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  2. Few people could ever have said to have seen him that embarrassed, but he'd never have thought Marissa would ever have been one, or that he wouldn't really mind it. He'd been about to say it wasn't like he wasn't interested. Marissa was attractive, but this wasn't supposed to be anything more than to fool others, to keep her safe. He definitely didn't want to pressure her into anything, or make it seem like she owed him. He simply wasn't like that. Then whatever it was that hit her bait started pulling drag, and his eyes narrowed. It was either a bass or a catfish. These small rigs weren't really made for them, but he knew the line itself would hold as it was 15lb braid. He set his own rod down, having pulled in the line and deftly moved behind her. "Catch it, this is a good one." he said refusing to let her hand it off, much as his own father had to him, the first time he caught something big. Instead he reached around, putting his hands over hers, helping her steady the rod. "Now just reel. Those hooks are quite sharp, so it's in him. Just don't stop reeling, even if it seems like you're not getting any progress. He won't break the line, though if you give him slack too much he might spit the bait." His tone was soothing and calming, as if he'd done this often. After a few moments, they turned the fish and started actually pulling in line. Then the fish broke the surface. It was a monster bass, easily over six, maybe seven pounds. "Dammmn" he said low in surprise. "That's a big bass." another few minutes of tension passed, as he gave her instructions, trying to keep her calm. He did not want to lose this fish. Hell he actually wanted to take a picture of it with her. It wasn't the largest he'd seen caught, but on a perch rig, what a story. "I'm gonna get the net, just keep reeling." Marissa just nodded, focusing on the thrill of fighting the massive fish, and Cade got the net ready, while still holding on the rod. "Alright on 3, pull up on the rod." "1." He could see the fish coming up, and had the net just out of the water, still holding the rod handle. "2" it was just under the surface, he could see the bait in the corner of its mouth, sunlight glinting off the spinner. "3!" She lifted the rod, pulling back and bringing it to the surface. With stunning speed Cade shoveled the net into the water, right in front of the fish, and brought it up. With nowhere to go but the net the fish was caught, even as he pulled it from the water the bait pulled free. Cade quickly swung the fish into the boat, and onto the floor, still in the net. He could feel her excitement, and he smiled, still sitting behind her, though he'd released the rod. "Congratulations on your first Bass Marissa. That one's a real beauty. Most people never see a bass like that, let alone catch one on a bream rig."
  3. "Wow, that is down right devious, I did not know you had it in you to be so ruthless. That sounds like my brand of evil, I am a little turned on right now." She was smiling ear to ear as she watched her boyfriend. "You are so red right now." He looked away from her trying to hide his smile. If Cade Allister were ever embarrassed on a level of ten, it was now. "I am not." "You are! Sunburn does not happen that fast, Nature Boy." She teased, reaching over she rubbed his back, laughing only slightly. "You are so adorable! Hey, truth of the matter is, you are not going to sound like an idiot. I still have not gone all the way, but we learn by doing. Do not be shy about stuff. When it happens, it will happen and until then, just try and experience all you can and use it to learn what you like and what you do not like. When you are interested, of course. You said you sort of have no real interest in those sorts of things and that is totally fine. Everyone is ready in their own time. I'm not judging you, even if you look so cute with your red cheeks," she reached out and tried to pinch his cheek but he shirked away and buried his head far from her hand as she laughed. "Stop!" he whined like a child at her playground bullying. "You're horrible, you know that?" He laughed, trying not to think of how red he actually was. "I know," she said all perky and pleased with her torment. "It is kinda my thing." Her cork bobbed and she gave it a yank, not expecting it to actually work like the several other times she did it and they kept getting away. Her date the practice and she was just grasping at straws and honestly having more fun just being out in the water with her date than the actual fishing. Just as she predicted, nothing. Until it was something. Like a hellish squeal her reel began unravel its line as whatever was on the end of her hook took off like a bolt of lightning. Panic set in once again across fer petite frame as she held the rod, but had no clue what to do. Whatever it was, it was big and very angry. "Cade! Cade, it is spinning really fast! Make it stop!" In desperation she kept trying to hand the rod to him while making a whining noise a kid might make when they were sure they had broken something.
  4. Today
  5. His eyes widened for a moment, then narrowed as he turned to look her in the eye. "I don't care about all of that. Like I said, before this summer, I'd never even kissed a girl. I don't care what the others think. I don't ask about others, and I sure as hell won't tell about my own." "I told them the truth, as far as that goes. We've not had sex, and I was more than content to let things happen naturally. If that changed, I wouldn't tell them even then. That would torture them even more. Never knowing if we had or hadn't, and knowing that I won't breath a word about it regardless. He could read the surprise on her face. "Though I can't lie and say I haven't thought about it. Like I said, you're beautiful and attractive. It'd be nice to think that it'd be wild and and as good for you as it would be for me, but I don't have any experience. I haven't even made it to Second Base." "Rather than sounding like an idiot, talking about something I have no experience with, it's best I continue to just smile and say nothing."
  6. "Oh, they do, do they?" Marissa raised a brow and was suddenly more interested in the conversation than fishing. "And what do you tell them, hmm? Better be the truth: that it is the best damn sex you will ever have in your life and that I have ruined you for other women. Forever." Cade looked at her incredulously. "But we haven't-" "Pfft," she raspberried. "It's high school, Cade. Everyone is lying about how much sex they are having. Except my brother of course, who is actually pretty spot on because he makes sure everyone knows about it. Courtney? I know her number, it is waaay less than she says. Chet? Super low. I'm still a virgin and even I lie about my number. The guys I have fooled around with is a lot higher than I tell people. I can even tell you that Laurie is not the sweet little princess she makes herself out to be, and that would ruin Sean." "Laurie has a number?" He seemed rather shocked at that idea. "No, more like a half number? She's like me, we've not technically gone all the way, but we have a lot of practice running to third base." A slight flush filled her cheeks and she looked to the water, realizing that perhaps she ha said too much. "Sorry, I guess you probably do not want to hear my resume of 'other guys'. "It's okay," he chuckled. "It's not like you're living in a convent." "Look, I know how important image is, especially in this part of our lives and doubly so for guys." She reeled in her bait and didn't catch anything this time around. She cast it back in, but it was a lay cast, being more wrapped up in talking that paying attention to her line. "I know you have a lot of pressure on you from those guys. If you tell them we had sex, I will back you on it. You stepped up and agreed to this whole dating thing, and let us be honest with each other, I did not exactly ask you, I told you how it was going to be and... you were there for me is what I am trying to say. Least I can do is be there for you and help you set these guys straight. Better tell them what I said before: that you are ruined for other women it is so good. I'll even put in a good word for you with the other girls at school. We talk, you know. It could really boost your playboy status. I would be willing to do that for you."
  7. Cade knew Devin wasn't a total dick, nor was Marissa a bitch all the time, he'd seen enough glimpses of that. Just like he'd already learned there was so much more to Marissa. Sure the twins had their quirks, but since this all started, he found how he'd seen them changing. He was getting another glimpse at the truth, and it made him genuinely smile. "Life's got a funny way of turning all our plans on their head." He smiled, and caught another bream, this time it was abit on the small side, so he unhooked it and gently released it back into the water. "I don't think having any of those things will prevent you from having what you want, or achieving your goals. The right friends will help you achieve them. " "My short-term goals for the summer were to hang out with my friends, enjoy being outdoors, and play a little baseball. Long-term, I want to get into college, play baseball, and go pro. I figure I can at least get a degree in wildlife management, so if something ever happened I had at least something to fall back on. I love Baseball though. Growing up, the only times Dad ever told me he was proud of me came from it." He shrugged. "I can't say the appeal of the money pro players make, and I know I can play with the best, one day, I'll be the best, but I really do love the game. Which of course makes me something of a true oddball here in Montana, where it's damn near all about football. I can't tell you how many times the coach has tried to get me to play. I like to watch the game, but playing just isn't as interesting to me." "Now though, my goals really haven't changed, but there's so much more going on. Life was really really simple before this past summer. No super powers, no entities out to kill us or organizations trying to control us. No girlfriends. Before Cora, and You, I've never dated anyone, or honestly had all that much interest. My life was baseball, the outdoors, and my friends. I had all of that, and thought I couldn't ask for more." He had cast again and caught another fish, this one was large enough to keep so he put it in the box. "Six thousand dollar heels? God that's nearly what my Jeep cost." he said with a little snark. "The most expensive article of clothing I own are probably the 140 dollar doc martens boots I've got, or the suit I have to wear for Easter and Christmas Service." He looked at her with a knowing grin. "Your none of those things in Shelly. You and your brother Rule the school. It's a small pond but you've got to start somewhere, right? I mean hell, even with your association with us, with you dating me, have things really changed? Has anyone actually been foolish enough to challenge your position? Over half the guys at school are jealous of me, and all of them want to know how great the sex is. I've overheard the women pitying me for becoming your boytoy, and others angry because you used your ways to capture and corrupt an innocent like me."
