Dreams of Thee

Chapter 7

 

When Vincent awakened, his body was cramped and tired.  His feet were planted firmly on the floor and he lay back across the bed, just as he had when he had sought to comfort Catherine. Catherine lay draped across his chest, her face buried against his neck, arms stretched upward, encircling him.

Her body was warm against his, covered by the blanket he had placed over her when they had started to talk.  His face warmed as he thought of what had happened—and what had not—and he knew it had not been a dream.  She stirred against him and turned in her sleep; still clinging tightly to his chest, she settled against him, and then stirred again, bringing one leg upward to rest across his hips.

She stirred and her leg moved away.  He found he missed the weight of it, the pleasure it gave him.  He slowly eased himself from under her body and tucked the blanket more tightly around her sleeping form.  He stood, watching her sleep for several moments, as he slowly began to stretch his tall, muscular body fully awake.

Finishing his shower, he quickly dressed and returned to his chamber.  Picking up his dirty clothes, he realized he had too long postponed his laundry.  He quickly tapped a measure on the pipes, knowing that Mary would respond and be there shortly.

She arrived with biscuits and steaming mugs of tea.  Vincent quickly devoured his.  Thanking Mary for staying with Catherine, he gathered up his large basket of clothes and left.  As he picked up one of his shirts, the smell he associated with Catherine quickly filled his nostrils.  The shirt seemed to cling of its own accord to his fingers, finally falling away into the mound of soapy clothing in front of him.

Leaving his things to dry, he placed his basket in anout-of-the-way spot and returned to his chamber.  “Are you hungry?  Would you like tea and biscuits?”

“Yes, I’m suddenly very hungry.”

While the tea brewed, Vincent quickly split open the biscuits and poured honey on top.  He carried the tray to Catherine, who was sitting surrounded by pillows. “If you think of the tray as the edge, and imagine a huge clock, you will find the tea at three, your biscuit at six and the napkin at nine.  The cup is only partially filled, so you won’t burn yourself.”  He knew that teaching Catherine to live with her blindness would be hard, but he knew he must prepare her now for the worst.

After a couple of false starts, she grasped what he was attempting to teach her and slowly began to eat her breakfast.  One of her fingers ventured too far and she came away with honey dripping from her fingers.  Vincent gently took her dripping hand in his large one, brought the glistening fingertips to his mouth, and slowly licked away the honey.

Catherine’s breath caught and held as the rough texture of his tongue licked her fingers, and he gently sucked against her nails, removing the last sticky traces.  “Vincent, do you know what you are doing to me?”

“I’m only preventing you from making a mess of my clean bed, Catherine.  You don’t object, do you?”  His tone was playful, but there was a huskiness there Catherine had never heard before, a huskiness which sent shivers up her back.  She could feel her nipples grow rigid as the shiver caused goose bumps to appear.

“No, no, I don’t object.  I think I have honey here, too.” Her other hand pointed to a spot at the side of her trembling mouth.

“I think I see it,” he said, and he brought his mouth close to hers, kissing her softly.  “Perhaps it was here,” he breathed against her lips and moved his mouth to caress the other side of her lips.

***********

Each day which passed was filled with small but steady improvements in Catherine’s condition.  Peter and Father both agreed she could now sit in a chair for an hour in the morning and afternoon.  At first, she felt like a shaky young colt trying to get the use of her legs back, but with Vincent’s supporting arms always near, she slowly made progress.

Various members of the community came to visit, doing their best to cheer her up, to lighten her days. It was Cullen who surprised her the most.  He came at odd times, staying only brief moments, then leaving to return again later.

“Catherine, may I come in?”

“Of course, Cullen, please do.  You know you are always welcome.”

They chatted for a few minutes, Cullen sharing the latest news of what was happening within the community.  He noticed that she was still wearing one of Vincent’s sweaters as she sat.

“I brought something for you, Catherine.  A sweater.  It will keep you warm and surely is a lot softer than that one of Vincent’s you are wearing, and a better fit, too.”

She smiled at him. “I surely must look a sight!  Vincent’s arms make two of mine in length.”  The laughter bubbled from her, and he moved over to the bed and placed the sweater in her hands.  She began to feel the silky softness, her hands moving over it with care. She rubbed it against her face.  “Oh, Cullen, it feels so soft. Please tell me about the color.”

“There is a rainbow of colors through it, from frosty pinks, deep maroons tinged with gold, a green that looks like freshly budding spring trees, a lavender which looks like a field of heather growing wild in Ireland, and a blue so clear you would swear you can see right in it.”

“I can see it.  I know it is beautiful. Thank you for describing it so well. I shall take special care of it.  From your tone, I can tell it belonged to someone you loved very much.”

“I must go now.”  His voice was shaky as he spoke.

“Cullen, wait.”  She reached out, fingers searching for him. “If you would like to talk sometime, I would be honored to listen.  Whatever you say would remain between us.”

“I know it would remain our secret.  Thank you.  Goodbye for now.”

