Its been a long while, but my assessments are over for now so I can write.

CHAPTER THIRTY THREE

"Well we knew all along that there had to be some talent deep within our Elizabeth" Sophia gushed over tea a few days later in the room full to bursting with her friends, "I mean, how could she not? She was born into our family."

Twenty people had called in on their house that day and requested the presence of 'Darling Elizabeth', four of which Elizabeth had never seen before in her life and the other sixteen all people she knew but had probably not even known her name or seen any reason to learn until last night. Elizabeth sat on a sofa nearby, sipping tea and trying to pretend they weren't there in her mother's drawing room.

"My word girl, I never knew you had it in you" Mrs Pebblesworth said, fanning her oversized neck with a silken Chinese fan "I've always thought you to be quite plain an ordinary, when you ripped off that mask, why I almost had a heart attack. Silver is definitely your colour my dear, I've always said yellow was a terrible choice of colour for gowns, didn't I say so ladies" a chorus of 'yes you did' when around the room even though as far as Elizabeth could recall, the woman had said no such think of any kind in all her time of knowing her.

"Yes, well…" Sophia said, a little inched considering it was her who had put Elizabeth in yellow downs for since her debut at fifteen "Yell is a happy colour for happy girls."

"I'm not putting down your choices Sophia darling" she said quickly, laughing "So tell me Elizabeth how long has it been since you've started singing, your mother did quite well in hiding your talent from the world, I've never heard such a beautiful voice." Rather than giving Elizabeth a chance to speak she turned to Sophia "She'll be the new jewel of your family" she said this more to pacify her early blunder in politeness then as an actual compliment.

"I know" Sophia said, excepting the praise with grace and erasing the blunder with style belonging only to a high born lady of society "I plan to have Elizabeth showcase her new talent as often as possible. I hear Mr and Mrs Dickens will be having a Card Party soon and have requested Verity, Abigail and Elizabeth perform for them."

Elizabeth settled down her cup "Mother, I think I'll retire to the drawing room to practice my piano forte"

"Yes, yes darling, so be going along now"

As Elizabeth was leaving, she overheard the last whispers of "…She plays too?"

"Oh yes, didn't you know. Our Elizabeth has always been very gifted with the piano…"

Elizabeth left, trying desperately not to scoff and let sour mood show on her face should the servants notice.

'Gifted with piano' she thought with much annoyance 'Who was it who told me only last week that my gift with the piano was minimal at best and I should leave it to my sister. Darling Elizabeth my aunt Millie, you and your society friends would never have paid any attention to me before' it wasn't becoming of a young lady to fume at her mother, but somehow, Elizabeth couldn't bring herself to care.

Truthfully, in the past few days she'd been receiving more and more praise from her family and friends, and that pleased her greatly.

No, please her greatly was an understatement, Elizabeth was ecstatic. All her life she'd been plain and unnoticed, now she was a jewel. A polished gem instead of a dusty pebble and everyone wanted to see her and claim some credit in her polishing, when before they'd been the ones to kick her about like a rock in their shoe.

And that was what annoyed her. The superficiality of it all, Elizabeth loved her mother, but she knew that she was only now paying her attention because she had become a commodity, something interesting. She would never have loved her this much if she hadn't any talent. Elizabeth had thought she'd feel more at finally achieving her mother's recognition, but it wasn't the case. It seemed that in the time it takes to get to this moment, Elizabeth had changed.

She no longer cared about her mother's approval. It simply wasn't important anymore. If anything, being gawked at like it was some huge shock she could be anything but ordinary, it was downright insulting.

But that didn't mean she hadn't enjoyed that night. No, even now if Elizabeth closed her eyes she could cast herself back to that moment. The actual praise itself had been breath-talking, spellbinding, a rush that couldn't be explained in words. On stage, the exhilaration of the performance still thrumming though her veins like a golden brew of sunlight itself, she felt so much more than herself, like a queen or a goddess; the applause, the cheers, the music. And Erik, standing with his joker mask slid ever so slightly upwards so she could see a smile on his lips. That smile…

How it made her heart pound. The biggest accomplishment, more than the utter joy of the performance, was the approval in that smile. All of that night was so perfect, Elizabeth wasn't through. She wanted…no…neededto taste it again.

Elizabeth made forwent the drawing room and instead made her way to the stables to saddle Moonlight. It been some time since her last lesson, Erik had been letting her off due to the over shock of her debut into society, but now it was time to return and Elizabeth was eager to get back to real music. And more importantly, Elizabeth was ready to return to him.

"Are you ready girl?" she said softly, hoisting herself up on the gentle animal's back "Gee up"

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When she climbed through the metal pipes, he wasn't there. Elizabeth took hesitant steps, wondering if perhaps she'd arrived too early or too late or perhaps even on the wrong day entirely. There were times when he would arrive late, but Elizabeth had expected him to be on time today of all days.

Suddenly there was the sound of the organ keys being pressed in unison, Elizabeth jumped with a slight squeal in surprise and tripped on her heel. She whirled around to where Erik had materialised by the Organ, his joker mask replaced with his signature white porcelain half-mask. He approached her with the stealth of a feline till he was standing right before her "I see you have returned"

"Of course I would" she said, feeling a little insulted "Why wouldn't I?"

