I Carry Your Heart - Chapter 16

~ Anticipation






From this dream Catherine did not mind waking. It was a wonderful dream, complete with poetry and candlelight and a vague image of a ride on a rearing, golden carousel horse. But to wake to Vincent’s gentle touch, to his soft voice speaking her name ... that was Paradise.

“Are you awake?”

“Are you really here?”

“I’m here.” He smiled at her, fully clothed, sitting on the edge of the bed.

“What time is it, do you think?”

“I’m not sure I can think,” he replied, “but I’m guessing it's either quite late or very early. The pipes are still and the tunnels are dark.”

“Vincent ... I, ummm ... where’s the ...”

“Facilities?”

“Umm, uh huh.”

“I’ll show you. Come. Don’t worry. It's close by,” he said, still smiling, showing the white tips of his teeth.

She crawled from the deep bed, reluctantly but necessarily, padding in her sock feet beside a changed man. His step was light and long and a sweetly dazed expression replaced the glower and gloom of yesterday. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she heard a low humming tune in the air between them.

Vincent led her out into the atrium and across it, through another archway, a turn to the left down a dim hallway, past two darkened rooms. She was ready to complain about the measure of tunnel distance when they came to a wooden door. It was a fairy-tale door – tall, arched, banded with metal strips and faceted nail heads and latched by a massive lever with a twisted iron handle. How it was set into the stone was yet another mystery.

She pushed inside and turned to question him, her eyes wide with surprise, but he'd retreated to the hallway, already hurrying around the corner. She wanted to call to him, yet necessity propelled her forward, and in an arched, ancient alcove, she found the facility soon enough.

In the antechamber, a long, narrow, black stone sink ran the length of one wall. The basin was carved so that water swirled over scalloped cuts in a cascade. Pipes laddered the stone.

“Warm water?” She shook her head in wonder as she opened the metal gates.

There was a ledge of rock above the sink where she found her toiletries from the guest chamber and a fascinating assortment of his things through which she pawed with giddy enthusiasm. She learned he was partial to French-milled sandalwood soap, for there was a large ivory-colored cake of it open at the sink and two more still in brown paper wrappings and tied with thin string. There was an aromatic conditioner made with Acacia honey and a shampoo combining aloe vera with Black Mud from the Dead Sea. The toothpaste he used was a homemade recipe. She twisted the top from the jar to discover what looked like baking soda mixed with gelatin. She tried a little on her brush. It was gritty, a little salty and flavored with cloves.

One of the helpers must have quite the shop.

She turned from the sink, spying a narrow, seductive opening in the far wall.

Oh ...

The room was lit with candles that lined stair-stepped ledges on one side. Rougher cut but carved from the same black stone as the sink, three steps descended into an obsidian pool. At its farthest reach was another alcove curtained by a waterfall that steamed and streamed over a shelf above. A water-worn hollow formed an intimate bench, above it a deep niche where she discovered an array of sponges and brushes and a strange, wide-toothed comb.

At the water’s edge, Vincent had stacked a dozen towels and there was a large basket filled with garments from her chamber bureau and wardrobe. Her breath a rushing exhalation, she reached down. So warm!  She slipped out of her clothes and into the pool. Closing her eyes, she allowed herself to dream.

After the soak and the shower, after an invigorating experience with the black mud shampoo, she picked through her clothing, choosing the layers carefully. She had the fleeting vision of Vincent folding her lingerie.

Whoo!” She fanned herself, imagining. And then her stomach rumbled. “Uh oh.

She emerged from the bathing chamber and retraced the hallway. Two rooms stood empty, but were clearly closets. Shelves were cut into the stone and long poles spanned each space. Across the empty foyer was a high-arching room, its walls lined with shelves jammed with books; at its center, a broad pedestal table on a faded flowered rug. She would demand a tour, right after breakfast or a late supper, whichever applied.

Vincent stood near the base of the curving stair and she couldn’t resist. She ran – as fast as she could – and threw herself into his arms. This kiss, at first playful and easy, deepened with desire … and ended in laughter.

“What is this place?”

“Do you like these rooms, Catherine?”

“I love these rooms!”

“They are ... ours, then.”

“Will you show me everything? Tell me everything?” Her stomach rumbled again. “Right after we eat? I’m starving!”

He led her back to the mirror room to a small table flanked by the low stool and a second armless chair. There were crockery bowls and silverware, a large thermos, a stack of homemade rusks and beaded glasses of cold cider.

“You can read my mind!”

“No. I’ll admit I was thinking of myself.” He poured a rich chowder from the container. “This was William's supper last night. There’s no breakfast cooking yet, but I think it must be close to dawn.”

“Time doesn’t really matter now."

“No, except will I cherish every moment of it with you.”

"We have so much to talk about," she said.

"Yes."

"Most of it can wait."

"Yes."

They ate with hearty appetites, but Catherine more than Vincent.

“Did you have a snack in the kitchen?”

“How did you know that?” Behind his napkin, she was sure he hid a smile.

“Because I’ve eaten maybe twice what you have? I’m going to be embarrassed if I'm the trencherman in this family.”

