Chapter Two: The Moon Turns Its
Vincent awakened slowly, his inner sense of time telling him it was just a few minutes past dawn. There was a thin shaft of light beyond his stained glass window; not enough to read by but just enough to see, everything cast in a low golden glow. Sleeping with Catherine, sleeping with his mate, had made him want only to savor the times when he could watch her, all unawares. In her sleep she had turned so that her head was resting on his shoulder, the silken gold of her hair soft against his arm. The miracle that she should be here, that they should both be here, alive and whole, still stunned him and he wondered if it always would.
“Probably,” Catherine murmured against his shoulder, catching his thought. She opened one eye. “It's early yet, isn't it?”
“Mmm...hmm,” Vincent said. “Too early, love. Go back to sleep.”
“Mmm, I don't think so,” she replied, voice lower as it was so often when she awoke.
“What would you do, then?” Vincent asked, this banter of lovers a heady new wine, fizzing in his blood.
She might have looked sleepy, with her hair tousled, but her emerald eyes were alert, wide and very dark. “I'm sure you have some ideas,” she said, nuzzling his neck.
It had been only a few hours since their last loving, but the need rose in him again. The endless want for her could have frightened him, new as he was to this, had it not been for the resonance of their bond that told him that Catherine herself was in much the same state. All at once a bubbling joy rose inside him. “Well, I don't know. We could play Scrabble, except you'd win. Chess, perhaps?” he said, stroking the bare skin of her back in a way, he was beginning to discover, that felt good to her. They had been lovers for only a few weeks, and the knowledge of her places, the learning of them, was yet another joy.
Catherine rolled to her side, green eyes twinkling, and her hands began to wander. “Mmm...chess, no. Blind Man's Bluff?”
Her hands were stroking the short fur that covered his body, something he never before knew could be pleasurable, and it was all Vincent could do to remember to breathe as her touch sparked fire along his nerves. “I'm not...familiar with that game.”
“No?” she asked, voice gone husky and soft in a way he loved to hear. “It's not usually played this way but I do believe we can...change the rules. So, let's see....I should close my eyes and try to figure out what I'm touching.”
Her eyes did close then and Vincent was almost disappointed; he loved the look in her eyes as she loved him. But as Catherine's hands began to move, he forgot even that feeling. “Hmmm...here's a nice soft...nest,” she began, playing with the thick hair on his chest, stroking him. “Or perhaps a pillow.”
“A pillow,” he managed to answer, a strangled groan trapped in his throat. “Where you lay your head at night.”
She chuckled, a low, throaty sound. “Oh, yes. How could I have mistaken the two?”
Her hands traced the lines of his jutting hipbone. “This feels like...a mountain. And this,” Catherine continued, feeling down the tensed muscles of his thigh, “this must be a meadow.”
It took everything he had not to stop her wandering hands and press her mouth to his; the primal need rising in him that insisted he must take her now as they both wanted. But the bond between them was fairly sparking with her joy, her enjoyment of the game, of him, so Vincent clenched his hands in the bedclothes and tried to relax as her hands continued their exploration.
Vincent's breath stuttered, harsh and low, when she touched him next. “Well, this is quite...hard. It must be a tree, perhaps.”
“Why don't you open your eyes and look?” he said, over the growl that wanted to emerge.
She opened her eyes slowly. “Oh, no, not a tree. Not at all.”
At the vision of her green eyes, open and enjoying the sight of him, some inner restraint broke, and as easily as if she had weighed nothing at all, he sat up and placed her over his hips. She arched up, receiving him, and they rocked, the springs of the old mattress creaking as they moved together. Vincent heard a low moan begin, the sound echoed by the rumble in his chest, and he felt the rushing sensation of a thousand lights as their bond opened and glittered between them. Then there was a falling and a soaring flight and....
When next Vincent became aware, it was of the feeling of Catherine's head on his chest. Her hair was damp as his own must be, damp with their shared passion. “Still alive?” she murmured and he felt the curve of her lips---a smile---against his chest.
“Oh, yes,” he said, catching his breath, “as I never was before you.”
Later that morning, Catherine watched Vincent and Father engaged in a chess match as they waited for Dara to arrive. “Really, Vincent,” Father said, mock chidingly, “this game is taking longer than normal. I don’t know what’s gotten into you. You’d think you had other things on your mind.”
“I have,” Vincent said, likely a touch too cheerfully for Father’s taste, “but not so much that I can’t do this.” And swiftly, he captured Father’s king.
Father sank back into his chair. “I’ll never know how you do that. I should have stopped teaching you chess when you were ten, so I’d have a chance of winning once in a while.” He glanced at the old wooden clock perched precariously on the sideboard; it did not, to Catherine’s knowledge, keep accurate time but somehow, Father always seemed to know what time it was. “What time is Dara arriving?”
