Once in a lifetime, you find the one you really love
From now and forever, one love that never ends
Once in a lifetime, when every star that lights the sky
Will shine with one reason,
leading your heart to the one love you find
Just once in a lifetime
The story continues...
It was late but Elliot couldn’t sleep and he knew he had a meeting in the morning which made it even worse, for the more he knew he had to sleep the less he found he could. Thoughts of Catherine and what she had done spun around his mind and he thought about calling her, checking his watch to find it was three in the morning and wondering if she too was awake, thinking about things.
He dialled part of her number, hesitated and hung up, redialled and hung up again before it had a chance to ring, then he got out of bed, dressed in some casual clothes and headed out of his penthouse hoping that a walk around outside would clear his head.
Even at that time in the morning the traffic was beginning to build, many people started early in the city, newspapers would be rolling off the press, diary supplies would be arriving for the day, bakers would be up making bread.
*** *** ***
Hands in pockets Elliot walked slowly knowing he was unprotected, having not notified his bodyguards of his intention to go out. Sometimes they oppressed him and he wished to be a ‘nobody’ again going about his business without having to look over his shoulder. The price of success was often too high.
He walked aimlessly along the sidewalk, the collar of his denim jacket pulled high against the morning chill, and wished he had worn something that came further down his hips, they felt cold and he missed his thick overcoat. Still the walk refreshed him but did not clear his mind perhaps it was because it was still relatively dark, though to the east slightly obscured by the tall buildings slim wisps of daylight could be seen amid the cloak of darkness. “Maybe in the cold light of day, my head will be cleared.” Elliot mumbled to himself hopefully.
Until then he asked and answered his own questions, ‘how had Catherine, a virgin become so experienced in things? Had Tom taught her?’ Elliot shuddered to imagine of her doing that to any other man. In no way, at any time did he condemn the fact that he had done something similar to her. It was a man thing, it was what men did, but no lady should taint herself with such repulsive behaviour however good it felt at the receiving end. “Oh Cathy, Cathy, whatever am I to do about you?” He asked out loud beginning to wonder if he should marry her after all. “I think I should have you watched, see what you do when I’m not around.” The decision made Elliot began to feel better, it wasn’t that he believed that Catherine slept around, but if as a virgin should could bring herself to do such favours, then he wanted to know who she did those favours for because he would not accept that was her first time, although no woman had ever done that service for him before, he felt that it had been too good, too wonderful for an inexperienced woman to have managed so well. “And I shall insist on that test.” He spoke aloud “just in case.”
His decision made Elliot breathed deeply of the morning air, his eyes felt gritty from lack of sleep but he was at peace with himself. Turning he headed back toward home feeling certain he could sleep now, at least he would have five good hours before he needed to get up again and he would have nothing to bother him upon waking. He could face his day and his meeting with a clear conscience knowing exactly what he was to do about his fiancée.
Riding the elevator up to the roof of Catherine’s building, Vincent paused as he noticed the thin wisps of daylight filtering across the dawn sky. He would have to be quick, he couldn’t stay long, or else he would be trapped there the whole day.
Jumping down to the terrace he listened at the balcony door, all was quiet within but through the connection he could tell that Catherine was awake and restless. He tapped gently and in the stillness of the fading night so far above the city streets, Catherine heard him at once and ran to fling open the doors, rushing straight into his arms. “Vincent, you came back!”
“Catherine…” He gathered her close inhaling her precious scent deep into his lungs.
“I’m so pleased you’re here,” She tugged at his hand intent on leading him inside. “I can’t stay.” Vincent told her, “It will soon be light.”
They stood staring at one another so many questions crying to be asked, finally Catherine launched the first one, “Why did you come back when you knew you couldn’t stay?”
Vincent looked at her a long moment before seeming to make a decision as he replied, “Catherine there’s something I have never told you.”
Guardedly Catherine looked at him, “What?” She asked nervously.
“The gift as you call it…it’s a connection…a bond…I can’t explain it any more than that, but Catherine whenever you are happy or sad I know…I feel it here.” He indicated the region of his heart. “I know you are unhappy now and that is why I couldn’t stay away, even though it is growing light and dangerous for me to be up top at this time of day.”
Catherine’s mouth dropped open, she stared at him remembering so many other times when he was suddenly there when she needed someone, “How much do you know?” She asked him, “How much can you feel?” Then moments later as the thought presented itself Catherine gasped, “Vincent, its impossible, no one can feel another like that!”
“I do. I don’t know why, but I do, and it is only with you, Catherine. Don’t ask me to explain it for I cannot, all I know is that whatever you are feeling I feel it too.” He told her simply.
“Incredible.” Catherine whispered then “and embarrassing too. Vincent can you feel everything?”” Her voice rose and though she had told him about what she had done with Elliot it was quite another thing knowing that he had felt it when she had. Had he felt as though she was doing it to him?
As if he knew her thoughts Vincent replied, “Its not like touch, whatever you do or say I cannot know, I just know the feelings you have when you are doing anything. I know if you are happy, or sad or frightened, and I know when you are distraught and need a friend, like now. What is the matter Catherine, is it the same thing as last night?”
Catherine nodded, “I can’t get it out of my head. Vincent.” Her voice caught on a sob, “What if I’ve lost him!”
Vincent reeled it was so difficult for him to stand by and hear Catherine talk about another man and sounding so desolate in her fear of losing that other man. “You should call him, find out the situation.” Vincent suggested with one eye on the sky. The clouds were changing colour now, the light insipid wisps giving over to pink and gold. “I have to go Catherine.”
She followed his gaze and saw his discomfort, “Thank you for coming, and for explaining your gift to me. I can’t say I like it Vincent, it is very disconcerting but also comforting to know that you will always be there for me like a protector. Elliot has his body guards and now I have mine.” She ushered him out and Vincent felt dismissed, she had missed the point entirely and he wished he had not come, least of all confided the truth to her, the truth of the bond. Back on the terrace Catherine did something Vincent had not had her do in a long time, she stood on tip toe intent on brushing her lips against his, but he turned his face at the last moment suddenly reminded of what she had done with her mouth the evening before. Appalled Catherine gasped, surprised by his action and the shame in his eyes, but he had hauled himself up to the roof above her apartment before she had time to question him about it. There, he hesitated a moment, stunned by his own behaviour, ordinarily he would have revelled in a kiss from Catherine, but disgust had swept through him the moment that her intention became plain and he could not stand the thought of her lips touching him. Traitorous lips, that not only did abhorrent things but also kissed the lips of another man, a man that was to be her husband. Vincent’s heart ached and he wished he had not returned to her so soon, but he had been powerless to resist and he wondered if it would always be like that now, even perhaps after she had married Elliot Burch. Why oh why, did he have the connection with her when it brought him nothing but pain?
Back down on the terrace Catherine looked down expecting to see a sight of Vincent at any moment dashing across the street and to the park opposite, but when none came she looked hesitantly up at the roof above, “Vincent, are you still there?”
Hearing her Vincent said nothing but slowly and quietly headed for the elevator mounted it and rode it down to the basement level, where he alighted and disappeared through an entrance that Catherine did not even know was there.
Back above Catherine awaited an answer that did not come, but she had been certain he had lingered, now though she was sure he had gone, and Catherine touched the region of her heart and drawing her brows together began to wonder about something that had bothered her on and off for a long time…and then shrugging it off as a flight of fancy she returned to her apartment and to her bed where, finally, finally sleep claimed her.
*** *** ***
The sound of the doorbell woke Catherine some six hours later and she dragged herself from the bed wondering who was calling at this hour. “Hello,” she called through the door groggily, “Who is it?”
“Its me, Cathy. Its Mel.”
“Mel!” Catherine wrenched the door open, “Boy are you a sight for sore eyes! Come in.” Catherine told her old friend cheerfully. “Want a coffee, I need one.”
“Sure. Nice place you have here. Is that a balcony?”
Catherine laughed, “Feel free yes it overlooks Central Park.”
“Neat.” Mel slipped off her shoes and walked over to the balcony doors unsure about opening them, as the day was quite chilly and the apartment so warm. “Nice voiles, I’ve always wanted some like this, you know down to the floor. My pokey place only has small windows. I bet they look grand blowing in the breeze.”
Catherine laughed, “Yes when they don’t strangle me. They can have their drawbacks.” She remembered fighting them off during a particularly windy day when she had gone out and left the doors open being that in the morning there hadn’t been a breath of wind and it had been hot and sunny. Never again, when the wind had got up the voiles had been blown back into the room and had snagged on some ornaments sending them crashing to the floor. Now if Catherine knew the day to stay warm and wind free and had to leave the doors open she would tie the voiles back first.
“So how’s life treating you, Cathy?” Melanie walked back into the room and sat down at one of Catherine’s dinky sofas. “These are nice, bet their cosy for two?”
In the kitchen Catherine smiled smugly, she detected Mel’s questions as having never changed the other girl was still as nosey as she had ever been. “I wouldn’t know.” Catherine came back through with two steaming cups of coffee “I seldom have time to sit on them except for mornings like this when I’m drinking my coffee. Its about the only time I make for myself.”
“That reminds me, shouldn’t you be at work…Oh!” Mel’s eyes opened wide with astonishment as she caught sight of the diamond cluster on Catherine’s finger, “Is that an engagement ring?”
Catherine stretched her hand out in front of her loving the way the diamonds caught the early morning sunlight that streamed through the windows, “It certainly is, I have to admit I’ve not had a chance to look at it yet in the daylight.”
“So you got it what yesterday? Who’s the lucky guy?”
‘As if you didn’t know’ Catherine thought before replying suitably smugly, “Elliot Burch.”
“Elliot…No! Not Elliot Burch! Cathy, you lucky cow.”
Catherine laughed, “He is quite a catch isn’t he?”
“And then some.” Catherine almost gloated at the look of envy in Mel’s eyes. It had taken time but the retribution had been worth waiting for. And perhaps ordinarily she would have been guarded about what she revealed to Mel, remembering the old days, but Catherine hoped that Mel had grown out of her deceitful ways and would truly wish her well. Until her next question caught Catherine off guard.
“Do you see anything of Dev these days?”
“Devin? You mean Devin Wells?”
“How many Devin’s are there? It’s an unusual name, yes I mean Devin Wells.” Catherine caught the sarcasm in Mel’s tone.
“I haven’t seen him for about four months. He’s back in town but I don’t know how long for.”
“Back in town? Why where’s he been?”
“Europe. He was gone for two years.”
“Two years! My how time flies. Wondered why I haven’t seen him about. Where does he live, do you know?” Catherine shook her head not trusting herself to answer and Mel looked disappointed. “Always carried a soft spot for Dev.” She surprised Catherine by saying, “And I’m real sorry about what happened, you know.”
“Water under the bridge now Mel, don’t worry about it.” Catherine stood up “Look I have to get dressed for work, but stay here, if you’ve time. We can chat as I dress, I just have to take a quick shower.”
“Well yes okay, if you don’t mind.”
“No, why don’t you open the balcony doors and sit out in the sunshine, its quite pleasant to do that, the terrace gets so much sun.”
“Okay, I’d like that.” Mel got up too and did just that glorifying in the feel of the warm sun upon her face, even though the day was chilly, up here above the streets she could have been in a different country, it was that pleasant.
“Catherine always lands on her feet.” Mel whispered as she closed her eyes and enjoyed the sunshine and thought about that huge diamond ring her friend had been wearing, “Fancy Elliot Burch of all people…” Mel shook her head in wonderment, “Some people have all the luck.”
She’d been out there about ten minutes listening to the splash of water from Catherine’s shower when the telephone rang. Mel hesitated, should she answer it? Just as her hand reached the receiver to do just that the answer machine picked up the call. Mel listened with interest.
