The Next Morning
Shibari Meditation Lodge
Moon River Colony
The four students entered
the lodge at the scheduled time, one hour after breakfast.
They'd been discussing the meal in question. Maura and
Susie agreed that the vegan crepes, tofu scramble, lemon poppy
scones, and soy milk chai had been delicious. Jane and
Ainsley, however, agreed that the flapjacks and maple syrup were
quite good, but Jane was of the opinion that the bacon had been
insufficiently greasy. This had led to a scholarly
discussion of the attributes, virtues, and shortcomings of
American smoked bacon verses Canadian back bacon—but all
discussion stopped when they crossed the threshold and stared in
wonder at the spectacle in the center of the building's open
Lit from both sides by the indirect light of the soji screens
and from overhead by the skylights, a blond woman was sitting in
the semi-lotus position on the tatami carpet. She was
nude, like everyone in the colony, and was bound with natural
rope. Her arms were folded behind her back and neat,
symmetrical bands pinned her upper arms to her sides, yoked her
shoulders, lashed her wrists and ankles, and bound her upper
thighs to her lower legs. Everything was tight and
interlaced, forming a unified web. The blonde was utterly
helpless. Not even Harry Houdini could have escaped from
Oh-by-the way, something was stuffed in her mouth, a narrowly
folded cloth cleaved her lips to keep it there, and a more
widely folded cloth encircled her head as a blindfold. Of
her features, only the point of her chin, her bulging cheeks,
and the tip of her nose were visible. Her hair was long,
wavy, and pulled back in a ponytail.
"Please sit with your backs to one of the support columns," a
second blonde said. She left the relative shadows in the
corner opposite the door and stepped into the light. The
students could see that she was tall, very tall, fair-skinned,
and with an undeniable athletic beauty. Her hair was cut
short, somewhat like Ainsley's.
Maura and Susie flinched in surprise when the tall blonde spoke,
but the detectives had noticed her immediately, even while their
primary focus was on the bound, gagged, and blindfolded blond
centerpiece. It was their police training.
"I am your instructor," the tall blonde continued. She
gestured at the tan, rope-bound blonde. "And this is my
assistant, Kate. In class, we will go by our first
names. My first name is Mistress, understood?"
"Yes, Mistress," the students answered in unison.
"Well," Mistress said, "what are you waiting for? You have
your instructions. Choose columns that are closest to the
The eight support columns were evenly spaced in two rows, four
on the river side and four on the forest side. All were
round, about six inches in diameter, solidly set in the floor,
and bolted to the beams overhead. Truth be told, they were
more hefty poles than columns. They were sanded smooth and
sealed with varnish, with their top thirds decorated with
painted carvings of forest leaves and flowers in the Mohawk
Jane and Maura each chose positions on the river side and
Ainsley and Susie on the forest. The students sat with
their backs to their columns and the detectives settled into
comfortably casual cross-legged positions. Maura and
Susie, on the other hand, flowed into the full-lotus.
"I assume you have already read the course material that Kate
left in your cottages," Mistress said as she strolled to one of
"Yes, Mistress," the students droned. The exception was
Jane, who mumbled something that might or might not have been
"Yes, Mistress." All of the students' eyes were on the
helpless, unmoving form of Kate.
Mistress opened the cabinet, lifted four lengths of hemp rope
from a peg, draped them behind her neck and across her
shoulders, and strolled to Jane. "Well?" she said,
focusing her unsmiling attention of the slightly flustered Jane.
Jane didn't know why she was embarrassed, or how "Mistress" had
zeroed in on her halfhearted response. Jane had
flipped through the twenty or so pages of single-spaced assigned
reading in its tastefully cloth-bound three-ring binder.
It was all about centering the mind and ignoring bodily
discomfort and attaining a state that transcended...
whatever. It didn't look very important or directly
related to the matter at hand: catching the Boston Bondage
Bandit. Maura had poured through her copy of the New Age
nonsense, of course, but Jane had only skimmed the text.
Anyway, it wasn't like she was back in grade school. It
wasn't like Mistress was a nun. "I looked at it...
