DRAGONJULS Storybook
~ Actions and Consequences ~
J M Dragon
Part Two
2000 by J M Dragon
Email: jmdragon1@hotmail.com

 
Disclaimer:   See Part One


Chapter Two:

Fatama Spiros was the typical Greek matriarch. Her husband had died shortly after the birth of their youngest child. Due to the position of wealth and perceived power the family held on the small island of Xianspiros, she had taken over her husband’s role as the head of the family. The maternal role also extended to the business of running the string of restaurants both on the islands and on the mainland of Greece. As with all-powerful families, there was the inevitable fly in the ointment; that was the family, who actually owned more of Xianspiros than they did themselves.

Now that the American woman had given them some interesting details that she doubted the family themselves had access to, it would be a good time to indulge in a little feuding that hadn’t happened in over fifty years. She remembered in the early days how it had practically caused a mini civil war on the island. Only the intervention by an Englishman in removing the two daughters of the other family to safety and obscurity, had the feud avoided the massive bloodshed that often happened in these occurrences. The family Xianthos had been deposed from the island for years. That is, until Constantia, the eldest daughter made a quiet, but unwelcome return over thirteen years ago. Unwelcome in the eyes of the Spiros family, but the islanders of Xianspiros had been overjoyed at the return of the heir to the estates of their ancestors.

“Mama, I will be going to the restaurant now. Do you need anything?” George Spiros, her eldest son, heir to the family business asked his mother as he ventured into the open patio area. It had the distinctive grapevines adorning the wrought iron trellis’s that gave a very private area. One his mother loved and would sit for hours on and gaze upon the sun rise and fall over the Aegean Sea.

George came forward. Bent down to kiss his mothers cheek and take her hand to steady her as she moved away from the breakfast table towards her large chair, which had one of the best views of the island. Only outclassed by the Xianthos family villa, which for years had been laid to waste. But, was now beautifully renovated in the old Greek style of the ancients; or so people said.

“You have not forgotten your sister arrives tonight? We must plan what to do as I discussed with you before?” Fatama remark from a face weather worn, the creases gave away that she lived and worked in a sunny environment. At one time, it had been a very beautiful countenance. Now, having reached the age of seventy, it had the worn look so many often experienced.

George was typically handsome by Greek standards. His dark black hair and swarthy features had captured many a girl’s heart in the early days. If he wasn’t being too modest, even today, he could have his pick of the tourist’s who frequented the small island in the summer. Although he was forty, he was rarely without a much younger woman on his arm and preferably a blonde.

“Yes Mama. I remember Althea will be home. But does she know anything about why, she has been summoned from Athens?”

One thing he knew about his sister was that she hated the island she had been born on and had welcomed the opportunity to go and study in Athens. Finally settling there much to his mothers chagrin, although Althea wasn’t within easy reach of her mother, she certainly came running when their mother called, as he did himself.

“No! She will know tonight when she arrives. You will pick her up from the ferry point?” George nodded his head and went to leave. “We will rid the island of the Xianthos seed George, once and for all! If necessary the world too!” the older woman turned to her precious view of the picturesque sight, as a thin lipped smirk slithered across her aged weary countenance.

George shook his head at the comment. Maybe Althea could talk some sense into the old woman. He had attempted upon several occasions. But she continued to persist in this stupid vendetta. He often wondered why? There had been stories of hundreds of years ago and curses, but nothing as to why the recent feud involving his father and he suspected his mother came about. He was sure that they would find out sooner, rather than later.

**********

Steven Corby had lived on the streets for over two years. His degeneration into drugs from the age of sixteen had been inevitable especially with his background. His father was a compulsive gambler. His mother was nothing more than a whore to meet the demands of her craving for alcohol in any form! Steven had been a smart boy at school. His constant battles with his home life and his eventual slide into the wrong crowd when he was but the age of youthful exuberance-for want of a better expression.

Now he was being lectured to by a doddering old Reverend. Who couldn’t see the problems they had in this day and age. He was from the old school. Except for the fact that he was bringing along a blonde, which you could certainly have fantasies day and night about. He would not normally have even bothered to stay beyond the warm meal and blanket that was given out at the temporary shelter in Lasky Street. Yet, here he was. It was entirely to see the green eyes and engaging smile of the blonde, who they said was American. However, he hadn’t been that close to hear her speak.

Jane Sargent, a medium height, but solidly built sixteen year old sat down heavily next to him. She was quite cute, if you didn’t mind the permanent red nose and streaming eyes her addiction to drugs had created. However, she did have a sense of humour. On the cold nights when they had no shelter and walked the streets or settled down in old buildings, it was a relief to the horrors of the situation they were in.

