BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
LOVE HAS NOT FORGOTTEN YOU
First printing: October 1992
A NOVELLA BY SANDY P. SHELTON
Illustrated by Sandy Chandler Shelton
Edited by Vicki Thomas and JoAnn Grant
BASED ON THE SERIES BY RON KOSLOW
This publication is dedicated to :
All BEAUTY AND THE BEAST fans who still believe that dreams can come true.
And with gratitude and love to Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman
for bringing to life two of fiction's most romantic lovers.
LOVE HAS NOT FORGOTTEN YOU is not an attempt to rewrite the third season. The events of that season are dealt with, expanded upon and enhanced with other possibilities. This story simply picks up four years after Jacob's birth and deals with Catherine's survival.
I realize the concept is not new. I've read some very interesting Catherine returns stories. What I've attempted to do here is throw into the pot some issues that have not been examined and perhaps explore, a little further, some that have been raised before. I've tried to maintain the integrity of the characters as faithfully as I could while pushing them into some explosive situations. You'll find my Catherine a strong and determined woman, battling to get her life back and my Vincent, a changed man who finally accepts his humanity and begins to trust in love instead of live in fear.
I would be interested in your thoughts on this particular version of what could be, so please don't hesitate to write. Also, let me know if you would be interested in a sequel.
Sandy P. Shelton
Posted on line for the 24th anniversary of the first airing of the Pilot,
September 25th 2011.
Special thanks to Linda Wong for help with the file.
"The city of New York develops a whole new personality as the sun sets, because with the approaching darkness, comes the seamier aspects of its culture. Once I longed to be a part of it even if it meant hiding my face in the shadows. I thrilled at the activity and imagined all sorts of possibilities as I gazed at the vast array of twinkling lights. I ventured into that world and found my heart. I found Catherine."
A lone figure, with pen in hand, sat at a table far below the city streets and scribbled those wards. He sat back breathing deeply as he reread them. Pain-filled eyes stared sightlessly about the chamber as the cold hand of grief gripped his heart again. Once the soft amber light of the candles and the gentle tapping on the pipes, brought romantic visions and hope to his hungry heart. Now the very things that once brought him comfort only served to remind him of his loss. This was his prison now. He had sealed himself into this tomb, awaiting the day he would join her and once again feel whole. He began writing again.
"Jacob, my son, I live only for you. You are the only part of her I have left. Her memory lives in my heart. I both rejoice and suffer from its presence. I think of her smile, her touch, and her voice and my spirits soar. Then comes the black void of the aloneness I feel when I have to face yet another night without her. You can only know her through my words. I swore when I first held you, I would fill your mind and heart with the love we shared and the knowledge of what an incredible woman she was."
"This journal, written on the pages of her gift to me, is the story of how we met and loved. Perhaps these written words will someday help you understand what we shared and, in some small way, help you know your mother:"
"Her name was Catherine. From the moment I saw her, she captured my heart with her beauty, her warmth, and her courage. I knew then as I know now, she would change my life forever."
His train of thought was abruptly interrupted by his sense of someone approaching. He looked up to see Father limping through the entrance to his chamber. Vincent realized the last few years had not been kind to him but he had also seen the strain they had been for Father.
In the years since Catherine's death, Father had held him when he cried, tried to help him calm his rage, and sat with him during all those dark hours when sleep eluded him. He smiled slightly as he remembered Father patiently teaching him the intricacies of the care and feeding of an infant. The first diaper change had been quite an experience.
"Vincent... still writing I see."
Reluctantly he closed the book and pushed aside his memories. "Yes, it helps sometimes." Then, falling into his old habit, he leaned back into his chair and idly played with his pen. It was obvious the man sitting across from him had something to discuss and he could guess what. He prepared himself for their annual argument.
Father sat wearily in the chair, faced his son, and studied those unique features. As he noted the thin lines etched into that expressive brow, he thought about all his son had endured over the last few years. He remembered the joy and anguish Vincent's relationship with Catherine caused and the part he had played in putting the obstacles between them. "A life that can never be," he had said. "She can only bring you pain." How the words were burned into his memory!
He had been both right and wrong. It was true they could never have a conventional life together, but what they shared was so much more than that. The joy and self-confidence this special woman had inspired in Vincent truly changed him. Even his own foreboding had dissolved in the light and warmth of their love. He began to believe that Vincent's aloneness had ended, but then it happened. Closing his eyes for a moment, the horrible image of rage and anger played across his mind. They ended with the sight of Vincent standing in front of him with his infant son cradled in those strong arms. The look of wonder in Vincent's eyes mingled with the grief was emblazoned in his memory.
That concerned voice broke his train of thought. "Humph, yes. I suppose you realize what tomorrow is?"
The red-gold mane moved slightly as he nodded.
Father continued, "We thought perhaps you'd join us this year?" It was more a statement of hope than a question.
Vincent's head turned away in exasperation. "Father, please."
"It's your son's birthday for heaven sakes! You could at least attend his party."
Father could feel the anger as well as hear it. "Vincent... "
"We have this... discussion every year and every year the answer is the same. Why do you persist?" he asked as he rose from his chair and paced in a tight circle.
The older man fidgeted with his cane as he tried to calm his anger. "I persist because of Jacob. Do you think he has not noticed your absence? What will you tell him when he asks?" He let a moment of silence pass between them, then carefully added, "And because it's time you put this behind you and got on with your life."
That comment turned Vincent around and the rage burned in his eyes. "Put it behind me? You sit there and ask me to forget the only woman I'll ever love, to forget what we shared. I have no life without Catherine, she was my heart."
"And what of your son?"
Vincent stood erect, thoughtfully caressing the rawhide pouch that hung around his neck. Inside the pouch was the porcelain rose and the crystal necklace. 'At least, symbolically, they were together,' he thought. "Jacob is the only reason I've survived. I will continue to exist until he no longer needs me."
"And then?" Father nervously asked.
Vincent's voice was clear and poignant. "Then I will joyfully join Catherine."
Father's voice grew very stern. "You have responsibilities other than your son. This community.
"...is your dream," he responded through clenched teeth. "My only responsibility is to my son. I will live up to the promise I made to his mother."
"I cannot believe your words!"
"Believe them, Father!" came the cold reply.
Slowly Father stood and watched as his son climbed back into his own world of pain and loneliness. "Then there is no persuading you?"
Vincent walked over to the table and ran his fingers along the journal's binding. "Father, I realize your intentions are good, but please understand that I cannot celebrate the anniversary of Catherine's ...death. I love my son with all my heart but I cannot attend this party. Please respect that."
In utter frustration, Father ran his fingers through his coarse grey hair. "I can sympathize but I cannot condone your actions." Then with an air of resignation, he asked, "What will you do?"
"As I always do, Father. I will spend the day alone with my memories, then in darkness, I will visit her."
"Vincent, this is not healthy."
The voice was again frighteningly calm, "Perhaps not, but it is my choice."
Father knew his next question would get a cold reception as it had of late, but he was desperate. "And what about Diana?"
The very mention of the name caused Vincent discomfort. He straightened up. "What about her?"
"She will be attending the party. What excuse do we give her this year?"
Vincent answered as matter-of-factly as he could. "Simply tell her I'm unavailable. Father, I wish to see no one tomorrow."
"Avoiding the issue will not make it go away," Father said in a voice betraying his concern.
Again Vincent caressed the well-worn pouch. "Perhaps not, but that is an issue I will never confront again."
"Never is a long time."
"Oh believe me, Father, I know that, but forever is even longer. I promised Catherine forever."
Tears burned his eyes as his son's words once again broke his heart. In Vincent's eyes, he could see no room for argument. That strong, gentle heart could hold no one in its embrace again because the broken dream was shattered into too many pieces. Silently, with a heavy heart, he left his son standing in the wreck of his memories.
Vincent turned his back to Father as a signal their discussion had ended. After he felt Father's departure, he walked into the new chamber that had been added for his son. Although it was small, it was just right for a little boy and his belongings. It gave his father some privacy as well. The entrance, cut in the far wall of the old chamber, had become the main depository for Catherine's personal belongings.
There among the crude homemade and expensive store bought toys, were her family's picture books, high school and college yearbooks, diplomas, and a scrapbook filled with newspaper stories of her accomplishments. Vincent had been determined that his son know the woman his mother was. Sadly, he realized these things could never fill the void left by her absence, but at least he would have some sense of her.
Both Father and Diana had tried to convince him that perhaps his determination to teach his son about Catherine was an unhealthy obsession; that he was living in the past. No, Catherine would have done the same if circumstances had been reversed. He would not let their son grow up without knowing as much about her as possible. He owed her that.
His eyes focused on the little boy sleeping soundly under the quilts. His hair was the same golden red of his own and beneath those closed eyelids were eyes of identical blue. It was the face, however, that reminded him so much of his mother's. He had her strong jaw and delicate chin. That mouth with those full, pouty lips and his finely chiseled nose belonged to her as well. Looking at him sometimes, especially when he laughed or chewed his bottom lip, was extremely painful. With a renewed ache in his heart, he walked over and stretched out on his own bed.
The nights were always the hardest. The people of his world were asleep, the pipes quiet, and his thoughts drifted to her as always. With a wistful smile, he closed his eyes. Soon he was with her again, sharing her laughter, feeling the warmth of her smile, enjoying the intimacy of her embrace and moving towards their dream.
Suddenly in the lonely depths of his soul, he felt it. Opening his eyes, he held his breath and tried to focus on the tiny flicker he had felt. At first he thought it was his connection to Jacob. He searched it. No, he was asleep. 'What was it?' he asked himself. Over the last few weeks, that twinge had made itself felt whenever he thought of her. Although it didn't frighten him, it disturbed him greatly.
The next day the sound of children's laughter could be heard from Father's study as a tall, thin woman with long red hair made her way towards the chamber. The sound hastened her steps. In her arms, she carried a gaily wrapped package. She thought about a pair of little blue eyes lighting up as the package would be torn open to discover the battery operated train he'd wanted.
Briefly, Diana thought about how much this child had come to mean to her. She had been a part of his life since he was a month old. She had watched him grow into a charming, intelligent and loving child. Her heart fluttered at her deep-rooted desire to become an even bigger part of his life.
Her thoughts then turned to Vincent. Something about him had captured her heart and her life had not been the same since. She longed to be more than just a friend. She longed to share with him just a part of what he had shared with Catherine. If only he would give up this obsession with the past. After finding Jacob, his life should have returned to something akin to normal, but he had buried himself in his son and his memories. He seldom came Above anymore. He avoided anything more than a casual relationship with her. She stopped in her tracks as the next thought made her shiver. 'What if he knew... ' Quickly, she shrugged the thought away. She had made the right decision. Confidently, she hurried to join the party.
One quick look around the chamber, affirmed her suspicions. As usual, Vincent was not among the guests at his own son's birthday party. She angrily clenched her fist then proceeded to greet the guest of honor and present him with his gift. At least he was glad to see her and thoroughly enjoyed his train.
As the party wound down, Diana made her way to Father's side. She smiled, then leaned close so as not to be overheard. "He couldn't do it, could he?"
Father shook his head sadly. "I don't know what to do, Diana. I am so afraid the child will some day feel his father blames him for his mother's death."
Diana's eyes widened in shock. "You don't suppose... ?"
"No, he doesn't, but Jacob may not understand that it's just because his father's pain is too great. He may think it's his fault."
Anger flared briefly in Diana's heart. "Do you know where he is?"
Father looked at her sternly. "It's no use. He won't listen."
She touched his arm in an effort to instill a little confidence. "I've got to try."
"I wish you luck," he answered, as he lightly patted her hand. "He'll be somewhere special he shared with Catherine. The Falls or perhaps the concert shell. I'll have someone take you there."
"Thank you." She took one more look at Jacob, playing on the floor with his train, then went in search of Vincent.
He'd been sitting there for hours, lost in his memories. In his hand, he held the rose and the crystal ever so gently. With his eyes closed, he recaptured that night so many years ago when he first brought Catherine here. A faint smile began as he recalled the vision of her under the grate letting the rain wash over her. Her spontaneous laughter brought such a feeling of joy and hope to his heart. His blood pounded through his veins as he remembered the sight of the water dripping down over her body, the wet fabric clinging to her every curve. And then, when she fell into his arms! The tears coursed down his cheeks and a sob escaped him,
As Diana walked through the short pipe leading into the chamber beneath the grate, she heard the sob and her heart broke for him. Taking a deep breath, she walked tentatively into the semi-darkness. There he sat, visible only in the light that found its way through the grate. His head bowed, he clenched the objects in his hands to his tear-stained face. Her first impulse was to go to him, to somehow find a way to comfort him. But she was abruptly halted as his head jerked up and he stared at her with anger burning in his eyes.
"How dare you!" he shouted. In one swift movement, he put away the objects of his memories and rose to his feet. "You shouldn't be here!"
The tone of his voice frightened her. He roughly grabbed her arm and "escorted" her into the passageway beyond. "Vincent, what's wrong? What's wrong with you?" she pleaded as she watched him pace angrily.
He breathed deeply. He had come so close to losing control. When he finally regained some hold on his anger, he issued a cold warning. "You are never, to go into that place again. Do you understand?"
"Do you understand?" he asked in a menacing voice.
His cold hard tone was in contrast to the anger still burning in his eyes. She knew she had to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible. "I understand, " she answered in a calm voice. That seemed to help and soon the anger ebbed into annoyance.
"Why are you here? Is the party over?" he asked as his breathing returned to normal.
She watched the calmness return to his ice blue eyes and felt her own heartbeat begin to slow. "For the most part."
Vincent leaned heavily against the wall and stared down at his hands. "I suppose Jacob enjoyed it?"
Diana felt her anger rising. "Yes, he did," she said curtly. "But he's getting old enough to be affected by his father's absence,"
His eyes rose quickly to meet hers. "Did he say something?"
She stepped as close as she dared. "No, Vincent, but what will we tell him when he asks why his own father refuses to celebrate his birth?"
He lowered his eyes and battled his conscience. Inside, he knew her argument was a valid one, but how could he make them understand he simply could not overcome his own pain. "I will answer his questions."
"And what will you tell him? What if he senses somehow you blame him for his mother's death?"
At that question, Vincent's eyes again flashed anger. He moved away from the wall and stood threateningly over her, his eyes boring into her soul. "I do not believe that and I will not have him think it!"
For another brief moment, she felt frightened by his imposing presence but fear quickly gave way to another familiar feeling.
He was raw strength and virility held in tight check. Haw many nights had she dreamed of finding some way to loosen that hold or have him relinquish it altogether. But in four years, he had withdrawn even further into himself and there was no progress at all. He had refused any physical contact with her except when unavoidable. Even though those contacts had been few and brief, they had been electric for her. Vincent, however, had reacted in fear and quickly moved away.
She quickly pushed those thoughts aside. "Vincent, tell me, why can't you let go of the past? It's been four years. You've been apart longer than you were together. It's time to get on with your life. It's time to reach out for other possibilities." But although the words were spoken from her heart, she regretted them immediately.
For Vincent, everything had suddenly become crystal clear. He had denied it to himself and to Father, but with those words, Diana had revealed her expectations of a fuller relationship with him. His heart retreated in fear. He then looked into her pleading eyes, carefully choosing the words to end those expectations as easily as he could. "Diana, I cannot push aside my memories of Catherine and what we shared. Nor do I want to. She is alive in my heart and will be forever. My memories are all I have to comfort me."
He paused a moment, then continued. "Jacob is our son, the only viable proof of that love. I will do nothing to hurt him. But if you and Father expect me to forget her, to go on as if my promises of always meant nothing, then you are both mistaken. I will continue to tell my son about his mother. He will know of her beauty, strength, and courage. He will know how much we laved in our short time together. Yes, Diana, our time together was brief, but we lived a lifetime measured in moments."
"Please know that I cherish our friendship. I owe you a great debt, but..." he paused to make sure she understood him, "there can never be more."
She nervously looked away, her eyes filled with tears. "Never is a long time."
Vincent smiled as he remembered Father's words. "So I have been reminded of late." He carefully studied her face. "I can never share with anyone what I had with Catherine. There can never and will never be another."
Involuntarily, desperation slipped into her voice. "You don't know that!"
Vincent placed his hand over his heart. "My heart knows there is only room for my son and Catherine. She will forever be a part of me. To deny that would be to live a lie and that would not be fair to you. Please understand, no matter what you and Father say or do, I will not let go of Catherine. I will cling to her even more tightly." Straightening his shoulders, he issued his warning. "That place was something I shared only with her. It is my sanctuary. You are not to enter there ever again."
Bitterness welled up in her now. "Sanctuary or tomb?"
He looked at her with cold indifference, then a touch of pity. "Good-bye, Diana."
Deep inside she felt him closing her out. The depth of her loss threatened to choke the breath from her. "Are you going there tonight?"
He said nothing, then nodded slowly and walked away. As she watched him leave, she knew her heart went with him. The flood of pain she felt was only dwarfed by her guilt. She began to sob. She had been living a dream, a dream that was never to be. The knowledge of that tore her apart.
Later that night as Vincent put his son to bed, he lovingly kissed the top of his reddish-blonde head. "Father will be in to sit with you while I'm gone. I'll be back before you wake in the morning. If you need anything, just ask Father."
Jacob looked up at him now. "Daddy, where are you going?"
The smile vanished. "I'm going to your mother's grave."
"Can I go?"
Vincent had often thought about taking his son, but the cold December weather and the possibility of being seen changed his mind. "You go there often in the daytime with Jamie or Mary. I can only visit at night."
"I want to go there with you." His eyes were misting.
This was more difficult than he had been prepared for. "When you are a little older, I would be honored to share this with you. But tonight, Jacob, you must go to sleep."
Jacob's blue eyes looked up at him. "Daddy?"
Vincent noticed the way he tilted his head as he spoke. It was so reminiscent of Catherine. "Yes, son?"
"Are you mad at me?"
A cold shudder escaped Vincent. "Mad at you? What makes you think that?"
The little boy shrugged. "You don't come to my party and you always look so sad. Daddy, did I hurt Mommy?"
A huge lump of emotion forced him to swallow hard, the tears burning his eyes. The moment he dreaded had finally arrived. "No, son," he answered through his tears. "Your mother loved you, She wanted to protect you. An evil man is to blame for her death, not you. The look in her eyes when she told me about you was so filled with love. Jacob, know that you mother fought a great battle to give you life because she wanted you so badly. She would never have you think such thoughts and neither would I."
The little boy seemed happy enough with that. He eagerly hugged his father.
"Alright, young man, go to sleep."
Vincent stayed until his son fell asleep, then quietly slipped into his own chamber. He found Father trying to find a comfortable position in the big chair. "He's asleep now," he said as he put on his cloak.
"Must you go out?" Father asked even though he knew the answer.
"Father, we discussed this before. Nothing will keep me from going there tonight. That is final."
Angrily, Father nodded his head. "If you must persist in this... morbid habit, then do be careful."
A sigh escaped Vincent's lips. He thought Father, of all people, would have understood. He reached over and squeezed the old man's shoulder gently. "I always am." He hesitated only a moment for one last look, then began his journey to the cemetery.
It was a long, lonely trip through the dimly lit tunnels. He walked solemnly with his memories his only company. At the drainage pipe opening, he stopped and used all his senses to survey the area. It was safe, no one was around.
The night air was cold and stung his cheeks as he moved into the comforting darkness. Within minutes, he was there. He reverently knelt and looked at the simple headstone which bare only her name and life span. To see its starkness caused him great pain. Her life was so much more than two dates on a cold stone slab. It was then he withdrew a single red rose from his cloak and carefully placed it on the ground that covered her precious body.
"I'm here, Catherine. I'll always share this night with you until we can share eternity... and we will, Catherine, we will." He sat back on the cold ground and removed another article from his cloak. He slowly opened the well-worn pages of the book and began to read. The last few lines hung heavily in the air and in his heart.
"Though lovers be lost, love shall not
And death shall have no dominion."
He sat until dawn reading poetry and talking about their son, as he had done every year since her death. Then with the lighting of the morning sky, he painfully tore himself away. "Until next year, my love."
That night he dreamed of her. Although that was not unusual, these dreams were different. They were more real, more intense than any of the others. He woke the next morning feeling drained, with a strange sense of unease.
Thousands of miles across the country in Seattle, someone else awakened with an identical feeling of unease. A young woman, in her early thirties, with long honey-gold hair, walked toward a door. Hesitantly, she turned the knob. It had taken all her courage to finally take this step, but she had to do something. She could no longer live with the doubts and terrible feelings of disquiet she had awakened with this morning. The nightmares were frightening. She feared it would all soon drive her mad.
She entered the plush office, looking around the room nervously. An attractive man, in his fifties, stood and offered her his out-stretched hand. His smile was disarming.
"Hello, Ms. Hampton, I'm Dr. Preston," His well-trained eyes quickly assessed his new patient. Physically, she was a very attractive woman with her small feminine frame and long hair. But it was the stunning green eyes and the open, honest smile that caught his attention.
"Hello, Dr. Preston. I wish you'd call me Karen." She sat in the big comfortable looking chair the doctor indicated. She was feeling very uncomfortable.
"Alright, Karen, perhaps we should begin with your telling me a little about yourself."
The comment drew a sad smile. "Very little is all I can tell you."
The doctor was confused. "I beg your pardon?"
She closed her eyes and sighed deeply. "I guess I'd better start at the beginning."
"Please do," he encouraged her.
It was then Karen revealed all she knew of her life. "A little over three years ago, I awoke from a coma. I didn't know who I was, where I was, or how I got there. My mind was literally blank. All the doctors could tell me was that I has suffered a drug overdose, morphine I think, and that I had been comatose for over seven months ." The memories of those first few days in fear and confusion caused her to shudder.
The doctor, noticing this physical sign of discomfort, noted it. His question was to probe deeper. "Surely they could identify you?"
She shook her head solemnly, then answered, "No. They had me listed as a Jane Doe. Eventually, I took the name of a physical therapist that befriended me. I'll tell you, doctor, waking up one morning without your past is frightening, to say the least."
"I'm sure it was quite traumatic."
The uneasy smile she had been wearing slowly vanished into a sad faraway look as she relived those memories. "I went through a year of physical and emotional therapy before I could put some kind of life together. At times, it was quite a battle."
"One that you apparently won, but I assume you're not comfortable with? Tell me, what happened after your release?"
"The FBI showed up one day, questioned me thoroughly, then told me I was to be part of the Witness Protection Plan. They put together a whole new life for me. Complete with name, fake background, new job, a place to live, the whole nine yards."
The doctor watched those expressive green eyes. "Didn't they tell you anything about why they were relocating you?" He saw her absentmindedly reach for something at her throat. Not finding it, her hand fell limply into her lap.
"They wouldn't tell me but I suppose it had something to do with illegal drugs or something. I must have seen or heard something that threatened someone. I don't know."
The doctor continued his practice of reading body language as well as words. "Why are you here today, Karen?"
Putting her fears and all those vague feelings into words would be difficult, but she needed answers. She needed help trying to find some order in her life. "Over the last few months, I've started having these terrible dreams."
Again, he could see as well as hear her distress. "Tell me about these dreams, Karen."
It took great effort on her part to bring them to her tortured mind's eye, but she closed her eyes and forced the memory. "They're just images and feelings. I can see the lights of a big city before me. I can hear this man's voice keep saying 'I'll love you, always,' but I can't see his face. Every time I reach out to him, he vanishes in the darkness. Then I hear myself screaming in fear and pain. I hear a baby crying and like before, I reach out and find only emptiness. That's when I wake up."
The doctor intentionally spoke softly. "Is it the same dream every time?"
"Yes," she answered
The doctor tapped his pencil gently on the notepad. "You said this has been happening for months. What made you finally seek help?"
"Because last night it was worse than ever before. I woke up feeling terrified like I was living this horrible lie." She gripped the arm of her chair until her knuckles turned white. "Doctor, I'm tired of staring into a mirror, wondering who I am, where I'm supposed to be, and who I'm supposed to be with. I think these dreams are trying to tell me something. These dreams are the key."
"Perhaps they are. Is there anything else other than these dreams?"
Karen sighed, then got up and began pacing in a small circle. "Over the last few weeks, I've had these visions followed by intense headaches." Her hand went to her temple, her fingers massaging the area.
"What kind of visions, Karen?"
"Dim images of that man, baby, and the bluest eyes I've ever seen. But sometimes, I just hear these words echoing through my mind." She stopped as they filled her mind again.
The doctor gently prompted her. "What words?"
She took a deep breath and repeated the strangely familiar words that always caused a lump in her throat. "Though lovers be lost, love shall not and death shall have no dominion."
The words were familiar to the doctor as well. "I believe that's Dylan Thomas, isn't it?"
His response brought her back to reality. "You're right. I looked it up in the library." She smiled weakly. "What's happening to me, doctor?"
He sat back in his chair. "It sounds like you're having selective memory occurrences."
Karen looked confused. "What?"
"I'll be honest with you, Karen. When you said drug overdose, I thought your memory loss was drug induced which means there would be little or no chance of the damage reversing itself. But these occurrences suggest something else."
She sat back down, eager for any reason to hope, "What else?"
"Something called repressed memory. Usually, it involves only a selected memory that was so horrible the mind could not deal with it. In self-defense, it buries the memory. I've never known a case that so completely repressed the memory. Whatever happened to you must have threatened your total perception of yourself so badly, you simply could not deal with it. Not even the good memories," he explained as simply as he could.
She could feel the hope welling up inside her. "You mean I could get my memory back?"
He hated to dampen her enthusiasm, but he didn't want her to think it would be easy. "I can't promise you anything. It could take a lot of therapy or it could be as simple as another sudden shock. Or, Karen, it might not happen at all. As I said earlier, I've never seen a case like this before. You've got to be willing to work hard at it. It will mean eventually facing the horror that caused this, but I believe it can happen."
A smile lit up her face as tears filled her eyes. "I'll do whatever it takes. I just can't live like this anymore."
He reached out and patted her hands that were neatly folded in her lap. "Alright, then we'll get started right away. I want you to sit back, relax and tell me every detail you can about these dreams and visions. Everything, every minute detail is crucial."
The sessions were held three time a week. They were difficult and always heart-wrenching as well as frustrating. Although it was a painful experience, at had to be done because she was determined to find her way back.
It had been a long day at the legal offices of Hartley, Millner, and Davis. Karen sat at the long conference table, sifting through stacks and stacks of the Washington state laws.
Just as she closed one more book, the door opened and Mark Davis walked in.
"Still at it?" he asked.
Karen sat back a little, focusing her tired eyes on Mark. He was tall with dark hair, hazel eyes, and killer body. According to the office grapevine, he was the catch and talk was he was interested in a certain paralegal named Karen Hampton. "Yes, and from the looks of it, I'll be here a while."
He walked over and sat on the table looking down at her. "Why don't you quit this far now and have dinner with me?"
As usual, the thought of going out with an eligible man tied her stomach in knots. "I can't."
"Why? I promise to behave."
She laughed and blushed. "It's not that, it's... "
As she stared into his hazel eyes, her head began to pound. All she could see were two bright blue eyes staring into her very soul. Suddenly, she couldn't breathe. The pain in her head became excruciating. "No!" she almost screamed, then ran out of the room and quickly headed for the bathroom. Even there as she stared into the mirror, those eyes appeared again followed by those words and more pain. Her hands went to the sides of head as the pain grew worse. Then as suddenly as it began, it stopped.
"Karen, are you alright?"
It was Stephanie, the firm's legal secretary and her best friend since her arrival in Seattle. She felt Stephanie's arm around her shoulders. "You scared the crap out of Mark. What's up?"
It was then she realize how her actions must have looked to an unsuspecting Mark. "I bet I did. I'll have to apologize to him."
Stephanie removed her arm and leaned against the sink, facing her friend. "Hey, girl, what did he do? Proposition you, I hope."
Karen had to laugh at the snug look on Stephanie's face, but something inside her didn't think it was amusing. "No, he just asked me out."
That smug look turned to glee. "What? He finally asked you out? Girl, get your butt out there and say yes."
"Karen, he's the most eligible bachelor in town. You'd be crazy to blow it."
The pounding in her head had not totally subsided and this conversation wasn't helping. "I'm just not interested in Mark or any other man right now, ok?"
"What are you, gay or something?"
She laughed out loud and it seemed to ease the pressure in her head. "No, Steph, there is a lot I don't know about myself, but believe me, my sexual preference is not one of them."
After a moment of embarrassed smiles, Karen continued her explanation, "It's just that I can't shake this feeling I'd be betraying someone."
Karen had told Stephanie about her amnesia and her decision to go into therapy. "Are the sessions helping any?"
"I don't know. The doctor said it would take time. I just wish there was some progress."
Stephanie once again put her arm around her friend. "These dreams you're having, they're progress. You didn't have those when you first came here. You just have to hang in there. It will come, I know it." She gently squeezed Karen's shoulder. "Meanwhile, why don't we grab a bite to eat? Hey, we'll make it a girl's night out."
"Thanks for the offer, but I'd really just like to go to the gym and workout a while. Maybe some other time."
"Umph!" Stephanie frowned, "You and that gym, I'm getting worried about you."
Karen hugged her friend warmly. "Thanks, you don't need to be. Really, the workouts clear my mind." Remembering the hours she spent in the hospital rehab center, she continued, "I got into the habit during my rehabilitation in Boston."
"Well, whatever," Stephanie added with a certain amount of skepticism in her voice. "I still worry about you. If you need me, I'm a phone call away."
"Thanks, but right now I need to go apologize to Mark before his male ego is permanently damaged." That brought a laugh as they walked out together.
Hours later, in a nicely appointed but somewhat empty gym, Karen was in the last phase of an intense workout. Her earlier admissions to Stephanie were true, workouts had helped. She may have lost her identity, her past and her memories, but her body was still hers. Hours spent getting in touch with her physical self had helped calm the emotional turmoil and had become her drug of choice.
After her last routine with the free weights, she sat down on the weight bench, breathing deeply and focusing inward. It started as a feeling of dizziness and nausea that soon became a pain so intense she felt as if her head was being split in two. Her mind filled with a red haze. She could see and feel the presence of that man again. He was standing in front of her, beckoning her to come to him, almost pleading to her. She reached out to him, he was so close, then he vanished again. Frustration filled her heart. She jumped up, ran over to the punching bag, and began to beat her fists into it screaming, "Damunit! Dammit!"
After returning home and taking a warm soothing shower, she went straight to bed, still questioning her feelings of betrayal. The incident at the gym was still fresh in her mind. Finally, she fell into a fitful sleep.
She was walking through a mist again. There were soft tappings and a strange amber light. She was walking towards the darkness, but it was something beyond that darkness that called to her. Time seemed to pass and she became aware of the sensations, the feeling of warm hands intimately touching her body. A warmth and yearning stirred in her. Those feelings were quickly followed by such a sweet sensation of completeness. The scene suddenly changed and she was in a cold sterile room filled with fear, her body wracked in pain. It seemed to go on and on until a weak cry was heard.
Karen began crying in her sleep. "Please, please," she begged. The words again haunted her. "Death shall have no dominion." Sweating profusely, with tears coursing down her face, she sat up in bed and screamed, "Vincent!" As soon as the name escaped her lips, her mind sought desperately to retrieve the memory but the door closed quickly. Anger followed, she pounded her fists into the mattress and sobbed uncontrollably.
At her next therapy session, she tried desperately to sort out the nightmare her life had become. "The dream was more real, more vivid than ever before. I was wide awake when it happened at the gym. Doctor, I can't take much more of this."
Doctor Preston had listened with interest and concern to his patient's retelling of her dream. He was more convinced than ever that her memory was gradually returning. If only he could get her to be a bit more patient and let it happen at its own pace.
"Karen, the harder you try to force this, the more difficult it will become."
Her own fatigue and lack of sleep were catching up with her but she knew he was right. "Doctor, I can't begin to describe the frustration and helplessness I feel. I feel like I'm standing on the brink of getting my life back and I can't quite get a hold of it."
He was deeply concerned as to just how much she could take. "Karen, your memory will come back at its own speed. If you keep on this way, you could push it away completely. You must understand that."
Putting her head in her hands, she began to cry. "Ever since this started, I've felt more and more like I don't belong here. This is not my life! I want my life back, not a life created on paper. I want my memories, my hopes, my dreams."
Helplessly, the doctor could only watch. She had to work through this herself. He could only watch over and guide her.
She regained a bit of her composure and walked over to the window. Looking out into the streets of the city, she closed her eyes in an effort to let go her frustration. Slowly she let out a deep long-held breath. "I don't belong here in this city or this life. I have this feeling that somewhere, there's someone waiting for me."
"You're referring to the man in your dreams?"
"A man and a baby."
"Are you that certain there was a child?" he asked.
She shook her head and looked upward. "I'm not certain of anything," she answered in a defeated voice.
A heavy silence fell between them as she searched her scattered thoughts. "Oh God, I've got to go," she said as she checked her watch. "The state of New York vs. Ferguson goes to trial soon and I've got a lot of research to do."
The doctor raised an eyebrow and asked, "The state of New York?"
The woman impatiently gathering her things, suddenly stopped. "Did I say New York?"
"You certainly did."
She sat down again, feeling very confused. "Why would I say New York? Do you suppose that means something?"
"Possibly. Where did you say you were hospitalized?"
Intense gray-green eyes bore into the doctor's. "For the most part, in Boston."
"During your stay there, did anyone ever mention New York to you in any way?"
"Not that I remember," Karen smiled at the irony of her comment. "But then again, that's why I'm here, isn't it?"
He returned her smile. "Yes well, I think your little slip is definitely something we should look into. I'll make some inquiries at the Boston hospital. You concentrate on New York. Maybe, between the two of us, we can come up with something."
She nodded her head, then walked to the door. "You know, Doctor, I really feel good about this. It's almost as if a window just opened."
The Doctor smiled at a reference to a very familiar quote and the spark of hope shining in her eyes. He was beginning to feel good about this himself.
At Karen's next session, Doctor Preston reported the results of his inquiries to Boston General. "Karen, I spoke to the doctor you mentioned. Just as I thought, they wouldn't give me any information."
She felt as if her one ray of hope had been cruelly dashed. "Dammit!" she muttered, angrily hitting the chair.
The doctor observed her sudden rage and turned a few thoughts over in his mind. "I wasn't that surprised, Karen. Based on what you told me, they were probably acting under orders from the FBI. Besides, they had no idea I was who I said I was. They could have put you in danger."
"They're also keeping me from finding out who I am. How can they do that! How can they play God like that!"
"They're trying to protect you, Karen, remember that." He sat back in his chair, studying her for a moment. "There's another matter we need to discuss. Something I feel we should begin therapy on right away."
The disappointment Karen was feeling was pushing her close to tears and she hated that. That's all she seemed to do lately. "Just what I need, more therapy," she said sarcastically, then tried to smile.
Her weak smile almost caused him to break his rule of not getting emotionally involved with his patients. He pushed his concern aside. "Karen, I feel there is an emotional block in the way of your regaining your memory."
Her look changed to one of disbelief. "Are you trying to say I'm blocking out my own memory? That's crazy, I want to remember."
"That's not what I'm saying. From your display of anger, I think what happened to you made you so angry, filled you with such rage, that your mind simply put up a block,"
She looked at him cynically. "That's one hell of a theory, Doc."
"It's more than a theory, I suspect. I want to work on that. If we can get you to experience your anger, feel it and let it run its course, I believe you will begin to remember."
She was beginning to feel really desperate now. "Perhaps, but it could take months of therapy. There has to be a better way."
"It's the only safe way, Karen."
"No. There's another way. I can go to Boston and ask my doctor face to face. He can't refuse to tell me."
"I want you to stop and think about this, Karen. If you go chasing after your past without having some idea of what you're getting into, you could be placing yourself in danger. You could also do yourself more damage. It's a great risk and you should be prepared for what may happen."
"That may well be, Doctor, but I have a feeling if I don't, I'll spend months in therapy regretting not taking the chance. Sometimes we must leave our safe places."
A look of confusion passed between them. "Now, where did that come from?" she asked.
The doctor once more expressed his concern. "Karen, I wish you would change your mind."
But Karen was determined. She finally felt for once she was in control of her life. "No, Doc, I've got to do this for my peace of mind."
He could see she was determined and perhaps it was what she needed. He could only hope for the best. "Alright, if you must, but please promise me you'll call and report on your progress."
She walked over and warmly hugged him. "Thank you, I will. Right now, I've got to get time off, pack and say a few good byes."
The doctor watched her walk out with mixed feelings. Deep inside, he hoped she would find her answers back East, but his professional instincts told him she was only walking into more trouble.
That evening, back at Karen's apartment, she hastily filled a couple of suitcases with her friend, Stephanie's, help. "I still don't know why you have to do this."
She stopped packing, and looked intently at her friend. "It's hard to understand unless you've awakened one morning with no sense of who you are, no childhood memories, no high school or college connections, no past loves to remember fondly, no nothing! You see, Steph, you get your sense of yourself from your memories. The sum total of your experiences make you who and what you are. I don't have that. I only have what I've been told. My life began a little over three years ago. I can't and won't be satisfied with that. I want to know why I have an affinity for the law. I want to know what my dreams mean, who my parents are, what I did to put myself into this mess. Most of all, I want to know who the hell those blue eyes belong to."
Stephanie had to laugh at the face her friend made. "When you find out, be sure to ask if he has a brother. Any guy that can leave such a lasting effect on the Ice Maiden, must be pretty hot stuff."
Karen turned to her friend with a shocked expression. "The Ice Maiden?"
"Yeah. That's what the guys at work call you. I mean, not one of them could heat you up and, girl, they tried."
"Humph! I don't think I like that title," she said, then picked up a pillow and gave her friend a solid whack. They both laughed. "I'm going to miss you."
"It's not like you're going for good, is it?"
Karen shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know what I might find there. Who knows, I might have six kids and an overweight husband who likes to watch football in his shorts."
Stephanie roared with laughter. "No way can I see you putting up with that. No way!"
