Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Siren, Page 21

Tiffany Reisz

Page 21

  Author: Tiffany Reisz

  Zach tapped his knee with his half-empty shot glass.

  “It began very badly. I would say we were doomed from the start. ”

  Nora slid off her desk and sank to the floor in front of him. He thought it looked like an excellent idea. He joined her on the floor and leaned back against the chair.

  He watched Nora take down the whiskey bottle and pour another shot.

  “That year after I left Søren, I became obsessed with one question—when was it, when were we, irrevocable? When did all the little tumblers fall into place and our fate was locked in and it became impossible for us to be anything other than what we became? When was the guilty moment?”

  “Did you find your answer?”

  Nora shook her head. “Never. I suppose doom and destiny are just two sides of the same coin. ”

  “I don’t have to ask or wonder. I know my guilty moment. But you left your lover and mine left me. You could go back to yours, couldn’t you?”

  “Zach, Søren isn’t some boyfriend you have a fight with and then kiss and make up. He’s the invading army you surrender to before it burns your village down. ”

  “He sounds even more dangerous than you are. ”

  “He is. By far. He’s also the best man I’ve ever known. Tell me about Grace. What’s she like?”

  Zach paused before answering. How could he describe his wife to anyone? To him Grace was the open arms he fell into when he crawled into bed at 2:00 a. m. after staying up reading a new manuscript. She was the laughing water thief in the shower at least one morning a week. She was the quiet comfort and the hand he’d been unable to let go of at his mother’s funeral three years ago. Unable to get the words past his throat, Grace had taken his notes from his hand and read his eulogy for him. She was every evening and every morning and every night, and during the day when they were apart he was always happy knowing evening and night and morning were coming again.

  “Grace is…well-named. She’s intelligent, far smarter than I. A poet and a schoolteacher,” Zach said as the alcohol swirled around his head. “She has red hair and the most perfect freckles I’ve ever seen on a woman. ” Zach closed his eyes. The first time he’d seen her completely naked when they’d made love in his bed the first time, he’d almost stopped breathing. “Even on her back all the way to her hips…the most perfect dusting of freckles. ”

  “Freckles? That’s just ruthless, isn’t it?”

  “Merciless. No woman that beautiful should also have freckles. ” Zach laughed mirthlessly. “She would lie across my lap in the evenings and read her obscure Welsh poets while I worked on a manuscript. Once she fell asleep on my lap. I used my red pen to connect all the freckles on her lower back. She was livid. We laughed for days about it. ”

  “You had a good marriage. What happened?”

  Zach stared at Nora. She sat two feet away from him but it seemed an ocean of truth and lies and memories lay between them. He held out his shot glass. She refilled it with a shaky hand. Zach drank the whiskey and enjoyed the burn all the way down.

  “This is a terrible game. ” He closed his eyes and leaned back against the chair.

  “I know a better one. ”

  Something in Nora’s voice sobered him up momentarily. He opened his eyes and Nora now sat even closer to him. She had something behind her back.

  Zach reached out and brushed her cheek with the back of his hand. He raised his hand to her hair, pulled the ink pens out and watched the dark curls fall around her face.

  “How long has it been?” Nora asked, her voice soft and insinuating.

  “Thirteen months. ” He didn’t have to ask what Nora meant by her question. He didn’t have to think before he answered it.

  “How long’s it been for Grace?”

  Zach took a hard breath.

  “Less than thirteen months. Friday…she emailed me. Bill questions, addresses, all sorts of marital flotsam. She casually mentioned some bloke named Ian. ”

  Nora winced.

  “How casually?”

  “Not casually enough for me to not picture them in bed together. It’s my own fault. When we decided there was a chance our marriage was going to work—we made each other promise no secrets and no lies. I told her I could get over anything, even straying, as long as she didn’t lie to me about it. I hate lying more than anything. ” Zach shook his head. “Here we are eight months separated and she still can’t lie to me about anything, damn that girl. ”

  Zach looked at Nora and saw something flash across her eyes, some secret worry of her own.

  “I’m sorry,” Nora said and Zach could tell she meant it. Zach ran a single finger over Nora’s forehead and down her face. With his thumb he caressed her full bottom lip.

  “Thank you. So what’s the new game? This one’s about to drive me to quit drinking. ”

  “Perish the thought. Ever played ‘I’ve never’?”

  “I’ve never played I’ve never. ” Zach knew he was as drunk now as he’d been in a long time.

  “Fun game. Very easy. I say something I’ve never done, and if you’ve actually done it then you take a shot. ”

  “What haven’t you done?”

  “A few things. For example, I’ve never…” She leaned in toward him. She moved close enough he could smell her perfume and even taste it on his burning tongue, close enough to feel the heat radiating from her body. “I’ve never let an erotica writer handcuff me to her desk and go down on me. ”

  Something caught in Zach’s throat. He looked into Nora’s eyes and felt the foundations of his resolve shudder. He’d never let a woman handcuff him and do anything to him. But tonight…he looked down at his shot glass.

  “Never done that. Never will. ”

  “You sure about that?” Nora stared him down. He reached out to touch her knee, and she slapped the handcuffs on his right wrist. “Look familiar? I thought we should put your prankster’s gift to good use at least once. ”

  “You’re out of your mind. ”

  “And you’re so turned on right now you can hardly breathe. Your pupils are dilated, your skin is flushed, and it’s not from the whiskey and we both know it. ”

  Zach met her eyes and said nothing.