“Steve you ogling that Yank again?” her eyes furtively roaming over the other people in the small shelter that had been recently put together by a shoestring, or that is what the outward appearance suggested.

“What if I am? She is certainly better turned out than you are!” the young man replied with a friendly grin.

“When was the last time you saw ‘Master’ Steve?” Jane asked him, having scanned the room to her satisfaction.

“Tuesday. He had a new stash. But, it was way expensive. I’ll have to sell my soul to the devil for some of that.” Steven didn’t like the thought of selling his body to anyone who wanted it. But he didn’t have a choice now. He was becoming as bad as the mother he despised. Ironic when you thought about it. He didn’t particularly want to.

“Well, he likes me. So, I guess I might get a chance at some real soon.” Jane winked at her friend, then wiped her dripping nose on the sleeve of her rumbled and dirty jumper.

The Reverend Stott chose that moment to stand beside the seats they had taken. He smiled at them with that expression of peace you always saw on the face of a man committed to God. Serene as if nothing could touch them, even with the horrors of today.

“I see you both have turned up again. Is it the meal, blankets or another attraction that had taken your interest?” Clarence Stott was pretty certain that the young man was smitten with Jace. The girl was another thing altogether.

Thomas grinned at the Reverend. His face took on a boyish appeal that was quite hidden under the normal ravages of his addiction. “Well, the foods good. The blankets keep us warm at night. But, I got to tell you that is some woman you have helping you Reverend.”

“That she is. That she is. And your name would be?” Clarence asked and held out his hand in welcome.

“Steven, Steve usually. So how long do you plan on keeping this place open? They don’t last long normally.” Steven replied as he pointed around the room and finally rested his eyes on the small blonde, who was talking to an older woman at the food area.

“We plan on keeping open as long as there are people to help. I want to say that one day, we will close for the right reasons but….” Clarence smiled as he noticed where the young man was looking.

“Well, in my experience, places like this shut up through lack of funds. I bet it happens in this town too!” Jane Sargent decided to enter the conversation.

“I certainly hope not. But, if that was a possibility, I have a friend who knows people, who might help with the right persuasion.” Clarence smiled as he thought of a conversation that he had had the night before with Jace. She had said if there were a funding problem, she would speak to Catherine. After all, her partner must have some sympathy with this project on a personal level.

“Rich friends usually want something out of the charity they give. I know a few people who only do it for self gratification.” Jane caustically stated as she wiped her nose again on her sleeve. The gesture clearly indicating her need for a further feed of her addiction.

“I believe that this person is sincere and would not want anything other than for the funds to be used for the benefit of the cause.” Clarence this time looked towards Jace, who was talking animatedly with his wife.

They had become quite friendly in the months that Jace had started to help in the community. His wife had been overjoyed when an invitation to the reception of Jace and Catherine Warriorson’s commitment had been sent. It had been a wonderful day, not only for the happy couple, but for all the guests present as well. It wasn’t so much a wedding atmosphere, as a party, one much like a birthday. The friendliness that abounded surprised the guests invited from the town.

Jane Sargent saw the look that the Reverend had given the blonde woman. She looked at the small woman in speculation.

“Is she American then?”

Clarence laughed loudly at the remark and then nodded his head, “Yes, indeed my friend. Jace is an American. Tell you what, I will call her over and you can hear for yourself.” Chuckling the man went over to Jace and his wife and spoke to them both as each gave a wide smile.

Steven couldn’t believe his luck. The beautiful blonde was heading their way.

“Don’t’ wreck this Jane. I want to speak to her. So, keep quiet okay?” He stared at his friend.

“Shit! Men are so dumb. They only think with their dick! Go ahead. Fawn all over her, or is it fornicate!” the girl countered, looking at the approaching woman with a scowl.

Jace wasn’t exactly sure what was expected of her here. Clarence had asked her to go over to the two young people and talk to them and she would. It was now after one p.m. She had promised to have lunch with Catherine. That had been blown out of the water. The stilted conversation she had with her partner an hour ago, hadn’t settled well with her either. Yet, this was something she felt good about, the chance to help young people who needed that little extra time. She was especially interested in the project when it was mentioned because of Catherine. Her partner had once been lucky. She had found two people who cared enough about her to help her addiction. But these kids, who was going to help them? Well she was certainly going to try!

“Hi, I’m Jace. The Reverend asked me to come over and talk, not sure what about, but that’s a man of the cloth for you; always have something to say, don’t they?” Jace smiled at them, waiting for a response. Although, she was not entirely sure she was going to get one.

Steven was enchanted. He saw the bright green eyes and the beautiful skin that wasn’t impaired by any blemishes; not like all the other women he came across. Well most of them anyway.

“I’m Steven,” was all he could think of as a reply.

