~In Pursuit Of Dreams~
J M Dragon
Part One
© 2000 by J M Dragon
Email:  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:  This one is written without violence.
Hurt/Comfort:  Have some of this too, but hope it is the pleasant loving kind this time.
Dedication:  Betty this was written for you as promised. Once again my gratitude to the 'Dream Team', they know who they are.  Thank you once again to the readers who have emailed me with feedback, it is gratefully received and essential.
This is the third in the series with these characters; although reading Define Destiny and Haunting Shadows are not absolutely necessary, it would assist in understanding the circumstances surrounding this story. This is my first attempt with a so-called 'love story', a piece of 'fluff', so please let me know what you think.
Any and all comments are essential for the struggling muse. All are appreciated and will be answered:

Part 1

(Six months after Haunting Shadows)

Chapter one

Jace watched over the extended drive to the house with longing. It had been three weeks since Catherine had been called to a meeting in New York, which then bounced from Rio, London and finally to Singapore. When those particular meetings had been completed, Catherine had reluctantly agreed to a series of business interviews about the past, present and future of Xianthos in light of the changes to key personnel and her own circumstances. Constance had originally agreed on her behalf, to do a couple of them, but once problems surfaced once again within her organisation, Catherine had to agree to several more to keep the blood hounds at bay. Now, she was due home and Colin had left to go the local airfield to pick her up. And knowing the speed at which those two interacted with each other; Jace was sure Catherine should be arriving through those gates within the next half-hour.

Jace looked once more over the drive, shrugged her shoulders, accepting the fact that she was being anxious about nothing, after all, Rio was with her. Catherine had sounded tired, but otherwise relaxed when she'd called earlier that morning from her personal flight to Christchurch from LA. Originally, they had agreed that Jace and the family would travel with her on any of the journeys outside New Zealand, and after Jace's kidnapping and the shooting in her New York office six months ago; however, reality being what it was, when Catherine was unexpectedly called away this time, Jace had declined to remove the children from school and disrupt them again. After all, they had been with Catherine in New York only two weeks earlier. Mentioning the schooling and the possible disruption to the children had convinced Catherine, reluctantly, to go on this trip alone; but she had been far from happy. Her three calls, or more if she could a day, had made Jace smile indulgently at the woman. This tall raven-haired woman, who scared the hell out of her employees and business associates, but one who was loving, warm and enchantingly pliable with her family.

Jace looked across at their youngest daughter taking her morning nap; she was fast asleep in the travel crib that Catherine had insisted they purchase on the first trip to New York over four months ago, which had become one of the favourite places Elena would sleep peacefully immediately. Knowing her daughter, she would associate it with Catherine and having the tall woman carry it about for hours, softly crooning to the baby through all the flights and the red tape, as well as customs people, who could be real slow sometimes; especially in America when you weren't a citizen. It brought memories flooding back to the first visit the family made to New York, and made Jace smile broadly as she recall the event.

Jace had chuckled at the agitation of Catherine, as she had to wait in a long line of people with the children. None of them had an American passport, even her own daughter; they had decided that Elena would have her own passport and as she had been born in New Zealand she held a brand new, New Zealand passport. Jake and Lisa also had new passports as neither one of them had one prior to living on 'Destiny'. It had been simple to gain one for them. Catherine's passport was British, as she had still to clear up the matter of her temporary residence status, which had also prevented her from carrying out the plan to adopt Jake and Lisa; her lawyers were adamant that a solution would be imminent on that subject matter.

Jace continued to watch Catherine shuffle around in the queue, Rio held in her left hand and the travelling crib in her stronger right hand. The two older children immediately in front of her and as with children, they were fooling around, which didn't help to alleviate Catherine's impatience any.

Fortunately, their luggage was being attended to; Catherine had requested that security check it with scanners anyway, there was never going to be an opportunity for someone to tamper with their belongings, if a simple scan could prevent it.

Jake tugged Catherine over to the free customs desk; she planted all four passports on the desk and waited in silence.  The customs officer, a large woman with a sombre face peered at the family and looked first at Jake and his passport, then Lisa and gave a quick glance at the baby that Catherine held securely on her right hand side. "Are you planning on staying long in New York Ms. Devonshire?" The nasally voice asked officially.

Catherine knew the reason why she used the business waiver form when she travelled alone, but with the children, that had been impossible, especially, as Jace had to go through another entry port. "Two weeks." Catherine replied shortly.

"Have you the necessary funds to enjoy your stay?" The seemingly, uncaring, customs woman asked in a disinterested fashion.

Catherine was annoyed, she had a headache and was tired, the children had been a handful, but this stupid red tape was the limit. Raising her left eyebrow to meet the top of her forehead, she snarled at the woman. "I have sufficient funds to enjoy my stay and keep my children off the streets! Is that all?"

The woman deemed her answer insolent and asked her several more meaningless questions, all of which continued to aggravate Catherine. When she had finally been stamped to go through the customs gate, she was fuming.

Jace took that moment to walk over to her and place a gentle hand on her left forearm. "Hey Catherine, we love you, please smile for us, or we will think your mad with us, also." Jace suggested, as she lightly put her face close to her lovers in sympathy; the children had grown upset also, at Catherine's angry tone of voice with the woman at the desk.

Catherine gave a heavy sigh and she gave Jace a weak smile, acknowledging that it was stupid to take her frustrations out on Jace and the children over the customs personnel. She should have taken up Constance's offer to have the red tape removed and go through customs as a VIP. But no, she had said, she wanted to do things the regular way and not have the children used to thinking the VIP way was the normal way to do things. Now, she wished fervently that she had shelved her misguided logic and accepted the trappings of her wealth. "Come on, let's get out of here and go to the apartment. I know someone who will be happy to welcome us to New York.

Catherine's chauffeur driven car was waiting as ordered; complete with their luggage; at least that hadn't turned out to be a chore. Forty minutes later they were walking into the apartment block that seeped wealth and luxury; Jace had difficulty not being overawed by the opulent reception area, as well as the security personnel, who immediately came to their assistance as they alighted from the vehicle.

"Hi Rio, brought back your mistress for another visit, huh?" A cheery voice beamed over to the dog; three pairs of eyes all focusing on him at the same time stunned him momentarily. Smiling at the three watching faces, he ruffled Rio's ears and spoke quietly to Catherine. "I see you brought the family as promised Ms. Devonshire."

Catherine smiled genuinely for the first time since they left the aircraft, "Yes! Everyone's accounted for Henry, just as promised. You better get used to their faces, because I don't want them being locked out at any time, do you hear me?"  Catherine chuckled as she held out her hand in greeting to the man, who was obviously the concierge.

"No problem about that Ms. Devonshire, if you let me know the names, we can get started on recognition as of now."  The man said, laughing in a very deep tone that had Lisa giggling; he reminded her of a big cuddly bear.

"Better start with my eldest daughter Henry, she appears to have captured everyone's attention as usual." Catherine said with a smile, eventually making all the introductions and when it came around to introducing Jace, Catherine pulled her close and placed her arm around Jace's shoulders.

