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The Siren, Page 26

Tiffany Reisz

Page 26

  Author: Tiffany Reisz

  Nora watched Wesley’s face.

  “I like Zach,” he said. “I didn’t at first, but I do now. He’s a really good guy. ”

  She cocked her head and looked at him.

  “I agree. Wholeheartedly. ”

  “I think you should tell him, you know, about the other job. ”

  Nora’s stomach tightened.

  “I will. I promise I will. But not yet. I want him to read the book with clear eyes. If I tell him what I do he’ll think I’m just writing a knock-off memoir with the names changed instead of real fiction. If and when he signs the contract, then I’ll tell him,” she promised.

  Nora left Wesley in his room and headed to the kitchen. She only made it as far as the living room when she heard a knock on her door. She glanced at the clock. Who would be stopping by her house at almost eight o’clock at night?

  Nora went to the door and opened it. Zach stood on the other side looking flushed and sheepish and so handsome she had to force her heart to slow its frantic beating.

  She said nothing, only raised an eyebrow and waited.

  “I know why he calls you his Siren,” Zach said without preamble.

  Nora grinned at him.

  “You finally decide to let me blow you off course?”

  “Yes. I think. I’m not sure, but I know I can’t keep living like this, Nora. ”

  Nora reached out her hand and this time Zach took it in his. His strong hand felt so good wrapped around hers she was afraid that now she had it she wouldn’t ever let it go. She yanked him into the house with her left hand while her right hand hit the eight on her phone.

  “What now?” he asked as Nora lifted the phone to her ear.

  “We’re taking a little trip. King, don’t talk,” she said when Kingsley answered. “I’m hitting the club tonight. Call and have them hold my table. One guest. ” She glanced at Zach. “And Kingsley…mum’s the word. ”

  Nora hung up the phone and looked at Zach.

  “Where are we going?” Zach asked.

  Nora could hear the fear still hiding under the excitement in his voice.

  She met his eyes and without smiling answered him.

  “Hell. ”


  Zach entered Nora’s office and switched on her desk lamp. From what Wesley said just before he left, it sounded as if Nora would be a while getting ready. Might as well pass the time with a book. Considering Nora’s tastes he had no doubt he could find something to distract him from the screaming voice in his head telling him he really didn’t want to do this.

  The lamplight spread its warm yellow glow over Nora’s desk. Wesley must have tidied up. Her usual disarray had been transformed into well-ordered chaos, if there was such a thing. He picked up a small box she’d labeled Scribbles and Bits. He opened it and found dozens of quotations from various sources on multicolored note cards.

  One card read in Nora’s slanting script, “No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown. — William Penn. ” That did sound like something Nora would commit to memory. Another quote came from the Roman playwright Platus: “I do believe it was Love which devised the torturer’s profession here on earth. ” Appropriate. A pink card read, “The man who has never been flogged has never been taught. —Menander of Athens. ”

  The last card simply said, “The Lady or the Tiger?” over and over and over again.

  Zach put the cards away and closed the box. He saw her day planner tucked next to her keyboard. He knew he was being unconscionably nosy, but his curiosity got the better of him. Seemed to be today’s theme.

  He flipped the red leather-bound calendar open. She and Lex apparently had rescheduled her book-signing for a month from Saturday. She’d dragged Wesley to the opera a few weeks ago. She and G. F. had been in Miami in January. He flipped to the week before he and Nora had met. On that Monday she’d written, “T. R. —M. D. 8:00 p. m. ” Another notation later that week read, “S. S. —W. A. , 9:00 p. m. ” But the next day had another M. D. appointment at 5:00 p. m. He glanced through all the previous pages. Anywhere from two to four times a week, Nora had some sort of M. D. appointment. But as soon as they’d started working on her book the M. D. appointments had dropped off almost completely. What sort of doctor saw a patient on evenings and weekends? Why had Nora stopped going to her appointments when they started working together?

  With shaking hands, Zach closed the calendar and stepped to her bookshelves. Lovely, he thought, smirking at the books on the top shelf—sex manuals. He skimmed the titles: The Joy of Sex, The Kama Sutra, The Guide to Anal Sex for Women. The last title he read twice. The second shelf did hold some surprises, however—psychology and sociology texts, weighty cerebral tomes on the psychology of power and pain. On the third shelf down sat children’s books, their covers worn from multiple readings—the Harry Potter books in British first editions, Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Chronicles of Narnia. But one book appeared more loved than the rest. Its thin red spine was worn and frayed. Zach slipped it off the shelf—The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. Some clever illustrator had taken the text of Carroll’s poem and reimagined it as a story all its own. Zach leafed through the lurid, lush illustrations, the pages grown soft and porous from so many readings. On a hunch he turned back to the front end-pages and found an inscription. In handwriting both masculine and elegant it read, “My Little One, Never forget the lesson of the Jabberwocky. And never forget that I love you. ” It was signed only “S” with a fierce diagonal slash through it; the mark of the mysterious Søren. He closed the book and slipped it back on the shelf.

  Turning back to Nora’s desk, he noticed again that long black duffel bag he’d accidentally kicked the first time he sat in this office. He stuck out his foot and toed the bag, hearing again the chiming sound of metal against metal.

