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Challenge of Love

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Michael Alexander Stories

Challenge of Love

Chapter One

The sounds of the football game were only barely muted by the closed door across the room and Stephanie Conner looked up from her computer with something akin to exasperation.  Blue eyes the color of the Caribbean flashed and she stood up, brushing her long blonde hair back behind her ear.  She was dressed in loose flannel pajamas, with a pair of pink slippers on her feet, and she didn’t make a noise as she padded across the floor of her den, not that he’d have been able to hear it anyway.  Grasping the knob, she opened the door to the entertainment room and was practically blasted backward by the roaring sound of a cheering crowd.

The entertainment room was dark, a distinct difference from the softly lit study that was her special retreat.  It was a measure of contrasts.  Her sanctuary was filled with books, soft furniture to sit upon, with lighting that put one at ease.  In her husband’s cave, the only illumination came from a massive television set that was mounted against the wall like an altar to the technology gods, flashing light and blaring sound as if the occupants of the room were both deaf and blind, and the only hope for them to see and hear was to smash them into oblivion.  Even worse, the room was surrounded with speakers, trembling woofers and tweeters, humming mid-ranges, all directing a panoply of ear-drum rupturing noise at the center of the room.

A leather couch was positioned there, a massive piece of furniture with thick plush cushions.  Stephanie had laid on that couch before, usually curled up with a pillow, watching a movie while he was on a business trip, the volume set to a quarter of what the sound system was capable of producing.  She didn’t want to run the risk of early hearing damage.  The couch was comfortable, almost bed like, with built in massage, heaters, cup holders, practically every amenity.  Hell, there were even pockets for the strange collection of remotes and controllers he had collected to run the various pieces of gaming, video, and sound equipment.

Stephanie didn’t even know what half the bleeping, blinking, electronic boxes did.  She used only one, the white one, to do her morning exercises on.  Physical activity had been recommend by the therapist as a way of dealing with her emotional pain.  Mental health was an important part of the healing process.  She remembered when he had bought her the strange balance board and the game, which wasn’t a game. 

She didn’t know if his chosen team was winning or losing.  The announcer was describing some play that had already happened and the television was showing it in slow motion while armchair quarterbacks critiqued and complained and analyzed.  It never ceased to amaze her how so much time, money, and effort could be put into a single sport.  If just for one year, all that money was spent on feeding the hungry, or curing cancer, or even just making sure everyone had a damn coat for the winter, how much good could happen?

Stephanie shook her head and reminded herself not to be judgmental.  After all, there was more to life than just good causes.  One had to live; to have hobbies; to have friends; to love and be loved.  It’s what life was about.  She walked across the bare floor behind the couch and reached down, putting her hand on her husband’s head, hesitating for only a fraction of a second.

They had married young, just out of high school and it had been difficult.  He had graciously gone to work, putting food on the table and providing a place to live while she had struggled through college, eventually getting a degree in psychology.  But after earning her bachelor’s degree and racking up thousands of dollars in student loans, he had asked her to find a job.  The disappointment in his eyes when all she had been able to find was a position as a substitute teacher had been brutal to her self-confidence.

But with time and their combined salaries, their circumstances had improved.  He got promoted and while he’d never rise much higher in the company due to his education level, she had eventually gotten a job as a high school counselor.  Everything had seemed as if it were going right for them.  But then disaster had struck and their lives, finances, and marriage had fallen apart. 

Stephanie had blinked a few times when her husband had come home with all the new toys.  Every last dollar in their savings account was gone, even the money they had decided to use to buy a new car, or to change out the peeling linoleum for hardwood floors, or to replace the Formica countertops with granite.  It had been another blow to her fragile psyche. 

But her husband worked hard and she had kept quiet as a mouse, not wanting him to leave her.  Their money would eventually grow again and those things that she – they - had worked hard for would eventually come.  Besides, the television was pretty awesome and the few times that they had watched something together on the new couch, usually some action flick that he enjoyed, she just wished she dared sneak into his embrace and revel in his touch, hoping for more. 

There were side effects to having the entertainment system though.  Every evening he came home, ate the dinner she prepared for him and then went to watch a game, or a movie, or play some first person shooter adventure on one of the gaming consoles.  Sometimes, he actually picked up his plate from the kitchen table and carried it in there, leaving her sitting by herself, picking at her food, wondering what had gone wrong.  Sometimes she was glad he kept the volume so loud.  It made it harder to hear when she cried.