The next day found Karen flying the friendly skies and desperately trying to calm her nerves. She had her plan of attack, but she had to admit the closer she got to Boston, the more frightened she became.
What if the doctor had been right? What if she discovered something so hideous in her past she couldn't deal with it? What if she didn't like what she found? The thoughts kept buzzing around in her head until she heard the captain announce their arrival.
In Boston, she walked the familiar halls of the hospital. Each remembered face brought a round of smiles and hugs, slowing her progress to the office of Dr. Stanley Winstad. After arriving, she was announced. She peered around the door at the blond-haired man with glasses. "Hi, Doc!"
The handsome, slightly overweight, middle-aged doctor smiled and rose quickly to meet Karen's open arms. "Karen, it's so good to see you." He stood back and looked her over clinically. "You look wonderful. I can tell you've been keeping in shape. Good girl!"
"Some habits are hard to break."
"Some habits should never be broken. Now sit down and tell me what you've been up to since you left us."
She took some time, filling him in on her life over the past three years since she had last seen him. Then she got to the reason for her visit. She told him about the dreams, headaches and about the doctor's diagnosis.
The doctor sat back, listening with extreme interest. "Oh, yes. I remember his call. Karen, you must understand. We had to take that position for your own protection. I didn't have any proof he was for real. I didn't want to put you in any jeopardy."
"I suppose I can understand that, but, Doctor, I need some answers."
He rocked in his chair, studying her carefully. "I'd love to help, but I don't have any answers. When you were transferred here, all we knew was that it was a morphine induced coma and that you were clinically dead for a time. You were on life support for weeks."
"Didn't they tell you anything about where I came from, where they found me, or even from where I was transferred?"
He shook his head solemnly. "No. They told us nothing. We did eventually learn, by accident, they had flown you in from New York."
At the mention of New York, her interest was peaked. "New York? Are you sure?"
"Yes, that's where the helicopter was from. Is that important?"
"I'm beginning to think so."
The doctor rose and walked around his desk. He reached down, taking her hands in his. "Karen, the FBI went to a lot of trouble to keep what they knew about you a secret. I feel they must have been convinced your life was in danger. That may still be the case. As much as I can sympathize with your situation, sometimes it's just best to let things be,"
She gently squeezed his hand to show her appreciation for his concern. "I' m afraid I can't. My life is out there somewhere. I have to find it. I have this feeling there's someone I left behind. Someone who needs me. I can never feel whole again until I know for sure. I need that missing piece of my life."
She stood up, her decision made. "I guess the answer must be in New York."
"New York's a big city, dear. How do you propose to find those answers?"
Her warm smile shone back at him. "I been a paralegal for the last three years. Research is what I do, it's what I have a knack for, you could say. If I disappeared from New York back then, surely someone was looking for me. The police or the newspapers should have a report about it. They're always a good place to start."
"Then... I don't know. I guess I'll try to put the threads of my life back together again." She said good-bye and walked out feeling encouraged by the lead she had discovered. Still she was frightened as to where it would take her.
Even though it was January, Miami was unbearably humid. A well-dressed man stared at the glaring sun out of the high rise condo's window. Secretly he longed for the seasonal climes of Europe to which he had become accustomed, but he had a job to do. No, he had destiny to fulfill. A destiny he had waited four years to achieve. His attention was diverted when a man walked into the room, awaiting permission to speak.
He despised the lack of backbone in the balding little man with glasses, but he admired his loyalty. To be truthful, he demanded that from his employees. "Well, Mr. Cochran, I hope you have good news for me."
Justin Cochran knew this was more an order than inquiry. But his fear of the man was greater than his righteous indignation. He had long ago learned the price one paid for disobedience. It was a price he was not ready or willing to pay. "Yes, sir. I have spoken to the people in New York."
The man, with dark hair and even darker eyes, gracefully sat down in his chair. Coldy, he studied the messenger squirming beneath his gaze. After a few moments of silence, he smiled and finally offered the man a seat. "Is everything in order for my triumphant arrival?"
The smaller man cringed at the sound of his employer's voice. "All your requirements have been met. Your brother's house has been repurchased, the appropriate people have been notified, and the necessary equipment has been delivered."
"And, Mr. Cochran, what proof do you offer me that what I asked has been achieved?"
The little man smiled thinly as he understood his employer's meaning. Carefully reaching inside his jacket, he pulled out a small box. With great reverence, he opened it and placed its contents on the desk.
From the moment he saw the rings, he knew they were the matching counterparts to his own. He lifted each one carefully, examining the inscription within. He then studied his own. "Yes, the circle is complete."
The little man did not want to interrupt the revelry, but there was one matter that had not been reconciled. "There is nothing to report on the whereabouts of the journal yet."
Cold eyes stared into the man's timid ones. "I cannot express the importance of that last little bit of untidinesses."
"Sir, the traitor is dead and so is the woman. No one could interpret what it means."
"Do not assume anything, Cochran." Mentally, he was reviewing some particular images he had been living with since his brothers' death. "Have you forgotten the matter of the tape?"
How could he? The monster he saw on the one remaining video had made his blood run cold. The death and destruction had been horrifying to watch. It was even more horrifying to know it was real and that horrible creature existed. He remembered feeling nauseous as he listened to the story of the woman who bore that animal a child. A child with whom his former employer had become obsessed. It was an obsession that had cost many lives, including two of the brothers. "No, sir, I have not forgotten."
As long as that woman's... mate is alive, there's a danger. She probably told him where the book was hidden."
"But, sir, if that were true, why has it not surfaced?"
"Perhaps this creature has no conception of what it is. Perhaps he is laying in wait for a better time." His fingers closed around the rings. His knuckles turned white as he gripped them tightly. "Then there is the child." He smiled with confidence. "Now is the time for me to ascend to my proper position of power. I will bring the threads of this empire together."
The other man watched as the speaker's eyes glazed over and his voice grew reverent. "For four years I have waited. For four years, I have carefully rebuilt my rightful empire and now, now the time has come for me to reclaim my birthright. I will let nothing get in my way, Cochran. No man, no Beast!"
"But, sir, no one was able to find any trace of that... whatever."
It was then the man, known as Gideon, turned an icy stare on employee. "Incompetence, Cochran, pure incompetence. A situation that will be rectified, I can assure you. As long as that damnable journal exists, there is danger to our power base. No matter what it takes, that loose end must be tied up. Do you understand?"
Cochran knew better than to argue or even express an opinion. He simply answered, "Yes, sir."
Gideon once again looked out at the Miami skyline. "As for that... child and its sire, I will deal with them in my own way and my own time."
"That will be no easy task, sir. We tried far years to find a trace of him. He simply disappeared."
"No one... " his voice had a dangerous edge to it, "simply disappears."
"Sir... " Cochran pitifully pleaded.
Gideon raised his finger to silence Cochran. "No excuses. The woman Gabriel killed, that animal's mate, meant a lot to him. His offspring is all he is concerned with now." As if an afterthought, he added, "He must have raped her or she was... well, never mind. That animal is to be found and destroyed at my hands. I do not care what happens to the little bastard, he was Gabriel's obsession, not mine. I will use all means, however, to get that nasty little journal.
Cochran realized his employer meant every word. He personally knew of the death and destruction this man had wrought. "Shall I prepare your jet to fly you to New York?"
"By all means, Cochran." He almost laughed aloud. "It is time to achieve my destiny and you, my loyal man, will be by my side through it all."
"Yes, sir. I shall go issue instructions." He gave his employer one last look before leaving. He could see the chilling look of sheer madness fill his eyes. It was a look that once filled the eyes of his two brothers. It had eventually led to their destruction. Cochran left the room, dreading what he knew was to come.
Gideon once again looked out the window into the wilting heat of this forsaken place. He would soon be leaving here to assume a residence much more appropriate for his future status. He remembered his brothers. He vowed not to be as weak as Gabriel and Snow. Gideon would not allow a mere obsession to stand in his way. He would rule his kingdom with a firm and harsh grip.
A few hours later, Gideon was quietly sitting aboard his plush private jet, winging his way to New York. He watched that ever meticulous little man writing in his notebook and leafing through his files. Cochran cared too much for facts and figures, not enough for the intricacies of power and control. They did make a good team, though. He relished the thought of their rule in New York.
On another plane, flying in from Boston, sat an equally determined young woman. Her goals were not power or revenge but simply her identity. She studied the cloud formations idly and tried to imagine all the possibilities. But all she could think of was how much the vivid blue skies reminded her of those blue eyes in her dreams. It seemed the biggest mystery of her life was wrapped tightly around those blue eyes.
Vivid blue skies dissolved into the violet shades of twilight as the jet touched down on the runway. From her first sight of that breathtaking skyline, Karen's nerves were suddenly alive and tingling. Her past lay hidden out there somewhere. Her past and, hopefully, her future.
It took some time to get through the airport and find a taxi. She finally flagged one down and seated herself behind a scruffy looking, overweight cabbie. "Is there a decent hotel across from Central Park?" she asked.
The cabbie looked at her in disbelief and thought, 'Not another tourist'. He studied her image in the rearview mirror and answered, "Lots, lady."
It was then Karen noticed the strange look he gave her. It was almost a look of recognition. "Is something wrong?"
After a moment, he shook his head then smiled. "You just look familiar, that's all. Have you been here before?"
His words shook her a little and she wasn't quite sure how to answer him. "A long time ago." Despite her efforts, she just couldn't sound very convincing.
As the taxi pulled away from the curb, the driver remarked, "Umph, you'd think I'd remember a gorgeous lady like yourself. I must be getting old. Anyway, I know just the place for you."
The drive took awhile so Karen made herself comfortable and enjoyed the scenery. The city looked so alive, so vibrant with its many lights and people. It was then she was overcome with a sense of familiarity, as if every corner, and every street were places she had walked. Had she really lived here? It was so different from Seattle, so much more exciting.
She paid the driver, secured a room, and soon found herself standing in front of the window. She looked out into the vast darkness of Central Park. The longer she stared, the more irregular her breathing became. She couldn't take her eyes away. The pounding in her head started again. "No" she moaned as she pressed her fingers to her temples. "No, please!" The lights became unbearably painful. She heard herself gasping for breath. She stumbled awkwardly to the bed. Collapsing heavily onto the comforter, she dug her fingernails into the material. "Vincent, please!"
Deep in the darkness of the park, miles beneath its surface, Vincent lay sprawled out on his bed. It had been a long hard day in the lower tunnels and Jacob had been unusually restless. It had taken two stories and quite a bit of convincing to finally get him to sleep. Now he was enjoying the silence,
One arm lay across his forehead and the other lay limply across his stomach. He had one leg stretched out across the bed and the other still rested on the floor as if poised to rush to Jacob at a moment's notice. His breathing was becoming shallow. Soon he was lost in that place where everything glimmers and floats. Suddenly he felt it. His eyes opened wide in confusion. His head filled with pain.
He sat up. A feeling of dizziness and nausea swept through him. It seemed the pounding in his head momentarily matched the yearning in his heart. For a brief instant, he thought he felt that undefinable connection to Catherine spark to life. "It can't be," he mumbled to himself. He tried hard to tune into that barest thread of hope, but the feeling quickly faded leaving him completely frustrated and angry.
Back in her hotel room, Karen weakly sat up on the side of the bed and concentrated on breathing deeply. After a few minutes, the pain diminished but she couldn't help wondering why she kept calling for someone named Vincent. She pushed her bare toes into the soft carpet. This Vincent had to have been her lover and possibly the father of the baby she gave birth to in her nightmare. But where was he? Had his death been the trauma that had driven her over the edge? What had happened to the baby? There were just too many questions and no answers. She decided it was time to check in with Dr. Preston.
In a very exclusive upstate New York neighborhood, a helicopter touched down lightly on its pad. The door opened. A well-dressed man stepped out and was quickly surrounded by a small entourage. Without a word of greeting, he walked toward the big house and entered through the patio doors. Stepping inside the stately mansion, he paused a moment to survey his surroundings. "So this is my brother's home." He turned and fixed his eyes on the man beside him. "Is everything in order?"
"Yes, sir," Cochran responded. "As you requested, all the rooms and the basement have been redecorated to completely recreate its former state."
"Exactly?" Gideon asked coldly as he looked into his aide's eyes and arched his eyebrow.
The little man felt a shiver run up his spine at that cold look, well knowing what it implied. "The same decorator used his original sketches to recreate it, sir."
A triumphant smile crept across his face as he observed the little man's fear betray him. "We shall see."
After a brief tour of the mansion, both Gideon and Cochran ended up in the basement, examining a large cell. Gideon placed his hands on the bars, shaking them to test their strength. "It's hard to believe anything could rip this open, isn't it?"
"Yes, sir," he answered as stared into the cell and remembered the horrible images from the tape.
"By the way, Cochran, where was the tape found?"
The question surprised him. It was as if he had read his thoughts. "Uh... it was hidden in the monitor room upstairs."There was a secret vault."
"Any idea what became of the others?" Gideon asked as he walked slowly around the cell studying its size and strength.
"We are almost certain Diana Bennett, the detective who actually killed your brother, gathered them up and tossed them into the upstairs fireplace. When the police arrived, she said your brother's aides had destroyed some of the evidence to protect themselves and the organization."
Gideon turned around to face his assistant. "Obviously she was destroying all proof of HIS existence. Now why do you suppose she would do that?"
Cochran knew it was more than a question, it was a challenge."To protect him I guess."
He scratched his chin. "Yes, it seems everyone wants to protect the animal."
Cochran's voice was barely audible and he trembled. "Sir, may I ask why you haven't sought retribution on this detective?"
"It has not been to my advantage, my good man. When it suits my purpose, she shall pay her debt. Now she may prove to be the only thread to our true objective. Oh yes, she could be very helpful to us."
"She won't cooperate. She killed for him. She will not let her own pain and discomfort put him in danger again."
"Mr. Cochran, everyone will cooperate if given the proper... inspiration. No, we shall take this slowly and we shall do it correctly. I shall ascend to my... throne in due time." He smiled as he fingered the controls of the cell.
At the same time this conversation was taking place in Gideon's new headquarters, Karen Hampton had just finished her dinner and a long conversation with her therapist. Again she walked over to the window and stared into Central Park. It was well past nine o'clock on a brisk January night but she was feeling the need to get out. Ever since her painful experience upon arriving, she had begun to feel very closed in. Deep in thought, she continued her observation of the park.
The longer she stared, the stronger the need became. The park was drawing her, calling her into its shadows, but why? She could resist no longer. Grabbing her coat and gloves, she made her way to the lobby but hesitated as she stood by the doorman.
The older chubby man in uniform greeted her. "Good evening," he said as he noticed her confused look. "Can I help you?"
His question startled her. "Oh, no. I just thought I'd go for a walk in the park."
"Miss, it's dangerous in the park at night. You shouldn't go there. Wait until tomorrow. The park looks much better in the sunlight!"
For some reason she couldn't explain, she felt compelled to go. Truthfully, it was almost as if she knew someone was waiting for her, as if she knew she would be safe. "It's okay. I'll be - alright."
He had seen a good bit of life in the years he had manned these doors and it made him cynical. "You don't know New York, lady."
Karen just smiled then patted his arm. "Thanks for the concern, but I'll be fine. I'll be back soon."
The doorman watched her walk assuredly across the street and disappear into the park. He shook his head in awe of this either incredibly naive woman or a very determined one.
Deep under the park, Vincent was still trying to sort out his confused feelings and sensations. After looking in on Jacob, he paced the floor of his chamber feeling more and more as if the walls were closing in on him. It had been years since he had battled this restlessness in himself. It was the same restless feeling that had driven him into the park the night he found Catherine. .
Finally he could take no more. He stared at Kristopher's painting in its place of honor on the far wall. Its poignancy tore away his resistance. He grabbed his cloak and quickly walked the short distance to Father's study. He found him still sitting at his big desk reading. "Father, I need to go out for awhile. Would you sit with Jacob?"
Father looked up at him with weary eyes and noted the agitated state of his son. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "Is something wrong?"
"No," Vincent answered as he put on his cloak. "I just feel the need for some fresh air."
Father knew it was more than that. "You haven't been Above since the night you visited the cemetery. Are you going to see Diana?"
Vincent was further agitated by the question. "No Father."
It was then Father noticed the restlessness and the anger he seemed to be holding in check. "I'm not trying to interfere, Vincent, but I'm concerned for you."
"I know, Father. I appreciate that, but I have no desire to encourage that relationship beyond friendship."
This was a subject Father was hesitant to broach simply because they had never discussed the circumstances of Jacob's conception. Vincent never talked of it and he couldn't bring himself to ask. "I thought that perhaps since you knew you could have... a full relationship with a woman, you might... "
"Might what, Father?" Vincent interrupted angrily. "How dare you think I'd make love to a woman simply because I'd discovered I could." Vincent shoved a chair loudly into the table. "How dare you think I could so easily have with Diana what I never allowed myself with Catherine. Diana cannot replace Catherine."
"I'm not suggesting that."
"Then what ARE you suggesting?" Vincent asked sarcastically.
"Vincent, Catherine would have wanted you to go on with your life; to someday love again. That's what you would have wished her, isn't it?"
Vincent leaned over the chair and looked down at his hands. "Father, I wasted too much time with Catherine trying to do what I thought was best for her. So many times I tried to convince her to find someone more worthy. I could not accept that she could love me. I could not accept what she offered of her own free will. I will regret that to the day I die. So please, Father, accept the fact that I choose to love no other."
"Vincent, I... "
"I do not wish to discuss this any further. Would you sit with Jacob?"
"Of course I will. Vincent?"
He hesitated and turned to look at Father, "I will be careful."
Father nodded and watched as his heartbroken son walked into darkness. 'What will become of him?'
Karen walked along one of the paths that led through the park. As she did, an uncanny feeling of familiarity rose in her. She pulled her coat collar up more tightly around her neck.
Her common sense told her this was foolish and dangerous but an inner voice kept whispering to her, urging her on.
At about the same time, Vincent tentatively stepped out into the brisk night air. He breathed deeply and let out a sigh. He closed his eyes for a moment as he tried to define the deep urge that had driven him to this place tonight. He walked without direction following his own inner voice towards... he knew not what.
As he walked through the shadows and wooded areas of the park, he felt a presence. A presence that vibrated to his very soul. He had not had this strong a feeling since Catherine. He was so lost in that thought and all those memories, he almost stumbled blindly into the path of a woman striding toward him.Frightened, he stumbled backward into the protection of the shadows and then cast a glance at the woman. After that moment, he wasn't sure what happened. 'She looks so familiar,' he thought. His heart was pounding and his breath carne in short uneven gasps. 'It can't be... but she looks so - no!' No sound escaped his mouth but inside he was screaming. Nothing existed except her.
His feet felt like lead. His body seemed frozen to the spot. His eyes would not look away from her beautiful face and eyes as she neared him. 'It had to be, but yet it couldn't be. This was impossible!' Every fiber of his being wanted to believe what his mind was telling him couldn't be.
He battled desperately to control the tide of fear and hope that seemed ready to drown him by forcing himself to concentrate and study her closely. The hair was longer, but of the same color and texture. The body was thinner with a more muscular look to it and the gait of her walk was a little faster. It was the face, however, that struck him the hardest because those eyes, that chin, and that jaw could not be denied.
He couldn't breath. His body still refused to move. She began to move away... he had to go to her! Without thought for his safety, he forced his body into action and moved from his haven in the shadows toward her.
Karen was battling some strange feelings of her own. With every step, she felt as if she were going home even though she did not know where home was. She felt compelled to keep walking in this direction, driven by an unexplainable need. There was also the feeling of going toward safety and that was a feeling she had not known for over three years.
She thought she heard footsteps. She was certain she could feel someone watching her but yet she continued as if pulled by some unseen force. The further she walked, the stronger the feeling became until she thought she saw something move. She stopped in her tracks.
Vincent saw her stop and he froze. That moment of hesitation seemed like an eternity as he watched her look for something. It was then he forced himself toward her. But as he moved, he sensed another presence and he watched a police officer walk up to her.
He wanted to roar in his frustration at the lost opportunity.
"Miss, you shouldn't be out here at this time of night. Are you looking for someone?" he asked.
Karen almost answered yes, but thought better of it. She didn't exactly know why she was there herself. "No, I just needed a little fresh air."
"Well, take my advice. Find it in a safer place. Come on, I'll walk you out," he offered.
She paused a moment to look around one last time before turning and going with the officer. She still had not shaken the feeling that someone else was waiting for her.
Vincentís heart broke as he watched her unconsciously touch her throat with her fingers before walking away with the policeman. His breath was coming in deep anguished gusts as he fought the urge to roar at the top of his lungs. 'Think, stay in control,' he told himself. So he slipped into the shadows and followed them to the entrance. Quietly, he watched as she thanked the officer and walked back across the street toward the hotel.
What to do now was the question burning in his mind. He couldn't just simply search the hotel until he found her. What if he had been mistaken. After all, she had died in his arms. This was impossible! Perhaps he was going mad and it was a hallucination. No, his heart would not believe it. It was Catherine! He had to find her. Diana!
He wasn't sure how he got to the rooftop of her building. He only knew he had to talk with her and nothing would stop him. He looked down into her apartment. She was dressed in a nightshirt and a robe preparing for bed. Cautiously, he tapped on the window pane.
Diana had spent another long evening working on a case that was more to fill the empty void in her life than to get the work done. She hadn't seen Vincent or been Below since Christmas. The feeling that he was pushing her further and further away hurt deeply. When she heard the tap on the window, she looked up to see his piercing blue eyes staring down at her. Hope resurged.She literally ran up the stairs to the rooftop.
She found him pacing back and forth nervously, his cape making that familiar flapping sound as he walked. "Vincent, I haven't seen you in so long. I thought... "
"Diana, I've seen her!" he interrupted as if he had not heard a word she'd said.
"Seen who?" she asked.
He leaned over the wall surrounding the rooftop. "I've seen Catherine," he managed to say.
Diana couldn't believe what he was saying. Had he finally gone mad or had some twist of fate uncovered her worst nightmare? "What do you mean, you've seen her?"
He pushed back from the wall to look at her directly. Just saying the words aloud filled him with hope. "Tonight, in the park. She was coming home, Diana." The words brought tears to his eyes.
His tears of joy brought forth all the guilt she had lived with for so long. In that painful moment, she wanted to tell him all but her detective's mind would not allow it. "Perhaps you were just imagining it or you saw someone who looked like her."
"No!" he answered loudly as he slammed his palm against the concrete. "It was Catherine, I know it." He took a moment to regain his control. "You have to help me find her."
"Vincent, be reasonable. You saw someone you thought was Catherine. You can't expect to find her again in a city of millions?"
"I saw her go into that hotel across the street from the main park entrance. She must be staying there."
Diana shook her head in disbelief. "Vincent, how can I walk in and ask for a woman who looks like Catherine Chandler? I've got to have more to go on."
Vincent's back straightened with anger. "I have my heart to go on." He placed his fist over his heart. "Everything in here tells me that I saw Catherine tonight. I know in here she is still alive and looking for me. I will not give up!"
"Vincent, if it was her, why hasn't she contacted you before now?" His eyes lowered. She could feel the pain wash over his heart.
"Whatever her reasons, I'm sure they are valid ones. What's important is that she's here now." It was a statement that expressed all his hope.
"That's what you want to believe, Vincent, but you have to face facts. The woman you saw couldn't have been Catherine!"
Suddenly he turned to her and asked curtly, "Does that mean you won't help me find her?"
She stared into those expressive blue eyes that begged for help and reassurance. To help him discover the truth could destroy his trust in her; to not help him could put him in danger because she knew he would risk all. "No, Vincent, I'll do what I can but please don't expect a miracle. I'd hate to see you disappointed."
A smile touched the corners of his mouth as hope returned. "Maybe it's time I expected a miracle."
In his eyes was a spark she had never seen before. There was such joy, pure, honest joy, for the first time since their meeting. It was a look she so desperately wanted to inspire in him. "I'll go to the hotel and ask a few questions."
"Thanks, Diana. You will let me know what you discovered, won't you?"
"Of course, you know I will."
"Good. I must be going. Father is sitting with Jacob."
As he prepared to climb over the wall, Diana said softly, "Goodnight, Vincent." She almost reached out for him, but knew what his response would be.
He looked back at her for a moment sensing her mixed emotions but knew there was nothing he could do to comfort her. "Goodnight, Diana."
Those words and the rustling of his cape signalled his departure. She stood there for a while, looking aimlessly into the night with a cold feeling that everything was about to fall apart. What if she had returned? What would the truth do to him? A chill caused her to wrap her arms around herself.
As Vincent made the journey back to his own world, his mind was a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings. Catherine had returned! His mind told him it was not possible, but love told him all things are possible. The pure joy in his heart overshadowed the many questions in his mind. As he neared his chamber, he imagined Jacob's reaction to his mother. Just the thought of seeing the two of them together brought tears to his eyes.
Father was asleep in Vincent's big chair when he entered the chamber. He studied him for a moment trying to decide just how tell him the news. "Father," he whispered as he gently touched his shoulder. "Father."
"What?" he asked as he turned painfully in the chair and opened his eyes to meet clear blue ones staring back, "Oh, Vincent, you're back. It must be very late."
"Yes, Father, it is." He paused for a moment. "I need to speak to you in your study."
"We can talk here."
Vincent looked toward the entrance to his son's chamber. "No, I wouldn't want Jacob to overhear us."
After arriving in the study, he waited patiently for Father to take a seat before he began. "Father, something miraculous has happened tonight."
A pleased smile stole across Father's face. By Vincent's statement and his look of excitement and wonder, he assumed that "something" involved Diana. "Oh really? You see, I told you if you would just let go of the past and accept Diana's affections... "
"What!" Vincent interrupted completely stunned. "Father, I saw Catherine tonight!"
It was Father's turn to be stunned. "Vincent, that's impossible!"
The total disbelief displayed on Father's face and the tone of his voice caused Vincent to physically step back. He knew from the beginning this wasn't going to be easy, but he had no idea just how difficult it was going to be. He tried to explain. "Tonight in the park, I saw a woman walking in the direction of the drainage pipe. Father, lately I've had these strange dreams, these feelings... I can't describe. Tonight I was drawn to that place. There she was, walking back home... home to us."
"Vincent, you're not making any sense. What dreams, what feelings?"
He realized he was not explaining it the way he wanted and this was so important. "Alright, let me try again. I've had these dreams that didn't make any sense until now. There were images of Catherine alone and pregnant calling my name. Father, I never saw Catherine pregnant. How would I know how she looked?"
"Your imagination. I mean you've seen other pregnant women. You've just superimposed, if you will, that image onto Catherine."
"Maybe, but then there was the birth. I could see it happening. I could feel her pain. How could I have imagined that?"
"Perhaps you were seeing what you wanted to see. Vincent, you felt a lot of guilt that you weren't there when she gave birth to your son."
"I know, but Father, you know that my dreams and visions usually mean something."
A look of understanding and quiet agreement passed between I them then Vincent continued. "Tonight those dreams drove me into park. It was as if a force of incredible strength was drawing me there. Then I saw her. She was alone and walking toward the drainage pipe entrance. At first, I thought it was an illusion, an image born of my desperate need of her. But she was real, Father! Alive, breathing and coming home!"
To see his son so alive again, so full of joy brought warmth to his soul but fear to his mind. He was obviously breaking beneath the strain of his grief. An even more horrible thought struck him. What if the madness was overpowering him again? "Obviously you saw someone that resembled her."
Those words caused Vincent to slam his fist into the closest chair. "That's what Diana said."
"You told Diana of this?"
"Yes, I asked her to help me find her."
Father removed his glasses and looked at him totally aghast. "You what?"
"I could only follow her so far. When the policeman stopped her, I had to stay hidden. It seemed logical that Diana would be in a better position to locate her."
"I don't believe this! First you have these nightmares, tell no one, then you wander into the park and mistake some woman for Catherine. Finally, you have the incredible bad taste to ask Diana to help you in this foolish quest. Vincent, how could you?"
"I needed her help, Father."
"Do you realize the position you've put her in?" His voice rose unintentionally, revealing his anger.
"What are you talking about?"
Father stood up and walked over to him. "It has been obvious to everyone, except you, that Diana feels more than friendship for you. How can you be so cruel as to ask her to chase ghosts for you?"
It was then Vincent's anger came to life. "Chase ghosts! I saw her in the flesh tonight, Father. She was alive and breathing just as we are at this moment. And as far as my relationship with Diana is concerned, we've had this discussion before. I thought I made myself clear."
"Vincent, you are being unreasonable as well as unfeeling for Diana's awkward position in this."
Vincent stared back into his father's angry eyes. So often in his life, he had listened to father's lectures on what he should think and feel. No more. "Then so be it. I will do whatever it takes to find Catherine and bring her home even if it means walking the streets of this city alone. I WILL find her!"
There was a moment of silent, angry stares as the son challenged his father's authority. Vincent slowly inhaled then added, "I can see confiding in you was a mistake." He turned and walked away.
"Vincent!" Father called out as he watched his son walk through the doorway. He could feel a coldness between them. His son was shutting him out. He ran his hand through his coarse gray hair.
Vincent stumbled angrily back to his chamber and paced for a few minutes. He walked through the entrance to Jacob's chamber and looked at the fair-haired child sleeping soundly. Lowering himself down on his knees, he pulled the covers up around Catherine's child and let the tears fall freely. In a barely audible voice he whispered. "She's come home, Jacob. Soon she'll hold you in her arms and you'll know her love." Silently he added, 'and so will I.'
That same night, in a hotel room not far from Vincent's chamber, Karen slid beneath the covers. Within moments she was fast asleep. She found herself again in the darkness floating. Soon the darkness cleared enough for her to see a woman bending over the limp form of man. The woman's hair and body were familiar to her but the man's face was hidden.
She watched and soon realized she was seeing herself racked with pain pleading with the man to come back to her. She was the third person here, not wanting to intrude but yet not being able to look away. Uncomfortably she watched as her other self leaned over and desperately kissed the man. She tried to see the man's face but it seemed to blur in the darkness of the chamber.
With growing unease, she watched as her other self ended the kiss then placed more soft soothing kisses over his face and neck. When the man moaned and exhaled, she continued the kisses and began to stroke his chest. Her fingers worked the buttons of his shirt free. Her hands slid open the material to reveal the soft hair of his chest. She sat back a moment and looked longingly at her discovery, while high above it all, Karen could feel the need in both of them.
The flood of emotions Karen felt were coming from her other self. She wanted desperately to leave, but could not. She watched herself remove her coat then bend down to place those soft kisses over his chest. Her hands continued to caress and comb through the inviting hair. Karen felt the heat rising. She saw the man finally respond by weakly reaching up and stroking her shoulders.
Karen still couldn't see his face but she could feel the love and desire between them, so she continued to watch. Her other self again moved up and deeply kissed the man. He kissed her back this time with passion. His arms slid around her and his hands began to move frantically up and down her back.
The kiss ended and she sat back, hesitating only a moment before she made a decision. Karen could feel the resolve and then the joy as her other self pulled her sweater over her head and tossed it aside. Quickly she unsnapped her bra, and tossed it close to the discarded sweater. It was then Karen caught a glimmer of something bright and sparkling beside the sweater. But her attention was diverted as her other self leaned back over the man and guided his reaching hands to her bare breasts. Karen heard him moan. She watched as his hands tentatively explored the treasures. She shared the pleasure with her other self.
After moments of touching, Karen watched herself move away only long enough to remove her boots, pants, and underwear before her hands eagerly caressed the growing bulge in the front of his pants. She desperately wanted to turn away, to respect the privacy of the lovers but she knew this was something she had to experience. This was her past.
She watched as the belt was opened and the zipper was slowly lowered to reveal a different treasure. Karen gasped softly as she watched familiar hands touch and arouse him further. Her own breathing was becoming as harsh as her other self, their hearts were pounding in tandem. Karen and her other self became one as she moved up over his body and lowered herself down to sensually rub against him. His hands were seeking her blindly, grasping at her passionately.
She moved back and lowered herself onto his ready erection. Karen gasped loudly at the intimate intrusion. Her body began to move, seeking to quench the pounding need in her. His body responded instinctively by awkwardly moving upward, seeking more of the deep moist warmth. Karen could feel the tension building quickly between them, so quickly in fact, it frightened her.
The passion was so intense, she felt a veil of fear envelope her as his hands held her firmly. She didn't understand that. Why would her lover's hands bring her fear?
Then as need took control, Karen lost all train of reasonable thought. She could only experience the need for completion. Frantically she moved now, in tune with their need as they rushed toward the ecstatic peak she knew awaited. They reached that peak almost violently as bodies convulsed, and his hands grasped frantically. A wonderful feeling of fulfillment followed.
In that soft sleepy world of afterglow, she felt herself slipping apart from her other self again. She looked down at the couple as they cuddled close. In her mind, she could see inside the woman's body. She could actually visualize the sperm as it fertilized the egg and the DNA began to form.
As the scene faded, Karen felt a mad rush of emotion and dawning understanding. As she moved out of the darkness and toward reality, the images blurred but the feelings were strong. She awoke suddenly and sat up. Her heart was still pounding and she was perspiring. Her eyes searched her surroundings only to discover herself alone in bed but feeling as if she had actually made love. Her hands moved to her stomach and she began to cry in frustration.
Deep below Central Park, Vincent awoke just as suddenly. He too sat up in bed, perspiring heavily and breathing harshly. His eyes searched the bed beside him. Then with great joy and wonder he said, "Catherine, I remember, I remember!" A much more painful grief filled his heart until he thought it would burst. So long he had yearned for the memory of that night to be restored to him so that he could at least have that to cherish in his aloneness. Joy mixed with the enormity of his loss, and he began to sob uncontrollably into his pillow. He spent the rest of that night savoring each and every detail of his newly acquired memory. He also made a decision.
The next morning, Karen dressed and hurried down to the newspaper morgue. With more than a little trepidation, she approached the desk. "Excuse me, I'd like to see your papers dated between May of '89 and January of '90."
The clerk behind the counter looked at her a little strangely, then nodded. "We've got it all on microfilm. If you'll step over here, I'll get them for you."
Karen followed her to a large table and waited impatiently for the clerk to return with the film. Her past was very likely hidden on those films somewhere. Fear and excitement mixed. Tentatively, she reached for the switch.
Diana walked briskly into the hotel lobby and made her way over to the young desk clerk.
"May I help you?"
"I hope so," she answered as she searched her bag for the photo sheíd placed there earlier. Last night after Vincent's visit, she had debated the wisdom of pursuing this. But he had asked for her help and she couldn't refuse him. Although the thought of the truth finally coming out turned her inside out, maybe, it was time for all to be told. She made her decision and retrieved Catherine's picture from her purse.
She placed it on the counter and asked, "Have you seen this woman?" She discovered she was holding her breath.
The clerk studied the picture a minute then smiled. "Yeah, that's Karen Hampton. She checked in here yesterday. Nice, huh?" he asked.
Diana's heart skipped a beat and then began to pound. It was the answer she had dreaded. "Yes, real nice. Is she in?"
The young man smiled as if feeling very important. "No. She left about an hour ago."
"Did she say where she was going or when she'd be back?"
"No, I don't believe she did. She a friend of yours?"
"You might say that." Once outside, Diana laughed at those words. Although she had only a brief contact with the actual woman, she felt as if she knew her well. Her research into Catherine's life during her investigation and subsequent discovery of Vincent and his world had given her a good long look into the woman Vincent loved so dearly. 'How am I going to explain this?' she asked herself.
Vincent walked into Father's chamber with Jacob sitting astride his shoulders. This was the boy's favorite mode of transportation and his father enjoyed the pride he felt walking with his son as he had seen "normal" men do. This child was undeniable proof of his humanity. Although he knew there were a few who doubted the child's parentage, he revelled in the knowledge of his fatherhood.
The sight of the two of them always awed Father. He had to admit at first he had doubts this was Vincent's child, but the blood tests he did had totally resolved that. The unusual chemistry of the child's blood left no room for doubt. It was in these family moments, he missed Catherine the most.
"Father, have you heard from Diana this morning?" he asked, despite the fact Jacob was pulling at his hair.
"No, Vincent. I had hoped a good night's sleep would have cleared your mind a little."
Vincent's eyes shone with determination. "I hardly slept at all last night. I am very determined in this matter." He carefully chose his words so as not to upset Jacob. "She promised to notify me of her findings as soon as possible. Please have someone tell me as soon as she arrives."
Karen rubbed her eyes, then tried to refocus them on the print. Page by page she flipped through the newspapers searching for something. Then suddenly, there it was. An article entitled INVESTIGATOR IN D. A.'s OFFICE DISAPPEARS. She began to read about the apparent kidnapping of someone named Catherine Chandler. She quickly found the rest of the article inside and gasped loudly as she stared at her own image. The face was her own, the name below it was Catherine Chandler. Her heart was in her throat as she lightly ran her fingers across the image, "Oh my God," she whispered.
She read and reread the article several times trying to get some sense of just who this woman was and what happened to her. The article mentioned a Deputy District Attorney named Joe Maxwell who had been injured in an explosion and the reporter hinted the incidents were connected. Taking out a notepad, she scribbled down bits of information.
Eager for more, she moved on quickly to the following issues. Each article about the missing woman gave a little more insight into her past. As the days past, the coverage of her disappearance faded. She had almost given up when a headline glared at her. CATHERINE CHANDLER FOUND DEAD. "Dead? How can that be?" she muttered under her breath. But there was no denying it, her picture was staring back at her.
Her body began to tremble and her mouth went dry as she read the article. It told the story of a mysterious phone call that led police to her apartment and to the body that had magically reappeared. It went on to recap the story of her disappearance and the detective named Diana Bennett who had taken over the case.
As she read on, a morphine overdose was listed as the cause of death and the funeral plans were announced. A Dr. Alcott, listed as a long-time family friend, had been in charge of the arrangements. She read about the funeral, the large turnout and the apparent dead-end the investigation had run into. She sat back in the chair as her head began to ache and a deep unexplained rage threatened to tear her apart.
