Author's Note: Please
note this is a very adult story and contains language which many will
find offensive. All of us have uttered words we regret, that we
wish we could take back. Many have been on the receiving ends of
hastily spoken words on the part of others that have left them crushed
by their harshness. A very wise person told me that we give words
power – the power to either hurt or praise; and if we are truly wise,
we make the decision to never allow them to harm us.
So having said the above, I made the
decision to use the offensive words knowing that it would take such
words to shatter Vincent, destroy his walls and equally, it would take
Catherine’s enduring love to resurrect him and make him whole.)
“'THE BEST IS YET TO BE’”*
(The story originally appeared in the
fanzine “White Cover”)
by Joanne Grier
(Originally written as J. A. Cliffe)
Fearful his restless tossing would awaken Catherine, Vincent eased
himself from her pliant warmth. Tossing two fluffy, king-size
down pillows on top of his old ones, he settled his large frame against
them, expelling a slow even breath. Flexing one leg Vincent waited,
inwardly smiling in anticipation. Solemnly, he began counting to
himself, and as he reached double digits, he felt Catherine’s body
shift seeking his. Her fingers searched and finding his hip, she
slid one hand the length of his leg, settling possessively against his
Gently, Vincent stroked her silky tresses and his thoughts turned
inward. Familiar and comfortable as breathing, the night sounds
of the tunnels surrounded him. It’s been five months, he thought,
shaking his head in wonder. Five months....
Pushing herself to complete the investigation, Catherine was determined
to end the emotional torment of her prolonged separation from
Vincent. Two weeks in Boston examining corporate records had
proved endless, causing many sleepless nights, and had left both of
them emotionally bereft.
Their attendance at the season’s concert finale in Central Park had
been eagerly planned and anticipated, and she couldn’t wait to get
home. Sighing, Catherine returned her attentions to her
notebook. Gripping the pen with a fiercely determined look, she
began to scribble furiously.
Vincent waited for her at the threshold, he felt Catherine’s resolve,
and her fatigue, sensing that she teetered on the edge of
exhaustion. As she moved to greet him, the dim tunnel light
failed to hide the pale shadows beneath her eyes; mute testimony to her
Warmly embracing her, Vincent held Catherine close, attempting to
infuse her with some of his own strength. His words were a
soothing caress against her cheek. “I‘ve missed you, Catherine.”
She burrowed into his immense chest. “As I, too, have missed you.
I felt lost without you near me, Vincent. Your arms....” She
hugged him tightly. “Oh, how I’ve missed being in your arms, being held
Vincent slid his arms more possessively around Catherine, drawing her
closer. Nuzzling against her hair for a moment, he inhaled the
clean scent, filling his nostrils with her essence.
With a sigh of resignation, reluctantly he stepped back, releasing
her. Taking her by the hand, they began their journey towards the
park. When Catherine’s steps faltered and she stumbled slightly,
Vincent lifted her into his arms without speaking. Effortlessly
he carried her towards their special place beneath the bandstand.
Carrying her small form safely cradled within the circle of his
embrace, Vincent’s inner conflict heightened, knowing he should take
Catherine home and insist that she rest. Yes, he should do
exactly that, but he couldn’t, he simply couldn’t.
The intensity of emotions throbbing within the bond burst around him as
Catherine’s nearly overwhelming need of him blazed up hotly. His
own yearning echoed in response; (’Catherine, if I could only share the
secret depths of my heart with you. How lonely I have been
without you, how my arms ache to hold you.’) Tensing his jaw,
Vincent fought against crying the words aloud. (’All I want is to
be with you, to watch over you as you sleep and know you are
safe. Oh Catherine, I have needed you so much....’)
As they settled into the voluminous pillows, the music swelled above
Vincent and Catherine, rising and falling against the concrete walls
that secluded them from the eyes of the world. Flowing sweetly to
surround them, the sounds filled them with a poignant, bittersweet
reminder of their long separation. They nestled closer, needing
the reassurance of touch.
Catherine’s head rested against Vincent’s shoulder. Tilting her
head, she pressed a soft kiss into the fleecy cotton sweater he was
wearing, sighing as she felt the loud hammering of his heart against
her lips. She hugged him harder, trying to get even closer.
The swirling passion of the music invaded their minds, filling their
body’s suppressed longings and unspoken desires. The fiery notes
breathed around them, a dancing vortex ebbing and flowing, stalking
them in its volatile core of forbidden sweetness, playing upon their
bodies until they trembled.
Then, the music ebbed, leaving them in a strained silence. The
noise of shuffling feet and snatches of conversations from above faded;
leaving the last haunting melody floating on silent eddies.
Catherine sobbed pressing her lips repeatedly against his chest. Tears
stained her face and she saw similar tears brimming cobalt blue eyes,
as she wept, Catherine’s vision blurred.
Vincent bent to gently nuzzle against her cheek; his lips were soft and
delicate. It was several moments before Catherine fully realized
he was kissing away her tears. Her eyes met his, pleading
silently, beseeching him to suspend his fears.
Vincent’s eyes swept her face, his desire and love unquestionably
visible. Waves of electrifying eagerness swept them as their lips
hesitantly touched, then clung softly, molding together to accommodate
to their differing contours.
Catherine lay quietly against his powerful body, her mouth clinging to
his, never wanting this moment to end. Gathering her into in a
rough embrace, Vincent covered her with his body, pressing against the
length of her. Catherine strained upward, seeking him.
Sliding one leg from beneath his, her ankle rubbed against his calf and
thigh. The sensation of her hips sliding beneath him fueled the
flames, devouring him. Vincent tightened his embrace; his arms
propelled her upwards until her breasts flattened against his chest.
Breathlessly, their lips parted. Vincent buried his face against her
warm, scented neck, trembling all over. Softly he nuzzled into
her, lost in the rapture of their kiss. Raggedly, he inhaled the
defined scent that to him was uniquely hers.
“Catherine, Catherine.” His lips pressed to her throat, whispering her name hoarsely clinging to her softness.
She clung to him, riding the summit of wildly cresting emotions.
Aware of Vincent’s innocence and his fears, she sought to soothe him,
stroking his back; her hands clutched and released the wild tangle of
Vincent suddenly rolled away and sat up. His shoulders shook
violently. “Forgive me, please,” he sobbed, burying his face in his
“Vincent, don’t...” He jerked violently at her touch.
Warily, he lifted his head, expecting to see loathing in Catherine’s
eyes, but in the dim light her skin glowed. Her eyes were
luminous, holding not the slightest trace of revulsion, and her mouth
was curved into a peaceful smile.
Vincent’s eyes searched her face, seeking any hidden fears, and he
gasped, sensing only joy radiating from within her. Getting to
his feet, shyly he offered her his hand. “You must be
tired. I’ll take you home.”
(’He’s going to ignore what happened, pretend we didn’t kiss.
Pretend it was just a fluke. The passion wasn’t real, that he wasn’t
aroused!’) Reaching the junction that would take them from the
community and toward her threshold, Catherine stopped. “Please,”
her fingers moved to caress his face, “don’t take me home. Let me
spend the night in your arms.”
The directness of her statement startled Vincent. Confused, he
tried to think, to find his voice. (’She can’t desire me, she
can’t! I’m not worthy of her love, I could never be worthy of
such a gift.’)
She knew his thoughts - knew Vincent - and lightly touched his
arm. “You need me, too. Don’t push me away and pretend that
the kiss didn’t happen, that nothing has changed between us.
Effortlessly he gathered Catherine close and swept her into his
arms. Vincent’s expression remained passive, his eyes hooded and
unreadable. Holding her securely, he shuddered, looked down at
her for a moment, and then began walking.
Vincent strode along silently through unknown passages, the twisting
and turning labyrinth left Catherine lost in the maze of rock
The sensation of weightlessness, coupled with the security of being in
his arms, was soothing and restful. Resigned to Vincent’s refusal
and to his trepidation, Catherine nodded off to sleep. The
sensation of being gently rocked awoke her. Startled and
disoriented, she opened her eyes. Vincent was still holding her,
rocking on his heels, the motion comforted and soothed her.
Through sooty lashes, Catherine stole a quick glance around, expecting
to see the threshold. Her eyes wide with amazement, she gasped.
Vincent sensed her awareness, his eyes smiled, he signed audibly and gently lowered her to her feet.
Catherine happily threw herself against him, turning his sigh into a soft grunt with her realization they were in his chamber..
“Catherine, I will prepare a guest chamber, if you wish.” His
voice was a soft whisper, and even in asking, he held his breath
fearful of her response.
She shook her head, “I’m in the only chamber I wish to be in; yours.”
Her delight surrounded him, adding to his dizziness, his utter
joy. Then, Vincent felt Catherine sag against him as her
exhaustion hit him full force. Slipping his arm around her waist,
he led her towards the bathing chamber.
The single candle still burning there cast long shadows, giving the
cavern a slightly ominous appearance. Catherine shivered against
him. Aware of her childhood fear of the dark, he murmured a
reassurance, “I’m here. These shadows are quite friendly,
He light a second candle, walked to a battered chest and withdrew clean
towels and cloths, then reached for a new toothbrush, relieved when his
fingers closed over its thin, cellophane wrapper. He moved deeper
into the shadows towards a large oak cabinet. “It will only take
me a moment to find sleepwear for you.” Reappearing a minute
later, Vincent called out, announcing his approach, then handed
Catherine the clothing with shaking fingers.
He slipped back into the shadows, well away from the bathing chamber
entrance, his thoughts a jumble of conflicting emotions. (’Run! Leave,
you fool! This is impossible! Take her to your chamber and
leave her there. Remember Lisa and Devin. Your hands
scarred them cruelly. Leave Catherine, and never see her again,
lest her delicate skin also bear the manifestation of your so-called
Vincent made as if to run, but stopped abruptly when the sound of
Catherine’s voice reached him. Retracing his steps, he found her
half in and half out of the entrance with her hands braced against the
wall. He hurried towards her. “Catherine? What is wrong?”
“I seem to have a slight problem.” She smiled softly, the corners
of her mouth turning up, barely containing her mirth. “My feet
are swollen. I took off my shoes to remove my stockings and now I can’t
my shoes back on.” Catherine wriggled her toes into the old
carpet remnant that served as a bath mat.
Vincent.stared at her bare feet for several seconds, eyeing their
appealing nudity, then whispered, “Then I shall carry you.”
Lifting her into his arms, he strode towards his chamber, his mind
still a whirl of confusing thoughts: (‘You must not give in to your own
needs. You must not forget what happened to Lisa because you
dared to want her’.)
Catherine settled on his bed, Vincent turned and moved resolutely back to the chamber entrance.
His posture rigidly erect, Vincent answered without turning around.
“Yes?” Even to him, his voice seemed harsh. “What it is,
“Vincent, please don’t leave me here while you go off to brood about
what happened earlier between us. It was beautiful, something
I’ve wanted for so long. The touch of your lips, to feel your
hands is a memory I will treasure. I’m not denying the existence
or the validity of your fears, but we’ve been apart for two
weeks. I felt so desolate during that time, didn’t you?”
“Yes!” he hissed.
“Do you deny that what happened between us was beautiful?” She
waited, growing irritated by his silence and his refusal to discuss
their kiss. “Can you deny that you feel everything, every emotion
I feel? Did you feel anything within me other than joy and
happiness? Perhaps you felt repulsion, disgust? Or better
His head snapped up, her arrow sharp words pierced his heart spilling
in grand profusion his greatest hidden fears. “No,” he said gently, “I
felt none of those things. I sensed your joy.” He spun
facing her, his soul revealing eyes bore into her, mirror sharp images
of conflict and pain.
“Vincent, please come here.” From the far side of the bed, she
patted the edge. “Please?” The silence grew heavy and the
distance interminable. Slowly he moved to stand beside the bed.
Catherine’s eyes boldly challenged him. His throat constricted,
nearly choking the words from him, “What would you have me do?
Name any wish I can grant.”
“I want you to hold me and let me fall asleep in your arms. I
wish to awaken in the safety of your embrace. I wish to see only
your face when I awaken, have your breath upon my cheek when you
inhale.” Catherine ran one hand gently up his arm, not quite able
to grasp his shoulder. “I wish to know the wonder of your kisses.
There are many things I wish for, Vincent, but being in your arms can,
and does, fulfill many of my dreams.”
Vincent flushed warmly beneath the boldness of Catherine’s gaze, her
open appraisal of his body. (’She cannot find my form appealing.
That is not possible!’)
“Vincent, I can’t hide my feeling from you anymore, and I don’t want
to. Believe me; I’m not trying to seduce you.” Catherine
hesitated, “Well, no, that’s not quite true, perhaps just a small
seduction. I simply won’t let you deny what happened. It
was real. I love you, and I do find you physically
attractive. I know you feel the same way about me, don’t you?”
When he wouldn’t - or couldn’t - respond, she continued, “Father
convinced you that these feelings are wrong, that you could never
expect a woman to ever desire you. He was so wrong.” Her
voice rose sharply. “Father didn’t raise a monk, he raised a man;
unique and different surely, but most definitely a man. And,
furthermore, from what I experienced in our brief interlude, you’re not
Startled eyes locked to hers. “Catherine, please?”
“Please what? Don’t make it difficult for you? What could
be more difficult than continuing to deny your desires and physical
needs? I have the same desires and needs, Vincent. Denial
won’t make them less viable and it surely isn’t going to make them go
away. If it will make you more comfortable, I’ll get dressed and
we can go back to my balcony. We can huddle in the cold.
You can hold me in your arms until your butt and mine are both frozen
from that damn cold cement! Would that make it easier for you?”
Dumbstruck, Vincent stared down at his hands. He couldn’t find
his voice, and if he did, what could he possibly say to her.
