Dreams of Thee

by Joanne Grier
(Originally published as J. A. Cliffe)

 

Chapter I

“Can’t you just give me something, Peter?  Something that will help me sleep?”  Catherine’s expression was troubled, a furrow clearly visible at her brows.  “I go to bed drained, and I awaken feeling the same . . . not refreshed, just more exhausted from tossing and turning continuously.”

“Have you given serious thought to the possibility that your inability to sleep may be more psychological than physiological?  Emotions play astrong part in our well-being.  I can find nothing physically wrong, only that you are slightly under weight.” Peter shook his head. “We have been friends your whole life.  You may speak of anything that is troubling you. In many respects I stand here for your parents, and I love you as my own.”

Catherine looked at her life-long physician and friend and suddenly burst into tears.  Her soul-wrenching sobs caused Peter further concern.

He hesitated for a long moment before speaking.  “Forgive me, but is there a possibility you may be pregnant?  That was one test I didn’t make.”  Immediately, she began to laugh hysterically, and, just as suddenly, her laughter immediately changed to tears. “I’m sorry, Peter. No, there is no possibility I’m pregnant!  I wish I were...at least then, I would have shared something beautiful with Vincent!”

The consummate physician’s face failed to reflect this news. “Oh,” he sighed.  Now he understood her tears.

“I’m so frustrated; feel so desolate!  Physically I want Vincent, but nothing has happened between us.  Our relationship is chaste, almost asexual. I feel hopeless, wanting and needing him but always being denied what I want so desperately.  I dream of him constantly. When he holds my hand, I want his hands on me; when he hugs me, I want more.  I physically hurt; I ache. I love Vincent so I much, and to never be able to touch him, to kiss him….  Peter, what am I to do?  I can’t stand any more of this! I just can’t!”

“Have you discussed your feelings, your needs with Vincent?  Is he aware of how hopeless you feel about your relationship with him?”

“He’s afraid, I know. At times I think he wants me, but he never does anything. I don’t know what he feels.  He has never even tried to kiss me, much less tried to get me in bed!  He is so beautiful; he doesn’t even realize.  What am I going to do, Peter? What am I going to do?” Hervoice rose, and silently she began weeping again.

**************

“You look awful, Radcliffe.  Have a bad night, morning, and afternoon?  Maybe you oughta see a doctor!” There was a smile in Joe’s voice but the serious look on his face betrayed his genuine concern.

“I just came from the doctor.  I need a little time off.  My doctor feels it’s a combination of stress, and overwork.  I’d like to take several weeks off.  I have to ...” her voice faded and in spite of her resolve, she began to cry.

Joe had never seen her cry, and he was momentarily stunned.  “Sure, take all the time you need.  Don’t worry; just get to feeling better, Cathy.  I, ah,we need you.  You know if there is anything I can do, you only need ask!”

“I know, Joe. I haven’t been feeling well for weeks now, and I guess it’s finally caught up with me.  I’m sorry to leave you stranded, really I am.”  She tried to smile, blotted the tears from her face, gathered her things, and left.

**************

Catherine looked at her watch, knowing full well only minutes had passed since she last checked.  Her discovery in the pawn shop earlier had made her more eager than usual to get Below to Vincent. It was hours until their meeting time, and the waiting was eternal.  Vincent was working in the deepest levels of the tunnels, miles below, making repairs to the pipes and shoring up a minor cave-in.  She couldn’t turn her thoughts away from him. Anticipation of his look when he opened his gift haunted her, making the clock hands crawl.

She moved quickly across the room, opening the door to the balcony, and stood quietly looking out across the city. The sun was still high; jet trails crisscrossed the afternoon sky, creating a puffy white quilt overhead.  On the horizon, she saw a large bank of billowing thunder clouds, giving rise to hope for rain to cool the hot, humid city. The weatherman had predicted rain, but also promised a quick clearing, allowing the opportunity to witness one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year.

Closing the balcony door, she returned to the coolness of her apartment.  Perhaps a shower would cool the blood coursing through her veins. The balcony, their place, caused her pulse to quicken, and today, even hours after awakening, she could recall her dreams of Vincent.  Passion-filled dreams that had left her weak.  Realistic dreams which brought the sweetest of pains upon awakening alone in a bed which suddenly seemed far too large and empty.

