Note: This is NOT a romance!
Christine rolled to her side under the plush bedding, reveling in the fullness of her mattress. She hadn't slept in a bed so comfortable in ages. Possibly never. Soft, sweet music echoed off in the distance somewhere. It was coaxing her to wake up and listen as well as lull her further off into sleep. The scent of cinnamon lingered in the air as well.
I don't want to get up today. She thought blissfully. She didn't want to get up and go to work. She wanted to keep sleeping in bed and not worry about anyone coming to look for her to pay the bills.
Alas, paying the bills took precedence.
With a soft sigh she rolled onto her back and sat up slowly. Her bedding felt much heavier than those she had been using for the past several years…warmer, too. They fell heavily into her lap and the 'thump' they made pushed her to open her eyes.
Her heart, and stomach, sunk dismally when she took a glance at the exquisite room she was surrounded by. It hadn't been a dream, then. It hadn't been a horrid nightmare that she could just wake up from. The only conciliation was that she wasn't feeling weak, sick, or in pain any longer.
Making sure to keep her movements soft and quiet, she hauled herself off of the bed. Her ears queued into the music playing somewhere else in the house. It was quite beautiful, but she couldn't let herself be too entranced by it. It was a marker for her. It was a piano playing, not some surround system blasting out a classic work of art. That meant that whoever was playing, and she had little doubt that it was the man 'Erik', would be absorbed into the scores. As long as he kept playing he would be unaware of her.
Her legs were a little shaky when she got her feet under her. She reached her hand out and clutched the bedding like a lifeline until she felt that she could stand without the threat of falling over. The music seemed to pick up tempo as she stood there contemplating what her next move would be.
"Breathe," she commanded herself faintly, bringing the steadying air into her lungs. She was off-kilter from the drug the man had used to knock her out and that was all. She could persevere over the aftereffects of the vile stuff. She just needed to breathe.
When she was steady enough she moved forward towards the door she'd been so determined to get to the night before. The task this time around was much less strenuous. She placed a shaky hand down onto the doorknob, her ears tuned into the far-off music still, and turned it slowly. Relief washed through her every pore when she discovered that the door had not been locked. She wasn't completely trapped.
Fighting the urge to fumble like a madman and run out of the house screaming, Christine pushed the door open with as much poise and calm as she could forcefully shove onto her raging panic. She smothered the fear and trepidation like the horrid thing it was. It would not help her here. She needed to be level-headed and think through every move she made. Otherwise she was liable to land herself back into the arms of the psycho that had abducted her or worse.
So much worse.
She shook her head of her dark thoughts and slid through the opened crack of her doorway. The music continued to sway on, the composer obviously engrossed in its magic. She would have been, too, under any other circumstances.
The hallway was as extravagant and decadent as her own bedroom. The walls ran down from her room in a nearly endless tunnel. The music was even louder, echoing off of the wide expanse of the cavernous space surrounding her. Despite the ornate carpeting, framed paintings, and various knickknacks scatted down the entire length of the hallway it all felt so…unearthly. She felt as if she were standing in the entryway of a mausoleum instead of an obviously well-maintained mansion of some sort.
Keeping her ears trained fixedly on the music playing, Christine began to pad slowly down the hallway. Her hands hovered downward-facing over the floor. Her knee throbbed a little this morning despite having slept so well the night before. Maybe the sedative he'd given her could be blamed for it?
The doors, she found as she passed, were all open. None were occupied, however, with anything but old-world furniture and other brickabrack. The music, she thought, had to have been coming from the other end of the hallway from the room she'd been sleeping in. The closer she got, the louder it became, but she dared not draw too near to it unless she absolutely had to. She hoped she might find a staircase long before she ever came to that particular room.
It was fortunate that she did stumble across a grand staircase somewhere halfway in between her bedroom and the ever-present dark shadow of a doorway at the other end of the hall. The staircase was draped with the same goldenrod carpeting of the hallway, but its height reminded her greatly of the one portrayed in the film Gone with the Wind. It was immense! Surely if she missed even a single step she would fall to her death.
Keeping that horrifying thought in mind – heaven forbid she survive being kidnapped from her bed by a madman just to be vanquished by a set of stairs – Christine tiptoed down the steps. No wood creaked beneath her feet. Peaking at the uncarpeted parts of the steps which were anchoring the banister she found that the floor beneath was some sort of shiny stone. Glancing down to the room below, a sort of foyer, she could see the same golden-flecked white stone.
No one was present here, either.
Christine hurried as much as she dared, her heart drumming a loud beat in her ears that drowned out the music above. Her eyes fixated on the massive double-doors opposite the stairs. Those were her ticket to freedom. They were the doors leading to the outside!
She all but slammed into the doors with fumbling hands once she'd reached the base of the stairs and sprinted as best she was able across the entryway.
"No," she cried out faintly as she depressed the handle, frantically jerking and shoving at the doors. The underside of her hand slapped against hard wood panes as if that would help her at all in opening the portal. "No! Please, please let me out!"
Tears struck her eyes as she leaned her forehead against the wood in front of her. The cool surface struck through her heated skin like ice. It was a shock to her systems, but it was real. It grounded her. It helped to nail the fact home into her mind that she was locked in this horrid place.
