Chapter Twenty

Promises

Erik stood in front of the alter with the priest casting nervous glances every so often toward him. The man probably knew who he was or at least had a suspicion. Raoul had spoken with the man so they may even have discussed his identity. Only the man's vows to God had kept him from running out of the room where he had met with Christine and Erik a few days prior to the wedding. After a few minutes of nervous conversation the man had calmed somewhat. Erik privately thought the man had come to the conclusion that he was not about to be murdered by a crazed lunatic. Christine's sweet nature and obvious love for her fiancée held some sway over the clergy's attitude.

During the counseling sessions Erik had been stared at more by the priest in those two hours than perhaps in all of his life. He must have answered all the man's inquiries correctly as permission had been granted for him and Christine to wed. If not for Christine's constant gentle touches during the question and answer session Erik felt he may well have done the man of cloth some harm.

Since no one had come to arrest him, Erik had to conclude Raoul had convinced the priest to keep silent. Being a longtime family friend as well as a religious councilor to the de Chagnys, Raoul had most likely persuaded the man of God that the man in the mask no longer posed a threat. Likely the outrageous donation from Raoul had added insentive to remain silent on the matter.

Erik cared for none of that. His only concern now was whether his legs would hold him up until the priest pronounced him and Christine man and wife. His nerves had been frayed for the last two weeks. So much had been happening that would forever change his life. He welcomed these changes as well as dreaded them in case they fell apart. He still held the belief in the back of his mind that something would come along and steal his happiness from him. He didn't feel deserving of such generosity. Gladly would he embrace this new life even as he anticipated its end.

His heart literally stopped when Christine came through the doors looking as if a white cloud carried her toward him. Her face had a thin veil that concealed her features from him. Someone played music in the background. Erik did not even have the wits to criticize the playing of the musician. His whole focus was on the vision coming toward him. If ever an angel walked the earth it would be named Christine.

Only when she stood beside him then took his hand within her own warm hand did he believe she was indeed alive and here beside him, not some ghostly dream his mind had conjured out of desperation. To further convince him she smiled with her painted lips that he could see just below the veil. Relief flooded throughout his body. He had not lost his sanity again. Christine's promises and professions of love were real. Until this very moment he had held some little bit of doubt that what he experienced had been nothing more than some dream. He had gone along with all the planning expecting to wake at any moment to find himself alone underneath the opera house as he realized the last year had been nothing but a dream his fevered mind had shown him to ease his pain.

The ceremony took on a surreal quality for Erik. He must have made all the correct responses as at last he heard the priest pronounce them man and wife. Even as he had slid the ring on her finger he had not believed this would last. Only when Christine took it upon herself to pull him down by his lapels did he shake off his doomsayer attitude. One touch of her lips on his own and Erik came alive. Nothing could bring him out of such dreary expectations better than a confirmation of life by Christine's lips touching his own responsive mouth.

The warmth of her spread from her lips then to the rest of him. His legs seemed to take a firmer stance. His hands which had a nervous twitch before now held her confidently against him. Christine made him believe. She had given him life. Now she would give him a future. By her love had he taken form as a man and not a ghost. No fantasy had ever been dreamed that could supass Erik's new reality.

If asked later Erik could not bring to mind anything that occurred during the reception. His only awareness had been for Christine. Later that night they retreated to the guest cottage. They would have privacy for as long as they required it. Raoul and the others would only stay a day or two then return to his estate. Soon he must return to hiw ancestral home to make certain things were in readiness for the return of his parents. he had sent them a letter informing them that if they wished to witness his nuptials they had best make the journey home.

He could only wait so long to make Crystal his own in every sense of the word. He imagined Dimitri had sent a similar letter to his own parents. They must be sure to coordinate the two weddings so that all could attend them both. The men were not adverse to a double ceremony but the women frowned when the suggestion had been put forth. Neither gentleman had wanted to begin their life with their brides on a sour note so two weddings it would be. The agreement between the two cousins was that whichever set of parents arrived first would be the couple to marry first. Crystal and Meg did not really care which wed first as long as they both had a ceremony that made them the wife of their intended.

Raoul would be leaving some of his staff to attend to the newly wed couple. Christine had blushed profusely when Crystal and Meg had suggested they may not have need of anyone to tend to their needs as they would be tending to certain needs on their own quite soon and if they knew anything about Erik it was that he was a man of passion.

