I don't own POTO

CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR

Their eyes held for another few minutes, their faces unmoving as they stared into the depths of each other's eyes. Elizabeth's deep blue had a slightly hypnotic effect, Erik quickly realised. This would be useful to her when she entered the industry, a mysterious kind of beauty belonging to the bashful, shy newbie, because while he could make her more confident, he couldn't erase her personality. So he would have to work it into the 'image' she portrayed for the stage.

Though quite honestly, this thought only barley flitted through his mind as his eyes slipped and remained routed to her supple bottom lip, as she nibbled it and one word slipped out in a breathy answer to his question "Yes."

She wasn't moving, his hands were on her hips, her dress made from that silk that was the ladies fashion that sat like a second skin. English ladies were meant to be seen, admired, but never touched. Like delicate garden roses in a greenhouse, so there was no need for their cloths to be thick enough to hide the texture of their skin. Pressed up against her like this, Erik could feel her warmth in the palm of his hands right from beneath her gown. Elizabeth may not have ben slim, but she was all lush curves of a woman, Erik felt his mouth go dry.

And then he let go, flung her away with some force, only some by some lucky grace did she catch herself before being thrown in the wall. She looked up at him with surprised eyes, Erik turned away from her till all she could see was his back and let out a raspy "Forgive me, I did not mean to put so much force"

"T-that's ok" she said in a breathy whisper, that whisper did more to him than he realised. He could feel his arousal so acutely and only then did Erik finally admit, that he found Elizabeth attractive. He had thought it impossible, because of his face, he'd never known the pleasures of a woman, but he could dream; and he always dreamt of his sweet Christine. But Elizabeth's body was delectable in its own way, he had always thought so in the months of knowing her, but it wasn't till the night of that ball when it really hit him, when he saw her in that silver dress, hugging every angle, her low cut gown revealed her bosom, cupping them like palms.

"E-Erik?" Elizabeth's voice broke through his reverie as he turned from her, thrusting away his thoughts lie one would flee from leprosy.

"You…" he floundered for words "You're not wearing yellow today?" he said, realising for the first time she was not garbed in her usual tone of yellow or Orange, instead she had chosen a light stone green dress that complimented the subtle blue tint to her ebony hair.

"Ah yes" she flushed, seemingly pleased with the change in conversation as she worried the it between her fingers bashfully "I picked it today, ever since that night I've just…" she smiled so sweetly, a happy blush blessed her cheeks "I've just had more confidence in myself. I felt it was high time I stopped letting my mother chose my gowns for me. She took it rather well surprisingly; I thought she would put up more of a fight, but I suppose she's just glad I'm not as useless as she had previously thou—"

"You're not useless" Erik said before he's even realised it, and looked at her "They just didn't see your potential, it's not your fault they have no eyes"

He hadn't meant to say that, if five minutes ago meant anything then, he should have been keeping her at a far distance lest be become too fond of the feelings she invoked. Usually, he was very good at keeping people at a distance, but for some reason, Elizabeth disarmed him.

His words said unintentionally caused her to stop, and then she smiled as if the sun was shining right through the ground into their little practice room. "What a perfectly kind thing to say, Thank you"

Erik felt something close to irritation bubble within his stomach, but irritation at what? Elizabeth? No, not her, her inability to have any confidence in herself. Typically, when she put herself down like that, it only ever annoyed Erik, who had boundless confidence in all but one thing of his person, but seeing her a second ago had made him angry.

Just how often a time had she been told, this timid, gentle thing, that she wasn't needed, wasn't wanted, wasn't good enough. For it to become something so ingrained in her that a single word from someone like him would invoke such happiness? What right had anyone to make his Star feel so low?

Especially when her talent exceeded their in such bounds. He'd heard her sisters playing, and hadn't been impressed. She only followed the music, but music was Elizabeth's soul. And for the first time, he felt irritancy not at Elizabeth, but at the morons who raised her. It was just as well he was taking her away from them.

"Never, refer to yourself as useless, ever" he found himself saying "As long as you are my student, I will never allow such and insult to my name"

Elizabeth just nodded "Yes"

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When Elizabeth returned that evening the guests were gone and the house was quiet. "Did Miss enjoy her regular ride?" Perriwick asked, materialising from out of nowhere, as he so often did.

"Where is everyone?" she asked as he took her evening coat.

"The guests have all returned for the evening and the Madam is had retired to the Blue room, would Miss care to join her?"

