A meeting of the tunnel council had been convened. Sealing off the dangerous maze tunnels was at the top of the agenda. A plan was devised and approved, then other business followed.

Catherine should have been paying attention. But she couldn’t seem to keep her eyes away from him … from Vincent. The breadth of his shoulder, the undulating glide of his muscular hips, the way he moved … He entranced her.

Oh lord, she had it bad! She desperately dropped her eyes to her trembling fingers held clasped at her abdomen, hidden behind the cover of the table.

How utterly oblivious she had been in retrospect. She suspected Vincent had convinced himself that no woman would ever see him as desirable. What nonsense! She had seen the interest in female eyes … Lisa, Brigit, and Lena. The impulse to latch herself to him and snarl had been ruthlessly quelled. She knew he denied to himself that he could ever inspire such feelings which made him sweetly unaware but also frustratingly unaware.

She was ready … so very ready with Vincent. But Vincent was not, or so it seemed. She had thought she could wait an eternity; her body seemed to be rebelling against that decision.

"Catherine." Vincent’s voice was soft in her ear, stirring the tendrils of her hair with his breath.

"Yes?" She turned and found her lips very near the line of his jaw. The butterflies became a flock of birds, making her breath come faster.

"What has you so anxious?" His hand brushed down her hair to cup her fragile shoulder. "I feel lightheaded from the churning of your thoughts."

Catherine took a very deep breath and let it out slowly. She reached up to rest her hand on his and tried a smile.

"I’m so sorry, Vincent. I’m all right now." She glanced around the empty room and raised surprised eyes to his. "What happened to the others?"

He tilted his head to one side a bit and she caught a quick glimpse of elongated canines. She really had been in a world of her own if she had missed the noisy exodus by the others. Quickly, he brought his smile under control when he noticed her eyes focus on his mouth.

"Umm-well," He straightened; feeling a need to put a little space between them, his body still tuned into her. "We were getting very little accomplished so we dismissed early and agreed to meet again next week." Vincent didn’t feel the need to explain that her disquiet and distraction had played havoc with his own concentration. After they had repeated their suggested solutions for the third time, they had given up and agreed to address it at the next meeting. Fortunately, the first half of the meeting had gone well so something had been accomplished. That was before Vincent had been blindsided by his body reacting to Catherine’s intense gaze and increasing heat.

"Oh." Catherine watched the suppressed power of the shifting muscles of his thighs, calves, and buttocks as he turned from her to walk over to the desk. Sleek, hard, and graceful, he was poetry in motion. ‘Erotic poetry’, she thought and disguised a moan by standing to stretch as if stiff from sitting so long.

Vincent turned at the sound and felt himself shifting into that sweet place between man and beast as his eyes focused on Catherine’s lithe body. His senses sprang into full alertness as his world narrowed to the woman in front of him. Everything inside him stilled, absorbing her movements, her scent.

His gaze captured and recorded her every move. He loved to watch her, see the movement of toned muscles under soft, satiny skin. The provocative tilt of her chin exposed the graceful vulnerability of her throat. He could see the pulse beating there slowly increase its tempo under his intent regard. And the smell … nothing had ever smelled of temptation like his beautiful Catherine. It was usually subtle and oh-so-sweet, but at times like now it flared full and spicy like succulent fruit. It made his inner beast surge. He felt his manhood fill with heat and throb with need as he grew heavy with anticipation; at once all maleness … man and beast. The primitive need to taste, to pounce and explore, frightened him with its intensity.

His hands clenched and he locked his muscles to keep from springing at her. Her eyes smoldered and his dropped to her mouth as she bit her bottom lip briefly between her teeth. She soothed the abused lip with a lick of her tongue and he felt his body jerk in reaction. Oh, to be the center of attention of that warm mouth, lips, teeth, and tongue. He’d had a small sample and to his shame, he wanted more.

He was definitely in dangerous territory. The pull of her was becoming harder and harder to resist. If he didn’t know better, he would think he was not only fighting his inner beast but hers as well. Maybe she was, in reality, reacting to his predator mode by her own fight or flight responses. Just the thought that she might feel the need to flee from him filled him with self-disgust. He forced himself to turn away from her, hiding his body and soul’s reaction to her heat.

