"Please Radcliffe. If it wasnít important I wouldnít ask. That bastard is up for parole; and without you appearing before the parole board, heís got a good chance of getting out." Joe pleaded.
Catherine just sat there in her office in Providence. Even though Joe said it would never happen, she had been given another chance at that job in Rhode Island.
"I donít know. I hate to think of Mitch Denton getting out on Ďgood behavior,í but I really donít have the time to get away." The truth was that she couldnít bear to see anyone or anything that reminded her of Vincent.
Joe wasnít giving up so easily. "He shot you for Christ sakes. He was convicted of attempted murder and racketeering. You know as well as I do, that he was guilty of much more. Heíll be back to his old tricks in no time. Please, help me keep him in prison for a few more years."
Catherine sighed. "Okay, okay, stop twisting my arm. But Ö Iím only coming for the parole hearing, and Iíll meet you at Attica Ö not your office. I donít want to come into New York, City. Itís too much of a hassle."
Joe laughed. "Too much of a hassle? This from a tried and true New Yorker? I canít believe those words came out of your mouth. But I agree to your terms, counselor. Iíll see you on Thursday at 2:00 p.m."
Catherine hung up the phone and tried to bring her focus back to what she was working on before Joeís call.
"Hey Cathy, why the long face? Cheer up. Only two more hours of this place and itís you and me out on the town. I canít wait." Lee Camden flashed his killer smile as he stuck his head into her office and then walked on down the hall.
Catherine sighed and went back to work. She was determined to enjoy herself this evening with the very handsome Lee Camden and put Vincent and the tunnels out of her mind.
"Come on Cathy, let me come up. Weíve been dating for six weeks and I still havenít been inside your apartment. This is getting old." Lee was standing outside of her building with a very irritated look on his face. "Whatís the problem? Weíre two healthy adults who enjoy each othersí company. I could make you feel real good Ö make you forget all your troubles? What do you say?"
She wanted to give in. She wanted to lose herself in passion with this extremely handsome man. What was wrong with her? She had left Vincent over two years ago -correction - she had been forced away by Vincent over two years ago. She just couldnít do it. "Iím sorry Lee. Letís just call it a night." Catherine turned and entered her building leaving a very agitated Lee standing alone.
Catherine stood before the parole panel with Joe sitting to her left. Mitch Denton was sitting beside his attorney staring at her.
"As I said at the trial, Mitch Denton kidnapped me; and when I attempted to escape, he shot me in the back and fled the scene. Had I not gotten immediate medical attention, I would have died. He is an extremely dangerous man. He is a repeat offender, and I donít believe that he has shown any remorse for his actions. Good conduct aside; it is not in the best interest of the people of the state of New York for this man to be set free on parole."
The parole board deliberated for a few minutes and then the chairperson rose.
As soon as the words left the chairpersonís mouth, Mitch jumped up and yelled over at Catherine. "Hey Miss Chandler, I hear from my old man that your boyfriend is dying. He got hurt real bad. Canít say that Iíll cry any tears for old Vincent."
Mitchís attorney was trying to shut him up. One of the guards grabbed Mitch and shoved him out of the room.
Catherine felt like she had been kicked in the stomach. Her face drained of all color and she felt faint. Joe was alarmed.
"Hey, Cathy, donít listen to him. Heís just spouting off Ö trying to hurt you. He canít possibly know anything about any boyfriends of yours. How could he ... locked up in Attica?" But Joe could tell that she had been deeply affected by what Mitch Denton had said.
"Just give me a minute, Joe. Iíll be okay." In truth she was far from okay. She needed to be alone. She needed to get away from him so she could think.
"How about we get a cup of coffee? I know a place about twenty minutes from here. Iíll drive us there and weíll come back here afterward for your car." Joe wanted to keep an eye on her. He had missed her a lot Ė more than he wanted to admit Ė since she had left for Providence. He cared about her and wanted to make sure she was okay.
"Sorry Joe but I canít. I need to get back. Iím glad the parole hearing went the way you wanted. Iíll stay in touch." She just wanted to escape.
"I donít think youíre in any condition to drive. Letís at least sit for a while until you stop shaking. Will you at least do that?" He took hold of her arm and led her toward her car. "Letís sit in your car for a while and talk."
"Okay. Just for a few minutes. I really want to get back. Iíve got a lot of work to do. I let a couple of things go to be here today." They reached her car and got in.
"Cut the crap Cathy. Tell me whatís going on. Who is Vincent? Is he the reason you were in such bad shape before you left for Providence? I respected your privacy then but itís been two years and obviously youíre still affected." He was sitting in the passenger seat with his body turned toward hers.
"Heís an old friend Ö somebody thatís no longer a part of my life. I just wasnít prepared to hear anything about him Ö especially bad news. Iíll be okay. I just need some time. Please just let me go." She looked straight into Joeís eyes and begged for his understanding.
When Cathy got back to Providence, she walked into her office and sat at her desk. She had considered making this call ever since she left Joe back at Attica. She opened her personal phone book and looked up Peterís number in New Mexico.
"Hello." Peter answered after the third ring.
ĎPeter, itís Cathy. How are you doing?" She tried to make herself sound calm.
"Good, Cathy. Itís really great to hear from you. How are you doing?" He was surprised to hear from Cathy. He hadnít talked to her in months.
"Peter, Iím not going to pretend that Iím calling you just to catch up. We both know why I havenít kept in touch the way I should. But I heard something today from an unlikely source and I would like to know if itís true." She had a definite tremor in her voice now.
"You mean about Vincent getting hurt? Iím surprised that anybody told you about that. Not that you wouldnít care . . . itís just that you made it very clear that you didnít want anybody to mention Vincent or the tunnels to you ever again." Peter knew how much of an emotional toll this call must be taking on her.
"So itís true. Heís been seriously injured?" She was struggling not to cry.
