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       The Saint, p.11

         Part #5 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  Nico took the chain from her hand.

  “Lie back,” he said. “Open your legs.”

  “The five best words in the English language.”

  “Couche-toi. Écarte les cuisses,” Nico said.

  “The five best words in the French language.”

  Nora lay back as instructed and opened her legs wide for Nico. He tried and failed to unclasp the chain. She took it from him and opened it.

  “Smaller fingers,” she said. He took the chain from her and threaded it through the ring. This time he managed to lock the clasp. He pulled the chain taut, and Nora flinched with the pleasure of the gentle tugging.

  “Now pull the chain through.”

  Nico did as instructed. The beads of the silver chain rattled the ring. Nora shivered at the sensation it created—like a vibrator but much more intimate and concentrated. She dug her fingers into the bed as Nico spun the chain through the ring over and over again, slowly at first and then faster as her breathing quickened.

  With the chain in his left hand, he tugged and teased her clitoral ring. With his right hand, he pressed three and then four fingers into her. Nora spread wide for Nico as his hand explored her vagina. He massaged her G-spot, went deeper and pushed against the high back wall near her cervix. Her inner muscles twitched and tightened around his fingers. She gasped when he pushed into a soft corner of her, the pleasure so intense she flinched.

  Nico laughed as he moved the chain back and forth. Her clitoris pulsed and her stomach tightened. Her hips rose of their own accord as she moved in time with the muscles clenching and releasing around Nico’s fingers.

  She came with a sudden shiver that she felt from her shoulders to her knees before collapsing back on the bed with a spent laugh.

  “Now that,” Nico said as he pulled out his hand and unclasped the chain, “is a good trick.”

  “One of many up my sleeve,” Nora said, as she took the chain from him and put it back in her jewelry case. Nico ran his hand over her thighs and stomach.

  “Where did you learn all these tricks?” he asked, kissing her mouth.

  “You don’t want to know.”

  “Kingsley?”

  “And Søren. And my own wicked imagination.”

  She pulled back from the kiss to wink at him.

  “You amaze me.”

  “That’s your erection talking.”

  “And my heart,” he said.

  She laid her hand on the side of his face. Such a young, handsome face. But he didn’t have an ounce of innocence in him. He worked too hard, lived too hard, had seen too much of the world to have stars in his eyes. Good. She liked his eyes the way they were right now—warm and hungry. He had none of his father’s cynicism and all of his secrets. But Nico’s secrets never scared her like Kingsley’s did. She knew one secret he kept from her for her own sake.

  “I know you’re in love with me,” she said, caressing the arch of his cheekbone with her fingertips.

  “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “My feelings are my own. They shouldn’t concern you.”

  “God, you’re so French.”

  Nico laughed and buried his head against her chest.

  “I can’t help it,” he said. “I get it from my father.”

  “Which father?” she asked.

  “The one who raised me. My real father. Not Kingsley.”

  “Kingsley would have raised you and loved you if he’d known about you.”

  “Let me love you since I can’t love him,” Nico said.

  She ran her fingers through the dark waves of his hair. In her younger days she would never have appreciated a man like Nico—quiet, industrious, low-key. He had presence and intelligence but he made no spectacle of himself. He didn’t need to to own every room he walked into. He was so self-possessed he felt no need to possess anyone or anything else.

  “Nico, look at me.” He raised his head and gazed into her eyes, the smile long gone from his face. “I’ve known your father twenty years. Twenty. Think about that.”

  “If I can accept that, why can’t you?”

  “It’s not that I’ve known him for a long time. It’s how I know him, what we are to each other, what we’ve been through together.”

  “Then tell me. Please.”

  “Are you sure you want to hear this story?” Nora asked as she settled into the pillows. Nico lay next to her, his arm draped over her stomach.

  “Yes, I want to hear the story. Kingsley might be my biological father, but he’s not really my father. My father taught me how to plant vines and prune them, how to press wine and rack it. He’s the one who sent me to Australia to learn the secrets of Shiraz. Kingsley seduced my mother while my father was in Paris going bank to bank begging for a loan to keep the vineyard in the family after a bad harvest.”

  “If you knew King like I did, you would find a way to love him.”

  “Help me find that way.”

  Nora took a deep breath.

