And So It Begins...
Vincent had returned with Dominic, simply because in truth, there was nowhere else to go and with Jamie gone he felt at ease now, even though there were many things he had to speak to Dominic about.
Back at the chamber he had lived in for the past six and a half months, Vincent paced the worn carpet and Dominic watched him nervously from one corner not quite sure what to say to him, or how much impact Jamie’s words had had on his leonine brother. Finally Vincent stopped his pacing turned to Dominic and though it hadn’t been his first intention to reveal anything, he told him, “I know that what Jamie said was right. I think I have always known.” Dominic started to protest, telling Vincent that Jamie was an idiot and didn’t know what she was saying, but Vincent stared him into silence then told Dominic, “I am no fool. Neither is Jamie. I think I have always known that the so called protein is not able to produce a living dead realm to mankind, but it is as Jamie surmised one is either dead or alive and there is no in-between. No!” Vincent flared as his brother tried to interrupt again. “Can’t you see, it makes no difference? I returned with you did I not, do you think I was afraid of you? Did you reason that I came back because I believed that I was dead and only you could offer me anything? If you did then you are the fool, Dominic.”
For the first time Dominic sighed and asked, “Then why did you return with me?”
“Simply put? Whatever your reasons for the lie, I do not hold them against you. Our father tried every which way he could to bring me home to you, and failed each time. Had I of known the real truth nothing would have kept me from you, but you were not to know that. Having known of your father’s failures to bring me home, you had to take drastic measures and inventing such a thing as the protein and the living dead was you decided, perhaps the only way you would have of bringing me here, and keeping me here, and perhaps for a time I did believe but it was only for a time. I allowed you to delude me because I had nothing to return for. My family believed that I was dead, and I have to admit that had you not of been here, I would have been buried alive and no one would have rescued me. Therefore, I owe you my life. However, it is not a life that I would choose, and certainly the one that I left behind holds nothing for me now, but one. The only yearning my heart petitioned me to heed was for Catherine, but when I learned that she was seeing Elliot Burch so soon after my supposed death, I was devastated. And it was at that time that I decided to let you continue to administer a drug that did me no harm and in fact made me feel quite good, and to allow you to think that I believed all that you told me. In actual fact, Dominic, I had decided that living here with you was preferable to returning to a life without Catherine, and since everyone believed me dead anyway, I was doing no one any harm.”
“And now, what do you think now?” Dominic asked somewhat anxiously.
“Now? Nothing has changed. I can’t go back Dominic. Though of course Jamie will perhaps have found her way to the hub and have told everyone and they will send search parties, I have nothing to return for. Life without Catherine is no life at all. I barely existed before her and I would die without her now. And so when they come I must make them understand my reasons for staying here with you, if you’ll let me stay?”
Believing that Dominic would want nothing more, Vincent was surprised when he saw his brother begin to shake his head before saying, “I’m not certain that would be a good idea, Vincent. Once they know that you are here, they will visit often. The home chambers will extend to include the lower levels, and in time our worlds will meet. I’m not used to living in a community, though I think that would pose no problem in time, but I’m not certain that they would accept me among them. I know you’ve seen how like our father I am at times, and I appreciate that my upbringing under his hand has made me what I am, and I have only recognised these things since I have had you here living with me. Mother took you into the finer place, Vincent and I envy you that, but what you saw within me yesterday, others will see also, I can never become one of your community for I will remain an outsider simply because no one will be able to trust me, just as no one was able to trust our father. We are both his sons Vincent, but the rough edges you inherited have been smoothed away with kindness and love, things I have never really known and as much as I would like you here with me, I’m not so certain that it would be a good thing.”
“I’m amazed.” Vincent told his brother truthfully, “That is the last thing I expected you to say.”
“Yes I noticed.” Dominic grinned. “However, I have no problem with you visiting me, in fact I would like that very much indeed. Apart from that I think you should return to your other family.” Vincent noted the hint of regret attached to that last word, and felt terribly sad. His brother had missed out on such a lot. “What if you gave it a try? What if you came back with me and met my other family and took it from there? Always some hostility and mistrust remains among some with any newcomer, we have a lot to lose if they should talk, but in time I’m certain they would accept you as my brother.”
