Classic Round Robin
Oh, no, not
some part of her mind, Catherine knew she was dreaming, but that
thought faded as fast as it had come when she saw the woman again.
Everywhere she went, there that woman was. Small, slender, with dark
hair and startlingly blue eyes, the woman was in the halls at work, on
the street when she stopped to get her newspaper in the morning,
lurking around the hot dog cart when she grabbed a bit of lunch, and
even on the corner when she arrived home at night.
was nothing inherently frightening about the woman herself. Thanks to
Isaac, Catherine knew she could hold her own, especially with someone
smaller than she was. But it was creepy, that this woman was everywhere.
averted her eyes as she returned to work after an afternoon in court,
refusing to let the woman know she’d seen her, but somewhere in her
mind, she had to admit that the woman knew she had. She never spoke,
but she was always just there.
her brain for some memory of having seen her before she started this
stalking business got Catherine nowhere. She’d never seen her before.
Was she a relative of someone Catherine had helped put away? Was she in
trouble and hoping Catherine could help her? Was she connected to the
Tunnel world somehow?
was well past dark when Catherine left work. She went to the parking
garage and got in her car, tired and dispirited. The day hadn’t gone
well and all she wanted was to go home and get into a hot bath. Maybe
Vincent would have time to come by tonight …
heart shot into her throat when the woman suddenly appeared in her
rearview mirror, in her backseat.
Catherine screamed, but she had no time to do anything else. In one
shockingly fast move, the woman grabbed her hair, yanked her head back,
and cut her throat. Blood spattered everywhere, all over the inside of
the car, all over Catherine and the woman, and as things went dark,
Catherine fell over in the seat …
heart was still pounding and she was grateful she’d left the bathroom
light on. It helped return her to reality.
an awful dream!
shook her head to clear the last vestiges of the fear away and as she
did, felt the unmistakable sense of Vincent’s concern. She didn’t often
feel the bond from her end, except occasionally in moments of great
emotion. Tonight it was very strong, and she even thought she could
sense his sudden awakening. He was throwing the covers back, on his way
to her, because he felt her fear.
okay, Vincent. It was just a bad dream. I’m safe. I’m home in bed.
Vincent received the message with clarity he had seldom known. Usually
all he could feel from Catherine was a sense of her feelings. It was so
clear that he relaxed against his pillows without thinking.
should need me, I am
here, he sent back.
I know. I
love you. Good night.
He could actually understand her thoughts. Could she understand his?
She must – she had answered his silent communication.
now, and unable to sleep again with this new knowledge burning in his
brain, Vincent put his hands behind his head and stared at his stained
glass window with wonder. But what had frightened her so badly?
a bad dream … but he had felt so much terror from her that it had
shaken him awake as surely as if someone had thrown cold water over him.
dream, indeed. Why would
Catherine have a dream so frightening?
had been aware of her nightmares before. Immediately after her attack,
while she was in his care here Below, she had had one every time she
dozed off. After returning Above, she had nightmares several nights a
week for some months. Those had ended, he recalled with a warm feeling,
after he had made contact with her again. She had told him this, but he
had known without being told. She had them again with Stephen and with
the stalker, but only for a couple of weeks afterward. They always went
could have brought this one on? Was she in some danger? Danger that she
perhaps sensed only dimly?
slept only fitfully the rest of the night, his worry for her safety
giving him his own bad dreams whenever he slept. And he was awakened
very early, for Winterfest preparations were underway, and the Tunnel
denizens were busy from early in the morning until late at night.
and several of the other men were charged with cleaning and making
repairs to the Great Hall, which was rarely used except at such times.
There was much to do and not much time to do it in. Two of the tables
required extensive work, and Cullen had already handed out assignments
by the time Vincent arrived to report for duty.
thank goodness.” Cullen wiped his brow and shook a screwdriver at
Mouse, who was underfoot but not in a helpful way. “You! Go find
somewhere else to hang out. You’re in the way. Vincent, grab an end of
this, I gotta turn it over.”
scurried backward but didn’t leave, and Vincent obeyed orders and
helped Cullen turn over one of the large and ornate chairs. The seat
had split. Cullen shook his head over it.
fix it,” he said, more to himself than Vincent. “Gotta make a new one.
shrank. He was a little intimidated by Cullen, who tended to bellow
when he was in the throes of a job like this.
do that, boy,” Cullen thundered at him. “Run to my chamber and get me a
piece of wood big enough to fit this. Make yourself useful.”
vanished, and Vincent chuckled. “You frighten him.”
rolled his eyes. “Dumb kid,” he muttered, going to work removing the
chair seat. “He knows I ain’t gonna hurt him.”
not sure he does,” Vincent said.
glanced up with a grin – his bark was far worse than his bite – but the
grin faded when he got a good look at Vincent. “You look like hell.
Didn’t sleep well?”
tell me why?”
smiled a little. Cullen, bless him, was the kind of friend who would
easily accept a negative answer to that question with no hard feelings.
“Catherine had a nightmare and her fear woke me,” he said. “I couldn’t
sleep again after that.” He did not elaborate, thinking his own fear
might be a bit irrational, and Cullen nodded.
I wake up in the middle of the night, I can’t go back to sleep,
either,” he said, busying himself with his work. And that was that.
could not dismiss his fear as easily as he had hoped to, and made up
his mind he would visit Catherine that night to satisfy himself that
she really was safe and in no danger.
again, as clearly as if she stood beside him, her thoughts came to him.
I’d love to
see you tonight, but I
really am fine.
gasped before he could stop himself, and Cullen paused and looked up.
sank into another of the ornate chairs. “I can hear Catherine’s
frowned and sat back on his heels. “Huh? What’s new about that?”
I can understand actual messages from her,” Vincent said, stunned. “Our
bond … I have always before simply had a sense of her emotions. If she
was happy, or sad, or frightened. These are actual words. I can hear
what she’s thinking, if she wants me to. Like … telepathy.”
eyebrows rose. “Wow. Can she hear yours?”
face in his mind. Can you hear me?
gasped again. “She can!”
you sure?” Cullen said skeptically. “If it’s never happened before,
maybe you’re just, well, imagining it.”
wondered the same thing, but because she had never completely
understood the bond, she accepted this new development more easily than
Vincent did. To her, it was mysterious, this connection, and perhaps
this clarity of communication had been one way – from her to Vincent –
all along. Perhaps the reason it was now two-way was simply because she
and Vincent had been experiencing an unusual comfort and closeness in
the last couple of months. He had told her some things about himself
and his life that he had never shared before, beginning one night near
Samhain, and that had opened the floodgates for many more confidences
since. Catherine smiled to herself, thinking about it. She didn’t know
what had caused it, but she was thankful.
now they could communicate both ways!