"Yes, itís true. Itís bad. He was trapped in a rock slide and it took a couple of days to free him. By the time he was out, he had lost a lot of blood. He had numerous lacerations and abrasions, a broken leg and arm and a punctured lung. It happened over a month ago, and he isnít recovering like he should. Jacob is understandably concerned. He sent me a letter through a helper. He would like for me to come to see Vincent. Iíve been thinking about going." Peter could hear Catherine crying on the other end of the line.
"Oh Peter, I canít stand to know that heís hurt and not do anything. I promised myself I would never go back to the tunnels after he pushed me away. Iím torn. Please tell me what I should do." Catherine sounded so forlorn.
"I canít tell you what to do. You should ask yourself whether itís pride or self preservation that is keeping you away. If itís only your pride that would be hurt by going to see him, I think you should go. But if you think that seeing Vincent again is going to cause you to spin into the depressed state that you were in two years ago, I think you should stay away. Only you can answer that question," Peter reasoned.
"Iím going to think about it. Iíll let you know what I decide. Iím going to try to clear my calendar for a few days just in case I decide to go." She sounded calmer Ė more like the capable attorney that he knew her to be.
"Okay, if you decide to go, Iíll come out for a few days myself. You can stay with me at my brownstone while youíre there. That way you wonít have to stay in a hotel. I havenít seen you for over a year. Iíd like a chance to visit with you." Peter sounded hopeful.
"Sounds good. Iíll call you tomorrow with my decision." Catherine hung up the phone and started looking through her calendar to see what could be delayed for a few days.
That evening when she got home, she allowed herself to think back to those last few weeks before the end of her relationship with Vincent.
Vincent had mostly recovered from the illness that had nearly claimed his sanity and his life. Catherine had stayed by his side throughout that time. She had been so certain that their relationship was on solid ground. They had been so close before he got sick. He had even told her that he loved her after spending those three days at her apartment. She clung to that memory and thought they would build from there. That wasnít the case. He had withdrawn more and more from her as the days and weeks went by. She remembered that final conversation as though it had happened yesterday. . .
"Vincent, I donít understand why youíre distancing yourself from me. You havenít come to see me for weeks, and I havenít pushed you because I know youíve been sick. But when Iíve come to see you, youíve been cold ... almost like a stranger. You barely touch me or look at me. Please tell me whatís wrong. Why are you doing this to us?"
"Iím sorry Catherine. I just think that it is time to end our relationship. Losing the bond is a blessing really. Without the bond Iíll be able to let you go Ö really let you go. Iíve tried so hard in the past, but now it will be easier ... for both of us. I do not wish to hurt you, but I find that I must. We have been fooling ourselves. This can never work between us. It will be easier if we make a clean break. Please, for both our sakes, just go. Go back to your life Ö back to where you belong. And let me go back to the life I had before you."
She had pleaded and cajoled but he had refused to give in. He had clamped down so much on his emotions that he seemed devoid of feeling. She couldnít get through to him - couldnít break through that shell that he had built around himself. In the end, she just couldnít take any more rejection. She had left and vowed to never return.
Should she go see him? Would he want to see her? Would he even talk to her? In the end she decided that she must go see him, even if he didnít want her to. She would never be able to forgive herself if he died without her saying goodbye. He was, and would always be, the only man she had ever truly loved.
"Peter, Iím driving to New York, City tomorrow morning. Iíll take you up on your offer of the brownstone. I still have the key you gave me. Iíll see you when you get there." Catherine left a message on Peterís machine when he didnít answer. She would leave in the morning. She didnít need to think about it over night. She already knew that she had to go. She had no choice.
When Catherine got to the city, she stopped by a helperís business before going to Peterís so she could get a message to Father. She had written him a short note and hoped for a quick reply to her request. Out of respect for Father, as well as the protocol of the tunnel community, she needed Fatherís approval to visit the tunnels. She reviewed the note one more time before sliding it into the envelope.
I know that you might blame me for what happened between Vincent and me. Although you never really trusted me, believe me when I tell you that it was not my choice to leave him. Even though he hurt and rejected me, I still care deeply for him. I understand that he is very ill. If you will allow it, I would like to come see him. Iíll leave it up to you as to whether I should come. Iíll accept your decision because I know you have his best interest at heart. You can reach me at Peterís. Iíll be staying there for a few days.
Father read the note, folded it and leaned back in his chair to think. Even though Catherine thought that he wasnít aware that Vincent was to blame for their separation -that was not true. He had seen Vincent distancing himself from her and had tried to talk him out of severing his relationship with Catherine. Father had seen her face the very worst that Vincent could ever be and still love him. He did not believe that his son was better off without her Ė to the contrary. Father had known that there had been more to sending Catherine away than just the loss of the bond, but Vincent would not reveal it. Father had watched helplessly while Vincent forced Catherine away and then sank into a state of despair that nobody could reach.
I would love to see you. Please come at your convenience. Iíve informed the sentries to bring you directly to my chamber. However, I do not know what reception you will receive from Vincent. You are very dear to me, and I do not wish to see you hurt. Please donít expect too much. Heís not the same man you knew.
Catherine read the note that had been slipped beneath Peterís door and had quickly gotten dressed. Peter wasnít due until tomorrow but she wouldnít wait for him. Peter had access to the tunnels from his basement. She had only been that way once, but she didnít need to know the way. She would tap for someone to meet her. She remembered the codes.
"Catherine dear, please come in." Father rose as she entered the doorway accompanied by Kipper. "Thank you Kipper for escorting Catherine to me. You may return to your post."
Kipper turned to Catherine. "Itís great to see you again. I always really liked you. I thought it was crummy the way Vincent sent you away." He turned, red-faced, and ran back to his post.
"As you see my dear, we are all aware that it was not your choice to leave us." Father gestured for her to sit.
Catherine was stunned. Had she known the way Father and the others had felt, she would have found a way to stay in touch. She felt guilty for the way she had abruptly left them all.
