The Siren, Page 50Tiffany Reisz
Author: Tiffany Reisz
He gave the driver his address to his own flat. He’d try calling Nora again from there. If she didn’t answer he’d go to her house. And if she wasn’t at her house, well, he’d hunt her down any way he could.
Zach stopped in the lobby of his building and dialed Nora’s number from the phone at the front desk. If she answered he wouldn’t even bother going upstairs.
“Wesley,” Zach said, relieved to hear the boy’s voice. “It’s Zach. I need Nora. Please, is she there?”
“She’s gone, Zach. She was gone by the time I got up this morning. What do you want? You dumped Nora, remember? Want to dump her again?”
Zach sighed, guilt stabbing into his stomach.
“I was wrong about her, Wesley. I’m apologizing to her…again. ”
“This time she really shouldn’t let you. ”
“Believe me, I know. But please, can you give me any idea where she could be?”
“It’s Nora. She’s probably where you’d least expect. ”
Zach hung up and tried to think. He decided to go up to his flat to dig out his copy of her book from under his bed and think it out. If she wasn’t at home she could be anywhere. With a client, at the 8th Circle, on the moon for all he knew.
Where you’d least expect… Zach thought to himself as the lift climbed the twenty-three stories. Those words reminded him of something he’d heard before.
You merely think you know her. It’s one of her best tricks. She flirts, she teases, she confesses everything but reveals nothing. It’s the oldest magician’s trick—smoke and mirrors, misdirection… You are absolutely certain she’s here, Søren had said. Zach slipped his key in the lock of his door and turned the knob. When all the while she’s right over here…
“Hello, Zach. ”
It took almost a full ten seconds for Zach to register that Nora stood in his living room. She was wearing a suit and a tie and a smile so defiant he was as nervous as he was relieved.
“You’re home from work early,” she said. “I was ready to wait it out all day. ”
“My God, you’re here. I just called Wesley looking for you. ”
“You found me. And I won’t darken your doorstep for long. Just wanted to bring you a present. ”
A sheaf of paper landed with a thud at his feet. Zach bent and picked it up. It was a book—her book—printed out and spiral bound. He flipped through the almost five hundred pages.
“I finished it, Zach. Without you. Read the dedication. ”
With trembling hands, Zach opened the front cover and flipped to the dedication page.
“‘To Zachary Easton, my editor. Fuck you. ’”
“Very nice. I deserved that. ”
“You deserve this, as well,” Nora said and came over to him. She met his eyes and took a deep breath.
“Zach, I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about me. I’ve never had anyone take my writing seriously before. Your good opinion meant so much that the thought of losing it terrified me. I’m done with that part of my life now. I quit the other job and started writing again. Just writing. I know you tore up the contract. I know you’re done with me. I know it’s too late for me and Royal. But I wanted you to see the book and know I finished it. You can keep that copy. It’s the only hard copy that might ever exist. ”
Zach gripped the book in his hand. He couldn’t believe his good fortune. He couldn’t believe he had both the book and his writer again.
Nora seemed to be waiting for him to say or do something. When he couldn’t find the words, she stepped away, picked up her coat and headed for the door.
“Didn’t what?” she asked, turning around.
“I didn’t tear up your contract. I still have it. ”
“That’s very sweet, but an unsigned contract is worth as much as one in the shredder. ”
Zach faced her.
“Is it just the hard copy you have? Or do you have an electronic version with you?”
Nora cocked her head at him. She reached inside her shirt and pulled out a thin lanyard from around her neck.
“Flash drive. ”
Zach held out his hand and she put the flash drive in his palm.
“What are you doing?” she asked as he threw the paper copy on his sofa and plugged the drive into his laptop.
“Today’s Friday. My flight leaves Sunday. I’ve got a book to edit between now and then. ”
Nora searched his face.
“Are you serious?”
“Completely. I told you I wouldn’t sign the contract until I’d read the last page. Good thing I’m a fast reader. ”
“Then I’ll let you get to it. ”
“Stay. ” Zach set his laptop aside and stood up. “I’ll need your help. If something needs to be rewritten then I’ll need you here to do it. ”
Nora took her cell phone out of her pocket and turned it off. She reached out and locked Zach’s door. She walked over to the wall and unplugged his landline phone. She stood in front of the sofa and grinned dangerously at him.
“Okay, Zach. Let’s do it. ”
“Okay, here—” Zach shifted his laptop so Nora could look at the screen. “I’m shifting the order of the paragraphs. Caroline would think about his feelings first before she’d allow herself to think about hers. But I need some sort of transition. ”
Nora reread the page.
“She could look down and notice the bruises on her arms. He gave the bruises to her. It would help her shift perspective. ”
“Good. Write. ” Zach passed her the laptop. He went to his kitchen and dug through a box until he found his wineglasses. He opened his almost empty refrigerator, pulled out a bottle of chardonnay and poured two glasses.
