by Joanne Grier

Editor's Note: This story first appeared in the 2012 Conzine

    The early evening shadows bathed Catherine's apartment in a haze of muted sun light, softly golden streaks of fiery red refracted through the glass étagère.  Work worn boots paced a solitary path across the smooth piled carpet.  Precisely twenty steps completed the journey and again the deeply hooded, brilliant blue eyes scanned the horizon seeking proof that the long day was ending.

    An unconscious sigh parted the tightly clenched jaw.  "Fool!" the velvet voice whispered into the stillness.  Doubts of his sanity continued to plague him and once again Vincent questioned the intellect that had found logic in his irrational and hastily conceived idea that the pain consuming his heart would be eased if he were near Catherine's possessions.

    Despair had prompted the abandonment of normal intellectual reasoning and drove him from the home tunnels well past midnight. Finding no comfort among the eclectic possessions of his chamber, Vincent sought sanctuary on Catherine's balcony.  Their private world was the one place in the concrete world of steel and granite where he absolutely believed all of Catherine's sweetly spoken words of his beauty and that he was a man.  Catherine's unconditional acceptance of all he was shattered his long held secret belief that he was the misbegotten spawn of a genetic experiment gone awry. Her love ended his aloneness, brought him completion and with it, the realization that his uniqueness did not diminish his value, but served to enhance his masculinity.

    Forlorn and haunted by their last moments, remembering Catherine's peaceful serene look as he crushed her against his chest, drove him to their world which was empty without her sweet presence.  "Will this pain never cease?" he thundered.  Clutching at his vest, he pressed his fingers to his chest and staggered slightly, wishing to calm the rapid fluttering of his heart.  Failing to regain control of his wobbly legs he abruptly sank onto the sofa, and then gasped the sweetest sound he knew.  "Catherine!"

    Within his soul Vincent felt the gentle quivering of her presence quicken, glowing brighter until the cold that consumed him melted in a blinding thaw of light.  He turned unbelieving, staring at the wooden barrier that kept the world at bay.  Heart pounding, tears stung his eyes and he struggled to regain a calm demeanor. She was home!  His Beloved was near!

    Quick strides brought him to the door, grasping the knob just as Catherine released the dead bolt and the steel obstruction swung open.  Her momentary startled look of fear vanished on seeing his cherished face.  The shoulder luggage she carried thudded unceremoniously to the floor and she stumbled forward into his outstretched arms.  His booted foot pushed the tote aside and a well-aimed kick closed the door leaving them bathed in the sun's fading glow.

    Pressed against the familiar warmth of his chest, Catherine's arms encircled his waist.  "How did...?," she breathed, unable to keep the astonishment from her voice.

    Catherine's remaining words were lost in the shower of kisses Vincent rained over her cherished face.  Seeking Catherine's lips, his kiss changed from sweet innocence to smoldering passion.  His tongue ceased its tender, gentle probing and caressed fully the warm wet richness of her mouth.  Plundering deeper, he plumbed the depth of that moist cavern.  The taste of her mouth was imprinted within his mind and senses.  The sounds of pleasure rumbled within his massive chest and Catherine's answering whimper mingled, creating a sweet joyous song.

    Powerful arms tightened, needing her still closer, reassuring him that he was not dreaming.  His large hands gently roamed the contours of Catherine's body, pressing her curves against his work-hardened length.  Breathless, they drew apart.  Vincent dropped his face against the fragrant warmth of Catherine's neck, his open mouth pressed lightly against her rapidly beating pulse.  "Being without you, knowing you were miles away from me, I felt I died a little each day we’ve been apart," he huskily murmured.  The smooth velvet voice was ragged, filled with unspoken passion and longing.  The desperate longing filled the Bond in an exploding sweeping force that staggered both the mind and heart.

