Oct. 15 –8:00am
Alexandra stared down at the handkerchief in her hand wondering if her life would ever seem normal again. Two days ago, the only thing she had worried about was finishing her degree and now…now she was hiding like a criminal in some strange man’s house in the hopes they could catch those responsible for Sammy’s death before she was next in line. It sounded like something out of a really cheesy movie and, if she wasn’t so miserable and scared, she might be able to find the humor in it. Wiping the tears from her cheeks with a bit more force than really necessary, Alex left the comfort of the sofa to explore the beauty of the home.
Besides the three rooms she’d already seen, there were two additional guest bedrooms, a formal dining room, and a music room. The other bedrooms were as beautifully and tastefully decorated as the one in which she was staying though with enough variations to color and furniture placement as to not make perfect copies of each other. The formal dining room was probably larger than her apartment and could easily seat twenty to thirty guests. The furniture here was in the same dark cherry wood as she had seen throughout the rest of the house with tapestry-style cushions in the chairs that matched the drapes which hung from ceiling to floor over the many windows. The pièce de résistance, however, was the beautiful crystal chandelier in the center of the vaulted ceiling. Alex wasn’t a connoisseur of antiques but she was fairly certain the chandelier was extremely old and delicate. ‘And probably cost more than my car,’ she thought with a wry smile. Opening the drapes slightly, she watched in awe as the crystals cast a multitude of rainbows about the room and tried to imagine it in all its glory during a night’s entertainment.
The faint strains of a piano drew Alex from the dining room; the melody was tragic, haunting, and oh so beautiful. The song spoke of love and loss, joy and despair; it reached into the very heavens and plunged into the darkest abyss of hell. Angelic or demonic, it was like nothing she’d ever heard and it called to her to rejoice in its happiness and share in its pain. With tears on her face, she followed the song to the closed door of the music room but hesitated to enter. Surely no earthly being could create such music? So, she leaned against the wall and closed her eyes, letting the song wrap her in its lovingly tormented embrace. She wept for her brother, her parents, herself, and the being whose tragic life could produce such a song. So wrapped in the emotions the music brought forth, Alex didn’t notice when it ended and the door opened before her.
“Miss Roberts?” Her name rolled off Erik’s lips in a voice that was reminiscent of the ethereal beauty of the song that still held her in its grasp. “Are you ok? Did something happen?” Strangely enough, it was his quiet concern that drew Alex back to the present.
“Mr. D…Devereaux?” Confused, she looked up and was caught in his deep amber eyes. “What? Yes. I mean no. Wait…” Erik just arched an amused brow, a hint of a smile tugging one corner of his lips. She took a deep breath, shaking her head to try and regain some semblance of normalcy. “What I meant was yes, I’m alright. No, nothing happened. Was that you?”
“I’m not sure I quite understand, Miss Roberts.” He tilted his head slightly, eyes sparkling with amusement.
“Alex. Or Alexandra if you prefer.” Again, that smile threatened his lips and he leaned against the closed door. She was reminded of a panther lounging after a hunt. “My name, sir. ‘Miss Roberts’ just seems so…” She shrugged helplessly. “Anyway. The music I just heard. Was that you playing? What was it? It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever heard.”
“Yes, I was working on some new music for my latest opera. You were welcome to come in and listen, though; no need to skulk about in the hallway.” He gestured for her to precede him into the Library, pouring them both a cup of coffee. “And I asked what was wrong because you were crying and looking rather dazed.”
Alex reclaimed her former seat on the sofa while Erik took the chair near her. With a slightly trembling hand, she wiped her tears and took a fortifying sip of her coffee.
“Oh. Yes, um, you see…I heard the song from the dining room, which is lovely by the way. In fact, all of what I’ve seen of your home is beautiful. The paintings in the hall are…um…” she blushed as that one amused brow rose once more. “Yes, well, I digress. The song. It was like it called to me and I had to follow it, had to find it. It was so…sad, yet happy at the same time. I can’t really explain…” Her blush deepened and she wondered if she sounded as crazy to him as she thought she did. Suddenly, the contents of her coffee mug were the most riveting things in the world.
“I’m pleased you like my home, Alexandra. It took some time to find a contractor willing to work on my design but…”
“Your design?” She interrupted him with an astonished squeak. “You’re the architect?”
“Yes.” Erik chuckled softly at her amazement then shrugged. Even his shrug was graceful and fluid. “Everyone needs a hobby. As for the song, while I apologize if it upset you, I’m glad you could feel what I had hoped to convey. Do you sing or play, Alexandra?”
“No, Mr. Devereaux,” her mind was still lingering over architecture that could produce a home such as this as being a hobby. Knitting was a hobby; this was…amazing. “I sing like a dying cat and have never attempted any instrument other than one disastrous semester in junior high on the flute. I’ve taken pity on all instruments ever since and left them to those who won’t torment them so.”
“How unfortunate. Everyone should have music in their lives.”
“Oh, I do have music,” she smiled and set the empty cup on the table. “I play a mean radio and torment my steering wheel with my singing. So far, it hasn’t complained. But what of you? Quite obviously you can play the piano and write music. Do you sing as well?”
Erik’s relaxed and friendly manner quickly evaporated into one of polite indifference. The only indication that the subject was not one to be broached further was the flash of anger and pain in his golden eyes before he schooled his features. Alex shivered at the change in him which was accented by the cold, clipped voice of his reply.
“No, Miss Roberts, I do not sing.” Abruptly, he rose and left the room as graceful and silent as ever with only the stiffness of his back and shoulders to reveal his discomfort.
‘There’s a story there,’ Alex mused as she moved the mugs to the kitchen to clean them, ‘but somehow, I don’t think I want to know.’