November 30, 2011
College students Jeremy and Ryan both have rocky pasts, but when Ryan discovers his friend has a dangerous fascination for gay bondage, he decides to show Jeremy that giving up control isn't safe or sexy. He should know--he's seen the dark side of BDSM up close. However, his plan backfires as the two men find that their needs and desires dovetail so nicely. Lust drives them both deeper into a 24/7 lifestyle, but neither of them is prepared to deal with the emotional backlash.
When fear threatens to destroy their relationship, Jeremy has to not only submit, but he must also find a way to help his master heal well enough to admit to his own needs. If Jeremy can find a way to confront the past, maybe he can repair their relationship and rediscover their balance as dominant and submissive. If he fails, they both lose.
Top to Bottom Reviews
Out of Balance is one of the boldest BDSM stories I’ve read.... It’s intense, it’s extreme, it’s a challenge especially if you don’t care for BDSM... READ MORE
Basically Out of Balance tests a theory doing exactly what that theory says not to do. In a D/s relationship it’s important that the Dominant partner knows perfectly his limits... READ MORE
Romancing the Book
The emotional angst is felt through out the entire book. It sucks the reader in completely and makes them a part of the story. It’s truly intoxicating...
Chapter One: Revelations
Ryan booted the computer, his hands almost trembling as he watched the screen flicker and come to life. Right now he’d rather throw the computer off the apartment’s balcony, but that wasn’t an option—not if he was serious about getting his life together.
Praying that his roommate didn’t come home unexpectedly, Ryan browsed the Internet. He couldn’t exactly do this in front of Jeremy. It was hard enough living with Jeremy, Mr. Perfect, Mr. Gorgeous. He sure didn’t need the man knowing about his skeletons.
“Right. Just get this over with and tell the therapist he’s barking up the wrong tree,” Ryan whispered to himself. His hand hesitated over the mouse. “Or I could just lie through my teeth and tell the therapist I looked. It’s not like he can check up on me.” Rolling his eyes at his own cowardice, Ryan typed BDSM into the search engine. He’d start slow and move on to the sites he’d been assigned to look at after he’d built up a little psychological resistance.
The ubiquitous Wikipedia came up, and Ryan skipped it and clicked the second link. Good—no pictures. Okay, BDSM isn’t abuse. Except, of course, when it was, Ryan silently added as he read the users’ guide to BDSM relationships. Tops had to be empathetic, and they made choices based on negotiated limits. Bottoms controlled the speed and depth of the action. Ryan felt a dark laughter rising up like air that he needed to belch out, only he didn’t think it would be that easy. The worst part was that a little nagging voice in Ryan’s head whispered that he so wasn’t past this.
Ryan stood up so fast that the chair tipped and clattered to the ground when he headed for the kitchen. A beer sounded great, but if he was going to go through with this, he couldn’t do it drunk. Pulling open the refrigerator, Ryan considered his choices as he scrubbed his curly hair, shoving the mop back. Jeremy had a buzz cut that never looked like a tangled mess in the morning. Maybe he should just cut his own to match. With a sigh, Ryan had to admit that he was avoiding the issue. He grabbed a Pepsi.
“Okay, this is me being a man and facing my fears,” Ryan told himself as he headed back into the world’s smallest dining room—or it would have been a dining room if anyone else lived here. However, Ryan and Jeremy were both college students, and they’d decided that an office made more sense than a dining-room table they weren’t going to use. Instead, the two friends had set up Ryan’s computer with a webcam and a big desk Jeremy had brought from home.
Of course, Ryan could have gotten his father to pay for a larger apartment. Guilt made it easy for Ryan to manipulate his father. However, he also knew that Jeremy couldn’t afford more rent. And Jeremy was just too proud to let Ryan or his father pay even part of his half of the rent. For a second, Ryan closed his eyes and forced his mind to focus on the problem at hand. His thoughts kept trying to skitter away like some gibbering animal scrambling around in a trap, but that wasn’t him. Not anymore. He didn’t run away from his problems. Ryan opened his eyes and looked at the computer. Usually.