  8. Nissan Hatchback Versa Note, the model from 2016. SV. Blue car. I knew it. She would totally have a blue car. Decent fuel uptake. Lots of inner space. Comfortable. The aesthetics aren't that great, but I've seen uglier cars. Hmmm. Around fourteen to sixteen kay. Deep blue. What do they call it ? Y- Yale blue. Not so exciting to drive though. #0E4D92 aaaaaand... rgb(14,77,146). Metallic. Big car, small format. No stickers, no nothing, no sign of personal customization. Decent electronics. Wait, I missed that stuffed husky hanging from the rearview mirror. What was it ? 109 horse power right ? What kind of music does she listen to when she's driving ? Engine torque about 107 lb-pi. That's one cute husky. Why SV though ? What's the point of a manual on a boring car to drive ? Oh, wow, these boots. Tsk, I wish I had those legs. She could've chosen an automatic one. Oooh that's right. When was the last time I went shopping ? Less pricey. Bullshit. I don't want to like her. "I like the car." Kat had taken a brief moment, glancing at the car for no apparent reason. Then she closed the door. Tessa flashed her a short grin. "Seatbelts !" Kat casually fastened the seatbelt, and before she knew it, they were gone. On the road. "How far is Great Falls from here ? I was sleeping the whole way from the airport to Shelly." She rubbed the back of her head and grumbled, "It's not like I'm familiar with Montana or anything..." "About an hour." Tess smiled as she glanced at the petite red-haired girl. "I like your hair colour, by the way. Is it natural?" "Yeah... my mom's genes splattered all over my skull. At least you won't lose me in the crowd when we get to the shops." She replied in a sarcastic tone, more to herself. Tess gave a snort of laughter. "Yeah, your dad wouldn't be happy if that happened." She glanced over at Kat, obviously looking for a commonality. "So... Two guy friends already. They cute?" Kat's mouth opened for a momment, but no sound came out and her cheeks turned a soft hue of pink as she repressed an awkward memory from the day before. She rubbed the back of her head once again. "They're... peculiar." Roll with it. "You ever heard of the De La Chappelle Syndrome ?" "Is that a new comedy show?" Tess grinned briefly, then shook her head. "In other words, no." After a short giggle, Kat replied, "Didn't think of that one. To make it brief, Sean has it. His genes tell he should've grown to be a girl from his first breath." Tess quickly glanced at the teen on the passenger seat, curious. "What's the catch ?" "In order te be perfectly sure, I looked it up yesterday evening. You know how procreation is a huge bingo, right ? Well, while Sean's parents' gametes were forming and their chromosomes having their crossover moment, the SRY gene from the Y chromosome of his father ended up on the X chromosome of the pair. In other words, a sexual cell designed to make a girl got messed up. And bingo, that spermatozoid won the marathon." She took a deep breath. "Easier to explain than I thought it would be. So, Sean is a boy with bigger breasts than I could ever hope to get." "Oh, wow." Tess blinked, almost failing to pay attention to the road as she stared at Kat. "Poor guy! That's got to be rough." She re-focused on the road, a cute little frown furrowing her brow as she considered what Kat had told her. "Tell me about it... Teenagers are cruel," she said, with a gravity uncommon for a girl her age. "So the other guy... He 'peculiar' too?" Tess mimed air-quotes as she said 'peculiar'. She cast a wry glance at Kat. "Are you attracting all the oddballs?" Kat had a brief thought about the little ball of energy that was Alice, quickly followed by a rather disturbing memory of Erwann, then she shook her head. "I guess everyone is an oddball once you get to know them. I just get the more... interesting ones." Her eyes squinted for a moment. "From afar, he just looks like he's from the wrong side of town. From closer, I'd say he can be... scary. Ever stared at a snake straight in the eyes ?" Tessa's eyes widened a little, and she shook her head. "Uh, no. Never been that close to one." She looked a little concerned now. "Seriously? He's all creepy-like?" "If a face empty of any emotion and eyes so cold they could freeze the sun fits creepy, then yeah... kind of. But that's only scratching the surface. I can feel there is so much more to him than just creepiness. He's interesting. Both Jason and Sean have them brains working. Working good. It's strange. I like big brains. I feel like I know I'd have some deep conversations with them if I only took the time to... hang out with them." "Jesus. Shelly's got some strange kids going to school here." Tess's brown eyes widened at Kat's description. "Not sure I'd want to hang out with that second guy. He sounds like Dahmer crossed with the Unabomber. Sean, though - he's okay, right? Other than his Syndrome thing you mentioned?" Snorting, Kat replied, "Savage. Yeah, Sean's fine. He's sweet. The school counselor knighted him my guide so I could get a grasp of where I'm living now and how the school works. He's been awesome so far." "Hey." Tess smiled a little apologetically. "Sorry if I'm out of line, it's just... well, guys who seem creepy usually are, in my experience." She focused on the road for a few moments, then "Sean sounds cool, though. Made any girl friends?" Kat's eyes widened unconsciously as the freckeled face of a smiling Autumn flashed in her mind, and she smacked her forehead, a loud slap accompanying the move. "I wanted to talk to her and I completely forgot. Fricking Stirling formula." "Hey!" Tess looked alarmed at the sudden forceful facepalm. "Care to add some diagrams for us slowpokes in the back?" After a couple blinks, Kat realized she had lost her train of thoughts. "Uh...thermodynamic physics, we had a physics class today, I lost track of the actual course and tried to remember something related to thermodynamics, and after that I completely forgot about Autumn. I wanted to have a chat with her after yesterday. We only talked a little when things got crazy at the hospital." "Ooh, yeah. That whole bio-leak lockdown." Tess nodded sympathetically. "Bet that was a freak-out end to your first day, huh?" "So Autumn's another friend?" Kat rested her elbow on the armrest, her fist on her cheek. "I don't know. I guess I want to be her friend. To be their friend. All these guys were at the hospital too." She stopped for a moment, unsure of how not to reveal too much. "There is that... bond. I don't know. I can feel it. They all seem to get along, but they're massively different." "Sounds like a pretty intense situation, to make you feel close to them." Tess nodded understandingly. After a moment of silence : "What about we listen to some music ?" Kat nodded in agreement. "What kind of music do you like ?" The rest of the ride was filled with casual exchanges of music tastes, punctuated by the car speakers crying notes and lyrics till they finally reached Great Falls. Shopping. It couldn't be bad. Right ?
  9. He got a text from Haruka at lunch, saying that she wasn't going to be able to go to Jolene's. "Damn." Cade sighed, "Guess there's no choice." He and Marissa had planned to get together to watch movies one night. Sure they could go to the theater, but Haruka being a third wheel there well, it definitely wasn't going to be a date night now. He sat in the booth he and Marissa had claimed, near enough to where the Fellowship ate, though they hadn't eaten together as much as before, what with everything that was going on. He had just been about to text Marissa, when he saw her coming, and smiled as she took a seat. "Hey," she smiled a greeting, her tone light-hearted and she sounded happy to see him. "Sorry, meant to be here sooner, but Devin and my dad were arguing and I had to step in before he had an emotional reaction and accidently," she looked around to see who might hear her. "Did his, you know, thing to get out of there. Our parents do not need to see him do that, it will be more drama that this town needs. So. I am all yours now. Feed me and make me happy." "Yeah, less drama around here is better. I've already had enough for today. Which is part of what I wanted to talk to you about. I know you'd mentioned something about a movie night, well my parents need Haruka and I out of the house tonight." He still wasn't perfectly at ease, but when she said feed her she apparently meant not just food and leaned in expecting a kiss. He was still a bit on the fence with the mixed signals she gave off, especially considering their relationship was supposed to be fake. Needless to say, he didn't mind in the slightest. "Do you mind if we just do a "Netflix and Chill" night at your place, and if I bring my sister?" maybe it wasn't the best way to go about it, and he fully expected to have to explain why this was so necessary. Marissa giggled at her date. "Cade," she tried to stop laughing. "You know 'Netflix and Chill' is a euphemism for 'come over and have sex', right? Probably not the best environment for your kid sister be in, but," she shot him a wink that told him she was completely picking on him now. "I am game is you are." "I did not." he said and blushed abit, which absolutely lent credibility to that statement. "I really just meant us sitting around watching movies, and me probably getting teased all night by two girls who really seem to enjoy it." he grinned and did actually lean in to kiss her. He knew she probably already knew he wasn't proposing that, but she just had to tease him. "Thanks for understanding." "No problem." She popped open her mirror to check to see if their kissing had offset her makeup in anyway. Taking care around her lips to see if it needed a touch up. "We'll have the house all to ourselves, so we can get up to all kinds of mischief. I will grab some drinks and snacks, text me what she likes and just let me know what time you two are planning on being by. Easy." Cade nodded. "Dad's supposed to be home for five according to mom, so we need to be gone by then. As to food and drink, I know she's big on sweets, Dad calls her his little cookie monster. Anything with chocolate and it just vanishes. Soda or tea, I know she likes Dr Pepper over most anything. Neither of us is what I'd call picky, I'll try eating most anything at least once." "Oh ho, I will hold you to that," she shot him a teasing smile as her eyes creeped around the edge of her phone where she typed out a shopping list. "Got it and I we are ordering pizza, because this momma does not cook. If you want a cook, date my brother." "Sounds good. I prefer meat-lovers pizza myself. I cook mostly meat dishes at home, when Mom's not feeling well, or they're both out. Haruka's the one who's actually versatile. She's learning from mom and all three of our grandmothers." He smiled at her. "This is going to be a fun night, I can already tell." he said as he offered her another morsel from the end of his fork. (thanks to Dave for his help here)
