DRAGONJULS Storybook
~ Haunting Shadows ~
J M Dragon
Part One
2000 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:   Again, there is some strong language.
Violence:   Yes, there is some violence, both emotional and physical in this fiction.
Hurt/Comfort: There is definitely some hurt/emotional discomfort in this one, with scenes of trauma to be dealt with by the characters.
Acknowledgements:  To my beta readers (Dream Team), they know who they are; I am as always eternally grateful for their time and understanding. (I think we make a reasonable team ladies!)
I would also like to thank all those individuals who kindly wrote to me about the previous story. Had they not done so, this sequel would certainly not have been released on the net. For without the essential feedback, be it good or bad, how does anyone know if his or her stories are being read, never mind enjoyed? Thanks again.
This story takes up immediately after the previous story Define Destiny, possibly a little hard to follow if you have not read the original story.
Feedback:  jmdragon1@hotmail.com

 Part One

Chapter one

Catherine was totally stunned with the events that had transpired in the last hour.

Jace had left her in the study to let Grace know that she would be staying the night and that dinner would be a pre-requisite of her staying, especially with another mouth to feed growing inside her. That had made Catherine laugh, without a doubt Jace would need to eat.

Catherine considered her options. She knew that going into the kitchen to see both Grace and Paul was something she would have to do sooner or later and she wasn't a coward. Was she? Maybe a little. 'I never ever thought you would come back into my life Jace, it is like a bloody wonderful, ecstatic miracle!' she looked around the study more as a reflex action, rather than in observation, her face glowing.

Walking slowly towards the door of the study, she opened it and Rio followed closely by her side as soon as she exited the room. The dog would often wait for his mistress outside the study and watch every door in the hallway for a movement; she didn't need him particularly in the house, unless there were strangers in it who might move something. Well, there were strangers here now, but hopefully that situation of being strange would turn to one of familiarity.

Grace watched the door in quiet excitement, Lisa and Jake had arrived minutes before Jace entered and they were all getting re-aquatinted. Paul had gone to his room; he needed to make some calls but would be back shortly. 'Now where was Catherine?'

As if on cue in walked Catherine Warriorson, her whole body seemed to have come alive, it was as if she had been a candle and someone had lit the wick, she was the Catherine of old, confident, aggressive and totally in control. 'How on earth had this small blonde done that in the space of an hour again! Talk about chemistry.' Grace smiled at Catherine and was the first to speak.

"So, we have another guest Catherine? You never mentioned it?" Grace teased Catherine and saw the colour rising on her cheeks.

"I..Well I......It wasn't quite. Hell, didn't you know either?" Catherine finally managed to stutter out, her previous composure crumbling before their very eyes, or those that were watching carefully.

Grace walked nonchalantly over to Catherine and pushed her in the back playfully, and then taking her arm in a friendly gesture led Catherine to the table and her usual seat. "Sit down Catherine before you fall down. To answer your question, sure I did, great surprise don't you think?"

"A surprise, it was certainly that!" Catherine turned her almost sightless gaze around the room, making out the differing shapes of the people and the dog in the room. "Who's missing?"

"Ah, that would be Paul, he had some calls to make, and he should be here shortly." Jace supplied her tone surprised at Catherine's observations, maybe she sees more than Grace thinks.

"Good. What time is dinner Grace? I think the expression feeding the five thousand comes to mind, now Jace is back." Catherine's face was wreathed in a smile as she spoke the words flippantly.

Jace quickly came around the table from her position opposite and nudged Catherine on the right side gently. "Hey, who you calling the five thousand, I'm only eating for two here!" Although her tone was mildly aggressive it held the smile that Catherine could immediately picture. Her sight might be impaired but her memory certainly wasn't.

"Give me a break here people, I'm not everyone's favourite punch bag!" Catherine said with an indulgent inflection in her voice.

Grace watched the banter with fascination, 'This was exactly what was missing in her own life and until she could have this in a relationship, she wouldn't consider taking second best. Oh, Catherine what a fool you were to walk away and give it all up for a principle and you too Jace! Such a waste of time.'

Lisa took that moment to talk. "Is Jace going to stay and have her baby here Catherine?" All eyes turned to Catherine and then Jace, waiting.

