Breathing deeply, Catherine drew the cold night air into her lungs before letting it out slowly with a long sigh of pure bliss. “Oh Vincent, this is wonderful. It’s been so long.” She grasped his arm tightly, playing her gloved fingers against his cloak-covered arm she smiled up at him. “Thank you for bringing me out tonight. It was as you presumed, just what I needed.”
Vincent smiled, his blue eyes soft and caressing as he spoke softly, “Just what the doctor ordered actually, Catherine. Father told me that he thought you could do with a brisk walk in the park this evening. Something about bringing colour to your cheeks.” He chuckled, “And your eyes too if I might add. Catherine, I don’t think I have seen you this happy in a long time.”
“I don’t think I’ve been this happy in a long time, Vincent. That last case was gruelling.”
“As are they all. You work too hard, Catherine. William I believe has noticed also, and is preparing a fine supper even as we speak. He feels you have lost weight these past few weeks. You need fattening up.” (Not that I’m complaining.) Vincent thought to himself. Though he would never voice such thoughts. Catherine was beautiful in his eyes whether she carried a few extra pounds or not.
Her silence seeped through his thoughts and he looked down concerned, “What is it? What troubles you so, Catherine.”
“In a word, William. Oh, Vincent, I’m sorry to have to disappoint him, but I simply cannot stay below tonight. I promised Joe I would go over the depositions I took today and try to get them in some kind of order before tomorrow morning. Do you think William will mind very much?”
Remembering his earlier conversation with William, Vincent knew that the older man would be disappointed, however he also knew that there had been other occasions when the same thing had happened, and William, not to be deterred had simply parcelled everything up placed it in a wicker hamper and had it delivered to Catherine’s apartment.
Smiling up at him, Catherine could almost read his thoughts on the subject. “Would you deliver the hamper to me, Vincent?” She laughed as did he. “We could share the feast. William always sends far too much for one.”
“I have a feeling,” Vincent began as he steered her toward the park entrance and ultimately to her apartment building, “that William deliberately puts in enough for two. I think someone has been talking and he is well aware of our time spent upon your balcony throughout the nights.”
To herself Catherine smiled, it seemed she had another ally in the world below. Who would have thought that the burly fellow William had added himself to the long line of people that had made themselves Cupid, as far as she and Vincent were concerned? It was a pity really that Vincent refused to take advantage of their plans, yes a real pity indeed. Catherine for one would like nothing more, and sometimes she despaired that their relationship would ever get off the ground, let alone soar into infinity itself.
“I can deliver it Catherine, but I’d best not keep you up all night if you have work to do, much as the thought of feasting upon William’s wares delights me.” Catherine loved the way he chuckled, and she snuggled closer to him wishing she could hear that delicious sound more often.
“You could help me go over the depositions, sometimes an outside view is very helpful. There are times when it seems I get so close that I cannot see the wood for the trees. If you really don’t mind being up all night with me, I could sure do with the company, not to mention your help.”
Vincent smiled, knowing full well that Catherine was good at her job. It would be a rare day indeed before she’d need outside help, however, he snatched up the opportunity with almost indecent haste, “Yes, thank you Catherine, I’d like to help.” And suddenly the empty evening that had yawned endlessly before him was filled once again. Filled with the satisfying thought of a night spent alongside Catherine, snuggled close against him to keep warm upon her balcony. However, Catherine shattered a little of that expectation when she said, “Of course, we simply cannot go over the depositions outside, far too cold for that, not to mention the fact that the papers would become wet, even if they didn’t blow away. I’m sure you wouldn’t mind coming inside to help me on this occasion, would you Vincent? You could save me some time by lighting the fire while I unpack William’s wares.”
She waited while he assimilated that bit of information, holding her breath until he finally replied albeit reluctantly she sadly noticed, “Yes, alright Catherine, on this occasion, I see no reason why we should be outside.” A little of his joy plummeted. Inside the warmth of the apartment there would be no need to hold her close to keep warm, no reason to reach for her, no excuses he could think of to have her snuggle up against him. As much as the evening ahead filled him with a sense of excitement, he also felt disappointed and wondered if he ought to have agreed to help her after all.
“Well we’re here now, Vincent. How long will you be do you think? Or if you’d prefer we could send word to William to being the hamper to the threshold and I could collect it later. That would save you having to go back, you could simply meet me on the balcony in a few minutes.”
