The siren, p.29
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       The Siren, p.29
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         Part #1 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
Page 29

  Author: Tiffany Reisz

  “Hurt but do not harm?” Zach asked. “What’s the difference?”

  “Hurt is a bruise on the outside. ” Nora sipped her mineral water delicately. “Harm is a bruise on the inside. If you’re a masochist, pain feels like love to you. Not being hurt is what hurts. ”

  “Are you a masochist?” Zach asked, fascinated despite himself.

  “Not exactly. ” Nora smiled almost shyly. “Not everyone who practices S&M is an actual sadist or masochist, not in the pathological sense anyway. With Søren, I loved submitting to pain. I loved the submission, though, not the pain itself. There are a handful of actual masochists down here, though, if you want to meet one. Fair warning, they can be almost as dangerous to play with as the sadists. ”

  “Warning taken. You don’t seem like those people down there. ” Zach nodded toward the pit.

  “Those people down there are doctors, lawyers, stockbrokers, politicians, you name it. If I’m not like them it’s only because I don’t have a real job. And I have played in the pit before, I’ll have you know. It’s like Sodom and Gomorrah down there sometimes. Tonight’s Monday so the play’s a little tame. ”

  “You say ‘play’ like this is all a game. But people are actually getting hurt down there, Nora. ”

  “I have one word for you, my uptight English editor—rugby. ”

  Zach winced. Rugby—the sport as rough as American football but without all the padding.

  “A lot of people think we’re crazy, Zach. Some even think we’re evil. But I’m a Switch so I’ve seen both sides of the whip. I know you can’t imagine it, but this is love to a lot of us. When Søren hit me, it was because he loved me, because that’s how we loved each other. ”

  “Sounds horrifying. ”

  “Horrifying is the last thing Søren is. Dangerous, yes. I’ll give you that. But S&M’s only dangerous if you play with someone you don’t trust or if you forget your safe word. ” She stopped, looked up at the ceiling and smiled. He could see something like a memory flash across her eyes. “Trust me, whatever you do, Zach, don’t forget your safe word. ”

  “What’s a safe word?”

  “A safe word’s your last out. That’s the dark secret of S&M—the submissives actually have the final say. And your safe word can be anything—popcorn, barn owl—whatever as long as it’s not a word you’d use in a scene. If you need to tell the person topping you that you have to stop completely, you end it by using that word. ”

  “You can’t just say ‘stop’?”

  “A lot of submissives enjoy feeling overpowered and truly dominated. God knows I did. ‘Stop’ doesn’t mean ‘stop’ in S&M. It’s just part of the scene. You should have a safe word down here. Everyone does. Except Søren, of course. ”

  “Why is he exempt?”

  Nora smirked and rolled her eyes.

  “Because Søren doesn’t get topped. Go ahead. You can pick anything—the street you grew up on, your favorite food, the middle name of the long-lost love of your life. Got one?”

  “Sure, fine,” Zach said, picking the first word that came to mind. “Calais. ”

  “The city in France?”

  “Oui. ”

  “Bien. I’ll remember it. If I start to push you hard enough you need to really get out, just say that and everything will stop. Saying ‘no, Nora, I don’t think that’s such a grand idea’ doesn’t always work on me. ”

  “I’ve noticed. ” Zach took a sip of his drink. “So my writer is the most famous Domme in New York. ”

  Nora grinned. “Zach, I’m the most famous Domme—” she began and then closed her mouth. Her ears seemed to perk up. She tilted her head sideways.

  “Do you hear that?” she asked.

  Zach listened.

  “I don’t hear anything. ”

  Nora inhaled and exhaled slowly.

  “Fuck. ”

  Nora jumped to her feet and raced to the balcony area of the bar. Zach ran to join her.

  “What is it?” Zach asked.

  Griffin came to stand behind them. Zach heard him chuckling.

  “Stop me if you’ve heard this one—a priest, a rabbi and a griffin walk into an S&M club…”

  “This is why I gag you during sex, Griffin,” Nora nearly growled.

  “You brought a date to the Circle,” Griffin chided. “What did you expect him to do?”

  “I expected King to keep his mouth shut. ”

  “You know King answers to a higher power. ”

  “Nora,” Zach said with exasperation, “please tell me what’s going on. ”

  Nora turned to face him. He saw real fear in her eyes.

  “Søren. ”

  “Søren?” Zach repeated and looked down. A man stood at the top of the staircase where he and Nora had entered. Zach couldn’t make out any of his features at first. All he noticed was the man’s commanding height, his incredible presence. All play below had ceased at his entrance. He strode down the staircase slowly, imperiously. The world stopped for him. The chaos on the floor fell silent. Everyone everywhere, Nora included, seemed to be holding their breath.

  Zach narrowed his eyes at the sight of Nora’s former lover. He noticed something strange about the man’s clothes.

  “Zach, I should have told you. There’s a lot I should have told you. ”

  “Søren…” Zach said in utter shock. “He’s a priest?”

  “My priest. ”

  19

  A hundred whispers and hints from conversations over the past few weeks came back to Zach in an instant. Nora Sutherlin’s former lover who still haunted her like the shadow of a ghost was a Catholic priest. And if it weren’t for the fear in her eyes and the dread in his stomach he might have laughed.

