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The Siren, Page 3

Tiffany Reisz

Page 3

  Author: Tiffany Reisz

  “Resurrection? Really?” Zach said, astonished by her tenacity. “I leave for Royal’s L. A. offices in six weeks. Six weeks is not nearly enough time to involve myself with any project of worth or magnitude. But six weeks is all we have. ”

  “You just said six weeks isn’t long enough—”

  “But it’s all I have to give. Fix it in six and it’s off to press. If not—”

  “If not, it’s back to the gutter for the guttersnipe writer, right?”

  Zach stared at her in stunned silence.

  “John-Paul Bonner’s the biggest gossip in the publishing industry, Mr. Easton. He told me what you think of me. He told me you think I’ll fail. ”

  “I’m quite certain of it. ”

  “If you’re my editor, my failure will take you down, too. ”

  “I’m not your editor yet. I haven’t agreed to anything. ”

  “You will. So why did you quit teaching?”

  “Quit teaching?”

  “You were a professor at Cambridge, right? Pretty good gig especially for someone so young. But you quit. ”

  “Ten years ago,” Zach said, shocked by how much she seemed to know about him. How on earth had she learned about Cambridge?

  “So why—”

  “Why my personal life is of such fascination to you, I cannot fathom. ”

  “I’m a cat. You’re a shiny object. ”

  “You’re insufferable. ”

  “I am, aren’t I? Somebody should spank me. ” She sighed. “So you’re kind of an asshole. No offense. ”

  “And you appear to be two or three words I don’t feel quite comfortable saying aloud. ”

  “I’d tell you to say them anyway, but I promised Wesley I wouldn’t let you flirt with me. But I digress. Tell me what’s wrong with my book. Say it slowly,” she said, grinning.

  “You have a very sanguine attitude toward the editing process. What will you say when I tell you that you must cut out the ten to twenty pages you’re certain constitute the living, beating heart of your book?”

  She said nothing for a long minute. Her eyes glanced away from him and she seemed to lose herself in a dark place. He watched as she breathed in slowly through her nose, held the breath then exhaled out her mouth. She turned her uncanny green eyes to him.

  “Then I’ll say that I once cut the living, beating heart out of my own chest,” she said, her voice devoid of its usual flippancy. “I survived that amputation. I’ll survive this one. ”

  “May I ask why you’re so determined to work with me? I’ve done my research, Ms. Sutherlin. You have a rabid fan following that would buy your phone bill in hardcover and still manage to wank off to it. ”

  “I’m also very big in France. ”

  Zach gritted his teeth and felt the first stirrings of an impending headache. “Didn’t your ‘intern’ say you would settle down at some point?”

  “Mr. Easton,” she said, rolling back in her swivel chair and throwing her legs back on her desk. “This is me settled down. ”

  “I was afraid of that. ” Zach stood, prepared to leave.

  “This book,” she began and stopped. She moved her legs off the desk and sat cross-legged in her chair. For a moment she looked both very earnest and terribly young.

  “What about it?”

  She looked away and seemed to search for words. “It…means something to me. It’s not another one of my dirty little stories. I came to Royal because I need to do right by this book. ” She met his eyes again and without a trace of levity or mirth said, “Please. I need your help. ”

  “I only work with serious writers. ”

  “I’m not a serious person. I know that. But I am a serious writer. Writing is one of the only two things in this world I do take seriously. ”

  “And the other?”

  “The Roman Catholic Church. ”

  “I think we’re done here. ”

  “You’re not much of an editor then,” she taunted as he headed to the door. “It’s much too early for an ending. I’m no editor and even I know that. ”

  “Ms. Sutherlin, you’re obviously emotionally involved in your book. That’s fine for writing, but editing a book you love hurts. ”

  “I like doing things that hurt. ” She gave him a Cheshire cat grin. “J. P. said you were the best. I think he’s right. I’ll do whatever it takes, whatever you say. I’ll beg if it will help my case. I’ll get down on my knees and beg if it’ll help yours. ”

  “I’m going now. ”

  “J. P. also said they call you the London Fog around the office,” she said as he turned his back to her. “Is that because of the long coat, the accent or your gift for putting a cold, wet damper on everyone’s good time?”

  “I’ll leave you to decide that. ”

  “Tell me what to do and I’ll do it,” she called out, and Zach was forced to admire her stubbornness. He couldn’t believe he was tempted to consider rewarding it.

  “A writer writes,” he said, facing her again. “Write something for me, something good. I don’t care how long it is, and I don’t care what it’s about. Just impress me. You’ve got twenty-four hours. Show me you can create under pressure, and I’ll consider it. ”

  “You’ll be surprised what I can do under pressure,” she said, but Zach had his doubts. The houseboy, the jokes, the flirting—she was no serious writer. “Any suggestions?” she asked, slightly more sincere this time.

  “Stop writing what you know and start writing what you want to know. And,” he said, pointing a finger at her, “none of your cheap tricks. ”

  Her spine straightened as if he’d finally found an insult that stuck. “I assure you, Mr. Easton,” she said in a tone both stern and reproving, “my tricks are anything but cheap. ”

  “Prove it then. You’ve got twenty-four hours. ”

  She leaned back in her chair and smiled.