His voice was a bit more raspy than usual and his words were in a low tone as he moved to exit the library.

"If you’ll give me a moment, I’ll collect my cloak from my chamber and escort you back to the threshold." He didn’t wait for her response but moved quickly to his chamber.

Once there he grasped his cloak tightly in his hands and threw back his head in an agony of longing. The rumbling growl that issued from his chest and up through his throat spoke of his frustration. What was he going to do? He took a moment to still his thoughts and calm his body, then headed back to the library.

Catherine’s breath hissed out like steam escaping. Her internal temperature had risen steadily throughout the afternoon and evening and that final look from Vincent had spiked it feverishly high. Oh, the intense thrum from him as he looked at her mouth had sent liquid heat gushing-leaving her creaming her underpants.

She had responded to his body’s mating call and being denied was not sitting well with her own beast’s desire. She could feel the tension building and was glad to have a moment to try to calm it. This had been escalating for months and from the fine tremors racing through her muscles … something was going to have to give!

"Are you ready, Catherine?" Vincent’s voice drew her around to face him standing at the chamber’s entrance. There was no trace of the burning in Vincent’s eyes or body now. No, he looked in full, cool control. How frustrating!

Her own voice sounded tense with determination. "Oh, yes Vincent. I’m ready." As she moved to join him, her mind finished the thought … ‘past ready. I only hope you can keep up!’

* * *

Before leaving for Above, Catherine asked to make a couple of stops. She wanted to speak with William briefly about supplies needed for the coming week’s menu. She found him in the kitchen chamber as expected and excused herself as Vincent’s attention was claimed by several of the children entering for an evening snack.

A few moments later, after collecting a list of essentials and a few non-essentials, a smiling Cathy reentered the dining area. The smile became a bit tense and fixed as she found Vincent in conversation with Elena whom had accompanied the children from the nursery.

Elena had lived in the tunnels briefly as a child and had returned temporarily; having only arrived a month earlier with her grandfather, a long-time helper. In her early twenties, she had dark eyes, dark hair and a predatory gleam when Vincent was near. She was planning on leaving in a few weeks when her grandfather returned to take her to the rest of her family in Mexico.

Catherine watched with gritted teeth as the woman sidled closer and put a hand on Vincent’s forearm. She also noted the flirtatious smile and inviting glance she threw at Vincent through a green haze. To Elena, Vincent was a novelty. Something she barely remembered from before but something now very unique and sexy. It didn’t matter that at that moment, Vincent casually stepped back away from the touch and bent to the little girl tugging at his cloak … nope, Catherine was a powder keg waiting to blow. Tightly she pulled in her control.

With a purposeful stride, Catherine walked to Vincent’s side and looked over his crouched form and met Elena’s gaze with her own. Casually, Catherine reached out and placed her palm on Vincent’s shoulder. He responded with a soft glance up at her in greeting before turning his focus back to Kiley.

"Elena." Her voice was soft edged around steel. "I hope you are enjoying your time with the children … your grandfather is expected back soon, isn‘t he?" Unspoken was that it couldn’t be soon enough for Catherine.

Slightly unsettled by the dangerous sparks coming from Catherine Chandler’s usually kind, serene eyes, Elena nodded hesitantly, but raised a rebellious chin. Her dark eyes were defiant, whatever this lady’s problem she would have to get over it.

"I am. They are very well-behaved children and I have always had a way with them."

Vincent brushed a hand down Kiley’s hair, nodded and rose to his full height. Distracted by the little girl’s request, he had heard the conversation and distantly noted the tense undercurrents.

Catherine was beside him, and without thought he caught her hand that slid from his shoulder into his own as he straightened.

He was briefly puzzled when she pulled their hands a bit behind their hips and stepped closer, but then didn’t give it much more thought. He pulled her in a bit more so she could lean against his side.

"Elena." He directed his clear gaze to the young woman that always made him just a little uneasy. "Kiley has requested that I read ‘Goodnight Moon’ at bedtime. Will you let Mary know I’ll be back in time and will do the honors tonight?"