"Well....... Lisa it's too early to say yet. How about we let Jace settle in for a few days and see how she likes it here, okay?" Catherine put her head on one side and looked at the child, her body shape shifting in the chair to her right. Catherine suddenly felt a hand instinctively clutch hers and she gently squeezed it in reassurance.

"Jace liked it before, why does she need to stay a few days to see if she will like it again?" the child asked innocently.

"Lisa, drop it. Jace might have to go back to her husband." Jake said in a short tone to Lisa, and then noticed the odd expressions appearing on the faces of the adults in the room. 'Whoops! Might be a good idea to leave.' Jake thought reluctantly.

"Do you?" Lisa could at times be annoying.

Grace walked over to the child and handed her a cookie. "How about you go and tell Colin that dinner is going to be at six p.m. darling, and Jake here will help you deliver the message, won't you Jake?"

Looking around him perplexed, he shrugged his shoulders and snagged a cookie for himself with a big grin at Grace and walked out dragging an agitated Lisa with him. "But she didn't answer me Jake, we gotta know......" The small voice was muffled as they went out onto the porch.

Grace shot the two women a look and glanced at the hands that still clung together as if their lives depended on it. "How about some tea for you Catherine and coffee for you Jace?"

Jace gently disengaged her hand and pulled out the chair next to Catherine and sat close by her. " Yeah, great idea, thanks Grace, fortunately coffee isn't on my list of favourite things that I have had to give up because of this baby. Now anything sweet, well, would you know I throw up?" Jace surreptitiously looked at Catherine, who was starring at the wall in concentration.

Grace chuckled and turned and noticed the frown appear on Catherine's brow. 'Hell, she was thinking, that could be dangerous for them.' "Catherine did you have to give up any of your favourite things when you had Lucas?" Well, she's either going to answer or storm out thought Grace.

Catherine turned her gaze towards Grace and her frown became more pronounced. "I don't recall, it was a long time ago now." she said seriously.

"Oh, well I'm glad at least one of us has the experience of having had a child, at least you two have something in common."  Grace looked at Jace with an apologetic expression, kind of bad choice of words.

"You know something Grace, I'd almost forgotten how tactless you could be." Catherine responded quietly.

"Me tactless? Oh, come on Catherine, that's your prerogative, you are way superior to me. I'm a novice, but I am living with the best!" Jace laughed at them, It had always been the same, their conversations somewhat caustic but never malicious.

"Hey, Grace tells me that your kind of living a second childhood? What's that like?" Jace asked innocently.

Catherine raised both eyebrows at the question and her head turned suddenly towards Jace, who was only inches away. Her gaze was hypnotic, even if unfocused. 'Did this woman read her soul?' Jace shook her head in wonder.

"Second childhood? Now why on earth did she say that I wonder?" slowly getting up from her chair, she made her way across to Grace, who was pouring the tea and didn't know she was about to be pounced on.

Suddenly long arms reached around her and took the teapot from her hands. "I'm going to give you second childhood Grace."   With that she tickled the woman in the ribs for several seconds before Grace almost collapsed in a heap on the floor.

Catherine was busily tickling Grace with Jace laughing hard at them as Paul Strong walked into the room; taking one look at the room and the antics within he cleared his throat loudly. All three women looked up at the direction of the sound. "Is this a private party or can anyone join?" He smiled at the happy people in the room, 'thank god it was going to be all right.'

"You my friend are welcome to tickle Grace anytime you want," Catherine said with a chuckle.

"Does that go for Jace too?"

Jace looked at him and smiled, Grace saw the sudden shift in Catherine's demeanour.

"Up to her," she said off-handily, and walked back to her seat and the tea that was placed close to her right hand.

Paul quirked an eyebrow and settled himself opposite his boss, Jace smiled gently at him knowing he had touched a raw spot innocently.

"I think the baby would have something to say about it, if you started that particular exercise, it moves around enough as it is. " Jace broke the tense silence that descended the room. Some things hadn't changed and Catherine's withdrawal from a conversation she didn't particularly like was one of them.

"Okay, where have you put my things Grace, I need to rest a little if that's fine with everyone before dinner?"