  10. Sean parked his deep green Grand Cherokee in the driveway of interlocking bricks that he and his two sisters had helped their father lay down several years ago, staring contemplatively at the old farmhouse that had been the Cassidy residence since pretty much there ever was a Shelly. For a moment, he reconsidered whether he should tell his parents everything - okay, almost everything - then gave his head a vehement shake before hopping out of his vehicle, locking it with a directed thought. Since he had developed as he did and more or less moved into the Barn, his parents had largely left him to his own devices. Laurie had mentioned it before, but Sean had known it for truth, even if he hadn't consciously admitted it to himself. His interactions with his dad in particular had shifted as he had entered his tweens and teens, and it wasn't just his interests being more in computers and video games instead of home renovations. His parents were supportive, loved him nonetheless, but even to them, he was strange, weird. And after this evening, he would be even stranger, weirder, to them, if he could make them believe. Sean went into the Barn and got his laptop - not the blue one, the red one he used for gaming and multimedia projects - then slipped into the rambling, single story farmhouse that had accreted additions over generations of Cassidy's. Sean found his mother in her office, either working on their finances or a client's. "Hey, mom." "Oh!" Carolyn Cassidy gave a surprised start and spun around to find her son standing in the doorway. "I didn't hear you there, Sean." She noted the uncharacteristically sombre expression on his face. "What's wrong? Bad news." "News. Not necessarily bad," Sean said. "I have to tell you and dad something, something big. Where's dad?" "He's at the Dobsons, finishing up the new shed and fencing," Carolyn replied with a faint hint of concern in her warm voice. She'd felt there had been something going on with Sean and his friends lately, and then there was the false alarm quarantine yesterday. "He should be back in time for supper. What is it? Should I call Laurie, make sure she's here to hear this too?" "Laurie already knows," Sean admitted, giving his mom an apologetic shrug. "Most of it, anyway., and I just dropped her off as Jase's - he's helping her out with something. I didn't want to worry you and dad, but now, I think you should know." "I... see," Carolyn said, her concern hardly ameliorated. Other than with his few close friends, Sean was rather introverted, not that she blamed but this was starting to worry her. She turned back to her laptop for a moment to save her work and shut the computer down, then spun back and stood up. "Well, then, let's get supper ready, so that's out of the way for when your father returns and you can say... what you have to say while it cooks. How do stuffed peppers sound?" "Sounds great, we can make some bacon stuffed mushroom caps to go with them." Sean preferred baking - it was all math to him, A + B at X heat for Z time = delicious - but enjoyed cooking just fine, which was good, since his parents insisted all their children help around the house and Sean preferred cooking to doing the dishes. Sean prepared the red and yellow peppers and the portabello mushroom caps, and cut up the veggies and gathered the herbs and spices, while Carolyn squeezed out the innards from the casings of Italian sausages and prepped the brown rice and bacon. Son and mother worked with experienced familiarity in the kitchen, neither of his sisters having much deftness with making food beyond toast, cereal, and coffee. Sean and Carolyn just put the stuffed peppers and stuffed mushroom caps in the oven, when, almost as though it was perfectly timed, Jack Cassidy entered the house, work boots thudding on the carpet in the front vestibule. "Smells good already, guys," Jack claimed as he made into the kitchen with a smile on his face, opening a post work beer from the fridge in the garage with a twist of his strong, calloused hands. He glanced over the island as he took at seat at the worn but well maintained oak kitchen table that was almost as old as the house. "What's in the oven?" "Stuffed peppers and stuffed mushroom caps," Carolyn said with subdued serious and a caring smile as she squeezed his strong shoulder and bent over to kiss his balding head. "Sean has something he wants to speak to us about." "Does he?" "I do," Sean said firmly, turning from the sink where he'd just finished washing the pans and mixing bowls. He dried his hands with which and green checked towel, and nodded towards the living room. "There's a lot, but we can start while supper is in the oven." Sean walked briskly, plucking up his laptop in passing, his parents following more slowly with concern and curiosity. Sean could hear his mom say she didn't know what this was about either in response to his dad's muttered inquiry. His laptop was already opened and turned on on the coffee table, as was the TV, before his parents took a seat together on the couch. Some visuals aids might help besides the demonstration he was planning on making. Sean pursed his lips and spread out his awareness, very keen about any possible voyeurs or interlopers after the events of yesterday. "So... this is going to be a lot, and at first, unbelievable," Sean began, standing before his parents as though giving a presentation at school. "But bear with me. I'm going to start with Shelly itself as a bit of background. You know how there seem to be some rather... unconventionally dark and violent events in our town's history?" "Every small town in America has it secrets and shames, hon," Carolyn ventured uncertainly. "Perhaps, but Shelly has more than its fair share," Sean continued. On the TV appeared clippings of many such events Jason had collected in his research and Sean had digitized, along with some that Sean had dug into on his own. "It goes back to the beginnings of Shelly, and well before that. And it's not mere coincidence or happenstance. It's affected our directly too, before now, I believe. That's why we're the only Cassidy's left in Shelly, when we used to be one of the biggest families around. You see, these... events occur on a regular cycle, every 27 years." "Violence ain't like a swarm of locusts, of cicadas, Sean," Jack said with a frown. "In this case, it is," Sean countered with unflagging certainty. "I have an uncle you guys never talk about, your brother, dad, who left Shelly, when was it?" Jack's frown deepened as he shared a look with his wife Sean couldn't quite decipher. "I'd say it was about 26 years ago and that is about all I'm prepared to say on the matter." "Mm-hmm, hold on to that thought. 26 years, and the cycle that we've found is scheduled to start in about a year, from what we can tell. There's a reason for these events, a darkness to Shelly, a Darkness behind, beneath the land where Shelly is. But there is also a Light that has been bred here, a Shine, a... Radiance that can fight against the Darkness." Sean took a deep breath, then walked pass the point of no return, for himself and his parents. "It all started, for us, at least, during a party a few weeks before the start of school..."
  11. "Of course," he held her close and tilted his head a bit to rest on hers. He kissed her hair gently, then stepped away from her. "Okay, girl, the first thing you need to do is loosen up. Stop thinking in terms of good or evil, bad or good. The Shine simply is. It's what you do with it that's important. You are in control, but remember, there is a learning curve. You have power, you want to use it. It's like sitting down too long, eventually your body want you to get up and move, right?" "Yeah." She agreed, not really sure where he was going with his analogy. "Well, you're shine wants to move. You have untapped potential and it's trying to escape. Like a puppy, it's adorable and really wants you to notice it, but you keep walking past the kennel." He held out his arms and danced about with them held high. "Look around! You have nothing and no one for miles. Now, we both know, deep down, you've wanted to know exactly what it is your capable of. So? Cut loose." She shook her head nervously and Devin approached her. "Hey," he said with caring in his voice. "It's okay. I've seen powers like yours used before. Trust me, they're awesome and you will be able to do amazing things with them. I know it's hard, Tee. It's hard to be a bright light in a dim world. That's why I shine. So I can help and protect and keep people safe. The first step," he scoped up a few pebbles from the ground near a boulder. He held them up to her and took her hand, tipping his own he filled hers with the pebbles. "Is wanting to. Cut loose. Have some fun with it. We're all friends here, no judgment." He swiftly did a rapid series of jaunts, popping all over the place at least a dozen times in the span of a moment. "Let's see whatcha got, Blondie."
  12. He made a good point. As they cast their lines back in the water, and Marissa seemed to get it a little closer to her intended mark this time, her mind wandered into the space of just how messed up their lives were. Breaking into prisons, shape changing into various monsters. Strange alternate dimensions of gloom and death. It was only a matter time before one of the mended up killed, or worse, being killed because the Dark had ravaged their mind. Every member of the Fellowship was on borrowed time. "Chance Carter." She said suddenly. The name had passed from her lips before she had the chance to filter it and push it back the darker, and forgotten storage spaces of her mind where she, like most everyone, kept a pantry full of jarred regrets and broken hearts. "Deej and I had just turned eleven. The school yer was winding down and if you know nothing about Malibu schools, it's a cesspool of child stars, at least, the ones not being home schooled. You are either rich and don't need an education, or you are rich and your parents are making sure you succeed in life. Devin and I were were the latter. This was back when he didn't use contractions," she offered her company a smile and continued with the story. "So, I had the biggest crush on Chance Carter." "Wait, blonde kid? About our age?" Cade looked to her and glanced back at the water. "He's on the Disney Channel. Haruka, I think has a thing for him." "That is the guy," she nodded and sucked her teeth in seething spite. "Tell her she is wasting her time. He is a dick." She tugged her line a bit, mostly just emulating Cade, but she was starting understand the subtleties of luring the fish to the hook. "So I told him one day, how I felt. See, Deej and I, our family had money, but were far from celebrity status. Chance was and the two cliques did not really get along too well, especially with our mom trying to constantly get us parts in commercials and on television... we looked like try-hards." "So, you were," he paused for effect. "Nerds." "Anyway," she pressed on, ignoring her insolent boyfriends assumptions. "I told him and he lit me up. Embarrassed me in front of everyone and turned the whole school against me. I was bullied constantly, every class was torture. This was when Deej really started to slide towards the guy you know today. He was getting beaten up almost everyday because we would come to my rescue and start fights with anyone who was hurting me. He was my knight." "Hell of a brother." Cade solemnly offered. "I can respect that." "He is really the best," she smiled. "So it got worse, even to the point where he and I were both at an audition for, you guessed it, the Disney Channel. We had to do a song and dance number, Deej aced his, I knew I was going to do fine too until Chance and a couple of the kids and parents from the school were there and he started talking to them and they all started pointing and laughing. I choked. All the abuse from school just replayed and froze and stood there." Her eyes were glossed with the sheen of unpleasant memories. "Two years, almost. For two years I was the laughing stock of our school and constantly bullied and picked on. We hated it, and we swore no one would treat us like that wen we got to Shelly." She inhaled, trying to force the memory back into its jar for storage. "So, yeah. I swore off boyfriends, guys in general, dating, friends, attachments. All I wanted was power, respect, and the money that a good education could grant me so I could find Chance later in life and crush his skull under a six thousand dollar pair of stiletto heels." Cade nodded sagely. "Life goals." "Screw you," she laughed. "It was a great plan. Now I am sitting here in a boat, fishing of all things, if one could believe it. With a boyfriend. With barely any makeup on, certainly no heels, and he still somehow finds me attractive." She glanced and him and offered a flirtatious grin. "I guess I did not have things as figured out as I thought I did."
