(When the Bluebird Sinqs - Robert John Guttke & George R.R. Martin)

Catherine felt Vincent's arm move around her and pull her gently against him. In her world, the gesture itself was a common one among lovers; but for Vincent, it expressed a great deal more. The confidence and ease she felt in his touch had taken a long time and great effort to achieve. At last, she sighed silently.

With her head resting against his chest, she allowed the steady beating of his heart and his warmth to ease the turmoil inside of her. She continued to look at Kristopher's painting. The intimacy implied in the pose and the sensuality expressed in the faces filled her with wonder. Did she look like that when she looked at Vincent? Where her desires so obvious? And what of Vincent? She had to admit that the possessiveness displayed in the painting aroused her, and with every beat of her heart that need became more urgent.

Vincent studied the painting with a critic's eye for detail. Kristopher's style was overpowering with its bold use of colors and images. This portrait was just as compelling as his other work, but in a different, more subdued way. The image of them as lovers whose bodies were comfortable and familiar with each other filled him with hope, and for a moment he allowed himself to dream again.

Before the doubts returned, he had reached out and pulled her close. She had leaned into him and lain her head on his chest as he rested his cheek against the softness of her hair. It was a rare moment of intimacy that he allowed himself to savor until Catherine's feelings roused him from his fantasy.

Lifting her head, Catherine turned toward him and put her arms around his waist, pulling him closer. His look of surprise brought a smile to her face. When the surprise faded; however, it was replaced with a look of longing that he seldom let her see. It was a longing that matched her own.

The moment was like so many they had experienced lately when their desire for each other surfaced unexpectedly. Usually they suppressed the feelings, and in so doing, denied them. But that was becoming more and more difficult. She loved Vincent unconditionally, and from that love came a need and a desire for physical consummation. Her own frustration was becoming unbearable, and she often sensed it was for Vincent as well. But unlike those previous moments, this time neither turned away. They continued to look into each other's eyes and allowed themselves to be swept away in a tide of passion without any will to resist.

Vincent's arms encircled her. The palms of his hands began to rub the middle of her back. When she moved closer and pressed her body against his, he could feel her feminine contours and his breath caught in his throat. His heart increased its rhythm. All conscious thought escaped him. Her nearness was so agonizingly painful, yet he could not find the strength to pull away.

The moment he reached for her, Catherine was lost. She was ready to give herself to him right there, right then; and she wanted him to know it. Tilting her head to one side, she lowered her gaze to his sensual mouth. She desperately wanted to taste those lips, to feel them pressing against hers. Inch by inch, they moved closer until she could feel his breath. Please don't turn away now, she silently pleaded. I don't think I could stand it. To her amazement, he continued to move closer. Her eyes closed just before that first tentative contact and she prayed it was not a dream.

That first contact was a little awkward but it felt like heaven to Catherine. His bottom lip was full and soft, and his upper lip was surprisingly pliant. She maneuvered her mouth into a position that gave her access to the tender skin underneath. The pleasure that contact gave her literally made her weak in the knees.

He was kissing her! She was kissing him back with passion! Those thoughts were screaming through Vincent's mind. He sensed no fear, no repulsion, and no doubt through their connection. All he could feel was the heat of desire as it exploded between them.

She pulled back only long enough to catch her breath and move her hands from behind his back to his chest. Fear tore through Vincent. Was she pushing him away? What had he done?

Sensing his fear, Catherine moved her hands up his chest and captured his face. Slowly, she traced his mouth with the fingers of one hand then slid one finger carefully along the cleft in his upper lip. He shuddered in response.

Catherine's simple act had sent shock waves of pleasure through him. No one had ever touched him like that. Even he didn't know how sensitive that spot was to touch - yet, she knew somehow. She knew how and where to touch him to give him pleasure. How? He didn't have long to ponder that question because she began working his mouth open with her fingers and he complied.

So far, he had not backed away, and Catherine was not about to give him the chance. Once again, she pressed her mouth to his but this time she parted her lips and slid her tongue tentatively against his mouth. She could feel him quivering as she moved her tongue up into that cleft.

They continued to kiss, each seeking just the right position or gesture to give and receive the most pleasure. Without realizing what he was doing, Vincent began to stroke Catherine's back with one hand while the other hand entangled itself in her hair. This is madness! We must stop! his mind was screaming but his body would not obey. That frightened him. What if he couldn't stop?

Her fingers were moving through his hair, combing and stroking the strands as the kisses continued. The intimacy of those kisses were fueling a deep hunger that was growing more and more intense. He felt her hands move from his hair, down his neck, and settle momentarily on his chest. Soon afterward, she ended her hungry exploration of his mouth and drew in a long, deep breath.

They were both breathing hard with hearts pounding. Catherine looked up at him, her eyes filled with passion. "I need you to touch me," she moaned in a low, raspy voice.

She didn't remember exactly when the dreams had started, but they had become a nightly ritual. The kisses would start and then he would touch her. Not the safe, platonic touches they shared on her balcony, but the intimate touches of a lover. The visual image of his clawed hands tenderly caressing her breasts sent heat waves through her; and she would awaken desperately yearning for that touch. She always ended up crying in frustration, feeling cold and abandoned.

