My Dearest Reader:

At first you may find the details in this story shocking, terrible. Erik does have a terrible temper at first, and you might be frightened for Christine. Nevertheless, worry not for her safety; he would never truly wish her harm her. After all - the Opera Ghost protects what is his. Now I must venture into the dark world of this story. Do you wish to come? You are most welcome to it.

Your Humble Servant,

Dove of Night


I can't remember when I met him. I was almost sixteen, a social butterfly. If they had a mouth and could speak my language, I would strike up conversation. Sometimes I would even attempt the same with someone who couldn't speak my language. I wasn't terribly difficult to please.

Given my popularity, I suppose it's no small wonder that I cannot recall when I met him. I should…those eyes of his, they're so intelligent and piercing that they burn straight to the soul. Nonetheless, I have no recollection of our first meeting.

However, he appears to have perfect clarity.

That first meeting was when the Phantom of the Opera fell in love with me.


Our first meeting wasn't a high point of Christine's life. She probably wouldn't remember it if she were asked. I remember every detail.

It was exceedingly warm in the ballroom, where the gala was taking place. I don't know why I insisted on venturing to the social events of the Opera house, but occasionally my own company became droll. I could drive myself mad with my incessant mental chatter. Anyway, back to the topic – it was hot. I was uncomfortable in my heavy black cloak and fine suit. I tended to use my most expensive one for frivolous events such as this.

I had been contemplating retiring for the night, tired of the automatic retreat that those around me went into. They didn't even have to think about it, or release who I was. Instinct told the prey when the predator was near.

She had appeared so suddenly, that it had been as though she were an angel who had slipped shyly from the heavens. Her hair had been up that night – I thought it would look better down, but couldn't be certain. It was a dark brown, slightly lighter than the innocent doe-eyes that stared from creamy skin. The girl looked as though she saw little sunshine.

Clothed in a pale blue dress, the colour wasn't terribly flattering on her but was rather nice all the same, the girl was speaking to and laughing with anyone who crossed her path. Her cheery friendliness drew me to her side before I could reconsider such an action. I usually refrained from speaking to any of the guests. I frightened them – even though they didn't know why – and I didn't want anyone to accidentally figure out that I was, in fact, the Opera Ghost. Collateral damage was never as amusing as a meant kill.

'Good evening.' She spoke to me the instant she noticed me, no hesitation.

'The same to you, miss.' I replied politely, 'Are you well?'

She smiled at me hesitantly, as though running over a mental database to be sure she had not met me before. 'Yes, thank you.' She responded finally, 'I don't believe we've met. I-'

'My dear,' Another man appeared behind her, his long hair looking mistreated and rather unbrushed. His nose dominanted his face, and he seemed rather uncertain of himself. The Vicomte de Chagney. I'd seen him before. The only feature he boasted that I considered worthy of attention was his eyes – they were a beautiful blue. Other than that, the man needed a new body. 'May I have this dance?' He took the girl's elbow. She seemed uncomfortable for a bare instant, almost as though she either didn't enjoy his touch or didn't want to exaunt from her conversation with me. The Vicomte left her no room for argument, however.

'I'm sorry.' She smiled at me apologetically, extremely mature for seeming to be such a young lady. And her voice…melodic, light. She had the sound of a first soprano. 'May I speak to you later, perhaps?'

She wished to speak to me again? Very well. 'Soon.' I turned, striding away so I wouldn't have to watch the Angel dance with the insolent boy.

That first meeting was when the Phantom of the Opera fell in love with her.


Chapter One


"Miss Christine Daaé?" The voice was rather toneless, obviously bored. Christine leapt to her feet, her energy having not died in the two years since the gala in which she had accidentally sealed her own fate.

"Present!" She scampered for the stage, not wishing to irritate the man who looked ready to fall asleep where he sat. The pianist yawned, not even looking at his hands or the music anymore. It had been a long day.

Christine wouldn't be surprised if the two were simply exhausted from trying to keep miss Carlotta happy during her 'audition', which, according to her, was a waste of time since she was obviously going to be the lead.