  13. "Four," she said firmly. "As one of those five was my brother, and the safety of my family is paramount in the accord of this business arrangement. He will remain occluded from the prying eyes of whomever is holding your leash." "In exchange, however," her dark eyes met his and she offered him an apologetic smile. "I was planning on stopping by The Project later this week, while I am there I will do my utmost to collect as much as I can on the other, less special, freaks and find out what their glitches are. I was hoping to get access to Dr. Cook's notes, since it seems like the Nerd Herd might be asked to take over their training. That, and my brother is dying for Annette Gile's phone number. I promised him I would take a shot at it for him." She stood up and straightened her skirt and settled the chain that was her purse strap over her shoulder. "Now, you can argue the part about my brother for your masters, but I'm just going to stick my guns and you can make your phone call. If my world is not crashing down around me by then, I will see you Sunday, Mr. Enterich. We both know you have my number, so please, feel free to call or text since it is a burner phone and won't do me any good if I go the authorities. Honestly now, Mr. Enterich, we can't have a proper relationship without trust, can we? Just lay your enemies before me and walk away, walk away, walk away." She concluded with an audible air kiss in his direction accented with a farewell smile. "Lieutikon?" He asked, moderately familiar with the phrasing, just not their arrangement. "Breaking Benjamin." She replied over the cubicle walls as she made her alluring walk to the exit. "Good stuff. Look them up." ---===[]===--- Several minutes later she'd abandoned school and her black Mercedes' tired were crunching on the gravel that led up to the 'The Bridge'. The same bridge Sara wanted blow up several weeks prior when everyone's lives started tumbling down hill. She'd argued against it, but now? No she just wanted to see everything burn. She wanted to blow something up. Set the place on fire, something to just let the growing guilt and shame and fear that was welling up inside of her loose upon the world so she didn't have to carry it with her anymore. She wasn't sure anymore if this was her father's fault or hers and she wasn't sure if it mattered. "Fuck!" She slammed her hand on the steering wheel and the word was repeated an innumerable amount of times until had served the sole purpose of conjuring forth the tears she so desperately needed to cry. Lazily her hand still tried to strike the wheel as she buried her head against it and just sobbed until she lost track of the time. Within ten minutes she was pacing in front of the car, tapping a sharpened nail against her teeth talking to herself about how none if it was her fault and after a few quick sell outs of her frie- the Nerd Herd she'd have enough money to slip away one night and never see them again. Really, it was only a matter of time before one of them stabbed her in the back, right? That's what people did. She was simply preemptively getting them before they got her. Fair is fair, right? With arms crossed tightly like she was cold despite the beautiful summer day she continued to pace, trying to justify her actions under the thick pangs of a new feeling she didn't recall ever having until today. Guilt? Remorse? She paused as the tears still streamed down her face and having long ago ruined her makeup. Se looked a mess as she complained. "Shit." She fumed, snorting in her running nose in a most ladylike manner. "I am feeling. Fuuuck!" She tantrumed with stomping feet as she screamed at the clouds. "Okay, no," she worked on composing herself and went back to pacing. "Stop. Get a grip. If they know it's all over, and you and your family are dead or worse, poor. Marissa Beatrix Jauntsen, hide your crazy and get your shit together. Think. None of them are mind readers so none of them can see that you're lying to them. This isn't your fault. They came to you, right? If you don't do this, they'll hurt your family. These guys were all born poor and retarded, so they don't mind being poor and retarded. You can't be poor. How would you survive without brand names or... or... unprocessed foods from obscenely high priced organic markets? They're your friends, they love you!" She chuckled at the sheer silliness of that statement. "Of course they love you, look at you! You are amazing, and beautiful and rich. You give them something to aspire to. You bring rays of ambitious sunlight into their otherwise dreary, pathetic, meaningless lives. Everything is going to be just fine!" She said with a forced smile as she opened her arms to the world and the invisible audience she'd been justifying herself to. The gravel and sun and clouds offered nothing in reply that comforted her in the slightest. She immediately began massaging the bridge of her nose. "I am a dead woman. Who am I kidding? They are going strap me to a table and devour my still living body like a zombie buffet, using my tears as sweetener. They will probably throw me to Jason when they are finished so he can finally sleep with my corpse." She shook her head in disgust. "We would not even bother reapplying my makeup either, I would look like a nightmare." She shuttered at the thought of her corpse being violated without properly being made up. The thought seemed more nauseating than having her corpse violated. "Okay," she paced again, rubbing the bridge of her nose like she, and her twin brother, did when they were overly stressed or irritated. "If you go to them they are going to freak-the-fuck out and it will be a shit show. If you sell them out, then you have ruined," she twirled her unoccupied hand to assist her searching for the right words. "Whatever this is you have with the Nerd Herd. They could be hurt, their families could be hurt. If you do not sell them out, then it is all on me and my family. Shit, this is complicated." A thought suddenly sprang to her mind. She couldn't do this alone. She was devious, evil, manipulative and willing to cross lines the others wouldn't for the sake of their precious moral compasses, well, save for Jason, but she needed someone who could do more than be a robot. No. Times like this called for a special sort of cruelty. A rare blend of malice, deviousness and lack of compunction that would compliment her own two parts spice in this sweet mixture of malice. She smiled wide and dashed back into her car. The tires spun and kicked rocks behind her as she sped off back towards school. ---===[]===--- Within the hour Marissa was once again talking, walking, and looking like a million dollars as the after lunch classes were letting out and the halls were filed a torrent of poor people. She knew who she was looking for and she swung the door open to the study hall room she smiled wide in glee as her eyes locked onto her target. "Courtney!" She declared exuberantly as she eyed the crimson lipped nymphomaniac setting her bag down by an empty seat and collecting her books and phone from it. Marissa approached her. "I am so happy to see you I could kiss you." "Okay!" Courtney smiled with a shrug and gleefully closed her eyes while lightly puckering her lips as Marissa walked right past her. When the moment, and Marissa, passed she opened her eyes slightly and looked to the left, then right, and let out a depressed sigh. "Tease." she said with a near Harley Quinn masque to her demeanor. "We are fucked." Marissa began. "So fucked." "Well, not all of us," Courtney mused as she fired off her volley of insults with catty precision. "You have all that going for you and you still can't get a guy to sleep with you." "Okay," Marissa's lips pursed into a forced smile. She nodded, absorbing the insult. "First: fuck you, bitch. Second: this goes past us and our problems. This is... secret identity stuff, and it involves you. We do not have time to tear each other's throats out. Courtney, listen..." Marissa told her everything, the meeting, Mr. Enterich, the US Marshals, everything except what her father had done to earn the ire of this secret organization, which she really didn't know to begin with, only that whatever it was it had ruined their family. "Wow," Courtney paced about taking it all in. "Have you been crying?" "Yes!" Marissa fumed as it seemed like the redhead hadn't heard a word she'd said. "Yes, I have been crying because this shit is deep, Court. I can not go to the Project because then the other guys will hurt my family. I can not save my family though without selling out you and the Nerd Herd and I will not let my friends get hurt!" She clamped her hand over her mouth. She'd crossed the line and broken her own personal code. It slipped, but the word was said and could not be unsaid. Courtney, for once, had nothing to say. She knew the code. No attachments. Everyone was a tool to be used and discarded. Succeed no matter the cost. Marissa had inspired her from petty bully who'd pick on Sean to a glamorous socialite who had popularity and the entire school kissing her feet. "We're... friends?" Courtney managed to ask quietly. "I thought..." "Times change, I guess?" The Queen of Shelly fought back yet more tear glistening over her eyes. "I am... I am tired Courtney. I just want to be me and not what the world expects me to be. I want to sit around and eat pizza with Autumn, insult Jason, write stories for Sean to read and inspire his games, argue conspiracy theories with Cassandra. I want to go fishing with my boyfriend. I even miss our mean girl shopping trips to the mall. I'm a nerd, Courtney, and my nerds need me. Now, how can we make this whole messed up secret agent thing work to our advantage without letting everyone know and possibly killing my family? No one poisons apples and terrorizes kingdoms like we do. Evil is in our blood. We can't let these guys beat us." Courtney extended her arms and motioned for Marissa to come to her. "Hug first. Solutions forthcoming. Then we rain destruction."
  14. "We call ourselves Teulu." Kaitlin began, cradling a mug of coffee between her palms. "It means 'the family', or 'the kin'. As the name suggests, blood ties are important to us." "I suppose there's an exception to every rule." Jason's eyes were hard as he regarded his mother, who shifted in her seat. "I was afraid of you. I'm a... a runt amongst my- our people. Not physically, or mentally, but emotionally I am 'weak'. A throwback to our 'animal' roots, as they would say." Kaitlin leaned forward, hand shifting as though to reach out, but obviously thought better of it. "When I saw the test results, I didn't need to go for a full genetic test - I knew you were Family. I panicked. I actually thought because I was a throwback that you would be too, that I could have a mostly-human child with Gareth. I'm... I'm sorry, Jason." "How non-human am I?" he asked, ignoring her apology and the heartfelt look in her eyes. Kaitlin sighed, taking a sip of the coffee. "You share ninety-nine point two-two percent of nucleotide sequences with Sapiens Sapiens." "That's quite a large difference. Neanderthal man shared ninety-nine point seven." He remarked. Kaitlin nodded, glancing around the neatly-kept farm kitchen, then back at her son. Naturally, he seemed to be completely composed, but a lifetime of reading her family informed every small gesture, ever microscopic tick of the eye. He was intrigued, and suspicious. "What are the notable differences?" "Primarily neurological, though there are a few anatomical ones. Most Teulu are psychopaths, by human standards, though they have certain hard-wired differences. They tend to be clannish rather than strictly solitary, choosing a group as an extension of themselves, and regarding everything outside that group as expendable and irrelevant. They lack fear, or remorse, or shame, capable of any action if it furthers their personal goals and strengthens, or at least doesn't weaken, the clan. Apart from lying." "Lying. Yes." Jason regarded her curiously. "Is that a cultural taboo? Because I have always hated it myself. It..." "Feels wrong?" his mother finished. "Like a perversion of reality.?" "Yes." Jason nodded, his head tilting slightly. "Where does that come from?" "From our gods." Kaitlin raised an eyebrow at the skeptical look in Jason's eyes. "Seriously." "Gods." he stated, the word a study in doubt expressed in a single syllable. "Not some ephemeral spirits floating around, imagined by delusional old shepherds who ate too many of the wrong mushrooms. I mean the elder beings who took us, in ancient times, and changed us. Once we were human, but the gods - two beings