CHAPTER EIGHT


It was dark and cold, but there was security in the hand holding hers and she wasn't afraid. Catherine looked up and smiled; serene and beautiful, her mother smiled back.

"You can't keep it, you know," a voice said. Cold and harsh, it echoed through the darkness. "You can't keep any of it."

The hand she was holding, her mother's hand, grew thin and slipped through her fingers. Frantic, Catherine turned and thrust out both hands, but it was no use. Her mother was gone.

"Mom?" she heard herself say, her voice small and plaintive in the darkness.

"Mommy!" another voice answered.

"Nick?" She spun around, searching for him.

"Mommy!" His voice was shrill with terror.

"Nicky!" Panic filled her as she groped her way through the darkness. A pool of light appeared in the distance and she stumbled toward it, shouting his name.

Nicholas stood alone in the center of the light. He wore his faded blue pajamas; his bear was held in a stranglehold under one arm. His face was streaked with tears. "Mommy," he sobbed. "Mommy."

"I'm here, Nick." She tried to reach for him, but an invisible barrier held her back. "I'm right here."

He didn't seem to hear her.

She pounded on the barrier between them. "I'm here, Nicky!" she shouted.

Disconsolate, chest heaving with sobs, he turned away. "Mommy," he pleaded one last time, and wandered away, utterly alone.

"Catherine, wake up." Vincent's voice penetrated only slowly. As she struggled back to wakefulness, she realized Nicholas's sobs were real, and that Vincent stood beside the bed with Nicholas in his arms. "Catherine," he said again, his tone urgent. "Wake up."

She struggled out of the tangle of covers and pillows and automatically fought to damp the terror sparked by the dream. "Here," she said, reaching out. "I'll take him."

Despite the vestiges of fear from the dream and fuzziness caused by sleep, her maternal instincts were affronted when Vincent shook his head and stepped away from the bed.

"No," he answered, almost harshly. "He's frightened, and you'll only frighten him more."

She opened her mouth to protest, and realized her heart was still racing, her hands still trembling from the images of her nightmare. She couldn't forget the small, distraught figure of Nicholas, turning away. She pushed her damp hair back from her face and concentrated on breathing deeply, on finding the calm center she'd clung to for so long.

It was getting harder and harder to reach that calm place, though, and Nicholas's sobs had wound down to the occasional shuddering breath by the time she felt centered enough to approach him.

She knelt beside the chair where Vincent sat with their son in his lap and stroked the narrow back with tentative fingers. "Nicky?" she whispered.

"Mommy," he said, and twisted around, reaching for her.

Vincent allowed him to come to her, and then took her arm, helping her to take his place in the chair. Nicholas curled in her lap, his arms tight around her neck.

"I couldn't find you," he said, his voice tremulous. "I looked and looked and I couldn't find you."

The import of his words struck sharply and she flinched. Vincent bent over them, his expression one of concern.

"My dream," she whispered. "I think he dreamed it, too."

Nicholas had a stranglehold on her neck and refused to even consider returning to his own bed. "No," he whimpered, into her neck. "I want to sleep with you."

She looked at Vincent, who nodded agreement, and carried Nicholas to the bed. Nicholas curled on his side, his back firmly against Vincent's torso, and grasped a fold of Catherine's nightgown in one determined fist. Then, as if simultaneous contact with them both soothed him somehow, he sighed and slept.

Catherine looked across his small, recumbent body and smiled. "He'll be all right now."

"This time," Vincent answered. He didn't return the smile. "Catherine, what did you mean when you said he dreamed your dream?"

She wished he didn't look quite so forbidding. She swallowed, trying to relieve a suddenly dry throat, before she answered. "What he said about not being able to find me. That's what I dreamed. The end of it. I could hear him calling me. I could even see him. But he couldn't hear me and I couldn't reach him. He wandered away, into the dark and I couldn't reach him." The memory made her shiver and at last Vincent reached out to her, his big hand cupping her cheek.

"Don't you see how you're hurting him?" he asked. "You have these dreams and they frighten him. Now he's begun dreaming with you. You can't do this to him."

"What am I supposed to do? Stop dreaming?"

"You have to try, Catherine," he said, more gently. "You have to talk about them. It's the only way to get past them. You know that."

She closed her eyes and shuddered, glad he hadn't taken his hand away. She rubbed her cheek gently against his palm, steadied immeasurably by his touch. "I dream of things that happened to me before. Of being in the car trunk up at Stoney Point before you came to rescue me. Of the water, and being trapped, and not being able to breathe."

