The queen, p.14
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       The Queen, p.14

         Part #8 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
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  “That’s not my name anymore.”

  “Eleanor, you’re bleeding.”

  She rolled onto her back, came up on her elbows and looked down. Her thighs were red with blood and so was Søren.

  “Shit,” she said, half laughing. The spell of the moment broken in an instant. “Sorry about that.”

  “Did you start your period?”

  “I had an IUD put in a few days ago. They warned me this would happen. Sudden heavy bleeding. Thought I was wetter than usual.”

  The black-and-white coverlet beneath her bore a red stain the size of her hand.

  Søren pushed his fingers into her, and she winced as he found a sensitive spot. His eyes widened slightly.

  “Those are the strings,” she said. “My doctor said you could feel them in the beginning.”

  When he pulled his hand out his fingers were red.

  “You remember what happened the last time you bled on me?” he asked.

  “Are you going to make me wash the sheets in the bathtub again?” It wouldn’t surprise her in the least if he did.

  “Not exactly.”

  As Nora ran the water in the bathtub, she had to laugh at herself. How embarrassingly easy it was to fall back into that old familiar pattern. He dominated her, she submitted to him, he hurt her, she let him. How could she ever truly break free of him when obeying him was as simple as breathing and running from him left her as breathless as choking?

  He’d allowed her to clean herself off first. Then she put on the black bathrobe that hung on the back of the bathroom door. It was a man’s robe and too big for her. When she bent to turn off the taps the robe fell down her shoulder. Søren pushed it back into place.

  “I didn’t mean to do that,” she said.

  “What? Entice me with a show of skin? I have seen it before.”

  “I didn’t mean to do that.” She touched his chest. In a spot right over his heart she’d left a bite mark, a deep one. Deep enough to leave a bruise, not deep enough to make him bleed.

  “I assumed you were attempting to eat my heart out,” Søren said.

  “The thought had occurred to me.”

  “It was a fight, Eleanor. Couples fight. Apologies are made. Hurt feelings put aside. Life goes on.”

  “I don’t want to talk about that night. Not now or ever. What’s done is done. And life is going on. It’s going on without you.”

  “Yes,” he said, raising his hand stained with her blood. “Obviously we’re perfect strangers now.”

  She rolled her eyes.

  “Get in the fucking bathtub, Blondie.”

  He gave her a cold look.

  “Please and thank you? Sir?” she said, her tone mocking, but the words were enough to appease him. He stepped into the bathtub and sat down, stretching out his long legs so that his feet rested on the ledge by the taps and his back at the opposite end. Nora knelt on a thick folded towel at the side of the tub and soaked a soft bath sponge in the warm soapy water.

  “I am sorry,” she said, rubbing the sponge on his lower stomach over a patch of dried blood. “I didn’t plan going all Moses on you.”

  “Moses?”

  “You know, parting the Red Sea.”

  He gave her the blackest of black looks. “Are you in pain?” he asked, speaking to her like he’d speak to a child.

  “From the IUD, the kink or the sex?”

  “All of the above.”

  “A little cramping from the IUD. Normal. I have welts on the back of my knees and a bite bruise on the back of my neck. Not normal but not unheard of when one submits to a sadist.” Søren gave a little smirk. “And from the sex? I’m fine.”

  She wasn’t fine. She was far from fine. If her hands hadn’t been too busy with the sponge, Søren would have seen they were shaking.

  “Fine? Really?”

  “A little sore. I think you fucked me a whole hour. Were you feeling a little...pent up?” she asked, casually but not.

  “Is that your way of asking me if I’ve slept with anyone since you left me?”

  “Just curious.”

  “No, I haven’t. Relieved? Or disappointed?”

  “Would you believe me if I said I didn’t know how I felt?” She’d been with other people since leaving him and she could hardly hold him to a different standard than she held herself. Yet she knew they were different. She had sex for fun. It was a casual necessity, like eating lunch. For Søren sex was anything but casual. And he could go for years without it. She fucked when she wanted it. He fucked when he meant it. Long ago she’d asked him when and how he decided to break his vows—all the nights with her, that one night with Kingsley...he’d had both of them since becoming a priest, since taking a vow of chastity. If he was happy to fuck them, why not someone else?

  I break my vows when I know I can justify it before God and know God will say, “I don’t blame you.” When God looks at you and He looks at Kingsley, something tells me that’s what He would say.

  When she stood before God and He asked her why she loved this priest and had given her body to him, she had a feeling God would say the same to her.

  Søren exhaled, a pensive sound. “Yes, actually, I would.”

  “Then... I don’t know. I don’t know how I feel right now.”

  “If it’s any comfort to you, neither do I.”

