Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chapter 28

Oct. 20 –8:30pm

            Once she was finished with the sketch of Raoul, she tore it from the pad so Da’ud could fax it to his friends in both the police department and the Agency. Though there had been no luck tracing the supposed intern’s name, it was hoped the portrait might jar someone’s memory. At least she had done something to help out. They had also contacted some people to do some stealthy digging into European Electronics to see if there were any other known employees or associates. Most of the discussion had descended into cross-referencing the data and making lists of those they felt were the most trustworthy. Staring down at the blank page of her sketch pad, she glanced quickly at the two men and wondered if they’d notice she was no longer listening. Biting her lip, she knew she had to draw him as he was tonight: casual, relaxed and yet somehow still intense. The pull of sketching Erik was strong so she settled into the sofa and started with her favorite feature: his eyes. Whoever said that the eyes were the windows to the soul had described Erik’s perfectly. When he was unguarded, she could see so much passion in them that it was nearly frightening in its intensity. She wondered what it would be like to be graced with the affections of such a man.
            Slowly, she became more and more absorbed with the portrait and tuned out the men’s conversation. Wanting to capture every facet of the enigma known as Erik Devereaux, she drew him with the black half-mask. It could lend him such a frightening aura but most of the time he simply exuded a sensual mystery that commanded attention. It was that sensuous, dark, passionate side she wanted to put to paper. His hair was mussed like he’d run his hands through it several times or just crawled out of bed. She could feel her cheeks heating up as she wondered what he’d look like first thing in the morning; did he sleep in the nude? Smiling faintly as she indulged in “what ifs,” Alex wasn’t aware she was humming softly until Erik called her name.
            “Yes?” She blinked owlishly, wondering what she’d missed. “I’m sorry, I was…um…occupied.” She quickly closed the sketch book and placed it and her pencils on the sofa beside her. Looking around, she noticed they were alone in the room.
            “The daroga was tired from being on his feet so much today and so has retired early. I caught your attention, Alexandra, because I was wondering what you were humming? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it before.” Erik’s eyes lingered on the sketch pad some seconds after she’d closed it before raising them to capture hers.
            “Oh…” Alex blushed faintly. How did he always manage to ask the most embarrassing questions? “It’s just a pop song, Erik, nothing worthy of someone with your talent, I’m sure.”
            “Try me.” He moved to the chair Da’ud had vacated and pulled it closer to the sofa. Leaning back, he wondered what kind of song brought the color to Alex’s lovely cheeks.
            “No!” She bit her lip as she thought frantically. There had to be a way out of this; there was no way she could tell him the words to that song! “I told you I was a terrible singer, Erik, and I’m sure you have work to do.” Erik chuckled and reached over to the desk for the laptop.
            “I’m sure you can find it online, correct? And just to be clear, you’re not going to bed, getting dinner, or anything else to evade my questions this time, ma petite. We shall touch on the sketch book in a moment but first…the song, if you please.”
            Alex took the machine automatically but prayed the sofa would come to life and simply swallow her whole. Glancing up, she knew she’d not get out of this. He was relaxed and friendly but there was a steely determination beneath it all that let her know she was trapped. Typing in the URL for YouTube, she located the song and clicked on play. When the lovely voice of Amy Belle sang through the speakers, Alex gave the laptop back to Erik but refused to look at him.

“Close your eyes what do you see on the inside?
A long remembered memory of tears once cried
Of a different place and a different time
And it’s long ago and far away on the other side
Tomorrow was yesterday
The truth was denied
In a different place and a different time

And we’re here, now
All you have to know is I am close
And I will never go
I understand all the pain you’ve been through
If you hear nothing else, hear this:
I love you”

            As the song continued, Alex felt the sofa dip under Erik’s weight as he moved to sit facing her. He reached for her sketch book and turned it to the portrait she’d been working on that night. She clasped her hands tightly in her lap as she fought back tears. The song laid bare feelings she was still trying to sort through for herself; feelings she never intended for him to know.

“Through it all and in between
A voice from the past
In your days and in your dreams
A question to ask
Do you know how it feels to be under the wheels?

And we’re here, now
All you have to know is I am close
And I will never go
I understand all the pain you’ve been through
If you hear nothing else, hear this:
I love you”

            She winced at the reminder of his past and the woman he loved. Having held onto his memories of Christine for five long years, Alex knew better than to imagine she could draw him to her in a mere week. Why oh why did she have to hum that particular song? One mortified tear inched its way down her heated cheek. She could only hope that he was too distracted with the song and the sketchbook to notice this further humiliation.

“Your hard times are over
Your long roller coaster ride
Draws to an end
Now that your mine

And we’re here, now
All you have to know is I am close
And I will never go
So sorry for all the pain you’ve been through
If you hear nothing else, hear this:
I love you

Close your eyes what do you see on the inside?”

            When the song faded away, the silence in the room was oppressive. Alex knew that if she tried to say anything she’d only embarrass herself more and, really, what could she say? It wasn’t like the song was very subtle, after all. Chewing on the inside of her cheek, she reached for her sketch pad with shaking hands. She wanted nothing more than to hide in the bedroom and die of shame. When Erik refused to release the book to her, she could feel that tiny thread of control fraying. Caring only for the sanctuary of her room, she stood to flee the Library and cry in solitude.
            Quickly, Erik stood with a faint growl of frustration and swept her into his arms. He kicked the door closed behind him and lit the small bedside lamp. He could feel her body trembling with silent tears; so instead of laying her on the bed alone, he stretched out and held her close to him. As he stroked her hair gently, he was struck speechless by the possible meanings of her humming such a tune while she sketched him. Did she really care so much for him or was she simply clinging to whatever was safe and steady in her chaotic life? If that was so, wouldn’t she have drawn at least one picture of the detective? He knew she felt something for him, their kisses in the Music Room proved that. But how deep did her feelings go? And what did he feel for her?         
“It was a beautiful song, ma petite.” Erik whispered softly against her hair as he planted a soft kiss to her head. “Nearly as beautiful as you. Will you answer me now, Alexandra? Why mar so much beauty with drawings of a beast?” He tapped the sketch pad that was laying beside him.
            “What?!” Alex sat up quickly to gape at him in shock only to collapse against his chest as pain shot through her side. “You are not a beast, Erik; a moody, temperamental, enigmatic, sexy pain in my ass, maybe, but never a beast.”

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