"Is that always what you dream?"

She shook her head.

"What else?"

"Sometimes I dream of the van. They're holding me down; I can feel their hands on my wrists, my shoulders. The razor comes closer and closer..." She shivered. "Sometimes I don't wake up until after they've cut my face."

"What else?"

"Sometimes I dream about you. I know you're in danger but I can't find you. No matter how hard I look." She closed her eyes and shuddered. "Isaac and me in a cab, riding up and down the lower east side, looking and looking..."

He heaved himself up to lean across their son and take her into his arms. "It's all right now," he murmured into her hair. "None of those things can hurt you anymore. They're over."

"I know that. I keep telling myself. But they won't go away, Vincent. I dream them over and over and each time it gets worse. I haven't dreamed about those things for years, and I don't understand why I'm dreaming about them now. Or why they frighten me so much."

"Those aren't the things that frighten you, Catherine," he said gently. "You dream about them because it's safe. They're over now and they can't hurt you. It's the things you don't dream about that you most fear."

She was afraid to meet his eyes.

"Catherine?" he said softly, after a while. "Did you hear me?"

She nodded, feeling fragile and isolated.

"This man still looms as a terrifying figure in your subconscious," he went on. "Whether you recognize it or not."

His gentle persistence was wearing on her, grating against suddenly raw nerves. "I don't know, Vincent. Maybe. I don't want to talk about it."

Evading his hand, she scrambled up and out of bed. The air in the chamber seemed insufficient, the walls narrow and confining. Gasping against the tightness in her chest, she leaned against the nearest wall.

When Vincent caught her arm, she spun, trying to wrench it out of his grasp, but his hold was firm and he didn't let go. "Please, Catherine," he begged. "Don't do this to me. Don't shut me out."

"I can't bear it," she gasped. "It's crushing me, Vincent. Make it stop! Make it go away."

He caught one of her hands, pinning it between them. "Don't you know I would if I could?" he said. "But the only one who can vanquish this fear is you, Catherine. And in order to do that, you must face it."

"Face it?" Even to herself she sounded on the edge of hysteria. "Do you know what that means, Vincent? It means I'd have to go up there. Where he is. I'd have to face him."

He was silent, his expression unreadable.

"He's waiting for me, Vincent," she went on, fighting the panic. "He'll kill me. Don't you care about that?"

Something that spoke of deep, unfathomable loss flickered in his eyes and his hand that was holding hers tightened in a crushing grip.

She tried to wiggle her fingers and failed. "Vincent," she said, her voice small. "You're hurting me."

Only then did he seem to realize what he was doing. He released her and stalked to the far side of the chamber where he braced his hands against a table in an achingly familiar stance.

Fleetingly she wondered how Nicholas could sleep through all the turmoil, both verbal and emotional, that flooded the chamber, but a swift glance showed him utterly relaxed, one hand flung up over his head.

"Do you think I want you to go up there?" Vincent's voice was rough and half-angry. "Do you think I would rest if you were there?"

The anguish in his stance, in his voice, was unmistakable.

"No," she answered reluctantly. "I don't think that's what you want."

He spun to face her. "What I want, Catherine, is for you to be free of the fear. To be free of the nightmares." He gestured toward Nicholas. "I want our son to have a mother who is strong. Who can teach him to be unafraid." His voice softened. "I don't think you realize how much you've changed, Catherine. The woman I loved before was different. Brave and intrepid."

"That was before she spent six months in a room, treated as breeding stock," she flung back at him. "That was before she found out just how bad things can get. That woman is dead, Vincent. Gabriel killed her."

His gaze softened, but didn't waver. "You're wrong," he said. "That woman is the one who found her way out of an inescapable prison. She had the strength and the courage to protect our son and keep him safe for three years. She's still there, Catherine. She's been steadily fading these past weeks, but she still lives in you. But only you can bring her back."

"Maybe I don't want to," she retorted. "Maybe I'm tired of being brave. And maybe if the person I am isn't good enough for you anymore, you should just get out."

He froze, his eyes wide and incredulous. "You don't mean that."

"Don't tell me what I mean!" she shouted, infuriated beyond all control. "This is my chamber and I want you out!"

He drew himself up, cloaking himself in the reserved dignity she knew so well. "Very well," he answered. "But Nicholas goes with me."

