The queen, p.29
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       The Queen, p.29

         Part #8 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  couple of days, she let him feed her. “All of them.”

  After dinner she washed the dishes and stored the leftovers in the refrigerator. When she finished, she found him in the living room in his big armchair with a book in his uninjured hand. She stood in front of him with her arms crossed over her chest.

  “Don’t interrupt me,” Søren said, giving her the barest glance over the top of the book. “I’m reading.”

  She plucked the book out of his hand.

  The Red by Nora Sutherlin.

  “You can’t read this book,” she said.

  “Why ever not?”

  “It’s pornographic.”

  “I’m a grown man. I can read anything I like, and I like this book.” He took it back from her.

  “You are also a Catholic priest. You fucking priests burned Sappho’s poetry in the third century and now we have almost nothing left of it. Catholic priests don’t deserve good porn,” she said, taking the book out of his hand.

  “The Catholic Church also created the convent which was the sole sanctuary for lesbians and other women and girls who wanted to avoid marriage. It was also the only place women were allowed to live without men, and where they were allowed to learn how to read and write. The Western Canon exists because of the Catholic Church.” He attempted to pluck the book out of her hand. Nora pulled it out of reach.

  “Fine,” he said and reached between the cushion of his chair and the arm. He pulled out another book. The Lotus-Eaters by Nora Sutherlin.

  Nora laughed as she sunk to the floor and rested her chin on Søren’s knee.

  “The Lotus-Eaters,” she said. “Of course you’d have a copy of my book about temple prostitution.”

  “I’m thinking the Catholic Church should bring back sacred prostitution. It would improve attendance,” he said, flipping casually through the pages.

  “Do I want to know how you keep getting copies of my books? You aren’t shoplifting from a bookstore, are you?”

  “Juliette smuggles them to me. She’s quite a fan of your work. She thought I would like this one since it seems to be dedicated to me. Then again, they’re all dedicated to me.” He opened the book to the dedication page where the words “As Always, Beloved, Your Eleanor” were printed.

  “It’s not dedicated to you. It’s an acrostic. Aabye was Søren Kierkegaard’s middle name.”

  “I’m well aware of this, as are you.”

  “Obviously, it’s dedicated to Søren Kierkegaard.”

  “I didn’t realize you were such a fan of early nineteenth-century Protestant Danish theologians.”

  “Christian existentialism makes me wet.”

  “Speaking of...” He took The Red back from her and turned the pages. “Yes. Yes.” He flipped through a few more pages. “Yes. Twice.”

  “What are you talking about?”

  “I’m seeing which love scenes in your book I inspired.” He held the book open to a certain page, and Nora saw it was a scene that involved the enigmatic hero challenging his younger lover to a contest of sorts. She had to hold a full glass of wine in her hand while he fucked her and if she didn’t spill any, she won and if she did spill the wine, he won. And when he won, they both won.

  “I changed the names to protect the not-so-innocent. And it’s hardly autobiographical,” she said, a half-truth. “She’s an art gallery owner. He’s a mysterious rich guy who says he’ll pay to keep her gallery open if she agrees to do everything he tells her to do for a year.”

  “I remember you and I making a similar sort of bargain.”

  “You asked for ‘forever’ from me. Mister Mysterious only asks for one year. And he put out immediately. You made me wait until I was twenty before you fucked me.”

  “Believe it or not, I do have a conscience, Eleanor. You were a very attractive fifteen-year-old, but you were too young for me, and I had no intention of going to prison for statutory rape.”

  “You fucked a sixteen-year-old.”

  “When I was seventeen.”

  “You should have taken me to Denmark and fucked me there. Age of consent is fifteen in your motherland.”

  “I won’t ask why you committed that fact to memory.”

  “I don’t think you thought I was too young for you. I think you got off on stringing me along and making me beg for it. Admit it.”

  “You’re punishing me for that by making me wait for you to come back to me. Admit it.”

  Nora only stared at him.

  “Isn’t that your plan?” Søren asked, his eyebrow lifted in a question. “I made you wait for over four years. You’ll make me wait just as long or more?”

  “You think this is some insidious plan of mine? I’m building this new life for myself without you just because you didn’t fuck me when I was fifteen like I asked you to?”

  “Aren’t you?”

  “Søren, I swear if you get any more smug you’ll turn into Kingsley.”

  She pushed in closer, and buried her head in his lap. His hand resting on the back of her neck felt as comforting as a collar, as confining as a noose.

  “No,” she said. “I’m not punishing you. I’m just... I’m trying to live my life.”

