Author's Note: Hello everyone! Here is the next chapter of Gemini. For those of you reading Dark Prince as well I am working on it, I have rewritten it several times and cannot get it quite right yet, so please be patient! A huge thanks to my friend and beta N.S.L. Jewelles for everything she does for me! Go check out her stories sometime, you will enjoy them! Hope you all like this chapter and let me know what you think!
Chapter Twenty-Five: Restraint and Invested Feelings
Erik relished the feel of Katerina's neck beneath his hands. He could feel how fragile she was and knew that without much effort he could take the life out of her as payment for everything she had ever subjected Christine to. Her entire body was trembling and her face was pale as she stared at him with wide eyes. It was finally time for her to be the victim.
"My-my lord, please-let me go!" she gasped, her voice panic-stricken.
"Did you really think you would succeed in your plans of murder?" he growled. Katerina's eyes grew even rounder.
He shoved her body vehemently against the wall, causing her to moan in pain.
"Do not play with me, wench. I know that you had that snake put in Lady Christine's bed and I am going to make you pay for it!" he hissed, his hands growing firmer around her neck until she began to turn an interesting shade of purple. She struggled against him uselessly, her hands frantically scratching at his arms with the hope of making him release his grasp. Erik stared at her with cold eyes, watching as the life was slowly drained out of her. He had no thought in his head except that he had waited a long time to make this woman pay for her crimes and it was time her wretched life was ended.
Charles' shout broke through the fog of lethal intent that clouded Erik's mind. He glanced at his godfather as he ran to his side.
"Let her go, you are killing her!" Lord Chagny said desperately. Erik glared at him.
"This woman tried to kill your fiancée!" Tried to kill MYwoman!
"I know, and she will be punished, but this is not the way! Let her go!"
It was obvious that Charles was surprised by Erik's zealous reaction to the current events and Erik mentally kicked himself. He was reacting too strongly when he should not, as far as Charles knew, know anything about Christine, having supposedly just met her. You are going to stir suspicions, Erik, and all will be lost unless you stop your tirade this instant! Even though his mind was screaming sense at him he did not want to let this go so easily. This woman had hurt his Christine and he would not see such a thing
happen while he was around. She had to pay for her crimes and the only way she could do this was by her death.
"Erik…" Charles entreated, putting his hand on the younger man's shoulder. Lord Chagny knew that there was no way he could physically remove his godson from Katerina because the masked man was far stronger that Charles had ever been, even in his youth. But Katerina's struggling was growing less and less frantic and he was beginning to grow concerned that the young man would kill her.
I told myself the only thing that would stop me from killing this witch was Christine, and she is not here to do so! But I know she would never want me to do this...not Christine. Even with everything that has been done to her she would not want me to do this…
Erik realized that if by killing Katerina Christine would not look at him the same way she did now then he wanted no part in this murder. Though he would give anything to make this woman scream he knew it was not worth losing Christine over. With an angry grunt he tossed the woman's limp body onto the floor, watching in some satisfaction as she passed out. Served the trollop right! But he was not done with her. No, if he could not make her physically pay for what she had done he would find another way.
"We are going to contact the king, Charles. This cannot go unpunished," Erik growled, his voice harsh. Charles merely nodded, his shoulders relaxing in relief.
Charles' shout brought several of the men into the room, looking at Erik nervously as they entered. The masked man was still obviously seething. They had heard his shouts and Lady Daae's cries of pain but none had dared enter. Lord Chagny gestured to the two bodies. Madoc was stirring restlessly, blood continuing to surge from his face. Erik slowly committed to memory the other man's features. He knew not who he was but he knew that he had to be helping Katerina with her plans to be rid of Christine. He growled. This man had dared to harm his woman and therefore it made him Erik's enemy just as much as Lucifer was. Knowing it would prove nothing he allowed himself to kick the unmoving man roughly in the side, feeling some satisfaction when he groaned in pain.