None of it made any sense. The paper clearly stated this woman was dead. If that were true, how did she end up in Seattle with no memory? The sheer impossibility of it all was overwhelming. With shaking hands, she jotted down more information.
"Okay," she whispered softly, "Maybe I should find out all I can about this Catherine Chandler." She made a copy of the picture and then asked to see any references to the woman in previous newspapers. The hours passed as she tracked her exploits in the social columns. She was astounded by this woman's flare for the dramatic. She seemed to be at all the right places with all the right people.
Sometime later, she ran across the article reporting a prior disappearance. Her purse had been found in Central Park and she had been missing for ten days after leaving a party. News after that was scant, but she did note that the name had disappeared from the social columns and began appearing in the news reports as an investigator for the D.A.'s office.
'What happened to her... to me? What changed my life so drastically?' She continued to read about the cases she'd been involved with and the recognition she was fast gaining.
Later on, other articles began to catch her eye. There were pictures of her and a handsome blue-eyed man named Elliot Burch. 'Are those the blue eyes I see in my dreams?' she wondered. She stared at him intently. No they weren't right. There was a coldness there that the eyes in her dreams never possessed. She read on.
It was about lunch time when Karen finally turned off the machine. Thoughtfully, she studied the notes and the copies she'd made then she made a decision. The key to this mess seemed to be Joe Maxwell. Apparently he was her boss and seemed to be the main driving force behind the investigation. Then there was this Diana Bennett.
The object of Karen's curiosity had spent the morning trying to track down Karen Hampton. A call to her friend at the FBI, who had taken Catherine away, had proven fruitless. He only knew she had been turned over to the Federal witness Protection Program. He knew nothing of her new life or so he said. She sat down at her desk reviewing Catherine's case and remembering the look in Vincent's eyes as he talked of seeing her again. How would he react to the knowledge that she had known of Catherine's survival and had not told him? With great pain, she rested her head in her hands.
Karen stood in front of the door marked "Office of the District Attorneys" for some time debating the wisdom of just walking in on Joe Maxwell. She had no idea of just what their relationship had been. It put her at an extreme disadvantage, but he had the answers she needed. With a quick deep breath, she pushed open the door.
A few steps into the mass confusion of the big office almost caused her to panic and head back out the door. 'No, I have to do this,' she said to herself. A few more steps took her to the receptionist's desk. The young woman looked up at her in total shock. "I'd like to see Joe Maxwell please."
The receptionist's eyes stared in disbelief. "Miss Chandler?"
It seemed at that moment everyone in the office turned in their direction. Silence replaced the mass confusion. Another young woman suddenly shrieked and ran up to her throwing her arms around her.
"Cathy, I can't believe it, you're suppose to be..." She
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situation. "I'm sorry... I didn't think. You just look so much like her."
It was then Joe Maxwell came out of his office to investigate the disturbance. "Rita, what's going on out here?" He pushed through the crowd gathered around Rita and a strange woman. "Rita?"
One look at the visitor turned Joe a ghostly pale, his mouth dropped open, and his eyes widened. "My God, Cathy... Cathy is that you?"
She didn't have time to answer before he grabbed her in a bear hug so tight she thought he had broken a few ribs. He held onto her for a long time before finally pulling back so she could breathe.
Joe had never been one for public emotional displays, but seeing this woman had totally caught him off guard. As he looked at her, a thousand questions began to form in his mind. Then reality set in. This couldn't be Cathy. He had seen her dead. Diana had witnessed the autopsy. He pulled back. "I'm sorry. It's just that... "
Karen managed a smile. "I take it you're Joe Maxwell?"
"Good. I'd like to talk to you if I could."
"Sure." Joe answered as he looked at the crowd and became very embarrassed. "My office is over here." He guided her toward the door then turned back to the crowd still watching them. "Hey, I know you've got work to do, so get to it." The crowd dispersed but Rita headed for Diana's office.
Inside the office, Joe nervously led Karen to a chair, then sat across from her. "I'm sorry about all the attention, but you... "
"Look so much like her?"
"Yeah, you do." Joe acknowledged. "Tell me, what can I do -- for you?"
Karen squirmed a little in the chair as she thought about how to approach the subject. "I know how ridiculous this may sound but I think I AM Catherine Chandler."
His first urge was to laugh, but when he saw the sincerity in her eyes, he choked it back. "Catherine Chandler is dead. I found her body. I helped plan her funeral."
"Yes, I read about that. May I call you Joe?"
"Yeah, I guess. What do you go by?"
She didn't quite know how to answer that. "For the last three years, I've been Karen Hampton. From the research I've done over the last few days, I have a feeling that before that I was Catherine Chandler."
"This is crazy," Joe responded. He wanted so desperately to believe Cathy had returned but his logic told him no. "Wait a minute." He got up and moved over to stand in front of her. Reaching toward her face, he asked, "Do you mind?"
"I guess not," she answered not knowing what to expect.
Very carefully, he pushed the hair away from her left temple and almost bit his lip. "I'll be damned."
"What is it?" Karen asked.
"That scar," a stunned Joe answered. "Where did you get it?"
"I have no idea."
Joe leaned back to really look at her hard. "I think you'd better tell me the whole story."
With a deep breath, Karen began a quick synopsis of her brief history. "I came out of a coma about three and a half years ago, not knowing who I was or where I was. All anyone would tell me is that I had suffered a morphine overdose. After I recovered physically, I was given a new identity and moved to Seattle, Washington where I've lived since then."
"Who moved you?" Joe was beginning to believe.
"I'm really not sure. I suppose it was the FBI. I thought I had been a witness in some big drug case or something."
"You don't remember anything before that?"
"I've only recently had these dreams or visions that I believe are memories. I just can't put them together. New York seemed important to me so I started here."
The practical lawyer's instinct kicked in. "There's a sure way to prove it, if you don't object to being fingerprinted?"
"I was hoping you'd suggest that."
In Diana's office, Rita was busy telling her about this woman who was Cathy's exact double. "Did you get her name?"
"No, we were all too excited. She's in Joe's office now"
Just then the phone rang and Diana picked it up, it was Joe asking that she join him in his office. With dread, she hurried down the hall.
When Diana got to Joe's office, the door was slightly ajar. She saw one of their technician's fingerprinting a woman at Joe's desk. Joe motioned for her to come in. One look at the woman's face almost paralyzed her.
"Diana," Joe offered. "Since you were involved with the Chandler case, I thought you should be here for this." He turned to the technician. "This is a rush job, Pete. I mean like get it right now, but quietly, okay?"
The technician nodded, handed Karen a tissue, then left. Joe walked around his desk. "Diana this is Karen Hampton or at least she is for the moment depending on what Pete has to say. I figure you've got a lot of explaining to do."
As Karen retold her story to Diana, she remained quiet. From the first moment she saw her, she knew it was Catherine, but she had to play it out to see what she knew. Apparently, she had no memory of Vincent and had not mentioned her child. Maybe she was just protecting him.
The phone rang and Joe quickly picked it up. After a brief moment, tears glistened in his eyes. "Pete says it's a match. You are Cathy Chandler."
A feeling of relief settled over Karen. For so long she had wondered about her past, her identity, now it was over. She was Catherine Chandler. Finally she could begin to reclaim her life.
It was all Joe could do to keep from enveloping her in another bear hug, but he realized it might be a long time before Cathy was actually Cathy again. To relieve the tension, he cleared his throat and looked at Diana. "I think it's time we heard from you, Diana."
This explanation was probably the second hardest thing she would ever do. Joe listened but she could see his anger rising. Cathy listened, hanging on every bit of new information. 'God, what a mess this had become,' she thought. She said nothing about Vincent or her son because of Joe's presence and because she didn't know how Cathy would deal with it. After she finished an edited version of what she knew, Joe hit the roof.
After a lengthy tirade from him, she managed to convince him to let Cathy go over her personnel file and talk to some of her friends and associates while she gathered more information for her. What she really wanted to do was get out of there and tell Vincent her side of it before he had a chance to see Catherine. Also Vincent had to be prepared for Catherine's lack of memory.
Below, Father was in his study trying to come to terms with Vincent's conviction of Catherine's return when Diana came rushing in.
"Where's Vincent?" she asked obviously out of breath from her hurried trip Below.
Concern was apparent in his voice as he answered, "He's with Jacob and the other children. What's wrong? What's happened?"
She paced back and forth desperately seeking a way to begin. Finally she just blurted it out. "Vincent was right. Catherine is alive."
The words stunned Father and he stumbled backward into the chair "Alive? How can that be?"
Little did they know that Vincent was walking up to the entrance when the sound of Diana's voice stopped him. He listened carefully as his heart raced, but the words "Catherine is alive" sent him rushing into the chamber. "I knew it!"
Both Father and Diana turned in surprise to see Vincent, coming into the room at full speed. "Where is she? I want to see her please, Diana."
The shameless pleading in Vincent's voice broke her heart. How was she going to explain this? "Vincent please. There's a lot I have to tell you," she said in an effort to calm him.
"All that matters is that she's alive and coming home!" He paced excitedly as wondrous dreams and plans whirled in his mind.
Diana could see the hope and joy taking over. She hated to dampen it, but there were things he had to be told. "Vincent, it's not that simple. Yes it is Catherine, but she doesn't remember anything."
At this bit of information, Vincent's head turned quickly in her direction. "That would explain why she has not tried to return before." He thought about it for a moment. The memory he was receiving the other night in his dream, it didn't make sense. "She can remember nothing?"
"She said lately she's been experiencing memory occurrences. Dreams, visions, and odd bits of information that she can't quite put together."
As his mind tried to sort it out, Vincent commented, "That would explain the dream."
"What dream?" Diana asked.
"Last night after I returned from seeing you, I had a dream. It was Catherine's memory of what happened in that cavern during my illness. It wasn't my memory returning. It was her experience."
Father looked at Diana realizing how this must be affecting her. "Diana, you still haven't told us how she survived."
Vincent's steel blue eyes challenged her for an explanation. "Yes, Diana," he agreed. "I want to know everything."
The time had finally come for the truth and she prayed for the courage to face it and Vincent. "Yes, it's time you heard it all. But before I begin, please promise me you'll hear me out before you say anything."
The look on her face and the fear in her voice told Vincent she was about to tell him something he wasn't going to like. "I'll do the best I can. Tell me what happened, Diana."
His voice had a reassuring but firm tone to it. It helped her get a tighter grip on her emotions. "When I arrived at the hospital, I took one look at her body and saw what everyone else did, a corpse." She noticed Vincent flinch at that word. "She looked dead. The paramedics hadn't been able to get a pulse or heartbeat. What no one knew was that she was in such a deep coma, only the most sophisticated equipment could have picked up any vital signs."
She sat down across from Father and Vincent and noticed Vincent's knuckles turning white under the stress. "I stayed with the body at the hospital. I followed them to the... morgue, when they took her down for the autopsy. The medical examiner began by examining her... " She blushed then reworded her descriptions. "He saw the blood on her gown and did a pelvic exam. That's when he discovered she had given birth within an hour or so of her supposed death. He needed a blood sample to test for drugs and he cut her arm. That's when he noticed the fresh flowing blood."
Father spoke up. "Corpses don't bleed."
"That's right," Diana responded. "I was faced with a decision. I didn't know who to trust or even if she had a chance of survival, but I had to do something. I had the examiner exchange records with a Jane Doe brought in as an OD then we took her to the emergency room. While they worked on this Jane Doe, I had the examiner do the autopsy on the other body. Of course, he had to substitute the information about the morphine and the birth, but she looked enough like Catherine to pull it off as long as no one opened the coffin."
She became aware that she was wringing her hands. "I called a friend of mine at the FBI and told him the situation. I found out Joe's friend had been an informant for them. The night he gave the book to Joe, he thought he'd been made so he passed the evidence on to someone he could trust. The FBI lost track of the book after that. Believe me, they were there within minutes and took over. The last time I saw Catherine was when they put her in a private ambulance and drove away."
Diana was aware of the cold stare Vincent was focusing on her so she concentrated on Father. "All I knew after that was that she was in a coma and had little chance of coming out of it. The only other person I told was Dr. Alcott. He was in charge of her estate and an old family friend who would not betray her."
Vincent had listened to Diana's narration, as he promised, in silence. Now he could be silent no longer. His voice came out very strained and hard. "All this time you knew she had survived and you said nothing?"
Tears filled her eyes as she looked at him. "Vincent, I did it to protect her. Then, I didnít know about you and I couldn't even tell Joe."
Vincent rose threateningly from his chair, "And what about later, Diana? After you found me and saw the hell I was in? Why didn't you tell me then?"
"I wanted to, Vincent, but she was in a coma with little hope of recovery. What would that have done to you? You couldn't see her. She could not be a part of your life. It was the best thing for you to let you grieve and get on with your life."
It was all Vincent could do not to lash out and let the beast take control. He fought desperately to control his rage. "Best for me? You let me go through the worst torture anyone can imagine because you thought it was best for me? How dare you take such liberties with my life?"
Diana was trembling in the face of his anger. "Try to understand. If I had told you, what could you have done? Would you have given up on finding Jacob to sit by her bedside? What would have become of him?"
"My son, could have had his mother."
Father decided it was time to come to Diana's aid. "Vincent she's right. I would have done the same thing."
"And that makes it right?"
Father was aghast. "Vincent, it was done to protect you."
"What will you people do in the guise of protecting me? Don't YOU understand? To have known she was alive would have taken me out of that hell and given me hope that someday she might return? I would have found Jacob as I promised her, but I would have had hope. You decided to keep that from me for my own protection? What gave you that right?"
"Love," Father answered. "We love you and want to spare you any further pain."
Vincent turned to Father, his rage barely held in check. "All my life, you have spared me from pain, but in so doing you have denied me the joys of living. You tried to spare me the pain of Catherine's rejection by denying me the joys of loving her. I have listened to your petty fears all my life. It has cost me dearly. It cost me a complete and loving relationship with the one woman I loved. I wasted too much time with Catherine because I believed your fears and they became mine. We have been given a second chance. I will waste no more time."
"Vincent, she doesn't remember you. You can't just show up and drag her down here," Diana pleaded.
He turned back to face her. "I brought her here to heal before. I will do it again. To be with her family, where she is loved will heal her. I know it."
"You have to do what is best for her Vincent. She needs... "
"Me, Father," Vincent interrupted. "All those years that was all she ever needed and I couldn't accept that. I tried to do what I thought was best for her by keeping her at a distance. I couldn't just listen to her, to her heart. Like you, I tried to protect her."
He took a deep breath of resolve. "No more. From this day forward, we will listen to our hearts and do their bidding. I will accept whatever relationship Catherine will allow me. I will trust her with all that I am with no more reservations." He began walking toward the door.
"Where are you going?" Father asked fearfully.
"I must find Catherine."
Diana couldn't bear the anger she had seen in him and knowing she was the cause. "No, Vincent, think for a moment. You can't just show up at the hotel. Please give me a little time to prepare her."
"Prepare her? Diana, you had four years to tell me the truth and you didn't. I can't wait another four years while you try to PREPARE her."
"Perhaps she's right, Vincent," Father tried to explain. "If she's beginning to remember, a sudden shock could undo all the progress she's made. If this isn't handled properly, you could indeed lose her forever. And then there's Jacob."
"What about Jacob?"
Father continued. "He needs to be prepared as well. How's he going to react to his mother just showing up out of the blue?"
"He will welcome her return as I do. He never knew her, but
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point. The last thing he wanted was to hurt Catherine or Jacob. "Alright. Diana, I'll give you until tomorrow to do something. If you don't, I will see her one way or another and I will bring her home."
Diana watched him walk down the passageway. Despite her best effort, she began to cry. Father walked over to her and put his arms around her.
"He doesn't know what he's doing," he tried to console her.
"Yes he does," she answered. "I've never seen him so sure. It's over. Everything I've tried to build with him is gone."
Father held her tighter knowing she might be right. "All we can do is take this one step at a time. First we have to do as he asks then be there for them both as they try to find the answers to this mess."
After leaving Diana and Father, Vincent stormed aimlessly through the passageways venting his anger at the unfeeling walls. Hours later, he found himself in the cavern deep beneath the surface in which he sought refuge so many years ago. It was also the cavern in which he shared his first passionate experience and Catherine had conceived their son.
He collapsed to his knees and rocked back on his heels. His eyes closed reverently as he played the recently shared memory in his mind. Then, from out of the darkness, a cold hard voice ended the silence.
"Savoring it, aren't you?"
Vincent's eyes opened quickly. He found himself looking into the face of his dark side.
"I bet you thought you had completely defeated me didn't you? Well, I've got news for you. I'm a part of you and I'll be around for as long as you are."
Unlike before when this spectre had aroused his fear and anger, Vincent calmly met those dark eyes and spoke softly, "I'm no longer afraid of you. You no longer control me."
"Perhaps not, but you can't always control me either. Just when you least expect it... like maybe when you're making love to her."
For a moment, Vincent felt the tide of his anger rising, but it quickly ebbed.
His darker self continued. "Oh yes, I remember it well. She was soft, so warm, and oh so passionate."
"Enough!" Vincent shouted.
"What is that I hear?" the vision taunted him. "Is it possible all those bad feelings you've always put yourself above are surfacing?" The darker Vincent laughed teasingly. "My boy, you've lived your whole life afraid to let yourself go and experience all you are, the good and the bad. You believed your passion was bad so you denied it and it made me stronger. Hey, the harder you try to separate yourself from me, the more power I have over you. Haven't you learned that we are one and by embracing me, you take away that strength? Everyone is both bad and good. You said it yourself."
Vincent thought about the truth of his words. "You cannot harm me."
"No, YOU do that very well by yourself. Think about this, my good Vincent, you saw your lust for her as something to be denied; something dirty and beneath you. But your desire; your lust is as much a part of your love as all of those selfsacrificing ideals you cling to. You see Vincent... I love her too."
At first, Vincent wanted to deny all he had said, but he couldn't. After all he had been forced to endure in the last four years, he realized it was all true. They were indeed one. "I know," he answered. "I've learned my lesson and I will no longer deny my feelings. I love Catherine and, by some miracle, we have been give another chance. Instead of holding onto the dream of an ideal life, we will accept and explore fully all that we can share."
The dark Vincent's expression changed from one of diverse glee to one of acceptance and respect.
Vincent then watched as his darker self faded and then walked toward him. He stood up and they both faced each other for a long moment before the dark Vincent stepped into the other and disappeared. The two had finally accepted each other and had truly become one. He had found peace with himself, but he could not say the same of Father and Diana.
In the highly technical and sterile monitor room of Gideon's new headquarters, he leaned back in his chair and again viewed the one remaining video tape. He had memorized the entire sequence of events, but yet he was transfixed by the images. A cold smile teased the corners of his mouth. His hands lay limply in his lap.
He grimaced as the buzzer sounded to announce a visitor. Reaching for the remote, he reluctantly turned off the VCR and pressed the button to open the door. The heavy electronic door slid open to reveal Cochran and another man Gideon recognized as his informant in the D.A.'s office. "This had better be good, Mr. Cochran."
Cochran well knew his employer did not appreciate intrusions into his private moments, but the news this informant had uncovered would surely put aside his anger. "Yes, sir. As you know this is Mr. McQueeny, one of our eyes in the D.A.'s office."
Gideon tapped his index finger on the remote to indicate his impatience. "I'm familiar with Mr. McQueeny. Why is he here, taking the risk of being seen?"
The aide noted his superior's disapproving manner. "He has some news of great interest to share with us. Mr. McQueeny, please."
Nervously the detective began. "It's Catherine Chandler. She's back."
The cold eyes opened wide in wonder as he repressed a gasp. "What do you mean she's back? The woman is dead. My brother saw to it."
The detective was silent a moment as he watched the rage build in this strange but powerful man. "I can't explain it, but I saw her myself. They must have faked the autopsy or something. All I know is that she just walked right in like she'd never been gone. Of course Maxwell grabbed her and pulled her into his office for a 'private' meeting, but believe me it was her."
Gideon stared into the man's eyes for a moment and assured himself he was telling the truth. The truth was something no man could hide from him. He got up and walked across the room deep in thought. Had this woman somehow escaped death to again threaten the empire? He turned back to the two visitors. "I need confirmation of this. If Ms. Chandler has somehow been resurrected, I want to know how and why. I want to know where she is and where she's hidden that journal. Do you understand?"
Both Cochran and McQueeny nodded fervently and hurriedly left the room. Gideon stared after them for a moment, considering his options. He had to have that journal, but this also afforded him an unexpected opportunity. Not only could he finally get the journal back into his possession, he could tie up all the unpleasant loose ends this beast and his mate presented. He rubbed his hands together. His mouth watered as he anticipated his triumph. He walked back to his chair and picked up the remote.Slowly he sat back down, rewound the tape then pressed the play button again. As the images reappeared, he whispered, "Soon... very soon. "
It was late afternoon. Two figures were leaning over a desk stacked high with files. Joe leaned back and watched in amazement as Catherine leafed her way through the mountains of paperwork. It was still quite a shock to him. Here she was, sitting across the desk from him after all this time and after all the grief. He wiped a tear from his eye then smiled in embarrassment when he noticed she was looking at him.
"Is something wrong, Joe?" she asked.
"No. I'm sorry, it's just... "
"It's just that people don't come back from the dead very often, right?" she finished for him.
"Right, Ra... " .
"Radcliffe!" she shouted.
Joe was aghast. "You remembered that?" .
"I... don't know. It just came out. What did it mean?"
"It's where you went to college. I just kind of hung it on you as a nickname. Are you sure you don't remember anything else?"
She shook her head disappointedly. "That's what it's been like these last few months; bits and pieces of things suddenly popping into my head. There are all these images and visions floating around that don't make sense. At least not now."
Joe sat back feeling disappointed as well. "Have the files helped?"
"Well," she began as she sat back and glanced over the mess, "to some degree. My personnel file has given me the facts of my life. I mean it's nice to know your real birthdate for a change. Things like an address, phone number, social security number, etc. are helpful but they don't really give me anything solid about my life, like what kind of person I was, who my friends were, who... " she stopped as her thoughts drifted back to those eyes. "Joe, did you know I had a child?"
"Yes, it was in the autopsy report."
"What it doesn't say is what happened to the child."
Joe hated feeling this impotent. "That's because we don't know what happened. When we raided Gabriel's mansion, a nursery was found but it was empty. In fact, that's where Gabriel's body was found."
A shudder ran through her followed closely by a white hot flash of anger. She bit her lip in an effort to subdue it.
"You used to do that a lot," Joe commented.
"Chew on your lip like that when you were trying to figure something out."
She smiled, "And just what else did I do?"
Joe began to laugh. "You want a list, Radcliffe?"
"Actually, I do."
They both laughed easily. "We used to do this a lot," he finally answered.
She decided it was time to delve into some unpleasant topics. Closing the file, she shifted her weight in the chair. "Joe, there are a lot of things I have to know that aren't here."
"You know I'll help you anyway I can."
A warm smile conveyed her appreciation, "I need you to be completely honest with me."
"I'll do my best."
"Okay," she answered as she braced for the worst. "What was our relationship before... "
This time it was Joe's turn to feel uncomfortable. "Friends, Cathy." He lowered his gaze to his own hands folded in his lap. "I never told you this, but... I wanted it to be more. But just before you were kidnapped, you told me you were in love with someone else. It hurt, but I could see how happy you were. I -- could see the love in your eyes."
Catherine read the emotion in her friend's answer. It touched her deeply. She decided a light touch was needed to end the heavy silence between them. "I don't suppose I mentioned any names?" Joe looked up and laughed. In his eyes, she saw a mix of joy and pain.
"No, Chandler, YOU never did. But from the stuff we found in your apartment, I can bet you his name was Vincent."
The name froze Catherine in her seat, "Did you say Vincent?"
"Yeah. Cathy, are you alright?"
"Then he's real."
"What? I don't understand."
"I've awakened on more than one night screaming that name. To hear you say it was... well, it makes him real."
"Cathy, our presumption was that this Vincent was your lover and the father of your baby. Personally, I thought... or hoped, he is the one who has the kid. If it's still alive."
Without realizing it, she began to tremble. "To find my baby alive... "
Joe walked around the desk and took her hand in his. "We don't know anything for certain. There may not be a way for us to find out, but I swear Cathy, I'll do everything I can."
She squeezed his hand gently. "I've got to get a grip. I've got to concentrate. Look, Joe, we've been at this for hours. I don't know about you, but I'm tired."
"Yeah, I guess you are. Why don't we call it a day. We can go at this again tomorrow."
"Sounds good to me," she agreed as she stretched.
"Can I drive you somewhere?"
Before Catherine could answer, a knock was heard. "Come in," Joe called out.
Diana had been struggling with her own feelings ever since she'd left Vincent and the fear in her now had her stomach in knots. She slipped into the office. "Hello, how's it going?"
"Slowly," Catherine answered. "I was just calling it a day."
"Perhaps I could take you back to your hotel?"
"That's not necessary."
"Please, I insist."
Catherine wasn't sure why but she felt as if Diana knew more than she was willing to tell. "Alright, why not?" She gathered her things and turned to Joe. "You've been a great help Joe. I appreciate your time."
"Hey, Cath, I'll do anything to get you back. You let me know if there's anything you need. Anything."
"Thanks. I will." He offered her his hand, but she impulsively hugged him instead. "Goodnight, Joe."
"Goodnight, Cathy." he responded as he watched her walk out the door. He slowly sat down in his chair and leaned back placing his hands behind his head. A feeling of relief washed over him and he said softly as he closed his eyes, "Welcome back, Radcliffe."
Catherine got into Diana's car with mixed feelings. She didn't really know how far she could trust this woman who had kept her survival a secret, but she did owe her a debt of gratitude for her involvement in saving her life. "By the way, I didn't say thank you."
"For what?" Diana asked.
"For saving my life."
"I did what I had to do. You don't have to thank me."
As she drove on, Diana had a chance to really look at the woman she'd heard so much about. She could see why Vincent had been so attracted to her. Physically, she was quite beautiful. She had a certain grace and poise about her that broadcast her femininity. Her eyes were big and expressive. She had a smile that made you feel warm and accepted. She could also see just how much Jacob looked like her. That thought brought her back to the reality of the moment. Just how would she handle what she had to tell her? How would she accept Vincent?
"Catherine," she began tentatively. "There are some things I have to tell you that I couldn't say in front of Joe."
Catherine looked at her companion and wondered at the use of her formal name. Everyone else called her Cathy. Maybe she was just being a little over-suspicious, but so much had happened to her in one day. In a matter of a few hours, she had discovered her past. That would take a little assimilating. "I had a feeling you were holding something back. Does it concern my son?"
'Very perceptive,' Diana thought. "Yes... your son and his -- father, Vincent."
"Do you know where they are? Please you've got to tell me."
"I can't tell you now. I want to take you back to my apartment. I've asked Peter Alcott to join us. Do you remember him? "
"I've read about him. He was my family doctor, wasn't he?" she asked with her irritation showing. "Why can't you tell me now?"
"I want us both to be more comfortable. I think Peter should be with you."
"Listen Diana, I'm not all that fragile."
Diana had to laugh at that. "After what you've survived? No, you don't have to tell me that, but let's face it, you've been through a lot in the last few days. Besides, there are things he can tell you that I can't."
Suddenly aware of the rudeness of her impatience, she apologized. "I'm sorry, it's just that it's been such a struggle and my patience is about to run out."
At that moment, Diana truly felt empathy for her situation. To lose who you are, the people you love, and your past must be devastating. "It's alright. I imagine this has been terribly frustrating for you."
"Yes. Today has helped though. Now at least I know who I am and what I did for a living, but it's all just a parade of facts. None of it seems to... fit. You know what I mean?"
"Nothing's going to make much sense until you actually remember," Diana warned.
"Right now I'm more interested in my personal life" She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the headrest. "I want to hold my baby."
That quiet plea caused a pang of guilt and pity to grip Diana's heart. She truly began to sense the enormity of the tragedy this woman had suffered and a tear escaped her eye.
The rest of the trip was relatively quiet and quick. Diana led her up the freight elevator to her apartment then offered her a seat. "Peter will be here shortly, but there's another call I need to make. Do you mind?"
"No, of course not."
"Is there anything I can get you?"
"A cup of coffee, maybe?"
"You bet." After settling Catherine in, Diana walked into the bedroom and picked up the phone. Her stomach was still in knots and getting worse all the time. She dialed the number of a trusted helper and left a message for Vincent. After she returned the phone to its cradle, she took a deep breath. Knowing she was doing the right thing still didn't make it any easier.
Just outside Diana's apartment building, a man sat in a car carefully watching. His orders were to follow Bennett until she led them to Chandler then follow them wherever they went from there. He had followed his orders to the letter. Now he sat awaiting that next move. He was in for a long night.
In the world Below, Vincent was enjoying his most treasured time of the day with his son. Those hours after the evening meal and bathtime belonged to just the two of them. Jacob sat on Vincentís bed cuddled close to his father as he read "The Velveteen Rabbit" for the thousandth time. It had fast become the child's favorite and it held a particular sentimental appeal for Vincent.
Just moments after finishing the story, Mouse carne in. "Message for you. Rush... hurry." he said, panting for breath.
"Thank you, Mouse."
The young man smiled at Jacob and then they both made faces at each other. It was a game between the two and it always brought a smile to Vincent.
"Mouse go now... goodnight."
"Goodnight, Mouse," Vincent called after the already disappearing form.
Carefully he unfolded the note and read it. Tonight was the night! Diana was going to talk to Catherine with Peter and the note was an invitation for him to observe and be there if Catherine was ready to see him. His excitement must have been transmitted through the bond to Jacob because the little boy tugged at his sleeve anxiously.
One look at those big eyes filled with concern made him realize his son had to be told something. He leaned back and gathered the child into his arms. "Jacob, something miraculous has happened... something wonderful. I know this will be difficult for you to understand. I'm not sure I understand it myself. Jacob, your mother is alive."
The little boy sat up and looked into his father's eyes as if searching for the truth, "Alive?"
"Yes," Vincent answered as he released a deep breath. "She's been very sick for a long time and couldn't come home to us. Everyone thought she had died, but she survived. No one told us because it could have put us in danger." He realized he was getting into areas the child wouldn't understand. "She's Above. Diana and Peter are working with her. They're trying to help her get well enough to come to us." Again he sensed the child's anxiety through their connection. "You must try to be patient with her. She'll be afraid and nervous, but know that she loves you. That's all that matters."
Jacob looked thoughtful as he tried to sort through all he had been told. His one question encompassed his perception of the situation. "Will... Mommie like me?"
Tears glistened in Vincent's eyes as he saw the fear in Jacob's. "Jacob, believe me, your mother will be very proud of you as I am. She will love you and teach you all the things that only a mother can. Don't be afraid to open your heart to her. She will handle it with great care and love."
Jacob seemed to accept his father's words then looked with concern at Vincent. "Will she live here with us like a family?"
"I don't know. It will depend on whether or not she is well enough. Jacob, we must be patient."
"When is she coming?"
"Soon, very soon. Now you go to sleep. I must go out to... see to a few things."
Shortly, Jacob did fall asleep and Vincent carried him to his own bed to tuck him in. He could not resist just one more look at his precious son. Catherine would be proud, he knew it. He took a moment to fantasize their reunion, but realized he must be going. A quick detour by Father's study to obtain his sitting services was all that sidetracked him on his path to his and Catherine's true destiny.
The journey was one of the most difficult ones he'd ever made. His stomach was in knots, his palms were sweating, and his mouth was dry. It seemed every step he made echoed louder than he could remember and questions tortured his mind. 'What if she would never be able to remember him? What if the sight of him repulsed and frightened her? What if she insisted on not letting her son be raised by a monster. What if... ' No, he had to stop this. He had to hang on to his hope. At least she was alive.And as she had said in her own words, as long as there's life, there's hope and he had to believe that.
The buzzer sounded in Diana's apartment signaling Dr. Alcott's arrival. Diana went over to send the elevator down while Catherine nervously stood up to greet one more link to her past. She held her breath as the elevator door opened to reveal a distinguished well-dressed man, who's face immediately brightened when he saw her.
"Cathy! My God, it's good to see you."
Again she found herself locked in a bear hug.
"Oh, I'm sorry. For a moment there I forgot. You don't remember me, do you?"
She pulled back from him a little and tried hard to make a connection. As usual, she drew a blank. "I'm sorry."
"I understand. That's why I'm here. I want to help."
Noticing the sudden awkwardness of the situation, Diana approached them. "Why don't we all sit down and get comfortable. Can I get anybody anything?"
"No thanks," answered Peter as he sat down next to Catherine.
"I'm fine, really," came Catherine's reply. "I just want to get started. Diana said there was something you two wanted to talk to me about?"
Peter glanced over at Diana who had now taken a seat across from them, then began. "Cathy, I've know your father since college. I delivered you," he smiled, remembering his and Cathy's special story. "I've watched you grow from a precocious little girl into a beautiful young woman. Your parents were always so proud of you."
"Were? Does that mean?"
"Yes. Your mother died when you were ten and your father a few months before your disappearance."
"Tell me about them?" she asked sadly.
Reaching over and taking her hand, Peter began to give her a little background on her family. Meanwhile, Diana sensed another presence. She looked upward toward the skylight.
Vincent had finally arrived on the rooftop. He cautiously walked over to the window. There, inside, sitting next to Peter, was Catherine. He sighed deeply. Her named escaped his lips. The urge to rush to her was overwhelming but he fought it desperately. He had to give her time. Silently, he stepped to the side to make sure he couldn't be seen.
Time passed without his knowledge as he watched her through the window. Everything about her was so achingly familiar. Every toss of her hair, every movement brought back a flood of memories. Her hair was much longer now, almost to the middle of her back. How he longed to smell its fragrance again and to run his fingers through its silkiness. He watched her mouth move. It brought back memories of their first kiss so many years ago. Standing outside, looking in was torture to him but to see her alive and well again made it a sweet torture.
Inside, Catherine was listening to Peter's brief sketch of her parents and her childhood. Through his words, she was beginning to get a sense of who she was.
"Peter, don't you think we should talk about Vincent now?" Diana gently prompted.
"Yes, I suppose you're right."
"Vincent? You know Vincent?"
Above them, Vincent sensed her excitement. He moved closer to the window.
"First Cathy, we need to tell you what happened after you were transferred from the hospital." He took a deep breath and continued. "Diana contacted me the next day. I had heard about your death and when she called to schedule a meeting, I thought it was about funeral arrangements. It was then she told me the truth."
"I wanted to make sure your estate was taken care of and that your future needs would be met," Diana explained.
"I appreciate that, but what about Vincent?" "
"In a minute, Cathy. I want to get this said. I went along with what Diana told me and put your estate in a trust that could be broken later if you should ever come out of your coma. Your apartment and furniture had to go to carryon the charade. I planned your funeral, along with Joe and Jenny, and made all the arrangements as you stipulated in your will. I gave all your personal things to Vincent."
Catherine had been listening patiently to the details of the cover-up, but now her patience had reached an end. "Tell me about Vincent!"
"Alright." Peter tried to calm her. "Diana said you'd been having dreams about him. Well, he exists, Cathy. He's the father of your son."
She sat back against the sofa's cushion. "I knew it. Now tell me everything."
"I'll let him tell you all the details, but I can tell you this. I've never seen anyone in love like you two were. I've known Vincent since he was a child too. For the longest time, I had no idea you two knew each other."
"How could you have not known?"
"Because Vincent's existence is a well guarded secret by all who know him," Diana answered for him.
"I don't understand. Is he a criminal or something?"
"No, dear," Peter answered. "I can imagine this is all extremely difficult for you. Look, Cathy, there are a lot of things about Vincent and his life that are unique. You just have to accept that for now."
"Alright, we'll take it slow. I've got to know, does he have our son?"
Peter smiled broadly. "Yes, he does and he's a healthy happy four year old who looks a lot like his mother."
Tears of joy filled Catherine's eyes at the news. "Where is he? I want to see him."
Peter again took her hand. "Soon, Cathy, soon. Now there are other things you need to know."
A weak smile crossed her face. "As long as I know my son is safe, I can handle anything."
Diana glanced at Peter as he grimaced slightly. "Well, here goes. Cathy, the reason Vincent's existence is such a secret is because he's... different from other men."
"How do you mean different?" she asked.
The thought occurred to Diana that perhaps another woman's view was needed. "He's quite beautiful actually in his own way. He has stunning blue eyes... "
"Blue eyes!" Catherine exclaimed.
"Yes, he has incredibly bright blue eyes."
"I remember those eyes. They were so filled with love, and compassion... and pain." Her mind filled with questions and fears." I'm not sure about all this secrecy, but I'll abide by it. Is he near? I'd like to see him."
Without thought, Diana's eyes focused on the skylight then looked into Catherine's green ones. "Yes, he is, but I'm not sure you're ready to see him."
It suddenly occurred to Catherine that perhaps this woman had a motive for delaying her reunion with Vincent. The way she described his eyes, the way she looked as they talked about him, sounded like a woman in love. A tide of jealousy rose in her. "Iím prepared for the fact heís different and that his secrecy must be protected. If he fathered my child, I must have loved him a great deal. I am prepared to see him."
"Cathy," Peter spoke softly. "Vincent was not told of your survival until your return to New York. All this time, he thought you were dead. It nearly destroyed him. Please bear in mind what he has suffered and know that he is as anxious to be with you as you are to see him. Please, don't expect too much. You both need time to adjust. Your son will need time as well. This will not be easy."
Catherine jutted out that strong chin. "Nothing worth having ever is. I will take it easy Peter. I promise."
"Well then," Diana responded as she looked at Peter. "Shall I ask him to come down?"
With one last look at Catherine, he nodded, "I guess so."
Vincent had been watching the session from above with eager eyes. His keen sense of hearing had allowed him to overhear a few words here and there, but it was Catherine's look of determination and Diana's look of surrender that sent his heart racing again. Watching Diana leave the room and head for the stairs told him she was prepared to see him. The questions was, just how prepared.
