~ Haunting Shadows ~
J M Dragon
Part Two
2000 by J M Dragon
e-mail: jmdragon1@hotmail.com

Disclaimer and Acknowledgements:   See Part One

Part 2

Chapter Three

Danni O'Neil arrived at 'Destiny' at exactly nine a.m., her auburn hair hanging loosely around her shoulders; it was a very striking feature of the otherwise plain-featured young woman. She was twenty-six and had been assigned to Catherine Warriorson from the Christchurch hospital, where she had practised prior to her agreement to be the personal physiotherapist to the very wealthy patient. When she had been first approached to take on the long-term case, she hadn't been impressed; there were plenty of qualified physios around that freelanced. But after hearing the details behind the case and then reading the newspaper articles about the woman, it had made her curious and when she met the indomitable woman for the first time, it had been a fore gone conclusion that she would take the job. The hospital had agreed to the release, mainly because Catherine Warriorson had agreed to fund a new wing of the hospital; they wanted to keep her sweet. Now four months into the job, it was clear that Catherine wouldn't need the constant attention of the therapist for much longer, maybe only another couple of months. Then she would go back to her job at the hospital and be just a memory to Catherine, but Catherine meant much more than a memory to her!

Walking casually over to the front door of the ranch house she pressed the bell and walked confidently through the door and into the hallway, which had a distinctive well-used look about the place. A child's bike resting near to the coat stand and a leather soccer ball was tucked away in the corner next to muddy soccer boots. Coats of numerous descriptions hung from the heavy wooden coat stand. An umbrella stand in heavy gauge copper had several sizes of umbrella placed inside, the oak wooden hall table, held the phone and a couple of directories, along with a note pad and some pencils in a holder. The smell of bee's wax permeated the hall and the wooden floor was polished to a glossy finish, fortunately not the slippery type of floor polish. It always made Danni think of her grandparents cottage in Ireland, when she walked through the hall towards the kitchen.

Opening the kitchen door, "Good morning, anyone home?" Danni asked in a lilting voice.

"Hi." Answered a voice she definitely didn't identify. Jace looked at the stranger and smiled in friendly interest, noticing the startled look on the other woman's face. "If you're looking for Grace, she will be back shortly."

Danni looked over the pretty blonde woman. "No, actually I'm looking for Catherine, she's usually in the kitchen when I arrive." Danni spoke confidently, she noticed the arched eyebrow of the other woman, when she mentioned Catherine's name.

"I see. Well, she's around somewhere; I haven't seen her myself yet this morning. Would you mind if I asked who you are?"  Jace asked pointedly, something about the woman irked her.

"Sure, I'm Danni O'Neil, Catherine's physio, and you would be?" Danni asked equally pointedly. So, an American in town,  wonder where she fits into this household?

"Jace Bardley, a friend of Catherine's." Jace supplied shortly.

"You're American? Staying in town long?" Danni asked her impertinently.

"How could you tell?" Jace answered in a derisive tone, this woman irritated her.

Danni smiled briefly; for some reason they had antagonised each other and it surprised her, she wasn't usually this judgmental.  Must be the time of the month or something! "I guess I'd better look for her then, she likes to start her therapy on time."

Jace inclined her head and watched the woman slowly move towards the door that went to the basement that housed the gym and swimming pool.

Then in walked Catherine with Grace following closely behind her with a very active Lisa tagging along. Catherine noticed that two people were in the room and stopped immediately, Grace not seeing the others in the room cannoned into Catherine and Lisa walked into Grace. Catherine moved her head from one side to the other and a slow smile crept across her face. "Danni is that you?"

Danni smiled happily at Catherine and Jace noticed the animation on her face, so maybe she had a rival. "It certainly is lady, you're late!"

"Ah, but I had a problem to solve called 'Lisa', didn't I Lisa?" Catherine moved further into the room and Grace followed noticing the tension in the room and Jace's interested but guarded expression.

"Oh, it wasn't my fault Catherine was it Grace?" the child said plaintively.