"Mistress," a tentative voice called out from nearly directly behind her.
Christine just barely managed to cover her mouth with her hand to muffle her scream.
Whirling around quicker than a flash, she used the locked door as a bracer while her legs shook fiercely. Her eyes zeroed in on a woman, perhaps in her late fifties, shuffling her feet nervously before her. She had a wizened face and salt-and-pepper hair knotted up into a delicate bun. She wore a drab grey uniform Christine immediately associated with a house-worker of some sort. Grey eyes were crinkled at the sides and her lips turned down in patented worry.
"Please, Mistress, if you'd follow me I could find you something to eat."
"W-where is this place?" Christine asked softly, her hands clenching and unclenching spasmodically behind her on the door. The question was as much in effort to discover a way out of this nightmare as it was a diversionary tactic so she could regain the ability to stand on her own.
"I cannot say, Mistress." The woman's lips and eyes were pinched in obvious distress. She still shuffled habitually. Christine wondered if the elder woman was afraid of her. "I am certain that if you asked the Master he would be glad to tell you anything you wished. Please, if you are hungry, follow me."
The woman began to walk away, but Christine remained firmly in place. Her legs still felt unsteady and she certainly didn't feel hungry at all. She was too frightened to eat anything without the threat of throwing it back up. She was nibbling on her lip with indecision when the woman looked back over her shoulder at her.
"Mistress?" Her low heels clacked against the stone floor as she hurried fretfully back before her. Christine closed her eyes tightly and fought back tears of frustration. "Oh dear. Please, Mistress, if you are unwell I will go retrieve the Master. Please, please do not move or injure yourself! I will go get the Master."
"No!" She cried out, her right hand thrusting forward to firmly grip the retreating woman's arm. Her hands shook now with fear. The wide-eyed woman looked her from top to bottom critically. "Please, don't go get your Master. Please. I-I'm fine. I just need to get my feet under me. Okay? I'm fine. I'm fine."
"Helen," a childishly soft voice called from somewhere nearby. Both women turned their attentions to a newly arrived girl. She was perhaps twelve years old, her reddish-brown hair tied back into a ponytail and her pale body covered by a uniform identical to the elder woman's. "Momma is calling for you. She needs help in the kitchens."
"Thank you, Theresa. You go on back to your Momma now and tell her that I'll be right there. I need to get the Mistress settled." The girl, Theresa, dared only look at Christine once, but she could read the trepidation in the child's eyes clearly. After that one look, however, she hurried off in the direction of, presumably, the kitchens.
"How about I take you back upstairs to your room, Mistress? You look pale. The Master will be displeased if you've grown ill because of my negligence." Christine shook Helen's gentle grip off, her hands waving in front of her softly.
"No, please. I'm fine. Really." Her gaze darted in the direction Theresa had gone. "C-can we go to the kitchens? Please? I'd really like to move around a little bit."
"I could have George or Meredith come to give you a tour if you'd like." Helen stood ramrod straight, though her fidgeting had returned. Christine had very little doubt now that she somehow made this woman nervous. "Since you aren't in the mood for food I think…"
"I'll eat something." She was in a rush to be somewhere with other people. Anyone else. She needed to be around sane people. She needed to be around someone that could possibly get her away from the madman still playing his music upstairs. "Just show me the way. I promise that I'll stay out of the way."
Perhaps it was the desperation in her voice or the frantic look she knew had to have plastered across her face, but Helen eventually nodded. Her gaze flicked towards the upper levels, though, her eyes shining with apprehension.
"This way please, Mistress." The woman began to walk after Theresa, her gait purposely slowed so that Christine wouldn't have to rush to keep up with her. Christine wanted to tell Helen that she would like nothing more than to run – run far, far away from this horrid nightmare. She kept her thoughts in check, though, and followed quietly, her gaze flicking constantly towards the echoing music.
Christine nibbled her lip as she was led to the kitchens which were located to the very rear of the mansion. The sheer magnitude of the building she found herself in told her that she could be in nothing less than a mansion. The old-world architecture and gold leafing in the rafters also told her that the mansion was quite old. The kitchens, it seemed, were also drawn far back and away from the main rooms.
They passed through a lavish receiving room, a dining room with a table long enough to serve a mid-sized platoon, and a breakfast room before they reached the kitchens. Her head whirled from the sight of so much polished wood, dozens of classic paintings and sculptures, and from skirting around ornate rugs strewn across the floors. She was terrified to step on them and soil their beauty with her dirty feet. Heaven forbid she ever dropped something on them!
The kitchens, it turned out, were as massive in scale as the rest of the mansion. There were several ovens and two industrial-sized refrigerators that she could see. The cabinets were all a polished ivory color, the countertops flaked with gold over beige. There was an island standing in the center of the kitchen that nearly overwhelmed the space.
She noticed belatedly that the half a dozen kitchen-staff had ceased all movement and chatter the moment they'd entered the room.
"Please return to your work everyone." Helen spoke out in a calm, but authoritative voice. Her stern face flickered towards an older man currently chopping vegetables near the main sink. "Harold. Would you please make the Mistress an omelet and some toast? She should have some protein in her stomach after so long asleep."
