DRAGONJULS Storybook
~ Define Destiny ~
 by Dragonjuls
Part One
1999 by J M Dragon
e-mail:  jmdragon1@hotmail.com


Disclaimer:   This story features consensual sexual relationships between adult women, some implied m/m and m/f relations. If this bothers you, is illegal in the State, Province or Country you live or if you are the under age of 18, find something else to read. There are loads of general stories out there.
Language:  There is some occasional strong language.
Violence:  Yes, there is some emotional and physical violence in this story.
Hurt/Comfort: There is definitely some hurt/emotional discomfort in this one, and some brief scenes of trauma to be dealt with by the characters.
AcknowledgementsThis story is for my friend Linda, who without her constant faith in my writing would never have gone further than my laptop.
I would also like to thank Betty and ‘The Dream Team’,  for without their un-selfish help in beta reading and encouragement, this story would have been removed from the net incomplete.
The children’s story is used with the permission of Julie Viridian and the lyrics are also used with permission.
Feedback:  jmdragon1@hotmail.com

Part 1

Chapter One

Catherine Warriorson looked over the lush green fields of her ranch 'Destiny' situated on the South Island in New Zealand, and smiled. Her expression invariably fierce without the softening of the odd smile she gave now and again. Although, that only occurred when she was in her own home and perhaps to her only friends, her housekeeper and the ranch foreman. She wasn't a native New Zealander. Being English by birth, with an English father and a Greek mother, she was quite the cosmopolitan. Her reserve to the locals in particular, often proved many a point in the local pub that all the English had a natural affinity to being aloof and stoic as it just came naturally to them and to this woman in particular.

Anyone looking at the woman would see a beauty without a doubt. A lean well trimmed body with a six-foot frame and long shining ebony hair, invariably pulled back into a ponytail. The most distinctive feature however, were her ice blue eyes which looked at people with bored tolerance or impatience. All who knew her in the neighbourhood held her in the highest esteem for her unfailing abilities as an astute ranch businesswoman but they never approached her on a friendly basis. She just never let anyone inside her kingdom. 'Destiny' was definitely the Warriorson kingdom!

Catherine once again looked over her domain and smiled briefly, giving her eyes a glowing effect, had there been anyone else around to see it! A hand loosely held the reins to a powerful grey mare, which looked equally regal and aloof as her mistress. Catherine shifted her gaze to the movement on the next ridge. Unable to obtain a clear picture of the activities going on around her, and on one part of her property in particular, she reached into the saddlebag on the mare.

"Well, well, well Tralargon, I wonder what we have here my friend? Nothing to the good if I haven't heard about it, that's for sure!" Catherine had a smirk on her face that told its own story she would be having words with the person involved that was certain. Pulling out small powerful binoculars, she proceeded to view the activities around her and a sneer came over her face as she evaluated what she had seen. Pushing the optical aide back into it's home in the saddlebag, she mounted the mare with graceful and athletic ease and pulled the reins towards the adjoining ridge.

**********

Jace Bardley looked harassed! Well, she knew that filming a short documentary about the old and new landowners was never going to be easy; not when one of the most powerful of them refused to even talk about it.

'Zeus knew that there would always be one fly in the ointment, and her fly just happened to be the largest landowner in this part of New Zealand, C X Warriorson! Why had Hudson added this particular country to the schedule? It  made very little sense really, but she was the boss.'

Jace pushed back a lock of her blonde hair and smiled in compassion with her young film crew colleagues. They had to carry all the camera equipment up the ridge, because their contact person, who provided them with the information about the comings and goings of a certain recluse landowner, just happened to have another appointment unexpectedly as they arrived. He had hastily departed unpredictably with the all terrain vehicle they had used to get the equipment here. Now, to make matters worse, it had started to rain and the predominantly Californian film crew looked in disgust at the gathering dark clouds.

Peter Adamson, the director moved closer to Jace and looked directly into her sparkling green eyes. They never ceased to amaze him in their open appreciation of the world around her. Not even after five years around the Hollywood sets where she was Personal Assistant in charge of Publicity for Producer Clarissa Hudson, who was also the head of the film company.

"So Jace, what wonderful stunt do you think our little go between will spring on us now, heh?" He smiled at the small blonde, who hovered little more than to his shoulders.

"Oh, come on Pete! Salamon was trying to make money out of our recluse here! And we went with it! In those circumstances, his going belly up on us is all part of the story, don't you think?" Her eyes sparkled with laughter at the picture of the rotund Salamon who seemed scared of his own shadow, he had appeared so vulnerable and her compassionate heart had responded to this, has she had invariably in the past in other situations.

"Maybe.... But what's the boss going to say?" Pete asked her and smiled as he recalled the numerous times he had tried to date the bubbly woman who stood inches from him. She never ceased to amaze him at her total lack of depravation from the society that she was affiliated with. Although, he'd tried, she'd rebuffed him on more than one occasion, never giving him more than her usual bright smile as she let him down gently at every offer.