He did not answer, only turned away from her and asked "How was your first taste of magnificence?"

"It was…life changing" she admitted, in more ways than one.

"And yet, you have returned?"

"Why wouldn't I" she repeated, with a little sadness tinging her tone of voice. Did he really have so little faith in her?

"I merely assumed, now that you'd achieved the approval and recognition you so craved from your peers, you would have no more need for me or my lessons" he said as he walked over to the organ, his fingers caressing it with a gentleness that made her slightly jealous.

Have no more need for him? Was the man insane! There wasn't anything in this world Elizabeth needed more, she needed him like birds needed the sky or song needed music.

"I still have so much to learn. And it wasn't their approval I wanted. Perhaps at first I wanted them to acknowledge me, but now…" Elizabeth paused, even for her, to admit so much was a little too daring. But she went for it, hadn't she decided already she wasn't going to run from her feelings anymore? "Now, all that matters to me is your approval."

He tuned to her, surprised evident in his one revealed eye and Elizabeth but her lip to keep her hands and legs from trembling from the nerves. Being honest about her emotions was exhausting.

But the moment of surprise passes and was replaced with approval and, dare she say it, pride. Elizabeth's heart swelled.

Erik sat at the organ and pressed down on one shark key. By instinct, Elizabeth sand the scale, then flushed with embarrassment "I'm sorry I just…" but he pressed another key and she sang it. They continued for several more keys, getting higher and higher till they reached the point where Elizabeth's still untrained voice always broke and to her immediate surprise, she surpassed her limit with one more scale higher than usual till eventually she broke.

"Hmm, you do still have much to learn, it is good you recognise that. But…" he turned to her "Here may be where our journey ends"

Her heart fell "W-what! No…no please Erik, don't do this! Tell me why, why won't you teach me anymore?" was he abandoning her now! Now when she'd finally admitted to loving her, finally decided to fight for him, were the heavens mocking her? She felt tears begin to prickle at her eyes.

No, she couldn't say good buy, not yet. Not yet could she give up. "Why Erik!"

Erik was quiet "Originally, I taught you music, because honestly, I was…bored"

"Bored?"

"I saw in you some talent, and thought it would be interesting to polish my skills, to see how far I could take you. And you wanted recognition from you family."

Was that all she was, some project? She had known this from the beginning, but somehow, Elizabeth had hoped that perhaps, n the time of their knowing each other, they'd become a little close, perhaps even friends. But was she really only a project to be picked up and abandoned at will. How could he introduce her t the wonders of music then just rip them from her hands so cruelly.

"That was my original intention" he continued "And I planned, to leave it here, should you disappoint me… I had acted on the full assumption that you would…disappoint me"

"And did I? Disappoint you I mean?" she asked brokenly

"On the contrary my dear, you did the exact opposite." He said as Elizabeth looked up in shock "I expected you to have some talent but I was unprepared for how much. I took a raw spark, and nurtured it into a roaring flame; I made you into who you are. That sparkling gem from last night was my creation, I was the one who polished you to perfection, no one else but me; however, I did not do that for you to become a parlour trick. If you want to continue lessons, if you want me to polish you, shine you to even more excellence, you would have to take music more seriously."

Elizabeth wiped away the beads of tears collecting in her eye "What are you saying?"

Then he turned to her, looking straight in the eyes he said a little more softly "Come with me Star, come with me to the Sunset Theatre where you can stand on stage again and again as you transform into a true opera singer"

Elizabeth didn't even pretend to hide her shock. "What? Leaving! I…"

"What can society do for you? Marriage? Prestige? Reputation? What's it all worth without music?" he demanded "I don't mean now, you will need time to prepare. What we have been doing is nothing compared to what you would be expected to do at the Theatre, but soon, come away with me."

"I...I…" she didn't know what to say. Hadn't she just been contemplating her dissatisfaction with her left without music, to be taken out and cooed over every now and again like a parlour attraction at car parties and dinner engagements? Didn't she want to be on stage seriously and to be beside him?

The very idea of coming to the Sunset Theatre, the place she saw that beautiful play was an idea that left her giddy. But still, to leave behind her family, her father, her responsibilities. She was the eldest child, she had to take over her father's business, it was her duty. "I…cant…" she whispered "My responsibilities…I just…"

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"What are they to you, without music?" Erik repeated coming closer. Elizabeth took a startled step back.

"But I just…I can't make a decision like this lightly." She said, but he could see it in her eyes that she didn't truly believe her own answer.

Elizabeth would come, he knew it. She loved the stage too much, craved it. It was in her blood, just as it was in his. Now that she'd had a taste of what it could be like, devoting herself to music, he knew she could never resist.

But it would take some persuasion. Elizabeth was light, bright and stunning and beautiful. But the her right now was like a washed out candle light. She would need to be doused and relit anew.

Despite all he said to her about how she needed to want to continue, Erik admitted that there was a part of him that also wanted it, needed it. She was so much more then where she'd been born, she was so much more than a passing fancy.

