A/N: I COME BEARING A GIFT! Here is the new chapter my dear readers, thank you all for being so patient. I have the best readers EVER! I am trying something a little different here with Josephine. Please R&R and tell me your thoughts!

Chapter Seventy One

"You make me sick!" Marraine hissed, each word dripping with venom. Her anger practically rippled down her lean form.

Without another word, she turned on her heel and left Erik and I alone in the Prima Donna's room. I dropped my out - stretched hand, and I waited for Erik to say something, anything, to break the silence in the room. But like myself, he was at a loss for words. This was not how I imagined the night ending, I was supposed to walk off the stage with a triumphant smiled; then get whisked away by the man who has my heart. Down to a dark wonderland where music was a magical force, where one could get lost in...

"This is all my fault..." I murmured weakly. Feeling the sting of tears, I closed my eyes tight before they could fall. If I wouldn't have been so foolish as to bravely blow a kiss to Erik in Box Five, Marraine wouldn't have found out. I bit my lip; I was so disappointed in myself! How could I have been so foolish?

"Stop," Erik demanded.

I flinched away from the stern clip of Erik's voice. He didn't yell the demand nor did he hiss the word. Turning, I found Erik standing before the mirror. He scrawled down at me in annoyance, how did he know what I was thinking? His eyes were set into a glare and his lips were pressed into a grim line. Lips that were moment's ago kissing my neck and jaw...

I tried not to blush; this wasn't the first time I thought of his lips or what they are capable of. I wanted to smiled in spite of myself, but I couldn't bring myself to.

"Why doesn't she believe in us, Erik? Why does she think that you're using me, when clearly-"

"Josephine, that woman is just as stubborn as I am. She won't admit she's in the wrong, even when the evidence proves it. Do not worry, Josephine, she'll come around, " Erik calmly added.

Turning around, his silver eyes bore into mine. I found it impossible to look away; as much as he was trying to conceal his emotions, I knew Marraine's words had cut Erik deeply. Tilting my head, I observed the man I loved for the first time this evening. Erik was dressed in his finest, as usual; his cloak was draped across his broad shoulders. His black coat and trousers had been made especially for his tall form; Erik seemed to be taller than every man I had come across.

His waistcoat was of royal blue this evening, and not the traditional blood red or burgundy. The royal blue was beautiful against his ivory skin, even his cravat wasn't the traditional black. Tonight a silk silver cravat was tied neatly around the base of Erik's throat, and his white mask seemed to appear brighter. Did he decide to wear those colors for me, because I had made a comment on his morbid favoritism of wearing nothing but black?

The man's essence alone screamed: Power. With only his voice, he could make you do his bidding. Marraine was right; he was a dangerous man and he was capable of many things, good and bad. But I trusted him with my life. Shaking my head, I brought myself out of musing and back to reality. I sighed hard and closed my eyes. Could this night get any worse? Suddenly, I felt gentle fingers on my face. They caressed my forehead- where my brows were knitted in frustration- then my cheek, my jaw, and my chin. I then felt Erik's thumb caress my bottom lip, wordlessly asking for permission. My heart fluttered inside my chest and my breath began to quicken, and without a word I pressed a kiss onto Erik's thumb. His response was a deep chuckle; it was music to my ears. One of my favorite sounds was Erik's laugh; it was contagious. I found myself giggling with him. I smiled from ear to ear, waiting for my kiss, but instead Erik chose to kiss my temple. I was greatly disappointed. I scowled, opening my eyes.

"Now, ma peitie etoile, your job isn't over quite yet. You must now greet and thank the patrons for attending tonight's performance of Magic Flute," Erik purred in my ear. He then caught my earlobe between his teeth, causing my body to melt into his, sending a delicious current throughout my-now limp limbs. I clutched the lapels of Erik's dress coat, forcing myself to keep my balance.

As I stood before him I fought to pay attention to what Erik was saying - how could I when he was putting me through such torture? I tried to focus, in spite of the fire I was beginning to feel inside. Erik explained what I needed to do tonight at the gala, which was to greet every lady and lord with a smile and thank each of them for attending the opera and for being a benefactor for the opera house.

