The Queen by Tiffany Reisz
Elle was broke and homeless, had no job and no idea where to go if Kingsley kicked her out of his house. There was no safe word that could save her tonight. So when Kingsley sat on his desk in front of her in the middle of a cool spring night and said to her, “I want you to become a dominatrix,” she didn’t laugh in his face. She didn’t have the luxury anymore of laughing in Kingsley’s face about anything. He had all the power, and she had none. An unusual and unpleasant sensation. She resolved never to feel it again.
“A dominatrix?” Elle repeated after Kingsley had made his royal proclamation. “Me?”
“A dominatrix.” Kingsley pointed at her chest. “You.”
“So…you want me…to beat people up…for money?”
“Non. Not for money.” Kingsley waved his pointing finger in front of her face in that annoying French way he had of tsk-tsking her. She almost bit that finger off. Instead she behaved herself because she was too scared not to. “For a lot of fucking money, Elle.”
“How much fucking money?” she asked.
“When I’m done training you, you’ll be making one to five thousand dollars an hour.”
If Elle had water in her mouth at that moment she would have spit it all over the front of Kingsley’s barely buttoned white shirt.
“A thousand dollars an hour?”
“Minimum,” Kingsley said.
“Dominatrixes don’t usually make that kind of money.”
Mistress Irina, Kingsley’s Russian sadist, worked the top end of the scale. And she made five hundred dollars an hour—a thousand an hour when the client demanded very special and intimate attention that would likely lead to hospitalization. The extra fee was for all the paperwork involved.
“But you will. You will be offering a service others will not.”
“Sex would hardly warrant five thousand an hour. Almost anyone can lie on their back, close their eyes and think of France.”
“Why would anyone think of England during sex?”
“Forget it. Tell me what I’m doing.”
“You know what you’re doing,” Kingsley said. “Exactly what you want to be doing except you’ll be doing it for money.”
“A lot of fucking money,” she said, looking up at Kingsley. He sat on the edge of his desk with one foot on the arm of the chair, gazing down at her waiting for her answer.
“This is not a good idea, King,” she said, keeping her voice even, not saying yes or no to his offer.
“It is not a good idea, no. It is the best idea. Chérie…you could buy anything you want,” Kingsley whispered. She knew that tone. He was seducing her. “In a year you’ll be rich. You remember Mistress Felicia? You should have seen her house in Bedford. I’ve known minor royalty who didn’t live as well as she did. Rich men gave her diamonds the way poor men give girls daisies—by the dozens.”
A house. That would be nice. A home of her own. Not a room in someone else’s life. Her own home that was in her name that no one could take away from her.
“I still don’t know why you think men will pay me so much money,” she said.
“Mistress Irina works from her dungeon, sometimes from the town house. They come to her, her clients do. But you…you will go where the money is. Clients who wouldn’t dare set foot into a club or a dungeon? You will go to them.”
“Is that safe?”
“Is life safe?”
“I’ll take that as a no.”
Kingsley smiled. “Is there anything worth doing that is safe?” he asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve read a lot of books worth reading. Never gotten hurt doing that before.”
“I don’t know. I’ve read a lot of books worth reading. Never gotten hurt doing that before.”
“You’ve never gotten rich doing it, either.”
“King, I can’t… No. This is absurd. My entire adult life—and most of my teenage life—I’ve been a submissive.”
“You know what is more absurd? You sitting there and pretending you haven’t wanted this for your entire adult life. And most of your teenage life, too. I knew you then. I remember…”
“What? What do you remember?”
“The first time I saw you, you nearly gave a boy a concussion, because he committed the unforgivable sin of annoying you when you weren’t in the mood to be annoyed. He was talking back to a priest and stood up. I saw you stretch out your leg and hook your boot under his chair and slide it aside right at the moment he tried to sit back down. He landed on the floor so hard I heard a crack and thought it was either a rib or his skull. And you…”
“I put my feet on his chest.”
“No, you put your boots on his chest and told him to shut the fuck up. That instant, I knew you were either going to grow up to be a dominatrix…or a sociopath. I was hard as a rock watching you and you were barely sixteen years old. I could come right now thinking of it.”
“You don’t really think I’m a sociopath, do you?”
“You have a conscience. But you know what they call a sociopath with a conscience?”
It sounded like the setup to a joke so Elle took the bait.