Jace smiled at him and then turned to the girl and gave her a quizzical look.

“Jane,” came the aggrieved reply.

“Do you mind if I sit here for a few moments?” Jace asked and nodded towards the vacant chair beside the girl.

“It’s a free country. Help yourself.” Jane replied with sarcasm.

Jace smiled at the reply. Well, the girl didn’t seem to like her much. She had heard worse rejoinders from Catherine and still lived to tell the tale. That made her chuckle. She gave an embarrassed look at the two young people.

“Thanks.”

“So, where do you two come from originally?” Jace asked. It was a start. At least she could have a conversation all on her own, about her previous life in the US if needs be.

“I’m from….” Steven began the conversation totally enraptured by the blonde American with the warm green eyes.

**********

Catherine crossed her arms then uncrossed them and then crossed them again. This aggravated movement had gone on for quiet some time now.

Judy was getting irritated at her boss’s obvious agitated emotions. However, she didn’t have Grace’s expertise with the tall dark woman. Certainly no one but Jace she thought was going to solve this problem.

The door to the kitchen opened and Lisa walked in slowly. Her head hung down as she slipped into the seat next to Catherine, who looked up at the intrusion in her personal space. Catherine looked at her elder daughter with concern. It wasn’t often the child was subdued. She certainly looked it this minute.

“Okay, spill it. What’s wrong?” Catherine asked the child a few moments later. It at least stopped the arm crossing movements.

Lisa looked up at her guardian and gave her a hopeless look from those blue eyes. Catherine smiled at the child’s desolate features.

“Why do the boys always say nice things to Kate Witherspoon. But to me, they tell jokes and call me carrot top?” the girl asked plaintively.

Catherine wanted to laugh and turned her eyes towards Judy who at that moment headed for the laundry room with a smile. “Well it would depend.” Catherine said evasively.

Lisa looked at her and frowned. “Depend on what?”

“What nice things do they say to the other girl?” Catherine wasn’t sure she wanted to have this conversation. But, Lisa was going to be nine this year and she was growing up little by little and she had to start somewhere.

Lisa poked the tip of her tongue out in concentration at the question. “They say she has lovely hair. It is golden like Jace’s. Then they say she wears real nice clothes, dresses and stuff, I don’t like dresses much! Then they say they would like to be the first to kiss her!”

Catherine put a hand up to her mouth to stop the laughter at the comments. “Come here Lisa.” Catherine held her arms out and Lisa flew into them and nestled down into her shoulder. Kissing the top of her head, she held this little girl, who for her couldn’t feel more like a daughter. It didn’t matter that they were not related in any way, but with love. That was all that mattered.

“Why do they just tell me jokes Catherine?” Lisa quizzed, her words muffled into her chest.

Catherine thought about her answer. For some reason, she felt that it was important she got this sensitive chat right. “When I was your age, my mama would always clothe me in the best dresses. However, Princess, they never looked right because I was such a tall child, kind of gangly, like Jake is at the moment. But, on boys, it doesn’t seem to matter so much. Well, the boys at my school used to laugh at me all the time. I had braids for my long hair also.  They used to pull them and make me cry. I would see the same boys being nice to other girls, but never me.  I would wonder why? I went home one day and my mama asked me what was wrong. I told her the same thing you did Lisa. She hugged me just as we are today. You know the only thing she said to me was, ‘Be yourself Catherine. Do the things you know are right for you and know that we love you. That’s the most important thing.’ So, I say the same to you Princess. Be yourself. Know that we love you with all our hearts.  That is the most important thing.”

Catherine waited for a reaction. She just wasn’t sure what it would be from the fairly impressionable and sensitive youngster.

Lisa looked at her and then suddenly put her thin arms around Catherine’s neck and placed wet kisses on her jaw line.

“I will Catherine and thank you for loving me.” The child spoke quietly into her ear.

“You’re very welcome darling. Now, I have a real big task for you today. How about you and I find Rio and take him for a bath. He kind of smells a little. What do you say?” Catherine grinned at the child.

“Oh yeah. I love bathing Rio. He always gets us wet too.” Lisa enthused, which Catherine wholeheartedly agreed with, but wished she didn’t have to.

“Lets go and find Rio Lisa. This time, it’s my turn to soap him. The last time he ended up under the shower five times to get the suds out of his coat.” Catherine laughed and as Lisa jumped from her knee, she stood up and looked at the clock. It was now four in the afternoon and still Jace wasn’t home. So much for spending the afternoon together!

Catherine hooked her right hand around the handle of Elena’s pushchair. The child had been happily munching on a couple of milk biscuits as she and Lisa talked. Then held her hand out to Lisa who grinned and took it in her small hand as they walked out onto the porch looking for Rio.

