B1aFic, Moments - Winterfest

Winterfest Surprise by Lynn Aoki
In The Cold Twilight of Winter by Rosemary Rollins
Oranges by Chick-pea Ragaini
Winterfest Candle by April Twelve
Incident on a Dance Floor by Lynn Wright



Winterfest Surprise




As Winterfest approached, Vincent could feel Catherine's growing excitement. But he could sense something more than just excitement. It was more like an anticipation. Of what, he wasn't sure.


"Vincent! Not there! Higher!" shouted Mary. Vincent stretched up and placed a candle on the next level up. "That's just perfect, Vincent, thank you."


"You are very welcome, Mary," replied Vincent. Just as Vincent was descending the step ladder, Father appeared at the entrance to the Great Hall. He looked rather excited.


"Vincent! Vincent! Come quickly, I have something to show you."


Vincent excused himself from the Winterfest decorating, and said, "Certainly, Father."


As they made their way through the tunnels, Father wasn't giving much away. Vincent also sensed something else -- Catherine's presence Below. She should be up top working at this time. But he was certain that she was in the tunnels, somewhere nearby. Soon Father and Vincent reached their destination: Father's library. As they entered, they were greeted by a beaming Catherine. Vincent's heart skipped a beat, as it usually did, at his initial sight of this beautiful woman. "Catherine, shouldn't you be at work just now?" he enquired.


"Yes, I should Vincent. I had something to attend to today, so I took the day off. We're not very busy in the office just now, so Joe said I could have as long as I liked."


Vincent, having been so engrossed in Catherine, at last noticed that she was surrounded by box after box of 'something'. He wasn't quite sure what. There was no indication on the outside of the boxes, which made Vincent rather curious. Before he could say anything, Father piped up, "Have a seat, Vincent, and we'll have some tea."


"Please, Father, you sit down as well," motioned Catherine. "I'll get the tea. Let's have some crackers too."


"Yes Catherine, let's do," agreed Father, as he gave her a wink.


Vincent felt like he was missing something, as Father and Catherine exchanged mischievous glances. He gave the boxes another sweep with his eyes, but to no avail. No clues at all. He was sure of one thing, it wouldn't be long before he knew exactly their contents.


Catherine soon joined them at the table, with the tray of tea. Also on the tray were some odd looking tubular things. Vincent could see no crackers. "Catherine, you've forgotten the crackers," remarked Vincent.


Catherine looked at Father, trying to contain herself a moment longer. Finally she confessed, "Vincent, these ARE the crackers. WINTERFEST CRACKERS."


Vincent reached over and gingerly picked up one of the strange looking crackers. "They are very light, and certainly don't look edible," he concluded, after wafting it under his nose.


"Unfortunately, they are not edible Vincent, but I'm sure Father would agree that they are definitely a lot of fun."


Father nodded in agreement. "Oh yes, these little crackers are little barrels of fun."


"What do I do with it?" asked Vincent quizzically.


Catherine instructed, "Vincent, stand up, I'll show you what to do." Vincent stood up, then Catherine proceeded to instruct him in the art of cracker pulling! "You hold one end, I hold the other. Then we both pull on our respective ends."


Vincent looked apprehensively at Catherine. "Are you sure, Catherine?"


"Yes Vincent, I'm sure. I assure you, all you will get is a little surprise."


Father reassured him. "Go ahead, Vincent, don't look so worried. I'm sure you'll enjoy it."


"Well, okay then. Hold on tight, Catherine."


Both pulled, then... bang!


Vincent all but jumped out of his skin! Both Catherine and Father began to giggle, as Vincent looked rather startled. Only for a moment though. He was soon laughing along with them.


Father soon had his emotions under control, and reminisced about how he used to have crackers every year, in England, when he was growing up. He explained to Vincent that it was a Christmas tradition over in the United Kingdom. Christmas just wouldn't have been the same without them. He had mentioned it to Catherine last Christmas. Catherine had told him that she, herself, had spent a Christmas in England with relatives, and knew what he was talking about.