    "Me, too," she responded, her voice echoing his smoldering desire.  Catherine's arms encircled his head and her fingers stroked the flowing tresses which haloed in burnished gold in the late afternoon sun.  "I wanted to surprise you, but I'm the one who got surprised."  Staring into the endless depth of Vincent's eyes, Catherine's smile radiated her inner happiness.  "How did you get here?" she queried, glancing toward the open balcony doors.

    Suddenly shy and uneasy that Catherine should know of his foolish behavior Vincent continued to nuzzle the fragrant warmth of her neck. 


    Lifting his head he trailed a solitary fingertip across the scar close to her ear, all that remained of the attack that had left Catherine dying in the park.  His hands slid down her arms and he captured her fingers, swallowing up their diminutive size within his own larger hands.

    "Is something wrong?"  Catherine's brows knitted slightly together, eyes probing the depth of Vincent's eyes.

    "No... yes."  His voice momentarily faded then became stronger as he regained his composure before continuing.  "The time since we parted has been intolerable.  A pain such as I have never known has consumed me.  The days were difficult, but the endless longing of the nights destroyed any semblance of peace I possessed.  Nothing eased the pain, not hard pounding physical labor or the questing minds of our most advanced students.

    "Yesterday I only knew I must be near you - near the world you created here for me... .for us.  I came to the balcony, standing at the entrance to your bedroom, remembering how beautiful you looked the morning we parted.  Lost in that thought, I have no memory of entering; only finding myself sitting on your bed. I awoke here in full sunlight, cradling your pillow in my arms and clutching your gown in my hands."  His voice grew increasingly soft and ended in a gentle sigh.

    "Oh," she breathed.  Tears glistened, spilling down her face and she smiled tenderly.  "You missed me so much you came here?"  Her voice rose, quivered imperceptibly and she continued to stare in open wonder.

    "Once here in the daylight, there was no way I could get safely home," his tone became instantly apologetic.  "Catherine, until the moment before you touched the door, I had no sense of your return." His voice remained soft, but his frustration and a gnawing fear, griped his heart giving an unusual edge to his tone.  His unspoken question was reflected clearly in the depths of his darkened eyes.

    "I wanted to come Below tonight, to surprising you by returning early and I tried to hold my excitement at coming home at bay because, because...,” she stopped abruptly a tear slid down her face.  “I'm guilty of my own egotistic pleasure, thinking of your astonished and delightful look when I slipped into your chamber tonight.  I tried purposely to block my joy at being home, the excitement of being near you,” she stammered.  “I didn't fully realize how painful it would be, how upset you’d be in not being able to feel my presence, my heart joyously beating more swiftly the closer I got to home.  I just wanted to surprise you, I... oh... how thoughtless I’ve been!" Self-recrimination filled her voice, acknowledging her well-intentioned, but faulty logic. "Could you please forgive me for causing you this torment and anguish?  I was so excited; I didn’t stop to fully realize how you’d feel not knowing I was rushing home to you, that I was nearly here.  Please...I’m so dreadfully sorry, I...."

    Always she thought of him, knowing his deepest apprehensions for her safety, his deeply held belief that he must protect her at all cost to himself.  Their bond song eased his inner fears for her safety, his inner sense of her that lived within his very soul and renewed him as it gently beat within his inner being. Vincent silently berated himself, knowing his Beloved had meant to give him joy and instead, he had allowed her to see his anguish and was the source of her tears. "No, it is I who must apologize.  I invaded your privacy and spoiled your plans."

    Pressing her fingers against his lower lip Catherine successfully halted his words.  "No, don't you dare apologize!  You're here and that's all that matters."  She continued to brush feathery light strokes over his sensitive mouth.  "While I was in Hartford, I dreamed nightly of our loving, how your beautiful body felt against mine and wanting you.  Then to find you here now, especially now...."  Her voice broke and she swallowed rapidly, attempting to dispel the lump in her throat.

    Pulling her tightly against himself, Vincent lowered his head to nuzzle against her hair.  "In my heart, Catherine, I am always here with you.”  All the words he had been ashamed of uttering until Catherine's love had freed his heart now vanished, so overwhelmed was he by his emotions; he was appalled at finding himself fumbling for the simplest phrase.