  “Thirteen months, Zach. You don’t need to be afraid of me anymore. ”

  He had a vague memory of standing on Nora’s porch thinking that if he crossed her threshold tonight for any reason other than her book everything would change between them. Zach took the shot glass in his hand. He looked down at the amber liquid and then back into Nora’s eyes. Raising the glass to his lips, he downed his shot. He watched a grin spread ear to ear across Nora’s face. For a single moment she was all smiles.

  “Good boy. ”

  For someone he thought was as drunk as he, Nora moved with a swiftness and precision that almost terrified him. She pushed him on his back, yanked his arms over his head and cuffed his wrists around the leg of her desk. Straddling him at the stomach, Nora unbuttoned her black silk pajama top and let it slide off her arms. He felt the wisp of silk brush his face before she threw it aside and on top of his coat. Under her shirt she wore a black bra that revealed far more than it concealed. He couldn’t take his eyes off her curves, off her pale skin and shoulders.

  Nora slid her hands under his T-shirt. Her hands on his bare skin sent every nerve firing. She bent over and kissed the center of his stomach. Unzipping his jeans, she worked them down low enough to expose the top of his hips. Zach inhaled sharply when she bit his hip bone.


  Nora rose up and covered his lips with one finger.

  “Søren used to call me his Siren,” she whispered, bending over him until she hovered an inch away from his face. “He said the things I did with my mouth could blow any man off course. Don’t you want to know what he meant by that?”

  Zach didn’t answer but Nora didn’t seem
to care. She started at his neck and kissed her way down his body. A soft sigh escaped his lips as she took him in her mouth. Not even all that alcohol could blunt the pleasure of what her tongue, her lips did to him. Her hair covered her face like a veil. The tendrils of her curls tickled his stomach.

  So long…it had been so long since he’d felt something so intense, so sharp that he could almost mistake the pleasure for pain. Zach ached to touch Nora but when he tried he remembered the handcuffs.

  “Relax, Zach. Just enjoy. ” Nora paused to kiss his stomach again. “Your only job right now is to surrender. ”

  Surrender? He’d forgotten how. He took a deep breath and laid his head back as she kept working on him. Pressure built deep in his hips.

  “Nora,” he gasped a warning that she didn’t heed. He flinched hard and came with a ragged breath. Through the haze of alcohol and orgasm he saw Nora sit up on his thighs. She picked up the whiskey, poured it and downed him and the shot in one swallow.

  She looked down at him.

  “I love a whiskey chaser. ”

  * * *

  Zach opened his eyes and immediately regretted the decision. He closed them again when he realized he wasn’t in his flat. He was still at Nora’s.

  With grave reservations, Zach dragged himself to a sitting position. The movement jarred his already ringing skull and had the unfortunate side effect of jarring his memory into recalling last night’s events. Nora and he had… No, almost. Zach leaned back and rested his aching eyes. Shame flooded his system when he remembered how he’d succumbed to her and let her… God, he let his writer go down on him.

  Zach opened his eyes again and looked around. He sat fully dressed and on Nora’s living-room sofa, not in her bedroom. Where she was he had no idea. He stood and wandered to her office but she was nowhere to be seen. He picked up her phone and called for a taxi to take him to the train station. He hung up and found the downstairs bathroom. On the mirror Nora had taped a note—“Morning, Sunshine,” it read. “Catholics-1, Scousers-0. ” Zach ripped the note off the mirror and tossed it in the wastebasket. He noticed she’d left a toothbrush out for him and a bottle of aspirin. He made quick use of both. When he opened the medicine cabinet door to return the aspirin to the shelf, his eyes caught Nora’s name on a pill bottle. He knew he was being shamefully nosy but he couldn’t stop himself from squinting his aching eyes to read the label. Why on earth, Zach wondered, would Nora take a beta-blocker, the same drug his father had to take for his heart trouble? Zach couldn’t believe someone who seemed as alive and vibrant as Nora could have such a serious health problem. With a shaking hand, Zach returned the bottle to the cabinet and shut the door.

  Stumbling from the bathroom, Zach heard a noise coming from the direction of the kitchen. Every part of him wanted to grab his coat and leave before anyone noticed he’d awoken. But he knew he’d have to face the morning-after awkwardness sooner or later. And after finding that terrifying pill bottle, he had to see Nora and make sure she was well.

  He found Nora and Wesley bustling about the kitchen attempting to cook breakfast in a manner that appeared more combative than collaborative.

  “Jesus H. Christ, Wesley,” Nora said with feigned anger. “Cheese omelets have to have cheese or they’re just flat scrambled eggs. ”

  “Woman, Wisconsin is out of cheese now because of your omelet. ” Wesley smacked her hand as she tried to put more cheese on the eggs. “Set the table and stop being a backseat chef. ”

  Nora took plates out of the cabinet and Zach winced at the clattering sound of the ceramic dishes knocking against each other.

  “Could we possibly use paper plates?” he asked as he stepped into the kitchen. “They’re quieter. ”

  Nora turned and smiled at him. He saw nothing in the smile but friendliness and concern. Had he imagined what happened between them last night?