Epilogue

'I didn't know your hands had such magic in them.'

'You just figuring that out now?'

Jacob chuckled softly. His hand was raised to the soft white spot just below his shoulder where not too long ago, blood had oozed in a steady flow, down his arm and trailing along the inside of his clothes almost to his feet. He stared at the head of his wife, bent over his legs, earnestly scrubbing the dried blood from the golden hairs on his legs. Her ministration was comforting after the events, of a night, which seemed to have occurred aeons ago.

He watched the red tinged water flow steadily down the drain, wishing to himself that he could end all attacks against his family by the simple act of spilling the blood of his ancestors, just this once. He knew however, that life did not and could not come together in peace and harmony over the shedding of blood alone. Jacob earnestly wished for more peaceful solutions to end the constant rage of enemies who wanted something from his family which truly did not exist in the real world of their lives.

'You can't fix others you know. Their perceptions of need are born elsewhere. You can only buffer the innocent.'

'Are you reading my mind?'

'Hmmmm?'

Jacob quickly realized that Cathy was living on two planes of existence. Even though the family quickly returned to the Brownstone from the up town office where Susanna unsuccessfully tried to kill Jacob in exchange for her dead father's fortune, Cathy had not fully recovered herself. There were moments when she seemed to personify the Diosa and other times when she was simply the loving wife he had always known.

'Cathy!'

Jacob spoke her name sharply in an effort to bring his wife back to the reality of the situation. She stood up quickly, concern showing on her face.

'Are you alright?', she queried looking directly into the eyes of her husband. The gaze was open and honest.

'I'm fine. I am not always sure I know when you are you. I need to look into your eyes,' he said reaching for her. The steady flow of water running in the shower stall seemed to meld their bodies together.

'Jacob, I am real all the time. I know there is this energy within me which responds in ways I don't understand completely, but trust that the 'she' who lives inside of me loves you even more than I do, if that's possible.'

'KitCat, I wasn't thinking about love. There is so much of you which is concrete and makes the steadiness of each day possible. I just don't want to lose that.'

Cathy touched the spot on the shoulder which had healed almost completely, within the past hour. 'If I am going to be the old Cathy, this would not have been possible.'

Jacob knew the truth of her words. He ran his hand over the lovely head of hair, dripping wet from the ever flowing water. He pulled her body closer, feeling the nakedness between them sensing his desire rise. With the thought of all she had done for him and his mother, he felt his love rise and be almost boundless. There was comfort and slowing from the raging activity in his mind by just experiencing the flow of water in her arms. Time for lovemaking would be later. Instead, he became aware of the reality inherent in the dream of Theodoric and Veneranda, knowing that the act of saving the wounded knight needed to be relived as part of her insight into the skills she would develop.

'There is so much more to what you have done tonight. We can explore the deeper meaning of those things tomorrow. Tonight, I have a desperate need to make love to you but I am filled with questions and frustrations. Worry fills me first and foremeost and I can't let go.'

He buried his head in her neck, clinging to the extraordinary strength which her gifts bestowed. Cathy turned off the water and led her husband out of the stall, into the steamy bathroom, where she toweled him dry, speaking softly.

'Your mother did nothing wrong. The compromising photos were manufactured from shots taken of her while she was in the bathroom of Susanna's home. She was gassed gently, and posed in positions to which men were later added. Susanna has several pictures in a library of depravity which she keeps hidden and uses for her own perverse pleasure. To gain and maintain control of others, she used an age old technique of blackmail. Each of the folks on the committee have sexual vulnerabilities which she managed to exploit and utilize. Using her years as a high class prostitute, she learned very quickly that we all have inner needs which can't always be satisfied. She could source that vulnerability in people and use it effectively. Exploiting sexual and image issues is one of the most valuable ways to silence critics. The men and women on the committee felt favoured by her support of their….'needs'. '

'What about mama's pictures?'

'They can't be reproduced by any techniques. The copies will always be blank but her originals, along with the originals of the others are not available to me unless we find them. When you're better. We'll do that. I know where they are.'

'Her life seems unreal to me Cathy. I understand that in some ways she can't be held responsible for her beginnings. From an early age she was forced to be a woman while still a child. She knew no other way. The sacrifice of her childhood didn't weaken her mind but it did destroy her heart and strengthen her resolve to get back at everyone.'

The revelation was no surprise to Cathy or Jacob for that matter. Neither did complete understanding ease the burden of her actions nor mitigate the hurt she inflicted on so many others.

Cathy finished her care and waited while Jacob warmed her body and towel dried her hair. Satisfied that they had taken care of each other, that she had set aside his concerns, and that desire could not be held in abeyance any longer, they returned to the welcoming bed which would be the haven where all else would be lost in the wind except their desire to unite as one.

Seconds before their lips met, Jacob turned a quick thought to his parents. He felt the strong steady heartbeat of his father and knew instinctively that all was well with them and despite the events of the evening, they would weather this storm as they had done many times before, and come out stronger.

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This story is my 11th book for the Beauty and the Beast Series and my 13th overall. My other two published novels, The Will to be True/In the Shadow of the Blackbird and Suspect, Love are available from online retailers. They are not Beauty and the Beast stories but novels of love and conflict and resolution. Every time I write another story, it is with gratitude that I dedicate it to someone or some activity which has offered me an opportunity to learn about human nature, to understand what drives us forward and what holds us from fulfilling our potential. In the wake of the political excitement of the US presidential elections, I am dedicating this to Barak and Michelle Obama who epitomize the life of a couple whose love for each other and their country can transform, illuminate and make change through their efforts and beliefs in the innate goodness of humanity. To me, that is truly a gift.