Chapter 18-Truse Feelings
Chapter 18: True Feelings
Esperanza sat at her vanity combing out her thick hair with a silver comb. It had been very enjoyable shopping with Beatrice for costumes for themselves and their husbands. She had decided to buy the golden wench dress for herself and Ruban had agreed to dressing as a pirate. Now the couple was in their master bedroom and Ruban was on the bed as she continued combing her hair. He simply stared at her and she could see him through the mirror as he sat in nothing but his trousers with a look she knew all too well in his eyes.
“Your eyes will strain if you keep staring at me that way, mi querido,” she smiled, placing the comb on her vanity. He chuckled and slid off the bed to walk toward her.
“How would my eyes strain when you are so easy on them?” he retorted placing his hands softly on her shoulders and rubbing them gently. He leaned down and started pressing tender kisses on her neck making her smile.
“Beatrice thinks herself unattractive,” she suddenly blurted. Ruban frowned in confusion at her in the mirror as he wrapped his arms around her shoulders.
“How did you get to the subject of Beatrice while my lips were on your skin?” he wondered making her giggle.
“I was just thinking about our time shopping a moment before your soft lips were caressing my skin,” she retorted. “We had seen a dress that she would look gorgeous in, but she seemed to think she would not look attractive in it.”
“Is that so?” Ruban replied, beginning to trail kisses down her neck and shoulder in an attempt to draw her full attention to him.
“Ruban, this is serious,” she whispered moving away from his lips with a smile to assure him that she was not upset.
“I have had enough of serious matters today,” he sighed, standing tall.
Esperanza turned in her seat to look at him with a frown of confusion and asked, “What serious matter have you had to deal with?”
“Erik asked for some advice from me today,” Ruban replied walking back to the bed and sitting on the edge.
“He did?” Esperanza wondered standing and walking toward him. “On what matter?”
“He wanted to know how to give Beatrice the ring he bought for her today,” Ruban replied, pulling her close to him and wrapping his arms around her waist as her hands slipped up his chest and around his neck. “He seemed extremely …flustered.”
“Flustered?” she smirked, raising an eyebrow in amusement at his choice of words.
“Do not go off on a tangent, mi amor,” Ruban retorted. “There is something wrong.”
“What do you mean?” Esperanza frowned again, playing with a bit of his hair.
“Well, Beatrice said that there was more to Erik and herself, but she could not tell us what it was,” he replied through kisses he planted to her neck. “Something about Erik, but I did not pressure her.”
“They seem to be in love, as newly weds should be,” Esperanza informed him, lulling her head back a bit. “Why would there be more to their relationship than that?”
“I have seen her hesitance and the look in her eyes when she tells us of their marriage,” Ruban said, pulling away to look Esperanza in the eyes. “There is something more there. I just hope it is not something too horrible.”
“Why would it be horrible?!” Esperanza gasped, pulling away from Ruban as if burned. “Why would you say something like that about our friends?!”
“Esperanza, I did not mean it the way I said it,” Ruban replied quickly, trying to grasp her hands and pull her back toward him, but she wouldn’t have it.
“I cannot believe that you would say something like that at all!” she cried her eyes wide and filled with the disbelief she was speaking of. “Beatrice and Erik are the most wholesome couple I have ever met!”
“Mi amor, I do not doubt that they are wholesome---”
“But that is what you just said! You think there is something wrong with them!”
“Why does Erik wear the mask?” Ruban shot back. Esperanza had no response. What could she say? She did not know the answer to that question.
“They had a life before they met us,” she finally responded softly.
“Exactly my point,” Ruban retorted. “We do not know what happened before they came here. I am only saying that we should prepare ourselves for the worst if they tell us what is wrong. I pray to God it is not the worst, but we should prepare for it.”
He stood and slowly moved to hold her. She stayed still, looking at him as he drew nearer and eventually wrapped his arms around her, looking deep into her eyes.
“You do not really think something is incredibly wrong with them, do you?” she had to ask.
“I do not know,” he shrugged. “But I know that because we are very good friends of theirs now, we will understand their situation and remain their friends, will we not?”
Esperanza smiled and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him close and breathed, “Yes.”
The next afternoon...
Beatrice flew through the halls of the hacienda to see the dress that had arrived. Esperanza had told the saleslady to send it to her so that they could surprise their men, and Esperanza had sent the costumes for Beatrice and Erik to Beatrice. Now they sat in the master bedroom where the servant, Diego, had left them. Beatrice only hoped that they were not in plain sight and at least behind the dressing screen in the room. She wanted to surprise Erik thoroughly, and the only way to do that would be to put the dress on and present his costume to him.