“Cathy! Just what do you think you’re doing? You have my brother running to you in the dead of night. You’ve got to sort your life out Cathy, this can’t go on, your running my poor brother ragged.” The call ended, and Mel stared down at it. She wasn’t certain but that sounded like Devin’s voice, and what did he mean about his brother running to Cathy in the dead of night? Mel listened to the sound of running water, happy that Catherine would be a few minutes more, then she rewound the tape in the machine back to the beginning knowing that future calls that day would wipe it clean. But just for good measure and just in case there were no more calls, Melanie flicked the switch to erase last call, and satisfied that it was done, set the machine back onto play for other incoming calls. Just in time too, for Catherine suddenly emerged from the bedroom her hair wrapped in a towel high upon her head. “Mel, was that the phone?”
“Yes, but I didn’t answer it? I thought about it, but then I saw the answer machine, however the caller just hung up.”
Catherine nodded, “Oh, well not everyone likes talking to a machine. Maybe they’ll ring back later. It might have been my father, I am running late.” She laughed, “But then I always am.”
Mel said nothing, just smiled and quietly fumed, ‘yeah Cathy had everything, even a rich daddy that didn’t mind what time she got into the office every morning.’
“I’ll just get dressed, make yourself another coffee if you like, you know where the kitchen is.”
Mel nodded, coffee was the last thing she had wanted, but a chance to nose around Catherine’s apartment was quite another thing, but she filled and switched on the kettle anyway and while she waited for it to boil she nosily read the notes pinned to the notice board searching for anything with which she could cause trouble by. But there was nothing substantial, just appointments and references to files at work. Mel wondered where Catherine kept her address book. Maybe Cathy had lied when she said she didn’t know where to find Devin for surely if she’d been seeing his brother then…Mel gasped…how could she be so dumb? If Dev’s brother was running to Cathy in the middle of the night…then did Elliot Burch know about it? Smiling gleefully, Mel poured herself another coffee and one for Cathy for good measure and came out of the kitchen just as an immaculate dressed Cathy came out of the bedroom. Mel felt dowdy alongside her, knowing that the blouse alone that Catherine wore probably cost more than all the clothes Mel had on put together.
“Thanks Mel mm don’t you just love coffee. Don’t know where I’d be without it.” Catherine laughed, “So come on don’t keep me in suspense what are you doing with your life?”
“Actually Cathy, I’ve got to dash, maybe we can meet for lunch one day, have to wait till pay day though, I’m always running short.” Mel laughed angling for an invite and it came swiftly, “Hey don’t worry about that, maybe you would care to join me and Elliot for dinner one evening, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. He’s always saying he would like to meet more of my friends. Leave your number and I’ll call you when he’s free and we’ll arrange something okay?”
Mel smiled sweetly and choked down bile that rose to her throat, she wanted to scratch Catherine’s eyes out. How could one woman have so much and another so little, it wasn’t fair! “That’ll be wonderful.” Melanie replied breathily “I’ll look forward to that. Elliot Burch…who’d have thought it…me having dinner with Elliot Burch.” Melanie went on dreamily.
“And me.” Catherine reminded, “Don’t forget I’ll be there.”
“Oh of course Cathy, I hadn’t I’ll look forward to it, call soon huh? Here’s my card, it’ll tell you what I’m doing these days too.” Catherine took it briefed it and opened her apartment door letting Melanie out, “Accountant? Impressive.” And couldn’t help retorting exceedingly innocently, “But then you always were good at putting two and two together and making five.” She laughed as she said it but Melanie did not miss the barbed reply, and she seethed intent on revenge. Outside in the hallway with Catherine’s door closed behind her, Melanie walked toward the elevator her anger rising with every footstep upon the plush carpeting that was so different from the cracked lino and cockroaches that scuttled past as she walked toward her own bed sit in a building on the other side of town and she vowed she would see Catherine down before the month was out, or just as soon as that dinner appointment with Elliot Burch whichever was the sooner.
*** *** ***
“Have you got everything Sir?” Elliot’s housekeeper asked as he looked at his immaculate reflection in the mirror.
He smiled, “Yes thank you Mrs Downy and I shall be eating out tonight, so don’t wait up for me.”
“Very good Sir.” Elliot watched the plump housekeeper move away toward the dining room where she would stack his empty breakfast plates en route to the kitchen and briefly wondered if Catherine would take her wifely duties seriously and whether Mrs Downy should be forewarned that her services might not be required a few months from now. Then he thought better of it, best not to jump the gun, anything could happen on that score yet.
Checking his watch, Elliot crossed to the study and closing the door firmly after him made the call he had decided upon in the early hours speaking brusquely as it was picked up at the other end, “George? Elliot Burch. I’d like you to do something for me. Discretion is the name of the day okay? There’s a lady I’d like some information on, just follow her that’s all I ask, take some photographs of who she meets and get a name if you can if they’re male, okay you with me on this one?”
Elliot smiled, showing the recipient of the call was in agreement, “That’ll be grand, usual fee plus a bonus do? Great, thanks George, I’ll have her details sent round to you later today will you be there? Good. Mick Clarke will bring them just let me know if the envelope looks tampered with will you? I have no need to distrust him but one can never be too careful. Yeah, same to you thanks George.” Elliot hung up brighter of spirit than he had felt since the evening before and picking up the things he would need for the day from the desk in the study, he pressed a buzzer that would announce to his bodyguards that he was ready to leave and then he walked toward the door speaking lowly, “There Cathy, if you’re genuine you have nothing to worry about, and if your not then I do. Either way honey, I’m going to find out about you, just hope there’s no more nasty little surprises like the one you gave me last night.” Elliot frowned, suddenly he wished he had made all his checks before giving her that diamond ring and wondered if she was wearing it. He’d call her from the office after his meeting, maybe he could pursued her not to wear it until their engagement was official, newspapers could be so tacky if they smelt a story somewhere, and he could well do without that kind of publicity.
*** *** ***
Returning to the tunnels, Devin felt a heel. He shouldn’t have called Catherine he supposed, but he had been so mad when he’d found Vincent coming in just after four in the morning, knowing that it would be growing light above. Whatever Catherine was doing, though of course she didn’t know about the bond, it was sending his brother insane. Poor Vincent acting on Catherine’s emotions was being torn in two, and Devin could think of nothing else but to highlight to Catherine that the problem existed. If after all, they were best of friends, Catherine surely wouldn’t want Vincent to suffer unnecessary or take risks whereby he might be caught above. But by the time Devin reached the tunnels he wished he hadn’t called her. Not that he had given much away, he’d mentioned no names but hers, but supposing he had dialled the wrong number all manner of problems could have resulted had he been specific in what he’d said. But what rattled him more than anything was the possibility that Catherine might say something to Vincent, and Devin didn’t want his brother knowing he had interfered. Not that he was frightened of his brother, but because if Vincent knew about it, he might never confide in Devin about anything ever again.
Walking between his father’s chamber and his brother’s Devin jumped when Vincent rounded the corner looking for him “Devin? You’re back, heard you went up top?”
Devin nodded, “Needed some air. Do you need me for anything?”
“Not me, Father was looking for you. How are you today?” Vincent asked shrewdly.
“It should be me asking you that, aren’t you tired?”
“I don’t need a lot of sleep. You however do. I know we didn’t have time for many words when I got in this morning Devin, but I didn’t miss the fact that something was keeping you awake. Thoughts of a certain lady perhaps?” Devin sighed, “I made a decision Vincent. I’m going back to England I’ve got to see her one last time. Maybe after being away so long I can lay the ghost, maybe I’m just feeding on the memory.”
“And maybe it’ll be worse for you to see her again.” Vincent reminded him.
“I know, but I have to do this. I won’t be gone long, a couple of weeks tops, then I promise I’ll be back come what may.”
Vincent was convinced, but he knew what decisions were, once made if they felt right one went with them, good or bad for better or worse then one only had oneself to blame if it all went sour. “Then I hope it goes as you wish.” Vincent squeezed one of his brother’s shoulders. “When will you go?”
“In the morning. I’ve booked a flight for eleven o’clock.” Vincent nodded, and Devin turned toward his father’s chamber, “Wish me luck Vin, I’ve got to break the news to dad. He was hoping I’d help out next week on level G, guess you’ll be drafted in now, sorry about that.”
“Story of my life, Devin, story of my life.” Vincent chuckled and his brother could tell he meant no animosity, still Devin felt a pang of the usual regret, that he could come and go as he chose but his brother had no such privilege. Strange how the world was, one had so much and another so little, it wasn’t fair, it just wasn’t fair and Devin vowed to bring Vincent something wonderful back from England, even if, thinking of Kei-Anne, he wouldn’t be doing so himself.
*** *** ***
“Notice anything different?” Catherine breezed into her father’s office later that morning with her left hand outstretched and under his nose.
“Uh? Oh morning Cathy.” He checked his watch, “Or should I say afternoon? No eleven thirty you’ve just made it, so what’s the excuse this time…” he paused suddenly noticing the rock upon her hand, “Cathy!” His eyes rose to meet hers and found her to be smiling from ear to ear, “He proposed?” Charles asked weakly.
“Yes daddy, I’m going to be Mrs Elliot Burch.”
“Oh Cathy, that’s marvellous. Give me his number quick I must call him, “Charles reached for the telephone but Catherine stayed his hand, “He’s in a meeting this morning daddy, don’t worry he said he’d call later, I’m sure he’ll meet us for a belated lunch.”
“I’ll have my secretary halt all my calls for this afternoon then, there will be a lot to discuss. Have you set a date for the wedding?”
“No, daddy you move too fast.” Catherine laughed happily, “I only got engaged last night.”
“Well there’ll be a lot to do. You are going to have the wedding of the century Cathy, Elliot knows a lot of people, and so do we, and the press will be involved oh Cathy…you and Elliot Burch…I’m so happy for you, honey.”
Catherine knew he would be, it had been the bright spark on her morning horizon but she was a little disappointed that Elliot had not called her yet even though he said he would call after the meeting, she thought he might just manage a little one, or send some flowers, anything like that. But when she reached her desk and found it empty Catherine was doubly disappointed. Other mornings she had come in to find a bouquet of red roses today after the best night of her life there was nothing and panic started to rise in Catherine’s heart. Elliot hadn’t changed his mind had he?
*** *** ***
Across the city George Webster looked up as the door to his office opened and he instantly recognised his visitor, “You have something for me, Mr Clarke?” He held out his hand turning over the slim package that was placed therein with scrutiny.
“I haven’t tampered with it, that’s exactly how it was handed to me,” Mick Clarke told George who was quick to respond with, “Never doubted it for one moment Mr Clarke just always do that with a package.” He laughed derisively, “One never knows who ones friends are in this game.”
Mick gave him a slight smile, not quite following did he think his boss would send him an explosive device?
Before him, George opened the envelope, peeking inside, surprised at what he saw there, “Okay Mr Clarke everything is in order tell you boss I’ll act with the insight he knows me to have, and as soon as I know anything I’ll call him.”
Mick nodded and left the office, pausing outside of the door to let out a long low sigh of relief, he’d never noticed, George Webster had never noticed that the envelope had been opened and resealed. Now wouldn’t Charles Chandler be interested to know that Mr Burch was having checks made on his said only daughter? Mick hurried from the building if he was quick he might be able to catch Mr Chandler before he went out for lunch.
*** *** ***
“You heard from Elliot?” Charles popped his head around Catherine’s office door a little after mid day. She shook her head, “He’s probably still tied up. Perhaps you shouldn’t have cancelled your appointments after all daddy.”
“That’s okay honey, a quiet afternoon is quiet appealing actually and the man’s got to surface sometime. Have you tied calling him?”
“Now daddy, taken from the horses mouth, a lady never chases after a man.”
