By Ginny Shearin

Chapter 6


The last visitors were Kanin, Olivia, and Luke. Vincent and Catherine walked them to the door and pulled the screen over it after they left.

“They seem so happy,” she remarked, smiling as she turned toward Vincent. “A year is a long time to be apart. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Luke weren’t a big brother before long.”

Vincent was suddenly very quiet, and she was afraid she had inadvertently broken the easy-going mood of the day.

“I want us to have what they have, Catherine,” he said quietly. “Until I met you I had come to terms with what I am . . . with being alone. After I found you . . . .”  He hesitated, pulled in a deep, slightly noisy breath, and leaned his head back in frustration. “I don’t even know if it’s right for us to be together that way.” He lowered his head and looked directly forward, rather than at her. “In so many ways I am a man. I walk in the form of a man. I have the speech and intelligence of a man. I have the soul and emotions of a man, the needs of a man; but I am always aware of the other part of me that loses itself in raw instinct - and when I see myself. . . .” He looked back down and took her hands in his. “Our love feels so right . . . so natural; but then I see my hands touch yours and they look so inhuman . . . .” His voice trailed off uncertainly.

“I’ve asked myself the same questions, but the answer is always the same. We don’t choose who we love, Vincent. It just happens. Peter doesn’t seem to have any doubts. You and Nancy have said to follow my heart, and my heart always leads me to you. We know you can never live in my world, but we have the tunnels. We can have a life together.”

“There may even be those here who wouldn’t accept . . . .”

“Let them not accept,” she shot back. “Our love feels right to us, and we’re the ones who have to live it. We’ve both proven what we’re willing to sacrifice for one another. That alone gives us a better chance of a long life together than half the couples in my world. I want to spend my life trying to make you happy. You don’t have to be alone anymore. I intend to be part of your life in any way you allow me to share it.”

“I know that you love me. I believe now that you won’t accept anyone else. I can change my understandings, but there are things that I can never change . . . things that aren’t human. You think you’ve accepted them, but you haven’t seen all of what you think you want.”

“Then show me,” she challenged.

To her surprise, he pushed the sleeve of his sweater up to his shoulder.

“This is what you would promise yourself to - claws and fangs, a face with a shape that can neither be called a mouth nor a muzzle, and enough hair to be more like an animal than a man. I can’t even bathe and simply dry myself the way everyone else can. Really look at me, Catherine. Be certain you can accept this.”

The hair on his arm wasn’t quite as thick as what would normally be called fur, but there was entirely too much to simply call it hairy. It was longer and straighter and heavier on his forearm and shorter, lighter and slightly curled on the upper arm where it had been pressed down under his sleeves, tapering off to very little on his upper shoulder where it met his neck. She remembered the look of his strong, gentle hands as he had given her the crystal on their first anniversary. He had to understand that he should hate nothing about himself because of her. She took his hand and turned his arm over to touch the inside of his wrist, moving her hand gently on the much less hairy side of his forearm up to the elbow.

“These are the only arms I want to feel holding me. I see nothing here that I wasn’t sure I’d find. What I find, though is much more like a man than an animal...”

She turned his arm over to reveal the soft hair that covered all of this side of his arm and slid her fingers experimentally into the hair. She closed her eyes and allowed her feelings free reign. Feelings of desire that she usually kept in check surfaced as she increased the pressure from her fingertips and moved her hand up his arm and past his elbow around the muscles in his upper arm - all the while clearly enjoying the delicious feel of her fingers furrowing through the tawny hair.

Vincent hardly breathed at the sudden, unexpected rush of sensation.

Catherine’s hand finally reached his again, and she turned his arm and kissed the inside of his wrist. With that she reined in her feelings and eased the shirtsleeve back down.