"No darling, it's Catherine's way of getting out of a being told off by Danni; you know how Danni is Lisa, she doesn't let her get away with anything." Grace chuckled and watched as Lisa smiled too and ran over to Danni and hugged her.

"Hi Danni, got to go, the bus for school will be here soon and Jake will be mad if we are late. See you all later." She collected her lunch from Grace and a quick peck on the cheek and gave them all a smile and bolted out of the door, and as suddenly came back and wrapped her arms around Catherine who obediently bent down for a kiss. Giggling the child pecked her cheek and ran out of the door again.

Grace smiled at her friends bemused expression; she was always caught out by that display of affection. Jace also smiled at the stoic woman's embarrassment.

"Have you introduced yourself to Jace, Danni?" Catherine asked not noticing the tension in the room between the two of them.

"Yep, your American friend and I have introduced ourselves." Danni said politely. Now Catherine sensed the tension.  'Interesting.'

"So you've met the demon physio, who puts me through my paces everyday but Sunday, which is why you never met her yesterday Jace." Catherine wanted to see if it was a two-way animosity.

"Yes, Danni and I have met." Jace forced out a reply.

Grace watched the interaction with interest, she could see it, but she was certain that Catherine would feel it and she wouldn't keep quiet about it for long. "Anyone for tea?"

"No, not for me Grace." Catherine smiled briefly. "Better get moving Danni or we won't get anything done today. See you later Jace." She turned towards the door leading to the gym and Danni followed.

"See you later Grace, Mrs Bardley." Danni said off-handily.

"It's Ms Bardley." Jace pointed out as they both went down the stairs; Catherine was smirking as she went to her destination with a bristling Danni following behind.

Grace looked at Jace and pointed to the coffeepot, Jace nodded her head and walked over to the table deflated all of a sudden.

Walking over to Jace, she placed a mug of coffee next to the woman and then dropped in a seat opposite her. "You don't sound as if you like Danni?" Grace asked her tentatively.

Flopping down in a convenient chair she put her elbows on the table and leaned on them. "What makes you say that Grace?" Jace answered her in a cool manner.

Grace laughed out loud at the cool tones of her friend. Jace looked at her in surprise and raised her face to meet Grace's gaze. "Okay, I have my wires crossed and you get on great! Couldn't tell that by the stilted conversation between the two of you."

"I was surprised by her, that's all!" Jace explained.

"Surprised? Is that what it's called these days, could have fooled me." Grace chuckled.

"Yes! She walked into the house as if she owned it and had every right to be here!" Jace responded hotly.

"Have you thought that maybe she does have a right to be here? You've been away a long time Jace, things change." Grace asked her quietly.

Jace looked at her friend and then down into her coffee mug and the dark liquid held within the confines of the vessel. Her face clouded with anxiety and insecurity. "I know things change, but I was hoping that it hadn't gone so far that I couldn't get her back!"

Sitting opposite the younger woman and noticing the tension on her face as well as the slump of her shoulders in defeat, "You know Catherine would do anything for you don't you Jace?"

"No, no, I didn't know that! After all I've done to her, you still think I have a chance to get her back?" A sad expression crossed Jace's face.

Smiling Grace placed a hand over her friends clasped hands on the table. "I know you have a chance and as long as you don't let the chance pass you by as I told a friend of mine recently, prospects are always bright."

"I made a fool of myself with Danni I guess, do you think if I apologise it will help?" Jace looked embarrassed.

"No, leave our Irish spitfire to her own devices; she's sure to come round in the end and if she doesn't, well you have the most powerful weapon in the arsenal, you can always use that." Grace smiled at her friend and received an answering smile back.

"And that would be?" Jace was puzzled by the remark.

Well, your lots better looking than she is to start with........" Grace managed half the statement before Jace intervened.

"Gods that's a terrible thing to say, she has gorgeous hair!" Jace exclaimed.

"Yeah, she does, but you have the most vivid green eyes this side of the pacific and Catherine knows exactly what they look like and she's never seen Danni's hair colour!" Grace chuckled watching the concerned young woman with interest.

Jace was blushing as her friend complimented her. "Go on."

