The SirenTiffany Reisz
Author: Tiffany Reisz
“How did you find out where I was?” Wesley asked. He ran his hand up and down her arm. She knew the last thing he wanted to hear was that Søren had hunted him down for her, and that Kingsley, her partner in crime, had used some of his connections to get confidential information.
Nora shut her eyes and nestled in closer to Wesley.
Zach was relieved to find almost fifteen thousand new words from Nora in his email when he arrived at work two days after finding her half-unconscious in his office. Apparently she was working out her nervous energy from not having Wesley at home by writing five breathlessly intense chapters. He read through them and jotted down notes as he went. He was thrilled with what she was doing with the book. But he needed to steer her in a new direction before she wrote any more. The whole book couldn’t be a sprint. She needed to stop and let the reader breathe for a chapter or two before kicking into high gear again.
Zach read through his notes again and dialed her office number.
“Sophocles’s House of Patricide and Incest,” Nora answered. “How may I blind you?”
Zach bit the inside of his cheek to keep her from hearing him laugh.
“Zachary,” she said breathlessly.
“You’re in a chipper mood, I see. ”
“You can see me? Where are you? Are you in my house?”
This time Zach let her hear him laugh.
“From this excessive display of mirth and jubilance, I assume your intern’s come home. ”
“Yes, thank God. With a little subterfuge I managed to smuggle him back under my roof where he belongs. He is resting comfortably right now, and I am on cloud ten because cloud nine was full of pompous Englishmen. Wasn’t my scene. ”
Zach cleared his throat. “Speaking of scenes—”
“Oh, God, the book. You know what, Zach, I am in a great mood. Nothing you can say or do will ruin it. Shred the chapters. Do your worst. Make it hurt. I’m ready. ”
Zach took a deep breath.
“They’re fabulous. ”
He heard Nora snort a most unladylike laugh on the other end of the line.
“You’re terrible at this game. ”
“I’m quite in earnest, Nora. They’re excellent. Needs some minor cleaning up but spot-on all the way through. Now you just need to slow the pace down a little. ”
“Three words. Show—don’t tell. ”
“How much are they paying you for this?”
Zach chuckled and gave Nora some concrete suggestions for where to take the next two or three chapters.
“And I want five more chapters by tomorrow morning,” Zach said even though he knew that was an almost impossible challenge.
“Slave-driver,” she said.
“Nora, we’ve lost a lot of time—”
“Zach,” she said and he heard the smile in her voice. “Relax. It’s me. Slave-driver’s a compliment. ”
They said their goodbyes and Zach hung up the phone. He looked up and saw his assistant standing in the doorway of his office holding a box in her hands.
“Oh, God. Another one?” he asked.
“Afraid so, boss. ” Mary came inside his office. She put a book-size flat box on his desk.
“Have we figured out who is sending this nonsense yet?”
Zach picked up the box and warily tore off the plain brown paper wrapping.
“I think I know who it is,” Mary said. “Wonder what it is this time. ”
“It was, what, anal beads two days ago. And a blindfold before that. And what was it last week?”
“Lube,” Mary supplied. “K-Y Jelly specifically, I believe. ” Zach eyed Mary and suppressed a grin. Mary was his second favorite woman he’d met since coming to New York. “If you keep working with Nora Sutherlin, you’ll be able to start your own sex shop. ”
“Anything would be preferable to this. I thought only adults were allowed to work in publishing,” he said. Turning the box over in his hands, Zach considered just tossing it in the trash. Ever since he’d started working with Nora, a new “gift” would arrive in his office mailbox or on his desk every couple of days.
“Come on, you know better than that. I’ll bet you anything it’s Thomas Finley. He thought he’d get the job in L. A since he’s been here the longest. He’s been pretty pissed ever since J. P. promised it to you. But everyone knows he’s still here only because he sucks up so much to the big bosses. He’s doesn’t edit books. He just spit-shines shit. ”
Zach laughed and decided Nora and Mary needed to meet if they hadn’t already.
“I appreciate the loyalty as well as the imagery. But let’s get this over with, shall we? Lovely,” Zach said as he pulled out a pair of bright silver handcuffs with a set of tiny keys hanging off the middle link.
“Nice. Very shiny. ” Mary took them from him and examined them closely. “You have the right to remain silent,” Mary began and slapped the cuffs on his left wrist. Zach gave her a dirty look. “Sorry. Too many Law & Order marathons, I think. ”
“Far too many. ”
Mary took the key and slipped it in the lock. She turned it but the cuffs didn’t pop open.
“Shit,” she breathed in shock. “The key doesn’t work. ”
“Surely not. ” Zach took the key and tried it himself. Nothing happened. “Bloody hell. ”
“Boss, I’m so sorry,” Mary said. “I’ll call a locksmith right now. ”
“That bastard. If it’s Finley, I’ll kill him. Whoever it was wanted this to happen. ”
She raced from his office and headed to her own. He could only imagine how long it would take to get a locksmith here during the lunch rush hour.
