TO SEEK THE SHORE
The roars reverberated through the rocky tunnels, doubled and tripled by the echoes. Menace was clear in the sound; danger of death was booming through the air. Father’s face was white and desperate as he held Catherine’s shoulder.
“No! You can’t!”
“I must!” She replied, freeing herself.
“Father, he is my life. Without him, there is nothing.” She looked her resolve into his eyes, then turned and strode into the dark opening before them.
She followed the tunnel slowly, feeling her way in almost complete darkness. Her heart was pounding, the danger implicit in the roars she heard sending adrenaline rushing through her veins. She rounded a turn, the light increased a little, and as her eyes adjusted she saw him, leaning against the tunnel wall and roaring in anguish, his head thrown back, his hair wildly tossing around him.
At that moment he saw her. His mouth opened in a terrible grimace, showing his formidable teeth; he snarled horribly, and sprang. He bore down on her, teeth and claws bared and ready to kill.
“Vincent!“ she screamed his name.
He checked in mid-plunge, his eyes wide with tortured recognition. He stood for a moment, his face smoothing from its ferocious snarl, and then he dropped bonelessly to the floor, carrying her with him as he reached for her in the last moment of consciousness before he fell.
Catherine raised herself up and looked at him, her eyes widening in terror at his complete stillness. “Vincent!” She stared down at his unmoving face. There was no breath, no heartbeat that she could feel as her hands moved over him. “No!” Her voice was frantic. “No---no! Vincent, you can’t!” Desperately, she stroked his face, willing him to be alive, and her voice lowered to a hoarse whisper. “---You can’t! Not without me! ---I won’t let you!” and her face bent lower over him, until her mouth covered his.
She kissed him with passion, desolately hoping to bring him back by the force of her love for him. And as the kiss lengthened, she felt with joyous relief a response. He wasn’t dead!
But his response was of a completely unexpected kind. His lips moved under hers, his mouth opening, pressing into hers, his tongue reaching. He groaned as their mouths melded, his arms came up around her and his hands moved over her body. He said nothing, only kissed her with passion rising to incandescence, and when she realized that he was not going to stop she responded with equal heat. The banked fires of three years of desire denied broke forth, his mouth and his body demanding more, more of her, and her body answering with all of the love and passion so long suppressed. His hands reached under her sweater to find her skin, and she helped him to open her clothes, to bare her body for his touch. There were no words; bodies expressed the need, the protracted suppression of longing now exploding in a burst of passion that could not be denied.
There was no semblance of lovemaking, and none was needed. He entered her with a groan of desire gratified, and she replied with moaning half spoken words. His body shook with long tremors of excitement as he moved in her; her response was involuntary and completely given over to sensation. It was simply a compulsion to satisfy an appetite too long denied. Neither had any desire for anything but release, completion, satisfaction. It was over very quickly, both of them crying out in the climax of the act.
Catherine lay under him, panting, hardly believing what had happened to them. Vincent sprawled over her completely relaxed, his body heavy on her, but his weight very welcome. After a few minutes, when pulses had quieted and breathing was normal, Catherine reached up to stroke his hair where he lay with his face buried in her neck.
She felt him stir at the sound of her voice; she knew he had heard her; but he moved not at all from his position over her.
“Vincent, can you move?”
After a silence of several seconds, “N-no.”
“All right, just lie still, I’ll do it.” She pushed at him to roll him off her, and he did help somewhat; he rolled onto his back and lay still again. Catherine moved quickly to straighten his clothes and hers against the tunnel chill, and against the possibility of Father's entrance; she knew he was waiting outside terrified.
She moved to Vincent’s head and pulled it into her lap, stroking his face and his tangled hair. He seemed to be conscious, but she couldn’t tell for sure. He was not responding to her caresses, but she felt some tension in his body, not the complete laxness of unconsciousness. She cradled him against her, rocking him gently, talking to him in a whisper, soft words of encouragement and love.
After a long time Father came, his strained face showing his apprehension of what he might find. “How is he?” His words were tremulous.
“He’s alive.” She could say no more than that.
Vincent stirred at the sound of her voice, and looked up at Father. Father gazed back with mixed relief and concern. “Let’s get him home.”
“Yes.” Catherine answered briefly, her attention still all on Vincent.
