A final note:
Thank you all for bearing with me. I know it has taken awhile to get the chapters up, and for that I do apologize. I hope that by posting these all at once it makes up for the delay. I added this little Epilogue today to try and tie things up a little better, although I do know that there are plenty of holes and missing parts. I had more of this story written but I went back and consolidated a few things, so I hope it all made sense. I know I have said this before, but this will absolutely be my last FF story. Life has sort of gotten in the way of my writing life, but I hope by finishing this story I can move on to stories that are 100 percent solely mine.
I thank each & every one of you for your reviews, and I will miss you all!
"How does she look?" Erik asked anxiously. "She is still here?"
Matthieu smiled and patted Erik's shoulder. "Your bride awaits. You are certain this is the way you want to do things? A marriage done in secret is bound to cause more strain between you and the Jouberts."
Erik shrugged. "I doubt that very much. It has been a year since Alfred gave me permission to court his daughter. A year to convince his wife that I am not going to kidnap Selene and lock her in a cellar to sing for me. She is not warming towards me, and it is time for us to marry."
"Love is patient," his father said, barely able to keep from laughing.
"I am not," Erik muttered.
"Father! Father!" Gustave burst into the room, shouting at the top of his lungs. "Uncle Alfred is here!"
"Perfect. Just perfect."
He checked his reflection in the mirror, scowling at himself. He had broached the subject with Alfred twice in the past six months, and Alfred simply said, "We will see."
It was past time for seeing. He had tried his damn best to keep his hands off of Selene during their courtship, but he was not always successful in keeping her hands off of him. Selene had told him two weeks ago that she was almost certain she was pregnant, and that had been it for him. To hell with waiting, he had decided. To hell with everything except for his new family.
"Well," Alfred said as he came in. "I suppose I should have expected this."
"I suppose you should have." Erik turned to face him, surprised to see Alfred wearing formal wedding attire, complete with white tie and a top hat. There was no scowl evident on Alfred's face, only a bit of strain around his eyes. "You knew."
"Yes. There are but a few places a marriage license may be obtained in Paris. I have had ears and eyes out, watching for my daughters name."
"You are not here to stop us?"
"But you will not give your blessing?"
Alfred winced. "Perhaps once you are married and have a daughter, you will understand. I cannot give you my blessing without incurring the wrath of my wife. I do still have my reservations, but…"
"What?" Erik asked anxiously.
"But I think my daughter will make you happy and keep you in line, and I already know how happy you make her."
"And that is all that matters, is it not?" Matthieu interrupted. "Erik, you'd best not keep your bride waiting. Alfred, I know Selene will be so very happy that you are here to give her away."
Alfred nodded and left the room, leaving Erik alone with Gustave and Matthieu. Erik wondered who else might have come. Solange, possibly. Selene and her sister had finally resolved their problems, and even allowed Jean to offer his apologies, however belated they were. Mr. Squelch had returned to America and to his family a few months ago, taking Miss Fleck along with him. Raoul de Chagny had finally managed to pay off his creditors, found employment as a translator with the foreign legion, and was currently somewhere in Africa no doubt sweating in some jungle or a desert. He had wished them both well, though it was apparent the news of their courtship had completely baffled him. The daroga, upon hearing that he was getting married, had laughed so hard he had cried, and declared that he would not miss the wedding for all the world. As far as Gustave was concerned, since his father was courting Selene, he might as well marry her.
That only left Anne to invite, and she had been more than happy to be Selene's bridesmaid. It had been a very long two weeks since she had told him they might be expecting a child. Two weeks, where he had done nothing but try not to pull his hair out while Selene dashed about Paris doing this and that, preparing for a wedding that was supposed to be secret, instead of resting.
Finally the moment came, and the small chapel seemed to swell with music. His gaze wandered over the congregation without seeing anyone. His heart hammered inside his breast, so hard and loud that it felt as if it might burst. The doors at the end of the long nave opened and sunlight shone down upon his bride. His breath caught, and for a moment he forgot to breathe.
"She's pretty," his best man whispered.
He turned to smile at Gustave. "That she is."
She glided to him, a figure in white with dark blue eyes peeping out at him beneath mechlin lace with her characteristic red lips curved into a smile. Alfred gave her hand to his, and faded back, as fathers must do for such occasions.