“May I assume that we can now move past your fur fetish?” she asked firmly. With a mischievous little twinkle in her eye, she added, “I already have one of my own.  And while this subject is open, let me tell you what else I find attractive,” she said, stepping a little closer. “We could start with the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen. Feeling your unusual mouth against mine is one of my favorite daydreams. I like your eyebrows and the way the hair grows in a different direction than I’d expect it to toward the bridge of your nose. I love that wonderful mass of golden hair and the way the tips of those long teeth . . . .  Okay, fangs . . . peek out when you smile. I like the way the hair on your hands and your chin feels against my face, and I can’t imagine ever wanting anyone else’s hands to touch me. Other men’s faces have become a little boring. Yours is the one I want to wake up to. Now, unless you have other differences,” the mischief in her manner returned, “like two of something that might cause me concern . . . then you should understand there is nothing about you that I would not find pleasing.”

Realizing the meaning of her last remark, he looked away, smiling in spite of a measure of embarrassment, and assured her that all his parts existed in the correct quantity.

“What about me?” she asked, peeking around to be in his line of vision again. “I don’t have enough fur to mention. My teeth are all the same length. I sometimes paint my nails to make them more interesting, but they break because they aren’t strong like yours. My face is too normal to be exciting. How could you possibly find that attractive? It’s all so different from you.”

He turned to look at her, a brief look of surprise on his face; then he smiled and conceded with a slight formal nod.

“Point well made, counselor.”

“One more bridge we don’t have to cross,” she smiled.

He put his arms around her waist and rested his forehead against hers, and she put her hands on his chest.

“Your patience staggers me, Catherine. These insecurities have been with me since I was a boy. They’ve colored my thinking for so many years...”

“I know,” she answered, snuggling closer.

He rested his cheek against her hair.  “I’m so afraid of hurting you. I would rather die than hurt you.”

She wrapped her arms around his waist and held him a little tighter. “I believe you proved that a few weeks ago. That should tell you something,” she answered. “There were times you didn’t recognize anyone else, but my voice or my touch could reach you. I’ve seen the beast, Vincent. I met him in that cavern, and even then he refused to hurt me. I can almost guarantee that if you didn’t hurt me then, it will never happen. Do you remember any of that day?”

“I remember most of it as if it were a dream . . . more like a nightmare. I actually raised my hand to strike you.” When he said that, his hands came up to hold her closer, as if trying to protect her from even the memory.

“But you stopped. You didn’t strike me. Is that any part of what you were dreaming before you began to recover? You were in such agony and there was nothing we could do.”

“Some of the dreams forced me to face things I’ve struggled with all my life. Others brought me to the one you woke me from. But you did help, Catherine. Through all of it I could feel your love. I was vaguely aware of your voice and your touch. That was my only connection to sanity, maybe to life.”

“Doesn’t that tell you something, too?” she asked. “How could you hurt someone that important to you? If Lisa is still part of your concern, you didn’t have this bond with her. There was a sixteen-year-old boy who left me with bruises when I wanted to get away. He didn’t mean to do that either; but if he’d had claws, I would have had the same marks Lisa did. You were fifteen years old then and full of hormones you didn’t understand.  I’m not a little girl who flirted her way into something she didn’t expect and frightened herself.” She lifted her head from his chest to look directly into his eyes. “And I won’t try to run away. I promise.”

Catherine hesitated briefly to consider her next question.

“Did you enjoy it when I touched your arm?”

“Yes,” he admitted quietly.

“If my hands were loving you and I scratched you by accident or somehow caused you some other brief discomfort, would you think less of me or want me to stop touching you?”

“You know it isn’t the same...” he began, but he found himself desperately wanting to accept that new perspective.

He pulled her head back to his chest and brushed a small kiss against her hair. That was a gesture he used on others in his family - the only way he allowed himself to kiss her, and he knew Catherine relished those brief moments. For a few seconds he just held her, seeming to want to say something.

“I spoke to Peter when he was here,” Vincent said, a little hesitantly.

“About what?” she asked, gripping his arms while pulling away to look at him and sounding concerned. “You aren’t . . . .”

“No, no,” he reassured her dropping his hands to rest on her arms. “I’m fine. I spoke to him . . . about us. He’s been doctor to both of us, and . . . .” He seemed to be trying to decide where to go from that statement.