Her hands sought his. She held them between hers as she stared down at them. "My hands," she whispered as she pulled them to her face and gently kissed his palms. "I've dreamed of these hands."

The battle that raged within Vincent frightened him more than anything he had ever encountered in his life. He had never felt so out of control, so close to losing his grip on the 'other' that lurked in the darkness of his soul. Catherine wanted him, not just as her soul mate, but as her lover. The physical ache he felt in her was drawing him in a primitive way, and he was losing the will to resist.

Catherine looked up and searched his troubled eyes. For the first time, she saw passion burning openly and unrestrained as he looked at her. She could stand the ache no longer. Quickly, before he could pull away again, she placed his opened hands over her breasts and pressed them tightly to her. The pleasure was immediate and unlike anything she had ever felt before. Yes, other men had fondled her, but no one had brought her so close to orgasm by simply touching her. "Oh Vincent," she moaned then shamelessly moved his hands over her breasts.

The tightness in Vincent's chest was making him gasp for air as he watched Catherine's actions. He knew he should pull away and put some distance between them, but he was frozen to the spot. How many nights had he driven himself to near madness fighting the urge to touch her beneath her tailored business suits? He wanted more than to touch them, he wanted to caress them, he even wanted to - kiss them, take them into his mouth. Helplessly, he watched as his hands boldly began to squeeze and explore on their own.

In response, Catherine leaned into his hands and closed her eyes. She sighed and let her own hands slide down his chest until they caught on his belt. Instinctively, they sought the protrusion below his waist line and her fingers followed the outline. Oh God, he's huge! she thought to herself as she continued to fondle him, her caresses becoming increasingly bolder. She could feel him hardening and becoming erect against the confinement of his pants.

Clothes were a hindrance so Vincent's hands worked their way under her sweater and pushed up her bra. Her warm, soft breasts fell into his hands and he greedily continued his manipulation of them.

Wanting that same intimacy, Catherine fumbled with his zipper until she finally got it down, then urgently pushed her hand inside. Vincent's reaction was swift and intense. As soon as her fingers touched him, his entire body tensed, he growled softly, and she couldn't believe what was happening to the part of him she held in her hand. But her reverie was short-lived. She suddenly found herself being half-carried and half-pushed over to the bed, Vincent's strong arms leaning her backward until she fell onto it. He towered above her breathing heavily as he struggled with his instincts. Seeing him so close to losing control and giving in to his desire for her, aroused her more than she had ever been. She wanted him so badly it frightened her. But what frightened her more was the possibility that they would not finish what had begun so unexpectedly.

Vincent was lost in a red haze of passion that rendered him speechless and unable to think clearly. The center of his universe was lying before him wanting him as badly as he wanted her. The sound of his own heart beating in time with hers was all he could hear. His desire to claim her became stronger than any force he had ever experienced - save one, his love for Catherine. A love he was convinced he was about to betray. That conviction gave him the strength to stop - to think - to realize just what he was. Tears filled his eyes. It had gone too far. He had ruined everything he held dear. The hands that had moments before been boldly caressing Catherine's body were now clenched in anger. Shame rose like bile in him, and he could no longer bear the taste of it. He started backing away from Catherine - away from love.

Catherine quickly reached out for him but she was too late. He had retreated to the far side of the chamber and turned his back to her. She watched in anguish as he refastened his pants. Confusion, embarrassment, emptiness, coldness and finally anger swept over her in waves. "Vincent?" she called out to him.

"Leave, Catherine. Save yourself."

She sat up on the edge of the bed, her body still warm and aroused from his touch. "What are you talking about, Vincent? Save myself from what? I'm not resisting you. I want this as much as you do." The quiver in her voice betrayed her still aroused senses.

"We cannot allow this to happen between us," Vincent responded.

The frustration and anger flared in Catherine. Until tonight, she had reluctantly accepted the limits Vincent placed on their love out of compassion for his fears, but moments ago he had proven those fears groundless. He had touched her and kissed her with a mixture of gentleness and passion she had never known. She was now convinced that they could cross that line and truly be together. That conviction became determination. After taking a moment to adjust her clothing, she rose from the bed and stood as straight as she could on trembling legs.

"Are we to forever deny our desires simply because YOU say so?" Anger began to creep into her voice. "Do I have no power in this relationship? Do you expect me to lie alone in my bed night after night and say nothing? There are a great many things that I will do willingly in the name of love, Vincent - but deny that I am a woman who desires the man she loves is one I will do no longer. We have been deceiving ourselves. What we feel for each other is real, too real to continue to deny the physical needs we have."

The anger Vincent heard in her voice and the pain he felt through the bond tore at his heart. She was right and he knew it. Their physical attraction to each other was too powerful to be denied much longer. The time had come for him to find the strength to let her go. He turned to her slowly. Her cheeks were flushed, her hair was mussed, and her eyes expressed the anger she felt. Her wildness drew his and he almost lost himself again.

"Perhaps we have been deceiving ourselves, Catherine. Perhaps it's time to stop believing in impossible dreams."

