Chapter 1

 

December 17, 1989 -- 5:00 a.m.

 

She awoke in a cocoon of heat, her body welded to his by a thin sheet of sweat.  She didn’t open her eyes, afraid that even the slightest movement might break the spell, the precious illusion of oneness that had been bestowed upon them while they slept. Sometime during the night - she didn’t know how or when - he had entered her body again, and she wanted this junction of their souls to last as long as possible.

 

But she couldn’t keep still. As she had done the night before, she pushed closer to him in small increments. She willed her soul inside him, muscle and bone, blood and nerve, until she was certain she was as deep within him as he was within her. One more small push and she felt him respond.

 

“Catherine,” he murmured.

 

Her mind surrendered to her body, which told her to place her fingers over his mouth.    “Don’t talk,” she said.    

 

He kissed her fingertips, the soft palm, the fragile bones of her wrist. He parted his lips and drew her fingers into his warm mouth, then murmured her name again, over and over, the words flowing over her fingers and into her heart. She cried into his chest, rubbing her face back and forth as if to soak the tears into his skin. Small moans escaped her, pulsing to the beat of their quickening loins.

 

He began to move and she kept the movements small, as if reluctant to break their connection. But soon his urgency and her own need swept aside her fear of a loss of contact; and she let him thrust himself into her, each movement like a deep and delicate kiss. Her other hand stole into his hair, and she longed for a thousand hands with which to caress him.

 

“I love your mouth,” she whispered, trusting his keen ears to pick up every tiny sound she made. She pulled her fingers from his mouth and traced the curves of his lips, lingering over the now familiar cleft in his upper lip. She felt him groan as his hand settled over her lips, and the sounds he made as she caressed his sharp-nailed fingers with her tongue made her cry even harder. Her chest heaved with sobs and she thought that was good, it was wonderful. Each ragged intake of breath brought them closer together, and they couldn’t get close enough to suit her. In fact if she fell asleep and woke up inside his skin, she would be the happiest woman in the world...

 

“You’re crying.”   His words were wisps of feeling, floating somewhere above her head. He started to pull away, and she pulled him back with a sudden shocking strength.

 

“No!” she said, releasing his fingers and driving her body against his as hard as she could. “You can’t leave,” she grated at the base of his throat. “Don’t ever leave me, Vincent.”

 

He responded by thrusting into her with slow, deliberate movements. She reached up and touched his lips again. His face was wet. For the first time she lifted her face and sought his eyes and was startled to see that he was crying, too. His eyes widened as she touched her warm tongue to the tears trickling down his cheeks. She moved her tongue to his mouth and began nibbling on his lips. He closed his eyes and combed one hand through her hair, jolting her with a charge of erotic electricity that flowed through every part of her body.

 

Her teasing mouth on his became a kiss, and their mingled tears ran into the kiss as she explored the uniqueness of his mouth and teeth. She felt him harden inside her, and for a moment she thought she would choke on her own tears. She pulled her mouth away and drew in a deep breath that was instantly, violently expelled by an orgasm that seemed to originate in the earth far below them. She sank her face in his chest and bit into him, filling her mouth with his skin and his hair, knowing that she had drawn blood and knowing with equal assurance that he wouldn’t mind.

 

As if in response to her hungry mouth, he slid the tips of his nails from her shoulders, down her back and over her buttocks, gripping her firmly and grinding his pelvis more tightly into hers. The sounds he made were sounds of near delirium, gasping sobs against a background of her name chanted in a litany of adoration.

 

She pulled away from his chest and buried her face in the hair falling across his shoulder. She cried in earnest now, her small body shaking as she gulped in air and tried to regain control. She thought he might begin to worry about her until she realized his own tears were streaming into her hair and down the side of her face. She smiled then, a glowing smile that sent a fresh wave of warmth over her body. She sent one exploring hand to touch his thigh, sliding her fingers until she found the place where their bodies were joined.

 

She could have sworn she heard him smile. The amusement in his voice was undeniable: “Catherine, remember what you told me less than a week ago?”

 

“What?” she managed to croak; her voice refused to behave itself.

 

He gently grasped her head between his hands and brought his face close to hers. His eyes grew wide as he informed her in a loud whisper, “I am only human...”

 

She felt her own eyes grow round with surprise, then she burst into giggles. He began laughing too, a deep, satisfied sound. She lost her tears in that moment as he turned over on his back, lifting her with him and settling her in an upright position across his middle.

 

She gazed down at him, and all she could think was how beautiful, how absolutely perfect he was. She would not change anything about him. Every square centimeter of his body seemed to have been designed for her touch and her loving pleasure.

She ran one fingertip over the small marks her sharp teeth had made in the skin above his left nipple. She looked into his eyes; he was watching her. “I’m sorry,” she said, then bent her lips to kiss the hurt away. “Is that better?” she asked in all seriousness.

 

“Much better,” he whispered. The sound of his voice sent a sharp finger of desire snaking along her spine. He lightly rested his hands on her hips and smiled at her.

 

I know this smile, she thought as she returned his gaze. She had seen it the night before during the hypnosis session when Sybil had taken Vincent deep enough to uncover his carnal nature. Are you whole now? At once she realized she knew the answer to that question. She smiled and dropped her eyes to his chest, then to her own body. “Look at us, Vincent.”

 

“I am looking.” She met his eyes, and their smiles grew wider. “Finally we are in the only place we belong: together.”

 

She nodded. “Even without our bond…”

 

“We have a stronger bond now.”

 

“You don’t just mean sex?”

 

In one smoothly coiled motion he sat up, bringing them face to face.  “It is much more than that,” he whispered, his expression serious.

 

“Yes,” she said. “But sometimes I envy what you have with Jake.”

 

“The bond I share with our son has...changed since your return.”

 

She wrinkled her brow. “Changed? How do you mean? Is it because of me…?”

 

“Catherine.” He pulled her to him and she leaned against his broad chest, listening to his strong heartbeat. “You have established your own bond with our son, and mine has been somewhat diminished in the process. That is as it should be.”

 

“You don’t mind?” she whispered.

 

“No,” he replied.

 

She pulled away from him and closed her eyes, anticipating a kiss, when suddenly the air was rent with the shrieks of an angry, hungry baby. Vincent scrambled out of bed with Catherine in his arms, nearly dropping her on the floor as his legs tangled in the rumpled bedclothes. He set her on her feet and lifted Jacob from his crib, holding the furious baby in a gentle embrace.

 

Catherine felt Jacob’s diaper. “He’s soaking wet!” She winced as their son hiked the volume another dozen decibels. “Vincent, let’s see if you can change him while I nurse him.”

 

“An excellent idea.”

 

She sat cross-legged on the bed and quieted the baby with her nipple, sharing in his relief as he emptied her breast. She watched Vincent move across the chamber to get a fresh diaper out of the bureau. The muscles in his legs flowed smoothly under his warm,

candle-lit skin. She felt the hot, liquid longing stir in her once again, and she cast her eyes down, shy in the face of her own desire. In a few seconds, Vincent replaced the sodden diaper with a dry one. He sat on the floor and stared at his son, a look of fascination stealing across his face. He leaned his head against Catherine’s knee and raised his eyes to hers.

 

“Welcome back to reality,” she whispered.

 

One corner of his mouth lifted. “Reality - this reality - is a wonderful place.” He kissed her knee, then leaned against her once more to study his son. She closed her eyes and held on to the picture the three of them made in the quiet room so far beneath the noisy city Above. They were, at last, a family.

 

Chapter 2