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Chapter 14

A shadow in the hallway caught Erik's eye and he leaned back in his chair. After his evening with Christine his heart still raced. He wanted to run, jump, climb the walls, anything to diffuse his energy. Once she went to bed he settled for pacing in the downstairs library, listening to music and reliving every moment. He finally settled down with a Brandy and a book when a shadow appeared.

He lifted his book in an effort to appear as though he was reading, and praying his instinct was correct. He held his breath.

At last the shadow came to the door.

"Erik?" Christine whispered as she peeked into the room.

"Is everything all right?" He sat up.

"I heard the music." She held onto the doorjamb.

"I'm sorry if it woke you." He put the book down.

"No." She hooked her hair behind her ear. "I couldn't sleep and I was looking for you."

"Would you like to read with me?" He stood and held his hand out.

She nodded and came into the room taking his hand. "I hope I didn't disturb you."

"Never." He guided her around the coffee table and went to lead her to the chair next to his, but she stopped in front of his seat.

"I thought I would sit with you." She stared straight ahead, but remained stiff, affixed in her spot.

He glanced at the fireplace. It wasn't lit, yet his whole body heated. She was making a move toward him, or at least that was what he assumed. She had been doing so all night, and he didn't know what to do. He never expected her to want him, but if he wanted her, he needed to act. "Of course." He sat down and with his mouth half open he had no more words as she sat down on his lap.

He put his legs up on the ottoman and she curled up, resting her head on his shoulder and placing her hand on the collar of his robe.

"Is this okay?"

He closed his eyes, trying to stop the dizzy, heady feeling swirling over him from the simple act of a Christine sitting on his lap. "Yes." He didn't even know how he managed to get that much out.

"Am I making you uncomfortable?"

"I have never been more comfortable." He inhaled, forcing himself to loosen his muscles as he put his arm around her back. He lifted his book.

"What are you reading?"

He had absolutely no idea and turned the spine to figure it out. "Moby Dick. I have read it a hundred times."

She laughed.

"What?" He loved the sensation of her body vibrating against his when she chuckled.

"I have no idea if I read it before. I think it's a classic."

He laughed as well and opened the book to his page.

"Thank you for such a wonderful evening." Her nail traced the piping on his collar.

"I hope that is only the first of many more." He indulged and touched her hair. A smooth, satin ribbon rolling over his fingers.

"Me too." Her breath hit his neck.

He arched his back and they sat in silence for several minutes. He tried to look at the page but the words blurred together, and he put the book down.

"I'm bothering you." She pressed her hand to his chest to rise.

"No!" He held her. He couldn't have her leave now, he just didn't know what to do. All he wanted was hold her.

She stared at him, her eyes wide.

"Why don't we listen to the music together?" He wanted the gift she gave him back, and pressed her head back down on his shoulder. "Was something troubling you?"

"It's silly." She whispered in his ear.

"Nothing is silly." He leaned his head back on the chair. "Tell me."

"I think I had a bad dream." She told him.

His body tensed. "Dreams can be horrifying." He knew all too well what dreams could do to someone, and he prayed her memories weren't coming back to her in her sleep. "Do you remember it? Sometimes talking about it helps."

"I was running and it was so light out. I was all alone." She clutched his collar.

No, no memories and if it were memories they weren't good ones. He exhaled. "Never worry about that, it would never happen."

She pushed herself up and looked at him.

He saw the questions in her eyes, he also saw her studying his mask, but she never looked at him with revulsion. "I would never leave you alone long enough to ever be running around in broad daylight by yourself." He nodded. "That would never happen."

She turned down to his chest. "Do you mean that?"

He took his hand, putting his fingers under her chin and making her look at him. "I have never been more serious. Remember your ring."

She swallowed. "Maybe in my dream I was running toward you, and if I would have just stayed asleep a little longer it wouldn't have been a bad dream."

He ran his thumb along her jaw line. Her skin was perfect, simply perfect. "You said you were looking for me before." He wondered what caused her to search him out.

"I wanted to thank you for today and you weren't in your room. Then I wondered why you weren't asleep." She said.

"I tried to go to sleep, but my room seemed so confining and I needed to clear my head."

She copied his actions and touched his chin. "Our room is large."

"What?" He tried to look into her eyes, but she turned away. Still, a surge went through his body the way her voice lowered, husky but timid, innocent but sexy.

"Maybe you can't sleep because the room you are in is not really your bedroom, and maybe I can't sleep because I'm waiting for you."

Although he could only make out her profile, he watched the color appear on her cheeks, her eyes close and her long lashes trying to act as a makeshift veil.

Before he reacted he needed to make sure what she was saying. "Do you want me to sleep in your room?"

She put her hand to her chest. "You told me it was our room."

His lungs seemed to fill with liquid that he wasn't sure was drowning him or comforting him, and he forced himself to take a breath. Every one of his dreams about her led to this moment, and he wasn't the one asking for it, she was.

"I should go back to bed." Once more she tried to get off his lap, swinging her legs to the floor and getting up.

The day Anton gave him the opportunity to be a surgeon was a life changing moment. He could have said no. He could have run. He could have ended up living on the street with nothing and he would probably be dead or worse.

She stepped away.

Tonight Christine gave him the opportunity to share her bed, another life changing moment. He could say no and let her run. He could end up alone for the rest of his life, or worse.

He got up and lunged forward, grabbing her hand.

She stopped and turned back to him.