The rooftop door opened with its usual squeak and Vincent shuddered. In Diana's eyes was a look of concern. She stepped over to him and laid her hand on his arm.
"She says she's ready but I don't know. We told her as best we could."
"The time has come then?"
"You could still wait a few days."
"No. I can tell she's anxious to see Jacob and I don't think I could go through this again."
She smiled at him compassionately. He was so anxious and nervous, almost like a teenager on his first real date. "Perhaps you should use the hood for a little while."
"Perhaps you're right," he agreed, then pulled the hood up to partially conceal his features.
"Vincent... " Diana hesitated as she tried to find the right words. "Don't expect too much right away. She only remembers your name, not what you shared."
"I know. We must go slowly and carefully." Diana turned and walked through the door. With knees threatening to buckle with every step, Vincent followed.
In Diana's living room, Catherine had hastily gotten to her feet and started to pace. As she did, she noticed her hands had started to tremble and her head had begun that awful pounding again. The sounds of footsteps caught her breath and turned her around to face the ghost that had haunted her dreams.
Diana walked over and stood beside Peter as they both held their breaths. "Are you ready, Catherine?" Diana asked. After she nodded, Diana called out, "It's alright, Vincent. You can come in."
His feet felt like lead, but somehow Vincent managed to move them. How he wasn't sure because his heart was pounding furiously and his lungs were forgetting to breathe. He did manage to move directly in front of her. He had never hoped to look into those eyes again, yet here she was.
Desperately, he wanted to run to her, hold her close to him so that he could feel her warmth and her heart beating, but no. Although the life sparkled in her eyes like before, there was something missing. She looked at him now with the eyes of a stranger. That hurt beyond comprehension.
Catherine watched closely as the strangely dressed man with the hidden face stepped toward her. Diana and Peter had said he was different and lived a life of secrecy, but she had not expected this.
Vincent wanted to hide behind his hood, but he knew the moment of truth had come. Slowly, he reached for the concealing material. With a deep breath, he lowered it from his head. The reaction he got went far beyond anything he had imagined.
She stared at the leonine features and an icy chill ran up her spine. Those blue eyes looked at her, through her, into her very soul. Eyes that were pleading with her for help and for solace like before in her dream. Eyes that were also filled with fear. "Oh God!" she screamed as she stepped back in shock.
That startled reaction cut Vincent to the core. It seemed as if what heart he had left broke and shattered into a thousand pieces. "Catherine, it's Vincent, Please... don't be afraid."
His voice triggered a chain reaction. The pain crashed through her head like a runaway freight train. All she could see was a red haze enveloping everything as the room spun wildly around. She grabbed for something to keep herself from being swept up into the vortex then she felt the strong arms of someone enclose and support her.
After the hurt of her startled look subsided a bit, Vincent saw the pain she was suddenly in and responded as he always had. Instinctively he moved toward her and held her strongly in his arms. For a moment, it seemed to help. Then she reacted like a caged and injured animal.
In Catherine's mind, it was all coming back. She felt as if she was being smothered and she began to fight. Her fists began to strike fiercely at her captor producing loud thuds as she made contact but she still couldn't escape. It was just like before, she couldn't get away. She couldn't get away!
As she struggled, Vincent realized what was happening to her. Somehow the shock of seeing what she thought she had lost had awakened all the rage she had denied during her captivity. All he could do was hold onto her as she fought and screamed obscenities at Gabriel.
Diana and Peter had been watching with growing concern. The joyous reunion they had hoped to witness had turned into a nightmare right before their eyes. They both started for the pair to help, but were stopped in their tracks when Vincent turned toward them and growled threateningly.
The visions in Catherine's head were a horrifying parade of cold unfeeling faces and needles. She screamed, "No more, please don't hurt my baby!" and struggled harder.
Vincent held on tightly and kept speaking to her in reassuring tones. "I'm here, Catherine, I'm here. It's alright. I love you."
The words weren't getting through the horrifying images. She could hear a rapid heartbeat that turned into an unbearable splitting pain in her head. Her baby! She had to protect her baby. "No, I won't let you win. You can't take my baby!" she shouted at that cold voice. "Don't touch me!"
Tears began to stream down Vincent's face as he truly began to realize the depth of her pain. A pain he felt he had partially allowed to continue because of his inability to find her in time. The guilt he had lived with for so long became an unbearable burden.
Catherine began sobbing uncontrollably as she relived the pain and fear of giving birth. She stopped beating the solid form that held her and pleaded, "Please... Please, let me see him please. Please let me hold him. No! Don't take him away. No please. No, no!"
Her body slumped into his arms and the fighting ceased. The anger subsided into sobbing, then her mind sought solace from its pain by shutting down completely, enveloping her into the soft cocoon of unconsciousness.
As if cradling a child, Vincent lifted her up and held her protectively against his chest. The tears were still running unchecked down his cheeks. "I'm sorry, Catherine. I'm sorry."
Peter and Diana had stood in stunned silence during Catherine's breakdown. Now that the worst seemed to be over, Peter again moved toward Vincent to offer his assistance. "I think we'd better take her to the hospital."
"No!" Vincent shouted at them. "I'm taking her home where she belongs."
"But, Vincent... " Diana pleaded. One look told her he was beyond reason. To see him in such pain was tearing her apart but he would not let her help. He was shutting her out of his world. A world he shared with Catherine alone.
Without a thought as to how he was going to manage it, he carried his precious cargo up the stairway to the roof and began the long trip home.
Every step carried them closer to safety but also brought back the memory of that night four years ago when he had carried what he thought was her dead body back to her apartment. That night, she had been cold and unmoving in his arms, tonight, he could feel the heat from her body and the steady rise and fall of her chest. He clutched her even more tightly to him and gloried in the feel of her there.
Once he entered the tunnel system, the sentries tapped out the message that Vincent was returning with a woman who looked like Catherine. Father had been sitting in Vincent's chamber with Mary when he heard the message. She was the only one he had entrusted with the news of Catherine's survival. They had been awaiting some word from the meeting.
"Something's happened. The message says he's carrying her. I hope he hasn't... " Before he finished the thought, he was tapping out a message for Vincent to take her to the guest chamber away from the mainstream of the community and curious eyes.
Vincent was concentrating solely on Catherine, and it took a while for him to understand the message. For a brief moment, he stopped to refocus his attention and to look down into her face again. A deep breath and a change of direction put him on the path to the chamber Catherine had stayed in so often.
Mouse, who made a habit of prowling the streets Above at all hours, was returning home when he saw Vincent walking through the tunnel. It was almost like an apparition and for a moment, it frightened him. They did not speak, but as soon as Mouse got a good look at just who was in his friend's arms, he gasped loudly and went scurrying back toward the main chambers.
He came tearing into the kitchen area and found William settling in for a midnight snack. "My God, what's wrong with you? You look like you've just seen a ghost."
Gasping for air, Mouse answered. "Did. Saw ghost. Saw Catherine's ghost. Vincent was carrying her."
"Calm down, Mouse. You're seeing things."
William was about to argue the point further when he heard a confirming message from sentry. "What in the world... Mouse let's find out what's going on."
Father arrived only seconds before his son. Turning as he heard him enter the chamber, his breath was taken away as he saw the bundle in his arms. In awe, he watched as Vincent gently lowered her onto the bed and lingered to carefully position her more comfortably. When Father could manage to tear his eyes away from Catherine's face, he put his hand on Vincent's shoulder. "Vincent, you'd better let me check her." When he didn't respond, he tried again. "Vincent... please."
"Alright," he mumbled in a soft frightened voice and inched back slightly. He had brought her this far, he was not about to let her out of his sight again.
As soon as Vincent moved, Father stepped in and lifted her wrist. He found her skin warm and her pulse strong. Then his physician's eyes moved to her face, but it was through the eyes of a loved one that he looked at her now. A single tear rolled down his cheek. With care, he opened her eyelids and checked her response.
"Well?" Vincent asked nervously.
"She's alright, although I think she's in shock." He turned to meet his son's red swollen eyes. "Just what happened up there?"
"I'm not sure," he answered without moving his eyes from her face. "She seemed prepared... but then... "
"Then what?" Father prompted even though he could see the pain in his eyes. "You must tell me."
"It was as if she were reliving her ordeal. She began screaming and fighting to protect her baby."
"She must have experienced a flashback perhaps brought on by the shock... of seeing you."
"Do you think she'll be alright?"
Father looked back at his prize patient. "I don't know Vincent. The mind is a complicated thing and she's suffered so much. Her psyche took all it could then shut down. She'll probably sleep for awhile now."
Vincent stepped by Father abruptly and sat down on the bed. Ever so gently, he took her hand in his. "I will stay by her side."
As much as he hated to further strain Vincent's fragile emotional state, he knew what had to be done. "I don't think that's a good idea son."
"This matter is not up for discussion, Father." Vincent's voice betrayed the tension he was under and his determination not to let anything come between them again.
"I understand what you're feeling, but we must think of Catherine now. She can stand no more shocks."
"Like seeing me again," came the sarcastic reply.
"Vincent, apparently the sight of you triggered this episode and released her pent-up rage, Perhaps when she awakens, she will remember because that self-made barrier will be gone. But on the other hand, she could have retreated even further. We must be cautious."
A sigh of defeat escaped him as he realized the logic of Father's argument. "Then what do you suggest?"
A comforting hand squeezed Vincent's shoulder. "Why don't you sit with Mary and Jacob until she awakens. I'll sit with her and assess her condition."
The shoulders that had carried the weight of so many tragedies sagged in defeat. "Perhaps you're right. I don't want to hurt her anymore."
"I will leave her to your care." A moment passed then he brought her hand to his lips and kissed it. Slowly he rose from the bed and, in an uncharacteristic public display of affection, he leaned over to gently kiss her lips.
Father watched the display with mixed feelings of awe and embarrassment. In the past, the most you could discern between the two of them was an occasional hug and the sight of them walking arm in arm. Although it was evident much more had transpired, he well knew his son's need for privacy and had not inquired. This unexpected demonstration reminded him just how human his strange son was.
Vincent turned to Father with tears brimming his eyes again. "You'll let me know?"
With one last look at Catherine, he bolted out of the chamber in a blind rush. He ran down the passageway until his legs threatened to collapse beneath him. The events of the last few hours were whirling through his mind at a maddening speed. Leaning against the wall, he fought desperately to slow it down, to come to grips with the reality of the moment. He had ... to... for Catherine.
Father fought back the instinct to comfort his son, but his responsibilities as a doctor came first. He pulled up a chair to Catherine's bedside and began his vigil.
Finally able to regain his emotional hold, Vincent headed to his chamber for the much needed solace of Jacob's nearby presence. As he rounded the corner, he was almost run over by Mouse, William, Pascal, and several other adult members of the community.
Mouse was the first to ask. "Is it true? Is it Catherine?"
He looked at the faces of his friends. These same friends were the ones who had stood by him throughout his life, who had comforted him through those dark days four years ago. He owed them something. After all, they were her friends too. "Yes." The words were difficult to get out. "Catherine has returned."
Gasps of shock and excitement rumbled through the small crowd.
"But how?" William asked.
"Please, all will be explained later. Right now, Catherine is not well and needs privacy. Please... "
William patted him on the back and voiced the group's feelings. "Whatever you and Catherine need, you will have. We're just so thrilled to have her back with us."
"Thank you, all of you."
The group walked back toward their chambers quietly, talking about the miracle that had taken place, while Vincent moved into his chamber to find Mary sitting in the big rocking chair. He moved to sit on the bed. When Mary sat down beside him and gently stoked his back, the frustration and pain could no longer be restrained. Then like so many times before when he was a child, he cried in Mary's arms.
Back in the guest chamber, Father's hip was beginning to bother him. Sitting for so long in that uncomfortable chair had severely aggravated the old injury. He shifted to one side then pulled out his pocket watch. It was well pass one o'clock.
Catherine had been asleep for over an hour. Catherine was lost in a soft cushion of darkness, floating in a sea of well-being she hadn't known in years. Through the darkness, sounds and light began to filter. She began to move closer to consciousness.
The first sounds she heard were her own breathing and the echoes of her heartbeat. Then came that soft tapping noise. 'What is that?' Her moment of confusion was followed by a feeling of safety. A sense of home. 'Home?' She forced her eyes open slightly.
Her movements were being closely monitored by her attending physician. As much as he wanted to callout to her, he had to let her come back at her own speed. He merely checked her vital signs for some sign of distress.
She focused her eyes on the rock ceiling of her chamber trying to rid her mind of the haze. 'This isn't my room. No, I'm not in Seattle. New York, yes, New York, but where?' Then as if she had stepped out of a dense fog, everything fell into place. 'The tunnels! Vincent!' She sat up and called his name. Immediately, she felt a pain shoot through her head and a wave of dizziness engulf her.
"Please, dear, lie down for a while.
At the sound of a familiar voice, she turned her head in its direction. "Father? Is it really you?"
The old man's eyes filled with tears. He smiled warmly as he realized what her recognition of him meant. "Catherine, lie down please."
Her own eyes were spilling over with tears as she complied. Desperately, she clutched his hand and cried openly with joy.
They shared that moment of homecoming with both tears and laughter until Father forced himself to assume his role as attending physician again. "Catherine, dear, do you indeed remember everything? I mean, do you know who you are and where we are now?"
"Yes... yes!" she answered eagerly.
"Now concentrate. Do you remember what happened to you? Do you remember... Gabriel?"
Her happy expression disappeared. "Yes, I remember the bastard and all he did." Her words were full of venom. "Peter said my son is here. Where is he, I want to see him."
"Slowly, my dear." A gentle pat on her shoulder reassured her as in times long past. "In due time. Right now, we have to make sure you're alright. Now, do you remember coming out of the coma and your life after that?"
She was beginning to get a little impatient with all this. "Yes, Father, I remember coming to New York, seeing Joe, meeting Diana, and last night. Oh my God, Vincent!"
"He's fine, Catherine."
"But I said some horrible things. I took my anger out on him." She began to tremble. "I must have hurt him terribly."
"He understood, Catherine. He realized your anger was meant for Gabriel, not him."
"Where is he, I must talk to him."
"I sent him to his chamber to wait. I wasn't sure what you'd remember, if anything, when you awoke. I thought it would be better to let you have a little time to... gather your thoughts."
Catherine closed her eyes and sighed in regret. "What all of this must have done to him?"
Sitting back in his chair, Father realized she meant the entire affair. "Yes, if it hadn't been for Jacob, I fear we would have lost Vincent to his grief."
At the mention of that name, she turned to look at him. "Jacob? Is that what he named him?"
With a grandfatherly look of pride, he answered. "Yes."
She smiled as she noticed the look on his face. "Tell me about him. I only saw him that once."
Her look of sadness and the poignancy of the statement did not escape Father's eye. "Well, my dear, he's quite handsome really. He may have Vincent's hair and blue eyes, but he definitely has your features and personality. He's quite a charmer with Vincent's sense of logic. He also shares an empathic bond with his father."
It startled her a little to hear him refer to Vincent as a father so openly. "He must be quite a terror."
He nodded and laughed in agreement. He reached out to help her sit up. "Are you feeling better now? Any headaches or dizziness?"
"No, it's all gone now. You were telling me about Jacob."
"Oh yes." He scratched his chin. "He's four now and quite advanced for his age. Oh by the way, he has a unique blood type."
"You mean he has Vincent's blood type."
"No. I mean he has a unique blend of yours and Vincent's. If he were to ever need a transfusion, it would be the blood from both his parents."
She wrapped her arms around her knees and expressed her concern. "Let's hope that doesn't become necessary."
"Don't look so worried. With Peter's help, we've been able to store some of Vincent's blood, now, we can store yours as well. You see... no problem." He gazed lovingly at the woman he now thought of as the daughter he never had. "Your son is quite perceptive and, at times, quite mischievous."
"I bet Vincent has had his hands full. I always thought he'd be a good father."
"The poor man has been tested, but he truly loves it."
"I want to see them both."
"I know, dear, and you shall," he answered and patted her arm again. "But it's well past one o'clock in the morning and the child is asleep. To awaken him now could frighten him. We don't want his first moments with you to be confused and frightening."
She dropped her head down to rest her chin on her knees. "No, I don't want that. But first thing in the morning."
Catherine smiled warmly. "It's just that I want to see him and hold him so badly."
"I understand. I promise you, you will have all the time you need alone with him and Vincent."
"Yes, Vincent. Tell me how he's been."
"It's been extremely difficult for him. For a while he was lost in the pain of your disappearance. Every night he walked the streets looking for you. The night he found you... it was awful. It took him some time to tell me about Jacob."
"I want to know about that. What did he say?"
"I don't remember his exact words, but I do remember the look of wonder in his eyes. The day he brought him home, the love and pride on his face was such a joy to see. I remember walking into his chamber, to see him just staring at the infant in amazement. Then there was the naming ceremony. We were all so happy for him and sad too. It was so obvious how badly he missed you being there to share that moment."
"I've missed so much!" she cried.
"But you have so much to look forward to now. You have been given a second chance. Welcome home, Catherine."
Wiping her tears away, she smiled. "Thank you. This is truly home. Can I see Vincent now?"
"If you're up to it, I don't see why not. I'm sure he must be sitting on pins and needles." He reached over and squeezed her arm. "He's been fussing over you like a mother hen. I'll go get him"
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The description was an accurate one. Although Mary sat quietly on the bed, Vincent was a hub of activity. He would pace, go check on Jacob, sit for a moment, then begin pacing again. Finally Mary made the comment. "You remind me of an expectant father. Will you please sit down?"
He started to but Father walked in and he was up again like a jack-in-the-box. "How is she?"
"Calm down, she's fine. She's awake and... Vincent, she remembers."
Vincent's eyes widened in joy and surprise. He couldn't control the quivering of his lip as he spoke. "She... remembers... everything?"
A smile lit up Father's face as he put his arms around his son. "Yes, son, she remembers everything... and she's waiting for you." Before Father could get out another word, Vincent was off, running through the tunnels toward the keeper of his heart.
The closer he got to the chamber, the faster he wanted to run, but just before reaching the entrance, he stopped. Closing his eyes he tried to calm his shattered nerves. There was so much he wanted to tell her, so much he should have said a long time ago. This was his chance to offer her his heart without reservations and limitations. He didn't want to mess it up.
Inside Catherine was pacing too. The last four years were like someone else's life and she cursed the amnesia that had kept her from Vincent and their son. Four years of not knowing what she had left behind. Four years in which her baby had become a little boy and four years of what must have been a living hell for Vincent. 'I've got to make it up to both of them.'
Suddenly she was aware of him. That unique masculine scent. The sound of his breathing sent chills up her spine and she turned quickly to see him standing there looking at her. The fear and hope in his eyes shone without his usual restraints. His slightly lowered head told of the pain her previous reaction to him had caused.
When she turned to face him, his heart felt as if it would burst with joy as he saw recognition and love where before had been rage and fear. He couldn't speak, he couldn't move, he could only look at her.
Catherine could no longer stand the silence. "Oh... Vincent! I'm sorry... I didn't mean... " Her words were choked off by her sobs.
He shook his head, and in answer to their mutual need, moved toward her. They came together in a tight, clutching kind of embrace. The feel of her in his arms, like this, so overwhelmed him that all he could do was let out a deeply held breath and sigh her name.
That sigh sounded both heavenly and anguished. It was at that moment, she truly felt his heartache. Even though she fought desperately to hang on to her control for his sake, she couldn't hold back the flood of emotions. "Vincent."
They both cried until there were no more tears left. Vincent began to stroke her back and nuzzle her hair, breathing in the wonderful smell he had missed so much.
Catherine slid her arms more tightly around his waist to pull his body into hers. Her face sought, the warmth of his neck and she breathed in deeply. "I'm home, Vincent."
"Yes," he moaned then found the courage to allow himself to express his feelings by kissing the top of her head and running his fingers through the softness of her hair. When she responded by sighing his name again, he cupped her head in his hands and pulled her back to look into her eyes. The joy of looking into those eyes threatened to render him speechless, but he wouldn't allow it. "Catherine...I love you with all my heart, with all that I am or ever could be."
The words she had so longed to hear him speak reached into her heart. "I love you, Vincent. I always have. You are everything to me. All that matters."
He could endure the distance no longer. Quickly, before he lost his nerve, he lowered his lips to hers and pressed gently.
His knees trembled as he felt her respond. The kisses they had shared that night in the cavern had aroused her but she knew they were an instinctive response and not a consensual act of love. The quick, closed mouthed kiss was not quite what she had expected from the man who had fathered her child, but it reaffirmed her belief that he still didn't remember.
He pulled back quickly and waited, looking as if he expected her to reject him and go fleeing into the night. She wasn't about to and wanted him to know it. Moving her hands up, she clasped his head, pulled his face down to hers again, and gently maneuvered his lips apart so that she could press deeply into his mouth. Just for a second, she felt him tense beneath her touch, but soon he relaxed and accepted her invasion.
When the kiss ended this time, they lingered close savoring the warmth of their contact. Her cheek lightly caressed his, his nose rubbed against hers, and they both sought to prolong this new intimacy between them. Once more she lightly tasted his lips and whispered, "I've wanted to share this with you for so long."
For the first time, Vincent finally admitted his desires with no shame. "So have I, Catherine. I'm sorry I denied us for so long."
She took a moment to look deeply into his oft blue eyes then stepped backward while letting her hands find his. Slowly she began pulling and guiding him toward the small worn loveseat that afforded the only seats in the chamber except the bed. He followed obediently. At that moment, he would have followed her into the abyss if she had asked. "We've got a lot to talk about. Come... sit with me."
Peter had been sitting with Diana since Vincentís departure. He realized how this scene must have affected her and had stayed to offer comfort as well as to satisfy his own need for companionship. He was also more than a little worried about the state Catherine was in when Vincent carried her away. She seemed to be experiencing a flashback much like the kind Vietnam veterans experienced. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, it was called. It made him wonder if that had been the underlying cause of her amnesia all along. It was a point he would have to discuss with Jacob.
"Peter," Diana spoke, derailing his train of thought. "Do you think she'll remember?"
"That's anybody's guess. Even if she does, she still has a lot of healing to do."
She sat back and looked sadly into her hands. "Did you see the look in his eyes when she started screaming at him? The hurt... it was so sad."
"Yes, Vincent has always been very sensitive, and when it comes to Catherine, his heart is on his sleeve. But no matter what she does or says, he'll be there for her. I never realized it before, but she wouldn't have survived without the strength he gave her, just as he would never have truly accepted himself without her love to guide him."
"I know. I could see it in the way he looked at her and the way he spoke to her. I just feel so damned guilty about keeping it a secret. I don't think he'll ever forgive me."
"He will, in time, but you've got to give them room to work out just what their relationship is now."
"Peter, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see now much they love each other, assuming she remembers."
"No, but a lot of things have happened since that chaste love affair four years ago. A lot has changed for all of us." Peter looked at his watch. "Speaking of time, I'd better get going. Will you be alright?"
"I'll be fine. It is getting late."
Reluctantly, he stood up to retrieve his coat. "Why don't you give them a day or two before you pay them a visit? I'll check with Jacob in the morning to see how they're doing."
"I agree. I'm not that anxious to intrude. Besides, I don't think Vincent would appreciate my presence."
They said their goodnights and she watched him get on the elevator and disappear. Silently she lowered her head into her hands and began to cry.
Outside the apartment building, a man shivered in the cold night air. He had been parked there for hours watching and absolutely nothing had gone on except the arrival of the old man. "Damn, there he is again." Through his binoculars, he watched the gray-haired man get into an expensive car and drive away. He quickly picked up the car phone and dialed the number of his employer.
"Well?" the brusque voice on the other end of the line asked.
"The old man is leaving, but Chandler and Bennett haven't shown themselves again. Should I follow him?"
"No, I already have someone on him. Keep watching the apartment. I'll send someone to assist you. I want you go get inside that apartment and grab Chandler if Bennett leaves. I have a feeling that one or both of them will make a move soon. Keep me informed. "
The line went dead and he hung up the phone. 'What the hell did this woman do to him anyway?' He shrugged, then pulled his coat up tightly around his neck. 'It's going to be one hell of a long night.'
Catherine sat down on the small couch and pulled Vincent down beside her. They squeezed together in the tight confines it afforded then stared awkwardly at each other for an instant. Finally, she turned slightly and guided his arm around her shoulders, then rested her head on his chest. Gently, she entwined her fingers with his.
During all of this, Vincent thrilled at the familiarity of her actions and fought his feeling of awkwardness. It was the simple gesture of resting his chin in her hair that finally made him feel at ease. Here is where she belonged.
They sat huddled together for some time before anyone dared to break the spell. Catherine raised her head and looked at him as if she wanted to memorize every nuance of that unique face, as indeed she did. "It's been so long. Tell me, Vincent, tell me everything. I want to know your thoughts and feelings about what happened between us, about our son, and about having me back in your life again."
A look of amusement filled his eyes. "Where shall I start? "
"With Jacob. Tell me how you felt when I told you had become a father. "
"Oh, Catherine," he closed his eyes for a moment as if reliving that moment. "At first all I could think of was the loss of you. The anger and the pain threatened to tear me apart. I just wanted to die. It was some time later before the miracle of what you told me that night finally forced me to go on." A look of wonder shone on his face. "All my life, I never thought such a thing..." his face felt suddenly warm, "was possible for me"
She allowed her fingers to gently stroke his chin. "You donít know how many times I prayed it was."
He tilted his head back to look at her in total amazement. "You mean you..."
"It surprises you that I wanted to have your child?" She shook her head slightly. "Thereís so much we never talked about before. But I promise you, my dear Vincent, all of that will change. No more holding back...deal?"
He nodded as he stifled a nervous laugh. "Deal?"
"So," she continued playfully, "tell me more."
He settled in a more confortable position with her and began to talk of things heíd always kept to himself. "Before I found our son, he was an abstract entity I couldnít imagine. I knew I had to find him...he was a part of you, a product of us. But the concept of our child...was difficult for me to assimilate. But, Catherine, the moment I laid eyes on him, I knew. He was the most inredible, the most beautiful, the most miraculous being Iíd ever seen."
She felt a lump in her throat when she saw the unabashed look of fatherly pride shing brightly in his eyes.
"Our son is the most precious gift..." he stopped as he remembered the night she had talked of lifeís gifts. "You were trying to tell me that night werenít you?"
"Yes, thatís why I came to see you."
The shadow of pain returned to his face. "I was so wrapped up in my own petty problems, I wouldnít let you."
"Vincent," she said sternly, "your problems were by no means petty. You had been through a horrendous experience, you needed time. I didnít just want to show up and tell you I was pregnant when you couldnít even remember making love to me." She let that sink in before she continued. "When a woman tells a man sheís carring his child, she wants it to be a special moment for them both. Timing is everything. You just werenít ready to hear it."
"And because of that, you had to make these decisions all by yourself."
"Ultimately the decision to have the child would have been mine anyway. Perhaps I should tell you how it was for me." She brought back the long hidden memories of that time. "No one was more shocked than I was the night that nurse told me I was pregnant. At first I felt such terrific joy, but then the fears surfaced. How would you feel? How would the baby look? Should I have an abortion and simply not tell you? What would this do to our lives? But no matter what argument I came up with, there was one inescapable fact. The child I was carrying was yours and I could no more destroy it than I could have destroyed you."
"But every time I think about what you endured... "
"And what about what you endured? Yes, it made me angry that I was prevented from sharing my pregnancy with my baby's father. I was filled with rage that this monster was planning to keep our child. Vincent," she stopped a moment to calm her rising anger. "I never once regretted the decision to have our child. And I never for one moment blamed you for anything. Do you understand that?"
"No buts, Vincent. Anger cost me four years with you and our son. The time for it has long since passed. I just want to forget the horrors and try to put things back together the best we can."
Even though Vincent wished it could be that simple, he realized the effects of what she had endured could not be set aside so easily. "A wound can't be healed until it's cleansed."
"That sounded like something Father would say."
"I am my father's son."
They both laughed. "And Jacob," Catherine continued. "Is he his father's son?"
"No," Vincent smiled. "He's very much his mother's son."
"I can't wait to see him. What does he know about me?"
"He knows you are his mother and that I loved you very much. I've told him only a little about the circumstances of your... absence. Peter brought down all your personal possessions so there were plenty of family pictures. We collected scrapbooks, so he could read of your accomplishments." He could no longer resist letting his finger trail along the line of her jaw. She responded by lifting her chin so he could continue down the contour of her neck.
"I hope you didn't make me sound like St. Catherine' or something," she said half-mockingly.
He found it hard to resist that self-deprecating smile of hers. "No, I told him your vices as well."
She raised her eyebrows in mock disdain. "Vices. What vices?"
He laughed heartily for the first time in years. Catherine enjoyed the sound of it.
"Catherine, Jacob is strong, intelligent, and sensitive everything a little boy should be. You'll be very proud of him."
"You raised him, Vincent. I'm sure he's extraordinary. Does he know I'm back?"
"I told him as much as I thought he'd understand."
"How did he take it?" she asked with concern.
"He was concerned."
"He wondered if you'd like him."
"Oh Vincent. I love him. I have since the moment he was born."
"I know that and I reassured him. I think he's just a little anxious to see you."
"Not half as anxious as I am."
He leaned over and placed a light, lingering kiss on her forehead. "Soon, Catherine, very soon."
It was then he found the courage to ask something he'd always wondered about since Gabriel's taunts. "Was his birth difficult?"
She searched his eyes for the reason behind the question but remembered her pledge of not holding anything back. "It wasn't the most pleasant experience I'd ever had. The pain was horrific and I was scared half to death of those people, but the moment saw that squirming, wrinkled, crying little person, I just fell in love."
When her expression changed from wonder to grief, Vincent had to ask. Catherine, what's wrong?"
Her tears came unbidden. "They wouldn't let me hold him." Her lips began to tremble. "I begged them. They only allowed me a look... then... they took him away. Oh God, Vincent." She began to cry and he held her tight. His own anger reared its head. He clenched his fist in silence as he held her. Gabriel had lied.
There was so much more they needed to talk about, but exhaustion was taking its toll. It was well past three o'clock and had been an eventful day for them both. Within a few minutes he felt her steady, even breathing and realized she had fallen asleep. He nuzzled her hair gently then rested his cheek against the top of her head, Shortly, he joined her in dreams.
Vincent awakened to find himself sitting upright on a very cramped loveseat. His back and shoulders were stiff, his legs were numb, and he could barely move his head. Yet, he was convinced he had died and gone to heaven. The reason for that assumption was still sleeping soundly against his chest.
Painfully, he moved his head so he could take a deep breath with his face in her hair. He was immediately rewarded by her sweet aroma. She stirred a little so he sat very still to avoid disturbing her. He wanted to treasure this impossible dream before he truly woke up.
As he sat holding her, he realized Jacob would be up soon. That meant he must go talk to him before Catherine saw him. If he thought the last twenty-four hours had been eventful, today was going to be even more so. Reluctantly, he shifted his weight and whispered softly, "Catherine."
When Catherine felt the movement and heard that sweet gentle voice, her mind fought its way back from the restful bliss she needed so badly. She took a deep breath, yawned, then looked up into two beautiful blue eyes. Smiling, she sat up slowly, stretched out her sore muscles, then asked, "How long have I been asleep?"
"We've been asleep for hours. It's early morning. Just before dawn, I think."
She ran her fingers through her hair. "I must look awful."
"I've never seen a more beautiful sight."
A smile of embarrassment crossed her face. "You are biased."
"Very much so," he answered playfully.
A moment of awkward silence passed between them. "Is it too early to see Jacob?"
"He'll be up soon," he answered as he painfully stood up. "I should be there when he wakes up."
Catherine stood up beside him, her eyes expressing her plea without words.
"Catherine, I'll need some time to prepare him. He'll want to look his best for you. Perhaps you'd like to freshen up as well?"
With great disappointment showing in her eyes, she looked down at the rumpled clothing she'd been wearing since yesterday morning. "I guess you're right. I wouldn't want to frighten him," she said with a half-hearted laugh. "Do you think Mary could scare something up for me?"
"I'm certain she could arrange something. I'll find her and send her in right away."
"Good," she smiled. "I'll join you as soon as I'm presentable. I'm a little nervous."
He had already sensed her anxiety and gently gripped her hands a little more firmly. "Don't be afraid, Catherine. Everything will be fine."
"That's easy for you to say. You're not meeting your son for the first time."
"I speak from experience. When I first saw him, I was afraid to even get close to him. Believe me, I understand." He paused a moment to search her eyes for a sign of that determination of hers. When he found it, he began moving toward the door. "I must be going. Are you sure you'll be alright?"
Catherine nodded and walked with him to the entrance of the chamber. They stood there for a moment, then she leaned into him for a warm embrace. As she tilted her head back to look at him, he knew without doubt, she was waiting for him to kiss her. He complied by touching her mouth briefly with his own.
This brief encounter was not enough for her. She quickly pulled his face down and opened her mouth as she pressed her tongue firmly against his lips until he opened them. He could feel the tingle down to his toes and responded by moving his mouth slowly against hers. When the kiss ended, it was obvious how deeply they both were affected by it.
"I'd better go," he managed to say.
"I guess so," she agreed shakily. "But, Vincent, you'd better get used to kissing. I intend to do it a lot."
He blushed, but inwardly he wanted to shout at the top of his lungs with joy. Instead, he said nothing as he maintained eye contact with her until he walked into the rough rock wall at the chamber's entrance. They both laughed.
Catherine walked back to the recently vacated loveseat and sat down wrapping her arms around herself. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't wipe the smile off her face. To be honest, she didn't want to take the glow off what she was feeling. All she could do was think about how wonderful it felt to have her own life back. To finally have her own memories, her own loves, and her own identity back was intoxicating. But, more importantly, she had Vincent back.
'Yes, Vincent,' she thought. She had noticed the subtle changes in him. Although the years had only made him more attractive, it was the inner changes that intrigued her. He seemed more confident in his own humanity, more willing to accept whatever course their relationship would take.
Their relationship. So much had changed there too. They had been lovers, even if he didn't remember it. Now, they were parents. They also had been apart leading separate lives longer than they had been together. She knew they could never go back to what once was, but where do they go now? Her smile disappeared as the intricacies of reclaiming her life began to dawn on her. Her thoughts were interrupted by Mary's arrival.
She stood up, turned to face the older woman, and watched as tears filled Mary's eyes even as her smile beamed. She seemed a bit more rail than Catherine remembered but her compassion and warmth still shone brilliantly from her eyes. "Yes, Mary. I'm home."
They embraced warmly for some time before Mary could control her emotions enough to speak. "Welcome back dear. We've missed you terribly."
When Mary pulled back from the embrace, Catherine noticed the stack of clothing tucked under her arm. "I'm thrilled to be home and with my family."
"Oh, Catherine, Little Jacob's so adorable. He's such a precious child. Without him, I don't think Vincent would have survived your loss. Dear, to see the two of them together is to -- truly witness a miracle."
"I can hardly wait to see him."
"I imagine so! But first we must get you a nice warm bath and a change of clothes so you can look your best for him. Come, let's go to the bathing pools. I'll help you."
Above, a man watched as Diana drove away from her apartment in haste. He watched as another car pulled away from the curb to follow her, then got out of his own car. From a previous "errand" for Gabriel, he knew where Bennett's apartment was. He quickly got in to begin his search. Sometime later, he picked up the phone and dialed.
"I'm in Bennett's apartment. There's no one here," he responded nervously.
"How can that be? You said you didn't see Chandler leave."
"I didn't. I saw the old man leave alone and this morning, Bennett left alone too." A moment of silence on the phone sent shivers up his spine.
"Apparently she left by another route. Did you see anything... unusual?"
"No. The lights went out about one o'clock and that was it. What do you want me to do now?"
"I suggest you get some rest and report to me this afternoon."
After hanging up the phone, he decided to spend the time getting as far away from New York as he could. The boss didn't like disappointments. He didn't realize Gideon had already made his decision and ordered a reception party for him.
Meanwhile, Diana had sensed someone following her and quickly changed her plans. Instead of heading for the Central Park drainage pipe, she made her way to the office determined to find out what was going on.
Down in the bathing pools of the tunnels, Mary was helping Catherine dry her hair. It was then she decided to ask about something that had been on her mind since her memory had returned. "Mary, what can you tell me about Diana?"
The older woman stiffened up and looked at Catherine with concern. "Has Vincent told you anything?'"
Catherine turned to face her friend. "No, but I can sense there's something I should know about. Mary, you know Vincent is a gentleman. There are things he simply will not talk about. If he's gotten involved with someone... "
"Involved!" Mary almost choked on the words. "Oh dear, not involved like you're thinking. She found Vincent unconscious on your... grave. She took care of him. She helped him control his rage so he could find Jacob. Honey, Vincent has never, and will never, love another woman the way he loves you. You are his true love. That will never change. Diana has become a generous helper, but she did not replace you. She couldn't."
"It's just that I sensed she felt... "
"I think you may be right on that count, dear."
Mary patted her hand affectionately. "I think Diana is in love with Vincent, but I think you can understand that. " The two women shared an understanding smile. "Catherine, Vincent has lived the last four years grieving over you and living for his son. He and Diana have become friends because Vincent would allow nothing more."
"After four years, I could understand if... he found someone."
Mary started laughing. "Sure you could, dear."
Catherine, shocked at seeing this side of her confidante, began to laugh with her. "Yeah right!"
Diana arrived at the District Attorney's office long before the usual chaos had time to begin. She made her way past the empty desks until voices from Joe's office caught her attention. When she heard her own name mentioned, she knocked lightly on the door.
"Yeah, who is it?" came Joe's gruff voice.
"It's Diana. Can I talk to you for a minute?"
The door jerked open suddenly. Diana was literally pulled into the room where two familiar faces looked very solemnly at her.
"Diana, I think you know these two gentlemen."