To be honest, that was rather depressing to think about, since what Carlotta wanted, Carlotta got.

"Ke-" Yaw, "Key?" The pianist inquired in a gruff bass. Christine quietly requested her favourite key – it was in a medium register, she wasn't confident enough to attempt a true soprano.

The song began. Christine started to freeze, but she forced herself through the terror, reaching for her father's spirit and imagining him standing there, smiling and nodding. The song was a strange one, full of odd and sudden shifts in the tune, ridiculous vibrato, and a strange rhythm.

Christine was careful to ignore her personal preference and just sang the song as well as she could. At the end she discovered that the other auditioners were staring at her, several slack-jawed, and dead silence rang much louder than any applause that had ever echoed around that theatre.

What, did she have the Phantom of the – Christine took a hasty glance over her shoulder – Opera standing beside her, or was she simply that bad? She didn't think she was great, but she was only auditioning for a Chorus girl to begin with.

"Consider yourself a part of the chorus." The auditioner whispered, "And note that if you ever audition again, you will be doing so for the lead. Good day, miss."

Christine left the stage and the auditorium, half-way to the dormitories she realized what the man had been implying. "Strange. He must have been half-asleep." She smiled to herself and kept walking, until a leather-clad hand caught her wrist and spun her.


It took Christine a grand total of two seconds to see the fury written across the face and eyes of the man who held her wrist captive. Gasping quietly she made to take a step back, swallowing hard. He didn't let her, and reclaimed what little distance she managed as his grip tightened.

"How dare you." He hissed, voice faintly familiar. Christine was too busy being terrified to worry about whether or not she'd met him before.

"P-pardon me, sir?" She whispered faintly, forcing the words through her frozen throat, "C-could you explain what you-?"

"I do not require you to speak, girl." He hissed. Christine wasn't sure whether to be angry or even more terrified. His mask. She recognized the mask. The melodic quality of his voice, a smooth and rich baritone, was familiar as well. "You have destroyed your own talent!"


"Silence!" He snapped, "You are a soprano. You are meant to sing songs that few humans could dare. You can hit notes that no other singer in this Opera house can. And you dare to make a mockery of your talent by singing mid-range!"

"I-I'm sorry…" Christine stammered, her fingers beginning to tingle – his grip on her wrist was cutting off her circulation.

His features softened slightly, and seeming to notice her pain he loosened his grip on her wrist. "You can be great." He whispered, "Even the dolt running the auditions could see that. You are not meant to be merely a dancer and chorus girl. You are meant to be something above and beyond that. Far above and beyond. I can help you."

"You can?" Christine inquired. Her voice was still faint – she didn't want to risk angering him by speaking out of turn once more.

He seemed to have cooled down. "Yes. I can teach you. I can make you sing songs you only dreamed of. I can make you great. All you need to do is accept the offer."

Christine stared at him for several moments. Obviously he expected an immediate answer. "I have no money…" She replied.

His grip tightned once again and she took a sharp breath through her teeth. "I did not ask for your money." He snapped.

Christine bit back tears. He was scaring her, and hurting her. But she could sense his musical prowess, she didn't even need to hear him sing. "Then…if you truly want to…please do teach me."

This seemed to calm him, and he released her wrist completely. Christine drew it to her stomach instantly, her other hand coming to rub the feeling back into the flesh.

"Very well. I shall." He half-smirked. "And I'll see to your sleeping arrangements, as well."

"You'll what?" Christine blinked, but he'd already turned with a swirl of black fabric, seeming to vanish.

"Gather your things, Miss Daaé." Madame Giry ordered her gently, "You are to be moved to a private room."

"Whatever for?" Christine inquired, confused as she looked up from her journal entry.

The woman's smile seemed sad. "Your new teacher wishes it so." Christine's cheeks flared red and Madame Giry frowned. "Do not deny it." She snapped immediately, seeing Christine's will to do just that. "You will anger him. You accepted his offer of tutelage, now you must lay in the bed you have made."

"Why does he wish-"

"Christine Daaé, close your mouth and gather your belongings, now."

