Pursued By The Phantom
One man forgave him years ago, while another refuses to forget.
First, there was desire…
Finding normalcy is difficult while there’s a price on Erik’s head. Plagued by his past as The Phantom of the Opera, Erik is the target of an unrelenting manhunt. Falsely accused of killing Philippe de Chagny, brother of his nemesis Raoul de Chagny, Erik launches toward a madness that may destroy the one thing he needs most—true love. On the run with the woman who saved him from himself and struggling with his memories of another, the past is rapidly catching up to him.
Then the pursuit…
Anna is an unlikely companion in his run for freedom, sharing Erik’s heart and the bounty on his head. The manhunt, initiated by the Phantom’s mysterious past, soon takes an unexpected turn when Anna’s darkest secrets are exposed. However, it is Christine, Raoul’s wife, who puts their lives in danger when she confesses to a ruthless bounty hunter her shocking desire for Erik. Now Anna must defend Erik’s innocence but doing so may very well spell her death.
Now there’s only truth…
With lies and false accusations threatening the lives of both hunter and hunted, the future hinges on uncovering the truth about the past. But will the haunting memories of Philippe Georges Marie, the Comte de Chagny be enough to save them all?
Note to readers: previously published under the title “Abendlied.” It has been re-released in this 2nd with new content for your enjoyment.
Paris outskirts, 1885
“Leave the camp! Leave the camp!”
Erik’s eyes shot open, the barely-there focus of a restless sleep evaporating as Anna’s cry lodged his heart in his throat. As she burst from the tree line, the raspy sound of her breathing was fast and strong; he knew from one look at her flushed face that the pursuit was on. A branch turned lifelike before his blurry eyes, gripping her skirts and sending her tumbling into their makeshift hideaway.
“How many?” Erik scrambled to his feet, ready to catch her before she fell.
Anna yanked free of the branch and ducked out of his reach. “Ten… fifteen?”
That was ten to fifteen too many. Erik’s thoughts moved at lightning speed as he raced for the stallion.
A ragged breath shook out her mouth as she grabbed at an apparent stitch her side, forcing Erik’s mind to race faster. Dirt and rocks flew everywhere as she snuffed the still glowing embers of the fire.
“Take the horse,” she panted. “I’ll make it on foot.”
The hell she would! If not for Anna and the blasted conscious he’d developed, he’d stay behind and rip every last man pursuing them apart limb from limb. Erik jerked on the reins, breaking the branch they were tied to. “You are not staying here, Anna. On the horse!”
“Don’t argue. Go…now!”
Acid burned up in his throat as he wrapped the reins around his hand so tight he watched his fingers go white. It was taking all he had not to charge toward that oncoming mob, but Anna’s breathing reminded him he was not the only one involved. She shouldn’t be hunted like this. “Anna, get on the horse,” he growled.
She twirled around the camp in an untamed state of panic as the vibration of horses’ hooves shook beneath Erik’s feet. They’d be on them in any second. There was no time to lose. Erik swung himself up on the stallion ignoring the searing pain that ripped across his bandaged upper arm. Biting down a curse, he yanked the horse toward her.
“Anna. Now!” He reached to haul her onto the stallion, but she bolted out of the way. “Anna! Damn it!”
“Head east then south,” she commanded. “They’re getting closer! Go!”
“They can run me down for all I care. I am not leaving you behind!” Erik jerked back around and made toward her again.
“Erik, I can draw them away from you. Go!”
“I am not leaving you!” The thought twisted a knife into his gut. He wouldn’t see her sacrifice herself for his transgressions again.
“Yes… you… are!”
The stick she swung flashed through the air, smacking hard against the horses’ flank. Erik barely had a chance to firm his grip on the reins before beast jolted forward.
“You find me!” He shouted over his shoulder. “Did you hear me? You find me!”
The forest and trees swallowed his last glimpse of her as Anna dove into the bushes.
A loud snort burst out the stallion’s mouth when Erik yanked on the reins and raced the horse up the ridge in the opposite direction. Looking behind him, the orange glow of torches joined the graying light of dawn where their camp had been. Angry shouts and beating hooves rose from the ransacked area below.
His heart pounded, fury swelling like a boil to the surface. Safe in the cloak of thick trees, Erik searched the mayhem below. He squinted, but he couldn’t see if Anna made it into hiding or not. His eyes tapered on one man dismounting in the center of the confusion.
A trickle of sweat snaked down a cheek below Erik’s mask. Killing that son-of-a-bitch would be easy; choosing not to was much, much harder. He made a promise never to lift a hand to another man and he’d already broken it once. He wouldn’t break it again.
Heart tight in his chest, he searched for Anna one final time before reluctantly turning the horse east. If any harm came to her, he swore he’d break that promise and never regret it. With one final look down at the camp, Erik’s eyes drilled into the back of that man’s head.
Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny, should consider himself a very lucky man…
What They’re Saying
“Jennifer Deschanel’s latest work is sweet and tender, dark and decadent; a treat to be reached for again and again. For anyone who read Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera and wanted more, this is the book for you!” ~Night Owl Romance
“Ms. Deschanel’s prose is phenomenally beautiful and hauntingly breathtaking.” ~Coffee Time Romance