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The Siren, Page 11

Tiffany Reisz

Page 11

  Author: Tiffany Reisz

  And then near the end he’d revealed why he’d gone to the trouble of setting up the meeting. Kingsley had told him she’d been acting different lately—quieter, angrier, desperate to work one day, reluctant the next. She’d explained she was heavy into revisions on her new book, that her new editor was a hard-ass who was giving her the chance and the challenge of a lifetime. Søren seemed skeptical, asking if there might be something she wasn’t telling him. The hour he’d paid for finally up, Nora started to leave. On her way out the door Søren had stopped her with a word—“Wesley. ”

  Nora had turned around slowly. Trying to keep her tone neutral she’d asked, “What about him?”

  “Next time we meet, little one, we will have much more to discuss. ”

  Her heart flinched when he’d used his old pet name for her. But she merely stared at his handsome face, hoisted her toy bag and left. After all these years, all the practice, she was getting good at that. Nora sat behind the wheel of her car and closed her eyes. She said a prayer of thanks Søren hadn’t touched her. That’s what had happened on their last anniversary. She’d gone to his home too late in the evening. She’d let him give her a glass of wine. They’d talked about mutual friends and even played a game of chess at the kitchen table he’d made brutal love to her on so many times. For a few minutes she’d let herself forget that she wasn’t his property anymore. One curl had fallen forward across her face when she’d bent to move her bishop. Søren had reached out and brushed it behind her ear. He’d caressed her cheek with his thumb. Within minutes they were in his bedroom and she was strapped to the bedpost. He’d beaten her so hard that night she’d nearly gagged on her own tears. And when he finally gave up on the pain, he’d untied her and let her collapse into his arms. His darkness spent, he laid her in his bed and made love to her so tenderly she’d cried again. In the past when they were still together, he’d talk to her while inside her. Sometimes he would articulate in shocking detail the intensity of his desire for her. Sometimes he would simply claim her, calling her his property, his possession. That night as he moved in her he spoke in Danish, the language he fell into when his heart was its most open. He’d taught her some Danish when she was a restless teenager. It became one of their secret ways to communicate. She’d forgotten a lot of it in the four years they’d been apart, but she never forgot Jeg elsker dig. It was Danish for “I love you” and he whispered it again and again into her skin.

  Afterward he’d stayed inside her and pulled them into a sitting position at the center of his bed. Her legs wrapped around his waist; her arms twined around his shoulders. He ran his hands up and down her beaten back as he kissed her bare neck. She rocked her hips slowly, relishing having him inside her again after so long.

  “You miss your collar,” he’d said—a statement, not a question. She’d taken it with her when she’d left him four years ago.

  “I miss it. ” She tilted her head back to give him better access to her naked throat. She bent forward again and he kissed her bruised lips. If she pretended it was only today and that there was no yesterday and no tomorrow, she could stay with him forever.

  “You can come back to me, Eleanor. Always. ”

  “I can’t. ” She shook her head. “They need you more than I do. I can’t rip your life in half. ”

  “It is my life,” he’d reminded her. “You tore my life in half the day you ran from me. ”

  “Don’t,” she said, and the tears burned bright in her eyes. Her chest heaved and she clung to him so hard her fingernails bit into his skin. “Don’t say I ran. I didn’t run. It wasn’t running and you know it. You know I didn’t want to leave you. I no more ran from you than I’d ever run into a burning building. I could never run from you. ”

  He laughed at her vehemence.

  “Then what would you call it if it wasn’t running, little one?” He pressed his lips to her forehead.

  “I crawled. ” She tried to smile for him. “It’s what I’m good at after all. ”

  He wrapped his arms even tighter around her. She prayed he’d chain her to his bed and make her stay there the rest of her life. But she knew he’d let her go at dawn. He wouldn’t keep her against her will even if against her will was what she wanted.

  “When you come back to me—” he began and she pulled back to meet his eyes.

  “I won’t. ”

  “If you come back to me,” he said, making a rare concession, “will you run or will you crawl?”

  Nora had pressed her whole body into him at that moment. Resting her head on his strong shoulder, she watched as a tear forged a river down his long and muscled back.

  “I’ll fly. ”

  To Søren she knew that night was proof that she still belonged to him. But to Wesley it was a waking nightmare when he’d seen the welts and bruises, her cracked lip, her purpling cheek. It took her a solid hour to convince him she didn’t need to go to the hospital. For some reason telling him she’d had worse didn’t seem to comfort him. For the second time in twenty-four hours, she’d had to beg.

  “It’s not violence,” she’d tried to tell him. “It’s love. Some loves only come out after dark, Wes. ”

  “Not with me, Nora. Don’t pull that writer romance crap on me. He beats you and you let him. And if this is love then he shouldn’t love you anymore,” Wesley had said on his way to the front door, his clothes in a duffel bag and his guitar case across his back.

