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Winterfest Promises

by Jodie Boyle

 

 Catherine’s heart was racing…

 Father had called her name, and now everyone was surrounding her.  One by one the tunnel family and helpers came and hugged her.  Some whispered welcomes, others just held her close.

Last in the circle were the arms she knew very well - Vincent’s.  Catherine embraced him - fiercely.  She looked up at him, and he smiled at her.  He didn’t smile as often as he should, she thought.  His sapphire blue eyes were met by her sea-green ones.

 

“I’m so happy, Vincent,” she sighed.  “Tonight has been so wonderful.  Winterfest is a beautiful celebration.  I wish I’d been here years ago.  I don’t want the night to end”.

 

“It doesn’t have to, Catherine”.

 The way he looked at her made Catherine’s breath catch.

 “Are you hungry?  I wouldn’t mind eating something”.

 “Mmm, um, yes, that would be great.”  To her surprise, Catherine felt her face flush.

 The Great Hall was almost empty. Vincent led Catherine to the kitchen.  They gathered a collection of goodies - nuts, chocolate, strawberries and a pot of whipped cream.

 Vincent’s chamber was dark when they arrived.  As Vincent lit the multitude of candles, Catherine watched the shadows play over his face.

 How handsome he is, she thought.  His beautiful eyes,  gorgeous hair.  Not to mention his voice - that voice!  It made her weak at the knees when he spoke her name.

 Vincent pulled a quilt from his cupboard and laid it on the floor.  Vincent held out his hand and they settled next to each other.

 Catherine never tired of being in Vincent’s room.  She thought of it as “our room,” just as she thought of “our balcony” above.  She reached over and took his hand.  She rubbed her small hand over his beautiful, furred one.

 “I love being Below, Vincent.  Here, with you, it’s like the world above doesn’t exist.”

 “And when you are away from me, I think of you, miss you.  You’re in my heart, in my thoughts, but it’s not the same as having you here with me, by my side”.  Vincent replied.

To stop herself from crying, Catherine began their midnight feast.  Macadamias were her first choice.  She loved them.  Her friend from Australia had sent her some and she ate the whole packet one night with a bottle of wine.

 Wine - that would be lovely now…

 “Vincent, do you think there’s any red wine left over from dinner?”

“I’ll go and check.  I won’t be long.”  Vincent reluctantly left her.

 Catherine looked around the room.  It seemed empty without its owner.  She remembered how she lay on Vincent’s bed that first long, terrifying night when she was attacked.  She had vague memories - shivering, fear, her face on fire, a smashing headache.  She remembered kind, strong hands on her body (only a flicker of fear at first, but then she trusted those unfamiliar hands).

“Tell me your name…”

 She held onto that voice.  As the days went on she looked forward to his visits.  In her darkest moments his voice was a light - something to hold close.

 “Catherine”

 Catherine looked up and saw her beloved’s face.

 “You seemed so far away.  I hope you went somewhere special.”  Vincent stood in the doorway with the wine.

 “I was remembering the first night I was in this room.”

 “I’m sorry.”  Vincent began.

 “No, Vincent, don’t be.  That was the night you saved me, gave me a second chance.  Your voice, your kindness, you kept my spirit alive”.

 Vincent didn’t know how to respond to Catherine.  She was looking at him - eyes shining with tears.  He poured them a glass of wine, thinking.

 “Catherine, the night I found you in Central Park was the most awful of my life.  When I saw what those creatures had done to you - there are no words”.  Vincent reached over and held her hand tightly.

 “I was so angry, sick with sorrow. I wanted to find out who did this unspeakable thing.  But then you survived that first night.  You began to heal, became stronger.  I’ve never met anyone like you, Catherine - you take my breath away every time I’m with you”.

 Catherine did cry this time.  She wrapped her arms around Vincent and clung to him like a little child.  Vincent held her just as tight.

 Reluctantly they parted and finished their food.  They didn’t speak.  There was no need - Vincent and Catherine knew each other by heart.

 Vincent took some pillows off the bed when he felt pins and needles in his legs.  Catherine put her head on Vincent’s shoulder.  She loved him holding her.  His powerful arms always made her feel safe.  Vincent loved the feel of Catherine’s body.  He always found an excuse to hold her to him when they met.  His heart soared every time she came willingly into his embrace.

