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       The Saint, p.25

         Part #5 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  leather jacket and black jeans.

  “This is as understated as Kingsley gets and you know it.”

  “Eleanor, this is Sam—Kingsley’s second-in-command.”

  “Oh, I’m so sorry,” Eleanor said.

  “You and me both, beautiful,” Sam said with a wink. She held out the keys to Søren.

  “She’s the driver,” Søren said.

  Sam looked at Eleanor.

  “It’s a stick.”

  “I love a stick.”

  “Then here you go,” Sam said and tossed Eleanor the keys.

  Eleanor caught the keys in midair. “You’re not kidding? I’m driving?”

  “Of course you are.” Søren opened the back and put his luggage in. “My first car was a motorcycle.”

  “You don’t know how to drive a car?” She would have been more shocked if he’d confessed to not knowing how to read.

  “Never took the time to learn,” he said without apology. “Are you comfortable driving?”

  “Of course I am. My first bike was a car.”

  “Good,” he said. He opened the passenger-side door.

  “Not good. Community service? Probation? No getting a license until I’m eighteen? Remember all that?”

  “Taken care of.” Sam pulled a manila envelope out of her jacket pocket and handed to her.

  Eleanor opened the envelope and found a driver’s license with her picture on it, a high school ID card to some school in Long Island and an insurance card for the BMW.

  “What the hell?” Eleanor asked.

  “In case you get pulled over,” Sam said. “But try not to do that.”

  “Who’s Claire Haywood?” Eleanor glanced back down at the driver’s license and noticed the name and birth date. “And why did Kingsley make me a year younger?”

  “Because he made you my sister,” Søren said in a tone of abject disgust.

  “What?” She looked at Søren and then Sam again.

  “King said you’d be pissed,” Sam said to Søren, a wide grin on her face. “He told me to remind you that Claire is the only teenage girl in the world you could be alone with in a car without raising eyebrows.”

  “He might be right. Doesn’t mean I have to like it,” Søren said, almost smiling, but not quite. “Tell him I get the joke. And tell him I don’t find him amusing.”

  “I will pass that right along, Padre,” Sam said.

  “I don’t care who the hell she is. I have a fake driver’s license. If you both don’t get out of the way, I’m taking off on my own.”

  “I’m out of here.” Sam gave them both a salaam-style bow. “You two kids have fun at the funeral.”

  “Keys are in the ignition,” he said and Sam walked over to his Ducati.

  Eleanor threw her duffel bag in the trunk and got behind the wheel.

  “So we’re doing this?” she asked as Søren got into the passenger side.

  “We are.”

  “We’re going to your father’s house in New Hampshire. This is a real thing. This is not a joke. And I am driving.”

  “All of that is correct. Are you nervous?”

  Eleanor didn’t answer. Instead she watched Sam rev up his Ducati and head out to the street. The woman handled the bike like a pro. How was it that Søren had all these amazing friends she knew nothing about?

  She started the car and closed her eyes as the engine purred to life.

  “Eleanor? Do you and the car need a moment alone together?”

  “I came already. Let’s go.”

  She drove out of the wooded back driveway. With the new trees he’d planted in early spring, the rectory now stayed hidden almost completely from the church. People could get in and out without anyone noticing. Wasn’t that convenient?

  “I have no idea where I’m going,” Eleanor said as she turned onto Oak Street.

  “I know where we’re going.”

  “I also have no idea what you and I are going to talk about for the next four hours.”

  “We can talk about whatever you like.”

  “Can we talk about your father?”

  “I wouldn’t advise it.”

  “Can we talk about Kingsley and what his deal is?”

  “That’s a more complicated question than four hours could cover.”

  “So the whole ‘we can talk about whatever I want to talk about’ was …”

  “Not an accurate statement.”

  “I give up.”

  “Don’t give up, Little One.”

  “Fine. So … hobbies?”

  “Piano playing.”

  “Phobias?”

  “All my fears are rational.”

  “Pet peeves?”

  “Calvinism.”

  Eleanor glowered at him.

  “What?”

  “Calvinism? Your pet peeve is Calvinism?”

  “Yes.”

  Eleanor sighed as she turned onto the highway.

  “This is gonna be a long drive.”

  Luckily Søren came to her rescue. More accurately, his little sister did.

  “We should talk about Claire since she is your new identity.”

  “Claire’s your younger sister, I guess.”

  “One of two. Freyja lives in Denmark. We have the same mother.”

  “And Claire?”

  “Claire is the daughter of my father’s second wife. She was born when I was fifteen, although I didn’t know she existed until my older sister—Elizabeth—found out and told me about her. I met her for the first time when she was three.”

  “So Claire’s a year younger than me, then?”

  “Yes. Does that bother you?”

  “No. Does it bother you?”

  “I’ll admit I’m trying not to think about it.”

  “Because, you know, it would be like Kingsley and Claire together.”

  “Eleanor, are you trying to make me carsick?”

  She laughed openly, easily. It felt so good to be alone with him, teasing him, being near him.

  “Sorry. I promise Claire and I will be cool.”

  “Good. I’ve been worried about her lately.”

  “What’s wrong?”

  “I don’t know.” Søren adjusted the seat to give himself more legroom. This was not an issue she ever had. “Claire has been a marvelous correspondent. I have almost a thousand letters from her. She’s been writing me since she first learned how. I receive at least one a week. Or did until two months ago, when she stopped writing. I’ve spoken to her on the phone a few times and planned to talk with her at Thanksgiving. She’s been secretive, unusually so. I’m hoping she’ll talk to you since she won’t talk to me.”

  “I’m not going to spy on your sister and report back to you. That is a violation of the Girl Code.”

  “The Girl Code? Is this something you’ve invented or is it actually codified somewhere?”