"Remember, gratitude goes a long way. But if you show them that their donations are being put to good use..." Erik went on explaining.

Oh, how does he do it, how does this alluring man able to make my entire body weak with just the sound of his voice?! Erik was practically holding me up on his own. Oh, but his sweet torture... It's maddening! I bite my lip.

At this point, my head had fallen back, giving Erik full access to my neck, which he took full advantage of. He nipped hard against the side of my throat, which caused me to gasp from the pain; I tensed immediately. I then felt the tip of Erik's warm tongue massage my sensitive skin where he bit, only then did my body relax against his. Once the left side of my neck was bathed in his kisses, Erik moved onto the right side. He refuses to give one side of my body less attention than the other.

He continued on, "More and more will want to become patrons to my domain. Does everything I'm saying make sense to you, Josephine?" Erik murmured against my neck.

"Mmmhmm..." I mumbled, I didn't have the strength to speak.

In all honesty I wasn't paying attention anymore; it was far too difficult!

I felt Erik smile against my skin; he was doing this on purpose! Purposely making me weak by his touch! The nerve of that man! But in the back of my mind I knew that he was doing this to help me forget about the quarrel between Marraine and myself. Still though! I wanted to untangle myself from his arms and shove him away as hard as I could, but I was powerless. I was locked in his arms and I wasn't going anywhere, not until he was ready to release me. Blast this man! Suddenly, Erik stopped his sweet torture by pulling away just enough to look me in the eye. I blinked my eyes opened, confused as to why he stopped so abruptly.

"Good, now, they are going to invite you to dinner; when they do I want you to decline." Erik declared, in a firm tone.

I made a face, confused. "Who is going to invite me to dinner?"

Erik tried not to seem irritated by my question, but failed. His jaw clinched and his now swollen lips were pressed into a hard line. "I am unsure of whom, but I am certain that you will get invited to dinner, and you WILL decline."

"All right, I understand." I nodded, leaning in for a kiss. A kiss that he has been denying me for some time before tonight. Only when I moved in; Erik turned away from my kiss!

Ugh!

"Wait a moment, Josephine, you aren't going to ask me why I'm telling you to decline their invitation?" Erik asked, bewildered.

Wrapping my arms around Erik's neck, I shrugged my shoulders. "I trust you have a good reason. Who am I to question my master?"

Erik's eyes narrowed and the corners of his mouth turned up into a devilish grin. He was pleased with my answer. I bit my lip as my eyes traced Erik's mouth, I wanted him. Now. With all the strength I had I pulled Erik down to me, I quickly deepened our kiss.

I was faintly aware that I was walking backwards, with Erik's assistance. I was lost in the ecstasy of his mouth, our lips moved as one, our own private dance of seduction that caused my body to yearn for the unknown...

I was astounded! Erik returned my kiss with such force, he hadn't kissed me in such a way in months. The last time my foggy brain could remember was when Olive walked in on our little tryst. Ever since, Erik had kept me at arms length, to my despair. I knew it was only a matter of time before Erik would end our heated kiss. I wasn't about to take these precious moments for granted.

Reaching up, I tangled my fingers in Erik's hair, my other draped tight around his neck, pulling him closer. I had him locked to me. Doing this earned a groan from deep within Erik's throat, or perhaps it was a growl. Hearing this stirred something inside me. My kiss became eager for more, I pressed my body closer to Erik's and clutched his hair tighter in my grasp.

I could feel Erik's arousal for me against the base of my stomach, even with so many layers of material. In past situations I'd become shy of Erik's passion, which would result in him being ashamed and staying clear of me. But tonight wasn't the case, I pulled him all the more closer. I felt a certain satiation that I- a young woman with little to no experience - could excite the man that I loved.

I needed him, no-WANTED him. I wanted MORE.

My joy was short lived, Erik suddenly grasped my shoulders; pushing me hard against the door. I blinked at him, confused.

"That is enough, Josephine," Erik growled, through clenched teeth. His breathing matched my own: ragged with heaving chests. Erik returned my gaze with wild, silver eyes. His pupils were dilated and they almost devoured the iris. The word dangerous whispered in my mind.

