Erik watched Christine tremble slightly, whether from cold or apprehension, as he stood by the door. His own stomach clenched tightly knowing he was treading on a precipice; one he knew there was little reason not to fall into. He wanted to preserve Christine's innocence, but now she accepted his proposal, it was only a matter of time until he stole that away. Erik longed for that 'matter of time' to be in a few scant moments.

Christine held her breath, feeling the heat of the fire against her back and the cold wetness of her chemise against her legs. Erik's body was taunt with need. He glided across the room to meet her. As he stood before her, she swallowed dryly.

"Erik," she whispered.

He silenced her with his kiss. Her skin felt hot beneath his touch through the thin material. His hands shook a little as he brought his arms around her waist and drew her close. His mouth moved against hers, his tongue caressed her lips into opening. She surrendered to his kiss and reveled in the feeling of his arms around her so intimately.

"Turn around," Erik said softly. She did as she was told, standing before the light and warmth of the fire. She felt his deft fingers start to undo the laces of her corset. Christine focused on flames that licked the dry logs hungrily while she felt the drawstrings being tugged open down her back. As the pressure on her ribcage began to subside, she breathed deeper. With one last tug, she felt the material release and fall away into Erik's hands. She sighed with relief when the dreaded garment was missing from her torso. Christine heard him drop it carelessly to the floor and she realized just how vulnerably naked she felt before him.

"Christine," he said, "I love you so much." He wound his arms around her pulling her back against him. She felt the damp of his clothing mixed with the heat of his body and she swore that were she to turn around now, steam would be rising from his body.

"I love you too," she said. Her voice hitched nervously.

Erik's fingers guided her wet hair off her shoulder to one side and placed a small kiss at her neck just below her ear. "Are you nervous?" he asked in a voice so unsure it sounded nothing like him.

Christine could not find the ability to answer. She nodded her head once, holding his hands across her stomach.

"I would never hurt you Christine," he promised. "We don't have to do anything."

The logs popped and cracked in the hearth before them. They seemed to urge them on with the flames that danced wildly in their confines. Erik knew he should be freezing, but his face felt so hot underneath his mask. He slid his hand up to remove it. He wanted to stand before Christine without it; even with his clothes on, without the mask he felt absolutely exposed. The heat of the fire felt wonderful on his bared skin, as did the sensation of pressing his face into her hair to smell its cleanliness. She smelled of rain and violet blossoms.

Christine heard the absolute truth in his voice, and something else indefinable. Fear perhaps? She herself was terrified of being alone and naked with a man, but her most basic instincts screamed at her to allow him to continue undressing her. Although Erik was older than she, perhaps he was just as nervous. "Erik, have you ever…"

Erik knew her question although she never finished it. "No."

Christine heard the pain and regret housed in that solitary word. She turned to him, not at all shocked to find his mask removed. As she looked into his eyes, she found the sincere hunger there. She knew what he wanted and she suddenly felt wretched for having denied him all this time what her heart and body knew he deserved.

"You should take off your wet clothing before you catch a chill," she suggested, not sure of how else to voice what she really meant.

Erik stared into his beloved's eyes deeply. Without breaking his focus, he let his mask fall to the floor, forgotten. He shook his coat off, soon followed by the vest and tie, which his twitchy fingers fought to loosen. Christine's small hand helped him undo the knot then pulled it free from his collar.

"Sit down on the bed," he said.

Christine's heart thumped oddly inside her breast at the command in his voice. She sat obediently at its edge feeling the soft springs creak beneath her. Erik knelt in front of her and lifted her foot up. He slowly pulled off her boot, letting it fall aside with a thud. Her other boot followed the first. Erik touched her feet then to her surprise, slid his hand slowly up her leg beneath the hem of her chemise until his fingers reached her thigh and the edge of her stockings. He pulled them down her leg with care, allowing his fingertips to graze her smooth skin. Erik's hands found the second one and removed it likewise, only he pressed kisses down her shin following the material. Christine held her breath, knowing she only wore one article of clothing now and how ridiculously easy it would be for him to tear it away and leave her naked and trembling before him on the bed. She felt like ice that had been set on fire at his touch.

"Now lie down," Erik's silky voice told her.

Her heart beat like a rabbit inside her chest as she reclined back against the pillows. Erik unbuttoned his shirt composedly until his chest was bare and his garment joined the others in the heap on the floor.

