Truth & Lies, Book 3
Drew likes Eva. But he also likes to tie girls up for fun.
Eva likes Drew. But she keeps insisting ropes aren’t her thing.
When a friend’s fluke accident lands them in a bondage-themed photo shoot, however, Drew soon discovers why the lady doth protest too much. And Eva overcomes personal demons to discover a whole new world of freedom within the loving constraint of a well-tied rope.
An Excerpt from Tangled Truth
Copyright © Delphine Dryden, 2015. All Rights Reserved.
The first time he’d seen Eva, he’d thought she was his friend Sheila. From the back they were nearly identical, with the same impossibly pale skin and blonde hair so fair it was almost silvery.
But then she’d turned, and Drew’s eyebrows had shot up. Far from sharing Sheila’s adorably oversized features, this girl had a face like a marble angel. Beautiful, classic, and at that moment so cold even the heat of August couldn’t soften its lines. Stunning.
The girl who wasn’t Sheila had been standing in front of one of the photos, holding a plastic glass of white wine and looking as though she would rather be just about anywhere else. Drew wondered what she was doing at the photography show, but then Sheila and her husband Danny walked over to greet her and it became obvious she was a friend of theirs.
Danny gestured Drew over, and as he approached he saw the woman wasn’t nearly as tall as Sheila, either. Similar build and coloring, similar proportions, but smaller all over. A delicate porcelain doll of a person. When he got closer, he realized she barely came up to his shoulder.
“Eva Godfrey, Drew Brantley, you meet at last,” Danny said dramatically, with a bow and flourish.
“Pleasure,” Drew said, offering a hand that Eva took in a forceful, brief handshake.
All business. Her fingers were as cool as her smile. Drew felt the urge to keep her hand in his, warm her up a bit.
“Mr. Brantley. Danny’s said very nice things about you.”
“Oh, it’s Drew, please. And the same to you. You run the Swift Gallery, right? Nice place.” Not that he spent much time in art galleries, but he had certainly looked in the window once or twice, and it seemed nice enough. He might be tempted to do more than just look in the window now.
“A bit too highbrow for the likes of us low art folks, I’m sure,” Danny quipped, obviously not too concerned.
Eva rolled her eyes at him. Drew noticed that when her gaze happened to fall on one of Danny’s photos, she quickly looked away.
The photographs could be startling to the uninitiated. On every wall of the large loft space, pictures depicted soft skin restrained by ropes in complex knots and woven patterns. Close-ups, for the most part, with only one or two shots in which the model’s face could be seen. But of course, everybody there already knew the model was Sheila.
“You’re not a fan?” Drew was surprised. The crowd at the small, private showing that night consisted primarily of friends and family, and it wasn’t as though Danny and Sheila’s friends tended to be closed-minded. In fact, the room felt not unlike the neutral conversation area at a BDSM gathering . . . though these participants were, in general, more heavily clothed.
“Evie doesn’t play,” Sheila said with a shrug. “Though she knows she has a standing invitation.”
“I appreciate your artistry,” the petite blonde said with a hint of wry humor. “And I’m here, being supportive.”
“Yes, you are, my love,” Danny said firmly, “and we appreciate your support. Sheila’s too big for her britches tonight and she’s got her brat hat on.”
As if to prove him correct, Sheila stuck her tongue out at her partner then grinned unapologetically. “You’ll take care of that later, I’m sure.”
Drew smiled, watching the easy banter between his friends with enjoyment. Theirs was a rare partnership, balancing equality and expertise in business with domination and submission in the bedroom, and a stunning juggling act of all those dynamics in their daily life together. Danny might have the upper hand when it came to bondage and sex, but he had no trouble deferring to Sheila’s business acumen or writing talent.
They were a formidable team, but mostly Drew liked the way they approached life with such obvious relish and gleeful flouting of convention.
Drew’s own tastes were a fraction more conservative, but only a fraction. Domination and submission didn’t interest him much. His participation in the BDSM scene fell squarely into the category of bondage, and his expertise with ropes and knots made him Danny’s favorite assistant for some of the more complex suspension and predicament bondage the photographer liked to experiment with. Drew’s clean-cut, vanilla manner had earned him the affectionate nickname “Bondage Boy Scout” among Danny and Sheila’s generally edgy group of friends and fans. Few knew that the label was accurate; Drew and Danny had actually both been Eagle Scouts. There were no badges in the type of knots they were into now, however.
Drew knew Eva had a nickname, too, although it was not quite as affectionate. Predictably, she was “Ice Princess”. Drew watched her surreptitiously throughout the evening, wondering how apt the title actually was. Eva looked chilly enough. Her already cool, Grace Kelly looks were rendered even icier by her simple white shift dress and silver thong sandals. The only hint of warmer color about her was the long, thin watermelon-colored scarf draped loosely around her elegant neck. Just a sheer hint of silk, bringing out the color in her lips and cheeks a tiny bit.