"Iím so sorry that I didnít stay in touch. At the time, my emotions were so raw . . . all I could think about was escaping the pain. When the job in Providence came available three weeks after Vincent rejected me, I jumped at the chance to get away."
"Ah, so that is where you went. We learned through Brian that you had moved out of your apartment but he didnít know where you had gone. I never asked Peter because I respected your need for privacy, and he never volunteered the information. Itís perfectly understandable that you needed to distance yourself from all of this."
Catherine nodded. "So how is he Father? Peter made it sound as if he might Ö die."
Father was silent for a long time. "For a while I was very frightened. His injuries were severe and he wasnít healing the way he had in the past. I think it is his state of mind that is keeping him from getting better more quickly. As I told you in my note, heís not the same man that he was."
"What do you mean?" Catherine could not hide her distress from Father.
"He is sullen and morose. He seldom attends tunnel functions. He stopped teaching Ö choosing to spend his time performing sentry duty or making repairs. He doesnít go above anymore. He stopped going Ö after you moved away." Father spoke very softly as though reluctant to reveal so much.
"I did what he wanted. Iíve tried to build a life Ö without him. A life above in the sunshine Ö although I donít think that working in an office building eighty hours a week actually qualifies as being in the sunshine, but hey, Iím trying. Itís been tough. He was my reason for living for over two years and then to suddenly be without him Ö heís not the only one that has suffered." Catherine sounded bitter as she spoke.
Father nodded. "I told him you were coming. He didnít acknowledge me, but I know that he understood me. He asked Mary to help him wash his hair this morning and change into clean clothes. He hasnít been much interested in his appearance. Itís a good sign I think. Heís going to be terribly embarrassed to have you see him the way he is. He canít wear his regular clothes because of the cast on his arm and leg. He has been wearing a nightshirt and robe."
"You know that I donít care what heís wearing. I want to see him. Do you think I could go in to see him now?" Catherine had a determined look on her face.
"Yes, of course. I wonít be far away if you need me. Go ahead my dear; Iím sure heís waiting for your arrival." Father patted Catherineís hand.
Catherine rose and walked toward Vincentís chamber. It was a short walk, perhaps thirty feet away. She was extremely nervous about seeing him. She walked into his chamber. She had tried to prepare herself for his appearance, but she was still shocked. Gone was her fierce golden warrior, and in his place was a noticeably thinner, paler and disheveled incarnation of his former self.
"You should not be here. You should never have come back." Vincent spoke as soon as she walked through the threshold.
"Thatís too bad. Iím sorry that you donít want me here but youíre in no condition to send me away. I was invited by Father. I wonít stay long. I just want to see how youíre doing." There was a hint of anger in Catherineís voice.
Vincent finally turned his head so that he could see Catherine. He feasted his eyes on her form. She was so beautiful Ė he noted that her hair was longer and she seemed a little thinner. Her eyes shown with love but also with something else Ö apprehension. It tore at Vincentís heart to know that he was the cause of that apprehension. She no longer felt comfortable around him. "I did not say that I did not want you here Ö only that you should not have come."
At Vincentís words, Catherine crossed quickly to sit in a chair beside his bed. She wanted to reach out to touch him but sensed that he would pull away. "Iíve been so worried. It doesnít matter that we are no longer together Ö I will always care deeply for you. I couldnít bear to think of you hurt and not come."
"These injuries are nothing compared to the damage I inflicted on myself and you when I sent you away. I was a fool." Vincent had not meant to reveal these things to Catherine but when he saw her, it flowed from his heart and he had no will to keep it in.
"Then why? Why did you do it?" Catherine implored.
Vincent took his eyes off Catherine and looked down at his hands. "I had dreams Ö nightmares Ö visions of a terrible future Ö an omen."
At first Catherine was speechless. Then the rage began to build. "You sent me away because of a God damned dream?" Her voice was filled with fury.
"You have no idea what I saw Ė the horror. You died. He was a madman." Vincent pleaded for understanding, spilling words out with no particular pattern or thought.
"What madman? What are you talking about?" Catherine was yelling now.
"This rich and powerful man named Gabriel. He kidnapped you because of the black book that Joe gave you but then kept you because of the baby. I searched for you for months but couldnít find you in time because I had lost the bond." Vincent was getting more and more distraught.
"What baby? Whose baby? Why did he want a baby?" Catherine was still clearly upset but was trying to calm down for Vincentís sake. She sensed that in his weakened condition, he should not be getting so upset.
Vincent spoke so lowly that she could barely hear what he said. "He wanted the child because it was unique. You were trying to protect it."
"This whole thing is preposterous." Catherine was getting riled up again.
"I know it was only a dream Ö but I swear to you Ö it seemed like an omen of doom at the time. I dreamed various parts of that nightmare every night for over a month."
"So I died in this dream to protect a child? At least I was noble." Catherine smirked.
"It was so horrible. I could not bear to lose you." Vincent shuddered as he thought of the feeling of Catherine dying in his arms.
"So you sent me away so you wouldnít lose me? It seems to me that this dream of yours was filled with a lot of the things that you feared about our relationship. Letís see Ö the fear of my job being too dangerous, the fear of a powerful man taking me away from you and the fear of not being able to protect me. Is that about right?" She was having a hard time keeping the sarcasm out of her voice.
"I am sorry. I was trying to protect you."
"I donít doubt that for a second. Your devotion and protection were never an issue. Neither was your ability to completely disregard my wants and wishes if they didnít agree with yours. You never treated me as an equal in our relationship. This is a perfect example of that. You left me completely in the dark about your fears rather than discussing them with me. You severed our relationship and sent me away Ďfor my own goodí. That is so typical." Catherine stood and grabbed her bag.
"You are leaving? Will I ever see you again?" Vincent asked in a pitiful voice.
"Yes Iím leaving but I will come back tomorrow. I need some time to digest everything that youíve said to me and cool down. Iím not going to lie to you, Vincent Ö I am angry and terribly disappointed in you right now. I love you Ö I will always love you Ö but that has never been enough for you. Iím staying at Peterís and heís due to arrive sometime in the morning. He wants to check on your condition. Iíll see you after that. Goodbye, Vincent. Take care of yourself." Catherine turned to leave without a backward glance.