***********

Chapter Three

Jace looked at the time. It was now closer to five in the afternoon or rather early evening as she sucked in a sharp breath and went through the main door of the house and removed her coat, gloves and boots. It was getting colder every day. Rummaging in a pile of slippers that were strewn over the highly polished wooden floor. She found her sheepskin moccasin ones and slipped into them and sighed at the sheer pleasure her feet received from the soft and warm interior.

Judy would give them a hard time again if between the three of them they didn’t keep the pile of shoes and slippers tidy. Catherine was the exception. Her external and indoor footwear was always in a wonderful organised position close to the umbrella stand, two rows to be precise. She had often marvelled about it, they looked like a regiment of soldiers ready for inspection. Jace smiled as that thought came and went and speculated on what Catherine would look like in the uniform of a general? Mmm……wonder if she would consider a fancy dress party in the future to check out that particular fantasy. Jace had the feeling that Catherine would look authoritative, grand and entirely too sexy for just any party. Maybe…they could have a party just between the two of them? Yeah, that sounded great to her. The sounds of laughter from the kitchen broke her wayward thoughts. She went towards the door leading to the kitchen and her family.

Opening the door, she popped her blonde head inside and looked around the room smiling at the comforting sight.

“Is it safe to come inside? No water bombs or anything about to be thrown at me?” Jace laughed at the sight of Lisa dripping wet and towelling her hair. But with the help of Rio, who looked fluffy and shiny from under the spotlights in the kitchen. He was tugging at the end of the towel obviously the dog’s payback. Elena was grinning and pulling at Rio’s tail. She too looked like she’d been in the shower fully clothed. Faith was busily trying to stop the toddler attacking the dog, so she could change her. Then there was Catherine!

Catherine looked up at the sound of the voice she had anxiously been waiting to hear all day. Her hair was dripping, much as Lisa’s and her shirt was clinging in all the right places to her body from the high-spirited antics with the dog and children.

“Hi, no water bombs this side of the stable anyway.” The tall woman’s eyes locked with her partner’s as a small rueful smile convinced Jace that today; Catherine was in a better mood.

“Great!” Jace smiled back and walked into the room and sat herself down next to Catherine. Her eyes taking in the appreciative curves the wet clothes revealed to her. “Love the outfit.” Jace whispered into Catherine’s ear for her alone.

Catherine lifted her eyes and she smiled into the green ones close to hers. “I’m pleased about that. Wouldn’t like to disappoint you in any way.” Catherine’s voice edged lower as she spoke so that their conversation couldn’t be heard by anyone else in the room.

The ice blue eyes that locked on hers entranced Jace. She put out a hand and tenderly stroked the wet grey hair at the side of Catherine’s head. “You will never ever disappoint me darling. How could you?” Her own voice shook with the emotion she felt when she was this close to her partner.

Catherine turned her head reluctantly away from Jace as she heard Lisa yelp. “Have we a problem over in that corner?”

“Rio’s being bad Catherine. He wont let me get dried. I want to have something to eat and you won’t let me until I’m all dried up,” the child said in a troubled tone. Her stomach was rumbling, as she was indeed hungry.

Catherine grinned at the child and waved her finger at her. “Serves you right for chasing him around the stable with his towel to dry him. He’s only returning the compliment.” Jace chuckled as she saw the two blue gazes lock. Eventually Lisa gave way and her face carried a woeful expression.

“Rio, here boy.” Catherine commanded the dog softly. The dog immediately came to heal. His tall mistress might need help.

Jace stood up and went over to Lisa and put a hand on her chin and lifted it and gave her a smile and kissed her cheek.

“Okay now?”

The little girl nodded her head and went into the laundry room to find some fresh dry clothes.

Jace then knelt down next to her youngest daughter and kissed the top of her head. “How are you doing little one? What did you do to get wet, huh?” Elena chuckled and held out her arms to her mother.

Faith was watching with an indulgent expression on her face. “The answer I have from Lisa and…Catherine is Elena by some miracle managed to extricate herself from the pushchair. Without their knowledge, she decided to use the hosepipe to spectacular effect on them all! Now, how that happens with an adult in charge is beyond me.” Faith raised her eyes to Catherine in a friendly challenge.

‘Jesus this woman was as bad as Grace, but then again it was Grace’s mother!’ Catherine looked down at her empty tea mug and smiled sweetly at Judy who was waiting patiently to provide nourishment to the family.

“Any more tea left?”

“Catherine, she didn’t?” Jace laughed at the thought. She would have given anything to see the toddler who was only two-foot tall take on her six-foot partner, her elder sister, as well as the dog also! Hades of a sight she was sure.

