The Siren, Page 47Tiffany Reisz
Author: Tiffany Reisz
“I wouldn’t say I was of that persuasion, but I do love a good story. And she writes some torrid ones. ”
“Her life is her most torrid story,” Zach said.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing. ”
“Mary, her books aren’t the only thing she sells. ”
“Yeah, I heard she was the real thing. I can’t believe I’ve been working for someone who was working with a real live Dominatrix. ”
“Not simply a Dominatrix. The Dominatrix apparently. I can’t have it. She’s just supposed to write about it. She’s not supposed to live it. ”
“She doesn’t write murder stories, boss. She doesn’t kill people on paper and in real life. She just…”
“Beats them on paper and in real life,” Zach finished for her.
“But they like it. Slightly lower rung on the ladder of horror than murder and rape, don’t you think?”
“Mary, you don’t mind your husband had other lovers before he met you, do you?”
“Of course not. I had my fair share, too. ”
“Now, would you mind if you found out these other lovers had paid him for sex?”
Mary laughed at the idea. “I see your point. But still—”
“I can accept it as a private practice between consenting adults. But to do it with strangers for money?”
Mary exhaled and rolled her eyes.
“Boss, do you really think her personal life means she doesn’t deserve to be published? That’s a little harsh, don’t you think? Is this really about her book?”
Zach looked at Mary.
“Please don’t share this with anyone—”
“Jesus, Zach, I’m not J. P. You can tell me anything. ”
“Nora and I… It wasn’t strictly business. ”
She nodded her head. “Well, obviously. Your mood definitely improved when you started working with her. Is that why you’re so pissed?”
“She lied to me. That’s what I can’t get over. I cared about her. For the first time since Grace and I separated I could vaguely imagine myself happy again. Or at least not miserable anymore. ”
“Maybe she was imagining the same thing with you. Maybe that’s why she was afraid to tell you. Or maybe she just wanted you to see her as a writer and not as, I don’t know, a character. ”
Zach sighed. He knew Mary had a point. He just didn’t want to admit it yet.
“Tell me something, boss. What do you think is the highest form of art?”
“Literature,” he answered without hesitation. “Painters and sculptors require elaborate supplies and tools. Dancers must have music. Musicians must have instruments. Literature needs nothing but a voice to speak it or sand to scrawl it in. ”
Mary walked to his office bookshelf and pulled down three Royal House titles. She laid them facedown on top of his desk. She pointed one by one at the UPC barcodes on the back.
“Even the highest form of art is for sale, Zach. And you, editor extraordinaire, help up the price. ”
Zach met her eyes. “You think I’m a prude. ”
“Prude…ish. Poor J. P. was heartbroken when you told him it wasn’t going to work out with Nora. ”
“I know. He looked like a boy whose puppy just died. But he kept his promise. ”
“He trusts you. If you say the book shouldn’t be published, he won’t publish the book. Do you really think the book shouldn’t be published?”
Zach stared at Mary. Twenty-eight years old and she was far wiser than he. She was right. At least Nora deserved a chance to tell her side of the story.
“You deserve a raise. ”
“For what? Bringing you coffee?”
“And telling me off. And coming in on a Sunday to help me clean house a little. ”
“It’s Easter Sunday. You and I are both members of the tribe. Might as well. Besides, you’re the best boss I’ve ever had. ”
“And you’re by far my best assistant ever. Here. ” He dug in his messenger bag and pulled out Finley’s most recent gift to him. “Would you like to have these? Finley’s last gift. Earrings, I think. ”
Mary opened the box and burst out laughing.
“What?” Zach asked.
“Nice nipple clamps, boss. ”
Heat rushed to Zach’s face. “Nipple clamps? I should have known. ”
“Well, they do look a lot like clip-on earrings,” she said.
“But you knew what they were immediately. ” Zach raised his eyebrow at her.
Mary looked up to the heavens in feigned innocence. “I don’t know. Maybe I am of that persuasion. ” She stood up and headed for the door.
“You think I should call Nora?” Zach asked. Mary turned around.
“I think you should think about it,” Mary said as she left his office.
He picked up the phone and dialed Nora’s house number, but there was no answer. He called her cell phone but it went directly to voice mail. He sent her an email that said only, Will you call me please? but got an automatically generated away message back from her. All it said was, To Whom It May Concern: Fuck off. I’m busy.
He sighed and gave up. He could only imagine what she was so busy doing. Even on Easter Sunday, a day that meant nothing to him but he knew was very important to Catholics, she was clearly hard at work at her other job.
He’d tried to call her. It just wasn’t meant to be. He considered calling Grace. He picked up the phone again, stared at it, then put it back down.
* * *
He sighed, knowing he was caught. It amused him to think that while he was ostensibly in charge of every aspect of her life, Caroline still believed she could control his choice of reading material. Her benign feminine disapproval trumped any act of dominance he could muster.
