Chapter 14-Secrets, Secrets and More Secrets
Chapter 14: Secrets, Secrets, and More Secrets
Erik, Beatrice, Ruban and Esperanza all sat at the dinner table in the Castillo dining room enjoying their dinner. Erik and Beatrice sat together on one side with Ruban and Esperanza sitting directly in front of them on the other side. The main course for the night was a hearty vegetable soup with every kind of vegetable you could possibly imagine. The Castillo’s, as Erik and Beatrice had found out, were vegetarians…they ate nothing that had to be slaughtered. Because of Esperanza’s love of animals, she hated even thinking that anyone could eat something as adorable as a rabbit for example.
The couple had been talking over dinner, sharing stories and laughing at jokes, all at the table, that is, except for Erik. Being below ground for most of his life, he had no stories to tell and while Beatrice and the other couple spoke of things they had done, he stayed quiet for most of their conversations, giving his opinion very rarely. Even now, he sat picking at a zucchini slice as it floated in the vegetable broth in his bowl as Beatrice carried on a conversation about horses. He didn’t mind sitting and listening to the other three chatter because it had been beneficial for him. He was learning more about Beatrice and his new friends, but learning more about his “wife” was more interesting.
For example, he learned that she loved horses, something he hadn’t even suspected from her. He made a silent promise to her that he would buy her a horse as soon as he had money to do so. He could see her on a snow white mare, looking elegant as her gown flowed behind her, or perhaps a buckskinned colored mare, or maybe---
“Erik?” Beatrice called timidly, jolting Erik from his thoughts and he looked up at her in surprise.
“I asked if it would be alright if we could go the horse show that Ruban and Esperanza are hosting in a few days,” she said a bit impatiently. Was that what they had been talking about? Erik had heard nothing of the conversation that had been going on as he lost himself in his thoughts. He cleared his throat and straightened in his chair, trying to compose himself.
“I suppose it would not take away from our plans,” he replied, trying to make it seem like they were far too busy to deviate from whatever plans they might have for their “honeymoon.”
“What plans?” Beatrice muttered then shoved a piece of carrot into her mouth as Erik shot a glare at her.
“Wonderful!” Esperanza cheered with the widest smile. “I have just the horse for you, Beatrice!”
“Really, you need not buy a horse for me!” Beatrice protested, wiping her mouth quickly. “I can do without a horse!”
“You will have enough money to buy your own if you wish,” Ruban spoke up, and Erik and Beatrice looked at him, one frowning in confusion and one with wide eyes filled with surprise.
“What do you mean, Ruban?” Erik wondered, he being the one with the frown across his brow.
“Esperanza and I were just talking over what we wished to do with one our villas here in Madrid. It is quant, but we have no use for it so much anymore. We stay here, mostly. We thought since you two need a place to stay, and we have no use for it, as I said, you might wish to stay there. There will be no payments, and we will give you enough money to support yourselves with extra to spend on luxuries.”
“Please say yes!” Esperanza pleaded after her husband finished. “It is not even a mile away from here! We will be neighbors!”
Beatrice stared at the couple then looked at Erik who in turn looked at her. They studied each other, both not knowing what to do and searching for the answer in the others eyes. These fine people were giving them one of their homes that they apparently didn’t want anymore. Why were they doing this? Erik and Beatrice had only just met them! It seemed that these people were loving, giving and trusting people who would not think twice to help others even without knowing much about them. On the one hand, it would benefit Erik and Beatrice if they had a place of their own at the moment, but how did the Castillos know that these two weren’t mass murders?! After all, if they knew Erik’s past, Beatrice and Erik were sure they would think twice before even helping them.
“Erik?” Beatrice breathed, prompting him to make the decision. His eyes glowed in terror at her and he looked at the Castillos with the same look. How could they refuse their kindness? But how could he say yes when he and Beatrice had done nothing for them in return?! This was too much for the poor masked man! He had no idea what to do! Was this typical of people that they would be so kind when all his life he had been shown nothing but unkindness?!
“You need not repay us, Erik,” Ruban assured him, seemingly reading his mind. “Your company will be more than enough payment. You see, Esperanza and I hardly have any couples to spend time with. We would like to have friends who understand what married life is like.”
