The queen, p.2
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       The Queen, p.2

         Part #8 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
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  “Remember that story I wrote about Queen Esther when I was in high school?”

  “How could I forget it? I must have read it a thousand times.”

  “You did?”

  “An erotic story written by a beautiful sixteen-year-old girl I was desperately and unrepentantly in love with and featuring a hero who looked suspiciously like me? I read it until the ink faded and the pages crumbled.”

  It embarrassed Nora how much it pleased her that Søren had loved her story that much.

  “I’ll have you know I did not base King Xerxes on you.”

  “He was blond. A blond Persian.”

  “Poetic license.” She sat at his side in the pew. “Queen Esther looked suspiciously like me, as well. Anyway...writing that story changed my life. I’d never written anything like that before. All I was trying to do was flirt with you and now twenty-two years later I’ve made an entire career from writing. I didn’t know my life would change that day by writing one little story. And yet...here we are. All thanks to you.”

  “And Queen Esther. And Queen Eleanor.”

  “I’m not really a queen.”

  “You’ve always been a queen in my eyes. Especially now.”

  “I can’t believe I’m wearing a wedding dress. How do I let Griffin talk me into these things?”

  “It’s exquisite. You’re exquisite.”

  Søren kissed her lightly on the lips. His mouth shivered against hers. Søren was a man of quiet depth, as if he kept a secret second heart locked away in a glass case. It would explain how much he felt and how strongly and yet how rarely such feelings were allowed to escape from captivity. Sometimes before they made love he would cut her skin with a sharp paper-thin blade and the act was so intimate and harrowing it would leave him shaking. It scared him to take her life in his hands, and yet it was at such times they felt closest to each other. She knew his trembling now was for a similar reason.

  “Do you forgive me, Little One?” Søren asked.

  “What mortal sin have you committed recently?”

  “You know my sins better than I do.”

  “Yes. Which is why I tell you there is no need to beg my forgiveness for anything.”

  “You have a forgiving heart,” Søren said. “I have always admired that about you.”

  “I know myself. I know my own weaknesses and failures. Jesus was always so kind to sinners and so cruel to hypocrites.”

  “Am I a hypocrite?” Søren asked.

  “You’re human.”

  “You don’t have to be insulting, Eleanor.”

  She laughed and rested her head on his shoulder. He sighed so her whole body moved with his. Somewhere behind and above them a bell rang. Six times the bell chimed. Six o’clock and all was well.

  Three hours and counting.

  “It’s strange, isn’t it?” Søren said.

  “What is?”

  “Just yesterday Michael was fifteen years old and had barely healed scars on his wrists from when he tried to kill himself in my church. And today...today he’s twenty-one and married. Michael. Married.” He looked at her and half laughed.

  “I know. Crazy, isn’t it? I swear yesterday I was fifteen, and I saw my new priest for the very first time, and loved him from the moment I saw him, and knew I’d love him until I died. Today I’m thirty-eight, and I still love him and know I’ll love him forever.” The days danced and flashed around her like fireflies on a summer’s night. “Where is the time going?” she asked him. “How did it all go by so fast? And what if it’s all gone tomorrow?”

  “We live each day like it’s our last. But not by running about wildly, attempting to cram every possible experience into one day. Instead...every day we should make our peace with God and each other. Say what needs to be said and not leave it for another time. If I knew I would die tomorrow I’d spend all night telling you and Kingsley how much I love you both, and I wouldn’t let God take me until I was certain you knew I meant every word. I would sing it to you like the angels sing praise to God in heaven—unceasingly.”

  “We know. Kingsley and I, we already know.”

  “But I would still tell you,” he said softly. “Even if you didn’t need to hear it, I would have to tell you.”

  She held him close again, kissed his cheek, his forehead, like a mother kissing a scared child. And he was scared. She could feel it in every touch.

  “Talk to me. Distract me. Help me get through these hours.”

  “Will you hear my confession?” Nora asked. She turned and met his eyes. How she loved those eyes, the strength and color of steel. “This could be my last chance to confess to you, after all.”

  “I won’t leave the priesthood. I promised you I wouldn’t.”

  “You were in the wedding pictures. You performed a same-sex marriage. You kissed me in front of two hundred wedding guests, half of them we don’t know. You can tell me all you want that it’s fine, that it won’t matter, but we both know those are not the actions of a man who is planning on being a priest for much longer.”

  “I have to tell them. Some things shouldn’t be secrets.”

  “You tell them the truth, and they will kick you out.”