"Take them and make sure they are secured in the dungeons below."
The men immediately did as they were instructed, carrying the two bodies between them. When Katerina passed Erik felt his fists clench, wanting nothing more than to finish the job he had started. Everything in him was protesting his lack of action. He had never, never allowed someone to live when they did something to someone he cared about. He remembered quite vividly a time when he and his brother had nearly beaten a man to death that had groped Pandora and made sordid remarks about what he wanted to do to her. That had been the only time in their lives that the two brothers had ever worked together, and both had to be physically pulled off of the man when it was apparent that they had meant to kill him.
Though he had never done bodily harm to a woman until this moment he knew he was straddling a thin line now. The only thing that was stopping him from killing Katerina was the thought of Christine. Does
her opinion of me truly mean so much? Yes…I could never stand her seeing me as a monster. And though both he and Christine knew that Katerina deserved no less, it was not lost on Erik that Christine would look on him as a murderer if he killed that woman.
When they were the only two people in the room Charles approached the younger man once again. His eyes held understanding and concern.
"You are letting your hatred toward your brother cloud your vision, Erik, and it is dangerous for you to do so. You know your strength and how effortless it is for you to use it against someone else. I do not want to see you do something that you will later come to lament. You need to rein in your temper."
This has nothing to do with Lucifer! Christine was just hurt and I am the only one who seems to care!
Charles sighed at Erik's lack of a response.
"I honestly cannot believe that Lady Daae has stooped so low. I kept denying that she would ever be capable of murder…"
"What would drive her to such a thing?" Erik finally asked, feeling like he had to say something.
"You have seen as many beautiful women in your lifetime as I have in mine. Women like Katerina do not like to be outdone. Her beauty is undeniable and yet it seems like every time she is in the same room as Christine her beauty diminishes in the light of Christine's own radiance. Katerina does not like this and hates her for it. It is nothing but vanity and malice."
Erik realized that what Charles said was true. Had he seen Katerina at another place in time he would have been stunned by her loveliness. However, every time she was in the same room as Christine he could not keep his eyes off of the latter.
Charles sighed again deeply.
"I will write to the king immediately. You are right, this cannot go unpunished. I will send a messenger tonight."
He turned to leave the room.
"Charles? What about Lady Christine?"
"Watch over her until I finish everything that needs to be done. Send for me the moment she wakes up."
Lucifer stared at the procession of men that rode inside the manor walls. His body was stiff as he stood between his mother and sister. Pandora was completely immobile to his right, tears apparent in her eyes even when it was obvious that she was trying everything in her power to hide them from everyone
watching. It had been days since he had arrived home, and he hardly spoken a word to his sister in all that time. He missed the laughter in her eyes and the smile she had once bestowed him with before he had decided all of their fates by killing Erik. He wanted his sister back, and knew such a thing was never going to happen.
Madeline was stiff for reasons altogether different from Pandora. She had shed no tears over her lost son and Lucifer knew that Erik was at that moment the last thing on her mind. He had no doubt that his mother dreaded the days his father returned home. There had never been tender feelings between the two of them and Julius saw Madeline simply as another possession that he used whenever he wanted and was there only to please him. Well it had been a long time since Julius had enjoyed the tender touch of a woman and as his wife she knew quite well what was expected of her tonight.
Lord Julius rode in front of his men, an impressive figure still. Lucifer knew how people still quivered in fear every time he passed. His dark gray green eyes, not very much unlike his own, surveyed his family as he approached, no emotion revealed in their depths. Everyone around them bowed as he dismounted, his men following suit and following him as he made his way toward them. He stopped in front of them, his hard, handsome features giving away nothing as he continued to scrutinize. Lucifer knew that there had never been a day where both he and Erik had not been there to greet their father when he arrived home. It was expected of them so they were always there. Erik's absence could only mean one thing. Almost as if to make sure that this revelation was true, he looked to his only daughter.