Oh, what Erik would have done to simply stand and walk from the room to let Beatrice deal with this situation. He could not stand hearing this man say that Erik and Beatrice were married, because it was not true, and he hated lying to the poor couple like this. He looked at Beatrice again and she looked at him in turn. She didn’t look panicked anymore. She looked like she knew exactly what to do, and Erik wanted to know what she was thinking. She suddenly turned to the couple with a sweet smile.
“I think this is a bit much for Erik to take in,” she murmured, taking his hand and squeezing it gently to assure him. “I think, perhaps, he and I should talk about this---”
“Beatrice,” Erik interrupted sternly, making her look at him in surprise. “Do not speak for me. I am not a child.”
“No, my dear, you certainly are not,” Beatrice smirked, much to his surprise.
“We shall talk about this tonight,” he nodded, hiding his surprise at her flirtatious comment.
“Of course, dearest,” she smiled sweetly and turned back to her soup. Erik turned to the Castillos, nodding, and in turn they both nodded, having heard his resolve and turned back to their own dinner. Erik leaned closer to Beatrice’s ear as she chewed happily on a piece of potato.
“Yes,” he whispered, hissing the last letter to purposely tease her. “Tonight we will have a talk about how you can phrase your words a bit more carefully.”
Beatrice could not help the small shiver that racked her body. Erik was so close, and his breath was so warm as it fanned her neck when he spoke. Did he know what he did to her?
The four finished their dinner, and changed the subject several different times as the servants cleaned the table. Ruban invited Erik to his study for a drink, and Esperanza pulled Beatrice into the parlor. The two women sat down on the sofa and the Spanish beauty moved closer to the red-head, taking her hands.
“What do you think, Beatrice?” Esperanza whispered.
“What do you mean?” Beatrice wondered with a frown.
“I want to know what you think of accepting our offer!”
“Oh, Esperanza,” Beatrice laughed. “I promise you will have your answer tomorrow at noon.”
Esperanza looked at her new friend with a comical glare that made Beatrice giggle. Esperanza suddenly straightened and smiled, making Beatrice a bit nervous.
“I must speak to your husband,” Esperanza whispered, and in one graceful movement, she rose from the sofa and flew toward Ruban’s study.
“Esperanza!” Beatrice called, panicking. “Wait! What are you going to say?!”
“I must ask him something,” Esperanza called back still walking toward the study. She opened the door and the sight of the two men standing in front of the fire greeted the two women.
“Esperanza,” Ruban smiled as the women walked in. “Could not do without me for a few moments, mi amor?”
“Actually, mi querido, I must talk to Erik for a moment,” she smiled, taking her husbands hand as he looked at her in surprise.
“Is that so?” Ruban wondered. Erik looked at Beatrice with more confusion than he would admit and she merely shrugged, shaking her head slightly.
“Erik, would you mind talking with me in the parlor?” Esperanza wondered, walking toward him. Before he could even answer the woman grabbed his wrist and dragged him toward the parlor, leaving Beatrice and Ruban in his study a bit stunned.
“Esperanza has seemed to take a quick liking to the both of you,” Ruban smiled, sipping at his drink. Beatrice looked at him in surprise then stepped toward him a bit.
“You have not taken a liking to us?” she wondered, making him give a slight chuckle.
“Of course I have,” he smiled, turning to lean on the shelf above the fireplace. “You are both fine people.”
“As are you and Esperanza,” she smiled sweetly. “I am sure that Erik will accept your offer. You are very generous.”
Ruban looked at her through slightly narrowed eyes in evaluation of her.
“I cannot help but sense that there is something else you wish to tell me, Beatrice,” he finally said, shifting his arm on the shelf. Beatrice looked at him in surprise and he could see through her golden orbs that his suspicion was correct. “Would you like to tell me?”
“Ruban,” she breathed. “You have no idea how much I wish to tell you!” Beatrice ran closer to him taking his hand and looking him in the eyes. “I am not a natural liar! I do not like lying! I am an honest girl! But…” She lost herself in her sudden thoughts of Erik, and Ruban searched her face for the rest of her explanation.
