The Maestro Ch. 07

bybarabajagal001©

"Well, who is he? Should I stick around?"

"He's...well, I guess you could say he's...my boyfriend." The word sounded foreign to her, so collegiate and casual compared to the truth. But what was right? Lover? Master? Surely not.

"Oh!" Malcolm sounded surprised, and Claire supposed she couldn't blame him. "Well, I guess I'd better go. It was nice to meet you, Claire." She nodded vaguely as he picked his way back up to the sand. Claire slid off the other side of the boulder and wandered farther away, climbing over rocks until she'd reached a small, deserted spit of sand. It was a recent discovery for her, and she loved it because it was always empty. Even now, she saw her own track of footprints as the only ones there. Probably when the tide came in, it completely covered the sand, so people stayed away. She didn't care. Secluded and quiet, it was perfect for daydreaming, napping, and generally avoiding conversation with strangers. Of course, she reflected as Sebastien came into view several minutes later, this would be a conversation she could not ignore. Still, she pretended not to notice him, lounging on the warm sand as the gentle breeze played over her bare legs.

"So, you thought you could escape me for another afternoon," he said, stepping up beside her.

"That's not why I'm here."

"Come, I thought we had gotten beyond silly lies," he said reproachfully. "Very well, why are you here, if not to avoid me?" She thought for a moment, still looking out over the ocean instead of at him.

"I feel...safe here. I don't know why, but I always have, ever since I was a little girl."

"I see," he replied quietly. He sounded pensive. Or was it sad? "Well, I am sorry that you feel the need to escape so often lately. I had thought that you were growing more comfortable with me/"

"I am, but..."

"But?" he prompted.

"I'd say you're a lot more dangerous than safe. It can be very exciting," she admitted, "but it doesn't feel like... like..." She trailed off.

"Like home," he murmured above her. She tensed. "Claire, we need to talk." She stood abruptly, intending to walk past him.

"I don't have time for this argument," she said, starting to walk away. He grabbed her wrist firmly.

"Are we going to argue?" he asked mildly. She pushed away from him in frustration, but found herself overbalanced as they topped to the firm, damp sand. It felt cool beneath her bare skin, and gave softly as she struggled beneath him. Despite her efforts, he pinned her easily, her wrists above her head. She felt the most delicious jolt of pleasure at the knowledge that she was trapped.

"Maestro, what are you doing? People might see."

"I don't care," he said, pushing aside the top of her bathing suit. "I want you. Right now." She was surprised at the change in his behavior, and melted into his embrace, her nipples hardening instantly in the open air. She felt the bubbling foam of waves as they tickled her toes. The sound of a zipper barely entered her consciousness as Sebastien kissed her neck, her breasts. Then he was pushing aside her bathing suit bottoms and pressing against her, inside her. He swallowed her moan in a kiss, and she watched emotions shift in his brown eyes as he moved inside her.

The waves rushed in around them, now grazing her upper thighs. She broke the kiss, tipping her head up to glance at the water.

"Maestro, I believe the tide is coming in," she murmured.

"So I see," he replied, pulling her up and turning her onto her hands and knees in the damp sand. She stretched her arms back over her head, her dangling breasts just brushing the sand. "We should take care that it does not swallow us," he said, bracing his hands on her hips and plunging into her again, as the surf swelled up over her calves.

Claire looked up as he pounded into her, stretching her back as she gazed up at the sheer rock cliff that bounded the beach. The road twisted just on top of the cliff, but they were too close to it for anyone in a car to see them. Still, it was thrilling to know that they could be discovered at any moment. She ducked her head down then, looking between their knees at the foaming waves, chillier now than they had been earlier.

Over the water, the hot orange sun was sinking into the horizon, lighting the sky with pretty pinks and purples. A bigger wave swelled, chilling her breasts, belly, and legs in one second. She gasped at the sensation of the sand slipping away below her knees, Sebastien's inexorable thrusting pushing her higher and higher, even as she sunk into the sand.

The surf was crashing into them oftener now, and she lifted her head away from the ground.

"Mon abeille," he said into her ear, "I'm afraid we cannot stay here much longer." His breathing hitched out unevenly, and she tensed in anticipation. Cursing softly, Sebastien thrust into her deeply once more. The feeling of his come shooting into her sent her over the edge, and she stiffened, shivering all over as she, too, came.