Pandora looked away, not meeting his gaze. A strong hand reached for her face, forcing her gaze to lock with his. She was the only one who would mourn the loss of one of the twins. Everyone else had accepted the fact that one would die before long. Pandora was considered weak by her father, nothing more than a sniveling woman who was far too full of emotion to truly be one of his children. Both Erik and Lucifer had learned indifference; it was high time Pandora did the same. Julius took in the swollen eyes and tear soaked cheeks without remark, turning back to his son.
"He is dead?" he asked, saying the words that needed to be spoken. Lucifer simply handed him his brother's mask. Pandora made a strangled sound in her throat at the sight. Julius took it slowly. Though the older man did not realize it, Lucifer could clearly see the disappointment written in his father's eyes. He had wanted Erik to become his heir, something he had known since the time he was a young child. This was probably one of the only reasons he had kept fighting, to prove to his father that he was the son who should be looked upon with favor. "You realize this does not guarantee that he is dead?"
"My men and I were all witness to his demise. You may ask any of them to testify to his death. I would not risk everything if I was not sure."
His father nodded mutely. For several long moments he stared down at the mask in his hands, one finger lightly caressing the cold material. Lucifer wanted to shout at his father, demand that he finally acknowledge the fact that he was the stronger man, that he had won and no one could deny him that right. His mother seemed to be having the same thoughts.
"Why do you stand there? Your heir has been chosen! Samuel has won!"
Julius turned hard eyes to his wife, who immediately shrunk back, knowing she would have to pay for her outburst.
Lord Julius turned toward the knights, commoners, and servants standing before them.
"Samuel has earned his place as my rightful heir; I give you the new Lord Desslar…"
Everyone bowed, the knights inclining their heads in respect. Lucifer seemed rather numb through the entire experience. He had fought his entire life for this moment and it was not at all what he expected. He did not feel the rush of pleasure and satisfaction he had been sure he would feel. Instead he felt hollow, empty inside, as if nothing he had done in the past was worth what he had finally gained.
Julius turned toward Pandora, not giving Lucifer a chance to dwell.
"Embrace your brother, Pandora. Congratulate him. He has worked hard to earn this position."
His sister stiffened, glancing at him with cold eyes. They both knew that Julius was doing this on purpose, knowing Pandora would not want to do such a thing and would be disgusted at the idea of congratulating one brother for killing the other.
"Do not question me, Pandora," he growled softly. Clearly fighting back tears, she embraced Lucifer, her slim arms trembling as he tentatively wrapped his own around her. He relished the stolen moment, knowing he might never get a chance to embrace his sister ever again.
"I am sorry, little bird…"
He felt the tears that began to trickle down her cheek. 'Little bird' had been the name that both Erik and Lucifer had given her as a child. She had always been slender when she was younger and had never had much of an appetite. The twins had teased her that she ate like a bird and the name had stuck. Hearing it now had her heart constricting painfully in her chest, wanting nothing more than for the three of them to be together and none of them ever had to worry about the damned inheritance or what price it would come with. She tried to pull away from him, needing to go to her room and lock herself inside, but his arms remained firmly around her, not wanting to let her go.
With a sigh of surrender, he let her go. Even now he would give her anything she wanted, and if what she desired was to stay as far away from him as she possibly could then he would give it to her, he loved her too much to even deny her something as painful as that.
Julius chose to ignore the entire scene, clasping a hand on his son's shoulder.
"Come, we must have a feast to celebrate your success," he turned his gaze to his wife. "Make sure everything is arranged, tonight we toast to Samuel and his victory."
Lucifer watched as Pandora slipped away, tears still running freely as she disappeared inside.
Christine felt something cold and moist against her forehead. Moaning slightly, her eyelids began to flutter open. The harsh light of the candle hurt her sensitive eyes and she turned away from it with a moan of discomfort. She heard a soothing 'shushing' sound come from her left and closed her eyes once again. Her entire body felt strange. There was still remnants of lethargy and she had absolutely no desire to move, her head beginning to pound from the mere light of the candle.