They got him on his feet with surprising ease; he seemed to be recovering somewhat. With his arm over Father’s shoulder they began the long journey back to Vincent’s chamber.
“You’re up. You must be feeling better.” Catherine smiled across the chamber at Vincent. “Yesterday I could hardly wake you so you could eat something, and the day before you slept for twenty four hours without moving.”
“Yes, I’m feeling better.” He put down the small statuette he had been looking at and turned to face her. “But---I don’t remember. Some things that should be familiar are not. There are---blank places.”
Catherine crossed the chamber to stand close to him. He stared down at her for a moment and then opened his arms, and she stepped into his embrace. “I remember you,” he said, his arms tightening around her, “You are the woman I love.”
She smiled tenderly. “I’m glad you remember that.” Without conscious thought she reached up and touched her lips to his.
His hands came up to grasp her shoulders, and he pushed her away from him almost with violence. “Catherine, you must not!---” He turned away from her, his head down, and she could feel as she put her hands on his shoulders that he was trembling. He moved away from her hands, not turning back to face her.
“What? What is it?” As she stood there dumbfounded by his reaction she realized suddenly what the problem was. “Vincent, what do you remember of the time in the cavern?”
“Nothing. Nothing at all.”
“You don’t remember my being there with you?”
“No. Is there something---something I should remember?” He turned to look at her, apprehension plain on his face. “Did I frighten you? ---Did I---did I hurt you?”
“No! No, you didn’t hurt me, or frighten me. There is nothing you need to remember. Nothing at all. Vincent---I’m sorry about what I did---I’m just so glad to see you on your feet again. We were afraid we’d lose you.”
He turned away again. “I’m all right. I’ll be fine.” He picked up a book from the table and began to riffle through its pages. If he was still disturbed by her impulsive kiss, how would he feel if he knew what had happened down in that dark cavern? She couldn’t tell him, that was clear, but it broke her heart that what had been so wonderful to her was not even admissible to him.
She turned to leave, unable to face him with equanimity. But before she got to the door, his voice stopped her. “Catherine?” She turned. “Don’t leave. I’m sorry. Please stay, we’ll have some tea, and talk, or read if you’d rather?” He smiled his small smile at her, and she walked back to him, her heart melted by the smile, ready again to accept him on whatever terms he imposed.
He moved to the table to pour tea from the china teapot that sat there, a curl of steam rising from its spout, then passed a cup to Catherine where she had seated herself in his big chair. With a second cup in his hand he made himself comfortable on his bed, and picked up the book that lay beside him.
“I was reading Sara Teasdale. Is that all right?”
“Oh, yes.” She smiled, but when he picked up the book, she held up her hand, and spoke:
“’I have remembered beauty in the night,
Against black silences I waked to see
A shower of sunlight over Italy
And green Ravello dreaming on her height;
But all remembered beauty is no more
Than a vague prelude to the thought of you --
You are the rarest soul I ever knew,
Lover of beauty, knightliest and best;
My thoughts seek you as waves that seek the shore,
And when I think of you, I am at rest.’ ”
Her eyes were misty as she looked at him, and her smile held all her love for him. They held each other’s gaze, rapt with sudden tenderness. For many seconds their love was communicated through that gaze, until Vincent looked away suddenly.
“Oh, Catherine---Catherine.” He swung his feet to the floor, and his head dropped low over his lap. He sat still for a moment; then, seemingly against his will, his head came up and his eyes returned slowly to her. They traveled over her hair, her shoulders, finally sinking again into the depths of her eyes. But the love that looked forth from them had changed, was mixed with something else, something she had only caught fleeting glimpses of in the past. Stark desire was there, looking out at her. Catherine had never seen such naked craving in his gaze.
And she knew that her eyes were speaking to him of that same passion. She couldn’t hold back from him her response to the longing in his eyes.
The atmosphere in the room became charged with tension as the moments passed, until she thought she couldn’t bear it. When he got up suddenly she was absolutely certain that he was going to come to her, to take her in his arms. Instead, he moved away from her, pacing to the other side of the room. She sat still, waiting for him to give some indication so she could follow his lead. After a long silence during which he moved not at all he spoke with his back to her. “I’m sorry, Catherine. I don’t---don’t seem able to focus today, I’m not sure---not sure what’s the matter. Forgive me.”