Vincent just lay there thinking about what Catherine had said. She was right to be angry. He had made momentous decisions about their relationship without her input. He had disregarded her wishes because he was trying to protect her from himself Ö from a life he had been afraid would harm her Ö from a danger that was not real.
Father had heard a lot of yelling coming from Vincentís chamber and had wanted to rush in to see what was happening Ö but had restrained himself. Now that it seemed it was over, he entered Vincentís chamber cautiously. Looking around and not seeing Catherine, he moved over to where his son lay motionless.
"Vincent, are you all right? Perhaps I should not have allowed Catherine to come." Father was very concerned.
"Iím all right, Father. I have lived with a constant empty ache so long that it is almost a relief to feel Ö something else."
"What are you feeling?" Father sat in the chair that Catherine had recently vacated.
"A lot of things Ö guilt, remorse, shame, anger Ö so many things." Vincent still lay motionless.
"Anger Ö at Catherine Ö me?" Father asked.
Vincent turned his head for the first time to look at Father. His eyes were brimming with unshed tears. "No Ö anger at myself Ö for being such a fool."
"So, you drove her away again Ö for good this time, no doubt." Father looked disgusted.
"No, she is coming back tomorrow with Peter. She needed time Ö to think. She is very angry with me." Vincent stated flatly.
"As well she should be. I still do not understand what possessed you to send that dear girl away. She had been nothing but supportive and loving to you during your recovery and you returned it with a coldness and disregard for her feelings that I would never have believed . . . had I not witnessed it with my own eyes." Father was trying to reel in his tirade, sensing that Vincent was past the point of exhaustion.
"I know what I did to her. Even today Ö after two years Ö I could see the pain in her eyes. I did not deserve to ever see her again Ö I do not deserve a reprieve from this hell I created." Vincent closed his eyes and a few of the unshed tears followed a trail down from the outer corners of his eyes to fall against his pillow.
"Youíre probably right Ö but letís not dwell on that right now. You need to rest. You need to get better Ö heal. If she is coming back tomorrow, youíre going to need your strength. If her outburst today was any indication Ö youíre probably due for another round of verbal barbs." Father was slightly amused at the thought of little Catherine giving Vincent such a tongue lashing.
"If youíll leave me now, Father, Iíll try to get some rest." Vincent could feel the exhaustion of his encounter with Catherine taking its toll.
Father turned without saying another word and left the chamber. He was concerned, however. Seeing Catherine again would either be the catalyst that Vincent needed to begin to recover Ö or Ö it would set him on a path of destruction that he would never come back from.
"Peter, itís so wonderful to see you. Iíve missed you so." Catherine embraced Peter warmly as soon as he entered the door.
"Itís wonderful to see you too. I canít tell you how much your presence here means to me." Peter picked up the bag that he had dropped to embrace Catherine and preceded on into the brownstone.
"So, tell me everything. You went to see Vincent?" Peter could not hide his curiosity.
"Here, let me get us some coffee and weíll sit in the den and talk." Catherine strode into the kitchen.
Once Peter took his bag upstairs and he and Catherine had settled into comfortable chairs in the den, he inquired again about the meeting. "How did it go?" She seemed so reluctant to talk about it Ö he was afraid that Vincent had been absolutely horrible to her.
Catherine started to sob. She had been trying to contain her tears Ö but they just couldnít be contained any longer Ö not with a sympathetic presence like Peterís around.
"Oh Cathy, Iím so sorry. I should never have allowed this. You have already been through so much. What was I thinking?" Peter came over to kneel beside Catherine and grasp her hands into his.
She lifted her chin slightly and looked into Peterís distraught face. "Itís not what you think. I was the one that was horrid. I yelled at him!" She began to cry again in earnest.
"Oh, well, thatís different. I canít say that Iím sorry. He had it coming Ö but it might not have been the best time Ö with him being ill. No matter. Donít let it worry you." Peter rose to his feet and went back to his chair.
"Iím ashamed that I lost my temper with him. I just couldnít help it. When he told me that he had sent me away because of a dream Ö well, I just lost it." Catherine wiped at her face with a tissue.
"A dream, eh Ö well Ö in his defense, he has always been very spiritual Ė not in the religious sense Ė but sort of like Narcissa. The bond he had with you is a testament to that fact Ė he must have had a powerful sense of foreboding to allow his visions to come between you two." Peter spoke softly.
"Youíre right. The problem is Ö what makes me so angry Ö is that he didnít trust me enough to tell me about his visions Ö about these omens of death Ö he just decided that his presence was causing me danger and pushed me away. Itís so demeaning." Catherine had stopped crying and had replaced the unhappy look on her face with a scowl.
Peter laughed. "You look like you did that time Charles refused to let you go on Spring break to Cancun when you were sixteen Ė filled with righteous indignation."
Catherine gave him a little self deprecating smile. "You know, it almost feels the same. I felt like I was being treated like a child rather than an adult. I was being Ďmanagedí for my own good. Thatís just what Vincent did. Looking back on it now, I donít think that Vincent ever really saw me as a woman Ė a real flesh and blood woman. He treated me more like a beloved friend or family member."
"I donít think thatís the case, Cathy. He was a man in love Ö he didnít treat you in a familial way - far from it."
"You donít know how it really was between us. I always thought it was because of Fatherís influence and his fear of hurting me Ė physically, but Iím beginning to think there was more to it than that. In all those many months, he never once kissed me. He told me he loved me exactly one time and that was only when he thought he was going to die. I initiated almost every embrace and the ones he did initiate were comforting Ö not amorous. I think youíre right about him being a Ďspiritualí being. I think he wanted a companion Ö not a lover." Catherine was talking more to herself than she was to Peter.
