Once Vincent arranged the blankets in the back of the van, he was surprised to find it was relatively comfortable. The rocking motion as Catherine pulled onto the freeway was unnerving, but not entirely unpleasant. “Do you want to listen to some music?” she called back over the muted grind of the engine and the hum of the road.
“Yes,” Vincent responded. Her free hand passed a battered shoebox to him. “I think there's some classical tapes in there. Pick something and I'll put it in the tape player.”
He searched through the box. There was, indeed, classical music in the box, but there were also cassette tapes by artists he'd never heard of. Small wonder, he mused. He picked up a tape out of the box and handed it to Catherine.
Expertly, she popped the case open, and only then did she see who the artist was. “Vincent. Jimmy Buffett?”
The light caught his fangs as he smiled. “Jimmy Buffett.”
Catherine popped the tape into the tape player and the soft guitar of “Come Monday” came through the speakers. Vincent settled against the blankets, remembering the days his Catherine had been in a “brown LA haze” and relaxed.
They had finished the first and second Jimmy Buffet tapes and were cruising along to Fleetwood Mac when Vincent felt an unpleasant sensation in his stomach. Every time the vehicle moved, it felt like his stomach was moving in the opposite direction. Am I sick? No, it can't be. He closed his eyes and tried to ignore his mutinous stomach, but to no avail. “Catherine, pull over.”
She didn't question it; from the strangled, urgent sound of his voice, something was very wrong. Catherine pulled over onto the shoulder, turned the emergency flashers on, set the parking break and crawled across the passenger side door to get out, just in time to see Vincent fly out of the back of the van and bend over, retching. Oh, no. He's sick. But from what? Vincent doesn't get sick, usually.
Catherine ran to him and pulled his hair back from his face. “Vincent? Are you all right?”
In answer, he retched two more times, then sank down onto the ground, looking thoroughly miserable. “Catherine, I'm so sorry.”
She knelt beside him and hugged him fiercely, not caring if they were both covered in vomit. “Don't be silly. You can't help being sick.” A thought occurred to her then. “Vincent, were you carsick?”
He shrugged. “Catherine, how would I know?”
“Right,” Catherine replied ruefully. “Of course you wouldn't.” She rubbed his back. “Did you start feeling sick when the van began to move?”
Vincent nodded. “My mom was the same way,” Catherine said. “She always had to ride up front with my dad whenever we went on trips.” She stood up, tugged at his hand. “Come on. Let's get you inside of the van and see if we can get you cleaned up.”
When they were both inside, Catherine switched on the overhead light and was surprised to find that aside from his clothing being askew and damp where he'd knelt on the ground, he wasn't dirty at all. I'll never understand how he does that. He can walk through miles of tunnels and never get dirt on his cloak. Me, I do that, and I've got dirt up my neck. Aloud, she said, “You seem to be mostly okay, love.” She handed him a bottle of water from one of Devin's emergency rations. “Drink this, slowly.”
“You know,” Catherine said as he drank the water, “I think you're going to have to ride up front with me.”
His eyes over the water bottle were wide and blue. “Catherine, the risk---”
She sighed. “I know, Vincent. I know. But if we travel at night and rest during the day, there's less of a chance that anyone will see you in the passenger seat. Besides, if you keep riding in the back, you'll get sick again.”
Vincent nodded his agreement. “I wonder what Father would say to all of this,” he said wryly.
Catherine snorted. “It's probably best we don't ever find out. Come on, love. We've got 'promises to keep.'”
He smiled then, and took her hand as he stood up, narrowly missing the low ceiling of the van. “'And miles to go before we sleep.'”
They traveled until half an hour before dawn, until Catherine announced that at the next opportunity, they were going to have to find a hotel. To his shock, Vincent found that he enjoyed being in the passenger seat of the van and watching the traffic as it passed by. There was just so much to this world that he had never seen, and the chance to enjoy it, even in passing, was a cause of wonder and joy.
Catherine pulled into a motel parking lot near a battered truck-stop. “It’s not precisely the Hilton,” Catherine said. “But it’ll do. And hotels at truck stop should be a lot less likely to pay attention to us.”
Safely ensconced in the hotel room some minutes later, Vincent had to admit she’d been right. Catherine had arranged for the room, then come around the back and let him through a side entrance. Once inside, she sank down onto the bed. “My kingdom for a hot shower,” she groaned, stretching the kinks out of her back. “I can’t remember the last time I drove six hours anywhere.”
Vincent stood and opened the door to the dingy bathroom with cracked linoleum and walls painted a color he thought best not to examine too closely. “Your kingdom awaits, my lady,” he said wryly, sketching a formal bow.
Catherine giggled. “Well, one thing has gone right so far.”
Vincent raised his eyebrows. “What’s that?”
“We’re together,” she said, smiling at him. She stood and Vincent could tell the muscles in her back were tight; the throbbing pain was a background thrum in their bond.
“Take your shower,” he said, “and if that doesn’t help, will you let me try to help you?”
She lowered her eyes then and he felt the hot rush of emotion through their bond, emotion she usually hid from him. I’d let you try anything those eyes said. There was passion there and need and want and it should have made him uncomfortable, but it didn't. Ever since he’d arisen from the deep well of madness with this woman’s head on his chest, Vincent had known, finally, that he could no more send her away then he could stop breathing. And so he sent all of his passion and love through their bond. Soon, my love. Soon.
Her eyes widened and she flushed a pleasing shade of rose. “Um, yeah. I need to uh, shower. Now.”
Standing under the hot water and washing travel grime out of her hair, Catherine considered that she was quite possibly seven (or eight) kinds of a fool. That was a pass, for Vincent. And you came in here to take a shower instead. What on earth were you thinking? her conscience nagged, sounding a lot like Jenny.
I was thinking that I'm tired and dirty and I just want to get clean. Besides, it took him two years to kiss me. What if I push him and he runs?
He won't run, now. He's not the same as he was, Cath—you know that. Ever since he came out of that illness, Vincent's been trying to move closer. And he's here now. Doesn't that tell you something?
Yes, it tells me that he made a promise to me years ago to go to Connecticut with me. Beyond that...I don't want to rush him. Or us. She rinsed the conditioner out of her hair and stepped out of the shower, towel-drying her hair. Pulling on a Columbia Law School t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants (nothing too sexy, eh, Cath, her conscience snickered) Catherine stepped out of the bathroom. And for once, she and her conscience were both struck dumb.
Vincent was stretched out, fully asleep on the lone bed. He wasn't naked or anything of the sort, but he was, quite simply, beautiful. He was wearing a white woven sleep shirt and, turned on his side, the shirt had ridden up to reveal the strong lines of his lightly furred thigh.
I am nine kinds of a fool, Catherine thought as she gazed at him. And her conscience heartily agreed.
Catherine had seen Vincent sleep a few times before; each time, she had been struck by how young he looked in sleep, how the lines of care and concern around his eyes and muzzle disappeared as he slept.
She stretched out beside him on the bed and felt his arms come around her, pulling her close. His nose nuzzled her hair. “Catherine,” he said sleepily, and there was a light rumbling sound that was almost, but not quite, a purr.
“I love you too,” she said, and slept.
Click here for Chapter Four....