Swatting at something tickling her arm, Alex frowned and grumbled in her sleep. When the light, tickling sensation came again, this time across her bare breasts, she muttered something unsavory and rolled over to press against a warm body. Confused, she opened her eyes to see a man’s very muscular, very naked chest mere inches from her face. She let her gaze roam appreciatively before looking into the golden eyes of her lover. Her fiancé. Her smile was radiant. A gentle hand guided her to her back where Erik once more began to trace her naked body with one long stemmed red rose. The touch, so light it was frustrating, had her whimpering and begging for more. Golden eyes a-glow, Erik was more than happy to accommodate her wishes.
Much later, she staggered off to take a shower while Erik started the coffee and found them something to eat. Letting the cool water run down her heated body, Alex lathered up and began to wash when the door opened and large, strong hands took the sponge to take over her bathing. Soapy and slick, her body slid against his as she leaned back onto his chest to give him better access to all her womanly delights. And access them he did. Talented fingers that could coax the purest of sounds from any instrument now coaxed passion’s song from Alex’s lips. With one arm holding her tight against him as his hand twisted and teased her nipple, Erik’s other hand had snaked between her thighs to stroke and caress her to ecstasy. Shuddering and leaning heavily against his body, she tried to find the strength to finish her shower but her legs simply wouldn’t cooperate. If she hadn’t been so damn happy and sated she’d wipe that smug smirk off his face. Instead, she simply gave him a kiss that curled his toes and stumbled out to wrap a towel around her and hunt down the coffee she smelled.
Alex was sitting in the bed wearing his white costume shirt from the ball and worshiping her coffee when Erik sauntered out of the bathroom. Her heart jumped into her throat and her entire body pulsed with desire; he was naked, damp, and half-hard from their bath time rendezvous. “Erik,” though she attempted to be stern, it came out as more of a breathy whisper of appreciation than scolding, “do cover yourself. I need to eat and rest a bit and you are simply too entirely delectable for words.” Immediately concerned, he wrapped a towel around his waist and sat by her side.
“Have I over-tired you, Alexandra? Are you feeling well?” He tucked a wet strand of hair behind her ear before cupping her cheek.
“No, my virile love, you haven’t over-tired me and yes, I’m feeling well. Wonderful in fact. Just starving and a tad…sore.” She couldn’t stop her blush so tried to hide it in her coffee mug. She grew even redder at his chuckle. “Oh, shut up.” Her giggle removed any force from her words and they settled down to breakfast in joyful contentment.
After breakfast, he retreated to the Music Room and she returned to the Library to see if she’d gotten any replies back on the job search website. Alex was writing down all the pertinent information in order to set up several interviews when Erik stepped behind her. She noticed his frown when he saw she was once again checking job sites and sighed.
“What’s wrong, Erik?” She reached up and placed a hand over his where it rested on her shoulder.
“You’re looking for a job? I thought you had one, ma petite.”
“I know and I’d love to work at the opera house. But I have a student loan to repay and a car to pay off and…” She stopped when he kissed her quickly and placed a large manila envelope on the desk in front of her. “What’s this, my love?” She eyed the envelope with suspicion.
“Open it and see, Alexandra.” His smile was hidden in the curve of her neck where he was placing feather light kisses.
“If you don’t stop that, I won’t be able to do much of anything but drag you back upstairs.” He chuckled softly and moved to perch on the corner of the desk, watching her with a faint smile.
Alex looked at the envelope which was blank other than her name. The handwriting was elegant and refined and indisputably Erik’s. Glancing up at him revealed little; his eyes were intense and focused on her but there was a certain glow of excitement about him now that confused her. Frowning, she pulled a large stack of papers from the envelope and began to rifle through them. Starting over, Alex slowly looked through them once more before staring at Erik with shock.
“Alexandra,” he set the papers aside and took her hands in his, “do you remember when you were in the hospital and I went to your apartment to gather your belongings and close the lease? Your landlady turned over your mail that had been collecting since you first stayed at my Estate. As I was sorting the obvious junk mail from items that needed to be dealt with in a timely manner, I came across the notification that your student loan payments would be due to begin soon.”
“But…Erik…this is too much…” He leaned forward and silenced her with a brief kiss.
“Let me continue, ma petite chère. While you were laying in that hospital room fighting for your life, I felt so helpless. I could do nothing for you there other than stay beside you and hope that you’d awaken. But this,” Erik nodded at the stack of papers, “this was something I could do. The money means nothing next to your piece of mind and recovery. I am wealthy after all and have little to spend it on. Let me spoil you, Alexandra.” His last words were soft, almost pleading, and Alex’s pride crumbled under her fervent desire to make him happy. Putting the papers away for now, she rose from the desk and closed the distance between them to hold him close.
“You never cease to amaze me, my love.” A wicked smile crossed her face as she reached over and closed the laptop. She was already unbuttoning his shirt when she whispered against his lips, “However shall I repay you?”
