Catherine pushed through the doorway of her apartment juggling packages, bags, and her keys. Last minute shopping on Christmas Eve was a study in shopper masochism. Not something she was really into, but tonight’s upcoming visit from Below was a special one.
She had left work at noon in order to meet Jenny for lunch and pick up the last of her Christmas gifts for Vincent.
Smiling delightedly, she unloaded the treasures she’d managed to snag in the mishmash of last minute shoppers. She planned on ordering pizza for Vincent, a treat for which he had definitely developed a fondness. On her small kitchen counter, she carefully pulled out her favorite cheeses, wine, and raspberry-chocolate dessert to share with Vincent. Quickly, she moved the things to the refrigerator then retired to her new, larger sofa and pulled the last of the packages onto her lap.
The new Brigit O’Donnal book! It wasn’t due for release for another month but Jenny had worked her magic along with Brigit’s help to get an early copy for Vincent. It was a book of children’s stories told only as Brigit could. She wanted to share the first reading with him knowing he would be pleased.
The clock showed she only had a couple of hours before dusk and Vincent’s arrival. With a surge of excited energy, she headed to her bedroom and then the shower.
* * *
The evening was everything that Christmas Magic could bring.
Vincent was entranced by the vision of Catherine in a gown of flowing teal green silk. Its fitted bodice was buttoned from its low cut neckline to her waist, hugging her ribcage and pushing her cleavage high. While it was more provocative by far than what she usually chose, the soft floating skirt swirled with her every movement and looked wildly romantic on her.
He dropped onto the balcony feeling her excitement and his own. She sensed his presence and met him out in the cold, walking quickly into the warmth of his embrace. Their breaths mingled visibly as their mouths met in a kiss that was at once tender and desperate. It was as if every time they parted and returned to each other was an instant of incredible relief, joy and thankfulness.
“Catherine.” Vincent’s voice was reverent when they broke the kiss. He held her close but pulled back enough to see her face. “You look … bewitching.” The dress had sheer sleeves down to the top of her wrist and the low neckline from this angle … wow! “You must be cold, maybe we should go inside.”
Grinning in agreement, they moved arm in arm to where she already had a fire going in the fireplace. The pizza was ordered and arrived piping hot. They ate in front of the fireplace, nestled amongst pillows on the floor with the coffee table spread with the all her offerings. They ate slowly, the music of the season setting the mood … some relaxing, others joyful, and even some were romantic.
It was a soft, serene Christmas Eve. The lights from the tree they had decorated earlier flickered along with the flames from the fire in the fireplace. Vincent pulled Catherine up and into his arms as the music changed to the romantic rendering of Karen Carpenter’s “Merry Christmas Darling.” The two of them moved against each other in total sync, moving around the small area open to them.
“Hmmm.” Catherine murmured against the soft cotton of his ivory tunic. She nuzzled her nose deeper, inhaling his scent. “Vincent, this is the most perfect Christmas I’ve ever had.”
“Well, that is good to know.” He smiled above her head and dropped a kiss on her soft hair. He liked the feel of her arms holding him, of her body moving against him. Life was good. A gross understatement, he would easily concede.
Slowly, the song came to an end and Vincent led her over to the sofa and motioned for her to sit. “I have something for you.” Silently, he moved to his cloak and reached into one of its numerous inside pockets. He returned and sat beside her, in his hand he held a folded square of lace.
Catherine clasped her fingers together, feeling a tingle of excitement race through her. She raised sparkling eyes to his, seeing his own slightly anxious expression.
“Have I told you I really like the new sturdier sofa?” It was totally unlike Vincent to digress, and it revealed quite a lot to Catherine.
“Yes, I believe you did Vincent.” Her voice was at once understanding and a little teasing. “You and I fit on it together quite well.”
“Hmm. Yes, we do.” He dropped his eyes and tilted his head. He looked down at the hand holding his gift and took a deep breath.
“You have been so very patient with me, loving and understanding.” He looked up and met her eyes with love. “I haven’t done things exactly in the order they are supposed to go … but …” He opened the lace and pulled out a beautifully cut, clear quartz crystal. The ring was carefully carved and inlaid with a thin strand of gold. Catherine’s breath caught as he held it up and it caught the flickering firelight. It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen, a perfect companion for her pendant.
“I asked you to marry me when the moment felt perfect.” He took her left hand gently in his and started to slide the ring on her fourth finger. “I am very happy that this moment also feels perfect to offer you this ring in pledge of my love.” It slid effortlessly into place warming quickly to her skin.