Catherine broke out of her sullen mood, as suddenly as it had descended. "Are you okay? I know it was a long trip. If you're too tired to eat later, you can eat now? Grace will arrange it." Catherine rushed on in a concerned and apologetic manner.

Jace laughed and placed her hand on Catherine's, the woman was going to be a minefield to explore, but she was going to enjoy doing that, there was always a hard hat available if she needed it! "I'm fine Catherine, it was a long journey, but if I go and have a nap now I'll be fine."

"All right," although Catherine didn't sound convinced.

"You have the same room you had when you were last here, I had your luggage put in there when you arrived," Grace answered her original question.

Paul looked at Grace in surprise, he would have thought that Catherine would want Jace to share with her; maybe things weren't as cut and dried as he originally thought.

"Thanks Grace, I think I know the way. See you all later." Jace squeezed Catherine's hand one final time and released it and left the room.

"Well, is this a good reunion or a bad reunion or is the poll still out?" Paul asked quietly watching the differing expressions on the two women left in the room with him.

Catherine got up from her chair and walked over to the window position and looked out on what to her was cloudy images and not too many of those. Grace sat at the seat Jace vacated and looked at her pensive friend in understanding. "Time will tell I guess." Catherine finally responded in a very low voice, it was difficult to make out the words.

A heavy silence descended on the room.

*********

 Chapter Two

Jace had been abruptly awakened by a loud thump from the wall on the adjoining bedroom. Knowing it had to be Lisa, she smiled. 'What was the child up to?' Getting out of bed and pulling on a large T-shirt with the image of 'Taz' on the front, and some shorts over her underwear, she opened the door to her room and went next door.

Peering into the room she saw Lisa, lift a foam yellow six-inch diameter ball at the wall, this time it hit a basket that was held precariously up on the wall by a makeshift tack. The ball went round the ring of the basket twice and finally dropped through the net and landed on the floor. Scooting over to collect it, Lisa finally noticed Jace lounging at the doorway.

"Oh, sorry Jace, forgot you were next door," Lisa said sheepishly, her smile very infectious.

Jace responded to the smile with one of her own that equally matched the little girls in brilliance. "No problem, but shouldn't you get that basket put up correctly?"

Lisa grinned and motioned her to come inside and shut the door, dutifully doing so, Jace went further into the room and sat on the edge of the bed. "It's kind of a secret. Jake put it up for me and Grace doesn't say anything, but she pulls a face's at having the walls marked. She says so long as Catherine can't see anything it will be okay. I just have to remember not to play when Catherine is close by, do you know she's got the ears of a bat?" she said conspiratorially.

Jace laughed out loud at the thought that everyone in the house was still going softly, softly with Catherine. Bet she would have a chuckle if she knew. "Well, I guess if Grace doesn't mind, I won't mind either. But please don't do it to early in the morning okay, I like my sleep."

"Sure Jace, I can do that." Lisa giggled.

"No, the answer is you won't do that Lisa." Jace teased at the child.

"That's what I said!" the girl looked affronted. 'Wonder if Catherine's mood swings get taught around here too?' Jace mussed as she threw the ball at the crooked basket, failing in her first attempt.

Lisa sat closer to Jace and suddenly hugged her tight, it was unexpected and brought tears to Jace's eyes. It reminded her of when her Mom had comforted her when she had literally trampled Catherine's love into the ground. "You okay Lisa?"

Lisa looked at her and tears welled up in her small eyes also. "Now you're home it will be okay. Catherine won't go away again will she? Me and Jake don't want her to ever go away again, she nearly died!" The child looked at her with a serious expression.

Jace took a shaky breath as she digested the child's words. "I'm going to try really hard never to leave again Lisa, Catherine.........well, she sometimes needs to go away, but we have to tell her to be extra careful if she does, okay?"

The child looked at her with a trusting countenance. "Yes, I'll tell Jake you said it was going to be okay." With that, she exited the room before Jace could pass another word from her lips.

Picking up the ball she threw it once again at the target basket and it wobbled precariously round until it finally spun off the side, back on the floor. "Hades, can't even get a simple basket at close quarters these days!" she said to the empty room, but it wasn't empty, a tall, dark figure was relaxing negligently at the doorway, pretty much as she had been earlier.