Vincent nodded, and they both knew he would accept. Sometimes when he saw her home above ground like this, they both worried and fretted that something awful would happen on his return. Seemed stupid to have to put oneself at risk when one had already reached one’s destination. They both knew of incidences where friends had arrived home and had gone back for whatever reason and on the return trip home again something terrible had happened that had cost them their lives.
“I’ll meet you on the balcony in five minutes.” Catherine told him relinquishing the hold on his arm with some displeasure. Even five minutes apart from him was too long. Catherine raced to her apartment and had flung open the French doors in four minutes, thus savouring that extra minute back in his arms. “I missed you.” She held him tight before leading him into her apartment. “Can I take your cloak? Would you like some hot chocolate, I’m having one.”
“Shouldn’t we wait for William’s hamper?” Vincent cocked his head to one side, knowing full well that in her haste to let him into her apartment, all thoughts of sending William a message had gone clean out of her head.
Catherine smacked a hand to her mouth, “Oh!” Causing Vincent to laugh out loud as she ran for the door, “I’ll be back in a moment, I forgot to call William, hold on.” Yet Vincent caught her arm, pulling her back, “There’s no need, Catherine. Just telephone a helper to beat out a message it’ll probably be quicker.”
Catherine blushed hotly, even as Vincent chuckled, “Am I so transparent?” she asked.
“Only to me.” Inclining his head closer Catherine thrilled at the way his rich tones tantalised her flesh.
“I just hate being apart from you too long.” She added by way of explanation. How was it he could send her into a quivering mass of longing with one look? How did he know that even saying she would send William a message even now, that it was the last thing she wanted to do. Any separation from him was way too long.
The air suddenly fraught with tension captivated the pair as they gazed with undisguised longing at one another, until the Bond that they shared told Vincent he was staring, and that Catherine was expecting something from him he was unprepared to give.
“Where do you keep the matches?” Looking toward the fireplace ready made for lighting Vincent asked, beginning to move in its direction.
“What? Oh? The matches? Er…they’re in the kitchen…just a minute I’ll fetch them for you.” Her heart was hammering as she walked unsteadily toward the tiny room in question. When she arrived she almost couldn’t remember what she had gone in there for. And she jumped when she heard him speak from behind her. “The matches Catherine?” making her flustered even more.
At that moment, at that very precise moment, Catherine willed herself to not say, ‘damn the matches’ thus closing her eyes tightly she fought the urge to turn around slide her arms around his waist and draw him to her for a long and very passionate kiss. Fighting against the feeling took some doing, and it didn’t help to know that Vincent remained behind her, or the fact that through their connection he was probably very much aware of how she was feeling. How could he do that to her? Drawing a deep breath she reached into a drawer and extracted the little yellow box depicting a picture of a bright red flame and thought she understood the design perfectly. Right now she was very much on fire herself.
Turning, she found it impossible to look into his eyes, as she placed the box of matches in his outstretched hand, then quickly moved past him with the intention of going anywhere just as long as it was somewhere where she could catch her breath and breathe normally again.
Vincent watched her go. How on earth had he done that? What had possessed him? Uncontent to wait until she brought the matches out to him, he had had to follow her, knowing full well of her emotions at that moment. The air around them positively beat with passion. He could feel it and knowing it made him reckless. Looking down at the tiny box in his hands he felt he could easily relate to the sight of that flame burning bright, much the same as Catherine had done earlier, and he suddenly knew that he had been wrong to accept her offer to come here tonight. How he would get through the hours until he could leave he did not know.
Inside her bedroom, Catherine leaned against the firmly closed door, stilling her racing heart. It was difficult. Some times with Vincent it was harder than others to disguise her need for him. Plus the fact that she had been celibate for so long that any look, word or minor deed could trigger a staggering response in her, that fairly left her dangerous to be with. A derisive laugh shook her frame, and he thought he was the one that could cause her harm!
There were times when she cursed his virginity, his innocence his other self that he feared so much. Why oh why had Father instilled within Vincent the fact that the usual way of life could never be for him? At his age, Vincent should have had countless lovers by now, although Catherine had to admit it was awfully appealing to her that he had not.
‘You can’t have it both ways, Cathy. “ She admonished herself as her heart steadied enough for her to believe she could face him again. Oh but to have him accept that she was his for the taking, that she would be oh so willing to teach him all that she knew.
The first sound she heard as she opened the door was the crackle of burning wood, and her first sight was of Vincent bend low over the fire warming his ungloved hands. He looked as always magnificent. It was all Catherine could do, to walk toward him as if he was nothing but a dear friend, rather than a potential lover that she ached to rip the clothes off of.
