• Life's quirks often surprise me. For example, my father laid under soil for a month before I learnd that a small chapel adjoined the opera house. I felt small traces of residual resentment, knowing that I could have used more time in prayer when my father was actually alive. Still, I one day found myself entering the chapel, my thoughts turned towards my deceased parent.

    I knelt down in a small wooden pew, clasping my hands tightly in prayer. With closed eyes and a furrowed brow, I started whispering a phrase I remembered from church:

    "The LORD is my shapard, I shall not want."

    Behind me, I heard a small scuffling noise, but I ignored it. It was surely just a creak, or a mouse, or something that wouldn't disturb my prayers. Added to the noise, however, was something that sounded like... breathing. My own breaths, I decided, and furrowed my brow as I tried to remember how to finish the verse.

    "HE lay me beside HIM in green pastures."

    That hadn't been my voice.

    I jumped, twisting my head sharply, my eyes flying open in shock and fear. No. Not fear; I wouldn't allow myself to feel that emotion, or any emotion, again.

    Erik. He stood not ten feet away, hardly surpressing his laughter. My gasps turned into annoyed breaths as I turned my head away from him, but against my will my cheeks reddened with embarrassment. My concentration had been broken and to make matters worse, the last person on earth I wanted to see right now was-- Did he just sit down next to me?

    Stupid, stupid man.

    I shot Erik a scalding glance. "Lust is a sin, you know," I told him as I moved farther down the pew, remembering our kiss. Or rather, trying to forget our kiss... and his lips... and-- No! I wouldn't dwell on the subject!

    Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Erik lean in; a wave of smells hit me: roses, must, and candles, not to mention a multitude of others that I couldn't distinguish. It smelled like home... when father would read to me, out in the garden. The books had been old--so old, and fragile-- and father wouldn't let me hold them. He'd always take me in his lap, hold the book in front of me, and read to me in his deep, resonating voice. There would always be roses around us... and I would often fall asleep on his lap... Oh father!

    "Love is a virtue, you know." Erik interrupted my thoughts, sliding a gloved hand across my waist and puling me closer to him. I pushed him back; I had no desire to be reminded of him, and he had no right to break off my memory of my past. And above all, I didn't need someone like him to hold me!

    "Please leave." I said, my voice coming out harsher than I intended. Memories danced before my eyes. "Just... go, Erik. Please." My voice cracked a little around my final words, making them come out more as a plead than as a command. I looked at him, intending to show him that I didn't fear him, but... oh God! His horrible, wonderful eyes! His eyes had seduced me already... and his lips had held me captive... and the devil take it! Erik knew that he had power over me.

    "But I couldn't leave," he murmured quietly, watching my eyes involuntarily well up with tears. No! I wouldn't cry; not in front of him, not ever again. I wouldn't.... I couldn't....

    Erik wrapped his arms around me, pulling me in so tightly that I had no room to fight back. Nor did I truly have the strength.

    "Erik... please..." Now I was begging. My head rest gently against his chest, my arms futily pushing against his broad shoulders. I felt shame tightening around me heart; I was not strong enough, not nearly strong enough.

    "Gemma," he breathed, his lips on my eyelids. "Let me show you... let me show you how much I love you." I wanted to do something, anything, but Erik was faster than my mind; his lips found mine and forced them open, ensuring that the only thing I could do was give a soft moan of pleasure.

    His power... This was his power, how he controlled me. My body was screaming, partially for more, partially for release. My hands moved against my will and burried themselves in his hair, fingers twisting and pulling our mouths closer, if such a feat were possible.

    My mind kept screaming against me.

    I had made a promise to my father to stay strong... I wasn't strong around this man, around Erik... I needed to honor my promise... I promised... promised... Erik's power... was terrible... frightening... destroying my strength. I feared his power, and perhaps this fear acted on my behalf. Perhaps the fearful part of me acted the way I did.

    Perhaps fear made me rip off his mask.

    In less than an instant, my body slammed against the pew as Erik pushed me away, cursing loudly. I had already seen his face, so many nights ago, and though I could still see his angelic half, the contrast in the whole face made me give a little shreik.

    Erik turned and faced me with murderous rage in his eyes; for the first time in my left, I felt all my stubborn independance, all my strength, finally slip away from me. Fear gripped my entire body and held my heart, making me shake.

    Erik was shaking as well, but not from fear. Wordlessly, he angrily grabbed my arm and roughly pulled me up, dragging me into one of his dark, never-ending tunnels.

    Part One
    Part Two
    Part Three
    Part Four
    Part Five