"What just happened between us proved that it is not impossible, Vincent. You responded as any man would. Can you deny you were just as aroused as I was? Vincent - couldn't you sense how much I wanted you to make love to me?"

He could sense it all right, in every fiber of his being. She had indeed been as aroused as he had been - perhaps more. Just remembering the intensity of it threatened his control as he felt it begin again. "That's what frightens me, Catherine."


"Before - I told myself you couldn't possibly feel the same desire for me as I felt for you. That made it - more bearable. I tried not to think of your physical needs even though I was very aware of them. You need both an emotional and physical union with a man. I can no longer ask you to deny that truth."

"Then don't. I love you, Vincent. Whatever needs I have, I want only you to satisfy them."

Catherine studied him closely. He was doing it again. He was letting his fear and years of insecurity win over their love. The time had come to wage the final battle and it was up to her to declare war. "I won't argue this anymore. I'm tired of you deciding what is best for me. I am not a porcelain doll you can keep up on a pedestal. I am a woman with some very basic needs, and you have taken it upon yourself to ignore that." She took a deep breath and summoned all her courage. "I love you, and I want to be with you in every possible way. I don't give a damn about what people say. It doesn't matter to me if we're married or not, and I won't go gently into that dark night. Do you think so little of my love that you think I could just walk away and find someone new? Well - I have a surprise for you, mister. I won't go away and make it easy for you, but I will give you some time to think about what you're doing to us. We can't go on this way, and I'm determined to fight for our future even if you're not."

Her words hit him hard, but what he saw in her eyes terrified him. The brutal honesty reflected in her intense gaze made him realize that the crossroad had been reached. What happened now would determine if they journeyed on together or wandered aimlessly on alone. The thought of not having her in his life was something he was not prepared to deal with under any circumstances.

"Catherine - please...."

Normally, when he looked at her that way and said please, she could not refuse him; but she had to be strong. Glancing over at Kristopher's painting, she found her strength. She pointed at the portrait. "I believe with everything I am that THAT is our destiny. Kristopher saw it. Everyone who has seen us together sees it. Everyone has seen it but you." She took a deep, calming breath. "And until you can, we have nothing to talk about."

Even though her words were filled with confidence, Catherine feared what her ultimatum might force Vincent to do. She could still turn around, envelope him in her arms, and take back her words. But, in doing that, she would only be enabling his fears to keep them apart forever. Something had to make him choose. Summoning her courage, she walked to the entrance to his chamber then stopped. "I love you, Vincent and I'm willing to risk everything for that love. What about you?"

His silence cut through her like a knife, and tears burned her eyes. One step, two - each step drove the knife deeper. I have to do this, she kept telling herself until it became a chant that got her back to the basement of her apartment building. She could feel Vincent's pain as well and that made it even worse. She bit her lip then climbed the ladder.

* * * * * *

"I can't believe this!"

"You failed."

Angrily, Kristopher removed his Mets' cap and scratched his head. "I thought the painting would get the message across. I was trying to be subtle.... It almost worked. She understood the message."

"Come on. We both know conception takes two. He has to get the message too."

"You realize, Kristopher, if you don't pull this off, we'll have to resort to the other plan."

"NO! These two don't deserve that tragedy."

"You know the only way to avoid it is to get them together willingly."

Kristopher replaced his cap and pulled it down firmly. "I'll get through to them."

"You'd better. She will be fertile for only a short time. Timing is essential."

"I know. I know."

"Kristopher, I don't mean to sound callous in this matter. Vincent and Catherine truly love each other and they were destined to be together from the beginning. Vincent's fears have become an obstacle to that destiny. You were sent to him to help remove that obstacle."

"I know. I thought I had."

The older man crossed his arms and stared down at the disheveled younger one. "Time is running out."

"I'm going, okay? I'll talk to her first."

"Be careful about what you reveal, Kristopher. She might not be ready to accept it yet."

"I'll be careful."

* * * * * *

Catherine lay in her bed staring up at the ceiling, her earlier confrontation with Vincent still fresh in her mind. Had she done the right thing? She rolled over onto her side and gazed at the balcony doors. Had she pushed him too far? Had she let her own needs push a wedge between them? She rolled back onto her back with a grunt of displeasure. Am I being selfish? Abruptly, she sat up. "No, damn it!" Angrily, she grabbed her robe and put it on as she walked out onto the balcony.

The sudden blast of cool, night air made her shiver and she wrapped her arms around herself for warmth. Catherine took a deep breath and closed her eyes savoring the freshness of the air and the way it made her skin tingle. That made her think of Vincent and the way he had made her tingle. She remembered his hands on her body, his lips against hers, and the way it felt to touch him intimately and feel him respond so strongly. A tear worked its way free of one eye. She wanted to see him, to touch all of him, to be the one to guide him on that most intimate journey.


The male voice not only ended her fantasies but nearly gave her a heart attack. "Who.... Kristopher!"

"Sorry - didn't mean to scare you. I guess I'm not who you expected."

Suddenly feeling very self-conscious, Catherine pulled her robe tightly about her. "What are you doing here?"

"I have to talk to you about something very important," Kristopher announced nervously as he removed his cap.

