The siren, p.49
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       The Siren, p.49
 

         Part #1 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
Page 49

  Author: Tiffany Reisz

  “With no Christmas presents, I guess. ”

  “I guess not,” Nora said, suddenly exhausted.

  Wesley weighed the pages in his hands, flipped through them and pressed them to his chest.

  “Why did you write this? Write a book about us?”

  “Because I guess I’ve always known you and I can’t be together. God, I thought I was going to faint a few minutes ago trying to have vanilla sex with you. I hate that we have this thing between us. It kills me a little bit every day. The book— I don’t know. I guess I thought at least we could be together on paper for a little while. It’s not much, but it’s something,” she said, trying and failing to smile.

  “Let me read it. All of it. ”

  “You don’t want to read it, sweetheart. ”

  “You said it was us. ”

  Nora remained unmoved.

  “Please,” Wesley said, and Nora heard the slight but desperate catch in his voice. Nodding, she slid off the bed and retreated to her office. She grabbed the binder that held her most recent copy of her novel and returned to her bedroom.

  “It’s not done yet. I still have about eight or so chapters to write. ”

  “How does it end?”

  “I don’t know,” she lied.

  “The Consolation Prize. ” He opened the binder and read the title out loud.

  “Yeah, the consolation prize. You know, it’s what you get when you don’t win. ”

  “What do you want to win?” In his voice was a quiet promise that if he could give it to her he would.

  “You, Wes. But I can’t win you without selling who I am to afford you. ”

  “And I can’t win you without selling my soul, right?” Wesley asked.

  “Now you see why I said The Gift of the Magi was a horror story. ”

  Wesley only looked at her before turning his eyes to her novel.

  She spun on her heel and left Wesley alone in her room with the book—the book she had written in a reckless attempt to exorcise the demon of love from her heart. Once Wesley finished the book he would know everything—know the good of her love and the evil, know she wanted him and why. They’d been so happy together in the strange little paradise they’d made together, but now she felt expulsion was imminent. And she had no one but herself to blame for her fall.

  Nora returned to her office and sat at her desk. Outside, the last gasp of the retreating winter winds paced back and forth across her windows. Wesley was going to read her book. She opened her saved draft and put her hands on the keyboard. What could she do but write? At least now she knew how to end the big scene. William would try to make love to Caroline like she wanted. He would try, but he would fail. And between the two of them a chasm would open up so wide they could not even see to the other side. The moment they tried the hardest to be together is the moment they are forever torn apart.

  Poor Caroline, Nora thought and swiped at a rogue tear hiding at the corner of her eye.

  Poor William.

  30

  Thursday night at 11:48 p. m. Nora placed the last period in her book. She saved her document and shut down her computer. She could barely suppress her smile as she floated from the office and looked in on Wesley on her way to her bedroom.

  All week after reading her book he’d been quiet, but not angry. Desperately she wanted to talk about what had happened between them on Easter, but she knew she needed to leave Wesley alone to think about it on his own. She could barely sleep at night for the flood of memories of Wesley’s hands and mouth on her, how close they’d come to making love. All this time he’d wanted her even more than she’d ever guessed. He’d been ready to give her his virginity, to give her his body. Her Wesley—he’d never have sex with someone he wasn’t in love with. Wesley in love with her…what was she going to do with that kid?

  The kid in question was supposed to be sound asleep. But he turned over in his bed and smiled at her through the dark.

  “You have an eight-thirty class tomorrow,” she reminded him. She came in and sat on the edge of his bed.

  “It’s canceled. Professor Matheny’s sick. Or he just wants to start the weekend early. Either way I get to sleep in. ”

  “Congratulations. ” She ran a hand through his mussed hair. “Can I tell you a secret?”

  Wesley propped himself up on his elbows.

  “Definitely. ”

  She leaned forward and whispered in his ear.

  “I finished the book. ”

  “Are you serious?” Wesley pulled back to look at her.

  “Yeah. Just now. It’s full of typos but the book itself, it’s done. And it’s good. ”

  Wesley threw his arms around her. “That’s awesome, Nora. I’m so proud of you. ”

  She returned the hug and released him. “We’ll celebrate tomorrow night. We’ll celebrate the best book I’ve ever written that no one will ever read. ”

  “Absolutely. But I think someone will read it someday. It’s too good to just sit in a drawer. ”

  “Maybe. But I’m not going to worry about it. And neither are you. Bedtime. ”

  Nora started to leave, but Wesley called her name.

  “What’s up, kid?”

  “Tomorrow night when we celebrate, I want to talk to you about something. ”

  “About us?”

  “About me. It’s not bad, I promise. There’s some stuff I want to tell you. A lot of stuff. ”

  “Tomorrow. It’s a date. ’Night, sweetheart. ”

  Nora leaned over to kiss his forehead. But at the last second Wesley turned his face up and brought his lips to hers. Too shocked to move, Nora only shivered in that eternal moment as a light, white and winged, brushed over her shoulder and settled somewhere she could not see.

  She was still smiling when she fell asleep that night.