"Hopefully nothing! Because I'm hoping you’re going to get your footage, and we are out of here and to Hades with the 'Warriorson Kingdom Recluse’! I'm not sure I want to meet him anyway; sounds a bit archaic to me. Anyone would think he was still running a ranch in the 1800's!" She spoke bravely and with a measure of conviction her size didn't always belie.

"Hate to say this Jace...!" Peter almost stuttered over the words as he saw a cloud of dust appear within a mile of them.

"What! What do you hate to say?" She looked at the rest of the crew and focused on what they had apparently seen a large cloud of dust gathering ever closer.

"I guess you’re going to get to meet the Warriorson recluse after all." Peter shook his head and his tousled brown hair drop over his angular boyish face.

'This was definitely all up to Jace, she was their Publicity machine. Now, she had to come up with the words and actions to get them their story. Or, all hell would break lose with Hudson, she was a mean producer, that was for sure.'

"Oh! Hades balls, am I ever in trouble here!" Jace looked at the approaching horseman made even more intimidating by the powerful grey that 'he' was riding.

All eyes moved from the approaching rider, then to Jace and then back to the ever-closer oncoming rider. Although, it was a very amusing sight on the faces of all the onlookers, when the rider vaulted off the horse in front of Peter and Jace with supreme command over their body movements.

Catherine Warriorson paced slowly round the two people who obviously looked as if they were in charge of the film crew. Her stance communicating the impression of barely suppressed anger. She gradually stopped her stalking of the two people in front of her and with a low growl asked them what they were doing on this property.

Peter Adamson looked at the beautiful woman in front of him and released a sigh of relief. 'Thank God, it's only a lackey, but a hell of a beautiful one, and she looks breathtaking when she's angry.' He couldn't keep the admiring smirk from his face as he looked directly at her.

'Oh! Gods, who ever is up in the heavens, thank you! Thank you for not sending Warriorson.' Jace looked discreetly at the woman who was visibly bristling with anger. 'Maybe that's what Salamon was afraid of, not Warriorson, but one of his employees, this particular employee looked like she could scare the Hades out of anyone?'

"I'm sorry, but who are you? And what gives you the right to ask?" Peter was the first to break the silence he smiled his most beguiling smile.

"If I were you Mr....? I would rephrase your answer!" Catherine wasn't used to being questioned and especially by someone who was trespassing on her property. Her anger now fuelled, she levelled him with a piecing gaze from ice blue eyes that looked ready to freeze the Arctic.

Jace watched the interchange between her friend and colleague and the very irritated woman in front of her. Marvelling at her stature and her confident ease with every move she made, this was a woman you never, ever, misjudged or wanted to cross either if it came to that! Her eyes spoke volumes all on their own. ‘What must it feel like to have those eyes reflect back at you with warmth.’ ‘Did I really think that? Zeus I'm going crazy here, the woman wouldn't even notice me if she weren’t staring me in the face because she has too.' Although, something in Jace’s subconscious was telling her that wouldn't be true for some strange reason.

"I'm sorry, perhaps we can start again? My name is Jace Bardley and this is Peter Adamson. We represent Union City Pictures, I guess you've heard about us?" Jace looked up at the cold demeanour in front of her and tried another tactic.

"Then again, maybe you might not have! But, we have tried to get an interview with I assume your boss, C X Warriorson? Unfortunately, he's unavailable for comment, and we heard from a contact that it would be okay to film from here?" She smiled one of her most outgoing smiles and noticed the woman raise her left eyebrow virtually to the top of her forehead, if it hadn't been a serious conversation, Jace would have laughed.

'It was a start, she had listened at least to her plea.'

"Oh, you did, did you! I hope you won't mind me reminding you of ‘My Boss’s’ intolerance of trespassers on any of the properties, then will you?" Catherine snorted and glanced at the heavy clouds building in the sky, she wanted to be home before this storm raised its head. She had guests arriving for dinner, and she hated being late, or anyone being late for any appointment she was involved in. Although, she had been impressed by the way the young woman in front of her tried to wriggle out of the situation, those green eyes looked so innocent, it made her wonder just how innocent Jace Bardley was?

"Well, actually we kind of hoped that just this once, maybe we could get a couple of shots of the ranch area and get out of your hair. So to speak, that is?" Jace looked closely at the woman as she turned her head to the heavens and saw the darkening clouds, the rain already falling in persistent drizzle.

Catherine looked directly at the woman ignoring the man entirely and noted her strength of purpose and the friendliness in the green eyes that looked beseechingly at her.

"Ms Bradley, for your guile and hopefully fortitude, because sure as hell your going to need it. The weather is closing in, and you're on an exposed ridge with no protection. When you get your shots, by all means come and see the 'Boss' at the ranch house; I'm sure 'He' will have something to say to you too!" She turned around and strode towards her horse.