Now, Catherine was angry. "Like why you ran out on your showing? Or maybe when and how you did that painting? Or just WHAT you are?"

"I hate questions," he answered with that disarming smile of his.

"Well, I hate your avoidance of them." She returned his smile and sighed. For some odd reason, she couldn't stay mad at him for long. "Why are you here?"

"You mean on your balcony?"

Catherine nearly laughed out loud. "Yes."

"Oh - yeah. You don't have much time."

"I beg your pardon."

"I was sent here to get you and Vincent to...."

She waited. "To what?"

"To - gether."

His strange look and the way he intertwined his fingers just added to her confusion. "What are you talking about?"

"I did that painting years ago."

His confession didn't stun Catherine as much as she thought it would. "How? We never met."

"Cool - huh? I had this dream. I saw you and Vincent so clearly and I started to sketch the images I had in my head."

"Kristopher...." she exclaimed in an exasperated tone. "Do you expect me to believe...."

"Yes I do, Cathy. You've got to believe. If you don't.... If you don't, something bad is going to happen."

The foreboding in his voice sent a shiver up her spine. "What do you mean?"

"I know you don't believe in - spirits and all that stuff, but do you believe in destiny?"

She thought about his question for a moment. "I think so, to some degree."

Smiling broadly, Kristopher rubbed his hands together. "Good. You and Vincent were destined to be together since before either of you were born."

"This is crazy," Catherine laughed.

"Is it? I gave you the painting so that you and Vincent could see yourself as you were meant to be - lovers."

A warmth crept up Catherine's neck and face. She was blushing, and she hated that. The sadness that followed, however, left her feeling cold and empty. "I am not the one having difficulty with that image."

"I know. I have to tell you something about the future, Cathy." Kristopher quickly moved to her side. "You and Vincent have a destiny to fulfill - or at least your son does."

Catherine turned and looked at him incredulously. "Son?"

"I wasn't supposed to tell you this - but you two are suppose to have a kid - well, kids actually."

Her legal, logical mind was telling her just how ridiculous this whole conversation was; but a part of her wanted to believe it, if only for a moment. "Kristopher - what have you been drinking - or smoking?"

"I know it's kind of out there; but believe me, it's destined."

He looked at her with conviction shining brightly in his eyes, and she began to believe. "A child? I am to give Vincent a son?"

"Not unless we can get you two together. I mean, Vincent has to cooperate."

Catherine found herself laughing as Kristopher blushed. "Kristopher - I wish I could believe you."

"Then do. During a thunderstorm, you believe that the sun will eventually come out. You don't know it for a fact, but you believe it. You deal with the dark side of humanity everyday, but you believe in mankind's innate goodness. Why is it so difficult to believe in such a beautiful and impossible thing? Cathy - let go of your certainties and take a leap of faith."

"I'm not the one you have to convince," she replied.

He nodded slowly. "So much depends on this Cathy. We can't fail."

"What do you mean? What will happen?" He turned and looked at her with a frightening look of despair on his face.

"Do you remember the story of the lovers I told you about?"

Catherine remembered that strange conversation in the coffee shop and the way Kristopher "borrowed" the book and showed her the pictures. She also remembered their sad fate. "Yes, I do. Are you trying to tell me that that could happen to us?"

"I can't tell you everything. Trust me. Help me."

She stared at him for a moment, considering the arguments. Logically, this was simply crazy. But something inside of her told her to believe him. "I'll pack a few things and go Below." Catherine turned and looked out at the lights of the city. Everything looked different now. Even the twinkling lights held a new and mysterious meaning. "A son," she whispered then turned back to look at Kristopher but he was gone. "I hate it when he does that," she commented but then smiled. Pressing her hand firmly to her stomach, she imagined Vincent's child stirring within. "A leap of faith. A quantum leap of faith."

* * * * * *

Vincent sat alone on the roof of the skyscraper. From his vantage point, he could see the lights of the city illuminating the darkness. The darkness in his soul, however, devoured the light and he had no wish to plumb its depths.

As always, his thoughts turned to Catherine and what had transpired between them earlier. The portrait with its mysterious origins haunted him. The way his hands held Catherine so possessively, the look in her eyes, the suggestive way her body melded itself against his and the look of pride in his own eyes that said ‘This woman is mine, body and soul.’ and all it implied, was still unsettling. What happened after that made him shudder. The wondrous feel of her soft lips, the scent of her hair, the way her warm body felt pressed firmly against his, all these things he vividly remembered and shamefully found pleasure in reliving. "What are we to do?" he asked the heavens.

"Glad you asked," a familiar voice responded.

Vincent nearly lost his balance as he wheeled around to face the intruder.

"Careful, Vincent. We can't have you fall over the edge - not now anyway."

"Kristopher! What are you doing here? You nearly scared me to death."

The young man cautiously edged closer. "Didn't mean to."

After calming his wildly beating heart, Vincent sighed in relief. "Why are you here?"

"Did you like the painting?"

"The painting was beautiful. Thank you for giving it to us."

"You really liked it?"

"Yes. I really, really liked it." Vincent assured him.

Nervously, Kristopher tugged at his cap. "I have to talk to you - to make you understand. You have to listen to me."