"The candle…" Her voice sounded hoarse, her hand going to her throat with a slight wince of pain. The candle was put out and the room was bathed in darkness, much to Christine's relief. A goblet was placed against her lips, a hand slipping beneath her head to support her while she greedily drank. It felt as if she had not had anything to eat or drink for days. As a cool cloth was applied once again to her forehead, Christine finally felt his familiar presence.
She knew not how she knew it was him, but her body knew his without her ever having to lay eyes on him. It was like the atmosphere around her changed when he was in the room, and his unique, male scent wafted through her senses until she had no doubt that it was her lover.
"Shh, rest, little one. Everything is alright."
She wanted to ask him what he was talking about. Of course everything was alright. Why would he say such a—
She bolted upright, a strangled cry flying from her lips. Erik tried to press her back down onto the bed, but she completely ignored him, looking around frantically for the snake that could easily end her life. When she could not find it she hysterically tried to scramble from the bed. Erik immediately caught her around the waist, halting her progress. Christine struggled against him. He didn't know what danger they were in!
"Erik-the snake-let me go! We have to get out of here!" she gasped. He did not even flinch as she continued to desperately squirm in his arms.
"Erik, please-if it strikes-"
Tears were threatening to break forth. Did he not know that a snake like that could kill her with one bite?
"Christine, look at me…LOOK at me!"
Her gaze snapped to his.
"There is no snake, little one, I killed it. You are alright, I promise."
It took a moment before his words completely sunk in. When they did she collapsed against him with a soft cry. He pulled her against him.
"Oh, Erik! I-I couldn't move a-and it was coming toward m-me! I-I couldn't get my body to m-move!"
She cried against his neck. Nothing had ever been so frightening to her in her entire life. Not having control of her body was not something she ever wanted to experience again. She had been completely helpless and it had frightened her beyond belief.
Erik hated hearing her cry. He had known that she must have been scared and he wanted to wrap his hands around Katerina's neck and not let go this time. "I told you I would protect you, Christine. I would never let anything happen to you…"
She seemed to know this, her body going limp in his arms. Erik cradled her close, wishing that he could lock her away in a room somewhere so he never had to worry about her getting hurt. Tonight had been too close of a call and he did not like it. Finally she seemed to gain the courage she needed to look him in the eyes in the minimal light once more and ask him the question she both needed and dreaded.
"Why could I not move?" she whispered. Erik wanted nothing more than to shield her from the harsh reality of her life.
Her eyes grew round as she saw her answer in his eyes.
She nearly choked at the revelation. She felt as if someone had wrapped their hands around her heart and were excruciatingly squeezing it until it felt hard to breathe. Erik ran his hands down her back, trying without success to soothe her. He protested but she removed herself from his arms. It was obvious that she was trembling and he tried to call her back to the bed numerous times but she did not seem to hear him.
"She…she tried to kill me…"
It was as if he had ceased to exist.
"From the day my father died she would beat me…I remember as a child she would vent her frustrations out on me. I-I tried hiding, but it would only mean my punishment was more great when she eventually
found me. But why…why would she want me dead? Does she truly hate me so much that she would resort to…to murder?
Erik could not hear any more. Rising from the bed he went to her. She looked at him with sad, haunted eyes, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"What did I do wrong, Erik?" she whispered.
"Oh, little one, you did nothing wrong," he assured her. Christine allowed him to once again pull her close.
"I've…I have only ever wanted her to love me."
Erik did not know what to say to her in those moments. Katerina did not deserve the type of love this woman was capable of giving. He knew that if the older woman would have simply given Christine a chance she would have had in her a devoted daughter. Perhaps if she would have pushed her jealous notions aside she would have been taught what love really was by a young woman who had enough in her heart to give. Katerina deserved to rot in hell but Erik would never tell Christine that. It would only make the situation that much worse.