Dominic was shaking his head, “It’s very kind of you, but I’m not capable. Sit down Vincent there is perhaps some things you should know.”
Curious Vincent sat opposite his brother, with only a desk to separate them. Two pairs of china blue eyes regarded one another, one pair with curiosity the other with trepidation.
“It appears does it not, that I was the luckier of the two?” Dominic began and to endorse what he was saying touched his face. Vincent nodded, but did not speak.
“Well let me tell you Vincent, some people are ugly on the outside and are beautiful within, others are beautiful on the outside and are ugly within. I know which one I am, and I know which one you deem yourself to be.”
“I am ugly on the outside.” Vincent told him.
“Not to those that know you.” Dominic added.
“Even so…” Vincent reminded him.
“Yes, even so, it is a fact, ugly may be too stern a word to use, but the fact remains Vincent that you have a beautiful spirit, whereas I, might appear angelic, but my heart is ugly. I have such…such anger…such jealousy within…Vincent…jealous of you, of what you have had in comparison to what was denied me. Our mother loved you…yet she never knew I existed…and our father loved you also…why else did he spend his entire life trying to bring you home? Oh I know he said he was doing it for me, but there I am deluding myself, our father wanted you home for himself, and had you of been here, I would have known no parents affection misguided or otherwise. There were times, Vincent when I hated you, despised the way I looked, and wished that the only ugliness I had was on the outside, simply because others looked upon that unsightliness as something beautiful, different and magnificent. And what did I have? A normal human face and a lion’s mane for hair, though of course it was never seen as such, just unruly hair that was best left to grow long. Vincent I have struggled with demons all my life, and I struggle with them now.”
“Father, that is Jacob wells, would say there is hope in you yet, because you recognise your flaws, but I do understand what you are saying. I firmly believe that only time will tell, that is to give to you in small doses what I have taken for granted all my life. If I visit with you often, bring one or two from my community to visit also, allow you and them to come to know one another, you might in time be able to turn around your thinking and accept that you do have a good heart, only it has been buried so long that you don’t know how to let it out. Would that be acceptable to you?”
Dominic liked the sound of it and said so, and the brothers leaned across the table and grasped hands. “I am happy that my brother has a compassionate as well as a beautiful spirit.” Dominic told Vincent sincerely, “Yes, we will try your way, though don’t expect miracles, and don’t expect them to happen overnight.”
“Oh I won’t, “Vincent told him, “I promise, I won’t.”
With hands grasped they remained thus for a long while, each to his own thoughts when finally Dominic withdrew his hand and standing told Vincent, “So will you return?” Surprised when Vincent said, “Not yet awhile. Catherine and Elliot are still below. When they have gone I will make my way slowly home.”
Even the word home saddened Dominic, he had never known a place that he could attribute that word to, and he doubted he’d ever find one. Still he ignored that thought as he asked his brother, “Do you still think that Catherine should be made aware of Elliot’s infidelity?”
“I don’t know. It is her life.” Vincent replied quietly.
“You still love her don’t you?”
“Is it so obvious?” Vincent turned his china blue gaze away, looking instead to the brazier where firewood blazed, and flames reflected in his eyes, leaving Dominic to wonder which were real and which were not.
“Do you still have the dreams?”
“Dreams?” Vincent returned his gaze to his brother, and Dominic noticed that those fiery red flames had in fact been a reflection of the brazier. His brother’s eyes were as china blue as ever they were only now they were filled with such sadness.
“Yes, you said that you had dreams of Catherine, they had to be dreams for no memories could have been such.”
Sadly Vincent nodded, “Yes I still have those dreams. They haunt me night and day as does our connection.”
“I heard about that. Can’t say its ever happened to me, but it must be a source of comfort being able to know where another is all the time?”
“It has its drawbacks.” Vincent told Dominic bitterly.
“Yes, I can imagine.”
“Strangely, after you found me I lost that connection with Catherine, and I do not understand why it has come back to me now. At least while it was gone I was spared the knowledge of…of…”
“I understand.” Dominic told him, “When she was with Elliot?”