"Kristopher - what are you talking about?"

"I'm not doing this very well, I'm afraid. Cathy was easier to talk to."

"I agree," Vincent responded. "You're not making any sense."

"Okay. I'll try to just be blunt. May I?"

"Just say what's on your mind."

With a deep breath, Kristopher began his argument. "I know what happened between you and Cathy - or what almost happened."

Vincent felt the blood rush to his face in both rage and embarrassment. "You had no right to spy on us," he angrily replied.

"I wasn't spying on you. I swear. You see, Vincent, I was sent to give you a message; and I hoped the painting would do it for me."

"Sent? By who?"

Kristopher timidly lifted his eyes heavenward.

Vincent stepped back. Incredibly, part of him actually believed Kristopher. "That would explain a lot."

"You've always believed in a higher power, Vincent. Embrace that now."

Growing tired of the arguments, Vincent simply turned and looked out into the city. "Why should I, Kristopher, when I am denied any peace?"

"There is a great deal you can never have, but there are a great many gifts awaiting you; and - you have what most men never find. You have a woman who loves you unconditionally."

"A woman I can never have." The words stunned Vincent. He had never expressed those longings to anyone.

"A woman YOU say you can never have. Cathy doesn't agree with you. In fact, she's quite upset with you."

"You've talked with her about this?"

Kristopher felt suddenly very defensive. "This concerns her." He drew in a deep breath then began. "I did that painting years ago because your faces came to me in my dreams. After I, you know, I was told that the painting was a message."

Feeling very agitated, Vincent turned to his companion. "Kristopher...."

"You've got to listen. If you and Cathy don't - get together soon, something terrible is going to happen. You will lose her forever."

Those words and the panic in Kristopher's voice frightened Vincent. A life without Catherine! "What do you mean? What will happen?"

"I've seen the possibilities. Everything you are, everything you hold dear will be lost."

"Are you threatening Catherine?"

The rage in Vincent's eyes made Kristopher stumble backward. "No. I have no control over it. Only you can shape your destiny."

"And what is it I'm supposed to do to escape this fate you are foretelling?" Vincent asked.

"It's simple," Kristopher declared. "Father Cathy's baby."

Vincent's eyebrows raised in a mixture of disbelief and alarm. "That's outrageous!"

"You've got to believe me. If you don't, Cathy will pay the price with her life."

"What does one have to do with the other?"

"It just does, trust me."

"I can't. I...."

"For heaven's sake, Vincent, don't you want to make love with her?"

Kristopher's bluntness surprised Vincent but his own response surprised him more. "Of course I do! I dream about it. I think about it all the time but...."

"There can be no buts. Not any more. Time is short. It has to be soon, or her fate will be sealed and you won't be able to save her. This is right, Vincent. Your love was destined. The child you conceive was destined. To hesitate is to lose that love. Remember, nothing lasts forever."

* * * * * *

When Vincent returned to his chamber that night, Kristopher's words haunted him without mercy. Was he for real? How did he know so much about two people he had never met - unless.... It couldn't be! he concluded, then began undressing. He was pulling his undershirt over his head when he felt Catherine's presence. Turning toward the entrance, he saw her standing there in a long raincoat and carrying an overnight bag. "Catherine - I didn't sense you."

"I'm glad you didn't," she replied as her eyes focused on his bare chest.

As Catherine stared at him, Vincent felt the heat rising. He quickly tried to put the shirt back on.

"No," Catherine pleaded as she stepped closer and placed her hand on his arm. "Don't."

"Catherine, I...." The look of wonder on her face made him forget what he was going to say. Her eyes reflected the deep longing that he had glimpsed earlier.

Gently, she placed her small hand in the center of his chest. "I'm staying the night with you, and don't try to talk me out of it. You'll have to throw me out to make me leave."

Vincent sighed in defeat. "I have no intention of throwing you out"

She looked up at him with an astonished expression.

"Kristopher visited me earlier tonight," he explained. "He told me things - things I'm not sure I understand or believe."

Catherine smiled. "Beautiful and impossible things."



Despite himself, Vincent smiled. "Yes."

"Did he tell you about - the child?"

Vincent nodded.

"I still don't know if I believe him or not, but Vincent - I want this child. Don't deny our love any longer."

He looked at her as if teetering on the brink for a moment then answered. "I won't. I can't."

"Good. That means I won't have to force myself on you," she declared then began to unbutton her coat.

Underneath the coat, Catherine was wearing the same gown she had worn in Vincent's dream. The low cut bodice revealed the curves of her breasts to his hungry eyes. His own body responded quickly and intensely. The forgotten undershirt fell to the floor as he stepped closer to reach out for her while Kristopher's warning echoed in his mind. He began to tremble.

"It's all right, Vincent," Catherine whispered. "I love you - no limits, no doubts. I want to be with you tonight." Her arms slid around him and began teasing the fine hair on his back.

"Catherine." he moaned softly. "I want you to stay with me forever."

She held him tighter and he began to stroke her back gently but possessively.

"I love you," he whispered.

Her eyes misted with emotion. She lifted her head and looked up at him awaiting his kiss. He responded.

"Wait," he cautioned after finally managing to pull away from her soft lips.