  “Possibly. I’ve made choices, difficult ones, but I did it in full knowledge of the consequences. Nothing stays the same forever, after all.”

  “That’s not true. My love for you is forever. I made that promise, and I will keep it. But tomorrow or next week or next month you might not be a priest anymore. So please...hear my confession and absolve me? One last time?”

  He rose from the pew and moved a chair from the side of the chapel and set it in front of her. From the leather sporran of his kilt, he pulled a leather case, unzipped it and unfurled a purple sash. He kissed it and draped it around his neck and over his shoulders. He sat in the chair and pressed his palms together. Nora looked at his hands and saw they were now steady and still.

  She smiled and looked up to the octagonal window. The sun would set in under three hours. By nightfall everything could change.

  “First of all,” she began, “I’m confessing these sins to you because I committed them against you and only you can absolve me of them.”

  “What are your sins?”

  Nora loved Søren. This was an incontrovertible fact of the universe, strong as gravity, inevitable as sunrise. She’d told him almost everything there was to tell him about their years apart, everything but this. She hadn’t wanted to hurt him but she didn’t want to keep the truth from him anymore. No more secrets. No more lies. Nothing between them anymore and never again.

  “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned,” she began her confession. “When we were apart there were two times I almost came back to you and didn’t.”

  “Two?” Søren looked at her, wide-eyed and stunned. Usually she loved shocking him, it was such a feat. Not today. “Why didn’t you?”

  “Are you sure you want to know?”

  Then Søren said to her the two words she’d once said to him that had changed her life.

  “Tell me.”

  3

  Power Games

  New York City

  2005

  ELLE HAD NEVER felt more powerless in her life.

  A strong statement from a woman who’d been the property of a sadist and dominant for her entire adult life. She’d knelt at his feet, called him “sir,” obeyed his every order, submitted to his every desire, sexual and sadistic. Not even with her forehead on his bedroom floor, a collar around her neck and a flogger on her back had Elle felt this trapped and impotent. With Søren she could have stopped it all with her safe word. What would she have to say to stop it now?

  Elle was broke and homeless, had no job and no idea where to go if Kingsley kicked her out of his house. There was no safe word that could save her tonight. So when Kingsley sat on his desk in front of her in the middle of a cool spring night and said to her, “I want you to become a dominatrix,” she didn’t laugh in his face. She didn’t have th
e luxury anymore of laughing in Kingsley’s face about anything. He had all the power, and she had none. An unusual and unpleasant sensation. She resolved never to feel it again.

  “A dominatrix?” Elle repeated after Kingsley had made his royal proclamation. “Me?”

  “A dominatrix.” Kingsley pointed at her chest. “You.”

  “So...you want me...to beat people up...for money?”

  “Non. Not for money.” Kingsley waved his pointing finger in front of her face in that annoying French way he had of tsk-tsking her. She almost bit that finger off. Instead she behaved herself because she was too scared not to. “For a lot of fucking money, Elle.”

  “How much fucking money?” she asked.

  “When I’m done training you, you’ll be making one to five thousand dollars an hour.”

  If Elle had water in her mouth at that moment she would have spit it all over the front of Kingsley’s barely buttoned white shirt.

  “A thousand dollars an hour?”

  “Minimum,” Kingsley said.

  “Dominatrixes don’t usually make that kind of money.”

  Mistress Irina, Kingsley’s Russian sadist, worked the top end of the scale. And she made five hundred dollars an hour—a thousand an hour when the client demanded very special and intimate attention that would likely lead to hospitalization. The extra fee was for all the paperwork involved.

  “But you will. You will be offering a service others will not.”

  “Sex?”

  “Sex would hardly warrant five thousand an hour. Almost anyone can lie on their back, close their eyes and think of France.”

  “It’s England.”

  “Why would anyone think of England during sex?”

  “Forget it. Tell me what I’m doing.”

  “You know what you’re doing,” Kingsley said. “Exactly what you want to be doing except you’ll be doing it for money.”

  “A lot of fucking money,” she said, looking up at Kingsley. He sat on the edge of his desk with one foot on the arm of the chair, gazing down at her waiting for her answer.

  “This is not a good idea, King,” she said, keeping her voice even, not saying yes or no to his offer.

  “It is not a good idea, no. It is the best idea. Chérie...you could buy anything you want,” Kingsley whispered. She knew that tone. He was seducing her. “In a year you’ll be rich. You remember Mistress Felicia? You should have seen her house in Bedford. I’ve known minor royalty who didn’t live as well as she did. Rich men gave her diamonds the way poor men give girls daisies—by the dozens.”