"I donít know. Think about how he reacted about Elliot Ė when you were going to marry him. He was jealous." Peter said.
"I donít think so. He was incensed, yes; but he was trying to protect me Ö protect me from doing something that he knew I would regret. He was a Ďguardianí to me Ö a loving guardian." Catherine spoke as though in a trance.
Peter did not agree with her assessment, but held his tongue. If this made her feel better, then he would not force the issue. "Are you going to see him again?"
Catherine seemed to shake herself out of her reverie. "Yes, I told him that Iíd come back down this morning once you arrived. We should probably go. Heís still very weak. I donít want him to have a setback."
Once she decided that she and Vincent had never been Ö and were never going to be Ö anything more than good friends, she set out to rebuild their relationship ... as loving companions. The morning she and Peter went to see Vincent couldnít have been more different than the previous dayís encounter.
"Hello, Vincent, how are you feeling today?" Catherine walked into Vincentís chamber and sat down beside his bed as she had the day before. She gave him a friendly smile.
Vincent looked at her warily. She could tell that he was waiting for her to switch into the hellion she had been yesterday. He spoke with a cautious tone. "I am feeling much better, thank you. I want to apologize again for Ö everything."
"No need. It was a painful time Ö for both of us Ö but if we want to salvage our friendship, itís probably best that we not dwell on the past." Catherine spoke as she reached into her bag to retrieve a book. "I thought Iíd read to you today. Would you like that?"
Vincent merely nodded.
After three days, Vincent improved dramatically. Catherine felt that he was well enough for her to go back to Providence.
"Vincent, Iím going to go back to Providence tomorrow." As she caught the fearful look in Vincentís eyes she quickly added Ö "but, Iíll come back up next weekend."
And so it began. She came to New York every weekend. She and Vincent settled into a relaxed friendship. His physical condition improved so much that he surprised her a few weeks later by meeting her at Peterís threshold.
"Vincent, youíre walking! Iím amazed." Catherine cried out in surprise and delight.
"I have a slight limp, but Father thinks that Iíll make a full recovery." Vincent was clearly pleased with himself, and Catherineís response. Father had removed the cast from his arm a couple of weeks ago but had only removed the cast from his leg a few days back.
Catherine gave him an appraising look. He had gained some weight and was beginning to look more like her old Vincent. "So, letís see that leg in action." She grabbed him by the arm and led him to the hub.
Catherine arrived in New York one Friday evening two months after their initial reunion. She was completely exhausted from the week so decided to wait until tomorrow morning to visit. She was glad that she hadnít promised Vincent that she would see him that evening. She would get a good nightís sleep and go down in the morning. She grabbed her bag and headed upstairs. Luckily she had grabbed a sandwich from a deli in Providence before driving up. She took a shower, put on a gown and crawled into the cozy bed.
Vincent was getting anxious. Catherine had said that she might not come down until Saturday morning, but she said that every weekend. She always came down on Friday night. He walked into Fatherís chamber.
Seeing the anxiety on Vincentís face, he was immediately alarmed. "What is it, Vincent? Are you feeling ill?"
Vincent shook his head as he slumped into the chair beside Fatherís desk. "No, it is nothing like that. It is just that I was anticipating Catherineís visit this evening and am fearful that something might have happened to her. Even after all this time, I still miss having the bond so that I can Ďfeelí that she is well."
"You know that she said she would definitely be here tomorrow morning. She probably just got a late start or got caught having to work this evening. Iím sure it is nothing to worry about." Father smiled at his son as he sat there so forlorn. "How about we play a game of chess?"
Vincent merely shrugged as he set up the board. He was deep in thought. "Father, have you noticed anything different about my relationship with Catherine? I mean from the way it was before?"
"Now that you mention it, yes, there is definitely something different. It is more relaxed . . . more like youíre old friends. I think it is an improvement. Donít you?" Father had spoken to Peter about what Catherine had revealed to him. Peter thought that Catherine was deceiving herself, but Father had felt a huge sense of relief. Having them stay Ďplatonicí friends had always been his hope. It was much safer for both of them.
Vincent nodded. "I suppose." Vincent said no more on the subject as he settled into the game.
The next morning, Catherine changed into jeans and a sweater before heading below. She had dreamed about Vincent again last night. She was pretty good about thinking about him only as a friend during the day Ö but sometimes at night Ö her true feelings were revealed. She was nearly buzzing with sexual tension that morning.
Vincent had gone to the dining hall for breakfast. He and Catherine had planned to go to the chamber of the falls on Saturday. He wanted to be ready when she came. He had not slept well last night. He had dreamed of her Ö a very intensely graphic sexual dream. As much as he tried not to think of Catherine in that way Ö his dreams betrayed his Ďtrueí desires. But he was not going to allow his dreams to ruin what he had with Catherine ... not again.
"Catherine, you look beautiful this morning Ö and rested." Father greeted Catherine as she walked into the library and looked around. "Heís in the dining hall." Catherine blushed a little as she realized that she had been caught looking for Vincent.
"Thank you, Father. I got to bed early last night and slept a good nine hours before finally waking this morning. I feel decadent." She smiled as she sat and waited for Vincent.
"Iím sure heíll be back any moment." Just as Father finished his sentence, Vincent came into the chamber.
"Catherine, forgive me for my delay. I was stopped by Samantha. She had a question about an assignment I had given her." Vincent came into the chamber and stood at her side.
"Thatís okay. Father and I have been visiting. Iím happy to hear that you have resumed your teaching. I know that you must have missed it while you were incapacitated by your injuries." Although she knew that his depression had caused him to stop his teaching, she didnít want him to know that she knew.
"Shall we go then?" Vincent reached out for Catherineís hand. "Will you excuse us, Father?"
"Certainly Ö by all means ... have a good time."
Vincent held Catherineís hand as they strolled to the falls. Catherine had not seen the falls in over two years. She was always enchanted by its beauty and majesty.
