The Storm Within

by Pat Leslie

With the authorís permission, from the zine "Castles in the Air"

The sky matched Catherineís black mood; she was amazed that the weather could change so drastically in just a few short hours. When she had left the city in the early afternoon to interview a potential witness, the sky had been bright blue and laced with cotton-colored clouds. But the witness had proved to be useless and valuable time had been wasted. Now, Catherineís concern about the case, and the weather, creased her brow.

Then a warm smile touched the corners of her mouth as she recalled the previous evening with Vincent. The sky had been so beautiful at dusk that sheíd chosen to walk through the park toward the tunnel entrance. Leaning against the outer wall, she had waited for Vincentís arrival. As a feeling of warmth and safety enveloped her, Catherine sensed his approach even before he softly whispered her name.

"Catherine, youíre early; are you well?"

She smiled at Vincent and looked again at the sky, seeing only a ghost of the moon in the newly arrived darkness. "It was such a glorious day, Iím almost sad to see it end." She looked deep into Vincentís eyes and continued. "But now we can be together for a while,"--Catherine moved to lean against the solid wall of Vincentís chest--"and wait for the stars."

Vincent wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on her head. "Yes," he murmured, enjoying the softness of her hair and its flower-like fragrance. "Roses. Your hair smells of roses. Itís quite...intoxicating."

"I hoped you would like it," Catherine whispered, then sighed as she relaxed more deeply into his embrace...

Reality returned as rain began to splash against the windshield of Catherineís car. "Damn!" was her only response as she turned on the heater and began to search for a weather report on the radio. She was still twenty minutes from home and the road was becoming slick. In her rush for spring, Catherine hadnít dressed for the possibility of a storm. She began to shiver and adjusted the heat lever one more time.

Suddenly there was a loud noise and the car pulled to the right. Catherine lost control on the slick surface and headed directly for a large maple ten feet off the road.

********************

Vincent lounged against a large rock across from the waterfall. He was reading a book of poetry--a gift that Catherine had presented to him the night before. In it was a poem about lovers who, though separated by an ocean, were brought together again by their love. A love infinitely strong, Vincent mused. Lately, he was beginning to feel that his and Catherineís ocean was not impassable. The strength of their love could allow them to break new ground in their relationship. He wanted to be as close to her as possible. A deep sigh escaped him. To be with her. The importance and the need of it surpassed all else.

The sound of falling water lulled Vincent to sleep and he dreamed of a future in the sunlight with Catherine. He was pulled from his gentle slumber suddenly by a feeling of anxiety; the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Catherine! Vincent sensed her location and visualized her condition instantly, then leaping to his feet, he ran toward his love.

Catherine lifted her head gingerly from the steering wheel.

"Damn!" She shook her head clear and got out of the car to survey the damage. The front right tire was blown, and the fender was dented. Well, she thought, I have changed a tire before. As the icy rain beat against her face, Catherine realized that the temperature had fallen at least twenty degrees.

She removed the spare and jack from the trunk and went to work. Trying to ignore the cold and wet was difficult, as her hands stiffened and moved awkwardly, but she finally managed to replace the tire. The accomplishment was not without a price. Suddenly she felt exhausted and her head began to pound.

"Iíll be fine once I turn up the heat," she told herself in a shaky voice. For the first time since the accident, she examined her reflection in the rear view mirror, and gasped aloud at the swollen purple bruise above her left eye. Catherine pressed her lips together in a firm line of determination, dismissing the injury for now. At the moment, it was more important to get home and out of her wet clothes, then to fret over a black and blue eye. She turned the ignition key, but nothing happened.

"Damn it!" Catherine spat and banged her hand against the steering wheel in a fit of temper. "All right, Cath, just calm down," she said between clenched teeth, her head throbbing painfully. The engine will start, just try it again."

Catherine turned the key again, but the engine remained silent. Stranded, wet and shaking, Catherine rested her pounding head against the steering wheel, beginning to feel frightened by the situation.

"Vincent, I need you" she whispered in defeat.

Vincent knew that he must reach her soon. Although protected from the rain by his heavy cloak, the cold air was painful as it seared his lungs and he panted laboriously as he crossed a clearing. It was quite dark now, but his remarkable vision helped him locate the stranded car near the side of the road. Vincent ran faster through the downpour, for although he could not see Catherine, he sensed her presence.