Picking the chair up and turning it around so he could straddle it, Ryan scanned the website.
Dominants got off on pleasing their partners. Ryan flinched at that. Whoever wrote the website obviously pretended that humans were sane and reasonable and never got off on the power. Hard limits and soft limits. Ryan’s thoughts skittered away from him.
And there was Ryan’s limit. He practically ran away from the computer for the second time, and this time he grabbed the phone from its cradle. A few numbers punched in and a quick exchange with a secretary and after a ten-minute wait on hold, a familiar voice came through the line.
“Ryan?” Tom offered. The man didn’t say anything else, just Ryan’s name, and yet the fear began to dissipate. Fuck. He was so pathetic. Twenty-one years old, and he still was running to some adult to make everything better—only now he ran to his therapist. Running to his father had never done much good, after all.
“Okay, it’s totally stupid for me to call you,” Ryan admitted with a small laugh. There was a long silence as Tom waited for him to say something else, but Ryan didn’t have anything to say. He’d been stupid, and he’d needed Tom’s voice like a fucking nightlight in the dark.
“Why do you say that?” Tom asked.
“Just out of curiosity, how much extra do you charge my father every time I have one of these little phone-based freak-outs?”
“Why is the answer important to you?” Tom asked in full-out therapist calm. Ryan wondered if the man even knew how to freak out. Hell, maybe on weekends he scheduled regular breakdowns just to make up for all his weird calm.
“Okay, Dad’s money is not so important.”
“And what is important?”
Ryan let his forehead thump against the wall. “Are you going to keep doing the question thing?”
“What question thing?”
“The ‘answering a question with a question’ question thing.”
“No.” Tom sounded like he had just cut off a laugh, and Ryan smiled at his small success. “Okay, Ryan, you have successfully distracted me and made me lose my professional demeanor. So, are you ready to tell me why you’re calling?” Now Tom wasn’t trying to hide the amusement in his voice. Ryan smiled, but the expression faded as he remembered the near panic from just a moment ago.
“Are you doing your homework?” Tom finally asked, interrupting the silence.
“Homework,” Ryan huffed in annoyance. “Do you think I don’t get enough homework at the university? For someone who made an art form out of avoiding homework in high school, I sure am getting a lot now.”
“Ryan?” Tom asked softly.
Biting his lip, Ryan struggled to pin words to the ugly, slick feelings that slid around in his guts. “Talk to me,” Tom said. The command was so softly worded that it was a suggestion more than an order, but Ryan stood up.
“What happened to me wasn’t about men getting their kicks out of tying each other up.” Ryan could feel anger gnawing at the edges of his control.
“You’re right,” Tom agreed. “There is very little that a Top shares in common with an abuser except for the equipment he uses. Have you looked at any of the sites?”
Ryan looked through the small pass-through window between the kitchen and the computer area. The yellowed paper torn from a legal pad sat there, still folded. “I’ve looked at other sites.”
“Do you want to come in and talk about it?”
“I want to stop feeling like a fucking freak,” Ryan snapped. Shit. The funny thing was that to everyone else, he was the laid-back one; he was the together guy who loved to crack jokes and could always be counted on for some hilarity after a beer or two. His father, his therapist and his best friend were the only ones who got to see the cracks in that façade, and Ryan was fairly sure that his best friend had no frikkin clue what they meant.
“You are not a freak.” Tom sounded so sure, but Ryan wasn’t. He could charm a girl with his goofy grin and his boyish looks. He could blink his blue eyes at her and run his fingers through his curls so they got messy and get her to laugh and maybe even get her to follow him home, but he sure as hell couldn’t close the deal. And the thought of closing the deal with a man left him shaking with a coldness that sank into his soul. He was feeling pretty much like a freak.
“I can get through this.” Ryan tried to put a strength into his voice that he wasn’t feeling. Fake it until you make it.
“Yes, you can,” Tom assured him. “You have more strength than you give yourself credit for.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Ryan dismissed the praise. “You’re going to make my ego swell up with talk like that.”
Tom laughed again. “You know, we could look at the sites together.”
