The Gift by Lori Ely (Brown) "Hi Cath. How've you been? You look great! That job of yours really does agree with you, or maybe it's the boss," she teased. "Right Jen. Things are ok. You know, the same old same old. Let's order lunch and then we'll start talking. I'm starved. I want the biggest salad I can get my hands on. "How about you?" "That sounds great. I've been running late all day and didn't even have time for breakfast." While waiting for the waiter, they talked about minor things; office gossip, who is leaving whom and other things. Soon Catherine began to get impatient. "I'm getting really tired of being ignored Jen. We have been sitting here for 20 minutes. If a waiter doesn't come soon I'm going to do something drastic! I have never had to wait more than a few minutes to get a waiter here before." Trying to flag down a waiter, they are ignored again. "That's it Jen, here goes nothing," she grinned! Suddenly a scream pierced the air, "Oh my god! A bug!" Jenny and Cathy are soon surrounded by every waiter in the restaurant. "Is there a problem madame?" The head waiter asked. Soft as sugar, Cathy answered, "No waiter, there is no problem. We are ready to order now. I'll have a chef's salad with ranch dressing on the side. A large iced tea with sugar and lemon and a glass of ice water. What will you have Jen?" Jenny stumbles over her order of the same things as she tries to keep from laughing. As soon as the waiter is gone, both broke into gales of laughter. "Cathy, you're terrible. How on earth did you come up with that one? What are we going to say when he brings our food?" "Number one Jen, I have a very good sense of humor, as you should well know. I just don't get the chance to use it all that often. And number two, never, never explain yourself when you don't absolutely have to." "Now then, tell me everything. I haven't seen you in so long. Who are you seeing? How is the publishing business?" "Oh no you don't! You know darned well that I invited you here for a reason. I know that something is up with you. I can feel it. You are happier than you have ever been. You are holding out on me, Cath! It's time for the truth. You are finally at peace with yourself. What happened?" Before answering Jenny, Catherine let the waiter serve the food, totally ignoring the glare that he gave them. For a couple of bites she was silent, trying to think just what to tell Jenny. Jenny was linked to her almost as much as Vincent was. Catherine knew that Jenny could feel these things through her link. "How much detail should I go into?" Catherine thought to herself. "Cathy, It's all right. Whatever it is, I'll understand." Startled, Catherine looked up. Jen did it again, she almost read my thoughts. "I know that, Jen. It's just that I made a promise and I don't want to break it." "I'm not asking you to break it. How about if I tell you what I think it is and than you tell me if I'm right. It's a man. I can feel that you are very much in love but there are a lot of problems. There is something wrong with this man. There is some reason why the two of you can't be together. Well, how close am I?" "You are very close, Jen, but I can't say anymore. That would be breaking the promise and I won't do that. Let's just finish lunch and talk about something else." "Ok Cathy, I won't push. But we aren't finished yet. So, tell me, how is Joe doing? Is he still cute as ever?" Now that the talk had turned to other things, Catherine could relax and enjoy the rest of her visit with Jenny. All too soon it was time for them both to get back to work. Making plans to call later, the girls go to their separate offices to get on with their day. * * * * * * Back at the D.A.'s office, Catherine couldn't help but think about how close Jenny had come to the truth. Jen had always been right on with those intuitions of hers. "If only I had understood them a little better, the problem with "The Watcher" might never have happened!" Would Jenny understand about Vincent? Would she be able to see past his face to the beauty underneath? So many questions. So much confusion. Today of all days when I have to be especially clear. The Alphonso depositions are today and nothing must mess this case up." Startled by a soft cough, Catherine came out of her daze and looked up to see Joe standing over her. "Hey Radcliffe, weren't you supposed to be somewhere now?" He gently prodded. "The depositions! Oh nuts!" Grabbing the files Catherine flew out of the office to the interrogation rooms. * * * * * * Walking back to her desk after the depositions are finished, Catherine is smiling. Thinking of Vincent had put a huge smile on her face. Thinking of the times that they had shared, she is filled with a great feeling of love. Not wanting to feel it alone, she projects it all down to Vincent. * * * * * * Sitting alone in her office, Jenny knew that what she told Cathy today was right. There was definitely someone very important in her life. Someone without whom Cathy wouldn't be able