  “Open it, Zach. ”

  Nora entered the office grinning at him, but Zach was too stunned to smile back. He only stared as she moved even closer, the heels of her boots clicked hollowly on the hardwood floor as her ankle-length leather skirt quietly creaked with each soft sway of her hips. The pale flesh of her thigh peeked out from the hip-high slit in her skirt over a black lace-trimmed stocking. She wore a black corset laced over a flesh-toned bustier. And with her neck bare, her hair artfully arranged over her shoulder, the effect was utterly obscene.

  “Gotta love a woman in uniform,” she said, and Zach caught a whiff of her perfume—subtle and seductive. It made the little hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.

  “You will hear no complaints from me. ”

  “Thank you, Zachary. Give me a hand, will you? I can’t get them tight enough on my own. ”

  Nora held out her arms, completely bare but for a pair of black fingerless leather gloves that covered her forearms. She turned her arms over, and Zach saw the gloves hooked over her thumbs and laced up her arms like a corset.

  “What are these?” He took Nora’s wrist in his hand and methodically pulled the laces tight.

  “They’re called gauntlets. Kind of a feminized medieval warrior look. ”

  “Thought you only wore red when you went out. ” Zach laced her other gauntlet.

  “Don’t believe everything you hear about me—just the bad stuff. You’re pretty good at this. You’ve laced a corset before. You like lingerie?”

  “I’ve never been known to object to it. Must be frustrating to have clothing you need help putting on. ”

  “This is usually Wes’s job. He’s the one who finds it frustrating. ”

  “His job? And to think I tended bar for cash while I was at university. This is a far cry from punching out drunken football hooligans. ”

  “A lover and a fighter? You need to give Wes some lessons on how to properly enjoy his college experience. ”

  “Where is Wesley anyway? He seem
ed to leave in a hurry. ”

  “Oh—” Nora waved her hand “—off pouting somewhere. ”

  “Pouting? Might I ask why?”

  “Wes doesn’t want me, but he doesn’t like it if I want someone else. Kid’s gotta learn that he can’t have his cake and not eat me, too. ”

  Zach laughed.

  “He’s also pissed,” Nora said, moving even closer to him, “because he knows what I’m doing tonight. ”

  “And that is?”

  “Seducing you. ”

  Zach took a step back.

  “Nora, I haven’t changed my mind. We can’t work together and be lovers, too. J. P. will kill me to start with. And if he doesn’t I might kill myself. ”

  Nora raised her eyebrow at him, crossed her arms and leaned against his side.

  “So are you just window-shopping tonight?”

  Zach crossed his arms to match her and gave her a smile.

  “Perhaps I’m just hoping you’ll be inspired to finish the book before I leave. ”

  “Is that a challenge?”

  “How about this…” Zach began and couldn’t believe what he was proposing. “I’ll give you your homework. You get it done in a timely manner by day and—”

  “And by night we play?” Nora’s eyes were shining. “This is a fun game, Zach. I could win this one. ”

  “And…” Zach turned to face her. “If you do manage to complete the book a few days ahead of schedule then technically we’ll no longer be working together. Perhaps then we can discuss bringing the handcuffs out of hiding. ”

  “Handcuffs?” she scoffed. “Handcuffs are the least of your worries. Open it. ” She pointed her toe toward her long black duffel bag on the floor. “I dare you. ”

  Zach let a few seconds pass before he bent over and grabbed the handles. He hefted it onto Nora’s desk, stunned by its weight.

  “What on earth is in here?”

  “It’s my toy bag. ”

  “Toy bag?” He eyed her skeptically. “Store your Legos in here, do you?”

  “Not quite. ”

  He glanced at her once more before slowly unzipping the bag. Nora moved to stand next to him, her left hip pressing against his right leg. Nora reached past him and pulled from the bag a long chrome bar.

  “Do you know what this is? It’s called a spreader bar. Just a basic pipe with eyebolts on the end. You take a snap-hook and a pair of these—” she reached into the bag again and brought out a wide leather bracelet with a gold buckle sewn into it “—leather cuffs. Adjustable. They go around the wrists or the ankles. Both if you want to put someone in a spread-eagle position. ”

  Nora arched an eyebrow at him and reached back into the bag.

  “This is a flogger. Here. Give me your arm. ”

  Zach held his arm out with extreme reluctance. Nora brushed his forearm lightly with the tips of the flogger’s leather strips.

  “It tickles. ” He rubbed his arm.

  “Pain or pleasure, it’s made for either. So am I. ”

  “I’ll stick with pleasure. I’ve always preferred the carrot to the stick. ”

  “Where we’re going, the stick is the carrot. ” She put the flogger away. She dug into her bag again. “This lovely device,” she said as she held out what looked like two spreader bars joined in the middle, “is called an X-Bar. It cuffs the wrists and ankles behind the back. Perfect for immobilizing someone in a kneeling position. As a man, I’m certain you can imagine the benefit of immobilizing a woman on her knees. ”

  Zach coughed and exhaled.

  “Usually, I just prefer her to volunteer for that particular activity. ” His tongue felt heavy and dry in his mouth.

  “In my world, if she shows up, she did volunteer. Or in your case, you showed up and I volunteered. ”