She took hold of herself with an effort. So, it was to be ignored; once more they would go on as if nothing had happened, as if this passion between them had no existence in reality. She took a deep breath, and resigned herself to following his lead, one more time. “Of course.” She said, disciplining her voice to its customary tone. “We’ll read again soon, just not today. Do you think you could lie down and rest awhile if I left? That would probably be best for you; you’ve been very ill.”
“Yes, I’ll do that, that would be best.”
“I know Rebecca needs help today with candles. I’ll see you later, Vincent. Try to rest. Goodbye for now.” She turned quickly to the chamber entrance, and gladly escaped the tension of the room.
She moved a few yards down the tunnel, until she felt safely out of his view; then stopped and leaned gratefully against the wall on unsteady legs. She stood staring sightlessly ahead while she tried to sort out the confusing events of the past few minutes. What had happened? How had the atmosphere changed from the tenderness and love that they had always shared to a charged air of sexual longing and readiness? She was still shaking with the adrenaline rush that had caught her unawares when she suddenly thought that he would close the distance between them, that he was on the point of taking action.
As she resumed her walk her thoughts were scattered and unreliable, still influenced by the emotional storm just weathered. Did he remember the occurrence in the deep cavern on some unconscious level? Was he influenced by the event that he had no conscious memory of? Was he truly recovered from his illness, or was the scene just past a symptom of returning delusion?
Suddenly she stopped in the middle of the passage. Now was not the time to think of these things, she was too agitated to be thinking clearly; for now she would make candles and talk to Rebecca. She resumed walking, letting her feet carry her automatically to her destination, still bemused by the encounter just over.
Twenty four hours had gone by, and she hadn’t seen or heard from Vincent. Several visits to his chamber had not found him there, and she had not seen him at meals, or during the evening’s social gathering. She looked for him as she entered Father’s study, he was often here. But Father was alone, in his usual place at his desk, sipping his everpresent cup of tea.
“Catherine! Come in, my dear. Cup of tea?”
“Thank you.” She accepted the cup. “Father, I’ve made arrangements to stay here a few more days. I hope that will be all right.” She smiled a little shyly. “I can’t seem to convince myself that he’s truly getting better. I was so scared---.”
Father got up and came around his desk, to lean against the front of it. “Catherine, you may stay here as long as you like; I hope you will stay until Vincent is back to his old self. I believe that you saved his life; for that alone we would welcome you here, even if we hadn’t already learned to love you for yourself.”
He held out his arms, and Catherine went into them with a rush of love for this old man, whose heart was kind and generous, if his tongue could be sharp and cutting. Tears spilled down her cheeks as she answered, “Thank you, Father. It means a great deal to me that you would say that.”
“There now, don’t cry. We’ll have Vincent thinking we’ve been disagreeing again. And we haven’t; far from it, Vincent, so don’t scowl at me!” Father said, looking over Catherine’s shoulder.
Catherine turned to see Vincent in the doorway. “Hello! I’ve just been telling Father that I’ve made arrangements to stay for a few more days, until we’re sure that you’re all right.” She started across the room to him, but stopped as he turned abruptly away from her.
“Thank you, but I am all right. I have no need of any care. However, we are always gratified to have you visit Below, Catherine.” He turned back to face her, looking just over her head, not meeting her eyes. His words and voice were stiffly correct. “This is an unexpected pleasure. We will have to see what entertainments we can manage to make your---extended visit with us a pleasant one. Perhaps the children can be persuaded to restage the little play that they put on last month. And we could have a poetry reading, or perhaps a concert.”
Catherine’s face went white. “Thank you for your kind thought.” Her voice was as stiff and formal as his. She turned to Father, her manner thawing instantly. “Thank you for your generous acceptance of me, Father. I’ll never forget it.” She turned and left without speaking again to Vincent.
“Vincent, what possessed you? That was past being rude; it was cruel! You would have been warmer to any casual guest!”
Vincent was leaning against the desk, his shoulders slumped, his face turned away. “Please---don’t, don’t, Father.” He spoke hoarsely.
“Go at once and apologize to Catherine!” Father’s voice was hard. “You heard me, Vincent! Do it now!”
