The Kiss
~ An Alternate Ending  To Orphans ~
by Barbara Hill

“I won't fall, Daddy”

Catherine continued to gaze around the park from her perch high in the tree.  Her heart felt lighter than it had in days. She missed her father desperately, but knew he would always be with her. Her loving memories of him would live forever in her mind and in her heart. This was the lesson Vincent had helped her accept.

The clear, blue sky brought back the memory of Vincent standing at their threshold staring at her after she'd kissed him. Fighting back the urge to kiss him within an inch of his life, she had, instead, kept the kiss light, chaste.   A thank you kiss for his concern and help in dealing with her father's loss.  Even so, Vincent had stood watching her with a stunned look on his face, his intense blue eyes filled with a a mixture of joy, wonder and hope.

Catherine laughed softly as she felt a gentle tugging at her heart.  Vincent! He was thinking about her.  Her connection to him seemed stronger somehow, as if her stay below had strengthened their bond. Slowly, carefully, Catherine climbed out of the tree. He would come to her tonight, she knew it. His emotions were running on high. Maybe tonight would be a good time to confront him about everything: the feelings she'd invoked in him with her stay below, this "woman of both worlds" situation he'd brought up, the kiss . . . Hold on, girl . . . better slow down, she thought to herself.  You've already startled him once today.  Don't push it.  Better slow down and take it easy.  Deciding to let Vincent take the lead when she saw him, Catherine headed for home.

***

Catherine stood at the wall of her balcony watching as darkness settled over the park at last!  Tonight's sunset had to have been the slowest in history.  She thought it would never come.  The slight rustle of the leaves announcing his arrival made her shiver with delight.  Someone else had been impatient too.  Catherine turned to smile at him, but did not move to greet him.  Whatever happened tonight would be up to Vincent.  She waited patiently.

Vincent stared at her, his bright, blue eyes hungrily devouring her beauty. Not since their very first meeting on her balcony over two years ago had he been so uncertain as to how to proceed. Her short stay in the tunnels had sent his emotions into complete turmoil. For her sake he'd managed, with great effort, to keep them under control, to give her the love and support he knew she needed.   Her kiss had been a complete shock and he'd spent the rest of the day reeling from it.  He had finally managed to clamp down on the feelings raging through him and now had them under control: at least he thought he did.

As he neared her, Vincent's eyes fell on the soft, full mouth that had kissed him so very gently. His lips still tingled from the memory of her mouth touching his and he felt something inside him stir to life. Something that wanted more - much, much more.

"l knew you'd come, Vincent."  Vincent shook his head slightly as her soft voice broke through the spell her kiss seemed to have cast upon him. Strong arms pulled her close and with a deep sigh, Catherine wrapped her arms around his waist. "I'm so glad you're here."

Vincent smiled at her gently, thinking to himself, As if I could have stayed away tonight? To Catherine he said only, “I trust your day went well, Catherine. Did you enjoy your climb?  I'm glad you went with care.”

Catherine glanced up at him in surprise. “My climb? How on earth did you know. . .oh, never mind.”  Her own heightened awareness of their bond reminded Catherine that their connection had always been much stronger in him from the beginning and she was certain Vincent could sense its growth within her. Reaching up, Catherine caressed his cheek. Vincent trembled beneath her gentle touch.

"Yes, Vincent. I went with care.” Her hand stroked his soft, golden hair along its full length from the top of his head to where it cascaded over his broad shoulders. The trembling increased and Catherine had to stifle the strong feelings of desire that threatened to engulf her. “And I went with courage."

Catherine hoped her words would remind him of their last conversation as they sat before the waterfall. Blue eyes smiled at her tenderly and she knew they had worked. “We need to talk, Vincent. I think it's time.”

His arms tightened their hold and he nodded his head in reluctant agreement. “Past time perhaps, Catherine. What would you like to talk about?” Eyes filled with love and desire stared down at her intently and Catherine found it difficult to decide where to begin.

“Everything? I want to talk about everything, Vincent.  I want to talk about you, about me . . . about us. What you said about my being a woman of both worlds. We need to talk about making that a reality. We need to talk. . .”

Catherine's voice broke slightly as she realized that Vincent was not really listening to her. His breathing had become heavier and she could feel his body trembling against hers. The eyes that always gazed into hers with rapt attention were not really looking at her.  Then it dawned on her, he was looking at her mouth and remembering the kiss.  

“Vincent?” She lifted his chin gently, so that she could look into his eyes.. “Vincent, what is it?”  

Reluctantly, Vincent tore his gaze from the inciting softness that seemed to beckon him  like a siren's call.  For the first time in their relationship he was unable to quell the look of desire that clouded his eyes.  Realizing what he'd done, what she'd seen, Vincent lowered his head shyly, his eyes once more falling on the object of his desire.  He couldn't help himself.  Her small kiss had awakened feelings in him he thought were safely buried away.  He wanted to feel her mouth against his again.  He wanted to taste her.  He wanted to kiss her!

Catherine smiled inwardly as a feeling of joyful triumph filled her soul.  She decided very quickly that their talk could wait.  Once more she gently lifted his chin to look at him.  "Vincent, you want to kiss me, don't you?"