    Tenderly, he kissed her and contentment replaced the despair and pain that had previously filled his heart.  He continued kissing Catherine, the flames of their passion escalating until they shakily drew apart.  "I can't stop...I don't want to stop," he whispered against her mouth.  “You have shown me the life I never expected to have and I now wish, no, need to fling myself head long into the glorious world your love has created.”

    Hungrily, he claimed her mouth again.  Gently, his hands moved over the soft roundness of her buttocks, lifting and pressing Catherine against his hips.  A rumbling in his throat deepened when Catherine repeatedly brushed her hips against him.

    "Oh, Vincent, Vincent!  We waited so long to begin living our dream and to have been parted on the morning after the very night it began...," a shuttering sigh momentarily halted Catherine's husky voice.  "My heart was breaking when I boarded the plane that was taking me away for two long desolate weeks and more importantly, away from you, my love, and all our dreams of a life together.  My eyes were red from crying when the plane landed.  There wasn't a moment when I wasn't thinking of you, wanting your hands...your mouth."

    Tears mingled with the moist wetness of Vincent's mouth as he kissed her.  Lifting Catherine in his arms, Vincent continued kissing her as he walked toward the bedroom.  Sitting on the bed he held Catherine, gently rocking her, reveling in the sensation of Catherine being on his lap.  The way her hips splayed against his growing erection caused him joy.  He had wanted to hold her like this for months, the feel of her arms around his neck and the lithe weight of her body cradled intimately against his.  Pressing his lips against the pulsating vein in her neck, he breathed in the lingering scent of her perfume.  They clung together, reassuring themselves this was not a dream; they were truly together after a long separation.

    Reluctantly, Catherine lifted her head from his warm chest.  "I need to bathe," she sighed wistfully.  Gingerly she stepped from his lap, pausing to caress his face and then smiling, she whispered, "I won't be long."  She moved toward the closet, removed a gown and robe then walked into the bathroom.

    Impatiently he waited, pacing back and forth across the room.  Even the door separating them was too great a barrier, creating a distance that maddened his senses.  The warmth of their connection vibrated and he shared the quickening, the heat of Catherine's pulsating blood.

    Hearing the water start, the mental images of Catherine standing beneath the shower played havoc with his body and the emotions Vincent desperately fought to master.  His arms ached to tightly hold his Beloved, to know again the completion he felt in being Catherine's lover.  Her lover!  Never had he consciously thought to have the word lover applied to himself.  His hand briefly touched his suddenly too warm face and he felt the beginning of a smile tug insistently at the corners of his unique mouth.

    His hand brushed the doorknob, eyes widening in surprise that it swung open at his light touch.  Catherine's bright smile welcomed him.  "I hoped you'd come in."  Her fingers curved over the rim of the shower door, as she continued to openly stare.

    Moving to stand nearer the shower door, Vincent reached out to gingerly caress her fingers.  Downcast eyes hungrily feasted on her nude body.  Lowering his head, he placed a gentle kiss against her fingertips, lingering to allow his tongue to whisk away the beads of moisture that clung.

    Catherine slowly, teasingly slid her fingers over his mouth, tugging playfully against the fullness of his lower lip.  His lips parted, sucking Catherine's fingers inside his mouth and swirling his tongue over her warm flesh.  Inhaling sharply, Catherine's body pressed against the glass door separating them.  Vincent shifted, unconsciously mimicking the movement of her body.  His breath came in ragged sobs and he slowly released her fingers.

    Haltingly, Catherine withdrew her trembling fingers, picked up the scented soap bar and began rubbing it over her body.  Reaching for the cloth, she lathered it and quickly soaped her face.  She held the cloth under the pulsating stream, freeing it of soap and wiped away the cleansing bubbles and the last vestiges of make-up.