"Look at me, little one," he murmured. She shook her head. "Look at me," he insisted. Her eyes finally found his. "I told you I would protect you. Katerina will never raise her hand to you again, I promise."
For a moment she said nothing, silently studying the features of his face. A few more moments passed before her eyes grew round. He could see the dread that overcame her and she took a step back.
"What did you do?" she whispered. For a moment he said nothing. He knew now without a doubt that he had made the right decision when it came to stilling his hand against Katerina. Had he killed her he had not doubt in his mind that he would have lost Christine. "Erik, answer me."
"Christine, your mother-"
"Erik! Tell me what you did," she interrupted firmly. He sighed.
"I did not do a single thing to that disgraceful woman."
She said nothing, studying him even more closely. He could clearly see that she feared he had done something drastic, and perhaps believed that he was trying to hide it from her.
Her voice was completely unsure, her eyes betraying her unease. Erik refused to let her have doubts about him. He took a step toward her, his heart clenching when she took an unconscious step back.
"I would never hurt you, Christine, I thought you knew this," he murmured, hurt by her lack of faith in him.
"I know you would never hurt me…but my mother…"
"I have seen what you look like when you are angry, Erik, and I will not lie and say that I was not frightened. You are capable of much, and I think that sometimes your emotions might override your conscience."
Was it possible that she had gathered so much about him when in reality they had not known each other long? It was apparent that Christine could see through people much more easily than he had originally believed.
"I did not kill her."
"That did not answer my question."
"What do you want to know then, Christine?" he demanded. She crossed her arms over her chest.
"What did you do?"
"I was inches away from strangling the life out of her, Christine that is what I did to her."
"What…what made you stop?" she asked softly. This violent side of Erik was not one she was fond of, and no matter what Katerina had done she did not want Erik to take matters into his own hands, it would solve nothing.
"'What made me stop'?" he echoed. She nodded. "I thought about you…Christine; I was never so close to killing a woman in my entire life. I could not stop thinking about the pain she has put you through, and I will be honest, I wanted to kill her. But then I thought about you and I realized that you would never want me to do such a thing. And as much as I wanted to make her pay, I refused to do it if it meant that you would see me as a monster…so I stopped. She is downstairs in the dungeon and Charles is at this moment writing a letter to the king. She will regret raising her hand to you."
Before he knew it he had his arms full of a sobbing woman. She pressed numerous kisses to his face, a smile managing to shine forth through her sorrow.
"Thank you…thank you…"
"You know now that you can count on me for anything, little one, alright?" he murmured. Christine nodded. She had no doubt in her mind that Erik would protect her and it left her with a feeling of peace she had otherwise never known.
Erik muttered several curses under his breath.
"Get back in bed, Christine, your fiancée is coming to see you…"
She scrambled to do as he bade, wishing that her moments were not interrupted by Charles and his visits.
"Christine! You're awake!" he exclaimed, coming into the room and making his way to the bed. She merely nodded, trying not to glance at Erik. "Light a candle, if you would, Erik, it is far too dark in here."
"It hurts her eyes," the other man muttered. Charles glanced back at Christine, who nodded her head in reply to Erik's words.
"Very well. Erik, leave us alone for a time."
Christine was the only one who saw Erik's hands clench in anger before he turned and stormed out of the room. When he was gone Charles joined her on the bed. Gently he took her hand in his own, feeling the way she immediately began to tremble.
"Ah, little one…don't be scared. 'Tis all over…"
"I…I am fine, my lord, I assure you," she whispered. Christine could not quite look at him, instead choosing to stare at their clasped hands.
"I am sorry you have had to go through so much."
"It is not your fault, Charles."
"No, but if I had been here to protect you none of this would have happened."
