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       The Queen, p.28

         Part #8 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz

  pants and kicked off her shoes. In seconds she was naked as the bathroom filled with steam.

  Søren raised his eyebrow.

  “We’ll clean your back off in the shower,” she said, enunciating every word. “That is what I mean by ‘do it.’”

  “Little One, I don’t think this is necessary—”

  “Have you seen your back?”

  “Not all of it.”

  “It’s necessary.”

  He undressed and stepped into the shower, and she followed him inside and adjusted the flow of the water onto his back. Funny—that morning she’d had a teenage boy in her shower for purposes entirely erotic. Tonight she stood under the steaming water in a different shower for reasons that couldn’t be less erotic. She lathered her hands with soap and Søren braced himself against the tiled wall as she worked the lather and hot water into his wounds. Although she worked as gently as she could and Søren made no sound, she knew she was hurting him. His forehead rested on his uninjured left wrist, and he shut his eyes tight. He breathed shallow breaths, his body unnaturally still. How many thousands of times had he inflicted pain upon her with floggers, with whips, with canes, with his own brutal bare hands...and yet here she stood silently weeping as she hurt him with nothing more than soap and water on his raw and wounded flesh?

  “I know it hurts,” she said, feeling a terrible tenderness toward him as she dug tiny bits of pavement from his bleeding back with her fingernails. His blood was on her hands, red and mortal. He could have died two nights ago. She knew doctors and nurses in the ER called motorcycles “donor-cycles” because of the high fatality rate in motorcycle crashes. She could have lost Søren forever. And what would her last words have been to him? She didn’t even remember what she’d last said to him, it had been so long since she’d seen him. They’d probably fought about something, about her leaving him and refusing to come back unless he accepted her for who she was now, not who she’d been. Father Mike had asked her today if she’d had any regrets about Søren. If he’d died without her getting to tell him one last time how much she loved him? She would regret that the rest of her life.

  “I’m so sorry, sir,” she said, apologizing for who knew what. For leaving him? For hurting him? For knowing how close she’d come to losing him two nights ago and still not being willing to give up her new life to go back to him?

  “I’m considering this a learning experience. I now have a new appreciation for the concept of scourging.”


  “Christ was scourged before he was crucified. Pontius Pilate hoped to mollify the crowd who wished to see Jesus executed by sentencing him to a scourging. Scourging involved a near fatal beating with a whip that had glass and bone and rocks embedded in the lashes.”

  “Or pavement?”

  “Or pavement,” he said and finally heard a crack in that infuriating male stoicism of his.

  “This wasn’t your fault. She was drunk.”

  “After the wreck, I spoke to the police officer working the scene. I asked him who had died but they hadn’t identified her yet. All he knew was that she was a young woman in a black Lexus.”

  A black Lexus? That was Nora’s car.

  “I had to see her,” Søren said. “I didn’t want to but I had to see her body. I had to because I was... I thought it might be you. A wildly irrational fear. I don’t have wildly irrational fears, Eleanor. That’s not me. But those two hundred steps between the wreck of my bike and the ambulance where they had was the longest walk of my life. And there she was, this young woman broken and bloody and already dead. And I was relieved... I looked at a dead girl, and I was relieved. I could barely stand up I was so relieved it wasn’t you. I should go to confession and repent of that.”

  “It’s human. It’s normal. No one would blame you for being relieved you didn’t know the victim, not even God.”

  “I’d never survive it if something happened to you.”

  “Søren... I’m here. It was someone else. It wasn’t me.”

  “Of course not. You only come over when I tell you I need you. It wouldn’t have been you on that road.”

  “Søren, please. You know I—”

  “It’s fine, Eleanor. I’m fine.”

  “No, you’re not,” she said, grateful for the water masking her tears.

  “No,” he said. “I’m not.”

  “Don’t feel bad,” she said softly, kissing him on his naked shoulder. “Neither am I.”



  AFTER THEIR SHOWER, Nora put her clothes back on and helped Søren as he pulled on a clean black T-shirt, which was by far the strangest moment in their relationship. After her trip to the hospital at age nineteen when she’d drunk herself into a minor bout of alcohol poisoning, it was Søren helping her out of the shower, Søren helping her dress. But now...

  “Stop, Eleanor.”


  “Stop crying.”

  “I’m not crying,” she said while crying.

  He bent and kissed her on the lips. “I have minor injuries, and I’m not an invalid. I’ve had much worse.”

  “When your father broke your arm?” she asked as she wound a clean ACE bandage around his arm.

