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       The Saint, p.39

         Part #5 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz
 

  Eleanor tried to sit up but Lisa stopped her with a gentle hand on her arm.

  “You’ve got a saline IV in your arm. You’re dehydrated. Try not to move.”

  “Are you a doctor?”

  “No, I’m not. I’m with the rape crisis center. They called me.”

  “Why?”

  “The young lady who called 911 said she found a boy on top of you.”

  “I’m gonna kill Katie.”

  “Katie?”

  “My freshman-year roommate. Women’s studies major. She’s the one who called, right?”

  “I believe so, yes.”

  “Sean and I were making out. Katie overreacted. She’s trained to overreact.”

  “Sean who?”

  “Sean, the drunk guy. I pulled him on top of me because we were both drunk off our asses and wanted to make out. I fell asleep in the middle of it. As drunk as he was he probably didn’t even notice. I think I puked on him.”

  “Eleanor, many victims go through a denial stage—”

  “Oh, my God.” Eleanor lowered her voice as her own words caused her brain to vibrate against her skull. “I am hungover. I am exhausted. I am dehydrated, and I need a ten-hour shower. And last night I was stupid. But I am not now, nor have I ever been, a victim of anything or anyone but my own bad decisions, okay? Now, I’m sure somebody got raped in this town last night. How about you go help her?”

  “Eleanor,” Lisa said with an annoyingly soothing voice. “Please let me help you.”

  “You can help me. I’m going to give you a phone number. I need you to call it.”

  “I can do that, Eleanor. Am I calling your mom?”

  “A woman named Sam will answer the phone. Ask for Kingsley. Tell him what hospital I’m at. Tell him I was brought in for alcohol-induced stupidity and, for God’s sake, tell him to please come get me.”

  Eleanor closed her eyes and willed herself back to sleep. When she woke up again, she had a much firmer grasp on consciousness. She turned her head and saw a woman, about forty years old, sitting in the chair next to her making rapid notes onto some sort of form.

  “Are you Lisa or did I dream that?”

  “I’m Lisa. Can I get you anything?”

  “Did you call that number?”

  “Yes.”

  “Good.”

  “Do you want to talk about what happened to you, Eleanor?”

  “I got shit-faced and passed out. I woke up puking.”

  “Would you consent to a rape exam?”

  “I must be speaking a foreign language. No means no, you know? No, I didn’t get raped. But do the test if it’ll shut you up finally.”

  That didn’t seem to be the answer Lisa wanted or expected. Still, two nurses and a female doctor came in her room only minutes later.

  The exam was over and done in a few minutes. She’d never had a pelvic exam before but knew what was involved. The speculum didn’t hurt, although it made her stomach feel weird. In ten minutes, she had her clothes on again.

  “They’ll run some tests on the swabs they took, but they didn’t see any evidence of trauma. In fact, your hymen—”

  “Is intact. And so is my brain.”

  “It’s still possible … We’ll wait for the test results.”

  “Can I go now?” Her head ached, her body ached, her heart ached.

  “We’ll get your discharge papers. There is someone waiting to see you.”

  “Is it a superhot French guy in Hessian boots?”

  “Um, no. This man is a priest. But if you don’t—”

  “Let him in. Right now. Please. And you can go.”

  “Of course.” Lisa gave her a kind, sympathetic look that Eleanor wanted to rip off her face.

  She left the room and seconds later Søren pushed open the door. Before she could even speak Søren had her wrapped in his arms.

  He wore his collar and clerics and she’d never in her life been so grateful to be in love with a priest. The clergy were more welcome in a hospital than any other place on earth.

  She rejoiced in his arms around her, rejoiced in his chest that she rested her head against, rejoiced in that scent of him, clean as a midnight in winter.

  “You’re back early,” she whispered through tears.

  “I wanted to surprise you.”

  “Any reason?”

  “I never need a reason to come back to you.”

  She looked up at him.

  “I guess I ruined the surprise.”

  He brushed tears off her face.

  “Never, Little One. Never.”

  He kissed her forehead, and she clung to him even tighter.

  “I was at Kingsley’s when the hospital called. They said you had alcohol poisoning.”