Mistress," Jane said. "It would've been better with
Maura gasped at Jane's impertinence, as did Susie.
Ainsley, on the other hand, was struggling not to laugh.
Fortunately, Mistress was also amused. "Read it tonight,"
she purred. "You are...?"
"Hands behind the column, Jane," Mistress ordered.
Jane watched as Mistress selected one of the lengths of rope and
stepped behind the column. "Uh, behind the column...
"Would anyone care to enlighten Jane?" Mistress inquired.
"Maura, Mistress," Maura responded, introducing herself.
"The reading stated that all classes will be conducted with the
students bound, when they aren't actively participating in the
"That's correct, Maura," Mistress said. She knelt behind
Jane's column, took hold of her wrists, crossed them, and began
binding them with the doubled rope.
"Hey!" Jane objected, but it was already too late—too late to
politely refuse and probably too late to prevent the binding
process. It was Jane's nervousness that had made her say
something. She realized full well they were undercover and
had to play along with the curriculum, but Jane Rizzoli
letting herself get tied up? That was hard.
None of the students had a clear view of what Mistress was
doing, but in about a half a minute she'd finished the job,
stepped around to the front, gathered the still somewhat long
free ends of Jane's wrist bonds from either side, and tied a
square-knot over her bellybutton, pressing her spine and bound
wrists against the wood and dimpling the flesh of her waist and
flat, well-sculpted tummy.
Jane twisted her wrists and tugged on her bonds, to no
avail. The rope didn't bite, exactly, but it was tight and
impervious to her efforts. She knew she wasn't going
Meanwhile, Mistress had gracefully strolled behind Maura's
column and was binding her as she had Jane. She continued
around the room, binding Susie... and then Ainsley. Both
students introduced themselves as Mistress applied the
ropes. All the while, Jane continued struggling (a little)
while Maura and Susie smiled and watched her futile
efforts. Ainsley watched and smiled as well, but her smile
was more than a little nervous and her blush had returned.
Kate—naked, bound, gagged, and blindfolded—remained as still as
"Now," Mistress began, once her class was properly prepared, "If
Jane will stop fidgeting and pay attention, we may begin."
Maura and Susie giggled, then quickly controlled
themselves. Ainsley gave her fellow cop a commiserating
smile and wink, then focused on their teacher.
"Sorry, Mistress," Jane muttered sullenly.
Mistress smiled and nodded, then began. "Our first topic
is safety. We will discuss those parts of the anatomy that
are particularly vulnerable to damage. Impaired
circulation and nerve damage may result from sloppy technique,
so you will learn both the correct placement of the rope bonds
and the correct degree of constriction and pressure."
"Uh, we're going to be tying each other up?" Jane gasped, then
remembered to add a quick, "Mistress?"
"As was explained in last night's reading," Mistress
confirmed. "There are self-bondage techniques that allow
oneself to meditate in physical helplessness, but generally you
will require a partner to prepare you for your meditative
"Oh," Jane muttered. "That makes sense, Mistress."
Mistress nodded, then turned her back and began to pace.
Jane noticed Maura's mocking smile—it looked mocking to her,
anyway—and responded by sticking out her tongue. This
served to redouble Maura's mirth.
Meanwhile, missing the childish byplay behind her back, Mistress
continued her lecture. "We'll begin with the pressure
|SKIN IN THE GAME
There was an
hour and a half hour break for lunch, followed by three more
hours of lecture and instruction. When the students
returned from their midday repast, Kate was free of all bonds
and, by all appearances, none the worse for having spent the
morning in tight bondage. Even her rope marks had
faded. None of the students could deny that Kate had a
nice smile and was quite attractive. Like her Mistress,
Kate was also quite adept with rope, which she demonstrated by
binding the four students against the same posts and in exactly
the same manner as the morning class.
Mistress appeared and the instruction began. First, there
was a recap of the morning safety lesson: pressure points,
vulnerable nerves, how to avoid positional asphyxiation,
etc. Then, there was a lecture on how to meditate, which
Jane already knew was one of her yoga weak-points.
