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Beauty and the Beast: Book 7: Cult of the Golden Lion

By Almablanca

Romance / Mystery

Chapter 1

Virgil and The Cult of the Golden Lion.

'Our family was the Hebrew branch of the Lion People who left Egypt, traveled to the middle east and later became Christian Jews. Many moved northwards when the Jews who followed Christ were persecuted. Some settled in the British Isles. There is quite a documented history. Our family went to Ireland and married with the locals while maintaining some aspects of both Christianity and Judaism. The number eight is a hallmark of who we are. Every one hundred years, some woman of our line gives birth to eight sons. The 'Infinity' is a woman who has eight males in a row. The last woman to produce the Lemniscates, as they are called, was my grandmother and your great grandmother. JohnVanderVader was her eldest.'

Jacob perked up. This was what he wanted to know. History helped him piece together a complete picture.

'My grandfather, knowing he had the right to bring together all branches of the family under one leader groomed his eldest son for this role. He moved from Ireland to South Africa. This added the benefit of the diamond trade to the already successful Herb and Drug trade. However John VanderVader changed his name to Pater, and his persona after an unsavory involvement with the worst of Crowley's offerings. He lost sight of his heritage. My father, the second son, took over. We have been able to pull together 6 of the 8 families. When my daughter marries Virgil, I will have control over almost everything.'

Excerpt from The Nature of Purpose.

'Vincent, wake up. You're dreaming. Vincent!'

Catherine sat up in bed and continued to shake her husband, trying to help him escape from the trap of a dream which was clearly distressful. She tried again and again but he seemed lost in some distant past or future. When at last he settled from the tremors which shook his body, she was able to wake him into a more natural state.

'What is it Catherine? Is something wrong with the girls?' He sat bolt upright in bed, trying to adjust.

'No it's you. You have been moaning and shaking in your sleep. I couldn't wake you up. Do you remember what you were dreaming about?'

'No….let me think.' He closed his eyes and let his body relax. Within seconds the dream sequence returned to his consciousness. 'It's a dream I've had before. I don't understand it. It isn't a nightmare but there is some message in it which makes no sense to me.'

Catherine placed her arm around her husband and drew his head to her shoulder. She loved being able to comfort him in this way. There were certainly many times in her life when she felt safe and protected in the warmth of his arms. He turned so that his ear was lying directly over her heart.

'Your heart races Catherine. Did I frighten you?'

'Yes.' She stroked his golden hair, working through the tangles, softly, inhaling the scent of him. Her other hand grasped his and was brought to his lips for a soft kiss.

'I would never want to be the cause of your distress. It seems my dreams have other ideas about how I should conduct my life.'

'It is just a message to you. Can you tell me what you see?'

'I see a bird. A large bird. I think it's a condor. It is flying towards me with something in its beak. The message is in….whatever it has in its mouth.'

'Do you think Jacob would be able to decipher it?'

'Maybe. I think Celeste would be more likely to understand it. She sees things in metaphor. I don't want to worry Jacob. He has just finished with Patrick. I would like to see him settle in his job and spend some time with Cathy.'

Catherine shifted on the bed. She looked at the clock on the small table in the corner. 'It's the middle of the night. I am wide awake now. Let's get up. I can't sleep again. 'I am just going to check on the girls. I will meet you in the kitchen.'

Husband and wife got up trying to be as quiet as possible. It wasn't long before Sue made her way down the corridor.

'Is anything wrong?'

'We can't sleep. I think Vincent and I are going to go for a walk. Will you take care of the girls in the morning if they wake up before we return? We should be back soon.'

'Sure….a midnight walk…. in New York… in the park.' Sue returned to her room shaking her head. 'Crazy people' she muttered.

Vincent and Catherine laughed. The idea would seem absurd to anyone one else. Catherine had no fears. Her strong powerful husband was able to protect her from anything. They knew the safe places. She was very sure they would end up below anyway.

It was summer time. Central Park was very nearly deserted. Vincent's unusual features were protected by his large cloak. Catherine had also adopted the use of an oversized hood. They were certainly two odd looking people. No one disturbed them. They strolled at a leisurely pace soon finding themselves at the entrance to Vincent's home below. They had stood at this same spot many times in their brief early days of courtship. They shared their first kiss at the entrance to the tunnel.

'This place is a haven, always has been. I feel the memories of our love rise up and fill me completely when we stand here.'

'It is like visiting the shrine of our happiest memories and our most painful as well.'

Vincent drew her to him, enveloping her in his cloak, feeling her nearness. How different it was now. In those days, he never dared to initiate any intimacy between them, no matter how much he desired her. His childhood, his face, his living space made him feel inadequate and unworthy of her love. Now she was not only his love but wife and mother to his only biological child. The disturbing dream faded from his memory to be replaced by desire born of powerful memories.

"Let's go below Catherine.'

She heard the huskiness in his voice, driven by longing. She had no objections. His rooms in the tunnel were private and sacred to both of them. Of all the places where they could share the intimacy which eluded them above, the chambers were the most auspicious for chasing away the last of the shadows generated by the dream.