Before she could react, he'd bent over the bed and gathered the little boy up in his arms. Nicholas roused enough to put his arms around Vincent's neck and went back to sleep with his head on his father's shoulder.

"You can't take him," she stuttered. "He's mine."

"Mine as well," he reminded her, his voice brittle. "You're overwrought, Catherine. You'll only upset him. I'll bring him back in the morning, when you're more composed."

Stunned, she watched him stride out of the chamber. Only when the sound of his footsteps faded did she think of rushing after him. But the vision of trying to wrest Nicholas away from him was horrifying. Nicholas would wake and probably cry; he couldn't help but be upset by such a thing. And even though it was late, there was always the chance someone might come by and witness the entire event.

It hurt dreadfully, but it was clearly best to let Vincent go for now. Nicholas was safe with him. She should try to sleep and in the morning they could sort things out.

The bed looked cold and lonely, so she collapsed into the chair, her face wet with helpless tears.

She was still sitting there when morning sounds - footsteps, increased tapping on the pipes, voices - heralded a new day. Her eyes were dry now, and gritty from lack of sleep. She should get up, get dressed, but she lacked the will to do so.

"Quiet, Nicholas." The voice in the corridor was Vincent's, muted but clearly recognizable. "People are sleeping."

Catherine sat up straight.

"Mommy's awake," Nicholas answered with confidence. "She needs me."

With the words, he trotted into the chamber and straight to her arms. She gathered him up without thought, burying her face against his neck.

"Oh, Nicky," she murmured. "I missed you."

"Me, too," he answered. "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she assured him. "Fine. Did you sleep well?"

"Yes," he answered. "But guess what?"

"What?"

"I went to sleep in your bed and I woke up in Daddy's bed!" He laughed in delight.

"Did you?" She tried to sound interested, but a tightness in her throat lent a deadly note of tension to the words.

Perhaps Nicholas picked up on it, because his delight faded and a small, puzzled frown puckered his forehead. "How come I was in Daddy's bed? I thought Daddy slept with us now."

Movement in the chamber entrance caught her eye and she glanced over Nicholas's head to see Vincent standing stolidly in the opening.

"No," she said clearly, defiance blazing through her. "Not anymore."

She knew he must have heard, as she'd intended him to, but Vincent did not react. Instead, he inclined his head gracefully. "Good morning, Catherine," he said. "Nicholas was concerned about you. Shall I leave him here, or would you rather come for him after you're dressed?"

"Leave him," she said. "He's fine."

Vincent tipped his head again in formal acquiescence and withdrew.

Nicholas wriggled in her fierce hold. "Mommy," he said. "Let go."

With a conscious effort she relaxed her grip, but kept him in her lap.

"Are you mad at me?" he asked.

She looked at him closely for the first time, but his expression was only mildly curious. "No, Nick. What makes you think I'm mad at anyone?"

"I feel it," he said, and shivered. "I don't like it when you're mad, Mommy."

"I'm sorry. I'll try not to be," she promised, and drew a deep breath, marshalling the calm that seemed so fleeting these days. "Better?"

He gazed at her critically and nodded. "I guess," he said. "Can we go to breakfast now? I'm hungry."

Catherine half dreaded their arrival at the dining hall. Would Vincent be there? If he was, would he expect them to join him? If she went to another table, what would Nicholas say? What would the others think? For perhaps the first time, she regretted the communal living arrangements that made one's private life virtually public.

She paused on entering the chamber and swept her gaze over the diners. She wasn't certain whether to be relieved or disappointed when Nicholas's observation confirmed her own.

"Daddy's not here."

"He probably had things to do this morning," Catherine said with forced cheer. "But look, there's Brian. We can go sit with him."

A helper had sent down a crate of fresh eggs and William stood by with omelet pan in hand.

"What can I fix for you, Catherine?" he asked. "I've got mushrooms from Mouse's garden. There's cheese. Oh, and Long sent me fresh, garden ripe tomatoes and onions and even a few peppers." He gave a broad wink. "I've been saving the peppers for those who might appreciate them."

Catherine forced a laugh. "Well, that wouldn't be me, William. I'm afraid I never acquired a taste for them. But an omelet with cheese and tomatoes sounds wonderful."

"Coming right up," William promised, and began to sprinkle the requested ingredients onto the eggs he'd begun cooking when she walked in. "And what about the little man?"

Catherine glanced at Nicholas, who was watching the omelet making with undisguised fascination.