"This Henry, is the woman whom you had better watch out for, as she makes mincemeat out of me most of the time; would you believe? Jace Bardley meet Henry the best concierge in the city," Catherine smiled, as Jace held out her hand to the jovial man.

"Pleased to meet you Henry, and she's wrong about me really, it's not most of the time, actually, it's all of the time," Jace smiled at the man's appreciation of the slight joke at her friend's expense.

"Ms. Bardley anyone who can make this woman happy is surely welcome. She has lived here on and off for eight years, and I've never seen her smile so much as I have today. This has got to be good for the building's reputation. Now, let's get you all up to the apartment or Susan is going to skin me alive for keeping you all waiting here." Henry grinned and Catherine laughed, as she could well imagine Susan having something to say on the subject, she did on most others.

The door to the apartment was open as the elevator stopped and two adult's, two children, one baby and a dog all stepped out; Rio was immediately released to go in search of Susan, who had agreed to stay until a new housekeeper that Jace approved could be screened and placed in the soon to be vacated position.

Jake looked around at the apartment with saucers for eyes, as he glanced at the paintings on the wall, the pieces of sculpture on pedestals in the hallway, not to mention the other very expensive decorations and furnishings. It was so different in every way possible to their home on 'Destiny'; he didn't know where he should go next, or if he was allowed to sit on any of the furniture, it looked so new and very expensive.

Lisa on the other hand immediately chased after Rio and found herself face to face with a small woman who looked at her kindly with a large smile on her face. "Are you Susan?" Lisa asked with all the confidence of youth.

Susan looked at the small redhead and laughed, she was certainly going to be a handful that one. "Yes. I am, and you must be Jace?" Susan said teasing the youngster.

Lisa looked at the older woman and she shook her head. "No, I'm Lisa. I'm to young to marry Catherine but Jace isn't," the girl said innocently.

"I see. Well, I hope they both know that, do they?" Susan thought his child certainly went about things fast, if her repartee was anything to go by.

Lisa walked over to the older woman and whispered, "We think so at home, but they're not getting married yet, not like Grace and Colin. We think they should, don't you?"

Susan burst out laughing at the remark and was stopped from answering as Catherine entered the kitchen. "I thought I might find you here Lisa, have you found Susan for me?"

"Yeah! She's here aren't you Susan; I'm going to look at the big window onto the park now," the child skipped off in the direction of the lounge.

"She's quite something Catherine." Susan glanced at the tall woman and noticed her pallor and the tired look around her eyes.

"Yes, she certainly is Susan. How have you been since I was last here?" Catherine walked over towards the older woman and engulfed her in a warm hug.

"I'm very well Catherine, but, I can see that you are still far from one hundred percent yourself. What have you been doing with yourself?" Susan broke the embrace and switched on the kettle to make tea, that was something she knew would perk up the tall woman beside her.

"Well, it's been hectic and I had a nasty stomach bug which was around for a couple of weeks; it helped to delay the feeding up process, I think." Catherine failed to mention that the stomach bug was in actual fact an electronic bug, that had failed to dissolve totally and caused her some discomfort; eventually the hospital had done minor surgery and she was now 'bug free,' so to speak.

"How about tea and where are the rest of the family?" Susan smiled at her and shook her greying head of hair in exasperation.

As if on cue, Jake walked in with Elena in his arms, the child was now three months old and exhibiting a restless streak, which didn't come from Jace, or that's what Jace said anyway, but Catherine had her doubts in a big way. "Catherine, where can we sit down?" The boy asked quietly.

Susan looked the boy over and was amazed at his initial resemblance to Catherine, all that thick black hair and the stoic expression on his face. "Anywhere you want Jake. First, come here and meet Susan. Susan, I would like you to meet my son Jake and if I'm not mistaken by the chuckles, I can hear, he has Elena, my youngest daughter in his arms."

Susan held out a hand to the boy and smiled warmly at him. "Welcome to New York Jake. And she's right, you can sit anywhere; to the best of my knowledge none of the furniture bites you back." She watched the boy's face change from its stoic expression to a warm grin, as he shook her hand feeling very important.

"I've always wanted to come to America, since Jace talks to us about it all the time." The boy said quickly, as he shuffled Elena into a more comfortable position, she was getting heavier everyday.

"How about I take your baby sister Jake, then you have these cookies as a replacement and go share them with Lisa. Is that okay with you?" Susan offered and held out her arms for the squirming child.

The boy immediately relinquished his load, collected the chocolate cookies and placing a hand of farewell on Catherine's shoulders, he left the room.

"She's a cute one Catherine." Susan looked the baby over, noticing the baby's green eyes tracked at regular intervals towards the tall woman now seated at the kitchen table.

"Yes, she is just like her mother." Catherine grinned, immediately her attention was caught as she felt Jace enter the room silently.

"Okay, who left me to supervise where all the luggage had to go, huh?' Jace smiled at the older woman who held her daughter in a comforting hold, and held out her hand in greeting to the older woman. "Hi, you must be Susan, I'm Jace Bardley; thanks for getting everything ready for us and staying around to help me out with the family." Jace thought that a quick introduction and thanks might be her best approach. She'd heard so much about Susan from Catherine, and had been a little anxious about making the right impression; not that Catherine was aware of that of course, because she would have laughed it off as insecure and foolish.

The older woman noticed the nervous introduction and smiled into the dark hair of the baby. She knew exactly how Catherine could make her out as some paragon or dragon of a housekeeper, and if her conversations with Grace were anything to go by, she was certainly different than the New Zealand former housekeeper. "Hello Jace, I'm pleased to meet you at last. I often wondered what the person would be like, that eventually enticed this lady to settle down," Susan smiled warmly at the younger woman and saw her relax visibly.

"Thank you, but I'm not quite sure if she's settled yet, time will tell." Jace said and wished she hadn't, when she noticed Catherine stiffen at the words and glance in her direction.

"Susan how's the tea brewing?" Catherine asked quietly absorbing the comment made by Jace, what did she mean 'not settled yet?'

"Be right with you, I think your daughter needs changing, who gets that pleasure?" Susan said as she realised that her boss was a little disturbed by the small blonde's remark.

"I'll take her, be right back." Jace responded as she rescued Susan from her damp daughter, leaving the room to the two older women.

Susan within minutes put a steaming mug of tea on Catherine's right; and then sat down with her as she watched Catherine take her first sip and then saw the sombre expression change to one of appreciation. "Hell, Susan, you still know how to make a mean mug of tea. I'm going to miss you when you retire." Catherine's voice held the appreciation for her housekeeper's skills.

"I know, but you have lots of things to look forward to in the future. I hardly think this old woman is going to be on the top of your list. Now, if I had blonde hair and had twinkling green eyes, with a smile that makes you come alive and happy even though you can't see it, then perhaps I would have a chance," Susan laughed as she saw Catherine blush at the words.

"She still looks the same? I wondered after all the things that have happened in the last year." Catherine said tentatively.

"Catherine what makes you think that she has changed; it's only been what eighteen months since you last saw her with vision isn't it?" Susan enquired of her softly.