"Thanks, but hey, can't you help us get this equipment out of here...?" Jace didn't have time to finish the comment, never mind get an answer. The woman had vaulted back on her horse and was heading back in the direction she came without a backward glance.

Pete looked at Jace, who was looking at the very wet film crew and held her hands up in a gesture of triumph? Acceptance? Or was it just what the Hades was that all about?

"Okay people, let’s move our ass’s or this small concession we seem to have gained will be ruined." He moved away from Jace and went to talk to the crew.

Jace continued to look at the retreating figures of woman and horse and she sighed, not really knowing why? Something about the woman-triggered elements in her sub-conscious, she knew that she dreamed weird events from time to time, but it never became tangible in her mind after she woke up.

'Well, guess we are going to meet the recluse after all!' With that thought she watched the film crew set up and considered her options, getting soaked to the skin was about the best one offered as far as she could see. Shrugging her slight shoulders, she moved to a large boulder and sat down and contemplated the recent events.

With that a loud crack overhead brought down heavier rains and lightning.

**********

Chapter Two:

Catherine Warriorson led her beloved mare to the stables to be cosseted by one  the ranch hands, she had to leave and prepare for her guests.

'The audacity of that film crew to assume she was a man! For god's sake didn't these people ever do any decent research? Obviously not! Mind you coming from that Production Company it would have been foolish to expect anyone from it to be professional. The guy was a waste of space that was for sure. The woman had something about her at least, she wasn't intimidated and that was always a good sign. Lord-a-Mighty she had the most wonderful and intriguing green eyes! Christ, I wonder where that thought came from? What will they think when they actually do meet C X Warriorson?' With that last thought came a fleeting smile as she walked away from the stables towards the large house, which was waiting with welcoming lights blazing and definitely drier than out in the open, especially up on Cutters Ridge.

Walking into the kitchen storage area at the back of the house, Catherine removed her boots and the leather jacket that had kept some of the driving rain from her inner clothes, but not much. She smirked as she thought of the outsiders up on the ridge getting totally drenched with each passing minute, no protection up there, that was certain.

Grace Thornton saw the approaching figure of her boss and friend, noticing her rain drenched clothes and the water literally dripping from her face.

She was a striking woman to behold and had circumstances been different in her life, maybe she would have looked happier too! Although, Catherine kept her private life very, very private!

Waiting until she heard the door of the kitchen area open and the thud of boots being removed, Grace snatched up a large fluffy towel, which she'd had warming on the radiator and walked into the area with it.

Stopping on the threshold, she smiled briefly at the partially drowned woman.
"I didn't think you would have stayed out quite so long, knowing the storm was brewing Catherine," pointedly handing her the towel.

Catherine looked up and briefly smiled at the woman in front of her, taking the proffered towel and releasing her hair, started to brusquely towel it dry.

"Thanks Grace."

Grace Thornton was in her late twenties and had joined Catherine's staff in the early days. Due to a car accident the year before she arrived on 'Destiny'; she had been unable to pursue the profession she had trained hard for, a policewoman. Her legs had been severely damaged and she now walked with a decided limp. No police force this side of hell was ever going to employ her, so she decided to get away from it all for a while, and took the job as housekeeper for the newly arrived Englishwoman, Catherine Warriorson. That had been five years ago and she had stayed. Although, she knew the reason she'd stayed, it was all to do with a tragedy, and lonely ice blue eyes that needed a friend.

"So, what makes you smile, if you can call it a smile?" Grace asked the woman.

"Actually it's more a smirk I think. If you think I stayed out so long, you should see the others that are still out there." Catherine smiled wickedly back at the woman.

Grace looked her over and heard the hidden cruelty in her tone. "Who did you leave out in this weather? Must be a foreigner or they would have been prepared," she asked the woman, knowing that pushing for information from Catherine Warriorson wasn't always a smart thing to do.

Catherine looked at the brown haired, brown-eyed woman who was six years younger than she was and lifted an eyebrow in censure. Not expecting an answer after that expression, Grace turned away and headed back into the main kitchen area.

"Grace!" the voice spoke with authority and expected the woman to turn around and face her again.

"Yes." Grace dutifully turned and looked at the beautiful, but at times exceptionally intolerant woman, thus making her appear cruel to many people.

"I told you some film people wanted to carry out film footage here on the ranch and with me?' Not waiting for an answer, but seeing the faint nod of the head. “I declined. They arrived without permission, so now they’re getting wet. End of story!"  To Catherine that was explanation enough.

Grace on the other hand thought that was typical of her boss's attitude to people.

Not sure if she should proceed, Catherine came up behind her and they went into the spacious kitchen, brightly lit and the smell of interesting recipes being worked on by Grace and another girl from the local town.

'What the hell she can only ignore me and I'm used to that!'

"Catherine, how many did you leave behind and where?" she tried to ask indifferently, but Catherine raised an eyebrow acknowledging her 'friend’s' concern.