"Of course, Vincent." Elena had definitely gotten the message. More from Vincent’s easy acceptance of Catherine’s touch than the ‘hands off’ vibes Catherine was exuding. With a resigned smile and a conceding nod to Catherine, Elena turned back to the children as Vincent and Catherine left.

The next stop was to see Rebecca. Catherine wanted to say hello and get a list of any needed supplies for the children and Rebecca’s candle-making. Of course, just as they were preparing to leave, eighteen year old Sara came in to get candles to restock the school room.

An exasperated Catherine watched as the young woman got all flustered and doe-eyed when Vincent asked her about her studies for the SAT exams she was preparing for.

"Oh, they’re coming along well." Sara licked her lips, attempted a coquettish glance and fluttered her eyelashes. "Of course, I am having a little difficulty with biology…if you have the time ..?"

Abruptly, Catherine had had ENOUGH! Now, she knew it wasn’t Elena’s fault or Sara’s fault. She would be the first to admit that Vincent was a sexy, intelligent, hunk; with the added charm of being a total gentleman and innocently unaware of his effect on the female species. But, HE WAS HER HUNK! He loved her-it showed in every interaction he had with her … the words he never spoke but always alluded to. And, she was pretty sure that he also desired her physically. Whether he admitted it or not--they were a couple and it was time these people realized it!

Vincent innocently opened his mouth to offer his help and inquire if Sara had something in her eye--when Catherine very uncharacteristically, butted in.

"If you are having trouble with biology, Sara … I suggest you seek out Father’s help--his area of expertise, I believe." Catherine spoke crisply between clenched jaw, then turned and stepped up to Vincent’s chest and actually poked him with a finger into his vest.

"You were going to escort me topside, weren’t you, Vincent?" Neither Catherine nor Vincent paid any attention as Sara took the opportunity to skedaddle.

Taken totally off guard by the fury of Catherine’s shimmering green eyes, Vincent almost backed up a step but caught himself in time. Usually, he was in tune with what was happening with her, but he was having difficulty identifying all things Catherine today.

He studied her intently for a moment, weaving through the tangle of her emotions. Now, Vincent was an intelligent man, if a little innocent about some things involving relationships with the opposite sex. Obviously, he was missing something important going on inside of Catherine. Just as obviously, it had to do with the last two encounters with Elena and Sara. He didn’t have a lot of experience but he tried to put himself in her place for a moment. Hmm … amazingly, it seemed reassurances were needed.

Calmly, he moved to enclose her attacking finger in the cradle of his hand. Her eyes continued to shoot flames at him and he raised her hand to his lips and gently stroked her palm with his tongue. He didn’t think about where they were or that it was by far the most sensuous caress he had ever initiated. The silver flames in her eyes grew brighter but her expression softened. He felt her arm tremble.

"Yes, of course." His voice practically purred and he held her eyes with his. "As you wish, Catherine."

Catherine’s voice shook. "Good … I’m ready."

Rebecca watched the scene unfold with fascinated glee. Finally!

* * *

More than Enough!

The walk to Catherine’s basement threshold was a silent one. The charged emotions crackled from Catherine and Vincent steadfastly absorbed them and tried to stay steady in the wake of the turbulence. Her pace was brisk as she took the lead, but he easily kept up.

Her anger should have caused him distress … it did not. The tension that drew her body tight should have had him on edge … he felt---expectant. The obvious way Catherine had warned off the other two women should have evoked some resentment that she would even find it necessary … nope. He was pretty sure that wasn’t resentment filling his chest-- it was pride.

The fire in those beautiful eyes was for him! The fire in her heart and loins--that was also for him. She burned and all he wanted to do was to claim the heat as his own. These were definitely not the reactions of a woman who wanted to flee!

He should be cautious; he should tread lightly. Caution and courage had been done, on both their parts. The erupting conflagration between them made him hunger for the burn!

"I think we are setting a speed record for covering the distance to your building with no one in mortal danger." He dared to poke at the simmering embers that Catherine was trying to contain.