Catherine watched in confusion as Vincent stepped away and pulled a blanket from the bed. He walked over to the chamber entrance and hooked the blanket over some nails around the doorway. He looked back at her with an almost sheepish expression. "I started doing this as a teenager to let everyone know I wanted to be alone. They respected it."

"Oh, I see. Is this where you entertained your girlfriends?"

'There have been no girlfriends, Catherine. You know that. You are the first woman to stay in my chamber."

His tone was much too serious. "I was only kidding, Vincent. I know you."

Tentatively, he moved toward her. "I have never shared my chamber - or my bed with a woman. You will be the first and - only one."

The power of those simple words silenced her, and she secretly wished she had come to him with such purity. "I know that," she responded. The same strong hands that she had seen rip a man apart reached for her and gently caressed her shoulders.

"I don't honesty know what will happen, Catherine. I mean - I have read about what happens, but...." he blushed as he searched for the words.

"I understand. Just let me lead the way." After he nodded his consent, she began to place kisses on his chest. She burrowed into the hair there and nipped the soft skin she found. His slow release of a deep breath assured her of his pleasure. She pulled back from him very slowly then looked over at the bed. "Shall we?"

He nodded slowly and followed as she guided him. "I - I should extinguish the candles."

"No," she replied. "I want to see you. No more hiding in the darkness, Vincent."

"Catherine, before this goes any further, are you sure this is what you want?"

Gently, she stroked his cheek with the back of her hand. "I've never been more sure of anything. I love you. I want to make love to you. I want to have your child." A mischievous smile played across her face. "Now, lie down."

Filled with anticipation and fear, he obeyed her command and stretched out on the bed - waiting. He watched in fascination as she lay down beside him then rolled over to lie partially on his chest. His whole body tensed as she intertwined her legs with his. Then slowly, she maneuvered herself to lie on top of him. The curves of her body molded so well to the hard planes of his that he hardly knew where he ended and she began. He savored that feeling as if he thought he would never experience it again.

Catherine's hair lightly brushed his face as she moved over him. He felt her breath on his skin and smelled her unique aroma. Her skin felt softer than the silk of her gown and he wished that flimsy garment was no longer between them.

"Vincent - look at me."

He opened his eyes slowly and focused them on the most beautiful sight he had ever seen. Catherine was looking down at him. Her hair framed a halo around her face. Her complexion was slightly flushed, and the pupils of her eyes were enormous. She leaned closer and began turning her head from side to side, each time lightly touching her lips to his.

He thoroughly enjoyed her little game until she suddenly stopped. Once again, he opened his eyes and found her staring down at him with desire burning in her eyes. He allowed himself to get lost in it; and in response, his arms moved around her, pulling her tighter against him.

Her body began to move sensually in response to his touch until finally she slid off of him. He raised his head and looked at-her, fearing he had done something inappropriate. "Catherine?"

Pushing herself up on one arm, Catherine took a long, lingering look at her lover's body. "I just want to explore a little," she replied and did just that.

Her hands worked magic on his chest and stomach, exciting him beyond imaging. He even surprised himself when he grabbed her arms and pulled her down to him for a deep kiss that immediately moved them to another level of passion. Her lips parted and he felt her tongue push insistently against his mouth seeking entry. Frightened, he pushed her back. "No. Catherine."

She looked at him in confusion. "You don't enjoy that?" she asked.

"It's not that."

"Then what?"

"My teeth...."

"Oh," she answered.

All Vincent's doubts surfaced once again. This is a mistake, he thought. Before he could take that argument any further, he felt her finger prying open his mouth.

"Open up."

"What?" His response opened his mouth wide enough for her to wiggle her finger inside. That action sent his senses reeling but he fought any response. He was so afraid of hurting her, he remained perfectly still. It was probably the strangest situation he had ever been in. Instead of recoiling from his differences, Catherine was finding them somehow - intriguing.

He allowed her to explore his mouth, her finger testing the sharpness of each canine. Finally, she withdrew her finger ever so slowly then stared down at him with a look he couldn't quite read. "Catherine?"

A warm, beautiful smile spread slowly across her face. "All things are possible if you're willing to push aside the boundaries and give up your certainties."

"That's strange, coming from you," Vincent commented. "You've always clung to your certainties."

"Some certainties, I will always cling to," she responded then bent down to kiss him again.

This time, he allowed her to do whatever she wanted without protest. After she began exploring his mouth with her tongue, he wasn't about to protest anything. In fact, he opened his mouth further and began to respond in kind.

Little by little, his fears and inhibitions were devoured by the growing fire of his passion. He wanted to touch her everywhere, to hold her body tightly against his; he wanted - he wanted to roll her over and push his aching erection deeply into her. He wanted to finally experience what it meant to be a man. However, Catherine had other things in mind.

Without warning, she lifted herself up and quickly straddled him. At that particular moment, he was grateful she had insisted on leaving the lights on. The devilish gleam in her eyes was something he wouldn't have missed for the world. He watched in awed silence as she lifted herself onto her knees and began to pull the skirt of her gown up around her waist. The smooth skin of her thighs begged for his touch.

