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       The Saint, p.33

         Part #5 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  “You said they were in the car.”

  Her father started the engine and swung into the street. He turned the next corner as if trying to get her away as fast as possible from Kingsley’s house.

  “You should thank me,” her father said as he sped down a side street. “You don’t want to get mixed up with Edge. I’ve heard stories about that French fucker. Well, I suppose you know. You’re fucking him.”

  “I’m not fucking him. We’re friends.”

  “Friends? Is he your babysitter, too? That why he picked you up from school?”

  “You’re sick. Spying on your own kid.” Eleanor shook with terror and fury. She’d been right. Someone had been in the church eavesdropping on her and Søren.

  “Watching my own kid. Not spying. And it’s a good thing I did, too. I go away for a year and you end up spreading for some sick piece-of-shit molester priest.”

  “My priest is the best man alive,” she said. Before her eyes her entire world ended—Søren’s name in the newspapers, transfer, defrocking, excommunication, and it was all her fault. “He’s been a better father to me than you ever were. You got me into trouble. He’s the one who got me out.”

  “Yeah, and we both know how you’re paying him back.”

  “Pull over. I’m getting out.”

  “No, you’re not, little girl. You’re getting out of town with me.”

  “I said, pull over,” she shouted, reaching for the wheel.

  He slammed his elbow into her stomach so hard it knocked the air out of her lungs. She coughed hard and reached for the wheel again. Her father pushed back and Eleanor twisted around, scrambling out of his grasp.

  “Sit down, you little bitch,” he ordered. He reached for her neck and Eleanor took a deep breath. She closed her eyes, kicked out and smashed in her father’s face with her boots. Blood erupted from his nose and the car swerved wildly in the street.

  Eleanor threw open the car door and ran for it. She ran as hard and as fast as she could until she found a taxi and flagged it down. She gave the driver Kingsley’s address and begged him to hurry. A few minutes later she threw some bills at the driver and raced up the stairs and burst through the door of the town house and found Kingsley standing in the foyer loading a clip into a gun.

  “Elle, what the fuck happened to you?” He looked both relieved and furious.

  “My dad … He got out of prison. He made me get in his car. What are you doing with that gun?”

  “Killing your father.” He shoved the gun into some kind of holster under his coat. He grabbed her by the wrist and pulled her to him. Starting at her thighs, he ran his hands all over her.

  “Are you hurt?” he asked.

  “No, I don’t—”

  He held up his hand. His palm was covered in blood.

  “Jesus,” she breathed.

  “Scratch on your neck.”

  “Dad tried to choke me,” she said. He must have scratched her, too.

  “Come with me, right now,” Kingsley said and took her upstairs to the third floor.

  “Why were you going to kill my dad?” she asked as Kingsley threw open a door to a room she’d never seen. It looked like some kind of fancy office. He sat her down hard in a chair and left her there for a few seconds before returning with a first-aid kit. Kingsley knelt in front of her chair, opened the kit and told her to tilt her head to the side.

  “You didn’t answer my question,” she said. Her heart still pounded painfully in her chest; her lungs burned from the running and the panic. “Why were you going after my dad?”

  “Because of this.” Kingsley dug something out of his pocket and handed it to her.

  With an alcohol swab, Kingsley cleaned the cut on her neck as she read the note.

  A hundred grand or your girlfriend’s body will be at the bottom of the Hudson by tomorrow morning.

  Included was an address and a picture.

  “Oh, my God,” she said, her stomach turning. “This is my sophomore-year school picture. I sent it to him in a birthday card.”

  She held the photograph in her shaking hand.

  “He was going to kill me?” she asked. Her father had tried so hard to get her in the car. And she’d been stupid enough to get in with him.

  “He might have. He might have been testing to see if I’d pay him off. I don’t care. He threatened you.”

  “He said he has pictures of me and Søren together. He’s going to send them to my mom and the bishop and maybe even the newspaper.”

  Kingsley sat back.

  “I was afraid something like this would happen,” he said. “What are we going to do?”

  “Sit. Stay,” he said, standing up. “Don’t leave this room.”

  “Okay.” She gave Kingsley a blank stare. He laid his hand gently on the side of her face. “Thank you.”