"Catherine, being Catherine, had filed it in her 'to get' list for this year, unbeknownst to me. She thought it would be a little treat for everyone at Winterfest if they could share in one of my traditions from my homeland, Vincent. She just turned up here this morning, with all these boxes. Astonishingly, she had them imported from the United Kingdom!"


Catherine, trying to take the attention off herself, then enthusiastically said "Vincent, let's see what other surprises there are in your cracker!"


"There's more surprises inside? I hope they don't bite, Catherine," teased Vincent. All three laughed out loud at that remark.


Vincent tipped the cracker up, and a few little things fell onto the table.


"Now, let's see what we have here," giggled Catherine. "You get the silliest little goodies in these crackers, along with a really corny, roll-your-eyes joke. The joke usually has everyone in fits of laughter, as it is sooooooo bad."


"Let's not forget the hat, Catherine," commented Father.


"A hat? I don't see a hat," observed Vincent, as he scoured the table with his eyes.


Catherine had a quick dart over the table with her eyes, then reached over "Ah ha! Here it is!" She picked up a tiny, purple coloured piece of paper, bound by a small rubber band. She removed the band. To Vincent's astonishment, she slowly unrolled the paper to reveal a purple crown.


"Voila!" exclaimed Catherine joyously. She proceeded to place the crown on her head, and started walking around the chamber, as if she were modeling it. It slowly slipped further and further down her head, eventually resting on her nose. Much to the amusement of Father and Vincent.


"These paper crowns are always either too large or too small for my head," mumbled Catherine, as she peered out from underneath the crown with a huge grin on her face.


"I think this one will just about be your size, Vincent." She removed it carefully, so as not to tear the delicate piece of headgear. "There! A perfect fit!" pronounced Catherine, as she placed it onto Vincent's golden head.


"I'm not sure it's my colour, Catherine," chuckled Vincent. He didn't remove it though, to Catherine's delight. He seemed to be quite enjoying these interesting little crackers. He bent over the table inquisitively.


"Now, what other little surprises are there in these crackers?"


Father picked up a little cellophane packet and handed it to Vincent. He could see it was a little green frog, with something attached to it. He took it out of the bag and placed it on the table.


"Oh! It's a little jumping frog," said Catherine. "Vincent, squeeze the little pump at the end of the tube."


Vincent complied, and to his delight the little frog took tiny leaps. "He he he," chuckled Vincent. "This is fun."


Father observed Vincent, as he amused himself with this simple little toy. All three of them were giggling like little children, as Vincent continued to make the little frog leap all over the table. Soon Catherine and Father joined in and had a little go of leap-frog too.


A few minutes later Vincent picked up another piece of rolled-up paper. "What's this?" he queried. "Another hat?"


"No, Vincent, that's the corny joke," said Father, as he retrieved the piece of paper from Vincent.


Catherine began to giggle, even before Father had unrolled the paper.


"Prepare yourself for one of the corniest jokes you will ever hear, Vincent," warned Catherine.


Father began to laugh, before he had muttered the first line. "Oh dear, this is sooo bad!" Father managed to say, while proceeding to laugh uncontrollably.


Catherine quickly snatched the piece of paper out of Father's hand and started reading it herself. Soon she was in just as bad a state as Father, but did manage to get the first line out. "Why was the turkey," she struggled to get the words out. "In the pop group?"


Vincent began to giggle a bit as well. He wasn't sure if it was because of the first line of the joke, or because of the state his company was in!


Catherine was losing it altogether now, so Vincent plucked the joke out of her hand. He began to shake with laughter as he read out the punchline. "Because, he was the only one with drumsticks!"


They all proceeded to hail with laughter at the silly joke. Father was first to pull himself together. "Oh, oh, there's nothing like these corny cracker jokes to give a person sore ribs."


Catherine nodded in agreement. Soon all three had managed to get themselves under control.


Catherine then enquired, "Well, Vincent, what do you think of these little crackers?"


"They're wonderful, Catherine."


"I thought you might enjoy them," chimed Father.