I swallowed hard, deciding to ignore his demand; I brushed off his hands and went in for another kiss. I pulled his lapels down toward me, forcing him to bend forward. I pressed my lips to his and kissed Erik with just as much passion as before. As his tongue massaged mine, I groaned; my body became weak and heated all at once! I wanted to touch him, wanted to explore the body that was under his clothes. Oh, why did he push me away? Why wouldn't he let me touch him? I wanted more! But of course I didn't get it, Erik took a fist full of my hair and pulled back hard; forcing our kiss to break and for me to look up into his crazed eyes.

"Do. No. Push. Me. Josephine." Erik hissed, "I can only handle so much of this, any more and I will have you thrown on that bed and stripped of your clothes, " Erik threatened.

My heart flipped in my chest and my lower stomach tingled, hearing the lust in his voice got me, dare I say-excited! Erik held me in place against the door, his grip on my hair tightened when I tried pulling myself free; only the pain I felt caused me to become more aroused.

My throat was now dry, I swallowed hard, "Is that supposed to frighten me? I wouldn't stop you if you tried," I challenged, weakly. I was unsure of what had come over me, but the images of us in tangled sheets seemed all the more desirable.

Erik's jaw dropped by my bold confession. Shaking his head he practically stumbled backward and out of my arms; making his way to the vanity on wobbly legs. With one hand he leaned on it, catching his breath I assumed. I placed my fingers on my lips; they were swollen from Erik's kiss. Erik's expression caused me to regret my statement. Was it wrong feeling this way for him? He was the only man that I had felt that way for. Perhaps it was a sin. But he loved me and I him... Oh bother.

Finally Erik faced me, but only briefly. What I could see of his exposed face was pale, his complexion resembled the porcelain white mask. Running a hand through his hair, I heard him curse under his breath. He obviously didn't expect my reaction to his threat, I could already tell in his behavior that he was beginning to withdraw from me. I panicked.

"Please, don't." I begged, closing the gap between us. "Please, do not shun me..."

At the word shun, Erik looked at me with sorrow in his worried eyes.

"Oh, Josephine..." He whispered softly, closing his eyes. Erik then made a pained expression, as though the word 'shun' had caused him some sort of physical pain.

"Erik, you believe that I am frightened of you-of your passion-your intensity, but I am not. I-"

"-You know not of what you speak, Josephine." Erik accused.

I glared at him, angry now. "And you do?" I challenged, "Have you, I mean-you've had- with Christi-"

"No!" Erik snapped, finally meeting my gaze. "I've never experienced the Joys of the Flesh nor have I ever touched a woman as I have touched you. Haven't we had this discussion before?!"

I stood gaping at the beautiful man before me. He was watching me intently, he waited for my responce to his confession. How was I to respond to that?

"Why do you push me away when you become...excited?" I whispered gently. There, I said it. I felt the heat rise to my cheeks when Erik looked at me in horror.

"This isn't something I wish to discuss, Josephine." Erik fumed, the color had returned to his face; now he looked as though he wanted to punish me for even asking! My throat burned from being so dry, oh bother. Without another word, Erik turned and pushed opened the mirror.

"Wait, please, don't be upset with me. It's just, there is so much I do not know. So much I don't understand, Erik..."

I waited for Erik to speak, to say anything. He said nothing, he merely stood before the open mirror gazing at the black abyss before him. When the silence became too over bearing, I spoke.

"Forgive me, Erik. I'm-I'm sorry I frustrate you, I don't mean to push you. It's just... I love you... And...I have so many feelings for you, feelings I don't quite understand. I have no one to talk to about what I'm experiencing in fear that they'll discover you..." I whispered, I heard the remorse in my voice and bit my lip. Sighing hard, I murmured my fare-well and headed for the door.

"Josephine..."

I paused just before I was about to turn the knob and looked over my shoulder. He gazed at me from across the room, his expression unreadable. But if I would have to guess, I'd say it was frustration. I know he felt the same as I; only he chooses not to give into lust... Erik's eye's closed briefly, as though he was choosing his words wisely. How I longed to know what was going through that brilliant mind of his.