“I’m so sorry Vincent.” Dominic was sincere, but he was also withholding something from his brother, unsure of whether he should mention it. It was after all very personal, and Vincent might be embarrassed even if he did believe his brother. For that reason Dominic decided to remain quiet. “So if you are not to stay here and not to return where will you go?”
“I don’t know. I will probably return initially, but will find a place to reside somewhere between here and there in time. There are some places near the waterfall, I have often thought they would make a suitable dwelling place, there was a time when…” His voice trailed away, but the silence told Dominic that Vincent had intended to make a home with Catherine there.
“You are welcome to stay here as long as you like.” Dominic reminded him. “ I promise to administer no more of the protein to you. In fact I promise to discard what is left onto the ground and will never try to delude others with it ever again.”
“What about the people beneath Brooklyn and Queens?”
“I lied. You and Jamie were the only ones I have ever tried it upon.” A sense of sadness wrapped around the two brothers. Dominic had had to lie in order to have his brother stay with him, Vincent had been ready to accept the lie in order not to go back and face life without the woman that he loved. And though he knew he should be happy that Catherine had taken his advice and moved on, it peeved him relentlessly that she had wasted no time, and was with Elliot Burch and that they had had a child together. And it hurt him terribly to know that Elliot was being unfaithful to Catherine so soon. Even so, there was one nagging doubt that hounded him relentlessly, and in so thinking, Vincent’s hands strayed to the lovelock that Catherine had plaited in his hair believing him dead, and tied with a green silk bow no less.
“It doesn’t add up does it?” Dominic asked as he watched Vincent play with the lovelock. Vincent’s questioning gaze met his brother’s but he said nothing.
“That,” Dominic indicated the lovelock, “Why did she put it there, if she was in love with someone else?”
“A question I have asked myself a thousand times and more.” Vincent groaned. “Why did she?”
“It was well hidden. Like a secret between the two of you, did you and Catherine have secrets Vincent?”
Sensing a barbed question Vincent asked, “What do you mean?
“Secrets, you know? Everyone has secrets. Only this one was not between the two of you, but rather a secret kept from others that knew you. I just get the impression that there was something you both knew about that you withheld from everyone else.” Dominic had finally decided to tell all, as subtly as he could.
Vincent started to shake his head when the reoccurring dream galloped up behind and overtook him once again. Images filled his mind, he and Catherine intimate, kissing, touching, his body filling hers… Vincent moaned and swallowing with difficulty told Dominic, “They are just dreams.”
“No they’re not. Vincent, there’s something I have to tell you.”
However, before he could say another word both paused and listened to sounds coming through the opposite wall, sounds of many voices and the clank of metal tools.
Believing that whomsoever made the sounds had only just arrived, both Vincent and Dominic were not prepared when seconds later an almighty boom sent dust spiralling throughout the chamber, and the ceiling came away in shards of splintered rock falling in around them. In a split second Vincent had pushed back his chair and dived beneath the desk in front of him shouting for his brother to do the same, and panicking when Dominic did not fill the space opposite save for his feet and legs beneath the desk. Vincent tried to pull his brother down but just at that moment a joyous cry was heard amid the choking dust, and Vincent felt hands upon his back tugging him out from beneath the desk, then voices he recognised, Winslow, and Kanin, Cullen and Mouse, and the man he hated above all others, Elliot Burch, and all with overjoyed voices, voices choked with dust and emotion, arms that held him fast and raised voices that cried, “we got him we got him, yeah we got him!” In slow motion Vincent followed their gazes and his own came to rest upon his brother sprawled lifeless across the desk, blood oozing from a cut over one eye his long tawny hair matted with rock dust and blood that flowed from a deep gash in the crown of his head where a shard of rock was deeply embedded. Furious, Vincent flung off the arms of those that held him and reached out for his brother, “Dominic, Dominic!” He shook him hard, turned enraged eyes to those that had caused the injuries and shouted, “You’ve killed him! You’ve killed my brother! I’ll never forgive you for this!” Then Vincent ran from them, blindly, not knowing where he was going, only that he had to run, and run and never look back, while deep inside a little voice reminded him, ‘now you are truly alone.’