"Oh no," Christine hurried to dissuade the duo. Her hands waved before her in dismissal. "Please, I don't want to be any trouble. If you have any cereal I can just eat that."
Both looked absolutely horrified that she'd even suggested such a thing. The man, Harold, stuttered unattractively. Helen rushed towards her as if she were about to fall over in a faint, the lines in her face etched deeply with worry.
"No, Mistress. You must eat more than that." The elder woman's eyes were frantic. "Please, if there is something else we can have made for you, anything…"
"No!" She snapped with some force, startling the inhabitants of the kitchen to immobility as well as hurting her throat. Red hot fire spread through the area of where she knew her damaged larynx to be. Instinctively she massaged at the column of her throat with a firm hand, though she knew it would do her no good.
Looking at the people around her she was ashamed to see the horror written over their faces. Many of them clutched desperately to each other or the surfaces around them. They acted as though a terrible storm were about to break through the room and carry them all away to their doom. Helen was shaking so fiercely that her body nearly took on a murky outline from the rapid movements.
"I'm sorry," she rasped, her throat aching from the single misuse. "Please, I don't want much of anything. Just something in my stomach to keep me from getting sick, but not enough to make it churn."
"Of course," Helen whispered back. With a jerking hand gesture the others returned to their work, albeit far more stiffly than before. Harold moved away from his vegetable preparations to move into what she thought to be a pantry.
"H-how long have you worked here," she asked the older woman shakily. Her heart was still thundering in her chest as she strained to hear any music at all coming from the upstairs. Try as she might, though, she had become deaf to the melody as soon as she'd moved into the farther rooms.
"My whole life," Helen replied somberly. Her eyes blinked a few times in rapid succession as she motioned towards the others. "It is the same with everyone here. We have been in the employ of the Master since we were young children. It is – our parents and grandparents and so on have worked in the Master's home for as long as we can think back."
"Oh," she mumbled, her hand dropping from her throat. She shuffled up to the island and glanced briefly at the wickedly sharp knife Harold had been using to chop the vegetables. Would they know if it went missing? Could she sneak it, or any of the other knives, onto her person? Surely they would not notice one missing knife.
"Ah, there you are, Angel." A horrifyingly familiar voice echoed throughout the room behind her. "You weren't in your room and I grew worried. You should still be in bed, my dear."
It wasn't just Christine who froze as still as a statue. All of the others immediately stopped in their tasks, their panicked gazes darting directly behind her as if verifying the voice's source before dropping heavily to the floor. They didn't dare to meet their 'Master's' eye. She couldn't fault them that one bit of instinctive preservation tactic.
Shakily, she wound her way around to the other side of the island to put much-needed space between her and the man that had taken her from her home the night before. Only once she was safely tucked away from him, well aware that safety was just an illusion at this point, did she dare to meet the man's eye.
The mask he'd worn before was now gone. In its place was one as black as pitch, his amber hued eyes glowing malevolently through the open eye sockets. Besides the horrid mask which covered the entirety of his face he wore a crisp white, button-down shirt with the unbuttoned sleeves rolled up and away to reveal his scarred forearms. The black trousers did not necessarily hang upon his frame, but they were not tight, either. There was nothing of him to cling to. He was as much a skeleton as the ones hanging on display in the science labs back in school. The only difference she could see was that this creature could lay claim to its skin still and against all odds remained walking with the living.
"How are you feeling, angel?" He asked her with a tilted head, his attention riveted only on her. The intensity of his focus sent a shiver skating down her spine.
"I-I'm better," she answered truthfully. Her feet shuffled silently on the tiled floor.
"Are you certain that you are not still tired?" He inquired anxiously, those frightful eyes of his darting fervently between her eyes as if searching for the languor he'd caused in the first place by drugging her. "I had expected you to sleep for a while longer. Please, Angel, forgive me for not being there when you awoke. You must know that your Erik would have seen to your needs himself if he had known."
"Uhm," she began inarticulately, her throat drying with her rising panic. How was she supposed to address this man? As much as she wished it to be so, the previous night was not a dream and this man was as disturbed now as he had been then. Should she fight against him or bend to his psychosis? Surely if she played along – as best she could while being scared nearly to wits' end – there might be more of an opportunity for escape?
"I was hungry," she hedged timidly, her fingers flexing over the granite counter. "I-I heard the music and didn't want to disturb you. It was you playing, wasn't it?"
"Erik finds much joy in music." There seemed to be a momentary smile in his voice at that. "But of course, should you need anything at all, Christine, I will do anything and everything to see that you are happy. My music is nothing without your presence in my life."
In the span of a single breath the man set his focus onto the kitchen staff. His eyes, as soft as they were when they looked upon her, turned as cold and vicious as their color implied them to be. His hands, which had been hanging loosely at his side, clenched tightly. There was nothing kindly in his presence any longer.
"Why has food not yet been prepared for your Mistress?"
"Sh-she only just w-woke up, Master," Helen mumbled. Her face had drained of all color and Christine could see that it was taking everything the woman had not to bolt out of the room. The others seemed to be shrinking into themselves as if to avoid earning any extra attention from the man lording over them. "W-we d-didn't exp-pect her t-t-t-o–"
"If you cannot speak in a precise and fluid manner, Helen, you should not speak to me at all!" Erik roared. Reflexively Christine found her hand curling around the handle of the knife. In a moment of sanity she dropped it just as quickly and began to pace backwards very quickly. Her breathing came out in ragged puffs with her fear.