The wine was making Catherine sleepy.  She leaned against Vincent’s shoulder and his arm wrapped around her.  She loved that.  Vincent loved this exquisite woman by his side.  There was a time when Vincent thought he would never be loved, that he wasn’t worthy of love.  Then Catherine had come into his life.  He loved her from the first moment he saw her.  Almost as if he had always known her.  Her beauty, strength, and courage - all made Vincent giddy with happiness.  As Catherine snuggled closer, he rested his chin lightly on her head.  The silken strands tickled him slightly.

Catherine was dreaming.  She was walking through her apartment, searching for something.  Kitchen, dining room, lounge room, bathroom, bedroom - no, nothing there.  She was starting to become frantic.  Her dream self walked onto the balcony.  The sky was bright with stars, a cool breeze blowing her hair.  She looked down at the street far below.  As she looked over the city, she finally realised what she was missing.  Vincent.  This was her apartment, but it wasn’t home.  She had beautiful, priceless, but useless possessions.  It should be their home, their apartment, their sanctuary.  Without Vincent there, the apartment was an empty shell.  Where was he?  Why wasn’t he there with her?  They loved each other.  They trusted each other.  Why  was he so far away?

Vincent was also sleeping.  He woke when he felt Catherine stir in his arms.  She was still asleep, he could see her eyes closed and dreaming.  She was crying and her body was trembling.  Vincent held her tighter and placed little kisses on her head, lightly brushed her arm.  He wouldn’t wake her.  He would watch over her, protect her, give her what comfort he could.  Catherine didn’t cry often.  He could feel her emotions all the time.  It was hard for her, their relationship.  As much as it was difficult for him, it was magnified for her.  She could confide in no one of their love.  Vincent felt guilty that he couldn’t be there for her the way she needed him to be.  Every moment they were together was both a blessing and a curse.

 Catherine awoke a little while later.  She was surprised to feel tears on her cheeks.  Vincent was looking at her tenderly.

 “I’m sorry, Vincent, the wine must have gone to my head.  What time is it?”

 “It’s late, my dear.  But don’t worry.  It’s too late to return Above, Catherine.  Stay with me tonight”.

 “Oh, no, I couldn’t impose.  You were kind enough to invite me to Winterfest.  I wouldn’t want to overstay my welcome.”

 “Catherine, you are part of us, just as Father said tonight.  Do you know how much we all love you?  Sometimes I wonder what our lives would be like without your help and kindness.  Your generosity is very much appreciated.”

Catherine looked at Vincent for a moment with a flicker of frustration.  Why couldn’t Vincent say he loved her?  Not just the tunnel dwellers, but him.  She told him that she loved him often.  When would she hear those three words?

 “All right, Vincent.  I’ll go to the guest chamber.  Good night.  Thank you for a lovely Winterfest.”  She went to stand up.

Vincent stopped her.  His hand closed over hers, light but secure.  Catherine looked at him and tried to read his feelings.  Her own heart was starting to pound.  Vincent’s heart was also racing.  She could feel his hand slightly shaking.

 “Come to bed, Catherine.”  He rose and went to his enormous bed.  Catherine stayed rooted to the spot.  What did he just say?  She was dreaming, that was it.  This couldn’t really be happening.

 Vincent placed the cushions and quilt back on his bed.  He removed his boots.  He turned back the covers and looked at Catherine.  He gestured to her and Catherine climbed between the covers.  She felt like a teenager, very awkward and shy suddenly.  She rolled as far away from him as she could.  Vincent got under the covers and also stayed very still, leaving a lot of room between them.

 They had cuddled close before - on her balcony, in the tunnels, the park, but never here, in his room.  Vincent had dreamed of having Catherine in his bed, but had never had the opportunity or the courage to ask her to stay with him.  Tonight was different.  Perhaps it was Winterfest, his favourite festival of the year.  Having Catherine celebrate with him - eyes shining, achingly beautiful, it seemed right to have her stay with him.  Now that she was here, he was at a loss as to what he should do next.

 Catherine was grinning from ear to ear, breathless with anticipation.  How she had dreamed of lying close to Vincent.  So many nights dreaming of holding him, loving him.  Should she wait for him, or should she make the first tentative move?

 It was Vincent who found the courage first.  He rolled on to his side and looked at Catherine.  He reached out to her, took her hand and kissed it softly.  He opened his arms in invitation to her.  Catherine needed no encouragement.  She curled into his shoulder and smiled up at him.

Catherine stroked his face.  Her nails gently trailing down his cheek.  Vincent thought his heart would stop.  The desire he saw in Catherine’s eyes made him afraid and happy, in equal measures.  How could Catherine look at him with so much love?  He didn’t deserve it.

