A Winter Journey

by Kathy De


This story takes place a few months after Season 2. Vincent has recovered from the sickness that led him to the brink of death. 



Catherine sat quietly cuddled up beside Vincent in their favorite spot by the waterfall in the Chamber of the Falls. Vincent had just finished reading to her and they sat snuggling under a warm blanket. 


During his illness they had gotten much closer. Catherine had spent weeks by his bedside, working alongside Father and Mary to nurse Vincent back to his current state of health.


Since the kiss she gave him after her father died, she had tried to show him more physical affection. It was hard in the beginning; he often stopped her by pulling away. But lately, since his illness, he had been more accepting of her advances.


Now sitting here, spending a lazy morning together, Catherine felt especially close to him. She gazed up at him as he looked down at her. She gently pulled on his head bringing his face closer to hers. With a last look into his eyes, she placed her lips on his and gently kissed him. She waited until he relaxed and responded then she gently opened her mouth trying for the first time to deepen the kiss. He seemed surprised but soon relaxed again and followed her lead. She slipped her tongue into his mouth and gently explored its recesses. She caressed his fangs to show him that they didn’t bother her in the least as she waited for him to get comfortable with the new sensations he was experiencing. Vincent tentatively reached out and met her tongue with his. He gently caressed her tongue as she showed him what pleased her. 


Catherine’s heart leapt with joy. She couldn’t believe how far they had come in a single stolen moment. She moaned and moved in closer to him, gently moving her hand on his back as they continued to kiss. Vincent, again taking her lead, mimicked her and moved his hand caressingly up and down her back. Catherine turned slightly, unconsciously thinking he would take it as sign to move his hands to her breasts.  Her shirt had worked its way loose from her waistband and as Vincent’s hand began its descent he felt the soft smoothness of her exposed midriff. He jumped back as if he had been burned.


“I’m sorry, Catherine,” he stammered.


“Sorry for what, Vincent?” She shook her head slowly and blinked in confusion at the sudden loss of contact.


“I should never...” He got to his feet and began to pace.


“Vincent, I’m positive that you did nothing you need to apologize for; in fact, the only thing you should be sorry for is stopping. I enjoyed every part of our kiss,” she assured him, gently touching his arm.


“We must not, Catherine,” Vincent said quietly, turning from her.


Catherine sensed his anguish as he once again struggled to restore the physical barriers he normally kept between them. “Must not what? Show our love for one another? Vincent there is nothing wrong with physically expressing how you feel about someone. It’s perfectly natural. It’s what binds a couple together.”


“Then...you must not be bound to me.”


He had walked across the room and stood with his back to her so Catherine walked to him and placed her hand onto his back. “There are other ways to bind couples besides physical love Vincent. My heart is bound to you whether we ever get a chance to express our love physically or not.”


Vincent winced at the touch of her hand and once again walked away, effectively putting distance between them. “You should not have to give up physical love because you have chosen me. It’s unfair, Catherine, you give up so much already.”


She rolled her eyes at his latest argument. “Oh for Pete’s sake, I don’t give up anything more than any other person who is in a relationship.” 


“You should not be bound to someone who cannot give you what your heart desires,” he continued, choosing to ignore her comment.


“My heart desires you!” Catherine angrily got to her feet wondering what he was sensing through their bond.


“You should be free to find someone who can give you the family you desire.”


“There are all kinds of families Vincent. My family is with you and the people below.”


“What about children? I know you want to have children one day.” 


“There are children below that I can spend time with and we don’t know what can happen between us. In the future maybe we...”


“No!” Vincent exploded with a roar.


Catherine stepped back and blinked in surprise at his outburst. Anger propelled her forward again. “I thought you said if we go with caution and with care we would find our way to being truly together. Were those just words?”


“No, but back then I had control over my other self. Now I know that I cannot control the “other” part of me; I don’t know when I could lose myself again.” 

 

“Even when you were lost you didn’t hurt me!” 


“I can’t...no...I won’t take that chance,” Vincent stated emphatically.


“So where does that leave us? You won’t event try to move forward?”


Vincent couldn’t meet her eyes. When he spoke his voice was barely a whisper. “No.” 


“Then you are lost to me.” Catherine shook her head slowly in defeat.


“I should walk you home.” He bent down to pick up the blankets they had been using.


“You’re sending me away then?” 


“I’m...I...” he stammered, shrugging his shoulders helplessly then hanging his head in defeat.


“I deserve an answer, Vincent.” 


“Yes.” He looked dejected as he blanched under her angry gaze.


“Fine!” She spun angrily on her heel and marched out the chamber’s entrance. 


Vincent took a second to grab the picnic basket that had been packed with a lunch for them to share. He could hear Catherine’s shoes scuffing softly on the tunnel floor. She never glanced back as she made her way home. Catherine knew Vincent was following her and at the crossroads between his chamber and her threshold he stopped to set down the untouched picnic basket and carelessly toss the blankets on top of it. Catherine never stopped walking and Vincent lengthened his stride to catch up to her. When she heard his footfalls behind her once again, she spun around to confront him. “I don’t need your help Vincent, I know my way,” she spat out angrily.


“Catherine, I...” 


“Vincent, go home. This was your choice, live with it!”


He stopped. Her anger was at a level he had never experienced before from her. He watched her until she was out of sight and then turned and walked home.


**********


Catherine’s composure crumpled when she walked off the elevator and saw her apartment door. Tears flowed down her face and she choked on a sob as she worked her key into the lock. She slipped inside, closed the door behind her then slid down the length of it and sat down heavily on the floor. She lowered her head to her knees and let go of all her emotions then cried and cried. 


Jenny was in Catherine’s bedroom with the doors closed. She was borrowing one of Catherine’s gowns for a big opening she was going to attend tonight. She stopped when she heard a strange noise in the other room. She grabbed her sweatshirt and quickly pulled it on over her head. She cautiously opened the bedroom door and peeked out into the living room. When she saw Catherine on the floor by the door she flung the door open wide and raced to her friend.


“Oh my God Cathy, what is it?” Jenny worriedly put her arms around her friend.


Catherine turned her face into Jenny’s shoulder and cried even more. Deep gut wrenching sobs poured out of her. Jenny was actually scared; she had never seen anyone cry so hard in her entire life and certainly not Catherine, she was one of the strongest, bravest people Jenny knew. She held her friend as tightly as she could. Jenny even began to cry herself in sympathy for the pain Catherine was in. She wondered what or who could cause someone so much pain. 


Catherine took a shuddering breath and pulled away from her friend. She swiped at her eyes with the back of her hand. “Thanks, Jenny.” 


The two friends got up off the floor. Jenny went to the bathroom and brought the box of tissues back with her. She handed the box to Catherine and pointed to the couch. With a sigh Catherine walked over to it and sat down. Jenny took the opposite end and looked at her friend.


Catherine looked back at her friend in surprise. “What are you doing here, Jen?” 


“Borrowing a dress, remember?”


“Oh, that’s right. You have that...um...opening tonight. I didn’t realize you would be here.” 


“I’m glad I was here. Are you going to tell me about him?”


“Him? Who said it was about a him?” Catherine smiled she knew she wasn’t fooling Jenny.


“Cath, you’re my best friend, you know you can trust me.”


Catherine shrugged her shoulders helplessly and looked at the floor.


Jenny knew that Catherine had been hiding something from her, something she felt she couldn’t tell anyone. She decided she was going to get to the bottom of her friend’s dilemma. “Whatever this secret is...you’ve kept it way too long. It might help you feel better to tell someone about it.” 


“Jenny, this is the biggest secret I’ve ever kept in my entire life. If I told you and you repeated it some very special people could be hurt.” 


“Then I can’t repeat it, can I?”


Catherine looked at her best friend and sighed. She was so confused. She wanted to honor her word to Vincent but it was just so hard sometimes. She knew she could trust Jenny. “It would feel good to tell someone else...” 


“Well, I’m offering to be that someone else,” Jenny smiled.


After a long pause reluctantly Catherine began her story.


“Do you remember after I was attacked? When I was missing for all those days?”


Jenny nodded her head, thinking back to the horrible days that followed Catherine’s disappearance. . “Of course, your Dad and I were frantic.” 


“I know. I’m still sorry about that, Jen. Anyway, I was taken somewhere safe by a man I had never met before. I was unconscious, and his father who is a doctor took care of my injuries. He stitched my face and bandaged my ribs. When I woke up I was frightened, of course, until I heard this magical voice speaking to me, comforting me. The man behind that voice was my only connection to another person. He took care of me...fed me when I was hungry, read to me when I was scared, talked to me for hours on end. We became friends and I promised not to tell anyone about him or his world.”


“This guy sounds like a dream.” 


Catherine smiled at the faraway look Jenny had in her eyes. “Sometimes he seems like a dream. Over the past year or so we have grown so much closer, have endured so much. We share this incredible bond that allows us to feel what the other is feeling. It’s indescribable how connected we are to one another. I love him Jenny, with everything I am, I love him.”


“So what’s the problem, Cath?” 


“He doesn’t...he’s not able...” Catherine stammered as she took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. 


“Vincent is not able to live like you and I...his appearance prevents him....wait!” Catherine impulsively made a decision; thinking that she had something that would explain this better. 


She got up and went to her bedroom. She opened up a drawer moved her lingerie over and took out a picture. It was a picture of the second Halloween they had spent together. A vendor snapped it while they were out walking the streets of New York. She had paid the man an enormous amount of money and bought the whole roll of film, claiming she couldn’t wait to see the picture inside. She smiled and walked back into the living room and handed Jenny the picture.


“Here, look.” Catherine watched her friend closely to see her reaction. 


Jenny looked down at the couple in the picture. You could see in their eyes how happy they were to be together, how in love they were. As her silence stretched on Catherine became defensive.


“This is really what he looks like isn’t it?”


Catherine nodded and answered quietly. “Yes.”


“Oh my God! He looks just like in my dreams, but he’s way cuter in person...well...you know what I mean.” 


“What do you mean?” Catherine looked at Jenny in shock as she stared at the picture.


“Well...you know me and my dreams.” Jenny waved her hands dismissively through the air. 


“You’ve seen him before in your dreams?”


Jenny nodded to her friend with a big smile on her face. “Yes, with you.” 


“Why didn’t you ever tell me?”


“What would you say if I came to you and said I saw you dancing in a cave with a guy who looks like a lion? It was a dream, Cath, I didn’t think twice about it.” Jenny shrugged then laughed at how ridiculous it all sounded.


Catherine smiled and then joined in the laughter.


Jenny became serious again; she knew they still weren’t at the heart of the problem. “Okay, so now were getting somewhere...You’ve got this gorgeous guy you’re in love with and if his eyes are telling the truth in this picture, he loves you too...so what’s the problem?” 


“Vincent lives in a world that exists apart from ours. He and a whole community of people live is this world, together.” Catherine explained.


“You’re kidding.”


Catherine smiled at her friend. “No, I’m not. These people are like a family. They take care of one another, love one another. They are a true family in every sense of the word and they have become...my family.”


“So...you must go there often, why don’t you live there?”


Catherine shrugged in despair. “Vincent hasn’t asked me. He feels that I belong in my own world; that I could never be happy living in his world with him.” 


“Well, why not?”


“Because he thinks I should find someone who can give me a life without limitations. Marry him, have kids with him.” 


Jenny guessed that Vincent was just another guy afraid of commitment. “He doesn’t want the job?” 


“We’ve never...um, he’s never...” 


“You’ve been together two years and never...? Why not?” Jenny gaped in surprise.


“Vincent is afraid he would hurt me. He had some adolescent mishap with a girl and is afraid it’ll happen again.” 


“That’s crazy! We’ve all had awkward moments as teenagers. Do you remember when Billy Johnson bit my lip with his braces? It bled for hours.” Jenny laughed as she reminisced about her mishaps. 


Catherine smiled at the memory and continued with her story.


“Vincent was very sick recently. He struggles with a part of himself. This part of him is the one that protects him and those he loves from harm. He’s saved my life many times, Jenny. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.” Catherine continued telling her story as Jenny nodded in understanding. “I think he’s afraid he’ll lose himself in that other part if he and I become intimate. He’s afraid that the other part will hurt me.” 


“But you’re not,” Jenny guessed correctly as Catherine shook her head.


“Twice I’ve confronted that other part of him and twice Vincent has come out of it, come back to me. I don’t think any part of Vincent could hurt me.” 


Jenny was still confused about what caused the breakdown in their relationship. “So we still haven’t come to the tears part.”   


“Well, there’s even more. While Vincent was sick he had some horrible dreams. Dreams in which I become pregnant, I’m taken captive by some guy and he keeps me alive long enough to take Vincent’s baby and then he kills me. Vincent, like you has these...dreams and he thinks they may be a premonition. I’ve tried to reassure and we have gotten closer lately. I’ve been trying to ease him into a physical relationship, you know, let him get comfortable with each step. I guess I pushed too far today, because he asked me to leave. I suppose I just got tired of him pushing me away all the time. I mean, how much rejection can a girl take, right? We had an argument about it and he said he wouldn’t allow our relationship to move forward and then he sent me away.” Tears formed in Catherine’s eyes again as she related the story.  


“Wow, leave it to you to find the one guy in the world who doesn’t want sex all the time.” Jenny laughed trying to lighten the mood. “So what are you going to do now?”


With a sigh Catherine looked around the room. “I don’t know, maybe I’ll go to the cottage in Connecticut for a few days...maybe a week. I just need a break for awhile...some time to think.” 


“That’s great! I haven’t been there with you in ages. I have some time off. Want some company?” 


Catherine looked at her friend gratefully. “Really, Jen? That would be fun.” 


“When are you leaving?” 


“I don’t know. I have no reason to stay now; maybe I’ll pack and leave tonight.” Catherine decided impulsively. 


“I’ve got that show tonight. Why don’t I meet you there tomorrow afternoon?”


“Okay, that’ll give me time to get the place ready.” Catherine was starting to get excited about the prospect of a girl’s weekend away. She smiled and got up and grabbed Jenny’s hand.


“Come on, let’s find you a dress to wear then I can pack and get out of here,” She took the picture of Vincent from Jenny’s hand and glanced down at it and her mood changed again. She choked back a sob. “Jen, I don’t know if I can live without him.”


“Maybe this time away will give you a fresh perspective, Cath...Together we’ll come up with something.” 


Jenny found a dress and left for her opening, promising to see Catherine the next day. Catherine grabbed a suitcase, tossed in some clothes and toiletries and left for the cottage. 


********** 


Below, Vincent was in his chamber. He was extremely upset about the fight he and Catherine just had. He wanted to get away, hide, lick his wounds, so to speak, heal. He was tossing his things carelessly around, searching for something when Father walked in and noticed his unusual behavior. He watched until his son finally noticed him standing there. 


Father looked at him worriedly. The last time he had seen Vincent this upset was right before he became sick. “Vincent, what are you doing?”  


Vincent continued what he was doing and called back over his shoulder. “Looking for my journal.” 


“I meant what are you doing here?  I thought you and Catherine were spending the day together?” He was surprised Vincent was in his chamber, he wondered about the change of plans. 


Vincent continued ruffling through the books on a shelf. “Catherine has left.” 


“Oh, I’m sorry. She must have had...”


“She had nothing else.” Vincent angrily interrupted.


“Oh...um...” Father stammered.


Vincent looked at his Father and took mercy on him. It wasn’t his fault Catherine left. He hung his head in defeat. “We had an argument.”


Father nodded in understanding. “That explains it,” he thought. Trying to offer his comfort, he addressed his son. “Vincent all couples argue. I’m sure if you went to her tonight all will be forgiven.” 


“No Father, I sent her away.” 


“Why on earth did you do that?” Father wondered what prompted Vincent’s strange behavior. He again began to worry that Vincent was getting sick again.


Vincent exploded in anger. “Why did I do that? You’ve been telling me since the beginning that our relationship is a mistake. I would think you would be happy to see it end!” 


Father was taken aback at Vincent’s anger and shook his head wanting to try to explain his position on his son’s relationship. “Vincent, I know I felt that way at one time but Catherine is a wonderful person. I’ve come to love her like a daughter.”


Now that Vincent finally had a chance to voice his anger, he continued with his accusations. “Yet countless times you told me I couldn’t be with her, have a life with her, that it would be a mistake and that it was something I could never have. Well, now I have nothing...is this what you wanted?”


