By Wendy de-Veryard
If only he knew why everything was changing &endash; if only he knew that he wasn't losing his mind, that's all.
These changes had all begun just a week ago.
He had visited Catherine at her home, as he had grown used to doing so often of late. Simply since things had deepened somewhat in their relationship, Vincent had found it nigh impossible to keep away from her.
He was sure she didn't know this of course &endash; he would die if she did &endash; he had denied his feelings to her with the utmost of care, even succeeded in denying it to himself, once. But no more, no more could he deny the fact that he wanted her, and desperately so as a man wants the woman that he loves.
But it could never be!
That was the sadness, that was where the heartbreak threatened to overwhelm him. How could one as beautiful as Catherine, even contemplate allowing hands such as his touching her, gliding over her soft curves, moulding his body to hers...
Vincent groaned, would every time he thought of her lead to thinking of her like this?
Why could it not be as simple as once it had been?
Where was the innocence now?
The friendship? They'd shared such a sweet and tender friendship, and it had been enough. And it had been more than he had ever expected to share with a woman of the world Above.
So when had it all changed?
Why did it seem that suddenly the warm affectionate embraces were no longer enough? Why now, when he held her, had he wanted only to lose himself in her warmth? To never let her go?
Laying his head back against the wing of his great chair, Vincent inhaled a deep breath &endash; arh there &endash; yes it was definitely there &endash; that sweet smell that he associated with the perfume that Catherine favoured wearing &endash; did she know what that scent did to him? Would she continue to wear it if she knew?
He didn't know why it was so strong here in his chamber. At first he had assumed that the lingering scent was from Catherine's infrequent visits, but just lately the scent seem to be clinging to every rock and crevice of his tunnel home. Although it was strongest here, strongest in his own chamber.
If he knew he might well be embarrassed &endash; he might well run for the lower catacombs and stay there until his fevered body had calmed sufficiently to deal with this new turn of events.
But he didn't know, and if Catherine had her way he never would.
This was deception pure and simple, a devious way to keep the man she loved stepping forth in the right direction.
All week Vincent had been aware of Catherine's mischief. He could sense her humour and that in turn lightened his troubled spirit. Though his body hungered for her touch, his heart was washed with peace and tranquillity by her fun-loving mood.
Tonight he would see her, after seven long days apart &endash; seven days in which nothing had been resolved.
Vincent couldn't quite grasp the reason behind that. Always when he had been with Catherine in his feverish frame of mind, he had come away with the firm resolve that the next time they met he would be strong &endash; no, stronger &endash; able to remember who he was, what he was. Positive that what they had was a dream and could be no more.
Always he had been able to attain this resolve so that when he saw Catherine again, he could be sure that he would never do or say anything that might frighten her away from him.
In his chamber he had no clock &endash; had no need of one &endash; he knew time by instinct, and he knew that within two hours he would be holding Catherine in his arms, and the week of longing before would have flown away as if it had never been. And he wanted that, oh so bad, but dare he? Dare he go to her this time &endash; being that this time, he had not succeeded in quenching the burning flames of desire he had taken home with him after the last time they had been together?
Suddenly &endash; and he didn't know why &endash; but suddenly that time was upon him &endash; before he'd had time to work things out in his mind.
Catherine was coming Below!
It was unusual that she would do that, when they had arranged to meet at a certain time.
If, for some reason she would have been delayed, she would have sent a note, but rarely did she come Below so seemingly impulsively.
Yet he could feel her &endash; and his heart thudded painfully &endash; he was afraid &endash; he wanted to run, to hide, yet he was frozen to the spot, he could not go &endash; he did not want to go.
Alongside his heartbeat was the sound of her own, and she was stilling, her excitement of moments earlier calming, and Vincent felt that someone had intercepted her descent to his chamber.
That little bit of respite made him relax, he was able to breathe again, to compose himself &endash; yet her scent wafted around his nostrils, drawing him up from his chair and like one hypnotised he went to meet her.
"Did you do it?" Catherine's bright eyes looked around Rebecca's chamber with delight.