to live. Yet something was keeping them apart. Something about him. She couldn't quite get a name to put to him but she did know some things about him. First, Cathy loved him. He was strong, solid, compassionate, tender, and loving. Cathy felt all these things about him very strongly. She was feeling them about . . . about. His eyes, he has the most beautiful blue eyes I've ever seen. Now where did that come from? I wish I could make Cathy understand that it's going to be all right. Somehow they end up together. I can feel it, and they will be very happy. Twice Jenny almost picks up the phone to call Cathy, but stops. When the time is right, Cathy will explain. I guess I'll just have to be patient. * * * * * * Glancing at the clock, Catherine swore softly. "Damn, I'm going to be late again. I'll never be able to live this one down. I have to find a way to stop being late all the time. Vincent is never late, no matter what. Oh well, there's no sense in arguing with myself. That will only make me later. I'll just have to hurry." Heading out the door and toward the elevator, there is a bounce to Catherine's step that the whole world can see is love. Riding the elevator to the basement and her entrance to the tunnels, Catherine can't help but smile when she thinks of Vincent. He is everything that she has ever needed. He gives his love freely and is always there for her. Wistfully, she wishes that he would allow her to give of herself in the same way. To be there for him whenever he needed it. That's the problem though. With Vincent thinking that she would be stifled, there is no way that she would get to give of herself that way. Oh, if only he could see that what I want the most is to be with him always. To be with him as his wife! Jumping down the final step into the tunnels, Catherine turns around to see Vincent. The sight of him is enough to take her breath away and it never changes no matter how often she sees him. "Catherine." "I'm here Vincent. I couldn't wait to get here to see you." "Yes, I know. I could feel your impatience. You are late however," he gently teases. " Come shall we go?" "I know I'm late. I need to find a better system. Where are we going tonight?" "I thought that we could just talk in my chamber, if that is all right with you. I can feel that you have a lot on your mind tonight." "That will be fine. I do need to talk to you." They walk hand in hand silently thorough the tunnels until they reach Vincent's chamber. Both pick their favorite spots and are soon comfortable. Vincent is curled up on his bed and Catherine is sprawled in Vincent's chair with her legs hanging over one arm. "Catherine, what is bothering you so tonight?" "I saw Jenny for lunch today. It was great seeing her. It's just that I keep forgetting that she is somewhat telepathic. Especially, it seems, where I am concerned. We have always been friends, and Jenny has always seemed to know all there is to know about me though nobody had to tell her a thing. I had forgotten about this and today at lunch she asked some pretty unsettling questions. She is quite close to knowing about you, Vincent. What should I do?" "I could feel your unrest today. I could also feel that you trust Jenny completely. Do you think that she would understand? Would she understand our love and our bond?" "I know that she would understand about the bond, she has dealt with something like that all her life. Jen can already feel that I am deeply in love with someone very special. She doesn't know why we can't be together, just that we can't. She doesn't understand why we can't find a way to be together. I know that I can trust her with all of this. Jenny would never betray our secret. I promised you that I would never tell anyone about you and I never have, but Jenny is so very close to knowing about you through the link that we share. I don't want her jumping to conclusions. I guess I am asking you if I can tell Jenny about us." "You know that I trust you Catherine. If you feel that Jenny can be trusted, than she can. Maybe it is time for you to have someone to be able to confide in. The burden of keeping our relationship a secret is a terrible one for you. Being able to talk to Jenny will help. Tell her." "Thank you Vincent. I'll call her tomorrow. I'll just tell her the basics." "Somehow Catherine, I don't think that will be enough. Jenny is going to want to know all about me, just as your father would have, and for all the same reasons. She doesn't want you getting hurt." "Vincent, you would never hurt me!" "You know that Catherine, but she doesn't. Jenny was your friend while you were involved with Stephen, wasn't she? She still couldn't protect you from getting hurt. She doesn't know me, and until she does get to know me, she is going to be very cautious. Just take it one step at a time and let your heart guide you." Sensing the need for a subject change, Vincent picks up a book and begins to read softly to Catherine. As they fall into a now familiar routine, both