The queen, p.35
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       The Queen, p.35

         Part #8 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  Not only did he spend the night he stayed the next morning and helped her cook breakfast. Together they stripped the stained sheets off the bed and Thorny helped her put on fresh ones. They took separate showers and since yesterday’s summer storm had broken the heat wave, they went for a walk in her neighborhood. She showed him all her favorite houses, all her favorite haunts. The coffee shop where she’d written her last book, the little historic library where she did most of her research, the pond where she went to feed the ducks when she’d worked so much the bread she’d bought had gone stale before she could eat it.

  Arm in arm they walked back to her house. She knew Thorny would leave her soon. His own life waited for him back in the city, but he seemed in no hurry. Was this still part of the Boyfriend Experience? Or did he really want to be with her?

  “So...” he said as they turned the corner onto her street. “Do I get to see you again?”

  “You get to... Fuck.”

  “That goes without saying.”

  “No. I mean, fuck.” She pointed at a car in her driveway, a silver Rolls-Royce. “Kingsley is here.”

  “Oh, fuck,” he said.

  “Can you give us a few minutes? I’ll get rid of him,” she said.

  “Half an hour? You’ll be okay?”

  “I’m Mistress Fucking Nora, right?” she said, forcing a smile. “I’m always okay.”

  He kissed her on the cheek and set off walking. Nora steeled herself for whatever it was that brought Kingsley over to her house. Whatever it was, it probably wasn’t good. Kingsley hated leaving the city for the “wilderness,” as he called Connecticut, and only did so under duress.

  “King?” she called out as she shut the front door behind her. “You here?”

  “In your bedroom, Maîtresse,” he called back. “S’il vous plait.”

  Nora sighed and marched upstairs. As she neared her bedroom she heard someone speaking. Her.

  “Ever fuck an underage boy?”

  “Yes.”

  “Do you ever fuck girls?”

  “I have. I do.”

  “Client?”

  “One is. The only client I fuck. I mean, other than you...”

  Nora rushed into her bedroom and ripped the camera out of Kingsley’s hand.

  Then she slapped him so hard her hand rang like a bell and five finger marks glowed bright red on his olive skin. His eyes blazed momentarily with fury as he raised his hand to his cheek and faced her.

  “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” she demanded.

  “You didn’t answer your phone,” Kingsley said.

  “That’s why you’re here? That’s why you’re in my house without invitation going through my personal things? All without my consent?”

  “You gave me the key to your house.”

  “For emergencies. Not so you can come in and go through my stuff.” She hit the button and erased the tape before Kingsley could look at another single frame of it.

  “When you fuck a client it’s my business.”

  “I did not fuck a client.”

  “Alec Thornberry, aka Thorny, paid me one thousand dollars for one hour of your time. And on that tape you call him your client.”

  “That was a joke and it doesn’t matter. You should never have looked at that.”

  “I’ve seen you fucking before, remember?”

  “Fine. I’ll put a camera in your bedroom and secretly film you and Juliette. How much would she like that?”

  “That’s entirely different.”

  “Right. Because you respect Juliette and you clearly have no respect for me.”

  “This has nothing to do with respect. I can’t trust you with your clients anymore. Not after Talel. And certainly not after this.”

  “I had no appointments after Thorny, and I didn’t have to work this morning. I have a personal connection with Thorny that made it awkward to take money from him.”

  “You gave him pity sex because he has a brain tumor?”

  “It’s not a— Kingsley.” She pressed the heels of her palms against her eyes. She almost never had headaches but it felt as if she were about to have an aneurysm herself. She took two deep breaths and met Kingsley’s eyes. “I like Thorny.”

  “I can tell,” he said. “You promised me you’d never sleep with a client again.”

  “He canceled his session with me.”

  “So you could fuck him with a clear conscience?”

  “I decide who is and is not a client. I didn’t want him as a client. That is my right.”

  “Fine. Fuck him then. But do you realize he could have taken that tape and blackmailed you with it? The Red Queen getting fucked by a notorious male escort while admitting she fucks her clients.” Kingsley pointed at the camera. “Do you mention Søren on the tape?”

  “Not by name.”

  “So you did?”