    "Catherine."  He stood naked to the waist in the open door, his eyes dark and alive with passion.  "I...I must touch you now," his voice was a husky whisper that betrayed his faltering control,  “Now, please, now, if I don’t touch you I shall go mad with longing.”

    Silently, Catherine turned, her wide eyes revealing her open appreciation of his bare chest.  Reaching for his hand, she guided him toward her breast.  She stood quietly, only her rapid breath when she inhaled was audible above the pulsating beat of the shower.

    Vincent cupped her breast, enjoying the weight of it nestled in his palm.  Seeking her eyes, he reveled in her look of joy, the tender smile of pleasure his stroking evoked within Catherine.  Mesmerized, he continued his tender ministration. Gently, he reached for Catherine's hand, drawing her closer.  "Please, I can't wait any longer, I must hold you, feel your body pressing against mine."

    "Yes, oh, yes."  She paused, turned off the water, then eagerly stepped toward him. Trembling, he enfolded her, wrapping her securely within his embrace.  His breath became more ragged and he held her tightly, fearing his legs would no longer support him.  "Closer, hold me closer," she breathed into his chest.

    They swayed, rocking against each other in an attempt to get closer.  Vincent felt his arousal increase, burning through his jeans to press against Catherine's softness.  His hands molded over her bottom, pressing her against his enflamed flesh.  Long, slow, deep kisses fused their mouths in a cauldron of heat.

    Sinking to his knees, Vincent nuzzled against the perfection that were her breasts.  Catherine's hands invaded his hair, tugging him closer, wanting more of his mouth.  Lifting his head, he met Catherine's joyful smile that radiated her inner happiness in the simple pleasure of his touch, his delicate tracing of her breasts.

    Continuing to brush his lips against the gently rounded swell, Vincent unconsciously murmured soft, half formed words of love against her satiny curves.  For all his strength and power, his touch was light and delicate, like the sweet caress of a gentle breeze, against her sensitive nipples.

    Her trembling caused him to cease his sweet torment and rising to stand before her, Vincent kissed her gently on the lips.  Lifting a fluffy peach towel from the rack, he shyly smiled and began to blot the water from her body.  He paused several times to nuzzle, licking away small glistening beads of moisture, sighing contentedly before continuing.

    Their hips nudged together as they walked into the bedroom and stood before Catherine's bed.  Sitting down Vincent released the lacings of his boots and quickly toed them off, followed by his socks. He stood then, reaching for his belt.  "Please," she asked softly, "allow me this pleasure."  Her small hands moved over the complicated fastenings and it fell silently to the floor.  Vincent gasped audibly, gulping air when Catherine's hand slid inside his jeans, covering his warm, sensitive flesh as she eased down the zipper.  He quickly stepped out of his jeans as her fingers continued their delicious torment.

    Tenderly, he lowered Catherine to the cool sheets.  Her arms clung, drawing him down beside her and he settled against her, warming her body with his own.  Drawing her closer, Vincent glided his powerful leg over, needing to experience the heat of their bodies pressed in this wonderful, new intimate contact.

    Catherine griped the hard thigh muscle, bringing him nearer.  Lithe fingers caressed Vincent and the sound of his ragged breath hissed through his clenched teeth.  Trembling, Vincent pressed closer, his body acknowledging the desire he had so long denied.

    Continuing to rain kisses over Catherine's damp shoulder, Vincent suddenly paused, watching her slow spreading smile as she buried her face into the soft mat of hair on his chest.  Their hands and eyes became their voices, taking them on a wondrous journey.  Vincent's innocence and inexperience proved not to be the barrier he feared since his wish was only to give pleasure to Catherine.

    He found anticipating her joy guided his touch, their Bond allowing him to experience her pleasure and intensifying his own.  Her every touched delighted him, made sweeter by the soft cooing sounds that filled Catherine's throat while her hands roamed the plains of his body. Her hands and lips caressed, filling him with pleasure he wanted never to end.  The delicate torturing of their senses fueled the fire of their passion, the flames leaping higher with each touch. Their kisses became longer, deeper with their eagerness to fully taste each other’s mouths.