"Yes, but, I miss not seeing her Susan. I can't tell her that, for it would upset her, but I do miss not seeing the light in her eyes and how they look at me with that innocent trusting expression as if I can solve all her problems. Then, there's that smile of hers, where she lights up the whole sky when she wants to, and I want so much to see it all again."  Catherine gave Susan a sheepish glance, although she wasn't sure if she was looking in the right direction.

"Perhaps, one day you will see her again and if you don't, trust me, she still looks at you with that same expression and I hazard a guess, that you still solve all those problems for her, am I right?" Susan placed a gentle hand on top of Catherine's.

"Yes, I still solve all those problems for her." Catherine said simply, ' usually because I've caused them in the first place,' Catherine added silently.

"Whose problems?" Jace asked, as she entered with a laughing, clean baby, if the smell of fresh powder was anything to go by.

"Mine, my dear, about moving to Louisiana, to my sister's. Catherine volunteered to help me with the move and I'm holding her to it." Susan indicated the teapot to Jace, who shook her head and looked longingly at the coffeepot. Susan saw the look and motioned her to sit as she poured a cup of the freshly made brew for the younger woman, as she sat on the right of Catherine.

"Give Elena to me Jace, I want to go and show her the view from the lounge window and check up on the kids." Catherine said quietly, as she placed a hand on Jace's arm tenderly.

"Anytime Catherine, here she comes," the young blonde said fondly, as she handed the baby over to her lover, smiling, as Catherine hugged Elena to her and kissed the chuckling baby on the head. Jace watched in fascination as Catherine walked confidently out of the kitchen towards the lounge. "I really don't know how she does that?"

The comment wasn't lost on Susan, as she watched the love that shone out of the woman's green eyes at the retreating back of her employer. "She's always been a very confident woman, from the day I first met her over eight years ago. I suspect she has much of her Daddy's indomitable character traits, although, she would never admit it." Susan smiled at Jace as she handed her the coffee.

"Thanks Susan, you don't know how much I need this? Did you know her father for any length of time?" Jace asked conversationally. Catherine had never mentioned that Susan knew her father, only that she had worked for Catherine for quite a few years.

Susan grunted at the comment. "I guess she never mentioned, I was her Daddy's housekeeper for twenty years before she came along?' Seeing the look of surprise on Jace's face she carried on, "She's like her father all right, he never gave much away either. I hope she's more open than he ever was with her family." Susan said, looking at the expression of Jace's face for confirmation that Catherine had changed in some ways, from the woman that had left her first family.

Jace looked towards the open kitchen doorway and smiled wistfully. "I don't know what she was like then, and I might never know, but she's a very loving and caring parent to our children and that's all that matters now. We can't change the past, but we can learn from it and I think she's doing that Susan, in far more profound ways than we will probably ever realise." Jace spoke softly and her voice was filled with the love and admiration she had for Catherine.

"She's made a very good choice with you Jace, I hope she realises it." Susan stated, impressed by the other woman's quiet words of support for her friend.

"Oh, I think I was the one who made the good choice here Susan. I intend to always keep it." Jace smiled at the older woman over her coffee cup, as they sat in companionable silence for the next few minutes.

Catherine was facing the window in the lounge as Lisa continued sitting precariously on the back of the leather sofa, swinging her legs and talking animatedly about going to feed the ducks and swans tomorrow in the park below. Jake was peering out of the window at the lake and wondering if Jace would take them rowing, if the weather stayed clear.  Elena was looking at the colours in the room, but her eyes were slowly drooping, indicating she was about ready to fall asleep.

Catherine had an uncanny rapport with Elena and always knew when the child needed to be put into her crib for her rest. Jace would tease her, as she was sure Catherine was more her mother than she was, but it amused them both and Catherine felt closer to the child when Jace made comments that included her at the base level of their daughters conception.

Walking to her room, Catherine had called Rio to heel and follow her into the room. The luggage and the position of the crib could be a problem to her and she didn't relish falling over anything with her daughter being held in her arms.  Ten minutes later, having settled Elena for her afternoon nap, she stroked Rio's ears and smiled, "Guess I'd better go and find out if Susan has divulged any of my old secrets to Jace while I've been gone Rio."

Several hours later, the children had been fed, tucked into bed early on the grounds that they were tired and becoming irritable, pretty much like a certain tall dark and beautiful parent had been earlier in the day. Eventually, Catherine had told them in no uncertain terms, there would be no visit to the park in the morning, if they didn't get some sleep.  The children duly retired and asked for a story, which Jace obliged as she settled Elena back down, fortunately the baby didn't protest, she loved her sleep too much to argue Jace suspected, very much like herself.

Susan was drinking her final coffee sitting opposite Catherine, who had decided that the sofa was ideal for her to put her feet up and relax with her tea at the corner table to her right. "She loves you very much Catherine." Susan stated and noticed the tender smile that moved onto Catherine's features.

"I know, and I certainly love her Susan. She is everything to me and more." Catherine replied softly, her voice had an awed quality to it, as if, she couldn't believe it herself.

"Those children love you too, Catherine, and I can see that they make you happy, grumpy too, but that's to be accepted with your disposition." Susan grinned at the aggrieved expression on the raven-haired woman's face. She was so easy to tease about her family; it was strange, but an entirely satisfying situation for Susan to encounter with this woman whom she loved as a daughter.

"Are you still going to come to New Zealand at Christmas, now that you have met all the family? Ah, but I forget before you answer, there is still Grace to consider and her mother also; come to that, Colin too, whom you can sympathise with." Catherine joked and heard Susan stifle a laugh at her inclusion of Grace and her family.

"Grace and I may not have seen each other, but, I know what Grace is like and, I'm looking forward to meeting the woman who has kept you out of trouble for years; she's been a very good friend also, I suspect Catherine." Susan inquired.

"Grace is more than a friend, Susan.....she's family. I think if I'd had a sister, I would have wanted it to be Grace; and you, Susan are family also, you knew that of course." Catherine had never been one to labour the point over the emotion issues.

Susan smiled at her as Jace came back into the room and took up her place at the end of the sofa Catherine had taken over. "Yes, I know Catherine, and you're like a daughter to me too."

Jace watched the interchange between the two women and knew that Susan was going to be not only a very powerful ally with Catherine, but also a very informative one. Susan knew things about Catherine that Jace wanted to know, but couldn't ask her, she would have laughed off the questions as irrelevant. To Jace it was going to be like visiting your parents and they bring out the baby photos only in this case, Catherine had been some big baby. Shuffling uncomfortably at the other end of the sofa, as Catherine's toes touched the outside of her thigh.

Susan watched the blonde as she tried to relax on the sofa, but it was clear all she wanted to do was get as close as possible to Catherine and Jace obviously thought that Susan might not approve. Smiling at Jace, she glanced over to Catherine who was twisting her hands together as if she wanted to do something more with them. "Can I make a suggestion ladies?"

Catherine looked over to Susan, as did Jace, they both said in unison, "Yes."

