Griffin has just popped the question—yes, that question—and Michael doesn’t have an answer. He flees town for New Orleans to see his confidante and sometime-Domme, Mistress Nora. Will a weekend of beignets and beatings help him untangle his knotted-up heart?
Thus begins "Michael's Wings," the eponymous novella that kicks off the latest entry in Tiffany Reisz's LAMBDA Literary Award-winning* Original Sinners series.
This companion collection to fan-favorite "The Angel" also contains six previously-published stories starring Mistress Nora's favorite angel and Griffin—his master, his true love, and the sexy-as-hell bane of Michael's existence.
* "The King" (LAMBDA Literary Award 2015 Winner — Best Gay Erotica)
About the Author
Tiffany Reisz is the bestselling author of The Original Sinners series from Mira Books. She is out of her damn mind.
Read an Excerpt
SAINTS & MUSTANGS
It was like magic.
Michael decided that very morning he would go to New Orleans and by evening he was there.
Although he'd grown up with the internet in the house, sometimes it still amazed him how quickly things could happen. It really was magical, in a way. He made a wish — I want to go see Nora — and ten hours later, the technology gods had answered it.
He'd thought about surprising Nora, but he hated surprises himself and wouldn't wish them on his worst enemy, much less the person he trusted more than anyone else in the world, Griffin excepted. Nora would have probably enjoyed the surprise but one never knew what she was up to these days. She could have been in France with her new "Le boy toy," as Griffin called Nora's Nico. Michael would feel like an idiot if he showed up on her doorstep only to find she wasn't home and wouldn't be back for weeks.
But she was home. He'd texted her that morning asking if he could come for a quick visit. Yorke's fall break was the third week of October every year. He wanted to spend his long weekend with Griffin but plans changed. Griffin had to fly off to L.A. to deal with some staffing issues at the YMKA — The Young Masters Kink Association. Griffin had named it that since he'd taken over an old YMCA building and liked the old-fashioned lettering on the side. Might as well stay on brand. Plus it was cheaper if they only had to change one letter. Michael didn't want to go to L.A. if Griffin had to work the whole time. He'd decided he'd stay home at the apartment and do nothing but sleep and read and catch up on his painting.
All rest. No stress.
Then Griffin had to go and be Griffin, and there went that idea.
Michael hadn't slept a wink last night. He probably wouldn't tonight either, but at least he could blame that on his usual trouble with sleeping in new places instead of the real problem, which was he had big decision to make and he didn't have any idea how to make it.
He wandered through Louis Armstrong International Airport with his blue backpack slung over her shoulder, the only luggage he'd brought. He could feel the steam in the air already, the humidity even though it was October. Nora had warned him October in New Orleans could sometimes feel like July in New York. Michael didn't mind. It had turned chilly in the city faster than he'd been expecting. A few more days of summer, even misplaced in the calendar, might do him some good.
As he walked to the exit, a girl in a green and gold Cabrini High School t-shirt sitting on a bench looked up from her phone. They made eye contact, as people in airports do, and she smiled flirtatiously at him. She was pretty, with dark brown skin and bright brown eyes. She looked about seventeen or eighteen — definitely a senior. If he'd asked her to grab a coffee with him in the airport, she probably would say yes, and when she found out he was twenty and a senior in college, she'd maybe shrug, if that. He was young enough to date a girl still in high school if he wanted.
Michael flashed the girl his usual awkward smile and kept walking, head down and ear buds in playing Paramore's newest album. Griffin had tried breaking him of the habit of slouching in public — You're my sexual property, sub. Hold your head up high — Griffin's version of a pep talk. And while it never failed to make Michael smile, it didn't quite cure his social anxiety in crowds and around strangers. Luckily, he wouldn't be all on his own in a stranger city this weekend. It was just him and Nora, maybe Father S. Maybe he'd see Kingsley and Juliette and Céleste, too. People he knew. People he could relax around. If he could relax. He wasn't hoping for miracles, just distractions. Nora was always good for that.