Father sighed. Vincent was extremely angry and he wished he was able to look at the situation more reasonably. He wished he could persuade Vincent to see his point of view. He knew that while Vincent was in this state he would not be able to speak with him. He angrily walked out the door, with this parting comment, “When you have decided you want to speak rationally with someone, you know where I’ll be.” 


Vincent found his journal. He sat down heavily in the nearest chair and held his head in his hands. At the sound of footsteps in the doorway he spoke out.


“I thought you left,” he growled, still looking at the ground, tears falling from his eyes.  


“Actually, I just got here.” Devin floated into the room and walked towards Vincent.


Vincent head shot up in surprise. He stood up and swiped at the tears on his face, his emotions were on a roller coaster. He waited for Devin to walk over and the two brothers hugged. 


“Devin, what are you doing here?” 


Devin looked at his brother in concern but knew from past experience to keep it light with Vincent until he was ready to talk. “I had some time. With Charles gone I thought I’d stay here, maybe hang out until Winterfest.”


Vincent nodded and looked back down at the floor. “Good,” was his only comment.


Devin knew that Vincent must have some big problem he was wrestling with. He decided to take a chance, “So, what’s up with you? You look like something’s wrong. Tell your big brother about it and I’ll fix it.”


Vincent shook his head dejectedly. “No one can fix this, Devin.”


Devin watched his brother in confusion. He had never seen Vincent act this way before. He decided to try to dig a little further. “I thought I’d bunk here with you tonight, if that’s okay with you?” When no answer came he continued. “Think Chandler will mind giving up her spot in your bed tonight?” 


Vincent whipped around to look at him with a startled gaze.


“Catherine and I do not...” Vincent trailed off softly, averting his eyes.


“Why the hell not?”


Vincent couldn’t discuss this with him he couldn’t stand the feeling he had of the walls closing in on him. He wanted to run, to escape the problems. “Devin, I need to go. I will be gone for a few days. The room is yours; you’re welcome to it.” Vincent grabbed his cloak and bag and hurriedly walked out of the room. 


**********


Devin set down his bag and stared at the spot Vincent had just left. He shook his head wondering what on earth could be bothering his brother so much. He went to find Father, if anyone knew what was wrong with Vincent it would be him. He walked towards the study and stopped just outside of it. He took a deep breath and with a smile on his face entered the room.


“Hiya Pops, I’m home.” 


Father’s head shot up in surprise as Devin came up and hugged him. “Devin, you’re here!”


“Yeah, just in time too I see.” 


Father stood back and looked at him in confusion. “What do you mean?”


“Vincent. You want to tell me what’s going on with him?” 


Father sighed, turned from Devin and walked over to his chair, sitting down heavily. “I’m not sure. I think he and Catherine had some type of argument.”


“Yeah...so...everyone argues.”


Father nodded in agreement with Devin’s statement. “That’s exactly what I told him. I believe it is more than that, I believe they have ended their...” 


“I’ve never seen two people more in love. Why would they do that?” Devin interrupted his Father positive that he was wrong.


Father looked down at the floor in embarrassment. “I think they have argued over moving forward with their relationship.” 


“What? What do you mean?” Devin sighed wondering how to get to the bottom of this.   


“I believe Vincent sent her away because of the pain he felt from their lack of a physical relationship.” Father tried to explain to Devin what he thought was the problem. 


Devin, not knowing the whole story of Vincent’s episode with Lisa, assumed the problem was with Catherine. If he realized it was Father, who since Vincent’s teenage years, constantly reminded him of the dangers of having a physical relationship with anyone; his boiling anger would have been directed at the man in front of him. Instead, he was seething and impulsively decided to take it out on the one person he thought was responsible for his brother’s misery.


“I’ll be back old man.” Devin angrily stormed out the entrance to the study. He turned to make his way towards the entrance to Catherine’s apartment.  He was going to give this woman a piece of his mind. How could she be so cruel? How could she use Vincent this way?


********** 


Devin’s steps took him to the threshold of her building. He made his way through the storage area and then carefully covered up the entrance. He hopped the elevator and went straight to her apartment. 


Despite the lateness of the hour, he pounded angrily on the door. Jenny was inside the bedroom picking up a case Catherine had inadvertently left behind. She walked into the living room after hearing the angry pounding. “Who can it be?” she wondered fearfully. When no answer came Devin pounded again.


“Open up Chandler I know you’re home; you want to explain to me what you did to Vincent?” Devin hollered angrily, not caring who overheard him.


“This ought to be good,” Jenny thought to herself. She too wanted to vent her anger. She had never seen her friend so devastated. She made an impulsive decision and opened the door, standing just behind it so the man outside could enter. Devin in his tirade stormed into her apartment, never noticing it wasn’t Catherine he spoke to.


“Look, I don’t know what kind of a game you’ve been playing with my brother but...”  He looked up and stopped when he realized he wasn’t speaking to Catherine. Instead he was looking into the dark eyes of a very angry woman.


“Who the hell are you?” Devin demanded angrily.


Jenny’s protective streak rose up and her eyes flashed angrily at Devin. “My name is Jenny Aronson. I’m Cathy’s best friend and I think Vincent is the one who’s been playing games.”


Devin looked at her with a sense of distrust. “What do you know about Vincent?” 


“I know he’s hurt Cathy deeply. I’ve never seen her or anybody this upset before.” 


With a shake of his head, Devin tried to settle down. He started to wonder just what was going on. He wondered if Vincent was the cause of the problem; he was getting a nagging feeling in the back of his mind. Feeling a little foolish he tentatively asked. “Where is Catherine?”


“Away for a few days.” Jenny purposefully gave him very little information. “Who is this guy?’ she wondered.


“I’m sorry for just barging in here and for my lack of manners. My name is Devin Wells, Vincent’s my brother.” 


“Well, come in and sit down. Let’s try to get to the bottom of this. Can I get you something to drink?” Jenny offered, as she pointed to the direction of the couch indicating to Devin he should sit.


He gave her one of his most winning smiles. “I don’t suppose she’s got a beer in her fridge?” 


“You know, I think I saw some in there. I’ll be right back.” Jenny walked into the kitchen. She came back with two beers in her hands, glasses resting upside down over the tops of the bottles. She handed one to Devin. 


“Thanks.” He took the glass off the top of the bottle and sat it on the end table to his side. He drank his beer right from the bottle while Jenny poured hers into a glass.


“So, are you staying here while Catherine’s gone?” 


“No, she called me. She forgot one of her bags and asked me to stop by and get it. I’m going to see her tomorrow.” 


“Any idea when she’s coming back,” Devin wondered, knowing Vincent would be gone awhile.


“A few days, maybe a week, she’s pretty torn up inside.” 


“Yeah, Vincent too; any idea what happened between them?” 


Jenny narrowed her eyes and looked at Devin closely. He seemed just as concerned as she was about the couple. She shrugged her shoulders and sighed then decided to take a chance.


“I think the pressure of not having...well you know...not...um...” she stammered embarrassed.


“Having sex?” 


Jenny rolled her eyes to the ceiling in exasperation. “I prefer the term making love...but whatever...I think the pressure got to them.” 


Devin angrily jumped to the wrong conclusion. “So Catherine didn’t think this day would ever come? Did she think they could just stay friends? He’s not gay for Pete’s sake. If she didn’t want to sleep with him she should never have strung him along.” 


Jenny’s jaw dropped at the attack against her friend and she couldn’t believe this guy was passing judgment without all the facts. Jenny sat up and stabbed him in the chest with her finger, getting angry again also.


“Look buddy, get your facts straight. Vincent is the one who won’t further their relationship. Catherine told me she has begged him for months to venture forth and he keeps pushing her away. She finally had enough today, they fought and he sent her away.” 


Devin looked at her in disbelief, certain she was wrong. “That’s crazy, why wouldn’t Vincent want to sleep with Catherine, he loves her, he would give his life for her.” 


Jenny looked at him disgustedly, clearly showing she thought it was a lame excuse. “Vincent gave her some crap about losing himself and hurting her.” 


 “Oh my God!” The truth was finally sinking in. Devin had no qualms about believing the story. This sounded exactly like something Vincent would do. He sighed then shook his head in disgust. “I guess I owe you and Catherine an apology. My brother’s an idiot!” 


“Yes, he is. An innocent idiot though.” Jenny smiled, giving Vincent the benefit of the doubt.


Devin laughed at her comment, thankful that she could be so forgiving. 


Jenny’s smile faded as she looked wistfully at him.  “I wish I could fix this for them.” 


Devin turned serious and nodded in agreement with her. “Where exactly is Catherine?” 


“At her family’s cottage in Connecticut.” 


“Is it kind of secluded there?” Devin wondered, his brain working furiously coming up with a fool-proof plan. 


“Very.” Jenny gazed at him in wonder as she hoped she was following along with his train of thought. 


“How big is this cottage?”


“Four bedrooms, two baths, full kitchen; its nestled in the woods on a forty acre estate.” 


Devin’s eyebrow’s rose in surprise at her answer. “Oh, a little cabin.”


Jenny was used to people’s reaction to Catherine’s wealth and she once again rose up in defense of her friend. “It belonged to her great grandparents.” 


“And you’re going there tomorrow?” 


Jenny nodded then added to her answer. “Yep, tomorrow afternoon.”


Devin quietly assessed Jenny and decided to take a chance and trust her. “You know what Vincent looks like, right?” 


Jenny looked him dead in the eye without flinching. “I’ve seen a picture, yes.” 


“What would you think if I could get my brother to come with me tomorrow and we drove there with you? Do you think we could get him there safely? Do you think Catherine would be happy if we surprised her?” 


Jenny smiled, she liked his idea, she was hoping to help and maybe this would be just what the couple needed. “I think she would flip.” 


“Do you think you could rent a van?”


Jenny shifted position and sat up on her feet getting excited as the plans unfolded. “I run a publishing company; I have one I could use.”


“I have to try to find Vincent. I think I know where he may have gone. Can I get word to you tomorrow if we can go?”


Jenny nodded and grabbed the pad of paper and pen that Catherine kept close to her phone. She quickly jotted down her telephone number.


“I’ll wait to hear from you. We can leave at 6:00. It should be dark enough by then.” She smiled, already thinking ahead of Vincent’s safety.


 “I agree.” Devin returned her smile. He wondered what made Jenny so willing to jump on board with him so quickly.


Jenny took the initiative again. “I’ll call Catherine, tell her something came up and that I’ll be late. She won’t question it and this way...if Vincent doesn’t show up she won’t be hurt again.” 


“I’ll find him, I promise. This is going to work.” Devin smiled at her excitedly as he got up from the couch. If it took him all night and a search party he would find Vincent and drag him out of hiding. 


Jenny stood when Devin did and she impulsively reached up and hugged him, grateful she had someone working with her to reunite the couple.


“You’re a good brother, Devin.” 


“And you’re a good friend. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Devin turned and walked towards the door, with one last smile as he left. 



**********



Devin walked below and headed for a place he knew was a few hours away. He made his way to a small cave Vincent and he used to hide in as kids. Devin found it one day and showed it to Vincent and together they made it into a cool hideout. Vincent went here often through his childhood when he wanted to come to terms with his differences.


Devin walked up and smiled when he saw the light shining inside. Vincent sat alone in front of a fire. Devin walked in and looked at his brother.


“I thought you might come down here.” 


Vincent looked up in resignation and then back down again, his answer to his brother was a shrug of the shoulders.


“You got a problem with Cathy?” When no answer came forth, Devin continued. “Think you can solve it hiding away down here?”


“It cannot be solved.” 


Devin ignored him and tried to get him into a better frame of mind. “Every problem has a solution, you know that.” 


“The solution is why I am down here; wanting to be alone.” Vincent wasn’t rude enough to come right out and ask Devin to leave so he hinted, never looking up, hoping Devin would catch on.


“Your solution stinks, bro...Come up with a new one.” Devin was starting to get angry. Why was Vincent wallowing down here instead of fighting for Catherine? 


“There is no other solution.” Vincent offered quietly.


“Ha, sure there is, sleep with your girlfriend.” Devin smiled to take the sting out of his words as Vincent’s head shot up in surprise.


Vincent was angry, why was Father discussing his personal business with Devin? “You’ve spoken with Father?” 


“No, Catherine’s friend Jenny, if you must know.”  


Vincent’s jaw dropped open in disbelief. Devin laughed and sat down on the floor next to him. “Close your mouth Vincent, you’ll get flies in there.” Devin was still laughing as Vincent’s jaw snapped shut.


Vincent looked at Devin in disbelief. He wanted to hear the whole story.  “How? When?”


“Tonight at Catherine’s, I went there thinking she was the cause of your problems. I went there to give her a piece of my mind. Instead her friend sets me straight and I found out the problem is with my stupid brother. Jenny and I decided to band together to fix it.” 


Vincent sighed and looked at the floor as he again lost all hope. “It can’t be fixed. I sent her away. I can’t feel her anymore, she’s blocked our bond. I’ve lost her.” 


Devin couldn’t wait to see his brother’s reaction to the bomb he was going to drop. “No, you didn’t and there is a way to fix it. Tomorrow night you, Jenny and I are heading to Connecticut.” 


Vincent looked at him incredulously.” To her family’s cottage?” 


“To her family’s estate,” Devin corrected, happy that Vincent didn’t fight him immediately.


“I tried to go once before...Father and the others convinced me it was just too dangerous so I cancelled the trip. Those same dangers still exist.” Vincent slowly shook his head, remembering why he backed out of the trip the last time. 


“There are three of us this time, besides is saving your relationship with Catherine worth the risk?” 


“Yes.” Vincent looked at him, all his love of Catherine clearly showing on his face. 


Devin laughed as he stood up and hit Vincent on the shoulder, encouraging him to get up as well. “Then let’s go get you packed and straighten out this mess you made.” 


“I cannot, the problem with our relationship will still be there.” 


Devin took pity on his brother. Who could this poor guy talk to down here? Certainly not Father who had ideas that originated in the Stone Age. As uncomfortable as it would be Devin was going to tell Vincent all about the birds and the bees. “Yeah, well you and I have all night to talk about how to make love to a woman.” 


“Devin, I hurt someone before, when I was younger. Do you remember Lisa? I tried to...” 


Devin didn’t like the sound of this. He never particularly cared for Lisa she was pretty flighty. “Little Lisa that pesky ballerina? What happened?” 


“I was holding her and she...became afraid... she tried to pull away. I tried to hold her tighter when my claws ripped into her shoulder.” Vincent sobbed hanging his head in shame at the memory of what he’d done.


“That must have been fun explaining it to Father when he stitched her up.” Devin smiled trying to lighten the mood, knowing Father must have blown a gasket. 


Vincent shook his head. “She didn’t need stitches; a bandage was all it required.” 


“Oh for Christ’s sake, then what’s the big deal?” 


“I hurt her, Devin. Father did see what happened and he warned me again and again that I should not pursue a physical relationship with anyone.” 


“Father’s an idiot. He had no right to say that to you.” Devin got really angry. How could his Father do this to Vincent? He made a mental note to have a little talk with his Father later that night.


“I hurt her, Devin!” 


“So what, I broke a girl’s bra clasp one time when I got over zealous. I jumped back and scratched her with my watch band, ha! Oh, and another time I was giving a girl a hickey and drew blood. We’ve all done stupid things in our adolescence, Vincent.” 


Vincent looked at him hopefully, a new calmness settling over him. Devin took note of the change and wanted to start to build his confidence.


“If you take your time and let Catherine lead you through everything, you’ll be fine.”


Vincent shook his head. “It may be too late.”


“She loves you. It would be worth it to find out, wouldn’t it?” When Vincent nodded, Devin continued. “Let’s go get you packed.” 


He and Vincent quickly doused the fire and made their way back to Vincent’s chamber.


**********


Devin had never unpacked so Vincent only had to put some things into a duffel bag and he would be ready. Devin joked with him and kept the mood light-hearted. At one point Devin’s constant teasing caused Vincent to throw a pillow at him and it hit him squarely in the face as he turned around. Devin tackled Vincent and sat on top of him on the bed holding him in a headlock rubbing his head roughly with his knuckles. Vincent was so surprised at Devin’s action he roared and wrestled Devin to the floor. Father drawn by the noise looked at his sons grappling on the floor.


