Toulouse didn't seem to have the courage to ask her anything as she clung to his legs. He could not stop staring. Since when did beautiful actresses fall in love with him? It tended to be the other way around. Yet, her eyes seemed to be sending him the same message he'd often conveyed to others. Did she really love him?

"Toulouse! I love you! I adore you! You are the single most perfect person on this Earth for me; please I'm not lying. I. Love. You." Pearl cried in exasperation. Usually he constantly talked, but now he was plagued by silence.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a small hand with painted nails yank the staring Argentinean from the room. Pearl would have to thank Nini for that later.

"Why?" Toulouse finally managed to ask, feeling quite flustered.

"Because you're a talented painter, you believe in the Bohemian ideals, you have the most beautiful eyes, you can see people for what they are, you made me feel wanted, you give everyone hope, you make people laugh and smile, you are truly adorable and sweet.should I go on?" She teased lightly, seeing how red he was.

"Yes." Toulouse replied with a smile. Never in his life had he felt so happy to be around someone. He'd ached for love his whole life, and he could not be sure this was it.

"Well I won't. Your head will get too big." Pearl replied with a wide smile, before smothering him in kisses. And with a jolt, she realized she shouldn't. She was to see The Duke tonight.

"Will mademoiselle Pearl join me for dinner tonight?" Toulouse asked, unaware of her all ready set dinner plans. Shaking her head she replied with a soft no. She saw him sadden and quickly explained about The Duke.

"Zidler is sending you to a dinner with him?" Toulouse asked in disbelief, the same look Christian had had now in his eyes.

"Yes. I heard the story about Satine, but don't worry. Nothing will happen!" She assured him, hugging him tightly. Something inside of her told her not to, seeing, as she couldn't as long as the Duke was around.

"I have to go now." Pearl added in a reluctant voice and quickly bolted from the room. She worried that Toulouse may follow her so she went zooming down the stairs. The long trail of her skirt caught on a loose plank, and she accidentally stepped on it. Wavering uncertainly, she began to fall.

"I told you to be careful." A deep voice told her. Two hands held her about an inch from the ground.

"You should listen to people's advice." Warner added as he stood her up. Pearl could only manage to not scream and run away.

"Pearl! You look lovely." The Duke's nasal voice said from behind Warner. He stepped around his servant, flashing her a disgusting smile. Wearing an exotic looking green suit and top hat, he reminded her of a frog. She wished he was a frog, and she could step on him. Squish! And take the deeds to the Moulin away from the squished frog, yes, that would be lovely. Except she might ruin her high-heels, but that was fine by her.

"So do you my dear Duke." She replied with a purr in her voice and a smile on her lips.

"Yes, well, I thought I would pick you up for the dinner tonight at the gothic tower. Zidler told you about it, correct?" The Duke asked, tapping his fingers at his side.

"Yes. I have to say I was quite excited. Everyone has told me so much about you and I've been dying to meet you." Pearl replied. The Duke seemed to brighten at this, and again showed her his yellowing teeth in another smile.

"What exactly did they say?" He asked coyly, with a ridiculous smirk on his face. Pearl wished she could tell him, but she had to lie. Maybe later she'd tell him they said he was a horrible singing, frog stomping, and unattractive, temperamental, evil man-whore. Maybe not.

"Oh. The girls were just saying what the looker you were. They said you were very muscular, handsome, sweet, and very caring person. Some of them told me how you charmed that girl Satine." She replied, making sure to pour on the sugar. The Duke looked quite pleased with himself until he thought of Satine. He hadn't known she actually had liked him. How sweet of the naïve little thing, even if she was dead now.

"Yes, well, they did leave out a few things." The Duke joked, chuckling aloud. Pearl also began laughing, but not for the same reason. Taking this as a good signal, the Duke extended his hand.

"To the tower." He said, as Pearl reluctantly slid her hand into his. Involuntarily shuddering against his rough touch and sweaty palms, he mistook it for something else.

"Yes my dear, we will have a great time all of tonight. The staff has taken care of tidying up the guest suite." The Duke said in a whispery voice. She wished to throw-up and wondered why Zidler hadn't told her this would be a sleepover. Sleeping in the tower would not be fun.

"I can't wait." She returned in a sugarcoated voice.

"Dear Duke, I must say this dinner was superb." Pearl complimented as the last of the waiters whisked away remaining plates. Although Pearl hated the Duke even more after their dinner conversation, she was determined as ever to get the deeds to the Moulin.

"Yes, my chef can manage to cook quite well on occasion." The Duke replied. For him, he was more attracted to Pearl than he had been to Satine. With Satine it had been lust, but with this one, it was more. She was not as beautiful, but her overwhelming personality sparkled more than Satine's beauty ever had.

Pearl gazed at him, and nearly recoiled when she saw this 'lovey- dovey' look take over his eyes. She knew he had fallen for her, and she knew he was now an expert on her past. At least the fake past she'd told him. Perhaps now would be the time to ask that question?

"My dear duke, you know Zidler would really love it if you were to, perhaps, give back the deeds to the Moulin. You don't really need it anyhow, seeing as you're so rich. I'm sure it just eats up time that you could spend doing other things on." Pearl said, trying to put as much purr in her voice as possible. The words lingered on the air, like a bad smell, and she thought he wouldn't even reply.

"Perhaps, yes, that would be a grand idea my dear Pearl." The Duke replied in a husky whisper that made him sound like a grizzly bear with a headcold. His mind was whirring as he recalled how quickly Satine had turned on him. But she was just a whore, after all, he thought. This one was much more.

"I think it would make for a good discussion in the morning. But in the meantime, we could get some sleep." He added, still sounding like a sick grizzly bear. Tensing up, Pearl smiled at him and tried to convince herself that he would not do anything.

The Duke led her to a large, rather drab, bed. Expecting him to leave and let her fall asleep, he slid right into bed. Disgusting, but not unexpected. Changing in a hiding spot behind a dresser, she slipped under the sheets next to him. His breath was a bizarre mixture of garlic, sweat, onion, cheese, and an afterthought of peppermint.

Smiling as sweetly as she could, she closed her eyes and tried to sleep. For a half-hour his slightest movement sent her heart beating wildly, but he tried nothing. Soon they were both deep in dreams.

The Dukes night time visions were of Pearl and him, together. Her looking elegant and radiant in a silk wedding gown, and him the very definition of handsome in a smart black tuxedo. In Pearl's sleep, she was haunted by nightmares. Visions of Zidler dragging her away from Toulouse and plopping her right in the Duke's lap. If she tried getting up, the Duke would stop her, and finally killed Toulouse so she'd behave.

She jolted awake when the bullet struck Toulouse, and found the Dukes face an inch from hers. Uttering a soft cry of disgust she scooted away, mistakenly awakening the Duke. He awoke with a dreamy smile on his face, and soon they were back at the table eating breakfast.

"My dear Pearl. I have thought of an answer to your request last night. You are quite right on all accounts, and I think I will give Zidler back his depressing old theater. Just one condition." He said, his voice being what the sick bear's would be after a few bottles of undiluted absinthe. The Duke's fingers quivered with excitement and tapped restlessly on the tabletop, Pearl noted.

"Which is.?" Pearl asked in a whisper. Every part of her body was screaming at the Duke, demanding to know what the condition was, except her tongue. He smiled mischievously, which only made her disgusted, not the effect he'd wanted.

"You come to live with me in the new America."