***********

“Are you sure you don’t want Mary to do this, Catherine?”

“I think you can do it, and it is late; I don’t wish to trouble Mary. From what she told me earlier, the children were a handful today.”

They were standing in the small bath chamber which was Vincent’s. A large basin of water and a kettle of warm water sat on the countertop. Vincent draped a towel around her shoulders and began pouring water over her hair.  He added shampoo and started to lather.  “Father and Peter did say this was allowed, didn’t they?”

“You can rub a little hard.  I’m not made of glass.”  There was a smile in her voice.  He was careful with his sharp nails and ever mindful of the still-fresh scars on the back of her head.  His fingers moved lightly through her hair, barely touching her scalp.

“Hmmm, that feels so good.  I feel better already just knowing my hair will be clean. I must have looked a fright all these days with such limp, dirty hair!”

“You are always beautiful to me.” Laughter filled his voice. “I admit to liking you better with clean, shiny hair.”

She reached out, punched him in the ribs, and darted her hands under his vest to tickle him.  Finding that he was ticklish had come as a wonderful surprise; and when she took advantage of this, it always ended in laughter and kisses.

He sidestepped her searching fingers with ease, continuing to gently but thoroughly wash the last traces of dirt from her hair.  As he poured the rinse water over her, he was amazed at the many colors which were revealed as he worked the water through the strands.

He wrapped her head in a fluffy towel, carefully blotting the water from it, then replaced it with another towel.  Taking her small hand in his, he carefully led her back to his chamber.  He could tell she was counting the steps as they walked, trying to work on gaining some independence by at least being able to get to the bathroom alone.

By alternating the towel and brush, he was able to get her hair almost totally dry.  He never worried about himself, dashing about the tunnels with wet hair streaming down his back, but he was concerned about Catherine becoming chilled.  He tried to work quickly; yet when she turned, looking up to smile at him, his heart stopped for a brief moment, and it was all he could do to not gather Catherine into his arms to kiss her.

“Would you like me to read to you, Catherine?”

“Yes, only I’ll probably fall asleep again,” she laughed.  “The minute I lie down, I seem to drift off.  All I do is sleep.”

“Your body is still healing.  Sleep helps the healing to happen more quickly.”

She slipped off his robe, which she had worn to the bath chamber, and slid beneath the blankets.  Her gown was still his shirt. Mary had brought her some gowns to wear but whenever she could manage it without hurting Mary’s feelings, she wore one of Vincent’s shirts.  Just wearing his clothing made her feel closer to him, plus she liked the scent that was so much a part of him that clung to his clothing.

He settled into his chair, picking up the large volume they had been reading, and the chamber filled with his voice as he carried her to distant shores.  He read until several of the candles had died, then seeing that Catherine was asleep, he softly closed the book.

Rising, he moved slowly toward the bed, staring down at her small form curled beneath the blankets.  He longed to slip beneath the covers to join her, as he had done countless nights while she was so ill.  Now it was simply a matter of not completely trusting himself which prevented him from joining her.  He was no longer certain he could control himself when lying so close to her.  Leaning down, he kissed her lightly on the forehead and retreated slowly to the nearby guest chamber.

*******

“I’ll be fine, Vincent; you go do what needs to be done and don’t worry about me.  Mary and Jamie will come to check on me later.  Really, I’ll be fine.”

“If you’re sure. Father is quite concerned about some flooding in the lower chambers, chambers we need.  I may be gone all day.”

“I know, you told me before.  I’ll be fine.”

Vincent pulled his heaviest sweater on, then his vest.  The deeper chambers were often cold, especially when you had to work in them for long hours.  He started toward the chamber entrance, and then spun, quickly crossing to where Catherine lay on his bed.  Now that she was here with him, he found he could not leave her for any length of time without kissing her.  The taste of her lips stayed with him for hours, the smell of her hair—all the things which were Catherine—the things he needed to continually remind him that she loved and wanted him.

Gathering her in his arms, he held her, enjoying the feel of her body pressed against his.  He kissed her forehead, then pressed light kisses on either side on her lips, finally seeking her warm mouth.  The softness of her lips, the way they molded to fit his, was a jolt to his system as her lips parted, moving against him, drawing him deeper into the kiss.

He started to draw away but she captured his head, pulling him down until his body rested lightly on top of her own. Her hands entangled in his hair, her lips parted as she sought the soft inner flesh of his mouth; a soft moan started deep in his throat as her mouth worked its magic.  He could feel the rising heat from her body through his heavy sweater.

Slowly, he tried to draw away, only to urgently seek her lips once more.  Finally he drew apart from her, breathing ragged, heart racing. “Catherine, I must go,” he gasped.

She smiled at him, put her hands against his huge chest and pushed upward.  “Go play with your rocks. I just wanted to be sure you’d think of me while you’re gone.”  Her hand rested at her hip, a smile teasing the corners of her mouth.

He chuckled as he stepped through the entrance, and she could hear his laughter for several moments as he moved down the corridor.

 

Chapter 8

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