  “Fuck your twenty-four hours. You’ll have it tonight. ”



  As an editor Zach often forced his writers to dig deep, cast aside the obvious and find the perfect word for every sentence. And the perfect word to describe this book release party he’d been forced to attend? Numbing.

  Zach stalked through the party saying little more than the occasional hello to various colleagues. He’d only come because once again J. P. had twisted his arm, and Rose Evely—the guest of honor—had been a Royal House writer for thirty years now. What a ludicrous party anyway—someone dimmed the lights to create a nightclub sort of atmosphere but no amount of ambience could turn the banal hotel banquet hall into anything other than a beige box. He wandered toward a spiral staircase in the corner of the room to surreptitiously check his watch. If he could survive two hours at this party, maybe it would be long enough to placate his social butterfly of a boss.

  Scanning the crowd, he saw his twenty-eight-year-old assistant, Mary, trying to talk her new husband into dancing with her. His first week at Royal, he’d been pleasantly surprised to find out his spitfire of an assistant was, like him, Jewish. He’d teased her he’d never known a Jew named Mary before and started calling her his pseudoshiksa. Mary, for all her endearing brusqueness, only ever called him “Boss. ” J. P. stood with Rose Evely. Both J. P. and Evely had been happily married to their respective spouses for decades but nothing stopped J. P. from chivalrously flirting with any woman who had the patience to listen to his literary rambles. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves at this miserable party. Why wasn’t he?

  Once more he glanced down at his watch.

  “I can save you, if you want,” came a voice from above him.

  Zach spun around and looked up. Smiling down at him from over the top of the staircase was Nora Sutherlin.

  “Save me?” He narrowed his eyes at her.

  “From this party. ” She crooked her index finger at him.

bsp; Zach’s better judgment warned him that climbing that staircase could be a very bad idea indeed. Yet his feet overruled his reason, and he mounted the steps and joined her on the platform at the top. He raised his eyebrow as he cast a disapproving gaze over her clothes. That morning at her house, she’d worn shapeless pajamas that concealed every part of her but her abundant personality. Now he saw on full display what his mind had before only imagined.

  She wore red, of course. Scarlet red and not much of it. The dress stopped at the top of her thighs and started at the edge of her breasts. She had miraculous curves that the dramatic floor-length red jacket she wore over her dress did nothing to hide. Even worse, she wore black leather boots that laced all the way above her knees. Pirate boots and a roguish grin on a beautiful black-haired woman…for the first time in a long time Zach felt something other than numb.

  “How do you know I want to be saved from this party, Miss Sutherlin?” Zach leaned back against the railing and crossed his arms.

  “I’ve been watching you from my little crow’s nest here since the second you walked in. You’ve said maybe five words to four people, you’ve checked your watch three times in as many minutes, and you whispered something to J. P. , which, guessing from the look on his face, was a death threat. You’re here against your will. I can get you out. ”

  Zach cocked a self-deprecating smile at her.

  “Unfortunately, you’re right. I am here against my will. I have to wonder, however, why you’re here at all. Didn’t I give you homework?” he asked, remembering his rash decision this morning to give her one chance to impress him.

  “You did. And I was a good girl and finished it. See?”

  He tried and failed to look away as she reached into the bodice of her dress and pulled out a folded piece of paper and handed it to him. The paper was still warm from her skin.

  “This is it?” he asked, seeing only three paragraphs on the page.

  “Don’t judge a book by its mother. Just read. ”

  Zach glanced at her once more and wished he hadn’t. Every time he looked at her, he found something else to attract him. Her jacket had slipped down her arm and her pale sculpted shoulder peeked out. Sculpted? His petite little writer had some muscle to go along with her impressive curves. Tougher than she looked.

  Remembering himself, Zach turned from her, tilted the page into a patch of light and read.

  First she noticed his hips. The eyes might be the windows to the soul, but a man’s hips were his seat of power. She doubted he’d chosen those perfectly fitted jeans and that black T-shirt that belied the tautness of his stomach for the purpose of flattering his lower body, but he had and now she lost herself in the thought of caressing with her lips that exquisite hollow that lay between smooth skin and elegantly jutting hip bone.

  She had to meet his eyes eventually. With reluctance she dragged her gaze to his face, as dignified and angular as the rest of him. Pale skin and dark Brutus-cut hair contrasted with eyes the color of ice. Glacial, she decided his eyes were—they spoke of hidden depths. A stark beauty, he was a man made to be admired by intelligent women.

  Lean and tall but with the substantial mass of an athlete, he was utterly masculine. The world had fallen away in his presence and now that he was gone, she was left in the equally potent presence of his absence.

  Zach read the words one more time trying all the while to ignore the annoyingly pleasant image of Nora Sutherlin caressing his naked hips with her mouth.

  “I’ve noticed you usually shy away from long descriptive passages in your book,” he said.

  “I know people think erotica is just a romance novel with rougher sex. It’s not. If it’s a subgenre of anything, it’s horror. ”