The man's gaze jerked back to her at her movement. The enraged cloud that had descended over his eyes only a moment before vanished. His head canted off to the side curiously. He raised a hand towards her, his fingers unfurled as if beckoning her closer to him.
Christine stumbled in her retreat, but just managed to catch herself on a nearby countertop.
"Come along, Angel. I will take you away from these people while they prepare your food. Would you like to talk, my dear?"
"N-no!" She cried, her back connecting almost violently with the refrigerator. She clutched her hands tightly together at the front of her chest to keep herself from grabbing a weapon of some kind. She didn't doubt that if she had no other option left she could injure this man, but if there was any other way out of his madness she'd take that avenue.
"I-I d-don't w-want to be here. P-please! P-please take me h-home!" Traitorous tears began to fall down her face. Her entire body shook in her terror.
"Mon Ange!" The masked man cooed, hurrying himself over to her.
"N-no!" Her body fell as her knees gave way. She dropped her forehead against the backs of her knees, tucking her legs snuggly against her chest. Her tears wetted the cotton of her pajama pants as she sobbed. "N-no. D-don't hurt me. D-don't d-d-o it. D-don't h-hurt me. N-n-n-n-o!"
"Precious child," his voice was right in her ear. His hands caressed along either side of her skull, his long fingers sinking deeply into her hair. "Sweet angel, please do not cry. Your Erik would never let anything hurt you here. You are safe here."
"Y-you're ins-s-sane!" She screamed, curling herself up even tighter.
"Precious, silly, sweet child," her murmured in his darkly sweet voice. Not wanting to in the least, but unable to fight against his immense strength, Christine found herself pulled firmly against Erik's chest. She banged her hands against him, fighting to be free.
"Shush now, darling. Be still my angel." He rose to his feet carrying her with him. Her feet hung high in the air for only seconds before he returned her to them, his arms still clasped securely around her.
"Let me go!" She lifted an arm to slap him directly across the face, but his movements were unearthly quick. One of his hands found her wrist before she managed to make vicious contact with his face. His long fingers squeezed ever so lightly over her fragile skin, not paining her in the least, but impossible to shake off. She wrenched at her arm, trying to regain possession of her own body once more.
"You are quite emotional this morning, Angel. Would you like something to calm down? There are many things here for his Christine to have or use to keep her content." His golden eyes gleamed and in that moment she decided that it was a sinister look. His presence wasn't malevolent whenever he looked down at her, but there was something decidedly inhuman shining in those horrid eyes of his. His tone was all gentility when he continued, his thumb rubbing circles into the base of her hand. "Would you like me to retrieve a mild sedative for you?"
"No!" She shouted in fear, backing herself away from him as far as she was able while still having her wrist captured. Hurriedly she dried her still flowing tears with her free hand. Her legs wobbled underneath her, but she refused to collapse again. This man was liable to do anything if she gave in to the overwhelming panic he drowned her in.
"C-can I please have my hand back? I'm sorry for trying to slap you." She tugged at her arm again, but he remained firm in his standing. His body language showed her nothing but his confusion in her own actions. He didn't seem to understand at all that she was trying to escape him.
"Erik does not blame his Angel. She did not know that she wasn't to touch his mask. She was overwrought from the excitement of last night. That is all." Christine bit heavily into her lower lip to keep from yelling profanities at the man. Truths, even. His sanity was as shattered as a walnut in a nutcracker.
"Please, Erik, please give me my hand back." She pulled again as a physical reminder to him that he had possession of her limb. "Please."
Erik's head turned to look completely at her wrist in his hand. He squeezed it – and this time it hurt. Christine gasped and found herself pitching forward onto her knees. She could all but feel the fine bones of her wrist grinding together sharply.
He released her so suddenly that she fell back onto her ass when she attempted to pull herself from his destructive grip. Erik's feet, bedecked in patent leather shoes, stepped in front of her sprawled form before he was crouching over her. His hands stretched out to grasp her upper arms, but she scooted herself back out of his reach. She clutched her throbbing wrist to her chest protectively.
"Erik is sorry, Angel. He didn't mean to hurt his Christine." His hands fell to rest over his splayed-out knees. "She is just so fragile."
"Stop talking like that," she whispered the complaint, her eyes stinging with tears. He cocked his head in curiosity at her and she sighed deeply. "Nevermind. It was nothing."
"Would you like something to eat?" He asked her suddenly. His sights shifted to the others in the room whom had remained quiet and unmoving throughout everything. As soon as her kidnapper was looking at them she could see the terror in their eyes. The young girl, Theresa, was even whimpering nearly silently in the far corner near what she presumed to be a pantry. "Christine is hungry. I want you to make a full English breakfast for her. I do not intend to ever have to ask for her food to be ready immediately when she is awake and wanting again."
Turning effortlessly towards her, Christine was both awed and horrified by the immediate change in him when he looked at her. He was so disturbingly cold speaking to everyone else – narrowly becoming violent in his mannerisms – yet when he looked at her there was no malice. No hatred. He seemed to lift her up into the Heavens to be the 'angel' he proclaimed her to be.