"I love it here. It is so exhilarating and so peaceful all at the same time Ö a lot like you." Catherine spoke reverently as she stared at the rushing water.
Vincent was staring at her beauty. He longed to hold her in his arms Ö breathe in her fragrance and feel her body against his. He fought the impulse. He had no right to initiate anything physical Ö not after he had severed their relationship just as it had taken a more intimate turn. He had told her he loved her Ö when he had been fighting for his sanity. When he recovered, he had intended to move towards love Ö cautiously, but decidedly forward ... before he lost the bond and started having those awful visions. They had ruined everything Ö no, he had ruined everything Ö by allowing his dreams rather than reason to rule his life.
Catherine hadnít been surprised when Vincent made no comment. They were perfectly comfortable with silence between them. She made a move to sit on a ledge that had been carved out for that purpose.
"Here, let me put down my cloak for you to sit on. It will help to keep the damp chill from your warm body." Vincent blushed as he realized what he had said. He hoped that Catherine had not noticed how intimate that statement sounded.
"Thank you Vincent. Always the gentleman." Catherine smoothed out the cloak and patted the seat next to her. "Please, sit beside me. It will drive away the chilled air more effectively than your cloak." She smiled up at Vincent as she spoke. She had definitely been affected by what he had said. She was allowing his innocent words to affect her too strongly. She took a deep breath and released it very slowly to calm down.
There was something indefinable about her expression. Vincent pondered as he sat next to Catherine. Tentatively, he reached out and put his arm around Catherine and pulled her closely to his body. "Is this better? Are you comfortable?"
"Perfect." Catherine sighed and leaned into Vincentís warmth. It had been so very long since he had held her. Even though she knew that it was merely a friendly gesture on his part, it reminded her of how she had felt before Ö when she thought it had meant so much more.
Catherine and Vincent stayed at the falls until well past time for lunch. He quickly apologized for keeping Catherine there so long when he heard her stomach growl. "I must apologize, Catherine. We should get you something to eat. I did not realize it was so late."
Catherine laughed. "I was enjoying myself too much to worry about food. I guess I am pretty hungry. My stomach has a mind of its own." Catherine rose and reached out her hand for Vincent. "Letís go see what we can scrounge up from William."
As they approached the dining hall, it was obvious from Williamís raised voice that something was wrong.
"Tommy, Nathan, you two need to pick up the pace. I want everything done before I start the evening meal." William bellowed.
"What happened here?" Vincent took in the scene in bewilderment.
"Those two over there got into a brawl and wrecked the place. They knocked over the food table and ruined what was left of my chicken and dumplings. Father has sentenced them both to clean up the mess they made and work with me in the kitchen for a month." William glared at the two boys and then turned his attention to Vincent and Catherine. "I hope you two werenít looking for anything to eat before supper."
Catherine was quick to speak before Vincent could say anything. "Of course not, just curious. Do you want some help?"
"No. Theyíre doing fine all on their own. Come back later for the evening meal." William went back to the boys to supervise.
"Catherine, I am so sorry that I allowed you to miss lunch. I do not want you to go hungry." Vincent looked chagrined.
"I have a plan if youíre game." Catherine looked gleeful.
"What is it Catherine?"
"Letís go up to Peterís and order pizza. I havenít had a New York City pizza since forever. Iím dying for one." Catherine said excitedly.
Vincent had been to Peterís house a couple of times, but only to deliver news about a patientís condition or to summon him during an emergency. He had never spent any time in his home even though Peter had assured him that it was perfectly safe. Long ago, Peter had installed plantation shutters on all of the windows to block out the New York, City noise as well as any prying eyes. Vincent started to refuse out of habit, but caught himself. He didnít want to disappoint Catherine. "Yes, you need to eat and you obviously arenít going to get anything here."
Catherine was thrilled. She grabbed his hand and led him toward Peterís threshold.
"Wow, Iím stuffed. That pizza was delicious. Iím almost glad that Williamís leftover lunch was spoiled. This was so much fun." Catherine leaned back on the couch and patted her still flat tummy as she spoke.
"I must admit that the food was delicious. I have only had pizza a few times. Thank you for sharing it with me." Vincent was stretched out in a large leather chair across from the couch.
"How about another treat? Letís watch something on TV? You never get to watch television below. Iíll bet we can find a movie to watch since it is Saturday afternoon. Thereís usually one on at this time of day."
Catherine jumped up and turned on the set. She started flipping through the channels until she found "An Affair to Remember" with Cary Grant. It was part way over, but she loved that movie.
"This is a really good one. Iíve seen it a bunch of times but it always makes me cry." Catherine sat back down on the couch and smiled over at Vincent. She was clearly enjoying having him here with her.
"You like it because it makes you cry?" Vincent laughed.
"Yes, itís like when I cry while reading a Jane Austen book. Sometimes itís worth the pain to get to the happy ending." Catherine looked into Vincentís eyes and then quickly away. She didnít want to spoil things by revealing her true feelings for him.
They sat and watched the movie. True to her word, Catherine cried while she watched. When it was over she smiled weakly over at Vincent. "What did you think? Did you enjoy the movie?"
"It seems that they had many misunderstandings in their relationship because they were not truthful with each other." Vincent spoke earnestly.
"Thatís true. So much pain could have been avoided if they had just been honest with each other." Catherine spoke of the movie but was clearly referring to their relationship.
Vincent was quiet for a very long time. He was giving serious consideration to what he wanted to say. Finally he got enough nerve to broach the subject.
"Catherine, although I do not deserve this second chance, I feel that I must speak of something that has been bothering me. I want to be honest with you. Withholding the truth from you in the past was a mistake that I do not intend to repeat." Vincent took a deep breath. "All I ask is that you be perfectly honest with me."
Catherine nodded her head. "Of course Ö I will tell you the truth."
"Before I ruined everything between us Ö I had decided some things Ö things that would have changed our relationship. Maybe I had misinterpreted how things truly were between us. Perhaps I was the only one who felt this way. I guess what I want to know, is whether you feel about me the way I feel about you?" Vincent spoke haltingly.