She rounded into the room at lightening speed and looked around. They had a few hours yet before the ball but she wanted to try on that dress! She searched the room with her eyes but found no sign of either costume. She ran behind the dressing screen and sighed in relief when she saw them standing on their dummies looking gorgeous. Diego had read her mind.
“Bring it in here, Diego,” she suddenly heard Erik say from the doorway, and ducked fully behind the screen.
“Drat!” she thought. “If he sees me here it will ruin everything!”
She stayed silent as she heard some small clanging noise. She had heard that before. It sounded like tin, or…
“Oh, my Lord. He is going to bathe?!”
She knew then and there that she should have come out from her hiding place and excused herself before he began undressing, but as the thought crossed her mind, it didn’t seem to be a good idea. She saw something land on the bed and knew at once he had begun taking his clothes off. She knew she was going to regret this, but she did it anyway.
Standing on her tip-toes she peeked over the screen just enough so that he would not see her. There was the tub, Diego beginning to fill it with water, and there stood Erik unbuttoning his shirt as it was already untucked from his trousers. Beatrice swallowed hard as he peeled his shirt off and threw it on the bed then began working at his trousers.
“That is enough, Beatrice,” she scolded herself and shrunk down from her toes. However much she wanted to see him, it would not be right. He had never done this to her. It was just so…wicked. She knew if she were to see him her mind would be filled with images and fantasies that were not becoming of a lady, and that---
His trousers landed on the bed as he dismissed Diego.
“Oh, Lord, forgive me,” she prayed, and peeked out from the side of the screen. Erik was already in the tub, relaxing in the hot water with his arms resting on both ends, and his head lulling back a bit, his back facing her. What was becoming of her?! She should not be spying on him! What would he say?!
“He would either be very angry or he would say something positively wicked!” she thought, knowing him all too well. Beatrice was suddenly jolted from her thoughts when she heard something that sounded a bit like humming. She turned and stood on her tip-toes again to see where the sound was coming from.
“Of course it is Erik, you twit!” she informed herself, coldly. “Who else would it be?!”
She watched him in interest and listened closely to try to figure out if she had heard the song before. A small smile crept to her face as she watched him, his fingers moving as if he were conducting an orchestra.
Paper faces on parade
Hide your face so the world will never find you
Oh, yes, she knew that song. They had played it at the masquerade ball in France at the Opera Populaire at the beginning of the year. She had attended, but left early because she had started to feel sick. Meg had told her about what had happened after she had left, and when Beatrice had heard everything, she immediately regretted not staying. If she had stayed, she could have seen Erik again, and she would have had some excitement in her life. Her life had been so boring, she was sure that soon she was going to go mad.
But then, Erik came back. Dangerous, unpredictable, mysterious Erik who had brought her to Spain and was, at that very moment, bathing on the other side of the screen she was hiding behind. If Madame Giry had been there right then she surely would have taken the whip to Beatrice. Not that the woman ever did when the girl had misbehaved, but surely, what Beatrice was doing now would call for a lashing.
Beatrice stifled her sigh as she stood flat on her feet again. What was she to do?! It was situations like this that had made her afraid of coming with him. She had found him attractive from the start, and she knew that attraction would only grow if they were together most of the time, but it was unavoidable. They now shared a house of their own and they had been sharing a bed every night, also against her better judgment, and all of it was becoming a bit much.
She heard some splashing on the other side and knew he was probably scrubbing down…something. Not being able to fight her curiosity she peeked around again and saw him scrubbing his back with a long-handled brush. She watched in awe as his muscles flexed and moved beneath his drenched skin, and she had the undeniable urge to just reach out and touch him, but somehow managed to stay still. She never realized how nice it was to look at a man until Erik, and she welcomed the sight if it was this easy on her eyes.
Beatrice was jolted from her thoughts when she noticed he had stopped moving and was now just sitting there. Had she made a noise? Did he know she was there? Not really wanting to find out the answer to either question she ducked behind the screen again, praying he had not seen her.
Erik had to keep himself from fidgeting. Something was wrong, though he couldn’t figure out what it was. He stayed very still, trying to hear the slightest noise. He had a feeling that someone was in the room with him, however he couldn’t be sure. He felt like he was being watched. He could feel the gaze boring into the back of his head. He turned his head just enough to see behind him out of the corner of his eye and noticed the dressing screen move ever so slightly, causing him to stiffen.
So someone was hiding in here. He stood and grabbed the robe sitting on the chair of the vanity he was next to and wrapped it around him. He pulled the belt out from around the robe and quickly made his Punjab lasso, not wanting to be unarmed if it were someone of disagreeable character then turned to face the screen.
