The siren, p.10
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       The Siren, p.10

         Part #1 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 
Page 10

  Author: Tiffany Reisz

  One? I promise I’ll make it good. Please? I’ll buy you a puppy.

  I’m allergic to dogs, he replied.

  Nora bit her lip as the wheels in her head turned.

  Let’s play a game, she wrote back. I’ll give you fifty extra pages this week if you let me keep three of my scenes—heavily edited, of course.

  She held her breath as she waited for his reply. An email finally popped up in her in-box.

  Fine. But any sex on the page must serve both the plot and the character development. Now stop playing and start writing. You’ve got five weeks left and over four hundred pages to rewrite.

  I’m keeping the puppy, she wrote back. She wasn’t surprised when he didn’t reply.

  Nora was rereading Zach’s most recent note on her new chapters when her hotline rang. She heard its Klaxon ringtone in her office all the way from the kitchen. Rolling her eyes, she stood up and headed in that direction in no particular hurry. When she got there, she found Wesley standing by the counter with the phone in his hand. He looked oddly tired and grim. He handed it to her without a word and walked past her. “King, I swear I’m going to beat the shit out of you if you don’t stop calling me. ”

  “Now you’re flirting, ma chérie. ”

  Nora ground her teeth together and took a deep breath. Was there any man in the world more infuriating than Kingsley Edge? Søren, she remembered. Only Søren.

  “I am not flirting. I am working. ” She said the words slowly as if she were speaking to a child. “I have another job, recall?”

  “I try everything I can to forget your other job, maîtresse. Your other job costs me money. ”

  “Well, it makes me money. ”

  “And that helps me how?”

  “Kingsley, tell me what you want and then leave me alone. My editor is making me rewrite my entire book. ”

  “The Nora Sutherlin taking orders from a man. I thought those days were long over. ”

  Nora clenched her jaw. She would not let him goad her into a fight today.

  “I’m une petite peu busy, monsieur. ”

  “Never too busy for a client. For this client in particular. ”

  Nora leaned her head against the cold metal of the refrigerator. Most of her clients were on her time; she saw them at her leisure. Just part of the mystique of being a Dominatrix. But there were a handful of clients not even she felt comfortable keeping waiting. She guessed it was Jake Sizemore, CEO of some company that made something that kept the world going. King never let her turn Sizemore down when he came to town.

  “Fine. What do I need to know?”

  “Just wear your finest and be there in an hour. C’est ça. ”

  Nora scribbled the time and place down in her datebook. She’d been trying so hard not to take any jobs while working with Zach. Zach had all the signs of someone going through a fairly serious depression. She knew depression well, knew it was anger turned inward. That much depression signaled an impressive cache of anger lurking under that ridiculously handsome exterior. Her gorgeous blue-eyed editor already oozed disapproval of her at every turn. She could only imagine how bad his reaction would be if he found out that writing wasn’t her only job. For over a year now she’d dreamed of quitting the game altogether, but without a signed contract from Royal, she was scared to give up her day job.

  “I’m getting a little sick of this, you know, King?”

  “You say that and yet I hear la petite morte under your breath. You know you love this job. ”

  “I love the money. That’s it. ”

  “You love him, chérie. ”

  Nora closed her eyes and swallowed the growl in the back of her throat.

  “He has nothing to do with this. ” Nora refused to get into a discussion of Søren with Kingsley. Kingsley reported to Søren.

  “Ma petite,” he chided. “You do this for his attention. C’est vrai, oui?”

  “That’s like saying criminals commit crimes to get the cops’ attention. ”

  She heard Kingsley’s soft, heady laugh.

  “Exactement. One hour, maîtresse. ”

  Nora hung up and went to her bedroom. The house was too quiet. She couldn’t hear Wesley anywhere. Usually at this time of day he was working on his homework and listening to music. Or if homework was light that night, he’d be playing his guitar and singing softly to himself. She remembered the first time she’d caught him playing and singing. She’d told him he sounded a little like the nineties band Nelson. He’d said, “Who’s he?” and Nora had thrown a book at him.

  She dressed in her black leather skirt with the back slit and her black-and-red brocade bustier. She found her black gauntlets and pulled them on. They laced up her arms and she had a horrible time tightening the laces and tying them off on her own. She went to find Wesley. He hated that she worked as a professional Dominatrix, but he tolerated it more or less. Before he’d moved in over a year ago she’d explained what she did, what she was. He’d been shocked. He didn’t even know such things existed. He was relieved, however, when she explained she was in no way a prostitute and that she never had sex with clients—not the male clients anyway. They weren’t even allowed to kiss her except on the toe of her boot. No, she was no prostitute, she explained. She was, if anything, a kind of massage therapist who simply inflicted pain instead of pleasure. Despite his shock, Wesley moved in anyway. She’d been so impressed by how well he took it, she’d even told him about Søren.

  “Just don’t ever let me in the same room with him,” Wesley had said when Nora revealed the nature of their relationship.

  “You think you can take Søren?”