  “It’s a real thing. You can’t write the rules down because that’s also a violation of the Girl Code. Boys might find a written copy, and then they’d know the secrets.”

  “Are you violating the code by telling me about the code?”

  “Yes, but the Girl Code is really fucking stupid, and I only follow it when I feel like it.”

  “And I assume you feel like following it now?”

  “Right.”

  All the way to New Hampshire, she and Søren talked. They started with music. She confessed that for the past year she’d been trying to learn about classical music. He confessed he’d borrowed Sam’s copy of Pearl Jam’s Ten so he’d know about this mysterious band she adored.

  “So Sam’s a Pearl Jam fan, too?” Eleanor asked.

  “She is.”

  “Can I ask a theological question?”

  “I have no idea why you think I would be interested in theology, but ask anyway.”

  “If I were to fool around with a woman, would it count as sex?”

  “If the rumors about Sam are even half true, I can guarantee she would make it count.


  “You have the coolest friends.”

  The four hours passed in what felt like minutes. She’d been worried the trip would be weird or awkward, but instead she discovered Søren, despite being a pompous, pretentious, arrogant, overeducated snob, was the easiest person in the world to talk to. As they neared the house, Eleanor almost regretted the end of the trip. She could talk to him forever.

  “Is that it?” she asked, stopping the car at the end of a long driveway.

  The sun had set two hours ago, but a spotlight shone on the house ahead. Søren had called it a “Federal” style mansion, whatever that meant. He said his father had married into money and gutted his first wife’s family home, remodeling it to his exact specifications. It had two stories, two wings, twelve bedrooms, fourteen bathrooms and six thousand square feet. Søren also added that he’d rather be back in the leper colony than back at his childhood home.

  “That’s it.”

  She saw his jaw clench and his eyes narrow.

  “What’s wrong?”

  “Nothing, Little One. Only bad memories from that house.”

  She reached over and covered his hand with hers.

  “I’m here. I don’t know if that helps any.”

  Søren raised her hand and kissed the back of it.

  “It helps more than you can imagine.”

  She eased the car down the driveway and at Søren’s instructions followed the winding path to the back of the house, where they parked. She turned off the car, got out and stretched a few seconds before pulling her bag from the trunk.

  “Oh, another thing, Eleanor, before we go in the house.”

  “Is it the body? Is the body in the house?” She tried not to make a face. “No offense but dead bodies creep me out.”

  “No body at the house, I promise.”

  “Then what’s up?”

  “You’re here with Claire, not with me.”

  She knew she was here with him, for him. Still, she nodded.

  A light on the back porch flipped on.

  “Here we go,” Søren sighed. “Brace yourself.”

  “What’s wrong?”

  “Hurricane Claire is about to hit.”

  20

  Eleanor

  A DOOR SLAMMED, A LOUD SOUND THAT WAS FOLLOWED by an even louder sound—a squeal and a laugh and then a blur of arms and legs racing toward the car.

  A girl launched herself into Søren’s arms and wrapped herself bodily around him.

  “I’m so glad you’re here,” she said, burying her head against his shoulder.

  “I would never have guessed,” Søren said, breathless. The girl must have knocked the wind out of him with the force of her attack hug.

  He put her down and leaned back against the car.

  “I missed you, Frater,” the girl said, grinning broadly.

  “Missed you, too, Soror.”

  “I didn’t miss either of you,” Eleanor said, deciding to interrupt if only to get the awkward introductions out of the way.

  “Claire, this is Eleanor.” He crooked his finger and Eleanor stepped out of the shadows. At one glance Eleanor could see Claire and Søren were related. She had his mouth and nose, his pale complexion and long dark eyelashes. She didn’t have his height, however, or his blond hair. And although very pretty, she wasn’t nearly as striking as Søren. “Eleanor is a friend from church. I didn’t want you alone here at the house.”

  Claire looked up at Søren.

  “Sure,” Claire said, glancing at Eleanor and then back at her brother. “She’s here for me. Got ya.” Claire gave him an exaggerated wink. Eleanor liked this girl already.

  “Hi. Call me Elle. He only calls me Eleanor because he has a stick up his ass.”

  “You noticed that, too?” Claire asked.

  Eleanor turned to Søren.

  “Oh, yeah, she and I are gonna get along fine.”

  “If I had a white flag,” Søren said, “I’d wave it first to surrender and hang myself with it after.”

  The three of them walked into the house together. With that auspicious start, Eleanor expected a pleasant evening of hanging around the house and chatting. But as soon as they entered through the back door, Søren lost his smile and his sense of humor.

  “Is Elizabeth here?” he asked Claire. Søren had his sister’s hand in his and seemed unwilling or unable to let it go.

  “She said she’d be back soon.”

  “Did anyone give you a room yet?”

  “I’m upstairs in the red room. I took the one with the big bed.”

  “Good. I want you in your room now. You and Eleanor.”

  “It’s only ten-thirty,” Claire protested. If she hadn’t argued the point, Eleanor would have.

  “I don’t care. I need to talk to Elizabeth, so I can’t keep an eye on you two. It’s late, we all have a big day tomorrow and I can’t have either of you roaming around the house by yourselves at night. If you leave the room, you two leave together. And you lock the door and don’t let anyone in the room but me. You understand?”

  “Fine. Fine. If you insist. He’s so bossy.” Claire said the last sentence to her and Eleanor started to agree, but Søren shot her a “don’t you dare” look. Claire stood on a step so she could face her brother eye to eye. “Good night, Frater. Tomorrow you’re going to play with me, though.”

  “Have you been practicing?”

  “Yes, and I’m awesome.”

  “Then we’ll play. Tonight you sleep.”

 
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