Indeed she did. They were the ones who had orchestrated Catherine's disappearance. "Yes, I remember Ed and Steve. It's nice to see you again. I suppose you're here about Catherine's reappearance?"
The older man, Ed, was the senior agent. He quickly took charge of the conversation. "In a way. We met with Mr. Maxwell this morning because certain facts have come to our attention. Please sit down, Diana."
She complied and listened with interest.
"We've learned that the man known as Gabriel had a brother. This brother, who goes by the name of Gideon, has restructured and rebuilt Gabriel's empire. Over the last four years, he has taken control of his brother's business interests and pulled all of his people in line."
"Damn!" Joe slammed his fist down on the desk. "I thought this mess was over."
"Does this put Catherine back in danger?" Diana asked.
"As long as she was in the program, no. But now... "
"Now what?" Joe demanded.
Ed looked over at Diana. "Last night one of his men we'd been tailing began following you and Ms. Chandler. We're afraid Gideon thinks the journal is still a threat to him. It's obvious he knows Ms. Chandler's back but I doubt he knows she has amnesia. It's very likely he'll go after her to get the journal."
Joe was livid. "Then why the hell haven't you done something about him?"
"Because we don't have enough evidence to even get a search warrant. Besides, we didn't even know she had come back until yesterday. We can't do anything yet."
"No, you'll just wait until they really kill her this time!" Joe shouted at them.
"The key here is the journal," Diana interjected. "If Gideon thinks it's still a threat, then it must be. If Catherine turns it over to the agency and testifies as to its translation, Gideon would have no empire to run. He'd have to cut his losses and close up shop."
Joe picked up a rubberband and began to pop it. "There's one thing wrong with this picture. She doesn't remember anything." His concern turned to his absent friend. "Where is she anyway?"
Although she had been rehearsing this all the way over, the words were hard to find. "She's safe, Joe. She's with... her family."
"You mean... "
"Yes," Diana answered enjoying Joe's surprised expression. "She's with her son."
"How? Where? How did you know... ?"
"I can't tell you anything more, but trust me, she's safe."
"Look, Diana," Ed interjected. "I've known you for a long time. I've learned to trust your judgment, but her life could be in your hands. You must be certain. Is she truly safe or should we put her in the program again?"
"I realize what's at stake here. I honestly believe there's no place in New York she could be safer. Besides, I don't think you could drag her back into the program. We've just got to get this Gideon before he can cause any more problems."
Ed sat back in the chair. "Well then, all we can do is proceed with the investigation. We'll have someone watching you, Diana."
"No!" Diana answered adamantly.
She couldn't tell him the truth so she frantically searched for another reason. "If Gideon is half as astute as his brother, he'll figure out you're onto him and that'll just drive him underground." She half-smiled at the pun.
"Nevertheless, someone will be close by," he cautioned.
Joe threw down the rubberband in disgust. "This is great. We know that this guy will go after Cathy and all we can do is twiddle our thumbs and hope she gets her memory back so she can testify. "
"No. We keep building our case brick by brick until we can shut him down permanently. If we had that journal and the testimony, we could do it a lot sooner but we just have to play with the cards we're dealt, Maxwell. You know the law."
Joe sighed in despair. "Yeah, I know. I've seen scum get away with murder because of damn technicalities. I won't stand by and let Cathy be a victim again."
All of them exchanged a defeated look. They sat in silence as Joe's words struck a nerve in each of them.
When Vincent entered Jacob's chamber that morning, he found the youngster wide awake and waiting for him as if he knew something had happened. "Jacob, are you alright?"
"Uh huh. Is she here, Daddy?"
Vincent wondered just how much the child sensed through their connection. "How did you know?"
"I don't know. I just felt it."
"Well," he answered calmly as he walked over to the bed, "You're exactly right. She's here and she's anxious to see you."
"Really?" the child asked excitedly. "When?"
Vincent sat down on the bed. "Soon, but first we must get you cleaned up and dressed. You want to look your best, right?"
After a thorough sponge bath and a change into his best little boy jeans and favorite panda bear shirt, Jacob stood ready for inspection. "Okay?"
"You look great. There's just one more thing, though." He picked up the brush and tried his best to smooth down his son's unruly reddish blonde hair. "There... perfect."
Jacob smiled, but Vincent read the underlying anxiety. "What's wrong? Are you worried about meeting your mother?" When his son nodded shyly, Vincent knelt down and with his finger, lifted the child's chin so he could look into his blue eyes. "That's understandable. Your mother's nervous too. She's afraid you won't like her."
"She's my mother, I love her."
Catherine walked down the familiar passage to Vincent's chamber feeling anxious to see her son yet filled with turmoil. 'What would he think of her suddenly dropping into his life? Would he resent her intrusion into the life he and Vincent had built together? Would she just be another topsider?' The doubts had her stomach in knots but her determination drove her on.
As she entered the chamber, she heard their voices. Her heart began to pound. Slowly she turned the corner into the unfamiliar addition to Vincent's chamber. There he was, standing in front of his father. Her breath was coming in gasps now. Her eyes burned with tears. 'God, he's beautiful!' she thought with his hair and eyes like Vincent's. But as she looked at him more closely, she could see fragments of herself in his chin, nose, and the shape of his face. She could only stare in absolute wonder.
Just as Vincent was about to say something more, he sensed another presence. He turned to see Catherine standing in the doorway. She had this incredible look of joy beaming from her eyes. He was frozen by the expression of love he saw as she saw her son for the first time since his birth.
She would remember as long as she lived the moment Jacob turned to her and their eyes met. There was just a moment of confusion and awkwardness but it was quickly replaced by a look of recognition. Then, as if in slow motion, he moved toward her. She fell to her knees with outstretched arms. The child came willingly to her. It was then she finally felt what had been so cruelly denied her before, her child in her arms.
Vincent watched the scene with tears streaming down his face. He had not moved from his position on the floor because he was so caught up in the emotions of the moment. Through the bond father and son shared, he felt Jacob's acceptance and wonder at his mother's touch. There was something else. The child's long dormant bond with his mother that had not been allowed to form naturally, now suddenly blossomed to life. He could feel it pulse strongly.
He watched as Catherine clung tightly to the child, her emotions evident on her face. The love, the joy, the sadness at having missed so much, and the hope of the life to be could all be seen in her eyes. with great gentleness, her hands first caressed his back then moved to his head as she kissed him repeatedly. This vision was far better than any dream for Vincent. It was all he'd ever wanted of life.
"Baby," Catherine cried. "I love you."
Jacob didn't answer. He just buried his face in his mother's hair and wrapped his arms tightly around her shoulders.
After watching more of the scene, Vincent, forced himself to get to his feet to join them. He put his arms around them and gently kissed their heads. "Come. Let's move to my bed." Then he both lifted and supported Catherine as she stood still holding tightly to her child. Jacob responded by wrapping his legs around her waist. Vincent guided them to his bed.
They sat for some time like that. Jacob with his little arms and legs wrapped tightly around her and Catherine holding him in her lap as closely as she could get him. Vincent sat beside them with his arms around both watching, listening, and sharing the love that so freely flowed between mother and son.
It was Jacob who finally broke the silence as he pushed back to take a long hard look at his mother. "Don't cry," he said as he tried to wipe away her tears. Of course that brought on more. Vincent handed his son a handkerchief and Jacob awkwardly wiped away the moisture then held the material over her nose. "Blow."
Catherine laughed as she supported his hand then complied.
They disposed of the handkerchief then Jacob just sat back and studied her. Tentatively, he touched the contours of her face with his fingertips as if to memorize by touch her features. Suddenly he withdrew his hand, touched his own nose and mouth and smiled.
Vincent chuckled. "Yes Jacob, you look like your mother."
The little boy looked annoyed at his father's interruption. He picked up a strand of Catherine's hair and rubbed it back and forth between his fingers. After a moment, he held it up to his nose to sniff it. "Pretty."
The miniature recreation of one of Vincent's favorite gestures brought a deep laugh from Catherine. She turned to look at Vincent. "Like father, like son."
At once Vincent was captured by the joyous glow reflected in the green depths of her eyes. How happy she looked, how complete. He took the strand from his son's hand and inhaled deeply. "Yes, pretty."
In response to an ancient instinct, Catherine began her own examination. She checked fingers, ears, eyes all to make sure everything was in its proper location. Temporarily satisfied with this cursory inventory, she realized she just couldn't get enough of touching him. It was as if she needed that reassurance he was real. She marveled at the unique blend of the best of both that this child was. She ran her fingers through his hair then looked over at his father, smiling.
The little boy braced his hands against her chest and asked shyly, "What do I call you?"
Catherine almost wept again. "What do you want to call me? What do you call your father?"
He looked over at Vincent. "Daddy."
"Daddy?" She studied Vincent. "I never figured you as a Daddy. Father, maybe, but Daddy?"
"We've got one of those already," Vincent explained. "It got too confusing."
"Daddy, huh?" She just couldn't get used to hearing Vincent referred to as a father. Turning back to face Jacob, she answered, "Why don't you call me Mom or Mommy? Whichever one you like best."
"Okay. Mommy. I like that." Taking a deep breath, he added, "I love you, Mommy."
Her eyes brimmed over with tears as she kissed him and held him close. Vincent couldn't stop his own tears. Again he enfolded them in his arms.
They sat hugging and talking for quite a while until Vincent heard Jacob's stomach demanding breakfast. "Perhaps I'd better get us all something to eat."
"That would be nice, but I don't want to be with anyone right now, except the two of you," Catherine responded.
"I understand. I'll go get us something from the kitchen and bring it back while you two get acquainted." Reluctantly, he pulled away from their embrace, then instructed Jacob. "You take care of your... mommy while I'm away."
"Yes sir!" Jacob answered proudly, then proceeded to hold her even more tightly.
When Vincent returned a while later, Jacob was still perched in his mother's lap. They were involved in a very animated conversation. Without disturbing them, he set up their breakfast on the table, then sat down to watch them.
The first thing he noticed was that Jacob seemed to cling to Catherine as if he needed constant physical reassurance of her presence. Even when he climbed off her lap, he took her hand and led her over to the table. He broke their contact only to eat.
In the little time she had spent with her son, Catherine had learned quite a bit about him. His first shyness and curiosity about her had given way to reveal an advanced intellect coupled with an insatiable hunger for knowledge. This miraculous child of hers also possessed a quiet strength and vulnerability that reminded her of his father.
There was more. As they ate their breakfast, she began to notice his idiosyncrasies. The habit of tilting his head as he listened to her. The wide-eyed look he gave, as if you were all that mattered could be directly linked to his father. It was only when he chewed his lip a little as he thought something over, did she see a bit of herself in him.
A message on the pipes interrupted their first family meal. "What is it?" Catherine asked when she noticed Vincent listening intently to the tapping.
"It's from Father. He says Peter is here and they'd like to talk with you."
Her feeling of contentment quickly turned to discomfort. A sharp pain thundered through her head.
"Catherine... are you alright?"
For a moment, the room spun. A vision of cold unfeeling faces and memories of being poked and prodded filled her mind.
Vincent saw the color drawn from her face. He quickly rushed to her side. When he picked up her hand, he noticed how cold and clammy it felt. "Catherine?" She didn't answer. "You're home. I'm here." He brought her hand to his mouth and kissed it.
The sound of his voice, the touch of his lips on her hand, ended the vision and brought her back from the edge. "Vincent?" she called weakly.
"Yes, Catherine, it's all right. You're safe. You don't have to see them. You don't have to do anything."
One look at Jacob's concerned face forced her to get a grip on her fear. "I'm okay. I just get these headaches sometimes." She patted her son's head. "I'm fine, really." When Jacob smiled back at her, she turned to Vincent's concerned face. "As much as I dread this, I know I've still got a long road back. I need their help."
"Do you want me to go with you?"
"No, I need to face these demons on my own. I'll need you later," she said as she leaned over and kissed his forehead.
"If you're sure?" He was not all that reassured.
She took a deep breath and jutted out her chin. "Yes, I am."
"I'll take Jacob for a walk then, but if you need me... "
"I know. I'll be fine. I trust Father and Peter. I want to get past this."
"I love you" he said simply.
"And I love you Vincent... always. We are going to get through this. I promise."
When she finally found her courage, she made her way alone to Father's chamber. There she found the two physicians quietly talking. They both looked up as she came in. Father smiled. Peter's reaction was much more restrained, as if he were waiting for some sign of recognition from her.
"Peter, I'm so glad to... remember you." she said with a smile then hugged him as the old Cathy would.
He returned her hug and laughed. "It's so nice to be remembered. So tell me, is your memory completely intact?"
"Yes, I even remember that embarrassing story you always tell about me," she smiled warmly. "It's like sitting in the darkness and having someone turn on the lights. I just hate that I've lost four years of my life."
Father joined in the conversation. "How was your reunion with Jacob?" he asked. He noticed how her eyes lit up at the mention of the child's name.
"Wonderful, absolutely wonderful. He accepted me without question. He is incredible."
"So's his mother," Peter added.
"Catherine, Peter and I have been in touch with your doctor in Seattle. We think we have some idea of your condition. We discussed what really happened to you and we all concur that you're suffering from an unusual form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder."
"Yes, Cathy," Peter continued. "Our theory is that in order to protect yourself from your rage at what you endured, your mind shut down. You experienced what you thought was death. When you awakened, still in what you perceived as Gabriel's prison, your psyche just could not endure it, so it repressed everything. It didn't just repress the horrible memories, but ALL your memories."
Father quickly finished the assessment. "The dreams and headaches you are having are part of the healing process. The barrier of fear and rage began to weaken and allowed you glimpses of your past. It only took the catalyst of Vincent's voice and appearance to finally break through that barrier."
"But you're not completely over this yet. As we've seen from Vietnam veterans, you'll experience flashbacks and probably will for some time to come," Peter advised.
"Then there's the backlash of emotions. The anger and fear will work its way out. You may have difficulty dealing with even the most trivial things. You might even want to just hide from reality and deny any of it ever happened, but you HAVE to talk about it. It's the only way. Just remember, Catherine, the road back is a difficult one, but you will not be alone," Father reassured her. "You have a family here who will do everything possible to help you. Please don't be afraid to talk to us or ask us anything. We're here for you."
The session lasted for some time as Catherine reluctantly talked about the most horrible experience of her life. There were tears and obscenities as she tried to release some of the pent up rage. Her agitation drew Vincent. He appeared at the entrance of the chamber with Jacob perched on his strong shoulders. "It's lunch time. I thought you might be hungry."
Catherine noticed the suspicious look he gave the two doctors. "Yes, I'm starving," she answered. It amazed her to see him so comfortable in his role as Jacob's daddy, but she had always known what a good father he'd be. She took his arm and the three of them went to the kitchen to charm William out of a meal.
After a warm welcome from William and a quiet lunch, Catherine lifted Jacob up and carried him on her hip as she and Vincent walked down to the waterfall. Jacob took off to play at the water's edge. Vincent sat down on the ground to watch over him. In time's past, she would have merely assumed a place near him, but things were about to change.
She walked over to stand in front of him then carefully used her foot to nudge his legs apart. When he complied, she turned around and seated herself between his upraised knees bringing a startled reaction from him. Smiling slightly, she leaned back against his chest and wrapped her arms around his knees. It took a little while, but finally he cautiously enfolded her in his arms and rested his cheek against her hair.
They sat there for some time enjoying this simple family outing before either of them spoke. "You seem tired. How did the session go?" Vincent asked.
"It was informative... I mean now I have some understanding of what happened to me. I realize I've got a lot to work through, but I've got you and Jacob. That's all I need."
"Is it, Catherine? Is it truly all you need?" He felt her tense.
"I'm not going back if that's what you're asking."
"That's part of it, but I'm more concerned about your need to work, to contribute."
Over by the water's edge, Jacob had been watching his parents doing that musky stuff adults do. In his few years, he'd noticed his father's aloneness and sadness. He'd seen the look in his eyes as he looked at pictures of his mother. He'd also noticed the other kids with their mothers. A sharp pain in his finger caught his attention. He looked down to see a thin trickle of blood begin.
Catherine had no time to comment on Vincent's concerns because her son came running to her holding his finger. As always before, Vincent reached out to attend his son's injury, but this time, Jacob pulled away and extended the injured finger to his mother. "Kiss and make better." It was something the other kids said to their mothers.
It was a small gesture of trust in a very complicated situation, but it spoke volumes to all concerned. For Catherine, it meant Jacob was accepting her in her role as his mother; for Vincent, it meant he no longer had to play both parents. The mother/son bond had been forged. For Jacob, it meant he had something he had always longed for... a mother.
Catherine took his hand, examined it, cleaned it, then gently kissed it. Jacob turned and plopped down on the ground between Catherine's legs, mimicking her position with Vincent. Hours passed as they talked and laughed. They became a family.
Diana made her way Below, being extremely careful to lose the tail Gideon had put on her. Now that they were on to him, precautions could be taken. Her mission this afternoon was not going to be easy but she was convinced Vincent and Catherine had to be told about this new threat. The underground had to be put on guard.
Vincent and Catherine. She realized that was something she had to accept. She couldn't help but wonder how things were between them now. Did she remember him? Had they... ? No, she didn't want to know the answer to that. With dread, she continued her journey.
When she entered Father's chamber, Diana found him looking off into the distance, deep in thought. He didn't notice her presence until she spoke. "Father?"
"Diana! I wondered when we'd see you again. How have you been?"
"It hasn't been the best week of my life, but I'm alright. How's... Catherine?"
Father smiled with joy. "She remembers... everything. Seeing Vincent again triggered the breakthrough. She, Vincent, and Jacob have been making up for lost time ever since... " It was then he realized how cruel his words must have sounded to her. "I'm sorry, I didn't think."
"No, Father, I knew this might happen someday. Where are they? I need to speak to all of you."
As if on cue, they walked into the chamber, looking like your ordinary everyday family just returning from an outing. As soon as Vincent saw Diana, he stopped in his tracks. Catherine could feel the tension.
"Hey, Diana," Jacob greeted her.
She bent down to hug the youngster. "How's it going, little man?"
At the sight of her son in this woman's arms, Catherine felt a twinge of jealousy. She clamped down on it hard.
"Mommy's back!" he excitedly exclaimed.
"Yes, I know," she said as she looked up at Catherine. "How are you?"
"Much better, thank you."
Diana stood up and looked at both of them. Vincent's eyes were cold and she involuntarily shivered. Catherine must have sensed her discomfort because she walked over to hug her.
"It seems I owe you a lot more than my life. From what I understand, you saved Vincent and Jacob. How can I ever repay you?"
"You don't owe me anything. It is I who owe you an apology."
Diana glanced over at Vincent whose expression had not changed. "For not revealing what I knew about you before now."
Vincent stepped to Catherine's side and protectively put his arms around her. "Yes, we all suffered from that," he stated coldly.
Catherine couldn't believe the harshness of his words and tone. When she looked at the pain in Diana's eyes, she understood with agonizing clarity that her previous assessment had been right. Diana was in love with him. That made her suddenly very uncomfortable. "Vincent, please... "
"No, Catherine, he has every right to be angry. But that's not the reason I'm here. Something's happened all of you should know about." Remembering Jacob's innocent ears she suggested, "Jacob why don't you go find a book for your bedtime story?"
Once the youngster scurried out of earshot, she continued, "I don't want to frighten you but we've discovered that Gabriel's brother, Gideon, has assumed control of his empire. He has someone watching me and Joe, so he's apparently heard of your return."
"Will it never end!" Vincent exclaimed as he pulled Catherine tighter into his embrace.
Catherine stood trembling. Vincent responded, "I'm here, Catherine. You're safe here, you're safe."
Diana noticed her response and how quickly Vincent calmed her. She waited until Catherine seemed to regain control. "The FBI is watching him but they can't move without evidence. Cathy, he seems to think the journal can still harm him. He thinks you could too. Now that he knows you're alive, he won't stop until he's found you."
"He won't find her!" Vincent adamantly responded. "She will be safe here."
"Don't count on it, Vincent. They almost destroyed this world before. They would do it again," Diana reminded him.
"This time we will be ready for them."
"You don't understand. The only way to end this nightmare is to stop him, to destroy this syndicate once and for all."
Vincent's anger flared. "At what cost, Diana? Will you have Catherine sacrifice herself again? Will you have him really kill her this time?"
"No!" Catherine screamed. "No! I won't do it! I won't go back to that world. I won't let them do that to me again. It's not worth it. NO!"
Diana pleaded, "Catherine, no one can do this but you. Think about all the pain he'll cause, all the lives he'll destroy if he's not stopped. Please... "
"NO!" Vincent shouted. "Enough!" He began to lead Catherine away.
"You can't turn your back on this. It won't go away because you want it to. At least turn over the journal to me."
"No," Catherine answered firmly. "No more."
You are not to mention this again, any of you. Is that understood?" Vincent threatened.
Unable to maintain his silence, Father tried to approach Vincent from another angle. "This concerns more than just the two of you. Our world could be in danger."
Then with a coldness Father had never seen in his son before. Vincent answered, "If our presence threatens this society, Father, then we shall leave it."
Jacob had been alerted to his parent's distress through the bond. Diana and Vincent's conversation frightened him. He came running up to Diana and pushed her away shouting, "Leave my mommy alone!" He ran to Catherine. She picked him up and carried him out quickly. With one last cold look, Vincent turned and followed them.
After watching them leave, Diana turned to Father. "Father?"
"I know, dear," He hobbled over to her. "Catherine has always been a strong, determined, and honest woman, but she's been through horrors we can't even begin to imagine. She's suffered so much and continues to suffer. We can't push her in this. It has to be her decision."
"Decision? Neither of them is even facing reality."
"Diana, they just found each other again. They're so afraid it could all be taken away like before. They don't want to take the risk."
"Someone has to take the risk. If no one does, if no one stands up for what's right, then we all lose."
"I know that and so does Catherine. Her courage helped to bring justice to a lot of people. That courage will get her through this and help her make the right decision."
She studied him with tear filled eyes that still could not see beyond the pain. "And what of Vincent?"
"He suffers with her. Their love goes beyond the limits this world has tried to enforce on them. It took me a long time to understand it, but believe me, although Vincent wants only to keep her safe, his love will do what is necessary to give her peace of mind."
"And in the meantime?"
He sighed deeply. "In the meantime, all of us who love them will do our best to protect them and allow them to heal." Father slipped his arm around her. They both tried vainly to find some comfort in the words.
It took Vincent and Jacob a while to calm Catherine's shattered sense of security. Although Jacob didn't understand what had happened or why, he felt her need of his comfort. He sat curled up in her lap for some time.
"I'm sorry," she finally spoke. "I didn't mean to spoil our day."
"You haven't, Catherine. Don't worry, I won't let them upset you again."
"I guess I'm not as in control as I thought," she said observing her shaking hands.
He kissed her forehead. "We're here. We'll get through this together. Now... " he stood up and offered an encouraging smile. "How about dinner?"
"I don't think I could face a dining room full of people right now."
"I understand. We'll have a quiet dinner for... three," Vincent suggested.
Catherine's concerned expression quickly changed. "That sounds wonderful."
On his way to the kitchen, Vincent encountered Father making his way to the dining room. "How's Catherine?" he asked.
"She's better, no thanks to Diana."
"No matter what you might think, Vincent, she has a point."
Vincent turned away from him. "I don't want to discuss this."
"Do you love Catherine or are you just interested in simply possessing her?"
That turned him back around quickly. "What? How dare you ask such a thing?"
"I dare because I love you both. I want you to put this behind you and be happy."
"That's what we plan to do."
"Just let me remind you, Vincent, that in order for a wound to heal it must first be cleansed."
The truth of those words came back at him and cut him to the heart. "I want her to be well, but I cannot bear for her to put herself in danger again."
"I know," Father said sympathetically. "There are no easy answers to this. We can only let her guide us as to what she needs. You and I know what must be done to stop this horror, but Catherine has to realize it. Ultimately, it is her decision."
Vincent walked back to his chamber thinking over Father's words. His mind told him what should be done, but his heart could not bear it. He vowed silently to be all she needed of him, to tell her all the things he should have so long ago.
They enjoyed a nice quiet dinner for three. Afterward, Catherine decided she needed to get back into the flow of tunnel life. "I hope I haven't offended anyone by not being very social."
"Everyone understands Catherine. They all agreed to allow us the privacy we need to get... reacquainted."
She laughed at the use of that word to describe their situation. "Or in Jacob's case, get acquainted." One hand tousled the little boy's golden blond hair and he smirked at her.
"We've been so involved in our reunion I haven't had a chance to catch up on everything here. Tell me everything, Vincent."
Obviously Jacob didn't think this conversation would be of interest so he excused himself and began playing on the floor with his train.
"Where shall I begin?"
She sat back comfortably in her chair and began asking questions. "How is Mouse? Has he and Jamie... ?"
"No," he choked back his laughter. "Actually Jamie has become involved with the son of one of our helpers. His name is Jason."
"Oh really! I always thought... "
"So did everyone else, but Jamie has become a woman and Mouse... in a lot of ways, Mouse is still a boy. He has matured physically but... well, he is Mouse."
Remembering the young man's oddities, she smiled. "Yes, understand. I look forward to seeing him and meeting this young man of Jamie's. What about the children?" she asked excitedly.
"Well, they've grown of course. Kipper's voice has changed and he's taken an inordinate interest in girls. Samantha has recently... entered womanhood according to Mary." He blushed but knew she would want to hear it all. "The other boys are at that awkward stage where they're not quite sure what to think of girls. Little Catherine is almost five now. Lena brings her down for visits. Oh yes, Lena moved back Above and has found a job. Kanin and Olivia have a new son. They named him Chandler."
Her eyes glowed. "Chandler?"
"Yes, they wanted to honor you in some way so they chose that name."
She smiled, "I'll have to pay them a visit soon."
Vincent continued his narrative. "Pascal still has his pipes and you've seen William. Let's see... Rollie returned and has managed to kick his habit. He now teaches music to the children."
"Oh Vincent, that's wonderful. I know that really meant a lot to you."
"Yes it did." After a moment of shared memories, Vincent continued. "There are a lot of new people, children mostly, that you haven't met but who already know the Catherine legend."
"Oh, so I'm a legend now?" She laughed.
"You always were to me."
This new easy playfulness in him shocked her a little, but it was a nice shock. Time and events had changed him more than she imagined. She began to wonder what other changes had taken place. "Vincent, Mary told me a little about... Diana, but there are things I need to hear from you."
The subject was not a comfortable one, but he knew it had to be addressed. "I'll tell you all you want to know."
"I know she helped you find Jacob and she saved your life. What I need to know is what she means to you and Jacob, and why you're so angry with her?"
He stared at her for a moment trying hard to read her emotions. It used to be so easy. "Catherine, I admit she's a unique individual. Her generosity to this world has been greatly needed and appreciated, but I never considered her as anything more than a friend."
"Do you know she's in love with you?"
The discussion was really getting uncomfortable now. "Yes," he answered slowly. "I realized it. I tried everything I could to discourage her. Catherine, you are the only woman I could ever love in that way. When I said always, I meant it." He reached across the table and took her hands in his.
She looked over at Jacob playing blissfully on the floor. "What about him?"
"She has not replaced you in his heart either, I made sure of that. They are close, but I've allowed nothing more. Since I brought him home, I've told him of you and what we shared constantly."
With that she seemed to be a little more reassured. The rest of the evening was spent handling all the domestic things Catherine had not been a party to all those years. She helped Jacob get ready for bed, then at his insistence, read him "The Velveteen Rabbit". She sat next to him on his bed as he rested his head on her shoulder. Occasionally he looked up at her with those big blue eyes.
Vincent sat on his own bed listening to the sound of her voice. She needed this time with him and he gladly relinquished his duties to her loving care.
After the story, she tucked him in and kissed him goodnight, but those eyes stared up at her with a question. "Mommy, are you and Daddy going to sleep in the same bed like most mommies and daddies?"
She felt her face flush with embarrassment. "That's something your Daddy and I haven't worked out yet. Would you like us to live together?"
He nodded vigorously. "Daddy would like that. He needs you."
His mature understanding and concern for his father amazed and touched her. Her son was four going on sixteen and extremely perceptive. "I love you, Jacob, goodnight."
In the other chamber, Vincent was allowing himself a fantasy as he stared at the empty bed. All those nights before he'd forced those images from his mind as being impossible, but now? He so desperately wanted her to stay, but what if she didn't want that kind of relationship? But those kisses! He closed his eyes as he relived the feel of her lips on his.
Her lilting voice singing her mother's lullaby broke his revelry and brought a tear to his eye. He listened then began to undress for bed. His nervous fumbling fingers removed his vest and outer clothing so that he stood there with his cotton shirt hanging loose and unbuttoned from his pants. It was then the pouch on the table caught his attention and he reached over to empty the contents on the table. 'The crystal and the rose intertwined. How appropriate,' he thought. He continued to stare at them.
Catherine had stayed with Jacob until he fell asleep, then sat there to again marvel at him. She could have stayed there all night but there was someone who needed her. There were things to be resolved. She swallowed hard and walked through the entrance to see Vincent studying something on the table. Her eyes focused quickly on his exposed chest and she stifled a gasp. She was not accustomed to seeing him so casual. His powerful sexuality assaulted her senses as Jacob's question still rang in her ears. She took a moment to appreciate the view and to still her trembling hands. "He's quite a young man, isn't he?"
At the sound of her voice, his eyes sought hers and they connected with intensity. The electricity between them sparked to life. He suddenly felt very exposed. Awkwardly, he tried to refasten his shirt.
"No, don't!" she spoke without thought, then blushed. "There's no need for you to be uncomfortable." She lowered her eyes then half-laughed, "I had your child Vincent. I remember everything clearly."
It was his turn to be embarrassed. Before her disappearance, he had not known of their intimacy. Now it loomed between them and he wasn't sure just how to deal with it.
She could see his discomfort and decided to change the subject for the moment. "I meant to ask you before, does Jacob have a middle or last name?"
"I guess not. It's not that important down here. I never gave it any thought."
She took a few steps closer as she felt the tension ease a bit. "If he wants any kind of life Above, he'll need an identity."
"I never thought about that either. I guess I never wanted to think of him leaving?"
"May I make a suggestion?"
"Catherine, he is your son too. You have a right to take part in decisions concerning him. What is your suggestion?"
"Since you named him Jacob after your father, would you object if I gave him your name as his middle name and my name as his last?"
Vincent thought about it for a moment. "Jacob Vincent Chandler. Sounds impressive."
"You really like it?"
"Yes, I do. Perhaps you could obtain a birth certificate for him in case the need should arise."
"I think that could be arranged. Yes, I'll get Peter to help with it." She smiled warmly at him then looked at the objects on the table. Another few steps brought her within arms's length of him. "The necklace... you found it."
They both reached for it at the same time. Their hands touched. Instead of pulling away shyly like he had always done before when desire reared its head, Vincent accepted his feelings. He slipped his fingers into her hand and gently caressed hers. This time, he allowed himself the simple pleasure of the softness and warmth of her skin.
Minutes passed as they both allowed the feeling to build slowly. Then with his eyes still fixed on their hands, he found the words he'd never dared speak before, "Don't go," he pleaded in a deep husky voice, then lifted his gaze to meet hers hopefully.
She looked up at him, studying his eyes closely. "You remember, don't you?"
He lowered his eyes to her hands. "In a sense," he answered shyly. "The night you returned to New York, you dreamed about it. I shared that dream." He clasped her hands more firmly. "Catherine, I saw me through your eyes. I felt the love in your heart. I experienced the... pleasure my hands gave you. You see, I don't remember, I shared your memory."
A look of astonishment and joy lit up her face. "The bond? Is it back?"
"Not as it was, but I think a part of it is."
"Oh, Vincent." Gently she laid a hand on his bare chest and felt him tremble beneath her touch. They both took a deep breath. Catherine decided the time had come for complete honesty. She chewed her lip thoughtfully, then looked up into his eyes. "I won't go back to the way it was. I couldn't stand the pain of a denial again. I won't!" Her voice expressed her determination. "Tell me what's in your heart. Tell me what YOU want."
In that moment of truth, he found himself faced with all the changes they both had been through. The old Catherine would have simply honored his fears and sacrificed her own needs for him. The woman standing before him now was fighting for the man she loved and the right to love him. "Catherine, I want us to be a family. I want the dream we shared to become real. I want... perhaps more than I have a right to want."
Her hands clenched into fists against his chest. Her voice grew tense. "You have every right! You are the man I love. I give you the right!"
With a sigh, he caressed her arms. "I just don't want you to feel obligated because of Jacob."
"I love you, Vincent. I did before Jacob and I love you even more now because of all we've endured. My love for you, our love for each other gave him to us. The time for suffering is over. It's time we allowed ourselves the joys of our love."
"I love you, Catherine, with all my heart. Please... love me," he pleaded. "Teach me to love you."
"Gladly," she responded with that sweet smile of hers. "Don't be afraid. Just trust your instincts."
A slight nod of his head signalled his surrender. Her eyes filled with tears of joy. So long she had dreamed of this moment, of his willingness to allow the physical expression of their love.
She slid her hands up to his throat, letting her fingers trail along his jaw. Then with a smile, she guided his mouth down to hers, lightly tasting his lips repeatedly.
The aching Vincent felt reminded him of all the nights when he left her on her balcony. Nights when her nearness and the romantic evenings overlooking New York would be more than his control could stand. Tonight instead of fighting those feelings, he was allowing himself to experience them and Catherine was encouraging them. She did not see his desire for her as something forbidden but as a part of their love she wanted to share with him.
After several seconds of the light butterfly kisses, he felt her open her mouth and push against his lips with her tongue. This time it didn't surprise him and he readily complied. The feeling of her tongue in his mouth exploring him was becoming addictive. He wondered how she would respond to a little exploring on his part.
Catherine could sense it was time to back away and encourage him to be more aggressive. She broke the kiss and pulled back slightly, waiting. She didn't have long to wait. He slid his arms around her and lowered his head. This time she felt his tongue push against her lips and she opened them willingly. She mused that while his technique was a bit awkward, the results were knee buckling. When he ended the kiss, they were both panting for breath.
Taking advantage of the moment, she let her hands slide into the opening of his shirt, then gently guided it off his shoulders. The material fell to his elbows. She began to run her hands smoothly up and down his arms. He lowered his arms and his shirt fell to the floor.
The blissful feeling of her hands on his bare skin overwhelmed him. His head went back as he felt her place a kiss on his collarbone. She began to work her way up over his Adam's apple on route to his ear, where she nibbled playfully. He moaned as the male instinct took over. He raised his hands up to cup her head and position her for another deep kiss. He just couldn't get enough of tasting her.
Taste was a sense she was enjoying as well. His heart was pounding beneath her touch. His kisses were becoming more ardent.
As he deeply explored her mouth, he felt her hands slip around his waist to caress his back. The movement allowed her to press more tightly against him. He could feel the mounds of her breasts push into his chest and her pelvic area press against his. That started the throbbing he had known before though he never remembered it being so intense. Before, he had always hidden the way his body responded to her nearness, but now he did not fight it.
Catherine had felt the stirring. She remembered the times he would turn from her when this happened. He didn't think she'd seen or felt it because they never spoke of such things, but she had noticed and it aroused her.
Carefully, as not to startle him, she stepped backward pulling him with her. She moved them both closer to the bed. Her hands found the waistband of his pants. Then with one quick smoldering look into his eyes, she unfastened the snap.
He clutched her hands in fear. "Catherine..."
"Vincent, I've seen all of you before. I think your body is beautiful. You have no secrets from me," she whispered reassuredly. "Please, I want you."
She waited until the fear left his eyes and his hands released her. Quickly, she unfastened the pants and pushed them down below his hips. He looked as if he expected her to be repulsed by his appearance. Instead, she smiled and lightly caressed his lower stomach.
Finally, he seemed to accept her appraisal. He guided her into his arms for another kiss. He never thought he could be so intimate with a woman. If not for sharing her dream, he doubted he could be so bold now.
After the kiss, he had to share with her those feelings. "Catherine, before I thought somehow had forced you that night. I never believed you could want me this way. I never thought it could be like this."
"You didn't think you'd raped me, did you?"
"With no memory of that night, I only imagined the worst."
"Well forget it, Vincent. If anyone took advantage, it was me. My desires are just as strong as yours, never doubt that. If you truly shared my dream then you know that." She stepped back to untie the lacing of her gown. "Now, it's my turn."
His first instinct was to turn away, but he couldn't. His hunger would not allow it. He watched as she loosened the lacings then slipped the gown off one shoulder at a time.
His look of almost childlike curiosity intrigued her. She took her time and much delight in letting the gown fall to the floor. The look that followed her gesture was something she would never forget.
The breath caught in his throat. He found he could not move his eyes from her chest. He did manage to note, however, that she was clad only in a pair of panties. But his attention was so totally captivated by those enticing curves and bulges, he paid little attention to them.
The unabashed appreciation was quite flattering, so flattering in fact, she found herself a little embarrassed by it. After a moment, she realized he was frozen to the spot so she stepped lightly out of the heap of clothing, into his reach.
With an unsure hand, he paused as if debating the rightness of his possession.
"It's alright Vincent, don't be afraid. You won't hurt me. Remember... " she smiled as she remembered the haunting phrase. "Remember love."
He took a deep breath, glanced into her eyes for additional reassurance, then very lightly rested his hand against the swell of her right breast. The softness was unlike anything he'd ever experienced before. He trembled.
Sensing his uncertainty as to what to do next, she guided his hand to show him how to touch and caress. Soon he was caressing her gently all on his own and moving the other hand up to do the same. She tilted her head to one side moaning her approval.
Her excitement was building much faster than she realized. The need to kiss him again was maddening. She reached up and pulled his mouth to hers with force. His arms slipped around her to glide over her back fervently.
The interlude quickly turned into one of pure sensation. There were no words, only moans of pleasure and delight. Conscious thought was set aside for the more instinctive part of their beings. Minds and bodies responded in tune with each other to answer a mutual need.
