Katniss stares at the phone.
Prim, her sister, who she is ridiculously proud of for getting a full scholarship to Duke University Medical School, called her in tears. All their hard work hasn’t been enough: Prim doing every little job she could while home for the summer, Katniss working as much overtime as the company allowed her, and even picked up extra baby sitting and giving archery lessons on the weekends, and still it wasn’t enough.
Prim’s tuition is paid. Promised that as long as she maintains the acceptable grade point average, and makes her supervising doctors happy, she can keep her spot. What the sisters didn’t expect are the hidden costs. The cost of the books. The lab coats and scrubs she needs to go out on the floor. The dorms. Katniss puts as much as she can on her credit cards; but with limits of only $500, soon they are maxed out. Now, Prim needs even more money for insurance and to buy groceries for the week. She, of course, tells her that she will have some money in her checking account soon. Pay day isn’t until next Friday, and Katniss doesn’t even know how she is going to buy groceries for herself. She is just glad that the house she lives in is paid-for, curtesy of their parent’s life insurance policies.
She grabs her purse ready to go home, after a day at work at the new beer brewery. She meets her friend Madge leaving at the same time and they walk to their cars in the late afternoon sun. Madge asks, “How is Prim?”
Katniss breathes a big sigh. Madge is one of her oldest friends, so she just opens up and tells her everything about her money worries. She knows Madge will understand. Even though she grew up with wealthy parents, the past recession took their savings. Madge now, like Katniss, has to live off of what she makes. Madge however, doesn’t have a baby sister who just started medical school.
“Let’s go out tonight. You need a drink,” Madge suggests.
“No, I need to go home and start job hunting. I don’t think archery lessons and baby-sitting for the neighbors is going to be enough to pay for insurance. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
After a restless night, and no luck searching on the internet, Katniss walks into work grumpy and hungry. She hasn’t eaten breakfast yet, because she knows that they always have doughnuts and bagels in the break room. She makes it to her desk to look over the paperwork that was left there, when Madge comes over to perch on her desk. “You should have come out with us last night.” She smirks.
“Who did you end up going out with?” Katniss asks.
“I called Jo, and she brought Gale. We went downtown.”
Katniss can see her bouncing with excitement. “What happened?”
“What do you mean what happened? Nothing happened.”
“You have had a crush on Gale Hawthorne for years. Did he actually talk to you, or was he all over Jo last night?”
Madge blushes all the way to the roots of her hair. “We talked some. But I’m excited because I found you a job!” she says, a little too loud.
Katniss hushes her. “I have job.” Then she whispers, “What in the hell are you talking about?”
Madge gives her a card out of her back pocket. “We met him last night in one of the bars. He was there practicing one of his workshops and mentioned that he needs a model. You are still doing yoga right?” she waits for Katniss to nod. “Call him. I think you two would do very well together.”
Katniss looks down at the card and reads the name and number out loud, “Peeta Mellark. 828-442-5556”’
“Who is this guy? Modeling? I’ve never modeled anything before.”
Madge pats her on the back before she walks away. “Call him. I heard one girl say that he pays $60 an hour.”
That gives Katniss pause. She could do a lot with that much money. She puts the card in her pocket and decides to call him when she isn’t in the office.
She gets home late that evening after volunteering to count kegs in the warehouse. She takes off her shoes at the door, and makes her a peanut butter sandwich with a left over bagel from the break room and turns on the news. Her phone rings in her purse. She pulls it out in time to answer it, along with the business card Madge had given her.
“Did you call about the job yet?”
“No. I just got home.”
“Where have you been?”
“Haymitch needed someone to do a warehouse count,” Katniss says with a yawn.
“You counted the whole warehouse?”
“No just half of it. He said I could finish tomorrow.”
“Oh ok. Are you going to call tomorrow?” Madge asks.
“I’ll try.” She can hear Madge grunt in disbelief. “I promise. Why do you want me to call him so bad? Why don’t you take the job?”
Madge laughs in her ear. “You need this more than I do. Besides, call it a hunch, but I have a feeling that you two are going to hit it off.”
“What are you volunteering me for anyway?”
“I’ve got to go. I’ll see you in the morning.”
She skips breakfast again, so she can eat at work to save a little bit on food costs, and decides to go ahead and call the number on the card. A normal-sounding voice comes on, saying to leave a message for Peeta and someone from the studio will call back as soon as possible. She leaves her name and cell number and mutters something about calling because she heard they needed a model.