"Let's face it, Catherine is already besotted with you, Danni doesn't stand a chance." Grace said lightly watching Jace brighten up from her earlier sobriety.

"You said I had the most powerful weapon, is that it? Because Catherine can't see any of those things now can she?" Jace pointed out, sighing at the thought.

"Ah, but you forget! Your weapon is Catherine, she will do anything for you, I already told you that!" Grace teased her.

"So if I asked Catherine to change her therapist, would she, do you think?"

"Yes." Grace looked at Jace and saw the tiny frown appear on her forehead. "You're not convinced are you; why not try it when they come back?"

"Grace! You can't seriously expect me to ask Catherine to do that to Danni; that would make her think I'm jealous." Jace said indignantly.

"Aren't you?" Grace looked at her innocently.

"You know what Grace, there are times when I wonder just whose side you're on." Jace laughed at the grin on her friend's face.

"Oh! I'm on the side that wants miracles to happen and sometimes we get lucky. Come on, let's go and see what's happening in the town these days; Catherine won't be available until late afternoon so she won't miss us."

"Great idea, I need to buy some warmer clothes, forgot how cold it was here at this time of the year." The two women went towards their respective rooms to collect personal belongings before driving into town.

Catherine was exhausted, for some reason today Danni had wanted to extend their usual programme. It had been both exhilarating to know she could keep pace with the programme, but it was also very tiring. Having finally persuaded Danni to take a break, she leaned against the bench next to the punchbag and rested her head on the side of it, her exhaustion evident to the watching physio.

"You okay Catherine?" Danni asked, her moving to sit beside her on the bench.

"Never better, what you got in store for me next?" Catherine made herself deliberately buoyant.

"I was thinking that you've done great today, and we should maybe finish with a swim. You can then get back to your guest, you've done really well today." Danni repeated her observation and smiled ruefully at her.

"A swim to finish, sure I can do that. Thanks for your help Danni, it means a lot to me." Catherine replied honestly.

"You pay me to be here Catherine." Danni looked at the scarred but very beautiful face resting against the bag. It would be so easy to reach out and touch her face.

"Yes, I pay you, but I also know what you put up with too." Catherine turned her head in Danni's direction.

"You're worth it! Is your American friend staying in the area long?" Danni wanted to get closer to this woman, but knew that ethically it would be suicide for her career. She only asked personal questions she believed she could get away with.

A slow smile developed on the often-expressionless features, which Danni noted to her despair. " Jace? I hope she's going to stay awhile, time will tell." Catherine answered absently, her thoughts elsewhere.

"Have you known her long?" Danni asked interested in how Catherine viewed the American.

"Almost a year, in fact it will be a year next weekend. I have an annual get together with the local dignitaries on the same date every year, something Grace devised." Catherine laughed softly when she mentioned Grace's name, that woman had a lot to answer for. "Jace arrived in my life that very same day, last year."

"You sound as if it was a remarkable event?" Danni had seen Catherine lose herself in the memory.

"It was! Jace is a remarkable person, she made me re-evaluate my life in a big way." Catherine's voice took on an awed tone.

"If she's so important to you, why hasn't she been around before?" Danni asked the question without thought, her interest to fired up to realise she might be stepping on sensitive subject matter.

There was a deathly silence in the room and Catherine let out a breath, she hadn't realised she had sucked in at Danni's question. Not answering the question she got up from the bench and walked slowly over to the edge of the pool, a rail having been erected shortly after she had the accident to prevent any unforeseen accidents occurring.

"Time for that swim Danni." Catherine said to the woman still seated on the bench.

"Yeah, I guess it is." Danni resigned herself to not getting an answer to that particular question at this time.

Looking over to the tall woman, she watched her peel her clothes off without embarrassment and dive into the pool naked, clearly a confident swimmer knowing that Danni beforehand had checked the pool for obstacles. ''Hell, Catherine has a superb body, even if a little scarred by burns, it certainly doesn't detract from her beauty, not in my eyes anyway.' Danni thought as she went over to watch her patient.


Chapter Four

It had been an interesting week.

