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       The Queen, p.44

         Part #8 of The Original Sinners series by Tiffany Reisz

  “Then I say thank you. Also...” Zach pointed at her nose. “Don’t do it again.”

  Nora started to scold him for being so vanilla, but then she heard her favorite song.

  “Do devilishly handsome Jewish book editors dance?”

  “Only when asked to by impossibly sexy Catholic writers.”

  She took his hand and dragged him away into the not-a-real wedding reception that was still in full swing. All around them people laughed and talked and drank and danced to her favorite song by The Police, the one band she and Søren had ever agreed on. Zach spun her once and pulled her close to him.

  “Are you really mad at me for turning your life upside down?” she asked.

  “It needed turning upside down,” he said. “Funny, though. Once it was turned upside down I realized it was finally right-side up. What about you? Your life’s been turned a bit sideways. Still standing?”

  “I’m always standing,” she said. “Except when I’m on my back. You know Søren never told me what you said to him when you called him that day and told him about Fionn.”

  “I believe I said something to the effect of ‘Happy Birthday. Merry Christmas. Oh, and Happy Father’s Day.’ I enjoyed the stunned silence that followed.”

  “It’s not easy to shock that man. Trust me, I’ve made doing it my life’s work.”

  “I love my son and I love my wife and I love my work. And I have you to thank for them all. I would be divorced, childless and living in LA right now if it weren’t for you. I don’t know which of the three prospects horrifies me the most.”

  Nora laughed and kissed Zach on the mouth, full tilt with tongue and everything. She kissed him for two reasons, the only two reasons that ever mattered to Nora—because she wanted to and because she could.

  “Happy now?” he asked, as she pulled back and saw Søren, Kingsley and Grace walking into the reception, Fionn in Kingsley’s arms but his hand in Søren’s. “My wife just saw you kiss me.”

  “Oh, no, are we in trouble?”

  “She’s glaring and laughing at the same time,” Zach said. “I think we’re safe.”

  “Good. Now slow dance with me. It’s not a wedding reception until I’ve drunkenly made out with a wedding guest while slow dancing.”

  “That’s going to be a problem,” Zach said as he led her in a slow dance. “We’re not drunk.”

  Nora grabbed a glass of wine off a passing tray.

  “We can fix that,” she said.

  Zach took her in his arms again.

  “Behave,” he said. “I’m a ridiculously happily married man and father, and I’m enjoying it believe it or not.”

  “Vanilla,” she said.

  “Not quite. I did learn a thing or two from you.”

  “That’s what I like to hear.”

  “What about you, Nora?” he asked. “Happy?”

  “How could I not be happy?” she asked, smiling so hard it hurt. “Look around...look at all of this...this happiness.”

  She took her own advice and looked around as she and Zach moved lightly across the dance floor.

  Zach in her arms. Her editor and her dearest friend. He had changed her life when he signed her contract for the book she thought she’d never finish. But she had finished it, with a little help from a certain blond monster she knew and loved.

  Finish the book, Søren had ordered. Not for me or for Zachary or for Wesley or even for God. Finish it for you.

  And there were Michael and Griffin talking to Alfred and smiling. All of them smiling, even Alfred, and she was fairly certain that was the first time she’d ever seen him smile.

  You are formally invited to attend the collaring of Griffin Fiske and Michael Dimir.

  You knew? Nora had asked Søren.

  Of course I knew...

  And there was Juliette standing with Kingsley, speaking to Fionn and smiling as she introduced Kingsley’s daughter to Søren’s son.

  That was the year I met Juliette, almost killed a man over her, came home and got everything back I’d lost and then some, Kingsley had said last night about the year he’d left Søren and found Juliette, the woman he loved and the mother of his children.

  Nora clutched the pendant Nico had given her, which hung next to the glass locket on the chain. Nico, Kingsley’s son. Nico, her lover, her submissive, who never would have existed if Søren hadn’t let Kingsley go...

  And Fionn, who she’d wished for in secret and had told no one ever, not Kingsley or Søren...

  He was fourteen years her senior and women lived longer than men. Wouldn’t it be something to have part of Søren live on after he was gone?

  In fact, all that she had and all that she loved—her writing career, Zach, Grace, Fionn, Céleste, Juliette, Kingsley, Nico, Michael and Griffin...she had Søren to thank for all of it. In one way or another he’d brought them to her and to each other by paths both straight and broken.

  She wanted for nothing.

  She had it all.

  “Oh, that son of a bitch,” Nora said as she clung to Zach’s hand even as she took a step toward where Søren stood speaking softly to his beautiful son. “He did it.”

  “Did what?” Zach asked.