By the time she hangs up, she is pulling into a parking spot at work. She isn’t late, but she is hungry. So she rushes in, swings by the break-room, takes a bagel for now, and one for later, makes herself a mug of tea, and heads for her desk.
She barely sits her tea down when her cell starts to ring in her pocket. Juggling her bagels before she drops them, she answers, “Hello?”
“Is this Katniss Everdeen?” a deep husky voice asks her. It sounds familiar for some reason.
“This is she.”
With a slight chuckle, he says, “My name is Finnick O’dair. I am Mr. Mellark’s partner and he asked me to call you back. You said that you heard we needed a model?”
She nervously clears her throat and says, “Yes, a friend of mine gave me his card. She said she met him in a club the other night.”
“Ah, yes. Mr. Mellark was trying out some new things before he hosts the workshop next month. Could you come by tonight? Say about seven?”
Her mind draws a blank for a moment before she realizes what he said. “Tonight? You need me tonight?”
“Yes, Ms. Everdeen. We need to meet you and make sure that we can all work together. Can you be here at seven?”
“Yes! I mean yes. Sorry.” She looks frantically for a pen and the sticky notes that are usually lying on her desk but for some reason have disappeared. “Can you tell me the address?”
She quickly writes down the number and the street, recognizing that it’s a warehouse somewhere in downtown Asheville. Mr. O’dair quickly bids her goodbye and hangs up. She sits there for a moment wondering what Madge has gotten her into.
Katniss uses some of her overtime so she can go home early. Madge still won’t tell her anything about the mysterious Mr. Mellark, but she wants a chance to get cleaned up before she meets him.
She lives north of Asheville, so it takes her about 15 minutes to get to the warehouse. She tries not to think about the scary movies Prim likes to watch when she pulls up into the parking lot. It seems that the whole area is deserted, and the one street light that happens to be across the road is out, so the only light is the one above the door.
She almost turns her Jeep around, but even if this job pays ten dollars an hour, it would still be worth it. She gathers her courage, locks the door behind her, and goes to the door. The door is one of those heavy metal ones with a window in it. She looks in for a moment, trying to figure out what they are doing inside, when she sees a man coming to the door. Their eyes meet, and Katniss feels like he can see into her very soul. He opens the door and gestures for her to come in. Despite the uneasiness rolling in her stomach, she walks in the door which closes behind her with a loud click.
Katniss takes a deep breath, and looks up at her mysterious host. He stands there watching her like a hunter would. Something tells her that he doesn’t miss much. He extends his hand, and introduces himself. “My name is Finnick O’dair. And welcome to ‘Twisted’.”
Katniss returns his handshake and says, “I’m Katniss Everdeen. Thank you for being able to see me so soon.”
Finnick doesn’t immediately release her hand; instead pulls her closer and puts his arm around her shoulders. Katniss momentary wonders what he is doing, when he begins to lead her past the small reception area. There is only a receptionist’s desk and a couple of uncomfortable looking chairs; then walks into a photography studio. There is a changing screen with a meadow on the front of it which looks a lot like the meadow she used to play in when she was little. There are also some low-lying beams with some curious pulleys attached to them. Before she gets a chance to look around anymore, another man comes out of the back.
The first thing she notices about him are his eyes. She has never seen a shade of blue like that. They are beautiful, but haunted. Sandy-blond hair slightly falls into those eyes that she just can’t seem to look away from. And then there is his perfect nose, and she notices it, but she can’t stop looking into those eyes. His eyes are getting closer and she notices his lips moving, and it kicks in that she needs to be paying attention to what he is saying.
“Finnick, is she ok?”
She answers for him, “Sorry, it was a long day at work. I must be more tired than I thought.” She offers him her hand and says, “I’m Katniss Everdeen. And a friend said that you needed a model?”
She sees the men exchange a glance before he takes her hand. He steals her breath when his thumb strokes her hand, sending a surge of warmth that she has never felt before through her. She has had a couple of lovers, so she isn’t a fresh faced virgin or anything. But no one has ever made her feel this sudden desire before.
She tries to focus on his words when he begins, “My name is Peeta Mellark.” He pulls her with the hand that he still holds and leads her to a furniture grouping that looks like its right out of the eighteenth century. He sits her on the couch and he sits beside her, and Finnick sits in one of the chairs. There is a china tea service on the coffee table and Peeta gestures to it. “Tea?”
She chokes out, “Yes,” clears her throat nervously, and then says again, “Yes, please.”
Finnick pours, and offers her the sugar bowl. She takes two of the sugar cubes, while he takes three and Peeta doesn’t take any. She watches silently, wanting to say something, but instead waits to see what these two are going to say.
