Friday, June 3, 2011

Chapter 20

Oct. 19 – 1:30pm

            As the cell continued its jarring ring, Alex gazed up at Erik in muted shock. What the hell was she doing? Scrambling off the chaise, she fastened up her jeans and grabbed her shirt with shaking hands. She wondered if it was truly possible to die of embarrassment and, for a moment, hoped it was. All she knew was it’d be a long time before she’d be able to be in this room without thinking of what had almost happened. While she straightened her clothing, she could hear Erik answer his phone and cursed him silently for sounding so calm. She was about to leave the room when she paused to steal a glance at the man who’d made her blood sing. What she saw nearly made her return to his side. He was sitting with a tortured look on his face, tears forming in those gorgeous amber eyes, and then she heard his broken whisper: Christine. Leaving part of her heart behind, she eased the door closed behind her.
            Alex could hear Da’ud call her name from the Library, could hear the concern in his voice, but she couldn’t face him. Not now. Maybe not ever. Oh God, what had she been thinking? She bolted into her room and locked the door behind her, leaning against the carved wood. Thinking? No, she hadn’t been thinking only feeling. Stumbling to the bed, she fell across it and buried her head in the pillow with a groan. Her fingers twitched at the memory of his body’s marvelous contradictions: smooth skin and hard muscles, soft ebony hair and rough jagged scars, unyielding strength and unparalleled tenderness. Her entire body still burned from his skillful caresses and she gripped the pillow tighter to keep from going back to him and begging him to finish what they’d started. But more worrisome than her physical need for him was the tormented ache in her heart.

Oct. 19 – 3:00pm

            A nap, cold shower, and stern lecture later, Alex emerged from her room determined to act calmly and rationally. However, even though the Library was silent, she lost her nerve and made for the kitchen instead. Slicing up some fruit with perhaps more vigor than was healthy, she berated herself for her cowardice. She was blowing things out of proportion. They were both adults; there’s was no reason to feel like a teenager making out in the back seat who’d been caught by her dad. She should be able to just walk in, smile politely, and go on like nothing had happened. Which was true. Dammit. ‘Stop it,’ she scolded herself harshly. ‘Don’t think like that because it’ll only lead to further heartache.’  Squaring her shoulders, she tried to not feel like a condemned man going to the gallows as she entered the Library.
            Da’ud was napping on the sofa when she entered so she moved to the desk as silently as possible. She looked hard in every shadowy corner expecting Erik to materialize like a ghost but after several moments realized she and the detective were alone. Alex fired up the laptop while nibbling on some of her fruit. Perhaps she could get a bit more background on her host from his computer. ‘Or his friend.’  Searching through Erik’s laptop proved frustratingly futile; she had more personal information on her library card than he had stored on his computer. If there was anything else, she wasn’t skilled enough to find it. Her next place of inquiry would be the internet; while she didn’t expect to find his life’s history with a Google search, she did at least hope to discover something.
            When the search pulled up several websites and articles mentioning Erik’s name, Alex nearly fell from her chair in surprise. She eagerly clicked to view the first entry to find a critical review of his last opera. His work was praised heavily though there was little to no mention of Erik the Man and not Erik the Composer. Maybe these were too new? Clicking to the last page, she chose the last entry from just over five years ago and found it to be another critical review, this one of the first public performance of his work. Like the newer ones, the review of the opera was favorable but unlike the others, this one was accompanied by a photograph. She couldn’t believe the date of the picture was accurate for Erik looked much younger. On his arm was one of the most beautiful women Alex had ever seen: petite, curvy, with long curly hair and a dazzling smile. Erik was smiling as well as he gazed at the lady beside him, his love evident in his eyes, body language, everything. Reading the caption, she felt her heart stop: Erik Devereaux and Christine Daae.
            Da’ud stirred and winced at the shooting pain in his leg. Damn him and his clumsiness. How was he going to explain this to the Captain? The muted tapping on the keyboard drew his attention to the desk and he wondered yet again what was going on between Alexandra and his friend. He wasn’t blind; he’d seen the sparks that always flared to life when the two were together. Erik was far too fond of using his temper and towering height to intimidate any who would stand in his way and it amused the detective to no end at how little it all affected this slip of a girl. But lately the sparks had seemed to change; no less passionate but not quite as hostile as before. He hoped Alex wasn’t growing emotionally attached to Erik for down that path lay only heartache. He still mourned the love he had with Christine.
            “Is everything ok, Alex?” He’d been watching her at the computer and grew concerned when she suddenly grew pale. She jumped slightly at his voice and looked up in surprise.
            “I didn’t know you were awake, Da’ud. I hope I didn’t disturb you?” With a few clicks, Alex shut down the laptop and closed it before moving to the chair closest to the sofa. “Can I get you anything? A drink? Lunch?”
            “Not right now, thanks.” He allowed her to avoid his question, deciding now might not be the best time to push things. “Have you seen Erik, though? He called a doctor to examine my blasted leg but I’ve heard nothing else from him on the subject.” When she blushed a fiery shade of red and shook her head, he found himself intrigued. What exactly had happened in the Music Room? He watched as she stood and paced nervously, straightening this book or fluffing that pillow, and waited for the questions he could plainly see on her face. He couldn’t have been more surprised at the one she finally summoned the nerve to ask.
            “Da’ud, you’ve known Erik for several years, right?” At his nod, she returned to the chair and stared down at her clasped hands. Her voice was little more than a whisper when she finally spoke. “Who’s Christine?”
            The silence stretched between them as the detective sat in muted shock. There wasn’t a question she could have asked him that would have shocked him more. He didn’t even know she was aware of Christine’s existence. While he struggled as to how to answer, she managed to shock him a second time.
            “I…I only ask because... well, earlier while we, Erik and I, were in the Music Room…” Alex could feel her cheeks burn and kept her gaze on her hands. “Th...there was a phone call…on his cell. When he answered, he said the name Christine like it…like it hurt him to do so.”
            She called?” Amazement filled Da’ud’s voice along with something else, something Alex couldn’t place until she looked into his eyes: blind fury. “Christine? Called Erik? For the love of Allah!”
            “What is it?” Alex was shocked. What had this Christine done to cause such hatred in the detective and such pain in her host? “Who is she?”
             She turned with a gasp at the voice which answered, a voice that was too beautiful, too smooth to belong to the man on the sofa, and met with amber eyes so full of pain it made her own heart throb to see.
            “Her name is Christine Daae and she was the woman I loved, the woman I wished to be my bride, and the woman who betrayed and tried to kill me five years ago.”

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