The queen, p.3
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       The Queen, p.3

         Part #8 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
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  and brought her home, and no door, even one that said “No Men Beyond This Point,” could have kept them from taking her back.

  “Thank you,” she whispered.

  “For what?”

  She wanted to thank him for forgiving her even though she didn’t regret it. But instead she said, “Thanks for not kicking me out. Tonight, I mean. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you did.”

  Briefly she met his eyes. She’d didn’t say what she wanted to say, couldn’t say it. Last year she’d accidentally gotten pregnant and it had been Kingsley’s. As much as he wanted children, she wouldn’t have blamed him for rejecting her pleas for help, sending her out into the night again, banishing her from his life. She was in debt now and hated it, hated owing him for something as simple as letting her back in the house she’d once shared with him.

  “Elle...” He took her by the shoulders and met her eyes. “When Søren first told me about you, I called you his princess. And he said, no, you were a queen. And I laughed. But last year when you and I were together, when you cut me and burned me and you did it all with a smile on your face... I was wrong. He was right. You are a queen. At least...you could be one. Is that what you want?”

  “I don’t know.”

  “Tell me what you want.”

  “I want a job.”

  “This is a job.”

  “I want money so I can support myself.”

  “These are all very boring answers. Tell me the truth. What do you really want?”

  “I don’t want to feel like this anymore. That’s what I want.”

  He furrowed his brow at her. “How do you feel?”

  “Powerless,” she said. “I’m afraid to say no to your ‘job offer.’ What would I do if you kicked me out? Where would I go?”

  “Back to him?”

  “No. I can’t. That’s the last place I could go.”

  Kingsley nodded, seeming to understand her predicament.

  “I can’t turn down your offer, can I?” she asked.

  “Do you want to? Truly?”

  The question seemed sincere, not teasing as it might have been. He meant it—did she want to turn down his offer?

  “What’s the alternative if I say no?” she asked.

  Kingsley opened a desk drawer and in the desk drawer was his locked cashbox.

  “There’s one hundred thousand dollars in there. It’s yours if you want it. Take it and walk out the door.” He held up the key to the cashbox. “You can live on that much money for five years if you’re careful. Go south where the winters are warm and rents are cheap. Get a job. Go back to school. Be a lawyer or a therapist or a schoolteacher. Marry a rich old man for all I care. Start your life over away from here, away from me.”

  “I don’t want your charity.”

  “It’s not charity. After Sam left, you worked as my assistant for years without any pay other than room and board. I give it to you free and clear with no strings attached. You’ve earned it. All I ask is that you never contact me again. I spent an entire year worrying over you, feeling like you were my responsibility and I’d failed you. I won’t do that again. I can’t. Take the money and go, and I will absolve myself of all responsibility. My conscience will be clear. At least where you’re concerned. Or...”

  “Or I can work for you. Here. As a domme.”

  “Oui. And working for me here as a domme you will have a job, you will have money and you will have power.”

  “Power? Working for you? If I work for you, you’d have all the power.”

  “You won’t be my employee. You’ll be my queen. You will be my queen and in a year you will have all the money and power you could possibly desire. One hundred thousand dollars and you go tonight and you never come back. Or you stay and work for me and one hundred thousand will seem like spare change to you in a year. Think about it. I’ll give you five minutes.”

  Kingsley turned and walked out of the office just like that, leaving her all alone.

  Once alone Elle sagged against the wall, the choice before her dizzying. A hundred grand and she could start a brand-new life far away from here. Her passport was in her bedroom. If Kingsley hadn’t thrown everything out, she could get it and leave the country. Money was power. Money was freedom.

  But...it was a game, wasn’t it? she thought as she sat in Kingsley’s antique leather swivel chair behind the grand old Art Deco-era desk. Take the money and run? Or stay and work and make two, three, four times that amount?

  And yet...it wasn’t really the money she cared about. Money was a means to an end and that end was power. She never wanted to feel the way she felt half an hour ago when she’d knocked on the front door of Kingsley’s town house knowing that if he shut the door in her face, she had nowhere else to go.

  On Kingsley’s desk sat a chessboard with red pieces and white pieces. When she and Søren played, he took red and she took white. When she and Kingsley played, she took red and Kingsley took white. Chess...a strange old game. She wasn’t very good at it and neither was Kingsley. Søren alone had the gift for it. She’d asked him once why he made her play chess with him when she wasn’t good at it. He’d answered, “Chess teaches that actions have consequences and the wise man—or woman—will always look to the endgame...”

