“I used to dream of us like this,” Catherine said, her voice not entirely steady. Her hands were at the mismatched carved buttons of Vincent's shirt. Through their bond, she felt a definite drift of amusement. “But you knew that,” she said, unfastening one button on his shirt.
“I did,” Vincent said. His pulse was throbbing, picking up speed under the flushed gold of his skin. “They were dreams I dared not share.”
One button came undone, then another. She wondered again at how warm his skin was to her touch. “Now that I've seen you...the dreams no longer compare.” The glints of sunlight through the leaves touched off the red in his hair. His strange, soft lips touched her own, and she breathed in the scent of him, the cinnamon-cardamom-woodsmoke that in some deep part of her brain would always and forever be him. Mate. Mine.
Her hands undid a third button, then a fourth. Catherine ran her hands through the soft, thick fur of his chest as his lips moved against hers, the fine bristles of his muzzle brushing against her face. “Catherine,” he rasped, “I must see you.”
Vincent pulled back slightly and she remembered the bend and twist of his muscles as he had raked the leaves and his hair, golden fire in the sunlight. If they would live the rest of their lives by candle and flame, this was a memory she would forever carry with her. But this won't be our last time here, like this, I promise you, she thought.
She met his eyes, the dark blue of the autumn sky above them and waited. An era passed or maybe just seconds. Catherine felt his hand thread through her hair and rest at the back of her head, gently pinning her beneath his gaze. “I would dream of you like this and be jealous of the sunlight because it could touch you and I could not,” he whispered. “I would tell myself not to be foolish, that you had a right to walk in the light with a normal man.”
“Now all I want is you. In darkness or in light.” Catherine felt his hands fumble at the buttons of her flannel shirt---one of his, that she'd pulled from the dresser just that morning and loved because it smelled so much of him. It was overlarge and patched and worn almost to silk in many places but it was his. “Let me,” she whispered, clasping his hands under her own and stilling them. She undid the top two buttons, then Vincent's own hands took over. The fur on the tops of his hands brushed her collar and the tops of her breasts as he slid the flannel shirt off her shoulders.
The shirt fell to the ground with a rustle of fabric, loud against the silence of the wooded grove. Catherine smiled, enjoying the feeling of the warmth on her shoulders and chest. “Your turn,” she said, gazing into his eyes, hungry for him. Her hands made short work of the remainder of his buttons and he finally sat, bare-chested in the light of the sun.
Looking closely, she saw the faint paths of scars on his chest. Knowing how he'd gained some of those made her shudder in remembrance, but she forced the thought away. They had come through darkness and danger to this place, and the pains of the past could not be allowed to taint the present.
Vincent looked down at his bare chest and then back up at her. He smiled, a small, wry smile that did funny things to her heartbeat every time she saw it. “All healed now,” he said. “Come, beloved.” His hands, warm and strong, closed over her own as he drew her to him. For a time, Catherine nestled against the soft, furry heat of his chest, content in his embrace. There was a low rumble in his breathing that was nearly a purr as his arms encircled her.
Vincent's hands brushed her shoulders and the faint rumbling stopped. “What is it?” Catherine asked, picking up his disquiet as easily as she heard his breath.
She felt him rub the rough, puckered scar on her left shoulder. She'd almost forgotten it was there. “This. What Mitch did to you...” His horror and grief rose anew through the bond.
“Stop it,” Catherine said, placing one hand under his chin. He raised his eyes to meet hers. “What Mitch did wasn't your fault. Don't let him come here, now.”
Vincent smiled and clasped his hand around hers. Pressing a kiss to the center of her palm by way of apology---a kiss that made shivers dance along her spine—he drew her to him yet again. He turned her around so that her back was to him and there she sat for a long space of breaths, protected and held by his arms. Catherine felt the slow, steady thump of his heart against her ribcage, then the soft velvet of his lips against her neck...the long strands of her hair pushed aside....then his kisses on the scar and all other sensation narrowed to only him, only now.
She reached back to feel the dense fall of his hair which brushed her shoulders and her back as he moved. His hands cupped her breasts in a gentle, but firm caress and she grinned at the return of the light rumbling. “Better now?” she murmured.
Vincent kissed the side of her neck. “It's loving you that makes me so.” He tapped out a light rhythm on her breasts: Vincent to Catherine-we're both wearing too much clothing.