Catherine had not only told Jace about her past that tied up with the newspaper reports, but had also filled in the missing blanks that the tabloids couldn't get hold of, the truth! Jace had taken all the information in her stride, she hadn't commented much at all, and that had left Catherine puzzled on some of the occasions, but it was all old news anyway. Nothing she had revealed had any bearing on their future together, she was sure of that!

Jace had listened intently to what Catherine had to say about her past and why certain things happened in her life, but at no time did Jace feel comfortable about challenging any aspect of the events. It became evident to Jace that Catherine would always have certain elements in her life that she couldn't totally leave behind. Her business ventures for one! Although she no longer ran Xianthos, it was certainly a major part of her life, one that she still had trouble relinquishing. The drugs she knew would no longer be a part of Catherine's life, that episode was clearly dead and the prison term long over and a distant memory. But what of her feelings for Maria? They still held some sway; she felt it when Catherine talked about the woman. Could the ghost of Maria haunt the future she was hoping she could now see with Catherine?

Looking over at the relaxed stance of her friend Jace smiled as the Reverend came over to talk to her. It was the dinner party for the locals, the one she remembered from her first and momentous visit to the ranch on that cold rainy evening.

"Ah, Ms Bardley or is it Mrs.........?" The Reverend asked her with a smile.

"It's Ms Bardley Reverend, I'm divorced." Jace quietly answered his question.

He looked at her with compassion, "I'm sorry to hear that, but sometimes things like that happen for a reason," he responded in the direction of her glance.

"Yes, I hope you're right," was the soft retort.

"I didn't think Mrs Warriorson would indulge in this little party, after her terrible accident earlier in the year. Although, she is making a splendid recovery, she was a very brave woman." He watched her face take on a glow at the praise of her friend.

"I think Grace pushes her shamelessly into things Reverend, but she looks wonderful doesn't she?" Jace continued to look in Catherine's direction, but keeping her concentration on the Reverend.

"Are you staying long in New Zealand Ms Bardley?" The Reverend was amused at the younger woman's pre-occupation with their host.

"Call me Jace, and I hope so." Jace smiled directly at him this time.

"Thank you, and my name is Clarence. You do realise though that you have come just as winter is about to make its claim on us?" The Reverend informed her.

"Yes, guess I forgot about the weather over here and how cold it gets, in California we don't get the extremes you do here." Jace smiled at him.

"I would have thought you'd prefer to have stayed in the warmth, especially in you're present condition?" The Reverend glanced at her protruding pregnant stomach.

"Ah, well, I had a very good reason to come over here and it was an opportunity I wasn't going to let slip by, no matter the weather forecast." Jace replied happily.

Chuckling at the obvious happiness of the young blonde woman, he also noticed that Catherine Warriorson must have heard her laugh because her head turned in their direction immediately and a faint smile crossed her otherwise expressionless face. "I hope you find what you're looking for Jace." He finished as Dr Andrew Simpson walked towards them.

"Thanks Clarence, so do I." Her expression became tender as she looked at her tall friend, who now had her profile facing her.

Grace was talking animatedly with Danni and Colin; she had wanted to avoid Andrew Simpson and so far she had managed that perfectly well. But the night wasn't over, and he was getting closer to her at each passing minute.

"Where exactly in New Zealand are you from Danni?" Colin asked the therapist, he had liked her brisk humour and her obvious devotion to Catherine.

"I'm from Christchurch, my parents came over from Ireland in the seventies with my elder brother Shamus. We still have grandparents on the Emerald Isle. I went over there last year to see them, this house reminds me of their cottage, well the smell of the beeswax anyway."

Colin laughed and Grace watched the interaction between Colin and Danni, it appeared friendly. 'I'm damn sure Danni is interested in Catherine and not Colin, but who knew, hell, Jace had married after being Catherine's lover, so why not Danni getting her hooks in Colin if nothing happened with Catherine.' The thought made Grace feel sick.

"What about you Colin, where do you hail from?" Danni asked interested in this reserved man, who was really kind of cute in a rangy sort of way.

