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       The Queen, p.11

         Part #8 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz

  willing to teach you.”

  Nora pulled a fan out of her blue silk reticule and unfurled it as she spat out the leash. Holding the fan in front of her mouth, she whispered, “Who is he?”

  “You don’t know?” Kingsley asked.


  “He’s the governor’s son.”



  “I don’t know what our own governor looks like much less his relatives.”

  “You’ll learn what he looks like eventually.”


  “He’ll be one of your clients.”

  Nora would have rolled her eyes at this pronouncement except it was likely true.

  “Is the mayor’s son going to be a client of mine, too?” she asked.

  “No. He’s not a submissive,” Kingsley said. “But I did a little cover-up work for the mayor’s wife before the election. She owes me a favor now.”

  “Who doesn’t?” she asked. If you were powerful in New York, Kingsley made sure you owed him a favor. She owed him a favor herself. A big one. He’d taken her in after she’d run away from the convent. She had her old bedroom back. No one had touched her things, moved her clothes, packed up her stuff and stored it all away. It had been left in place waiting for her return. Even the book she’d been reading when she left, Villette by Charlotte Brontë, had been left on the nightstand, her bookmark still in place on page 268. When she had returned, Kingsley had opened the door to her bedroom and said, “Welcome home.”

  A roof over her head, a bed to sleep in, clothes, food and books. None of which she’d have if Kingsley had turned her away. Which begged the question...

  “Why did you take me in?” she whispered behind her fan.

  “Why did I take you in?” Kingsley repeated. “Are you truly asking me that?”

  “I wouldn’t have blamed you if you’d sent me packing.” His anger at her for running away and not telling him where she’d gone, not contacting him once in all those months, had been real. Terrifyingly real.

  “I tried to explain you to Juliette. Explain us, I mean.”

  “That must have taken all night.”

  “It might take the rest of my life. She said you and I, we’re family in a way.”

  “I certainly wouldn’t call us friends,” she said, not out of cruelty but mere honesty. Nora was a writer and she took the meaning of words seriously. This man who’d been her lover since she was twenty, who had introduced her to her dominant side, who’d gotten her pregnant and then run for the hills when she’d needed him most, but who had taken her in without question when she’d turned up on his doorstep in the middle of the night? To call him a “friend” seemed an insult to what they were to each other. It would be like calling Kingsley and Søren “school chums.”

  But family?

  “I’m not sure about the ‘family’ here, either,” she said. “No offense.”

  “And why ever not?” Kingsley sounded almost insulted.

  “Because I’ve never wanted to fuck a member of my own family.”

  Kingsley laughed under his breath.

  “You aren’t, by any chance, training me to be a dominatrix to punish him, are you?”

  Kingsley put his hand over his heart. “You wound me, chérie. Would I really do something like that?”


  Kingsley winked and nodded toward a scene happening on the level below them.


  Three burly men dressed in leather entered the large living room below and started moving the furniture. Chairs were pushed to the outer perimeter and every other bit of furniture was taken to another room. Someone clearly needed a big space to play. From the other room, they brought out a large black St. Andrew’s Cross and set it near the main wall.

  “Her harem,” Kingsley said, leaning close to her ear.

  The men tested the cross and found it sturdy. They tested the ankle and wrist restraints on the cross and found them solid. They tested the distance from the cross to the nearest onlookers and found it adequate.

  One of the three men disappeared again into the other room. When he returned he wasn’t alone.

  A blindfolded man was escorted into the play area and made to stand in front of the cross with his back to it. From her perch on high Nora could see him well. He had a trim and sinewy frame, tall but not too tall. She could see his ribs and his muscles when he inhaled. His arms were covered from shoulder to wrist in vibrant full-sleeve tattoos. Unfortunately he had on pants, black ones that hung low on his hips so she could see the little line of hair leading from his navel down, down, a trail she’d love to follow. Although his face was that of a young man—he looked no older than thirty—he had gray hair. Gray flecked with black, but mostly gray. Kingsley’s teenage assistant, Calliope, said such men were known as “silver foxes.” Nora had never wanted a pet fox before. Now she reconsidered.

  “He’s pretty,” she said to Kingsley behind her fan. “Who is he?”

  “You like him?” Kingsley asked.

  “Who wouldn’t?”

  “His name is Thorny.”

  “I love his ink,” she said, eyeing his tattoos.

  “You want him?” Kingsley asked.

  “I might not say no if he offered,” she readily admitted. “If he’s a sub.”