"The community will have lots of fun with these, especially the children."


"Yes, Vincent, I think you may be right. These interesting little novelties will delight everyone at Winterfest," said Catherine enthusiastically. "I'm so glad you mentioned them to me last year, Father. I can't wait to see all the faces tomorrow at the Winterfest celebration."


Catherine wasn't disappointed. The whole community had a wonderful time with the interesting looking little objects. None more so than Mouse, who suggested the dwellers could make crackers next year, and he volunteered to make the "bit that banged!"


"Oh my," thought Father, "what have I done?"


After all the popping of crackers and laughter had died down, everyone sat down to a feast that surpassed all others, which was served by a pink-crowned William, to everyone's great amusement.


As the festivities drew to a close, Vincent and Catherine bade everyone a very good night. As they strolled arm in arm through the tunnels, Catherine suggested, "Vincent, before you walk me to the guest chamber, can we stop by your chamber for a little while, just to kind of relax and wind down? I think it would be a perfect end to a perfect day."


"Of course, Catherine. I could read something to you."


They eventually reached the comfort of Vincent's chamber, where just a couple of candles highlighted the features of this homey little abode. As they entered, the flames flickered just brightly enough for Vincent to notice something glittering on his writing table. It looked suspiciously like a cracker! Vincent queried, "Catherine, you wouldn't happen to know anything about this, would you?" as he picked up the gold coloured cracker.


Catherine blushed slightly, "Mm, hmm." She looked up at Vincent, then suggested, "Shall we pull it, Vincent?"


"Certainly, Catherine."


"I have to warn you, Vincent, don't pull it so hard this time. Also, there won't be a bang either. It didn't seem appropriate."


Vincent wasn't too sure what Catherine was getting at, but went along with her suggestion. He tugged very lightly on his end, as Catherine did likewise on hers. Slowly the cracker slid apart silently. All that fell out was a little piece of rolled up paper, and a small box.


Vincent picked up the piece of rolled-up paper and suggested, "Is this one of those corny little jokes, Catherine?"


"No, Vincent, I can assure you it is definitely not a joke."


Vincent unrolled the paper and started reading out loud...


You and me

We are destined

You'll agree

To spend the rest of our lives

With each other

The rest of our days

As two lovers

Forever... forever...


Vincent looked at Catherine, tears welling up in his eyes. Did she mean what he thought she meant? Catherine could see the astonishment on Vincent's face. She read his thoughts instantly. She lifted the box and handed it to him. "Open it, Vincent... please."


Vincent lay the paper on the table and took the box from Catherine. He gasped at the contents, as he opened it. A silver ring. He looked at Catherine and with a voice full of emotion said, "Catherine, are you sure?"


"Vincent, I have never been more sure of anything in my life. I want to be your wife. I want to sleep in your bed and love you as you should be loved. I want to give you everything. I want to live by your side every single day... for the rest of my life."


Vincent opened his arms. Catherine walked into his embrace and hugged him tightly. Vincent kissed the top of her head and held her possessively.


"Vincent, I take it that's a yes?"


"Mm, hmm. But Catherine."


"Yes, Vincent?"


"No more surprises, please. I think I've had enough in the past two days, to last me a good long while."


"Mmm, I think there's one more you could just about handle, my love. Vincent, could I spend the night here, in your chamber?"


"You mean, our chamber Catherine."


-- end

In The Cold Twilight of Winter




Warning: Part 1/? - To be continued. With the author's permission, we will share his/her email address, after the winners have been announced, for those who would like to read the rest of the story.

The music of Pascal’s precious pipes played a late afternoon symphony as she made her way up through those so-familiar tunnels. For music it was -- music to ears that had too long been assaulted by the rumble of the subway trains, incessant traffic, and millions of human voices that made up the white noise of the city that really never does sleep. Now the rich bass tones of the older pipes harmonized with the lighter tenors and the altos of the later installations in an ever-changing yet familiar composition, welcoming her home as surely as the moist earthy scent of the tunnels and the warm glow of the torches in the sconces lighting her way. And to think, she had been so eager to leave them behind -- to exchange this world’s music for that of the world Above. How could she have forgotten their beautiful song? She had forgotten so much . . .