“Honey, can you please turn it down?  I’m trying to work.” she asked softly, running her hands through his hair.  It was thick and curly and she loved the feel of it, just as she had since high school.

He reached up and pushed her hand away.  “What?” he asked loudly.

“Can you turn it down a bit please?” she practically shouted.

He picked up the remote and turned down the volume fractionally.  Then he twisted and looked up at his wife.

“What?”

She suppressed the sudden surge of frustration and told herself that he wasn’t deliberately being rude.  He just didn’t know.  And he was losing his hearing.  She counted to three mentally and then smiled softly.

“Can you please turn it down a bit?”

He blinked. “Oh.  Yeah sure.  Whatever.”  He looked back toward the screen.

Stephanie sighed and turned around. She left him to his amusements and closed the door behind her.  She made it all the way to her desk before the volume went back up and another cheer shook the house.  Tears sprang to her eyes as she sat down, the cup of cocoa she had made for herself now cold and bitter.  She couldn’t even play her favorite song, William Winston’s version of Pachelbel’s Canon, because of the noise from his room. She looked at the screen, the student files waiting for notation, and she burst into quiet sobs, her hands over her eyes. 

Stephanie wiped her eyes and took another deep breath.  Soon it wouldn’t matter, would it?  Soon she would know.  She took comfort in that fact and saved her files.  She turned off her computer and stood, glancing once more at the door to her husband’s cave. Perhaps she should just march in and tell him, beg him to take her.  Maybe she should just take off every stitch of clothing and go in and seduce him.  But another loud cheer and her husband’s shout froze her.  She couldn’t take another rejection. Not again.  And so she turned off the computer.  It was time for bed.  She padded off toward the bedroom, leaving her husband to his amusements.

 

 

Chapter Two

Several hours later Mark Conner stretched on the large leather sofa and sat up.  With the game finally over he blinked bleary eyes at the clock. 1 o’clock?  He lifted the remote and turned off the television, then the speaker system.  As various green lights turned to red, he dropped the remote on the couch, leaving a collection of snack bowls and glasses littering the couch and coffee table.  He knew that Stephanie would clean them up that morning, or perhaps when she got home from work the following afternoon.

He wasn’t a muscular man, though he had been pretty lean in high school thanks to being active on the wrestling team.  His thick, curly hair had started to recede a little, but at least he still had it.  He was acutely aware of his beer belly since it stuck out almost half a foot further than the rest of him. It was his worst feature but he lacked the willpower to do anything about it.  Barefoot and wearing shorts, he headed into the kitchen for a late night snack.  He glanced into his wife’s “study” as she called it, but the lights were out and he presumed she had gone to bed. She did that most nights.  Sometimes he wished she would join him, to come and watch a game on the couch, maybe curl up next to him, but he had stopped pushing after the miscarriage.  He knew that his touch reminded her of their lost child, and actual sex was painful to her.  It had been difficult for him to adjust to their more platonic relationship, but he couldn’t bring himself to hurt her.   A quick stop at the refrigerator followed and he looked in, grabbing a two liter bottle of soda.  Stephanie hated it when he drank from the bottle directly, so he only did it when she was asleep.  He lifted it to his lips and chugged.  Then he thought he saw something through the back windows of the house.

He lowered the bottle, staring.  Their house had a small, but fenced in backyard and he was almost positive he had seen someone, dressed in black, cross the poorly illuminated grass.  Stephanie had complained to him that they needed lights back there, but he had ignored her, pushing aside her worries as something immaterial.  After all, who would break into their house?  They had nothing.

Except his entertainment system, he thought.  With a grunt he realized that she was probably right. Now that he had the television, he probably needed to get a security system.  He shook his head and lifted the bottle again.  Soda poured down his throat and he never saw the hand that came out of the shadows of the darkened kitchen.  The bottle fell as the sharp prick of a needle hit the back of his neck and all he had time for was to reach up, eyes wide in shock, before he collapsed to the floor.

When he finally regained consciousness, he tried to open his eyes.  Brilliant white light hit him like a two by four swung by a pro-wrestler and he groaned, rolling over.  He was lying on something hard and his sluggish brain tried desperately to understand what was going on. The floor felt cool on his bare chest and his shorts were scrunched up.  Facing downward, he began to open his eyes and they watered intensely.  It took him almost three or four minutes just to get them working properly.