Catherine looked guilty as charged. The pink that was slowly rising from her neck to her face was enough for Jace to conclude that indeed that had been the case. “Oh! Jace, it wasn’t exactly like that!” The dark haired woman tried to assuage her embarrassment at the event.

Jace walked back to her partner and put out a finger, which she traced over the red on her friend’s cheek. “Tell you what, you can explain it all to me in detail later. How about we eat? I’m starving. My tummy is growling like you wouldn’t believe.”

Lisa came rushing back into the room as food was mentioned. Her tee shirt half tucked into her jeans and her socks appeared to be odd, but otherwise, she was dry and that was all that mattered to her.

Catherine laughed out loud at that remark and placed her hand on the anatomy in question and her satisfied smile beamed as she felt the growl for herself. "Sounds like you have a tiger in there darling. Or is there anything else I should know about?”

Jace looked at her with a serious expression for all of a few seconds. Catherine raised her left eyebrow in question at the look.

“No! Nothing you should know about.” Jace responded softly and added silently, ‘not yet anyway.’

The chatting began around the table as they settled in for the meal.

“Where’s Jake?” Jace enquired as she noticed the absence of the boy from the table.

“Football!” was the resounding answer from around the table and Jace laughed at the sight of them.

“Sorry, I forgot, silly of me really. When will he be home? It is  getting dark early now” her concern for the boy evident.

Catherine placed a hand on hers under the table and smiled, “I’ve sent Cruisal out to bring him home. They should be here soon my love.  You worry too much.”

Jace looked at her partner and shrugged her shoulders. “Yeah, must be part of my nature I guess.”

Catherine grinned at that. “Yes. We love you for it Jace, so never change. Come on let us eat.  Looking after children and bathing dogs is definitely hard work.”

Jace watched her family start the meal. Her heart felt light with the love she had for them all. She thanked all the powers that be, that the woman beside her had the strength and help to kick her addiction to drugs.  If not, they probably wouldn’t be here today. A tear trickled down her cheek at the thought. A finger wiped it away startling her.

Concerned ice blue eyes looked into hers, “Are you okay?”

Jace smiled and put out a hand and placed the finger to her lips. “Yes, I couldn’t be better. I’m starving!” came the reply as she picked up the serving spoon and selected some potatoes, knowing that the keen hawk eyes of her partner were watching. She would explain later, much later.

**********

Jake scribbled in one of his school workbooks. Then put the pen to his mouth in concentration. He hated homework. Unless he had it finished, they wouldn’t let him go on the computer for an hour before bed. Getting up from his chair at the desk that doubled as a homework base as well as his beloved computer terminal, he walked over to the window of his room and looked out at the darkness. Due to the lighting on the drive and around the house, he could see Catherine and Jace walking hand in hand in the nearby field with Rio.

It made him smile, then frowned as some of the comments he had to fend off at school recently came to his mind. Well, since they got married, but who was counting the months. He had often been close to punching some of the boys. But had been stopped by his best friend Ian Fisher, who had merely used his not inconsiderable bulk to make the point on his friend’s behalf. Ian didn’t play football, but opted for rugby instead. They shared the same classes. Both loved cricket, so they had lots in common and had talked about going to the same senior school next term.

Now he couldn’t even have that to look forward too, if the conversation he’d had with Catherine was going to happen. He didn’t want to go to a private school. He wanted to stay in a public one. His entire friend’s would be going to the schools in the area. She was talking about him going to Christchurch, or worse, to England. He’d kept a low profile since then with both her and Jace. Now that Jace was preoccupied with things outside of the ranch, she wouldn’t be much of an ally. He desperately needed one. The only people left was Colin and Grace; they might see his point of view and perhaps talk Catherine round, at least he had to try!

Lisa chose that moment to knock on his door and not waiting for a reply walked in with Elena holding one of her hands. Her other one was holding the brown dog that was called Blackie.

“Jake do you think that you can take us down the stairs to sit and wait for the story hour? I can’t take Elena on my own. Jace and Catherine say I’m too small yet to take her myself down the stairs. But you’re bigger. You can carry her down the stairs.” Anyway that gate was up at the top of the stairs and she couldn’t move it, but Jake could.

Jake looked at the redhead and gave her a grin. If he had to go away he would miss both these girls who he now considered sisters. They were his family. He didn’t want to leave home. He loved it here. He loved his new family, all of them.

Holding out his arms for Elena, Lisa released her grip on the child. As she rushed over to the tall dark boy, who picked her up and swung her in the air for a few minutes making her giggle at the action.

Lisa just watched them her smile very nearly a permanent fixture on her face. She was rarely upset.

“Okay, you two squirts. Let’s go, but remember, no trouble when you get down there, or I’m in big trouble.” Jake responded as he had Elena’s arms around his neck and her secured by his left arm. He held out his right hand for Lisa and she grinned even more at the gesture from the boy she loved, but who rarely let anyone near him on a personal level.