She stood there, losing herself in the melody and the memories it evoked… Of Pascal in his pipe chamber with stethoscope in his ears, her first tentative attempts at tapping out the pipe codes, and her pride when her mastery earned her Father’s trust and the responsibility that had truly made her a working member of the tunnel community -- her first assignment as sentinel at one of the underground’s important watch stations . . .

Those pipes reached all over the city, stretching down and back to some of the oldest quarters of the burrows. Places she and Rebecca had explored with the other children, others she had begged Vincent to show her, and still others she had discovered herself along the way.  And always she had been guided by the pipes, listening to their song . . .

Always? No, not “always.” In those last years Below she had traveled further and further a field in her search for inspiration and meaning. And for nearly a decade she had neglected them entirely, her head full of new songs from a new world she had wanted so much to be a part of. But now? Now she wasn’t so sure. Unable to fit in Above, yet a stranger Below, she wasn’t sure where she belonged. Or why, after all those holidays spent away, this season found her here, far below the city in the world she had not thought to see again . . .  

She shook her head, coming back to herself. It was getting late. It had been a long time since her simple breakfast of her last granola bar washed down with the cool water of the underground river; and she was hungry. New cave-ins on the lower levels had blocked her planned route several times, as she found herself, even now, in a part of the older tunnel system that had obviously been reopened in her absence.  But the close frequency of the sconces and the scent of the air told her she was getting close, while the music of the pipes drew her on. Back towards Rebecca, and Vincent, and old wounds she wasn’t sure could be healed.


Many of the outer chambers and gathering rooms were dark and empty as she passed them. Others shown light from their doorways, a testament to their occupancy, but as with the tunnel sentinels earlier, she shunned all contact and continued on her way. Passing the kitchen, she heard voices and recognized William’s -- the ex-army chef whose delicious stews and meat pies had kept the community well fed throughout her growing up years. The thought of a bowl of beef stew now and one of his hot biscuits made her stomach grumble, but she could not risk being seen before she’d spoken to Father. For it was to Father that she must first make her petition, and as their patriarch, must first make amends.


But as she neared his study, she heard the unmistakable murmur of voices… No, not voices, one voice, his voice, rising and falling in the rich cadence that signified reading.


“…innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the baker' shops…”


Quietly, she halted at the doorway to listen.


“The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge--”


Ah, Dickens! She remembered her many childhood evenings sitting hand-in-hand with Rebecca as they and the other children listened to Father read the classics and begged for stories. Peering in now, she saw a new generation of tunnel children gathered around, listening with rapt attention as they shared in the traditional reading of The Christmas Carol.   


“--beside him in a baker's doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly--”


“Father!” Someone shouted, as he came running down the corridor behind. “There’s someone in the tun--,” he stopped, flustered at the sight of the cloaked stranger.


But all heads had turned toward the sound; all eyes had seen.


Father was on his feet immediately. The book slammed shut with a bang, as he turned toward the intruder.


Others had heard the alarm as well and came pounding down the passages to the study. She sensed several skid to a stop behind her. A larger menacing figure challenged her from the right. But Father raised a hand and he stopped. “Father?”


Vincent! She recognized the voice and gave an involuntary shudder. If Father hadn’t stopped him …


But though he waited, Father wasn’t sure that the was threat over. “Who are you?”


Realizing her danger, the intruder carefully eased the bags and pack from her shoulders and let them slide to the floor. Then, with equally deliberate movements, she slowly lowered her hood and raised her eyes to meet his.




“Hello Father.”


-- to be continued . . .


QUOTATION: The passage Father is reading to the children comes during Scrooge’s tour of London with the Ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol.




Winterfest was in full swing. Father was pleasantly conversing with Mary and Peter. Pascal had left his beloved pipes for a short time and was enjoying Rebecca's company, his portable banging equipment in his hands-just in case. Jamie was trying to dissuade Mouse from taking apart her new walkman, a gift from Michael during his most recent visit.