"And I believe it worked you crafty woman you. That poor guy has had his head in the clouds all week. If someone even spoke to him, he jumped."
Catherine giggled, "So he has certainly acted out of the ordinary, then?"
"Oh yes, Cathy. Even Father has noticed. You know, I heard him telling Mary that Vincent was suddenly behaving like a lovesick teenager, twenty years too late."
Catherine wrapped her arms around herself and hugged tightly. "Oh, that's perfect. I was supposed to be meeting him at my apartment later but I just had to come and see you first &endash; I just had to know if it worked." For a moment her eyes took on a distant look and she slumped down into the nearest chair, "I wouldn't have done this, Rebecca, you know that, if I didn't think it's what he needed."
"I know." The pitying glance from Rebecca made Catherine want to weep.
"With Vincent and I, everything is so &endash; one step forward when we are together, and two steps back when we are apart. I had to think of something devious to keep Vincent's footing very firmly on that one step forward or the next time we saw one another we would be right back to square one again."
Rebecca nodded, "I understand."
"Do you? Do you really? I wonder."
"What makes you say that, Cathy? I, all of us, here in the Tunnels, know how much Vincent means to you, we all dream your dream with you, we all want to see you and Vincent happy together."
Catherine nodded. "Guess I should never have doubted. Forgive me."
"Forgiven. So are you going back home to wait for him or will you go to him now that you are here?"
Catherine bit her lip, pulling at the tender skin there, undecided. "I'm not sure."
"You could help me make some more candles while you decide."
Catherine smiled. "I've brought another bottle of scent, I thought you might need some more by now."
Rebecca grinned. "When I first used it, it was trial and error, I didn't know how much to use. I had never made scented candles before. The first few I tried out here, but could smell nothing but the usual burning wax. The next couple I added more scent to, and ." Rebecca laughed loudly at the remembrance "it brought Vincent here like a shot." Catherine laughed heartily. Rebecca went on. "He seemed most perturbed to find that you weren't here. He never said anything, but I could see he was confused. You really are wicked, you know, doing that to him," Rebecca laughed.
For a moment Catherine sobered. "Yes, I suppose I am." She agreed.
"But your heart is in the right place," Rebecca told her sincerely. "And if this works..."
"You'll be the first to know." Catherine grinned and hugged herself again, as the delicious thought presented itself in her mind.
She supposed it was a bit cruel, tempting Vincent like this. She knew how her scent intoxicated him, she knew that from the way he held her that bit closer, nuzzling into her neck whenever she wore it. She had learned of his attachment to that scent long ago, but had only recently found the courage to be daring with it.
Rather than dab it behind her ears, she had started dabbing it onto her throat with the teeniest dab or two between her breasts.
And that first night she had tried this, it had had amazing results. Hunting for his favoured scent, Vincent had detected the subtle shift as the fragrance had wafted on the night breeze, and he sought her neck beneath her ear as usual inhaling deeply, but found that the source was not in the usual place.
Catherine shuddered at the memory.
He had held her tighter than usual, his silence almost her undoing as he had sought to find the place from where the scent arose. How delightful it had felt to have his fuzzy nose sliding from beneath her ear to her throat and then to feel a slight nuzzling lower, lower Catherine remembered that she had held her breath, hoping against hope that the spell would not be broken, and it hadn't, at least not then.
For the first time he had held her as a lover would hold her, taking possession of her body in such a way that thrilled her, excited her, and his own body heated, feverish had sought out her softness, as his lips had nuzzled her flesh. She had felt him then, felt him for the very first time, had proof of all she had suspected when he had ground his body closer to hers, seeking out her warmth, her softness with his hardness.
That touch had erupted flames in Catherine and her arms had stole around him holding him close, needing him closer. Embarrassment now stained her cheeks as she remembered how she had clung to him, softly whispering his name, over and over, wanting him, needing him, so desperately.
In that moment he had pulled back, his eyes meeting hers in question. Puzzlement, shame, fear, desire they were all there, caught in those fiery blue eyes and in that moment he had whirled away from her, hurrying to disappear into the night.
She had called to him, "Vincent, don't go!"