Jacob awoke, not with a start but with sudden awareness of an unusual circumstance. He sat up quietly not wanting to disturb Cathy. Some unseen energy drew to him to their bedroom window which faced across the park. He glanced around from end to end but his eyes settled on two hooded and huddled figures making their way across the park. He drew his eyebrows together. The tableau was surprising but not strange. Only the hour rendered the vision of his parents strolling through the park an 'unusual circumstance'.

He watched. Long after most humans would have lost sight of them, Jacob's keen vision held their sillouhette. He knew they were headed towards the tunnel entrance. His acute sense of energy gauged their intent. The loving happiness they shared emanated from the couple. Jacob withdrew his focus and returned to bed. His parents were happy. He needed to know nothing more.

The change unsettled him slightly and he could not fall asleep right away. Sitting cross legged on the bed he positioned himself at the opposite end where he could watch his wife in the darkness. He hoped his thoughts would not disturb her sleep. She wasn't as sensitive as he was to energetic impulses but she did pick up the strength of his love. He just wanted to look at her. If anyone asked him about the depth of love for his wife, he couldn't explain it. Even to himself, he had to admit that the feelings they shared pulled at the very core of his heart. 'I couldn't love her more,' he mused. In the dark, her features were as clear as if the bright sunshine poured its rays down on her. She was truly an angel.

He wanted to do so many things. He hadn't told her yet that Oats had given him a week off in which he could do almost anything. Jacob had pondered so many ideas. Travel was something he would like. He didn't have to worry about his parents in the same way. If they could stroll in the park after midnight in New York, they didn't need him watching over them all the time. Jacob knew that Terry and Jason, would be getting married at the end of the summer. It would be fun to make the trip across the US again, this time with absolute pleasure and without the terror and uncertainty of the first visit.

He considered that Merindia and Brian would also want to get married. He could see attendant problems with that relationship and any remnants of the Octopods organization, the heritage of his father through John Pater. Two similar occasions, one with all the expected happiness of love shared between a couple and another with the fear and stress associated not with love but with the interference of those who would prevent the course of love.

It was all too much to contemplate and marred these quiet moments in which he could bask in his own secure love.

Jacob felt the need for sleep coming on him again. He knew his mind could relax and let go of the past weeks of tension surrounding the case of Patrick DelCassian. He felt good about the outcome. With a smile for the happiness of his mother's friend, who was currently in Brazil and his parents who were finding their bliss, not to mention his own complete delight, he settled back on his pillow, a hand folded around the sleeping body of his wife.

Vincent and Catherine awoke from their short sleep. Catherine was snuggled down in her husband's arms. He was so gentle considering his height and his features. There was a time when he could be fierce in protection of his family. Now his fierceness was confined to a memory. Through Jacob's love and teaching he was able to learn to harness the power, a gift inherent in his life but not to be used for destruction. He whispered words of love in her ear. They were not able to make love often. Jacob's unorthodox and painful birth left her with many scars. Intimacy was painful but she desired her husband with all her heart. In the privacy of the tunnel world, the time and gentleness needed to make the act a warm and tender event, was theirs. Too many things could intrude above. They had a delightful family. Neither would trade the beautiful life they shared but the love between them transcended all normal boundaries. They needed to separate the deep soulfulness of their love from the everyday in order to honour its unique exquisiteness.

'Did I hurt you?'

'Vincent, you ask me that every time. I will never be without pain but if I make a comparison to the pain I felt being without you and our son, I know that to be like this, is my choice. I want our love to be authentic, not just friends in love living together, pretending to be lovers. That's not marriage. This, what is happening between us now, is real.'

'I have to be honest. I find myself struggling to comply with your needs. Since the very first time which is lost to my memory, I have not desired another, ever. I have felt, at times, ashamed of my need of you. It feels as if you are trying to please me and I don't want that Catherine. My wish is that you feel what I feel.'

'And I do. There are many facets to love, my husband, and just as many ways to express it. I choose to experience this side of our love fully because your touch fills me with a comfort I can't explain. When I feel you within me, it makes us one in a way that no other act can do. I will deny neither of us that pleasure, unless you are unable?'

Vincent chuckled. He never had great cause to consider the sexual act. Whatever feelings he harboured about intimacy, it was effectively stilled while Catherine was considered dead. He had not had sufficient time, since her return, to really process this part of their life. They rarely had long enough periods of calm just to talk. Going below gave them a complete separation from the reality of life above and allowed the strength of their early courtship to return full force and steady the foundation of their life. In the surreal ambiance of the tunnel world, Vincent was surprised to find himself exhibiting the stamina and desire of a man half his age, with the ability to temper his body to the resilience of his wife.

'Are you ready to return above?'

'Not quite Vincent. The comfort of your arms makes me yearn for more. The children are safe. I am sure Jacob knows we are below. Let's stay for awhile. My need of you is undiminished tonight for reasons I don't understand and don't want to control.'

