The siren, p.39
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       The Siren, p.39
 

         Part #1 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
Page 39

  Author: Tiffany Reisz

  Meetings finally over, Zach got to sit down at his own desk in front of his computer. He discovered that he had twenty-five new pages from Nora and the promise of more to come.

  I got up early this morning, Nora wrote. I was sleeping with Wes and he had an eight o’clock class. Microbiology at 8 fucking a. m. ? Now that’s sadism.

  You slept with your virgin intern last night? Zach replied after he read Nora’s email two more times to make sure he wasn’t missing anything. About fifteen minutes later Nora wrote back.

  Don’t be jealous, darling. It was completely innocent. Well, mostly innocent. But you’ll have to excuse me while I get back to my homework. I’m not going to give you any excuse to pussy out on our deal.

  I think I may live to regret those words, Zach wrote back.

  You won’t regret a thing once I’m done with you. Now leave me alone. I’m Papa Hemingway today.

  Nora was the opposite of Hemingway in every possible way. For one thing, she couldn’t write terse prose if she had a gun to her head. For another, Zach actually enjoyed reading Nora’s books.

  Hemingway was the king of understatement, economy of words and brevity. Are you sure you of all people want to use him as a model? Zach replied.

  Nora’s next email was answer enough.

  Yes.

  Zach was still laughing when J. P. came into his office.

  “Smiling and laughter? This hall hasn’t seen nearly as much fog lately,” J. P. said. “Do we have a certain writer to thank for this astonishing change of weather?”

  “We were discussing Hemingway. ”

  “Yes, a comic genius that Hemingway. How’s Sutherlin’s book coming?”

  “Very well. We’ve got two and a half weeks left and two hundred pages to rewrite, but if she keeps up the pace, we’ll get it done right before I leave. ”

  “Tight schedule there, Easton. That’s a lot of quantity to expect a great deal of quality. ”

  “She can do both. She has drive and a strong incentive to get the book finished. ”

  “Yes, her unsigned contract’s still hanging over her head, isn’t it?”

  Zach smiled and leaned back in his chair. It felt shockingly good to smile like that, like he had a wicked secret that was his to keep or tell. This must be what Nora felt every time she smiled.

  J. P. must have seen the secret in the smile.

  “It’s not just the contract that’s keeping her working so hard, is it?” J. P. said, stroking his beard with an amused twinkle in his eye.

  “We’re not sleeping together. Haven’t so much as kissed her. ” He omitted the office floor incident and last night in the car. Technically, they hadn’t kissed, not on the lips anyway.

  “You can do a lot without bothering with kissing. I was young once. ”

  “Thanks to Nora I have enough disturbing images in my head to last two lifetimes. Please do not add to them. ”

  “At this point,” J. P. began, standing up, “I don’t really care how you get the book finished. Just get it finished before you go to L. A. and without getting on Page Six, and I’ll be the happiest man on the face of the earth. You are still going to L. A. , aren’t you?”

  Zach paused. Of course he was going to L. A. Wasn’t he? Then again, leaving New York meant leaving Nora. Leaving London had meant leaving Grace—he wasn’t sure he ever wanted to leave like that again. “Yes, I’m going to L. A. It’s all about the book, J. P. ” Zach said.

  “Keep telling yourself that, Easton,” J. P. said. He turned around and threw a small wrapped box to Zach. “You’ve got another present, by the way. ”

  Zach caught the box and sighed. His office prankster had continued sending little kinky presents every few days. With some trepidation, Zach opened it. He pulled out the contents and furrowed his brow at them. They looked something like clip-on silver earrings, lightweight and dangling. Hardly kinky at all. Was his prankster teasing him about cross-dressing? Zach put the earrings back in the box and stuffed the box in his messenger bag, not sure what else to do with them. He’d let Nora have them if she liked them.

  He pulled her contract out of his top desk drawer and flipped through it again. He picked up a pen and thought about signing it. He could sign it now and not tell her; then when the book was finished, he could show her how much faith he’d had in her all along. A slight exaggeration considering how loath he was to work with her in the beginning, but he knew she would be touched.

  Zach thought about J. P. ’s question again. Was he still going to L. A. ? Why wouldn’t he? The chief managing editor position was the reason he took the job at Royal after all. He said he was going and he would go. And he said he wouldn’t sign Nora’s contract until he read the last page and he wouldn’t. And when he told Nora they couldn’t sleep together until they were done working together, he meant it.

  He refolded the contract with a clear conscience and stuffed it in his messenger bag.

  * * *

  Thoughts of Zach kept intruding on Nora’s writing. She desperately wanted to get her chapters done even though she knew she had too much work to play with him tonight. Then again, just because she was too busy for Zach didn’t mean he was off the hook entirely. Nora picked up her phone and had the number she needed after one call.

  The phone rang twice before a nervous voice answered.

  “Yes, hello?” the girl on the other end said.

  “Hello, little bird. Guess who?”

  Nora smiled at the gasp she heard on the other end of the line. Kingsley had fantastic taste in the women of his coterie these days. He never cared if they could afford the membership dues as long as they had other ways of earning their keep. Invariably, Kingsley’s ladies-in-waiting all had very useful talents inside and outside the bedroom.

