The siren, p.24
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       The Siren, p.24
 

         Part #1 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
Page 24

  Author: Tiffany Reisz

  He raised his head, picked up the phone and dialed. After two rings Wesley answered.

  “She’s not here, Zach. Want to leave a message?”

  “Does she have her mobile on her? Do you know where she is?”

  “She’s in your office, Zach. ”

  Zach looked up and found Nora standing in his office doorway. She knocked twice on the open door and waited.

  “Never mind, Wesley. She’s here. ” Zach hung up. “How are you, Nora?”

  “We need to talk about the blow job. ”

  Zach stood up and rushed around his desk. He pulled her inside the office and shut the door behind her.

  “The blow job scene in my book. ” She raised her voice as Zach sat at his desk again.

  “You will be the death of me. You realize that, don’t you?”

  “I have no idea what you’re talking about. I’m here to discuss my book with my editor. I still have an editor, don’t I?”

  “Of course. I’ve been busy this week. ”

  “Busy ignoring me. ”

  “I have responded to everything you’ve sent me. ”

  “Yes, with notes and polite suggestions. I don’t need polite suggestions. Polite doesn’t help me. How do I know what I’m doing right if you aren’t telling me what I’m doing wrong? I need you to be angry again, not polite. I think I liked it better when you hated me. ”

  “I never hated you. ” Zach forced himself to meet her eyes. He took a deep breath and sat up straighter in his chair. “I never hated you or the book. It’s only…about Saturday night—”

  Nora opened her mouth and he raised his hand.

  “About Saturday night,” he began again. “I need to apologize. ”

  Nora looked at him in wide-eyed surprise. “Zach—”

  “Please, let me finish. I’m terribly sorry about what happened. I had too much to drink, and I was still reeling from Grace’s last email. That’s no excuse, I realize. I shouldn’t have taken advantage of you in your condition. It was foolish and reckless and I—”

  “Zach, seriously. You have to stop,” Nora said and laughed.

  Zach stared at her. She shook her head.

  “You know why I’m here? I came to apologize to you,” she said.

  “Whatever for?”

  “I thought I was here to apologize to you for taking advantage of you in your condition, but apparently I’m the victim here. Novel sensation for me, being the victim. Not sure I like it. ”

  “Nora, I’m your editor. ”

  “Yes, my gorgeous editor with his poshy British accent and his ice-colored eyes and tennis player arms with the veins running from the wrist to the elbow. Oh, no, please don’t ever force me to go down on you again, Mr. Easton. It’s a fate worse than death. ”

  “This isn’t a bloody joke. ”

  “No, it’s not a joke. It’s a blow job. ”

  “Will you please stop saying that?”

  “Fine. I fellated you, sucked you off, gave you an Oscar Wilde. But call it what you will, Zach, I handcuffed you to my desk and blew you back to England. And for some reason you aren’t thrilled that happened. It’s a bit of a, forgive me, blow to the ego, but I’ll survive. What I want to know is why you’re taking it so personally. ”

  Zach sat back in his chair and counted the days until he was on a plane to California. If he were on a plane to California right now, a plane to anywhere, he wouldn’t be having the most humiliating conversation of his life.

  “I take it personally because that night was the first night I’d been intimate with any woman other than my wife in over ten years. That may seem rather bourgeois to you, but I’m afraid I’m terribly bourgeois when it comes to matters of infidelity—”

  “She’s moved on. ”

  Zach ignored the comment.

  “Not to mention taking advantage of a woman I have some modicum of power over. ”

  “Power? You think you have power over me? You wouldn’t know what to do with yourself if you had power over me. You are helping me make my book publishable. You work for me as much as I work for you. ”

  “I have the power to decide if your book gets published. I alone have the final say. ”

  Nora stood up and walked around the desk. She sat on the top and crossed her legs. Her knees and thighs were at Zach’s eye level. Zach refused to look at her legs, her sheer stockings and short red skirt and the boots that went up to her knees. He met her eyes and waited.

  “If I gagged you right now and put you flat on your back and fucked you seven ways till Sunday right here on this fine mahogany desk…would you sign my contract?” she asked.

  “Absolutely not. And that’s not going to happen. ” Zach forced back the flood of images her words conjured in his mind.

  Nora slid off the desk and onto her knees next to his chair.

  “What if I just gave you my best Oscar Wilde again every day for the next three weeks? Would you sign my contract then?”

  “Nora, you can’t buy your contract with sexual favors. ” Zach reached down and pulled Nora up off the floor. “I told you I wouldn’t sign it until I’d read the very last page and I meant it. ”

  “I know you meant it. That’s my point. I probably could buy off a lesser man with sex, a lesser editor. But you and I both know that even if we’d had sex ten times Saturday night, you still wouldn’t sign my contract until the book was perfect. You might think less of me, or yourself more likely, but you’d read the book with the same eyes that see every flaw and the same mind that knows how to fix it. You’re just afraid to be mean to my face because you think I’ll think it was about Saturday night. Be as mean to me as you want, Zach. Trust me. ” She leaned forward and met him eye to eye. “I like mean. ”

  Zach looked into her eyes and saw they burned black as night. In them writhed the shades and shadows of the things she’d seen and done; things that he couldn’t and didn’t want to imagine.