  Søren raised a wet hand from the water and caressed her cheek with it. Water ran down her face and into the water like tears.

  It shouldn’t have been so nerve-racking to do something as simple as scrub the blood off Søren. But he watched her every move intently and without speaking as she lathered her hands in soap and ran them gently over his lower stomach and penis. Did he see how much it affected her, being this intimate with his naked body? The first time she’d touched him in a sexual way, she’d been seventeen years old and he’d put her hand on his erection. They were at his family home for his father’s funeral. She’d snuck out of her room and found him in his childhood bedroom. They’d told each other secrets in the dark, and when she couldn’t wait another minute more for him to see her as a woman who wanted him and not a girl needing his protection, she’d taken her clothes off for him and offered him her body. His pleasure meant her pain. His pain meant her pleasure. He hurt her because it aroused him; when it aroused him he pleasured her. The cycle went on and on, repeating itself night after night. She’d come to crave pain like Pavlov’s dog had learned to salivate at the ringing of a bell because it signaled feeding time.

  She’d broken off her leash. If only she could break the bell...

  Until then she could pretend. She pretended she was still his and nothing bad had ever happened. She ran the sponge over his broad shoulders, down his strong chest and flat stomach. She lathered her hands again and washed his feet, massaging the soles and ankles, digging her fingers between his toes until she forced a smile from him.

  “How can such a beautiful man with an otherwise perfect body have such weird feet?” she asked.

  “My feet are not ‘weird.’”

  “Your big toes are crooked.”

  “It happens to runners.”

  “Your toes are weird. If that’s what happens to runners, it’s yet another reason for me never to go running.”

  “You ran from me.”

  Nora dropped the sponge into the water.

  “Run from you? That’s funny.” She’d been bleeding so hard she could barely walk. It had taken everything she had to stand on her two feet in front of him, and it took more than she had to walk out his door. She’d fainted in his bathroom from hunger since she couldn’t keep any food down. She had literally crawled on the floor of his house when he’d broken her riding crop, and she’d had to pick up the pieces.

  “I saw a nature show once when I was kid,” she began, keeping her voice as low as possible. “There was a wolf caught in a trap and he gnawed his own foot off to get free. It was awful. I couldn’t imagine being so desperate to be free I’d amputate a part of my own
body. I couldn’t understand the wolf. Now I do.”

  “Are you so desperate to be free of me you’d gnaw your own leg off?”

  “I’m saying leaving you was as easy as gnawing my own leg off.”

  “My Little One...”

  “It’s been over a year, Søren. I’m not the same person I was. A lot can happen in a year.”

  “I realize this. Apparently in one year my submissive decided she was a dominatrix.”

  “I didn’t decide I was a dominatrix. I am a dominant. I want to make money. You put the two together and you get dominatrix.”

  “You aren’t a dominant, Eleanor.”

  “Then what am I, since you seem to be the expert on me?”

  “You’re mine. That’s what you are.”

  She shook her head. “Not anymore, Søren. I’m doing this. I know you don’t like it. I know you don’t agree with it, but I’m doing it.”

  “There are easier ways to hurt me than by becoming a dominatrix.”

  “That you think I’m doing this to hurt you is all the proof I need that leaving you was the right thing to do. You know I have this part of me. You know this is who I am. You’ve always known. Pretending it’s not there won’t make it go away. If you’d let me explore my dominant side instead of ignoring it, hiding it from me...I might never have left. But you forbade me from seeing Kingsley, one of your precious three nonnegotiables. God, me and Kingsley. Have you ever considered he might be one of my nonnegotiables, too?”

  “He’s using you to get back at me. I’d choose your nonnegotiables more wisely.”

  “Fine. Then I choose me. You and Kingsley both can go fuck yourselves. Or each other. God knows you both want to bad enough.”

  She stood up and dropped the sponge into the bathtub.

  “You’re clean,” she said. “You can get out whenever you want.”

  Søren didn’t stand up like she expected him to, not at first. No, first he sank down into the water, submerging himself entirely. When he came back up, it was with a cascade of water. As he stood he ran his hands through his hair, slicking it back as water poured off and down him, licking every inch of his six-foot-four frame—his strong thighs corded with runner’s muscles, his narrow hips, his taut stomach and back that seemed to go on forever when one kissed it from hip to neck and down again like she had so many nights after they finished making love. And his eyelashes, naturally dark, darkened even more when wet and his blond hair turned to shining gold. Wet and naked he was magnificent and shameless, and he was putting on this show all for her benefit. And it worked because she did want him so much it hurt, and when it hurt she wanted him, because when she wanted him it hurt. Somewhere in the distance she heard Pavlov’s bell ringing. This time she ignored the sound.