  That seemed to surprise him. With his hand still on her face he sighed heavily and seemed to make a decision.

  “King Louis XIII of France lost his father when he was nine years old,” Kingsley began, his face a mask of seriousness. “Too young to rule, his mother Marie de’ Medici acted as his regent. She should have ruled until he was eighteen. You see, the law said sixteen-year-old Louis was not old enough to reign. But his mother fucked the country over, so Louis had no choice. Louis exiled his mother and executed her lover, executed her followers and restored order. He took the throne, and all of Paris rejoiced. Some children have the luxury of waiting for eighteen candles on their birthday cake to become adults. The rest of us grow up when we are left no other choice.”

  Eleanor heard the meaning behind Kingsley’s words.

  “If my father tries to hurt Søren, I’ll kill him with my bare hands.”

  Eleanor waited alone, trying to calm herself. She prayed quietly in her own mind, prayed Kingsley could help her, would help her.

  A few minutes passed, then half an hour. Eleanor stared at the strange Art Deco clock hanging on the wall behind the desk until her eyes ached. This room must be Kingsley’s private office. Large wooden filing cabinets with locks on them lined one wall. A black phone—rotary style, like something out of an old detective movie—sat on the desk. She wanted to use it to call Søren, but something told her that would be a bad idea. Something told her Søren shouldn’t be involved in what she and Kingsley did tonight.

  Finally Kingsley returned to the office and took a seat behind the desk.

  “What’s happening?” she asked him.

  “First, your father lied to you. He’s not on shock probation. He turned state’s evidence and started naming names to get out of prison early. Some of his old friends have put a large price on his head.”

  “That explains why he wanted money from you.”

  “He’s likely going to run tonight. Probably try to cross the border and get to Canada.”

  “Do you think he’s going to tell on me and Søren?”

  “Yes,” Kingsley said. “If only to punish you for choosing us over him.”

  “What do we do?”

  “I have someone who could help your father leave the country. He’s going to call me in five minutes. If you want him to do this, then answer the phone and tell him everything you know about your father’s whereabouts—where you last saw him, where he last lived. I promise this man will be able to find him. Or …”

  “Or?”

  “Or when the phone rings, you can let it ring. And the men who want to find your father will find him. And they will find him before morning.”

  “Why are you doing this for me?” Eleanor asked, stunned by Kingsley’s offer of help for her father.

  “You belong to le prêtre. I protect his property like my own. Your father harmed you. I would like to see him punished. But that is your decision, not mine. The phone will ring soon. Make your choice.”

  “What do you mean?” Eleanor asked.

  “Sam is off work tonight. I have no one to answer my phone for me. And I never answer my office phone—only my secretary does
. When it rings, you answer it. If you want to play my secretary, that is.”

  They looked at each other across the desk and said nothing. She heard ticking and looked at the clock.

  One minute passed.

  Her father had threatened to kill her if Kingsley didn’t pay him a hundred grand.

  Two minutes passed.

  Her father had abandoned her after she got arrested, run and let her take the fall for him.

  Three minutes passed.

  Her father had slapped her in the face, tried to run off with her, tried to choke her and even now the wound still bled.

  Four minutes passed.

  Her father had threatened to ruin Søren’s life.

  Five minutes passed.

  The phone rang.

  “I don’t answer this phone,” Kingsley repeated. “Either my secretary answers it or we let it ring.”

  The phone rang a second time.

  “You can ask the person on the other end of the line to help your father,” he reminded her.

  Eleanor tore her eyes from the phone and met Kingsley’s steady gaze.

  “The only father in my life is a priest. And I’m not your secretary.”

  The phone stopped ringing.

  25

  Nora

  “AND BY THE NEXT MORNING, I WAS FREE,” NORA SAID. She looked over at Nico and shrugged. “Getting himself killed was the nicest thing my father ever did for me.”

  “How so?” Nico asked. She sat up in bed, the blanket pulled to her chest. Nico still lay on his side, his hand resting on her thigh under her nightgown.

  “After I was born, my mom took out a life insurance policy for her and Dad. Dad turns up dead and—voilà—I have money for college.”

  “Who killed him?”