Floating confetti followed Erik and Christine down the steps at the back of the house then on down the path for a short distance until Antoinette advised everyone that it might be best to leave the couple at this point. Now here they stood inside the cottage barely an inch away from the door opening. Neither had closed the door as if expecting the need for a quick exit. Wanting to be as normal as he could be Erik had lifted Christine to carry her over the threshold. Coming inside he had promptly knocked her head against the door. As he had set her down she had rubbed the side of her head reassuring him she felt fine. Her head ached terribly but she did not want to begin their life together as a complaining wife. Nor did she want him to think they must forgo any intimacies because of her pain.

Now here they stood looking into a room that should have felt welcoming but instead seemed like the wide open jaws of some beast ready to devour them. Erik had no clue what he should do or what he should say. His body knew all too well what it wanted but that beast would need to stay hidden until he and Christine felt more comfortable with one another. Frantically Erik tried to recall what he had read in all those books. For a man who could memorize a complete score in a matter of minutes he could now barely recall his own name.

Christine knowing they could not stay standing in the doorway walked over to the table holding a bottle of Champaign chilling in a bucket of ice. There were plates of savories laid out in a tempting display. Her stomach giving an unladylike growl reminded her she had not eaten since early morning. At the reception she had been too nervous to do more than peck at her food with her fork.

Turning to Erik she said, "I don't know about you but I am starving. I ate little as I had other things on my mind as you can imagine. Would you care to join me in the delicacies Raoul has so kindly provided?"

Erik agreed with alacrity. Anything would be better than standing in one place with his tongue seeming to have lost the ability to speak and his mind completely blank of any topics to discuss. Having seated Christine, Erik sat down himself across from her. He watched her hands as she filled his plate. How did something become so erotic when before it had been mundane?

Blessedly Christine took control of the conversation. She poised questions which he could answer thereby giving him an opening to add a comment of his own. Before long they were speaking companionably forgetting what lie ahead for a few minutes. The problem returned with a vengeance once the meal had been completed. They looked anywhere but at one another. Being able to stand no more Christine excused herself so she could ready herself for bed.

Erik took this opportunity to ready himself for bed as well. Not knowing the protocol for such things he sat on the side of the bed rather than lying down prone as if he awaited her to join him. Of course that was his intention but he did not wish to seem vulgar. He took the handkerchief from his pajama pocket to wipe away the now dripping perspiration from his face. He lifted the mask to wipe underneath of it as it now felt like a sauna underneath the leather. Holding the mask in his hands Erik wondered if he dared leave it off. She knew what he looked like. Had Christine not had a very close up and personal view of him on stage the night of Don Juan Triumphant?

He would be gambling everything on her ability to look upon his horrible face and not want to turn away in disgust. He debated the matter until he heard the click of the bathroom door. Tossing the mask aside Erik placed his hands on his knees with his head bowed for a moment. His hair he could do nothing about. Since the fire he had not worn a wig. His hair had grown longer so it covered much of the thinner side. The length ran past the bald spot at the right side of his head.

Self-consciously Erik rubbed his hand along the bare scalp underneath the longer strands of hair. As much as he craved to have Christine's hands touching him he also felt dread in case he disgusted her. His dread of everything he could not control was ruining what should be one of the most important nights of his life.

Erik felt Christine bump her knees against his. He could see her white sheer gown through the part in her robe. His breath caught in his throat at what he would see underneath that thin covering. He had to get a grip. If he asphyxiated himself he would miss all that would come next. When he felt Christine place her hands on his shoulders for a moment he thought this would be when he woke from his dream. He looked up into her smiling face. She had a blush coating her from her chest to her hairline but she did not shy away from his eyes.

He could feel the tremble in her hands touching his shoulders. If she could manage to do this much for him could he not go the extra mile to get them where they needed to be? Gently Erik encircled her waist. He pulled her between his legs. Having her so close to that which defined him as a man nearly gave him heart failure. He tried to calm himself as his heart felt as if it might burst through his chest.

Christine could feel the tension in Erik's shoulders beneath her hands. His silence along with the half frightened look that had been on his face might just have matched her own had she wanted to look closely in the mirror. Tonight would be a defining moment in their relationship. She would not let Erik feel as if he failed. All of his life he had struggled to be what society considered a man. Well society had failed to recognize his genius because his face did not meet their standards. After tonight Christine hoped Erik never had a single doubt about how she felt about him or how she saw him.

