Destinies In Collision
By Thomas Mc

Chapter 12 : I Do

After three intense weeks of searching, Paulette had been unable to find a suitable wedding dress that she could afford. The wedding was in two weeks and she had decided that tomorrow she would hit the discount section of the bridal store chain that was located six blocks away, and take the first dress that she could fit into and afford. Clarissa burst into her chamber with a huge grin and a large package announcing, "I've got the solution to your problem right here." She plopped the package down on Paulette's bed with a triumphant flourish.

Paulette anxiously opened the package Clarissa had brought her. Inside was a beautiful white satin wedding gown with red satin trim that had been embroidered in red and gold thread. With the exception of the embroidery, it looked very much like the one in the magazine that she had liked so much. The material in the bodice was slightly less shiny than the rest of the dress and was covered in beautiful white scrollwork embroidery. She pulled it out of the carton and held it up. Her eyes caught the blue sparkle of sapphire earrings, which matched the color of Joseph's eyes, in the bottom of the box. Clarissa helped her try it all on and she looked at herself in the mirror. The red trim on the dress actually seemed to bring out the red in her hair and the sapphire earrings were just the right touch to finish it off.

She looked tearfully over at Clarissa. "It's so beautiful, but where, how?"

Clarissa grinned. "It was your suggestion. Satin sheets and tunnel ingenuity. The bodice is from an old sheet from the honeymoon suite." She finished with a wink. "I knew that would have a special meaning for you." Then she grinned. "The earrings are on loan from mother. So all together, you've got it covered." She touched the dress. "Something old, something new." She touched one of the earrings. "Something borrowed, something blue."

~ o x o ~

Maryanne gazed at her daughter, in disbelief, wondering how to respond. She had flown in last night, a week before Paulette's wedding, all the way from Nebraska to meet her daughter's fiancé. She knew that Joseph was supposed to be a bit unusual looking, Paulette had emphasized that fact, without elaborating on it, often enough in her many letters and phone calls, but this latest revelation of hers seemed to be stretching things to the point of absurdity. Even her daughter's insistence that Joseph was an empath seemed almost unremarkable when compared to this. The picture Maryanne had in her head was totally ridiculous, like something out of one of those bad monster movies her daughter loved.

Maryanne was startled by the sound of tapping on the French doors. She looked over surprised. That balcony had been empty just twenty minutes ago and they were eighteen floors up. "He's here." Paulette exclaimed as she jump up from the sofa. Running over she threw open the doors and pulled a huge hooded figure inside from the darkened balcony as Maryanne stood up. "Joseph, this is my mother Maryanne Gibson."

"It's a pleasure to finally meet you Mrs. Gibson." The voice that wafted from under that deep hood sent shivers up Maryanne's spine. That voice alone was more than enough to explain her daughter's attraction to him.

As her daughter and the huge figure placed their arms around each other's waist Maryanne finally noticed his hands, with their thick fur covering and long sharp claws. Her eyes went wide with surprise. Then the figure reached up with his free hand and pulled back the hood. She sat back down in stunned silence. Paulette had not been exaggerating. In fact, her daughter's description and Maryanne's mental image had both fallen far short of the reality that now stood before her. His appearance was so very frightening, yet at the same time, she thought there was something rather magnificently regal about him. The words 'King of the Beasts' popped into her mind.

After getting her initial rush of fear and awe under control, Maryanne slowly stood back up. She kept thinking about all those creepy horror movies that her daughter was so fond of. Now Paulette was apparently engaged to something . . . someone that looked like he could have stepped right off the screen from one of those films. Maryanne shook herself and took a single hesitant step forward. She was stunned again when the pictures in her magazines from the Beauty and the Beast fashion show in Central Park a year and a half ago flashed through her mind. Those lion-men had been real?

Reacting to her mother's expressions Paulette hastened to explain. "I know how he looks, mother, believe me." Paulette glanced up at him then looked back at her mother. "The first time I saw him, I was so frightened, I passed out." She leaned her head against his chest as she continued. "But then I got to know him." She grinned. "The more I got to know him, the more I liked the way he looks."