“I’m sure we can think of something,” Erik chuckled as he lifted her into his arms and carried her back to his bedroom.
The meeting in the office of the CEO of Omni Microchips ran so late that the secretary was beginning to worry. There were others, clients and business partners, waiting to see Michael Blankenship and yet he’d been sequestered with this unknown visitor for several hours. Apologizing once more to those waiting, she dialed the office to see if she could find out when the meeting would be finished. She needed something to tell those who were still waiting. By the fifteenth ring, she gave up and asked if they would like to reschedule. The business partners did; the clients did not.
Inside the office, Blankenship was hoping the meeting would finish soon as well. He’d not spoken to Robert Chaney in over three years and had hoped he’d not ever have to again. This morning, however, he’d received the phone call and cleared his morning calendar and now he was staring into those cold, dead eyes as he received his orders. His orders!! For three years, he’d been CEO of Omni; he didn’t take orders from anyone. But then Chaney had placed several files on his desk: photographs, bank statements, the actual toxicology report of his father’s death, everything that had put him in that office lay before his eyes and he knew he had no choice.
The initial assignment had been delivered by telephone not long after Christmas. He was to rekindle his old relationship with Alexandra Roberts, pulling her away from Erik Devereaux. Blankenship, not one for the arts, had never heard of the masked composer but felt confident Alex would come back to him. He was rich, handsome, wealthy, good in bed, and had a wonderful career; what had happened when they were barely out of high school was nothing more than a prank. Surely she understood that now that they were older? So, he played at being overawed by the theater, promised a hefty check should he be impressed, and arranged to get invited to the masquerade ball at the opera house.
That was when things failed to go according to plan. Alex had been…less than thrilled to see him at the ball and refused to even talk civilly. Chaney was entirely unsympathetic with his failure and stressed the importance of separating the two. She didn’t have to actually form an attachment to Blankenship, he just had to convince the composer she had. Devereaux seemed the jealous type, controlling and unforgiving. Maybe he should poke a bit at that jealousy? Several years ago, he’d converted all his VHS tapes to digital format on his computer. With a little bit of manipulation…oh yes, he’d make Devereaux quite jealous indeed. When he dropped Alex, Blankenship would be there waiting to pick up the pieces and bring her back where she belonged. Chaney had been satisfied with the plan but warned him not to let it go too long before implementation. He needed them both distracted and at odds quickly.
Blankenship knew he’d need help on this project; his expertise wasn’t in video manipulation. Thankfully, he’d recently discovered one of his employees was a heavy gambler and was now embezzling in order to cover his losses. This man would help him create the videos or face both jail as well as the leg-breakers the mob bosses would send for reneging on his bets. Now to decide how to ensure Devereaux saw them…
Carla Goldman was angry. No, she was more than angry; she was furious and everything in her dressing room that could break had paid the price. For two years she’d been trying to bed the elusive Erik Devereaux but he always declined. Oh, he was disgustingly polite about it, citing an abhorrence for workplace relationships, needing to dedicate all his free time to his latest composition, even saying he wouldn’t want to distract her during rehearsals. Lies, lies, lies! Instead, he was banging that red-haired nobody who the Girys fawned over like she was the freaking Queen of England. There was no way she was letting this person take Erik from her. He was hers and was always meant to be hers. She just needed to make Erik see the truth.
The crunch of glass under her feet was ignored while she plotted a way to rip the very powerful, very wealthy Devereaux away from Alex. She’d watched the two closely and it was clear the woman was crazy for him but no one could read the composer’s true feelings even without the costume mask. Perhaps it was one sided? A smile began to form on her lips for the first time that night; a most unpleasant smile. The ginger twit would be working at the opera house. If she just happened to walk in while Carla was providing Erik with a bit of mid-day sexual relief…
Detective Da’ud al-Zahir had been retired for nearly a month. After the incidents in October, he’d decided he was too old to go chasing after criminals; besides, he didn’t heal as fast as he once did in his younger days. His face bore more lines than before and his black hair was peppered with grey. Some said it made him look distinguished; he thought it simply made him look old. His heritage had also started to create problems in the precinct that he simply didn’t want to address. Rather than continue to work in a hostile environment both outside the station as well as in, he turned in his paperwork and was gone by Christmas. He had invested well since his days in the Agency and, though he could never hope to match Devereaux’s wealth, he could live quite comfortably without having to put his life on the line. He’d also met a lady who he wished to pursue and didn’t want to expose her to the dangers that are always present in a policeman’s life. Now if he could just gather the nerve to call her…
He was reading his morning newspaper when the telephone rang. Something told him that he didn’t want to answer it; he had a gut feeling he’d not like what he’d hear. When the answering machine picked up, the caller simply hung up and immediately called back. Urgent, then. Sighing, he checked the caller ID and groaned at seeing the police commissioner’s phone number. Didn’t these people understand what retired meant?
“Yes, Commissioner?” As he listened, his annoyance turned to shock and then concern. Raoul de Chagny had escaped.