Catherine’s words turned less challenging. “I said I wasn’t
trying to seduce you. I want to be with you, in your arms the way
every woman wants to be held by the man she loves. We’ve been separated
for weeks, and before that, in a whole month, we were together for less
than six hours.”
“Six hours?” he repeated, knowing that she was precisely right. He knew how many hours it had been.
Her eyes glinted, snapping with fire. “Yes, I do count the time
we’re together every moment of it.” Embarrassed by her outburst,
Catherine’s composure deserted her, and she began sobbing. She
turned away from him then buried her face in a pillow, her shoulders
shaking as her sobs increased.
Vincent stared at her, stunned by the bluntness of her words, her
sudden tears and the vortex of emotions which buffeted his senses.
He hesitantly put one hand on Catherine’s shoulder as he bent
closer. His face was scant inches from her ear. A lump in his
throat made him swallow repeatedly as he tried speaking in a familiar
tone of voice. “Catherine, please don’t, I never meant to bring
you pain; I’m not worthy of your tears. Seeing you distraught,
knowing it is because of me, shall break my heart. Please, don’t
Catherine’s sobs increased. Lifting her into his arms, Vincent
crushed her to his chest. “Oh, Catherine, Catherine.” Again and
again, he breathed her name, covering her small face with kisses,
begging her to stop crying.
“Forgive me,” she murmured against his mouth, “Just once, I wanted to
sleep in your arms, where we’d both be safe. In a place where we
wouldn’t have to worry about dawn, or telephones, or....”
“Hush now. I know, I know.” Touching her face lightly, he brushed away the pooling dampness cascading down her cheeks.
Catherine urged his chin up, bringing his eyes level to her own swollen ones. “I’ll get dressed so you can take me home.”
“No, I don’t want you to go. Please stay, sleep here in my
arms. Let me know this joy of holding you close as you rest.”
“Are you sure in here?” she asked, her fingers gently touched his head.
“Yes,” his voice trembled.
Her fingers moved to his heart, “… and here?”
“Oh, yes, especially there,” he breathed, pressing his lips against her
hair and snuggling closer. Wide-eyed, smiling, Vincent trailed
his fingers gently over her face, learning the contours of it by touch
for the first time, re-avowing, “Especially there.”
The subtle change in their relationship occurred slowly. Vincent
continually shook his head in wonder over Catherine’s delight in his
shyly sweet kisses. Constantly fearing that his canines would
injure her delicate beauty, he refused to grant her requests to open
his mouth when they kissed.
Catherine shared her feelings concerning intimacy between them, and her
honesty allowed Vincent to speak of his fears, bringing them slowly
from the darkness of his soul. They continued to be spiritual
lovers only, but each enticement, each tantalizing kiss brought them
closer to fulfillment.
THE FIRST ENTICEMENT:
The cold wind whipped Vincent’s hair in a wide arc. Silently he
dropped onto the balcony, stepped towards the soft, flickering light
and rapped on the terrace doors.
Hearing his knock, Catherine leapt from the sofa and ran to the door,
her stocking feet soundless against the plush carpet. Their eyes
locked as they entwined in a warm, welcoming embrace, savoring the joy
of being together. Vincent wrapped Catherine within his cloak and they
She lifted her face, staring at him, openly inviting his kiss. He
pressed his cool lips against Catherine’s, and they warmed
instantly. He inhaled sharply as Catherine opened her mouth and
wet his lips with the tip of her tongue, tracing the fullness of his
lower lip until he groaned.
The billowing wind snatched his cloak away and Catherine shivered
violently against his warm body. “You should go back inside,”
Vincent murmured hoarsely. “It is so cold out here.”
“The cold doesn’t matter. Our being together is everything. I’ve
missed you so much. Please, don’t go, not yet.” Shivering,
she snuggled against him, seeking his warmth.
The wind continued buffeting them. Vincent whipped the cloak from
his shoulders and wrapped her inside it. Turning his back to the
wind, he protected her from its gale-like force with his own
body. They stood locked together, freezing in the cold, unwilling
“This is preposterous!” he thundered against the wind. Taking her
hand, Vincent urged her towards the door. Once inside, he walked
to the fireplace, dropped a pillow to the floor and gently lowered
Vincent knelt, swiftly pushed up both legs of her pants, stripped off
her socks and began rubbing her frozen toes. After warming one foot, he
pulled his heavy sweater from the tight confines of his jeans and
placed her foot against his warm stomach. Pulling his sweater
over her foot, Vincent continued administering to her other foot.
He stopped the brisk rubbing motions but continued to hold her feet
between his hands until he was satisfied that they were both thoroughly
Finally, Vincent shyly peeked up at Catherine. Her head was back,
exposing her slender neck. Her eyes were closed and her breathing
shallow, erratic. Her pupils dilated as their eyes met and
held. “Oh, Vincent,” she panted, “Vincent!”
THE SECOND ENTICEMENT
The voices of Father and Mary faded to soft murmurs as they moved down
the corridor, away from Vincent’s chamber. Gathering up the cards and
score pads, Vincent returned them to a burnished chest and then began
to rearrange the chairs.
The cups and saucers collected, Catherine smiled, watching Vincent
quickly retrieve his cup and gulp down the last mouthful of tea.
She repackaged the remaining brownies in a decorative tin and resealed
the loose tea. “I’ll leave the brownies and tea. Jenny was
right about it being an excellent brand. There’s enough left for
several pots. Would you like me to brew another pot for you?”
“Perhaps later. If you are tired, I’ll take you home.” His eyes revealed his wish that she stay.
“I’m not sleepy. I was hoping you might read for awhile.”
Vincent settled comfortably in his chair, his fingers curving
unconsciously to caress the worn wood. Selecting a volume from
the nearby stack of books he began to read, the rich timbre of his
voice filling the chamber. His eyes darted repeatedly to
Catherine as she moved about his chamber.
When she neared him, he reached for her hand and brought it to his
lips. He urged her closer, pressed a second kiss to her forehead,
and then gingerly drew her down into his lap. Smiling at him,
Catherine’s arms encircled his neck.
Laying the book on the table, he wrapped his arms around her
completely, tugging her closer. Cocooned by two tensed pillars of
steel, her soft nibbling kisses dampened his face. Breathless,
lightheaded, Vincent pulled away when Catherine moved her tongue over
“Please, Vincent,” she murmured against his mouth, “I’m not afraid of
your mouth. Don’t be frightened. You won’t hurt me, please,
open your mouth, let me kiss you as I long to, let me...”
His voice, he cut off her words, “Catherine, how can you not be afraid
of my mouth? If I were to hurt you I could never forgive myself,
if I marred your flesh with these...”
“You won’t! You’d know if I were in pain. It isn’t possible
for you to hurt me, Vincent,” she insisted. “I trust you
completely and you must trust yourself equally. Your kisses are
wonderful, but there is so much more pleasure you can’t begin to
imagine. Won’t you trust me? Please?”
“I trust you with my life. When you touch my lips with your
tongue, it feels like I’m being separated from myself. It’s as if
all the forces of the Chamber of the Winds are tearing me apart.”
His words ended in an explosive sigh.
“It feels like that for me, too.”
“It does?” Vincent asked his eyes wondrously wide.
“Oh, yes...” Catherine lowered her mouth to his, raining delicately
soft, wispy kisses against his lips. Opening her mouth again, she
continued trailing moist leisurely kisses across his mouth.
Indistinguishable sounds that were nearly whimpers came from deep
within Vincent’s throat. Urgently, he pulled Catherine firmly
against himself and tangled his hands in her hair. Mouth
quivering, he pressed against her, straining upwards; seeking searching
wanting her beyond thought.
The chair groaned beneath their twisting bodies. His arms
slipped beneath her legs, he stood and walked to the bed without ending
the kiss. Not relinquishing his hold, lowering her gently, he
stretched out next to her.
Catherine’s arms entreated him closer. Her tongue pressed against
his lips, then darted away to lick against the corner of his mouth
before returning to press against the cleft of his upper lip. Moaning
her name, Vincent slowly opened his mouth, offering her everything she
would have of him.
Silky and wet, her tongue played over his, gentle and wild in its
seeking, caressing and worshipping their differing contours in a dance
of endless love. Capricious and angelic, Catherine glided over
the satin smooth edges, slowly tasting and claiming, plundering
wantonly in an incandescent white-hot cauldron of fire. Endlessly
she explored, drowning in his uniqueness and branding him with her
Catherine gasped, lifted her head to stare into eyes ablaze with
passion. Vincent stared at her mutely for the space of a
heartbeat, and then crushed her to his breast, pleading huskily,
“Catherine. Don’t stop, don’t stop.”
THE THIRD ENTICEMENT:
Catherine tugged the ribbed cotton lace-trimmed camisole over her
shower damp skin and slipped into a light robe, belting it loosely
around her waist. Exhausted, she had succumbed to the temptation
of a nap upon arriving home, and now was rushing to be ready when
She stood surveying the closet, attempting to find something supremely
comfortable, yet totally devastating. The concert Below was to be
a gathering of friends playing for their own enjoyment, and after a day
of heels and a court room suit, Catherine wished for the comfort of
jeans. Unconsciously rubbing her temples, she sought to ease the
headache that had plagued her for most of the day. She was still
debating what to wear when she heard Vincent’s tap and moved towards
“Catherine,” tilting his head Vincent’s face clearly revealed his
puzzlement, “have I come at the wrong time?” He eyes flickered
over her short, silk robe and the snowy lace which peeked beguilingly
along the edges.
She held the door open and smiled. “You’re on time. I’m the late
one. I fell asleep and only woke up about twenty minutes
ago.” Closing the door, she stepped into Vincent’s welcoming
embrace, and buried her nose into his cloak.
He sensed a tinge of pain flowing within the bond and her sense of
conflict, he held her closer, offering his strength. Scooping her
up, he moved to the bed and sat down, cradling her on his lap.
“Tell me what’s wrong?” Feeling her relax, he waited.
“Nothing’s wrong, not really. Part of me wants to attend the
concert, but...” her voice trailed wistfully off and she snuggled
“Part of you wishes to stay home,” he finished her thought. “Catherine,
would you consider staying home and allowing me to ease your headache?”
“Oh, Vincent, that sounds heavenly, but what about the concert? They’ll be expecting us.”
“I felt the dull throbbing of your headache all day. I told
Father when I was leaving there was the possibility that we would not
attend the concert tonight. He seemed to understand, saying that
there were times when he and Margaret needed and wanted privacy.”
Mouth agape, Catherine drew back to look at Vincent as the implication of his words registered in her mind.
Vincent watched her, measuring her reaction against his own. “Father
realizes we are adults, and while his opinion is valued, the choices we
make are our own.” When she smiled, Vincent pressed his cheek to
hers. “What would you like to do this evening?” His breath
was a gentle caress and his velvet voice became softer, ending in a
Her furrowed brow relaxed, “More than anything else?”
There was a trace of a smile as he tilted his head, listening intently, “Yes, more than anything else.”
“Could we light some candles, fill the CD carousel and “
“And?” he prompted, his eyes filled with hope.
“Could we cuddle here on the bed and hold each other? All day I
thought how wonderful it would be to lie with you, held closely in your
arms.” Catherine’s features softened as her fingertips brushed
Her eagerness for solitude delighted him, matching his own. Vincent chuckled softly. “This is what you truly desire?”
“Yes, oh yes!” Happily sighing, she scrambled from his lap and
tugged on his hand. “Come on. You light the candles and
I’ll choose the music.”
Moments later, Catherine settled on the bed beside Vincent. She
felt him tremble uncontrollably as she eased against his work hardened
muscles. Aware of his struggle, the conflict between his body and
Father’s life-long teachings that it was wrong for him to ever touch
anyone, Catherine knew she had to be patient.
His trembling slowed, then stopped and Vincent brought his head to rest
against Catherine’s forehead. He gathered her close, holding her
lightly. Gently, he massaged the side of her temple, the source
of the throbbing that filled the bond. His touch was like the
kiss of a gentle wind on a warm spring day, the softest of caresses.
“Come closer,” she breathed the delicate rush of her breath a whispered plea.
In his heart, Vincent knew Catherine welcomed and wanted his touch, yet
he always waited for her to ask, never assuming it was his right. He
inched closer, curled his hips against hers, inhaling sharply through
clenched teeth as Catherine writhed against him, pleading, “Closer,
please, come closer.”
Sliding his hand down her leg, Vincent grasped the back of her knee,
lifted her leg over his hip, and moved against her softness.
“Oh, Vincent, it feels so good having you hold me like this. You feel wonderful.”
Vincent strained against her, holding her tightly, his emotions soared, the heat and scent of her body demolishing his will.
She smoothly released the lacings of his sweater and exposed his throat
to her questing lips, wetting his neck and chest. Clenching her
leg tightly against his muscular buttock, she strained against him
desperately, seeking to keep her hips locked to his hardening
arousal. Her mouth claimed an enticing patch of skin, suckling
Vincent’s fingers brushed over the soft, tantalizing swell of her
breasts. “Oh, yes. Yes, again. Touch me again,” she
whimpered. Gently his long tapered fingers stroked, caressing the
warm mound beneath his hand.
Pressed frantically against him, body trembling, Catherine abandoned
his chest to seek his mouth. Plundering it wantonly, her tongue
swept over his lips, swirling and stroking, shameless in her pursuit,
whimpering as Vincent’s tongue curled over hers for a moment before he
He eased her gently away, cradling her head in his hands, trying to
calm their soaring emotions. The sounds of their harsh breathing
filled the room. Rolling to her side, Catherine curved a pillow
against her stomach, hugging it to her shaking body. (’Don’t run
away from me. I want to love you, feel you inside me. I’ll die
from wanting it, if I don’t love you soon. This aching hurts so
Vincent took several calming breaths as Catherine’s thoughts and
churning emotions assaulted him, combined with his, left him shaken and
drained. Spooning his body to hers, he slid one arm across her
waist, nestling her against him. “I’m here. I won’t leave you. I
promise.” The fragile words stirred the honey blonde hair near
his mouth. “I want to love you, truly I do. My waking and
sleeping are haunted with thoughts of loving you.”