    Returning to her breasts, Vincent nuzzled there, his tongue tenderly lapped against the silken mound, wetting her skin and delighting in Catherine's gasps of joy.  Covering her other breast with his hand, he softly kneaded her warm flesh and his thumb rubbed repeatedly against the hardened nub.  He would have stayed there forever, but Catherine's plea for completion caused him to lift his mouth.

    "Yes," he breathed into her sweet mouth as he again claimed her lips in a deep kiss.  His hand brushed over the soft damp curls and he felt her moist heat.

    Gently, he caressed her thighs and at his light touch, her legs parted and he moved to kneel between them.  Catherine stroked him lightly, fingering the orbs beneath his throbbing length.  "Ah," he whispered, "your hands torture me so sweetly."

    "Please, Vincent, please.  I need you."  Her eyes held his and knowing her passion, too, cried for completion, he slowly eased into her velvety sheath.  Holding himself still within her silken depth Vincent once again feathered his lips over Catherine's, drinking deeply, drowning in the taste of this sweet nectar.

    Gently, he began to move, rocking against the warm hips that held him so intimately.  Catherine answered the eternal call that was older than time as her hips rose to meet his downward thrust, her fingers caressing his chest and her mouth wetting his heated skin.  Withdrawing almost completely, Vincent plunged again into her honeyed heat.  Catherine's head rolled wildly and she strained upward against him, her hips seeking to hold him deeply.  Lovingly, he labored over her, pushing her passion to the peak only to change his rhythm and prolong their sweet pleasure.  He felt Catherine's breathing change, the delicate pink blush spreading over her breasts and creeping up to tint her throat a pale rose.

    "Vincent!  Vincent!"  His name came in a wild, erotic cry of ecstasy as Catherine climaxed beneath him.  He strained against her, fighting to prolong his release for one more aching moment.  Catherine's spiraled higher, the spasm of her muscles clutching him repeatedly pulling him deeper.  His release caught and held as he continued to thrust against her, spilling his seed into her liquid heat.

    Slowly the shower of lights dimmed and he eased down into Catherine's welcoming arms, no longer certain his legs would support him.  Clinging to her, unable to speak, Vincent tried to lift his weight, but Catherine's arms held him tighter.  Cooing softly, she whispered, "No, don't leave. Stay.  Oh, Vincent, this is so beautiful."

    He drifted, held in a world of pure sensory delight, his body caught within dazzling pinpoints of light that continued to consume him.  He floated within a void of brilliant brightness where he was free, naked and unafraid, shattered and made whole.  He felt the spasms within Catherine's body diminish and the waves of pleasure receding.

    Easing to his side, still held securely within Catherine's warmth, he caressed her.  He had not yet recovered the power of speech and his hands told her of his pleasure and his love.  Tears spilled down his high cheek bones as he nuzzled her hair.

    His penis softened and he felt a sharp sense of loss as he slipped from her moist warmth.  Catherine's leg immediately slid over his and she wiggled closer to his heated body.  They continued to cuddle, lost within the emotion that held them willing captives. Placing a gentle finger against her chin, Vincent lifted her face and nuzzled his mouth against her soft, pouty lips.  His kiss was light and gentle, a promise of their future life. Looking into her eyes, he kissed away her salty tears.  "I love you.  Your love has made me whole," he murmured softly.  Catherine buried her face against his damp neck and her tears continued to fall.

    Tenderly, he held her, slightly confused by the chaos of her emotions. He was suddenly alarmed as her tears turned to crying, and the crying became shattering sobs.  His own emotions were still delicate and Catherine's wildly fluctuating feelings assailed his senses, leaving him fearful and in turmoil.  He attempted to lift her face which caused her to burrow deeper against his neck and sob harder.

