White flowers in the moonlight etched shadows across the pale carved stone of an old park bench. Distant walls of light surrounded the dark presence of Central Park. Traffic hummed along the busy avenues which bordered the immense park and far away voices could be heard as they rose in excitement and laughter. On Central Park West someone shouted for a taxi and the fragrance of newly blooming shrubs and trees blended with the harsher odors of automobile fumes.
Clinging to the dark places which protected him, Vincent moved silently through the shadows, driven by a restiveness he could not identify. Usually, the living, breathing presence of the city satisfied a primal need as he absorbed its complexities, but tonight it left him singularly unfulfilled.
Staying close to the trees, he descended a grassy slope. All his senses were alert for the two-legged predators who roamed the park, stalking anyone rash enough to enter it after dark. Unless forced by circumstance, Vincent preferred to avoid confrontations with those predators and so he exercised caution. For him, the danger was both less and more; less because of his innate ability to protect himself; more because of the threat of being seen. The danger stimulated his senses; the element of risk added spice to his outings.
His steps took him past an ornately wrought iron footbridge and he stopped for a moment to gaze at it, remembering other nights when he did not wander alone. A trace of a smile crossed his face as he thought of his companion on those nights, and instinctively, his hand reached out for hers...
He gave himself a mental shake and moved on, going past the bridge and along a narrow path winding through a stand of trees. His cloak snagged on a tangle of underbrush and he paused a moment to free it before continuing. This path, too, was familiar and, without thinking, he held aside a low branch for the companion who was not there. Disquieted, he stared for a moment at his hand as it grasped the supple limb with its newly sprouted, pale green leaves.
"Catherine." It was no more than a breath as he released the bough, letting it swish sharply back into place. Whispering her name again, his pace quickened as he turned toward the threshold to Below.
Reaching it, he moved quickly through the tunnels which would take him home, breaking at last into an easy run as he followed a familiar path through the upper level of drainage pipes. He came to an ancient brick passage and followed it for a few hundred yards, finally turning into a short, narrow tunnel which had been painstakingly hacked out of solid bedrock. This short passage ended in a smooth, blank cement wall.
Reaching up, Vincent noiselessly sprung the catch which released the swinging section of wall separating his two worlds. He climbed the narrow secret stair on soundless feet and opened a second hidden door at its top. Tossing his cloak onto a hook inside the stairway, he entered the room and slid the door shut behind him.
Moonlight filtered through the sheer drapes over the french doors, bathing the room with silver light, and suddenly, the peace he had not found in the park surrounded him, filling him with a deep sense of contentment.
Catherine was asleep, curled gracefully on her side, her face illuminated by the soft glow from the french doors. She had pushed the covers aside and one bare leg drew his gaze. Her delicate silk gown twisted around her in a way that left little to his imagination. He stood motionless, watching; she stirred, reaching out toward the empty side of the bed. His heart, which had been little affected by his run through the tunnels, beat a little harder and faster as he looked at her.
Resisting the impulse to go to her, he went instead to the adjoining nursery. Charles slept peacefully, a miniature truck still in the relaxed grasp of his fingers. Vincent gently removed the toy and straightened the light blanket which covered the boy before turning to the crib.
Jacob slept on his stomach, his knees drawn up beneath him and his bottom in the air. Vincent drew a gentle finger along the child's cheek and bent to kiss him before returning to the bedroom, where he carefully closed and locked the door.
Crossing to his own side of the bed, he began to disrobe slowly, his eyes never leaving his sleeping wife. She rolled onto her back, completely relaxed in an attitude of unconscious abandon.
Discarding the last vestiges of clothing, Vincent surveyed his own nude body. For many years he had simply accepted his body as it was, only occasionally wishing to be... less different. More recently, he had learned to view himself through Catherine's eyes. Because she found him beautiful, he had begun to appreciate the way he looked. Catherine had told him, time and again, how she felt about his body... the wide shoulders tapering down to narrow hips, the definitive musculature of his chest, back, buttocks and thighs. She loved the soft golden down sprinkled across his shoulders, back, upper arms and legs, and the longer, thicker growth across his chest, spreading down to his stomach and groin. His lower legs and forearms, like his hands and feet, were densely furred, and she loved that, too.
Her own beauty as she slept in the moonlight drew him, and suddenly his heart and body ached for her. As he slid into bed beside her, she turned toward him, an arm going across him and one leg creeping between his.
"Vincent?" Drugged by sleep, she could barely articulate the word.
"Yes," he whispered in reply, the fingers of one hand brushing a stray wisp of hair back from her face. He kissed her lightly, moving from forehead to temple to cheek, his lips barely brushing her skin. She sighed when he reached her neck, moving closer as his hands began to caress her gently, creeping under the soft folds of her nightgown.
She was completely relaxed, more acquiescent than responsive, and he knew she still drifted somewhere between deep sleep and true wakefulness. "Catherine?" he whispered.
Eyes still closed, she turned her head and nuzzled the base of his throat. "Don't stop."
Encouraged, he resumed his gentle, loving exploration of the familiar planes and curves of her body.
"Am I awake?"
He smiled at the sleepy bewilderment in her voice. "'Dear love, for nothing less than thee would I have broke this happy dream...'" His mouth returned to her throat.
Her arms went around him. "'Thou waked'st me wisely; yet my dream thou brok'st not, but continued'st it.'" Her lips brushed his shoulder languorously.
His mouth moved to her ear and he whispered tenderly, "'Enter these arms, for since thou thought'st it best not to dream all my dream, let's act the rest.'"