She wondered if Vincent ever dreamed of her, loving her, as she dreamed nightly of him.  She wanted the dreams to become reality, feel his mouth upon her skin, explore his body with her hands, savor the taste of his lips, of his hands.  “Stop this,” she exclaimed loudly, “you are only causing yourself further anguish.”  Quickly, she undressed and stepped into the cool water.  Even as she did, she knew showering was a mistake.  Looking down at her body, her mind wondered what his body must be like.  He would, she knew, be even more beautiful to her undressed.  She abandoned all other thoughts and drifted into her favorite fantasy—mentally undressing Vincent!

She left the shower quickly, having made the decision to go Below immediately, find Vincent, and have it out with him. He must want her as much as she wants him!  He simply had to share the tormented, unfulfilled longings and desires.  Perhaps they could go to the park later, and lie beneath the stars to watch the meteors.  There she would tell him, convince him that it was right that they be joined physically as well as emotionally.

Clothing lay scattered over the bed, discarded in her attempt to select the perfect dress.  She knew that no matter which dress she selected, Vincent would tell her she was beautiful.  Finally, she selected a stunning Victorian-style dress she had found in an antique clothing store.  The dress was a warm ivory, made of the finest Egyptian cotton, embellished with fine lace across the bodice, and elbow-length sleeves covered in tiny seed pearls. A wedding dress, the clerk had said.

She selected pale ivory stockings and shoes, smiling at her reflection the mirror, hoping Vincent would think of her as a bride and tonight would be the last night she would spend alone.  Slipping a light shawl over her shoulders, she took the small package she had so lovingly wrapped, slid it deep into a pocket of the flowing skirt, grabbed her keys, and headed for the door.  As she waited impatiently for the elevator, she could hear the phone in her apartment ringing.  Whoever was calling would leave a message, and if they didn’t, it wasn’t important.  Nothing was as important as getting Below to Vincent, to have his arms, the warmth of his body, holding her.  Her face began to blush as pictures of Vincent formed in her mind and crept into her heart.

Catherine moved quickly across the garage toward the storage area, making a mental note to remember to tell the Super that several lights were out.  Normally well-lit, the garage was bathed in contrasting shadows of white, grey and black.  She stopped, looking over her shoulder, thinking she had heard something.  Moving forward, she decided her mind must be playing tricks on her and perhaps she had only heard the thunder outside. She was within a few feet of the maintenance door when suddenly she felt a rush of air behind her. Her arm was jerked upward violently, and lights exploded inside her head as she went down.  A man, his face contorted in rage, grabbed for the necklace she was wearing, violently ripping it from her neck.  Finding no purse, he began to kick her viciously with his boots, relieving his frustration at finding she had no money.  He spotted the bracelet and earrings she wore, ripped those from her body and kicked her twice more, ignoring the blood seeping from her already wounded body.  Muttering, “Serves you right, bitch,” he ran toward the exit.

She awoke in darkness. The violence of the storm had caused a power outage, and no one had found her. Catherine couldn’t tell if she had been unconscious for moments or hours, but was aware she was hurt badly and that she must get to where Vincent could find her in safety.  Slowly she tried to move, but pain greeted her slightest efforts.  Gasping, she crawled toward the storage door—towards safety and Vincent—unaware of the widening trail of blood she left behind.

********

Vincent had finished moving the last of the boulders from the cave-in. Cullen and Mouse worked in silence, struggling to shift a smaller boulder into an out-of-the-way place.  Sudden images flashed through Vincent’s mind and he began to run, fear gripping his heart. Catherine was hurt!  Not knowing what was wrong, only that it was urgent, Cullen and Mouse took off after their large friend. Each knew that no matter how fast they ran, Vincent’s longer, more powerful legs would cover the distance and he would be gone long before they caught up to him.

“Are you certain he said to follow?” Cullen asked as he pounded up the trail. Finding it difficult to talk, Mouse nodded at Cullen and continued to run.

Long years of exploring the tunnels gave Vincent an edge over Mouse, who knew them well, and he took advantage of every short-cut he knew to reach Catherine. His lungs burned, screaming for air, but he ignored the pain and commanded his legs to run faster. The bloody images continued to flash through his mind. He felt her pain ripping through her body and her shallow heart rate.  At last, he reached the final turn which would take him to the place he knew he would find her.

Cullen continued running, stopping only long enough to ask other tunnel dwellers if they had seen Vincent.  This was Cullen’s only way of knowing which way Vincent had gone.  Certain they would need Father, he yelled to Mouse to head for his chamber and prepare Father for the worst.  Vincent was heading for Catherine’s apartment, and he rushed onward, fear now also gripping hisheart.  If anything happened to Catherine, Cullen knew the devastation which would grip Vincent. As quickly as the thought came to him, Cullen banished it, along with the long-ago memory of a beautiful young girl, his life, his love, who had died in his arms.