His reply, "I must," had been hoarse, ragged.
"Will I see you on Friday as arranged?"
"Yes." His whispered reply had barely reached her ears, for already he had gone into the night, away from the arms that ached to hold him close again.
"Penny for them?" Rebecca teased.
"What? Oh, sorry I was miles away. Besides, my daydreams are worth more than a penny," she grinned.
"Priceless, huh? Wish I could afford them. So did you reach any decisions?"
"Yes, about whether you were going back or staying."
Catherine looked at her watch. "I may as well stay, besides Vincent will know I am here by now."
"I wouldn't count on it. He's been halfway to heaven this week, unreachable. Huh, heaven scent if you ask me! Get it? Heaven S-C-E-N-T."
Catherine burst into laughter. "That's so funny."
"And also true. Believe me Catherine this perfume has had him on cloud nine. You had just better hope that he hasn't grown an attachment for scented candles rather than you."
For a moment, Catherine's face paled. "Oh, you don't think?"
Suddenly Rebecca's attention was diverted as a movement in the entranceway caught her eye. "Then again, I could be wrong." She indicated with a nod of her head.
"Vincent!" Catherine expelled his name on a sigh.
To Vincent it sounded like a caress, and he could not move, could not step toward her. She was so beautiful, and suddenly memories of the last time they had been together flooded his mind. He felt embarrassment stain his cheeks, and was glad that she would not see it in the dim candle-light.
Finally he found his voice. "Catherine I thought I was to meet you?"
"Then why are you here? Were you afraid I would not come tonight?" Rebecca missed none of this. The eyes, the body language from the two of them spoke intimacy, yet untouched. Without being noticed, she crept away, leaving them alone. Neither saw her go.
"No. I needed to see Rebecca about something. I was going to go back Above and wait for you, but we got delayed and now it is almost time for our " Catherine hesitated. Date sounded so twosome, too intimate, but she could not find another suitable word. However Vincent found one. "Appointment," he offered.
Catherine nodded, disappointment creeping in.
Then together both spoke at once. "Catherine - Vincent - The last time we were together...forgive me..." They laughed at their shared apology, both saying again as one, "There is nothing to forgive." Then Vincent was speaking softly, crossing the gap that separated them, until he could enfold her in his arms. "I've missed you, Catherine."
"As I have you." Ooh, this felt so good, being back in his arms. He felt so good. So solid so safe, so...
Catherine shivered against him.
It was no good - nothing she denied to spare his feelings seemed to work anymore. It was either tell or go mad.
"I love you, Vincent, and I need you so much."
Pulling back enough to search her eyes, Vincent sought for answers to unasked questions. How did she need him? In which way?
Catherine drowned in the blue of his eyes, they were filled with curiosity, hope, yearning, apprehension...a little uncertainty...
He spoke, out of her dreams... "If I could only be sure of how you need me, Catherine?" The words seem to startle him. Had he meant to keep them silent? He shook his head. "I'm sorry-I didn't mean to say that."
"But you did. And I'm glad."
"Glad?" His heart raced with a sickening thud, hard against his chest. Let him not be wrong, oh please let him not be wrong. The way she looked at him, the way she held on to him Vincent closed his eyes savouring the feel of her there pressed close to the place where he needed the relief the most...
A long slow growl rumbled through his chest, erupting through half open lips, thrilling Catherine to the core. She trembled in his arms. "Oh, Vincent...please my love..."
Catherine was unable to stop herself, her body seemed to have a mind of its own, pressing itself closer to his heat, his hardness, thrilled by the pulsating flesh of his body that stole her breath away.
"Catherine..." He realised...suddenly out of nowhere he realised...and his heart soared. "Are you sure?"
"I love you, Catherine."
His hand held the back of her head, fingers tangling in her silky soft hair, tilting her face to his, he needed this, needed her lips beneath his. Needed to take life-sustaining nourishment for his barren soul.
Her scent overwhelmed him and the tender contact of his mouth on hers was electrifying!
As their lips touched, all was lost. No more reason, no more denials, this was everything...this was the beginning...this was heaven...a gift...