Susan levered herself out of the chair and went towards the door. "I'm going home now, but in future, I expect that you will at least hold hands in your own home. You're not children being scrutinised by your parents on your first date you know!" Susan grinned as she went to fetch her coat and Catherine burst out laughing as she turned to Jace who was looking embarrassed at the comment.

"Do we look like that?" Catherine asked Jace, her good humour clearly in ascendancy.

"Yeah, we do. And thank god Lisa wasn't here to add her usual artless comments." Jace laughed softly, shifted a little on the sofa, but did not move any closer to Catherine.

Catherine smiled at the thought of the type of comment Lisa was apt to come out with and then became aware that Jace hadn't taken any steps to refute the comment with action. "Ms. Bardley how would you like a hug and perhaps a few lessons in my particular brand of appreciation of how much you mean to me?"

Jace turned her head to look at her partner and saw the slow seductive smile that crossed her face. She was to damn beautiful and sexy, it was a dynamite combination. "I think I would love to accept a hug and a few lessons Ms. Warriorson. Have you any objections, if I want to follow through with a few lessons of my own?" Jace closed the gap between them and was enclosed in a warm embrace that had her lying on top of Catherine, facing each other, their lips almost touching.

"Absolutely, no objection at all. I'm always interested and appreciative of any lesson you can teach me Jace. Oh, and one more thing, welcome to New York my love. Jace, everything I have is yours, don't forget that will you, and I mean everything." Catherine's voice went down a few octaves just to the level she knew had a rather splendid effect on her partner.

"Thank you Catherine, the only thing I can think of right now that I want and need is right here in my arms. Now, what were you saying about a lesson or two?" Jace closed the gap between their lips; they began an exploration that was both ancient to them and new at the same time, as each of their kisses appeared to be.

Susan didn't bother to say goodnight, she felt that it would have been inappropriate, as the two children had been remarkably quick at understanding her last comment. Locking the door as she departed from the apartment, she smiled at the thought of the next couple of weeks; which she believed, were going to be quite enlightening for all of them.

Jace heard a vehicle and looked back over to the drive, seeing the green Land Rover that Colin always used.......at last Catherine was home!


Chapter Two

Catherine looked tired as she climbed into the Land Rover next to Colin. He had as usual been punctual and gave her a warm smile of welcome as he collected her limited luggage. Once he saw how tired she looked, he also took charge of the laptop she used, with enhanced voice features in its' software packages.

Sinking into the leather upholstery, Catherine closed her eyes as Rio jumped in the back of the vehicle and put his head out of the lowered window of the back seat. Colin seconds later joined her in the front and started the vehicle towards home. "You look tired Catherine, Jace is going to give you a hard time." Colin smiled as he thought of the small blonde and her protective streak over Catherine's health, usually, because Catherine didn't take care of herself properly, especially, when she went away alone.

"You know something Colin, I could never be an actress, and it is hard work doing ten minute interviews, never mind TV series and movies. I think I will leave the media options to others in the future." Catherine replied, her voice betraying the exhaustion her body was exhibiting.

"Well.....;unfortunately, Jace will still give you a hard time, but I'm sure you can find ways to counter her disapproval." Colin smirked, as he thought about his own ways of countering Grace, when she went into full mother hen mode; it was quite entertaining for the both of them.

"Yes, I'll think of something, I usually do. Although, if I fall asleep on her shoulder, do you think she might get the message? By the way, how are the plans for the wedding going, it's only about five weeks away isn't it?" Catherine smiled; she imagined what Grace had been going through recently with her mother.

"Oh, from my point of view, everything is going really well. Grace on the other hand is having a hard time convincing Faith, she doesn't have to have the final fitting for the dress for at least another couple of weeks, but you know Faith, she's adamant Grace might put on weight and spoil everything at the last minute. I've had to diffuse the odd argument between them and I think Jace has actually been the go between for the last few weeks, especially, when they stopped talking for days." Colin chuckled, he knew that it wasn't really funny, but with Grace and her mother, they did have rather hilarious arguments and all over trivial items too!

Catherine laughed at the image she created in her mind of Grace and her mother arguing. Catherine knew that Grace wasn't keen on getting involved with the numerous arrangements for the wedding; had asked or rather pleaded with Jace to help her out and fend off her mother. Catherine had found it a source of great merriment on occasion, especially, when Jace had been almost at the end of her tether on a few occasions at the wide gap in understanding between mother and daughter. Jace had commented that at least, she wasn't like that with her mother and then had gone silent and left the room feigning a headache, which Catherine had not pushed, She knew exactly what had upset her friend, for it hadn't been Grace or Faith. "I guess I'll hear about it soon enough." Catherine said and closed her eyes as she recalled the unscheduled visit she'd made in LA the day before.

Catherine had decided to turn up at the house without notice. She had been thinking about it for sometime and having the few hours stop over in LA, as her flight was being prepped for take-off early in the morning, it had been the opportunity she wasn't going to miss.

The car and driver she had hired for the day had brought her quickly to her destination in the suburban, middle class, housing environment, holding the family of her friend and lover Jace Bardley. The driver had stopped the car outside the drive of the house and he had been instructed to wait until he was given a message otherwise. It was early evening and she surmised that Jace's father would be home, possibly her sister might be here, but it depended on what college she had eventually taken and where it was located. Her mother worked from home, so chances were, if no one else were around, Alison Bardley would be. Taking Rio's harness, they walked confidently towards the door of the residence.  She could hear children playing close by and the odd car pull along the road, but so far no movement from the house directly in front of her. Rio halted at the steps, and then they negotiated the four obstacles and quickly landed on the decking of the small porch. Rio then led her to the left and stopped at what she assumed was the door. Feeling in front of her at the unfamiliar door, she eventually found the doorbell and pushed the button. Waiting for someone to answer was the one of the longest periods of her life, except when she had been waiting to hear the outcome of the birth of their daughter.

Within a couple of the minutes, the door was opened, "Hi, what can I do for you?" The deep voice obviously male, asked in a friendly fashion.

"I'm sorry to bother you, but does this happen to be the residence of the Bardley family?" Catherine said quietly, her accent indicating to the man in front of her that she wasn't American.

Catherine could feel the eyes on her and the speculative gaze she was being given. "Yes, I'm Jason Bardley. I'm sorry, but have me met?" The blind stranger had perturbed Jason at his door; he had hoped that it might be his eldest daughter coming home, but as always it was only a wishful thought.

"Mr. Bardley we have never met, but I believe you have heard of me." Catherine replied her voice businesslike, she wasn't sure what reaction she was going to get from the Bardley family members, however she had to try, because Jace wasn't making the effort to bridge the gap and it was eating away at her lover.

"And you would be?" Jason asked intrigued this woman was beautiful and held herself with an arrogance that defied her disability in many ways, as if it was a minor annoyance to her. That kind of bearing wasn't seen that often and certainly not in his backyard, although she did look familiar.

"My name is Catherine Warriorson or perhaps I'm better known to you as Catherine Devonshire, either way I'll answer to whichever you use," she heard the startled, sharp intake of breath as Jason Bardley now put the face to the name.