Vincent was standing near the stairs. His loving gaze was on Catherine, who was dancing with Geoffrey, her most fervent admirer. He observed her graceful movements, her body perfectly in tune with the music. Her smile was enchanting, and he could not help notice her tender expression while she was looking at the boy. 'She would make such a wonderful mother,' he thought. When the dance was over, Vincent walked towards Catherine, determined to steal her back before the other children begged for her attention.

Feeling his eyes on her, Catherine turned just in time to see him stride majestically in her direction, a look of pure adoration in his intense blue eyes. She smiled radiantly and sighed. 'He always takes my breath away.' She extended her hands to him, and he took them with extraordinary gentleness.

"You are glowing tonight, Catherine," Vincent whispered.

"It's because of you, Vincent," she flirted amiably.

He bent his head, letting his mane cover his flushed cheeks. Despite his shyness, he was pleased by her compliment.

He was about to reply when Samantha called for everybody's attention in the middle of the Great Hall.

It was clear that she was extremely excited.

"Father said that it is time for a game," she almost shouted.

At that moment Zach arrived, carrying a wooden crate. After he placed it on the floor, Samantha explained that the people were supposed to pair up and take an orange from the box.

Catherine took Vincent's hand, led him to the middle of the room, and picked up an orange.

When every couple had one, Samantha continued her explanation.

"Now you have to face each other and place the orange between your foreheads. You must do your best to keep it there while dancing to the music. But remember: your bodies cannot touch in any way, or you'll be eliminated."

"Oh, I love this game," Catherine exclaimed enthusiastically. "You'll see, Vincent. It'll be a lot of fun." Vincent was not entirely sure. He did not know if being that close to her was a good idea, especially in front of so many people. He noticed her wicked look and suddenly became apprehensive. 'What was she planning?' Yet he surrendered when he saw Catherine's pleading eyes. He sighed. He could not deny her anything.

Their difference in height was going to make the game complicated. He timidly suggested a rematch, but she adamantly refused.

"You'll only have to bend your head a little bit, Vincent," she said with apparent nonchalance.

And she smiled at him. A very wicked smile! Vincent shuddered. The hair on the back on his neck stood up, and he suddenly found the temperature in the Great Hall extremely uncomfortable.

Catherine walked up to him and placed her hands on his shoulders, slowly pulling him down towards her.

Her eyes were unreadable. He tried to focus on her feelings, but she had suddenly closed their connection.

 'Why?' he wondered. 'There is no reason to do that unless... unless....' Vincent nervously swallowed.

Now he knew she was really up to something.

When their faces were close enough, Catherine put the orange between their brows and gave him an enigmatic look.

They were only a few inches away, and Vincent realized he had never looked at her at such a close distance, at least not with her looking back at him with such a disturbing intensity. 'Too close,' he thought, alarmed.

The music started, and they began to move slowly. Vincent wanted to keep the orange exactly where it was. His position was delicate enough the way it was, with her burning gaze fixed on him.

Unfortunately for him, Catherine was absolutely determined to spice things up a little. She moved so suddenly that Vincent could not counteract her movements in time. The orange slid down his face, and she caught it against his neck, just below his jaw.

The new arrangement pleased Catherine greatly.

She casually found her mouth extremely close to Vincent's skin and took advantage of the lucky coincidence. She gently placed her lips on his neck and moved them slowly and sensually.

It was a barely perceptible touch, but it was enough to make Vincent gasp.

Encouraged by his reaction, Catherine kissed his neck passionately, making him growl. She interrupted her kiss and looked at him. She gasped.

She interrupted her kiss, looked at him, and gasped. Suddenly, Vincent bent and kissed Catherine's mouth hungrily. The kiss went on and on. When it ended, they were both out of breath. She looked at him dreamily, and he returned her gaze with a smile that reached his eyes. Then he lifted her into his arms and strode out of the Great Hall with a new determination. He could think of a couple of exciting ways to play with oranges.