Father stormed into the room angrily. “Do you two know what time it is?” 


“He started it,” they said simultaneously, each pointing a finger at the other then looking guiltily at the floor.


Father rolled his eyes into the air and shook his head.


“You’re feeling better, Vincent?” Secretly Father was happy to see his son was smiling again.


Vincent nodded shyly, not quite able to meet his Father’s eyes. “Yes, Devin has found a solution to my problem.” 


“Oh he has, has he? What pray tell, is this miraculous solution?” 


Vincent couldn’t answer him; Devin knowing it was from fear rose up to his feet and met his father’s eyes.


“I’m taking him to Connecticut so he and Catherine can work this out.” Devin braced for the roar that was sure to come out of his Father’s mouth. He wasn’t disappointed as Father exploded in anger.


“You’re what?!” 


“Do I have to repeat it or did you hear me but you just don’t like what I’ve said?” Devin looked defiantly at his Father, ready to do battle.


“Devin...” Vincent shook his head trying to diffuse the situation.


“The dangers...” Father angrily spat out.


Devin shouted to override his Father’s tirade. “Will be handled...you’re not going to bully Vincent again. We’re going tomorrow night. I’ll be there to take care of everything.” Devin effectively shut down Father’s arguments.


“Well, now I feel much better.” Father retorted sarcastically as he angrily eyed his son’s.


Devin sighed; he wished for once his Father would trust him. “You should know I would never let anything happen to Vincent.” 


“That doesn’t take care of their other problems, how do you plan on helping them with that?” 


Devin raised his eyebrows meaningfully; they both knew Father would never be able to convince him that Vincent was a danger to anyone. “The other problems will take care of themselves. If people would butt out and let nature take its course.” 


“Butt out! How dare you! I’ve only ever had Vincent’s best interests...” Father sputtered.


“Your best interest is destroying him.” Devin was angry again and shouted at his Father.


“We will speak about this in the morning when you have both had time to come to your senses!” Father stormed angrily from the room.


“Better make it early because we are leaving tomorrow night.” Devin shouted to his Father’s back.


Devin turned back to look at a distraught Vincent. “Hey bro, I’m exhausted let’s get some sleep.”


Vincent nodded and they both changed their clothes and retired for the night. They shared the bed, head to foot like they used to. Lying there in the dark gave Vincent the courage to ask questions of the one person in the world he knew he could talk to.


“Devin, maybe Father...”


“Stop! We’re doing this.” Devin grumbled as Vincent fell back silent. A good ten minutes went by before Vincent gathered enough courage to ask his question.


“Dev?” 


“Huh?” 


“What’s it like?” Vincent’s voice shyly came to him through the darkness. A huge sigh was emitted from the end of the bed. Devin knew how hard it was for him to ask the question so he took an extra second to before he answered. 

  

“Wonderful, and when it’s with the right person, incredible.” 


Vincent got up on his elbow and peered through the darkness to look at his brother. “You know me better than anyone,Devin; do you think I’ll hurt her?” 


“Honestly? No...I don’t. I think your love and your bond will protect you and her.” 


“But you can’t be sure?” Vincent was still so unsure of everything.


“There are no guarantees in life Vincent, but I know with everything inside of me that I’m not wrong. I don’t think you’ll hurt her.” 


After a few minutes of silence, Devin assumed Vincent had finally fallen asleep. 


“Thanks, Devin.” Vincent’s voice whispered through the darkness.


“You’re welcome, Vincent.” Devin smiled as he rolled over and fell asleep.


**********


The next morning Father walked into Vincent’s chamber. He looked at his two sons asleep in their bed. A smile crept on to his face. He loved both of them so very much. The smile faded as his worry took over again. He turned and walked away, his talk would have to wait.


Vincent and Devin slept late into the morning. Vincent stirred first and rolled onto his side.


“Aaugh...get your furry foot out of my face.” Devin groggily pushed Vincent’s foot away from him.


“Good morning, Devin.” Vincent sat up and greeted him happily.


“Uck, I forgot how disgustingly happy you are in the morning.” 


“I’ll get dressed and get us some tea.” Vincent literally bounced out of bed as Devin rolled over and went back to sleep.


Vincent left and walked to the kitchen. He explained to William that Devin was home and William provided Vincent with some extra strong tea and a plate piled with muffins. Vincent walked back to his chamber with the tray. He set the tray on the table and turned to the bed.


“Devin, I have your tea.” 


“Goody for you,” Devin grouchily answered as he pulled the covers up around his face.


“It’ll get cold.” 


Devin didn’t even stir so Vincent grabbed the covers and pulled them off his brother. The cold air had Devin awake and on his feet in no time.


“You drive me nuts.” Devin shivered as he grumpily got dressed.


Vincent poured the tea and handed Devin the extra strong blend William sent for him.


“Thanks.” Devin grumbled, he took a sip of tea then looked up at Vincent, noticed his excitement, and laughed out loud.


“You look like a kid on Christmas Day.”


“I...am excited.” 


They made short work of the pile of muffins William sent. 


“Man, I forgot how good these are,” Devin sighed in satisfaction popping the last bit into his mouth.


Vincent stood up and started some last minute packing. Father walked up and stood in the doorway waiting to be acknowledged.


Vincent looked up at him and smiled. “Good morning Father, come in please.” 


“Good afternoon boys. May I speak to you?” 


“Sure, if you want to speak to us and not at us.” Devin was not as quick as Vincent to forgive. 


“Devin...” Vincent warned, shaking his head no; he turned to his Father and offered a chair.  “Of course Father, sit down.” 


Father sat down heavily and sighed, unsure how to begin. “This trip you’re planning on taking...” 


Devin jumped in before this could go any further. “You mean this trip we are taking?”


Father narrowed his eyes at Devin in anger. “This trip you are taking...do you think it is wise?” 


Vincent nodded and looked at his Father. “I think it is necessary. I must see Catherine, Father. I must speak to her.” 


“Vincent, you must be careful...” 


“Father, Devin and I have spoken about the risks...” 


Father grew angry again. “Oh, how nice, Devin has spoken to you...” 


“Yes, I have. His fears are groundless. I don’t think he will hurt her.” Devin was not going to back down. 


“You don’t think...” Father stammered. 


Vincent raised a hand to stop their argument. With a sigh he turned to his Father in hopes of smoothing over his ruffled feathers. “I finally agree with him, Father. It is worth Catherine’s happiness to try.” 


Father looked at his son and hoped he wasn’t being pressured into doing something that would push him over the edge. Only Vincent knew how hard it was to maintain control of the “other side” of his personality. Everyone else could only guess. Father knew Vincent would do anything to please Catherine and he admitted reluctantly, to please Devin. “Is this what you want too, Vincent?” 


Vincent looked at his father, his eyes filled with desire. “More than anything Father.” 


“Fine,” Father sighed, giving up the fight. He knew he was outnumbered and that Devin would win. He secretly hoped all would work out for Catherine and Vincent. He would pray for them both to come through this all right.


“How will you travel?” Father wondered who had arranged the plans.


“Catherine’s friend Jenny has a van,” Devin smiled at his Father. He was pleased the old man was trying to go along with the plan. He knew how hard this was for him.


Vincent and Father sat simultaneously wondering the same thing, Vincent turned to Devin to voice his question. “I’ve been meaning to ask you, Devin. How did you meet Jenny? How does she know about me?” 


Devin laughed in memory at the way he stormed in on her. “I went to Catherine’s to talk to her about you. Jenny answered and promptly told me the real facts behind your argument. We put our heads together and came up with this. How Jenny found out about you is a question for Catherine to answer.” 


“I’m glad Catherine has someone on her side of the river now, Father,” Vincent said knowing his Father would understand what he was talking about and hoping it would diffuse Father’s anger about finding out that Catherine had given away their secret without consulting anyone first.


“I am too, Vincent,” Father clasped Vincent’s hand in his own. Father gave Devin a meaningful look and hoped he would pick up on what he wanted.


Devin nodded and looked over at Vincent. “Is there any more of that tea, Vincent?” 


“I’ll go and get you some, Devin. Would you like some as well, Father?” 


Father nodded with a smile at his son. “Yes Vincent, though please, not as strong as Devin likes.” 


Vincent left the room and Father turned to Devin. 


“Thank you Devin, I wanted to speak with you alone.”


“What is it old man?” 


Father looked at him with fear in his eyes. “Please bring him back safely.” 


Devin shaken at the look in his Father’s eyes rushed to reassure him. “I will, Dad.” 


“And Catherine...just make sure she is safe. If anything should happen to her...” 


Devin with a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous smile tried to lighten the mood. “You worry too much.” 


“And you don’t worry enough,” Father shook his head, smiling at his son.


Vincent returned quickly and Devin looked up at him.


“Look, I’ve got to call Jenny and tell her we’re all set to go. I’ll be back in a little while.” Devin got up and grabbed his coat and walked out.


Father looked over at Vincent as he paced the room and laughed at his nervous energy.


“You still have a few more hours, Vincent why don’t we go to the study and play some chess.”  


“I don’t think I can concentrate on anything right now. It won’t help.” 


“It might, let’s try shall we.” Father got up and walked out the door. Vincent shrugged and followed him out. He knew the wisdom in trying to take his mind off of his trip, but Vincent was too excited.



**********


Devin walked above and quickly found a phone booth. He hoped Jenny was there as he dialed the phone number she had provided. He stood and watched people pass as he waited for her to answer. 


“Jenny Aronson,” her voice answered on the first ring. 


“Hi Jenny, its Devin.”


“Hey, how’d it go? Did you find him?” 


“Yeah, we’re all set. How are things on your end?” 


“Perfect. I called Catherine and told her I’d be a little late and the van’s all ready. I put a ton of blankets back there for Vincent to sit on or hide under if need be. I just need to go to a grocery store. There’s only a small market up there and Cathy will never have brought enough food to feed two hungry men.” Jenny laughed.


“Hey you’re hauling our butts out there; let me take care of the food for everyone.” 


“Really? That would help thanks. Well, then everything’s ready, where should I pick you up?” 


“There’s an entrance to our tunnels on Fourteenth Street. There’s a little camera shop on the corner. We will be in the alley behind it; that will be the safest.” 


‘Okay sounds good. I’ll meet you there at 6:00.” Jenny smiled as she hung up the phone. Things were going perfectly.


**********


Devin walked to store not far from where he had told Jenny to meet them. The man that used to run this store was a helper and Devin wondered if he was still there. It was ingrained in the tunnel people to use their helpers any chance they could get and if he had to buy groceries he would give his business to this store. He walked up to the elderly man at the counter.


“Hi Stan, do you remember me? Devin?” 


The old man stared at him for awhile then his face broke out into a grin.


“Devin, of course; you’re that rascal that always had so many adventures. You gave Father all the gray hair.” He winked at him conspiratorially.


Devin laughed and shook Stan’s hand warmly.


“What can I do for you, Devin?” 


“Vincent and I are going away for maybe a week. I need some food to take with us. We’re meeting two people so they’ll eventually be four of us.”


“Are you meeting Catherine?”


“Yes.” Devin smiled at him in wonder. 


“She stopped in here before she left; she said she and a girlfriend were heading to her family’s cottage, she didn’t mention anyone else.” 


Devin laughed. “Yeah, well she doesn’t know her friend is bringing guests.” 


“I’ll get you everything you need. I even have some coolers for you to borrow for the cold stuff. Everything will be at the tunnel entrance; you can pick it up there.” 


“Thanks, Stan.” Devin was reaching into his back pocket and taking out his wallet, intending to pay when Stan put out his hand to stop him.


“Devin, No!” Devin looked up in surprise and confusion.


“It’s embarrassing to admit how much money Catherine sends me every month to help those below. I have to carefully slip extras in every week so Father doesn’t suspect anything. William loves it but it’s still not enough. Please let me get everything together no charge...Please!” 


“Thank you, Stan for your generosity.” Devin smiled and nodded, accepting gratefully the things Stan offered.


“Thank Catherine; she’s a special little lady.” 


“I’m learning that.” Devin smiled as he turned and left the store.


He began to walk home and walked past a clothing store that had once belonged to a helper. He stopped in front of it and looked up then decided to take a chance and went inside. He walked in and noticed a blond talking on the phone behind the counter. He was hoping to see Mrs. Blackman, the older woman who used to run the place. “Geez, Devin, she’s got to be in her eighties by now,” he thought to himself. He browsed through the men’s department. He was holding up a man’s shirt when the blond from behind the counter walked up.


“Devin?” 


He turned in surprise and looked at her nodding his head in acknowledgment. 


“Dump’em Devin.”


“How did you...Connie? Cutsey Connie?” Devin laughed, finally recognizing her. She was the girl that at fourteen he thought he would marry one day. 


The old friends hugged warmly. 


“What are you doing here? How long are you staying?”


“I’m visiting. I’ll probably stay through Winterfest.” 


“Are you working here now?” He looked around the shop for somebody else. 


“Yes, Mrs. Blackman hired me after business school, even at the age of eighty-six she still works here on weekends.” She shook her head in amazement. “What about you? What have you been up to?” 


“Traveling mostly.” Devin evasively answered. 


“Nothing has changed then, you still want to see the world.” She smiled fondly. He nodded shyly then continued.


“So did the best kisser in the tunnels ever get married?” he wondered changing the subject.


“Yes, I did. I’ve got four kids; three rambunctious boys that could give even you a run for your money and finally a sweet little girl who’s an angel.” Connie laughed at the look of disbelief that crossed his face.


“Four, wow!” He laughed not even being able to comprehend her lifestyle.


Connie glanced at the sweater in his hands. “Are you looking for something special, Devin?” 


“Some clothes for Vincent. We’re going away for a few days. I thought I’d try to get him something new.” 


“And you picked this? He won’t be able to get his arm into a men’s large. You’re hopeless. Come on I’ll help. Where are you going?” 


“Catherine’s cottage in Connecticut.” 


“You’re kidding?” She smiled widely.


“Nope.” 


“Oh Devin, that’s great. If anyone deserves it he does. Let’s go over there,” she directed him to the big and tall section. 


She walked to a table of folded thermal shirts. She dug through them and grabbed three different colors and giggled with excitement as she tossed them individually at Devin.


“This one will go great with his hair color, and this one will bring out those gorgeous blue eyes of his and this one...well...this is just a good color. What do you think?” 


“He has blue eyes?” Devin blanched under the question.  


She rolled her eyes and walked over to the jeans. She looked through them and finally found a pair and added them to his pile. 


“These should fit him, too bad there’s only one pair.” She was disappointed but walked over to a cubby hole and quickly grabbed two pair of sweatpants off the shelf. “How about some sweatpants instead?” 


“Hey Connie, wait! I can’t afford...” Devin shook his head in response to the clothing she was throwing at him.


“Devin, I can’t take any money from you...” she interrupted, then continued.

“...especially for clothes for Vincent, If I could tell you how much money Catherine has spent here for clothes for the children it would blow your mind. At least four times a year we send clothes below with a story to Father about how they won’t sell or they’re seconds from the manufacturers that we got for a good price. Thank God he doesn’t know anything about current fashions or he’d see right through the story,” she laughed.


“Even so...” Devin shook his head not wanting to take advantage.


“Devin please, Mrs. Blackman would fire me if I charged you. Now, how about a coat, he can’t walk around in that cloak all week...and oh yeah...I forgot I have a pair of boots that just came in. The factory sent the wrong size, really! I’ll never be able to sell them they’re huge!” she smiled. 


“Okay, but that’s it. Hey, you know what? Let me at least buy a duffel bag to pack it all into.”


“Okay, that I’ll agree to.”  


She rang up the clothing for inventory’s sake and then carefully folded and placed them all in the bag Devin bought.


“Thanks for your help, Connie. Will I see you at Winterfest?”


“You bet. I’ll be there with Tom and the kids. Every year we bring candy canes and Tom dresses up like Santa Claus and passes them out to the kids.” 


“Well, I’ll see you then.” He turned and left the store and made his way to the tunnels.


**********


Father was doing the unthinkable against Vincent!  He was winning a game of chess! Vincent, whose mind was elsewhere, was struggling to move his chess pieces correctly.


“Vincent, your bishop cannot move like that.” Father reminded him as he shook his head.


