Full Summary:

Christine Dupree has just graduated from high school and is taking a year off to raise enough money to pay for college. After becoming bored with her unchanging and repetitive life, she gets on the Internet and discovers Pen-a-Pal. There, she is introduced to Erik. Through emails, she gradually becomes closer to him. What she doesn't know is that Erik has many secrets…

Erik Destler is a masked genius. His primary talent is music, and the famous but faceless name he goes by when composing and publishing his work is Noah Wellington. Becoming bored with his reclusive lifestyle, he does something completely out of character- he discovers the interactive website, Pen-a-Pal, and begins emailing a girl named Christine. Through emails, she becomes more and more intriguing to him.

Eventually, Erik's interest in Christine becomes too much to handle, and he decides he must visit her workplace. Things become more complicated when they finally meet, for Christine has no idea who Erik really is.

What happens when she finds out?

Chapter 1

Christine Dupree found it to be a sunny day outside her bedroom window. For once, it matched her happy mood completely. This was the first morning of summer after having completed four years of high school. She felt alive and free, which was the exact opposite of how she had felt during her years at school.

While smiling and humming a simple tune, she put on work out clothes and tennis shoes intending to enjoy a nice walk outside.

This summer was going to be different. It was a decision she had made during her senior year. Christine was going to enjoy her year off, for she'd decided to wait a year before attending college and work a full-time job as a waitress instead. She didn't have any choice, really. In order to pay for college, she needed to make as much money as possible, and that's where working at a restaurant came in.

Her family didn't have an abundant amount of money to pay expenses. Christine had grown up without a father. He'd died when she was very young, leaving just her, her brother, and her mother. This being said, her three-person family was not wealthy. Her mother was an elementary school teacher and didn't make a prominent salary to support herself and two children.

It's ok, though, Christine always forced herself to say. She felt blessed for what she did have and didn't really mind having to work to pay for things.

Christine was rather lonely and pretty sad most of the time, though, which she hated to admit. It just wasn't right for her to want so much more out of life than what she had, especially when there wasn't a way to have more, at least not at the current time. She'd always been like that- daydreaming about wanting a fuller, richer life when, in actuality, it wasn't really possible.

However, this wasn't to say that she only hoped for a better life. No, Christine worked as hard as she could to have as much as she had. Despite her hard work, though, life was still lacking so much. It would be so nice to go to college at the same time as all of her high school classmates. It would also be nice to think of her job as a mere part-time way to make some spending money. And it would be nicer still to be able to rely on her parents' support.

But, it wasn't 'nice', because it was all a dream. She had to work hard to have more, and there was no parental support. She rarely saw her mother anymore. It seemed her mom just couldn't adjust to life without her husband, even after all these years. Her father had been the love of her life. They had been so happy and content together, or so she always used to say.. back when she associated with her children. Now, when her mom wasn't working, she was either sleeping or out for various reasons.

Christine knew she shouldn't complain, though. There were people who had far worse lives. At least she had an older brother who was her very best friend, and she had Meg Giry who was also one of her good friends. She had a stable job. She had plans for the future, which she intended to act upon in due time. She should be content with that.

Sighing, she pulled her hair back into a bun before stepping out into the morning sun to briskly jog the streets of her neighborhood.

Music could be heard throughout the halls of the spacious mansion. A grand piano produced the beautiful sounds, and a man's long fingers on the piano's keys were the source of the production.

Erik Destler was his name. Music was what occupied his time. He was a composer, and the name he used when getting his music published was well-known. 'Noah Wellington'. That name would go down in history. After all, he was the composer of music that was known and used throughout the world.

There was a puzzling fact, though. His name was all that was known. 'Noah Wellington' was a famous name, but the man behind it was not. Yes, he received money for his work.. an extraordinary amount, at that. But, one would not recognize him as the famous genius that he was.

In fact, Erik was never seen, except by the man responsible for sharing 'Noah's' music with the world, Nadir Kahn. He had proven to be a trust-worthy friend Erik could count on to keep his true identity a secret.

Actually, that was a factor in the fame. People knew 'Noah' as the name without a face, which kept their curiosity and interest.

There was a reason behind the secret, though. Erik didn't do it just because he wanted to. He hid his face from the world for the simple reason that he felt he had to. His face was the source of the reason.

There was a mask covering Erik's entire face, and behind that mask, there was a horrible deformity. So horrible, in fact, that he'd never known his mother or father because of it.

Erik only knew Nadir, for he came into the man's life as a baby and was raised by him. That was why Erik could trust him. Nadir understood. He was the only person who understood.