Joseph glanced down at Paulette. "I'm glad you finally decided that you like my appearance after all." He responded with a chuckle. Then he kissed the top of her head. "I like the way you look too. Particularly the first time I saw you."

His smile widened and Maryanne spotted actual fangs peeking out. Then she noticed that her daughter had turned bright red and wondered just what their first meeting had been like to cause that reaction.

Maryanne had to admit that there was something appealing to Joseph's strong self-confident demeanor, combined with that silk over steel voice, which seemed to draw her in. She could imagine how one could feel protected within his powerful arms and there was real compassion reflected in his startlingly blue eyes and his voice.

Finally, she screwed up her courage and approached Joseph and her daughter. "I'm glad to finally meet you." She gingerly held out her hand, still a bit unnerved by those long sharp dangerous looking claws.

He reached out and took her hand in a firm but gentle grip. "I've heard a lot about you from Paulette and I find you just as impressive as her descriptions and my mother's descriptions led me to expect."

Whatever effect she had been expecting because of his claws the only thing she felt was the warm soft texture of the fur on his hand. This unexpectedly made her think of how her daughter might find that particularly enticing about him and began to blush. She looked up, startled at his unexpected chuckle, into eyes that sparkled with mischief. Then Maryanne noticed that her daughter was blushing as furiously as she was sure that she herself was. Then a look of pure devilment appeared in her daughter's eyes as her grin widened. "Yes, mother, his fur is very sensual."

Now Maryanne could plainly see, through the thinner fur around his face, that Joseph was also blushing and the last vestiges of her fear melted away as she started to giggle.

~ o ~

The three of them sat around the table talking about Paulette's wedding plans when Maryanne finally got up the nerve to ask the question that had been running around her mind since she had gotten her first look at Joseph. "What about children? Do you know how they are likely to turn out?" She glanced back and forth between them. "Or is that a moot point?"

Paulette laughed. "I wondered how long it would take you to work yourself up to asking that." She glanced lovingly over at Joseph who returned her look with a loving one of his own. "I'm hoping to have at least one boy and one girl." She reached up to caress his cheek. "Any boys we have will definitely be leonine like Joseph though I may have some small effect on my son's features." She looked back at her mother. "Any girls we have will be totally normal human like me. They won't even carry any of the genes that make Joseph what he is." She paused. "Although Elizabeth tells me that our daughters will probably have a higher immunity to disease and there is a chance that they will be a bit stronger physically than normal, but not spectacularly so." She chuckled. "Joseph's sister, Clarissa, is stronger than most of the boys she knows, much to their annoyance."

Maryanne thought a moment. "What about the rest of Joseph's family. You haven't said anything about them yet." She looked at her daughter curiously thinking about that woman that had come to get her last fall and those pictures from some of her magazines.

"Joseph's father and two brothers are like him. His mother, who you have already met, is New York District Attorney Elizabeth Maxwell and his father's mother is ex-District Attorney Catherine Chandler. Joseph's cousin, Devin, recently got married to Emily Hansen, the supermodel. That Beauty and the Beast fashion shoot in Central Park a year and a half ago was a real wedding and all of the leonine males in Joseph's family took part in it." She grinned. "If you look closely at the pictures from that show, you can see Joseph in some of them."

About this time, Maryanne had to remind herself to close her mouth before she started catching flies. She was well aware who Catherine Chandler, Elizabeth Maxwell and Emily Hansen were. She had also been fascinated by the pictures from that particular fashion shoot. In fact, she had even clipped the pictures out and saved them in a scrapbook.

~ o x o ~

Maryanne lay in her hotel room thinking about the last few incredible days. She had met and rubbed elbows with a few celebrities that she never thought a person of her meager position in life would ever be exposed to. She knew that her first class flight and hotel room had been courtesy of Joseph's family. She had been a guest in a very swanky high-end townhome located on Central Park West and gazed out over Central Park from the rooftop garden where her daughter would be having her wedding in a few days. While there she had met a famous fashion designer from Paris and the CEO of Burch Industries as well as the manager of the Wells-Chandler Foundation. She had even met the top supermodel in the industry and a world famous and very reclusive author of children's and young adult books the day after learning that she would soon be related to them by marriage. All of these famous and important people would be at her daughter's wedding.