On wet yet somehow silent feet he moved toward it, preparing his lasso. He faced his back to the screen but his eyes were fixed on the edge. He peeked around the side and saw nothing but two outfits that he had never seen before. He frowned slightly in confusion at the costumes and in confusion at the fact that no one was there even after the screen had moved. Had it been his imagination?
His doubts were laid to rest about his sanity when he heard hurried footsteps moving towards the door. He whipped his head around and saw a feminine figure with cascading fiery hair running down her back.
“Beatrice?” he frowned deeper, instantly making sure his robe covered him completely from her sight. She came to a dead stop but did not turn to look at him. A thief, a criminal, a servant, any other kind of intruder he could handle, but when it came to Beatrice, he was at a loss of what to do.
“Do not make her think you are mad at her,” his subconscious warned. He cleared his throat and saw her shoulders stiffen.
“Turn around, mon ami,” he said reassuringly. “I am not upset.”
She slowly turned on her heel, her eyes cast down and her hands clasped in front of her.
“Erik---” she choked then cleared her throat. “I-I did not mean to…That is, I was…”
She trailed off. What was she to say? She had been caught and now, even though he said he was not upset, he had to be! Beatrice felt her heart begin to pound in her chest when she noticed him coming closer. What was he doing?! Was he going to punish her?! No, of course not! This was Erik, not some cruel monster! But, nothing like this had ever happened before. What if his temper got the best of him? She hated to think of what he would do when truly upset.
“Beatrice, look at me,” he murmured. Her eyes slowly met his and he gave her a slight smile as he murmured, “Truly, I am not angry with you.”
She looked away from him in shame and he sighed at her as he untied his lasso. His only thought was how long had she been there?
“I wanted to surprise you,” she said in a small voice. “I wanted to show you the costumes Esperanza and I picked for us.”
Erik couldn’t help his smile from growing a little wider as he tied the belt around his robe to keep it shut. She always surprised him, and he was sure he would never get tired of it. A thought suddenly sprung into his head, and he knew he would get a thrill from seeing her blush when he said this.
“Answer me one question, mon petite,” he murmured pulling her hands into his. “Did you enjoy what you saw?”
Sure enough, her eyes met his again and her face stained as crimson as a rose as she sputtered, “E-Erik! You have a wicked sense of humor!”
“I feel compelled to remind you that you like my sense of humor, mon ange,” he smirked, not taking his gaze from her face.
“When have I ever said such a thing?!” Beatrice wondered, starting to pull away from him, but he held her hands in his, firmly.
“The words do not need to be said. I can see it in your eyes.”
“You do not look into my eyes long enough to be able to tell!”
“That is not true.”
“Erik! Let me go! You are---!”
Beatrice caught herself before she actually admitted what she had been thinking the whole time. She hadn’t wanted to dwell on it, but he wasn’t wearing anything under that robe, and she thought now would be a perfect opportunity to remind him of that to escape.
“You do not like my body?” Erik wondered, pulling her against him and wrapping his arms around her gently.
“I do not like it this close to me,” she shot back pushing away from him and he let her go with a smirk of amusement as she composed herself. “All of this flirting is going a bit too far. Perhaps you should finish with your bath and get dressed. Dinner will be ready and then we must get ready to go to the masquerade ball with Ruban and Esperanza.”
“I see no reason why we cannot flirt a bit longer,” Erik smirked trying to pull her back, but she stepped back and out of his reach.
“No, Erik,” she replied sternly and turned to walk out the door.
“Why?” he called, making her stop and turn around with wide eyes.
“Why?!” she enunciated and Erik took an involuntary step back at the look on her face. She looked somewhere between agitated and totally shocked as she started toward him, making him walk back from her as she continued, “Because whenever I am in the same room with you, I cannot speak! Because everything you do makes my heart pound in my chest and everything you say makes me blush! My thoughts are consumed with you, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot seem to get you out of my head! I know all of this is useless because you could never feel anything for me! You are still in love with---!”
She suddenly shouted with a start. Erik had been so intent on getting away from her as she closed in on him that he had forgotten the tub still filled with water was right behind him. He backed right into it and before either of them knew what was happening, he fell back, gripping Beatrice’s hand as he did, and they landed with a splash into the tub with her on top of him.
Their eyes locked in surprise and it did not take long for Beatrice to notice that she was now drenched. Her shock turned to frustration as she scrambled out of the tub and gazed down at herself as Erik stared at her but did not move. She looked back at him and growled in rage then stormed out of the room, dripping down the hall the whole way.