He glanced down and saw Nora’s manuscript in front of him. And then he looked at his door. He picked up his phone again.
“Ian McEwan’s Cement and Incest Emporium—”
“Nora, really. ”
“I love caller ID. What can I do you for?”
“I have a small problem involving handcuffs,” Zach said, glancing down at his wrist. “Do you know anything about locks?”
“If you knew how much of my life I’ve spent chained up, you wouldn’t ask that question. ”
Zach paused a moment and said five words that were surprisingly difficult to get out.
“I need your help, Nora. ”
Zach waited for her to laugh or tease him. Instead, she gave him a small piece of advice that he decided to take and hung up the phone.
“I called the locksmith,” Mary said, coming back into his office. “He said he’d be here in a couple of hours. ”
“Cancel him. I called Nora. She gave me a suggestion. ”
“What did she say?”
“She said, ‘Three words—come to me. ’”
Zach stood up and pulled on his long gray coat; he stuffed his hands into his pockets so no one could see the cuffs dangling off his left wrist.
“And I think I will. ”
Walking toward the elevator, Zach stiffened in fury as Thomas Finley strolled past him wearing an oily smirk on his face.
“Your jokes are not amusing, Finley,” Zach said as he continued toward the elevators.
“That’s because they’re not jokes, Easton. ” Finley ducked into his office and Zach resisted the infantile urge to personally show Finley what was and was not amusing. Finley on the floor coughing up blood—that would be amusing.
Still fuming, Zach momentarily forgot about the handcuffs on his left hand when he stuck his hand out to hit the down button on the elevator. He heard a throat clearing and looked to the right.
J. P. stood at the receptionist’s desk with his eyebrow arched in disapproval.
“Long story,” Zach said. As much as he wanted to rant to J. P. about Finley’s torments
, he was no schoolyard tattletale. He’d handle it himself when the time came.
“Might I ask where you are going thusly attired?” J. P. asked.
“Jail. Obviously. ” The elevator door opened and Zach stepped inside. He smiled at J. P. knowing full well that’s exactly what Nora would have done. “It’s just about the book. ”
If it was possible, J. P. ’s eyebrow seemed to arch even higher.
“It’s never just about the book, Easton. ”
* * *
When he put her in the handcuffs, she knew she was in trouble. The third time they ever saw each other she was wearing handcuffs. She wore them not for reasons of kink but of law enforcement. It was raining that night when she got caught for the first and last time. When she arrived at the police station and the cop pulled her out of the squad car, he was standing there just behind her mother. What was he doing here? she asked herself and then realized her mother must have called him out of fear and desperation. What a sight she was that night—soaked to the skin, bedraggled, wearing her school uniform with her hands cuffed behind her back. She’d glared at him from behind the veil of her wet hair, and he looked back at her with ironic amusement. But that wasn’t the only look in his eyes. There was something else there, something it would take years before she fully understood.
She understood it now.
She sat on the floor gagged and handcuffed to the bedpost. In forced silence, she leaned back and watched him. A young woman with pink and blue hair was strapped spread-eagle to a St. Andrew’s cross. With a cat-o’-nine-tails he tattooed the girl’s back bright red with welts. The girl squirmed and cried out. She begged him to stop. He didn’t stop.
After a few minutes the beating ceased. He laid the cat aside and strode over to where she sat on the floor. He knelt in front of her and ordered her to meet his eyes.
“Are you ready to apologize now?” he asked her. “Or shall I continue beating Simone?”
The only thing worse than one of his beatings was being forced to watch while someone else took the punishment that was rightfully hers. She slowly nodded her head.
“Good girl,” he said. He stood up and walked over to the girl on the cross. He unbound her wrists and ankles. Simone stepped gingerly off the platform and knelt on the floor. She kissed the top of his bare feet and rose up again. He bent his head and in a voice too low to overhear, whispered something in her ear. The girl blushed and smiled. She asked for permission to kiss his hand. He granted it.
Simone kissed the center of his palm, gathered her clothes and left the room. They were alone again.
He walked back to her and squatted in front of her. He untied the gag and waited.
“You have something to say to me?” he asked.
“Yes, sir. ” She took a ragged breath. “I’m sorry I forgot to call, sir. I apologize for worrying you. I was so tired when I got home I went straight to bed. ”
“It takes mere seconds to call and let me know you arrived home. You are my most treasured possession. Your value to me is beyond what you can conceive. It is my duty to protect you. You know my rules. And you know better than to flout them. ”
She hated when she disappointed him. But it wasn’t her fault she was so tired. He’d kept her up until
3:00 a. m. beating her and fucking her over and over again. It had taken everything she had to just make it to her bed that night. She knew she’d worried him when she hadn’t called. But it was galling to be treated like a teenager with a curfew. She’d refused to apologize at first. She was twenty-six years old, for God’s sake.
“Forgive me, please. I’ll do anything. ”
He raised his eyebrow and she knew she’d made a mistake.
Her stomach fell through the floor.
An antique black rotary phone sat on a table in his private quarters. He only ever used it for one purpose. He used it for that purpose now.