  “Søren promised to give me something and he kept his promise.”

  “What did he give you?”

  Nora laughed.


  * * * * *

  Read on for an extract from THE VIRGIN by Tiffany Reisz.




  “IT WAS A dark and stormy night,” Nora said as she came to stand next to Søren at the window. She gazed out on the summer storm tearing up the Scottish sky.

  “Please tell me that isn’t the first line to your next book.”

  “Oh, but it’s such a good first line. Classic even.” She tucked her hand into his and watched the light show with him. Wind and rain lashed the trees and the moors. A flash of lightning set the night afire for a split second and the hills revealed their colors before fading into black again. “How about this—‘It was a dark and stormy night in the castle, and a woman named Nora was determined to seduce her priest.’”

  Søren smiled slightly.

  “An improvement. A minor improvement.”

  “Everyone’s a critic.” Nora squeezed his hand, and he lifted it to his lips for a kiss. He’d arrived this morning but she’d been so busy with her work here that they hadn’t had more than five minutes together. At last the day was done, her work was over until tomorrow, and they could hold hands and simply be.

  “Do I want to know what you’re thinking?” Nora asked him.

  “Merely watching the storm,” he said, but she could tell he had something on his mind, on his heart. They both did.

  Tomorrow was the big day... Everything between her and Søren would change tomorrow. It was happening finally and there was no going back.

  “Are you nervous about tomorrow?” she asked.

  “Should I be?”

  “I am,” she admitted. “Big day for us.”

  “I’m at peace,” he said. “Although I will admit the peace is hard-won.”

  “We’ve waited a long time to do this.”

  “It’s time now,” he said. “We’ve waited long enough.”

  A clap of thunder interrupted their conversation and together they peered into the storm outside the oriel window.

  “What are you thinking?” Nora asked.

  “Thinking about Job, chapter thirty-eight,” he said. “It’s every priest’s dream to have God come and speak to him face-to-face. Even if it is to tell him how little he knows about the world. Storms always remind me of those verses. God says, ‘Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place?’”

  Nora looked up at the sky. “‘Can you raise your voice to the clouds / and cover yourself with a flood of water? / Do you send lightning bolts on their way? / Do they report to you / Here we are.’”

s comforting to know God is so powerful. Comforting to know we aren’t,” Søren said.

  Perhaps only a priest could find comfort in his powerlessness. Perhaps only Søren.

  “Are you coming to bed?” she asked Søren.

  “Not yet. I won’t be ready to sleep for hours.”

  In Scotland, it was nine-thirty. In New Orleans, where they’d been living for the past two years, it was half past three in the afternoon.

  “Who said anything about sleeping?” she asked.

  Søren arched his eyebrow.

  “Well, in that case...” Søren turned from the window and cupped her face with his hands. He kissed her on the lips, softly at first, a slight kiss meant to arouse and torment. Ever so slowly he deepened the kiss. As much as she wanted to, Nora didn’t rush the moment. She’d been away from him for five weeks—four weeks spent with Nico at his vineyard and another week here in Scotland making the final preparations for tomorrow. Leaving Søren for any extended period of time was much like this kiss—a torture and a tease. Being away from him hurt, always. But the reunion at the end of the separation made every second apart worth the price.

  He took her hands in his and brought them up and around his neck. His arms encircled her back and he drew her to him, deepening the kiss. The heat of his body warmed her to the core. She kissed his lips, his chin, his ear and his neck. He’d abandoned his collar for traveling and tonight wore only black trousers, black jacket and a white button-down shirt open at the neck. She pressed her lips into the hollow of his throat, a hollow made for her kisses.

  And the moment when the kiss was perfect, everything she wanted and needed from him, she heard from behind her a small cough.

  “Ms. Sutherlin?”

  “God fucking dammit.” Nora growled the words, and dropped her head to the center of Søren’s chest.

  “Eleanor, you’re scaring the waitstaff,” Søren said.

  She turned and faced the interrupter, a young woman holding a bouquet of flowers. Her name might be Bonnie, or maybe she was just “bonnie” in the Scottish sense of pretty. Nora didn’t know and didn’t care.

  “Miss, you’ve signed the nondisclosure agreement, haven’t you?” Nora asked. Kingsley was treating tomorrow like a celebrity wedding with ironclad nondisclosure agreements for everyone even remotely involved. Even she’d had to sign one.

  “Yes, ma’am?” The girl made everything she said into a question.