The light was intense and very bright and when his vision had finally adjusted he looked around, assessing his situation.  He was in a small room, barely the size of a walk-in closet.  The floor, the walls, and even the ceiling were all stark white and bright florescent lights hung above his head, illuminating everything in a brilliant glow.  A splash of red paint, formed into massive letters along one side of the room spelled the word “CHALLENGE” and Mark blinked at it for a long moment, trying to understand. 

He turned.  Opposite the word there was a door.  It was easy to miss, since it had no knob, no plate, and was merely a lightly darkened outline in what was already a white field.  Slowly he walked forward, his legs feeling rubbery.  He had to figure out where he was, and how he had gotten there.
His mind reeled.  There had been people in his house!  He had been… had he been attacked?  Where was he?  My God! Had they stolen his television?  He moved a little more quickly and pushed open the door, stepping into a new room.

The place was massive, the size of a small movie theatre.  The floor was flat and just as white as the walls.  Across, opposite the door he had just opened, stood another door, this one made of dark wood.  It stood out distinctly; a way out.  But as his mind registered the door, his eyes focused on something else, something in the center of the room and his eyes widened in alarm.

It was a strange piece of furniture, something he had never seen before.  Covered in dark red leather, it was about waist high.  Large metal rings, each holding a silver metal clip, were mounted on each of the four legs supporting it. Mark had never seen anything like it before.  But it wasn’t the furniture that caused him to gasp.  It was the body.  He froze, his mind stumbling.

The first thing he noticed was that she was female.  Very female. It was hard to miss.  She lay on her back, body straight, and she wasn’t wearing any clothing.  Her breasts looked firm and the rosy pink nipples appeared hard despite the fact that the room wasn’t cold.  Black leather bands encircled her wrists and ankles, as well as her knees, her waist, above and below her breasts, and at her throat.  She had long blond hair that hid her face, but he could tell she was alive because her bosom rose and fell in a steady rhythm. 

He took a step closer and a sudden awful suspicion fell upon him.  He took a few quick steps and the familiarity he began sensing increased.  He gasped when he realized it and ran forward, hands extended, even as he cried out her name.

Stephanie lay there, eyes closed, her jaw grossly distended by a red rubber ball gag that was tightly strapped around her head.  With her arms bound above her head at both the wrist and elbow, her body appeared taut and rigid.  As he got closer, he saw that a massive wooden paddle, the type school teachers used to discipline students lay on the floor beside her.  He fell to his knees, fingers scrabbling at her bonds.

Her eyes blinked open, tears filling them.  Mark lifted her head and began unbuckling the ball gag, freeing her.  She gasped as it came out and she worked her jaw.  She looked up at her husband and whispered her thanks.

He was furious.  Who had done this to his wife?  He shook his head at her and began working on the thin, black leather straps. 

The wrist and ankle cuffs were locked on her limbs and the tiny padlocks resisted his attempts to break them.  He settled for unbuckling the straps at her knees and waist, the ones above and below her breasts, and then the small binding that held her elbows together.  When she was free she let out a moan and curled up into his arms, letting her tears fall onto his shoulder.

“Are you okay?” she asked, clinging to him, her fingers tight on his arms.  Mark looked around, still bewildered, but also trying to ignore his wife’s nudity.  To his embarrassment, he was sporting an erection that was totally inappropriate for the situation.  He hoped she hadn’t notice the tent pole at the front of his shorts.

“I’m a bit groggy,” he replied. “I don’t know where we are, but I think we need to get out of here,” he said authoritatively.  He pried her fingers loose and stood up straight, leaving her sitting on the floor, both hands supporting her body.  He marched over to the large wooden door, hand outstretched.
“Don’t leave me!” Stephanie gasped, the fear in her voice clear.

He growled and shook his head. “I’m not leaving you. I’m checking the door!”  He reached it, pushing since there was again no knob or plate.  It didn’t budge.  He kicked it, and then slammed his shoulder into it.  No movement. He took a step back and looked around the room.

Except for the door, the padded bench, the paddle, and his wife, the room was totally empty.  Florescent lights were strung overhead, each diffused by a translucent plate.  The floor was either concrete or some other hard substance, painted the same shade of white as the walls.  He couldn’t see footprints, or any marks of any kind and he paced the room, following its contours, hoping to garner some sort of intuitive understanding of the space’s purpose.