In his arms, Catherine turned staring at him with astonishment.
“Will you come Below tonight, Catherine? Spend the weekend with
me? There is a place of wondrous beauty, a forgotten cavern where
we could be alone. I would like to share this place with only
you; a place where our dream may begin.” All the old haunting
fears of a lifetime pummeled against Vincent’s fledging acceptance of
his own masculinity and Catherine’s love and desire to be truly a part
His eyes boldly assessed hers. “I have been working to provide for your
comfort Below. It will not be like this.” One hand gestured about
the bedroom then slowly returned to rest on her arm. “But you
shall have all the comforts my world has to offer.”
“Yes.” she said effortlessly. Bright sparkling eyes met
Vincent’s, joyously revealing the depth of her commitment to a life
together. “I love you; I want to begin living our dream.”
Cuddled together, they lightly caressed, drifting and sleeping, content
to awaken when gentle fingers and lips too long denied searched,
caressed, and lingered.
Fingers of pink streaked the deep purple eastern sky. Easing from
her side, Vincent swung to a sitting position. His fingers glided
through his tangled hair, he pushed the long bangs aside, then pulled
on his boots.
Catherine stretched and scampered off the bed to retrieve his cloak.
Vincent watched Catherine as she moved, sleepy, love-mussed, innocently
child-like in her rumpled camisole, and when the loosely belted robe
slid down, baring one shoulder, his heart raced. The pale light
of dawn enhanced her beauty, leaving him gasping to breathe normally.
Catherine dropped his cloak onto the bed and stepped in front of him,
smiling. He wrapped his arms around her lithe form, molding her
body against his chest and face. Long moments passed and Vincent
continued to hold her, unwilling to leave or suspend the joy of having
her so close.
Catherine murmured his name then drew him closer still, leaning her
body into his. (’Oh, Vincent, I can’t wait until tonight! I want
your hands on me, I want you inside me.’)
Vivid and aching, her impressions filled the thread of the bond,
intertwining with it, mingling with his perceptions as their need
roared to a fiery core. The heat of their combined passions
seared him, consuming Vincent in a blinding white flame. Beads of
sweat dampened the hair on his neck, making him warm and uncomfortable.
Trembling, she swayed towards him. He fought to control the
desire that suddenly and uncontrollably welled up from within
him. Catherine’s body followed the movement of his head, her
breasts pressing against his face as he nuzzled against their softness.
(’Oh God, Catherine, I never knew anything could be this wonderful, this delectable and warm!’)
Open mouthed, he brushed against Catherine, rubbing his face repeatedly
over the swell of her breasts and slid lower. The camisole slid
upward with the motion, and large, impossibly gentle hands, held
Catherine tenderly. Inhaling sharply, Catherine’s warm heady
scent intoxicated him. Vincent nuzzled lower, pressing gently
against the sensitive mound of her womanhood. “Catherine..Catherine!”
An autumn dawn, pale and fragile had nearly crested when Vincent
slipped into the tunnels. Heart pounding, he paused, leaning
forward hands on his thighs to catch his breath. Images of
Catherine’s body teased at the edge of his mind, making him lightheaded.
Vincent reached his chamber, then quickly divested himself of cloak,
boots and threw himself on the bed face down; rolling to his left side,
he clutched a pillow to his chest and sighed deeply as he tried to
rest. Within minutes, although his body struggled against it, he
was fast asleep.
Sensing Catherine was awake and beginning her day, Vincent jerked awake
slightly refreshed. After a light breakfast and hasty swim, he
journeyed to the secret chamber he’d mentioned to Catherine
earlier. Once there, he worked diligently on final preparations
for this evening.
At long last satisfied with the results of his labors, Vincent returned
to his chamber, gathered up his cloak, several items that he had
repaired, and began the five mile hike to a Helper’s shop.
Once repaired, the items were exchanged for food, and from his small
horde of cash, Vincent bought flowers. Returning to the hidden
cavern, he stored the food, arranged the bouquet and lit a small
brazier to warm the room. With a final look around, he nodded,
then returned to his chamber to begin his personal grooming.
Rapidly finishing the stacks of files on her desk, Catherine’s energy
seemed boundless. Caught up in the happiness of her mood, Joe
readily agreed to her request for an early dismissal. By two in
the afternoon, she was looking into the windows of Bloomingdales
department store. Once inside, Catherine headed for the lingerie
department and began her search for the perfect nightgown.
Several hours and gowns later, she emerged confident that what she’d
selected would tantalize Vincent’s acute senses.
Catherine hailed a taxi, she directed it to a small gourmet shop, where
she bought cheese, wine and some of the harder to obtain fruits she
knew Vincent loved, but never got enough of Below.
At home, Catherine quickly packed her nightgown and robe, plus some
warmer clothing in a tote bag along with her special purchases.
After a hurried shower, she stood in front of the bathroom mirror and
smoothed on Vincent’s favorite scented lotion, trying to picture his
reaction. Brushing her hair until it shone, she applied minimal
makeup, dressed and hurried to meet her beloved.
Impatiently Vincent’s long legged stride broke into a ground eating
run, sensing Catherine’s approach from Above. Slipping through
the opening that led to the ladder, he saw her and froze, mesmerized by
The knowledge that this woman truly loved and wanted him struck him
anew. Vincent’s heart began to pound against his ribcage when
Catherine dropped her tote bag and flung herself into his outstretched
arms. As he hugged so tightly she could hardly breathe, she
managed to gasp, “I’ve missed you even more than I thought it was
possible!” at the same moment he did, bringing a smile to both of them.
Vincent eased her bag onto his shoulder and slipped his free arm around
her waist. Catherine’s hip rode comfortably against his thigh as
they walked; creating sensation of warmth that flowed through their
bond. After reaching a series of cross tunnels, Vincent started
down one that took them away from the communal hub.
Before they reached the battered bridge that spanned the Whispering
Gallery, the eerie sounds of howling assaulted Catherine’s ears.
Looking down into the abyss, she hesitated, suddenly fearful of the
“I assure you, it is safe.” Gathering her against his chest,
Vincent held her until her trembling ebbed. She timidly stepped
out onto the high expanse with a tight grip on Vincent’s fingers as the
ghost-like voices surrounded them in a steady, rising chorus.
Vincent looked up to the vaulted ceiling of this great cavern. “I come
here often and listen to the voices, trying to imagine the faces behind
each of them, the circumstances which prompted each whisper I hear.”
Concentrating on every step she took, Catherine nodded solemnly. “Yes, the sounds do have a certain majesty.”
Their journey continued, moving steadily lower before the passage began
to climb once again. Concerned for Catherine’s safety and
well-being, Vincent marked a trail along the wall of intersecting
passages, explaining, “If something were to happen, you could follow
these marks to reach Father and safety.”
He stopped to retrieve a lantern he’d left along the trail, and lit
it. A few steps forward led them to a low, dark passage
traversing in a descending direction until they entered a cavern filled
with a mysterious light that shimmered, reflecting the mineral deposits
in the rocks. A fifteen foot high water fall cascaded down the
far wall, rushing into a large pool that filled three-quarters of the
Catherine gasped, “It’s wonderful, Vincent. Does this place have a name?”
“No,” he replied softly, nearly whispering as though forced to by
emotion. “Devin and I found it a year before he went Above. He’d
convinced Father that we were old enough to explore and camp on our
own. We found this place, claimed it, and vowed to keep it a
secret. We came here often to fight imaginary villains, plotted
the adventures we would have someday in the world Above. Mostly,”
his voice turned wistful, echoing the loss of boyhood “mostly we came
here to dream. After Devin left, the memories in this place were
Taking his hand, Catherine held it against her cheek, rubbing it
tenderly, silently communicating her love and understanding.
Their eyes met and she stood on her toes, her lips warm and sweet
against his. As they parted, Vincent looked deeply into her
eyes. She smiled enigmatically as her fingers brushed his chest.
He gave her a questioning look. “Tell me, Catherine, what makes you smile?”
“You, us being here together in this place makes me happy. I
don’t have to look over my shoulder for the sunrise. Even in your
chamber, we are the subject of ceaseless scrutiny, wondering when
Father might pop in. Here, we are wonderfully, gloriously
alone!” She pirouetted and lifted her arms, her bubbling laughter
filled the cavern. “Completely alone!”
He nodded, agreeing. “Come, let me show you around.” Grasping her hand
while they walked, Vincent pointed out the special properties of the
cave. Climbing a small pathway that took them fifty feet above
the rock floor, they stopped.
After a minute’s searching, Vincent found a small alcove barely wide
enough for him to stand, his shoulders brushing the sides of it when he
edged inside. Quietly standing he waited, but when Catherine
didn’t follow, he eased his immense frame from the narrow
opening. “If you will step inside, I think you will be pleasantly
Following his advice, Catherine disappeared within the inky
interior. Moments later, her head emerged, her smile bright, and
her eyes sparkled. “How?” she queried, the sound whirling around
“The stone is porous and allows the sounds, voices of the Whispering
Gallery to be heard, even down here. In the chamber where we’ll
stay, there is an opening and if the air current is suitable, the
sounds of the gallery can be heard quite loudly.” He chuckled low
in his throat. “The first time we heard the echoes, Devin and I
were terrified. Having just read “The Canterbury Tales”, we
envisioned a ghostly apparition until we realized what the sound was
and its source.”
Traversing the path, Vincent led Catherine back to the chamber, asking
her to wait, he went inside. A delicate light pushed back the
darkness, a warm glow emanated from within the former murky
depth. He returned to her side quickly, sweeping her into his
arms and carried her over the threshold.
The fresh chisel marks revealed he’d carved many small ledges to hold
all the candles. A large portion of the chamber was occupied by a
king-size bed covered with a faded patchwork quilt and pillows.
An octagonal table, complete with antique lace cloth, had been set with
matching table service for two. In the center was a small crystal
vase containing an arrangement of aromatic flowers flanked by dual
candles. The remaining flowers were divided into bouquets and
scattered about the room. On the table next to the bed, a second
vase contained a single, red rose.
“Oh, Vincent, this is perfection!” Catherine exclaimed.
Inwardly he glowed at her praise as her exuberant hug warmed him, Vincent returned her embrace.
“But, how did you get a king-size bed down here? It must have taken hours to accomplish all this.”
“The bed is a double one that Devin and I shared. I had stored it
away on the one trip I made here after he left. I carried another bed
here from a nearby storage area and turned it sideways to achieve the
suitable length.” Glancing down at his legs, a wisp of a smile
spread across his face, “These have always caused a problem as I grew
taller. Father had difficulty finding a bed where my legs didn’t
hang over the end.” He leered at her shorter legs, then chuckled
softly, “A problem about which, I’m sure, you would know nothing.”
Catherine’s effervescent smile warmed Vincent, and reaching for her, he
gathered her close. They stood holding each other, lost in the
enchantment of simply being together. Leaning back, she drew his
head down and sought his mouth.
The taste of her, responsive and familiar, assaulted his senses,
surrounding him in pleasure. The feel of her mouth beneath his
was sweet and exhilarating; joining spirit and soul into the man he had
dreamed of becoming. She was his world, he was her
everything. A joyous surrendering of the past became the promise
“Catherine,” Vincent’s voice roughened and she felt his trembling
“...kissing you like this, knowing you welcome...want my touch. I
have no words to tell you. I have dreamed of you here, holding
you, touching you.”
Catherine’s hands splayed over his chest and she pressed kisses into
his ruffled shirt. “I’ve imagined loving you since you left my
arms this morning, envisioning your touch, the feel of your body when I
hold you. Oh, Vincent, I want to love you so much.”
He lifted her hands, and brought her palms to his mouth. The heat and
pressure of his lips startled Catherine. She inhaled sharply as
he continued; Vincent pressed his lips to her tender flesh. He
parted his lips slightly and brushed his tongue lightly over her
fingertips. “Your skin is soft, like silk beneath my mouth,” he
Smoke green eyes sparkled revealing her pleasure as Vincent tenderly
licked her palm again. “You’re making my legs shaky,” she breathed
against his forehead.
He smiled, leaning back. “I thought it was me. Holding you
like this, the nearness of you makes me tremble.” Releasing her
hands he continued to lightly run his fingers over her arms and
shoulders, exhilarated by the sensation.
Catherine gave him a sudden, shy look. “Vincent, I’d like to change my
clothes. I’ve dreamt of this night for so long and I’ve found a
gown I’d like to wear for you. Maybe it’s old fashioned, but I’ve
always hoped to be wearing something beautiful when we begin our dream.
I...I,” her voice quivered, “want to be beautiful for you, to be what
you have dreamed.”
The love that filled her voice washed over Vincent and he realized
Catherine too, had dreamed of their first night together, knew his long
cherished dreams and understood completely his wish for her to stand
before him in a shimmering gown of white: virginal and pure innocent
and chaste, for within his heart, she was his bride and there were no
others before him. “I’ll wait by the lake,” his velvet voice
became incredibly soft, the barest of whispers, and then he was gone.
Catherine turned down the bed, then sat to remove her walking boots and
rubbed her bare toes into the worn carpet, thankful for his
thoughtfulness in providing it tonight. Looking around the
chamber, she noted a small, two-drawer chest, moving her tote bag
closer; she took her clothes to the chest and smiled to see Vincent’s
clothing already in the lower drawer.
Taking the bottle of wine, she arranged the cheese she’d purchased
beside the fruit on the small table next to the bed. Then, she
Vincent stood tossing pebbles into the lake until he heard Catherine
call out to him. Reaching the chamber in three strides, he
quickly ducked inside.