“Ah yes, but when that man happens to have asked the woman to marry him that gives her certain rights. I should call him my dear, leave him a message to contact you ASAP.”
“No its okay daddy, I won’t bother him, he’ll call when he’s done. Oh!” Catherine noted her father’s secretary trying to catch his eye from just behind him, “I believe you’re wanted daddy.”
“What, oh Susan, for me? I’ll take it in my office.” He winked at Catherine, “Duty calls, my dear. Let me know if Elliot calls okay?”
“I will daddy.” Catherine smiled and watched her father hurry to his office where a telephone call awaited him then picked up the file she had been working on before he had interrupted her. She was just getting into it again when her door opened and he walked back through looking grave.
“Daddy, what is it?” Catherine hurried from round the desk to his side, “Are you ill? Susan!” She cried at the top of her voice and the secretary appeared in the doorway, “Get my father some water will you, he’s not well.”
“I’m okay, okay…” he waved his caring secretary aside, “Just need to sit and speak to my daughter in private.” Taking her cue Susan left and closed the door behind her, Catherine however remained close hovering by. “What is it daddy, you’re scaring me.”
“You should be scared. Cathy, who else knows that Elliot asked you to marry him?”
“Two others, why?”
“And would they be inclined to be vindictive?” Catherine thought of Mel, “one might, why?”
“Let’s pray that’s all it is then. Cathy, honey, I’ve just received a telephone call that informed me that Elliot is running checks on you. He’s having you followed honey. Now whether that’s true or not I don’t know…but why on earth would he feel the need to do that…now?”
Catherine paled before her father, “I don’t know.” Her heart thudded painfully and she felt a wave of nausea wash over her, surely Mel hadn’t stuck her untimely oar in so soon? And what would she tell him if she had, Catherine had no deep dark secrets, other than Vincent, and Mel knew nothing of that.
“If he had done so before proposing I could understand it, but the caller said that he made arrangements for it to begin today. Cathy, whatever you are involved in make it discreet or you are going to lose Elliot before you’ve even got him.”
“I’m doing nothing daddy, nothing underhand and nothing wrong. He’ll go un-rewarded if he thinks he can dredge up dirt where there is none!” Catherine was suddenly furious, how dare he!
“I suppose we shouldn’t be too surprised honey, Elliot has a lot at stake, but your reputation should have been enough. He’s making it sound as though you aren’t to be trusted. Catherine you have finished with Tom, haven’t you?”
Catherine laughed derisively, “Daddy you know the answer to that!”
“Yes I do, sorry honey, but Elliot must have his reasons. The thing is what should you do about it, confront him?”
“Do you think I should?” Catherine asked amazingly feeling optimistic about that, at least by so doing she’d have a valid reason for dragging him out of his meeting and finding out why he hadn’t called or sent her any flowers that day.
“Personally, yes. You should let him know that you know and disapprove. You should lay it on the line if he didn’t trust you then you have no future together. Cathy, if he wants you then he has to be worthy of you, you are just as much a respectable citizen of this city as he is. Something like this if it got out, and well it has already could prove detrimental to your reputation.”
Catherine could tell that her father was hurt and angry and would have words to say to Elliot on the matter the moment it were possible to do so, therefore it was as well she told him that she knew in light of that. “Okay, I’ll call his office.”
“Shall I listen on the other line?”
Catherine shook her head, “No I’ll fill you in afterward. You can stay here though, I don’t mind you eavesdropping who was it that told you, do you know?”
“Some scum bag. Wanted money for the information, but unfortunately he gave away too much for nothing.” Charles laughed little boys should not play big boy games. He’ll learn.
“He will when Elliot catches up with him.” Catherine told her father gravely. Charles nodded and watched his daughter dial the number to Elliot’s office with bated breath, would she get to the bottom of it? Or would Elliot be so angry that he would break off their engagement so soon? Whatever, Charles would be there for his daughter and whatever happened would only be for the best…half an hour ago he liked Elliot Burch one hundred percent, now the fellow had dropped in his estimation to fifty and Charles was sure his daughter could do far better for herself. Wealth and power had a lot to answer for. Sometimes it was better to be a poor man, at least then one had no doubts about love and where one stood.
Listening Charles heard his daughter speak to Elliot’s secretary and pieced together the conversation by what he could hear.
“In a meeting, what still? Buzz through will you, tell him its Catherine Chandler and its urgent.”
Across town Elliot swivelled round in his chair as his buzzer sounded, he’d been picturing in his minds eye a tower he hoped some day to build when he had the cash flow behind him, a tower that would touch the heavens and domineer the city with its presence. “Hello?” He answered the intercom, “Thought I said I wasn’t to be disturbed, Mrs Webb?”
“Sorry Sir, but Catherine Chandler is on line three, she says it is urgent.”
“Tell her I’m in a meeting.”
“I have Sir, but she is adamant.”
Elliot sighed, his meeting had finished an hour ago, and he had spent all that time trying to decide what to do about his recently acquired fiancé. “Okay, put her on, I’ll speak to her.” He sighed again raggedly putting on a brave face as he answered brightly, “Cathy…I was just about to call you.”
“Well let me save you the bother!” Catherine hadn’t meant to snap, but this whole fiasco had just about reached its limit. “Why are you having me followed Elliot?”
Anything Elliot might have been about to say, vanished and he frowned, “Followed?” He laughed somewhat nervously, “I’m not having you followed. Honey, baby, whatever gave you that idea?”
“My father’s just received a telephone call telling him that you sent some details to a private detective this morning…” Catherine looked up at her father he hadn’t said that, but reading between the lines…Charles nodded letting her know she was on track.
“Who? Who made the call? Cathy, I swear they are lying, why would I want to run a check on you?” Elliot laughed hoping she wouldn’t detect his anger through it. She did, “I’m sorry, I don’t believe you Elliot. I think I’d better take this ring off, do you want it back?”
“Cathy what are you saying? I love you. Look I’ll come straight over. This is all a big misunderstanding.”
“Give me some credit Elliot, I may be an innocent but I’m not stupid as well! Something is going on, I know it. Every other morning I would have arrived here to find a bouquet on my desk, but today after getting engaged, what do I find nothing!”
Elliot had an answer for that, “The ring cost a lot of money Cathy, flowers will have to wait awhile.” Catherine wondered about that, the ring was beautiful and it would have cost him a small fortune even so, he could have made allowances, one slender red rose would have conveyed his love after such a momentous occasion.
“Come over if you must, but I don’t think we have anything further to say, Elliot.” Catherine put the phone down, her head was reeling and Charles jumped up as he saw her tugging the engagement ring from her finger stopping her before she had pulled it right off, “Honey, don’t be hasty, it grieves me to say it but he might have an explanation. Maybe someone took him for a ride once, maybe he’s just covering all avenues, you know once bitten twice shy?”
“And maybe he’s just suspicious of everyone. Well if he was having me followed I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the guy that called you.”
Charles grinned, “Neither would I Cathy. Elliot has contacts all over this city and he’ll see to it that someone is buying flowers tomorrow I can vouch for that.”
For a moment Catherine felt sad, that was true, this time tomorrow some poor widow or mother somewhere would be buying flowers and all because their husband or son tried to make a quick buck at the expense of another. “Did he blackmail you daddy?” Catherine wanted to know. It would have been worse had he not.
“Yes honey, he said that if I didn’t pay him for information maybe the newspapers would.” Both of them gasped at the same moment realising that it was possible that he had done that after speaking delivering his demands and not receiving anything.
“What are we worried about honey? You’ve got nothing to hide, Elliot will have to do the explaining…don’t worry about it.”
Catherine hoped that was so, but something niggled at the back of her mind, had done ever since her father had told her Elliot was having her followed…no before that ever since she had got up that morning and Elliot hadn’t called…
On cue, as she was thinking that, Elliot arrived, looking flustered and apprehensive, Susan knocked, asked and showed him in when Catherine told her that she could and as he entered the office Elliot was surprised to find that Charles Chandler was with his daughter.
“Catherine…” Elliot crossed to her desk where she remained aloof behind it.
“You know my father, I believe?” Catherine indicated her father sat near to the door. Elliot nodded in the older man’s direction then eyes darting back to Catherine, began, “I swear to you, I’m having no checks run on you, Cathy believe me?”
Catherine looked to her father, he was a good judge of character, he understood mannerisms and body language, and when he made the sign of the cutthroat behind Elliot’s back, Catherine told her soon to be ex fiancé, “I think you’d best leave Elliot, and take this ring with you!”
“No, Cathy! Why this hostility? I can’t believe it. Would you have me hung and quartered without delivering my case? I love you.”
Catherine hesitated, “I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.” She saw her father give her the thumbs up behind Elliot’s back and knew she had pleased him. “Can you take me for lunch?”
Elliot checked his watch, something that annoyed Catherine. Would this be a sign of things to come? Would Elliot never make time for her? Of course she knew all about meetings and appointments but there was such a thing as discretion. Elliot could have told her yes and then asked to use the telephone and rearranged his day’s schedule around her, who at that time should have been the most important thing on his agenda. Charles noticed it too, but said nothing except to decline the offer of joining them for lunch as Elliot asked politely on his way out with Catherine moments later.
Catherine smiled at her father as she passed him by and he winked at her, the gestures said it all, Catherine would be careful, she would be discreet and she would distribute marks out of ten as her father had taught her throughout the whole afternoon with Elliot. So far in the last four months Catherine had no need to score while out with Elliot, he had been everything she had ever wanted, but now with the distrust she had for him she made a mental note to count points. By the end of the afternoon if he didn’t score ten out of ten, she would have serious doubts about him and make her plans accordingly.
*** *** ***
He’d almost reached eight points when Elliot dropped his bombshell. They had finished desert and were sipping coffee and nibbling mints when Elliot passed a slim white card across to Catherine at the table. “What’s this?” she asked brightly.
“Its an appointment. I have one scheduled at the same time with a different doctor, I took the liberty of booking you in as I know your family doctor is also a friend and you might have been embarrassed.” Catherine drew her brows together, “Why would we need to see a doctor?”
Elliot drew his seat closer and leaned toward her whispering, “Honey, it’s a precautionary measure for the benefit of both of us. The appointment is for an HIV test.”
Catherine’s mouth opened wide, “What?” She exclaimed. Heads turned at her outcry.
“Keep your voice down!” Elliot seethed through gritted teeth, then acting calmer repeated, “As I say it’s just a precautionary measure, surely you’d like to know that I’m clean?”
“Yes. But Elliot, I don’t need to take the test, whatever yours reveals will be enough for me. I’ve not been around like you have, remember?” she whispered back.
“Cathy, honey…you don’t need to have slept around to need the test. What you did for me…well you can catch things from that too.”
“What are you saying? That I’ve caught something from you!” Catherine asked wide-eyed.
“Honey, no. Not from me, that is not that I’m aware of, I mean from the others that came before me…” he chuckled, “Wrong choice of words, forgive me.”
“Forgive you?” Catherine’s voice was flat and dead calm, and for a moment Elliot thought she was about to agree to the test, and doing so would give him the answer he sought, so she surprised him when she pushed back her seat, tore the appointment card in half, and wrenching off her engagement ring slapped it down on the table in front of him shouting, “If this is a sign of things to come Elliot, I want no more of it! Do you always disbelieve everything that you are told?” She made to march past him but he caught her arm and seethed, “Only when the facts speak for themselves, honey what you did…that was not the work of a virgin…it was nothing short of a…whore!” he whispered the last and Catherine wretched her arm free and spat, “And you would know of course! No wonder that you need to take an HIV test, Elliot!”
Catherine marched away the glee she felt quickly disappearing by the looks of the other diners, they were horrified, ‘Elliot Burch needing a test for HIV?’ For Catherine knew she had gone too far, a quip like that could ruin the man, and Elliot knew it too. He raced after her, not caring if he made a scene “How dare you! Take that back! I demand that you take that back!”