  “I’m not having this conversation with you. I know you think you’re protecting me. I know you think this is your job. But you don’t seem to realize what a gross violation of my privacy this is. I am disgusted with you right now. You could have at least waited until I came home and asked me what was on the tape. I would have told you.”

  “No, you wouldn’t have. You don’t even answer the phone when I call you, and I’ve called you two dozen times in the past twelve hours.”

  “I turned off my phone since it was my night off, and I didn’t want to be interrupted because I was on a date.”

  “A date? You don’t date.”

  “Of course I don’t date. When I try to date anybody, you and this fucking job get in the way of it. I have to fuck clients because they’re the only men I ever see.”

  “You want more free time?”

  “I’d love it,” she said.

  “Fine. You’re fired.”

  Nora was speechless.

  For all of one second.

  “Fuck you.”

  “Fuck me all you want. I’m calling Detective Cooper on your friend Thorny.”

  “You’re having Thorny arrested? By one of my own clients?”

  “I am.”

  “I spent the night with him so you’re having him arrested? You can’t punish Thorny to punish me.”

  “If it’s the only way I can punish you, then so be it.”

  “You’re as sanctimonious as Søren, and he gets paid to be holier-than-thou. Have you forgotten you have no room to talk? Who have you not fucked in this city? Or blackmailed for that matter? At least what Thorny does is consensual. You have fucked many a person over without asking permission first.”

  “I swore to Søren I would protect you. You’re not making that job very easy, Maîtresse.”

  “You fired me and you’re having Thorny arrested and for no reason other than I slept with him without asking your permission first. Kingsley, you are out of control. You came into my house without permission and violated my privacy and Thorny’s in a way that is borderline unforgivable. I love you. You are now and always my King and I would step in front of a bullet for you. But if you ever do anything like this again, it won’t be Søren you’ll have to worry about. I will castrate you and hang your balls on the rearview mirror of my Aston Martin and take everyone in the tri-state area for a ride. Do you understand that?”

  Kingsley lifted his chin and looked into her eyes.

  “Do you even care why I came over here?” he asked. “Do you want to know why I called you twenty times?”

  “Do I?” she asked, caring but not wanting to, not when Kingsley was acting like a madman.

  “Our priest takes his Final Vows in a few days.”

  “I know.”

  “He asked me to go,” Kingsley said.

  “He asked me to go, too. Is that why you freaked out? Because he’s taking Final Vows?”

  “No, it’s not,” he said, biting off the words. “I don’t want him staying in the church but that’s the least of our worries now.”

  “Why?”

  “Because he’s lea
ving after he takes his vows.”

  “Leaving? What do you mean he’s leaving?”

  “He came by yesterday and asked me if I would send someone to pick up his steamer trunk. I asked him why. He told me he’s been offered a new church assignment, helping troubled youth who live on the streets.”

  “What youth?” Nora asked. “What streets?’

  “The troubled youth of Syria. Syria—one of the most dangerous countries in the world. A few days after he takes his Final Vows he’s going. That’s why he wants us there. Because it’s the last time we might ever see him.”

  “No.” She raised her hands as if to push away his words. “No way. He paid them a massive amount of his father’s money so they’d keep him at Sacred Heart. He would never let them send him away.”

  “He’s not letting them send him away. He volunteered,” Kingsley said. “He’s leaving, and he’s not coming back.”

  Nora’s legs couldn’t support her anymore. Her knees shook, her heart pounded, her head swam and she sat down on the ottoman by the foot of the armchair.

  “He’s leaving us,” she said, looking up at Kingsley.

  “I suppose it’s only fair considering you and I both left him.”

  “He wouldn’t leave us only to punish us. He might leave a week or two to punish us but not...not forever.”

  “Keep telling yourself that,” Kingsley said.

  “He said...”

  “What? What did he say?”

  “I asked him if things would change if he took his Final Vows,” Nora said. “He said yes, he’d keep his vow of chastity from now on. I never thought... I never thought he’d leave me. Us.” She looked at Kingsley, her hand over her mouth. “Why didn’t he tell me?”

  “Possibly for the same reason you didn’t tell him when you left for a year without a word to either of us.”

  Nora winced but didn’t defend herself. She had no defense.

  “What do we do?” she asked. “How do we make him stay?”

  “I don’t think we can. I’m sending someone to his house Sunday evening to pick up the trunk.”