"What are you saying?" Catherine was afraid to breathe. She was so nervous.
"I felt Ö before Ö that there was a growing intimacy between us Ö a sort of Ö sexual intimacy Ö which I wanted to explore Ö but now Ö it seems that you do not feel that way for me. Perhaps you never did. I am very happy to be your Ö friend Ö but ... I would rather be ... more. I love you so." Vincent could not look at Catherine for fear of what he might see. He should not have spoken the words that had been burning in his heart. He knew that he was setting himself up for a huge disappointment.
Catherine was speechless. Her world had just been turned upside down. Once she regained her senses, she made a decision. She got up and walked over to where Vincent sat. He still had his head down, fearful of looking at her.
"Vincent, come with me." Catherine reached out her hand and waited.
Vincent looked up at her face ... a face filled with love and ... could it be ... desire? He reached out his hand, rose up on his feet, and allowed Catherine to guide him up the stairs.
Vincent was walking behind Catherine up the stairs. Try as he might, he could not keep his eyes off her rounded bottom as it swayed before him.
She led him into her bedroom.
"Are you sure? Do you really feel about me as I do about you?" Vincent asked tentatively.
"I am very sure." Catherine released Vincentís hand and began to undress. She pulled her sweater over her head and released the clasp at the front of her bra and shrugged it off. She watched Vincentís rapturous expression as she unfastened her jeans and removed them. She stood before him with nothing on but a wisp of underwear. She reached out to take Vincentís hand and pulled him with her to the bed. "Please, Vincent Ö letís not waste any more time."
He lay down beside her. His heart was thudding so hard that he felt sure it might burst. He wanted this so much but was unsure as to what to do. "Please Catherine Ö guide me. I donít know how to begin."
Catherine spoke softly and soothingly. "Just touch me Ö and kiss me. Please Ö Iíve wanted this for so long."
Vincent leaned closer to Catherine and pressed his lips to hers Ö very lightly and briefly Ö over and over. He moved his lips around as though he were searching for a better fit.
When she opened her mouth slightly and flicked his lips with her tongue, he changed the tone of his kiss to something much more sensual.
He opened his mouth and mimicked her action.
In answer, she opened her mouth wider and moved her tongue more deeply into Vincentís mouth.
He gave her mouth an answering probe as he moved his hand onto her naked flesh. He ran his hand along her hip and down on her thigh and then back up again. He continued stroking her as he kissed her more passionately.
Catherine moaned as Vincent moved his hand from her hip and placed his palm on her firm buttocks. He gently pulled her toward him so that their bodies were pressed against each other.
"Vincent Ö could we take off some of your clothes? You have me at a distinct disadvantage here."
Without breaking his contact with her lips for more than a few seconds at a time, he began removing his garments. Much to Catherineís surprise, he removed all of his clothes and then reached out to pull her against his warm body. She shimmied out of her underwear and threw them onto the pile of discarded clothing.
"God, Vincent Ö you feel wonderful. Catherine pressed her belly against his steely erection and moaned in ecstasy. She gently prodded Vincent to lie on his back. She climbed onto his body and straddled his waist and began smoothing her hands over his torso.
"Catherine Ö having you touch me Ö it is beyond heaven. I have dreamed of this Ö for so long Ö but the reality of it Ö there are no words." Vincent could barely form a coherent sentence he was so aroused. He wanted Ö he needed Ö to be inside her. Seeing her straddling his body Ö the beauty of her naked breasts Ö the feel of her moist, intimate flesh against his belly Ö and the scent Ö it was driving him crazy.
"I wanted to take this slowly for you Vincent Ö but my need is too great. This is going to be fast, but I donít care. We can take our time later." Catherine rose up onto her knees and reached between her legs to grasp Vincentís hardened shaft. She positioned herself over his erection and with one firm push downward she sheathed him.
Vincent gasped when Catherine wrapped her hand around his throbbing penis. He almost climaxed when she touched him, but he held back Ö barely. The feel of her hot wet core was too much. He immediately began pumping into her Ö hard. He placed his hands on her hip bones as he thrust into her.
Catherine was just as frenzied as Vincent. She was equally aroused and was just about to climax when she felt Vincent shudder and moan. His reaction pushed her over the edge as she found her own orgasm.
For a minute or two neither one of them spoke. The only sound in the room was heavy breathing. Finally, Catherine broke the silence.
"Wow Ö that was incredible Ö and intense." Catherine had collapsed on top of Vincent and was talking between heaving gasps for air.
Vincent spoke softly as he rubbed his hands over Catherineís warm back and buttocks. "As much as I have fantasized about being intimate with you, I never imagined it would feel so wonderful. The softness of your skin Ö the taste of your lips Ö the scent of your arousal Ö the feeling of our bodies being joined; I never knew it could be like this. I am so sorry that I denied us this pleasure for so long."
Catherine rose up so that she could look into his gorgeous eyes. "Iím just happy that we finally found our way to this moment. Did you know that I had convinced myself that you didnít have any sexual feelings for me? I even told Peter that you treated me as a guardian or brother. I have tried very hard these last couple of months to only see you as a good friend because I felt foolish for thinking about you amorously when I thought you saw me as a beloved friend or sibling." Catherine sounded incredulous.
Vincent chuckled. "My feelings for you have never been that innocent. You would be shocked if you knew the thoughts I have had about you."
"I donít think I would. Not if they were anything like the ones Iíve had about you." Catherine snuggled her face into Vincentís neck and breathed deeply. She loved the smell of his hair and skin. "On our first anniversary it was all I could do not to ravish you after you gave me that crystal necklace. It was pretty much that way for me every time we were together."
"I have wanted you since the very beginning. My desire for you was so great at times; I could not allow myself to be around you. Especially during those last few weeks together before we separated. I distanced myself from you physically and emotionally because I could not trust myself. It was foolish of me." Vincentís voice was choked with emotion.