“Now you’re just perving,” Ryan joked. This time, the humor hit a wrong note, and Ryan could feel it. From the silence on the other end of the phone, Tom could too. “I really do want to get through this on my own. I don’t know why I flipped,” Ryan offered in a far more serious tone.
“If you need me—”
“It’s only a hundred an hour,” Ryan finished for him. “Actually, do you mind if I just leave you on the phone? If I just don’t hang up, I could rack up one seriously ugly bill pretty damn fast. My father’s face would be….” He whistled his appreciation for how that would go over.
“Your passive aggressive is showing,” Tom pointed out.
“Yep, I noticed that. Look, thanks for just answering the phone, but I do have this, and I’m going to go try to get through this without humiliating myself anymore.”
“Call if you need me.”
“Obviously, I will. Thanks, doc. I’ll see you next week.”
Ryan had the phone halfway to the hook as he heard the doc say goodbye. “Dude, seriously, get over yourself,” he ordered himself before walking over and planting himself in front of the computer again. This time, he unfolded the yellow sheet and looked at the web addresses written in his therapist’s neat handwriting. “If I have a nervous breakdown, I’m so sending you the bill.”
Ryan started typing the first address, but he hadn’t gotten more than half in before the computer popped up with a suggestion based on old visits to the webpage…and that was odd because Ryan definitely hadn’t visited this page before. Confusion and curiosity pushed aside the incipient panic.
The image of tattooed man in latex came up next to a menu, one of which was already colored purple from having been visited. Ryan frowned and clicked bondage equipment.
Whoa. Okay, all the links were purple. Each category had its own image…a man pulling a latex hood over his own head, the back of a man who strained against an armbinder attached right above his elbows, a boy with blond hair wearing a collar—all the images seemed designed to ambush Ryan, but instead of fear or loathing, he found himself wondering who the hell had been wandering BDSM sites. Jeremy certainly had access to the computer, but Ryan couldn’t see his roommate going for that sort of fun and games. Jeremy looked like a stereotypical, buff athlete. Hell, he could probably get a job modeling as one of the whip-wielding Tops, but the guy couldn’t hurt anything bigger than a fly. He definitely would not get off on tying someone up.
Deciding to jump into the deep end of the pool, Ryan clicked on a link for “Serious Bondage”. He blinked in surprise when a range of cocks appeared on the screen. Each was locked up in its own torture device. One had a silver-studded collar that wrapped around the balls and squeezed them into a long, narrow form. Another had a metal drop hanging from straps. A third was imprisoned in a set of metal rings that started at the head and continued down until the last one tucked up behind the balls.
Ryan blinked a few times. This was one form of bondage he didn’t have experience with, and he stared at the images. Surprisingly, he found himself squirming on the seat, scrolling down to find more pictures. Over half the links on the page had been visited, and Ryan started going into the product details. Twenty-five dollars for a chrome contraption that had one ring around the base of the cock, one ring around the balls and a third ring around the cock right in front of the balls. It looked like it hurt, but the model had a blissful expression that Ryan would have found impossible to fake.
Backing out to the main menu, Ryan clicked on the restraints. He braced himself for the shock; however, the first thing he noticed was the model’s expression. This one was bored. He had heavy cuffs around his wrists, and they were attached to thigh cuffs by a large padlock, and yet the guy looked…disinterested. He didn’t look scared or intimidated. Ryan’s wrists started to itch. He reached down and absentmindedly scratched as he went to a new image. He winced in sympathy at the size of the gag the model had on. The website had a nice side-by-side of the penis gag and a gagged man.
Shaking his head at his own odd stew of half-cooked emotions, Ryan opened the admin tools on the computer and started checking for web activity and time logs. Someone was spending a lot of time getting pervy on his computer. Some of Jeremy’s old football buddies had a habit of hanging out at the apartment more than Ryan liked, and he figured he had a right to know which of them was getting his freaky on in Ryan’s house.
Two minutes later, he knew. Damn. Straight as an arrow Jeremy…classic Greek god Jeremy… Having every woman on campus looking at him like he was eye-candy Jeremy was seriously into gay porn.
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