JoAnn Baca


She smiled shyly, eagerly, as she greeted the tall cloaked man standing by the French doors which were open to the mild September night.  As she came to him, he reached across her threshold to grasp her hands, almost pulling her into his waiting arms.  They clung to each other in an embrace made more intimate by the subtle shadings of emotion twining through their Bond: flickers of desire and need, fulfillment and happiness, overlaid by an overwhelming spirit of love.


This night, so like a hundred others they had spent in each other’s company, was unlike all others in one respect - last night, for the very first time, lips had met, captured, clung for one fleeting but glorious kiss.  The knowledge of that pleasure, that splendor, that intimacy permeated their consciousness.  As they embraced, their minds, like greyhounds loosed from the slips, raced towards the thought of the remembered goal. 


“Catherine.”  Her name was a nearly breathless murmur, a prayer uttered from besotted lips.


“Vincent.”  His name was an answering sigh caught upon the night breeze.


They leaned slightly apart, just enough to gaze into depthless oceans of blue and green.  Gently, tenderly, they came together again.  This time lips descended or rose to meet in the merest whisper of flesh upon flesh.


“Mmmm...” Catherine purred as their mouths parted.  The kiss - so brief and yet so delicious - tantalized and intoxicated her. 


“Yes,” Vincent responded in a hoarse affirmation.  This was all so new to him, so remarkable.  This press of lips, this sensation of moist suppleness, drew him as effortlessly now as a moth to a flame.  He had only a moment to wonder how he had resisted this experience for so long, and for what possible reason, before once again his mouth was drawn to hers.  Such indescribable pleasure...such transcendent bliss -- was there anything more incredible than Catherine’s kiss?


“Taking things slowly” had come to have new meaning to Catherine since she’d met Vincent, but now that he’d finally acquiesced to a kiss, she found she had absolutely no desire to do anything but take things slowly...languorously...lingeringly.  His innocent, earnest kisses melted every inch of her.  His heat was of the long-simmering, slow-burning variety -- and she was surprised to realize that she was content to wait for the eventual hot, rolling boil which would inevitably result...and the steam...and the smoke. 


As they moved together once more, her eyes drifted shut in rapt contemplation of the exquisite delights of his unusually shaped and curved lips -- so soft, so delicately trembling, so tender under her questing tongue.  “Mmmm....” she signed again, more moan this time than purr.


Suddenly, inexplicably, that supple mouth moved away from hers.  Her eyelids fluttered open to find Vincent gazing at her with disconcerting intensity.


“What is it?” she asked, unable to understand his sudden shift in mood.


He stood utterly still, as if poised on the brink of flight.  Guardedly, he inquired, “What do you see...when you look at me, Catherine?”


She blinked, amazed at the question.  “What do I...?  I see...the man I love.  Only you.”  Her voice reflected her confusion.


It was not the answer he sought and he shook his head, distracted now. 


Something had gone wrong between them in the last few moments, but Catherine was at a loss to explain what it was.  And why the strange question?  She tried again. “ know I see the true reflection of my heart’s desire when I look at you.  It’s been that way for so long now.  You are all I see before me, whether you are with me or not.”


Again, the shake of his head...and a physical withdrawal that began to frighten her.  Grasping his arms to keep him from further escape, she begged, “Why do you ask such a question? And why now?”


The glitter of his unshed tears was clearly visible, even through the screen of flowing golden hair that he had shaken down from about his shoulders to cover his distress.  Catherine lifted one hand to stroke that mass of rough silk as she gently demanded, “Tell me.”


Unable to meet her gaze, he spoke down to the flagstones of the terrace beneath his feet.  She could scarcely make out the hoarsely whispered words.  “ closed your eyes...when you kissed me.”


Stunned by the simple observation and unaware of its significance to him, she could only reply, “So...?”


He struggled against his fears to offer her the explanation she seemed to need. “That’s what I...desire to know.  What it is about me...that causes you to...shut me away from your sight.”  The pain in his voice was terrible, as if he were asking something the response to which might rend his very soul.


The obvious answer suddenly flashed through Catherine’s mind.  He had never engaged in a romantic kiss before.  And he had hardly had any opportunity to see other couples kiss -- the natural reserve of his fellow Tunnel dwellers likely meant that public displays of that kind of affection were nonexistent.  Neither had he had the opportunity to watch movies or television to get a glimpse of what such intimate behavior entailed.  He basically had no idea what “normal” or “usual” was when it came to even something as simple as a kiss.  Each step of this path was fresh, untrodden ground for him.  


She was ashamed that she had assumed too much, even knowing of his innocence.  Wanting to confirm her assumption before she made any more unwitting mistakes, she asked, “Vincent...didn’t you close your eyes when we kissed?”


His response - an aghast “No!” - suggested that she had spoken sacrilege.


 Catherine reached out to brush the veil of hair from her beloved’s face, saying as she did so, “I don’t think I’ve ever kissed anyone without closing my eyes.”  She ran her fingers lightly down his cheek, lingering at his jawline, then tracing it until she came to his bottom lip, resting both her gaze and her fingertips at the ripe fullness there.  “It’s just a habit I have...which many people have.  It doesn’t mean I’m...blocking out things I don’t wish to see.” 


She lifted her eyes to his then, as she struggled to explain in a way that would preserve his newly won confidence. “It’s more about...savoring, fully experiencing.  As shutting out the world...the only thing that exists for your kiss.”  Her fingers left his lips and cupped his chin.  “Your amazing, delectable...totally desirable...kiss.”


Mesmerized, he watched her lips form the words.  As she spoke the last one, her lips parted temptingly.  He let the slight pressure of her fingers draw him, lowering his mouth to meet that enticing invitation...and he closed his eyes in rapture to partake of the exquisite promise they offered.  Darkness descended and all his world condensed to that one ravishing point of contact.


The tantalizing taste that defined Catherine for his soul was drawn deeply into his being.  Moisture...texture...softness -- and then her tongue requested entry -- such a sweet invasion.  His breath stuck in his throat at the ecstatic onslaught of sensation thrumming within his veins. All he knew of love and pleasure and desire converged as he stood cocooned in the soft, inviting presence of the darkness that held them in mutual thrall.  He pulled back suddenly in stunned understanding and as he opened his eyes he beheld the spellbound adoration on his beloved’s face. 

The corners of his mouth lifted in a half-smile of delight and his eyes reflected the hazy pleasure of this new and fascinating discovery.  Finally, he managed to express himself in a soft moan. “Ohhhh...Catherine.”  He recovered slightly, enough to add, with a gentle twinkle in his eyes, “Now...I see!”