  “Good. This man is a Catholic priest. We’ve been sleeping together since I was twenty. I’m sure you can imagine it’s not easy being the mistress of a Catholic priest. We don’t get to spend nearly the amount of time together we’d like to. In fact, I haven’t seen him in five weeks. Admittedly that’s because I was sleeping with someone else most of the time, but that’s neither here nor there. As you can see, my priest here is possibly the most handsome man in the world, although I am admittedly biased. He’s also kinky, well-hung and you’ve just interrupted the kiss I’ve been waiting for all day. So please tell me this interruption is more important than that kiss was.”

  “Your dress is here. We hung it in your room. You told me to tell you when it arrived and to interrupt you no matter what you were doing even if you were, as you said, ‘blowing the pope.’ Also, these arrived for you earlier today. They were accidentally put away with the wedding flowers,” the girl said, passing the bouquet to Nora.

  “Oh.” Nora tapped her foot on the stone floor. “How nice.”

  “Eleanor...” Søren made her name into a threat.

  “And sorry about the, you know, well-hung priest rant there,” Nora said. “Pre-wedding jitters.”

  “It’s fine, ma’am,” the girl who was either bonnie or Bonnie said. “If he was kissing me, I’d be bloody pissed off to be interrupted, too. Catholic priest?”

  “No comment,” Søren said.

  “We had a priest like you when I was a girl,” she said. “We called him Father What-A-Waste. Glad you’re not going to waste.”

  The girl bobbed a slightly sarcastic curtsy and sauntered off.

  “Is it weird I kind of want to fuck her now?” Nora asked. “Castles makes me so horny.”

  “Little One?”

  “Yes, sir?” She turned back to face him.

  “Who are your flowers from?”

  “No idea,” she said. She looked through the small but exquisite posy of white roses, pink hydrangeas and green Cymbidium orchids until she found the small ivory card. She opened it up and read aloud,

  “Dear Mistress,

  I’m sorry I have to miss your wedding tomorrow but I never attend weddings where I’m not allowed to kiss the bride. Think of me during the ceremony—and on the wedding night. Love, Your Nico”

  “Very kind of him,” Søren said, smiling.

  “He’s a smart-ass like his father,” Nora said. She tucked the card back into the envelope. “Now, where were we?”

  “Here, I think,” Søren said as he brought his arms around her waist and pulled her to him. He dropped gentle but hungry kisses along her neck.

  “Oh yes, that’s where we were.”

  “It’s been too long since I’ve had the pleasure of beating you and putting you in your place.” He whispered the words in her ear, and she shivered. “Do you even remember your place?”

  “Underneath you, my sir,” she said. “Or wherever you tell me it is.”

  “Very good answer.”

  He tapped her under the chin and she smiled. She did so love to please him. Collaring Nico two years ago and making him her property had been the best thing she could have done for her relationship with Søren. At the time she and Nico became lovers, she’d been running on pure instinct and grief and need. She’d gone to Nico searching for something she was missing and found it with him. Once she had a submissive of her own, her own personal property collared and owned, she fully grasped Søren’s love for her. Owning Nico had filled up a void in her that not even Søren’s love—boundless as it was—could fill. She hadn’t cleaned up her act, hadn’t reformed. She hadn’t turned over a new leaf. Nora Sutherlin did not turn over leaves—new or otherwise. But for the past two years she’d had only two lovers—Søren and Nico—and wanted and needed no one else in her bed or her heart. It might be the closest she would ever get to monogamy.

  Kingsley was already taking bets on how long it would last.

  Søren took her by the hand and led her down the long ancient hallway. Portraits of noble Scotsmen, dead for centuries, followed their progress as they walked the faded crimson carpet and took a set of stone stairs to the next floor. Lightning created mad shadows in the castle. A suit of armor seemed to move with one flash of light. A portrait of a young noblewoman with pre-Raphaelite hair winked at Nora. The long-dead princess must have guessed what Nora and Søren had planned. Her smile was one of approval. Envy even. Nora didn’t blame the lady. Who wouldn’t want a night in Søren’s bed?

  The wink reminded Nora of someone she knew long ago. And the castle reminded her of somewhere she’d once run away to and hidden herself. The abbey. Her mother’s abbey. The gray stone walls, the wandering hallways and the portraits like icons. The sound of her feet on the stone floors brought to mind that year she’d lived in her mother’s convent. Not quite a full year but close enough. Close enough that she thought of it always as “that year.”

  She pushed thoughts of the past away. The present was a far more pleasant moment. Through an arched wooden door they entered their bedroom. The fire in the fireplace was dead, but no matter. Linen sheets and silk pillows invited them to the bed. They needed only each other for warmth now.

  Søren left her standing by the bed as he lit the bedside oil lamp for light and the candles on the fireplace mantel for ambience. Nora slipped out of her shoes and let her feet sink into the soft woven rug that covered the stone floor. She put her
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