Maryanne had always suspected, and occasionally feared, that her daughter's choice in a mate/husband would be somewhat unconventional, but even her wildest imaginings had been nothing next to the eventual reality of Joseph. She had heard about the urban myth of the Creature of Central Park and, like other's, had scoffed at it, only to find out that there were actually several of them. Now one of them was her daughter's lover and was about to become her husband. Yet despite his frightening appearance, she found that she considered Joseph to be far superior to any of Paulette's other past boyfriends.

She wondered how her late husband, Rob, would have reacted to all this. She had loved the man dearly and he had been a wonderful husband and father. But he would never have been able to handle the reality of something like Joseph or his male relatives. She thought it strange that Paulette could have so much of her father in her yet her adventurous personality was so radically different from his.

Her mind drifted back to Catherine and Vincent. She had been astounded to learn that Catherine Chandler was still alive. And the power and grace that still radiated from Vincent, like a beacon, left her in awe. She had been fascinated by stories of their life together. It was like a real life fairy tale, and now her daughter seemed to be living in the same magical fantasy.

Then she began to think about the one thing that was still being kept from her. Maryanne had wondered how Joseph and his family had all managed to remain hidden from the general public for so long. Paulette had told her that that was the one secret that she could not tell her. She could understand their need for secrecy and couldn't blame them. She knew that soon her daughter would also be relying on that same secrecy to keep her new family safe as well. Especially if she had kids.

~ o ~

Paulette lay in Joseph's arms thinking about her mother. She had handled the last few days a lot better than Paulette had dared to hope. The first meeting between her mother and Joseph had been the key and it had gone very well. Paulette had been nervous as hell all that day but she loved her mother and wanted her to be there at her wedding. That could only happen if she met and accepted Joseph. Fortunately, her mother had accepted Joseph fairly quickly and they had become friends.

Then she thought about her father. He had been a wonderful and loving father to her that short time he had been there for her. Though she had only been four when he died, she missed her father and was bit sad that he would not be there at her wedding but she also knew, from what her mother had told her, that he would not have been able to deal with Joseph or his family. At least she would have her mother there.

Paulette was also a little sad that she couldn't share the tunnels with her mother but Maryanne would be returning to Nebraska after the wedding so there was no need for her to know about Below. Also those that lived Below were very reluctant to share their secret if it was not necessary. Paulette understood their feelings and respected them. Her own family would soon be dependant on that same secrecy.

Still she would have dearly loved to have taken her mother down to the waterfall lake. With a sigh, she cuddled closer to Joseph. He tightened his arm around her and kissed first her forehead then, when she looked up, her lips. Another kiss and she was no longer thinking of her mother.

~ o x o ~

Paulette smiled brightly as she looked into her mother's shimmering eyes, then she did a quick twirl in her wedding gown. Clarissa and Cherry both clapped and laughed at her antics. "Honestly Paulette, one would think it was your wedding day the way you're prancing around." Cherry remarked with a giggle.

"You look absolutely lovely, honey." Emily remarked with a smile. "Most of the designers I work for would give their eye teeth to be able to design something as beautiful as that dress and their customers would pay a fortune for such a creation. That dress suits you and you fill it out perfectly. It was definitely made for you."

Paulette, Emily, Clarissa and Cherry had all become close friends since she had first come to the tunnels a year ago.

"I couldn't agree more." Her mother added. "You are the most beautiful bride I have ever seen." Then mother and daughter embraced. "Now, let's go get you started on your wonderfully magical new life."

Clarissa opened the door and quietly informed someone on the other side that they were ready to begin. After about a minute there was a knock at the door. Clarissa opened it wide and announced, "Here we go." Then she stepped out. After a pause, Cherry stepped out and finally Emily advanced through the door. With a deep sigh, Paulette stepped forward, escorted by her mother. As she passed through the door, Charles stepped up on her other side and together with her mother escorted her up the short aisle toward the front of the brownstone's rooftop garden.