"Come along, Christine." He held his hand out to her, beckoning, once more. He sounded deliriously enthralled.
"I-I don't want a big breakfast," she whispered, her heart pounding a heavy, stuttering beat in her chest. Erik's eyes grew dark with question and a bit of temper. She hastened to explain herself before she or anyone else ended up hurt for her mistakes. "My stomach's still off. Just some cereal would be nice. Something light?" The last she left off as a question, unsure if she was asking too much of her kidnapper.
Eric assessed her with his whiskey-colored eyes, the intelligence flecking through them like lightning almost frightening. His insanity was there, too, but it was almost hard to discern it amongst the sheer power of him. They were eyes that missed nothing; eyes controlled by a man that she was beginning to believe was a demon-spawn. Surely no mortal man could be as he was?
"You should eat more, Angel," his tone reprimanding, but still gentled as though he were a cloaked fox approaching a wary lamb. His eyes shifted suddenly, the pupils shrinking and mirth trickling in. "Who is Eric to tell his beloved Angel what to eat? She is always right, after all. She knows now what she needs and deserves. Isn't that right? Of course it is."
She flinched when he ushered her forward, his eyes scanning her from head to toe. He was assessing her condition. Verifying that she was as well as she claimed to be. She didn't doubt that this man would force her to return to that room, alone – or worse to be with him hovering above her – and reduce her chances of escaping. She wouldn't be able to observe her surroundings as she needed to in order to find a way out.
Christine straightened her spine, determined not to cower and appear weaker than she actually was. In prime health she stood as no threat to the man beckoning her closer to him. As thin as he was he was by no means a weakling. The grip he'd had on her wrist proved that much. She didn't dare look at it for fear of seeing it discoloring with a bruise in the exact shape of his skeletal hand.
"Come, darling Christine. We will wait in my Study for your breakfast." She shuddered, as much as she tried to conceal it, when his hand settled onto the curve of where her back met her rear. He slowed his steps immeasurably as he led her back the way she'd come earlier with Helen.
Eric was silent, not speaking on the architecture of his home as she thought he might. He seemed to be a highly proud person and for him not to show off his worldly possessions was peculiar. His eyes stayed locked onto her as they moved and did not stray once. She could feel the solid stare even though she couldn't see it with her head turned purposely away from his. It was off-putting. The silence was as eerie.
On the opposite side of the entry hall, the one with the door she'd been incapable of opening earlier, was a long room with multiple tables, hard-wood chairs, and several chess sets. Tapestries from a foreign culture hung on the walls, their depictions morbid and brutal to her untrained eye. Scenes of an empire being built on the backs of slaves and tortured men. She didn't like them.
Beyond even that were rooms she saw no use for other than to take up space. A beautiful library with tomes older than some of the elder patrons that frequented the Opera Populaire. Some she knew must be several lifetimes old. A 'smoking room' for the 'gentlemen' of the house. A sewing room, which seemed so out of place on the first floor of a clearly old mansion. The room she was led to, however, was a fairly straightforward study.
The study was painted in a deep green, the wood surrounding all dark mahogany. The trim was, when she squinted to see better, carved to look like vines growing in and out of bark-like wood. There were a few smallish paintings on the walls, all of which were misty, dark landscapes. Several chairs dotted the room, two facing off against a floor-to-ceiling wooden-face fireplace. There was even a large seat, closer in size to an L-shaped sofa, but not modernized in the least, set back against one wall before a seven-foot-tall window. Two lean book cases bracketed the larger seat. Set into a corner, with the master's chair pushed back close to a built-in in the corner, was an overly massive mahogany desk. A black flat-screen computer sat atop its glossed surface.
Despite its simplicity and masculine décor, Christine knew this place to be as rich in material as the rest of the home seemed to be. There was nothing cheap here, she was sure – with the exception of herself. She was afraid to so much as touch her bare toes to the floors for fear of smudging the immaculately polished wood.
Eric ushered her right past the 'guest' seats in front of the desk to the master's chair behind it. She dug her heels in as best as she could against him, but the pressure he applied to her back was steady and unwavering. He shot her a sidelong, questioning glance, but did not speak on her reluctance to move where he was leading her. He simply ushered her into the plush, black leather chair.
Once she was seated, delicately pushed into the alcove under the desk, her captor moved gracefully around the table to sit in one of the lesser chairs before her. His back was as straight and tall in that seat as an oak tree. He was intimidating no matter how he positioned himself. He was as inconspicuous as a baby rabbit was ferocious.
Her hands shook lightly as she set them timidly on the surface of his desk.
She dodged his gaze as much as she could, not wanting to meet the golden-hued eyes of the man who'd kidnapped her. In avoiding looking at him, her eyes raked across personal documents lining the otherwise immaculate surface. Her brows furrowed. The documents were hers. Employment papers. Lease papers. Copies of her IDs and numerous photos of her in the past week.
Dear God, she prayed with a mind rolling in chaos. This guy's been stalking me. How didn't I see him? How didn't I know?