"I'm from the North Island, born and breed from several generations of farmers. My father lost the property when I was a teenager, so I've worked around in various places until I settled here six years ago." Colin more than answered her question, which irritated Grace, he had never been that forthcoming with her.

"What about you Grace?" Danni turned her attention to the somewhat distracted woman who was, if she wasn't' mistaken looking daggers at her for some inexplicable reason.

Recovering her composure swiftly Grace smiled at them both briefly. "I'm from Auckland, my Dad was a policeman, followed in his footsteps until I had the accident, now I'm here." Grace looked at her left leg and shrugged.

"I know I'm being nosy here but what happened to you?" Danni looked at her with a friendly glance, Colin looked at Grace with renewed interest, as he had never heard the story either.

Grace shuffled a little and took a sip from her glass of wine. "Oh, I was a bit wild in my younger years, even when I was training for the force. Decided to take my car for a spin, but I lost control at hundred miles an hour up a mountain track," she stated matter of factly.

Colin gave her a piercing look as something crossed his mind but he couldn't capture the thought.

Danni looked at her and smiled a wry smile. "Guess it cost you a career? Do you regret it?"

"Yeah, it cost me the police force, my Dad was livid. I'm still alive and it brought Catherine into my life, so no, I haven't any regrets." She looked across at the tall sober featured woman who managed to dominate the room, even if she could no longer scare the hell out of people with those famed ice cold looks she used to give.

"Catherine is important to you too?" Danni asked, just as Andrew Simpson sidled up to them.

"Catherine means everything to her, even at the expense of her own happiness!" Simpson said bitterly.

Grace looked at him in embarrassment; he had obviously been drinking far more than he usually did. Colin bristled at the comment on Grace's behalf. Danni looked amused at the exchange.

"I mean everything to whom Dr Simpson?" Catherine's low growl responded evidently angry, having heard the man and his bitter inference.

"Ah, the great Mrs Warriorson, a heroine and low life all rolled into one beautiful package! What do you do to people to make them so loyal I wonder?" He bitterly attacked her, the alcohol clearly in control.

Catherine sneered at the man and her body language became predatory in its reaction to the comments. "Dr Simpson what wonderful manners you have developed in the last year. Wonder who your coach is? Because sure as hell they love to fill you with bullshit!"

Jace had noticed that a small group was surrounding Catherine, Grace, Colin, Danni and Andrew Simpson. Getting closer she heard the last remark and had to hold back a snickering giggle.

"Well, Mrs high and mighty Warriorson, who are you letting into your bed this week or have you given that particular activity up for the moment? You're not exactly a pretty sight now, with those scars!" All eyes goggled at the last caustic remark. All of them knowing that Simpson was both over the top, out of order and definitely going to end up with a busted nose and for his audacious remarks.

Catherine silently moved closer to him and could smell the whisky on his breath; getting as close as she could, almost in his face she replied succinctly. "You know, if I didn't know better I would say you're jealous and believe me, I could wipe the floor with you, scars or no scars. Get your arse out of my house Simpson, and never let me see your face around here again! Oh, and if you think I can't see, you're wrong, I have more eyes looking out for me than you realise." She moved away from him just as he was about to punch her in the face. Colin noticed the action and immediately went into the line of fire and was punched on the nose for his gallantry. Not to be out done, he powered a right hook of his own against Simpson and decked him.

Grace ran over to check on Colin and lead him into the kitchen to stop the flow of blood from what could possibly be a broken nose. The Reverend picked up the dazed doctor and eased him into the hallway. Jace followed him out of the room, after glancing around and making sure that Catherine was okay; the other guest's had completely surrounded her.

"Is he okay?" Jace asked the Reverend, who was struggling to put a coat on the man.

"Yes, I think so, far too much drink and so very bitter," the Reverend gave a despondent reply.

"He'll regret the words in the morning I would think, maybe I can talk to Catherine and clear things up in advance." Jace offered.

"My dear young lady, now why would you do that?" He looked at her quizzically.

"Because I understand about losing someone you love, it makes you do strange things, things you regret the next day but can't go back and change anything." Jace patted his arm as he led the still dazed doctor out of the door.