  Nodding, Zach glanced away.

  “Very well. I’m sorry I’ve disappointed you this week. ” He stood up. “You’ll have my snide, churlish, cantankerous and bitter best from now on,” he pledged.

  “God, I love a man with a big vocabulary. ” Nora wrapped her arms around his neck. Despite how much he wanted to leave them there, Zach took her arms and pulled them off him.

  “But this can’t happen,” he said. “Saturday night can’t happen again. ”

  “It can, and will in a few days. Saturday night happens at least once a week. ”

  “No more jokes. You know what I mean. ”

  “And you know I’m right. We could fuck all we wanted—”

  “Perhaps I don’t want to. ”

  Nora took a step back and Zach cursed himself for his inability to say what he meant without hurting her.

  “Zach, you had how many shots Saturday night, and I was still able to get you off with, let’s be honest, minimal effort on my part? Don’t pretend you aren’t attracted to me. ”

  “Attracted or not, we can’t sleep together. And not just because of the book. ”

  Nora moved closer. She seemed to be studying him.

  “You act like you’re afraid of me, Zach. But you’re not afraid of me at all, are you?”

  “I’m terrified of you. ”

  “No, you’re not. I know guys like you. You worship women, put them on pedestals, think they’re fragile and perfect. That’s why even though it was you on your back in the handcuffs Saturday night, you’re the one doing the apologizing. Zach…you’re afraid of yourself. ”

  “I’m not—”

  “You are. I’ve never known a grown man to be so afraid of his own desires. What happened to you? What did you do that’s made you so afraid to let go?”

  “This meeting is over. ”

  “Tell me. Whatever it is, I promise I’ve done worse. ”

  “Believe me, N
ora, you’ve never done this. ”

  “It was Grace, wasn’t it? What did you do to her?”

  Nora’s words pummeled into him but he couldn’t tell her to stop. He knew whatever pain she inflicted he deserved.

  “Please,” he whispered.

  “You know how to beg. That’s a good start. ”

  “No more games, either. I’m not like you. ”

  “We’re more alike than you want to admit. ”

  “I’m not—” he paused and looked for the right word “—free like you. ”

  “You could be. ” She took another step closer. “I can show you if you’ll let me. The world I live in, you’ve never seen such freedom. Freedom like you can’t even begin to imagine. Try, Zach. ”

  “I can’t. ” The sadness settled over him again.

  “Come with me,” Nora said. Zach felt himself falling under the spell her words were weaving. “Let me show you what life is like lived in the moment. No past, no future, just the one perfect moment you’re standing in and there’s no guilt and there’s no shame and there’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of…”

  Zach closed his eyes and tried to imagine her world. But once his eyes closed he could see only darkness and he could smell only the copper of fresh fallen blood.

  “I’m sorry. ”

  Nora was still looking at him when he opened his eyes.

  “Fuck your sorry,” she said with angry eyes and turned on her heel. “I’ve got a book to write. ”

  16

  Three weeks left…

  “Why do you stay with me?” William asked. With his fingertip, he traced the outline of a welt that ran shoulder to shoulder across her back.

  Caroline turned over in bed to face him. “Because of the Wives of Weinsburg,” she said as if it were the most obvious answer in the world.

  “I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the ladies of which you speak. ” William ran his hand over her hip and she shivered at the sensation. For all the pain he inflicted on her, he resolved every day to inflict equal pleasure.

  “They may only be a legend. I like to think they were real. Once the city of Weinsburg in Germany was under siege. The enemy emperor was dangerous but not unmerciful. When it became inevitable that the city would fall, the men of Weinsberg pleaded for their women, that they be allowed to flee with their lives. The emperor relented and allowed the women to leave the city with only the valuables they could carry on their backs. The day came and the gates of the city opened and the emperor watched in shock as the women stumbled through the gates nearly breaking under the weight of their husbands and fathers who they carried on their backs. Their love humbled the emperor and he declared all would be spared. ”

  “For these women who may or may not exist you stay with me?” he asked, laughing at her as usual.

  Caroline reached out to touch his face but pulled her hand back. He’d taught her so well not to touch him without permission. There were moments he regretted how well he’d trained her.

  “Every day you battle an enemy I cannot fight with you or for you. But if there is ever a chance for a reprieve, then I will bear you across the world on my back to see you finally at peace. ”

  William smiled at the twenty-year-old child who loved him more than he could or would ever deserve.

  “But what if the enemy you think I fight isn’t the enemy at all?” he asked, reaching out to take her face in his hand. He forced her to meet his gaze and for a moment he let his eyes fill with all his darkest desires. “What if this enemy is only me?”

  Caroline didn’t flinch at what she saw. He had taught her that, as well.

  “Then I will save you from yourself. ”
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