By Thomas Mc

Victoria looked up at the sky where there was a barely perceptible glow in the east, heralding the imminent sunrise. She loved walking in the park in the early morning and watching the shadows of the skyscrapers move against the sides of the other buildings when the sun rose on a new day. There was something exhilarating about the morning, so full of promise. Victoria had come from a poor Indiana family and had come to New York at the age of nineteen to seek her fortune. The first two years had been tough but she had stuck it out. Then she got her first modeling job. Now four years later, at twenty-five, her beauty and her poise had gotten her into a moderately successful modeling career. She had not hit the super model level but she was doing well enough. With the help of her two roommates, she could afford to live in a nice apartment near the park and still send money back to her family. Cindy and Shannon, her roommates, were forever trying to discourage her from her morning jog in the park. They were always harping on about some silly urban legend about a terrifying Central Park Creature. They were endlessly recounted spine-chilling tales of the creature rending people to shreds with its razor sharp claws or ripping out throats with its long sharp fangs. To them the mythical creature was a far more frightening threat than a possible mugger was. Victoria just laughed at the thought of such an improbable creature and went jogging as usual.

Elliot stood in the park looking south in the general direction of St. Vincent's Hospital. As soon as he had heard about the incident at Gabriel's estate he had gone to the hospital to check on Cathy, but they would not let him in to see her, they wouldn't even tell him which room she was in. There were several police around the hospital to keep others from being able to get near her as well. Even the two investigators he had sent in were identified and turned away but not before they were told to tell him that she was okay. So here he stood, alone in the park, thinking about what might have been but, he now knew, could never be. He did care about her but when he had been given the choice between her and his tower he had failed the test. Even after that dismal failure she had still risked her life to help his father and himself but, he knew, she would never be his. As he stood there, he realized that less than two hundred yards away was the storm drain runoff culvert with the hidden door to the secret tunnels. It had not been too long ago Cathy had led him through that door into the park that night she had saved his life ... helped save his life, he corrected himself. There had been another involved. He still felt a chill run down his spine when he remembered the awful roars and the screams, of the dying assassins, that had come from the other side of the manhole cover that terrible night. He had never really found out what had happened to the hit squad Cathy had helped him escape from and he wasn't sure he wanted to know. The CIA probably cleaned up the mess but it was not them that had created that roaring sound. He shook off those thoughts and was again thinking about Cathy. In the two years he had known her, she had changed his life. Usually by balking his grand plans. Although she had made it very clear that she would never be his, he still could not help caring about her.

Vincent had again stayed in Catherine's hospital room much longer than he had intended and now he was in a hurry to get below before sunrise. The rosy fingers of dawn were already starting to spread across the sky as he ran toward the culvert and safety. His mind was boiling with thoughts and memories as he thought back over the events of the last two weeks. There was the terrible illness that had nearly destroyed him. Fortunately, Catherine had brought him back from the brink. Then Peter had found a cure to the illness caused by the same mold spores that Paracelsus had exposed him to once before. Since, this time, the spores had been in their raw form it had taken much longer to reach full effect. This time he had ended up killing Paracelsus in Father's library before eventually retreating to the lower tunnels as the madness took hold. Like the time before Catherine had come after him and dragged him back from the abyss though recovery had also taken much longer this time. There was the kidnapping and rescue of Joe and Catherine as well as encountering that female police detective, Diana Bennett, during that rescue. However, uppermost in his mind was the fact that Catherine was alive and recovering, and his link to her had returned stronger than ever. His mind was so involved with all these thoughts rolling around in it that he did not see the woman ahead of him until it was too late. She turned around and looked right at him as he skidded to a halt less than ten feet away from her.

Victoria was staring up at the buildings when she decided it was time to start back home. She had an early call for a fashion shoot at the Delacorte Amphitheater and she needed to get ready. As she turned around she found herself face to face with the most fearsome apparition she had ever seen running straight at her. The horrifying stories her roommates had told her flashed through her mind. As the creature skidded to a halt less than ten feet in front of her, she screamed. She stood there frozen for two seconds staring at the hooded Lion-like face and the furry hands ending in long sharp claws. Then she took two steps backward, turned to run and collided with a stranger who appeared out of nowhere. Victoria found herself embraced in the arms of the man she had collided with. She felt something wash through her as looked up into an incredibly handsome face and for a moment the fear receded to the background.

Elliot was about to head back to his limo when he heard the scream from behind him. As he whirled around, he realized it had come from the other side of the nearby hedgerow. Normally he would have stood back and sent his bodyguards to deal with the situation, but he had told them to wait in the car a while back and now they were too far away to be of any use. Elliot hesitated just a moment, but he could not ignore the terror in that scream he had heard. He patted his jacket pocket to verify the solid bulk of the small gun that he carried when away from the safety of his office or his home. Then, with a deep breath, he plunged into the bushes that stood between him and that scream. As he emerged from the other side of the bushes, a beautiful blond woman collided with him. He reflexively threw his arms around her to keep them both from falling down. Elliot looked down at the frightened face and felt lighting go through him as he found himself engulfed in a pair of luminous pale blue eyes.