  “At St. Ignatius actually. I think I was...thirteen?”

  “What happened?” she asked. Søren never spoke of his days at St. Ignatius, the Catholic boarding school he attended in Maine from age eleven to seventeen, and she knew he spoke of it now to simply distract her from her tears.

  “We had a cat at school named Jezebel. A vicious little feral thing. Hated all humans and would claw anyone who tried to pet her. Except me for some reason. She tolerated me. No idea why. I can only assume she felt sorry for me as I was the only creature on campus more despised by the other students than she was.”

  “ had a pet kitty,” Nora said as she adjusted the bandage on Søren’s wrist.

  Søren grinned. “I suppose I did.” The grin faded. “One night a student yanked her tail, and she attacked him. He retaliated by locking her in a bathroom. Then he and his friends gathered a huge box of rocks. They were planning on stoning her to death with them. They were older, about to graduate, didn’t care about consequences. I held her against my chest with my back to them as they threw the stones.”

  “Couldn’t you have let her escape?”

  “And let them catch her and kill her another time? No, this was better. They could have gotten away with killing a feral cat but stoning a student? Every last one of them were expelled. Meanwhile I had bruises on my backside from my thighs to my shoulders and claw marks all over my chest. And not the nice sort you leave on me.”

  Nora shook her head. “Little ingrate. And here you were protecting her.”

  “Jezebel didn’t understand I was trying to protect her by holding her so close to me. She thought she was being smothered. I don’t blame her for scratching me.”

  Nora paused a moment, took a breath, picked up the silver fastener that would hold the bandage in place.

  “You,” she said. She felt as if she had a stone in her throat and no matter how hard she swallowed it wouldn’t go down.

  “What, Little One?”

  “You make it very hard for me to hate you sometimes.”

  “Don’t worry. You’ll find a reason to hate me again soon enough. You always do.”

  Nora hated to leave him alone but his refrigerator had nothing in it but the most disgustingly healthy-looking vegetarian casseroles and fruit trays, gifts from well-meaning parishioners. She pretended it wasn’t there and went for Indian takeout, the best in the city. The only in the city, too. As she pulled out plates from the kitchen cabinets and opened a bottle of wine, she felt something unexpected, something like homesickness. Once upon a time this place had been her second home. She and Søren had made love on that kitchen table a dozen times at least, a hundred times in the living room/library, a thousand times in the bedroom. But they’d also talked together
here in this kitchen, read together in the living room, taken long Tuesday-afternoon naps together on the sofa, Søren on his back and her stretched out on top of him. Since she left him, she only came back to the rectory when he needed her for kink and sex. They hadn’t had a meal under this roof together in years.

  “You’re quiet,” Søren said from the kitchen doorway.

  “I was wondering if Diane’s warning notes are going to keep everyone away.”

  “They will. She’s told everyone my sister is staying with me. If they see the car they’ll assume it’s hers. And they’ll see the notes and run for their lives. Diane is not to be trifled with.”

  “She knows I’m here tonight, doesn’t she?”

  “She does.”

  “I guess a sign from a church secretary works as well as a tie on the door.”

  “Why would she put a tie on the door?” he asked, peeking his nose inside the bag of takeout.

  “You do it in college with your roommates. Tie on the door means ‘I’m fucking someone right now so don’t come in.’”

  “As you can imagine, this was not a system we employed in seminary.”

  She shooed him away from the food as she filled two plates and sat on top of the kitchen table.

  “None for me?” he asked.

  “This is for you. Sit. I’ll feed you.”

  “I told you I wasn’t an invalid,” he said.

  “You’re right-handed, and you’ve sprained your right wrist.”

  “I’m also a pianist who is fairly close to being ambidextrous. I can manage a fork with my left hand. It’s eating, not surgery.”

  She held up her fork with a bite of paneer on the end.

  “Open up for the choo-choo train,” she said. He gave her a look of disgust to end all looks of disgust.

  “Fine,” she said. “More for me then. I’ll eat the choo-choo.” She ate the piece of paneer and moaned in exaggerated food pleasure.

  “You’re ridiculous,” Søren said as he prepared his own food. “I hope you know that.”

  “I have a client who’s an adult baby. He likes being fed choo-choo and airplane style. When I started working as a dominatrix I went out and bought riding crops and floggers and handcuffs...never occurred to me I’d also have to stock up on baby food and adult diapers.”