can relax and settle in for an enjoyable night together. * * * * * * At work the next day, Catherine can barely concentrate and it's was becoming noticeable. ".... Talk to the precinct about .... Earth calling Radcliffe, come in Radcliffe. Hey Cathy, anybody home?" Asked an amused Joe. "What did you say Joe?" "Boy, I've heard about being out in left field but you weren't even in the ballpark. Where were you Cathy?" "I'm sorry Joe, I've got something on my mind. What can I do for you?" "Nothing now. Look you have been working pretty hard on the Alphonso case. Why don't you knock off early and go talk to him?" "What makes you think there is a him? You know that I don't see anyone." "Well, I know that you don't let us see you going out with anyone. I, however, know that look. If that's not love, than it's probably the worst case of office-itis that I have ever seen. In either case you don't belong here, so go. Don't make me argue with you anymore. I just might change my mind." "Thanks Joe, I really owe you one," Catherine replies as she quickly gathers her things. She stops just long enough to give Joe a quick hug as she leaves. "Don't forget to invite me to the wedding," Joe sighs as she walks past. "Boy, now wouldn't that be a wedding he would remember?" thought Catherine to herself as she walked out the door. * * * * * * Finally reaching home, after what seemed like an eternity, the first thing Catherine did was to call Jenny. Reaching only her machine Catherine swore aloud, "Damn. Jenny where are you? I finally have something to say to you and you aren't home. Oh well, I'll try later." Needing to kill some time, Catherine started puttering around her apartment. Somehow just the ordinary routine of dusting was very relaxing tonight. Moving last night's newspaper, Catherine found a volume poetry by William Shakespeare. This was one of Vincent's favorite books. Leafing through the pages, she thought back to the first day that she met Vincent. Suddenly it's there. All the joy and the wonder. All over again. How kind Vincent had been to her when she had been hurt so badly. How afraid he was that his appearance would frighten her. If only he could see how truly beautiful he was. The ringing of the phone brings Catherine back to the present. "Hi, Jen. How are you? Did you get my message?" "No Cath. What message? I'm still at work and I got the strongest feeling that I should call. Are you all right?" "Sure Jen, everything's fine. I just want to talk to you. Can you come over tonight?" "Sure I'll come, but you're springing for the pizza this time. What's this all about? Am I finally going to get to find out about your mystery man?" "I'll explain everything when you get here. Do you want mushroom or pepperoni?" "Surprise me. I'm on my way. I can't wait to find out what the big secret is. See you in about 45 minutes. Bye." After hanging up the phone, Catherine takes a quick look in the kitchen. Finding the cabinets and the fridge bare, she decides to run out to the store for some groceries. It promised to be a very long and interesting night. Catherine and Jenny both reach the lobby of Catherine's apartment building at the same time. Catherine is loaded down with groceries and pizza. Jenny takes half as they head up to the apartment. Jenny is just about to burst with curiosity. Before Jenny can say anything, Catherine said, beating her to the punch, "Don't say a word Jen. Wait until we get inside. I know that you are about to burst but hold it in a little while longer." Finally, they are in and all settled down with the pizza and a glass of wine each. Jenny could contain herself no longer. "All right Chandler, out with it. I know that you are in love and have been hiding it from everyone. I know that there must be a very good reason why you aren't with him. I want to hear everything. Start!" Laughing, Catherine began, " It all started with my attack. Vincent is the one who found me. He found me and took me to the most magical and secret place that you could ever imagine. It is a world unlike any other world. Hidden in a place the no one would ever think to look. Vincent saved my life and took care of me. He read to me when I couldn't see because of the bandages on my face. He fed me and was there to comfort me. When I finally couldn't stand it anymore, I took the bandages off myself. I had to find out where we were. I had to see the face behind the voice that I had come to call a friend." "Vincent wasn't in the room when I took off the bandages. At first I couldn't find anything to use as a mirror so I used my hands. What I felt on my face was horrible. There were stitches everywhere. I had to see what it looked like. There were no mirrors, but I found a reflector dish from a headlight and used that. I was horrified. I looked like Frankenstein. And then I saw his face in the hubcap too. I was startled, I had thought that I was alone, and threw the hubcap at him and screamed. Vincent thought that I had been frightened by his