Vincent didn’t turn his head, but he spoke softly. “I haven’t heard that tone of voice since I was about sixteen.”
“I haven’t needed it since you were sixteen. Now do as you’re told!”
Vincent bowed, a small dip of his head without looking at Father, and left the room.
Catherine entered the guest chamber that was her usual room Below and sat down carefully on the bed, staring straight ahead. She had kept her face unmoved until she was in private, but it had been a near thing.
As she remembered his face and his manner she bent over, holding her stomach. She felt as if he had stabbed her. She began to rock back and forth, making small sounds of pain, as the enormity of what he had done came home to her. Tears ran down her face, but she was too much hurt, too agonized, to sob. After a few minutes she got up and began to pace up and down the small area in front of the bed, unable to sit still, holding her stomach, the tears still running unheeded down her face.
Her back was to the doorway when he came. As she turned and saw him, he was across the room in an instant, to lift her up in his arms. Holding her he whispered, his mouth against her ear, “Don’t, don’t, Catherine, my love, my love.” Her arms came around his neck, and her tears flowed faster as she began to sob at last. “Don’t, my love, my adored one, don’t! I love you, I love you, I can’t do it, I can’t hurt you so, don’t, don’t.” He sat down with her on his lap, rocking her, his arms holding her pressed tight to him as he murmured against her hair. “Oh, my love, forgive me, forgive me, Catherine, Catherine---. I thought---I thought it was best for both of us if I made a break---, but I can’t do it; I can’t give you such pain---oh, my love!” He shuddered and his arms tightened around her.
She turned in his arms to bring her face up to his. His mouth moved from her hair to her temple, slid across her cheek, hesitated, and then with a moan he brought it down over hers, open and searching, reaching for all she had to give. Her arms came up around his neck, her hands sliding under his mane to stroke his skin, her fingers moving through his hair, as she returned his kiss with equal passion.
When he raised his head at last his breath came in great gasps, tremors shaking his whole body. “Catherine, Catherine, my love, my own love---“ He buried his face in the angle between her neck and shoulder. When he spoke it was against her throat, where she could feel the vibrations of his voice. “Catherine---help me! I must not do this. I must not!”
Catherine’s hand came up under his chin to lift his face into her view, but he resisted, keeping his head down on her shoulder. ‘Vincent, look at me.” she tried again, but his face remained out of her sight.
“If I look at you I’ll kiss you.” His voice was hoarse.
“Would that be so bad?”
“I mustn’t. Please, Catherine---help me.”
Catherine dislodged his arms from around her, and stood up. “I don’t understand what’s happening here, Vincent.” Her voice hardened as her confusion and frustration brought anger welling up in her. “I feel as though I’m a helpless doll, being tossed around with no idea of what’s happening from one minute to the next! I’m beginning to be angry, Vincent. Please, you have to talk to me. What’s going on?”
Vincent’s head came up and he straightened, visibly taking hold of himself. He rose and paced to the other side of the room, standing then with his back to her, his face raised to look at the chamber’s ceiling. Without turning he began to speak. “Yes. We must talk. You must know what---what I am feeling. I have no right to keep this from you, you must understand.” She saw resolution in his face as he turned back to her, and hope of gaining some comprehension rose in her as he continued.
“Catherine---I---” His face showed how hard this was for him; he paused, then continued with some difficulty. “I have lost the control that I had over myself, I---I don’t know what is happening. Something has changed, and I don’t know what it is.” He stopped again, turning his head from side to side in his pain, reluctant to continue. “I’m helpless to stop myself from---from wanting you. You know that I---“ His head went down; he was unable to meet her eyes. “I---always have---wanted you, from the beginning. Loved you, yes, always---always, but wanted you, also.” He slumped, his head still down. “So much, Catherine; so much.
“But something has changed. I feel compelled, driven, to touch you, to hold you---to kiss you; I am possessed by desire for you. Oh, Catherine, I don’t know how to contain what I feel. And now I know---I know what it is to kiss you. It is such ecstasy, such Heaven---! I daren’t be near you, I daren’t touch you; I must kiss you if I touch you, and it won’t stop there; there will be a time when I won’t stop.” His hands came up to cover his face, and he spoke through them. “I thought I would have to give you up entirely. If the pain were only mine----but I can’t stand your pain, I can’t do it-I can’t!” He looked up at her. “Catherine, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to control this compulsion to---to make love to you. I don’t understand why this has happened.”