"I have been waiting for a long time for this." He pulled her toward him. "It will be good to share our bed."

Maybe tonight he wouldn't end up a criminal like the day he performed his first surgery. Maybe tonight he would be a man.

Christine ran the brush through her hair and stared at herself in the mirror. She got what she wanted and Erik was waiting in their bed for her. She made her move, she tried harder and it worked. Now would he kiss her? Make love to her? She put her hand on her stomach and took a deep breath.

She needed to join him. After smoothing down her nightgown, she put her hair over her shoulders, opened the door and turned out the bathroom light.

The light on the nightstand nearest Erik was casting a low glow throughout the room, and Erik lay in bed. The sheets were pulled back welcoming her, and he turned toward her.

He didn't say a word as she tiptoed toward the bed.

The distance to the bed seemed miles long. She was walking a runway while Erik's focus was on her alone. By the time she slipped between the sheets she was holding her breath. She put her head on the pillow and faced him wondering what to do next.

"Should I turn out the light?" Erik asked. His voice seemed worn, and tense.

"Okay." She bounced with the bed as Erik reached over and turned the light off.

Once more she waited, wanted to feel his arms around her, wanting a kiss, wanting anything.

Instead he turned to his back.

The room became silent and dark. More tomb like than when she would lay in here alone wishing to hear any signs of life from the other patrons of the house, wanting to see a flicker of light beneath the door. She couldn't even hear Erik breathing, as if he were trying not to make a noise.

She didn't move, and her muscles tightened. Erik wasn't going to do anything? She tensed, every limb seemed taught, ready to spring, and then she couldn't take it and raised herself up on her elbow. "Do you like being back in our room?" Right now couldn't fathom how that was possible.

Erik gasped and she balled her hand into a fist, he was trying to hold his breath.

He cleared his throat. "I am very happy."

There was no way this man could be happy. Erik may be able to take her out and turn nighttime into a magical wonderland, but right now this bed was hell. "Is this how we slept before?"

"We slept in this room," Erik said.

She knew that bit of information. Where as other things he told her seemed right, this wasn't. Something was wrong. He didn't want to be with her. "Together?"

"Yes."

"That's not what it feels like now." She forced her voice to stay strong for both of them.

"We are in this room," he said.

"Not together." She needed to say the words and grabbed her pillow.

"What do you mean?"

The bed shifted and she knew he turned toward her.

She didn't answer him. The tears began.

"Tell me, Christine."

"If you don't want me like this I understand." She finally said it.

"Christine, what are you saying?" He put his hand on her shoulder.

"You brought me home from the most incredible night and never kissed me, I came down and sat on your lap and you froze. I asked you into our bed and won't touch me." She moved his hand away. "I know you feel responsible for what happened to me, and I also know it must be exhausting to have had a life and for me not to remember it."

"Christine."

Now that she started, she had to finish and purge her system. "I've been having feelings like I know we were meant to be together, but I only know this, and you may not feel that way now." The tears began. "I know you're waiting for the old Christine to come back, and I'm trying but I don't know if she'll ever return. No matter what, I can't picture you and me ever lying in bed like two strangers." With the words out, she hid her face in the pillow and cried. The only thing she left out was that he wasn't able to put her ring on her finger.

Erik put his hand on her back. "Christine."

The sobs wouldn't stop, and she shrugged Erik's hand off her. "I don't need your pity." It may take her some time, but she would figure out a way to make it on her own.

"Christine." This time Erik took hold of her shoulder and pushed her back.

Now she needed to be strong. She didn't think she was a strong person in her last life, but this wasn't her old life. Not anymore. She took a breath, stopped crying and propped herself up.

She wasn't strong enough to face him.

"I can't pity you Christine."

"Whatever you call it, it's the sames" she whispered.

"Christine." He bent down. "Please look at me."

She turned her head. In the darkness she could only make out his shadow and the outline of his mask.

"I can't pity you. " He repeated. "I can't pity the woman I love."

Her arms went weak and she collapsed back on the bed. "What?"

This time she allowed him to turn her over. "Christine. Listen to me." He moved his face closer to hers.

"Never have better words been spoken to me and now you need to know this." He put his hand on her cheek. "I am not waiting for a life that once was, I love you how you are now. You are everything to me. You, exactly as you are this moment."

"Really?" She shut her eyes and inhaled for the first time in a long time. "What about before?"

"Before doesn't matter." He moved his face closer to hers. "Before was before, and now is now, and the Christine I have now is the one I want."

"Do you mean that?" She wanted to hear it again.

"I never say anything I don't mean." As he spoke, his lips brushed against hers.

"I know." She may not remember her past, but she knew Erik and she knew he spoke the truth. Her chest filled with love, pride, and dare she say, even happiness. She wrapped her arm around his neck.

"Then you know that the Christine of the present is who I want."

"Erik." She leaned up and joined their lips.

The kiss. A first kiss for this Christine, but muscle memory and the memory of two people meant to be together took over, something innate molding their mouths together, combining their tastes, and speeding her heartbeat the moment their tongues connected. A tentative touch that tingled through her and made her gasp.

Erik moaned and kissed her again. He moved to one side and took her in his arms.

"I've been waiting for you to hold me." She cuddled up to his side, smiling to herself as she realized how she fit against him. "Is this how we slept before?"

"I don't think it matters how we slept in the past." He pulled the covers up over them and held her tight. "I think it only matters how we sleep in the present."

"Me too." She buried her face in his neck, breathing in the spicy scent of his soap.