Catherine moved over and sat down on the bed. Her heart was beating fast. Her breathing was becoming difficult. She had to calm herself and lead him patiently. In one quick movement, she scooted across the bed removing her panties as Vincent watched entranced. His adoring gaze encouraged her. She patted the space next to her in invitation.
Almost beyond intelligent thought, it took him a while to get the message. Then in his rush, he almost fell over his own pants. They both laughed. Then he quickly turned, removed his remaining garments, and stretched out on the bed beside her. Although, through books and magazines, he had some idea of what was supposed to take place, he was totally at a loss as to where to begin. The heat and throbbing were driving him mad.
She understood and moved over him. "It's alright," she whispered in a deep voice. Her hands began moving over him followed by her mouth. With difficulty, she pushed her own pleasure aside to consciously monitor his arousal. It was when she raised her head to really look at him, that she saw the near agony he was in trying to restrain himself. She couldn't bear it.
Carefully, she lifted herself above him. Whispering words of reassurance, she lowered herself onto him. His body tensed violently as she eased him inside. Even though she wanted nothing more than to savor this incredible feeling of completeness, she concentrated on his release. "Don't fight it, go with it," she encouraged as she began to move with his awkward thrusting motion. She leaned into him. "Let go, Vincent, just let go."
His climax followed quickly. With his body's final thrust and release, she continued to move to sustain him as long as possible. As she watched the agony of his features slowly change to contentment, she settled herself above his face and gently began to stroke his unique mouth. It reminded her of that time in the cavern, except this time he opened his eyes and looked at her with love and recognition. "Vincent, are you alright?"
What was the proper thing to say after such an intimacy? He found he could only speak his heart. "I love you," he whispered breathlessly.
A warm smile was her immediate response followed by, "And I love you." Her fingers continued to stroke his face.
In the haze of the afterglow, he first felt it. A small almost indefinable tingle in his heart. In the part of his heart where his bond with her had lived, and he thought died, it began. His eyes opened quickly. "Catherine, I can feel it."
Half asleep against his chest, she murmured, "I certainly hope so."
"The bond, Catherine. It's coming back!"
His words finally reached her conscious mind. She raised up to look into his eyes. "Are you sure?"
"It may not be as strong as it was, but I can feel something. I feel your love."
They talked for some time about their bond, their dreams, and about their son until Catherine felt his steady even breathing and realized he was asleep. Soon, she joined him in dreams.
It was a dark shadowy place filled with mist. She and Vincent were there in the darkness making love. Suddenly, a harsh light beamed down on them. They could see people watching them, laughing and calling them names. Then Gabriel stepped into the light and pulled out a huge needle. Uniformed men dragged Vincent away as he fought them. The spectre then walked toward her. "It's the baby I want. You are merely the vessel and the beast, the sire. I want the child." She tried to crawl away, "No! No! Vincent, where are you? Vincent?"
Vincent awoke to her movement and her voice calling his name. "Catherine, what is it?" She began to fight him or whatever demons that haunted her dreams. "Wake up, Catherine. Wake up." When she continued to fight him, he had to bodily hold her down. The battle continued. "I'm here, Catherine. You're safe. Wake up. Come back to me. Catherine?"
His pleading reached into her tortured mind and helped her pull herself out of the nightmare. Slowly she opened her tear filled eyes. "Vincent?"
"Yes, Catherine, I'm here," he whispered.
He was so close, she could feel his breath on her face. "Oh God, Vincent." She started crying and clutching at him desperately. "Hold me tight!"
He responded by holding her so tightly he worried about his weight hurting her. She continued to sob as she clutched at him.
A little later, after the tears were all cried out, she began to kiss his shoulder and plead, "Make love to me. I need to feel alive again. Please, I need you. I need to be part of you. Vincent?"
He looked down at her and saw the pain and need in her eyes. She had been so patient and self-sacrificing in her love. He could deny her nothing. He wanted to comfort her, to give her the love and security she needed. Most of all he wanted to satisfy her as he had not before. In his heart, their bond was pulsing, getting stronger by the minute. He lowered his lips to hers. She responded passionately.
Her kisses became more demanding as she maneuvered him onto her and between her legs. With desperate hands, she guided his mouth down her throat as she arched her back to more fully expose it to his kisses. Impatiently, she cried out, "Lower please."
Following her instructions and getting caught up in her excitement, he let his mouth trace the shape of her breast. Her hands continued to guide his mouth until he found the most sensitive part and again she pleaded. "Your mouth. Take me in your mouth." His response was tentative so she encouraged him to be more vigorous. "More... harder."
He gave into her need and was rewarded with her response of total ecstasy. The passion escalated quickly then. This position gave him more freedom of movement and he took full advantage of it. Having more control and flexibility, he found he could better move to match her need. Also, by tapping into their bond, he could anticipate what she needed and respond appropriately.
In his ear, she kept pleading, "Harder, harder." He obliged as much as his fear of hurting her would allow. Her climax was coming. He fought to restrain himself until he felt her shudder violently beneath him, then completely relax. It was then he sought his own release and thrust deeply a few more times until he found it.
They couldn't speak until their bodies relaxed a little more. Then Catherine somehow found the strength to put her arms around him and hug him. "I love you so much. I couldn't bear a life without you."
Vincent raised his head and gently kissed her. "I did for awhile and it was a living hell." Comfortable where he was but concerned for her, he rolled aside so that they could lie side by side facing each other. "I don't ever want to go through that again. I want it to be like this forever, Catherine... " He hesitated only briefly. "Marry me?"
She was stunned for a moment. "Vincent, considering our circumstances, you don't have to make an honest woman of me, you know?"
"That's not the reason I asked," he replied as he gently pushed aside that stray strand of hair that always seemed to be in her eyes. "Ever since Henry and Lin's wedding, I've dreamed of standing up in front of our family and friends and speaking vows with you. I guess it's selfish of me, but I want at least this world to acknowledge our... union. Then, there's Jacob. I'd like him to have married parents. But, Catherine, the most important reason I asked is that I love you. I want us to live as much of our dream as we possibly can. So... will you?"
She looked into those clear blue eyes, "I don't think I've ever heard a sweeter proposal in my life. If a ceremony here will make you happy, then yes, I would be happy to marry you."
He smiled as best he could then pulled her closer to kiss and nuzzle against her cheek. "Do you want to tell me what your nightmare was about?"
Burying her head in his chest, she answered, "No. I've already forgotten it." 'A lie, but a necessary one,' she thought and soon they were both asleep again.
She was once again lost somewhere in a soft haze, half asleep when she reached out for the warmth she now knew as her lover. He wasn't there! Had it all been a cruel dream? Forcing her eyes open, she desperately sought him.
"I'm over here," the soft sexy voice responded.
She looked up to see him standing by the table putting on his night clothes. "Why are you getting dressed? This is much more comfortable," she said as she touched her own chest.
He looked at her longingly. "I agree but Jacob has a habit of climbing into my bed." He bent over to retrieve her gown. "You'd better put this on."
The article of clothing landed in a heap on her stomach where Vincent tossed it. "I just realized that my own child has never seen his mother naked. Most children are used to that at an early age." She sat back and thought about what she had missed. "I always thought if I had a child, I would breast feed him." She half laughed. "I guess it's too late for that now."
"Until last night, Catherine, I'd never seen you naked either. At least I don't remember it." He sat down on the bed beside her as she scooted up to slip on the garment.
He was trying to cheer her up and she knew it. "Has he seen you? You know, in the all together?"
"Yes, we usually take our bath together." He could swear she was pouting. "Maybe you could join us next time?"
The pout disappeared. "Do you think it would... upset him?"
"NO!" he said strongly. "It doesn't upset me."
Taking solid aim, she hit him in the head with the gown. They laughed until Vincent turned his head as if listening to some faraway voice. "He's waking." At her look of astonishment, he explained. "Yes, I can sense him strongly."
"It appears our bond is back as well," she commented as she quickly pulled the gown over her head and worked it down to cover her.
"And I've never been more relieved. That cold empty part of my heart has been filled with your presence again."
She reached over placing her hand on his chest. "Isn't it getting a little crowded in there?"
Just then Jacob peeped through the curtain that separated their chamber. "Daddy?" he called.
"Yes, son, come in."
The little boy walked over to their bed rubbing his eyes. "Can I get in?"
"Of course," he answered as he lifted the child and placed him between them.
Jacob turned to his mother. "Morning, Mommy."
"Good morning, honey, how are you?" She pulled him into her arms. He rolled over to rest his head on her breast.
"Sleepy," he answered then went back to sleep.
The sight of the two of them nestled lovingly in his bed brought Vincent to tears. It was a vision he'd never hoped to see, but fate had given them another chance. He would be forever grateful. Gently he settled into bed beside them and cradled them in his arms.
Hours later as the city carne to life, Diana ventured out into the cold air of a January morning. She pulled her coat more tightly around her. Taking a tighter grip on the suitcase and the extra purse she carried, he looked around for her ever faithful companion. She spotted him getting out of his car. The game was afoot.
Knowing the city as well as she did, it was only a mild challenge to lose this particular henchman in a maze of turns and twists.
A quick look around reassured her before she stepped into a helper's store and entered the tunnels through the basement.
As she neared the main hub of activity in the tunnel world, she heard a movement behind her. Quickly she turned to see Vincent standing in the shadows. "Vincent! You frightened me."
"I'm sorry. I heard the sentries announce your arrival. I wanted to speak to you before you had a chance to bother Catherine "
"Vincent, please listen."
"No, Diana, you listen. I will not have you pressuring Catherine to risk her life again over this journal. We have endured too much to have our happiness torn apart again."
He was trying to tell her something she didnít want to hear. "Are you, Vincent? Are you truly happy?"
"Yes," he answered with deep conviction. Perhaps complete honesty was necessary now. "Catherine and I are truly one now in every sense of the word. Last night, I asked her to marry me."
The disappointment and pain tore at her. How long had she prayed for him to make that commitment to her. It was over. Her heart broke in silence. "If that is what you want then I wish you well. I want you and Jacob to be happy. You deserve it."
"Thank you. You do too."
She took a deep breath and remembered the suitcase she still clutched. "These are Catherine's things. I checked her out of the hotel and packed what she brought. There were several messages from a Dr. Preston but Peter said he had taken care of them."
Vincent took the case. "Thank you. She'll appreciate that."
She decided to press the argument. "There is one point I have to make. I understand your unwillingness to risk Catherine again, but what you're both missing is the fact that if we do nothing you will never really be safe again. As long as he is out there and sees Catherine as a loose end, he will not stop. He will destroy anyone to get what he wants. Vincent, think about Catherine. You've always told me what a strong sense of justice she's always had, what a fighter she always was. To hide from this, to shut down that part of her is not fair to her. In supporting her fears, you are feeding them. You are making her totally dependent on you and this world. She will never be strong enough to fight for what's right again. You're making her decisions for her."
"Isn't that what you and Father did to me?"
She sighed. "I guess we did, but you see what it did to you, don't you? How do you think Catherine will feel? She can't conquer her demons if she won't face them."
"I think you should leave now."
"No. I would appreciate it if you would not endanger us with your trips Below. As you said, we must be particularly careful."
His cold words had hurt. "At least think about what I've said. Think about what's best for Catherine."
He was thoughtfully silent for a moment, then turned and walked back into the shadows leaving her alone with her pain. She had never seen this side of him before, the part that would sacrifice everything to keep Catherine safe. She understood it though. She had risked it all to shield him. It had cost her his trust. What price were they to pay now?
Before he found his way back to their chamber, Vincent encountered Father making his way to the kitchen for breakfast.
"Good morning, Vincent. What have you there?"
"Diana brought Catherine's things Below."
"That was a nice gesture."
"What are you thinking, Vincent?" Father asked as he noticed the thoughtful expression.
"Nothing," he answered, shaking his head as if to dismiss it. "Nothing at all. In fact, today is one of the most wonderful days of my life."
"My family is together at last. Which reminds me, Catherine and I would like to speak vows as soon as it can be arranged."
"Really?" Father commented in shock. "Vincent, don't you think you're rushing things? Catherine's just beginning to heal. She has a long way to go. A more... intimate relationship right now might prove to be too much of a strain on her."
"You're too late for that lecture Father," Vincent answered simply.
"You mean... ?"
"Yes. Catherine stayed in my chamber last night." He lowered his eyes displaying his usual embarrassment in discussing such matters.
Father cleared his throat in his own embarrassment. "Are you both... I mean was it... did everything...?"
"Yes. It was the most beautiful experience of my life. Catherine was so patient and loving."
"How did Jacob react to finding her in your bed?"
"It was amazing," Vincent said with a smile. "He saw Catherine in my bed and just accepted it. As if she was suppose to be there."
"Your bond. You don't think... "
"No! At least I don't think so. Speaking of bonds, my connection to Catherine has returned."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. After we... our intimacy, I felt it in my heart. It's not as strong as it was before, but it seems to get stronger every time we... make love."
Father had to smile at the genuine look of joy on his son's face. He couldn't remember ever seeing him this happy. "I'm happy for you, for you both." Then for the first time in days, father and son hugged.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
After a day spent getting reacquainted with old friends and meeting new ones, Catherine fulfilled an earlier promise. She walked with Vincent and Jacob to the bathing pools. She sat for a time watching the two of them romp in the warm water. When she felt the time was right, she undressed and quickly walked into the pool to join them. Jacob didn't bat an eye. He just accepted her presence in the pool and their lives as something that should be.
Vincent, on the other hand, found it difficult to concentrate with her naked body so close by. It was just simply astonishing that she was there at all. He couldn't keep his eyes off her and it definitely gave him ideas for later. Yes, life had definitely become a joy to live. Little did he know that fate had set into motion events that would truly test their new found unity.
"I cannot believe that this woman reappears after four years then conveniently disappears again. We know she did not leave the city and she did not simply vanish." He folded his arms to express his frustration. "I want her found. I don't like loose ends, gentlemen. I will not rest until I have that journal and the woman and her beast are dead. Do I make myself clear? This is top priority now."
"Perhaps we should move to the next phase, sir," Cochran suggested.
"That is an excellent suggestion, Cochran," Gideon commented, as he walked by the windows, casting a shadow over each man as he passed. "I will give this phase two more weeks. If nothing is discovered, we will move on to the next phase."
"But, sir, won't that bring unnecessary attention to us? Doesn't it, in effect, tip our hand?" asked one of the older, more cautious members of the staff.
Gideon glared at him. "It will bring the necessary attention to us if you get my meaning."
The man swallowed hard and looked down at his hands. "Yes, sir. I do."
"Good then. I want this matter taken care of in such a way that no one will ever dare betray me. A message must be sent. I will not tolerate the incompetence that destroyed my brothers."
Although the rays of the sunlight coming through the window felt warm to the skin, everyone in the room shivered slightly. The message was for them as well.
The two weeks since Catherine's return had been abuzz with community activity. After her second night back, she and Vincent had announced their plans to wed and everyone began planning the event of the decade. Catherine had settled into her new role as mother and teacher while Vincent and Jacob seemed to be walking on air.
Even though all seemed well on the surface, Father was concerned. Catherine was still hiding and Vincent was doing nothing to force her to face her conscience. Perhaps, he thought, Vincent was hiding as well. He had been a witness to his son's overpowering sense of guilt over Catherine's apparent death and his inability to find her in time. The signs were there. If they didn't confront those conflicts, deal with them, then let them go, their charade would collapse around them and perhaps destroy them both. They were like a bomb waiting for someone or something to light the fuse.
Father sat in the hospital chamber awaiting Catherine. He had finally convinced her to give him a blood sample to be tested by a friend of Peter's for a match with Jacob's. As he waited, he remembered an awkward conversation they'd had after she and Vincent had become intimate.
It was shortly after breakfast and Jacob and his father had gone to participate in a group outing to one of the lower chambers. Catherine was still a little tired so Vincent had insisted she rest. Father decided to take advantage of this time to have a father/daughter talk with her.
"Catherine, may I come in?" he asked as he peeped around the entrance.
Catherine had just stretched out on the bed with the intention of taking a nap when she heard Father. Quickly she sat up. "Of course," she answered. "Please come in."
It was surprisingly awkward for him as he walked into the chamber and saw her sitting on the bed. The very bed they had... no, he couldn't think about that just now. "Hello, dear. How is our star patient this morning?"
"I'm a little tired, but wonderfully so," she answered with a bright smile.
Father rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he considered what would be the best tact. "I'm glad to hear that." He walked over and sat in one of the chairs by the table. "Cathy, dear, there's something I feel we must discuss. Please forgive me if I seem forward or if it seems I'm trying to interfere in something very personal between you and Vincent. It's just that I'm concerned about you. After all you've been through, I wouldn't want you to suffer any setbacks."
She looked at him with clear, bright shining eyes. "I'll be honest with you, Father, I don't think I've ever been happier or more content in my whole life."
He had to smile at that look. It matched the one he had seen on Vincent's face earlier. "I can see that. I guess I just wanted to check with you... to see if you had any questions... " he coughed uncomfortably. "Vincent told me you two had become intimate. "
Catherine sat back a little and arched her eyebrow as she studied him. "Father, we have a four year old son. It wasn't the first time."
He smiled as he felt himself blush. Normally, this kind of conversation with one of his other patients would be handled in his very best professional manner. But this was his son. "In a sense, it was for Vincent. He never remembered... that time. I suspected something had happened after I walked into the cavern. I mean the look on your face and the peace he'd found... well. My suspicions were confirmed, of course, when he told me about Jacob."
Catherine looked at him in wonder. "I thought you did. The way you looked at me sometimes... Tell me, did the two of you ever discuss it?"
He shook his head as he remembered that dark time. "No. I always had the feeling he both agonized over the loss of that memory and feared it."
"Feared it?" she asked. "Why?"
"There were times I think he questioned if what happened between the two of you was love or... rape."
Anger sparked brightly in her eyes. "It was not rape!" she almost shouted at him. "I thought I had lost him so I reached out to him in the only way I knew how. I had to make him fight to come back. When he responded, I realized it was what he needed to affirm his humanity. He had given himself up to that other side of himself. I had to prove to him he was a man."
"Amazing!" Father responded as he looked at her intently.
"What's so amazing?"
"How much you risked to bring him back. You had no idea what would happen. He could have literally ripped you to shreads. He could have forcibly raped or killed you."
She looked at him calmly and solemnly. "No, he wouldn't. You see, Father, that's where you and I disagree. I held back all those years because of his fears, not mine. I knew deep inside of me that no matter what happened, he could not hurt me. He feared his passion, I didn't. I knew he would be a gentle, tender lover. I never doubted it for a moment."
He looked at her in amazement and renewed respect. "And last night?"
She smiled, rocking back and forth on the bed a little. "I knew when I regained my memory and saw him again that I could not and would not go back to the way we were before. What happened to us... changed my views on a lot of things. I spent six months locked away from everyone I cared about. I had time to reassess my life. I vowed that when we got back together we'd share all the joys of love. God knows, we've shared the pain."
"I agree. You two deserve all the happiness you can get." He smiled weakly. "I'm just concerned that you might not be emotionally ready for an intimate relationship."
She almost laughed. "Oh, I'm ready. I was ready before all this happened."
He laughed with her then decided to press for more answers. "Catherine... as Vincent's father, I have no right to ask for the details, but as your physician, there are things I must know."
Catherine blushed a moment, then met his eyes with confidence. "There's no need for concern. He has all the right equipment and everything functions normally. You should have figured that out when you knew he had fathered a child."
"I admit I was surprised that someone such as Vincent was not sterile. I even harbored the notion that perhaps Jacob wasn't... " He looked up fearfully. "I'm sorry."
She tapped her foot thoughtfully on the floor. "I thought as much." Again she looked at him directly, "He is Vincent's son."
"I know and I apologize for that stray thought. After I saw his unique blood type, I knew it beyond doubt. I also realized you would not lie to him about something that important."
"Well, I thank you for that."
Father leaned over to emphasize his point. "Catherine, I trust you. It took me a long time, but I finally realized you are my son's life. It was difficult for me to step aside, let you guide him, love him, and show him a world I could not. But, I have. I love you too, remember that."
Her eyes misted. "I love you too."
There was an awkward moment of silence between them. "As your doctor, may I ask if you're using some means of birth control?"
A look of panic crossed her face. "Last night, I wasn't really... thinking about that. To be honest, I haven't thought about it in years. "Let's see, I had my period... I should be safe, but I will start using something."
"We don't have a large supply of things down here, but I'm sure Peter will be glad to get whatever you prefer. He'll be down later."
"Good. I'll see him then."
"I know you have had more experience in these matters than Vincent, but if I can be of help to either of you... you know you can come to me." He stood slowly and walked over to her. Gently he squeezed her hand.
"I will, thank you. Thank you for all your help," she answered and returned the squeeze.
Father's thoughts came back to the present as Catherine walked into the chamber wearing her usual warm open smile. "There you are," he commented, then noticed Vincent behind her. "Where's the rest of the family?"
Catherine sat down on the stool Father directed her to as Mary walked in with the tray of sterilized equipment. "He's playing with little Chandler and Luke this morning. I didn't think he needed to see this."
"I explained what was happening in case he sensed something through our bond," Vincent explained. "I'm still not sure just how strong his perceptions are."
"It's hard to believe the three of you are that connected," Father commented then laughed wickedly. "I suggest you be very careful unless you're prepared to explain some very adult emotions to him."
Vincent blushed and Catherine laughed loudly at Father's unusually risqué remark.
Quickly getting back to the business at hand, Father reached over to the tray as Mary rolled up Catherine's sleeve. Vincent watched closely as Father wrapped the tubing around her forearm and tapped to find a vein. Once he found one, he reached over and lifted the syringe. The results were horrifying.
Catherine felt fine until she saw the syringe, then it all came back to her in terrifying clarity. She began to sweat, her throat constricted threatening to choke her, and she began gasping for air. All she could see was that huge syringe coming at her.
Her head began to pound as the words "I want the child!" thundered through her memory. A red haze enveloped everything and she swayed dangerously on the stool. It wasn't Father's face peering at her in concern. It was that doctor's cold unfeeling face as he pulled her baby from her body and refused to let her hold it. He was going to kill her!
When Vincent saw her face suddenly go pale, he realized what must be happening. The night he had confronted her in Diana's apartment, the response had been the same. Her face expressed the terror she felt as she looked at the syringe. He quickly stepped between them and pushed it aside. "Catherine, it's Vincent. You're safe. Come back, Catherine."
She almost fell off the stool in her attempt to get away and dodge Vincent. All she could think of was getting away from that syringe. She screamed, pulled out of Vincent's grasp and pushed Father against the table. "Get away from me. I won't let you take my baby again!" She looked around frantically for a weapon and spotted a pair of scissors on the table. She grabbed them and advanced on Father's prone form.
Realizing her intentions, Vincent quickly pinned her arms to her chest from behind until he could maneuver the scissors from her grasp. She continued to scream "You bastard! Leave me alone, leave my baby alone! It's Vincent's, not yours! You can't take him." The tears came and her fighting ceased. "Bastard!" she repeated until she could no longer speak.
Both of them slid to the floor as she continued to sob. Father watched with a sickening feeling of pain and pity for her suffering. Vincent cradled her like a child while whispering, "It's alright, Catherine, you're safe. Come back to me, Catherine. Please come back to me."
His words must have finally reached her because after several minutes of his gentle reassurances, she began to find her way back. The glazed look in her eyes disappeared. Her breathing slowed until she could finally speak. "What happened?" she asked weakly.
Father spoke softly. "You had a reaction to the syringe. How are you feeling now?"
"Very weak and terribly embarrassed," she answered.
"Do you remember what you did?"
Vincent lifted her gently onto the closest bed. "It's alright. It doesn't matter," he said as he held her close.
Father sat down on the other side of her and took her hand. "Catherine, you had another flashback," he explained.
"We don't need to discuss this, Father, she's too upset!" Vincent responded angrily.
"Yes we do!" Father answered.
"Father!" Vincent threatened.
"Stop it you two. I'm still in the room, you know," Catherine interjected. "Vincent, he's right. I need to know what happened. " She looked at Father. "Tell me."
"You were reliving the morphine injection the doctor gave you after they took Jacob. You were fighting for him. You became violentÖ "
"Father!" Vincent admonished him. Why was he persisting in making her relive it? Couldn't he see how upset she was?
"Oh my God!" Catherine exclaimed as she lowered her head to her hands. "Did I hurt anyone?" she asked, her voice quivering.
"No, dear, Vincent stopped you."
"I thought it had stopped," she said. "I haven' t even had a nightmare since my second night back. I hadn't even thought about it. Why can't I forget it? will it never end?"
Father squeezed her hand. "In time and with the proper help, you will be able to put it all behind you. We're here to help you through it, remember that." He gave her his best reassuring smile. "Now... do you want to try this again or would you rather... wait a while?"
"No," she said as she raised her chin in determination. "I must do this for Jacob. Maybe if I just didn't see the needle I'd be alright." She turned to Vincent. "You talk to me and keep me distracted. I need to look at you, to feel you close by."
He smiled at her then kissed her forehead. "Of course, Catherine whatever you need."
Catherine smiled back and looked over Vincent's shoulder at a very concerned Mary. "I've got him trained right, don't I?"
The older woman smiled and nodded her approval.
When they tried again, Vincent stood on the other side. He talked to her about Jacob while Father took her arm and angled it away from her line of vision. Just as the needle went in, Vincent kissed her deeply. Father and Mary shared a brief look of amusement, then attended quickly to their duties. The sample was taken and the syringe was disposed of, but the two lovers were so lost in the kiss, they didn't seem to notice. Father cleared his throat.
"Why don't you lie down here and rest awhile? You might feel a little wobbly... after losing the blood," he explained further and then laughed.
Standing in the entrance way, Father watched his son gently stroke her face until she drifted off. The look of love and tenderness on Vincent's face touched his crusty old physician's heart. Finally, Vincent looked up. Father motioned for him to join him in another part of the chamber.
A long-held sigh escaped Vincent as he leaned against the drug cabinet. "Will she be alright?"
Father leaned back against the table for support, "No, Vincent, not as long as she buries her anger like this."
"Wasn't that an expression of her rage we just saw in there?"
"That's not what I mean. What we just saw was a flashback. Her mind was actually reliving that horrible memory, and yes, she did act out some rage, but there's a lot more under the surface." We have to control those rages. We have to find a way to channel them in a positive way."
"Why can't we leave her alone and just let her forget?"
"Because she can't forget. That's what these flashbacks are. They're feelings and memories she can't deal with. She won't be well until she does. Vincent, think about this. What if, God forbid, she suffers a flashback when she's alone with Jacob? Can you imagine what that would do to him?"
"Are you suggesting she would hurt Jacob? That's absurd!"
Father could see the fear in Vincent's eyes. "She's not rational when it happens. We don't know what could happen. And then there's the matter of your guilt."
"Listen to me. One of the reasons you want to avoid Catherine dealing with her anger is that you are afraid she'll be angry with you. The burden of guilt you've placed on yourself is breaking your back, Vincent. Don't you see that the only way to cure you both is to openly deal with all those ugly emotions. You have to let her confront that rage. You have to forgive yourself for something that wasn't your fault."
"Forcing her to deal with this could put too much pressure on her and push her over the brink. I will not allow that."
What neither of them realized was that the subject of their conversation was awake and listening with interest to their discussion. She walked into the chamber and looked at Vincent. "What do you feel guilty about, Vincent?"
He turned quickly. His discussion with Father had distracted him. He had not felt her entering the room. "Catherine! You should be resting."
"I'm not that fragile. Vincent, I want to know what Father meant? Why do you feel guilty about what happened to me?"
"Catherine, please, " he pleaded.
It was then she really felt for the first time how deeply the horror they suffered had affected him. She stepped closer to him and searched his eyes. "Tell me what you feel guilty about?"
He struggled to avoid it, but he could no longer endure the pain, the aloneness of it all. Tears burned his eyes and his throat tightened. "It's my fault."
"What's your fault?" she asked as she stepped closer to comfort him.
He pulled away from her touch, ashamed to meet her eyes. "The... illness destroyed our bond. The bond that could have saved you." He slammed his fist onto the table. "You gave yourself to me to bring me back and... I made you pregnant."
"If I remember correctly, it took both of us." Her voice was stern.
He still could not look at her. "He kept you alive so he could get the baby... my baby."
Catherine crossed her arms as she studied him. "That's right. If I hadn't been pregnant, he would have killed me with the drugs that first night. Vincent, I was kidnapped because of the journal, not because of you."
"I lost the bond, Catherine. While you were fighting for your life, I was searching blindly for you. I couldn't find you. What you suffered, what you endured, could have been avoided if I hadn't lost our bond."
"If! We can't destroy ourselves with what might have been. We only have now. Vincent... it wasn't your fault."
There was no anger in her voice, not the slightest hint of what he thought he deserved. Her understanding reduced him to tears. "Please... forgive me."
Her own tears began as she put her arms around him. "Vincent, you did nothing to forgive."
All the pain and doubt he had lived with for four years gushed out. He fell to his knees.
She lowered herself next to him and held his trembling shoulders. "I forgive you," she whispered. "Now forgive yourself."
Her words and her love set him free. The great burden he had shouldered finally lifted. The darkest corner of his heart was finally bathed in the light of her love. "I love you," was all he could say.
Father had been watching the scene from a distance in case he was needed, but he could see Catherine had matters well in hand. Seeing her there, giving his son the comfort and forgiveness he so truly needed, only served to remind him that she was the most important one in his life now, not him. Quietly, he left wondering when she would find her own peace.
After all the tears had been shed, they stood wrapped in each other's arms. Catherine leaned back and looked up into his eyes. "Now, let's work on you forgiving Diana."
He looked away. "Catherine... "
She could feel him shutting her out. "Don't you do that! Don't push this aside. I felt your anger at her."
He pulled away from her. "Yes I'm angry," he finally admitted. "She knew you were alive and never told me. She let me suffer through that... agony without a word. One word, Catherine... was all I needed. Just a little hope to cling to, but she said nothing."
She could imagine the pain he must have endured. "She explained why she didn't."
Angrily he shoved a book across the table in front of him. "Oh yes, to protect me. Everyone wants to protect me."
"She loves you, Vincent. I can understand that. Look at me." When he did, she continued. "I would have done the same thing. So would you and you know it."
He studied her clear honest eyes and took a deep breath. "Perhaps."
Smiling at him, she tried another tact. "Do you remember how many times you tried to step aside so I could have a 'simple' life?"
A half laugh escaped him as he saw the laughter in her eyes as she remembered times shared. "I remember you deciding to marry Elliot to save my world."
At the mention of her friend's name, she felt a great sense of loss. Her words carried a double meaning. "People do a lot in the name of love." She bit her lip then looked up at him again. "I once told you I'd sacrifice everything for you and I meant it."
"Yes... I would do the same for you."
"I know," she said as she took his hand, entwining her fingers with his. "Think about it, Vincent. It must have been torture for her knowing what condition I was in and trying to do what she thought was best for you and Jacob." She paused to let him consider it, then with a smile added playfully, "Although I'm not that pleased to know that you were being pursued by another woman."
"I'm no saint, Vincent. I'm a woman and I feel a certain possessiveness about you. The thought of you with someone else drives me crazy. It always has."
He looked at her in disbelief. "I never knew that."
"I did a great job of hiding it. I hid a lot from you in those days."
"And I thought I was hiding things," he commented dryly.
"There's something I have to know. I've admitted my jealousy and even asked about your relationships while I was gone, but you haven't asked one question about my involvements during our separation. Why?"
"Perhaps... because I was afraid of your answer," he admitted. "I, too, could not bear the thought of you with someone else... especially after... Jacob."
"You've finally given up that damned sense of nobility and accepted your feelings honestly. You have come a long way!"
"I've just realized what's important, I guess."
"I guess. Look, the days of noble self-sacrificing are over. There's no more need to hide your guilt, my anger, or our desires. We are lovers. We share our hearts and our bodies. I don't want any more secrets. We have a chance to share it all and that's what I want. It's not going to be easy. We'll have our disagreements and misunderstandings like any other couple."
"That's funny," he mused. "I never thought of us as just any other couple. I never thought of myself as ever being part of a couple."
"Well you are now so you'd better get used to it."
He reached out and hugged her tightly. "Thank you," he whispered into her ear.
"You can thank me later in private."
Her laughter filled his heart as she playfully began to sway back and forth in his arms.
The day before the wedding, Catherine spent the morning with Mary, putting the final touches on her gown. Jacob was with Luke and Chandler and Vincent... well Vincent was no where to be found.
After a thorough search of all his usual haunts, Catherine found him by the falls reading a book. That, in itself, wasn't all that unusual, but when he sensed her presence then quickly hid the book, she was intrigued. She walked over and sat down next to him. She noticed the flushed look on his face and the embarrassment in his eyes. "I wondered where you disappeared to for so long," she said, then kissed him.
He pushed the book under his upraised knees. "I was just doing a little reading."
She peered between his legs to catch a glimpse of the title. "What are you reading?"
"Then perhaps you'll read to me. I could use the break."
She smiled at the panic stricken look on his face. "No... I'd rather not," he stammered.
Smiling at him seductively, she took advantage of his flustered state to quickly reach under his legs and grab the book away from him. He tried to grab it back, but it was too late. "Vincent!"
In total embarrassment, he lowered his head into his now folded arms. "I'm sorry."
"Why? This is a very good sex manual. I'm surprised to see a copy of it down here."
That statement made him raise his head. "In case you haven't noticed, people have sex down here too."
She turned astonished eyes at him. That statement was so unlike him or, at least, unlike the old Vincent. "I didn't mean that. I guess it just threw me to see you reading it."
"I have read books like this before, but Father suggested that I read this one."
"Don't tell me he's finally had that father/son talk with you? I was about to give up hope on that one." She laughed.
"As I have learned lately, Catherine, you can read about it, you can talk about it, you can imagine it, but it never measures up to the actual experience."
"I hope we're still talking about sex?"
He nodded shyly and looked down at his hands. "I don't have a lot of experience to draw on and I want to please you as much as I possibly can."
Looking at him closely, she realized just how important this was to him. She leaned over and rested her chin on his shoulder. "Love is all that matters, Vincent. You can have the greatest technique in the world, but if it doesn't mean anything, it's just exercise." She straightened back up and began to flip through the pages. "Let's see, just where were you?"
She gave him a sideways glance over the pages of the book then closed it. "I'm your partner in love and in life. To have a healthy sex life, partners need to talk with each other. We need to express to each other what pleases us, what we want. If there's something you'd like me to do or something different you'd like to try, I want you to tell me. I want you to feel free to express yourself sexually. Believe me, I'm not adverse to a little variety and adventure."
He could almost feel his face turning red as her eyes captured his. Her warm smile and the strong sense of love and arousal he felt through the bond quickly soothed his flustered state and unexpectedly stirred his own need. 'She is so beautiful,' he thought. 'How could she want someone like me?'
At his look of wonder, she reopened the book, flipped to a particular section she remembered and showed it to him. "How do you feel about this?"
He looked at the illustration then imagined her doing that to him. His body responded quickly. She must have noticed his response because he felt her hand slide up his inner thigh to rest gently against the front of his pants. "Catherine... "
Her fingers began to lightly tickle this very sensitive area and her voice lowered. "Sometimes I think you have no idea of how sexy you are. You think because you're different from the other men I've known that you're not worthy of a complete, loving relationship, but, Vincent, you deserve it all. You don't know how many nights I've dreamed of doing everything in this book with you. I want to give you everything and I want you to feel confident enough to accept it."
With wanton eyes, she looked down at what her hand was doing. "I love your body. Just touching you like this gives me pleasure. Giving you pleasure is an expression of my love for you. It is so... exciting to watch your eyes when I do something new. I love to see that look of surprise and delight."
He allowed himself the pleasure of watching her hand as it caressed and massaged him. It was becoming more and more difficult to concentrate. That look told her she was making her point. "I know that you've always felt ashamed of your body and its differences but I want you to experience the joy it can give you. To me, you are beautiful and I am proud to be the one you give yourself to. In I fact, I think it's time you let me really show you."
"Is there somewhere around here we can have complete privacy?"
Her eyes were glowing with mischief, a look that reminded him so much of Jacob. "Yes, I suppose... just what do you have in mind?"
"You'll find out when we get there," she answered as she pulled him to his feet and followed him to a small, out of the way cavern. Once she was reasonably sure they were well out of sight, she removed his cape and placed it on the ground at his feet. Then she began to unfasten his belt and zipper.
Suddenly the images on the pages she had shown him came to mind. "Catherine! I can't ask you to do that!"
"You're not. I want to show you how much I adore your body. Unless you don't think you'd like... it."
The illustrations in the book brought on a wave of curiosity and anticipation. "It's not that, it's just... I mean I think I'd like... I don't know how you feel about it."
"I've longed to do this for you for a long time. It's a feeling of intimacy that's different from the rest. Please, trust me."
He could no longer deny her anything when she looked at him that way. "Of course I trust you. I just don't want you to feel you have to... submit to my desires."
"Believe me, Vincent, this is not submission on my part. In fact, you're the one who's submitting." with his help she wriggled his pants down to his ankles then knelt in front of him. "Vincent, look at me."
At first he was reluctant, but he finally opened his eyes. He watched as she used her hands to caress his thighs and buttocks while she nuzzled against his lower abdomen. The sensation of her warm breath and her mouth gently kissing so sensitive an area very quickly brought him to full arousal.
Catherine felt the muscles tighten beneath her touch. She smiled to think that her slightest touch could produce such a strong reaction. He was really going to enjoy her next move.
He watched as she used her tongue and lips to intimately love him. At first he was ashamed of his enjoyment but soon he could feel the shame of all those years fading away. He began to feel pride in his sexuality and confidence in Catherine's love.
Diana stood at her window looking out into the bleak February sky. It was beginning to look like it might snow again. The thought made her shiver. Her searching eyes found the now familiar car parked across the street. For the last two weeks, strange men watching her apartment and following her every move, had become a fact of her life. This was one of Gideon's men, she surmised. The FBI agent must be close by. This invasion of her privacy was getting on her nerves. But she had to admit getting away from them now and again had become a game.