"W-what do you want?" Christine jerked her gaze up to meet his intense stare. His preternatural eyes glowed in the void that was his obsidian mask. Trepidation skirted down her spine. "Why me?"
"There is no one but you, Angel." Warmth laced his tone. She imagined him smiling at her behind the mask. "You are the only one. There has never been another. There will never be another. You are all that is and will be."
"What are you talking about?" Her fingers clenched against her palms. "You're not making any sense."
He chuckled at her apparent naiveté. "Silly girl. You do not know because you do not need to. Your Eric will protect you from all things. I am here for you, my Angel."
Coming to the conclusion that she was never going to get a straight answer from this man, Christine began to finger through the documents and photos in front of her. Eric didn't flinch at her looking. He seemed not to care that she was very deliberately looking through 'his' things. The uppermost documentation was the most recent. Below those were older forms. Papers from her short time at Julliard. Forms foster families had had to fill out when she was still in the System. Her mother's and father's death certificates. All throughout were photos of her. The oldest she could see back to was from when she was around eleven years of age. The red scarf she wore in the picture was an item she had had for that year alone, given to her by another child who had been in the same Home as she had been before their Fosterings. It had been completely destroyed by Mrs. Matthews when she had mistakenly washed it on the wrong cycle a week after she was fostered.
"How long have you been watching me," she shakily asked. It was a question more self-directed than at him. Her heart thumped an irregular beat in her chest from the nerves that threatened to take her over.
"Fifteen years." The answer was spoken to her as plainly as if she had asked how long he'd been in business. "Eric has waited for you for much longer, though, Angel. Much longer."
"Christine," she hissed between clenched teeth. Her fingers curled tightly into her palms with her agitation. "Stop calling me Angel. My name is Christine."
In truth, she didn't want him calling her by her name, either. It was more intimate than she was comfortable with, but it was still infinitely better than being called Angel. Why would he call her such a foolish thing, anyway? She was mortal, not from Heaven. Most importantly, surely an angel wouldn't imagine enacting revenge on the madman sitting before her? She was a kindly person, sometimes considered meek, but she was far from benevolent or impervious to hatred.
"Eric is sorry." Another head tilt. "I will endeavor to refrain from calling you Angel, though that is what you are Christine." The sound of her name on his lips had her shivering. He spoke her name as if in prayer.
"Are you cold Christine?" Before she could answer, though she was unsure of how to tell the man that her shudder had been from revulsion and not the chill in the air, he was up on his feet. He moved gracefully towards one of the armchairs facing the fireplace. He pulled from the back of it a white blanket that looked to be made of fur. Before returning to her side he stopped at a thermostat on the wall and pressed a few buttons. She could barely hear the heat kick on through the vents carefully disguised in the room.
"Here, Angel." Eric moved out of her immediate line of sight to drape the blanket over her shoulders. His hands urged her to lean forward so that he could tuck the incredibly soft blanket snugly around her. "This will keep you warm until the temperature increases within the next few minutes."
She stared morosely down at her life displayed like a depraved montage before her. It was a sad life. She had no family and had never been able to do anything of worth, but it was her life. Now that she knew someone had been watching her for so long she felt abused. She was even more frightened than she had been before.
"What do you want from me?" She whispered with despair, her heart hurting in her chest.
"I want nothing from you, Christine. I only wish to protect you." His words were earnestly spoken, the vow in them silent, but there just the same.
"I don't need protection!" She shouted in frustration, her palms slapping against the desk before her. The papers shuffled. "I was fine on my own! I have a job and friends. I have an apartment of my own. I want to go back. I need to go back!"
"Silly angel." Erik chuckled good-naturedly at her. It wasn't derogatory, but the sound of it made her feel as though he were her father and indulging in a tantrum of his well-loved daughter. "What you need is to stay here where the rest of the world cannot harm you any further."
"Where are we, anyway?" She asked with exasperation. She fought not to drop her head and rub her temples to relieve the headache that was beginning to sprout there.
"We are residing on a large parcel of land just outside of Venice." Her eyes widened as she finally dared to make eye contact with the man before her. She could almost picture a smile gracing his lips under that emotionless mask he wore. "Venice, Italy. Yes, you are correct. I have brought you to my home here by the ocean. The salt air and sunshine will be good for you Christine."
"Y-you took me out of America?" Her voice caught in her throat. She had to gulp several times to get the words past her quaking lips. "How could you have managed that? I was unconscious. How could you have gotten past security?"
"We took my plane." He explained to her gladly without even a hint of deceit. "There are many ways for a man such as I to get around the paltry security measures put in place by the various governments of the world."
"Oh my God." She cried, her head dropping to lie against the wooden surface in front of her. Tears threatened to spill from her eyes.
"Mon Ange!" Erik was on his feet in an instant, silent though he was, and hurried around the desk to pull her straight up against the leather backing of the chair. His hand was gentle as he brushed her bangs aside to feel her forehead. She shrunk back from the freezing cold touch of his skin against hers.
Erik pulled the chair out from under the alcove and turned it effortlessly so that she was facing him. Her dropped to his knees before setting his head onto her lap, his long arms reaching behind her to tug her lower half more fully into him.