“What are you doing?” Stephanie asked.  She had curled up into a ball, her arms wrapped around her knees.  Mark glanced at her.  The black leather cuffs and collar contrasted with her milky white skin and he noticed that her finger and toenails were painted a dark shade of pink.  He blinked, wondering how he had missed that fact before.  She hadn’t painted her nails in ages.

“I’m trying to ascertain what this room is for.  Why are we here?  And what do they want with us?”
“They?” Stephanie asked, glancing around with concern.

“The ones that brought us here, obviously.”

Stephanie went quite at the rebuke.  “Oh.  Sorry,” she replied softly.

He looked over at her.  “Do you remember what happened?” he asked.

She shook her head, the curled locks of her blond hair whispering across her bare shoulders.  “No. I was asleep.  Then I woke up here all tied up,” she replied. “And naked,” she said softly.

A horrible thought crossed Mark’s mind and he turned toward her, face white.  “Did they…” he paused, not wanting to say it directly, but Stephanie had years of understanding his body language and it wasn’t hard to figure out what he was thinking.  She blushed crimson and the heat went all the way down her body.

“No, they didn’t,” she said hurriedly.

Mark turned away, embarrassed.  “Well, that’s a relief.”

Stephanie grimaced as her husband continued around the circumference of the room.  She glanced around and then picked up the heavy wooden paddle, holding it up.

“What do you think this is for?” she asked.  It was solid and there were holes drilled along its length.
“No clue.  Leave it alone,” Mark told her.  He walked a few more steps then threw up his hands in exasperation.  “What do they want?” he demanded loudly.

Stephanie sighed and put down the paddle.  Slowly she climbed to her feet.  Her body was curvaceous, with wide generous hips and full breasts.  Mark actually blinked, just a little surprised at how good she looked, and once again his manhood throbbed inappropriately.  She usually wore loose and baggy clothing and he hadn’t seen her totally naked in ages.  Her hips almost seemed to sway in front of him as she moved over to him, laying one hand on his chest.  The scent of her hair filled his nose and he found himself wrapping his arms around her.

Gently, she put her cheek on his chest and closed her eyes.  She didn’t remember the last time he had held her and despite their circumstances, it felt good.  Her quiet steady breathing added a sense of peace to their situation and Mark began to calm down.

But finally he let go of her and Stephanie, sensing that the moment was over, let him.  She stepped to the side as he moved toward the center of the room, his eyes studying the strange, leather padded bench.

“Why is this here?” he said, almost to himself.  He bent down and studied it, lifting up one of the steel clasps that hung from the metal rings.  Stephanie came back over and sat down next to the paddle, once more drawing her knees up to her chin.  She wrapped her arms around her body and stared.
Mark studied the bench but then moved onto the paddle. He picked it up, touched it, and even swung it a few times.  He even took it over to the door and hammered loudly on the wooden portal.  Nothing happened and he threw the paddle angrily at the wall.  It clattered downward and Mark put his back to the wall and slid down until he was sitting.

“Are you okay?” Stephanie asked, looking at her defeated husband.

“No. No I’m not okay. I’ve been kidnapped, taken away from my life, my wife has been abused and I’m stuck in this fucking room.  I am NOT OKAY,” he said venomously.  He closed his eyes and pitched his head backward a few times.  His skull thunked loudly against the wall.

Stephanie stood up.  Her large breasts swung free and she walked over to the padded bench, studying it.  Mark watched her and the erection that he had managed to get rid of reappeared as her bare bottom swung before his eyes.  She touched the leather pad and then squatted down to get a better look at the metal rings and the clips.  Mark’s eyes widened slightly as he saw the outline of her sex, the thick and delicious looking petals of her womanhood peeking out from between her thighs.  For the first time he realized that she must have started to shave herself at some point. Unless of course their attackers had done that too. He licked his lips once as the sight of her aroused him, but he turned away and tried hard to put those feelings away.  The last thing she would want in a situation like this would be to have sex.  She hadn’t wanted sex in years.

Stephanie turned and stepped away from the padded bench and walked over to the fallen paddle. She picked it up gingerly, holding it lightly, and then turned toward her husband.  Slowly she walked forward until she was standing right in front of him.  He looked up, his eyes moving down the front of her body to the pink slit that was a mere foot away from his face.  Then she sat down beside him, mirroring his position.