Opening the door of the lounge Jake switched the lights on, letting go of Lisa’s hand as she went over to sit in the large armchair that Catherine always used. Then she reached over to check that the book they had been reading was waiting for them this evening. She saw the colourful drawings of dragons and wizards on the front cover and knew it was the short fantasy stories that they had been reading all week.

Jake walked over to the playpen, placing Elena inside and tickled her tummy as he moved away to return to his homework. If he didn’t get done soon, he would miss the story hour too! Although, he might be considered a big baby by some of the boys at school, he enjoyed them and he didn’t care what they thought anyway.

“See you soon Lisa. Don’t forget to come and fetch me when Catherine and Jace come back, okay?” He didn’t wait for the reply and headed back to his room, but before he did he went towards the kitchen and put his head around the door and saw Judy and Faith having a chat. “I’ve left Elena and Lisa in the lounge.  Elena’s in her playpen so they should be fine.” He smiled and left the adults, who had smiled and nodded in understanding.

Lisa looked at the book and then got out of the large chair and went over to the patio window. From her viewpoint she saw her guardians walking and talking. Close by, Rio was running around. She could tell they wouldn’t be indoors for a while yet. Looking around the room, she went towards the large open fireplace that was only ever used in the worse winter evenings. However, that wouldn’t be for a few months yet. Glancing at Elena, who was peering at her from her standing position in the pen with her green eyes beseeching the blue ones of her sister to let her out of her prison. Lisa considered the pleading in the green eyes. Shrugged her shoulders as she went over to talk to Elena, ‘couldn’t harm anything.’ With that she opened the side catch and let the panel drop and out toddled her sister, who started to chuckle and chase her sister around the room in a wobbly motion. Lisa laughing along with her as they began to play.

**********

Catherine opened the main door of the house, allowing Jace to walk in before her and Rio followed past them both and sat on the hall rug waiting for them to remove their shoes.

Jace watched as Catherine removed her boots and carefully placed them in the position she had taken them from earlier, then select a pair of canvas shoes that she used inside only. Catherine looked up from her task of tying the shoelaces and gave her a quizzical glance.

“Something I can do for you?”

Jace smirked and patted her partner’s rear end suggestively. “No I love the view but….”

Catherine chuckled at the remark and the gentle playful tap to her rear.

“But?” Catherine asked and towered over Jace and watched her through hooded eyes.

“How do you do that?” Jace pointed at the regimented shoes that belonged to her partner. Catherine looked in the direction of the finger and her frown indicated a lack of understanding, they were just shoes.

“Do what exactly Jace?” Catherine looked at her puzzled.

“Catherine really! All those nice neat rows of shoes-look at mine and the kids.” Jace answered and pointed to the corner that was stacked high with a multitude of shoes and boots, none in any particular order or easy to find for that matter.

Catherine looked over the corner and a small smile played around her face as she pondered the situation and stroked her chin in exaggerated concentration. “I can see your point I must admit. Guess I’m married to a slob huh? The kids take after her…that must be the answer?”

Jace looked at her partner and gave a snort, “I’m not a slob Catherine…and the kids take after…well I don’t know. But, we can find our shoes, okay…Thank you very much!”

Catherine laughed loudly at the affronted tone of her partner and hugged the blonde to her, placing a light kiss on her head. “That’s okay darling. I still love you even if you need a lesson in… organisation.” She turned up Jace’s face winked and placed an even gentler kiss on her lips.

Jace gazed at Catherine in quiet adoration. “Well, in that case.” Jace responded and kicked off her current shoes in the direction of the growing pile in the corner, then retrieved her sheepskin slippers from under the hall table.

Catherine chuckled and put an arm around her waist as they headed for the lounge and some leisure time with the children. Catherine opened the door, allowing Jace to enter first. As she looked down on the plain light carpet that still held the stains from one of Lisa’s accidents with tea, there as clear as day were hand and foot prints in black all over the carpet, not just one, but numerous ones. Catherine didn’t know if it was wise to look up.

Jace had walked into the room and stood stock still in the centre of the room as she saw two pairs of eyes, one blue and one green peering at her from the open fireplace. Both were covered from head to foot in soot and playing with some of the bricks that Elena had in the playpen. Jace didn’t want to turn round and see the expression on her partner’s face. She could well imagine it!

“Jace, I can explain!” Lisa shouted and the noise echoed as her head was partially under the chimneybreast. Lisa stood up and was followed by her partner in crime Elena, who looked at her mothers. Before anyone could stop her, she rushed forward and was now clinging to Jace’s jeans waiting to be picked up. Jace looked in horror, as the trail of soot was now heavy in places and she closed her eyes at the sight. It was going to take ages to clean this mess up, not to mention her daughters as well!