"Oh, come on Grace, surely you can't be worried? Hell, it's only Californians and they deserve a touch of reality, especially those from LA!" Glancing at the worry in the woman's face, Catherine conceded the point, just this once!

"About a dozen of them, up on Cutters Ridge." Then she walked out of the kitchen to her room, never glancing back to gauge the reaction from the other woman.

Grace let out a heavy sigh as she contemplated the scene on the ridge. Of all the places to be caught in a heavy storm, Cutter's Ridge was potentially the worse in this area at least.

Looking out at the worsening weather, she made a decision and picked up the mobile and dialled a familiar number. ‘I wonder why she hates Californians and in particular those from Los Angeles.’ Grace mused as she waited for the call to be answered.

**********

Jace was freezing and soaked to the skin, her clothes just literally dripped as she stood and watched an equally wet camera crew film in torrential rain and windy conditions.

Peter Adamson looked decidedly grim as he motioned the final scenes he wanted to capture.

'Got to hand it to the woman, she certainly wasn't kidding when she said they needed some fortitude; Hades it's a potential for pneumonia here!' Looking at the track they had taken to arrive at the ridge, she noticed that it looked like a mudslide now. 'What on earth would they do about the equipment? Hudson would have both hers and Peter’s hide, if something happened to the expensive kit.'

Then her thoughts drifted to the woman who had left them defenceless on the ridge.

'I bet she's now home, warm and dry. Nothing short of laughing at our predicament as she explains our presence to her boss. Please, please, please someone out there take pity on us and send decent weather!' Knowing the weather change wouldn't alter the mudslide predicament they had, she knew it was a tall order.

Suddenly, she heard a roaring sound. It seemed far into the distance.

'Could it be a vehicle? Maybe it could be two vehicles? Or is it just my over active positive imagination?' Looking over at Peter, who also appeared to have heard the noises and getting closer too!

"Hey Jace, think we could be getting the cavalry?" He smiled at the obviously cold and wet woman, she would be feeling worse than the rest of the crew as she had to just stand around.

"Zeus knows, but if it's anything that can get us out of here, I'm first in line." she smiled through the driving rain.

One of the crew pointed towards a peak to Jace's left and he grinned.

Both Jace and Peter turned and looked in the direction of the finger pointed by their cameraman. Smiles radiated from them both as they saw what they hoped wouldn't be an apparition.

On the horizon they saw a large olive green all-terrain vehicle, but it was a monster, looking like a cross between a tank and bus. Following it was a Land Rover also in olive green.

"Hey Jace looks like I was right the cavalry is here." He waved to the crew to get their equipment ready nobody wanted to be last in this god-awful weather.

"I wonder who sent the cavalry is more to the point?" Jace spoke softly, it would seem to herself as Peter wandered off to marshal the people and the kit together.

The vehicles finally arrived and two men came towards them. Both men looked weather worn, obviously worked the land. They certainly had the physique to go with it, tanned and lithe, with the token duster hat and jeans and denim shirts. They smiled as they approached the crew, seemingly not to notice the ravages of the weather or feeling it either.

"You folks lost?" The older of the two asked.

"Actually no, we are filming a short documentary. Seems we didn't predict the weather though." Jace smiled and held out her hand to the first man that spoke and then to his partner.

"Ah, well Miss, you have to watch the weather carefully this time of year, especially with winter approaching." He smiled back at the young woman with the sparkling green eyes.

"Does anyone care for a ride out of here?" He smiled as he saw the relief on the faces of everyone.

Jace suddenly remembered what the woman rider had said, never a better time she thought. "Can they all get in that giant?" Jace asked pointing to the larger vehicle.

Colin Montgomery the ranch foreman smiled as he replied. "Sure, Why?" He asked in interest.

"I need to pay a visit to your boss, I assume, he obviously must have sent you?" Jace looked directly at him for any reaction.

Colin looked a little pensive, he'd done what Grace wanted by picking up the strangers, expecting them to want to go back to their hotel. But this was something else again! Jesus, the boss had dinner guests, not only that, she didn't know about this rescue, and would be ticked off when she found out, if she ever did that is. Although, the odds had tipped in her favour with the comment from the pretty blonde.

"I think the boss would appreciate it if you got yourself some dry clothes before you walked in there. Besides the boss has guests for dinner," he was trying to put her off.

"Ah, what better way to see him, especially as the woman said once we had finished, we must go and see 'him'!" Jace supplied, even though she secretly wanted nothing more than a hot bath, a glass of good wine and some dry clothes.

"Now which woman would that be Miss?" Colin asked, already knowing full well who that would be.

"Why the woman on the grey mare, she's tall, ebony hair and the most fascinating blue eyes I've ever seen. You know who I mean?" Jace blushed a little as she realised what she'd said about the woman.

"Oh! Yeah, I know exactly who you mean. Well, in that case guess I have no choice." He looked at the ranch hand with him and indicated the large vehicle and to get the passengers on board.

