Skin Deep
                                                                                                                        By Thomas Mc

                                                                                                                     Chapter 8: Snowfall

Cherry handed her phone to Peter. "Better call Elizabeth and let her know."

Peter dialed Elizabeth's number. "Hello mom." . . .
"Yea we're just fine here." . . .
"We're all staying in this nice little roadside Bed and Breakfast for the time being." . . .
"We have already gotten to know the owners and they are very nice people." . . .
"That's not a problem. One of the owners is the local sheriff." . . .
"That's what I said, the local sheriff and his wife own this place." . . .
"Yes, I'm sure. It turns out that the wife and her sister are fans of mine." . . .
"OK, we'll be heading home once this storm clears up." He handed the phone back to Cherry with a bit of a chuckle. "I suspect there will be a lot of explaining required when we get back home."

Cherry grinned. "I can just imagine what your mom and dad must be thinking right about now."

Katy gave a tiny shiver. "We need to start a fire in the fireplace. Take some of the chill off."

Matt approached the large stone fireplace that dominated the inside wall of the common room and also opened into the small family dining room on the other side of the wall. He glanced over at the nearly empty firewood rack beside it. "Well looks like I had better chop some more wood while I can still find the woodpile."

Peter stepped up next to him. "Mind if I help?"

Matt shrugged. "It's fine by me. I could sure use the help." He put on his heavy coat and headed out the back. Peter threw on his cloak and followed right behind him.

As they left the room David went over to the fireplace and began building a fire with the last of the wood in the rack.

On the way out Matt grabbed one of the two axes and an old ratty broom that were located beside the back door. Peter grabbed the other axe on his way out.

About ten feet from the back of the house was a large mound in the snow. Matt went over to it and began brushing the snow away with the old broom. Soon they were looking at a large pile of whole logs. The logs in the pile averaged about a foot and a half long and about a foot in diameter.

Peter looked over the pile then asked. "What exactly are we supposed to do?"

Matt smiled and grabbed a log from the top of the pile as he replied. "We need to split the logs into quarters so that they will fit into the fireplace easier and burn better." He set the log on it's end and picked up his axe. With one swing he buried the axe half of the way through the log. He then lifted the axe with the log stuck to it and brought the whole thing down against the ground several times until he had split the log in half. He then set one of the halves on end and with one swing split it nearly in two. With a quick lift and drop he split it the rest of the way.

Peter nodded to himself, grabbed a log off the pile, set it down and, with one quick swing, split it neatly in half. Two more quick swings and he had four perfect quarter sections.

Matt stood there for a second staring at the split sections at Peter's feet then he looked up at Peter. "You're a lot stronger than you look aren't you?" He chuckled. "I got a pretty good idea how fast you are after seeing David in action but that gave me no indication of strength."

Peter nodded. "Strength, speed, dexterity, empathic sense and near immunity to disease are all part of our genetic heritage as well as our, rather unique, physical appearance." Peter shrugged. "How much of that is intentional and how much is serendipity is anybody's guess."

Matt chuckled. "Well in that case how about, I stack and you chop."

Peter nodded. "Works for me." Thirty minutes later they had a substantial pile of quartered logs.

The majority of the split logs were stacked in a bin just inside the back door. They carried the remainder of the logs into the common room. "That was quick." Commented Katy as they placed the logs on the rack beside the fireplace.

Matt nodded. "Peter here is pretty handy with an axe." He pulled off his coat and hung it on the coat hook beside the fireplace. There was already a nice cheery fire going in the fireplace.

Katy brought out a large bowl of unshelled walnuts and pecans. They all gathered around the fireplace and cracked and munched on the nuts while they talked about the local town and how Matt and Katy had ended up buying the old manor and turning it into a Bed and Breakfast. While the others shared the three nutcrackers, David and Peter were able to just use their bare hands and claws to get them open. Peter was soon opening them for Cherry and David was opening them for Sparrow.

Cherry was grinning as she accepted a shelled pecan from Peter and commented. "Sometimes it can be very handy having a strong spouse with claws." She chuckled then popped the pecan into her mouth.