Another wave rushed in, this time soaking her hands. They scrambled to get out of the surf, collapsing onto the firmer sand farther up the beach. Claire adjusted her swimsuit, but Sebastien was watching the sunset moodily. Claire touched his shoulder gently, and he turned to her with a half-smile.

"Romantic, no?" She looked out at the water swelling serenely, the setting sun painting the sky even more prettily than before. Sex on the beach. Every woman's dream, right? So why was a voice inside her head screaming at her to run, even as her heart trembled? The light touch of his fingertip on her lips made her turn. She had a moment to see the dark look in his eyes before his lips crashed down on hers possessively.

Her nipples hardened almost painfully. It was the growing cold, she told herself. But she heard the soft moan that escaped her mouth as Sebastien bit down on her lower lip before pulling back.

"You cannot hide from me forever," he said ominously.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Of course not," he replied, sounding a little bitter. "So, you win, we shall keep our little secret." He stood, turning to wrap her in his overcoat. Then he lifted her, carrying her in his arms as he carefully made his way over the rocks and back to his car. She felt warm, cuddled and cozy in his arms, and, surprisingly, safe. She had won. But, strangely, it no longer felt like such a victory.

-----

Claire took her place on stage nervously. The entire company - full orchestra, double choir, three other soloists - were there for their first complete rehearsal. After the overture, the next sound anyone would hear would be Claire's voice, floating ethereally above the sparse instrumentation of her first aria. She took a deep breath, launching into it with the blind faith of a singer who must pluck her note from thin air. It was always a bit of a relief having hit the perfect pitch, and then she could relax into her piece.

Or, she would have, if not for the subject matter of this particular aria, about a young woman's unrequited love. She sang stiffly, and Sebastien brought the orchestra to a screeching halt after a minute.

"No, no, the sound is all wrong," he snapped, clearly frustrated at having to correct something that should have been perfect. "You are not giving yourself to the music. You must feel it. Commit to it!" he ordered.

Claire swallowed, her mouth suddenly dry. Singing words that struck so deeply to her heart's core did not sound like a good time to her, but what choice did she have? She steeled herself, watched Sebastien cue the orchestra, and began again. Each note brought a tiny, piercing pain to her chest as she watched him marking the beat with his baton.

Her voice faltered, and he cut them all off again. "Claire, please! Pay attention to what you are doing. Your intonation is a little better, but honestly it's still very weak."

Her lip trembled, and tears sprang to her eyes. Oh no, not here, not now, not in front of all these people. She took a breath, willing herself calm. "I can't do this," she stammered.

Sebastien looked at her curiously, and flipped through a few pages in the stack of pages on his stand. "Very well," he said, sounding irritated, "we can skip it for now and go on to the next piece, but we shall have to come back to it later."

He opened his mouth to announce the next piece, but Claire interrupted him to speak, the first of her tears spilling down her cheeks. "No, no, I can't do any of this!" she exclaimed. She was breathing fast now, very close to breaking down. She shook her head and went offstage at a fast clip, but not, she noticed with relief, running. Her stomach dropped. It wasn't like her to break down in public like this, and it could cost her everything.

She ducked into her dressing room and grabbed her bag. She thought of him out there, going on as if nothing had happened - which, she reflected, is probably what he should do - and her breath hitched in a sob.

She opened her dressing room door to leave, and saw Sebastien in her doorway. Before he could say anything, she slammed the door in his face, startled. He opened the door and strode in, looking very much like he was restraining himself from doing something that he would regret.

He spoke in a low voice. "Where do you think you are going?"

"I have to go. I can't do this, be here."

"Why not?"

"I can't tell you. I have to go."

She attempted to push past him, already knowing it wouldn't work. He grabbed her upper arm firmly, and a little tremor ran through her.

"No, you will come with me," he said, marching her down the hall. It was deserted. He brought her to his office, pushing her down firmly onto one of the chairs. "You will stay here until rehearsal has come to an end, and then you will talk to me." There was no arguing with his tone, and she set her jaw as he shut the door, locking it behind him.

She wiped her tears away furiously and leapt up from the chair. He must have known she wouldn't stay put, she thought. She tried the doorknob, and found that he had locked it from the outside. She hadn't even known he could do that. She jiggled the door, but to no avail.