In all honestly, Elizabeth was ready for a warm bath and some supper, but it would be rude not to greet her mother "Yes, thank you Perriwick, and would you be so kind as to ring for tea, if you haven't done so already? Knowing Mother I'm sure she's already finished her pot"

"I'll see to it right away Miss" Perriwick said, being low at the waist before dematerialising out of the room.

Her mother was draped across the creamy damask sofa, a cup of half-finished tea clutched delicately in her fingers. She looked up as she heard the door close and her face crinkled into a tired smile "Darling, where did you get to this evening?"

Elizabeth paused in surprise as she realised another hitch to gaining her mother's consideration, before Elizabeth had always managed to pass in and out of the house with barley any detection, but now her mother would actually pay attention to whether she was in a room or not, it was obvious she would notice the long absences when Elizabeth went to visit Erik.

"I was taking a carriage ride, I always enjoy one from time to time"

"Chaperoned?"

"Yes mother" she nodded, hoping God would forgive her for the white lie.

Her mother nodded and patted the space by her side, motioning Elizabeth to sit down, which she did. Once she was seated, her mother wasted no time in spilling what was on her mind.

"Your Father has returned"

Ah, well that explained the quiet house and tired smile "I see" she said softly.

And it all rushed back, the realisation. She had, only hours ago promised Erik her life, her future, her dedication to become his student and leave the life she knew behind forever.

How…

How could she ever hope to do that! She was heir, she had a duty to her family, and she'd been raised for it. How could she just abandon her responsibilities, let down her Father, her Mother, Sisters, it all suddenly became too much.

"If you'll excuse me Mother, I would like to freshen up some before Father calls for me" as he always did. Her mother waved her hand "Yes Dear. And perhaps, you can show him your singing I'm sure he'd love to hear it"

He'd hate to hear it. Elizabeth knew in her whole household, her father was the only one who wouldn't be happy to hear her sing, because it meant she wouldn't take over the company, wouldn't be heir, and he'd lose his Freedom.

Locked in her room, Elizabeth slumped to the floor, all the breath from her body withered away like a dwindling flame as the full magnitude of what she'd just promised fell upon her.

Leave, forever? It was impossible; she could never abandon her family. At the time she'd been seduced by Erick's sweet words and beautiful music and forgot herself when she said Yes, but in truth, it was the opposite.

This was her home, she'd been born in this house, raised here. This was her Family, to suddenly up and leave, for singing?

Of course she wanted to be with Erik she loved him, she loved him in a way she had loved no other, not even Anthony, she wanted him like she needed air. But, perhaps she needed the land she stood on more. The familiar.

What could she do?

"Elizabeth? Elizabeth what's wrong, why is the door locked ?" Abigail called from beyond the door, Elizabeth blinked as she snapped out of her deep contemplations, her hands were numb from unconscious worrying her lip nub from biting it between her teeth. "I'm fine Abi" she called "What is it?"

"Father 's been calling for you, are you able to see him"

And look him in the eye as he prattled on about her taking over his company while knowing that might never happen?

"No dear, I'm afraid I've come down rather ill tonight, I would like to be left alone"

"Goodness, nothing too serious I hope? Shall I send for the doctor?"

"No" Elizabeth called "It's nothing serious, just a slight headache; I'll sleep and be better by morning. Have Perriwick bring me up a tray when he's done"

Abigail was quiet for a moment "Well, alright, if you're sure. Feel better sister" and then there was the gentle tapping of her heels retreating down the hallway.

Then she fell against the door again.

Her sisters, would she ever see them again? And what about her mother, it would be such a scandal, the eldest ran away to join the theatre and become a singer? Perhaps this sort of thing may be tolerable in a radical country like America or France, but this was England, it was a country founded on routine and regularity and one did not simply up and go leaving everything behind especially when one was a gently bred lady and heiress. It could ruin them.

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Erik busied himself with his score from his room above the choir room. While his living quarters were situated beneath the theatre, in the underground catacombs as he preferred, he had a little workroom above where the singers rehearsed as he often got his best ideas while listening to opera. He and the Theatre Master had come to this arrangement several years ago and it suited him just fine.

It still somewhat astonished him just how accommodation the master was. An eccentric man, he seemed unconcerned that a strange man had shown up and started telling him how to run his business but instead was more concerned that that strange man's ideas actually worked. Erik never let his see his face, but they would speak and as he had in the Opera Populair, he would have the top box seat reserved for him at all times. In return, Erik would be their unseen choir master. It went unknown by many of the staff, but no play, no song, not even on note played on the organ made it to audience viewing without Erik's approval.