  “Told you I’d remember your name, Robin. King told me about your day job. Do you have an hour or two to do a favor for me today? I’m an excellent tipper. ”

  “Anything for you, mistress. ”

  Nora gave the girl her instructions and hung up the phone. She forced thoughts of Zach aside and got back to writing.

  * * *

  Zach checked his watch—almost five-thirty. He’d been on the phone for the past two hours with his soon-to-be assistant at the West Coast offices. They’d been discussing upcoming projects when Mary buzzed him with news of a visitor.

  “Come in. ” A young woman he didn’t recognize entered with a large tote bag and a rolling table.

  “Mr. Easton? Nice to see you again,” she said.

  “Have we met?” Zach asked, standing up.

  “Yes, I’m Robin. We met last night. ”

  “Of course, from the—”

  “The club. ” She cut him off before he said the 8th Circle’s name.

  Zach did recognize her now. Out of her costume and with her hair up and wearing retro-chic glasses, she looked like a very different person from the provocatively dressed cigarette girl.

  “Right. The club. What can I do for you?”

  The girl turned and closed his office door, locking it behind her.

  “You can take your clothes off, Mr. Easton. ”

  An hour and a half later Zach shut the door behind Robin and sank into his chair. He was glad she’d come late enough in the day that almost everyone had already left. He’d been reluctant at first but a professional massage was a gift impossible to refuse. The girl had marvelous hands and she spent well over an hour working out every single knot of tension in his entire body. His muscles felt as loose as a sea anemone. He owed Nora a huge thank-you for arranging the massage. Since she wasn’t quite allowed to put her hands on him yet, she’d obviously gone looking for a loophole and found one.

  Zach stretched his arms and enjoyed how calm he felt, how peaceful. It had been over a year and a half at least since he’d felt even remotely this relaxed. His marriage to Grace had begu
n as a nightmare but had turned quickly into his best dream. But like any dream, it couldn’t be trusted. Something dark always lurked around the corner in dreams. And one day that something dark started showing itself even while he was wide-awake. Grace started conversations with him, terrifying conversations he refused to finish. And then something had happened with her, or maybe it had happened with him. All he knew was Grace had started to fade out on him and there’d been nothing he could do. She just slowly shut down on him like a watch someone forgot to wind.

  Having Robin’s hands on him had been such a strange revelation. He’d shared with Nora an incredible sexual intimacy the night they’d gotten drunk in her office and then last night in her Aston Martin. But just to be touched by another woman, to have his back touched, his arms and legs…to be touched in a way that was sensual but not sexual felt as foreign to him as that night with Nora. Foreign but not frightening. He wondered if he saw Grace again, would he be able to be more open to her than before? He’d love to touch her the way Robin had touched him. He’d love to teach her a few of the things he’d learned from Nora.

  The phone rang and Zach smiled. He had one guess who would be calling his office this late in the evening.

  “Nora, you’re the very devil,” he said as he put the phone to his ear. “But I’m not complaining. ”

  Zach heard a slight intake of breath on the other end of the line followed by a static-filled pause.

  “Zachary?” came a voice he would recognize a thousand miles or a thousand years away.

  Zach sat up ramrod straight; his heart raced. Everything that had been relaxed a moment ago became a live wire of tension again.

  “Grace…” he breathed. “I’m sorry. I thought you were one of my writers. Nora Sutherlin—she’s a loony. I think you’d like her. But I’m rambling like an idiot. How are you?”

  He lived and died through another terrible pause.

  “You’ve never rambled like an idiot in your life,” Grace said in her lilting Welsh accent, and Zach could picture the smile on her face as she said it. “I’ve never heard you so friendly with one of your writers before. You’re usually telling them what berks and idiots they are. This one must be special. ”

  “She’s stark raving mad, and I’m terrified of her. How are you?” he asked again and winced. He really was making an idiot of himself.

  “I’m in the dark, quite literally, I’m afraid. I just walked in the door and all the lights are out. I can’t find the torch anywhere. I’m just glad I had my mobile with me. ”

  “Is it a blackout or just our house?” Zach winced again. Was he even allowed to say “our house” anymore?

  “Blackout, I think. The whole street is dark. I called the power company. Should be on again by morning, but until I find the bloody torch, I’m afraid to move. ”

  Zach imagined Grace sitting at the kitchen table in the dark debating whether or not it was enough of an emergency to call him. She said she’d just gotten home. But it was nearly midnight in London. He didn’t want to imagine where she’d come from.

  “Let me think. Did you try the drawer?”

  “By the stove? Yes, I looked there first. Found everything but the light. ”

  “No, it isn’t there. You’re right. It’s in the cupboard in the utility room. I remember stashing it there now. ”

  “I’ll check. ”

  “Be careful. ”

  Zach heard Grace’s tentative footsteps and the sound of a door opening.

  “Found it. Second shelf near the back. ”

  “Good,” Zach said, desperate to find a way to keep her on the line a little longer. “Be careful if you light any candles. ”

  “I will be,” Grace replied, a faint note of amusement in her voice.

  “If the lights don’t come on soon, stay the night at—” Zach stopped and swallowed. “Stay with a friend. If the lights are off, the alarm might be, as well. ”
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