“I spoke to him too, a couple of months ago,” Catherine interrupted, sensing his discomfort. “Probably the same conversation,” she smiled. “The poor man will be afraid to come near us before long.”

Vincent chuckled softly and let his hands fall to his sides. 

“He sees no barriers. He thinks I worry too much about the fur, fangs, and claws.  He says he can’t think of any other way we aren’t meant for one another . . . that the only two people who know us and ever believed I could hurt you are Father and me. Peter has loved us both since our births and sees no reason we shouldn’t be together.” He took her hands in his, looking at the stark contrast between them. “But there are no guarantees, Catherine. I’ve begun to think I’ve been wrong. I want to believe that I’m wrong . . . but there are no guarantees.”

Catherine’s heart soared at that admission, even knowing he still had doubts . . . and she could scarcely fathom that they were having this conversation with no distance between them. She looked up at him, her hand reaching to lightly touch his cheek as she spoke.

“We have to work out this part of our lives one way or another,” she told him. “Either way, it won’t separate us. There’s no way to replace the rest of what we share. We just need to know. If we find it’s something we can’t have . . . well . . . there are other ways to relieve those tensions.”

Vincent leaned his face slightly against her hand, gratefully accepting her words of assurance.

“However,” she said flirtatiously, stepping closer and grabbing his vest with both hands, “if it’s something we can have; we should be enjoying it while we’re still young enough for it to matter.”

Vincent actually returned her smile, a little self-consciously, but seeming more accepting of the idea than usual and leaving her with a feeling of hope. He pulled her closer again, feeling more hope for their future himself. 

“I know you’re strong enough to have no real need for me to be here so much,” Catherine said, “but do you suppose we could pretend through the weekend? I should go back to work on Monday, and I don’t want to share you more than I have to.”

He moved her away to arm’s length and looked at her with a pretense of complete seriousness.

“I shall fall into a full faint in a public place if necessary,” he answered good-naturedly, bringing back the mischievous mood.

“Today I believe you might,” she laughed.


They had dinner in the dining hall that evening, taking care of all the visits at once. With so little time left before she had to leave, her mind was already planning that tomorrow he would need rest because he had insisted on exerting himself too much today. That would give them more time together. She looked at the number of people who automatically gathered around him and wondered if they would ever have time alone again after this week. Vincent usually didn’t tell anyone but Father where to find them when he and Catherine walked to the falls or anywhere away from the living areas of the tunnels. Although his family and friends intended to give him time alone with Catherine, his chamber seemed to escape some of the general tunnel manners. They had come to expect him to be available at all times, and appeared at his door that way. There had been times he and Catherine were forced to find another place to talk because of the number of interruptions. It was going to be hard to get used to that again.

They stayed late, much longer than necessary, talking to the others in the dining hall so there would be no need for visits in his chamber later. Finally, according to plan, Catherine suggested he should rest, and Vincent agreed that he was tired and probably should sleep. This admission was so out of character for Vincent that no one questioned his need for rest. He excused himself to go, and left everyone there complimenting Catherine’s attention to his health.

Vincent took her hand and started toward his chamber, but Catherine stopped.

“Why don’t you go ahead and change for bed.” she suggested. “There’s an errand I forgot, and you need me out of the way for a few minutes, anyhow.”

“Don’t be too long.” He squeezed her hand and added with a playful smile. “It would be disappointing to see my acting talents go to waste.” She laughed and turned to go in the opposite direction.


Vincent had just turned back the covers and was sitting on the side of the bed when Catherine returned with a small bag.

“Was this your errand?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered, “and it couldn’t fit better into today’s mood. The children already have theirs.”

“Am I again being compared to the children?” he teased.

“No, just included in their treats,” she answered as she opened the bag and took out two popsicles. He laughed, a deep-throated chuckle she loved but rarely heard.

“Mary did dredge up childhood memories for you, didn’t she? We usually had baked desserts or puddings here, but very little that was frozen. Now and then we made ice cream or one of the helpers would send something packed in dry ice. Those were rare treats, and these were my favorites. Devin and I liked the green ones.”

