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       The Saint, p.13

         Part #5 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  Once she stepped through the front door of Sacred Heart, she could tell from the hollow echoing sound of her footsteps she was alone. Søren’s office door was closed. She knocked but heard nothing. With a shaking hand, she turned the doorknob and found the lights off, the office abandoned.

  On nervous feet she stepped inside the office. She shouldn’t be in here, but curiosity got the better of her. In the darkness she reached out and ran her fingertips across the books on Søren’s shelves. Cloth. Leather. Paper. Cloth. She pressed her hands to the back of his chair—an old leather-and-wood number that had probably been here since the church was erected two hundred years ago. In the dark she traced the spiraling scrollwork of the chair’s arm and ran her hands over the smooth leather of the chair.

  Eleanor returned to the door, shut it and locked it. Light from a streetlamp shone through the stained-glass rose window and made a shadow of her body on Søren’s desk. She eased into his chair and shivered as she sat where he sat. The desk in front of her had featured in so many of her fantasies since meeting Søren.

  She sat up in the chair and pulled her tank top off. She stood and slipped out of her shorts. And when she closed her eyes again she heard the door opening. She didn’t need light to tell her it was Søren in the office with her. She’d know his footsteps anywhere, his breathing, his scent. And now she knew his touch as his arms came around her and rested on her lower back. She turned her face up to his and his mouth came down to her mouth, his tongue sought her tongue. He didn’t simply smell like winter, he tasted like it, too, like new fallen snow melting in her mouth.

  His hands roamed up her back and unhooked her bra. He pulled it down her arms and let it fall to the floor. Was this right? Was this good? Should she stop him? Could she if she wanted to? Did she want to?

  No.

  He sat in the chair in front of her and slid her panties down her thighs. Without a word she stepped out of them and stood naked before him. She wasn’t blushing, but the faint light from the window cast a pale rose-tinted glow over her body.

  “Mine,” he said as he gripped her by the hips.

  “Yours,” she replied, bending her head to kiss him.

  He kissed her mouth and her neck. She shivered when his lips lightly danced across the sensitive flesh of her chest. He took a nipple in his mouth and she wrapped her arms around his neck, holding his head to her breast. She’d never dreamed anything could feel as good as his hands and mouth on her body.

  Søren stood up and took her in his arms, lifting her like she weighed nothing and laying her back on his desk. The surface of the desk was cold and smooth against her bare back. A chill passed through her even as his every touch set her blood burning. Without being told to, she opened her legs for him. He gripped her thighs and pushed her legs apart even more. With his hands on her hips, he used his thumbs to part her inner lips. He spread her wide and slipped a finger into her wetness. Then a second one. She opened up as he moved his hand inside her, touching the deepest parts of her.

  His fingers left her and she heard the sound of a zipper being lowered. She shut her eyes tight when he pulled her hips to the edge of the desk. Then he was entering her. She’d expected it to hurt but it didn’t, and her body opened up to receive him as if she’d been created for him and him alone. He filled her until she could take no more of him. Now he moved inside her, thrusting in, pulling back and then thrusting in again. Her body enveloped his hardness, coating it with her wetness, coaxing it in farther as she raised her hips in her eagerness for more. He held her breasts while he moved in her. He restrained her against the desk with his hips and his hands, and she lay there helpless, naked and defenseless before and beneath him. This was what she’d wanted from the second she’d seen him, and now she would take everything he could give her.

  He clasped her throat but didn’t grip it. Instinctively she understood why he made love to her with his hand on her neck. He owned her, possessed her. Her very life beat against the palm of his hand. She could feel her pulse pounding in her neck, pounding against his fingertips. I own you, that hand on her neck said. Every part of you. The part I’m fucking. The part I’m touching. Even the air flowing in and out of your lungs is mine.

  Her breathing quickened as he increased the pace of his thrusts. Her back arched off the desk as an orgasm ripped through her. Her clitoris throbbed and her innermost muscles clenched tight as a fist. They released in wild flutters through her stomach, back and thighs….

  Eleanor sat up on the desk, all alone, her head aching from the blinding intensity of her fantasy and the orgasm she’d given herself. She picked her clothes up off the floor and dressed quickly. She ran her hand over the top of the desk. She felt a few drops of fluid, her own, that had fallen there. With the bottom of her shirt, she wiped it off and prayed Søren wouldn’t notice anything amiss the next time he sat at his desk. She couldn’t believe she’d done what she’d done on his desk. What if he’d needed something in his office and found the door locked? Would he have heard the sounds of her breathing through the door, heard her coming as she imagined him taking her virginity on his desk with God and the portrait of Pope John Paul II hanging on the wall watching them?