As the reverend was about to shut the door behind him he turned and spoke softly to Jace. "You have a very compassionate heart Jace Bardley, I know things will work out for you." He shut the door and went out to his car, dragging the drunken dazed man with him.

Shaking her head, she went back into the dining room and the curious stares from Danni and an angry looking Catherine.  Walking over to her, she placed her hand on Catherine's arm. "You okay?"

Catherine turned her head in Jace's direction and bent her head a little and hissed into her ear. "What do you care? You went out and talked to that man! You didn't even think to come over and see me first?"

Jace winced as she heard the angry rejoinder from her friend and realised that her actions could have been interpreted as indifference on her part. Shaking her head slowly, she spoke in a low voice for only Catherine's hearing. "I know what you think it looks like, but Catherine I was talking to the Reverend, he's taken the doctor home. I thought you would be far too busy with other peoples platitudes over the event to miss me for a few minutes." Jace offered in her defence.

A tense silence hovered between them for several minutes finally Catherine answered. "I will never be to busy for you. Haven't you realised that by now? I miss you if you are out of my reach for seconds, never mind minutes." Catherine admitted and hung her head in embarrassment over the admission.

"We can't have this conversation here Catherine, but believe me when everyone is gone, it's going to happen!" Jace said huskily. Catherine's admission had unlocked another door for Jace and she was going to go through it no matter what.

Danni chose that moment to interrupt. "Looks like Colin has a busted nose, so I've volunteered to take him to the hospital on the way home; see you all Monday." She left the room and Jace glanced at the clock and noticed it was already ten-thirty p.m.soon she was going to have Catherine to herself.

Grace chose that moment to come back and sat down heavily on one of the chairs in the room, Jace saw her dejected expression and touched Catherine on the arm. "Do you mind if I go and give Grace a shoulder to cry on for a few minutes?"

Catherine gave her a gentle smile. "Go ahead, for Grace you get to take more than a few minutes if you need it," she squeezed the younger woman's hand in a show of both apology and understanding.

Jace stood on tiptoes and spoke directly into Catherine's ear. "I love you," and walked away to where Grace was seated.

Anyone looking at Catherine Warriorson at the moment saw the largest smile she had ever exhibited in public, it remained there for several minutes much to some of the watching publics amazement.

Colin had called one of the ranch hands to collect him from the hospital at around one a.m.; he had returned to his house, rather than disturb the household again.

Grace had retired around Midnight and still looked shocked at the doctor's explosion against her friend and employer.  Catherine hadn't talked to Grace about it, but Jace had spent a good half-hour before the party finally ended trying to get her to see that it really hadn't been her fault. Grace had still looked ashamed at the outburst and couldn't be moved on the subject, Jace finally gave up and said they would discuss it in the morning.

Catherine had disappeared to her study to make a phone call to Paul in Sydney, he was arranging his first global VP meeting, she had looked calm about the whole episode but the often unknown depths the woman had could be deceiving.

Jace had finally made everything secure in the house, after making sure all the doors had been locked, she then made her way to the study and a showdown with Catherine.

Walking in the room without knocking, she saw the tall figure seated in her chair by the desk, or that's what Jace thought.  Silently walking closer to the desk, she could see that Catherine's breathing had levelled out and she was indeed asleep, her features looking surprisingly peaceful too!

Jace moved to her right side and gently stroked the short dark hair from her forehead, it was silky to the touch; she could just smell the scent of herbs from the shampoo the tall woman used. Finding the opportunity to scrutinise the woman who had briefly been her lover, and who was still her best friend, she considered this a miracle under the circumstances. Jace noticed the grey hair at the temples and when she touched the hair there, it was coarser than the rest on Catherine's head; the young blonde smiled at the difference. 'You look like you're getting older my friend, and yet in sleep you appear so young, almost as if the harsh realities of life haven't touched you!' Jace had noticed that the lines on her forehead however faint seemed to disappear as she slept. Tracing a finger from her left eye and over the slightly puckered scars on the side of her face to her neck, she suddenly had the urge to crush Catherine to her in a gesture of comfort so profound it made her heartbeat treble in her chest.  Her hand shook and she didn't want Catherine to see that if she woke suddenly she might take it the wrong way! Maybe thinking she was afraid of the scars.