looks and he left. Honestly Jenny, I wasn't frightened. I was so caught up in how bad I looked that he startled me. I wasn't expecting anyone else to be there." "I didn't know what to do. I had never meant to hurt him and yet, that's just what I had done. I had no idea where I was or where he had gone. When I had calmed down he came back. He was wearing a long cloak that covered almost all of him. I didn't want to hurt him, and I certainly wasn't afraid of him. I already knew that he was too gentle a soul ever to harm me in any way. He brought me my things and said that it was time for me to go. I had to make him understand. I had to explain that I wasn't repulsed or frightened by him. Jenny, you can't believe how truly beautiful a soul he has." "Anyway, I started talking. I asked him how this had happened to him. He said that he didn't know. He was born that way and had survived, just like I would. He told me that it doesn't matter what a person looks like on the outside but what is inside of them that counts. Coming from Vincent, it was more that just a cliche. This is something that he doesn't just believe, he lives it every day." "Cathy, just what is so different about Vincent. Why would he think that you would be afraid of his looks? Does he have some kind of birth defect?" "In a way, but it's kind of hard to explain without actually meeting Vincent. I hope that someday you can meet him. Tonight I just wanted to tell you why I am so happy. I have found the person who I want to spend the rest of life with. I have found a peace that wasn't in my life three years ago. I can't believe that I'm even telling you all this. I promised Vincent that I would never tell anyone about him, but after all your questions yesterday and that uncanny knack of yours. Well, we both decided that maybe it was good for someone else to know. For me to have someone to talk to. Most people wouldn't understand though. You have to promise that you will never tell a soul. I trust you Jen, can you promise that you will keep our secret?" "What secret, Cathy? So far all I know is that you are madly in love with this wonderful guy who has some kind of physical deformity that prevents other people from seeing him. You owe this guy a lot and don't want to see him hurt. That kind of secret couldn't hurt a fly!" Laughing Cathy starts again, " Your right Jen, I'm not making much sense." "Remember when I mentioned the magical place that Vincent had taken me to? Well it's right here in New York. As a matter of fact, it's New York. There are hundreds of miles of tunnels under the subway tunnels. They stretch on forever it seems. There is a whole community of people who live there and take care of each other. They are wonderful people led by a wonderful man. A man we call Father. Father was once a doctor in the world above. He was cast out by the mass hysteria of the McCarthy era. All the people that live in the tunnels have been cast aside by the world above and this place is a place of safety and of love. It is home. This is where Vincent lives. He is Father's son." " Vincent was found as a baby, abandoned outside St. Vincent's hospital. He had been abandoned, apparently because of his looks." "Oh Cathy, how can people do that? Just because of a birth defect?" "Jen, This was no ordinary birth defect. The best way to describe Vincent is to say that his features are leonine. He has the most beautiful deep blue eyes and a head full of golden hair. He is very powerfully built and stands about six feet tall. He is also empathic. He is quiet and has the soul of a poet. We share a very special bond. He can feel what I am feeling as I am feeling it. He has saved my life that way more times than I care to remember." "Vincent understands that I needed to tell someone about all this. We both think that because of the link that you and I share, You will understand about the link between Vincent and myself. I know that he approves of me telling you all this because I can feel it in him." "Do you mean that the two of you are linked telepathically? That you can feel everything the other feels at the instant you feel it?" "Well, It isn't exactly like that. Vincent feels the connection much stronger that I do. He knows when I am happy or sad. He can feel my joy and he always knows when I need him. I'm not so lucky. I can only feel his feelings when they are at an extreme. I always have this warm glow around my heart that is Vincent's love. In a way I'm kind of amazed that he isn't here already. He knows that you understand. I can see it and he can feel it through me. I know that he wants to meet you, I can feel that from him. Wait, he's here!" Jenny, please stay here. Vincent's waiting on the balcony. I need to talk to him first. I'll be right back." "Sure Cath, I'll wait right here. Hurry up though, I'm dying of curiosity about Vincent. For you to love him as much as you do he must be pretty special." Catherine walks out the balcony doors and right into Vincent's arms. "I'm so