  She shoved her feet into her shoes, slipped out into the hall and carefully closed the door behind her.

  And then she heard it.

  Piano music.

  She wasn’t alone in the church, after all.

  Eleanor knew she should run for it, head straight home and pretend nothing had happened. But the music called to her like a siren’s song and drew her inexorably to it. It came from the sanctuary. The notes slid under the door and out into the hallway. They wrapped their fingers around her and drew her in. She slipped through the doors of the sanctuary and followed the music to its source.

  Søren sat at the upright piano tucked to the right of the sacristy where he and the deacons changed in and out of their vestments.

  She stood just feet away from him and watched as he played. No, that wasn’t it. He didn’t play the piano. He enslaved it. His fingers moved with shocking speed and agility across the keys. He seemed a being of pure concentration right now. Did he even know she was standing there listening and watching and wanting him? She didn’t recognize the piece, but she wished she did. She wished she knew what he was playing and why he played it so intensely, as if he would die if he stopped.

  Minutes passed. Maybe an hour. She never grew tired of watching him. The music pinned her to floor the way his hand had pinned her to the desk in her fantasy. She couldn’t move if she tried. She didn’t try.

  Finally the piece ended and Søren lifted his hands off the keys. He kept his head bowed as if in prayer before lifting it. He didn’t look at her.

  “I can’t talk to you right now, Eleanor,” he said.

  “Can you look at me?” she asked, and despite the echo in the nave, her voice sounded small and timid.

  “No.”

  She stuffed her hands in her pockets.

  “Are you mad at me?” she asked.

  “No.”

  Eleanor let that “no” hang in the air between them. She wanted to believe him, but she sensed tension in him. His jaw was set tight and his posture stiff.

  “Please talk to me,” Eleanor begged.

  “What would you like me to say?” His voice sounded stilted, as well.

  “Anything. I don’t know.” She grasped for words. Something told her he knew exactly what she’d done in his office, but surely if he did he would say something to her about it, yell at her, punish her.

  He looked up at the ceiling.

  “They make a kind of goggles for horses. Blinders, they’re called,” Søren said. He raised his hand and put it to the side of his eyes. “They can only see forward when they wear them. No peripheral vision. I wish I had some.”

  “Are you sure you’re not mad at me?”

  “The opposite, I promise.”

  She searched for something to say and came up empty. So she a
sked the stupidest question she could think of.

  “So … you play piano?”

  “I do,” he said.

  “What were you playing?”

  “Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4.”

  “Where did you learn to play like that?”

  “My mother is a piano teacher.”

  “Weird,” she said.

  “Weird that my mother is a piano teacher?” He sounded almost amused now. Good. She feared what she’d done in his office had changed things between them irrevocably.

  “Weird that you have a mother. I thought you fell from the sky. You know, like a meteor. Or an alien.”

  Or a god.

  He smiled slightly but still didn’t look at her.

  “I have a mother and a father. I love my mother. I hate my father.”

  “You’ve got one up on me. I hate both my parents.”

  “You don’t hate your mother.”

  “No. But I don’t like her very much, either. I think the feeling’s mutual.”

  “She loves you.”

  “Are you sure about that?”

  “How could she not?” he asked, as if it were the most foolish idea in the world to consider for one second that anyone could not love her.

  Eleanor fell silent again. She’d never had a more painful conversation in her life. Even her allocution before the judge when she’d pled guilty for the car thefts had been less awkward and uncomfortable than this nightmare chitchat.

  “Why did you come here tonight?” Søren asked her, his eyes still on the wall in front of him.

  “I wanted to talk to you,” she said. “I had a question.”

  “What question?”

  “I don’t remember it now. Seemed important at the time.”

  Søren clasped his hands together and rested them in his lap. He wasn’t praying now. At least it didn’t seem like it. It looked more like he was trying to control himself, trying to hold his hands down to keep them from doing something. Doing what?

  “This is going to be difficult for us,” Søren said. “You and I working together. You understand this?”

  “I …” She paused and thought about the question. “I think I do.”

  “I’m a priest. Do you also understand that?”

  “No.”

  “No?”

  “Of course I don’t understand why you’re a priest.” The words she’d been holding back since the day she met him rushed out. “You’re twenty-nine and you’re the most beautiful man on earth. You could have any girl in the world you wanted. You’re brilliant and you could do any job you wanted. You could get married and have kids. Or you could have crazy sex with anyone you wanted whenever you wanted to. This is fucking Wakefield, Connecticut. You walk two miles south of here and you reach the end of the world. There’s nothing here for you. You’re wasted in this place. You could be running the world if you wanted and the world would probably be okay with that. I hate following the rules, but I would follow you into Hell and carry you back out again if I had to. Do I understand why you’re a priest? No, and I don’t think I ever will. Because if you weren’t a priest …”

  “If I weren’t a priest,” he repeated. “Do you know what would happen if I weren’t a priest?”