"I see we have another adult wanting to experience a second childhood?" Catherine spoke laconically from the doorway.

Blushing profusely, Jace starred at her and marvelled at how relaxed and well she looked. There was no doubting that Catherine Warriorson was a beautiful picture to gaze upon. "Ah, well I guess you got me, do you want to try......anyway, how did you know? They think it's a secret from you," trailing off as she realised what she had almost asked.

Catherine arched her eyebrow and smiled cynically. "It's my house Jace, you think something like this gets by me? Hell, I'm blind not deaf, the kid needs lessons, and she's always hitting the wall."

"Why do you let them think you don't know about it?" Jace asked fascinated.

"Ah, well, I guess it keeps them happy thinking I don't know. Some sort of secret for them to keep from me, who am I to disappoint them." Catherine responded with a shrug.

"You've done well, they have no idea, and so do you want to try?" Jace offered out the foam ball, forgetting that she couldn't see it.

Catherine smiled briefly but the emotion didn't reach the eyes, they no longer sparkled, they just remained neutral. "Better take a rain check on that particular pursuit. Are you quite rested after your nap?"

Jace watched the woman with interest, she looked at ease with herself and yet one of the most important senses a human being possessed was now lost to her. For many it would have left them feeling inadequate, not so this woman, she bristled with self-confidence. "Yes, I'm fine. Thanks for asking."

"Don't thank me. I will always be interested in how you are Jace, you're my best friend, that's what best friends are supposed to do, be there for their friends." The tone guarded, but Jace felt the emotional upheaval that Catherine was trying to keep at bay, they needed to talk and talk without others around to disturb them.

"Yes they should be and when that doesn't happen, you gotta wonder if they really are the best friend you have, right?" Jace decided honesty was the only approach. In the study earlier that day, they had both been so absorbed in the wonder of each others presence that words were irrelevant, but not so now.

Catherine quirked her left eyebrow and she could once again feel some of the skin tighten around her forehead. "Perhaps."

Silently Jace got up from her position on the bed and walked over to Catherine and stood inches from her. "How about you, me, and a bottle of ..........milk have a long talk after dinner?"

"I hardly think the milk will have much in the way of conversation!" Catherine chuckled at Jace's choice of beverage to accompany what would be a very stressful talk for them both.

"Catherine you know what I mean!" Jace laughed at the happiness she saw radiating from her friend.

Catherine un-consciously smirked at the words, it reminded her of another occasion, one that never did transpire. "Okay, I can do that, which flavour milk do you want?"

"How about Lime?" Jace smiled, a kernel of hope that everything would be okay was blossoming as they gently bantered back and forth.

"Oh, well I don't know about that Jace, you know that's my favourite." Catherine gave a cute pout of her lips as she mulled over the question.

"Tell you what, we can share." Jace gave a small chuckle.

"I'll get Grace to find us some straws then, at least we won't be competing for the milk at the same time."

"Oh, I don't know, there's some merit in drinking milk together, without the straw." Jace responded with a cheeky grin, Catherine unfortunately unable to see it.

"Another time perhaps." Catherine managed to say finally, her emotions drifting towards something she vowed wouldn't happen again!

"Yes, another time sounds good to me. Well, I'd better get in the shower if I'm going to be ready for dinner on time." Jace said a little breathlessly, getting up close and personal with Catherine was definitely good for only one thing at the moment, a cold shower!

Catherine moved slowly away from the doorway and allowed Jace to leave the room, not getting away fast enough Jace walked past her and inadvertently brushed her whole body down Catherine's left side.

Catherine looked down at Jace who was now so close she could feel Jace's breath tickle her neck where her blouse was open.  It made Catherine shudder slightly and move back quickly and almost staggered into the easy chair at the top of the stairs.  Moving quickly Jace captured one of Catherine's hands and steadied her, noticing the trembling in the hands she held, Jace looked at the taunt features of her friend and smiled slowly. 'Guess she's not so immune to me after all.'

"You okay? I'm really sorry, it was my fault, I didn't give you time to move out of the way before I came out of the room." Jace tried to explain to Catherine, although it was more babbling than a coherent explanation.

"I'm fine, I have to remember that I'm blind sometimes," her voice held a hint of disapproval at her condition.