After holding each other intimately for a few more minutes, Vincent spoke. "I probably should let Father know where I am. He will be worried. I have not left the tunnels for over two years." Vincent had his lips against Catherineís ear and nuzzled as he spoke.
"Of course we should go and let Father know where you are, but only if you promise that you will come back here with me and spend the rest of the weekend Ö in bed." Catherine was trying to make her tone light, but she wanted this so much Ö it was hard not to beg. "I donít want our time together to end yet. She reached down and picked up Vincentís hands and placed them on her breasts. "I have other ideas. Do you mind?"
"No, of course I donít mind. But this is all so new to me Ö I donít know how often couples make love." Vincent blushed but continued to fondle Catherineís beautiful breasts. He was intrigued by the way her nipples hardened beneath his hands.
"We can make love all weekend. Unless you get tired of me and would rather go play chess with Father." Catherine chuckled.
"That is not likely." Vincent smiled up at her. "I would like nothing more than to stay here in this bed with you. In fact, I think Father can wait a while longer." Vincent leaned up and took one of Catherineís nipples into his mouth and began to lick and suck it enthusiastically.
"Much longer." Catherine wholeheartedly agreed as she relished the feel of Vincentís lips and tongue on her flesh.
It was very late when Catherine and Vincent finally made their way into Fatherís library.
"Well, I was beginning to think we should send a search party out for the two of you. Did you get lost in the tunnels Ö or just in each other?" Father teased them.
Vincent blushed. "Actually, we went up to Peterís for the afternoon. We had a wonderful time." Vincent looked over at Catherine, who gave him a conspiratorial grin.
Father did not miss the look that went between them. He wasnít entirely comfortable with the intimate look that passed between them but would say nothing. He had his son back Ö healthy and happy. He had Catherine to thank for that.
"Ah, well Ö you missed lunch and dinner. Iím sure youíre famished. You really shouldnít miss meals Vincent Ö youíve been very ill and need your strength." Father felt justified in scolding Vincent as a doctor to his patient.
"We did not miss either meal. Catherine ordered pizza for lunch and Chinese for dinner. It was very delicious." Vincent told Father excitedly. "Did you realize that you can have almost any kind of food delivered Above? It is amazing."
"So what are your plans for the rest of the evening? Could I interest either of you in a game of chess? He was teasing them but kept his face serious.
Vincent spoke hesitantly. "Actually, Father Ö Catherine and I have planned to spend the rest of the weekend at Peterís." He glanced at his Father to gauge his reaction.
"Is that so? Father said in a droll tone and then decided to broach the subject he felt he must. "Vincent, Catherine, I can see that things between you have changed." He went quickly on to add , "I have no objection. I merely want to inquire Ö as a doctor Ö if everything went smoothly Ö that you are unharmed, Catherine."
"I donít have a mark on me, Father. Vincent did not hurt me." Catherine thought for a couple of moments before continuing. "I know that you have always been afraid of Vincent losing himself in passion. I never understood your concern. He is only stirred to violence when his loved ones are in danger."
"While that is true Ö his capacity to do harm is great. I am just very happy and relieved that Ďthingsí worked out so well between you two Ö yes, very happy indeed." Father cleared his throat and then added, "Whatever are you two still doing here?" He gave them a quick smile and then motioned for them to leave his library.
"I guess weíve been dismissed. That went rather better than I expected. Donít you think?" Catherine was still a little stunned by the entire conversation.
"Yes, very Ö I am quite relieved. I was afraid that he would make it very unpleasant for you." Vincent took Catherine into his arms and kissed her. "I would like to get a few things from my chamber before going back up to Peterís. Would you like to join me?"
"Of course, I want nothing more than to be with you every moment that I can." Catherine kissed Vincent back on the lips and took his arm as they walked to his chamber.
Once they were back at Peterís, Catherine decided it was time to talk about their future.
"Vincent, where do you see our relationship going?" Catherine was a little tentative questioning Vincent. Everything had changed so much and so fast that it seemed to be pushing fate to ask for more.
"I want to be with you. I love you and want to spend as much time with you as possible." They were sitting in Peterís den with a fire crackling in the fireplace. "What about you?
"Well Ö for now I would like to spend every weekend together here, in Peterís house. We have more privacy here. Also, Peter has brought up the subject of me buying this house from him. He doesnít need it, and he would like for me to be the one to own it Ö keep it in the family Ö so to speak." Catherine looked over at Vincent and smiled.
"Spending the weekends here would be wonderful. I will miss you during the week, but I could endure it knowing that you would be with me all weekend. I can certainly understand why Peter would want you to have this house. It is a beautiful home." Vincent looked around the house at the rich woodwork, lush carpeting and furnishings. "Are you seriously considering buying this house though? Is it not rather expensive for just a weekend home? You must have an apartment or house in Providence already."
"Vincent, nothing is more important to me than you. Now that we are together Ö truly together Ö I donít want to stay in Providence any longer than is necessary to find someone to replace me. You must know that I donít really need to work Ö even to buy a home like this Ö that I am a very wealthy woman." Catherine grasped Vincentís hands and squeezed them reassuringly.
"You have never really told me so Ö but I have surmised as much. What would you do? Would you go back to the DAís office?" Vincent kept his eyes down, looking at their clasped hands. He didnít like the idea of Catherine working in that dangerous office again.
"No, I have no desire to do that job again. Iím thinking about opening a small family law practice. I would definitely do a lot of pro bono work. Also, I could help out the tunnel community with any legal issues they might have." Catherine seemed excited. "What do you think?"
"I am definitely in favor of anything that brings you closer to me." Vincent pulled Catherine close and kissed her passionately.
Catherine pulled away from Vincent and stared into his bright blue eyes. "Remember when you told me what providence meant Ö that it was something meant to be?"
"Yes, I remember."
"We are meant to be Vincent. Weíll make a home here for the two of us and weíll have our happy life."
And they did.