  “Human sexuality is as varied as the colors of the rainbow,” Søren said. “Sadly it’s not always a pot of gold at the end.”

  “Sometimes it’s a pot of sh—”

  “Eleanor, we’re eating.”

  “Sorry, sir.” She took a huge bite of food to cover her giggles.

  “You are an endlessly unusual woman.” Søren sat in a chair opposite her, his big bare feet up on the table next to her hip. “Whenever I think I’ve explored every corner of you, I turn another corner and find a new wing.”

  “Says the Danish Catholic polyglot sadist priest. My weirdness has nothing on you.”

  “You chose to be a dominatrix as an adult. My mother was Danish. I converted to Catholicism at age fourteen because I was sent, against my will, to a Catholic school and had a conversion experience. I learn languages because it helps my work as a priest and a translator of religious documents, and the sadism is, as you know, nothing I asked for.”

  “If you could give it back, would you?”


  “Really?” She hadn’t expected him to answer so quickly and so easily.

  “Would you choose to be what I am if you had a choice?” he asked.

  “A sadist? I did choose it, remember? I beat up more people in one day than you do in one month.”

  “It’s not the same. I can’t even become aroused without inflicting pain or humiliation. You don’t need it the way I do. Don’t confuse wanting with needing.”

  “Why not? If I want it as much as you need it, isn’t it the same?”

  “Very well then. Same question to you. If you could make yourself stop wanting it, would you?”

  “I guess I have to say no. Being a sadist pays for my house.”

  “And if money were no object?”

  “You’re asking me if I would be vanilla if I could be vanilla?”

  “I am.”

  “I do think about it sometimes,” she said. “It might make life easier.”

  “Easier isn’t necessarily more rewarding.”

  “But infinitely less complicated.” She paused to eat and pull her thoughts together. “I had sex with a virgin last night.”

  “You found one?” he asked.

  “Right under my nose. Third one I’ve found. I even have a punch card—if I fuck two more virgins I get a free frozen yogurt on my birthday.”

  “Virgins don’t seem your particular cup of tea. What’s the appeal?”

  “I don’t know. Untapped potential maybe. Being someone’s first is a power trip, especially when you’re not just introducing them to sex but kink, too. And they’re not us,” she admitted.

  “What do you mean?”

  “I mean, they’re not one of us. I don’t meet these guys at kink clubs. I meet them out in the real world. I met Noah at a coffee shop where I write.”

  “You mean you meet them in your other life. Not the life you share with Kingsley and me and your clients.”

  She nodded.

  “Right. He’s a normal college kid. Sweet. Sexy. Nice. No baggage. I let him spend the night and this morning... I was glad he was still there. I felt very vanilla.”

  “Juliette sleeps with Kingsley almost every night. Their relationship is anything but vanilla.”

  “Juliette is fine sleeping with a man who routinely fucks other people. That’s harder to find for a woman. Noah doesn’t know I do kink for money. I didn’t tell him that today I got paid five hundred dollars from a judge to let him jack off on my feet. Or that I routinely stick a dildo in the ass of the mayor’s baby brother. Or that the bed he lost his virginity in was paid for by me carving my name with a needle into the dick of the man who owns the largest furniture store chain on the Eastern Seaboard. I mean, look at you. You’re a sadist. You’re practically worshipped in the Underground as a god of pain, and yet you don’t even like what I do for a living.”

  “If I weren’t in love with you, I’d have no qualms whatsoever with your line of work.”

  “I want to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t have a problem with it and who is also in love with me. If a man as kinky as you can’t accept it...who can?”

  She stabbed her fork into her food.

  “You’re lonely,” Søren said.

  She shrugged. “Just overworked.”

  “You never say no to me when I tell you I need you. I have trouble believing you’re here out of pure concern for my well-being.”

  “Why not?”

  “You’re not that nice.” He pointed his fork at her before resuming his dinner.

  Nora scowled at him. “This is why I can’t be vanilla,” Nora said. “I’m enjoying the fantasy of stabbing you in the neck with my fork too much. I’d miss being kinky.”

  “You would miss me.”

  “Yes,” she admitted. “And my riding crops. And being treated like a queen all the time. No vanilla guys for me.”

  “For the best,” Søren said. “I was briefly married to someone who didn’t have any idea who or what she’d married. A fate best to be avoided.”

  “That’s not going to happen. What vanilla guy would fall in love with a dominatrix anyway?”

  “If we’re talking about you specifically?” Søren said, learning forward to offer her a bite of curry. Because he’d had such a rough
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