She was unconscious against the steering wheel when Vincent ripped the car door open. So fragile, he thought, gently lifting her shoulders. Examining her face, Vincent saw she was ashen, her lips blue and shaking with cold; the bruise on her forehead appeared even more ghastly against her pallor.

"Catherine!" Vincent said urgently, but he knew that she could not respond. He lifted her from the car and carried her swiftly toward the warmth and safety of the tunnel world. Catherine stirred to semi-consciousness as Vincentís breath warmed her chilled face. She called to him, still unaware that she was in the safety of his arms, and her delirium frightened him. With sure-footed determination, he arrived at a tunnel entrance rarely used because of its distance from the community.

Once inside, Vincent found the tunnel flooded and the way to safety blocked. Alone, Vincent would have had no trouble continuing, but because of the slippery footing and Catherineís awkward weight, Vincent was only able to carry her to a dry ledge twenty feet from the entrance. It could be hours before they would be able to continue.

Vincent gently lowered Catherine to the ledge, placing her back against the wall of the tunnel. Again, she called out to him deliriously and Vincentís heart raced in panic. He had to find some way to warm her! He searched the entrance for brush and debris. Finally, he had a small fire going and hoped that its warmth would be enough. But it wasnít. She needed to be warm and dry.

Vincent looked at her and, unable to stand still because of the intensity of his thoughts, began to pace like a caged animal, searching for a solution beyond the one he recognized. With a sigh of resignation, he accepted the fact that Catherineís wet clothing had to be removed. Vincent leaned against the damp wall and looked upward as though begging some fickle god to stop toying with his emotions. There was no other option, he had to act. Catherine needed his help.

Once Vincent made the decision, his actions were precise and without hesitation. Kneeling beside Catherine with the light from the dying fire glowing in his blue eyes, he slowly peeled each rain-soaked garment from her chilled body. She stirred only slightly as he removed her jacket. Her sheer pink blouse was so wet that it had become transparent, and Vincent expelled a loud breath as he gently unbuttoned the tiny pearl closures. Vincent glanced away as he slipped the blouse from her body, but not without noticing the delicate lace bra which matched the color of her blouse.

His breath was labored as he slipped Catherineís skirt down over her hips. Now he could wrap her in his cloak, and perhaps sheíd grow warm enough; but still, she shivered though the lining of his cloak was dry. Vincent continued to look at her..her hair..it was still very wet. Pulling his bulky sweater over his head, Vincent removed his shirt. The pure white garment was still warm from his body as he wrapped it gently around Catherineís head and carefully dried her hair.

"So beautiful," he whispered to himself as his furred fingers gently smoothed the hair away from her eyes.

"Vincent?" Catherineís eyes flickered open, then closed as she drifted off again.

The temperature continued to drop and Vincent was able to keep the fire burning for another hour before he ran out of brush. Shivering involuntarily, Vincent knew Catherine needed to stay warm and so did he. Again, he removed his sweater. This time, he unwrapped the cloak and lifted Catherine so that he could slide the sweater down over her small body. It reached almost to her knees and provided much more warmth.

His hand inadvertently touched the soft curve of her breast as he adjusted the garment and his breath caught in his throat as Catherine spoke his name. Her voice seemed different somehow. Was she aware of him? Did she know what was happening? For a moment, Vincent seemed in a trance, his hand held motionless near her breast. Then he remembered who he wasÖwhat he was. He smoothed the sweater over her hips and enfolded her in his cloak.

Vincentís mind raced, disturbed by thoughts of deep embraces. The soft, golden fur on his chest seemed to thicken with his labored breathing. The thoughts! He could not keep his mind in check as he always had in her presence. If he were unable to establish control, he would do something unspeakable, something that they would both regret for an eternity! He moved away from her; distance was a must.

Vincent placed both hands against the tunnel wall, stretching his body and lowering his head between his arms, he forced himself to concentrate-to center himself upon what must happen. He was uncertain of the amount of time it took him to regain control, but he was able to establish a hold on himself. With a shaky sigh, and a most serious expression, Vincent sat on the floor near Catherine and leaned against the wall.