  Elle picked up the red bishop. The bishop moved diagonally along a straight line. The poor pawn could move only a square at a time. Although if it were played well, it could become a queen. She put the bishop back on the board and picked up the red queen and the white king. The king was a strong piece, of course. The most important chess piece and the most vulnerable to attack. But the queen...the queen was the most powerful chess piece. More powerful than the king. And the queen could move any way she wanted...

  Kingsley opened the door to his office.

  “What’s your decision?” he asked standing on the threshold.

  Elle placed the king and queen side by side on the chessboard and looked up at Kingsley.

  “Let’s play.”

  4

  Three Ways to Be a Queen

  “GOOD ANSWER,” KINGSLEY said, snapping his fingers at her to indicate she was to follow him. Elle stood up and followed him out of his office.

  “Did you really think I’d take the money and run?” she asked as they walked down the hall side by side.

  “In your shoes, I might have,” he admitted.

  “I was tempted.”

  “What made your decision? Him?”

  “You,” she said. “I’m not done beating the shit out of you yet.”

  Kingsley laughed and it was a sight to behold. His face was handsome, striking, even in repose, but when Kingsley Edge laughed it could drop a girl to her knees for more reasons than simple obeisance.

  “Plus, being a queen sounds more fun than being the wife of some rich old man.”

  “When I’m done with you, you will be the domme of many rich old men. Instead of you cooking and cleaning for them for free, you will beat them and use them and they’ll pay you for the privilege.”

  “Sign me up for queenship, then.”

  “It’s not that easy,” Kingsley said as they headed down the steps and to his private sitting room. “There are, in fact, only three ways to become a queen. Signing up isn’t one of them.”

  “What are the three ways?” she asked. “Marry a king, I guess.”

  “Will you marry me?” Kingsley asked.

  “No offense, King, but I’d go back to the convent first.”

  “And I’d join the priesthood before marrying you, as well. You and I are not husband-and-wife material. For each other or anyone else.”

  Kingsley opened the door to the sitting room and Elle followed him inside. When she turned on the Tiffany lamp she saw nothing had changed in the room while she was at the convent. Same bookshelves filled with leather-bound classics in French and English. Same red velvet fainting couch. Same gilt-framed portraits of naked nymphs at play. Same everything and on a night of upheaval and change, the
sameness comforted her.

  “Sit,” Kingsley ordered.

  Elle sat.

  “Where was I?” he asked, stalking about the room like a caged wolf, more rather than less dangerous because of the cage. Energy contained is energy focused and she felt almost afraid to be alone in the room with someone this dangerous. She had been at the convent so long she didn’t know how to be alone with a man again.

  “Three ways to be a queen.”

  “Yes. First, you can marry a king. That won’t work in this instance. Mainly because I already have a consort, and she might not like it if I took on another.”

  “Wait. What? You have a new girlfriend?” He’d been so heartbroken over his ex-girlfriend Charlie’s defection she never dreamed he’d take on another 24/7 submissive again.

  “Not a girlfriend. Consort. Her name is Juliette, and she is the perfect submissive. She’s also currently chained by her ankle to my bed so I wouldn’t go in my bedroom for at least a week.”

  “Chained to your bed? King, you can’t leave her alone chained to your bed. What if something happens to her?”

  “I left a bell by the bed to ring if she needs me, and the phone, of course. And the key if she wants to unlock herself. She can get out the second she wants to get out. But I know her—she’ll stay there until I unlock her.”

  “Can’t wait to meet her.”

  “You’ll love her. I met her in Haiti.”

  “Special, is she?” Elle asked.

  Kingsley grinned ear to ear, a rare sight and a breathtaking one.

  “I’m in love with her. I think she will be with me all my life.”

  “It’s good to see you happy. You deserve that.”

  “I most certainly do. Now, the second way to become a queen,” Kingsley said, taking a book down off the shelf and flipping through the pages, “is how I became a king. I claimed a territory, called myself a king, acted like a king, and soon everyone simply accepted that I was. But you will become a queen the third way.”

  “Which is?”

  “By deposing the current queen and taking her realm away from her.”

  “There’s a queen? We have a queen? We never had a queen before. Jesus, how long have I been gone?”

  “Too long,” Kingsley said with real feeling. They were so much alike, she and King. Too much alike. Impossible to be friends. Impossible to be enemies. But partners in crime? Yes, they could be that.