Catherine relented, “I’m sorry, forgive me, it was just a joke.” Her eyes darted around at the other diners hoping they’d believe her. Elliot took the bait, “Some joke, and not one of your better ones, Cathy.” Inside he felt relieved at least she had tried to make amends an outburst like that could have ruined him quickly he glanced round at the other diners happy to note that they seemed to have lost interest but he held on to Catherine while he picked up her discarded ring from the table and then paid for their meal. Outside around the corner from the restaurant Elliot bundled Catherine into the back seat of his saloon where he slapped her hard on the bottom. “You vindictive little bitch! Do you know what you almost did back there?” He rounded on her.
“Almost ruined you. Yes I know Elliot wasn’t that what you were doing to me!”
Elliot glared at Catherine, ticking over her words in his mind, slowly calming to accept them, “are you telling me that what you did last night was the first time you’ve ever done it?” He asked her suspiciously.
“I sure am, and it was the last time too. I’ve never felt so degraded, so disgusted in my entire life…so you can get it out of your head that I’ll ever attempt anything like that ever again!” Catherine told him furiously.
“Why?” Elliot was amazed, now he was losing ground he wanted nothing more than for her to do that to him again. Men are strange creatures sometimes.
“Why? What do you mean why? Haven’t I made it plain enough? Elliot it was awful!”
“I thought you enjoyed it?” He sounded surprised and hurt.
“No it was abhorrent.”
“Then why did you do it?”
Catherine sighed, she’d asked herself the same question ever since it had happened, and she told him, “I acted impulsively I had a friend that used to talk about it all the time, I guess I was curious, well that soon changed.” Catherine laughed derisively and was surprised when Elliot chuckled then told her “Some friend I hope you don’t still see her.” Catherine shook her head not trusting herself to answer, she dared not tell him that particular friend walked back into her life only that morning and she had arranged for the three of them to have dinner together whenever Elliot was free.
“Good, because you can do without people like that.”
Catherine wiggled her fingers in front of his face, “We still have these Elliot.” She reminded him. Elliot laughed, “All is not completely lost then? Okay Cathy, honey we’ll use our hands to take off the edge, but until we’re married that’ll be all. You will still marry me won’t you?”
Catherine sighed, it had all been a big misunderstanding after all, and so what if Elliot only scored nine out of ten, it was close and no one was perfect. “Yes, Elliot, I’ll still marry you.”
“Thank God!” From his pocket Elliot withdrew the ring, and just as Catherine expected him to slide it back on her finger he hesitated, “Tell you what honey, I’ll keep hold of this and we’ll arrange an engagement party and I’ll put it on your finger then with all our friends and relatives watching.” Disappointed Catherine reluctantly agreed, if she hadn’t of known better she would have thought that despite everything that Elliot had just said, he was stalling for time but Catherine forced away the feeling. It had been misunderstandings that had got them into this mess, so she smiled brightly and agreed and Elliot gave a secret sign of relief, for once he had dealt with Mick Clarke and spoken to George Webster he intended to continue with the charade of having Catherine watched, after all he only had her word for everything that she said, and he hadn’t got where he had in the world by trusting people too implicitly. So he replaced the ring to his breast pocket and leaned in to kiss Catherine, smoothing away all her doubts in that one delicious gesture. Catherine loved his kisses, they sent her, but even so at the back of her mind she remembered the kisses of another, kisses that Elliot had so far never matched, kisses that set her soul on fire.
*** *** ***
When Catherine awoke the next morning it was to a feeling of infinite sadness and she dragged herself out to her kitchen where not even a fresh cup of coffee lifted her spirits. Going to the calendar Catherine checked her dates and shook her head, it wasn’t that then not PMS it had only been two weeks since her last one. She was however, right in the middle of her cycle, perhaps she was ovulating, still even so, Catherine paused to examine her feelings they did not seem to be associated with her, and Lord after yesterday’s fiasco she had little to worry about anymore, so why did she feel so sad?
The feeling remained with her all day until the evening, when Elliot rang to say he couldn’t take her out after all and would call her in the morning, and then Catherine felt doubly miserable and never had she felt more like pouring herself a stiff drink but she had no alcohol on the premises not even a bottle of wine.
Flicking on the television afforded her little respite, nothing worth watching, and with nothing to read that she hadn’t read before Catherine’s walked aimlessly out onto the terrace to gaze at the shimmering stars above that usually had her wondering about the never-ending things that set her soul soaring.
Even so her sadness remained, just there, just as a pinprick deep within and Catherine at a loss as to know what to do to make herself feel brighter she donned a jacket and with a flashlight she set off out of her apartment with intent to visit Vincent.
It wasn’t easy going into the park that late at night, well it was after eight, not late by anyone’s standards, but a jaunt through the park at that hour was entirely different. Catherine kept to the lighted pathways avoided bushes and rounded trees cautiously almost expecting someone to step out behind a trunk. When no one did and she safely crossed to the storm drain she took a quick look around before ducking inside and then locating the secret mechanism drew open the large metal door.
Sentries announced her arrival and Catherine hurried through the tunnels with their unseen eyes upon her, feeling a little alarmed that they could do that, but comforted to know that they were her friends as it was a long way to the hub and Catherine had to use the flashlight in places but knowing she wasn’t entirely alone made all the difference. All the way she half expected Vincent to meet her and when he did not she wondered as to why and hoped that he was not ill.
Finally she rounded the final bend and made her way first to Father’s chamber. The tunnels were quiet, most of the children were in bed and many couples had settled down for the night in chambers of their own. Catherine paused at the entrance to Father’s chamber, visualising the scene to come, cosy candlelight that swathed the old man as he sat bent at his desk reading a book.
Catherine tip toed around the entrance and sought the sight she hoped for and was not disappointed. There he sat engrossed, not even hearing her footsteps as she entered and afraid she would give him a fright she announced her arrival with a tentative, “Good evening, Father.”
Pushing his spectacles up upon his nose Father stared at her, as many emotions raced through him, but since she was standing awaiting a welcome he settled down and bid her enter with a wave of one hand, “Catherine…to what do we owe the pleasure of your visit at this hour? Are you well?”
“Yes Father, thank you. I had a free evening, “she told him the half truth, “and I thought what better way to spend it than here. Is Vincent free?”
“I haven’t seen him since dinner. But I know that he hasn’t gone above, he’s not himself today, Devin has returned to England and Vincent is infinitely sad about his departure.” Catherine gasped.
“Yes, what is it my dear, you look as if you’ve seen a ghost?” Father asked concerned.
“I’ve received a shock.” Catherine told him then gave the same to him when she told him, “Father, all day I’ve felt so overwhelmingly sad and yet there is no reason why I should feel like this, everything in my life is going well…(‘now’ she added under her breath) and I could not understand why I should feel such infinite sadness…” She paused then launched her worst fear, “Father you don’t suppose that the connection Vincent has with me works both ways do you?”
“You know about the bond?” Were Father’s first words then he gasped as the full import of what she had said hit him.
“Vincent told me, last night.” Had it really only been last night? It had seemed a lifetime ago, so much had happened since.
“I think this is something you must talk over with Vincent, hold on my dear I’ll ask him to come to my chamber. Wherever he is, he’ll hear my message.” Father rose and Catherine watched as he tapped out a tune on the pipes with the marble end of his cane at least it sounded like a tune to Catherine. That done, he listened a moment then sat down again satisfied that he had been heard when Vincent replied, ‘Coming Father.’
“He’s on his way, now Catherine would you like some tea while you wait?”
Catherine shook her head, it was all she could do to stay put, because the revelation that she had told Father was as new to her as it was to him and more besides…if she were also connected to Vincent…then what did it mean?
“Catherine!” The sound of Vincent’s voice highlighted his arrival and he came down the steps two at a time, his long stride making easy work of them. “When did you arrive?” Father searched his son’s face for clues, “You didn’t know she was here?”
“No Father, my mind was elsewhere.” He explained knowing his father would understand why he had not known of Catherine’s whereabouts through the bond. The distorted connection had been partly closed off from her as Vincent had dwelt on other things with Devin’s departure being only one of them.
“Well Catherine came to while away the time with us and she has made a startling discovery while she’s been here…I think perhaps the two of you should go somewhere private and discuss this don’t you Catherine? Vincent take Catherine to your chamber, I’ll see that the two of you aren’t disturbed.”
Confused Vincent stared down at his parent and their guest but when Catherine agreed, stood and took Vincent’s hand in hers he followed without complaint, only too delighted to feel her so close again but once inside his chamber Catherine seemed to deem that closeness unnecessary as she let go of his hand and standing a few paces from him announced, “Vincent, this might sound strange to you…” she laughed nervously, “hell what am I saying, it sounds strange to me…but I think I can feel you.”
Humorously Vincent laughed, “Feel me? What do you mean you can feel me?”
“You know, that gift that you have, that connection, I think I’ve got it too.” Vincent gasped, “No Catherine!” And shook his head, “Impossible, its something to do with me, some makeup of mine, you can’t share in it.”
“Then how do you explain that I’ve felt your sadness all day, such sadness Vincent, when I should be happy. I have nothing to feel sad for, and its not my hormones I thought of that, so don’t try suggesting it is.”
Vincent’s mouth was open with surprise, and Catherine thought he looked awfully cute like that. “Look, I can see it’s a shock, it is to me too you know, but it would explain a lot of things…feelings I’ve had lately…like the other night I knew that you were still up on the roof, I could feel that you were there.”
“Coincidence.” Vincent told her, “All the same, I’ll set you a test to prove that you can’t feel me the same as I can feel you. Hold on.” He turned and sat with his back to her, straight up against the chair and asked, “What can you feel from me now?” And he thought of something that angered him, which wasn’t hard he simply thought of Catherine and Elliot together intimately.
Catherine concentrated. There was still that feeling of sadness, but it was being quickly covered by something stronger, “You’re angry…but it’s more than that…you’re jealous, it’s a jealous rage I’m feeling Vincent.”
Vincent gasped, he had known that he was angry, but Catherine had felt the underlying emotion the one he wouldn’t allow himself to face.
“Try again.” He told her gruffly.
“Was I right?”
“What are you jealous of Vincent? Even play-acting few people can feel it as strong as that, it so deep Vincent, it hurts even me.”
“I was thinking of something…someone I despise…” He told her hoping she wouldn’t ask anything more on the subject and reminded her, “Now try this one, see if you can feel this.” From deep down inside Vincent forced up all the love that he felt for her, holding nothing back even so when she told him he felt ashamed that he had.
“My God…” Catherine gasped, “Such love…Vincent such love…who do you love as much as that…” And then by the sudden slump of his shoulders and his silence she knew “Is it me?”
“Yes.” There was no denying it, if Catherine could feel his emotions she had to know the truth.
“Like that? I never knew, I’m so sorry, Vincent, Oh God Vincent…” Swiftly Catherine began to piece a few things together, the evening just gone, what she had told him, the times he had visited, the occasions when he had been there for her…the time when he’d told her he would never force himself on a woman unless they were married…the day she had begged him to make love to her…”Oh my God.” Catherine covered her face with her hands and still Vincent did not move and Catherine felt his shame stabbing through her heart like a white-hot knife and she crossed the floor to where he was, and without forethought wrapped her arms around his shoulders leaning her cheek against his, “Oh baby I’m so sorry.” She whispered wanting nothing more than to ease his pain, “oh God Vincent it hurts, it hurts so much.”
“Yes.” He told her quietly, “It does.” Her endearment said to pacify him had only added to his pain and having her so close and feeling sorry for him only heightened his need to run from her but he needed this, he needed to be in her arms so much that Vincent lingered, rooted to the spot, his face turned away from her so that she wouldn’t see his pain as well as feel it.