“I understand, Vincent. I understand why.”
Vincent stared at her in confusion. “You understand? How can you know, Catherine? Tell me.”
“Something happened, Vincent. Something happened down in that cavern; something that you don’t remember.”
“What? What happened? Catherine, tell me!”
She could only tell him plainly, in simple words; there was no way to soften this. “You---we---made love.”
His face froze “No. No.” He got up and strode away to the other side of the room. “No!” For many seconds he stood perfectly still, his back turned to her.
Suddenly he whirled to face her, his eyes tormented, as a new thought assailed him. “Are you all right? Did I hurt you?”
“It was wonderful, Vincent. You didn’t hurt me; I wanted it as much as you did.”
“Wonderful?” His head went back, his eyes closed, agony in every line of his face. “Catherine, it was a terrible, tragic mistake.”
“No! It was wonderful! It was what I have wanted for so long, and what you have wanted too. Why is it terrible to you?”
“Why? You know why!” His face was pitiable in his pain. “This life of mine---the only life I can have---this life below, is not for you! You must not give up your life above for this---this half life below! And I---I am not fit to touch you!” He held up his hands, those hands that he thought the hands of an animal.
Catherine reached for his hands, but he moved back, unwilling to have her touch them. “Your hands are the hands of the man that I love. Vincent, hear me; I would not have them any other way than the way they are.” She spoke carefully, making no further attempt to touch him; conscious of his pain, but needing to get through to him. “You did touch me, with those hands, those hands that I love---and with your mouth, Vincent. You touched me all over, and I loved it. I loved it, and I want to feel your hands and your mouth on me again.”
He looked down at her, his hands behind his back, as far from her as he could put them. He seemed unable to look away. She could see the effect of her words on his physical being; his body was tense, his muscles flexed, his chest rose and fell with his quickened breath; he swayed toward her. Desire looked nakedly out of his eyes.
“Catherine, don’t!” With a visible effort he stopped and turned away, scooping up his cloak as he headed for the chamber entrance.
“Vincent, don’t leave! Please, don’t leave!” Her words were spoken to the empty doorway. He was gone.
Mouse reported to her the next day that he was all right. “I saw. He has a fire. He has food. He has a blanket. Didn’t see me! I hid.” He smiled proudly; he was helping Catherine.
He didn’t come back; at the end of the third day she gave up. She gathered her things together and prepared to go back to her apartment. She stopped at Father’s study before leaving, to say thank you and goodbye.
“I’m sorry, Catherine. I know something is wrong.” He smiled sadly at her. “But at least I think he is no longer ill. I examined him just before he disappeared; he seems well. He’s once more shown that remarkable ability to heal. But I know that something is wrong. Catherine, do you know what it is? Please---I feel that I’m prying, but I worry so.”
“Yes, I know what it is, at least part of it. I don’t think there is anything you can do; it’s between us. I can’t---I need to talk to him before I can say anything. I know you’re worried; so am I. Will you let me know when he is back? I must talk to him.”
“Yes. I’ll send one of the children with a note. I hope that we can be allies, Catherine. We both want what is best for him, and I---I hope you believe that I want what is best for you, also.”
“What is best for me is that he gets what is best for him, Father. You and I are allies; we’re both trying to make him happy.” She smiled and moved to put her arms around him.
“Goodbye, Catherine. I’ll let you know.” He hugged her hard. “I wish you were staying; you’ve become such a support for me.” He let her go reluctantly, with a rueful smile.
Catherine wasn’t sure exactly why she did it, she didn’t believe that there was any reason to wonder, but she bought a pregnancy test kit on the general premise that it was better to know exactly what the situation was. She was so exhausted when she got home at night from the twelve hour days she was putting in, trying to catch up with her workload, that it ranked low on her priority list. It sat on the bathroom counter for several days, but on the weekend, when she had free time, she used it.
She was stunned when the test had a positive result. She felt apprehension at the thought of telling Vincent, but her primary emotion was a bewildered joy. Vincent’s child! A gladness unexpected, but so wonderful; something that she had longed for but never thought to have.
