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       The Saint, p.15

         Part #5 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  “Warranty included,” he said.

  Eleanor crossed her arms and leaned against the door frame.

  “So what would you tell Esther to do?”

  “I was hoping you’d forgotten that question.”

  She heard a tense note in his voice.

  “Oh, sorry,” she said. “We’re not supposed to be talking about S-E-X, are we?”

  “We can talk about sex in a biblical context.”

  “Does it embarrass you, talking about sex?”

  “Embarrass wouldn’t be the word,” he said. “I’m disconcerted, perhaps.”

  “Disconcerted?” she repeated. “Talking about sex disconcerts you.”

  “No, talking about sex with you disconcerts me.”

  “So you don’t like it?”

  “I like it far too much. And I think you know that.”

  Eleanor’s hands trembled slightly. The world around them had gone quiet, as if even the walls were listening in on their conversation.

  “What advice would you have given Esther?” Eleanor asked again, refusing to back down. He never answered her important questions. She wouldn’t give up until he answered this one.

  Søren leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers. As he thought about her question, her mind started to wander. She could easily imagine herself as Esther. Girls in that day married young, Søren had said. She and Esther were probably about the same age. If she lived back then, would she have been one of the virgins brought in to audition for the role of queen? What would she have done in that situation? Esther asked the guard for advice, and according to the Bible Esther took only what Hegai told her to take. She took less than the other women. But what was it? What did he tell her to take? And what did she do when she was alone with the king?

  “I think if I had to give Esther advice as a man and not a priest—” Søren leaned forward to rest his elbows on the desk “—I would tell her to go to him without fear and with total trust. She should offer herself to him in a spirit of submission. After all, it was Queen Vashti’s refusal to submit that infuriated the king. Clearly he prized submission highly. She should tell the king she was his to do with as he pleased, that she would obey his every whim and submit to his every desire. I would tell her to let him bare his most secret self to her and accept it without question and to show her most secret self to him. She should submit to him in love and without fear, giving her body to him like a holy offering and making their bed an altar.”

  Eleanor’s knees trembled at Søren’s words. She couldn’t help but picture herself in a silken gown being escorted to the bedroom of the king, a king who bore a strong resemblance to the priest in front of her.

  “Eleanor?” Søren prompted.

  “What?”

  “You whimpered.”

  “Did I?” She had. She knew she had. “Sorry about that.”

  He leaned back in his chair again and looked at her without a smile on his face but with a dark and amused gleam in his eyes. Right there—she saw it. That look. Those eyes. He knew he’d turned her on with his words and was congratulating himself for it. The expression on his face was arrogant, patronizing and imperious. She wanted him so much it hurt.

  “Who’s disconcerted now?” he asked.

  She narrowed her eyes at him. Without a doubt, he was the only man who’d ever lived who could make the word disconcerted sound sexy.

  “Whatever this game is we’re playing,” she finally said, “I’m going to win it.”

  If she expected him to be thrown off or confused by that statement, she was sorely disappointed.

  “If you trust me and obey me,” he said, “we might both win.”

  Trust him. Obey him … She could do that. And out of nowhere came the answer. Eleanor knew exactly what Esther had taken with her.

  “I know what Esther took with her to the king,” she said, looking up at him with a smile.

  “You do?”

  “When I know I’m going to ace a test, I go to class with nothing but my pencil,” Eleanor said. “If Esther knew she was going to ace her audition, she wouldn’t have taken anything with her at all.”

  “You might be right.”

  “Might? I’m sure of it. But I wish the Bible writers hadn’t skipped all the good details.”

  “I told you it had sex in it if you used your imagination.”

  “Oh, I’m using it. I’m using it hard.”

  “Go use it to do your homework.”

  “First day of school. I don’t have any homework.”

  “Did you do your other homework I gave you?”

  “Oh, yeah. You’re totally full of shit. Psalm 116. And I quote, ‘The Lord is the keeper of the little ones, I was little and he delivered me.’ God loves little people, He keeps them and He delivers them. I’m short so God is going to keep me and deliver me because I am a little one. Considering He sent you to keep me out of prison, I think I have all the proof I need.”

  “Very good, Little One.” He smiled broadly and for a moment she was nearly blinded by it.

  “Don’t call me Little One.”

  “Do you hate it?”

  “Totally.”

  “Good. Now go find something to do, Little One. I’m working on my dissertation and you are detrimental to my powers of concentration.”

  “What am I supposed to do?”

  “You could use your impressive powers of imagination and your newfound prowess as a Bible scholar to formulate a theory on what Esther did to earn the king’s favor.”

  “So I’m supposed to figure out what made her better in bed than anyone else?”

  “Precisely.”

  “My kind of homework.”

  Eleanor left Søren in his office with his eight billion books and his dissertation. She hid out in the food bank pantry and rearranged the cans of green beans on the floor into columns like she’d seen in pictures of exotic palaces.

  As she stared at her green bean palace in front of her, Eleanor picked up a pen. On the top of a clean sheet of notebook paper she wrote:

  One Night with the King.

  For the fun of it she wrote underneath, By Eleanor Schreiber. And then she wrote for four straight hours.

  13

  Eleanor

  One Night with the King

  By Eleanor Schreiber

  Tonight was my night.

  For a year now I’d been going through the training—how to curtsy, how to simper, how to dance, how to whimper. They dressed me and pressed me and made me beautiful. For twelve months I had to listen to the girls talking all around me, deciding what gift they’d give the king, what they’d do to impress him.

  “I have composed him a hymn,” one girl said.

  “I have written him a poem,” another announced.

  “I have knitted him a cardigan,” said another girl.

  Everyone had looked at that girl like she was an idiot. She was an idiot. It was ancient Persia. Kings didn’t wear cardigans. Cardigans hadn’t even been invented yet.