glad that you're here, your timing is perfect as usual. I was just telling Jenny about you. I know that she wants to meet you. Is that why you're here?" "Yes, Catherine. I would love to meet Jenny. I would like to be able to share the love that the two of you feel for each other. I think that you should prepare her for meeting me. I don't want to frighten her." "Of course Vincent, but I have already described you in graphic detail to her. I explained what you look like. I think that she will be all right, but I will talk to her for a little while. I will come for you when we are ready." "I'll wait right here." Going back into the apartment, Catherine couldn't hide her excitement. "It's Vincent, Jenny. He wants to meet you. I have to remind you though, Vincent isn't like anyone you have ever seen. His looks may frighten you." "Cathy, you love him. That's all I need to know. Now bring him in here before I start asking questions. Questions like, how does he get onto your balcony when you live on the 18th floor?" "Ok, ok I'm going. Boy the two of you are sure going to get along," Catherine laughs as she walks to the balcony doors." Opening the doors slightly, Catherine let Vincent into the living room. With his cloak covering him, Jenny couldn't really see much except that he was very tall and very well built. Softly a voice that was like velvet over steel came from under the cloak. "Hello Jenny. I am Vincent. I am pleased to finally meet you. Catherine has told me so much about you." "Thank you Vincent. It's nice to finally meet you too. I have known for some time that Cathy had someone special in her life. Well, are you going to stand in the doorway all night? Come over here and lets really get to know each other!" "I don't want to approach too soon. I want to give you the chance to feel comfortable with me." "Come on Vincent, Cathy has told me all about you. I know that you think yourself different, and that may be so, but if Cathy loves you there must be something very right about you. Please Vincent, let me see your face?" Slowly and with a sigh, Vincent pushes back the hood of his cloak. Jenny gasps and abruptly sits down. Staring at Vincent, she is amazed. Vincent didn't look like anything Jenny had ever dreamed about. Cathy was right he IS beautiful. Seeing Jenny gasp and sit so suddenly, Vincent is sure that he had indeed frightened her. Pulling up his hood he turns to go. "No Vincent, Wait! Jenny calls out, "please don't go. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to stare so. My God, Cathy. You were right. He's magnificent! I have never seen anyone with eyes as beautiful as yours. I am not frightened or repulsed or anything but fascinated. I can see why Cathy is so hell bent on protecting you." Turning to Cathy, Jenny says, " Now I understand why the two of you can't live together in this world. I'm sorry I wasn't more sensitive to what you were telling me." "No Jenny," Vincent's soft voice spoke, "There is no way that you could have understood our relationship. There are times when we don't understand it ourselves. It is not like anything you have ever seen. All we ask is that you keep secret what you have learned her tonight. Many good people would be hurt if the secret were ever to come out." "Of course, I won't say anything to anyone. I wouldn't be believed anyway. I have a question for the two of you though. I can see how much you love each other, so why aren't you together. I know you can't be together in this world, but Cathy has told me about your world. Why aren't you together in it?" "That's a lot more complicated that it sounds Jen." Catherine replies. I would gladly go to Vincent's world in a minute except a couple of things." "There would be an awful uproar if I were to just disappear. Especially after all that has happened the past three years. Joe would just go nuts." And secondly, Vincent doesn't want me to give up my world to be in his. He doesn't want me to become bored." "There are ways to get around dropping out of sight. People do it every day. How do you feel about joining Vincent in his world, Cath? Have the two of you ever talked about it before?" "No, we haven't talked about it. Until my father died there was family holding me to the world above. Now though, there is only Nancy and you. I suppose the job too, although I could live very happily without the stress. I know how you feel now and I'm sure that Nancy would feel the same way, but I don't want to force Vincent into something he doesn't want." "Well, It's your turn Vincent. What is the real objection to Cathy's joining you in your world? What are you afraid of?" Grinning, Vincent turns to Catherine. "You were right, she is very perceptive. Catherine, I am afraid that if you spend all of your time in my world you will grow bored with me. I am afraid that we will run out of things to say to each other." Gathering him into a hug, Catherine looks up into his deep blue eyes. "Vincent, every couple has those fears, it's only