Peter looked at Jace and smiled a weak smile. "Do you want me to go with you?"

Knowing that Peter wanted to get the film developed and look at it as soon as possible, she smiled back at him and said she would handle it.

"Guess I'm with you Mr........?" Jace asked him quietly.

"Colin Montgomery, and you?" He politely asked back as he lead her to the Land Rover and out of the rain.

"Jace, Jace Bardley. Thanks for coming, I guess she must have sent you?" As the soaked blonde looked out of the window and wiped the rain droplet’s from her face, not really expecting a reply.

"Oh, well let’s just say you would be surprised." He smiled and engaged the gear and they pulled off towards the path leading out of the ridge. Jace glanced at him but didn't comment any further.

**********

Chapter Three:

Catherine reclined in her chair as she listened politely to the local Reverend extolling the virtues of the sanctity of friendship and love. Tonight was the only evening of the year that she invited the local dignitaries to her home. They included the mayor, doctor, and chief of police, the vicar and smallholders who held some of her land on lease.

'Don't know why I ever let Grace talk me into this years ago. Now, it's such a pain in the arse. Does this guy even know what he's talking about?' Looking around the room, it was the same old faces, and to be honest, she didn't so much hate them as she found them boring and uninteresting. Then her thoughts travelled to a blonde with green eyes, who at this moment was probably drenched from the torrential rain and cursing her very name. 'Well, if she had known her name of course, that would really be a slap in the face for the young woman when she found out.' Smiling at the thought, she turned to the Reverend, he was looking directly at her and obviously waiting for an answer to some ridiculous question!

"Yes, okay, no problem,” was all she could think of, her mind not on tonight's dinner but on the people on the ridge, well one person in particular.

The Reverend suddenly shouted to the rest of the room. "Ms Warriorson as agreed in principle to join our battle to bring more love into the world!" Clarence Stott fairly beamed at his new recruit.

'Oh, God! This was something out of a Jane Austin novel. Jesus what the hell did he say? Grace! Grace! Where the hell is she? Surely she will know?'

Looking around at the interested and frankly astounded faces, she spied Grace lounging at the far end of the room talking to the local doctor.

"Grace, could you spare me a few minutes alone please?" Catherine barely forced the polite words from her mouth.

Grace looked over at her and winked, knowing Catherine would hate that, but what the hell! "Sure no problem, I need to check on something in the kitchen anyway. Excuse me Doctor Simpson, I will be back later."

Both women made a suitable and hasty retreat out into the hall and along the corridor to the kitchen. No one was around, as the dinner had been finished over an hour ago.

"For god's sake Grace, what the hell have I just accepted in there?" The force behind the words clearly underlined the woman's frustration.

Grace knew that for maybe the first time since she had met this woman, she might just have the upper hand. Although it would be interesting to find out why she hadn't been paying attention; that in it self was unusual, well unheard of really.

"Well, you know the vicar and his pet projects,' she noticed the other woman nod and grow even more agitated. ' It appears that he wants people to take on kids that have little or no chance due to circumstances in their life, and you my friend appear to have said yes to helping out." Grace looked at her boss and friend and couldn't help the smile that came across her face as she looked at the comprehension of her statement.

Thinking about the problem, Catherine suddenly smiled. "Oh, that's no problem then, only money. I can do that!" She replied smugly.

Grace didn't chuckle but she so wanted too. After four years of these dinners Catherine still didn't know how some of these people ticked, if she did any of them at all. "Well, actually it's time, not money that's the important thing about this project. You get the kid and it is a question of faith, love and friendship that gets the result! According to the good Reverend that is." Grace added hastily seeing the expression on Catherine's face.

"For god's sake why do these people even bother, the kids are probably way past any help, if I know anything about this sort of project!" Catherine was trying her damnedest to think herself out of this one.

"How would you know? It's not as if you have ever had to suffer any hardship!" Grace suddenly regretted her words at the changing pallor of her boss. "I'm sorry Catherine, that was uncalled for." Grace didn't know what to say to relieve the situation.

"What exactly did you mean?" Catherine said quietly, but with a tone bordering on savage as she pinned Grace with an icy stare from her blue eyes. There was no evidence of warmth there at all.

"I just meant..... Well.....  I..... For god's sake Catherine it's a child were talking about, not an adult! Maybe it will help you get over your own personal tragedy!" Grace knew she had over stepped the line and waited for the venom to pour from the angry woman.

Catherine swung round and came very, very close to Grace and it would have been difficult to decide if there was any space between the two of them.

"Never, ever mention my family in any context do you hear me!" Catherine spoke in a tone that frightened Grace. She had never heard it before and never wanted to again.

"Yes," was all she could muster, shocked at the vicious tone with which Catherine delivered her message.

"Tell who ever you have too, that we will participate. But my dear Grace, you are the loving influence in this household; it's all yours. I'm going to my study, say goodnight for me!" She walked off towards the study, leaving a very demoralised and upset housekeeper in her wake.