"You cope marvellously, and after such a short time too! I'm really very proud of you Catherine. You must tell me the full story about the accident, all I know is you're a heroine." Jace felt pain for the woman in front of her; she looked so alone suddenly at the top of the stairs.

"Heroine, who gave you that idea? Hell, anyone could have done what I did, just in the wrong place at the right time I guess," she said depreciatingly.

Walking back into Catherine's personal space, she reached up and kissed her left scarred cheek; the sensation was totally different than what Jace expected but not unpleasant. "You were in the right place at the right time and if you're a heroine to people, then so be it, I'm sure you'll live," she whispered into the ear closest to her.

"Thanks." Catherine choked out as she watched the shadow of her friend walk into her own room. A smile of embarrassment firmly etched in the stoic features.

Paul had commandeered the study after dinner, he needed to do some work and what better option but Catherine's portable office. It was almost an extension of Xianthos; thank god for the age of technology.

Grace had opted to bathe Lisa and then go for a stroll with Colin later in the evening. What ever it took, she had to try and get the man interested in her again.

The children had homework to do, so were despatched to their respective bedrooms; tomorrow they could have a double helping of a story.

Catherine was seated with her chair nearest to the door of the lounge, she had a view over the patio window area, not that she could see much, but it had been her idea. Catherine was positive that if the right eye was starting to clear, maybe in time both would clear and she would see again. The doctors didn't give much hope, but she had to hope, otherwise this existence she had wasn't worth the hassle!

Jace was happily ensconced in a two-seater sofa of electric blue soft leather; it was a treat to relax into its depths. "Are you going to tell me what happened to you?" The silence between them could be painful at times.

Catherine looked in her direction. "Nothing much. There was a fire, people in the building; I went in to help them. Got them out, end of story!"

Jace looked at her and noticed the red appearing on her cheeks. 'She really didn't think it was a big deal.' Shaking her head Jace tried again. "So how many did you save?"

"Two saved, one lost," she said un-emotionally.

"You sound as if you're giving the score of a soccer match." Jace noticed the shrug of the broad shoulders. Jace had free and easy view to all of Catherine's movements and expressions.

"Maybe it's the only way I know how to handle, losing one of them."

The bald statement left Jace with no doubt at all that Catherine was upset at not being in time to save the third party.

"Anyone you knew?" Jace asked her tentatively.

"No. It was a mother and her boy. The baby was already dead when I showed up. Too much smoke, just to late," was the quiet rejoinder.

"It wasn't your fault that the baby died, you did the best you could." Jace spoke in a gentle tone.

Catherine let out a heavy sigh, "Doesn't make me feel any better, but I guess I'll always have a memento of my experience at least," she smiled wryly her head turned towards Jace.

"You certainly have those my friend, do they still hurt?" Jace watched as Catherine placed a hand to her scarred cheek un-consciously.

"Some do, most don't. I have a good plastic surgeon, he's going to fix me up as good as new," she said lightly.

"Where do you hurt?" Jace had pulled herself up from out of the depths of the sofa and walked quietly towards Catherine, who was looking at her with a quizzical look on her face, seeing the shadow of her friend moving unexpectedly towards her.

"Does it matter?" Catherine said as she felt Jace kneeling in front of her and placing her hands on Catherine's denim clad thighs.

"To me, yes!" Jace saw the look of surprise cross Catherine's face.

"You look surprised, why?" Jace looked at her closely.

Catherine snorted softly. "We are going to be friends Jace, not lovers. What does it matter where I hurt?"

Jace was hurt and angry at the same time, but her anger had to be shelved, or they would never get out of this spiral they had descended into. "You say going to be friends? Aren't we already?"

"Sure we are, how could we not be, I never meant it quite in that context." Catherine started to flounder.

"In what context did you mean it Catherine?" Jace refused to let her off the hook.

"Okay Jace, so I find it difficult to believe you're here. I'm going to wake up tomorrow and find it was a dream, I've had enough of those nightmares to last me a lifetime!" Catherine was angry with herself for not having the right words to tell Jace exactly what she meant to her, realizing her words held a harsh reality to them.

"I didn't realise I gave you nightmares, maybe my coming here was a bad idea." Jace backed away from Catherine a little, her heart breaking.