He lifted his love into his arms. Their shared body warmth almost burned him as he draped her across his chest and folded the cloak around them both. His head slammed back against the wall as he looked upward and struggled for breath. The emotional storm Vincent was caught in was more difficult to battle than any in his memory. His hands trembled as he smoothed her hair and rubbed the length of her slender back beneath his sweater. How soft she was, how warm and dry finally.

They remained that way into the night. Vincent was unable to sleep as passionate thoughts continued to race through his head and his body burned with the sensual imagery. God, how he needed her!

Catherine came to consciousness in stages, the first thing she heard was the sound of a bird singing to its mate. And though her head still ached, it did not interfere with the lingering memory of the marvelous dream sheíd awakened from. She dreamed that Vincent came to her, his eyes filled with passion as he stepped through the balcony doors into her bedroom.

"I need you," he said simply, then heíd lowered his head, embarrassed by his boldness.

Catherine walked over to him, two steps and she stood before him. Reaching out, she slid the cloak from his shoulders, letting it fall in a careless heap at his feet.

Vincentís head snapped up suddenly and his piercing blue eyes met her sparkling green ones as a sharp breath escaped his parted lips. She hadnít slipped into her robe, and her breasts swelled against the filmy fabric of her gown as she stepped up on her toes, moving her body sensuously upward along Vincentís rough textured sweater to plant a gentle kiss upon his exposed throat.

He threw his head back, his breath caught raggedly in his throat, and Catherine took his silence as a sign to continue. She ran her hands slowly from his shoulders to his chest, enjoying his taut muscles more intimately than she had ever dared. Vincentís arms came around her as he breathed her name over and over again. Catherine pulled the sweater from the confines of the leather belt hugging his waist, and she slipped her hands beneath the fabric to caress his furred back.

Her own breathing became labored as she looked into his eyes, silently asking his permission to continue. She saw a combination of emotions in his desire darkened eyes: love, fear, lust, shame. Without words, he transmitted the message to her, and she slowly pulled the garment over his head, letting it join the cloak on the carpeted floor. Catherine took his hand in hers and led him toward her bed.

"Catherine, I..." She placed a finger over his lips. Words were not necessary; Vincent was under her spell. He was so caught up in the sensation of her hands on his body that he failed to register the fact that she was removing the rest of his clothes.

"Youíre so beautiful," Catherine said in a throaty whisper. Her eagerness was apparent when she stared deeply into his eyes. Her lips sought his and she felt ready to explode as her tongue moved gingerly across his sharp teeth.

Vincentís hands tightened around her slim waist even as he pulled his head back and gasped for breath. His retreat was brief, for he leaned forward again within seconds, and kissed Catherine thoroughly, deeply.

Gravity pulled them downward toward Catherineís bed where their kisses intensified until she heard herself whimper in reaction to the heated contact. She took his hand and placed it on her breast. The pressure of Vincentís hand was gentle, but his eyes reflected the wild, fierce feelings within, and she became lost in his heated gaze.

Catherineís head jerked upward suddenly and she looked into Vincentís blue eyes. She was in his arms, but they werenít in her bed! As they stared into each otherís eyes, Catherine knew that Vincent had experienced her dream just as she had. Their bond was even stronger when they were close and touching each other as they were now. He knew everything; he had experienced everything.

She reacted to a place deep inside her that was resigned to what must happen now. There was no way to brush this aside, and act as though it had never happened. That would be a lie, and Catherine wanted only truth between them now. She leaned toward him and kissed him tenderly on the lips as she had done in her dream, their dream. He did not resist or argue, and she sensed that at this moment he was hers.

"Take me to your chamber," she whispered.

They rose, Catherine slightly wobbly, more from her current emotions than from the accident, her eyes still holding his. Vincent looked away only long enough to judge whether the way was clear. He gathered Catherineís discarded clothing, and after a reassuring embrace from Catherine, took her hand in his and led her toward their destiny.

The tunnels were virtually empty in the early hours before dawn, except for the occasional sentry posted in secret chambers to watch through narrow openings carved into the rock. Intruders were seldom, but the need for caution was always on the minds of the tunnel dwellers. Catherine was oblivious to the presence of the sentries as she and Vincent walked toward his chamber. Vincent sensed the presence of each covert watcher, but his mind was focused upon Catherine and what lay ahead.