  “Without me.”

  “That was your choice, not mine,” she said. “You chose to be a priest, which was the last thing in the world Claire wanted you to do. Or Kingsley. Or your mother. So don’t sit there and judge me for going down a path you can’t follow when you walked away from everyone you loved when you put on your collar.”

  “You have no intention of coming back to me?” he asked.

  “Let me answer your question with a question—will you let me keep working for Kingsley?”

  “You enjoy the work that much?”

  “I enjoy being a domme that much. I enjoy being able to afford my house that much. So what’s your answer?”

  “My answer is...no,” he said. “I can’t support this choice you’ve made. The work you do is too dangerous, and I love you too much to allow you to do it. If you were mine again, I would order you to quit.”

  Nora already knew that was his answer, but hearing it reopened the wound she’d been trying to ignore for three years since she left him.

  “So we’re at a stalemate,” she said, glancing over at Søren’s chessboard sitting on the bookshelf.

  “Perhaps it’s time to break the stalemate,” Søren said.

  “How?” Nora looked up at him.

  Søren didn’t speak for a moment. He was weighing his words.

  “I told you when I had my accident, I was on my way home from dinner with someone. That someone was the superior of my province.”

  “Hot date?”

  “Not quite. I’ve been asked to take my Final Vows.”

  Nora’s brow furrowed in confusion.

  “I thought you told them no years ago.”

  “The last time they asked me was shortly after you left me.”

  Nora sat very still and felt the weight of his decision heavy on her. She understood what it meant if he were to say yes. Final Vows were a big deal for a Jesuit. Jesuits usually took them twenty or more years after entering the order. When a priest’s life and ministry was examined by his peers and superiors and found worthy, he was invited to take his Final Vows. Søren had told her once that it was similar to a teacher being offered tenure.

  If Søren took his Final Vows, he would be committing to remaining in the priesthood until he died. She understood it meant he would never again ask and/or order her to marry him. She understood it meant he had made his mind up about the rest of his life, and it didn’t include marriage or children, which she couldn’t blame him for as she didn’t want those things, either. But she wanted to make no more vows ever, no more promises she couldn’t keep. A vow was the opposite of freedom and she shrank from the very thought of it.

  “The ceremony’s one week from Sunday.”

  “So you’re going to do it?” she asked.

  “Give me a reason to s
ay no,” he said.

  “I can’t.”

  “Then I’ll tell them yes.”

  Nora couldn’t look at him. She turned her head and stared at the chessboard again. Søren had taught her the game years ago. They’d often play when she’d spent the night with him after the kink and the sex were out of their systems. Although she always considered chess with Søren a sort of kink. He always beat her when they played. Except that one time she punished him for making her play by swallowing a pawn.

  “Little One? Where are you?”

  “Here,” she said. “I’m here with you.”

  He pinched her nose. This time she couldn’t give him the smile he wanted.

  “I want you to be there. Will you do that for me?”

  “I don’t know if I can,” she said, her head still in his lap, his hand still on the back of her neck.

  “Are you worried things will change between us after I take the vows?”

  “Won’t they?” she asked.

  “Yes.”

  “You’ll start keeping your vow of chastity, won’t you?”

  “You left me, Eleanor, and you said yourself you’re not coming back.”

  “That’s a yes, isn’t it?”

  The pause between her question and his answer was the longest pause she’d ever lived through but if that thrumming empty air, that painful fermata, had gone on forever, it still wouldn’t have been long enough for her. She could have lived her entire life quite happily without hearing his answer. Someday she would learn never to ask questions she didn’t want the answer to.

  “Yes.”

  26

  Snow in August

  NORA TURNED ON the light in Søren’s bedroom and pulled down the covers on the bed.

  “You’re staying the night,” Søren said. Not a question, a statement of fact.

  “I’d stay until you were healed completely if I could. You know that, right?” she said, resting her head on his chest. He wrapped his good arm around her.

  “A fool’s errand, Little One. If you waited until all my wounds were healed, you would be here forever.”

  She didn’t tell him that was the point. She merely turned her face up to his and let him kiss her.

  “I have something to show you,” he said.

  “If it’s what I think it is, I’ve seen it before.”

  “Behave, Eleanor. It was a gift from Laila,” Søren said. “It’s on the bedside table.”

  The table in question sat between the bed and the wall of his upstairs bedroom. On it sat a little metal contraption. It appeared to be some sort of mobile no bigger than his hand. Tiny silver snowflakes dangled off fan blades suspended over a votive candle.

