The Siren, Page 12Tiffany Reisz
Author: Tiffany Reisz
After a long drive they’d arrived at a farm—a horse farm. Wesley had told her that he’d grown up around horses. From what he’d said it sounded as if his father worked as a horse trainer and his mother did the books at a horse farm in Central Kentucky. But that was the first day she’d actually seen Wesley around the big animals. For someone as blessed by Mother Nature as he was in the looks department, he often seemed nervous and unsure of himself. But the second they hit the stables he became a different person. Walking right up to them, he slapped their sides with sure hands. For a good forty-five minutes he took a turn on three or four different horses, saddling them, and riding them around the paddock.
“Being a little picky, aren’t you, kid?” she’d asked him. “Just get a horse for yourself and let’s go. ”
“I’m not picking one for me. ” He dismounted nimbly from a large Appaloosa. “I can ride anything. I’m trying to find one for you. You need something tame since you’re a rookie. ”
“I’ll take anything but a gelding,” she’d told him.
“What’s wrong with geldings?”
“We won’t have anything to talk about. ”
Wesley had laughed then, open and easy, and for a moment she saw the man he would become in ten or twenty years—strong and kind, growing a little more handsome and a little less innocent with every year that passed. She envied the woman he’d end up with. Lucky lady indeed. Finally, after the fourth horse, he’d found her a young buckskin mare named Speakeasy.
“She’s smart and submissive—perfect for a first-timer. ” Wesley handed her the reins.
“Smart and submissive—I should introduce you to Søren,” she whispered in Speakeasy’s twitching ear. “Do you like riding crops, too?”
Nora remembered following him back into the stables to watch him pick his horse. A teenage girl walked with Wesley giving him suggestions. Nora watched as the pretty girl cast adoring glances at Wesley while Wesley had eyes only for the horses.
“He’ll do. ” Wesley picked out a large heavily muscled sorrel. “What’s his name?”
“Bastinado,” the stable-girl said. “The boss named him that. Don’t know why. ”
“Is he bad about stepping on your feet?” Nora had asked.
“Very bad about it. ” The girl looked at Nora for the first time. “How did you know?”
“Bastinado—it’s a fancy term for foot torture. ” Both Wesley and the stable-girl had stared at her with wide eyes. “What?”
Wesley saddled his horse with effortless proficiency. Nora watched his knowing fingers as they tightened the stirrups and adjusted the rigging. He swung up into the saddle, shoved his straw cowboy hat on his blond head, shifted his hips and took the leather reins as though he’d been born on a horse. Nora took a slow breath and silently repeated her Wesley mantra.
Look but don’t touch…look but don’t touch…
They’d gone easy that day since it was her first time on a horse. The sprawling farm had miles of trails connected to it. Wesley led them down paths that meandered all over the scenic hillside. They stopped every few minutes and took pictures. Nora flipped through the album and remembered when they’d passed over a small creek. Wesley must have sensed her apprehension because he took her reins and led both their horses easily through it.
Nora turned to another page and found her favorite photo. Wesley had bent over the saddle to pat Bastinado on the neck when Nora had snapped the picture. Wesley looked up just in time to flash her his million-watt smile. Nora closed the album and started to slide it in the drawer when she noticed another photo—this one in a frame and hidden all the way at the back. “Wes…” Nora breathed, looking at the picture of her and Speakeasy alone together. She remembered the moment the photo was captured. She had dismounted and was rubbing her horse down after they were done riding. She thought Wesley was taking a picture of the rolling pasture behind her. She’d pushed her sunglasses on top of her head and pressed her forehead to Speakeasy’s. Tendrils of her hair had gone loose and wild around her face. Her eyes were closed in the picture and she wore a smile of pure happiness. She couldn’t believe Wesley had framed the photo. She looked so silly in it.
Nora put everything back in his nightstand the way she found it and stretched out on Wesley’s bed. She ran through every possible scenario in her mind—was he sick? Car accident? Lost his phone? Lost his mind? Did he have his insulin pen with him? Did he have his med-alert bracelet on? She knew Wesley. He’d call her if he was going to be five minutes late. Another college boy she wouldn’t have worried about. Any other college sophomore was surely out at a party or a bar or back in some girl’s dorm room. Not her Wesley—apart from occasionally sleeping in on Saturdays, he woke up at the same time every day, came home at the same time every day. He had to keep his meals regular because of his insulin injections. He had to get plenty of sleep. He worked out at the school gym every day. He didn’t drink, didn’t do drugs, didn’t smoke, didn’t have sex. He went to class, he went to church, he went home for Thanksgiving and Christmas…he was the most boring teenage boy alive. Alive…please let him be alive.
Nora closed her eyes and turned onto her side. She could smell Wesley’s warm, clean scent on his pillows. For the first time in a long time she prayed with everything within her.
God, I know You’re probably still pissed about Søren, and I really don’t blame You. But please don’t take Your wrath out on Wesley. Flog me all You want. He doesn’t deserve it.
At 4:30 a. m. she was still wide-awake and staring at his ceiling when her red hotline phone rang. She sat straight up and found her hands were shaking so much she could barely hit the answer button.
“King, please tell me you know something. ”
“Oui, chérie. Your intern is a most interesting young man. ”
“Just tell me where he is. Is he okay?”