"Yes ma'am." Christine didn't argue with that tone of voice and in a few short minutes everything she owned was neatly packed in her single trunk.

Madame Giry frowned at the girl's wrist, seeing the garish bruising across the pale skin, but said nothing. She simply let the girl lift her trunk and led her to the new room.

The room was not large. It was comfortable, however. Warm – Christine liked that, she was always cold. Sparsely decorated with a simple bed, a closet, a vanity, and a dressing screen. The most shockingly fancy portion of the room was the large, gilded mirror that took up most of the wall to the left of her bed. The screen framed the corner directly opposite the mirror's wall, and the vanity was against the wall to the right of the bed.

"I'm sorry." Madame Giry whispered, closing the door behind Christine who swallowed hard in an attempt to calm her nerves. Why was the Madame apologizing? Perhaps there was more to this man than she'd thought.

Unpacking swiftly, Christine tried to make the room a bit more 'hers'. When everything was in place she blew out all of the candles but two, and settled down with a book.

This peace lasted for a grand total of five minutes.

One of her candles went out. Christine frowned, and started to rise so she could relight it. The other candle went out as well, plunging her into pitch blackness. Her heart leapt to her throat. Perhaps it was a draft. But from what?

"Stand." The voice was unexpected, and Christine's heart nearly stopped beating. She glanced around wildly, eyes wide. "Stand." The voice repeated firmly. Finally getting the idea, Christine hesitantly rose from where she'd been kneeling on the bed. "Have you found the room to your liking?" She nodded silently. "Excellent."

An ice-cold hand, gloved just as it had been the first time, took her wrist. A gentle grip. But even that was enough to make Christine draw a breath of pain. The grip was released instantly, and her hand was taken, lifted to the level of a face that was most assuredly taller than she. Cold breath danced across her palm as her invisible benefactor seemed to be examining her wrist. In the darkness? Apparently.

"Who did this?" The tone suggested that no answer was truly needed.

"You." Christine breathed, hoping that the blunt answer would not anger him any more than her choice of key for her song had.

It seemed to do the opposite. He let her hand fall, and she felt a rustle of air that indicated he had turned away. After a few moments, a flicker of light danced across Christine's vision. Light was her sanctuary and she relaxed immediately, barely stopping her instant urge to sit when her knees weakened.

"Come here." His back was to her, a solid wall of black. He probably wouldn't be able to tell if she were to ignore his order, or only take a few steps. The thought to do so, however, never crossed Christine's mind. She didn't even contemplate the fact that she could very easily run from the room. She just obeyed, going to his side with a few light steps.

A water basin was before him, settled upon the vanity. The water was obviously unheated and Christine fought the urge to pull back when he took her hand once more, dipping the washcloth in the chilly water and wrapping it around her wrist. "I apologize, my dear." The man murmured.

"Who are you?" Christine inquired faintly. She had no name for this man, who had already touched her more than any other.

"My name is of no consequence to you." He replied tonelessly, still gently sponging the tender bruises. The cold water, while uncomfortable, was doing wonders for the dull throbbing that had remained in her wrist.

"But…then, what should I call you?" Christine replied rationally.

"You may call me Master." He replied confidently, "Master of Music." Christine felt herself blushing and tried very hard to put that to an end swiftly. She'd overheard stories, from some of the older and more experienced Opera dancers and singers. The term which he took as his own, a perfectly reasonable thing since he was to be her teacher, seemed almost inappropriate. Especially from a handsome man at least twice her age. Why does he wear that mask? Christine hadn't thought about it, until that moment, when she'd realized she thought him handsome. Perhaps he did it for the mystique it gave him.

"Oh." She replied finally, realizing she needed to reply to his expectant glance.

"What is the matter?" He inquired, his visible eyebrow quirking as he released her and replaced the cloth in the water.

"N-nothing." Christine replied instantly, knowing that she looked ridiculous, stammering and blushing.

"What have you heard?" He queried, choosing at random the correct reason for her discomfiture.

