Dark Memories (The Phantom Diaries, #2) (3 page)

BOOK: Dark Memories (The Phantom Diaries, #2)
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I knew Annette, and she was not at all like Kristine. Kristine would tempt me. She would try to anger me. I must not succumb to her emotional games. I would be cordial and kind, the perfect gentleman.
Kill her with kindness
. That was my strategy.

For now she looked as sweet and innocent as any angel.
 
Her eyes closed in slumber and her lips just barely parted with a hint of a smile that spoke of the dream she seemed caught in.
 
Her hand was clasped tightly about the woolen blanket that warmed her and for a moment it was clearly Annette I saw sleeping so soundly and not Kristine. Perhaps in sleep Kristine’s hold was not as strong. I could only hope.

With my thoughts on the feast I would prepare for breakfast, I rose and made my way to the kitchen. This would be the romantic breakfast I’d thought of preparing the morning Annette had spent the night in my arms so many nights ago.
 
How sweet, virginal and yet passionate she’d been.
 
Her beauty gripped me at my core, but it was her charm and gentle nature that truly captured my heart.
 
Romantic gestures would have been premature at that time – too much too soon – and I had set the notion far in the recesses of my mind.

Despite its chaste nature, that night held a cherished place in my memory, in my heart.
 
Her innocence and her passion; her pride and humility; her fear and her strength; she’d mesmerized me and I had fought to keep from ravaging her. My love for her could only bring her pain; my jealous rage could destroy her.

While carrying her back to her apartment early that morning had been difficult, I knew it was the only choice I had.
 
Her budding love for me had already become evident in her eyes, in her touch and in her increased desire to be with me, but logic had won over temptation.
  
Though deep in my heart I’d wanted to hold her, to warm her and to care for her, I knew better. My solace had come in knowing that she was clearly an independent and capable young woman.

New York
was hers to discover, to charm and to own. Her strength would carry her through the most challenging of obstacles.

Or so I’d thought.

It saddened me to think that despite her incredible strength she’d fallen prey to Kristine.
 
In hindsight, perhaps I should have kept her at my side.

No sense dwelling on that now.
 
A solution was what I needed, not regret.

I whipped up an omelet, roasted up small cubes of potatoes and prepared a fresh fruit salad. My plans had to look to the future and the future was in greeting Kristine or Annette, whoever awoke first.

When the aroma of fresh brewed coffee wafted through the air and announced the new day, Annette wandered into the dining area. Disheveled and more alluring than ever, she sat at the table and eyed me with interest.
 
She’d borrowed a thick and warm robe and though barely an inch of skin was visible, she was still the most erotic creature I’d ever seen.

“Good morning,” I said. I poured her a cup of coffee.


Bonjour, Mon amour
.”

I hid my disappointment as I set the cup before her. So it would be Kristine after all.
 
Remembering her penchant for what was
sweet,
I dropped two spoonfuls of sugar in her cup and a soupcon of cream.


Merci
.
 
I’m flattered to see you recall how I enjoy my coffee.”

“As I recall, you also enjoy a rather hearty breakfast.”
 

As I returned to the stove to dish out the small feast, I marveled at the difference between Kristine and Annette. How could one woman be so filled with hate and deceit while the other displayed such love and compassion?
 
Knowing of the love I now felt for Annette, the sweet yet proud young woman who carried herself with all the nobility and strength of
a woman years
older, it was difficult to comprehend how I could have once given my heart to a woman as vile as Kristine could be.

Immaturity, I concluded. My insecurities and my need to love and be loved had blinded me to the true colors Kristine hid so well behind a veil of passion and sensuality. Her touch had always held the power to entice me, beguile me.

For all of Annette’s chaste ways and pure honesty, I’d tasted a hint of the passion she was also capable of. I fervently hoped to taste it again.

“Hope you're hungry,” I said.

She looked at her plate with pleasure, but the smile she directed at me clearly displayed where her true hunger lied. “Annette appears to be famished for the feast you’ve prepared. I, on the other hand, would be all too happy to feast on something else entirely.”

“I’ve no doubt.” Though I tried to sound virile and passionate, I heard a tinge of disdain in my words. Kristine…
still
a seductress…

Nonetheless, she turned her attention to her meal.

Mmm
.
C’est
délicieux
.
I see you’ve learned a few things over the years. As I remember your cooking was disastrous when last I saw you. But your loving attention to detail has not changed. This fruit salad is perfection.”

I smiled and ignored her reference to our past. With no desire to reminisce, I sat across from her and concentrated on my breakfast. It killed me to know that Kristine was controlling Annette’s every move. And yet there was no way to battle what Kristine was doing other than to play along with her.
Kill her with kindness.

“I left this earth far too young, Eric, and the chance to lead my life as I should have
was
taken away from me.”

I nodded.

“Maybe that’s why you were raised so chaste and demure, dear Annette,” she went on.

My heart jumped to my throat at the thought of Kristine communicating with Annette.
 

“They didn’t want you to come to the same dishonorable end your
Tante
Kristine did.”