"We will discuss it when you have returned from the gala. I will collect you in three hours."

And with that, Erik closed the mirror. I was left staring at my reflection.

I closed the door behind me and exhaled, from where I stood I could hear laughter and music echoing down the corridor. I tried my best to focus on the task at hand and not think about Erik's mouth on mine.

"Breathe, Josephine, just breathe..." I whispered to myself, "You remember what it was like to attend these sort of parties."

I did remember; my mother wouldn't let me leave her side. It has been such a long time since I truly had to make small talk with the higher class. The parties were always dull and boring to me as a child; always having to listen to the latest gossip and scandals. After a performance in the past Marraine wouldn't always let myself or Olive attend the parties by ourselves. In her words, she was "keeping us safe". Perhaps that was why Erik refuses to let me leave to dinner with any of them, I mused.

I took the quickest route to the grand foyer, which lead me to the second landing of the staircase. From there I could see everyone; the foyer was full of men in formal wear, and ladies with swishing gowns and glittering jewelry around their necks. From the balcony, I peered down at the many people in the grand foyer. Lords and ladies mingled and laughed; everyone seem to be having a grand time. Before I could take one step down the stairs, Monsieur Reyer stopped the orchestra. Then Monsieur Firmin called out:

"Alas! I see Miss DeBeaux has come to join us!" Monsieur Firmin announced, clapping his hands.

Oh bother. My mouth dropped along with my heart! Every single person in the grand foyer turned to face me. I felt the heat rise to my cheeks. I was not expecting an announcement such as that! Perplexed, I stood at the top of the stairs doing my best to smile; although I was positive it came out more like a grimace. Madame Thomas came into view at the bottom of the staircase with her husband and she beckoned me over to her. I didn't waste any time, I hurried down the stairs; smiling awkwardly at the guests that were on either side of me. Finally I was at her side and the crowd was still clapping for me, I felt very awkward and yet exhilarated at the same time.

One by one, Madame Thomas introduced me to the patrons. I gave my thanks and appreciation for their contribution, many were appeased. As time passed I admired Madame Thomas, she was very confidant in the manner of which she presented herself. She had taken me under her wing and has guided me through the many weeks of practice. One couldn't help but fall under her spell, she could charm even the most brooding of men.

As my eyes swept the crowd, I noticed the majority of the patrons were older married couples, but there were some that were my age. I even recognized a few of them. There was Philippe Marques de D'Armitz who liked to visit us ballerinas; he usually requested our company to dinner, but who ever went with him didn't return to the opera house until the next morning. Marraine had to intervene between Rosetta and Adele's fighting over the man; Monsieur D'Armitz was only interested in having the girls warm his bed and nothing more.

He was looking at me now, and he smiled broadly, showing his perfect white teeth. Although he was across the room, I felt as though he was undressing me with his eyes. He was fully aware that I was watching his every move, and yet his eyes were locked on my breasts! When his gaze returned to my eyes I glared. I mustered up all of the annoyance I felt that evening and threw daggers at him with my eyes. The man chuckled and winked in response. The nerve of that man!

Then there was Monsieur Gregoire Lemaire, who was happily married, Marraine wasn't bothered by the man, for he was more interested in other men. All in all he was a very kind man who loved to laugh and make jokes, even though they weren't very humorous.

"Josephine! Josephine, over here!"

I searched the crowed for the one who called to me, and found the source. Jacques Monte and his fiancé Celine were both waving in my direction. Excusing myself, I made my way towards them.

"Hello!" Celine exclaimed, pulling me into her arms into a tight hug. "Your performance was the best I've seen yet!"

"Oh, than-" I began that thank Celine for her praise, but was cut off.

"-And your voice! My goodness, Josephine you have the voice of an angel!"

I smiled, "You are very-"

"-You must be so overwhelmed, why with-"

"Celine, my sweet, let the girl speak. If she is overwhelmed it is because you aren't letting her talk." Jacques laughed, kissing Celine's temple.

Celine blushed and giggled behind her gloved hand, "My apologies. My soon to be husband is right! I just get so excited and can't stop chattering!"