It’s Peeta who breaks the silence. “Do you know what we do, Ms. Everdeen?”
“My friends had asked me to go with them to the bar that night. I wasn’t able to go with them. Madge, one of the girls knows that I need a job. So she told me to call. And I did, and now I’m here.”
“Ah, a true innocent.” Finnick smirks into his cup.
Peeta ignores Finnick and says, “I started off as a painter. Unfortunately people are not buying many paintings these days. I didn’t want to get a job working in the corporate world, so I started taking pictures. Then I met Mr. O’dair.” He grins at his friend and says, “Finnick has peculiar tastes. He asked me to help him, and it has led to a very unusual career choice. Would you like to see my portfolio?”
Katniss nods, and he reaches for the huge book sitting on the table beside the tea set. Peeta scoots closer to her, so the large book can rest on both of their laps. The first couple of pictures are beautiful. Sexy, even. Men and women pose in different positions. She doesn’t know much about the proper terms and all that, but the lighting is beautiful. One thing she notices is that she can’t see any of their faces. This might be alright if no one she knows will see her face.
Then there is the picture of the girl, tied up against the mirror. She still can’t see her face, but all Katniss can focus on is the ropes. The next picture is a man this time, tied to a bed, blindfolded. The next is the same dark-haired girl, with ropes around her, sitting on a bed, waiting for someone to come to her. Katniss only has a little experience with ropes. Well not really, not like these pictures. Her experience was Darrius wanting to tie her hands to the bed. She told him no, so she tied him up instead.
The next picture is a man and a woman. It’s so beautiful, she has no words. The man is tied, but not really. There are ropes on his arms in some kind of pattern. His arms are raised above his head with the ropes continuing on his chest. In front of him is a woman on her knees with ropes around her. Looking up to Peeta, who is watching her face, she asks, “There are ropes, but they aren’t tied up?”
“What you are looking at is called shibari, or kinbaku-bi. And yes, it is what some call rope play they aren’t really tied up. Well, Annie is. Finnick isn’t.”
Katniss looks up at Finnick with surprise on her face. “That’s you?”
He says proudly, “Yes, it is. We did that right after I told Annie that I love her.”
“Wait,” she says, and looks back at the photos. “That’s her.” She points to another picture of Annie.
Peeta nods. “That’s our Annie. She isn’t modeling anymore. Not until next year anyway.”
“What happened to her?”
Finnick smiles and says, “She’s pregnant. The doctor said that she can’t be tied up any more. At least not like that.”
“That is why I need a model. Are you flexible?”
“Wait, what? You want me to do that?” Katniss asks.
“I think you will find it well worth your time. When we are here, working, I will pay you $35 an hour. When I have a show, I will pay you $65.”
“I can’t do that—“ she stutters.
Peeta interrupts her before she can say anything else. “Well then, good evening, Ms. Everdeen.” He collects the book off of her lap and stands up.
“You aren’t going to try to get me to stay?”
“My, dear,” Peeta says, “If you want to work for me, wonderful. If not, then I’m not going to sit here and beg for you to help me. Thank you for coming.”
Before she even realizes what she is saying, she says quietly, “I’ll do it.”
Peeta stops walking across the room and turns to her. “What did you say? Speak up, I don’t have time for this.”
She answers him, “Yes, I would like to work for you.” All she can think about is how there isn’t anything to eat at her house or at the dorms for Prim.
He comes back to her and extends a hand. She places her hand in his and he pulls her up. “If it would help,” he gently says, so much different from the business tone he had used with her earlier, “I can do a simple rope harness so you can see how it feels. Would you like that?”
She looks down at her gray pencil skirt and white blouse. He follows her eyes, and laughs. “Annie left some shorts and a t-shirt here. She is your size. You can change. Follow me. And leave your hair in the braid.” He leads her to behind the screen.
There sit the clothes he mentioned, and she quickly changes. When she steps out from behind the screen, Peeta is waiting. He is standing on the opposite side of the big room. As she gets closer, she notices that he has gotten some things together and they are sitting on a table. She sees several bunches of rope, and a pair of scissors. She fights the nervousness that makes her stomach tighten and wonders does he have a pair of scissors.
She freezes, and stares at the ropes. She can feel something clawing at her insides, and she can only guess that this is what anxiety feels like. Peeta comes to her slowly, like one would a hurt animal. He gently touches her arm where it is crossed in front of her, making her startle. “Come on over here,” he says, “This won’t hurt. You can say the safe word anytime and I will stop.”