natural. There will be a period of adjustment, just like all couples, but look at what we already have. I could never be bored with you." "What of your job Catherine? What about all the joy that you get from helping others?" "Vincent, I can do the same thing in the tunnels. You can't deny that you are sorely in need of teachers for the children. I can do that. Or a dozen other things that are needed in the tunnels. I'm sure that given half a chance, Father would find a hundred things for me to do." Softly Jenny asks, "That's not really it, is it Vincent. What is it that is really bothering you? Tell Cathy, she needs to know. I can leave if it will help." "No Jenny, please stay. The two of you don't seem to understand. Look at me. Look at these hands. These hands were not made for loving. These hands do not know tenderness. Catherine, if we were to be joined would you want these hands touching you, knowing what they have done? Would you want to be intimate with me, knowing that we don't even know if I am human? What if I were to harm you? How do I know that I will be able to control myself in the heat of passion?" For a moment, Catherine was silent. Gathering her thoughts. Then as if filled with a sudden resolve she gathered Vincent's hands into hers. "I told you once before that these were my hands. These hands know the beauty of a single rose. These hands know the joy of a soft caress. These hands know the joy that comes from creating a piece of artwork. These hands could never harm me because they love me." As for not knowing what you are, you are wrong. I know that you are the man that I love. You are the man that I want to spend the rest of my life with and the man that I want to be the father to my children. I love you. Trust in our love." "Thank you Catherine. You have given me much to think about. There is one thing though, that you have forgotten. You are a very wealthy women. The world is not going to just let you go." The three of them sat silently for awhile, lost in thought to this new challenge. Maybe Vincent was right about this one, there may be no way out. Suddenly Jenny jumps up. "I've got it! I have the answer! Cathy, you said that there are miles of these tunnels running under the subways. I assume that there is some kind of entrance system from basements in local buildings. All you have to do is to find a building with an apartment in the basement and an entrance to the tunnels. Then you buy the building and your problem is solved. No nosy neighbors either. It could work, Cath. Then you could keep your life above and still have a life below. Once you are behind closed doors, nobody has to know if you are above or below. Well, what do you think?" For a long time the silence was almost too much for Jenny to bear. She was beginning to have serious doubts about the wisdom of her plan, but smiled when she saw a gleam come into Catherine's eye. Vincent, on the other hand, still looked troubled. "Catherine, is there some place that I can go to be alone? There are many things that I must consider," Vincent asks softly. "You stay here Vincent. Jenny and I will go into the bedroom. We can always use the time to catch up on all the latest gossip. Call us when you are ready. The tea is in the kitchen, help yourself." Vincent sat quietly with his hands folded, already lost in thought as the girls headed for the bedroom. There was so much to think about. All the love that he had for Catherine. It started the moment that he saw her crumpled form laying in the park. It was as if nothing before that instant mattered. From that moment, he truly started to live. Everything about Catherine gave him joy. From the way she smelled, to the way she laughed, he loved everything about her. When she had gone to California, he had missed her so much. True, he could still feel the bond, but it was so far away. It was such a lonely time. Is that what life without her would be like? When her father had died, she had come to him for comfort. She came to stay in his world to be near to him. Having her there to talk to the first thing in the morning and the last thing at night had been wondrous. The simple joy of taking a meal together was one that he would never forget. What would life be like with her in it every day? Would he be able to love her as a husband should love his wife? Would he be able to do those things and not hurt her? It was true that when he had been in the grip of the drug that Paracelsus had made, Catherine was the only one who had been able to reach him. Father hadn't even been able to do that. Was a life with Catherine as his wife really possible? Dare he even to hope? Would she really want him? One thing was sure, sitting here thinking, wasn't going to get the questions answered. There was only one way to find out what Catherine would say. Slowly getting up, Vincent walks the short distance to the doors to Catherine's bedroom. It is the longest walk that he has ever taken. After a soft knock, the doors are opened. Catherine! Her