"That is all right, Celine, but to answer your question: I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at first, but Madame Thomas is a fine mentor, " I smiled, "I probably would have made a fool of myself by now if it wasn't for her. She has become quite a friend."

"-Which is hard to find nowadays..." said a man behind me, a man I hadn't heard or seen in months.

Turning, I found Edward Monte behind me. He smiled shyly. His smile was genuine, not like in the past when he'd force a smile when I'd remind him we were only friends.

I returned his smile, "Edward, hello."

"Hello, Josephine..." he murmured gently. Taking my hand into his, he pressed his lips onto the back of my hand. Never breaking eye contact with with me. He lingered there longer than what was found appropriate, but the stares from his brother didn't bother him.

Jacques cleared his throat, "Ehem."

Edward took a step back and made a face toward his brother, until he looked down to me and smiled again. "You look very beautiful this evening, Josephine."

Blushing, the heat burned my cheeks. "Thank you, Edward. You are looking very dashing yourself."

Jacques cleared his throat yet again and stepped a little closer to his brother. "Ehem, little brother, aren't you forgetting someone?"

Edward's brows knitted together, confused, until his eyes widened in shock. He swiftly turn around where a young woman in a light pink gown was standing. Her blonde hair was swept up and pinned on top of her head, when she raised her eyes from the floor; sad green eyes met mine. The young woman was very pretty, and her disappointment was obvious.

"Juliet!" Edward exclaimed in shock, he scrubbed a hand over his face and clasped the girls hand. "Juliet, this is my Josephine."

My mouth dropped, along with everyone else that was in our circle.

"I mean, Josephine this is Juliet, my fiancee! Haha, not the other way around..." Edward tried to jest.

Jacques shook his head, "Celine, I believe I see a friend of mine over there, come, let us say hello. Josephine, it is always a pleasure."

I nodded, "Thank you for coming."

And then there were three. I looked to Edward who looked at Juliet who was looking at me.

"So, you are Josephine DeBeaux. I have heard some much about you," Juliet said. Her tone of voice was pleasant, but it seemed forced.

I curtsied, "So very nice to meet you, Mademoiselle."

"My fiancée here has been talking of nothing but Magic Flute for months. Now that he's seen it, perhaps he will set his mind on other matters. Like a date for the wedding!" Juliet laughed, but I found no humor in it and neither did Edward.

"Well, like I always say: Good things come to those who wait," Edward chided.

Silence fell upon us, unable to stand it I began to ramble. I explained how Madame Thomas would be leaving to start a family in America, and that she would like me to visit some day. I could tell Juliet could care less, but Edward on the other hand was engaged in the conversation. Asking questions and giving his experience of when he visited America himself as a boy of twelve. After a while Juliet seemed bored, so I decided a different approach.

"My, Juliet, what a beautiful gown you're wearing." I smiled, it truly was.

"Merci, I purchased it specially for tonight. What do you think, darling? You haven't said a word about my new gown." Juliet pouted as she pulled at the ruffles at her tiny waist.

Looking up, I caught Edward staring at me as well as Juliet. When he realized she asked him a question he blanched. "I'm sorry dear, what was that?"

Juliet flushed red. She scowled at Edward and without a word she turned and fled. Edward let his head fall back in frustration and for a second I didn't think he was going after her. Until after he scrubbed a hand over his face and excused himself.

"My apologizes, Josephine. You were wonderful tonight, but please excuse me, I must see to my-to Juliet," Edward stammered.

"Of course, thank you for coming."

"I wouldn't have missed it," Edward smiled. Reaching up, he tucked a lock of hair behind my ear, the gesture-although innocent- seemed far too intimate for me. Unable to hold his gaze I shied away, taking a step back. I looked down and crossed my arms; feeling too exposed all of a sudden. When I met Edward's gaze it was obvious that my shying away had offended him. So unlike Erik, Edward didn't bother hiding his emotions. Sad eyes looked into mine and within a blink of an eye those gentle eyes hardened. Straightening his shoulders, Edward spoke with such formality that I had forgotten he was of higher class.