"Yes," she assured him then reached for his hand to guide it to her leg.

Once again, Vincent's body tensed in reaction to that touch, but it was a pleasant tension that sent shivers of pleasure through him. He watched as she closed her eyes in enjoyment. As he continued to caress her thighs, Catherine worked the gown upward exposing her stomach. His eyes focused on that movement and the skin it exposed not realizing he was holding his breath. The gown edged upward slowly tantalizing him until, in one swift motion, Catherine pulled it over her head and tossed it aside. She then demurely wrapped her arms around her chest.

His heart began racing wildly. The uncomfortable ache in his groin became a painfully hard erection trapped beneath Catherine's body. She looked at him shyly then rubbed her bottom against it.

"Catherine," he moaned hoarsely.

She lowered her arms to gradually reveal herself to his hungry eyes. That only made his situation worse. Her hands found his and guided them to those soft, pliable breasts that he had longed to see and possess. He touched then watched their response to his fondling. He was amazed at how responsive her body was to him. Dare he hope for more?

As she rose to her knees, he continued to stroke her warm body. The scent of her arousal called to something deep and wild inside of him, and he knew he could not stop the inevitable. He wasn't that strong. She hovered above him on all fours for a moment then positioned one breast directly over his mouth. Moving slowly and deliberately, she rubbed the nipple along the cleft in his lip. This was more than he could take. Responding to a primitive urge, he opened his mouth and greedily took as much of her breast as he could into his mouth and began to suck. Had he crossed the line?

Catherine nearly collapsed onto him in pleasure. His unique mouth, his dangerously sharp teeth closed around her breast, gently bringing her the most incredible sensation she had ever felt. No words could describe what she felt as she glanced down and saw him suckling at her breast with such intensity. It was primal sensation that reached into the core of her existence and filled her with such a feeling of fulfillment. Her hips began to flex against him in response.

His hands were busily alternating between squeezing her other breast and stroking her back to the curve of her buttocks. He couldn't stand anymore. Gripping her firmly, he rolled her over onto her back. He knew he had to penetrate soon or it would be too late. Catherine must have realized it too because her hands began to work feverishly trying to open his pants. Her hands brushing against him was almost the straw that broke the camel's back. He was desperately fighting an orgasm.

As they both worked to get the zipper down without doing any damage, fear exploded in Vincent. He was actually going to let her see him - completely see him. No woman had seen completely naked since he was a small child and that thought frightened him. He was like most men, that he knew. As boys, he and Devin had "compared parts" and Devin had always been left lacking. But a woman looking at him, touching him, allowing him inside her was a concept he had never even considered possible. With baited breath, he watched as she looked at him for the first time.

"Oh my," she responded in a deep voice.

Her expression was one of fascination and approval as she looked at him a little TOO intently. "Catherine?"

"Shhhh," she responded. He watched in silence as she reached down and gently stroked the length of him then tentatively touched the tip. He nearly cried out in his agony as he felt himself become painfully rigid. "Catherine, please...." He reached up and gripped her arms.

"I can't - wait."

Together, they rolled over and positioned themselves. Awkwardly, Vincent settled between her legs while trying to keep his weight off of her, but his need to be inside of her was driving him mad. His hips began moving toward her.

Catherine, a little impatient herself, reached down and guided him toward her but hesitated just as he was about to penetrate.

"CATHERINE, DON"T!" he growled.

She pulled him against her and the moist softness of her surrounded him slowly. He tossed his head back in ecstasy. He was convinced at that moment that he had died and gone to heaven. Desperately, she guided him deeper into her and wrapped her legs around his hips. He felt her body tense in response to the momentary pain his penetration had caused. "I'm sorry," he groaned, but he could not stop himself. He felt her relax as she adjusted to his intrusion. Vincent felt that relaxation of her muscles and his body responded by thrusting. He could not believe what was happening was real. He feared he would wake up to find himself thrusting against the covers as he had so often. But it WAS real. He was inside Catherine. She had accepted him in every way.

The sensation was unlike anything he had ever experienced before, and he wanted more. All reason vanished with every thrust of his hips. The world consisted of nothing and no one but the two of them joined so intimately. The quest for release drove him deeper and faster into her until he was panting for breath. Their bodies came together in the fast and furious pursuit of that release. When it happened, he felt as if he were dying. He felt as if the very sustenance of his life had been expelled into Catherine. He could not think, he was barely able to breathe and his heart felt as if it would burst. An unimaginable tranquility spread throughout his body. His limbs were weak and trembling, his mouth went dry; and muscles that were straining seconds ago were now limp from exhaustion. He lay there unable and unwilling to move as his heart calmed.

His mind was in a tranquil, languid state functioning only on instinct but gradually, his awareness of Catherine began to return. His insensitivity to her filled him with guilt. "Catherine?" His voice was hoarse. Lifting himself up on shaky arms, he tried to focus on her face. "Are you all right? Did I hurt you?" The look of fulfillment and utter contentment he saw there answered his questions.

"I feel wonderful," she answered as she smiled. Her hands pushed the hair back from his face then moved down to tenderly stroke his back. "How do you feel?"