  “This might help you love him a little,” she said as she took her jewelry bag back to the bathroom. She grabbed her hairbrush and retuned to the bedroom. “So I got arrested for stealing cars for my dad, right? And Søren promised to help me out of my little legal trouble. He knew he’d need Kingsley to call in some favors. Even back then Kingsley had a few prosecutors and judges in his pocket. But when Søren went to him and asked for help, that was the first time he and Kingsley had spoken to each other in over ten years. Still, Kingsley helped him and helped me, too. He didn’t ask for anything in return except that Søren stay and be his friend.”

  “It’s good he helped you. You’re here now with me and not in prison.”

  “I’d do okay in prison. Helps that I love having sex with women.”

  “This isn’t helping my erection,” Nico said.

  “I’d say I’m sorry, but you’re too pretty to lie to.”

  Nora sat on the edge of the bed and pulled a pin from her now mussed mane of hair. Nico stopped her hand and with a spin of his finger indicated she should turn around. She raised an eyebrow and turned her back to him. One by one, Nico extracted the hairpins and unwound the low knot at the nape of her neck. Then he threaded his fingers through the waves, breaking them apart.

  “You said getting arrested brought you and Kingsley and your priest together?” Nico asked as he took the hairbrush from her hand. Nora stiffened. The only man who had ever brushed her hair for her had been Søren. It seemed almost traitorous to let Nico do it. And yet, she couldn’t stop him. She needed the comfort and the contact far too much. Nothing felt more exquisite than the gentle pull of the brush through her hair. If only untangling the knots in her stomach were this easy.

  “Yes, it was Kingsley who helped keep me out of juvenile detention. I was sentenced to twelve hundred hours of community service, which I had to complete before I turned eighteen. And here’s the fun part—Kingsley made sure the judge assigned Søren to monitor my community service. Soon I was feeding the hungry and hanging out with the homeless and scrubbing toilets and teaching poor kids how to make tassel bookmarks at summer camp.”

  “Better than prison?”

  “It was. Until I fucked it up. But that was Kingsley’s fault. He was getting me into trouble before we even met.”

  “He’s talented.”

  “Tell me about it.”

  “What happened?”

  Nora turned her head to the side so Nico could reach all her tangles.

  “It was June. I was sixteen. And my lawyer had put me under house arrest. She told me I could go to school but nowhere else. Not even church. So the day my community service started was the first time I’d seen Søren in months. Things got weird. Fast.”

  Nico gave a low, warm laugh and kissed that sensitive spot on her back between her shoulder blades.

  “How weird?”

  “The story starts with a stick in the ground and ends with an orgy.”

  “As every story should.”

  10

  E
leanor

  AT 9:00 A.M. SHARP THE DAY AFTER SCHOOL ENDED for summer break, Eleanor walked into Sacred Heart Catholic Church for the first time since March. She knew she’d be working that day so she’d put on an old white T-shirt and cutoff denim shorts and pulled her hair back in a ponytail.

  She went to Søren’s office. Not Søren, she corrected herself. Father Stearns. She said it a few more times in her head. Father. Stearns. Other parishioners hung around the church, and the last thing she wanted to do was slip up and call him by his real first name. People were already going to be suspicious of a teenage girl at the beck and call of a handsome young priest. No reason to make things worse. Father. Stearns. Not. Søren. She could do this.

  She knocked on his office door and took a step back. He opened the door.

  “Hi, Søren,” she said.

  He arched an eyebrow at her.

  “I mean, Father Stearns.”

  “This is going to be an issue for us, isn’t it?”

  “Probably.”

  He paused a moment before speaking again.

  “Come with me. We need to talk.”

  She followed him out to the back of the church and onto the shaded lawn. She had to stretch her legs to keep up with his long stride. He led her to a path, which bordered a small public park.

  “First, how are you, Eleanor? I haven’t seen you in months.”

  “Sorry about that. House arrest. But I’m okay. I’m grounded for life.”

  “I can’t blame your mother for that decision. But you will start attending church again.”

  “Your wish is my command,” she said, stuffing her hands in the back pockets of her shorts.

  “A good attitude to adopt. I heard your father was arrested.”

  She shrugged her shoulders. “Yeah, big shock there. He was eight states away by the time they caught that fucker. Sorry.”

  “You were arrested, and he ran. You have my permission to call him anything you like.”

  “Thank you. I’m sure he was scared, right? That’s why he ran.”

  “You deserve better than someone who will abandon you in times of trouble.”