"Cool," he said, as William expertly slid the steaming omelet onto a waiting plate. "Can I do that?"

"Afraid not, little guy," William said. "The pan's pretty hot. Wait a few years and I'll be glad to teach you."

"What do you want in your scrambled eggs, Nicky?" Catherine asked, to divert him. "Some cheese?"

Nicholas wrinkled his nose. "Yuck. I want ketchup."

It was Catherine's turn to express distaste. "Ketchup? On eggs?"

William handed over plain scrambled eggs without so much as flinching. "You've been spending time with Brian, haven't you, youngster?" he asked with a twinkle. "He's got the ketchup bottle right over there."

Catherine and Nicholas joined Natalie and Brian at their table and Catherine watched in mild horror as Nicholas proceeded to pour ketchup all over his eggs. Brian's eggs were already smothered in thick red sauce.

"I know," Natalie said, in sympathy. "Try not to look."

Catherine took the advice and cut into her own tender omelet. "When did they get a chance to compare notes on how to eat scrambled eggs?" she asked. "Nicholas never wanted ketchup before."

"Last week," Natalie chuckled. "I don't know where you were, but Vincent brought Nicholas to breakfast and they sat with us. We had eggs that day, too. Brian always eats his eggs that way, and Nick just had to try it, too."

Catherine glanced pointedly at Natalie's plate, which showed signs of having held a mushroom and onion omelet with no ketchup in sight. "Where'd Brian learn it?"

Natalie chuckled again. "From my mama. She eats them that way, too. So did I when I was little, but I got over it." She leaned back in her chair and sipped her coffee. "Where's Vincent this morning?" she asked. "He was in and out of here in about ten minutes earlier. Hardly took time to chew."

Catherine managed not to flinch at the question. "I don't know," she answered, trying to keep her voice casual. "We didn't talk this morning."

Natalie gave her a long, level look. "Didn't talk, huh? That's curious."

"Why?" Catherine heard the defensive note of challenge in her voice, and tried to dampen it. "I mean, why do you expect I'd talk to him?"

Natalie smiled. "Catherine, you haven't lived here very long, so maybe you don't know this, but we're like a small town down here. A very small town. There are no secrets. Everybody knows where Vincent's been spending his nights."

She felt heat rush to her cheeks and bent her head to hide it. "Oh."

"Everybody's really glad about it, too," Natalie went on. "Nobody deserves to be happy more than Vincent. Except maybe you."

The sincerity in her voice was too much. Catherine bent her head to hide the sudden rush of tears.

"Mommy?" Nicholas's voice was high with alarm.

"Your mommy's okay, Nick," Natalie said, her voice calm, even cheerful. "Geoffrey, could you sit with Brian and Nicholas until they're finished, and then take them to my mama?"

"Sure, Natalie," Geoffrey agreed, moving over from a nearby table. "Is Catherine all right?"

"Catherine's going to be fine," Natalie said. "Don't worry." She bent over and took Catherine's arm. "Come on. Let's get out of here."

Half blinded by tears, Catherine allowed herself to be guided from the chamber. The act of walking gave her a focus, though, and by the time they reached Natalie's chamber, she'd dried her eyes and regained a measure of control.

"I feel so silly," she said, sinking into a chair. "I made a spectacle of myself... crying like that in front of everybody."

"No one will think less of you," Natalie promised, filling her coffeepot. "As much strain as you've been under the past few years, it's surprising it hasn't happened sooner."

"Oh, it has," Catherine said with a strained half-laugh. "In the privacy of my chamber, thank you very much."

"And with Vincent to comfort you," Natalie guessed.

Tears prickled again and Catherine looked away.

Natalie stopped fussing with the coffee and sat down, reaching across the table to take her hand. "What is it, Catherine? What's wrong?"

Catherine shook her head mutely.

"You can tell me," Natalie coaxed. "Whatever you say, it won't go beyond that door over there. You know that."

"I do know," she whispered. "But I can't."

"Sure you can," Natalie told her. "Everyone needs to talk sometimes. I'm a good listener."

Catherine glanced up. Natalie's eyes were dark and soft and full of warm sympathy and she felt a sudden longing to pour her heart out.

"Last night," she began, "we had a terrible argument. At the end, I told him to get out."

"Oh." Natalie seemed nonplussed for a moment. "Well, you know, things like that happen in the best of relationships. People are different, that's all, they get upset, angry, say things they don't mean. There's nobody more forgiving than Vincent. If you tell him you're sorry, he'll tell you he is, too."

