Catherine had, somehow, persuaded the tow-truck driver to drop her at the hotel first before dropping the van at the mechanic's, then distracted the driver as Vincent exited swiftly out of the back of the van and hid in the bushes until she came back.
Now inside their hotel room, Vincent stretched a little, wincing slightly at the wrenched muscles in his upper back. Being in the van while it was being towed had not been a gentle experience, and he knew his back had hit the side of the van at least once or twice as the van turned. “Feeling a little sore?” Catherine asked.
He nodded. “Being cargo does have its disadvantages,” he said dryly. “I'm going to take a shower.”
Catherine watched as he walked into the bathroom. That walk...she wasn't sure Vincent would appreciate the comparison, so she never mentioned it, but to her, his stride always reminded her of one of the larger cats: smooth, graceful, without any wasted movement. And dear lord, the image of the sinuous movement of his legs and buttocks under a towel...She felt her face warm and by the quick, sultry glance he threw her over his shoulder as he opened the bathroom door, Catherine knew he'd picked up her thought. That's one thing about loving an empath. No chance of him not knowing exactly what I meant. Except I would have pushed those feelings down in the past, tried to bury them so he wouldn't feel them. Not now.
Good girl, Cath. her inner Jenny piped up. He needs to know how you feel.
The warm rush of love and passion that swept back towards her made the sweat break out a bit on her forehead. I'd say he certainly does know.
Catherine heard the water turn on and decided to join him there. As she was halfway to the door, she heard a stunned, high-pitched growl. She burst into the bathroom to find him on the other side of the door. Catherine slipped in the water he'd tracked when he jumped out of the shower and they fell down in a tangle of arms and legs. “Vincent?” she asked cautiously, noticing that he seemed a bit pale. “Are you all right?”
“The shower,” he gasped. “It's ice cold.”
Thinking at first that he'd confused the shower controls---how many showers had he seen in his life, anyway?---she glanced across the room at the shower stall. No, it was turned to warm. Catherine sighed. “Just one more thing, eh, love?” Abruptly, she realized that she was sprawled on top of him and while the location was pleasing, to say the least, Vincent was shivering. She climbed off him carefully, turned off the shower and held out her hand. “Come on, let's try and get you warm.”
Blue eyes danced as he sat up and looked at her. “How do you suggest we...get warm?” Vincent asked.
“Oh, there are ways,” she said, leading him out of the narrow bathroom .
It was chilly in the hotel room, but it was early fall; in a few weeks, Catherine knew there would be snow on the ground. “Did they ever turn the heat on in here?” she wondered aloud.
“Why ask?” Vincent said mildly. He pulled back the covers on the bed. She hesitated slightly before deciding to listen to her inner Jenny and remove her clothes. His body temperature was somewhat warmer than her own and between the warmth of his furry body and the covers on top of them, the temperature was warming up. “You feel nice,” Catherine murmured against his soft, furry chest. “Are you warming up?”
Vincent laughed, a full-fanged happy laugh that she'd heard so rarely from him. “As you say, there are ways. It's much more comfortable here than in that shower.”
It struck her then, that in two years---nearly three—of being together, they had never done anything this simple. Oh, there had been that time when Vincent had watched over her when she was beaten up by the corrupt cops, and the time he had stayed in her bedroom after his days' long spell of delirium and fever. But this? This simple touching, of skin on skin? No, they hadn't done this before---they'd told themselves it was a dream for another lifetime, another universe, and put it carefully on the shelf of other forgotten or delayed dreams.
“This is like something out of a dream,” Vincent whispered against her hair, feeling her wistfulness through the bond.
“Your dreams often involve carsickness, shredded tires and ice cold showers?” she teased, relaxing further into his touch.
“No. They involve you and I, together like this.” She felt him swallow. “And I am sometimes afraid to awaken, to find I was only imagining.”
“This is no dream, love,” Catherine said, and kissed him, savoring the taste of him—cardamom and spice and something uniquely him that she would know until the end of her days. She felt she could kiss him a thousand times and never feel it to be the same way each time.
“Mmm...hmmm,” Vincent murmured against her lips, a faint sound of contentment. When she pulled back from him a bit to catch her breath, he quoted softly, “'There let our amorous kisses dwell/On our lips, begin and tell/A Thousand and a Hundred score/A Hundred and a Thousand More.'”
“Where is that from?” Catherine asked, knowing the answer could be anything from a fortune cookie to some dusty, esoteric book on an out of the way bookshelf in Father's library. Vincent was an adept and indiscriminate absorber of knowledge and forgot very little of what he learned, if anything.
His hand rubbed her bare back and his voice rumbled beneath her. “It's a translation of a poem by Catullus.” There was some bright mischief in his eyes as he continued, “Father thought Catullus was...unsuitable for our Latin classes, as the poem was one of a series written for his married mistress. Father kept the book on a very high shelf to ensure that only the adults could reach it.”
“And...let me guess. He forgot you could climb?”
Vincent shook his head wryly. “Not precisely. He forgot that forbidding a thing only makes it more desirable and he thought I wouldn't climb up there, because he'd said not to.”
Catherine chuckled, picturing Father's likely reaction. Certainly she had seen him angry with her in the past enough to picture it. “How old were you?”
Vincent smiled and there was much in that smile of the mischievous boy he'd once been. “Nine, I think. Father was not amused.”
