I'm thrilled you all seemed to enjoy the extra fluff chapter almost as much as I did. LOL Thank you everyone, I mean it when I say how much your support means to me. Now to do what was promised…
I own nothing, but reading what might have been has its perks.
Nadir sat and despite the seriousness of the pending event, he smiled to himself. He had seen Erik earlier to discuss the plan. Never before had he seen him so driven and determined. Everything was to be gained or lost today. The more he sat there waiting, the more he knew that Allah had answered his prayers from long ago.
You made him whole. All he needed was love and once given that, he would invincible. You know he's talented enough for anything. He began to worry though. I know when some get their due, it comes at a price. Please, don't call your marker tonight.
"Nadir, do you want some tea?"
He felt the touch of Antoinette's hand on his arm. "Hello, good lady."
She smirked. "Perhaps brandy then?" She stood there with no emotion, waiting for his reply.
"No, I think it is best to keep sharp. Yet some refreshments may be in order." He patted his stomach. "I had hoped to leave sooner, but Erik wasn't ready. I suspect he may have had other things on his mind before we met." He laughed.
"How can you laugh at such a time as this? While you managed to talk Justin out of that insane scheme, this journey is not…. Oh!" She realized why Nadir was smiling and she blushed. She then remembered her senses. "You're a child. Stop being so immature."
"Hardly. It was a very mature thought. Oh come now, it was in order and highly proper."
She fidgeted, obviously uncomfortable. "Still. All of your heads should be on straight at a time like this."
"Come, Annie. Don't you remember what it was like? Those first few moments when all was permissible and free. The world seemed so easy. It was as if….."
"You were untouchable." She answered staring into the air. "No illness, no death, or suffering. Only love."
He nodded. "You couldn't wait to see one another. Couldn't stop touching one another. Death would be easier than…."
Their eyes met and each shared a tender moment of remorse and loss over their loved ones. Then he came towards her and didn't stop until their faces were mere inches apart. He told her she could curse him or hit him or even spit at him, but he was not going to apologize for his actions. Not this time. Her silence was her permission and he boldly kissed her. He was pleased when she kissed him back, but then saw her face change once the kiss subsided. He didn't let go.
"Annie, you said once that when this was all over you would think…..Consider…..You said we would have our chance. Did you mean it?"
She impulsively kissed him quickly, much too quickly as she untangled herself from his hold. "Ask me when this is over, Nadir. Only then will we know what there is to still be had."
Nadir looked at the clock. "If his plans are aligned, he should be there now. I better go."
He turned around slowly. "Yes, Annie?"
"May God keep you all safe."
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Erik went to the hospital, but was told that Josephine had been discharged early. If he didn't already know her game, this latest ploy would have aroused his suspicion. He arranged for a carriage to take him to her estate and waited in the parlor for his arrival to be announced. Although he looked calm, inside he was anything but.
I can't pull this off. She'll sense that I am….For how could someone such as myself even think that I could…Stop it you fool! Do this for Christine. For your family. It will be done and you will make it happen. She is a liar. You can lie too. She is just like the Shaw's wife. You must do this for your future.
"Erik, I knew you'd be back!"
He smiled. "How was I able to stay away?" He then walked towards her, sensing her suspicion. "You offered me the means to destroy the one person who I despise more than anyone. My dear, you play a dangerous game."
"Not at all." She winked. "I simply know which players I want to see and which I desire to play with." She leaned in to him but then walked away. "Drink?"
"I can be tempted." He eyed her like a hawk as she went to fix the drinks.
"What is your poison, Erik?"
"Whatever you will have, my dear. Yet I insist that you allow me to mix yours if you insist on mixing mine."
"Don't trust me?"
He laughed. "Why? Are you not trustworthy?"
She backed away from the bar and allowed him access. He followed suit and poured the cognac into a new glass. "I was surprised to hear you had been released so soon." He stirred the drink and then offered it to her.
She accepted, but placed it down and then went to mix his. "They weren't providing any care my family couldn't provide here. I detest hospitals." She handed him the glass, but not before she brushed his arm with her finger. "My, you seem to have quite the physic."