Sliding her arms about him Catherine walked around until she could kneel between his legs, her hands sliding from his shoulders to his chest, where she felt the hammering of his heart both within and without. Her eyes when they looked at him were infinitely sad, sorrow flooded her soul and she wanted so much to help him, but was at a loss to know how. He loved her so deeply, and she was engaged to another man…was that the jealous rage she had felt too? Had it been directed at Elliot?
“Yes.” Surprised Catherine stared at him. “You know what I’m thinking?”
“Only at times of immense pressure.” He told her, “Like now. Don’t feel sorry for me Catherine, it is hard enough.”
“Why do we have it Vincent, why are we connected?”
“I don’t know Catherine.” Vincent replied simply.
“How long have you been in love with me?” She asked him gently, and he knew that she genuinely wanted to know.
“You’ve carried it for years? Like this? Oh Vincent…I’m so sorry.” She laughed then told him, “I felt that. You wanted to clown me didn’t you if I apologised one more time?” Vincent gasped but he did not deny it.
“Why now Vincent? Why has it happened to me now? Just when…” Her words trailed away but he heard them nevertheless, “when you are going to marry Elliot? I don’t know Catherine…”
“I think I do.” Vincent felt her emotions tearing through her, one of disbelief another of relief, another of acceptance and then an underlying sliver of love like a new moon in a night sky.
“It might not be what I want Vincent, not exactly, not right now, but with a love such as you have for me…” Catherine shook her head in wonderment, “Its so deep Vincent…I feel overwhelmed by its intensity…and I think…I think…” Vincent was ahead of her, “No, Catherine…you’re with Elliot now, you have a life above…”
“But don’t you see, what if I’m not meant to have that life…I asked why now…after all this time…just when I’m engaged to marry another man I begin to feel you through this connection just as you can feel me…Vincent it has to have meaning, it has to…and you can’t deny it…because to deny it would be to deny destiny and no one can out run that…”
Hope flared in Vincent’s heart as he recognised the signs within hers, but gallantly he tried to refuse what she was about to offer, but she placed two fingers over his lips to silence him and told him, “Its not Elliot I must marry Vincent…its you.” They stared at one another and their two hearts seemed to fold each around the other entwined, both could picture it happening in their mind’s eye and both knew the truth of her words, “But you do not love me…as I love you.” Vincent reminded her.
“It will come. Now that I know how it is…it will come…we have only to spend some time together…get to know one another…truly know one another…” Catherine told him with tears in her eyes. He saw her hopes for life above die in those eyes, and it was killing him, but something stronger was at work between them something neither could deny. ”Do you think at some time in the history of mankind we were soul mates, Vincent?” Catherine asked him thoughtfully, “Do you think we were lovers in another time?”
“I don’t know Catherine. But it would answer every question.”
“Yes,” Catherine smiled up at him, “It would.” She gazed into his eyes, such love she saw reflected in their depths, love for her how had she ever missed it before? He must have hidden it well.
Vincent chuckled, “It was not easy.” And Catherine frowned, “That’s a very disconcerting little habit you have there Vincent, my thoughts are not my own anymore.”
“Sorry, but it is something new, and its happening more and more. I’ll try to keep quiet.”
Again Catherine smiled at him, and then both of them felt it when he smiled back at her and her heart missed a beat and a great wealth of love for him flowed through her veins. Vincent was startled, but it warmed him through and through, and Catherine equally as startled couldn’t believe that one moment she had felt next to nothing for him and suddenly…well suddenly it was as if it had been there all along but she had not known of its existence. “We have to have been soul mates, Vincent.” She told him honestly, “And their spirits are guiding us, bringing us together so our past selves can be back together again..” Purposefully Catherine leaned upward her intention plain and Vincent met her half way his lips brushing against hers in so simple a touch yet it left them both reeling by the intensity that they felt within their hearts at its contact.
“Marry me.” Vincent asked her huskily.
Without hesitation Catherine agreed, “Yes.”
Pulling her up to her feet, Vincent also stood and drew her into his arms, “I love you, but then you know that.” He told her, “and life down here won’t be easy, but I will never stop loving you and you will be happy, I promise.”
“I know that, Vincent.” Catherine had absolute faith that it would be exactly as he’d told her and she would be happy, she knew that too. “Kiss me.”
He leaned down just slightly as Catherine wound her arms around his neck and on tip toes pressed her lips to his…it was a kiss to surpass all other kisses, and Catherine’s head reeled with its intensity. On and on he kissed her racking fire through her soul until Catherine thought she needed air or she’d die and he knew and pulled away just long enough for her to take a breath before taking her lips once more. With her hands fastened in his mane Catherine lost all sense of everything but the two of them there together, kissing and deep inside, deep, deep inside both of them felt it, the turning of the hands of time, anticlockwise, far, far away to another time, another place another couple, similar in stature and appearance and so very much in love and they knew in that instance that they had come home…they were soul mates…and so they would be from now on…always and forever…
*** *** ***
Meanwhile up top Melanie was waiting outside the Burch building, where Elliot’s saloon waited at the curb, she’d taken a long shot coming all the way down here by changing trains twice on the subway, but calls to his office had been fruitless and at his home his housekeeper had informed her that he was working late. Of course Mrs Downy would never have given away that information had Melanie not told her she was Catherine Chandler.
So here she was waiting, idly flicking the ash from her cigarette just yards from where the chauffer sat in the sleek dark blue car waited for Mr Burch to finish work.
Finally, Mel saw movement of some kind and everything seeming to happen at once, the doors of the building opened and out came two men, one carrying a briefcase, the other an umbrella as it had just started to rain, and between them the object of her patience, Mr Burch himself.
“Mr Burch, Elliot?” Mel stepped forward as one of the two men with him opened the back door of the saloon and Elliot hesitated, “Who wants to know?” one of his two bodyguards barked with one hand not discreetly enough on the gun strapped across his chest and to one side of him. “My name is Melanie, I’m a friend of Cathy Chandler’s.” The rain began to fall steadily, and Mel watched Elliot’s discomfort, finally deciding, “Come inside the building, what is it you want?” Elliot asked brusquely.
“Can we speak privately?” Mel asked as she walked toward the now open door of the office block where Elliot had walked in ahead of her.
“No, anything you want to tell me, my men can hear, they are very discreet.”
“Very well, Mr Burch, but I wouldn’t think that they would want to know that their boss’s fiancé of less than twenty four hours is seeing another man behind your back.” Elliot sucked in a breath, “How do you know this? I thought you said you were Cathy’s friend?”
“Oh we were friends once, before she stole my boyfriend.”
“Tom who?” Melanie asked and Elliot went on, “Tom was her boyfriend before me.”
“Then Devin must have been her boyfriend before Tom.” Elliot decided he didn’t like the young woman but he was intrigued and listened anyway especially since he was interested in the topic at hand. “Did she sleep with him?”
“I don’t know, they were going to do, I don’t think she ever did though, although she told me yesterday that he had been in Europe for two years but that he is back now and she last saw him four months ago, but that isn’t the issue here Mr Burch, its not Devin that Catherine is seeing its his brother.”
“How do you know this?” Elliot demanded hotly.
“I was at her apartment yesterday when the phone rang, Devin left her a message. Cathy was in the shower, Devin told her to leave his brother alone, said his brother was running to her in the middle of the night and she was driving him nuts.”
“Do you have the tape?” Elliot demanded.
“No I wiped it, didn’t want Cathy to know I’d heard and I thought I could use it against her.”
“With friends like you she wouldn’t need enemies.” Elliot laughed derisively, “What do you want money?” He fished into his breast pocket where he kept his wallet, “Here, will this do?”
Mel counted the money, and whistled, “A thousand dollars! Thank you Mr Burch, I wish I could tell you I didn’t need it, but money like this…only comes along once in a blue moon…I actually told you these things for revenge, as I say Catherine stole my boyfriend, and I’ve waited a long time for this.”
“And you don’t care how it makes me feel? I loved Cathy.”
“In the past tense so soon Mr Burch? Something must have given you doubts already, how do you know I’m not making it all up?” Melanie asked sweetly.
“And are you?”
“But then you would say that.”
“Perhaps. But its taken me two trains and a bus to get here not to mention a two hour wait outside your building so why would I do that if I didn’t consider it worth my while?”
“True. So can I give you a lift home? Its started to rain and it’s a long walk to the nearest subway.”
Mel smiled, “Thank you Mr Burch I’d like that, I’ve never ridden in a saloon before.”
“Well now’s your chance. Do you have an address for this Devin or his brother?”
“No, but Devin always used to cross the park to reach home, so its somewhere in that general direction. He was always so secretive, although he did live with Peter Alcott for a while.”
“Yes, and Cathy’s doctor too.”
Elliot walked back outside, holding the door open for Melanie, and ushered her into the back of his car. One of his men got into the front seat alongside the chauffer and the other made to slide in next to Elliot, when Elliot stopped him. “There’s something I want you to do for me.” Elliot told him and from the inside of his jacket handed him a slim white envelope, “Read it when we’re gone, you’ll know how to handle it.”
“Very good Mr Burch.”
Elliot closed the door satisfied that he had taken care of Mick Clarke and then turned to Melanie, “So what’s a good looking girl like you doing out alone?” Elliot asked placing one hand on her knee, “If I’d worked all night and believe me sometimes I do, you’d have picked up by someone walking these streets at this time of night, doesn’t that frighten you?”
“I’m streetwise.” Mel told him, “I might frighten anyone that attempts anything.” And with that she blatantly picked up his hand and removed it from her knee, “And I’m not desperate.”
Elliot chuckled, “Can’t blame a fellow for trying. Could have made yourself a few more dollars.”
Mel laughed, “No thank you Mr Burch, I’ve earned enough already.”
“There would be some that would say I paid you too highly for so little information, honey.” Elliot told her as the car pulled away from the curb.
“Would they? Well since I never expected payment of any kind, I see what you gave me as a gift and unless you’re an Indian giver Mr Burch you’re not having it back.”
“You’re welcome to keep it.” Elliot replaced his hand to her knee, “But what assurance do I have that you won’t tell Cathy that I haven’t done anything to you? I may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.” Elliot told her smoothly.
Mel laughed, “Well since you put it like that Mr Burch.”
“Its Elliot, call me Elliot.”
Closing off the glass and dark panel as he had the night before, Elliot could hardly believe this was happening, but then he hadn’t only taken Mel’s word for it. Around nine o’clock he had checked with George Webster and discovered that Catherine had left her apartment around eight and armed with a flashlight had entered the park and he had followed only losing her when she had entered a storm drain and just before nine still hadn’t come out. Elliot had laughed at George’s suggestion that Cathy and some guy were rolling around in the muck down there, but with Mel’s news of the guy Devin using the park as a route to his home and with the phone call she had intercepted only that morning Elliot had very quickly put two and two together and decided so what was sauce for the goose…
It was more than that though, Elliot was bitter…Catherine had held him at bay and all the while she had been seeing another man behind his back, a man that ran to her in the middle of the night to her apartment, a place where Catherine had always made Elliot leave at a decent hour and certainly a place where he had never done more than kiss her.
Cathy had played him for a fool, and he had fallen for it, hook line and sinker…
One tap on the glass panel told his bodyguard and chauffer exactly what he intended and they stopped in the same place as the night before leaving Mr Burch and his lady friend while they went for a coffee and a game of cards and the moment Elliot deemed it was safe to do so, he pulled Mel into his arms and began kissing her.
Despite all her brags, Mel was out of her depth but overwhelmed by Elliot’s attention and all too soon he had removed her panties and was kneeling between her thighs doing things to her that she had only ever heard of. “You ready honey?” Elliot asked through the fog that surrounded her, Mel didn’t understand, “Ready?” she panted, intending to add, ‘for what?’ when he lowered himself between her legs and with one mighty thrust impaled her. Mel screamed, the sound ringing in her ears and in his as he quickly withdrew from the tight heat of her body. “You’re a virgin?” He asked stunned.
