Read Little Boy Blue (Helen Grace #5) - M. J. Arlidge Page 0,1

soul around to help her should she fall, but she was so close now.

The trees were thinning out, the foliage was less dense, and seconds later she broke cover – a svelte, hooded figure darting across the vast expanse of Southampton Common. She was closing in fast on the cemetery that marked the western edge of the park and, though her body was protesting bitterly, she lurched forwards once more. Seconds later she was there, slapping the cemetery gates hard, before wrenching up her sleeve to arrest her stopwatch. Forty-eight minutes and fifteen seconds – a new personal best.

Breathing heavily, Helen Grace pulled back her hood and turned her face to the night. The moon was nearly full, the sky cloudless and the gentle breeze that rippled over her was crisp and refreshing. Her heart was beating out a furious rhythm, the sweat creeping down her cheeks, but she found herself smiling, happy to have shaved half a minute off her time, pleased that she had the moon at least to bear witness to her triumph. She had never pushed herself this hard before, but it had been worth it.

Dropping to the ground, she began to stretch. She knew she made an odd sight – a lone female contorting herself in the shadow of a decaying cemetery – and that many would have chastised her for being here so late at night. But it was part of her routine now and she never felt any fear or anxiety in this place. She revelled in the isolation and solitude – somehow being alone made it feel like her space.

Her life had been so troubled and complex, so fraught with incident and danger, that there were very few places where she truly felt at peace. But here, a tiny, anonymous figure, dwarfed by the immense darkness of the deserted common, she felt relaxed and happy. More than that, she felt free.

3

He couldn’t move a muscle.

Conversation had been brief and they had moved quickly to the main event. A chair had been pulled out into the middle of the room and he had been pushed down roughly on to it. He knew not to say anything – the beauty of these encounters was that they were mysterious, anonymous and secret. Careless talk ruined the moment, but not here – something about this one just felt right.

He sat back and allowed himself to be bound. His captor had come prepared, wrapping thick ribbon around his ankles, tethering them to the chair legs. The material felt smooth and comforting against his skin and he exhaled deeply – he was so used to being in control, to being the one thinking, planning, doing, that it was gratifying to switch off for once. It had been a long time since anyone had taken him in hand and he suddenly realized how excited he was at the prospect.

Next it was his arms, pushed gently behind his back, then secured to the chair with leather straps. He could smell the tang of the cured hide – it was a smell that had intrigued him since he had been a boy and its aroma was pleasantly familiar. He closed his eyes now – it was more enjoyable if you couldn’t see what was coming – and braced himself for what was to come.

The next stage was more complicated, but no less tender. Wet sheets were carefully unfurled and steadily applied, from the ankle up. As the minutes passed, the moisture began to evaporate, the sheets tightened, sticking close to his skin. Before long he couldn’t move anything below his waist – a strange but not unpleasant sensation. Moments later, he was bound to the chest, his lover for the night carefully finishing the job by securing the upper sheet with heavy-duty, silver duct tape, winding it round and round his broad shoulders, coming to a halt just beneath his Adam’s apple.

He opened his eyes and looked at his captor. The atmosphere in the room was thick with expectation – there were many different ways this could play out: some consensual, some less so. Each had its merits and he wondered which one he, or she, would choose.

Neither spoke. The silence between them was punctured only by the distant thump of the Euro pop currently deafening those on the dance floor. But the sound seemed a long way away, as if they were in a different universe, locked together in this moment.

Still his captor made no move to punish or pleasure