  “It’s a spinner,” Søren explained. “You light the candle on the base. When the heat from the wick rises, the blades turn. Try it.”

  Nora took a lighter from the bedside table and lit the candle. In only seconds the fan blades started to turn and the silver snowflakes rotated like a carousel. Søren reached past her and turned off the lamp.

  She glanced around the darkened bedroom and smiled, delighted as a child as the light danced in the dark room.

  “It looks like it’s snowing,” she said. “Indoors. In August.”

  “A little Scandinavian magic,” he said. “Laila collects the spinners. At Christmas the house is full of them. A fire hazard but quite pretty at night.”

  “It’s beautiful,” she said, as she slipped into bed to lie next to him. Together they watched the magic of snow indoors in August. But it wasn’t magic, merely an illusion. But if that were true, why did she smell snow?

  Søren slid his bare leg over her hip and she said, “Stop.”

  “Why?”

  “You’ll hurt yourself,” she said as he ignored her stop. He rose up on his uninjured left arm, his right arm at her side. Even in the dark she could see his eyes watching her.

  “I’m already hurt.” He dipped his head and kissed her. She didn’t say stop again.

  She felt a thousand things as he kissed her—the fear of hurting him was first and foremost. Whenever she started to put her arms around his back she remembered his injuries and stopped herself. She placed her hands over her head and clung to the headboard instead of him. She felt other fears, as well. The fear of hurting herself. Kissing like this, deep kissing in bed at night, was the province of lovers, not ex-lovers. Ex-lovers could fuck on occasion without it meaning much of anything. But this was nothing but kissing and nothing but kissing was so much more than sex.

  “Come back to me...” Søren whispered the words against her lips.

  “I can’t.”

  “It can’t snow indoors in August either, can it?” he asked as the magic snowflakes flickered and twinkled across the bed and over the ceiling and walls. He didn’t wait for an answer before kissing her again.

  She pushed her hips against him. He wasn’t aroused. Of course not. Kissing wouldn’t arouse him unless he also hurt her. She only wished he knew that kissing her like this, as if she was the only woman in the world, hurt worse than a beating.

  “If I come back to you, wearing your collar, submitting to you again, what’s to stop you from ordering me to give up everything I worked for—my name, my freedom, my job, my house, my whole life...?”

  Søren ran the tip of his tongue from the base of her throat, up her neck and to her lips. Against them he whispered one word...

  “Nothing.”

  They were at an impasse. An impossible impasse not even General Hannibal and all the elephants in the world could traverse. She would not go back to him unless he let her be Nora. He would not take her back unless she became Eleanor again. They both wanted each other but apparently not enough to cede any ground to the other. Nothing left to do so Nora attempted retreat. Søren wouldn’t let her go, however. He twined their legs together, pressed his chest to her back. There would be no eluding his arms tonight, not that she wanted to. Tonight she was his prisoner. Tomorrow morning she would escape him again.

  She slept fitfully, plagued by dreams of death, hers and his. She woke once with a start, disoriented in the darkness. The candle had burned itself out. The magic show was over. Next to her Søren slept, his eerily dark eyelashes resting lightly on his pale skin. He didn’t like being touched in his sleep but she couldn’t resist one small kiss on his slightly parted lips. He made the smallest sound in the back of his throat and she felt his erection against her thigh. She laughed softly, almost soundlessly, and laid her head back on the pillow. He couldn’t get hard from making out with her for half an hour, but let him fall asleep for a few hours and there it was...boys will be boys. Now she knew how Ruth felt lying next to Boaz on the threshing floor.

  Her body vibrated with laughter as she remembered a better time. Søren’s eyelashes fluttered and opened. He moved on top of her and without thinking, Nora opened her legs to him. She was still slick and wet inside from her earlier arousal. Being near him, naked and in his bed, was the source of her aching arousal and when he penetrated her fully she cried out as much in surprise as pleasure. Nora took all of him she could into her. When it wasn’t enough she begged for more.

  “Hurt me,” she murmured against his skin. “Please?”

  “No.”

  “Please...”

  “No.” He kept thrusting, thrusting hard but not hard enough to hurt her. This must have tortured him as much as it tortured her. He needed pain, craved it, thrived on it. To deny her pain was to deny his pleasure.

  He’d woken up hard. It happened sometimes, especially in the morning. But without more pain he might not be able to come. She feared he intended to punish her as she’d punished Kingsley—sex but no orgasm, coupling with no consummation.

 
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