Catherine stood with her hands folded together in the shimmering light
of the candles. His eyes swept over her, clearly revealing his
pleasure and happiness. “You are a vision, the embodiment of all
my dreams.” Tears dampened his lashes. “You have never been
more beautiful than you are at this moment. My heart aches to
receive the gift of your love.”
Catherine opened her arms and drew him into her welcoming
embrace. They held each other then slowly began to touch, wishing
to savor this moment, the joy of this beginning.
Splayed fingers pursued veiled, shadowed dreams turned vivid and
glowing in their brilliance when Catherine slid her hands over his
chest; Catherine’s hands pursued their exploration looking into deep
eyes, silently seeking his permission, and then released the jabot from
his shirt. She freed the cascade of ruffles, then buried her face
against the exposed warmth of his chest, soft mewling cries filled her
throat and she breathed in the scent of him.
Continuing to rub her face against him, wetting his skin with moist
kisses, then with his help, she removed his shirt completely. She
ran her hands freely across the expanse of his chest, stroking him,
touching him as he’d never been touched. Her cries of delight
filled the chamber, echoing gently. Finding his flat nipple,
Catherine’s lips teased and laved against it until it bloomed and she
Silk covered breasts rubbed against his chest, pressing invitingly and
her hips swayed against his, mimicking the act of love. His hands
slid possessively over her, cupping her bottom, lifting and pressing
her firmly against his own undulating hips.
Sliding her arms around his neck, Catherine gripped his shoulders
tightly and molded her body to his growing erection. “Closer. Oh,
Vincent, I can’t get close enough to you!” she breathed into his
mouth. Lifting her easily into his arms, Vincent cradled her hips
in his hands as Catherine spread her legs wider, locking them around
his waist. He continued to lift then lower her, sliding her
against his body, the friction causing his rapidly swelling manhood to
press hard against his tight jeans. Lowering his mouth to hers,
he whispered, “Such sweet, sweet pain.”
Trembling, Vincent lowered Catherine to her feet and took her hand,
guiding her to the bed. She knelt then eased the leather bindings
from his boots, straining to remove them. His hands lightly eased
hers away as he gripped the heels of first one, then the other, and
swiftly tugged them off.
Catherine pulled off his socks, fingers sweeping upward to caress his
muscular calves, and then trailed down to ramble over his feet.
She stroked the top of one foot with her tongue, and then playfully
nipped his ankle. Lifting her head, she smiled up at him, seeking
Vincent was leaning back, eyes closed; breathing shallowly. Soft
noises of pleasure emerged from his throat as he gripped his thighs
between clenched fingers.
Slowly, tantalizing him, Catherine’s hands moved up his legs, then
gently nudged his hands aside to brush against his thighs timidly,
hesitant, yet eager to remove the last barriers remaining between
them. Opening the closure on his belt, she pulled it off and put
it aside. Then, discovering the snap on his jeans, she eased the
zipper down carefully over his aroused state.
Smoldering blue eyes met green ones for a moment, then Catherine rocked
forward and buried her face against him. For an instant,
Vincent’s hips recoiled, and then he surged upward, tangling his hands
into her hair. “Catherine!”
Her mouth had created a raging fire within him, burning to his very
soul. Pressing his body into the fiery cauldron he eagerly sought
the flames of her love. He growled softly, urged Catherine up,
and settled her into his lap, facing him. Curling into him, she
continued to seek him, wanting to touch him everywhere at once.
Vincent crushed her mouth to his, plundered it wantonly,
hungrily. Rolling over, he held her tightly to his chest and
brought her to lie beneath him. Starved for her taste, his tongue
slid along hers boldly, branding her.
“You are beautiful, Catherine,” he whispered, and buried his face
against her neck. Wetting her throat with the tip of his tongue,
he trailed kisses down her skin, then gently brushed his face over the
swell of her breasts.
They moved together - one heart, one soul - fingers tenderly searching
until their need to touch, to lay skin against skin, consumed
them. Free of clothing, Catherine’s body was beyond Vincent’s
imaginings. He couldn’t still his hands, repeatedly roaming the
planes and valleys that had only existed for him in dreams. His
mouth followed the path of his hands, feasting on her skin, claiming
Catherine in a sea of infinite love.
He moved slowly, lavishing soft, wet kisses over her aching, taut
nipples. Catherine pressed into him, wanting to offer Vincent all
she was, everything he wanted; to fill his mouth and have him suckle
her. She whimpered, tossing her head wildly, she moved beneath
him, wanting more. Eagerly, Vincent pursued her pleasure, as his
warm tongue moved over her; Catherine’s kiss-dampened nipples puckered,
hardening even more and he gently laved their aching peaks.
Her fingers danced through his lush hair joyously. Catching the
golden waves tightly, she plunged into it lustfully; gathering and
releasing it, loving the way it floated gently back to the sides of his
head. Straining against him, she fondled his exposed neck with
the palms of her hands, smiling when he lifted his head, bright-eyed
with delight. “Your hand, no one has ever touched my neck. It’s
like the nerve endings are exposed.” Catherine’s loving
acceptance lifted him, freeing him to share all that he had kept locked
within his heart: his need to feel the gentle touch of loving hands
upon his body, to be held within her loving embrace and to be encircled
within a warm, welcoming nest of love.
Expectantly, Vincent moved closer and waited. Catherine sat up,
her breasts edged invitingly along his chest. She knelt before
him, her hands trailed over his broad shoulders; each stroke of her
fingers delicately taunting and teasing his flesh. Rippling, soft
kisses followed her hands as she brushed back his hair and nibbled
across the smooth expanse of muscles beneath it. Softly, gently,
her lips whisked over Vincent’s skin in endless points of rapture as
she nuzzled into his ears.
“You taste so good,” she murmured, kissing him and rubbing her hands
across his hard chest. Catherine felt his chuckle build within
and smiled as it floated freely, the sound making her giddy and light
hearted with joy. (Oh, to be with him like this, to be able to
bring him such love!)
Vincent kissed the side of her mouth gently as his hand leisurely
stroked her, worshipping her body. “You give me so much, so
much. Each gift of your love is sweet, filled with the promise of
what is to be.”
“I want to give you everything, to watch your eyes light with the fires
of each new discovery. Your eyes reveal your every feeling. I
adore seeing through them how I affect you.” Urging him closer, she
kissed both of his eyelids, then sought his mouth, whispering, “Touch
me; I love the feel of your hands, I love the way your mouth feels on
my skin. Touch me everywhere.”
Warm and husky, Catherine’s voice gave freedom to all his
fantasies. He kissed her again, loving the moist wet sound of
their lips meeting, the feel of her tongue, warm and soft sliding along
his own, and the honeyed sounds of pleasure poured from her throat and
burst within his mouth. Breathlessly, they drew apart as his
hands roved over her, kissing her delicate skin at will.
Lightly, Vincent’s hand brushed over her quivering stomach, one finger
tracing the hollow of her navel. He moved to the smooth
prominence of her hip bone, his large hand spanning over half the width
of her body. Seeing this, he shuddered, his eyes filled with
fear, and he suddenly sought her eyes. “Catherine, you are so
small. I’m so much bigger, my weight could injure you.”
“But, it won’t,” she replied surely, “it will be fine. Your touch
is so gentle and loving, you’d know instantly if anything was
injurious. I want you to feel free to touch me anywhere, to
fulfill all your dreams and fantasies of loving me. You are
everything to me. I want to give you so much, so much.
He brought his hands to lie across her hips, his fingers splayed over
her stomach. His breath was warm against her skin as he nuzzled
gently against her navel. Silky smooth skin warmed beneath his
touch and Vincent began to nuzzle lower, the scent of her body drawing
him. He groaned softly as Catherine lifted her hips, eager and
unwilling to wait for his kiss.
His mouth moved over her tenderly, sweetly, his mind filled with
memories of their previous night together when he had first tasted the
womanly scent of Catherine. A scent that haunted him and now was
his for the taking. Gently brushing his lips over her delicate
flesh, his heart pounded wildly as Catherine’s joy and pleasure flooded
the bond with giddy rapture.
Reaching her toes, Vincent continued his wondrous journey up the length
of her other leg, pausing again to taste of her softness, then moved
slowly upward to seek the tawny peaks of her breasts. His sighs
filled the chamber as he laved eagerly against diamond hard nipples.
Writhing beneath his hands, Catherine urged him closer. “Please, I want
to touch you, to share this joy of being with you. Please I need
Following the urgent tugging of her hands, he lifted his mouth and
trailed his tongue along her throat to nibble against her chin, and
with a hungry moan, he claimed her mouth. Gently he filled her,
his tongue dancing over hers, swirling and caressing, plundering
wantonly and drowning in her taste. Gathering her close, Vincent
rolled to his back, continuing his breath-stealing kiss.
Catherine began to move her hands freely down the contours of his frame.
When she brushed the length of him, he shuddered against her, his hips
thrusting toward her hand. “Oh, yes, touch me again, again!
Her hands moved over him, caressing until he groaned with
ecstasy. The hair on his chest stimulated her nipples and she
rubbed repeatedly over his chest. When her tongue traced his
navel, Vincent’s intake of breath was audible; his body trembled as her
breasts rubbed over his throbbing shaft. Gently, she pressed
against him and slowly bent to lave the length of him.
His control over his raging emotions became tenuous when her mouth
covered him and she suckled gently. Her fingers stroked along his
penis, then whispered lightly over his inner thigh. “Catherine, oh
God! What you’re doing feels so good.”
She lifted her head, seeking his dark, smoldering eyes, instinctively
she knew the teasing and fondling were over. Slowly kissing her
way up his body, she lay beside him, whispering, “I want to feel you
Kneeling over her, Vincent slowly lowered his body until he was
sheathed within her warmth. His body stilled, the wonder of her
acceptance, the feel of his manhood within her, consumed him. His
eyes filled with tears as he held her quietly, allowing her to adjust
to his length. Then he began thrusting gently. Catherine’s
hips rose meeting his, rising and falling with his movements.
They soared higher and higher, straining towards each other, wanting
their joining to be complete. Catherine cried his name climaxing
beneath him. Vincent’s hips arched against her, his spine snapped
back, head up, and the blood roaring in his ears. His body coiled
as he sought his own release, plunging deeper within Catherine’s body.
All at once, the chamber was filled with the sounds of loud, angry voices.
“He’s nothing but an animal! Those fangs could rip a man apart. He’s a killing machine!”
“She’s perverted, crazy to allow him to touch her. There ain’t
enough women down here as it is, and she prefers that hairy animal to a
“He could never satisfy a woman, not really. She probably fakes
it better than ’em $200 bimbos! The bitch deserves what she
gets. Betcha he mounts and fucks her from behind like a crazed
animal in heat!”
Vincent sobbed, collapsed against Catherine, then rolled away.
His face contorted, his mind convulsed in anguished pain as shock waves
hit him, recoiling in explosive spasms inside his head.
“Vincent, NO!” Catherine grabbed at him, clutching at his
shoulder, but his powerful arms shook her free, sending her tumbling
across the bed. Gripping his head, fighting the excruciating
shame, his roar reverberated through the chamber, filling it with a
savage, primal fury.
Uncontrollable frenzy, mindless, beyond thought filled Vincent’s
head. He lashed out, sending one chair crashing against the
wall. Old and worn, the table shattered beneath the lethal blows
of his fists. Crystal and china broke as the table
crumbled. Shards of air-born glass rained down upon him as the
wine bottle exploded against the wall.
His uncontrollable fury destroyed all the gentle scholar had sought to
create. The horror and pain visible on Catherine’s face fueled
his frenzied explosion of carnage. As bits of broken glass
slashed his bare feet, the smell of blood mingled with the scent of
roses in the chamber.
A boiling rage consumed him, yet his screams became more human moment
by moment; a keening of soul-shattering grief. The destruction
mocked all he sought to be, giving proof that he was all the voices
Whirling, bolting from the chamber, Vincent ran from the voices that
shamed and degraded him. He ran from the humiliation, the
debasement of his soul, the aberration of his mind. He fled the
voices that mocked all he had become with Catherine’s love. And,
he ran from the sound of her joyous cry of release that still echoed in
his brain; a sound now made perverse and vile. Vincent continued
to run until he no longer heard the sounds of Catherine screaming his
name, begging him to come back.
Catherine’s scream startled him from his nap, the book on Jacob’s lap
crashed to the floor, the sound resonating through the quiet
library. Adrenaline pumped into his system, fear constricted his
heart as he struggled towards Catherine.
“Help me! Vincent! He... the voices, he heard the lost
voices!” She babbled, all the words tumbling out as she sobbed
Grabbing her by the shoulders, Father shook her fiercely.
“Catherine! Get control of yourself. Tell me what happened
to Vincent! Where is he?”
His face revealed his escalating horror as Catherine sobbed out her
story. Father’s anger boiled and the reality of what had happened
slammed into him and he momentarily sagged against her.
“Dear God! We have to find him.” He moved across the study,
mounted the stairs, grabbed a wrench and began tapping an urgent
Moments later the pipes stilled, then rapid fire tapping filled the
chamber. Voices filled the passageway and the library was
inundated with a sea of anxious, fear-riddened faces.
In rapid succession he barked orders like a general commanding an army,
Father dispersed the tunnel citizenry to equip themselves to search for
Vincent. His voice rang out, stilling their scurrying feet,
“Catherine will take us to where we will begin. Remember, you are
to only locate him. DO NOT attempt to talk to him or get too
close! And please, dear friends, ask no questions. It’s
imperative that we find Vincent immediately!”
Father struggled to keep up, leaning heavily on his walking
stick. They reached the exterior of the cavern and the search
teams scanned the unfamiliar area, quietly talking among themselves.
“NO! Stop! You can’t go in there!” Catherine’s nerve
shattering scream stopped Pascal seconds before he reached the chamber
entrance. Frantically, she whispered to Father, and his face
paled at her words.