"Please, Christine! Erik only wishes to protect you! Do not cry. Do not worry over anything. He could not bear it!" His mask-covered cheek rubbed against her thigh. She wanted nothing more than to shove him off of her – possibly even strike his skull against the nearby desk in doing so. She clawed her hands into the armrests of the chair to keep from doing just that.
"Let go of me," she spoke through gritted teeth. She didn't look down at his head in her lap. She was afraid that if she did she'd see those inhuman eyes of his and might try to gouge them right out of his skull.
His hands kneaded into her ass and hips as if he couldn't control himself. Her pulled her even closer.
"Christine will not leave Erik. She will stay with him always."
"Let go!" She screamed, kicking her legs the small fraction she was able to with him so close in an effort to dislodge him. His hands and arms drifted back a distance only to rest on the tops of her thighs. His face turned up towards hers, but she still couldn't bring herself to look at him. "I don't want you to touch me." She hissed the words out with as much venom as she could muster.
There was silence for only a moment before a knock sounded at the door.
Erik rose to his full height in the blink of an eye and had her pushed back into the desk more snugly than before by the span of another blink. He marched towards the door with all the grace of a predator on the hunt, his gangly body showing no fault. She'd seen professional ballerinas with less grace than this man.
There were no words passed between the man and the maid who brought a tray laden with food. He simply opened the door, grabbed the tray with a single hand, and then slammed the door closed in the poor girl's face. He turned the lock, the click sounding as loud as a shotgun going off in her ears, before returning to her side. He set the tray down onto the papers and photos gently.
"Please eat Christine." The shaking tone of voice, the one so filled with childlike vulnerability, that he had used only moments before was now gone. While still soft, there was nothing broken to this man now. He was all authority and power.
She glanced down at the tray and saw that while there was cereal, a honey-wheat that she quite enjoyed, there was also a plate of scrambled eggs, buttered toast, and two glassed with orange juice and milk in either. Her stomach rolled at the thought of eating now that she knew that she was so far from home; now that she'd been watched so intimately for the last fifteen years.
"I'm not hungry," she grumbled, pushing the chair back and away from the desk. It took more than a couple of kicks of her feet to do so. The chair was surprisingly heavy, especially after having seen Erik just move it and her so effortlessly earlier.
As she made a move to stand the chair was pushed back in, buckling her legs and causing her to fall back into the cushioned confines of the leather. She eeped as she was again tucked back under the alcove.
"You must eat," the dark man intoned non-solicitously.
"I said I'm not hungry," she snapped, attempting to push the chair back again. This time she wasn't able to move it. It felt as though there were a brick wall planted behind the high back of the chair.
"You will eat, Christine." His tone had hardened considerably. She paid the anger no mind, her own discomfort making her foolhardy. She lashed out with her hands and shoved the plate of food clear off the other side of the desk. The sound of glass shattering was gratifying, if only momentarily so.
Her smile withered away as his hand reached beside her. He set his finger to a button there. In a firm voice he spoke to whomever was connected to the other end. "Prepare your Mistress another meal. There was an accident. Make it quick."
"I told you already…"
"Enough." She was interrupted succinctly. She swallowed thickly, only just then hearing the steel in his voice. There was malicious intent in that single word. Her gaze sharpened as his hand pulled back to tug open the middle drawer of the desk she was pushed into. His hand withdrew from the mahogany desk holding onto velveteen strips.
"W-what are you doing?" Christine stuttered with trepidation.
Her kidnapper didn't answer her. Instead he used one hand to snatch up one of her forearms and press her wrist into the cushioned armrest. He began to deftly wrap one of the straps to her wrist and the chair.
"S-stop!" She cried, attempting to pull herself free of the man lashing her down to the furniture. She used her free hand in an effort to claw at his already scarred arms, but it was no use. In seconds he was moving onto her other arm, the first unable to so much as twitch off of the armrest. "Stop this!"
"You could have hurt yourself pushing that tray off the desk," he informed her patronizingly. He tugged the on strap tightly, snapping her arm into place. "You attempt to hurt yourself by not eating. This I cannot allow. Erik will feed his angel since she obviously cannot feed herself."
"Stop it! Stop stop stop!" She shouted, tears sprouting from her eyes. She rocked back and forth in the chair in an effort to get up. Her forearms ached from the forceful movements, but she couldn't seem to stop herself. She was now trapped so much more surely than she had been. She was literally bound in this horrible house with her kidnapper.
"Calm down, Angel." She watched him move around to the other side of the desk, sidestepping the mess she had made on the once pristine rug. A part of her buried under the hysteria wondered over the fact that he didn't seem the least bit worried about the expensive piece. His eyes bore into her worriedly as he made his way to one of the panels on the wall, tapping it once so that it slid aside to reveal a safe of sorts. He fiddled with the control before opening it and withdrawing something that had her stilling to the point of impersonating a garden statue.
He held a vial and syringe almost negligently in his right hand.
"There's my good girl." There was a smile in his voice. "If you stay calm and behave I won't have to give you this sedative. Do not worry, though, mon Ange. It would not hurt more than a single prick and afterwards you would feel nice and light. You could sleep if you wished or perhaps I could set you down onto the settee to watch a movie while I did some work."
"P-please d-don't st-stick me w-with anything." She pleaded as prettily as she was able, her eyes unable to cast downward with their intense focus on the needle he held so loosely.