Winterfest Candle




 Tired, tired, tired, tired. What a stupid, useless, painful day. Catherine needed only one thing: to be in his arms. To forget everything but the strength and warmth of his body against hers. To know that there were good things in this crazy world, and the very best was hers: Vincent. She knew, she felt he was there, on her balcony, waiting for her. If only that stupid cab would hurry… if only that stupid lift could arrive now… if only it could be faster… She rushed out of the elevator, keys already in hand, just an instant to open the door and slam it behind her. She let everything drop on the floor of the living room, including her coat, especially her coat – she needed his warmth – and was out, throwing herself against him, enveloped in his hug.

Good. It felt good. It felt right. It felt heaven. She snuggled against his chest, trying to absorb all that heavenly strength, that heavenly warmth, that heavenly love. The shrieks that all day long had resonated into her soul, those of the poor child that had seen his mom almost killed, those of her own nerves unable to cope with it, those she wanted to hurl against that weak coward who refused to testify, those emerging from too much paperwork full of boring, sad, unfair stuff… all those shrieks began to fade away into a blessed, sweet, soothing peace, and her tenseness began to melt, slowly, quietly...

No words were exchanged between them, no need. He had welcomed her into his arms, enveloped her with his heavy cloak, covered her head with his own, and tenderly, almost imperceptibly lulled her, a cocoon of soothing love and warmth. The chill of the ugly world she had just left, and of the snow around them, were powerless to trespass the bubble of soft serenity he was creating around her.

At last, she drew a long, deep, satisfied breath, letting the last traces of stiffness go, body and soul completely relaxed. “Better?” he asked, his mouth close to her ear.

“Yes, Vincent, thank you,” she murmured. Her eyes were still closed, her words slow. After a pause, she added, “It's been a long, hard day.”

“I know. I could feel it. Do you want to talk about it?”

She savored the sound of his voice, adding even more magic to the circle of quiet gladness surrounding them. “No, there's no point. It's just… that crazy world. But now, I can't imagine how I could feel better. Really. Thank you. Thank you… thank you,” her voice became almost a whisper, against his heart. This miracle in her life, this man with the power to make her new just by being close to her… how, whom should she thank enough for such a gift? 

She felt him shifting his weight a little, and a small, protesting moan escaped her… no, not yet, please… stay with me a little more….

“I'm just trying to see if it's really impossible to make you feel better, Catherine,” he murmured tenderly, and one of his arms left her to reach inside the folds of his cloak. She did not have time to follow the wicked train of thought that actually, there might be some ways… something appeared near her nose, which she had buried in his vest. She opened her eyes.

“A Winterfest candle!” she exclaimed in delight, lifting her head and taking the precious gift.

“Next Monday, Catherine.” Love, expectation, and gratitude vibrated in his voice. She looked into his eyes. She could almost see the feast and the lights, hear the music, real as well as imagined, feel the warmth of friendship and love. That token told her that her blessings were more than the love of the best man ever: she also had a family who loved her, friends that shared the incredible dream of a better world, and she was a part of it.

With a thankful, happy sigh she again laid her head on his chest, snuggling until she again heard the slow beating of his heart. The Winterfest candle was securely wrapped in her hand, against her breast. “You were right, Vincent. Now, I could not feel better.”

The pause that followed was suddenly filled with a magical, suspended expectation. She felt his heart, beneath her ear, skip a beat and start racing. His great body grew warmer, and the tender, loving feeling that filled her soul stirred. Her eyes snapped open when she felt his hand traveling along her back, to reach her nape, beneath her hair. Slowly, slowly, while her heart began to race as well, he lifted her face to his own, so close she could not see it, just feel it: the warmth of his skin, his breath on her lips. She closed her eyes, and the first, incredible brush of his mouth on hers filled her soul, her heart, her body with a joy she had never even dreamt of. Just a brush. He lifted his head, touched his forehead to hers, wrapping her more securely in his arms, as her legs had lost all strength.

