The siren, p.8
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       The Siren, p.8

         Part #1 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
Page 8

  Author: Tiffany Reisz

  “What?” Zach said. “Your parents don’t know you and Nora are living together?”

  A faint blush suffused Wesley’s face. “There’s a lot they don’t know. They were going to pull me out of school and send me to the state school down there. It was money reasons, the usual, and Nora offered to let me live with her and work for my room and board. They just know I got a job to cover it and a place off-campus. They don’t know what I’m doing. ”

  “How did you two meet?”

  “School,” Nora answered for Wesley. “His school was obviously a little desperate—they asked me to be their writer-in-residence that semester. Wes was in my class. ”

  “You were her student?” Zach asked, his hands going cold even as he said the words.

  “The class met at one. ” Wesley smiled at Nora. “I needed to meet my Humanities requirement, and I would have taken anything that let me sleep late on Tuesdays and Thursdays. ”

  “I’m very flattered. ” Nora stuck her tongue out at him.

  “I’m very leaving. Later,” Wesley said. He reached for Nora’s mug and she slapped his hand.

  “What are your numbers?” she demanded.

  “One-seventeen. I can have a sip,” Wesley protested.

  “Not on my watch. Drink your coffee black, and keep your hands off my cocoa. ”

  Wesley feinted to the left and stuck his finger in her cocoa and licked it off as he disappeared through the kitchen door. Zach felt a pang at the easy intimacy between Nora and Wesley. He missed his play-fights with Grace in the kitchen and the bargains they struck to make up. He would cook dinner if she would wear the lingerie he’d gotten her for her birthday. She’d do the dishes if she could be on top tonight…amazing how they both came out victors in those battles.

  “So he’s…nineteen?”

  “You have a dirty mind, Zachary Easton. Wesley’s as pure as, well, I’m not. ”

  “You’re telling me that Wesley’s a virgin? The young attractive houseboy of an infamous erotica writer is a virgin?”

  “Believe it or not, I do have some self-control. And even if I didn’t, Wes certainly does—apart from sticking his damn hand into my cocoa every now and then. He’s a good Christian kid and I respect him more than I can say for his decision to wait. Mark my words, Zach, I will put the first randy bitch who lays a hand on him in the hospital. ”

  “And he doesn’t mind what you write? What you do?”

  Nora leaned back in her chair. “We made a deal. I can top, but not bottom. ”

  “Are you secretly a gay man?” Zach eyed her curiously.

  “I’m not so secretly kinky. Top and bottom are S&M terms, too. Wes leaves me alone about my sex life as long as I’m not the one coming home with the bruises. ”

  Zach swallowed. “Did you ever come home with bruises?”

  Nora bit her bottom lip.

  “I won’t bore you with the whole story of me and Søren,” she said, glancing away. “Let’s just say we’ve got history and leave it at that. Last year, I went to see Søren on the day we consider our anniversary. I do it every year. Can’t stop myself for some reason. Anyway, I had a weak moment. I came home the next morning covered in welts and bruises and with a nice fat lip. Wes was horrified. He started packing. ”

  Zach winced. The thought of welts and bruises on Nora horrified him, too.

  “So you made your deal?”

  “Right. If I go back to Søren one more time, Wes is gone. ”

  “Moving out seems a rather extreme threat. Of course, moving in with you seems a rather odd decision. ”

  “He’s Methodist. I think he’s trying to save me. Methodists are always trying to save people. ”

  “Are you sure he doesn’t have feelings for you?”

  “He does have feelings for me. Namely irritation, frustration and disgust mingled with amusement. But that’s not surprising since he’s not in the game. ”

  Zach sympathized with the boy. He had the same feeling for Nora, too. As well as intoxicated, amazed and aroused mingled with petrified.

  “You said he was a virgin. How do you know he isn’t like you?”

  “K-dar,” Nora said and tapped the side of her nose. “Kinksters can smell it on each other. And my Wesley smells like warm vanilla. ”

  “Wonder what I smell like. ” Zach cursed himself for accidentally speaking the words aloud.

  Nora cocked her head at him; Zach’s heart started to race. She rose up out of her chair and slid onto the top of the kitchen table. She stretched across it and put her nose at his neck. Slowly, she inhaled. A slight rush of air whispered over Zach’s skin and he immediately knew what every muscle in his body was doing.

  “Not kink. But not vanilla, either. Smells like…curiosity. It killed the cat, you know. ”

  “Nora,” Zach said in a warning tone. J. P. would yank him off Nora’s book in a heartbeat if he saw them right now.

  “S&M is as psychological as it is physical and sexual, Zach. Imagine being as deep inside a woman’s mind as you are inside her body. ”

  Zach’s hands gripped his mug, still warm from the steaming liquid inside.

  “We’re working,” he reminded her, reminded himself. He remembered their photograph in the newspaper; her mouth had been at his ear just the way it was now. If he turned his head only a few inches their lips would meet.

  “I write erotica. I am working. Want to earn some overtime?”

  “Nora, we’ve got less than six weeks and more than four hundred pages to write. Now get off the table and stop wasting my time. ”

  “Oh, fine,” she said, sounding playfully disappointed. Zach exhaled with relief when she slid back and sat in her chair again. She reached under her notes and pulled out a copy of the trade newspaper that had their picture in it. She leaned back in her chair and threw her legs up on the table as she flipped through the paper. Zach stared at their picture again prominently displayed right in front of his face. The byline read Erotica Writer Nora Sutherlin Gets the Royal Treatment.