Erik felt his presence approaching while he played. "Good morning, Nadir," he said, still playing.

"Good morning," Nadir said cheerfully.

Erik stopped playing and turned from the piano to study the dark-skinned man. He was always so happy. It was something Erik most definitely couldn't relate to. "Off to work?"

"Yes," he replied with a smile.

Erik simply nodded, becoming uncomfortable from the happiness, and returned to his music.

"Hey, Christine, do you work today?" Brian, her twenty-year-old brother, asked when she walked into the kitchen after her outdoor jog. He was eating a bowl of cereal at the table.

Christine grabbed a water bottle, a bowl, and a spoon before joining him at the table. "No. You?" She poured Frosted Mini-Wheats into her bowl and added milk.

"Nope. Feels good, doesn't it?"

She smiled. "Yes, it does."

"So, you want to hang out today?" He poured a second helping of cereal into his bowl.

"Sure. I've got nothing else to do."

"Maybe we could go to Borders. I want some CD's."

"Sounds good. I'll probably buy a book or something, since there's no doubt that I'm going to be bored for the next year.. while I'm not working, of course." Christine finished her bowl and copied her brother by having another. Changing subjects, so as not to start concerning her brother with her self-pity, she suggested, "Maybe I could beat you at Dr. Mario later."

Brian laughed. "Yeah, the only video game you're actually good at."

She glared jokingly but couldn't deny it. "Where's Mom?"

"I think she said she was going to the grocery store." He shrugged.

Christine nodded, and both continued eating in silence.

After only a week of summer, Christine decided that she was already incredibly bored. All she did was work, hang out with her brother -which consisted of eating or playing video games-, or hang out with Meg -which consisted of shopping-. She wanted something new and interesting to occupy her time.

Sighing, she sat at her computer to type in a few websites she frequently visited.

There was nothing new, and she was about to give up and sign off... but something caught her eye.

At the top of the Internet screen, there was an advertisement Christine had never seen before. It wasn't one of those stupid, 'Play this game and you'll win an IPod', ads.

This one was intriguing and caused Christine to move her mouse and click on it. The site that came up was titled, "Pen-a-Pal".

Christine murmured, "Hmmm," and read the description of the website.

A wonderful NEW website where you can make a new friend. You could even discover your soul mate! Join today, absolutely FREE of charge, and create your profile. Then, begin the search for a person who is the perfect match for you!

Forgetting that it probably wasn't the safest thing to get involved in, Christine felt an immediate urge to join. Maybe, just maybe, this would be the perfect way to end her boredom.

With a genuine smile, she clicked the 'Join Now!' button and began creating a profile.

For some reason unknown to him, Erik was bored. It was the first time in years that he didn't feel like composing. What is wrong with me? he thought while sitting on an arm chair in the den.

He hated feeling bored. It brought about thoughts and feelings he didn't want to deal with. The most prominent feeling was that of loneliness. He didn't like to think about it, but it was always there.

Erik knew no one besides Nadir, absolutely no one. The only time he wasn't cooped up in the mansion was when he would occasionally step out into the secluded backyard or take a drive around the city in his car with tinted windows.

Erik was usually so good at bottling the emotions and focusing fully on his music.

Today, though, he did not wish to play. Not wanting to play, he didn't know what to do. Music was life, life was music. There was nothing else for him. Staring into the empty fireplace with a frown, he went over a few options in his head. Perhaps I could walk around the yard or take a short drive. After thinking about it, though, he decided not to. I could read a book.. No.. Well, I am out of options. Perhaps I will sit here and get lost in self hatred. But, he didn't want to do that either.

Hmm.. His eyes moved about the spacious room until they suddenly landed on Nadir's lap top that was sitting on a nearby couch. At first, he only stared at it without much thought. But then, out of the blue, a rare but prominent urge filled his entire body. He was absolutely longing to sit at his computer, the one he only occasionally used, and view the Internet.

So, he did.

After a short while of viewing some news websites and getting updated on what was going on around the world, he sighed being sick of it.

He was about to get off and return to his den, but an advertisement at the top of the Internet screen suddenly caught his attention. 'Pen-a-Pal'. A part of him found it a little intriguing, so he clicked on the advertisement box. He didn't have any high expectations and his mind was elsewhere going over the few things he could do once he returned to the den. The website opened, and he read the description.

After reading, he found that his reaction was completely unexpected. He began to think. I could actually contact someone? I could have somewhat of a cyber 'social life'? His eyes gleamed, and his curiosity caused him to make the next instructed move. He registered.

Perhaps something good could come of this…