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       The Queen, p.36

         Part #8 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  “I got a call. Client emergency. Do you mind?”

  “No, you should go. King and I are having our own little emergency.”

  She walked over to the door and opened it for him.

  “We’ll hang out again. Right?” he asked.

  “I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other again.” Nora leaned in and kissed him, kissed him hard, hard enough it seemed to surprise him but he kissed her back just as hard.

  “Later, Mistress,” he said and walked out of her door. She watched him go, watched him slip his hand into the back pocket of his jeans, watched him pause in confusion.

  “Looking for this?” she asked as Thorny turned back, an expression of unmistakable guilt on his face. She held the flash card in her hand, the tape that they’d made last night, the tape he’d tried to leave with.

  “How—”

  “I stole it while I was kissing you,” she said. “My priest taught me that trick. He’s one helluva pickpocket. Not that it mattered—I’d already erased it.”

  Nora snapped the card in half, then raised her finger to him, the crooking finger, and he followed it back into the house. She pointed at the couch and he sat, obedient and contrite.

  “Nora, I—”

  “I wasn’t born yesterday,” she said. “You can’t be a good dominatrix and also be gullible. I defended you to King, by the way. He said you could blackmail me with such a tape, and I convinced him it was just a sex tape. I didn’t tell him he was right. I’d thank me for that if I were you. You don’t want to know what he would have done with you if I told him the truth. I promise you that.”

  She waited for him to say something, anything.

  “What gave me away?” he asked.

  “Your questions you asked me while you were fucking me. You got me on tape admitting that I slept with a priest, that I slept with clients. As my priest said to me recently—that’s not pillow talk. What I want to know is why? I’ve had a very bad day and this isn’t making it any better. A good reason why might help. Money?”

  “No.” He turned and stared at the window, unable to meet her eyes.

  “Some sort of coup? Trying to pull one over on Kingsley? I wouldn’t recommend that, by the way. He has killed people before. He’ll do it again.”

  “It’s not... I didn’t want to do it. I had to do it.”

  “Ah. So someone forced you to do this. You’re being blackmailed to blackmail me. Why you and why me?”

  “I warned you two years ago about this.”

  “About what?”

  “Not about what,” Thorny said, finally meeting her eyes. “About who.”

  “Who?”

  “Who have we both pissed off?” Thorny asked and Nora knew the answer immediately.

  “Milady.”

  31

  Picking Pockets

  “I WISH I knew how to pick pockets,” Thorny said as Nora handed him a cup of coffee.

  “My priest taught me. He went to seminary in Rome and those days the streets were full of pickpockets. Poor kids. Orphans. Not even priests were safe. He has a friend in Rome who taught him all the tricks so he knew how to outsmart them.”

  “Nice. You outsmarted me.”

  “Not that hard, Thorny. Good thing you’re gorgeous and good in bed because you aren’t too bright.”

  “That hurts. But I deserve it.”

  “You do. Now tell me...what brings Milady back into our lives again?”

  She was more curious than angry. For now. But the anger would show up if Thorny’s answers were unsatisfactory.

  “First of all, she’s never forgiven you for humiliating her at the club that night.”

  “That was two years ago,” she reminded Thorny as she took a seat in the kitchen chair. Thorny sat on her kitchen counter, the coffee cup balanced on his thigh.

  “She has a long memory for people who piss her off. But it’s not just that. The sheikh.”

  “The sheikh?” she repeated, pretending she’d never heard of any such man.

  “I know all about him, Nora. Talel was her client,” Thorny said. “When he came to the city a few weeks ago he was supposed to see her. But they fought. Someone in the scene told him about you. He made the appointment with you out of curiosity, and you and he hit it off.”

  “That’s one way of putting it,” she said.

  “He was her richest client, and her favorite. She knew I warned you about her two summers ago. She knew I helped you the night of the Fling. She thought you’d trust me because I’d helped you out.”

  “I did trust you. But that doesn’t explain why you agreed to blackmail me.”

  Thorny shifted and his coffee spilled on his jeans. He laughed at himself, a sad self-deprecating sound.

  “You and me, we’re both flesh peddlers, right? In one way or another? You sell the pain and I sell the pleasure.”