That is alright. Erik was here to protect me…
"I am not unfamiliar to Katerina or her punishments, my lord. I will be fine, I always am," she murmured. That was nothing but the absolute truth. Not once had she allowed herself to give up. There had been countless times when she had entertained the brief thought that it would be easier to just allow Katerina to beat her to death. But every time this thought entered her head she pushed it away just as quickly. Her father and brother would have never wanted her to give up, and by giving up she would simply be allowing Katerina to win.
Charles reached out, his hand cupping her face tenderly. His eyes held hers in the darkness.
"I admire your courage, little one," he whispered.
Christine was beginning to grow uncomfortable with the way he was looking at her.
"I know I have not told you this before, Christine, but I wanted you to know how honored I am that you are becoming my wife."
She blushed. Guilt was eating away at her stomach and she truly did not want to hear him sing her praises when she knew she did not deserve them.
"No, you do not need to say anything. I just wanted you to know how I felt and that I truly cannot wait until you become my bride. I will leave you to rest, you have had quite a day," he murmured. She nodded, gently squeezing his hand.
"Thank you for writing to the king, my lord…it means more to me than you realize."
How could she possibly thank him enough for ridding her of Katerina? It was like a huge weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. He nodded, getting up to leave. However, he hesitated, glancing back at her. Before Christine quite knew what was happening he had embraced her tightly. She said nothing, feeling the slight tremors that were wracking his frame.
"When I saw you lying so limply in Erik's arms I-"he broke off. "I will admit that I have never been so frightened in my entire life. For a moment I thought I had lost you…"
Christine did not like this sudden show of emotion. It meant that he was beginning to care for her and though she knew she should be happy she truly felt miserable. This man deserved more than she could ever give him.
He pulled away, and his concern was written in her eyes clear for her to see. She managed to smile weakly. Charles ran his knuckles lightly across her face.
Her heart felt like it was about to burst from her chest when he leaned toward her, his intent clear as day. He was going to kiss her and she would have given anything to be somewhere else.
When his lips met hers Christine had to fight back her tears. She could not turn away. This man was to be her husband and if she rejected him he would know something was wrong. She refused to allow her time with Erik to be ruined.
His lips were soft and gentle, and Christine tried with everything that she was to try and picture Erik kissing her. But it was no use. Her body knew Erik's touch and it knew that this man was not him. When he began to deepen the kiss, she could not help herself, she turned her head away from him. His sigh was quite clear but he said nothing, simply leaned his forehead against hers.
"Forgive me, Christine…I did not want to overstep my boundaries too soon," he whispered. "I just realized that you could have been seriously hurt and the idea made me sick. I just needed to know that you were still with me…"
"You have every right to do such a thing, my lord," she whispered, knowing it was the truth. Erik was the man who had no claim to her. Charles was her future husband, and if he wanted to kiss her he had every right to do so. No matter how much she did not want his intimate touch.
"Sleep well, little one, and try to remember that no one can ever hurt you again."
With that he finally left the room. Christine collapsed on her bed, burying her face into her pillow. Her heart was literally in pain. Oh, God…what am I going to do? She knew that Charles was beginning to invest more of his feelings toward her and that meant that in the end there was no doubt that he would be hurt if he were to ever find out about Erik. Every time Lord Chagny so much as smiled at her she felt as if she were stabbing him in the back. But she knew she was selfish. Her heart longed for Erik and she was willing to risk much to see him beside her. She did not know what to do to make this situation better.
He came into the room immediately. He was the only man who could ever make her feel better, and she needed him now. When he sat down on the bed she immediately snuggled into his arms, trying hard to forget what had just happened with Charles. Tilting her face up, she captured his mouth, needing to feel like she was finally home, safe and sound. He groaned, deepening the kiss. When her body reacted Christine pushed every other thought out of her head.
She knew why she felt this way with this man, it was because she cared for him, and something deep in her heart told her that this was the man God had created for her.
For now that was all that could matter.