  The steamer trunk stood at the foot of Søren’s bed. Underneath one layer of innocent-looking linens and quilts was a black leather toy bag that contained the finest collection of canes, whips, floggers and spreader bars in Connecticut. The second-finest collection was in her closet upstairs.

  “He’ll go nuts without someone around to play with,” Nora said. “Even when he was in seminary he had his friend Magdalena.”

  “I imagine he’ll be going on a lot of long runs. Probably dodging bullets the entire time.”

  “I’ll stop him from going,” Nora said, standing up. “I’ll talk to him.”

  “Bonne chance. I already tried every argument I could think of to talk him out of it. Unless you’re willing to go back to him...”

  Nora didn’t answer.

  “Are you?” Kingsley asked.

  “Not to manipulate him into staying,” she said.

  “Then I suggest you see him today and kiss him goodbye. I doubt you’ll have another chance for a very long time.”

  Kingsley put his hand on the doorknob and turned it. But he didn’t open the door.

  “I was wrong to have gone through your things,” Kingsley said. “I was angry. Juliette is visiting her mother, and I needed you. I had no one to talk to about it, no one who would understand. I panicked. I overreacted. I apologize. I’ve lost him twice before, and I can’t lose him again. I won’t survive it.”

  “You don’t mean that.”

  “If he were to die over there... I wouldn’t be able to live without him. I’d last three days without him before I put a bullet in my brain.”

  “Kingsley, you—”

  “You’re stronger than I am. You can make it without him. I can’t. That place they’re sending him is a war zone. He’s a fucking pacifist. What’s he going to do? Pray his way out of a bullet to the back of the head? I prayed when they pulled guns on me and that didn’t stop the bullets from ripping me open. God won’t save him, either.”

  “I’ll save him,” Nora said.

  “You will? How?”

  “I don’t know. But I’ll figure something out.”

  “You stop him from going, and I’ll give you your job back.”

  “What if I don’t want it back?”

  “Then have fun paying for this little house of yours without a paycheck.”

  With that, Kingsley walked out the door, slamming it behind him and leaving her alone and aghast and in shock.

  Nora was at a loss. She couldn’t think, couldn’t act, could barely breathe. Kingsley had fired her like he’d threatened he would and she couldn’t care less. She’d care later, but not now. Not yet. Søren had accepted a new church assignment. And not in New York or Massachusetts or Maine or even fucking Florida. Syria? An ocean away from her in a country on the brink of civil war. How like the Jesuits to send priests there—God’s soldiers, God’s marines, God’s fools, in Nora’s estimation. Arrogant men who thought they could save the world out of sheer faith and willpower. Years ago she’d thought Søren’s sister Claire crazy when she said she worried every single day that her big brother would meet his end like the Jesuits in El Salvador, slaughtered by guerrilla soldiers in 1989. Was this suicide? Did Søren want to die? Was this PTSD from his motorcycle accident? Was he punishing her for leaving him by leaving her? Was he punishing himself for his own sins he couldn’t forgive? Why?

  She flagellated herself with these questions for ten minutes or more to no avail. Her phone—where was it? She needed to call Søren and hear it from him. Or she should go to him, look him in the eyes, make him look her in the eyes and say it to her face, say that he was leaving her forever. Dare him to say it to her.

  But she didn’t dare to dare him. She knew he would.

  A knock on the door interrupted her near hysteria. She ran downstairs, opened it and found Thorny on her porch.

  “The coast is clear?” he asked.

  “Yeah. King’s gone.” She held the door open for him.

  “Nora? You okay?” Thorny asked as he tried to take her in his arms. She pulled back, her hand pressed to her stomach to quell the rising panic.

  “King’s pissed.”

  “I expected that.”

  “And he’s...”

  “What?”

  “Nothing.”

  “Can you talk about it?”

  “Give me a minute.”

  “Sure thing,” he said. “Let me run up and get my stuff. Sit. We’ll talk when you can. Or I can go and give you some alone time if you need it.”

  “I don’t know,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t what I need.”

  Thorny said nothing. He kissed her cheek and squeezed her hand.

  “Be right back,” he said.

  He came right back downstairs with his jacket slung over his shoulder and his overnight bag in his hand.

 
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