She put in a call to Peter immediately, and made an appointment to see him on Monday morning, early. The rest of the weekend was a tense time; she hadn’t heard from Father, and with this new issue she wasn’t sure she wanted to until she knew for sure.
“Peter, I need to find out if I’m pregnant.” Peter’s eyes lifted quickly to hers from the entry in her chart that he was starting. “I took a home pregnancy test, and it was positive.”
“Well, we can find that out one way or the other in short order. Do you have an idea how far along you might be?”
“About two weeks. Actually, fifteen days.”
“That’s enough time that we can be sure.” He picked up his phone and talked to the nurse for a moment. “Marilyn will draw some blood, and we’ll know in a few minutes.”
When Catherine returned to his office after giving the blood sample, Peter asked her a few questions about her general health and made some notations on her chart. As he was doing so, his phone rang. “Yes? ---I see. Thank you, Marilyn.” He hung up the phone and looked up at her. “Catherine, you’re going to have a baby.”
She smiled happily. “I’m not surprised. I was sure it was true.”
Peter leaned forward in his chair, his elbows on the desk, his hands folded. “You want to have this child?”
“Oh, yes, Peter. I want it very much.”
“Catherine, is Vincent the father?”
“Yes, of course he is.”
Peter thought for a minute. “We need to consult with Father about this.” He looked up at her. “You understand that this child should not be born in a hospital? It will probably be best if it is born Below.”
“I understand. Peter, Vincent doesn’t know about this yet. I’ve got to tell him first.”
“Yes, of course. You just let me know when you want to have the consultation.” He smiled at her with paternal fondness. “You know I’ll be at your service whenever and wherever you want me.”
“Thank you, Peter. What would I have done without you?”
When she got to work she told Joe that she was resigning her job effective immediately.
He did a Joe, tearing his hair, pacing and yelling. “What? What? Are you crazy? You can’t do this to me! I’ve got forty seven cases on my hands, and four investigators to take care of them! If you leave me now, Radcliffe, you’re fired!” He stopped, and stared over the desk at her. “You’re not serious, are you? ---Holy smokes, I think you are!”
“Joe, I’m going to have a baby.”
He looked at her blankly, gulped, and then got hold of himself. “Well, that’s no reason to quit! Primitive women keep digging yams until they go into labor; are you telling me that you can’t do at least that well?”
Catherine grinned. “Sure I can, but I don’t want to. I don’t like yams. I’m quitting, Joe. I’m sorry to do it to you, but this is an act of God.”
“Oh yeah, is that how it happened? You had nothing to do with it?” He grinned back. “Radcliffe, if this is what you want, I’m happy for you. But do you have to quit? We have a very generous maternity leave policy. Too generous! I can’t spare people for the length of time they’re allowed.”
“Sorry, Joe. I’m going to go away. I need to be with the father of my child now. I’ll be with him and his family.” She smiled brilliantly. “I’m so happy; be glad for me, Joe.”
“Yes, of course I am. But God, Radcliffe, how am I ever going to replace you? There aren’t many people willing to work a sixty hour week, week in and week out.”
“That, my dear, is your problem. I’ll work for the next three weeks, but that’s it, Joe. And that’s stretching it farther than I really want to.”
“You know I wish you all the best, Radcliffe. I’m really happy for you.” Joe came around the desk and held out his arms, and Catherine hugged him with pleasure.
There was a note from Father under her door when she got home. Vincent was back.
She found him in his chamber. He was looking at the entrance when she came in; she knew he had been conscious of her approach, but he had made no effort to meet her.
“Hello.” She stopped just inside the entrance.
“Hello.” He returned her greeting gravely. They stood looking at each other while the silence stretched out between them.
“Vincent, for Heaven’s sake, please---“ Catherine’s eyes filled with tears. “Can’t you be civil, at least?”
“Yes, of course. I can do that, but Catherine---.” He stopped, and his eyes fell away from hers. “I can’t be close to you any more. I can’t hold you, or even touch you. I must not---we must not---carry this any further.”
Catherine was angry immediately. Where was her input into this situation? When did her wishes get considered? “Vincent---there are two of us here! Two of us who have desires and opinions and wishes and hopes. What gives you the right to make unilateral decisions? I’m here too! And I don’t want this to be the way you want it.” Her voice softened. “I want us to be closer---to be lovers, Vincent. The situation has changed. It’s too late to undo what has happened. We are lovers, Vincent.”