“Please,” he shouted, “no one attempt to enter the chamber! Fan
out and begin searching from here. Criss-cross the area in our
standard pursuit pattern. No one is to search alone!” Father’s
strong voice echoed and reverberated across the cavern.
“Father! There’s blood here!” Pascal pointed to the dried red
tracks leading from the chamber. Stricken, desolate that his
life-long friend was injured, Pascal glared at the other members of the
team. “What are we waiting for? He’s hurt, let’s find him!”
They reacted to the urgency in Pascal’s voice, the group dispersed,
leaving Father and Catherine alone. With faltering steps, Father
made his way towards the chamber entrance. Catherine shuddered
violently, followed and stepped inside. Jacob Wells stood in the
middle of the carnage; his eyes missed nothing, including his son’s
trousers and a crumpled white nightgown. “Dear God, help me find
my son,” he sobbed.
Twelve days passed and no trace of Vincent was found. Even Mouse
couldn’t unscramble where his friend had hidden. The community
was exhausted and divided about whether the search should
continue. Tempers flared.
The emergency community meeting wore on into the night, each side
arguing loudly in an attempt to sway the vote. An underlying
bitterness and sense of doom prevailed while anger blazed up among them.
Cullen held the floor, addressing the issue of survival, of the
community resources by the continual depletion of their meager food
stores. The chamber exploded, William thundered his objections,
announcing that there was food enough for the community. Cullen
tried to shout down William’s objections and the two men stood toe to
toe, their faces contorted in their fury.
“STOP THIS!” Catherine’s voice rose above the din.
Father furiously pounded his gavel trying to restore order.
With the fury of a woman protecting her man, Catherine launched into
the fray, shouting down William first, and then Cullen. “How dare
you suggest that food is the issue here! Any food that is eaten,
any supplies that are depleted in the search for Vincent, will be
replaced.” Opening her purse, Catherine yanked out her wallet and
threw a handful of money in Cullen’s face. “There, you greedy
bastard, use that, and if it’s not enough, I’ll get more!”
She spun to face the others, shouting, “You are supposed to be
Vincent’s friends, his family. How can you even consider
abandoning the search? Do any of you think he’d abandon you, if
you were lost, or hurt?”
She glared at Cullen, rage distorting her features, making them harsh,
her words were like drops of acid. “To suggest we stop searching
is unthinkable! Each of you depends upon Vincent, and he has
given unfailingly of himself. He always put the good of the
community above his own needs.” She continuously poked Cullen’s
chest hard, emphasizing each word.
Cullen backed away as Catherine continued her diatribe, jabbing at him
with her finger. “So, now, when he needs you the most, you want
to give up on him because it’s too much TROUBLE? Because
searching gets in the way of what YOU want to do, or when you’re HUNGRY!
“Vincent is your friend, for God’s sake, how can you forget all he’s
done for you? Vincent killed to protect you! Have any of
you stopped to realize what price he paid and continues to pay for
having saved you? You rape his soul, and then you want to abandon
Tears cascaded down her face and she whirled around at the touch of a hand to her shoulder.
Sharp, pain filled grey eyes beseeched her. “Catherine, this won’t help.”
Seeing Father’s pain heightened her own sense of guilt and remorse, and
she collapsed onto his shoulder, sobbing hysterically. Father
held her trying to offer comfort as her crying continued unabated.
Pascal came stand next to him. “Father, let me take Catherine for a little while. She needs rest.”
Jacob Wells eased Catherine from his chest and into Pascal’s waiting arms. “Go with him, my dear. Please try and rest.”
Sagging against him, Catherine clung to Pascal as he slipped one arm
around her, supporting her fragile body. She continued sobbing as
he helped her up the steps and out of the chamber.
Once certain she was out of earshot, Father turned to the assemblage,
his voice purposeful. “Our society has survived because of our
commitment to, and respect of, each other as individuals. Each of
you must vote your heart. Don’t be swayed by the dictates of
others, no matter how eloquent or passionate their speech. You
have honored me by allowing me to lead you for many years. At
times it’s been quite a heavy burden, and I’ve borne it gladly.
“Because this involves my...” he choked on the words, struggling to
regain control, “...son, I cannot, in good conscious, participate in
the vote.” Father’s tired eyes searched the crowd, looking for
one particular person. “Mary, if you would be so kind as to handle the
proceedings and make the necessary recording in the council books when
this is over, I would appreciate it.”
When she nodded in agreement, he continued, “Now, if you will be so
kind as to excuse me, I must see to Catherine.” He limped across
the room; barely acknowledging them as people stood aside to allow him
Seeing him like this reminded many of them of precisely how heavy the
burden this man endured was and of how many years he had borne it
Father entered the chamber slowly. His conscious mind shrank from
the knowledge that his child no longer occupied this chamber that he
could be… (No!) His iron will slammed down, refusing to allow the
thought to be fully formed.
Catherine lay on Vincent’s bed, still sobbing and Pascal spoke in soft,
soothing tones, patting her shoulder helplessly. He looked up as Father
entered, relief covering his thin face.
“Thank you, Pascal. I’ll look after Catherine. You go along
now. The community is voting and you must be there.”
Wearily, Father stumbled towards a chair.
Several hours later Mary quietly entered Vincent’s chamber. Her
heart ached and she hastily wiped the tears from her cheeks. The
sight of Father in Vincent’s chair, his head in his hands, added to her
His head snapped up at the sound of her feet moving slowly across the worn carpet.
Mary stood at his side reluctant to answer the question in Jacob’s
eyes. Gathering a deep breath, knowing no way to soften the blow,
she began. “The community has decided to suspend the search
operation. The vote was very close,” she added sadly.
“Pascal is livid. He told them they had best find someone to
handle their communications, because he wasn’t giving up. He
intends to keep searching. Mouse, Jamie and William have sided with
Pascal. They intend to search for Vincent until he is found.”
“The vote is what I expected.” The timbre in Father’s voice
belied his words, his eyes filled with tears. “I’ll try, Mary, to
abide by their decision.” He ran his hands through his
hair. The lines on his face etched deeper in his desolation and
despair as his eyes sought Mary’s. “I can’t! I cannot do
this thing they ask of me! How can I forsake my son?
How?” He began to sob softly. Blinded by her own tears,
Mary gathered him in her arms.
The community slowly returned to normalcy, learning to adapt to poorly
prepared food and the state of chaos on the pipes. It was a
deafening bedlam, leading to short tempers. Pascal steadily refused to
return to the pipe chamber. William was adamant, suggesting none too
pleasantly to anyone daring to ask that the solution to the food
problem was simple: learn to cook.
Early each morning, Vincent’s closest friends gathered together,
outlining where they would search, then they’d set out before most of
the community had awakened. They carried emergency medical
equipment, storing it at one of the search points, moving it to each
location as they swept deeper into the interior.
After several days of searching, they decided packing supplies daily
impeded their progress. In a daring move of disrespect and
defiance, they boldly raided the larder, taking provisions for several
weeks, gathered the camping gear, and left Father a note, telling him
of their destination.
Catherine abandoned her apartment completely, returning only to pick up
clean clothing and to check on the message she had left for Vincent on
Each morning she arrived at the office, quiet and subdued, did what was
asked of her and returned Below as soon as it was feasible.
Nightly she brought samples of Manhattan’s epicurean delights Below,
providing Mary and Father with hot, nourishing food.
Thanksgiving passed and still no sign of Vincent was found. Father
finally noticed after Mary’s sharp words, that Catherine was extremely
thin and the mauve shadows beneath her eyes had become permanent and
deep. Finally one Saturday, he ordered her to remain in
bed. Refusing to allow her up, he stood guard within the chamber
to assure himself that she obeyed. After an hour of shouting, she
realized Father was right and meekly retuned to bed where she slept
around the clock.
Slowly, Vincent woke and became aware of his surroundings. He was
in a slightly familiar chamber and his keen sense of smell was
assaulted by strange odors. Instantly alert, he realized he was
naked beneath the quilt which covered him, and that someone was
“So child, you’re awake.” Milky, sightless eyes peered at him, sensing
his fears. “Do not be frightened, Vincent, it is only an old
woman comes to comfort you.”
“Narcissa! How did I come to be here?” He started to sit
up, but remembering his nakedness, sank further beneath the quilts.
“I found you many days ago, near the caves of the lost ones. Your
screams led me to you, but I was days in finding you. You hid
each time I came close, but Narcissa could not let you remain
lost. It took a long time to bring you here.”
“But how,” Vincent interrupted, “did you get me here?”
Her hand moved in a slow circle around the chamber. “They help. The
spirits can do what would otherwise be impossible. Drink
this. You must rest and grow strong. Sleep heals.”
Placing a bowl of foul smelling liquid in his hands, Narcissa entreated
him to drink. He consumed the liquid and in spite of his desire
to question Narcissa further, he fell into a deep sleep.
Sporadically he awoke; aware Narcissa applied healing potions to his
battered body. Another week passed and when he awoke he knew his
body had healed.
Narcissa entered the chamber carrying his cloak over one arm. His
trousers, ruffled shirt and boots rested in her other hand.
“Child, it is time to return to the Father and to Catherine.”
Vincent shrank away from her. “NO! I cannot return. I will
make these chambers my home. I can never go back!” Despair and
panic filled his rising voice and he struggled to control the lump in
his throat that made breathing nearly impossible.
(‘I’ll never hear the warmth of their voices or know the gentle touch
of their hands! Never see them! I will die without them,
for inside, I am hollow, empty without their loving warmth.
Catherine!) Covering his face, his shoulders shook violently and
he sobbed. Vincent’s heart constricted as a sense of rage and
rejection swept through him. He could never go home again!
Gnarled fingers curved over his shoulder, “Child, you must go to the
Father. He grieves, thinking you dead.” Her weathered hands
gripped him tightly, her strength surprising.
“Narcissa, you don’t know what happened. It is impossible for me to ever return to that life!”
“It is impossible because you make it so. Their love calls to
your heart, yet you reject it, willing yourself to remain in the spirit
world. Your heart lies with the Father and Catherine. You
“NO! I will remain here. If you won’t have me, I shall go
elsewhere!” He reached out, grabbed his belongings and clutched
them to his chest.
“The spirits will not have you. They know your destiny and will
not allow you to alter their plan. Seek the Father. Seek
your heart!” She turned and left him alone to think on her words.
Dressing quickly, he expected to find Narcissa in the antechamber, but
found no trace of her. He had no sense of her. Aimlessly he
wandered from corridor to corridor, seeking solace from the endless
voices that raged within his mind.
Vincent lost all sense of time. Hours became days, days became
weeks and his world grew darker. Roaring his rage into the black
void of despair, he was truly alone.
“Catherine, my dear, the tree looks very nice.” Father tried to sound
cheerful as he entered Vincent’s chamber. Except for the tree she
was decorating and the edge of her nightgown peeking from beneath the
new bed pillows, the chamber looked exactly as Vincent had left it nine
“Thank you, Father. We decorated a similar tree last Christmas
Eve. I thought,” she blinked rapidly trying to prevent her tears
from spilling, “that is, I wanted Vincent to know wherever he is, that
I haven’t forgotten, that I still love him.”
Father gathered her close, holding her as she sobbed. He had
reconciled his anger towards her, realizing the depth of her love for
Vincent and the pain she’d suffered since his disappearance.
“Vincent knows you love him, Catherine. Wherever he is, he knows and that love will bring him back.”
Wiping her eyes on the snowy handkerchief Father produced, she smiled
wistfully. “I’m going to my apartment to get the gifts for
tomorrow morning.” Slipping into her red jacket, she stepped into
the passage. “I won’t be long.”
Memories of Vincent assailed Catherine when she opened her apartment
door. Determined to gather the gifts quickly and leave, Catherine
pulled the bag of wrapped gifts from the closet. Sorting the
mail, she tossed aside everything but her bills and bank statement, and
those she shoved into the bag. The balcony and all its memories
drew her, and helplessly, she stepped across the cold cement.
A blaze of lights stretched before her, causing the memories to flare
even stronger. The wind snatched the words from her as she spoke
them, “Be well, Vincent. Wherever you are, my love, be
well. Come back safely.”
Tears cascaded from her eyes and she ran inside throwing herself across
the bed. Raw grief poured from her and cries of anguish filled
the silent room.
Sometime later, she applied cold compresses, trying to reduce the
swelling, knowing Father would notice her red eyes. The process
took far longer than she’d anticipated. It was quite late when she left
to return Below.
Finding the library dark, she placed the bag inside the entrance, then
retreated towards Vincent’s chamber. The gloom there indicated
Father had forgotten to leave a candle burning.
Vincent’s head jerked up when Catherine entered. His senses
roared to life, the scent that was distinctly hers mixed with her
perfume, bombarding him, filling him with deep despair. For weeks
he had successfully blocked the flow of the bond, sealing his heart and
spirit away from hers, unable to endure her pain and suffering.
She was silhouetted within the dimness; the bond surged anew, filled
with the sweetest of songs.
Vincent’s hand went to his chest, clutching at the pain that stabbed
his heart. He watched her move slowly through the darkness,
skirting a chair to stand beside his antique writing table.
Deprived, hungry eyes drank in the sight of her, knowing now he must
send her away and that he would never see her again. This madness
had to end!
Lost in the sight of her, he realized too late what her fingers
sought. “Don’t!” He hissed into the darkness. The
flame of the candle caught, flared briefly then a soft circle of light
“Oh God! Vincent! Is it really you? You’re safe,” her voice broke
and sobs filled her throat as she stumbled towards him, seeing only his
beloved face in the dimness. Openly sobbing, she clung to him,
unaware of his disheveled appearance, nor the odors that clung to his
clothing, she bathed him in her tears.