Catherine couldn't help a small, ironic smile even as she shook her head. "I'm sure he would. But it's more than that."

"More than that, how?" Natalie asked, caution creeping into her voice. "What happened?"

Haltingly, Catherine told her about the dreams, and about Vincent's conviction that she needed to face her fears. "He told me I'm not the same woman he used to love," she said, talking through tears that had begun flowing again as she described their quarrel.

"Well, I don't know about that," Natalie answered. "I didn't know you then. But Vincent would know, wouldn't he?"

"I know I've changed... he's different, too, in some ways." Anger dried her tears and she wiped her eyes impatiently. "It's unrealistic for him to expect me to be the same. And anyway, what difference does it make?"

"I doubt it makes any real difference to him," Natalie reflected. "From what you've told me, I think he's concerned about the difference it makes to you."

She stared at Natalie in puzzlement. "I don't understand."

"You told me he remembered you as brave and intrepid. You didn't contradict him, either last night or to me, so you must remember yourself the same way. But, Catherine, I think he sees these dreams, and the fear behind them, as eating away at your courage."

"Yes, I know," she said impatiently. "He's said that. Several times."

"Don't you see?" Natalie asked. "It's not changing the way he sees you. It's changing the way you see yourself."

Catherine struggled through the morning, watching Brian and Nicholas, washing clothes, giving Nicholas a much-needed haircut. Natalie's words haunted her at every turn. She tried to resist them. They weren't true, she told herself, and even if they were, what difference did it make? So she wasn't the same person she'd been four years ago. So what? People changed as they got older. She wasn't the person four years ago that she'd been three years before that. It was her father who had objected to that change. Because it threatened to take his little girl away from him. Vincent was just unhappy because the changes didn't suit him. Well, that was just too bad.

Except that she knew, in the deepest, truest part of herself, that Vincent only wanted what was best for her. What was right.

The question tormented her without pause, and after lunch she went to see Father.

"Good afternoon, Catherine," he greeted her. "How are you?"

His solicitous query reminded her that only yesterday, Vincent had sent Nicholas scurrying to his grandfather for safekeeping while she...

Relentlessly, she shoved the memory aside. "I'm fine, Father," she said defiantly. And then she remembered why she'd come, and her resolve faltered. "No. Actually, I'm not fine. Not fine at all."

He came around his desk and guided her to a chair, but she resisted his efforts to persuade her to sit.

"No. Please, Father. I just need..."

"Anything," he agreed. "Anything at all."

She swallowed. "To cancel my class this afternoon. If you could."

"Of course. Are you ill?"

She shook her head. "No. Not ill. Just... heartsick."

Her admission clearly unsettled him. "My dear. Please let me make you a cup of tea."

"Tea won't help, Father."

"No, but talking might."

She choked on a sob that was half a laugh. "I've talked, Father. I need to think. I need time to think."

To his credit, he didn't press her. "Very well, Catherine. I'll get word to the children. Is Nicholas all right?"

She stared, and then realized he was asking, in his gentle way, if she needed help with him.

"He's with Natalie," she said. "He's fine."

"That's good," Father said, and she could see he was at a loss as to what he should say or do. "He's a fine boy."

The thought of what she might be doing to Nicholas, if the things Vincent had said were to be believed, cracked through the implacable wall she'd put up. "I'm sorry," she managed, before her resolve finally broke. She rushed from his study and sought refuge in the privacy of her own chamber.

There, she curled on the bed and cried for a long time; tears of hate and anger, followed by ones of grief and loss. When her tears were spent, she lay quietly, gazing at nothing at all. After a while she grew chilled, and stirred to take a folded quilt from the foot of the bed and pull it over herself. It warmed her body as it couldn't warm her heart. She lay within its folds until the last candle flickered and went out.

She stumbled up in the darkness and groped for matches. She lit a fresh candle, and then another, and examined her reflection in the mirror. She looked gaunt and hollow-eyed, as if pursued by demons.

It must be past dinner, she thought vaguely, and then wondered for the first time why Natalie hadn't brought Nicholas to her. A reflexive spark of fear kindled, but was quickly doused by common sense. Father knew where Nicholas was; he would have told Natalie to keep him. Or Vincent had him. Either way, he was safe. She could be sure of that.

She washed her face in the tepid water left in her pitcher from the morning, dragged a brush through her tangled hair, and straightened her rumpled clothing.