“Thank you. ” She took the wineglass from him with one hand while she kept typing with the other. “Very good,” she said after the first sip. “This is fantastic. What’s the occasion?”
Zach reddened a little.
“I bought it over a week ago. I thought we should have some wine to celebrate when we finished your book—”
“And when we started sleeping together?” She finished the sentence for him. Zach looked at her and sighed. She’d taken off the suit jacket and loosened her tie. How could a woman look so feminine, so tempting in such masculine attire?
“Something like that. ”
Nora shook her head, took another sip of wine and finished the paragraph. She started to pass his laptop back to him but she paused and grabbed his wrist instead.
“Your knuckles are scraped. ” Nora looked up at him.
Zach gave a rueful laugh.
“I clocked my office prankster at my going away party today. ”
Nora’s eyes widened and she burst out laughing.
“That’s fabulous. I’m sure he deserved it. ”
“He called you a whore and I called him a hack. In my defense, he threw the first punch. ”
Nora nodded her approval. “You punched out a guy defending a woman’s honor. You’re a real man now, Zach. L’chaim,” she said and raised her wine.
“L’chaim. ” They clinked wineglasses.
Zach took his laptop back and sat next to Nora on the sofa again.
“I’m proud of you, Nora. You finished the book without me, despite me. ”
“To spite you,” she said. “What can I say? A writer writes. ”
“And you are a writer now. My writer. You can still be my writer even in L. A. We can still work together. ” Zach smiled at Nora and she smiled back.
“Work together or sleep together?”
“Is ‘both’ the wrong answer?”
“Both is negotiable. ”
He tried to resume his reading but he knew there was more he had to say to her.
“I tried to call you. ” Zach tore his
eyes away from the screen. “Last Sunday. I called every number, emailed you. ”
“I was working and didn’t want to be interrupted. Why did you call me?”
“To try to talk things out with you. Mary gave me what for about you. ”
“I like that girl. She’s one of us. She got me to sign her copies of my books the first day I went to see J. P. She told me my books were her favorite one-handed reads. ”
Zach laughed and rubbed his face.
“I don’t want that image of my assistant in my head, Nora. ”
“What do you want, Zach?”
Zach studied her face, wanting to memorize every line of it. Who knew how long it would be before he saw her again, if he saw her again? Her green-gold eyes glimmered strangely in the lamplight. What did he want? He knew but wouldn’t say it aloud.
Nora tilted her head and gave him a slight smile. She brought the glass to her lips and drank slowly.
She lowered the glass and her lips shimmered wet with the white wine.
Zach reached out, laid a hand on the side of her neck and kissed her. She didn’t seem the slightest bit shocked by the kiss. She opened her mouth to him and he tasted the wine on her tongue. The Chardonnay-sweetened kiss was more intoxicating than the alcohol. She kissed back…slowly, deeply and with breathtaking expertise. She bit his bottom lip, teased his tongue, drew him in farther and faster. And then she abruptly stopped and pulled away. She crossed her legs and picked up the hard copy of her novel.
Breathless and aroused, Zach sat next to her and panted a little.
She glanced at him and opened her book to the same page he was on.
“What’s next?” she asked.
Zach swallowed and glanced down at his screen.
“Page three hundred and eight,” he said still a little breathless. “We need to cut this scene down. ”
“Swollen, is it?” Nora asked without the slightest hint of irony although he knew now nothing had a single meaning with Nora.
“Quite. We should take care of that. ”
“Yes, sir,” she said and flipped to that page. “I’ll chop that scene right off. ”
* * *
Zach yawned and checked his computer clock—
3:37 a. m. He blinked and stretched out his neck. Next to him on the sofa, Nora lay curled up and sleeping. Zach closed his laptop and reached for Nora’s hard copy of her book and flipped to the last page—William’s goodbye to Caroline—and read it for the first time.
If you’re reading this endnote then I can assume you’ve suffered your way through the story, our story once again. I suppose having you relive our time together is the ultimate proof of my sadism, as if you of all people needed further proof.
At the end I find myself surprised by how easy it was to write this book about us. I found I missed you so much that a terrible vacuum had formed; all the words came and filled it and for a little while you were home with me again. I didn’t want it to end but a story must have an end, I suppose.
I have no secrets to reveal on this final page. I loved you. At least I tried to. And I failed you. I failed you with great success. Forgive me if you can. I will not apologize anymore.
I’m done writing now. I may go into the garden and read until evening. It isn’t quite the same without your head on my knee and your ill-informed criticisms of my reading material, but I shall carry on alone, page by page, until the end. And when evening comes and the sun is sitting on the edge of the earth, I will look out, searching for a break in the horizon as that father did once so many thousands of years ago…the father waiting for his prodigal child to return.
I hope you are happy. As for me, I…continue. If you ever miss me, miss… But some things are best left unwritten. Just know I have kept your room for you. I’ll say no more. I know I sent you away. I know it was the right thing to do. But I also know that perhaps not every story has to end.