A knocking on the door a few minutes after Catherine left the room, brought Grace out of her revere. She opened the door and saw Colin and a petite woman, obviously weather worn Grace motioned Colin inside with the visitor.

"Sorry to disturb you Grace, but the lady here says that 'The boss' is expecting her." He looked at the woman in front of him and saw the tears that she had tried to hide. "You okay Grace?" he asked, wanting to kick the hell out of who had made her cry.

Looking into the grey eyes of the ranch foreman and accepting his concern. "Yes, yes I'm fine Colin. So, who do we have here?" She indicated the woman.

Jace looked at the woman and the obvious concern of the man for her and speculated their relationship. Moving forward a little, she answered the question. "My name is Jace Bardley and I'm from Union City Productions, I would like to see C X Warriorson." Jace answered confidently. Although, she realised it must be difficult to take her seriously when she looked like a drowned rat.

Grace eyed her speculatively, had Catherine made an appointment with one of them? Impossible! Especially when she was entertaining. Tonight was sure turning out to be a trial, in more ways than one. "Hmm, I'm not sure it's a good time. There are guests here at the moment. I find it difficult to believe that tonight was a firm appointment." Grace looked at the woman with concern at her appearance and how she had started to shiver.

"Look, I know it's strange turning up like this out of the blue, but his employee did say once we had finished on the ridge we were to come and see him!" Jace answered desperately. Perhaps it hadn't been a good idea after all.

"How about you dry off a little and tell me about the employee that set up the meeting?" Grace said gently and handed Jace a thick towel to help the drying process. "Tell you what, I'll get you something to change into, just in case you do happen to see the boss." She smiled and went into the laundry and brought a white shirt belonging to Catherine and a pair of shorts of her own.  Giving the items to Jace, she motioned her to change in the storage room and turned to Colin as she closed the door behind her.

"What the hell is she talking about Colin? Catherine never mentioned anyone else coming tonight!" Grace asked perplexed, not knowing what to do.

Colin looked at the toe of his boot and shrugged, and told her what Jace had said in the car. ‘So, Catherine is playing games is she? Wonder if she knows that some games backfire.’

Colin left shortly after and said he would see her in the morning over breakfast.

Jace returned as Colin left and looked sheepishly at the other woman who was probably a couple of years her senior.

Grace nodded approvingly at the dry condition of her unexpected guest. “Colin told me about the woman who said it was okay to come here to see the ‘boss’, seems she forgot to advise us here in the house.”

"Thanks for the change of clothes, guess I needed it. When can I meet the recluse?" She made the question appear like a joke, her green eyes alight with laughter.

"Oh, well I'd better check for you, give me a few minutes okay?" Grace left the room and went towards the study.

Jace looked around the well used but modern kitchen area obviously designed for convenience, that was for sure. The smell of food was causing her to feel sick from lack of it. 'God I hope you’re in a good mood Mr Recluse, because I don't think I can take much more today, it sure has been a long one.'

Grace walked back into the kitchen and motioned for the woman to follow her.

Now that had sure been interesting.

Catherine had started to bite her head off for coming back to see her. But once she explained why, the woman suddenly backed off and gave an odd look. An expression of interest passed over her stoic features, almost as if she couldn't believe it. "Better send her in Grace; she obviously wants to see me." Catherine finally spoke in a guarded voice.

"She thinks you're a man!" Grace said nonchalantly.

"Oh, I know that already, is she alone or with others?" Catherine asked quietly.

"She's alone, or at least that's how it appears." Grace replied as she went out the door.

Catherine smiled "Alone, well, well, things are looking up," she softly said to the closing door.

Grace led the woman to the study door and knocked waiting for instructions to enter. On hearing 'enter' from inside, which was muffled due to the heavy oak door, Grace opened the door and motioned for Jace to go inside.

Jace looked at her. "You're not coming in too?" For the first time feeling her bravado displaced by a feeling of trepidation.

"Sorry.  It's your appointment. I have other guests that need attention, please excuse me." Grace smiled in encouragement and left the woman hovering at the door.

Jace managed a deep breath and walked through the doorway into a dimly lit room.

The surroundings reminded her of her father’s study, yet it had a distinctly un-masculine feel about it. Although, it did smell of polished wood and leather, very like her father’s, only there was a definite fresh cologne smell, which seemed vaguely familiar. A large desk dominated the room, along one wall was a bookcase, which covered the full length and every available space was filled with books. Jace starred in wonder at the books stretched out, and she wanted nothing more than to look through every shelf, forgetting for a moment that she was in fact meeting the recluse C X Warriorson.

A movement of a large leather swing chair being pivoted in her direction brought her out of her wayward thoughts. Turning quickly to look in that direction, her face immediately paled as she recognised the person sitting watching her with interest.

