Authors: Kailin Gow
The moment I opened my eyes I knew Kristine was back in control. I had known it moments before I’d collapsed on Eric and was thankful for the complete black out. At least it had stopped Eric from giving his affections to Kristine.
“Good morning.” Eric walked up to the bed and sat beside me. After setting a cup of coffee on the night table, he brushed the hair off my face. “I was beginning to wonder if you’d ever rise.”
“What time is it?”
“Late enough that you're going to have to rush to make your return to the stage.
But not enough that you can’t have coffee and a proper breakfast.”
“Why didn’t you wake me earlier?”
Kristine almost brought a frosty edge to my voice, but was quick to warm it up.
Eric brought his fingers to my forehead.
“You were beyond exhausted. I even feared you might be ill.” His fingers pressed tenderly against my temple. “You're warm.”
“Only because you're here, love.”
Kristine sat me up. I could feel the energy it took for her to hold all her vibrant sensuality still. But she managed it too well.
She turned away from him and by God if I didn’t feel my cheeks heat up with a blush.
“You gave me quite a fright.”
He gently kissed me and handed me my coffee. “You went out without warning.”
I’m so sorry.” Kristine took a sip of coffee, but I felt her tongue swirl around the unsweetened java. “I hope you don’t think I was toying with your desire.”
“Don’t worry. I know how dreadful these past days have been. It’s perfectly understandable. Now come.” He led her into the kitchen.
Eric had prepared a veritable feast and Kristine was prepared to take full advantage.
While she filled up on poached eggs and a few toasts, Eric watched with amusement.
I tried to find solace in the love I saw in his eyes, but being under Kristine’s hand again left me fearing for what was to come.
Remembering my penchant for muffins, Kristine plucked one out of the basket on the table and walked away, picking crumbs off and popping them in my mouth. She gazed at Eric to ensure he’d caught the confirming move. “I’d better get going.”
“I’ll bring you.” He walked up to me, gave me a quick kiss and winked. “I wouldn’t want you getting lost.”
My heart melted and I longed to kiss him forever. He was so incredibly handsome, and when he looked at me that way, I knew I wanted to be his for the rest of my life.
A warm sensation enveloped me and I knew that he was having the same effect on Kristine.
Was that what had appealed to her?
His great looks? But he’d been scarred back then. Had he always worn a mask when with her? Had she loved him despite the disfigurement?
When she arrived at the Met Kristine hesitated a moment before remembering where my dressing room was.
We crossed the path of a few cast members, but she haughtily ignored them and walked on.
I was devastated as she came upon Judy and turned away from her greeting, leaving Judy red-faced and huffing away.
She’s a friend. Can’t you at least say hello?
“She’s a two bit dancer in the show. As lead I hardly think it’s appropriate to cavort with such common performers.”
I wanted to knock her head into a wall.
How was I ever going to repair the rifts Kristine was creating?
She entered my dressing room and quickly slammed the door before heading to the rack of costumes. Yawning and thoroughly unimpressed by all of them, she flicked hanger after hanger, giving each gown a disdainful grimace.
“This shoddy workmanship would have never been tolerated in my day.”
She obviously had no idea what gown to wear for the first act.
It’s the green one with the billowy sleeves and scoop neckline.
“I know.” She yanked it off the rack and threw it on the back of the chair.
A gentle knock rapped at the door and while Kristine’s excitement grew, so did my apprehension.
The door creaked open and Aaron peered in. “Is my star back and ready to wow the crowds of
Kristine waved him in. “I’m so happy you came to see me before I went on. I’m worried about the effect my Christmas break might have had on my voice.”
Though he entered the room, he seemed reluctant to get close. Kristine took a step towards him and he backed away. “I’m sure you’ll do fine. Besides, the holiday crowd is always a bit more forgiving.”
While his eyes remained on me, his hand reached for the back of his head and he rubbed lightly.
The last time I’d seen him he was an unconscious heap on the floor. Did his head still hurt from the bump he received on the head from Chace?
“Chace was only trying to protect me, Aaron,” Kristine said. “I do hope you’ll forgive him.”
“I’ll admit if he wasn’t first chair violinist, he might have been out on the street.”
Kristine feigned sadness. “Please forgive him, Aaron. He’s young and meant no harm.”
She held an intense gaze on him. “You know, I really missed you, Aaron.”
He smiled and relaxed. “You’ve only been away a few days.” He chuckled and reached out for my hand.
Kristine eagerly accepted it and pulled him closer.
“I was hoping you’d missed me as well.”
His smile broadened and he pulled me into his arms. “You know me too well, Annette. I thought of little else since I last saw you.”
Her voice remained soft and lacked the heavy sexual undertone she was apt to use.