*** *** ***
It might have been seven days, it could just as easily have been seven weeks, Vincent did not know, neither did he care as wandering aimlessly in the subterranean world by day and forced to visit the world above at night if only to scavenge Vincent merely existed. If he had deemed his life lonely before, it had been nothing to what he now knew. Life without the ones he had known as family all his life, life without his newly acquired brother and life without the only woman he would ever love rendered Vincent miserable, and bitter and torn between a decision that would bring him life or death.
It was not the first time he had looked into the well of the abyss. Standing overlooking the gaping hole that went down to hell, there was only one thing, one small thing that held Vincent’s feet rooted to the wooden bridge with the plaited ropes that paved the way over oblivion, and that was the tiny little lovelock held fast with a green bow and just behind one ear. Vincent touched it now gliding fingertips over the tiny little plaits sure that there had been indeed a kiss in every one. A kiss bestowed upon eager lips, and yearning to know the taste of her there, and then the dreams as always crashing behind like the sound of waves upon the ocean, relentlessly reminding him that such things had never been, would never be, could never be…
Not for the first time did Vincent moan softly, his heart hammering in his ears, hands over them in a bid to drown out the sound as fresh images raced to taunt him. From the bridge Vincent rose, teetered on the edge, sought the void for a mere second, refused the pull and ran along the length of the bridge to where safety beckoned. A solid wall where he plastered his hot and feverish body, hands flat against the cold rock eyes open wide hoping by concentrating on the tiny rivulets in the rock face he could obliterate the thoughts filling his mind but it was impossible. They taunted him relentlessly now, a little bit here a little bit there, a dream that had never reached fulfilment turned from something fantasised to a nightmare that just would not let him be.
Voices drifting from somewhere behind made Vincent seek seclusion, hiding his face and body from prying eyes. Watching from his hidey hole he looked upon Olivia and Luke as they made there way around the track that ran the other side of the abyss, and knew what she would be telling the young child even though Vincent could not hear a word. ‘Be careful of the abyss, never play on the bridge, it is a dangerous place, you could die here, might be lost forever…
Oh the bliss of forever…forever lost…forever loved…Vincent shook his head, why oh why did he have to keep reminding himself?
‘Perhaps I am set to be tormented all my life until I give into the dreams.’ Vincent whispered out loud, yet to give into them terrified him. Always, always they had been at the edge of his consciousness, and only in sleep deep they embark beyond the fringes, did they fill his mind with images that upon awakening were before his eyes even as he opened them. ‘I don’t know if I can allow myself to follow them through…but if so doing brings me peace…’ Vincent reasoned, and dragging himself into a sandy cave he had spent many happy hours reading within, he tucked his legs under him and leaned to one side against a rock wall, and with some trepidation Vincent panted as the first of the dreams washed over him.
‘Whatever happens, whatever comes, know that I love you…
Delirious at the feel of Catherine’s arms about his waist Vincent had uttered those words to her as they had stood looking out of the balcony window of her apartment, on the very day that he had returned back to his world after the start of his illness. He had known as he had uttered them that while he might feel peaceful at that moment, a great storm was brewing within and the illness that had subdued for a time would soon return with gusto rendering it impossible for anyone to contain him, and worse might even prove damaging to them. ‘I know I could not remain at the home chambers.’ Vincent remind himself, ‘ I had to leave. Had to go away to die, it was the only way to keep them all safe…to keep Catherine safe…
He could remember the ferocity of his roars, the sweat breaking out on his body drenching his clothing, and he could remember the taunts of that other being, his other self…of Paracelsus mocking him…lying to him…lies he had believed…
And then…all that paled into insignificance as suddenly overwhelmingly, Catherine was there, kissing him, holding him, her lips soft and pliant against his, her hands touching, caressing…
Vincent gasped and struggled to hold on to the logic that told him he had to do this, had to let the dream run its course…for the sake of his sanity…
Oh the touch of her hands against him, flesh upon flesh, gliding, thrilling, tantalising…eyes tight Vincent revelled in the glory of the dream, allowing it to wash over him, to satiate him, until there was nothing else.