Despite hours of yoga classes and private sessions, all of which
Jane had "suffered through" at Maura's insistence and at
her BFF's side, Jane knew herself to be a lousy meditator, if
that was a word. Maura, on the other hand, seemed to be
able to turn off her brilliant mind by flicking an imaginary
switch. She could go from Dr. Smartypants to a relaxed
vegetable in nothing flat. Jane, on the other hand, found
simple inactivity to be difficult. Actual meditation was
an onerous task.
Anyway, the meditation lecture was followed by a practical
session, during which Jane did her best to remain still, to not
fidget and squirm and tug on her bonds, and to think tranquil
thoughts. As always, Jane found totally clearing her mind
to be very difficult, but even Ainsley seemed to have the
knack. Maura, Susie, and the Canadian cop drifted off into
la-la-land in only a few minutes—or seconds, in the case of
Mistress was in full lotus in a position several feet offset
from the middle of the room, apparently so she could keep an eye
on her students, something, Jane noted, she seemed to be able to
do with both eyes closed. And all the while, Kate walked a
slow circle around the room, also monitoring the students'
"progress." She had a long, switch-like bamboo cane in her
right hand, but it was a badge of authority, apparently, and she
wasn't using it for anything but a prop.
Eventually, although she never did meditate, Jane managed to
fall asleep—then snapped awake when Kate whacked the
carpet immediately in front of Jane's crossed legs with the
"What?" Jane demanded, blinking in alarm.
"Slumber is not meditation," Mistress stated, "as was discussed
during this afternoon's lecture."
"I wasn't asleep," Jane objected.
"You were snoring," Maura whispered. As the room was
totally silent, everyone heard.
Jane found Maura's smug, superior smile to be particularly
irritating—although she knew it was just Maura being Maura—and
reacted instinctively by sticking out her tongue. This
elicited a giggle from her fellow students, a wry smile from
Mistress, and earned the poor carpet another whack of
the cane from Kate.
"Let's try again," Mistress intoned.
Jane glowered at Maura and Maura smiled back, but before Kate
felt the need to punish the carpet a third time, they composed
themselves and began to meditate. That is, Maura meditated
and Jane concentrated on remaining still and not
fidgeting. It was difficult.
Finally, the first day of class was over. Kate dropped
another twenty-or-so pages of additional reading in front of
each student, followed by two bundles each of conditioned hemp
rope, the same type binding them to their posts. She then
made her way from column to column, untying the class. She
left Jane for last. Whether this was by chance or as
punishment was unclear.
Mistress was still in the lotus position and, apparently, was
still meditating. "The first two pages of tonight's
reading include your homework assignment," she said without
opening her eyes. "Class dismissed."
"Honor your Mistress," Kate said quietly, then bowed. The
four students bowed as well, and Jane added a flip of her right
hand, as if she was a naked musketeer flourishing an invisible
"Jane!" Maura hissed in admonishment.
The very picture of innocence, Jane shrugged in return.
Susie and Ainsley grinned, but successfully stifled giggling
Kate favored Jane with a disapproving stare.
The students gathered their reading material and bundles of rope
and made their exits.
Kate waited a few seconds... then heaved a sigh.
Mistress' lips curled in a smile, but her eyes remained
closed. "Jane won't be a problem. You were nearly as
unfocused in the beginning."
"She won't get very far in just a week," Kate muttered, shaking
"But she may find the first step of her path," Mistress
Kate was skeptical. "As long as her check clears the
bank." She turned and headed for the door. "Swim?"
"In a while," Mistress answered. "I think I'll do my T'ai
Kate made her exit, and all was still in the Shibari Meditation
|SKIN IN THE GAME
special on the non-vegan menu was garden salad, trout a la
meunière, and roasted vegetables, all paired with a nice pinot
gris. Maura's and Susie's vegan solidarity crumbled
and, along with Jane and Ainsley, they selected and devoured the
fish. After diner the four enjoyed an after-diner stroll
by the river, then paired off and retired to their cottages to
tackle their homework.