She leaned back to touch the lightly furred curve of his ear and caressed the back of his neck. Catherine smiled as he shivered at her touch there. His neck, she'd discovered, was one of his most sensitive areas and even her casual touch was enough to cause his breath to stutter. Catherine to Vincent, she tapped, message received and agreed. They made quick work of pants, shoes and underwear. “Now, where were we?” she asked. The warmth flooded her belly as she looked at him. His eyes were dark and wide, the look one she'd first scene that night on her balcony when he'd kissed her bleeding finger. She'd seen that look many times since but Catherine thought that the sight of Vincent desiring her, of accepting his own desire, would never grow old.
He tugged her down beside him so that they lay together. Catherine felt the light press of claws against her backside as he gathered her to him and tucked her under his chin. His heartbeat echoed through her hand and she nuzzled his neck, tasting his scent. The light rumbling became a bit louder and she smiled against his heated skin. Vincent pulled her up to him and kissed her, his breath ragged in the stillness as her tongue traced his fangs.
Vincent's hair fell in a wild gold curtain as he moved over her, hard against her thigh. He nuzzled and kissed until it felt like no part of her skin was left untouched and she arched against him as the pull of his caresses became more fervent. The bond opened in a river of feeling and sensation and Catherine began to feel the strange doubling of his perceptions overlaid with hers---the dry sharp scents of the leaves, the soil, the damp of the coming rainstorm, his need and her own arousal. Where do you begin and I end? Catherine hazily wondered before he began to move within her and all thoughts ended.
Her hands reached up to stroke the thick hair that followed the length of his spine and the growl that issued from his throat might well embarrass him later, but Catherine resolved to make sure he understood how much she loved it, how beautiful it was. “I...must....” Vincent said against her, and she kissed him, his face dark and flushed.
“I know,” Catherine whispered, and followed him into the light.
Later, when he remembered what words were and how to use them, Vincent turned to the small, slight woman in his arms. They were still joined---Catherine insistent that she didn't want to lose him so soon...not yet, she had muttered against his shoulder and fearful of his weight, he had carefully maneuvered so they were both on their sides. “That was....” he began and the words deserted him again.
Catherine pushed his hair back, kissed his shoulder. “Yes,” she returned, perhaps a little sleepily. The day was still warm and the sun was riding higher through the leaves. In some unnamed way, Vincent knew this was the last of the days of Indian summer, that rain would come soon and then snow and ice. But for now, they had this time, among the fallen leaves and sunlight.
He noticed the gooseflesh rising on her fair skin. “Are you cold?” Vincent asked. Not waiting for an answer, he pulled the extra length of his cloak over her and smiled as she nestled against him. “I love you,” she murmured as sleep claimed her.
Vincent brushed the sunlit silk of her hair back from her face and smiled. “I know,” he returned. “I love you too.”
Catherine awoke with a start, the fringe on Vincent's cloak tickling her bare arm. What time is it, anyway? she wondered. The sun was far higher in the sky and their grove, which had been relatively dark, was now fully lit by the sunlight. Mid-afternoon, I'd guess, Catherine thought. She turned to look at Vincent and smiled.
He was face down on top of this cloak, mane and body hair like liquid fire in the light. There was a faint whuffling sound coming from his mouth; his version of a snore, she supposed, chuckling quietly to herself. The patch of sunlight was particularly strong on his lower backside and as she looked, it took everything she had not to turn her soft chuckle into full-blown laughter. Oh...my.
Sensitive to her movement as he was to everything else about her, Vincent awoke. “Catherine,” he said, voice rougher with sleep. “Did you sleep well?”
Covering one hand with her mouth, Catherine nodded. She was very sure that her merriment was flooding their bond. Small wonder that he looked so confused. “You have freckles,” she finally managed.
“I know,” he said, seemingly not perplexed by the non sequitur. “You showed them to me this morning.”
“No, Vincent, I don't think you understand,” Catherine replied, unable to keep the chuckle inside. “Your face isn't the only place you have freckles now.”
Vincent sat up then, rather more quickly than she'd thought he would. A faint bronzed rose color touched his face. “Then I suppose I should be grateful that I have a private bathing chamber,” he said dryly.
The grove shook with the sounds of their laughter.
Click here for Chapter 17....