Catherine close, whispering words of love of encouragement, his hands on her breasts, rose tipped and hard, his mouth eager to partake of all that she offered, hungry devouring tongue lapping with a thirst that would not be denied…and then…and then…oh…the glorious, glorious satisfaction of feeling her body surrounding his, of his manhood deep inside of her, all consuming, filling, erupting his life force into her…
Vincent sat bolt upright! Awake now, forcing away the dream his mouth dropped open…how could a dream be so perfect? How did he know what it would feel like to make love with Catherine? Had the books that he’d read rendered him capable of knowing such in-depth emotions as love making with a woman? Vincent shook his head, he had not the answers, only the knowledge that the dream would now leave him alone…and it was so…laying down his head on his arms, Vincent stretched out fully, at peace at last, and with lids closing over china blue eyes Vincent sighed blissfully, sure now that he would sleep dreamlessly…and so he would until the memories returned.
*** *** ***
Talk about daja vu” Father remarked as he spooned broth into Dominic’s mouth, “This reminds me of the time when Vincent brought Catherine to the tunnels and was feeding her soup.”
“He told me about that.” Dominic waved a hand in front of his bandaged face that said no more as he continued, “I only hope I can see when these things are removed.”
“There was no damage to the retina, just a bang on the head. Peter tells me that the blindness will only be temporary, and sometimes things short term can be of more benefit to us than if they had never been.” Father chuckled. Dominic had been with them nine days, ever since, Winslow and Elliot had helped carry him back to the home chambers, on a stretcher intended for Vincent had he of needed it, or if by some terrible disaster the explosives they had used to bring down the wall, had backfired and had injured any one of them.
“I know what you mean. Had I not of been blind, I would have left here as soon as I could walk, and then I might never have discovered your kindness, and the humble acceptance of the people in this place. I thought they would never believe that I am Vincent’s brother.”
“It is not hard to see that it is so. There are similarities, even if a great deal of those among us are yet to see your eyes, your hair is reminiscent of Vincent’s as are the way your nails grow you have no cuticles, just as Vincent has none, and there is a certain furriness to the hair that grows on your chest. If you weren’t related to Vincent I would want to know why. I only wish we had known of your existence years ago, it would have saved such heartache for the two of you, and Anna, poor Anna having to fabricate a story so we would not know she had given birth to one that looked like Vincent.”
“I expect that leads to questions all the same, whether my father’s stories can be believed.”
“No not at all, I stopped being sceptical when Vincent taught me that Narcissa was not an old witch but rather a very wise woman that ought to be accepted and learned from. If a witch doctor cursed your father then that could be accountable for the way his sons turned out. I would however place great reservations on the fact that your father attacked by a lion rendered his seed such that he could produce sons like you and Vincent and I find such things extremely suspicious which just goes to show how my philosophy has been affected over the years. Normally a doctor might grasp that idea as being acceptable and probable, and the witch doctor thing a mere myth however, I am doing the exact opposite. You don’t have to be mad to live down here, Dominic but it helps.”
To Father’s surprise Dominic chuckled, he’d thought for a moment that his last quip might have been going too far and Father was just about to laugh with him when he was stopped by Dominic’s question, “Any news of Vincent today?” It had been a question Dominic had asked someone for all of the six days he had been conscious.
“No. Nothing.” Father sighed heavily. “We can only wait and hope that he will return to us in his own time.
Slowly Dominic nodded but Father could tell that he had doubts. “Is there something we should know, something you are withholding from us, perhaps?” He asked the younger man gently.
“Yes, but they are things I cannot speak of. Private things.”
“Between you and Vincent?” Father put the bowl of soup onto the tray and proceeded to wipe Dominic’s chin with a soft damp cloth.
“No, and anything else I say will only lead to more questions. Please Jacob, let it be. I don’t want to say anything else about this.”
Father detected the younger man’s discomfort and though he wanted to beat it out of him, he refrained from asking another thing on the subject. Still as he took up the tray and made to leave Dominic reached for and caught Father’s arm. “Its to do with Catherine.” He felt fit to explain, “Vincent has to work through it in his own time.”
Now Father thought he understood, that relationship had been complicated at the best of times. “Maybe he will come home when his curiosity gets the better of him.” Father mused.
“I don’t understand.” Dominic turned his head toward Father, though through the bandages his eyes could not see him.