Erik could not move. He was frozen by what she had said. Was it true? Did everything he do and say affect her in such a way? Did his mere presence cause her to be tongue-tied? More important than all of these, did she really think he did not feel that way of her? It was true that Christine was also on his mind but not as much as she had been as of late. Beatrice was all he could think about.
He felt guilt overwhelm his heart. If she felt that way then he was not making things easier with the way he was acting, and if she had seen him bathing then he was almost certain that she could not handle it well. Now he understood her reaction to him. She was embarrassed for feeling and thinking the way she did, and he was definitely not helping.
Erik sighed, realizing that he was drenched…again, and struggled to get out of the tub. He quickly ran to the wardrobe and pulled out some dry clothes for himself and a dry gown for Beatrice. He had to apologize, even if she did not wish to speak to him, he had to try.
Beatrice stormed down the stairs and into the parlor. She was completely soaked, but that was not why she was enraged. She was angry at herself for everything she had said. Why had she told him that he affected her so? She had no right telling him that while he was still in love with Christine and held no tender affections for her, save friendship! But at the time, she couldn’t help it. She had let her emotions get the best of her and now he was probably sitting in that tub laughing heartily over the fact that she had feelings for him. Her actions were enough to make herself sick. She sat herself on the floor in front of the fire that had been lit a moment ago and wrung out her hair.
“You are a fool, Beatrice!” she hissed to herself. “What makes you think he could ever return your feelings?!”
“What makes you think I cannot?”
Beatrice froze and slowly turned to see the very man she had not wished to see standing in the doorway into the parlor. His hands were behind is back and she knew he had something in them because he never usually did that unless he had something for her, but whatever it was, she didn’t want it.
“I am not in the mood for your jokes and mockery at the moment, ‘dear’,” she snapped before he could say another word. “As you can see, I am in the middle of trying to dry myself off. I do not need any assistance from you, so do not bother offering it!”
She turned back toward the fire and once again started on her hair. She heard footsteps coming closer and she wished he would just go away. She did not want to deal with his rejection.
“I can see what you are trying to do,” Erik replied, calmly as he stood next to her but made no move to sit. “That is the reason I brought this for you.”
She saw a dark sapphire blue gown float down to the floor beside her and Erik walked toward the sofa to sit. She stared at it for a moment before reaching out to it and picking it up. She looked at Erik over her shoulder as he sat and stared at her.
“Thank you,” she said softly and stood to walk from the room with the dress.
Before she passed the sofa Erik gripped her wrist lightly making her stop and look down into his gorgeous eyes that she saw were filled with guilt. She turned fully toward him as he stood, still gently holding her wrist so she would not get away.
“Why do you think I wish to be with you all of the time?” he wondered. Beatrice frowned at his tone in confusion. His tone implied that he knew the answer, but that he truly wanted to know what she thought.
“Erik, I do not know why you wish to be with me,” she answered honestly. “I can only assume it is because we are friends.”
“If we are merely friends then why do I kiss you whenever the opportunity presents itself?” he continued. “Why is it that the very moment you walk into the room I wish to hold you in my arms?”
Beatrice’s frown deepened. His tone had changed. He knew the answer to these questions and he wanted to see if she could figure it out.
“I do not know,” she said, sincerely. “Tell me why, Erik.”
“If it were that simple, I would,” he replied, irritating her again and she yanked her hand away from his.
“Why do you speak in riddles, Erik?!” she spat. She could feel the tears coming to her eyes, but she forced them down. He was toying with her. She knew it, and she would not have it.
“If I could tell you without you thinking me evil I would tell you!” Erik said, his tone pleading that she not run before he had time to explain. He nearly fell to his knees in an attempt to beg for her forgiveness, but his words had stopped her from fleeing the room as he stood, ready to follow her and she was now staring at him in disbelief.
“Evil?” Beatrice breathed.
“The way you spoke earlier about my affect on you is similar to the one you have on me,” he continued. “When you ask for something, my willpower fades away to nothing. When you are in the room I cannot keep myself from at least holding your hand in mine. I cannot, nor will not mock your feelings because they are mine as well. Please, do not be upset with me, mon ange. Can you not see that I need you?”
He sounded so sad, so desperate. How could she refuse his apology? He knew he was not helping her feelings with his constant flirting that was merely in jest at some times, and he was apologizing for it. How could she stay upset with him when she could see he truly meant what he was saying?
Tears flooded her eyes and she let them fall. Erik made a move toward her but stopped short, not knowing if she was still mad at him. She nodded her approval and he embraced her gently in his arms. She sobbed into his chest and he patted the back of her head to calm her, gently rocking her from side to side.
