Oct. 24 – 5:00am
The sound of the garage door closing pulled Alex from a fitful sleep. Unfortunately, her nightmares had not fled with her fever; in fact, they seemed to have gotten worse, more graphic and painful. She had jerked awake several times already and, when she looked at the clock, gave up on getting any more rest. She could hear Erik climbing the stairs to his room and wondered how his meeting had gone. Though Da’ud hadn’t come right out and admitted it, she’d deduced easily enough that he was meeting Christine. Alex wiped the tears from her cheeks angrily. She had always known she didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell with the gorgeously sexy composer but it still hurt. Thinking of her nightmares, she again turned to possible ways to end things with minimum risk to the detective or Erik.
Rising slowly, she moved to the bathroom to shower while still mulling over the problem of quickly wrapping things up so she could leave and try to get over Erik. Alex emerged from the shower clean, energized, and determined to follow through on her plan. She pulled out underwear, a comfortable pair of low-rise jeans, and an old sweater and dressed quickly. She decided not to pack anything as she was going to the Lake House after dropping off the thumb drive and she had plenty of clothing there. She gazed longingly at her sketchbook but backed away to grab her purse. It would be too painful to have reminders of what could never be.
She slipped out the door and listened for a moment but all was quiet. Erik must have gone straight to bed. As quietly as she could, Alex stepped into the Library to get the drive. Every sound made her jump and question her good sense at sneaking off like a thief. Then she’d close her eyes and the images from her nightmares returned and with them came new determination to finish this and keep those she cared for out of danger. Stopping by the kitchen, she silently apologized to Erik as she lifted a set of keys from the rack. She could only hope he didn’t charge her with grand theft when all was done. The jingling of the keys sounded unnaturally loud in the quiet house and she stopped to listen. Nothing. She gave a sigh of relief and nearly giggled at her nervousness. She finally made it into the garage and was just about to press the auto-unlock button on the key ring when a gloved hand covered her mouth while another snaked around her waist in a vice-like grip.
She was going to be the death of him yet. Erik hadn’t long been home when he realized he hadn’t eaten lunch or dinner and soundlessly made his way down the stairs into the kitchen. When he heard Alex’s shower, he briefly wondered why she was up so early but, as she’d slept most of the last three days, it was understandable. That was until he heard her in the Library. He was willing to let it pass that she was walking around yet again while recovering from a gunshot wound until he heard the desk drawer close. She wasn’t just getting a book, then. Erik had a crazy thought and dashed into the garage before she could see him. If he was wrong, he’d only lose time. If he was right, well…he may just kill her yet.
Unfortunately for Erik, he was correct. He was also beyond furious. After everything he’d done for the chit, she was going to sneak out in the middle of the night? Not bloody likely! Gazing down at the squirming woman in his arms, he wondered what it was going to take to make her take her injury seriously. It was times like this that made him wish he’d built a dungeon under the house.
“Cease your fidgeting, woman,” he snapped as he tightened his grip around her waist while still being careful of her wound. “It seems that somewhere there is a breakdown in our communication. I believe you were told time and again to stay off your feet while you recuperate and, though I knew the daroga would release you the moment I was gone, you even bore the consequences of disobeying.” Alex risked a glance into his eyes and trembled at the fire she saw in his glowing, golden eyes. “So, I cannot even comprehend why I find you sneaking around my home and about to steal one of my cars.”
Releasing her only long enough to scoop her up and into his arms, Erik stalked back into the house and up the stairs. When Alex realized they were headed to his bedroom, she opened her mouth to protest. The glare she received from those amber eyes disintegrated the words in her throat. He entered the bedroom and kicked the door shut behind them enveloping the room in darkness. Erik strode over to the bed and dropped her in the center with a growl.
“Move from that spot and you will regret it, Alexandra.” Wisely, she froze and barely dared to breathe. “Where were you going?”
“What the hell is your problem, Devereaux?” She knew she was pushing her luck but she wasn’t going to back down to his bullying tactics. “If I’m not mistaken, we are still in the US which means I am still free to go wherever I want! You are neither my father nor my husband so you really don’t have a say in what I do or where I go.” Truly pissed off, Alex tried to roll off the bed for a suitably stormy exit. It didn’t quite work as planned.
“Do not push me, Alexandra; you will not like the results,” like the ocean in a hurricane, his voice crashed and roiled with suppressed fury. Erik caught her before she could land a single foot on the floor. Crawling onto the bed, he loomed over her with knees straddling her thighs and a hand on either side of her head to prevent an escape. Alex thought his faintly glowing eyes were the most frightening things she’d ever seen … and the most beautiful. They seemed to pull her in and, when he repeated his question, the words whispered through her ears like thunder. “Where?”
“To…to the opera house,” her voice was barely a whisper and she couldn’t look away though her mind screamed for her to run. “This has to end. I can’t stay here like this any longer.” Erik drew back as if he’d been slapped.
“Is it really so distasteful for you here, Ms. Roberts?”
“No…not distasteful. Painful.” Alex listened to her words with a growing sense of horror. Desperately she tried to break free from his gaze, afraid she would say something she had no intentions of revealing.
“Painful, ma petite?” Erik wasn’t about to let that go without an explanation and so his voice oozed persuasion. Never taking his eyes from hers, he slowly lowered his head until she could feel his warm breath on her face. His lips fluttered softly over hers as he spoke and her body ached to close those last few millimeters of space.
“Yes,” her breathing had accelerated in anticipation and she stretched up to close the gap between them only to be held firmly to the bed. She whimpered in frustration. “Erik…please.” Fire flashed in his eyes as he watched her strain against his hold; my God, she had passion to rival his own.
“Answer me, ma petite chère, answer and you shall be rewarded.” Erik let his fingers glide lightly along her cheek and over her lips. His brain misfired when all the blood rushed elsewhere at the feel of her soft tongue darting out for a taste and he almost lost his hold on her will.
“It’s…it’s torture to want what you know you cannot have.” Her skin was on fire and the only thing that could quench the flames was his touch.
“ERIK!” The awkwardly hurried step of the detective followed the shout as he made his way to pound frantically at the bedroom door. “Erik! She’s gone! Alex is gone!” He felt his lips twitch slightly. At any other time, it would be vastly amusing. At the moment, however, he was not amused whatsoever. With a growl of impatience, he rolled off the bed and approached the door.
“Daroga! I am quite proud of the sturdiness of my home but please refrain from destroying my door.” He jerked it open before the detective could subject them to more pounding and stepped aside with a gesture towards the bed. “As you can see, Alexandra is quite safe.” To Erik’s annoyance, Da’ud limped in quickly and sat next to her on the bed.