Friday, June 10, 2011

Chapter 25

Oct. 20 – 4:00pm

            The next time Alex stirred she noticed the throbbing pain in her side and the empty bed where Erik had lain. She wasn’t sure which hurt more. Why did she have to fall for the most infuriating man she’d ever met? Staring at the ceiling, she went over every detail of the night before. His anger had been expected and he’d said nothing she hadn’t already with her own self-recriminations. What she hadn’t expected was how very much it had hurt to know he was angry with her. Things were fuzzy after that; she knew she’d been upset and he’d comforted her. She vaguely remembered telling him about Sam and her parents but the rest was a blur. Alex couldn’t distinguish between reality and dreams due to the medication Erik had given her. All she knew for certain was that he’d held her, reassured her, and made her feel safe until she drifted off to sleep.
Now that she was awake, she felt a particular need and was determined not to be an invalid. As she eased from the bed to stand on wobbly legs, she hoped she could reach her destination and return without alerting a certain masked man of her intentions. Wincing at the pain, Alex supported herself with the wall and assorted scattered furniture as she slowly made her way to the bathroom. There were just some things you didn’t call a man to help you do. She remained sitting to wash her hands while realizing that getting there wasn’t the hardest part. There was also the problem of returning to the bed without falling to the floor. It had sapped much more of her energy than she would have expected to make the short walk. Gritting her teeth against the pain and dizziness, she pulled herself back to her feet and started the slow trek back across the room. She was almost halfway to the bed when a slight sound made her look up to see Erik filling the doorway.
“I cannot wait to hear the reason you are out of bed.” The melodic purr of Erik’s voice did little to hide his obvious displeasure to see her on her feet.
“I…I didn’t want to call a-anyone,” she gave a furtive glance towards the bathroom door hoping he would understand. “It’s not very far…” As she reached for the back of the nearest chair, she swayed and he was there immediately to sweep her into his arms and carry her to the bed.
“Foolish child, have you forgotten that you’ve been shot? I would think a moment’s embarrassment worth not reopening your wound.” He placed her on the bed, supporting her back until he could arrange pillows to help her sit up comfortably. “I was checking to see if you were awake and wanted something for dinner. Since you are obviously well on your way to recovery, I suppose I shall let you fetch it yourself.”
“Sarcasm ill suits you, Erik.” Alex snapped, embarrassed he had caught her out of bed and angry at her own weakness. “Besides, I was doing perfectly fine on my own.” She knew it sounded childish and blatantly untrue but didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing how much pain she was now in.
“Of course.” He pulled a chair closer to the bed and sat with his arms crossed over his chest, golden eyes glowing from the shadowy depths of his black half mask. “I saw just how well you were doing when I walked in.” He watched the blush spread across her face as she lowered her gaze to her clasped hands. “Before I bring in your dinner tray, I need two things,” Erik waited for her to drag her eyes back to his before he continued. “One, I need to check your wound to ensure you haven’t reopened it. Two, I want your solemn vow that you won’t move an inch while I am gone. Is that clear?” At her nod, he rose to retrieve the necessary medical supplies from her dresser. He tended the injury swiftly and skillfully leaving Alex wondering just how often he’d had to do something of that nature. With a final admonishment to stay in bed or face the consequences, Erik left to get her dinner tray.
Glad he’d prepared the tray before entering the guest room, it didn’t take him long to return. He wasn’t too certain she’d remain where she was, promise or not. He couldn’t suppress a sigh of relief to find her exactly where he’d left her. Erik settled the tray over her lap and claimed the chair by her bed once more.
“I hope you don’t mind the company but there are a few things I need clarified concerning your little trip outside this morning.”
“I just wanted some fresh air and sunshine, that’s all.” Alex could feel the heat in her cheeks. “I know it wasn’t the most brilliant idea I’ve ever had, you don’t need to remind me. I had planned to go no further than the doorway.”
“Very well, I suppose I can understand that. And really, I’m surprised it took you so long; however, that doesn’t mean we need a repeat.”
“Yes, Papa,” Alex muttered under her breath sarcastically, chafing at his dictatorial attitude.
“Don’t be childish,” Erik’s murmur brought the heat back to her face as she realized how good his hearing was. “Who is Raoul?” He spat the name like it had given him a bad taste in his mouth.