He turned away from her, his head thrown back, tension evident in his body. “Please, Catherine! I am no fit mate for you. You know that! And you know how difficult this is for me---how much I want you---.” His head went down, his shoulders slumped. “I shouldn’t have said that.”
“I hope it’s too difficult for you I hope you can’t stop yourself from putting your arms around me, and kissing me,” Her voice was husky. “---and undressing me, and touching me all over, and---“
“Stop! Stop! Don’t do this to me!” His voice was agonized.
“Turn around, Vincent. Turn around and look at me.” She moved closer to him, standing just behind him.
He didn’t turn. Several moments passed, and when he spoke again he seemed to have calmed. “Catherine, I promised myself that I wouldn’t run away this time. It solves nothing, and we must come to some agreement; but I can’t stay here if you continue to bait me like this.”
“You must not run away this time. I have something to tell you.” She paused. “Vincent, we’re going to have a child.”
His body stiffened. There was a long silence, then he turned slowly back to her. He looked down at her, and in his eyes was a world of tenderness, and of pain. “Oh Catherine, my dearest love, what have I done?”
“You have made me so happy, Vincent. I am so happy to have your child in me.” Tears stood in her eyes. “Please, be happy too.”
“How can I be happy? My God, how could this have happened and I not remember?” His face showed his confusion and pain. “And how can I let you take this enormous risk? We know nothing about what danger there may be for you in carrying this child.”
“I don’t believe that there is any special risk attendant on having your child. It’s a child, that’s all. And I am a woman; my body was made for this.” Her determined chin came up. “I will not give up this child.”
He stood looking down at her for a long minute; then his arms came around her, and he enfolded her in his familiar embrace. “No, no, my dearest love, I will not ask you to. I cannot. It is done. Whatever the risk, it is done.”
Catherine moved back in his arms to look up into his face. “Oh, please, Vincent. We are going to have a baby, a baby! The risks, the problems, are nothing next to that! Be happy for our baby, Vincent, please!”
His arms tightened around her. He said nothing for a long moment, then spoke with his face buried in her hair--- “Catherine, if I could have my dearest wish, my most secret dream, it would be to have a child with you. There could be no joy for me greater than to be your mate, your lover, and the father of your child.” He raised his head and looked down into her eyes, and against all her expectations he smiled at her.
“It would appear that those joys---are mine. I cannot deny you my love when you are carrying my child, to do so is beyond my strength, and beyond my desire. You have said that we are lovers; it is true. This child that you carry is the testimony of that. Whatever the danger, whatever the risk, however unequal our lives and our persons, it is done. We are lovers.”
Without any hesitation at all he bent his head, and his mouth came down on hers. His mouth was soft, his lips opening, his tongue caressing her. A glow of warmth spread from his mouth to hers and down her body, making her breasts tingle and bringing blood to the center of her. She melted against him, dissolving in joy at his lovemaking.
His tenderness seemed endless; as he ended the kiss his mouth moved over her face, kissing her softly everywhere, her eyes, her ears, her cheeks; his hands began to touch her, running down her back, curving around her waist, stroking her body gently. As he kissed and caressed her he spoke softly: “My loved one, Catherine, my own sweet love, I adore you, I want you so---.” His mouth came to hers again, his tongue delving into her mouth, softly caressing, reaching for closer contact.
When he raised his head her mouth followed his, reluctant to give up the kiss. “My Catherine,” He kissed her mouth again lingeringly, and his hands began to explore more of her body, coming at last to her breast, to touch her tenderly while she moaned softly.
With his face buried in the softness of her neck, not looking at her, he whispered his next words: “Oh my beloved, oh Catherine, I’m glad! In whatever way we came together, how can I be anything but glad! Glad that I can hold you, kiss you, touch you as I have dreamed. My Catherine,” He began to speak aloud. “I don’t have to live without you! I can hold you in my arms! You are mine!” He raised his voice to an exultant cry. “You are mine!” His arms tightened about her, he lifted her off the floor and swung her around in an excess of delirious joy, and then, still holding her close in his arms, he threw his head back, and roared.