Alex waited for the click of the bedroom door before turning the taps. She was dying to take a shower and wash her hair and knew Erik would scold her for standing too long. Erik…he was as much an enigma to her now as when she first met him. He’d sat with her every day at the hospital, bringing a small portable keyboard so he could work on his opera, or simply talking to her about anything and nothing. Now that they were back at the Estate; however, he’d shut himself away in the Music Room and barely remembered to eat. When she mentioned it to him, he had simply shrugged and told her that he was highly focused right before rehearsals started. Alex had understood but a niggling doubt in the back of her head had her wondering if he had grown tired of her already.
Sitting on the edge of the bed to lace up her sneakers, Alex heard Erik’s light tread on the stairs and wished her heart didn’t race so at the mere thought of him. It was quite disconcerting to imagine him naked every time she saw him, especially when he refused to let her do anything about it. As annoyed as she was with her natural reaction to his nearness, she nonetheless gave him a smile of gratitude for the cup of hot, black coffee he placed in her hands. They spoke of commonplace things until their cups were empty and Alex felt a bit more human. Erik scooped her into his arms and carried her to the hated chair at the bottom of the stairs. She couldn’t wait to be rid of the blasted thing and sitting in it did nothing for her mood.
Erik had returned from placing their cups in the sink and caught the handles of the chair before she could wheel herself into the Library. Instead, he told her that he had a surprise for her and pushed the chair towards the Music Room. When they entered, Alex didn’t immediately notice anything different. The grand piano still took up most of one corner of the room and the walls were lined with built in book cases. Behind the piano, however, in the corner of the room with the best natural lighting in the house sat an easel complete with canvasses of many sizes, paints, pencils…everything she’d ever dream of needing or wanting in a studio. At first, she was rendered speechless. Was this why he wouldn’t let her in the Music Room? Turning in the chair to look up at him, she could see how nervous he was and couldn’t resist rising to throw her arms around him.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you! God, Erik…this is…wow. Amazing.” She pulled his head down to place a heated kiss on his lips, sighing happily when he slid his tongue along the seam of her mouth begging entrance.
Pulling back slightly with a shaky breath, Erik laid his forehead on hers and smiled down into her eyes. “You must let me know if there is anything I’ve forgotten, ma petite chère.” Alex nodded eagerly and pulled from his embrace to inspect the supplies he’d bought her.
Everything was of the highest quality, from the smallest erasers to the giant canvases. There were brushes in sizes she never even knew existed and the sheer variety of paint colors took her breath away. The lighting was perfect and the positioning of the supplies to the easel was precise and convenient. With another squeal of excitement, Alex threw herself into Erik’s arms again.
“Merry Christmas, Alexandra, mon amour chérie,” She gasped at the brilliance in his golden eyes and then she was drowning in his kiss. Unlike the heated passion they’d shared before, this time his lips touched hers gently, reverently, drawing her heart fully into his keeping and she gave it to him eagerly.
Erik pulled back slightly and caressed her cheek with the tips of his fingers, content to hold her and lose himself in her eyes. What was it about this female that tugged at his heart so desperately? She was almost as stubborn as he was, so full of fire and passion, and unbelievably, heart-wrenchingly beautiful. He could bask in the glow of her inner light for a lifetime and beyond and hoped he’d have the chance to do just that. With a final, gentle kiss, he guided his Alexandra back to her chair and sat at her desk holding her hands.
“You are an amazing artist, ma petite, and should have the opportunity to explore your talent as fully as you wish. I have cleared one of the spare rooms on the top floor for you to set up as a full studio should you so desire it. You may equip it with anything you feel you will need.” He smiled at her shock and couldn’t resist raising her hands to his lips. “I placed this small station here, however, out of pure selfishness. I simply cannot have you closeted away from me for hours at a time. I also hoped that you would be willing to work with me on my Don Juan as a designer and artist.”
“What?” Alex’s voice was little more than a whisper.
“There are several set pieces that will have to be custom made and I’d like for you to design them…”
“But, Erik, I don’t know a thing about designing for the theatre! I’m hobby artist, not a professional.”
“You, ma petite, are an amazing artist,” he smiled gently and tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear, “and I don’t want to hear another word to the contrary. You won’t have to work alone, either. The lead set designer and I will help you with whatever you need.”
Watching her nibble her lip as she mulled over his offer, Erik was tempted to kiss her until she agreed. He didn’t want to return to the theatre and leave her here during rehearsals; he greatly feared she’d not be here when he returned. If he could show her what his life was like when people weren’t shooting at them, perhaps she’d be more inclined to stay long enough for him to convince her they belonged together. And if that failed, he wasn’t above spiriting her away until she agreed.
“You flatter me, Erik, but…” she gripped his hands tight and would no longer meet his eyes.
“But nothing,” he frowned at her constant resistance, releasing her hands to stand at the window with his back to her. “You don’t want to work with me, is that it? I suppose now that the danger is over you’re ready to return to your life; a life without the monster. What waits for you there, Alexandra? A tiny apartment with faulty heating, a car that should have been sent to the junk yard years ago, and a job you will despise within weeks. Why can’t you…”
“Why can’t you shut up and let me get a word in edgewise!” Alex’s angry words drowned his out as she grabbed his arm and turned him around to face her. “Listen to me, Devereaux, and listen to me good. You. Are. Not. A. Monster!” Although it was like trying to move a cement pillar, she did her best to shake him as each word left her lips as a frustrated growl. “And if I ever, ever hear you call yourself that again, I will personally kick your sexy, toned ass. Do I have your attention now? Good. I would love to work in an artistic field, Erik, and it would be divine to work on something as incredible as your Don Juan; but I’m not a professional artist! I’ve had no training beyond what I’ve taught myself and absolutely no experience designing sets for a theater.” Taking a deep breath she released his arms to cup his cheeks in both her hands. “I simply don’t want to be placed in such a prominent position so very close to production when I have no idea what I’m doing. Let me understudy, or whatever set designers do, and advance as I gain confidence.”
Gazing into her pale green eyes, Erik acknowledged that she had a point though he was eager for everyone to be aware of her astounding talent. A smile played along the corners of his mouth as he pulled her into his arms, pressing her fully against the hard planes of body. His smile grew when she felt his body’s reaction to hers and blushed a bright red. His hand traced up and down her spine slowly, enjoying the feel of her.
“Very well, ma petite chère, I will see to an internship of sorts for you if you wish. I simply…I just want you with me, Alexandra. I don’t want to spend as much time as is needed during rehearsals without you by my side.” His voice was hesitant as he confessed one of the wishes in his heart.
“Oh, Erik!” Alex wrapped her arms tightly around him and buried her head against his chest to hide her tears of joy. She’d been so afraid he planned to leave her on the Estate nursing a broken heart while he went to the theater and into the arms of the beautiful actresses eager to be seen with such a handsome, successful composer. Perhaps if she went to the theater with him, worked with him, he’d see how good they were together. If not, at least she would have had more time with him. “I want to be with you, too.” He was thankful for his incredibly keen hearing; else he’d have missed her soft whisper. “For however long you’ll have me.”