The Siren, Page 27Tiffany Reisz
Author: Tiffany Reisz
Zach could feel the cold metal of the handcuffs around his wrists again.
“I can’t win with you, can I?”
“Of course not. The only way to win in this game is to surrender. Come on, Zach,” she said, seeming to drop out of character for a moment. “You and I both know I could have had you weeks ago. In the cab, remember?”
Zach recalled the night of the release party. He’d convinced himself it was his own restraint that had prevented him from asking Nora up. But he knew it was only because Nora had closed the door before he could invite her inside.
“Why didn’t you?”
“You weren’t ready then. ”
“And I’m ready now?”
“Well… You did show up again, didn’t you? You should know by now,” Nora said, and Zach made himself look in her eyes, “I wouldn’t chase you so hard if I didn’t know you wanted to be caught. ”
“Just because you want something doesn’t mean you should have it. ”
“Really?” Nora asked with a raised eyebrow. “And what did you want that you shouldn’t have had?”
Zach looked away and pointed at something in her bag. “What’s that?”
“Ah…” Nora sighed. “He’s lost in the fog yet again. ” Still, she reached into the bag and pulled out a black silk scarf. She twined it through her fingers and over her wrists, letting it cascade into her palms like black water.
“Blindfold?” Zach made an educated guess.
“Or gag. Or wrist restraint. The blindfold seems tame, but I’m very fond of them. Do you have any idea how much trust it takes to let someone take you blind? Want to find out?”
“Okay, Zach. I promise I’ll keep my hands off…more or less. No sex until the book is done. Well, you won’t have any sex. Knowing me, I will,” she said over her shoulder.
Zach laughed until he saw she wasn’t smiling.
“Come on. ” Nora threw on her coat and belted it. She strode toward the door. “Time to go. ”
“Need your bag?” he joked.
“Not where we’re going. ”
Zach followed Nora outside. He started to walk toward her car parked in front of the house. But she beckoned him instead to her garage.
“This way, handsome. I’ve got a little surprise for you. ”
Nora pulled her key ring out of her coat pocket and hit a small black button. The garage door slowly yawned open. Zach never dreamed she kept an actual car in her garage. Her black Lexus and Wesley’s beat-up VW always sat in the driveway or on the street. But inside the garage he saw some kind of vehicle covered in a suede car cover.
“You Yanks. ” Zach shook his head. “You think you need a whole army of cars. ”
“This isn’t just a car, Zach. ” She grabbed the corner of the cover and pulled it off in one extravagant motion.
“My God…Nora,” he breathed at the sight of the inferno-red machine. He’d never been much of a car enthusiast but something very male in him wanted to just run his hands across it from fender to fender.
“Once upon a time,” Nora began, “I spent a week with a sheikh. This was his version of morning-after roses. ”
“You just keep this in your garage?”
“What? Just your everyday Aston Martin. ”
“This is James Bond’s car. ”
“Yes, but he can’t have it back. Don’t tell, but I’m going to give it to Wes as a graduation present in a couple of years. ”
“If you ever fire him and start looking for a new intern…” Zach reached out and touched the hood.
“I’ll keep your résumé on file,” Nora said, looking at him as he stroked the top of the car. “You’re hard right now, aren’t you?”
“Fully erect. ” Zach didn’t crack a smile.
“Typical male. ” Nora rolled her eyes. “Get in. ”
Zach slid onto the passenger seat and inhaled the heady scent of the most expensive leather interior in the world. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his seat. It held him like a hand. He could die here.
Nora slipped into the driver’s seat. The car purred to life.
“Nora…who are you?”
“Just another guttersnipe. Ready to see my gutter?”
Zach leaned up and opened his eyes.
“Where exactly are we going?” he asked as she slinked through the streets and headed toward the city.
“It’s a club,” Nora simply said.
“What kind of club?”
“The only kind of club I would ever go to. ”
“What’s this club called?”
“It doesn’t really have an official name. It doesn’t officially exist. Those of us in the know call it the 8th Circle. ”
Zach tried to remember his Italian literature class.
“It’s been too long since I’ve read Dante. The eighth circle—was that where the sins of lust were punished?”
Nora’s lips curled into an ironic grin.
“That was the second circle. The eighth circle was the destination for those who abused their power—panderers, seducers, simonists, false counselors. ”
Nora’s smiled widened.
“Corrupt priests. ”
“Abused their power…very clever. ”
“The name is all too apt. ”
Zach turned to her and didn’t ask what she meant by that. He’d already lost his train of thought as he watched Nora shift gears with the practiced ease of a race-car driver. Her touch was easy and smooth; the engine responded to her every whim. Zach couldn’t stop watching, couldn’t stop imagining her dexterous hands on him.
“How did you learn to drive like this?” Zach asked, trying to ignore his growing arousal.
“I can drive anything—any car, any kind. I’ve been driving a stick shift since I was thirteen. ”
Zach started to open his mouth to ask her another question. But Nora took a sharp turn to the left and pulled into what appeared to be an abandoned parking structure attached to a dingy squat concrete block of a building. Windowless, lifeless and covered in graffiti, the building seemed the last place in the city Nora would want to enter.