Tears came to her eyes as she realized he had removed his mask for her. She would not let her selfish tears fall. She had a man to please and please him she would. She knew next to nothing about what she should do but at least she knew they were not immune to one another. All those heated kisses and caresses had at least proven that. All she needed to do was give him a little encouragement. If they were willing to tell one another what felt right and what did not then perhaps things would work out.

Bending down Christine laid her lips gently against Erik's. Daringly she traced her tongue along his closed lips. He gasped letting her tongue enter his mouth.

Erik groaned as he pulled Christine tightly against him. His manhood now bulging at the seams of his pajamas pressed against her stomach. She could have no doubt how badly he wanted her.

Leaning back he dragged Christine down with him. She lay still for a moment then moved to the side pulling him across her. With their feet dangling down neither of them could be as close as they wanted or do what they wished.

Erik shoved his hands underneath her then lifted her up so he could place her on the bed. Sliding onto the bed with her Erik found himself lost for a moment in her beauty.

He traced the features of her face with wonder. How could someone so perfect love him? He would not be so foolish as to let his own worries keep him from joining them in spirit as well as body.

"I love you Christine. Whatever the future holds never doubt I love you."

Not knowing what brought about this confession at this moment Christine knew he wanted her to speak of her love for him aloud. Maybe he would always need her to say the words many times a day. If he needed that reassurance she could and would give it to him whenever he had the need.

"I love you Erik. I love everything about you. Never has my heart felt so complete or my soul so at peace. Whatever the future holds know that in this moment I give you all that I have to give with love in my heart."

From that moment no more words were needed as they found their way through the intricacies of first time lovers.

Many fumbles, chuckles and giggles later they had come through their first intimate moment both lying on their backs with smiles of wonder on their faces.

No book or overheard conversation could have prepared them for what they had just shared. Of course their had been pain on Christine's part that nearly drove Erik from the room even as his body demanded he finish what he had started.

Christine had calmed him. Encouraging him to continue he did so with reluctant strokes. Whispering in his ear she had told him the pain had eased and a strange pleasant sensation had taken its place.

As they spoke of what they did to one another the very words seemed to bring on an added rush of excitement. Christine very verbal words of encouragement nearly drove Erik over the edge before he wanted things to end.

Discovery of one another's pleasure points kept them occupied for some time. Neither seemed eager to end the journey too soon. If one felt the end coming near they would separate to lie facing one another exploring with their eyes while their hands remained still.

This pleasurable torture lasted far longer than Erik had expected himself to be able to hold back. He felt quite proud of his performance. If Christine's groans or words of encouragement were anything to base his prowess on, he had done well.

Erik felt blessed to have a woman who would allow him such liberties with her body. By the time they could hold off their climax no longer Erik had inspected Christine quite thoroughly. She had done her own inspecting which had at first made him nervous lest she find something she could not bear to see.

She had kissed every scar that told of some wound he had suffered throughout his life. When she found the first cluster of old scars from a whip she had demanded he show her every single one.

Her lips upon his flesh forever healed any lingering pain those wounds gave him where his memories were concerned. From tonight onward all he would recall would be Christine's warm, soft lips pressed against his damaged skin with a healing caress from her to each and every one.

Erik could now say he definitely felt like other men, perhaps even more so than some. Christine gave him back his humanity. Their love had made him a man in his eyes. Together they would build a life many only dream of.

A/N: I could have made a prologue but for this one story I felt it best to leave that to the imagination of each reader what they invision for Erik and Christine after their wedding night. I loved the romance of Erik and Christine during the movie and hoped until the very end she would turn back to him. I knew from the book and the play that she did not end with Erik. I guess watching the movie several times opened my eyes to the possibility of Erik finding someone and being happy with that person. His love for Christine had been too new and fragile to be sustained for eternity if another possibility presented itself. I like to think Erik did not suffer unrequited love all his life so for me it is a pleasure to always give him someone. This time it was Christine. Maybe I'll find another Christine and Erik pairing in me but not for a while.

Thanks to all who reviewed faithfully and read my offerings. It has been a pleasure to share what I write and I will be posting another story in a couple of days. Thanks all.