  Nora turned another page and sighed. “And to think I thought the fog was finally lifting. ”

  * * *

  Zach stared at his computer screen for the seventeenth straight minute in a row. The words of the book review he’d sworn he would start writing for the Times tonight simply would not come. He had words, the wrong words, Nora’s words, but not the words he needed.

  Not kink, she’d purred into his ear, sending every nerve in his long neglected body firing. But not vanilla, either… Nora… Zach understood now why some people were afraid of her. He was afraid of her, of her power to take captive his every thought. He felt unmoored around her, unsafe, and yet of everyone he had met since coming to New York, he sensed only she could be trusted.

  As deep inside a woman’s mind… Zach tried and failed to stem the tide of images that her words conjured. Grace’s soft skin, moon-white against midnight sheets, her back against his chest, his hands over hers, his mouth to her neck as he drove into her, knowing her flesh and yet still knowing so little of her soul. Her body had been so open to him once. But her mind? Her heart?

  Zach shook his head, trying to pull himself out of his dangerous reverie. Grace, who he had made love to countless times, told him nothing. And Nora, on whom he had never laid a hand, said everything.

  On a whim, Zach minimized his document and opened Google. Nora threw out S&M terminology like a doctor tossed around the names of exotic diseases. He wasn’t entirely clueless when it came to matters of kink. An old lover of his had even accused him of being kinky because he preferred positions other than missionary. He certainly knew what S&M meant—sadomasochism, knew the French called it “the English vice” because his countrymen had an amusing obsession with corporeal punishment. Not him—he tried to avoid giving or receiving pain whenever possible. He’d been known to bite a little during lovemaking, something Grace
was inordinately fond of, but actual hitting or whipping was something entirely out of his purview.

  After they were done working on her book today, Zach had worked up the courage to ask Nora about Søren, her former lover who she spoke about with the reverent sadness of a knight speaking of a fallen king. She said they were a D/S couple like William and Caroline in her book. She’d been collared to him for years, and that leaving him had been akin to dying.

  Zach typed in D-S couple and quickly discovered he’d mentally spelled it incorrectly. Spelled D/s it stood for Dominant and submissive. Interesting that while the D was capitalized the s was always lowercase to illustrate the lower status held by the submissive. The whole thing seemed rather strange and sexist to him, but he couldn’t deny that there seemed to be quite a few male submissives and some rather impressive-looking female Dominants out there. He couldn’t imagine a woman as vivacious as Nora being content to sit at a man’s feet. His only guess was that this man, this Søren person, was a rather impressive specimen. He wondered what Søren did for a living—probably something innately alpha male like a pilot or a military officer. Or perhaps he was independently wealthy like Nora seemed to be. Something certainly afforded her an impressive quality of life. She drove a late-model black Lexus with a cheeky license plate that read “Say Ouch” and she lived in an elegant, historic home. He knew award-winning writers in England with a dozen or more books under their belts who still couldn’t afford the house or the neighborhood she lived in.

  Curiosity got the better of him, and Zach typed in Nora Sutherlin and hit Enter. She found several fan pages, some links to fan fiction and Nora’s official website. Zach kept scrolling through all the mentions of Nora on the web. He clicked the link to someone’s blog that carried an entry entitled “Last Night with THE Nora Sutherlin. ” But as soon as Zach clicked the link the page disappeared. He hit Back and tried to find it again, but the page had vanished. Maybe the blog server was down.

  Zach gave up nosing on Nora and looked up more S&M terminology. As uncomfortable as the idea of coupling pain with sex, he did appreciate that people in the community seemed fairly responsible in their play. Every webpage he landed on carried the mantra “safe, sane and consensual. ” He stared for a long time at an image of a young woman wearing a brown leather collar that buckled and locked at the base of her neck. Zach remembered Nora had said she’d been “collared” to Søren. Collars were apparently quite an important part of the S&M scene. Nora had touched his naked wedding ring finger that night in the cab and then brought his hand to her bare neck. She’d equated being collared with marriage. Maybe that’s why he and Nora had found common ground so quickly despite being such wildly different people—they were both going through a divorce of sorts.

  But was he going through a divorce? Every day when he checked his mail, he expected papers from Grace’s attorney. Every time his home phone rang, he expected it to be Grace telling him they needed to stop putting it off. But so far he’d received no calls or legal papers. Was she waiting on him to start the process? If so, she might have to wait a long time. He couldn’t deny their marriage had fallen apart in the past year and a half, but he was in no hurry to put the final nail in the coffin. He’d hoped if he came to New York, she’d miss him enough to want to make it work again. But every day the phone stayed mute.

  Zach closed the internet and exited from his empty document without writing a single sentence. He’d left Nora in her kitchen hours ago. Surely she’d sent him another email by now—she emailed him constantly. But his in-box sat empty but for a reminder from J. P. about the next staff meeting and a question from his assistant, Mary. Both could wait.

  He clicked on New and typed in Nora’s email address. Of course she would have an address with “littleredridingcrop” in it. Ludicrous as it was, at least it made it easy to remember.
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