  A house. That would be nice. A home of her own. Not a room in someone else’s life. Her own home that was in her name that no one could take away from her.

  “I still don’t know why you think men will pay me so much money,” she said.

  “Mistress Irina works from her dungeon, sometimes from the town house. They come to her, her clients do. But you...you will go where the money is. Clients who wouldn’t dare set foot into a club or a dungeon? You will go to them.”

  “Is that safe?”

  “Is life safe?”

  “I’ll take that as a no.”

  Kingsley smiled. “Is there anything worth doing that is safe?” he asked.

  “I don’t know. I’ve read a lot of books worth reading. Never gotten hurt doing that before.”

  “You’ve never gotten rich doing it, either.”

  “King, I can’t... No. This is absurd. My entire adult life—and most of my teenage life—I’ve been a submissive.”

  “You know what is more absurd? You sitting there and pretending you haven’t wanted this for your entire adult life. And most of your teenage life, too. I knew you then. I remember...”

  “What? What do you remember?”

  “The first time I saw you, you nearly gave a boy a concussion, because he committed the unforgivable sin of annoying you when you weren’t in the mood to be annoyed. He was talking back to a priest and stood up. I saw you stretch out your leg and hook your boot under his chair and slide it aside right at the moment he tried to sit back down. He landed on the floor so hard I heard a crack and thought it was either a rib or his skull. And you...”

  “I put my feet on his chest.”

  “No, you put your boots on his chest and told him to shut the fuck up. That instant, I knew you were either going to grow up to be a dominatrix...or a sociopath. I was hard as a rock watching you and you were barely sixteen years old. I could come right now thinking of it.”

  “You don’t really think I’m a sociopath, do you?”

  “You have a conscience. But you know what they call a sociopath with a conscience?”

  It sounded like the setup to a joke so Elle took the bait.

  “No, what do they call a sociopath with a conscience?”

  “They call her ‘Mistress.’”

  Elle stood up from her chair and walked to the window behind Kingsley’s desk. She pushed back the curtains and gazed onto the dark streets. Even during the dead of night, New York still felt awake and alive. Last night she’d been in a convent in rural upstate New York where the world went to bed at seven and woke up at four and slept like a corpse in the hours between. And not a man in sight. Now she was alone in a room with a man she’d beaten last year, a man she’d burned and bruised and brutalized. And God, it had been fun, hadn’t it? More than fun, it had been her. For years, ever since she was a teenager, her sexual fantasies had involved dominating men, tying them up, tying them down and fucking them half to death. When she’d finally gotten her chance to try it with Kingsley, she’d been scared. She’d even cried at first from fear and confusion. But the moment she let go and let it happen, she felt like...

  “I’ve seen her, Elle,” Kingsley said as he came to stand behind her. She was acutely aware of his body so close to hers. She hadn’t had sex with a man for over a year, since she ran away and hid out at the convent. Any other man might not have made her feel so much in such close quarters, but it was this man who’d put a riding crop in her hand, given her permission to destroy him. Oh, and she had destroyed him, and in the process, she’d destroyed herself. Her old self. She still hadn’t found her new self yet.

  “Who have you seen?”

  “You. The real you. I’ve seen her.”

  “What does she look like?”

  Kingsley sighed and smiled. “She’s beautiful. Dangerous. All eyes are on her when she walks into a room. Men fear her but not because she’s the enemy. They fear her because she alone can show them who they really are. They fear this knowledge but will pay any price for it.”

  “Is she happy?” Elle asked.

  “She’s powerful. She can make her own happiness when she wants it.”

  Elle turned and looked up at him.

  “Is she with someone?”

  “She isn’t lonely,” Kingsley said. “Not this woman. This is a woman who can walk into any room, find the most handsome face in the crowd, look him in the eyes and know she will take him home with her on a leash.”

  Elle laughed at the idea. Sounded good to her.

  Kingsley caressed her cheek with the back of his fingers.

  He narrowed his eyes at her, his expression inscrutable.

  “What? What is it?” she asked.

  “I missed you,” he said, blinking as if attempting to clear a fog. “Forgive me. I just realized that.”

  “I missed you, too. I thought about writing you but I didn’t know what to say.”

  Kingsley turned his head, didn’t look at her.

  “It didn’t matter. I was gone, too. I came home two months ago.”

  “You left, too? Why? When?”

  He paused before answering. “The day after you left, I left. And you know why. If I stayed...”

  If he’d stayed, they—Kingsley and Søren—would have found her
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