“Mary said these were your favorites. “Green,” she announced as she unwrapped one and handed it to him. “I was hoping you might still enjoy them.”

“You ask me to sit here in my night clothes and eat this in your presence?” he chuckled. “Have you no concern at all for my dignity?” He swung his legs up on the bed crossed his feet and leaned back against the pillows.

“It does you good to be undignified now and then. I particularly enjoyed the swordplay this morning,” she teased. She pushed her shoes off and climbed up beside him, leaning against the pillows and unwrapping the other popsicle for herself.

Catherine gave him a curious look.

“Mary tells me you and Devin harassed her every time you got your hands on popsicles. She said you called it a bi-lateral attack. Care to explain?” she challenged.

“We would wait until the last bite,” he explained, “sneak up and surround her when our mouths were really cold, and kiss her under the chin as many times as we could before she could get away. She always squealed and let us think we surprised her. Later we realized she was waiting for us and was probably disappointed when we finally outgrew it. We never thought how sticky we probably left her.” He smiled broadly at the memory.

“Why under her neck?” she asked.

“That was about the only place to find exposed skin down here;” he answered. Looking down at Catherine with one of those endearing half smiles, he added, “and because, at that time in my life, I couldn’t reach her face . . . so Devin joined me because it created a better effect.”

“I have trouble imagining you shorter than Mary,” she grinned.

Reaching the last bite and seeing that he obviously enjoyed remembering this foolishness from his childhood, she decided to take a chance.

“So the game went something like this?” she asked, and attacked the side of his neck with very cold lips. He actually laughed out loud and pushed her away, and she leaned back beside him laughing.

The mischievous mood of the day and the childhood memories had conspired to distract him from his normal restraints, and he forgot himself momentarily. Reaching the last bite, he took his time with it.

“It was more like this,” he said. He followed his words with a line of tiny, quick, cold kisses from the upper part of Catherine’s neck to the edge of her chin, accompanied by her squealing laughter as she tried to push him away. That morning he had played for her entertainment. Now he was actually playing with her. She was thrilled that he had finally opened up to her this way.

Twisting to get away from him, she moved just slightly and the last tiny kiss brushed past her chin and close to her lips. With no thought from either of them, another brought their lips together. The mood changed entirely. They looked at one another briefly; then there was another kiss, tentative at first, then intensifying. Catherine felt a nearly forgotten response explode between them. He put his hands on her shoulders, pushed her away slowly and leaned back against the pillows, still holding her shoulders. Neither of them was breathing too steadily.

“Catherine, I . . . .”

She put her hand over his mouth to stop him. “Don’t you dare even think of apologizing for something we’ve both wanted so much.” Trying to catch her breath, she said, “But you could apologize for lying to me.”

Still reeling from the kiss, Vincent now had to figure out the unexpected accusation. His hands fell from her shoulders and began to slide down her arms.

“Lied to you? What do you . . . .”

“Our bond,” she said, still catching her breath. “Maybe you didn’t lie, but you didn’t tell the truth, either. All this time you’ve let me think that my side of our bond was just weaker. The truth is that you’ve been closing me out, probably deciding what was good for me again. When you kissed me it surprised you, and you let your guard down. I’ve never felt so loved or so desired . . . but then I felt the fear, and it was gone - just like the rages. You realized that I knew your feelings, too; and you closed me out again.”

He would have to deal with that subject later. “Does a kiss always give you that much pleasure?” Now he had her off guard. She looked away, a little puff of breath escaping and a slight blush creeping over her cheeks.

“No. All the desire and pleasure I felt from you, as well as my own . . . .”  Another little puff of breath, and she looked down and hesitated. “That pleasure usually takes a little more effort.”

Recovering slightly, Vincent lifted her chin with his hand, turned her face toward him, and scolded her softly. “If I can’t apologize, you can’t be self-conscious.”

She stood on her knees and straddled his legs, putting herself in a position looking slightly down at him, and placed her hands on his shoulders.