Outside the airport exit he paused, glanced left and right looking for Nora's little silver BMW. When he didn't see it, he pulled his phone from his pocket and checked for messages warning him she might be late. Just as he glanced down at his phone, he heard a piercing wolf whistle.
Michael stepped to the curb just as a convertible pulled up in the pick-up lane right in front of him. A sleek red Mustang convertible, top down.
Behind the wheel sat a black-haired, green-eyed, supposedly grown woman wearing a New Orleans Saints football jersey and cut-off denim shorts.
At the sight of her, Michael smiled for the first time in about twenty-four hours.
"You're a football fan now?" he asked. They knew each other too well to bother with hellos and how-are-yous.
"Gift from a client," Nora said. "He plays for the Saints. I like to torture him by complimenting him on how many 'home runs' his team scored."
"You're such a sadist."
"That's why they pay me the big bucks," she said with a grin. "Hop in, gorgeous. I don't know about you, but I'm starving. Want beignets?"
"What are beignets?"
"Imagine a ball of powdered sugar, fat, and joy."
"I'm in." Michael threw his bag into the tiny backseat and slid into the passenger seat.
"You won't regret it, kid," she said, turning her head to grin at him before putting her eyes back on the road where they belonged. She hit the gas and in minutes they were out on the main road, the airport receding behind them.
"Where's the BMW?" Michael asked. He remembered that car well. Nora had let him drive it home from church one day a few years ago. Now that he thought it, that little trip marked the beginning of his new life. It was the first time he'd ever heard the name "Griffin."
"Traded it in last year," Nora said. "It's almost never cold here. If it's going to be seventy in December, I'm going to have a convertible."
It was so warm out he'd already forgotten it was late October. There was a texture to the air, a thickness, and a rich scent like food and sweat and seawater coming from somewhere. He relaxed in the heat as the wind tickled his face and sent his hair and Nora's to dancing.
"It's nice," Michael said.
"Blondie said it was too 'flashy.' I told him that was pretty rich coming from a Jesuit priest who drove a black Ducati motorcycle."
Out of loyalty to Father S, Michael wanted to take his side but Nora had a point there.
"Plus, this is a Mustang," she said. "Classic American heavy metal. Not much of a backseat but I can fit a linebacker in my trunk."
"You haven't actually done that, right?" Michael asked, not sure he wanted the answer.
"Top secret," she said. "That's for me to know and the inevitable F.B.I. investigation to find out."
Nora winked at him and Michael only rolled his eyes and laughed.
"How's Father S?" Michael asked.
"Happy," Nora said. "Which makes me happy. Because when he's happy he's horny."
"Is he not usually happy?" Michael asked. He wasn't going to ask about the horny part of the equation.
"He's better at contentment than happiness, but down here, he's been really good. He's got me close by, King close by. He loves the college professor life, loves his students, loves the city. So do I. New Orleans is the perfect place to be a writer. It's beautiful and wild and old. And it's so hot all I want to do most of the time is stay indoors in my air-conditioned office."
"Very cool," Michael said. He could tell Nora was content. Unlike Father S, she was always good at being happy and terrible at being contented. Maybe finally having Nico, a sub of her own, with Father S as her dominant did the trick. Michael was glad he was just a sub and not a switch. Being a switch sounded complicated.
"He told me to tell you he would have come with me to pick you up, but he's booked tonight," Nora said. "One of his students is a choral singer, practicing for a recital this week. Søren's his accompanist."
"That's nice of Father S."
"Any excuse to play. But you'll see him tomorrow at breakfast. He was glad to hear you were finally coming down to visit us."
"I'm glad, too," Michael said. He was. He would rest here. He would have fun. He would be distracted from the looming decision he had to make. He wouldn't talk about it. He wouldn't think about it. Not tonight, anyway.