Vincent threw himself at the ladder leading to Catherine’s basement and began climbing as soon as his foot hit the first rung.  He reached up, pushing against the door; instead of giving easily to his touch, the door slid forward barely an inch, then stopped.  He pushed against it, more gently this time, as Vincent could now hear Catherine’s soft moans coming from the other side.

“Vincent?”

He heard her calling to him, her voice weak and barely audible. He pushed gingerly this time against the door, fearing he would injure her further.

“Catherine, try to move away from the door,” he urged. Placing his ear against the door, he listened and could hear her moaning as she tried to follow his command.  His hands gripped the edge of the door then, and using all his strength, he lifted upward on the door. The wood splintered against the tremendous pressure of his powerful arms and he slowly moved the door aside.

Catherine lay sprawled on the floor in a spreading pool of blood, her hair matted with blood that spread down her face.  The floor was red, as was the dress she had so lovingly selected.  Vincent carefully lifted her, turning her gently over in his arms. The sight of her wounds caused him to throw back his head, howling in anguish.

Cullen heard Vincent’s cry; it sent shivers up his spine, and fear clutched his heart.  As he ran towards the sound, he prayed that Father and Mouse were not far behind. Moments later, Cullen reached the tunnel which led directly to Catherine’s building, and he gathered a burst of speed and sprinted the remaining few yards.  As he climbed the ladder, Cullen could hear Vincent’s soul-wrenching sobs. His shoulders cleared the doorway and his heart stopped at the sight of Vincent holding Catherine’s blood-soaked body to his breast. “Vincent,” he called softly, “I’m here, let me help.”

A snarl and howl greeted Cullen, as Vincent gathered Catherine closer and at the same moment rose, cradling her gently in his arms. Cullen backed quickly down the ladder, clearing the area only moments before Vincent jumped through the opening with Catherine tightly held against his chest. Vincent was running before Cullen’s own feet had moved from the spot where he had dropped.

Vincent’s powerful, well-muscled legs responded to his commands.  He ran, carrying Catherine, mindful of the blood soaking his vest.  He had traveled more than half the distance back through the tunnels towards Father when he rounded one of the tunnel short cuts and came face to face with Father and Mouse.

Father pulled off his cloak, spreading it on the ground as Vincent quickly lowered Catherine.  Father’s face darkened as he saw the bright red blot which soaked his beloved son’s vest, and the ever-increasing flow of blood from Catherine’s head wounds.  Snapping open his bag, Father dropped to his knee quickly. Working swiftly, he fashioned a bandage around her head. “Vincent, give me your belt. I’ll use it to bind her shoulder.” Before the words were half finished, Vincent had pulled the belt from his waist and was helping Father to bind Catherine’s shoulder.

Pascal and Jamie arrived, carrying the folding stretcher, and Vincent carefully placed her upon the litter. Pascal stepped between the poles as Cullen took the other end. Vincent tried to shoulder his way in front of Cullen, but Cullen silenced him with a few terse words. Vincent scooped Father into his arms, knowing Cullen had been correct.  His long, powerful legs could carry Father quickly to the surgery while Cullen and Pascal could bear Catherine there.  Father could be prepared to operate when they arrived.

Mary had the surgery organized; not knowing what the problem might be, she was prepared for any emergency. She knew if Catherine were seriously hurt, they would need Peter.  She sent word on the pipes to have one of the Helpers Above bring Peter Below immediately.  She waited and prayed.

Father clung tightly to Vincent as he raced towards the surgery chamber.  Each powerful stride of his legs was bone-shattering, yet Father he bore this pain in silence.  The tunnel walls flew past in a blur.  Father closed his eyes in fear as Vincent brushed close to the jagged edges of the razor-sharp stones of the tunnel walls.

Vincent deposited Father at the entry to the surgery chamber, and then he turned, sprinting back towards Catherine.  Father hurried forward, calling orders to Mary as he entered.  The outer room of the chamber was already beginning to fill with tunnel dwellers queuing up to donate blood--if it were needed—and to gather information about the young woman who had become such a vitally warm part of their daily struggle to survive.

Five minutes after he left Father, Vincent came face to face with Pascal and Cullen.  Reaching out one powerful hand, Vincent lifted Catherine’s small lifeless hand, clasping it in his own.  The soft moans which escaped Catherine’s pale lips caused fresh anguish; his brilliant blue eyes clearly revealed his despair.