She chuckled as she approached knowing her thoughts, hoping he would not know of them too, yet even so knowing full well that he knew everything when he turned to watch her walking toward him. Catherine swallowed with difficulty, they were, she knew at turning point now. It was so plain to see it frightened her.
“Vincent?” She queried softly, a tremor in her voice noticeable even though she tried to quell it.
“Catherine?” Those soft, velvet tones did something to her insides that Catherine could not dwell on. “The fire is going well.” He added, though it was obvious that he had clutched for something, anything to say. And Catherine almost laughed wishing to add, ‘you don’t know the half of it my love.’
Yet of course he did. Vincent shuddered at the smouldering look in her eyes. His breathing ragged, his limbs melting wanting nothing more than to crush her against him and seek everything that she offered so openly this night. Yet he knew the impossibility of it. They both did.
“I have something for you.” Catherine surprised herself that she had even thought of it yet pleased for the distraction. Any moment now she could see he would take flight, not knowing or not wishing to know how to handle the situation that had flared so readily between them.
“For me?” It was easy to see that he had difficulty even speaking those two little words, and even more difficult for Catherine not to turn and look at him as he tried to regain his composure before she brought whatever gift she had back to him.
“I know you’ll use it Vincent. Joe bought it for me, well that’s not strictly true. Joe had several boxes of them made up to hand to his staff and his clients, but I already have more than I need, and it has so much space, I’m sure you could fill it.” Mystified Vincent waited until Catherine rummaged through a drawer and extracted a large gilt bound ledger. “See it has about six inches of writing space for each day. I confess that I did start to use it, but I found it simply too large for me.”
“If you started to use it surely the data will be needed?” Vincent asked as she placed the ledger into his hands. It was inscribed with the words Joe Maxwell District Attorney on the front cover, and inside there was a list of his staff with Catherine’s name as Assistant District Attorney heading the column.
“No, I’ve transferred what little I wrote into another diary,” Catherine assured him, “and if you are going to next say that confidential matters might fall into the wrong hands, then don’t worry. Most of what was written within this ledger is in code that only I would understand. Keep it Vincent it’s yours. I’m certain you will find a use for it. Apart from which there are some very useful telephone numbers printed inside, that Father might like to take note of.”
“Then thank you Catherine, I will keep it.” Briefly Vincent flicked through the pages. He was astounded at the amount of space assigned for each day. It was obviously a very impressive diary.
There were as she had maintained, a few additions, but he could make neither head nor tale of them. This relieved him for as much as he trusted everyone below he knew well of the saying, 'one can never be too careful.'
With the diary in Vincent’s hands, Catherine searched around the room for her briefcase, “Well I guess we had better knuckle down to those depositions.” She told him spying it behind the apartment door where she had lunged it earlier on her arrival home from the office. “I expect whomsoever delivers William’s feast will knock loud enough for us to hear them from here don’t you think?” Catherine indicated the table situated near the balcony doors, “I thought it would be nice to have the city lights as a backdrop while we work.”
Vincent understood the underlying reason and felt his heart flutter once more. Catherine always had his welfare at heart. She would know that he would feel less pressured if he could see the night sky from his vantage point rather than have the curtains closed. And Catherine was well aware that he would hear a pin drop let alone somebody knocking while he was in the apartment with her. So by her maintaining that they needed to be by the window was he knew for his benefit and not for hers. He loved her a little more for that. She always seemed to put him first something he tried to do likewise but often failed miserably. Well tonight he would surprise her. “Now we’ve got a roaring fire going, it would be a shame not to sit beside it Catherine, and I’m sure you could benefit from sitting on a cosy chair after being forced to sit on a hard one all day at work.”
Catherine chuckled accepting the offer at once, “They aren’t so bad, but you are right it is always a pleasure to come home kick off my shoes and flop myself down on the sofa. If only Joe could be made to realise that his staff would prefer comfortable seats with extra padding rather than large diaries they’ll never fill, it would be preferable. Though I believe the diaries were an extra reward from a satisfied client as it happens.”
They crossed the room and had just seated when the knock at the door they had both been expecting sounded. Crossing to the door, Catherine peeped through the spy hole and asked ‘who is it?’ needlessly because she could clearly see that Mouse and Jamie stood outside.