"Careful, Mademoiselle. I am a married man." He then cupped her chin and took both glasses. "Trust me?"
"About as much as you trust me."
Erik sipped out of both glasses. "Pity. I usually don't work with someone when there is no trust. However, I will make an exception. You will give me the address of de Chagny, and allow me to do my business."
"You just plan on going there and…." She seemed amazed. "You aren't at all worried?"
"Over a boy who beats up on women? No."
"His brother is…."
"Nothing more than a pansy."
"I beg your pardon!" For the first time she was actually becoming engaged in the discussion. Here before her stood a man who would stop at nothing to avenge a woman. Mind you, it wasn't necessarily her he wanted to avenge but he was willing to act first and damn the consequences. Phillip was right. Raoul stood no chance, and truth be told, neither could any woman if they just could get past the mask.
"I cannot tell you how much safer I feel knowing you will see to it that he does not hurt anyone ever again."
"It is a shame one can only stop violence with violence." He could see he was making inroads. He didn't question the reason, but instead took her hand and began to trace her wrist. "Josephine, might there be another way?"
"Another way?" She looked up into his eyes and noticed that each were a different color.
"Turn them both in. Wipe all of us free from their blood and then move on. Another way, another life, another choice."
"Both? You mean Phillip? He is innocent."
"Is he? Are you telling me that insolent boy was the master mind? I will never believe it, even if the words come from your….deplorable…delectable lips."
"And who would choose me, Erik? Who would choose me then?"
"You dare to ask someone like me that?" He turned her around and placed his hands on her waist. "I…." He then let go. "I am sorry. I completed forgot myself. What was I thinking?"
"Don't." She spoke softly. "You are after all a man. You seem so hesitant to touch. Is it your vows that govern you or is it lack of practice?"
He arched is visible brow.
"Does she even know what kind of man you are? What kind of man fights for her? Resists for her? I wonder myself. What kind of man are you, Erik?"
A man who is going to be sick if he has to inhale your insufferable perfume once more. "A flawed man who should not assume. The rest is inconsequential."
"Erik, why did you marry her? Raoul asked her to be his wife, you marry her. Forgive me but I don't see the interest."
Erik almost saw red. How dare she insult Christine! I will rip her apart…. He stopped himself. It's a trap. She's trying to trick me. "Both of us met her before we met you."
"Timing is to blame, then? Well, I don't believe you can't turn back the clock." She played with the buttons on his jacket. "Would you like another drink? A real one this time."
"It's late, Josephine. The address, please."
"Tell me, does she see you behind the mask?"
He froze. He never thought he would have to fight for his mask. "Why does that matter?"
She shook her head. "Maybe she isn't so stupid after all." She went to the desk and wrote down the address. "Please be careful."
He looked at it and then back at her. "There's still time to change your mind."
"Come with me. Stay in the carriage and I'll bring him down. We can bring him in together."
He took her by the shoulders. "Think about it. I will return in one hour."
"I need a few provisions, my dear." He purposely glided his hand across her back.
"Is that all we would do together, Erik? Bring him in."
He kissed her hand. "You decide."
He took his leave and hissed. "Devil takes the hindmost."
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Justin was anxious. "What is taking him so long? Do you think she may have…. Do you think he couldn't get her to….."
"Relax, Justin. Erik is nothing if not thorough. I have seen him do this before."
"So he really is Don Juan, only in a mask." He chuckled.
Nadir didn't see the humor. "Boy this isn't an opera. Real lives are at stake."
"I realize that! I was only trying to make light of a dark mood. I'm trying to be useful. When will you both tell me what I can do?"
Nadir saw Erik's carriage from the corner of his eye. He then took the syringe from his pocket. "Right about now." He inserted it into Justin's neck. "I'm sorry, Justin but it is better this way."
Erik arrived right as Justin's lifeless body was in Nadir's arms. Erik got out quickly. "Did you have any trouble?"
"Poor lad never saw it coming."
"Here, let's make him comfortable. Tell me this won't leave him with a headache in the morning."
"Can't say. The last time I used it I was smuggling you out of Persia. It affects everyone differently."