Matt looked over at Peter, a puzzled expression on his face. "That reminds me, when we were out back chopping up the logs you said something about being uncertain how much of what you were was 'intentional'. Now that I think about what you said, I'm curious what you meant by 'intentional'."

Sally, Katy and Sparrow turned toward Peter, their interest peeked by Matt's question.

Peter stared into the fire and thought a moment before he replied. "That is actually a very complex and involved question." He looked at the cracked shell fragments in his hand then tossed them into the fire and looked up at Matt. "It's all tied in with our origins, so I have to go back to the beginning to explain." He glanced around at his audience. "It started just about a hundred years ago with Vincent. He was the first of our kind. He was found in the middle of winter as a newborn infant hidden in the trash behind Saint Vincent Hospital by a very reclusive group of people."

Peter paused a moment, cracking another nut for Cherry, and let them absorb the implications of how and where Vincent was found.

Peter tossed the shell fragments into the fire and continued. "Because of where he was found, they named that strange newborn infant Vincent. Though they had no idea how Vincent came to be, these people nevertheless sheltered and raised him as one of their own. The leader of this group even treated Vincent as his own son." Another dramatic pause. "One night, thirty years later, a wealthy high society woman named Catherine was assaulted and her body dumped, left for dead, in Central Park. Vincent found her, where she lay dying, and took her to where he lived. The man that had raised Vincent was also an unfairly disgraced doctor and he fixed Catherine up saving her life. After she had recovered enough, Catherine went back to her own life but she and Vincent kept in contact with each other." He smiled at Cherry letting his fangs peek out. "Catherine and Vincent fell in love and eventually they secretly married."

Sally was hit by inspiration and spoke up. "Are you talking about Catherine Chandler?"

Peter nodded. "That is correct. Catherine Chandler was my grandmother."

Katy looked at Peter in surprise. "Mother always admired District Attorney Catherine Chandler. She was forever holding her up as an example of what I could aspire to."

Peter nodded acknowledgment to Katy then grinned at Cherry. "Much to everyone's surprise, Vincent and Catherine produced five children, two boys and three girls. It was shortly after the birth of the first two children that Vincent's mother was found. Long story short Vincent's mother revealed that she was kidnapped by a madman that did some weird experiments on her and the birth of Vincent was the result. That madman died long before they found out about him and all his records are believed to have been destroyed in a house fire so we still have no idea exactly what he might have been shooting for when he created Vincent. For all we know he could have been going for the fangs and the rest was just unexpected side effects. I suspect that we will never know the answer to that question."

Matt thought about what Peter had told them. "So what do you know about yourselves?"

Peter responded. "My brother's wife is a very smart microbiologist and she has been studying us since she met him. We know what that madman did to our genetics but not how or why."

After that they talked about what was known about the leonine men's genetics then they ended up talking about various family traits in general.

~ o ~

After lunch Katy noticed that the snowfall appeared to have let up and commented on it. The fresh glistening snow was so inviting that they all bundled up and went outside. Sally, Sparrow, Cherry and Katy made snow angels. Meanwhile the boys started running around among the four large snow mounds that hid the visitor's vehicles and throwing snowballs at each other. After a while the girls joined in.

David caught Sparrow with a particularly large snowball and, after she recovered from her surprise, she decided to teach him lesson and build one about the size of a basket ball. Then, while David was engaged with exchanging fire with Peter, Cherry, Sally and Katy who had ganged up against him and Matt, she caught David completely by surprise with her massive snowball. David retaliated with his own nuclear snowball.

Challenged, Sparrow started rolling a particularly large snowball. She would show him a thing or two. As her snowball got larger she would glance at David, giggle and continue enlarging it. Once her snowball reached about a foot and a half in diameter, David came over and pitched in to help her make it even bigger. As the giant snowball passed three feet in diameter, others joined in and it eventually ended up around four and a half feet across.

As they admired the over-sized snowball David commented with a grin. "Well it's definitely too large to throw at anyone so what do we do with it now."