"I've heard…n-nothing, M-M…" Christine tried to force the word, but it escaped her verbal power, "Monsieur."

"Very well." His tone was dark. Christine knew that he knew that she was lying. "Perhaps you aren't so innocent as you seem, my dear?"

Air found anywhere but her lungs to reside. Choking momentarily she retreated back to her bed, turning away from him, "W-what?" She stammered weakly. "I do not understand your comment, Monsieur."

"I did not say you could call me 'Monsieur', girl." He chided, almost seeming amused suddenly.

"Christine." She said abruptly, before she could think it over.

"Pardon?" He inquired, confusion flitting over his features momentarily.

"My name is Christine Daaé." She clarified, her courage failing her so badly toward the end that her name was but a whisper.

"Christine Daaé." He repeated. "Very well. I shall call you Christine, if that's what you wish." His voice was suddenly very melodius, he made his statement sound as though it were the beginning of a song.

Christine half-turned to glance at him, and was startled to find him gone. She turned all of the way around to search for him, and upon finding no one she sat upon her bed, yawning quietly. Rehearsals would begin early in the morning, as usual. His voice echoed suddenly, "You will be here at nine o'clock in the evening." It was not a request. Christine looked around once more. Finally, she lay back and went to sleep, snuggling under the new blankets of the foreign bed in the strange room.

"Miss Daaé, what is your rush?" Madame Giry snapped irritably, "It is only a few minutes before nine, you know full well how long rehearsals tend to last."

"Please, Madame," Christine requested quietly, "I…feel unwell. Please, may I return to my room?"

The Madame frowned, as though the realization for the reason for the sudden urgency that Christine obviously felt had hit her. "He wishes you back?" She inquired.

Christine felt her cheeks beginning to flame. Madame made it sound so … wrong. "Y-yes, Madame." She whispered, voice cracking.

"What time did he want you?" The woman inquired, her severe tone gentled as she observed Christine's shy reaction.

"Nine o'clock, ma'am." Horror filled the girl's face when the clock struck. "Madame Giry, please!" She cried.

"Go, child." Giry nodded, "Be swift." Christine nodded, relieved, and took off at a dead sprint. Six chimes. Her room was so very far away… seven chimes…eight…Christine had to stop, gasping for air, her throat ravaged by her need for oxygen. There was no way to make it. Nine chimes. The clock went dead silent, and Christine's heart nearly stopped.

Perhaps he wasn't there yet. Perhaps she could be a minute late and not anger him. Perhaps he'd be late as well. Too many variables. Christine knew her luck was not that good.

She ran again, trying to reach her room less than a minute after the clock's completion. The door loomed before her and she paused to recollect herself, still gasping for air, brushing some stray strands of hair that had fallen from her bun out of her face, trembling. He would be angry. She knew it already. Christine could wait no longer and she opened the door, stepping very slowly into the room that was ominously black. Had she forgotten to leave a candle? Unlikely. She wished she had a window.

"Are you above instruction, Christine?" Came the calm voice that she'd been awaiting.

Christine froze, still only a few steps into the room, the door still open behind her. "N-no." She replied faintly, "I…I…rehearsals. They were longer than I had realized. I didn't mean to, I swear I didn't." She was still gasping for air, like a beached dolphin.

"Oh?" He materialized from the shadows before her, advancing very slowly. Christine watched him as she might a tiger. She felt very much like the prey before his predatory gaze. "Is it truly that hard to leave a rehearsal when you're but a Chorus girl, my dear?" He spat the words, "After all, you went out of your way to remain as small and unimportant as possible."

Christine felt her face begin to colour once more. Good sense hit her and she started to take a step back – too late. He was too close, grasping her about the waist and slamming the door shut firmly. Christine took a strangled breath when she was once more trapped in the darkness with her aggressor.

"Do you fear the dark?" He let her go, and Christine felt her hands trembling as she tried to pinpoint his location.

"Is not all prey frightened when they cannot see their predator?" She inquired faintly, the words escaping her mouth like water, not allowing her time to think about them. Did she truly consider them in the roles of predator and prey?…Yes…yes, she did. He was too frightening to her for her not to.