  “Oh, he’s a sub. For two thousand dollars.”

  “He’s a pro-sub?”

  Kingsley shook his head.


  Kingsley shook his head again.


  “He’s a And for two thousand dollars he’ll be almost anything you want him to be.”

  Nora’s eyes widened.

  “He’s a prostitute?” Nora asked. Kingsley nodded. “The Body House... Bawdy house... King, did you bring me to a brothel?”

  Again he nodded.

  With her mouth hidden by the fan she whispered a question to Kingsley.

  “Why the hell did you bring me to a brothel? I’ve been arrested before, you know. I don’t want to get arrested again.”

  She had nothing against sex workers, especially since she was training to be one herself. But kink for money was legal in New York. Sex for money wasn’t.

  Kingsley took the leash and put it between her teeth again. Next time they went undercover he could wear the wig and play the sub, and she would stick a leather rope in his mouth.

  Nora kept her eyes on the handsome silver fox below her. She wished he could see her. She’d like to look in his eyes and take her measure of him. Even with the blindfold on, she could see he was nervous. His chest panted with quick breaths. Perhaps he was excited? Or perhaps he was scared?

  Scared of whom?

  That was when Nora smelled the cherry blossoms. She inhaled deeply. Such a marvelous sweet scent. The scent of a new spring.

  Nora turned and behind her stood a woman. And such a woman she was. Like French royalty she wore a gown of silver silk. Over the gown she wore a hooded pelisse. Under the hood was a face, girlish and fine, wearing little makeup apart from red lipstick. She looked so young, so painfully young and innocent. She smiled and Nora knew she was in the presence of a rather cold-blooded sadist.

  “Kingsley Edge?” the young woman said. “Or am I mistaken?”

  Her voice was entirely without an accent, which was an accent in itself. Despite her girlish look, she had a woman’s voice. And she did not smile or laugh. Nora had a feeling she’d never giggled in her life.

  “At your service, Milady.” Kingsley held out his hand and she slipped hers into his palm. He turned her hand up and kissed the inside of her wrist.

  “A pleasure to finally make your acquaintance.”

  “The pleasure is all mine. I would introduce you to my submissive, but she isn’t allowed to speak.”

  He inclined his head toward Nora, who gave a little curtsy behind her fan. It would all be so silly and ridiculous if it weren’t so deadly serious. This woman knew
almost as many secrets as Kingsley did, but unlike Kingsley, she was willing to tell them to serve her own purposes.

  “Does she have a name?” Milady asked. “Or has she not earned one yet?”

  “It’s Nora,” Kingsley said, grasping the back of her neck lightly, a sign of claiming. “Nora Sutherlin. And I assure you, she has earned her name.”

  Nora turned her head sharply toward Kingsley, who didn’t even meet her eyes. Oh, he was going to get it... As soon as they were alone she would tear him up and burn him like an old love letter from a cheating lover. He’d given her the same last name as her college boyfriend. She’d warned him that if he ever called her by the name Sutherlin again she’d slap him into the next century. No doubt that’s why he’d done it.

  “Nora...lovely.” Milady didn’t glance at Nora but she kept her eyes trained on Kingsley. She looked him up and down, perusing him like a piece of merchandise that she might want to buy if the price was right. “Would you allow your submissive to assist me?”

  “She’s new,” Kingsley said. “I’m not sure she could be of much help to you.”

  “Oh, but she could. Don’t worry. I’ll keep her out of harm’s way.”

  Kingsley seemed reluctant to let Nora go. “Of course. I only hope she behaves.”

  “I’m sure she will.”

  Nora wasn’t so sure.

  Kingsley snapped his fingers and Nora obediently faced him. Since Milady watched her so closely she did her best to keep her eyes low and her attitude biddable. In the past, such a dutiful air would have been her natural state at a kink party. When around Søren she submitted because it was simply what one did in his presence. Now it felt like a costume she’d put on along with her cancan dress and mask.

  Kingsley unhooked the leash from the collar and gave her a kiss on the lips, a convincing one. Even Nora was convinced that Kingsley considered her his passion and his property tonight. Then he gave her a swat on the cancan and said, “Go with Milady. Be a good girl and make me proud.”

  She gave Kingsley a curtsy, too, and followed Milady down the stairs.

  Everyone watched them as they entered the play area although Nora noted that most eyes were on Milady. From the arched doorway emerged one of her burly trio carrying a large white velvet bag in one hand and a small flat stool in the other. He set them both a few feet back from the blindfolded man.