“Vincent might believe all sorts of things, and I have no idea what many of them are right now, but I have yet to meet a father that has not been curious about his child, in one way or another.”
Seeing the light, Dominic nodded, “Ah the child is his.”
“Of course. Who else’s would it be?” Dawning was swift and sure…and Father gasped…Elliot’s? “Please tell me that Vincent doesn’t think the child is Elliot’s?” He asked breathlessly.
Dominic nodded, “I fear that is what he does think. “ He sighed, “I’m sorry Jacob, but as you say we will just have to hope that curiosity gets the better of Vincent for whatever reason and that he soon returns.”
With a squeeze to the old man’s hand, Dominic hoped he imparted heartfelt compassion and then realised how deep it went. Vincent was right, this place, these people, they made even mad men sane and as Father patted his hand and told him, “I’m pleased you are here Dominic, and so sorry for what you have been made to endure over the years, if its any consolation know that from now on we will do all in our power to make you feel welcome and wanted here.”
“Thank you Jacob.”
“People down here, call me Father.”
“I know.” Dominic hesitated. He’d only ever known one father, and that by blood only. Paracelsus had never been a father to Dominic in the truest sense of the world, and Dominic was touched by what Jacob was offering and as he heard the old man’s receding footsteps, he tried the word out, a mere whisper and liked the sound of it as it rolled of his tongue, ‘Father….Father…’ then louder still as it touched his heart…”Thank you Father.”
From half way across the chamber Father stalled, then went on, he smiled, reached the exit, looked back and with all the affection he could muster, for he knew how badly Dominic needed to hear it, he called back, “You’re welcome…son.”
*** *** ***
A few days later, Catherine breezed into Father’s chamber, and acting as if she was blurting carefully rehearsed words right on out, frightened Father half to death when she told him, “I’m leaving Father.”
“Leaving? As in the tunnels? You’re leaving us? Why?”
“I was never staying. How can it be possible? Father I’m going crazy down here. Oh I know all of you have become family to me, but since Elliot has gone, I find myself thinking of all I could be doing above, and I want that Father, I want that kind of life again…after all what is there for me here?”
“Forgive me for stating the obvious, Catherine but you do have a child. Isn’t that reason enough to stay?”
Adamantly Catherine shook her head, “I’m taking my son with me…now don’t blow a gasket, do you seriously believe I’m that stupid? Elliot has found a brownstone with access to the tunnels. Little Vincent can stay below, in the basement area, which will be warm and heated while I am out at work and Jamie Rebecca and Olivia have agreed to look after him while I am at work. And then when I am at home he will be in the house with me.”
“And how far is this brownstone from here, when will I get to see little Vincent?”
“I’ll bring him down at weekends, well at least every other weekend, I promised Elliot and Jenny that I would be at home for them to visit some weekends. Of course either Jamie, or Rebecca, Olivia, Brooke, whomsoever is on duty for babysitting can bring him down to see you, though it is quite a long walk from A to B I have to admit. I couldn’t get anything closer so soon.”
Father’s temper rose, “And you think you can do this hm? Just like that? Assume that you can take Jamie, or Rebecca, or Olivia or Brooke, or anyone else that might offer away from their duties here, without so much as asking me?”
“Well no one is actually under ownership of you, Father. And I didn’t exactly have to bend anyone’s arm, they all offered.”
“Yes I can see that they would, they love the child and the alternative is no consolation. Catherine, I can’t accept this, I will miss him so much. Please let him stay here with us.”
“He’s my son, Father and Elliot has promised…”
“No! Catherine, no, I forbid you…” Father struggled to his feet, “You must leave the baby here.”
“Just because I gave him Vincent’s name, doesn’t mean he’s yours. Father he’s my son, and I will do with him whatever I choose. Now try to understand, this is no life for me anymore, I can no longer wait, I have to do something constructive, and I need to do it now. The brownstone has a walled garden, there is sunshine, it will be good for my son and even Vincent would agree with that.”
“Don’t use that argument to win my favour, Catherine.” Father was furious. He’d lost his son and now he was to lose his grandson, didn’t Catherine see that?