  I spent most of the day in the bathroom getting ready. By evening I smelled like orchids, looked like a princess and had no unwanted body hair.

  Then Hegai came for me.

  “Are you ready?” he asked.

  “I think so.”

  “Are you taking anything with you for the king?”

  “I have a hymn.”

  “You’re going to sing?”

  “No. Sorry. I have a hymen. I get them mixed up.”

  Hegai left me at the door to the king’s chamber.

  I opened the door.

  At first I didn’t see anybody. All I saw was chamber stuff—big sexy-looking couches, tall sexy plants with big sexy flowers blooming on them, a long sexy gold mirror for checking out how sexy you look in it. And it had the biggest, sexiest bed I’d ever seen in my life. Red silk sheets, red-and-gold pillows and those fancy bed curtains only people in the past had before central heating existed. It’s good to live in the past. It’s sexier here.
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  The big door to the balcony was open so I stuck my head out the door and saw a man standing by the ledge staring out on the kingdom.

  Before I saw the man I thought the palace was beautiful, I thought the kingdom was beautiful, I thought jewels were beautiful. But they were nothing compared to the king.

  He had blond hair and was so tall I knew he was probably doing it for attention. He wore jeans and a white T-shirt. I thought jeans hadn’t been invented yet but then I realized they had been invented because they looked so good on him.

  And if anyone had put a gun to my head and told me I had to say who the most handsome man in the kingdom was, I would first remind that person guns hadn’t been invented yet.

  And then I’d point at the king.

  “Him.”

  “Him, who?” asked the king as he turned around to look at me.

  “Oh. Sorry. Did I say that out loud? I was having this bizarre fantasy about a guy holding a gun to my head.”

  “Guns haven’t been invented yet.”

  “That’s exactly what I told him.” I took a step forward and held out my hand. The king shook it. “I’m Esther. I’ll be your entertainment this evening.”

  “Oh, God, did you bring a poem?”

  “I don’t write that shit.”

  “Hymn?”

  “No.”

  “Please tell me you didn’t knit me anything. I don’t need sweaters. This is Persia. It doesn’t even get cold here. Except in the winter.”

  “I don’t knit.”

  “Do you know any good jokes?”

  “A hymen walks into a bar. Well, that took care of that.”

  The king didn’t laugh. But I think he wanted to.

  “What else do you do?”

  I stepped up to the king and rose high on my tiptoes.

  “Whatever you tell me to.”

  And then we kissed.

  And what a kiss it was. It took my breath away, that kiss did. I forgot my name and my age and my phone number. I even forgot that phones hadn’t been invented yet. He kissed me with his mouth on my mouth but it felt like his soul kissed my soul and all I wanted was to never ever stop kissing this king who tasted like melting snow on my lips and smelled of winter in a magic world where no one aged, no one died and once people fell in love they never fell out of it again.

  “You didn’t bring anything with you?” the king said, pausing from their perfect kiss.

  “I only brought me.”

  “Good. That’s all I want right now.”

  “What do I call you? Your Majesty?”

  “Call me Xerxes. That’s my name.”

  “No one calls you by your first name.”

  “You do.”

  “Why me?”

  “Because,” he whispered against my lips, “when I’m inside you, I want you to say it and know you’re talking to me and not some other king somewhere. Got that?”

  “Yes, Your Maj … Xerxes.”

  He picked me up in his arms.

  The king carried me into the bedroom and laid me on the bed. It felt like floating in sea of red silk. Xerxes sat next to me on the bed and kissed me again.

  “You’re really good at that,” I said. He kissed my mouth and my neck for a long time.

  “I practice a lot.”

  “On all of us?”

  “Anything to keep from hearing more bad poetry.” He smiled at me and kissed me again. His tongue in my mouth would definitely keep me from reciting poetry.

  “Do you like being with all these girls?” I asked as he kissed my chest. I felt weird about wearing such a low-cut dress but now I decided it had been a good idea. His lips tickled my skin and his light touches gave me goose bumps. I imagined him kissing other parts of my body. Then he pulled my dress down to bare my shoulder and kissed me from my neck to my upper arm. Those parts, for example.

  “I don’t dislike it,” he said. “It gets a little boring with the same thing night after night. Different girl. Same thing. No offense.”

  “It’s okay. I’d probably get bored, too. You know, Xerxes,” I said, trying his name on for size. It fit my tongue well. “If you want, we can do something different than you usually do with the other girls.”

  “Like what?”

  “I don’t know. You’re the king, so you can decide.”

  “You aren’t afraid?”

  “I was before, but I’m not now.”

  “Are you sure you want to do something different than I do with the other girls?”

  “I’ve met the other girls. Yes.”

  My dress tied at the front with a single ribbon. I started to get nervous again when he untied the bow and my gown loosened. But I knew this would happen and I wasn’t afraid. I refused to be afraid.

  He slid the dress off me. I lay naked on the bed now. He looked at me like I was some kind of prize he’d won. I never wanted him to stop looking at me like that.

  He didn’t touch me, which made me more nervous. Instead he left me laying/lying on the bed while he walked over to a big brass box. The box had a lock on it and the king took out a key. He opened the lid, took something out of it, locked it back up and came back to the bed.

  While he was at the box I pulled the covers on the bed down and slid underneath them.

  “Are you cold?” the king asked. He held something behind his back.

  “I’m naked.”

  “Are you embarrassed about being naked?”

  “I’m not embarrassed. I’m … disconcerted.”

  “Do you want me to take my clothes off?”

  “I hope yes is the right answer.”

  “It’s the right answer. I’ll take my clothes off if you take the sheets off.”

  I threw the covers off and the king sat next to me on the bed again.

  “Now I’m going to tie you to the bed,” the king said.

  “How come?”

 
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