Actually, Ainsley announced that she was going to wander around
for a while, chatting up the staff and fellow guests and
gathering intel about Giselle, aka Mistress. Jane wanted
to do the same, but Ainsley pointed out it might look suspicious
if both of them nosed around, and Maura and Susie agreed.
Also, Maura reminded Jane that she had a double load of reading
to accomplish, plus their "homework."
Jane groused and complained, of course, but agreed to let
Ainsley do the police work tonight. However, she insisted
that it would be her turn to sneak around tomorrow.
Maura and Jane arrived at their cottage to find a Colony
employee waiting by the front door. She was a short
brunette, a very short brunette, no more than 5' 1",
with fair skin and a pretty face. She was carrying a stack
of the Colony's saffron-orange towels, a bottle of massage oil,
and a rolled mat of nile-green foam was under her right
arm. They could tell she was an employee by her "uniform,"
a pony bead necklace with an oval-shaped copper name tag
engraved with the name "PENNY" and the unsurprising job title of
"Hi," Penny said brightly.
"Hi," Maura replied with equal brightness.
"Hi," Jane muttered in a somewhat less enthusiastic
manner. "What's she doing here?" she whispered in an aside
"I scheduled us a massage," Maura whispered back. "All you
have to do is ask at the concierge desk." She was still
smiling at Penny. "Sorry to keep you waiting," she said in
her normal voice as she opened the door and took a step aside to
let the others enter.
"No problem," Penny shrugged.
Jane rolled her eyes and motioned for Penny to precede them into
the cottage. "You could have said something," she
whispered to Maura, giving her BFF a gentle nudge in the ribs as
Maura giggled and followed. "You need a good
massage. Just like you need this vacation."
Penny ignored the hushed conversation as she placed her towels
to one side, unrolled the mat on the floor, then spread one of
the towels atop the mat. She was trying to decide whether
or not the cottage seventeen guests were a couple. They
obviously were good friends, despite the bickering, and while
they certainly argued like a couple, maybe they were just
friends. Penny was pretty good at reading the guests, but
these two were new. Time would tell.
"You go first, Jane," Maura suggested.
Jane gazed at the waiting mat and towel, then shifted her gaze
to the kneeling, smiling brunette. "How old are you?" she
Penny met her gaze, her smile never wavering. "Old enough
to drink and vote," she answered. "How old are you?"
Jane couldn't help but smile. "Touché." She'd
decided she liked this kid, and Penny was a kid.
Either that or she she'd been blessed with a triple dose of cute
genes. Maybe both. Anyway, the tiny brunette was
devilishly cute, and Jane suspected she was a bit of a
scamp and a troublemaker. A cop learned to size people up
pretty quickly. Penny also had magic fingers, which Jane
quickly learned as the youngster oiled her hands and began
kneading Jane's shoulders.
"That feels good," Jane sighed.
"Not used to spending the day tied to a post?" Penny purred.
Jane chuckled. "No. I take it you know what goes on
in the Shibari class?"
"Shibari Meditation class," Maura corrected her
BFF. She'd opened both her own and Jane's three-ring
binders and was inserting their second package of reading.
Jane ignored Maura and concentrated on enjoying her
massage. It had occurred to her that the owner of the
magic fingers probably was a good source of information.
"The class is popular?"
"Very," Penny confirmed. "It's also good for
business. Lots of business for me, anyway."
"Have you taken it?" Maura inquired. "The class, I mean."
"Can't afford it," Penny answered, "but I liberated an extra
copy of the reading material. Also, Zelle is nice enough
to demo a few of her techniques now and then."
"Zelle?" Maura asked.
"Giselle Pierce," Jane muttered, "aka Mistress." She
reminded herself she was supposed to be probing for intel, but
Penny's hands truly were magic. There were a couple of
occasions when it felt as if Penny's rubs and touches might
have been a bit more sexual than therapeutic, but those moments
were fleeting, and felt sort of good, so she saw no reason to
draw attention to them.
"What about Kate?" Maura asked.
Penny shrugged. "She's okay."
Jane could tell Penny was less enthusiastic on the subject of
Kate, as opposed to 'Zelle.'