He glanced over at her, trying hard not to look at her chest.  He thought it would be rude.  He couldn’t remember the last time they had made love, but it wasn’t like she paraded around the house naked either.  She really did have some amazing curves he admitted to himself. He tore his eyes away from her bosom and focused on her face.  She held the paddle in her hands.

“Do you like puzzles?” she asked softly.

“What?” he demanded, totally confused.

“Puzzles,” she said earnestly.  “Some of my students are really big into them and one that I heard a few months ago comes to mind.”

Mark’s eyes narrowed in confusion.  “And what does this have to do with being kidnapped.”

Stephanie cringed. “Well, it doesn’t. Not exactly. It’s more about the room.”

Mark sighed. “I’m thirsty.”

She nodded.  “Me too.  And hungry. It’s got to be near lunch time already.”

Mark didn’t say anything.

“I’d like to use the bathroom too.”

He grunted.

“Anyway, like I was saying, the kids have been telling this riddle,” she continued.  She held out the paddle.  “You are in a locked room with no way out.  The only thing in the room is a baseball bat.  How do you get out of the room?”

Mark snorted.  “That’s dumb.  You take the bat and break the door down.”

Stephanie smiled lightly and wiggled the paddle back and forth.  “How did that work out?” she asked.
Mark glared at her and her smile disappeared. Bowing her head she apologized.

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to upset you.  But please, think about the puzzle.”

Mark sighed and looked away.  “A locked room and a baseball bat, right?”

She nodded, smiling once again.  She put one arm through his and leaned on him.  Again her scent hit him hard and he struggled to compose himself. 

“Um… break the lights?” he asked.

“Nope,” she said.

“Smash the walls?” he asked.

She actually chuckled.  “You are such a Neanderthal.  I would have thought a sports lover like you would figure it out.”

He blinked.  A sports lover?  Baseball?  Bat?  What had she said?  Get out of the room?  Get out?  Out?  Three outs?  Three strikes…

“Oh!  I get it!  Three strikes and I’m out!” he said, feeling a rush of pleasure at having worked out the puzzle.  “It’s a trick on words.  I was thinking ‘out’ meant get out of the room.  But it’s a word puzzle, so I can get ‘out’ any way I want.”

“Right.”

Suddenly he pulled himself free of Stephanie’s arm and stood up.  She blinked, shocked at his sudden movement. He grabbed the paddle from her hand and squatted down into a baseball hitter’s position.  He hauled the paddle back to his shoulder and looked ahead, as if waiting for the pitcher’s throw.
“Wait. I didn’t mean it so…” she said.  He swung rapidly once, twice, three times.

“Literally,” she finished with a sigh.

Mark glanced around.  “Nothing happened.”

“Well, I didn’t expect it too.  That’s not a baseball bat, Mark.”

He gave her a sour look.  “Well what did you expect me to do with it?”

Stephanie took a deep breath and stood up.  The thick leather cuffs on her wrist and ankles tinkled slightly.  The collar at her throat itched.  She stepped closer to her husband and took his hand, pulling him over to the leather bench.

“Look at this piece of furniture.  What is it for?” she asked him intently.

Mark glanced at it.  It was too high to be a comfortable chair or bench, and the padded, rounded top made it a distinctly poor table.  Finally he shrugged and looked at his naked wife. “I’ve got no clue.”
Stephanie stared at him intently.  “Mark, they put cuffs on me, cuffs we can’t get off.  There’s a paddle here.  That bench is almost exactly the same height as my hips.  Don’t you see?”

He blinked, still not following her train of logic.  Finally she sighed. Pushing him out of the way gently, she stepped up to the padded bench.  Going up on tiptoe, the ankle cuffs were exactly next to the metal clips mounted to the bench’s supports.  Then she bent over the bench, fitting her flat belly against the rounded top.  As she folded herself, her exquisite bottom became taut, more prominent, and she draped herself over the bench.  Her arms swung downward and Mark’s eyes widened as he realized that the cuffs on his wife’s wrists were exactly at the right spot to be secured to the other side of the bench.  He stared.  Stephanie’s bottom looked… well, delicious and he could see the light pink slit of her sex.  It was actually glistening.

“Don’t you see?  The door isn’t going to open until we do this,” she said, her voice strained from holding the position.

“Do what?” he asked, clearly in shock.  “What are you talking about?”

“You have to spank me!” Stephanie said loudly and with heat.

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