Everything had finally crystallized for Catherine. The defenses she'd erected against the things Vincent and Natalie had said were washed away by the torrent of tears and she saw clearly what her conscious mind had tried so hard not to recognize. In the quiet hours that followed, she had come to face the stark reality of what she must do.

Tapping on the pipes told her it was not yet late enough for most people to be in bed, but curiously, she encountered no one on her way to Vincent's chamber. The entrance was dark and unwelcoming, though, and she didn't go in.

Father's chamber was nearby and it was possible Vincent was there. If not, it was equally possible Father knew where he was. But after she'd disgraced herself by weeping and rushing out, she didn't feel up to facing Father. Not with the other thing she had to do.

She turned into a tunnel that would take her to the Pipe Chamber. If Pascal didn't know where to find Vincent, then he wasn't to be found.

"He's in the Chamber of the Winds," Pascal told her. His kindly look told her he'd heard some of the gossip that must be flying right now, but he didn't allude to it. "Shall I call someone to guide you?"

She shook her head. She hadn't been there many times, but it had been only a week since her last visit and the route was simple enough. "I can find it," she said. "Thank you, Pascal."

Catherine had grown accustomed to cloaking her feelings in order to keep them from Nicholas, so she wasn't surprised that Vincent didn't sense her approach until she had him in sight. Then, despite her best efforts, something sweet and painfully poignant swelled up inside her, bringing tears to her eyes and Vincent to his feet. He stood halfway down the stone staircase, watching her.

She picked her way carefully down to stand two steps above him. "I came to say I'm sorry."

The guarded look in his eyes wavered, but there was still a note of reserve as he answered. "Your apology is not necessary, Catherine."

"Yes, it is," she insisted. "I said hateful things last night, Vincent. Things we both know aren't true. You didn't deserve that."

He inclined his head. "Very well. I accept your apology."

"There's more."

He seemed unsurprised, and she wondered if he already knew. He offered her a hand. "Come sit down."

"No." She shook her head. "I think I can say it more easily if I'm standing."

He waited.

"You're right, Vincent," she admitted. "About everything. I see that now. I have to go back."

His indrawn breath was sharp with pain. "When will you go?"

Panic fluttered and for an instant, Catherine wanted to change her mind, to stay here, where she was safe. She answered him quickly, before she could lose her nerve. "I thought... tomorrow."

He closed his eyes for a moment; when he opened them again, they were filled with a sorrow that mirrored her own grief. "Tomorrow."

Despite her fear, making the decision to go seemed to bring the peace that had eluded her for so long. Oddly, now that she'd capitulated, it was Vincent who seemed troubled. Catherine emerged from Nicholas's alcove, where she'd sat with him and sung to him until he fell asleep, to find Vincent seated in the big chair, staring at his hands.

"What is it?" she asked softly.

He didn't look up.

Certain there was something wrong, she knelt beside the chair. "Tell me."

His hands flexed and curled; the candlelight glittered off the sharp nails. "I have thought," he said, his voice low and harsh, "that I could take this burden from you."

She caught his meaning instantly, and covered his hands with hers. "No, Vincent," she said, and her voice rang with conviction.

His eyes were full of pain. "I could do it, Catherine." He swallowed. "I could spare you the fear. The risk."

"I know," she said. "I know you could. I know you would. But it isn't right."

"You know this man's guilt," Vincent argued. "To expose him is to risk your life. How do I bear it, Catherine, if the worst happens and I have done nothing?"

His anguish was almost palpable and she longed for the words to comfort him. "You've done everything, Vincent. You've helped me find the strength to do this. Helped me find myself, when I was so close to losing." She smoothed the thick mane cascading over his shoulders.

"I could find him," he repeated, as if he hadn't heard. The toneless quality in his voice scared her.

"And do what?" she asked, intentionally brutal. "Hunt him down? Like an animal?"

He flinched and she squeezed his fingers. Her voice softened. "He may be that, Vincent, but you aren't. You never have been. If you take it upon yourself to seek justice, you'll risk your sanity. Your humanity. What will become of us then?"

"You'd be free," he answered softly. "You and Nicholas. Free to find a new life or take back your old one." But his voice lacked conviction.

She brought his hands up and laid her cheek upon them. "Any life I try to think of for myself has you in it," she said. "And I know now that I can do anything, as long as I have you to come back to."


Continued in Chapter 9