Vincent saw a man burst from the hedge that lined the path and collide with the woman as she turned to run. He stood there momentarily too stunned to move. He took three cautious steps forward, about to bolt for the tunnel entrance and safety while the two strangers were momentarily engrossed in each other. Then Vincent was struck by recognition as Elliot looked up at him.

Elliot reluctantly looked up from the angelic face before him to see what had frightened her, only to be confronted by the frightening apparition that stood twelve feet away. Elliot reached into his jacket pocket and rested his hand on the comforting shape of the gun that rested there. As he stared at the creature and debated whether to draw his gun, the sounds of spine chilling roars echoed through his memory. An image of Cathy and this creature at a Halloween party less than a year ago. Then he looked into its eyes. In those sapphire blue eyes, he could see surprise, recognition, wariness, humanity. He could also see hurt. He wondered if it could possibly be the woman's reaction that had hurt the feelings of this fearsome creature. Then a name spoken by an injured old man, found in a hidden closet, arose from the back of Elliot's memory. "Vincent?"

Vincent was startled by the sound of his own name. He was surprised and a little worried that Elliot even knew his name but he had no idea what he could or should do about it right now. For a moment, Vincent just looked at him then he nodded his head and replied simply. "Elliot."

Victoria turned her head to look in the same direction the man holding her was looking. The creature was standing there quietly looking back at them. She found her gaze drawn to the creature's incredibly human eyes. In those eyes, she was surprised to see not menace but surprise, wariness and hurt as he looked back at her. Then the man spoke a name, Vincent; more a question than a statement. The creature shifted his gaze to the man. The creature then nodded his head and in the most incredible voice that would make the heart of any girl melt, he replied with the name Elliot. The creature ... No she corrected herself, there was humanity in those eyes ... appeared momentarily indecisive. Between the security of this man's embrace and the humanity in 'Vincent's' expressive voice and eyes, she felt her fear melt away.

Vincent continued to watch them and gauge their reactions. He could very distinctly sense the strong emotional attraction radiated off them like a beacon. Even with out his empathic sense he could clearly see that they both had taken an sudden powerful interest in each other. If this woman would take Elliot's mind off Catherine then so much the better. Vincent could sense the shifting of the woman's feelings as she stared back at him. Her fear was rapidly changing to curiosity.

The three of them stood there regarding each other for several seconds, then the creature, 'Vincent' Elliot corrected himself, looked up at the sky and spoke again in that amazing voice of his. "I'm sorry, but I must go." As Elliot put his other arm back around the woman, the gun left unused in his jacket pocket, Vincent bolted past them and down the pathway faster than Elliot thought possible, then he was gone.

Vincent ran past them, coming within two feet of the couple. Both of them watched him as he passed but nether of them showed any fear. Although her initial reaction had hurt, the fact that she was no longer afraid of him made him feel much better. After he rounded the corner, putting himself out of sight, he stopped and found a place where he could see them through the bushes. For a short time, they stared in the direction he had just gone then they became far more interested in each other. As Vincent continued on his way, he wondered if he should tell Catherine and what she would make of his little encounter.

As the creature ... correction ‘Vincent’... passed within two feet of them, Victoria was surprised to realize that she was no longer afraid of him. As he disappeared around the bend, she looked back up into the face of the man she now realized was Elliot Burch, the most eligible bachelor in New York. She watched as dozens of emotions played across his face while he gazed in the direction Vincent had gone. Then with a bemused chuckle, he looked down at her and his face softened into a gentle smile as once again she became lost in his eyes.

Elliot stared dumbstruck as Vincent disappeared. Suddenly dozens of pieces of the puzzle that was Cathy Chandler fell into place. He had known that he had a formidable and mysterious rival for the affections of Cathy but he now realized just how formidable that rival really was. There was no way he could compete against that. He thought again about how Cathy had changed him in ways that he was just now beginning to understand. Two years ago, he would have simply pulled the gun still hidden in his jacket and shot Vincent without a second thought. Now not only had he hesitated long enough to realize that there was humanity within that creature but he also found, to his surprise, that he wished them well and hoped Vincent and Cathy would be happy together. He couldn't help chuckling at his own reactions to this situation. He now looked back down into the eyes of the beautiful woman he still held in his arms, thinking that things weren't turning out so bad and again lost himself in those lovely sky blue eyes.

Finally, Victoria came back down to Earth and checked her watch. "Oh, damn. I'm running late. I've got to go."

Elliot released her reluctantly then took her hand. "Is there anyplace I can drop you?"

"My place is just on the other side of the park," she replied.

"Then may I walk with you?" He asked.

"I would like that very much." She smiled shyly at him. "My name is Victoria Jones."

Elliot put his arm around her waist as they headed off across the park. He had known this woman for only a few minutes yet all he wanted was to stay as close to her as possible. "It's nice to meet you Victoria. My name is Elliot."