"No! Jace you don't give me nightmares, quite the contrary. Don't you know that if I didn't have those good memories of you I would never have come this far?" Catherine said quietly but with conviction.

Jace held her breath and thought she wouldn't ever breathe again. "I know you're hurt Catherine, and I know it was my fault. But give me a chance to prove that what I feel for you isn't made on shifting sands, that it can weather the storm, please!" Jace asked her anxiously, hands instinctively clutching Catherine's thighs in desperation.

Catherine suddenly put her hands around the face of the younger woman, and she gently traced the hollows in the cheekbones and the full lips, that had known her passion. She gently touched the eyelids of her friend, remembering the vital green orbs held within, that had melted her heart. "You never hurt me Jace, I did that all on my own. Don't take the blame for something you had no knowledge of and couldn't prevent."

Jace felt the tears leak from her closed eyelids and felt them being gently stroked away, by warm fingers that caressed her face, "Will you help me understand?" Jace pleaded.

"How can I deny you anything Jace, don't you know by now that whatever secrets I have, you can share, no matter what you think of me after they're in the open. I trust you! I have never trusted anyone with my life so completely as I do you. So my friend, what do you want to know?" Catherine spoke her voice held the raw emotion of the moment.

Jace was completely over taken by the emotions this woman caused in her heart, 'Why do you trust me so Catherine? I've brought you only sorrow,' moving slightly so she came face to face with her sightless friend. "How about we have the conversation you wanted nine months ago and we can go from there. Is that alright with you?"

Catherine gave out a ragged breath and could smell the channel perfume that permeated from Jace, especially at such close proximity. "You are going to have to move away if you want me to talk coherently." Catherine gave her a shy smile.

Jace laughed heartily, "Oh, I don't know about that. What do you say we both share the sofa?"

"Yes....I can do that, good idea." Catherine was definitely flustered.

Moving towards the sofa that Jace had vacated, Catherine sat in the left corner to protect her injured left side. Jace without asking sat next to her but immediately pulled her feet up and put them on the arm of the sofa, and laid her head on Catherine's lap. She was happy and content with her reclining position. "You okay up there?"

Catherine laughed for the first time that evening. "Oh, yeah, I'm okay. I guess it's irrelevant to ask if you are?"

"I'm exactly where I want to be. Why drugs?" Jace asked her laconically as if it was a normal everyday conversation between them.

"You know we have forgotten one thing?" Catherine chuckled as she remembered.

"Oh, and I thought we would have everything here, just you and I. What have we forgotten?" Jace's laughter could be felt through Catherine's thighs, as she lay there completely relaxed.

"Lime milk and two straws," Catherine replied softly.

"Catherine....! Oh well, I guess we can forego that tonight but you have to remember tomorrow okay? Oh, and the two straws too." Jace was chuckling happily.

"Okay, but I think we will forego the two straws and settle for sharing between friends." Catherine smiled as she imagined that scenario.

Jace looked up at Catherine at that moment and wanted to show her feelings in a glance but the ice blue orbs above her although starring directly into her eyes, would never get that message. "Good idea, so on with the story, you're not wheedling out of it this time Catherine." Jace gave a contented sigh and waited for the story to begin.

Catherine smiled and thanked who ever were listening once again for bringing this woman back into her life. "I guess I was a spoilt brat..........."

Grace had asked Colin to take a stroll after settling the children, on the pretext that Catherine needed sometime alone with Jace.  Well, it was partially true, Paul had business to attend to, and so he wasn't around to entertain. Colin had agreed, it had been the first personal approach that Grace had taken since she'd arrived back after her father had died. They walked companionably over to the paddock, which held the glow of the overhead lighting from the barn; it gave it an almost surreal feel about the place.

"You know I could never figure out why riding horses was such a thrill for everyone in this place?" Grace said to Colin, who
was leaning against the fence of the paddock.

"Ah, obviously you haven't a sense of adventure have you Grace?" Colin replied smugly, he had never seen her venture anywhere near the horses in the six years she had lived on the ranch.

"Oh, I have a sense of adventure Colin, but it is firmly in another avenue." Grace supplied mysteriously.

"Can I ask what that would be?" He turned his head and looked down at her leaning close to him on the fence.