“Does it have something to do with Erik?” Ruban guessed, knowing that that would be the only reason she would lie. Beatrice sighed and nodded then let him go and walked to the other end of the fireplace.
“I wish I could tell the both of you everything,” she whispered. “But Erik---”
“Do not, Beatrice,” he interrupted. She turned to face him with wide eyes, and he merely shook his head. “I do not have to know.”
“Oh, Ruban!” she cried, running into his arms, taking him aback. “I so wish that everyone was as understanding as you!”
Ruban smiled patting the back of her head gently.
“You are welcome, mi amigo,” he laughed.
“Esperanza, might I ask why you are seeking my company?” Erik wondered as she closed the door of the parlor.
“There is something of great importance that I must speak to you about, Erik,” she replied, leading him to the sofa to sit. “It is about something that Beatrice saw today.”
Erik looked back at the woman in worry.
“What has happened?” he asked quickly. More importantly, why did she not tell him herself?
“It is nothing that you need worry about, Erik!” Esperanza laughed, and Erik couldn’t help his sigh of relief. “Let me explain. You see, we were shopping today and she saw something she wanted. A ring to be exact. I could tell she wanted it because as soon as she saw it, it was as though she was in a trance. I noticed that she did not have a wedding ring as of yet, and so I proposed to buy it for her. She said no and also said that if she were to have a wedding ring, it should come from her husband. I agree with her, which is why, before we were done shopping, I went back to the vender, pointed out the ring and told him to hold it under my name so that you might go and pick it up next week.”
“Me?!” Erik exclaimed, setting his drink down on the table in front of the sofa.
“Yes, you,” she giggled. “All you need do is go to the vender and tell him that there is a ring on hold under Esperanza Castillo. He will give you the ring, you will pay for it, and give it to Beatrice.”
“Esperanza,” Erik sighed. “I appreciate your help, but please, you have done enough for us already. Beatrice has gone this far without a ring, and I am sure she can go without one a little while longer.”
“Very well,” she shrugged and stood to walk toward the door. “But do not be surprised if anyone assumes she is unattached and go after her. She is a beautiful woman, and I am sure that it will not be long before the single men here see that her hand is bare.”
She turned to the door with a smirk of triumph, having seen the shock on Erik’s face, and walked out of the room to rejoin her husband and Beatrice.
Had he heard that right? Single men would see that she was beautiful, and that she wore no ring and they would be after her?! For whatever reason, Erik did not like the thought of another man holding her, touching her, or even being near her without him being there. He felt like this partially because he wanted to protect her, but the other part of it, he wasn’t quite sure.
Erik sighed and sat back on the sofa. Why was this couple helping them with every single little thing? What had Erik and Beatrice done for them?! What could they do for them now that the couple had given them a place to stay and money to spend? Ruban had said that their company would do, but that was not enough for a house, money and now a ring!
Oh, God, the ring! He had completely forgot to give her one before they left France, and he had thought that he would not have to worry about it unless she said something. Well, she hadn’t said anything to him, but he heard Esperanza when she told him how his new little angel had reacted to the sight of a ring she had wanted. He could easily imagine Beatrice going into a trance over jewelry, it seemed to suit her. How could he refuse to buy something for her that she truly wanted? He couldn’t. He would go to the vender next week and see this ring that Beatrice had chosen for herself. He would put it on her finger himself, and she would never take it off.
“I must thank Esperanza for the information,” he reminded himself as he stood to walk back to Ruban’s study.
“Erik, I believe we should take the offer,” Beatrice stated as she stood on one side of the bed in the nightgown that Erik loved so much.
“I believe we should try to get some sleep,” Erik muttered as he slipped into the bed on the other side.
“Erik! We must make a decision!” she said jumping into the bed with him on her knees. Erik smiled up at her as she pouted. She sometimes acted like a small child as he noticed a long time ago, but he found it adorable when she did, even if sometimes she was throwing a tantrum.
“I know we must, mon cheri, but can it not wait until the morning?” he wondered, tired from his day of surprises.
“No! We must make the decision now! We cannot waste time in sleeping when we should be thinking!” Beatrice shuffled on her knees toward him and pushed and pulled at his shoulder when he rolled onto his side to try to sleep. He sighed and sat up to look at her, making her stop.