“I’m sorry Father, but I have to do this. Elliot has already taken little Vincent to my new home, I thought it better that way, no long traumatic goodbyes,” beneath her breath Catherine added, ‘and no chance of you hiding him away somewhere to prevent me taking him with me’ Catherine wouldn’t put anything past Father in such a frame of mind. “And we’ll see you at the weekend, okay?”
Had there not of been some ten feet between them Father might have been able to grab a hold of Catherine, but with such a distance and obstacles in the way, it were impossible, and all Father could so was stand and watch as Catherine disappeared from his chamber her mind absolutely made up and knowing that the only thing that would bring her back for good was the return of Vincent himself and Lord only knew when that would be.
Brushing aside his tears with the backs of his gloved hands, Father lowered himself to his chair and quietly wept. He thought he was alone, and feeling so utterly bereft could hear nothing but his own thudding heartbeat. How could Catherine be so cruel…words echoed by another across the chamber and out of Father’s sight, out of anyone’s sight…he had entered just prior to Catherine’s arrival, unsure of his welcome, had crept into the chamber and had hid in the shadows biding his time and awaiting the right moment to announce his arrival when Catherine had dropped her bombshell. But why was Father so upset? And why of all things had Catherine named her son Vincent after him? How more cruel could life get? Vincent knew the answer to that…he had returned home, drawn by a connection too strong to ignore another day, only to find Catherine returning to her world and to Elliot Burch, a man whose name he hated with all that he possessed.
*** *** ***
True to her word Catherine came back a week later, babe on hip and supported by her right arm she carried an overnight bag on her other arm and stepped into Father’s chamber with a ready smile of greeting and a stomach full of butterflies. “Good evening Father.” She called as she came down the three steps leading into his domain, and almost dropped her baby by the sight of long tawny hair and a back to her that had her gasping, “Vincent!”
At the sound of her voice the figure turned and Catherine’s disappointment was seen in the tears that spilled from her eyes, “I’m sorry, so sorry…you look so much like Vincent from behind.”
Dominic stood offered his hand and with an apologetic smile encouraged Catherine to use it if only to place her bag upon, which she did. “Thank you, it was heavy.” Tears clear Catherine looked up at Father almost feeling his staunch displeasure even before she saw it in his eyes, and in a bid to lessen his temper Catherine offered her son to him, “Want to see how he’s grown, Father? He’s getting heavy.” Of course she had used the first thought that had come into her head, but Father took it the wrong way, “And your point is what exactly? That he would have been malnourished down here?”
“No, Father!” Catherine exclaimed unhappily, and looked to Dominic for help. He did not disappoint her, “I think what Catherine actually means Father is that the baby has naturally grown and it was meant in no disrespect to how he would have grown quite as much had he of been down here with us.” Weakly Catherine smiled her thanks. There was something very disconcerting about Vincent’s brother, the way he stood, held his head, those china blue eyes that sent her world spiralling away, so many things that she loved about Vincent and had missed more than she had ever realised. “You are like him you know.” She heard herself say as he took her son from her, and offered the babe over the desk to a very unwilling grandparent, who was finally softened by a milky hiccup emitted from the baby’s lips.
“So I’m led to believe. Certain mannerisms and all that.” Dominic chuckled. “Unfortunately the mirror tells me otherwise.”
“Unfortunately?” Catherine reiterated. “I would have thought that you would have been happy about that difference?”
“Once maybe, but having met my brother and known the beautiful spirit that he is, I find that I am unable to find it within myself to call him ugly as once I did. Vincent is the good looking one, would you not agree?”
Concerned with something he’d said, Catherine ignored the question and asked, “You said spirit, you surely still don’t believe that Vincent is dead do you?”
“Lord no! That was just something I made up to keep him with me. Something I sourly regret now to my embarrassment, and cannot for the life of me comprehend how Vincent managed to let me believe he had fallen for it. No my dear Vincent is not only beautiful inside and out, but he is highly intelligent too after all he fell in love with you did he not?”