"I beg your forgiveness, Mademoiselle. This evening was a great success and my family is honored to support the Populaire, now, if you will excuse me; I must find my fiancée. Good night, Mademoiselle DeBeaux." With a curt nod, Edward brushed passed me in search of Juliet.

"Oh, Edward..." I sighed, my heart felt heavy. After all that time he still held feelings for me, even now that he is engaged. Why me? There was nothing special about me, I mused. I could see that Edward had found Juliet and was consoling her from across the foyer, she had her arms crossed over her small chest and her back to him. I had a feeling that she wasn't going to forgive him easily.

"Josephine! Mon ami!"

I turned toward the voice, I found Meg and behind her I saw Christine. I had a sinking feeling; whenever that woman was around me something terrible always happened.

I forced a smile, "Hello, ho-Oomph!"

Before I could ask Meg how she enjoyed the performance, the woman practically ran into my arms; hugging me tight.

"Ohhhh, Josephine I am so proud of yooooou!" Meg squeezed as hard as she could before she let me go. "I couldn't take my eyes off of the stage, and when you had your duet with Madame Thomas-" Meg's eyes widen. "I practically felt your heart breaking when she asked you to murder Sarastro!"

"She nearly broke my wrist, she had grasped it so tight." Christine chirped, stepping forward. "I am sure it'll bruise by morning."

"Oh Christine!" Meg smiled, rolling her eyes.

"Where is your fiancée, Meg?" I asked when I realized he wasn't around.

"Oh, he is with Raoul right over there," Meg pointed.

When I looked where Meg was pointing, my heart practically stopped; Raoul was speaking with Edward and they seem to be having a very serious conversation. Seeing them talking gave me a bad taste in my mouth. What could they be talking about, surely not I? Suddenly both men turned and looked in my direction. I flinched. Oh bother. I had to know what they were talking about, but how? Perhaps I could sneak closer? No, that would never have worked. Hmm...

"Christine, isn't that Edward Monte Raoul is talking to?" I asked stepping a bit closer to her.

Christine smiled, "Yes it is, do you know him?"

"I do, I am friends with his older brother's fiancée." I forced a smile, that wasn't a complete lie.

"Oh, well Raoul went to school with Jacques and would spend the summer with the Monte Family."

Hmm... I was still not at ease. "I see..."

"Well, I am not sure about you, but I am famished! Come to dinner with us, Josephine, that way we can finally catch up on all the days we have missed!" Meg took both my hands and gave them a light squeeze. "It feels as though I haven't seen you in weeks."

"Meg, I saw you two days ago!" I giggled, it was very tempting. I always had such a wonderful time when I was with Meg, but I already gave Erik my word and I wasn't about to break a promise.

"I would love to dine with you and your fiancee, Meg, but tonight I am just going to retire."

Meg didn't bother to hide her disappointment, "Oh, please reconsider."

"Meg, leave her be, can't you see Josephine is exhausted," Christine chided. "With such a role as Pamina, Josephine probably feels emotionally drained. "

I blinked; for once Christine was actually right.

Christine smiled, "I almost fainted when I was asked to be Alissa in Hannibal."

"Oh, I didn't know that."

Meg sighed, still disappointed. "All right, Josephine, then I will say good night."

"Good night, Meg, thank you for coming."

"Oh, I wouldn't have missed it!"

"You were wonderful, Josephine. You have inspired me to want to sing again." Christine beamed.

I blinked,"Oh?"

"Yes, while you were singing I suddenly had this yearning to sing again. To perform. I miss the adrenaline you feel right before you go on stage. It's odd really I haven't felt this inspired since..." Christine hesitated, both Meg and I exchanged looks. Christine was unaware that I knew of her past. "I-I haven't felt inspired in a long time... Will you excuse me? I suddenly don't feel quite so well, good night Josephine. Meg, I'll see you tomorrow."

"Good night, Christine." Meg and I said in union.

Once Christine was out of hearing rage I spoke, "That was odd."

Meg rolled her eyes, "Don't mind her. I doubt Raoul will agree to her singing again."

"Really?"

Meg scowled, "Yes, Christine will have nightmares again."

My eyes widened, "Again?"