“Oh yes,” Vincent put the bishop back into place and moved his queen instead.


“Well, you’ve now set me up so that I may capture your queen; with my pawn no less. Maybe we should just give this game up?” Father suggested.


“Huh?”


“Never mind.” Father looked up as Devin walked into the chamber.


“Hey, are you ready? We have to leave soon you know,” Devin teased. 


“I hadn’t realized that,” Vincent smiled at his brother, sarcastically answering him. 


Father stood and looked at the two men in front of him. “Where had his little boys gone?” he wondered. 


“Go with care my sons.” Father blinked as tears came to his eyes.


“Father, don’t worry, we’ll be fine.” Vincent stood and kissed his Father goodbye.


“He’s right, Pops! I won’t let anything happen, I promise,” Devin vowed as he too, kissed his Father goodbye.


**********


Vincent and Devin walked to Vincent’s chamber to pick up their duffel bags on their way up top.


“Hey, this is yours, Merry Christmas.” Devin laughed as he threw the new duffel bag at Vincent, hitting him squarely in the chest.


“What’s this?” 


“You blew it so badly with Catherine, I thought you might like to greet her with some new clothes on, you know, show her you’re worth all the trouble you caused.” 


Vincent stared at him in wonder. He opened the bag and looked in disbelief at the numerous items packed away inside. Vincent shook his head humbly. He had never had so many new clothes in his life. “Devin, I don’t know what to say.” 


“I do...Thanks! Now hurry up, put on something new so we’re not late. Try this one on Connie said it would go good with your blue eyes,” he teased in a lilting voice as he picked up the shirt she had indicated earlier.



**********


Vincent made record time changing his clothes. He repacked what Devin had bought him and the two were on there way. They stopped at the entrance below Stan’s store and looked at all the groceries he had set there. Vincent and Devin were astonished.


“Devin, we can’t carry all this food. How long were you planning on staying?”


“Let’s borrow this trolley and unload it at the meeting place. You can run the trolley back while I wait for Jenny. This way when she comes I can start loading the van.” 


They walked the short distance to the meeting place. They unloaded the trolley and Vincent left to return it to Stan’s. Meanwhile Jenny pulled up and Devin walked out to meet her. 


“Hey sweetie,” Devin smiled as Jenny hopped out of the van. 


“Hey yourself. Is all this going?” Jenny eyed the stash in disbelief. 


“It’s mostly food; our clothes are only in these three duffel bags.” 


“You two better eat a lot,” Jenny laughed.


Vincent returned and Devin had already started to load the bags; in fact he was practically finished. For the first time shyness overcame Vincent and he pulled his hood over his head.


Devin looked around the area. “Okay Vincent; coast is clear, let’s go.” 


Vincent hesitated and Jenny walked over to him. She looked directly into his eyes and smiled.


“Hi Vincent, I’m Jenny; I can’t leave without you because there is no way Catherine and I can eat all that food by ourselves,” she laughed as she reached out and grabbed his hand. She didn’t look back as she led him to the side of the van and opened the door. 


“Hop in, I hope it’s comfortable.” 


“Jenny, it’s perfect,” Vincent assured her. “And it’s very nice to meet you,” he said quietly as he got into the back and settled down on the pile of blankets she had provided. 


“Wow, what a voice,” Jenny thought to herself as she shut the door to the side of the van.


Devin came up along side of her and offered his services. “I’ll drive if you want me too?” 


“Okay, thanks, it’ll give me and Vincent a chance to talk,” Jenny smiled as she handed him the keys.


Devin turned and opened her door for her then closed it after she got in. He walked to the driver’s side whistling a merry tune. He let himself in and started the car.


“We’re on our way!” He smiled as he pulled away. 


**********


A light snow had started to fall, traffic was amazingly light and they made good time getting out of the city. Devin kept them entertained with stories of his adventures and Jenny laughed at the easy banter between the two brothers. They were about an hour away from the cabin when the snow increased and Devin had to slow down to accommodate for the poor visibility. They fell silent so Devin could concentrate as they inched their way toward the cabin. The snow fell steadily and in a short time a fair amount had accumulated on the ground. The snow continued and Jenny decided she should call Catherine. Devin pulled up to a pay phone and Jenny leaned out the window and dialed the number.


“Hello.” Catherine was sniffling as she answered the phone.


“Hi Cathy, it’s me,” Jenny said.


“Hi Jen, Where are you at?” Catherine was quietly, trying to hide the fact that she was crying.


“About forty five minutes away; Cath are you okay?”


Catherine sighed on the other end; she didn’t want to ruin her friend’s weekend. 


“I don’t know Jen; I guess I’m just feeling sorry for myself. Vincent got over it pretty quickly he’s been excited all day.” Catherine started to cry again.


“Oh honey; don’t cry, not now. I promise things will be better once we get there,” Jenny blurted out upset Catherine was crying.


“What do you mean we?” 


“Oh damn!” Jenny thought, now what should I say.


“I um...I ran into two friends and invited them to come along.” 


“Oh Jenny, how could you! I don’t want to meet anyone!”   


“Cathy, I promise you’ll love these two. Trust me. I would never bring someone there that we couldn’t get along with. Now dry your eyes and get the other beds made up we’ll be there soon.” 


“Well, what’s done is done so...” Catherine sighed resigning herself for company.


“I’m sorry Cathy; but it will be all right.” 


“You’re probably right. It might do me some good to see fresh faces.” Catherine smiled as she tried to get into the spirit of the weekend. She had never been able to stay mad at Jenny.


“That a girl, we’ll be there shortly.” Jenny hung up the phone.


“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea; she’s been crying all day.” Vincent hung his head in shame.


“How do you...oh, that bond thing? She said you were over her because you’ve been excited all day.” 


“Well, she’ll be smiling all night once we get there,” Devin reminded him.


“I’m not so sure.” Vincent shook his head.


“Vincent, it’ll be fine,” Jenny added.


They snow had slowed again and they made good time. They were less than a mile from the cabin when Devin stopped the car.


“Uh, oh!” Devin stared at the road ahead. 


Jenny followed his eyes and ahead in the road, saw police cars with their lights flashing and the road blocked. Devin made a quick decision to pull into a little convenience store to find out what was going on. He stopped a young kid walking to his car.


“Hey, you know what’s going on back there?” he asked indicating with his head the roadblock behind them.


“I don’t know, dude. They’re searching cars, its bogus man. They took my beer,” the teen railed.


“Thanks.” Devin smiled as got back into the van.


“Now what?” Jenny wondered.


Devin was used to thinking quickly under pressure. “Where’s the cottage?” 


“Just around that next curve, we’re less than a mile away.”


“Vincent and I will walk through the woods; you get to the cabin and get that fire roaring. Oh and make us some hot chocolate, we’re going to need it. Sound like a plan to you, Vincent?” 


“Devin, I can make it myself. You don’t need to walk with me.” Vincent knew he could make it on his own. He didn’t want Devin to be inconvenienced as well.

 

“Are you crazy? If something happened to you the old man will kill me. We’ll go together.” Devin pulled the van around into a shadowed part of the parking lot. The side door of the van was next to the woods and Vincent would be able to get out and take one step and be under cover. 


“Be careful,” Jenny warned as they exited. Devin smiled and waved his hand.


Jenny turned the van around and continued to the cottage. She got stuck waiting in line for the police blockade. 


**********


Devin and Vincent trudged through the snow in the woods. It was less than a mile but the going was tough and they were taking a long time. It was getting colder and the two of them started to walk faster. They were on the very edge of Catherine’s property when Vincent, distracted with thoughts of Catherine lost his footing and slid down a hill and onto the frozen lake. The ice creaked and moaned under his weight. Devin who had watched in horror as Vincent fell also saw him hit his head against a rock on the way down.


“Are you okay, Vincent?” Devin called to him from the top of the hill. No answer came back so Devin called out again.


“Come on brother answer me,” Devin demanded. “DAMN” he thought.


**********


Meanwhile Jenny pulled up the van in front of the cottage. It had taken her a long time to get through the roadblock and she assumed the guys were here already. She hopped out and went to the door. Catherine opened it as she walked up.


“Am I forgiven?” Jenny laughed as she hugged her friend.


“Yeah Jen, you are. Where are your friends?” 


Jenny’s face fell instantly. “You’re joking right?” 


“No Jen, I’m not. Where are your friends?”  


“Cathy, my friends were Vincent and Devin,” Jenny said dropping her bombshell.


“What? You’re kidding me!” 


“No, I’m not. I had to drop them off by that little store because of some roadblock. They were going to walk through the woods. It took me so long I figured they were here already.” Jenny became very worried and looked at Catherine for help. Catherine searched the bond for any type of sign.


“Something’s wrong Jen I can feel it. Come on, we’ll get the snowmobiles and go look for them.” Catherine grabbed her coat, hat and gloves and headed out.


Jenny grabbed her hat and gloves from the seat of the van and followed Catherine to a barn where the snowmobiles were kept. They started them up and took off in the direction the guys should have been walking. They were not far when they saw Devin standing at the top of the hill. He waved to them as they came over. 


“Devin....” Catherine jumped from the snowmobile. Immediately reading her mind; he interrupted.


“He lost his footing Catherine, he’s down there. Look I need two extra long ropes and something that I can use as a pulley,” Devin said as Catherine looked down at Vincent who remained motionless.


“Everything we have is in the shed. Jenny go back with him and show him where it’s at...I’ll stay here with Vincent.” 


The couple took off a top speed and headed back to the shed. Catherine went to the edge and called down to Vincent.


“Vincent, can you hear me?” 


Vincent, who had been unconscious, responded to her voice and moved slightly. The ice creaked and groaned under his slight movement. Freezing water formed puddles around where he lay. Catherine screamed out to him.


“Vincent, don’t move! Please don’t move. You’re on a lake that’s iced over but the ice is weak and ....oh God; just don’t move!” 


Vincent hearing the urgency in her voice responded to it and listened carefully to her words. 


“I won’t, Catherine,” he said quietly. Somehow she heard him and called back.


“Devin and Jenny went to get some ropes; I promise we’ll get you out of this mess.” 


It was only a few minutes before Catherine heard the sounds of the snowmobiles returning. Devin was now on the all terrain vehicle from the barn and had several ropes from the shed and Jenny had thoughtfully grabbed some blankets and put them on the snowmobile. Devin leapt off his machine and looked down at Vincent.


“Did he wake up?” Devin wondered.


“Yes. Devin the ice is cracking under his weight, every time he moves.” Catherine rushed to explain his predicament. 


Devin sighed and thought quickly. He made two huge loops; one to slip over Vincent and the other to wear himself. He tied the ends to the ATV and walked over to the edge.


“Listen I have to go down there to slip this on him. Once we’re secured one of you drive the ATV the other make sure the rope stays in place; the machine will have to lift him up the hill.” 


“You can’t go down there your weight will break the ice for sure. Besides we need you up here in case something goes wrong; Jenny and I can’t pull either one of you up. I’ll go.” Catherine grabbed one of the ropes from him.


Devin looked at her and shrugged. She had made sense and he really had no argument. If she was willing, her way would probably be the best.


“Okay, listen. On the very edge there is a small bank that you can stand on, it should be solid. Throw the end of the rope out to Vincent, he should be able to get it around his neck and shoulders, once we get him off the ice he can always reposition it to get up the hill. Make sure the rope is secure if he falls in he should be able to follow it to know where the air hole is. I wish I knew how deep...” 


“It’s not deep at all Devin, maybe eight feet,” Catherine said.


“Good that will help. Do you understand everything? Do you have any questions?”


“No, let’s go! He’s freezing.” Catherine put one of the ropes around her and took the other one in her hand. 


She fell to her butt and carefully slid over the edge of the hill. Devin was correct and there was a small edge for her to stand on. Catherine threw the rope to Vincent but when he went to reach for it the ice cracked slightly. More freezing water poured through the cracks and he was now lying surrounded by water. 


Catherine saw what was going on and called to him in a panic. “Vincent, stop! Let me try to get it closer.” 


Catherine tried a few more times and it finally landed on top of him, He was so cold he was having trouble gripping the rope with his hands. Catherine could see the crack deepening and began to get desperate. She inched her way out onto the ice to help him. 


“Go slow Catherine....real slow...” Devin shouted encouragement. Catherine nodded then moved slowly listening to the sounds of the ice. It was creaking and groaning and Vincent’s area was becoming flooded with water. Still, she was able to get the rope above his head. 


Devin knew Vincent would think of Catherine’s well-being first so he needed to reassure him of her safety. “Vincent, the ice is going to break. Catherine is already secure. On the count of three just reach up and grab the rope and put an arm through it, okay? Sorry little brother, it’s the only way.”   


“He said okay, Devin,” Catherine called out.


Devin motioned for Jenny to start the ATV. When she gave him a thumbs up he started. 


“Okay...One....Two....Three,” he shouted.


Vincent lunged for the rope and the ice broke sending him down into the water. Catherine’s ice remained under her as she desperately searched for Vincent to resurface. His head popped up and she screamed to Devin. Devin motioned to Jenny who started to pull them up. It worked well and Vincent was soon on the solid edge of the ice. Catherine put the harness around his chest and Devin had Jenny pull him and Catherine up to the top of the hill. 


Devin grabbed Vincent and helped him to the snowmobile then threw a blanket around him.


“Go Devin...get him back, Jenny will pick me up,” Catherine begged as she grabbed another blanket and put it around herself.


Jenny turned the ATV around and headed back to Catherine. The two of them gathered up the ropes and then hopped on and headed towards the cottage.


**********


Devin took off full speed on the snowmobile to get Vincent inside the cottage. He pulled up in front and helped Vincent get up the steps and inside. He took off his own boots and then turned to help a chattering Vincent with his boots. Vincent barely held on to Devin’s shoulders with his hands as Devin removed his boots. 


“We’ve got to get you warm, now! Can you get upstairs to a shower?”


“If you hhhhelp.” Vincent nodded and held on to Devin for support. 


The two set off up the steps and into the first bathroom they found. Devin turned on the hot water and helped Vincent remove his wet clothes. He adjusted the water temperature turned on the shower spray and helped Vincent inside the tub. 


“Just stand under the water, I’ll get you dry clothes.” Devin left Vincent alone in the bathroom and headed for the main floor.


He was making his way down the steps when Catherine and Jenny came in loaded down with stuff from the car.


“How is he?” Catherine asked as she looked up in worry.


“Freezing...he’s in the shower in the first bathroom. I was hoping it would heat him up quicker. I just came down here to get his clothes.”


“Devin, let me take care of him. Please. Can you get the rest of the stuff out of the van? And Jenny can you make some hot chocolate?” 


“Sure Cathy; go to him.” Jenny nodded and smiled.


Devin agreed and handed Catherine Vincent’s duffel bags. He left and went to the van and brought in the rest of the food, threw another log on the fire and then headed out to put the snowmobile and ATV away.


Catherine raced upstairs and stopped in her room changing out of her wet clothes into a warm pair of flannel pants and a thermal top and then she dug out a pair of sweatpants and a thermal shirt from Vincent’s bag. She dug through the other bag and found his socks, but no underwear. With a shrug she walked towards the bathroom. She stopped at the linen closet and dug out four thick towels, hoping it would be enough. She knocked on the door and walked inside not waiting for an answer then she shut the door behind her. She heard groans coming from inside the shower. 


“Vincent; are you okay?” 


“CCCCCold.” He chattered.


“I know, and the water feels like knives but Devin’s right it’s the fastest way for you to get warm.”


Catherine sat on the toilet and waited for Vincent to finish. She mentally kept time in her head and knew the hot water would be running out soon.


“Vincent, you need to come out before the water turns cold,” she said at the same time as she heard the water being shut off.


“Here put this around your waist.” She offered him a towel through the end of the curtain. When she knew he must have completed the task she continued.


“Come out and I’ll wrap up your hair.” 


“CCatherine...” Vincent still chattering with cold, started to object. 


Catherine in her worry to get him warm lost her patience. “Just get out here, Vincent!” 


He opened the shower curtain and looked at her in shame. She went up to him and offered him her hand. He took it and stepped out onto the mat in front of the tub. He swayed a little from being over exerted. She pointed for him to sit on the toilet seat and he did as she indicated. She wrapped his hair in a towel and gently squeezed it to get the extra water out of it. She grabbed another towel and proceeded to towel dry his arms and legs and chest. 