  “Very true,” she said.

  “I came to you for a flogging and you wouldn’t take my money. Why?”

  “Because of what you told me two years ago,” Nora said. “You don’t get personally involved with clients.”

  Thorny nodded.

  “You got involved with a client, didn’t you?” she asked.

  “More than involved.” He met her eyes. “I fell in love with one.”

  “Who is she?”

  “A doctor,” Thorny said. “A very famous neurologist. She’s from Pakistan, and she supports her entire family who still live back there. If it got out she hires male escorts...”

  “Were you her patient?”

  Thorny nodded again.

  “Fuck,” Nora said.

  “My sentiments exactly. A doctor fucking a patient can ruin her career. A doctor from a conservative religious family who fucks a patient who she hired after he told her he was a male escort could ruin her life.”

  “What’s her name?”

  “Nadia.”

  “Pretty name.”

  “Pretty lady.”

  “She loves you, too?” Nora asked.

  “She does. She didn’t even ask me to stop working. She doesn’t care about my other clients. But I care. I had this crazy idea I could make enough money to quit working. I took every job I could and banked every penny I could. New York’s expensive. I wanted to save up enough I wouldn’t have to work for a few years while I figured out what to do with my life. Fuck, I just really wanted to spend as much time with her as I could before my brain blows its fuse. I took any job anybody offered me.”

  “Milady hired you?”

  “Milady hired someone to hire me,” he said. “Five grand for two hours of work. How could I say no to that? That’s a month’s rent in Manhattan.”

  “What did she do?” Nora asked, sipping her coffee. She already had an idea what happened.

  “We had sex. Lots of it. She wanted to take a shower with me afterward—standard request. I get in first while she’s looking through her purse for a hair clip. Next thing I know she’s long gone and so is my phone with all my clients’ numbers in it plus a few pictures of me and Nadia together in bed. Next day Milady shows up at my door telling me she has my phone. I hate to admit that I was a little relieved when she told me that she wasn’t really after me. She just wanted to use me to get to you.”

  “You got to me.”

  “I thought I did.”

  “You spend as much time with Kingsley Edge as I do and you get contact paranoia. He thinks the worst of people and nine times out of ten he’s right.”

  “He was right about me.”

  “If someone tried to hurt Søren like she’s trying to hurt Nadia, I’d do the same thing you did. I just wouldn’t have gotten caught.”

  “I’m kind of happy you killed the tape. I would have felt like shit for the rest of my life knowing I’d ruined yours. I don’t know what to do now, though.”

  “It would take more than that tape to ruin my life. But you could have gotten Søren into big fucking trouble if Milady knows who he really is.”

 
Would you believe me if I said I was sorry?”

  “I believe it. But that doesn’t change the fact that Milady’s out to get the both of us.”

  “She’s got nothing on you now.”

  “It’s only a matter of time before she catches me doing something I shouldn’t with someone I shouldn’t. Who knows? You might not be the only client of mine working for her.”

  “I’ll have to tell Nadia. You should warn your priest, I guess.”

  “Want to know something?” Nora asked and Thorny raised his chin. “This isn’t even the worst thing that’s happened to me today.”

  “That bad, eh?” he asked.

  “That bad.”

  Nora put her coffee cup on the table and stood up.

  “Go home,” she said, patting Thorny on the knee. “I’ll handle this.”

  Thorny stopped before leaving.

  “Nora, I am sorry.”

  “Me, too,” she said.

  “I started doing this job because I love women and I love sex and it seemed to be the best way to get both without getting involved with someone. Nadia’s the best thing that ever happened to me. She’s the only good thing that’s happened to me in years. I didn’t plan on falling in love with my own doctor.”

  “I never planned on falling in love with my priest, either. Love is a game of Russian roulette. You and I both lost.”

  “Funny,” Thorny said.

  “What is?”

  “Funny how much losing can feel like winning.”

  Thorny grinned the grin of a man madly in love and she knew now why it was called “madly” in love. You’d have to be crazy to do it. Call her crazy.

  She shut the door behind him, locked it and leaned back against it.