"Your dress is lovely, Madame. As are you."
"A bit snugger than it was a month ago," she whispered.
His eyes widened. "A month? I am scandalized Madame. How long have you been planning to ensnare me?"
"Longer than you know, Sir."
She linked her arm through his, and vowed to love, to honor, to obey him. He promised, quite solemnly, to do the same.
The moment felt surreal, yet he knew it was no dream. Her perfume teased at him. The sapphire and diamond ring slid over her finger; a perfect fit. She truly loved him, and it showed in her eyes. He kissed her, and knew that he was home.
In the end it no longer mattered who was there and who was not. It no longer mattered that they would not have her family's full approval, or that they were marrying because of an unexpected child. They were a family, and had begun to be one long before this day. Gustave might not call Selene 'Mother', but she meant everything to him. He had changed so much in the past few months that it was like living with a different child. He shared music with his father. He laughed and shared stories with him, and got into trouble with mischief and out of it with an exuberant smile.
Erik had fallen more deeply in love with Selene, and as promised, he had courted her with music and poems, with flowers and jewelry and flattery. His temper, always just beneath the surface, sometimes drove her to distraction. His insecurities, never far away, often threatened to come between them. It wasn't perfect, but it was love, and it was theirs.
They walked out of the chapel together, and on the steps before their family and friends, shared another kiss in the bright, nearly blinding sunlight.
"Will you tell me where we are going?" Selene asked, after they had been given a teary farewell. "I wasn't sure what to pack, a bathing suit or snow shoes."
"Hmmm. Well, you could wear the snow shoes, but I doubt very much that you will need them in Madrid."
She flung her arms around his neck, causing the car to swerve slightly. He gripped the wheel tighter, but placed his arm around her and kissed the top of her head.
"Beautiful Madrid," she whispered. "A hotel room to ourselves for two weeks. Such a pity you chose Madrid."
He frowned. "Why?"
"Oh, I have always wanted to see it. Now I shall miss the chance. I daresay I will not let you out of the hotel long enough to enjoy it."
Erik groaned as her hands began to wander across his torso. "How fortunate for me, Madame, that I married such a minx."
"I hope you leased a private sleeping car. This minx has ideas of how she wants to spend her wedding night."
He smiled slowly. "Ah, Madame Younger. I might have an idea or two of my own."
Selene nestled against him tighter, feeling so overjoyed that tears pricked her eyes. "I love you, my husband."
"I love you, my wife."
"I do have a teensy confession to make. I hope you aren't angry," she said softly.
He glanced down at her. "You are not pregnant, are you?"
"Oh, most likely I am. There have been far too many…ah…moments for that, and all the signs seem to say yes. I was referring to our wedding vows. There is one that I know will give me trouble."
He chuckled. "I daresay it was the one about obedience."
"That one," she confirmed gravely.
"I rather suspected you might."
"Did you truly think I would trick you into marriage by faking a pregnancy?"
"I rather hoped you would."
"We have not really discussed it. You did not say much when I told you," Selene said softly.
"I am sorry that you are in this predicament. I am unhappy with myself for now doing this to two unmarried women." He glanced down at her. "I am not unhappy with your condition. Worried? Yes. I have many worries. But I missed so many things with Gustave. I will be there with you, every step of the way. Unless there is a nappy changing involved, and then you are on your own."
She poked his ribs and laughed.
"There is also the matter of where we will live," Erik said. "Paris seems to have grown on you."
"My father not trying to dominate my love life has grown on me. He has not tried to force me on a single date. But I miss Avignon. I miss the city, and the Venerable Heart. I hope you would not mind terribly if we lived there. It is not too far from your father, is it?"
"My father is moving north of Marseilles. The winters in Wallonia do not agree with him, and he has the oddest notion to start a vineyard."
"Why on earth would he want to do that?" she asked.
"It might have something to do with the fact that I bought a vineyard. A small one. But he would only be an hour or so away."
"One less thing settled. That only leaves…"
His lips quirked, but he did not glance at her.
"Already taken care of."
"You told my father I'm pregnant?" Selene asked, aghast.
"Even better," Erik said, his eyes trained straight ahead. "I sent him a missive."