of great power and cunning and patience - wanted warriors. Smart warriors, ruthless and aggressive yet capable of teamwork and loyalty. They took some humans and improved them. One of the changes they made was an instinctive anathema for lies. We can obfuscate, or keep secrets, or hide our intent, or dance around the truth with word games, but we cannot outright lie, or deliberately break our word." "Hmm." Jason pondered that, gazing down at the black swirl of the coffee in his cup. "What other changes did the gods make?" "Developmental speed was increased: mentally generally, physically as well for females. We're generally more intelligent on average than humans - not dramatically so, but enough to matter, and like you, most Teulu don't get distracted by emotional concerns. A female Teulu is of child-bearing age at the age of ten - and looks like a human girl of sixteen or seventeen. We also have four ovaries, and often give birth to multiple children at once. Twins are the norm. We're also fertile longer - menopause does not start until the fifth decade of life at the earliest. Males age at a more human pace - perhaps a touch faster, enough to be considered 'early bloomers' by human standards. We live longer, barring accidents or violence a Teulu can live healthily well past a hundred. Violence, however, is common on our world. Clans war against each other over resources, or simply to raid one another for mates and children." "That sounds wasteful." Jason noted clinically. "It is." his mother agreed. "Each clan has a male and female pairing leading it, and it is not in the nature of any Teulu to easily submit and follow. Even the most capable and strong leaders are constantly alert for challenges to their supremacy, within and without. If a younger pairing desire and have support, they can even strike out and form their own clan, taking warriors and females with them. Even within clans, fights and contests happen often - females will compete over a male who is considered viable mating material, males will compete over station, or to court a female they desire, or to reinforce their claim to a particular offspring. There is a code to prevent Teulu simply murdering each other over differences, but it is still a bloody, Darwinian existence. Personal cunning and ruthlessness are the most prized traits, with learning, strength, looks and fertility coming a close second. Value and loyalty to the clan is also praised." She paused, a look of distaste on her face. "We have knowledge and technology far in advance of this place. We should be doing more than endlessly quarreling the way we do. That's one reason I left." "Where is their- our I guess- world?" "Sideways." Kaitlin met his eyes as she sipped her coffee, then explained. "It's between dimensions. Sort of a large pocket, created by the gods to house us. Every so often, it's possible to cross the boundary, and our hunters range out looking for resources, or breeding stock." "Define 'every so often'." Jason asked immediately. "Every two hundred years or so, maybe. It's called Circle Time, and it's the one time when the clans don't fight each other. They hunt humans, and other intelligent species - for sport, for trophies, for food or for breeding stock." "We can breed with humans, then... Of course we can." Jason flicked a finger as he dismissed that question. "And the offspring is always Teulu?" As Kaitlin nodded, he 'hmmed' and sipped his coffee. "Did you come here during a Circle Time?" Kaitlin sighed. That was a question she'd hoped he wouldn't ask. "No. I made a deal with... one of the gods." "You've actually met these gods?" he leaned forward, fascination now in the gleam of his eyes. "One of them." she corrected. "He's called 'the Trickster'. He's a figure like the Native American Coyote, or the African Anansi, or Loki from the Norse myths on this world. It's from him we get our cunning and intelligence, so it's said, but he's also where we get our stubbornness and desire for freedom from." "What deal did you make?" "That is my business." she said, lifting her chin defiantly. Jason studied her, eyes narrowing. "Was it-" he began, but she interrupted. "Listen. You could ask hundreds of questions, and we could be here all day. I came here to warn you that Circle Time is coming, and my clan is likely going to want to trace down what happened to me. They will probably find you, and you have something they want." Jason paused, thinking for a moment, then stated rather than asked "Shine." "Radiance. Yes. The Teulu have a trace of it, a bare trace. Enough to make our trackers excel at tracking, our mind-speakers able to talk without words, and our healers instinctively able to diagnose ailments and injuries." She raised a hand, and a spoon rose slowly from the sugar bowl, turned once in the air, then settled again. "That is the limit of what I, or any psychokinetic amongst us can do. You are far beyond that, aren't you? I can feel the Radiance pouring out of you, just like it pours out of your friends." She leaned towards him, placing a hand on his. He didn't pull away, but his stare was steady as he returned her gaze. "The clan will want that gift. They will probably want your friends, too. It's a valuable resource, a genetic gold mine. And Circle Time is maybe two years away, perhaps less. I made a deal with the Trickster, and I think he knew what would happen when I did it, young and foolish and thinking I could escape. You have to be ready, Jason. I don't know if you can hide from them, or run from them. But I don't want you to be taken unawares." "Why?" he asked simply. "Why warn me?" "Because you are my son." she said with feeling. "Because I am so sorry that I ran from you. And I want to make amends. I owe you at least this warning." She studied his cold gaze and, greatly daring, lifted her hand to touch his sun-darkened cheek. He didn't slap her hand away, or draw back, but nor did his expression soften. "I don't expect this to square us." she said. "But please, accept it as an apology from your foolish mother." He slowly reached up and took her hand in his for a moment, holding it gently, then let go. "Alright. I accept the apology." He took a slow, deep breath and let it out, the only sign of inner turmoil she could perceive. "Mother."
  15. Enterich blinked in understated amazement, then a slow smile spread across his face as Shelly's queen made Her Royal Displeasure known... along with a healthy dash of Royal Candor. As Marissa primly laced her fingers together and rested them on her purse, he gave a low chuckle and applauded, three slow claps of his hands, before inclining his head in acknowledgement. "My, my. Miss Jauntsen, I can see that our selection of you was, if anything, almost supernaturally prescient. Who could have foreseen this?" His eyes twinkled merrily as he gave a sigh of mock-regret. "Where were the young ladies like you when I was a young man?" "There were not then, nor will there ever be again, a woman like me." Marissa stated with a smile that was as sweet as her dark eyes were venomous. Enterich nodded agreement. "I fear that, at least, is true." he replied. "How fortunate, then, that I am in the position I find myself. If the day comes when you make good on your promise to me, please know that there are no hands I would rather orchestrate my downfall than yours." "When the day comes." Marissa corrected, almost gently. Enterich smiled at her, a sly gleam in his eye that was almost flirtatious. "When. Of course." he nodded. "Very well. I confess, I am tempted to call your bluff and simply... make that phone call." His gaze was level with hers, measuring, testing, weighing, and there was ice behind the good humored threat. "But you won't." Marissa asserted. "Because I've already said I will cooperate - for a cost - and your people definitely would rather have me on the inside than on the outside. Wouldn't they, Mr Enterich?" "Wise beyond your years... Or certain beyond foolishness." The older man smiled at her once more. "But it seems, at least at this pass, you are correct. You are positioned to serve our interests, and we have what you want - that being money... and the safety of your family... in our power to grant." He clasped his hands together and rubbed them briskly. "To business, then. Your lunch period is almost up, so I shall be brief. This Sunday. If you have any plans, cancel them. You will be meeting with me again, here, for several hours, starting at eleven AM. In that time you will prove your value, Miss Jauntsen, by giving me a run-down of your associates, particularly the five who infiltrated Crossroads but also any other... talented teens you know. Names, personal observations, known powers, weaknesses of character or chinks in the armor we can exploit in the future. For this service you will be paid a hundred-thousand dollars in a manner of your choosing, plus a bonus if I feel you have provided extra value of some kind." He paused, fixing her with a steady look. "That is the deal on the table, Miss Jauntsen. The first step to establishment of our arrangement. Do we have an accord?"
  16. "Sophia Fingleman." Sophia politely extended a hand forward to Lucius, who seemed to perform a sudden release of Charlie, turn and upright shaking Sophia's hand that somehow was swift and seemed natural. "It's a pleasure, Sophia. I've heard so much about you." "Yes." The crooning voice made Charlie grit his teeth, as a blond bombshell in a little black, backless dress sauntered over and pulled Charlie into a sudden hug, much to his chagrin. "Susanna." Charlie got out, on the right edge of polite when he wanted of course to say bimbo. "Mmm." Susanna cooed, before doing the same to Sophia, much to her surprise. "You two are so adorable. Susanna Chavel, Lucius' girlfriend, at least for now." That little reminder and dig about Hannah being divorced, well, Charlie had to hold back from grinding his teeth. "I hope you enjoy tonight's festivities and telling your friends you met the Governor." She stepped back and looked at Lucius. "Oliver wants to speak with you ASAP, Luce." "Well, then don't let us delay you!" Charlie responded, tugging Sophia along and wanting to clear away from them. Sophia followed along, recognizing her boyfriend was reaching his limit. They skirted their way down the left, Sophia having the presence of mind to grab a schedule of the event along the way. Charlie ended up stopping at a spot next to a stairwell heading up, and flashed Sophia an apologetic look. "Sorry, but they just got on my nerves. Him and that trophy ho." "She didn't seem that bad." Sophia disagreed, "though she definitely came on a bit too strong." Charlie snorted derisively. "There's nothing worthwhile about her except eye candy and the willingness to sleep with a married man." Charlie let out a huff, breathing to calm down. And as he did, something Susanna said did click in his mind, and as Charlie chilled out, he started considering this idea forming more. There is a time for the script - most times really. But the stage still allowed for ad lib and improv, and some of the best, most memorable elements in film and television came from when the actor decided to throw that in. Harrison Ford shooting the swordsman. Robert Downey Junior declaring that yes, he was Iron Man. Now Charlie thought he might just have that moment. But it probably would be good to get a second opinion just to be safe. "Sophia? Can I bounce an idea off you?" "Yes?" Sophia asked, wondering what shift Charlie was taking. Charlie checked quickly. Nope, no one around to eavesdrop. And there didn't look like there were any cameras here. The Project (and Crossroads possibly since Dr. Klein was working with them) may have gone Big Brother on Shelly, but the odds of their having a reason to focus on the country club seemed unlikely. "Right. So this is something I'm gonna explain more about Date Night, but in our previous investigations, Cassie dug up dirt on the prison and shady stuff going on there. At the meeting yesterday, the Sheriff said the state government approved the prison's construction. Atop of course, their utterly illegal and wrong lab." Charlie explained. "I can get Dad to give me a chance to meet Governor Bullock in private. Tell him about the covered up riots, mysteriously dying inmate, name drop Major Taggart so there's a convenient adult in authority who can back us up. Convince the Governor to investigate the prison - and Crossroads is going to have to waste time and connections trying to cover their butts. Sure, they'll probably bounce it in the end, but it's not something they'll expect to see coming. So... good crazy or just crazy?"