The trio reached the surgery, and Vincent lifted Catherine carefully to the table.  Mary immediately removed the makeshift bandage and began to cleanse the head wound, which to her trained eyes needed immediate attention.

“Vincent, take the scissors and begin cutting away the dress,” she ordered. “Do it now,” she snapped. As he hesitated, her voice had been more harsh than she had intended. “Vincent, please forgive me. I did not intend to be sharp with you, but if Father is to help Catherine, we must get her prepared.”  Her words seemed to pierce his shock.

Picking up the scissors, Vincent began to do what Father had trained him to do in emergencies: work quickly with little or no wasted motion. His hands worked automatically, cutting away the blood-soaked dress.  He stopped momentarily to calm his trembling hand and then continued.  His breath caught and his eyes narrowed when he saw the large spreading bruise across her breasts that cascaded down over her stomach and hips.  A slow shudder shook his large frame.

Vincent had just pulled the sheet over Catherine when Father stepped from the scrub area gowned in his surgical garb.  Taking over from Mary, Father continued to cleanse the wound, his expert hands assessing the damage as he worked.

Moments later, Peter stepped into the chamber, his eyes quickly taking in the horrifying scene.  He hurried across the stone floor and stepped into the scrub area.   In a voice that disguised his true feelings, Father began to tell Peter what he was finding as he worked quickly to stem the flow of blood.

Peter walked rapidly to Father’s side.  He looked at the tiny woman beneath the sheet, and then back at the giant man who loved her more than life. “Vincent,” he said gently, “I want you to leave the room.”

“No,” came Vincent’s firm response. “No, I won’t leave Catherine.  I must be with her, I must.”

Father’s head came up. “Vincent, do as Peter says. You can’t help.  You will only be in the way, and the clothes you are wearing are filthy. The germs will only endanger Catherine.”  Knowing from the startled look on Vincent’s face that his words had hit their mark, Father turned and began working again on Catherine.  He glanced up to see the rapidly disappearing figure.  He wouldn’t go far, he knew, but Father breathed easier now with Vincent out of the surgery.

Witnessing the despair on Vincent’s face was more than his friends could bear, as one by one they drifted from the area to gather farther away from the surgery. Only Mouse and Pascal remained in the passage, mute witnesses to the pain etched upon the face of their friend.  Mouse tried to talk, but one sharp word from Pascal silenced the young man who worshipped Vincent as a larger-than-life hero.

Vincent paced the length of the chamber, his powerful fists clenching and unclenching as his long legs covered the chamber in five swift strides.  Back and forth he paced, ears attuned to what was going on inside.

Jamie appeared at the door, motioned to Mouse and, after a brief conservation, Mouse disappeared.  Pascal looked toward the entrance, then back at Vincent, and he departed the room.  Minutes later, he re-appeared carrying Vincent’s clean clothes over his arm and a kettle of steaming water in the other hand.

“Vincent, I believe Father wished you to change those clothes. I’ve brought clean clothing from your chamber.  I’ll wait outside while you change.” With that, Pascal left the chamber, allowing Vincent the privacy his life-long friend required.  In all the years they had been friends, Pascal could not recall a time when he had ever seen Vincent naked. When they had been teens together, all the boys of the tunnels had swum nude in the underground rivers and lakes. Vincent had never joined them.

Pascal entered the chamber at Vincent’s soft call, gathered the soiled garments and the basin of pink-tinted water, and turned to leave. Vincent giant hand reached out, touched him gently on the shoulder, and barely above a whisper, he thanked his friend.

The hours passed slowly. Vincent’s mind was filled with thoughts only of Catherine, how he had found her and, with Father’s help, had nursed her back to health.  His heart was filled with love and fear, remembering all she had brought to him, how through her love he had begun to slowly believe that he was not a freak, an object of pity and scorn, but that he was beautiful and lovable.  His mind filled with fear, remembering the amount of blood she had lost and the grave look upon Father’s face during his examination.  He sought her through their bond, but the essence of her spirit was nearly gone; he could feel only a faint heartbeat.

Vincent dropped to his knees, praying to God to spare her life . . .  his face wet with tears and anguish, the torment of his soul clearly visible. He stayed on his knees until there was no feeling left in his feet or legs. Finally, the prickly needles of nerves too long without fresh blood drove him to his feet to pace again.