For a moment, Vincent allowed himself to feel her the softness of her
body pressing close, then gently he pried her hands loose, forcing her
to stand away from him. “Catherine, you must leave. What we
shared is over. There can be no life for us together. You
must return Above, to the life you were meant to live.”
“YES!” he roared, his voice echoing in the stillness. “Forget
me. Ours was a dream never meant to be. It’s time to awaken
from the night shadows of our dreams and return to our fate.”
Wearily he stood. “Come, I will take you home.”
Green eyes darkened with fury and she snatched her arm from his
grasp. “Home?” she spat vehemently, “You will take me home?
I am home! Since the night you disappeared, I’ve lived nowhere
but here in your chamber.” Her voice rose sharply.
The deluge of emotions surging within the bond smothered him in a tidal
wave of raw, swirling rage. Staring at Catherine, Vincent felt
everything she had experienced since their parting. Her pain was
“I thought you were lost, hurt or dead!” Voicing her deepest
unspoken fears, her voice turned frantic. “Now you show up, weeks
later, telling me it’s over! Go forth and forget! I’m not
some child you can dismiss from your life because I’m unruly and
ill-mannered! You can’t just pack me up and send me home like an
unwelcome guest who has overstayed their visit!”
“Catherine, I never said....”
“Don’t you dare interrupt me! I love you. Nothing will ever
vanquish that love. It will endure beyond time. I loved you
without reservations when we walked into that cavern, and I’ve loved
you eternally since that night.”
He clutched his chest, unwilling to believe she could conceivably
continue to love him. “Don’t love me, Catherine,” he said
wearily. “What I am is not worthy of your love! Please,”
his voice became a whisper, “...leave. I’m tired. I must rest.”
His legs buckled, and swaying precariously, Vincent sank to the
bed. His eyes burned into hers, his voice filled the chamber,
“GO! Leave me!”
Involuntarily, Catherine jerked at his harsh tone, her body
trembling. “I can’t! Don’t do this. Please, Vincent,
don’t send me away,” she sobbed. “We are empty shells, people
imitating the motions of living without each other. Without each
other, we may as well throw ourselves into the Abyss! Together,
we have everything, apart we have nothing. You are everything to
“Please, Catherine, leave.” Fingers pressed to his temples, his hands
trembled violently, “I must be alone. Don’t make this any more
difficult than it already is.”
“Difficult? Oh God, Vincent, don’t you realize this isn’t
difficult, it’s impossible! How,” tears streaked her face,
“...how can you tell me to leave? Why won’t you believe I love
you?” Desperately, she moved toward him, boldly grasped his hand
before he could snatch it away and placed it on her rapidly beating
heart. “Can you deny what you’re feeling or what my heart tells
A burning energy seared his flesh, sending flames racing the length of
his hands. Vainly he tried to pull away. She swayed towards
him, pressing her body firmly against him. The bond opened further,
surging with her unshakable love and belief that there was no life
without him. A swell of hope fluttered in his heart. Again,
he heard Narcissa’s words and his battered soul longed to believe, but
his wounded mind denied everything.
He turned away, hiding the feelings his eyes clearly revealed. Seeing
the pain and self-doubts he tried to hide, Catherine’s heart ached for
him, and that ache filled their connection, searing him anew with its
Quickly lifting his head, he stared at her. “How can you love me
Catherine, after all that happened in that chamber? What was
said? What I did? How? It is not possible to love
what I am.”
“Will you never believe? Must my love always be invalidated by
what others say or think about us and what we share? Words,
Vincent. What they said were only words! Yes, they were
ugly, painful damning words. But no words can negate our love or
what we share. I would give anything to change what happened, the
suffering those words caused you, and the pain they continue to
inflict. I can try to help you overcome those words, help you
move through them, but I cannot change them.
“I never wanted you to know such pain. My heart breaks knowing
that others have taken what was beautiful and tainted it within your
mind and heart. I don’t honestly know,” she shook her head slowly, “if
I would change what happened. You tell me I must leave, that what
we share must end. Selfishly, if you force me to walk away, I’ll
forever carry in my heart the joy of having known your love, how it
felt to have your body love mine and the completeness having you inside
She sighed sadly. “No, I don’t think I want to live without you
and that memory. I grieve that you were not allowed to experience
that same joy of release and completeness that I found within your
arms, but never for a moment have I ever regretted loving you.
“If you force this separation, then those people who would destroy or
mock what we share will have won. Please, Vincent. I love
you. You are my life. Don’t send me away. Don’t make
me spend the endless days of my life waiting for death, because there
is no life, not for me, without you by my side.”
Silence. It filled the chamber, obliterating even the ever-present
tapping noises. Time ceased and still the terrible silence
continued. All they had been to each other and all they hoped to
be, stood as an insurmountable chasm between them. His shame and
humiliation filled the chamber, creating a gulf deeper than the Abyss.
Catherine sobbed; releasing the hand she still held and turned, moving
from his side. Bending over, she retrieved her purse from where
it had fallen and made her way on stiff, wooden legs towards the
passage. The hollow tapping of her heels striking stone echoed in
“Please, don’t go,” he whispered brokenly into the empty chamber.
Blinded by her tears, Catherine stumbled and clutched the stone wall for support.
Vincent’s anguished cry reached her, sending shivers racing up her
spine, and her heart constricted in pain. Spinning on her heel,
she rushed towards the sound of his voice.
JOIE DI VIVRE
“Catherine?” Struggling to rise, Vincent fought the waves
crashing against his psyche. He sought the sea of serenity and
tranquility that flowed within his soul with the whispering of her
name. She would come to him, he knew, across time. Never
failing him, she would come, if he called to her. Again he called,
Coolness bathed him, taking away the deep burning that seared his flesh. “I’m here, Vincent, I’m here.”
Bewildered cobalt eyes searched for her, and finding what they sought,
the fear faded from them. Closing over their diminutive
counterparts, Vincent’s hands encircled Catherine’s, clutching and
curling her fingers to lay tucked beneath his chin and against his
throat. “Never leave me.”
“I’ll never leave you. I’m here. Sleep. I’ll watch over you. You’re safe.”
The coolness surrounded him, gently absorbing the fevered heat and he slept.
The chamber and its occupant were her world, the hours blended into
days and Catherine focused her energy and strength on Vincent’s
healing. His body burned with a mysterious fever and his
dangerous dehydration alarmed Father. Vincent’s stamina weakened
and his normal capacity to heal was threatened by the weeks of physical
abuse and malnutrition.
Peter Alcott, life-long friend and physician, and trusted helper in
Vincent’s world, was called to assist Father. Seeing the dark
circles and sluggish movements of his medical team, Peter ordered all
of them to bed. Overruling their objections with irrefutable
medical logic, Peter dispersed Father and Mary to their individual
chambers. Trusting that he knew best, as he had in all medical
matters in her life, Catherine lay beside Vincent and was quickly
Refreshed after twelve hours of rest Father returned to his son’s chamber, “Has there been any change, Peter?”
“Jacob, my friend, your condition looks considerably improved. I
feared I’d need to move all of you to the hospital chamber.” Deep
brown eyes smiled warmly and grey ones returned the warmth that
accompanied a long enduring friendship. “Vincent’s fever seems to have
abated and I’ve managed to get three glasses of water into him since
your nap. His vital signs are normal and stable. He’s been
restless, but quiets immediately when Cathy speaks to him.”
Vincent’s physical healing progressed rapidly after the fever
ebbed. He chafed at Father’s imposed restrictions, but understood
the loving heart which posed the limitation. Three weeks later, Vincent
resumed most of his teaching duties.
Shuffling between the two worlds, Catherine tried to adhere to a
regular schedule. Apart from Vincent during the day, she was
filled with anxieties and periods of deep despair. Returning Below,
those feelings dissipated. Slowly, she became aware that those
feelings weren’t hers, they were Vincent’s. Their empathic
connection had become stronger, and now the current of these emotions
created a growing sense of uneasiness.
She slipped quietly into the library, glad to see that Father was alone
for she needed to speak to him. Greeting him warmly, she took the
chair Vincent normally occupied.
“Have you noticed a change in Vincent, Father, a growing sense of urgency and unhappiness?”
“So, you’re aware of it, too.” There was no question in Father’s
response, just a simple acknowledgement of the truth of her statement.
“Vincent has always been prone to moodiness, but he has never been
anxiety ridden or nervous; two conditions that clearly come to mind
when I think of my son’s actions over the last few weeks.”
She grasped Father’s hand and leaned toward him, quietly explaining the
peculiarities of her own emotions when away from Vincent. “The feeling
of anxiety,” she concluded, “disappears quickly when I am here with
Father looked down at the worn rug beneath his booted feet. His silence
lengthened, and sighing deeply, his focus returned to Catherine.
“Forgive me for prying, Catherine, but since Vincent’s return you have
continued to occupy his chamber and are, I assume, also sharing his
bed? May I also assume you share a conjugal relationship?”
Father’s normal ruddy complexion flushed warmly under Catherine’s
Her cheeks burned and anger consumed her, then abruptly faded. “Our
relationship is private and I don’t appreciate your prying,” she
“If you had answered otherwise, I would have serious cause to doubt the
validity of your love. Yes, your relationship with my son is
private and no, I find no joy in asking you such questions. If
I’ve offended you, then I humbly offer my sincere apology.
“Believe me, this is not a subject I ever thought to be discussing with
you or anyone. Vincent has been the zenith of my world since he
was brought to me. My dreams for him were of such proportions, I
dare say, not even Vincent himself, knew the extent of all I hoped for
him. But, not even in my dreams did I envision that he would find
a beautiful and compassionate woman who saw beyond his obvious
differences and would love him with such tenacity. In spite of
his obvious physical strength, my son is a very fragile, complex
person. He struggles to be the person we all see and love.
“Until you came into his life, I thought no one would ever fathom him
as I do. Now I realize my understanding pales in comparison to
yours, Catherine.” Father smiled at her warmly. “Part of what you
give is because you are a woman, but a great part lies beyond that,
extending to your holistic view of him. You are able to grasp the
inner core of the man.”
He stopped, his shoulder shaking visibly. “Fool!” What you
share with my son defies words and is beautiful beyond language.
You speak to his soul, loving him without reservations, and to Vincent
that is his universe, his reason for being.”
“If a fool has spoken, Father, then the fool possessed an excellent
teacher named Margaret.” Catherine moved to embrace him, placing
her cheek against Father’s damp one.
He straightened, giving his shoulder a slight shake, and stood
momentarily more erect, re-assuming the mantle of competent and wise
leader. “Vincent’s strength can also be his greatest
weakness. The circumstances surrounding his sexual awakenings
have not been the best. I realize how badly I handled the
situation with Lisa. As a man and Vincent’s father, if there are
problems I would like to help resolve them in a manner that will not
leave my son as scarred.”
Green eyes met grey in mutual understanding, their silence conveying
more than words. “Perhaps together, we can avoid the mistakes of
Smiling, Catherine responded. “Yes, hopefully we can. If you will
excuse me, I’d like to see Vincent. Today the hours we have spent
apart have been interminable and I’ve felt his anxiety.”
“Yes, yes, of course, go along.”
Vincent lay asleep on his side, a pillow clutched to his chest. The
book he’d been reading lay opened on the floor. Smiling to
herself, Catherine bent to retrieve the fallen book. She noticed
the way he clung to the pillows she’d brought Below while he’d been
away and her smile widened. She stood silently looking down at
him, awed by his masculine beauty, more profound and breath-taking with
his features relaxed and softened in slumber.
Slipping off her heels, determined not to awaken him, Catherine padded
to the large armoire and removed the trappings of the business
world. Grabbing her running suit and clean underwear, she walked
over to a basis of water. Securing her hair with two pins, she
scrubbed her face clean. The cool cloth felt refreshing as she sponged
away the grit from her skin.
Unfastening her bra, she ran her fingers gently along her breast,
loving the freedom of being unencumbered. Unconsciously, she
continued to rub at a slightly tender spot of dry skin that had been
chaffed by the bra.
“You are hurt, let me see,” Vincent’s concerned voice gently surrounded
her. Dropping to his knees, he lifted her hand away and peered at
the spot she rubbed. Seeing only a faint mark, he raised
perplexed eyes to hers. “I felt pain.”
“It’s nothing,” she explained. “It’s a woman thing. A bra isn’t
always comfortable, but it does feel wonderful when you can remove
it. Perhaps,” she offered, looking down at the bra she still
held, “I didn’t remove all the soap from the fabric and it irritated my
“Nothing shall mar your skin, nothing,” he hissed. Fixing a look
of disdain on the offending object, Vincent tossed it into a nearby
wastebasket, making Catherine smile.
Lips soft and warm nuzzled tenderly against the fading pink mark.
Vincent’s hands gently encircled her waist, the silky texture of her
half-slip bunched beneath the questing fingers that drew her
closer. Moist and sweet, his mouth laved her delicate skin.
Tangling her fingers through his hair, Catherine held him firmly when
she felt him begin to draw back. “That felt heavenly,” she breathed.
Rocking back on his heels, his powerful thigh muscles rippled as he
gracefully stood. Vincent’s eyes swept her face in a loving
caress. “I must allow you to finish bathing.” He turned,
moved toward the bed, retrieved his book and lay down. Opening
the book, Vincent tried to concentrate on the words, but they blurred
as his eyes constantly darted towards Catherine.
Removing the remainder of her lingerie, she completed her ablutions,
well aware of his eyes on her. Stepping into pristine white
bikini undies, she then tugged on a rich, aqua velour jogging outfit.
Watching the tantalizing sway of Catherine’s breasts under the clinging
fabric as she moved toward him, Vincent felt his body stir. His
blood pounded in his ears and he shifted uncomfortably, trying to ease
the urgency building against his tight, confining jeans.
“Vincent?” Seeing his desire clearly revealed in his eyes, she smiled softly.