“Hi Catherine,” they chorused as she opened the door before they could reply to her earlier question, and Jamie went on “This is from William. He said to be sure that you and Vincent,” she whispered the last looking over her shoulder and all around as she did so, “ eat it all.” She laughed, “If the weight of it is anything to go by, there’ll be enough to keep the two of you holed up here for a week!”
“I wish.” Catherine quipped softly causing Jamie to regard her sympathetically, as most of the women below knew how difficult Vincent was when it came to being with Catherine longer than was deemed respectable.
“Well you never know your luck,” Jamie whispered, “and it is snowing rather heavily. We’re going back via the threshold, that’s okay isn’t it?”
“Yes of course, stay for a while if you like. Come and warm yourselves by the fire.” Though she meant it and though she felt a heel for thinking anything but, Catherine was relieved when Jamie and Mouse declined the offer, “Thanks Catherine but we have to go, we promised Olivia we’d look after Luke tonight while she and Kanin take in a concert. Have a nice evening.”
“You too, and thanks for bringing this up, I owe you one.”
The two friends waved goodbye Mouse chattering about the hall, the plush peach carpet, the pictures on the walls. It must have been as far removed from what he was used to as one could get, yet Catherine was well aware that though little was known of Mouse’s past he simply thought of his world below as paradise and wouldn’t change it for anywhere else.
Lifting the heavy wicker basket into the apartment, Catherine shuffled to balance it and close the door, as two strong hands lifted the hamper away from her, and she watched with undisguised longing as Vincent took the food toward the kitchen area. She loved to watch him walk. It did something to her that she did not allow herself the chance to analyse. Closing the door firmly, she decided not to go and investigate as she heard him transferring food to plates, but to wait until he brought William’s wares back to their place by the roaring log fire.
As she waited, she watched the flames rolling and licking the sizzling wood, and imagined once again that they were her fingers trailing fire over Vincent’s sensitised torso. How she would love to have the freedom to touch him so.
“Penny for them.” Catherine almost jumped out of her skin to find him beside her and not to have been aware of his approach so lost in her dreams had she been.
“They’re worth far more than pennies, Vincent. They’re priceless.” Catherine answered with a slight catch to her voice. Vincent did not pursue the question further, already he knew enough of the content of her daydreams through their connection, and he frowned not for the first time that evening as the words ‘I shouldn’t be here’ galloped through his mind.
“Catherine, we should talk.” Settling the tray of food down on the coffee table in front of her, he straightened and looked at her with his steady blue gaze.
“Talk? About what?” Guarded, Catherine deliberately took longer than usual making her selection from the very many wares set before her. Sandwiches made from thick slices of still warm crusty bread, oozing with butter and soft cheese, pastries of many sizes and shapes and fillings, the scent of which wafted and made her stomach rumble, reminding her that it was hours since she had eaten anything. A flask of rich hot chocolate that Vincent had opened and had readied two large mugs alongside and the delicious scent of hot vegetable broth tantalised her nostrils from another flask set to the side of the chocolate filled one.
It grieved Vincent to have to bring this up. He wanted nothing more than to absorb himself and glorify in Catherine’s daydreams, but he knew he had to do something, say something before she dwelt on things that were impossible for them. For several weeks now he had been aware that her thoughts of him had shifted to a more personal level. Some of her emotions had scared him half to death while at the same time astounded him that she could imagine such things happening between them.
“We need to talk about you and me.” Vincent whispered at last, seating himself opposite her on the other sofa.
Slowly Catherine raised cautious eyes to his, dreading what he might say next.
“You and me?” She squeaked nervously.
“Yes. Catherine, I am flattered, no I find it incredulous that you should think of me the way that you do, but it can lead no where Catherine, you must see that.” He shook his head sadly, “If I was not as I am…” he left the words unfinished allowing for her response.
“You would what?” Her answer surprised him. Always in the past when he had used the famous phrase she had assured him that he was no different in her eyes, that he was more than a man not less. Her question threw him.
“I’m sorry Catherine. What do you mean?”
“If you were not as you are, what then would you do?”
Vincent thought hard, though he had no need to think at all. He knew instantly what he would do, what he would have done aeons ago, had he not been as he was, if he was the man she deemed him to be. But he couldn’t answer her question and so instead replied, “I should go, Catherine.”
“But you’ve not eaten anything, and we haven’t started the depositions.” She cried and he clearly heard the desperation in her voice that determined him further. He rose, reaching for his cloak in one swift motion, donning and fastening it, before she’s had a chance to draw breath.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Catherine. Don’t worry about the basket, someone will collect it in the morning, just leave it outside the door.”