  “Zach, look at me,” Nora ordered, and Zach wrenched his eyes away from the scene below.

  “It’s all right,” Zach said, trying to reassure her.

  “No, it isn’t,” she said. “He’s here for a reason and it’s probably not a good one. If he wants me, I have to go with him. I won’t have a choice. ”

  “Of course you have a choice,” Zach said.

  Nora shook her head. “Not down here. House rules. Griffin?”

  “Yes, my Mistress in Distress?” Griffin said, clearly taking great pleasure in Nora’s extreme agitation.

  “I’ll need you to stay with Zach if you can. Just don’t let him out of your sight. That’s an order. ”

  “I’m all over it. And him, too, if he’ll let me. ”

  “He won’t let you,” Zach said, and Griffin grinned at him.

  “And Griffin. ” She reached out to take Griffin’s face in her hands. “For God’s sake and for the first time in your life, keep your mouth shut. ”

  Zach expected one of Griffin’s witty retorts but the young man merely nodded. Zach saw something pass between them, some sort of secret understanding that he was apparently not to be privy to. He’d already seen Nora’s former lover was a priest. What else was left to shock him?

  “He’s coming,” Griffin whispered and Zach’s heart beat hard in his chest.

  Zach sensed a presence behind him. He turned and found himself face-to-face with Nora’s former lover. Almost face-to-face. Although Zach stood six feet tall in bare feet, Søren dwarfed him by at least two or three inches. It wasn’t only his height that was so formidable. Strikingly handsome, he was in his mid-forties but while his lean and angular face looked younger than that, his eyes held aeons in their steely depths. On rare occasions Zach had encountered members of England’s lingering aristocracy. But in his simple black clerics, this man appeared more aristocratic, more imperious and commanding than any baron, any duke, any prince he’d ever glimpsed. Now Zach understood the source of Nora’s fear. If God himself was intimidated by this man, Zach wouldn’t have been surprised.

  “Eleanor,” Søren spoke first. “Would you care to introdu
ce me to your friend?”

  Zach heard the remnant of an accent in his voice. With the name Søren, Zach might have expected a Scandinavian accent and with his impeccable blond hair and steel-gray eyes, Søren certainly looked the part. But in the echo of his inflection Zach heard the slightest trace of something more familiar, the faintest English accent.

  “Søren—” Nora’s voice fluttered. “This is Zachary Easton, my editor. Zach, this is Søren, my…”

  “Priest is the word Eleanor is looking for, I believe. ” Søren spoke with authoritarian hauteur. “You are her editor, Mr. Easton, so I believe helping her find her words is your job, yes? I don’t believe I see a red pen on your person. Are you off duty tonight?”

  “Nora just wanted me to help with her research for her book. ” Zach sensed Søren weighing him. Zach had an inkling that no matter what he did or said, he would be found wanting.

  “Research?” The word seemed to amuse him. Nora stood silent next to Zach; her skin flushed and her hands gripped her riding crop handle with white-knuckled force. “Yes, Eleanor is quite thorough in her research. Eleanor, accompany me please. I need a moment with you. ”

  “Actually, we were about to leave. ” Zach stepped between Nora and Søren.

  Søren raised his chin and gazed down on Zach with an expression of ironic detachment. His eyes took in the white flag around Zach’s arm and he raised an eyebrow in apparent amusement. Zach stared at the white collar around Søren’s neck before meeting the priest’s eyes again. But Søren seemed untouchable—no guilt, no embarrassment, not even the slightest hint of shame haunted his eyes. Søren slowly raised his hand right next to Nora’s ear. He snapped his fingers, and Nora flinched at the echoing sound. Søren pointed to the floor at his side, and Nora stepped out and stood where Søren had indicated. Zach wanted to pull her back and run with her as far and fast away from this man as they could. But Nora met his eyes for the briefest moment, and he saw someone he’d never seen before reflected back. No one handles Nora Sutherlin, J. P. had said and Zach had begun to believe it. Now he knew he’d met the one man who could.

  “House rules,” she explained with an apology in her wan smile.

  Søren inclined his head regally and took a step forward.

  They walked away toward a black door next to the end of the bar. Søren held the door open for Nora and as she stepped past him to enter the room, he gripped her by the back of the neck. Zach took a step forward, but Griffin put his hand out to stop him.

  “Don’t even think about it, man,” Griffin warned. “I’m not his biggest fan, either, but you come down here, you obey the rules and you respect the ruler. ”

  “Is she all right?” Zach asked, scared for Nora but feeling impotent to help her in this strange world.

  “She’ll be fine. He won’t hurt her. ”

  “Are you certain of that?”

  Griffin looked at the door that had just closed behind Nora. He looked back at Zach.

  “No. ”

  * * *

  Nora tried to stay calm as Søren escorted her to the dimly lit bar stockroom. She counted her breaths and tried to slow her racing heart. It didn’t work. Søren opened the door and Nora risked one quick look back at Zach standing with Griffin. He watched her with a question in his eyes. She didn’t know how to answer it.

  She wasn’t surprised when Søren grabbed her by the neck as she slipped through the door. The neck was the most vulnerable part of the human body—Søren always went for her weak spots and having just humiliated her in front of Zach meant only one thing: he wanted her.