Haunted, hunger-filled eyes openly worshipped her, and Catherine’s
desire rose joyously to match his own; eager and greedy to know again
the wonder of his loving. They had clung in despair and relief
since his return, but their relationship had remained chaste.
Pulling off the aqua pants and tossing them across the chair, in a
single nimble movement, Catherine removed her shirt and sent it flying
to join the pants.
Incredibly gentle eyes spoke of his faith. Warming her, the
radiance of Vincent’s face was glowing testimony of his love. His lips
parted and his tongue moistened dry lips, “Catherine, I need...want to
touch you... there.” His head moved towards her, eyes burning as
he stared at her breasts.
“Yes.” Kneeling, Catherine straddled his body, her fingertips flicking
lightly over his face. Leaning over, she offered what he needed
Cupping one breast in his large hands, Vincent inhaled deeply, nuzzling
against her. Her velvety, petal soft skin encircled him in
sensory delight, his breath was hot as he moved over her flesh.
His mouth moved repeatedly against rapidly hardening nipples, hungrily
and greedily suckling. Opening his mouth wider, Vincent pressed
Catherine closer. Her breast filled his mouth as he swirled his
tongue over it in a teasing dance of passion.
Unable to stand more of his taunting and teasing, she pulled away and
eagerly sought his mouth. Drinking in the taste of him, probing,
seeking, she explored, branding him with her heat until his own
answering moan filled her throat.
Fumbling, eager fingers sought to banish the clothing separating
them. Struggling to free himself from the confines of his shirt,
Vincent sat up, his mouth fused to hers. Catherine’s breasts slid
invitingly along his furred chest, fueling a fire that burned from
within him, searing him with the flames.
Slipping from his lap, her tongue wetting his chest, Catherine slid
down his legs. He gasped as she gently rubbed her face over the
rough fabric of his jeans, then moaned audibly as her breath burned him
through the cloth. Eyes wide, he watched Catherine free him from
the painful restraint of his jeans. Gently, her hands moved
eagerly over the turgid length of him and instinctively he parted his
legs, inviting her touch.
Surrendering himself to her hands and mouth, soft sounds of pleasure
filled his throat. Delicately, like the touch of the wind,
Catherine’s breath teased over his pulsing erection and slowly laved
the length of him. His hips thrust toward her, his hands guiding
her towards the throbbing head, and she opened her mouth, taking him
“Catherine...” He breathed her name, needing her mouth. He yanked
her towards him, his tongue finding hers, stroking, feasting, drinking
deeply to quench his thirst. Sliding his hands between her legs,
his fingers frantically pressed against her moisture dampened
bikini. Rolling her to her back, Vincent whisked the garment away.
Sensitive, loving fingers sought her moisture as Vincent’s erection
nudged against her stomach. Beads of sweat glistened on his face,
dripping down to wet his chest.
“Take me, Vincent,” Catherine implored, her words lost in his mouth.
Moving over her, Vincent slowly lowered himself toward her undulating
hips. Suddenly he groaned, then rolled away from her, his
erection flaccid and weakening.
Catherine lay away from him knowing now, after so many attempts and
failures, that he couldn’t bear her touch. “This happens to many
men, Vincent, not just to you. Perhaps if you talked with Father,
“NO!” Rolling from the bed, Vincent pulled on his pants, thrust his
bare feet into his boots, grabbed his cloak and angrily strode from the
Burying her face in the pillow, Catherine sobbed, “Oh God, what can I do, how can I help him?”
“Pardon me, what did you say?” Surprised and positive he hadn’t heard correctly, Pascal turned to stare at Vincent.
Bristling with repressed anger, Vincent bore down on Pascal. Three
steps brought him to stand scowling over his life-long friend.
“If you need new students to learn pipe codes, then recruit them!
You’re responsible for maintaining communications. It’s your job,
handle it. Don’t expect me to do it for you!”
Spinning sharply on his heel Vincent stormed from the communications
hub, hitting a glancing blow against Mouse’s shoulder, whom he hadn’t
even seen, as he rapidly exited the chamber.
“What’d you do to make Vincent so mad?”
Fixing the young genius with a look of disdain, Pascal swore loudly.
“Some people get grouchy, and then they dump on everyone! What
makes you think I did anything? He’s been a bear for weeks!”
“Catherine, please, sleep on your side of the bed. How can I
sleep with you sprawled all over me?” The sharp words echoed in
the late night stillness. The biting words wounded beyond
physical pain, a searing, soul stabbing rent that left a gaping, raw
festering laceration. Pin needles of pain shivered, creating
ghostly images made real by the sound of Catherine’s sharp intake of
breath. It shimmered, alive and throbbing and as its source,
Vincent was ashamed.
Weeping, she rolled away from him. Clutching her pillow, she
folded her body into his desk chair, drew her legs up and wrapped her
arms around her pillow.
The seething fury that had been building within Vincent instantly died,
leaving him regretful. (’It has come to this! How could I
be so harsh? Her warm silky skin soothes me; her body welcomes
me, never turning from me. My frustration is destroying
Padding silently to stand beside her as she cried, the knowledge that
he’d caused such tears broke his gentle heart. “You’ll catch
cold. Please, come back to bed.”
Her heartbroken sobs were muffled by the pillow. “No...”
“Catherine, please. I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you,
forgive me?” Vincent dropped to his knees before her, one hand
darting to touch her mussed, dark honey hair, then quickly withdrew,
fearful of repulsing her.
The thin gown offered little warmth and Catherine shivered in the
coolness and hugged the pillow closer. Lifting her tear-stained
face, she searched his haunted eyes. “Perhaps it would be best if
I returned Above to live.”
“No!” Vincent gasped as his own eyes suddenly filled with tears.
“Our being together is destroying you.” she stuttered, her voice
shaking uncontrollably. “You don’t want me to touch you, but I can’t
control what I do in my sleep. I love you, unconditionally.
I’ll never stop trying to fulfill our love, not as long as you want to
Sobbing bitterly, she swiped her nose against her sleeve, struggling to
continue. “You are my life. We were happy before, but sex
or the lack of it isn’t what’s tearing us apart. It’s remorse and
She looked at him, her chin trembling. “Every time we try to make love,
you feel guilty because you can’t satisfy yourself or me. The more we
try, the worse it gets, and you feel guilty, thinking yourself less of
Vincent bowed his head unable to respond.
She spoke quietly. “And, I feel guilty because no matter what I do, I
can’t help you resolve this. It’s made you short-tempered, you snap at
people, then die inside because you’ve been less than the perfect
person you’ve always felt you must be.” Shaking her head,
confused and distressed, Catherine sobbed, “Maybe I don’t excite you or
I’m not appealing enough.”
“No, it’s not you, Catherine, it’s me.” Sliding his arms beneath
her, Vincent lifted her and carried her to the bed. Nestling her
into the warmth of his arms, he tried to soothe her. Clinging
desperately to each other, their tears mingled as they sobbed in their
As Catherine let herself into her apartment, the stale air combined
with dust created an unpleasant odor and she immediately moved to throw
open the balcony door. Rubbing her temple, she walked into the bedroom
to open those doors, too, hoping the frigid air outside would freshen
the dank smell of the closed apartment.
Swallowing two pain pills, she changed into sweats and returned to the
coolness of the living room. Closing the terrace doors again, she
sat at her desk, took out a sheet of paper and began writing.
“Vincent, this just arrived for you.” Father handed his son the thick,
pale grey envelope and diplomatically withdrew from the chamber.
Recognizing the handwriting, Father knew Vincent would be eager to read
Vincent slit the envelope and withdrew the letter, settling back
against the pillows. His heart filled with a sense of foreboding
as he began reading....
“Vincent, my heart’s dearest treasure, nothing has changed between
us. I love you and will continue to love you with all that I am,
but we must be apart. There is a soul deep ache within me as I
write these words. I want to return to our chamber and sleep
within the warmth of your arms. The selfless part of me, the part
you helped me to discover, knows that for now, I cannot return.
“Please believe and know within the deepest part of you, how much I
love you and long to be with you. This is a journey you must make
alone. You must find that part of you the voices destroyed and
believe in yourself and in the validity, the righteousness of our
love. Whether we become physical lovers again is not the issue;
it is the question of your whole hearted belief in our love.
“Believe and know that there is nothing missing or lacking in my life
because I love you. Believe the truth of my words when I say I
love you, all of you, the gentle scholar as well as the part that
shames you; the side you seek to deny. He is you, and if you
truly love yourself, you must believe and accept that I also love him
because he is you.
“You are my destiny. I have no regrets. With you, through you,
and in you I have found all I could ever wish to know in my life. In
the days to come, know I’m with you. My love is without limits;
it surrounds and holds you always. My heart lies within the
warmth of your being. My soul is with yours. Be well, my love. Be
well. All my love, Catherine
Closing his eyes, Vincent felt Catherine’s presence and the warmth of
her arms holding him. “I love you, Catherine,” he whispered into the
stillness. Within, he knew the wisdom of her words and the
courage it took to leave. He had known she would not return and
he shared the pain of her heartbreak.
Getting slowly to his feet, he carefully folded the letter and placed
it alongside the others she’d written. Sitting at his desk, he
took out his antique silver fountain pen and began writing.
Cleansing his mind of the thoughts that had bombarded him for weeks,
thoughts too long denied that filled his soul with pain, he leaned over
the sheet of paper before him.
The clattering of distant pipe conversations slowed and faded into
faint night tapping’s and still he wrote. He filled one journal and
taking a new one from the shelf, returned to the task.
“Father,” Vincent lopped easily down the spiral staircase, having
returned his third load of books to the upper regions of the library,
“do you have a moment?”
“What? Yes, of course. When have I not had time for you?”
Warm grey eyes peered inquiringly over the top of smudged reading
glasses. “Come, sit down. Tell me what’s on your mind?”
“Father, could we go to the hospital chamber?”
Alarmed, Jacob stood up and reached quickly to touch his son’s forehead, seeking some sign of fever. “Are you ill?”
“No. It’s merely that in the hospital chamber there is less likelihood we will be overheard or interrupted.”
The determined jut of his jaw clearly indicated to Father that Vincent
would reveal nothing further until they were assured of privacy.
Accepting the arm Vincent offered in support, Father mounted the stairs.
Once inside the hospital chamber, Father sat on the stool looking
expectantly at his son. Vincent easily hopped onto the examining
table. The silence continued for several minutes before he looked
up from beneath the hair that hid his features.
“Vincent, what’s troubling you? Your restlessness since Catherine went Above is very apparent.”
“Father, would you examine me, and tell me if you find anything physically wrong?”
“You have never volunteered to be examined so I can only surmise there
is something specific you wish to know about your physical
condition. Would you be kind enough to tell me what information
you seek? You’ve spent three weeks pouring over the medical
section of the library, and while your zeal for knowledge has never
been questioned, I’m curious about your subject matter.”
He slide from the table, pacing the small chamber, the sound of his
boots striking stone echoed softly. His pacing continued
unabated, his fists tightly balled, then he turned, head down, hair
veiling his face, and through clenched teeth, he whispered, “I
need to know if there is a physical reason why I can’t maintain an
Honest, straightforward eyes met his, bearing no sign of shock or
revulsion, and Vincent’s shoulders dropped, the burden of his fear
lifted by the kindly unwavering gaze that met his.
“Would you undress and get on the table, please? I’ll just be a
moment in washing up, and then we can proceed.” Father pulled the
screen around the table, then moved to the nearby kettle, hoping the
water was hot, and began preparing the equipment he might need.
Snapping off the rubber gloves, Father nodded solemnly. “You can get dressed now, and then we’ll talk.”
Vincent emerged from behind the screen, folded it away and waited as Father closed and locked the medical file.
“Come along, let’s get a cup of tea and then we’ll go for a
walk.” Father turned, saw the look of fear in Vincent’s eyes.
“I’m not, in spite of what you may think, biding for time, trying to
think of a way to soften any blow.”
He looked at Vincent intently. “You are not impotent. There are
just a few things I want to discuss with you, and since I anticipate
our talk will be lengthy, I’d like a nice cup of hot tea. And, I
think our discussion would best be suited to a place removed from the
community, where we would have absolute privacy.”
“Yes, Father, I agree.”
They returned to the library without speaking again, each man seemingly
lost in private thoughts. After their tea, Father filled a
thermos with what remained, handed it to Vincent and they left the
library as silently as they had entered.
“No, Father, please, anyplace but here!” Vincent stared after the
retreating figure that proceeded steadily forward in spite of the
Father sat and struggled momentarily, then, finding a comfortable spot,
he leaned back against the stone wall and waited. He could see
Vincent silhouetted in the light near the entrance. “This is
really quite lovely. I suppose you and Devin found this during
your explorations of the forbidden areas of our world?” He eyed
Vincent intently. “Until Catherine led me here, I had no idea of its
“Father, please. There are many places of beauty in our
world. Can we find another place?” Vincent stood stiffly against
the entrance, his head back as he dragged in a ragged breath, his body
rebelling in harmony with the fear that clawed at his mind.
“Come here, please, and sit beside me. It began here Vincent, and
it must end here.” Unconditional love filled Father’s voice,
“I’ve never purposefully hurt or harmed you and would not presume to
inflict you with pain greater than what you’re already experiencing.”
Blind trust led Vincent forward, faith in the man who had nurtured him
even as an inner voice screamed for him to run, to flee this place and
the memories that mocked him and his love for Catherine. He
stared at the man who demanded so much of him, more than he thought it
possible to give, and seeing only love and acceptance staring back,
Vincent slowly slid down beside Father.
“When you were a young boy and something frightened you, you would
always come to me and we would sit together in the rocking chair,
tightly holding each other, until the fear passed.” Father
covered Vincent’s larger hand with both of his, bringing them to his
lips in a gentle kiss. “I’m not so certain I could still hold you
on my lap, but I can hold this much of you.”
