The theater was now almost completely restored—the only things needed were the finishing touches. If she could just get that and the backstage area in working order, she could use some of the profits to expand the renovations outward. The lobby would also need to be put back in working order. People tended to get rather cranky when there weren't any working restrooms available.
She dropped into bed that night, exhausted. Soon, she would need to audition actors and actresses. Erik had not yet said anything about that, but she was sure he'd have more than a few opinions. With everything going ahead of schedule, it would be sooner than later.
She had a very odd dream that night.
She sat up. She had been sleeping on a bed of red silk spreads. There was a black gauzy curtain around the bed to help keep some of the draft out. Candles flickered everywhere—some of them had wax that had dripped out of the holders and formed small stalactites as the wax had hardened. It was evident that no one was a house keeper around here. For some odd reason, the strings of wax repulsed her. She resisted the urge to go break them off and toss them into a waste bin.
Instead, her curiosity overcame her. She heard the most beautiful organ music from the next room. It was so beautiful and so sad…it almost brought tears to her eyes. She regretted moving from her warm nest, for the pervasive cold seeped through her thin satin slippers. She pushed it from her thoughts and moved toward the sound.
There he was at the organ. He wore a high-collared cape that covered most of his neck and she could not see his face. An odd sensation that she knew this man pricked at her memory.
She came up to him, drawn to his dark beauty. As though it might be the last time, he leaned into her touch, seeming to try and block out all other sensations. His hands did not stop moving on the keys, but his eyes closed as his cheek grazed against her fingertips. She expected warm skin, but a cold, hard surface greeted her instead. This man wore a mask!
Who was this stranger? She had to know. She had to know why he hid his face. Her fingers slid down to the edge of the mask that hid nearly everything but his mouth and pried it loose.
Abby woke in a cold sweat—she could not remember what she had seen after that. She only knew that her heart was thundering and that the adrenaline would likely not let her go back to sleep for a long time. Sighing, she looked at the clock—and immediately wished she hadn't.
She carefully untangled herself from her sheets and got up. She wore a ratty old nightgown that she'd had since she was a teenager that still bore food stains from her nighttime comfort-cooking sessions. She wished dearly that the Opera Populaire's kitchen was in working order. There was no way she was setting foot in there with no dishwasher or garbage disposal!
Instead, she moved to look through her mini fridge. Nothing was there—typical. She sighed and wished she were a child again and the cabinets automatically seemed to refill themselves.
She had no books to read, nothing to snack on, not even something for a hot cup of tea. Instead, she retrieved her laptop. The bluish-white glow nearly blinded her at first after being in total darkness, but her eyes slowly adjusted. Bored, she typed "ghost-hunting" into the search engine and watched the page load.
Most of the websites seemed either boring, silly, or just plain weird. There were accounts of women being sexually molested by demons, people experiencing poltergeist activity, and listings for shows on television. Abby rolled her eyes—not one of these sounded like Erik. Thank God for that…he might be violent and mean sometimes, but he had never done anything like that. At five-thirty, she decided she'd had enough and went back to bed. Another dream came.
She was trembling, standing in front of the mirror. She wore a wedding dress, which under any other circumstances would have been beautiful. She looked down at her finger…the ring there was like her prison cuff. She would be forced to wed a man who was insane…a monster.
Her mind moved to her wedding night. Oh, God…what would he do to her? Would he force her to do it if she didn't want to? She shuddered and went cold all over. She gulped and the bile rose in her throat. Regardless of what his face looked like, she didn't want to have his children or be in his bed. He would always be a monster because his hatred had made his heart so ugly…
Trying very hard not to cry, she steeled herself for what she would have to do. Raoul was unlikely to find her, so she would have to make the best of it. She would have to marry this terrible man and hope that time and kindness would chip away at the hardness in his heart. Perhaps she could teach him how to love a person properly.
"Come on, my angel! You musn't keep me waiting!" Erik's voice was tinged with impatience. He opened the door slowly, giving her a chance to cover herself if she didn't yet have the dress on. Her eyes met his and reflexively filled with tears. Through the curtain of moisture, she saw the unnaturally bright gold. He had yellow eyes like a cat…she had never much cared for cats. They were creepy and so was he.
He reached out and took her hand in his. Hers was chilly from fear, his was cold like normal. He raised her hand to his lips and kissed it lightly.
"You look stunning," he said, obviously satisfied.
She didn't answer. What was there to say?
"You're sad…yes, I know," he said, his breath grazing her cheek as he leaned in, "but someday you will understand. One of these days, you will be happy again."
Would she? The contact was too much. As his lips grazed her forehead, the tears she swore she would not spill cascaded down her cheeks.
"Please don't make me do this…" she begged, voice choked with emotion.
He appeared not to be listening and instead led her out of the room.
"Ah…look, my dear! We have a guest!" he said triumphantly.
"RAOUL!" she cried, tearing her hand out of the Phantom's and running to the gate. Raoul was caught in one of the traps. He would soon drown if someone didn't get him loose.
The Phantom smiled wickedly, insanely.
"Christine," he sighed, "leave him. We have somewhere to go, remember?"
She turned to him, rage overcoming her fear.
"Let him go, you disgusting, ill-mannered gargoyle!"
Her insult only made his smile seem to get nastier.
"Why should I?"
Raoul was holding his chin above the water, but he would be pulled under soon.
"Because I love him! Does that mean nothing to you?"
Apparently it didn't.
"Marry me and never look back," the phantom hissed, "and I will let your precious Vicomte go. I expect there to be no arguments after this."
"Don't do it, Christine!" Raoul yelled just before he disappeared underwater.
"I'll do it," she sighed.
The Phantom marched over to a lever and tugged it. The water rapidly spilled out of the chamber and left Raoul coughing and gasping at the bottom. She ran into the water, not heeding the expensive dress, and ran to him.
"Christine…you just sold your soul to the devil," Raoul choked.
She bowed her head. So she had…but he was safe. She held him one last time before the Phantom marched over and pried her out of his grasp.
She mumbled and pulled away from someone trying to shake her. Her vision blurred as she tried to look up. The sick feeling she'd been feeling in the dream persisted. In fact, her stomach hurt horribly.
"Abby, are you all right?"
It surprised her that it was Charlie's voice she heard and not Erik's. Alarmed, she tried to sit up and couldn't.
"No…" she gasped right before she threw up.
Charlie didn't wait any longer. He hauled her out of the bed and carried her downstairs.
"Don't—stop," she choked, but he ignored her.
"I'm taking you to the hospital no matter what you say."
He ordered one of the workers to open the car door for him and placed her in the passenger side.
Golden-amber eyes watched from the shadows as the car sped away.