“I forgive you, and please, forgive me,” Beatrice breathed between sobs.
“I told you before, mon cheri. You need not seek forgiveness from me. It is implied, no matter what you do,” Erik replied. She said nothing for a moment, wanting to savor the feeling of his arms around her and comforting her.
“Do you truly feel that way for me?” she couldn’t help but wonder. It seemed absolutely impossible to her that any man could care for her in any way. She looked up at him and their eyes locked as he looked down at her with a small smile.
“Yes,” he whispered, meaning it more than she could ever imagine. A small smile crept to Beatrice’s lips as well, and they gazed into each other’s eyes for the longest time.
“You are so beautiful,” Erik whispered, leaning toward her lips.
“You flatter me,” she breathed back as he brushed his lips against hers lightly.
“No matter what you think of yourself you are still beautiful,” he replied.
Becoming impatient, Beatrice took his lower lip into her teeth making him groan in approval. One of his hands glided up to tangle itself in her damp hair and he pulled her head back gently to leave gentle kisses on her chin and neck as she let his lip go. She closed her eyes to savor the feeling of his lips on her skin and sighed in contentment.
“Erik!” she gasped as she felt his lips just above the neckline of her bodice. “You go a bit too far, mon bien-aimé.”
“You should change out of this wet gown, cheri,” he whispered, and pressed his lips to hers before she could respond.
She moaned on his lips and dropped the dress she had been holding to pull him closer by his jacket collar as he pulled her closer as well in his arms. His tongue slowly made its way into her mouth and stroked hers gently. She did the same to his tongue making him smile on her lips. She would always amaze him with her passion when they kissed. Erik slowly pulled away and broke the kiss, making Beatrice groan in disappointment.
“You should get out of that wet gown,” he repeated slipping his hands around to her back and starting to pull the laces of her of her bodice.
Beatrice gasped and looked at him in shock. “Erik---!”
“Trust me, mon ange,” he whispered still untying her laces. “If you remember correctly, I have seen you in your undergarments before.”
“But will you stop as far as that?” she wondered in worry. Their eyes met again and he smiled slightly.
“Did I not tell you to trust me?” he smirked. “I will go as far as you wish me to.”
He finished with her laces and rested his hands on her shoulders then gently pushed the sleeves down her arms. Her eyes never wavered from his as his hands ran down her arms and the gown fell to the floor, leaving her in her corset and petticoats.
“Erik…” Beatrice whimpered, unsure of herself. On the one hand, she wanted him in more ways than one, but it frightened her beyond belief to think that it would not happen because of what had happened to her so long ago that still haunted her dreams.
“Beatrice, I will not force you to do anything you do not wish to do,” Erik murmured, as if reading her mind. “I would never hurt you that way. You mean too much to me.”
“Here,” he interrupted, bending down and picking up the dress she had dropped. “Put this on.”
Beatrice took the dress hesitantly and Erik helped her pull it over her head. As she pulled it completely on, he realized that he should have looked at the dress before bringing it to her. The dark sapphire blue gown had an off the shoulder bodice with full sleeves that left the rest of her arms bare and met in front in a slight “V” neckline. Her still damp curls fell around her shoulders and Erik could not help but mentally kick himself for letting her get dressed.
He pulled her hair in front of her covering one of her shoulders and turned her around to lace up her bodice. Beatrice couldn’t help the slight shiver she felt run down her spine at the gentle touch of Erik’s fingers as he laced her dress up.
She had wanted him to go further, but she knew she would have changed her mind as soon as he tried to unlace her corset. Her memories of what had happened to her were still fresh, even though it had happened nine years ago. However, she knew Erik was different, and would never hurt her, but she knew herself as well. She knew that they would get so far before she backed out at the last minute.
Erik finished tying the laces of her bodice and slid his arms around her. Beatrice leaned back into his embrace, laying her head on his shoulder and closing her eyes.
“Are you comfortably dry now, mon petite?” he murmured into her ear.
“Yes,” she smiled, even though her undergarments were wet and her hair was still damp. “Shall we have dinner before changing…again?”
“If you wish,” he chuckled slightly. “I am sure that Ruban and Esperanza will have food at the ball, will they not?”
“Wine perhaps, but I highly doubt they would have food when there will be dancing,” Beatrice said, leaning her head to the side slightly. Erik took the hint, and began leaving tender kisses on her neck and shoulder.
“You never know, cheri,” he replied between kisses. “But we will have dinner anyway. Just in case.”