Elizabeth was his inspiration, the one that had given his life meaning again, given him a purpose. If only he'd known that one whimsical decision all those months ago would have born such a thing, he wouldn't have believed it. Even though convincing her like this was for her sake, he wanted her to want it. He wanted her with him.

"Forget about all of that, Star" he said and immediately her blush intensified but still she took a step back.

Her eyes darted around the room like a frightened rabbit; her pale cheeks flushed a dark red as she nibbled on her cherry pink lips. His eyes were drawn to there as her tongue darted out to wet them nervously and for a moment he wanted to…

The thought left him the moment it came. Erik turned away from her and caressed the Organ thoughtfully. Well, if words won't work then…

"Elizabeth" he said softly, still turned away from her "Do you trust me?"

"Of course" she yelped indignantly "Of course I do!"

"Would you trust me with your life?"

"Completely" she said, he could hear the earnestness in her voice even without looking at her, he could imagine those wide eyes sparkling with innocence as she tried to convey her deepest sense of trust to him. And he smiled "Then, believe in me and my music."

"Turn your face away from the garish light of day, turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light, and listen to the music of the night"

He sang this without the usual power he gave to this song; Softly, gently, as if weaving tendrils of darkness together in a cloak. He didn't need earnest passion as he had when he had used this song on Christine, he needed sly seduction. Elizabeth didn't need much convincing, she just needed reassurance.

He turned around to see her wringing the corners of her gloves and though she took a step back again nervously, her eyes still darting about; her head was tipped to the side with an expression of pure longing. In all the time he'd known her, Elizabeth had never been able to resist his voice. "Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams, purge your thoughts of the life you knew before"

She half-lidded her eyes unconsciously, Erik began to step towards the wall, running the palm of his hands along the dusty burgundy wall paper. "Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar. And live as you've never lived before"

Her eyes snapped open, she was still hesitant "But Erik I…"

He ignored her and continued singing, walking around the room as his hand trailed along the wall "Softly, deftly, music shall caress you. Hear it, feel it, secretly possess you.Open up your mind; let your fantasies unwind, In this darkness which you know you cannot fight. The darkness of the music of the night."

He reached the end of the wall, because he eyes were closed, she didn't notice him walking up behind her "Let your mind start a journey to a strange new world, leave all thoughts of the life you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be"

He had only intended on taking her shoulder and turning her around, but his voice as a sudden close proximity surprised her and she gasped and lost her footing, tripping backwards. Erik reached out to catch her instinctively and caught her waist, snapping her up till she was pulled flush against him, her blue eyes looking up into his, her white cheek with skin so soft resting against his mask, almost touching the skin not covered by porcelain, her lips so…so close, his eyes became infixed. So much so he didn't even notice his voice trailing softly as he sang "Only then can you belong to me"

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As she was falling, she felt someone grasp her waist and hoist her up till she was face to face with her Master, her lips almost grazing the bottom of his porcelain mask they were so close. He made no move to remove her, and instead said

Elizabeth felt her heart rate speed up far beyond what she believed a normal human's heart rate was medically allowed to reach as her cheeks tinged with pink. The old Elizabeth would have been horrified at the closeness of their proximity; the old Elizabeth would have pushed him away, stuttering wordless apologies while trying to convince herself not to blush. But this Elizabeth bit her lip and stood her ground, this new Elizabeth who had chosen not to push away her heart, but to embrace it, to fight for her love for the first time. She closed her eyes and relished the deep timber of his voice.

His eyes were so dark and seemed to hold something Elizabeth couldn't put a name to. The longer neither of them moved, the more she felt something; though she wasn't sure what, changing. When he sang next, there was something in the lit of his voice "Floating, falling, sweet intoxication" his hands slid across her waist till they were resting on her hips. Still she did nothing to escape. "Touch me" he took one hand and grazed the knuckles down the softness of her cheek with an agonizing slowness "Trust me, savour each sensation"

He began to twist till he was half standing behind her, half holding her tightly, their faces not moving from their close proximity, Elizabeth felt she could burst from the sensation of it all, but she could not go anywhere "Let the dream begin let your darker side give in, to the power of the music that I write." She'd been captured by this man; no longer could he be without him. Thought their faces were so close, and she knew what was beneath it, not even that could deter her from her heart. Her spirit had come to depend on his existence. She loved him too much to ever let him go "The power of the music of the night"

He finished singing, without even a pant revealing any discomfort while Elizabeth was doing everything in her power not to faint. They stared into each other's eyes, and Elizabeth knew then and there. She'd follow this man anywhere.

"Elizabeth, do you trust me?" he said again and all she could say in reply was a horse, whispered "Yes"

"Then come with me, leave behind this life and allow yourself to be mine"

"Yes"

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I want to make it Pretty Clear, Erik doesn't love Elizabeth yet, he's really fond of her and there's defiantly some emotion there that could turn into love, and he is attracted to her physically. But he still thinks he's in love with Christine. Old habits are hard to break.

PLEASE REVEIW