  17. "That's a good idea!" Felicity Kyleson exclaimed. "Monica, was it?" "Yeah. Monica Rivera." Autumn smiled, think of the go-getting regional GSL. "You can reach her through the GSA office in Great Falls and, if it'll help, tell her I sent you." She watched Ms Kyleson jot down the name and a note next to it, then glance back up at her, smiling. "I'll certainly do that." she nodded, then set the pencil aside as she returned to the business at hand. "Honestly, Autumn, I'm a lot less concerned now than I was when you came in. It's pretty obvious to me that you were acting with good intentions, not out of some misplaced anger or aggression. I am concerned that Jason Bannon might have somehow invited the attack - he's not got the best reputation, you know - and I don't want to see you sucked into trouble that you had no hand in starting." All Autumn's restive energy stilled for a fleeting moment, her attentive gaze clear and direct as she smiled, just a little, across the desk. "Honestly, a week ago, yeah. I'd probably have agreed with you. He does have a pretty bad rep. But everybody deserves a chance, right? I don't think..." She glanced down at the scuffed toes of her sneakers, the smile growing wistful. "I don't think my grandfather would've been happy if I'd walked away, you know? It wouldn't be right. Not if I could've helped." Felicity's expression softened as she regarded the redheaded girl, the counselors heart going out to her. "You're right. Everyone deserves a chance." she said softly, as though turning the words over in her head and reminding herself, then smiling warmly at Autumn. "You're a good friend. I hope he is too." The tableau held for a moment, woman and young woman regarding each other, then "Well, I have no problems telling the principal that, in my opinion, you're just fine." Ms Kyleson sat up straighter, making another note on her pad. "Indeed, you're doing better than many. That said-" she leaned forward slightly, closing the distance between them a little. "-if you do need to talk to anyone, and for some reason no-one else is available or suitable... I'm always here." "Sure." Autumn said, sensing the meeting was over and getting to her feet, smiling back at the counselor. "Thanks, Ms Kyleson." "Thank you, Autumn." = = = = = = = = = = = Letting out a breath as she exited the counselor's office, Autumn turned into the main admin office and froze for a moment as she saw Ms Forster - Jase's mom - picking up some paperwork at the main desk. The woman's pale blue eyes met hers in wordless acknowledgement that didn't show on the beautiful features as she turned, papers in hand, and made to leave the admin office. "Hey, Autumn?" Jacob had been sitting in one of the waiting chair to the side, and as Autumn watched Ms Forster leave the office, he stood and stepped over to her, his gaze wary. "Hey, look. I know you said what you had to say yesterday, and I totally get it. I'm just delivering a message, 'kay? So, uh, don't shoot me?" "Message?" Autumn asked, her attention piqued enough to look at her ex. "Yeah. My dad wants to talk to you." He raised his hands a little defensively. "And no, I don't know what about - he didn't tell me and I got the impression not to ask. Just told me to ask you if it was cool for him to drop by later."
  18. "Yes." Miyako nodded, thoughtfulness replacing worry in her expression as she repeated with more certainty. "Yes. That's a good idea, Cade." She smiled then, reaching over and hugging him, then ruffling his hair slightly. "You're a wise young man - I can hardly call you a boy." she teased, her good humor restored somewhat. "You don't mind looking after Haruka this evening? I know you have a new girlfriend..." "Hey, if it'll help you and dad, I'll keep the rugrat out of your hair." he grinned back. "We'll go round a friend's place to hang out or something. Don't worry - we'll tell you where we'll be." "Good." she smiled, giving him another hug as she stood up. "Finish your breakfast, then. Are you alright giving Haruka a ride to school?" "Always, mom." Cade nodded around a mouthful of eggs. = = = = = = = = = = = "So where are we going to hang out tonight?" Haruka asked as the Jeep pulled into the school parking lot. Once Cade had told her that the problem was simply their parents needing some Mom and Dad time, she'd cheered up immeasurably. "Not sure yet." Cade shrugged. "You might be able to go round to Jolene's, if her mom is cool with it." Jolene was Haruka's bestie, a tomboyish eleven-year old girl who wouldn't, at first glance, be the most obvious close friend for Haruka - but they seemed to have a positive effect on each other and were as thick as thieves at school and home. "Don't want me hanging around cramping your style with Marissa and your buddies, huh?" Haruka giggled at him. "Or is it just Marissa? Someone was getting a lot of texts last night." "One day," Cade replied, his eyes narrowing in mock warning. "Sooner than you think, you are going to be dating. And when that happens, he will be the most terrified guy in school." "You wouldn't bully a guy just because I like him." Haruka protested, poking Cade's arm with a finger. He grinned wide. "Want to bet?" "Fine. Message received." Haruka mimed zipping her lips shut. "No more talk about texts." She shot him a grin and clambered out of the jeep, hurrying off to the Elementary school side of the building. School was quiet - possibly due to the absence of Jason Bannon. Cade still wasn't sure how he was planning to deal with that wrinkle in his life - Jase was a friend, sure, but how much of a friend could a psychopath be? Like Marissa said, how long before Jase saw a reason to turn on someone inside the circle of the Fellowship - and would do so without compunction or remorse? He set that aside for now, but wondered how long he could continue to do so. Right now, though, he had to figure out what he was going to do with his evening...
  19. Tawny had clung to him as he'd shifted space around them, her arms wrapping tightly around his waist as her eyes screwed tightly shut and a small stifled squeak of fear was buried against his chest. When the moment was over, though, she slowly cracked open her eyes and looked up at him, her gaze liquid and her lips parted as though she wanted to say something - and then she noticed where they were. "Oh. My. God." she'd breathed, still holding fast to Devin as she craned her head around to take in the view. The valley stretched out below them, and the snow-capped giant peaks in the distance were unearthly in their size and beauty. "Oh... My... God." It was wondrous. Tawny's fears, her lovelorn sorrow at Devin picking another girl, the panicked despair she'd felt about her own gifts were all washed away by a sense of incredulous fascination. "Is this even Earth?" Devin chuckled. He couldn't help it - the wide-eyed sobriety of Tawny's question was as funny as it was endearing. "Peru. Those are the Andes - I think." "You think?" Tawny turned wide eyes back up to his face. "Hey, I don't just know." He protested mildly. "I saw this place on Twitter or something and thought - 'that looks really fucking cool, I have to go there someday'." He smiled at her. "So I decided today was the day." "Wow." she looked back at the view, drinking in the majesty of it. "Makes you realise Shelly is pretty small, isn't it?" "You've always got to have somewhere to come from, and to go back to at the end of it all." Devin replied, wondering where that had come from even as he spoke the words. "Like, I form connections with a place, and that lets me jaunt back and forth easier. It's tougher if I've not been somewhere before. Shelly is a place I can find no matter where I go, cos - and if you tell anyone this I'll deny it - pretty much everything or everyone important in my life either happened there or lives there." She squeezed him tight again, burying her face against his chest once more. "I'm sorry I blabbed about Lona, Deej. I only knew because my dad's friends with Hubertson the realtor, and he was talking about how the Wrights had quietly put their house on the market." "Don't worry 'bout it." Devin patted her back. "You were pissed. It's okay to be pissed, Tee. It's okay to be scared, or mad, or freaked out, or ashamed. It's part of being human." "You think you can help me? With my-" she left the word unsaid, hanging in the air. "Halitosis?" Devin teased. "Split ends? Homework? Virginity?" Tawny blushed and laughed. "You're horrible." she told him, still hugging him tightly. "I meant with my- what did you call it?" "Shine." Devin said. Tawny smiled at the word. "Shine. Yeah. That sounds better than 'freaky powers'." She looked up at him again, hazel gaze filled with trust and hope and something close to adoration. "So... will you?"
  20. As it turned out, the dress code was semi-formal and the time was 8pm. And dad had sent a limo. "Wow." Sophia breathed as greeted Charlie with a quick kiss as he held the door for her to get in. "You scrub up good, Cole." "Right back atcha." Charlie grinned as she slid across the rear seat and patted for him to get in behind her, and he meant it. Sophia was wearing a high-necked dark blue sleeveless cocktail dress that, whilst perhaps not at Marissa Jauntsen levels of expensive designer label, looked classy on her without being too much. As he got in and closed the door, she took his hand with a smile and an excited sparkle in her eye while she looked around the inside of the car. "Is this for my benefit?" she grinned at him, teasing a little. Charlie smirked, shaking his head. "I wish I had the cash to splash. Dad's trying to make an impression - on you, on me, on anyone who sees us arrive probably." he said with a touch of bitterness, then struck an oratorical pose. "'I am Lucius, dad of dads. Look upon my largesse, ye mighty, and despair'." Sophia giggled, leaning over and kissing his cheek, then gently placing a finger on his chin and meeting his eyes. "Hey. I'm just happy to be with you. So screw your dad, okay? We're going to have fun." she told him softly, her eyes warm. "This still doesn't count as The Date, though." she added as she sat back, grinning. "No, I get it. This is you doing your good girlfriend deed for the day." Charlie smiled back. "Not like we'll really be able to discuss everything at a cocktail party." "Oh, babe, this is just me being generally awesome. Good girlfriend deed comes later - if you play your cards right." she teased, glancing out of the tinted windows as the limo sped through the gathering twilight. The Marias Valley Country Club and golf course was an incongruity in community with strong farming and rural ties. All that acreage, prime growing and pasture land, being used for a handful of rich folks to congregate, play golf and host social events? When it had first been proposed, a lot of the movers and shakers in Toole County had pushed back on the idea. Even now, ranchers and farm magnates with memberships to the club liked to joke self-deprecatingly about what an extravagance it was. But the club had done some good works too - all that money and influence in one place made fundraising for public projects and charity causes a snap, and so the country club had gradually found the attitudes of the locals warming to it, at least somewhat. The valet opened the door of the limo, allowing Charlie to assist Sophia out and up the steps to the main building, which tonight was lit up gaily with the strains of a string quartet coming from within. Charlie wasn't even sure what the event was about until he caught sight of the signs at the door. 'Marias Valley welcomes Governor Steve Bullock', along with smaller, garish posters reading 'Bullock 2020'. Of course. Fundraising for the state governor's war chest. A great way for Lucius and his co-owners of the country club to shmooze and gain important connections - naturally Dad would want his son present to offset the bad optics of the ongoing divorce. "Charlie!". His dad was waiting just inside the lobby, complete with manly hug and the three-second shoulder hold so everyone could see how close the two were. Though Charlie was certain his dad actually did love him, and was proud of him, the Cole tendency for theatrics was not limited to the stage. His dad was a master of the florid gesture to the point of being a ham. "Glad you made it. And I don't believe I've met your lovely companion..?"
  21. Yesterday
  22. "Personal experience? I can't imagine any guy dumb enough to break up with you. I imagine your wrath to be Total and Terrible. " It was a joke with a kernel of truth as he saw it. Cade sighed. His deal with Marissa had possibly caused this, but at the same time he couldn't be mad at her. He knew he was being unfair, the fault was his, because he didn't explain why he'd agreed. She needed help, he agreed, and had never found the time to call Cora and tell her before whatever happened did. "It really isn't something i plan on getting mad at anyone save myself about. It was always going to be hard, with her on the other side of the country. I thought it worth trying, but if she's happy without me, well I can live with that I guess." Marissa could hear the pain, he wasn't hiding it, but he was sincere in his wish for Cora's happiness. He felt the vulnerability there, but it passed and he calmed himself, and turned back to the Pond. "Can't move forward while looking back. She's made her choice, and that's that. It just means I'll not feel guilty going forward from here." It was an admission he was sure she caught, but there was no blame or accusation. He'd made his own choice in agreeing to help Marissa. "I wouldn't expect you to give up on something." she said quietly. "It's not giving up, it's letting go. Trying to hold on and force things to remain as they were, when so much has changed, that's just a bad idea. We've all changed with what's going on, You, me, everyone, even Devin. I'm actually abit glad Cora's not here anymore. She's not in danger like the rest of us." He made to hand her back the pole, and offered her a smile. "Now, let's get back to some fishing."