He heard someone enter the chamber but could not stop his pacing. “Child, how is your lady?” asked Elizabeth, her beautiful face filled with concern for both Vincent and his Catherine.  Her arms opened as she sat down, and Vincent dropped to his knees in front of her. She gathered his massive shoulders close, stroked his golden hair, and gently rocked him asshe would a small child.  She silently held Vincent as his body shuddered. Her gentle touch had destroyed the self-control to which Vincent had clung so tightly. Elizabeth held him, murmuring nonsense words and comforting sounds.

“Vincent,” Father called from behind the screens in the surgery, “you may come in now.” His large body was a sudden presence in the doorway, then he was inside, moving quickly across the room.  Vincent’s eyes went immediately to Catherine, returning quickly to Father, silently begging him for news that she would live.

“She is lucky. We came very close to losing her. Her condition is serious, and she will require around-the-clock nursing,” Father continued, but Vincent heard nothing more than that his Catherine was alive.

Her head was wrapped in bandages, as was her shoulder. Fresh tears streamed down Vincent’s face as he boldly lowered his mouth to hers.

‘How soft her lips are,’ he thought, as he vowed to himself that he would never again shy away from loving contact with her.  “Be well, Catherine,” he murmured. “Come back to me, so I may tell you how much I love you.”  Once more his mouth slowly sought hers.

Embarrassed by the personal moment they had witnessed, Father, Peter, and Mary turned away.  Peter and Father looked at each other, then the two men embraced.

The pipes grew loud with the good news, and then fell silent as they waited for further news.  The pipe chamber remained silent.

Father and Peter took turns monitoring Catherine’s condition.  Both of them knew nothing they could say or do would cause Vincent to leave her side, so they refrained from even suggesting this. Vincent sat holding her hand, his eyes never leaving her face.

Father finally sent Mary to her own chamber to rest, knowing that she would be needed in the morning.  Cullen came, bringing one of the folding cots from the children’s nursery, so Father or Peter could rest there during the night.

“Peter, do you think we should transport Catherine Above to a modern facility?” Father asked, knowing in his heart the answer before Peter spoke.

“You know, Jacob, as well as I do that she wouldn’t survive such a journey.  If we are to save her, it will be here or nowhere.”  They sat in silence, each dwelling within the special memories of this woman who was dear to each of them.

Father’s face grew puzzled, and then he shook his head and muttered “Fool!” to himself. This young woman, whom he had fought for so long, whom he knew would bring only heartbreak to his son, had slipped into his heart; and he realized for the first time, he, too, loved Catherine! “Old Fool,” he whispered again, shaking his head, his voice hoarse with sadness.

Vincent held her small hand, his thumb continuously stroking. Through their empathic bond, he sought her again and again; feeling her pain, he tried to take it inside his own body.  So complete was his bonding with her mind that he could feel her floating in the pain of her injuries.  Quickly, Vincent surrounded that pain, removed it, and replaced it with his love.  She appeared so small and frail, covered in bandages and draped in sheets.  He brought her fingers to his lips, kissing each fingertip, marveling at their softness.

**************

“Father, Peter, come quickly!” Vincent’s voice boomed through their sleep, awakening both men immediately. They reached Catherine’s side at the same instant. “She’s burning up!” Vincent cried.  Peter, normally the most polite of men, pushed Vincent aside and began working over the form of the woman he had brought into the world.

“Her temperature is rising rapidly; it’s now 105°,” Father told Peter.

The ever-present candles turned the surgery chamber a pale gold, making Catherine’s appearance even more ashen.  Pulling aside the already wet sheets, Peter and Father applied dampened, cool sheets to her body. Tirelessly they worked, removing warm sheets and replacing them with the cool ones.  Finally, between the antibiotics and their combined efforts, Catherine’s battered body began to respond.  Her temperature was holding at a steady 102.6°.

“Vincent,” Father said as he took his arm, “you must get some rest.  You can’t help her if you are ill.”

“No, I will not leave her.” Vincent’s voice, normally a soft mixture of velvet and gravel, was a snarl.

“Please, Vincent, at least go outside and eat something. Mary has brought you another tray of hot food.” Two nights had passed since they had brought Catherine to this room and during those long dark hours, Vincent had not left her side.  Mary had long since ceased trying to help Father care for Catherine. Vincent refused to allow anyone to touch her.  Only Father and Peter were able to force Vincent away from her side, and even then, he only moved far enough away to allow them space to stand beside the bed where she lay.  So guarded was her condition, they had not even been able to move her to the relative comfort of the recovery chamber.