"Maybe one day I might just let you know what it is, in the mean time you might have to guess." She laughed softly and her eyes took on a tender look as they snared his.

Looking away in embarrassment, he turned his attention back to the empty paddock. "Well, I have no idea Grace, but give me time and I might catch on to it given the chance."

"Chances come, and chances go Colin. Sometimes we just don't see them and let them slip through our fingers," Grace replied absently.

"Yeah, that's a fact. So, will Jace stay this time?" He changed the subject swiftly.

"I hope so, I surely do, but she's going to have to convince Catherine to take the chance again." Grace said quietly.

"Catherine appears to have accepted her back without a problem, but what about the baby?" Colin turned his eyes skyward to the darkness encrusted with stars.

Grace leaned closer to him and smirked. "It's not like you to ask personal questions Colin, I'm surprised at you!" Grace teased him.

"I...I wasn't being personal, well, not too much anyway! Catherine is family, it's important we know what's going on,' he replied indignantly. "I don't want to see her hurt Grace, after all she's been through it would be unfair."

"Yeah, it would be unfair, but sometimes you get that particular hand dealt to you and there's not much you can do about it; just hope the others have similar luck." Grace realised teasing the man on the subject of Catherine had been a mistake; he obviously had deep feelings for the woman, but how deep?

"Is Jace married?" Colin persisted.

"She's divorced, married the guy who collected her from the ranch when she left the last time. Not sure where he figures in the baby issue though, maybe he doesn't know or doesn't care, guess we will find out soon enough if she stays here." Grace finally answered his question.

"I don't understand this Grace, call me dense but if she loved Catherine, why did she marry someone else and that someone a man?" Colin asked puzzled.

Grace smiled at his innocence, but there again was he? Hadn't she thought exactly the same herself when Catherine had finally told her Jace had married Peter Adamson? Taking her time over the question, she finally shook her head at him. "I guess the only person who's going to answer that one is the lady herself, because I've asked the same question a number of times myself.  A real mystery that one."

"Well, it's certainly one to solve at some stage I suppose. Are the kids happy to see Jace?" He finally pulled the conversation round to a neutral topic, well, at least to a point anyway.

"Yeah, Lisa is bowled over with Jace, always was from day one. Jake is a little cautious but that's to be expected, he's like the lion cub that wants to protect its' mother from unknown harm and he does a great job of that!" Grace smiled at the thought of the boy coming to Catherine's aide.

"What do you mean?" Colin gave her a quizzical look.

"Ah Colin, our Jake is besotted by one Catherine Warriorson and if he sees anything that could remotely hurt her, he goes all quiet and reflective, ready to come to her aid if she needs it. Hopefully she won't with Jace, or we could have problems in that household." Grace told him and considered the problems that could well emerge if that happened. 'Would Catherine back up Jace or Jake? Interesting question and one she hoped never needed to be answered.'

"Got it, the kid is jealous. I often wondered. He does seem to follow her about a lot, when she lets him that is," Colin reflected.

"Yeah, when she lets him. I think he gets on her nerves at times, but she hasn't the heart to tell him." Grace smiled gently, it was amazing how Catherine had let those two children into her life and captured a portion of her heart.

"Well, I hope she hasn't the heart to let Jace go either then." Colin said finally on the subject.

"Yep, that goes for me too! Come on Colin let's go and walk over to the stables and you can introduce me to some of this horse flesh that you all kick up such a fuss about!" Linking her arm in his, she was given a blinding smile from the tall man and he happily walked her over to the stables. Grace wasn't entirely sure if it was her arm linked with his that brought on the smile or talk about the horses. 'Men!'

Catherine had a half smile on her face she was gently stroking the short blonde hair of the woman asleep on her lap. Almost as soon as she had begun talking Jace closed her eyes, and within a few minutes was peacefully sleeping, her contented sigh a sure sign to Catherine that the woman was comfortable. Now Catherine was becoming uncomfortable, her left side was aching and she needed to move from her enforced position to exercise the stiffening muscles. 'How? Without disturbing her sleeping friend?'

At a tap at the door to the lounge, it was opened slowly and Grace put her head round the door and looked in, her expression when she saw the two of them together gentled considerably. "You need a hand?" Grace had noticed the uncomfortable expression on her friend's face.