“What is a safe word?” she stutters.
“When people do these kinds of activities, you want everyone to be safe. And sometimes, the one who is doing the tying, doesn’t always know when the people they are tying up are safe. So they decide on a safe word. Even though I’m only doing a simple harness, we are still going to decide on a safe word. If for any reason, you start to hurt or become uncomfortable, just say the word and we will stop. I won’t think any differently of you. We will fix what is wrong, and go from there. Does that make sense?” he asks.
“Why can’t I just say stop? Or no?”
“Well,” he pauses as he picks up a length of rope. “I have been doing this for so long, that I think if I actually hear the word no, I couldn’t stop. And I know that sounds bad, but I would feel safer if we had a safe word.”
Realization hits her. “You like doing this? You aren’t just doing this for the money then?”
He smiles a secret smile and she wonders what that is about. “I will say that at first, I didn’t understand why Finnick and others liked to see rope on bodies. But then I started taking pictures, and doing the rope work myself, it became like an extension of my hands. This is more about the journey than the destination.” He looks at her with the rope in his hands. He has a predatory look on his face as he takes her in. She can’t help the shiver that crawls down her spine when he asks, “Are you ready?”
She nods and asks, “What is the safe word?”
“What is something that you can remember, but isn’t no or stop?”
He smiles in agreement. He unwinds the rope from its coil. “Like I said, this is a simple rope harness. You won’t be bound in anyway.” He takes the ends and puts them together. Running his hands down the rope to where it is folded, he picks up where the middle would be. He puts this around her neck. Then he picks up her braid and puts it over the rope.
She releases a shaky breath. He can’t help but to catch it, and stops to ask, “Are you, ok?”
“Yes. It just feels weird. The rope is kind of cold.”
“It will warm up fast. Now for this next part, I’m going to be guiding the rope in-between your legs. Ok?”
She nods shyly and watches him continue. Right under her collar bone, he makes a knot. Then goes down the rope about the span of his hand, makes another knot. Goes down, and makes another knot. After the third knot, she notices that it’s below her belly button. He doesn’t look up as he guides the rope in-between her legs.
Her breath catches when the rope rubs against her clit. Enjoying the warmth that rushes to her core, she is surprised that she is enjoying this. He brings the rope in between her cheeks, and she wishes that she was naked so she could enjoy the rope wedged in her slit. She loves the feeling of being held that the rope provides. She feels like she should do something with her hands, so she places them on her head. Peeta looks up. His eyes flash something she doesn’t recognize, and she isn’t sure if its anger or desire. “Is this ok?” she asks.
She watches his Adam’s apple move as he swallows. He pets her side and mummers, “Yes. You’re perfect.”
She isn’t sure why, but his praise makes her wet. She squirms against the rope and wishes that something was filling her. He brings the rope up her back, and threads it through the rope around her neck. She can feel him straightening out the pieces. He walks back around to her front, and threads the rope through the loops that he made. The first one goes above her breasts, and back to the back. Then he comes around again, and loops it underneath her breasts. He accidently brushes her nipples and she can’t help the moan that escapes her lips. He pauses in his tying and she isn’t sure if he heard her or not.
He doesn’t acknowledge her moan, for that, she is grateful. He continues in his work, securing the rope around her torso.
She starts to bring her hands down, and he stops her with a touch. He picks up another length and looks to see her reaction. She opens her mouth like she is going to say something, and he stops her when he puts his finger on her lips. She resists the urge to kiss him when he says, “Trust me. Ok?”
She nods as he takes one of her arms in his grip. He pulls it down and attaches the length of rope to her harness and quickly begins to put her arms in another harness. When he gets to her hand, he wraps it with the rope and ties off the end. Then he does it to her other arm.
She is still free, and can move. But she is enjoying this too much to move and break this spell. She has never felt this way before, and quickly decides that she wants to feel like this again. She lets him guide her hands to the top of her head and with, a piece of left over rope, he attaches her hands together.
She closes her eyes for a moment, and enjoys the feel of the rope. She wishes she didn’t have any clothes on, so she could enjoy the full effect. Where the rope is against her arms is feels so light, but so heavy at the same time. The rope is soft, but firm. She wiggles her arms to test the restraint. Relaxing into the hold, she exhales for what feels like the first time since her father died. She can’t help the tear that slips out of and goes down her cheek.
It’s Finnick who is sitting in the sitting area watching the whole exchange that catches her tear. He signals to Peeta who is still tying the knots that hold her hands secure. Peeta comes around to her front, and without thought, holds her cheeks and wipes the tears from her eyes.
