The Music of the Night

By: Amanda Ashley




“Indeed.”



He held her chair for her. “Please,” he said, “help yourself.”



“Aren’t you going to join me?



A faint smile played over his lips. “I’ve eaten. Please, enjoy your meal.”



And so saying, he went back to the organ.



It was the strangest meal she had ever eaten – her sitting at the table, him sitting at the organ, the air filled with music that soothed her soul and excited her at the same time.



She studied him surreptitiously, noting the way he swayed ever so slightly to the music, the graceful play of his long, tapered fingers over the keys, the intense yet faraway look in his eyes. His white shirt emphasized his broad shoulders. The ruffled front should have looked feminine but there was nothing feminine about this man. His black trousers hugged well-muscled thighs. And the mask . . . It drew her gaze again and again as she imagined what lay behind it.



Glancing at her watch, she took a last sip of coffee and pushed away from the table.



As though pulled by a string, he turned towards her, his fingers stilling on the keys.



“Thank you for breakfast,” she said, looking around for her handbag. “And for putting me up for the night.”



“My pleasure.” In a fluid movement, he rose and moved towards her.



“You don’t really live down here, do you?” she asked. “I mean . . . do you?”



“It has been my home for many years.”



“Do you work for the opera?”



He laughed softly, the sound moving over her like silk warmed by a fire. “No.”



A sliver of fear trembled in the pit of her stomach. No one knew she was here. If she disappeared, no one would know where to look.



“Would you like a tour?”



“Some other time,” she said, backing away from him. “I really have to go.”



He moved to close the distance between them. “Christine –”



His nearness played havoc with her senses. “It’s Christiana, actually.”



“I’ll see you up,” he said.



She nodded, suddenly finding it hard to speak.



He plucked his cloak from the bed and settled it on his shoulders in an elegant flourish that would have made any Phantom worth his salt proud.



“My purse . . . ?”



He found it on the floor and offered it to her with a slight bow. “Shall we?”



He handed her into the boat, poled effortlessly across the lake, escorted her up a long, winding stone staircase and out a narrow wooden door into a dark alley.



Christie gasped, surprised to find that it was night when she had thought it was morning.



“Will I see you again?” he asked.



“I don’t think so. I’m leaving for home in a few weeks.”



“You don’t live here?”



“No, I live in the States.”



“Ah.”



“You don’t really think you’re the Phantom of the Opera, do you?”



“No, my fair lady. I don’t think it. I am indeed he.”



“But that’s impossible. You’d have to be . . .” She lifted one hand and let it fall. “I don’t know, over a hundred years old.”



He nodded, as if such a thing was perfectly natural.



“Very funny.” No doubt about it, she thought, he was quite mad.



A hint of anger sparked in the depths of his eyes. “You don’t believe me?”



She shrugged. “I’m not sure the Phantom was real.”



“I’m quite real, I assure you.”



“And you’re over a hundred years old? How do you explain that?”



“Quite easily.” He smiled, revealing very sharp, very white fangs. “I’m a vampire.”



She stared at him and then, for the second time in as many days, she fainted.





Christie woke in the Phantom’s lair again. It was becoming quite a habit, she mused. Only this time the organ was silent and she was alone. She glanced at her watch. The hands read six o’clock, but she had no way of knowing if it was morning or evening.



Rising, her heart pounding, she found her handbag and hurried towards the lake, only to find that the boat was gone. Chewing on the inside of her lower lip, she glanced at the water. How deep was it? Did she dare try to swim across? The water looked dark, forbidding. It was said that there were alligators in the New York sewers and, while she had never heard of any alligators in Paris, who knew what other dangers might lurk beneath the dark surface of the lake?



Retracing her steps, she sat at the table, only then noticing that the dirty dishes had been taken away. A clean cloth now covered the tray. Lifting it, she found a thick ham and cheese sandwich on white bread, a bowl of onion soup, still warm, and a pot of tea.



Never one to let anything go to waste, she picked up the sandwich, wondering where her host was. No sooner had the thought crossed her mind than she sprang to her feet. Good Lord, he was a vampire! How had that slipped her mind? She had to get out of there before he returned! Vampire. Had he bitten her while she slept? She lifted a hand to her neck, relieved when she felt only smooth skin. No bites, thank God. And she wouldn’t wait around to give him another chance.