  “I wish he didn’t. For his sake and mine. For yours, too. ”

  Something in her voice changed his mind. He’d dropped his duffel by the floor and set his guitar down. He’d walked back to her and wrapped his arms gingerly around her. He’d been so careful not to hurt her. She’d cried then for the pain she’d caused him. Wesley had gone with her to her room and helped her take her shirt off. She lay on her stomach in her bed while he iced her bruises and put antibiotic ointment on her welts. They hadn’t talked while he helped her. But when she was finally comfortable enough to sleep, Wesley had told her his decision. He couldn’t stop her from working, but if she ever went back to Søren again, ever let him hurt her again, Wesley was gone. It was like asking her to close her eyes and never open them again, but for Wesley, she’d agreed.

  Nora drove home and put her regular clothes back on and decided that once and for all she was cutting off all contact with Søren. She knew it would be hard considering that they ran in the same circle but she would find a way. She would never talk to him again. Not after he’d tricked her into seeing him.

  Nora paused in her bedroom and took slow, deep breaths. She checked the clock—6:36. Wesley should have been home from the library half an hour ago. She went to his bedroom—no backpack, no keys. She called his cell phone and no one picked up. She waited another half hour thinking he was just pissed at her for answering her hotline. But she knew Wesley—he wasn’t the vindictive type. She called his cell phone again. No answer. By seven-thirty she was scared. By eight-thirty she was terrified. At nine she gave up and called the only person besides Wesley she trusted completely.

  The phone rang only once.

  “Søren, I need your help,” she said as soon as he answered. The fear clutched at her throat like a claw. “I can’t find my Wesley. ”


  At nine-thirty Zach still remained in his office reading through Nora’s rewritten chapters. Going with third person had opened the book up. The prose was more atmospheric in third person. He needed to talk to her about the end of chapter three, however. She was sliding into self-reflection when what she needed was a strong plot element.

  He picked up his phone and dialed her number. She answered on the first ring.

  “Nora, it’s Zach. ”

  “Dammit, Zach. I can’t talk right now. I’m busy. ” She sounded angry for some reason. Angry and out of breath.

  Busy and breathless…he knew immediately what she was busy doing.

  “You’re on my time now, Nora. I don’t care what you’re doing. The book is more important. ”

  “Fuck the book. ”

  “Nora, I went out on a limb to work with you. If you think—”

  “You don’t want to know what I’m thinking right now. ”

  Zach sat back in his chair. What had happened to the Nora he’d shared cocoa with just a few days ago? She’d been so passionate about her book then, so interested in all of his ideas.

  “I’m thinking you obviously don’t have your priorities in order. ”

  He heard Nora take a hard breath.

  “Then fuck you, too, Zach. ” She hung up.

  Zach set his phone down and stared at it. He expected to feel furious but instead his heart dropped. Apart from J. P. and Mary, Zach hadn’t felt any connection with anyone since coming to New York. Then he’d met Nora and as exasperating as she was, she was also funny, beautiful and made him feel alive again. And she had been the first person who’d seemed to care about him. Now she’d yanked away from him, away from the book. He knew they wouldn’t and couldn’t ever be lovers. But he’d thought they might be able to forge something like a friendship while they worked together. What the hell had happened?

  The phone rang again and Zach answered it immediately, hoping to hear Nora on the other end. Instead the chief managing ditor of Royal West in L. A. started speaking. Zach had only spoken to her once or twice after he’d been offered her job once she retired. Now she was telling him he could come out sooner if he liked since she’d heard he didn’t have much to hold him in New York. She wouldn’t mind sharing her office for a couple of weeks while he got acclimated. Might ease the transition for the staff. Still reeling from his fight with Nora, Zach promised her he’d think about it.

  After all, he agreed, there really wasn’t anything keeping him in New York.

  He hung up the phone again and pulled on his coat. Glancing down, he saw Nora’s manuscript sitting on his desk. He picked it up and tossed it into the recycling bin.

  “Fuck you, too, Nora. ”

  * * *

  Nora paced the hallways of her house with her private cell phone in her hand and her hotline phone in her pocket. Wesley didn’t have her hotline number but she knew either Kingsley or Søren would call her back soon. Søren had connections at every hospital within eighty miles, and Kingsley had half the judges, attorneys and police chiefs in the tristate area in his back pocket. Between the two of them, one of them should be able to find Wesley.

  She’d gone into his room and dug through his desk trying to find any of his friends’ phone numbers. But they were all programmed into his cell phone and his cell phone was with him, wherever he was. She tore through his closet, his dirty clothes hamper, and found nothing to help her hunt him down.

  Nora sat on the edge of his bed and opened his nightstand. She knew Wesley would be less than thrilled she was digging through his things. He’d probably get quite the shock if he saw what she kept in her nightstand. But she didn’t find anything helpful or incriminating—ChapStick and a spare set of keys to his car. Under the file of his medical stuff she found a small photo album. Pulling it out she smiled through tears when she flipped it open and found it full of pictures from last summer.

  Leafing through the pages of photos she remembered…

  At first she’d been suspicious when Wesley had woken her up early on a Saturday morning in May and told her to get up and put on jeans and boots. He’d driven that day in his beat-up yellow VW bug, and they’d listened to weird music the whole way there. “Who is this?” she’d asked. “Wilco. ” “Who’s this?” “The Decembrists. ” Finally he’d demanded to know what the last album she bought was. She thought for a good five minutes before remembering—Ill Communication, the Beastie Boys, 1994. Wesley would have been a toddler and she’d been fifteen or sixteen years old.