"So, Angel," Nora said as she steered them off the interstate and onto a road with the improbable name of Elysian Fields Avenue, "Tell me what brings you to my neck of the woods."
Michael answered before he could stop himself, and it was all Nora's fault for phrasing the question as an order. He never could disobey an order.
"Griffin asked me to marry him."
It turned out the Mustang didn't just have a big trunk. It had very good brakes as well.
BEIGNETS & SECRETS
Great brakes, actually. They didn't even squeak when Nora slammed them on and steered the car to the side of the road.
She turned off the engine, turned her incredulous face to him, and said, "What?"
"It's legal in New York now," Michael said, raising both hands and waving them in a sarcastic hooray. "They're recognizing out-of-state marriages, too. I know way too much about it. Griffin spoke to a lawyer already."
"Yes, I know it's legal in the state now. But so is tattooing a purple dick on your face. Doesn't mean you have to do it."
"I know you're not really into the whole marriage thing," Michael said.
"Doesn't matter what I'm into or not," she said. "What are you into?"
Michael sighed, hard. "I ..." He dropped his head back and stared at the sky.
"You didn't tell Griffin an answer? And you call me a sadist?"
Michael laughed a sad miserable little laugh. "He told me not to answer. He knows me so he knows I have to think about it. He asked me last night, and he's going to be in L.A. till Sunday. He said to think about it until then, tell him yes or no when he gets home, and if it's a no we won't talk about it again unless I bring it up. I'm following orders and thinking about it until Sunday. I couldn't stand the thought of being alone in our apartment for days obsessing over it."
"So you came here to obsess about it?"
"All right," she said. "Let's obsess about it. Over beignets."
They didn't talk much more as she drove them into the French Quarter. They had to park a few blocks away from the cafÃ(c), but the walk gave Michael a chance to stretch his legs and take in the sights. The houses fascinated him and he wished he'd thought to bring a better camera than just his iPhone. They were all so brightly colored — pink and red and mint green and blue--and right on the sidewalk. But to make up for their proximity to the general public, they were shuttered in the front so you couldn't see inside the windows. He glanced through iron gates between the houses and caught glimpses of elegant little courtyards with fountains behind the houses. Everything was old and odd and eerie. No wonder Nora and Father S and Kingsley liked it here so much.
At the cafe, Nora bought them beignets and cafe au lait, which they carried back to the car instead of eating at the crowded tables.
"You're making me wait for powdered sugar, fat, and joy?" Michael asked.
"It's for the best," she said. "Pro tip from an old pro--let them cool down first. I burned my tongue on a beignet right after we moved here. Couldn't give a blow job for a week. My priest was pissed." The blow job comment was made just as they passed a young couple pushing a stroller with a sleeping toddler. The father gave Nora a double take, which resulted in him getting a hard slap on the arm by his unamused wife. Nora didn't notice any of it.
"Okay, but coffee at nine o'clock?" he asked as Nora passed him his cup.
"You have three days to decide if you're getting married. We're going to need all the caffeine we can get."
Michael sipped at his coffee as Nora drove them to her house in the Garden District, and studied all the strange buildings they passed. The architecture major in him was in heaven. The art major was in an even higher circle of heaven. He'd never seen houses like this anywhere in the world. Shotgun houses. Looming Victorians with massive balconies. Iron fences with spikey fleur-de-lis pointing straight up defying anyone to jump the gate. They drove past a cemetery in the middle of a residential neighborhood surrounded by ten-foot high stone walls and filled with aboveground crypts. Actual crypts full of actual human remains and right across the street from a café. A cemetery and a café.
"Nora, this town is weird."
"I know," she said grinning. "I love it."
A few blocks later, Nora pulled in front of a massive white house, an estate more than a house--grand, gleaming white, with stone steps leading to an ebony front door, and a black iron fence surrounding the entire property.
"Home sweet home," Nora said.
"This is your place?" Michael asked, staring wide-eyed and amazed at the house.