She paced his office, pissed now. How dare he lock her in his office and tell her to wait, as if she was an errant child? She had to, had to... do something. She cast her eyes around, and saw the little window, near the ceiling. She bit her lip. It looked big enough. Was it worth whatever he would do to her?

Yes.

She dragged the chair over to the window and popped open the latch, tilting the glass out. She sucked in a breath and squeezed through the opening, looking to see how far she was from the ground. She was on the ground floor, and the drop wasn't too bad.

Moments later, she was striding away from the symphony hall, pleased with herself.

-----

She didn't go home. Why would she, when he knew where she lived? Of course, she couldn't avoid him forever, unless she wanted to leave town now, quit, hire someone to come pick up her things. The fact that it even tempted her was pretty sad. She opted to go to a little cafe, studying her music and picking at a salad until a few hours had passed. Seemed pretty safe. Of course, he could always be waiting for her at home, but she might as well find out sooner rather than later.

Claire was actually surprised when she didn't see him outside of her apartment building. Still, she remained cautious inside until she stepped off the elevator at her floor and made her way around to her front door. Not there. She glanced suspiciously at her door. Could he get inside? Probably. Her heart sped up as she unlocked the door. She shut it behind her with a little click, and did a quick walkthrough. He wasn't there. She should have felt relieved, but instead she was filled with dread. She just knew he was somewhere, plotting his revenge. She was on edge all night, but Sebastien never made contact.

The symphony had scheduled rehearsals for the following two days, but Claire just couldn't force herself to go and sing love songs to him. She expected furious calls at any minute, but there was silence. Sebastien didn't call, and neither did any of the musicians. Perhaps he was finding a last-minute replacement for her? The thought hurt, but what could she do about it? She couldn't expect him to cripple the entire performance because she was having a personal problem.

Still, the anticipation of hearing from him ate away at her. Every minute, she envisioned worse punishments, more humiliation and pain.

On the third day after she had walked out on him, she couldn't stand it anymore. She picked up the phone, and dialed.

"Allo?" drawled a familiar voice.

"Hello, it's me."

"Ahhhh, cherie, I wondered if I would hear from you," René said, amusement evident in his voice.

Claire signed softly. "Is he very angry?"

"Angry is not quite the right word," he said thoughtfully. Her heart leapt hopefully before he added, "Livid would be more like it."

"Shit," she said with feeling. "What should I do?" she asked, more to herself than to René.

"Would you like my advice?"

"Okay."

"Beg his forgiveness, take your punishment, and then tell him how you feel."

"How I feel about what?"

"That could not have been a serious question!" he said scornfully. "Tell him you love him!"

"How did you know?" she asked in a small voice.

She heard an explosion of sound from his end of the phone, and he spoke incredulously. "That's a stupid question. I'm surprised your entire orchestra does not know! You two must be better actors than I thought."

"I could never tell him."

A long sigh. "Do not tell me that you think he does not know."

"Well, he's never said-"

Another loud sound interrupted her, and she could see René in her mind's eye, rolling his eyes at her. "Of course not! You're obviously uncomfortable with the subject. He pushes you in every other way. You have met his family, for goodness' sake, and when no declaration of love was forthcoming in Paris, well, what do you expect? Do you want the man to humiliate himself for you?"

She swallowed, processing René's outburst. "Would it be so hard for him to say it first, then?" she asked derisively. The long silence that greeted her ears was eloquent. If it was so easy to say it, why hadn't she? "Fine, I get your point. But I just can't tell him. He's been pretty clear about this being just for fun. It seems unfair to spring feelings like this on him." Another sigh from René. "Has he told you that he loves me?"

Another long silence. "Not exactly."

"Did he say that he wants me to tell him that I love him?"

"He... has indicated that he believes you are hiding something from him, but that is all."

"See? Wouldn't he tell you if he loved me?"

"Perhaps," he replied, very quietly. "He does not tell me everything, you know. Well, do as you wish, then. I know that he is at home. I can see him pacing over there."