  She winced at the abject concern in his voice. Judgment, anger … that she expected. The kindness hurt worse than a beating would have.

  “I got stupid drunk last night for stupid reasons and it led to stupid behavior.”

  “If it helps, the last time Kingsley and I drank together we both ended up on the roof of the rectory. For the life of me I can’t remember how we got down again.”

  Eleanor laughed and winced simultaneously.

  “Mine’s a little worse. I made out with some guy I barely know. He was as drunk as me.”

  “As I.”

  “Right. I passed out while we were making out. I woke up puking. A friend of mine called the hospital. They didn’t even have to pump my stomach I’d puked so much.”

  “Are you certain nothing else happened?” He kept his voice and tone neutral. “You can tell me anything, Eleanor.”

  Eleanor smiled. Søren would make a much better rape crisis center counselor than what’s-her-name.

  “Completely. Other than me being an idiot.”

  “You are not an idiot, young lady, and I never want to hear you say anything like that ever again.”

  “I am. Hear me out. I did something while you were gone. I met this guy in my American lit class. He … I don’t know. He gave me a shark. And then he wanted to have lunch with me, and it was just lunch. Then lunch was dinner and dinner was a walk in the snow and then we kissed and kissed some more. And I … I liked him so much.” Her stomach clenched in grief. “It was only six days we were together so I don’t even know why I’m so upset about it. We didn’t even have sex. I broke up with him last night. That’s why I got shit-faced.”

  She looked up at Søren, expecting to see anger on his face. Instead he merely smiled as if he’d been expecting this all along. Of course he had been.

  “Six days? God created the universe in six days. It might have been a short relationship, but that doesn’t mean you can’t mourn its loss.”

  “I’m done mourning,” she said, reaching up and touching his face. She loved his skin, the slight hint of stubble on his chin that seemed so masculine and erotic to her.

  “Are you making me wait so long for you so this would happen? I mean, so I would find someone else and fall for him?”

  Søren exhaled heavily before answering.

  “Yes.”

  “Why?” she asked although she thought she knew the answer already.

  “Because, Little One, our choices mean nothing until we’re given more than one of them.”

  “I choose you. It took me a few days, but I did choose you.”

  “I knew you would. But you didn’t know if you would choose me. Adam and Eve could have remained in paradise for eternity had there been no apple to tempt them. And their obedience would have been meaningless because obedience would have been the only choice.”

  “You knew I would pick you.”

  “I did.”

  “You’re an arrogant bastard, aren’t you?”

  “I know my strengths. You …” He cupped her chin. “You are one of my strengths, my greatest strength.”

  “I won’t let you down again.”

  “You never have. Now, shall we go before someone asks me for last rites?”

  “
Yeah, we’d better jet. You’re a hot property in this place.”

  “The car is waiting outside. We’ll spend the weekend at Kingsley’s. Father O’Neil had planned to take over my Masses through Monday.”

  “Can we do something first before we go to Kingsley’s? It’ll be quick.”

  “Anything.”

  Eleanor gave him her request and Søren turned his head and stared out the window as he considered it.

  “I’m not sure that would be appropriate given our relationship,” he said at last.

  “It’s you or no one else.”

  Søren paused before answering.

  “Very well, then.”

  He pulled a small leather case from his jacket pocket and unzipped it. From it he unfurled a purple stole that he kissed before draping it around his neck. He sat back in the chair and looked away to give her privacy.

  Eleanor closed her eyes, took a deep breath and began to speak.

  “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.” She crossed herself and began to confess. She confessed everything she’d kept in her heart her entire life. She didn’t bother with her venial sins—lust, lies and self-pity. Instead she told Søren about the phone call she didn’t answer that left her father on his own to face the consequences of his choices. She told him about hurting Wyatt and worse, loving Wyatt. She confessed to using a guy last night out of despair. She confessed to everything.

  She poured her sins into Søren’s hands, and then, like magic, he made them disappear. But it wasn’t magic and she knew her sins weren’t gone, only forgiven, and for that she was grateful. She didn’t want her sins gone. She’d miss them too much.

  After her confession and absolution, Eleanor’s soul felt clean again. All she needed now was for the outside to match the inside.