"Oh, I wouldn’t assume too much if I were you." Catherine kept moving ahead while tossing the words at him.

Vincent couldn’t suppress his chuckle … fanning the flames. "I think danger follows you and I might as well … adapt."

Catherine stopped abruptly and turned in stunned disbelief at the sound of Vincent’s laughter.

"You find my chaotic emotions amusing?" At any other time she would rejoice at the sound of his amusement, but that her tumultuous feelings were the source---she felt her anger spiral upwards. Hurt that he found her anger…

She halted … entrapped by the brimming, spilling, emotion that came from his eyes. Not amusement … she stepped closer and pulled at the front of his vest to bring him in tighter, studying his expression intently.

"Ah Catherine, amusing is not how I see the events unfolding." His warm breath caressed her cheeks and he spoke huskily. She could see his sharp canines through his uncontained, well-satisfied smile. She felt her knees wobble and held onto the strong material of his vest tighter.

"No, --I can see that now." She whispered, unable to tear her eyes from his. The turmoil gentled inside her, shifted and banked--allowing her to savor the heaven found in Vincent’s eyes.

"What is it that you see, Catherine?"

They were at the place where their worlds met--her basement just steps away from the tunnel. The light was low but more than adequate. She held her breath and reached up to smooth his hair back with an unsteady hand. She searched his eyes and saw his soul.

"I see … joy." She spoke softly. "I see ... love." She smiled gently. "I see my destiny." She stroked his beloved face. "And thank God, I see the beginning of acceptance."

Vincent brought his own hands up to cup her face. His heart was so full. Full of awe and wonder … and love for this beautiful woman. With aching tenderness, he lowered his head and touched his mouth to hers.

The kiss was gentle, sweet, and filled with reverent thankfulness from both of them. So very longed for, and so very long in coming, he had finally kissed her.

For Catherine, it was like coming home; to the place she was supposed to be. His lower lip was soft and mobile. His upper one was steady and sure, inviting her in, asking her to stay. She licked his velvety lower lip then pulled it in to gently suck at its fullness. There was a start of surprised wonder then, trustingly, his mouth opened to her.

Catherine moaned softly, feeling his innocent acceptance before she moved on to taste his upper lip. She felt him tremble as she nestled into the flexible cleft. Slowly, she began to delve deeper, stroking the smooth, lethally sharp teeth that so enchanted her. She felt him stop breathing for a moment as she explored cautiously, deliciously.

Gently, her tongue coaxed his out of hiding; finally, his tentatively stroked against hers and savored as she did. He was spicy and heady like the finest of wines. A sob of gratitude and joy bubbled from her throat. Oh God, she had waited and wanted the feel and taste of his mouth for so long and the reality far exceeded her expectations!

For Vincent, the feel of her soft lips and seeking tongue … the sweet taste of her very nearly brought him to his knees! His vivid imagination sometimes embarrassed him when he thought of Catherine, but it fell far short in the realm of actually kissing Catherine. Within moments he had gone from reverent worship to hard and needy. He wanted to devour her mouth as she was devouring his and he allowed his tongue to play with hers. Sweet nectar filled his senses and made him hungry for more.

Without thought, his hard body instinctively pushed into the softness of hers. His arms moved around her, locking her tightly to him. Her own arms encircled his neck, pulling her pulsating heat into his. Pleasure so sharp it bore close resemblance to pain radiated from his groin and left him poised and on edge. Catherine felt it too. Breathless, they separated their mouths reluctantly. Scattering kisses fell across cheeks and chins. Nibbles and licks left them trembling in the wake of their passion.

Vincent didn’t have the chance to berate himself over his lack of control … the soft, passionate sounds that escaped Catherine let him know that his passion was welcomed and returned equally. He drew in great gasps of air as he found himself supported by the tunnel wall at his back. His feet were wide apart and braced him upright. A shudder of desire raced through him as he took in the joy of Catherine’s full weight plastered against him.

She sweetly filled up all his empty spaces.