“Explain!” Catherine bellowed from her position at the door, her face a mask, no emotion showing at all.

Lisa stood her ground and looked at Catherine defiantly. “I was waiting for you. But you were holding hands outside and I know how long you two take when you do that. So, I wanted to play and thought it would be okay for Elena to come and play outside her pen. She kinda fell into the fireplace when we were chasing each other in the room!”

Catherine hung her head and digested the comments and shook her head. “You know better than to let Elena out of the pen Lisa. She can be trouble. I think you have found that out to your cost. You will not have any pocket money for a month and that field trip with Grace to Queenstown is cancelled, okay?”

Lisa heard the words, but couldn’t believe that Catherine would be so mean as to not let her go with Grace, Colin and Jake to Queenstown. They had promised her a jet boat ride and she wanted to go. “That’s not fair Catherine. How come it’s my entire fault? I want to go with Jake.”

Catherine saw the tears start to glisten through all the soot. She was tempted to laugh, but couldn’t. The child had been wrong to take Elena out of her pen. She needed to understand the consequences of her actions.

“Who said Jake was going? I imagine it was him who brought Elena down from her pen upstairs in the first place.”

Lisa looked at her and flashed her anger, which happened so rarely that both adults were shocked. “No! That’s unfair Catherine. Jake didn’t do anything. He put Elena in the pen. I know he would have told Faith too! You can’t punish him Catherine. I won’t let you!”

Catherine eventually came to her senses after her shock at the words. “I see. You won’t let me. And how do you propose to stop me Lisa?”

Jace heard the change of tone in her partner. Sometimes it was better to back off, for one of those times had just appeared.

“Tell you what, I will consider both sides of the story and make a decision. Okay with you two?” Jace said and looked at Lisa and winked knowing that Catherine couldn’t see her and then turned to her partner and did the same. Both appeared mollified at the solution to their stand off as they relaxed a little.

“Well, in that case I’m going to see Tralargon for an hour as you will have your hands full with cleaning up our daughters Jace. I’ve had my fill of getting wet today. See you later.” She turned and swiftly exited the door before Jace could answer. Her first port of call would be the kitchen to check that Jake did advise Faith about the children; in which case, she would have words with her too!

Lisa looked over at Jace who was pondering how to pick up her daughter and remain relatively unscathed. “Does that mean we wont get a story tonight Jace, because I’ve made her mad?”

Jace looked at Lisa ruefully and smiled, “Come here Lisa. Looks like you and our little terror are going to get another bath today. How many will that be?” What the Hades, Jace picked up her very sooty child and was rewarded with a smacking kiss and black arms around her neck. Well, she needed a shower anyway! Jace held out her hand for Lisa to take and they went to the family bathroom. Might as well all get bathed and showered at the same time.

Sooty footprints followed all the way up the stairs and into the bathroom. Fortunately, it was all wooden floors from the lounge.
 

Judy was rubbing her forehead at the mess, as she looked at Catherine, who had a strangely serene look about her, and turning she saw the small footprints going up the stairs.

“Judy you clean up what you can in the lounge and then lock the door. We can get a carpet cleaner in tomorrow and I’ll mop the stairs. That way we will keep the soot out of the rest of the rooms.” Catherine stated as a faint smile crossed her lips.

“You don’t have to do that Catherine. I can mop the stairs too!” Judy protested at her boss’s offer of help. In this house it wasn’t as if she was rushed off her feet. It was so easy paced; she sometimes hated taking the paycheck.

“No! It’s late. As my eldest daughter saw fit to point out to me that I was late for the story hour, I will take some of the blame for the mess also!” Catherine turned and waited for Judy to follow and saw Jake standing at the top of the stairs looking at her, waiting for her to comment.

“You’re lucky day, boy. Have you done your homework?” Catherine asked him and smiled.

He smiled back and let out a breath he had held at her appearance in the hall. “Yes, just finished. I guess we can say goodbye to the story tonight?” The boy had heard the commotion, seen the state of the girls and thought better of showing his head out of his door initially.

“Yes! That we can.” Catherine remarked slowly looking at him.

“I’ll get the mop Catherine. And I’ll clean up the stairs. After all it’s my fault too. I brought Elena down the stairs.” The boy offered and watched as the ice blue eyes of his guardian warmed up at his words.

“Okay Jake, and I will help Judy. If we all do something, it will be faster.”

Jake ran down the stairs and had his hair ruffled in affection as he passed by Catherine to collect a bucket and mop.

Judy watched the boy as he sped by and winked at her, “He’s a very considerate youngster Catherine.”