“He’s in the hospital, but he is unharmed if rather the worse for wear. ”
“What happened?” Nora ran a hand through her hair. She leaned over and breathed through her fear and relief.
“A comely little nurse took a peek at his chart for me. Something called DKA? Is that familiar to you?”
Nora’s hands went numb at the initials. “It’s diabetic ketoacidosis. It can be fatal. ”
Kingsley rattled off the story sliding in and out of French as he did so. From what she gleaned from his hasty bilingual recitation, Wesley had gotten sick at the library and passed out after throwing up several times in the bathroom. He’d been admitted to the hospital in full-blown DKA.
“Which hospital?” she asked. “What room? Please tell me he’s at General. ”
“Oui. I’ve already called Dr. Jonas. ”
“Tell him I’ll give him the freebie of his dreams if he can get me in. ”
“No freebies, mistress. He’s already promised to help any way he can. He would never cross La Maîtresse. ”
“Great. Wonderful. Where is he? ICU?”
“PICU,” Kingsley said and laughed. Nora laughed a little, too. They’d put Wesley in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. “Mais chérie, you cannot go. ”
“Fuck you. Of course I can. ”
“His parents flew in. They’re with him. ”
Nora swore. Wesley would kill her if she turned up at his bedside with his parents sitting right there. He did everything he could to keep her a secret from them. His parents would yank him back to Kentucky so fast his head would spin if they discovered he was living with an infamous erotica writer—especially one who worked as a Dominatrix. Jaded New York parents wouldn’t let their kids near her much less these conservative Southerners.
“Forget it. Just tell me where he is. ”
Nora jotted down his hospital room number.
“Thanks, King. I owe you. ”
“Pas moi. Our mutual friend was the one who found where they’d taken your pet. ”
“Then tell him we’re even now for him tricking me. ”
Nora hung up the phone and ran to her room. She threw water on her face and changed clothes again. At 6:00 a. m. she arrived at the hospital and found Dr. Jonas. He explained that Wesley ended up in the PICU because the ICU was full. Nora told him not to tell Wesley that.
He brought her down several hallways past dozens of hospital rooms. She glanced at the figure of a priest talking quietly to a family in tears in one room. Nora lowered her eyes respectfully and kept walking. Passing through a set of double doors, they entered the pediatric ICU. Teddy bears holding balloons were painted on the walls. Oh, yes, she’d never let Wes hear the end of this. Dr. Jonas put his finger over his lips and left her by room 518. She stood outside the open door and listened intently—a woman’s voice with a heavy Southern accent, his mother’s she guessed, loudly whispered to a man with a softer accent. In hushed tones they went back and forth about how they never should have let their son move so far from home for college. Fighting was a good sign. That meant Wesley was out of the woods. But her relief was short-lived. His mother sounded determined to have him back in Kentucky again while his father argued that he was old enough to be on his own, that they couldn’t keep an eye on him forever. Nora found herself nodding her agreement with his father. But she could hear the distress in his mother’s voice, the pain and the fear and the wrought-iron determination. Wesley’s mom wanted him home with her to keep an eye on him. Nora felt the same way.
Nora didn’t know what to do. She found Dr. Jonas again and made him call Wesley’s attending physician. Wesley was in and out of consciousness after they’d brought him in, but he’d been awake and speaking a few hours ago. They’d stabilized his insulin levels and he’d be clear to go home in a day or two. Apparently Wesley wasn’t absorbing his insulin as well as he needed to. He might need to start using a bigger needle. Nora ached with sympathy. Wesley loathed needles. He always injected himself in his upper left arm where he couldn’t see the needle going in. Shoving needles into his own thighs or stomach would probably kill him before it cured him.
Dr. Jonas told her he’d call Kingsley if he heard anything else but there was nothing Nora could do for him now. She might as well go home.
Reluctantly, Nora left the hospital. She drove home and decided she would let herself sleep. She checked the clock—almost 8:00 a. m. She’d been awake for over twenty-four hours.
Once in her driveway Nora turned off her car. But after that she lost the energy to do anything else. She leaned forward on the steering wheel and cried tears of relief, exhaustion and fear. Wesley’s mother was the proverbial steel magnolia and she clearly wanted her son back home. Nora prayed Wesley had learned the fine art of telling someone off while living under her roof.
Telling someone off…
Nora leaned her head back against the headrest.
She turned the car back on and headed south toward Manhattan.
The next morning Zach headed straight to J. P. ’s office without even bothering to stop in his own first.
J. P. looked up from his reading and blanched.
“I am reminded of the last words of Emily Dickinson at this moment,” J. P. said. “The fog is rising. ”
“I’m done with her. ”
J. P. stared at him over the top of his glasses. “Easton, she could make Royal a great deal of money. ”
“Find another editor then. I don’t care if we publish her or not. But I’m finished. Patricia Grier called me last night. She said I’m welcome to come out to L. A. a few weeks early and work with her. It’s not a bad idea. ”
“It’s a terrible idea. The staff won’t know who’s in charge. You won’t know who’s in charge. She’ll undermine you. You’ll undermine her. Regime change has to be quick and dramatic for it to be effective. ”