“In the effort to retain my status as the dominant partner in this relationship, consider the following a preemptive strike—I give you permission to criticize my book,” William said to Caroline as she knelt on the ground at his feet.
“Camus again? He’s so bleak and melancholy,” Caroline chided him. “You can’t really think there’s something noble about pushing a rock up a hill for all eternity, do you, sir?”
“It’s noble because Sisyphus is doing something more than nothing. He knows his task is meaningless and that the world is absurd, but he continues, refusing to surrender to the futility. It is both profound and noble. ”
“It’s depressing. And Camus was an atheist, right?” she countered, resting her chin on his knee.
“He was, yes. ”
“Then Sisyphus’s something is still nothing. Without God life has no ultimate meaning. Pushing the rock up the hill is no nobler than leaving it at the bottom and just killing yourself. ”
William smiled down at her as he twisted his fingers into her hair. “My little Kierkegaard…if it were proved to me right now that heaven’s throne sat empty and at the center of all that exists nothing but a bleak and empty void…I would still make love to you tonight with the same ferocity as I made love to you last night. Is that not a better response than celibacy?”
She blushed like a new bride. “I think that’s a trick question, sir. ”
“No trick at all. ” He closed his book and set it aside. “And what are you reading now?”
“I found an old copy of some O. Henry short stories. We read The Gift of the Magi my freshman year in high school, but I don’t think I’ve read anything by him since. ”
“Ah, yes. The young couple, desperately poor but deeply in love…she sells her only possession, her lustrous long hair to buy a chain for her husband’s pocket watch…and her husband sells his only possession, his pocket watch to buy his wife combs for her lustrous long hair. On the altar of love they sacrifice the only things they have of value. ”
“They have each other,” she said, her voice little more than a whisper.
Oh, yes, of course. They have each other. ” William pulled his hand from her hair and picked up his book again. “And you say Camus is melancholy. ”
“Hey, Sinner Still in Her PJ’s,” Wesley said, peeking into her office. “Can you afford a five-minute break?”
“I need a five-minute break. ” Nora pushed away from her desk and looked at Wesley up and down. “A suit and a tie. Very GQ. ”
He bowed at her.
“It’s Easter, Nora. Could you not even tear yourself away from your book long enough to go to church on Easter?”
“If I’d gone to church it would have been Sacred Heart. ”
“Good point. How’s the book coming?” He sat in her armchair across from her desk.
“Okay. It’s harder not having the daily feedback. I’ve gotten used to that. But it’s progressing. I’m dreading the big scene, though. ”
“What’s the problem?” Wesley loosened his tie.
Nora put her elbows on her desk and rubbed her temples.
“It’s a mess. It’s the most important scene in the book. ”
“So it’s a sex scene. ”
“Right. But it’s really difficult for me to write. My guy in the book is pure kink. My girl is vanilla but trying to be what he wants her to be. But this is the scene where he gives in and tries to be what she wants. It’s hard to write vanilla sex when you’ve never actually had vanilla sex. ”
“Can I help?”
“You want to help me write a sex scene?”
Wesley shrugged. “I’ve helped you before. ”
“Yeah, and you swore you’d never help me with a scene again after the last time. Which I thought was an overreaction on your part. ”
“You left me hog-tied on the floor while you made yourself a sandwich. ”
“I offered to share. ”
“Suit yourself. I’m getting out of these clothes before I suffocate. Holler when you want lunch. ” He got up and headed for the door.
Nora looked down at the morass of notes about the big scene.
“Yes, ma’am?” He spun around in her doorway.
“You can help me. I need all the help I can get. ”
“No comment. Tell me what to do. ”
“Go change first. Meet me in my room when you’re done. ”
Wesley bowed again and yanked his tie off on the way out of her office.
Nora printed off her most recent draft of the big scene. She’d have to be careful and not let Wesley see the pages or he might be upset by one or two things he read.
She entered her room and found Wesley already lounging against a mound of pillows piled against the headboard of her massive bed with one leg bent at the knee, his arm resting on it. He now was barefoot and wore only jeans and a white T-shirt. With the sunlight in his sandy-blond hair, Wesley looked even more enticing than usual, and for a moment Nora couldn’t quite think of what she was doing. He looked at her and didn’t smile but only raised his chin slightly as if he knew exactly what she was thinking. Had she seen that expression on the face of any other man she would have assumed it was a come-on.
“So what’s going on here?” Wesley asked as Nora hopped up on the bed next to him.
“It’s hard to explain completely unless you’ve read the whole book, which you haven’t. ”
“You won’t let me. ”
“You can read it when it’s done. Maybe. ”
“You’ve let me read rough drafts before. ”
“Are we going to argue or have pretend sex?”
Wesley exhaled. “Pretend sex, I guess. What am I doing?”
“Sleeping in bed. She’s sleeping on the floor. ”
“He makes her sleep on the floor?”