His eyes darted to the large hand he still held. “That is, if you would allow me.”
Vincent’s eyes smiled and he returned the firm grasp of Father’s hand.
“I can find no physical evidence that would impair normal sexual
functioning. There is nothing physically wrong with you.
The tests I performed were all typical.”
Vincent’s breath exploded loudly and it was only then he realized he’d been holding it since he sat down.
The silence lengthened and Father continued to regard his son.
“Every man fears the day he will be impotent. At some point in
life, it happens to most men; although we all loathe discussing it
openly, or admitting when it happens, it is a fact.
“When I was a younger man, it was expected that boys would be boys’,
that they would sow their wild oats, and then settle into
marriage. Marriage and those wild oats weren’t necessarily the
same thing. Men were expected to be wise in worldly ways, but
women were to be pure and chaste.
“Women were, in the majority, cheated because men are not patient,
generous teachers, when it comes to matters of sex. More in my
day, then now, we expected our woman to be innocent, and we sometimes
failed to give them pleasure before seeking our own. There wasn’t
the open communication between the sexes that is the custom
today. Sex just wasn’t discussed.”
Father looked a bit chagrined. “Indeed, the first time. Margaret
initiated sex, I was shocked. And when she told me, none too
shyly, that she thought our bathing together would be abundantly
pleasant, I was speechless. Until then, I hadn’t imagined that
Margaret had sexual fantasies. Yes, she loved me, but I couldn’t
believe she would fantasize about it! Foolishly, I believed I was
the only one that would do that!”
The corners of Father’s mouth twitched upward, then he visibly edged
his mouth down, frowning, forcing the obviously pleasant memory
away. “There is other than the standard male dominates position
which is beneficial and pleasurable, when a man has difficulty in
maintaining an erection.
“Physically you are as strong and healthy as you have always
been. Men have a tendency to be easily aroused, often simply by a
look, the sway of a woman’s hips as she walks, the caress of her hand
or the touch of her lips.
“Sex can be purely physical for men; a release of tension, a need to
feel the vitality of life flowing from you, the wild rush of blood and
adrenaline at the moment of ejaculation. Women feel sex and love
are synonymous. They like, want and need foreplay, to be told you
find them beautiful and loved beyond the physical expression of that
“Most of what I’ve told you probably isn’t new to you. At least I
assume this is knowledge you’d probably already gleaned from your
reading over the past three weeks. Were there actually any books
on the subject that you didn’t read?” Father’s smile was tender, his
eyes gentle as he studied his son.
“I shall endeavor not to embarrass you overly much, but there are
however, certain questions I need to ask. Would I be correct to
assume this has happened more than once, perhaps several times?”
At Vincent’s slight nod Father continued, “Given the circumstances of
your sexual awakening, I’m not surprised you’re experiencing some
sexual dysfunction. I was not the best father to you when you
were a teenager; having badly botched the experience you had with Lisa.
I never meant to leave you with such deep emotional scars and fears,
yet in trying to protect you, I did the very opposite. I wounded you.”
“Father, you only tried to...”
“No, please, don’t pretend or gloss over what I did. It’s been
between us for years and it’s time I acknowledged my culpability. Sex
means different things to different people. Two people can copulate and
it’s sex, but to people such as you and Catherine, it is the ultimate
expression of your love, and that can be beautiful beyond words.
When you were here with Catherine, were there any problems in
maintaining an erection?”
“Were you able to climax?”
A deep breath passed clenched teeth as soulful eyes beseeched Father
not to continue his questions. Vincent’s mane cascaded forward, and the
silence lengthened. Finally, he whispered, “No.”
“Your feelings for Catherine, have they changed because of what you’ve shared and this hindrance to your loving?”
“What I feel for Catherine could never change. She is everything,
Father, everything. Until I found her, my life was filled with
service to the community. Yes, I had family...,” those eyes that spoke
most eloquently of unequivocal love caressed the older man, “...a
Father and brother who nurtured me and friends who cared for me, but
there was always something missing.
“I’d witness couples pledge their love before our world, look around at
each naming ceremony, a voyeur to the happiness of others, and I’d be
filled with a need so sweet and rich it defied words. Catherine
gave richness to the word love, I never thought to know. And, to have
my love returned so abundantly is a source of profound wonder to me.”
“When Catherine returned without you, she steadfastly refused to reveal
to me what you actually heard, what the lost voices said. Could
you tell me, Vincent, because I think that is the key to your dilemma.”
Vincent sat staring at the hands that held his and he began to tremble,
his large shoulders shaking uncontrollably. In a bare whisper, he
repeated the damning words that were burned into his soul.
Father gasped, visible shaken by the brutal, depraved words applied to
his beloved son. Outraged, indignant, he swore. “Did you
recognize the voices? Do you know who would utter such filth?”
Bitterness filled his voice, “They were the voices of people who
departed the tunnels months ago because our world was too passive for
Releasing his firm grip, Father eased one hand free and gently stroked
Vincent’s tumbled mass of golden hair. Sad, stricken eyes
searched for words of comfort and finding none, he could only offer,
“Vincent, I am so sorry, so terribly sorry.”
The calloused fingers that soothed frightened sick children and eased
the fears of the dying, stroked tenderly, and as his heart shattered,
Father drew Vincent to his chest. Empathic to the sorrows and
wounds inflicted by cruel, painful words hurled at a small, unique
child more than thirty-four years previously, Father held his son
close, aware of the barbarity thoughtless words still caused.
“Words, they have such extraordinary power. The right words are
spiritually rewarding, creating beauty, broaden the expanse of our
world, taking us far from our safe places into boundaries unmatched in
majesty. Perhaps it is simply that there are no wrong words, only
unconscionable individuals who take perverse pleasure in wounding with
their thoughtless chatter.
“Those words, vile as they are, have no meaning to you, no connotation
to your love of Catherine or what you share. That love has warmed
all of us, bringing a joie di vivre unknown to these cold walls.
Allowing your love for Catherine and the extraordinary love she has for
you to be tainted or ridiculed by mere words, is inconceivable.”
He paused. “Vincent, forgive me. My words implied the problem was of
your own making. That is not the case and I humbly apologize.”
Vincent stirred, easing himself from Father’s chest. His
compassion and caring surfaced, sensing the depth of emotions that had
prompted Father’s words. “Father, there is nothing to forgive.
Your love for Catherine and me fills your heart and I know where your
anger was directed. Please, do not berate yourself.
“How can I forget those words, Father? They haunt my every
moment. I desperately want to love Catherine, to be her lover in
every sense of the word. Each attempt leaves us frustrated and
empty. It’s an agony beyond anything I’ve ever experienced!
I feel the ache inside her, yet she comes joyfully into my arms,
despite the failures and frustrations, never refusing me. Now she
doubts her appeal, wondering if she no longer pleases me.”
Frustration touched his velvety voice, edging it with harshness,
shattering his outward facade of calm. “What am I to do?”
“Your questions, even as a child, were never easily answered.
Your eyes reveal the depth of your pain now, as they did then.
There is no easy answer or solution.” Father shifted, flexing his leg
in an effort to ease his arthritic hip.
“What was said about you and Catherine was irremediable. But,
they were words, only words, Vincent. Vile and reprehensible
damning words, yes, but still they are just words. In our world,
they are unspoken, but in places in the world Above, they are a part of
common, every day language.
“What I’m about to say, the questions I shall ask, are highly personal.
I don’t need nor do I want you to answer. They are questions which may
hopefully allow you, in private, to find resolutions to the doubts that
haunt you. I’ll try to be fair because what I say can be applied
equally to you and to Catherine. As my son, you and your healing
are naturally my first concern, but I am aware she’s been very hurt as
“It was several weeks after your disappearance before I found
forgiveness in my heart toward Catherine. During that dreadful
time, I tried to hold on to the anger I felt following your
disappearance. I blamed Catherine, but as time passed, I
witnessed the depth of her suffering, and realized how deeply she loves
you. There were moments when I was not proud of my actions or
words. Yet, when I attempted to apologize, to right the terrible
wrong I’d done her, she brushed aside my words, telling me it was not
necessary to apologize for loving you, and that my actions were
prompted by that abiding love.”
Vincent’s eyes warmed, the hidden fire within their depths burned
brighter and a gentle breath escaped his lips. “Yes. Even under
duress, Catherine is unfailingly kind and aware of the suffering of
those around her.”
“It’s dreadfully unfortunate the lost voices were heard at the moment
when you were most vulnerable. I’m not sure any man, however
skilled in the art of love, could have recovered and continued in that
particular situation, but for you it was especially tragic.
Hearing such vulgarity applied to yourself and the woman you love at
the precise moment of climax is untenable.
“There is great vulnerability in being naked, even with the woman you
love, because nothing is hidden. For you, with your unusual
physique, it was probably more difficult. Catherine was not
repulsed by your differences, was she? Did she accept you and
find you physically pleasing? Was there difficulty for either of
you in penetration? Did Catherine achieve orgasm?”
Taking a deep breath, Father paused, knowing his questions could
possibly damage Vincent, if they continued much longer. Yet; he had to
finish. “What offended you the most, Vincent? Catherine being
called a bimbo or the act completed by rear penetration, a position
associated in many minds with animal mating? Does the gutter term
for copulation offend you? Are you shocked that the expression of
physical love could be reduced to such a vulgar term as
‘fucking’? Or, is it offensive to find others saying what you
have privately said about yourself when you are consumed with doubts;
that you’re not a man, but a beast?”
The look on Vincent’s face changed dramatically at Father’s harsh
words, and he inhaled sharply, his breath hissing in the stillness.
Stunned, stricken to the core, he gasped, “Father!”
“Perhaps I left your education too much to the lofty ideals of
Shakespeare and Chaucer. Bodies are sold every moment of the day
in the world Above. Women spread their legs and men lie between
them, spewing their seed. Sex is a business to some poor souls.
“Vincent, you love Catherine and she loves you. Any relationship
is beset by doubts and problems. The only solution to this
problem is to look deep within yourself. Time heals the harsh
reality of even the worst pain. Determine what has wounded your
mind and the solution will follow. As your physician, I can
reassure you that physically you are capable. Sex is 90% mental;
images that cause the hormones to race, the blood to be stimulated.
“The words were only that, words, and of themselves, have no
power. Your mind gives them the power to emasculate you.
Speaking as a man of science, I feel it imperative that you stay here
while I return to our world. Stay within the chamber you shared
with Catherine and think about what I’ve said. Find out by self
stimulation if, without Catherine, you can sustain an erection.
You ran from this place in fear and shame, come to it now as a place of
self discovery and pride.”
Blue eyes rose to search grey ones, their questions more profound in the silence than if they’d been spoken.
“Yes, pride. You have overcome more than most, remained kind and
generous to a fault, always giving to others so that they might not see
your differences, but what lies beneath. The doubts that have
plagued you need to be put aside, and you must learn to accept yourself
whole heartily as Catherine - and I - have accepted and loved you.”
Father hunched his back uncomfortably. “Now, if you’ll help me stand,
you will have my thanks. These bones protest the long hours we’ve spent
in conversation. I’ll send Mouse with food and supplies for a
Effortlessly, Vincent helped Father to his feet. They embraced, holding
each other firmly, wrapped within their mutual love and respect.
Offering his arm for support, he walked Father to the entrance of the
“Shall I walk you home, Father?”
“I’d be glad for your company, but no. I saw your trail markings along
the wall. There is only one incline and the rest is fairly easy.”
“Then I shall walk with you past the incline in the event my arm is needed. Father, there are no words to thank you.”
“I need no words, my son. Know that I love you and wish only happiness and pleasure in your life.”
Gathering Father against his chest, he pressed a kiss against his forehead, responding, “I love you.”
The week within the cavern proved challenging, but rewarding. Father’s
words echoed constantly within Vincent’s mind, lifting his self doubts
and clearing his cluttered thinking, giving sharp focus to his deeper
feelings. The bitterness buried within his heart slowly began to
shatter and the words of the lost voices became as other taunts hurled
at him during his life; the words of small minded, unhappy individuals
whose world revolves and feeds off the unhappiness they are able to
He lay beside the pool, relaxed and comfortable with his nudity, and
allowed his hands to freely trace his body. Closing his eyes, he
recalled the feel of Catherine’s silky skin against his and the touch
of her mouth traveling the length of his body. The vision of her
grew, enlarging until the image of Catherine’s loving filled his mind
and he groaned softly, his pleasure increasing. His eyes flew
open as the milky essence of his seed spread warmly over his thigh.
Soft gentle laughter burst from his chest, filling the cavern, and he stood, knifing cleanly into the pool.
Catherine’s nose burrowed against his arm as her hand slid to rest more
firmly against the sensitive flesh of his inner thigh. “Is
Her soft sleepy voice coupled with the actions of her hand broke
Vincent’s reverie. “No, nothing is wrong. I was just
remembering the last five months, all we have been through and how
grateful I am for you and your love. Our tribulation has proved
the depth of our love and commitment, leading us through a purifying
fire into this world of beauty beyond imagining.
“I’m grateful and humble. Loving me has not been easy and the
fears that I have were not easily overcome. Yet, you stayed with
me and loved me when it would have been easier to have given up.”
Sliding his hands beneath her warmth, he lifted her against his chest.
“Giving up was never an option, Vincent, never. Loving you was
and is, the easiest of all,” her smile was tender and she pressed
several kisses to his chest.
Sliding his fingers into her sleep tousled hair, Vincent lifted
Catherine’s face towards his, kissing her gently. “Catherine, if it’s
easy to love me, would you mind showing me all over again?”
“I thought you’d never ask.”
Their soft laughter floated gently, and then the chamber grew silent as
Vincent’s voice intoned the vintage poem, “the best is yet to be*.”
* Grow Old Along With Me by Robert Browning
Revised August 2012