  “Remember when I said I would hate you again later?” Nora asked, handing him a thick white towel.

  “Yes.”

  “Later is now.”

  14

  Reign of Terror

  NORA DRESSED IN her own bedroom. It took an act of will to go back to the playroom and face him. At least she had one tiny victory under her belt. He’d tempted her with his body, and she’d walked away. Miracles did happen.

  When she opened the door to the playroom, she found him fully dressed again, his hair still wet but otherwise he’d returned to his neutral state of clothed and calm and clean.

  “What exactly are you doing here?” she asked from the open doorway, not sure she wanted to go back inside.

  “Teaching you to use a whip. I thought that was obvious.” He held up the whip coiled around his hand.

  “Why you?”

  “Whether or not you acknowledge you’re still mine, I know you are. As long as you are mine, your safety is my primary concern and responsibility. This career path you’ve chosen is not an easy one. We’d like to think everyone in this community is simply a pervert with a heart of gold, but there are dangerous men out there who will hire you for less than pleasant reasons. I’ve known hard-core masochists who are as dangerous as sadists. If you fail to give them what they want and what they’ve paid for, they can and will turn on you. You need to know what you’re doing. Doing your job well will be your best defense. As long as your clients are afraid of you, you’ll be safe. Safer.”

  “Kingsley is trying to turn me into the Queen of the Underground,” she said, taking the whip from his hands.

  “Make it a reign of terror, then. For your sake and theirs.”

  The whip lesson started off easy. Søren demonstrated how to hold the whip and explained the different sorts of cracks—a forward crack, the sidearm crack, the coachman’s crack. She’d never paid any attention to the techniques Søren had used before. She’d always been content to simply enjoy watching him in action when he beat someone else. But now she longed to understand everything—how to flick the whip in such a way to make the sonic boom, how to strike someone in such a way you didn’t rip their back open, how to strike someone in such a way you did rip their back open.

  When it was her turn he stood behind her to one side, helping her get comfortable with the swing of the whip and how to control it.

  “Can I crack it?” she asked.

  “You can. Let me leave the room first.”

  “What? You don’t trust me?”

  “Your first time with a whip? No. Absolutely not.”

  “That’s probably smart. Okay, back off. I’m going to crack it.”

  “Put your safety glasses on first, or you’ll put your eye out.”

  “Yes, Daddy.”

  She said it mockingly, without thinking, simply answering sarcasm with sarcasm. But this was Søren and no such remark could go unremarked.

  “Are we playing that game again, Eleanor?”

  “I didn’t mean it like that,” she said, lightly throwing the whip, doing her best to ignore him.

  “I could read you a bedtime story.”

  She whirled and faced him. “Are you trying to make this more difficult than it already is?”

  “What is ‘this’ you’re referring to?”

  “Us. Us not being an us.”

  “Then, yes, I am. I am trying to make it more difficult for you. It couldn’t possibly be more difficult for me than it already is.”

  “You seem fine to me.”

  “Fine?” Søren laughed as if she’d said the most absurd thing in her life, as if she’d said the sky was green and two plus two equaled cat. “Eleanor, I had to take a leave of absence after you left. I couldn’t work. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t pray. Everything I’ve gone through in my life—with my father, my sister, being separated from my mother for thirteen years—in a heartbeat, in an instant, in the twinkling of an eye I would have happily gone through that again before I went through the hell you put me through when you left me. I consoled a parishioner recently whose wife just died and when I told him I was a widower and could sympathize with his agony, I wasn’t speaking about Marie-Laure. I meant you.”

  Nora swallowed. She raised her chin and met his eyes. They were blue now, not gray, and they blazed with something—rage. Against her? Himself? God?

  “I’m not dead, Søren.”

  “You were gone. How was I to know how you were, if you were? It was agony, and I don’t use that word lightly. They talk of Christ’s agony on the cross. Now I know of agony.”

  Anyone who didn’t know Søren as intimately as she did wouldn’t have been surprised by the passion in his voice, the anguish. But she’d known him since she was fifteen. Søren was a brick wall and the mortar was made of iron, and he did not crack. He never cracked. He’d always been her wall, an impenetrable fortress, and no matter how hard she threw herself against that wall, she’d never broken it down. But when he said the word agony she saw a hairline fracture, and she knew the whole wall could come down any second.

  She knew what he kept behind that wall. God help them all if it came tumbling down.

  Last night she’d stepped in front of a
man being whipped and put her body between him and the whip. Today she stepped between Søren’s pain and the wall.

  She reached up and touched his face. That was all she did. He closed his eyes and rested his cheek against her hand.

 
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