  “Never found out. He had mob ties. He fucked around with the wrong bad guys one too many times. I tried to feel bad about it, knowing I had a chance to help him and didn’t take it. But I couldn’t. The world was better off without him.”

  “You were better off without him.” Nico sat up and took her hand in his. He kissed the back of it. “My father’s more interesting than I thought he was.”

  Nora laughed and twined her fingers into Nico’s.

  “Interesting is the word for it. Interesting, complicated, dangerous. When he came to Manhattan after leaving France, he was only twenty-eight. First thing he did was find the most dangerous mafia figure in town and do a favor for him. Smart move. Kingsley was under the boss’s protection for the rest of his life. Which is a good thing, because Kingsley had a bad habit of pissing off very important people.”

  “I should be grateful he’s still alive,” Nico said. “Although I might never look at him the same way again. Lose his watch in you?”

  “That devil.”

  “He is,” Nico said. “A gentleman always takes his watch off first.”

  Nora’s stomach quivered at Nico’s words. She liked his definition of gentleman much better than simply a guy who held the door open for you.

  “It could be worse. One night with my client Sheridan, I almost lost my necklace inside her.”

  Nora laughed at his look of wide-eyed wonder.

  “Tiny girl,” Nora said. “She must be hollow.”

  Nico turned his head into the pillow and burst into laughter—deep, warm, luxurious laughter.

  “If you and Kingsley are alike, why is it so much easier to love you than him?” Nico asked, turning his face to her.

  “Because, unlike Kingsley, I didn’t seduce your mother.”

  “Don’t forget he disappeared after getting her pregnant with me,” Nico added. “And you worry he’s going to judge us for this night?”

  “It’s not that,” Nora said. “He might not even be that angry. I doubt he’ll even be surprised. But I owe him a lot. He’s been more family to me than my actual family. And then you come along….”

  “What is it, Nora? Tell me the truth.”

  Nora looked away from Nico and into the fire.

  “I wrote a fantasy novel once,” she said, watching the flames dance as they died. “Those were my favorite when I was a kid. Unicorns, magic, dragons. A few years ago I took a stab at writing one. I let Zach read it. He thinks it needs some work.”

  “Not good?”

  “He liked it. But, said Zach in his stuffy British editor voice, I broke the cardinal rule of writing fantasy. You see, if there’s magic in your world, every time the magician uses it, he must pay a price. I’ve never forgotten those words from Zach—magic isn’t free. I was drowning tonight in loneliness and grief and I thought I would go crazy out here. I wished for you and there you were, everything I needed. Like magic.”

  “Why me?”

  “Because the only man who you’ve ever considered your father just died. You’re on the same path I am, only a few feet ahead. If I follow you, maybe I won’t get lost. I’m so scared of getting lost.”

  Nico touched her face. His fingers came away wet with tears. Nora had built her life around certain beliefs, certain truths, and now she found herself questioning everything.

  “What was the price you paid to have me here?”

  Nora swallowed the lump in her throat.

  “I can’t go back,” she whispered.

  “Back where?” Nico wrapped both hands around hers.

  “Kingsley’s bed.”

  Nora stared into Nico’s eyes. She wanted him to see the truth in her words.

  “You should know that not only do Kingsley and I have history, we have recent history.”

  “How recent?” Nico asked.

  “The last time was the night before I flew to France to find you.”

  If that hurt to hear, Nico’s eyes did not betray it. She must have known somehow that once she met Nico she could never be intimate with Kingsley again. They’d had one last dark and beautiful night together. And now … never again.

  “And while Kingsley may not seem like a father to you—yet—in his eyes, and in his heart, you are his son. He’ll never touch me again.”

  “Never touch you again? Because he’ll be angry?”

  “No. Because he loves you.”

  “Is this why you didn’t want to let me in?”

  Nora looked back into the dying fire.

  “Kingsley has secrets that he shares with very few people. You can count the number on one hand, and I was one of them. Not anymore.” She hadn’t merely been Kingsley’s lover, she’d been his domme as well those nights he’d needed pain. She’d also carried his child once, if only briefly—not that she could tell Nico. In time she would, but not yet.

  “You paid a high price to let me in.”

  “Very high. Kingsley and I have made a habit of hurting each
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