It would take little convincing when Elizabeth showed up and made her debut, to allow her into the choir house. As he had with Christine, he would raise her above all others at a speed unusual to newcomers, but like Christine she deserved it. He was determined Elizabeth would make the stage in less than a year.

Thinking of Elizabeth brought unwanted images to mind, unwanted erotic images involving pert bottom lip and creamy white neck. Erik paused before wiping them from his mind with his hand, groaning into his palm.

This needed to stop. Truly.

He hasn't seen her for a whole four days since their last lesson, but the dreams hadn't stopped of become less tangible in anyway.

Erik didn't know for certain when it had started, these unwanted emotions towards his student, they seemed so sudden though now that he was contemplating it, he realised they'd probably started quite early on, it was only recent they had grown to this degree that he was taking noticed. In quite plain simple terms, he wanted her.

He wanted Elizabeth. And this was a very bad thing.

He had promised himself never again; never again would he lust after a beautiful young woman, especially his student, not after last time. But it was somewhat useless trying to reason with his lower half whenever he dreamed about the night he'd held her to that mirror, in that silver dress almost repeatedly. Or of the time when he'd sung her to sweet seduction to get her to comply to his wishes, the devotion in her eyes, how would they look…

No, this had to stop.

Erik was a man, he'd had his fantasies about women, he'd even fantasied about Christine. Woman were cruel objects to him, why shouldn't he fantasies about them when they wouldn't care for him one wit in reality. He was callous and uncaring towards the female sex. But Elizabeth was different from them.

She trusted him, cared for him, believed in him. She was so different from any woman he'd even known, even Christine in the sense that she was so innocent, and pure. Not in her virginity but in her character. She was so genuine and good it felt a sin to sully her, even in thought.

But also, that only made the fantasy more appealing. To think of those innocent lips, those hands, that body unseen by male eyes stripped bare as she gazed up at him with eyes full of trust while shyly trying to cover herself up.

It would never happen; he would never do it to her.

Erik promised himself he would take care of her this time, bring her to stardom. He didn't love her like he had Christine, but he lusted after her. And Elizabeth deserved so much more than that. Perhaps one day, when she was old and had finished on the stage, he would let her go, find herself a…male companion.

It would be difficult; Erik was not a man prone to sharing. He was possessive. But he could relent, for Elizabeth. That was how much she had come to mean to him.

The music of the practice piano die down as did the soft hub of voiced from below a practice came to an end

"Thank you Ladies" Mr Davenport, their known choir master called "That will be all for today, I will see you in the morning" the sound of the door slamming shut beckoned a renewed roar of voices as the gossiping begun. Erik rolled his eyes, why did young girls see the need for all this infernal chit chat when they should be practicing their scales. Elizabeth was far too level headed for such things, as a matter of fact, so had been his Christine. The only one she would overly converse with was Meg Giri and even then she was quiet and often prone to listening rather than speaking.

He packed away his materials seeing no point in lingering to hear the silly wittering of young girls when he could be down in his home, composing.

But a single name stopped him in his tracks. A name he would have heard even if the whole room had been on fire with screams and cries and the name had only been whispered.

"I 'eard she got sick" one of the chorus girl said to her companion

"Who?"

"Christine de Chaney of course, you remember, she used to be this big shot in opera, it was all over the papers. Apparently, she was stating in London for a time, all secret like, so the press wouldn't find out"

"She never!" her friend gasped

"Yeah, apparently she was supposed to get on this boat out of the country, to meet her husband, but she got sick and they wouldn't let her on, so she missed the boat"

"Sick from what? It aint serous is it?"

"Who's to say, I read in the papers she don't wanna see no one, so she aint told anyone where she'd gonna be staying till she gets better and goes."

At that point, one of the other choir girls engaged the two in a discussion on new ribbons, but Erik had heard enough to fall into a trance, his hand frozen over his paper's in a motion of picking up.

"Christine" he whispered, his voice horse. She was here, in England? How could this be? Erik felt his feet tingle from the knowledge that she could be standing on the same ground as him right now, at this very moment.

He hadn't seen her once since that day he let her go, and hadn't hear of her once since that newspaper clipping from so long ago. And she was sick?

His heart sank with a weigh he couldn't explain. His beautiful Angel was sick, in England? After so many years she was here? This was almost too much to bear, too much to think about.

Where was she now?

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