Soon they were in Vincentís chamber. Catherine was truly surprised when she looked around her and realized that they were standing very close to his massive bed. She saw a mixture of desire and apprehension in his eyes, and she reached up and touched his cheek, hoping to alleviate his fears.

"I love you so much," she choked back a sob. "Nothing could be more wonderful than sharing that love with you. I need you, Vincent, more than ever."

Catherineís hands moved along Vincentís chest to meet at the back of his neck where she absently smoothed his tawny hair. She pressed her body as close to him as possible and sighed deeply.

"Please, Vincent," she moaned.

He trembled, expelling the breath heíd been holding too long in his lungs. "This is something Iíve never dared to dream of, Catherine. I never want to lose you. The longing and disappointment would destroy me, if we loved and then I lost you."

The faintest of smiles curved the corners of Catherineís mouth. "Vincent, you could never lose me. I want nothing more than to be with you, to make our bond complete. I plan to be with you for the rest of our lives."

"Catherine, there are so many-"

She moved quickly and took his mouth with hers before he had the chance to list ten of Fatherís reasons why they needed to be cautious. The kiss was deep and stole his breath. He pulled back slightly to avoid losing himself, but Catherine allowed him only a few seconds before her next attack. She used her tongue and hands expertly to arouse Vincent, hoping that his body would take over where his mind hesitated. The protests were soon replaced by labored breathing and incoherent love words.

Vincent allowed his own boldness to initiate deeper kisses and exploratory caresses. As though they had a mind of their own, his hands slipped under the sweater heíd placed on her earlier and began massaging the warm, supple flesh of Catherineís back. He pulled her firmly against his aroused body while his hands moved higher until they brushed against the lacy bra heíd tried so hard not to admire hours before.

Catherineís mind was lost in a red haze of desire. "Vincent," she breathed against his mouth, "I want you. Please...donít stop. I want you to touch me." As aroused as he was, she knew that he could deny her. If that happened, the disappointment would surely break her heart.

He paused a moment, then his hands moved across the silky fabric of Catherineís bra in search of the closure. "I canít..." he began, sounding somewhat frustrated by the task.

"In the front," she responded to the unfinished appeal. When Vincent slid his hand forward, Catherine gasped as his claws trailed lightly across her sensitive nipples. Their eyes met as Vincent found the hidden clasp; the sweater and bra were no more than a memory.

Her soft, white flesh was now exposed to Vincentís tortured eyes. "Catherine," he said after a long moment, "you are beautiful verywhere."

Catherine took his hands and placed them on her hips, encouraging him to remove her panties. The look in Vincentís eyes was fiery as she began to help him with his task. In a moment she was totally naked, vulnerable to whatever was to happen. Her strong emotions caused a shiver as she hugged Vincent tightly. The heat from Vincentís aroused flesh became almost unbearable. Catherine wrapped her arms tightly around Vincentís waist and lifted herself to fit more intimately against him. His response was immediate. Catherine allowed no time for thought. She moved against him erotically and kissed his chest, sliding her tongue around his nipple. Her aroused moan pulled deeply at him. Vincentís hands, seeming to move of their own accord, slipped below her waist and crushed her even more tightly against his hardened flesh, his breathing now coming in shallow gasps.

"Vincent, I want to see you," she moaned weakly. The hesitation in his eyes led her to continue. "I will love every part of you. You have nothing to hide from me," she pleaded between ragged breaths,"I am not afraid."

Vincent leaned his fevered brow against her shoulder, his heart pounded in his ears and his blood had become liquid fire burning through his veins. He had one fleeting thought that this act could doom them both, but he could not resist her need or his. He surrendered to the gentle touch of her hands, until he stood naked before her.

Vincent was truly magnificent, but Catherine wisely chose to save her praise for a time when he would be more receptive. His eyes were tightly closed against the look of revulsion he expected. She embraced him with love and acceptance and he melted in her arms. His expression was full of wonder and gratitude when he looked at her, but Catherine simply took his hand in hers and led him to the bed. She did not draw back the covers, but motioned for Vincent to lie on his back. He trembled with the effort it took for him to stay linked to her, to remain as the man she loved. Another part of him-less human-wanted to grab her and throw her to the floor, take her quickly, and violently satisfy his savage need.