Her sharp tone startled him, and he hesitated as he reached for the handle of the door leading to the balcony.
“Don’t go Vincent, please.”
“I have to go. Catherine, don’t you see what is happening here?” Of course she saw it he knew that. Most of it had been instigated by her feelings toward him.
Even so her reply surprised him, “Yes, of course I can see it and I’ve had enough of pussyfooting around you. Why don’t you just admit it, Vincent? You need me as badly as I need you the only thing is, you’re too hung up about yourself to do anything about it. Well not so with me!”
Like a frightened rabbit seeing the approach of car headlights Vincent watched her advancement on him, amazed at the speed with which she reached his side, and then seemed to relent. He felt it the moment when she made the decision not to do whatever it had been she’d had in mind, and that fear that had so recently coursed through him, became bitter disappointment, which in turn frightened him afresh.
“Don’t forget the diary Vincent.” He took the ledger from her hand and then with a mumbled reply that he would never remember, he left her watching him alight over the wall up to the roof, where he would take the elevator down to the ground floor, travelling not on its inside but rather on the out. A dangerous way to travel, he knew, but some risks were worth taking. Only not this night, no…those kinds of thoughts that Catherine had toward him were risks he dare not take. Not now, not ever.
Yet a heavy heart accompanied him all the way home, and it was hours before he could find any respite from his musings. Feeling Catherine’s emotions did not help either. He knew she had not eaten a thing after he had left, had in all probability stowed the food away in its cartons and placed it in the refrigerator. That made him feel bad too, at least he should have stayed long enough to see that she had eaten something.
Sitting head in hands Vincent stared ahead thinking about his relationship with Catherine. He knew that they had reached a crossroads. Three years together had brought them closer than a heartbeat, yet for all of that no closer than a brother and a sister. He knew Catherine needed more, and if he was honest with himself, he knew he needed more from her too. That was the most frightening thing of all, admitting to that need of her. Admitting that he wanted her in ways lovers wanted each other. It terrified yet excited him at the same time, yet he had to be sure, and tonight Catherine had almost made it plain, until she had changed her mind at the last minute. If only he knew, knew for a certainty that she wanted him. She had said she needed him, well need and want were alike yet could so easily be misconstrued. And though she had maintained that she had pussyfooted around him, hadn’t he done likewise? He’d been so intent on talking it through with her this evening, but his courage had failed him at the last. What if he were wrong? What if her need of him didn’t go as far as wanting him the way he wanted her? How could he find out? Though her emotions and thoughts via their connection told him so much, there were things that he might be missing, or things that he might be making an addition to. If only he knew where to start, or how to bring the subject up without making a hash of it.
Reaching for his pen and his journal intent on writing down his feelings to help him analyse them more clearly, he noticed the ledger he had placed upon his desk upon his return and now pulled the burgundy coloured book toward him. The gilt edging was subjected to a loving caress by his long fingers before he opened it at the first few entries that Catherine had made, as if he hoped to glean something from the things she had written there. As she had maintained most of what she had written made no sense to him. Work things no doubt, but there was something that caught his eye, and as he turned the pages he noticed with disbelief that the same thing occurred on each page. Simply, in beautiful calligraphy Catherine had written V&C, entwining the two letters on some pages like some lover’s caress.
And in stark contrast to the rest of the entries too. Vincent could not understand why she had written his and her initials in such a public place. If she had kept this diary at her office for a while, surely it would spark interest in anyone that could see it written there?
Flipping over the pages, he found the same V&C entered daily, though some with the addition of the word ‘still’ either before or after the letters. That too mystified him. V&C still. Still V&C. Yet it was the last entry that chilled his blood.
Had Catherine intended him to see this last entry, he wondered as he read it over and over? Had that been why she had given him the ledger? Was she trying to tell him something? If not why had it not been in the usual code as previous pages had been?
He stared down at the inscription trying to understand what it meant, his heart hammering wildly as he thought of and dismissed a hundred things.
Fear coursed through him as he realised he would have to ask her what it meant and then dreaded that he should, fearful of her answer.
What could he do now? How could he live without her? They were caught, so it seemed between the devil and the deep blue sea and Vincent hadn’t the foggiest idea of how to get them out of it.
Her words burned in his brain, even after he lay down the ledger, and even when his body forced him to close his tired eyes and rest he could still see them branded at the back of his eyelids.
Surely she couldn’t mean enough was enough, surely? Yet he had seen it there with his own eyes…