"Just kidding. This is King's," she said. "Mine's a little smaller. But it's right around the corner."
"It's an upgrade from the townhouse," Michael said, still staring at the white mansion as she drove away.
"The best part is that it was a third of the price of the townhouse. That's how insane Manhattan real estate is." "Wow."
"And my new place was about the same price as my old place in Connecticut and it's bigger," she said. "That's mine."
She pointed at the house as they drove past it to get to her off-street driveway. He couldn't get much of a look at her place, Too dark out, but he could tell it was a red two-story with a big porch and a balcony on the second floor. He couldn't see much else as it was hidden behind a massive oak tree and every lower limb dripped with hundreds of Mardi Gras beads of every color.
"What's with the beads in your tree?" he asked.
"They just keep appearing," she said with a shrug as she pulled in behind the house and parked. "Sometimes I go away and come home and there's a bunch of new beads that weren't there before. Søren thinks they're a gift from an admirer."
"He's old so he says things like 'I think you have an admirer.'"
Michael could hear Father S saying just that.
"He's not that old," Michael said.
"I know, but he's going gray and it's killing me. I've always had a thing for older men. He said if I didn't stop groping him all the time he was going to start using a safe word on me. Rude, right?"
"How dare he," Michael said dryly.
"Thank you, I agree. Come on," Nora said, throwing open her car door. "Let's talk and eat. Not in that order."
She had a small backyard but it was nice. She had stone benches and tropical-looking potted plants here, there, and everywhere, a couple more smaller live oak trees, and a small back porch with a swing on it.
Nora let them in the backdoor and once inside she tossed her keys onto the kitchen counter. Spacious kitchen, all old hardwood and cabinets painted white.
"Table's there," she said, pointing. "I'll get us plates, napkins, and then even more napkins."
"Don't forget the napkins," Michael said as he sat down at her big butcher block table. She set a plate in front of him, opened the beignet bag and out poured five gallons of powdered sugar.
Michael stared at the sugar pile before looking up at Nora. "I'm gonna need a bigger napkin."
As they ate their fried balls of sugar and joy, Nora told him about her house. An Italianate style — hence the big porch — and built in 1910. Three bedrooms — her room, a guest room, and her newly finished private playroom, plus a tiny downstairs office. Almost everything in the house was original except the paint job. She'd painted every room downstairs a different shade of blue and every room upstairs a different shade of red. Her bedroom was scarlet, she said, and her playroom the color of red wine. She said the last part with the tiniest hint of a blush on her face, and that's when Michael remembered her Le Boy Toy was a winemaker. He wouldn't mention the blush to Nora, but he might mention it to Griffin.
"How's Kingsley?" Michael asked. "Is he around?"
"He's ... um ..." Nora closed one eye, wrinkled her nose, tapped her foot on the floor in nervousness. "Somewhere."
Michael narrowed his eyes at her.
"Somewhere I can't tell you. Under pain of death. But Juliette and Céleste are with him at this undisclosed location. Well, he's with them. He didn't want to go. Juliette made him go. Well, Céleste made him go. He'd only go because of her. He wouldn't have gone if she hadn't begged. You know how kids are ... they like what they like, and you can't say no to your kid, I guess. And it's a good time to go what with the weather being a little cooler, and all that."
"He's at Disney World, isn't he?" Michael asked
Nora exhaled slowly through her nose. "Yeah."
"Don't tell anyone," Nora said. "He'll really kill us if it gets out. Céleste is going through a princess phase." "I won't tell if you won't tell anyone Griffin asked me to marry him. I feel bad even telling you except I know Griffin wouldn't mind. I just don't want to talk to anyone about what I've decided until I've told him."
"What have you decided?" she asked.
"I've decided I need to decide."
Excerpted from "Michael's Wings"
Copyright © 2017 Tiffany Reisz.
Excerpted by permission of 8th Circle Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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