"Behave, Christine, and I will not give you the sedative."
"I'll be good." She gulped. "I'll be quiet and won't make a fuss."
He chuckled, setting the vial and syringe on the desk within immediate reach. He dropped elegantly into one of the guest chairs on the other side of her. His hands draped loosely over the armrests.
"You are so comical, Angel. Erik does not wish you to be quiet. He loves to hear your voice." His eyes flashed brighter. "He just wishes his Christine to stay calm. Being stressed is detrimental to her health."
When the knock came again several minutes later, Christine was trying her best to hide under the blanket that was still draped over her shoulders. She didn't speak to Erik and he seemed content to just stare at her. He rose fluidly and opened the door wide. The same maid from before, a girl with red hair tied up into a sever bun, took a single step into the room before stopping with wide eyes looking directly at where she was strapped down to her Master's chair.
"Do not stare too long at your Mistress, Danielle. If you displease her I will pull your eyes from their sockets." Tears rose in the young girl's eyes and a gasp left her lips, but she dropped her gaze immediately. Erik hummed with pleasure at her acquiescence. He gestured further into the room. "You will set the tray down before your Mistress and pick up the glass and food. Send Meredith in to clean up the spill in an hour's time."
The girl hurried forward and set the tray down with a clatter. She flinched at the sound and turned her gaze up to Christine as if in apology. Christine pinched her lips together as they trembled with emotion. She wanted to cry. Her hands clenched on the armrests, though she had stopped tugging at the restraints which chafed her wrists a little.
"Quickly, Danielle," the man barked, his patience wearing thin.
The girl, Danielle, quickly dropped to her knees and began to pick up the mess Christine had made into the smock of the apron she wore.
"Let me help," she begged of Erik, feeling horrible that she was cause of the slightly younger girl's discomfort and extra labor. "Could you please untie me so I can help her pick up my mess?"
"It was an accident, Christine." Erik informed her softly, his eyes kind. He walked around where Danielle kneeled out of sight, not even sparing her a second glance. His entire focus was on her. "You were in high spirits. These things happen on occasion. Now, what would you like to eat first."
Her eyes widened as he lifted one of the guest chairs with a single hand. He hoisted it up and over Danielle without the least bit of effort. He set it down onto its four legs just beside her, the seating facing towards her. He sat down smoothly, pulling the new tray of food closer to him. It held the same food, only this time there was a plate of plain English Muffins and strawberry jam instead of buttered toast.
Her attention moved toward where Danielle stooped cleaning up her mess. She felt guilty. The younger girl wouldn't be panting with fear – she could hear the harsh intakes of breath – if she had only controlled herself better.
"I think some protein would be best. Open your mouth, Christine."
She jerked her attention back around, seeing a forkful of eggs hovering in front of her mouth. Erik held the fork steady, his gaze unwavering on her face. There was eagerness in his eyes. She could practically smell it in the air. For several heartbeats she did nothing. With a final glance towards Danielle she gave in and opened her mouth.
"Good girl." The madman praised her as she chewed. He scooped up another helping of egg and waited for her to finish with her current bite before offering more. "Tell me when you wish for something else, Angel."
The eggs were tasted of ash on her tongue, though it was not because of their lack of flavor. In fact, she had never tasted eggs so light or delicious. They flaked on her tongue, but seemed to melt across her taste buds. Salty with a hint of spice. She thought she even caught a hint of bacon in each bite as though they were fried in bacon grease. She couldn't enjoy them, though. Too much rolled through her mind and beat at her conscience. She was feeling sicker and sicker with each bite.
"You may leave now," Erik commanded Danielle, now onto feeding her spoonful's of cereal.
Danielle rushed to her feet and all but ran from the room, tray clutched in a death grip between her fingers. She left the door opened in her wake, but Erik did not seem to mind in the least. Why would he? She was tied down to his chair and unable to rise up from it until he released her.
She ate slowly, tolerating the way he brushed a cloth napkin against the corners of her lips with silence. He doted heavily, his attention unwavering. She had only managed two bites of the jellied muffin before she had to turn her head completely away from her kidnapper and his ministrations.
"I can't eat any more." She intoned, her stomach cramping a little. "I'm beginning to feel a little sick. Don't make me eat any more. Please."
"I will not, Christine. You did very well." The hand he had been feeding her with brushed over her scalp in a petting motion meant to sooth. It only made her flinch. She didn't want him touching her, but didn't know how to stop him. Even untied she couldn't keep him away from her.
"Will you untie me now?" Her eyes stared down at the desk morosely.
"Of course." He reached over her to release the first of the restraints before quickly undoing the one closest to him. He gathered her hands up into his own and began to massage the red marks on her wrists. His fingers were terribly long and bony, but she knew from experience that those hands could do damage. There was more strength to him than seemed humanly possible.
"Would you like a tour of your new home, Christine? Or we could stay here while I do some work that I have been neglecting in my absence. Your wellbeing will always be my first priority, Angel. Always."
She took her hands from his hold very deliberately and glanced up at the open doorway. Her brows furrowed in thought.
"I'd like a tour, please."
And just maybe I'll find a way out of this madhouse.