It was almost 9:00 PM when Catherine’s taxi finally pulled up to the Columbus Circle address listed on the enigmatic note she’d found in her sandwich at lunch, along with the message, “9:00 PM. A Helper will direct you. – V.” She tossed a twenty at the driver and had the door open before the car had even come to a full stop, leaping out, slamming the door, and rushing up the steps to the double revolving doors and into the lobby of the tall office building.
Once inside, Catherine glanced a bit wildly around the deserted lobby until she finally spotted a familiar face behind the security desk.
“Bert!” she panted, still a bit winded from her mad dash up the steps. “I had no idea you worked on Columbus Circle!”
“Well, hi there to you, too, Catherine!” laughed Albert Johnson. “Yep, been workin’ here ‘bout 19 years now. Took over as chief of security two years ago when Chief Finlay retired.”
“That’s wonderful!” she exclaimed. “You told me you were a security specialist, but we never did get to finish our conversation at Winterfest.”
“Well, that’s often the way it goes,” Bert laughed. “So many old friends to greet and new people to meet. But we’ll have to find a way to catch up another time. Right now, a certain gentleman would like for you to take the express elevator up to the top floor. Look to your left for a small yellow sign marked ‘Roof Access.’ You’re welcome to leave your briefcase with me, if you’d like.”
“The roof, huh?” Catherine asked, as she gladly handed over her bulging briefcase.
“That’s all I know,” Bert responded, hands spread, an overly innocent look on his face.
She grinned. “OK. Best not keep the gentleman waiting! Thanks, Bert!”
“You have a good evening, young lady!” Bert called, as Catherine practically skipped down the hall to the express elevator.
She found the roof access sign without any trouble, climbed the short, but rather steep, flight of stairs up to the exit, and carefully stepped out onto the roof, glancing about for her mysterious date.
“Catherine,” murmured a deep, husky voice behind her.
She smiled tremulously and then turned. He was leaning casually against the corner of the access port, arms folded, his tall, broad-shouldered frame enveloped in his signature black cloak that swayed and billowed in the light wind.
“Vincent.” Her voice softly, tenderly caressed his name before she launched herself into his arms. “Oh, Vincent, it’s so good to see you! I’ve missed you so much!”
The big man rumbled out a low, throaty chuckle as he enfolded his fierce, tiny love against his chest, tucking her head into the perfect hollow beneath his chin and rubbing his cheek sinuously against the soft fan of her hair, all the while filling his lungs with her unique scent that whispered the ancient song Woman – Mate – Mine.
“And I have missed you also, my Catherine, my Beloved,” Vincent rasped, lowering his head to stroke his lightly furred nose across her forehead, tipping her head back to claim her lips in a tender, restrained kiss, a deeper hunger simmering just beneath the surface of their Bond.
Carefully suppressing the pleasurable moan that threatened to surface every time Vincent took yet another small step toward their dream, Catherine tempered her eager response to match his gentle, nuzzling exploration of her lips, her chin, her nose, her cheek, finally drawing a slightly ragged breath to whisper into his ear, “Oh, say it again . . . please.”
Another rumbling chuckle ended in a low growl, “My Catherine . . .”
“And?” she breathed.
“My Beloved,” came the purring response, as Vincent continued nuzzling from her ear, down the side of her neck, and then opened his mouth to ever so gently grasp her pulse point with his deadly fangs.
“Vincent . . .” she whispered, clutching at his cloak as the thrill of this new sensation swept through her, curling her toes.
“My Own,” he crooned against her neck, laving the spot once with the fine sandpaper of his tongue and kissing it almost reverently, before tucking her once again under his chin, gulping great drafts of air to calm his racing heart and rebank the controlled burn he’d unleashed upon their Bond.
For a good fifteen minutes, they simply clung to each other, regathering their senses and settling into the comfort and solace of their embrace. “It has been an unbearably long two weeks,” Catherine finally murmured. “Is everyone on the work crew all right? Will the repairs hold?”
Vincent sighed and kissed her hair. “We’re still tired, but no one was hurt, and yes, thanks to our hard work and all of the materials you so generously provided, this repair should hold for many years. We are all very grateful to you, my dearest Catherine.”
He lifted his head and leaned back to tenderly brush her cheek with the furred knuckles of his left hand. “Father insists that you spend the weekend with us so we can celebrate together and thank you properly, but I wanted this first evening alone with you.”
“I’m glad.” She smiled and swept a glance once again over the rooftop. “But why here?”
“Because I wanted to share this place with you,” Vincent replied, taking her hand and leading her slowly along the side of the access port toward the front of the building. “A place Above that, thanks to Bert, I have been able call my own during the night hours for many years. And because after two solid weeks trapped Below repairing a large water main, what I need – more than rest or food – is air, and light, and you.”
“What you need.”
What he needs! He actually said it! Catherine inwardly exulted, then calmed. Easy, girl. Don’t spook him!
As they rounded the front corner of the access port, Catherine looked toward the front of the building and gasped with pleasure. “Oh, Vincent! How lovely!”
Ahead, several feet back from the edge of the building, Vincent had arranged a ground cloth with a small lantern, a large thermos, and a picnic supper for two. The magnificent view across Columbus Circle, up Broadway, and into Central Park spread out before them in a panoply of dazzling light.
“Before you came into my life,” Vincent murmured, “this rooftop was my window on the world Above.”
“Show me!” Catherine urged. “You must have a favorite spot!”
He drew her to the edge of the building and settled her carefully between his outstretched legs, his arms cradling her securely against his chest, as they drank in the stunning night view together.
“This is amazing, Vincent,” Catherine breathed. “Thank you for sharing it with me.”
“It is beautiful,” he replied, looking down into her beloved face, “but I find I much prefer the view from here.”
He closed the gap to draw her mouth up to his for another simmering kiss, murmuring against her lips, “Right here.”