With his thumb, he pushed the plate of rusks across the table. “I woke Father and told him we married ourselves last night."

"I'd like to have been there for that! What did he say?"

"He grumbled that we would not get by with just an announcement, that he would not be denied performing some sort of ceremony. He's up, right this minute, pouring over dusty texts for just the right words."

"That should keep him busy."

"Yes, the old fart. Who knows what he will devise."

Catherine laughed. "He told you?"

"No, Pascal did. I passed him coming back with our food." Vincent chuckled, then paused. "I brought your things down for you.”

“I found them. Thank you.”

“I brought all of them.” He ducked his head and shifted his gaze over her shoulder.

Her nightdress was draped across the footboard of the bed. She turned back to him with a mischievous expression.

“You said that was for a wedding night.”

He blushed, a deep, bronzed rose. “I did.”

“It’s morning.”

“Yes.” He looked a little puzzled.

“Do we have to wait ... all day?”

“Let's not,” he said, as he closed his beautiful hands over hers, his hands that absolutely could, absolutely would, give her exquisite love.


____________

sequel to this story is Marriage Morning, a story for adults (17+)

If you'd prefer to skip the adults-only story, you can go directly to A Great and Thorough Good without losing too much story line (though the tour of the hidden rooms occurs at the beginning of Marriage Morning).

26 comments:

Moving2thetunnels2day said...

This was absolutely wonderful. Thank you for dedicating the time to bring us the delicious, moving and romantic HEA we all needed. My mind has already embraced your story as the end of the series and S3 was some twisted fool's idea of a joke. I've bookmarked your page, and I'll check often for your additions. You have truly brought them back for me and, like most die hard BAtB fans, I've missed them terribly.

AT44 said...

Thank you so much for your kind words! I can't tell you how grateful I am to hear you liked the story. Feedback is incredibly important, and positive feedback is wonderful.

I hope I can give you something worthwhile to check back for! I'm working on the next one, but it is slow right now. Still, I don't want V & C to end, ever. I do love them too.

Thanks again, Carole

PS - love your comment-posting name! That is a great one.

India said...

The entire arc of stories is just phenomenal. When I first found you, I read straight through until morning. You have a unique voice. It's addicting.

I did cry a tear or two to find Iron Behind the Velvet still in development, (I was warned - I read your main page) but I don't mind checking back regularly to keep up.

Marriage Morning and the romantic chapters in your new story leave me nearly speechless.

I'm sorry to have been so long leaving you this feedback, but I've been busy reading! I'm recommending your stories everywhere I can.

Indie

Carole W said...

India, thanks so much. Your comments today perked me right up. I'll admit I was doing some staring at a mostly-blank page. Now I'm feeling more 'like it'.

I hope I can deliver satisfactorily on Iron/Velvet. ;-) and I'm very glad MM worked.

You're so kind to take the time to leave feedback. Please keep in touch.

~ Carole

Vicky said...

Thank you, Carole. This was a delightful gift from you.

Like Indi, I've been recommending them everywhere, too! Such amazing quality writing! (from what it's worthed from someone who's not a writer, though)

Carole W said...

Ummm, Vicky ... song writer? You are that - and your songs, those you write, those you interpret, are pure poetry.

Your comments have set off fireworks in my brain - it's a rush of writing adrenaline - mixed with gratitude and surprise. What a gift you've given me here.

Love you,

Carole

Carole W said...

A post-script reply to Moving2thetunnels - Your comment - nearly a year ago now! - opened another door of friendship to me, and I am so incredibly grateful for it. I'm thrilled to share your writing journey - you give me hope.

~ C

Brandy said...

I'm sure now - all girls want their own damn bathroom. Your bit about toothpaste made me curious - maybe even enough to try to make some for myself.

As a volunteer at my local Renaissance Festival, I often rough it for the weekends. No running water, no electricity, it's cooking over fires and hauling your own buckets of water. I often think how well suited some Fest things are for the tunnels. I discovered an artist at a local art fair selling carved spoons. Just spoons, of all sizes and types of wood. I didn't know whether I should buy them for Fest and use them (hard), or hang them in my kitchen as art. Would they be sad not to be used, or proud to be as highly regarded as art?

Enough magical thinking, onto the good stuff! (Yes, my mind is dirty.)

Sonia Who? said...

Ch. 16

I LOL when Vincent said the words "old fart."

So does Father actually get to marry them? Sorry I don't remember.

I'll be reading Marriage Morning next, and after that A Great And Thorough Good. That will refresh my memory and give me something to read while waiting for the next chapters of Iron Behind The Velvet.

You did a good job writing a great story. You have a very good writing style and wonderful story telling gift. I agree with Su that reading this and your other stories is like watching a new episode of the series. I love your stories and I recommend them every chance I get.

Please keep writing! I hope you never stop writing BatB stories. I just can't get enough of the good ones and yours are among the best.

Carole W said...

Sonia, you are indeed a dear. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. To think that you recommend my stories is the ultimate 'payment' for writing.