  At Kingsley’s, he gave her the guest room with the largest bathroom. She stripped out of her clothes, stepped into the shower and let the heat and the water wash away the last of her regret, the last of her grief and the last of her pain. She shaved her legs and scrubbed herself down with a loofah, wanting to scrape away the top layer of skin that felt tainted by the drinking and the sadness and the pain she’d caused. After an hour she turned off the taps and stepped out of the shower into a plush white towel held open by Søren.

  “I thought you were never getting out.” He wrapped the towel tight around her and she laughed as he swaddled her.

  “Were you in the bathroom the whole time, you creeper?”

  “Only the last fifteen hours of your shower. I thought you might have washed down the drain.”

  He’d changed from his clerics into normal clothes—jeans and a long-sleeved black T-shirt. He had the sleeves pulled up enough that she could see his wrists and forearms. Muscular forearms and large, manly adult hands. No playful tattoos or punk nail polish for him. His hands were serious and dignified—all work and no play. And now those hands toweled the water out of her hair, swiped droplets off her face. She imagined they were a normal couple in their own house. But they weren’t a normal couple and never would be and whether the world understood or not, that was what she loved about them.

  Søren picked her up off her feet and sat her on the bathroom counter.

  “You’re really drying me off?”

  “And dressing you in your pajamas and putting you to bed.”

  “Do I get a bedtime story, too?”

  “If you want one.”

  She grinned at the thought of Søren reading her a bedtime story. Could life get any weirder? Any better? As Søren dried her hair, her face, even her legs and feet, the residue of the past week with Wyatt evaporated. She’d adored Wyatt, yes, but now that Søren had come back she saw Wyatt as nothing but a detour, temporary and unexpected. Søren was the path she’d chosen. In his presence she remembered why she’d picked him and why she would never wander off that path again.

  “Sam provided the pajamas,” Søren said, holding up a little white nightgown. “She picked them out for you.”

  “I want to make out with her.”

  “Later. You’re mine now.”

  She stepped into the white shorty bottoms that Søren dragged up her legs and pulled on the camisole top.

  “You know, the last time anybody helped me get ready for bed, I was eight and was getting over the flu.” Eleanor remembered her mom bathing her tired body and putting her into pajamas. She’d been so limp, so tired then, helpless from the illness that her mother had rocked in her arms like she was still a baby.

  Now Eleanor felt tired, tired and happy. And clean, so clean in Søren’s presence. Clean and safe. She wasn’t helpless anymore, wasn’t weak. Out of pleasure and love alone she submitted to his ministrations and let herself become as dependent as a child.

  He helped her off the bathroom counter and followed her into the bedroom. She turned down the covers and started to crawl inside, but froze when she felt an impossibly strong hand on the back of her neck.

  “Don’t move,” Søren ordered.

  “What—”

  She yelped as his hand made loud and brutal contact with her barely covered bottom.

  “That was for drinking too much last night.”

  He smacked her bottom again, this time twice as hard.

  “And that was for Wyatt.”

  Eleanor dug her fingers into the sheets and braced herself. The next smack hurt worse than the previous two combined. She gasped from the pain.

  “And that was simply for the fun of it. Now you may get into bed.”

  “Ow.” Eleanor finally managed to get a word out. She collapsed onto her side and pulled the covers over her. She looked up at Søren, who seemed to be fighting off a smile. “I can’t believe you spanked me.”

  Søren grinned at her. “I can.”

  He bent and kissed her, one of his conquering kisses that made her feel like a newly discovered world waiting for him to plant his flag in her.

  He slid his hand under the covers, down her body and between her legs. Over top of her pajama bottoms, he teased her clitoris until she panted into his mouth. She raised her hips, hungry for more, and he pushed the fabric aside to slide one finger into her.

  “Would you like to come?” he asked.

  “Yes, please.”

  He kissed her again as he rubbed her clitoris with his thumb. She dug her fingers into the sheets as he edged her closer and closer to climax. She shut her eyes as the pressure built and her temperature rose. And then without warning, Søren pulled his hand away from her.

  Her eyes flew open and she looked up at him.

  “You’re killing me,” she said.

  He gave her a smile so wicked she almost came from that alone.

 
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