  Maybe it was for the best Søren was leaving. If Milady, whoever she was, wanted to hurt Nora, then out of the country might be the best place for Søren. Milady couldn’t catch her going in and out of his house at night if Søren wasn’t there. She couldn’t take a picture of them kissing, couldn’t film them fucking. God, she was getting as paranoid as Kingsley if she was imagining a woman sneaking into the woods by the rectory to watch them together. Then again, she’d never expected Thorny of all people, the man who’d helped her beat Milady two summers ago, to turn against her. She’d walked right into it, too. Gorgeous tattooed guy with a sexy grin and a bad reputation brings her two dozen roses and offers a trade—his gift for pleasure in exchange for her gift of pain. As if she needed further proof she was lonely—she’d known the second he turned up in her dungeon something wasn’t right, and she hadn’t wanted to believe it. She’d gone against her instincts and only by the grace of God and Kingsley had she figured it out before it was too late.

  So yes, maybe it was for the best Søren went away while she dealt with Milady.

  And maybe the world was flat, Kingsley was vanilla and Nora did calculus for the fun of it.

  Fuck Milady and fuck Søren for thinking she would let him go without a fight. Both of them were on her shit list today and she wasn’t about to let either of them beat her. She was Mistress Nora and Mistress Nora did not get beaten. Mistress Nora did the beating.

  Nora grabbed her car keys and headed out.

  Without knocking she’d let herself in and although she knew he’d heard the door open and close, he didn’t look at her as she walked over to the piano and set a small potted tree on top of it.

  “Ficus delivery,” she said.

  “Lovely.” He glanced at the plant as his hands stilled on the keys. “I’ll add it to my collection.”

  He resumed playing his piece and she let him, comforted to know he had healed enough to use his right wrist again. While he played she lifted his shirt to examine his back, an act of casual intimacy only she and Kingsley could have gotten away with. The bruise was healing well as was the road rash. His back still wasn’t a pretty sight, but she knew the truth about pain—the healing often hurt as much as the wounding.

  Nora lowered his shirt and sat next to him on the bench, her back to the piano, and looked around the living room. Two black trunks sat next to the sofa. One leather overnight bag sat on top. One garment bag that likely contained his two secular suits and his Jesuit cassock lay across the arm of the sofa.

  And one steamer trunk packed with floggers, whips, bondage cuffs and spreader bars sat by the cold empty fireplace waiting for someone from Kingsley’s household to pick it up and store it.

  “What were you playing?”

  “Ravel’s Jeux d’eau.”

  “Play my song.”

  “No.”

  “Please? Please, sir? It’s a Swedish song. That’s practically Danish, right?”

  “I don’t know who would be more insulted by that comparison—the Danes or the Swedes.”

  “Oh, just play it. Please?”

  Søren sighed heavily. “One of these days I will learn how to tell you no.”

  “But not today,” Nora said.

  And with that he launched into eighties Swedish pop sensation A-ha’s “Take On Me.”

  He stopped after the famous keyboard riff and turned to her.

  “Oh, dear,” he said. “It appears I’ve reinjured my wrist.”

  “Big liar. Scoot over,” she said. Søren shifted to the left giving her more room on the small bench. “What’s going to happen to your piano after you leave?”

  “Elizabeth gave it to me. She’ll take it back if she wants it, but most likely she’ll simply donate it to the church.”

  “And your trunk of toys?”

  “If you want them, you’re welcome to them. Otherwise Kingsley will store them for me.”

  She turned and faced him. He was dressed casually, jeans and a white T-shirt. Of course he would look more handsome than usual today. Was his hair always that touchable? Were his lips always this kissable? Were his eyelashes always that dark?

  Or was he so desirable today because he was leaving her and it was human nature—the worst part of human nature—to want what you can’t have?

  “You really are leaving?” she asked.

  Søren reached into his back pocket, pulled out his wallet and from his wallet took out an airline ticket with his name on it. A one-way trip from JFK to Jordan to Damascus. He left next Wednesday.

  “Why?” she breathed, shaking her head as he put the ticket and his wallet back in his jeans pocket.

  “Priests are like doctors. We have to be where the wounded are. Some doctors work in hospitals. Some doctors work on the battlefield. I’ve been in the hospital long enough. Time to get back out on the field.”

  “There are wounded people who need you right here in this town.”

 
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