Catherine leaned over him and began to explore every part of him that had been so long denied. Vincentís damp body was incredibly hot, and his perspiration matted the light covering of fur as Catherineís fingers trailed across his muscled, heaving chest. Her hand fluttered lightly down his right thigh, then traveled between his knees, moving ever upward. Vincent jerked suddenly and grabbed her wrist in an iron grip. His labored breathing rumbled in his chest as he looked wildly into her eyes. "I need you...now!"

He released her as suddenly as heíd grabbed her, but the message was clear. Play time was over and Catherine lay down beside him, her hands on his shoulders as she moved her face toward his for an explosive kiss. Incredibly aroused, Catherine opened her eyes to see the fevered blue gaze that penetrated through to her soul. She moved above him and slid her knees apart to straddle his hips. Placing her hands on his chest, she pushed herself into an upright position and reached for him.

Vincentís erection was huge and Catherine considered the possibility that, had she been less aroused, penetration would have been difficult at best. With great care, she eased his manhood inside her and the sensation of being totally filled provoked a feeling so intense she was certain she would not survive it. Catherine opened her eyes to look at Vincent through a hazy veil of lust, and was confused by his expression of pleasure and excruciating pain.

Her eyes traveled down his torso, then stopped suddenly. Vincentís arms were held tightly to his sides, the bedding gathered into his clenched fists. His claws had torn through several layers of fabric as he fought for control. Catherineís eyes widened in comprehension as she realized how much effort it took for Vincent to keep himself from hurting her. Uncertain of what was to come, she leaned forward and gazed into his tortured eyes.

"I love you, Vincent," she said softly. As her words reached him, his expression changed; his look becoming sublime instead of savage.

Slowly, Catherine began to move against him, pleasure conquering fear, but the sounds coming from her lover were sounds she associated with physical violence, not physical love. She closed her eyes and concentrated on the bond, sending forth all the trust she had in Vincent in steady, pulsing waves.

Vincentís efforts to fight the savage darkness within him seemed to be working. The love and trust he felt in Catherine gave him the strength to hold back the beast. The animal sounds began to change as he focused on his belovedís eyes. The power of love gentled him until Catherine heard the sounds of ultimate pleasure coming from her lover; the man she loved and desired gazed at her with passion-dark eyes as he moaned her name.

Catherine knew their dance of love would soon end; she craved and yet dreaded the moment when Vincent would reach for her to love her with his hands. Would their bond keep her safe? Could Vincent truly control that part of him that was untamed?

When Vincentís hands finally left the shredded bedding and reached for her soft flesh, Catherine swallowed a gasp. She trusted in their bond, their love for each other, and she concentrated only on the pleasure she felt from their intimate union. In confirmation of that trust, Vincentís hands clasped her hips with gentle firmness, seeking only to hold her in place as he thrust upward into her yielding flesh.

Vincentís thrusts continued, deep and hard. Catherineís moans of ecstasy encouraged him to trust his intuition, and be guided by their special bond. Suddenly, Catherine felt herself being lifted gently and placed on her back, though her body remained joined with his. Vincent braced himself on his elbows above her and looked down into her love-glazed, green eyes and held his hips still even though Catherine squirmed beneath him.

He cocked his head to one side as though listening closely to something in the distance, then he returned his gaze to Catherine, and leaning back slightly, he slipped his hand between them. With the ball of his thumb, Vincent searched for and found the throbbing bud that radiated so much pleasure throughout Catherineís body. He massaged the love-slick tissue deliberately until she trembled uncontrollably and sobbed his name as she gasped for breath.

Vincent allowed Catherine to set her own pace and use his body to bring about her own satisfaction. Whimpering, she squeezed her eyes shut and ground her hips against him until suddenly, she was still. Vincent felt Catherineís body clutch and release him repeatedly until her scream of fulfillment was muffled against his chest, then he took control again, thrusting deep inside her body until his own release came. He felt as though his life force had been emptied into her. With a deep groan, he pulled away from her and fell heavily against the bed, his head resting on Catherineís belly.