She brought my hands to play along the nape of his neck and up into his hair. “Then I guess my Christmas wish came true.”
“You know, I was thinking… I was hoping…” He seemed uncharacteristically nervous and unsure.
This confident business man, impresario and man of the world
shaky in my presence. Or was it Kristine who was affecting him so?
“I was hoping you’d like to join me.
I’m flying to
A long forgotten memory.
I felt Kristine’s longing.
“I go every spring to visit my family, but I’ve been longing to go with you. It’s breathtaking in the winter, and so romantic. I know you would love it.”
“It does sound wonderful.
But what about the show?”
“We’d leave for only a number of days.
Besides, I’d like to bring you to the Paris Opera House.
I think it could be an excellent learning experience for you.
Not only are they opening a spectacular new opera, but I’d like you to see for yourself the ingenuity of my ancestors. When my great grandfather had the House constructed, it was an absolute marvel of engineering and design… and the acoustics – simply to die for.”
“You make it sound splendid, Aaron.”
Kristine nodded and tilted up to kiss Aaron. “I’d love to go to Paris with you. I’d go anywhere with you. These past days have been a rush of confusion and fatigue and I’d love to get away from it all.”
He kissed my lips, hesitant and wary. “You constantly surprise me, my sweet Annette.”
“These days apart have only made me realize just how much you mean to me.” Kristine kissed him, passionately drawing him in and enveloping him with my arms.
Aaron’s resistance faltered and he held me tight, crushing my breasts to his chest.
Kristine pulled away and reached down to the hem of my shirt, preparing to pull it off.
“You’ve no idea how I’ve longed for you.”
Aaron regained his professional composure and stilled my hands.
“And I you, my love.
But you’ve a performance and little time to prepare.”
“The consummate professional, even in the light of excruciating passion.”
Kristine did a good job of hiding the intensity of her disappointment.
“Your performance will be interestingly enhanced,” he said with a wicked smile.
“Care to stay and watch as I become the famed Adelle.” Though she maintained a sweet and innocent tone to my voice, I felt the power of her passion grow. She put her hand to the green gown and fingered the garment in a seductive fashion. The woman could bring sensuality to virtually any movement she made.
“Tempting, I assure you.” Aaron swallowed and his eyes dipped to my breasts. “But I have little faith in my ability to control myself much longer.”
Kristine was elated by this admission and the look of hunger in his eyes.
He nodded in salutation and put his hand to the doorknob. “I’ll make arrangements for our trip.”
The moment he stepped out the door I felt the celebration in Kristine’s heart. She was positively euphoric and I couldn’t understand the depth of her joy. Why was this trip with Aaron so vital to her?
She hurried to pull the shirt over her head and step out of her jeans.
A shuffling sound from behind the dressing screen caught her attention and she swirled around, my eyes wide and my lips parted to scream. While her stance spoke of fear, I felt her confidence and glee, almost her anticipation.
Eric emerged from behind the screen, his eyes dark and menacing as I’d never seen before.
“Eric,” Kristine said in a soft and demure tone that was very much my own. She even brought the green gown before me in a chaste move to cover my seminude body. “What are you doing here?”
“I’d promised to watch over you, to assure Kristine didn’t return,” he hissed. “I wasn’t quite prepared to see Aaron return into your life so quickly.”
“E… Eric… I….” Kristine did a marvelous job of fidgeting, blushing and stammering. “I work for Aaron and he has my complete career in his hands. It’s important I maintain a good relationship with him.”
I fought to say a word, just one word that would tell Eric that Kristine had returned.
“This is has nothing to do with your career.” The words were spat with such hatred, I cringed.
Going there and seeing the Paris Opera House, seeing a true French opera is an experience I’ll never forget. I can’t simply let it go by.”
“Why won’t you simply admit that it’s Aaron you want?” he bellowed. His fists were tight. While he’d warned me of his capacity for anger and violence, I’d never seen it brought about as it was now. “You’ve always said he was the one for you and only he could make you truly happy.”
Kristine winced internally, but she kept a façade of shock and dismay. Had those words been meant for her or for me? Was he reliving his tumultuous time with her?
She glanced at the floor, solemn and thoughtful then raised her gaze to him. “I’m sorry, Eric. You’re right. I… I guess I just haven’t yet admitted to myself how much I truly care for Aaron.”
Don’t believe her.
Please, can't you see that she’s back?
He stepped forward, his eyes black and his lips grim. His dark hair cascaded down his shoulders and framed his face in an eerie fashion, adding a demonic dimension to his wrath. With his eyes firmly locked on mine, he reached for my neck, as though possessed. Deliberately strong and forceful, he held me at arm’s length, his thumb playing over my throat.