Her mind turned to the tunnel community. The wedding was scheduled for today, according to Peter. She had not been Below since her meeting with Vincent when she brought Catherine's things down, but the good doctor kept her informed.
Walking away from the window, she stared into the emptiness of her apartment. Although Father had invited her Below for the informal ceremony, she had refused. It was clear Vincent didn't want her there and she couldn't handle the pain of watching another woman claim all she wanted in life. Suddenly, she couldn't stand the barrenness of her loft anymore and couldn't tolerate the idea of being alone all day. Quickly grabbing her coat and purse, she made a dash for the elevator.
In another section of New York, Joe sat on his couch flipping through the television channels with his remote, trying desperately to find something to pass the time. He knew he should be doing something constructive like his laundry, but for some reason he just couldn't get into it today. A light knock on the door interrupted his thoughts. He turned off the television and opened the door.
"Are you going to invite me in or just stand there with that silly look on your face?" she asked, after taking a moment to note his sweatshirt, jeans, and unruly hair.
His shocked look was replaced by confusion. "Sure, if you don't mind the mess. I was about to do a little cleaning."
She found a seat on the couch and sat down across from him. "I noticed your entourage."
"I guess you brought yours?"
"I wouldn't leave home without them," she laughed. "I was just feeling a little restless today. I thought maybe we could do something, if you're not busy, that is."
To say he was shocked would be an understatement. "I wouldn't mind giving those guys a run for their money. What have you got in mind?"
"I don't care, just anything to get my mind off... things."
"Yeah, I know the feeling," he responded. "Shall we take our friends?"
"Why not? They could use the exercise."
"I like your attitude, Bennett. Let me get some shoes and a coat. I'll be right with you."
After he left the room, she looked about at the disarray and smiled. 'A true bachelor', she thought. When she noticed a picture of Joe with someone on the wall, she stepped up for a closer look. It was Joe and Catherine at some formal social event. He looked rather dashing in his tux and Catherine looked gorgeous in her evening gown. She was so absorbed in the glimpse into Joe's personal life, she didn't realize he was watching her.
"That was taken at one of the mayor's get-togethers. I think it was the only time I got a taste of what her life was all about. Cute couple, huh?"
"Yeah," she responded, then noticed the sad look that briefly reflected in his eyes. "Let's get out of here."
"Lead the way, lady!"
At about the same time, just north of the city, Gideon again sat at the head of the conference table. "Gentlemen, your deadline for obtaining the location of Ms. Chandler has expired and not one of you has acquired the information. Needless to say, I am greatly disappointed. It seems that I must personally see to the matter. Cochran?"
"I want you to pay Ms. Bennett a visit. Be discreet about it. You know the procedure."
"Sir, I really don't think she'll tell us anything," Cochran offered nervously.
"Perhaps not, but that's not the purpose of this... visit. I want to use her to carry a message to Ms. Chandler and the... beast."
"When would you like us to... visit Ms. Bennett?"
The object of Gideon's search was far removed from that cold world putting the final touches on her appearance. The gown was simple, her hair neatly braided and her make-up was flawless.
"Catherine, are you decent?"
"Peter! Come in, please."
Her old family friend walked into the chamber and stared at her in appreciation. "My dear, you look beautiful. Your father would be so proud."
A tear threatened to mar her makeup as the pain of that loss overwhelmed her. "I wish he could have really met Vincent."
Peter put his arm around her. "I knew your father very well. I know he would have approved of your choice. By the way, I'm honored to escort you down the aisle in his stead."
She hugged him tightly. "It just seemed appropriate."
"Oh, I almost forgot," he commented as he searched his pockets. "This is for you." He handed her an envelope.
She opened it to find an official looking paper. "What's this?"
"All you have to do is sign this and Jacob will be an official native-born New Yorker."
His description made her smile. "I see you played with the facts a little."
"As much as your friend Joe would allow."
"Joe helped you with this?"
He nodded. "Yes, he, Diana and a couple of straight arrows from the FBI cut through the red tape." He folded the signed document and put it back in his pocket. "I'll get this filed right away."
"It's just so sad that beside 'Father' you had to put I ' Unknown'."
"I know, but it will arouse fewer suspicions. According to those agents, you can't afford any kind of notoriety right now."
The tightness in her throat returned and the queasiness she felt threatened to make her ill. "I don't want to think about any of that right now."
"You're right, we've got a wedding to attend."
Vincent stood in Father's study waiting for the ceremony to begin. The entire community was packed into the chamber and the priest had taken his place. Nervously, Vincent glanced at his father standing by his side as best man. Jacob stood unusually quiet in front of his grandfather. All fell silent when Catherine entered the room.
They only had eyes for each other, but a collected gasp could be heard from everyone else. She walked to his side and took his hand. They shared a long loving look then turned to the priest.
"We are gathered here today in the eyes of God and this community to celebrate the love of Vincent and Catherine," the priest announced. "Vincent, you may begin."
For the first time in years, his voice quivered. "Catherine, I vow to love, honor, and respect you for all my life. I will be faithful and true. I pledge my heart to you and our son."
The priest looked over at her. "Catherine..."
"I also vow my love and faithfulness. I promise to honor and respect you all my life. I pledge my heart to you and Jacob forever. Vincent, I am honored to become your wife and to be the mother of your children. I look forward to a lifetime together."
The silence was broken only by an occasional sniffle as Vincent's friends and family shared with him a dream he thought could never be. "May God smile upon you and bless your union. From this day forward in this community and in the eyes of God, you are husband and wife. You may kiss your bride, Vincent."
Those simple words struck terror in his heart. Their physical relationship was still new and had never been this public. Catherine must have understood the reason for his hesitation because she reached up, pulled his mouth down to hers and kissed him soundly. When their lips met, he forgot all about the crowd and kissed her back. The action brought a cheer from the crowd.
The party went on for hours as everyone had to wish the couple well and partake of the food. During all this Catherine noticed that Father and Peter would get together in a corner, talk quietly, and glance in her direction. Finally, they approached her and asked to speak to her and Vincent privately.
After packing Jacob up to spend a few days with Kanin and his family, the four of them gathered in Vincent's chamber.
Father began, "Catherine, maybe you'd better sit down."
'He looks so serious,' she thought. "You're scaring me," she commented, sitting down on their bed. "Is it Jacob?"
"No, no," Father answered. "He's just fine. No, dear, it's about the results of your blood test."
"Father, what is it?" Vincent asked. He could feel the fear rising in his throat.
"Nothing bad, Vincent!" Father smiled reassuringly. "The results showed only that Catherine... is pregnant again."
At first the words didn't register to her. She just sat there in stunned silence, staring up at Father. When she did manage to get her heart started again she asked, "Are you sure? I thought my period was just late because of all the emotional stress."
"We ran the test several times," Peter added. "You're only couple of weeks. Without the blood test, we wouldn't have known for a few more weeks."
Vincent was in a state of shock as well. Even though they had enjoyed an intense physical relationship since her return, the thought of a pregnancy had not occurred to him. Naive perhaps, but he thought Jacob would be their only child. He stared down at her with a new sense of awe.
Finally the concept registered in her mind. She looked up at him with a mixture of joy and surprise. Tears filled her eyes and her bottom lip quivered a little as she saw the look of wonder in his eyes. Then her arms instinctively reached out for him. Unlike before, he was there in an instant, trembling in her arms.
Father and Peter wiped away tears of their own. Quietly, they left them to celebrate their marriage and their new child. Once outside, Peter asked, "Do you think she'll have this baby?"
"Judging by the look on their faces, I'd say there isn't much doubt about it."
"But the timing is so bad. They've just gotten back together and Catherine has so many problems to work through. This new relationship with Vincent and a new baby may prove to be too much."
"I know, that's what I'm afraid of."
Inside the chamber, Vincent was reluctantly pulling out of their embrace to look at her. His tears fell with no shame or embarrassment. "I don't know what to say."
She wiped away her own tears. "You don't know what it meant to me to see your face when you heard the news, to share the joy with you this time." She smiled through the tears. "A baby, Vincent! We're going to have another baby! One I can hold and nurse like I couldn't before."
Maybe fate had finally righted the wrongs they had suffered. This baby, this new life was a symbol of their new beginning. As awestruck as he was, he had to be realistic. He had to know how she felt about carrying another child of his. "Catherine... I love you and if you choose not to have this child, I would understand."
Her heart leaped violently. "Not have this child! This child means everything to me. Vincent... don't you want our baby?"
He hadn't realized what affect his words would have on her. "Of course I do! This child is our chance to share all the joys we were cheated out of before. This child is a part of you... a part of us. I can think of nothing that would please me more than to see you finally experiencing pregnancy, giving birth and nurturing our baby as it should have been. I just want you to be sure it's what you want. I don't want you to do it just for me."
She took his chin in her hand and looked deeply into his eyes. "Ever since my memory returned and we made love that night, I began to hope and pray we'd have this chance someday. I just didn't think it'd be this soon." She laughed. "It looks like every time we 'get together', I get pregnant. It must have been that first night. Oh my GOD!"
"What is it? What's wrong?"
"The nightmare I had that night... I thought he meant Jacob."
"Gabriel was in my dream. He wanted our baby I thought he was talking about Jacob. How could I have known?"
He smiled. "Maybe it was wishful thinking or maybe something deep inside your subconscious knew. Or maybe, Catherine, it meant nothing."
"No," she shook her head. "I think it meant something. No one is taking this baby away from me, Vincent, NO ONE!"
"You're not afraid it will... look like me?" he asked fearfully as his eyes traveled down to her stomach.
Pushing aside her own temporary fears, Catherine sought to dispel his. "Your child, Vincent, a part of you is growing inside of me. Do you have any idea what joy that brings me? I think you are beautiful. If this child looks like its father, it would be a blessing." She guided his hand to her stomach. "I will love this child no matter what. It will have two parents who will love and nurture it all its life. Don't project your aloneness and fears onto it. I won't let you."
His fingers lightly caressed the area before he opened his hand and lay it across her stomach. He looked up at her. "I always thought I'd never experience the joy and pride of knowing that the woman I loved was carrying my child. Catherine, I... " Words failed him as his tears began again.
Above, Joe and Diana were having a surprisingly fun day. With their entourage in tow, they went to lunch, attended a matinee, and spent the afternoon at a video game arcade. But where they went wasn't as important as the fact they made each other laugh. Diana didn't remember Joe as being this much fun.
As dinner time approached, Diana invited him back to her apartment with an offer to fix dinner. On this particular day and at this particular time in their lives, they filled a need in each other. It was like an old movie. Two lonely souls finding each other and somehow filling the void in each other's lives. Normally, her skeptical mind would have dismissed it, but not today.
They ate spaghetti and drank a few beers, but most of all they talked and laughed. Diana was feeling warm and cozy and was beginning to notice just how attractive her companion was when she noticed the time. It was after nine and she knew the wedding had been over for hours. She wondered what they were doing now. NO! She didn't want to think about that.
"Are you okay?" Joe asked when he noticed her faraway look.
His words brought her back to the moment. "What?"
"I lost you there for a minute. Is something wrong?"
She felt both guilty and embarrassed. "I'm sorry."
He had long suspected there was more to Diana's life than she was willing to talk about. "Don't be... I get that way sometimes... when I think about... "
That soft puppy dog look returned to his eyes and she knew who he was thinking about. "Cathy?"
"How did you know?" he asked in surprise.
"I saw the way you looked at her when she was sitting in your office and the way you were beaming in that picture you have. You were hoping she'd give you another chance." The pain in his eyes was obvious as he looked away from her.
"Yeah... well some things are just not meant to be." He stared squarely into her eyes. "I think you know that feeling too."
Those soft brown eyes staring into her soul and that statement made her feel as if he was invading her private fantasy world. To avoid the subject, she got up and walked over to the sink. "Would you like something else?"
He quickly followed her. "Yeah, the truth."
"I don't know what you mean."
"You knew an awful lot about where Cathy could find her son. You knew he was safe. Right after she goes off with you, she disappears. You tell me she's with this Vincent and her son. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that you had been in touch with this guy. Come on, Diana, you fell for him, didn't you?"
"Joe, please... I don't want to talk about it."
"I'm not trying to pry. I guess I just want you to know that I understand. I've been there."
She looked into those sad brown eyes. "I guess you have. Will it ever stop hurting?"
"I think when you love someone, no matter what happens, you always love them. It doesn't mean you can't love someone else."
The irony of that statement almost made her laugh. How many times had she tried to convince Vincent of that. "You feel that way about her, don't you?"
"It almost killed me when I saw her body in her apartment like that. A part of me did die."
"Joe " ...
He raised his hands in protest. "Don't feel sorry for me. I knew she didn't feel that way about me. I knew she was out of my class from the start.
She walked around the counter, touching him on the arm before she stopped to think. "You're in a class all your own. Any woman with half a brain would love to get her hooks in you." .
"Yeah, I just need to find a woman with half a brain," he laughed. .
His charming laugh and those gorgeous eyes touched her deeply. It was becoming a battle not to lose herself in his eyes.
When Joe noticed her tender look, he stopped laughing. He felt drawn to her. Responding to that feeling, he slowly moved toward her.
To Diana's surprise, she didn't back away. He hesitated with their faces only inches apart for encouragement. When she didn't turn away, he pressed his lips softly to hers.
That long needed human touch was all it took for her to let go of her pain and escape the hopelessness. Within moments, they were in each other's arms desperately seeking to ease their aloneness.
Neither wanted or cared to try to stop their overpowering need. Diana's hands helped him remove his sweatshirt and he removed her sweater. Before things went any further, she hesitated a moment as if to catch her breath, then took his hand and led him to the bedroom. There, the remainder of their clothes were shed and they moved onto the bed.
For a brief instant, she allowed herself the fantasy that it was Vincent making love to her. She almost called his name. Then the image of Catherine loving him entered her mind. She pushed the fantasy aside for the reality of Joe's touch.
Later as Diana's head lay on Joe's chest, they both tried desperately to find the right words. "Joe... I... "
"Don't say anything you might regret later. What just happened was wonderful, but I'm not fool enough to believe it was love."
She raised her head to look at him. "Joe Maxwell, you are a very enlightened man."
He laughed, then leaned up to kiss her again. "Don't let the secretaries at the office know that."'
A few hours later, Joe rolled over and discovered Diana was gone. He looked around the dimly lit room. When he couldn't find her, he got out of bed and slid into his pants. He walked into the living room to find her dressed in a robe, sitting in the dark. "Are you okay?" he asked as he knelt at her feet.
"I didn't mean to wake you. I just couldn't sleep."
He smiled warmly. "Are you half as confused as I am?"
"At least half," she answered.
Their tender interlude was interrupted when the sound of splintering wood and loud footsteps on the steps leading to the roof were heard. Joe jumped up. "What the hell... " He didn't get to finish his question because five men in black clothes burst into the room. One leveled his gun at Joe and pulled the trigger.
Diana jumped up from the chair and tried to get to Joe. She was quickly captured by two of the intruders as the third one approached her. Over his shoulder she could see the other two men searching her apartment. "Who are you? What do you want?" she managed to get out.
"I think you know why we're here. Now, let's make this easy on everybody. Tell us where Catherine Chandler is."
Diana struggled. "I don't know what you're talking about. Get out of here!"
The man her hit her hard across the face. "You're not cooperating. Where is she?"
The pain only served to fuel her anger. "There's no one here but us," she managed to answer despite the nausea she felt.
"That's not what I asked." He hit her hard again. "Now come on, Ms. Bennett, this can get awfully painful."
She only glared at him in defiance. This time he hit her in the stomach and she tasted blood.
"Well, if you won't cooperate then we'll just have to use you to send a message." He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her face up to him. "After we're through, tell Chandler and Vincent that if they don't give up the journal, we'll do worse to them... and that bastard kid of theirs."
After the message had been given, the beating continued until Diana blacked out. When she awoke, she had no idea of how long she had been out, only that the men were gone. "Joe!"
The pain was horrible. Her ribs throbbed and her head was pounding. She tried to get to her feet, but was too weak to manage it. She had to get to Joe. Slowly, she crawled to his limp bloody form and determined he was still alive. She had to get help. It felt like an eternity, but she managed to get to the phone and call before she blacked out again.
Below, Vincent was watching Catherine brush her hair. He still couldn't believe that she was carrying his child again. How amazing it was to look at her and know. That knowledge intoxicated and thrilled him beyond belief. Just a few months ago, he had been sitting in the darkness at her tombstone grieving her loss. Now she was alive and vibrant in his bed and in his life: Today she had become his wife and soon they would be parents again. The joy he felt would never be matched.
He walked over to her and gently placed his arms around her so that his hands covered her stomach. She leaned back against him.
"It'll be months before you can feel it, you know."
"Feel what?" he asked innocently.
"The baby. I started showing with Jacob when I was three months or so. I felt him about two weeks later. A little early I guess, but then I had him in seven months." She noticed his grimace of pain in the small mirror. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean... "
"No, Catherine, don't be sorry. I didn't get to share that with you. I feel a great loss because of it." He hugged her tightly and kissed her neck. "This time I want to know everything you're feeling. I want to share your morning sickness, the first kick, all of it."
"Not the morning sickness. There's a lot of throwing up and feeling like you just want to die. Believe me, I'd like to skip that part myself." She turned to face him. "While we can, I think we'd better start our honeymoon."
"Catherine, I thought... I didn't think we could... you know... while you are pregnant."
The innocent look of concern on his face was more than she could stand. Gently, she combed her fingers through his hair. "You're wrong. From what I've read, we can keep... making love until it becomes painful for me. Then... we can find other options."
"Other... options?" he asked incredulously.
"Like yesterday, down by the falls," she reminded him, then watched his face turn scarlet at the memory.
That look of mischief crept back into her eyes and he loved it. "Oh." with no resistance, he guided her back to the bed.
"For someone who's still somewhat new to this, you're getting awfully good."
"I had a great teacher," he mumbled as he slipped the straps of her gown off her shoulders and kissed the soft skin.
His hands soon maneuvered the gown all the way off her body. Slowly, he began to caress all those sensitive areas. "Catherine," he whispered. "I want to love you the way you loved me the other day. That is if you... "
"It would be my pleasure," she answered quickly. "Since we don't have to worry about Jacob walking in, we can do whatever we like. And I can think of a lot I'd like."
Vincent watched her lower herself to the bed, striking an inviting pose. Quickly, he removed his own clothes, then lowered himself over her. The kisses started at her mouth and moved down her throat. Her breasts were next to receive his loving attention. Her stomach and thighs soon followed.
His tongue and lips led her to one peak of pleasure after another. He had the bond to re-enforce his instincts but her moans of pleasure and writhing body told him as well. He could feel her climax coming and continued until it ebbed beneath his touch.
After regaining her breath, she guided him onto the bed then on top of her. "Now it's your turn."
With her hands, she encouraged him. Soon he was inside of her, thrusting slowly to build his own passion when he felt the stab of pain and fear. He suddenly froze.
She became aware of his hesitation and asked, "Vincent? What's wrong?"
It was that old feeling of danger filling the bond. He took a couple of deep breaths trying to sort it out. It wasn't Jacob and it wasn't Catherine. It had to be... Diana? He silently debated whether or not to investigate this message but when Catherine began to move underneath him, his thoughts strayed. He shut off his perceptions and lost himself in the passion.
Catherine lay somewhere between the fuzzy edge of her dreams and a state of wakefulness. She felt so cozy and warm the last thing she wanted to do was open her eyes but a movement beside her reminded her she wasn't alone. Slowly, she forced her eyes open and yawned. There, looking down at her, was that beautiful face filled with love and wonder.
Even though they had been lovers for a few weeks now, she still hadn't gotten used to the joy the sight of him like this brought her. Those blue eyes all soft and rested from a good night's sleep, hair erotically mussed, and skin glowing in the light. But what intrigued her the most, was that half-smile he always displayed when she awoke as if he'd been enjoying some fantasy as he watched her sleep. "Good morning," she whispered softy.
"Good morning to you. Did you sleep well?"
"Considering we hardly had time to sleep, I guess so." The soft reddish blonde hair hung so invitingly close, she couldn't resist taking hold of a strand and pulling his face down to hers. "I want my good morning kiss," she insisted.
This morning ritual had fast become one of Vincent's favorite pastimes. To look at her face so peaceful and trusting, lying so close to him, gave meaning o his life. How he had survived at all without her, without this, was a mystery to him. When she opened her eyes, he found only love and acceptance in them, like he'd never known before. He leaned down at her urging and kissed her gently.
After taking a few moments to nuzzle each other's face, Catherine kissed him again, then felt him lift his head to stare warmly at her.
"How are you feeling this morning?" he asked in a concerned voice.
After a very deep cleansing breath, she responded "Wonderful! "
Again he half-smiled at the breathless suggestion in her voice. "Good," he responded as his eyes wandered down to her stomach.
With great care, he let his hand move under the quilt until it rested on the warm skin there. "How's the baby?"
What he didn't see were the tears that gathered in the corners of her eyes at his gesture and question. She let her hand find his under the covers. "Your wife and child are just fine," she answered in a quivering voice.
His hand began to glide over the smooth flesh in a gentle soothing motion she found very relaxing yet sent a tingle through her body. "If you keep doing that, you'd better be prepared to finish the job."
That twinkle in her eyes sparked the fire in him but he had other things on his mind just now. "I read somewhere that you should talk to a child while it is still in the womb to enhance its learning abilities."
'There was that look of wonder again,' she mused. "I don't j know what good it does the baby, but I'm sure enjoying the hell out of it."
That mass of golden hair snapped around suddenly. "Catherine, you mustn't talk that way in front of our child."
That response, coupled with a very stern look that reminded her of her father's reaction the first time he heard her swear, was all it took to start the giggles. The tilted head and offended look was so endearing, she controlled the giggles and apologized. "I'm sorry. It's just you reminded me so much of... "
"Umph!" he responded and continued to stare at her for another few seconds. Catherine's many moods had always been a mystery to him, but then again, she was a woman. A wonderful, invigorating, full of life woman and he could not be more pleased, particularly as she stared down at her stomach and realized there was now a whole new life growing there. A life that started with his seed planted intimately within her and was now being nurtured by her body. The miracle of it all overwhelmed him. He leaned down to plant a tender kiss there.
Watching him so lovingly communicate with their unborn child took Catherine back to those lonely hours of solitary confinement in Gabriel's tower. She remembered how she would pass the time in the fantasy she was now living. The rage rose up in her at the loss.
Vincent felt the sudden change in her emotions. He looked up to more closely search the bond for the reason of her distress. "Catherine, are you alright? Talk to me, Catherine."
As usual, his soothing voice pulled her back from the edge of that downward spiral. She focused her gaze on those blue eyes. "I was just remembering how often I dreamed of moments like these when I was carrying Jacob. Fantasizing got me through those endless days."
An aching sense of loss filled the bond as they mutually grieved their loss. "I promise you, Catherine, we will have all those moments. Believe that - hang on to that."
"Right now, I just want to hang onto you, if you don't mind?"
"I would be more than pleased to be of any service I can."
"Ooh! That sounded positively naughty!"
He watched that look of mischief return to her, eyes and knew he had won the battle. Since her return, he'd noticed that his reassurances and pleas to return to him seemed to call her back from the edge. Ultimately, he hoped his presence and his love would completely defeat that darkness in her as hers had defeated. "Are you trying to seduce me?"
"Honey, if you don't know then I'm losing my touch."
Catherine's use of that endearment flustered him a bit. In all the years they'd known each other, they had only called each other by their proper names. He wasn't all that sure what to make of this particular phase of intimacy. He wondered if he should reciprocate.
"My dear," was what he finally decided on, "I'm still quite new to the games of seduction so you'll have to clue me in from time to time. But I do know when I'm... when you... when... " he lowered his head a little and whispered, "I'm aroused."
"So do I," She laughed. "You men are at a disadvantage that way. We ladies can always keep a man guessing."
As much as he was enjoying this intimate banter between them, the fire burning in his blood started him thinking of other things they could be doing. "Catherine, do you think we could... if you're feeling alright, I mean."
Sometimes Vincent was so childlike in his innocence and so vulnerable. "When you ask me like that, how can I refuse?"
There was something implied in her answer that demanded a response. "Catherine, please don't feel like you must... comply with my desires if you don't wish to. Please be patient with me. You've opened up a whole new world of experience to me. I am like a child in a candy store. Your... condition must be our first concern."
"Don't worry, my love, you'll be able to tell when I'm... not in the mood." She lifted the covers for him. "Right now, I need you to have your way with me."
The soft glow in her eyes beckoned him. He moved over and covered her with his body. As he did, she opened her legs and embraced him intimately. That subtle gesture of her acceptance and surrender to his physical possession of her inflamed him further.
Catherine was thinking along the same lines herself, but the moment meant something else to her. As he moved over her, she felt the primal instinct rise in her. He was the male taking what was his and although she considered herself a liberated woman, that purely masculine move aroused her. They began by staring deeply into desire laden eyes and erotically rubbing their bodies against each other.
"There's no chance Jacob will come in and want to get into bed with us, is there?" she asked.
He closed his eyes and searched the bond. "No... he's asleep."
"Good. Now where did we leave off?"
He lowered his head and took her lips slowly and sensually. The act was made even more erotic as he sucked her bottom lip before he pushed his tongue into her mouth. She allowed him the pleasure of that action then experimented by tracing his upper lip with her own tongue. A soft laugh escaped her as she felt him shudder with pleasure. "You're ticklish there! I didn't know that!"
"I didn't either," he laughed.
Once more he nestled into the cradle of her body and gently began to rock against the very center of her femininity. After he heard a soft moan escape her, he allowed himself to taste the soft skin of her throat. He continued downward over the swell of her breast. Her sharp intake of air signaled her pleasure as he took the sensitive tip into his mouth and began to suck deeply. She groaned loudly. He lifted her upper body off the bed to force the mound of flesh deeper into his mouth.
This act of intimacy had always been one of Catherine's favorites. She wasn't sure if it was the basic instinct born in a woman to nurture or if her body was just exceptionally responsive to oral stimulation there. The reason didn't matter, all she knew was the incredible rush it gave her to feel herself so deeply thrust into his mouth. She wondered if this was how it felt for him to be deep inside of her.
Vincent was monitoring her reactions closely, enjoying watching the pleasure he gave her. At just the right moment, he took his mouth away from her breast and began to move downward.
"No," she moaned and clutched at him.
"I just want to taste you, Catherine. Just a taste," he pleaded, then quickly did so.
At that most personal touch, she couldn't help the loud groan that filled the air. "Vincent... I can't... I can't wait anymore... now... hurry."
At her plea, he quickly moved back into position, his own aching need growing to match hers. He was hard and past the point of no return. As gently as he could, he pushed himself deep into her and felt her body arch up to him.
All verbal communication ceased at that point. They now communicated with their bodies in a series of thrusts and withdrawals. Their passion became an inferno as bodies frantically sought release and breaths came in gasps.
After their first time, Vincent often tried to analyze his thoughts and feelings in those few moments before climax, but he was only aware of the sensations. Seeing her face so agonizingly absorbed in finding release, hearing her gasping breaths, moans, and grunts, and feeling her hot soft body yielding to his body's demands was a sensual feast. And the feel of the most intimate part of himself so deeply imbedded in her could not be described in mere words. No, making love with Catherine was an experience for which no words existed.
A few more well timed deep thrusts brought Catherine's release. Vincent followed quickly. That last action was followed by the sweet sated feeling of total fulfillment. There was no strength left to lift himself off her as their bodies were claimed in the afterglow, so he remained locked in her tender embrace.
With eyes closed, they both fought desperately to calm their hearts. Catherine's arms felt like lead as she willed them to move around his shoulders and embrace him in a loving hug. She always ended their interludes this way to both reassure him and keep him inside her for as long as possible. He responded by breathing into her ear and whispering, "I love you, Catherine."
They lay like that until Vincent slipped from her body and rolled over onto his back. She followed him and draped herself across his damp expended body. "Is it always going to be like this?" he asked.
She nuzzled into the soft mat of his chest and chuckled softly. "It will until I get so fat you can't get close enough."
"No... I can't imagine you like that."
"You've never seen me pregnant."
Although the comment was meant as only a casual observation, Catherine suddenly felt the pain it caused in him. She quickly raised her head to look at him. "I'm sorry... I... "
He placed his fingers over her mouth. "Don't be. It's time we stopped dwelling on the past and started living each moment as it comes."
Before the conversation went any further, a message on the pipes caught their attention. "What is it, Vincent? Has something happened?"
He listened a few more seconds then sat up a little more. "I don't know. It seems Peter has brought Diana down. She's been hurt. Father wants to see us in the hospital chamber."
"What time is it, anyway?" she asked sleepily.
"I think it's around nine or ten," he answered as he tried to shake the dazed feeling from his brain.
"We slept that late?"
"Catherine, we've been in bed that long. We slept very little."
She laughed and tugged at his golden mass of hair. "You have a point." Then in disappointment she added, "I suppose we'd better get dressed and see what's going on."
"Maybe we should take a bath first. One sniff will tell everyone what we've been doing."
Vincent looked at her modestly. "Last night was our wedding night. Everyone already knows what we've been doing."
Her eyes spotted something just left of his Adam's apple and she began to laugh.
"What... " he asked. "What is it?"
With a wicked grin, she gently touched the spot with her finger. "I'm sorry, Vincent."
"Sorry... about what?"
"I gave you a hickey."
"A what?" he asked innocently.
His wide-eyed innocence never ceased to amaze her. "You've never heard of a hickey... a love bite?"
He slowly shook his head as he fingered the spot.
"While we were... in the throes of passion, I must have bitten you hard enough to bruise the skin."
"Oh... " he thoughtfully answered. "Don't worry about it. It doesn't hurt."
"You really don't understand, do you?" she asked incredulously.
"Catherine, what's the problem?"
"Everyone who sees that is going to know what it is and how it got there. Won't that embarrass you?"
The impact of that possibility finally hit him. "Oh!"
Catherine watched the color creep up his neck and engulf his face in a bright crimson tint.
"Does it embarrass you?" he asked.
She looked at it closely. "No. I kind of feel like I've marked my territory." She laughed, then leaned over and kissed the spot. "But I know how shy you've always been about these things. For people to look at you and know might be a little difficult for you."
"People can look at Jacob and know what we've done."
"Touche!" she answered.
Father was considering sending Mouse to physically guide his wayward son and his wife to the chamber when they walked in. He noted his son's downcast head, but thought nothing of it. "It's about time."
"We needed some time to make ourselves presentable," Catherine answered.
"What is it, Father? What's this all about?" Vincent asked.
Father couldn't quite understand why Vincent was holding his head at such a strange angle, but he had more important things on his mind. "Peter, would you step out here, please?" Father's friend stepped out from behind the curtain looking very worried. "You tell them."
Peter nodded. "Last night, Gideon's men broke into Diana's apartment. They beat her and shot Joe."
Catherine's gasp was heard by all. "Joe? Is he... ?"
Her old family friend quickly took her shoulders in what he hoped was a calming hold. "He's going to be alright, Cathy. They removed the bullet last night. It didn't do that much damage. Diana, however..."
Vincent's head turned quickly and his eyes focused on Peter. "What of Diana?"
Peter glanced at the ugly bruise on Vincent's neck but said nothing. "She has abrasions, contusions, and a few broken ribs, but she'll live."
Catherine wrapped her arms tightly around herself. The morning's earlier warmth was quickly forgotten.
Gideon sat at his monitor panel, reviewing various surveillance tapes, when the door buzzer sounded. One quick press of a button opened the door for his trusted assistant. "I hope you have good news for me, Mr. Cochran."
The small man walked over to stand before his boss. "Interesting, at least."
"We paid Ms. Bennett a visit last night as you requested. Mr. Maxwell was there as well." He watched Gideon raise an amused eyebrow. "We delivered the message and... illustrated our point."
"And where are they now?" he asked as he entwined his fingers in thought.
"They were both taken to the hospital. Maxwell went into surgery and, last we heard, will recover. He is now under heavy guard."
"And Ms. Bennett?"
"She was treated but quickly disappeared."
Gideon's eyes widened as he stared at Cochran. "Now why does that not surprise me? Has anyone been able to trace her?"
Cochran shook his head. "No. We lost her."
A disappointed sigh escaped him. "If it were not for more important concerns, I would enjoy this woman's cat and mouse games. Oh well, I think our objective was achieved. I would not be surprised if she were delivering our message as we speak. Continue to watch Maxwell. Chandler may try to visit him. Use every source we have to keep an eye out for Bennett. Also, intensify security measures here. Although Chandler and Bennett may go through the predictable channels, the beast may decide on a more hands-on solution."
Cochran shuddered as he remembered the images on the tape. "Yes, sir. I will see to it personally."
Gideon sat back in his richly cushioned chair. "I have a feeling things will soon come to a head, Cochran. I want us to be prepared."
Diana lay on the cot, completely still. Ever since last night, every breath had been an excruciating experience. She could only handle it by remaining immobile. Her ribs were wrapped. Her cuts and bruises had been attended to but she had refused the pain medication offered. She had to remain in full charge of her faculties to deliver her warning. At the sound of approaching footsteps, she painfully forced open her eyes to see Vincent, Catherine, Father, and Peter walk in.
At the first sight of Diana lying still and so badly beaten, Catherine froze in her tracks. Her face turned a ghostly white. "Stay with me, Catherine," Vincent encouraged as he placed his hand in the center of her back and pushed gently. The action forced a sudden intake of air and she snapped out of her daze to walk over to the cot.
Since Catherine could only stare, Vincent asked the questions. "Diana, tell me what happened?"
She found his gentle voice almost brought her to tears. Looking into his eyes, she saw concern and compassion instead of the anger she'd seen so much lately. One glance at Catherine's fear filled eyes reminded her of the message and the danger they all faced. "It was Gideon's men," she answered in a barely audible voice. "He said to tell you that if you... if you... didn't turn over the journal... you, Catherine, and Jacob would be next."
The room fell deadly silent as the impact of Gideon's message was felt by each of them. "That's ludicrous!" Vincent finally responded. "He can't find us here."
"I'm not so sure. He seems to be able to infiltrate everything," Diana weakly offered. "We've fought these people before, Vincent. We know they will stop at nothing to achieve their goals. Gideon is as bad, or maybe worse, than Gabriel!"
During this conversation, Catherine had not spoken. The fear and anger welling up rendered her speechless, threatening to send her over the edge again. She fought back by thinking of Joe. "Why did they... shoot Joe?"
Diana took a long painful breath. "He happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Poor Joe. He tried to protect me. Thank God he's going to be alright."
Catherine bit her lip. "This time, but what about next time? What happens if this monster manages to uncover this world?" No one wanted to voice the horrors running through their minds. She couldn't bear it any longer and left the chamber.
Vincent started after her, but Father stopped him. "She needs to deal with this on her own, Vincent. That's the only way she'll ever find peace."
"He's right," Peter added. "She needs a little time alone. If she needs you, you'll know it. We have to let her make the decision of what to do by herself. We can't do it for her."
The words were true. His mind knew it but his heart was having a hard time dealing with it. Through their bond, he could feel her turmoil and guilt so he sent his steadfast love to help strengthen her heart. He had to trust her. That's what love is all about. He turned to Diana.
When Vincent looked at her physical state, his eyes were opened to just how much she had sacrificed for him. He looked at her with a deeper understanding and new respect, knowing now the pain his rejection must have caused her. "I'm sorry," he said weakly.
She turned to look at him. "Sorry... for what?"
Vincent stared at his hands, trying to find the words. "For taking my anger out on you. For not trusting your motives. Mostly, I'm sorry for not listening."
"In your shoes, I wouldn't have listened to me, either. After all, my motives were suspect." Her eyes lowered to that dark bruise on his neck and she quickly glanced away. "I suppose the wedding went well?"
"Yes, it was beautiful."
Her eyes closed in pain. "I hope you'll both be very happy. That first night I met you, I could see how much you loved her. I could see how much pain her loss caused you. Vincent, it tore me apart keeping the truth from you, but I thought I was doing the right thing."
"I know," he answered. "I've been guilty of the same thing with Catherine. I thought by helping her forget what happened, she'd be happy. I was wrong. I tried to mold her to fit my needs by taking away her choices. I chose what I thought she should want. I thought I was an enlightened man... apparently not."
"Ideals are great as long as we don't have to sacrifice our loved ones," Diana commented.
"I've learned a lot about just how human I am lately. As good as my intentions are, I can make some big mistakes."
"We all do. Don't beat yourself up about it, just work it out with her," she advised. She watched him and felt his pain. Without thinking, she spoke what was in her heart. "I love you, Vincent. A part of me always will."
He looked at her then with compassion. "I knew that a long time ago, but there was only Catherine for me. Even if she hadn't returned, I could never have returned your love."
"I know that now."
Gently, Vincent took her hand. "You deserve someone who can return your love, Diana. Someone you can have a family with, someone who can give you a happy life."
"Once we get past this... maybe... who knows?"
A thought occurred to him and he smiled proudly. "You haven't heard our news yet, have you?"
She shook her head slowly and painfully.
"We found out yesterday, just after the wedding. Catherine is pregnant again."
She looked at him in surprise and saw the way he literally beamed at her. "So soon?" came out of her mouth before she thought about it. "I mean... well you know."
Despite himself, Vincent laughed. "Peter and Father did a blood test to match with Jacob's and discovered it. Catherine's sure it happened that first night we... " He lowered his head in embarrassment.
"Well then, congratulations, I guess."
"Yes. We're both very happy about it. We have a chance to share what we missed before."
"How's Jacob taking his new status as big brother?"
"He doesn't know yet. He stayed with Kanin and Olivia last night. We came straight here this morning."
As she imagined his reaction, Diana smiled. "He'll be thrilled, I'll bet."