“Let me in, Vincent,” she pleaded “You know when you give me pleasure. Please let me enjoy what I give you.”

She lowered one hand to the side of his neck, just below his chin, then bent and kissed him again. In spite of his hesitance, he couldn’t keep himself from responding. At first all Catherine felt was the enjoyment of touching his lips, of his lips moving against hers, of exploring the ways to adjust their kiss to best advantage for his unusual mouth and teeth; then there was more. He was allowing the bond to flow in her direction, too.

The strength of that new connection took them both by surprise. Their responses spiraled from one to the other, intensifying what was already there. Vincent’s body was rapidly betraying him; and he knew that Catherine, in her present position, was bound to be aware. Out of habit, and through ragged breath, he began to apologize; but again she stopped him.

“No apologies for something we both want,” she reminded him, her voice a little huskier than usual.  Emphasizing her words, she allowed her leg to touch him and linger longer than necessary as she moved to sit beside him, pulling him toward her to kiss him again. Using all of his self control, Vincent exhaled and moved her gently away.

“We can’t let this happen now,” he insisted, frustration showing in his voice. “There can’t be a child . . . .” 

“There won’t be,” she assured him. “Part of my visit with Peter.”

“You were that sure of us?”


His hands were on her back now, but she could still feel his uncertainty.

“We have to know, Vincent. Why not now? You don’t have to trust only yourself. Trust us. If you frighten me even a little bit, I’ll call for Father, I promise . . . but one way or another, we’ll know . . . and we’ll adjust to whatever the outcome.

Fighting for control, he still hesitated. “I have your word?” he insisted.

“Will you trust me to know the difference between real pain and a little discomfort?” she asked, trying to hold on to her own self-control.

Vincent still seemed doubtful. She felt his reluctance to let go of the tight control he always maintained . . . or was now valiantly trying to maintain.

“I won’t let you hurt me. I promise,” emphasizing her assurance by cupping his face in her hands and stroking her thumbs across his cheeks. “I wouldn’t do that to you. If I need Father’s help, I’ll call him. Otherwise,” she smiled, a little breathlessly, “I’ll be very quiet so he’ll mind his own business.” She followed her promise with a trail of small kisses down the side of his neck and reveled in the pleasure it gave him.

That seemed to make Vincent’s decision. His hands moved to her waist and under the back of her shirt, and he took a deep breath as the pleasure of touching her skin washed through them. She took her hands from his shoulders and the shirt was gone, almost in one movement.

“Catherine . . . .” his voice growled softly as he buried his face against her neck, leaving a gentle rain of kisses burning across her shoulders and following her chain to where the crystal rested. He paused slightly; and, along with the crystal, he saw the one flimsy barrier between them disappear as quickly as the sweatshirt. She leaned against him, sliding her hands under his shirt, touching the skin of his back, loving the mingled feel of soft hair and firm muscle.

Catherine pulled at the shirt to help him remove it; and, to her delight, he removed it himself and pulled her close, pressing her to his chest. Hands moved over backs and shoulders as they enjoyed the delicious feel of bare skin against bare skin. He allowed his hands to touch her the way he had wanted for so long - stunned that she seemed nearly lost in the pleasure that his hands - the hands he had hated so - were bringing to her smooth, warm skin. She was lost in the pleasure of touching him - touching him . . . something he used to fear would turn her away in disgust. By the time his lips took over the exploration, they were both lost. With no one leading, they found themselves lying down, the full length of their bodies against one another. They had wanted this for so long, waited for so long, exploration was rapidly being replaced by impatience, and they moved quickly toward satisfying their need.

At the last burst of sensation Vincent released a sound something between a contained roar and a groan of pleasure.

Even in the breathless state they were in, Catherine could feel the apology forming in him. She simply put one finger over his lips. 

“Are you sure you’ve never done this before?” she asked very appreciatively.

“I’m certain I would have remembered,” he answered, his breath a little shaky, but his sense of humor still intact. “Catherine, there are no words to tell you how I love you.”

They heard the sound of a cane nearing the door.