"You always know just what to say." His icy gloved hand slipped around her throat and Christine stiffened, awaiting … well, she didn't know what she awaited but it certaintly wouldn't be pleasant.

He didn't do what she expected. He drew her back, against him, grip gentle as he placed his other hand on her stomach. "Breathe in." He ordered.

Christine blinked, still straining in the encompassing darkness, but did as he asked without question.

"You know how to breathe, girl." His voice was all business, "And that is not it. Do it right this time!" Realizing what he was doing, Christine drew a full breath into her stomach – the proper breath for one singing. Drawing into the chest, as she'd just done, was for normal breathing. One did not sing from the chest unless they wanted a weak and weedy noise. "Very good." He released her and Christine felt herself relax.

However, she was back to her original problem. She couldn't see him, and he could see her.

"Why are you so frightened of me, Christine?"

"You are cruel." She replied without hesitation. She nearly heard his frown.

"You are unwise." He replied softly. "And we are through for this evening. You will be here tommorrow night at nine o'clock as you were not this night. Do not be late, or there will be consequences." Silence.

Christine went slowly to a candle and lit it, staring around. Once more he'd gone as though he'd never been. Obviously he was angry with her. She didn't like to upset or disappoint him. She'd be there at nine. She hoped.

It was ten o'clock. Christine had not felt this terrified since her first meeting with the man. She had been planning to be there at nine. She'd been ready to escape rehearsal, ready to kill if need be.

Until she ran into Raoul. Then all thoughts of the nine o'clock meeting had gone out of her head. They'd been together, catching up, when the clock tolled its ten times, and Christine realized that she had just committed her grevious mistake for the second time.

Tears danced just behind her eyes as she walked slowly to her room. She was late to begin with, a few moments of self-collection and the enjoyment of being without pain would not make him any angrier. She knew already that he was going to hurt her.

She deserved it, for ignoring his command twice in a row. She should have known better. There was no one to blame but herself – even Raoul, who had refused at first to let her leave despite her panic, could not be blamed.

The door was ominous. Christine took another breath and then opened it, trembling violently. The first thing she noticed was the light. For the first time, there were two candles already lit in her room. The second was the man seated in the chair that had been at her vanity but now sat beside the mirror. He was leaning back, relaxed, head down as though he were asleep.

Christine knew, however, by the stillness of his entire form and the rigidity of his shoulders that he was anything but asleep.

"Two times." He whispered. "Was I too kind to you, Christine? Should I have punished you the first time, instead of accepting that a minute late was not a travesty?"

"I'm sorry," Christine began, her voice cracking with emotion. Terror and guilt.

"I offered to make you great, Christine, and you accepted that offer. I cannot uphold my end of the bargain until you learn some respect!" His head snapped up, eyes like fire. "I must teach you to obey me."

"Master," Christine knew instinctively that any other term would do nothing to salve his fury. "Please, forgive me – it will not happen again, I swear!"

"Close the door, Christine." He hissed. She did so hastily, not turning away from him, eyes wide and trained solely on his form. "Come here." She hesitated. "You would disobey me in this, as well?" She stumbled in her haste to do as he ordered, coming to stand just out of his arm's length in front of him. "Why do you make things so difficult?" He breathed, seeming to have calmed his temper.

"I…was speaking to a childhood friend. We didn't realize the time had flown. I promise, I really do, I will never do it again. Please…don't hurt me?" Christine knew that pleading like this was weak, and she didn't like it, but she liked being hurt even less.

"Childhood friend? Name?" He seemed to know already.

"Raoul de Chagney…" It was barely a whisper. Christine had enough time to see the possessive rage cross his face before he was on his feet and advancing. Her retreat did nothing, he was eerily fast and had her in an instant, cold hands pressing her shoulders roughly into the wall.

"You would ignore my lesson to make love to that insolent boy? That slave of fashion?" He snarled into her face.