Catherine turned to Judy and gave her a smile. “Yes, he is. And long may that last.” She walked back inside the lounge to pick up bricks and anything else that Elena had seen fit to place in the fireplace. As she did so, she nearly stood on the soft toy dog. Catherine chuckled, for at last, he looks like his name; Blackie was covered in soot too!

**********

An hour later Catherine had the lounge cleaned up and now locked until the carpet cleaner could be contacted in the morning. She went upstairs and heard Jake tapping away on the computer at some new tactical game the boy had bought with his pocket money last weekend. Knocking softly on the door and popping her head in the room, she told him not to be on after ten. He nodded at her smiling, and then went back to his game.

Walking towards her room she heard Lisa and Jace talking. Silently she opened the door to watch what was going on. Jace was seated on the chaise lounge they had at the foot of the bed and was brushing the child’s red hair to sheen. They were talking about Lisa’s day at school. The child looked her usually bouncy self. Her eyes then scanned the room for the culprit of the evening and saw her in the small bed that she’d previously used on Jace’s side of the bed; she was pushing the mobile of cartoon characters around and giggling as they made noises at her. Catherine smiled at the scene. How could you not? This was her family. When all was said and done, all that had happened was that they needed to clean the carpet. Things happened in every household like that surely? Maybe just a little more in hers perhaps, because of her klutzy elder daughter, as well as a younger one, who was into everything possible. Well, that was children for you. Thank god Elena was getting older. Maybe as she did, things would settle down. She hoped so, or she would be grey all over her head, not just along the temples.

Jace didn’t hear Catherine, but her body could feel her presence as she turned her head to the door, smiling at her partner, who was watching them with a wistful look on her face.

“Hi,” Jace spoke softly.

“Hi.” Catherine responded her eyes crinkled at the corners as she grinned at them.

Lisa looked at her taller guardian and watched her closely, not knowing what kind of reaction she was going to receive.

“I’m sorry Catherine,” came the sincere words from the child.

Catherine looked at the small thin child, who had the most striking red hair that looked like a sunset. It was beautiful as the child was, and would always be, to her. “Yes, I know. Just as well we love you isn’t it.”

Lisa laughed and rushed over to hug the tall woman and was lifted high into the air, swung about and then placed several kisses on the child’s cheeks as she burst out laughing at the action. Elena howled as she saw two of her playmates laughing and carrying on without her.

“I better give Elena a swing too, or you and I are in trouble again.”

Lisa nodded and went to sit back down with Jace, who was watching the events in the bedroom with a look of loving indulgence.

Elena was hoisted out of her bed and swung about the room and several minutes later after she nearly screamed the place down with laughter, Catherine placed her in Jace’s arms and watched as she blinked her green eyes in a tired motion.

“Lisa lets get you to bed. I will tell you a short story while Catherine gets cleaned up.” Jace watched her partner’s eyes smoulder at the comment.

“Goodnight Catherine.” The child hummed happily and went over to place a wet kiss on her cheek.

“Goodnight Princess, sweet dreams,” she returned the kiss and watched Jace take the child by the hand to escort their daughter’s into their bedroom.

Picking up Jace’s journal, which was lying open on the desk in the room, she was about to shut it, when she noticed that her partner had penned another poem.
 
 

   MY SOUL WITHOUT YOU!

What would I do without you?

Where would my heart be without you?
How many hugs would I miss without you?

My soul is alone without you.
My lips feel bereft without you.
No kiss would be the same without you.
I cry inside without you.
My soul aches without you.
What would my life be without you?
Where could my love go without you?
How much happiness would I have without you?
My soul will never fire without you.
My blood grows cold without you.
No one else can heal me without you.
I cannot live without you.
My soul withers and dies without you.
My soul would not be, without you!

Catherine read it a couple of times and sat at the edge of the bed. Jace had written the words that mirrored her own thoughts precisely. Without Jace, she was better dead than alive. A single tear dropped on the page of the journal. She shut it gently, placing it back on the desk and went into the bathroom for a shower.

Jace heard the shower and a wicked smile crossed her lips, and she went inside the bathroom, shedding her few clothes as she did so. Opening the steaming shower cubicle door, she was rewarded with a reciprocal grin from Catherine.

“Thought you might like your back scrubbed?”

“You did? I thought you had already had a shower with our sooty children.” Catherine enclosed her in a wet and very sensual embrace.

“I did. But I’m missing out today. Everyone seems to have had at least two baths or showers this afternoon, so….” Jace looked deep into the ice blues that smouldered into hers.

“Any objection?” but that answer was never given as lips captured hers and the cubicle became steamier. It was hard to say if it was the water, or the bodies that produced the most heat.


Continued in Part 3
 

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