"Yes, seems I have been sort of captured in this position and I need to move." Catherine whispered back with a wry smile passing fleetingly across her lips.

"Yeah, and you haven't the heart to move her right?" Grace laughed softly, her eyes twinkling at the slight blush that came over Catherine's face.

"Got it in one Grace. So how do we manage it?" Catherine asked her sheepishly.

Moving closer to Catherine, she saw the pain in her friend's face, she must be stiff. "How about if we wake her up, it's getting late and she really could do with the rest, what with all the travelling and the baby. Not to mention you could do with the rest also, it's been an exciting day all round."

"She's so peaceful though Grace, hardly seems fair to move her." Catherine said quietly, a wistful note in her voice.

"I know, but you can't stay like that all night, Danni would be livid with you tomorrow, if she found out you let someone sleep on you all night!" Grace snorted at her.

"I suppose she will and I can't have that can I? That particular redhead would have my behind for sure!" Catherine smiled at the thought of her physiotherapist, who had a temper to match her hair colour, not that Catherine could see her hair colour.

"Well, I'm not sure what she will think of Jace coming back into your life but that's a question to be answered tomorrow." Grace answered.

"You think she will disapprove? What's there to disapprove of Jace?" Catherine wasn't going to let Grace slip that one in without an adequate reply.

Grace wasn't sure how to answer that one. It was obvious to her that Danni had a crush on Catherine, although she was always the competent professional in everything she did with Catherine. It was her expressions when Danni thought no one else was looking that Grace had picked up on a few weeks ago. "Oh, maybe she will think Jace a distraction to your recovery, who knows." Grace managed to answer the query.

"I see!"

"Are we going to wake sleeping beauty here, or you going to stay in that position all night?" Grace redirected the conversation.

Grace watched fascinated as Catherine bent her head down as close as she could to Jace's right ear and her hand gently shook the younger woman as she asked her to wake up. It was the concentrated look of tenderness on Catherine's face that made Grace almost shed tears at the sight. Her friend had fallen in love hard that was for sure. With several shakes to her shoulder,  Jace finally groggily opened her eyes and stared up into two piercing ice blue eyes, which gazed at her sightlessly.

"I'm awake, I'm awake, is there a fire?" Jace asked huskily, her head turning slightly seeing another figure in the room.

"I hope not. I've had my fill of that particular experience this lifetime. I just thought you would be more comfortable in bed that's all." Catherine said softly, her head lifting to allow Jace to move her head from her lap. Jace glanced over to the other person in the room.

"Hi Grace, did you have a good walk?" Jace not wanting to answer Catherine, the only bed she wanted to be comfortable in wasn't the one she had been allocated.

"Yeah, Colin gave me a detailed report on all the new horses, that have arrived on the ranch recently." Grace answered moving away from the sofa and making her way towards the door. "Anyone up for a drink before we all go and crash?"

Jace shook her head and then got up from the sofa and stretched her arms over her head to release the stiffness of the position she had been in, although it had been comfortable to lie close to Catherine.

"You okay Catherine?" Noticing that Catherine hadn't moved from her spot on the sofa.

"Yeah, I'm fine, I wouldn't mind some hot milk, want to go and talk to Grace for a few minutes, while I go and see Paul?" Catherine asked Jace quietly. Grace opened the door and gave Catherine a wry look; she knew why she wanted Jace out of the way. The woman was that stiff, she couldn't move without giving away the pain she was in. 'Pride!'

"Sure, see you in a few minutes," she gave Catherine a tender look as she followed Grace out of the room.

"Good. Be right with you." The door closed on her, leaving her to slowly crawl off of the sofa and wince at the pain that travelled down her left side; tears of frustration and pain slowly seeping out of tightly closed eyelids. "Damn." Catherine finally said to the empty room, she was going to have to walk around for a few minutes to get rid of the pain. Bed was definitely the answer for her, pity it had to be alone, 'I sure could use the company or a particular blonde persons company.' Well, she was up, she might as well go and see Paul and find out what was happening in the empire these days.

Walking stiffly over to the door, she left the room to catch up with her friend.



Continued In Part 2
 

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