"Start over." Sparrow replied.

This time they ended up with a snowball that was around three and a half feet across. David again commented. "It's still too big to throw."

"We can put it on top of the first one." She replied.

It took Matt, David and Peter working together to lift the smaller snowball up on top of the larger one. Then they all stood around looking at their creation. "Still needs one more for the head." Matt remarked. He and Sparrow build a third snowball about two feet across.

As they looked at the two foot snowball and the eight foot high snowman body Sparrow asked. "How do we get it up there?"

"I have an idea." Matt responded and ran around behind the house. A couple of minutes later he returned dragging a ten foot step ladder. He opened it up and set it next to the snowman. Peter held the ladder steady while David handed the head up to Matt who placed it on top. Sparrow commented that it wasn't quite straight and climbed up the other side of the ladder.

Reacting to the sudden flash of mischief he sensed in Sparrow, David looked up just in time to see the two foot snowball come down on him. David was completely covered from head to toe in snow to which Peter commented. "Well that's one way to make a snowman." The rest broke out laughing as David stood there for several seconds.

David looked up at Sparrow looking down at him and grinning then nodded. "Ok, you win. I surrender."

After David brushed off most of the snow, he and Sparrow made a new head. This time, after handing up the new head, David stood well back as Matt, Peter and Sparrow settled the new head into place. The next hour was spent decorating the snowman. Katy brought out two blue coffee saucers to use as eyes. They used an old broken lampshade as a hat and a curved branch as a mouth. The nose was fashioned from a triangle of snow. Two five foot long branches served as arms for the ten foot tall snowman.

Matt dragged the ladder over to the side of the house then they all stood around to admire their handiwork. The temperature began dropping and soon they all returned inside. After shedding their snowy coats they gathered around the fireplace while Matt stoked up the fire. Once everyone was warmed up and dry Katy went back to the kitchen and began making a late dinner for everyone. Clarissa and Sally went back to help her.

After dinner they remained at the table and shot the breeze for a couple of hours. Then they all turned in for the night.

David was laying in bed thinking about Sparrow when he sensed her heading downstairs. After a couple of minutes he got up, put on the robe that Matt had supplied for him and headed downstairs.

He found her sitting at the table munching on a piece of leftover pastry. He grabbed a couple of sodas and they moved into the common room where they settled before the fireplace. The fire was low but still burning. David opened the protective glass doors and threw a log onto the fire.

Soon they had a nice cheery fire going. For a long time they just sat there together in silence, watching the fire, then she looked over at David who then leaned in and kissed her. Soon they were both engaged in a passionate kiss, his hand gently caressing the scarred side of her face. They broke and he smiled, his eyes shining, as he gazed at her. She felt a slight tingling warmth from some where deep inside that seemed to grow as they looked into each other's eyes. She knew instinctively that this unfamiliar sensation she was feeling must be love.

~ x x x x x ~

Late the next morning Sparrow woke up and, smiling, touched the scarred side of her face where David had caressed her last night. He really loved her . . . all of her . . . and the scaring didn't put him off at all. She finally believed that it was real.

She quickly got dressed and left her room. She found everyone but Peter and Cherry in the kitchen talking over breakfast. By the time she finished breakfast, Peter and Cherry showed up. About an hour later Chastity arrived at the bed and breakfast in one of the two police snow cat vehicles. She smiled as she greeted every one. "That's quite a snowman you have out front."

"We enjoyed building it." Matt responded. "What brings you all the way out here?"

"Have you heard the latest from the Weather Bureau?" Chastity asked.

"I haven't even thought about it this morning." Matt glanced at his guests. "Why? What happened?"

Chastity shook her head. "The southern warm front has stalled out over North Carolina and there is a second cold front moving in from the north-west off the Great Lakes. They are already issuing winter storm warnings for all of the east coast north of Virginia. By tonight they say that the entire north east will be completely snowed in. They're predicting up to an additional fifteen to twenty inches of snow tonight. The worst of it should be in a band extending from Ohio, through West Virginia and Maryland, all the way up through the southern half of New York State."