When he was satisfactorily dry, she grabbed his shirt and held it for him to slip on over his head. Then she bent and put on his socks. She grabbed the wet towel from his hair and started to comb through the still damp locks. She reached into a drawer and grabbed a blow dryer plugged it in and started to run her fingers through his hair. The dryer completed the task in minutes and Catherine turned it off and put it away. She turned around and looked into his eyes, thankful that he was all right. She put her arms around his neck and held his head to her chest, hugging him, offering him her love. That’s when Catherine noticed he was still shivering, so she pulled away and handed him his sweatpants. 


“I’ll meet you outside the door.” She smiled giving him some privacy for this part of getting dressed.


“Thank you Catherine,” he said relieved.


Devin was walking up to the door when she came out. 


“He okay?” 


“Devin, can you help him get downstairs and in front of the fire?” 


“You bet, I’ve got it blazing away.” 



**********


Catherine ran to the closet and got a big blanket they could share. Devin followed her down with Vincent next to him and they entered the den area.

Catherine indicated where Vincent should sit and then wrapped the blanket around him. Jenny walked up with a tray of hot chocolate and passed mugs around. Devin and Jenny sat on the couch and Catherine sat next to Vincent on the love seat. She pulled his blanket up and over herself to share with him. 


Devin related the story of how he and Jenny met and then the adventure of them coming here. Vincent’s teeth chattered for awhile but the effect of the hot chocolate and the blazing fire had him warmer in no time. 


Vincent looked at them and shyly spoke. “I want to thank you all for your help tonight.” 


“I only did it so Father wouldn’t be mad at me,” Devin joked. The girls laughed as the comment put everyone at ease again.


Jenny was still giggling as she asked Catherine. “So, do you like my surprise?” 


“Yes, though next time deliver it with less of a bang.” Catherine countered as they laughed again. 


“I’m hungry. Can I get anyone anything to eat?” Jenny wondered.


“I could use some soup right about now, how about you Vincent?” Devin asked. When Vincent nodded Devin got up off his chair. 


“I’ll help Jenny,” Devin offered.


“Thanks Devin,” Catherine smiled.


After they left the room, Catherine looked at Vincent.


“Are you feeling better?” she wondered, then sat up and felt his face as if checking for a fever. Satisfied she sat back down but closer to him. 


“Yes, thanks to you.”


“I’m glad you’re here, Vincent.” 


“I’m glad I’m here too.” 


He reached out with his arm and encircled her and pulled her close. She moved in and laid her head on his chest emitting a satisfied sigh then repositioned the blanket to cover them more effectively. They stayed that way until Devin and Jenny came back with huge cups of soup and a plate full of sandwiches for everyone.


The girls finished their soup and split a sandwich while the men devoured what was left. They laughed as Devin told stories of the adventures he and Vincent had as kids in the tunnels. Catherine knew the people they talked about and laughed harder then Jenny each time they told a story about some crazy act they had committed on someone.


“I can’t wait to meet some of these people,” Jenny said as she wiped tears from her eyes.


“You would always be welcomed there,” Vincent said warmly.


“Thank you,” Jenny smiled at him as Catherine squeezed his hands in appreciation. 


“Hey, I hate to break up this party but it’s late and I’m bushed. Can you tell me where to lay this tired body, Chandler?” Devin asked.


Catherine thought for a moment about the sleeping arrangements.


“Devin why don’t you take the room that’s the first door on the left, it’s got a queen bed in it. Jenny and I can take the other two rooms they each have a full size bed and Vincent can use the king size bed in my parents old room,” Catherine informed everyone.


“I’ll show you where to go Devin I wanted to unpack my stuff anyway,” Jenny smiled at him and then led him up the stairs. 


Catherine turned to Vincent and caught him yawning. 


“Why don’t you head up too, I’m just going to clean up these dishes. Your bedroom is straight down the hallway,” she smiled at him.


They both got up and Catherine was busying herself picking up the empty bowls and plates. Vincent took her hand and turned her to face him. He surprised her when he leaned over and kissed her.


“Goodnight Catherine,” he smiled.


“Goodnight Vincent,” she said as he walked upstairs.


**********


Catherine quickly washed the dishes then headed up herself. She stopped in at Jenny’s room to check up on her.


“Everything okay?” 


“Sure, this feels just like my room.” 


“It is your room. You spent more time in it that anyone else,” Catherine laughed. “I should check on Devin,” she continued.


“Don’t bother, I already did; he said his room was great. One of the better places he’s laid his head; were his exact words.” 


“Thanks for all you did today Jenny, the surprise was perfect.” Catherine hugged her friend warmly.


“You’re welcome Cathy, I’m glad we could help.” 


“Goodnight.” Catherine turned and left the room.


She headed down the hallway to the room she had given to Vincent. She tapped lightly on the door. When she heard him call she peeked inside and Vincent was already in bed. She walked in to the room the rest of the way.


“Is everything okay Vincent? Do you need anything?” 


“No Catherine.” 


“How’s the bed?” she wondered coming closer to him.


“Big. The sheets...have your scent,” he commented shyly.


“I didn’t know I was having company, I slept in it last night, sorry.” 


“Would you like to sleep in it again tonight...with me?” he asked timidly.


She stood there in shock and he became worried he had offended her.


“I’m sorry, I didn’t ...” 


“Stop! Vincent, I would love to share your bed with you.” Catherine walked to the side of the bed he faced. She pulled back the covers and slipped under them and then relaxed flat on her back. She looked at the ceiling and then cautiously at him. He was on his side staring at her trying to decide what to do. She smiled at him and then rose up on her elbow and moved closer to him as he fell to rest on his back. She hovered above him for a split second until she rested on his chest and kissed him. Vincent kissed her back and put his arms around her waist. Feeling through the bond his hesitancy, Catherine backed off and ended the kiss. 


“That’s the best goodnight kiss I’ve ever gotten,” she smiled.


He sighed and she flipped to her side and spooned in close to him. He put his arm around her and pulled her closer until there was no part of them that wasn’t touching. He left his arm protectively around her and she snuggled down in satisfaction.


“Goodnight Catherine.” 


“Goodnight Vincent...I love you.” 


“And I love you,” he added quietly.



**********


Catherine awoke the next morning to sunlight streaming in the bedroom window. She gazed over at Vincent who lay next to her, the light glimmering through his shiny hair. He still had his eyes closed as she scooted carefully towards him in the bed.

 

“Good morning Catherine,” Vincent greeted with his eyes still closed.


“Good morning or it will be until you open your eyes and see what I really look like in the morning,” she laughed, dryly.


Vincent rolled over and took her in his arms then opened his eyes slowly.

“Beautiful,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.


Catherine rapped him lightly in the chest. “Oh I’m sure I look wonderful with no make-up and I know my hair is a wreck.”


“You’re hair is beautiful too, I take it you slept well?” 


She stretched and smiled at him. “I had the best night of sleep in my entire life; we should do it again tonight.” 


Just then an enticing aroma wafted up to them from the kitchen. Vincent’s stomach growled loudly and Catherine laughed.


“As nice as it is to be here I guess I’m going to have to let you get something to eat,” she grinned as she got up out of bed and turned with a backward glance.


“You can use the bathroom in here; I’ll use the one in the hallway.” She offered as she walked out the door.

Vincent got up and grabbed his new jeans and a new thermal. He walked into the bathroom used the facilities and then put on his new clothes. Luckily everything fit him properly. He found Catherine’s pink comb and ran it through his hair then slowly glanced up at his reflection in the mirror. He looked at himself critically and wondered why Catherine didn’t seem to mind his appearance. Jenny to her credit didn’t even blink when she first met him. He took one last look then shrugged; there was nothing he could do about what he looked like. He turned and walked down the hallway and met Catherine as she was exiting the bathroom. She smiled at him and took his hand and together they walked downstairs and into the kitchen.


**********

 

Devin had awakened early and made his way to the kitchen. He started the coffee pot and then added more logs to the fire in the den. He sat and stared at the pot willing it to work faster. Eventually it finished and he grabbed his first cup and sat and savored the flavor. 


Jenny came down not long after him and walked into the kitchen.


“Good morning, Devin,” she said happily as she poured herself a cup of coffee.


“Good morning,” he grumbled, holding his cup close to his mouth.


“Not a morning person?” A grunt was all she received for an answer. “I checked Catherine this morning. She wasn’t in her bed.” 


“She’s with Vincent, I checked on him this morning.” 


“Do you think...” she started to ask.


“No, but it’s a start,” Devin interrupted.


Devin got up and got himself another cup of coffee, refreshed Jenny’s and then sat down. 


They sat for awhile making small talk when Jenny stood up and announced.

“I think I’ll start breakfast.” 


“Hey, I’ll help you again, we work well together.” 


That’s how Catherine and Vincent found them. Jenny and Devin were together making breakfast. Devin was at the stove making bacon and sausages and Jenny was whipping eggs at the counter. They were laughing and enjoying each other’s company.


“Look who finally decided to join the world,” Devin joked to Jenny pointing behind him at Catherine and Vincent.


“Sure now that the work is almost finished.” 


“Hey! How about if we clean up after breakfast and make lunch and dinner? Will that deal help get me a cup of coffee?” Catherine begged.


“Cathy needs coffee in the morning more than you Devin. We should make her offer a lot more,” Jenny teased.


“It’s her coffee, better give her some if we want any tomorrow morning,” he said as he winked at her.


Catherine and Vincent sat next to each other at the table. Jenny poured Catherine a cup and then looked with at Vincent with a question in her eyes, he gently shook his head.


“No, thank you.” 


“Hey Bro, I got some hot water on for tea, unless you want some hot chocolate,” Devin offered with a smile.


“Tea would be great Devin, can I get it?” Vincent asked.


“Sit. I’ll fix it for you,” Jenny smiled.


“Thank you for waiting on us Jen,” Catherine smiled.


“Ha! Wait until dinner I’ll have you hopping,” Jenny promised with a laugh.


Jenny served Vincent his tea and then turned to make the scrambled eggs. Devin had finished with the bacon and sausage and put them on a tray to stay warm in the oven then popped bread in the toaster. While he was waiting he turned to Vincent with a smile.


“So Vincent, did you sleep well? It must have been lonely in that big bed,” he teased.


Vincent turned beet red and Jenny dropped her spoon while Catherine looked down and hid a small smile on her face. 


“I got cold last night so I made Vincent let me sleep by him,” Catherine said trying to save Vincent from further embarrassment. 


Jenny, if she was any kind of a friend would have backed Catherine up but instead sided with Devin. “Really, my room was nice and toasty last night. Was your room cold?” she asked Devin innocently.


“No, my room was comfortable too,” Devin teased.


Catherine knew they were just trying to make Vincent see that their sleeping together was perfectly normal and she wanted to thank them but she needed to save Vincent from their clutches.


“Well you two didn’t get wet like we did,” she said seriously but with a big grin on her face.


Jenny taking mercy on Vincent chose that moment to bring the eggs to the table. She grabbed the oven mitts and brought the tray of bacon and sausage out and set it on the table too while Devin buttered the toast and added more bread to the toaster. He carried the plate of toast and sat down.


“Dig in,” Jenny announced.


She and Catherine took a good portion but the guys cleaned up the rest. Jenny wondered if she should have made more but Devin kept the toast coming and the guys were soon filled. 


“That was an excellent breakfast thank you both. Jenny the eggs were excellent what was in them?” Vincent asked.


“You’re welcome; and everything was in the eggs but the kitchen sink. The pressures on now Cathy, you better come up with an excellent dinner,” Jenny teased.


“Hey Cathy, is there more wood somewhere I can bring in before I take my shower?” Devin asked.


“Yeah, back behind the tool shed. Thanks Devin,” she said.


“Well, I’m going to head up and take my shower first then,” Jenny smiled.


When they were gone Catherine got up, turned to Vincent and laughed.


“We’re on clean-up detail,” she smiled.


“I don’t mind,” Vincent said as he helped her clear the plates.


“Do you want to wash or dry?” She looked at all the fur on his hands. And thinking about how long it would take for his hands to dry, she chuckled then kissed him on the cheek and threw him the towel to dry with. Vincent shrugged and then smiled thankful she could overlook his differences. They quickly washed and dried the dishes and then wiped down the counters leaving the kitchen spotless. 


**********


Catherine excused herself to go upstairs and take a shower and Vincent walked into the den with his mug of tea. Devin was stacking the wood he had brought in and turned to Vincent as he entered the room.


“How’d it go last night?” Devin asked.


“Nothing...happened. We just...slept.” 


“There’s still time. Man I think you’re crazy. That woman loves you. She begged me to let her take care of you in the bathroom yesterday. That’s why I let her,” Devin explained. Vincent nodded in understanding.


“So now there’s no excuse. She saw everything,” Devin smiled.


“Not everything,” Vincent said shyly.


“Let me guess...you had a towel on?”


Vincent’s head shot up wondering how he knew that.


“It’s pretty normal. I would have done the same thing myself. So...I didn’t hear her scream in horror and try to escape after seeing your furry self. Could it be it doesn’t matter to her?” Devin turned from him and stoked the fire, giving Vincent something to think about. Vincent remained quiet lost in his thoughts.


“I’m taking a shower.” Devin hit Vincent on the shoulder as he walked past him. 


Vincent thought about what Devin had said. Catherine had treated him normally last night. She never blanched at all when she saw him. She lovingly dried him off and took care of him. 


***********


Jenny had finished getting ready and walked into Catherine’s room as she was getting dressed. She bounced and sat on the bed while Catherine was pulling up her jeans. 


“So what do you think we should do today?” she asked excitedly.


“I don’t know. I thought it’d be you and me crying into half eaten gallons of ice cream. Now I need to think of entertainment,” Catherine laughed.


“We could take the snowmobiles out and stay on your property? Hey! Do you think old man Swanson still has horses? Why don’t we get some horses and take the guys out?” Jenny wondered.


“Let me call Mr. Swanson and see what he says.” Catherine walked to her phone. She made a brief call and talked to the horse owner as she gave Jenny a thumbs up sign. She hung up the phone with a smile and turned to face Jenny.


“You sure you’re ready for this?” 


“It’s been awhile but I think we can handle it,” Jenny laughed.


“Should we surprise them?” 


“We can try. Devin’s in the shower, I saw him go in, that just leaves getting past Vincent,” Jenny said.


“Ha! Piece of cake.” Catherine smiled as she picked up her keys and purse.


The girls walked quickly down the steps and Vincent looked up from a book he was reading. 


“Honey, we’ll be back in a little bit,” Catherine said nonchalantly smiling at him. 


Vincent’s jaw dropped at her use of the word ‘honey’ and he could only nod to her in acknowledgment. Catherine and Jenny left quickly and hopped into Catherine’s car. 


“How’d you do that?” Jenny wondered.


“Easy, I’ve never called him honey before,” Catherine smiled as she pulled away.


**********


Mr. Swanson was only two miles down the road so they got there quickly. Catherine got out of the car and hugged him warmly as he came up to greet them. 


“My, just look at you two little girls; all growed up,” he smiled.


The girls nodded and smiled at him. 


“Do you think we could borrow two horses Mr. Swanson? We have two guests up at the cottage that we want to take on a ride,” Catherine asked.


He looked at them with a twinkle in his eyes and then teased them with his old familiar lines. “You girls think you can handle my Belgian mares bareback?”


“Yes,” they said in unison.


“Well, you always could before, best little riders up here.” He smiled.


“Can we get them ourselves for you Mr. Swanson?” Jenny asked.


“Sure you two go right in. Bridles are hanging where they always hung and you can take the two closest to the door. I hope your young men enjoy them,” he teased knowingly.


Both girls blushed and turned from him then walked to the barn. They quickly bridled the mares and brought them over to Mr. Swanson.


“I suppose you want a leg up?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.


Both girls were up on their horses quickly and ready to go.


“You girls take care now. Don’t let Candy and Sandy boss you around,” he warned. 


“We won’t. We’ll have them back in a few hours,” Catherine promised.


**********


They set off towards home at a good walk. Once they both felt comfortable riding again they nudged the horses into an easy canter. They quickly covered the distance back to the cottage by cutting through the woods and heading down a worn down path. They stood their horses in front of the cabin and called out to the men inside.