“Let me tell you something, my dear,” he began. “Sleeping is not a waste of time. Using energy on an already decided matter – that is wasting time, not to mention energy. Now go to sleep.”
Beatrice stared at him in confusion as he turned onto his side again, pulling the covers up to his waist and she asked in a small voice, “You have already decided what we will do?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“And what is your decision, my ‘husband’?”
“My decision is that we accept the offer,” he whispered. He heard Beatrice gasp and suddenly found himself on his back with her in his arms before he could even move himself. Beatrice snuggled her cheek to his chest as she pressed every inch of the length of her body against his and wrapped her arm around his waist.
“You cannot know how happy this makes me, Erik,” she whispered and he slowly wrapped his arms around her and pulled her a bit closer.
“And you cannot know how happy you make me, Beatrice,” he thought, not willing to say such a thing out loud. After all, she may act as if she was in love with him, but he knew it to be far from the truth. What beauty could ever love a beast?
If only Erik knew what was going through Beatrice’s mind as she lay there in his arms, he would be dancing with joy. What was she doing?! She knew he didn’t love her, that he was still in deep love with Christine, and yet she was craving his embrace and touch.
She felt him bury his face in her hair and immediately felt sorrow fill her heart. This would be over soon. As soon as they moved into the villa of their own, they would not have to worry about anyone walking into the room and wondering why they were sleeping so far apart, or why one left the room as the other was dressing. She had fallen in love with him when she knew it was useless and now her heart was going to be broken in two, for she knew who he dreamed about.
Christine. That damned Christine! If she had only accepted him for who he was they wouldn’t be in this position right now! Beatrice would not have seen Erik again and she wouldn’t be trying to push her feelings for him aside because she would not have any! Beatrice suddenly felt her heart clench. She would have never seen Erik again. That thought was not as appealing as Beatrice thought it would be.
Even though she did not want to feel for him because it would break her own heart, she did, and she was lying in his arms now, safe and warm. So though she damned Christine for her rejection of Erik, she also had to thank her for it, for if it had not been for that, she would not have the man who she knew to be her knight in shining armor with her in that moment.
Beatrice glided her hand from around Erik’s waist and up his chest, feeling every inch of every muscle that gave him so much power, and sighed. She then lifted her head to find him sleeping and shook her head in exasperation.
His mask. He was so tired these days he never took it off before he went to sleep and for the past few nights she had been doing it for him. She did so then and set it on the nightstand. She then shifted so that she could look at his peaceful face from above as she played with little bits of his hair. She moved closer to his face and gently brushed her lips against his making him stir. She did not move when he did so and instead ran her tongue over his lips gently, surprising herself with the action.
“Christine…” he breathed. Beatrice pulled away from him as if his lips burned her and stared at him through wide eyes. Any hope, any small thought that he could love her was gone. What could she do to compete with a Prima Donna with the voice of an angel? Nothing. She could merely play the piano, and her voice was not as heavenly as Christine’s. She was a toad compared to her!
Beatrice had seen Christine on one or two occasions, but they never spoke, yet Beatrice could see why Erik loved her. She was sweet, kind and gentle with beauty unmatched in France as far as Beatrice had seen. She had also met Raoul de Chagny, and understood why Erik disliked him so much. Beatrice had thought he was a woman at first glance, but she never told that to anyone, especially Madame Giry. He was not a real man. Erik was a real man. From the moment Beatrice had laid her eyes on the man he grew to be, she knew Erik was a real man.
She slid away from Erik slowly and rolled onto her side, her back facing him. If he was still dreaming of Christine, then she had no place in his heart. She had learned from experience that the subconscious mind could tell us things we might not know even in close examination of ourselves. Christine would forever---
“Beatrice…” Erik suddenly breathed. Beatrice whipped her head around to look at him. His eyes were still closed and he hadn’t moved…he was still dreaming! Beatrice didn’t even try to help the smile that brightened her whole face as hope returned into her heart. Perhaps she had spoken too quickly? After all he was trying, and with Gods help, she was sure that he would forget her in time.