 Catherine ran her hands through his beautiful hair.  She breathed him in.  He smelled of smoke and earth.  She knew she had to kiss him - now.  She had wanted to kiss him for such a long time.  Vincent held his breath as Catherine leaned close to him.  She kissed him on his forehead, still stroking his face.  She kissed her way across his face, finally reaching his lips.  She placed her lips very softly - just a fleeting touch - and stopped there.  She looked up into Vincent’s face.

Vincent couldn’t move.  Catherine was kissing him!  He smiled at her and thought he’d cry from happiness.  He returned her small kisses and tentatively placed his lips on hers.  What should I do now?  Vincent thought.

 Catherine kissed his neck and shoulder.  She didn’t want to rush this.  She didn’t want to frighten Vincent.  This was a new experience for him; she wanted to give him as much pleasure as possible.  She could hear his heart thumping.  Catherine needed to be closer to Vincent.  She decided her dress had to come off.  She kept looking at Vincent as she undid her zip.  Her dress slid to the floor.  She kept her necklace on - it was twinkling in the candlelight.  Catherine took Vincent’s hand and placed it against her neck.  When Vincent tried to look away, she moved his hand inside the delicate fabric of her bra.

This was too much, thought Vincent.  To have this beautiful woman, showing him her body.  Needing his touch, needing his love and attention.  She kissed him again, this time kissing him a bit harder.  Her body was all that Vincent could have imagined and more.  He ran his hands over Catherine’s arms, shoulders and face.  Catherine removed his hand and moved it slowly down her body.  His nails tickled her and she tried not giggle.

 

 “Catherine, we must stop” murmured Vincent, but Catherine kept his hand moving up and down her thigh, pretending she hadn’t heard.  Catherine placed his hands lightly over her panties.  Plenty of time for exploring later, she thought dreamily.  She rubbed his leg and began her ascent up his body.  She reached under his shirt and slid it over Vincent’s head.  She kept a hand on his body the whole time, needing the closeness of him, the connection.

 Vincent’s desire for Catherine was overwhelming.  He held her tight and suddenly he wasn’t shy anymore.  When Catherine started to undo his belt, Vincent took her hand away and did it himself.  Now they were both in their underwear.  Neither Vincent nor Catherine could take their eyes away from each other.  Vincent loved Catherine’s curves, her hair covering her shoulders.  Her womanly hips, slim legs and dainty feet.  She was a vision.

 Catherine knew Vincent would be beautiful without clothes, but she hadn’t expected him to be this magnificent.  His chest, his muscles, legs - she couldn’t breathe.  She wrapped her arms around Vincent, and they shared their first, passionate kiss.  They made their way back to the bed.  Vincent kept kissing Catherine, over and over again.  He couldn’t believe he’d waited so long to kiss her.  All time he’d thought about it--he was a fool to have delayed.  Catherine returned his kisses with abandon.  She could stay here all night, holding him close, feeling his mouth, lips, his breath.  Catherine removed her bra and Vincent purred with delight.  He gazed at her breasts and bent his head to kiss them.  He kissed her belly, nuzzled her neck.

 Catherine was weak with desire.  She placed his hands on her waist and started to remove her panties.  Vincent suddenly froze.  Reality came crashing down around him.  He stood up, leaving Catherine lying on the bed, confused and a little hurt.

 “I’m so sorry, Catherine.  Forgive me.  I don’t know what came over me”.

 “Vincent, I love you.  We love each other.  I need you, I want you.  I want to show my love for you”.

 “Catherine, tonight has been a night of wonders for me.  You honour me with your love.  But, my darling, we can not go further.  It isn’t right.  You are giving me such a precious gift.  I could not be with you in body, not until we are joined spiritually.”

 Vincent knelt by his bed and took Catherine’s hand in his.  Catherine looked at him in wonder.

 “Catherine, my love.  You are my heart.  You have the other half of my soul.  I love you.  I have always loved you.  In one hundred years, I will love you still.  Catherine, will you do me the greatest honour and marry me?”

 “Oh, Vincent, yes, yes, yes!  I love you.  I can’t wait to marry you.  I’ll love you forever”.  She was smiling, crying and laughing as they kissed.

 For the remainder of the night, they lay wrapped in each others arms.  There was so much to look forward to.

 Winterfest - from darkness to light and for Vincent and Catherine - an end to their aloneness and the start of a shining future.

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