  Friday morning, Nora awoke and dressed and gathered the handful of things she would need for the day. Last night’s smile still remained. Without Zach, without anyone, she’d managed to finish her book. It was done. It was good. And she couldn’t wait to start the next one.

  And tonight she and Wesley would celebrate her book and maybe finally figure out what they were going to do about each other. But first she had an errand to run. And then she had a book to throw in someone’s face.

  * * *

  Zach sipped his tea and strolled around the conference room making pleasant small talk with his coworkers at his going-away party. J. P. had hired a very good caterer, but still Zach was taking a lot of ribbing for his refusal to allow J. P. to spring for lunch at The Four Seasons, especially from Mary.

  “Recession,” Zach reminded her.

  “Tangerine cheesecake,” she countered.

  “The lady has a point,” J. P. said. “It’s quite good cheesecake. ”

  Zach set his tea down. He leaned over the buffet spread, took a plate and filled it with some gourmet cheese and a piece of the cake.

  “Here,” he said, handing the plate to J. P. “You two make your own damn cheesecake. ”

  Zach was secretly touched by how many of his colleagues had bothered to come to the luncheon. He knew free food and a break from the desk and the phone would get almost anyone to an office party, but everyone was talking to him and wishing him well in L. A. He almost regretted how his own grief over Grace had kept him from getting to know some of the other editors better. Americans were a fairly charming group of people. Even New Yorkers, not known for their friendliness, were more immediately affable than most Europeans. He’d decided Americans were quick to like people because they couldn’t conceive of anyone not liking them. Even Nora, who made her money being vicious to people, was without a doubt the most engaging person he’d ever met. He recalled how priggish, at moments outright churlish, he’d been to her at their first meeting, and how she’d responded only with humor and a promise to try harder for him. L
ooking around the party he felt her absence keenly. Had they not fought, she would be here with him right now, toasting her book’s completion in public, toasting their attraction to each other in private. Last week in anticipation of their first night together, he’d already bought the wine. He’d even bought a candle. He felt a fool for what had happened between them—even worse than losing her book, he’d lost her friendship.

  The congenial atmosphere of the little party dampened considerably as Thomas Finley entered and started talking over his coworkers. Zach ignored him, huddling in the corner and chatting with J. P. and Mary about upcoming projects in L. A.

  “I’ve only handled a few screenplays,” Zach said. “And the U. K. film scene is quite small. Hollywood might prove to be rather daunting. ”

  “Faulkner thought so, as well,” J. P. said. “He was working with a director, Howard Hawks, out in California. He told Hawks he thought he’d work better from home. Hawks told him that was fine not realizing Faulkner meant his real home, Mississippi. The man just packed up and went back to Mississippi to work from home. ”

  Zach and Mary laughed. J. P. patted Zach on his shoulder and excused himself to the restroom.

  “You’d like to go home, wouldn’t you, Zach?” Finley said, slapping his hand on Zach’s back. Zach repressed a shudder and turned to face him. Of course, Thomas would wait until the second J. P. was gone to start in on him. “England, I mean. I don’t know if L. A. is safe for you. Have you ever had a tan in your life? Probably not. No tanning in a fog. ”

  “I plan on working in L. A. , Thomas. Not playing. ”

  “Working like Faulkner?” he asked with a smarmy grin. “How many affairs did Faulkner have while out in L. A. ? Three? Four? Of course, you’re not married anymore, Zach, so I guess they won’t count as affairs. Oh, wait…you’re still married, aren’t you? I’d forgotten. Hard to tell sometimes. So I guess Nora Sutherlin was number one. ”

  Zach locked eyes with Finley. “I am not, was not and have not slept with Nora Sutherlin. She is, was, one of my writers. I try to respect that line. ”

  “Writer? She’s a whore, Zach, and we both know it. ”

  “You don’t know anything, Thomas,” Zach countered. “Call her whatever you want—she’s still one of the most promising writers I’ve ever worked with. I’d far rather work with whores than hacks any day. ”

  “Hacks?” Thomas took an angry step closer. “None of my writers are whores. And they’re definitely not hacks. ”

  “I wasn’t talking about your writers. ” Zach heard a collective gasp from around the room as the implication of his words sunk in.

  “You son of a bitch. ” Before anyone but Zach could react, Thomas raised his arm to take a swing at him.

  But Zach had more fights with drunken football hooligans under his belt than he cared to admit, thanks to his days as a bartender in university. He ducked and swung back, making fierce, hard contact with Thomas’s chin. His head snapped to the side and Thomas went down in an instant.

  There was a long silence as the room seemed to take in the scene that had just played out before them. And then it was filled with applause and laughter.

  “Mary,” Zach said. “Did you know that the first rule of S&M is to hurt, but not harm?”

  Thomas wiped blood from his mouth.

  “Looks unharmed to me, boss. ”

  Without waiting another second, Zach ran from the room and headed for the elevators.

  “Where are you going?” Mary called out as she raced down the hall behind him.

  “I’m getting my writer back. Or at least her book. ”

  Mary grinned at him.

  “Good luck, Zach. Just so you know this is why you’re my favorite boss of all time. ”

  Zach fled the building, his right hand throbbing, and hailed a taxi. Suddenly he realized he wasn’t sure what he was doing.