"Oh my," Maura said. She'd settled into one of the easy
chairs with her binder in her naked lap.
Meanwhile, Jane had rolled onto her back and Penny was
continuing the massage. "What?" she asked as Penny reached
under her shoulders from either side and slowly ran her hands
from her back to the back of her head.
"The homework is rather... involved," Maura answered.
"It's not so hard," Penny said. "I can walk you through
it, if you like."
"That's very kind," Maura answered. "The illustrations are
pretty clear, but they mainly focus on the desired end
result. Matching the descriptions to the illustrations, on
the other hand..."
"I know what you mean," Penny chuckled, "but it's a snap once
you see it done."
"See what done?" Jane sighed. Penny was nearing
the end of the massage process, and Jane was very
"I'm going to tie you up," Maura explained.
Jane's eyes popped wide. "You're what?"
"That's the homework assignment," Maura explained. "One of
the students is to bind the other in the manner
described." She indicated the open binder with a languid
flip of the wrist and a smile. "And since I'm the one
that's already read the instructions..."
"Don't worry," Penny grinned as she cleaned her hands with one
of the towels. "Tomorrow night's homework is similar, and
then you can tie her up."
"I've been tied up all day," Jane whined, and it could
only be described as a whine.
"So have I, remember?" Maura said primly as she left the chair
and picked up one of the coils of conditioned hemp that Kate had
"Mauraaaaa!" Jane complained.
"It's our assigned homework," she reminded her BFF, then
indicated Penny with a surreptitious nod. The tiny naked
masseuse was busy changing the towel covering the mat, getting
readying for her next customer. Maura walked over to Jane
and whispered in her ear. "We want to appear to be normal
students, don't we?"
"Yeah," Jane whispered (grunted) in sullen response.
"We should probably do this in the middle of the floor," Maura
suggested, stepping to the center of the carpet and releasing
the coil securing the neat bundle of rope. She smiled at
Penny. "I double the rope, find the center, then make a
"Correct," Penny nodded. The grinning pixie focused on
Jane. "You should either sit or kneel," she suggested.
Jane was not happy. She'd do what she had to do to
preserve their cover, but there was entirely too much tying up
going on around this place and she was not happy.
She stomped to the center area, flopped down onto her butt, and
crossed her legs. "Just get on with it," she huffed.
|SKIN IN THE GAME
over the next few minutes did nothing to improve Jane's
mood. With Penny as her coach, the binder open at her
side, and using the coils of conditioned rope, Maura knelt
behind Jane and proceeded to tie up her BFF.
According to the notes, the technique was called the ushiro takatekote, and supposedly was
considered by most to be the foundation of the Art. In
the West, it was called a "box-tie." Jane's arms
were folded behind her back with horizontal, doubled loops of
rope pinning her upper arms to her torso, passing above and
below her breasts. Rope also yoked her shoulders and
cinched the horizontal ropes, and multiple loops bound her
forearms and wrists. The final knot was tied through the
yoking rope at the nape of Jane's neck, well out of the reach of
her fluttering fingers.
It was complicated. Jane wasn't at all sure she could
duplicate the tie loop-for-loop and cinch-for-cinch. The
notes in the binder would probably help. In any case, it
was tight and, much to Jane's surprise, more or less
It was also infuriating. More correctly, the sight and
sound of a naked, smiling, chattering Maura and a naked,
mischievously grinning Penny wrapping and tightening loop after
loop of doubled rope around her naked body was
infuriating. Jane sat and glowered into the distance,
ignoring the growing feeling of helplessness as band after band
of doubled rope slithered and snapped taut, dimpling her flesh
and rendering her ever more dependent on her "captors."
Maura turned the page and continued, and Jane's cross-legged
pose quickly become involuntary. With a second coil of
rope, Maura tied her ankles together, then looped more rope
around her folded legs and lashed each lower leg to its
"Really, Maura?" Jane muttered. "My legs?"
Maura tucked the remaining rope under the horizontal bands below
Jane's breasts, pulled out the slack, and it tied off.
"Finished," Maura announced, smiling brightly as she wrapped the
remaining free ends and tied a final knot. "This is called
the ebi-zeme or 'shrimp-tie,'" she added.