The phone clicked in her ear as René hung up on her. Great. Now neither of them were happy with her. Oh well, she couldn't please everyone. She could always call Sebastien, but frankly, she wasn't confident that he would pick up. She changed out of her pajamas and tousled her hair, making sure she was presentable. Might as well take the few extra minutes to look nice. After a moment's hesitation, she buckled her ruby red cuffs around her wrists. Just that simple feeling made her grow warmer, softer. Such a curse.

-----

Claire hopped out of the cab in front of Sebastien's apartment building. Immediately, her eyes were drawn to the tall figure leaning up against the wall.

"What are you doing here?" she asked warily.

"I thought you might want an escort," René replied cheerfully. "He's in a very nasty mood."

"Fine," she said, turning her back on him as she went into the building. He inclined his head, following her. They didn't speak in the elevator, and he didn't rush her on the walk to Sebastien's door. She knocked timidly.

"Well?" came a clipped voice on the other side of the door.

"Maestro, it's me," she said, trembling a little.

The door swung open immediately, and the force of his hot glare made her take a step back. She lifted her hand to run her fingers through her hair, and watched his eyes track the movement, probably noticing that she was wearing the cuffs he gave her. "Now I am your Maestro, after-" He broke off, narrowing his eyes. "What are you doing here?"

Claire opened her mouth to answer, but heard René speak from behind her. She had almost forgotten he was there.

"I thought she could use an escort," he said softly.

"You called him?" Sebastien directed this toward Claire. She winced.

"I didn't think you would pick up if I called."

"But you did not try?" What was this? Was that hurt she saw shadowed in his eyes? He firmed his jaw, eyes flicking from one to the other. "Well, what do you want?"

"I - can we do this inside? It's kind of private." Sebastien arched an eyebrow, staring pointedly at her. Ah, René, right. "Well, I didn't..." she mumbled, trailing off.

Sebastien pursed his lips, then stepped out of the doorway slightly, to let her in. "Not you," he said as René moved to follow her. "Oh no, this is between Claire and I." He brought his arm up to block the doorway casually.

René looked in at Claire. She lifted one shoulder in an uncomfortable shrug. She wasn't calling the shots anymore. His eyes slid back to Sebastien, and he asked something softly in French. Sebastien responded dismissively, and René's eyebrows lifted. He replied lightly, and Sebastien nodded, lifting his arm and walking back into the room.

René leaned in to Claire, brushing his lips against her cheek. He touched her shoulder lightly and smiled enigmatically. "Au revoir," he said, backing out and going down the hallway. She watched after him. His goodbye had sounded very final. Treipdation began prickling in her chest.

Sebastien shut the door, locked it. He turned to look at her, studying her face. They were alone. Her mouth went dry, and she felt her knees quiver. She felt terrified suddenly, but of what, she did not know.

"Please, make yourself at home," he said, gesturing to the sofa. She perched on it gingerly, and she almost didn't hear his next question over the beating of her heart. "Why did you come?"

"I-I-I wanted to see you," she faltered, licking her lips nervously.

He seemed to be thinking, trying to decide something. At last, he knelt down in front of her, putting them eye-to-eye. "Claire. Are you pregnant?"

Her eyes popped open, the question coming as a complete surprise. She laughed reflexively, a move she automatically regretted. "Oh, my gosh, no! Is that what you thought?" His face closed down, and he stood up abruptly. His hands clutched into fists, and she flinched, though he had never struck her in any way not meant to please. "I-I'm sorry, that was a completely reasonable question," she said. "But no." He glowered down at her, waves of hot anger pouring off him.

"Very well. Would you like to tell me what has been distracting you?"

"I... I can't," she managed.

"Then why did you come?"

She cast her eyes down to the carpet. It was a good question. "To apologize for running out on rehearsal the other day. To... to beg your forgiveness, and ask if you will punish me for it," she said, carefully avoiding admitting that she wanted the punishment. Badly.

The corners of his mouth softened slightly. "I see. Come with me."

-----

She had done it again, Claire thought ruefully as she followed Sebastien, vibrating with barely repressed anger, up into his bedroom. He pointed to his bed, and she timidly sat on the foot of it, watching him with nervous eyes. He walked to the wall where his closet, and yanked open the mysterious door next to it. Hooks on the walls of the tiny room inside were hung with some interesting-looking implements - she spotted the Stinger looking innocuous among other similar devices - but her eyes were all for the thing that Sebastien was dragging out into the middle of the floor.

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