The Siren, Page 31Tiffany Reisz
Author: Tiffany Reisz
“It is terrifying,” she admitted. “Zach’s my editor. He’s the first person who ever treated me as a serious writer. ”
“I told you that you should be a writer when you were seventeen years old,” he reminded her.
Nora smiled at the memory. She’d written a short story for her English class that had gotten her into big trouble at her Catholic high school. Only the intervention of her priest had kept her from getting hauled in front of a whole team of doctors and psychiatric personnel.
“I assumed you were a little biased where I was concerned. ”
“Perhaps I was,” he admitted with a smile. “But I knew talent when I saw it. So what will you do with him?” Søren nodded toward Zach.
Nora watched Zach through the two-way mirror. Griffin leaned in close and Zach managed to recoil without even moving—a very English feat.
“It’s not just about sex this time. Not entirely. Zach’s got secrets, bad ones. I want to help him but I don’t even know where to start. What do you think?”
Søren looked at her and she had to fight her training to keep her eye contact with him. Once in a private moment like this she would never have met his eyes without his permission. But that was so long ago. Søren sighed and shook his head.
“My Eleanor…someday perhaps I’ll learn to tell you ‘no. ’”
With that Søren stepped to her side. She watched his face as he studied Zach through the glass. In all her life Nora had never known anyone as perceptive as Søren. He could read a soul with the merest glance. He’d known what she would become from the moment he first saw her. He had told her so. It had always been her favorite bedtime story. Tell me about that day, she would beg. Eleanor, he’d begin, his stories always in third person, had pulled her sleeves down over her hands. She was ashamed of the burn on her wrist. But as she reached for the cup, her sleeve slipped back and he saw what she was. Nora always interrupted with an eager, What was she? And Søren would pull her into his arms and answer, She was mine.
“Guilt. ” Søren’s pronouncement wrenched her from the past. “Old guilt. He wears it awkwardly as if he hasn’t quite learned how to carry it yet. He committed no crime although he may believe he did. ”
“Old guilt—I have to get it out of him,” she said, amused that she and Søren were at once adversaries and conspirators. “He’s choking on his own secrets. I have to break him. But how? That insufferable British dignity is impenetrable. The last thing he needs is some time on the rack and a good whipping. ”
“I agree. It would merely insult him. I have seen that guilt before. He hurt someone once. ”
Nora heard a turn in his last statement, heard the teacher’s hint.
“He hurt his wife. ”
“Then you know what you have to do. ” Søren smiled proudly at her. She was always his best pupil.
“Make him hurt me?”
“Yes, little one. Make him hurt you. ”
* * *
“So you’re Nora’s new Maxwell Perkins, right?” Griffin asked Zach.
“Well, I am her editor. But Perkins and I have quite disparate philosophies of editing. ”
“Good. I’d hate to see her books get all fucked up because her editor can’t keep his hands off her prose. ”
“So,” Zach said evenly, “you read?”
Griffin shot him a dirty look.
“I may be a slut, Max, but I’m not a dumb slut. I read Nora’s books. They’re amazing. Of course, my favorite book of hers is the one she hasn’t written yet. ”
“And that is?”
“The Nora Sutherlin Story. ”
“It would be a page-turner,” Zach agreed. “Is he actually going to keep her all night?”
Zach glanced at his watch. Nora had been gone only a short while but he was already impatient for her return.
“If he wants to. The minute he steps into this place, martial law is in effect. ”
“Does she come here often?”
“Used to come all the time. Had to. But she dropped off the face of the earth about a month ago. ”
“That was when we began work on her book,” Zach explained.
“And when she began work on you, too, huh?” Griffin grinned at him. Zach tried not to let himself be embarrassed. After all, Nora and Griffin were clearly occasional lovers.
“What do you mean she had to come here?” Zach asked after a moment’s silence.
But Griffin only laughed and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Come on. Let’s check out the pit. ”
* * *
“I really should get back to my guest. ” Nora didn’t want to leave Søren, but she knew she needed to. God only knew what Griffin was telling Zach right now.
“Not quite yet. We still need to plan how to celebrate our anniversary next week. Or have you forgotten what next Thursday is?”
“If I forgot every other day of the year, I would remember that one. But we aren’t celebrating it. Not this year or ever again. ”
“I see. ” Søren gave her a cool, appraising stare. “Was last year not to your liking?”
Last year…what he did to her that night was beautiful and brutal and it hurt to even remember.
If you come back to me, will you run or will you crawl?
Nora shook her head, tried to forget how much she still wanted him.
“Last year was a mistake. It shouldn’t have happened. It went too far. ”
“You are never satisfied until it goes too far. ”
“I nearly lost Wes over that night. ”
“Yes. What was that promise you made? That if you ever gave yourself over to me again he would leave you? Was that it?”
