Part 1

A statue of a cherubim stood glowing dully on the grounds, almost hidden by the overgrown vines that had been sophisticated in its own time, when hired landscapists tamed them into contrived abandon along the high walls. The last descendent of a proud line surveyed her family's oldest property in the States-acres of land crowned by an impressive stone castle shipped brick by brick from the Scottish highlands.

The last laughter that pealed inside those gray walls was a distant memory to her, one coupled with the twinkle of an old man's eyes before he finally closed his eyes in triumph. He died that day, yet the household had celebrated. With one longing look outside, to the gleaming angel that was wrapped in crimson blossoms as a testament to the value the patriarch endowed in that monument, the old man curved trembling lips and released a last shuddering breath. She was a young girl at the time but she remembered that expression well. Her grandfather had never appeared as satisfied as he was at that moment.

Possessed by nostalgia and the passion for discovery, Lena dropped to her knees in front of the marble angel and ripped the growth with bare hands. She revealed words almost forgotten by time. HERE LIES HOPE, WHOM LOVE SUSTAINED. The epitaph had no name, but as certain as Luthor blood coursed through her veins, Lena knew that there was a body underground. Almost every one she knew and loved were interred in the family tomb in Metropolis. Tentatively, Lena reached out and brushed her fingers over the embossed letters, desperately racking her brain for a kiss of memory, for a faint picture of any person who became part of the eminent family enough to deserve a plot in their own front yard. What hope would merit a grave in such close proximity but not a name?

Somewhere in the vast darkness of the castle, catacombs to memories and events long gone, the answers would be buried. She had come here with no intention of stepping into that fortress of magnificence and shame to sign the property over to a buyer. A grave would greatly decrease or increase the value. She was a Luthor first, and she needed to place the appropriate price on her heritage. That alone would propel her into the yawning grandeur. Yet her driving force was this unknown trait in her that she was told delighted her grandfather to no end-this insatiable need to uncover the truth, an urge so strong she would stop at nothing. Perhaps this was one more test, her grandfather reaching out his hand from the grave to present her with the final puzzle. It would prove her claim to this fortune.

On the first of May, during the third year of the new century, her grandfather wed a simple woman with a quiet beauty and admirable intellect. Until today, Helen Luthor was one of her favorites among the portraits of the Luthor brides hung along the third floor corridor, second only to her great grandmother Lillian.

It was not merely a bias based on that fact that she was her grandmother. Lena adored Helen because she held herself with a grace that the younger woman could only hope to have. Her grandmother had been born and bred to privilege, but so was Lena. How was it then that among her cousins, she was the least glamorous or even in temper and manner? Underneath the fine clothes and teardrop pearls, her spirit fought to be free from the restraints, called to break away from sophisticated lines to explore bursts of colors and bourgeois accessories. Her grandmother helped her tame what she often referred to as wildness. Lena would often remember Helen Luthor for the time and love she had invested to correct Lena's flaws.

Helen Luthor had not been buried in the Luthor mausoleum. But there was no mystery there. She was a teenager when her grandmother died and Lena distinctly remembered the broken woman telling her lawyer that she had chosen to be buried in her own family's site, in far Boston. Sometimes Lena asked herself why Helen would choose not to lay forever beside the man she adored and the they raised together.

* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

"I will not stand to be humiliated this way!"

"Helen," Lex said sharply, "lower your voice."

Her skirt hugged her legs with every jerky movement uncharacteristic of the woman. She shook her head with a ferocity that sent locks of hair springing out of the chignon. Helen Luthor's breaths were harsh and panicked. "Are you so afraid of scandal, Lex?"

Lex glanced behind him to see the butler swiftly turn away and give them privacy.

"You don't care about what people think of you." Her voice was cold. "You want me to shut up because you don't want people talking about her."

"She has enough to worry about. Don't add to her problems."

Helen laughed in disbelief. "To her problems," she exclaimed bitterly. "Talk of her affair with my own husband would be my adding to her problems!"

He took a seat on one of the hardwood steps and raised his head to look up at his wife. "We've been over for a long time, Helen. You know it as well as I do. Let me go. I've offered you half of everything. You cannot need more than that in ten lifetimes, Helen."

The corner of her lips curled scornfully. "I will not have you running back to her the minute a divorce is final. Do you know how it would make me look?"

"Put all the blame on me," he answered. "Abandonment."

"They would be hard pressed to approve that when we have been in the same town all along. I will not leave my practice so you can fuck who you want," she told him. Lex's hands fisted. "I will not run out of town by my husband and his mistress."

"Then alcoholism, abuse, insanity. Plead anything, Helen. I will sign it. I'll agree to anything but adultery. Don't mention her in any way."

"Why would I do that when I have a much better way of getting back at you, Lex?"

"Don't do this to me."

"Why shouldn't I? What do I owe you, Lex, for screwing me over in this marital bliss?"

She had become so hard and if he were only fair, he would not have blamed her. Helen did not sign up for this. "I can't apologize for this. I don't regret that it happened. But I am sorry that I hurt you, Helen. I never meant to fall in love with her. When I married you, I had no idea that this happiness existed."

Helen blinked back tears that threatened to spill. She had been floating in happiness the day she married him, and he could so easily tell her that he had not felt the same. "We stay married, Lex. I will not let you revel in your own sin. She can have all of your heart that she wants, but your name stays with me. I won't give her all the satisfaction."

She rushed away from him because she could hear herself screaming in her ears. When she turned her head she saw him bury his face in his hands. For all his crimes against her she cared for the man more than she should. Part of her heart went out to him for loving someone who was contracted to hurt him in the end, whether either of them was willing or not.