The Siren, Page 4Tiffany Reisz
Author: Tiffany Reisz
“Romance is sex plus love. Erotica is sex plus fear. You’re terrified of me, aren’t you?”
“Slightly,” he admitted, rubbing the back of his neck.
“A smart horror writer will never put too much detail in about the monster. The readers’ imaginations can conjure their own demons. In erotica you never want your main characters to be too physically specific. That way your readers can insert their own fantasies, their own fears. Erotica is a joint effort between writer and reader. ”
“How so?” Zach asked, intrigued that Nora Sutherlin would have her own literary theories.
“Writing erotica is like fucking someone for the first time. You aren’t sure exactly what he wants yet so you try to give him everything he could possibly want. Everything and anything…” She enunciated the words like a cat stretching in sunlight. “You hit every nerve and eventually you’ll hit the nerve. Have I hit any nerves yet?”
Zach clenched his jaw. “Not any of them you were aiming for. ”
“You don’t know what I was aiming for. So what do you think of the writing?”
“Could be better. ” He refolded the page. “You use ‘was’ too much. ”
“Rough draft,” she said unapologetically. She stared at him with dark, waiting eyes.
“The last line’s the strongest—‘the equally potent presence of his absence. ’” Zach knew he should give the page back to her but for some reason he stuck it in his pocket. “It’s good. ”
She gave him a slow, dangerous smile.
“It’s you. ”
Zach only stared at her a moment before pulling the folded page back out.
“This is me?” he asked, his skin flushing.
“It is. Every last long, lean inch of you. I wrote it right after you left this morning. I was, needless to say, inspired by your visit. ”
Swallowing hard, Zach unfolded the sheet again. Brutus-cut black hair…ice-colored eyes…jeans, black shirt… It was him.
“Excuse me,” Zach began, trying to regain control of this conversation, “but didn’t I repeatedly insult you this morning?”
“Your kvetching was very fetching. I like men who are mean to me. I trust them more. ”
She tilted her head to the side and her unruly black hair fell over her forehead, veiling her green-black eyes.
“Forgive me. I might be speechless right now. ”
“Your orders,” she said. “You told me to stop writing what I knew and start writing what I wanted to know. I want to know…you. ”
She took a step closer and Zach’s heart dropped a few feet and landed somewhere in the vicinity of his groin.
“Who are you, Ms. Sutherlin?” he asked, not quite knowing what he meant by that question.
“I’m just a writer. A writer named Nora. And you can call me that, Zach. ”
“Nora then. I’m sorry. I’m not used to being hit on by my writers. Especially after verbally abusing them. ”
Nora’s eyes flashed with amusement.
“Verbal abuse? Zach, where I come from ‘slut’ is a term of endearment. Want to see where I come from?”
“Pity,” she said, sounding not at all surprised or disappointed. “Where should we go then? I promised to save you from this party, didn’t I?”
“I really shouldn’t leave,” Zach said, terrified what would happen the second he found himself alone with Nora.
“Come on, Zach. This party sucks and not in the good way. I’ve had pap smears more fun than this. ”
Zach covered a laugh with a cough.
“I must admit you do have a way with words. ”
“So you’ll edit me then? Please?” She batted her eyelashes at him in mock innocence. “You won’t regret it. ”
Zach glanced up at the ceiling as if it could give him some hint of what the hell he was getting himself into. Nora Sutherlin…he had only six weeks left in New York until he left for L. A. Why was he even considering getting involved with Nora Sutherlin and her book? He knew why. He had nothing else in his life right now. He liked Mary and enjoyed working for J. P. But he’d made no friends in New York, no connections of any kind. He hadn’t allowed himself to even consider dating. One day he’d taken off his wedding ring in a fit of anger and couldn’t find a reason to put it back on. He wouldn’t consider inflicting himself on any woman right now. At least working with Nora Sutherlin might give him a much-needed distraction from his misery. She seemed like the type of woman who’d help you forget about your headache by setting your bed on fire.
Won’t regret it? He already did.
“You do realize that working with you could be bad for my career,” Zach said. “I do literary fiction, not—”
“I can’t believe I’m doing this. ” Zach shook his head.
Nora leaned in close to him. He was suddenly and uncomfortably aware of the long, bare curve of her neck. She smelled of hothouse flowers in bloom.
“I can. ” She breathed the words into his ear.
Zach exhaled slowly and pulled, reluctantly, away from her.
“I’m a brutal editor. ”
“I like brutal. ”
“I’ll make you rewrite the whole book. ”
“Now you’re trying to turn me on, aren’t you? Shall we?”
“Fine,” he finally said. “Save me then. ”
“Let’s do it,” she said. “If J. P. gives you shit about leaving the party with me, tell him it was my idea for us to go work on my book. J. P. won’t spank me. ”
“I’m not certain of that,” Zach said.
“I knew I liked that man for a reason. ”
“I need to say a few goodbyes if we’re leaving. ” J. P. for one. Then Mary. And he hadn’t met her husband yet. And Rose Evely, too.