Christine cringed back, pressing into the wall. "I…I did not make love to him!" She managed, "We spoke only! We didn't even-"

"Silence yourself, harlot." She felt a blush beginning to creep up her throat, colouring her cheeks until it felt they were on fire. "I should kill him now, just for looking at you!" Christine stared at him, "Just for thinking about what is mine!"

"Yours?" She inquired, knowing that now was not a time to argue, not a time to test his temper. But she couldn't resist. "What do you mean 'yours'?"

"Do you honestly believe that you don't already belong to me, Christine?"

"I know that you are doing nothing but hurting me." She shot back.

"And I'll hurt you again." His grip tightened, "And eventually I will make you see that I am to be obeyed, you belong to me!"

"Let me go," She whispered, "You're hurting me."

"I'm not surprised." He towered over her, a vision of an angel of death, a harbinger of pain. Christine bit her lower lip, tears filling her eyes as his grip shifted from her arms to her throat. Both hands pressed into her windpipe unremorsefully.

"Why…" She gasped, "Are…you…doing…this?" The words were forced, it took most of her oxygen to form them.

"I love you. I must be cruel to teach you, as you will not listen to kindness. If you were not afraid of my reaction, would you have come at all this night?" Christine didn't know the answer to that. She wasn't in that situation. He released her throat suddenly. "Did you enjoy it when he touched you, Christine?" He whispered, pressing closer.

Christine tried to dive past him, to escape, but he caught her easily, a hand at either side of her waist. "He didn't touch me, Master! I swear it!"

He seemed beyond listening to her words, "Did you enjoy his kisses?"

"He did not kiss me!" Christine cried faintly, giving up. He was not listening. Beyond being imposing, he was not doing anything to her. Let him rant.

His mouth came upon hers with a sudden, crushing force. Christine, startled, found herself immediately lacking oxygen. She'd never been kissed, her words to her Master were honest. She knew better than to lie to him when he was raging, it was simply asking for trouble. Which she did enough of already.

One of his hands drifted up to the side of her face, cupping her cheek possessively as he continued to kiss her. Christine did not respond to him, but she did not fight him, either. When he was satisfied, he released her and backed away. "You did not lie." He murmured. She stared at him silently, something akin to a 'no kidding' in her gaze.

The fire was fading from his eyes. He backed up another step, eying Christine silently. She watched him, beginning to feel fire in her throat. His eyes went from hers to her throat and he frowned, reaching out to her. Christine fought the urge to flinch away. His cold hands, still gloved, brushed across her throat. They soothed the burning for a moment.

"Be here at nine." Were his parting words as he spun, his cloak swirling out. The candle flames puffed into nonexistance, and when Christine returned them, he was gone.

"Interesting night?" Meg Giry whispered suggestively into Christine's ear. She groaned, opening her eyes.

"Why do you ask?" Her head hurt.

"Look at yourself." Christine blinked and rose slowly, feeling unsteady, and went to the mirror. Her throat was a colourful area. Ten, thick, finger-shaped bruises ran across it with varying colours.

"Why are you in here, Meg?" Christine inquired faintly as she went back to sit on her bed, shuddering.

"Raoul asked me to deliver this." Meg smiled, "And rehearsals are cancelled for today due to some repairs to the stage. Shall we go out for a while?"

"As long as we're back by nine." Christine replied firmly.

Meg tilted her head and nodded, handing Christine the letter. "I will return in five minutes."

Christine smiled at her and rose, gathering a high-necked white gown and replacing her sleeping shift with it. The neck clasped all of the way up under her chin, and hid the bruises beautifully. The sleeves were long, which covered the bruises on her arms and wrist as well.

Christine was glad the worst she had to boast from her encounters with her angry Master were some bruises.

That done, she returned to her bed, where she'd dropped the letter, and lifted it. With a deft motion, she opened it to read the fancy writing within.

My darling Christine:

I'm very upset about my abrupt dismissal last night, and hope it wasn't because of any insensitive comment I might have made at some point in our conversation. I miss my little Lotte, and do hope we can speak again sometime soon. I shall see you at church on Sunday, and I am taking you out for a special brunch afterward. A good day to you, my dear.