Jason was stunned, he had never expected to meet Catherine Devonshire in his life. She was a legend in the publishing world. Although, he'd considered there might be a possibility of meeting Catherine one day after finding out that the woman Jace loved happened to be this woman. After her disappearance and Jace's marriage to Adamson, he had thought it a pipe dream. Now, a year and half later, here he was face to face with the woman on all the current business programs and the TV didn't do justice to her beauty, that was for sure. "I'm sorry Ms. Devonshire, but I'm a little......; No! A lot surprised at your arriving at my door."

"Yes, it would look odd I realise that, but Jace....." Jason stopped Catherine.

"Jace isn't here Ms. Devonshire, we haven't seen her for over a year," he sounded upset to her sensitive hearing.

Catherine gave him a smile of compassion. "Perhaps I can help you understand that problem Mr. Bardley if you will allow me a few minutes of your time?" Catherine said softly. Then she heard a woman calling him.

"I'm sorry Ms. Devonshire please come inside, my wife will want to hear the story also!" Jason held the door open and Rio waited for his mistress to acknowledge the forward movement.

"Thank you." Catherine let Rio lead her inside and she slowly followed her host as he moved along the hall.

Alison Bardley watched in fascination as her husband led a tall, stunning looking woman into the house and into the lounge with a guide dog, so the woman was blind, but on initial reactions you could be forgiven in thinking that she wasn't, her easy gait very confident. Jason showed her inside the room then excused himself as he went to inform his wife and bring her to meet Catherine.

Minutes later he came back in the room followed by Jace's mother, Catherine assumed. "Ms. Devonshire, this is my wife Alison." Catherine acknowledged the woman in the room with a smile and held her hand out. Alison Bardley took the hand in hers and shook it in a warm grasp that reminded Catherine of Jace's small hands.

"Your daughter has your hands." Catherine said quietly, not really meaning to say the thought aloud.

"You've seen my daughter recently Ms. Devonshire?" Alison questioned, the emotion filled words caused her voice to crack noticeably. They had been worried sick about her for months, especially when Peter was in town and admitted to some mutual friends that the marriage was over, but refused to say anything else on the matter, particularly the whereabouts of his ex-wife.

"Yes, three weeks ago and hopefully, if the plane gets the go ahead for take-off, I will be seeing her metaphorically speaking, that is, tomorrow,' Catherine's hand indicated her disability and she gave a rueful smile. " I'm not allowed to stay away from home to long, Jace gets upset."

Alison had tears running down her cheeks, she gave her husband a watery smile, they now knew that Jace was safe, not in the country, but safe, and that was the most important thing. "Ms. Devonshire how is Jace?"

Jason Bardley had taken the seat next to Catherine as she mentioned that she would be seeing his daughter tomorrow if only they could too!

"She's very well, keeping me on my toes I might add, our children are fortunate that she came back into my life." Catherine explained, as it was only fair that they knew that Jace was part of her life, the most important part, as far as she was concerned!

Jason cleared his throat from the emotions he was feeling; clearly Jace had reached her goal and made Catherine Devonshire take her back into her life. His daughter never ceased to amaze him with her fortitude. "We're about to have dinner Ms. Devonshire would you like to join us?" It was a tentative question; she was probably busy and had other appointments, more important than spending any more time with them.

Catherine heard the unsure note in his voice and she smiled. That sounded like Jace's uncertainty in the early days of their relationship, it certainly didn't happen now. "Well, if you could ask my driver to come back in a couple of hours, I'd be pleased to accept your invitation to dinner, but, I have to feed Rio too?" Catherine said, smiling towards the voice of Jace's father.

"No problem there, I'll be right back." Jason went out of the room quickly to take care of the driver.

Catherine could hear Jace's mother move around the room, uncertain if she should ask the tall woman any more questions. "Jace has been with me for nine months, Mrs. Bardley." Catherine said quietly.

Alison was surprised at the compassion she heard in the voice of the woman in the room with her. All the rumours she'd heard and the TV reports had indicated that she was a very ruthless woman and someone you never underestimated.  "Thank you for coming here to let us know about Jace, Ms. Devonshire. We have been very worried about her; things sometimes get out of hand and you can't always see the trees for the forest in certain circumstances. We were all hasty I think, the last time we saw our daughter." Alison said in a contemplative mood.

"Yes, I know. She told me about the problem. It was unfortunate, but, I believe not insurmountable and in the circumstances, I believe it will be in the best interests for you all to get back together again, and soon." Catherine
smiled warmly towards the direction of Alison Bardley.

"Circumstances? Jace isn't ill is she Ms. Devonshire?" Alison asked, just as Jason returned and saw the pale features of his wife, he walked over to her and put an arm around her shoulders in comfort.

"Is something wrong Alison? Ms. Devonshire?" Jason questioned softly.

"No, nothing except, if you don't mind, I'd prefer you to call me Catherine. In the current situation it might be appropriate." Catherine turned on one of her dazzling smiles that gave her already beautiful features a stunning glow to them.

"Of course, my wife is Alison, and I'm Jason." Jace's father was not surprised his daughter had lost her heart to this woman, she was stunning and god knows what she must have been like, when she could focus those ice blue eyes in your direction.

Over dinner, they discussed briefly her accident and Jace's visit to see her nine months ago, which became the basis for their renewed friendship.

"Are you saying that my daughter is your friend only Catherine?" Jason asked, he had assumed a more in depth relationship from their earlier conversation.

Catherine blushed, and moved around in her chair; if she had been at home the children would have commented that she was fidgeting and Jace would probably be laughing and making some teasing remark. "Well, actually at first we were friends and that doesn't mean were not friends now, of course but.....that is to say....." Catherine was nervous for the first time in years with someone other than Jace; and Jace wasn't here to help her out.

"Perhaps I can help you out here Catherine, if you would like, that is?" Jason said smiling at the obvious discomfort of the otherwise confident woman.

"Yes. By all means, please." Catherine breathed a sigh of relief.

"My daughter decided she couldn't live without you, then finally persuaded you that you couldn't live without her either, will that about cover it?" Jason chuckled at the shy glance he received from Catherine.
Sheepishly Catherine replied. " Yes, that covers it very well, thank you."

"I was with my daughter after she read the article about you Catherine; I always knew she would eventually find you and that she would convince you that she loved you in the way you obviously love her." Jason said as he recalled the morning he had taken in the newspaper and waited for his daughter to read the scandal and digest the worst about her friend.

"Then you had greater faith than either of us at the time Jason, because neither of us was kind to each other for the intervening months, I can tell you." Catherine said, her tone betraying elements of bitterness and sadness.

"Well, the main thing is that you're together now and didn't you say something about children?" Alison answered for her husband.

Catherine's face changed dramatically at the mention of her children. "Yes, Jake is eleven and getting taller every day, he's a very quiet boy, but loves the outdoor life and wants to be a soccer player when he grows up. He's a very special boy. Lisa is eight and a handful. I guess it matches her red hair, she is one of the most loving children I have ever come across in my life. She reminds me of how I imagine Jace to be at that age. When you meet her you can let me know if that's the case."