Matt sighed. "Well that means that we need to make the rounds. Make sure that everyone is secure and has everything that they need." He grabbed his coat and joined Chastity. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Come on Chaz, we've got a lot of outlying homes to visit." Together they left.

After a short time Katy brought out some games and decks of cards. Most of the morning was taken up with games and conversation before the warm fireplace. An hour after lunch Matt and Chastity returned. They came in carrying armloads of extra supplies.

While the supplies were being stored away Cherry noticed that Peter was sitting staring distractedly into the fire. She recognized his current emotional makeup as one she had sensed many times before. It meant that he was working on a new story. She touched his shoulder. "What are you thinking so hard about dear?"

Peter looked up at her and smiled. "Just working out the plot of a new story."

Cherry glanced around to see that everyone had heard and were now looking at them. "Can you tell us the new story?"

Peter also glanced at the others then nodded his head. "I've just about got the plot worked out in my head. I guess this is as good a time as any to record the first draft version of the new book." His gaze swept the room. "The rest of you can be my beta editors." He stood up. "Let's move into the common room and I'll go up and fetch my recorder."

~ o ~

Peter stood by the fireplace and faced the rest them. "This new story is very loosely based somewhat on the adventures of David and Sparrow." He paused a moment, placing his hands behind his back, and composed himself while getting his thoughts organized.

He looked so much like a professor about to deliver a lecture that it caused Katy to giggle. Peter glared at her with half raised eyebrow, which caused Cherry to also giggle, and then he cleared his throat and broke into a big grin. He turned on his voice-to-text recorder then began to speak in a clear and concise voice. "This is the first draft of 'Skin Deep' by Peter Chandler-Wells . . . Chapter 1 . . . It was a cold mid-winter night as the half moon shown down through the leafless branches . . ."

Within seconds he had his impromptu audience totally engrossed in the new story. Though set in a medieval fantasy world of fairytale creatures and magic, Sparrow and David were able to recognize the elements of their own recent story in the magical tale that he was weaving. Everyone in that room caught references to themselves as the tale unfolded.

~ o ~

". . . side by side as the young couple stared out to sea and into the future of renewed hope . . . The End." The room became totally silent broken only by the crackling of the fire.

After a moment Chastity broke the silence. "That was beautiful."

Clarissa spoke next. "Peter you've done it again." Then everyone was enthusiastically praising his story.

"Well it's still very rough and many of the scenes are far from completely realized, but thank-you for your kind words." He glanced at the clock. "Now it looks like it's past dinner time and I'm hungry."

During dinner they all talked about the new story and Peter carefully made note of everyone's comments and questions. By the time dinner was over he already had enough material to generate a second, more polished and complete, draft.

By the time Chastity left to return to her home the second storm front was already moving in.

~ x x x x x ~

Next morning the snow was so deep that all of the outside doors were blocked by massive snow drifts. Everyone gazed out of the half covered front bay window at the snow altered front landscape. The mounds of the four vehicles had nearly vanished into one huge snowdrift. The nights snow had also blurred the lines of the giant snowman out front and dressed it in a long flowing skirt.

Later that morning Elizabeth called Peter to see how everyone was doing and to report that New York was also currently experiencing extremely heavy snowfall. Most businesses were already closed as the city was rapidly being snowed in. The emergency crews were already working overtime to try to keep the city running but it looked like they were fighting a loosing battle.

Matt called Chastity to verify that she was doing OK. She said that the town was completely shut down but she was still able to get around in the police snow cat. Then Matt and Katy called her parents in New York and talked to their two children after which they handed the phone to Sally so she could talk to her two kids. The grandparents assured them that they were enjoying having all four grandchildren staying over.

An hour later Sally's husband Tom called to tell her that all flights to New York had been canceled so he was not going to make it home that evening as planned. She informed him that she was also stranded at her sister's place but that so far she was really enjoying her visit.


                                                                                                                       My Story