“Hey you lazy butts get out here,” Jenny called.


Devin looked at Vincent with a question in his eyes as they both stood up and walked over to the door. Devin went outside and Vincent stayed in the door opening.


“Who wants to go for a ride?” Catherine smiled.


Devin laughed and grabbed his hat and coat then turned to Vincent.


“Well what are you waiting for?” Devin asked slapping Vincent in the stomach.


“I...I’ve never....” Vincent stuttered.


“Well there’s a first time for everything,” Jenny encouraged.


“Hopefully you guys get a lot of firsts accomplished this trip,” Devin teased as he walked over to Jenny on her horse. 


“Can I ride with you?” he asked with a devilish grin.


“Hop on cowboy,” she smiled as Devin leapt up and scrambled onto the horse’s back behind her.


Catherine who had been blushing furiously at Devin’s comment looked over at Vincent.


“Trust me.” 


Those words were all it took. Vincent grabbed his new coat with a hood and went out by Catherine. He had watched Devin and copied his movement and was soon mounted behind Catherine. The girls turned their horses to a trail they had taken hundreds of times as kids. The couples talked quietly as they made their way through the trees enjoying the beauty of nature.


Catherine wished see could see Vincent enjoying the sunlight on his face. She knew he was smiling and glad she was able to provide him with this adventure.


Vincent was naturally balanced and he soon got the rhythm of the horses step. Devin had ridden horses as a tour guide so the when the couples came upon an open field Catherine and Jenny nodded to one another and kicked the horses up to a trot then quickly cued them into a canter. Everyone was having a wonderful time. Vincent laughed freely and Catherine reveled in the sound of his happiness.


Not wanting to go to far away for safety purposes, Devin suggested they head back. Jenny’s hands were cold and starting to hurt, Devin and she traded places so Devin could steer them home. Catherine looked up at Vincent wondering if he wanted to try. He reached around her and held the reins and steered while she was nestled securely in his arms. 


Back at the cabin Devin offered to ride back with Catherine to return the horses. Jenny thanked him as she walked away limping slightly from soreness. 


“Be back in a bit,” he said as he and Catherine turned to leave.


**********  


Catherine and Devin let the horses trot lightly knowing they were anxious because they were going back to the barn for hay. They slowed them to a walk as they got closer to the farm they knew the horses shouldn’t eat when they weren’t properly cooled down. Devin turned to Catherine trying to gauge whether or not to say something.


“What is it Devin?” 


“He wants to try.” 


“He told you that?” she asked incredulously; immediately knowing what Devin was referring to.


“We talked. He’s ready...nervous but ready.” 


“Are you sure?” 


“Yeah Catherine, he just needs you to lead the way,” Devin added.


Catherine sat in shock at the news she had just heard. She was speechless until Mr. Swanson came out to meet them.


“You young’uns have a good ride?” he smiled.


“We sure did sir,” Devin smiled back.


“Mr Swanson, we’ll put them away for you,” Catherine assured.


“That sounds fine Katy-did, I just sat down to eat my lunch. You know where the hay is...not too much, you hear?” he reminded.


“I know Mr. Swanson,” Catherine smiled. “Thank you.” 


They put up the horses and Catherine seeing that his hay pile was low decided to call and get him some more delivered. She couldn’t pay him enough for the morning of memories he just gave to Vincent. She and Devin left and drove back to the cottage.


**********


Jenny and Vincent were inside. After washing their hands Vincent had opened some cans of stew but needed help working the stove top. Jenny didn’t think twice about his request and then helped him make sandwiches for everybody for lunch. They had just put everything on the table when Devin and Catherine walked in. 


“Hey you two, how’d it go?” Jenny asked.


“Perfect, I want to order some hay to be delivered to Mr. Swanson though he seemed kind of low. He’ll never make it all winter, I wonder if money is short,” Catherine thought out loud. Making an instant decision she walked to the phone and dialed a number.


“Hey Bud, its Cathy Chandler,” she smiled into the phone and then nodded.


“I’m fine; how’s Joanne?” she asked politely and again waited for a response.


“Bud I’m calling to order some hay for Mr. Swanson. Do you know if he needs any?” she asked then waited.


“That bad huh?” she grimaced. “Bud can you keep him in hay this winter and send me the bill? I’m up at the cottage right now but I’ll be back in the city next week,” she informed him.


“Thanks Bud...just tell him...it was a gift from a friend,” she smiled.


“Yep, you too...bye,” she said as she hung up the phone and turned to sit at the table.


Vincent handed her a cup of coffee as she sat down next to him. “You have a generous heart Catherine.” 


“Mr. Swanson was a friend of my dads for years. He always let me ride his horses for free. I just think he deserves a break.” 


They ate a simple meal of stew and sandwiches. No one was exceptionally hungry but after the ride this morning it was a perfect meal. By agreement Catherine washed the dishes again and Vincent helped her while Devin and Jenny retired to the den. 


**********


Devin and Jenny sat quietly on the love seat sipping their coffee. Devin looking into the kitchen to make sure Catherine and Vincent were still occupied leaned over on the couch to whisper to Jenny.


“Do you know of any place you and I can disappear to tonight?” he asked conspiratorially.


“There’s a movie theatre in town we can do dinner and a movie.” She smiled joining in the game.


“It’s a date then,” he smiled as he put his arm around her.


Vincent and Catherine walked in arm and arm and tried to ignore Devin and Jenny’s closeness. They sat down on the couch across from them.


“Jenny and I are going to take in dinner and a movie tonight; is that okay with you guys?” Devin asked nonchalantly.


“I’m supposed to cook tonight,” Catherine reminded them. 


“Well that’s kind of why we’re leaving. Jenny here spilled the beans on your cooking abilities,” Devin smiled pointing at Jenny.


“Hey!” Jenny smiled, knowing Devin was teasing.


“I’ll just cook for me and Vincent then, you guys don’t know what you’re missing,” Catherine smiled, pretending to be offended while secretly thanking them.


“Probably heartburn and indigestion, good luck Vincent,” Devin said with a double meaning hidden in his words.


“I’m sure Catherine can cook us a wonderful meal,” Vincent defended her.


Catherine smiled, although inside she was nervously thinking, “Pressure’s on.”


Devin laughed and changed the subject. “Anybody up for a walk?” 


“Good idea.” Vincent was anxious to be out in the sun again, who knew if it would ever happen again.


“I’m game. I need to walk these kinks out,” Jenny said with a smile.


“Let’s go,” Catherine said as she got to her feet and walked to the door.


 **********


The friends all got dressed and headed outside. They walked towards the woods and Catherine held Vincent’s hand in hers. She wished they didn’t have gloves on but knew it was too cold to take them off. Jenny slipped on a patch of ice and Devin reached out and grabbed her steadying her. He continued to hold her hand in his as they started to walk again. Catherine looked up at Vincent, then smiled and shrugged her shoulders. He smiled and nodded back. Both wondered what was going on with their friends.


They trudged through the snow and this time Catherine got to see Vincent’s face bathed in the sunlight. He smiled as the warmth caressed his cheeks. They came upon a log and Vincent, just wanting to enjoy the sun and the breeze decided to sit down for awhile, Catherine sat next to him and cuddled close as he placed his arm around her.


“We’re going to sit here for a little bit,” Catherine called out to Jenny and Devin.


“Okay, I’m going to take Devin to the pond we were at last night.” 


“Catch up with us there if you want,” Devin said.


“I think I’ve seen enough of the pond,” Vincent smiled sarcastically.


“Me too,” Catherine agreed. “We’ll meet you back at the cottage.”


Devin and Jenny left with a wave of their hands and Catherine and Vincent were again alone. They sat quietly and held each other. Vincent sat with his head back, eyes closed and face pointed towards the sun. He had never had this much fun in his entire life. Catherine sat back and stared at Vincent. “He is beautiful,” she thought, happy that he was getting so much enjoyment from something as simple as the sun. They sat that way for at least a half an hour. 


Catherine looked down and saw a family of deer walking through the woods towards them. “Probably heading for the pond” she thought. She silently squeezed Vincent’s hand and when he lowered his face she gestured towards the deer. They both held their breath as the deer walked slowly past them. They weren’t close enough to touch but the biggest doe got a scent of them, stopped mid stride and turned and looked directly at them. Vincent caught her eye and cocked his head slightly to the side never losing eye contact. The doe lowered her head ignoring them and the family continued on. 


After they were gone Catherine smiled and turned to Vincent.


“I told you if you sat quietly enough they would come by.”


“They were beautiful,” he nodded. 


“Vincent, I’m sorry but my butt’s getting cold and unless you can find away to warm it I’d like to head back.”


“Then we had better get you back,” he said looking down embarrassed.


They walked quickly and got back to the cabin almost the same time Jenny and Devin were returning.


“I’m freezing,” Jenny said.


“Me too,” Catherine agreed.


“How about some hot chocolate?” Jenny asked.


 “Sounds good,” Devin agreed as Vincent nodded.


**********


Devin and Vincent walked to the wood pile and grabbed armfuls of logs while the girls went inside to make the drinks. They met in the den and covered up under blankets while Vincent added more wood to the fire. He joined Catherine on the couch and shared her blanket.


“So tell me more about these tunnels and the people there,” Jenny asked.


The afternoon was spent telling Jenny about the start of Father’s dream and about how the individual people came to live down there. They even told her about the whole helper’s network. Hours passed and she hung on every word. Amazed that this whole separate universe existed right below the city she lived in.


Devin glanced at his watch surprised at how much time had passed. “I’m going to head up and take a shower.” 


“I’ll go with you,” Jenny said the blushed when she saw everyone turn and look at her.


“I mean I’ll take one with you...I mean at the same time as....you know what I mean,” she said giving up.


“One of you can use my bathroom,” Catherine giggled.


“Thanks,” Jenny said still blushing.


The two headed up while Catherine relaxed into Vincent’s chest and they sat quietly enjoying the time alone. Catherine held Vincent’s hands and gently rubbed her fingers across his claws, and through the fur on the back of his hands. She was fascinated with the hands. One minute they were a deadly weapon and the next minute they brought her unbelievable joy. 


**********


Jenny was done getting ready for her “date” and she was sitting in her room when she decided she wanted to speak to Catherine. She went to her open door and called out.


“Hey Cathy, can you come up here a minute? I need help with this clasp.”


“Yeah Jen, I’m on my way.” Catherine turned to Vincent. “I’ll go take my shower too, I smell like a horse.” 


“You smell like a breath of fresh air,” Vincent smiled.


“Liar.” She grinned as she walked towards the stairs.


“I too need to take a shower, maybe I’ll see if Devin is finished.” He said following her.


Catherine stopped at Jenny’s room and knocked then walked in. Jenny sat in front of her mirror playing with her hair.


“So what clasp do you need help with?” Catherine asked frowning at Jenny’s pullover top.


“I lied. I just needed to talk to you alone.” 


“What about, Devin?” Catherine walked and sat down on the edge of the bed.


“Another time, maybe” Jenny said shaking her head.


“Well than what?” Catherine prompted.


“There’s a wrapped gift in the fridge for you and Vincent. Don’t open it until after dinner.” 


“Okay...” Catherine said worriedly as she came over to help Jenny with her hair.


“Stop! It’s a good thing.” 


The two friends talked while Vincent walked to the room Catherine told him to use. Devin was coming out of the bathroom and smiled at him. “Have fun tonight. Jenny and I will stretch it out as long as we can.” 


“You did this on purpose?” Vincent asked in wonder.


“Sort of...I like Jenny I don’t mind spending time with her.”


“Devin...” Vincent started nervously.


“You’ll be fine, she can’t bite that bad.” Devin laughed as he hit Vincent on the arm and walked out the door. 


Devin stopped at Jenny’s door and knocked. “Hey, you ready Jen?” 


The door opened and Jenny smiled. “All set.” 


“Take my car. It’s better to travel in, keys are on the shelf by the front door,” Catherine offered.


“Thanks, have fun!” Jenny turned and took Devin’s arm as they left.


**********


Catherine walked to her room to grab a change of clothes. Vincent was in his duffel bag grabbing clothes also. 


“Need help in the shower?” she asked then blushed furiously when she realized what she said. “I...mean with the controls.” 


Looking at the floor and also blushing Vincent answered her. “No I think I can figure it out.”  


“Okay, you can use this shower. I’ll use the other one.” She turned and left to do just that.


Catherine completed her shower, dried her hair and put on some light make-up. She walked out and headed towards her room when Vincent came out of the bedroom dressed but with his hair dripping wet. She looked at him with a question in her eyes. 


“We were out of towels,” he explained.


“Oh Vincent, I’m sorry, come on I’ll dry your hair again.” 


She dumped her clothes in the hamper, took his hand and led him to the bathroom. He sat on the toilet as he had yesterday. She grabbed the blow dryer and started drying his hair. It was much wetter than yesterday and would take a long time. She straddled his leg and got in close to him to try to reach the back of his head. She was concentrating on his hair and didn’t realize that it put her chest right into his face. He tried to close his eyes and concentrate on something else but it wasn’t working. Catherine’s scent was surrounding him and he finally moved away from her.


Catherine looked at him in surprise then realized what had happened. She blushed and stood a little further away and finished with his hair. When it was satisfactorily dry she turned the dryer off and put it away. Vincent reached for her and brought her to him. She faced him and he pulled her to his lap. 


He looked into her eyes and reached for her chin and kissed her deeply. Catherine was shocked but gloried in the feeling of his kiss.  He stopped it too soon and shyly looked down at the floor.


“Catherine, thank you for drying my hair, it would have taken hours otherwise, and I have to admit if felt wonderful while you were doing it.” 


“I enjoyed it too, Vincent.” She noticed he was still embarrassed so she turned and picked up the laundry. “Come on let me throw a load of towels in the washer so we have some for tomorrow.”


Vincent followed her and carried down the hampers for her then watched as she started the machines. 


“They’re pretty fascinating machines,” he said in wonder.


“The washer and dryer?” she said, gently teasing him.


“Yes,” he said timidly.


“You can be fascinated through two more loads,” she laughed as she turned towards the kitchen.


“Are you hungry Vincent?” She opened the door to look in the fridge and glanced at Jenny’s gift.


“Maybe for something light.” He was not sure why his stomach was so jumpy. “Must be nerves,” he thought.


“Yeah, that’s what I was thinking too.” Catherine was not sure why her stomach was so jumpy. “Must be nerves,” she thought.


**********


Catherine brought out cheese and crackers and fruit and yogurt. Then put it all on a tray and walked with it to the den. Vincent grabbed some bottled water and followed Catherine. She placed the tray on a low table by the fireplace and spread out a blanket on the floor in front of it. She threw some pillows on the floor and sat down. Vincent went to sit when Catherine stopped him.


“Vincent, there’s a gift in the fridge for us from Jenny, would you mind getting it?” 


He nodded then walked to the kitchen retrieved the gift and handed it to Catherine as he sat down beside her.


“May as well open this now.” Catherine struggled with the ribbon so Vincent reached up and sliced easily through it with his fingernail. Catherine smiled and kissed him on the cheek.


“Remind me to have you over next time I open gifts,” she said putting him at ease. 


She glanced inside the box and started to draw out the items. Inside the box were a bottle of good champagne, a bottle of vintage wine and a box of chocolate covered strawberries. Catherine laughed and got up and walked for wine glasses and champagne flutes. While in the kitchen, she threw the towels into the dryer and started another load in the washer. She grabbed the wine opener from the drawer in the kitchen and headed back to Vincent. He looked up at her in wonder.


“Isn’t this an odd combination of items?” 


“Everything you need for a seduction.”


“Oh,” he blushed.


“Why don’t we have the wine first?” Catherine suggested ignoring his embarrassment.


Vincent surprised Catherine when he opened the bottle and poured them two glasses. She prepared a plate of different kinds of cheeses and they had made a light supper of their fare. Neither of them really tasted any of it but they talked quietly and relaxed. 


Catherine reached for a strawberry and bit into it tasting its sweet goodness. 


“Oh Vincent, you have to try this.” She picked one up for him and held it to his mouth. 


Vincent opened his mouth and took it from her fingers. Catherine noticed a piece of chocolate on his lip and wiped it off with her finger showed it to him and then put her finger in her mouth. Vincent stared at her awed by the sensuality in the gesture.  