Jason chuckled at the description of her daughter; "If she's anything like our eldest daughter than you are going to be busy keeping her out of trouble, I can tell you."

Catherine wasn't sure what to say about Elena, but thought, hell, they'd come this far, why not the whole truth. "We have a younger daughter also, Elena is six months old and she has her mother's green eyes and sleeps at the drop of a hat and can eat about as much as her mother also."

Catherine heard the catch in the breathing of Jace's parents. Finally, she heard Jason ask in such a quiet voice, she wasn't sure if she'd heard him correctly. "Jace has a daughter?"

"Yes, Jace is the mother of our youngest daughter. I'm sorry you have to hear it like this. I had wanted Jace to be the bearer of the news and have Elena here too, but she's stubborn." Catherine supplied.

Catherine heard Alison fight the tears she wanted to shed, and at that moment the doorbell rang, probably the driver.

Ten minutes later Catherine was about to leave Jace's parents. "I was hoping , if you haven't firm plans for Christmas, you might want to consider coming over to visit us in New Zealand. I have invited a couple of other guests and I have a private flight out of LA a couple of days before Christmas. We have a wedding of my best friend planned on the ranch Christmas Eve; then we plan to celebrate as a family until the New Year and as it's the millennium. I thought it might be time to meet your granddaughter too. I'll understand of course, if you can't at this short notice, but please think about it and call the number on this card if you want to discuss the plans. It's my secretary in New York and she can have me call you."

Jason had his arm around his wife as they walked her to the door. "Catherine you now have three more guests to take care of; I'd rather you kept this from our daughter. I want it to be a surprise, if that is okay with you?" Jason asked her, not wanting her to be dishonest with Jace.

Catherine turned and gave them a grin. "No problem, your daughter will be thrilled at the surprise trust me. I look forward to meeting Lucy at Christmas. Thank you for dinner, I'll be in touch." Rio led Catherine towards the porch steps.

"No! Thank you, Catherine. You have just made two people very happy." Jason smiled and Alison rushed over to the tall woman and placed a kiss on her cheek and whispered. "Give my daughter and granddaughter a kiss from us both Catherine."

"Yes, I'll do that." Catherine's eyes were smarting and she caught herself from stumbling as Rio trotted slowly down the steps.

Finally opening her eyes from her recent memories she smiled, "Have the children been behaving Colin?"

Colin gave her a startled look, he thought she was asleep she'd been quiet for over fifteen minutes and they were nearly at the ranch. "Oh yes, but Lisa is going to give Grace's mother a heart attack one day, I'm sure."

"Oh god, what's she been up too now?" Catherine asked smiling, she could well imagine what her eldest daughter had been doing and they chatted about the child until the house came into view. Catherine always savoured the feeling of coming home and now, with Jace in the house, 'Destiny' had indeed become her home; because wherever Jace Bardley was in the world that would be Catherine's home.

The vehicle crunched to a halt on the gravel drive. The sounds of laughing children could be heard in the background as Catherine got out of the front seat and opened the door for Rio to plummet out.

Within minutes, her children surrounded Catherine; Lisa who hugged her and tugged at her to lift her up so she could place a few wet kisses on her cheeks. Then Jake sauntered up and Catherine could hear the spinning of a football of the toe of a boot, Jake was learning new footwork skills, now that his leg had been given a clean bill of health. Catherine wasn't sure if it was Jace's perfume that assailed her first or the approaching footsteps. Whichever it was, Catherine stood silently at the foot of the porch as the children ran off to inform Grace that Catherine and Colin were back.

"I see you haven't taken care of yourself as usual Catherine?" Jace scolded in a gentle maternal tone, which Catherine could now also associate with her mother.

"Ah, well.....Jace, I guess if you're not with me, I tend to forget those small inconsequential matters." Catherine turned her face up towards the voice of her lover, her heartbeat racing at the image that presented itself for inspection of the woman she'd sorely missed.

"Then, I guess I have a job for life?" Jace said softly and walked the few steps to bring her level with her friend.

"And the rest, Ms. Bardley, and the rest! I was hoping that perhaps you could start the welcome home process with a little tender loving care, what do you say?" Catherine gave Jace a smile, she could feel the heat and scent of Jace's body, and knew she was inches away from her.

Jace moved slowly to wrap her arms around her lover, pulling the dark head towards her for a kiss that both women hungrily devoured, it was remarkable how a simple kiss could ignite their bodies to fever pitch in a short space of time. "I've missed you Catherine." Jace huskily replied, as she pulled away slightly from the kiss.

Catherine smiled at the emotion she felt from her lover. "I've missed you too Jace, I love you." Catherine moved the short distance between them this time, and continued her passionate exploration of Jace's lips and trailed down her neck.

A throat being cleared from the entrance to the house broke up the embrace, as Catherine turned her head in the direction of the open door, Jace's was unable to see the person, as her back was to the intruder. "Why don't I go hire you two a room for the night, so you can continue this necking session in private. Believe me, my mother does NOT want to see this display of passion. She might get jealous, because sure as hell, I am!" Grace Thornton laughed at the blush that stained Catherine's cheeks; she was pretty sure Jace could match her as the smaller woman put her head on Catherine's shoulder.

"Good to see you too Grace, how's the wedding dress?" Catherine quipped back to her friend.

"Welcome back Catherine, I've really missed your dry wit." Walking closer to the couple, she looked over at her fiancé and smiled at him. "I think I'm going to take a leaf out of your book Catherine, and go and welcome my lover back home too." Grace walked down the steps gave Catherine's a quick peck on the cheek of welcome, "See you later Romeo." Grace said, as she strode towards Colin, who was happy to accept the scorching kiss that Grace supplied moments later.

"Colin hasn't been away has he?" Catherine asked in surprise. Jace laughed at the puzzled expression on Catherine's face.

"No, darling, he hasn't, but come on let's get you inside and you can have some tea and tell me all about your exploits, what do you say?" Jace grabbed her hand and together they went inside the house.


Chapter Three

The family settled into a routine very quickly once Catherine arrived home. Catherine ensured that the first few hours of the morning were in a family atmosphere of breakfast together. The children, happy that Catherine spent the hour before they went to school chatting amiably, going over what lessons they had, and how they thought they were doing.

Jake would continually talk around the academic subjects and only became enthusiastic when he talked about the sports, especially his beloved soccer matches. Now that he was fully fit, he had been working towards achieving his first team place back. It had been given to another boy who wasn't as good with the control of the ball in the air, or in a close up situation with a defender, but who had the speed and the tactical mind to find spaces for others who could. Jake had been upset at first that he wasn't given his place back immediately, but, he had been informed in no uncertain terms that everything worth having had to be worked for; he couldn't expect things to fall into his lap. The boy had sulked for an hour after school once he'd been told that and especially when he'd come home for sympathy. When he eventually arrived from out of his bedroom to have dinner, he placed his arms around the woman who had come to understand that very philosophy and practised it. Catherine had listened intently to Jace's words to the boy, and it had surprised her, but had been very proud of her stance and attitude, which proved Jace didn't give in to the children as she had originally thought.