Mel sobbed, “I was…I didn’t know you were going to do that!” She cried, “You should have asked me!”
“I thought I had, I thought you realised…I thought you wanted this…” Elliot struggled with his pants pulling them up and over his hips as he handed her underclothes to her, “Put these on, I’ll take you home.”
“I’ll take you myself.”
“No”. Mel pulled on her panties and straightened her clothing, “I’ll walk or catch a cab.”
Elliot fished into his wallet, “Here let me pay for one for you.” He thrust the entire contents of his wallet into her hand. Mel couldn’t count it but by the feel of the wad it was more than he’d given her before. “This stays between us.” He told her. Mel said nothing, just alighted from his car before he could detain her further and as luck would have it a cab was waiting at the curb behind the saloon. Mel hailed it and got inside before Elliot had time to pull on his shoes and come after her and the last he saw of her mascara stained face was as she glared at him through the passenger window and he never saw her again.
*** *** ***
Hand in hand and with their bodies touching Vincent and Catherine made their way to the falls, they said little, didn’t need to, their hearts were one, and each knew what the other was thinking and feeling.
Arriving at Vincent’s perch, the place he came for solitude, Vincent spread out the rug he had brought with him and sitting he tucked Catherine between his opened legs and draped his cloak around her. She sighed, “This is bliss, Vincent, your world never ceases to amaze me.” Vincent kissed the crown of her head before replying, “It is your world now, my love.”
“And there’s more than you’ve seen, Catherine. This is just part of its splendour. You’ve never seen the crystal cavern have you?”
“The crystal cavern? That sounds wonderful Vincent, where is it, can we go there now?” Turning Catherine leaned her chin on his bent knee her eyes sparkling. “Its too far and we’re not prepared, but I will take you. It is a beautiful place though the way there is not easy. We’d need to allow three days to make it there and back at a steady pace.”
“Really? Three days?”
“You sound surprised.”
“I never realised your world was that extensive. Would we travel horizontally or down?”
“Down, to subterranean level. There is a river down there, Devin and I used to sail a raft.” Catherine’s eyes opened wider and wider with disbelief, “It sounds heaven.”
“It is but it has its pitfalls. Danger lurks at every corner and so far from the hub any accident can prove fatal. Although things have improved in recent years with the creation of way stations every three miles or so, but Father feels that just as soon as it can be arranged more should be installed. To an injured person a mile can feel like a hundred and Father has suggested one way station every half mile.”
“How many miles is it to the crystal cavern?”
“We’ve never measured it, but I would say around four miles. Not far on the level but the terrain makes it a difficult journey. There are crawl ways and shafts to negotiate, its not easy. If we go I will cut a stone for your ring from there, and Mouse will shape it, do you have a gold band that we could use to form it into an engagement ring?”
Catherine smiled and touched his cheek with the tips of her fingers, “My father gave me my mother’s ring we could use that. The stone is missing, we could replace it with crystal.”
“Or there’s amethyst, you may choose whichever you like, they are easy to cut and you may take some for other jewellery too. “
Catherine smiled deeply thinking of something but unsure whether to speak of it and Vincent inclined his head, “What? What’s on your mind?” Her eyes had been bright with happiness and he detected a cloud but Catherine made a decision and nodded, “I suppose there will come times when I will speak about people I’ve known, I won’t ever do it to cause you pain Vincent, know that.”
He nodded, “Who do you wish to mention? Elliot?”
Gazing at him, and probing his feelings Catherine assessed the situation unsure by what appeared to be so, “You really don’t mind?”
“Why should I mind…now?”
Catherine’s face lit up when she smiled back at him, “Then I was thinking, for all the wealth that Elliot has acclaimed he does not own his own diamond mine…but you…” She laughed and he told her, “They aren’t diamonds Catherine.” And she replied, “Diamonds aren’t always a girl’s best friend Vincent, neither are they always forever, my mother’s solitaire fell out of her ring…but love…now that’s forever…and we have that…and we have our own fresh supply of gems at our disposal just for the taking…it sounds good to me Vincent.”
Gazing at one another Catherine leaned up and brushed her lips against his and to the surprise of them both she told him, “I love you, Vincent.” Catherine gasped her eyes wide and with an enigmatic look followed through with, “Now I don’t know where that came from, my love…but its true…I do love you.” She could feel it deep down inside and it warmed her through and through. Vincent gazed into her eyes, his happiness warred with disbelief, everything was happening so soon and it was magical and amazing rolled into one. “Where do you think they came from,” Catherine mused, “What era did they live in?”
“Ours soul mates?”
“When I think of them I think of the tapestry, you know the one in the Great Hall? I imagine them coming from that era, I can see myself dressed like those people are dressed and I can see you dressed similarly.”
“There’s something else though, isn’t there?” Catherine had ticked it over in her mind ever since discovering that they were soul mates. Vincent might not have noticed or he had chosen to overlook the fact, or perhaps he had just seen what he wanted to see and not what was actually so. “Can you see her, Vincent, can you see me?”
“A bit. She is beautiful as you are but her hair is a different colour more golden and flowing, it shields her face…” Slightly, Catherine smiled waiting for him to see what she had seen clearly for the last hour or so. In his mind’s eye Vincent willed his soul mate of old to turn around so that he might see her clearly, and when she turned ever so slight he gasped, needing to see no more. Catherine chuckled, “I take it she is revealed to you now?”
“She’s like me!” He cried, touching his face, “She is leonine like me!”
Tears in her eyes, Catherine nodded, “And you are like me, as I am now, a normal human face. Vincent we’re as old as time, but time has been kind, it has reversed our roles so that we can understand and know how it feels to be the other and because our love has stood that test of time, do you know what lies in store for our future selves?”
Again Vincent was thoughtful his full concentration inward, “They will become either one of the two…” he spoke slowly, “they will become the same, but the picture is unclear it does not tell me whom they will favour.”
“That’s because only time will tell them the best way to be. Whether they will both be leonine, or both be human and whatever we do Vincent, and however we handle life, will be the basis for them to decide. Personally, if it were down to me I’d choose leonine.”
Surprised Vincent gasped, “But then you’d be forced to live away from society, and be shut off from all that you have known.”
“And I’d be with you, safe and secure in a world of our making…Vincent there is something else…they were happy true, and so much in love but throughout all the generations they were unsuccessful in one aspect of their lives…can you see it Vincent…can you see the longing in their eyes when they gaze at someone else’s…”
“Child?” Vincent could see it and he could feel it. The longing so deep and so unfulfilled…”They never had a child! But then how…did I come to be…if I never came from them?”
“Because you were a chosen one Vincent…somehow, someway destiny chose to bestow you with that face, with that beautiful spirit and that connection and it chose me to share it with you. You re-shaped me Vincent, turned my life around, made me the person that I am, and they knew that you could do that…they knew that you were the one for me, just as I recognise that fact wholly now. I love you, I do love you.” Catherine nodded in earnest and through her Vincent could feel her love reaching out and enveloping him like a warm caress.
“Catherine…” He leaned forward until the tips of their noses were touching, “I love you so much.”
Gazing into one another’s eyes, an elusive thought swept through Catherine’s mind and she tried to keep up with it, snatching at it as it sped by. Again and again it swept through her mind and she visualised herself chasing it, until at last it slowed and allowed itself to be captured. Vincent watched her face carefully, he could tell that she was concentrating on something and through the connection he followed her, “What is it?” He whispered when she paused and her face relaxed, “What have you seen?”
“Tragedy.” Catherine leaned forward and hugged him tight, “Time after time after time…Vincent tragedy befell them.” Tears glistened in Catherine’s eyes, “They had no safe place such as this. No underground kingdom and they were sought by the rulers of the land…” Suddenly Catherine lurched forward and cried, “ Oh Vincent!” and she grabbed his shoulders as the past swept through her revealing everything. “Can you not see it?” Her heart thudded painfully and taken back she screamed as the effects of all her past selves had undergone were brought forcibly to mind.
“They were killed.” She gasped and clung to Vincent, shaking she sobbed against his chest and he held her closer than a heartbeat his own body trembling by the intensity of her feelings.
Entwined, their memories swirled around them and Vincent joined Catherine in the past as time after time, the people that they’d been met with some ghastly end, portrayed as witches, or werewolves, or demonic forces that were a threat to mankind.
“Ignorance.” Vincent whispered painfully.
“Yes.” Catherine agreed, “Ignorance.”
The images stayed within her, but the fear and the grief subsided and Catherine was able to tell him, “They never had a chance of a happy life Vincent. Though they loved deeply, the chance for a life together was always denied them, by someone, some well meaning group of persons that through ignorance did not understand that they were no threat to society, that they simply wanted to be allowed to live their lives together as any other normal couple. In the past she’s looked like you and she’s looked like me, but the import is that at all times one of them has been leonine…I think I was right earlier Vincent when I said personally I’d like to be leonine…that’s the way of it, oh Vincent…they’re a new strain…they’re sent time after time to face the world and find the generation that will accept them!”
The moment Catherine told him this, Vincent knew it was true, his mouth dropped open in stunned surprise and he suddenly realised that Catherine knew all of these things because she found him beautiful and he did not look upon himself that way. He had always despised the way he looked and often wished he was dead. By that thought alone he had blocked the connection from those of the past and it had taken Catherine to unlock that insight.
“So its up to us my love.” Catherine told him, “its up to us and what we can achieve that will decide the future of the leonine ones. Vincent we know what we have to do don’t we?”
Vincent nodded, tears in his eyes, he had to agree to something he had always vowed would never be, even if there ever became a slight possibility of finding someone that loved him for who he was. “I must give you a child.”
“Yes. And the sooner the better.”
“Then we must make arrangements for our marriage Catherine, but…” He hesitated and she understood his doubts, “Yes I know, there is some unfinished business above, and there is another thing I have to face…” She exhaled a deep sigh, “whatever am I going to tell my father?”
Vincent hugged her close and smiled reassuringly, “My love, we’ve fought dragons and demons and witch hunters and risen again what can your father do to prevent the path of destiny?”
“You’re right, and daddy will understand.” Catherine was touched by his understanding and felt positive about that, “Perhaps he will understand more than I know…maybe whomsoever souls we carry has touched his already…one can but hope…” And she laughed troubled no more.
“We should go, get some sleep, tomorrow will soon be upon us and there is much to prepare, will you stay here tonight Catherine you can have the guest chamber.”
“I’d sooner be close to you.” Catherine told him as images of their past selves and all they had endured in the name of love flitted through her mind, “We don’t have to do anything, but just to be close, in your arms, that’s all I ask.”
For a long moment Vincent thought about that until he decided that Catherine was right, they were both tired and they did both know how important it was to remain virgins until they were wed, and so Vincent nodded, “Come then my love, our future awaits.” Her eyes bright with love for him, Catherine nodded, and slipping her hand into his they rose together and slowly walked side by side as close as they could be until they made the journey back to the hub where Vincent’s family were sleeping oblivious of the joy to come.
*** *** ***
You’ve got to know when love is over
You’ve got to learn to carry on
And with the world upon your shoulders
You walk away when hope is gone
Sitting in the departure lounge at Gatwick Airport, Crawley in Surrey, England, (see I’ve been there) Devin flicked through a discarded newspaper that he had found on the seat beside him and looked without seeing at the blurred print before his eyes. Through his tears he noticed not the stories that were currently top issue in the United Kingdom, neither did he bother to look at what the citizens might be watching on television that night as most visitors to the country often did.