"Actually," Penny said, "this is a really relaxed version of the
shrimp-tie. In a real shrimp-tie, the rope is
looped behind the head and tightened to force the, uh, 'subject'
into a full crunch. The Japanese used it as a form of
"Well," Maura said, still smiling, "we certainly don't want to
do that." She continued reading the instructions, then
pointed to a passage. "Is this really necessary?" she
"Oh, yeah," Penny nodded. "Supposedly, it helps focus the
"What?" Jane inquired. She was trying to crane her neck
and read the page, but the angle was unfavorable.
"I'm not sure what to use," Maura said.
"What?" Jane demanded.
Penny stood and strolled towards the cottage's bathroom.
"I know just what you need."
"Mauraaaaa!" Jane complained, tugging on her bonds.
"Calm down, Jane," Maura. "It's necessary for the
"What is it," Jane demanded.
Penny had returned from the bathroom and was kneeling behind
Jane's eyes were still on Maura. "Just tell me,
already. What else are you gonna—Mrrrf?"
Penny had reached from behind Jane's head and eased a folded
washcloth into her open mouth, and now was tightening and
cinching a narrowly folded scarf, cleaving the washcloth and
Jane's mouth. She then tied a square-knot at the nape of
Jane's neck, under her ponytail. Both the washcloth and
scarf were saffron-orange.
"Mrrrrf!" Jane was struggling furiously, but the ropes
held. Maura had completed her homework assignment with the
usual competence and perfection. Also, the gag was
"Calm down, Jane," Maura said seriously. "Now," she
instructed, "you're to focus on the feeling of helplessness and
try to find your center."
Actually, Maura was trying her best not to break into a giggling
fit, and Jane was in no way fooled.
"M'mpfh!" Jane complained, staring daggers at her BFF.
"Well, that's that," Penny said brightly. "Ready for your
massage?" she asked Maura.
"I guess," Maura said with a grin. "Where did you get the
"Bottom shelf of the bathroom cabinet," Penny answered.
"Hair scarves are the only clothing allowed at the Moon
River Colony, in case the wind starts to blow."
"That I know," Maura said with a smile. "I read all the
material in the welcome folder. I just didn't know the
Colony provided scarves." She reached out and
straightened a loose strand of Jane's hair. "That's a
pretty shade of saffron, at once warm and soothing."
Jane glowered at her smiling BFF. She did not feel
soothed. Just you wait, Jane silently promised.
Meanwhile, Penny had knelt on the far side of the towel-covered
mat and was oiling her hands.
"The instructions say you should relax and try and meditate,"
Maura told Jane with an earnest smile. "I know you still
have to get through two reading assignments, but once I
get my massage, I'll read both of them aloud while you meditate,
"Mrrrf!" Jane growled in response.
"I'll take that as a yes," Maura chuckled, then kissed Jane's
forehead, went to the mat, and reclined in her stomach.
Jane had a perfect view as her naked BFF received a massage from
the naked Penny. She remembered Maura telling her she was
a self-described "wild-child" when she was in college, and now
Jane believed it. Apparently, the combination of rope and
lack of clothing had released her BFF's inner-trickster.
And as for Penny... Jane shifted her angry and very much
not relaxed gaze to Penny. The youngster's oiled hands
were kneading Maura's shoulder muscles. A pair of
tricksters, Jane mused. Her gaze shifted back to
Maura. Just you wait. Just.
|SKIN IN THE GAME
towels draped over her left arm, the remaining unused towel and
bottle of massage oil in her right hand, and the rolled mat
under her right arm, Penny made her exit. As she pulled
the door closed, Maura was sitting in a full lotus with her
three-ring binder in her lap, reading to the bound, gagged, and
glowering Jane. What Penny's fellow Colony employees
called her "brat-smirk" curling her lips, she shook her head
once she was on the main path to the Great Lodge.
Penny had made her determination. The guests in cottage
seventeen were definitely a couple. It was a pity
they didn't know it yet, but they were definitely a
|SKIN IN THE GAME