Lisa every morning regaled them all with a story of some disaster she was sure to meet that day and inevitably, with the child she did. Fortunately, they were all small disasters and usually of her own making. This particular morning Lisa had looked around the room to see if anyone was watching, then tried to place a note unobtrusively next to Catherine's mug of tea. Catherine couldn't see the child try the devious tactic, but she could feel the movement next to her. A playful smile slowly formed on her face as she heard Jace arrive in the kitchen with Jake talking about the light jacket he would need today to ward off the rain that threatened.

"Do you want to tell me something Lisa?" Catherine asked her daughter quietly. Lisa shuffled in her chair and tried not to look at the others that had come into the room making enough noise to drown out her answer.

"No, Catherine, everything's fine." Lisa said slowly and shifted around in her chair again.

"So, there's nothing you want me to know, from the school perhaps?" Catherine's voice rose slightly. She knew that Jace had picked up on the question and could imagine Jace looking at their eldest daughter in speculation.

Lisa had turned a bright red by this time, as both Jace and Jake had decided to listen to the vague conversation.

Judy who was now in the last three months of her position as housekeeper for the family, as she would be going to work as a teacher at the local senior school, brought over their cereals and noticed the note located next to Catherine's mug of tea. She raised an eyebrow in Jace's direction, motioned her attention to the note.

Jace smiled her thanks at Judy and waited for Lisa's answer.

"I.....;that is......;there's nothing really, I've been good, really I have Catherine!" The child replied, her voice catching in distress.

Catherine noted the change in the child's voice as she placed her hands on the table and moved them around next to her mug.  As she placed her hand at the bottom of the mug, she felt the paper next to it. Long slim fingers wrapped themselves around the note and she pulled it up for inspection. "I see the tooth fairy brings notes too these days?" Catherine tried to ease the tension in the child, she hadn't liked the fact that Lisa was lying to her, but at the same time, she wasn't sure why and until she did know, then the child had the benefit of the doubt. A tactic she'd used on numerous occasions in her business dealings, might be a skill that she could adapt for parenting.

"You haven't lost any teeth have you Catherine?" Lisa asked her in a surprised tone, which was far better than the previous distressed one.

Catherine handed the note over to Jace for her to read. Jace accepted it reading the note carefully, then squeezed Catherine's thigh under the table in a gesture that indicated there wasn't a serious problem.

"Nope not me and no one else in the household either so, that must mean that someone wants me to know something that they're not prepared to tell me in person. Now, who could that be you think Lisa?" All eyes in the room turned to the child who had the presence to look down at her cereals.

"I wanted you to read the note when I was at school," the child explained.

"Why? We don't have secrets here do we Lisa? You know that I can't read it on my own and that anything from the school you give to us immediately upon coming home. So, why not this note Princess? I assume it is from school?" Catherine asked her in a quite authoritative, but unthreatening voice.

"Yes it's from the school Catherine. I forgot it last night and I thought you might be mad with me." Lisa had the first traces of tears welling up in her eyes. Everyone else in the room saw the tearful embarrassed child except Catherine. And that was useful, because Jace was sure she couldn't have chastised the child when she looked so upset.

"Mad at you? Now, why would I be that, if it were a genuine mistake? Are you in trouble at school Lisa?" Catherine continued her questions and felt Jace's hand curl around hers in support.

The girl started to sob and in small gulping breaths answered her. "I hit a boy in my class yesterday because he was teasing me!"

Jace caught her breath at the admission and Jake gave a big brother snigger which he silenced immediately when Catherine tracked him with an ice blue gaze, that although, not focused left him in no doubt that she wasn't happy with that particular type of reaction. Judy was studying the scene and thought that Catherine wasn't doing to badly for a surrogate parent in her mind. Catherine turned back to her eldest daughter and gave her a wry smile. "Come over here Lisa." She heard the child scrape back the chair and arrive next to her within seconds.

Catherine held out her arms and the child ran into them and jumped on her lap. "You know its not the right thing to do, hitting people, don't you Lisa? No matter how much you think they deserve it."

Lisa placed her head on the broad shoulder of her guardian and nodded her head, which Catherine could feel. "Not even when it's a boy who's bigger than me and he says horrid things?" The child said petulantly.

Catherine had to stop herself from chuckling, because she wasn't so sure that she wouldn't have done the same herself given the circumstances. Even now, she certainly felt like knocking the heads together of several of her executives, in some of the more voracious meetings. "No Lisa, you have to find another way to solve the problem. Couldn't you have spoken to your teacher?"  Catherine asked the child who had now stopped sobbing, but her tears were obviously still leaking because they soaked the collar of her shirt.

"The teacher wasn't there and that would make me a tell-tale Catherine, and I can't do that!" The child was affronted by the suggestion.

"Right, sorry I forgot about that situation in school. What did the boy say to you that made you want to box his ears or whatever you did?" Catherine had to smile as she placed a brief kiss on top of the red head.

"I punched him on the nose Catherine and it was bleeding too!" The child said proudly. Then continued with her story. "He called me carrot top and that I was a dunce in the class, because I was in trouble everyday for dropping something or breaking things. He said, I was a klutz and that you would be sending me back to the orphanage if I didn't do better in school. I don't want to go back to the orphanage Catherine? And I'm trying to be good, honest I am. But I can't help it if things break when I touch them! I can't, can I Jace? I do it here too, and no one calls me a klutz at home." The child said passionately, turning in Catherine's hold and gave Jace a beseeching look.

Catherine was tempted to go to the school with her and ask for the boy to be put in another class, but she figured that her daughter might have solved her own problem; and perhaps there was occasionally a reason for the rare violent reaction. Catherine pulled the child into a position where, she could place her hands gently around the small face and her thumbs tracked down the tears on the child's face and smoothed them away. "Okay Lisa, this is what I think, and my word is final, got me?"

"Gotcha." Lisa gave her a smile, which Catherine could feel under her fingers and she smiled back at the girl.

"First, you're never going back to the orphanage, shortly when the lawyers have all the details worked out, we are going ahead with the adoption. Then there will never ever be any possibility of you even being teased about it and that goes for you also, Jake! Second, yes, you're a klutz. Sure we all know that, but you're our klutz, and we love you, so never be ashamed of that Lisa. We will try and work on improving your co-ordination okay? I think you might enjoy the exercises that I do to help me co-ordinate now I'm blind, so I'll take you in hand on that one. Thirdly Lisa, you came fifth in your class overall out of thirty. So, there is no way you are a dunce and that's on record; bet that boy didn't come in the top ten did he?" Catherine spoke decisively, but with compassion and understanding of the child's predicament.

"No, he came in the bottom half of the class Catherine." Lisa answered her as Catherine placed another kiss on her head.

"Finally, I love your red hair. It's beautiful and carrots are my favourite vegetable, did you know that?" Catherine said, as she gently released the child as she slid off her lap onto the floor.

"Are they? I didn't know that. In that case, I don't care if anyone calls me that name again; now I know you like carrots Catherine, that's cool." The child went back to her seat and began the demolition process of her breakfast cereal.