Vincent nervously entwined his fingers. "We hope so." Through the bond he sensed a calmness coming from Catherine. She'd made a decision. "I'd better go to Catherine. I feel she needs me." He got to his feet. "You'll be safe here. Please stay as long as you need to. We'll help you in anyway we can. Know --- that."
"I do... now. Go. Go find Catherine."
With one last look, Vincent walked out of the chamber not realizing things were about to take a radical turn. Decisions were about to be made that would threaten them all.
He found her in their chamber, sitting calmly in a chair at the table, staring with determination at an unfamiliar book lying in front of her. He stopped short as she looked up at him with eyes betraying an anger that was barely contained. "Catherine... what is that?"
Her words were softly spoken but their meaning was clear. "This, my dear husband, is the reason we endured four years of hell. This is the reason Diana was beaten and Joe shot. This is the reason we were denied sharing the birth of our child!" She slammed her fist onto its cover. "This damnable journal has cost some their lives and others unspeakable torment."
He moved closer to the table and looked down at the offending book. "Where... where was it?"
A sarcastic laugh escaped her. "Would you believe it was exactly where I put it four years ago? It was right here, Vincent. Underneath your Lady Liberty. "Ironic, huh?"
"But when... I don't remember... "
"Exactly. While you were recovering from your illness, I knew... you couldn't sense me, so while you were with Father, I came in here and hid it. I knew no one would find it here." She stared at it again as if it were the source of all evil and, in her mind, it was.
Fear was beginning to fill Vincent's heart. "You're not going to give it to him are you? Catherine... you can't!"
She took a deep calming breath. "No. You and I both know that would not end this. It has to end, Vincent, for Jacob, for you, and for me. It has to end."
"Catherine, the risks... "
"... have to be taken. I once told you there were some things worth risking everything for, well you and Jacob are worth it. No, I plan to get this to the FBI and let them handle Gideon. I'll probably have to work with them on what I came up with, but they'll take precautions to protect me. Besides, we have our bond back and we have the advantage of knowing our enemy this time. My main concern is what he knows about you and if he has proof."
Vincent looked away in anguish. "What is it?" she asked.
"While Gabriel had me locked up in that cell, he made tapes, Catherine."
"Oh God!" she exclaimed.
"Diana thought she had destroyed them all before the police got there, but what if one... "
"Yes, that's all he'd need. Alright... " she sighed. "Then it becomes a matter of credibility. If Diana and myself deny it, who do they believe? We just have to plant the idea that he faked any tapes he might have."
Watching Catherine put her legal mind into action reminded him of all those times before when she had pulled an impossible case out of the fire and won. Her excitement pulsed through the bond and it served to further convince him of her true destiny.
Catherine could see as well as feel his fear. She moved over to comfort him. "Believe me, I will take every precaution to protect you and our children. I don't want to put this baby at risk any more than you do, but I have to do something. Don't you see, my standing idly by almost cost Joe and Diana their lives. How could I have lived with that? Vincent, she was right. We'd always be living in fear. That evil would win and we'd be nothing but prisoners again. My conscience would eventually drive me mad knowing that he was destroying lives and I could have stopped him."
Slipping her arms around him, she continued. "I thought I could hide. When I came back, I almost destroyed the journal in an effort to put it all behind me. I realize now, that's why I kept having the nightmares and flashbacks. It wasn't because I couldn't deal with the memories, it was because deep inside, I knew I hadn't resolved any of it. I'd only run away from it. I'm through running, Vincent. Gabriel held me prisoner for six months and I could do nothing about it. I will not let his brother keep r me a prisoner of fear."
To argue with her was useless. She was right. How do you argue with that? Ethical questions aside, there was Catherine and the children to consider. Jacob would be safe enough in the shelter of his world, but what of Catherine and the child she now carried? If this brother of Gabriel's got his hands on her, he would have no regard for her condition. Gabriel had only kept her alive long enough to give birth to the child he wanted. His brother would not likely have the same obsession. It was then he began to formulate a plan of his own.
Catherine pulled back reluctantly. "I need to meet with Diana and put together a plan to get this journal to the right people."
Vincent was making his own plans so what she'd said took a while to sink in. "Yes... I think I should go see Jacob."
"You're not going to tell him about the baby yet, are you?"
"Of course not. We shall do that together." Suddenly he had this tremendous urge to feel those soft lips on his again and gave into it. "I'll see you later."
She pulled away to retrieve the journal then started toward the doorway. "Catherine..." he called out then waited for her to turn around and face him. "Know that I love you. I always will."
Her eyes misted slightly as she felt that love. "I know, Vincent." She patted her stomach and smiled warmly. "I know."
"No matter what happens, always know that you are the best part of my life. The love you've given me brought me out of my aloneness and gave me hope. Every moment with you has been filled with the joys of a lifetime."
She wondered at the solemn tone he was taking. "Vincent... ?"
"Go. The sooner we get rid of that journal, the sooner we will all be safe."
Sensing no more through the bond to concern herself with, she obeyed his command and headed for the hospital chamber.
Vincent, on the other hand, heaved a sigh of relief that she had not sensed the decision he'd made. He had to move quickly. He picked up his cloak, then turned to look around the room one last time. From Jacob's chamber to the stained glass window, he felt the memories wash over him. Then his eyes focused on his bed. What he had shared with Catherine there had truly made him a man and had turned a dream into reality. Drawing on all the resolve inside him, he stepped through the doorway to find his son.
Young Jacob was on the floor, playing with Luke and Chandler under the watchful eyes of Olivia, when Vincent walked in.
"Vincent!" Olivia called out in a startled voice. "I didn't expect to see you here today." Before he could answer, she spotted the bruise on his neck and blushed. He did too.
"I needed to talk with Jacob for a moment. Come on, son, let's take a walk."
Jacob had been as surprised as Olivia to see his father today. His mother had explained that they would need a few days for a honeymoon. He didn't understand what that meant, but it seemed important to them.
They walked for awhile, then Vincent sat down on a rock and sat the little boy on his lap. Jacob looked into his father's eyes and asked very seriously, "Are you through honeymooning yet?"
His father couldn't help but laugh. "I hope we'll never get through honeymooning. Jacob, I have something to ask of you."
Those little blue eyes danced at the prospect of getting to do something important for his father. "Okay, what?"
The next words were hard. "I need to go somewhere and do something important. I need you to promise me you will look after your mother while I'm gone."
Vincent's request made Jacob really feel important. "I promise."
"There's more. Jacob, promise me you will look after her, care for her, and love her always. Use your bond to protect her but never to intrude or demand your own way. Respect and obey her because she loves you and wants only to care for you. I need to know that you will be there for her when I can't. Do you understand?"
The little eyes grew solemn. "Yes, Daddy, I promise."
Vincent felt a surge of love and pride so powerful it almost choked him. Instead, he hugged the boy tightly and closed his eyes. A single tear ran down his cheek. "Now, let's get you back to your friends."
After taking his son back to Olivia, Vincent thought about going to Father but decided against it. If he had any idea what Vincent was about to do, he'd find a way to stop him. He couldn't allow that. No, Father would understand eventually why he had to do this. He wouldn't like it, but he would understand. With a deep breath and an ache in his heart, he began his journey.
With a great deal of trepidation, Catherine clutched the journal to her chest as she walked into the hospital chamber. Diana was alone and resting with her eyes closed. For a brief moment, Catherine thought about allowing her to rest and returning later but then Diana opened her eyes.
"You can come in," she encouraged Catherine. She had sensed someone's presence and was a bit surprised to see who her visitor was.
"I didn't want to disturb you. How are you feeling?"
Diana watched Catherine come in and take a seat by the bed. The woman sitting with her now seemed calm and in control, unlike the panic-stricken one that had virtually fled the chamber earlier. "I've been better. I'm just concerned about you. How are you doing?"
"I think I'm finally going to be alright." She patted the journal now lying in her lap. "Diana, I've made a decision, but first of all I have to tell you you were right. My not doing anything just gave Gideon the time and power to take over where Gabriel left off. The people he's destroyed in that time are on my conscience. It's time we put him away. I think this will do the trick."
"The journal? It was here?"
"Where no one would ever think to look!"
Diana quickly overcame her shock and turned her attention to the evidence itself. "Is there anything in there about Gideon? If he's not specifically mentioned, we've got nothing."
Catherine nodded enthusiastically. "According to what I translated, Gabriel's brother was running the European connection. There's a hidden paper trail that links him directly to all of the syndicate's money laundering and drug import activities."
"Great! That's enough to cripple the entire operation. The investigation alone would force him out of business."
Both women shared a triumphant smile before Diana brought up the other side of the coin. "For this to work, we'll have to have your help in breaking all this down. In the meantime, Gideon's going to keep the pressure on you by doing stuff like this." She pointed to her badly bruised face.
"I know. We'll have to move quickly and in very tight security. You need to stay here and Joe should be put into protective custody. I'd feel better if I could bring him here, but... you know."
"Yes, I'm worried about him, too," Diana responded as she remembered their evening together.
Catherine decided to voice her curiosity. "Joe was with you that night? Have you two been seeing each other?" she asked with a smile that implied a great deal.
Diana blushed. "We were just keeping each other company, nothing special."
"Oh... yes." She laughed at Diana's very visible embarrassment, then patted her arm gently. "Joe's a very nice guy most of the time. If it hadn't been for Vincent, I might have given him a tumble. I wish you both well."
"Don't start jumping to conclusions. We're just... friends."
"Yeah, right." Catherine laughed again.
Diana studied her for a moment as she found the sound of her laughter very warming. "I hear congratulations are in order for you and Vincent as well."
She looked at her in surprise. "He told you?"
"Just after you left. We had a nice talk. I guess we sort of cleared the air between us. That's when he told me about the new baby."
"I'm really glad you two got things straightened out. I have to be honest with you, when I returned I thought I might have intruded."
"No," Diana answered. "I'm the intruder. I guess I always was. You and Vincent have a once in a lifetime love. I fooled myself into believing I had a chance with him. I realize now that you are the one woman who can make him happy. I'm glad you two have found each other again." She studied her for a moment then teased, "I just didn't think you'd get pregnant so fast."
Catherine caught on to the teasing nature of her comment and joined in. "He's a potent little devil, isn't he?"
Diana laughed as much as her sore ribs would allow. "I never thought of him that way."
"Since we're being so honest, I have to admit to being a little jealous of you. I didn't know what your relationship had been with him. And Jacob, he was more used to you than me. That frightened me."
"You're his mother, Catherine. There was no way I could replace you in his life or Vincent's. I just tried to be a friend to him. I hope you'll let me continue that."
"I insist on it!" The journal in her lap recaptured her attention. "I have a plan to get this to the proper authorities, but I need your help."
"You've got it!"
The plan they concocted was a complicated one that involved secret messages, a running pattern that would rival any football team's best efforts, and the involvement of several members of the community. Catherine mused it was more like an elaborate shell game. After talking to Father, Peter, and Pascal about it, the plan was put into motion.
Actually doing something uplifted Catherine's spirits tremendously. Although she realized the dangers, she now felt like she was taking charge of her life instead of letting it take charge of her. While she sat talking with Diana, Jacob came in and hugged her tightly.
"Hi there, sweetheart. Are you okay?" she asked as she kissed his head.
"Olivia brought me to visit. Is everything okay?"
Catherine chose her words carefully. "What makes you think something's wrong?"
"I felt afraid... and what Daddy said."
She looked deeply into eyes that reminded her so much of Vincent's. "What did your Daddy say and where is he, by the way?"
"He said he had to go somewhere and that I was to look after you. I promised."
She smiled at the intensity in her son's eyes. "I know you will and I will take care of you." She hugged him tighter. "Did your Daddy say where he was going?"
The little boy shook his head and a heavy feeling of fear eclipsed her heart. Looking over his head, she noticed Diana's face was echoing her own feelings.
Diana looked back at Catherine as they arrived at the same conclusion. "You don't suppose... "
"He wouldn't... not alone."
Diana nodded her head painfully. "He would if he thought it would keep his family safe."
The object of their concern was standing beneath the storm drain opening close to Gabriel's mansion. He had taken every shortcut he knew to get a head start because as soon as Catherine noticed his absence, she'd have the community there in force.
It was still daylight outside and he would be taking a great risk going out now. He did have the advantage of surprise on his side because Gideon would not expect him to confront him so boldly. His breathing became labored as he thought about what he had to do. Like Gabriel, this man would not be convinced to leave them alone. He would have to be stopped. Vincent knew that meant he'd have to kill him. He swallowed hard. He hated to call upon that part of himself, but to protect his family, he would do whatever was necessary. Calming himself, he put one hand on the ladder and began his climb upward.
The harshness of the sunlight hurt his eyes for a few seconds as they adjusted to the glare. Every sense was keenly scanning the area for possible danger. His body was coiled for attack as he removed the cover and moved out into the sunlight.
It was a cold February day, but the sun felt good on his face. He quickly looked around, then moved in and out of the bushes to get closer to the house. When he found an opening, he moved swiftly into the service entrance. The memories of this place flooded his mind. Although it had been four years since he had been here, the images were vivid. He remembered holding his son tightly to his chest as he ran down this hallway and out into the darkness. As he relived that night, he heard a sound behind him and turned quickly. It wasn't quick enough. He felt a horrible pain on the back of his head then lost himself in the darkness.
Some distance away, Catherine felt that pain and the void that followed. "Oh no!"
Diana saw her look of terror and felt the pain herself. "Catherine!"
Regaining some control, Catherine sent Jacob to get Father. "He's in trouble. I can feel it."
"Yes I know. Look Catherine, can you get me my purse?"
"Just get it!"
When Catherine handed her the purse, Diana painfully reached in and pulled out her automatic pistol. "You might need this."
Catherine hesitated a moment then took it from Diana's hand. "I hope not."
"It might be the only way. It was with Gabriel." She heard Father walking back into the room and slipped the gun into the pocket of her tunnel clothes.
"Do you know how it works?" Diana quickly asked.
Catherine nodded frantically. "I've had some training with a similar one." When Father walked in, the gun was out of sight. She turned to him.
"Catherine, we just sent the first message as Diana instructed. The journal will soon be on its way and hopefully this madness will come to an end," Father explained as he stood looking at the two women.
"I'm afraid we've got a problem," Catherine said fearfully.
They weren't the only ones with a problem. Vincent's head pounded horribly as his senses returned. As awareness sharpened so did his natural instincts and he sat up suddenly prepared to strike.
"Well... well," an unfamiliar voice put Vincent on guard. "I see you've finally decided to join us. I truly hate it when my guests are this unresponsive."
Vincent jumped to his feet, whirled around and unleashed a blood curdling roar. It was then he fully assessed his situation. He was back in that horrible cell in the basement of Gabriel's mansion, but the man standing on the other side of the bars was not his former foe.
"Oh yes, where are my manners? I am called Gideon. I don't know if you understand what I'm saying... "
"I understand," Vincent replied. Gideon's expression of shock told him he had not thought him capable of intelligent thought or speech. "Oh, yes," he mocked him, "I can speak."
Gideon raised his eyebrow in amazement. "Well then, our discussion will be much easier than I anticipated."
Vincent studied his opponent carefully. Unlike his brother, he seemed quite impressed with his ability to think and articulate those thoughts. Perhaps he could use that to his advantage. "What is it you want of me?"
"What I want of you? Did you forget? You came to me. What do you want of me?"
"You know why I'm here."
"Oh yes, that untidy business about the woman and the journal. By the way, I assume you two are back together again since she cannot be found?"
Vincent studied his foe. "She is safe."
Gideon decided to pressure him a bit on a more sensitive topic. "I've seen pictures of her. She's quite beautiful. You know, I could understand being attracted to your strength and power, but what I don't understand is how she could actually have sex with an animal. She must really be into that kinky stuff."
It wasn't going to work this time. Gabriel had tried the same thing when his grief was still raw and had pushed him dangerously close to the edge. No, he'd control this situation. "We are in love. Something I doubt you would understand."
"I understand your need for a mate to continue your bloodline and to satisfy your lust, but what I don't understand is why a woman like her would want to fill those needs. I'm sure you could have found someone, or something more suitable. But then again, perhaps she had the right bloodline you wanted. Human."
Vincent stepped closer to the bars and glared coldly at the man.
Gideon smirked at him. "I'm sure you'll remember these bars have a nasty sting to them."
"I remember it well," Vincent countered.
"Good. I want to keep you alive long enough to suit my purposes."
"Which, I assume, are to draw Catherine out of hiding and to get your hands on the journal."
"My, my, you are clever, aren't you?"
"Catherine will not endanger our children nor will she allow you to destroy so many lives with your evil."
"Children? According to the information I've seen, there was only one child. She's been back only two weeks. Don't tell me you've impregnated her already? My God, you are an animal! She'll be relieved to die. She doesn't appear to be a woman who wants to be barefoot and pregnant for the rest of her life with you."
Vincent still would not be pushed. He said nothing.
"Satisfy my curiosity. Do you do it like a human or an animal?"
The gleam in Gideon's eyes gave Vincent his opportunity. "Whichever way Catherine wants. Tell me, Gideon, how do you do it, assuming you do, that is?"
When Gideon flinched, Vincent knew he had indeed found a weak spot. "I didn't think so."
Gideon felt unusually flustered. "Let's not deviate from business."
"You've seen pictures of Catherine. Admit it, you want her. Well, Gideon, you can't have her. She'd rather be with an animal like me than you. She makes love to me. She gladly bears my children. Wile you've been here alone in your mansion planning this, Catherine has been in my bed, loving me. Doing with me all the things you can only fantasize about."
The anger seared through Gideon and he charged the cell. Vincent stepped backward and he realized what had happened. This animal had baited him to the point of doing something stupid. He quickly regained his composure. "I will have that journal and will take pleasure in defiling her in front of you before I kill you."
"Is that your fantasy, Gideon? Let me tell you that Catherine would rather die than let you touch her. Beware, Gideon, she or I will destroy you just like your brothers. You are obsessed as they were and it killed them."
Gideon stared at him defiantly then left the basement in a decided huff. Vincent stared after him then rubbed his aching head. The horrible thongs he'd said left a bad taste in his mouth. He hated using that tact, but it was the one weakness he could find. He had to admit being in control of the situation gave him a sense of power. Now he just had to think of a way out.
After Catherine quickly explained the situation to Father, he called a community meeting. Diana managed to take a seat next to Father and listened to Kanin and Catherine as they explained their plan.
Putting the last touches on the map in front of her, Catherine faced the crowd. "Our best bet is surprise. According to Diana's memory of the floor plan, it's possible for us to get in and out quickly. We have the advantage this time of knowing where Vincent is being held. With Pascal, Jamie, Cullen and Mouse hitting the alarms and guards in conjunction with the explosions, we have a good chance of pulling this off."
"What about the rest of us?" someone asked from the back of the chamber. "We want to help."
"All of the children will be taken to the Great Hall and guarded. The rest of you can take up positions along the route in case we're followed."
Kanin added, "These people are used to nice well-lit grounds but we're used to the darkness. We can use that to our advantage. We must move quickly and quietly doing what we have to do. Vincent is one of us and it is up to us to fight for him as he has for us."
A tear made its way down Catherine's cheek. "I'd like to thank all of you for your help. I pray we all come through this unscathed."
Cullen gave further directions, then added, "We must wait until dark. In the meantime, we've got a lot of work to do to get ready. I suggest each of you prepare yourself."
The crowd dispersed as everyone scurried off to their assigned duties. Catherine moved over to Diana and Father.
"I'll take some medical supplies and wait for you at the halfway point in case of... injuries," Father nervously offered.
Catherine put her arms around him. "It's going to be alright. We're going to bring him home."
He returned the hug. "I know, dear. You must be careful. You have two to think of, remember?"
"I know, I will be."
After he left the room, Diana turned to Catherine. "I wish I could go with you."
Catherine smiled at her. "I know." She laughed. "Hell hath no fury like two women after the same man."
Diana had to laugh despite the pain. "Can you sense him? Is he alright?"
"Yes, he seems calm as if he knows we're coming," Catherine explained.
"Maybe he does."
"Perhaps." Catherine looked at her closely. "I won't come back without him."
"I know how you feel, but if worse comes to worse, he'd want you to protect the child you're carrying. It's a part of him like Jacob. They'll need at least one of you. Remember that."
Catherine straightened up as the impact of those words reached her heart. "I don't think I could choose between this child and Vincent. I don't think I could live without him."
"Catherine, he didn't want to live without you before, but he did for Jacob. If you had to, you would."
She nodded her head. "I'd better go change and say good-bye to Jacob. Would you look out for him while we're gone?"
"Of course I will. And, Catherine... don't forget the gun."
"I won't. Thanks."
"Good luck and please... be careful."
Catherine leaned over and hugged her gently. "I will."
The next few hours were torture for Catherine. She'd changed into a pair of jeans, low-heeled boots, a dark sweater and her black leather jacket, now she was faced with saying good-bye to her son. Not knowing what might happen, she realized this could be their last conversation.
She pulled her hair back into ponytail, put her gloves on and patted the bulge in her pocket. It was loaded and ready when needed. She walked to Father's chamber where the others were gathered for good-byes and their last meeting. As soon as she entered the chamber, Jacob ran into her arms.
"I'm scared!" he cried.
She enfolded him in her loving arms and shed a tear of her own. "I know. I guess I am too. It's going to be alright, Jacob. We're going to find your Daddy and bring him home. Then we'll really be a family, I promise."
"Come back, Mommy, and bring Daddy."
She openly cried then and held him tight. But soon it was time to go and she had to pull herself away. "You be strong for us. Send good thoughts and love through your bond with your Daddy. Be brave, precious, be brave."
Walking away from his brave little face took all the strength she could muster, but she made it then nearly collapsed outside the chamber.
"Are you up to this, Catherine?" Kanin asked.
"Yes," she replied then stuck out that determined chin and patted her coat pocket. "I'm ready. Let's go."
Vincent had been sitting in the cell for hours sensing a variety of emotions from his soulmate. First fear, then anger, sadness, and now determination. What bothered him the most, however, was the feeling she was getting closer by the minute.
Upstairs, Gideon was furious with himself. 'How could he let this beast outwit him? How could he be so weak as to let him get to him in such a way?' He slammed his fist down. He was not weak like his brothers. He would take care of this nasty little business promptly. The woman would do whatever he wished to protect her mate. An evil smile crossed his face as he visualized his final triumph.
In the drainage pipe on the grounds of Gideon's estate, a small army gathered around for their final instructions. Catherine pointed out several items on the map and small groups disappeared out of the opening to take up their positions. The key was timing. Mouse and Cullen were the last to leave as Catherine and Kanin watched.
"It's our turn," Kanin commented.
"Yes," Catherine answered then looked at her watch. "Let's get moving." Fifteen minutes later, everyone was in position and ready to go.
Inside the cell, in the basement, Vincent sat with eyes closed trying to sense his wife's intentions and to find a way out of his prison. Suddenly his eyes opened and he stared at the wall. "Catherine!"
Several small explosions split the silence followed by alarms and sudden darkness. Vincent sprang to his feet just as the wall on the other side of the room was ripped open by another explosion. His eyes searched the darkness and smoke. Through the debris stepped Kanin with Catherine close on his heels. "Catherine!"
She smiled then moved quickly up the steps to blockade the door from the inside. Kanin ran to the cell door and placed a small amount of explosives in the lock.
"Take cover, Vincent. Now!"
Kanin ignited the charge. The door was thrown open by the small explosion. Vincent quickly got his feet and ran to freedom and Catherine's arms.
Upstairs, confusion reigned supreme. Gideon dashed over to the auxiliary power switch and found it inoperable. "What the hell!" he exclaimed as another explosion shook the mansion.He grabbed a flashlight, headed out into the hallway and was nearly run over by his own men. "You idiots! Don't panic! Get your weapons and follow me." When they complied, the group headed toward the basement.
In the garage of the estate, Cochran quickly got into his car and backed through the electronic garage door. Maybe running would get him killed by Gideon but given the choice of his boss or being torn apart by a monster, he'd take the bullet any day. He gunned the engine and crashed through the gate.
In another area of the estate, Mouse had managed not only to shut down the alarms but the communications system as well. He was delighting in running about in the darkness taunting and teasing the guards.
Jamie and the others were focused on disabling Gideon's small army. Her arrows and the handmade weapons of her fellow tunnel dwellers put most of the force out of commission. When their job was complete, they retreated to the bushes outside to wait for Vincent and Catherine's exit.
Vincent was lost in Catherine's embrace until she pulled away and whispered, "We've got to get out of here."
At the top of the stairs, the door began to splinter from the force of blows by Gideon's remaining men.
"Come on!" Catherine screamed as she grabbed Vincent's hand and pulled him through the entrance. They ran into the darkness toward the storm drain.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Jamie, Mouse, and the others headed toward another entrance at the far side of the estate. It was all planned to confuse the guards and afford them all an opportunity to get underground quickly. They planned to meet at the junction of the pipes, just beyond the estate.
When Gideon burst into the basement and found his prize missing, he cursed the darkness. "Get after them!" he commanded, and they all headed out hot on the trail of the escapees.
Vincent jumped down from the ladder and turned to Catherine. "What happened?"
"I'll explain later. We've got to get moving." She turned to Kanin as he finished adjusting something on the floor of the drainage pipe. "Is it ready?"
Kanin nodded. "Let's get moving."
Gideon's men found the drainage pipe cover ajar and followed their prey down the ladder. No sooner had they gone into the pipe and up to the first bend, did they feel the ground shake beneath them as another explosion caved in the entrance, completely sealing it. They were trapped, their only known escape closed to them.
A little further down the pipe system, the trio heard the explosion. "What was that?" Vincent asked.
"Just a little insurance," Kanin replied as he smiled at Catherine and she offered him a high five. "Let's just say they have to fight us on our own terms now."
Catherine quickly added, "Come on, let's keep moving."
They continued their homeward trek, but Vincent's keen senses detected Gideon and his men getting closer. He stopped. "Catherine, they're getting closer."
"I know," she answered nervously. "But we've got a reception planned for them."
"No!" Vincent suddenly replied. "These men are well-armed. They could kill a lot of our people. We are not armed well enough to fight them off." He turned, looked back into the darkness, then at Kanin. "You take Catherine in that direction." He pointed to the homeward route. "I'll lead them that way." He indicated an unknown path into the darkness.
"No!" Catherine shouted. "I didn't come this far to leave you now!"
Vincent grabbed her shoulders firmly. "You shouldn't have put the baby at risk. What if we had both been killed? Who would Jacob have? Catherine, I can lead them into the darkness and pick them off one by one. I've done it before. The darkness is my friend. I can use it to my advantage."
"It makes sense, Catherine," Kanin added. "Our people can come in from behind and help."
"No! I will not leave you."
"You must, Catherine. If not for me then, for our children." He reached down and placed his hand on her stomach. "You can't risk this child any further."
Kanin was surprised to learn by Vincent's remarks that Catherine was pregnant. A fact she failed to mention when their odyssey began. "Catherine, he's right. You've taken enough risks."
"Go, Catherine. I'll join you soon."
She looked at him tearfully and realized that to argue the point was useless. "Vincent, I... "
"I know," he finished her sentence. "I love you too. All of you." He pulled her into his embrace, then kissed her deeply. "Take care of our baby."
She stared into his eyes. "Vincent, I'll be waiting for you. Be careful."
"I will. Now go before they follow you too."
It was a painful parting for both of them. Vincent waited until they had disappeared into the darkness then began his journey.
Gideon and his men moved on through the darkness, their flashlights only dim beacons to lead the way. As they came to a branching off of the pipes, they stopped, trying to decide which direction to take. Their decision was made when a mighty roar echoed from one pipe. "He's down there. Let's go."
Vincent moved through the darkness in quick silent steps. His keen eyesight allowed him to maneuver behind the armed force and begin eliminating them one by one. The killing was the part he hated the most, but he had no choice. His family and his world had to be protected.
Gideon was not aware of the loss of his men until a scream split the air. He turned quickly and noticed that he had only three men remaining. "Where are you?" he screamed into the darkness. "Come out and fight like a MAN!" Silence.
That heavy silence was all it took to panic the other men. They turned and ran in the direction from which they came. "Come back here, cowards!" he shouted but to no avail. All he heard were gunshots, screams, and more silence. "Cowards!" he called again, then stumbled on into the darkness.
Gideon could almost hear him breathing down his neck. "Where are you?" he screamed at the cold walls of stone.
"I am here," Vincent calmly answered.
Whirling around, Gideon faced his worst nightmare. The flashlight cast a pitiful light on Vincent's bloodstained clothes and a shudder ran through him. They studied each other for a minute until Gideon spoke. "I'm not armed. You won't kill an unarmed man."
Vincent laughed. "You have no more men left. What do you suppose I did with them?"
"They were an armed threat. You're too human to kill for no reason."
"Reason? You want reasons? You and your brothers almost destroyed my life and my son's. You almost killed my wife. You have killed friends of mine. Those are enough reasons for anyone."
"I know your type. You have a conscience. Killing does not come easily to you."
"You'd be surprised how easy it would be to kill you." He stepped threateningly toward his prey. Deep inside he knew the only way for this to end would be Gideon's death. Pushing conscience aside, he knew what had to be done.
"No, Vincent, he's mine," came a voice from behind him. Quickly he turned to see Catherine standing there with a gun in her hand pointed at Gideon.
"Catherine?" Gideon responded as his eyes beheld his obsession. "My brother's description was sadly inadequate."
"Your... brother was a monster. A bastard with no trace of humanity in him."
"You sleep with an animal and say my brother had no humanity?"
"Vincent is more human than any man I've known but that's something your kind doesn't understand."
"Catherine, don't... " Vincent pleaded.
"It has to be done, Vincent. For you, for Jacob, for the baby, but especially for me."
"You won't kill me in cold blood. You don't have it in you."
"You have no idea what I'm capable of when I'm protecting my family. I will not have someone like you hold me prisoner again." She stepped closer and took aim. "Tell your brothers, they lost. God forgive me."
Vincent stood frozen to the spot as he watched her begin firing the pistol repeatedly. It was as if he were watching in slow motion as her eyes glazed over and she emptied the gun into Gideon's hapless body. The gun, soon out of ammunition, clicked in Catherine's hands as she continued to pull the trigger.
One look at the bullet ridden body told Vincent his enemy was no more. Slowly he walked over to Catherine and tried to take the gun from her, but she was so out of it, he had to wrench it from her hands. After taking it from her, he threw it to the floor and pulled her close. "Catherine," he called as he looked into her eyes.
Gradually the glazed look faded and she looked back at him calmly, "It's over, Vincent. It's finally over."
He hugged her tightly as she buried her face in his chest and repeated. "It's over."
As they neared the community, Catherine headed for the Great Hall to see her son, but Vincent turned toward their chamber. She stopped. "Vincent?"
He looked down at his bloodstained clothing. "I don't want Jacob to see this."
She nodded. "Yes... you're right." Painfully, she thought about all those other nights he had returned home like this because of her. The guilt overwhelmed her.
As soon as they entered the Great Hall, Jacob bolted into his father's arms while Catherine watched. After a joyful father/ son reunion, Vincent reached out his arm to her and the family was truly reunited.
Diana watched the scene and the following celebration with a deeply profound sense of rightness. Feeling the way she had about Vincent, she never thought she would feel anything but pain and jealousy at seeing him so happy in another woman's arms. But the sight of the three of them together, so happy and so complete, made her realize she'd been the interloper. Her role in his life had been a necessary but temporary one. Now it was time for the three of them to be a family.
Later that evening, Vincent pulled Catherine aside. "I think we'd better have a talk with Jacob. Kanin knows you're pregnant, and soon the others will. I'd like for him to be told before that happens."
"I agree. Why don't we excuse ourselves and have a nice bedtime talk with him?" she responded happily.
Later in Jacob's chamber, they sat on his bed as he changed into his pajamas. Catherine helped him with the buttons as Vincent began the conversation. "Your mother and I have something ... to tell you, Jacob." He looked directly into his son's eyes. "Uh... " he looked at Catherine for help.
She smiled at his total loss for words. "What your father is trying to tell you is that in a few months you're going to have a little brother or sister." Catherine held her breath awaiting his response.
The little boy tilted his head a bit and looked at them. "I know," he answered calmly.
His parents stared at him in shock. "How? Who told you?"
"Nobody. I just knew."
"I don't understand, Jacob," Vincent prodded.
"I feel things sometimes like you do, Daddy. I could just feel it... I don't know."
Catherine reached over and pulled him onto her lap. "Some things you can't explain. You just have to accept them."
Vincent rubbed his son's head with pride. "It's hard to believe our link to each other could be so strong. I wonder why I didn't sense it?"
"I'm not sure we'll ever understand the depth of this bond we share. Maybe Jacob could sense it because this child is his blood sister or brother. Maybe they are connected with a bond much stronger than ours. All I know is that it makes me feel better knowing they do share this link to each other. Because of it, they'll never feel alone. They'll always be a part of each other."
Vincent nodded. "Jacob, can you tell if it's a boy or a girl?"
Jacob hugged his mother and rubbed his cheek against the swell of her breast. "No."
"That's okay," she whispered. "I don't think I want to know just yet."
That night after the two lovers had shared a passionate reunion under the covers, Vincent held Catherine until she fell asleep. As he felt her slow steady breathing, he wondered how all they had been through this day would affect her. He still couldn't shake the sight of her glazed eyes as she fired the gun, but it was the calmness afterward that really concerned him. Tonight he would sleep lightly in case her nightmares returned.
Over the next few days, neither the nightmares nor the flashbacks returned. Catherine truly seemed to have made peace with what had happened. It was the indecision and restlessness Vincent sensed in her that worried him now. She had a decision to make and she had to make it alone.
Catherine stood on the ledge overlooking the falls. The majestic scenery helped put things into perspective somewhat. Wrapping her arms around herself, she reflected on the major turnabout her life had taken over the last several months. She had regained her memory, been reunited with the love of her life and their child, had come to grips with the horror she had endured, and was about to become a mother again. All of that alone would account for the restlessness she was feeling in the depths of her soul, but something deep inside her told her there was more
He found her standing on the ledge and tried to sense her mood. She had taken Diana back Above and visited Joe over the last few days. She had meetings with the FBI to help tie up the loose ends following Gideon's unexplained disappearance. She also spent some time with the lawyers trying to get herself I resurrected. At best, her mood was subdued. Quietly, he walked up behind her and slid his arms around her waist. She leaned back against his chest.
When she felt his arms encircle her, that feeling of security and warmth he emitted washed over her. The rock-hard strength of his body was her haven.
"How did your trip Above go?" he asked after several minutes of enjoying the feeling of her body in his arms.
She took a slow deep breath. "Good. My attorneys say my estate should be released within the next few weeks and the city is trying to straighten out my back pay and benefits. It's a lot of red tape and it's going to take time to unravel it all."
"What about Jacob's records?"
"That's been taken care of. I'm just sorry we had to lie about some things."
"Sometimes there's just no other way," he commented.
She knew he wasn't going to like her other news, but now was as good a time as any. "Joe offered me a job as head of the investigation division." She could feel his whole body tense. "I would more or less assign investigators to cases, decide when to drop them or continue them, oversee the use of the evidence, case presentation, that kind of thing. I wouldn't be doing the legwork... like I used to. It would be less dangerous."
Vincent stepped away from her and looked out into the falls. "What did you tell him?"
"I didn't give him an answer. I wanted to talk with you first."
He looked into those alluring eyes. "I can't tell you what to do. All we have endured has taught me that. You must follow your own course. To allow my fears to stop you from doing all you feel you must, would be to imprison you. You know that."
"I know you love me and I don't want to cause you anymore pain. By giving me the freedom to make this choice, you risk the safety you feel when I'm with you."
"Your freedom is yours, Catherine, not mine to give you." He looked at her and smiled smugly. "Who was it who said some risks are worth taking?"
She smiled at his inference. "I know." Conflicting emotions li L forced her to once more seek the perspective of the falls. "I just need to know how you feel about it. No nobility - the truth."
"Alright," he answered thoughtfully. "My heart wants you to stay Below and live as we are now, but my mind tells me I would be binding you with my fears. One of the things I love most about you is your spirit. To restrict your freedom would destroy that spirit. Leading a simple life Below is not what you were meant to do. I knew that when I saw you go after Gideon the way you did. You have a strong sense of justice that would not be satisfied with a life here."
Tears gathered quickly in her eyes. "You're not asking me to leave you, are you?"
"No, Catherine. I don't think either of us could survive that. I'm merely suggesting that you live in both worlds, you and Jacob."
"He can live Above. I want him to share that world with you."
"I won't take him away from you!"
"That's not what I'm saying. I am his father, that will not change. I'm just saying that he can live a life I can't. He can do all the things I've only dreamed of, Catherine. He is a part of me that can live a normal life Above. He can walk with you down a crowded street in the daylight. I can't deny him or me that privilege."
Catherine could see the fierce determination in his eyes as well as love for his son. "I understand." She moved closer to him and hugged him tighter. "We'll work it out. I can find an apartment with an entrance to the tunnels. You can watch the kids when I'm working and they're not in school." She laughed, "Listen to me. I'm sorry."
"Don't be." He could feel her excitement. "I think we can I really make this work. It won't be easy or conventional, but we'll be together and that's all that matters."
She pulled back and looked up at him. "We are not conventional and I don't expect our children to be." They both laughed easily. "I'll tell Joe I'll only work part-time until after the baby's born, then go back after a suitable maternity leave."
"Vincent?" she searched his face. "Are you sure about this?"
"Yes, in fact, I want you to take Jacob back to Seattle with you when you go back to close out things there."
She was astounded. "Are you serious?"
"Yes. It will be good for both of you. He'll love his first plane ride... and so will I."
"You're absolutely amazing," she responded.
"No, Catherine, I'm just a man in love, that's all."
A smile was shared, then Vincent reached down to kiss her passionately. Afterward, they stood in silence, reveling in the peace they'd found. "We have endured much, Vincent."
"Yes." he sighed happily. "Dreams can come true, if you believe in them hard enough and love hard enough."
"No, Vincent," she corrected. "This is better than a dream."