  “He’s out on bail now. He’s tried to call a few times.”

  “You will not speak to him.”

  She stopped and Søren stopped and looked at her.

  “He’s my father.”

  “The moment he chose to protect himself instead of protecting his daughter is the moment his rights to see you, speak to you or even be in the same room with you ceased to exist. We made a deal, Eleanor. You obey my orders. This is one of them. You understand this?”

  She paused before answering. She’d hoped the whole “obeying” thing with Søren would involve orders like “take your clothes off” and “get into my bed.” A deal was a deal, however.

  “I understand.”

  “Good. Your well-being is my top priority. I’m supervising your community service, which puts you in my hands. I take this responsibility very seriously. There can be no part of your life you keep from me if I’m going to help you find the right path.”

  “My lawyer said I’ve got to be here about twenty hours a week. This is my life now.”

  “I want more of your time than twenty hours a week. Those hours are for community service. You also need to keep your grades up. When school starts again in the fall, I want you to do your homework here at church so I can help you if necessary.”

  “I’m good at school, it’s okay. I’m smarter than I look.”

  “There’s nothing unintelligent in your appearance,” he said as they started walking again. Mothers pushing strollers walked past them. They barely noticed her, but every last one of them smiled at Søren. “One failed test, one missed assignment and your grades could drop. If you can’t do the work and keep your grades up, the judge will send you to juvenile detention.”

  “I know. I promise I’ll do my homework. These park women are totally checking you out.”

  “Eleanor.”

  “Sorry.”

  “In addition to your community service work, you’ll receive spiritual counseling.”

  “Spiritual counseling? Do I even want to know what that is?”

  “As a Jesuit, I went through years of spiritual counseling with mentors. All of it was enlightening and edifying. Priests and laypeople alike can benefit from the teachings of Saint Ignatius. I’m certain you will, too.”

  Eleanor’s stomach tightened at the prospect of spending so much time with Søren.

  “Saint Ignatius? Okay. I can handle that. Anything else?”

  “As for your community service, most of it will be performed here at Sacred Heart. As much as I respect Father Gregory, his ministry seemed to focus far more on the spiritual needs of the community rather than the material needs. The church has no food bank, no outreach missions.”

  “Is that bad?” As they passed a small tree, Eleanor grabbed the end of a branch and shook it like a hand.

  “Prayer is all well and good, but Christ made it abundantly clear we’d be judged by our works far more than our prayers.”

  “You’re about to quote a Bible verse at me, aren’t you?”

  “I am. Matthew 25: 31–46.”

  “The sheep and the goats.” She almost yelled the words. Søren looked at her with his right eyebrow raised. “Sorry. I remembered that one. I got excited.”

  “Wonderful to hear such enthusiasm about the Bible. You remember the verses?” As they passed a bush bursting with roses, Søren reached out and stroked the pale pink petals.

  “Yeah. Jesus says when he comes back he’ll divide people into two groups—the sheep and the goats.”

  “Correct. The sheep, Jesus says, will inherit the kingdom of God because they clothed him when he was naked, fed him when he was hungry, gave him water when he was thirsty and visited him in prison. The sheep will say they do not remember ever doing such things for Jesus. And Jesus answers, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ The goats were the ones who never fed the hungry, gave water to the thirsty.”

  “I always liked those verses. We acted them out in Sunday school. We had little sheep ears and goat horns.” She put her hands on her head and mimed horns with her fingers. Søren seemed to be biting back a smile.

  “I want you to be counted among the sheep. As part of your community service, you’ll start a food bank at the church. We have a massive kitchen that only seems to get used for wedding receptions or baptisms. You’ll also work at church camp and visit the homeless at the shelter on Sixth Street.”

  “Visit the homeless shelter?” She couldn’t quite keep the fear out of her voice. She’d heard bad stories from that shelter. Most of them involving drug addicts or alcoholics. Fights would break out. People would end up in the hospital.

  “Don’t be afraid. I’ll make sure you’re safe. Do you babysit?”

  “Sometimes. Kids like me.”

  “I can’t imagine anyone not liking you.”

  She tried not to smile. She failed.

  “I’ve spoken several times with your mother. She’ll keep you on your schedule and monitor your grades.”

  “You talked to my mom?”

  “She loves you. We’re going to work together to keep you out of trouble.”

  Eleanor grimaced.

 
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