Katniss opens her eyes to look into his when she feels his touch. Seeing understanding in his, she leans her head into his gentle touch. “Are you ok?” he whispers.
She gives a shy nod and breathes deep. “I think I’m overwhelmed.”
“Why is that?”
More tears escape before she can stop them. He is there to wipe her eyes. “For the first time, I don’t feel like I have to be in control. I’ve had to struggle for so long.”
He wipes her tears and says, “Just relax. I’ve got you. You like the ropes, don’t you?”
“I didn’t think I would. But I do.” And before she realizes what she is doing, she wiggles the ropes against her clit begging for release.
He grabs the ropes above her belly button and tugs her towards him. She can’t help but to moan when the ropes rub against her clit. He looks into her eyes and she starts to feel like she can drown in his depths when he walks away from her talking under his breath.
She doesn’t understand what is going on, except she has never been this turned on in her entire life. She wants to say something but the mood in the room demands that she stay quiet. She just now notices Finnick still sitting in the sitting area. Has he been there this whole time? That makes sense, she guesses. It’s safer for everyone to have a third person. At least she doesn’t beg Peeta to fuck her.
Peeta turns around and comes back to her. He brings his hands up to rest on her underarms rubbing her gently, almost touching her breasts. She leans towards him wants him to touch her more. She fights the urge to nuzzle his neck where she knows she can feel his pulse. When he moves to grab the scissors from the table and cuts her hands lose, she has a feeling that something is wrong, very wrong.
He cuts her arms lose and unties her. He runs his fingers over the indentions in her skin that the rope left and she loves the way they look and the way his touch makes her feel. She continues standing until he has her untied and is coiling the rope when he asks, “Well, what did you think of that, Ms. Everdeen?”
“What are the hours that you need me to work?”
“I’m am working on some new prints and practicing for a show. Would you be interested in working the show?”
“What does that mean?”
“We would be doing this on a stage. You can even have a mask if you prefer.”
“I think I would like that.”
“And one more thing—“
“What is that?”
“You would be topless.”
After seeing the pictures, she figured this. She really needs the money, so it’s kind of a no-brainer. Before she can catch herself, she says, “Ok. You said I can wear a mask?”
“Then I’ll do it.”
“Wonderful. Can you come back tomorrow then? You work during the day, don’t you?” He waits for her nod again and continues, “Seven again?”
This time she finds her voice. “Yes. I can do seven. Can I go change?”
He looks at her clothes. “Yes, go ahead.”
Finnick doesn’t miss his friend watching Katniss go behind the screen on the other side of the room. Peeta has always been the picture-perfect example of professionalism. It’s very rare in what they do. In the years they have worked together, he has never seen him flustered like this. “She is coming back tomorrow?”
Peeta finishes cleaning up, and walks over to join Finnick on the couch. “Go ahead and draw up the normal working contract. Leave some room for what she wants to add. I have a feeling that she doesn’t want her face shown.”
“Yes, for now. If the audience loves her like I think they will, we’ll pay her in tips from the show.”
Katniss joins them. She nervously looks around before she says, “I’m going to go now. Do you need me to do anything else?”
Peeta stands and walks towards her saying, “You will be back tomorrow. Finnick is going to draw up a contract. We will go over your limits tomorrow and go from there. Like you don’t want to show your face in prints or the show, right?”
“Yes, that sounds good.” They reach the door. Instead of stopping like she expects him to, Peeta walks her to her car. She quickly wishes him, goodbye. And gets in the car. He watches her pull out and goes back in his studio.
Finnick pauses in the door way on the way home to Annie. “I’ve been working with you for a couple of years now. You have never looked at anyone the way you were looking at her.”
“And nothing. I’m just telling you what I saw. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” Peeta wishes him and locks the door behind him. He goes through the studio, turning off the lights and putting the tea service up.
Soon, he is in his loft apartment, and gets into the shower. He lets his thoughts wander over what just happened. Katniss didn’t say much, but with eyes like hers, she doesn’t have to. He has been taking pictures for years now, of thousands of people. But when he was securing her rope, and she put her hands on her head, it stirred something in him that he can’t ignore. He has dreamed of someone coming along and being submissive to him. Even now, he can feel his own hardness, begging to be released. He gets some soap, and slides his hand, and finds it not difficult at all to imagine Katniss is there doing it for him.
There will be more!!! I promise!!! Will you let me know what you do think? Please?!?!