“Why did you stop?”
Nora pulled in and parked next to a sleek, silver Porsche.
“Because we’re here. ”
“Here?” Zach looked around in disbelief as they both left the car. The place seemed dismal and far too quiet. Only the wind sliding around the concrete columns made any sound at all. He looked back at the Aston Martin.
“Are you sure it’s safe to leave it here?” Zach asked even though it was just one of many luxury cars in the garage.
“This is the safest parking garage in New York. Trust me. ”
Nora brought them to a gunmetal-gray door and pulled out her keys again. She slid one into the lock and turned it. Zach expected the roar of a nightclub to greet them but he heard nothing but silence.
He found himself standing at the end of a long hallway. It seemed to be part of an old hotel. The walls and carpets were a deep red; small aging chandeliers hung from the ceiling and cast broken light over the paisley squares of threadbare carpeting. They came to the end of the hall where an old-fashioned coat check booth stood. Nora rang the silver desk bell and shed her coat.
A girl came out of the back and flashed them both a courteous smile.
“How may I serve you?” she asked. Her smile wavered and widened as the young woman seemed to suddenly register Nora’s identity. “Mistress Nora,” she said, bobbing a perfect curtsy. She looked positively starstruck. The girl wore a classic cigarette girl costume, blue and black striped, and her lush dark hair was coiffed Bettie-Page style.
“Hello, dear,” Nora said with a magnanimous air as she gave the girl her coat. Zach surrendered his, a
s well, grateful to be rid of it. In the stifling hallway, he instantly felt more comfortable in his jeans and T-shirt. “Are you new? Did King bring you in?”
“Yes, mistress. Mr. K. brought me in a few weeks ago. ”
“King always did have good taste,” Nora said, eliciting a blush from the beaming young woman. “Have you made it to the floor yet?”
“No, mistress,” the girl said, her voice aflutter with nervousness. “I’m so sorry. It’s just…I’m such a fan. ”
Zach smiled at the girl. “You should enjoy her next book, too. It’s coming along very well. ”
The girl looked puzzled.
“You write books too, mistress?”
Nora laughed but didn’t meet Zach’s eyes.
“You’re adorable,” Nora said to the girl. “I’ll talk to King about getting you on the floor. ”
“Thank you, mistress,” the girl breathed. She seemed to remember herself and said with a more professional tone, “Can I get anything for you, mistress? For your guest?”
“A white scarf, please. And my case. The black one. ”
With another curtsy the girl left and promptly returned with a plain white handkerchief and a small box that looked like a flute case only much longer.
Nora took the white scarf and wrapped it around his bicep.
“What on earth—”
“The Circle revived the flag and scarf signal system from the old guard leather scene,” Nora explained. “We revised it quite a bit to suit the specific clientele that comes here. The scarves are signals or advertisements. Here white means you’re an S&M virgin who only wants to observe. Should keep the wolves at bay. ”
“Should?” Zach asked skeptically. “I really need a stop signal? A simple ‘no, thanks’ wouldn’t do?”
“Trust me, as gorgeous as you are, Zach, you would be in big trouble down there without a little armor on. ”
“Wouldn’t red make for a better stop signal?” Zach asked, not wanting to be labeled as a “virgin” anything.
“A red scarf would signal you were into blood-play. ”
“Ah, I see. ”
“Could be worse,” Nora said as she finished knotting the scarf around his arm. “It could be a brown scarf. ”
“And brown means?”
The young woman and Nora gave each other conspiratorial glances.
“Keep the wolves at bay…should I be nervous, Nora?”
Nora didn’t answer. She snapped open the black case and took out a riding crop, black with white braiding and quite professional-looking. She took a step back and twirled the crop with stunning expertise. With a quick flick she struck it against her own leather-clad calf. The sound echoed down the hall like a gunshot.
“Kingsley Edge was the first person who put a riding crop in my hand. It was like Arthur with Excalibur. ” She winked at the girl and the girl could only smile in awe. Zach tried not to roll his eyes. Disheartening to think Nora had better luck with women than he did.
“Come, Zachary,” Nora said, tapping her leather-clad calf with the crop.
“Yes, mistress,” he said, with minimal irony.
Nora started to turn but stopped in midstep.
“Tell me your name,” she ordered the girl.
“Robin,” she replied.
“Ah, a little bird,” Nora purred. She reached out and caressed the girl’s burning cheek with the back of her hand. “I’ll remember that. ”
Nora lowered her hand and stepped away. She pushed the down button on the elevator and the door slid open. They entered and Zach saw there was only a down button inside.
“This elevator only goes down?”
“Apparently so. ” Nora held the handle of her crop in her right hand and the tip in her left. She held it, he discovered with a jolt of recognition, like a scepter. Even her posture, usually intimate and conspiratorial, had transformed. She held herself like a queen, her chin high, her back straight. She wore the hauteur well.