For behind the façade of actually being interested in his newspaper Devin’s mind was on something else, and his whole reason for being at the airport was not the same as those that passed him by, either jetting off around the world or returning or arriving in England. In actuality, Devin’s reason for hiding behind his newspaper was in the hope of getting a final glimpse of the woman that did not want him in her life.
He checked his watch, and noted that she should be coming on duty within the next ten minutes and Devin dried his tears with the backs of his hands, replaced the newspaper to the seat beside him and got up to make his way to the men’s room. There he filled a bowl with cold water and splashed his reddened eyes, and then as that didn’t seem to help his appearance any, Devin donned tinted glasses that he knew would hide his sorrow from Kei-Anne.
That done he checked his watch, dismayed to find that twelve minutes had lapsed and checking his reflection in the mirror a final time, he set foot outside into the busy airport and searched avidly among the crowds.
The flight arrivals told him that a plane had just landed from Thailand and Devin knew that was one of Kei-Anne’s charges. He checked the terminal and made his way there, anxious for a glimpse of her, his last forever.
Finally there amid the passengers he heard her voice and following its sound sought the face he loved, finally clapping eyes on her as she helped an elderly couple with their baggage. Devin stood back, close but not close enough watching her work loving the kindly way she spoke to the people, picturing her at home in the tunnels, wondering what Father would think to her, wondering what Vincent would think to her believing that neither could deny how beautiful she was through and through.
With a lull in passengers, Kei-Anne suddenly looked up and found him watching her. She knew him through and through even with the tinted glasses but the man at her side that Devin only just noticed as she turned and spoke with him, did not. For a moment Devin felt hope rise in his heart as Kei-Anne pointed toward him, hope that quickly died as the fellow at her side began walking briskly toward him.
Devin froze by the look upon the fellow’s face he looked furious, and Devin looked about wondering what to do and who he was. He soon found out, “Mate, mate, do us a favour, stop pestering me missus, she don’t want anything to do with ya. Now do us a favour and f**k off!”
Devin cowered, not because he was afraid but because of sorrow and shame and the knowledge that he had made such a nuisance of himself with a woman that clearly had never been interested that she had had to resort in bringing her husband in to work to help her out. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” Devin raised his hands indicating that he wanted no trouble and then just to show he was sincere he told Kei-Anne’s husband, “She’s beautiful and I love her.”
“Well get this, so do I! Now bugger off, go back to wherever you came from, you here me, or I’ll call security.”
Devin wasn’t much bothered about that, but Kei- Anne’s pinched and troubled face as she stood a few yards behind her husband was the last straw. “I‘m sorry, tell her I’m sorry. I won’t bother her again.”
Fresh tears blurred Devin’s eyes, he so desperately wanted to speak to Kei-Anne again, but could tell he would not get that chance. He had pestered her to the point of frightening her, and he wasn’t like that, and he wanted so much to tell her that he wasn’t and that he was a kind man from a sincere family that helped people in need, but he knew that she wouldn’t listen to anything that he said. She had never listened before. Turning he reluctantly looked back over his shoulder twice before he walked onward without another backward glance and closed a chapter in his life as the threatened tears once again made their presence felt.
When your golden road has reached the end
You find the strength to start again
There’s a time for love and a time for letting go.
*** *** ***
Morning in the tunnels was much the same as mornings everywhere, people rose and wandered sleepily from chamber to chamber, some in night robes and slippers others fully dressed depending on what chores had been assigned them for the day, but all were intent on the same general direction…the kitchen and William’s wares.
With hot and creamy porridge on the menu and cup after cup of sweet tea, mouth watering muffins and lashings of butter with jam or marmalade the kitchen was always full of a morning, but that morning there was one place empty.
“Where’s Vincent?” Mary asked as she took her overloaded tray to a group of children whom she was serving breakfast to that morning.
“I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me that question this morning.” Father replied crossly. “I’m hardly getting time to eat!” Mary had an idea, and taking a pen and a notepad from her apron pocket she scribbled something and folding the paper in two propped it up in front of Father. From his vantage point he couldn’t read it, but when he turned it over he was surprised to find that she had written, “Don’t ask me – I don’t know where Vincent is.” Father chuckled and propped the note back up and had just started to tuck into his porridge again, when Geoffrey passing by the table announced, “I know where he is. He’s in bed with Catherine.” Such an innocent remark Geoffrey thought as he made his way to collect his bowl and spoon, strange how the entire dining room that moments ago had been a buzz of activity had suddenly gone deathly quiet.
“Do what!” Father exploded at length sending streams of porridge from his mouth to his whiskers and beyond. “Geoffrey what did you say?”
The ladle half way from porridge pot to bowl Geoffrey swung round taking it with him and left a slither of milky oats right across William’s clean floor, “Boy, watch what you’re doing!” William bellowed and shocked Geoffrey dropped the ladle back into the pot with such a thwack that it sprayed dollops of porridge everywhere, and especially all over William’s clean apron.
Unsure who to answer first Geoffrey quacked on the spot, caught as it were in the crossfire of two angry faces, he physically shook, and all he had gone there for was breakfast.
“Well” Father snarled, “I’m waiting!”
“What are you waiting for Father, Christmas?” Everyone twirled around in their seats at the sound of Vincent’s voice and then stared with mouths agape to see Catherine not only following him in, but also holding tightly onto his hand.
“Morning everyone.” Catherine greeted them, “I’m back.”
“We can see that!” Father began, “When did you arrive?”
“Last night, you remember?” Catherine told him.
“And where pray did you sleep?” He looked at her accusingly.
“In bed, where did you sleep?” Catherine challenged him with a hint of mischief in her eyes.
Vincent pulled her to his side and wrapping his arms around her decided he best put his father’s mind at rest before the old man had a heart attack, and any one else come to that, because Vincent detected that somehow they knew exactly where Catherine had spent the night and by the look of the state of the floor around where Geoffrey stood he had been the culprit to announce that fact.
“Father, everyone, we have some news.” Vincent stood behind Catherine with his arms around her in a protective manner and his chin leaning upon her shoulder looking like he was cuddling her in front of everyone, “Catherine and I are to be married.”
More porridge spluttered everywhere, William groaned envisaging a major clean up when they’d all gone, and then he too spluttered, “Married? Did you say married?” William bounded forward which wasn’t easy by his bulk and bear hugged the couple with both arms around the whole of them, there he did a little dance bouncing them both up and down as his belly rolled when he laughed loudly unable to contain his joy. And if you think that was bad enough, wait until the whole dining room converged on the couple, a mass of pyjama clad, and fully dressed people came to congratulate the couple with joy unbounded. Finally they cleared a path large enough for Father to see his son and Catherine again, and they found him crying, the wondrous sight of Catherine in the arms of his son so unbelievable that he hadn’t been able to contain his tears.
“Father?” Vincent asked with concern, “Aren’t you happy for me?”
“Happy?” Father managed at last, “Happy? Oh Vincent I’m Ecstatic! This is marvellous, oh congratulations, Catherine my dear thank you, thank you so much.”
“Does that mean you won’t be marrying Elephant Trunk?” Vincent and Catherine swung around to find one of the youngest members of the tunnels asking that question, “Who?” Catherine laughed, the little girl shrugged then gave the game away by looking up at her mother who turned scarlet and apologise profusely, “Forgive me, someone mentioned it up top yesterday, guess word spreads fast up there and here I only told my husband, Lauren must have eavesdropped. But she didn't hear the name right, hold on,” the mother bent down to her daughter, “Honey I never said elephant trunk where did you get that from?”
“I made it up, well just the trunk bit, you told daddy it was elephant branch, but trunk sounds better.” Her mother laughed and with lips pursed straightened and told Catherine, “I think she means Elliot Burch.”
Catherine laughed, and bending to level with the little girl told her “Yes honey this means that I won’t be marrying elephant trunk, I’m going to marry Vincent instead, would you prefer that?”
Lauren beamed, “Ooh yes and then you’ll have lots and lots of cubs, I like cubs, can I get to keep one?” Her mother turned scarlet again and apologised profusely but Catherine and Vincent to her surprise laughed out loud, and everyone gasped when they heard Vincent tell the child, “Yes, Lauren we hope to have lots and lots of cubs and you can come and look after them anytime that you like.”
Throughout the exchange Father had stopped crying, he just stared in amazement and wonder at the transformation in his son, not just from what had happened but how he conducted the whole affair…and talking of affairs…”So where exactly did you sleep last night Catherine?” He asked finally.
“With Vincent, but before you blow a gasket, don’t worry sleep was all we wanted.” Catherine told him but to her surprise and everyone else’s Vincent wrapped his arms around her and nibbling her earlobe announced, “for now.”
The rest of the day went by in a whirl, once everyone got used to the idea that Vincent really was going to marry the beautiful woman from up top, the place became alive with happiness, and it was to this happiness that Devin walked in on, dead beat and miserable and like a bear with a sore head.
“Devin you’re back!” Vincent cried as his brother tried to slide into his chamber unseen.
“So it would seem.” Devin remarked hostilely.
Vincent froze on the spot he knew it wasn’t just jet lag that troubled his brother, and leaving Catherine’s side where she had stood in the tunnel en route to Vincent’s chamber he bid her stay, while he followed Devin into the chamber he used as his own.
“What happened?” Vincent ventured softly.
“She didn’t want me.” Devin replied flatly, “And if you don’t mind I’d rather not talk about it.”
Hesitant Vincent told Devin, “Its good to have you back, I’ve missed you.”
Devin sighed, “Yeah well I’ve missed you too fuzz. See you in the morning huh?”
Vincent nodded and intent on returning to Catherine replied, “Yes see you in the morning, be well Devin.”
That did it! That simple gesture that told Devin he really was home started the tears flowing again, no where else in society had people extended that simple greeting, ‘be well’ and Devin associated it solely with the tunnels. A sob caught in his throat and caused Vincent to halt and turn back and without another word he walked into his brother’s chamber folded Devin into his arms and let his brother cry.
*** *** ***
In the morning Catherine went back to her world and to whatever else awaited her there. Elliot was the last person on her mind, her father came first now he was the only one that mattered, and with butterflies in her stomach Catherine contemplated all manner of ways that she could tell him her news and not have him throw a fit, or argue and she had also to invite him into the tunnels to meet Vincent and his family and worried herself sick about what his lawyer’s mind would make of that. She thought of roping Peter in, and that might be a last resort but for now she wanted to be brave and try her own way to have her father happy for her, but she didn’t think it was going to be easy. He had been thrilled to know she was going to marry Elliot…Catherine giggled thinking of Lauren’s name for him and found it helped calm her nerves when she did think about that particular person. Telling Elliot that she wouldn’t be marrying him came second to telling her father and knowing he would be home that day, Catherine made her way there with her heart in her mouth.
*** *** ***
The morning saw Devin’s tears finally dry, he felt a little ashamed by his behaviour but when Vincent did not mention the night before he was infinity grateful and they sat down at breakfast together and Vincent tactfully told him his news. Surprised Devin stared, “What Chandler? She’s going to marry you? When did all this happen?” Vincent filled him in, careful not to talk about love too much in case it hurt his brother, but did mention the soul mates and Devin was stunned. “Can’t fight destiny Vin.” Devin told him, and Vincent agreed, “And we don’t intend to. You’ll be my best man of course?”
“That goes without saying, but where are you going to hold it? Down here?”
“Have you any other suggestions?”
“Yes, I have actually. Peter Alcott has got a nice garden with high walls around it, that would be perfect, and if the sun shone…well imagine it Vincent!”
Vincent did, “Yes, it would be perfect and with access to the tunnels everyone from here could come along using that entrance then outsiders will not feel inclined to be nosy and take a peek over the walls.”
“Exactly, besides a bride should have sunshine on her wedding day, and if any of her guests are privileged to see you they won’t have to know where you come from as well.”