“Just remember who called Father,” she whispered, smiling.

“Vincent? Catherine?” Father called. Catherine answered, forcing her voice to sound steadier than it was.

“Father, stay where you are. We have an agreement, remember? Vincent is fine. All you heard was the end of a nightmare.” She added with a smile for Vincent, “I’m taking very good care of him.”

“Vincent?” Father prodded.

“Nothing is wrong, Father. I’m sorry if I caused you concern.”      

“Alright . . . well . . . good-night, then,” he answered, not sounding entirely convinced. Then, with great satisfaction, they heard him walk away.

“Catherine,” Vincent laughed softly, “You just misled my father completely without ever stating a single untruth.”

“You’ve just made love to an attorney,” she answered, clasping her hands behind his neck, and in mock seriousness she told him, “I’ll understand any feelings of shame.”

“Made love . . . .” he answered in a tone tinged with awe, followed by a small smile. “Shame is not my most prominent thought. Love . . . pleasure . . . joy . . . gratitude . . . .” he said, lovingly brushing a stray lock of hair away from her face.

“Relief?” she teased quietly, moving a finger affectionately over his lips. “There isn’t a scratch on me. You’re welcome to inspect if you’d like.”

“I’ve never been so happy to be wrong,” he smiled, leaning forward to kiss her neck and exulting in the delight he felt it give her. “After what I’ve just done to you, it’s difficult to imagine that you feel nothing but pleasure.”

“Not what you’ve done, Vincent. What we’ve done together. I was a very willing participant, if you recall.”

“Yes. I recall,” he responded. “I will recall until my dying breath,” he added, smiling enough that those long teeth showed again.

She pulled him back down to her, wrapping her arms around his neck, enjoying the feel of his hair tickling against her face and shoulders.

“I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you,” she breathed in a rapid whisper, ending with a kiss against his cheek.

He felt the small gust of her breath move his hair slightly when she spoke, felt it against his neck near his ear, felt the love and joy and contentment in her, and heard the sounds assuring him of her love. He knew he would always remember that as the moment he finally came to his senses and fully believed in their future together, fully believed that she accepted everything he was - all of his differences. He felt as if he had been reborn.

Catherine felt the awe and delight that accompanied his realization and treasured that he shared it with her.

Vincent rose to his elbows and kissed her forehead.

Twirling a lock of his hair around one finger, she said quietly, “Now we know that you won’t hurt me, and you know that I won’t hurt you.”

“I never thought . . . .”

“You were still afraid I might hurt you. In spite of everything you could feel in me to tell you otherwise, you still thought I might see all of you and run away.”

“Yes,” he reluctantly admitted. He moved to lie beside her, and she curled against him, resting her head on his chest near his shoulder, stretching one arm over him and draping one leg across his. He wrapped his arm around her back and rested his hand on her hip.

“Other men have those same fears. Did you know that?

“But I am not other men. I’m something no one can explain.”

“How do you think I see you?”

“I know how you see me,” he answered appreciatively.

“Say it, Vincent.”                                                                              

“Catherine . . . .” he protested.          

“I want to hear you say it,” she insisted.

“You like looking at me,” he said softly, and Catherine smiled in triumph.

“Yes, I do.” To illustrate her point, she watched her hand as it began to roam across wide expanses of him. “And now that I’m sure every inch of you is as appealing as I thought, can we put those insecurities behind us?”

“Yes,” he smiled contentedly, and turned to close his other arm around her. 

“Do you suppose it’s possible to die of pleasure?” she asked with a satisfied sigh.

“No,” was his immediate answer, accompanied by one of his small, teasing smiles.

“Why do you sound so certain?” she laughed.

“Because if it were, both of us would have expired about ten minutes ago, and tomorrow morning Father would come in to find our cold, hard, tangled, naked bodies.”  He added with a look she hadn’t seen before, but hoped to see again . . . soon, “Neither of us seems cold.”

In spite of that statement, knowing the chill of the tunnels, he pulled the covers around them. They snuggled closer and soon drifted into sleep.


Chapter 7