  23. "Wait a minute," she raised her sea green taloned hand to stave off taking the reigns just yet. "So, there is no worms or anything? I do not have to impale a gross, slimy worm or an insect of some sort onto the end of that thing to catch one of those things? I thought like, there were worms and other disgusting things I had to handle to bait the rod or whatever." "Bait the hook," he corrected with a grin. It was refreshing to Marissa so out of her element and so completely not in control of the situation like she normally was. she almost seemed human. "And no. We're not using live bait today, I didn't think you'd want to go anywhere near a coffee can of slimy earthworms, given your perfect manicure and all." "Ooohhh," she smiled with wide-eyed radiance. "That was so sweet of you, you noticed my manicure." She kept her grin in place as she reached out her hand, opening and closing it like a needy child wanting to play to. "Yes. Gimme, I want to try." He handed her the pole and made sure she had a decent grip before waling back through the instruction. "Did you just say 'gimme'?" He asked as held her wrist and gently guided her arm back for a practice casting of the reel. "Not very hard, it'll go on it's own. Don't expect perfection your first time, it's a practiced skill." "So?" she cooed. "What is wrong 'gimme'?" "You don't even use contractions when speak, I just wasn't expecting 'gimme' is all." He leaned away from her and motioned to the pond. "You're up." The teen fashionista was never one to shirk from a challenge. If she could conquer a thirty percent off sale at Ulta, she could easily become a fish whisperer. She murmured to herself the directions, repeated her instructors words and cast the line. For her first time it was pretty good. Way off her intended mark, but it was a practiced skill. "I did not even know you know what a contraction was," she picked up where they'd left off. "There it is, the dumb jock joke." He nodded as she offered him a sly smile and a quick flash of her tongue to show she was completely unapologetic. "Of course I know what one is, and it also make's you sound funny c'mpared to us c'nrty folk." He mocked her with a highly exaggerated accent. "You're brother uses nothing but contractions, and some of the worst english I think I've ever heard." "He is not supposed to," she said, glancing out on the water, wondering why her cork wasn't doing anything. "We are not supposed to use them, but he does it to be defiant and piss our parents off. We are supposed to talk proper-like," her own voice slipped into a near perfect southern accent. "As it denotes us as having a certain measure of class and dignification generally afforded to those like us possessed of a higher education and ambitious drive for success." Cade looked at her with a 'WTF' glare and half grin on his face. She smiled and used her natural voice. "I Loki speak: my brother and I are burdened with glorious purpose." Her cork bobbed and in an instant she went from chatterbox to completely overwhelmed with what to do and the whole moment disolved into the freeway scene from Legally Blonde: nothing but absolute panic and hysteria. It was her first fish, well it would be if she ever managed to reel it in! There was so much talking that neither could keep up with the conversation as she reeled and argued she was doing what Cade was saying she should, despite not doing what he was saying at all. She reeled and moved the rod about, whimpering ans squealing like a five ear old the entire time as the experience of the whole moment overwhelmed her. Cade couldn't be more thrilled. He'd not seen a girl this excited over something since Haruka on Christmas day when she was younger. Whatever composure Marissa kept herself constantly cloaked in she had cast it off in the spirit of the moment to conquer nature and all it had to offer. She managed to reel in close enough as it splashed water and struggled. "I got it, I got it... getigetigetit..." she said rapidly as Cade finished up for her and raised it into the boat. She squee'd like a child and clapped rapidly at her accomplishment. "Oh, my god. I caught a fish!" With bipolar acuity her face went completely deadpan and the Marissa he was used to returned in an eye-blink. "I am not touching it though." "Decent size too, not bad at all. Congratulations, Marissa Jauntsen, you have officially conquered nature. All of it. Nothing can stand against you." He praised her while placing the fish in the ice chest. "As it should be." She playfully swung her nose into the air like the Queen of Nature that she was and they both shared a laugh. Cade prepped their lines for the next casting and quietly went about his work. After a few moments Marissa broke the silence, her tone soft and comforting. "Hey, Cade? Look, I know it does not mean a lot coming from me, but, I am sorry about you and Cora," she took special care to actually use her name. "I know you really liked her and I know it hurts, a lot, to lose someone you care about."
  24. Check out Arcana of the Ancients and, if you dare, The Nightside. Plus some great diversions in this time of anxiety, and an update on things here at MCG! You can get Cypher Chronicles, and other MCG news, delivered right to your inbox! The post Cypher Chronicles, vol. 14-2020 appeared first on Monte Cook Games.
  25. Cade winced. "Cora, and No, nothing like that, nothing at all, honestly. I tried calling, texting, but there's been no answer to anything." He figured someone had told her about him and Marissa, snapped a picture, and that was it. She'd ghosted him, and he couldn't exactly blame her. He'd thought about going to her parents to check in, but it was a no-go. "Someone probably told her what's going on, and that's that." it was an ignoble end to his first relationship, one he knew was likely to happen. He'd privately promised himself that he'd explain it all to her one day, when he met her again. After the safety breifing he went to the shed, taking out the key, and opening it, first he pulled out the boat, a flat bottom skiff, and began pulling it to the water. It actually looked like it was fairly heavy, but Cade moved it with a practiced ease, though she could see how the muscles in his arms bunched and tightened, finally setting it in the water, and tying it to the dock. Once it was there, he began loading the rods, ice chest, and everything else. The giant umbrella was folded neatly one side, and she noted a second ice chest. "One for drinks, one for fish." he also had some towels, and Marissa looked at him. "I get pretty much everything else, but the umbrella? "It might rain before I can paddle back, but more often than not, in the middle of the summer it gets damn hot. Having some portable shade is nice, and has helped me catch fish more than once." She just looked at him, and once he had everything in the boat, he knelt down, and held it steady. "You can get in if you like, or we can walk around abit. The best fishing this time of day is gonna be about ten minutes paddle from here, over there." He pointed with one hand over by a small part of the pond where there were abundant lilly pads, and several stumps. Once Marissa got into the boat, he untied and with a little push from his foot got in, and moved to the center, where he sat down and took up the oar-like paddles, and began rowing them to the first spot. He was thankful for the cool breeze, it was enough to cool him down, but not enough to generate any big waves. Soon enough he reached where he wanted to be, and slowly lowered the anchor into the water. All it was was a metal pipe filled with cement, attached to a rope. They wouldn't move in wind this week, and he smiled. "Have you ever fished before?" Marissa gave him a "look" and he nodded. "yeah, guess not. What we're looking for here are bream. They're agressive little buggers, but the bottom of the chain as far as predatory fish." He pulled up a rod that was in two pieces, and put them together. there was a small reel at the bottom, and at the tip of the rod was a cork, about 18 inches above a small spinner jighead. The rubber bait attached had a bright pink body with white tails. When she looked at him, he just smiled. "I had no idea." With that, he took the bait in hand, pulled down on it and pulled out about 6 foot line, the length of his rod, and then dug in his tackle box. Pulling out a small jar, he took a single button looking piece of plastic from it, and thread it over the hook atop the bait. It had a very distinct odor, similar to garlic. He then washed his hands in the water, and dried them on one of the smaller towels. "Pretty much everything in the pond hunts by smell, or motion, so this checks all the boxes. Now, let me demonstrate." He was amazed that she'd remained quiet, and actually seemed to be paying some attention. He turned towards the pads, and deftly swung the line back and forth a few times, before "casting" with the bait followed by the cork landing in the same spot, barely a foot from the edge of the pads. He counted to ten and gently pulled on the rod, making the core move several inches. Not five seconds later, the cork began to move, and was jerked underwater, hard. Cade simply lifted up on the rod, which bowed as the fish fought back. He reeled in the line some and then lift the rod bringing it close, and pulling the nearly one pound bream from the water, and swinging it right to his waiting hand. he set the butt of the rod on the floor, and took the fish in a toweled hand and unhooked it, before opening the ice chest with only ice in it and depositing it and closing the box. They could hear it flopping around some and he checked the bait, pulled some line back out, and washed his hands. "And that is just how simple this is." Of course it spoke to how well maintained and stocked the pond was, as well as just how well Cade knew it, and how to fish it that he caught one on his first cast. Still he was really happy. This spot always produced fish, which is why he chose it, even if they weren't the biggest in the pond. He offered the ready-to-go rod to Marissa, and smiled. "Want to give it a try?"