More than anything, I wanted to create an in-character story, one that effectively denies the awful-stuff-that-never-happened, creating a jump-off point for new stories that are believable.

I appreciate your comments tremendously.

~ Carole

Carole W said...

PS, Sonia. Looking at the time-stamps for your comments I see you were up ALL NIGHT! We won't hear from you for days, now, will we? Get some sleep!

Sonia Who? said...

Yep, was up all night and slept til 5:30pm today, so finally got enough sleep.

Today I want to at least read Marriage Morning, so you're probably see a comment from me for that story tonight. Then I want to work on the sketch of Flynn, hopefully I can finish it tonight. I wish I wasn't so slow. It would be easier if I could see better. Gotta get new glasses ASAP.

Hope to be seeing Ch. 32 of IBTV posted soon. Be well my friend.

Three Writers said...

I have just thoroughly enjoyed...AGAIN...I Carry Your Heart and that 13th...or was it the 14th chapter...POW-ER-FUL ... Say that in syllables! Phew! Such a joy to read it through from the start. I must leave MM for another time...sniff... Carole, you are a designer of fine jewels: each chapter is a gem! Thank you so much! Nancy

Carole W said...

Nancy, you always know how to bring up my spirits. I'm touched that you'd read I Carry again. That is such a compliment – a re-read – and you are the kindest person to say these things.

Big hugs,
Carole

Three Writers said...

Carole, there is a world of beautiful things to say about "I Carry"! Your writing has lifted fanfic to new heights that the rest of us can only dream of reaching...maybe...someday! You are THE BEST! Nancy

Anonymous said...

You have given us an arc of stories to read and re-read for years to come. Old friends to re-visit, a story of substance which will endure and inspire, a story of hope and love and possibilities and fulfilment...A tale as old as time.....Cathy S

Carole W said...

Cathy, you are so kind. There could be no sweeter words to hear and I do try my best. I'll keep trying. Thank you.

kuliundheft said...

Ah, I knew there had to be well-written BatB fic out there! I haven't made it to any of the other sites you've rec'd, but it'll give me something to do between sprucing up my own chapters.

Anyway, lovely story. The tension between Catherine and Vincent is excellent, and I really liked the Jamie/Mouse sideline. Your Jamie had me laughing, the way she went on in Catherin's flat. I did always wonder why there were no doors to anyone's chamber... :P

I think the series was destined to go something more like this, had one of the title characters not left the show, and you rendered it all beautifully. Vincent's altar, his fears, were all so poignantly sad, but you brought it all to the sweet conclusion that I imagine the series was originally written for. Thanks for a great read! :)

Carole W said...

Kuliundheft! I'm so glad to see you here. Thank you so much for reading this story and for your kind words about it. I was surprised and very pleased.

I'm very much looking forward to the continuation of your story. (For those who haven't found it yet, it's HERE "For No Miser's Sake" at fan fic dot net. You all should go now and read it!)

Are we members of the same club? I tweak and then tweak some more. Sprucing has so much more a holiday feel to it. I'm going to have to start thinking of it that way.

Thank you again. You really made my day.
Carole

Brenda K said...

Carole- I just found your website this week, and have been reading your marvelous stories nearly round-the-clock - chores, sleep, and even hunger forgotten.

Many awed and admiring comments to make, but foremost is that your Vincent is finally a believably mature man in the prime of his life -- that despite a technical lack of experience, he is not an innocent. I always thought that made him two-dimensional in other fanfiction.

And your Catherine has the kind of courage, insight, and sensitivity that finally makes her worthy of him. Not many women could stand in the face of the kind of brutal rejection in this story, and push through it to heal them both.

I am awed at the power of your stories, and your writing. I found I had to read them against the background of my romantic ballads playlist - they were as real as the episodes - so real that they cried out for a soundtrack.

Carole W said...

Brenda - Thank you. I doubt I can adequately express just how good your comments make me feel. I'm pleased and humbled at the same time. More than anything I want to show just the Vincent you describe - a man in full. And Catherine - I want only for her spirit, courage, wit, and loving nature to shine through. I do try, and because of what you've said, I'll work even harder at this tomorrow.

You've given me such a gift with your kind and generous words. It matters, more than you can imagine, that you'd read and then take the time to tell me you did. I'm just so glad to hear that you liked this story.

Thank you again.
Carole

Jan H said...

This was an AMAZING story! Made my heart pound and my eyes tear. I will look for your other writings; you are an amazing storyteller!

Carole W said...

Jan - Thank you! What a surprise to find your comment in my mail box this evening. I'm so glad you enjoyed the story and I do hope you'll be interested in reading the others. I'm grateful to you for taking the time to let me know you were here. You've made my day.

It's good to connect with another fan of BatB. I hope you'll visit again.

Carole

NYC Utopia said...

It just feels so real.
(and C's "bowling for V" - ha!)

bangkokbarbara@yahoo.com said...

There are no adequate words. I Love Love Love Love Love it!

Carole W said...

Barbara, how nice of you! Thank you so much for reading this story. Your kind words mean so much, and your note was a lovely surprise. I'm encouraged to keep writing.

Thanks again!
Carole