  “Nora,” Milady said, taking her by the wrist, “I want you to meet someone. This is Thorny, not his real name, of course.” The reason for the name was obvious, as Thorny’s tattoos on both of his arms were of vines covered in thorns. All vines. No roses. “I want you to stand behind the cross and keep an eye on Thorny. He’s not very fond of whips. If he passes out, you should let me know. What’s that English saying? No use beating a dead whore?”

  “Horse,” Nora said, her jaw clenching.

  “Ah, she speaks.”

  “I do. And if he doesn’t like whipping, why are you whipping him?”

  “Because I like whipping.” Milady’s tone suggested Nora had asked the stupidest question in the entire world.

  “Shouldn’t you find someone who likes whips and whip him instead?”

  “He’s being well compensated for his troubles.”

  “Does he have a safe word?”

  “I have a safe word. It’s roses. The whips are loud. If he says my safe word I might not hear him so you’ll have to find a way to let me know. It’s your responsibility to keep him safe. Do you accept that?”

  “I guess I will since you don’t seem very interested in his safety.”

  “I must don’t behave like any submissive I’ve ever met.”

  “I’m not like any submissive you’ve ever met,” Nora said, feeling a surge of protectiveness toward the man at the cross. Kingsley or Søren would never whip anyone who didn’t like being whipped. That was serious pain and if done incorrectly, it could leave open wounds and scars.

  “ you aren’t,” Milady said, looking Nora up and down this time, studying her. “Let me tell you a little secret about myself. I have a particular kink. I enjoy paying men money to do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do. Like Thorny here—he hates whips with a passion. He told me it was a hard limit. I offered one thousand dollars to let me whip him. He said no. Two thousand? No. Four thousand? Yes. With enough money every hard limit becomes a soft limit. And everyone has a price. My kink is finding it. What’s your price, Nora?”

  “I’m not for sale.”

  “Everyone’s for sale. What if I paid you two thousand dollars to whip our friend Thorny, would you do it?”

  “No. He doesn’t want to be whipped.”

  “You wouldn’t hurt someone against their will?”

  “Only to protect myself or someone else.”

  “Money might not be your price, then. Would you hurt someone against their will to keep a secret?”

  “Depends on the secret.”

  Milady gave her a little smile, an impish grin that made Nora want to rip Milady’s lips off.

  “Would you hurt someone against their will to keep your priest’s secret?”


  White Whips Red Blood

  IT WAS A good thing Nora had spent nine years of her life obeying Søren’s every order. Had she not been so well trained, she likely would have ripped Milady’s face off and put it in a jar. Or at the very least let loose a litany of profanity to make a sailor clutch his pearls. Instead, and because she had learned a modicum of self-control as Søren’s property, she kept her mouth shut while on the inside she plotted murder.

  Milady ignored the stare of pure burning hatred Nora shot at her while she untied her pelisse and passed it to one of her burly trio. She took Thorny by the hand and turned him to face the cross. With her hands and not her words, Milady directed Thorny into place. She cuffed his ankles to chains and bound his wrists high on the cross. Nora knew she should be paying attention to Thorny but she spared a glance up at Kingsley. He looked at her with narrowed curious eyes. Did he sense her distress? She hoped this show didn’t last long. They needed to get out of here now. Milady knew who she was and what she was and that she had been Søren’s lover. And if she knew all of that, she might know Søren’s real name and if she did...she could get him into a whole world of trouble.

  Or...was this just a mind game designed to scare Nora off? Nora wasn’t scared off but she was angry. Søren might be a hypocritical, pretentious, arrogant, insufferably possessive bastard but he was her hypocritical, pretentious, arrogant, insufferably possessive bastard.

  She couldn’t worry about that right now. Milady had opened the white velvet bag and pulled out two matching whips—white whips. Pure white with white crackers on the ends of the tails. Consummate show-woman that she was, Milady walked the perimeter of the room, whips extended to the side as if measuring the space. Would she miss and accidentally hit a spectator? Milady wanted the crowd to be afraid she would miss so they would be so terribly impressed when she didn’t.

  Nora had the worst seat in the house. She would see the tips of the whips but not the action, but this was fine by her. Thorny had to be her priority, not watching the show. A man who’d never been whipped before was about to get whipped in public by a woman wielding not one, but two single-tails.

  “Scared?” Nora whispered to Thorny.

  “Terrified,” he said with a brash grin. She wondered how long that grin would last.

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