Vinzent popped the cork and poured out the champagne, and they all drunk to the health of the newly engaged couple. Looking round at the smiling, happy faces, he knew that although he had not met any of these people two months ago, they were his family now. He loved Aoife very much. And these people loved Aoife as well. So Vinzent loved them too. He smiled. He wondered whether the younger girls would be pleased.
“What is it?” asked Aoife in a low voice, taking a step towards him.
“I’m wondering what your cousins will say,” he said.
“They’ll be ecstatic! I promise,” Aoife said with a smile. “They think you’re great.”
“They think you’re great.”
They exchanged smiles.
“Did you bring the other two? The ones you wanted me to meet?”
“Just in the hall.”
They stepped into the hall for a moment, and Vinzent bent down in the darkness, a finger to his lips.
“Fast asleep,” he said. “But look.”
Aoife bent down beside him and looked into the basket where a shiny silver colander was upturned.
She obeyed, and caught a glimpse of two small furry bodies curled up together in a fold of blanket. One sensed the movement, and lifted its bright blue eyes to peek at her with interest. It studied her unblinkingly, then figured that she was not threatening, and went back to sleep.
“Kittens,” she whispered, and her eyes were twinkling with tears. “Perfect.”
Vinzent took her hand and moved it towards the tiny bodies. “Flotsam,” he said, making her fingers touch the grey fluff, “and Jetsam,” he said, moving her hand to caress the sleek black coat.
“They’re beautiful!” she said quietly. “And so small and warm and perfect.”
Vinzent nodded. “I think we’ll leave them out here if you don’t mind. They’re only a few weeks old, I think. Abandoned in a Viennese backstreet. Apollo isn’t about, is he?”
“He’s outside on the veranda.” Aoife raised her face to his. They were both kneeling, so their eyes were on a level. “Oh, Vinzent!” she cried suddenly flinging her arms around him and burying her face in the nook of his shoulder. “I’m so glad my parents like you! And me! And I’m so…so…I’m just so glad!”