Silence echoed around the chamber. Only the ragged breathing of Vincent and Catherine interrupted its void. In a sunless world below, they would not be interrupted from their sleep until well into the morning.

'I think it would be fun to travel across the States again. I know Rob and Carl would be ecstatic. I have never met two guys who love to drive as much as they do.'

'I wonder if my parents would come.'

'You'll only know if you ask. Let's have breakfast with them and talk about it.'

Jacob had built up a fair amount of excitement in the night for the possibility of using his time wisely. He wanted Cathy to be a part of any decision but she had slept soundly, undisturbed by his yearning. When she opened her eyes, he could hardly wait to share his idea. Once she was fully awake and understood his longing, the idea seemed just as exciting to her.

'I don't think my parents are in,' he said, hoping to stall her eagerness to end their early morning cuddle time in bed.

'Did they go out early?'

'Late actually!'


'I think they just wanted some quiet time last night. I saw them go below but I don't sense that they're back.'

Almost on cue there was a tiny rap at the door. Both occupants knew immediately it was Cilla.

'Come in!' they both said with suppressed laughter.

' 'Cub….I'm hungry. Mama's not home.'

''Sue is there isn't she?'

'Feeding Mea. Need food 'Cub.' The plaintive request was certainly designed to tug at the heartstrings.

Cathy got out of bed and steered her little sister towards the kitchen downstairs. Jacob had the bad habit of sleeping nude. It was rare for the girls to come up but not seeing their parents would disturb Cilla more than Mea. Her deep seated fears of abandonment were real. Sue was a wonderful substitute but usually there was more than one person to attend to her needs if the other was busy with Mea. Cathy picked up the stick thin child and carried her downstairs.

'Meet us in the kitchen when you are decent,' she threw over her shoulder.

Jacob laughed in response.

By the time Jacob was dressed and able to go downstairs, his parents had returned. No need to ask about their stolen hours.

A wonderful glow emitted from each of them, its warmth contagious. The family discussed the idea Jacob put forward wondering what it would feel like to travel as a family.

'I was highly motivated the last time Jacob. The chance to find your mother alive was enough of an incentive to override everything. Remember how nervous I was? It might not be so easy this time.'

'I think we were all too shocked to be nervous. I would have to put the week on hold and add another if we are going for Terry's wedding. It won't be until the end of the summer but two weeks minimum will be needed to make the trip. I certainly think we should all go.'

The idea was bantered about for over an hour. Everyone wanted to make the trip west for the ceremony. They could reach no consensus about what to do for the early summer months. Jacob agreed to wait a few days before taking any time off. No one seemed ready to do anything except spend time at home if the possibility of a big trip was looming on the horizon.

The weekend promised to be a quiet one. His parents had spent their night renewing love and seemed content to sit in the backyard garden talking. The girls were playing in the little sandbox Vincent constructed and Cathy had gone below to ensure the weekend food supply for the women was covered. Jacob felt calm and secure as if life had always been very typical of most families. The sensation of it was strange, yet welcome. It had taken quite a while for a sense of normalcy to permeate life above, leaving the tunnel world as a surreal place, more like an escape chamber than home.

Jacob knew that his night thoughts would bring forward a response from Terry. Nothing, he realized, happened in isolation. If he was thinking about Terry and Jason, he was certain they were doing the same. Just as he mentally predicted, Terry called by lunch time. She added rational weight to his sense of acceptance that life above was different but entirely ordinary.

'Jacob you sound very pensive. Have I called at a bad time? I am pretty sure you already knew I was going to call.'

'I am pensive but happy. No it's not a bad time and yes, I knew you would call.'

'You're too smart for me.'

They laughed and exchanged updates. Terry had a way of describing her life with such humour that he couldn't help laughing.

'You know Terry, I was just thinking about how normal my life is and then you call.'

'No point in letting you get too complacent. What good is life if we don't have lots of ups and downs?'

'Ok, give me the story,' he pleaded anticipating some outlandish scheme. 'I know you have something on your mind.'

Terry did indeed have a big plan for her wedding. There was excitement in her voice as she went on to explain the elaborate arrangements. Jacob knew all things were possible but what she hoped to accomplish in a few weeks seemed very nearly impossible.

'You've got to be kidding!' he exclaimed when she stopped to draw a breath.

'Well, I'm not. I wanted to run it all by you before I talk to your mother.'

'Good luck! I just want you to know that we had a tentative plan to come out there.'

'Very sweet Jacob. I'll keep that in mind. In the meantime, would you call your upstate friend and see if he can help me at all.'

Jacob shook his head and mumbled an affirmative response. He hung up his cell phone with a big smile on his face. Terry could be counted on to bring some excitement to any day. He wouldn't say a word to his parents but there would be lots of discussion around the supper table. He opted to wait for a corresponding call from Merindia and Brian. They had also been in his thoughts. He hoped their happiness would be as infectious as Terry.

He choose to continue to spend his Saturday at home and free of any worries. Rather than go out, he grabbed a book and settled down on the couch just to read, until Cathy returned home.

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1. Chapter 1
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