  “Nature abhors a vacuum, they say. When I left and you left, it created a power vacuum. A dominatrix appeared on the scene and started scooping up the best and richest clients. Half of Irina’s clients deserted her. So did Mistress Vee’s.”

  “Ballsy woman. I wouldn’t want to get on their bad sides.”

  “She’s on my bad side. One of Irina’s clients came back to her, begging forgiveness and asking to be hers again. His new domme sent pictures she’d taken during their sessions to his wife. Thankfully he’d already told his wife about his submissive side, and she’d given him permission to explore with a professional. But it was a petty, vile thing she did, and she won’t get away with it. She keeps her clients in line through fear, not love and devotion. She abuses her power, and I won’t stand for that in my city.”

  Elle winced. Kingsley had his reams of blackmail material on anyone in the city who mattered and many people who didn’t, but he used it to protect the citizens of his kingdom, not humiliate and ruin them for their proclivities. And to destroy his enemies, of course. Sounded like he’d made a new enemy.

  “Who is she?” Elle asked. “What’s her name?”

  Kingsley held the book in his hand out to her and pointed to an illustration of a beautiful woman in an eighteenth-century gown. Elle glanced at the title of the book and back at the page.

  “Milady...” Elle said, studying the face of the woman on the page. The book was Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers, and the woman in the illustration was the infamous Milady de Winter.

  “That’s what your rival calls herself. No first name. No last name. Milady. Nothing else.”

  “Do you know anything about her?”

  “I know nothing about her and not for lack of trying. She claims to be the illegitimate daughter of a Japanese geisha and an English lord. She also claims she went to Harvard but didn’t graduate because she was caught topping one of her professors. Oh, and she says she married an Italian knight—they do exist, by the way, I’ve met a few—but he was fifty years her senior and when he died, he left her a wealthy widow with a villa in Tuscany. And if any of that is true, I’ll eat my vest.”

  “You think she’s lying?”

  “I do but I have no proof of it. She’s careful. Even wears gloves all the time so no one can get her fingerprints. When in the city she stays in a hotel under an assumed name and pays in cash. That level of paranoia and fear makes me suspicious. But her story makes for wonderful marketing. Her English is flawless, not a trace of an accent, but she also speaks Japanese flawlessly with no trace of an accent. She’s well educated and intelligent. She’s also mysterious, seductive, painfully beautiful and terribly cruel. Men throw themselves at her. There are rumors she secretly tapes her sessions so that if a client wishes to leave her, he either pays her a huge sum of money for the tapes or he stays with her. Most of them stay.”

  Kingsley snapped the book shut and placed it back on his shelf.

  “Have you tried sleeping with her?” Elle asked. Knowing Kingsley as she knew him, it wasn’t an unreasonable question.

  “No,” he said. “I haven’t met her yet.”

  “Is she good?”

  “Very good from what I hear.”

  For Kingsley to call a domme good was quite a compliment. The man could take more pain and wanted more pain than anyone she’d ever known in the scene.

  “But...”

  “But what?” Elle asked. Kingsley took her chin in hand and tilted her face up to him. He smiled.

  “You’ll be better.”

  “Will I be better than him?”

  “No one is better than he is at sadism,” Kingsley said. “But...”

  “But?”

  “You’ll be a close second. Considering you’re untrained, and he’s been studying pain since he was born, there’s a very good chance you could put even him on his knees.”

  “I don’t ever want to see him again, on his knees or off.”

  “You say that now.”

  “I’ll say that tomorrow, too.”

  “Very well. I will respect that. For now. He’s not my favorite person either, nor am I his. But ours is a small world. You can’t avoid him forever.”

  “Have you seen him?”

  “I have.”

  “How is he?” she asked.

  “Not the question someone usually asks about someone she hates.”

  “I want to know he’s hurting.”

  “Then you’ll be happy to hear he is.”

  “Good,” she said. That made her happy. So happy. So fucking happy she wanted to cry. “He’s still a priest, isn’t he?”

  “He is.”

  “I was afraid he’d leave the church.”

  “He didn’t.”

  “That’s good then.” She exhaled a breath she’d been holding for over a year. “He... Whatever his faults, he’s a good priest, isn’t he?”

  Kingsley put his hands on her shoulders.

  “Yes, he’s a very good priest.”

  “I’m glad I left, then. He...he would have regretted leaving the Jesuits for me. I know him. It was good I left him if he’s still a priest.”

  She knew she was speaking to convince herself, not Kingsley.

  “This life I’m offering you isn’t easy money, Elle. The things dominatrixes do with their clients? Not even the priest would dream
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