He stood at the edge of her bed, looking down at her timid face against the white sheets. He wanted her more than he could stand, but here and now only moments away from all he had ever desired and his nerve was failing him. He placed one knee at the mattress's edge and supported himself as he reclined next to her body. The room was quite cozy and warm now from the small fire that burned but his fingers were once again chilled with the apprehension he felt. He also realized that the usual bulge in his pants was surprisingly absent.

Christine lay very still as Erik nudged closer to her. "Erik, are you nervous too?" she whispered as she regarded his half naked body.

Erik wanted to answer, but afraid to be the coward he said nothing. Why in bloody hell are you hesitating now? His brains screamed at him to take her! His hesitant hand rested on the sheets between them and clutched at the material. His entire body was in turmoil. He made up his mind as he looked at her beautiful face gazing up at him.

"Maybe we should wait," the words tore themselves painfully from his lips before he had the mind to stop them.

Christine suddenly looked disappointed. This person before him, whom he had witnessed transform from a girl into a woman, although frightened of the intimacy he desired, looked disappointed at his rejection.

"Erik, what's the matter? Don't you want me?" Christine asked shyly. Erik had always showed such restraint and now she was willing to give herself to him completely and he was backing out?

"Oh God, how can you even ask that," Erik asked fervidly. He bent his head to kiss her mouth and silence such assumptions. She moved underneath him and that motion only served to drive Erik on. Her hands were suddenly on his bare chest touching his pale skin lightly. She slid her hands behind his neck and pulled him closer, deepening their kiss. Erik's own hands were no longer frozen in time; they danced all over her body, feeling the curve of her hip then the smoothness of her stomach and the soft weight of her breasts. He caressed each nipple into standing erect against the material with the pad of his thumb.

Christine leaned toward Erik, moaning softly against his mouth. She longed to feel his hot tongue on her nipples as she had felt yesterday in the church. The pulsating throb returned between her thighs, making her feel swollen and heavy there. As if he could read her mind, his fingers pulled the top of the chemise down to the side exposing her breast to his exploring lips. He sucked her gently, tasting her skin. Erik's nether regions came to life as he did so, causing him to cry out almost painfully against her. The need he felt was so abrupt it took his breath away. As his mouth worshipped her breasts one after the other, he felt down the side of her writhing body, past her hips to her thigh. He daringly slid his hand back up her leg as she bent her knee, taking the hem of the chemise with it. It bunched around his wrist as he cupped her hip in his grasp feeling the firmness of her ass.

It wasn't enough. He wanted to see her, to touch her completely. He broke free of her breasts to cover her mouth with his own again, his hand keeping ownership of the curve beneath her buttocks.

"I want to see you," he rasped hungrily against her lips. She nodded with a slight whimper of pleasure against his mouth. Erik lifted himself up and knelt by her side. Her hair was tousled around her face and her eyes stared lustily at him in the flickering light. Christine had ruined so many garments on this vacation, what was one more? He held the nearly transparent material in either hand and tore it down the middle from seam to seam. Christine gasped in her shock at being undressed in such a manner. Erik stared at her perfect body in the firelight. Her breasts were perfectly upturned and heavily pink from his kisses. The muscles were barely definable on her smooth stomach and her waist was so tiny against her rounded hips. A tuft of darkness drew his eyes between her legs and he throbbed to know what lie therein. All the wonders of a woman's body were lain out before him in this glorious package and he knew he had a lifetime to explore each and every one of them. He was suddenly not in such a hurry. Like an exquisitely beautiful aria, he wanted to enjoy and savor each note as it was offered. If there was one thing he could say about himself, it was that he had learned to be a patient man.

Christine felt doubly naked under his scrutinizing eyes. The ravenous way his eyes collected the sight of her body before him made her go weak. Yes, this feels right she thought. She moved her knee higher, as though she could somehow hide her most private area from his gaze by doing so. He leaned down, finally taking his eyes off her body and looking into her own once again. "Are you certain?" he asked seeing her timorous reaction to his survey.

"Yes," her voice squeaked.

Erik groaned softly, "You don't sound like it." He kissed her lips, not allowing her to know how agonizing this was for him. She kissed him back, but he could tell she was acting more reserved now her pathetic shield of an undergarment was gone. "We don't have to…"

She was tempted to agree, so very tempted. Her fear of the unknown set butterflies fluttering about in her stomach, only they felt more like monstrous moths for all the turmoil they were causing. She knew the stories from the other promiscuous chorus girls how it hurt the first time. 'Even if the man is gentle with you, it always hurts,' they assured her. Her hands were cold thinking about it. How badly would it hurt? She didn't know.

