hurried to explain. "You know, in case one of us takes it too far by accident. It's got to be a word you wouldn't use in everyday conversation."
"Everyday conversation! What the hell does it even mean?"
"It's the Latin name for zebra lionfish," he explained, in an "everybody knows that" tone.
"How about just zebra? I don't use that too much in everyday conversation."
"Well, okay, I guess, if you think—" He did a comical double-take, just like in an old comedy. "You want to? You'll give it a try?"
"Yeah, why not? Being cuffed isn't as scary as trying to rememberDendrochirus zebra." Or watching your father get shot , a tiny voice in her mind spoke up, and she stomped on it like a bug, made it gone. "You had a point about my guards, anyway. Try anything fishy, and you're shot, clubbed, or stabbed. Possibly all three."
"That's so romantic. And it'sDEN-drochirus ," he whispered, taking her in his arms.
By the time they had stripped and he had carefully cuffed each of her wrists to a section of the barred headboard, she was shocked to realize how excited she was. And when he slipped a hand between her thighs, he was shocked too, she saw at once, and the blood rushed to his face again—but not out of embarrassment. No indeed.
Then she couldn't see his face any longer as it disappeared between her legs, as he licked and kissed away the wetness she had made, they had made. His tongue was stabbing into her; it was like a knife that didn't hurt, one made of sweet darkness, one she felt all over.
She could feel his bristly cheeks—he hadn't shaved that day—rubbing against her inner thighs, felt his hands stroking her outer thighs, rubbing them restlessly, ceaselessly.
So much for starting out slow, she thought, and that made it more exciting, which she hadn't thought possible. That he couldn't. That they couldn't. That he'd dived between her legs and she didn't mind, that he hadn't gone near her breasts or her mouth and she didn't mind, that she was about to… to…