    He continued to hold her as the storm of her emotions broke.  His mind filled with a thousand fears, not the least of which was that he had somehow unknowingly hurt her.  "Please, Catherine, tell me," he pleaded softly.  "If I offended you, hurt you in some way, please you must tell me.  I have so little knowledge, please…please you must tell me."

    His apology caused her sobs to increase.  "No, no…don't…so beautiful. I love you." She pressed her trembling lips against his mouth.  "Hold me tighter, never leave me...never."  She clung to his warmth as her hot tears scalded his neck.  Wretchedly, she quaked, sobbing, begging him not to leave.

    "No, never," he responded, his voice breaking with emotion.  Pulling her closer he held her until her sobs slowed.  His hands soothed and he surrounded her gently, enfolding her within his love. Finally her tears stopped and brushing a light kiss over her swollen lids, Vincent felt her lashes flutter against his lips.

    "Tell me," he entreated softly.

    Catherine dropped her head to his neck, nuzzled against him and then looked deeply into his eyes.  "You knew I wasn’t a virgin, that you weren't the first...."

    "Catherine, what happened in your life before me is not important.  Our life began when I found you and what was, is of no importance to me.  There was no one else.  You are my bride, sweet and pure, surrendering your virginity to me just as I surrendered mine to you.  There are no others, only the two of us."

    Her eyes brimmed with tears that threatened and she gasped softly at the wonder of his love.  "The others, they...."

    "You owe me no explanation of what was."  His voice was velvety soft, a palpable rush of love that bathed Catherine in its warmth.

    Hearing his honeyed tone, Catherine burst anew into tears.  She sobbed, rubbing her face against his chest and clutching frantically, trying to get closer.

    His ability to feel all of Catherine's emotions was normally very clear and precise, but what she was feeling now was a wild mixture of hurt, joy and erotic sensations which combined to confuse and baffle Vincent.  He knew that whatever the source of her tears, he was not the cause, which filled him with relief.  He was overwhelmed by the sense of love that radiated from within Catherine, a flame that he willingly allowed to consume him.

    The sobbing continued, stopping and starting without logic or pattern.  Between them came an often incoherent jumble of words.  Vincent listened intently, trying to connect the disjointed words and phrases, to understand the source of Catherine's wildly fluctuating emotions.

    Minutes passed and her weeping ceased, but her body shook, racked by uncontrollable tremors.  The coolness of her skin caused Vincent to momentarily pull away, reaching for the light blanket.  Cuddling her close again he found that her face was no longer buried as tightly against his chest and her voice was clearer.

    Suddenly he pulled away, staring down into the fathomless depth of her green eyes, his own eyes bright.  "Catherine, Catherine," he whispered hoarsely, "Are you saying what I think you are?"

    "The others....nothing, I felt nothing.  Afterwards I...I felt nothing.  No pleasure, there was n...n…no completion," she stammered.  "I was never fulfilled, only left wanting.  I...I kept thinking something was wrong with me that I didn’t respond, that I didn't feel more while being loved.  Instead I felt so hollow, wanting more."

    His features softened and he felt his heart would burst.

    "I know now that I was cheated, cheated of something so beautiful and precious.  They didn't care enough, they only took their own pleasure, not....When you loved me for the first time it was so much more.  I felt more with you than I ever had.  Oh, to feel such unknown pleasure, such rapture, to soar with you to the heavens, it was...."  A wide smile captured her face and giggling, she buried her face against his chest.  Then just as quickly she lifted her face and kissed him.

    Vincent held her, trying to comprehend all that she had said.  That Catherine had never climaxed, nor known joy with the others who had come before him.  He shook his head in wonder that he, with all his differences and lack of expertise, had been the one to give Catherine her first sexual pleasure.

    He could only stare, a silly smile tugging at the corner of his unique mouth.  Vincent felt his first sense of masculine, sexual pride and he pulled Catherine closer, wishing to enfold her within his body, so consumed by tenderness and love was he for this gift beyond knowledge she had bestowed upon him.