Catherine smiled coyly and refilled their wine glasses. She moved the tray of cheese away and turned towards the fire. He reached out and put his arm around her as she snuggled up against his chest. They stayed that way for awhile and Catherine came up with an idea. “Should I?” she wondered.


She sat up and reached for another strawberry and showed it to him.


“Would you like half?” she asked innocently. Vincent merely nodded.


“Then come take your half.” She slowly put the strawberry in between her lips, leaving half of the strawberry sticking out. 


Vincent looked at the strawberry nestled between her lips and unconsciously licked his own. He looked up into her eyes and noticed the intensity in her look. With a sigh he lowered his head and took her lips in his. She bit down on the strawberry and he took his half. She pulled away slightly, chewed her half quickly and reached out to kiss him. He had done the same and met her lips with his own. They kissed passionately for the first time. The wine and the wonderful day they had spent together had relaxed Vincent and he was ready to do whatever Catherine wished.


They deepened their kiss and Catherine slowly moved back to lie on the floor. Vincent followed her and moved himself over to be on the side of her. He stayed up on an elbow; hovering over her and leaning down to kiss her. Catherine had her arms around his neck and held him tightly caressing his shoulders. Vincent’s hand was at her side and this time when it fell on her exposed midriff he didn’t jump; instead he moved his hand up inside the back of her shirt and carefully caressed her soft skin.


Catherine could barely breathe she was so caught up in the excitement she felt, both from herself and through the bond. Panting heavily, Vincent stopped; he too was affected by the emotions swirling between them.


Catherine stood up and reached down for Vincent’s hand.


“Vincent, take me upstairs.” 


Vincent stared at her, a fleeting moment of panic crossing his eyes and face. He looked down and shyly nodded then took her hand and followed her to the bedroom. He didn’t have the strength to deny her any longer. He didn’t want to deny her or them any longer. He needed to do this.


**********


Catherine walked into the room and turned to Vincent, then pointed towards the bathroom.


“You can go first if you like.” 


Vincent nodded and entered the bathroom. “What am I supposed to do in here?” he thought. He looked at himself in the mirror then washed his hands and face and quickly brushed his teeth. He walked out of the bathroom then stopped and looked around. 


Catherine had lit the candles that were scattered around the room and turned off the overhead lights. The candlelight danced on the walls and created the mood she desired. She smiled at Vincent as he came out and she reached out and took his hands and then walked him towards the bed. 


“Sit down, I’ll be right back.” She smiled then kissed him briefly. 


She walked to her dresser and took out a garment and then walked into the bathroom. She looked at her reflection in the mirror and grabbed the sink trying to settle herself down. She knew Vincent would need her to lead him through this; she had to keep her emotions in check so should could guide him. 


She threw her clothes off and put on the beautiful new lingerie set she had indulged in recently. Its satiny fabric clung to her in the right places and she knew Vincent would like it the second he saw it. She took a deep breath and walked out of the bathroom.


She laughed when she saw Vincent was sitting in the same position that she had left him. When she walked out he stood and looked at her.


“You look beautiful Catherine.”


“Thank you, so do you.” 


She walked up and stood in front of him. She placed her hand on his arm and could feel the tension in him.


“Hold me, Vincent.”


He opened his arms and she fell into them. She hugged him tightly until she felt the tension draining from him. She turned her face up to his and he bent over and kissed her lightly. 


She took her hand and placed it on the side of his cheek and held him to her as she deepened the kiss. Vincent’s arms came around her and pulled her closer to him. She dropped her hand and placed it on his chest.


After he became comfortable with their kisses, Catherine slowly moved her hands up inside his shirt to lovingly caress his chest and ribs. Vincent’s body jumped as he felt for the first time the intimacy of her touch. Once he became comfortable with her touch she grabbed the bottom of his shirt meaning to remove it. 


“Catherine, I’m...” Vincent began and stopped himself. He realized that it made little difference; she had already seen him after the shower the other day. She had lovingly dried him and took care of him and never blinked an eye at his apparent differences.


She smiled at him as he helped her remove his shirt. She touched his chest and caressed her way down, running her fingers slowly up and down his ribs and arms never looking away, feeling and learning her lover’s body. She moved in and kissed his chest and he sucked in his breath, startled. 


She smiled up at him and brought his head down to kiss her. She rubbed her body against his intimately so he would feel the softness of satin on the skin. Their lips met once more and Catherine stopped again and looked up at him.


“Vincent, would you take off my robe?” 


He held his breath as he undid the satiny ties that held the robe closed. It fell open and Catherine dropped her arms so that the robe slid and pooled around her feet. She stood there in a short satiny sheath that clung to her breasts and hips. She looked into his eyes and reached up and brought his hands to her shoulders. 


“This too?” 


He looked at her, a question in his eyes and she smiled and nodded her assent. He gently took the straps and slid them to the ends of her shoulders. They fell to her elbows and exposed the very tops of her breasts. Again she dropped her arms and the garment slid off and pooled around her feet. Vincent looked down at her beautiful body and gulped for air. 


“Vincent, just breathe,” Catherine smiled and moved closer to him. 


She reached up and put her arms around his neck. Her nipples brushed through the hair on his chest and he moaned loudly at the new sensation. He pulled her closer and kissed her while he instinctively ran his hands down her back and moved her against his entire length. He slowly moved his hands upward and his hands were splayed across her waist, thumbs close to the undersides of her breasts, when Catherine moved slightly away from him. 


Vincent misunderstood her gesture and backed away. He thought she wanted him to stop. Catherine grabbed his hands and gently kissed them then placed them back on her ribs. He looked at her and she nodded and he moved his left hand slowly to her breast cupping its weight in his hand. He slid his thumb over her nipple and it quickly pebbled under his touch. Catherine moaned and kissed him harder. 


He continued to gently fondle her breasts while she kissed his face and cheeks making her way slowly down his neck kissing the hollow of it then gently nipping at it. Vincent jumped at her touch and she smiled coyly up to him. 


“You try it now,” she said her voice husky with desire.


He followed the pattern she had set and kissed his way down to her neck. He wouldn’t nip at her though for fear of breaking the skin with his fangs. Catherine held his head while he kissed her and guided it lower; down to her breasts. He took a deep breath and then slowly kissed her nipple, flicking it with his tongue. The roughness of his tongue set Catherine’s emotions soaring and she moaned in satisfaction as his mouth closed around the nipple, sucking on it gently. Vincent turned his attention to her other breast and he brought his hand up to gently caress the first, rolling the nipple under his fingers. 


Catherine’s hands fell to the waistband of his sweatpants. She moved one of her hands to the front and gently ran it over his erection. He jumped at the first contact. 


“SSSHHH.” She comforted him as she gently rubbed her hand against him. 


She looked up at him again and watched him as she slowly undid the strings on his pants. He was panting heavily but didn’t seem like he wanted to stop. She gently lowered his pants to his knees and he bent and took them off the rest of the way. 


He stood before her in all his masculine glory fully erect and waiting for her to make the next move. His head hung down in shame, embarrassed by his body. 


“Vincent, you are so beautiful,” she said as tears came to her eyes. 


She moved in towards him again and took his hand, leading him to the bed.

She sat down and scooted to the middle. He followed her and covered them up to protect them from the cold. He stayed above her on his elbow and leaned over her kissing her just as passionately as before. He teased her nipples until they were hard again and he lowered his head gently sucking on them. 


Catherine’s stomach muscles were quivering. She lowered her hand to his buttocks and gently squeezed him. She let her hand find its way back up to his waist and then in to his stomach. She felt his muscles tense as she slowly moved her hand to his erection. She enclosed his manhood with her hand and gasped at its size. “Better take this slow,” she thought to herself with a smile.


She lay back again and Vincent looked up at her with a question in his eyes.

She took his hand and slowly moved it down her waist to her lower stomach. She released his hand so he could move the rest of the way on his own. 


Vincent lowered his head and kissed her while he slowly moved his hand lower. He cupped her womanhood in his hand and felt the warmth spreading over him. He gently touched her and felt her readiness, he slipped a finger inside and felt her muscles contract around him. He gulped thinking of what it would feel like if it was another part of himself in there. He let his fingers move inside of her while he gently ran his thumb over the little bud that had formed. Catherine lifted her hips at his touch.


“Please Vincent.” 


“Catherine, I don’t know what...” he stammered, kneeling above her but not knowing how to go further.


Catherine slid her leg around him, effectively putting him between her legs.


“Vincent, lower your self.” 


He did as she said and on the way down she guided his manhood and put it to her opening. 


“Now just go slow, as slow as you can Vincent,” she said soothingly, knowing it would take her body awhile to adjust to his size, that in addition to the fact that it had been so long since she last been with anyone.


Vincent followed her instructions; moving inside of her slowly. He felt through the bond when he needed to stop and when he could move forward. Catherine became impatient and tried to speed up the process but instinct had taken over Vincent. He held her gently and growled very softly when she tried to move under him. She backed off submissively and let him take the lead. His full length was finally buried inside her and he slowly moved it back out. She whimpered in protest and he moved it back in. She moaned in response her insides quivering for more. They quickly fell into sequence. Catherine knowing the first time would be quick was surprised to feel the pressure building in her. Vincent took his time, listening to her through the bond he knew her emotions were heading in the same place as his. He had never felt anything this incredible in his life. They were both panting heavily now. Vincent was up above her on his elbows while his hands were on either side of her head digging into her pillow. They rode the next wave and exploded together in mind numbing ecstasy. Vincent fell on top of her and then gently moved off to her side. He kept his arm around her as he tried to breathe and steady his heart rate. He couldn’t believe how lethargic he felt. Catherine lay on her back and tried to do the same as Vincent. She felt her heart pounding in her chest. “He is an incredible lover,” she thought. Then she became worried about him.


“Vincent, are you okay?” She reached out a tentative hand and touched his chest.


“Catherine...there are no words.” 


“I love you.” 


He got up to his elbow and came to her.


“And I love you Catherine.” He stated then looked at her with confused eyes. 


“What is all of this?” He gasped in wonder as hundreds of tiny little feathers swirled around them in the air.


Catherine looked up and realized what he was talking about. She sat up and turned around and looked at the bed then picked up the pillow that was under her head. She laughed as she hit it and hundreds of feathers flew out of gashes in the sides of it.


“Did I do that?” Vincent asked astonished, sitting up next to her.  


“See I told you. You could never hurt me. Although...we are going to go through a lot of pillows,” Catherine laughed.


Vincent was horrified until he saw the humor in what Catherine said. Grateful she could be so accepting, he laughed with her.  


Catherine threw the ruined pillow off the bed and lay back down. She gestured for Vincent to follow her and he did as she welcomed him back into her arms. They kissed and the passion quickly overtook them and it wasn’t long before they were moving in rhythm again. It was easier this time because the awkwardness of the first time was gone, although like the first time, they reached the peak together and slowly came down. Vincent was exhausted and pulled Catherine next to him, holding her near as he slept. 



**********


Catherine was just drifting off when she heard the front door open. She slipped from the bed careful not to wake Vincent and threw on her robe. She slipped out the bedroom door and saw Devin and Jenny coming up the stairs. 

She walked down the hallway and stopped in front of them.


“Well?” Jenny asked.


Catherine didn’t answer just blushed furiously.


“Woo Hoo!” Jenny shouted with glee.


“SSSHHH,” Catherine warned.


“Cathy, are you okay?” Devin asked seriously as he touched her elbow.


“Devin, I’m fine. Perfect!” She smiled to reassure him and touched his arm in thanks.


“Is Vincent okay?” Devin asked smiling.


She nodded. “He’s sleeping.”


“No problems?” he asked gently.


“Well, a pillow didn’t fare too well...but no other problems,” she laughed at the question in their eyes. “And that’s all you’re getting from me, good night.” She turned and walked back to her room, shutting the door closed behind her. 


**********


Even though she tried to gently slip in next to him, Vincent felt her return to bed and pulled her to him.


“Catherine?” 


“It was just Devin and Jenny. They’re back.”


“Good,” he mumbled as he fell back asleep.


“Vincent?” 


“Hmm?” 


“Devin was worried. I told him everything was okay.” 


“Okay? I can do better than okay,” he smiled as he turned her to him.


She giggled and pulled him back under the covers. They made love a third time and fell into an exhausted sleep.



**********



The next morning the lovers woke early. 


“Vincent, I have to make breakfast for Devin and Jenny. Want to help?”


“Yes, it was our turn for dinner and we blew that.” 


“I need to take a shower first,” she said.


“Me too.” He nodded.  


“You use this one again and I’ll go down the hall.”


“Why don’t we use this one together,” he asked innocently.


“Because we’ll never get breakfast done.” She smiled as Vincent turned towards the bathroom. “But that’s a nice thought for later,” she said over her back, giving him something to think about.


They finished their showers in record time anxious to be back together. They dressed together and then headed downstairs together.


**********


Vincent added logs to the fire and Catherine walked to the kitchen and started the coffee. Vincent came in and warmed up the skillet to make bacon and sausage again. Catherine put on the kettle to warm water for Vincent’s tea and then mixed up batter; she was going to make pancakes. 


Everything was ready and they sat down to wait for Devin and Jenny. There was very little talk as they stared at each other, love struck.


Devin came down first and shouted to Jenny over his back.


“UUGGHH! Its way too lovey dovey in here this morning,” he laughed.


“We figured, huh?” Jenny walked up and laughed too.


Vincent sat blushing furiously while Catherine got up to make the pancakes.


“You forgot to serve me coffee little brother; you got something else on your mind? You miss out on some sleep last night?” Devin teased mercilessly.


Vincent ignored him got up and poured coffee for Jenny and Devin and then tea for himself.  He handed them their mugs and then he went to the stove and brought to the table the warm banana pecan topping and the strawberry and blueberry toppings Catherine had thoughtfully made. He turned around and brought the warmed syrup too. 


Catherine set down the first batch and told everyone to dig in. It wasn’t long before a second batch was made and she sat and enjoyed her breakfast with the rest of them. 


“Hey Cathy, sorry about all the negative comments, these pancakes are really good,” Devin smiled. 


“Thanks Devin. I can make more.” 


Everyone agreed they were full and Catherine started to clean up the mess. Jenny jumped up and offered to help. The guys made their way to the den. 


“Better bring some more wood in,” Devin commented.


“I was heading out after breakfast to get it,” Vincent explained.


“Well let’s go.” They walked to the door and put on their boots and coats.  



**********


The two men went outside and walked behind the shed to get the wood. This was the only time they ever spent alone and Devin wanted to know the juicy details.


“Well?” Devin asked as he handed Vincent logs.


“Well, what?” 


“You going to tell me?” 


“Tell you what?” Vincent wondered innocently.


“You drive me crazy.” Devin angrily picked up pieces of wood.


“Oh, you mean that,” Vincent said shyly, finally realizing what Devin wanted to know. 

    

“Yeah, that,” Devin said sarcastically.


“Incredible, was the word I believe you used.”


“Good, I’m happy for you, Vin.”


“I owe you one, Devin.” 


“Yeah well, name a kid after me,” Devin joked.


Vincent dropped the pile of wood he had in his hands and stared at Devin incredulously. 


“What?” 


“You do realize how babies are made right?” Devin looked up at him in surprise.


“I never even thought...do you think...Oh no!” Vincent shook his head in disbelief. 


“Maybe Catherine took care of it,” Devin said nonchalantly.


“Maybe?” 


“Ask her, not me.” Devin laughed as he walked away.


Vincent picked up the rest of the wood and started back towards the house, slowly following Devin, contemplating what he had said.


**********


Meanwhile Catherine and Jenny were cleaning the kitchen.


“So...how was it...the best you’ve ever had?” Jenny laughed.


“Oh yeah, because I have so much to compare him to.” Catherine smiled rolling her eyes.


“You know what I mean.” 


“Yeah, I do. It’s just like they always say; when it’s with someone you truly love it’s....magical.” Catherine smiled dreamily.


“So now what? You think you’ll get married?” 


“Married, I don’t know Jen; One step at a time.”


“You don’t want to get married, have kids?” Jenny was shocked. Catherine had always mentioned how she couldn’t wait to have kids one day.


“Jenny, I would love to marry Vincent, live in his world have his kids...”