Erik could feel her withdraw into her mind. "What's the matter?"

Christine did not wish to tell him, but knew it would be pointless to keep silent, "It's going to hurt isn't it?"

Erik exhaled and shook his head, "I don't know; probably. At least I've heard so." He could see the fear in her eyes now. "But it doesn't last, that I do know."

Christine still curled her knees tighter, as though to protect herself from harm.

"It doesn't have to hurt tonight," he suggested. "There are ways… I could make it beautiful for you."

Christine had no idea what he was talking about. She didn't want to stop, but she was too fearful to continue the way she was thinking of.

"Let me show you, please," Erik pleaded. She nodded for him to do so. If he couldn't finalize their bond together as one tonight, he would at least have one thing he desired. "I've always wanted to kiss you."

Christine was confused, but then as she felt his lips start kissing their way down her body, she knew what he meant.

Erik paused only momentarily to lick her nipples back to life once more on his way down her stomach. His hands supported himself as he moved further south. Her knee pressed into his stomach as he centered himself over her. With a gentle hand, he persuaded it down onto the bed then he drifted his fingertips up her inner thigh. She shivered underneath him at the tickling contact.

"Part your legs," he told her with warm breath against her navel.

Her knees shook with anticipation as she did so. He knelt between them, the material of his pants brushing her bare legs. Never before had she felt so delightfully vulnerable. She held her breath and closed her eyes, waiting for the kiss Erik had promised.

Nothing could prepare Christine for the jolt of pleasure that rang through her entire body as she felt one long hesitant finger touch her between her legs. She momentarily opened her eyes and looked down to see Erik staring cravingly at her womanhood as he touched her experimentally. Erik slid his fingertips into the soft folds of her secret place, feeling the slick wet there. Christine gasped and began to tighten her leg up against his. Having never touched a woman thus, he explored her studiously with his fingers, slipping them up and down and watching Christine react from the thrill of it.

Without warning, Christine felt his hot mouth descend to where his hand had just caressed. She wanted to scream for the pleasure of it all. She never knew his tongue could do more than give her chills when he kissed her mouth. What she felt as he kissed her was nothing in comparison to the mind bending stimulation he caused now. Her hips began to rhythmically buck against his mouth and she felt his tight grip on her butt holding his mouth to her as she did. She moaned quietly, fearing to let loose the sounds that built up inside her throat.

Erik's mouth watered as he tasted her. He plunged his tongue between her lips and flicked the small bead of flesh that now stood out against his taste-buds. She writhed against him, driving his madness on. The rock in his pants strained and screamed at him for release but he could not; not yet. He ground his crotch against the bed, trying to quell the pulsating demand. He lapped at her slickness, tasting her sweet flavor and smelling what could only be described as a delicate perfume. As she ground against his tongue, all rational thought left his mind. This was primal urging at its best and he wanted for nothing more than to hear her lose her sanity at his kiss.

Christine felt a throbbing swelling centered where Erik's wonderful kiss started and ended. She strained towards it, wanting more and more, unable to describe the need of what she strove for, but unable to resist it either. At last she felt herself at the edge of whatever she had climbed towards. Her body clenched violently as flood of pleasure overtook her and she screamed out Erik's name. She jerked towards and away from his still moving tongue, suddenly overwhelmed and exhausted, wanting more, but unable to handle it. She collapsed into a quivering mass of limbs, her legs hurt from tensing so hard.

Erik pulled himself up off her, marveling at her reaction to what he had just done. His lips were swollen and wet from his substitute lovemaking. He felt somewhat ashamed at what happened. Unable to help himself, he had come to the same climax as she, only he would never let her know that. Hearing his name on her lips as she came and feeling her body pressing itself wantonly against his face had been too much.

Christine breathed heavily, her body was slick with sweat and her limbs trembled in the afterglow. Erik crawled alongside her, nearly as exhausted as she. He kissed her once, then noticed she had tears running down her face.

"What's wrong?" he suddenly asked, worried he might have hurt her.

"Nothing is wrong, Erik. That was…"

"Amazing," he finished her sentence.

Christine relaxed into the softness of the mattress and curled her arms around Erik's shoulders as he lay his head down on her bare chest. "I love you my husband to be."

"I love you Christine, my angel," was his soft reply before they both fell into a blissful slumber as they listened to the rain tapping on the panes of the window.