Chapter 11

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We move forward in the warm night, up the steps, into the large building. Others are flocking in with us as it is ten minutes till show time. I'm glad I chose the more extravagant outfit- everyone is dressed to the nines. Nervously, I press down on my crimson lips as we enter through the front entrance.

I can already hear the instruments preparing from the lobby. I feel various eyes on the man beside me, quietly waiting to show his tickets to the greeter. As he hands them over, showcasing a glorious black watch and perfect, long fingers, I hear the group behind us whispering about him.

"Yes, it's him... Casey Mathews... You have to expect celebrities cheat- it's their way of life."

I gape to myself as the elderly woman hands Tristan the tickets back. Unable to stop myself, I turn to look at them. There are two women and two men- probably in their fifties... probably on a date. Their eyes focus on me within seconds and they have the audacity to look surprised.

"Do you have any class? Whatsoever?"

"Uh-" the man speaks up first, although all he can manage is stutters. Tristan turns beside me, setting a soft hand on my back but I continue.

"You shouldn't judge others. You have no idea who you're speaking about."

"Genevieve," Tristan murmurs quietly. I look up from the group to him, seeing red. He gestures to the woman waiting to escort us to our seats. "Let's go."

I force a nod and move along with him, looking down.

I feel a nudge and embarrassed suddenly, I look back up at him. "Don't let them get to you. It's just meaningless gossip."

"I know- I just can't stand people like that. I'm sorry."

The woman gestures toward a red curtain and smiles. "Enjoy the performance."

Tristan guides me through the curtain, his hand on the bare skin between the cut out on the back my dress. I quickly realize we're being seated in a box. I look back at him nervously before I take a seat. There is a couple in the box beside us- older. They nod in acknowledgement at Tristan and I before they begin speaking amongst themselves again.

"That man owns Harbor Chocolates."

I turn in my seat, eyes wide. "Are you serious?"

"Yes. Just in case he speaks to you after the performance is done, he likes when people know that."

I nod, biting my lip. Wow- I have a truffle box from that franchise at home that Trisha gave me after landing the exhibit pitch. My heart is still beating double time from the confrontation in the lobby.

"How can you just ignore when people talk about you like that?"

He looks up from his program and shrugs, smiling. "Experience. I've dealt with those kind of people for a long time- but I hate publicity so I tend to stay quiet if I know it's petty."

I nod, looking down at my hands. "I'm sorry I spoke up then... I just didn't-"

"Don't apologize... You were standing up for me, Genevieve. I'm very flattered."

I smile as he leans forward, pushing my hair back softly. For a moment, I think he's going to kiss me but the lights dim, the orchestra sounding in anticipation. With what looks like a small, regretful smile, he pulls back, removing his hand and my hands immediately unclench the crumbled program in my lap in disappointment.

Still recovering, I look forward at the stage, already amazed by the acoustics of this room. A man quickly introduces the orchestra and conductor as well as the guest singers who will be performing with them. As the music begins, I smile wide, already stunned beyond comprehension. The singers soar, portraying such emotions that easily bring tears to eyes around them including mine. My gaze often drifts to Tristan throughout and I'm constantly stupefied that I'm here with him, experiencing this with him.

I don't think anyone or anything can dampen or tarnish this moment... Until about ten minutes in... when I hear them.

There is a loud buildup from the long row of drums, all matched in time perfectly and I look up from my crossed hands fast, the noise sounding familiar and... absolutely terrifying. The intentional roar causes every hair to stand on my arms. Within moments, I watch Tristan rise from his seat beside me, silently and exit the curtains.

I gape unsurely as the cellos pair up with the drums- the crescendo has my blood pumping fast. I'm reminded of the noise- I can see the water. I see it wiping everything in it's path- the noise deafening my eardrums. I close my eyes and force myself up, grabbing my clutch.

I exit the curtains with an exhale and try to block out the graphic, terrifying images filling my brain. I see Tristan immediately, standing against the railing of the stairs. Bravely, I make my way over to him... I know he's not okay. It's affecting him too. When I stop beside him, grasping the railing, I watch his eyes tremble in remembrance.

I lay a hesitant hand on his arm. "You okay?"

He looks down at me, smiling slightly. "... It would seem I'm not a fan of this particular piece."

I nod silently, knowing both of us are seeing the same wave- the reminder of the horror we went through not even a week ago... We probably should have waited or done something calmer than this for our first date- or whatever this is.

He speaks up quietly. "Did you hear it too?"

"Yeah, I did."

He nods and looks back over the railing. I lean my hip into the metal, trying to alleviate the growing pain of my feet. Heels were not a good idea either.

"We don't have to stay-" I begin to say but he shakes his head.

"No, no. I just need a moment," he says, nodding with finality.

"Okay... I'll wait with you."

I stare at the red carpet, still able to hear the music, which has lessened considerably into a soft hum of instruments. He sighs beside me after what feels like a minute exactly and stands up straight, letting go of the railing.

I smile, straightening as well and gasp, surprised as his hands cup my jaw. Before I'm even able to comprehend what's happening, his lips crush onto mine. There's so much passion, so much feeling that I fall back a step, only to have his hands pull me closer into him.

I raise my hands to his chest, clutching his tuxedo jacket tightly as he begins to pull back... too soon. Breathless and starry-eyed, I look up from the expensive fabric of his tuxedo and don't stop until his ocean eyes pierce through my skull. He stares at me silently, wordlessly.

His hands leave my cheeks and reaching down, he takes my nervous fingers and begins leading me back to our seats.

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