“Who?” Frowning, she struggle to remember the name until her cell phone was placed on the dinner tray. “Oh, yes. Him. He came with the doctor who looked at Da’ud’s leg. I hope he’s not in training or anything since he spent the entire time trying to make me believe he was bowled over by my stunning beauty.” Alex couldn’t keep the sarcasm from her voice as she thought of the pushy intern.
“And you didn’t?” Erik’s golden eyes never wavered from her face. “Believe him, that is.”
“God, no!” She gave a sound that fell somewhere between a snort of disgust and a disbelieving laugh. “He was too pushy, too overflowing with complements, and too self-centered. Geez, I started to ask him if he had opinions on any subject besides himself.”
“So why give him your phone number?”
“Primarily to shut him up about it but also because I didn’t trust him. There was something about him…” Alex chewed on her bottom lip and frowned, trying to remember what had made her so uncomfortable around Raoul.
“I’m not sure I understand so do enlighten me. You didn’t trust him but you still gave him your number?” Erik frowned fiercely and made his disapproval quite plain.
“Well, yes. You can trace cell phone calls, right? If he’s one of the ones who killed Sam, then we might be able to find where they are. He seems quite persistent.” She tapped the phone’s screen to indicate the many text messages he’d already sent. “If that text that came from the killers can be traced to Raoul’s phone number then we’ll know he’s part of it. This way we can do something if he comes with the doctor the next time he checks on the detective.”
“Indeed.” Erik was impressed. It posed little danger to Alex and yet allowed her to be a part of catching the murderers if it all went as planned. “And what exactly do you propose we do with the boy if he comes back?”
“I dunno,” she gave a helpless shrug. “Extracting information was in your job description, I thought, not mine. I’m only here to decorate the furniture and make the coffee.” She was frustrated at not being able to do anything to help and it made her snappish and sarcastic.
“Don’t be a shrew.” He removed the now empty tray and set it on the dresser, pausing slightly before grabbing the sketch pad. “There is something else…” Flipping through to the page with the portrait of him unmasked, Erik turned and laid it in Alex’s lap. “When did you draw this?” His voice was soft and emotionless but his eyes captured hers and seemed to bore straight into her soul.
“I…I’m sorry, I should have asked your permission.” Alex tore her eyes from his to gaze down at the sketch. Her color was high once more but couldn’t stop her finger from tracing just outside the charcoal cheek. “I hope you don’t mind? I know I’m not a professional artist or anything so it’s not really very good and…”
“Alexandra,” His silky smooth voice cut through her nervous babbling and he gently turned her to face him. Alex slowly raised her eyes to his not knowing what to expect. He could be angry; it was a type of invasion of privacy, she supposed, to draw him without the mask. The soft glow in his amber eyes took her breath away. Then his lips were on hers gently, almost reverently, and her eyes fluttered closed as she savoured his kiss. When he raised his head, he smiled and traced her lips with his thumb. “Do not dismiss your talent, ma petite.”
A shiver ran the length of her body as his angelic voice flowed over her like warm honey. She could feel the heat in her cheeks and marveled at how he managed to make her blush more in the past week than she had in her life. Opening her eyes slowly, Alex drank in the nearness of his body, the utter manliness of every part of him. Erik was most definitely not soft nor effeminate anywhere and it made her blood sing. Glancing down at the sketch, she tried to think of what to say. How could she tell him that she wanted to capture at least some part of him before they were separated forever?
“Th…thank you. I drew it yesterday after…um,” biting her lip she decided the least she said about that, the better. “After lunch.” That, at least, was technically correct.
“Why?” The word hung in the air between them and Alex panicked searching for something say. When her mind stayed stubbornly blank, she chose the coward’s way out.
“I…um, I’d like to go back to sleep now. I’m really tired,” she closed the sketch book with shaky hands and laid it on the small table beside the bed. “Th…thank you for…um, for dinner.” His silence was starting to unnerve her and her mouth ran away again. “A…and for saving me. I don’t know what I would have done if…if you hadn’t come when you did but you don’t have to worry any more really; I’m not leaving the house again until it’s safe to do so because I’ve learned my lesson and…” Her nervous and hurried words were halted by the slight pressure of his finger across her lips.
“Shhh, hush now, ma petite,” he smiled at her once more before rising to his feet and moving towards the door. “I’ll let you rest for now but I will ask again and eagerly await your answer.” With a final smile Erik took the tray, eased out the door and closed it behind him with a soft click.

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