Catherine fought to catch her breath, resting in the only place that felt right--against her man; her heart to his; his breath mingling with her own. There were no words to describe the feelings rushing through her. If a kiss could bring them to this place, she couldn’t imagine what the act of fully sharing each other would be like.

With a slow deep breath, she took the opportunity to burrow through his soft mane to the warmth of his neck. Unhesitatingly, he arched his head exposing it more fully, totally vulnerable to her touch. His chest heaved as her breath exhaled onto his skin and her lips made contact. He felt her smile in delighted satisfaction as she felt the thundering of his pulse … much faster than normal. Gently, she pressed small kisses; feeling his fine tremors, then her lips attached with a savagely erotic suction. He shuddered again and a growl rumbled beneath her mouth and breasts. Her body responded by releasing more heated cream … the scent filled his being. She increased the pull of her mouth in slow increments until he groaned and tightened his embrace even more. Slowly, she released his flesh from her lips and delicately licked the small bruise she’d left there. She lifted her head so that she could see his face.

Vincent’s head remained back against the stone wall, his eyes closed, and his breath coming in great huffs. Agony or ecstasy--it was funny how they sometimes resembled each other. Catherine registered everything about this moment. The wide muscled chest she rested against--the strong embrace of his arms holding her safe and warm with a hint of aroused desperation. His musky, wonderful scent filled her senses. Against her pelvis and the softness of her lower abdomen, she felt the hard, throbbing length and impressive girth of him nestled firmly in the warm V of her body.

She couldn’t prevent the instinctive glide she made against him, even knowing they had to stop … that it was probably too much all at once for Vincent. He arched reflexively and a deep moan issued from them both at that sensual touch; her inviting glide, him rocking into her … just once, then an enforced halt.

"Catherine." Hoarse and gravelly, his words reached her ear only because his head came forward to rest against her own. His legs felt like rubber while his erection felt like steel … hot, glowing steel. He wasn’t sure he could move, was more than sure that he didn’t want to … but must.

Luckily, they were away from the sentry station and they were relatively safe from intrusion. Vincent wasn’t sure he could lift a finger to protect them at this point and willed some strength back into his legs. Still holding her, he straightened away from the wall and slid her down his length until her feet once more touched the ground. The rub of her body against his a sweet, sweet pain.

He couldn’t let her go just yet but his arms did loosen slightly. Slowly, with caution he leaned back and brought his eyes to her face.

Any touch of embarrassment that may have intruded to ruin the moment was brushed aside as he saw his Catherine. Her mouth was moist and her lips swollen with passion. The green of her eyes flared more brightly than he had ever seen them--filled with love and undiminished desire for him. Her breasts heaved with each breath, full with erect nipples standing out in sharp relief against the soft cotton of her blouse. He felt his mouth water and he suppressed another groan. Vincent could easily see the glistening sheen of perspiration on her neck and collar bone where a pulse beat frantically. No, her passion was no less than his own, he was pleased to see. She had extended his first initiated kiss into the stratosphere.

"Vincent." Her voice was pure raw silk, slurred gently with passion. "I didn’t want to stop." She willingly admitted. "I never want to stop where you’re concerned."

His head tipped to one side, but his shy glance returned to hers quickly. "Yet, you allowed it to end."

Unexpectedly, Catherine broke into a slow mischievous smile and then giggled. What a pair they were! She patted his chest playfully.

"I didn’t want to push my luck! I made it to first base!"

Vincent’s own smile broke through as he caught her infectious humor. "First base?"

He chuckled a little, finally recognizing the idiom from his reading. Suddenly, his chuckle ended and he released his embrace to gently grab her forearms.

Catherine ceased giggling when she saw the hint of panic in his face.

"What?" --then becoming a little worried. "Vincent! What?"

"If that was only first base, I’d never survive a home run!" The seriousness of his voice was belied by the sudden glint of mischief in his aqua eyes. As long as it was him that was threatened with death at home plate … he could think of no better way to go!

Catherine grinned again and turned to link her arm in his and moved further toward the threshold.

"We all have to go sometime, Vincent. ---But you’ll survive home plate … I won’t accept anything else."