“No, what do they call a sociopath with a conscience?”
“They call her ‘Mistress.’”
Elle stood up from her chair and walked to the window behind Kingsley’s desk. She pushed back the curtains and gazed onto the dark streets. Even during the dead of night, New York still felt awake and alive. Last night she’d been in a convent in rural upstate New York where the world went to bed at seven and woke up at four and slept like a corpse in the hours between. And not a man in sight. Now she was alone in a room with a man she’d beaten last year, a man she’d burned and bruised and brutalized. And God, it had been fun, hadn’t it? More than fun, it had been her. For years, ever since she was a teenager, her sexual fantasies had involved dominating men, tying them up, tying them down and fucking them half to death. When she’d finally gotten her chance to try it with Kingsley, she’d been scared. She’d even cried at first from fear and confusion. But the moment she let go and let it happen, she felt like…
“I’ve seen her, Elle,” Kingsley said as he came to stand behind her. She was acutely aware of his body so close to hers. She hadn’t had sex with a man for over a year, since she ran away and hid out at the convent. Any other man might not have made her feel so much in such close quarters, but it was this man who’d put a riding crop in her hand, given her permission to destroy him. Oh, and she had destroyed him, and in the process, she’d destroyed herself. Her old self. She still hadn’t found her new self yet.
“Who have you seen?”
“You. The real you. I’ve seen her.”
“What does she look like?”
Kingsley sighed and smiled. “She’s beautiful. Dangerous. All eyes are on her when she walks into a room. Men fear her but not because she’s the enemy. They fear her because she alone can show them who they really are. They fear this knowledge but will pay any price for it.”
“Is she happy?” Elle asked.
“She’s powerful. She can make her own happiness when she wants it.”
Elle turned and looked up at him.
“Is she with someone?
“She isn’t lonely,” Kingsley said. “Not this woman. This is a woman who can walk into any room, find the most handsome face in the crowd, look him in the eyes and know she will take him home with her on a leash.”
Elle laughed at the idea. Sounded good to her.
Kingsley caressed her cheek with the back of his fingers.
He narrowed his eyes at her, his expression inscrutable.
“What? What is it?” she asked.
“I missed you,” he said, blinking as if attempting to clear a fog. “Forgive me. I just realized that.”
“I missed you, too. I thought about writing you but I didn’t know what to say.”
Kingsley turned his head, didn’t look at her.
“It didn’t matter. I was gone, too. I came home two months ago.”
“You left, too? Why? When?”
He paused before answering. “The day after you left, I left. And you know why. If I stayed…”
If he’d stayed, they—Kingsley and Søren—would have found her and brought her home, and no door, even one that said “No Men Beyond This Point,” could have kept them from taking her back.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
She wanted to thank him for forgiving her even though she didn’t regret it. But instead she said, “Thanks for not kicking me out. Tonight, I mean. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you did.”
Briefly she met his eyes. She’d didn’t say what she wanted to say, couldn’t say it. Last year she’d accidentally gotten pregnant and it had been Kingsley’s. As much as he wanted children, she wouldn’t have blamed him for rejecting her pleas for help, sending her out into the night again, banishing her from his life. She was in debt now and hated it, hated owing him for something as simple as letting her back in the house she’d once shared with him.
“Elle…” He took her by the shoulders and met her eyes. “When Søren first told me about you, I called you his princess. And he said, no, you were a queen. And I laughed. But last year when you and I were together, when you cut me and burned me and you did it all with a smile on your face… I was wrong. He was right. You are a queen. At least…you could be one. Is that what you want?”
“I don’t know.”
“Tell me what you want.”
“I want a job.”
“This is a job.”
“I want money so I can support myself.”
“These are all very boring answers. Tell me the truth. What do you really want?”
“I don’t want to feel like this anymore. That’s what I want.”
He furrowed his brow at her. “How do you feel?”
“Powerless,” she said. “I’m afraid to say no to your ‘job offer.’ What would I do if you kicked me out? Where would I go?”
“Back to him?”
“No. I can’t. That’s the last place I could go.”
Kingsley nodded, seeming to understand her predicament.
“I can’t turn down your offer, can I?” she asked.
“Do you want to? Truly?”
The question seemed sincere, not teasing as it might have been. He meant it—did she want to turn down his offer?
“What’s the alternative if I say no?” she asked.