Catherine sat down on the porch swing, ignoring the squishing of her clothing. Vincent was watching her but in the dim light, she couldn't see his face clearly.
The lightning reflected off the glass of the porch enclosure, silvering his profile and turning his hair the color of moonlight. He seemed a creature of some other time or place, foreign yet completely and unutterably familiar. “What are you thinking?” she asked, voice no louder than the rain that poured down around them.
Vincent removed his cloak, then his shirt, folding them over the back of a lawn chair. The water dripped down his mane and onto his chest, but he didn't seem to notice as he sat next to her on the porch swing. “I think it's time we both got out of these soaked clothes.” His voice was slightly rougher than usual, a faint rasp to his words that Catherine loved to hear.
Catherine grinned at him. “I thought you'd never ask.” Her sweater, camisole, jeans and underwear joined his clothes on the back of the chair. It briefly crossed her mind that their clothes were going to take forever to dry in this weather, but the sight of Vincent, naked and lit only by the flashes of light from the storm, drove all other considerations out of her mind. “Come,” she said, holding out her hand and drawing him to sit beside her on the long white swing. “Have you ever made love on a porch swing before?”
Vincent snorted. The sound of it was so unexpected it nearly sent Catherine into a fit of the giggles. “Catherine, I've never been on a porch swing, to say nothing of making love on one.” He looked at her, and Catherine could have sworn she saw some mischief dancing in his eyes. “Have you?”
“Made love? Why yes, just yesterday, as I recall,” Catherine said, laughing. She raised her hands to her mouth in an expression of mock horror. “Don't tell me you forgot.”
His hand traced the soft curve of her breast. “Perhaps you would...remind me?”
The wildness of the storm was in his gaze as he looked at her. Catherine remembered, in what seemed another life now, telling him that it was okay to want, but then, she hadn't really been sure he'd heard her undertone: It's okay to want to love fully. It's okay to want to touch me. Now, though....Catherine knew Vincent had heard.
He stood up, pulled her gently to her feet. Catherine watched as he laid down flat on the porch swing, which rocked a little with his added weight but which, surprisingly, did not fall out of the rafters as she'd feared it might. Not that he's all that heavy, but the way this trip has gone so far....
The seat of the porch swing was wider than normal, or so it had seemed to Catherine each time she'd looked at it. Idly, she wondered if perhaps her fantasy hadn't been quite as original as she'd thought. Her ruminations were banished, though, as the lightning flashed on Vincent's nude body. Carefully getting a foothold on the side of the porch swing, she swung her leg over his abdomen and gently sat down. The slats of the seat creaked, but held. “Hello, love,” Catherine said, enjoying the feeling of him, warm and solid, beneath her.
Vincent's hands, warm and calloused, rose over her bare legs to caress her breasts. The lightning flashed and the thunder shuddered around them as his hands traced lazy circles—her back, her breasts, and lower still to where she waited to welcome him. Her mouth touched his and she felt his legs flex underneath her in pleasure. He pulled back just a little and she moaned in protest but then felt his mouth closing over her breast and she leaned her head back in joy at the feel of his mouth on her, the gentle rasp of his teeth against her skin.
They passed some time like that, passion and love passing from one to the other as the bond opened golden between them and neither was sure where the other began or ended. Lightning flared again and Catherine saw Vincent's eyes darken to almost black in the dimness. “Catherine, I must...” he gasped. Lifting herself slightly, she felt his hips come to meet her and they were one.
In a way she was beginning to become familiar with, Catherine felt the bond open into a chasm of feeling and sensation as he moved within her. It was no longer so dark on the porch, but grey-shaded and beyond the rattle of the rain, she could hear the stirring of birds seeking shelter and the smell of growing things that would eventually come from this storm and others like it. These are not my perceptions, Catherine realized in a brief moment of clear thought, but Vincent's. This is how and what he sees and feels. Then the bond swelled wider again, overtaking them both as their perceptions merged and blurred, Vincent's roar of completion echoing her own hoarse shout as the rain fell around them.
She leaned forward to rest her head on his chest, feeling the usual slow thrum of his heart beating rapidly under her ear. “Wow,” she managed.
There was a bare rumble of a chuckle, then his almost-purr that made her feel warm all over. “Hardly poetic enough, but essentially accurate.” Vincent's clawed hand brushed the damp hair back from her face. “I love you, Catherine.”
Catherine nuzzled her head into Vincent's shoulder, feeling the swing sway under them. “I love you too.”
The next morning, Catherine awoke in a near panic, convinced she'd missed the alarm and was going to miss her court appearance. The morning light shone through the linen curtains and brightened the quilt that had been carefully placed over her. Then she realized two things: one, she was in Connecticut and two, that Vincent wasn't beside her. She got out of bed and pulled on her father's old blue robe from the armoire as she padded down the stairs.