The love he saw in her eyes and felt through their bond amazed him. How could he put into words the rainbow of emotions he was feeling, the freedom he now knew and his gratitude for the gift she had given him? Tears burned his eyes. "I have been transported to heaven by an angel," was all he could say.

"Sex brings out your poetic side, I see. We'll have to do this on a regular basis," she replied then began to laugh.

He felt her chest rising and falling beneath him and then the meaning of her words hit him. "More often? You mean.... you want...."

"Oh yes, as often as we can."

Catherine pulled his head down for another kiss. The tenderness of it touched Vincent deeply.

"Would you roll over so we can get under the covers and cuddle?" she asked in a very soft, feminine voice.

"I'm sorry. I should have already," he apologized as he lifted himself up then realized that they were still joined. He could feel his face turning scarlet. "Uh - I'm sorry. I've never done this before."

She chuckled softly then reached down between them and slowly and gently disengaged the two of them. The feel of her hand on him again was becoming something he was growing accustomed to and finding enjoyment in. He hesitated for a moment to enjoy it a little longer then rolled over onto his back. After pulling the covers up around them, Catherine snuggled up against him. Her leg lay across his allowing him to feel her warmth and moisture against his thigh. Her head lay on his chest and her fingers began to play with the hair there. Her breasts were pressed against his side and his arms were wrapped around her protectively. Resting his cheek against her soft hair, he realized that he had never been happier or more content in his life. Kristopher had been right. They were meant to be together. The thought of Kristopher made him think of something else.

"Catherine - do you think we conceived a child tonight?"

There was a slight hesitation as she placed a small hand on his chest. "I don't know. It could take a few hours for your sperm to make its way to my egg. I won't know if I'm pregnant for a few weeks at best."

Vincent searched his memory of the books he had read on the subject. "But was the time right? I mean are you...."

"You mean am I ovulating?"


She propped herself up on his chest. "I need to teach you a few things about pillow talk, I see."

"I plead lack of experience."

"From what I could calculate, yes, the time is right." She continued to look at him. "This is strange, isn't it? Two days ago, you were afraid to do anything but hug me. Now, we're discussing my fertility."

"Very strange," he agreed. "But wonderful and frightening all at the same time."

"I know," she sighed. "You look tired. Why don't you try to sleep?"

"With you in my arms, Catherine, I will be able to sleep peacefully for the first time in my life. I no longer fear the dreams and waking up alone."

"You will never be alone again, Vincent. I will always be with you."

Her words, the sweet caress of her voice, the soothing cadence of her heart, and the tenderness of her touch soon lulled him into a restful sleep.

* * * * * *


The older man smiled. "Yes. Kristopher. It is done." A childlike smile radiated on the young man's face.

They'll be all right? Those horrible things won't happen to them?"

"No, my boy, you saved them from that fate. Congratulations."

"YES!!!!!" he exclaimed and literally leaped for joy.

* * * * * *

A stirring in the fabric of their bond awakened Vincent. He opened his eyes and looked down at Catherine's sleeping form still wrapped around his. He listened, but all he heard was the gentle tapping of the pipes. The sensation, however, would not go away. He lay there for some time trying to determine the source of his uneasiness. He quickly put those thoughts aside when Catherine stirred then yawned. He waited silently as she stretched then lifted her head up to see if he was asleep. In that moment, he was immediately taken with how beautiful she looked with her honey-gold hair mussed and her green eyes sleep-laden.

"Is it morning yet?" she asked.

"Almost. Did you sleep well?"

"Extremely. What about you?"

"Better than I have in years."

She smiled at him as she sank deeper into the warmth he offered. He held her, gently caressing her shoulders as she sought a comfortable position. As they both relaxed, Vincent was suddenly aware of that disturbance again. It was stronger now and much more defined. It felt as if there were another intruding upon their connection and then it all made sense to him. "Catherine - you're pregnant!"

"Hummm?" she responded sleepily.

"We conceived a child!"

Her body tensed suddenly as awareness returned, and she lifted her head up to look at him. "What did you say?"

His excitement made speaking a difficult chore. "I sense another in our bond. I feel you and me, but there's another presence!"


"We've created a child! Kristopher's prophecy was true!"

For several seconds, Catherine looked as if nothing he said was getting through then suddenly it registered. "How do you know? Are you sure? Vincent, it's way too early."

"I can't explain how it works. I never could explain our bond, but I just knew. Roll over."


"Roll over on your back," he requested again.

Although still confused, Catherine did as she was asked. "Okay."

Vincent turned and placed his hand over her stomach, sliding it down until it covered her womb. "Yes - a child, Catherine. Our - son." His ability to sense the child so early in its development was a miracle in and of itself, but the child's very existence was the biggest miracle of all. That realization brought about a wild array of emotions. Emotions that Vincent never dreamed he'd ever experience. He turned to look at her, tears gathering in his eyes. She smiled at him as tears trailed down her own cheeks.

"You're going to be a father, Vincent."

"And you, Catherine are going to be the world's best mother." He moved up and pulled her into his arms then rolled over onto his back bringing her with him. Cradling her tenderly, Vincent looked over her head at the painting against the far side of the chamber. 'Of things that should be and - are!'