  “You said he was, what, forty-five? Eighteen versus forty-five? And any guy who beats up on women doesn’t know what to do around a guy who’d only hit another man. ”

  Nora had laughed then, so hard she’d almost fallen over. Could Wesley get any more precious? When she’d stopped laughing, she’d taken Wesley’s chin in her hand and forced him to meet her eyes. Søren once told her she had the most dangerous eyes of any woman who’d ever lived. He told her when men looked in her eyes they saw their own darkest fears reflected back. Usually she tried to tamp down that particular trick of hers. This time she’d let Wesley see all her fears and all of his in one glance.

  “Kid, Søren could eat you for breakfast and not even need to chew. Don’t ever fuck with a sadist, Wesley. For Søren, torture’s just foreplay. ”

  “Why did you stay with him?” he’d whispered.

  Nora had grinned at him, and she saw a new fear in Wesley’s sweet brown eyes.

  “I like foreplay. ”

  Wesley…she couldn’t find him anywhere. She stood in the living room and noticed a note taped to the door. It said he was at the library but he’d be home around six. And at the bottom of the note were the words he always said when she went out for a job—“You don’t have to do this. ” No, she didn’t have to. But she owed it to Kingsley. Nora grabbed her coat and toy bag and made a quick stop in the bathroom. She took a pill bottle from the medicine cabinet, swallowed one without bothering with water and left.

  It took forty minutes to get to the hotel. Her clients were among the elite of the world—only the wealthiest and most powerful men and women could afford her. Quite a few were even household names. So it was rare she ever went in through the front doors of a home or hotel. But Kingsley hadn’t mentioned the need for discretion so she didn’t bother.

  She strode through the front lobby of one of the grandest and oldest hotels in the city and worried for a second that someone from Royal might recognize her. She shook off the worry—no one who worked in publishing could afford this place. The lobby was littered with women dripping with Prada and men stuffed inside their Armani suits. Nora bit back a smile as she breezed past them in her leather and lace with her black toy bag slung across her back and her sunglasses on even though she
was indoors and it was still winter. She wasn’t ashamed of what she did. But it was fun to be around people who were nervous just being in the same room with her.

  A couple standing near the elevator walked off when she joined them in their waiting. Vanilla people were so cute sometimes. She entered the elevator, hit the button for the nineteenth floor and headed up alone.

  Nora stepped out, got her bearings and made her way to room 1909. A key card lay hidden under a newspaper in front of the door. She unlocked the door, stepped inside and saw a tall, blond man in black standing with his back to her.

  “Hello, Eleanor,” he said.

  Nora gasped and her bag hit the floor with a nervous clatter of metal.

  “Oh, my God…Søren. ”

  * * *

  Zach sat at his desk in his office at Royal. He checked his email one last time before shutting down the computer. He was surprised he hadn’t gotten more of a fight from Nora about paring down her sex scenes. Perhaps she now understood the kind of book she was writing, was starting to understand she could write something erotic without being an erotica writer.

  Straightening the papers on his desk, Zach found a copy of the contract that the legal department had worked up. It wasn’t signed yet. And even if Nora signed it today, it wasn’t valid until he signed it. He looked over the terms. J. P. had been very generous. Royal didn’t dole out significant advances very often. Of course, Nora brought her own impressive fan base with her. Zach knew J. P. hoped she would bring a certain libidinous cachet to the rather staid old publishing house. It was a bold move that might actually pay off if Zach did his job right.

  Zach smiled as he flipped through Nora’s unsigned contract. When he and Grace had bought their first house, the paperwork hadn’t been half this preposterous. Poor Grace. He remembered watching her at their tiny kitchen table in their first horrid little flat they’d rented sight unseen when they’d moved to London. They’d been married less than a year. She thought she was supposed to know what every word of the contract meant, what every clause referred to. She sat for hours poring over every page. He’d leave and come back and she would have another twelve questions to ask him. What did first right of refusal mean? Did they know the assessed value? Did they need a variance if he worked from home?

  It was so damn endearing watching her spend an entire day trying to understand everything as if she thought she should that Zach finally had to come over, shove the papers away and make love to her right on top of their settlement statement. He remembered it so clearly, the shock on her face when the papers scattered to the four winds. She thought he was angry with her. But he remembered her smile when he kissed her so fiercely the table scooted a foot back. He remembered her red hair against the dark wood, how her legs had wrapped around him with almost childlike eagerness as he moved inside her.

  He’d heard once there was nothing like buying a house together to make or break a relationship. That was the day he decided they were going to make it.

  Zach put the contract down, leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes.

  Maybe they should have bought more houses.

  * * *

  An hour later Nora left the hotel and strode to her car cursing Søren under her breath the whole way. She kept cursing, knowing if she let up on the fury for one second, she would collapse into tears. It had been months since they’d spoken. She did everything she could to avoid him. Sometimes she saw him at the club and they only looked at each other across the room while bystanders subtly moved a few steps back like unwitting townspeople caught between two gunslingers. Søren wasn’t on the attack today, however. Worse—he’d wanted to talk.

  Nora ran over their conversation again in her mind. The conversation, as all conversations with him were these days, was rather one-sided. She’d sat on the bed like a child in trouble for staying out too late and ground her foot into the plush carpeting as he stood in front of her and ticked off, one by one, all her multifarious sins. Nora had known him since she was fifteen years old. Shocking how much ammunition one could stockpile in eighteen years.
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