  26. In which Matthew, Dixie, and Eddy take it in turns to sell each other (and you!) on a range of games picked by the listeners in the space of only five minutes! Matthew works under a pseudonym. Or does he? The scale of “ugh” to “eh” to “oo” What we do to occupy ourselves while locked in: Soviet Sherlock Holmes, Animal Crossing, and listening to records Music to listen to while working All the fun of Google Sheets Hunter: The Vigil 2nd Edition pitch – by Matthew Dawkins The Stepfather movies Chronicles of Darkness pitch – by Dixie Cochran A nod to the Contagion Chronicle Aberrant pitch- by Eddy Webb A nod to the N!WE roleplaying game They Came from Beyond the Grave! pitch – by Matthew Dawkins Crossing They Came from Beyond the Grave! over with They Came from Beneath the Sea! Monarches of Mau pitch – by Dixie Cochran Stay tuned for the next part! Links: Hunter: The Vigil 2nd Edition Backerkit: https://hunter-the-vigil-2e.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders The Stepfather: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stepfather_(1987_film) Chronicles of Darkness: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/168428/Chronicles-of-Darkness?affiliate_id=13 Contagion Chronicle Backerkit: https://www.backerkit.com/projects/200664283/contagion-chronicle-a-chronicles-of-darkness-cross Aberrant Backerkit: https://trinity-continuum-aberrant.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders They Came from Beneath the Sea! Backerkit: https://www.backerkit.com/projects/200664283/they-came-from-beneath-the-sea-a-tabletop-roleplay Monarchies of Mau: https://www.realmsofpugmire.com/monarchies-of-mau Onyx Path Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/theonyxpath Onyx Path Discord: https://discord.gg/5uckcBk
  27. "I am relaxed, yeah," she smiled and nodded. "It is weird, for once I do not feel like I have a billion things to do or worry about. I have not just taken a day to hang and do nothing since, like..." her faced scrunched up in an adorable ball of thought. "May? June maybe? When Courtney, Chet and the rest of us went to the lake to celebrate summer vacation. Ugh, Court had the most atrocious bathing suit on that day, I could not tell if it was a one piece or a cocktail dress. It was so bad." They shared a light laugh before Cade looked to her and asked her, "Do you miss those guys? Chet and them? You've sort of been adopted by the Nerd Herd lately-" "Adopted?" she laughed as she spoke, squeezing his thigh in playful anger. "I have not been adopted! I have adopted you nerds, thankyouverymuch. You are lucky I let you guys hang out with me. I make you look good." "If you say so," he smiled, shaking his head slowly as he kept his eyes on the road. "I do." She chucked. "I say so. Thank you, by the way." "For what?" He asked, sparing a moment to give her an inquisitive glance. "For, in your own round about way, saying I was pretty and looked good, today. While you are right, I already know, but, Nature Boy, every woman wants to hear once in awhile that they are attractive, even the pretty ones. Especially from the person they are interested in, it was very sweet of you. Although 'eye humping' was a new one." She laughed. "So, when you said you liked how I looked now, more than normal, what did you mean?" "Oh, no." Cade shook his head. "That's a loaded question. I may not have a lot of hours logged in the dating seat, but I know when I'm being set up. I also know you well enough, Marissa to know that I'm not gonna survive that path if I choose to walk down it." "Stop being a bitch," she laughed. "It is not a loaded question. I am legit asking you what you meant. Like, okay, is your type more, let us say, Tawny? Blonde, perky, all kinds of bubbly with the down on the farm, girl-next-door vibe going for her? Meanwhile, I'm all Malibu chic with the latest fashion trends and makeup and more city girl than country gal?" "Alright, truth?" He glanced again and looked back towards the road. "I'm more of the country gal type, and by that I mean," he looked at Marissa for a moment as she opened her mouth for swift rebuttable only to meet Cade's raised finger to indicate he hadn't finished yet. He spoke over her before she had the chance to argue. "Aaaand by that I mean, a girl doesn't need all kinds of makeup and the latest fashion trends to catch my interest. All she needs to be is who she is." "So," Marissa narrowed her eyes. "You have a thing Tawny, is what I'm hearing?" "Oh my god." Cade lowered and shook head. "I'm just gonna ram us into a tree, make this quick on myself." Marissa laughed again. In fact it was the most he'd heard her laugh in the three years since she's arrived in Shelly. She took his hand and pulled it towards her, gently kissing the back of it. She didn't claim it, since his Jeep was a manual transmission, but her hand found its place back on his leg afterward. "I am only messing with you. Relax. I am kidding." "I honestly didn't know you could kid." Her boyfriend shook his head, trying not to smile. "There is a lot you do not know about me," she caught a glance of herself in the Jeep's side mirror and her mirth faded slightly. How could she tell him, tell any of them that she was betraying all of them to a network of enemies all to save herself and her family? The Nerd Herd had, in recent weeks been more of a family to her than her own parents ever attempted being, and now she was selling them out to survive. Why did she feel so guilty about it? This should be an easy thing to do, because at the end of the day you can only rely on yourself, right? She quickly recovered her smile, putting her game face back on. "I will have you know I am very complex. I am fun, when I want to be." Cade turned off the road and onto the path that lead to the pond, "Well, let's hope you want to be." ---===[]===--- She hated to admit it to herself, but Cade was right: the pond was beautiful. It was more like a small lake, and she wasn't quite sure what qualified a pond to be a lake, or a lake to be demoted to a pond, but for all intents and purposes, it was a majestic. When he ran around the Jeep to get her door she reminded him that it was the a pond, not the red carpet lthought she appreciated his enthusiasm. They still were enjoying eighty two degree weather in Shelly, which was nice, and thankfully the dreary rains of Autumn hadn't set in yet. They had nothing but sun and a whole Saturday to enjoy it. "Hey!" she actually bounced with delight as she looked at her phone. "I have a signal!" "Surprise." Cade smiled. He knew there was a signal out here. Shelly might have been a small town, but oddly enough there was always a decent signal in most places to go with the oddly high tech hospital and the obscenely well funded schools. "You're not gonna be on that all day, are you?" "No," she said with a snooty tone while she stuck her tongue out at him as he unloaded the Jeep. "But this means I get my Spotify playlists, so we have music." "Music'll scare the fish." Mari walked over to him and picked up the tackle box to help him out, even going to so far as to slap his hand when he offered to get it. She wanted to help, and damn it she was going to help. "True, but not when the sun goes down and we're not fishing anymore." She noticed the way he swallowed hard as that seed buried itself in the soil of things that could happen. He pointed out the docks and gave her a quick safety brief to which she rolled her eyes. "You can swim, right?" He asked as they walked. "Swim?" She scoffed with a snort. "Dude, I can surf. Can not surf if you can not swim. Well, not well, anyways" "You surf?" He asked, mildly astonished. "I can't picture it. I've always wanted to try it. Looks hard." "It sort of is, at first. I could teach you, if we had waves. Devin can't do it," she smiled at the memories if her and her brother out on the waves of Malibu's beaches. "He sucks at surfing, rub that in next time you see him. He has impeccable balance, a natural gymnast, and he just 'get' surfing. Can't stay on a board to save his life." "Where is he, anyway? I figured I see him at your house." "Oh, he and Laurie are in New Zealand today. They left late last night, you know, because time zones, I have not heard from him. Apparently he found out Lona was moving, and he has been a bit distraught about it lately. Chances are he's already drowning his sorrows twixt Cassidy's thighs by now, given the radio silence." "Classy," Cade smiled as he arranged all their equipment and set a few life jackets on the dock. "I don't figure Sean's too thrilled about that. He's as protective of Laurie as Devin is of you." Marissa gave Cade a curled lip and dubious look. "Right. Devin. What does he care what Sean thinks?" "Exactly." She chuckled a bit. "So, what about you and whats-her-name? New York girl? Still talking, still sexting?" She winked salaciously to taunt him and when he gave her another 'loaded question' look she waved her hands as if brushing away his doubts. "Look, I do not mind if you are. Seriously. She is in New York, no matter what you two say to each other, I still have you all to myself. She doing okay?"
  28. "Oh, so it is negotiations, then? Excellent." Marissa sat down crossing her legs as she rest her purse in her lap. Everything about her posture inferred that she, no matter how much this man had done for her family, was in charge of the situation. "No, your request is quite clear, however, my father is the screw up so you're whole 'take down my family' tactic will only go so far. My brother and I play 'innocent minors' like you wouldn't believe so really it is only our parents who would be ruined, and what teenager actually likes their parents these days? He did what he did himself and as a result ruined our family, Carl Jauntsen is despised in our home. You bring the wolves to our door and we'll throw him to them ourselves. Now, you seem well informed Mister Enterich so I'll not get into known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns with you, you get the idea, but your information network is spotty, at best. I do not have a boyfriend, I have a plaything. My family life is a smouldering ruin filled with nothing but misery and competitiveness. We are sorry, pathetic lot lashing out and ruining each other in the hopes that some of that pain we inflict others will spark some sensation of feeling within our own cold, dead hearts. You're certainly smug, and I respect that, in fact I'm moderately aroused that I'm finally meeting someone in this community of hypocrites and religious fanatics who understands the big picture of being positively vile in order to be the architect for a far greater good. I swear, if you were forty years younger, hell, even thirty. Now, based on the low quality burnt coffee smell in the air, you strike me a man who understands vile. So..." She spoke with her hands which were currently perfectly manicured into glossy red talons giving her that chic Iggy look to complete her mood of being frustrated and fed up with the world lately. "Far as I am concerned whatever my father did, and what ever debt you cleared for him is between you and my father. Fact: I hate this place. I feel like that sunglasses guy in that computer movie... this place reeks and I want out of it. My father's reputation and credibility are shot and it will take him years to regain that, by asking me to spy, you are asking me to not repair his reputation, but to damage my own. That, well," she shook her head and offered him a rueful smirk. She had to, no matter what, keep these guys away from her family and focused on her and what she could provide for them. That wasn't going to be easy, and she had no idea the debt her father owed but for now, she had to be the only thing these guys were looking at, and lucky for them she was easy on the eyes. "That, I just can not allow. Not for free. So let us get a few things out of the way, you have threatened me and my family, so that has already made you a marked man. Please understand it is nothing personal, you seem like such a well education man and I do so love an intellectual, but business is business, and your ticket was punched the moment you went for the throat. We both know it won't be today and obviously not tomorrow, but Mr. Enterich, one day I will be the last thing you see before your world fades to black. So, in case it is not said between now and then, I happen to admire your high standards of ruthless efficiency, and impeccable fashion sense. I have not seen a ten thousand dollar suit in a long time, and you are working it like a boss." "I have no loyalty to anyone but my family, this 'project' and the Aeon people are all just a new batch of freaks and geeks to me. If you wanted my help, all you had to do was ask for it with a promise of compensation. You might think that large sum you paid off to my father's debt covers everything, and it does, between you and my father. I'm guilty of nothing but being gorgeous and being surrounded by idiots and lunatics. I have no debt to square with you." Her eyes were as sharp as the claws on her finger tips. She was scared as hell to be dealing with this guy, but what choice did she have? Thankfully old habits died hard and all the evil in her heart returned to the surface with perfectly calculated cruelty and she swiftly displayed how easily she could turn malice into an art form. "So, tell your interested party that they're not dealing with my father, they're dealing with me, and I owe them squat. You want information and I can get it, so if you are setting up a business arrangement with me, then get your checkbook handy." "Now," she laced her fingers together and rest them on her purse. "Let's work on something a little more specific than 'everything', where would you like me to start? We'll build a foundation from that. Oh, and do have Marshall call me sometime."
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