He was in the kitchen, humming a tune she vaguely recognized as one Cullen and the others had been singing in an impromptu concert late one evening. “Whiskey in the Jar” eh? Catherine thought, smothering a chuckle as she watched Vincent in the kitchen. He was dressed in his usual tunnel garb of patchwork shirt and worn jeans, but with one crucial difference.
His hair was tied back. It flowed down his back in a thick river of reddish gold, bright as a new penny against the worn linen of his shirt. It was such a simple, ordinary thing, but to Catherine, it was something remarkable. Vincent had never, to her knowledge, tied his hair back, not even when he'd worked on the seasonal repair crews and had come out of it filthy and soaked in mud.
Catherine had her own theory as to why he'd never done so---some fear of emphasizing yet another difference by revealing the shape of his ears? But the fact that he'd tied his hair back at all seemed like a symbol of larger things; that he felt relaxed and comfortable...
“Or that I didn't want hair to get in our eggs,” Vincent said mildly. He smiled at her over his shoulder. “The eggs are almost ready, my love.”
She blushed a little then at his teasing tone. “Well, whatever the reason, it looks good on you. And thanks for leaving the hair out of the eggs.”
With his spatula in his left hand, he sketched a small, absurd bow. “My pleasure.”
Catherine giggled. Only then did she notice the smell of the coffee brewing. “Thank you for making the breakfast...and the coffee. I didn't know you could cook.”
He shrugged. “William takes the second and fourth Sunday off each month. We rotate cooking duties on those days. When it's my turn, I make breakfast. Though,” he continued, a small smile tugging at the corner of his mouth, “I'm usually making food for more people than this.”
She opened the cabinet in the corner, pulling out a ceramic mug and pouring herself a cup of coffee. “I'm starved, so that won't be a problem.”
He removed the toast from the toaster and handed her a clean plate. “I've heard that exercise will do that to you.”
Catherine nearly choked on her coffee. Innuendo, from her Vincent? “Are you all right?” he asked, all innocence.
She grinned at him around a mouthful of coffee. Swallowing, she asked, “Do you drink coffee?”
Vincent nodded. “Sometimes. Though since our supplies of it are dependent on our helpers, we don't have it that often.”
Catherine nodded, adding coffee to her mental list of Things to Make Sure the Tunnels Had. “How do you drink your coffee?” she asked, pulling down another cup.
“With milk, thank you,” Vincent replied. He turned off the stove and ladled the eggs onto a plate.
Catherine placed the plate and the toast on the worn oak table along with their coffee. She took a bite of the scrambled eggs. “Vincent, these are very good.”
“Thank you,” he replied, eating some toast. He shifted a bit in his seat and Catherine's instincts were immediately heightened. He shifted again.
“Vincent, are you okay?” she asked, unable to sense anything from their bond except some mild discomfort and embarrassment.
“I'm not sure,” he said carefully, putting down the toast. “I'm feeling a bit sore.”
Oh, God. I wonder if.....”I think I know what the problem is. You might have splinters.” Catherine felt her face warm as she said the words. “From the porch swing,” she added lamely.
“Where else would I have gotten them?” Vincent said, dryly.
Catherine couldn't help it. She started laughing. In a second, Vincent's breathy laughter joined hers. First carsickness, then shredded tires, then cold-and-colder running water, then a suicidal deer and now this—splinters. From making love on a porch swing. “Vincent,” she managed when she could finally speak again.
“Yes, my love?” he asked.
“When we tell our grandchildren about this trip, let's leave out this little detail, shall we?”
“Indeed,” Vincent replied, grinning, even as he shifted a bit in his seat again.
They finished their breakfast and with the dishes soaking in the sink, Catherine went hunting for the first aid kit. I hope Gertrude updated this too---I don't even want to think about how long it's been since we used iodine in this house. Sure enough, Gertrude had; there was an anti-bacterial ointment and, bless her, a pair of tweezers in their packaging. She opened up the package, sterilized the tweezers in the flame from the gas stove and washed her hands, then took the entire first aid kit up to the master bedroom.
Vincent lay on his stomach on the bed. He'd taken off his pants and his head was resting on his folded hands. As she came closer, she could see where the splinters had entered. “The swing must have been made out of cedar,” Catherine said. “I'm sorry, Vincent, but these are looking like they've started to fester.”
“Cedar does that,” he replied, turning his head to face her. “I was helping Cullen refinish an old cedar chest a few months ago and I got some splinters I didn't know about until they'd become infected.”
She nodded. The area where the splinters had entered was swollen and red, clearly visible under the light dusting of fur on his backside. Well, we were pretty active on that swing, Catherine thought. Why didn't I put a blanket or something down first?
Catherine started as Vincent's hand clasped hers. “Catherine,” he said. “I feel your guilt. Whatever wounds I've gotten were worth it.”
“Sorry,” she said. “It looks like our days on the swing are over for now.”
“No,” Vincent replied, flashing a grin full of fangs. “It just means I'll have to be on top.”
Click here for Chapter Nine....