by Barbara Hill

 This story first appeared in the zine “Buns and Roses.”


Vivid blue eyes stared intently at the hands splayed flat on the table before him, studying them — assessing them; large, powerful, covered with a thick coating of red-blond fur, long, tapered fingers tipped with sharp claw-like nails. Definitely not the hands of a normal man, but then nothing about him was normal.

 "These hands are beautiful."

Vincent trembled as Catherine's words returned to haunt him — to encourage him. How could she possibly find his hands beautiful? Squeezing both hands into tight fists, Vincent pounded the table in relentless frustration He knew he shouldn't let himself hope. He had no right.

 "These hands are mine."

Catherine's low voice, filled with firm resolution, had pierced the very center of his soul. He'd felt her small hands tenderly grip his, felt her smooth cheek brush against the fur as she held them, felt her warm mouth softly kiss each one, and something deep within him stirred — something he'd kept buried for a very long time.

They had stood in the corner of her balcony, his tears falling freely to mingle with hers, until Catherine gently coaxed him into her living room. They'd talked for hours about everything while she held his hands firmly, possessively. He'd listened calmly as she told him something he desperately needed to hear — that the incident with Lisa had been nothing more than an adolescent misunderstanding, which unfortunately had been handled very badly by an over-protective father with a most unusual son. And Vincent had carried the scars of that terrifying night with him ever since. Finally, he had allowed himself to believe her words, and was able to let go of the pain he'd carried for so long.

It had taken every ounce of strength he had to tear himself away from Catherine tonight. He'd left her shortly before daylight despite the gnawing hunger he'd felt encompassing both of them. He'd felt their mutual desire spiraling, threatening to devour them, and still he'd found the strength to leave. He'd left her, knowing full well that she wanted him to stay, and wanting more than anything else in the world to grant her wish.

Did she know what her words, her actions had done to him? Did she know how affected he was by the look of love he saw in her tear-filled eyes? Did Catherine know how very much he wanted to stay with her, and let her show him just how much love his hands were capable of giving? Somehow, Vincent thought she did.

Unclenching his fists, Vincent spread his fingers apart, holding his hands up for closer inspection. Could these fierce looking appendages truly give love, perhaps even pleasure, to Catherine?

"And you desired her . . . There is no shame in that." His eyes squeezed shut tightly as he tried to hold the threatened tears back.

"These hands are beautiful. These are my hands." Vincent sighed deeply, wanting desperately to believe Catherine's words.

He could feel the love and passion Catherine felt for him humming steadily through the bond they shared as she muddled through her day's work, tired and sleepy, yet strangely energetic — and very happy. As if she knew the change their relationship was about to undertake, accepted it, and looked forward to it eagerly.

Perhaps the time had come to discover the truth about the love they shared. Catherine seemed so very certain they could share a complete life together — truly together. She was ready to go forward in their relationship — maybe it was time he accepted the reality of the possibilities she offered — maybe . . .

 His decision made, Vincent prepared to face the day ahead. He would go to her as soon as it grew dark. His massive frame shivered in anticipation.

 Vincent stared at his hands incredulously, finally able to accept them for what they were — just hands. Larger, stronger, different — but still, just hands.

 Catherine's hands.