********************

Catherine awakened first as the fur on Vincentís nose tickled her belly. Groggily, she raised herself upon her elbows to study her lover who slept soundly, pillowed by her soft, warm flesh. At first glance, Vincent appeared totally blissful; his expression so sweet that she was drawn to touch him. As she reached down to smooth the hair away from his beautiful face, she noticed a change. Vincentís expression became one of profound sadness, and a tear escaped his eye. The change was distressing to her. Was he having a nightmare?

"Vincent," she said touching his cheek and his eyes opened slowly, pain evident in his cloudy blue gaze.

"Catherine? Catherine!" He sat up abruptly and clasped the hand which had been touching his face.

"Vincent, what is it?"

Unable to ignore his own nudity, he pulled the bedspread to his shoulders and moved up to cradle her in his arms, but Catherineís feelings were hurt. She was filled with joy from their lovemaking and she naturally expected the same response from him. He felt the happiness drain from her and knew he had to explain himself, and resolve the feelings that hung like storm clouds over their future.

"I had a dream," he said in a low voice, looking into her eyes. "We were together, as we were this morning, as lovers. Then suddenly we were walking hand in hand down a crowded street. Many people stopped to stare at us, but you took no notice of them. We continued to walk and the people who confronted us were those that we know, people who are important to us. Father was there, and your friends, Joe and Jenny. Father had the most disapproving look on his face before he turned away. His voice seemed to come out of the sky. íI warned you! I warned you!,í he shouted. At the same time, Joe shook his hand in my face and called me a freak and a monster. Jenny looked at you with disgust and demanded to know what was wrong with you."

Vincent swallowed hard, it seemed hard for him to continue, so Catherine held him tighter and prompted him to finish.

"It was the next part, Catherine, that was the most difficult to endure. The sky darkened and it began to rain. Lightning struck all around as your father appeared before us. He looked at us with an expression of revulsion and anger, then he turned from you saying, I have no daughter. She is dead to me.í

He looked at Catherine closely to see how she responded to this unhappy experience. He measured his words carefully, finding the subject matter unfamiliar to him, the words foreign.

"Earlier, when we shared our love physically, I was filled with fear that I might harm you, drive you away from me forever. Through our bond, you led me through that fear into joy. But this dream troubles me. Have we dared to dream too much?"

Catherine pressed Vincentís head to her breast and stroked his hair. She planned her words carefully, for they would be the most important words of her life.

"Vincent," her voice was full of conviction as she spoke, "It was only a dream. It was your fear talking to you, not what will be. We have a future together, a future filled with love and hope and happiness."

She captured his face between her small hands and stared into his eyes. She would make him understand, see the truth of her words. "I promise these things to you, Vincent. We will share our lives. We will have our time in the sunshine together. Weíll be together Above and Below, and you will feel no fear of discovery when we are together. Believe it, if you truly believe in our love and our bond."

She kissed him lightly on the lips before continuing. "Vincent, think of all that weíve accomplished together since you found me that night in the park. Can you honestly say that the rest of our dreams are impossible?"

He held her hand tightly and looked at her, concentrating on what his heart told him. In a way, his life had always been so simple. He knew that he would be limited to the world Below, that he would always be a friend, never a lover. After all, the message had been a clear one, delivered by Father for as long as Vincent could remember. And yet, all that had happened since Catherine had entered his life seemed to negate Fatherís "rules" for his existence.

Vincent blinked his eyes. Clearing away his thoughts, he turned his attention back to the lovely green eyes watching him. You do truly love me with all your heart, Catherine. To give you anything less than my all would be to mock our love, our bond. But is a happy ending awaiting us?

"Yes, Vincent. We will have our happy ending."

Surprise registered quickly on Vincentís face as he realized that their bond had grown so strong that Catherine was able to read his thoughts. No other sign was needed to convince him of the rightness of their love.

Vincentís eyes were bright with emotion as he scooped Catherine into a soul-shattering embrace. The excitement of this moment left them breathless and giddy, filled with the most satisfying contentment imaginable. They planted quick, light kisses upon each otherís faces, interspersed with sighs and smiles. They had never felt more like happy children, and at the same time, like passionate lovers. When their eyes met, it was as if they were making love again, only this time through their empathic bond. Breathless, Vincent broke away for a moment to reaffirm the decision that had become obvious to them.

"Yes, CatherineÖwe will have a happy life."