beauty is almost enough to take his breath away. Always direct, Vincent gets right to the point. "Catherine, do you think that Jenny's plan can work?" "Yes Vincent, I do. It will take a little research and some hard work, but I think it can be done." "Catherine, Is this something that would make you happy? "Yes Vincent, it is. Sharing a life with you has been my secret dream for the past three years. I never said anything because we always thought that our dream was impossible." For a time Vincent is quiet. Without a word, he drops to one knee. Catherine and Jenny are both staring at Vincent, but he has eyes only for Catherine. Although both recognize the position that he has taken, neither grasp the significance. Looking up at Catherine, Vincent shyly asks the most important question of his life. "Catherine, would you do me the honor of becoming my wife? Catherine can't think or breath. This is the day that she had waited for all her life. He has finally asked her to marry him. Not being able to think past the fact that she had just been proposed to, Catherine just stands still. Jenny can't stand this. "Hey dummy," Jenny hits Catherine's arm, "You just got asked the question of a lifetime. Aren't you going to answer the man?" "What? Oh right! YES! YES! YES! Yes of course I'll marry you! I will marry you any time and place you say. Catherine shouted as she ran into Vincent's arms. Lost completely in each others arms, Catherine and Vincent don't see the ear to ear grin that is on Jenny's face. Realizing that she has been forgotten, Jenny quietly walks out of the room and heads for the front door. With a smile she looks back toward the room, then leaves. Gathering Catherine into his arms, Vincent walks over to the bed where he sits with her in his lap. Catherine nestles into his chest, lost in the scent of him. For a time the two just sit and shared the joy they are feeling. Softly, Catherine starts to kiss his neck. Vincent gasps. Never has he felt anything so soft as her lips. Getting bolder, Catherine begins to move up towards his face. Years of denying himself had taken their toll on Vincent. As badly as he wants to lose himself to Catherine, he is still afraid. "Catherine, wait, we still don't know what will happen. We still don't know how I will react." Holding his face in her hands, Catherine replies, "I know Vincent. I love you and you love me. You have asked me to be your wife and I have consented. I know all of the things that you are afraid of. They won't happen. Our love will overcome any problem. You will not hurt me." Bending his face towards her, Catherine kisses Vincent fully on the lips for the first time. Vincent has never been kissed like this before. Slowly, he begins to respond to the silken pressure on his lips. He knows that if he doesn't stop soon there will be no chance to, however he is completely lost to the kiss. The sudden fire of passion begins to envelope them both. Becoming bolder, Vincent starts to explore Catherine's body. Encouraged by Vincent's reaction, Catherine also begins her own explorations. As the explorations continued, clothing that is not needed is dropped to the floor. Suddenly, Catherine gasps. "Vincent, I always knew that you were beautiful, but I could never have dreamed just how beautiful." "Catherine, I am only beautiful to you because you love me. What a wondrous thing that is to say. I love you. I have always loved you. It seems as a miracle that we are here and now." "Vincent, you talk to much," Catherine replies as she begins to kiss him again. In no time at all, they are caught up in passion and the love that they have been denying for so long can finally be fulfilled. * * * * * * * * All is silent in the bedroom. The two lovers are asleep in each others arms for the first time. It would not be the last. Slowly waking, Vincent lay watching Catherine sleep. How could this moment have taken so long? What was he so worried about. Catherine had been right. With love all things were possible. Looking down at Catherine, Vincent discovers her watching him. With a smile, she reaches up and kisses him very gently on the cheek. "Well, Vincent, now you have to marry me, if only to make an honest women out of me." "Catherine, there is nothing that you or anyone else could do that would prevent me from marrying you." With a happy sigh, Catherine nestles further into Vincent's arms as he places a feather soft kiss upon her forehead. The Beginning? ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ About the Author The author, Lori (Ely) Brown, first found Beauty and the Beast during a very difficult time for her, she was about to go through a divorce. Vincent's strength and courage showed her the way to get through the problems and come out a happy woman. Now, Lori is very happily re-married to her own Vincent and living in Florida. Lori's e-mail address is Froggy2332@aol.com or you may contact her through snail mail at Lori Brown, 388 Dorchester Drive, Venice FL 34293.