"I know." She giggled. "I've seen pictures of you in the paper. My roommates are gonna flip when they hear that I ran into you."

Elliot smiled. "Actually we ran into each other." He chuckled. "Literally."

Elliot was bemused as they walked on in silence. This woman was not what he thought of as his type. She was too young and unsophisticated. He encountered young attractive women like her all the time and barely gave them a second thought. Yet when he had first looked at her, it was as though she had reached out and captured his heart and he had neither the strength nor the desire to break free. It was like nothing he had ever felt before even with Cathy. The irresistible force of his emotions astounded him. There was nothing logical about it; it just was.

Victoria noticed the faraway look in Elliot's face as the silence stretched out. Finally she had to say something. "Do you know that creature? You called him by name and he knew yours."

Elliot was broken from his reverie and looked at her, amused, as he considered his answer. "I've never actually met him, but I'm pretty sure he helped save my life three weeks ago." He chuckled to himself. "And I think he stole my previous girlfriend." Then he looked at Victoria with a sparkle in his eyes. "But I think I may have come out way ahead in the end."

The look he gave Victoria made her feel warm all over. She mused as they walked across the park, "You know he really seemed kind of nice once you got used to his appearance."

Elliot looked over at her. "You aren't going to leave me for him, too, are you?" He scowled.

She smiled back. "No way. He's not really my type. I like 'em clean shaved."

Eliot looked at her in surprise. "You did notice that I have a beard didn't you?" He rubbed his chin with his free hand as though verifying that it was still there.

Her eyes flashed with mischievousness. "I was talking about your nose." The funny thing was that generally she did prefer her men clean shaven but strangely she liked the way Elliot looked with a beard.

Elliot laughed, shaking his head. Everything about her, even her sense of humor delighted him. He squeezed her hand as they continued across the park.

When they reached her apartment building, she asked him a bit hesitantly. "Would you like to come up for a few minutes ... for coffee or something ... while I get ready for work?"

"That would be nice." Elliot responded.

"I have to be at the new Delacorte Amphitheater in an hour. They're doing a fashion shoot to coincide with the reopening later this summer," she told him as they rode the elevator.

As she opened the door to her apartment, she called out, "Man on the premises. I hope you're both decent." Then she entered, pulling him in behind her. Victoria poured Elliot a cup of coffee. "I'll be right back. Don't go anywhere."

As soon as she entered the bedroom, her roommates pounced, both talking at once. "Who is he?" ... "Are you crazy, picking up strange men in the park!" ... "He could be anybody." ... "A mugger!" ... "A mass murderer!" ... "Or worse!"

"His name is Elliot Burch," Victoria replied as she stepped into the shower.

Both roommates were stunned into silence as they recognized the name they had seen on many a tabloid cover. After a quick shower, Victoria hurriedly put on jeans and a loose shirt. Hair, makeup and clothing would be handled by the fashion shoot producers. As Victoria came out of the bedroom, followed by her two room mates, Elliot hung up their phone and turned to face them.

Victoria introduced her two friends. "Elliot Burch, these are my roommates, Cindy Harrison and Shannon Ford."

Elliot nodded to each of them. "Pleased to meet you both." Then he faced Victoria. "I just had my car brought around to the front of the building. I would be happy to drop you off at the theatre if you like." He smiled at her. "And maybe after your fashion shoot is done, you could have dinner with me?"

"Why, thank you Elliot. I would like that." She smiled back.

Both roommates' jaws dropped as Elliot opened the door for her and escorted her out.

* * * * *

Early the next morning, Catherine was released from the hospital. An hour after she entered her apartment, a large basket filled with all types of brightly colored flowers arrived. She set it on the living room coffee table and admired the beautiful arrangement for a short while. Then she opened the card to see whom it was from. She had to read the card several times to be sure she read it right.

 Cathy ,

 I want to wish you a speedy recovery . Later, 

 when you are free, I would like to introduce 

 you to Victoria . Give my best to Vincent and 

 thank him for introducing her to me .

    Your friend ,


Catherine shook her head. One thing was for sure she would definitely have to ask Vincent about this when she saw him next.

Author's Note: This story is just a little something I wrote in one afternoon for the fun of it. It is an experiment in writing style. I wanted to try to describe an encounter between three people from each persons perspective with out getting too redundant. That's harder than it sounds. I would very much like to read your reviews. It takes place just hours after the end of my story "Though Lovers Be Lost (revised)". A chance early morning encounter in the park leads to unexpected results. I always thought Eliot Burch was seriously flawed but he was not really evil, just unable to see past his own desires, so I thought I would give him a happy ending anyway.

‘Beauty and the Beast’ and its characters are owned by Witt-Thomas Productions and Republic Pictures. No infringement on copyrights is intended. This story is presented merely for the enjoyment of fans. Original concepts and story elements may be used by other authors as long as appropriate credit is given.