Catherine blushed but could not answer him. All she could think of was that ever since she had known Vincent she had wondered what he might look like had he of had a normal human face. Well here she knew, and she liked what she saw, though of course Vincent was beautiful, and nothing would dispute that fact, but Dominic had all of Vincent’s mannerisms, and his softly whispered words, though not with the same husk that his brother presented still did things to her insides that left her weak with longing. Maybe it was just the memory…
“How much weight has he gained do you know?” The old grouch had put away his sword and turned appealing eyes to Catherine. She smiled secretly, one detected she noticed by Dominic who smiled in response and again Catherine’s heart fluttered. “Four ounces. He’s quite the pig when I let him.” Father burst into laughter. “May I take him to Mary?”
“Of course, and I’ll rest my feet while you are gone. I swear I’ll clown Elliot for finding a brownstone so far from here. The sooner he keeps to his promise and finds me a closer one the better.”
Taking advantage of Father’s recently vacated seat, Catherine was more than a little amused when after slipping off her shoes Dominic took the liberty of lifting her legs onto his lap and massaging her feet, leaving Catherine feeling more than a little disconcerted by his actions. How like Vincent he was, so thoughtful and kind. Aware suddenly that she was staring at his fingers, long and slim, except at the knuckles, and tipped with claw like nails, except they were blunt and looked as though they grew that way, that was it appeared they had never been needle sharp, Catherine blushed when his eyes met hers. “How’s that?” He asked, “Good?” His smile was deep and all knowing.
Flustered Catherine tried to answer without her voice quaking, decided it would be impossible so she nodded instead, finally managing to rasp, “So how are you liking life here, Dominic?”
“It’s the best I have ever known, only the return of my brother will make it complete. So how has your week been, away from here I mean?” His fingers slid between Catherine’s toes and she squirmed trying to pull them away from his grasp but he held on firmly seemingly concentrating on what he was doing. Catherine. However, was sure that he knew exactly what he was doing and she was a little concerned that she didn’t appear to mind very much.
“So, so. I went back to work, Elliot and Jenny visited midweek. Had some delightful news…” then on the spur of the moment, Catherine asked, “Dominic have you ever been to a wedding up top?”
“A wedding, no? Neither up top or below are you getting married?”
“Me? No.” Catherine laughed out loud. “Who’d marry me? My son is a trifle different is he not? Few men would accept a child like that.”
“I would.” The words barely uttered were heard like a clang of bells. Catherine made a frantic effort to remove her feet from his grasp and strangely he put up no fight at all. Catherine regarded him coolly wondering if she had misinterpreted that last comment but as she thought about it, Dominic asked, “So why did you want to know if I had attended a wedding?”
“I’ve been invited to one, the invitation expects me to bring a guest, and I wondered if you would like to come with me. But I should never have asked…so forget that I did, okay?”
“No, I’d like that. It sounds wonderful.” Dominic’s blue gaze caught Catherine unawares, they were warm and sincere and once again those disconcerting butterflies started flapping round her stomach again. “Excuse me, Dominic, I just remembered that little Vincent will want his diaper changing soon. Wouldn’t want Father to receive any little gifts he was unprepared for.”
As soon as she got into the tunnel outside the chamber, Catherine leaned against the wall, her heart hammering. What had just happened in there? If she didn’t know better Dominic had made a pass at her, and she had unwittingly walked right into it. He was nice though, perhaps too nice… with all Vincent’s charm and sex appeal and a normal face to boot, Catherine began to visualise her friend’s wedding and all the guests faces when they set eyes on Dominic. It would be everything she had ever dreamed of with Vincent, just like the time she had dreamed that they had stopped to buy ice cream and no one had looked twice. And what was so bad about that? Vincent hadn’t returned, or if he had no one had seen fit to enlighten her, and his absence spoke volumes. Obviously he didn’t want her. Obviously he regretted making love with her and could not accept intimacy with her. Well then if that were the case…Catherine’s thoughts flew to Dominic, those china blue eyes, rich tawny hair, broad shoulders, slim waist, muscled thighs…and then she stopped herself dead…but love…what about love…and as if to throw cold water over her dreams she suddenly heard in her minds eye something she had told Vincent a thousand times when he had doubted anything…remember love Vincent…remember love, but galloping close behind came another thought swift and sure…and just as Dominic’s face literally appeared before her as he came out of Father’s chamber…she was reminded of it...with love all things are possible.
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To be continued in Chapter Fourteen