“In about ten minutes,” Vincent answered without looking at the clock. “She said 10:30.”
Catherine smiled into her coffee cup, remembering the first time Dara’s name had been mentioned.
It was just a week or so after they’d returned from Connecticut; she and Vincent had made plans but just as she'd arrived, a message on the pipes told her he’d be delayed.
“Swimming lessons for Mouse,” Father informed her. “Vincent got as wet as Mouse did, I’m afraid.”
Remembering how long Vincent's fur took to dry, and some pleasant interludes they'd had in Connecticut as a result, Catherine fought to keep the blush off her face as she nodded. “I understand.”
Father glanced at her, amused. “Please, sit down,” he said, gesturing to a chair. “I was about to make some tea. Would you like some?”
It was early evening but there was a brisk chill in the air that spoke of ice and snow to come. “I’d like that, thank you,” she replied, sitting down in the oversized wooden chair that was Vincent's.
The hot water hissed in the tea pot as the tea began to steep. “Did you enjoy Connecticut?” Father asked.
“Oh, yes,” Catherine replied, thinking that there could be no words to describe the experience of seeing the world through Vincent’s eyes, his vision of the sunlight he’d thought he’d never see. “I'm glad Vincent came with me.”
“As hard as this might be to believe, given my behavior the last time this was discussed, so am I. When he was a boy, he wanted to go and do the things the other children could do. I hated having to tell him he couldn't.” He smiled, a touch rueful. “It's been hard for me to get out of the habit of telling him 'no, you can't.'”
“Really?” she said, dryly. “I had no idea. None.”
Father smiled at her over his teacup. “Touche, my dear. As I look at him now, I wonder what other dreams he'll see fulfilled, now that he has you to help him fight for them.”
Catherine felt the warm tug through their bond moments before she heard Vincent's footsteps outside the entrance to Father's chamber. As he stepped into the chamber, Catherine saw that he was, indeed, still damp, the long mane drying in copper waves around his face. “So, have you told him?” Vincent asked, smiling.
She shook her head. Father looked from one to the other of them. “What?”
Vincent stood behind her chair and placed his large hands on her shoulders. “We want to buy a house.”
“I don't know why I never thought a helper might be a realtor,” Catherine said now, watching Father put the chess pieces back in their black box.
Father smiled at her. “We have butchers and bakers too, not to mention the odd candlestick-maker. But it's true; our helpers do come from all walks of life. Dara's actually a second-generation helper; her parents passed away a few years back, but they were one of the first helpers to aid our community after John's expulsion. Good people.” He set his cup of tea down on the cluttered wood desk and looked at her. “Dara knows her business and will be able to help you through the...difficulties involved.”
Vincent nodded, mouth quirking in a wry smile. “It's a quandary many of our helpers face, as do many of our people who move above but yet wish to stay connected to us. There is simply no easy way to request a house with tunnel access through the basement. Dara knows of our needs and can assist us.”
“Well, now that's what I'd call ringing praise,” a female voice said from the entrance. “Hello, I'm Dara Moran.” She tilted her head, smiling and held out her hand. “So you're Vincent's Catherine. I've heard stories about you.”
“Good things, I hope,” Catherine said, shaking her hand. She watched as the woman hugged Vincent, the hug of old friends.
“Oh, yes,” Dara said, grinning an easy, wry grin. “Mostly along the lines of ‘Finally, they’re getting married.’” She gestured to the nearby table. “Please, let’s sit and see what we can find for you.”
Half a pot of tea later, Dara had a short list of what they were looking for. “It sounds like a brownstone would best fit your needs---many of the old ones link to the tunnels.”
“Why is that?” Catherine asked.
“Rum-running, speak-easies, you name it, it’s been done in these old houses with these tunnels as access points,” Dara said. “The trick is going to be finding one that’s in good condition; many of them have been cut up over time for apartments and artists’ lofts, that sort of thing.” She gazed at the both of them. “Do either of you have a problem with doing some rehab, if necessary?”
“Vincent’s good with his hands,” Catherine said, though the memory of just how good threatened to derail both her memory and her speech, “but the last time I picked up a hammer was to hang a picture in my apartment.”
Dara wrote a short note on her list: some rehab. “You’d be surprised at how many people take on renovation products who’ve never done it before. It can be a lot of work and it's always expensive, the more so if you don't know what you're doing.”
“We have people who can help with the labor,” Father said, and Catherine glanced at him, surprised. “Come now, Catherine, did you really think we'd let you do this all by yourselves?”
“I don't know what to say,” Catherine said, looking from Vincent back to Father. Vincent also seemed nonplussed.
“Say that you'll take the help when we offer it,” Father said. “Let us help you both.”
When Catherine returned to work on Wednesday, it was to a pile of files stacked high in her chair. She sighed—one day off and it looked like a tornado had landed on her desk. Then she saw the sticky note stuck to her phone: Radcliffe, see me when you get in.