The fever finally broke two days later, but Catherine still did not regain consciousness. They had done all they could, and now they prayed that her young, strong body would begin the healing process.

Father agreed with Peter that she could be moved to the recovery chamber, but Vincent refused, insisting instead that she be moved to hischamber.  Wearily, Father and Peter acquiesced to Vincent’s demands, knowing that if anything would restore Catherine’s health, it would be through Vincent’s selfless love and the empathic bond they shared.

He could hear Father and Peter conferring in the corridor outside the chamber.  He knew Peter was going Above. Peter had agreed to contact Catherine’s office, and would bring new medical supplies upon his return.

“Vincent, if you will be all right, I shall be in my chamber for a while,” Father called to him.  Vincent crossed the room, meeting Father at the entrance. He noted how weary Father was and gathered him in his arms, kissing his forehead. “Sleep well, Father.”

Hours later Father appeared at the chamber entrance.  For a moment he did not see his son. Then, as he walked deeper into the chamber, past the stacks of books Vincent inevitably had lying about, Father saw his son slumped in his chair.  Looking down, he saw evidence of tears drying upon Vincent’s face, noting that his body jerked as if he fought some unseen foe as he slept.  Father bent over Catherine, relieved to find her skin cool to his touch after the fever that had raged through her body.  When he turned back,the blue eyes of his son greeted him. “Did you sleep well, Father?”

An idea began to form in Father’s mind, shocking even him as he spoke. “Vincent, I wish you to do something without question.”  His voice carried a tone Vincent had not heard in years, invoking memories of the stern reprimands he and Devin had frequently received for their misdeeds.

“You need to sleep, to rest...”

“No! I will not leave her,” he said, cutting off Father’s words.

Vincent knew the look of anger on Father’s face and Father recognized the stubborn look Vincent wore. “And I will thank you to show me the respect of my years, and to allow me to complete my thoughts before you interrupt me!” Father continued in a huff. “As I was about to say before you so rudely interrupted me, you need to rest, to sleep, or you will be of no use to Catherine.  I would like you to remove your boots, lie down on the bed beside Catherine, and put your arms around her. Perhaps by being physically closer to her, this empathic bond you share will be stronger and your strength will flow into Catherine more easily.  The longer she remains in this coma, the more likely it is she will never regain consciousness.”

Knowing how hard his father had fought to keep them apart, to prevent any physical contact between them, Vincent was astounded by this suggestion.  He quickly removed his boots, rose, and padded across the floor in his stocking feet to the far end of the bed.

He turned at the sound of Father’s voice. “Be careful of that.” Father nodded toward the heavy leather belt which encircled his narrow waist and slim hips. “The buckle could bruise Catherine.”

The belt fell, landing in a heap on the trunk near the foot of the bed.

Placing his right knee on the bed, Vincent balanced for a brief second, shifted his weight, and settled beside Catherine’s still form.  Gently, he placed one hand lightly across her waist, carefully cradling her close, resting his other hand upon her blanket-covered arm. “Go to sleep, Vincent. I shall watch over you both,” Father murmured.

Father searched momentarily among the stacks, found a volume which he had not read in years, and wearily sank into the chair to become re-acquainted with an old friend.  He read for a long time, slowly becoming aware that he could no longer feel his son’s eyes upon him.  Looking up from the volume, he saw Vincent was asleep.

He continued to stare, his physician’s mind taking in the color of his son’s face and that of Catherine’s, praying this would help in some way to re-establish the bond between them.  He rose from the chair, seeking a lap robe as his legs grew stiff from the cool air in the chamber.  He did not have to search far, as Vincent kept one close, aware his old injury caused him discomfort at night. He spotted Vincent’s cloak, and he carried it to the bed, placing it over his sleeping son.

He turned back to his book, offering another silent prayer to God to heal this woman who loved his son with such passion. He remembered passion—how Margaret had loved him—and he knew, within his heart of hearts, he would want nothing less than such a glorious love for his son.  Even if it brought inevitable heartbreak, he knew his own life would have been worthless without Margaret and the richness of their love.  Tears streamed down his face as he thought of his Margaret, the briefness of their time together, the years they had spent apart, and the sweetness of their last days.

His life would have been empty without Margaret and he did not want that emptiness for his son.  Far too much of Vincent’s life had been alone.  Father grew ashamed remembering the times he had tried to prevent Vincent from seeing Catherine.  Never again, he silently vowed, would he attempt to prevent their love.

 

Chapter 2

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