“Nope. Can’t do that,” Nora said. “Never say goodbye when you leave a party. That way you leave a mystery in your place. They’ll have so much more fun talking about us than they ever would talking to us. Can’t you already hear them? Zach Easton just left with Nora Sutherlin. Are they…surely not…of course they are—”
“We aren’t,” Zach said with finality.
“I know that. You know that. They don’t know that. ”
Zach looked around the room. Everywhere he looked he saw eyes glancing furtively in their direction. The most intense gazing came from Thomas Finley, his least favorite coworker. Zach noted that Finley didn’t so much stare at him as he did at Nora. And the look in his eyes wasn’t particularly friendly.
“I prefer not being a topic of gossip,” Zach said.
“Too late. At least with me, it’ll be really good gossip. ” She strode down the staircase with an audacious kick of her heels on each step.
Zach followed in her wake. The crowd parted for her as she cut a bloodred swath through the center of the room.
Finally free of the suffocating party, Zach threw on his coat and breathed in the bracing winter evening air.
A cab stopped within seconds for Nora and she slipped gracefully inside. He took a sharp breath as her black-booted legs disappeared into the cab. One more time he asked himself what the hell he was doing before sliding in next to her.
Nora said nothing as he joined her, only turned her head and gazed out at the night. She seemed to be trying to stare down the city. He had a feeling the city would blink first.
Nervously, he rubbed the empty spot where he’d once worn his wedding band. Nora reached out and wrapped her hand around his ring finger. Facing him now, she raised her eyebrow in a question.
“Grace,” he answered.
Nora nodded. “You married a princess. ”
Princess Grace—her mother called her that.
“She hates being called ‘Princess. ’” Zach heard the anguish in his voice.
Nora lifted his hand and brought it to her neck. She pressed his fingers into her throat. Her pulse throbbed through her warm, soft skin.
“Søren,” she said and met his eyes. In those dark, dangerous depths he saw a glimmer of something human—not merely sympathy but empathy. And he felt something inhuman in response—not passion but pure animal need. For a brief moment he imagined his hands digging into her thighs and the bite of her leather boots on his back. He tore his gaze away before her uncanny ability to read him saw that image in his hungry gaze.
She released his hand just as the cab pulled up in front of Zach’s apartment building. He opened the door and got out. He wanted to ask her up, wanted to spend a few hours forgetting his pain and all the reasons for it. But he couldn’t, could he? Because of Grace, not that she would care anymore. Zach opened his mouth but before he could ask Nora up, she reached out to shut the door.
“See, Zach? I told you I’d save you. ”
* * *
Nora watched Zach stare after the cab before turning and walking into his building. What a beautiful wreck of a man. Kingsley always said beautiful wrecks were a specialty of hers. He should know. He certainly qualified as one himself.
“Where to, lady?”
Nora thought about it for a moment. For the next six weeks she and Zach would rewrite her book. If he started kicking her ass tomorrow, might be cathartic to kick a little ass of her own tonight.
“Lady?” her driver prompted.
Nora rattled off an address for a Manhattan town house and nearly laughed as she saw her driver’s eyes widen in the rearview mirror.
“You sure about that? That’s no place for a nice girl to go after dark. Or ever. ”
This time Nora did laugh out loud. Every cabdriver in town knew Kingsley’s address. No one with anything to lose would ever turn up there in his or her own car. Good thing she had nothing to lose. Not anymore anyway.
Nora looked back out onto the city night. Søren might kill her for getting involved with a guy like Zach, a guy still technically married. Pissing off Søren—yet another reason to go for it.
“Don’t worry. ” She crossed her legs and leaned back in the seat. She’d tip the driver a Benjamin just for giving her a giggle. “I’m not a nice girl. ”
Everything hurt—back, arms, wrists, fingers, neck—everything. Nora hadn’t been this sore in years. Not since the old days anyway. Zach hadn’t been kidding—he was a brutal editor. And she’d been right—he was kicking her ass. Nora allowed herself a smile. She’d forgotten how much she liked having her ass kicked.
She read through Zach’s notes again on her first chapters. Nice to see he had quite the sadistic streak in him. Of course she couldn’t imagine him taking a real whip to her—more’s the pity. But he had a gift for tongue-lashings. He’d been her editor for all of three days and so far he’d already called her a “guttersnipe writer” whose books were “melodramatic,” “maniacal” and “unhygienic. ” Unhygienic had been her personal favorite.
Nora stretched her aching back as Wesley entered her office and collapsed into the armchair across from her desk.
“How’s the rewrite going?” he asked.
“Horrible. It’s day three and I’ve rewritten…nothing. ”
“Zach shredded the book. ” Nora held up a sheaf of paper. The morning after the release party Zach sent her a dozen pages of notes on the first three chapters alone. “You sure this guy’s the right editor for you? Can’t you work with somebody else?”
Nora picked up her tea and sipped at it. She’d rather not talk about the contract situation with Wesley. J. P. had told her Zach got final say on whether her book got published, but she hadn’t passed that information on to Wesley. Poor kid worried about her enough as it was.