Later the children left for the school bus at the end of the drive, as usual escorted by one of the ranch hands, until they were safely on the bus. Jace smiled and placed her hands on the table and her chin in them in quiet contemplation of her lover. Judy had left them alone to set up the laundry.

"I'm impressed Catherine, I don't think I would have handled it quite in the diplomatic way you did and calling carrots your favourite vegetable, was fast thinking." Jace watched the colour flood Catherine's face at the compliment.

"Actually carrots are my favourite, mainly because I heard they were good for your eye sight. And I can do with a little help in that area, don't you think?" Laughing at her fanciful thoughts.

"Any help in that particular direction will be accepted with grateful thanks. The note by the way was to inform us that there is an open day at the school next week, I think in light of what's going on with our klutzy eldest daughter, we both should attend don't you?" Jace smiled and watched as Catherine's expression became thoughtful.

"Definitely! I wouldn't mind meeting the parents of the boy that made those remarks to Lisa. I think we could ask them politely to teach their son manners." Catherine gave Jace a wicked grin as she considered the possible outcome of that confrontation, might be interesting and colourful as well.

"No! No, way are you going to meet the parents of the boy. Hades, Catherine, knowing you, Lisa wouldn't be the only one slugging someone in the family now would she?" Jace laughed at the image of Catherine doing exactly the opposite of what she'd told Lisa to do in the future.

"Spoilsport! Hell, Jace, what a combination our kid is; Lisa the slugger klutz, Jesus we could have fun with her when she makes some of her less than appreciative comments that she's famous for around here." Catherine chuckled at the thought of gently teasing the child.

"Why did I mention the word to you, you're going to give the child a complex, as if she hasn't got one already with this little episode." Jace moved closer to Catherine and her breath ended up sharing the same space as her lover's.

"Can I call her slugger once in a while, just to see the reaction? When I get through training her, she won't be a klutz I can assure you of that, please?" Catherine pleaded in a whisper as her breath mingled with Jace's, as she gently lowered hers to trap Jace's in a tender kiss that they relinquished earlier than they normally would, as Judy was due back in the room. They'd taken enough ribbing from Grace over their inability to keep their hands off each other; especially, as Grace would often describe the actions vividly to tease Catherine shamelessly.

"No, you can't! And when you teach her one of your many skills, make sure it's not lethal too." Jace whispered back, giving her another kiss as she closed her hands around the larger one's held between the two of them.

"Oh, I leave all my lethal skills as you call them, all for you, and only you. Which we could always go and practice, if you're not doing anything in particular, what do you say?" Catherine's voice dropped to a low seductive tone, that Jace invariably couldn't resist.

Jace placed her forehead on her lover's and sighed in frustration. "I promised to go with Faith into town and pick up some of the items we ordered and then have lunch. We were taking Elena also; so, you could have some peace and finish up you're work early. Then we could have a session with the family early tonight, play a few games, thought it might help the bonding process around here."

Catherine exhaled softly, "I must be losing my touch, if you prefer a shopping trip with Faith, to being with me!"

Jace looked at her lover's face and noticed the indulgent smile that was placed there. "Under normal circumstances, you know I would be with you, but Grace and her mother haven't exactly seen eye to eye over the wedding. I thought we might be having a wake rather than a reception a few weeks ago but....." Catherine placed a finger on her lips to stop the apology.

"I love you Jace Bardley! I love your compassion and your magnanimous nature with people, don't ever change my love, I'm always going to be here for you and it sounds good, our family night. Later perhaps, you and I and a large bed that calls our names.......;what do you say?" Catherine held Jace in a loving embrace, to give support to her words.

"Can we go to bed earlier than normal?" Jace beamed into Catherine's neck, experiencing the generous unstinting love this
woman had for her.

"My idea exactly! Come on darling, let's go and see how Faith is doing with our youngest." Catherine pulled Jace up and they swapped another ripened kiss before they went on their way to find Faith and Elena.


Catherine smiled as she recalled a conversation from the previous evening as they talked quietly about several subjects as they put their youngest child in her crib to sleep.

"Catherine I've been thinking about my parents recently. I was wondering if I should finally call them and let them know they have a granddaughter. What do you think?" Jace asked her eyes on her daughter, who was kicking in delight as Catherine tickled her feet.

"To be honest, I'm surprised it's taken you this long, with your love and compassion for people." Catherine was smiling at the sensation of her daughter's reactions to the tickle of her feet. Although her thoughts were on a conversation she'd had with Jace's parents the week before.

"I guess everything escalated out of control and I'm scared to tell them." Jace watched with an indulgent smile as Catherine continued to play with their daughter.

"Are you scared to tell them about Elena or maybe about us too?" Catherine turned her profile in the direction of Jace's voice.

"I'm not ashamed of us! Did you think I could be?" Jace replied upset at Catherine's comment it was uncalled for what on earth was she thinking?

"Actually no, I know you're not ashamed of us, but maybe you think your family might not approve, especially you living here with me instead of with the father of your child?" Catherine already knew the answer to that, but she wanted Jace to be sure of everything there must be no more misunderstandings with her parents it was too painful for them all.

"They were mad at me for marrying Peter when they knew I loved you, you would be top of the friendly list believe me!" Jace walked over and placed her arms around Catherine's waist.

"Excellent they have taste always knew you got it from somewhere." Catherine retorted back playfully and was given a light slap on the behind for the teasing comment. "In that case I suggest you call them when you're ready and lets see what happens." Catherine couldn't stop Jace calling earlier and spoiling the surprise.

"Sounds good to me, will you be there when I call?" Jace asked her shyly.

Catherine gave a chuckled and hugged the smaller woman closer and placed a slow sensual explosive kiss on her lover's lips " Okay Bardley, I'll hold your hand, but I want a payback for my good deed, you have any ideas?" Catherine's voice lowered to a sexy growl that made Jace go weak at the knees.

"I think a certain gym not too far away might just be calling our names. If I get a babysitter do you want to join me?"  Jace replied in a sultry voice of her own, this woman didn't have all the skills in this payback game they played.

"Try and stop me Jace Bardley. Hell, if it's the payback before I do the good deed, what do I get when I actually do deliver?" Catherine spoke, as she drew within an inch of Jace's lips.

"Depends on the result. If it's good, you get your hearts desire, if it's bad you end up the babysitter for the evening and I find another champion." Jace teased her and them moved to place a tender kiss on her lips.

"In that case I'll endeavour to succeed first time around." Catherine growled and they fell forward on the bed, and only the sounds of the baby's laughter could be heard above the sexually charged emotional ramblings of the two women for the next hour or so.

Jace would be home soon, and they might or they might not make that call to her parents, either way at least they all wanted the same thing, which was kind of unusual in this day and age.

They had planned on playing some games with the children when they arrived home and that would be soon too. She wondered if Lisa was in more trouble today? Chuckling she listened to her voice mail and smiled at one of the comments from Constance about the stupidity of the new Sales executive they had hired. 'Maybe she should punch him on the nose to see what effect it would do.' Catherine thought but decided against that particular advice, for now anyway.

Continued in Part 2

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