“What is it, Joe?” she asked as she walked into Joe's office. Two rubber bands now, she noticed, disheartened.
“Max Avery was picked up on a warrant in south Florida,” Joe said. “Pending extradition proceedings, he should be in our custody early next month.”
“Joe, that's great!” Catherine exclaimed. Max Avery had disappeared shortly after the grand jury had returned their indictment; in the two years since, he had not been seen.
“Yeah, but you know what that means. Once he's in our custody, we have to be ready to start criminal proceedings.”
“Right,” Catherine said. “And most of the witnesses have disappeared.” It might well not be a quick trial, even if they located all the witnesses; a man with Avery's resources could delay every hearing, hire a firm of lawyers to oppose every motion. But still, once he was brought in for arraignment, the clock would start ticking.
“Not all of them,” Joe said. “We'll need Elliot Burch's testimony.”
Catherine fought the urge to lean her head into her hands. Of course. “I see,” she said.
“Do you?” Joe asked. “Burch gave us that notebook, but without his testimony to confirm what's in the notebook, it's useless.”
“I know,” Catherine replied.
Joe sat on a corner of his desk and gazed at her. “Look, kiddo. John---Moreno---might have been a corrupt SOB, but he was right about you. You are the best one to handle this case. I want you to handle the prosecution.”
Once upon a time, with different priorities and desperate to prove herself as something other than “Charles Chandler's daughter,” Catherine would have jumped at the chance. Now, though, there was Vincent to consider. They were to be married in just a few weeks---did she have the right to risk them both again just as their lives were settling down? To risk putting Vincent in danger? “I don't know what to say,” Catherine said.
“You're the best we've got,” Joe said. “I can't ask Benitez or Anderson to take this on; they don't have your experience, your gut instinct.”
“Or my willingness to sift through mountains of paper on the weekend and leap tall file boxes in a single bound?” Catherine asked dryly.
“Well, that too,” Joe said, cracking a smile that made him look years younger. “Cathy, you're in the trial division now and out of investigations. Isn't this why? To prosecute the bad guys?”
“I can't give you an answer right now, Joe,” she replied. “Tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow morning,” Joe said.
The rest of the day had passed in a haze of need and duty, warring and clashing with each other until she could barely hear herself think in the clamor. Catherine tried to slow the murmur of her thoughts, knowing Vincent could feel it and knowing that he, too, had work to do and should not be distracted by her dithering...but it was nearly impossible. Joe had dropped the Avery files---six of them---on the one lone corner of her desk and with a significant glance, had tapped the top folder, which held the transcript of Elliot Burch's testimony before the Grand Jury and the report from his earlier interview. She'd need to review it, review it with him, in preparation for Avery's trial.
As the day wore on, Catherine managed to get a good bit of work done in spite of her mental storm, breaking down the testimony of one witness and making a note to have one of the investigators finish running a criminal records check on him prior to his testimony later on in the week. The last thing she needed was that sort of surprise on the witness stand. Finally, Catherine looked up and it was evening and all but two of the interns---and Joe---had left. She placed the most critical of the Avery files in her briefcase and waved to Joe.
Catherine nodded, relating the story of Max Avery and the intertwining of her life---their life, now---once again with Elliot Burch. “I'm not sure what I should do,” she finished, leaning against his strength. “Joe wants an answer tomorrow morning.”
“Is this case so dangerous?” Vincent asked.
She lifted her head to look at him. “It could be, Vincent. Max Avery was a powerful man in this city; he had enough influence that the first grand jury refused to return the indictment. Grand juries are supposed to be secret but he---or someone working for him---got to them. We didn't know how until Moreno was arrested but...that's the kind of influence I'm talking about.” She shook her head, frustrated. “I don't want you to have to kill to protect me, Vincent. Not ever again. I promised that if you survived that illness, I'd never do that to you again.”
Catherine jumped when his hand caught her chin and gently raised her face. “Catherine,” he began, gazing into her eyes, “you didn't do anything to me. It was always my choice to protect you, and given that time over, I would still do it.” He caressed the bright gold of her hair. “Will your role in this case be as risky?”
“I don't know,” she replied. “I'm not in investigations anymore---one of the reasons I transferred was because it's safer, a desk job. But there are still risks, particularly with this kind of case, and Vincent---this isn't just my life anymore, if it ever was.”
“No,” he agreed. “It's our life. But you must believe---whatever you choose to do, I will support you.”
“Even if...” Catherine couldn't finish.
“Even if,” Vincent replied. “You are my life and what I must do to protect you, I will.”
“It won't come to that, I hope,” she said.
“I know,” he replied, gathering her near to his heart.
Click here for Chapter 3....
 “Here I Love You,” by Pablo Neruda