Her eyes became shadowed with sadness.
 
Whether it was Kristine showing a degree of remorse or Annette filtering through, I couldn’t be sure. Her gaze remained distant and solemn for a long moment and I wanted to reach out to console her… both of them.

“Wealth was all my family ever coveted, all they strived for, though admittedly not always in the most honorable way,” she whispered. She brought her eyes to mine, the eyes that were distinctly Kristine’s. “But then, how many among us become wealthy in a way that could completely be considered honorable? The Aragons were hardly rich due to hard labor and a strong work ethic. Rupert had spent all his days in the most leisurely fashion. His body knew not the ache of eking out a living through toil.
 
In an entire year he didn’t work as much as my mother had in one day.”

With a mind of its own, my hand reached out to take hers.

“All I ever wanted was to prove to my mother that I was capable of making something of myself; of pulling myself out of the misery that was our gypsy way of life. I’d wanted food in my belly when I’d lain down to sleep. I’d yearned for a home that wasn’t rat infested and filthy. I’d wanted the world to gaze upon me with anything other than pity and contempt.”

“I’m so sorry for all that has been brought upon you. No one should ever have to live such pain,” I said. My sorrow ran deep for both Kristine and Annette.
 
Kristine for having been so blinded with her need to better her life and Annette for now suffering the ire of Kristine’s failed attempts at riches. “For too many years I lived with the pain of physical scars so deeply etched on my face that they affected my mind to the point of blinding me to all else. My happiness was hindered by those ghastly scars… the happiness I could have had with the woman I love.” I brought her fingers to my lips and tenderly kissed her warm skin.

Our quiet moment of contemplation was quickly brought to an end with a sardonic chuckle. I glanced up into her eyes and knew the cynical and vengeful Kristine had returned.
 
The warm fingers that had enchanted me just seconds earlier now felt vile and putrid in my hand. I released my hold of her and hid my displeasure.

Her lips curved maniacally with whatever plot she had in mind. One could almost see the triumph glistening in her eyes as she foresaw the success of that mysterious plot.

I’d tossed in my sleep as a good portion of the night had been spent trying to find the motivation for her appearance in
New York
.
 
How long had she been here, following me, watching me? Did she simply want to seduce me?
 
Was revenge on the
Aragons
still on her mind? Or did she have a whole new purpose for possessing Annette’s body?

My eyes never left hers as I tried to understand. Was Annette far in there? Could she see me? Hear me? Was she fighting? Or was she already dying?

Picking out a piece of pineapple from the fruit salad with her fingers, Kristine gazed wantonly at me as she licked the sweet juices from her fingertips. “This is pure heaven,
Mon amour
,” she said with a smile that declared how far from heaven her soul deserved to be.

“Have you taken in
New York
at all?” I
asked,
eager to speak and think of anything other than her ruse.

The hand that held her fork aloft was relaxed and completely at ease. Kristine seemed completely at home here, as though we’d never been apart. She scanned my home, scrutinizing and appraising. Her brow rose expressing her surprise or appreciation for the Van Gogh that graced the wall behind me. A Ming vase rested on a marble pedestal in the corner and her appraising eye lingered.


New York
is a bore and a poor attempt to rise to all the pomp, theatrics and glory that
Paris
has always been. What possible good could come of walking the bleak and gray streets of this cold city?”

“I felt very much as you do when I first arrived. I spent years simply wandering the underground tunnels and never daring to see the light of day. New York had little more to offer me than a convenient escape from Paris.”

“Yet you’ve remained here for over a century. I take it something came to interest you along the way.”

“Let me show you. Finish your breakfast and I’ll take you to a few of my favorite places.”

Her eyes narrowed and her lips took on a seductive turn. “I remember the place that was once your favorite.”
 
She reached out to take my hand. “As I recall, it was also my favorite. Do you remember, Eric? Have you missed those nights you spent in my arms, in my legs, in my soul?”

Fighting the sneer that worked its way to my lips, I resisted the comment that instantly came to mine regarding her soul.
Play nice
, I reminded myself.
 

“I do, and I have; many, many times.
 
You are a woman difficult to forget. In fact, you inspired a great number of songs I’ve written over the years.” I gave her hand a tender squeeze and hoped Annette understood what I was trying to do.

“Ah,” Kristine groaned with a satisfied smile. “I must admit it pleases me to hear that, Eric.
Very much.”

“I knew it would.” The nature of the songs she’d inspired would remain my secret. Far from being ballads of love, she’d brought out in me a rage of hard and heartless songs of betrayal and a complete disregard for the heart.
 
“And the
New York
that I will share with you will please you as well. Trust me.”

 

Chapter 2

 

Kristine followed me to my room where I’ve had half my closet filled with Annette’s clothes. Though eager to leave for his much deserved time off, Abner, my butler, brought as many of Annette’s things over late last night, and I was pleased to see he had done a remarkable job arranging Annette’s clothes, accessories and shoes.

BOOK: Dark Memories (The Phantom Diaries, #2)
11.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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