Or perhaps, he corrected himself, the blush on her face had more to do with the subject matter of the oversized photographs surrounding them. More than once, Drew caught a glimpse of Eva when it was clear she thought nobody was watching, and on each occasion she was staring at the artwork with something very like longing. In those moments, she looked far from icy. She looked hot, and Drew found himself picturing her in the poses he’d helped tie Sheila into for the photo series. He couldn’t help imagining Eva’s soft, smooth white skin crisscrossed with black or maybe red ropes, the tender flesh plumping out on either side of the snug restraints. He didn’t imagine, however, that before the evening was out he would get the chance to see even a hint of such a thing in person.
“Drew! Buddy!” called a tipsy Danny from across the room. Drew looked away from Eva to see his friend waving a camera at him. Intrigued, he approached and saw that Danny had tied a mutual friend of theirs to the cowhide-covered Le Corbusier chaise that occupied one corner of the loft. Brandon, the friend, was a study in blue and gold, his light denim jeans and chambray button-down forming a neutral and strikingly conservative background for the intricate web of black ropes securing him to his ultramodern chair. His shock of blond hair and fashionably tanned skin almost glowed in the cool setting.
“It’s his present for hosting this shindig,” Danny explained, fiddling with his camera lens and stalking around the chair as an audience formed. “I promised him a souvenir photo. But Sheila went on a drinks run, so I need you to find me a substitute for her. I want some hands around his shoulders or something like that, tied in something bright. This place needs color desperately.”
“Black and white are the new black and white, Daniel,” Brandon said, obviously unconcerned. He was an award-winning designer, and he had no serious doubts about his decor choices. The black-and-white loft was also a perfect impromptu gallery space, as the evening’s festivities proved. “But if there must be more color, let’s have something warm. Evie’s scarf, maybe. I can wear it as a cravat.”
“Let’s leave my scarf out of this, please,” Eva said with a sniff. “I don’t know where your neck has been.”
The line got a laugh, loudest from those who suspected they knew exactly where Brandon’s neck had been.
“If you’re trying to find a Sheila replacement,” Drew speculated, “it seems like Eva’s the logical choice, anyway. Same skin tones, and she’s already wearing sleeveless.”
“It’s my understanding that our Eva doesn’t care to be tied,” Brandon said with a snarky smile. “Or whipped, or dressed up like a gimp, or anything else like that. She doesn’t sully herself with our sort of low fun.”
Drew heard a murmur of “bitch” from somewhere in the crowd behind him, and he was fairly certain the remark was aimed at Brandon, not Eva. He had to agree with the sentiment. He looked for Eva, angry on her behalf, and was somewhat startled to see that her crisp demeanor hadn’t changed in the slightest.
“I stand by my anti-gimp position, but you can use me and my scarf for the picture if you really must,” she said, startling him further. Drew had to admire the slight swagger with which she approached him and offered her scarf and her crossed wrists in turn.
To a light smattering of applause and laughter, Drew helped Danny ready the shot, holding the light meter and waiting patiently for the photographer to decide how he wanted things. Then, twisting the scarf carefully to form something like a rope, Drew pulled Eva’s slender wrists together and began cinching them. Just a simple tie, as the “rope” was not quite six feet long. A few loops, a twist of the ends in opposite directions, and then he finished things off with a bow that earned a few more chuckles from the crowd.
Then, to his vast dismay, he had to let go of Eva’s hands so she could place them according to Danny’s instructions. Drew itched to pull her back toward him, to trace each margin of silk against skin, to bare her further and wrap more of her up in tidy rows of loops and knots. He was close enough to Eva as he worked to see that she enjoyed the process as well, despite her protests. A great deal, Drew suspected. Her crystal-gray eyes were slightly dilated, and the rosy flush on her cheeks was matched by the reddened imprint on her lower lip where she’d worried it with her teeth. She was breathing a bit too fast, especially considering how innocuous a bind he’d put on her wrists. It wasn’t fear he was seeing, though. It was arousal, and he wondered if she even realized how obvious it was.
“Comfortable?” he asked out of habit. “Nothing hurts, you can feel all your fingers?”
“I’m fine,” she responded, too quickly. “Fine.”
“Drew, you’re in the frame, dude,” Danny complained. Drew backed up and watched as his friend took shot after shot, moving Eva’s hands and arms slightly from time to time in order to shift the focus provided by the vividly colored tie.
Days later, Danny emailed Drew a copy of the finished photo, cropped to focus on Brandon’s throat and chest, with Eva’s arms encircling his neck. Her bound hands and wrists looked almost childlike in their vulnerability. No faces were visible. The scarf formed a vivid note of pinkish red against her fair skin and the pale blue of Brandon’s shirt. But what Drew remembered about the moment itself was not captured in the photo.
He could recall only Eva’s face, turned slightly into the cowhide upholstery above Brandon’s shoulder, and the much subtler pink that had flushed her carved marble cheek.