“I'd imagine not,” Catherine replied. She folded her arms on his chest and looked up at him. “So, since we're keeping score, where do you suppose we rank?”
For a bare second, Vincent was confused as to her meaning, but then it sank in. “Well, we're well shy of a hundred, I'd say. So Catullus would be disappointed.”
“Far be it from me to disappoint a dead Roman aristocrat,” Catherine said, green eyes darkening. Before she could say anything else, Vincent kissed her, the soft, beautiful strangeness of his mouth gathering her in.
His lips nuzzled the galloping pulse at her throat. “Are you certain?” Vincent asked softly, pulling back slightly to look at her.
Catherine gazed straight down into his cobalt eyes. “What does our bond tell you?”
Vincent nodded, laying his head against her chest. His voice rumbled as he spoke. “I know. But I wanted....”
“I understand,” Catherine said. There were too many fears and too much anguish behind them to be fully conquered by one night—or multiple nights---of making love, but Catherine resolved then and there to spend the rest of her life trying.
“What about...” His hand came to rest on her flat belly.
“Taken care of,” she said against his hair. “I saw Peter last month.” Her arms enfolded him. “I want your child, but when we are both ready.”
“You want...?” His voice was rough with astonishment. After a near lifetime of thinking no woman would ever love him, it had also never occurred to him that a woman might want his child.
“One day,” Catherine said against the dense gold silk of his hair. “It's you I want now.”
The bond flared open, a river of feeling that could not, would not, be held back. Catherine felt his nervousness, his fear, and his love, and something else, a more ancient emotion that was winding its way through their connection. His eyes met hers, dark and fathomless. It wasn't possession she saw in his blue eyes, that dangerous, hated emotion she'd known in so many of her previous relationships. What she saw in Vincent's gaze was a claiming, an acknowledgment of his right to be there, to join them together.
Mate, she saw in his eyes. Mine. Aloud, he said, “I want you.” There was no shyness in his gaze; he might be a virgin, but he was no innocent.
The river gathered her in, and she was lost.
Vincent gazed at the woman in his arms, the woman who wanted him as much as he wanted her. A miracle, he thought, opening his mouth slightly and tasting the scent of her arousal in the cool air. She wants me. Mine. My mate. My mate wants me. I want my mate. I want.
Almost without conscious thought, his hands---the hated hands Catherine had claimed as hers and in doing so, changed forever how he viewed them---rose to caress her breasts, the soft kneading causing her scent to spiral further. “It feels good,” she murmured, green eyes darkening even as her cheeks and lips flushed to the rose color he loved to see.
Vincent chuckled deep in his throat, feeling the release of the last bit of nervousness. He was pleasuring her, she wanted him and this time would be theirs. “I love you,” he said, before taking one breast in his mouth and gently suckling first one, then the other. Catherine arched against him, a lightening touch of love and grace, and her small hands caressed his back, kneading her knuckles into the line of hair that trailed down his spine. It frequently tangled and itched in ordinary times, but her warming, sensual touch there now brought him to full hardness under her.
Her hands rose again to bury themselves in the length of his hair, a caress that left him feeling as though a circle of heated energy was rising within him. Vincent made a noise, a low rumble of pleasure and joy and Catherine smiled. The dark, warm scents of her passion peaked in the air. “Come here, love. I need you.”
Vincent froze then, momentarily afraid that he would do this wrong, that he would hurt her, that she would finally turn from him in disgust when she fully saw what she had brought to her bed. But those worries were dispelled, and ended, as Catherine gently guided him inside her. He opened his mouth, meaning to ask what she wanted him to do now, but her scent instructed his body and his body took the lesson fully. It knew, it had always known, what his mate wanted. Needed. He moved and her body gathered him in, again and again and again as the bond glittered bright and golden between them.
The golden light pushed them onwards, into the fire and over it as his seed loosed deep within her and her hoarse cries mingled with his roar, muffled against the bedclothes. Vincent sagged against Catherine and would have moved, fearing his weight, but her arms held him fast. “I've waited too long for this,” she murmured against his throat, caressing his high cheekbones. “Are you all right?”
He swallowed, thinking that if he was ever going to lose his power of speech, it would be now, after he had fully loved his mate. His Catherine. “Mmmm, yes,” he said throatily. “I find that I am.” His quick gaze passed over her; the worries of a lifetime not easily forgotten. “Did I...hurt you?”
“No, love. You didn't, and you couldn't.” She took one of his hands, the lethal claws looking so inoffensive in the dimness. “These hands were gentle.” She kissed him and her tongue traced his fangs. “These teeth were loving.” Catherine leaned back a little to gaze at him. “And you...you were tender and everything I could have wanted.”
Vincent relaxed against her then, feeling in their loving the slow banishment of the most painful and lasting of his ghosts. He pulled her close to him and gathered her under his chin. “Beloved,” he whispered. “I didn't know.”
“I know,” Catherine answered. Her hand caressed his thigh and Vincent thought again how wonderful the miracle of her acceptance, her love, truly was.
His right hand brushed against her breast; the scent of their love hanging heavy and fertile in the air. “So...practice makes perfect, is that it?” he asked, feeling himself stir again, unbelievably.
He could feel her smile against the bare skin of his neck as Catherine turned slightly to kiss him there. “You better believe it.”