  “Yeah,” she said. “You and I could—”

  “You and I could do nothing,” he said. “If I weren’t a priest, Eleanor, you and I would never have met. If I weren’t a priest, you would be in juvenile detention right now because Father Gregory wouldn’t have been able to help you the way I did. If I weren’t a priest, you would have a felony conviction on your permanent record. You would graduate from high school in detention and the likelihood of you getting into college would be practically nonexistent.”

  Eleanor felt the floor shiver under her feet. Her eyes filled with tears.

  “Søren?”

  “When I was fourteen I decided to become a priest,” he said. “Once I made that decision, I felt peace in my heart for the first time in my life. And I didn’t know why or from where that peace came. It should have scared me—a life of poverty, a life of celibacy and chastity, a life of obedience to a community that could and would send me all over the world. But I knew there was a reason I needed to be a priest. I was certain of it. And that certainty carried me all the way through seminary and all the way here. And now I know why I needed to become a priest. Because God knew long before I did that I would need to be a priest to find you and help you and keep you on the right path. And I will keep you safe even if it kills me.”

  A lone tear traveled down her cheek and dropped onto the floor. Now she was grateful he wouldn’t look at her so he wouldn’t see her crying.

  “And if I weren’t a priest,” Søren continued, “I would likely be dead. There were moments when I was your age and younger, foolish moments when I feared I didn’t deserve to live. The things I’d done, the things I wanted to do, taunted me constantly. I worried God had made some terrible mistake when he’d made me, and perhaps the world would be better off if I wasn’t in it.”

  “No …” She nearly choked on the word. The thought of Søren dead was an insult to everything she believed in, especially him because she believed in him the most.

  “When I felt the first stirrings of the call to become a Jesuit, those feelings started to fade and new ones took their place. God had created me for a reason, made me like I was for a reason.”

  “Like what? You’re—”

  “My call to the priesthood saved me, Eleanor. Like it saved you. If I weren’t a priest you wouldn’t be in this sanctuary and neither would I. So please …” He stopped and raised his hand, holding it up almost in a posture of surrender. “Please don’t make this any more difficult than it already is.”

  He lowered his hand again.

  “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

  “There’s nothing to be sorry for.”

  “Are you sure?”

  “I am. I told you months ago that the new rules I created were for my sake, because of my need for boundaries. I’m asking you to honor that.”

  “I can,” she promised. “I will.”

  “Thank you,” he said.

  She wanted to say more, to say she would never go into his office again, not without permission anyway. He hadn’t said anything about what she’d done on his desk but she was certain he knew, and it was because of that he couldn’t look at her right now. She imagined he wasn’t looking at her for her own sake—to protect her from the embarrassment. But strangely, she felt none. Only sadness that he was right. As much as she wished he wasn’t a priest so they could be together, she knew that they would never have met if he wasn’t a priest. What had brought them together was the very thing that kept them apart. She wanted to say all that to him but before she could open her mouth, the sound of a car horn discreetly honking interrupted their tense silence.

  “That’s for me,” Søren said. “I have to go.”

  “Where are you going?”

  “I can’t answer that,” he said.

  “Can’t or won’t?”

  Søren rose off the piano bench and walked past her, still without meeting her eyes. She followed behind him.

  At the door to the sanctuary he paused.

  “We won’t ever have to have this talk again,” Søren said. The sentence was phrased like a statement but she heard an order lurking under the words. She knew what he meant. They would never have to have this talk again because she was never going to sneak into his office and masturbate on his desk again. “And we’ll pretend we didn’t have to have this talk. By tomorrow we’ll both feel better. In a week it will be a distant memory. Yes?”

  “Okay,” she said.

  Søren nodded. He put his hand on the door handle but didn’t push it open.

  “Are you sure you don’t remember what it is that you wanted to ask me?”

  “I’m sure.”

  “If you think of it …”

  “Doesn’t matter,” she said, rememberi
ng the question she’d wanted to ask him and deciding not to ask it. “Are you sure you can’t tell me where you’re going?”

  “Quite sure. I will say this—I wish I could take you with me.”

  She smiled. Finally some of the tension started to leave her body.

  “Me, too. I’d go anywhere with you.”

 
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