Catherine Warriorson had watched the small blonde slowly enter the study. She didn't immediately look for the occupier. Instead, she looked the room over and seemed to take in its’ very essence. Particularly the bookcase, which had brought pleasure and pain since she had moved here. The woman was a reader that was for sure, her face glowed and she could see the hand moving towards the books, itching to touch them. Catherine had seen that look before, the very same expression, someone that loved books, all books. That's when she had moved the chair to announce her presence in the room, the unwanted memories bringing their own pain.

"So Miss Bardley, you managed to get your shots. And off the ridge without too much hassle I see." Catherine spoke in a low soft voice.

"I'm, I'm...not sure what's going on, but you said I would see C X Warriorson!" She spoke accusingly at the dark haired woman sitting easily in the chair.

A deep throaty laugh came from Catherine, the audacity of this young woman. Didn't she have any idea what was happening? Surely she wasn't that dense?  "Oh Miss Bardley, didn't anyone ever tell you assumptions can be very dangerous?" She smiled briefly, not transmitted to her eyes, which looked at her with sudden boredom. Maybe this woman didn't have the spark she thought she had seen earlier.

Jace looked at the confident woman and realised exactly what she meant.

'Oh, no! I can't believe we didn't get that information; what the hell must she think of us, of me particularly? Unable to articulate exactly what she felt, Jace looked at her feet, which wasn't exactly a good idea. She had decided to go bare foot and take off her sodden boots when she changed clothes.

Catherine glanced over at the spot the girl was nervously looking at, and noticed the bare feet and what was overtly a much larger shirt on the woman and shorts too. ‘Oh Grace had been doing her compassionate bit again it would seem.’ Looking at the blush and the obvious embarrassment of the young woman, she took  pity on her state of undress and obvious discomfort. "I suggest you take a seat before you fall down, and we will discuss the matter of trespassing on 'MY' property as the opening gambit!"

Jace looked up with a start, and sat down heavily on the seat opposite the woman, now might be a good time to curl up and die. Wonder if the fates would be with her on that one. Already her head was beginning to pound and she was hungry, which was something she generally did not allowed herself to forget, her meals!

**********

Chapter Four:

After some skirting of the main issues, it came down to just who had the audacity to let the film crew on Warriorson property.

"You must have had inside help on this escapade of yours. Did they do it for money, or just to get back at me? Not that it matters if you don't tell me I will find out soon enough. That sort of exploit you can't keep quiet for long in these smaller communities, a little like the States I should think." Catherine had been talking 'at' the girl for nearly an hour and they hadn't really resolved anything, mainly because the girl refused to tell who her contact had been. Yet she couldn't get angry with her, the young woman reminded her so much of Lucas....

Jace was tired. She was shivering from the combined cold of the day and the chill in the study, which wasn't affecting the other woman in any way. Coupled to that she was hungry and her stomach was growling impatiently at her. It was a wonder the other woman hadn't heard it over her softly spoken harsh words.

Suddenly Catherine moved around the desk and walked over to the young woman seated in the low slung chair. She had noticed the continuing pallor of her visitor, and that she had suddenly started to shiver with the coolness of the room. Never complaining, it was now after ten in the evening and surely the woman hadn't eaten! "It looks to me that we will not resolve the matter today! You look like death Ms Bardley. Why didn't you say you were cold? Are you hungry?" Catherine spoke in a clipped voice as she looked down at Jace with little warmth in her eyes.

Jace couldn't believe the change in the conversation. Within minutes it had gone from a confrontation situation, neither giving an inch, to one with a little compassion. Maybe not with any real feeling, but at least Ms Warriorson had noticed her deteriorating condition! Trying to get up she stumbled forward out of the chair and the tall woman quickly leaned forward and held onto her to stop a fall to the floor.

Catherine looked at the woman held in her arms and she felt a strange emotion that she couldn't quite fathom. For some reason Jace Bardley made her want to understand the younger woman to a greater extent. Looking into green eyes that held warmth in them even for her, it reminded her once again of someone she had lost and perhaps that was the connection? Whatever it was, she wanted to get to know this woman better. Only how did you do that when the only conversations they had, had been adversarial. 'Christ with my current record, I would be lucky to see the woman again after today.'

"Thanks," came the tentative overture from Jace as she acknowledged the woman's help in stopping her fall. Green eyes looked deep into ice blue and Jace attempted a smile, unsure that it would be returned. Suddenly she was given a look behind the stoic persona. A smile, however brief that went straight to the eyes and Jace felt a glow knowing she was responsible for that smile. Yeah, she sure was, and it made her feel good; making her forget that she was cold and hungry, well the cold at any rate.

"You’re welcome, let’s go and get you some food and warmer clothes." Catherine led the way back towards the kitchen, noting the silence in the rest of the house. 'Great,’ Grace had managed to get rid of the locals. Hell she hated that part of being the largest landowner in the area. But, Grace made her act sociable once a year, so it wasn't too bad, she would live!'

Walking into the kitchen behind the taller woman, Jace saw Grace watching them approach and smiled at Jace and gave Catherine a curious look for any instructions.