He was filled with shame.  He had no right to want to kiss Catherine and even less right to want her to return the kiss, but he did want it.  He would never let her know the truth of his feelings.  He just couldn't.  His eyes opened wide with shock as his wonderfully exotic mouth tried desperately to find the words to deny her accusation, but the words wouldn't come.  For the first time in his life, he was at a loss for words.  He could only shake his tawny head in denial while silently praying for forgiveness for his small lie.

Small hands reached up to stop him and he found himself staring into laughing eyes filled with eager invitation.  "Are you sure?"  Her slender fingers traced the outline of his beautiful features she never tired of looking at until they came to rest on his soft, full bottom lip.  "Because I'd very much like you to kiss me."

One nail caressed the cleft of his upper lip and Vincent was lost.  He nodded slowly and Catherine lifted her face and close her eyes, lips slightly part, as she waited patiently.  Vincent stared in stunned silence for several moments at the upturned face of his beloved Catherine.  He thought she'd never looked more beautiful or more desirable, and she was waiting for him to make the decision . . . Catherine was waiting to be kissed . . .

As if in a trance, he found himself slowly lowering his face until his mouth was just an inch away from hers.  He could feel her warm breath against his lips.  Hesitantly, he closed the tiny distance between them and gently covered her mouth with his.  Shocked at his own boldness, he pulled back.  But Catherine wrapped her arms tightly around him, determined that he would not escape her this time.

Unable to resist the silent plea for more he could feel coursing through their bond - though he would never be certain who's need was the strongest - Vincent leaned down once more to claim her.  Catherine sighed softly as their lips met and leaned into his embrace.  This kiss lasted longer, but still was not long enough to satisfy the hunger which fueled them both.

Catherine clutched at the front of his vest for support as Vincent held her tightly.  Without opening her eyes, she knew his mouth was a mere whisper away as she felt their warm breaths mingling in the cool night air.  Opening her eyes finally, Catherine saw the same look in his eyes she'd seen earlier.  A mixture of joy and wonder and a strong desire she'd never seen before.  Keeping her voice light, she whispered, "So, what do you think about kissing, Vincent?  Do you like it?"  He shivered under her intense stare and she realized that for the first time, he could not mask his feelings for her.  He nodded silently.

"It seemed a bit . . . awkward.  I'm sorry Catherine.  Perhaps my mouth is not shaped for kissing."

"Awkward?  Just a little, but it was nice."  Catherine rubbed her mouth softly against his in a kiss that wasn't quite a kiss, but felt wonderful just the same.  "Maybe we just need more practice, Vincent,"  she whispered against his mouth.  "You know what they say - practice makes perfect."

Catherine began placing small kisses on the end of his nose and at the corner of his mouth.  He shivered.  Experimenting a bit, she flicked her tongue across the split in his upper lip, eliciting an even stronger shiver from him.  Turning her head slightly, Catherine found their lips coming together like two pieces on a puzzle and she captured his unique mouth in a kiss that left them both breathless.

Pulling back, she smiled mischievously up at him, "What were you saying about your mouth not being kissable?"  She kissed him again.  "Take my word for it, Vincent.  Your mouth is very kissable."  She kissed him again, thoroughly, her tongue brushing against his bottom lip this time.  "You taste good too."

Vincent leaned down for another kiss, somehow not the least bit surprised at how addictive kissing Catherine was fast becoming.  Tentatively, he brushed his tongue against her lips in an overwhelming desire to taste her.

Catherine moaned softly and wrapped her arms around his neck, returning his kiss hungrily.  Desire welled up in her as a delicious tingle spread through her entire body and she gave herself up completely to Vincent's unspoken demands.  She was no longer capable of keeping her desires at bay and Vincent realized suddenly beyond any doubt one thing - whatever he wanted from her that night was his for the asking.

He could feel the curves of her body through the thin gown and robe she wore.  He felt her complete surrender and was acutely aware of the gift she was offering him.  It was, however, a gift he was not yet ready to accept.  Whispering her name, he took her by the shoulders, gently putting space between them and waited for Catherine's desires to calm while getting his own under control.  After a few moments, she looked up at him, a sheepish smile on her face.

"Catherine, please forgive me.  It's just that . . ."  Vincent shook his head slightly, trying to find the right words.  "All of this is happening very fast, Catherine.  I think i need a little more time to . . ."  Catherine silenced him with a soft kiss.

"It's all right, Vincent.  I understand.  I really do."  Hugging him close, she put up a mental shield to protect him as much as possible from her desires.  They'd made a lot of headway into their relationship this night.  There was no need to rush it.  She'd waited over two years for just a kiss - she could wait a little longer for the rest of it.  "We can go slow."  She kissed him lightly again.  "But we will go forward, Vincent.  You want the same thing I do, I know you do.  I know, too, that you still have your fears, and I know what those fears are.  I believe with all my heart, they're completely unfounded though, and one day, very soon, I'll prove it to you.  For now, we have this . . ."  She kissed him once more, thoroughly this time.  "I always did love necking."

Vincent's look of gratitude for her understanding turned to curiosity.  "Necking, Catherine?"

Catherine smiled seductively and pulled his head down for another kiss.  "Oh, Vincent!  Have I got something to show you."