Moving away from Catherine's slumbering form, she went over to the large patio window and watched the stars twinkle in the dark of the night. Her thoughts somewhat chaotic, 'I only ever wanted to love you Catherine and maybe you will give me the second chance I need, if not I don't think I can go on with this life without you in it. Makes me a weakling in comparison to what you have been through and what you have managed to achieve without me! Don't give your heart to anyone else Catherine, because I can keep it safe for you if you will let me?' Jace felt the tears sliding down her cheeks, as her thoughts became more and more melancholy. 'You know I never meant to hurt you and I know marrying Peter did that, it hurt him too; and if I'm honest with myself it hurt just about everyone I love in this life. Hades, I still haven't seen my parents since the wedding and they don't even know about the baby! Wonder what they will think of the situation now?' Jace knew her tears had become more pronounced as she sobbed at the last thought. "I love you Catherine." Jace said quietly her eyes captured by the starry stars.

"And I love you too Jace!" Catherine's voice echoed the sentiment softly to the woman who was only a shadowy image to her.

Jace turned swiftly at the words and her voice caught on a sob as she tried to hold it inside. Catherine was now facing her, she had swivelled the chair in the direction of the window. Walking closer to Catherine, Jace knelt down by the side of the chair and took Catherine's left hand in hers. "I thought you were asleep," she whispered.

Catherine slid her right palm over Jace's wet eyelids in a gentle caress. "Oh, well, a certain party who will remain nameless, seems to have a habit of crying in my house, it kind of woke me up," she chuckled and pulled Jace's head onto her shoulder.

"I guess you're too tired for that talk now?" Jace was content with the contact with Catherine.

"Yes, unfortunately a lengthy and meaningful conversation would be fruitless tonight for both of us I think, but there will always be tomorrow." Catherine stroked the blondes' hair gently.

"Do you really mean that?" Jace asked her tentatively, it was the door she had glimpsed when she had arrived a week ago and earlier this evening, now it was wide open for her to walk into.

"For you, there will always be a tomorrow in my life." Catherine said simply as she pressed her lips to Jace's head and kissed her tenderly.

"I.....I don't know what to say to that?" Jace looked up at the face she adored.

"You don't need to say anything; you just need to be here, that is all I ask, that is all I want for now!" Catherine knew that Jace's face was turned to her in anticipation of a more fulfilling kiss.

"Will you let me know when you want more than that?" Jace asked breathlessly, her heart beating rapidly at the contact with her friend.

"You'll be the first to know, I guarantee it." Smiling, Catherine swiftly bent her head and captured Jace's lips in a soft and tantalising kiss that left them both breathing raggedly, but surprisingly satisfied for the moment.

Jace got up from her kneeling position and tugged Catherine out of the chair. "Are you sure you're not still growing Catherine?"  Jace said to lighten the mood, looking up at her tall companion.

Laughing Catherine grasped the hand that had tugged her from the chair as they went towards the study door hand in hand.  "No, I'm leaving that up to the kids."

Jace followed her out of the room and smiled all the way to her bedroom as Catherine gallantly escorted her to the bedroom door. "You could....." A long slim finger on her lips stopped Jace and it was replaced by a fleeting kiss.

"There will be a time and place, trust me?" Catherine said huskily.

Jace peered at her and smiled. 'Oh gods, how I love you!' opening her door she finally said. "I trust you. Good night Catherine."  She closed the door on the tall woman.

"Good night Jace." Catherine responded absently as she heard the door close quietly as she turned and headed for her own room.

Jace eventually climbed into bed after a session in the bathroom; her mind fixed on Catherine and the events unfolding for them.  'You said, there will always be a tomorrow for us Catherine and now I actually think I believe you,' a gentle smile creasing her lips as she drifted into a peaceful sleep.

Continued In Part 3

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