"Grace, I see you managed the guests with your usual charm and tact?" She smiled at the woman.

Looking a little surprised at the good mood of her boss, never having seen a total stranger bring the woman out of her shell before.

"Well one of us has to be around here. After you hit them with the offer to help. I think it was all hands to the project to see who they can give us." Grace smiled briefly.

Jace looked at the two women and could feel the tension between them.

Catherine looked around the kitchen and started to go through cupboards and then managed to find the refrigerator, muttering as she did so.

The other two women in the room looked at each other and smiled.

Suddenly Grace went over to Catherine and placed a hand on her shoulder.
Looking up perplexed, Catherine raised an eyebrow in question.

"How about I look for the food. It is food for Ms Bardley that you want, I presume?" Grace couldn't help the grin that crossed her lips at the concentration of her boss on a task so alien to her.

Catherine saw the smirk, was about to rebuke her for it, and then looked over at a gently smiling Jace Bardley and nothing else was important.  "Yes, you presumed right Grace, guess I'm not much good in my own kitchen huh?" She allowed a small smile to play around her lips and then looked towards the laundry room. "Give me a minute." She left the room not waiting for any reply.

Jace looked in astonishment at the woman leaving the room and shook her head in astonishment. 'Was this the same woman who hours earlier had berated them on a cold and wet ridge and left them to fend for themselves and yet.... Now suddenly she was caring and dare she say the word...yeah, she dare 'friendly', which was the only word she could come up with for the current situation.’

"Uuh, I hate to ask this, but is she always like this?"

"Actually no!" Grace supplied her astonishment at the situation clearly imprinted on her face.

"It's something new, do you think it's catching?" Jace couldn't help but chuckle at the thought.

Grace laughed along with this small green-eyed pretty young woman who had in the space of an hour cracked open the shell of one Catherine Warriorson, whatever next! "Oh, let’s hope if it is, she keeps catching it and we don't lose it overnight, that would be fine with me."

Suddenly the door opened quickly and the party of their thoughts came blustering into the kitchen with some clothes.

"I think these will do, that is if it's okay?" Catherine raised blue eyes towards her young visitor and they reflected a tentative glance.

Jace couldn’t help the tender smile that came to her lips as she observed the woman before her. "Thanks, I need to get warm before I go back to the hotel."

"You could stay here tonight if you wanted? It's still very wild out there!"  Catherine responded quickly, unable to stop the words flowing from her lips.

Grace couldn't believe this was Catherine, no way! What the hell happened in that study? It was only an hour, right? "I can make up one of the spare rooms no problem."

Jace was tired, she could ring Peter and let him know and it would be an ideal opportunity to work on C X Warriorson for that interview. "I guess I'm tired. Sure, thanks for the hospitality. Can I make a phone call?"

Catherine gave a sigh of relief. She hadn't realised she was holding her breath for the answer. "Great, has Grace found you something to eat?" A smile clearly evident on her face.

Within an hour Jace was fed, a phone call made and a bed waiting in the ranch of the recluse C X Warriorson. 'Hudson was going to be so impressed with her. Nothing had changed, and yet in a subtle sort of way it appeared the recluse liked her. She didn't know why, but she wanted to find out. But what involvement did it have to do with her? And why, did it make the tall dark and quite simply beautiful woman change her total personality over it? Lots of questions and too late tonight to find any answers to any of them, except maybe one! "Hope you don't mind me asking, but what do the C X represent?"

Grace had gone to bed a few minutes before having to be up early for the breakfast routine, leaving the two women alone in the kitchen.

"Catherine," was the only reply she received.

"That lets me in on the C, but what about the X?"

Looking at her Catherine just shook her head. "If you ever get my complete trust, you get to know what the X means."

Jace smiled and shook her head in disbelief. "It must be on one of the public records, surely I could just go look it up?"

"You could try! Then again, maybe you can't get hold of it that easy. Are you afraid that you wont ever earn my complete trust?" Ice blue eyes bored into green ones.

The green eyes vied with blue and suddenly dropped to a spot on the far wall.  "Oh, I think it could be enlightening to gain your trust."

"Perhaps in more ways than you think Jace Bardley," Catherine responded enigmatically.

The response made Jace look at the recluse closely, “What did she mean by that?’ She wondered.  However, complete exhaustion had set in. Jace yawned and realised she was totally worn-out. The delicious food she had consumed, which had made the other women smile at the amount she had eaten at one sitting, didn't help the cause of staying awake.

"Time for bed I think."

Catherine glanced at the drooping eyes of the woman opposite her and smiled.
"Yes, I think it is time for you to turn in. Goodnight Jace Bardley. I'll see you in the morning." With that she motioned the young woman in the direction of the room Grace had prepared, and then turned in the direction of the study.

"Goodnight Catherine Warriorson." Jace spoke softly to the retreating back and headed for the door of her room.


Continued in Part 2
 

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