His voice trembling a little, he whispered against her mouth, “It's… me? It's me who gives you so much joy?” and every single word was a touch of paradise on her lips. She could just nod, weakly, eyes closed, trying to survive the whirl of unbelievable emotion that had captured her.

And his mouth covered hers, following securely the beacon of such joy, tenderly seeking the perfect fitting of their slightly open lips. When the tips of their tongues met, the shock made them suddenly lift their heads, just for an instant: he immediately again took possession of her mouth, and his tongue again demanded admittance, crossing that sweet, moist threshold and entering her mouth like a temple, like a humble but brave pilgrim who at last reaches his long sought destination, and in awe kneels in adoration. And her tongue welcomed him, that long awaited, beloved pilgrim, making him feel at home.

Long, long was their kiss, each feeding on the other's joy and pleasure, their passion slowly, tenderly spiraling… until, suddenly, a muffled "snap" could be heard and Catherine started with a gasp.

“Vincent… I've… I've broken the candle! ” she managed to say with a weak, uncertain voice, looking down to her hand against her breast, holding the two pieces still joined by the wick inside.

She could hear the tender, sweet smile in his voice while he murmured against her temple, his whisper a little shaky as well, “I'll… I'll bring you another one, Catherine….”

“No!” she exclaimed, holding the broken candle against her heart. “I'll keep this… I could not think of a better memento of… of.…” He smiled and finished her sentence with another moist, passionate kiss.

“You're right….” he breathed then against her lips, his slightly labored breath matching her own.

As soon as the world settled back into place around her and somehow she was able to think again, she smiled as well, and her mouth lovingly caressed its way across his cheek to reach his ear, and whisper, “I was wrong again… but now… there is absolutely nothing that could make me feel happier… thank you, Vincent.” She really meant it, she thought, resting her cheek against his, her heart trembling with exultation. You could even take me inside and make love to me, Vincent, and it would be heaven, but the joy would not be greater, I'm sure, only the pleasure would, she dreamily mused.

She felt his smile broadening, and a flicker in his passionate feelings that still filled her. His mouth was moving… she jolted in expectation of the next kiss.

But his mouth did not seek hers. He sought her ear instead, and his voice, his low, tender, velvety voice, vibrating, quivering with a love and a passion she never had felt before, and lightened by a trace of smile, let slowly drop into her soul, “Catherine… I love you.”



Incident on a Dance Floor



She always felt so safe in his arms.  So warm, so sheltered, so…loved.  As they moved slowly around the darkened Great Hall, waltzing to that music heard only in two passionate hearts, she allowed herself to dream a little.  His face was close above her, and her eyes dwelled on his lips.  Would they be as soft as she had dreamed they were? 

He was holding her so formally! She moved a little closer, and he responded by sliding his arm farther around her, and moving closer yet, until their bodies touched.  Astonished, Catherine nevertheless accepted his move with delight.  Now that was better!  She sighed molded her body to his, and nestled against the soft white neckcloth that tumbled down his chest. 

She could hear his heart beating.  As she sighed again, moving with him in the rhythm of the slow waltz, his hear began to accelerate.  They circled the floor once more, and his heart continued to beat ever faster, until it was pounding in his chest.  She looked up at hem, almost alarmed at its tempo.

Vincent was looking down at her with an intensity that stunned her.  As their eyes locked, his steps slowed, until they were standing still, swaying in the encircling shadows.  His eyes burned into hers. 

She thought with stunned amazement, He’s going to kiss me!

He began to bend to her face, slowly, his eyes never leaving hers.  The Hall around them, the shadowy floor, the flickering torches, all the world disappeared from her mind; everything but his face, coming nearer, but so slowly! Without thinking about it, she lifted herself toward that marvelous face on her toes, longing so for his kiss that it wasn’t possible to wait. 

As his mouth moved the remaining distance between them and ecstatic joy, she heard him murmur almost without sound, “My love, my dearest love…”, and at last, at long last, that wonderful mouth covered hers.