Erik adjusted his head. "I'm sorry, my boy. I just couldn't take any chance of having you implicated in all this. I had to think of Megan and your future together. Hopefully, one day you will forgive me."
"One day?" Nadir reprimanded. "We should be thinking positively."
Erik paid the driver. "Take him to the palace. The guards will know what to do."
He watched the carriage go out of sight. "Nadir, are you ready?"
"I suppose. Yet I don't understand why I'm doing this and you are going there alone?"
"We agreed that this would be the plan."
"But did you convince her? She could still say no."
"She seemed…. Receptive."
Nadir grinned. "Why are you so shocked?"
"I just wonder if it is because of the mask I wear. Perhaps those confusing women; Luciana, the Shah's wife, and Josephine are actually drawn to the one thing they run away from.
"Christine never ran."
He then looked at the golden band around his finger. "Never. Nadir, I would do it all over again. Nothing would be changed, except I wouldn't have let my Christine go so easily the first time."
"They say if you love someone or something, you must let them go to see if they come back. For only then were they ever really yours."
"Was that for my benefit, or yours?"
"I am not going to be beg, Erik. Antoinette knows how I feel. It is up to her now."
Erik looked at his pocket watch. "Actually, it will be up to her when we can get your carcass home. So let our fop bashing begin!"
"Back in battle, eh old friend?"
"Come, I have another carriage waiting. You can change in there."
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Madame Giry and Meg hovering around the house. They both had so much to say but neither wanted to upset or worry the other. When a knock was heard at the door, they both jumped.
"I'll get it!" Meg ran to the door and when she saw Christine, she pulled her inside and embraced her. "Thank God! We wanted to come but didn't want to leave and we didn't know if you wanted to wait for Uncle Erik alone or….."
"Meg!" Madame Giry pulled both girls close to her. "Come, my children. We wait together, as a family should."
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The carriage pulled up exactly when Erik said it would. Josephine had done little else but wait for his return, since he left her. She couldn't deny their attraction. Yet this was not how the story was to end. She and Phillip had plans, great plans. Then she thought of Erik's hands on her body and she wondered if fate may have redesigned things for her.
"Was it real, or did he play me?" Before she could answer the masked man came to the door. She opened it and not her butler. When she saw him smile, she sneered. "A gentleman, should not act as if he was expecting such a surprise, Monsieur."
He bowed his head and offered her his services to enter the carriage. He opened the door.
"This means nothing. I may have wanted to see you kill him with my own eyes. Did you ever think of that?"
He only nodded. She walked directly past him and entered the carriage on her own power. The driver took off, the moment he signaled. The drive was in silence, but she kept looking towards his white mask. Finally, he looked straight at her, almost as if he was going to dare her to remove it. She sensed his strength and moved cautiously back.
When the carriage finally stopped, she jumped out almost unable to breathe. He ran behind her and yanked her to him. Without a single word, their lips pressed hard up against the other. She tried to compose herself. She couldn't deny her feelings and went to kiss him again, but was stopped when he called her attention to the time.
Meanwhile, Erik looked on trying not to laugh. He had forgotten tell Nadir that Josephine's perfume was a tad too musky for the normal nose. He then adjusted his spare white mask and secured a rope before he began climbing to the top of the abandoned barn.
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When Erik got to the top of the barn, he kneeled and looked through the opening. He saw a man on the floor in complete disarray. If it weren't for the few times he bent his elbow to bring a bottle to his lips, Erik would have thought he was dead.
"This is the worm that hurt my Christine? This worthless, stinking drunk, pitiful bastard?"
He wanted to forget the plan and make him suffer as he had made his Angel suffer. His dream of a starving dog entered his mind. He remembered how he almost killed him the night of the ball. He was barely a challenge at all that night and now….It would be so easy. He entered silently, swinging his leg around inside and carefully balancing himself up onto the ledge.
The sudden pressure from Erik's weight caused the upper loft to make a sudden shift making Raoul look up.
"No! It can't be. You? What do you want?" He stumped to his feet.
Erik jumped from mid air and landed directly across from his nemeses. It was as if he were able to appear and disappear at will. Raoul blinked and saw him come towards him.
"You; dead or alive."