*** *** ***
Vincent liked the idea, running it by Father might pose some problems, but he thought he would speak to Catherine about it first and confront his parent together.
Meanwhile above, Catherine was confronting her own father, “So you see daddy, we are soul mates and I’m going to marry Vincent now, and not Elliot.” She finished at last noting her father had remained strangely calm throughout the whole narrative, not attempting to thwart her speech until she was finished. When she had Catherine waited the outburst that was sure to come, she had explained everything even drawn a rough sketch of what Vincent looked like, and it had been at that point she noticed, that her father had become deathly pale, one of the reasons she had hurried on and told him about she and Vincent being soul mates, and the connection and everything they had discovered since, and when he remained quiet after she had finished speaking Catherine wondered whether he had been listening to her at all. Finally she prompted, “Daddy, aren’t you going to say something?”
“What?” He seemed miles away and Catherine frowned, surely he’d been listening, no case had been worth ignoring his daughter’s revelation for surely.
“About Vincent, aren’t you going to say anything about Vincent?”
Charles rose to his feet and with the drawing clutched in one hand he reached for one of hers with the other, “Come, there’s something I have to show you, honey.”
They mounted the stairs, reached the first landing and continued up a winding staircase to an attic room that was used for storage. Ominously Catherine followed not understanding what they were doing up there and with a flash of hysterical laughter Catherine wondered if his intention was to lock her in the attic and throw away the key, instead he ignored her moment of panic and letting go of her hand began to rummage amongst the boxes for a tin that he knew to be there somewhere. Finally he pulled it from deep beneath the pile, a small oval tin with fancy letters and flowers upon a gold background. “This was your Great Grandmother’s” Charles told her as he straightened “Now honey, I want you to understand that I could not tell you about this till now. My grandmother begged me not to tell anyone and not to pass this on…” Charles paused, “tell you what, I’ll tell it how she told me, it makes sense that way. We were in the garden of her town house when she brought it out to me, she opened it and showed me what was inside then she shut it again and told me I should open it once more when I got home, examine the contents and then close it away until my first grandchild was old enough to understand the same importance, unless…she told me, it happened before then. Of course I didn’t know what she meant, but she added that I would know. If it happens she said you will know. And now I do. Catherine, this box must be given to you and you must give it to Vincent. It is he that will need it until your first leonine grandchild is born and then it must pass down to that child when he or she is old enough to understand and then on to their first leonine grandchild and so on.” Catherine gasped, “You know about the leonine?” Her father nodded, “Though I have never seen one but I believe that sight will be beheld by the man you are to marry?”
“Oh yes daddy, and Vincent is so beautiful.” His daughter told him dreamily.
Charles smiled and his eyes glistened with tears, “Catherine, you’re Great Grandmother told me something else, come sit with me, over here by the window, its pretty at this time of day with the sunlight streaming in, isn’t it?”
Catherine agreed and upon two old rocking chairs that were positioned there they sat facing one another on either side of the sunny window. Particles of dust danced around the room reminding Catherine of fairies as she had imagined them as a child and with many of her toys from childhood scattered round about she could well imagine that the years had rolled back to that time. Charles too, with the small tin box in his hands saw the years roll away to that time when she sat in the garden with his old grandmother, he could even still faintly smell the rose water that she favoured.
“Catherine, the story as I know it is this…a long time ago, once in a lifetime something happened to a family that set them apart from society in general and they were known as the chosen ones. For among their seven children one was born that appeared different. Her eyes were an intense shade of blue, and her hair was flame red like the sun as it sets. And her name was Joan. Her brothers and sisters had dark hair and dark eyes and her father gave her mother a hard time believing she had been unfaithful. And as Joan developed other things became noticeable, the arch of her eyebrows, firm high cheekbones and a flat nose and she had an unusual sing-song voice that others found enchanting. As she grew her family were besieged by folk telling them that their daughter was the sun goddess, but this was not so, however for a time her family were blamed for droughts that ruined their crops and were ousted from the community where each time they settled the news of their past caught up with them and they were forced to move on again. Finally, the children were felt old enough to leave their parents, and the child with the flame red hair moved out of the district and wasn’t seen again for almost fifty years. Many believed she had died, others believed that she chose to remain distant from her siblings but it wasn’t so. She had travelled the land searching for something or someone that she did not know, a constant pull that kept her ever onward until one day she came upon a person, a man of similar stature and appearance and they knew their search was over. Somehow and someway they were meant to be together and they married and produced one child. That child was nothing like his parents he had dark hair and dark eyes but he went through his life ridiculed by others for his parents looks and finally he moved away where no body knew him. His parents eventually lived out their life and died happy but their son was forever restless. In time his travel brought him to California and there he met and married what he described as the woman of his dreams. They were alike in many ways, and each had suffered due to the appearance of their parents. He found it strange that his bride’s mother and father sounded a lot like his own and he researched the fact until he was satisfied he could go no further, writing down all that he knew. Imagine then his surprise when his son was born as that child was like no other. Baring a similar likeness to his grandparents but more besides, this child had kittenish features and grew to have fur like hair all over his body. His parents were frightened and believed the child to be the work of the devil and they abandoned their child, leaving him beneath a bush on a winters evening, hoping he would die of the cold. Hours later they had a change of heart and went out together trudging through the snow to where they had left the child only to find him gone, and they never saw him again.” Here Catherine gasped and asked her father, “When was that do you know?”
“Yes centuries ago, he’d be long dead now.” Catherine’s heart plummeted, ‘then it hadn’t been Vincent…but how amazing the story’s likeness.’
Speaking of the couple that had abandoned their son Charles went on, “With deep regret they had other children but none turned out like the one they’d lost and in time they came to realise that their firstborn had been a chosen one, born once in a lifetime, Catherine much of the future story was lost, due to the disappearance of that child and that’s where your grandmother's story comes in. Apparently one of her friends came from that leonine linage and she gave my grandmother this box and told her that she had seen a vision that a descendant of my grandmother’s would one day meet up with and marry a leonine, and when it happened he or she should pass on the box to that leonine which would then be passed on to his or her leonine grandchild and so on, until the world was ready to accept the leonine clan in their midst.”
Catherine gasped, “And you think that’s me and Vincent?” Charles nodded, “Has to be honey. Grandmother said it will be a once in a lifetime occurrence, but I always assumed it to be sometime future, possibly in the lifetime of your child, hence the reason I hoped to still be around when your firstborn came along. However, if I wasn’t I had made provisions in my will leaving behind instructions where to find the box which contains the history of the leonine. It also explains that the leonine will jump a generation until the world is ready to receive them. So I expect that your children will not be leonine but one of your grandchildren will.”
“How do you reach that conclusion?” Catherine asked, she was having difficulty taking it all in.
“Because Vincent will be the first to enter our family, and the lineage will continue as it was, skipping a generation passing from grandparent to grandchild until such a time that the world is ready to accept the leonine among them.”
“Oh I see. Catherine’s heart plummeted, “So I won’t be having children that resemble their father then?” Charles shook his head, “That makes you sad?” He was surprised.
Catherine nodded vigorously, “Vincent is so beautiful daddy, I would love to have children in his image.”
“And I would love to see them, but the fact is I won’t live that long. However, it will be amazing to see Vincent. I’ve thought about it over the years hoping I might get that privilege, and I can’t tell you what a wonder it is to me to know that I’m going to have that chance. So tell me, when will you be introducing me to your fiancé?”
Catherine laughed, “We can go now if you want.” Charles rose and placed the box in her hands, “I’d like that, honey I feel so good about this. I know that whatever Vincent’s appearance, this relationship is meant to be. Its your destiny Catherine, and believe me the two of you will be happy, just as your mother and I were happy. What more could a father wish for?”
“That his daughter would have a big public wedding, a large house, huge garden and a couple of cars perhaps? Daddy, have you realised that all of that will be denied me? I will have to live beneath the streets of New York with Vincent and there are no telephones even.”
“Does it bother you?” Charles turned and looked at her fully, trying to see from her expression if whatever she told him were so. Catherine’s face lit up, “I love the tunnels, really I do and now I know that this was meant to be, well what other home is there for me?”
“Then if you are happy honey so am I. Possessions aren’t everything, love is. Now come on, I am eager to meet my future son in law, and believe me you don’t know how so!” Catherine laughed and they followed one another down the stairs, picked up their jackets, put on their shoes and grabbing car keys and door keys left the house and headed for the tunnels and where Catherine’s future awaited her.
*** *** ***
They were just leaving in her father's car when outside on the road a long dark blue saloon pulled up. Catherine recognised it at once and tapping her father’s elbow as he prepared to drive away, Catherine stalled him, “Wait dad, its Elliot.”
From the saloon, first the chauffer stepped and going around to the back passenger door he opened it and first out came a man Charles did not recognise but could tell was a bodyguard by the way he covered for his charge who alighted from the vehicle afterward. Charles turned off the engine and turning to his daughter asked, “Would you like to talk to him in private?” Before she had time to reply however, Elliot had reached her side of the car and leaning through the open window asked, “Cathy, and where the hell have you been?”
Stunned, everything that Catherine had been prepared to say evaporated and she sat mouth agape not sure how to reply, but indignant enough to search for a decent reply, when Elliot spoke again, “Had a visit from a friend of yours name of Melanie…” He drawled and Catherine brightened, “Yes, Mel, I was meaning to ask you about that, I promised we, that is the three of us could dine together, did she mention it?”
“Actually yes, but that wasn’t all she told me.”
“Oh?” Alarm bells rang in Catherine’s head and the years rolled away to the night when she had discovered Devin in bed with Mel both naked to the waist.
“Should I go, leave you two to talk in private?” Charles intervened with his hand on the door intent to do just that, Catherine stopped him, “No daddy stay.” Elliot laughed derisively, “You might wish him to go Catherine, unless you'd like to be humiliated in his company.”
Charles seethed, “Now look here…”
“Enough!” Elliot exploded silencing Charles in mid sentence. Catherine fumed, “How dare you speak to my father like that!”
“As I said, maybe it would have been better had he left us to speak privately, as it is…” Elliot shrugged then quite simply stated, “Catherine our engagement is off, unless you can come up with a reasonable explanation as to your whereabouts these last two days…and nights.” He seethed.
A whole list of angry retorts flew to mind, but Catherine drew in a deep breath and remained calm, “I should imagine knowing Melanie she had some delicious piece of gossip to indulge you with…what surprises me is that you would obviously prefer to listen to someone you have never met before rather than anything I might have to say…”
“She tells me you stole her boyfriend, a boyfriend I hasten to add whose name until two days ago, I have never heard you mention before!” Elliot flared angrily.
“That’s because Devin was never my boyfriend in the truest sense of the word, because before he could become so, Melanie stole him from me!”
Taken aback, Elliot blinked rapidly, “Is this true?”
“Why would I lie to you?”
“That’s easy, because to do so, and be believed would ensure out future together.” Elliot laughed cynically.
“Then you are more gullible than I’d imagined, if you think I would stoop so low as to lie to what…become you’re wife?” Catherine laughed cynically, “Elliot, where I’ve been these past few days is my business, and it doesn’t have to become yours because quite simply in the last few minutes I have come to know more about you than I would have cared to know, and as far as I am concerned our relationship is over. You can go now dad.”
Pleased as punch Charles restarted the engine, Elliot made a grab at the car as it began to move past but missed and cursed when the car sailed out of the drive and down the road, Catherine and Charles checked Elliot’s face in the reflection of the front mirror and noted he was livid, Charles chuckled, “well that went well.”
Catherine chuckled too, “It did didn’t it? Far easier than I’d anticipated.” And then the two burst into laughter and continued to giggle about the look on Elliot’s face all the way to Peter’s house from where they would enter the tunnels.
*** *** ***
To be continued in Chapter Nine - click on 'Next' below:
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