~ o ~

Joseph stood anxiously at the front of the garden. Next to him stood his best man, William. His oldest brother Peter and his cousin Devin were serving as his groomsmen. The signal to begin was given and his attention was drawn to the back of the garden where the bride's party began advancing towards him.

William leaned towards him and spoke softly. "Remember, little brother, to take very good care of her and treat her right, cause I'll be waiting in the wings if you mess up."

"I know, big brother." Joseph responded. "I'm counting on it, because I want you to be there for her if, for any reason, I can't be." He glanced over at his brother. "But you can bet that I'm going to be doing my damnedest to keep her happy."

Paulette appeared at the doorway and Joseph became totally focused on her. His heart swelled with love as he watched the incredibly beautiful answer to all of his dreams advancing towards him. William sensed the emotions in his brother and smiled. He couldn't honestly begrudge his little brother this victory. Those two really did belong together.

~ o ~

Paulette reached the front of the garden and stood there before Joseph as the priest asked. "Who gives away the hand of this bride in marriage?"

Charles spoke up. "Her mother and I, as stand in for her late father, do." He placed her hand into Joseph's hand with a smile and a wink.

Charles stepped back, turned and, taking Maryanne's arm, escorted her to her seat, then he took his place beside Elizabeth on the other side of the aisle. He had fulfilled the role Paulette had requested of him.

~ o ~

As Joseph and Paulette stood in the Chandler-Wells family brownstone rooftop garden, they pledged their love and their lives to each other. Paulette let her love for Joseph flow freely through her, knowing that he could sense it, and she saw his response to it reflected in his eyes. They may not have the bond that the other Chandler-Wells couples had, but they were bonded together just as strongly in their hearts. Paulette felt her love and pride growing as she gazed into her lover's eyes and, seeing her destiny there, pledged her heart and soul to him.

Tears sprang to Paulette's eyes as she looked down at the ring Joseph was placing on her finger, and then she gazed up into his eyes as he recited the words of the ring ceremony. Joseph could feel his emotions swell to match hers as he gazed into his bride's shining brown eyes.

Paulette had become so lost in Joseph's eyes that she almost missed her cue when Emily nudged her then handed her the ring. She quickly recovered and, using a trick Catherine had showed her of twisting it to make it slide over the fur more easily, placed it on his finger. She echoed the words of the ring ceremony without really hearing them. She was too busy drowning in his eyes.

The two of them kissed sending sparks through her all the way down to her toes. The kiss lingered and deepened just a bit more than expected, then Joseph tilted his head back, and cut loose with a roar of pure joy and triumph as Paulette laughed with delight.

Maryanne nearly jumped out of her skin. Though she had been warned about this particular tradition, it had still caught her by surprise. Then the rest were cheering and she joined in. There had been something so joyous to that roar and the cheering response, that she couldn't help herself.

The bride and groom led everyone down the staircase to the first floor parlor where the reception was to be held. Though small, the reception was quite boisterous and jolly. Maryanne met a few more of Joseph's family and was surprised to learn how many of them were well known and well respected.

Joseph and Paulette were going to honeymoon at the Chandler lake house. The logistics of such an expedition had been worked out years ago for Catherine and Vincent's honeymoon. After dropping the honeymooners off at the lake house the rest of the caravan would head over to the home of the daughter of one of Catherine's oldest friends. Just after dark, those involved in the honeymoon caravan were in place and the bride and groom left for Connecticut. In the back of the van Joseph whispered to Paulette, "You did remember to pack that little turquoise thing I first saw you in?" Paulette blushed bright red as she giggled and nodded in the affirmative.

The next morning Maryanne flew back home to Nebraska. She had seen her daughter's future in a face unlike anything she had ever known existed and knew that Paulette's life would be full of adventure, great love and just a little bit of magic.


Watch for the Sequel, titled 'Little Miracles', coming very soon.

'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.

I Do is sung by Jewel

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