Best and most sincere regards,

Vicomte Raoul de Chagney

"Great." Christine sighed. She folded the letter and put it back into its envelope before slipping it under her pillow – the one place her Master might not look. The last thing she needed was him to see that, but she didn't want to throw it out. Foolish? Most likely.

Meg tapped at her door.

Eight-thirty was the time when Christine entered her room. Finally she had managed to be on time – even a little early. Perhaps he would spend less time trying to strangle her and more time trying to help her learn to sing. That would definitely be a change.

"Ah, so I see the third time is the charm." He mentioned almost amiably from his chair. Christine managed to smile at him and nod.

"Yes. I did promise, did I not?"

"That you did." He rose. "Well, since you're early it looks like we're going to accomplish something tonight." His eyes flickered across her gown. "Why so modest tonight?" He seemed to want to make a comment about Raoul, but didn't want to bring up the bad emotions once more when Christine had obviously made an effort to keep the peace.

"I'm trying to…" Hide your bruises… "…show the other girls that modesty is allowable, even in an Opera house." Sure, it was plausible.

"I see." He frowned at her, but didn't press the issue. "Come." He held out his hand. Christine reached out hesitantly, and just as she placed her hand in his, the candles extinguished. She tensed, the dark was not her friend. "You are safe." He murmured, "So long as you are with me. Nothing will harm you. I can be your protector, as well as your aggressor." That was a totally confusing statement, but Christine still took comfort in what he was attempting to say and let her hand relax its grip on his.

She didn't know how it happened, but suddenly they were walking down a tunnel, dimly lit with candles, but a tunnel just the same. She didn't recall a tunnel last time she looked around her room.

They walked silently at first, until he suddenly began to sing. His tone was so rich…so accidentally seductive…Christine felt her heart just about stop, and her stomach flutter. "Step lightly, gently, watch the world around you. Quiet, listen, music will surround you…obey my every command, stop tugging at your hand, and you'll see that I am right…when it comes, to the music of this night."

His voice faded away, and Christine realized that she was staring at him as though in a trance. His voice was just so beautiful that she couldn't resist, however. They were at a gondola before she'd realized it and he helped her in, rowing silently. As they neared thier destination, Christine's soul screamed at her to sing so loudly that she finally gave in to the urge.

"Lead me, guide me, promise you'll protect me…" He glanced down at her and she raised her voice a few octaves, "Let me trust you, hear you, slowly I will see…that everything you say is right, when it comes to the music of this night…" His smile was gentle. The first smile she'd seen from him, and the first sign of gentleness.

They reached the end of the trek and he assisted her from the gondola.

"I have brought you," He explained lyrically, "To the seat of sweet music. To the place, where all must pay homage to music. You have come here, for one purpose, and one alone. Since the moment I first heard you singing I've needed you here with me, to serve me, to sing for my music…"

"When did you hear me singing?" Christine asked shyly, when his song had ended.

"When you were sixteen, at a masquerade. You were speaking to someone, and playfully sang a few lines before continuing on your way. The momentI heard the beauty your voice possessed, the instant tone, the control that could be gained with little instruction…I had to have you. I have not taught for such a long time…no one will listen…" He whispered.

Christine finally began to relax. He was not going to hurt her this night. He wanted her to understand why he needed her to become serious about her music. Christine looked around, curious. His gloved hand on her chin brought her gaze abruptly back to him. "Will you listen to me now, Christine? Will you obey me?"

She was mesmerized by his eyes. They were beautiful. Everything about this man was perfect, beautiful. So why did he hide behind that mask? "Yes." She breathed, "I will." She felt her hand lift to his face, fingers lightly skimming his porcelain cheek.

He caught her wrist gently, returning her hand to her side. "Don't open the box, Pandora." He murmured, and turned away. "We shall start with some scales so I can get a true view of your current range."

He spoke those words with a sudden urgency, and Christine saw how desperately he longed to teach her and sing with her. His next words turned her blood to ice. "And then we'll discuss your letter from the Vicomte de Chagney."