“You can’t blame him, can you? He doesn’t understand us. ”
“I am certain he does not. ” Søren reached out and caressed her cheek. Those fingers, she thought. Those hands. Hands that knew every corner of her body as their owner knew every corner of her heart. “My Eleanor…such a creature of Divine Discontent. ”
“God’s dirty little secret. He will make you suffer, little one, until He makes you wise. ”
“No more sermons. Please,” she pleaded.
Søren responded with only the merest suggestion of a smile on his lips. “If you won’t come see me on our anniversary, I suppose I’ll have to give you your gift early. Good thing I brought him with me. ”
He pulled something from his pocket and opened his hand for her. A key with a delicate white ribbon in place of a key chain lay across his palm.
“What is it?”
“The key to the White Room, of course. It’s where your anniversary present is waiting for you. ”
His hand still open and waiting, Søren took a step toward her.
“He’s a virgin, Eleanor,” he whispered into her ear. “You can close your eyes and pretend he’s Wesley. ”
Nora wanted to withdraw, wanted to push Søren away. Zach was out there waiting for her. And she knew better than this. Søren’s gifts were always double-edged swords, and there was no way to take them except by the blade. She heard the voice of reason reminding her that she should find Zach and get him out of here. And then she remembered what she promised him—to show him a place of no regret, no shame and no fear.
She took the key from Søren’s hand.
“I see He’s not finished making you suffer,” Søren said.
Nora didn’t reply. Closing her fingers around the key so tightly the teeth bit fiercely into her hand, she slipped from the room and into a back hallway. Nora felt Søren’s eyes on her. She didn’t look back.
Zach followed Griffin to the balcony section of the bar. Leaning over the railing, they studied the show below.
A lovely dark-haired woman with sinister-looking chopsticks in her hair and wearing
a kimono stood on a platform below them. She twined a black rope around a shapely red-haired girl who stood calm and naked next to her.
“That’s Lady Noy. She’s the queen of Asian Rope Bondage around here. ” Griffin pointed out two women down in the pit. “And that babe she’s tying up is Alyssa Petrosky. ”
“Petrosky?” The name sounded vaguely familiar.
“Yeah, that Petrosky. She’s the governor’s stepdaughter. She’s a pretty infamous submissive down here. Really into exhibitionism. ”
“I can see that. ” Zach marveled as Lady Noy finished her work and hoisted the girl into the air with a complicated rope and pulley system. The girl lay back in an elegant asymmetrical arch and seemed completely at peace with both her nudity and her bondage.
“And that’s Agent Byers—he’s high-level FBI,” Griffin said, pointing out a man strapped to a cross and being flogged by a woman half his age. “And a sub, too. ”
“Are you allowed to tell me all this?”
“What? You’re going to tell someone? No one would believe you if you did tell. And if you spill a word, Kingsley Edge will destroy you. He watches all our backs—it’s part of the membership fee. I’d bet you my bank account that he’s already got a file on you. ”
“On me? Are you serious?” Zach asked. He remembered how Nora seemed to know so much about him at their first meeting.
“You get within five feet of Nora and you get a file. And it sounds like you’ve been a helluva lot closer than five feet. ”
“I’m hardly blackmail material,” Zach protested.
“Really? Anybody out there you’d prefer not know that Nora blew you?”
Zach flushed and said nothing. Yes, there certainly was.
“Point taken,” Zach said.
“You gotta know, Zach—Nora’s not just some smut writer with a wild sex life. She’s the motherfucking queen of the Underground. And Kingsley Edge is, obviously, our king. ”
“And him? What is he?” Zach didn’t even want to say Søren’s name.
“He’s whatever’s higher than a king and queen. ”
“An emperor?” Zach guessed.
Griffin smirked. “A god. ”
“A god,” Zach repeated and looked down at the worshippers beneath them. The FBI agent Griffin spoke about was now being dragged from his cross and the woman in leather wrapped a collar around his neck and attached a leash to it. She led him on his hands and knees across the floor.
“I can’t believe you put collars on human beings,” Zach said with renewed disgust.
“The collar is everything down here. Subs love their collars. ”
“Do all submissives wear collars?”
“Not all of them. House submissives, those are subs that work here at the Circle, wear house collars to show they’re on the payroll. They look like this,” Griffin said, pointing at the collar he wore as part of his punishment. Where a dog tag usually would be hung a small silver number eight inside a circle. “But in private a Dom will use a collar either for utility, for love or both. A collar can be as meaningful as a wedding ring to some couples. ” Griffin laughed. “Holy shit…you should have seen Nora and Søren back when they were still together. I’d only been coming here a year before she left him. But I got to see them in their glory days. Collars are leather usually, black or brown, right? Guess what color her collar was?”
“I don’t know. Red?”
“White,” came a voice from behind them. Zach and Griffin turned around and found Søren watching them in a white collar of his own. “What else would it have been?”
* * *
The halls and stairways of the 8th Circle were a labyrinth to most, but Nora knew them better than her own home. She could have found her way around blindfolded. A few times in the past she’d had to. She turned corner after corner and descended a small staircase to the lowest level of the building. At the end of the quiet hallway stood a door identical to all the others except this door and its knob were painted completely white.