Catherine’s fingers closed around his, holding on tightly. She watched the play of light upon the ring, her small hand nestled in his. A lovely tear sparkled on her cheek as she looked up at Vincent and smiled.
“It’s beautiful, Vincent. The most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen other than you yourself.” She lifted their hands and touched her lips to his knuckles. “I love you.”
She half rose and he pulled her onto his thighs before settling back against the back of the leather sofa. Her lips were taken in a kiss of gentle adoration. He moved his mouth from hers and across her cheek until he found the scar in front of her ear. Gently, he paid homage to its presence with his lips then a loving lick along its length. The scar marked the end of their lives of loneliness and the beginning of one shared together.
Catherine tilted her face and savored each touch Vincent gave her. She felt so blessed to be loved so deeply and by such a wonderful man. They had gone through so much to get to this point. She would endure all that again and much more to get here … to this perfect place in time.
Although they were moving steadily and surely into the realm of physical intimacy, they had a bit more exploring to do. Both savored each step, each act of trust given and received. Their time alone had been limited but Catherine was quietly exuberant in the progress Vincent had made in sharing himself and his desires with her. Shyly at first, but with growing confidence, Vincent had touched her. He had allowed her to touch him, tasted her desire and shared his own.
A few moments later, they breathlessly broke apart. They looked again at her ring and he explained that since the ring would be impossible to size down and very limited in sizing up, it fit slightly on the loose side. Not loose enough to slide off easily, but a little room to grow.
Catherine laughed a little at that but was amazed that he had been so accurate.
Vincent opened his gift a little while later and insisted that Catherine read for him.
“I wanted to give it to you for Christmas and Jenny and Brigit made it possible. If you think it’s a good idea, maybe we could start our own tradition of reading it on Christmas Eve?” Catherine glanced up in question as she sat on the end of the sofa near the fire and placed one of the soft cushions on her lap and watched him lie down next to her.
Settling into a comfortable position with his head and shoulders in her lap, he smiled up at her. “That’s a wonderful idea, Catherine. I must thank Jenny and write a note to Brigit.”
Catherine opened the book and held it comfortably against his chest. “It’s good to think we’ll be able to do this each year, reading to each other and our children.” Casually, she pretended to ignore his start of surprise. Turning innocent eyes to his stunned, shining ones, she smiled again.
“Our children …” Vincent’s voice faded as his mind became distracted. Serious eyes met hers. “Catherine, I am different … what if I am unable to father your child?”
At once responding to his gathering doubt and sadness, Catherine stroked his hair and spoke firmly. “Ah Vincent, you will be a father … by birth or adoption. There is nothing we can’t have or be … but you have to trust in us. Our love will be the stuff dreams are made of … It will not be one of the world’s saddest tragedies.”
Vincent considered her words and looked at the wealth of love and wisdom that shone on her face. It was another moment out of time, when he gave his doubts and fears over to the steadfast certainty of their love. Finally, a faint smile touched his mouth and he gave a small nod of acceptance.
“Yes, our children. The story will become out family’s first Christmas tradition.” He was rewarded by her happy smile.
Catherine began to read. The words took on an Irish magic of their own. Vincent was pulled in and listened intently, until he became distracted by some of the new interests in his life.
Her voice was soft, bringing light and magic to the words she read. Her breath was sweet and the fragrance that was exclusively Catherine drew his face nearer. Subtly, he snuffled at her breast, breathing in her magic.
“As the sun gave way to the full-orbed moon
and dusk was soon given over to night …
The little people came out to play
in the shadow of gray moonlight.
The wood sprites whirled and delicate fairies flew …
showering the glen in glittering dust
to mingle with the cool evening dew.
The fey folk laughed in delight …
seeing the forest shimmer with the silvery light.
Up from the floor and scattered in trees …
flickering sparks of amber laughter
danced along on soft breeze.”
Catherine read with a steady lilting cadence enjoying the visions the story awakened. She was also totally aware of her mate’s attention as his head and shoulders shifted in towards her. Smoothly, she adjusted the book slightly and continued to read. Hardly missing a beat, she squeezed her free hand between them and began to flick open the buttons of her dress then undid the front clasp of her lacy bra.
She heard a gentle “huff” of pleasure from Vincent and smiled even as she continued to read. Quickly, she repositioned her free arm beneath his neck and snuggled him close as his hand pushed aside her clothing, plumped her breast in his hand and latched on with lips, tongue, and gentle teeth. While his mouth devoured one breast, his strong hand and nimble fingers carefully and with newly acquired skill, played with the other.
After a few increasingly distracting moments, her voice grew softer as her attention wavered before temporarily abandoning the story altogether … for an even more beautiful one.