“But....I feel a but...” Jenny said quietly.


“But I don’t know if Vincent is ready, it will have to be his choice. Look how long it took me to convince him to move this far forward, and I couldn’t even do it alone. Devin had to help.” 


“Then maybe Devin would help with the next step?” Jenny said hopefully.


“I want Vincent to ask me because he wants to not because someone forced him into it.”


“I understand, but if you guys keep at it there’s going to be a baby who makes the choice for you.” 


“Oh Jen...I never thought...It didn’t dawn on me...Oh Jen wouldn’t it be wonderful?” Catherine gushed.


“You didn’t use anything?” Jenny wondered what happened to the girlfriend who always had it all together.


“I was so worried about Vincent. I just didn’t think of anything else.” 


“So, you’d be happy if it happened?” 


“My life would be complete,” Catherine smiled ecstatically.


“Here come the guys.” Jenny noticed as she refreshed everyone’s coffee and poured Vincent some more tea. She loaded it all up on a try and headed for the den.


**********


The four of them sat together in the den in front of the fireplace talking about how they could spend their day.


“What does everyone want to do?” Catherine glanced around at everyone.

  

“It’s my last day, I need to head back tomorrow,” Jenny said ruefully.


Vincent and Devin both nodded then looked at one another.


“I need to get back also, with Winterfest coming they will need my help,” Vincent said quietly.


“Mine too.” Devin kner that an extra hand could always come in useful.


“What’s Winterfest?” Jenny wondered.


“It’s our world’s holiday celebration. The people below welcome all of the helpers from above and we have a magical party,” Devin explained as Vincent and Catherine nodded.


“Last year was my first year and it truly is...enchanting,” Catherine smiled.


The morning was spent with Devin and Vincent telling stories of past celebrations as Catherine and Jenny sat enthralled by them. Jenny silently came up with ways that she could begin helping the world below. “How many times do I see books destroyed because nobody wants them? How many text books for school children are thrown away because the schools deem them unusable after only three years?” Jenny thought. She would need to figure out a way to get them below. She planned on asking Catherine when they got back.


“Earth to Jenny,” Catherine laughed pulling Jenny back from her thoughts.


“Oh, what?” Jenny smiled embarrassed.


“We thought we could take the snowmobiles out. I have helmets in the shed if we can find Vincent one we can go further than the end of my property.” 


“Good idea, Cath,” Devin said.


They all got up and readied themselves for a cold ride. Bundled up they headed out the door. 


**********


Catherine handed Vincent a helmet and he slipped it on, he looked funny but it fit and his features were hidden. She looked at Devin for confirmation and he agreed with her. Everyone grabbed helmets and Devin gave Vincent a quick lesson and they started the engines. Jenny of course, hopped on behind Devin and Catherine settled down behind Vincent. 


Devin led the way and Vincent soon became comfortable with the controls and they rode alongside one another. They went far past Catherine’s border and saw the beautiful countryside. Vincent couldn’t believe the colors the sun produced on everything it touched. 


It was a fabulous afternoon and they headed home. Everyone was starving and the girls headed to the kitchen to prepare dinner. 


**********


Catherine and Jenny worked well together in the kitchen and quickly had potatoes cooking and biscuits in the oven. While Catherine made a salad,

Jenny walked into the den.


“Hey guys, could you grill the steaks?” Jenny asked hopefully.


Devin was the first to answer. “Sure, I saw a grill out back. Come on Vincent.”


They made their way into the kitchen and Devin stole a piece of cucumber from Catherine’s salad. Vincent was horrified. If someone tried doing that in front of William’s watchful eye, he’d have his hand slapped. Catherine laughed at Vincent’s expression and popped a carrot in his mouth. 


“Go.” She smiled and pointed to the back door.


Devin showed Vincent how to start the grill and it wasn’t long before it was warm enough to cook on. Vincent walked in and grabbed the steaks and took them to Devin.


Catherine and Jenny put everything on the table and waited for the guys. They came in and everyone sat and enjoyed a light hearted meal. 


Devin and Vincent agreed to clean up and the girls took their coffee to the den. It wasn’t long before the guys joined them and they all sat down relaxing in front of the fire.


“Okay. It’s our turn to listen. Vincent and I want to hear about your adventures,” Devin said as Vincent nodded in agreement.


Catherine and Jenny related the story of how they met and then their adventures in college. They kept them entertained with hundreds of funny stories and the hour grew late. Jenny yawned and Catherine caught it and yawned also.


“Stop that,” Catherine admonished.


“See what I started,” Jenny laughed pointing at Devin as he yawned too.


Catherine and Jenny said their goodnights and headed up first as the guys cleaned up the coffee mugs. 


“See you in the morning, Vin.” Devin said on his way up.


“Goodnight Devin.” Vincent followed closely behind.


**********


Catherine was in bed waiting for Vincent to come in. She smiled coyly as he walked into the room. She noticed a change in his behavior and became concerned. She sat up quickly and looked at him.


“What is it, Vincent?” 


Vincent came and sat next to her on the bed and took her hand in his.


“Catherine these past few days have been the best days of my life. I will never forget how...I felt like a normal man...” 


“Vincent, you are a normal man.” 


“Let me finish. I felt like a normal man and because of that I began to dream again. I began to dream about a life that we may be able to have if...if you are willing to accept all its limitations.” Vincent sat looking down at the bed cover afraid to go on further. Catherine squeezed his hand in support.


“Vincent, I don’t think a life with you will have limitations. Look how far we came this weekend. Who knows how far we can go in the future.” 


“I love you Catherine; more now than I ever thought was even possible. What you have given to me is more than I can ever give back to you...no...Hear me please,” he begged when he saw she meant to protest. Catherine closed her mouth and he continued.


“The only thing I have to give you is my love and that you will have for the rest of our lives. I can show you that love daily and nightly, I can share my life with you anyway you wish. Catherine, if you would be willing, I would love to have you for my wife.” Vincent looked at her then looked down unsure of what her response would be.


“Vincent,” Catherine said with tears in her eyes as she grabbed his chin and made him look at her.


“I will love you daily and nightly and share my life with you anytime you wish. You too, will always have my love. I want more than anything in the world to be your wife.” She smiled then moved into his arms.


Vincent’s sighed in relief as Catherine kissed him. It wasn’t long before they were passionately making love, bonding their hearts to one another even further.


Later as they snuggled, Catherine could tell something was still bothering Vincent.


“Vincent, what is it?”


Vincent looked down at Catherine and sighed not sure if he was ready for this particular discussion.


“Tell me, Please!” 


“We have taken chances this weekend, chances that I had never thought about before,” Vincent said quietly.


“Chances, what do you mean?” 


“With...our future...with...Catherine, what if there is a child?” Vincent finally managed to get out.


“What if there is? Wouldn’t it be wonderful?” She smiled joyously.


“Would it be wonderful if it looked like me?” 


“Yes, why? Don’t you think it would be wonderful if it looked like me?” Catherine asked.


“Well of course, but you’re beautiful.”


“And you are too...If we had a child just think how beautiful it would be.”


“You would love a baby that looks like me?” Vincent asked.


“Yes, are you saying you wouldn’t love a baby that looks like you?”


“Well of course I would love any baby that you had, what I meant to say...” 


Catherine furiously interrupted already protecting a baby she didn’t have.

“What you meant to say is that you think you could easily love a baby that looks like me but not one that looks like you.” Her eyes flashed angrily.


“No...I...” Vincent stammered with tears in his eyes.


Catherine took mercy on him she realized he was just worried and not expressing it clearly.


“If I’m pregnant now I will love this baby no matter whom it looks like because Vincent I love you and nothing you do or say can change that. Having your baby would just strengthen my love for you. You must believe that.” 


“I’m sorry, Catherine, I never...”


“Don’t apologize Vincent, just love me,” she whispered.


They did just that.



**********


The next day everyone pitched in and cleaned the cabin ready to leave it the way they found it. Catherine washed everyone’s sheets and started to vacuum while Jenny pitched in cleaning the bathrooms. The guys started loading the van with the leftover food and suitcases.


They decided to take one last walk through the woods. Catherine and Vincent told them that they were planning on announcing their engagement at Winterfest next week. Congratulations were offered to the couple. By then, the sun was starting to set and it would be time to leave soon. They headed back to the cottage ate a light meal and went to leave.


“Hey Cathy, why don’t Devin and I follow behind you in your car and you can drive the van with Vincent in it,” Jenny offered.


Vincent stood in the den of the cottage and then walked outside taking a last look around.


“What’s up, Vincent?” Jenny asked wondering what he was thinking.


“This place brought me a life I never expected to have. I’ll never forget it.”  


Jenny smiled and gave Vincent a hug. He held her to him and turned around as Catherine and Devin walked up arm and arm. 


“We all ready?” Devin smiled releasing Catherine to Vincent’s care.


Jenny laughed at walked towards Devin.


“Let’s go,” she smiled as she followed him to Catherine’s car.



**********


Catherine made sure Vincent was settled in the back and then pulled away followed by Devin and Jenny. It was and easy drive home and they encountered no problems. Catherine pulled up to the Fourteenth street entrance and everyone hopped out. They went inside the tunnel entrance and Jenny saw a small portion of tunnel. 


“Wow,” she said as she looked down the long passageway.


“I’ll have to take you on a tour sometime,” Devin smiled.


“When?” Jenny wondered.


“Soon, Jenny very soon,” Vincent promised.


They all said goodbye and Catherine and Jenny headed out as Devin and Vincent turned towards home.


**********


The next day Jenny called Catherine at work.


“Catherine Chandler.” 


“Hey, it’s me,” Jenny began.


“Hi Jen,” Catherine smiled.


“Hey, I found this shipment of books that is being dumped and I was wondering if you knew of anywhere that needed them?”


“Jenny, really? Because if you’re serious I think I may know of a place.” Catherine smiled knowing Jenny knew the world Below would gladly take them.


“I’m positive, five big boxes filled. How can I get them there?” 


“Bring them to my place and we’ll have your workers put them in storage in the basement,” Catherine said.


“Okay, I’ll do that late this afternoon.” 


“I’ll meet you there and we’ll try to get them delivered after that.” 


“Okay, see you about 5:30 p.m.” Jenny said as she hung up.


**********


Catherine sent word below and asked for help this evening from some of the men and older boys at about 6:00 p.m. Knowing this usually meant heavy lifting of a lot of stuff Vincent arranged for a group of men to meet him at Catherine’s threshold.


After the delivery men from Jenny’s left; Catherine locked Jenny and herself into the storage area and turned and uncovered the hidden door. She opened it and she and Jenny looked down into Devin and Vincent’s faces.


“Hi guys,” they said simultaneously.


“Hello ladies,” Devin said as Vincent smiled.


“We’ll need help,” Catherine explained as three other men stepped into the light.


“That’ll do it,” Jenny laughed as she turned to Catherine.


Devin climbed up the ladder and looked at the boxes. 


“Wow, Father’s going to flip!”


“Is that a good thing?” Jenny worried.


“Sometimes,” Catherine smiled teasingly.


Devin started to drop boxes down into Vincent’s hands as he stood on the ladder. Vincent took them with one hand and distributed them to the other men. 


“Last one, Vincent.” Devin handed the box to his brother.


“Would you ladies like to follow us back to speak to Father about the tunnels’ latest acquisition?” Devin asked.


Catherine laughed and followed him down the ladder as Jenny looked on unsure of what to do. Catherine fell into Vincent’s arms and kissed him hello. Devin looked up at Jenny and offered her his hand as she started to descend the ladder.


“So, this Father is a mean character huh?” Jenny asked worriedly.


“Yes!” said Devin as Vincent shrugged. 


“No!” said Catherine at the same time laughing.


“Oh great, you can’t decide,” Jenny laughed.


“Come Jenny, he’ll want to thank you.” Vincent turned away and picked up a box of books then led the group through the tunnels towards the study. 


Catherine moved under Vincent’s free arm and they walked ahead quietly talking to themselves. Devin grabbed the last box then hung back and talked with Jenny while they followed behind. He tried to put her at ease and he told her what to expect from his Father.


**********


They walked into the study while Father was opening the boxes of books. He was amazed at the variety of new books and was in awe at the impracticality of the disposal of textbooks that had only been used once last year.


“The waste up top is absolutely sinful,” he grumbled to himself as he opened another box.  So much of what he had just received would become invaluable to the community below. He turned at the sound of more voices.


“Father.” Catherine ran into his arms. She hadn’t seen him since before the argument.


“Catherine my dear, you look well.” He smiled and hugged her warmly.


Catherine kissed his cheek and released him.


“Father, I’d like you to meet my best friend Jenny.” Catherine smiled and held out her hand for Jenny to come forward. “Jenny, this is Father, he’s the head of our community.”


“Hello, sir,” Jenny smiled nervously, taking his extended hand.


“Dear Jenny, I have to thank for taking care of my sons for three days and for these lovely books you have provided to us,” Father smiled warmly holding her hand in both of his.


“You’re welcome and it was really no big deal. If you have the use for them I am always coming across old and new books that are to be destroyed. It will be nice to see they will find a new home where they will be used.” 


“Catherine, it’s hard to believe you know of someone that is as generous as yourself,” Father smiled.


“Thank you, Father. But now, I need to get back I have a deposition I have to be prepared for in the morning.” 


“I need to get back too, I have some paperwork to do for that art auction next month,” Jenny said.


“Devin and I have work to do in the Great Hall on some of the tables,” Vincent added quietly.


“Well, it was nice meeting you Father.” Jenny smiled as she turned to leave.


“It was a pleasure to meet you dear,” Father countered with a smile as he thumbed through a book.


Catherine walked up to Vincent and kissed him in front of everyone. He blushed as she smiled and she and Jenny left and walked home.


**********


The next day Jenny called Catherine at home.


“Hello.” 


“Hey...I just got the strangest thing delivered to my house,” Jenny said.


“What is it?” 


“It’s this beautiful candle with colors intertwined and...” 


“Jenny! That’s a Winterfest Candle!” Catherine exclaimed.


“A Winterfest Candle?” 


“It’s the world below’s way of inviting you to Winterfest this year! You get to be there with us!” Catherine exclaimed.


“Well, who would ever know that? This little girl rang my bell and when I answered the door she threw this candle at me and ran away.” 


Catherine laughed hysterically then explained to Jenny how the children sometimes have races to see who can deliver their candles the fastest.


“Well, let’s not tell Father, he’ll lecture the little dear. I’ll find her that night and explain the importance of giving the whole message,” Jenny said.


“So you’ll go with me?” Catherine begged.


“Of course, I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” 



**********


Winterfest came and the Great Hall was again filled with people celebrating. The food tables were laden with all of the best food and the drinks were in abundance. The children had presents from Santa this year in addition to the regular candy canes he usually gave. Father came up to stand in a group with Devin and Vincent and Jenny and Catherine.


“I wonder why so many of our helpers have been extra generous this year.” Father looking pointedly at Catherine, Catherine pretended she hadn’t heard him and Jenny saved the day.


“Well, the economy is up, everyone must be having a good year,” she added hopefully.


“Nice save,” Devin whispered in her ear.


Vincent looked at his Father and excused himself and Catherine for a dance. He walked her to the floor and they joined in with the other couples. Vincent bent low and whispered in her ear.


“Are you ready to make our announcement?” 


She looked up at him with a huge smile. “Whenever you are!” 


As the song ended Vincent walked up to the band and asked them to hold off a minute. He raised his hand into the air and held Catherine’s hand tightly with his other.


“If I can have everyone’s attention please,” Vincent talked loudly.


He waited as people slowly turned and face him and Catherine. He blushed as everyone looked at them expectantly. Catherine squeezed his hand offering him her support. The noise eventually died down and Vincent cleared his throat.


“Catherine and I would like to invite all of you to a celebration to take place on April 12th of next year. Catherine has agreed to become my wife on the third anniversary of our meeting.” Vincent smiled as he bent and gave her a kiss. Catherine stood next to him and beamed as the crowd erupted in applause. 


Father walked up first and kissed his son and then moved towards Catherine with tears in his eyes.


“I will be honored to have you as my daughter.” He cried as he hugged her. 


“Thank you, Father.” She smiled through her tears, equally moved as his gesture. 


The rest of Winterfest was spent glorying in the union of an impossible love. 


THE END