"It's a long story and it isn't my place to say."

I made a face . "Since when does that stop you from gossiping, Meg?"

Meg burst out laughing, not even bothering to try and conceal her outburst like most women do. I loved that about Meg, she wasn't afraid to be herself.

"You are right, but perhaps another time. It is late and I am hungry, and now I must search for my soon-to-be-husband. Good night, Josephine."

"Good night, Meg."

After saying good night to Madame Thomas and her husband, I made the long walk back to the Prima Donna's room. I stifled a yawn, it was close to midnight when I returned to the Prima Donna's room. As I locked the door behind me I was sure I'd find Erik waiting for me, but instead I found a lone candle flickering in the darkness. I shrugged my shoulders; I was exhausted. Quickly, I removed my gown and welcomed my night shift. As I tied the sash to my robe around my waist, I felt a gust of cool wind blow inside the room. I smiled; Erik was here. Stepping around the changing screen I found him standing before the mirror. My breath caught in my throat. Gone was Erik's cravat, waist coat and jacket. His cloak hung from his shoulders and his white shirt was opened in a deep 'V', exposing his chest and the top of his stomach. My throat became dry. Again, the need I had felt earlier this evening returned at full force. My eyes fell upon the light patch of hair on his chest, I bit my lip. He watched me closely, neither of us moved.

This was new, Erik rarely exposed this much skin in front of me. I liked seeing him this way, relaxed and at ease. My heart suddenly began to beat wildly, I saw myself running my hands across his chest and the scattered hairs. I longed to place my lips there, would he let me? I was feeling brave; and there was only one way to find out...

"Good evening," Erik greeted huskily.

I smiled, not saying a word. I walked across the room slowly; never breaking eye contact. In the dim light Erik's eyes glowed and held a hint of amusement. As I crossed the room I purposely swayed my hips, just like Mme. Thomas would do as she would approach her awaiting husband.

Erik's eyes lowered to my waist, and his once amused expression changed; I could not place it. What was this new expression?

As I got closer, I could hear my labored breath; I wasn't certain if I was nervous about the stunt I was about to pull or if I was excited by it. Standing before him, I looked up through long lashes. Erik peered down and quirked an eye brow, most likely baffled by my odd behavior. Looking down, my goal was in sight. Erik's chest was eye level to me, reaching up I placed my heated hand on his chest. He flinched under my touch, I waited for him to take it away, only he didn't. His skin was cold underneath my hand, and I could feel his wild heart beat in my palm. It matched my own, I prayed he couldn't feel my hand trembling. From there I lowered my hand, gilding my fingertips downward; the hair beneath my hand was soft along with his skin. Before I lost my nerve I stepped forward, replacing my fingers with my lips. Erik flinched against me as my lips came into contact with his flesh, but I held him in place; by placing both hands on either side of his ribs. Erik didn't move, he was even holding his breath! I kissed his chest, once, twice, three times, I breathed deep; drinking Erik's enticing scent. Sandalwood and cologne. Mmmmm...

When I had my fill I looked up, meeting Erik's wild eyes. He exhaled hard, his breathing became labored, and he looked down at me; eyes wide and jaw clenched. To ease the tension I smiled innocently.

"Hello, my love..."

Closing his eyes, Erik shook his head. "You will be the death of me, child."

"I am no child, Erik" I purred. Dragging my index finger down his stomach until it met the deep 'V' of his loose fluffy shirt, just above his navel.

Hissing, Erik grabbed my hand and held it against his heart. I forgot how very strong Erik was, the blood stopped in my hand from his tight grasp.

"I am unsure of what has come over you lately, Josephine. But I wonder what would happen if I were to act in the same manner you have to me?" Erik growled.

My stomach tingled in the most delicious way and it caused me to bite my lip in anticipation.

"Perhaps you shall have to find out for yourself..."

A/N: Phew! Josephine is getting brave now, isn't she?! What do you think of this chapter? I wanted Josephine to come out a little more, for her to except the fact that she is a young woman and her feelings for Erik are increasing not only emotionally but physically. We've all been there, If you like this openly excepting/confused Josephine, please leave a review!